Monday, 31 August 2015

Guest Post - The Importance of a "Good" Bad Guy by Andy Peloquin

To celebrate the release of his new novel 'Blade of the Destroyer' Andy Peloquin has provided a guest post on the importance of a 'good' bad guy:

The Importance of a "Good" Bad Guy
by Andy Peloquin

How important is the villain in fiction? I'd almost venture to say that he/she is more important than the hero!

Think about the movies and books that have "made it big" over the years:


  • Harry Potter -- The only reason Harry Potter is important, is because he's going to defeat Voldermort. Without a Voldermort, he's just another kid learning to be a wizard.
  • Star Wars --  Why does Luke Skywalker matter? He's a Jedi who defeats not only the ultimate evil (the Emperor), but he shuts out the temptations of his father (a great villain) to join the Dark Side. 
  • The Avengers -- Every Marvel movie has been about defeating a villain. Which movie was the most successful of all time? The one with the awesome villain: Loki.
  • Game of Thrones -- The books/TV shows are riddled with characters that should/could be classified as "villains", and all the "heroes" die out early on.  

These are just a few examples, but they showcase the importance of a good villain.

The thing that makes a hero more "heroic" is the amount of villainy he has to face and overcome.
Think about Harry Potter if the primary villain of the book was Draco Malfoy. All he'd have to do is defeat House Slytherin in the Quidditch Cup, and he would have his victory. One book, and it's done!

Look at Star Wars. The only reason that any of the movies happened was because of the Emperor pulling the strings behind the scenes. Without his incredibly complex schemes, things would have been at peace, the Jedi would have multiplied, and the galaxy would have been very different.

But what TYPE of villain are you writing? Are you writing the clichéd "evil"--maniacal, bloodthirsty, and cruel for the sake of being cruel? Literature has progressed to the point that few people enjoy reading about this unrealistic character.

Now, people are much more savvy about the underlying psychology of what makes a villain or hero do the things they do. You can't just throw "evil" on a page and expect people to read it. In fact, that's going to get you laughed out of the room faster than writing a "buxom heroine" or a "blond, blue-eyed hero".

The best villains are the ones who have a "good" reason for doing what they're doing. Perhaps they were slighted by the city or country that they are now seeking to burn to the ground. Or maybe the king they're trying to kill did something to harm their family in the past. Better yet, they may be trying to do something perceived as "evil" because, in the long run, they have "good" intentions at heart.

That is what makes a villain memorable, and that's what makes them worth reading. How many truly maniacal people do you know? Not many. How many people do you know that will do whatever it takes to achieve their goals? Probably A LOT.

When writing your villains, keep this in mind: "There is no evil; there is only desire, and what you will do to achieve it."

Write your villains as real people who have real thoughts and feelings. Give them a reason to do what they're doing, and give them something that will help the reader identify with them. The best villains are the ones you can't help but love (look at Loki in the Avengers), and they are the ones that you will remember for the rest of your life.

Click on image to buy from Amazon
The Hunter of Voramis is the perfect assassin: ruthless, unrelenting, immortal. Haunted by lost memories, he is bonded to a cursed dagger that feeds him power but denies him peace of mind. Within him rages an unquenchable need for blood and death.
When he accepts a contract to avenge the stolen innocence of a girl, the Hunter becomes the prey. The death of a seemingly random target sends him hurtling toward destruction, yet could his path also lead to the truth of his buried past?

Click here to buy Blade of the Destroyer from Amazon

Sunday, 30 August 2015

August Short Fiction Contest Winners

"Watain 27 03 2014 08" by Vassil - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The winners of August's Short Fiction Contest have been chosen and as always it was a difficult task to pick just three stories from all of those selected. As you can see from the winning stories the satanic altar inspired a wider range of perspectives than you'd might expect.

Thank you to everyone who entered and also thanks to those who help spread the word about the monthly contest. And now for the winners:

 - First prize of a £50 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to John Moralee for his story 'Appy Endings'
 - Second prize of a £20 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Diane Arnelle for her story 'Paulie's Mom'
 - Third prize of a £10 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Lee Hodgson for his story 'The Devil's Barber'

Congratulations to the winners and here are their stories:

Appy Endings by John Moralee


Don’t blame me for what happened. Our start-up needed money to get it off the ground – but no banks were willing to invest in our idea. Our Kickstarter campaign had failed miserably. We were desperate for funding. That’s why we ended up summoning Satan.

Understand this. I had nothing to do with the satanic ritual. Eric found the book of demonology on eBay. He also made the altar and performed the first sacrifice, slicing off his own pinkie finger, the price of an initial consultation with Satan. Tom and I were just there in the room when Satan’s image appeared in our pentagram, looking like a slick lawyer in a sharp suit. He glared at us with a look that could literally kill – if we had not bound him inside the pentagram.

“WHO DARES CALL ME?”

Eric did the speaking for us. “I do, sir. My name’s Eric. That’s Tom and Jason. We’re business partners.”

“WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME, HUMANS?”

“Master, we need help with our start-up. We have a great idea for an app called DreamR  - but we don’t have the money to get it running.”

“TELL ME MORE.”

“We’ve created a piece of hardware that turns dreams into a digital format. That means dreams can be copied and delivered into another person’s mind via a wi-fi connected device. Each time someone borrows a dream from us, we intend to charge them a small transaction fee and pay the original dreamer a royalty. We believe it can be worth billions. All we need is the money to develop the technology and marketing.”

“I CAN PROVIDE EVERYTHING YOU NEED – BUT HOW WILL I BENEFIT? I HAVE NO NEED FOR MATERIAL WEALTH. I WANT HUMAN SOULS.”

Eric answered immediately, making me suspect he had already worked out his pitch long in advance. “We will use a subscription service, master. Users will have to sign up – so you can make giving away their souls part of the agreement.”

“NOBODY WOULD SELL THEIR SOUL FOR AN APP.”

“That little detail can be hidden in the terms and conditions, master. Nobody ever reads the small print.”

“VERY WELL. YOU HAVE A DEAL – BUT I DON’T LIKE THE NAME.”

“It can be changed,” Eric said.

“YOU MUST ALL SIGN A LEGAL CONTRACT. I WILL PROVIDE YOU WITH THE FUNDING, BUT I WILL TAKE YOUR SOULS IF YOU FAIL TO GET AT LEAST A BILLION SUBSCRIBERS IN TEN YEARS.”

