Monday, 23 December 2013


As another year lurches towards the edge, I could go all introspective and maudlin...BUT ITS NEARLY CHRISTMAS!

So here instead is the Tales of the Oak Christmas Special, a wee slice of Christmas fear...

You may also enjoy this selection of festive treats.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

A Nip In The Air

So far this year, with the support of Heritage Lottery Scotland, Magic Torch have given you TWO WHOLE FREE BOOKS, Wee Nasties and Tales of the Oak - both still available online.

Now is your...let's call it a "lucky chance", to give a little something back. Torch are currently fundraising for contributions towards our next years projects - and if you enjoyed this years mix of free childrens books, comics, folklore and storytelling...then you won't be disappointed.

To help, we've released a new ebook collection exclusively on kindle which is ideally suited for this time of year. There's a wee bit of everything from doomed love to haunted industrial wastelands and it can be yours for a mere 99p - blimey, that's way less than a non alcoholic mulled cider drink or crepe from a European Christmas Market. And with at least half the calories.

Family member getting a kindle for Christmas? Know an elderly relative in need of a scare? Then show someone the price of your love - all 99p of it. Though I would argue there is at least £1.89 of value.

You can get A Nip In The Air on amazon now, all profits following enormous amazon cut, will be reinvested in local heritage projects run by volunteers, no individual contributors will benefit from it's sale...

And if you have enjoyed that, then don't forget our original classic folktale collection Tales of the Oak is on sale as well.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Alice's Wonderland Wedding (2)

Alice and The Watchmaker by Mhairi M Robertson
I really cannae tell ye how much I love this picture...

Last month I shared a wee bit of the Wonderland Wedding story I wrote for Sharon with illustrations by Mhairi. Here's another tiny piece...

There were still several shops in the little town which Alice had not visited yet.
'Perhaps I should just go into the first shop I see, and ask if I can borrow something from them. A cup of sugar perhaps. Or some milk. People are always borrowing those sorts of things.'
The nearest shop was a watchmakers, it had a smiling clock face hanging outside.
'A cup of sugar from the watchmaker,' said Alice, 'what could be difficult about that?'
A clock bell chimed noisily as Alice stepped into the quiet shop. It was almost silent.
'Oh,' said Alice, 'I expected it would be full of ticking and tocking.'
'Why on earth would that be? The shop is full of broken unfinished clocks.' said a very small voice.
Alice turned expecting to see someone behind her. There was no one there.
'I have been trying to fix this for seven thousand nine hundred and nineteen hours now.' said the little voice, sounding rather tired.
Alice looked all around the shop, but couldn't see anyone.
'Hello! Is someone here?'
'Here! I'm here. In the workings.'
Alice saw a pocket watch all laid out on the shop counter, and there, in amongst all the cogs, wheels and springs, was a little grey haired man with an enormous bushy moustache.
'My goodness. You're so tiny!'
'Well the very best way to fix a watch is to get in amongst it.' said the Watchmaker, 'Though this watch is quite the trickiest I have ever examined. First there was the jam to contend with. Then the cream. It was more cake than clock. No wonder it kept such terrible time.'
'Yes, the gentleman in question was nearly always late.'
'Oh!' said Alice, 'I believe I know who you mean.'
'However on the plus side, I have been able to make several rather nice flans with all the bits I've been scooping out. Baking is so much more relaxing a hobby than watchmaking.'
'Oh yes. You still have to watch the time, but you don't have to fix it.'
'What's wrong with this watch exactly?' asked Alice.
'Almost absolutely everything.' said the Watchmaker 'He had to fish it out of a well, it was running very slowly indeed down there.'
"I'm a bit behind the time myself,' said Alice, 'I wonder if I could perhaps borrow a cup of sugar for a wedding.'
'Afraid not,' said the Watchmaker, 'I've used all the sugar in the flans. And all the milk. I see you already have enough egg.'
The Watchmaker continued tinkering for a moment and then with a loud sigh, he threw all his little tools down on the counter.
'The thing is,' said the watchmaker, 'who is to say which clock is right any more.'
'Whatever do you mean?' asked Alice.
'If I'm to set all the clocks, and I decide that now one hour shall only last fifteen minutes so as to make time pass quicker whenever I have to visit Maiden Aunts, then is an hour really an hour anymore?'
'Yes,' said Alice very firmly, and then, 'oh, maybe not. I suppose an hour is however long you are told it is really. Though they certainly seem longer in the afternoon.'
'Precisely,' said the Watchmaker, 'and suppose someone has already decided an hour is quicker than it is, and what we think is an hour isn't an hour at all. Suppose an hour in this shop is different from an hour in the one across the road. You might leave here and arrive there before you've gone.'
The Watchmaker shook his head sadly.
'I think perhaps you should consider some more baking.' suggested Alice.
'Yes.' said the Watchmaker.
'Meantime,' said Alice, 'would you mind awfully if I borrowed this watch?'
'Well as it isn't working I don't suppose it matters who has it. Maybe it will actually give me a chance to fix something else I've been ignoring. I've a cat trapped in a clock I've been meaning to look at.'
'It's actually inside the clock?'
"I think so. Could be anywhere really.'
"Yes,' said Alice, 'I know a few cats like that myself.'

