Blog header forgotten book now available

“Forgotten” now available!

Nine years ago a plane crashed outside the village. Since then sigils have kept the darkness away.

Joshua dreams of flying and escaping the burning fuselage unhurt. Now fourteen, he goes to explore the plane’s wreckage but has no idea that he will release powers beyond his comprehension. The spirits of the wreck are the least of his problems.

You can now get Forgotten on Kindle and Kobo at the following links:

Forgotten by Carin Marais – Kindle

Forgotten by Carin Marais – Kobo 

Forgotten Cover JPEG File

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Cover Reveal! Forgotten

The day is here! The final cover for Forgotten is ready! Behold –

Forgotten Cover JPEG File

Blurb:

Nine years ago a plane crashed outside the village. Since then sigils have kept the darkness away.

Joshua dreams of flying and escaping the burning fuselage unhurt. Now fourteen, he goes to explore the plane’s wreckage but has no idea that he will release powers beyond his comprehension. The spirits of the wreck are the least of his problems.

Forgotten will be available from next week!

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(Cover photo by Benjamin Behre on Unsplash.com.)

Writing Update: Horror and Halloween!

With Halloween just around the corner, I’m glad to say that Forgotten is almost, nearly, just about done. I may have changed the ending as I was writing. But these things happen!

I’ve made a collection on Unsplash (wonderful photos, you should check the site out) for Forgotten and which will definitely give you a feel for the story. I’m quite happy with how it turned out in the end. It was nothing like I had planned when the inspiration first hit me – that was when I saw this photo:

Photo of man on crashed plane

Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash

I didn’t use it for the cover as the protagonist ended being a bit younger, and I wanted the focus to be just on the wreck itself. The story is probably more of a 13 for sheer creepiness factor, but if you’ve read my fiction before (especially the darker stories) you’ll know by now that it’s more of a creepy/psychological horror than a blood-splashing-everywhere horror.

This song may also play a part in the story…

Called “I tremble not at noise of war”, it was published in 1612 and written by Orlando Gibbons. The words really struck me:

I tremble not at noise of war,

I quake not at the thunder’s crack,

I shrink not at a blazing star,

I sound not at the news of wrack,

I fear no loss, I hope no gain,

I envy none, I none disdain.

Look out for announcements of the release here and on social media!

blogpost header for writing update

Writing Update: “Forgotten” – a short story

Note: “Forgotten” will be published in time for Halloween!

I’m busy finishing what I’m calling “part 2” of “Forgotten”, but I’m also heavily editing the first part which has already been written.

“Forgotten” had started out as an image of a story inspired by the photo by Joshua Sortino and which grew in leaps and bounds from there.

Photo of man on crashed plane

Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash

So what does the rewrite mean? (I mean, let me be honest with myself, it is almost a rewrite, the amount of editing I’m doing.) Well, it means delving into the history of the world a bit, but really delving into the myth and folklore surrounding the story. Myth! Folklore! What’s not to love?

Book cover for "Forgotten" by Carin Marais

Cover for “Forgotten”

Flash fiction: Red

Written for Microcosms, my prompt was the line “I woke up dead, the colour removed from the world”.

Red

I woke up dead, the colour removed from the world.

Not again.

I willed my body to stay still, but the fear overwhelmed whatever courage I still had left to keep playing dead. Beside me, I heard the high-pitched scream of electricity waiting to be set loose.

I rolled my head to the left. He always stood to my left.

“I thought you’d left this time.” He was sobbing. He clicked the machine off and the electric scream stopped.

“I got you your favourite cake.” He made me sat up, put flowers in my hair like when we were young. They, too, were grey. I looked down at my grey dress. Once it had been blue and red, I remember. Yes. I wore it on my…

“Happy birthday, darling.”

I didn’t turn my head fast enough and his cold lips met mine. I pulled away.

“You remember? Birthdays? You used to love them.”

I shook my head.

He grabbed my arm, yanked me to my feet and dragged me up the narrow staircase that led from the cellar.

I sat down at the kitchen table. Chocolate cake. I’ve always hated chocolate cake.

We ate and he spoke and I nodded and the shadows in the room slowly lengthened and he switched on the light and started making dinner.

“Bathroom,” he said. “You stay here.”

I got up the moment he left the room, opened the drawer where he kept the gun. It was empty. I heard his laugh, picked up the kitchen knife and slashed down my arms, spilling grey blood.

#

I woke up dead, the colour removed from the world and sighed.

#

“Bathroom,” he said. “Stay.”

I took the knife, waited until he came back. And lunged at him.

Red blood stained my dress.

