My writing so far

Now that my fourth book has been completed and published, it really makes me want to stop and think about my writing career so far.

If I were to sum it up in one phrase I would say, “on schedule

My first book, North Sea Nightmare, came out on the first of January, 2017. Sitting here in October 2017, with four books under my belt, it has been a very productive year on the writing front.

If I have learned one lesson in all that time, as overstated and simple as it might sound, stick with it and finish. Before I had so much energy but it was unfocused, nothing ever got finished, despite hours and hours of writing I hadn’t a single completed manuscript to show.

By focusing, not ditching a story idea the second I got bored with it, making a note of new ideas but not diverting time to them, I have finished four books.

It’s also important to keep the writing going even if it’s not your main source of income. I have a pretty demanding job working 9-5, but as tiring as it is, and I have had plenty of rough days, I made the time to write. If you set yourself an hour to write, and actually spend that hour writing, you don’t need to spend days at a time on it. A marathon, not a sprint, do a little each day rather than a gut wrenching two day spree of solid writing. I’ve done both, a little each day is far better.

You also need to get your partner aboard as well. I’m lucky, my wife has always encouraged my writing, knows it is important to me and offers a lot of useful advice and support (editing, telling me what she thinks). If your partner doesn’t know how important your writing is, you can hardly be shocked they don’t support it.

I feel proud when I see all four books sitting on the shelf and know I wrote them but far more than any sense of personal accomplishment, what matters is people are entertained by them. We all have plenty on our plate day in, day out, it makes me happy to know my little horror novels help provide a distraction.

To me, that is what writing is about, entertaining other people with your stories.

Horror Short Story: Pigeon

I know it sounds crazy, but I’m being stalked.

Even I think it’s crazy but I’m being stalked, I’m 100% sure of it.

Let’s get another thing straight, I’m not some whacko basement-dwelling YouTube star who doesn’t even know what the real world is like because they are too busy reviewing the top ten 90’s Power Ranger action figures.

I’m an architect, I design buildings. I breathe life into them, some of the most beautiful homes on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Toffs line up to do business with me and half the time I’m in the position to turn them away. Get lost, I’m a busy man, stuff to do.

So, we are on the same page, right? I’m not insane or some crazy freak looking for attention.

Good, we need to get that out the way before I tell you the next bit.

I have a nice office – see the previous points, not a loser freak- and the view is clear to the castle. I love this view, it never fails to impress the clients when we have them round. You need to do that, kick them in the balls (or tits or whatever) when they walk in and practically beat them into submission.

What the view and office say is:

  • I’m smarter than you
  • I’m more successful than you
  • People who are wealthier than you pay for my services
  • They follow my advice to the letter
  • So don’t contradict anything I suggest

It makes every meeting so much easier.

If there is any doubt, the customers will seize on that. They will doubt your advice and make their own suggestions. Oh god no. No, no, you don’t want that. They will push back against your prices, want a breakdown of your expenses.

Nope, avoid that, kick them in the balls when they come in and keep your foot there.

You can imagine my horror when I saw a pigeon sitting proudly on the veranda outside my office. I sometimes took guests out there when the weather was nice, a rarity in Scotland. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I quickly realised that the rat with wings was proudly sitting atop a nest. A nest! On my veranda. On my perfect, stylish veranda there was a nest squatting, built from rotting twigs, a few pieces of garbage.

I threw open the door and the dumb bird just looked at me.

“Move,” I hissed, but it did nothing other than cock its head to the side. It was as if the dumb creature was amused by my presence.

“Get out!” I stamped my foot loudly, again and again. It didn’t budge.

That was it, screw this. I went over, grabbed the nest which had two large eggs sitting in it. Without hesitation, I flipped it over the edge of the building. The pigeon barely managed to escape as the crude construct tumbled towards the pavement. It shattered on impact, eggs cracked to pieces, branches scattering. A few people looked up in shock but I ducked back into my veranda.

A hiss caught my attention, the pigeon on the edge of the balcony. It’s previously dull expression was livid, wide eyes, beak open and the damn thing was hissing at me. Did pigeons do that?

I smirked and flipped the stupid bird off, going back to work.

That should have been the end of it. For anyone else it would be.

Not for me.

Days passed and on occasion I would still see that damn pigeon come round. I would look up from my latest sketches, or cast my eyes back after a meeting and there it was. I knew it was the same pigeon, don’t ask me how I knew given all these foul birds look the exact same, but I did.

My response was always the same.

“Fuck. Off.”

Then away it went.

I was going to my car one Friday after work, a spring in my step, ready to spend the weekend with my wife and two kids. Normal weekend would be a fun day out shopping, a nice restaurant afterwards, then some alone time with my wife and wine while the kids played upstairs. My kids are coming along nicely, they sit properly at meals and thank the waiter, they order their own food and they are only seven and ten. Not like those screaming banshees I see infesting most restaurants these days, the parents shrugging as if, “oh well, we are too fucking stupid to keep a leash on our kids, so you can suffer along with us tonight.”

