Snowmageddon!

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As we’re all snowed in, well in Brighton there is less than a centimetre but it still counts, I thought I’d post my short story about snow, Footprints. I wanted to write a traditional English ghost story and it really works best read aloud in a warm candle-lit pub – but as none of you can get out…

FOOTPRINTS by Erinna Mettler

The blizzard resulted in a lock-in. The Druid’s Head was at the edge of the village, a good half a mile away from the first houses. At eleven Ryan, its landlord, looked out of the window at the thickly falling snow and declared we’d all freeze to death if we tried to walk home.  Settled by the fire with freshly poured pints, someone said we should pass the time telling ghost stories. And so, as the blizzard rattled at the windows, five grown men set about trying to scare each other silly.

Most of the tales were bad movies re-located to the Devon countryside, deaths foreseen, cannibal farmers, The Dartmoor Witch Project and Ryan’s nonsense about the poltergeist that drinks all his profits. No-one was in the slightest bit frightened, but it was fun and even as the snow stopped, we lingered, reluctant to leave the cosy camaraderie and trudge home in deep snow. The hours passed with each story. Beer flowed, heads became fuzzy, words slurred. Alex, our local teacher, went last. He’d been reluctant to join in when normally you couldn’t shut him up.

‘There is one story I could tell,’ he said when pressed, ‘it happened right here in this pub, well outside anyhow.’  He looked over at Ryan who was tidying the bar. ‘Years before you took it over.’

‘Go on then Alex,’ said Ryan sceptically, ‘do your worst.’

Alex put down his pint and began his tale with an earnest expression.

‘I was eighteen. I worked here then for the owners, Marianne and Valentin Fomitch. They were a bit weird. He was Russian, if you can believe it, and she was a hippy. Valentin always wore purple – cords and a poncho usually – and he had piercing green eyes, long grey hair, a pointy beard and a pentagram tattooed on his neck. Marianne floated around him in diaphanous dresses and hardly spoke. Valentin was so brusque he quickly alienated himself from the village. He refused to pay bills for honest work, barred regular customers and was generally as rude as he could be, so hardly anyone came in here in those days. They probably didn’t need me here at all but Valentin was always taking off for days at a time and said he wanted a man around.’

‘But you’d do, eh?’ interrupted Ryan.

We shushed him crossly, eager for Alex to go on, for as you can see he had a way of telling tales.

‘There was a lot of gossip about where Valentin went and what he did when he got there. My brother Denny, who was prone to a little night wandering himself, said he’d seen Valentin in the woods at full moon carrying out some sort of naked ritual with a dead deer and a hunting knife. He’d heard the deer’s squeals and hidden in the trees to watch. He said he was sure Valentin had seen him, that he stopped mid stab with the knife held high and turned to look in his direction. It creeped him out so much he didn’t go poaching again for months – not until he was sure he wouldn’t run into our Russian friend again.

This one night, Valentin came back almost as soon as he’d set off because a blizzard had suddenly blown up, much like this one.  At 10 o’clock, when the snow had stopped and there still weren’t any customers he said I could go. As I went to the door it crashed open and a man ran inside. He rushed up to the bar and looked over his shoulder as if he expected someone to follow him inside, but all that came in was the wind and a cloud of powdery snow.  He was young man, trendy and not at all dressed for a blizzard. He wore a thin suit jacket, jeans and sneakers not even gloves or a scarf. He was soaked through. Snow clung to his clothes in clumps that he began to brush away as if it were alive. He was jittery alright; when I shut the door he nearly jumped out of his skin then held his hand to his heart. His upper-class voice shook as he spoke to Valentin.

‘Do you have a phone? Damn car’s broken down – a couple of miles back.  Completely dead.’

Valentin nodded tersely at the pay phone by the window but when the man saw what he meant, he hesitated.

‘Don’t suppose I could have a drink first?’ he said glancing nervously at the door. ‘Had a bit of a shock, need something to steady the nerves.’

Valentin made no attempt to serve him so I went back behind the bar and poured him a brandy. He downed it in one, his hand quivering as he put down the glass.

‘What happened,’ I asked, ‘did you hit something?’

I figured he must have run over an animal in the snow, you know what mess a deer can make.

He shook his head.

‘Damnedest thing. I’m lost. Must’ve taken a wrong turn and then couldn’t find my way back to the main road, drove through the snow for an hour at least. The car gave out in the middle of a wood.’

