Le Mort Vivant, pt2 – a performed reading

Image of The Phantom of the Opera, unmasked and burning. Text reads: Le Mort Vivant pt2, by Steven Chapman, performed by Dion Winton-Polak

Welcome to the second part of this month’s performed reading: Le Mort Vivant. Fleeing the hypnotic Violet, our monstrous youth returns to the questionable safety of home. Confronted by a scene of bloody murder, he finds the net closing in on all sides. Can he protect the girl from his mother? Is the mysterious stranger really his father? Can anything be salvaged from the conflagration? This is the conclusion of Steven Chapman’s secret origin of The Phantom of the Opera in all its tragic glory. (Oh, and here’s the link to part 1 in case you missed it.)

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Le Mort Vivant, pt1 – a performed reading

Mask of The Phantom reflected in water and flame

This month’s performed reading is Le Mort Vivant, by Steven Chapman. It’s the tale of a monstrous youth. Hiding in the shadows of the Palais Garnier, a masked figure looks longingly at a world he’s forbidden to touch—until he chances upon a precocious girl at the heart of his lair, and a ghastly family secret. Yes – this is the secret origin of The Phantom of the Opera in all its tragic glory. The story is longer than usual, so I’ve taken the decision to split it in two, breaking off at an appropriate point. Fear not, pt2 will arrive next week, so you won’t have to wait long.

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Anna – book review

Anna - covers

Anna is a dystopian novel, set a few short years from now. War has devastated us to the point of societal collapse. It’s a lawless, bleak and wretched place out there, but our protagonist has managed to survive it, picking her way through the Unlands and trying where possible to avoid the remnants of humanity. Her capture happens with shocking speed, and we are dragged along with her into a living nightmare of enslavement, degradation and manipulation in a cold and bitter world.

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Splashes of Darkness – July

Comic-books are a medium, not a genre; they can tell any story and suit any palate. You want horror? I’ve got bottles of the stuff. Welcome to ‘Splashes of Darkness.’

Hi folks, I’ve recently started a review column for the Ginger Nuts Of Horror site, reviewing comics. This is partly to give me an excuse to get back into the medium as a reader, partly because reviewing is good exercise for the old analytical muscles, and partly just because I wanted to give something back to a community that has welcomed me with such open-heartedness.

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The Minotaur (Finding Me, part 2)

Minotaur in the labyrinth

It’s a funny old business, life. Some people seem set up, right from the start. They know who they are, what they are, and how to get along. Some folk even seem to know what the future holds for them – or at least they have firm plans. I was a late starter; blinking, dazed, and unsure of myself. University gave me independence and self-confidence, my girlfriend gave me love and companionship, and I thought that was all I’d need. It was stability, but I still hadn’t found ‘me’. Not yet.

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Seeking Resolution

I recently discussed ways in which we can avoid conflict when editing (or being edited) in a blog post called ‘It ain’t what we say’. You might think of today’s post as something of a follow-up, though it has applications in the real world too.

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The Cardiac Ordeal – a performed reading

Bloody hands, used to form the shape of a heart

This month’s performed reading is The Cardiac Ordeal, by Andrew Freudenberg. It’s a tense tale which involves the kidnapping of a toddler and the chilling lengths her dad goes to in order to try to recover her. (If this concerns you, rest assured there is no form of abuse either witnessed or intimated in the story.)

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It’s the way that we say it

Good and bad ways to communicate e.g. Accuracy, Negative, Brevity, Harsh, Clarity, Demeanour, Unhelpful, Frank, Uncritical, Emotion.

Writing is a perilous thing. Thoughts flit to and fro, speech vanishes in a half-remembered haze, but written words are here to stay. Fixed. Scrutinised long after the fact. If we choose them poorly, we can destroy our relationships, our sales and our reputations.

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Invincible – tv review

Bright yellow text saying 'Invincible' on a bright blue background, the whole thing spattered with blood.

Invincible is an 8-part animated superhero show based on a *long-running comic series by Robert Kirkman, famed for creating The Walking Dead—and if that doesn’t give you a big enough clue, I’m going to say this flat out: this is not one to plop your kids in front of while you sit on a Zoom call or potter round the house. But you though? You should totally watch it. It’s all kinds of awesome.

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Reinvention (Finding Me, part 1)

Student party

I’m happier now than I have even been – personally, socially, and professionally. If that sounds like a boast, I beg forgiveness, but when I look back along my footsteps, it feels nothing short of miraculous. I’ve been through bad times and mad times. These days, life feels pretty sweet. The secret? It came down to finally finding ‘me’.