My wife should get thanks for that but I do my part. I’m not shy about disciplining my kids when it is needed. More people should.

When I came up to my car, my jaw dropped.

The first thing that caught my eye was that it was completely encrusted, entombed almost, in bird shit. White and green goo was splattered over the doors, dripping from the handles, smeared over the bonnet. I ran over, almost retching from the smell and noticed it was even worse. There were scratches, little claw marks, in the glass, up and down it, deep scrapes and gouges.

I’m not some clean freak but I couldn’t even bring myself to touch the car, I could almost see the fetid germs slithering over it from the bird dung. God, I wanted to be sick.

I made my way back up the office which was already almost empty. That was the way this office worked, everyone checked out at about three thirty, four.

There he is, the boy I was looking for. Fresh faced, big brown eyes and an over eager smile. Most of the guys (and yes, it is mostly guys), wore shirts, no ties and had a fairly casual demeanour. Only senior partners came in with suits and ties, like me. And this kid. Full blown suit, buttoned up, tie, shoes that almost blinded me.  He all but saluted when I came up to him.

“I need your help,” I said, not using his name because I didn’t know it.

“Sure thing sir, you name it.”

“My car is a bit messed up, needs some elbow grease to get it in good order. Think you could take care of that?”

He almost leapt out the chair in his burst of enthusiasm.

Hats off to our unpaid intern, I snapped my fingers and the young boy scrubbed my car clean. I was going to slip him a twenty, but I regained my senses and gave him a fiver. Hey, better than nothing and I will remember it if he ever needs a reference. That’s part of the climb to the top, sometimes you need to wade through shit- literally.

All in all, it took the kid about an hour to clean up my car and have it looking halfway decent. I came in late, in a foul mood since my evening routine was in ruin. Hey, I work hard, is it so much to ask for that my evenings are the way I want them to be?

I came in, glowering at no one in particular, and slammed the door behind me, a coiled spring ready to snap.

Then I saw her, bounding out the living room, and I couldn’t help the smile forming on my face.

“Look what I made dad,” she said, grinning ear-to-ear.

She displayed a drawing she had done in school, which was actually pretty good, of me.

“Wow, that’s amazing.”

“I’m gonna be an artist.”

“Yes, yes you will,” I said, patting her on the head.

Last week she wanted to be a police officer and before that a doctor. Her ambition must be getting lower if she wanted to be an artist. No cause for concern, next week she would want to be something else, hopefully a better career than a penniless artist. Assuming there will be any jobs in the future that the machines haven’t taken.

My other daughter will survive the robot uprising, she’s already a tech head, able to reprogram my phone and iPad better than I can.

Next day, determined to improve my mood, I buried myself in work. I was taking the lead on a project, at my level I didn’t dirty my hands with the minute details but rather the big plans. We were handling plans for a new Edinburgh shopping centre, smack bang down town. Yet another attempt for Edinburgh to tackle Glasgow as the shopping capitol of Scotland.

Another perk of being a senior partner, I can decide some days that I don’t want to take any calls. I can have total isolation when I want, I don’t abuse that, but it is refreshing.

Out the corner of my eye I could see the bird, sitting there, eyes fixed on me. I ignored it, there were more important issues at hand rather than flying vermin.

I got a monumental amount down, approving plans, tweaking them, seeing graphical displays of how it would look. That is what makes me happy, to see material progress of my toil. I could never be in one of those professions where your actions had no physical impact. A call centre, one of the ever growing middle management type roles. No, here we created actual, physical things. I created them.

In a far better mood, I made my way back to the car.

My shit covered car.

“What the fuck!” I shouted in the empty car park.

Once again it was if a flock of pigeons with diarrhoea had decided to gleefully unload over my car at the same time.

No intern in at this time, I had to swab it myself. With my own two hands, fistful after fistful of tissues from the bathroom. By the time I was done there was a heap of the filthy, ruined tissues by the side of my car as high as my waist.

I decided to write an email to be constructive rather than personally go out with a handgun and kill every single rat with wings I could find in the city centre.


Dear KACL property management,

On five separate occasions (you need to exaggerate with these people to get things done) I have found my BMW (proof I am a serious customer) encrusted with bird faeces (need to be proper here not bird shit).

Given that we pay you to maintain the standards of the car park and cars within, I expect immediate action (shoot the damn things).

Yours sincerely (I use words like sincerely, so I am better educated and more important than you).


Big day today, the representatives of the consortium that is building the new shopping mall want to check in. Given this is one of our biggest ever projects, they have earned the right to sit with me, not one that I readily give out to mere mortals.

