Monday, 29 April 2013

Magic Falls Part Seventeen

“You….what?” I ask, totally off-guard.

“mercy we want mercy”

“I…who from? From me?”

“yes from you mercy from you we beg darrenoneill we beg for mercy”

They seem to now have completely shrunk in front of me. The two aspects of them that I could see earlier, the two perspectives, have now deadened. The glamour is no longer there, and now I just see some small, desperate fairies making brainwashed children dance.

There aren’t too many children., six. But they’re crying and exhausted, all of them. And underweight visibly.

“Let them stop.” I say, feeling my own anger rising in my voice.

“we…i…we cannot for long we need them to – “

“LET THEM STOP!” I roar at them, lost in my own fury. “They’re children!  They’re exhausted! Let them stop, now!”

They hesitate again, but when I take a step towards them, they cower back.

“we stop them we stop them we stop them we do as you ask we stop them”

As if their strings have been cut, the children drop to the ground, exhausted.

I walk over to them.

“no we stopped them you must speak to us now not them leave – “

“Shut up,” I say, ignoring them. “I’m speaking to them first.”

For the first time since I woke up in there, there are no other noises other than gasping and whimpering from scared, exhausted children.

“Kids….hey, kids,” I say.

Some of them look over at me.

“This is going to be okay, I promise. Okay?”

They look scared.

“Is one of you Andrea Whittaker?”

A little girl with brown hair raises her hand. I walk over to her and kneel in front of her. “Hi there,” I say. 
“I’m a friend of your daddy’s, and I’m going to take you home to him as soon as I’ve finished with the people who took you, okay?”

She sniffs and looks up at me with reddened eyes. “I want to go home.” She says, flatly.

“I’m going to get you home as soon as I can. All of you,” I say looking around at the others. “We’re going to be out of here very soon, so just sit still for a few minutes. Can you do that for me?”

To be honest, from the state of exhaustion they’re in, I don’t think they could go far.

“They need water,” I say to the fairies.

“we….we will….”

“I’m taking them away from here.”

“NO!” they scream at me this time, and they attempt to push their glamour harder, turning themselves into enormous demons staring down at me.

I stand and look at them, and start making my way towards them, challenging them. The glamour doesn’t last, and they shrink in on themselves like they’ve deflated, their snarl caught in their throat.

“Why me?” I ask. “Why did you want to talk to me?”


“You want mercy, you want to, what, negotiate?” I say.


“Then you start by explaining the deal. And if I were you, I’d start fast, because I’m about to walk out of here with the children.”

“no not the children please not the children please not - "

“What do you need them for?”

“……we hunger”

“You feed on them?”

“….no we do not feed on them no we feed….. we feed from them…..feed from their work their effort their dancing we feed”

“And when they can’t go on any more?”

“we......we find more”

I turn back to the children as I continue to speak to them.

“Then what makes you think that I’d be in any way interested in negotiating?”

“the war is coming and we know what you lost what you will lose”

They say it slyly, creeping towards me. I stop, frozen, thinking about Nina.

“Don’t you dare.”

“we know what you lose what you lost and we can help we can help you save it”

I think. I wait.

“all we want is the children that is all just them just enough just to feed just to be remembered”


“please all we want is to be remembered magic is falling it is falling and we fall with it if we are forgotten please just mercy when they tell your legend - ”

“You don’t get mercy. You feed on children.” I’m scared of what I’m giving up. I’m scared of walking out of the deal. But I have to. “You don’t get to be remembered.”

I walk to the children, and I take Andrea’s hand, and I tell the rest of them to follow me. Now the glamour has fallen, I can see my way back to the circle… or at least to a circle. It may be ill-judged confidence, but I can feel their panic rising as I walk away from them.

“you will die but you will die after her after she dies screaming after your child dies”

I hold the children’s hands, and we stand in the circle.

“Nobody will ever use this circle again. And every circle I find, I’ll destroy,” I say, my anger at them refusing to fall. “You know who I am. You know what I am. You tried to threaten me, and I can take that. I even know that you feed on children because you’re desperate, because you’re hungry. And I may not be able to blame you for that, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t try to stop you.”

“no please we did not mean it please stay just leave one just leave one just one child please just leave one”

“You want my help to be remembered. To survive. To feed. That’s all you want, isn’t it?”
I can feel the circle letting us through now, beginning to send us back to Bretton.

“yes all we want is to survive please just leave one child please let us survive please let us feed”


“but you will kill us if we cannot feed on the children we must feed on them we must”

“You don’t get them. You don’t get it, do you?” I say, as their world begins to fade from site and I can begin to see the trees around the circle back in Bretton again.

