Friday, 30 January 2015

Flashback Friday - Excession my Favourite Novel

In the Flashback Friday feature I re-post a highlight from the history of this blog. In today's feature I talk about my favourite novel - Excession by Ian M Banks. Since first posting this he unfortunately passed away and it's sad to think that there'll never be any more of his great writing.



A few weeks ago I expressed how I though that Paradise Lost was the greatest story ever told. I did however mention that while it was my favourite story, it wasn't my favourite book, that honour is held by Excession by Ian M Banks.

On the face of it it might seem an odd choice if you look at all the options available to me. He is one of the few authors whose latest novel I'll automatically purchase when it is released. He also writes as Ian Banks for his more literary work.

So why is Excession such a great book?

The first reason is the big idea. Something Banks and other good science fiction authors do is have a big idea at the core of the story. In this case it is an excession event, an object appears that cannot be understood by even the technologically advanced races nearby. The story concerns the effects the event has rather than trying to explore the event itself.

It also has one of the one of the most fun alien races I've encountered - the Affront. Floating gas bags of a cruel disposition they make a fine contrast to the Culture. It also raises some interesting questions about a high technology society that is for the most part peaceful deal with a technologically inferior but much more hostile race. Of course the Culture feature heavily in the story and brings with it some of the more interesting characters - the ship's minds.

Something that struck me as I first read the book is the communications between the ship's minds. To me he really captures the aspects of artificial intelligences as well as making them interesting characters.

I won't spoil the story for you, but it is both an exciting and thought provking tale. Highly recommended, I only re-read it a couple of months ago, I feel like reading it again.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Drabbles of Art - Two Girls Dressing a Kitten by Candlelight by Joseph Wright


I continue the Drabbles of Art series with Joseph Wright's painting 'Two Girls Dressing a Kitten by Candlelight'. I had a lot of fun with this one and I think the drabble provides an unusual slant to the picture while still fitting with it. The expression on the kitten's face sold it to me instantly!

If you've not read the other drabbles in the series then you can find them all here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/p/as-promised-in-last-weeks-final-post-in.html

Two Girls Dressing a Kitten by Candlelight by Joseph Wright

“You shouldn’t tease him so,” Lucy told her sister.

“But he looks so cute in the dolly’s dress,” Janine replied.

“That’s true, but see how he glares. There’s real fury in his eyes.”

“Inside the circle he’s powerless, so we can do whatever we like.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure,” Lucy answered. Her fingers traced around the markings on the table. “I found this circle and the markings in one of grandma’s old books. As long as he stays within the circle we can do whatever we want and I want to dress this demon like a doll.”

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Book Review - Exodus by Andreas Christensen

This is the first book in the author's Exodus trilogy and overall I enjoyed it, but it suffers from a few issues that hold it back from being a stand out novel.

First off we have the setting. I liked the basic premise of the how the extinction would occur and the need to find somewhere else for humanity to live. The world state is also interesting with a plausible dystopian future. This created a grim backdrop to the story while also adding a ray of hope for the future and with a new colony things could be done better.

It also added a stronger political element to the story than I expected. The characters perform their functions reasonably enough, but there's a lot going on so you don't really get to know them that well. And that leads me to my first main issue with the book - there just isn't enough meat on the bones.

The skeleton is fine, there's a solid story and the writing is clean and brings the events and emotions across, but there's so much going on that nothing feels fully fleshed out. For a story like this I expected a bit more science in the mix, there's some there but it doesn't really dig into the challenges a mission like this would encounter.

Which leads to my second issue - there isn't enough peril going on. The political element adds some conflict, but considering the backdrop of the events and the difficulty of the mission it all feels a bit too easy. Apart from a few exceptions you never really feel that the individuals are in any real danger. And what should have been a momentous journey is skimmed through rather quickly.

I did enjoy reading the story overall, but it could have been so much more epic. Still I've bought the second so worth a read.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

When mankind faces extinction, can anyone survive?

In 2072, Earth faces the ultimate extinction event. In an America turned authoritarian, a desperate race against time begins. To send a starship to a distant planet, where the remains of humanity can survive.

However, while the government wants to recreate the society it has engineered, there are those who secretly conspire to let the starfarers choose their own destiny. As mankind on Earth faces its final blow, the selected few set course for Aurora, more than 40 light years away.

Follow Maria Solis, the billionaire daughter, Kenneth Taylor, Harvard professor of psychology, and Tina Hammer, a scramjet pilot and officer, through the selection and preparations for the adventure of a lifetime - and a final chance for a doomed civilization.


Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Tuesday Tease - The Last True Demon by Michael Brookes

For this week's Tuesday Tease we have the opening chapter for my next book - 'The Last True Demon'. Details on the book can be found after the excerpt:

THE LAST TRUE DEMON
by Michael Brookes

Chapter 1
Finding the Impossible


The Garden of Eden had seen better days.

Where a paradise once existed now I saw a churned battlefield, reminiscent of the blood-soaked fields of France during World War I. Unlike the tragedy of the human conflict, this war had raged for longer than the span of human existence. In the process the war ruined the splendour of the Garden which had once been the jewel of creation. Hemal, the Friar and Hammond waited for me to act; fortunately the sheer scale of Eden enabled us to appear far from the current fighting.

Or so I hoped at any rate.

During my incarceration within the monastery wall, the conversations with the angels provided me with some warning of what to expect. Despite that I still felt somewhat shell-shocked by the experience. The transformation from a living human into an immortal soul wasn’t an easy or pleasant one.

The Friar and Hammond suffered an even greater trauma. Both refused to speak, or even acknowledge my presence. They retained the same physical appearance as they had in life. I assumed that I had too. The Friar was the taller of the two, although not by much. Hammond, the ex-marine bulked much heavier.

I’d first met them both in prison. Hammond had been one of the guards and the Friar replaced the chaplain I’d scared away. Unbeknownst to me at the time they were both members of the Dominican order and my particular talents were of great interest to them.

They had talents of their own of course, but they relied upon their framework of faith. I preferred to be more flexible and that helped me through the transition between life and death. I’d also received some warning of what the process entailed, they found everything they believed in life ruined like the Garden around them. Only the angel Hemal seemed aware of my presence and she looked almost dead from her battle with that traitorous bastard Venet.

When I last encountered him he’d distracted me while the Antichrist prepared for my sacrifice. The moment when he’d torn Lazarus’ miracle of immortality from my body had been one of infinite agony. In the same moment I had died — something I’d thought impossible after stealing the miracle from Lazarus.

I’d learnt that we all possessed an immortal soul. A construct created by God which existed in planes of being higher than our own. It followed us throughout our lives recording our choices and thoughts. When we died it transformed our consciousness into a new being able to inhabit the same plane as the angels.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Like all pleasant-sounding things, it came with a catch. In the instant of transformation you experienced every living second of your life. More than just memories, you also discovered every truth about yourself and what you might have been. Every choice you ever made was laid bare and the consequences of your actions, or failure to act, made clear.

