Friday, 21 April 2017

Ticking Along

Well it seems as though The Infernal Clock is a brand that is here to stay. It has a twitter account @infernal_clock, an email address and of course this blog spot. There have been tweets aplenty posted by its talented contributors, although arguably @TheShakes72 is out there in the lead and some very pleasing early reviews which can be read here at amazon. 

We even had a number one position in the Kindle chart for a few heady hours.

What was an even bigger kick however, was checking to see who was on the bookshelf with us, I mean Shirley Jackson AND Stephen King.

So what next?

The focus is still at present on The Infernal Clock. We are working behind the scenes to gather more reviews, today we sent a copy of the book to the British Fantasy Society and will be approaching others. These sites and organisations have said they have quite a pile of material to review so it may be some time before they get to ours – there are no guarantees. But if we don’t ask we don’t get and that is something we are having to learn fast, to put ourselves ‘out there’ even if it means a knockback. It may even be that the reviews are not what were hoped for but that is the nature of the industry, a world based on the subjectivity of the reader.

We are looking at different platforms and different methods of presenting The Infernal Clock but this will take time. There is also a competition in the pipeline, again to draw traffic to this site and the book. And if that isn’t enough, yes there will be another anthology.

This is a long game, so if things look as though they have gone quiet the Clock hasn’t stopped, it’s just ticking along nicely (and @theShakes72 is probably in the pub, except on a school night).

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Quality Time by David Shakes

Steph and I are in discussions about an Infernal Clock competition of some sort. Writing to tie in to the whole IC theme. Going back through my own archives, I thought this piece was a nice example of something that may exist in the IC world:

The clock on the mantle wheezes each interminable second.

The kitchen tap drips infrequently.

There's no rhythm here.

Everything's shrouded, not just you – the familiar coverings of dust and doilies.

Echoes of my last visit, only it's me who’s now sat motionless in the armchair.

Across the room your sightless stare takes in the patterns on the nicotine stained ceiling.

Outside, in the first rays of dawn, I hear the clink of milk bottles on the doorstep.

Such a small sound, yet there's been no milk round here for years.

You whisper, 'Go home now.' 

I can't go yet.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Infernal Art

We've a few hashtags on Twitter, including #InfernalArt - here's a selection

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The Infernal Exit Interview

David Shakes talks to co-curator and esteemed horror writer Stephanie 'Steph' Ellis about how she wound up involved in the project.

1)  So, Stephanie, you went from having to enter a competition to get a timeslot in the book,  to becoming co-curator and linchpin of the project. How the hell did that happen?
Right, first it’s Steph in conversation, not Stephanie. I’ve reserved my ‘proper’ name for written author bylines only. When I was small, the only time my Dad would use my proper name was when I was in trouble (otherwise they called me Stevie but that’s parents/sisters & their children only, although twitter seems to have got in on the act) – to everyone else it’s Steph.
Now back to the book. Fate? Not in my right mind? Sod’s Law? Haven’t the faintest, it just sort of crept up on me.  I had heard ideas for the anthology being mooted but not necessarily being on twitter at the right time I managed to miss the boat. I was a bit miffed at that. However I knew how much my co-curator Shakes and the successful contributors wanted to get this done so I offered my services to help pull it together. Things went a bit quiet but I kept an eye on the messages about The Infernal Clock and saw a slot had opened up subject to competition so I thought I’d give that a go. Thing was, nobody else entered – to this day I’m convinced everyone felt sorry for me and ‘let’ me have 3 a.m. Then again, things went quiet, until a message from Shakes asking if I’d help pull it together and if I had another story; his own work pressures had pretty much delayed things. But life does have an unfortunate habit of getting in the way so no one should ever feel guilty about that.

2) Your horror writing has won many admirers, me included, why do you think your work appeals to so many readers?

