Trying not to shake, you light a precious cigarette. It’s the brand all the movie stars smoke.

Something’s wrong.

You’re mid-inhale when the note slides beneath your apartment door. From the threshold, you scan the dim hallway, but the messenger is gone. Even before you close the door, unfold the paper and decode its contents, you know you have been compromised. It takes you a few seconds to knock back the dregs of your vodka, grab your coat and hat and leave your cigarette smoldering in the ashtray. There are no helpful handlers to guide you now. You are alone.

This is new territory for you.

Back in England, you’d had a good war, not that you could ever talk about it. Recruited at Cambridge, your battles were with cryptographs and ciphers. You inherited your aptitude for math from your English father and your sense of not-quite-belonging from your American mother. You cannot say where your sexual preferences came from.

Bletchley Park invested you with caution. Here most wartime codes were broken. Discreet even in your twenties, you disregarded the free-for-all parties and overtly dated Lily while you were secretly fucking Claude.

You are not sorry to leave the seedy Lower East Side apartment that’s hidden you for a month. Raising your collar against the rain, you hit the streets. You bury your hand in your coat pocket to hide the heavy watch. The fieldcraft instilled into you by British Intelligence serves you well. You hop a southbound train before doubling back. You do this twice more, eyeing every tired commuter in your car until you are certain you’re not being followed. Storm clouds prematurely darken the late summer sky until twilight becomes night. Somehow there is the hint you are being funnelled in a particular direction: south. You head north.

As unspeakable atrocities ravaged Europe, you picnicked with Claude by Bletchley’s lake. Your tranquil code-breaking had already saved many lives. He fished for the wine he had tethered to a string, cooling in the pale green depths. He laughed as the bottle surfaced. You had never heard anything as beautiful as that laugh. He poured and you toasted one another with liquid sunshine.

The wet Manhattan streets are glazed with splashes of bright neon. You try to move faster, but uneasiness envelops you like tar. Glaring billboards aggravate your pounding headache. You retreat to a doorway for a moment’s respite from the bustling theater district and nervously check the watch as if it’s a talisman. Despite the downpour, the crowds are good-humored. Then you spot the woman in the red coat from the train. You dart between scurrying figures and push into a line for a show.

“Ruby! RUBY! Say, did you see a girl, so high?” You mimic your mother’s accent as you indicate Ruby’s height of around five feet. The sailor hugs his squeeze, a dark-haired cutie.

“Go on in ahead of us, fellah. I guess she’s so crazy about this magician, she’s already inside.”

You enter the polished wood foyer, buy a cheap ticket and follow the usherette. With a sly wink, she leads you to a more expensive seat nearer the front.

“Hey Handsome, if you haven’t seen this guy before, he’s terrific!”

You smile weakly, feeling exposed in the auditorium.

Claude’s sexual adventuring finally caught up with him in London, when a police raid led to charges of gross indecency. In recognition of his invaluable war-work, imprisonment was suspended in favor of drug-induced castration – to curb his ‘perversion.’ The last time you visited him in his bedsit, he was slumped in stained pyjamas, his golden hair matted and his once-brilliant mind dulled beyond recovery. You did the kindest thing. When he stopped breathing, you removed the pillow from his face. Then you cried, cradling him for hours until all the warmth left his body.

Applause shatters your reverie. John Mulholland stands center-stage; resplendent in impeccable evening dress, he draws a dove from nowhere. As white as his immaculate waistcoat – Mama would have called it a ‘vest’ – the bird flutters to an exotically clad assistant. A few more seconds and you will leave. The woman in red will have reported you and agents could already be closing in. You’ll flee during the next bout of enthusiastic clapping.

Moscow first made contact at Claude’s funeral. You were silently raging outside the church, hating the State and a God who championed love yet refused to acknowledge your own. Broken with bitterness, yours had been an easy conversion.

Just as you rise, a dazzling spotlight hits you. You shrink back into your seat while boisterous laughter explodes around you.

“Sir, don’t be shy! Go get him, Trixie!”

