Thursday, 30 April 2015

Drabbles of Art - The Fall of the Damned by Peter Paul Rubens


This week's Drabble of Art is based on The Fall of the Damned by Peter Paul Rubens and I quite believe I've not seen this painting before. Those of you that know my writing will adgree that it fits in nicely and I had great fun writing a drabble about it!

If you've not read the previous 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


The Fall of the Damned by Peter Paul Rubens

I witnessed the moment when the archangel Michael cast Lucifer and the rebels out of Heaven. Even he seemed surprised when God decreed that their punishment would be banishment. Many of us expected that the punishment would be more severe considering their sin.

The first sin in all creation.

Nobody died in the war. Angels can’t die unless God himself dissolves us. Nobody died, but plenty suffered – on both sides. And then when I watched the pit open and Michael force the rebels into it we realised what Hell meant and dissolution would have been a far more merciful fate.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Drabbles of the Gods - Itzpapalotl


For this week's Drabble of the Gods we visit central Mexico and meet Itzpapalotl from the Aztec pantheon. If you haven't read the previous drabbles in the series then you will find them all here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/p/drabbles-of-gods.html

Itzpapalotl

From Tamoanchan, our birthplace, and the paradise for those born into death, the Obsidian Butterfly rules. Her skeletal visage is fearsome with eyes of onyx and claws of flint. To an unlucky few she appears fair, with beauty enough to deceive and ensnare a man’s heart.

She walks as one with the star demons, the hunters of souls when the sun is swallowed from sight. Her house is built from the bones of those attempting to bring forth life.

She is Itzpapalotl and with death in my womb and blood pooling between my legs, to her house I will pass.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Book Review - The Destiny of Ethan King by Martin Cosgrove

I found this an odd read, usually when I'm reading I can decide fairly quickly whether I'm enjoying it or not. With this one I didn't really form a clear cut opinion. I certainly wanted to like it, the subject matter is something that I'm into, the writing is good, and the characters engaging. With those components I would expect to be able to say quite clearly that I did like the book.

The problem is that somewhere it didn't quite engage me. I'm not quite sure where it fell down for me - which is a bit rubbish for a review so I'll make the effort! Story is king so I'll start there. The author does a good job at bringing the magic to life on a personal level, but is weaker on applying that to a wider context. There's the danger of the ultimate matter itself, but no real exploration of what effect the more mundane magic (which appears to be a skill that can be learned) has on the world.

The history of the the talents and devices is also only touched on lightly and was something I would like to have seen expanded on as the pieces that are shown hint at something richer and more involving.

However it did do more than enough to keep me reading to the end and the basic components are pretty strong. If the book's blurb looks like your kind of read then it's probably worth a look as it is a decent read.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

A university professor discovers the notes of a little-known 12th century alchemist detailing the creation of a mystical substance called Universal Matter. This substance is capable of generating unlimited energy and has the power to either end humanity’s greatest problems, or destroy us all. The ancient documents claim that, when the time is right, one human soul will be given the ability to create Universal Matter. His name is Ethan King. Thrown into a world in which the boundaries between good and evil are blurred, Ethan is left with no choice but to embark on a cosmic adventure with potentially global consequences. The Liverpudlian teenager quickly learns that the distinction between good and evil is not as clear-cut as it first appears and that big words such as ‘destiny’ and ‘morality’ are a smoke screen when dealing with real matters of family, friendship and love.

Click here to buy The Destiny of Ethan King from Amazon (and it's a decent read)

Sunday, 26 April 2015

New Drabble - The Missing Link

My latest drabble has been posted in today's Book Hippo newsletter. You can read my other drabbles here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/p/100-word-stories.html

And why not visit http://bookhippo.uk/ for daily Kindle bargains, a puzzle and a drabble.

The Missing Link

“There is no great maker!”

“How can you say that with all the evidence around you?”

“What evidence?”

“Look at the complicated perfection of our senses and our brains and tell me that there isn’t an agent of design behind those attributes.”

“The fossil record shows that we evolved from creatures before us. Every part of us evolved from a simpler form into what we are now. We weren’t designed.”

“So where is the so called missing link?”

“One day we will discover the link transitioning human to machine and then you’ll realise that the humans were not our creators.”

Making Change by Michael D Brooks

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Michael D Brooks' 'Making Change' was the third place story in June 2014's Short Fiction Contest.

Making Change by Michael D Brooks


“There’s something wrong with that kid, I tell you.”

Ammon sat in his favored black recliner and stared at the wall-sized entertainment screen, but did not consciously see the images or hear the sounds that projected from it.

“You're an old-fashioned, close minded relic that’s going to break if you don’t learn how to bend,” his wife countered.

Beset sat in her more brightly colored recliner and glanced over at her husband before she returned her attention to the screen.

“It's not natural, Beset.”  He sipped his brew, but did not really taste it.    And though his eyes were hypnotically fixed on the entertainment screen, he intently looked at something only his mind saw.  “I’m not saying it’s wrong or anything—”

“Then what are you saying?” she demanded.

“I’m saying it just doesn't seem natural to me.   That’s all.”

Beset remained silent until the next commercial break before she turned and addressed her husband.

“Joachim loves Lawrence, he loves her, and they’re going to have a baby together.  You’re going to be a grandfather.  I’m going to be a grandmother.  I don’t see anything ‘unnatural’ about that.”  Beset sniffed derisively once then glanced at the screen intent on not missing her favorite show’s return from commercial break.

“Yeah, but did you see that ultrasound?”  Ammon barely heard anything his wife said.  “The darn thing looks like an alien or some kind of space baby or something floating around in there.”

