Ladies of Horror Flash Project – #Horror #author Karen Soutar @kaz_ess @Sotet_Angyal #LoH #fiction — Spreading the Writer’s Word

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Hello all! I’m happy to say that I’ve been writing some new short stories again after a longish dryish spell. Here’s a twisted little flash fiction I wrote for my friend Nina’s project. Just follow the link to read the whole piece. 😉

The Ladies of Horror Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge! Written in Ink by Karen Soutar He headed down the stairs as he’d been instructed. He’d never been in this studio before, but he was excited, as always, at the prospect of a new piece of artwork. So many now, each commemorating a different event. Soon he would […]

via Ladies of Horror Flash Project – #Horror #author Karen Soutar @kaz_ess @Sotet_Angyal #LoH #fiction — Spreading the Writer’s Word

 

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Cù-seilge Dubh

Making its first appearance on this blog, this creepy story was originally featured in The Sirens Call eZine, Issue 22.

The terrain was trickier than he’d anticipated. From the foot of the hill, it appeared a straightforward climb. Now that he was up there, the slope was determined to thwart him at every opportunity.
“Ow! God dammit!” Sean sucked at his hand where the gorse had scored a thin red line. He didn’t have anything to bind it with. Deciding it would stop bleeding on its own, he surveyed his progress.
The guys were out of sight. He had left them leaning against the tombstones, cracking open their beers. He was already regretting his decision to come along. It was bad enough when he found himself in the graveyard – but he’d heard that the local kids hung out there at night. He’d wanted to fit in. So he’d acted nonchalant; smoked a few cigarettes and laughed at the scary stories they were telling. Then they dared him to climb the Witches’ Craig.
He had tried to laugh it off; make out he had been in lots of spooky places before and he wasn’t impressed with this one. They were having none of it. Jerry had been particularly vocal.
“You’re chicken, aren’t ya? You hang with us, you gotta climb the Craig.” Jerry had sneered in his faux-American accent, flicking his Zippo lighter on, then off, then on again, until Sean wanted to scream. He had marched off before giving himself time to think about it.
“No such thing as witches, no such thing as witches,” he chanted under his breath, scrambling up through the springy heather. At least it was a cloudless night, the moon lighting his way. The guys’ chatter had long since receded, replaced by – nothing. No wind, no insects buzzing, no night birds calling. Only the rasp of his own breathing as his legs worked harder. Maybe he should give up smoking. He stopped for a few minutes, getting himself together for the last stretch. He tried to take deeper breaths, enjoy the sweet smells of the plants all around him. Although the smell was a bit too sweet. Rotting meat sweet. Ugh. His throat tightened, but he kept going.
His hand throbbed. There was enough light to see that it was still bleeding. Why wouldn’t it stop? Blood and sweat ran in tiny rivulets on the back of his hand. Well, of course he was sweating, he’d been climbing. There was nothing to worry about. He wiped it on his jeans, then pressed his other hand over it. He was nearly at the top. He was supposed to stand on the craggy outcrop that overlooked the graveyard, and wave his phone so they could see him.
The bracken rustled. So what? He thought. There were bound to be loads of small animals and birds on the hill. But that’s the first sound you’ve heard, his brain whispered treacherously. Pulling himself up the last few metres, he stood alone on the summit of the Craig.
“Made it! Oh God…” Pain lanced through his hand and he clutched it tighter. What the f…? Had he touched something poisonous?
He was so preoccupied that he barely registered the snuffling. When he did, he gasped – then forced out a laugh. Of course, it had to be.
“Guys! Stop arsing about.” He hoped only he could hear the tremble in his voice. One of the idiots had even brought a torch. A faint bluish glow flickered behind him.
At the low growl that followed, his bowels turned inside out. Gut instinct told him it wasn’t the guys. The blue light brightened. It wouldn’t even be a Rottweiler or German Shepherd.
He jerked as the bushes in front of him shook. God, he was surrounded. By what kind of animal? His brain screamed. But his shock at what stepped out was not at the sight of some giant hairy monster.
