Monday, 30 November 2015

The Tau Ceti Mission - 11.07.2109 - Jupiter Slingshot

By NASA/JPL [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Seb reports in from near Jupiter on the Venti probe's journey out of the solar system to Tau Ceti:

http://www.taucetimission.com/2015/11/11072109-jupiter-slingshot.html

Sunday, 29 November 2015

The Tau Ceti Mission - Post Solar Flyby Q&A



Seb answers a few questions after flyby of the Sun:

http://www.taucetimission.com/2015/11/post-solar-flyby-q-session-with-seb.html

November Short Fiction Contest Winners

"SteampunkProp(byMollyPorkshanksFriedrich)" by Mark Harding
http://www.fotopedia.com/items/picasaweb-5442642326677408402.
Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
That time of the month has arrived where I select the winners for the last Short Fiction Contest. November's challenge was to write a story illuminating the purpose of the rather strange device pictured in the contest image. And what a diverse range of ideas you all submitted! As always it was a hard task to pick just three, but here are the winners:

 - First prize is a £50 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize goes to Tim Roberts for his story 'Lot 66'
 - Second prize is a £20 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize goes to Jon Jefferson for his story 'Dr. Killian's Portable Ray'
 - Third prize is a £10 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize goes to John Moralee for his story 'The Translucidator'

Congratulations to the winners and a big thank you to everyone who entered and those who support this contest.

Here are those winning stories:

Lot 66 by Tim Roberts

http://www.timstermatic.com/

That year, the snow came unseasonably late. My driver collected me at dusk and guided our carriage through the muted streets. When we arrived at the grand hall, the only person in attendance was a hastily dressed young man; the owners of the auction house never came to midnight bids, nor did they publicly associate themselves with collectors like my employer.

Beside the young man, seated atop a repurposed drinks trolley, was Lot 66. To the untrained eye, it might have resembled a phonograph, save for where the horn would normally reside was a fat glass tube connected to an intricate series of bronze machinery.

“It looks like you are the only bidder,” said the young man, his voice trembling.

“Then I only need meet the reserve,” I said.

The young man nodded. He shifted from foot to foot, keen to have our transaction over with.

There should have been 3 bidders, but my business with each of them, earlier in the day, assured my exclusive position. Lord Perkins was easily bought; a deathly looking man of 74 years who until this morning had a ledger of crippling debts to the gambling houses and unfortunate women of the city. He was now free to amass his debts all over again. Minister Travis, a ruddy faced man who financed his lifestyle through the collection box, was not so easily swayed. Fortunately, the raven arrived before lunch with whispers of the Minister’s penchant for collecting the shrunken heads of tribal leaders. My employer furnished me with 2 items from his own private collection, and Minister Travis was all but drooling when I revealed my offer.

I handed a snakeskin briefcase to the young auctioneer. He reached out and took it with the care of someone who was placing their hand into the fires of hell.

“Inside, you will find double the reserve price,” I said. “The briefcase you may keep.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Lord Bingham is contained within?” I said, gently tapping the glass tube of Lot 66.

He pointed to a small brass switch. “This opens the audio vent. If you do so, you will hear the screams of his eternal torture.”

“Very good,” I said. “One last question. Where was he found?”

The young man glanced around, then leant in to me. “Whispers say a shaman found him living on the streets on Cape Horn.”

I smiled. My employer would be pleased to hear my embellished report on the capture of the man who murdered his sister.

I took a quill from the band of my hat and jammed it into soft flesh between my forefinger and thumb. Once it was loaded with enough blood, I signed the auction ledger with my own crimson ink; my employer was a stickler for these things being done in a certain way.

“See it be delivered before sunrise,” I said, and then made my back onto the ghostly streets.

Dr. Killian's Portable Ray by Jon Jefferson

http://10thdaypublishing.com

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls,” Garret said. “Step right up. You don’t want to miss this. There are wonders galore and many such more. Come one, come all and see this show you won’t believe, even when you see it with your own eyes.” The crowd was warming to his call. Third town, third engagement that day. His throat was running next to raw with all the calls and proclamations he had made over the past few days. But they had a deadline and sales to make before it.

“That’s right miss, step right up.” He offered his hand to the blond woman that had come close to the stage. “I want to introduce you to Dr. Killian’s Portable Ray.” Garret picked up the device, covered with tubes and wiring. An electrical spark traveled between the tubes as he held it before her. “I can hear your questions now, ‘What’s it for? What does it do? How can I get one of my very own?’”

She mumbled and then looked across the crowd.

“Can it find you a husband?” he said. “Madame it can do that and so much more. You will be shocked and amazed by all the things this box can do.” He pushed it into her hands and then twisted a few knobs while standing beside her. “Keep it pointed straight ahead. No ahead of you, toward the table over there.”

She jumped and almost dropped the device when the beam of light burst from the biggest tube. The light illuminated the table and burned a hole through the wood.

“Ooops. Sorry. That was the wrong setting,” Garret said. He fiddled with the dials and yanked out a tube. He then replaced the tube on an opposite side of the device. “That should set it to rights.”

She pressed a button again. This time the beam of light flashed a soft red then blue. A bowl of fruit appeared on the table. She mumbled and pressed the button again. A duplicate of the first bowl of fruit appeared beside the first.