“Sounds doable,” Eric said.

You know the rest. Our app was a huge success. Our subscribers all unknowingly gave away their souls to Satan while we became the richest people on Earth. Our app easily reached a billion users by the deadline. Over half the world’s population subscribed.

The rest wasn’t my fault. 

I didn’t know Satan was going to turn our users into an army of soulless monsters, bringing Armageddon to Earth.

Paulie's Mom by Diane Arnelle


Paulie's Mom studied the clothes, crusty dishes, and fast food wrappers covering the entire bedroom. She took a breath of sweaty sock odor and said, "Damn, seventeen and such a pig!"

She walked to the overflowing closet and started digging through game pieces, porn magazines, and sports equipment. Hitting the inside wall, she noticed the small dormer door ajar and lights flickering behind it.

She bent low, pushed the door open and saw Paulie, backlit by dozens of candles, pouring red liquid onto a large starlike drawing on the floor.

"That better not stain," Paulie's Mom shouted. "Now get a bucket and clean this mess up!"

"Ah Mom!"

"Now!"

As she watched Paulie leave the room the candles on a makeshift alter blew out with a gust of wind from nowhere. She sighed, and stepping onto the floor drawing said, "I'd give anything to have that boy listen to me!"

"Seriously?" A voice like a hailstorm on a tin roof said. "Anything?"

Paulie's Mom looked at the squat figure in the dim light. "Do I know you? You one of Paulie's stoner friends?"

"No," the figure said and relit the candles with a snap of the fingers, "But I think we can get to know each other… very well."

Paulie's Mom gasped as she took in the huge fangs, the purple hairy, naked body and the short horns on top of his head. "Oh," she gasped. "You're a… a,,,"

"I'm a demon and I can grant your every wish, in exchange for your soul of course."

"Every wish? Well, maybe… I mean… Paulie is a nightmare and his father was a womanizing bum. You could punish my husband, make him suffer?"

The demon smiled, "In ways you can't even imagine."

"Make Paulie finally realize that I'm right when I tell him to do something?"

"Every word from your lips will be like gospel to him."

Just then Paulie walked in, "Here's your bucket."

I want you to clean this mess."

"Ah Mom! Paulie whined then looked at the demon. "Whoa! It worked. "Like you're mine now, so like, kill my mom for me OK?"

"Actually I'm hers now."

She nodded, "OK, you said everything I tell him?"

"Like gospel."

"Paulie, you know I love you but I want you to take my place in hell, I don't think my demon, uh, what's your name?"

"You can't pronounce it."

"I'll call you Harvey then. Anyway, Harvey won't mind."

"Nope, a soul's a soul."

Paulie frowned, "No way!" but he suddenly was signing the contract that magically appeared before him. 

With a scream, he vanished.

"Will he be all right?" she asked. 

"Sure," the demon said. "We done now?"

"Well, I need another son, I want you to take Paulie's place, Harvey."

The demon scowled, "Well all right, a deal's a deal. By the way you cook meatloaf?"

"Only the best on Earth," Harvey's Mom said. "Now let's clean up this mess and go eat dinner."

The Devil's Barber by Lee Hodgson

Harry consulted the mouldy leather-bound tome, studying the ancient diagrams. His wire-frame spectacles glimmered in the muted crimson light.
 
He turned from the book, chalk in hand, and knelt down next to the large pentagram on the floor. Sweat beaded on his bare torso, and as he leaned forward a drop fell onto a dusty white line. Harry tutted and dragged the chalk over the spoiled section.

With a grunt of satisfaction, he stood and directed his attention back to the book lying open on the altar.

As he examined the volume, a noise from behind made him pause, finger poised over the page. He turned slowly. A tendril of smoke spiralled up from the chalk line his sweat had fouled. Flickering into flame, it quickly spread across the pentagram. He watched through the hazy air as the flames blazed high and the pentagram crumbled away, leaving a ragged hole smouldering in the floor.

Eyes wide, Harry stepped forward into the acrid smoke and peered into the hole.

A large slug-like demon was climbing towards him using incongruously short limbs, tongue lolling from a gaping maw framed with an incomplete set of splintered, rotting teeth. It dragged its bloated body from the fiery opening and squatted in a haze of sulphurous smoke, bloodshot eyes staring hungrily at Harry.

‘You must be … Gary,’ slurred the beast, tongue snagging on its teeth. ‘I’ve been ordered to give you three wishes.’ 

‘Harry,’ was all Harry could meekly articulate.

The demon scowled at him. ‘If you say so.’ 

Harry’s tongue felt thick in his mouth. ‘You’re a demon,’ he said, his mind in the same predicament as his tongue.

‘You’re a sharp one.’ The demon slumped forward onto its distended abdomen and undulated across the floor toward Harry.

‘I … I didn’t summon you,’ he stammered, backing into the altar. ‘I was casting a spell to make my hair grow.’ His hand went up to his shiny pink scalp. 

The beast stopped moving and squinted up at Harry’s head. ‘That comb-over is bordering on satanic. No wonder you were messing with the dark arts.’ It resumed its slither.

‘Y … you mentioned wishes?’ Faint hope stirred in Harry’s dark soul. ‘I wish for a full head of hair,’ he blurted.

The demon lurched upright, supporting itself on underdeveloped legs. It leered at Harry with a malevolent chuckle. It sounded like rocks being grated together.

‘Let’s see what I can do.’ 

Harry flinched as the creature raised a cruel serrated blade before his eyes.

‘Hold still.’

The demon leaned forward and slashed the blade across Harry’s bare chest. 

Harry screeched in shocked pain. ‘What about the wishes?’ he cried, hands clasping the wound as blood spurted between his fingers.

‘Wishes?’ The demon’s mottled brow knitted in confusion. ‘Oh no, I meant gashes. I always get those two confused.’ It drew back the blade and displayed its teeth once more. ‘Two to go.’

Friday, 28 August 2015

Festival of Drabbles 2015 - Calling All Bloggers and Website Owners


The Festival of Drabbles 2015 starts on November 9th and runs until November 15th to celebrate the art of drabbles. Drabbles are stories that are exactly 100 words long. If you've not joined the event yet then you can do so on Facebook here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/375605662648575/

Or on Goodreads here:

https://www.goodreads.com/event/show/970201-festival-of-drabbles-2015

The festival activities will take place on various blogs and websites and this is your opportunity to get involved. If you write a blog or a website and would like to take part then simply leave your details in the comments below and I will start compiling a calendar of events.

