The Howarth Haunting: Chapter 2

Continuing our re-run….

——–

“And this is the room where the most activity has occurred,” said the middle-aged Lady Howarth as she led Sir John and Marie into a large empty room on the second floor of the mansion. “The furniture was removed after…” she continued when Sir John interrupted her.

“No, Lady Howarth, I insist you tell me no more. Objectivity is the key to good science. If we hear more we may be somehow prejudiced.”

Lady Howarth looked at Sir John and made a face like she was chewing lemons. “As you wish,” she said. Marie walked by the fireplace and ran a finger over the dusty mantelpiece.

“No one ‘as cleaned here for a while,” she said and knelt down by the fireplace.

“The servants won’t come in, haven’t done for years,” said Lady Howarth. “You’re French?”

“Oui,” said Marie.

“I went there once,” said Lady Howarth and put a handkerchief over her mouth and nose.

“First, I will examine the room using these Ectoscopic Glasses. These allow me to see the traces and the nature of any spectral apparitions.” Sir John donned a bulky pair of brass and chrome goggles. He tipped forward from the weight at first, then steadied himself and moved around the room. Lady Howarth watched with a bemused look on her face and, as she was doing so, Marie put her hand in the fireplace and scooped up some ashes.

ocus-pocus-sepia2“‘Ocus Pocus”

“I think I detect something,” said Sir John pacing around the room. Marie started walking around edge of the room and when no-one was looking she dropped a little ash in each corner.

“Yes!” proclaimed Sir John. “A definite trace left behind. Something very old and potentially evil… there!” He pointed in front of himself and pulled off the goggles to discover he was pointing at Lady Howarth. Her lips were very thin.

“Perhaps if you wait outside,” he said. “I think maybe your presence is affecting the aura.”

She left wordlessly and closed the door with a tut.

“I think maybe this isn’t the ideal device,” Sir John said to Marie. “I’m going to get the Thaumograph. If I set it running overnight we can capture any supernatural activity.”

He left Marie and she moved to the middle of the room. She put her palm flat in front of her face and blew the last few ashes into the air.

“‘Ocus, pocus,” she said.

The sun was already lighting the dust in the room, stirred up by the movement of the three people. But now the dust seemed to congeal in front of Marie. At first it looked like a funnel shape, as if the wind had caught it. But then it grew more form and the image of a teenaged boy formed. A dust tear ran down his face.

“Tell me,” said Marie gently. Just then, there was a crash as Sir John came through the door, holding a contraption of metal and black material on a tall tripod. The dust image dissipated in front of Marie at the sound of the noise. Sir John dragged the object into the centre of the room.

“Now,” he said triumphantly. “Now we shall get answers.”

 

The Howarth Haunting: Chapter 1

Dear Readers, as faithfully promised at the weekend, we are travelling back in time, not just to the Victorian Era, but to the very start of the Jennings and Jennings stories. We present, or re-present…The Howarth Haunting

All was quiet in the drawing room at Southampton Row when Sir John Jennings burst in, brandishing The Times.

“Well it’s in, my dear! The advert is in! Shall I read it to you?”

His wife looked at him warmly and said gently in her French accent, “I have heard it, peut etre?”

“Perhaps not the final wording. I think I had the polished article in the end. Ahem… ‘Jennings and Jennings, Paranormal Investigators, available for hire in the Home Counties. Are you plagued by supernatural goings on or troubled by fantastical events? We can help, using the most modern scientific advances, to rid you of even the most ancient of terrors. 3 pence an hour, double on Sunday.’”

“Very good, mon cher,” said Marie Jennings, working on some crochet. “Now, I suppose we wait.”

“Indeed,” said Sir John, pacing around the room. “Anytime now we may get a card or a telegram or may even a contact on the new telephonic device.” He indicated a large brass object with a mouthpiece and a listening horn.

“The Queen has one you know!” he added.

“You may have mentioned that,” said Marie.

“Yes, sorry dear, to be such a bore. It’s just so exciting to finally put all of these ideas into action. The years of tinkering, inventing. There was a time when only you believed in me, I fancy, when you were the only one who understood my fascinations.”

Victorian phone 3 (1)“Your Majesty?”

He was interrupted by a buzzing noise coming from the telephonic device.

“What should I do?” he said, turning white.

“Perhaps you should answer it?” said his wife.

Sir John grabbed at the listening horn and put it to his ear and moved to the mouthpiece.

