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I swoon over fictional men

Month

March 2017

‘613’

For those of you who don’t know, I work in a hotel. This past month or so, everything has been breaking: the elevator, the coffee machine, the oven (its demise was quite spectacular I hear; apparently it blew up. There were flames and everything!) and the dish washer. Not only that, we’ve had a spate of break ins, too. We don’t seem to be having the best of luck as a hotel, to be honest. I was joking with a manager yesterday that we’ve been cursed by a disgruntled guest and that the hotel is slowly turning against us.

And so a seed of an idea was planted in my mind. If you have a spare few minutes, feel free to read the beginning of a short horror story I’m now writing 🙂 I haven’t written horror in years, so I’m feeling pretty excited!

1

The Maintenance Man; missing and missed

When the maintenance man ascended the stairs, armed with a screwdriver and muttering something about needing to get fit as he lumbered for the sixth floor, no one had any reason to suspect it would be the last time he would ever be seen. Like, literally, ever.

And why would they suspect such a thing? He’d been at Cosy Inn Manchester for…what? Seven, eight years? He had seemed happy in his job, very much enjoying the fact that being employed by the country’s leading hotel chain gave him a multitude of benefits; discount stays elsewhere, a box of out-of-date Dairy Milks from the vending cupboard once in a blue moon and, the perk everyone stayed employed for, scraps of half chewed bacon and mutilated sausage left over by guests after breakfast.

Why would he want to disappear?

It was a question all of Emma’s colleagues were asking as they stood behind the reception desk, confusion etched across their faces as they watched the police sniffer dogs having an paint-spattered shirt pressed against their noses. The dogs sniffed gingerly, their sensitive noses apparently offended by the cocktail of paint, grease and drain cleaner dried onto the lime green, Cosy Inn issued shirt. As she watched them scamper up the stairs, handlers close behind, she heard the same question being repeated yet again, almost like it was a mantra that, if repeated enough times, would cause the maintenance man to crawl out from beneath the desk, laughing about how he’d fooled them all. Ha, did they honestly think he’d forgo overcooked, scrambled egg (fresh from the carton!) to disappear in unexplained circumstances? The maintenance man in Emma’s mind chortled, finding it inconceivable that they’d even suggest such an idea.

Why would he want to disappear?” the guest service manager asked, shaking his head as he furiously tapped away at his computer, crafting an email to head office explaining their current predicament and pleading for a replacement to be sent immediately. There was a light bulb in room 712 that needed changing, for God’s sake.

Emma’s gaze slid to her manager, a man who had, if you were so inclined to believe his stories, single handedly manned the helm of Cosy Inn Manchester since its opening eleven years ago. His shirt, again lime green, was untucked and the garish yellow tie that signalled his managerial position was loose, its knot sitting a good few centimetres below his unbuttoned collar. Poor man had had to change the batteries in 503’s TV remote. His clean-shaven face was pale and sweat beaded his forehead, testament to the sheer effort it had taken to find two triple A batteries in the maintenance office.

I don’t think he wanted to disappear,” Emma said softly, “The box of Snickers in the vending cupboard goes out tomorrow. He’d been talking about it for two days, Barry.”

Barry slammed his fists against the keyboard, snapping his head in her direction. His left eye was twitching. She’d hit a nerve, both figuratively and literally.

What are you suggesting then? That something happened to him?”

She opened her mouth to express her theories, theories based on her observations of the hotel and its happenings during the past two weeks. First, the dissatisfied and ever so slightly creepy guest in room 613, then the malfunctioning coffee machine –

Don’t be so stupid! There is nothing untoward about Cosy Inn Manchester. We’re a business hotel, for crying out loud. People arrive and eat and sleep and then piss off to their conferences. That’s it! Nothing sinister is happening here.”

Two days later, while lying upon the floor of room 613, paralysed with fear, his words would come back to haunt him in his final moments.

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WWW Wednesday – 29th March 2017

It’s that time of the week again. It’s time for WWW Wednesday, which is a weekly summary chronicling the books we’ve just read, the books we are currently reading and the books that we are going to read. Hosted by Taking on a World of Words, I find it’s an awesome meme to participate in because it gives you the chance to meet like-minded bloggers and provides you with ample opportunity to expand upon your TBR list.

