Mutterings and utterings of a budding novelist

Anything but dreadful!

Welcome to the personal blog of Kenny Dreadful, aka Ken Dawson. A lover of books, illustration, graphic design, personal development, law of attraction and anything that makes this world a better place! Thanks for visiting :)

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‘Oh my dear girl,’ she grinned. ‘There’ll be no trying about it. Your journey ends here. Time to die.’

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Slowly but surely getting there! Deep into Hell now.
I’ll be making a map for this soon, but because it’s based off 17th/18th century Hungary, Romania and Transylvania, a lot of research will be required.

Chapter 12 can be downloaded here.

DISCLAIMER: As always this tale is a first draft. It’s unchecked, unedited, and is pretty much as raw as I can type. Hence why it’s free. So no pointing out mistakes please! Cheers!

Urban Legends and The White & Black Scarecrows

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Going to my sister’s and spending time with my amazing nephew and nieces who are aged five and four – it’s incredible what imaginations a child possesses. Enthusiastically telling me all manner of tales try to fathom where they got these stories from.

But it’s something we all remember growing up. Playing make-believe and acting out a veritable range of characters, from warriors to pirates, wizards to nurses and doctors. It’s easy to see how imagination can lead to some stories taking on lives of their own, and as young kids get older these tales can develop into legends and myths; some becoming quite sinister in nature.

Pretty much every town and city has its urban legends. Usually involving some shadowy figure that lurks on the outskirts, that nobody has seen, but everybody knows a friend of a friend who has.

This is where an urban legend of my old school comes in.
Growing up on the outer edges of Leeds, my middle school was a pretty small one, yet it backed on to an area of land known locally as The Valley. The land itself, approximately a few miles squared had playing fields, hills, a train track running through it, and a small lake. The land was surrounded by housing estates as well as an old hospital. As young pupils, we were only allowed to venture on either during PE, cross country running, or a close part of it during breaks and lunchtime.
No offence to anyone from the area, but the Valley did seem to attract some undesirables. I remember joyriders trying to run us all down on our Sports Day – the teachers pushing us all back before the kids in the car crashed into a tree. Back then, this didn’t seem that out of the ordinary. It already had an eerie feel to it growing up, and indeed a girl in the year above me (I was 9 or 10 at this point) was found raped and murdered at the far end of the Valley not long before we moved to St. Annes.

That tragic event was after this urban legend took place. Like I said, my school was a small one, and in each year of only two classes I had either my sister or a close cousin in it. My sister would tell me of The Black Scarecrow and White Scarecrow who had lurked around the Valley, chasing children and adults they came across. Apparently one dressed all in white with a black cross on him, and the other wore all black with a white cross on him (although my sister doesn’t recall the crosses part). Now whilst sounding like some distant members of a certain white supremacist group, this tale actually scared little 9 year old me when I went on those fields.
Not only content with terrorising people passing through the Valley, but one apparently hung himself from a tree in front of some children, whilst the other doused himself in petrol and set himself alight on the same area of land. A white cross was carved and painted into the tree where one of the Scarecrows swung dead.
To this day I can recall that tree, and I’m 90% sure it exists. My sister agrees too.

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My old school. The Valley is on the right.

Today I asked my cousins and sister about the myth and what they recalled of it.
Now speaking to them years later, it appears the source might have been revealed.
My eldest cousin Wayne says back when he was a pupil at the school he and three friends were allowed to do what they wanted one afternoon and they asked to do cross country. They were told they could go, but only if they went in a group. Whilst coming down part of the Valley known as the Black Hill, a scruffy man came from the bushes brandishing what they thought was a shotgun. All four ran away but one girl fell and twisted her ankle, forcing the others to carry her as the man pursued. Reaching the school, they went straight to the headmaster who quickly gathered a few other teachers and went searching the Valley. Wayne recalls the headmaster’s face dropping when they told him and how he reacted so fast that it felt like they were in real danger.

