Sunday, 4 October 2015

Festival of Drabbles 2015 - Places to Discover Drabbles

We're all too rapidly approaching the Festival of Drabbles for 2015 which will be a week long celebration of drabbles. If you're already a fan of the form then make sure you join in by joining the event and if you aren't aware of drabbles then this is a great event to learn more about them:

On Facebook:
On Goodreads:

It was the Indie Book Bargains website (now known as Book Hippo) that first introduced me to the drabble form - drabbles are a story that is exactly 100 words long. Here are some sites where you can discover drabbles.

If you are aware of other sites to read drabbles then let me know in the comments section below.

Book Hippo

Book Hippo features a drabble in its daily newsletter. You can also submit drabbles here for inclusion in the newsletter.


Drblr is a social network dedicated for drabbles - it's easy to sign up and submit drabbles and even easier to browse the submissions.

The Cult of Me

As such a devotee of writing drabbles I have a page dedicated for the drabbles I've written, There are other pages for the various drabble series as well.

Ken Magee's Author Blog

Ken's author blog has his drabbles posted.

Have You Entered October's Short Fiction Contest?

October's Short Fiction Contest is well under way and there's only two weeks left to enter if you haven't already done so. This month's image features an unusual visitation which has already sparked some interesting stories. |What do you think has the men so surprised?

To enter write a story of no more than 500 words based on this month's picture and submit it through the form on the competition page linked below. There's no entry fee and there's a £50 PayPal or Amazon prize for the winner, with prizes for second and third place stories as well.

If you haven't read the winning stories from September's contest yet then you will find them here:

Friday, 2 October 2015

Guest Post - Illustrating Famous Animals Volume 1 by Katie Stewart

As part of her blog tour celebrating the release of her latest book 'Famous Animals' Katie Stewart has written a blog post about how she created the charming illustrations in the book:

Joan Aardvark

Maybe in a bid to prove to the world that I’m not as old as I look, the illustrations for Famous Animals Volume 1 were all done digitally. Until recently, (ie. the past few years) my illustrations were entirely done by hand. Occasionally, I’d do a drawing or painting, scan it onto the computer and enhance it in Photoshop. However, I found trying to draw with a mouse close to impossible. I would look longingly at drawing tablets, but they were all so expensive. Then a couple of years ago I decided to treat myself to a Wacom Intuos Pro, courtesy of Ebay. The Intuos Pro is a wonderful thing, but it demands great hand-eye coordination, something I found quite difficult with the tiny screen on my laptop. So I splurged some more and bought a large monitor. After using that for a while, I realised that my one reason for not buying the smaller Wacom Cintiq – the smallness of it – was no longer an issue. With a large monitor I could use the Cintiq to draw straight onto when I wanted detail or use it like an Intuos with the monitor if I wanted to do bigger work. So I broke the piggy-bank completely and bought a Cintiq 13HD and so begins the story of how I illustrate…

The illustrations for Famous Animals each started with a very rough sketch, each on a 12 x12in transparent ‘canvas’ (in Photoshop). The sketches were based on images I’d found of the historical figures and animals on Google. Most of the pictures only required sketches of the figure. Only a few needed details for the background.

Once I had the sketch to my liking, I’d add a layer underneath the sketch and begin to add my colours using a basic brush. I use mixer brush a lot to achieve form and shading, again mostly a basic brush, though sometimes I use a feather of fur brush to add texture. I find it a bit like sculpting.

When I was satisfied with the rough colour image, I’d turn off the original sketch layer and begin to add details. Some of the illustrations required a lot more layers than others. I tend to work with lots of layers because 1. It’s not so much work to redo if I muck it up and 2. It allows finer control over any adjustments or blending I might want to do. I think Joan Aardvark and Henry the Apeth probably had the most layers as their ‘costumes’ were very detailed. Each piece of Joan’s armour and weaponry was done as a separate layer and then the detail on the armour was another layer again. I used a style which made it slightly 3D metallic to add some depth to the picture. With some of the animals, I used a fur filter and cropping mask for added realism.

The background was the last thing I worked on, again a new layer under all the others. Generally, I made these fairly simple so that they didn’t detract from the figure, but with some of them, like Henry the Apeth, I wanted to set the figure in time and space, so I added more detail. Some of them have texture filters to add interest or the ‘oil painting’ look.

