Hear me read!

Here’s a link to a recording of me reading my own story, A CHRISTMAS ANNIVERSARY, as heard on the Daniel Ruiz Tizon Is Available radio show the other night.

Hope you enjoy it.  Merry Christmas, everybody!  Thank you all for your continuing support.

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Previewing Daniel Ruiz Tizon is Available – Bumper Christmas Annual on Resonance 104.4FM, Monday 22nd Dec 9pm

williamstafford:

On Monday I shall be appearing on the radio – which is a good trick if you can do it.

Originally posted on Daniel Ruiz Tizon:

Daniel Ruiz Tizon is, he’d like the world to know, Available, and dissecting the minutiae of everyday life.

Listen live on Resonance 104.4fm Monday 22nd December at 9pm. resonancefm.com

(S2: 15)Daniel Ruiz Tizon is Available – Bumper Christmas Annual
9 to 10:30pm

A Christmas special on Monday in front of a specially invited studio audience will see myself and engineer number one Chris Dixon joined by Katherine Johnston from fellow Resonance show, Very Loose Women.

Acclaimed podcasters Jack McInroy and Steve Walsh from South London Hardcore will be guiding listeners through a whirlwind tour of Christmas in the eleven recognised south London boroughs. Writer-performer Roisin Rae will tell us why she likes Christmas traditions and novelist, the lovely Mr William Stafford gives us a Christmas ghost story. And last but not least, the contrasting physiques of The Kid and Micky Boyd will be live in the studio telling…

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Meanwhile at Grandmother’s House…

The little girl in the red cloak set the basket on the hall table. The cottage appeared to be empty but the little girl guessed her grandmother was taking a nap. Old people do that sometimes. In the afternoons. I’m too old for afternoon naps, the little girl thought proudly. Or perhaps I’m too young.

She approached the door to her grandmother’s bedroom and listened. She couldn’t hear the regular wheezy breathing of a sleeping old woman. Instead there was silence. As if grandmother was holding her breath…

Fearing the worst, the little girl turned the handle, suddenly feeling terribly alone. Out here in the middle of the forest, there was no one to help her, no one to whom she might turn for assistance.

She pushed the door open slowly; it gave a creak like Grandmother’s laughter, or like Grandmother’s joints when she got out of her chair.

The little girl approached the bed. The blankets were raised, covering a bump, like snow on a hillock. The little girl stepped closer.

“Grandmother…?” she said uncertainly; the word caught in her throat.

An eye opened, round and yellow. The hillock stirred.

“Grandmother!” the little girl stepped closer still, relieved to see movement, overjoyed to see – She stopped. “You’re not my grandmother,” she said.

The blankets fell back as the figure in the bed sat up.

The little girl’s eyes grew wide. She told herself to back away, to flee for the door, but her feet would not move.

“Your eyes!” she gasped. “How big they are! And your teeth! How big they are! And your – your –”

The wolf in grandmother’s nightie looked pained. He held out his paws, trying to calm the little girl in the red cloak.

“Please!” he urged. “Don’t scream! Don’t cry! I can explain.”

“Where’s my grandmother? What have you done to her, you beast?” The little girl stamped her foot. The wolf yelped.

“She’s – she’s visiting a neighbour, I expect. Or she’s gone to the day centre.”

“You’ve swallowed her! Gobbled her all up!”

“No – I would never! Please, you must understand.”

“I’m going for help. There must be a woodcutter near here. He’ll chop off your head and then you’ll be sorry.”

“No! Wait!”

The wolf swung his legs to the floor, slipping them into Grandmother’s mules.

“Keep away from me!”

But the little girl was surprised: the wolf did not pounce. He just sat on the bed with his head in his front paws.

“It’s just – something I like to do at the weekends. Or when the old lady goes out. I don’t mean any harm. And I’m careful not to stretch the clothes too much. I just like to wear nice things once in a while. Don’t you? You’re always in that pretty red cloak. I’ve seen you.”

The little girl’s mouth hung open in shock.

“You’re a – a tranny!” she pointed an accusing finger. “A granny tranny! You disgust me.”

“No, please! I won’t do it again, I swear.”

“Animal! Filthy animal!”

The little girl looked around for something she might throw at the wolf in granny’s clothing.

She turned to flee, to run back through the forest and tell her mother what she had seen. She collided with the rough denim of a pair of jeans and looked up at a checked shirt and the gleaming blade of a woodcutter’s ax.