Soon word of the incident spread, and rumours of a man from one of the estates who hated children circulated. Another rumour was that he lived under the old hospital. Eventually other kids claimed they had saw the man, some even being attacked, and he was now being described as a scarecrow – possibly due to a recent showing of Children of the Corn.
More rumours of attacks ensured but nothing was ever proved.

Looking back, I can’t pinpoint when I was originally told the stories, but I do remember looking out on to the Valley from the school during one stormy day and feeling very creeped out.
It’s bizarre how some memories stick with you.
I guess I’ll never find out just how much of the tale is real, or if the only incident was my cousin running away from the scruffy man.

Regardless of this, I’ll continue to listen to the enthusiastic story telling of my nephew and nieces. I only hope their tales are a little less gory and sinister.
On saying this, my niece Darcie revels in the fact her name means ‘Dark’ so maybe I’ll have some dark tellings to pen from them one day.

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The only picture I have of the Valley itself. My happy sister Kelly, cousins Lee and Wayne, and me stood up! 😀

The Muse of True Love

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And now for something quite off track that I’m used to writing. 😀

Unbeknownst to most people I know, the concept and notion of love is something that dominates quite a lot of my life, and even drives me to work, write, and paint. Even though I rarely talk about it.
Fuelled by an unhealthy obsession of 80’s movies, old Disney films and power ballads, I think I have beliefs about love that many would consider unrealistic.

I’ve used the idea of a perfect romance as a kind of muse in all my workings. And even though it’s not quite obvious when reading my writings (especially with some of the gorier work!), a simple scratch of the surface will show it’s subtle undertones of love.
In my screenplay of Last Battle, the protagonist’s only drive was to return to his wife and child, willing to go head first against the armies of Hell in the name of love. And likewise in the same tale, I penned about a couple – one controlled by Heaven, one unwillingly controlled by Hell desperately fighting it out amid the fires of the underworld, trying to understand what has become of them. Another character fights in the belief that his long lost love can still see him, and uses this notion to give him courage.
With Tapestry of Fates I wanted to build up the story and characters own paths within the wars in the first book, before helping them to understand there’s more to life than just fighting in the second book, which of course leads to some romantic interventions, in turn causing the subsequent battles against E-Clipse to become more desperate and heartfelt.
This is route I’m planning with Fallen Tears also, as the twins near the source of the vampiric reign, I want to introduce a kind of romantic spanner in the works without altering the book as a whole.

So why is it that a bloke writing so much about love has remained single for quite a few years now (insert wise crack here about not being able to get a girlfriend)? I’ve been on dates after all, and that’s something I do enjoy greatly, but that could be because I love getting to know new people.
It’s no secret that I’m quite an emotional fella. Not in the crying sense, but as in deeply feeling everything around me. I hate nothing more than seeing people upset and would move mountains to make people happy. Sometimes being overly emphatic can be seen as a weakness, as it’s a trait easily exploited.
I guess I can only say that I don’t yearn for just a simple coupling, sleeping around, or jumping in and settling down with the first person that shows interest. Like my stories, I want meaning to develop before anything else.
Rather I feel I have an eye open for that perfect romance I like to write about; a chivalrous, all-consuming, soul-burning love that many believe doesn’t exist.
And does that kind of love exist? I feel I’ve seen enough evidence in this world to believe so.
Do I believe it’ll come to me? Maybe. Maybe not.
Does it make a fussy bastard? Some might even say I’ve not right to be fussy! 😀 But it’s something I won’t try to force, not sell my soul to achieve.
Whilst I’ve seen how true love can create Heaven for some, I’ve also seen it create misery in others. There’s nothing worse than regret, and living beside someone for mere convenience without any affection is one of the biggest in life.

Perhaps I even put off the idea of becoming fully involved with someone as the muse of love is such a powerful working drive for me. At times in the past I’d even use the thought of a some particular girl in order to push forward my work. But now I think it’s more of the notion itself that helps spurn my creativity.
It’s a surprise to read that Napoleon Hill wrote a similar idea in his book Think and Grow Rich – a chapter called “The Mystery of Sex Transmutation” that was removed in the early editions, with it being seen as too risque for the audiences of the 1930’s. Basically it describes that many of the successful businessmen at the time turned their desires of sex into a powerful drive that spurned them to work hard.

