The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 9

“I still can’t quite believe it,” said Lord Hollingbury, looking pale and clutching a glass as he sat with the Jennings in the Cock and Bull.

“It must ‘ave been very shocking,” said Marie sympathetically. Lord Hollingbury glanced up at her with sad eyes.

“It was,” he said. “I fear my hands may never fully recover.”

“Are you…” started Sir John, “are you talking about the rowing?”

“Shush, “said Lord Hollingbury, “people will hear.”

“A man has died!” said Sir John.

“People die all the time,” said Lord Hollingbury petulantly. “It’s about the only thing they’re consistently good at. I never row.”

Sir John threw his hands up in despair then glanced down at the glass of brown liquid in Lord Hollingbury’s hands.

“Isn’t a bit early for that?” he said. “It’s barely 9am.”

Lord Hollingbury looked down at the glass in confusion and then back up.

“Oh, I haven’t been to bed yet,” he said. “After we parted I came back here to recover my nerves and see if the fishermen might tell me more. There was a lock-in, so I was here some time trying to find out something. Nobody spoke about the creatures though, no matter how much I plied them with drink.”

“So you’ve been here all this time?” said Sir John.

“Oh no. I went home with the barmaid,” said Lord Hollingbury, taking a sip of whisky. “And her friend.”

SS Ch 9“Barely 9am!”

Sir John muttered something under his breath. Just then there was a commotion in the main bar as a group of people burst in.  From the looks of them they were local fishermen. There were excited voices and laughter.

“Look who it is!” said one of the group. “It’s Wombly! He’s back!”

Everyone in the pub looked around, and the disappeared fisherman walked up to the bar surrounded by the group. They were patting his back and shaking his hand, large smiles all around.

“Well, well, well. Mr Wombly,” said the Landlord, warmly. “Where on earth have you been?”

“Oh, I couldn’t rightly say,” said Mr Wombly, sheepishly. “I’m just glad to be here.”

“Well, we’d better get you a drink then, a pint of the usual then,” said the Landlord, “A pint of water.”

There was much jovial laughter at this.

“Well you know me,” said Mr Wombly.

“How are you man?” said another person at the bar. “Are you well?”

“I feel as fit as I ever did,” said Wombly and a cheer went up.

The trio at table turned round to look around at each other.

“Well there you go,” said Lord Hollingbury. “There really was no need to chastise me about the missing man. If he’s anything like this one he’ll be turning up at the bar in a few days.”

Sir John looked perturbed at the scene.

“Whatever can this mean?” he said.

“It is like the priest said, n’est ce pas?” said Marie. “It is the resurrection.”

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 10

Why I Stopped Reading Books

Oscar ReadingA Victorian Gentlemen Concerned About Catching Crabs

So we must immediately apologise for the misleading and attention grabbing title. We believe it is called “clickbait” in the modern parlance, which sounds to us like something one uses for catching crabs. We refer not to a refusal to read books of any kind. No, rather, to the the reasons why we may abandon any given book. You see, we have on our “electronic reader” a collection of books named Stopped. This little collection is like a dark corner of our literary world where we place books that we feel we cannot continue with right now on the assumption we may one day return. Of course, once placed in that virtual pile, they fester away, never touched again, with their electronic bookmarks wagging like the fingers of a chiding aunt.

As we are currently in the middle of writing a novel (stop laughing at the back) we thought it might be useful to visit this little literary backwater in the hope it might deliver us some insight on why these particular books have suffered such an ignominious fate. The aim, of course, is to prevent our own novel suffering the same misfortune. We present here the aforementioned knowledge. We shall mention no books in particular and offer the immense caveat that these ideas and judgements are most certainly subjective. One’s man’s meat is another man’s murder.

This Charming Man

After reviewing the list of books, one common aspect immediately made itself known to us. Namely, we don’t care about the the characters. We don’t mean they are unlikeable, although that may be a factor. Or even that they are uninteresting, although that too may influence such a judgement. We mean simply this: we don’t care two hoots whether the characters achieve their ambitions and dreams or end up in Cheapside taking in laundry for a living. We’re sure the reasons for this are as myriad as they are arbitrary, but once settled on such an opinion, it is hard for us to shift it. And conversely, the book is easy to shift into the Stopped section. Lesson number one, then, is make the characters likely to be of interest to the people who you hope will read the book.