“Pause,” Beset commanded.  The images on screen froze and the sound muted.  The irritation in her voice was unmistakable.  She turned from the screen and looked squarely at her husband and said nothing.   The silence in the room between them grew.  She stared at him as if her eyes could bore holes in his skull.   After what seemed like an eternity, he looked at her.   “Listen, you old coot,” she began, peppering her speech with short, precise sentences.   “Joachim is our daughter.  We love her very much.  We want her to be happy.  Lawrence makes her happy.  I’m happy with that and so are you.   And the doctors have all said the baby is healthy.  There is nothing wrong with the baby.  And when it’s born, we are going to love it unconditionally.   Period.   End of story.  Do you understand?”

Ammon stared blankly at his wife, took another sip of his drink and said.  “Yeah, I understand, but why does it have to be human?”

Dream Baby by John Moralee

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
John Moralee's 'Dream Baby' was the second place story in June 2014's Short Fiction Contest.

Dream Baby by John Moralee


My unborn child moves inside the membrane between our ship and the hard vacuum of space, squirming in delight as she downloads memories of Earth from the archives.  She floats in the zero-gee tank as though that was how she was meant to be gestated – without the comforting warmth of my body and womb.  It makes me ache to see her that way – but it can’t be done another way here on the Orbital, where everyone must fulfil their duties to the ship.  The regs don’t permit pregnancy.

I feel my flat stomach and sigh, regretting my decision to leave Earth for the  Orbital, where life is hard and short.  I press my hand against the glass and connect to my baby’s neural link.  I feel her emotions.  She’s content.  Blissfully happy.  She doesn’t need me, her mother, not with the ship giving her everything she needs to grow.  In a few months she will be ready to come out of the incubation pod – but for now she is still forming, an embryo swirling in a tank of nutrients against a background of stars.  She’s lovely, and she’s mine.  I feel a wave of love for her, but also apprehension.

The Orbital is not a place for a child.

An orange jumpsuit reflects in the glass.  It’s Stefan floating down the tunnel from the hub.  He grabs me when he reaches the birthing chamber.  He grins.

“Are you going to stare at her all day, Lu?”

“I’m off-duty for another three hours,” I say.  “This is how I relax.  Watching our daughter.”

“I can think of another way we can relax.”

“I know you can.  That’s how we ended up with a baby in space.  Shouldn’t you be guarding the executives on omega deck?”

“They’re in a meeting in the bubble, interfacing with the AI.  They let me have an hour.  I’m bored, Lu.  Let’s go to our cabin.”  Stefan kisses me – but I pull away.

“Did you feel that?”

He frowns.  “What?”

“Something is wrong with the Orbital.”

“You can’t possibly know -”

But I do.  The stars are moving behind our baby – which means the ship has altered course.  Our nameless child reacts by curling up into a ball, a defensive gesture against whatever unknown thing is affecting the ship.  My skin tingles like it has been brushed with cold feathers.
The view outside has changed.  Now the purple gas giant is visible.  Stellar data confirms my suspicions.  We’re no longer in a stable orbit.  We’re heading towards the upper atmosphere at greater and greater velocity, where the Orbital will break apart like a popped balloon … unless … unless …

“What’s happening?” Stefan says.

Our baby turns in the tank.  Her tiny mouth forms a smile.

I know what is happening.  The neural link to the ship works two ways.  Our child has hacked the ship’s network.  She’s taken control.

She doesn’t want to live here.

We’re slingshotting.

We’re going back home.

The Last Mother by Lee Tonks

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Lee Tonks' 'The Last Mother' was the winning story from June 2014's Short Fiction Contest.

The Last Mother by Lee Tonks


My sons and daughters,

By the time you read this I will be long gone, but through you our legacy will hopefully live on. As I dictate this I'm staring down at my home, or what remains of it. Earth was once beautiful and in a way it still is, but now the surface is red and scorched, the cities burning, the atmosphere poisoned by weaponry so terrifying I can barely bring myself to contemplate it.

They are gone. All of them. Not a soul remains on the planet below.

I am standing in the observation lounge of Orbital Science Platform 7. I have been here for several hours now wondering what I should tell you of myself, my family, the human race, our home, our achievements, our failures, our ultimate destruction at our own hands. And I've decided that it doesn't matter, none of it does. All that matters is that we survive, that the human race in some form or other continues. What came before is meaningless now that it's all gone.

The other scientists have taken the shuttle and headed for the moon-base. They begged me to go with them, of course, but I refused. For one, at least two of the missiles were aimed directly at it; we watched them pass. For two, even if the base survived there is no hope there - no air, no water, no food. Once the supplies are depleted all that awaits the people there is a slow, lingering death. That's not for me.

This facility was originally charged with studying the long-term effects of space travel on human and animal biology. In the past few days I have taken every human egg I can find from our stores and fertilized them in the lab. As a result I now have around two hundred thousand viable embryos, which I have frozen into twelve canisters and loaded into the life-pod. The pod was intended to enable the staff of the platform to survive for only a short period in the event of an accident, but frozen embryos do not require air or water or heat. The vacuum of space will ensure they remain frozen.

Soon I will also load the pod with as much equipment and information as I can find that will help explain how the embryos can be revived and brought to term. I've programmed a single burn of all of the pod's fuel and this should give it enough momentum to carry it out of our solar system and away. Away from all this destruction.

These embryos are you. If you are reading this then I have succeeded; some other civilisation has found you and revived our species from oblivion. It's a small hope, but it's all I have.

The oxygen here will run out tomorrow, but I don't intend to be around when that happens. For now I'll enjoy the silence and mourn my world just a little longer. 

Take care, my children. 

