New website is under construction.

Jul 15, 2013

Seers: Ten Tales of Clairvoyance

Is clairvoyance a gift or a curse?

Imagine getting a glimpse of what the future holds, and ask yourself how you would deal with the burden of this foresight.

Is it right to interfere with the pre-ordained? Is it your duty to avert the doom, or will your meddling make matters worse? Is it even possible to change the future?

What if those with the power to prevent a disaster disdain your warnings? What if you see what will happen, but have no idea when it will come to pass? Is your vision to be trusted? What if your interpretation of what you see is wrong?

In this book, ten authors share their visions of what it means to be clairvoyant, each with their individual way of telling a story and their own writing style. They seek to entertain you and at the same time to make you think.

Some yarns take place in the distant past, some in fantasy lands, and others in our familiar modern world.


Each seer in this book is different. They interpret dreams, read the tarot, consult the stars and gaze into the crystal ball, or simply receive visions in their mind. Some are professional future-gazers, others dabble or are even caught unawares. Some welcome the experience, some seek it, and others try to close that channel of their mind.

Many of the stories in this book have been previously published in magazines, ezines, anthologies and collections. The authors stem from all over the world and use different versions of the English language. To preserve their unique voices, I have kept their word choices, spellings, grammar and punctuation.

Enjoy the ten glimpses into seersʼ minds. But beware: the visions may be disturbing.

Authors included are April Grey, Rayne Hall, Jeff Hargett, Frederick Langridge, Douglas Kolacki, Traci McBride, Carole Ann Moleti, Jack Nicholls, Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar, Deborah Walker.

Seers is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords.

Jul 10, 2013

Inspiration from Places


A guest post from Rayne Hall

“Where do you find your ideas?” people often ask me.

The truth is, I don't find ideas. Ideas find me.

Like ghosts, they seek me out, haunt me, and don't let go until the story is written.

My mind is like a revolving drum filled with hundreds of jigsaw pieces, each representing a story idea. Sometimes two or more pieces click together, and that's when a story takes shape.

The location is often among the first jigsaw pieces to click. The setting lends atmosphere and determines the flavour of the story. Some of the places in my stories are real, others exist only in my imagination, while yet others are a blend of the real and the imagined.

The tales in 13 British Horror Stories are inspired by the places where I have lived and travelled in Britain. I live in a small dilapidated town of former Victorian grandeur on the south coast of England, and if you know the region, you may recognise the landscapes that inspired some of the tales.

The southeast of England has many village churches from the Norman period and the Middle Ages, many of them in isolated locations, often surrounded by tilting, lichen-encrusted gravestones. To research Take Me To St. Roch's I spent a night in one of those old cemeteries, taking notes about every flickering shadow and every creepy noise. I jotted down how the wooden gate creaked on unoiled hinges, how the gravel crunched under my steps, and how the twigs of the trees beckoned like skeleton fingers, withered and pale.

Locals know what a menace herring gulls can be, but well-meaning tourists always feed them leftovers from their fish&chips takeaway, and this encourages the birds to even more aggression. Like daring highwaymen, they swoop and rob anyone holding food. I live in a top floor flat near the seafront. Every morning, seagulls hammer their beaks on my windows as if trying to break the glass. Watching them gave me the idea for the Seagulls story.

Never Leave Me was the first horror story I ever wrote, a long time ago. Inspiration came from reading about the archaeological discovery of the mummified “Druid Prince” and from a visit to the wind-swept Yorkshire Moors.

When the tide is out, it's possible to walk on the seabed below the chalk cliffs, across black boulders and rust-coloured shingle. The air smells of salt and seaweed. Waves swish and slurp across the shingle, and in the distance, seagulls squawk. On one side, the sea glints like a diamond-studded sheet, on the other, the steep cliffs tower like unassailable fortress walls, a sublime sight. But woe when the tide comes rolling in while you're still on the seabed! With no accessible path for miles, you'll be trapped between the rock face and the smashing waves. In Double Rainbows, I imagined this scenario. What happens if you realise you got the time wrong?