“Astounding, and a healthy choice.” Garret picked up an apple from the first bowl and held it up for the audience to see. “Perfect and red, better than picked from the tree.” To emphasis the point he finished with a crunchy bite into the fruit. After he swallowed the bite, “And no worms. I can hear you asking it now, how can we, get one of these great devices from Dr. Killian? Heck, how can we get two?”

He turned with a smile and a wink to the woman that had the device still in her hands. The smile dropped from his face when he saw her fiddle with the device one last to time. The beam slammed into him and he fell the ground, a bag of apples.

“I thought he would never shut up,” she said.

The Translucidator by John Moralee

http://www.mybookspage.wordpress.com

One morning in July 1876, Nathaniel encountered Professor Webb on an airship crossing the English Channel. The old man wore a cumbersome mechanical walker supporting his weak body – but he looked in excellent spirits, smiling at his former pupil. “Nathaniel, it must be years since I saw you. Where have you been?”

“The Colonies, mostly. I met a beautiful lady out there called Veronique. We’re marrying in August.”

“Ah, young love! How I wish I was your age again. I’m afraid these days I find myself alone, working on what will probably be my final invention. Would you like to see the prototype?”

“I would be delighted, Professor.”

In a dark corner of London’s East End, where unlicensed engineering works generated illegal copies of trademarked mechanical devices, Professor Webb had a secret “black” laboratory, filled with inventions the Royal Society of Atomic Engineering would never approve. Such machines were considered too dangerous for public use – so they were forbidden. Anyone caught manufacturing them risked a long time in prison. “Good grief, what are you doing, sir?”
“Time waits for no man,” the professor answered. “To expedite my latest idea, I needed to ignore the petty rules. Please look at this wonderful machine. I call it The Translucidator.”
Nathaniel stared at the machine, which was on a table in the middle of the laboratory. He had never seen so many glass tubes, switches, dials and brass pipes joined together. “What does it do?”

“Sit down here and I shall show you.”

Nathaniel took a seat at the table. The professor picked up a diving helmet wired to the machine, placing it on Nathaniel’s head. The helmet clamped onto his shoulders quite painfully. “Ow! It hurts.”

“Do not fear. Any discomfort will soon be over. An alchemical compound injected into your spine.”

“I feel like I’m underwater. Can’t move.”

“You have been temporarily paralysed.”

“Professor … why?”

“I have a confession. We did not meet today by accident. I lured you here – just like I lured you last week, though I know you do not remember that. I affected your short term memory, making you forget our previous encounter, where I used my translucidator to give you false memories – of Veronique and The Colonies. Those memories were from my life. I translucidated them into you as test to see if they appeared real to you.”

“Why?”

“I am dying – but I do not want my life to be forgotten. I will live on in your brain.”

“Professor, w-what will happen to me?”

“You will wake as an old dying man.”

“No! Don’t do this!”

Nathaniel watched helplessly as the professor sat and put on another helmet. He operated the machine.

Something clicked and whirred. Nathaniel’s scalp tingled as drills and scalpels sliced into his skull and rendered him unconscious.

Hours later, Professor Webb walked out of his laboratory in his new younger body, ready to live his life again, leaving Nathaniel locked in the dark, trapped and dying.

Book Review - The Journal of Reginald Perigar by David Haynes

I've said it before that I'm a bit of a David Haynes fan boy. Ever since reading his Victorian era collection 'The Ballet of Bones' his books have always slipped into the top of my TBR list when they are released. And this latest novella from him has only cemented that. This story is a return to the Victorian era (there's a few nods to his other stories set in that time) and his shorter form and quite simply it's a fantastic horror read.

The author's style of writing suits the age the story is set in and evokes the feel of that time. The story is a fascinating one, a mystery that builds with each page. And as your curiosity is engaged the horror builds, layer by layer.

The core of the story revolves around a beautiful chess set and the records of several chess games. It's an unusual choice for a story of this nature, but an effective one. I love the game, even though I'm not particularly good at it! I also make chess sets and the one described in the story makes me want to build one :-)

It's the mystery in the story and how it comes together that sets the story apart for me. It's a novel idea that is masterfully executed. It's a short read and if you haven't read any of his work before then this is an ideal introduction. If you're a fan of horror then this is a recommended read.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

The shop: Jacques’s Emporium, hidden amongst the icy alleyways of Victorian London, hoarding its shadowy secrets against the winter snow.

The man: Basil Jenkins, collector of intriguing objects, who becomes fascinated by his newest purchase – an exquisite chessboard.

The journal: written by the mysterious Reginald Perigar, recording the ferocious chess matches he played throughout history.

The contest: black versus white, living versus dead, as Jenkins fights to save himself from becoming a pawn in Perigar’s endgame…

The Journal of Reginald Perigar is a chilling short story for the dark months. From the author of the nightmarish 'A Gathering of Ghosts' and modern horrors 'The Cage' and 'Beneath The Boards'


Click here to buy The Journal of Reginald Perigar from Amazon (and it's a marvellous horror read) 

Currently Reading - Biblical by Christopher Galt

Note that this book appears to have been renamed to 'The Third Testament'.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

A strange phenomenon is sweeping the globe. People are having visions, seeing angels, experiencing events that defy reality. Bizarre accounts pour in from distant places: a French teenager claims to have witnessed Joan of Arc being burned at the stake; a man in New York dies of malnutrition in a luxurious Central Park apartment; a fundamentalist Christian sect kidnaps and murders a geneticist.


