Ready Player One and a Quick Update

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on here. I’m still writing, even if it’s not as much as I’d like. I’m about 13000 words through Time Heals… which really needs a new title. I’m going to be uploading the next chapter pretty soon, so catch up on chapter one and two.

The book is going well so far. I’m a little out of my comfort zone with it, which I suppose is a good thing. It’s a lot more grounded than anything I’ve written before and I’ve had to come at it from a different angle. Hopefully people like it, when it eventually gets uploaded.

I’ve just finished reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I really enjoyed it. It’s a fun read and I would recommend it. I don’t have much to say about it really. It was enjoyable and I’m going to read Cline’s other novel. The book shows an all too possible future and while the real world is depressing the VR world Oasis is full of pop culture references and fun. It’s well written and although it’s a little slow in the middle and very predictable, it’s still worth reading.

I’ve started re-watching Doctor Who from Christopher Eccleston’s series. I was a little hesitant about going back that far because memory changes things and I didn’t want to be disappointed. I was worried over nothing. It stands up today and is probably better than I remember. I’m older and can see the darkness behind the silliness of The Doctor, especially when I place it after John Hurt’s War Doctor. Only watched a few episodes but looking forward to watching more.

I really haven’t been up to much more. Writing, working, TV and sleeping. I just felt like I needed to write a post on here since it had been a while. I’ll get to work on uploading chapter three soon and you’ll be able to read it pretty soon. Hopefully one day I’ll stick to a schedule.

Thanks for reading,

Ashley

 

 

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The Eyes of The Dragon by Stephen King

Image result for the eyes of the dragon

The Eyes of the Dragon tells the tale of King Roland and his two sons Thomas and Peter.  When this book was originally released it was rejected by King’s fans as it strayed away from the horror books he was known for. After reading it, I can completely understand that. The book feels like a fairy tale.

For the first few chapters I wasn’t sure who this book was for, children or adults. It seemed like it was written for children, but the language was definitely too adult for the usual fairy tale. Swearing and sexual imagery seems out-of-place in this kind of story, and yet here it is.

The story itself feels like an old tale, something that would have been passed down through generations.  The omniscient narrator urges the reader to see certain characters in certain ways, describing his own thoughts on the tale. In fairy tale tradition there is lessons to be learnt about how people act, and why they act that way. The book also delves into some of the darker emotions people feel, with jealousy and greed. Especially with Roland’s character who breaks down at one point. His screams haunting the rest of the novel.

Unlike fairy tales, this is quite a long book. Not incredibly long, but it definitely out stays its welcome. The tale takes a long time to actually get going, with a lot of set up for things that will be important later. For a large portion of the book I was left wondering why certain parts existed but it all comes together in the end. Peter playing with his late mother’s doll house seems to drag on, but it makes sense later on. I don’t think it pays off very well though. No matter how important things become, it doesn’t stop the initial set up from dragging on.

There’s quite a long section towards the end with Dennis, Ben and Naomi that drags on way too long. It didn’t need to be described in such depth. It really knocks the pace that had been building up and almost ruins the final confrontation. By the time I got there, I was losing interest and it took me a while to get back into gear for the finale.

I felt a disconnect at the beginning of the novel. Maybe it’s just getting used to the narrative style, but I found it really hard to get into. Not just because it’s slow, but the characters just weren’t interesting. I read a few chapters and really thought I should give up now as I knew I wouldn’t like it. Thankfully I didn’t, and by the half way point things had really picked up. The middle section with Peter imprisoned in The Needle was the best part of the book by far.

I don’t want to spoil anything but the locket and letter that Peter finds is chilling, and his plan to escape is brilliant. It’s fun, dark and engaging. It’s just a shame that the rest of the novel doesn’t really live up.

The main reason I read this book is because of Randall Flagg. One of the main villains throughout King’s books. After The Stand this is his second appearance. He’s a brilliant character and it’s worth reading this just for his role in the story. He manipulates and plots, but also is deeply flawed. He leads to his own downfall. In The Stand you get a sense of his character and his long history, and that’s only added to here.

It’s ambitious and has some great moments, but The Eyes of the Dragon is the weakest King book I’ve read. I wouldn’t recommend this book unless you’re a big fan of King or Randall Flagg. It’s not an essential read by any stretch of the imagination.

Thanks for reading,

Ashley

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Salem’s Lot

I recently decided to read all of Stephen King’s books, after finishing The Stand. My next choice was Salem’s Lot since it’s King’s second novel and I’ve already read the first, Carrie. I knew Salem’s Lot was about Vampires, but I had no idea about the overall plot. I think that’s probably the best way to start any horror book or film.

