Natural Horror

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If you want inspiration for your next horror monster, I seriously would suggest watching a nature documentary.

It can be good fun to marathon a bunch of horror movies to really connect with the genre and submerge yourself in it, I recently did so with the entirety of the Paranormal Activity movies. However, the danger there is you are only really seeing what has already been done, not ideal if you are wanting a fresh take.

Go on Netflix, on YouTube, whatever, there is no shortage of nature documentaries which are great inspiration. Ones that focus on the deadliest animal or on predators are especially for this purpose.

If you see something grisly and story worthy, then what do you do?

Generally, if you are writing horror, there are two options I would say, 1) apply those principles to a monster; or 2) make the creature prey on humans.

 

  • Apply the principles to a monster

A wasp that paralyses its prey, drags it into a shallow grave and then lays eggs in the still living host? That’s nightmarish and great fodder for a horror story.

Using this method, you take what the animal does and apply it to your monster. Let’s say I had an idea for a monster terrorizing a small town but I wasn’t too sure on how I can make it different. I know it is a tall, vicious slab of muscle but apart from some generalities about how it looks, I am not sure how to make this a unique monster to keep my readers on the edge of their seat. I could use that idea, I make the monster abduct unfortunate victims, drag them off to its lair and then carry out the same process as the wasp.

There is the black widow spider that devours its prey, not hard to imagine that principal applied to a femme fatale style demon. Once she mates with a suitable target, she can tear their head clean off.

In these various examples, you already have an idea for a monster but aren’t too sure how to separate it from the crowd. Take an activity or tactic the animals use and apply it to that very monster and you will be left with a nightmarish result.

 

  • Make the creature prey on humans

This is a bit simpler and can be very effective. Let’s say you have no idea what you want your next monster to be, total blank slate. We all get like that sometimes, when the ideas won’t flow.

Why not take one of the gruesome creatures you see in the documentary and make it able to prey on humans?

For example, in North Sea Nightmare, the monster is really a jellyfish big enough to devour people. To refer back to my previous example, why not use a monstrous human sized wasp that kidnaps people to be hosts for the brood.

If army ants stripping their prey to the bone in a matter of seconds creeps you out, then make the ants start devouring humans.

Find a creature that makes your skin crawl then make it focus on humans instead of what its natural prey is. The creature wouldn’t really be a threat to people? Then make it bigger or more lethal.

 

There are plenty of sources of inspiration for your next horror story, I would suggest a nature documentary.

Crime and Horror- related but distinct

Scream is a horror film. I don’t really think that is up for serious debate, it was marketed as a horror film, follows the beats of a horror film, was directed by a horror director and frequently makes top horror movie lists.

The description of it though could easily be a crime thriller, imagine seeing this on the back of a box:

A masked killer, the police on his trail, an investigative journalist who thinks a man may have been convicted for a wrong crime. The clock is ticking to find out who is behind the Woodsboro killings.

On the other hand, The Godfather is a crime film- despite the fact horrific things happen in it.

Mass murder.

Horse mutilation.

One scene is almost Saw worthy, a mobster has a blade smashed through his hand and is strangled from behind.

A newly wed bride is obliterated in a car bomb attack.

There seems to be this line between these two genres I wanted to discuss. They are related, brushing against each other but distinct.

Here are a few points that I think generally separates them:

  • Crime is underpinned by logic

Even if it is twisted logic, crime films and novels tend to have an undercurrent of reality. You can work out what is happening even if the detective is one step ahead of you, often the central plot is being carried out for a particular reason. In L.A. Noire, all the murders are to conceal a property scam. In The Godfather, mafia families are struggling for control.

Horror is free of logic. It can embrace it but it doesn’t need to. A murdered paedophile called Freddy is killing teens in their dreams. Okay, you don’t think twice and enjoy the ride, getting scared and nauseated in equal measure.

Scream is set in the real world but liberties are taken, we don’t question in Scream 2 how a nerdy college film major brutally murders two trained and armed FBI agents because he put on a rubbery Halloween mask and got a knife out the kitchen. We can suspend our disbelief because it doesn’t really matter in horror.

