"The Shortcut" is one of the rare supernatural horror stories I've written in recent years. As always with my horror tales, atmosphere and suspense are key, but I think that only makes the reader jump all the higher when the weirdness bites.
This story follows a young woman home from a wild party. Would you have taken the long road through the industrial estate or chosen the shortcut?
My short story of psychological suspense, It starts With Insects, has been published in Dig Two Graves, Volume Twofrom (Death's Head Press). It's an anthology devoted to revenge in all of it's nastiest forms. From a house that isn't quite what it seems to a man and his "love muscle". Twenty-two authors take you on a vengeful ride straight to man's darkest desire.....the desire to get even. Mercy is unheard of, and tolerance is left in the dust. This book will please the darkest of hearts, and ignite feelings once left unexplored.
What do mystery writers do when they have free time and feel like going for a drive? They visit mysterious sites like neolithic cairns and mediaeval castles, naturally. There are dozens of stone-age remains and probably several dozen castles within an easy two-hour drive from where I live, so allow me to share a couple with you.
The Larcuste Cairns are hidden in the middle of farmland near Colpo in Brittany. They appear to be on private property, since you walk through cultivated fields to reach them, but are open to the public. I don't want to cause a stampede to this quiet village, but if you're of a considerate nature and keen on prehistory, a trip to the cairns is an interesting experience.
The Fortress of Largoet boasts one of the tallest keeps in the world at forty-five metres. It's an impressive hexagonal tower, now ruled by pigeons who bombard unsuspecting visitors with biological weapons as they step into the hollow stone shell that was once an abode of considerable standing. The castle was an important part of Brittany's defenses against France, and the future Henry VII of England, who would later found the Tudor dynasty, was imprisoned here for his own protection as a boy. As a result, he avoided assassination and is said to be the last monarch of any kingdom to speak Breton.
Inspiration for tales of mystery and suspense? You better believe it!
More about Thuggish Itch: Devilish from the editor:
Devils, demons and the idea of Hell have always featured prominently in the horror stories that I found myself reading as a teenager or the films I still delve into on a rainy day. I’ve always found it quite amazing how differently the leading man, Satan, is portrayed depending on the creativity and beliefs of the creator. Thuggish Itch’s Devilish collection features, in no particular order, thirteen of our favourite tales, each of which provides a different take on the mythology, the red man himself and all of his minions.
Where is the Devil's Windmill?
The Devil's Windmill stands just outside the town of Guérande, which I refer to by its Breton name, Gwenrann, in my story. How much of the legend is true is up to you to decide. If you go there, chances are you won't meet the devil. The area is actually picturesque and the windmill is now part of a crêperie, so the only thing devilish ought to be the food and cider. Kalon Digor! Bon appétit!
Living in France means there are plenty of charming historic towns to explore. As a writer of mystery and suspense, these towns often have what it takes to inspire a ripper of a tale. Clisson is one that I'd been intending to visit for quite some time, and it was as interesting as I'd hoped. There's the River Sèvre which weaves its way through a lush, forested valley, and there's Italianate architecture thanks to François-Frédéric Lemot. There are a number of Italian restaurants in the old town, one of them proudly displaying Il Tricolore along with the Gwenn-ha-du (Italian and Breton flags), but I ate at Le Restaurant de la Vallée (pictured below), which offered views of the castle, and I didn't regret it. The service was impeccable and the dishes excellent, a fusion of local and oriental ingredients. The castle? I hear you ask. An impressive ruin, said to be haunted by Jeanne de Clisson "The Lioness of Brittany". After her husband was summarily executed by the French king, she became a pirate, and along with her sons sailed the Channel killing the crews of any French ships they encountered. One son, Guillaume, died after they found themselves shipwrecked and adrift, the other, Olivier, was brought up in the court of the English king. He began his military career with the English, allies of the Duchy of Brittany, and earned the nickname of The Butcher, but he later changed sides, despite having sworn to avenge his father's death, and joined the French, becoming the constable. In doing so, he became an enemy of the Breton duke. Turbulent times to say the least. I promise you, Clisson is a quiet town these days... well, except during Hellfest! Will I write a story set here? I really should! Don't you agree?