At this time of year, you may also enjoy a bit of Winter Wonderland, an Alice Christmas story I am totally going to finish next year. Yep. For realises. That's right.

Both Mhairi who illustrated the story and Sharon (who I wrote the story for) will be in attendance selling cool stuff with a whole lot of interesting folk at the Violet Skulls Market in The Dutch Gable House on Saturday 30 November. Come one come all.

Here's just a wee selection of the photos that Sharon will be selling as cards...


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Vogon Poetry

Earlier this year the Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy live show ran a Vogon Poetry competition, and I was one of the three lucky this poem has more of an excuse to be awful than the other ones I post.

Unblurst Flatula

Vast orbled sprattlefurk,
Wheezes blungest, horfing in wurmstudge;
Peuce rot warples dewily
Down glorgly primpled tunk
Blarpflanging in wretched ufflescag.
Let's split the bill.

Tragically, before I could bask in the brief glory of the poem actually being read out at the show tonight and meeting the fantastic cast with my children...the tour was unexpectedly cancelled to make way tour. A real nightmare for the hard working cast and crew.

Like every right minded carbon based lifeform, I love the work of Douglas Adams, if you do too, you won't be disappointed by this excellent vid...

Thursday, 31 October 2013



This is the Heritage Lottery Fund supported comic we just completed, Tales of the Oak...ideal reading for a Halloween. You can find some other Haloween related fun on the same Scribd page, including a witch trial to perform with your family. Smashing.

If you're not keen on witches and unreasonably upset by badgers, you may also enjoy A Cure For Witches

If one free horror comic isn't enough for you, you must also check out Hallowcream 2013...96 pages of nightmares.

And support your local folklorists, by purchasing Magic Torch's new Ghost Story ebook A Nip In The Air.

Here is the Morrissey video for Ouija Board, Ouija Board. Just cos.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Liff's Like That

A while back, I contributed to a selection of new "liffs" - originated by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd, liffs use placenames to create words for "things there should be words for".

One of my liffs has been published in the new collection; this is a very firm, if slender claim to fame, but in order not to spoil the fun of it, I have no intention of telling you which one is mine. If you buy the book, please feel free to imagine that the funniest one you read is mine. Meantime, another new selection...

To plunge a hand into a binbag to try and create more room

The gunk on your hand after performing a bindal

A feeling of easy confidence about achieving a deadline despite all previous evidence to the contrary

To be the best looking one in an amateur dramatic society

To give up on sexual intercourse after the third interruption by a small child

The polite ignorance of a major problem that allows everyone to get on with their life

The point of no return after a disley can no longer be ignored

To no longer notice the smell of cat litter in your own home

To despise all public art on principle

Now...have some fun making up yer own...