  • It is possible to solve the mystery in crime

One of the best things about a good crime mystery is once the big reveal happens, you see how there has been plenty of hints along the way, plenty of opportunities to pick up on it. Then you can put it on again and spot it all, it is what makes them so rewatchable.

Horror on the other hand is less concerned with this. Fear, death, over the top violence or a foreboding atmosphere, that is what matters. There is no way to work out in Scream who is behind the mask, there simply isn’t. No clues, no leads, no real mystery. Ghostface will keep killing people until the gruesome crescendo. It isn’t necessary in a horror movie to work out who the killer is, it doesn’t add or take away from it.

A crime movie that has no investigation or problem solving wouldn’t be very good.

Jason going on a rampage doesn’t need that to be an effective horror film.

  • Death in horror is the main event

In horror, death is often the main event and takes centre stage. Characters die, try to avoid death, the threat deals out death.

Death in the crime genre is usually to get the plot moving, in a great many of them it isn’t especially graphic or gratuitous, indeed it can even happen off screen.

I could show you a death scene from Friday the 13th and show you a death scene from Scarface and you could probably tell what genre they belonged in. Being gunned down in your club is vicious and brutal, but crime. A seven-foot brute tearing your arm off and letting you bleed out in agony is horror.

 

This isn’t an exact science and there are some that straddle genres (Seven being a good example) but as a rough rule of thumb, this is how I tend to separate them.

 

 

 

Funny AND Scary

Before I start, just to say I have a facebook page you should check out:

www.facebook.com/LeeTheWriter/

Striking the right balance between comedy and horror is not an easy thing to do, so most writers and directors will go for one over the other. Either blood curdling and scary (The Aliens from the Alien franchise) or outright silly (think of the straight to DVD Bruce Campbell movies or tongue in cheek modern B-movies). Few will try and take on the centre ground.

It is hard to do right but when it works, it really works. Examples include:

  • Gremlins
  • Eight Legged Freaks
  • Killer Klowns from Outer Space

If you are aiming for this kind of vibe in your horror I think there is one key rule to keep in mind. The monster can be funny, look at the Gremlins going on their rampage through the city, it is like something out of Looney Tunes. Similarly, the Killer Klowns raiding the pharmacy or the spiders in Eight Legged Freaks attacking a stuffed moose head and spitting out the flesh in disgust.

Yes, they can be funny.

But, and this is key, they also need to be a genuine threat. The gremlins are funny but when they attack the mum in the house, there is the very real danger they are going to kill her. Likewise, although the spiders are silly, almost slapstick, when the main characters meet them, you know they could die.

You can laugh at their antics but equally, they are perceived as dangerous.

When this balance fails, you never really consider the enemy a threat. The locusts from Alien Apocalypse seem ridiculous and as if they couldn’t hurt anyone, they barely seem able to move their limbs. Same with some of the more absurd Dr Who monsters, they aren’t threatening.

Another way around it is to make the henchmen ridiculous and silly but the big boss frightening. The minions can have goofball moments but when the big boss shows up, you know heroes can die and the fun is over. In Eight Legged Freaks, you see the silly spiders jumping around when the massive tarantula stomps into view, the tone changes. Look at Labyrinth, the goblin muppets are stupid and not really a threat but when the Goblin King shows up, there is genuine menace.

In your own work, if you want this kind of vibe, remember they can be funny but they must also be a threat.

My Third Book: The Shape in the Sky

The Shape in the Sky Book Cover

Two books published with some decent feedback, onto the third. Horror with a Scottish twist as you all know is my thing so it should come as little surprise it is another horror story. If you are interested as to why, have a read through my blog, almost every second article is praising the horror genre.

I’m still writing my third book, first few chapters ready but not completed the full thing yet- still, I wanted to give you the synopsis.

They do not come in peace

They do not want to be our friends

Rock and roll band Iron Claymore have just launched a massive music festival in the Scottish Highlands. Booze, babes, drugs and colossal egos are part of the package when dealing with them and it doesn’t take long for the band to get up to their usual antics.