In effect you didn’t just relive the life you had; you followed every life you could have led. Imagine all the ways in which your life might have differed. Now live them all at once in the same instant. It created an information overload even for someone used to walking the paths of the mind like me.

I knew what to expect and still struggled to comprehend the experience. Hammond and Friar Francis looked like they had been fried by theirs.

From far in the distance came the sound of conflict. The eternal war had already lasted longer than the universe. A few thousand years ago humanity joined the war as cannon fodder for both sides, the loyalists and the fallen. One of the loyalists sat in front of me now. Lucifer and Michael had put a plan in action to end humanity’s existence and our involvement in the war.

When I first met Hemal I’d almost been seduced by her ethereal beauty. That fair art had been ruined by Venet. She had suffered so much damage I caught glimpses of her true form boiling beneath the human-shaped disguise she wore for our benefit.

She’d once warned me that seeing her true form would be too much for my mind to handle. I wondered if that still held true, or if the transformation somehow protected me. I guessed it would. After all, if it didn’t then the growing rebellion from the human souls would have been crushed by now.

Her true form reminded me of the coiling mass which once protected Lazarus’s mind. No, at first glance it might have seemed similar, but upon closer inspection they stretched deeper. I followed the twists inwards …

“Hey! You can admire me later when I’m back to my usual self.”

Her words brought me back. I didn’t understand why I’d lost myself so easily. Something with my mind didn’t seem right; my usual precision had somehow slid off-kilter.

I glanced again at the Friar and Hammond. They looked the same as they had back in the physical universe. Again my concentration slipped — why was I so easily distracted all of a sudden?

Another memory intruded. Something more recent.

“You said that we still had a chance to stop Lucifer and Michael’s plan. You said we needed to find the last true demon. I thought you’d hunted them all down?”

This was one of the secrets I’d learned while in my cafe beside the abyss: demons weren’t part of creation. Somehow they were invisible to God. This had frightened the angels and they’d hunted down and destroyed all of them.

Or so they’d claimed.

“That’s what we thought, but I’ve heard rumours over the centuries.” Her voice strained from the effort of talking. “Strange occurrences which might indicate one still exists.”

“How is this possible?”

“I’m not sure, and we don’t have time to speak of this now. Others will have sensed your arrival and you’re still a valuable prize. We must get out of here and quickly.”

“Where to?”

“Anywhere for now. I’m too weak to fight even a human soul in my current condition.”

“All right, let me get Hammond and Friar Francis together.”

She nodded.

I moved over to the Friar and looked into his eyes. He didn’t respond to my presence. I saw nothing in his eyes, just a stare which reached out forever.

“Friar, we have to move. I realise this is all seems strange and isn’t what you expected, but Hemal says we cannot stay here.”

Still no sign of life. I touched his arm. I’m not one for physical contact. I much prefer to delve into people’s thoughts, but I hoped it would get through to him — a silly idea I know, but I’d experienced all manner of odd notions since I first met these two men.

Again my mind wandered so I forced my focus back to the Friar.

“C’mon Friar, we need to get out of here. Snap out of it.”

Still no response. I tried shaking him but, once again, nothing. I only had one choice left, so I cast out my thoughts and dived into his mind.

Well that had been the plan; instead nothing happened. The first time we’d met his abilities had blocked my own, but this was something worse — my will didn’t even leave my head. For the first time since an early age I couldn’t project my will beyond my own body.

I tried again with the same result.

I didn’t panic until my third attempt failed. I grabbed the Friar again, this time with creeping desperation and hoping physical contact would provide a bridge. When it didn’t I really started to fear. I released the Friar and turned to Hammond.

The Friar had blocked me before, although since training me he hadn’t been able to do that. A small part of me had already understood that I wasn’t being blocked, not by the Friar. The greater and weaker part needed even the flimsiest of straws to clutch at.

I tried to cast my mind out once more.

It failed to leave the prison of my skull. Hammond didn’t even look at me. He’d always been so secure in himself that he never raised any barriers; in fact he’d welcomed me straight in the first time we’d met. Now he stared past me, not registering my panic or even the wreckage of the Garden around him.

In that moment I experienced fear. Not for the first time I’ll grant you, but this time proved different. This wasn’t as simple as a fear of dying, or being beaten. This fear struck at the core of who I had been for so long. I reacted as I had before and retreated inside myself.

The relief when I slipped into the fabric of my own mind thrilled me. Was it really still my body even though I no longer had a physical body?

It was a distracting question and not one I should take the time to dwell on. I faced an existential concern: something which had defined me for most of my life had vanished. I felt lessened by the knowledge.

Deep inside I discovered a small sanctuary. It buoyed me that at least I had a place to retreat to. The knowledge restored my faith in myself. Not completely of course but enough to keep me retreating into the same state that Hammond and the Friar already had.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

The Last True Demon is the concluding book in The Third Path trilogy.

Stealing Lazarus’ miracle granted me immortality. Unfortunately, as I discovered upon a cold slab of stone, it didn’t make me indestructible. According to a dark prophecy I should have been the one who could stop the Antichrist bringing his Father to the Earth.

I learned the hard way as he ripped the miracle from my flesh. Now I’ve passed over and I’m in the ruins of the Garden of Eden with the Friar, Hammond, and Venet, a wounded angel. There’s a slim chance we can save humanity. All we have to do is find God and convince him to intervene and save us all.

The only problem?

He doesn’t believe that we exist…


Available to pre-order now: 


Monday, 26 January 2015

Guest Author Interview - Mel Ostrov

In this week's Guest Author Interview I am joined by Mel Ostrov, author of 'Mud Castles':

Click on image to buy from Amazon

Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
I was born in the U.S.A. during the Great Depression. My parents were poor immigrants from England – my father from the east side slums of London, my mother from Manchester. Both parents had only an elementary school education; both had to work to support their new family. Fortunately, the New York City schools, including Brooklyn College, were free. I proved to be a good student, serving on the math team and earning a science medal. After college I attended medical school, followed by a hospital internship, then residency in Internal Medicine followed by another year specializing in Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, going on to become a Fellow of the Academy (FAAAAI). During the Vietnam War I served in the U.S. Army for two years as a physician in an Army Hospital. By then I had a lovely wife and two wonderful children. After I was discharged at the rank of Major I joined a practice specializing in Allergies and Asthma. Now that I’m retired I have found time to write my first novel, Mud Castles.

What first inspired you to start writing?
In school, writing compositions and reports seemed to be merely a chore because I had to do it. However, when I became a contributor to medical journals and wrote articles for newspapers I found it to be quite enjoyable. From there it wasn’t much of a leap jumping to books.

Where did the idea for Mud Castles come from?
Believe it or not, the entire concept of Mud Castles did not present as an idea; it evolved. From early childhood I always empathized with other children in distress; I couldn’t bear to see them cry. That trait always persisted, but a physician adapts by mentally distancing himself in situations such as mental or physical suffering. After I retired from practice, I had the time to illustrate in writing how I thought an afflicted child may feel and react to his situation. After I created a boy with a birth defect it seemed only natural to have him acquire psychological problems. Then, it had to evolve into a situation where the parents would desperately attempt to help him. As I was writing, I realized that the concept of God and religion played an important part, not only in physical and mental anguish, but also in life and death. And so, the metaphor of Mud Castles came into play as the protagonists philosophized on the beach. I just made it all up as the story unfolded.