All this work was done in RGB colour, but to submit them to IngramSpark for printing, I had to convert them to CMYK with less than 240% saturation, which was a bit of a nuisance, but I think I managed to keep the colour pretty well as good as it was in RGB. I also reduced each one to just over 8 x 8 inches to fit the trim of the book. I would really have loved to have done a book that catered for the 12 x 12 paintings, but unfortunately IngramSpark didn’t have anything that big that allowed premium colour. Still, it will allow me to do prints on a larger canvas and maybe one day I’ll do a bigger book. I have plans for more in the series, hence ‘Volume 1’.

What happens when you combine a love of art, animals and history with a sense of humour? You get a book that is delightfully different. Famous Animals is an alternative history, an artistic peek at the world of such remarkable animals as Felix Mendelswann, Joan Aardvark and Luciano Pavaratti. At the same time, it takes a biographical look at some equally noteworthy humans. A book that will appeal to young and old alike.

Click here to buy Famous Animals from Amazon

Monday, 28 September 2015

Book Review - War 2.2 by Jim Webster

This is the second book in the author's Tsarina Sector series and while I enjoyed the first book a lot, this one outshines it by quite some margin! As with the first book this story does an excellent job with the world. Many sci-fi stories fall for the trap of shoehorning technology in to make it more spacey, but the setting is so naturally described that the technology just slots into place.

More importantly it's a believable world that the author creates. In many ways it doesn't feel like a sci-fi story simply because of how easily everything slots together. I enjoy hard sci-fi and can happily enjoy reams of technical data this is more easily accessible and is something I think the genre needs more of.

Marvelling at the world building is one thing, but if there isn't a decent story in there then it becomes a dry exercise. Thankfully the story is excellent and flows at a decent page. The insurgency has a Vietnam war feel (the French one) that is well captured. There's either some personal experience or effective research here as it all feels quite authentic for the action and military sequences.

It isn't all about the troops on the ground though, there's also an investigative thread that adds background. The characters are all well drawn with some new faces along with those from the previous book. The reporter carries most of the story and I did eyebrow raise a few moments of how he flitted from one role to the next he carries the central role well.

It's at this point in the review that I talk about the bits I didn't like and to be honest I'm having to dig deep here. The first is something that I rarely comment on and that is the cover. This is definitely a case of not judging a book by its cover as it really doesn't really reflect the quality of the story or the writing. So if you are a reader who's usually put off by this type of thing then don't be in this case.

The other issue was a few proofing errors, there aren't many and to be honest I'm scraping the barrel to counter how much I enjoyed this book! For me this is a solid five star read and a second book in the series that surpasses the first. I can't wait for the next in the series to be released.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

An action packed investigation, from Delta mud to the palaces of Merchant princes, Haldar is back in War 2.2

Haldar Drom is starting to worry. The long running insurgency in the Zala Delta suddenly starts to spiral further out of control. Who is arming the insurgents? How and why? Then a leading local politician who is using his influence to try and keep things calm is threatened with assassination. It's obvious that things are moving to a climax.

All Haldar has immediately available is a third year university student who gets given a dissertation project she'll never forget; young journalist who he convinces to investigate the situation of the ground; and a retired marine librarian whose job is to keep the politician alive. As the investigation proceeds, from the mud of the Delta to the luxurious surroundings of the Drake Islands, Haldar comes to realise that he may be facing Wayland Strang's counter-attack. Faced with a coup d'├ętat spearheaded by off-world mercenaries Haldar has to react quickly to stop a major war.

Click here to buy War 2.2 from Amazon (and it's a brilliant military sci-fi read!)

Currently Reading - American Coven by Amy Cross

Click on image to buy from Amazon

He kidnapped three women and held them in his basement.

He thought they couldn't fight back.

He was wrong...

Snatched from the street near her home, Holly Carter is taken to a rural house and thrown down into a stone basement. She meets two other women who have also been kidnapped, and soon Holly learns about the horrific rituals that take place in the house. Eventually, she's called upstairs to take her place in the ice bath.

Over time, however, Holly learns about a mysterious power that exists in the basement, and which the three women can use as they struggle to escape. When they finally manage to get through the metal door, however, the women have no idea that their fight for freedom is going to stretch out for more than a decade, or that it will culminate in a final, devastating demonstration of their new-found powers.

Click here to buy American Coven from Amazon

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