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Para Handy Versus Wicker Man

To celebrate the 40th Anniversary of The Wicker Man, an edited version of a fan-fiction mashup. Really wish BBC Scotland would consider optioning this for Hogmanay one year...

It was coming up for harvest time, and I was reminded of something Macfarlane had said the year before, about a trip he and the crew of the Vital Spark had taken out to a strange little island on the West Coast. The autumn sun, was low in the sky, and I thought I may be able to convince him to elaborate on this particular misadventure on account of it being such a balmy evening.

'It wass not a churney I would chuse to take again, no. And not fur any o the finest Pollokshaws tea. I will grant ye, it wass indeed the verry best fruit on the Western Isles, but it wass the strange fowk growin it wass the problem. Not strange like Edinburra types, thiss wass an aaltogether more particular strangeness, more like a Galloway strangeness, like Tressock or somesuch place. I would go as far as to say they were...unnatural. That did not bother us at aal at the time, sure we'd not long come back from Dunoon and there's more than a few uncanny sorts in Greenock docks as weel. However I wud be inclined to say, that world weary and imbued with the wisdom such as I am, even I wass not expecting such an odd trip aas this.

The cargo wass apples, it being harvest time on Summerisle - there were Gleska merchants we often ferried fur keen to stock up before Galoshans. Normally, as I'm shure ye would ken, the Fital Spark is more suited for the transporting of fine china and linens, but it headin towards wunter time, we were apt to consider a few quicker runs before shuttering down.

Late September it wass, with the nights warm enough, but on the turn. There wass not a one of us who did not enjoy a jurney doon the watter and oot to sea at this team o the season, fur there are better sunsets than ye will find in the warmer climes. No' that we get much of a chance to be sailin to the warmer climes, fur Macphail had that bad time by the Cape of Good Hope and now doesn't want us sailing past Hull.

The Tar had just scorched us aal some eggs as we reached our destination. It 's a pretty little harbour at Summerisle, but it wass our furst indication that thiss wass not to be a usual run, for there was a group of lassies, nekkid as the day, bathing in the bay. Sure, even on the Milport daytrips we had to do that summer, it wass nivver quite like that.
'Are they...singin?' asks Dougie.
'They are indeed Dougie,' says The Tar, 'and that's most certainly the most peculiar thing that could be said about them.'
Macphail wass after polishing up the spyglass the better to see us into port, when we saw the smiling gentleman on the shore.
'He seems very jolly.' says The Tar.
'Small wonder.' opines Dougie.
The maidens swam to shore, climbing out, very ladylike. After a fashion. Fur a variety of reasons it wass then all the easier fur us to dock. The Tar made a fine show of tying up, making even more of a meal of it than usual. Dougie and maself had the harder of the jobs, trying hard to find where to look, fur the ladies were still stood in the altogether, and, none too shy about it.
As we stept off, the ladies, still in not a stitch, slapped us gently with twigs and rushes. It wass Dougie who first cottoned on.
'This...seems a little like weetchcraft.' he whispers, so as not to offend the ladies by caaling them weetches. Yon was a hard lesson learned.
To be truthful, I had been thinking something similar, having once known a travelling lass on the east coast who claimed to be descended from the Egyptian. She was forever givin fowk the evil eye and cursin' something terrible.
' think I'll be efter clearin the hold fur aw the apples,' says Dougie, takin' a rare opportunity not to go ashore. Thankfully, and it must be said, unusually, The Tar and Macphail wur fur once only too pleased to help wi the heavy liftin', and wur doon the plank quicktime fur to get skelpt wi the sticks.