So whilst I’ve rambled on over one of the most boring blog utterings I’ve ever posted, whilst simultaneously giving my mother a heart attack about the possible lack of grandchildren, I wonder how I’ll end this in a suitable way.

One of the greatest things I’ve ever seen in fiction is J.K.Rowling’s Severus Snape. Whilst we all spent many books and movies believing Snape was a cold-hearted, wicked man with a terrible agenda, the saddest part came when we learned the truth about his love for Harry’s mother, gently hinted at in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

“Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded he turned back to Snape, and his eyes were full of tears.
“After all this time?”
“Always,” said Snape.”

As tragic as this story arc is, it’s the semblance I adore. And the willingness to sacrifice himself even for his love’s offspring is pretty much as deep as you can get.

 

The Blessings of Friendship

“Oh, me and my friends used to all go on holiday together,” the old woman replied cheerfully to my pal as she told her a few of us were going to Tenerife for a break.
“We went every year! All over Europe, America……they’re all dead now.”
Despite the old woman’s deadpan, matter of fact remark, what she spoke of was an infallible reality that we will all have to face up to one day.

And on that holiday in Tenerife we held a little toast to our friend Mark who was no longer with us, but was present in that very bar many years ago. It was his birthday today, and the anniversary of his death looms ever closer.

The truth is, nobody knows when the Sword of Damocles will fall, and another of our loved ones will be taken. I’m guessing whoever is reading this will also be thinking of a certain person, or persons they have lost – for I too have said goodbye to a number of close friends and family over the years.

So occasionally we need reminding that our time here on this earth isn’t going to be forever. That eventually our own mortality catches up with us.

This isn’t meant to be a morbid post at all, but rather a gentle hint to safeguard our beloved memories. Because the thing that will keep us happy in the future is the chance to reflect on our happiest times with those we love.

So keep your friends close, and never let time time or distance be a factor when it comes to keeping in contact. If you feel you should contact someone you’ve not spoken to in years, do it. There’s nothing more tragic than regret.

Enjoy nights out, even if the locations shift over the years (although if you feel the need to go night clubbing in your eighties, do it!)

Take long country walks, followed by rewarding pints in an old rustic pub.

Have movie and take away nights together, whether at a cinema,  or at home.

Have BBQ’s in the Summer, cozy meals in the Winter.

Give gifts generously, even if they never get you one back.

Forgive easily, don’t let mistakes break you apart.

Take plenty of photos, some day they may be all that’s left.

Hug warmly, you never know when the day will come when you yearn for one last embrace.

Don’t be afraid to wear your heart on your sleeve; love is a gift that was meant to be shared, not to be buried deep inside.

Kiss with your eyes closed, and with sincere passion; these are precious moments to be cherished.

Be kind; you never know the battles others are facing.

Always smile warmly at everyone you meet, you never know when the fates will conspire to bring you together again.

Be humble, yet proud of your accomplishments.

Possessions come and go, yet true friendship lasts a lifetime. People will like you for who you are, not what you own.

Talk deeply, and put the world to rights.

Live without fear, and share your problems. Good friends will stand by you no matter what.

 

And should the sad inevitable happen, a lifetime of fond memories, however tragically short, will always provide the comfort and strength to carry onwards.
Life has it’s dark times, but that darkness can always be blown aside if we allow it.

I truly hope that old lady has a record of all of her times away with her friends. I hope she reflects daily, and feels blessed to have such close people in her life.

Have no regrets.

And never stop smiling. x

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Why you should avoid sites like Fiverr and 99Designs

Imagine the situation:

You start working for a new company, with a cushty office job. You walk into the building on your first day and the surroundings look glorious, the decor is tasteful, the atmosphere is inviting, and you’re surrounded by eager, like-minded colleagues; around a hundred of you in one large open office.
But just as you’re about to settle in to begin work, the boss comes in and calls over everyone.
“Ok everyone, this week we’re going to do something different. On Friday we’ll evaluate what each of you have done, and whoever we decide has done the best will be paid. Only that person will be paid.”