Which book has had the greatest impact on you and why?
“Arrowsmith” by Sinclair Lewis definitely had the greatest impact on me. My mother was an avid reader. She cherished and raved about her 1925 edition of the book (which I still own), enticing me to read it when I was about 12 years old. I attribute that story to my career in medicine, for after that I read every medical novel I could find in the public library (I couldn’t afford to buy a book).

Where do you like to write?
In the public library; it’s isolated, quiet and comfortable.

What makes your writing stand out?
They tell me that my style is “simplistic”, whatever that means; I guess it must be easy to read. The text of the book deals with important, controversial issues, some of which are depressing, but there are also dabs of humor and hope. Some readers regard it as a historical novel describing an interesting locale during a time gone by. Others appreciate the controversial messages buried in the story. A few people may even recognize and understand an occasional epithet like “Ofays” or the meaning of a dog’s foreign name.

What is your favourite song lyric?
It shouldn’t be surprising to see that an empathetic person’s favorite song lyrics are those that reflect hope in the face of sadness, suffering, anguish, or rejection. My favorite lyric is from “The Little White Cloud that Cried,” written and sung by Johnnie Ray:

…When all at once I saw in the sky
The little white cloud that cried
He told me he was very lonesome
And no one cared if he lived or died
And said sometimes the thunder and lightning
Make all little clouds hide
He said Have faith in all kinds of weather
For the sun will always shine
Do your best and always remember
The dark clouds pass with time

It’s reminiscent of Longfellow’s poem, Rainy Day:

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

What are you working on at the moment?
I‘m still involved with Mud Castles, looking into producing an audiobook and perhaps even a movie version, while thinking about a plot for a follow up book.

Tell us about your latest release and how we can find out more.
So far, Mud Castles is my only release. It’s a Coming-of-Age story of a boy as he learns about life and death. He was born with a permanent disfigurement on his face with no hope for correction. It proved to be a defining factor in his life. Raised in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, New York, he had to endure taunts, mockery and bullying leading to pathological shyness and self-imposed social isolation. Over the years a family tragedy adds to his tribulations leading to religious conflict, followed by even more devastating consequences during adolescence when a mysterious girl enters the scene.

Click here to buy Mud Castles from Amazon

Sunday, 25 January 2015

February Short Fiction Contest

"Hanoi Water Puppets - Fairy Dance (3695189852)" by Greg Willis from Denver, CO, usa

Welcome to February's Short Fiction Contest here on The Cult of Me blog. This month's image found me almost instantly while browsing Wikimedia Commons. There's great art to the dolls as well as something a little creepy to them. I'm sure it will inspire some incredible stories!

As always the stories can be of any genre. They just have to be inspired by this month's image and no more than 500 words.

Entry to the contest remains free and there are prizes for the three winners. I will also feature any of the stories that don't win but I believe are worth showcasing on this blog.
  • First prize is a £50 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize
  • Second prize is a £20 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize
  • Third prize is a £10 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize
The money for the prizes come out of my own pocket, although I do make a little from advertising on this blog. So if you see something of interest then feel free to click on the links and purchase away! If you haven't tried my books yet then check them out at the top of the page, as well as buying a good read you'll be helping this contest.

Please make sure to check your story for typos before submitting. I don't mind a few errors, but my enjoyment of a story is diminished if I have to wade through too many.

I'll post the winning entries by March 1st 2015.

As with everything in life there are a few rules:
  • Only one entry per person.
  • The story must not be longer than 500 words.
  • Closing date for submissions is February 22nd 2015.
  • By submitting the story you grant me a non-exclusive license to post the story on this blog. I do ask that I post it here first.
  • You also grant me a one time non-exclusive license to include the story in an e-book release.
  • The judge's decision is final.

Use the form below to enter your submission. After you've submitted please leave a comment on this page stating that you have submitted. And please help spread the word. Great stories deserve great readers!




As well as comments section below you can chat about this competition in any of the threads I've listed below. If you don't know the sites then entering the competition is a good way to introduce yourself. Note that these sites are not affiliated with the competition in any way!




If you've started your own thread or discussion somewhere about this month's competition then let me know and I'll add the link to this page.

Shout Out for Jotters United



Jotters United started when are a group of writers met on-line through various sites and pages. Some of us are published, some not. We are united in our quest to get our work out there, published in various forms: books, magazines, web-sites, whatever. And are united in trying to improve our art and swapping best practice and information.

We started our magazine a year ago http://ju-lit-zine.wix.com/jotters-united What we hope to do with our E-zine is to publish some cool writing from established and new writers. If we like it, it gets in! We try to publish one Issue a month.

We also now have a facebook page http://www.facebook.com/JottersUnited?ref=hl where we share anything to do with writing, stuff like links to books, competitions, submission calls, opinions and so on.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Tales of the Imp - Missing in Action

After a long hiatus the Imp returns (well not quite!) in the latest Tales of the Imp drabble featured in today's Indie Book Bargains newsletter. You can read the previous drabbles in the series here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/p/tales-of-imp.html

Missing in Action

It’s been months since I last saw the Imp and my life’s become a mess.

I don’t know where he’s gone, only that he’s not here and I don’t know what to do. Considering all of the crap he’s put me through, my feelings come as a surprise.

I’m sat in front of the computer trying to write and the words just won’t come. He claimed to be my muse and maybe that was truer than I realised.

All I know is that he understood me in a way no person ever could and now I’m alone.

Where is he?

Friday, 23 January 2015

The Last True Demon Available for Pre-Order

I'm very pleased to announce that the epic conclusion to The Third Path trilogy 'The Last True Demon' is now available for pre-order on Kindle and will be released on Sunday February 1st.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

The Last True Demon is the concluding book in The Third Path trilogy.

Stealing Lazarus’ miracle granted me immortality. Unfortunately, as I discovered upon a cold slab of stone, it didn’t make me indestructible. According to a dark prophecy I should have been the one who could stop the Antichrist bringing his Father to the Earth.

I learned the hard way as he ripped the miracle from my flesh. Now I’ve passed over and I’m in the ruins of the Garden of Eden with the Friar, Hammond, and Venet, a wounded angel. There’s a slim chance we can save humanity. All we have to do is find God and convince him to intervene and save us all.

The only problem?

He doesn’t believe that we exist…

Available to pre-order now: 


Thursday, 22 January 2015

Alex Roddie: writer of mountain fiction: Introducing No Way Home, a speculative fiction ant...

Alex Roddie: writer of mountain fiction: Introducing No Way Home, a speculative fiction ant...: Today I'd like to talk to you about something a little different. I've been working with a group of other writers to produce an anth...