Header Image for The Exorcism of CJ by Carin Marais

Fiction and behind the story: The Exorcism of CJ

The Exorcism of CJ

The exorcist arrived two hours late.

“You know how they are,” Josephine said, wiping her hands on her apron. “And they don’t care about what happens in the small towns.”

Obadiah nodded and let out a deep sigh then got up from where he was reclining. He strode towards the exorcist, hat in hand, and greeted him.

Dressed in a t-shirt, loose pants, and flip-flops, he got his kit out of the transporter and slung the bag over his shoulder before shaking Obadiah’s hand.

“Where is she?” he asked.

“Over here,” Obadiah said, leading the Exorcist to a room at the back of the delivery centre.

“CJ usually does the mail packages,” Josephine explained, falling in beside them. “With the drought and people moving through, she started looking for a… hobby. She seemed to have stumbled on something while researching the town’s genealogy though.”

“Ah, of course. The witch scare of 2136 that turned out to be demons.”

“It seems she unlocked something she shouldn’t have. We only realised it once her programming was affected.”

The exorcist turned the door handle and entered the makeshift cell.

CJ was sitting cross-legged on the floor in the centre of the room. Her head swivelled back to the door as they entered.

“Oooh, a new playmate,” she said in a deep, otherworldly voice, and stood in one swift movement.

The exorcist sighed, scanning the body for signs of tampering.

“You were right not to do a factory reset. They love that. Gives them all the power they want. More than a human can offer.”

He opened his bag and she quailed when she saw the crucifix.

“Crux sacra sit mihi lux,” the exorcist said and CJ’s body contorted, metal scraping and bending. Josephine looked away, tears in her eyes.

***

Behind the Story, or, How to Creep Yourself Out

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“The Exorcism of CJ” was written for the Microcosms competition. The prompts I had to use, were: “exorcist”, “rural town”, and “sci-fi”.

When I saw my prompts I immediately thought about having a possessed robot with the “IT guy” being an exorcist. I also wanted it to read almost like an old western rural town and that’s why I chose names like Josephine and Obadiah for the other characters and a more modern-sounding “CJ” for the robot. As we’re dealing with an exorcism, I also wanted the human names to sound Biblical.

Because CJ is very human-like, I wanted the – shall I call them symptoms? – of the possession to be very human-like, with the body contorting into unnatural positions. Unfortunately, with only 300 words, it was a bit difficult to truly get this idea down on paper.

However, I wanted to quote part of a real exorcism rite and not some pseudo-Latin. As I didn’t have too much time on my hands, I looked on Wikipedia as a start and chose the rite “Let the Holy Cross Be My Light” that was recorded in 1415.

The quote in Latin in the story means “Let the Holy Cross be my light” and is the beginning of the Vade retro satana, a Medieval Catholic formula for exorcism, recorded in 1415.

Vade retro satana in full reads as follows:

Crux sacra sit mihi lux / Non draco sit mihi dux

Vade retro satana / Numquam suade mihi vana

Sunt mala quae libas / Ipse venena bibas

In English it reads:

Let the Holy Cross be my light / Let not the dragon be my guide

Step back Satan / Never tempt me with vain things

What you offer me is evil / You drink the poison yourself.

Depth is given to the story’s modern world not so much by the use of robots and AI, but by mentioning the year in which the “witch scare” takes place. I also needed to make sure that the reader knew without a doubt that the possession mentioned here was real and not just people overreacting because they didn’t read the manual properly. That is the reason for noting that the “witch scare” was, in fact, the doing of the demons.

(As usual) The story turned out a lot darker than I had initially thought it was going to be. In fact, I had planned on it being funny… yeah that rarely seems to work.

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Bibliography:

Wikipedia. Vade retro satana.

Behind the scenes fiction: The Angel’s Laugh

“The Angel’s Laugh” is a flash piece I wrote a while ago, inspired by another prompt (of which I cannot yet speak). The story, I felt, did not quite work for that prompt, but I still wanted to write it.

If you haven’t yet read it, you can read it below, otherwise, you can scroll down to the “behind the scenes” part.

Flash Fiction: The Angel’s Laugh

My friends and I always sat in the shade of the stone angel during the summer. Every day the talk would turn to what could possibly be beyond the arch if it should actually open like the old wives’ tales said – if the angel should spread its wings.

“I’m telling you, it’s some kind of fairyland,” Danie said, peering at the dusty clearing beyond the arch. His mother had stiffened the brim of his floppy hat with sugar that morning and he was busy sucking the brim, as usual. “With lots of shade and water and —”

“Yeah, with real sweets,” Benjamin chipped in and sighed. “It sucks being poor.”

