Saturday, 27 October 2018

Halloween Special Performance

Me, reading a horror story (I'm the one stood up, not the skeleton)

Last night there was a Halloween Special event organised by Brave New Words (a monthly open mic night at The Stove for writers, artists, musicians and songwriters to share words spoken or sung to an audience). A packed crowd were treated to a range of excellent and varied poets, singers, magicians, performers, and authors. It was my first time attending one of these events, but I acted as the finale and read out one of my stories from my fourth book, the creepy collection, They Move Below. I chose one of the shortest stories, If That Looking Glass Gets Broken, about a strange old couple and their "child" - it's a fun one to perform because there's so much opportunity to embody the old woman's barely-contained excitement, and love of words. (You can read one of the stories from that collection for free here.)

I felt like I was being watched as I ate my cake

Where next? You might want to follow me and my work, or even buy my books. Many thanks!
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Thursday, 25 October 2018

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Music - The DMC 2018 Showcase

Left to right: Future Get Down; Frozen Shores Collective;
The Nickajack Men; Liv Mcdougall (image by DMC 2018)

Regular readers will know I love music. I wrote quite a lot about Manchester music when I was working on 2000 Tunes. I also have fun playing the guitar (at a totally amateur level). Since I moved to Scotland I've been exploring local places and going to events, and last night I went to a really good lineup of bands as part of the DMC 2018 Showcase (FB; Twitter) at The Stove (FB; Twitter). Eager beaver that I am, I was one of the first to arrive, though that meant I had first pick at the bar.


The first performer was Liv Mcdougall (Youtube; FB).
"Liv Mcdougall is a fourteen year old singer/songwriter from Dumfries. Much of her songwriting focuses on personal experiences such as love, emotions and the complex struggles of being a teenager."
I’ve seen her play a few times in the afternoon music sessions at The Stove, and have always been impressed. Last night she delivered a polished and emotional set to start the evening, singing her own songs and playing the guitar. It made a great start to the night, being able to just appreciate laid back and heartfelt songs from someone so talented.

Frozen Shores Collective (image by Jim Gellatly)

Then it was the Frozen Shores Collective (Youtube; FB; Twitter).
"Made up of local musicians Ruari Barber-Fleming, Michael Uphill, Kate Kyle, Liam Russel and Jenna Macrory. This collective of musicians has come together to give an emotive and raw performance. Focusing entirely on the music and how much it means to each of them. They aim to communicate this to the audience, creating an experience that everyone can share."
They were new to me and made a great follow on to Liv. Their music was laid-back and funky, but would erupt into more rocky outbursts that always kept me guessing about what was going to come next. Excellent performances all round, made me with I could play the guitar better, or sing, or play the drums. :-)

The Nickajack Men (image by Jim Gellatly)

The Nickajack Men (Youtube; FB) were next.
"The Nickajack Men are a five-piece band from Falkirk, who pitch their style somewhere between alternative-country and indie rock, with heavy influences from bands such as The Districts, The War on Drugs, Delta Spirit and The Alabama Shakes."
They were really energetic and took things up another notch of intensity that got even more people jumping around as they rocked out. I was grinning most of the time, and was so impressed with the whole band and their attitude and the effort they put into it. By the end the frontman was rolling on the floor playing rock-out riffs while the rest of the band were playing ferociously and throwing themselves into each other. A fantastic finale to a storming set.

Future Get Down (image by Jim Gellatly)

The final band were Future Get Down (Youtube; FB; Twitter).
"Our DMC 2018 headliner, Future Get Down are an electronic act from Edinburgh specialising in dark, throbbing dance music with propulsive synths! "Synths, stream of consciousness lyrics and beekeeper suits.. what more could you want?" BBC Introducing."
They were amazing. Made me think of a cross between Talking Heads, Daft Punk, and LCD Soundsystem, but then made totally their own. The performance was full of energy and fun and everyone was dancing and jumping by then. I loved the humour in their personas and some of the lyrics and performance, I couldn't stop smiling while I jumped around. From the moment they walked onstage in their beekeeper outfits to the time when they left the stage one by one, they owned the space.

What a great collection of bands and artists, every one different yet complementary. They were all so good that I'd see them again without hesitation, and recommend anyone else to do so if you get the chance, or to seek out and buy their music.

The night wasn't over yet because I went to the post-gig party at Liquid Lounge. More drinking, more dancing, though the music was inevitably a let-down after what I'd just experienced! I chatted to some of Future Get Down, making sure they knew how impressed I’d been.

People - please go and see live bands and support them. There's nothing quite like live music. Even better, there are bands and singers out there with more talent than more well-known acts, meaning you get to be up close with amazing performers in a way you never can when bands make it big. Your support means a lot to these musicians, who are putting such effort into their songs and performances. Going to see them is a win-win situation.