The event organisers know that people have been going missing in the Highlands recently but aren’t too concerned.

They should be.

Coming soon!

***

My other two books are:

North Sea Nightmare

https://www.amazon.co.uk/North-Sea-Nightmare-Lee-Johnston/dp/1520418302/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1492960230&sr=8-1&keywords=north+sea+nightmare

 

Bad Credit

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bad-Credit-Lee-Johnston/dp/152097258X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1492960300&sr=8-1&keywords=bad+credit

 

Author page

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lee-Johnston/e/B01NAOYYKW/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

 

 

 

Blog #34 How I would do Gilmore Girls A Year in the Life

My better half and I have recently been marathoning various tv shows. Next on the hit list is season 1-7 of Sabrina the Teenage Witch (now that will be a nostalgia tour).

The most recent show we completed was Gilmore Girls and like a good chunk of the people who have watched the show, the newest season wasn’t quite what I was expecting.

I recently made a post on what I thought the next season of AHS should be, American Horror Story: Campus, I can’t help but thinking about what shows should have done differently. So in a parallel world where I was asked to do A Year in the Life, this is what I would have done instead of what we got.

Main Characters/Main Story threads

  • Lorelai has a baby boy with Luke and they are still going strong. He runs the diner, she runs the hotel, a new status quo has been set up. A major hotel chain though approach her and want the inn- they are also very clear that she will not be kept on. She feels torn as that is part of her identity which comes at an especially bad time as Rory blurts out that she would hate the idea of spending her life in Stars Hollow. Her main story involves trying to decide if her identity is her new family, her inn, both, neither. She sells the inn, becoming fairly wealthy in her own right, and decides to spend the next few years discovering herself, what she wants to do. It is a scary prospect but she decides she has never really had to chance to do that. Luke supports it and we see her try a series of hobbies, courses, considering various jobs. She is shocked though that the sleazy hotel chain representative totally goes back on his word and eliminates all the staff, firing Sookie and Michel. They ask her to open a new inn but she says she is past that, causing an initial riff between them but they overcome it. At the end of the series Lorelai knows she will likely have more thinking to do but with Luke, her daughter, her step-daughter and her new son behind her, she is ready for it.
  • Rory has failed essentially. Her career in journalism went nowhere and she still rides off former glories like graduating Yale, being editor of the Yale Daily News etc. Unsure what to do next, she came home to Stars Hollow. Although wallowing at first, she sees a vacancy for a lecturer in a small college in journalism. Hating the idea but having nothing else to do, she applies but continuingly insists this won’t be her profession, she is meant to be a journalist. She starts and has a rocky time at the start, these college students are very different from what she saw at Yale. She has to share her tiny office with Ken, who lecturers in politics and continually clashes with her. Whether it is his paperwork spilling onto her desk or major political differences, they clash over everything. She takes to calling him Ken doll because of his clean cut appearance. The two put aside their differences though when the results for both their classes are dire and they are in serious danger of losing their jobs and letting down their students. As they work together, share tips, helping each other they find out they have a lot in common. He saw this as a stop gap job as well but eventually went on to love it. She is inspired by his passion, especially in comparison with some of the scumbag journalists she has known. Their classes go from the best to the worst and they are both offered permanent positions- and yes, start dating. It gets very serious and Rory realises that she loves teaching, helping people, getting them ready for the world. Logan shows up, saying he has never gotten over her after proposing. He is even more powerful than before, his savvy advice saved his father’s primarily print company form collapse by moving to online websites. She rebuffs him, saying what they had is very special but she loves Ken. Having come to terms with Dean, Jess and Logan, she knows where she stands. At the end of the series, Ken and her go on a romantic trip together, looking forward to the teaching year resuming.
  • Luke is happy in his new relationship and turned into a doting father for his new child, smoothing his rough edges. However, he feels guilty that his relationship with April isn’t as strong. This is all in Luke’s head though, she is a busy woman dedicated to her scientific research, she loves him but has too much going on. Luke’s heavy handed attempts to up their relationship fail spectacularly until she tells him to cool off, she knows how much he cares and he should focus on his new son. Luke accepts this and apologies for all the half assed attempts to make up for lost time. She names a new kind of degenerative neurological disease she discovered after him and he awkwardly thanks her for this.
  • Emily is still devastated after losing Richard, throwing herself in busy body work and becoming even more isolated and snobbish. However when she has a catch up with Michel, who she always got on well with and has had a growing friendship with as he is one of the only people who loves her elitist views, things change. She hears how he was fired, how the Inn is going to be some box standard chain and is incensed. She decides to bankroll a new inn, Michel will run it and it will be the classiest in town considering what has been done to the Dragonfly. Emily is an astute businesswoman and Michel excels in his new role. Emily bonds and becomes closer with her daughter throughout the experience and even relies on her for advice. Not surprisingly, she hires Sookie as a chef.