For you are humanity.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

April Short Fiction Contest Winners


It's that fun time of the month again! I've read the entries for April's Shirt Fiction Contest and the rather sinister puppet inspired some fine stories. As always it was tricky to pick just three of them as the winners, but with the quality of the entries it was a fun job!

Before announcing the winners I'd like to thank everyone who entered and those who help support the competition by sharing the links. Please continue to share - I have a dream to make this a well known contest for short fiction!

And now it's time to announce the winners...

 - First prize of a £50 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Michael Gunter's story 'Let Me Out'
 - Second prize of a £20 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Jon Jefferson's story 'Splinters of a Wooden Heart'
 - Third prize of a £10 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Jillian Bost's 'Virtue Rewarded'

Congratulations to the winners and here are their stories:

Let me Out by Michael Gunter

https://michaelguntertales.wordpress.com/

“Shouldn’t have built you.  Knew that tree was trouble the first time I saw it, you know.”

The wooden clack of shrugging shoulders was the only answer.

“Don’t look at me like that.  Didn’t get into this business to make things like you, hear me?  Puppets I like; little toys, telling a story on dancing strings.  But you... I’ve never quite known which way are your strings being pulled.”

With a scowl, he set his drink down on the workbench and reached for the paintbrush.   The colors on the palette, the movement of the carving knife, even the movement of the saw, had all lost their importance weeks before.

“Damn tree.  Didn’t care, did it?  Watched us walking, walking, walking around, for how many years?  Wanted legs itself, eh?  Well, you’ve got ‘em now, don’t you?   Use ‘em!  Or aren’t you done yet?”

Random strokes of the brush revealed the pattern of the eyebrow and he frowned at it.  Was it imagination, or was thing was smirking at him.  Shaking his head, he swirled the bristles in the palette again.  It didn’t really matter, one way or the other; he’d found that out standing at the foot of the tree with his axe.  His voice softened.

“How’s that?  That eyebrow’s more obvious now.”

He cocked his head.

“Almost looks real.  Wish I could take credit for that.”

Again the brush worked, dabbing color across the grain of the other eyebrow, but his voice had gone hard again.

“How’d you do it?  Age isn’t knowledge, not by itself, so someone showed you.  Trees don’t fish for people, no, they don’t, but you caught me, anyway.  Clever.”

The eyebrow finished, he sat back, examining the brush-strokes. Nearly perfect, just like the rest of it.  Not a mistake anywhere, not a color out of place or a carved line awry.

“Very clever, yes.”

He sounded bitter now, as he tilted back the cup for the last sip.

“Strings go both ways, eh?  Never realized it before. Should have.  Lift and let lift, that’s the way it goes with ‘em all.  All but you.”

Another wooden shrug.  The motion didn’t give anything away.

“Ha.  Like I don’t know already.  Doesn’t matter, though.  You’re done, aren’t you?  You wanted to walk, so walk.”

The head tilted, carved eyes on him.

“You done pulling my strings?”

Half a nod, maybe more.  He couldn’t tell, not in the dim light.  He nodded back, then relaxed in the chair, closing his eyes.  A patter of oak on the flagstones was soft in his ears.  The door opened and there was a pause... then it closed again.

The patter of oak feet on the road outside was barely audible, but he felt them go.  It felt like strings being cut.

Splinters of a Wooden Heart by Jon Jefferson

http://10thdaypublishing.com

With the tap of a hammer the last tack pressed into place and Serien finished the puppet. The demonic beast would play the villain in his latest performance.

They once questioned his abilities for creation. How could he paint the pieces before he assembled the puppet? Wouldn’t hammering them together mar and scratch his paintwork? He stopped listening long ago. It was the creation that mattered to him.

The painting gave each piece life and substance. The puppet became a part of him through the process. He knew their character and voice long before they were ready to move and perform.

“All we have left, is a name,” Serien said. “What would you like to be called?” He adjusted the puppet to a sitting position and moved its right arm so that the hand rested on the puppet’s chin. Serien sat and thought with the puppet as he searched his thoughts for a name.

The word shard boomed crystal clear in his mind, a word he remembered from the start of this puppets birth. He carved and scraped at the wood to form each piece. At the time he had pushed it away. Shard was a piece of a gem, a mineral that had nothing to do with wood or life. Still the word thundered through his mind.

Serien stretched his arm across his work bench and retrieved a paddle and string for the puppet’s last connections. With the new strings attached he brought the puppet to life. His pull of the strings and paddle gave the puppet a semblance of something more than just wood.

After a few minutes he set the puppet in a stand next to others that would perform in their next show. Again the word shard popped into Serien’s mind as he looked at the puppet next to the others. The monstrous puppet was no bigger than the others but its horns and hooves marked it as something alien and different.

He had worked for some time on each of these new puppets but this last one, the demon, had been the most difficult. Without clothes and attachments for the head like hair or a beard, there had been nowhere to hide any mistakes.

“My name is shard.”

Sirien had turned his attention to the cleaning of the workbench. The voice hadn’t been in his head. He glanced around the shop knowing he would still be alone.

Shard had fallen from the stand. The demon sat on the edge of the counter; leg’s crossed and arms at its side. Its paddle lay on the counter and the strings that controlled it had been cut. But it was the change in the puppet’s appearance that caught Sirien off guard. The wooden flesh had softened. The creature looked exactly as it had in Sirien’s mind, though now it had become something more.

“My name is Shard.”

 Virtue Rewarded by Jillian Bost

Tonight's the night. It's been a year. You know it, though you remind yourself that you don't remember.

I watch as you type on your computer, feverish. You stop; you've deemed yourself worthy of a break. You open another window, and the loose stack of papers by your keyboard ruffles in the breeze. Do you feel trapped?