Where next? You might want to follow me and my work, or even buy my books. Many thanks!
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Saturday, 13 October 2018

Oh, The Horror: Train Stations Versus Railway Stations


The Nature Of Language

Language evolves and changes. Even people who believe language rules should be prescriptive (unchanging, based on choices from the past) rather than descriptive (based on how people actually communicate) still have to choose a point in time when their prescriptive rules are set in stone. Which is, of course, as subjective as anything else to do with how humans communicate with each other.

Language is fascinating and living, and that requires us to understand that differences in word choice, pronunciation, grammar and so on are not deviations from the "one true way" - they all have some validity. We shouldn't try to stamp out varied dialects and accents and vocabulary, we should see that variety is what prevents stagnation. Accepting that alternatives exists prevents our minds from becoming closed. I wrote a bit more on that subject (and my support of Scots Language) here.

Train Station Versus Railway Station

Anyway, I shared the picture above on social media, saying "This is my favourite train station in the UK." For some bizarre reason it got seen and shared by more people than anything I normally say: over 120 shares, likes and comments just on Twitter when I checked just now. But amongst the guesses at what station I had photographed, there were many comments along the lines of "Argh, it is not a train station, it is a railway station, stop being American!"

Oh boy. I can understand having your own preference, but this was prescriptivism in saying "only the way I say things is correct: I'm okay, you're not okay."

Here's a shocker - in the UK, 2018, train station and railway station are synonyms, and can be used interchangeably.

"In British English [...] train station, which is often perceived as an Americanism, is now about as common as railway station in writing." [Source]

You only have to open your eyes to see that's true. I was looking at the Guardian data article Every train station in Britain listed and mapped, which begins with:

"Where are the UK's busiest rail stations? And how many people use them? We bring you one of the best datasets available about each of the train stations we use."

Note the change in terminology between the two sentences, yet they are referring to the same thing. And I usually buy my train tickets from The Trainline - who likewise refer to both train stations and railway stations on their station page:

"Did you know the UK is home to 2,563 train stations? [...] From these railway stations, travellers can catch a connecting service with train operators such as ..."

So the terms train station and railway station refer to the same thing. Individuals will have their own preferences as to what term to use based on what they grew up with (cf. napkin/serviette). So the preference can be a regional/class/cultural thing. I grew up in the 1970s North, and I never heard anyone say "railway station" - it would have sounded to us like someone was putting on airs. To me it was a station for trains to pull into, independent of whatever they said in the US.

That last point is important too. The alternative names for the same thing didn't necessarily come from two different countries. So how did they come about? Well, if you look at the terms railway station and train station, they are both missing prepositions. As such, a preposition has to be assumed - and the preposition you choose to assume determines what word pairs with station. If you assume the missing preposition is "on", then you will probably say railway station = "station on a railway". Makes sense - you wouldn't say "station on a train", so "train station" seems wrong. BUT! (There's always a but ...) If you assume the missing preposition is "for" then you will probably say train station = "station for trains". That makes equal sense - you wouldn't say "station for railways". So both cases depend on an assumption, a thing selected to fill the gap, and there are two equally likely and correct possibilities. The one you choose determines whether "railway" or "train" is the correct pairing for "station".

There, hopefully that's explained that both terms are equally valid, and also where the two options probably evolved from linguistically. Neither are created from a position of grammatical ignorance. Just use whichever you feel more comfortable with.

(Of course, despite all my support for descriptivism, I still get grumpy that many people celebrated "the new millennium" a year early in 2000: so you're welcome to call me a hypocrite.)

Why Do I Love That Station?

Let me end with something positive and answer the question above.

I chose not to own a car, so get to most places by train, bus, bicycle, walking or running. It means I have an affinity for train stations. But only nice ones. Many train stations are dirty grey places packed with consumerist chainstores selling things in throwaway packaging, and where you have to pay to use the toilet. I also hate train stations where there are restrictions on going onto or leaving the platform (e.g. Shrewsbury, Manchester or Cardiff, where you have to pass through barriers and show tickets - meaning you can't wave friends and family off, or easily pop out of the station during train changes).

None of that applies to Dumfries railway station. It gets full marks for having free toilets, and free water bottle fillers on both platforms. There are nice buildings with quaint features, and a small display of historical items. There is storage for bicycles, and the area is also used for local food markets once a month, which is a great use of space and makes the railway station a part of the community. There are no restrictions on going onto or leaving the platform, no barriers saying you are unwelcome. There's also amazing greenery thanks to Incredible Edible Dumfries and the South West Railway Adopters Gardening Group (SWRAGG), who both do fantastic work. Last time I met someone from the train I had time to wander round the gardens, and I picked a few things to take home (something Incredible Edible encourage): some fennel and lemon balms to use in making cups of herb tea, some chives for on my pasta, and rosemary that I roasted with garlic and potatoes. Next time I'll snip a couple of stalks of rhubarb and a few remaining crab apples, and stew them together. All for free.

Plus I love Dumfries in general (you can read about my move to Dumfries here).

For anyone wondering about the charmingly-painted building in that first photo: it was a store building, then became disused. A local artist painted murals there and elsewhere (I'll try and update this later on, with a link to her work). Round the back of the building there's a mural of the Flying Scotsman.