“This is a war and you aren’t on our side.”

And then we’re back in Bretton.

And Jack is there, and he runs over and he holds Andrea, and she holds him, and I feel so exhausted right now.

“I thought you weren’t coming back,” he says to me.

“I…” The rest of the kids make their way out of the circle and gather. “They need help. They need to go home.”

Something about Jack is bothering me. Why does he look so different?

“I came every day,” he says holding Andrea. “I didn’t give up.”

God, I’m tired. Why does Jack have a beard? He didn’t have a beard earlier.

“Jack…how long was I down there?” I ask.

“….you…” he looks at me, and everything begins to swim. 

" long?"

“You were down there for three months.”

I pass out.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Magic Falls Part Sixteen

“What have you done with the children?” I ask, trying to ignore the music which is edging its way into my brain.

“dance with us do it dance with us”

My vision splits again, and this time, it seems like I’m looking at them surrounding me, stood perfectly still, while also being aware that they’re all dancing. All of them. Some of them just bobbing mildly, but others whirling around frenziedly.

And I look around for a moment, trying again to process the conflicting images in my eyes and head, and then I see the children.

There are maybe a dozen of them, and they’re all dancing. Some of them are crying. They look exhausted, and I wonder if one of them is Andrea.

Seeing them like that snaps me back into my own head for a moment, and gives me something to distract myself from the constant thumping of the music.

“You’re hurting them!” I shout at them.

One of them (or is it all of them?) replies:

“no not hurting just dancing they dance with us forever we keep it fun for them”

The music is back, stronger than before, and now it begins to hurt my head. Throbbing in time with the beat, which makes me want to join it, to dance.

The pressure in my head feels like it wants to explode out of my ears, eyes, nose and mouth in a torrent of blood and bile. I struggle against it, still trying to make sense of them.

“What happens when they can’t dance any more?” I ask quietly, sweat dripping down my face.

They start their light laughing again, which gives me some irritation to focus on at the very least.

“they don’t stop why would they stop they keep dancing until they can’t dance no more can’t dance no more”

“Why… why do you force them to do that?”

“no not force never force just let them dance let the music do its work”

God help me, I can feel the music.

“What do you get out of it?” I ask.

For a moment, the music falters as they hesitate in answering.

“they make us stronger their dancing it feeds us it nourishes us it makes us…more”

They feed on them. The children. Of course they do. They use the music to force them to dance, and then they feed on them like leeches.

My body wants to join it, even if my mind is rebelling against the music. It can feel it, mirroring my heartbeat, and wanting to join it, wanting to throw myself in and forget everything, just be part of the stream of music.

I can feel the dance beginning in my heart and infecting the rest of me, and I try to focus on Nina, on Maria, on Jack, on Andrea, even on bloody Jamie bloody Moore….

“dance with us dance with us join our dance dance with us”

No, there’s something else, isn’t there?

Something I’m forgetting.

Something Jamie said.

Think about who they prey on. That’s what he said, wasn’t it?

I try, one last time to ignore the pounding in my head from the music, and concentrate on that.

What did he mean?

They prey on children.

Why do they prey on children? Who preys on children? In the wild, who preys on baby birds, on eggs, on cubs, on….

I breathe in and out slowly for a moment, trying to stop fighting what I’m seeing and hearing.

They are beautiful and horrible. I am drawn to them and repelled by them.

“dance with us”

But now I have their measure. Now I know what they are.

“No.” I say, as I allow the music to wash over me, and I decide not to dance to it. That easily. I just decide it.

“but you want to you want to dance with us”

And now there’s a tone in their voice that there wasn’t before.


“No.” I say again, and I walk towards them now. “No. I thought you were powerful, but you’re not, are you?”

They withdraw from me, and they now look so much smaller than they did earlier.

“You prey on children, because you’re not strong enough to prey on adults. Are you?”

“no not true not true we are powerful do not test us we are more powerful-“

I laugh at them, bitter and full of scorn.

“I’m standing right here. Bring me down if you want to, but I don’t think you can. I think you have to try and trick your way, and that’s why you work on children. But you brought a child of a friend of mine here, and you did it to speak to me.”

The music has stopped now, and they’re all regarding me carefully.

“So, I’m here.” I say. “What do you want?”

And then they do something I am not expecting.

They fall to their knees.

All of them.


Tuesday, 16 April 2013

How to set up a writing group

I’ve run a writing group in North London for over two years now. I set one up in York a few years before that. Like so many things, I got the idea from my mother.