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Christmas Fare – a performed reading

Christmas Fare ident

This month’s performed reading is Christmas Fare, a short story by Pippa Bailey. It may seem an odd time of year to put out this kind of tale, but for our main character, it’s Christmas every day. Originally written with a ‘Hallmark Cinematic Universe’ kind of thing in mind, Pippa takes some familiar tropes and has some good gory fun with it.

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Thinking about Purpose – Parsing Judgement #1


Parsing’ (v.) The act of analysing a sentence into its constituent parts.

Judgement’ (n.) An opinion held or conclusion reached.

I came very close to dumping the title of this blog series, but I’ve come back around to it. Forgive me getting a little meta, but I’m going to use my internal debate on the subject to help illustrate the concept and the value of Purpose for your own writing.

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The Wolf Among Us – computer game review

The Wolf Among Us characters

I first came across Telltale Games through their Walking Dead adaptation – an original story that played out like some kind of orgy-sparked bastard between a graphic novel, a choose-your-own-adventure book, and a point-and-click game, complete with hot-button action scenes. I remember it being pretty awesome, so I was excited to see more output following, in different genres.

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Swimming Out To Sea – a performed reading

Lone figure on beach

Welcome back, one and all. I’ve had a fair few people stick up their hands to get a story recorded for this, my monthly foray into audio narration. This half-hour horror comes from the mind of the wonderful Penny Jones. It’s a quietly disturbing tale of disorientation, set at the seaside on a roasting-hot day. Swimming Out To Sea was originally featured in The Black Room Manuscripts vol. 4 from The Sinister Horror Company, but it can also be found in Suffer Little Children, Penny’s micro-collection for Black Shuck Books.

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Breaking through (Cracking Isolation, part 3)

A helping hand

Welcome back all, and thanks for bearing with me. In part 1, I spoke of my childhood experience of loneliness and some of the ways in which I began to break free. Part 2 had me thinking about the different behaviours I’ve seen in other people that revealed their own isolation, either overtly or covertly. As I said at the time, I’m not a qualified expert on the matter, so please keep that caveat in mind as I now consider what we might actually do about it in this, the final part of the series.

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The heart of it all

The editor's desk, organised, with reference materials to hand.

What do people look for in a copy-editor? It seems nuts to say it, but the full importance of this question didn’t really sink in until recently. Not to any kind of depth. The basic needs are obvious: (i.) to catch your mistakes before publication, and (ii.) to help improve your writing. But what makes an editor shine? We’re going to dig into that a bit today.

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Horrified: Universal Monsters – board game review

Horrified Box Art - Universal Monsters

Here’s a good one for folks out there looking for something new and engaging to play. You don’t need to be a board-game geek or master of strategy to have fun with this family game, nor do you need to worry about the fear factor for youngsters. This is what I like to think of as creaky horror: lumbering along, arms outstretched, eyes wide – but very much with a twinkle and a grin. Let’s take a closer look.

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Spotting the signs (Cracking Isolation, part 2)

Statue of a fairy, desperately clutching on to a windblown dandelion, almost carried away by it.

It doesn’t take a pandemic to keep an introvert or an agoraphobe locked away. We like small, controllable environments. Plenty of people have found themselves isolated by virtue of their career, whilst others are minimising human contact out of a sense of social responsibility. Isolation is not always a bad thing. However when isolation is combined with feelings of loneliness and helplessness, it can feel like the cruellest affliction.

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Taking stock

Out in the ocean

The freelance life can feel pretty perilous, bobbing about on the waves of economy. I’ve just about kept my head above water so far, but I recognise the dangers below. It wouldn’t take too much to sink me. Rather than powering on blindly, I thought it wise to take a moment to pause, tread water, and take stock of my situation. See how I’m doing—really. In short, I’ve just given myself a Quarterly Review.

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The Shape Off The Bow – a performed reading

Sailing ship amongst daunting rocks

Well, I enjoyed performing my own story so much, I decided to try another one. Fellow Burdizzo Books author, Lex H. Jones put out a call recently, asking if anyone would be prepared to record a story from his new collection, Whistling Past the Graveyard as a favour. I’ve not read Lex before, but I wanted the opportunity to get some more audio practice in, so I stuck my hand up. The story I present today is The Shape Off The Bow – a half-hour maritime tale of an ill-fated treasure hunt, isolation, madness, and something unnatural floating up there, just off the bow. Turn off the lights, settle back, and let the (sound)waves wash over you…

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