A girl, no more than eight or nine, clambered out of the undergrowth and glared at him.
“What are you doing here?” Her voice was wrong; it was world-weary, too old for her years. The voice of a woman, not a child.
“I…I…” He found himself stammering, and all the while the rumbling growl behind him continued. Look! Look! The voice in his head yelled. Just get it over with!
“Don’t look,” the girl said casually, walking forward and holding out her hand. “He doesn’t like it. You don’t, do you?”
Sean realised that the hand she extended wasn’t for him. It was for whatever was behind him.
She pushed up her sleeves, and reached into the patched and stained satchel she had slung across her skinny body. Her dress was a shapeless thing, the material patterned but faded. As she drew closer, Sean saw bruises on her arms. Finger-marks. Before he could comment on this, she pulled something out of her bag and threw it past him.
The growling changed to happy snuffling, then munching, then a horrible grinding and snapping. The little girl bared her teeth in what would have been a lovely smile, except for the circumstances.
He was on a haunted hill, with some kind of monster behind him and a – he didn’t know what – in front of him. Maybe it was simply a girl, but that girl had just thrown –
“A hand,” Sean croaked. “That was a hand.”
“He looked,” the child said calmly. “He shouldn’t have looked.”
“Who?”
“The one who sneaked up ahead of you. He was going to give you a fright at the top. He met us first.” She rummaged in her satchel again, and pulled out a Zippo lighter. “You want this?”
“Jesus God!” Sean stumbled backwards and almost fell. A low rumble brought him up short.
“I guess not.” She pocketed the lighter. Meanwhile, the crunching resumed, as the beast continued feasting.
Sean scrubbed at his eyes, half-hoping he would open them and find himself in bed. When he did, she was still there, gazing at him curiously.
“You don’t know what’s behind you, do you?” She asked. “You’re new.”
“I just moved here.” How strange, to be discussing this with a ghostly and ghastly waif on a moonlit hillside. “The guys were telling stories. About…witches…”
She waved a hand. “They didn’t say what runs with the witches?”
“Well…” He hadn’t been paying attention, thinking it was all nonsense. Until they dared him to climb the Craig.
“If you see the blue lights, you don’t look.”
Suddenly she was standing right in front of him. This time, she did take his hand. Before he knew what was happening, she spat on it; then licked the blood from the wound the gorse had inflicted. He pulled, away, nauseated.
“Good job he’d already fed. He was scenting this – hunting you. But I like you.”
Sean realised that the cut didn’t hurt anymore. The bleeding had stopped. He moved his hand this way and that, flexing his fingers.
The girl was smacking her lips, as though she’d just licked an ice cream.
“That should be fine now. You should go back down. They’ve gone, you know. They heard this one” – she rattled her bag – “get caught.”
God, did she have more bits of Jerry in there? Sean croaked, “Wait – how come – your pet – didn’t eat all of him?”
“My pet?!” She laughed. “Good thing he doesn’t understand you. Because I didn’t let him, of course. We were saving some for later, in case we needed it. Like now. It stopped him eating you.”
“We? Do you mean..?”
She seemed ashamed for a moment. “I…I don’t get much to eat at home.”
This was getting too weird. She had told him to go, and he would. But he had to know.
“What – what is it that’s behind me?”
She regarded him from under her lashes.
“Do some reading. You’ll find out.”
She held out her hand, and Sean flinched, before realising that she was offering a handshake. He took her small hand solemnly, and then hesitated.
She pointed behind her. “That’s the best way. Once you’re through the bushes, it’s easy.”
He nodded his thanks, and then stepped past her. Every nerve ending was screaming for him to turn and see what was there. Whatever it was, the little girl was now crooning to it, as it snuffled and yipped like an oversized puppy.
He realised something, half-turned, then thought better of it. “Hey!” He called.
“What?” Her voice was muffled, as though her mouth was full of something. No – he didn’t want to think about that.
“What’s your name?”
“I told you. Read your history. You’ll find out.”
Confused and chilled, he took a few more steps, then dashed back through the bushes. He couldn’t bear it. He had to know.
Silent emptiness greeted him. The summit was deserted. Only bones remained, some with ragged flesh still clinging, others picked clean by human teeth.

