Henry's Cage

This is a short children's (age 8-12) horror story. It won the Richard & Judy Show's children's writing prize in ooh... 2003 I think. It was published as the lead story in this collection:

Amazon.co.uk - Richard & Judy's Winning Stories

In a live, on-air intereview, I discovered (in order ) that (a) I'd won, that (b) R & J's teenage daughter found it scary, and that (c) as soon as they cut to commercials, Richard and Judy bugger off somewhere else without even saying thanks or well done.

The world discovered that, no Richard, I did not write this story for an asthmatic child.

Read it (unedited and without typos, thank you Chrysalis Books) here. Although do buy it, as the proceeds go to Kidscape. Not me.


The Eternal Barguest

This is a short written for the Braingunk 500 short story competition, which, as the name implies, had a 500 word limit. I don't think the word limit did it any favours, in retrospect. It could've used a couple of hundred more.


The nightclub dispersed us to the streets, like spores from a cheap cotton dandelion, and seedily we drifted, off in all directions. I didn't wait for my friends; I had no patience for kebab queues or bickering over split-fare taxis. If I made my own pace, it was only thirty minutes’ walk home.

As usual I took the back streets, avoiding the busier main roads. In my experience, the more people there are around, the more chance there is that one of them will take a disliking to you.

So I was alone when I saw the thing.

I was halfway home, engrossed in my regular weekly review of the night's events - trying to form objective mental pictures of all the girls I hadn't talked to, counting up how much money I'd spent; the same miserable criteria by which I judged (and failed) every Saturday. I became dimly aware that there was something moving in the road up ahead. I could hear the clicking of clawed feet on concrete. Maybe a fox, I thought.

And then I saw it, and it was not a fox.

It was a large animal of some kind, something vaguely resembling a dog. It trotted across the tarmac, not ten feet from where I stood. I pulled up short and swore under my breath. At first, I couldn't understand what I was looking at. It had four legs, and a gloss black pelt stretched over knots of angry muscle, but beyond that its anatomy made no clear sense. Only when the creature stopped and turned towards me did I realise - it was a dog… but a dog with no head. Sans eyes, sans ears, sans muzzle; its neck ended only in a rubbery, bloodless flap, like an old chicken, slaughtered and drained.

The creature stopped and swayed its grotesque non-head in my direction. I was transfixed. I couldn’t move, couldn’t think; somehow all I could do was stare at that neck; that hideous, hypnotic absence. It stepped one paw towards me and I felt myself grow weak and heavy, as if I were lying in the bathtub while the water slowly drained out around me. Another step and my knees gave way, and I slumped to the curb, sat limp with my feet in the gutter.

The beast, having brought me to the ground, turned and slunk off into the night. More than that, I do not remember, until waking in my bed the next morning.

Tales of encounters with devilish black dogs are common, amongst ghost stories. Grims, shucks, barguests - however they’re named, seeing one is always said to be a bad omen. As I lay there, nursing my hangover, I couldn't help but wonder if some awful fate now awaited me.

So far, nothing has happened. I still think about it, every Saturday night when I walk that same route home from the nightclub, counting my change and wasted chances.

But no, nothing's happened so far.


One Dark Unfriendly Night

A children's rhyming picture book about bad dreams. Read it here.

One Dark Unfriendly Night


The Bargain Witch

I started this at the beginning of the year, and I'm halfway through the first draft. It's a teen/young reader novel about a witch that moves onto a council estate and starts selling cheap consumer goods out of her flat.

First draft is finished, and I'm nearly prepped to send a submission out to agents or publishers. Quietly pleased with myself there. Just writing the synopsis:

We should have known she was a witch from the start.  From the very moment she set foot on Carpal Court council estate, with her grey eyes and black tattooed hands.  From the rainstorms and power-cut that came with her, we should have known. Nobody wanted to believe it.  They said she was 'eccentric'.  She was 'a character'.

She was a witch and she was evil.

Between midnight and one-thirty am on December 26th, seventeen children lost their lives. How this happened, how we let it get that far, is a story of ignorance, shame and blindness.  It begins on a Friday, among the stunted grey days of late November…


The Arrival of Lady Blackhands - illustration test

The Arrival of Lady Blackhands, illustration test - (3B & Photoshop)

The wolf witch - illustration test

The Bargain Witch , illustration test - (6B on 120gsm)

© Graham Denney 2008


The Black Orchard

The Black Orchard

I started writing this after I won the prize for Henry's Cage. It's a pretty ambitious novel, and eventually it got to be a bit much. After about the gazillionth rewrite of the first half, I decided to put it on hold and try something else for a while (see The Bargain Witch above).

Read the prologue here, or pretty picture here.


The Carpet Crocodile

One Dark Unfriendly Night - Carpet Crocodile Cameo

A poem that didn't quite fit in with Lost Dogs (below). Actually, if you read One Dark Unfriendly Night above and looked closely at the page where the boy is falling through a hole in his bedroom floor, you mighth have noticed some carpet crocodiles. Clever post-modern self-reference, or a lack of new ideas? Find out here.


Lost Dogs

A collection of children's poetry. Read it here.


One Dark Unfriendly Night


The Maudlecow Fell Down A Well

I wrote a long children's poem about a weird 'cow' with lots of blowholes in his back, and when he cried the tears shot out of these blowholes like a whale's spout. Don't really know why, in retrospect. Nice enough little story though. Read it here.

Um, interesting comments...? Well, the background is actually a 3D environment. I thought if I was going to illustrate an entire book about someone stuck in a well, I'd be seeing the same environment from different angles quite a lot. Rotate, re-render, retouch. It's a comment, anyway.


The Maudlecow Fell Down a Well, cover concept - (Lightwave, Photoshop)


All text and images © Graham Denney 2011