Marianne moved over to Valentin and hung onto his arm, pale and wide-eyed like a frightened child.

Our guest went on, words rattling from him like hailstones.

‘Everything died instantly. Engine. Lights. Radio. The snow had stopped so I decided to walk up the road, thought I must be near a village, or a house at least, and that I’d freeze if I stayed in the car. City boy you see, no food or blanket in the boot. The clouds had cleared and moon was bright so I knew I’d be able to see the way. I stepped out onto snow a foot deep. I hadn’t passed any houses for miles so I decided to go on into new territory and walked away from the car.

A few yards along the road, I realised there was another set of prints beside me. I don’t mean that someone had walked up there before I had – I mean another set of footprints was being made next to mine as I walked. I could see the snow depress as my feet sank into it just as if someone were walking along with me but – there was no one there.’

He shook his head again and frowned.

‘I stopped and they stopped.  It sounds crazy I know. There was nothing special about them. They looked like human footprints; a man’s shoes but with a long pointed toe. I looked behind me and saw that they started by the car as if someone else had got out of it when I did. I stood for a while trying to make sense of it and then I heard the breathing – quick, and in time with my own but very definitely not mine. Then I saw the vapour.

Well, I didn’t hang about, practically ran the all the way here, fell over a few times – that’s why I’m covered in snow. My ‘companion’ matched my pace right up to your door.’

At this point Ryan knocked over a half empty glass, splattering its contents over the bar onto the stone floor. We all turned to him and tutted, but he just laughed and came to our side of the bar with a mop and started to dab away at the mess.

‘If I may?’ said Alex.

‘Don’t mind me,’ Ryan smirked, squelching the tiles with the mop.

Alex sighed and carried on.

‘I poured the stranger another drink and this time he sipped it. Valentin and Marianne didn’t move.

The man laughed softly. ‘Must have snow fever,’ he said.

Warmed and fortified by the brandy he called the AA from the payphone, taking care not to look out of the window while he talked.

They took a couple of hours to reach us. I sat with him while he waited. He was a nice chap. His name was Sebastian and he was a record producer down to work at some pop star’s country house. I played bass in a band back then so we talked about music. By the end of the wait we’d decided that his mind must have been playing tricks on him, that logically there couldn’t have been another set of footprints, that the woods and the full moon on the snow must have worked their magic on his imagination. I even went outside to look, just to make sure. I looked up and down the road as he stood in the doorway – there was only one set of prints in the snow. Sebastian seemed to relax after that, put the whole incident down to tiredness and the effects of the blizzard. I told him I was going to study in London the following year and he gave me his number; said he’d show me around his studio when I got there.

Valentin and Marianne didn’t speak to him once. Barely even looked at him. But they didn’t go to bed either – they just sat in a booth away from the fire whispering to each other.

The AA phoned back and said they were waiting by Sebastian’s car.  I left with him and Valentin closed the door behind us. As he bolted it I thought I’d heard Marianne say,

‘Valentin, for pity’s sake.’

Outside, the snow seemed to reflect the stars above, glowing like diamonds in the moonlight. I shook Sebastian’s hand in farewell as I was going right into the village and he was going in the other direction – back towards the wood.

For a moment I wondered if I should go with him, but it would have been silly to walk him to his car and then to have to walk all the way back again. I looked over my shoulder at him when he was on his way, and for a second I could’ve sworn I saw another set of footprints beside his own and heard the double creak of decompressing snow.’

Ryan rubbed a glass quickly with his tea-towel so it squeaked and everyone looked in his direction and laughed nervously.

‘What happened to Valentin and Marianne?’

‘Never saw them again – they did a moon-light flit. The pub was locked up for months until the new owners arrived. The estate agent said there was all sorts of weird stuff left in here, black candles and voodoo dolls, symbols drawn on the floors upstairs. Funny,’ he said looking at Ryan, ‘but people don’t seem to stay here long – maybe there’s something in your poltergeist story after all.’

We looked at each other as they clock ticked loudly and the hairs raised on my forearms despite the heat of the fire.

‘What about the guy,’ I asked. ‘Sebastian? Was he okay?’