Truly, I really don’t know. I never, ever thought I’d end up writing what I do, and believe me I still don’t know how I do it. It may be the imagery I develop – I love that, trying to build pictures that just hint at something until the whole scene is suddenly there in your head and you’ve creeped yourself out in the process. I wrote a short flash piece recently for The Angry Hourglass in which a character initially appears as some sort of mad murderer (explicit) but reading between the lines you discover he actually mutilates humans and keeps them as ‘pets’. I also like to catch people out when I add an element of what I call matter-of-factness to my writing which contrasts and then heightens any madness in the characters.  So perhaps that’s it, show don’t tell – with a dash of psychosis.

3) Once a book is in the wild, the 'business' of marketing it begins - what do you make of the whole thing?

Scarier than writing and very much a learning curve. There are things I’m looking at via this self-publishing course I won a while back which focuses on marketing and selling. I just haven’t had a chance to look at it all properly yet; there’s audiobooks, translations, book trailers and have you seen the world of book vloggers? I asked my daughter to send me links to her favourite vloggers recently so I could check them out, it’s a whole different world out there. And there’s conventions, going on a panel, the thought frightens the life out of me but if I really had to do it, I would. Once upon a time you could write something and leave it to the publishers to push the final product. Now it’s the poor old author who has to put on a very public face and sell themselves in a very saturated market.
I also believe that it’s a long haul process so there will be peaks and troughs and you just have to accept it.
Can I go back to writing now please?

4) Which book, horror or otherwise, do you wish you'd written yourself and why?

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. One of my favourite novels and one which I return to every so often. What stays with me from this book is the whole sense of atmosphere. Right from the start you know something dark and evil is approaching, eventually to be revealed in the shape of the nightmare Carnival. Even when I can’t remember a character’s name or a bit of the plot, the book with its oppressive and dark imagery continues to haunt me. To be able to haunt someone with imagery drawn from your words is a skill indeed.

5) If you were character from the world of horror and the fantastique, who would you be and why?

Me? I’m a nice person. Actually it’s not really horror but I wouldn’t mind being Terry Pratchett’s DEATH. He has some wonderful one-liners and he’s quite fond of humans, plus he has a horse called Binky.

6) Fancy doing this again?

Of course, always a glutton for punishment and as the genius that was Terry Pratchett says “Insanity is catching.” 

The Infernal Beginning...

The beginning of April saw the birth of a new horror anthology, The Infernal Clock.  Here we speak to one of the co-curators and evil mastermind behind the whole project, David Shakes.

What triggered the idea for the Infernal Clock?

I spend an inordinate amount of time on Twitter and was tweeting about the resurgence of genre TV and my nostalgia for shows like ‘The Twilight Zone’. I mused that a horror ‘24’ would make a good show. I also thought it would make a pretty good theme for an anthology book…
How did you go about selecting the stories?

That’s a pretty scary story! I didn’t. I tweeted something along the lines of: ‘Who wants to be in a book? Pick your timeslot between 12am and 11pm.’ Within an hour, 24 people had! I then had to worry for 5 months if they were going to write anything or, in some cases, had written anything before. To get such high quality in the end product has been more by luck than judgement.

What was the most difficult part of this project?

Trying to wrangle 24 individual people, who’s only commitment is a throwaway tweet. By the time I’d finalised the line-up and realised the initial time allocations had gone wrong it was getting quite fraught. When another couple of writers had to pull out, I knew it was time to call on the FlashDogs crew. They came through with last minute stories, changes of timeslots and, in the case of my fabulous co-curator Steph Ellis, the time and space to pull together a hefty master document.

How did you feel when you finally saw the finished product?

1)  Proud as punch! I know that I am biased, but it’s superb. It’s not just me saying that either – independent reviews of both Kindle and print versions have noted Tamara Rogers’ top artwork, the perfection behind Steph Ellis’ lead in quotes and of course Emily June Street’s faultless production values. A fairly big genre publisher I sent a print version to recently shared how impressed they were with the final product.
2)  Relieved. I was floundering towards the end, I missed my own Halloween deadline for the launch and my day job was getting tougher and tougher. I owe it to a lot of other people that we got such a polished anthology out there.

Would you do this again and if so, is there anything you would do differently?

