Category Archives: Stories

Women In Horror Month

Roadie Notes cover art, by Kealan Patrick Burke.

In general, Women In Horror month focuses on authors and publishers, which is a good thing, but there are others out there dedicated to furthering the horror genre with their blogs, in-depth book reviews and wonderful author interviews, two of which are Becky Narron and Mandy Tyra over at Roadie Notes.

Roadie Notes is the brainchild of Becky Narron, an avid reader, to say the least! In two weeks’ time, on February 15th, Roadie Notes will be one year old, and having read the entire blog, I’m amazed at what she has accomplished in just twelve months. Highly respected and loved by the writing community, Becky has amassed a huge number of interviews with the likes of Graham Masterton, Shaun Hutson, Edward Lee, Jack Ketchum, and too many more to mention. She has also reviewed books from not only established authors but new up-and-coming authors too.

Recently, Becky has been joined by Mandy Tyra, who has taken on the role of book reviewer for the blog, and if you’ve never read one of her book reviews, let me tell you that you’re in for a treat! Her reviews are better than some of the books I’ve read!

These ladies truly are a dynamic duo, and I urge you all to head on over to Roadie Notes, have a good read, and if you like what you read, give them your support, and please feel free to leave a comment or two, maybe subscribe to the blog, and click on that “like” button!

On investigating the Legend of the “Chained Oak”

The "Chained Oak" at Alton

The “Chained Oak” at Alton, showing its position overlooking Barbary Gutter, the stone steps leading up to it, and the huge limb that fell from it in 2007, still with the chains attached!

I love local legends and tales of old, and have heard a few in my time; most of them bastardized from urban legends that have spread throughout the world, with the residents of each country adapting the story to suit their own particular storytelling tradition.

Only recently, I became aware of a legend involving a very old oak tree and a member of the landed gentry that originated in the village of Alton, about ten miles from where I live. I hadn’t heard of it before, despite the fact that the UK’s most visited theme park and ninth most popular in the whole of Europe, Alton Towers had capitalized on it and created a ride called “Hex”, loosely based on this very legend!

Since I heard about it, I’ve been to visit the “Chained Oak” on two occasions. It’s very impressive, and it keeps drawing me back to it. And the surrounding woodland is stunning!

Woodlands surrounding the "Chained Oak"

Woodlands surrounding the “Chained Oak”

There are a couple of versions of the legend, so I’ll give both versions to you. The first version is as follows:

In between 1821 and 1846 (the date varies with the source of the telling of the legend) one autumn evening, the Earl of Shrewsbury was returning home (the Earl at that time would have been the owner of Alton Towers) along a route known as Barbary Gutter, a track that begins at Alton Abbey, winds its way through the woodland, passes over the River Churnet into Dimmingsdale, and leads eventually to St Giles’s Church (the interior of which was designed by the renowned architect Augustus Welby Pugin, as was Alton Towers itself) in the neighboring village of Cheadle. As the Earl’s coach approaches the spot where the oak tree looms over the now disused carriageway, an old woman bars the way and begs the Earl for a few pennies. The Earl pours scorn upon her, refuses her request, orders her off his land and tells the coach’s driver to carry on. As a result of this, the woman curses the Earl: “For every branch that falls from this old oak tree, a member of your family will die.”

Some time later (possibly the very same night), a storm rages, and a huge limb of the tree is torn off and falls crashing to the ground. In the morning, it becomes apparent that a member of the Earl’s family–supposedly his son—died suddenly and without any indication of a cause of death. Fearing that the old woman’s curse had come true, the Earl ordered his servants to chain up the remaining branches of the oak to prevent further members of his family befalling the same fate, and thus, the legend of “The Chained Oak” was born!

The second version of the story changes slightly, so that in this version of the legend, it becomes the Earl’s son who is the one who sees an old woman as he is out riding one day, though in this tale she is standing beneath the oak, and as he passes the spot where the old woman is standing a branch breaks off the tree and kills him.

Incidentally, a huge limb fell from the tree in 2007, but there have been no reports of a death within the present Earl of Shrewsbury’s family.

The limb that fell from the "Chained Oak" in 2007, still in chains!

The limb that fell from the “Chained Oak” in 2007, still in chains!