‘As far as I know he met the AA and went back to London. They didn’t fix the car though; my brother saw it the next day and it stayed by the roadside for a week before someone towed it away. It was odd, but there was no story in the local paper, no missing person reports or police investigation so, after a while, I just forgot about it.’

‘You called him though, when you got to London?’

Alex looked at the floor.

‘No, No I didn’t.’ He mumbled. ‘I never dared to.’

‘Even though he was a record producer and you were in a band?’

‘I thought about it a lot but was I scared. What if I called and found out he was missing, last seen in Devon? But I have always wondered…’ he swigged at his beer, ‘if there was another set of footprints in the snow, what kind of being was it that could have made them?’

Everyone was silent for a while, the only noise the spitting of the fire and the wind shaking the windows.

Clyde, the policeman, spoke first. He quickly finished his drink and said, ‘that’s me done.’

‘Yeah, me to‘And me.’

‘And me.’

And in a flurry of coats and downed drinks we all said goodnight to Ryan – who bolted the door quickly behind us – and were soon standing outside on the thick glistening snow as the wind wailed up the lane. We turned right to walk into the village and I pulled my coat around me, surreptitiously looking back over my shoulder so the boys wouldn’t see me do it and take the piss. What I saw stopped me in my tracks. I pulled at Clyde’s sleeve and we stood and watched them moving after the others through the snow – footprints with no owner.

THE END

snow Feb 2018

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A Short Story Thread

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#AuthorInTheSpotlight – @ErinnaMettler

Portobello Book Blog

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I’m pleased to be joined today by author Erinna Mettler. Her collection of short stories, Fifteen Minutes, is available now from Unbound and you can order a copy from Unbound here  or from Amazon here

Welcome Erinna – first of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?

My name is Erinna Mettler and I’m a short fiction writer from Brighton. I co-direct a spoken word group called Rattle Tales and a short story prize, The Brighton Prize, which is open to short stories and flash fiction. My first love is short fiction, my first novel, Starlings, was a set of interlinked short stories.

What inspired you to start writing?

I didn’t write a word of fiction until I was 39 years old. I’d moved from London to Brighton with my husband, my father had just died and I’d had a second son, I felt like I…

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Class Act – Working Class Stories

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Happy New Year! I’ve just pledged to Common People, An Anthology of Working Class Writers, crowd-funding with Unbound now. I’ve been thinking a lot about class in literature lately. Last year I read Allie Roger’s book Little Gold, set on an estate in Brighton in the 1980s. It was moving and stark and cleverly used its 30 years ago setting to shine a spotlight on the injustices of the present.  Common People’s editor, the campaigning writer Kit De Waal, said in an interview last year with The Guardian that working class representation had declined over the last decades.  “I really see a gap in white, working-class stories – it’s a massively neglected area. I don’t think the experience of the white working class is valued enough.”

Allie’s novel is just the sort of book that should be being published to address this inequality but, apart from a few token titles from the major publishers; working class literature is left to the independents. To the companies without the marketing budgets to push their titles forward, or to crowd-funders like Unbound. Gone are the glory days of Alan Sillitoe, David Storey, Barry Hines, note that even in the 1960s they were almost all men, I don’t think this has changed much. Perhaps some shift of focus is now underway but it’s painfully slow.

Little Gold

Class is a subject close to my heart. I worry about not being working class anymore. I’ve got an MA and I work from home, my oldest son corrects me on my pronunciation of the word ‘bath’. In fact my sons are so well spoken I sometimes wonder if they are cuckoos. At what point do you stop being one thing and become another? Is it when you go to university? Own a property? Marry Prince Harry? Some people would say, once working class, always. Can that really be true? I’m very, very lucky but I remember my Dad working two jobs in order to pay the bills and my mother was born in a two roomed cottage in rural Ireland and went to work as a maid at the age of fourteen. I feel constantly guilty about what I’ve got, never buy anything that isn’t in a sale and hate waste in any form. A room full of publishing types with cut glass accents brings me out in a cold sweat and I have to remind myself that I’m just as good as they are and also that their class doesn’t make them bad people. A friend laughed a lot recently when I told her that I had to make an effort to afford the upper classes equal rights. In order to make amends I consciously try to write about class. In my collection, 15 Minutes, half of the stories tackle class in some way, either with characters or by highlighting societal inequalities. I’ve got an ex-miner, a hobo, a sous chef, a failed Big Brother contestant, a Mexican maid in the US, two disadvantaged kids and an ordinary family watching a royal wedding. It was almost impossible to get this collection published. I have no idea if that was just because of publishing’s fear of short fiction or if the subject matter played a part too. The story I’m most proud of is Carbon In Its Purest Form, which is about an ex-miner on the day Margaret Thatcher dies. It was subbed to every competition and journal going and never got anywhere so I’m absolutely delighted that it wound up in this collection.