One of my favourite books is Bram Stoker’s Dracula, I read the book when I was in school and later studied it at sixth form and university. I like Vampire stories, and it probably wasn’t going to take much for Salem’s Lot to win me over. I really enjoyed this book. It follows Ben Mears, a writer who moves back to Jerusalem’s Lot to fight childhood fears through writing his new novel. He’s not the only new comer in town, as the mysterious Richard Straker and Kurt Barlow arrive at the same time. People go missing, and then start dying. Along with a few others Ben suspects that Barlow is a vampire and thus starts the main conflict of the novel.

The beginning of this book is very slow, mostly building up the town and the people who live there. Something I’ve noticed with both Salem’s Lot and The Stand, is that King doesn’t mind taking his time for the action to start and instead builds up the main and side characters, delicately crafting them through their past and interactions with each other. At first this seems slow and pointless, but it pays off in the end. Knowing these characters so well makes the horror that much scarier. There were a couple of points in the story where I had to remind myself that the characters as well as the town were fictional as they had been crafted so well.

Salem’s Lot is clearly inspired by Dracula, with the two sharing more than a few elements. Stephen King doesn’t shy away from this either, explaining in the introduction that the idea came from thinking about Dracula arriving in modern New York. Ben Mears also states that Matt Burke is kind of like Van Helsing at a later point in the novel. While the story isn’t original in the slightest, the way it’s presented makes it unique. The characters all feel real and I ended up being interested in them, outside of their impending doom. I think the best horror stories make you care about what the characters are up to, regardless of spooky scary things happening or not, and Salem’s Lot does this perfectly. Susan Nortan’s relationship with Ben, and arguing with her Mum. Father Callahan struggling with alcohol and losing his faith in the modern world. I cared about these characters long before vampires took centre stage.

The pace is perfectly slow throughout the whole book as well. There are deliberately long sections where Matt Burke is walking upstairs to face his suspected vampire and Father Callahan leaving the town, adding tension in the overall story. It’s a slow burn but it all pays off in the end. King builds up the suspense making each moment of actual horror that much scarier. After I reached the half way point I couldn’t put the book down and couldn’t wait to see what happened next.

Of course it wouldn’t be a horror vampire book without gore and violence, and Salem’s Lot has plenty of that. There is one death in particular towards the end, that I won’t spoil, involving stairs, that is spectacularly gruesome and really made my skin crawl imagining it.

I can’t recommend this book enough if you’re a fan of the genre. It’s a long slow read, but a brilliant read. The characters make the whole novel worth it.

Thanks for reading,

Ashley

 

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Dracula’s Guest – The Missing Chapter from Stoker’s Classic

I read Dracula quite a few years ago, nearly ten years ago. Back when I was still in school, and the future seemed so bright. I loved the book. I thought it was scary, different from what I imagined  and full of suspense. I’ll stand by my claim that those first three chapters are some of the finest pieces of Gothic Literature ever. The whole idea of isolation in Dracula’s castle captivated me. I later studied the book in sixth form and university and came to understand why the book works so well and why it’s considered a classic, loving it even more.

When I first got my kindle, 2012 (I think), the first thing I did was download everything else that Bram Stoker wrote. It’s free, as it’s all public domain, so why not? I found a short story collection called Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories. I looked into it and found that there was a cut chapter from the original novel, due to length, which was published after Stoker’s death.

Instead of diving straight in I decided to read Jewel of the Seven Stars first as I was interested in reading Stoker’s take on the Mummy horror stories. After reading that, which I also enjoyed, University took over completely and I didn’t really read anything I wanted to for a couple of years.

Last week I was going through my kindle purchases and downloaded everything I’ve never finished and thought I would start with Dracula’s Guest as it’s a short story collection and wouldn’t take my time. It’s taken me a fair few years to get there, but I’ve finally read the missing part of Dracula.

It’s an odd piece of writing. It doesn’t really stand by itself, without the connections to Dracula the story would probably have been completely forgotten by now. Even as part of Dracula it doesn’t really make sense. It doesn’t feel like the rest of the novel, it’s written in the first person, and it’s unclear if it’s part of Jonathan Harker’s journal or just a simple first person narrative. I think it’s safe to assume that it slots into the early chapters of the novel and therefore is from Harker’s journal, but it doesn’t quite feel like it belongs there. I imagine it’s probably from an early draft of the novel. It simply doesn’t fit the tone or the style of the original.

The story itself follows an unnamed protagonist, presumably Harker, who on Walpurgis Night, finds himself in an old cemetery, and has to take shelter from a storm in a tomb. Not much happens. The protagonist doesn’t listen to the warnings from the locals and goes off by himself anyway and ends up  in the cemetery during a horrific thunderstorm. A wolf keeps him safe while people are out looking for him. I won’t spoil the whole story, because if you are a fan of Dracula it’s more than worth reading.

