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Laughing Boy by M B Blissett



Love is forever.

TOMMY MARTIN is a single father to PENNY, since the death of his wife Sophie. When he finds happiness again with an enigmatic artist, Tommy finds himself facing supernatural forces intent on harming everyone closest to him. He must face the darkest days of his past in order to save his daughter, even if it means facing death itself.

Coming soon to Amazon in ebook and paperback.

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Limited Service



Lizzie stood alone on the platform, arms wrapped around herself, and looking down the tracks. Every noise made her react until even the rasp and rattle of the breeze had her nerves on edge.

Harry had once told her about the ghost trains. Scheduled trains that stopped at odd places, single journeys that appeared to end up going nowhere.  Kept open because it was easier than closing down a line, itself made cumbersome by an Act of Parliament.

He had taken her once, back when things were good, and they had watched it come in. Empty and unused, just an ordinary process made magical by their presence, an imp of bureaucracy at the bottom of their heart’s garden.

He wasn’t coming. She only hoped that it was late enough that the kids would stop knocking on the door, asking for sweets.

That’s what had started it between them.

She had come home with a couple of bags of generic chewy candies, individually wrapped and an orange moulded plastic bucket shaped like a jack o’lantern. Ten minutes queuing in the pound shop and change from a five pound note. She was excited to show Harry, a way of testing the water to see if he had changed his mind about things. The little rituals that she had dreamed of since they had met.

He had looked at the shopping bag in her hand, sneering from the couch as he put the controller down.

‘What the fuck is that for?’

She grimaced, her stomach starting to hurt at how his tone of voice whipped through her like a belt being swung.

‘Thought we’d get summat when the kids show up.’

He shook his head and picked up the controller.

‘Not answering the fucking door t’kids.’

She set the bag on the table and began to take off her coat.

‘You don’t have to, Harry, I will. It’s not like it’s a nice thing to do, or anything like that.’

He often ignored her sarcasm, she had learned how to phrase a comment so that it sailed over his head like a paper airplane but not always. His frustration was fuel for the engine in him that made his self awareness a touch more acute.

‘What’d you say to me?’

He had not gotten up from the couch but he had pushed his heels against the couch, ready to get up and then it would follow the usual pattern. Him, invading her space with his squat, bulldog physique going to seed and his bitter, oily breath. A magnet with two polarities: indifference or aggression.

On cue, he got up and swept the bag from the table.

‘No fucking kids, in my fucking house. ‘

She backed up against the counter, breathing hard and struggling not to cry.

She did not cry when he struck her across the cheek. A maintenance slap. She had endured worse than this but it never stopped hurting.

It was the sight of the bucket, broken pieces poking out through the handles of the bag that did it. A perfect symbol of what she wanted and would never have.

She reached behind her. The wooden handle of the knife he had used and left to cut the loaf open felt right in her hands. When he slapped her again, she closed her eyes and swung the knife, in a perfect downward arc.

He fell back, clutching at his throat with his hand. The blood squirted through it, against his fingers as he collapsed against the table.

There was so much blood. An ocean of it inside him, pouring out through such a tiny cut in him.

She dropped the knife. She did not grab her coat as she left.

Outside, tight little knots of supervised children clad in masks and cloaks of black rubbish bags, led by wearied parents moved around her. She was running without a destination in mind.

Away. It was all she could think of. Away.

Harry had been into trains. Studying timetables and spending hours waiting for particular  engines to arrive into the station. He had been gentle once, before the accident. The compensation that had not gone as far as they had hoped. The pain had rewired their lives together into something desperate and vicious. She ran into the station, and looking at the clock knew that it was due anytime now.


The huff and screech of it’s arrival compelled her to step to the edge of the platform.

She got on as the sirens grew louder. When the doors closed behind her, a chill hand brushed the hair from her face. She shut her eyes and felt cold breath on her cheek.

Welcomed her home.