As there is no actual documentation relating to either version of the event, one can choose to believe whatever one wishes. It is more likely that the Earl simply chained up the oak after a storm to protect the remaining branches of the tree. Both the 16th Earl and his predecessor were very proud of their trees and had planted thousands of them, and a fine specimen such as the oak would have been something that the Earl would have wanted to protect and preserve.

The website altontowersheritage.com tells of a similar tale: “There is also a long-standing tale of the ‘Witch’s Oak Tree’ in Staffordshire. In this story, however, the curse is delivered not by a crone in the road, but by an old man who gatecrashes the opening ball of the Banqueting Hall, rebuffed when he offers to tell fortunes for a night’s shelter.”

Here is some actual footage of the tree on Youtube, uploaded by Tim P. Commentary by Tim P.

If you’re of a mind to visit Alton Towers, or just to see the “Chained Oak”, and walk the beautiful woodlands, you could do much worse than to stay at The Chained Oak B&B, only ten minutes’ walk from Alton Towers, and right opposite the tree and the woodlands themselves!

Enjoy some of the other photographs that I took during my two trips to see the “Chained Oak”. Just keep scrolling!

The disused gatehouse that sits to the right of the entrance to the woodlands and the "Chained Oak" B&B

The disused gatehouse that sits to the right of the entrance to the woodlands and the “Chained Oak” B&B

A side view of the gatehouse, showing the sign for the "Chained Oak" B&B

A side view of the gatehouse, showing the sign for the “Chained Oak” B&B

The public footpath with signpost that leads into the woodlands

The public footpath with signpost that leads into the woodlands

The way into the woodlands and the "Chained Oak", 400 yards away

The way into the woodlands and the “Chained Oak”, 400 yards away

Looking back from Barbary Gutter to the entrance and the gatehouse

Looking back from Barbary Gutter to the entrance and the gatehouse

A random shed in the woodlands, reminiscent of "The Evil Dead". Well it is to me!

A random shed in the woodlands, reminiscent of “The Evil Dead”. Well it is to me!

An atmospheric view of the "Chained Oak"

An atmospheric view of the “Chained Oak”

A brighter view of the huge fallen limb

A brighter, closer view of the huge limb that fell in 2007

The broken trunk and the end of the fallen limb

The broken trunk and the end of the fallen limb

A view from above the "Chained Oak", looking down into Barbary Gutter and the woodlands

A view from above the “Chained Oak”, looking down into Barbary Gutter and the woodlands

Standing above the tree, looking at the chains and major limbs. Note the broken section where the limb fell off in 2007

Standing above the tree, looking at the chains and major limbs. Note the broken section where the limb fell off in 2007

Standing at the base of the "Chained Oak", looking down at the masses of chains on the broken limb

Standing at the base of the “Chained Oak”, looking down at the masses of chains on the broken limb

In Barbary Gutter, below the "Chained Oak", looking at it through the woodland vegetation

In Barbary Gutter, below the “Chained Oak”, looking at it through the woodland vegetation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My 3rd accepted submission for JWK!

The cover for forthcoming book, "Bones", edited and published by James Ward Kirk

The cover for forthcoming book, “Bones”, edited and published by James Ward Kirk

Sleepless night are often the most productive times for an author. They are for me, most certainly!

I wrote a 1,000 word story entitled A Canine Conundrum a couple of nights ago, in the hope of submitting it to Bones, a new anthology to be published shortly by James Ward Kirk. I emailed the story and only a day later I had an email from James saying that he’d get back to me as soon as possible.

Another day has passed since then, and tonight I got the acceptance and attached contract for me to sign, which has now been signed and returned, along with a short up-to-date biography.

I look forward to seeing all of the amazing writers, poets and artists in print when it is published, and I know that you will all love the book. Submissions are still being accepted at time of writing, so if you have something you think is worthy of being included, click on the cover image and read the submission guidelines before submitting. And good luck!

I won’t give anything away with regard to my story, because it has my usual shock ending, and this one just may make you puke! At least that’s the reaction I’m hoping to see!

“Serial Killers Tres Tria” is out!

Front cover of Serial Killers Tres Tria

Front cover of Serial Killers Tres Tria

It’s been quite a wait, but Serial Killers Tres Tria is finally out in paperback, and my short story, Eyes is in there!

