It’s Only a Moment – A charity project in aid of Alzheimer’s

It’s Only a Moment.

Auntie Lizzie found me on the main street of my hometown (Bellshill), despondent and crying over something I don’t recall, but I’m sure it seemed world-ending to fifteen year-old me.

Auntie Lizzie took me into a little baker’s, (Dalziel’s) gave me tea and cake and just let me talk at her.

When I’d finished moaning, and sobbing and snotting, she simply took my hand and gently told me that ‘It’s only a moment in time, son. It’ll pass.’ We talked some more, had a laugh about some things and parted. It was probably one of the last times I saw Lizzie.

Many times through my life, happy times, hard times, heart break and emotional despair, I’ve recited Auntie Lizzie’s words to myself. To remind myself that it will pass, that it was only a moment.

 

Moments are something that defines Alzheimer’s, for those living with the condition and for those supporting someone they love through it. Moments of lucidity, or joy or anger or despair. Moments where the person is lost, or trapped deep inside themselves under the weight of misfiring neurones and jumbled memories, when their very sense of identity seems a distant chink of light in a dark tunnel.

A series of moments, where the present world seems alien, and unfamiliar and cruel…perhaps. Sometimes it seems wondrous, but not often. Moments where they return to themselves and smile at someone who loves them in recognition. Just a smile, but that moment reminds you that they are in there and still love you. That moment returns part of your soul to you as surely as it does theirs.

Moments that pass. Moments that are excruciating; but beautiful moments also that, despite the maze they walk in, makes you rediscover that part of them you thought may be gone. A squeeze of a hand. A wink, a smile. The words, I love you.

Moments. They pass even when sometimes we wish they wouldn’t.

Mark Wilson

May, 2017

 

Today sees the release of Ryan Bracha’s Thirteen Lives of Frank Peppercorn project. An ambitious undertaking, Ryan brought together a group of writers (me included) with the remit, ‘Tell a story about this man named frank who has just died’. At that point Ryan’s task was to weave these disparate voices and stories and writing styles into a cohesive, flowing novel. A task which he succeeded in, and with quite some flair.

By the project’s end, Bracha and I discussed which charities we’d like to receive all proceeds from the sale of this book. I proposed Alzheimer’s charities, as my aunt had died recently. Auntie Lizzie isn’t the only relative in my family to have endured this condition.

Whilst I hadn’t seen my auntie in a number of years, her death (as these things often do) brought back some long forgotten memories of a time when Lizzie helped me.

 

All proceeds from the sale of Prank Peppercorn will got to Alzheimer’s charities. You can find more information on Alzheimer’s here:

 

http://www.alzscot.org/

http://www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/

https://www.dementiauk.org/

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Blurb:

Thirteen ways to remember the dead. Thirteen histories of a loving husband.

Betty Peppercorn is burning her husband Frank today. Well, she’s burning her property. The corpse she was left with as a reward for loving somebody for better or worse. Frank exists only in her thoughts, anymore. To her knowledge, Frank had no friends. Betty’s not even sure he existed before they met. It comes as a major surprise, then, when several strange faces appear at the funeral, each of them bringing their own stories of what Frank meant to them. As the day goes on, it becomes increasingly apparent that Frank was not the man she thought he was. Thirteen new and established writers collide in this brand new novel-of-stories project from Ryan Bracha, the brains behind Twelve Mad Men, The Switched, and The Dead Man Trilogy.

All proceeds will be donated to Alzheimer’s charities. Featuring contributions from: Dominic Adler – The Ninth Circle Jason Beech – Moorlands Kevin Berg – Indifference Paul D. Brazill – A Case of Noir, Guns of Brixton, Kill Me Quick Robert Cowan – The Search For Ethan, For All is Vanity Craig Furchtenicht – Dimebag Bandits, Behind the 8 Ball Shervin Jamali – The Devil’s Lieutenant Jason Michel – The Death of Three Colours, The Black-Hearted Beat Allen Miles – This is How You Disappear Alex Shaw – The Aidan Snow series Martin Stanley – The Gamblers, Glasgow Grin, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Billingham Forum Mark Wilson (CP Wilson) – The dEaDINBURGH series, On The Seventh Day, Ice Cold Alice

 

 

The Thirteen Lives of Frank Peppercorn is available now from Abrachadabra books at Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.

After Call Work: Gross Misconduct by Ryan Bracha – Review

This novel is a sequel to After Call Work: Verbal Warning which was one of my favourite books of 2016.
In This follow-up, subtitled ‘Gross Misconduct’, we once again encounter the insipid call centre introduced in Book 1. Rather than simply continue the story, utilising the same characters, and expanding on the previous events, Bracha has chosen to introduce a handful of new characters for his readers to love, as well as build on some familiar players from Book 1.
As is Bracha’s custom, he avoids the easy route and avoids giving his readers a simple sequel to the previous work, choosing instead to tell a story that runs parallel to the events in Book 1, with the plotlines overlapping, converging and diverging. This decision is exactly the type of work ethic and tight plotting that makes Bracha the standout Indie writer on the UK scene.
Bracha continues to grow as a writer, utilising a simple, unflashy, first-person, present-tense narrative, but peppering it with some lovely technical quirks, my favourite of which is the odd occasion where he breaks the fourth wall, slyly making the reader complicit In his character’s choices and self-justifications.
Despite this choice of narrative style, Bracha’s precise characterisation lends each of his players a distinct and unmistakable voice. It’s quite a feat.