You should include your name, web address and which days you plan to host something on, if you know what it will be then include that as well!

Here's what my blog will have for that week:

Michael Brookes
thecultofme.blogspot.com
Monday 9th - My First Drabble
Tuesday 10th - Places to Find Drabbles
Wednesday 11th - Drabble Books
Thursday 12th - Drabbles of Art
Friday 13th - Drabble Writing Tips
Saturday 14th - Drabble Contest Winner
Sunday 15th - Peoples Choice Drabble Contest Winner

You don't have to host something every day - but you're more than welcome to if you want!

Don't worry if you want to host something but don't have any drabbles or anything related, just list your blog below and post that you'd like content to feature and I will look for suitable content for you. As we approach the festival I will be promoting the calendar of events and so you'll gain additional exposure for your blog or website.


Thursday, 27 August 2015

Drabbles of the Gods - Badb

By Zeynel Cebeci (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

For this week's Drabble of the Gods we hop over the Irish Sea to meet Badb. I've taken part of the translated Second Battle of Motura as the basis of this drabble.

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

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

Badb

I am the crow of doom, the mist of war and the screams of the dying.

I shall not see a world that will be dear to me.

Summer without flowers,

Cows will be without milk,

Women without modesty,

Men without valour,

Captures without a king.

Woods without mast,

Sea without produce,

Wrong judgments of old men,

False precedents of law,

Every man a betrayer,

Every boy a reaver.

Son will enter his father's bed,

Father will enter his son's bed,

Everyone will be his brother's brother-in-law.

An evil time!

Son will deceive his father,

Daughter will deceive her mother.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Book Review - The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker

I'm a big Clive Barker fan and especially of his Cenobite mythos, both in film and book, so I've been looking forward to reading this. So much so that I re-read The Hellbound Heart recently to refresh my memory! I wasn't disappointed and enjoyed reading this a lot, it's not quite up there with his best, but a decent read.

Part of this was the core story. I'm a huge fan of Paradise Lost, those that know me know that it's my favourite story of all time. It's far from a simple retelling though and that is also an interest of mine - how people interpret the core themes differently.

As can be expected Hell features predominantly in the story and it shows the author's vision in making this not just a location, but a functioning society as well. Fans of the cenobites get to see how the Order of the Gash fits in with the wider context of Hell.

The story in main follows Pinhead (he apparently really doesn't like that name :-) ) and his secret scheme in Hell. I really enjoyed spending time with the character and there's some unexpected development with him. One marginal disappointment was the buildup, they are legendary at causing suffering over extended periods of time, but pretty much straight away he's killing people quickly, although in imaginative ways.

This does get addressed later on and is also a word of warning. Some of the scenes aren't for the faint of heart. As with his previous work the author has a wonderful turn of phrase and his prose is a joy to read. There are points were you marvel at how something so horrific is so eloquently described.

Naturally there are heroes in the tale trying to counter Pinhead's plans and this is an odd bunch of characters. These are well realised but their presence seems to act only as a counterpoint to Pinhead. They could have been removed from the plot and yet the story would have remained almost the same.

What they do provide is a different perspective and that does make the journey through Hell more interesting and help pace things to the conclusion. The conclusion is epic and worked for me, but the story then drags a bit as the various lives are then cleaned up. I think I would have almost kept the ending dramatic but more ambiguous.


Click on image to buy from Amazon

The gates to Hell are open and something beckons... The last of Earth's magicians are living in fear. A Cenobite Hell Priest known as Pinhead is killing them off, gorging on their knowledge to enhance his own magical powers as part of a quest to takeover Hell. Meanwhile, Private Investigator Harry D'Amour is fulfilling the final wishes of the dead, who communicate with his business associate, the blind medium Norma Paine. But while investigating one such case, Harry inadvertently opens up a rift between hell and the real world. When nemesis Pinhead emerges through the portal, a vicious battle ensues. After failing to enlist Harry as one of his Scarlet Gospels, an elite group of indefatigable messengers who will witness his takeover of hell, Pinhead captures Norma and Harry realizes he must go through hell - literally - to save her.


Click here to buy The Scarlet Gospels from Amazon (and it's a decent horror read)


Just Started Reading - No Way Home (A Science Fiction Anthology)

Click on image to buy from Amazon

Stories From Which There is No Escape.

Nothing terrifies us more than being stranded. Helpless, forsaken, cut-off. Locked in a place from which there is no escape, no way to get home.

A soldier trapped in an endless war dies over and over, only to be awakened each time to fight again – one of the last remaining few seeking to save mankind from extinction.

In rural 70s England, an RAF radio engineer returns to an abandoned military installation, but begins to suffer hallucinations, shifts in time and memories that are not his own.

A widower, one of ten thousand civilian space explorers, is sent alone to determine his assigned planet's suitability for human colonisation, but stumbles across a woman who is part of the same programme and shouldn’t be there at all.

A suicidal woman in a poverty-stricken near-future America, where political apathy has allowed special interests to gain control of the country, takes part in a particularly unpleasant crowd-funding platform, established by the nation’s moneyed elite to engage the masses.

An assassin from the future, sent back in time to murder an insurgent, is left stranded when he fails in his mission and knows he will soon cease to exist.

These sometimes dark, sometimes heart-warming, but always insightful stories and more are to be found in No Way Home, where eight of the most exciting new voices in speculative fiction explore the mental, physical and even meta-physical boundaries that imprison us when we are lost.


Click here to buy No Way Home from Amazon


Sunday, 23 August 2015

September Short Fiction Contest

Painting by Luciana Nedelea - https://www.facebook.com/LucianaNedeleaArt

For this month's image I was going to do something a bit more light-hearted after last month's satanic altar. However I spotted this image and when I saw it was available I had to buy it! Regular readers of my blog might recognise the style. It is by the talented Luciana Nedelea who also painted the picture for The Space Inbetween - http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/the-space-inbetween-preview.html - one of my upcoming books and also the tattoo in progress on my back. You can check out her amazing artwork here:

https://www.facebook.com/LucianaNedeleaArt

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 October 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 September 20th 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.