They were interchangeable suits, arriving in a gang, no doubt trying to justify their pay cheques.

“Gentlemen,” I said, “let’s begin.”

I ran them through the plan, showed them some quick packs the marketing team made up, wowed them all.

Then, halfway through the climax of my speech I noticed the mood had changed. One of the men had went red in the face, others were looking at their shoes. One mouth breather was staring dumbfounded at me. No, not at me, behind me.

A row of them.

A row of the damn things.

Pigeons, above my window on the perch, had released their bowels in long streaks down my magnificent view.

On the balcony, watching, was that same damn pigeon. Trust me, I could pick that bird out of a police line-up without any hesitation.

I ran out, swatting at the filthy creature, “will you leave me along you bloody pigeon!”

Impotently I tried to grab it, wanting nothing more to snap its little neck, but it was out of reach, fluttering and hissing before flying away.

All the representatives were staring at me as if I was a deranged lunatic. They had no idea the misery these birds were putting me through, if they had they would be helping me rid of the world of the disease-ridden things.

I barely remember the rest of the meeting, they showed themselves out after about another fifteen minutes. As I was rubbing my aching head at my desk, a few of the other senior partners dropped me emails to check if I was “okay”. Word got around quickly in this place. I was going to go back to each of them with a two-word suggestion, the second word being “off”, but decided not to. Waste of my valuable time to even acknowledge those dick heads existed.

I was relieved when I went to my car and saw that it was pristine. Too bad about my window and view but my car was in one piece for today at least. Maybe they had emptied everything they had on my window. Revenge fantasies were going through my head as my foot squeezed down on the accelerator. I could electrify the balconies, put those little spikes out. No, that would be too easy. Glue. Yeah, glue. Super glue over the balconies and perches. They would land and get stuck fast, I could sip my coffee and watch them die slowly. That would be sweet.

Pulling into my driveway I could see the faces pressed against the windows of our neighbour’s homes, peering at my house, desperate for some gossip from the looks of things. Outside my house, I noticed police cars, the bright yellow standing out against the dull browns of the houses.

I walked in through the front door, two police officers talking to my wife. My wife is the embodiment of calm and collected, a counterbalance to myself. I don’t think I have ever heard her raise her voice after about twenty years of marriage. Now she was screaming hysterically, a deranged vision of grief, clawing at her own face and sobbing. If she saw me coming in the front door, she didn’t show it. An officer tried to push me but I slammed my way past them and rushed up the stairs. I don’t know why but I felt that a terrible thing had happened up there, I was being pulled towards it.

The door to the kids’ room was covered in that plastic police tape, crisscrossing over the front of it to prevent entry. Behind me the officers were shouting but I couldn’t hear them or my wife wailing at the top of her lungs.

Their room was covered in feathers and bird filth, like my car, like the window. Two shapes were slumped against the wall, huddled together, as if trying to protect each other in their final moments. Dead birds littered the room, snapped necks and broken legs, but they had won their little war. The two figures were covered in blood, gouges out them, scratches, their eyes two hollow caves.

My daughters.


And the pigeon, that pigeon, was watching from outside the window, its head titled.

I could swear it was almost smiling.

Does horror need to be scary?

Seems an obvious question, doesn’t it? Of course, horror should be frightening, the whole point of horror is that it should scare people. Romance makes the heart flutter, action gets the adrenaline flowing, horror is meant to scare you. The idea most people have of horror films and books is like a ghost train where you get strapped down and roll down the rails, monsters springing out at every turn, jump scares and frights galore.

I would say though it doesn’t necessarily need to be.

Thinking back to some of the great horror icons, I wouldn’t say I find them frightening. Freddy from Nightmare on Elm Street belongs in the horror genre without a doubt. However, I don’t feel scared watching those films, they are fun. Dark, messed up fun but without a doubt an enjoyable watch. When I see Freddy show up, I’m not hiding behind the pillow, I can’t wait to see what outlandish death he has planned for the interchangeable teens. So, that is a great horror icon that isn’t frightening per se. Same with Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th or Chucky. Ghostface from Scream, a 90’s horror icon, is the same. Recognisable, makes the scenes he is in, but scary? No.

Likewise, there has been quite a Stephen King revival of late. Stories like Christine, where a car comes to life and starts murdering people, are horror stories but they really aren’t frightening. Same with plenty of his stories, they are interesting, fun, horror but not scary.

Horror can be morbidly fascinating, I actually read a collection of horror love stories. One included a girl abducted by a psychopath, kept in a box for years who is eventually rescued. When she eventually escapes and returns to her normal life, she finds she needs that kind of controlled situation to be happy, a cushion from her PTSD. It was strange, almost deranged at points, horror ceartinly but none of it was frightening.

How genres are defined can be totally subjective, you might agree or not but I wanted to throw my two cents into the argument.