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Another step forward in Bracha’s development, and quite simply a fantastically entertaining read.

 

You can find Ryan and his books at Amazon

For All is Vanity by Robert Cowan – Review

With ‘For All is Vanity’, we see Robert Cowan maturing as a writer. With two solid novels under his belt, Cowan has chosen to remove himself from any potential comfort zone and to stretch his literary legs with gusto.

‘Vanity’ is by far Cowan’s most creative and experimental piece to date. A novel that makes you shift in unease at the main protagonist at points, but also feel the deepest sympathy for the mad bugger at others. Cowan has utilised a lovely narrative that switches between straight-up novel prose and some too-real diary entries.

Brave, compelling, skilful and a bold step in a new, more powerful direction, ‘Vanity’ reveals Cowan as a creative force to be reckoned with on the Indie scene and sets him apart from the formulaic breed of writers too often found there and in traditional publishing.

 

For All is Vanity is available now at Amazon

Marketing and Promo for ‘On The Seventh Day’

I’m not a marketing or promo expert, not by any estimation.

Whilst I kind of enjoy marketing, I hate promo. I really, really hate it. So much so that I haven’t done any significant promo on my last three books (since dEaDINBURGH: Vantage for anyone who cares).

 

Why?

I find that most book promo is repetitive, exhausting, uninspired, tantamount to begging in some cases and very often fruitless.

For me, Twitter is the least effective way to promo a book and comparable to throwing pieces of paper into the wind with your book name on one side and ‘pwease buy my bwook’ on the other.

 

Unfortunately, at some point, promo is necessary. With my latest release, On The Seventh Day, I accepted the inevitable need to promo, and sat down to have a think about how I could make the process more tolerable for me, engaging for potential readers, able to generate somewhat of a buzz, and perhaps even enjoyable.

I wanted to engage people, not panhandle the fuck out of them.

 

Having recently launched the book (on 15th November 2015), with a two month pre-order period, I feel the most positive I ever have about the promo process and had a tremendous amount of fun during it.

 

For the first time, I feel I’ve succeeded in making readers part of the process without selling to them and have generated more interest in the book than I would have with a more conventional promo process, eg, blurb, quote-tweet/Fb repeat. Press releases, review chasing, advertising etc.

Has it had a significant impact on sales? Ask me in a few days for a yes or no (I don’t share sales numbers publicly, mainly because I think it’s crass as fuck to do so). So far, I’ve had better first day sales, and I’ve had a lot worse, but I’ve never enjoyed the promo and launch experience more.

 

Below are some of the steps and strategies I took and employed:

 

 

Marketing:

Marketing on this novel had been a bit of a no-brainer. As the novel is essentially a split between a comedic plotline (second coming of Jesus) and a more theological plotline (Satan relaying the history of creation and evolution and being mankind’s representative in Heaven), I had a firm idea of how to market and whom to early on.

 

7th day was always going to be a love/hate book, simply because the strong language, religious irreverence (and sometimes disdain), mixed with fairly in-depth evolution and theological discussion isn’t gonna be everyone’s cup of tea.

 

I placed it in the satire, dark comedy, religious fiction, mashups, alternative history and parody sections. And then wrote a product description that was deliberately inflammatory (to certain people) and reflective of the novel’s plot, whilst containing keywords I hope will bring in readers searching for similar works. Time will tell on the effectiveness of this.

 

Blurb:

“God hates you. Regardless of religion, race, sex, sexuality or nationality. He hates all of you. Basically, you are fucked.”

Irreverent dark humour from the author of Lanarkshire Strays and the dEaDINBURGH series.

God is pissed off.

He has run out of patience with humans and decided that our time is over. We’ve had our chance and it’s back to the drawing board. “Fuck the lot of them” is his newest gospel.

Mo, and Jay, best friends who’ve fucked up in the past, beg him for one more chance to get the humans back on track. Alongside Mr Saluzar, the head of a global charity foundation, and Nick, The Fallen Angel, they hurtle towards Armageddon and their one chance to prove God wrong.

They have seven days to save us.

On The Seventh Day contains strong language and religious irreverence which some may find offensive.

Praise for On The Seventh Day:

“If Irvine Welsh’s ‘Glue’ got The Bible up the duff, you’d have On The Seventh Day.”

“Seventh Day is the book that John Niven’s ‘The Second Coming’ desperately wanted to be and failed.”

 

I figured that the language and (apparent) blasphemy in the blurb would keep away the kind of reader who wouldn’t enjoy the book, or piss them off enough to leave a shitty review without having read the book, which for me is promo gold.

 

Cover and images for marketing and for promo came next.

I designed a few different covers using images from stock image sites. Here’s a few examples and the final cover:

 

 

I brought in my usual beta-readers but invited some readers who were religiously-minded as well as those who would enjoy the more comedic elements.

I had a proper mixed bag of comments, which was to be expected and no doubt will reflect reviews to come.

Normally I engage half a dozen or so beta-readers who I know will give me brutal and constructive feedback. With 7th Day, I had fifteen people beta-read. As always some did not make a return, but only three failed to do so, not a bad return. As a result I’m two days after launch with 12 honest reviews already live for the book.

 

8 of these were up whilst the book was still on pre-order. To do this, you need to have the paperback available, pre-order kindle books cannot be reviewed.