There are a few moments that make more sense if read with the novel in mind. Dracula can turn into a wolf or dog, as he does on the ship when it arrives at Whitby. It makes sense that the wolf in this story is also Dracula, showing as much affection towards Harker as he does in the main story.

Overall, while by itself Dracula’s Guest isn’t a vital read, it’s still more than worth a look if you are a fan of the novel. It isn’t remarkable, but it’s nice to be able to read more of Harker’s tale even if it doesn’t fit as perfectly into the novel as I would have liked. It’s still well written has some good suspense filled moments and kept me entertained. It’s nice to return to this book in a fresh way, and I’ve re-downloaded Dracula to read that once more soon.

Thanks for reading,

Ashley.

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Time Heals… – Chapter Two

I wish I could say that I hadn’t thought about Westmeadow or Holy Trinity Hospital in years, but that’s not true. It seeps back into me on an almost nightly basis. As the empty silence takes over every night, memories creep back in. The last time I was in that hospital, my Mum was laying in the bed. I was seven years old, a couple of weeks away from being eight. I blamed my Dad for her being there, but it probably wasn’t his fault. He used to hit her, but I don’t think he could have done that to her. I still want that to be the last time I step into Holy Trinity, but Casey says someone there will speak to me. Someone who asked for me. Someone I used to know. Someone I don’t want to meet. I don’t even know who it is and I know that I don’t want to meet them.

It’ll all come flooding back to me – as if it ever left. The beeping of the machines. The people talking in hushed voices. Being told to hug Mum even though I didn’t want to. Holding back tears, or at least trying. I don’t want to relive all of that. I don’t want to think about it at all, but now I have too. I owe her, Casey, a lot. She’s already paid me for the article. There’s a little bit of arm-bending to get me there, but it’s not the worst thing she could do to me. I completely flaked on the articles. As always, and she was there to pick up the pieces. Back in University it was the same. I would miss a deadline, and she would spend all night helping me make the extension. Pretty much writing it for me. She earned my 2:1 along with her first.

Straight out of Uni, she set up her blog. A passion project to get her writing out there. She let me write posts. Told me it was to have a more steady output to get more readers. That wasn’t true. It was to help me out and keep me focused. I was working as a dish-cleaner, and probably still would be if it wasn’t for her. I wasn’t writing anything. I hadn’t given up but I wasn’t doing it. I was just waiting for everything to come to me. The days slipped into weeks which charged into months, sprinting into years. I ignored her helping hand and tried it my way. She got me the crappy click-bait job. Told me it was a stepping stone. The only reason I wasn’t too proud to accept it was because she was already doing better than me. I resented her for a while because of it. Didn’t answer her calls, or said I had deadlines to meet. I didn’t. I can sprawl that crap out without thinking, barely needs proofing either. It’s the kind of bull that just flows out of me.

Her blog turned into a website and before long she was barely writing articles any more, she had a team of writers. I got that phone call, one day a few years back. Hey, don’t you wanna quit the crap and come and work for me. For you? I said. Never. We laughed and she told me to send anything I had to her and she would make sure it was put forward. It took me two years to send her anything. I almost thought she would have forgotten about me, but after sending her the email with the career starting story she replied within five minutes. Told me to have the full thing done as soon as and for once things started looking up.

I quit my job pretty much straight away, told myself I would stop drinking and start taking this seriously. But that didn’t happen. Days passed without a word written and before I knew it months passed. I’m twenty-nine and living in some dude’s, I found on the internet called Dave, spare room for cheap. I barely make rent most months, but he doesn’t seem to care as long as I get it to him at some point. The window that leads out to the garden is caked in dirt.. I should have some money waiting for me in the bank, I need to get it before I leave. I can’t buy any drink though, that’s the important thing. I’m not an alcoholic.

The light flickers on and brightens up my room, my whole life. A small unmade single bed with old sheets stuck on, peeling away at one corner. I haven’t slept in it in two days. A desk with a half decade old laptop sitting on top, I can’t move it without it turning off the battery needs to be on constant charge. The chair in front of the desk came with the room, and holds numerous unidentified stains that I don’t really want to think about. I don’t know where the remote for the TV is, not that I’m sure if the TV works in the first place. There are a few stacks of books scattered about, about half of them read. The rest of the room is made up with empty wrappers, cans and bottles.

With my phone in one pocket and my wallet in the other I’m ready to leave. I don’t really own much else. I should probably change clothes, but I don’t know where any clean alternatives are. If the money’s in the bank then I’ll buy some on the way. Not that any one would notice in Westmeadow that I hadn’t changed in a few days. I’m seriously not looking forward to getting back there. I never wanted to go back. I don’t have any contact with anyone. The second I was old enough, I left. That was it. I turned Eighteen and got a place in Uni, didn’t even tell my Dad when I was leaving, just left. Packed my things and got on the bus.