Here’s to 2018, may it be the year of working class fiction.

I will be swallowing back my insecurities and talking at the wonderful Bookish Supper Salon on Feb 9th at The Regency Town House in Hove. Tickets available here.

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Twice The Speed Of Dark

I have an advent treat for you today – an extract from the very wonderful Twice The Speed Of Dark. I met the author, Lulu Allison, when we were both crowdfunding our books through Unbound Publishing and realised we both lived in Brighton. We met for a coffee and she has been a great support ever since. Here we both are, after many months of campaigning, with real books in our hands!  I picked up a copy of Twice The Speed Of Dark at the book launch last week and was instantly hooked. The writing is beautiful, the subject moving and life-affirming. Lulu is currently on a blog tour featuring interviews, reviews and extracts. Buy this book!

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Twice The Speed Of Dark by Lulu Allison

Caitlin, killed by violent boyfriend Ryan, tells her story from the perplexing realms of death. Ten years on, her mother Anna is still burdened by suppressed grief. Dismayed by the indifference in the news to people who die in distant war and terror, Anna writes portraits of the victims, trying to understand the real impact of their deaths. It is only through these acts of love for strangers that she can allow herself an emotional connection to the world. Anna’s uneasy equilibrium is disrupted when Ryan is released from prison. As her anger rises will Anna act on her desire for revenge, or will she find freedom at last from the terrible weight of grief? And will Caitlin reclaim herself from the brutality that killed her?

 

This is an excerpt from chapter four. Caitlin, trying to remember and rebuild her own story is thinking about her mother.

 

Sometimes I have felt Mum’s grief pulling me, pulling me into her. I am on the end of a rope; she is the post to which I am tied. She is so firmly set, so deeply anchored in that place that however far I am, I start to circle, circle, circle, at first with a carelessness that seems to have no direction or destination, but as the circle winds in, as the rope shortens, I speed up, I feel the pull, I feel the reducing arc of my movement. I feel the dizzying rush as I am pulled and pulled until I move so fast and so tightly pulled that even without weight or body I am eviscerated by it. I become lost in a tunnel, a funnel, a wind-sucked shrinking spin that ends suddenly at my mother’s feet. I look up and see that she is as still as rock. Bound tight from head to foot by a million miles of grief.

Mum – I feel it spooling out from her even here – is reshaped by sorrow. When I died it broke her heart. Her heart has stayed broken; that break has handicapped the rest of her. It is terrible to see that pain-filled vastness inside her. She has pulled tight around herself to keep it all hidden, the sorrow that marbles her bones, coats her organs, decides her fate. She is diseased with sorrow. Yet I see her smile, talk, laugh. I have seen her with the usual group of old friends, laughing and having fun. It felt as comforting to me as if I were a child going to sleep in her lap. Those adult faces that accompanied my childhood, contributed guidance and steps and gifts to my growing up. And my darling mum, loved by them and laughing happily in their company. But I could still see her disease. It glittered through her skin like the darkness waiting. Sophie knows her so well; I think she sees it too. She is such a gentle worrier, such a kind and loving friend, she would know what is plain to see. I wish I knew what to do, to pull that blackness out. The blackness is for me. Not for Mum.

There. I catch, suddenly, a thread. A time when I was younger, sullen in that ordinary way of a teenager, but not opposed to walking in the woods with Mum. As we walked through the part of the woods where the bluebells were thickest, Mum suddenly turned off the path and walked into the middle of them.

‘Look, Caitlin!’

‘I can’t see anything.’

‘No, I mean just the colour, look at it! It’s wonderful.’ She stood with her arms vaguely lifted outwards to encompass the yearly manifestation of colour that billowed across the woodland floor, buzzing in an ecstatic hover between purple and blue. Her face held a blissful half-smile of idiot pleasure, and for once I could see what she meant. The colour was wonderful. For the rest of the walk and when we got home, eating our pizzas and cheesecake that Dad went out to buy specially, Mum was in a happy, almost elated mood. It was easy to absorb her joyfulness, and soon Dad and I were as elevated as she. It was a very happy evening. Today’s happy evening was brought to you by the colour purple.