Mulholland’s assistant, taller than you in her yellow Vegas-showgirl headdress, corners you. Her grip is fierce as she all but drags you from your seat. Stunned, you stumble onstage. The lights are blinding, you can’t see the audience; all that exists is this square of brightness and the smiling magician. He asks you for the watch. You resist. It was your grandfather’s, you lie.

Mulholland touches your shoulder reassuringly, steadying your panic. You relax a little before realizing it was a misdirection. He holds the watch aloft. You feel faint. He wraps it in a spotless handkerchief before smashing it with a hammer. The audience gasps. Aghast, you sway. Trixie steadies you. Mulholland brings down his hammer one last time to absolute silence.

He playfully throws the handkerchief into the air; it lands like a feather, empty. He asks you to check your pocket where a familiar weight suddenly makes itself felt.

“Is that your watch, Sir?”

Overwrought, you confirm it is.

When it comes, the exuberant applause is a punch to your head. Trixie leads you offstage. Nerves shattered, you escape the theater.  There’s no ambush.

Mulholland’s performance is perfection; secreted amidst the hidden silk handkerchiefs, a tiny roll of microfilm barely sullies the smooth line of his vest.

One day soon you will give Moscow an empty watch.



The S.O.P.H.I.E Anthology

I can’t believe how long it is since I’ve been here.  2015 proved to be a very busy old year and 2016 is already shaping up to be even busier.
  I’ve spent time writing for magazines and been chosen to contribute to an anthology in memory of Sophie Lawrence.  If you don’t know about the case, it’s incredibly sad.  Sophie and her boyfriend were attacked in a park, simply because they looked different.  They were goths.  Sophie died thirteen days after the attack.  She was just twenty.  The BBC made a very moving film about her entitled, ‘Black Roses.’
  I was upset when I first heard about Sophie’s death and her story still haunts me now.
However, Sophie’s amazing mother, Sylvia has set up the S.O.P.H.I.E foundation – this stands for ‘Stamp Out Prejudice, Hatred and Intolerance Everywhere.’
  The SOPHIE foundation go into schools and educate young people against violence.  They believe that everyone should be able to style themselves as they wish without fear.

  The anthology will be sold to raise money for the Sophie  Foundation, and I’m honoured to be one of the contributing writers.  It will be launched on World Goth Day, the 22nd. of May 2016.
In the meantime, the cover reveal and book trailer will be launched on the 21st. of February.

The Fairy Tale of Vale

There’s magic afoot in New Brighton on The Wirral, England.  Something strange and wonderful is happening in Vale Park.  The fairies are moving in!
It all started less than two months ago when Major Mace and his wife Sue began constructing a cluster of delightful homes in Vale Park for the fairies. 
Major – that’s his real first name, not a military title – found inspiration in the Irish town of Buncrana in Donegal where there’s a popular fairy walk by the river.  Having already overseen the construction of new Brighton’s famous  driftwood pirate ship, The Black Pearl, (along with the rest of the Pirates at Art crew, Frank Lund, Norman and Alison Ord and John Paul), Major was no stranger to getting creative with upcycled bits and pieces. 

Alongside Major, Alison paints doorknobs to resemble fairy toadstools and John Paul creates Tree People, whilst Sue glues together tiny pieces of furniture to decorate houses fit for any Fairy King or Queen.
Now children from across the Wirral and beyond are making trips to visit the charming – and growing – fairy village.  Some of these children make multiple visits to the Driftwood Fairies of Vale Park.  One little girl even insists on coming to see her fairy friends every day. 

Smiling proudly, Major said, ‘Seeing the kids so happy gives me real pleasure.  They know the names of all the fairies.’

His next project is to construct a chimney for the fairy factory.  This is where they make the Fairy Dust so the pirate ship can fly at night. 
I asked Major if he really believes in fairies.  Having visited Ireland and the FairyBridge on the Isle of Man, both places where the belief in fairies is strong, Major found no difficulty in saying that he does.
As someone who’s written about fairies in my book, The Last Changeling, I find the subject fascinating.  I recently spent a day searching for fairies with BBC Radio Wales, and many people have written to me saying that they have seen fairies for real.  I was sent this photograph that seems to show a blue fairy atop a classic toadstool. Trick of the light?
Maybe, but it’s a good one. 