Minor Characters/ Secondary Story threads

  • “In service of the town”

Taylor has got even more officious and overbearing as the years have went on. His most recent string of unpleasant decrees leads the townsfolk to discover an old, unused law declaring there is a maximum service time for town selectman- and Taylor is well past it. Taylor spends the first half of the series fighting this and conflicted due to his love of the law before eventually yielding to it. He then hosts an apprentice style interview process to find out who should replace him. Eagerly awaiting to see who Taylor’s replacement will be, the townsfolk are shocked when he announces himself. The law stipulates a maximum term of service if it is unbroken, but Taylor’s service has been broken because Jackson temporarily dethroned him before chucking the position and letting Taylor take it back. The angry townsfolk turn on Jackson, because of him Taylor is staying where he is for potentially another decade.

  • “Odd Pod”

Kirk has been running a surprisingly successful podcast for many years now, thousands tuning in for his quirky views and incorrectly assuming he is always “in character” rather than just a town weirdo. In several scenes and throughout the show you can hear him going off on tangents in the background while a group of bemused people listen.

  • “Summer in Paris”

Paris has become one of the most esteemed surgeons in the world and travels the globe. She occasionally chats with Rory, mostly scalding her on a lack of direction. Paris is mainly a secondary character in this season because she would be busy, it would be unrealistic to see her chilling in Stars Hollow.

RED ALERT! PERSONAL BIAS WARNING!

PERSONAL BIAS WARNING #1- okay, so I always despised Kirk as a character. His “oooober” joke upon meeting him reminded me why. This keeps him where he should be, off to the side, an amusing distraction without wearing out the audience’s patience. Of course part of that may be I don’t like him and maybe some of you would be disappointed if he wasn’t in it as much.

PERSONAL BIAS WARNING #2- Rory’s new love interest, Ken is a moderate, small town conservative. There is a reason for this. Whenever people with conservative views are in mainstream television shows it is usually as the butt of a joke or a deranged caricature. There seems to be an omission of moderate conservative people in these stories. Media can bring people together, we can try to show more views and respect these or get up on a soap box and screech at people we don’t like and lump them all together.

PERSONAL BIAS WARNING #3 If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Lane’s story was fine, I don’t see a need to change that. Part of that I admit is because I was only marginally interested in Lane.

 

 

# Blog 33 A Love Letter to Horror Part 2

I’m getting ready for a nice dinner and the usual Saturday night horror movie (which is usually preceded by a drama or comedy, War Dogs in this case). Prosecco poured, table set, spicy chicken and rice, bring on an amazing Saturday night.

I was thinking again about why I love horror so much. My first love letter to horror emphasised how I enjoy seeing characters pushed to the extreme in a way only horror can accomplish.

Reason number two of five billion why I love horror is because it mixes with other genres so easily. Tonight we are watching The Twilight Zone Movie, on previous Saturdays we had watched Saw 5, Shaun of the Dead, The Final Girls, Tusk. Each one of these is solidly horror but have such vastly different impacts. Conversely, watching Die Hard, then Lethal Weapon, then The Last Stand all feel pretty much the same. A week of action movies sounds a pretty monotonous exercise to me. A week of horror movies? Sign me up.

Action is generally action. Drama is drama, romance is romance. I tend to find these genres more rigidly defined. Something that calls itself essentially a romance movie will have difficulty moving into other genres.