You glance at me; or rather, in my direction, for you don't know I'm watching you.

Always.

"Red eyes," you mutter, as you shake your head. "How ghastly." You always speak like a fop, and you think of her, and how she's no longer here to tease you for it, to jokingly thank you for "slumming" with her at charity shops, while you think of buying jewels off a high street shop for a lark.

I'm the last remnant of those cast away moments with her. Why haven't you killed me? Why haven't you burned me, or put me in the bin with your squeezed-dry teabags and old packets of cheese and onion crisps? Or even shoved me in the hands of a patient, elderly man at Cancer Research? But that would remind you of her, and all the deigning and feigning you did for her sake. And so you keep me here, a constant casual reminder that you won't get rid of what makes you fine, because you are fine, you never think of her, and getting rid of me would mean she isn't dead to you. You keep me to keep static. I am the killer of change.

Your desk rattles. Was it the wind again? Or something else? You look at me. I'm already smiling. You can't make me stop. I will never stop.

Your brow furrows, and you push me back farther on the shelf. I wobble. Do you hope I'll fall and break? What might happen then, I wonder?

Perhaps you should try it.

You return to your typing, and become engrossed in it once more. You smirk. Maybe you've just used a very clever turn of phrase, or you've thought of an ending for your little piece.

How wonderful. So have I.

You cease typing and stare at me again. Your eyes narrow. "I never could work out what you were supposed to be," you mutter. "A demon? But no, the horns and red eyes make it a bit too obvious. Too crass."

Ask me, if you truly want to know.

You shove back your office chair and stand. "Screw this. I'm going to bed."

My eyes flash, and you gape, then shove me onto the floor, where I crack. You grunt in satisfaction. So do I. Thank you.

Later, while you toss and turn in your double bed, I creak deliberately as I walk. Thud. Creak. Thud. Creak.

I loom over you.

Your eyes fly open, and your breath catches in your throat as you begin to shake. Oh, how I relish it.


"Hello, my darling," I whisper. "I've been waiting."

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Drabbles of the Gods - Anansi


The latest Drabble of the Gods takes us to Africa and the trickster god Anansi. If you haven't read the previous drabbles in the series then you can find them all here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/p/drabbles-of-gods.html

Anansi

It is thanks to Anansi that stories fill the world by releasing them from the Nyame. To purchase the stories the Sky-God demanded three offerings.

The first was Onini the Python who Anansi tricked by tying him to a branch. The second was Osebo the Leopard who Anansi snared in his web after trapping the cat in a deep hole.

Last were the Mboro Hornets. These he lured into a water filled calabash to shelter from the rain. Keeping his promise Nyame granted Anansi ownership of all stories and to this day the trickster walks the Earth searching for more.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Book Review - Roadside Picnic by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky

This book has been on my to read list for ages and considering the good things I'd heard about it I'm surprised it took me this long to finally read it. Well I have and I'm glad I did as it's a superb sci-fi read.

The core concept is one I enjoy, it deals with a first contact situation but in an unusual way. In this instance the aliens don't seem to notice or care about our presence as they pass through. The analogy of the roadside picnic is a fun one. It also touches on an excession event (Ian M Banks covers a similar topic in his fabulous 'Excession') where the technology we discover from the alien's passing is way beyond our understanding. And this generates an interesting dynamic to how the world tries to deal with it in different ways.

The focus on the story is about a stalker - someone who enters the zones looking for alien technology to recover and sell. For the most part the story comes from Red, one of the stalkers and is told in an almost stream of consciousness fashion which brings you close to his thoughts. He's a well rounded character, but not particuarly likeable and represents the underbelly of mankind's attempts to take advantage of the visitation.

The writing is crisp and the pace quick making this a surprisingly easy read considering the subject matter. I would have liked to have discovered a bit more about the visitation itself. The drunken conversation with a scientist lays some tantalising clues and ideas. However the lack of detail maintains the mystery and also the danger in the process. Overall this is an excellent read and deserving of its classic status.

Click on image to buy from Amazon


Red Schuhart is a stalker, one of those misfits who are compelled, in spite of the extreme danger, to venture illegally into the Zone to collect the mysterious artefacts that the alien visitors left scattered around. His life is dominated by the place and the thriving black market in the alien products. Even the nature of his mutant daughter has been determined by the Zone and it is for her that he makes his last, tragic foray into the hazardous and hostile territory.


Monday, 20 April 2015

Guest Author Interview - Tony Leslie Duxbury

Fantasy author Tony Leslie Duxbury joins me in this week's Guest Author Interview to discuss his debut release 'The Adventures of JoJo Smith':

Click on image to buy from Amazon

Please introduce yourself - who are you and what do you do?
I am a British ex-pat living in Guatemala,C.A. I have been here on and off for about 18 years. My wife described me as an 'entrepreneur' recently, but I'm not sure that fits. Apart from trying to promote my novel I don't have any projects on the go at the moment. My job titles have ranged from dishwasher to English teacher. Aspiring author will do well enough.

What first inspired you to start writing?
Two things inspired me to write: the first was the idea that I could write better than some of the authors whose books I'd read over the years. The second were people who saw my written work when i was in Further and Higher education and encouraged me to try it.

Where did the idea for The Adventures of JoJo Smith come from?
The idea of The Adventures of Jojo Smith came from my love of sword and sorcery fantasy and the determination to have a hero without any special talents or abilities. I wanted to write a sort of 'Boy's Own' type story that adults could laugh at.

If you could spend a day with anyone from history, who would it be and why?
I have no idea who in history I would like to spend a day with. I'm not much on hero worship and believe that most great historical figures would prove disappointing in the flesh.