The ferocious force of wind and waves sometimes erodes the cliffs and breaks off whole sections. The first time I walked below Fairlight Cliffs, the sight made my throat constrict. A large chunk of the cliff had recently fallen, leaving houses half destroyed, half standing. From below, I could see the inside of living rooms and kitchens, still furnished, as if any moment the inhabitants would enter. For years, the sight haunted me, but I could not come up with a story. Then St Leonards Writers decided to write stories about a local area, the so-called America Ground. Around the same time, I revisited Hastings Castle, which was partially destroyed during a violent storm 1287 when part of the cliff on which it stood fell. The three places - Fairlight, Hastings Castle, America Ground - clicked together, and I placed my story Scruples during the 1287 storm.

I had long mulled over a ghost story idea, but could not bring it to life until the plot clicked with several places from my memory. I recalled the railway tunnel next to the station where I used to wait after school for the train home, its entrance gaping like a black, hungry mouth. This combined with memories of travels in Wales, of steep slopes, grey slate houses, and drizzling rain. The story Through the Tunnel is the result.

The Devil You Know started with the memory of a night I spent as a young woman on a platform at Richmond station, waiting for the morning train to take me home, trying to sleep while the cold from the metal bench seeped through my thin dress. I kept the bench but moved it to an imaginary railway station on the Kent-Sussex border. Many of the small railway stations these days are unstaffed most of the time, with the waiting rooms and toilets locked, and the help points are often out of order.

Many years ago, I joined a group of divers for a holiday in Dorset. I couldn't dive - I still can't - but I listened to them as they talked about their plans for the day, and discussed the adventures at the evening campfire. I wondered if a wreck could be haunted, and what would be the worst thing that could go wrong on a dive. The divers were eager to help me with their know-how. The resulting story was I Dived the Pandora, which has been published in several versions. The current version is set in Sussex.

The main idea for Four Bony Hands haunted me for many years. What if the events in a certain fairytale didn't happen quite the way everyone believes? After several abandoned attempts, another jigsaw piece clicked: the place was a cosy interior, heated by a big oven, providing shelter from the cold weather, refuge from persecution, and sanctuary from evil. Although the story takes place indoors, you can imagine the pine and oak woods surrounding the cottage, snow-laden like the Scottish forests in winter.


Beltane was my entry for a contest where each writer has twenty-four hours to create a complete story about a given topic. The theme was something about a blind fruit vendor and a young female customer. It was the first of May - the date of the traditional Celtic Beltane festival - and fresh green leaves and white blooms covered the trees, so I decided to set the story in ancient England in Celtic times. What did the blind vendor know that the girl did not? The story didn't win, but I liked it, and a year later I wrote a more polished version.

Stone circles hold a deep fascination for me, and there are many of them in Britain. I've visited many stone circles, from the big ones like Avebury and Stonehenge to the ones which are so small they're hard to spot among the bracken, from the major tourist attractions to the unknown ones, accessible only after a long hike, climbing across stiles and squeezing through thorny brambles. My favourites are the stone circles of Cornwall: Tregeseal, Merry Maidens, Boscawen-Un and all the others. Sometimes I would reach an out-of-the way place and discover that a previous visitor had left an offering, such as a posy of wildflowers, which always delighted me. On one occasion, though, I was disconcerted to find the offering was the flattened, fire-parched body of a frog. Readers familiar with Cornwall will recognise the landscape in the story Druid Stones and may even guess which circle was the fictional inspiration for the Dredhek Stones.

Burning was one of the most difficult stories I've ever written, and I believe it's one of my best. Several places combined in my mind to form the inspiration. The first was a house on fire in the neighbourhood. My father forced me to watch it burn, even though at the age of seven I was upset and terrified. The second was also a house that burned out. This time, I did not witness the inferno, but I heard afterwards that the Turkish family who lived there had not been able to get out. Their charred skeletons told how they had cowered in the corner as the flames devoured them, and the father had shielded his daughters with his own body for as long as he could. This moved me deeply, and then I heard someone say “They were only Turks. Good riddance to the vermin.”