“Hello, Red,” said her grandmother, “How do you like my lumberjack outfit?”

 little-red-riding-hood-md

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Pig Three

Pig Three was fed up. His siblings had outstayed their welcome and were eating him out of house and home. To put it bluntly: they were pigs. They tried it on every year. Oh, we can’t stay at home, they’d squeak, not with a known predator in the neighbourhood.

Pig Three had tried to tell them they should build their homes out of sturdier, predator-proof materials. Sticks weren’t enough to keep the wolf from the door and as for straw – well, that was bloody ridiculous. Bricks were the only way to go. Good, solid and dependable – just like Pig Three himself tried to be.

But those two were taking advantage. You can’t chuck us out, they grunted. We’re brothers and brothers look out for each other.

Yeah, Pig Three mused. You only look out to see if the supermarket van’s bringing the food delivery.

But enough was enough. They had to go.

A knock came at the door. Pig One and Pig Two scurried behind the sofa in panic. It’s him, they squealed! He’s come to gobble us all up!

Pig Three was sceptical. It was probably just Jehovah’s Witnesses or something. But then a voice came through the letterbox, along with a flash of fang and a glint of yellow eye.

Little Pig… Little Pig… Let me come in…

His brothers squeaked behind the sofa but Pig Three was resolute. “Not by the hair on my chinny chin chin!” he addressed the door. On the other side, the Big Bad Wolf howled with laughter.

Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in…

Knock yourself out, said Pig Three, hoping to sound nonchalant. That might work on straw and sticks but my bricks won’t let me down.

What are you doing? Pig Two squealed.

Don’t antagonise him, Pig One wailed. Their corkscrew tails were rigid with terror.

Pig Three assured them he knew what he was doing. He’d read about it in a story book. He moved a huge cauldron into the fireplace.

Above them, the wolf’s paws scrambled up the roof tiles.

He’s going to come down the chimney! Pig One shrieked.

He’s going to eat us alive! Pig Two added.

Maybe, maybe not, shrugged Pig Three, letting himself out of the front door and locking it behind him.

Pig Two and Pig One peered over the rim of the cauldron. Instead of boiling water, they found a recipe book entitled Pork Dinners For One.

3-pigs-md

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The Bargain

The Queen slipped from the Royal bedchamber and padded down the servants’ staircase. She went deep into the bowels of the castle, deeper even than the dungeons. It had been years since she had trod those steps but something had told her in a restless dream that she must visit the cellars again.

As the staircase became narrower, darker and danker, memories of those stressful times before she was married rose to the surface of her mind. She had been determined to do anything to secure the affections of the heir to the kingdom. She had entered into the pact with that unspeakable creature without hesitation.

The creature had made good his side of the bargain. His gnarled and withered claws had accomplished what her pale and slender fingers could not. He had spun a cartload of straw into golden thread. The Prince had been amazed and more than a little stunned. His greed had led to two further nights of spinning. Two further nights in the cellar in the company of that wizened goblin, enduring his mockery, his menaces and – oh, Lord, the stench of him!

The Queen put her sleeve to her face as she reached the cellar door, in readiness for the full force of that infernal odour when it struck her nostrils. She pulled the rusted iron hoop, lifting the latch on the other side of the door, and stepped in.

The crook-backed monster was there. His slanted eyes widened when he saw the Queen come in.

He stooped in a bow, although he was almost bent double already.

“Majesty,” he intoned. “May I say how beautiful you look? Being Queen suits you so well.”

The Queen was suspicious. This was not how she remembered the goblin’s tone. When had he ever been so deferential?

“It has been fifteen years,” the Queen observed, taking care not to breathe through her nose. “Our bargain is long since done.”

The goblin’s eyes flashed. “You – you reneged! You did not complete your side of the deal.”

The Queen shook her head. “That is not my recollection. Please; refresh my memory.”

“The deal was,” the little man began to pace, agitated and desperate, “I spin your straw into gold and, unless you guessed my name, I receive as payment your first born son.”

“I don’t see what the problem is.”

The little man let out a groan of anguish.

“He’s eating me out of house and home! He’s sullen – when he’s not rude. And stubborn! I can’t get more than two words out of him. He’s into terrible music. He dresses like a fairy and I’m worried he’s mixing with the wrong crowd.”

“The joy of teenagers,” the Queen gave a wry smile. “Well, if that’s all.”

“Majesty, please! I know you did your research. I know you sent out your spies. You knew my name all along but you never said it. Say it, Majesty; say my name and you can have your son back.”