 

I’m still undecided on whether having the book on pre-order helps or harms launch sales. With this book I enjoyed the process and most of it wouldn’t have been possible without the pre-order in place, so I guess it paid off this time in terms of building engagement and enjoyment. I’ll try a future release without the pre-order for comparison.

 

As I always do, I ran a few ideas by my writing-wife, Bracha, as well as including links to his book in the rear matter of mine. We do this as a standard cross-promo. Does it help? See how closely we are linked on amazon for your answer.

 

The lad Bracha and I have also been waiting for a while to put together a Double A-Side type project. Bracha’s The Switched and my, On The Seventh Day have mated and are available as a collected edition titled Parental Guidance: A Transgressive Double A-Side.

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Cover by Ryan Bracha

 

Will the extra exposure affect sales in a positive or negative way? Time will tell. For the meantime we’ve a happy coupling of novels, producing a demented bastard child to hopefully help drive traffic to each other’s work.

 

Promo:

 At the beginning of the writing process I had a good idea of the overall plot of the

Novel. This isn’t always the case, more often than not I sit down with a vague concept and see where it goes. The advantage in having a better idea of the overall story allowed me to plan ahead and begin engaging readers early in the process.

 

I’ve made a habit over the years of using (with permission) real people’s names for characters. I feel it makes the books more meaningful to me and gives friends and families a connection to the book, that personally I love, and in the market place means they assist in an honest and enthusiastic manner when promo time comes.

 

An important plot mechanism for the novel is the reaction to events on social media.

I wanted these reactions to feel real and asked reads and friends to allow me to use their twitter handles in the novel to compose ‘fake’ tweets that appear in the book.

On launch day I asked these people to tweet their ‘fictional’ tweet to my fictional character (Jesus), who I’d named after a real person (Garry Crawford). Each tweet was directed to Gaz’s twitter account as he is the main character in the book.

 

The tweet team also tweeted some outraged comments about the book to organisations like Westboro Baptist, just for the fuck of it.

 

I really enjoyed taking the fictional tweets and seeing them tweeted in reality and the readers emailed me many times saying how thrilled they were to be part of the process and have their tweets appear in as such a significant plot point in the novel also. I think it gives the reader an ownership of the book, which is great, all readers should feel that way to an extent when reading, but to have a personal attachment to a book, took it to another, more personal place. Business-wise this gives me a team of people who are invested in helping promote my book I wouldn’t otherwise have had. Better still, they have an honest love for the book, which is fucking priceless.

 

As always, I wove a few short-stories, featuring people I know, into the overall plot and narrative also.

 

Essentially, I’ve been able to take a back seat and allow other people’s excitement at the project form a more natural buzz about the book than would normally be accomplished.

 

During the writing process I also created a few promo images with quotes from the book and some blog posts with early extracts. Standard stuff for me when I’m in the writing phase. Occasionally I’d make a trailer also, but not for this book.

 

As always, I ran a giveaway on Goodreads. In the past, these have ranged from 2500 entrants to 250 for my books.

Why bother?

Mainly to raise the book’s visibility whilst it is on pre-order, but also so that I can then contact around 50% of the entrants (those most likely to enjoy the book and review it, based on their reading history) after the giveaway has ended and offer them a free kindle or pdf copy of the book as a consolation prize.

This is not something I would do on Goodreads in the normal run of things, but after a giveaway I have a list of people who were interested in my book, so I’d be a fool not to use that information.

Typical uptake is around 40% with around a 60% actual return from that pool in terms of reviews.

 

I also research and approach readers who have read similar books to mine, but am very careful to select only those readers that I genuinely believe will enjoy the book, based on their reading habits. General I find a book that I like and is a similar read.

 

This strategy has been key to review building on my dEaDINBURGH series, but I use it only on specific books and carefully targeted readers. A scattergun approach is futile and annoying to readers. Do not piss off Goodreads reviewers.

 

As well as this, I set up an event page for an online launch on FB.

Uptake was pretty good, but I was careful to never actually try to sell the book on the event page.

Instead I shared daily pictures and stories and memes, all poking fun at religion. Lots of comments and engagement came, and those involved were into the satire, having never been sold to.

Every person commenting or liking these posts in the event, was helping me promo across their newsfeed as the likes and comments, obviously popped up in their newsfeeds.

Here’s a selection of images I used and people posted in the event page:

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I also ran a competition to win a Kindle fire HD7, some signed paperbacks and kindle editions of the novel. I took a FB Ad for this (£20), a ‘Like and Share’ deal. Engagement was good and clicks (and subsequent sales) more than covered the cost of the prizes (which I’d sourced cheaply).

 

This for me was a much more engaging and genuine way to get people to share my link around and again made those participating feel a part of the buzz that was building.

 

Overall I’m delighted with the fun I had promoting On The Seventh Day and have come out of it having generated some positive buzz, increased visibility of my back catalogue as well as the new book (definite sales bounce on my other titles despite a price increase) and most importantly, I don’t feel jaded simply because I have been having fun and not selling at people for weeks on end.

Will any of the promo or marketing actually affect sales in the short or long term?

Fuck knows. Writers don’t like to admit that a breakout novel is likely a result of bundles of cash being invested or pure blind luck combined with fortunate product placement or inking to larger works.

 

Having said that, if 7th Day is an international bestseller, I’ll be talking shit about how great my marketing and promo was and giving my own genius full credit for the ‘success’.