“Your Majesty?” he said, then quickly, “No, no, sorry I just thought… No, no I wasn’t expecting her to… Please stay on the line. Who are we? We are investigators of the paranormal, madam. We use scientific breakthroughs, many of them of my own invention and fashioning to uncover the truth and shed some light on the darkest of domains.”

He winked at his wife as he said this and she smiled indulgently.

“Experience? Well some of our work is of a theoretical nature at this juncture…. Yes, but I’m confident we can… Well let’s say no result, no fee, how’s that? Yes, good… and the nature of the er, event? Oh, a haunting…Oh yes, that shouldn’t present any problem. But surely a priest could be called… Oh, you did… Ran screaming from the building, I see… No, not at all… and the address? Grimley Hall, Woesbury. Well that sounds like a… like a place. You’re about half a day away I think. Tomorrow? Say at lunch? Good.”

Sir John put down the phone.

“Well Mrs Jennings, we have our first case”

Marie smiled up at him and noticed that his hand was only shaking a little.

 

Letter To The Editor

Dear Mr Michael

It has come to my attention that there has been, how may I put this delicately, a certain reduction in communication from The Benthic Times. Whilst not wishing to give offence, it would seem that the author’s attention is, perhaps, elsewhere. I’m writing to ask whether it is too much of an inference to assume that there is perhaps a hiatus of sorts, induced by the author’s focus on his forthcoming novel?

Yours

Alfred Botheritall

aa-closed<PHOTO FROM ARCHIVES – INSERT WITTY COMMENT HERE>

Dear Mr Botheritall

My dear sir, good heavens no! Nothing could be further from the truth. Whilst it would seem to the casual observer that there is less activity than before, I can assure you that the writer’s and editor’s attention is directed wholeheartedly to this “weblog”. To demonstrate this fact we will be reminding readers of just how pleasant our serialised stories are by repeating, in its entirety, the first ever Jennings and Jennings story, the famous Howarth Haunting, commencing this coming Tuesday. Does that, sir, sound like the actions of a man distracted by other events?

Yours &tc &tc

Paul Michael

 

 

 

How To Talk to Imaginary People

Great Marley Ghost MonoIn order to converse with fictional characters, consume more gravy.

Dear Readers

Firstly I would like to apologise for the protracted absence of posts on this august organ. Why it seems that it has been fully two weeks now since we last made communication. I can reassure you that all is well, that Mr Michael is hard at work on the forthcoming Paris Awakening novel and that the persistent rumours concerning a euphonium, a junior minister, a Welsh male voice choir and Lord Hollingbury are unfortunately true.

Anyway, we recently had the pleasure of discussing the matter of writing with a non-writing acquaintance. The conversation went along these lines:

“Dear chap, I don’t know how you do it! How do you work out, from all possible paths, what will happen in the story?”

“Why thats simplicity itself,” I countered. “I simply let the characters decide what they will do.”

“Good grief man!” he exclaimed, knocking over  a perfectly good brandy. “How can that be achieved?”

“My dear friend, I let them talk amongst themselves,” I said. At this he waved his arms and his voluminous mustache wobbled.

“You see, sir, you are a genius, I couldn’t conceive of doing such a thing.”

“I disagree,” I said, “I’ll wager you can, and let me explain how….”

This, in a nutshell, is the advice I gave my friend. It is a series of exercises which can be carried out in ones own mind, but I find that such exercises are better written out. Somehow writing brings extra depth and magic.

  1. Imagine two friends that you know well and who know each other. Imagine they are having a conversation.
  2. Next, imagine two friends that you know well, but are not mutually acquainted. Imagine them meeting and the conversation they may have.
  3. This time, imagine a friend you know meeting a fictional character, either one of your own devising or from a popular novel. As before, imagine how the conversation would occur.
  4. And finally, substitute the real world friend for another fictional character, and imagine how they would converse.

And voila! You know have two fully fledge imaginary people talking in your head. If you’ve enjoyed this parlour trick, be sure to tell your friends. And have a most pleasant Sunday.

 

Half Plan, Half Pants It

The_sleep_of_reason_produces_monsters_LACMA_63.11.43A Planner attempts Pantsing (or vice versa)

Dear Readers (and especially those of you who are Writers)

I am sure you are all aware of that great debate that has raged, seemingly for centuries now, and which divides father from son, mother from daughter and znarks from kithniks (in the planetary system of Ryzold Veta). This is not some theological disagreement such the Great Schism of 1054, nor political rift such as communism against capitalism. No, I refer to the twin camps of plotters and pantsers.