My mum has now had 10 novels published (you can find her over on her website  - buy her books!), and she attended a writing group every couple of weeks for over fifteen years, which was run for some time by the overwhelmingly experienced Malcolm Ross-MacDonald. I attended a couple of times when I was dabbling in writing as a teenager.

When I started doing more than dabbling, a writing group seemed like an obvious thing. I’ve had enough people ask me about it, or express disappointment that there isn’t one near them, I thought I’d put together a few tips on setting up your own.

1 – Find a space.

The group my mum attended was in a library. The first one I set up was in a side-room in a pub. The second one I set up was in a small independent bookshop (the wonderful Big Green Bookshop).
All you need is a quiet room with enough seats and, ideally, a table of some kind. And the table isn’t that necessary.

If it’s a pub, ask them if you can use their quietest room on a night they don’t have anything going on. In return, on a regular basis, you’ll get a few people in it who will buy drinks and some snacks. If it’s a bookshop or a library, and they’re not opposed to events, ask if they already have one, and if not, ask if they’d be interested in one.

If you, or someone you know, has a large enough living room, that’s always a possible as well – but I’d recommend finding somewhere neutral. It’s one thing to host it once or twice, but another to host it regularly.

2 – Choose how often you run.

The first couple of groups you run, you should ask the group when they want to run, and choose the night that is likely to please the most people. You probably won’t be able to please everyone, but that’s inevitable.

I find Tuesday or Wednesday nights are good. They’re not big social nights, and there’s not that much on TV-wise. Start late enough for people to get there, but not so late that you run into the middle of the night.

I suggest running every two weeks. If you do it weekly, you’re likely to burn people out. If you do it monthly, people are going to forget when it’s on. Fortnightly is just often enough, and it gives people enough time to write in-between sessions.

3 – Find people

Twitter, facebook and your venue are your friends here. Ask your venue to tell people as well. A notice in a bookshop or library will automatically get some people interested. The most important thing, once you’ve started, is to keep going. It will naturally grow,

4 – Drinks/snacks

We run a charge at the bookshop group. It goes to two places – firstly, it buys drinks and snacks for the group. White wine, red wine, water and fruit juice. Also, any cash left over, we give to the shop, to cover them keeping the place open for us. £3 each seems to cover it. If you’re in a pub, give them the custom and don’t charge the group.

5 – Format

First off, if we have anyone new, we run through quick introductions. Your name, the kind of thing you write, and what you’re working on now.

Then, I ask people to put their hands up if they have anything with them to read. It shouldn’t be compulsory (although you’ll naturally have people who only turn up when they’ve written). Then, each person reads out a segment of what they’re currently doing (no more than 1,500 – 2,000 words usually). When they’re done, we give feedback, and the writer responds to the feedback.

Of course, you can print out and pass round if you prefer. Having done both, I suggest reading out as standard. It’s scary. Of course it’s scary. But it’s worth getting the hang of. You’ll get better at it, and that will help your confidence.

Once you’ve all done that, you can all go to the pub. Or, if you’re in the pub, you can leave.

6 – Rules

I keep two main rules and one smaller rule.

The main rules are:

A – No egos. Everyone’s stuff is up for criticism.

B – Keep it constructive. There’s no point tearing something to pieces. You’re there to help.

The smaller rule?

Nobody asks “is this based on you?” when they hear what you’ve written. It’s irrelevant, potentially forcing people to answer a personal question, and if it is based on you, it only makes it difficult to give feedback on. 

It’s a question based in natural curiosity, but if it’s relevant, allow the writer to bring it up. It’s nobody else’s business – after all, if it sells, the reader won’t know it’s based on their real experiences.

7 – What’s the point?

A writing group performs a few functions. Firstly, it reminds you all that you’re in the same boat. And that’s useful. It reminds you that you’re normal. Or, if you’re weird, you’re not that much weirder than the rest.

Secondly, it provides motivation. Once you’ve been through a few sessions while not bringing something to the group, you’ll want to write.

Thirdly, you’ll get better. Reading it out, hearing what other people are writing, hearing the feedback… you’ll start picking up on what you’re doing wrong. And if you don’t, someone else will.

Finally, it’s social. And social is important when you’re doing something as naturally solitary as writing. It’s good to get out every now and then.

8 – But what if someone’s awful?

You know what? Doesn’t happen.

Oh, sure, some are better than others. And not everyone is good. But I’ve been running a group in London for over two years, and we regularly have a good number of people there. And nobody has been outright terrible. NOBODY. I’ve never heard anything that’s made me think “Oh, just give up”.

You’re there to get better. Everyone is. And when you see people getting better, it’s wonderful, and it’s even better when you realise that you’re getting better.