 

Mark is the author of eight fiction works and one non-fiction book. You can find Mark and his books at Paddy’s Daddy Publishing or at Amazon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On The Seventh Day – Chapter 5 Preview

Throughout the novel I chose to alternate between two sets of protagonists. Jay and Mo (whose chapters are written using modern, and coarse language) and Nick and Beth (whose chapters are more formal and geological in tone). Hope you enjoy. 

  
The following excerpt is un-proofed and in-edited and is taken from the forthcoming novel, On The Seventh Day, available to pre-order now at Amazon:

5 

Nick and Beth

 

Beth reached over the bar, placing a hand on top of Nick’s. “Is it painful? Telling me your history?” She asked.

Nick narrowed his eyes, thinking about the question. Finally he said,” no. It’s not, but it’s hardly the first time I’ve vented to a stranger.”

“Why me?” asked Beth.

Nick shrugged. Mostly timing and circumstance. Right place, right time,” he said.

“Mostly?” She asked.

“We’ll get to that later, Bethany,” Nick said softly. “I have a story to tell first.”

Beth’s eyes flashed fear, but she hid it quickly behind a sip of her vodka and a smile.

 

“Where was I?” Nick asked.

Beth drained her drink before answering. She felt like she’d been drinking for days. Exhaustion crept on her.

“Water,” she said, “Water and life.”

Nick nodded once in thanks.

“Yes. Water and Life. The moment when everything in Heaven and in the material universe was irretrievable altered.”

Nick smiled warmly at her before continuing.

“Water, lightning and some chemicals, that’s all it took.”

“It was random?” Beth asked.

“Yes and no,” Nick replied.

“The lightning, the spark was intentional. He meant to begin the process. What came after, He left to chance…no not chance, nature.” A shadow of sadness passed over Nick’s face as he spoke.

“God made the atoms and molecules form into nucleic acid, DNA. Proteins formed, membranes, organelles. Cells combined, proliferated. Others went extinct. This simple snuffing of a cell shocked Angels whose lives were unlimited by time, or health or predatory chance. That a spark of life, even one so small, could be snuffed out was abhorrent to us in our eternal lifespans. God reassured us that it was all in nature. Part of life.

Billions upon billions of identical cells emerged from one common ancestor. Some adapted, some disappeared from the gene pool forever. Groups of cells formed bonds or fused together, forming tissues, or other structures. The single-celled inhabitants of a pool of water adapted into a myriad of multicellular creatures. Simple organisms. Some photosynthesised food. Some didn’t. Some hunted. Most perished.

All who survived adapted in some way. Muscle, teeth, fins, gills. Some became simple worm-like creatures, or fish-like organisms. Others adapted to become plants. Hundreds of millions of years passed. Billions of organisms, whole species lived short lives and died.

Angels wept for their brief existence.

Adaptations, evolution continued. Rudimentary life found a way to survive, to adapt, to become complex life. Animals with eyes and mouths…faces emerged. Simple things, who fed and bred and not much else, but they had faces.”

Nick looked deep into Beth’s eyes, causing her to shrink back a little.

“You cannot fathom the clamour that this simple development-a creature with a face- sparked in Heaven. Angels flocked to God. ‘What does it mean? They have faces? Is it blasphemy? Does the existence of creatures with faces mock you my lord?’

It seems an absurd reaction I’m sure, Beth but consider this. We were God’s only creations, made in His own likeness by His own hand. We looked like Him. We had faces.

That nature, evolution had created an organisms with a structure so closely resembling one of our own, by random chance, seemed a heresy.”

Beth grinned.

“Yes,” Nick said. “Seems ridiculous to you, I agree, but you were born into a world where a face was the first thing you saw. In all of Heaven and God’s good universe until that moment, only God’s creations, His Angels, had faces. That these random mutations of nature had produced a creature with such a structure was truly terrifying to us.”

“Yeah, I suppose I can get that. Faces…terrifying,” Beth said, sarcasm lacing her tone.

Nick rolled his eyes.

“God- calm as he’d been since our creation- spoke to us, His Angels, gently, reassuring us that all was as he intended, part of nature. ‘Observe, my Angels. See what nature does next. Trust in me.’ Of course, we did trust in God and followed his advice. We witnessed the development of brains, simple but entirely functional. Ears, limbs skeletons, nervous systems, kidneys, hearts, livers pulsed and beat their way into existence. The rate of development was astonishing to us. You must understand, Beth, time is…different in Heaven. We existed for many millions, perhaps billions of years, before God created the universe. Time passed for us, but didn’t. Things changed, adapted I suppose, but nothing was diminished, only magnified by its passing.

Change occurred in Heaven but only as we willed it, not at the mercy of nature and not on the scale that life was adapting in the Universe. It seemed to us that time passing in the material universe simply meant death. Once an unnoticed companion to us in Heaven, time now seemed to stalk the material world. To us, the evolution present in the universe and the death that drove it was truly shocking.

I’ve been talking about evolution of creatures on earth, but this was happening on countless planets, throughout the universe.” Nick had spread his arms in a broad gesture.

“The unrelenting speed; the efficiency of nature in stimulating these frighteningly effective adaptations in animals and plants, shook us. We returned to God once more, in greater numbers than before. ‘Lord. Look what matter, what nature has done. Fish have grown legs and lungs and crawl the earth. Faces look to the skies. When will it stop?’

God’s patience with us in our ignorance seemed eternal at that time. He merely smiled kindly and allayed our fears.

As his first Creation, his closest companion, I was hurt in another manner by what unfolded in nature, so I asked God. ‘There is a spark of life in them, a light, not unlike our own ethereal light. When they die, does it come home to you, my Lord?’

