Den of Eek!

Thank you to everyone who came to Den of Eek! 2 Urban Legends

wordpress den of eekIt’s getting dark outside and I’ve only just shaken off enough of my hangover to write anything about last night. But despite the pounding headache, I’ve been in an insufferably good mood. Because last night, I hosted the second Den of Eek! event, and I think… I think it might even have been better than the first one.

Like last year, I invited a bunch of awesome people to come and tell original scary stories to an audience by candlelight. We used the same venue and the same set up: just a stage, a microphone, and a bunch of chairs, but this time the brief was slightly different. Rather than doing ghost stories, like last year, we asked everyone to come up with an original take on an urban legend. The stories they wrote were brilliant, terrifying, gruesome, funny… and deeply, deeply creepy.

We kicked off with Aliya Whiteley’s megamix of urban legends, followed by Chris Farnell’s cautionary tale about GM foods. Natasha Duncan-Drake came back from last year to tell us not to step on the cracks in the pavement, Neil Jones also returned with a warning to would-be petsitters, and Sarah Ditum told us an absolutely true story about something she found in the basement of her new house. To finish off the first half, Tom Pollock read a story about a mysterious key than unlocks more than just doors, and Joff Brown, another Eek! veteran, explained that a little imagination is a dangerous thing…

After a short break, Clayton Littlewood read the night’s most shocking story – one of the highlights of the night, for me, was watching the expressions on people’s faces during this one. James Moran passed on an evil curse; Rosie Fletcher’s tale of sex and revenge was sleazy and gross (in a good way!) and Sarah Pinborough made everyone scared to take the bus home. James Brogden’s story about a university prank gone wrong was funny right up until the horrifying punchline, and Kit Allen’s Halloween history lesson was eerily fitting, given the location. Finally, James Henry’s amazing meta explanation of where urban legends come from brought the house down.

I knew all the stories were good because I’d read them beforehand, so that I could put together the running order, but they really came alive out loud. Last year, I think I was too nervous about keeping everything running smoothly that I didn’t get to really enjoy listening to the stories, but this year – despite a few teething troubles with the microphone! – I felt a bit more confident that it was all going to work out, and, self-congratulatory though it might sound, I had a really good time.

One thing that I really, really love about this event is that many of the people who read stories hadn’t done it before. Some of them don’t even write fiction very often, and certainly don’t share it in public when they do. But they went for it, and – I think? – enjoyed themselves as much as we enjoyed their stories. Somehow, everyone I’ve asked to be a part of this has turned out not only to be smart and talented, but also fun and friendly and easy to work with. The atmosphere backstage is always brilliant – and I think that comes across to the audience, too?

Obviously the ultimate goal of Den of Eek! is to raise money for charity, and since this was another sold out event, we raised another massive chunk of cash for the Geeks vs Cancer appeal. I’ve thanked all of the performers from last night (many times over!), but if you came along, bought a ticket, or even chucked in a few quid’s donation, you deserve a thank you too. You’re brilliant.

We’ll be putting together an ebook of the stories soon, and I’ll be shouting about that when it happens, but in the meantime, if you didn’t get round to buying last year’s, maybe you’d like to pick up a copy now? It’s on offer right now, so it’s a mega bargain, and all proceeds go to a good cause.

It’s baaaaaack: Den of Eek! Urban Legends

Den of Eek poster smallHey, remember when I hosted a night of spooky storytelling last year and spent the whole night being so terrified I thought I was going to throw up on my shoes? Well, it was so much fun I’m doing it again.

Seriously, last year’s Den of Eek! was awesome. A bunch of incredibly talented storytellers gathered together in a basement bar in central London to read original horror fiction to an increasingly creeped out audience, and the whole thing was just brilliant fun. We also raised a ton of money for charity, which is always good. So that’s the bit we’re doing again.

Last year’s event was all about ghost stories, but we didn’t want to repeat ourselves, so this year we’re doing urban legends. You know. Stories about the weird but absolutely true thing that definitely happened to your sister’s boyfriend’s brother. Stories about things they don’t want you to know. Stories that’ll make you shiver, and think, and look nervously over your shoulder all the way home.

Like last time, we’ve got a bunch of amazing people writing stories for the event: Sarah Pinborough, James Moran, Tom Pollock, Neil Jones, James Henry, Rosie Fletcher, Sarah Ditum, James Brogden, Natasha Duncan-Drake, Joff Brown, Aliya Whiteley, and Clayton Littlewood. (Yes, there are three Jameses, and three Sarahs, including me. It wasn’t intentional.) Also, like last time, we’re opening up some slots for new talent, and you’ve got just over a week left to enter that competition if you haven’t already.

So, yeah, the important bits: it’s going to be on Wednesday 18 September at 7.30pm, at the Phoenix on Cavendish Square. Tickets won’t be available on the door, so you will have to book in advance. They cost £5 (plus a booking fee) and all proceeds go to charity. And you can buy your tickets here. So, do that, maybe?

One last thing – the amazingly gorgeous poster art was created by James Freckingham, of Robotic Industries. He’s brilliant.

Den of Eek! A Collection of New Horror Fiction is out to buy now

Den of Eek ebook coverHey, remember when I put together an event where loads of amazing people came and read ghost stories in a London pub? Sure you do. It was brilliant.