Book Review - The Universe Five Minutes at a Time by James McAlister

I discovered this little gem in a Facebook group I admin. I would say in advance that the author doesn't really sell it in the books blurb, which is a shame as this is a decent collection of science fiction short stories.

One story in particular stood out for me and that was about a group of caretakers of creation. The writing was excellent and the idea a novel one. And that sums the book up nicely - it's full of good ideas and the author has a solid and clean writing style which meant I devoured the stories on offer in no time at all.

This was helped by the stories being quite short, more like flash fiction in some cases. Which leads to my only real complaint about the book. I think that some of the stories deserved more attention and didn't quite fulfill their potential. I understand that some of the stories are also teasers for longer works, but they should be able to stand on their own.

I'm a fan of short stories and this is a good one. Well worth checking out.



A few really, really short stories by J. W. McAllister
Edition 2; several typos corrected.
If you liked the Twilight Zone's cute ironies, perhaps you'll find some amusement here. Also included are short introductions to events and characters in four books I have written or are working on.
Enjoy!


Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Blog Shout Out - Marsh Myers, Author, Artist, Nerd Blog

For this week's Blog Shout Out March Myers invites us to visit his Author, Artist and Nerd blog. Find out more below:




Blog, blogs everywhere… but where to begin building your own?

I have developed websites for years, but none of them were as difficult to develop and construct as my personal author’s blog. Honestly, I’ve never been comfortable talking about myself — so I agonized over every detail from how to market my work to whether anyone would care about what I had to say. But whatever my misgivings, I needed to to tackle this head-on once I became a published author in 2013. If you’re a novelist, you will be expected to have a website / blog. More and more readers are seeking ways to connect with their favorite authors and an engaging blog is one of the first things they’ll look for.

I had launched my site, http://marshmyers.com, two years before my book was released to build name recognition and make sure it was fully optimized for search engines, but initially I didn’t have much content to offer. I compensated by thinking about my intended audience — primarily teens — and anticipating what would draw them to any website. I started writing movie, video game, toy and book reviews, concentrating on titles of interest to young people but also reflecting the fantasy, thriller and paranormal themes I used in my writing. To give my intended audience a taste of my fiction, I also created a series of short stories called Tiny Tales of the Mostly Macabre and made them downloadable as free epubs. This turned out to be one of the site’s most popular features, as these stories are continually accessed even though some are now years old.

Writing blogs proved trickier. I have very diverse interests but had to work at tailoring them to my audience. Thus, a blog about filmmaking (something I do professionally) turned into how teens can use smart devices and easily accessible apps to make their own video creations. Some of my most popular blogs have actually been about my creative process, which surprised me. Honestly, I didn’t think anyone would care how I wrote, but then a friend who frequents writers’ blogs told me that’s exactly what he wants to see. Those details, he explained, not only fleshed out the author’s published works, but allowed him insight into who the author was as a person. Taking this to heart, I wrote more blogs about my process and created discussion pages for both my books where readers could access answers to commonly asked questions, pose others, see supportive materials and purchase my titles.

Naturally, all this was combined with having an active social media presence, a tricky proposition if you’re trying to connect with young adults who are notoriously fickle in what platform they use. Still, effectively using Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Goodreads, etc., can drive a ton of traffic to your site and greatly raise your visibility.

Finally, I came to understand quickly that it’s very important to update your blog often. Websites are organic things, and if you don’t care for them properly, your readers will abandon them and go looking for fresh content elsewhere. Now go out and blog!

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Book Review - Six Dead Spots by Gregor Xane

I enjoyed the basic premise of this story. The main characters discovers six dead spots on his body and starts to investigate what they are and where they came from. The plot from that point on is interesting and leads to some suitably dark revelations which kept my attention throughout.

The style of how the story is told is a little unusual, but comes as a bit of a mixed blessing. There is little narrative connecting some of the scenes and this means there are some jumps along the way. Contrasting with this is the hyper level of detail within the scenes with every detail and movement written. It gave the book a bit of a disjointed feel which in some part worked in the context of the story, but did mean reading it wasn't as fluid as it could have been.

The descent of Frank into seeming madness is well orchestrated and there's some good ideas in there. I especially like the trick for knowing if you are in a dream or not, although this wasn't used as effectively as it could have been.

I did have an issue with the ending. It felt quite abrupt (it was after a big leap) and it didn't really provide a satisfactory conclusion. I don't mind an ambiguous ending, but it would have been nice to have known a bit more about the reality of the situation.

Overall I found it a decent horror read, but a bit more development could have elevated it into something special.
Click on image to buy from Amazon

Frank makes a startling discovery in the shower. He finds six strange circles of skin gone completely numb—three neatly spaced down the center of his chest and abdomen, and three more down his spine. His doctor takes sadistic pleasure in carving out bits of Frank's flesh and a perverse childlike glee flipping through hundreds of pictures of his interior. But when the tests come back, he's unable to make a diagnosis and refers Frank to a psychiatrist. Under guided hypnosis, Frank uncovers clues in a repressed dream, but his sessions on the couch are soon cut short when he loses his job and his health insurance. Now Frank is forced to solve the mystery of his six dead spots on his own. Armed with nicotine patches, pornography, sleeping pills, and a stack of books on lucid dreaming, Frank delves into a world of nightmares to do battle with the monsters lurking inside his head.


Click here to buy Six Dead Spots from Amazon US / Amazon UK (and it's a decent horror read)

Monday, 19 January 2015

Guest Authors Revisted - A. L. Butcher

In this week's Guest Author Interview fantasy author A. L.Butcher returns to tell us what she's been up to since she was last featured back in October 2013 (you can read here original interview here):

Click on image to buy from Amazon

What has changed in your life since we last spoke?
Quite a bit! I have a collection of short stories set in the world of my novels. Tales of Erana: Myths and Legends, told as mythic style fireside tales include tales of gods and mortals, magic and mayhem and romance and revenge. The book is also available in audio. Now that was a lot of fun to produce, if time consuming. It is amazing to hear one's work read aloud.
Aside from that I have written Book III of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles - that will be published early 2015, I hope. My most recent publication was with the Indie Collaboration for the new Halloween anthology of horror, dark fantasy and dark fiction. Horror is a relatively new genre for me, and the Jack the Ripper based story I have in Darker Places is very dark indeed! This year has been busy with a total of seven anthology submissions.

Outside the writing I have been studying, including a course on Historical Fiction, a writing course and currently an online course about Roman Britain.

Have you learned any new wisdom?
There is always something new to learn. The writing course was useful, more for reminding me of things forgotten and the Historical Fiction course had lectures on character building and research. I do quite a lot of research for the novels, so wisdom has been gained there.

I now have Twitter and a blog, which have been a learning curve for sure!

Have you become a better writer? If so, how?
I think so. I am now more confident, I'll try new ideas and genres and I have more experience of what works, and what doesn't. A writer can always learn.

What are you working on at the moment?
Book III is with my beta readers. Currently I am working on some short fantasy stories for an anthology and a collection of fantasy erotica tales with another writer.