Right after we’d done it, I said ‘never again.’ Now – it’s a maybe. I’d organise things a bit better and involve the right production people from the start. I’m great at the big ideas but need other people to concentrate on the details. I would also get more of my own work in there next time. The Infernal Clock ended up being produced at a time when I wasn’t writing much and what I was producing wasn’t my best. I’ve also learned a lot about marketing and would set aside time and money to promote the work effectively too. It’s a saturated market and you need ways of getting your book noticed.
We were musing about Infernal Clock Publishing the other day…
You contributed a story to the Prologue which seamlessly introduced the rest of the book. If you could've chosen an hour, which one would it have been and why?

Like some of the other writers have said in their own upcoming interviews at The Infernal Clock, I’d choose an unassuming hour – early morning or mid-afternoon. It would be more open to interpretation. Demons by Daylight as the amazing Ramsey Campbell once wrote.

On Writing:

You've show you can write consistently to a high standard - your flash stories online and contributions to the FlashDog anthologies have shown that. Why don't we see more?

Firstly, thanks for the compliment. Secondly, and without irony, it’s all about time. I started writing when I turned 40 and one of my favourite authors, James Herbert, passed away. I even wrote down 3 aims:

1)      See if people will read you and like what they’ve read2)      Win a competition and get into a real book
3)      Write a novel by the time (I’m) 45

I was really disillusioned with my job at the time and threw myself into writing and photography. Flash, poetry and short stories were a perfect medium for me. The first two aims are complete - FlashDogs became a thing, I’ve an Amazon author's page and have featured in half a dozen books and was once uncynically called ‘the author, David Shakes’!
In the meantime, my day job (a primary school headteacher) has grown tougher and tougher as I take on greater challenges. I write a lot, but for the job – policies and letters and web content and reports and agendas and minutes and emails…it hasn’t left a lot of time anything else.
In my down time I try to prioritise family and then my broader social circle. I currently have 8 months to get that novel sorted!

Do you have a favourite story of yours we can read here as a sample?

As good an example as any:


They'll tell you that the Mersey is clean, teeming with life, but poison takes on many forms. The dead clog the estuaries, their unclaimed bodies shifting on the tides. They pollute the river with anguish and regret. Their anger swirls amidst the grey waves. Their imploded egos become black holes of emotion, sucking life into the oily mud of its banks. The lost and the wicked. The damned and deranged. They all sink the same.
You can't ordinarily see them, but there are times when the veil is lifted. Thin times.
Rare, stormy nights when the promenades fill with spectres and the river is clogged with sodden souls. On these nights the river may offer up a body, release a soul to move on to whatever may come next.
That's what happened for us; why I'm here on this ferry able to see her this one, final time.
The early morning commuters look right through her. They may glimpse the urn on the salt bleached deck and turn their thoughts to brighter things. They may sense the tragedy and close their minds to it; incongruous as it is to their steaming lattes and Facebook updates.
She stays by the urn.
It's been months since the suicide.
We'd been at a low ebb. Debts were mounting. She'd said she couldn't cope. The pressure grew with every final demand. She'd become withdrawn, secretive. We'd barely spoken, even when I knew she was waking in the night to be sick.
That's been the worst part since it happened. Not being able to talk to her, but now she's here, as hauntingly beautiful as I remember her. I want to hold her so badly but know I can't. The dead have no corporeal being. The tear that makes its silent way down her pale cheek says it all. It's almost time to let go.
As the ferry hits the halfway mark the wind rises in anticipation. There's an offering in the urn; a conclusion. A release.
The body had washed up at New Brighton. Once identified and the coroner's report complete, it had been a short wait for a slot at the crematorium. There were a few friends at the service. Small comfort.
This part was always going to be private. We'd discussed spreading ashes on the Mersey the way the immortal young do, secretly knowing their own death will never come.
Oh, for that time again - before mortgages and redundancies; before drunken rows and suicidal thoughts.
I'm almost standing beside her now. Her eyes gaze out across the water. My hand hovers over the swell of her belly. The heat of the life within too intense for my cold, dead spirit.
I'd been so lost in our money worries, so lost in myself that I hadn't even seen the signs of early pregnancy.
It's a boy. Does she know it's a boy?
I am saddened by the thought of her having to raise my child alone. How could I have been so selfish?
She looks at me - really looks. She speaks, a low whisper:
"It's okay. I forgive you." She puts her hand on her stomach and smiles sadly. "We forgive you."
If it wasn't ashes in the urn my heart would break. Now I know I'm no longer lost.
Maybe the best part of me will live on in my unborn son.
The ageing sound system cranks up and Gerry starts singing 'Ferry Cross The Mersey.'
She takes the lid from the urn and scatters me to the wind.
My soul soars as Gerry sings:
"We don't care what your name is boy, we'll never turn you away."