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You sit in the back seat, damp with the warmth of four people in close proximity, all of them radiating waves of panic and excitement. If someone asked you where you were on that spectrum as you thrum, fuelled by two cups of coffee and an apple danish, you wouldn’t be able to answer.

This is a job, rather than a caper. You weren’t above capers, copper wire from new housing projects, an unattended briefcase or a dropped wallet. Back when you were using, you needed to get that high by any means necessary which you did a lot. But it was all harmless. You rode the needle until a bad batch killed six people you knew, and another twelve you didn’t. You got clean, found that the sour smell from days without washing didn’t suit your style anymore. You started to pull jobs.

You can’t stop yourself from wondering whether this is another high you were chasing. You’re good, though. Disciplined in a way that you fear most of the other people in the car aren’t.

There’s one guy that you are afraid might be disciplined. If he’s right, then you are breaking into somewhere that a smart girl would try and pretend never existed.

The magician.

Derek wears goggles, mutters to himself, smells of cut grass and soil even though you’re all in fucking Detroit. He says that he used something called a hedgepath to get across from England. He complains how weak the beer is here and you can’t look at his buttery, broken teeth for too long. Still, they’re not tweaker black, but Jay trusts him and you sort of trust Jay.

Jay brought him in because the house has a security system without wires to cut or codes to punch in. Which is why he’s here, along with you, Jay and a brick wall with eyebrows called Hudson. Hudson has a soft voice for a big man and you have to lean in to hear him. It’s when you lean close that you listen to him talk about all the hurt he’s done and you wish you hadn’t.

It’s the abandoned cars in the yard, Derek told you all.

Witch bottles were first mentioned in 1861 as countermagic. Bottles buried in the foundation of a building to protect it from magic. When he says the word ‘magic’ you stifle a giggle.

He keeps talking, you stop laughing.

The four cars, covered in rust and moss, one up on blocks with it’s wheels taken off, leaving rusted holes like eyeless sockets. Derek says that ordinary things gain power due to their history. A car is a rite of passage, a symbol of economic regeneration but it can be other things.

A coffin, say.

Don’t necessarily think of the hose pipe and closed garage method, Derek tells us, and Jay nods like he has a fucking clue what he’s talking about. Suicide is a luxury when you’re a welshed bet or a bad day away from taking a bullet. People crash their cars, and it’s not easy to tell whether it’s someone taking a call on their phone or that it’s just a matter of touching on the brake, feeling the world race past you until you come to a dead stop. Pun intended. Sure, they’ll only be able to identify you by your teeth but it’s over.

Those cars don’t tend to suit, but there’s power in the charred and twisted remains. No, people who put a gun in their mouth, take pills and vodka like that comedian’s wife you read about, their cars are useful enough. AAA rather than the reactor that a crashed car gives off. There is one of those though, which is why Derek is here.

‘So, the house is guarded by ghosts?’ you say, hardly believing it yourself.

Derek looks at you, nodding and his eyes are a hard challenge that stops you saying anything further.

‘So, they’re not junked cars, they’re guard huts, in a way.’ he says.

He can sell what it is we are going to steal. Books, written in dead languages, bound in dead flesh and he’s got buyers drooling all over the world for what he can find in there.You don’t ask what the books are about, because he starts talking numbers and even with Jay’s cut, it’s still a good score.

Too good, but Derek is entertaining and Jay says it’s okay. There’s always been weird shit in the world, and it often hides out in the worst places, where no one who matters goes. Derek came to America because there was weird shit from all over, and England was no longer Avalon. This was the place, he said.

He tells you again and taps you on the shoulder, grinning at you as he waggles his eyebrows. Shit, time to go and you slip out of the seat, Hudson and Jay will come in when it’s clear. Derek saunters, hands in his pocket, twisted cigarette jutting from the corner of his mouth, pulling his goggles down so he can see what’s really happening.

He tells you to stop. Gets out a pouch and starts to throw it ahead of him, muttering something that sounds like an old car starting up and stamping his battered boots against the sidewalk. He smiles and gestures for you to go up and start the whole thing.