For example, attempts at some eye rolling humour in an action movie wouldn’t really push it into action/comedy.  You can have a bit of romance in an action movie but it generally fails to land, being regarded as an annoying and unnecessary subplot. Kindergarten Cop is essentially a comedy with really out of place action scenes. You see the point I am making, other genres can have difficulty meshing but not horror.

Horror though has a fluid ability to mix with other genres and do so successfully. A horror film can still solidly be a horror film but with shades of other genres.

Horror and Comedy? Sure, Hot Fuzz, Evil Dead, The World’s End, all great movies.

Horror and science fiction? No problem, The Fly, Alien, Splice.

Horror and romance? Got you there, Pride, Prejudice and Zombies, Warm Bodies.

It goes on and on, horror can mix with films that have strong political or social messages if that is what you are interested in. I would say horror can often explore these topics more successfully than a straight up drama on that same topic.

So you can watch a horror movie every night for a week and run a full gauntlet of emotions. So whoever you have over, I’m willing to bet there is one horror movie they will like.

I don’t feel other genres can say that.

# Blog 32 Neverendum

So here we go again, Indyref2.

I can barely describe how furious this makes me. We had a referendum, 85% turnout which is astounding, we were all told this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, we voted to stay in the United Kingdom- that should have been the end of the discussion for a generation.

The SNP have decided they didn’t like that answer and are going to hold another one.

Why? Well I think you can divide the SNP leadership into three camps: cynic; delusional; and fanatic and each has their own motivations.

  • CYNICS– Having lost a majority government in the Scottish Parliament in the last election and given the generally low opinion and increasing criticism of their governing, this provides a convenient distraction from all that. When we are strangling each other, breaking into unionist and separatist, no one questions what an awful job they are doing, we all get tunnel vision for the referendum. Furthermore, their fragile support is galvanised. Right now a lot of their voters are leaning to the Greens, Scottish Socialist Party, even back to Labour as they find Corbyn radicalism appealing. They are disenchanted after a decade of the SNP in power that the party wasn’t really all that revolutionary. With a referendum led by the SNP, those people fall back into place behind the SNP. After the first referendum there was a tidal wave of support for the SNP but that has cooled now. Best to stoke the flames again. The Cynics don’t care about the Scottish people, Scotland or anything really, besides being in power- many of them would probably vote against independence as the currency situation, an embittered, confrontational devolved government with the Westminster scapegoat is convenient. This is the group I despise the most, the camp Nicola the First Minster would fall into I think. They want indryref2 to stay in power.
  • DELUSIONAL– These people buy into all the propaganda that Scotland will be a paradise once we leave the United Kingdom. Despite all the warnings from banks, companies, senior public figures, they are more convinced by the what could be. Yes, we are successful and wealthy now but we could be even more so. With the greatest respect, these people tend not to have an excellent grasp of economics and business. They could be amazing at something else, a tech expert, a great fiction writer, a talented actor, but they have no head for the real workings of a nation. As such they aren’t persuaded by the volume of data that Scotland would be in for hard times, having a deficit larger than that of Greece. They cherry pick facts and generally shrug off those concerns. They aren’t being cynical or cruel, they just think Scotland will be better off in their own very limited view. I think former First Minter Alex Salmond, who launched the first referendum, comes under this heading. They want indyref2 because they are convinced by the arguments for an independent Scotland.
  • FANATIC– all movements have the extremes and Scottish nationalism is no exception. Fanatics don’t care about anything else other than Scotland tearing itself away from the rest of the UK- many of them don’t want to be part of the EU either. Even if it hurts Scotland, even if we become a third world country, they honesty believe it would be worth it. Waving the saltire and remembering grudges from six hundred years ago is more important than what people will eat or how the country will pay for anything. You can’t reason with these types, many of them are racist, despising the English. If you look back in the history of the SNP you will see many of these delightful sorts although most have been gagged and kept out of the limelight to portray the friendly nationalism the SNP strives for. They want indyref2 because it is the reason they get out of bed in the morning, it is the reason they breathe!

 

To highlight the differences between them, here is a hypothetical example.