Taking part is simple. All you’ve gotta do is answer the three Ws below and post a link to your answers here.

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The three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently reading

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I have to confess, this is my first time reading high fantasy (fantasy peeps, is that the right term?) and, well…I’m a convert. Absolutely loving Kings of the Wyld so far, so much so that the prospect of finishing it terrifies me. I don’t want this adventure to end! Also, how badass is this front cover? To quote a much overused meme, they look like they’re about to drop the sickest album of 2017. I’m thinking something along the lines of death metal?

Recently finished reading

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Unsettling, hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck raising and intense, An English Ghost Story is a much needed shake up of the haunted house genre. You can check out my review here.

Next on my reading list

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Having enjoyed the first book in the Earthen Witch series, I decided it high time to delve back into this world. Feel free to check out my review for the first book, Just Breathehere.

How to make yourself the perfect reading nook

There’s this common misconception that reading is a safe, risk-free activity, an activity that doesn’t result in pulled muscles or sore necks.

*looks at you and smiles knowingly*

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But we both know that’s not true, right?

Study the image below and look me in the eyes and tell me that you haven’t fallen victim to one of these awkward positions. Go on. Try it. I dare you. See? You can’t. Also, searching Google Images for ‘reading positions’ returns questionable results…

Reading-positions

We bookworms are incredibly lucky for the most part. Having a book in our hands is equivalent to the ability to wield magic. All we’ve gotta do is open onto the first page and bam! We’re in a different realm meeting a whole host of exciting new people…and it’s all from the comfort of our Modified Beyonces.

Oh shit, did I say comfort? Silly me. I meant from the excruciating pulled ligaments of our Modified Beyonces. Slip of the ol’ keyboard.

I see you there, lounging back in your baths, hoping that the hot water and Radox will wash away the soreness biting into your overworked muscles (okay, I don’t literally see you, that would be beyond creepy) and let me tell you, my friend, that I understand. My bookish brothers and sisters, I understand. 

And I am here to help. I have kindly compiled a list to help you create the comfiest of reading nooks. A reading nook should be your sanctuary from the world. It should be a place where you can read, undisturbed, with home comforts, such as tea and hot chocolate, close to hand. It should be place where you can snuggle down for a few hours, legs outstretched, bum cushioned and back sufficiently supported. It should be, to put it simply, an ergonomist’s wet dream.

Choose a location

Location plays a key part in creating the perfect reading nook. If you live alone, your lounge would be the logical choice, but in a time of economic austerity, fewer people live in single occupancy apartments or houses. If, like me, you share your house, either with friends or family, your choice of locations is limited. Perhaps you can section off a corner of your bedroom; you could buy a nice little bookcase that would act as a partition between your sleeping area and your reading nook. You could even buy a cheap armchair off eBay and kit it out with plumped up cushions and warm blankets. If you have a loaded credit card, you could even renovate that cobweb-filled shed at the bottom of the garden. Perhaps I watch too many home renovation shows, but it seems to be becoming the norm nowadays. Sheds – or, more accurately, annexes – seem to be ideal for people wanting to put space between their home lives and their interests, such as writing, art or music.

Furnish it appropriately 

The word ‘nook’ has connotations of a place that is secluded and secure, comfy and cozy, and that’s exactly what your nook needs to be. Invest in a decent chair. Wingback chairs are quite popular because you can curl your legs beneath you and rest your head against one of the wings. It might sound simple, but it’s not a position easily achieved in a regular armchair. The wingback is a classic and will embrace you while you read.

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An actual painting of me in my younger years

Have snacks and drinks at hand

Position your nook near the kitchen. Plug in a travel kettle and a mini refrigerator. I don’t care how you do it, just ensure you have sufficient nourishment at hand to fuel you through those late night reading sessions. I recommend tea and hot chocolate, personally. They’re pretty mellow, calming drinks, while coffee is pumped full of caffeine and is simply not conducive to a relaxed couple of hours spent sitting down. In terms of food, you don’t want anything too heavy or greasy. A three course, sumptuous dinner will have you nodding off while a packet of potato chips will coat your fingers in grease and ruin your book. My chosen reading nook snacks consist of biscuits and, perhaps rather weirdly, yogurt.

