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simon collis

musings of an omnivorous biped


Posted by Simon Collis on 2018/02/10
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At the age of seventy-three, Florence felt she understood death. She didn’t really know very much about it, but she had heard the word. She had lost people. So she had some memory of it, some vague notion of yearning for souls lost.

There was no sunlight in this barn. No clear road. She felt age take her over. The air seeped from her tyres. Rust started to nibble the corner of her bodywork. Mice found ways in and shredded the stuffing of her red leather seats, once so shiny and proud, now home to a family of mice.

So this, she thought, was death. Not a sudden bang for her, just a slow fading. Read more

Spoiler alert: read the story “Elkwood” first, if you haven’t already

This one would probably work quite well as a radio play, to be honest. I was aiming for something more Victorian gothic horror, and I think I almost got there in one or two places.

Elkwood was the name I originally came up with, and I didn’t really realise where it fitted or whose it was. And then I finally realised it was the old man’s name. I didn’t use it more than once though, because I was using the name “Munro” so much. Perhaps that was a mistake, perhaps not – I’m not entirely sure.

The shopkeeper was originally called “Munro”. If you want a model for him, watch the film “Northfork” – Cup of Tea was predominantly in my brain for him. Read more


Posted by Simon Collis on 2018/02/03
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“What the hell are you doing?”

“I’m sorry Mr Munro,” Jacob said. “I was just taking a little look at -”

Munro grabbed the book from him and slammed it closed, putting it back on the shelf. He turned back to Jacob, his expression a hard-to-read mix of anger, scorn and perhaps even fear.

“I’m sorry, really, I was just…”

Munro waved him away, took a handkerchief form his pocket and wiped his brow.

“It’s all right, dear boy,” he said. “Really. It’s just… that book, particularly. If you know the things of which that book is capable, you wouldn’t touch it.”

Jacob smiled. “It’s just a book – I can’t read it anyway, it’s all in Latin.”

Munro stared at him, hard. Jacob didn’t like the stare. Read more

This was a hard one to write. It’s actually the third attempt I’ve made to write it over the last twenty years when I first came up with the idea. The idea that appearances can be deceptive is always a fascinating one for me, and the notion that there really is a monster in the cupboard and that’s a good thing was too much of an idea to miss.

That said, the actual scene was hard to do. I didn’t want to go too far, and make something that was too graphic, mainly because this is an area in which I have no personal experience (fortunately for me). The device of the boy watching the monster rather than the molester, then, seemed the best way of keeping the action flowing without stepping the wrong side of a line I wasn’t sure I could see properly. Read more

Doctor Fog

Posted by Simon Collis on 2018/01/27
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WARNING: the following story contains subjects that some readers may find distressing.

“Do you remember, Kenneth?” they would ask. Therapists, police. “Do you remember what happened that night?”

I remember.

I was six. Six years old. How, at six years old, do you say that you remember so clearly – as clearly as if I could see it play in front of my eyes now – but that they wouldn’t believe me?

I had seen the monster before that night. He used to stand in my wardrobe, waiting. I assumed that it was he, and not her, in the way that you make these assumptions at the age of six, on little more than guesswork. I assumed also that the wide smile he gave me, revealing long, sharp teeth, was not a pleasant one.

I knew little of monsters then, and what monsters are. I know better now, of course. Read more

For this one, I asked my other half to give me a key word beginning with C, and she chose “crime”. So that was the title of this story up until the very last minute.

I basically started writing this one and came up with the idea of them exposing a cheat by using exactly the same methods, losing and then explaining why they’d lost. I’m not too sure that that came over entirely, or that the poker scenes worked particularly well (especially as I’ve never really played the game), but the idea was to focus on the interactions between the players. The rest of it was basically winging it by remembering The Sting. Read more


Posted by Simon Collis on 2018/01/20
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The noise of the club made it difficult to hear. Johnny tapped Rex on the shoulder, and shouted in his ear. “You got everything?”

Rex took off his glasses, checked the plastic film on the back of the lenses, pointed to them, then replaced them on his face, and nodded.

“You seem nervous,” Rex shouted back in Johnny’s ear.

“Yeah,” he replied, leaning over. “Just a bit.”

“Come on,” Rex said, beckoning. “Now’s not the time.”

The walked the usual route to the back of the club, and stood waiting at the entrance of the VIP bar. The security guard was busy dealing with a drunken businessman in a smart suit. They stood there, waiting.

“Eight months planning,” Rex whispered to Johnny. “We can’t back out now.”

“Yeah but…” Johnny’s mouth went dry. “Now it’s, y’know, tonight’s the night. And de Luca’s here.”

“So what?” Rex replied. “If he’s here it’s our best chance, we agreed that.”

“But you know… what happened to Frankie.”

“Yes, he’s had men killed for less,” Rex said. “That’s about the third or fourth time you’ve said that tonight.” Read more

So, although Bernice was a much shorter story, ironically, this one felt a lot harder to write than Another Stack.

Spoilers ahead if you haven’t read Bernice yet, so the click-here thing is going here Read more


Posted by Simon Collis on 2018/01/13
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Bernice sprinted out of the glass doors and pounded across the parking lot. She allowed herself the luxury of a glance at the glass-walled walkway between the two halves of the shopping mall, nodded, and started off again, running towards the crossing.

Officer Bostaph came out a few seconds later, following her trail carefully. As he ran, he watched her, concentrating on following where she went so as not to lose sight of her behind the bushes as she headed away from the mall.

What on earth is she doing going this way? he thought. What does she think she can gain from this?

And it occurred to him that he already had his answer in the shoes that she was wearing. Read more

Behind The Scenes: Another Stack

Posted by Simon Collis on 2018/01/12
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OK, so this is basically going to be a post about how I wrote “Another Stack”. I’m not sure really why I’m doing this, or whether I’ll even do another one, but I thought someone might be interested in the writing process, so here goes…

Having set myself the challenge of writing a short story every week for a year, the first problem came with the writer’s age-old problem: what to write about? I had a few ideas spinning around, but it wasn’t until Friday evening that the idea for the story came about.

It really was about outsiders, and how outsiders don’t react in the same way as other people. Doctor X here is clearly an outsider to the group, in a way – he doesn’t dress the same way, he doesn’t seem to behave the same way, and he clearly doesn’t feel the same way about the rest of the group’s “end justifies the means” approach. (Interestingly, neither does Tom the Roadie, and perhaps I should have explored that a little bit more, but I didn’t want to detract from the main flow.)

The name “Another Stack”, associated with the band name “Chimney”, had come into my mind years ago, during a train journey to work. I noted it down in a little notebok of “ideas for stories” and left it. I have no idea where that notebook is right now, incidentally; the band popped back into my head some time Friday evening.

Having written the first draft, I rewrote it – twice – on Saturday. The beginning changed a lot, being re-ordered to make things more readable before the first interview. Once I hit the first interview, everything stayed more or less the same, minus a few tweaks, until the very last line, which didn’t get its final form until the very last moment. Once I’d got it, I knew it was right. A quick read through, spell and grammar check, and it went live.

I did want to touch on the manager a bit more, but again, there wasn’t space. Maybe I’ll write a story about him later in the year…

See you tomorrow for story number 2.

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