In total, there are 21 authors and artists featured, with a lot of the great names in horror fiction being represented. The book is volume 3 in the Serial Killers stable, brought to you by author, Editor and publisher James Ward Kirk, who has the ability, experience and the charm to attract all of the very best names to his books.

My good friend, author M.C. O’Neill picked up an Editor’s Award for his contribution Conduct Disorder, and I can’t wait for the mail to come and deliver it, so I can hold my very own copy in my hands!

If you’ve not read any of JWK’s anthologies, you simply must remedy that immediately! All of the books that James publishes are widely available, and he is open for submissions to a whole range of future titles, so head on over to his website at JWKfiction.com and grab yourself some fantastic reading matter, and if you’re up to the challenge, submit something of your own! And while you’re browsing James’s site, take a look and drool over the fantastic covers, designed by such names as William Cook and Sydney Leigh.

Buy your very own copy of Serial Killers Tres Tria from Amazon, now!

Guest post: The Next Day, by Sheila Hall

A short while ago, I wrote what is as yet my only piece of erotic fiction, and I had the good fortune to have that story featured on TheDarkerhalf.com, a marvellous website run by Sheila Hall and Christopher Liccardi. Sheila and Chris showcase fantastic short stories by some amazing writers, and I consider it an honor that they chose to feature my work.

Sheila and myself were talking recently, and I thought it would be great if I could reciprocate and have her write a piece of flash fiction for me. Although Sheila is normally known for her naughty, cheeky side, she writes beautiful poetry too. I originally said jokingly that she should write a piece of horror erotica, to which she replied, “Challenge accepted!”

Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you on that score, because the story you’re about to read is anything other than erotic! I guess we’ll all just have to wait a while longer for that little gem!

As this is the first time I have featured a story by another author on my blog, I wanted things to go sweetly, so I donned my Editor’s cap for this big occasion. I read far too many stories by guests on other peoples’ blogs where there are glaring errors in both grammar and spelling, and on the odd occasion I have known there to be words repeated, or even missing! I hope that Sheila approves of my slight oiling and tweaking to her wonderful story.

This tale is a short story of sudden and shocking realization, and it’s one I know you’ll enjoy.

Stream

The Next Day

by Sheila Hall

It still feels like the middle of the night, but I know it isn’t. Instead of the moon hanging low, I see rays of sunlight filtering through the leafy canopy overhead. The forest around me is teeming with life. Songbirds are sharing gossip, and various other animals are engaging in their morning routines. All these signs start to focus my thoughts on the really important questions: where the hell am I, and why am I here instead of in my bed?

The ground is wet and cold under my cheek. It’s natural, and yet it feels so wrong. I raise my head, and the pounding that accompanies that small movement shatters all thoughts of continuing that motion. Squinting, I become more aware of my surroundings, and the lack of modern conveniences that I would normally expect to see upon waking convinces me that wherever it is that I am, this is not my bedroom. I venture a guess that I’m in the woods bordering my home. I always loved the stark contrast between urban dwelling and ancient shelter. That’s why I chose to live here.

The longing for the familiar motivates me to get up to my knees. Stomach heaving, I lurch up and stagger over to the stream a few yards in front of me. The water should be clear and sparkling, but it isn’t. Instead it’s littered with flesh and bone; the remains of some animal another creature had consumed as prey. Rotting chunks not yet fully rendered down by acid float lazily away, carried along with all the other debris sharing the same journey downstream.

The copper taste of old pennies is in my mouth, making me gag, and I gulp greedily at the tainted water to try and rinse it away. It’s then that I notice the unusual discoloration staining my skin. Looking down I see that my clothing is tainted by the red and brown hues of drying blood spatter and mud. Grabbing at myself, I look for the cuts on my skin that would account for the amount of blood I see. Please, let the blood be mine. Yet no matter how hard I look the jagged tears in my flesh I expect to see are nowhere to be found. I have no apparent injuries.

Not again. Dear God, no. Not again.

***

 The little stream flows on, uncaring. Its waters wash over the small, huddled form that is half immersed, dry heaving and tearing at its own skin. Blood, bile, and sanity travel onward towards the sea.

#

Follow Sheila on Twitter

 

5-star reviews and a guest blogger invitation!

In the 8 days that my book, Darke Times and Other Stories has been available, I have had the good fortune to sell books (though I have no idea just how many), receive glowing 5-star reviews, and on the back of one of the reviews the reviewer invited me to be a guest blogger on his blog!