“Danie, you know how disgusting that is?” I said, motioning to the hat and he showed me the finger, laughing.

“Grandmother says the statue is of a fairy, not an angel.” Markus’ voice was soft as if he was afraid to say the words too loud in case the fairy-angel could hear. “She says it leads to faerie and — stuff.” He blushed, his ears turning as red as his cheeks.

“You don’t have to whisper, you know. It can’t hear you.” To make my point, I picked up a stone and chucked it at the statue. It bounced off a stone wing and landed on the steps that led up to the arch.

“See? It’s been here since before the war, it’s not going to move. Go on, step through and see what happens. I dare you.” I crossed my arms like I’d seen some of the men do and sniggered like my older brother.

Danie burst out laughing and threw his hat at me as he jumped up and brushed pieces of dried grass from his shorts. He bounded up the arch’s steps and ran through the arch. He did a few jumping jacks on the other side. He’d never been a dancer, so I figured that was his idea of a victory dance.

“Nothing, see?” I shouted.

He stopped and turned around as if he heard something.

“Guys,” he stammered. “Guys, come have a look at this!”

“Very funny, idiot!” I yelled, but Danie bent down, gathered something on the ground and the next moment a ball of snow hit my shoulder. I stared at it while the others ran to the arch, shouting and hollering.

The snow had landed in the blazing sun but did not melt. It crushed under my foot but did not wet the ground. It wasn’t even cold to the touch.

“Faerie,” I whispered. “Get away! Come back!” My voice was harsh, not my own. It echoed between the koppies. Away… back…

Stone scraped against the stone and I looked up at the statue. Its wings and arms were outstretched. Its maniacal, grinning mouth revealed rows of razor teeth and a laugh rolled across the clearing. It — whatever it was — turned around and jumped from its pedestal. My eyes followed it down to the ground. Where my friends no longer were.

I stuffed the snow in my pocket and ran home on trembling legs. I needed the unmelting snow so they would, believe me, I thought. They had to believe me.

 

They did not. They found the three bodies five days later. And the statue sat unmoving on its pedestal once more. No one cared about snow then.

 

I stared at the judge as he handed down my sentence. I stared out of the window of the van as we drove away. I stared at the asylum’s white exterior while the guard laughed the angel’s laugh. And I wept.

 

Behind the scenes of “The Angel’s Laugh”

This story, though it’s not said in so many words, is set in South Africa, in a Highveld (where I live) setting. The characters and their names basically just came to me, unlike other stories where I really struggle to find names for the characters and the first draft of the story was written in one go.

Of sugar-stiffened hats

Yes, this was a thing. My grandfather used to tell us how his younger brother used to suck the sugar from the brim of his hat as soon as his mother had stiffened it (much like you stiffen crochet, for instance). One reason for this is that they did not have much money, hence not really money for things like sweets. And he really had a sweet tooth.

The snow that doesn’t melt

The snow that doesn’t melt was an unexpected detail that popped up. I needed something that would stand in direct contrast to the heat the boys found themselves in and snow that didn’t melt seemed both cool and creepy. And, on the Highveld, we do get quite giddy if even a few snowflakes fall. Giving the boys a whole (dare I say Narnia-like) snow-covered world they step into was as close to foreign that I could get.

I also had this idea that the snow would be explained away by the adults and completely disregarded as it was something that, of course, couldn’t be real.

A court case and an asylum

What could be worse than having your freedom taken away when you are innocent? Add to that another foreign setting, i.e. an asylum, the end of the story is chilling to me and probably at least partly inspired by The Lives They Left Behind, a heartbreaking book I’m currently reading.

The “angel” and faerie

The fae in the form of a statue seemed creepy to me, basically. One that waited to take children away to faerie, even more so.

The “war”

I’m not really sure which war this referred to… it could be the Anglo Boer War, I guess. But, much like the setting is just “somewhere on the Highveld or a kind of a Highveld”, the war that is referred to is just part of that imaginary world. (I did write a story set during the Anglo Boer War, which you can read over here.)

 

Flash Fiction: The Angel’s Laugh

My friends and I always sat in the shade of the stone angel during the summer. Every day the talk would turn to what could possibly be beyond the arch if it should actually open like the old wives’ tales said – if the angel should spread its wings.

“I’m telling you, it’s some kind of fairyland,” Danie said, peering at the dusty clearing beyond the arch. His mother had stiffened the brim of his floppy hat with sugar that morning and he was busy sucking the brim, as usual. “With lots of shade and water and —”

“Yeah, with real sweets,” Benjamin chipped in and sighed. “It sucks being poor.”

