Saturday, 31 August 2013

Film Review - Oz the Great and Powerful

This is Sam Raimi's prequel to The Wizard of Oz, it tells the story of how the great wizard and the wicked witch came to be. It's not a bad effort, although it would have to be something special to compare to the classic film, unfortunately this is not special.

The story is predictable (not just because it is a prequel!), the cast do a reasonable job, but they don't shine in any way. The CG is ok, it suits the film, but again it doesn't stand out in any way.

Don't get me wrong, it's not a terrible film by any means. What is done well is the realisation of the world. Here the CG does stand out it, it's a magical world that is full of wonder and charm. And you can't go wrong with an army of flying baboons.

All in all it's worth a watch, but don't expect greatness, but it does manage reasonably entertaining.


Disney's fantastical adventure Oz The Great and Powerful, directed by Sam Raimi, imagines the origins of L. Frank Baum's beloved wizard character.

When Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics, is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz, he thinks he's hit the jackpot-fame and fortune are his for the taking-that is until he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone's been expecting. Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the Land of Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it is too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity-and even a bit of wizardry-Oscar transforms himself not only into the great wizard but into a better man as well.
Oz the Great and Powerful is available from Amazon


Life: Interrupted by Andrea Harding

Image Credit: Adam Woods http://thelittlepicturebox.blogspot.co.uk/

Andrea Harding won August's Short Fiction Contest with her story entitled 'Life: Interrupted', you can read this rather excellent story below.

If you haven't read the other winning stories yet then you can do so here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/p/august-2013-short-fiction-contest.html

September's competition is also open and you can take part here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/p/september-2013-short-fiction-contest.html

Life: Interrupted by Andrea Harding

Pregnant clouds gather overhead, rumbling their stormy conversation as they converge upon one another. The wind whips the tall grass back and forth, whistling through the openings of the old, sheet metal shed. Its doors and windows are open maws, beckoning and threatening at the same time.

It has been quiet in here for weeks. Miles from anywhere, nobody comes here. Nobody visits me. I lie still, unmoving; the threats of the elements do not bother me. It’s empty in here, save for the muddied shovel, propped against the wall. The structure groans as the wind grips it and shakes it with violent hands. The heavy tool shakes with the walls, threatening to fall. It could crash to the ground where I lie at any moment, but it is of no consequence.

A tiny creature scampers in, seeking refuge as fat raindrops start to fall. They beat a tattoo atop the corrugated iron as the assault intensifies. My new friend burrows into the dry grass in the corner, only feet away from me. He doesn’t notice my company, so stilly I lie; his presence is welcome.  

His tiny ears prick up; he can obviously hear something I can’t. Before long, the sound of a motor grows in volume as a vehicle makes its way along the winding lane. My furry friend flees, preferring to take his chances with the elements rather than risk the unknown intrusion on our dry sanctuary. 

The windscreen wipers squeal in agonised protest as they engage in futile battle with the sheets of water falling from the heavens. The noise is familiar. The door hinge groans, audible even over the sound of the storm, though the sound of the heavy black boots hitting the gravelled path is muffled as he swings his legs out of the old, red, rusting pickup truck. He slams it shut violently and makes a dash for shelter, pushing through the undergrowth at the side of the road. He stomps his feet and rustles the crackling material of his waterproof jacket as he shakes the excess water from his back. 

For a moment, his eyes rest upon the spot where I lie and a half smile creeps across his lips. Moving to the side of the shack he retrieves his shovel. He turns to walk away, but something catches his eye. A single, flesh coloured, silk stocking lies, almost camouflaged, amongst the dried grass. He snorts and retrieves it, passing centimetres from where I rest. He lets the smooth material run through his calloused fingers, relishing its soft sensations, before roughly stuffing it in his pocket and returning to his truck, shovel in hand.

The engine fires up and the noise recedes into the distance as I lie there, ignored.

It was my stocking. But I couldn’t care less that he has taken it.

I have no use for it anymore, lying under a foot of loose soil, trapped endlessly in the repose of a life interrupted.


The Cult of Me Giveaway


I'm running a giveaway for my debut novel (it seems so long ago!) 'The Cult of Me', you could win one of five electronic copies through the Rafflecoptor widget at the bottom of this post.

The giveaway ends on September 29th.

The Cult of Me

The first book in 'The Third Path' Trilogy.



For too long he dwelt apart, watched those who passed him by. With his unique abilities he entered their minds and inflicted terrible suffering upon them. They didn't even know who he was. The game has lasted for years, but now the game has become stale. On an impulse he decides to make a final and very public last stand. After surrendering himself to the police he enacts his plan to seize the prison for his final bloody act.