Where do you like to write?
I've done most of my writing at the kitchen or livingroom table. I did write half a book while sitting in a car one time, but that's not to be recommended. Now I'm hoping to set up a small studio or office.

What was the last book you read?
The last book I read I finished today. Joe Abercrombie's Before They are Hanged. A marvelous book in a fantastic series.

Where do you see the future of your writing going?
I hope to improve my writing, win a loyal audience and continue to entertain myself and others with my work.

What are you working on at the moment?
For many years I wrote without the aid of a computer and so most of my work is written down on paper and I've been typing it up, but one manuscript has a chunk missing, so I'm slowly rewriting that when i have the time.

Tell us about your latest release and how we can find out more.
My next release will depend on the response to my first novel which can be found on Amazon Kindle and Createspace or through Goodreads. Also an audio excerpt can be found on this link: http://wp.me/p30w17-IF


Sunday, 19 April 2015

May Short Fiction Contest

By The creator of the Art piece- Lars Widenfalk- Poderedellaluna
I almost went with another weird doll picture, but realised that I should go with something a little different. One of the books I finished reading this week had a strong musicalal theme so with that in mind I found this wonderful picture of a black violin and I'm now eagerly anticipating the syories it will inspire!

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 June 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 May17th 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.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

New Drabble - The Perfect Moment

A new drabble of mine was posted in the Book Hippo newsletter a few days ago. If you didn't catch it then then you can read it below. It's inspired by Clive Barker's cenobites and in particular the phrase 'Pleasure and pain, indivisible' from Hellraiser. As you can imagine I'mlooking forward to the release of The Scarlet Gospels!

You can read my other drabbles here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/p/100-word-stories.html

The Perfect Moment

She promised me delights of a nature unimagined and oh my God, she was right.

With delicate torture we travelled avenues of such exquisite pain that the pleasure transcended beyond understanding.

The final cut severed the illusion that death provided any escape and unfettered by the limits of flesh she taught me suffering so divine I prayed that it would never end. Upon an ocean of agony I drifted. Each wave crested me towards that singular perfect moment, a nirvana of pure agony which almost drowned my soul.

And with loving embrace she ignored my screams and answered my prayers.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Book Review - The Seance by Jack Rollins

I should say in advance that I had the pleasure of being a test reader for this story before it's release last year. I left it a few months to read the final version to see if I enjoyed it as much as I did the first time and I'm pleased to say that I did. I'd previously read the author's Dr Blessing stories and he invokes the Victorian era feeling well. This is repeated in The Seance providing a classic horror story feel.

I'm a big fan of the time period for horror stories and the blend of the rational and supernatural works for me. The author nails it in this story with some good references to bed the story into the era. This is a relatively short story with a quick pace but with some twists and turns along the way to keep things interesting.

The basic plot is a familiar one with a cursed item at the heart of it and the central character is a man of his age and provides some similarity to heroes of stories from that era. I enjoy a story that doesn't shy away from the concept of supernatural evil and this does that while also layering on the evil that men do to themselves.

If you're a fan of classic horror then you should give this a try and check out the author's other work while you're at it.
Click on image to buy from Amazon

A gothic Victorian chiller from the author of the Dr Blessing Series Albert Kench is summoned back to London from his travels in Australia, and is shocked to find that his sister has suffered horrific mental and physical damage. A man of science and progress, when Albert is told that Sally attended a seance prior to her collapse and has been touched by otherworldly forces, he believes there must be another, more rational explanation. Albert learns of a man who claims mastery of the dark arts, who may hold the key to Sally's salvation. Albert sets off in search of answers, but can he emerge victorious without faith, or will he be forced to accept the existence of a realm beyond the world around him?"


Thursday, 16 April 2015

Book Review - The Revelations of Preston Black by Jason Jack Miller

I enjoyed the two previous books in this series (even if I did read them in the wrong order!) and this third book proved no exception and provided a fitting conclusion to Preston Black's tribulations. As with the previous books the author's love and knowledge of music is apparent and added a lot of interest to the story. The supernatural element derived from American folklore was also very interesting and provided a solid framework for the story. It all revolves around the deal with the Devil, but has a lot of twists and turns along the way.

The star of the book is the lead character and here we have a well defined character who has suffered a lot (and continues to do so), but handles it well and I rooted for him throughout the story. The supporting cast were also strong and provided a well rounded cast. One of tyhe aspects that struck me was how Preston had to rely on his friends and family and that worked well for me. He isn't a hero who can blaze or think his way through everything on his own, but needed help even if he didn't want it.

The quality of the writing is superb with a relaxed style which made it a joy to read. The story is well paced and I read it all in a single sitting - although the fact I was having a day long tattoo sitting helped on that front as well! Still it's not often I get to read a full novel in one go and this was a good one to do so. My only minor complaint was that the conclusion felt a little sudden, but I get that with most books I've read - especially the ones I enjoy.

Overall this is an excellent read and I'd recommend the series to anyone who fancies something a little different with an appreciation for American music and folklore.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

Sometimes a battle between good and evil doesn't look much like the ones they show in movies. The good guys don't always wear white, and they don't always walk away with the win. And sometimes you're better off with the devil you know. The last time Preston went down to the crossroads, his best friend died and he nearly lost his brother. But Old Scratch doesn't take kindly to fools, especially not those who come knocking at his front door. And before all is said and done, he's going to teach Preston a thing or two about what it really means to sacrifice. "With crackling prose and razor-sharp characterization, Jason Jack Miller's The Revelation of Preston Black is a heady stew of a novel, filled with action, suspense, and good old-fashioned deals with the devil. Loosen your belt, because you'll be back for seconds!" -Tim Waggoner, author of Bone Whispers


Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Book Review - Rapturous Pejoration by Mike Freeman

This is the fifth book in the author's 'Contact' series and I've enjoyed them all so far. The previous book did feel like a bit of a dip, but this latest one more than makes up for that and I'm disappointed that there isn't the next book in the series ready for me to buy straight away - never mind I will wait :-)

This latest book continues to play with the series' strengths - namely a blend of intense military action and more considered scientific investigation. I personally prefer the more investigative side of the story and here the Darkwood character shines and the early pages have some interesting thoughts on the concept of consciousness and identity as well as delving into the alien technology. The alien technology in itself is quite fascinating. These parts are thought provoking and add some depth to the story.