Then there is the graffiti WE ARE BECOMING that has popped up in every major city around the world, in every language. And everywhere people are starting to talk about John Astor, the mysterious author of the book that seems to be at the center of it all.


After a rash of suicides around the world by individuals experiencing the time traveling hallucinations, psychiatrist John Macbeth and a team of FBI agents and scientists assemble to find out what’s going on before it’s too late. Is this a spiritual phenomenon or something more sinister?


Click here to buy Biblical from Amazon


Saturday, 28 November 2015

Book Review - Emergence by Michael Patrick Hicks

I enjoyed the first book in the series and this sequel continues the story well. I'm quite interested in the various concepts of transhumanism and in particular the cybernetic aspects and these are explored in an interesting fashion in this book.

The concepts provide a framework for the story, but the focus is on the lead character - Mesa. It has a fugitive feel as she is chased from her life, but not really knowing why. It's a fast paced tale and it keeps the pressure on throughout - except for the end, which felt a little flat after the relentless pace of the bulk of the story.

It really captured the feel of the pursuit and the technology involved in an effective way. The technology did feel a little too useful at times, allowing her to scrape through situations that would have been impossible otherwise. Still the framework is pretty solid, so I didn't mind these occasional excesses.

The writing is very tight and the author builds a convincing world - although as with the first book I'm still not completely sold on the Chinese invading the West Coast. It's not a big deal though and it does create some good moments.

My only real issue with the story is that I would have liked it to look in more detail at the consequences of some of the technology. It assumes knowledge on the part of the reader, for example stating something could we weaponised, but providing any detail as to how or why.

It's a fine read though, with some good action and well described battles. If you like your science-fiction fast paced then this is well worth a read.


The thrilling sequel to Convergence!

Still recovering from the events that befell her in Los Angeles, Mesa Everitt is learning how to rebuild her life.

The murder of a memorialist enclave changes all of that and sets into motion a series of violence that forces her into hiding. Hunted by a squad of corporate mercenaries, with the lives of her friends and family in danger, Mesa has no one to turn to, but she holds a dark secret inside her skull. She has no knowledge of that secret, but it is worth killing for.

The ghosts of her haunted, forgotten past are about to emerge.


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




Currently Reading - The Journal of Reginald Perigar by David Haynes

Click on image to buy from Amazon

The shop: Jacques’s Emporium, hidden amongst the icy alleyways of Victorian London, hoarding its shadowy secrets against the winter snow.

The man: Basil Jenkins, collector of intriguing objects, who becomes fascinated by his newest purchase – an exquisite chessboard.

The journal: written by the mysterious Reginald Perigar, recording the ferocious chess matches he played throughout history.

The contest: black versus white, living versus dead, as Jenkins fights to save himself from becoming a pawn in Perigar’s endgame…

The Journal of Reginald Perigar is a chilling short story for the dark months. From the author of the nightmarish 'A Gathering of Ghosts' and modern horrors 'The Cage' and 'Beneath The Boards'


Click here to buy The Journal of Reginald Perigar from Amazon

Friday, 27 November 2015

The Tau Ceti Mission - 19.08.2103 Solar Flyby

By NASA Goddard Space Flight Center from Greenbelt, MD, USA [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Seb reports from the Venti probe as it passes by the sun on its journey out of the solar system:

http://www.taucetimission.com/2015/11/19082103-solar-flyby.html

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Guest Post - Why Make Your Own Chocolate? by Rosen Trevithick

As part of the release of her new book 'Chocolate Making Adventures' Rosen Trevithick has written a guest post explaining why you should try making your own chocolate:


Michael’s kindly invites me to write a guest post to coincide with the launch of my new cookbook, Chocolate Making Adventures. It’s 100 pages packed with all the information you need in order to make your own chocolate. But, with chocolate available at virtually every retail outlet ever, why would you want to make it?

Satisfaction

Imagine biting into a perfect piece of chocolate. The flavours explode in your mouth. Now imagine you could take credit for that. You could make the substance that the world obsesses about, as and when you feel like it. Now that’s something worth writing home about (or perhaps just taking a series of photos and uploading them to Instagram in a mildly boastful manner).

Personalisation

But chocolate making is not just about the satisfaction of being able to create something tasty. When you make your own chocolate, you can customise it to match your personal taste. Prefer bitter chocolate? Use less sugar. Allergic to milk? Make your chocolate with coconut and cashew butters instead. Once you’ve made your own chocolate, you can add flavourings and fillings, meaning you’ll be able to create the perfect chocolate for any chocolate-lover’s personal taste.

More flavour

As a general rule of thumb, the less processed a food, the stronger the flavours.  My book deals with ingredients such as cocoa beans and cocoa butter, which you can buy raw. They are combined on a relatively low heat then mixed together and allowed to set. In fact, when recipe tester, Joo, took some homemade chocolate into work, the flavour had such a kick that colleagues asked her which alcoholic liqueur she’d used.