She would do that quite often. She would stop to absorb the sight of something that she suddenly found irresistible. She would always offer up what she was seeing for us to share, but I knew that in those moments she was expressing part of herself that didn’t need company. As an art history lecturer, she spent her life looking at paintings, artworks, filling her eyes with arrangements that had been created, if not inevitably to please the eye, to fill it. To be made sense-full by the cast of a human eye. She was serious about her work, absorbed, critical, excited often, irritated or angry at least as often. But it was only with scenes that happened by accident, or without the human view in mind, that she seemed to have this welling-up of wonder. She rarely articulated any thoughts about what she was looking at, certainly never subjected it to the dismantling analysis that in her work life she applied like a knife to various artworks, both to revere and revile. But she did offer the chance to share in her looking. Look, Caitlin, how beautiful it is! It might be a distant view, the accidental coincidence of building materials in an old part of a town, a decaying leaf. It might be something I couldn’t spot at all.

It tears at me. To see my mum like this, to know how unhappy she still is. As weak as he is, as ineffectual in life as he is, he remade my mum. He tore her inside out and remade her. She is remade by the consequences of his acts. She is battered by my death. My death, my death, my death. Not even my absence, but my death. My death has killed something in her. As death has caused me to cede all of myself to hurtling and rushing, it has caused her to be bound in rigid stillness, held immobile under weighted coils of grief.

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Tears In Rain – The First Time I Saw Blade Runner

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Blade Runner 2049 is almost upon us and I can barely conceal my excitement. Blade Runner is one of my favourite films. They better not fuck it up; but going by the trailers and previews it looks like they’ve managed to get it right. We’ll know for sure on Friday. When I’m not working on my novel, or marketing my collection, I’ve got a sideline in movie memoir. I’m collecting together pieces about films I’ve seen with family. Here’s a shortened version of the one about Blade Runner.

Tears In Rain – The First Time I Saw Blade Runner

We made and odd couple, my Dad and I, walking into the dilapidated late night cinema. I was fifteen and he was in his mid-fifties. I had Sun-in hair and too much black eye-liner, waif-like in the way that only teenagers can be, while he was tall and solid, his bulk made bigger by his sheepskin coat.  It was winter 1982 and we’d gone to a midnight screening, both of us wanting to see different films on the double bill. In 1980s northern England there no instant movie streaming like there is now; if you wanted to see an obscure American movie you had a window of about a fortnight and even then only at selected cinemas. If you missed this opportunity you sometimes had the chance to mop it up at a repertory screening. And so it was that Dad and I braved the Yorkshire winter to go and see a double feature of Blade Runner and Firefox. You’ve probably only heard of one of those films, and with good reason, but in December 1982 I first had to sit through Clint Eastwood’s mediocre cold war offering in order to experience one of the greatest films ever made.

I was a film mad teenager. I consumed movies the way other people ate food – they were necessary for my survival. Severe hip-dysplasia had meant a childhood of surgeries and immobility. I spent a lot of time watching television, lying in bed or, when I was feeling up to it, on the sofa in the lounge, from which I’d watch mid-morning reruns of classic Hollywood movies. I was born late to my parents, my mum was 46 and my Dad 40, we were not just one but two generations apart. A love of cinema helped Dad and I bond. He introduced me to all the greats, John Ford westerns, Busby Berkley musicals, screwball comedies. He liked both Marylin Monroe and Ingrid Bergman, James Stewart and Robert Mitchum. His all-time favourite was Humphrey Bogart. I suspect that as a young man he’d been told he looked like the morose movie star because he often emulated his idol; in any given film Dad knew many of Bogart’s lines by heart and often wore a Philip Marlow mackintosh and chewed a match. There was indeed a striking resemblance. Dad had the same pleading eyes and thin upper lip, a square jaw and a slightly dissatisfied expression. We’d watch the movies together over and over; Key Largo, The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon, To Have and Have Not, The Caine Mutiny and, of course, Casablanca.