I had witnessed God create matter and I had witnessed it change and evolve from basic chemicals, to the first cells and into a myriad of living animals and plants. The light inside each of the billions of cells was so familiar to me that it may as well have been part of my own self. I was in conflict. Where did this light go upon their deaths? Did their consciousness reside in the spiritual part of themselves and if so how can God suffer them to die and this light to just dissipate? If that’s what truly happened.

I didn’t really believe that He would allow these organisms to suffer such brief lives and their light to dissipate. That would be cruel. God was not cruel, He was the source of all love and warmth in Heaven and the universe. He was the Creator. But the questions remained as thorns in my subconscious.

Did God in creating this abundance of life, share his own light amongst them? He hadn’t seemed diminished in any way by the act of Creation. If anything he’d seemed magnified. Was he receiving the light of these creatures back into himself upon their death? I knew for a fact that he wasn’t, we would have witnessed the entry of such light in Heaven. Despite this knowledge, I was also certain that he must have a plan, a destiny for this light of life; otherwise the whole experiment of the universe, life, was the cruellest punishment imaginable.

Consider a brief life in the material universe followed by just… nothing? I couldn’t abide the thought. In hindsight, that moment was when I began to lose my trust in God and became his Accuser.

I recall Him looking into my eyes. ‘You must trust in me, my Angel. There is a plan.’ I nodded and prayed and made all the right noises, Beth, but something crucial and irreparable had broken inside me. Despite this, it would take many years, uncountable trillions of deaths and the evolution of humankind to set me firmly on my course.

 

God, of course, reassured time and again that all was in nature. All was intended. Many Angels made a choice to trust God and merely observe. Other turned away from watching nature’s progress altogether, returning to those concerns in Heaven that had busied them before God had created the universe. I resolved to be and remain The Watcher.

End Of Excerpt

On The Seventh Day is available to pre-order now at Amazon

Mary Magdalene – Twelve Mad Men Excerpt

I’m not sure how Bracha talks me into these things. When he proposed the Mad Men project I rolled my eyes and thought, ‘that’s an impossible project’ luckily for me I’d had beer, lots of beer and my mouth ignored my brain, telling him, “sounds magic, I’m in.” I’m fairly certain he times his approach deliberately.

Taking twelve very different writer’s stories and merging them into a coherent narrative is an immensely difficult task and one that most writers wouldn’t consider approaching.

Ryan Bracha, in Twelve Mad Men, has taken the differing personalities, voices, morals, madness and writing styles and formed not only a coherent novel from them but an utterly original and compelling piece of fiction.

Without a doubt the maddest of the twelve, Bracha (the bastard), took each of us involved out of our comfort zone and gave us permission to indulge ourselves in a way we wouldn’t normally do in our own books. He brought the worst and the best out in my writing and pulled off his ridiculous project with gusto. Dick.

Here’s my contribution:

Suggested for over 18s only. Contains very strong language and very graphic violence.

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Mary Magdalene

By Mark Wilson

“Hello? I’m here to fix the lights. Can you get in the corner, please?” I press my ear up against the door, listening for shuffling to confirm that he’s done as I asked. All I hear is a rhythmic slurping, slap sound. I listen a little closer. The meaty slurp sounds like it’s coming from a distance away so I slip my key in the door, turn and push gently, keeping a firm hold of the handle, in case I have to slam it closed again.

Peeking my face through the grate, I see Wilson in the corner. More precisely, I see the back of him. He’s sitting in the corner like I asked, but I get the distinct impression that he was already there before I came knocking. He’s not that tall, and only lightly built but even from behind it’s clear that he’s powerful. He has that wiry, coiled spring musculature, I can see it in the movement of his shoulder. I can see his body quite clearly as there’s nothing covering it.

His right arm is moving with some force, repeatedly hammering away at something as he sits. He’s talking to himself, but I can’t quite make out what he’s saying. It’s not the accent, it’s his voice, so gentle. Like he’s talking to a lover. He’s facing the wall to his right, staring at a photograph. I move a little closer, just close enough to hear better and get a look at the image. It’s a tattered photo from some sort of boarding school. There are about a hundred kids, half a dozen nuns and maybe twenty priests, all standing in rows posing for the camera. I peer in a little closer and start counting.

Fourteen of the priests and two nuns have a very thick, very bold tick made with a red marker on their faces.

I cock my ear to the left and hold my breath. Wilson hasn’t made a move, just that piston he has for a right arm pumping up and down in a decidedly masturbatory manner. So long as he’s happy. I take another step closer, finally I can hear that gentle voice.

“Cotter, Docherty, McNally, O’Donnell, McGuire…”

He lists surnames, maybe ten, maybe twenty and starts again, tugging at his cock with each name whispered. I’ve somehow forgotten why I’m here or the danger present and lean in for a closer look.

Wilson stands and turns quite gracefully as my foot scuffs the stone floor a little louder than intended. The cock-bashing hasn’t stopped, or even slowed, it hasn’t changed pace, I’m suddenly very grateful that it hasn’t sped up. He tilts his head very slightly. His shaved head glints in the moonlight and his eyes widen as he takes me in. There are scars on his chest, low down just above the abdomen. They look nasty.

“Lalley, O’Malley, Foley..” His head straightens and the chanting stops, although the arm keeps perfect time.