The Gentleman and a wee laddie were still standin smilin', welcoming us with open arms. And as ye ken, I'm none too fond o that type o over familiarity.
'Fine views in Summerisle don't you think?' he laughed.
'Ah weel, I wouldn't be bringing my old mither here fur the day thats fur sure.'
'Nonsense sir! I make sure my own son doesn't miss a moment of the celebrations!'
The Wee Laddie bowed politely. Very weel turned out wee laddie he was too, but I wasn't so keen on his cheeky wee smile..
'I'm the Laird of Summerisle,' says the Gentleman, 'I always enjoy showing new visitors around the island.'
The Tar and Macphail were jist aboot on bended knee thankin the Laird for his hospitality. I'm not a rude man, as ye weel ken, but I wass not of a mind to be stayin long.
'Is that fella dressed up as a fox there?'
As I pointed, this one ducks down behind a wall.
'Indeed! All the animals are out, ready for the ladies procession.'
Ah had a feelin it wasn't likely to be a Salvation Army parade they wur waitin fur.
The Laird led us through the wee toon, where aal sorts wur stoatin aboot the streets fallin doon drunk like it wass aw the Fayre weekends come at once. At every door there stood a wee table, piled high wi fruits, nuts and leaves. Kegs of beer and cider were passed freely up and doon the street and swigged as if they were meelk churns. My well quoted modesty permits me from discussing the antics I saw at the Kirkyard, but be assured ye wud not expect to see the like even in Govan. I am, as ye ken, a very patient and understanding man, but I felt that the Laird and his boy wur huvvin some sport wi us.
'Here now,' I says, 'what's thiss aal about? We are here for the aaples, not the shows.'
'It is autumn time Master Mariner! We must thank Demeter and Nuada for our bountiful harvest.'
'And can ye no thank them wi yer clothes on?'
'All the women are cleansing before the rituals. Soon, they will walk to their sanctuary in the caves, for fasting and sacrifice.'
Here The Tar nodded as if a scholar on this particular subject.
'And they put their clothes back on at any point?'
Laughing again, The Laird slapped The Tar on the arm, very over friendly.
'Will you not stay for the feast? It's only three days hence. The women will return with slaughtered piglets and wheat cakes.'
It wass clear to me, Macphail and The Tar wud have us stayin til Christmas and aaples be damned, but there was black magic at wurk. I cud feel it.
'Weel, that does sound...verry tempting. It's chust these aaples. Y'know what these Gleska merchants can be like.'
'Oh c'mon." said Macphail, 'a few days won't spoil them.'
I elbowed Macphail none too quietly to make my feelings oan the matter all the more plain.
Lord Summerisle smiled 'I've had my dealings with cityfolk, everyone is in a terrible hurry. Oh well, if we cannot tempt you, let us at least help you aboard with your cargo.'
Small mercy that fur aw his heathen ways, he wass still a gentleman. That's gentry fur ye. That Wee Laddie though, a terruble fire in his eyes.
A troop of burly well fed sorts appeared from nowhere and started throwing of the craates to one anither as if they wur boxes o feathers. In no time, the Fital Spark wass sittin fu' and we were settled.
'Macphail and The Tar moped aboot quite put oot by oor swift departure, but Dougie and I wud not huv stayed for anither whole boat fu o apples. We left then, puttin' the Summerisle behind us, with all its heedurum and hoderum, bound for Gleska and civilisation - if you can imagine such a terror.
'If we'd stayed but one night oan that island, we'd huv been hingin aff an apple tree by dawn' I said, to try and cheer up The Tar and Macphail. But it wass to no avail.

The craates of aapples stufft the hold, sure someone had paid a terruble price for that harvest. But nivver let it be said that they weren't the best of apples.
Dougie waas especially fond of them candied.'

Macfarlane grabbed an apple from a nearby barrel and tossed it to me, nodding sagely, having felt he had once again made his point. I was not of a mind to disagree.

A full collection of arcane Para Handy stories The Strange Cargoes of Para Handy is forthcoming. For now, you can read another story in the ebook version of Tales of the Oak. Or enjoy further spooky tales in our ebook Ghost Story collection A Nip In The Air, available on amazon for kindle.

And while we are on a nautical good is this item...exclusively available from The Dutch Gable House....Ghost Ship in A Bottle...