I shall not go over the debate in detail as a mere handful of seconds with a reliable “search engine” will reveal the crux of the matter. No, instead I will offer my tuppence worth based on my own writing experience. The “excessively loquacious and hence did not peruse” version is – why not do both?

Let me explain my position to those of you not too shocked to continue. You see, I truly believe the best bit of writing advice I ever heard was from Chuck Wendig who said something akin to “there is no such thing as plot, there is just characters doing things”. I have to say I most heartily agree, and for my characters to do things, I have to know who they are and what they are thinking. Thus begins the first phase of my writing, which will look rather like pantsing (the writing technique, not the “hilarious” pranking technique).

You see, I find something magical happens when I write a scene. Not, I must hastily add, that I am possessed with magnificent talent, but characters that are in my mind come to life of their own accord. Rather then put words into their mouths, I put them in a situation and listen. Remarkable things happen then; Miss Henderson quite literally fought her way from being a minor to major character. It was, in her words, a coop of tat. Rather than bonding joyfully with Marie (in a purely platonic way), The Nouveaumancer mercilessly bated Sir John, who then rather wonderfully bit back.

As so many of my stories are mysteries of one sort or another, I’ve learnt the best place for me to start is to present the evidence to my characters, let them have a conversation and if I’m lucky, they may start to try to solve the conundrum. That sets the mood, the tone, and turns the shadowy characters in my mind into functioning “people”.

And then, we get to a point. The characters are off investigating, but most likely, other things are happening in the story of which they are blissfully unaware. The whole world they are in is a vast complex machine with many moving parts and at the center of that machine is a cold, impersonal creature that will throw obstacles in their way, hurt them, and even dispose of them. Yes, dear readers, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, for it is I. And since I know what is happening to all the dramatis personae, I feel I have to sketch out what will happen to bring the story to its cataclysmic end. This is usually just a line or so per 500 words. No great detail, no computer software (well notepad maybe), but enough so I know what’s happening in my world. I wouldn’t call it detailed planning, but I’m far from winging it. And as always, it’s not the notes, but the thinking that counts.

The story then follows “more-or-less” the path I ascribe to it, albeit with some amendments along the way. Maybe a scene I thought would take 1000 words is wrapped up in 10. Mayhap my characters linger somewhere longer than I expected. I can, after all, only follow their whims and demands. But in the end, we arrive where I knew, about a third of the way through, where we would be.

And that’s it, dear Readers, Writers, and Arithmeticians. That is my part-pantsing, part-planning approach. I hope I haven’t broken too many hearts or shattered too many illusions. All I can say is that it works for me.

And if you can take one more shock this evening, I am also perfectly ambivalent to this product as well.

marmite

That’s the kind of monster I am…

Hoop la!

Hoop La!

Dearest Maud

I was sorry to miss you on your recent visit to Brighton. I hear you managed to have a perfectly pleasant time without me, which I find more than a little disconcerting. You must pop back when I’m in town and you can show me how its done (and not for the first time).

I was, as I’m sure you heard, having a little sojourn in a small town called Sunnyport. It proved quite the diversion. Without wishing to tire you with the details, I met a perfectly pleasant, if dull, couple and encountered a monstrous species of mind stealing creatures. Long story short, I managed to save the day by waltzing in to a cultists church with a magical hoop. I had a daguerrotype prepared (enclosed) so you can see. It was quite a little adventure.

Anyhoo, I am back in Brighton now and enjoying the lively and varied entertainments. In fact two of them are calling me right now.

Do take care

Your loving brother

Lord Hollingbury

Vacation

We are pleased to announce that Sir John has been relaxing at home and enjoying his respite from adventures as Mr Michael crafts the memoir of the Paris escapade. These pictures show Sir John “relaxed” and “in good humour”.

Intermission

intermissionDo not adjust your television, reality is faulty today

Dear Readers

We trust your are having a most pleasant weekend and are enjoying whatever weather you are currently experiencing. You will have no doubt noticed that we have finished our recent most entertaining story and that Lord Hollingbury has gone back to Brighton. We may hear more from him this summer, incidentally, but that is a story for another day.