Later, I learnt about the atrocities committed against Jews during the Nazi period. In the town of my birth, locals burnt the synagogue and then built a church on that spot. In a nearby town, the eager citizens went even further: they locked the Jewish population into the synagogue before they set it on fire. The fire brigade, instead of putting out the flames, fanned and fed them, and made sure none of the Jews could escape. Much later, after the al-Qaeda bombings in London, a wave of burning hatred against Arabs swept through England, and it frightened me. Burning houses, churches, racial hatred, hypocrisy, a scared child witnessing events she cannot understand... these elements clicked together into a disturbing tale of human evil.

The story Only a Fool started with a real incident. As a young woman, I lived in London. One night I walked home from the Tube station when a drunken man attacked me, and I was saved by my wits and vivid imagination. For the story, I added memories of the many places where I had been nervous to walk alone, the kind of alley where shattered windows wink in the sparse light and footsteps echo as loud as your thudding heart.

I enjoy evoking the atmosphere of a place with the senses of sound, touch and smell.

My stories involve little violence. They are horror, but not of the slash-and-gore type with chainsaw massacres and lakes of blood. My brand of horror is of the suspenseful, creepy kind. Where other horror writers shock their readers with graphically mangled corpses, I tantalize mine with places that ooze creepy atmosphere.

About Rayne Hall

Rayne Hall has published more than forty books under different pen names with different publishers in different genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. Recent books include Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel), 13 British Horror StoriesSix Scary Tales Vol 1, 2, 3, 4 (creepy horror stories), Six Historical Tales (short stories), Six Quirky Tales (humorous fantasy stories), Writing Fight ScenesThe World-Loss DietWriting About VillainsWriting About Magic and Writing Scary Scenes (instructions for authors).

She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Currently, she edits the Ten Tales series of multi-author short story anthologies: Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, Spells: Ten Tales of Magic, Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies and more.

Rayne has lived in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal and has now settled in a small dilapidated town of former Victorian grandeur on the south coast of England.

Jul 8, 2013

The Funny Thing About Research



About Rayne Hall

Rayne Hall has published more than forty books under different pen names with different publishers in different genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. Recent books include Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel), 13 British Horror StoriesSix Scary Tales Vol 1, 2, 3, 4 (creepy horror stories), Six Historical Tales (short stories), Six Quirky Tales (humorous fantasy stories), Writing Fight ScenesThe World-Loss DietWriting About VillainsWriting About Magic and Writing Scary Scenes (instructions for authors).

She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Currently, she edits the Ten Tales series of multi-author short story anthologies: Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, Spells: Ten Tales of Magic, Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies and more.

Rayne has lived in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal and has now settled in a small dilapidated town of former Victorian grandeur on the south coast of England.

Jul 3, 2013

Writing Craft: Alone Into Danger

Buy Writing Scary Scenes
A guest post by Rayne Hall

Have you written a horror story, or are you working on a frightening scene? Here's a professional technique for making it even scarier.

Solitary adventures are more dangerous than group adventures. In nature, an animal which becomes separated from the herd is vulnerable to predators. To make your scene scary, let your heroine face the danger alone.

The more you isolate your protagonist, the more frightening the scene becomes. Think of as many ways as possible to make her even more cut off from rescue and moral support.

I'm using “she” in this article, but of course everything also applies to male characters.

SEND THE ALLIES AWAY

Give your protagonist a reason why she faces this danger on her own.

Perhaps she has no choice: the little girl is alone in the house because her parents have gone to the theatre. The hero's guide and friends have been killed leaving him as the only survivor. The explorer's companions have stolen his equipment and deserted him. The prisoner escaped from the dungeon and is fleeing alone.

On the other hand, she may have chosen to do this alone: the treasure hunter doesn't want to share the bounty with others. The teenager quarrelled with her date and told him to leave her alone. The explorer is the only one who believes that the coded map reveals the true location of the temple; when others mocked his belief he set out on his own.

Sometimes, when the adventure stretches over several scenes, you can take away the protagonist's companions one by one. First, his friends declare him crazy and refuse to join the expedition, so he sets out with his girlfriend, three mates, and a local guide. Then his girlfriend falls in love with one of his mates, and the two depart. The local guide steals the equipment and deserts. One of his loyal companions gets killed by a giant snake, the second by the evil overlord's poisoned arrow. Now he's alone.