Just last summer, artist John Hyatt took startling pictures of fairies near Rossendale and the story went viral. 

This Christmas, I counted no less than five major companies who were using fairies to promote their seasonal products.   The truth is that fairies are big news – but then, they always have been.  When Charles Isham first imported gnomes to England from Bavaria in the 1840’s, they weren’t just for ornaments.  They were made to lure real gnomes into peoples’ gardens!
Perhaps the most famous encounter with fairies was when Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths found fairies at Cottingley Beck in 1917 and photographed them. 

The pictures fooled experts at Kodak and the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle.  Many years later Frances and Elsie admitted the pictures had been cardboard cut-outs, but even in old age they still insisted they had seen real fairies at Cottingley and had only created the fake ones when the grown-ups had laughed at their claims.

So, next time you go to Vale Park, remember to take your camera… who knows what magic you might snap?
If you have had a fairy encounter, I would like to hear from you.  Please contact me via the form at www.thelastchangeling.com

The above article appears in the next issue of Waiting magazine. 

Hunting for Fairies

Today was ‘one of those days…’ 
….not bad, but unbelievably brilliant! 

BBC Radio Wales has a new programme, ‘The Unbelievers,’ and for one episode I was asked to lead a fairy hunt.   

Yes, really.  

I suggested a quiet spot, but time was against that, so it was decided that Castell Dinas Bran would be a great place to look for fairies – even though it’s bristling with walkers. 

When I told the team that actively looking for fairies meant they were unlikely to let themselves be found, faces fell, but presenters, (John and Mike), and crew, (Rhys and Nathan),persisted, so eventually the hunt got under way and the delightful lunacy began.

I should explain that John is also known as Eggsy from Welsh rappers Goldie Lookin’ Chain and Mike is a stand-up comedian, (tonight he’s onstage with Jack Dee in Hay on Wye), so this was never going to be a scientifically serious expedition… even though they ended the day vowing to find a scientist who could explain the multi-dimensional universe to them… good luck with that one, Mr.Scientist!

A few hours in the company of Mike and John, BBC Radio Wales’ answer to Mulder and Scully saw us scampering, (well, in Mike’s case, hobbling because of his poorly knee), up to Castell Dinas Bran in search of fairies.

The pair of them took opposing views. John believes in fairies, Mike is a sceptic and I spent the afternoon trying not to laugh as they squabbled like naughty little kids. John’s varying descriptions of Dinas Bran, from ‘stone erection’ to ‘… a grey skull…like Castle Greyskull which would eat me if it had a mouth…’ had us all in fits, even Mike. 

Thanks guys for today’s utterly splendid bit of craziness!

The first programme will be broadcast here on Saturday 30th. May:


No Such Thing As Coincidence…

A couple of days ago, Mo a friend and fan of The Last Changeling asked me if I’d been in Leominster recently.
I hadn’t, but she had seen my double and more magical yet, this doppelganger was talking to a group of people about a book launch!
On Friday I was visiting a friend who appears under the guise of archaeologist Claire Melin in The Last Changeling.  I’m writing book two, and the Titanic appears as part of a subplot.
I told Claire I wasn’t sure about this section.
I wondered if I should take Titanic out?
On Saturday this old bottle opener came into my life.  Made in Chicago, it’s quite rare as they were never on sale to the general public, such bottle openers were given to staff only.
Here it is:

I found the inscription inspiring – Cunard & White Star.  I’m sure anyone reading this already understands the significance, but in case you don’t, Titanic was  a ship of the White Star line.
I’ve taken it as a sign.
The Titanic stays in!

Oh, I do like to be beside the Seaside…

          ‘For as long as I can remember, I have had dreams about the sea.  
         On stormy nights when the winds roared through the oaks and the rain lashed the windows of the old house, I dreamt I was aboard a stately galleon.  Those were the times when the shadows of the storm tossed boughs upon the walls of my bedroom, became the very waves beneath my keel.  Invariably, in every dream, I would fall into that roaring surf, to twirl and turn, like a helpless leaf in the gale, until I surrendered to the calm benthos of a deeper sleep.