The Queen laughed and turned away. She left Rumpelstiltskin to his despair and went back up to bed, to sleep at her husband’s side, safe in the knowledge that the child she had had by  a hairy-handed stableman would never come to light.

rumpelstiltskin-crane1886

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Bait

“I’m sorry, my dear, but this is the only way.”

Helga wrestled with her bonds. “Please, Professor; let me go. We’ll say no more about it. Please!”

She cast a nervous glance to the clouded night sky. The moon was hidden but she knew as surely as she knew her own name, that it was full. The clouds would soon roll by and the hillside would be bathed in silver.

And then – she shuddered to think what would happen next.

The Professor continued with his preparations, babbling to himself as he laid out pieces of chicken. “It is important to lay a trail,” he muttered. “So that the beast knows where to come.”

Helga’s wrists strained to free themselves of the rope that held them behind her back. Time was running out.

“Please!” she sobbed. “Before it’s too late. Before something happens we will both regret.” That was putting it mildly. But the Professor was obsessed. His eyes glinted with madness. He would not be deterred.

“I know what’s been plaguing this area for months,” he grinned. “I know what has been preying on the sheep. The cattle. The dogs. And that poor child – what was his name?”

“Archie,” said Helga, sadly. Only that morning, the six-year-old had been found in his back garden, with his throat torn out and his innards strewn around the lawn.

“You have nothing to fear,” the Professor patted her cheek. “I shall not be far away. My pistol is primed and loaded with silver bullets. I was a crack shot in my day and I still have my eye.”

Helga was far from reassured.

The clouds crawled away, revealing a fat and pregnant moon, glowing in its fullness.

Helga’s skin tingled. It was time.

In a second, her body elongated, snapping the ropes. Lush, auburn fur sprouted all over her, while her face stretched and elongated into a snout with teeth as long as the Professor’s fingers.

The old man staggered backwards and fell. He held up his hands to protect himself but the beast tore off his arms and flung them across the dewy sward.

The beast licked its slavering chops, preparing to bury its muzzle in the Professor’s soft belly.

The boy – Archie – had been a mistake and one she bitterly regretted, but it was going to be a pleasure to tear the smug old man to shreds.

Use me as werewolf bait, would you? Helga smirked, deep within her animal form. Well, guess what, Professor?

It worked.

werewolf-md

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Meanwhile, at the Shrink’s…

Martyn settled back onto the couch and clasped his hands together over his paunch. He’d been looking forward to this session all week. Where else did he get a chance to offload? When else was he the focus of attention? When was it ever all about him?

“For starters,” he began, “I’m fed up. Fed up of people getting my name wrong. How many years have I been going to that coffee shop? And they still get it wrong. Like I’m a normal Martin with an i and not a y. It’s plagued me all my life. I blame my parents. And I get embarrassed about asking for skinny decaff. But the Mrs insists. In fact, she’d rather I didn’t go there at all. Waste of money, she says, when we’re supposed to be saving for a skiing holiday. Times are tough all round. We might not make a full fortnight on the slopes this year and have to cut back to ten days. And we haven’t been able to pop across to the villa as often as we’d like. And then there’s the house move. Well, they say it’s the most stressful thing you can do, don’t they? But, well, we have to up sticks if we want Jolyon to get into that school. So, you can see, Doc, I’m under the cosh at the moment. And sometimes it all gets a bit too much, you know, and I wonder how I’m going to survive.”

There was a moment of silence as Doctor Kang replaced the lid on his fountain pen and put his notebook aside.

“I would like to try something,” he said in an accent Martyn couldn’t place. “A little unorthodox and experimental but I am sure you will benefit.”

“Of course. You’re the doctor, Doc.”

“Very well. This is a new form of regressive therapy.”

“Sounds impressive!”

“I need you to be silent. Now, I want you to close your eyes and think back to a time before your present situation. Before you were married, perhaps. Before you lived at your current address. Before you were at school, even. Before you learned to talk…”

Martyn experienced a curious sensation. He was falling, through a vortex of time, but he could still feel the leather couch, solid under his back and legs. Images, memories flashed before him and he felt the years fall away. His shoes slipped off and fell to the floor. He began to feel smothered and a rising tide of panic overcame him.

“You may open your eyes,” said Doctor Kang.

Martyn did as he was told. The light of the consultation room was harsh and made him squint.

The face of the psychiatrist loomed over him like a harvest moon. Martyn realised he was naked and cupped his hands over his privates.

“What’s going on?” he squeaked like a dog’s toy. He saw he was standing in the circle of his shirt collar.