There he discovers that he's not as unique as he once thought.



Praise for The Cult of Me:

"I've read a couple of the authors books and I've thoroughly enjoyed them both. The premise of this is very interesting and something I've always felt make great books. This is no exception. The story is almost a play in two halves but I felt the transition from one to the other was seamless. I think the author wrote action sequences superbly in the last book of short stories and he didn't disappoint me in this book. The story is left at a point which made me want yo start the sequel immediately. A great book and a really fascinating premise. Great stuff. "

"This is a meaty, lurid read but don't be fooled. The excellent writing and plotting will stay with you long after the book has reached its Apocalyptic conclusion. The anti-hero is totally unlovable, but it seems as if his strange gift enables him to get inside the readers head and mess with it, just as he messes with peoples' heads in the book, often with devastating consequences."

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, 30 August 2013

Skin Deep - New Drabble

Here's my latest drabble (100 word story), it's also posted on www.drablr.com which is a great place to discover new drabbles. Thanks as always to Rosen for posting this in the Indie Book Bargains newsletter (http://www.indie-book-bargains.co.uk/) another great places for drabbles and book bargains too!

Skin Deep

Some people claim that beauty is only skin deep. I scoff at such a foolish notion. Is the treasured Christmas gift special because of the shiny paper? Of course not. Certainly it provides a pleasing presentation, but once you get underneath you discover the real beauty.

It isn’t easy; it takes a practised eye to appreciate the form, the shine, the texture of the muscle. Only with the proper study can you marvel at the delicate marbling of fat and meat. Enjoy the skin, peel it back carefully so that you don’t spoil the treasure.

And the taste. Oh the taste.

Book Impressions - Death of Heaven by J.Z. Murdock

A bit of an odd one this, overall is a very good read, but it's a little uneven as you work your way through it. For the most part it's a story told through other shorter stories. These stories tell of the origins of mankind and the origins of religion. There is however a disconnect between these stories and the meta story that wraps them together.

The book starts well and has a Books of Blood vibe, which really works well. It's in these tales that the author's writing ability shines. He demonstrates a lovely turn of phrase and some of writing is almost poetic in it's beauty. There's an interesting mix of tales, although the focus of the stories narrows as the book progresses.

The meta story didn't work as well for me. It is by no means bad and does come together well towards the end. There were two issues for me here, the first was that the two main charcters spend a large proportion of the book recording and discussing the stories. The second issue was that the stories provide only faint glimpses of what are they are intended to reveal and while they are excellent stories in their own right, they don't do a great job of providing understanding.

The story strengthens towards the end and we see the main characters do something a bit more interesting, although while fascinating events are unfurling around them they remain observers. And I have to say that the final scene seemed a bit petty and unlikely considering what was going on.

So as I saay it's a bit of a strange one to rate. Some of the parts are truly excellent, well worth reading the book for on their own, but the overall package is just a little lacking.


Throughout the whole of Human History many philosophies and religions have attempted to answer that ultimate question:

Where did we come from?

James and Jimmy, brothers in spirit and tragedy since childhood are about to discover the answer to that ultimate of all questions. They will learn about it in a way that is as amazing as it is unbelievable. They alone will discover that reality is unlike anything that has ever before been considered. They will discover just what it is that nightmares are made of.

Friedrich Nietzsche claimed in 1882 that "God is Dead". But that was only a piece of the whole misleading truth. It is now left for two friends alone to experience the whole story, and along with the rest of the Human Race, to experience firsthand the--

Death of Heaven

"The story itself is very strong, lulling the reader into a false sense of security as two young boys hunt for treasure, before ultimately morphing into a violent and sometimes disturbing tale of horror. This is done with such swiftness that it takes the reader almost completely by surprise, which only enhances the effect."
- WILDSound Writing Festival

I have found an editor I trust and we are beginning the process of re-editing: "Well, I finished my reading last night. I was sad to be at the end, but happy that it is... a very strong, imaginative, well written work."

I think I may be onto something here....


Death of Heaven is available from Amazon (and is a pretty good read)

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Guest Authors Revisited - Gary Markwick‏

I first interviewed Gary Marckwick back in January (you can read that interview here). In today's guest authors revisited interview I catch with him, see what he's been up to below:
 


What has changed in your life since we last spoke?
I was recently interviewed by the BBCTV South East regional news, talking about my grandfather.
I also did an interview three weeks ago with Lilou, the juicy living tour, which was shown around the world.