Don’t be afraid to give your thoughts. Just keep them constructive.

Any questions? Any thoughts? Comment below or tweet me (@chrisbrosnahan), and if I realise I’ve missed something, I’ll add it here.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Magic Falls Part Fifteen



just        too




I wake up and I can’t see anything. It is dark in front of my eyes, but it’s like the darkness carries a physical weight, making everything heavier.

I raise my hand in front of my face, but I can’t see it.

I am lying on the ground, but it doesn’t feel hard. It feels soft, as if I’m lying down on the grass in a park on a summer’s day. It’s comfortable and warm.

I climb to my feet, a little unsteadily. At least the spinning sensation that overwhelmed me when I stepped into the circle is gone.

“Hello?” I say quietly. I look down and I can’t see what I’m standing on. “Hello?” I say again, this time noticing more of an edge of panic in my voice.

I grope around blindly, looking for…I don’t know. A wall, maybe. A wall means a door somewhere, and right now, a door sounds like a useful thing.

What is scaring me the most right now is how comfortable everything seems. It may be dark, but I’m warm and enveloped in the darkness. It feels almost like I’ve returned home to the womb.

Well, I think, with the first smile since I’ve woken up, I worked out a way out of there…

Moving forward carefully with my arms outstretched, it strikes me that I must look like someone doing a bad Boris Karloff Frankenstein impersonation. I wonder if I should say “Frie-e-e-nds” while I try to find my way, and the idea makes me want to giggle.

Some survival instinct deep inside me kicks in, because I stifle the giggle. Don’t laugh, it tells me. Laughter leads to laughter. Laughter to hysteria. Hysteria to madness, and if you go mad here, you’re lost forever.

“Hello?” I shout this time, and this time, I hear other voices responding.




Most of them are young, and some of them are panicked. They feel far away and close at the same time but as more and more answer, I realise that something else has joined them, and there is something else in the darkness that is repeating it and calling out, mocking us.

But it’s given me some sense of direction. Some sense of where the voices are.

And the mocking makes me angry, and I move towards it.

“What do you want?” I shout, and the voices respond to me. The voices of children first.


“Who’s there?”




“I’m down here!”

And then the other voices, speaking more as one now.

we want you don’t you know that we want you just as you want us”

“What have you done with them?” I shout, anger beginning to blind me more than the darkness. “What have you done with me?”

“we brought them where they wanted to be where they wanted to be where they wanted to be”

I am now running towards the voices, with no idea what to do when I reach them.

“What do you want with them?”

The voices begin to laugh now.

“just to dance”

And now I have them, and they feel so close.

I stop running.

“What are you scared of?” I ask. “Why the secrecy?”

“we are not scared no darren we are not scared”

“So let me see you.”

“is that a command?” they ask and then they laugh again.

“Let me see you.” I say, and this time, I try to make clear to them that a command is exactly what it is. My anger and my fear are lending me more strength than I realised.

And then the lights come on.

I am in something that appears to be the inside of a dark cave, with deep crevices in the cracks in the walls…no, roots, that’s what they are, roots… stretching upwards, but it also seems to be like I’m standing in the middle of a field on a summer’s day.

Everything feels near and far at the same time, and I can feel my brain trying to make sense of what I’m looking at.

“it is difficult for your sort to see us do not push against it easier if you let it be”

I try to stop fighting the illogic in what I’m looking at, and just accept it. And then I see them more clearly. They are standing around me.

Hundreds of them.

Thousands maybe.

They stand in crowds around me, both larger than I am and smaller than I am, and they line up in the crevices in the roots, and now I can hear the music, which is underneath everything.


“dance with us”

Continue to Part 16

Monday, 1 April 2013

Magic Falls Part Fourteen

I march over to him, wanting to slap the cigarette out of his hand, but restraining myself at the last moment.

“Who the hell are you?” I snap at him.

“I’m Jamie Moore,” he says. “Old friend of Jack’s, in’t that right, Jack?”

“I’ve known Jamie for a long time,” Jack says. “A lot longer than you, Darren.”

I look back at Jack. “Then how have I never met him?”

“I’ve only just bloody met you,” he replies.

“I know,” I say. “But…” How do I explain that I’ve already known him for months and months before now? 
I know he accepts the idea, but how do I explain how well I already know him?

“Jamie’s the guy that put me in touch with you in the first place,” he says. “I know I shouldn’t have thrown away your paper, but you have to admit that your story was….well, it was weird, and then Andrea went missing, and Jamie told me you were key to it all.”

“Relax, mate,” Jamie says, walking around me and towards the circle. “The issue here isn’t me. The issue here is this thing, isn’t it?”