“Are you fixing the lights or not,” he asks, never missing a stroke. His voice is softer than any man’s, he sounds like a woman, a pretty woman. I search for words, but my capacity to speak has been taken away by the sight of this very slight man with a cock like two cans of Red Bull stacked on end, wanking at me.

His arm starts to slow, so I start talking. “Yes, sorry Mr Wilson, if you could just stay in the corner, I’ll..”

“What’s your name?” He asks gently. His eyes are curious, but something else, there’s excitement there, and maybe fear as well.

I tell him my name.

His face softened, and he tilts his head again, throwing me a seductive look.

“Are you a religious man?” he asks, with a giggle.

Involuntarily, my eyes dart to the faded image on the wall and back to his quickly. Not quick enough though, he saw it. His eyes narrow, all friendliness gone.

“My sister asked you a fuckin’ question, cunt!” he roars at me in a booming baritone.

The change in him is staggering. The softness is gone, so has the curiosity. His whole posture has changed, all playfulness and grace has vanished and pure predatory aggression glares from him.

Fuck knows what the right answer to his question is but his arm has started pulling at that two-can cock with such ferocity that I’m genuinely frightened for its well-being despite the danger I’m in.

I blurt out, “No, I’m not. Used to be, but..”

“Shut the fuck up, ya dick.” He spits at me.

I do. I watch him transform again in front of me. The face softens, the eyes widen and the body becomes a graceful swan in movement once again as she returns.

Something’s changed in her though, she’s no longer throwing me admiring, curious looks. She’s looks friendly enough, and her wanking has returned to normal pace, but something’s shifted.

She moves beside me to get a good look at my face. I use my peripheral vision to make sure that I have an egress.

“I’m sorry about my brother. He’s a little overprotective,” she says gently. “I’m glad you’re not religious, I like the religious type, but Paul, my brother, does not.”

“Okay,” I sing, with false cheeriness as the lean man with the woman’s demeanour and voice wanks serenely in my direction. “Best get on then. Would you mind going back to the corner, don’t let me interrupt…” I nod down at her… his reddened cock.

“I’d like you to stay for a few minutes. I so rarely get to talk to anyone.” Her face darkened a little, the threat of Paul behind her eyes. “Paul gets angry if I’m not happy. Let’s talk, just for a little while.” I nod and watch her walk back to her corner and resume her previous position, only this time she’s facing me.

I sit a few metres away and ask. “So what’s a nice girl like you doing here?”

Her face drops. “I’m not a nice girl,” she says.

“I’m sorry,” I blurt out, it was just a joke, y’know, cos that’s what people say.”

She nods, but I can tell that I hurt her feelings because her cock twitched at me in response.

“Why don’t you tell me how you came to be here, you and your brother,” I suggest. “if you don’t mind, that is….” I suddenly feel ridiculous, but have to ask.

“What’s your name?” I ask.

The wiry little, very scary man with the huge dick, blushes, he actually blushes and pauses his wankery for a second in surprise.

“Nobody ever asks me that, not in all my time here. They just call us both Wilson.” She smiles with genuine warmth before resuming her stroking at a more leisurely pace than I’d seen her do so far.

“My name’s Mary. Pleased to meet you.”

“And you,” I say with a ridiculous little bow that makes me feel stupid, but it makes her laugh and the cell lights up when she laughs.

“Would you like to hear about how I came here? She asks

I shrug, “Only if you’re happy to tell me.”

She gives me a little bow of her own, mirroring mine in a gentle mock, making me laugh. Her eyes dance with light and she drinks in my happiness as she starts to tell her story. I sit and stare into the face of the scariest, most beautiful man I’ve ever seen as he-she, as Paul-Mary speaks.

***

My sibling and I had been in St Margaret Mary’s for around six months. We’d been to other schools, loads actually. We were good kids, but dad moved around a lot. Army officer. Came from money and gentry, couldn’t be bothered being a parent after Mum died. It was an alright school and was close to Edinburgh city centre which was awesome for a couple of fourteen year olds with time to kill and no parents around.

On our first day, the head teacher, Father Connelly, introduced us to our peers at the house assembly. He made a big deal of us being twins, we were the first twins to attend St Mags’. Father Connelly was a lovely man, I really looked up to him, to all of the staff, to be honest. That’s probably why I have a thing for the religious type, especially Catholics. Never works out though.

Paul played rugby, Mary studied hard. Friends were difficult to come by, most of the kids our age seemed withdrawn, sullen. We didn’t particularly care, we had each other after all, but it would’ve been nice to have some more friends.

Eventually we were invited along to one of Fr Connelly’s private dinners. He’d been telling us for months how special being twins was. He really liked that about us.

Mary wore a very white dress, one that father Connelly had remarked on at an assembly some months before. Paul looked as scruffy as always, but at least he’d had a shower. When we entered Fr Connelly’s quarters, a huge table filled the room. On it was a large white sheet, covering the food and around it sat sixteen of the school’s priests and four nuns. I remember our eyes fixing on the sheet. Paul took Mary’s hand and began to drag her back towards the oak doors we’d entered by, but Mary pulled free of his grasp. This was Mary’s big night, and Paul wasn’t going to spoil it.

I remember rushing to Fr Connelly and apologising. He smelled strongly of wine, they all looked a little drunk, even the nuns. Paul grabbed Mary from out of Fr Connelly’s hands, she let him this time. The elderly priest we had so admired smiled at us as we backed up to the doors. Doors that had already been locked.