Short Fiction Writers and Readers Passes 3,000 Members



I set up the Short Fiction Writers and Readers Facebook Group as a place for writers to promote their works of short and flash fiction. More importantly it is a place for readers to discover new stories to enjoy.

The group is always growing and has now passed 3,000 members. If you're not a member yet then why not come and join us?

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

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Guest Post - Top Ten Horror Novels by Michelle Barclay

To celebrate the launch of her latest novel 'Morrigan's Shadows', Michelle Barclay provides a guest post listing her top ten horror novels:

Top Ten Horror Novels by Michelle Barclay

The horror genre has many books and short stories to boast of. From the earlier tales of writers like Lovecraft and Hodgson to the contemporary stories of writers like King and McCammon, you could read every day and never run out of scares. I've been picking books from the genre since I was a small child and I'm sure I will never be able to read all of those that are worth reading. That being said, I have a few favorites among those that I have read to share with you.

"The Exorcist" by William Peter Blatty

William Peter Blatty's most important work tops my list completely due to personal preference. I find the concept of possession terrifying. When you couple my weakness for the genre with the obscenely scary tale crafted by Blatty, you get me scurrying through my house at night flipping lights on before Captain Howdy can show up and ruin my life.

"The Stand" by Stephen King

"The Stand" makes the top because it takes into account the big picture during a viral apocalypse. What really freaked me out the first time I read it was King's use of the common cold to describe his Captain Trips virus. The idea that something could spread so fast and be as virtually untreatable as the common cold is creepy as hell. Ebola has nothing on this illness. It spreads fast and it kills like the Spanish flu.

"Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley

This one is often cited as the first contemporary science fiction novel, and it is. However, it is also a disquieting horror novel that deals not only with the grotesque, but with morality and the deepest of human needs. It is hard to tell just who is the villain in this classic tale, a tricky moral dilemma that has been utilized by adapters of the tale ever since.

"The Monk" by Matthew Gregory Lewis

"The Monk" is a relentlessly hopeless tapestry of tragedy, religion and lust. Its characters are presented in ways that leave the reader believing they are truly pious and good. This misjudgment is quickly smashed wide open. Every time you think no more harm can be done, it gets worse. Written in 1796, it was a scandal, and even time has not dulled its sharp edge.

"Hannibal Rising" by Thomas Harris

Nothing is quite like the back-story of a notorious literary villain. "Hannibal Rising" gives the evil cannibal Hannibal Lecter a both repulsive and sympathetic back-story that only makes the character that much more memorable. You would think this would be hard, it being the third book of a series, but Thomas Harris pulls it off.

"Interview with the Vampire" by Anne Rice

I would argue that "Interview with the Vampire" is a touch more romantic than it is horrific, but that does not take away from its appeal. Sure, there are those who would say this sort of vampire novel destroyed the much more frightening vampires of earlier fiction, but it is important to note that this is a different sort of fiction altogether. With the other stories in the series, Rice creates her own mythos surrounding vampires, leaving Dracula unsullied.

"Dracula" by Bram Stoker

Yes, "Dracula" is long-winded. In fact, it may define the term, but it is an atmospheric masterpiece even if readers have to wade through it a bit. The characters are all flies stuck in a trap woven by a creature they could not imagine, until Jonathan Harker went to work for it and essentially invited it into their lives.

"The Island of Doctor Moreau" by H.G. Wells

Another science fiction novel that overlaps with horror is "The Island of Doctor Moreau." It only slightly beats out Wells' novel The "Time Machine" in terms of terror. The sick obsession of the titular doctor and the single-mindedness of the creatures he creates make for one of literature's most memorable tales.

"Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" by Alvin Schwartz

Most of you probably remember "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" for its crazy illustrations by Stephen Gammell. They are very haunting, but the stories Schwartz wrote gave the book, and its sequels, substance. What I like most about these stories is the urban legend quality of them that particularly attracts kids. This is the penultimate horror short story novel for younger children. I read these stories for the first time when I was about nine and I'm still very nostalgic about them.

Michelle Barclay is a novelist and copywriter living on the South Shore in Massachusetts with her husband. She is the author of the short story "Rot," novel "Morrigan's Shadows" and its upcoming sequel "August's Gardens," to be released on August 18, 2015. Learn more at http://michellebarclay.net. 

For emails about upcoming releases, contests and more, subscribe to Michelle Barclay's infrequent newsletter at http://michellebarclay.net/subscribe.



Morrigan's sleep is plagued with horrors. Afraid the vivid nightmares of her sleeping life will drive her insane, she sticks to a daily routine that comforts her until one day, she decides to change it. Through a series of traumas and encounters that claw at the seams of sanity, Morrigan finds herself confronting reality and it is not what she expected. Journey through Morrigan's nightmares as they seep into her waking world and threaten to destroy the only peace she has ever experienced.

Click here to buy Morrigan's Shadows from Amazon

Festival of Drabbles 2015


The first Festival of Drabbles will start on November 9th and run until the 15th. It will be a week long celebration of drabbles and the art of drabble writing including some of the finest drabblists in the world.

If you’re new to drabbles then they are a form of flash fiction in which the story is told in exactly 100 words. I’ve been a fan of the drabble form since they were introduced as a daily feature in the Indie Book Bargains newsletter (now Book Hippo) a few years ago.

As a writer it’s a challenge of economy and editing to tell a story in so few words. It’s also an excellent way to play with new ideas and to explore areas that you normally wouldn’t. As a reader I enjoy a bite sized tale in those few quiet minutes in the day. They’ve also introduced to me to new authors whose work I would otherwise have missed.

It’s a form that deserves greater recognition and so I’m organising this week of drabble related reading and activities. I already have a plan for how my blog The Cult of Me will contribute to International Drabble Week. I’ll share these nearer the time, and it will include a drabble competition.

How can you help?

For now the first job is to raise awareness for this first Festival of Drabbles, so if you have access to any of the following channels then please do the following:

If you have a blog or website then post an announcement for the Festival, you are free to use the logo and text for this purpose.

If you are on Facebook then join the event, invites any friends that you think would be interested and share the event on your timeline and any appropriate groups you participate in:

https://www.facebook.com/events/375605662648575/

If you’re on Twitter then tweet a link to this event and if you can use the #festivalofdrabbles hashtag that would be great!