It’s an old man who lives here. Hudson says that he can scare anyone. Old men live with pain, but he says that he can break a POW with a rape threat.  The lock is easy and with the cars inert, it’s back to things people like you can understand.

Felony burglary. Not murder-suicide fuelled security systems.

Hudson and Jay come over, you’re stood in the kitchen. It carries the wet, stale smell of damp sawdust, too many breaths taken in too closed an environment. There is a crusty plate on the table, a loaf of bread bejewelled with mold and you fight the urge to gag at how the stink coats your nostrils with each breath. Derek grimaces as he comes in, but Jay and Hudson don’t react to it. Hudson shuts the door and you all roll down masks, except Derek.

You creep into the hallway when it all starts to go wrong. You and Derek are halfway up the stairs when you see Hudson stood with his head bowed, shoulders heaving as he holds his hand to his face, weeping without making a sound. It’s when he pulls a .22 from his pocket and presses it to his temple that your stomach flips and you fight tears at how he doesn’t fall right away. He collapses in sections and Derek is dragging you up the stairs.

Jay punches the blade of his folding knife into the soft part of his throat, digging it in and smiling as blood drips down both sides of his mouth, spraying out through his teeth as he looks at you both. Derek is stronger than he looks so you’re pulled away but the image is tattooed on you now.

The laughter comes from the room at the end of the hall. A stained, ugly voice telling you that like any security system, it can be switched off. Or, in this case, on. Derek drags you by the collar and your heels skitter against the floorboards, he’s shouting in that awful language again and tossing nails before him in panicked handfuls. Everything is speeding up and when he starts to choke, your weight pushes him onto his front and you roll over. He is laid face down against the floorboards, a puddle of blood spreading out from him. You grab the goggles from his head, and slip them on.

She walks up the stairs, hands reaching for you, her wedding gown stained with bloody vomit and her lips pulled back over her teeth. Behind her, a pair of teenagers, holding hands point at you. The man has a flap of scalp that makes his perfect D.A lurch like Donald Trump in a wind tunnel but his face is adolescent perfection.


The burning man walks behind him, and you know what the wreck closest to the house was for.

The door opens and the owner sits there, slumped in his chair. His facial muscles are forever stuck in an unpleasant grin and you start grabbing books from the shelves, the oldest looking ones. There’s a Larry McMurtry paperback you’ve not read but there’s no time and you hug them to you as you kick out the window with a desperate swing of your foot. You’re athletic by necessity more than intention, but you move through that window, desperate to live.

The goggles stay on your face and you’re grateful Jay never locked the car up. You drive, realise that the buyers were all with Derek and Jay. Both of whom are meat in the house but you drive until the car dies and even then you walk until you find a motel and pay for a room with hands that won’t stop shaking.

You lock the door, take the goggles off and cry with agonised relief. The books are warm to the touch and you open them, careful not to damage the pages which are dense with symbols and words that you don’t recognise. A small sensation tugs at your stomach and you slip the goggles onto your nose. Your vision blurs but the words start wriggling, insects escaping from cocoons of dead languages, blind but known to you now.

There is power here, the means to talk to the birds in the sky and the worms in the ground. What you need to say to the Devil if he comes to you. These books offer you a chance to do things that would get you out of the trouble that has always dogged your steps.


Derek was right.


This is the place.


You open one of the books at random, and start to read.

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Joyland by Stephen King


‘M B Blissett is reviewing another of my books. God, that’s beautiful.’


After realizing his romantic life is not going in the direction he’d hoped, Devin Jones decides to take a summer job at an amusement park. There he makes friends with Tom Kennedy and Erin Cook, also summer hires at Joyland, which years before had been the scene of the murder of a young woman named Linda Gray whose ghost is said to be seen at the Horror House. He also befriends a young boy, named Mike Ross and his mother, Annie. Their lives all become entwined when Devin decides to investigate the mystery of Linda Gray’s unsolved murder by the “Carny Killer.