“Now that you are the size of my fountain pen,” said Doctor Kang, holding the implement next to Martyn to demonstrate, “I shall leave you in the care of my colleague.”

He moved across the room and opened a door.

“Come, Sigmund,” he called. A tabby cat slunk into the room like a silver tiger.

“I shall return in thirty minutes,” Doctor Kang smiled from the doorway. “And then we can talk about your problems.”

pen

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Brough and Miller’s Sixth Outing is out now

The sixth and latest investigation for Dedley detectives Brough and Miller is available now. As usual, the Serious Crimes Division are their usual foul-mouthed and funny selves and somehow the case gets solved.

When a film crew descends on Dedley to resurrect an old soap opera for the big screen, the team at Serious go undercover to catch a murderer. One member short, the detectives find themselves in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. Brough and Miller are back for this fast-moving and funny investigation, their sixth but not their last

hospital cornersBuy the book!

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Memorial

Tracey approached the war memorial in the park with reluctance. Last year, she’d spent the money her grandmother had given her for flowers on herself. An afternoon at the pictures, a couple of hours of peace away from the demanding old bird. This year, the old bird had got wise and had demanded Tracey bring home a receipt from the florist. Oh, can’t you go yourself, Gran? Tracey’s annual question always met with the same response. I would if I could, my girl. Do you think I enjoy being cooped up in here all day?

Yeah, yeah… Tracey, having pushed Gran’s buttons, got out of there before Gran could pack her off on a guilt trip as well as an errand.

And now, with the flowers grasped tightly in her fist, Tracey was about to do her annual duty.

“Ellis, John.”

She found the name on the plaque and gave it a wipe with her sleeve and leaned the flowers against the stone plinth.

“Thanks, love.”

Tracey was startled. A soldier was standing beside her; she hadn’t seen him approach. “Um, it’s all right,” she shrugged.

They stood looking at the monument in silence. Tracey wanted to go to the bus stop but didn’t wish to appear disrespectful now there was an actual soldier standing there.

“My gran’s boyfriend,” she felt an explanation was due. “Came back from the War with his head blowed off.”

The soldier nodded.

“Only if he hadn’t – if he’d lived, I wouldn’t be here today. Gran wouldn’t have married my granddad and my mum would never have been born, so, you know…”

The soldier nodded again.

“What about you?” she asked, nodding toward the list of names. “Anyone you know? Any family?”

The soldier looked downcast. “Half of those men were in my regiment.”

“You what?”

“All those shattered lives. All those weddings that never happened. All those children who were never born.”

Tracey’s mouth hung open. “You’ve lost your mind, mate. This lot died a long time ago.”

The soldier reached out and grabbed her roughly by the arm. “You could have been mine,” he said with a bitter grimace. “You could have been my granddaughter.”

Tracey struggled to pull herself free. Tears were coursing down the soldier’s pale cheek. And then he turned his head and Tracey saw daylight through the hole where a grenade had blasted half his skull away.

His lips curled back in a rictus. “Tell your gran Jack says hello.”

 flowers

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Next: a book with bite!

I’m currently preparing the manuscript of my next novel for submission to my publisher. Feedback from my readers is good – the book is a little different from the others.

It’s set at the end of the 19th century. Hack writer Hector Mortlake is travelling across Europe in the hope of finding inspiration for a new story. He enlists the people he meets to take part in a story-telling competition (much like The Canterbury Tales) and so the narrative is broken up with the short stories as the characters tell them. I tried to make sure each story is in keeping with the style, period and theme of the main plot. Variations on a theme, you might say.

I’d wanted to write a vampire story – but these have been done to death lately. As a compromise a couple of the short stories have vampire themes: my homage to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which came out around the time my book is set.

As a child I loved to stay up late to watch late-night horror films on BBC2. Hammer Horrors like The Reptile reptile_poster_01

and The Blood Beast Terror

BloodBeastTerrorUKquad

have influenced this book, and then recently I watched Ken Russell’s film adaptation of Stoker’s The Lair of the White Worm (I’d found the book hard-going) and loved it (Check it out: not only is a floppy-haired Hugh Grant in it, but there’s also an early appearance from the Doctor himself, Peter Capaldi).lair_of_white_worm_poster_02 Russell’s film tickled me with its saucy humour. This is right up my alley, I thought. Readers of my books will know I can’t resist innuendo – this book is perhaps the most riddled with them.

It’s called KISS OF THE WATER NYMPH and I’m very pleased with it.

Watch this space for more news.

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