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Drabbles of Art - Pine Trees by Hasegawa Tōhaku

"Pine Trees" by Hasegawa Tōhaku - Emuseum. Licensed under Public Domain
In this week's Drabble of Art we travel to Japan to appreciate the ethereal beauty of  Hasegawa Tōhaku's screen 'Pine Trees'.

If you've not read the previous drabbles in the series then you will find them here:

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

Pine Trees by Hasegawa Tōhaku

Walking through the mist transforms the familiar surroundings into the surreal. The pine forest normally fills the valley with its lush, green texture, but in the morning, when the river’s mist hugs the ground in its damp clasp, there is no colour.

Only the endless wall of grey.

Shapes are formless, the mighty trees only recognisable only as I approach them. The damp drains my spirit. I cannot even smell the sap from the trees. The closing mist presses against me, its chill touch absorbing all sound.

But all is transient. The sun rises and the world of colour returns.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Book Review - The Last Firewall by William Hertling

This is the third book in the author's Singularity series and I've enjoyed them all so far and this book proved to be no exception. In fact as I read each book I appreciate the development of the author's talent.

Each  of the books take an aspect of the technological singularity and in this one he examines the crossover between the physical world and cyberspace and in particular how it can affect individuals. The technology is handled in an easy to understand manner, although personally I quite like hard sci-fi so I would have been happy for there to be a bit more detail, but enough is conveyed to get a feel for what is new.

It also looks at some of the aspects of how society has changed in response to the technological developments and an interesting world is constructed from this. Again I would happily have read more detail, but enough is drawn to see how things fit together.

The story is fast paced and well written and drew me through the story quickly. There were some aspects I thought as unlikely, or inadequately explained, but overall it meshed together well. Apart from wanting more detail my main criticism would be for the main protagonist. He serves his purpose well enough, but does come across as a bit of a bond villain. There were hints as to his motivations that worked for me, but again the lack of detail meant that they didn't come across as strongly as they could have been.

So this review might seem a little over critical for a book I enjoyed, and that's mainly because there was potential for this to be a stand out novel in the genre. As it is it's merely an excellent read :-)

Click on image to buy from Amazon

In the year 2035, robots, artificial intelligences, and neural implants have become commonplace. The Institute for Ethics keeps the peace, using social reputation to ensure that robots and humans don't harm society or each other. But a powerful AI named Adam has found a way around the restrictions.

Catherine Matthews, nineteen years old, has a unique gift: the ability to manipulate the net with her neural implant. Yanked out of her perfectly ordinary life, Catherine becomes the last firewall standing between Adam and his quest for world domination.


Click here to buy The Last Firewall from Amazon (and it's an excellent cyber story)


Just Started Reading - The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker

Click on image to buy from Amazon

The gates to Hell are open and something beckons... The last of Earth's magicians are living in fear. A Cenobite Hell Priest known as Pinhead is killing them off, gorging on their knowledge to enhance his own magical powers as part of a quest to takeover Hell. Meanwhile, Private Investigator Harry D'Amour is fulfilling the final wishes of the dead, who communicate with his business associate, the blind medium Norma Paine. But while investigating one such case, Harry inadvertently opens up a rift between hell and the real world. When nemesis Pinhead emerges through the portal, a vicious battle ensues. After failing to enlist Harry as one of his Scarlet Gospels, an elite group of indefatigable messengers who will witness his takeover of hell, Pinhead captures Norma and Harry realizes he must go through hell - literally - to save her.


Sunday, 16 August 2015

Last Week of August's Short Fiction Contest

"Watain 27 03 2014 08" by Vassil - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

We've entered the final week of August's Short Fiction Contest and this month's image has already attracted some excellent entries. However there is still time for more! So if you haven't entered yet then this is your last opportunity to do so.

All entries must be in by the end of play August 23rd and there's no entry fee. The story should be submitted through the form provided on the contest page here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/august-short-fiction-contest.html

There is a £50 Amazon or PayPal prize for the winning story and prizes for second and third stories as well.

If you haven't read the winning stories from July's Short Fiction Contest then you really should as they are a cracking read. You can read them here:

Saturday, 15 August 2015

The Cult of Me: The Space Inbetween Preview

The Cult of Me: The Space Inbetween Preview: Thanks to the wonderfully talented Luciana Nedelea I have an image which previews the story of a book I have planned called 'The Space...

Friday, 14 August 2015

Book review - Lucky's Girl by William Holloway

This is a book that treads familiar ground. It's backwoods messiah whose power comes from a much darker and older god than the one he professes to bring to the people of Elton Township. Anyone familiar with native American mythology and Revelations will recognise what's going on. And that was the biggest flaw I had with the book, there wasn't any real surprises with it. Every major event was telegraphed or predictable.

It's saving grace is that it is very well told. The story is solid and moves in a blistering pace. The writing is good and while I might have known what was coming it kept me entertained enough to keep reading.

The book's strength is the characters, especially Lucky. He has a real talent for oratory and reading his speeches was a lot of fun. The insight into his thoughts was also interesting and well represented. One thing that did stand out was that every character was broken in some way which makes for a bleak view of the world. I'm not against that, but it does dilute the contrast with the ultimate evil, if it's a miserable existence anyway.

It's not for the faint hearted though. I'm not easily shocked, but the depravity in the story starts from eyebrow raising to something quite distasteful by the end. Overall I enjoyed reading the book, it's not particularly new, but tells a decent story well.



Something has awakened on Grove Island. Something that, even in sleep, has held Elton Township in its black embrace. Something old, wise and patient. Something that walked the ancient forests and howled beneath black skies.

Kenny McCord had a good life - his own slice of the American Dream. But all of that is over, so he is heading home to the small town he left behind so many years ago. However Kenny is not the only son that has returned to Elton Township. His childhood friend, and worst enemy, has come back to settle old scores and, quite literally, raise a little hell.


Click here to buy Lucky's Girl from Amazon (and it's a decent horror read)

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Drabbles of Art - The Plague Piper by Zdzisław Beksiński


This is the second painting by Zdzisław Beksiński featured in the Drabbles of Art series and his image 'The Plague Piper' provided superb inspiration for today's drabble.

You can check out is other work on his official website here:

http://www.beksinski.pl/

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

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

The Plague Piper by Zdzisław Beksiński

First came the dust and it quickly smothered the world. No-one knew where it came from. It blotted out the sun and scoured life from the earth. Many died as the air became too thick too breathe. The old and infirm were the first to die, and they were the lucky ones.