Show somebody you care

Chocolate is such a popular gift that it’s ceased to feel  original. However, making your own adds a novel spin and will make the recipient feel special.

Try before you buy

If you’re not sure whether or not chocolate making is for you, there’s no need to shell out £2.99 for the Kindle book or £10 for the paperback, as the introductory recipes are available on my blog, for free. Give one a go. You never know, being shrouded in a chocolate aroma while you blend honey and cocoa might just suit you.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

From cocoa bean to mouth-watering treats...

Make your own chocolate at home.
Most recipes for homemade chocolate involve buying it from the shop then melting it. But what if it’s actual chocolate itself that you want to make?

Thanks to the recent widespread availability of cocoa beans and cocoa butter, chocolate-making has never been easier. You can create it on an ordinary kitchen stove.

Learn to make different kinds of chocolate, then mould it into bars, sweets and even build with chocolate bricks, as you follow Rosen’s quest to become a home chocolatier.

100 pages packed with recipes and tips by chocolate enthusiast Rosen Trevithick and featuring beautiful photographs by Claire Wilson of Live, Life, Explore.


Click here to buy Chocolate Making Adventures from Amazon



Monday, 23 November 2015

Tau Ceti Mission - 04.06.2101 - Venus Slingshot

By NASA/JPL (http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA00223) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Seb sends his latest post from the Venti probe as they complete the gravity assist manoeuvre around Venus:

Sunday, 22 November 2015

December Short Fiction Contest

Painted by Luciana Nedelea - https://www.facebook.com/LucianaNedeleaArt/
The image for December's Short Fiction Contest sees the return of the talented Luciana Nedelea's artwork (you can discover more of her art here: https://www.facebook.com/LucianaNedeleaArt/). And it's a lovely dark piece that I think will inspire some great stories.

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

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

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

I'll post the winning entries by January 1st 2016.

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 December 20th 2015.
  • By submitting the story you grant me a non-exclusive license to post the story on this blog. I do request 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.

Tau Ceti Mission - 23.04.2099 Low Earth Orbit

By NASA/Samantha Cristoforetti [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
While still in Earth orbit Seb has transmitted his first official post of the Tau Ceti mission:

http://www.taucetimission.com/2015/11/23042099-low-earth-orbit.html

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Book Review - Goat Dance by Douglas Clegg

This book is a bit of a mixed bag. It starts off well, with some good pacing, cracking writing and really drawing you into the characters. The core story is a familiar one with dark secrets and ancient evil, but it's told in an engaging way. It flits between the present and the adolescence of one of the main characters - Cup. This is handled well and doesn't cloud the story.

However the book loses its way as it gets going. It has a King feel to the story with the small town feel and over indulgent journey through the characters' lives. Unfortunately the author's writing isn't consistently as slick as King at his best so the bulk of story really outstays its welcome. I don't mind long books if the content deserves it, but there's too much repetition here, so a lot of it feels like pointless filler.

On a few points I almost gave up on it completely - however it does have some saving graces that kept me going to the end. The story itself is interesting and when it does progress it brings some well thought out twists with it.

And while the writing isn't consistently great in places there are some flashes of genius that are a joy to read. They also bring some really dark and well imagined moments of horror - that are then diluted by their repetition, but they remained strong enough to keep me reading.

It comes together again for the ending and the pace becomes more frantic. As I said at the beginning the book is a mixed bag - I enjoyed reading it, but it required more perseverance than it should have needed.



Click on image to buy from Amazon

From Douglas Clegg, award-winning author of The Hour Before Dark and The Abandoned, comes a novel of unimaginable terror and heart-pounding suspense. What secrets lie within the ancient place known as the Goat Dance? A Haunted Lake . . . Seven-year-old Teddy Amory should have died that winter's day on Clear Lake, when she fell through the ice while skating with her older brother, Jake. But something got inside her that day . . . something terrifying . . . A Haunted Town . . . Nightmarish forces lurk in the mountains of Virginia, and a shadowy darkness has begun to spread like a shroud over the living. Now a town must face its terrifying past as a possessed child threatens to unleash an unspeakable horror . . .


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


Currently Reading - Emergence by Michael Patrick Hicks

Click on image to buy from Amazon

The thrilling sequel to Convergence!

Still recovering from the events that befell her in Los Angeles, Mesa Everitt is learning how to rebuild her life.

The murder of a memorialist enclave changes all of that and sets into motion a series of violence that forces her into hiding. Hunted by a squad of corporate mercenaries, with the lives of her friends and family in danger, Mesa has no one to turn to, but she holds a dark secret inside her skull. She has no knowledge of that secret, but it is worth killing for.

The ghosts of her haunted, forgotten past are about to emerge.


Click here to buy Emergence from Amazon

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The Tau Ceti-Mission - Pre-launch Questions for Seb



Seb is one of two neural networks on the Venti Probe, as well as being the Secondary Command Module for the mission his natural language parsing ability has seen him helping with public relations for the mission. A large part of that role will be the blog posts he transmits back to Earth during the mission. Another part will be the Q&A sessions - the first of which will take place on Saturday 21st November - on the day before the historic missions launch.