The author excels at the action side of the writing as well. The battles are intense and filled with wondrous technology that adds to the experience. While I preferred the other side this is well done and I do like a bit of action. These periods of high action are also offset by some gentle humour in the characters which helps break up the tempo a bit and warmed me to the characters more.

There's quite a few threads for the different characters in the story and for me this is the weak point of the book. There's a lot going on and while it isn't difficult to keep track of them all it does mean that you don't spend as much time with each of the characters as I would have liked. Still it's a cracking read and I'd recommend the series to any sci-fi fan.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

The United Systems' grip unravels…

Competing civilizations scrabble for advantage as the Saber Cut plummets toward Plash with three precious Scepters aboard. The Talmas weighs whether to keep Weaver alive as, in the background, Darkwood advances his mysterious agenda…

RAPTUROUS PEJORATION is a hard hitting space opera/ scifi adventure. It is the FIFTH book in the Contact series.

Rated [R]. Violence, sex, profanity.
US English. 139,000 words.


Monday, 13 April 2015

Guest Author Interview - Richard A. Lester

Richard A Lester joins me in the latest Guest Author Interview to tell us about his latest release 'The Check Out':

Click on image to buy from Amazon

Please introduce yourself - who are you and what do you do?
Hello,

My name is Richard A Lester. I am an independent filmmaker and an author. I have worked on projects for Azbest Films and Piano Man Pictures. My first novel, The Check Out, is available now through Amazon and all the usual places.

What first inspired you to start writing?
I read a lot as a child, so I basically started imitating what I was reading. The stories weren't very original, but they were a starting place. As I got older, I became interested in film. I wrote and directed my first film about 12 years or so ago. After that, I just kept writing. I worked on a lot of scripts that were impossible to film. When I got the idea for the The Check Out, I had started writing short stories again. Instead of raising money and getting a crew, I decided to try my hand at writing it as a novel.

Where did the idea for The Check Out come from?
I had worked at a grocery store for a while, and I generally got very bored there. Stocking shelves and dealing with customers is about as mundane as it can get, so I started creating bizarre scenarios to keep myself entertained. As usually happens, all these images swirled around my head until one little thing sparked them all into a cohesive story. From there, it was just a matter of getting it all onto the page.

Which author do you most admire and why?
I enjoy Carl Hiaasen a lot, as well as Stephen King. They are giants in the industry, and I believe I have learned, and still can learn, a lot from them. One author, however, is really an inspiration. Donald Ray Pollock worked in a factory in a miserable town called Knockemstiff in Ohio. At the age of 50, he left his job, went to college, and decided to become an author. He published a book of short stories while still enrolled and a fantastically dark novel called The Devil All The Time afterwords. He really knows how to delve into a character's psyche and uses the desolate surroundings of Knockemstiff to convey a sense of hopelessness. I admire him for having the courage to jump into a business that can be so brutal, and even more so for being so good at doing it!

What is the goal for you as a writer?
At this point, I just want to tell stories. Sure, it would be great to make a lot of money at it. Coming from indie film, though, I know exactly how unrealistic that can be. I have lots of ideas bouncing around in my head, and I want to be able to express them in ways that are as economically feasible as possible. I have a great group of filmmakers that I work with. We have mastered the art of no budget filmmaking. For projects that are larger scale, I am happy to express them on the page and let the readers have at them!

Which book has had the greatest influence on you?
I would say that The Devil All The Time has had an influence, certainly. Carl Hiaasen has also had an impact. As far as what has had the greatest influence, I'm not sure. I'm terrible at ranking these sorts of things.

Do you predominantly read e-books or paper books?
The only e-books I read are ones on how to market e-books. I don't have a Kindle or anything like that. I think that everyone who writes gets into it for one reason. Maybe they have other goals in mind, as well, but they all want to hold a physical copy of their book. It makes the process seem more legitimate somehow. I told my mom that I wrote a book, and she seemed mildly interested. When I invited her to my book signing, she understood that I had really done it. I hope physical copies never go away. There are few things as inspirational as walking into a bookstore. I'm sorry that few people are able to experience that now.

What are you working on at the moment?
I am putting the finishing touches on a short film that I directed in December. It's called "Stack Deck," as is a noir inspired tale about a man with a gambling debt that he can't pay back.

I have also just started on my second novel. It's been brewing for the past two years or so. I'm very happy to finally start writing it.

Tell us about your latest release and how we can find out more.
The Check Out is, what I call, a satirical thriller. It is about a group of shady employees at a failing grocery store. Each of them digs themselves into a financial hole that they can't crawl out of. They lie to each other, cheat, and eventually decide to steal $10,000 from the store on the same night. As you can imagine, it doesn't go so well for a few of them. It's very pulp, having been influenced by exploitation films of the 1970's. There is also a foundation in film noir, with a few nods to the genre.