Paul rushed at Father Connelly and rugby tackled the head teacher to the floor, clattering the old man’s head against a strong wooden chair leg as they fell. The room erupted, in laughter. Strong hands grabbed at Paul, grabbed at Mary also. Strong hands tore off our clothes and bound us and violated our bodies.

They passed us round. The tore our bodies as well as our clothes. They fucked the nuns, they pulled the sheet from the table and fucked each other with the implements of sex that lay there. They pushed them into us as well, those toys.

Hours passed I came and went. Some minutes passed torturously as years of pain and humiliation. Some hours passed in seconds of unconsciousness when I blacked out. Mary, Mary Magdalene. Fuck Mary Magdalene, they chanted as they passed us around.

I woke many miles from St Mags on a rocky shore of the Firth of Forth. I’d been tied in a mail sack, along with my sibling. I’d freed my head and breathed. My sibling had not. It was a mercy. I climbed out of the sack and onto the smooth, cold pebbles of North Queensferry, a wretched creature. I kicked the body of my twin, still inside the sack back into the water and blew it a kiss.

I didn’t go back to Edinburgh, instead I went home to Dundee and emptied my father’s safe at home. I went online with the black book full of passwords I found in his safe and emptied every one of his accounts too. The bastard deserved us for putting us in St Mags’.

I disappeared. I got a new identity, I travelled, I grew up. I came back to Edinburgh, but I’d changed. I’d grown, become a man. A strong man, younger and more capable than the elderly, filthy men who’d violated Mary and Paul. The first one, I took whilst he crossed Charlotte Square. It was pathetic how old he had become. The hands I remembered clawing at my thighs and pants, were sparrow’s claws, ineffectually pulling at my grip as I dragged the old cunt into the back of my van. I bestowed upon him every torture my sibling and I had suffered at his hands and the hands of his brethren.

I went so much further with him than even they had with Paul and Mary. I cut his eyelids and placed him in a room full of mirrors to watch as I sliced and pierced and fucked and ripped and gouged every ounce of fucking pain I could drag from the evil bastard. I did things to that creature that some would say makes me worse than all of them. It doesn’t though, because he wasn’t a child. That’s the bare truth of it. He and his brothers of the cloth, men of God, betrayed children. I tortured and fucked an evil old man into a bloody puddle, then I hunted some of his fellow holy men. I still have some to find, to punish. For me and for my brother.

***

My eyes are stinging and I become aware that I hadn’t blinked the entire time Wilson had been speaking. He’s still sitting in Buddha position wanking away in the corner.

“Your brother?” I ask.

“Yes, Paul, my brother.” She makes a sort of ‘duh’ face at me. Standing, she continues tugging on her cock and extends a hand for me.

“Thanks for listening. You should go now, Paul will be back soon. He doesn’t like you much. Go.”

I reach out and give the offered hand a little squeeze, similar to the one Benny had offered me earlier. As I let go my eyes go for a wander to Wilson’s feet. They are small, maybe a size four or five. The legs are lean and strong but long and slender also. Whilst Wilson’s torso is scarred the scars screamed a familiarity. I’ve seen scars like those on she wears on his-her chest somewhere else before. Maybe a TV show.

Wilson catches me scanning his body. That smile lights up the room again.

“You like it?” She asks. “I paid a fortune for it. Tits out and sewed up, vagina closed and this,” She jerks that cock. “This I’m delighted with. Nice and big, plenty of damage done tae a hole wi’ this big bastard, I can tell ye. Three piece titanium rod inside, hard whenever I want for however long I need it.”

I gape at the scars.

“Only problem is that I’m a dry-shagger. They cannae give ye baws, well wee rubber wans, but not working ones full of spunk.” Her eyes mist for a second as she loses herself in a rapey-reverie. “Och I’d have loved it if I could’ve had spunk tae splash over thae bastards,” she says, wistfully.

Suddenly her face begins to darken once more and her voice deepens. Half way between Paul and Mary he-she roars. “Get fuckin’ oot!”

She doesn’t have to tell me twice. I rocket through the door and lock it shut behind me. Peering in through the little trap, I watch Mary kneel back into the corner and her back straighten. Paul’s voice comes.

“Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene. She’s fuckin’ coming fur ye, ya basturts.”

End of Excerpt

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Twelve Mad Men features contributions from:

Paul D Brazill (Guns of Brixton, A Case of Noir)
Gerard Brennan (Fireproof, Wee Rockets)
Les Edgerton (The Bitch, The Rapist)
Craig Furchtenicht (Dimebag Bandits, Night Speed Zero)
Richard Godwin (Mr Glamour, One Lost Summer, Apostle Rising)
Allen Miles (18 Days, This is How You Disappear)
Keith Nixon (The Fix, The Eagle’s Shadow)
Darren Sant (Tales From The Longcroft, The Bank Manager and The Bum)
Gareth Spark (Black Rain, Shotgun Honey)
Martin Stanley (The Gamblers, The Hunters)
Mark Wilson (dEaDINBURGH, Head Boy)

and is available now at Amazon US and Amazon UK.

