Month: July 2018

Splinter by Joshua Winning Blog Tour – Extract

Dawn eyed the trapdoor nervously but there was no point getting skittish. Nicholas swung his legs through the hole in the floor and began to climb down.

All he could hear was the quickening of his pulse in his temples. Strange smells – wax and old books and wet fur – made his head spin as his feet found the floor. For a moment, he was reminded of the oblituss, the dark tomb beneath the Abbey Gardens, and he had to force himself to let go of the ladder. This wasn’t the oblituss. The faceless man wasn’t going to emerge from the shadows and undo his sanity with a touch. His parents wouldn’t have kept anything dangerous down here, he was sure of it. Then again, he’d never known his parents were Sentinels. How much could he really assume about them?

Nicholas fumbled along the wall. If he could just find a light. He was sure it was a small space from the sound of his breath. Maybe little more than a cubby.

As he stumbled forward, his hands found a cord. A bare bulb clicked above his head, its fuzzy light settling over a bizarre collection of objects. Shelves, crates, broken lamps and intricate brass sculptures of what had to be the Milky Way.

“Heck, took you long enough, kid.”

Nicholas froze. The voice had spoken just over his shoulder. A man’s voice. Brassy and American. He turned around in the space, almost knocking over a stack of yellowed newspapers, but all he saw were shelves and inanimate objects.

“A guy could go nuts down here on his own.”

“Who is that?” Nicholas demanded. The voice was familiar. He had heard it before, but he couldn’t place where.

“Jeeze, don’t lose your head, bub. Down here.”

Nicholas moved towards the voice, spotting an old suitcase that had belonged to his grandfather. Beside it, on a low shelf, an object struck a dancing pose, its white flares, unmistakable quiff and glittery sunglasses moulded from plastic. Crouching, Nicholas crept closer to the figurine.

“Ya got me,” said Elvis.

Nicholas blinked. Of course he knew the voice. He had heard it a hundred times coming out of the radio or on television. It was unmistakable, twanging like guitar strings, and it was coming out of the statue, which remained motionless and appeared just as Nicholas had seen in his visions.

“You’re… you’re not Elvis,” Nicholas uttered.

“Not so bright, huh?” said Elvis. Only his mouth moved. His plastic hips remained motionless mid-thrust. “I get it; you’re starstruck. Not every day you get a private audience with the king of rock ’n’ roll.”

Nicholas almost laughed. “But you’re not the Elvis…”

“Kid, you got eyes?”

“Of course. Alright. So what was your biggest hit?”

“Man, are you writing a book? I can’t remember half those biscuits I baked. Geeze, your folks were never this difficult.”

Nicholas’s smile fell. “You knew my parents… Or, y’know, Anita and Max.”

“Good folk. Shame to see ’em go like that, but now there’s you, bub.”

Nicholas frowned. “What are you? Really?”

“Aside from the obvious? Look, kid, most people don’t ask so many questions when they meet me.”

“I find that hard to believe.”

“Funny; figured you’d recognise another emissary of the Trinity, being one yourself.”

“How…” Nicholas stopped, suddenly excited, even if a plastic figurine of Elvis was the last thing he’d been expecting. Heck, Isabel had possessed a cat. Why not a talking statue?

Nicholas swallowed, trying to keep his excitement under control. “You’re an emissary… Like a messenger? For the Trinity?”

“Gee, I thought you’d never ask. That’s me, kid. Hey, you notice the world’s going to hell quicker’n a bent-eight?”

“It’s sort of hard not to.”

“The Dark Prophets have that effect. They’re infecting the whole lot. They got this world sicker’n a lizard in a Tequila bottle. You ever tried Tequila?”

Nicholas ignored the question; his entire body had gone rigid. “The Prophets? They’re doing this?”

“Now don’t tell me you didn’t know?” Nicholas wasn’t sure if he had imagined Elvis’ eyebrows momentarily rising above his sunglasses. “They’re back, bubba. Crossed the great divide and we’ve got you to thank for it.”

Nicholas realised he’d clenched his hands into fists. Laurent had tried to raise the Prophets, but Nicholas and his friends had stopped him. True, monstrous things had clawed their way through the gateway before that, but they had closed the portal, prevented Laurent from releasing the Dark Prophets from their hellpit. But this figurine was saying they had failed.

“What did I do?” he demanded.

“Brace yourself, kid, cos this ain’t pretty. The faceless goon, the one who set that town to burning? He was the real conduit, bub. When you and your lady friend performed your mojo – that was impressive, by the by – you sparked the Tortor up good, warmed up the eggs in his undercarriage, got ’em sizzling. He birthed ’em right there in the ruins. The Prophets are back and you don’t wanna be around when they hatch.”

The dreams. The glowing pods. The Tortor’s cremated remains. Nicholas couldn’t believe it. Had everything he’d dreamt been true? The image of Laurent’s throat gushing blood leapt to the front of his mind.

“Laurent… he’s dead,” Nicholas murmured.

“Oh boy, he’s deader’n a doornail. Deader’n JFK and Marilyn combined, may they rest in peace.”

A shiver trickled down Nicholas’s spine. “How?”

“Killed by that flame-haired sister of Satan.”

“Malika.” That didn’t make any sense, either. Malika and Laurent had been working together. They had joined forces in the Abbey Gardens; Nicholas had seen it for himself. Why would she turn on Laurent? Trust probably wasn’t a top priority when you were evil.

“She’s the key to this, bubba. She’s the key to all of it.”

Nicholas scrutinised the statue. “How do you know so much?”

“Oracles sorta know things. It’s our deal.”

“You see things? The future?”

“When the music of the universe sings to ol’ Elvis. Seen plenty of weird shit over the years, but nothing weirder’n the shit you’re carrying around in that karmic suitcase of yours, kid.”