Tell us about your latest release and how we can find out more.
Tales of Erana: Myths and Legends is available as an e-book in all the Amazon and Smashwords stores, and the audio on Amazon, Audible and I-tunes.

Tales from Darker Places is available on Amazon, Smashwords and in print.

Click here to buy Tales of Erana: Myths and Legends from Amazon US / Amazon UK

Author Bio:
A. L. Butcher is the British author of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles series and several short stories in the fantasy and fantasy romance genre. She is an avid reader and creator of worlds, a poet and a dreamer. When she is grounded in the real world she likes science, natural history, history and monkeys. Her work has been described as ‘dark and gritty’

Blog: http://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6430414.A_L_Butcher

Twitter:@libraryoferana
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DarkFantasyBeyondTheStorm

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Last Week to Enter January's Short Fiction Contest

By Creator:George Grie (Own work, [1]) [Public domain, GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

This week is your last chance to enter January's Short Fiction Contest. This month's ghostly image of a ship in moonlight has already inspired many excellent entries. But there's still time for more, so if you haven't entered yet you had best get those fingers tapping!

It's easy to enter. All you need to do is 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 here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/january-short-fiction-contest.html

There's no entry fee and you could win a £50 Amazon or PayPal prize.

If you haven't read December's winning stories yet then you should really check them out here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/december-short-fiction-contest-winners.html

Joo's Book Reviews and Interviews: Chatting With Katy

Joo's Book Reviews and Interviews: Chatting With Katy: Here's Katy.  she loves all things Indie and quality and is not afraid to tell you if she doesn't like your story. If you co...

Friday, 16 January 2015

Book Review - The Long Earth by Terry Prachett and Stephen Baxter

This book has been on my TBR last for ages and I don't know why I kept putting off reading. Perhaps it's because even though I'm a fan of both authors it seemed like an unlikely pairing. Anyway, I finally got round to reading it and I'm happy to say that it is a fantastic read.

The story is based around a relatively simple premise that is an almost quantum universe of planet Earths spreading through the different possibilities of its evolution. It's not necessarily a new idea, but it is executed in a deceptively charming fashion.

There's a good blend of slightly odd characters - Lobsang as a reincarnated Tibetan bike repairman as an AI really stood out for me. But care and depth was lavished upon the other characters as well ensuring that they contributed to the story's progress.

I tend to enjoy science-fiction which explores ideas and this book does so in an almost contemplative fashion. The effects of the introduction of the Long Earth into human society are a fascinating insight and the more personal experiences for the characters layers nicely on this.

A five star read for me and I've immediately grabbed the next book in the series!

Click on image to buy from Amazon

NORMALLY, WHEN THERE WAS NOTHING TO DO, HE LISTENED TO THE SILENCE.

The Silence was very faint here. Almost drowned out by the sounds of the mundane world. Did people in this polished building understand how noisy it was? The roar of air conditioners and computer fans, the susurration of many voices heard but not decipherable.... This was the office of the transEarth Institute, an arm of the Black Corporation. The faceless office, all plasterboard and chrome, was dominated by a huge logo, a chesspiece knight. This wasn't Joshua's world. None of it was his world. In fact, when you got right down to it, he didn't have a world; he had all of them.

ALL OF THE LONG EARTH.


Click here to buy The Long Earth from Amazon US / Amazon UK (and it's a cracking read!)


Thursday, 15 January 2015

Drabbles of Art - The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai

"Great Wave off Kanagawa2" by Katsushika Hokusai (θ‘›ι£ΎεŒ—ζ–Ž)
The Drabbles of Art series continues with the vivd piece 'Great Wave off Kanagawa' by Japanese artist Katsushuika Hokusai. This was a fun picture to write a story for as it all the elements nice and prominent.

If you haven't read the other drabbles (100 word stories) in the series then you'll find them here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/p/as-promised-in-last-weeks-final-post-in.html

The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai

The spirits dwell within the white of the water. That’s how we know they’re there. When the sea churns they dance across the waves always racing towards the village. We sail our boats across the water to chase them away from the shore.

They can never be allowed to touch the mountain.

Why? You might ask.

Look upon the distant mountain’s peak and you’ll see their brethren frozen in their prison. If they escape and return to the sea then the waves will rise and drown the land, and so to save our village we must chase the spirits away.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Blog Shout Out - Chris Jane Book Blog

For this week's Blog Shout Out Chris Jane invites us to visit her book blog:

Click on image to buy from Amazon


My name is Chris Jane, and I'm the author of the novel The Year of Dan Palace, releasing Nov. 22.

Fiction is my niche. Blogging isn't. That is, I never developed a knack for writing the pithy, 300-word copy sure to attract followers and viral shares. I'm not "trendy." I created the website because I'm a writer with a book to sell. And when I write for the blog, admittedly, part of what motivates me is trying to sell/promote the book. But that's only part of it.

I'm not a known person, as anyone reading this knows. And there are a lot of not-known people out there who I think are fantastic at what they do, whether it's writing fiction, poetry, or just being good examples of human beings. This is a fame-and-looks obsessed society. (For an example of looks-obsessed, look no further than what happened to Alex of Target.)

It's also a society that, for whatever reason, flocks to and rewards mean-spiritedness. (For an example of this, look at the success of programs like Bridezillas, the Real Housewives franchise, and any other show that pits the participants against each other.)

My blog is new, but what I hope to do with it - in addition to writing about things that are personal to me but that relate to The Year of Dan Palace (you have to know it to write it, to some degree) - is introduce people who might not otherwise get the notice I think they deserve, or introduce lifestyles I'd like to understand better (I'm currently awaiting interview answers from a man involved in an open marriage).

For example, one of my most popular posts right now features an interview with an exceptional poet named K.C. Hanson who recently released a collection called The Lazarus Project. It's only 50 pages, but it's packed with feeling - and it's relatable. I don't even necessarily like poetry (I don't dislike it, but I won't rush for it in the bookstore, either). But his collection, whose poems create stories for old photographs found in antique stores, is truly wonderfully written. Anyway, he was published with a small MN press, and small presses don't have the bankroll to do a lot of promotion. So, even though unknown, myself, and maybe not much help, I like to do what I can to try.

I'd like Q&As, my preferred kind of post, to be a pretty regular feature. I enjoy learning about other people and giving them an opportunity to talk about what they love. But I also think it's important to get a little intimate with readers, myself, and reveal some of the experiences that influence whatever writing I'm working on.

A recent post discusses anxiety and panic attacks, which plague a large percentage of adults. But I tried to do it in a way that sees their value. (Believe it or not, I did find value in them ... eventually.) I know a lot of people with anxiety issues, a few who are taking drugs for panic attacks, and sometimes simply talking about things like that, normalizing them, makes them easier for others to deal with.

None of this sounds very exciting, but like I said, I'm not trendy. I'm not delivering Chicken Soup for the Soul, venom, puppies, or targets of potential ire. Just regular, real conversation. And a limerick now and then.