Joyland was written for the crime imprint Hard Case. It showcases the best of King’s work, how he manages to blend sentiment, hard truth, a melange of horror, nostalgia and human drama. It is welded to a warm, insightful look at a time in a man’s life where his world is changed within a single summer.  There is genuine pain woven throughout, an appreciation for the ability of love and beauty, the denial and gift of sex has both to heal and wound.  It’s also a tense thriller with an exciting climax that works symbolically and literally.

The supernatural element is subtle, using an element of foreshadowing and a sense of prophecy within it that does not derail the story, amplifying the story to great heights and providing a dynamic that accentuates the tragic-thriller parts without distracting from the poignant, beautiful warmth that pours out of the pages like sunlight through a window.

King, in the last few years, has produced work that has more subtlety, depth and pathos as time goes on.  I intend to revisit his earlier work at some point, and he’s an education for me as a writer as much as a reader.  Joyland more than merits it’s title and I am overjoyed for the film adaptation. Read the book though, always.

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Four Ghosts

Mitch unlocked his front door with the care of a burglar. There was no one to wake but he had neighbours, The Contreraz’ had young kids and tomorrow they would be awake early. He wanted to give Rosa and Paulo a break. They liked having a cop in the building, didn’t comment on the first few months where he would weep in the early hours after Katie died.

Christmas Eve, and the stink of another murder on his skin. The fourth year in a row, a family slaughtered and arranged in the living room, intestines on the tree, the fog of blood in the air and black jokes from the forensics guys about overtime. Mitch had been the principal on this one, although there was a federal task force, nicknamed Santa’s Workshop, who had been working the case with no further way forward.

Gun sales went up year on year, bigger locks and louder alarms but still, nothing stopped it. Always one family, different ethnicities, a gay couple and their two kids last year and this year, a high school guidance counsellor and his family.

Mitch switched on the fluorescent and looked at the visitor, sat at the scarred kitchen table.

Pete. Dead for three years thanks to a fourteen year old when they hit through the door on an apartment as part of a citywide raid on the operation of a twenty five year old drug dealer called Psyches and his crew. Retaliation disguised as justice, it didn’t make Pete any less dead.

He was bleached white, his cheeks jowled like sloughed off wallpaper and the small black hole in his throat exhaling smoke from the menthol that hung eternally from the corner of his mouth. Pete, partner for eight years, helped carry Katie’s coffin.

‘We gotta talk.’

Mitch’s legs nearly went from under him. Pete came around, picked him up with cold hands and a warm smile, poured him a slug from the bottle of Hennessey that sat in the cupboard under the sink and began to talk.

Mitch listened.  What else could he do?

Pete’s voice was soothing, the rasp of cigarettes and too much red meat lended it a lovely burr and as he told Mitch how things worked in the afterlife, he began to nod off.

There was another visitor when he woke up, chin tacky with saliva. A small boy, blue do rag and a snarl that could have been cute. Pete’s shooter, already with the eyes of someone dead on arrival. Mitch poured his own drink, lit a cigarette and listened. If he was insane, then it was one way to feel important, which was all anyone ever wanted.

Alone in a crib, ceiling black with mould. The sounds of flesh on flesh and raised voices, sobs then later the sound of flesh and flesh, different kinds of sobs. The faint ringing of bells and voices sounded in unision. It is always cold in the room, and he learns to stop crying because no one comes if he does or does not. 

He learned pain early on. It evolved due to his indifference, a dark thirst that could never be quenched. Slaps, then punches. Mother with her cigarettes and then the cuddles afterwards, fingers at the places that mothers should not go. No presents underneath the tree. No tree. Life lived looking through a window and never understanding what was on the other side.

In the slaughterhouse, where everything made sense. A bolt gun and absorbing the fearful light that lived and died in the eyes of each cattle that passed to him. 

It was not enough. 

Mitch closed his eyes and when he opened them again, there sat the guidance counsellor, his thinning hair shone underneath the fluorescent and he still had the lipless second mouth, a deep cut across both arteries. He had fought to save his children and wife, his delicate features smeared by a solid blow to the nose.  He began to speak. A different voice but the same story.