Now here's the Medieval Baebes doing Summerisle from The Wicker Man soundtrack...

Thursday, 3 October 2013

National Poetry Day - Water, Water Everywhere

by sharon with love

Near The Sea

She wore the smoke
Like a veil.
Shrouded in cloud
She waited.
Wanting me to say
I’m sure,
All the things I wanted to say.
But I was so interested 
In the litter,
Gathering in the gutter rain
And the town clock 
Barely visible through the grey,
That I forgot to tell her.
I forgot to say.
The chimes
Echoed through the weather
And the moment
Was washed away
As hopeless, as helpless
As a paper yacht at sea.
She turned
And though the rain
Had matted her hair across her face
In knots and curls
It could not hide those eyes,
Now two hollows, swallowing light,
Empty of me.
Tears fell
On cracked dry lips
That never kissed.
And that was the last boat I missed.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Alice's Wonderland Wedding

This is a wee teeny tiny bit of a Wonderland Wedding story I wrote for Sharon this year (the handmade for realsies one has some specially produced illustrations by Mhairi Robertson Armstrong - they are awesome)

‘Flower girl! Flower girl!’ exclaimed a very agitated Dowager striding towards Alice, ‘Has that cat been peppered?’
‘I beg your pardon?’ said Alice, adding a little curtsey to help things along.
‘Has your cat been peppered this morning? We need all the cats sneezing for the Queen.’
‘Why should the cats be sneezing?’
‘Good luck of course! The bride should always hope to see sneezing cats on the way to her wedding.’
‘Oh I see,’ said Alice, which was only partly true, ‘Is the Queen getting married?’
‘Indeed she is. Have you got all the things you were sent for?’
Alice knew she didn’t always pay quite enough attention to her elders and betters, but she felt sure that on this occasion she had not been sent anywhere for anything by anyone.
‘Excuse me please, what things do you mean?’ asked Alice.
‘What a stupid Flower Girl you are. The queen can’t get married without something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. It’s bad luck!’
‘Won’t she perhaps have enough good luck with all the sneezing cats?’ enquired Alice.
‘One can never have too much good luck where weddings are concerned,’ suggested the Dowager darkly.
Alice knew very little about weddings, except the bits with cakes, but she did know something about good luck.
‘Bless you’ said the Dowager, ‘But it’s your cat that needs peppering, not you.’
‘Horsehoes are good luck,’ explained Alice, ‘we could give the Queen one of those!’
‘She already has a horseshoe.’
‘Perhaps we could give her some more?’
‘Don’t be ridiculous, the horses can’t spare that many shoes, we don’t have enough slippers.’
Alice wasn’t sure this conversation was getting her anywhere, though she was starting to feel there was somewhere she ought to be.
‘Well?’ said the Dowager.
‘Well.’ Smiled Alice, assuming this was a polite pause.
‘Run along and get everything this instant! Right foot first! It’s half past eleven now and the Queen is to be married at quarter to three. Hurry along!’

Alice was so startled, that without really knowing where she was going, she hurried off to look for everything.

The story has Alice meeting new and old characters from Wonderland while exploring all sorts of strange wedding folklore. Since writing it, we've had a wee thought about maybe making special bespoke versions for people to give as gifts on Wedding Days. Dunno. If you think that's a good idea, drop me a line. Regardless, if yer after a particularly special gift for any occasion, I would recommend a wee piece of specially commissioned artwork from Mhairi.

You can read more of my literary fanfic, or skip straight to more Wonderland Wedding or Alice's Winter Wonderland....

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Ten is Tin

Our 10th anniversary tattoos

Today, Sharon and I celebrate our 10th Wedding Anniversary, very much still in love.

And if you can't be self indulgent on a blog, where else can you be? Well, facebook and twitter obviously, but, I'm on here just now so...

Here is the first poem I wrote for Sharon not long after we started 'going steady', which I also read out on our wedding day, ten years ago...