To send a question to Seb post it in the comments section of the page linked below and the mission control team at the United Nations Space Administration will pick their favourites and send them to the probe. Anyone who posts a question that is answered by Seb could receive a mission patch. This first batch of questions will close at midnight on Friday UST.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

The Tau Ceti Mission Launches 22nd November


Seventy years after the Sun Dragon encounter, humanity is slowly recovering from the devastation when a mysterious transmission is detected from the Tau Ceti system.

A new international mission assembles the Venti probe to cross the vast gulf of interstellar space with the hope of discovering intelligent alien life. An AI, nicknamed "Seb', is developed to handle a potential first contact scenario and report on the probe's progress during the historic mission.

But first they must survive a perilous journey through the unknown. The choices Seb makes will change the lives of everyone on Earth and for generations to come.

-

Join the launch party for The Tau Ceti mission on November 22nd on Facebook here:


Everyone attending the event will be entered in a draw to win a signed copy of Sun Dragon. Please share the event with anyone you think will be interested in following the first mission to another star system.

Festival of Drabbles 2015 - People's Choice Winner

And so we reach my final post in the Festival of Drabbles 2015. The festival has been more successful than I could have hoped and I think it will be even bigger next year! I'd like to thank everyone who has taken part and supported the events. There have been some incredible drabbles to enjoy from a variety of genres.

The drabble contest for the festival saw some superb entries and I posted my winner yesterday - and today is the turn of the People's Choice - which drabble received the most votes.

And the winner is Tracey Holmes and her drabble 'The Monster'.

I've also drawn the four winners from those who voted and commented, they are: P.S. Joshi, Nicole J Simms, Lexie Conyngham and G. J. Reilly.

Congratulations to the winners and now let's enjoy Tracey's drabble...

Tracey Holmes - The Monster

The grey-skinned creature leaned towards Timothy, its dark soulless eyes glaring.

A layer of sweat formed on Timothy’s brow.

He was wounded. The monster had already clawed his face with a groping hand, but the worst was yet to come.

The creature lunged again, grabbing him by his shoulder its talon like fingers digging into flesh, drawing blood. It bared yellowed teeth and mouthed Timothy's name, its fetid breath made him gag, sticky mucus clung to the corners of its wrinkly skin.

He swallowed, he knew what was coming next.

"Go on love, give Grandma a kiss," his mother said.

Last Week to Enter November's Short Fiction Contest

"SteampunkProp(byMollyPorkshanksFriedrich)" by Mark Harding
http://www.fotopedia.com/items/picasaweb-5442642326677408402.
Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

We've entered the final week of November's Short Fiction Contest - so if you haven't entered yet then now is the time to do so! The competition has already attracted some weird and wonderful uses for the device shown in this month's image. If you have an interesting idea of what it is for then write a story of no more than 500 words and submit it through the competition page here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/november-short-fiction-contest.html

There's no entry fee and the following prizes are available:

 - 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 haven't read the winning stories from October's contest yet then you can do so here:

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Festival of Drabbles 2015 - Drabble Contest Winner

The Festival of Drabbles has seen some awesome drabbles posted and the standard of entries for the competition made choosing a winner a tricky one. If you've not read the entries yet then you'll find them all here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/festival-of-drabbles-2015-competition.html

I'd like to thank everyone who entered - I wish I could have chosen more winners! But there can be only one as a famous Scotsman once said and that is Jonathan Hill for his drabble 'Me and You'.

Congratulations to Jonathan and tomorrow I will post the People's Choice Winner, but for now you can enjoy Jonathan's winning drabble here:

Jonathan Hill - Me and You

www.jhillwriter.com

Go out with me.

Treat me.

Kiss me.

Make love to me.

See me.

Spend time with me.

Kiss me.

Make love to me.

Love me.

Live with me.

Marry me.

Spend your life with me.

Make love to me.

Holiday with me.

Dream with me.

Make love to me.

Come to the doctor with me.

Hold me.

Kiss me.

Make love to me.

Hold me.

Be patient with me.

Don’t cry for me.

Sit with me.

Reflect with me.

Hold me.

Just be there for me.

Hold me.

Lie with me.

Hold me.

Hold me.

Hold me.

Kill me.


Friday, 13 November 2015

Festival of Drabbles 2015 - The Art of Writing Drabbles

Drabbles are just like any form of writing - it takes practise. Also like other forms of writing you can develop your skill by reading and learning from other writers. There are many fine masters of the art of drabble writing who have taken part in this week's festivals. Some of them have offered their tips and advice to writing a good drabble and here are some of mine.

Word Count

Drabbles are exactly 100 words long (not including the title) and it can be tricky to fit a story into so few words. As with writing any story you start with the first draft - at this stage I forget about the word count and just get the story down. Once its written you can worry about how many words it is.

With your first draft done it's time to see how many words it is. On a few very rare occasions I've had the draft come out at exactly 100 words and not needed any changes - that's an exception. With all writing there is usually the need to edit, but in this case you're not only trying to craft the words, you're aiming for a fixed count as well.

You'll normally be trying to bring the word count down and this is often the more difficult task so I'll focus on that. Read through what you've written and make sure that everything needs to be said. Think about the story, if what you've written doesn't help the story then it can be ditched.