Now we survive underground, but some of us have to go above ground to scavenge. A few don’t return and we hear stories of a presence in the howling storms. It’s preceded by mournful pipes, alien tunes heralding a fate worse than living upon a sand blasted rock.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

New Drabble - I Remember the Words

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A new drabble (100 word story) of mine was posted in yesterday's Book Hippo newsletter and I've reposted it below:

I Remember the Words

I don’t know when the barrier first surrounded me. I walk through life without ever bumping into anything, or anyone. It’s as clear as glass so people think they can see me, and it’s as soft as silk so they don’t realise that they’re being steered away.

I’m certain it wasn’t always like this. I remember enjoying the world and the company it kept. I recall the perfect moment and declaring to everyone around me that I’d never been so happy.

Now all I can remember are the words and I wonder if I ever really felt anything at all.

Visit BookHippo.uk for a daily drabble and UK kindle bargains.

The Cult of Me: My Drabbles (100 Word Stories)

The Cult of Me: My Drabbles (100 Word Stories): A collection of drabbles (100 word stories) that  I've written for the Indie Book Bargains newsletter:   http://www.indie-book-bargain...

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Two Weeks Left to Enter August's Short Fiction Contest

"Watain 27 03 2014 08" by Vassil - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

There's only two weeks left to enter August's Short Fiction Contest, so if you haven't entered your story yet then now is the time to do so. It's easy to enter, first write a story of no more than 500 words inspired by this month's image of a satanic altar. You then submit the story through the contest page here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/august-short-fiction-contest.html

There's no entry fee and there are prizes for the three winning stories:

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

If you've not read the winnings stories from July's contest yet then you will find them here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/july-short-fiction-contest-winners.html



Saturday, 8 August 2015

The Cult of Me: Book and Story Review Archive

The Cult of Me: Book and Story Review Archive: Here you can find all of the book reviews I have posted here on my blog. They are organised by author and by book title. By Title 100...

Book Review - The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker

Clive Barker is my favourite contemporary horror writer and it was the Hellraiser film (one of my favourite horror films) that introduced me to his work. This is my third time reading the novella that inspired the movies and I enjoyed it as much this time as I did the first time.

There's so many aspects that elevate this into a classic read. First is the eloquence of the author's word craft. Just reading the language is a joy in itself. As a writer myself I can only marvel at the talent displayed and hope that I will one day match such skill. But I was a reader long before I became a writer and this remains a fantastic read.

The film based on this novella is excellent, mostly because of the cenobite characters, demons wrought from the flesh of those foolish enough to attract the attention of the order of the gash. The variety of the suffering visible in their forms works well on screen and the written word. The key difference here is that the book treats them as a collective rather than the simple imposing character of Pinhead as a leader.

The film does a decent job in visualising the horror in this tale, but the book does a far better job in describing the sensual nature of the cenobites. And that for me, beyond the quality of the writing, is what makes the story stand out. Normally the duality in horror is expressed as simple good versus evil, or the bestial against human, but here it's not so simple. The pain and pleasure is entwined, indivisable to coin a phrase.

It's a short read, but no less potent for that. The language is finely wrought and full of experssive dark imagination. A superb read and one that if you are a horror fan should be on your TBR list if you haven't already read it.



Clive Barker is widely acknowledged as the master of nerve-shattering horror. The Hellbound Heart is one of his best, one of the most dead-frightening stories you are likely to ever read, a story of the human heart and all the great terrors and ecstasies within.

At last he had solved the puzzle of Lemarchand's box. He was standing on the threshold of a world of heightened sensations. In moments the Cenobites - who had dedicated an eternity to the pursuit of sensuality - would be here. They would reveal dark secrets that would transform him forever.


Click here to buy The Hellbound Heart from Amazon (and it's a damn fine horror read!)

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Book Review - Hyperion by Dan Simmons

This is one of the sci-fi classics that I never seemed to get around to reading - well I finally have and I'm glad that I did! The scope of the book is impressive, a real space opera while still managing to keep the individual character's lives personal. The characters here are all very different, yet remaining interesting and showing an interesting contrast between people's lives in the far future. Quite often I find there's a character or two within the group like this that I don't get on with as well, but I didn't find that here. Each is believable and kept my interest.

For space opera to work you need good world building and this is a fascinating view of the far future. Of great interest to me was the differences between the various elements. The technology is well drawn and how it changes and underpins the culture provides a good backdrop. I was particularly curious about the AI's and their motivations and I'm looking forward to learning more in the next book - which I have already bought!

There was one distracting element for me and that was the structure of the story. The plot follows a narrative for each member of the group and they tell their stories in a sequential form whilst they are travelling to their destination. It works for the most part, but does have the problem that the main plot doesn't really advance much at all, until you reach the end and I shouted "What happens next!".

Well I guess it served it's purpose because I have bought the next book :-) While I'm not sure I'd rate it as a classic it is definitely a cracking sci-fi read and well worth checking out if you're a fan of the genre.


On the world called Hyperion, beyond the law of the Hegemony of Man, there waits the creature called the Shrike. There are those who worship it. There are those who fear it. And there are those who have vowed to destroy it. In the Valley of the Time Tombs, where huge, brooding structures move backward through time, the Shrike waits for them all. On the eve of Armageddon, with the entire galaxy at war, seven pilgrims set forth on a final voyage to Hyperion seeking the answers to the unsolved riddles of their lives. Each carries a desperate hope—and a terrible secret. And one may hold the fate of humanity in his hands.

A stunning tour de force filled with transcendent awe and wonder, Hyperion is a masterwork of science fiction that resonates with excitement and invention, the first volume in a remarkable new science fiction epic by the multiple-award-winning author of The Hollow Man.


Click here to buy Hyperion from Amazon (and it's a cracking sci-fi read)

Monday, 3 August 2015

Guest Post - Have You had a Wafer Thin Moment? by Jim Webster



Have you ever had a 'Wafer thin mint' moment? If you don't know what I'm talking about try https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJZPzQESq_0

I began to feel I was approaching the writer's equivalent of this. It all started so sensibly.

First I went to Loncon with Safkhet Publishing. I was on the same stand as Will Macmillan-Jones and Barrie Hyde, we didn't just promote our books, we sold them! I sold over fifty copies of my Sci Fi paperback 'Justice 4.1'. When I got home I discussed things with AUK who publish my fantasy books and they decided they were worth putting into paperback. So obviously I now had four books to re-proofread and suchlike. Which is fine, not a problem, except..