“Exactly,” Jack says.

“Y’see, Darren – “ he gestures around the circle. “A bunch of poncy art students sculpt stuff that mean that every kid that walks through these trees, in this secluded part of ground in a secluded area of West Yorkshire is thinking about fairies when they do it.”

He begins to walk around the circle as he talks, and I feel the hairs on the back of my neck begin to stand up. “And this is an area of highly concentrated potential for magic. There are a few of them dotted around the country. But areas where ley-lines converge in this kind of number? There aren’t many of them. Bretton Hall is one. Trafalgar Square is another. Glastonbury, Stonehenge, Avebury, the Rollright Stones...there are a handful more, but Bretton? Bretton’s the one everyone forgot about.”

“You’re walking around it widdershins,” I say to him.

“What is that?” Jack asks. “Jamie said it earlier. What is it?”

“Just means anti-clockwise, Jack, that’s all,” Jamie says, continuing to walk. “So, you’ve got this place with this high potential for magic, and then you take all of this concentrated belief of little kiddies believing that fairies live in the area. And that gives off a very bad signal.”

He stops walking. “What kind of signal?” I ask.

He lifts his foot to step into the circle. “The kind the faerie folk listen to.”

He puts his foot down and steps into the circle.

Nothing happens.

“But, see, they don’t want to speak to me.” He says. “See, I reckon Andrea is safe, because the faerie aren’t stupid. They haven’t been doing this because they suddenly got hungry or something.”

“So why are they doing it?” I ask. I’m still rankling at the feeling I’ve been manipulated, but if Jack’s daughter has been taken, then that comes first.

“They’re doing it because of you, Darren.”

Everything suddenly seems very quiet. Very still.


“They’re doing it because of you.”

“What the… what do you mean?”

“Did Darren have something to do with Andrea’s disappearance?” Jack asks Jamie.

“Not quite, mate.” He replies. “But think about it. They take the daughter of his best friend. Of one of the Knights. That was sending a message, that was. And one that had to be delivered loud and clear.”

“Jack and I have only just met.” I point out. “How can they know about…”

“Don’t play stupid,” Jamie says, with a thin smile, and he starts walking towards me. “You came back. The faerie, they exist with a… different perception of time to us. So from their point of view, it’s already happened, and it never happened at the same time.”

“You know I came back?”

“I know. They know. Others know.”

I can’t help myself any more, and I rush him, tackling him to the ground. My hands find their way to his collar as I pin him down and shout at him. “Who are you?”

Despite the fact that he landed roughly, he isn’t winded. He just laughs in my face. “Talk about an awkward bloody question.” He says, as he pushes me gently off. “Who I am doesn’t matter. It never mattered. But you’ll find out, don’t worry.”

The laugh takes the wind out of my sails, and I slump back. “How do I know if you’re on our side?”

“You don’t.” he says, lighting another cigarette. “But you don’t have much choice. Look, if it makes you feel better, I don’t have much of a horse in this race. I’m more about keeping the status quo, and that means pushing a few things into the right places. Putting square pegs into round holes, for example. And right now, you’re a square peg, and that circle is looking awfully bloody round to me.”

“You said they want to send me a message,” I say.

“He’s a fast learner, this one, isn’t he?” he says to Jack.

“What message do they want to make clear to me?”

“I’m not sure, but I suspect they want to negotiate. Y’see, they know all about this war that’s coming, and they want to make sure that whichever side wins, they’re not on the losing one.”

“What can you tell me about them?”

“Nothing. It’s against the rules.”

“There are rules?”

“There are always rules. All I’ll tell you is this. Just think about who they usually prey on. Think about it, and otherwise, do what seems appropriate.”

I look at the circle. “Why me?”

“Because of what you are.”

“What do you mean ‘what I am’?”

“Sorry,” he says, standing up. “I misspoke. Obviously. I meant to say ‘who you are’, didn’t I?”

Didn’t he, indeed. I look over at Jack, who is looking… well, is looking completely out of his element.

I think of Nina, and I know what I have to do.

“How do I do this?” I ask. “I need to walk around it, or, say something, or…”

“For most people, sure,” he says. “If they want them. They’re absolutely sodding gasping to speak to you though, Darren. So I reckon all you have to do is to step in.”

“Will this get Andrea back?” Jack asks.

“No guarantees, my son,” Jamie says. “It’s all down to Darren, now.”

They both look at me as I walk to the circle.

I can feel a crackling around it. Like static.

I lift my foot to step into it, and then put it down inside the circle.

As my foot makes contact with the ground, it happens. I just have time to close my eyes




Continue to Part Fifteen