In other works of fiction, the protagonist may be alone for only part of the scene. For example, the hero and heroine are exploring the castle ruins together. Then the hero gets captured by the villains, or maybe he leaves the group to fetch supplies from the car or to investigate a mysterious signal, and the heroine faces the danger alone. For the last part of the scene, they're together again, but the danger is not yet over.

CUT THE LINES OF COMMUNICATION

To isolate your protagonist even more, deprive her of the means of calling for help. The villains have cut the telephone lines. A blizzard prevents other people from coming to this place. The radio battery is empty so the explorer can no longer send Morse signals. The computer has crashed. The internet server is down.

For the writer of scary scenes, mobile phones (American: “cell phones”) are a nuisance. The scene isn't really scary if your heroine can summon help at any time. Make sure she doesn't have a mobile phone with her, or that it isn't functioning: Her bag was stolen, or she lost it during her daring escape or had to drop it while running for her life. She doesn't own a mobile phone because she hates modern technology. There is no reception in the remote mountain valley. She forgot to recharge the battery. She couldn't afford to pay for a top-up. She borrowed a friend's mobile phone and the friend forgot to tell her that the service has been disconnected.

NOBODY KNOWS 

There must be no chance of a lucky rescue, either. Nobody must miss her, or even know where she is. The treasure hunter laid a false trail about his destination. The teenager didn't tell her parents where she was going because she knew they wouldn't approve. The police officer did not tell her colleagues because what she plans on doing is not strictly legal. The heroine tells no one where she's going because she doesn't want her stalking ex-boyfriend to find her. The hiker told the landlord of the last inn that he planned to walk south, but then changed his mind and went west.

HAVE FUN

Think of as many ways to isolate your character as possible. With every chance of companionship, support and rescue you take away, the story will become more frightening. Enjoy scaring your readers.

Can you think of some wicked ideas how a character may end up alone in a dangerous situation? Leave a comment. 

ANY QUESTIONS?

If you want to ask something about this technique, or discuss your ideas how to apply it to your story, leave a comment. I'll be around for a week and will reply.


About Rayne Hall

Rayne Hall has published more than forty books under different pen names with different publishers in different genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. Recent books include Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel), 13 British Horror StoriesSix Scary Tales Vol 1, 2, 3, 4 (creepy horror stories), Six Historical Tales (short stories), Six Quirky Tales (humorous fantasy stories), Writing Fight ScenesThe World-Loss DietWriting About VillainsWriting About Magic and Writing Scary Scenes (instructions for authors).

She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Currently, she edits the Ten Tales series of multi-author short story anthologies: Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, Spells: Ten Tales of Magic, Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies and more.

Rayne has lived in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal and has now settled in a small dilapidated town of former Victorian grandeur on the south coast of England.

Jul 1, 2013

Writing Battle Scenes

A guest post by Rayne Hall.


Here are some techniques for creating powerful, exciting, realistic battle scenes.

The biggest challenge in writing a battle scene is the point of view. To make the experience exciting and moving, it's best to stick to the perspective of a single fighter. However, the individual soldier can't see what goes on a few feet from him, let alone what's happening at the other end of the battlefield or how the sun dyes the horizon bloody red.

Here's a possible solution: Show the terrain before the fight begins, and have the general give a pep talk explaining the overall strategy. Once the fighting is over, show the battlefield and have your point of view character talk with his comrades about the implications.

Do you want to involve the reader's emotions? Stack the odds against your heroes. The readers' natural sympathies lie with the smaller army. The greater you can make the numerical difference, the better. The evil overlord's army is bigger than the hero's, and it is much better equipped, too.

Have you heard of the battle of Thermopylae (480 BC), when three hundred Spartans defended Greece against thousands of invading Persians? The Spartans knew they were going to die, and fought anyway, to gain time for their homeland to prepare further defences. Since then, thousands of battles have been fought - and forgotten. Thermopylae is remembered. The story has been retold in many novels, non-fiction books, and films. The incredible bravery against overwhelming odds still rouses audiences' emotions. When writing your own battle scenes, use Thermopylae as your inspiration.