M.C. O’Neill, author of The Ancients and the Angels series of YA novels, Celestials and Archons awarded my book 5 stars on Amazon.com and had this to say:

I love anthologies and collections because they introduce me to new authors. “Darke Times” is no exception. When you delve into this collection’s pages, you really get what you pay for: a wonderful variety show of the bizarre. David Eccles can handle any genre thrown at him with hilarious skill. Some of the stories range from horror, fantasy, sci-fi, erotica – you get it all but his dry (and sometimes wet) wit will guarantee laughter.

I enjoy how his short stories are punctuated with flash-fiction treasures that operate almost like a commercial, but one that you would actually want to watch. “Teeth” sticks out in my mind. You’ll see what I mean when you read it.

Although I’m a yank, Eccles’ language is decisively British, and think Terry Pratchett more so than Neil Gaiman, but a Pratchett that goes to places he would normally not dare. LOVE IT!

It looks great on the Kindle with sharp formatting and beautiful cover design and you get everything the package advertises plus more.

I can’t wait to see what kind of full-length novels are going to come out of this guy’s brain in the future. I’m guessing horror or even Bizarro – and these stories are ALL bizarre – but whatever they may be, I am now a fan.

John F.D. Taff, the horror author and a man responsible for over 65 short stories and 7 novels was the very first person to review my book, and if I know John, he was probably the first to buy it too! He too awarded my book 5 stars on Amazon.com and said:

David Eccles’ first published book of short stories, Darke Times and Other Stories, is a wide-ranging look at this new author’s range of work. From flash fiction pieces like “The Teeth Police”–a short, funny and horrifying little jab of a story–to “Jack & Jill (and Steve!)”–a funny little riff on Jack the Ripper and time travel–to the titular “Darke Times”–a tale of a Rastafarian pixie who really, really wants to get to the football match–Eccles imbues his stories with a rakish wit and a firm hand. Even when they’re quite clearly horror, there’s an edge of comedy to them which makes the tales stand out. Grab it now and give it a try, because Eccles’s name is one you’ll be hearing.

To have two fantastic authors, each respected in their own genres heap praise on me like that was just the most amazing feeling, and still the 5-star reviews keep on coming! But wait! It gets better!

As I mentioned earlier, one of my reviewers invited me to do a guest blog on their website. That reviewer was none other than John F.D. Taff. John wanted to know more about  me, and about how and why I write and, of course, he gave me the opportunity to mention Darke Times and Other Stories. What a wonderful way to show his appreciation of my book and my writing talents! How could I refuse such a generous gesture! It’s guys like John and James Roy Daley and James Ward Kirk who have seen something in me and in the way that I write and have given me the chance to show what I can do, and I am eternally grateful to them and anyone who is gracious enough to show their support.

Show John your support and visit johnfdtaff.com

To see the blog that I wrote for John on July 18th, click here.

“Darke Times and Other Stories” is LIVE!

Kindle cover for "Darke Times and Other Stories"

Kindle cover for “Darke Times and Other Stories”

I know I’m a day late, but I’m catching up!

Yes, folks, it’s finally happened! My first book, a collection of fourteen pieces of flash fiction and short stories entitled Darke Times and Other Stories was published yesterday, the 14th of July, and I really am happy and proud to say that I did it all by myself, after a lot of time spent reading tutorials about formatting the manuscript correctly.

I even created the cover too! I’m no professional graphics wizard, but I do love to play around with software, and I think that the final cover is rather good. It’s certainly visually interesting with regard to the mixed subject matter!

I thought I’d mix it up a little and have representations of a few of the characters from some of the stories in the book, which is a mixed bag  of goodies in itself!

There’s a little bit of general fiction, some science fiction, a bizarro fantasy, a piece of humorous fiction, a zombie story, a good dash of horror and horror erotica, and a full-blown erotica story too!

The original title of this debut collection was to have been Brick Up the Pigeonhole, my way of saying that you can’t pigeonhole me with this eclectic mix, but I really struggled with a cover that I could be satisfied with, so I changed the title and, hey presto!–Darke Times and Other Stories was born!

I really wanted to get it published before my father died, but it was not to be, so I did my best to get it out there as soon as I could after his funeral, and to my parents, who are both no longer with us, I can now say, “I did it! I’m an author, just like I told you I would be!”