That Joke’s Not Funny Anymore

At the Benthic Times we’re rather fond of comedy. We tend to prefer deadpan and surreal to, say, a piece of slapstick, but we’re not above making jokes about pineal glands. Our reading too reflects that, we heartily enjoy tales that a have a comedic element to the fore. However, there can be too much of a good thing. And, we have found, that books that are all gags and no substance tend to lose our interest. We call this the “pearl theory” of comedy. It’s pleasant to have something smooth, shiny and translucent to look at, but if there isn’t at least a little bit of grit at it’s heart, it’s going to seem rather fake and cheap.

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before

On a similar note, we like genre fiction. A lot. And whilst we like nothing more than a book that merrily (and hopefully, humorously) subverts genre tropes, we’ll groan and yawn when confronted with one that seems determined to tick all the cliche boxes without an ounce of irony. Not every genre book should be constantly genre busting, of course, otherwise there would be no such thing as genre. And yet, some fresh angle or approach is very welcome.

Well, that concludes our little reel around the fountain and through the cemetery gates of our electronic reader. We hope it was entertaining and enlightening. Next week we shall looking at more crab catching with a post entitled “Why I Stopped Watching Television”.

Paul Michael

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 8

“It would probably help if you rowed a bit as well,” said Sir John, pulling on the oars in the little boat.

“I’m not the sort of chap to row,” said Lord Hollingbury. “I might get callouses on my hands, and then what would people think?”

“Then why do you own a boat if you don’t row?” said Sir John.

“I don’t own a boat,” said Lord Hollingbury, sounding perplexed.

“But you said we could use this boat,” said Sir John.

“I said we could use it,” said Lord Hollingbury. “I didn’t say I owned it.”

Sir John stopped rowing and the boat came to a halt.

“We’re stealing it?” he said.

“Are we?” said Lord Hollingbury. “Gosh, you’re rather racier than you seem. I had intended to give it back.”

Sir John continued rowing in silence. After a pause he spoke.

“You’re incorrigible,” he said.

“You say the nicest things,” said Lord Hollingbury. “But look, we’re nearly there, I think. The energy was arcing to this spot, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, I believe so,” said Sir John. “Let me get the lantern.”

Sir John shined the lantern over the side.

“What are those things?” he said, half to himself.

“Some sort of jellyfish maybe?” said Lord Hollingbury, staring down at the mass of yellow which surrounded the boat. “No, they don’t have tendrils. They’re more like … thin disks of translucent yellow. Looks like a sort of rubbery material.”

“Probably best not to touch them,” said Sir John earnestly. Lord Hollingbury shot him a look.

“So is this what the bizarre congregation were doing?” he said. “Communing with aquatic prophylactics?”

“Does it seem like there are more around the boat now?” said Sir John. “That they are clustering somehow?”

SS Ch 8“Man Overboard!”

“Ahoy!” shouted a voice from a little way off. The two men looked up to see a fishing boat moving towards shore at speed with another one close behind. At the front of the first was the man that had called out.

“Row, you fools, row!” he shouted at them, “Row for your lives! Get out of the sea!”

Sir John immediately starting rowing back to shore. There was a cry and a splash from the second boat heading to shore. A man floundered in the water.

“Man overboard!” shouted Sir John, pointing to the boat.

“Leave him!” shouted the fisherman on the first boat, “Save yourselves, it’s too late for him.”

Lord Hollingbury focussed the lantern toward where the man had fallen in. He was thrashing about in the water and dozens of the yellow jellyfish were crawling over him. He screamed one last time as one slithered over his face, and he was silent.

Lord Hollingbury grabbed the second pair of oars and locked eyes with Sir John.

“Promise you won’t tell anyone I did this,” he hissed as he started to row.

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 9

The Spectral Spectrum (1965-68)

ColorOutofSight!

The Spectral Spectrum’s career was brief but eventful. Hailing from the small seaside town of Sunnyport, they drew on their coastal influence to create a heady blend of surf and psychedelia. This had the unfortunate effect of making them seem simultaneously ahead of their time and out of date, although they maintained a solid base of fans in their lifetime.

The first single The Call of You Hoo failed to make much of an impression on the charts despite a catchy singalong chorus, but the second Love is a Many Tentacled Thing became a summertime hit in 1965. The band were immediately signed by the Mokshatonic record label and released their biggest hit, a ballad called The Mountains of Sadness. They recorded and released their debut long-player Colour Out Of Sight! in 1966 whereupon they carried out a tour of the UK.

The tour was plagued with bad luck, with equipment failure and strange events at almost every stop, which rather blunted the impact for the audience and led to terrible reviews. Nevertheless, the band returned to headline the famous Sunnyport Free Festival in 1967 to great acclaim, the nadir of their success.