Have you leant any new wisdom?
I have recently been looking at Sri Ramana work, a spiritual master who lived n India.
One of his most important saying was, “To know your self”.

Have you become a better writer? If so, how?
Yes, I feel that I have moved on in many ways, becoming more experienced in my writing and more versatile on different subjects.

What are you working on at the moment?
I have just completed a book, which tells the story of my grandfather.
He was reasonably famous in the past for escapology, illusionists and mind reading with my mother.
It is set around 100 years ago and is about his adventures.
The book includes magic, mysticism, spirituality and travel.
It is a fiction, non-fiction book.

Tell us about your latest release and how we can find out more.
I will give more details later on.
I hope it to be in publication by the end of the year.

Now it begins is available from Amazon

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Guest Author Interview - Senta Holland

In today's guest author interview I meet erotica author Senta Holland, you can read what she has to say below:



Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
My name is Senta Holland and I am a writer.
I write at least 5 times a day.

What first inspired you to start writing?
Oh wow that’s going back a bit. I first started writing as a teenager and my writing was already very emotional and unconventional. My very first book was rejected by all publishers because it was written – well, actually it was written in a very similar style to ‘Out of the Shadows’ which also took a long time to get published.

My main inspiration for writing is probably reading. Books take me to a very different world, or at least I feel that that is what they should do. Every time I start a new book I hope for a journey to a new universe. So then at some point I wanted to be the captain on that journey. I started to write myself.

Who is your favourite author and why?
I always find it very difficult to answer this question because I like so many different authors. Shakespeare? Virginia Woolf? Chuck Palahniuk? Murakami? Baudelaire? I like them all for different reasons. Maybe what these 5 that just jumped into my mind all have in common is that they all have a very distinct voice, almost instantly recognizable, and that they all developed a new writing style. I love that, it opens a new world on a different level of perception.

Where do your best ideas come from?
Life? I mean, everything you write ultimately is filtered through your life experience, whether you experience it with your body or whether you read about it in the paper.

If you could spend a day with anyone from history, who would it be?
Can I instead have a date with someone from the future? That’s where my passion is.

What is your favourite word?
I actually looked that up in my books and it seems to be : change. Interesting.

How do you become a better writer?
I think I’m a pretty good writer already – I say that because I want to honour those tens of thousands of hours I spent writing (so far). I also say it because there is sometimes, in the writing scene, a whiff of ‘you’re never good enough’. Why is it that, in many other professions and even art forms, people can say, yes, I’m pretty good at my job, but in writing you somehow dare not say that?

On the other hand, I practise writing very much as a craft, so I always try to find new techniques and new ways to keep my mind fresh, particularly in a long project. What I found, and hadn’t expected, is that my writing gets much more fluid and expresses my thoughts much more directly when I write a lot. Volume, at a fast pace, gets the material from the unconscious mind flowing, at least for me. Stop and start is poison.

What are you working on at the moment?
 Top secret I’m afraid.

Tell us about your latest work and how we can find out more.
‘Out of the Shadows and into the Darkness’ was published by HarperCollins in February 2013. It’s a Literary Erotic Novel and its written in a very unusual style (one reviewer compared it to the Fight Club). ‘It has to fight harder against conservative expectations’ my editor says. All very true. Particularly since it is (mis-)categorized as ‘Romance’ which is, narratively, a very conservative field.
I worked on this book for four years full time (yes, full time, two 4 hour sessions per day) and then tried to get it published for another four years. I am very fortunate that HarperCollins are supporting me – they even offered the book for free for three weeks running which they have never done before with this category. Many readers of conventional romance are confused, but many are also delighted. The book is often called an eye opener and welcomed as an authentic love story from a dark world. Oh, the dark world? BDSM. Real BDSM, not the stuff of fantasy castles and billionaires.

I find it hard to describe the book, it’s really an experience more than a novel and I guarantee you that you will come out on the other side knowing more that you do now. In fact, I promise I will take you to a different universe, the kind of experience I am looking for myself in the books I read.
There are a bunch of reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, and there are a bunch of reviews out on Goodreads and Amazon and on various interesting websites. I even got to write a feature in MarieClaire about the history of women's erotic novels.

Out of the Shadows and into the Darkness is available from Amazon

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Guest Authors Revisited - Tom Abrahams

I first interviewed Tom Abrahams back in January (you can read his original interview here). I recently caught up with him to see what he's been up to since then, find out more below:
 
 


What has changed in your life since we last spoke?
Sales for my first novel, SEDITION, have exceeded my best expectations. I'm really humbled by the response. I've also finished my second novel, ALLEGIANCE.