And so you begin working, throwing yourself into the projects and giving them your all.
Friday comes and the bosses take all the work away, and then a few hours later announce that one of your colleagues has won. They, and only they have been paid this week.
All your hard work was for nothing.

“But don’t worry everyone. There’s always next week.”

So whilst your colleague is happy with his ‘winnings’, and your boss is happy he got a ton of work for free, you’re sat wondering how you’re going to pay the bills and feed the family.

 

Welcome to the world of a 99Designs designer – a place where you pay a set amount and have numerous talented artists and designers battle it out to win over several days or weeks.

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Now you may be thinking, as someone that requires some design work doing – “Hey, I don’t care about that. I’m getting a great deal here! I get to pick and choose from tons of work.”
But here’s where it could actually harm you.
To be slightly hypocritical here, I have been one of these designers on a  similar site when I first became a freelancer a few years ago. The design brief for this ‘competition’ was for a futuristic woman’s portrait. I threw a few designs out there, making sure the client knew I had rights to the images used. There was a bit of feedback and after adjusting my images, found out I was in the lead! This was great! But this was an open competition, meaning other designers could see my work.

And in turn – steal my work!

Suddenly others were taking my actual image and using it!! By simply adding to it, they were claiming it was their own work! Finally I was knocked off the top spot by someone using an image from the game Final Fantasy XIII, a character named Lightning. Not only had they not adjusted this image, but they had claimed actual ownership of it!
Now this client was from a large American communications company (I’m not sure why they didn’t use in-house designers) and using this image will have caused a lot of legal issues down the line.
Not to be vindictive, but I actually emailed the client telling them to be careful and directing them to a Final Fantasy XIII trailer. The client thanked me stating that he could has lost his job had he proceeded!
The Lightning design was rejected, and the client faced a torrent of abuse on the comments section.

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‘Lightning’ – most definitely owned by Square Enix.

And here is the problem – not only do sites like this give designers a bad name and water down the talent pool, but because the sites don’t have to be regulated much, anyone can join and try their best to win a fast buck by putting forward stolen work. And obviously this can harm the client in long run.

Not only this but as a client you will spend hours pouring over hundreds of entries, giving feedback to each. If 90% of entries are garbage, this is a massive waste of time. Then there are the language barriers – as the competitions are open to the world. I’ve seen so many of these problems as client and designer become frustrated over miscommunications.
Clearly in other countries, the prize money is worth a lot more, which makes these sites all the more attractive.

And now we come to Fiverr!
A while ago I got a message through my Facebook page if I did ‘custom fantasy covers’ and what my price was.
I stated my terms and the ACTUAL reply was – ‘Oh I see. It’s just because I’ve seen some on Fiverr and wanted to see if you could do better. Do it well and they’ll be a lot more work your way.’
That’s right – this guy had asked if I would produce a fully illustrated, fully customised book cover – around ten hours worth of work, for the huge amount of $5.
That’s about £3.70 – about the cost of a pint of Stella.
And he was deadly serious.
I kindly said he would never find a designer who would work for that. He didn’t reply back.
The worse thing was, his profile picture was him in a suit, sat on the bonnet of a sports car, wearing a huge cheesy grin. Prick.

With Fiverr you’ll see the words ‘Custom’ and ‘Unique’ bandied around a lot. The sad fact is that this will never be the case. Guaranteed many other people will have your exact logo should you go this route. As the age old saying goes, you get what you pay for.
Fiverr and similar budget design sites will only give you very low quality, repeated work.

Saying this though, I have seen young student and beginner designers making use of these sites to build their portfolio. But these are few and far between. It would be more beneficial contacting them directly and building a rappor.

And thus this brings me to the end of my post – using a good designer who you can trust.