He sees them shopping. Their happiness makes his teeth ache, mouth filling with saliva and he would have to find somewhere to vomit the pain away. Their smiles, their hopes, reminders of a joy that causes him actual pain. He had an apprenticeship when he was caught on a breaking and entering, a refinement that he took to with a dedication that no one questioned. 

After the first one, his pain went away. He spent ten months without agony and it made life bearable again. When he found himself suffering, he knew that this would be the how of his world. People would do anything to escape pain.  Each year was a refinement, a tolerance demanded it and by the October of the following year, he was locked into this cycle of pain and relief. That he had only known torment was a relief, like a visit home to loving relatives. 

Katie. Before the cancer. Nurses and cops went together like peanut butter and jelly, understood the gallows humour and the loss. He would read to her until the pain medication kicked in, she liked Fitzgerald and Hemingway.  Mitch wept, as much for her as that little boy and the twitching nerve that he grew into, so full of pain that he had to plant it in the lives of others.

She smiled, told him that she loved him, that he was a good man and a good cop, then reached into her shirt pocket retrieved a folded piece of paper and slid it across the table. He went to touch her and she shook her head.

‘I wish that we could. There are rules.’

In her handwriting, an address.

A name.

When they arrested him, there were mementoes. Presents that sat in a locked trunk. It made him sad that they were still unopened. He was smaller than they expected, but malnourishment did that. His eyes though, were black stones pressed into the sockets and Mitch gave him the full stare.  He wished him a merry christmas and the guy gave him a stare like a dog being shown a card trick.

When he got back, he heard the sounds of merriment from next door. The door opened and he looked down at the beaming smile of their youngest. Then Rosa, apologising and she saw something in his face that made her stop.

She invited him in.

He looked at his apartment door, there was half a bottle left of the Hennessey but before he made his decision, he felt the child’s hand take his and then he was already walking inside.

Blinking away tears.




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Beating, With Christmas Lights

The rain worried her more than it should.

Scurrying home from work, grocery bag pressed to her chest like an infant, Elaine tried to keep her thoughts from pushing her down to her knees.

The sad anniversaries don’t have a range of greeting cards. The horrible things you do, that stain your skin like a disease, well there’s no tangible evidence of those.

Elaine cannot wear sneakers. Unpleasant assocations with them so she buys simple leather shoes or ballet pumps. Her arches complain but each time she’s tried, even going so far as to spend thwarted hours trying to undo the negative associations that came with the simple act of walking into anywhere that sold sneakers.

She had tried to be brave. Even going so far as to walk into Sneaker Planet and made halting conversation with the clerk.

When she slipped them on, she would recall the jolt of sensation from where she had kicked Jessica Halloran in the ribs travel through her leg. Hot bursts of acid exploded up from the pit of her stomach and she had to run, hand cupped to her mouth as she spat bile into the gutter, weeping and shuddering.

It had gotten worse. Even with a sealed juvenile record, they had not escaped punishment.

Jessica, pills in her bedroom, a blank final statement despite the tears that ran down her cheeks, all the wiring kicked out of her by Elaine, Imogen Oswald and Rebecca Anderson at Rebecca’s house. Savage on wine coolers and tribal mentality. Jessica had moved away  after her parents had tried to sue Rebecca’s parents but Elaine knew that a large part of her had been kicked to death on the lounge floor whilst Rebecca’s mother had been at a company christmas party. Elaine remembered how the blur of alcohol made the lights strung along the curtain pole look like blooms of light. The video had gone viral, swimming through the sea of social media like a shark.

Imogen.  Neck broken in a single savage twist. Apparently she had a look of utter surprise fixed on her face, buttocks and eyes in the same direction. Discarded at the bottom of her garden like so much refuse.

Then, Rebecca. Hung from the rafters of the villa in Spain that her parents flew her out to. Stomach peeled open and the pink stream of intestines swinging between her tanned legs.