Blog link: http://chrisjane.net/blog/

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Tuesday Tease - Maybe, Misery by C. S. Bailey

I read and enjoyed reading C. S. Bailey's debut novel 'Maybe, Misery' a few weeks ago and I'm happy to share an excerpt in the week's Tuesday Tease as you might like it as well:

Click on image to buy from Amazon


Maybe, Misery by C. S. Bailey

My head is spinning. My hazy eyes just about make out the empty vodka bottle on the floor. I am on the bed in the foetal position, never have I been so fearful. Even when I was young, faced with the orange glow of flames destroying my family right before my eyes, I felt braver than I do now. I lie here for what seems like a few hours just considering the damage I have caused, the lives I have destroyed due to my own selfish greed. How could I have been so thoughtless towards my fellow man?

Well to be honest, I never much appreciated the human race as a whole, with our mass-produced consumerism, the way we created a language and then destroyed it with hashtags and our ever-decreasing vocabulary. Pop culture is a particular gripe, telling people what to wear, what music to listen to and so on and you’re left with feeling admiration for what a powerful entity it is. Mobile phones, mobile homes, mobile sex, mobile dreams, mobile people. Everything is always on the go, a fast food life for the undead.

Do we live to work? Or do we work to live? We all aim for something in life but is that something really worth it? I wanted a family, I worked hard to provide for them and to get where I am and look what’s happened to me. This world is a cruel place, made so by humanity. We are the scourge of the universe and our only care is greed.

As cynical as I am, I can’t help but think perhaps I have done the world a favour. We could do to lose some of our lesser minds that glue themselves to the television and waste their lives watching reality shows or posting their every thought on social networking websites for us all to see and shake our heads at. I always want to scream at these people and tell them to read a book! Go outside, do something, anything rather than absolutely nothing. Einstein never watched TV! Neither did Sir Alexander Fleming or Michel Eugene Chevreul. All of these men were geniuses in their own right and not one of them was caught sat on the couch watching the latest shitty television show about non-celebrities making fools of themselves for money. Anyway, that’s a rant for another day.

Like a zombie, I shuffle and groan out of the bed and I pull the red silk curtains open. The rays of sunshine hurt my eyes so I swiftly draw them to a close again. I don’t really think about it but I proceed to get ready for my trip to the lab. I turn on the shower and the water’s cold, which isn’t a good sign, but a cold shower should shock me out of an outrageous hangover and it does the trick. I get dressed and go to grab the lockbox from the living room. In it I keep five thousand in cash, my passport and a gun.

Click here to buy Maybe, Misery from Amazon US / Amazon UK (and it's a damn fine read!)

About the Author:

It started in when I was a boy. I have always had a passion for writing fun, action filled stories, that I could get lost in and over the years and I have made many attempts to write a book.

They all unfortunately turned out to be awful parodies of my life at that time with Maybe, Misery being the first original story that I have ever completed. Having it on my bucket list for all those years, I hadn't planned to release my little book to the public. It was only when a friend read it, that he convinced me otherwise.

It has been a long and difficult road to publishing, to the point of hating my book.

Now it has been released though, I wouldn't of changed a thing. It has given my the chance to meet and work with some great people.

And for that, I am grateful. As I am to every single person who takes the time to read my little book.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Guest Author Interview - Morey Kunin

Children's author Morey Kunin joins us for this week's Guest Author Interview. Discover more about him and his writing below:
Click on image to buy from Amazon

Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
Hey Michael, thanks for taking the time to chat with me. My name is Morey Kunin, and what I do is never really a straight answer. As Frank Sinatra once sang, “A pirate, a pauper, a puppet, a poet, a pawn and a king.” I might call it a jack of all trades, with aspirations of being a Renaissance Man. I’ve had several career changes including advertising, teaching, film production, real estate, and a number of odd jobs in between. And of course, now I’m writing children’s books.

What first inspired you to start writing?
I’ve almost always been writing in one form or another, either for myself or someone else. As I mentioned before, a good part of my adult life has been writing advertising. One of the common jokes in the ad world is that all writers have a screenplay hidden in their desk drawers, and all art directors want to be painters. In my case, it was children’s books rather than screenplays, but it’s still the same general idea.

Why children’s books as opposed to something else?
It was a combination of two things. The first is simply that the writers I’ve always wanted most to emulate write stories for younger audiences. The Narnia Chronicles, Mark Twain, fairy tales, King Arthur legends, Roald Dahl, and so on. Young readers are more open to new ideas and the world in general, and I’m hoping that my books will help them stay open for as long as possible.

The second is my experience as a substitute teacher. I was very fortunate in that the school I worked at always chose me to fill in on long-term assignments when teachers went on maternity leave. That gave me a chance to really get to know the kids in a way that day-to-day subbing wouldn’t have. In fact, one of my books was directly inspired by that experience.

Which book was that?
The Pebble’s Wish.

And what happened in the classroom?
At one point I took over a 6th grade drama class for six weeks. At the time, because of construction most of the 6th grade was in a separate building nearby, with no outdoor area and few windows. The kids’ only creative outlets were an art class and my drama class. By the end of the day they were bouncing off the walls!

Luckily, around that same time I happened to be taking some acting classes myself. So instead of just treating it like a regular class by reading plays, I spent some time every day having them do improv or movement exercises. The kids loved it, and more importantly, giving them a chance to loosen up helped them focus on the more traditional classroom work we would do afterwards.

So how did The Pebble’s Wish grow from that experience?
I wanted to write a book that would inspire kids to try moving in different ways on their own, and decided to use a particular exercise by Michael Chekhov (who taught great actors like Clint Eastwood, Yul Brynner, Marilyn Monroe, and many more). The story follows the adventure of a small pebble that learns how to move, and draws heavily on the exercise Chekhov called, “Molding, floating, flying and radiating.”

One of my greatest joys in developing the book is when I read it to groups of children, and saw that some of them spontaneously started making movements similar to the characters.

That sounds like a lot of fun. What’s next on the horizon?
In addition to The Pebble’s Wish, I have another book called A Castle Under the Sun, which is more of a classic fairy tale. Both of them are intended for ages 8+, and I am currently working on a picture book for beginning readers. After that I will probably go big and start working on a series more along the lines of Narnia.

Where can my readers can go for more information?
I’ve just started a blog that has info about my books, and will include ongoing posts about my experiences in publishing, and possibly other features like book reviews or general interest regarding children’s books and education.

Links:
Blog: http://books.moreykunin.com
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7975605.Morey_Kunin
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Morey-Kunin-Author/510840212338541

The Pebble’s Wish
Print or Kindle: http://amzn.to/1rseUQp
Smashwords (all other ebook formats): https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/365268

A Castle Under the Sun
Print or Kindle: http://amzn.to/1xYewvh
Smashwords (all other ebook formats): https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/365298

The Pebble's Wish kindle edition is on 99c offer until Jan 19th - Amazon US / Amazon UK

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Short Fiction Writers and Readers Group Teaches 1,000 Members


Excellent news! The Short Fiction Writers and Readers group I set up on Facebook has reached 1,000 members. I set the group up to help writers share and discuss short fiction in it's various forms and drabbles are a particular favourite.