If you’re serious about your business, and want to promote it in the best light. Then you will always be better off finding a designer you can trust. Someone who will understand your requirements inside and out. Someone who will actually give a damn about your success, who will guide and offer advice rather than blindly follow orders. Someone who will keep all your work backed up and on hand should you lose it all. Someone who will be willing to liaise with printers, other designers, colleagues of yours to make your life easier.
Of course you may pay a little extra (although 99Designs is NOT cheap!) but the money will certainly be worth it.

And don’t just take my word for it. A simple google search of these sites will tell you exactly what I have.

Find a good designer, and give your business the attention it deserves.

Good design should be cultured, not farmed. 😉

“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten…”

Callum regained his composure and stood tall at the grotesque abominations before him, gritting his teeth. ‘This place will not break me!’

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Years ago I owned a book called Visions of Hell which I used to help write Last Battle. That book has now served me well in writing this chapter as the Dancescu twins finally enter Hell. I’m so happy I took a bit of time to work on my own projects.

Chapter 11 can be downloaded here.

DISCLAIMER: As always this tale is a first draft. It’s unchecked, unedited, and is pretty much as raw as I can type. Hence why it’s free. So no pointing out mistakes please!  Cheers!

Being Happy vs. Being Content

It’s 10:46 on a Monday night. I’ve got four screens beaming work, calendars, an Asana work list, and a forever looping vision-video at me in a my dimly lit room. Another long to-do list sits on the wall with many, MANY items yet to be checked off tonight. All the while downing alternating cups of coffee and water whilst listening to a mixture of Hollywood Undead, Carl Cox, and Dance with the Dead (check out that for a combination!)

Am I happy? F*ck yes!
Am I content? F*ck no!

It took me quite a while to get these two in their correct place. The struggle that sometimes overwhelmed me to keep my head above water in the early days of freelancing made almost want to quit and get a ‘normal’ job. To settle, and be content with what I was given.  So not only was I discontented, I was becoming massively unhappy too.
But of course I eventually ‘owned’ the struggle and accepted it as part of the process in order to get where I wanted to be. I refused to be where I see a lot of people were – content, yet unhappy. I made a promise to myself to keep these two the right way around. The book ‘Start Where You Are: Life Lessons in Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be‘ by Chris Gardner (the awesome guy who wrote The Pursuit of Happyness) really helped me see this.

You can have all the riches in the world, the nice cars, the houses, the lifestyle etc – but unless you’re truly happy, it stands for absolutely jack shit. We all want to be happy, but we forget what that looks like, or what will bring it into our lives. So many lottery winners end up depressed because the thing they thought would fix everything ultimately didn’t. I’ve been lucky in the fact I’ve had some great friends and family, and there have been some memorable times in my life so far. I’ve got my health, the means and desire to produce great work, and the determination to see my own projects through.

I’ve learned to remember what’s important and what isn’t. Yes of course I want to progress to a place of abundance in all aspects of life. And this is why we should never be content. We should always want to better ourselves, not just in material possessions, but in spiritual terms, and matters of the heart as well. Push forward and the satisfaction of acquisition through our efforts will inevitably make us happy.

And during those times where we are the most unhappiest? When we want to quit and give up? Those are the times we need to be the most aware and conscious of what is happening, because afterwards, when the battle is won and things are finally going our way, we’ll remember those times and be proud of our hard work that pulled us from our slump. During one Morning Coach episode, JB Glossinger commented on a conversation with Penn from Penn and Teller, where the magician said he wished he remembered the difficult times more when they were doing small shows as it was important to his journey.

I do realise I’m babbling now, but I guess what I’m saying is – don’t be unhappy in life, just be discontented. Gain happiness by looking around at what you do have and being grateful. There’s ALWAYS something to be grateful for – even if it’s just the air you breathe, or you have been given a life. Then always look for ways to improve your situation and grow. Even if I become a multi-millionaire I would refuse to be content, I’d continue using the wealth to better the world around me. There are goals, but no final end-goal.

Let’s all live in happiness, no matter what the circumstances, and work together to better ourselves, and the world around us.

Be happy, and never give up 🙂 x

 

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