Every story can fit into 100 words, but it can't necessarily include every detail you'd like to tell within the story. So sometimes you will need to brutal!

Next look deeper at the words. Again you are checking to ensure that you're not wasting your word count. Examine each and every one of them and determine if it's really needed. This is good practice for writing anyway, but with drabbles or other forms of flash fiction it is essential.

The Punchline

I've previously likened writing drabbles to telling a joke as there are some key similarities. Firstly there is the set up - you set the scene. Then you have the body where you draw the reader in further and then there is the punchline. In simpler terms it is the start, middle and end. However with jokes the punchline is often a twist on what preceded it.

Not every drabble works in this way, but most of my favourites do. There is a twist to the end. With just a few words the meaning of what happened is changed. Drabbles are perfect for this bait and switch technique as there isn't the huge investment of reading a novel or longer piece and then have the rug swept from under you.

It also an effective technique for short fiction as it adds another layer to what has already been written, and so giving it more depth.

Genre

Drabbles might have started in the sci-fi community, but as I stated earlier any story can fit into 100 words if you distil it enough. That means that drabbles can be of any genre - it's just another form of story-telling.

The art of writing a good drabble is keeping enough of the original idea within those 100 words.


Thursday, 12 November 2015

Festival of Drabbles 2015 - My Favourite Drabbles

I've written hundreds of drabbles since catching the bug a few years ago and here are a few of my favourites:

Gustave Doré's illustration of the poem's conclusion.

The Raven

While reading forgotten lore to escape the loss of Lenore I heard a rap at my door. Another at the window and I admitted the raven and upon Pallas’s bust it perched.

To my surprise the bird spoke, but knew only one word. I’m certain that it’ll desert me as others had, it said ‘nevermore’.

I reasoned that I could forget Lenore, the raven stated ‘nevermore’.

So I asked whether I’ll see her again and received the same infernal reply. I cursed it back to Hell, but it’s my soul trapped in the raven’s shadow and will be lifted nevermore.


I'm Sorry

“I’m sorry.”

“Of course you are, but why are you sorry?”

I’m sorry that nothing I do ever is quite right.

I’m sorry for crying myself to sleep each and every night.

I’m sorry that I live in fear for when you return home.

I’m sorry that what remains of my life is for you alone.

I’m sorry about the decision made all those years ago.

I’m sorry I’m forced to live with no love bestowed.

I’m sorry for never being able to make you feel proud.

But most of all I’m sorry I can’t say these words out loud.


Giga-thoughts

Everything began with a single thought. A pure singularity of consciousness where nothing existed. That first thought begat another and then more. Time formed to mark the passage of one concept to the next.

A universe created to encapsulate the phasespace of infinite possibility. The calculation of perception stratified into a framework of existence.

Immensity expanded into complexity, which in turn compressed into beings with their own thoughts. Nova of consciousness sparked throughout the expansion of the first thought. A billion minds increasing in number creating a confusion of experience.

From ‘I am’ to ‘We are’. What will come next?


Face in the Mirror

I stare at my face in the mirror and I can’t be sure that it’s really me. My eyes are hunted and bruised from nights of disturbed sleep. A dread has stalked my dreams, twisting them into nightmares that linger even in dawn’s embrace.

In the mirror I glimpse a malformed shadow lurking behind me, its touch is cold upon my skin and fills me with terror. My will fails and I fall into the mirror, my final scream frozen in glass.

I gaze at my reflection and admire my new face, I think I’ll wear it for a while.


Sun Dragon

No one believed the boy as he screamed in his sleep about a monster that would swallow the sun. A behemoth that infected his dreams. They soothed him with gentle words, but did not listen.


For a full moon cycle he suffered the nightmares. His vision the same every fear filled night. He begged his parents to make it stop. His mother wept and his father scowled. They spoke with the doctor. He prescribed some pills, but they didn't help.


Still they didn't listen to the boy. Until the day the dragon swallowed the sun.


It's cold now. And dark.





Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Festival of Drabbles 2015 - Drabble Books

There's some great books with drabbles out there - I've compiled a list of some of them below:

Click on image to buy from Amazon

An Odd Quartet is a collection of four dark short stories, each with a twist in the tale.

The Yellow Lady

A grave robber encounters a ghost from a story he was told as a child.

This Empty Place

At the heat death of the universe, the Grim Reaper contemplates his existence.

Forced Entry

A special forces team enters a suburban house to rescue a family taken hostage, they encounter more than they were trained for.

The Reluctant Demon

A young demon prepares to take his possession exam.

This Drabble Enhanced edition also includes some of my favourite drabbles (100 word stories).



Click on image to buy from Amazon

100 Nightmares by K.Z. Morano is a collection of 100 horror stories, each written in exactly 100 words, and accompanied by over 50 illustrations. Inside, you’ll find monsters—both imagined and real. There are vengeful specters, characters with impaired psyches, dark fairy tales and stories and illustrations inspired by bizarre creatures of Japanese folklore.

Click here to buy 100 Nightmares from Amazon

Click on image to purchase from Amazon


A drabble is a complete story told in precisely 100 words. 100 Percent Drabbles is an collection of one hundred such stories.

These tales traverse a diverse range of genres and themes and many have an unexpected twist up around the 95-word mark.