It is with a heavy heart that we have to inform you that we shall not be running another serialised story for a little while. This is all the fault of Mr Michael who has faithfully promised us a novel set in Paris and has so far failed to deliver. He has pleaded ignorance, poverty and exhaustion, which have all fallen on deaf ears. However, we have come to the conclusion that unless we lock him in a room and force him to do nothing else (metaphorically speaking, we have already tried this literally) then the novel will not appear. So Dear Reader, for our greater collective pleasure we have released the wretch of the need to write the serials such that he may concentrate on the novel.

But not to fear, as there are many more entertaining tidbits we shall bring to the blog. From original artwork from Ms Pichette, to opinion pieces on a plethora of trivial matters, to our ongoing unearthing of obscure Victoriana, we shall continue to keep you entertained and enlightened.

We trust this news does not dampen your spirits too greatly. Normal service will, as they say, resume as soon as possible

The Benthic Times

The Sunnyport Shadow: Epilogue

“Good morning Sir Jenkins, Mrs Jenkins,” said Mrs Pimplenick, beaming at the couple. “Can I get you some tea and orange juice?”

Sir John jumped backwards at the approach.

“Yes, that would be … very pleasant,” he said. “This is our last day in Sunnyport you know, so I must settle up with you.”

“No need, no need,” said Mrs Pimplenick, “That very good friend of yours, Lord Hollingbury settled your account first thing this morning. Such a charming man! I had no idea you were such good friends with a lord.”

“I … he did what?” said Sir John.

“He said you might be surprised, so he left this note for you,” said Mrs Pimplenick. “May I enquire if any more peers of the realm may be calling this morning, only I’ll get the girl to do the reception if they are.”

“I suspect Lord Hollingbury will be the only one,” said Sir John and opened the note. He started to read and Mrs Pimiplenick hovered expectantly.

Aller,” whispered Marie and the landlady suddenly headed for the kitchen.

“Sorry,” Marie said, “but I am more than a little curious.”

“Let me read it out,” said Sir John.

Dear Sir John and Marie

Apologies for not seeing you off in person, but there was talk of contacting the constabulary in the small hours of the morning so I felt it was time I departed. I trust settling your account will suffice as apology. I also heard that the controversy in Brighton has died down after the outbreak of a scandal that didn’t involve me. Clearly, I need to head back before I am forgotten entirely. I was never truly sure why the nunnery thing was such a problem anyway. I wasn’t even aware they were women, let alone nuns. Anyway, that’s a story for another day.

So after our conversation with Mr Joseph I carried out the necessary ceremonies to banish the yellow jellyfish forever. I’ve tipped off the maritime ministry via a good friend of mine in case they turn up later and helped Rev Philips remove some of the more potent talismans and charms from his church. The man seems immune to occult forces of all types, I may come back and study him some time. I caught up with Wombly who had shed his jelly skin and now seems like his normal self. In truth, the conversation was no more interesting, although it was less repetitive.

So, all being well, the jellyfish menace should no longer cast its shadow over Sunnyport. Mr Joseph has promised faithfully never to call them again, on pain of imprisonment on some as yet uncertain charge that the police will manufacture when they arrive. Sadly, I will miss that creative exercise.

Anyway, pleasure doing business with you both. Please feel free to drop by if you ever come to Brighton or else you may see me in town. Although these days I mostly stick to Soho as the rest of London has become a little drab to my eyes.

All the best

Your friend,

Lord Hollingbury aka The Nouveaumancer

“I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me,” said Mrs Pimplenick bringing tea and orange juice. “It looks like your carriage for London has arrived anyway. I’ll let them know you’re breakfasting and will be out presently. I do so hope you’ve enjoyed Sunnyport and have had a memorable visit.”

SS Epilogue“Very Pleasant!”

Sir John looked at his orange juice in the cracked glass on the stained table cloth.

“I think I can accurately say,” he said, “that this holiday will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

“Very good sir,” said Mrs Pimiplenick and left the room.

Paperback Writer

PM Reading small
The Author inspecting the paperback for possible typos and possession by spirits.

Good evening dear Readers!

We can barely contain our joy this fine Saturday evening at the news. – What news? We hear you cry. Well, only the news that our recently published Jennings and Jennings collection is now available in paperback! Using the miracle of Amazon’s simple to use Paperback publishing tools we were able to convert our “electronic book” to a real one in a mere matter of weeks!

Here is the link for those of you quivering with excitement as we speak…

the link for those of you quivering with excitement as we speak in the British Isles

the link for those of you quivering with excitement as we speak in the United States

May you have the very best of weekends dear friends

Paul Michael, Esquire, Paperback Writer