Most of the films we watched were on TV, trips to the cinema were rare, especially as I moved towards adulthood and away from a love of Disney. I began to go with friends to see modern horror movies and comedies. I’d read about Blade Runner in my beloved film magazines and was intrigued – a sci-fi movie in film noir style!  I watched for the listings at my local cinema but it never appeared. I’d just about given up hope of seeing it when I saw the ad for the double bill in Leeds. I showed it to Dad knowing he liked Clint Eastwood and to my surprise he said we could go.

‘It was strange thing to do,’ said my sister, home from college a week later, when I told her about it. It had been an experience. As you can imagine, those attending a Saturday midnight screening were not the usual cinema audience. It had been freezing outside, a few scant snowflakes making an appearance as we walked up the stone steps to the old-fashioned picture palace, slightly out of town. The doors were art deco, their brass handles worn from the many hands that had held them open. Inside we were hit with a blast of acrid heat and the odour of stale popcorn mixed with cigarette smoke hung in the foyer. The bored looking woman at the box office eyed us suspiciously as she sold us our tickets. We opted for the balcony because they were the best seats in the house. There were a few single men dotted around the aisles, some obvious junkies in from the cold and a row of drunk students at the back. Firefox was on first. It had a ridiculous cold war plot about Clint Eastwood stealing a spy plane from a Russian airbase. My Dad loved it, I watched his face more than the film, saw the delight on it, the joy when the hero saved the day.

‘That was fantastic!’ He declared and nipped out for a cigar in the interval, leaving me to sip my cola and stare at the patched velvet curtain closed in front of the screen, even at that age aware that it would not be a good idea to catch anyone’s eye. He arrived back in his seat just as the camera panned across Los Angeles 2019, accompanied by the first notes of the Vangelis score, and I decided that I was going to be a film director.  I sat open-mouthed throughout. Here was a movie that had managed to incorporate all my beloved classic films into something shiny and new. It felt like it had been created specifically for me. I must be the only person who likes the original voice over version the best because it’s the most like those old Bogart movies my Dad loved so much. Dad wasn’t so keen. He snored softly at one point. Afterwards as I enthused he said it thought it was ‘a bit boring and so damn dark you couldn’t see anything’. Within a week I’d dyed my hair auburn, started smoking and wearing vintage clothes and put the poster on my wall. I still have an antique VHS version of the film somewhere, though nothing to play it on.

I never became a film director. But I did study film at University and managed to get a research job at The British Film Institute in London where I stayed for fifteen years. During that time I went to West End premieres, special preview screenings and Q&As with famous directors but still nothing beats that screening of Blade Runner in terms of raw cinematic experience.

Now I’m a writer I use cinema a lot in my work. I often write about people going to the cinema, using the way they respond to certain films as a way of developing character. In my current collection (15 Minutes) I have two stories in which films feature heavily. The first is Lost In Translation which sparks an unhealthy Scarlett Johansson obsession in my protagonist and the second features a teenage boy obsessed with Blade Runner. He listens to the soundtrack, talks like Deckard’s voice over and smokes unfashionable Marlboros.

As we walked from the cinema in the pre-dawn, the snow had turned to rain. It pattered on the car windows on the silent drive home, windscreen wipers creaking.  Dad concentrated wearily on the road ahead while I watched the city lights flick past and imagined that I was riding into the unknown with Deckard, searching for immortality. My Dad is no longer with us. I often think of the night we went to that midnight screening. I sometimes imagine the times he went to the cinema as a young man, on dates, to shelter from the rain or just because he wanted to catch the latest Bogart before anyone else. Only he knew about those times and now they are gone – moments lost in time, like tears in rain.

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Brighton Launch Set!

15 Minutes will be launched in Brighton on October 7th. If anyone would like to come along please let me know, it is a free event and open to all. I will be reading from the book and there with be much fame related fun.

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A little bit about 15 Minutes:

Fifteen Minutes (Unbound Publishing)

“Sharp observations on modern obsessions. Gripping, witty and perceptive.” – Laura Wilkinson, author of Skin Deep

In a world obsessed with celebrity culture do the best stories belong to ordinary people?

A tramp wanders through New York on the day John Lennon is shot; a doctor remembers a Muhammad Ali fight from his childhood; a mother’s Harry Potter obsession follows the death of her child.

Intentionally or not, celebrities past, present and future assert their influence over the lives of us all. Addressing this very modern phenomenon, these stories offer an unflinchingly honest and thought-provoking picture of the world in which we live.