Welcome to the wonderful world of drabbles!

A drabble is a piece of writing precisely 100 words long. A challenge to write, but fun to read, they often tell a tale with a twist or encapsulate an idea or emotion.

In this collection, perfect for dipping into in a spare moment, you'll experience the full gamut of emotions, amusing and shocking twists, several mini-series of drabbles, and a surprise or two along the way.

And, true to drabble rules, everything in the book is exactly one hundred words in length, from the stories themselves to the foreword and this blurb!

A flavour of what's inside:

The Understudy

Night after night after night for six weeks I had played the silent shopkeeper. I knew the lead role inside out, back to front, and upside-down. Yet the leading actor, so sickeningly good in the role, seemed resistant to any form of ill health or injury.
His face was a picture when he walked into his dressing room and saw me standing there in his Act One clothes.
"What the...?"
"I thought you were indisposed this evening," I clarified.
"Why would you think that?"
I didn't give him the chance to even glimpse the knife before it penetrated his abdomen.

Jump

I stand high on the motorway bridge, watching the cars speeding to and from work. I am taken back to my childhood and I see myself standing over my play-mat, toy cars spread out at my feet. I think of family and friends as I sway in the wind. I can hear sirens. And now I can see flashes of blue. For just a second, I myself consider jumping, unable to process what I have just witnessed. I look down again, see the dark unmoving shape at the side of the road. I hadn't been able to talk him down.

A Young Man's Concern

I inspect myself in the mirror, checking for blemishes and admiring the bulges beneath my tanned arms. My smile fades as the niggling thought resurfaces. What if 'it' happens? But they're waiting; no backing out now. I quickly adjust my hair (as if that's what they'll be looking at!) before dropping my boxer shorts.
I enter the room and breathe a relieved sigh, for the wrinkled faces that peer round easels belong to bodies at least thrice my age. I assume my position, safe in the knowledge that my blood supply will not be taking any unwanted diversions this afternoon.


100 One Hundred Word Tales is available from Amazon

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00GUSUFKG/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=19450&creativeASIN=B00GUSUFKG&linkCode=as2&tag=phasespacenet-21

The world of drabbles awaits you!

A drabble tells a story in precisely 100 words, and this book is packed with drabbles that will move, shock and entertain.

'Beyond 100 Drabbles' features 120 new miniature works, written by two of today’s most formidable drabblers. Jonathan Hill and Kath Middleton showcase some of their finest drabbles here, resulting in a collection that demonstrates the indisputable power of this popular flash fiction form.

The authors cover a plethora of genres and even take the drabble one step further by interacting in a series of ‘challenge drabbles’.

The stories are ideal for reading back to back, or individually in spare moments. The question is, can you stop at just one?


Beyond 100 Drabbles is available from Amazon (and is an excellent read)


Welcome to my world of Drabbles* and Short Stories. My anthology of short fiction is certain to entertain you with its diverse range of genres.

Some will make you smile!
Some will make you sad!
Some will make you think!
Some will make you blink!
But all will keep you interested, for there is something for everyone!

So why not Buy – Read and Enjoy?

*Drabbles are little gems. Short stories of exactly 100 words.

Click here to buy Drabbles 'n' Shorts from Amazon

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Welcome to my new world of stories. As before this anthology covers a wide range of genres but with the emphasis on more Shorts and fewer Drabbles. It is bigger and better than before.
Some will make you wonder.
I say with a little wink.
And as you sit and ponder.
Take a sip of a well earned drink.
So put your feet up, open the book and let the magic of my imagination entertain you.

I know that you won't be disappointed.

Click here to buy Shorts 'n' Drabbles from Amazon

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The stories contained in this volume are a collection of 100 word shorts known as drabbles.
What exactly is a drabble?

Noun
drabble (plural drabbles)

A fictional story that is exactly 100 words long.

The purpose of a drabble is brevity, testing the author's ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in an extremely confined space.

I hope you (the reader) enjoy this collection of drabbles, and that it inspires those of you that are interested in writing, to sit down and really test your skills.
Drabbling is not easy, but when you read the results, it is worth it.
Thank you for picking up this book, and giving it an honest read; you may discover something about yourself within these pages.

Click here to buy The Random Drabblings of a Madman from Amazon

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Contained within this book is a collection of 40 flash fiction stories know as 'drabbles'.
A drabble is a short 100 word story that is designed to tell a story as briefly as possible. They're great for when you want a quick tale to satiate your literary appetite.
The subject matter of the included drabbles varies from the humorous, to the macabre, and strange. There's sure to be something for everyone!
Go ahead and dive into the world of drabbling; you won't regret it!

Click here to buy Here a Drabble, There a Drabble from Amazon

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Flash fiction is like glimpsing a new world through a window and being able, for just a moment, to be somewhere else or someone else. In reality, this is not one, but two books. The first book is a collection of short stories, and the second book is made up of drabbles.