I'd also had another cunning plan

Benor, the popular protagonist/hero from my fantasy books has a long gap in his life. So I'd use the gap. But I wouldn't do full length 70,000 word novels, instead I'd write some 20,000 word short stories. The idea was that they'd come out as regular as clockwork so readers could rely on them
appearing. So I've written, edited and prepared them. There are six plus a short freebie. The plan is that this will give me time to write more at some point if people like them. They'll all have the same cover, showing an old newspaper entitled 'The Port Naain Intelligencer'.

Each will then have its own heading above that. It's economical; one nice picture does six book
covers. Also there is an element of pun in the title because they will be 'detective' stories so the Intelligencer is the man as well as the paper. Well at least I thought it was clever, but I doubt anybody else will ever notice.

Anyway the first one will be out on the 1st August. It is Flotsam or Jetsam.

Click on image to buy from Amazon
So I was writing these six stories (about 120,000 words in total) at the same time as preparing the other four full novels for paperback. During this period I was involved in lambing 400 ewes AND knocked in about 500 fence posts by hand.

But was I deterred? Did I see sense?

Not a bit of it. Mike Rose-Steel, my editor, is also a poet. Now obviously I'm big enough not to hold that sort of thing against a chap. But a friend of Benor's in the short stories is also a poet by the name of Tallis. (Again you can see that mine is an entirely equal opportunities literature). So Mike borrowed him and wrote ten poems for him.

So I had Benor write the cultural background stuff. Mike created a local Port Naain poet who would do the literary criticism and we were ready to go. Given that Benor knows nothing of poetry and Lancet Foredeck is a professional rival of Tallis you can imagine how it reads.

So 'Lambent Dreams' was written.

It is already published by Spindlebox Press as a slim, 28 page hand-sewn pamphlet. This is traditional within the poetry genre. But as soon as I get time I'm sticking it on Amazon where it'll be free for a week or so, around and about 1st August.

My hope is that by leaving it free and encouraging you to download it, I might just get number one Amazon slot for the same book in Fantasy, poetry and literary criticism. It may not a particularly worthy ideal but you must admit it just has to be tried!

Also by this point 'Swords for a Dead Lady', 'Dead Man Riding East', 'The Flames of the City' and  'Learning a Hard Trade' are now available in paperback and are linked below:



Anyway, remember the First day of August. Suddenly you have new things to spend your money on, new holiday reading and a chance to appear cultured by quoting one of Port Naain's major minor poets. Me, I'll probably be lying in a darkened room with a damp cloth across my face!

Sunday, 2 August 2015

July Short Fiction Contest Winners

John Tenniel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
As I stated when I posted July's Short Fiction Contest's image I'm a big fan of the Alice in Wonderland stories and the entries for the competition certainly scratched that itch in so many ways. As always the quality and variety in the entered stories impressed me and it was as hard as ever to pick just three winners.

Before I announce the winners I'd like to thank everyone for taking part and everyone who reads the stories and shares the contest. Your help is much appreciated!

And now for the winners:

 - First prize of a £50 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to David H Fears for his story 'The Pig'
 - Second prize of a £20 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Jonathan Hill for his story 'The Mirror'
 - Third prize of a £10 Amaon or PayPal prize goes to Allen Stroud for his story 'Looking'

Congratulations to the winners and here are their stories:

The Pig by David H Fears

https://www.facebook.com/MikeAngelPI

Alice clambered up on the mantel and pushed an eye to the peephole. She gazed upon a barnyard filled with vivid excited animals. Alice was mesmerized:

A pig strutted by dressed in a green mohair tuxedo and singing, “Big girls don't cry-yi-yi” in falsetto.

“Are you a white male, or a fascist pig?” the red-haired, menopausal frump asked in a mewling voice, tugging down her skirt and white-knuckling her purse up under her chin. She didn’t trust anyone in a green suit.

The pig turned, saw the mass of flaming hair, tipped his hat, winked and warbled:

“Shame on you, your mama said,
Shame on you, you cried in bed…”

She can take a joke, thought the pig.

“Bed!” screamed the woman, edging toward the road. “Bed? Just what do you mean by that? Is a girl not safe?” Her heart fluttered and seized cold, tormented, but just a wee bit thrummed by the idea of pig rape. Alice realized she could not only hear the animals speak, but she could read their thoughts!

“Curioser and curioser,” she whispered to herself.

The turkeys flapped and gobbled, craning to see, crushing themselves against the wire fence and feeling foolish to be in such a stupid flock. The Cow was contented by the controversy raised and counted its stomachs. The horse twitched its tail in rhythm, dreaming of a home stretch with its nose pointed to the finish line, while the bullfrog ribbitted a bassdrum beat.

Some of the audience joined in: “Shame on you, you told a lie.”

The woman stood on a rusty, galvanized washbasin and bellowed at the top of the cornstalks, her face misshapen with red anger: “I’M OFFENDED, DO YOU HEAR? OFFENDED!”

The chickens broke into voice, with geese in harmony, all high-stepping through muck behind the flashy pig.

The farmer leaned over the barn door, laughed and joined in:

“Big girls don’t cry, that’s just an alibi,” came the chorus, echoing over the valley.

A big finish with the pig tap dancing and twirling a cane, hanging on a lamppost ala Gene Kelly.

Smiles, chuckles, backs slapped all around.

The pig took bows while the frump took her leave.

“This life has never been so good,” the gaunt farmer said. “Answering that ad in the New York Post for a used pig outfit was the smartest thing I ever did.

The Mirror by Jonathan Hill

http://www.jhillwriter.com

“And how are you settling in?”

Martha looked over the fence at their new neighbour. “We’ll settle eventually,” Martha replied. Then, so she didn’t appear too negative, “It’s a lovely neighbourhood.”

“Yes,” said the neighbour who’d introduced herself as Lynette. “But then I am biased.” Her eyes smiled but there was a flicker of something else there. “You have a daughter? I saw her earlier.”

“Alice. She’s nine. We love her.” Martha laughed. “But then I am biased.”

“Alice… a lovely name. As in the book…”

“Yes, but it’s coincidental. Although…”

“Although, dear?” Lynette queried, her stare hardening.