Whether it was the ill-fated tour, the pressures of fame and success or just the natural temperament of the band, the recording sessions for the next release were highly acrimonious. The original plan was to record a concept double LP tentatively called The Dreams in Which House? In the end, barely five tracks could be culled from the sessions and these were released with the rather sarcastic title Done With Honour. An abortive second tour ended early when the band’s entire stage set was destroyed by flooding in Worthing.

Lead singer Harry Blayne went on to be an experimental sound poet, releasing his first book “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Sunnyport” in 1969. Guitarist Ed Hutchinson joined Rocking Rodney and his Rockettes, a jazz quartet whilst bass player Phillip Ward opened a musical instrument shop in Sunnyport. Drummer Henry Pott moved to London to join the New Originals.

In three short years, these young men cut a swathe across the UK with their visionary music. These days, beyond a few musicians “in the know” their music is largely forgotton. It is our hope this little article may remedy that fact.

Soup of the day: With Jennings and Jennings Paranormal Investigators

Sir John and Marie took a trip to another dimension and had a good time. Marie made a friend, and Sir John only moderately disgraced himself…

The Curious Adventures Of Messrs Smith And Skarry

Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but Ive set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and Im always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!

I am extremely happy this morning to welcome my dear friends, the paranormal investigators Sir John and Marie Jennings… Good morning to you both, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitc… Sir John? Over here… Marie, my dear, are you sure he can see with those goggles on? Whatever are they for?

EctoscopicGlasses.jpgSir John: These are my ectoscopic goggles that allow me to see any spectral energy so as…

View original post 1,597 more words

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 7

“What it the name of all that’s holy is that!” said Lord Hollingbury, staring into the bag that Sir John held up.

“I wouldn’t have thought you knew the names of anything holy,” said Sir John with a wry smile.

“Oh touché again,” said Lord Hollingbury. “You know you’re in terrible danger of developing some wit. But, seriously what is it, why are we here, and most pressingly, is it liable to explode?”

“Probably not,” said Sir John, “although the constructor has a bit of a track record. It’s called a Cryptozoetropometer, and it’s a device of my own inventing.”

“Well I hope the device is better than the name,” said Lord Hollingbury. “I think I shall call it the Omega Device. There, a decent name for you. No charge. What does it do?”

“The Cryptozoetropometer…” started Sir John.

“The Omega Device,” interrupted Lord Hollingbury.

“The Cryptozoetropometer…” started Sir John, again.

“The Omega Device,” interrupted Lord Hollingbury again. “I can do this all night.”

Messieurs!” hissed Marie. “We are standing here on the promenade, in the freezing cold! Can we maybe use the device now and debate the name later? Peut être somewhere warm?”

The two men looked at Marie.

“Yes, fair point, Mrs Jennings,” said Lord Hollingbury. “Stop getting hung up on the name Sir John and explain what it does.”

Sir John opened his mouth then shut it again.

“It can detect spectral energy for a wide variety of creatures, real or imaginary. I was mindful of what Marie said, of there being some presence but nothing she could recognise. I reasoned that if different creatures have different etheric patterns, if we were encountering something new, we may need to look for new energies. And hence I commissioned…”

“The Omega Device,” said Lord Hollingbury. “I see, I’m impressed. That explains the device. Now perhaps you could explain why you are intent on giving myself and your good wife pneumonia.”

“Well man,” said Sir John, “we could hardly come during the day. For one thing, there could be all sorts of background energies from any passerby and for another it would be too conspicuous, it would create a scene. It had to be midnight.”

“As an expert on the topic, I think I can reassure you that two gentleman and a lady wandering round at midnight are more likely to create a scene, but I take your point,” said Lord Hollingbury.

“So we are here, close to the church so we can detect any latent cryptozoological etheric energy across a wide range,” finished Sir John, with a flourish.

“Brilliant,” said Lord Hollingbury. “One flaw – the church is occupied.”

They all turned to look at the church a short distance away. There was no sound, but a low light which flickered.

“I’ve been around enough “seekers of the light” to know what a circle of candles looks like at 50 feet,” said Lord Hollingbury. “Someone is in there, having some sort of ritual, and I suspect it’s not a reading of the Book of Common Prayer.”

“Blast,” said Sir John.

“Maybe we can try anyway,” said Marie, “It is preferable to standing here slowly freezing.”

“Alright,” said Sir John, looking into the device’s eye piece. “I’m turning the dial now, going through the spectral spectrum…”

“Oh that’s quite good,” said Lord Hollingbury, “it would make a good name for a musical ensemble.”