You can get more information about The Check Out at: www.thecheckoutbook.com or www.richardalester.com

You can purchase a copy at my Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/author/rlester

It is also available at Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Itunes, and Leafless


Sunday, 12 April 2015

Discover Free & Bargain Kindle Books on BookHippo.co.uk


Indie Book Bargains is dead and long live Book Hippo!

The Indie Book Bargains website and newsletter has been a great resource for discovering bargain and free Kindle books. It's also a fantastic place for authors promoting their offers to UK readers. Both the site and the newsletter have undergone a rebrand and a makeover as Book Hippo - no I don't know why 'hippo', but it's nice and easy to remember!

If you visit the site and sign up for the newsletter then you'll receive a daily list of Kindle deals and free books. The newsletter also contains fun content like drabbles, which I like to contribute to every now and again. They've also added a daily puzzle to test the old brain cells.

Visit the Book Hippo website here: http://www.bookhippo.co.uk

Last week to Enter April's Short Fiction Contest


As we've entered the final week of April's Short Fiction Contest time is running out to get your entries in. If you've not entered before then the rules are simple. First you write a story of no more than 500 words inspired by this month's picture. You then subit the story via the form provided on the contest page here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/april-short-fiction-contest.html

There's no entry fee and the winning story will receive a £50 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize. There are prizes for the second and third place winners.

If you enjoy reading short ficion then you should check out last month's winning stories:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/march-short-fiction-contest-winners.html

Friday, 10 April 2015

Flashback Friday - Millennium

It's been a while since my last Flashback Friday, so in this one I revisit my favourite TV show of all time - Millennium:



I've just finished watching the first season of Millennium, which for me is one of the greatest TV shows ever made - although Twin Peaks and Firefly are close contenders. It's an old Chris Carter show (he also made The X-Files) starring Lance Henrikson as the lead character, Frank Black.

Frank was an FBI profiler, with the ability to see through the eyes of the killers he hunts. I notice  that the new TV show Hannibal follows a similar pattern, although not to the same perfection.

And perfection is what makes this show great for me. The cast is brilliant and the world it's set in is fabulously dark. Every episode expands the viewers awareness of evil and Frank's hunt to stop it.

The first season flirts with a supernatural side to the people he faces. This is best shown by one of the characters, Lucy Butler who makes a few visits in the three seasons. She seems to blend between being a woman, or a man, or a medieval looking demon.

Frank works for the Millennium Group, a mysterious organisation of ex law enforcement types. In the first season you don't get to learn much about them, that comes in season 2.#

I've watched this show several times and every time I enjoy it as much as the first time I watched. If you like dark stories and haven't watched this, then you owe it to yourself to do so.




  

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Drabbles of Art - The Commuters by Wolfgang Lettl



This was a completely new image for me, but as soon as I saw it while browsing the Google Art Project I had to include it in the Drabbles of Art series. It's definitely worth checking out his other paintings and I'm sure I'll return to him in the future.

If you not read the previous 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

The Commuters by Wolfgang Lettl

“Would they really shoot us with that cannon?” the first finely dressed man asked, the fear restrained, yet clearly evident.

“I think that they would, but we’ve no choice,” said the second. “How else will the world know of what happened in this place?”

“Maybe the girl will distract them,” suggested the third with brittle hope.

“Don’t let her distract you!” the fourth shouted. “We’ll only get one shot at this.”

“We are already at full speed,” the fifth told his compatriots. “The fans won’t go any faster, they just don’t have the power.”

“Prepare to fire,” ordered the girl.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Guest Author Interview - Eve Karlin

Eve Karlin joins me for this week's Guest Author Interview to tell us about her latest release 'City of Liars and Thieves':
Click on image to buy from Amazon


Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
I am a New Yorker temporarily displaced as I raise triplets in the more hospitable—and affordable—climate of East Hampton, New York. I worked in publishing for over a decade and many times when I finished a book, I thought – Hey, I can do that!

What first inspired you to start writing?
Piles of dusty journals attest to the fact that I have always been a writer, but when I stumbled across the Manhattan Well tragedy I was truly inspired. I began my research and learned that the well in which a young woman died 215 years ago was steps away from where I had once lived. I did not know about the crime, but I had been 22 years old, the same age as Elma Sands when she was murdered. It seemed prophetic.

Where did the idea for CITY OF LIARS AND THIEVES come from?
I was reading Ron Chernow’s biography on Alexander Hamilton when I came across the Manhattan Well tragedy. Only four pages were devoted to Levi Weeks’ trial, and most of those focused on Hamilton’s oratory skill and his rivalry with Burr, but I was hooked. An illicit love affair, political intrigue, an unsolved murder: the story was brimming with scandal!

Which author do you admire most and why?
Different books satisfy various cravings. Working in publishing taught me the value of sampling a wide variety. If I had to choose one author I would say Truman Capote. I am fascinated by IN COLD BLOOD. Talk about multifaceted relationships! Capote’s bond with Perry Smith is especially intriguing. IN COLD BLOOD is a psychological true crime thriller.

Which is your favorite word?
Hmmm?

How do you see your writing developing in the future?
I plan to pursue historical fiction. For me, it’s the perfect blend of storytelling and history. CITY OF LIARS AND THIEVES is based on the first recorded murder trial in U.S. history. It is easy to read the testimony and get bogged down in grandiose names and historical details, but pondering the witnesses’ actual words brought the story to life. The language was formal and dated, but it touched me. The true-life material was a springboard for my imagination. There are millions of stories out there; I’m in search of one that moves me.

What was the last book you read?
I just finished 31 BOND STREET by Ellen Horan, a historical novel which was once my nemesis. A few years ago, when an editor expressed interest in CITY OF LIARS AND THIEVES the sales force vetoed her decision saying that they could not have two historical novels set in NYC on the same list. It has taken time to put that disappointment behind me and pick up Horan’s book. Now that I have, I think it’s wonderful!