It's also a group for readers to discover short stories and flash fiction. If you haven't joined yet then you can do so here:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/shortfictionreadersandwriters/

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Sun Dragon Needs Your Votes!

Sun Dragon has received a fantastic new review over on Goodreads:

"In Sun Dragon, you live with the crew of the Mars Voyager while they are on their journey, you follow their day to day routine with their little dramas, happiness or triumphs until all Hell breaks loose."

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1163107692

Sun Dragon has also appeared on a couple of lists on Goodreads and it would be great to get them up the rankings. I'm up against some great competition so I'm calling for votes - please visit the links below and vote for Sun Dragon:

New Authors of Science Fiction: 

https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/82528.New_Authors_of_Science_Fiction#23503415

Best New Sci-Fi Novels You've Never Heard Of:

https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/82958.Best_New_Sci_Fi_Novels_You_ve_Never_Heard_About#23503415



2012: NASA's Curiosity Rover lands on Mars to search for signs of whether microbial life existed on the planet.


2018: The first alien lifeform, a simple wormlike creature is discovered, gripping the world's imagination.


2022: The first manned mission to Mars begins the longest and most dangerous journey ever undertaken by humankind.


From hundreds of potential candidates, six astronauts from countries around the world are selected to crew the historic mission. Led by Commander Samantha Collins, they must travel across the gulf of interplanetary space, over 150 million miles from home and help. Their mission is to investigate alien life, but what they discover is far beyond what anyone ever imagined...


Buy now from Amazon (US): http://amzn.to/ZRrQ5v
Buy now from Amazon (UK): http://amzn.to/12zV5eX
Follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheCultofMe


Friday, 9 January 2015

Flashback Friday - Paradise Lost - The greatest story ever told

Generally blogging is all about new content, but there have been some highlights that I'd like to revsist so here is the start of a new feature called 'Flashback Friday'. I'll start with perhaps my favourite blog post and that is why I think that John Milton's 'Paradise Lost' is the greatest story ever told:


Paradise Lost - The greatest story ever told

Last night I finished John Milton's Paradise Lost and for me it is the greatest story ever told. Note that it's not my favourite book, that place is taken by something much more modern (and the topic for a future post). I'm sure that while many people will have heard of Paradise Lost, they won't have read it. Or will have tried and given up pretty quickly. It's easy to understand why, by today's standards it is a difficult read. Although I prefer the original text I have discovered a prose edition that provides an excellent translation of the original.

I'm not a scholar so I don't intend to provide an in depth analysis, but there are a few key points that make this the greatest story ever told. The first is scale, the story is epic in every sense of the word. It deals with the start of all things, a war in Heaven, the creation of the universe and the fall of man and promise of our redemption.

Let me state right here that I am not a religious person. I was brought up in a Catholic household, but have since become ambivalent about religion. Paradise Lost is very much a religious text, but that doesn't mean it has no relevance for non-believers. In fact in some respects I think it contains more relevance for the non-believer. Why so?

Milton provides an elegant understanding of the glory of God and his creations in a way that might not be felt by the reader, but certainly in a way that can be understood from the text. He also brings God, Christ and the other eminent entities into our understanding by making the characters we can relate to.

Probably not Milton's intention, but a side effect of this is to create the ultimate anti-hero. Lucifer, or Satan as he he becomes known after his fall. After all his place has been usurped by the anointed Christ he rebels. He rebels against the ultimate authority and I think most of us can find some sympathy with that. He also demonstrates many human qualities, admittedly some are less admirable like jealousy, envy and deception. However he does also present qualities like loyalty, courage and determination. A character more complex than his title as the Prince of Evil would suggest.

Another interesting aspect is the paradoxes it raises. They all represent the sacrifice that faith requires. For example why did God require than humanity has free will and that we must be tested in our devotion by temptation? On the face of it this is clear support for the illogical nature of faith. But on the other side of the coin it represents the foundations for faith. That you accept your part in the mystery. Milton makes great efforts and succeeds in portraying the majesty of this belief, something I can respect even if I do not share it.

Finally the book at its core is a love story. Not in the sense of romance, but something more noble. It starts with a love triangle between God, Christ and Lucifer and ends with the triangle between Adam, Eve and God. It is our capacity to love that allows us to join the hosts of Heaven.

The book in many ways is a product of its time. This is most apparent in the writing, to our modern eyes it can seem incomprehensible. It can be learned, but that takes time. A few years ago I discovered the Paradise Lost: Parallel Prose Edition which makes reading and understanding this great work a pleasure rather than a chore. The original work is shown on the left with the prose for the same passage on the right, allowing you to easily switch between the two.

I recommend this to anyone who is interested in this great work.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Drabbles of Art - Saturn Devouring his Son by Francisco Goya


The Drabbles of Art series continues with Saturn Devouring his Son by Francisco Goya which is quite a gruesome image and therefore a great inspiration for a drabble!

If you missed the start of the series then you can read the first drabble of the series here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/p/as-promised-in-last-weeks-final-post-in.html

Saturn Devouring his Son by Francisco Goya

It didn’t hurt like I’d expected. I knew it was coming of course – we all did. None of us would be allowed to grow into adults and wither in time. We existed only to satisfy our father’s hunger and allow him to live for a few years longer.

He took no interest in us until the feeding, but despite the neglect he cast a glamour so that we didn’t shriek as he consumed our flesh. Instead of pain I experienced only a confused wonder as I faded away with each bite. Not merely meat, but my spirit he consumed until…

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Book Review - The Tube Riders by Chris Ward

This is the first book in the author's 'The Tube Riders' trilogy and it's been sitting in my TBR list for quite some time now. I'm glad I finally got round to reading it - so much so that I've just bought the second book.

The story concerns a small gang of teens who get their thrills by 'tube riding' (jumping on trains and ride them) in deserted tube stations in a London set in a dystopian near future. It reads like a dangerous and fun activity and the gang have rivals in the form of cross-jumpers getting their own deadly thrills by jumping across tracks in front of trains.  Their actions provide an effective viewpoint of troubled people growing up in a very broken society.

In the early part of the story it seems that the scene is set for the rivalry to bloom into something more deadly and it does, but at the same time evolves into something grander in scale when they find themselves hunted by the regime oppressing Britain. From this point on the pace of the story is pretty much full on until the final scenes.

While I enjoyed the book a lot I did encounter a few issues. The first was the elements of the riders' foes owed a bit more to fantasy than to science. The other issue of note was the writing - for the most part it is pretty basic and lacking in sophistication - however it's still effective enough to carry the story all the way through.

I enjoyed the central characters and for the most part the enemies, but they did feel a bit less fleshed out than the riders, except for a couple of exceptions. Overall though I liked the book and would recommend it for readers looking for a slightly different adventure.

Click on image to buy from Amazon
Beneath the dark streets of London they played a dangerous game with trains. Now it is their only chance for survival...