“Danie, you know how disgusting that is?” I said, motioning to the hat and he showed me the finger, laughing.

“Grandmother says the statue is of a fairy, not an angel.” Markus’ voice was soft as if he was afraid to say the words too loud in case the fairy-angel could hear. “She says it leads to faerie and — stuff.” He blushed, his ears turning as red as his cheeks.

“You don’t have to whisper, you know. It can’t hear you.” To make my point, I picked up a stone and chucked it at the statue. It bounced off a stone wing and landed on the steps that led up to the arch.

“See? It’s been here since before the war, it’s not going to move. Go on, step through and see what happens. I dare you.” I crossed my arms like I’d seen some of the men do and sniggered like my older brother.

Danie burst out laughing and threw his hat at me as he jumped up and brushed pieces of dried grass from his shorts. He bounded up the arch’s steps and ran through the arch. He did a few jumping jacks on the other side. He’d never been a dancer, so I figured that was his idea of a victory dance.

“Nothing, see?” I shouted.

He stopped and turned around as if he heard something.

“Guys,” he stammered. “Guys, come have a look at this!”

“Very funny, idiot!” I yelled, but Danie bent down, gathered something on the ground and the next moment a ball of snow hit my shoulder. I stared at it while the others ran to the arch, shouting and hollering.

The snow had landed in the blazing sun but did not melt. It crushed under my foot but did not wet the ground. It wasn’t even cold to the touch.

“Faerie,” I whispered. “Get away! Come back!” My voice was harsh, not my own. It echoed between the koppies. Away… back…

Stone scraped against the stone and I looked up at the statue. Its wings and arms were outstretched. Its maniacal, grinning mouth revealed rows of razor teeth and a laugh rolled across the clearing. It — whatever it was — turned around and jumped from its pedestal. My eyes followed it down to the ground. Where my friends no longer were.

I stuffed the snow in my pocket and ran home on trembling legs. I needed the unmelting snow so they would, believe me, I thought. They had to believe me.

 

They did not. They found the three bodies five days later. And the statue sat unmoving on its pedestal once more. No one cared about snow then.

 

I stared at the judge as he handed down my sentence. I stared out of the window of the van as we drove away. I stared at the asylum’s white exterior while the guard laughed the angel’s laugh. And I wept.

Short Story: “Forgotten” writing update, part 2

You can read part 1 of Forgotten over here.

Cover - Forgotten

Working on the rest of the novella

Although I’ve now provisionally outlined most of the novella, the ending is still escaping me. I’m therefore planning to write the rest and then only when I get closer to the ending decide whether I am going to outline it or whether I am going to pants it.

I’m also planning on including more images throughout the text – and have already come across at least two that I am planning on using. By doing this I hope to set more of an atmosphere and scene while keeping the black and white aesthetic of the cover.

One of the things I really want to go into in the second part of Forgotten is what happened in the forest and to the forest that is mentioned in part one… (insert evil laughter)

I hope you’ll enjoy the rest of the story! I’m finishing it for the next Camp NaNoWriMo, so it should be done sometime in August or September (seeing as how I have the SASMARS Conference paper to give in August).

Flash Fiction: What the Ether Let Through

This story was written for last week’s Microcosms flash fiction competition (where you have 300 words max for the story). The elements I had to use for the story, was creature, in the dark, and steampunk.

What the Ether Let Through

Ether shimmered in the dark alley as the creature appeared and stalked along the cobblestones on all fours. With only dark holes for eyes, it had to rely on its sense of smell and, even now, it sniffed and blew its stinking breath at the slit beneath one of the alley doors. It knew very well where its prey was hiding. The smell of decay hung in the room on the other side of the door. But it was not the decay the slime-slicked creature had come for. It had come for the living person hiding behind the door. It took a deep breath, feeding on the scent of fear and, for a moment, its eyes glowed a sickly green.

Henry pressed his ear against the wood of the door and listened to the snuffling. As intrepid explorer he had done away with many a predator and tonight would be no different. His eyes drifted over the room. His specimens had cooperated very well and was now catalogued and pinned in place. All but one – the one which emitted the awful stench. That one he would not keep – the photos he’d taken were enough to make anyone insane; that eyeless face, the matted hair covering the body, the all-too-human-hands clenched into fists.

An insistent scratching started at the door and Henry jumped.

“Devil take you!” he shouted and headed for the table with the abomination. How could he have known that a simple steam-powered machine could rip a hole in the ether?

Henry picked up the creature, carried it to the hearth and tossed it in. Flames licked at the fur and face even as the door was rent and the parent creature stormed in and ripped at the explorer with razor claws.