Nicholas didn’t know what to say. He glanced around the cubby hole and leaned in closer. “Did you talk to Anita and Max?”

“Sure, gave ’em my breakfast order every morning. Cuppa joe and a doughnut. Sorry, kid, bad joke. The sad truth is they couldn’t hear Elvis. Most people can’t. Coulda saved them a whole lotta trouble.”

“You tried to warn them?”

“Told them a hundred times about the train,” said Elvis. “But they couldn’t hear worth a damn.”

Nicholas doubted anything would have stopped his parents from boarding the train that they died on. They had been determined and fearless.

Nicholas took a breath, knowing he had to focus on the important things.

“Malika,” he said. “How’s she the key?”

“She’s nurturing the Prophets, boy-o. That makes her pretty darn important. Key player, you could say.”

“So to stop the Prophets, I have to stop her.”

“Bingo.”

“How do I do that?”

“You’re not gonna like it.”

Nicholas thought of the Drujblade, the mystical knife Malika had stolen from him. He’d have no problem plunging it into her heart given half the chance, and not just because she’d killed his family.

“Try me,” he said.

“You met her maker,” said Elvis. “The demon she served. Or pretended to, for a while.”

“Diltraa.” Nicholas remembered horns, bone-white eyes and a rasping voice like skeletal fingers clawing glass.

“The one and only.”

“Diltraa’s dead,” said Nicholas. Esus had killed the demon after it broke into Hallow House.

“Not dead,” said Elvis. “Banished to the demon plane. You destroyed its corporeal form, kid, but a demon’s essence is never truly toast.”

Nicholas’s jaw started ticking and he eyed the statue nervously.

“Just tell me what I have to do.”

Curtains Up of Theatrical #YAshelfies

My first Theatrical Moment

I was living in Leeds, but trying to get a job in London. On a drunken dare/suggestion I might add. I’d read American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis and I’d fallen in love with it. I was surprised by how I wasn’t disturbed by the violence as I was warned I was. However, I think that was because I read it as a satire.

I still hadn’t had a successful interview when the off West End Almedia announced a new production by director Rupert Goold. American Psycho the Musical. Oh man, I almost bought tickets there and then. The only thing that stopped me was the fact that I had yet to secure a job.

Then they went and announced departing Doctor, Matt Smith, as the titular Patrick Bateman. Which had me conflicted; on the one hand it did make me want to see it just that little bit more however, on the other there would be people who would think I was seeing it JUST to see the good Doc. In the end it didn’t matter; it sold out so quickly that they added almost an additional month to the run and I didn’t see any of those tickets either.

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By January 2014 I’d gotten a job in London and was all moved. I’d spoken to a few people about my love of the book and my desire to see the play. A new friend new someone who had a single, front row, ticket for sale. Oh I took it and it started something that has changed and shaped my life.

The second that music started, I was lost in New York. Even now, upon discussing the play my mind soundtracks it with the original song Killer Wolf. I swooned when Paul Owen took my hand and kissed it. It wasn’t Ben Aldridge, it was Paul Owen and he acknowledged me. I sobbed at the second act and his treatment of Jean; she was the character I’d always identified with. Bloody hell, I didn’t know theatre could move me so much. I felt alive.

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I had to see it again. So much so that I camped out over night to gain access to tickets for the final production. It rained and I didn’t care. I didn’t sleep and I still didn’t care. I was called irresponsible, but I don’t regret it. It’s had to explain in writing, but I saved two girls who’d arrived about 4am from having to deal with a sleazy bloke who was rubbing himself up against anyone and everyone in an attempt to jump the queue and buy tickets for a women we guessed was his girlfriend.
In a moment of bravery I called him out, I used my teacher voice and finally got them to join the back of the queue. I gained a round of applause and took a bow. Well, it was theatre after all. It was only after, I realised that my actions pretty much guaranteed the 15 year olds a spot in the audience, in which they’d witness their hero doggy-styling a over sized teddy bear.

2014 and American Psycho saw that I got to 64 shows that year. I was chasing that feeling I’d gotten from the Musical. Some couldn’t complete, but it was terribly fun finding that out.

Theatrical by Maggie Harcourt

About
Hope dreams of working backstage in a theatre, and she’s determined to make it without the help of her famous costume-designer mum. So when she lands an internship on a major production, she tells no one. But with a stroppy Hollywood star and his hot young understudy upstaging Hope’s focus, she’s soon struggling to keep her cool…and her secret.

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Characters

Hope is everything young me wanted to be. She’s perhaps everything all of us want to be; someone who is successful and able to make a path for themselves in the world. She also falls into the trap we all do; we assume and respond to other’s unspoken views.
You’ll be gripped by her passion, her independence and her growth throughout the book. She’s a wonderful protagonist and a perfect mirror for any reader.
My other favourite character is Hope’s mother. She doesn’t necessarily get the most time in the book, but I love the different perspectives we’re given with a first person narrative. I actually felt like this was almost the most realistic way of developing a mother within a book.

Plot

The plot centring around a work experience placement is so wonderfully refreshing and unpredictable. There is romance, but it certainly isn’t central to the plot, for me! And I think that’s the beauty of Harcourt’s work; the prominent strand or relationship is what you bring to it. For me, making my mother proud and also breaking away and do my own thing was always something I tried to balance. However someone else will find the romantic strand the driving force.

Writing

The aspects of writing that really stuck out for me was not the characterisation, but the location. There was a part in the book that I fell into. Okay, mainly because it’s boiling hot right now, but her description of the rain and darkness gave me some relief from this sticky nightmare I’m currently finding myself in.

It also speaks volumes about the writing that I have 15 students on a waiting list for my copy just from reading the first page.