I have proof from leading economists that an independent Scotland would be bankrupt within six months. I present it to the SNP cynic, delusional and fanatic. What do they think?

Cynic– they don’t actually expect the referendum to succeed, this is all to ensure the SNP is re-elected and seen by the radical left as a revolutionary party. So they would condemn it, trying to portray themselves as a fanatic no doubt, but they don’t even think the referendum will happen, so it is not a problem.

Delusional– they don’t really base their views on independence on economic figures, it is more a gut feeling, they think vague promises that the Whisky industry is booming, oil will make a comeback and so on easier to understand and digest than some dull economic ramble. So they are unconvinced.

Fanatic– they would first of all call me a traitor and that is about as far as we would get. So what? So what if Scotland is ruined? We will be free from the hated English and that is what really matters. Sacrifices must be made and a few generations with no prospects is an acceptable one.

***

Families, relationships, friendships were all strained during the first referendum which left a bitterly divided country. Now the SNP government has decided we need more of that. I love Scotland too much to be a nationalist.

#Blog 31 Banking and World peace- yes, really

In 1913 the idea of any great power going to war with another was unthinkable. A large part of this was because of how intertwined the banking and financial systems of the world had become. For an extreme example of this, Lloyds of London provided the insurance for the German merchant fleet- so in the event of a war, Lloyds would be honour bound to pay Germany for every ship that sank.

British banks had branches in Germany and profitably lent to their citizens. German banks did business in Russia and the Middle East. Turkish currency flowed into Europe, in Hong Kong, British banks flourished. The flow of money, capital, loans were veins between countries.

Of course, the Great War 1914-1918 did happen. It happened because there are irrational leaders and factors beyond logic (nationalistic fervour, the Kaiser’s desire for an empire to rival the British one, tensions in the Balkans). One of the most dire warnings the Kaiser received was from the German central bank, as war would plunge the various clearing houses and banking relationships into chaos, at immense cost to Germany. In Britain and France, similar warnings were delivered.

My view, and there is plenty of history to support this, is that the more intertwined and connected the banking world is, the harder it becomes to go to war. Not impossible and a deranged enough leader can pursue it but at immense cost to themselves.

Bankers don’t pay much attention to borders, generally having very global outlooks, even more so than most the commercial and political world. Imagine if the US and UK had a major falling out and military tensions were rising. Without a shot being fired, it would be disastrous for both because of the interlinked financial systems. London is the world’s leading city for currency trading, the US could find itself cut off from that, damaging their own currency in value. New York is the leading city for trading shares, the UK would lose access to that, that would be catastrophic here. There are US companies with subsidiaries in the UK, these would have to shut down in the event of war as it is illegal to trade in an enemy nation. Citizens Financial is a large US bank owned by a British bank, if we just closed it down, what about all those people savings and loans? Economic chaos!

If going to war becomes costly, most rational people won’t do it. If going to war is profitable and can be done with minimal cost, then yeah, it becomes a legitimate tool for national advancement.

One of the factors that led to the Islamic State cracking at the seams was the economic war. Yes, the constant fighting and bombing took its tool but it was choking the regime that the currency they tried to invent, the Islamic State Dinar, was so toxic. It failed so totally, being unable to integrate with the global banking system, and was worthless. In the regime’s final days they seem to be relying on real and counterfeited US Dollars (somewhat ironic…). Make no mistake, if the Islamic State had been able to fashion a working financial system, it would be in a far stronger position.

Even now that the UK has voted to leave the EU, no one wants to sever financial ties, rather the main grudge was the EU’s political decisions that didn’t sit well here and also the widespread belief that there was a democratic deficit in the organisation. Already people are looking to see a stronger European Economic Community rise up but to keep politics out of it. Purely economic, I like the idea of that, trading and interdependence but leaving each country alone to devise its own laws and make political decisions as they see fit.

Banking and finance ties the world closer together and has done more to prevent war than all the self-aggrandising politicians, pressure groups, protests and demonstrations put together.

#Blog 30 Nervous

Photo of Lee Johnston

Generally speaking when it comes to the day to day, I don’t consider myself a very nervous person.