 

Free Kindle copy of The Man Who Sold His Son

The Man Who Sold His Son is Free on kindle from 30th June – 4th July, 2014. You can find Mark and his books (including the Lanarkshire Strays series) at Amazon UK and Amazon US

The following excerpt is from The Man Who Sold His Son by Mark Wilson. Copyright, 2014 Paddy’s Daddy Publishing Ltd

Garth felt an impulse rack his little body, sending another spasm of intense pain through his neurones. He felt the pain travel along his chest and down his spine. Unable to respond to it, the ten-year old merely observed as it travelled to his toes and left as quickly as it had come. He felt a pang of regret as it left him. He experienced so little of anything physically these days; these spikes of intense pain were becoming old and welcome friends. They reminded him he still existed. The only other things that tied him to the world were the voices he heard. People moving around his bed, talking, discussing him. Wondering aloud if he could hear them. He certainly couldn’t respond.

Doctors, nurses, his father; they discussed his future, or lack of it. They argued over treatment, whether to continue or if the time had come to turn off the motors and pumps that kept his lings inflating and his blood circulating. Part of him wished they would. Part of him was ready to go somewhere else. Not yet, though. He had his voice to cling to. His father’s voice.

 

I think it’s time to consider the removal of the viral particles from his spinal fluid.”

“That’s a very risky option at this stage. He’s unlikely to live through the procedure.”

“He’s not living now. This isn’t life. He hasn’t breathed alone in months. There are no detectable traces of brain activity. It’s over; it’s time to switch these machines off… With a sample of the virus, directly from his spinal fluid, we could make huge progress in understanding this virus. Maybe prevent what’s happened to Garth from happening to anyone else.”

“I still think that if we can give him more time, we should.”

“He’s been this way for eighteen months. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but Garth’s condition is unlikely to change. This is a totally unique, totally new virus we’re dealing with. It has properties we’ve never seen before in a pathogen of this type.”

“I know. I just wish there’s more we could do, other than keep him comfortable.”

“This young man’s contribution will change the lives of millions, maybe billions. This is the right thing.”

 

Garth Listened to them, smiling to himself. It’ll be over soon. At least I’ll get to help other kids. Other people. He took his mind elsewhere, to happier times, years before, when Mum was still alive. Before her illness, before dad lost himself in his work and put Garth into a boarding school. Garth watched images of his mother and father flashing across his mind’s-eye. Happy smiles, hot chocolate, racing through long grass in meadows filled with summer flowers and love. His family.

Would mum be waiting for him? Would his dad be alright alone, or would his son’s passing make him even more detached, more fixated on his business. He couldn’t know.

 

He was being moved along a corridor. The lights overhead flashed through his eyelids. Suddenly the gurney stopped and the metallic sounds of surgery began. A mask was pressed to his mouth. He tasted rubber and unfamiliar gasses. Garth focused on the voices again.

 

“How long until he goes under?”

“Seconds. He’s probably under already. If you’ve anything to say, do it now. He won’t hear you, but if you don’t, you’ll regret saying nothing to him before he’s totally gone.”

 

Garth felt a warm fluid flow over him. All pain was gone. He could move again, he could think again. He was free of the dulling effect of the morphine. He was free, period. As he moved into his mother’s arms he heard his father’s voice whispering into the ear of what used to be his body.

 

“You’re going to make me a lot of money. Goodbye, Son.”

 

————————–

 

 

“I’m terribly sorry, Mr Ennis. He’s gone.”

“Right. Get me that sample, Doctor. I’ve got work to do.”

 

The veteran surgeon pushed back his dislike for the man beside him and made the incision into Garth Ennis’ spine. Ten minutes later he watched, sickened, as the businessman’s eyes brightened when he handed him the small vial of spinal fluid.

“He could’ve had another few months, you know.”

Ennis held the vial of his son’s fluid up to the light and stared into it.

“My son’s contributed more to medicine with this sample than you have in your entire little career, Doctor. This…” Ennis held the vial up for him. “This, will change the world.”

The surgeon bored holes into Ennis with his eyes. He’d made allowances for Ennis, these last few months. He’d ignored the man’s clinical manner, his coldness towards the comatose boy. At times it had felt like he’d been protecting the boy from his own father. Since succumbing to the virus, this new virus, and slipping into his vegetative state, Garth had lain in the same bed, in the same room, in his care. Garth’s father visited every day, but said nothing to the boy. He didn’t kiss or hold him. He barely looked at the boy’s face. Gavin Ennis would just sit there for hours, tapping away at his handheld computer; working. Making plans for the genome of the virus that was killing his son.

The surgeon made excuses for Ennis’ demeanour. He knew the family history well. Ennis’ wife had died from meningitis three years back. His small business was in trouble. Having created synthetic gametes that nobody wanted, Ennis Company looked to be going into liquidation. Simply, no-one wanted to have children conceived using synthetic sperm. Ennis had expected single, career women who’d left it too late or couldn’t find a partner to jump at the chance. Or married gay couples, but there just wasn’t the interest. People had chosen to use the DNA of a stranger or relative rather than Ennis’, lab creations.

The man was on his knees. Dead wife so young, his son dying so very young. The surgeon had found plenty of reasons to excuse Ennis’ behaviour, until now. The callousness of Ennis’ actions today clawed at the surgeon’s conscience. He felt a fool for having made allowances for this man, who had effectively used his dead son for profit.

Injecting all the venom he could muster into his voice, the surgeon spat out,

“You sold out your son to get it. I hope it was worth it.”

Ennis had already turned and begun to walk towards the exit.

The surgeon headed in the opposite direction, his next task, the disposal of little Garth Ennis’ remains.

 

End of Excerpt

The Man Who Sold His Son is Free on kindle from 30th June – 4th July, 2014. You can find Mark and his books (including the Lanarkshire Strays series) at Amazon UK and Amazon US

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