“She’s rather taken with a mirror left behind by the previous owners. Our Alice’s own looking glass.” Martha smiled but it felt unnatural, like a forced laugh from a sick bed.

Lynette looked from side to side and then pushed her head closer to Martha’s, before whispering harshly. “If you’re wise, you’ll get rid of that mirror.”

Martha laughed uneasily. “And why would we do that? It goes so well with the room it’s in. It’s… well… it’s too good just to throw away!”

Lynette smiled and shook her head. “You know, dear, I almost feel as if I’ve been here before. And that’s because I have. I presume you didn’t hear about the previous occupants… why they had to move?”

Martha shrugged.

“They had a child too,” Lynette continued. “A daughter also.” She stopped talking, as if she’d just explained why the previous owners had moved but plainly she hadn’t.

“I know we’ve only just met,” Martha said, gaining a stubborn confidence, “but I find it rather impertinent of you to tell me what to keep and get rid of.”

“I don’t mean to intrude, dear. I merely offer you these words of advice and implore you to listen. What have I to gain by advising you to get rid of -”

“A mirror,” snapped Martha. “You want the mirror!” She shivered as a cold wind blew, looked up at the sky, saw it was no longer blue and said to herself, “Curious.”

“Is your daughter alone right now?” Lynette asked gravely.

“Why do you even need to… no, she’s with Louis. My husband.”

“Go inside. Check they’re okay,” bade Lynette.

“I’m sorry?”

“Go,” Lynette snapped back. “GO!”

Martha turned to go, not because this crazy woman was telling her to but because the wind was up and the weather was turning.

Inside, something made Martha take the stairs in twos. Perhaps it was the silence which pressed on their new house like a heavy blanket of snow.

“Louis? Alice?”

She flung open door after door until she came to the final room. She stepped inside tentatively, felt her heart stop at the sight of her white walls drenched in blood. On the bed her husband lay still, a knife by his side with a bloody thumbprint on the blade. The size of the print was precisely that of a nine-year-old child.

Looking by Allen Stroud

http://www.allenstroud.com/

"Alice?"

I raise my head to find Miss Hargreaves peering down at me over her thick black glasses. She's asked me a question, but I wasn't paying attention. She's holding a book in her hand, the same book that's on my desk, the same book I'd been staring at but not seeing. Lewis Carroll - Alice, Through the Looking Glass, about a girl with my name, but a different life.

A better life.

I can hear the sniggering behind me in the back two rows. I can guess who. Michaela, Josh and Sarah, it’s always them. Any weakness and they're ready with words like knives after class. I know why. Starting with the names and teasing means others don't start on you, but just because you understand why people pick on you doesn't make it easier. You bleed on the inside. I'm a target these days, spotty face, hair that won't behave.

"Sorry Miss Hargreaves," I say, feeling the building heat in my face.

"Do you need me to repeat myself?" she asks, her tone suggesting I better not, but I've no option.

"Please," I say.

"I'll do that after school then," Miss Hargreaves says. "I trust you'll be more focused until then?"

"Yes miss, sorry miss."

The bell sounds an hour later, the others all troop out. I stay put, a little relieved to avoid the shoving and name calling. I answer Miss Hargreaves question about chess pieces as characters. She leaves me alone in the room to wait out my punishment. I stare at the book again; flip through the pages to a picture. The girl in old fashioned clothes climbing on the mantelpiece to the mirror. Maybe the book is my looking glass, a window to another world. Anywhere's better than here.

By the time I'm walking home, everyone is long gone and it's dark. Mum'll be upset with me. Dad'll be angry with her when he calls at the weekend from his new life without us.

I keep my headphones in and turn up the volume on my mobile as I make my way through the streets. Loud angry music to wash away feelings and make like I'm not really there. Channel it all into whatever the singer's screaming, raw pain about being alive, about being me.

I get to the main road lit up by streetlamps. On the other side there's a figure. As I get closer I realise what it is. A human-sized rabbit, dressed in a coat. It waves, pulls out a pocket watch and impatiently beckons me to cross.

A rabbit?

I stare for a bit. The rabbit stares back, points at the watch again and mouths words at me. I can't make them out, but the meaning is obvious.

I step into the road.

Lights blaze from my right, I look and see the car, too close to avoid. Brakes squeal, but I know they won't stop in time. I don't even raise my arms.

Anywhere's better than here, right?

Our Day of Passing Released Today

I am very pleased to announce that my short story 'This Empty Place' (first featured in 'An Odd Quartet') is featured in the newly released 'Our Day of Passing'. It's available free from Smashwords or by signing up to my newsletter. See the details below:


Do you have a macabre fascination with death and the afterlife?

If so, then this anthology is definitely for you. While some see the subject of death as too morbid to contemplate, others such as the skilled writers that have contributed to this anthology, view it as the perfect subject to stimulate creative thinking. Much like ‘love’ and ‘war’, the topic of death has the ability to draw out some of the most thought-provoking pieces ever to fill a blank sheet of paper.

Our Day of Passing is formed from an eclectic and diverse mix of short stories, poems, fictions and essays. Contributions have been assembled from over 30 talented writers across the globe, each with their own fascinating interpretation of an event that comes to us all…eventually.

Written by Ingrid Hall, Franco Esposito, Dennis Higgins, Virginia Wright, Candida Spillard, Valeri Beers, Dada Vedaprajinananda, Strider Marcus Jones, Adam E. Morrison, Allyson Lima, D. B. Mauldin, David A. Slater, David King, Dee Thompson, Donald Illich, Edward Meiman, Eileen Hugo, Emily Olson, Joan McNerney, J.S. Little, Kin Asdi, Madison Meadows, Malobi Sinha, Marianne Szlyk, Mark Aspa, Mark David McClure, Megan Caito, Michael Brookes, Michael Burke, Pijush Kanti Deb, Prince Adewale Oreshade, Rafeeq O. McGiveron, Robin Reiss, Sasha Kasoff, Stephanie Buosi, Talia Haven

Whether they resonate with your own circumstances or provide new wisdom or something to ponder over, each of these carefully selected pieces will undoubtedly unlock a series of emotions within you. The anthology has been written in such a way that it can either be devoured or dipped in and out of as your emotions dictate. Either way, you can expect to feel a greater sense of self and enlightenment from reading it.

Download free from Smashwords here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/563817

Or sign up to my newsletter and you can receive a copy - some of my other books are available, but you can only pick one!

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