Mega Britain in 2075 is a dangerous place. A man known only as the Governor rules the country with an iron hand, but within the towering perimeter walls of London Greater Urban Area anarchy spreads unchecked through the streets.

In the abandoned London Underground station of St. Cannerwells, a group of misfits calling themselves the Tube Riders seek to forget the chaos by playing a dangerous game with trains. Marta is their leader, a girl haunted by her brother's disappearance. Of the others, Paul lives only to protect his little brother Owen, while Simon is trying to hold on to his relationship with Jess, daughter of a government official. Guarding them all is Switch, a man with a flickering eye and a faster knife, who cares only about preserving the legacy of the Tube Riders. Together, they are family.

Everything changes the day they are attacked by a rival gang. While escaping, they witness an event that could bring war down on Mega Britain. Suddenly they are fleeing for their lives, pursued not only by their rivals, but by the brutal Department of Civil Affairs, government killing machines known as Huntsmen, and finally by the inhuman Governor himself.

Click here to buy The Tube Riders from Amazon US / Amazon UK (and it's an excellent read)

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Tuesday Tease - Deeply Twisted by Chantal Noordeloos

For this week's Tuesday Tease Chantal Noordeloos provides an excerpt from her excellent collection of horror short stories 'Deeply Twisted':

Click on image to buy from Amazon

Deeply Twistwed by Chantal Noordeloos

The blood trickled over the sagging breasts of the Mother Superior, staining her white skin crimson. The limp body of a five year-old boy hung slack in her arms.

“Reverend Mother... ” Sister Agatha’s voice trembled.

“There must be a kinder way to kill the child, one not so... inhumane?”

The nun looked up at her, her wrinkled face a canvas of red splatter framing pale-blue eyes which almost seemed to glow. The older woman straightened herself, letting the child drop with a wet smack, her wrinkled hand still wrapped around one of his arms as the lower part of his body hung slack against her ankle. He looked like a limp doll, a toy she hadn’t quite finished playing with.

The nun's lips curled into a sneer, and her eyes narrowed. “Sister Agatha, I know you are new to the order, but when you took your holy vows, you were instructed in the rules of the convent. This is your first Solstice, and I understand that our methods may seem harsh to a newcomer, but we have a sacred duty.”

The woman dropped the arm, and stepped over the young boy. Trails of blood trickled down her torso and across her legs, covering them in a slick red layer. “Do you think I enjoy this?”

“Yes,” Sister Agatha wanted to scream, “You’ve lived too long in this world of torment and murder, and it has turned you into a monster.”

“No, Reverend Mother.” Agatha lowered her eyes, focusing on the blood pooling around the young boy’s body.

“I know this isn’t easy, Sister.” Gnarled hands grasped her cheek and chin, forcing her to look into those terrible eyes. “But we follow God’s will. If we don’t, the consequences will be disastrous, and for more than just a handful of unwanted children. No one cares for these wretched souls.”

Click here to buy Deeply Twisted from Amazon US / Amazon UK

Monday, 5 January 2015

Twelfth Drabble of Christmas - The Present by Jonathan Hill


For the twelfth and final Christmas drabble Jonathan Hill returns with 'The Present'. I'll admit I didn't get it on the first read. Thanks to everyone who has participated in this series of drabbles - they've been a lot of fun to read and have brought some different perspectives on the Christmas season. Thanks everyone!

The Present by Jonathan Hill

“Billy, come for your present.”

“Why not bring it down here? I’ll open it in front of everyone else.”

Toby hesitated. “I can’t.”

“Can’t?” Then Billy understood. It must have been too big to bring down.

“It’s in my room,” said Toby.

The pair excused themselves and walked upstairs, which caused Billy’s heart to pound. He didn’t know why; he wasn’t unfit.

Toby opened his door. Both stepped inside.

“There’s nothing here,” said Billy.

“Look up,” whispered Toby.

Above Billy, completely out of place, hung a piece of mistletoe. Yet Billy felt it the most natural present to find there.

Guest Author Interview - Andrew Stanek

After a brief hiatus over the festive period the Guest Author Interview feature returns with an interview with mystery author Andrew Stanek:
Click on image to buy from Amazon

Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
My name is Andrew Stanek. I'm an independent author from Fremont, California and I'm a pretty new writer - I started writing about a year ago. I've lived in California my whole life. I grew up here and I went to college in Southern California.

What first inspired you to start writing?
I think it was basically that I had a lot of stories in me that I wanted to get out. I majored in biology in college but I just couldn't stand being stuck in an underground lab all day doing. Wherever I look, I start seeing a possible story behind everything, and I think that's what pushed me to become a writer. Murder mysteries specifically were pretty natural for me. I grew up with Agatha Christie.

Where did the idea for your latest book come from?
I recently wrote a firestorm of eight mystery novels - Murder on Wheels, Death in Detail, Shell Game, Vanquished, Heartbreak, The Murder Next Door, Vanishing Act, and Domino Effect - all featuring Felix Green, my kleptomaniac detective. I decided to write these novels after I got an overwhelmingly positive response to my first Felix Green mystery, Death by Nostalgia.

Felix himself came out of events I've experienced. A lot of the problems that the fictional Great Redmond City faces in my mysteries relate to problems that we have locally, some even in my home city of Fremont.

If you could spend a day with anyone from history - who would it be and why?
While I'd be tempted to follow some ancient figure and unravel a great historical mystery, I think I'd choose my grandfather. I never really knew him and I'd like to spend a day with him.

What makes your books stand out against the competition?
A lot of things! First, my books are tinged with humor in a world of murder mysteries that have gotten increasingly bleak. I don't think murder mysteries should have to weigh on you. My detective, Felix Green, is colorful and interesting, and he contributes to a lighter atmosphere. I think the relatively short length - a three-hour read or so - will also be appealing to a lot of people.

What was the last book you read?
I'm afraid there's a horrifically dull answer to that. I last read "Financial History of the United States" by Paul Studenski and Herman Edward Kross. Before that, I read "Evil Under the Sun" by Agatha Christie.

What is your favourite word?
My favorite word is "singular," when used to mean "special or unique." I first came across it in this context in the works of Conan Doyle. Holmes often talks about the "singular" qualities or items or people. My other favorite words are "mountebank" and "life."

What are you working on at the moment?
I'm not working on anything at the moment. I'm trying to get people interesting the books I've already written! I have some vague sketches for another mystery novel and a fantasy book.

Tell us about your latest release and how we can find out more.
I wrote eight Felix Green mysteries (which I've already mentioned are Murder on Wheels, Death in Detail, Shell Game, Vanquished, Heartbreak, The Murder Next Door, Vanishing Act, and Domino Effect) in a very short period of time. There's a sort of wisdom in the industry that the best thing you can do to sell more books is to write more books so I decided to put that theory to an extreme test. It hasn't worked very well for me so far.

You can find all eight books by searching for name ("Andrew Stanek") on Amazon.

Click here to buy Death by Nostalgia from Amazon US / Amazon UK

My Books on Goodreads