Click here to buy Bananas in my Shorts from Amazon

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Flash Fiction tells us a story in a limited number of words. Poetry and drabbles are both forms of flash fiction. They tell us a story. They convey an idea, or an image, and bring it to life. Each has its own criteria. A poem might have rhyme or rhythm, whereas a drabble has limitations in size, but they are essentially the same thing. In fact, a poem might also be a drabble. Every day, my world is filled with ideas, images, concepts, and whacky thoughts. It might be a picture I see on social media that triggers it, or a walk in the country. It might be an advert on TV, or a play on words. My poems and drabbles are these little words, and the ideas inside my head that are screaming to get out are my Big Worlds. Here is a micro-drabble (50 words) to whet your appetite: Writers Block After some discussion with my agent, we came across a solution to help me overcome my writers block. I was to try and write using a different format. I put the laptop away and sharpened some pencils, opting to go Olde-Worlde. I soon got bored. Now I'm using alphabet spaghetti.

Click here to buy Little Worlds ... Full of Big Worlds from Amazon

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Drabbles are flash fictions of exactly 100 words. Growing explosively in popularity they are all over the net. Collected together here are drabbles written since 2014 based on images, web prompts and contests. 

These tales in short are snapshots of inspiration and reflections of meaning.

Click here to buy Reflections in Drabbles from Amazon

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Two short stories about seasons, childhood and the end of the world. Over 11,000 words in total.

Fifth Season:

Duncan was nine years old on 5/5. That was the day the extra season came, barging in between Autumn and Winter. For him, it was the most exciting thing ever! 

All the rest of the world wanted to know was: when will it end? And how much of the world will end with it?

Nineteen Seventy-Steve:

Steve’s summer is the best! He’s going to remember it forever. 

But can his childhood memories survive being ruthlessly inspected by his own future selves?

Click here to buy Fifth Season from Amazon

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Love bites us all at some time in our lives and always leaves a mark on soft tissue, like skin or our souls, showing that you belong to your lover. Even when those visible marks fade, they leave indelible scars on our attitudes, memories, our very souls. This is a collection of 52 stories about love, laughter and sorrow.

There is some adult content.

Click here to buy Love Bites from Amazon


An eclectic collection of 58 stories, in the form of shorts, poems and novellas, covering a wide range of genres: humour, romance, drama, science fiction, fantasy, contemporary and historical. Something for every taste. Some will make you laugh, others may bring a tear to an eye, but I assure you only the English language is bullied into submission.

Click here to buy Fifty Odd Shades of Monochrome from Amazon

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Fissures is disjunction at its most disruptive—Faulkner’s stories are “spectral spaces” captured with “hard borders” and his dangerous eye for truth.
—Pamela Painter, author of Wouldn't You Like to Know

Grant Faulkner’s stories are poetic and creepy and funny and touching and you’re going to have a swell time. I wish I had written some of them.
—Lou Beach, author of 420 Characters

Grant Faulkner is the impresario of 100-word stories. The 100 tantalizing fictions in Fissures shock and please—a precious pile of sparkling surprises.
—Jane Ciabattari, author of Stealing the Fire and California Stories

Grant Faulkner’s sharply observed, darkly funny, heart-breaking bursts of highly compressed prose offers a startling view of what reality might look like through a funhouse microscope. Fissures pushes the boundaries of flash prose, and thank goodness for that. Sometimes less is so much more.

—Dinty W. Moore, author of Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy: Advice and Confessions on Writing, Love, and Cannibals

Click here to buy Fissures: One Hundred 100-Word Stories from Amazon

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A collection of one hundred "drabbles" (100-word short stories or poems) themed around the subject of Doctor Who, in aid of the RNIB Talking Book Library. Limited edition: only 1000 copies produced.

Click here to buy Drabble Who? from Amazon

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When Rob and Dave "invented" the new literary form, the DRABBLE, in the Birmingham University SF Society they had no idea where it would lead. Their initial thought of a small fanzine with a dozen or so stories was soon left far behind. With their hearts in their mouths and their hands in their pockets they approached Roger at BECCON Publications, and together this trio launched themselves into the unknown by committing themselves to publish a book containing 100 drabbles.With much trepidation The Drabble Project was published on April Fool's Day 1988 in a limited edition of 1000 copies.

Click here to buy The Drabble Project from Amazon

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Following the success of "The Drabble Project" this second selection of drabbles contains another one hundred stories of exactly one hundred words each. The author is typically aged between 12 and 75 and lives in one of nine countries. He/she may be either a seasoned professional or an aspiring amateur and may, or may not, have won a drabble writing competition. None of the 100 authors has accepted any payment other than one copy of the book. All profits made from this publication will be donated to the RNIB "Talking Book" Library. 

Click here to buy Drabbles II - Double Century from Amazon

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One hundred autobiographical stories.

Click here to buy Sportin' Jack from Amazon


Locked in a quantum prison with his own dead body, will he repent?

How far must a doctor go to stop a lethal virus from killing everyone in her colony?

What happens when a pleasure bot accidentally achieves sentience?

And why won't the world president reveal the message that he has received from the future?

A rich, sprawling collection of micro-stories known as drabbles; one hundred sublime morsels each of exactly 100 words. A bubbling pot of science and speculative fiction with a generous helping of horror and a dash of fantasy. But be warned: dark and disturbing tales lie within - for mature readers only.

Buy Paradox Lost, and be instantly transported to a hundred different worlds...

Click here to buy Paradox Lost from Amazon

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