What genre do you tend to write in and what is about that genre which appeals to you?

Horror of course. I think the fascination began as a child – it was thrilling to be scared and I devoured all the Hammer films and BBC2 creature features. My first adult horror book was Carrie I think. There was no YA genre but that book opened me up to a world beyond The Hobbit. Writers like Clive Barker made the genre an art-form and I realised that the best of the genre had as great a depth as the books I was studying in school and later at university.

Who are your darkest influences?

Writers? King, Campbell, Barker, Herbert, Straub, McCammon, Morris, Hutson (not to everyone’s taste but he knows what works!) More recently, Adam Neville and C.J. Lines.

How do you come up with your ideas?

Beginning my writing life as a flash-fictioneer, I’ve become accustomed to prompts and criteria. Most of the rest of the time it’s from daydreaming or following a stream of consciousness. I get visual images in my head or sometimes a phrase or snippet of dialogue. I read a lot of non-fiction too which can spark ideas.

What next for the Shakes?

I am going to attempt that novel. I have procrastinated long enough and it’s time to nail something exclusively Shakes to the world.
I hope to contribute to the newest FlashDogs project which will be an online magazine.
 I once threatened to do some rewrites of Enid Blyton tales for David Southwell who is busy mapping Hookland for the masses right now.
The novel comes first.


6 Who do you think are the 6 most evil humans in history?

Hitler, although he’s on a continuum any other leader that would devalue another human being or commit atrocities in the name of something ridiculous.
Elizabeth Bathory who managed to kill almost 666 girls in the mistaken belief that she’d preserve her youth.
I actually believe the most evil people are the ones we don’t know about – the ones who are manipulating from behind the curtains, and there are more than 4 of them…

6 Who do you regard as the 6 most evil villains in literature or film? 

Evil is about intent and awareness – so I’m going to say Pennywise / IT (let’s hope the new movie gets it right), Flagg from The Stand and The Dark Tower series, General Woundwort in Watership Down, Damien in The Omen, The demon Pazuzu in The Exorcist and The Trunchbull in Matilda.

6 What do you think are the 6 most disgusting meals or food products ever created?

Wotsits, sheep brains, durian fruit, microwave chips, jellied eels, Wotsits again.

And finally ...

The Devil walks up to you in the bar. What drink would you buy him?
Whisky, single malt – aged, dark and peaty. No ice, no water. A double. The Devil doesn’t dick about with cocktails.

Grab a copy of the book itself here ... with some excellent reviews you will not be disappointed.

11am with Marie McKay: THE LAYERS WITHIN

11 am

Tick, tock, the hour has struck and time has been called for:

Marie McKay

There are 24 hours in the day. Why did you choose this hour for your story?

My writing usually involves exploring the darker side of domestic settings. A spot leading up to lunchtime seemed perfect for that.

What is your story about?

It involves two, maybe, three characters depending on how you read it. It is set in Glasgow. A young professional has moved into an executive apartment. He appears to want to make a new friend. A live one. But his obsession with repetition takes the story to a darker place.

Who are your darkest influences?

Bram Stoker. I loved all things Vampire as a kid.

How would you encourage a non-horror fan to read your story?

I'd tell them it was no more disturbing than some episodes of  'Dinner Date.'

Do you write in other genres?

I write very short flash fiction that tends to be dark, but not necessarily in the horror genre.

What is your favourite time of day?

When the kids are tucked up in bed. (Is that really awful?)

Do you have any other publications or work you would like to tell us about?

I have flash fiction published in various places online and in various anthologies including the flashdog anthologies.