“Nothing … nothing…” muttered Sir John. “Good Lord!”

“What is it?” said Marie as she and Lord Hollingbury crowded in to look. Sir John passed the device to Marie, who looked.

Mon Dieu,” she said and passed the device to Lord Hollingbury. His eyes widened as he looked in.

“Tell me what you see,” said Sir John, “so we’re sure we’re seeing the same thing.”

“There are … lines of … light or power,” said Lord Hollingbury. “And they are arcing like a rainbow,”

He looked up and at the Jennings.

“Arching deep into the sea.”

Sepia Church“Good Lord!”

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 8

My Word!

Modesty permits us from crowing too loudly about this, but I can declare we were tickled pink to read this today. We shall just leave it here whilst we go and fetch the tea…

https://smithandskarry.wordpress.com/2017/06/13/morning-cuppa-jennings-and-jennings-paranormal-investigators/

 

 

 

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 6

“Moderately Explosive”

Dear Sir John

I was wondering as I was writing this whether “Dear Sir John” was the correct way to start the letter. Unfortunately, I couldn’t ascertain this because the local library is only open during daylight hours and my friend has been out of town for some time. At least that is what his butler informs me.

I was of a mind to deliver the device to you personally, but when Miss Henderson came to visit me with your instructions, she was very clear on the dangers. I do hope that the cloud of poisonous gas that has encircled your holiday resort clears shortly so that you may leave the town and indeed to allow visitors to approach it as well. Perhaps you could let me know exactly where you are, as Miss Henderson had a coughing fit whenever she said the name and I couldn’t be certain of what she said. I do hope she isn’t sickening for something. The same problem seemed to occur when she came back to pick up the device and this letter. I suggested a machine of my own invention that might help her, but she seemed a little startled when I suggested getting a closer look at her throat.

Anyway, I digress, I received the instructions in the telegrams and worked on the device as you asked. It might have been useful to show you exactly how to use it, but I will have to describe it here. I must admit to being intrigued by the nature of the investigation to warrant the construction of such a machine. What kind of situation have you encountered that needs a device to scan for all possible and even theoretical psychic energies? Or have you simply become bored idling your days in the sunshine and invented the device for fun?

Either way, I shall not bore you too much with some of the construction details. Suffice to say that mounting the ecto-plasmatic converter on the metallic crypto-zoetrope was quite fiddly and moderately explosive. Luckily for me, I keep a bucket of sand handy for such eventualities.

So as you requested, the device has a moveable sprocket connection to the main psychic flange which allows for adjustment of the measurement range. In short, you should be able to point the device at any object that you suspect may be infused by some magical force and adjust the range of energies measured even beyond that known to us paranormal investigators. The range is quite extensive; you should be able to detect energies both from strange eldritch creatures that live deep in the oceans in sunken cities or even beings from deep outer space, if such things existed! Excuse my fanciful nature, I have been reading some rather strange literature recently.

I hope this finds you otherwise well, and please let me know how your investigation into whatever it is and wherever it is proceeds.

 

Your friend

Phlebotomous Bosch

PS – Don’t turn the sprocket all the way to the left, the device is liable to explode

PPS – Or the right

An Interesting Modern Device to Assist the Writer

Hansen Writing BallNot this…

Good afternoon, Dear Readers. This afternoon I’m going to take the unusual step of pulling back the curtain to reveal some of the gears and levers that go into producing the literary content of the Benthic Times. Pay not attention to the man, I want to show you something else.

Following a marvellous tweet from the equally marvellous Gail Carriger, I started to utilise a most interesting thing called Trello. This works rather like a card index system and allows me to create one card per scene and hence organise the forthcoming Paris Awakening novel. One can also create boards that can function as different sections (for example, Act 1,2,3, or even chapters) and so the scenes can be put in the correct section. One can also re-arrange them at will and add labels (such as characters, locations and so on). My most favourite function of all though is that it allows me to use it via a so-called “app” on my portable telephonic device (the Queen has one, I believe). This rather wonderful thing allows me to carry out plotting at a bus stop. All the more remarkable given I never take the bus.

As I am neither a full on “pantser” nor a meticulous “planner” but some horrible chimeric writer (a “panner” I suspect) who starts writing to get the location, atmosphere and characters, then plots on bits of paper, this is a sheer joy for me. And as the actual financial outgoing is very reasonable (it’s free), I can recommend it to anyone with a reasonably sized writing project on the go.

Wishing you all a pleasant Sunday

Paul Michael