Good lighting 

Ikea is the place to go for a good reading lamp. Overhead ceiling lights just don’t cut it. They’re glaring and never shine directly on your book anyway (unless you’re lying on your belly beneath it, which is what we’re trying to prevent here). A chairside lamp is ideal, especially if it has a dimmer switch. The light shines directly on the pages, making them easy to read, plus you can alter the brightness to suit your mood or the time of day. When I was living in Japan, I had the lamp shown below and its soft, warm glow generated some awesome vibes. Plus it was ridiculously cheap too!

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And there we have it, folks, a comprehensive list of everything you need to create the perfect reading nook. Do you have anything else to add to the list? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

‘An English Ghost Story’ Kim Newman

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A dysfunctional British nuclear family seek a new life away from the big city in the sleepy Somerset countryside. At first their new home, The Hollow, seems to embrace them, creating a rare peace and harmony within the family. But when the house turns on them, it seems to know just how to hurt them the most, by threatening to destroy them from the inside out.

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Yesterday evening, my mum, brother, sister and I decided to support WWF’s Earth Hour (this is relevant, I promise, bear with me a moment). Between 8:30pm and 9:30pm, we huddled around the dining table, a solitary, flickering candle in the middle of our little circle lighting our game of Uno. My mum’s house is a big old farmhouse that dates back to the 1800s. It was there before the rest of the village was built and, consequently, it’s isolated from the newer houses, only reachable by car down a narrow, winding lane. We’ve had some odd experiences over the years and as a result, it’s a house I’ve never felt comfortable being in at night. Earth Hour, while good for the environment, was something of a tense experience for me. My senses were on a high alert; my eyes were locking on shadowy corners, my ears picking up on the creaking of the floorboards upstairs. So when my brother blew out the candle when the hour concluded – before hitting the light switch – I borderline had an anxiety attack.

So, yeah, I’m a wuss. A scaredy cat. Despite that, though, I thoroughly enjoy both reading and writing horror. Hmm. What can I say? I guess I’m a masochist.

And this is why I picked up An English Ghost Story. One of its endorsements bravely states that it’s “a masterful and often disturbing updating of the traditional haunted house story”. That’s quite some claim and I was eager to see if it lived up to its hype.

And…Oh. My. God. Yes. It. Did. It goes completely and utterly above and beyond the traditional haunted house story.

Most haunted house stories focus solely on the houses themselves and their otherworldly inhabitants. An English Ghost Story addresses so much more than this. It’s a book that explores a range of different issues, from identity to family breakdowns, and because of this, you feel empathy for the Naremores. Each member of this dysfunctional family is deeply flawed and the Hollow reacts to these flaws. It reacts to the toxicity that seems to bind them together. It reacts and brings their underlying issues surging to the surface. It brings their true feelings – about themselves, about each other – out into the open, and helps each of them to address these feelings, albeit in a somewhat brutal manner. Not only that, it helps us, the readers, to understand them. So often when reading spooky stories or horror novels, we find ourselves tutting as the protagonists do something incredible stupid and predictable – like going into the basement with the lights off, armed only with a dying flashlight – but with An English Ghost Story, these overused tropes are nowhere to be found. The Naremores sometimes do stupid and, occasionally, horrifying things, but we understand the reasoning behind it. It’s not just a senseless haunting. It’s not just senseless self-preservation that makes them act the way they do. Everything that happens in this book happens for a reason.

The Hollow is haunted but not in a traditional sense. It’s filled with otherworldly energy and presences from years long gone, but they don’t just haunt for the sake of haunting. They react to the Hollow’s living inhabitants. They mold themselves and adapt, becoming a mirror reflection of whatever has entered the Hollow.  By becoming a reflection of the Naremores – evident in the way the ghosts are personal to each of them – it enables them to see themselves clearly for the first time. It enables them to see the horror of what they’ve become and this clarity gives them the much needed wake up call to change. It’s intelligent storytelling at its best. It’s a haunted house story with meaning.