What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment, I am fluctuating between returning to my first book (never published) and researching something new. When my first book did not sell, I was told to set it aside and return to it with a fresh perspective. Six years have passed since then and I have certainly learned about writing, pace, and applying constructive criticism. On the other hand, CITY OF LIARS AND THIEVES is historical fiction and I do not know if I should stick to that genre. So, I am also reading a lot of history and hoping to find a story as amazing as the Manhattan Well tragedy while editing my former book.

Tell us about your latest release and how we can find out more.
In December 1799, a young woman named Elma Sands vanished on the snowy streets of New York City. Twelve days later, her corpse was found floating in an abandoned well, and her lover, Levi Weeks, was arrested for murder. While the brutal slaying of an innocent girl rocked the city, it was the trial that made the case truly sensational: Levi Weeks was defended by Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr four years before their infamous duel.

CITY OF LIARS AND THIEVES is historical fiction based on the United States’ first recorded murder trial.

My website is: http://evekarlin.com/


Sunday, 5 April 2015

Elite: Legacy Available on Amazon

I'm pleased to announce that Elite: Legacy is now available from Amazon: http://amzn.to/1C7q3VI


The mining colony Freeholm in the Artemis system is celebrating ten years of independence. Once a penal colony for political prisoners from the neighbouring planet of Laphria, the
station is now a thriving mine and refinery.

The brutal murder of two of the station’s resident traders when ambushed in the surrounding asteroid belt sends shockwaves through the community. With the identity of the attackers unknown, Freeholm’s head of security and hero of the rebellion, Darik Cavus, must discover the deadly conspiracy unfolding against his home.

They cannot face the threat alone. Darik’s daughter, Julia, must travel and find help before the station’s small defence force is overwhelmed. The forces moving against the colony seek to prevent her mission.

Events start to spiral out of control for Julia and her small band of allies, and nothing is as it first seems.

Only Two Weeks Left in April's Short Fiction Contest


There's only two week's left to enter April's Short Fiction Contest, so if you haven't written your story yet then you need to get cracking! This month's image is a rather startling (and let's face it, a bit sinister) picture of a finely carved puppet. It is a bit of a theme in this contest, but there's already a wealth of stories inspired by this image, but still time to add yours.

To enter the competition you first need to write a story of no more than 500 words based on this month's image. You then submit it via the form provided on the contest page here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/april-short-fiction-contest.html

There's no entry fee and the winning story will receive a £50 Amazon or PayPal prize. There are prizes for second and third place as well.

If you haven't read the winning stories from March's contest yet then you will find them all here and they are an excellent read:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/march-short-fiction-contest-winners.html

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Book Review - The Bone Yard and Other Stories by John Moralee

I first became aware of this author from his short fiction contest entries and I've always enjoyed how much of a punch he can pick into so few words. This collection of dark tales continues that theme and illustrates how good he is at weaving effective short stories.

They're not all tales of horror but all have a dark theme and there's a good spread of ideas here and that kept me interested in the collection. Each story brought something new. As with nearly all the short story collections I've read there are favourites and others I didn't enjoy as much. I found them all worth reading, but The Challenge (about a woman in a tower where you have to walk forever) and The Midnight Murderer were stand out stories for me.

The quality of the writing is generally good (and in some places superb), but a few of the stories could have done with another proof pass. That's a minor complaint though for the stories on offer here. This is a recommended read for horror fans.


The Bone Yard and Other Stories

A collection of fifteen dark stories, ranging from a traditional ghost story to splatterpunk, totalling over 70, 000 words. Some of these stories have appeared before in print in horror anthologies and magazines, but many others are new and original to this gruesome collection.

This collection includes:

The Bone Yard – a group of boys discover something terrible in a graveyard.
Nematode – the reason why eating too much meat is bad for you.
Open Wounds – torture and pain are the least of one man’s worries when he’s arrested.
The Challenge – a woman finds herself trapped in a strange tower with no memory of how she got there.
The Shadow of Death – what would you do if the world was overrun with zombies and you were one of them?
Monsters – The Nazis perform horrific experiments on humans with the aid of Dr Frankenstein’s reanimation technology, making one scientist question his beliefs.
Sickness Country – a racist community face retribution.
The Midnight Murderer – a writer suspects a psycho-killer is stalking him.
The Faintest Echo – a man’s son dies, but he sees him again ...
Sleeping in the Earth – a killer makes a deal to get out of prison one more time.
The Gift – a woman receives a disturbing present.
The Deepest, Darkest Fear – a sheriff investigates the disappearance of his own child.
The Big Favour – would you help your friend dispose of a body?
Starlight – a ghost-writer encounters a famous actress with a secret.
Disconnected – two girls become trapped in a telephone box with terrifying results.

Contains 70, 000 words/250 Kindle pages

Click here to buy The Bone Yard from Amazon (and it's an excellent collection of dark stories)

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Drabbles of the Gods - Whiro


We delve into Maori tradition for this week's Drabble of the Gods and with the rather sinister Whiro.

You can find the previous drabbles in the series here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/p/drabbles-of-gods.html

Whiro

The dread lord of the underworld Whiro dwells in shadow waiting to rise. From his dark realm he pollutes our lives with his evil.

Yet death brings no freedom from his grasp unless the spirit is freed from the body by fire. Those not cremated descend to the underworld to be consumed by him and with each meal he grows stronger.

We must deny his sustenance - if we do not then he will grow strong enough to ascend into our world. All should fear the day he arrives for every one of us will become food for his hunger.

My Books on Goodreads