Me, in front of the hidden mural

Where next? You might want to follow me and my work, or even buy my books. Many thanks!
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Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Just Telling Stories Is Retold As A Story


Back in 2013 one of my stories was adapted as an online audio version by Midnight Marinara after they had discovered it on CreepyPasta, where it had been a popular story. In fact, my tale - "Just Telling Stories", from They Move Below - was the first story that Midnight Marinara adapted for their excellent series of podcasts and retellings.

Five years on, and history repeats - kind of. Midnight Marinara have decided to begin a new series called "Undercooked Analysis" (as I discovered when they kindly tagged me in this Tweet). They intend to revisit their earlier adaptations and see if they still hold up today, five years after production. And for their first episode, they picked ... yes, you guessed it, "Just Telling Stories" by yours truly. :-) You can listen to them discussing (and re-enacting) the story on Youtube.

And that's what I did last night for my evening's entertainment - listened to the hour-long episode, often grinning my head off as I got to hear thoughts on the tale in real-time, unscripted format. It was good fun, with some excellent points made, especially about the need to change or cut parts for the adaptation.

I agreed that the male character does go on too much: it is appropriate for how he is, but not always as much fun for the reader. I wanted the stories to work on one level as misdirection ("What's going to happen?") and mood-setting whilst characterising the protagonists, but that doesn't mean they couldn't be cut back a bit, which is what I would do if I ever revisited this tale.

However, the stories-within-the-story have multiple roles: they all tie in to the protagonists' situation on some level, whilst also becoming a catalystic part of the narrative, since the characters' fear releases hormones that gradually changes their blood in preparation for the ending.

And both commenters were right about the guy being a douche. :-) Fun fact that I've never revealed before: the story came out of a real situation when I was staying in a hotel room with a friend and she wanted to tell scary stories. Most of the tales in the story were part of the mutual scaring; the one about the cat called Poppy was the one my friend told. But in reality my friend was the one doing more of the scaring, not me, and no seduction attempts took place on either side. Afterwards she was supportive of me working with the raw material to create a scary story about people telling scary stories based on us telling scary stories. It was rather meta.

In fact, because some of my earliest books had a higher quota of dick-head male protagonists, I made a point in my last book of making all the protagonists female (and awesome ones at that), with men relegated to subsidiary dick-head roles. It seemed only fair.

Anyway, the episode made my night. Even better that I was alone in the house, and while I was listening to it in the dark, the French doors blew open in the wind. Full-on curtain billowing. Awesome, even if I did have to change my trousers.

[As an aside - there is an official audiobook version of They Move Below, narrated by Rosie Alldred, which includes "Just Telling Stories".]

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Friday, 5 October 2018

Some Scary Books To Read In October


People often say nice things about my work - the image above is the latest example. I'm incredibly grateful to my readers, fans, other authors, book bloggers and everyone else who talks about and supports my writing. Altered Instinct included that tweet in their Horror Books For Halloween post, so go and have a look at all the other recommendations!

If that's not enough, here are some of my own favourite horror reads from 2018.
  • The Tank by Nicola Lombardi. This crazy book really impressed me, despite the terrible translation, and often left me sickened but unable to stop reading. I had a lovely chat with Nicola after I wrote my review, and encouraged him to keep writing standout stories like that.
  • The Sadist's Bible, by Nicole Cushing. A really satisfying horror novella that kept me riveted until the end.
  • Body of Christ by Mark Matthews. Another really good novella.
  • "Bent" in Rebecca Rowland's collection The Horrors Hiding In Plain Sight. Gruesome and short and inevitable. Good stuff.
  • Midnight Gods by Greg F. Gifune. It cuts out all the filler and confidently leads you from scene to scene as the horror grows from a late-night encounter.
If you want to know some other recommendations from previous years, there's Housebroken by The Behrg, which I see as a great example of being able to take a book in unexpected but satisfying directions. I also recommend trying some Koontz books, or sci-fi horrors that stayed with me, or a few classics.

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Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Halloween freebie - Web, from They Move Below


They Move Below is my collection of dark tales, perfect for Halloween.

This is what one review said about it:
"It's nice to see Drinkwater playing around with form here - with some stories framed around internet chat logs, others in the shape of police interviews. [...] For me, the best of the short story collection was an unexpected one - Web tells a tale of a Somali woman who has been subjected to [redacted, for spoilers], and the mental illness she appears to be suffering from. It's a tough tale emotionally to read, but brilliantly done. The harsh honesty of the tale almost feels out of place alongside the fantasy horrors of the other stories - but it's perhaps the most horrific of all for that. Other excellent tales in this set are the nightmarish cave journey of Claws Truth Forebear and How It Got There, which is a treat." 5*
-- Altered Instinct
As a treat for Halloween, and in thanks to Altered Instinct, I've made a copy of that story temporarily available for free. Download it in PDF, Mobi or Epub format. Happy Halloween.

(I will also give away a new and previously-unseen short horror story in my next newsletter. Sign up here.)

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