Not only is An English Ghost Story a fantastically fresh take on the traditional ghost story, though, it’s also creepy as hell! It’s very much got a less-is-more vibe. It’s not outright scary. It’s chilling. It’s unnerving. The little, soot-covered girl Tim sees standing beneath the fireplace isn’t terrifying. She doesn’t tear anyone’s jugular open. She doesn’t chase after him. She simply watches silently before crawling back up the chimney. An English Ghost Story is uncanny – it takes the normal and familiar (for example, the girl) and makes it do something not so normal and familiar (freaking crawling like a spider up a wall). It takes the things we seek comfort in the the normality of and turns them against us.

Rating: 5/5

Song: Rockwell’s Somebody’s watching me

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This book is available on Amazon in paperback and e-reader format.

 

 

That moment when…

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…you relate to a character so much that you’re engulfed in sadness when you remember they’re not real and you’ll never be able to hang out with them.

WWW Wednesday – 22nd March 2017

Ah, finally, a Wednesday where I’m not working! Well, I am…just not until 6pm 😛 Consequently, I’ve had a leisurely morning of tea, Tim Tam biscuits and reading. Anyone here a Tim Tam fan? They’re these delicious biscuits from Australia and, rather randomly, I became addicted to them while living in Japan. Nowadays, I order them off Amazon and was recently overcome with sheer delight when I saw that they come in a range of different flavors.

But this isn’t a post about Tim Tams. This is a post about another addiction of mine; books!

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words. If you want to take part, it’s really simple to do so 🙂 All you’ve gotta do is answer the three Ws below and post a link to your answers here. Be sure to check out other people’s posts too!

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The three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently reading

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A different take on the traditional ghost story. I’m so excited about this book because I’m 100 pages away from finishing and I literally have no idea how it’s going to end! It’s the kind of book that finds you lying awake in the dead of night, the hairs on the nape of your neck prickling as your eyes fix upon the shadowy corners of your bedroom. Does something lurk among them? Has some being transcended the pages and come to haunt you? Not a book for those blessed/cursed with an overactive imagination, that’s for sure.

Recently finished reading

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I wasn’t overly impressed with Heart of the Dragon, but I can see why it made for a promising start to Gena Showalter’s writing career. You can check out my review here.

Next on my reading list

*nervously sips tea* Well, isn’t this a little awkward? I actually have no idea. People, please leave your suggestions in the comments! I’m looking for something non-paranormal romance. I’ve decided for every two paranormal romance reads, I’m going to read two something-elses. Horror, romance, comedy…throw some titles at me! *blows kisses* Thanking you very kindly.

 

Where have we been and where do we go?

Where have we been

And where do we go?

As we emerge into this world,

Wailing in fear and confusion

Following that first shuddering breath

Do our parents ever gaze upon us

With eyes filled with love and ask

From where did our souls travel?

Do they wonder, as they hold us close,

Why we scream ’til we’re red in the face?

Do we scream because we’ve just died

Some place else, some place far away,

And are mourning the loss of those we have loved

As our souls are torn from a body now cold?

Minutes, days, months…hopefully years later

As our inner light fades before flickering out

And we take that final shuddering breath

Dimming the world for a fraction of a second

Do those we love gaze upon us

With love still in their eyes and ask

To where will our souls now travel?

Do they wonder, as we fight for a minute more,

Why we furiously resist the painfully inevitable?

Do we resist because we’re not ready to start again

When there’s still so much to be done here?

Do we eventually close our weary eyes

Only to open them some place else, some place far away?

Where have we been

And where do we go?

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Following the passing of my great grandmother, I’ve found myself contemplating the mysteries surrounding death these past couple of weeks. I decided that since it’s World Poetry Day, I’d ease up some space in my mind and spill my thoughts out onto paper. Here’s a bit of free verse I wrote earlier today.

What are your thoughts on life after death?

And so my expectations have been upped yet again

My friend and I went to see Beauty and the Beast today and…oh my God. It. Was. Incredible. I’m normally a little hesitant when heading to the cinema to see a remake or live-action adaptation, but Beauty and the Beast was flawless. The cinematography was breathtaking, the actors were perfectly suited to their roles, the costumes were second to none and the on screen chemistry between Emma Watson (Belle) and Dan Stevens (the Beast) was off the scales…

…and it may have upped my expectations again. From this day forward, I want nothing to do with a guy unless he can provide the below:

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A personal library *sighs* A girl can dream, right?

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