All I don't say
Could fill the sky
Scrawled and scribbled
Across the heavens
For only you to see.
All I don't say
You've heard before,
Well meant and whispered
In soft light.
All I don't say,
You already know.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Going to Mars on MAVEN

Always been a big fan of Mars, so earlier in the month myself and my son Connor wrote some haiku to be sent aboard the Maven space probe to Mars. Poetry...on mars! Get in.

Here are Connor's two...

In the red life of
Dust, there was shining water
Flowing, through the rocks.

You and your friends are
Floating in your rocket while
Reading this poem.

He decided to send the first one. You can vote for Connor's entry here

I went with

In the red silence
Old ice cracks and bursts with life.
Soon we will hear it.

Do happy tripods
Build little red sandcastles
Down by the canals?

I've sent the second one, and am now wondering if there's a gap in the market for a kids book featuring Lil HG Wells Martians frolicking across the arid landscape of Mars.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Red Weeds

It being almost Martian invasion time (HG Wells Martians invaded in the summertime), here's a wee excerpt from my War of the Worlds story Terminus, which is a collection of personal histories, poetry and banned texts detailing the truth of the Martian invasion.

“While visiting a friend in Southsea recently, I was fortunate enough to be invited to an evening dance in one of the many villas. The hostess - a charming lady renknowned for such gatherings - had arranged for a medium to be present, perhaps to give a small show during the band's intermission. At first I must confess to thinking this a terribly vulgar addition to so formal an evening - I believe such characters to be charlatans who should remain at the furthest away end of any seaside pier. My friend shared my opinion, but in the interests of etiquette, we stayed silent on this matter.

The intermission arrived, and a woman took to the stage. She introduced herself as a Mrs. Guppy and I must admit that she was not the sort of swarthy individual I had been expecting. Indeed she looked entirely at home in such company. After the traditional summoning up of various deceased family members, she looked toward my friend with a great deliberation. She asked - though it sounded very little like a request - that he should join her on stage.

Naturally my colleague complied, though I am certain he would have done almost anything to avoid this fate. She lulled my friend into a sleep, and explained that through him, she was going to 'channel' a message from the stars. I was incredulous and asked why she could not channel this message herself. Mrs. Guppy explained to myself and the crowd that there were only certain of us who could receive these messages. And while she herself could not, she was able to "sense" those who could. Such bunkum continued for a further five minutes, and I was surprised to see that the rest of the audience were enthralled by her theosophist babblings.

After a time, I began to see a change come over my friend, his complexion paled and although his eyes were now opened, he seemed to be staring into space. I was about to move toward the stage to rouse him from his trance, when all of sudden...there was the most frightful howl. It took me a few moments to realise that the source of the noise was my friend himself. Again he howled "Ulla! Ulla!". The sound was like no other I have heard before, and it was obvious that my friend could not be the true source of so inhuman a cry. I resolved to wake him from his stupor, for I had the most definite belief that he was in danger. The howling rang out again, certain of the ladies were beginning to weep and couples were making to leave. I stepped toward the stage and reached out for my colleague. Mrs. Guppy chastised me sharply. 'Do not touch him. Despite what you hear..he is not in pain. It would be more dangerous for you to wake him from this trance so suddenly. I will bring him back.'

I asked her what the noise was....where it was coming from. I still hoped -half heartedly-that there was some sort of theatrics involved. She turned from me and addressed the remnants of her audience. 'This is the sound of the dead planet Mars preparing their forces for attack. You will hear this sound again. When they arrive.'

Mrs. Guppy woke my friend gently, and then left the stage."

Terminus is part of the Stramashed ebook which, as has been previously noted, costs less than many of todays popular chocolate bars, with markedly better impacts on health.

Here's an even briefer excerpt, a wee Martian invasion haiku

Dead trees are daubed 
In gaudy red violence 
As the weed marches.

And if you would like to send actual haiku to Mars, the MAVEN spacecraft which is heading to Mars this November, is looking for your poetry. You have until July 1st to enter and potentially have your name and poem basting off towards the supposedly dead planet Mars...