Battles don't just happen: they are usually planned. At least one side seeks the battle and is prepared.

The generals plan a battle strategy in advance, and make sure that their officers know it. In the heat of the battle, it's often impossible to change strategy or give orders. Sometimes, soldiers are still fighting when the battle has already been decided, because they don't know that their king is dead or the enemy general has surrendered.

Often, the location decides the outcome of the battle. Generals choose the location carefully - and so should you, the author! If the battle takes place on a slope, the army uphill has a huge advantage, because it's easier to fight downhill than uphill, and because missiles fly further. Each general tries to make the battle happen in terrain which favours his own army, and where the enemy can't fully deploy his.

For example, chariots are fearsome on the plain, but useless in the mountains. Foot archers can fight on any terrain, especially in the mountains. The general who has many chariots will try to force a battle on the plain, while the general who has archers will try to lure them into mountainous terrain. If one general has a small army and his enemy has a large one, he'll try to lure them into a gorge or other restricted space where they can't move.

Armies are organised in units either by level of skill and experience (elite, veterans, novices, untrained peasants...) or by weapons and equipment (cavalry, infantry, archers, spearmen, chariots...) or both.

Before the battle, the general probably addresses the troops, firing their fighting spirit and courage. This pep talk may include depersonalising the enemy, because soldiers are more willing to kill monsters than to kill fellow human beings. It's easy to kill a man whom you consider a menace to your children, and difficult to kill him if you think of him as a fellow human who loves his children as much as you love yours.

Noble thoughts and ideals have no room during battle. The thinker of noble thoughts and carrier of high ideals during battle won't survive. If you want to show your hero's nobility, do it when the fighting is over: perhaps he gives the fallen enemies a decent burial, or ensures that his captives get medical treatment and food.

Consider using interesting or extreme weather to make your battle scene unusual. Imagine pristine snow which gets trampled, becomes slippery, and stains red with blood. Or a strong wind which blows arrows off course. Or blistering heat and glaring sun. Or week-long rain turning the field into knee-deep mud, making it difficult for foot soldiers, let alone horses or chariots. Or fog blocking the view of the enemy.

At the beginning of the battle, both armies shoot missiles to take out as many of the enemy as possible before they get close. In a historical novel, clouds of arrows may darken the sky before the battle begins.

When the fighting is under way, describe only what the point of view character can see: this is probably only what is immediately before him, such as the enemy weapon stabbing at him.

To create excitement, mention sounds: the clanking of swords, the hissing of arrows, the pinging of bullets.

Once the fighting is over, the survivors count their dead, bandage their wounds and repair their weapons. In this section, you can inject realism..

Soon after the battle, there'll be carrion birds (e.g. crows, vultures) feeding on the corpses. There'll be humans (probably the victorious soldiers) gathering up re-usable weapons (because weapons are valuable) and looting the corpses. The battlefield is covered in blood, gore, and amputated limbs. The stench is awful, because in death, the bladder and bowels have opened. Plus, there's the smell from injuries, not just blood (which starts to stink only after a while) but the content of stomachs and intestines from belly wounds. The stench gets worse after a few hours, especially if the weather is hot. After some hours, the corpses will be crawling with flies, and before long, there'll be maggots.

If you're aiming for great realism, you may want to spend several paragraphs describing the gruesome aftermath. If you want to create more light-hearted entertainment, it's best to keep the aftermath section short and to skip the gory details.

BUY Writing Fight Scenes now!

About Rayne Hall

Rayne Hall has published more than forty books under different pen names with different publishers in different genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. Recent books include Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel), 13 British Horror StoriesSix Scary Tales Vol 1, 2, 3, 4 (creepy horror stories), Six Historical Tales (short stories), Six Quirky Tales (humorous fantasy stories), Writing Fight ScenesThe World-Loss DietWriting About VillainsWriting About Magic and Writing Scary Scenes (instructions for authors).

She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Currently, she edits the Ten Tales series of multi-author short story anthologies: Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, Spells: Ten Tales of Magic, Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies and more.

Rayne has lived in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal and has now settled in a small dilapidated town of former Victorian grandeur on the south coast of England.