Fifteen Minutes is a short story collection about fame, presented through the extraordinary eyes of unabashedly ordinary characters.

‘Rapier sharp observations on modern obsessions. Gripping, witty and perceptive. These are stories to savour.’
Laura Wilkinson (author of Skin Deep, Redemption Song, The Family Line)

‘Like those great storytellers Alice Munro and Elizabeth Strout, Erinna Mettler treads a fine line – empathising with her characters and revealing their flaws without ever succumbing to sentiment – and delivers a richly rewarding read.’
Sarah Rayner (author of One Moment, One Morning)

‘Mettler’s stories are delightful journeys, the kind where you don’t arrive at the place you imagined, but always somewhere stranger and more magical.’
William Shaw ( author The Birdwatcher and the Breen & Tozer Trilogy)

OUT NOW in paperback and e-book.

Further information press@unbound.co.uk 0207 017 2377

Or erinnamettler@gmail.com

Calling Ghost Hunters!

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As the weather gets more autumnal and the wind scratches at the windows my thoughts are turning to Halloween. Halloween is my absolute favourite festival, so much better than Christmas with its 6 month build up, Halloween is just fun from start to finish. As a special ghoulish treat this week I have a guest blog from writer Paul Holbrook. His novel Domini Mortum is extremely close to being fully funded by crowdfunding publisher Unbound. I know how this works because my own book 15 Minutes has just been released by them. Paul is offering some great pledges in his crowdfunding campaign, not least one which should appeal to even the most fearless ghost hunters.

Hello Paul tell us about your book?

Domini Mortum is a novel set in late Victorian England, and set in London, York, and the village of Pluckley in Kent.   21032874_10214086403215790_5586207500886656430_n

It tells the story of a journalist called Samuel Weaver, who has travelled down to London from his native York to work as an artist and reporter for The Illustrated Police News (the preeminent tabloid of the day).  Weaver is obsessed with a series of murders which occurred six years earlier in London and the man accused of the crimes, who died before he could be brought to justice.

Weaver travels around London, and to Kent, to meet people who knew the accused, in the hope of writing a book about him.  However, the more he finds out about the murders, the more he becomes embroiled himself with the people and organisations who have the most to lose by being exposed in the press.  Meanwhile another set of murders has begun in London which hold a much darker and foreboding purpose.

Domini Mortum is a tale of how single-minded obsession can lead to a person’s downfall, and how it is impossible to escape from the sins of your past.  Once a heart is blackened by deeds, it can never recover.

The book is currently the centre of a crowdfunding campaign by the publisher Unbound.  The way it works is straight forward; each book has a cost in order to get it published.  Lovely generous members of the public give their support to the book by pledging to buy it.  Once enough people have pledged and the target amount is reached, the book is published and everyone who supported it gets a copy with their name inside on a list of people that made it happen.  It’s a quite brilliant idea, to get books published that people actually are interested in and want to read, rather than books that a publisher thinks the public wants.

How can people pledge?

Pledging is easy, all you have to do is visit www.unbound.co.uk/books/domini-mortum have a read of the synopsis, the excerpt, and then decide what pledge level you want to support the book at.

Once you’ve decided, it’s just a case of clicking that button and entering order details.  If you’ve pre-ordered a book from Unbound before, then you will have an account already.  I’m so glad that I am publishing my book through Unbound, the quality of the authors on show on their website is extraordinary, and I find myself wanting to support quite a lot of books there.

One of the pledges catches my eye in particular, the ghost walk. Can you tell us a bit about this pledge and what it entails?

Ah, the ghost walk, yes.

“We do not have time to enter the ‘Screaming Woods’ this evening, my friend, which is a terrible shame as it is an experience to be savoured,” he said holding his arm across my chest.  “The eldritch howls of the long and recent dead can be heard throughout the night, and it is a brave man who dares enter.  Few have tried and they left in such terrible states that they ended their days unable to speak of what they saw, most were placed in asylums, gibbering wrecks of men, hollow of mind and bereft of soul.” 

“What did they see in there?”  I asked awaiting a terrible tale of murder, suffering and the afterlife. 

“See?  See?  I don’t know, Samuel.  Did you not you hear me say that they never spoke of it?”  He lowered his arm and paced away muttering under his breath.