I wasn’t happy that day. I thought I would be in the weeks leading to the moment, but I wasn’t. Fear probably took over. I’m not sure. There was no way I was going to miss the place, not even my Dad. The only family I actually had left. He was still asleep as I left. Ten in the morning, he hadn’t even asked when I was planning on leaving. I don’t think he even remembers me telling him I got into Uni.

With two bags I left that house, and I never looked back. Took a couople of buses to Northampton and then got the train to London. It was my first time in the capital. Once I’d been through the tube and got out onto the busy streets, whatever had stopped me from being happy before disappeared. I was there, couldn’t believe it in the slightest.

But here I am, getting ready to go back there, why would I want to do that? I bite my tongue, not wanting to shout at Casey, even if she isn’t there. I take a heavy breath and look around the room one last time. It’s a mess, but I don’t want to run away from this one. I’m not running away. If anything, I’m trying to keep this place together. I’m not going to tell Dave, he’ll tell me he wants some rent before I go.

I flick the light off and walk out of the room, hoping the air outside will mask my scent until I can grab some deodorant at the very least. The door leads into a dark hallway, where I turn right and jog down some stairs, through a door frame that’s missing a door and then through the front door onto the street.

“Hey, Christian Hopkins, as I live and breathe, walking around outside with the rest of us living people?”

“Case? What are you doing?”

“I couldn’t let you go all the way to Westmeadow without some help, that wouldn’t be fair. I can’t imagine job seekers will get you there, a hotel and everything else.”

“I have other means of income. Someone owes me, they should be giving me the money today.”

I’ve been hoping that money would be in my account every day for a week. A couple of weeks back, I lent Mark a hundred pounds to put on a fight he knew the outcome to. The plan was, he knew the outcome and I had the money. Simple, at worst I lose all the money I have in the world, at best? I get 50%. I haven’t heard from him since the fight went his way. I saw that on Facebook. I called Mark twice, and both times, straight to voicemail.

“And when that doesn’t work out?”  Casey asked with a smile.

“It’ll work out, I’ll make it work out.”

“Just hear me out, alright? You don’t have to take my help.”

“I’m listening.”

“You can take this car, and drive there.”

“Case you need your car.”

“No I don’t, it’s London. I can get everywhere on the tube. Also I’m giving you another advance. £2000. That should cover expenses on this article, since I really want this story. I also want three more articles after this. Click-bait if they have to be.”

“No, that’s too much. I already took enough of your money. I’ll get you this article and that’ll be the end of it. I don’t think I’m cut out for this kind of work. This is the end. I need to sort my life out and waiting for this job to happen isn’t working.”

“Chris. You’re a good writer. You just need to focus on actually writing. I’ve read your articles. They’re good, that’s why I want you to do this.”

“You don’t need to butter me up any more, I already agreed to help you. But this is the end of it. I don’t want to do this any more. I need to get a better job and actually start living.”

“Okay, just take this money. I’ve already sent it to your bank. Take the car as well. At least then you can get there quickly.”

“I can’t, Case. I’m not insured.”

“Don’t worry about it, I added you on the insurance for the week.”

“Jesus, Casey you don’t quit. That crap’s expensive. I can’t believe you did that.”

“Don’t worry about it, it’s nothing. I wanted you to get this story for me. It’s important. Only you can do this one, and I look after my writers, my friends.”

“What’s so important about this story? So what if there’s a suicide. There’s nothing else to go on.”

“There has to be something. It’s not just that there’s a suicide, there hasn’t been any reported crime there in a decade. No peep from the town. I can’t even find people who live there on the internet. Just this one guy, who works at Holy Trinity, who says they will only talk to you.”

“How did they know about me? Who are they?”

“You’re probably not going to like this. It’s Ryan Campbell. He read one of your articles.”

That’s a name I hadn’t heard in years. If I wasn’t already having second thoughts, I definitely was now after that bombshell. Little Campy’s brother. So many doors I didn’t want to reopen. My legs start shaking and turn to jelly. I can’t do this. Simple. That’s the end of it.

“No,” I whisper. “I can’t do this. Send someone else if you really think there’s a story. I just can’t do it.”

“Christian, please. You owe me. You think you can’t do this, but I know you can. I believe in you. I know you can do this. Trust me. It’ll do you good to go back there. Resolve some problems.”

“I don’t want to go back there, I never want to go back there. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Just get in the car, you can shout at me on the way. We need to get you some food, and God you stink. Then you can drop me off home, and make your way up there. You’re meeting Ryan at the hospital after his shift ends at eight. You can interview him then, and then make your way to Westmeadow. I didn’t organise you anywhere to stay, I thought you might have a preference. Come on, let’s go.”

To be continued…

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