Writers have certain needs. That's an undeniable fact. We need peace and quiet from time to time. Good luck with that one! We need a decent bottle of whisky to lubricate the cogs. That's generally feasible. And we need a garden. Plants help the creative process. They do for me at least. Plants are like stories, they grow, they branch out, and when there's a breeze, those branches move, touching and parting like subplots. Their aspect changes with the weather and the time of the day. A tree can be calming on a sunny day but disturbing as it scratches against walls and windows in the midst of a storm. My garden is in its early stages, but I'd like to share it with you. I want to show you my plants. Both of them. Like I said, early stages.
My four-leaf clover growing from an upside down pot. Don't ask. It's my little piece of Ireland in France.
Here's my Black Lace Elderberry bush. Please address all Monty Python inspired remarks to my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CameronTrostAuthor/ The name is believed to come from the Anglo-Saxon word æld, fire, as the hollow stems of the branches were used to blow air into fires. The berries are poisonous raw but can be boiled to make Elderberry wine or jam. I'll wait until I have more than four berries before giving that a go.
Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
No silver bells, or cockle shells yet, and just one pretty maiden - thank you very much. Baby steps.
It's not every evening I get to witness creative genius of a bizarre, eerie, and inspiring nature in a live performance. But tonight is set to be one of those rare occasions. Abraham Fogg is going to use his original compositions to narrate a seminal Swedish-Danish horror classic, Häxan, in a Nazi submarine base in France... No, you didn't imagine that last sentence! I guess you want to know more. Abraham was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.
1) Who is Abraham Fogg and what is his mission?
Abraham Fogg is an electronica project that aims to narrate stories in music.
I've been a composer for fifteen years and this project is a space of absolute freedom, where I can deeply express what I am and the music I love. I’m very protective about this and my mission here is to defy and enjoy myself.
I’m inspired by the Electronica or Intelligent Dance Music (IDM) movement on one hand. This movement was born in the 90s English club subculture, and I know a lot thanks to the great record company, Warp Records. I connect a lot with the term "Brain Dance" that talks for itself and represents very well how you could define what I do. On the other hand, I’m deeply touched by the work of "Holy Minimalist" composers like Arvo Pärt or Tavener.
In Häxan, I want to give a second life to this great film, and bring back the sensations people had when they first watched it in the 20s. I want to provoke a radical experience for the audience.
2) What is so special about the film, Häxan?
"Häxan" or "Witchcraft Through Ages" is considered one of the first horror films in history. This study on how superstition and misunderstanding of mental illness can lead to witch-hunts defined a lot of this genre's codes. It was made as a documentary, but the vision of its director, Benjamin Christensen, transformed the dramatised sequences into something both beautiful and scary. The film is from 1922 and was very innovative and disturbing. When it came out, it was banned in the US and in many other countries. The direction of photography is inspired by dark classical painters, like Bosch or Rembrandt, which make it timeless. I think this film still has a lot to tell us today. With its very early feminist tone and its true indictment against obscurantism, this film is in a way strongly echoing our times. Christensen was a true visionary and I hope people will discover his work through this project.
3) Where will you be performing next?
I’ll start a tour this winter that will be announced later on. I can already say that there will be some very exciting experiences, like playing in the castle of a city historically known for it’s witchcraft culture. I’m working with the great photographer, Nona Limmen, on an exhibition linked to the show. With Maxime Perbellini, a French historian specialised in medieval witchcraft, and we will certainly do some conferences too. I’ve also work with my dear friend, Biorn Ivemark, a doctor in sociology and translator from Sweden, and a photographer called Emmanuel Ligner.
4) Where can we find out more about your music?
You can follow my Facebook page "Abraham Fogg" for further announcements and the website of my company: www.collectifopera.com