Even now I cannot remember a single night without sea dreams.  Which is remarkable given that I was born about as far inland as it is possible to get and that my father had the strongest aversion to merely visiting anywhere near the coast.
Perhaps my inquisitive nature was piqued by his attitude?  I now recognise he had what modern psychologists would call a phobia, but as a child, all I saw was his unreasonable and unbending attitude to my enduring fascination and interest in all things marine.  I soon learnt to stop expressing this facet of my young mind under the heavy hand and dark looks of his disapproval.  An innocent request for a jolly trip to the seaside brought me a beating.  I could not see the harm in it, but I learnt to still my tongue and not speak of it.  I hid my childish paintings of ships in emerald seas and pirates and treasure islands beneath my bed, I smuggled books about marine life into my room – all the time aware I was going against Pater’s wishes.  
Perhaps if he had not been so stern upon the subject, it would never have held such a grip over me?  But I say again, where was the harm?  After all, two of my young playmates from school had been to the seaside in the holidays and the way they spoke of the churning green-grey water thrilled me!     
You must understand, this was back in 1918 and I was but five years old then, and completely without any understanding of tides or the moon’s influence, so it struck me as particularly magical that there could be places upon this earth where the order of the well-ploughed field gave way to a seemingly unending chaos of wind-swept water.  I could not imagine it, but, even without sight of it, somehow my mind created such scenes for me, night after night in those strangely prophetic dreams.
Thought I knew not from whence it came, somehow the sea was in my blood.

Thus begins my new horror novella ‘Seaside.’ Out next month, it’s the third in the Horror in a Hurry Series.  My homage to H.P.Lovecraft’s ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth,’ it also nods towards The Wicker Man…’

Gethsemane Gardens

For the second novella in my new Horror in a Hurry series, I’ve chosen the classic setting of the decrepit old house.  It’s the perfect, chilling backdrop for an urban tale of terror but this time the twist is the inhabitants willingly lock themselves in.  In fact they barricade the world out, unaware of just what they have trapped inside the house with them…

Gethsemane Gardens… read it if you dare!  Out later today on Amazon…

The Salem Strategy

I am a fan of horror stories.  I grew up on H.P.Lovecraft – I discovered him when I was eight (!)
Later, I progressed on to reading Stephen King.  The first story I read of his was ‘Pet Sematary’ and I was amazed and thrilled to find that the characters stayed with me.  It started rather spookily, when I spotted a little boy who looked just the way I had imagined ‘Gage,’ and it continued as I saw ‘familiar’ faces in crowds for days afterwards.
I have just completed my own small contribution to the horror genre, a novella called The Salem Strategy.
It’s just 60 odd pages and is part of a new series I’m calling ‘Horror In A Hurry.’  The idea is that you can read it in just one or two sittings.  Further titles will be added throughout 2015.
The Salem Strategy explores what happens when the military attempt using paranormal tactics and the inadvisability of ‘winning at all costs.’
So, if you fancy being terrified on the train or bewitched on the bus, The Salem Strategy been published today on Kindle for $0.99 (77p. in the UK).
Let me know what you think, eh?  Thanks 🙂

There and back again….

I’ve been away for a short break, having been visiting the hauntingly beautiful town of Whitby.  I can see why people rave about it, but my heart was stirred even more by some of the little fishing villages along that part of the British coast.  I’m finding it hard to settle back in at ‘home’, (well, where I live), but in a good kind of a way.  I’m looking at things in a slightly different way and, as a writer, anything that makes you do that is welcome – if unsettling…

In Whitby, I was show the hotel where Bram Stoker wrote Dracula, and now I’m home with a few more ideas for my new horror novella series – but not a single vampire will appear!

Just as I start thinking about horror themes, along comes something sweet to divert me.  
Next Saturday, the 29th of November, Llangollen is holding a Christmas Parade through its streets and I’ve been asked to decorate a faery themed float for the event. 
I have a backdrop to paint, but I won’t be able to assemble everything on the trailer until the morning of the parade…  Fingers crossed, hopefully I’ll have some pictures for the next post.