I feel in control of my day, I get up at the same time, get my suit and tie on, have the morning chat with my fiancée about what the plan is tonight when we get in and clock in to work.

Part of that is because I do a lot of extra work outside office hours to ensure I know every process, nuance and issue at my work- and given that I work in banking there is always some new problem. I don’t feel nervous though, I like being challenged, it keeps me interested and focused on my work. If I did the same thing day in and day out, I would become very bored.

So when I am in control, I don’t feel nervous, I feel content.

What makes me nervous, what keeps me awake at night are things I can’t influence.

First of all, a second Scottish referendum. After a great deal of soul searching, arguments and bitterness, Scotland voted to stay in the UK. I even went leafleting on a few days, that is how much I believe the Union is worth fighting for. If Scotland had voted to leave, I would have been sad but accepted it, it was stressed constantly that this was a once in a lifetime decision. No one made the decision lightly. The results came in and I cracked open a bottle of champagne, relief was palpable. They say the unionists didn’t really do much celebrating- I think there were a lot of people like me who after weeks of feeling nervous were just relieved it was done.

Then after barely a year, there was already talk of a second referendum. As of 2017, the First Minister is openly discussing indyref2.

It makes me angry, it makes me nervous for the future and I can’t do anything to really impact it. If the First Minister calls it, it will happen. If the second referendum happens, I will be out campaigning for the union again but I don’t want to have to do that. While we argue over independence everything else (the state of the NHS, Police Scotland scandals) all that is just pushed to one side.

Secondly, I am someone who really doesn’t like drama. So when something kicks up with my friends or family (haha who are a volatile lot, something always seems to be happening), I feel on edge and nervous. This is for the same reason as the first point. I feel I cant influence it, I can offer support, I can try to calm things down but if two people fall out, they might need to fight it out themselves.

Nothing wrong with feeling nervous, I would say it is important to know why we feel nervous and try to identify a common cause. I know what my underlying issue is and I can try to tackle that in the future.

 

via Daily Prompt: Nervous

#Blog 29 Stories from real life & Bad Credit Chapter 1

In my last blog, I mentioned how what we come across in our day to day lives can be a great inspiration for stories. Time to put my money where my mouth is and give another example.

I recently finished and am editing my way through my horror novel Bad Credit and wanted to include the first chapter which (as you may have guessed) happened to someone I knew. Now as I often do, I exaggerated it a bit, making it a crucial meeting rather than a night out with some work buddies but the story was a great one to use. I don’t think I could have totally came up with it in a vacuum. Needless to say I have had my fair share of gaffes and mistakes on the front lines haha.

The main thrust of the novel is Tom ends up in debt to a supernatural debt collector, Mr Rox, who wont take no for an answer.

Hope you enjoy it!

BAD CREDIT

Dinner On Me

Tom sat with his three clients in the restaurant, laughing and leaning back comfortably, appearing the epitome of a suave Edinburgh businessman on his way up. A black Hugo Boss suit, white shirt and silver tie, neatly combed hair, a chunky, very visible watch. He oozed wealth.

His three guests, important business people in their own right and a few decades older than the bright young man in his thirties, looked almost shabby by comparison. He had dazzled them with a meal, he had even taken the liberty of ordering for them.  He was a one man event committee, able to wine and dine without missing a beat. Each one of them felt like Tom was totally focused on them alone.

The Discerning Thistle was not the most exclusive restaurant in Edinburgh but it was smack bang in the middle of the city, very visible and fairly expensive, exactly what Tom needed for tonight. There were a dozen circular tables, each full, were crammed with well-dressed men and women chatting away and enjoying the glass front of the restaurant which allowed them to look out at the busy street. It felt like a place to do business, to strike deals, that was the vibe Tom wanted to create.

“Just the bill please,” Tom said in a firm but polite tone to the waiter almost the same age as him. Nights like this made Tom feel powerful, important. He could have flopped out, given up, spent his days taking orders with a nice little bow tie. Not him, not Tom Laing, he was a success. That word was always on his mind, red and glowing with fireworks around it, driving him forward.