Well, finally we got round to publishing an ebook collection of all the stories read that night. The twelve short stories in this book are completely original, created especially for the event, so you can’t get ’em anywhere else. The full contents list looks like this:

“Grindr” by Clayton Littlewood (author of Dirty White Boy and Goodbye to Soho)

“The Double Walkers” by Leila Johnston (editor of The Literary Platform and author of Enemy of Chaos)

“Siren” by CJ Lines (author of Filth Kiss and Cold Mirrors)

“Matron” by Sarah Pinborough (author of PoisonMayhem, and The Language of Dying)

“Death in the Modern World” by Natasha Duncan-Drake (chosen as part of the Den of Geek new talent showcase)

“The 34 Steps” by James Moran (screenwriter for Doctor WhoCockneys vs Zombies, and Tower Block)

“Ghosts in the Web” by Mary Hamilton (Guardian journalist and games designer)

“A Witch Killing” by Joff Brown (chosen as part of the Den of Geek new talent showcase)

“Unfriending” by Neil Jones (screenwriter for BedlamHouse of Anubis, and Hollyoaks Later)

“The Phantom Limb” by James Brogden (chosen as part of the Den of Geek new talent showcase)

“No Reason” by Johannes Roberts (director of Storage 24F, and Roadkill)

“Forever Death” by Kevin McNally (actor in SupernaturalPirates of the Caribbean, and Downton Abbey).

… Which, you’ve got to admit, is pretty incredible. All proceeds from sales of the ebook will go to Den of Geek’s Geeks vs Cancer appeal, so when you buy it you also get to experience the warm glow of doing something good for other people. Which is priceless, really.

The ebook costs £5.14 and is available for your Kindle (or the Kindle app on your PC, smartphone, or tablet) here. Go and buy it, please.

Den of Eek! A Night of Spooky Stories

Last night I did one of the scariest things I’ve ever done: I hosted a live storytelling event that I’d organised. And it was amazing.

The idea for Den of Eek! had come months ago, after watching a reading of a short horror story elsewhere. I wanted to recreate the idea of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve, and I thought it would be fun to get together a bunch of interesting people – not just horror writers – to see what kinds of stories they’d tell. I pitched the idea to Den of Geek and they were enthusiastic, and then I spent a frantic couple of months making it happen.

It’s kind of incredible to me that it all went as smoothly as it did. Everyone I asked was into the idea, and they all wrote new, original, spooky stories for it. We ran a reader competition on Den of Geek looking for new talent, and managed to find three genuinely great stories to include as part of the event. We booked the function room of the Phoenix on Cavendish Square, and the lovely Mark Mitchell designed a fantastic poster for us to use to promote the event. Within a day of tickets going on sale, we’d sold half of them; two weeks ago, we sold out completely. Somehow, everything came together perfectly.

Last night, we had both an amazing line-up of speakers and stories, and a brilliant audience. Clayton Littlewood opened the evening with a creepy tale of being stalked on Grindr, followed by Leila Johnston’s account of doppelgangers (which even included a reference to the death of my least favourite Romantic poet). CJ Lines told an oddly convincing story about a haunted videotape, Sarah Pinborough turned the reassuring tick of a grandfather clock into the terrifying noise of a monster, and Natasha Duncan-Drake used slasher tropes and Twitter formatting to create an almost poetic nightmare. The last story in the first half was James Moran’s, which featured a haunted staircase and might have given me a whole new neurosis to deal with for the rest of my life.

After a brief interval, we came back with another six stories: Mary Hamilton’s story turned the whole internet into a horrifying, ghost-filled wasteland; Joff Brown’s tale of a witch-killing was delightfully creepy; and Neil Jones’s story of Facebook betrayal was wonderfully told, a slow unfolding mystery with a killer last line. James Brogden’s eerie story about a phantom limb was a really imaginative take on the idea of a ghost story, while Johannes Roberts’s harrowing tale of bullying and revenge was probably the darkest story of the night. Finally, we wrapped up with Kevin McNally’s gorgeously delivered tale of cursed treasure, all atmosphere and decadent descriptive language (a couple of people commented that they thought he must’ve been reading Lovecraft or Poe, but nope, that was an original!). Everyone brought something of their own personality and interests to their story, and it was kind of fascinating watching how it played out.

I thought I’d be sitting here this morning dissecting the night and thinking of things I’d’ve liked to change. But honestly, I think it was great. (I mean, I’m biased, maybe, but still!) My hosting skills were probably the weak link of the night, but I managed to get everyone’s name right and didn’t actually fall over, so I’m calling that a win. Keeping every story to around 5 minutes, and making sure the running order shuffled up the ultra-modern social media stories with the more traditional ones, seemed to keep the audience engaged. Everyone reading was just brilliant; I’ve said thank you to all of them a thousand times already, but I really couldn’t have wished for a nicer, more creative bunch of people to work with. And the audience were so lovely, just warm and attentive, and it seemed like they were really having fun. I could’ve hugged everyone.

On a slightly more serious note, probably the best thing about the Den of Eek! night was that we decided to put all the proceeds from the ticket sales towards the Geeks vs Cancer appeal. We managed to raise a decent chunk of money, and it’ll go to a genuinely good cause. We’re looking into turning the recording of the stories into a podcast, or maybe putting together an ebook, so that even more people get to enjoy them – more news on that when I have it.

Right now, I’m just… really, really happy. Once again, I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone involved. You’re all amazing.