I hope that you’ll buy and enjoy this 76-page volume of stories, and that you’ll love reading it as much as I loved writing it, and that you’ll review it on Amazon and Goodreads.

Darke Times and Other Stories on Amazon.com

Darke Times and Other Stories on Amazon.co.uk

 

 

Another submission accepted!

Serial Killers Tres Tria. Edited by James Ward Kirk and published by JWK

Serial Killers Tres Tria. Edited by James Ward Kirk and published by JWK

On the back of my short story Doing it for JRD (Justice, Revenge and Deliverance) being accepted for publication in Sex, Drugs & Horror, an anthology edited by the wonderful James Ward Kirk, I am pleased to announce that another of my short stories has been accepted for publication in another of James Ward Kirk’s anthologies; this time I am to be published in his third Serial Killers anthology, Serial Killers Tres Tria, available later this year. Check out the killer cover by William Cook! Isn’t it just awesome!

If you click on the cover image above, you’ll be taken to the submissions page for this particular anthology, and because submissions are still open, I suggest you all get writing and give it a go.

Better still, get on over to JWKfiction.com and see what other submissions are open, and while you’re at it, treat yourself to some wonderful books!

And before I forget — A huge thank you once more to the wonderful James Ward Kirk, and to all of you wonderful people who take the time to read my stories, especially the author and a good friend of mine, M.C. O’Neill, who does a great job beta-reading for me and pokes me with a huge barbed stick and tells me to submit my stuff. Thank you, Mark!

The Sex, Drugs & Horror cover is awesome!

Not long to wait now until my short story that i mentioned in my previous post is published. I took a stroll on over to jwkfiction.com, the website of horror author and publisher James Ward Kirk to check out the cover for the Sex, Drugs & Horror anthology, and i must say that i love it!

Great artwork, and a font that takes me back to the science fiction paperbacks of the 1970s. I’ll show you a picture of it below, and clicking on it will take you to the submissions page for the anthology, which are still open until the 30th of June, by the way.

The cover for the Sex, Drugs & Horror anthology, edited by James Ward Kirk

The cover for the Sex, Drugs & Horror anthology, edited by James Ward Kirk

And once again, a great big thank you to James Ward Kirk for including me in what i know will be a wonderful anthology and a truly great read. Roll on publication in the first week of July.

I wrote a story in honour of JRD

woohoo_fireworks

Time for celebration!

A few days ago, I had an idea burst free from my head and onto the virtual page. It was a short story in honour of James Roy Daley, an amazing author and the man behind BOOKSoftheDEADPRESS.

It featured mostly narration by a serial killer looking back on the first time he killed, and the circumstances surrounding it. It was nasty, graphic and featured very explicit sex and sexual swear words. I was very proud of it, and I sent it to JRD, who thought it was great. Incidentally, the story is entitled Doing it for JRD (Justice, Revenge and Deliverance).

Another friend of mine, author M.C. O’Neill read it too, thought it was awesome and suggested that I submit it to James Ward Kirk at http://jwkfiction.com/ to see if it would be accepted for his upcoming Serial Killers Tres Tria anthology. Following his advice, I submitted the story, taking care to read through all of the submission requirements, and then I left it at that, hoping that I might be lucky enough to be accepted, but quite content in the knowledge that even if it didn’t make the cut it wasn’t the end of the world, because there are thousands of places to submit to.

To cut a long story short: tonight I got a reply from James Ward Kirk who said he loved the story and that he wanted to use it in his Sex, Drugs & Horror anthology which is to be published during the first week of July. He actually said that if I preferred for it to feature instead in the Serial Killers Tres Tria anthology, he’d send over a different contract, but thinking about it now, there’s a lot of horror and a lot of sex in the story, and because it’s about a killer’s first kill, it would be more suited towards the Sex, Drugs & Horror anthology.

Needless to say, I’ve written a bio and the contract has been signed and returned to JWK by electronic carrier pigeon, so next month will see me as being a published author in at least one anthology, if not two, as i have another story coming out shortly in an anthology that has been written in collaboration with some of my friends and fellow writers from the Easter Bunny’s Apocalypse  collective.

Things are looking up for me, folks, and now i’ve got my foot on the first rung of the ladder there will be no stopping me!