(Inspired by a local legend from Stirlingshire, Central Scotland. ‘Cù-seilge Dubh’ means ‘Black Hound’ in Gaelic.)

Of Bees and Monsters (Flash Fiction)

This came from a writers group prompt to tell the tale of a childhood memory – real or imagined. So what do you think, readers – did this really happen? 😉

It’s late afternoon one summer day in 1976. I am five years old, and Mum and Dad and I are on holiday on the shores of Loch Ness. We drove from Fife in our red Saab, my Dad’s pride and joy. We are camping in our little green tent, and everyone on the camp site is friendly and looks out for each other. I spend a lot of time peering at the waters of the Loch, searching for Nessie.
As the sun gets lower it reddens the water, changing logs into bodies and branches into rearing heads. Everything is still. It’s been a sunny holiday, unusual for Scotland even in the height of summer.
Suddenly, I spot it! A head, and a long body, like in the postcards. I stare for a moment, and then rush back to the tent to tell Mum or Dad to come quick. I’ve found the Loch Ness Monster!


When I arrive, I can’t see anyone. I twirl around for a moment. And that’s when it happens. I’m wearing one of those formless dresses that little girls wore in the seventies – it’s yellow check and makes me resemble a small triangular tent myself. I don’t know whether there is a breeze that day or whether it’s just the ample material leaving plenty of space around my skinny frame, but – a bee flies up my dress!
What happens next is a blur. I scream, and run around flapping my arms and my dress, an act surely designed to make things worse. Mum appears from the tent, her afternoon snooze rudely interrupted by this carry-on. She manages to grasp what’s happened from my incoherent wailing.
‘Stand still!’ She admonishes me. She grasps the hem of my dress in both hands and – whoosh! Pulls it up and over my head in one fluid movement. The startled bee flies off, just as upset as I am by this mishap. A quick once over proves I’m not stung. As I’m too young to be embarrassed by standing there in my pants, I soon return to normal.


I remember why I came back and breathlessly explain my find down at the Loch. Humouring me, Mum tags along, but when we get to the water’s edge, the Monster has gone. The surface of the Loch is like glass.
‘You scared him off with all that screaming,’ Mum remarks. ‘Come on, it’s fish fingers for tea.’
Disappointed, although mollified by the prospect of fish fingers, I trail back to the tent. Although I have looked for him many times over the years, I never saw the Loch Ness Monster again. And I have never since been scared of bees.

Doune Castle – a potted history of my workplace!

Doune Castle was built in the late 1300s by Robert Stewart, 1st Duke of Albany, Earl of Menteith and Fife. He was ruler of Scotland in all but name from 1388 until his death in 1420, and his seat at Doune was virtually a royal castle. He ruled on behalf of Robert II and III, both of whom were infirm, and James I, who was imprisoned by the English in the Tower of London. (It is thought that Albany didn’t try very hard to get James I out of the Tower. 😉 ) Albany’s son Murdoch inherited after his father’s death.

The castle is situated on a wooded bend where the Ardoch Burn flows into the River Teith, so the castle’s position is naturally strong.

Because of this strong position, it seems likely that there was a castle on this site before Albany’s, and indeed the site was probably occupied since at least Roman times. Archaeological evidence backs this up.

Doune Castle has been used several times over the years as a filming location, starting with Monty Python and the Holy Grail back in 1975!

In 2008, Game of Thrones filmed some Winterfell scenes at Doune. The great hall can be seen in episode 1.

Winter is here…

More recently, the series Outlander and the film Outlaw King have used Doune as a location.

The castle became crown property in 1425 when James I returned to Scotland and promptly beheaded Murdoch along with his son and father-in-law, unsurprisingly!

The Jacobite forces used Doune as a prison in 1746.