So, finally Elaine. Living under a different name, in a city with her aunt Bonnie, trying to get through each day without crying and knowing that it was all wasted time. She looked across the street, peering through the sheet of rain as she saw her at the kerb. Forever sixteen years old, but the eyes were dark copper coins pressed into grave dirt now and her hair hung, heavy with the rain.

Elaine watched Jessica dart across the road, arms by her sides, fingers splayed like spikes as she moved between cars. As she drew closer, Elaine saw how her teeth were gritted together, lips pulled back in a mechanical snarl.  Elaine began to run, letting the grocery bag fall from her arms.

She ran full pelt, lungs burning as she took the corner and looked for somewhere to go. Anywhere that might provide refuge, or the illusion of it. Her feet ached but she kept going.

In it’s own way, it was a relief.  She had to at least try and run, but in the end she knew that Jessica would not stop. That each day since they’d beaten that girl half to death had been a day more than they deserved.  That this was better than the weeks and months of not knowing.

She thought of the christmas lights and kept running




Project Laughter 19/08/2015

The pages went well this morning.  I enjoy the scenes between Penny and Tom because there’s a loving acerbicity between them and having dramatised what brought them to that point, I understand them better.
So here is where I start to bring Penny into the stream of the awful things that have been happening.  I’ve rooted it in modernity but still captured that unease and disbelief which has underpinned the whole book thus far. Trying to capture the unknown in an illuminated social media age is tricky but I’m going to keep at it until it breaks or I do.
I’m interested in rooting the bizarre and paranormal in the everyday because it works well with my thoughts and the story.  Whether the book works isn’t up to me and I focus on the pages ahead with an occasional look backwards to see that I’m still in the right place.

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Project Laughter 31/05/2015

This morning’s session was about the choreography of accidents, how they start with one simple impact and then spiral out.

It’s important because I had Tom return home, after his date with Evelyn, full of that bonhomie and how it lessened the ambient guilt that he carries. I’ve been careful not to have any exposition, but to let the reader figure out the past this early in the book. There is something going on, yes, but I’m not telling you.

I hope to show you.

The actions are cloaked in coincidence, but there’s also, simply by showing what has happened, an unease, a sense of the ‘other’ which is a new thing for me in this book. I’m starting from this point rather than going for anything especially grand. I enjoy a degree of ambiguity when I read, so that plays into the writing. There’s a balance between the question of whether this is directed or random, psychological or supernatural that I am holding off answering for the purposes of tension. On one level, even I don’t know because the question itself is of interest to me.

Penny has come back into it too, and I have left Tom injured and frightened because it is in those moments that we reveal character, like turning a card to read a fortune. I don’t write THIS IS A TEST OF CHARACTER, I show the incident and then Tom’s actions afterwards. It’s key to storytelling as I understand it, and although there are formula and frameworks you can show, in the end it comes down to things happen, people react and make decisions that drive the rest of it, repeat as necessary. There’s also a degree of black humour, because we like to watch pratfalls in the spirit of relief that it is not us suffering.

So, this morning went well and I’ve given myself room to keep the momentum going as I have hit the 54 page mark for the week. Around 100 pages is where I take stock and decide whether I can bully this through to an ending, so there’s a little bit to go as yet. Two pages a day adds up, and it keeps me productive.

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Project Laughter 22/05/2015

I can write intimacy and having done so from male and female perspectives, I like to see how I can make it feel authentic. 
This scene has, I hope the aim of, in the intial reading,  to make you feel happy for Tom but later, it’ll read differently. 
In horror/ghost stories you want intimacy as much as your big bad. The suspension of disbelief requires a level of craft and trust that is challenging for me. Still if I can write a convincingly awkward but enjoyable threesome then in theory,  a creak from upstairs doesn’t demand as much but it does because you’re working with less and aiming for more.
And, shit, I still have a ghost to flesh out as well. But I  know her because I’m tapping my own emotions for that.  But that’s another conversation.