The ghost walk pledge came about because of a section in the book which is based in Pluckley in Kent, supposedly the most haunted village in Britain.  In the book Samuel Weaver visits the village as part of his investigations, and ends up taking part in a drunken ghost walk with a local called Edward Higgins.

The character of Edward Higgins, is named after a friend of mine, who I definitely had in mind while writing the story.  Samuel and Higgins experience the full horror of the ghosts of Pluckley during their tour, which is both humorous and frightening.

In writing the book I did an awful lot of research into Pluckley, watched countlesYouTube videos of ghost hunters visiting the various haunting sites, and read just about every word ever written about the village.  For those lucky people that pledge for the ghost walk, they will get a copy of the book, with their name inside, as well as making their way to Pluckley where I will meet them, have dinner and a drink or two in the Black Horse (the pub which Samuel Weaver stays in) before heading out into the dreadful night air to experience such sights as The Devil’s Bush, The Screaming Woods, and St Nicholas church where the famous ‘Red Lady’ has been sighted, as well as many other spooky stops along the way.  I will of course be inviting my friend Edward Higgins along, to make it all a bit more authentic to the book.

It’s a very adventurous pledge, but one which I am really looking forward to fulfilling, it will certainly be a night to remember for those who take up the challenge.

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Fifteen Minutes Out Now!

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It’s official! Fifteen Minutes is out now, after months of crowdfunding and readying for publication the book is available to order from bookshops and on kindle and for other e-readers directly from Unbound Publishing.  I can’t thank my pledgers enough because without them this book would never have happened. Please consider it for a summer read and let me know what you think. If you’ve got a book group make it your next read – I might even come along and talk about it. There will be a launch party in Brighton in October, I’ll keep you posted!

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15 Minutes – A Cover Story

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Last year I was signed by British crowd-funding publisher Unbound and now my short story collection about fame, 15 Minutes, is almost ready for release. Yesterday I was sent the final cover proof and I’m sure you will agree that it is an arresting image!

Writers don’t usually get any input in their cover designs. With my first book, Starlings, I was just sent the finished cover with a note saying ‘here’s your cover – hope you like it.’ Bizarrely that cover looked like the front of my house at the time. In the first few months of editing Unbound Digital send their authors a questionnaire to fill out for their cover designer Mark Ecob to work from.

It’s quite a long document and it really makes you think about the book you have written. The questions vary from the practical; title, buy-line, genre, to, ‘Describe the tone and mood you want to come across on your cover,’ and, ‘who do you think your readers are?’  These questions really make you think about your reader. Who is going to buy your book? What are their age, gender, interests? They even ask how they will buy it and where from. As a writer I have to admit I don’t actually think that much about my reader, certainly not when I’m writing, but in order to sell you have to know who you are appealing to. The first reader I listed was ‘short story enthusiast’. Then came the question about genre and the book is obviously made up of short stories but  I realised there and then that each story is its own beast, there’s literary fiction and sci-fi and experimental fiction and memoir and  it became very hard to pin down.

I was asked for a synopsis, again something the writers of short story collections will know is an almost impossible task, I provided key words and a list of the celebrities in the stories. I tried to get across the idea that fame is not necessarily a good thing. At one point I suggested that if there was a face on the cover it should be hidden in some way, blinded by paparazzi flashbulbs perhaps or masked.

Finally, they ask you what sort of cover you have in mind. This was a curve ball – I didn’t have anything in mind. I made a few suggestions. The Warhol connection was the obvious route, pop-art, bright colours, paparazzi photos. I also had to send an extract and I picked one from a story about a man obsessed with Scarlett Johansson.

Mark phoned a few days later. Surprisingly he didn’t seem that keen on a Warholesque cover but had picked up on the idea of fame as artifice. We talked about masks and dropped cameras. Then I mentioned that the last story was a flash fiction about a talking ape and Mark asked me to send it to him.  A few days later he sent over a series of ideas but the one that was the basis for the final cover was the standout. Not Warhol, not pop-art but the suggestion that fame is nothing more than a performing monkey seemed to sum up what I was trying to say.

The proposed cover designs then went to Unbound and I had a long wait before finally getting to see the finished cover complete with cover quote and blurb.  Seeing the finished image brings home the fact that this book is really happening and I am absolutely thrilled that soon you’ll be able to read my take on the masks and artifice of fame.

 

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