After that, the castle became increasingly ruinous, but started to gain popularity as a tourist attraction in the Victorian era, eventually coming into the care of Historic Scotland. It is the most complete medieval castle in Scotland.

Doune Castle and winter sunrise, January 2019

I started working at Doune Castle one year ago, and enjoy it very much. There is always something new to find out, including links to other historical sites to visit – expect some blog posts about them soon! And who doesn’t like saying to people “Oh, I work in a medieval castle’? 🙂

Happy 6th Blogiversary To Me! (With pretty photos).


Good grief, quite by accident I just noticed that my first blog post was 6 years ago today!

Well, as most of you know I’ve been a very erratic blogger for the last couple of years. 😦

However, the reason I noticed was because I’ve just completed a lovely post about Doune Castle, my excellent workplace, with history and pretty photographs. I started working there 1 year ago – another anniversary! I will publish this post shortly.

I am REALLY trying to get back into writing and blogging. (Ha, I hear you say). I start Advanced Creative Writing with the Open University in October, so I really need to get back in the game. This year it’s all essays (boo) as I’m doing English Literature, but I must get my creative head back on soon!

So here’s a little photo story of the last few months to be going on with 😉 :

Mini break at Queen’s View, Perthshire, for my 20th Wedding Anniversary, 1st August 2018

Summer holiday in Cyprus, August 2018

Doune Castle, Autumn 2018

River Forth at Stirling, New Year’s Day 2019

Winter from my living room window, Blair Drummond, January 2019

Last but not least, new kitty Cleo, February 2019!

Changes…Part 2

Well, the last year’s blogging didn’t go so well, did it? After all my good intentions, too. I thought I was settling down into a quiet year and routine, but then stuff happened. Again.

So let’s tackle the sad thing first. My mum passed away last October, aged 82. After successfully battling three forms of cancer and a stroke over the last ten years, aggressive liver cancer took hold. If I’m thankful for anything, it was quick. And that’s all I’m going to say about that just now.

Hubby and I moved house, kind of suddenly, last November. We had thought about moving to a more rural location for some time, and this lovely Lodge House appeared at the right moment, so we had to snap it up. We have been here just over nine months now, and we are loving it. Winter was a bit of an eye-opener, though…brr.

In March, I became a full time Steward for Historic Scotland, at Doune Castle. After working part time with the company in 2017 and really enjoying it, I decided that was the direction I wanted to take. It fulfils my love of Scottish history, stories and legends – and running up and down spiral stairs keeps me much fitter than sitting in a car. (I still do driver training a couple of hours a week, just to keep my hand in).

I completed my third year with the Open University. That was the thing that happened which was actually planned. 😉 Year four starts in just over a month – eek!

So hopefully I can get back to this blog now that things have settled down a bit. I have castle pics and cat pics to share – sometimes they are in the same one!

Hope you’re all well out there in the blogsphere – let me know what you’re up to. Anyone else suddenly change location/career/whatever? 🙂

Ellen by Coral McCallum is published today!

Hi Folks!

My good friend and fellow rock chick Coral has a new book out today! This rock star romance follows singer Ellen and her beginnings with the band After Life. Those of you who have read Coral’s previous novels may remember this band and their distinctive singer, although you don’t have to have read the Silver Lake series to enjoy this book.

Like all of Coral’s novels this is a page turner. I was lying on a sun lounger when reading it, and I’m glad as I didn’t want to put it down to do boring stuff like chores or go to work! 😉 The story pulls you into the ups and downs of the band After Life as they set out to tour, record and hopefully one day make it big. Ellen has a past that haunts her physically and mentally – is guitarist Tailz the guy to make everything right? Will bassist Luke overcome his personal demons and be able to withstand the gruelling life of a touring rock musician? Only time will tell… If you want to know more, buy the book!

Buy Ellen here:

UK edition

US edition

Enjoy the book, folks, and huge congratulations to Coral on publishing her fourth novel. Big hugs and keep on rockin’! xx