What are you working on now?

I have a piece I really like, called 'Retro', but it's been rejected a few times now. Going to give it another bash before giving up on it entirely.

Where can we find you online?



6 Who do you think are the 6 most evil humans in history?

Three I can't leave out:
Pol Pot

And three people whose actions really haunt me:
Josef Fritzl
Marc Dutroux
Delphine Lalaurie

6 Who do you regard as the 6 most evil villains in literature or film?

Count Dracula            Bram Stoker's 'Dracula'
Iago                            'Othello'
Fred                            'The Handmaid's Tale'
Edmund                      'King Lear'
Pinkie                         'Brighton Rock'
Margaret Thatcher     'The Downing Street Years'

6 What do you think are the 6 most disgusting meals or food products ever created?

Cheese strings
Sugar-coated doughnuts (chocolate ones are fine.)
Anything with lemon in it
Gin (I know it's a drink, but I hate it even more than all 5 foods I've just listed.)

Tick, tock, time’s up

10am with Mark A. King: THE WATCHMAN


Tick, tock, the hour has struck and time has been called for:

Mark A. King

There are 24 hours in the day. Why did you choose this hour for your story?

I didn’t choose the hour. I was called to help fill a gap at the last minute. Indeed, I wrote the story very quickly, only to discover the time had also been given to someone else, so I had to revise it again.

What is your story about?

It’s the dark soul of online exploitation. A criminal uses the world time-zones to bribe and extort money from victims in different countries, in numerous ways. He is the hunter, he is the watchman, but perhaps someone (or something) watches him.

Who are your darkest influences?

Stephen King is an obvious choice, I also love the work of Dean Koontz. More locally I rather enjoy the work of David Shakes, Steph Ellis and Marie MacKay.

How would you encourage a non-horror fan to read your story?

There is enough horror in the world that is real that I shouldn’t have to encourage anyone to enjoy a piece of fiction where the stakes are not as high. Come and read, escape the horrors on TV, radio, print and social media.

Do you write in other genres?

I spend most of my time in Speculative Fiction, which covers a wide spectrum of genres.
I enjoy stories that are set in worlds we recognise yet have hints of the unreal or supernatural about them.

What is your favourite time of day?

This very much depends on what day it is.
Monday – Friday, it’s either the minute I walk into my home, or the moment my aging head hits the pillow.
At weekends, it’s a Saturday or Sunday morning coffee in bed. Bliss.

Do you have any other publications or work you would like to tell us about?
My debut novel, Metropolitan Dreams was released recently, it’s a story about two sides to the same city. It’s about criminals, the vulnerable, the unseen, and angels or entities older than time.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on the sequel, Metropolitan Fear, set in New York City.

Where can we find you online?

Twitter: @making_fiction


6 Who do you think are the 6 most evil humans in history?

Well, I’m be surprised if Hitler didn’t make every list, so he’s got to go on mine. While he wasn’t alone and there were probably others that were loyal to him that were worse, he started the process and inspired them.

This one will be controversial, but hey. Henry VIII. For a large number of reasons. Killing several wives for his own failure to produce a male heir. Spreading scandalous and fabricated stories so he could dispose of his marriage and engage in another. His destruction of the countries assets, the hundreds of years of murder, torture and persecution that followed his rather selfish needs (have I convinced you yet?)

Vlad III. Yes, the guy that impaled his own people (in the most horrifying and truly painful way possible). The same guy that inspired Dracula. I watched a documentary on it once and it was more terrifying than any horror film I have watched.

Pol Pot. Where do I start? Horrific. Genocide on a truly brutal and unfathomable scale.

Nero. Genocide. Persecution. Parricide. Barbarism beyond belief. Evil, for sure.

Stalin. Few people have killed as many or been as responsible for the atrocities that he has.

6 Who do you regard as the 6 most evil villains in literature or film?

Arby and Lee, from Utopia. Arby is about as scary a psycho as I’ve seen in anything. The scene in the school was almost unwatchable. Lee, who wasn’t in it long, for one of the worst scenes I can remember. I couldn’t choose between them.