“Now folks,” he said in his carefully learned posh accent, “I don’t need the dotted line signed tonight. I’m telling you though that this deal won’t hang around forever. That’s the nature of the markets, you have to hit hard and fast or you might as well not bother. It’s a sprint and if we aren’t first, we’re last.”

Tom was fond of sports metaphors when it came to investing, it seemed anyone could grasp them. A knockout punch when dumping stock to hurt an opponent. A marathon when the investments weren’t turning the sort of profit he was expecting and he had to buy time. A football team to encourage a sense of teamwork and unity. They were simple but they worked.

“We all have things to do, yourselves included. Just man to man, and woman to man of course Sally, are you happy with this?”

“We are,” conceded Jack McGovern, of McGovern Buses.

“With you at the helm Tom, we feel good about this,” smiled Sally, CEO of AC Construction, “I’m not normally the investing type but this seems the right thing to do.”

Bobbing his massive head that sat atop a tartan ascot, Mark, ever the quiet one said nothing. He was a trust fund kid with deep pockets but little business acumen, being at a meeting like this was no doubt his idea of an adventure.

Ensuring business meetings about investments were a bit theatrical was all part of the game. Most investing is done in evenly lit, bland offices over a period of weeks or months. A candle lit restaurant, greasing palms, talking about making a fortune is what people wanted, especially people like Mark who had never worked a day in their life. The illusion had to be maintained.

Moments like this made Tom beam with pride. Here he was, rubbish education, no connections, no one to help him but he had clawed his way through ability and guile for these St Andrews educated twats to regards him as one of them.

Appearances when dealing with these people meant more than raw ability, he had learned that the hard way. Although his title of investment banker at Hagen & Co sounded grandiose, he was on 100% commission, no different than someone working at a telesales centre. He ate what he killed as they said in the office. Landing these clients who were trusting him to invest part of their company funds on safe, low yield choices was exactly what we needed. He would create a brand new portfolio with these three clients, it would see a nice healthy margin and he would get part of that. Everyone wins.

Trust was the key part though. When it came to investments, people had to trust you, to feel that their money was safe with you. Tom knew he had hit that objective, they were eating out the palm of his hand after just a few calls and one pricey dinner. Like shooting classy fish in an expensive barrel.

The waiter came over with a card reader, which he handed to Tom. He quickly punched in his PIN without a second thought and went to turn to the others.

BEEP.

A red light.

“Sorry sir, there seems to be a problem,” smiled the waiter.

“What problem exactly?”

“I think we should talk about this away from your guests,” the young man arched his eyebrows, his eyes worried, but the smile never left his face.

Tom knew he had to quash this and fast, he was losing his audience, “spit it out man, come on.”

“You have insufficient funds on your card.”

His guests looked puzzled at the comment, not sure what to say, and some nosy folk at nearby tables were giving sideways glances, tittering to themselves.

Tom rolled his eyes jokingly at them before turning back to the waiter, whispering in a low growl, clenching the man’s wrist.

“I planned this meal in advance, it comes to £200. I have that on my card, I checked this morning. Your stupid machine isn’t working.”

Perhaps it was stress, Tom hated toffs who put on airs, but he sounded every bit the snide public school boy he wasn’t when he spoke to the waiter.

“Mr McGovern ordered an extra coke between courses. It’s £201.50.”

Tom was dumbfounded. He hadn’t thought anyone would order anything extra, he had ordered everything in advance so he knew his dismal finances could handle it, not because he was a good host as he had pretended.  When he left for the restroom in the middle of the meal, someone had ordered an addition.

“If you pay the remaining £1.50 in cash, that will be fine and you can save face,” the waiters voice dripped with a condescending, almost mockingly tone. Clearly he was enjoying this reversal of fortunes.

“I can’t,” hissed Tom, sweat trickling down the sides of his well shaven face.

“Then I will have to call the police. Everyone pays their bills here and we take maximum penalties against those who do not.”

Bright red, Tom turned to his guests.

“Does anyone have one fifty I can borrow?”

Needless to say none of them called him the next day to manage their finances.

***