Corky Laputa, from Dean Koontz’s The Face. A villain who gives LSD to school kids. An anarchist of the highest and most deluded order. A man that keeps another man rotting in a room, referring to him only as Stinky Cheese Man, because of the decay.

Amy, from Gone Girl. Holy Moly, truly scary in a way that made me look at every smiling and ‘nice’ person in a whole new way.
The Joker, as played by Heath Ledger. “Some people just want to watch the world burn.”

Patrick Bateman, American Psycho, as played by Christian Bale. Rather interesting that I’ve picked ‘Batman’ and ‘Joker’.

6 What do you think are the 6 most disgusting meals or food products ever created?

Curry – I know I’m going to offend a lot of people. It’s one of the most popular and beloved meals in the world, but I’ve never liked the smell or flavour.

Anything overtly spicy. I think I’m what’s known as a ‘super-taster’ which means that I can detect even the tiniest amount of ground pepper in a meal. Some food labels say ‘mild’ yet I find them too hot to eat.

Hershey's chocolate. At first I thought it was just me. Then we went trick or treating in the local town, which has many American air force houses. All the chocolates in our house and others were gone over the next few months, years later the Hershey’s were still in the cupboard. I’d also dispute that it’s to do with UK tastes as many American friends much prefer Cadbury. I watched a documentary recently that said the taste of Hershey’s was similar to vomit for many people. Personally, I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s not nice.

Celery. Yuk. It’s got a horrible taste that makes me shudder just thinking about it. It’s also got a stringy texture that adds to the experience.

Olives. I just don’t ‘get’ them. Someone I know said that if you eat anything six times you’ll start to enjoy the taste. But why would you do that to yourself? Once, or twice was enough to tell me not to go back again.

Guinness. Yes, I know it’s not a meal, but it tastes like one. Strangely, my Irish blood can’t stand the taste or smell of it. I’ve only once managed an entire pint of it and it took ages. It looks amazing and I wished I could drink it, but no, like the olives, I’ve tried too many times for my liking already.

Tick, tock, time’s up

9am with Andrew Patch: THE ART OF CREATION


Tick, tock, the hour has struck and time has been called for:

Andrew Patch

There are 24 hours in the day. Why did you choose this hour for your story?

I was late to the project but fortunately just in time to grab a morning slot. For a moment I felt like Indiana Jones retrieving his hat in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

What is your story about?

The tormenting dream of becoming a writer.
The reality of being a character.
And floorboards.

Who are your darkest influences?

Black coffee? As a kid I was a devotee of James Herbert and Stephen King -  the imagery of rats in the London underground still haunt me to this day. The music of Matt Johnson (otherwise known as The The) helps soundtrack my darkest writing.  Whilst the creative output of Ben Stiller make me dream of murder.  

How would you encourage a non-horror fan to read your story?
Bonus points will be awarded for the most entertaining forms of torture and there is also the possibility of a job opportunity with me.

I wouldn’t - there’s 23 other hours to read, go there first.

Do you write in other genres?

Some parts of my writing fall loosely under notions such as sci-fi or dystopia. Mainly I just write a tale and hope that others enjoy it.

What is your favourite time of day?

Sunrise and sunset if by a beach. That next espresso anywhere else.

What are you working on now?

Currently working on a longer piece set in a near-future London, it begins with a man waking up to discover he has shot three people dead.

I do feel sorry for him as what happens next is rather unpleasant.

Where can we find you online?

I sometimes venture onto twitter @imageronin


6 Who do you think are the 6 most evil humans in history?

James Blunt
There is no one else more horrific

6 Who do you regard as the 6 most evil villains in literature or film?

The child killer from M
Judge Death
Norman Bates

6 What do you think are the 6 most disgusting meals or food products ever created?

Spray can cheese (in fact any food delivered by spray can)
Desiccated coconut (Satan’s sawdust)
Coffee with milk and sugar (how to ruin coffee)
Pizza with mini burgers for crust

Tick, tock, time’s up

DeadCades Anthology - Final Author Announcement

Recently we published details of the last of our time-themed anthologies at The Infernal Clock. This final edition will give you not ...