Have you leant any new wisdom?
I've learned to have a thick skin. Novels are art. As such, they're viewed through different lenses. I also learned that sometimes there can be too much description woven into a book. There can never be too much action. Some readers love intricate detail, others don't. But I've never had a complaint about there being too much action.

Have you become a better writer? If so, how?
I think I'm evolving. I'm improving on my weaknesses and further enhancing my strengths. I think the characters in my new novel are more fully rounded than those in the first. There's more of a back story for the lead character. The plot is more complex. I think I'm taking on more of a challenge with my writing now. I'm relying less on a straightforward, linear plot and pushing for more nuance.

What are you working on at the moment?
I am now working on a sequel to my second novel, ALLEGIANCE. ALLEGIANCE is a political thriller set in Texas and is due out in mid to late September. The sequel will be out late 2014. Since I have a full time job as a television news anchor and reporter, I'm not the most prolific author around. It takes me about seven months to write the first draft, another two to polish it, and then another two to get it on the shelves.

Tell us about your latest release and how we can find out more.
Here's the elevator pitch for ALLEGIANCE:

Beer, redheads, and politics.

Jackson Quick really should have known better.

First, he trusted a Texas politician.

Then he fell for a leggy redheaded woman.

And worst of all, he drank a beer that tasted funny.

Now he’s running for his life, trying to piece together how he became the unwitting pawn in a corporate battle over something so small it takes a high powered microscope to see it.

Not everything is bigger in Texas, even if the conspiracies are.

You can read more about my writing at http://seditionbook.com

SEDITION is available from Amazon

Monday, 26 August 2013

Film Review - Django Unchained

This is a fun film, not one of Tarantino's best, but well worth a watch. Jamie Foxx plays a slave freed by a bounty hunter and they team up to try and free his wife who is still being kept as a slave. Don't be confused by the cover, this isn't a western (although it has western film elements).

It has a lot of humour throughout and is a strange mixture of silly and serious. For the most part the balance is spot on, but in places it makes the film drag a bit. Django is a decent character, a little bit larger than life, but the bounty hunter who rescues him at the beginning stole the show for me. He is a lot of fun to watch.

Leonardo Di Caprio does a good turn as the Southern plantation owner, but Samuel L Jackson plays his usual character as the main house slave. It works really well. All in all it's a recommended watch.




Django is a freed slave, who, under the tutelage of a German bounty hunter, becomes a bounty hunter himself. After taking down some bad guys for profit, they track down Django's slave wife and liberate her from an evil plantation owner.

Django Unchained is available from Amazon

Guest Author Interview - Stephen Isaac

We start the week with a fine bank holiday Monday (although a fair chunk of it was spent in the office) and as usual on a Monday with a guest author interview. In today's interview we meet Stephen Issac, see what he has to say below:


Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
My name is Stephen Isaac. I am originally from Utica, NY (Upstate), but I currently reside in Jacksonville, FL with my wife and two children. I am 30 years old and I am currently a Junior at the University of North Florida, majoring in Secondary Education with a concentration in Social Studies. 

I like long walks on the beach (haha but seriously I do) and I have far too many unwanted pets in my home, which my children demanded, to run down the list.

What first inspired you to start writing?
The first time I was exciting and/or inspired about writing, I was in 11th grade. We had to write a short story on basically anything. I decided to write a horror story about a local place that was supposedly haunted. My teacher, being overzealous as usual, gave me great feedback on it and told me she was literally afraid after she read it. I was pretty well hooked after that. 

If you could spend a day with anyone from history, who would it be?
Edgar Allen Poe. A lot of my work is dark in nature. Again, I think this came from reading Poe stories in high school, which were all dark as well. It is something that I can relate to. I would like to just sit and have a normal conversation with him and see if he was crazy, brilliant or both!

Who is your favourite author and why?
Anne Rice… I went through a huge Anne Rice phase. I was always so impressed how all of the vampire chronicles intertwined with each other and how it was basically the same overlapping story from many different points of view. I just thought it was amazing that she could keep up with all of the characters. 

If you could turn any book into a film, which would it be?
There is a novel that I bought for $1 at Goodwill, called A Good Day to Die by William C Bates. From what I can tell, he is not very well known, however the novel was amazing. I actually remember thinking to myself that “this novel would make a damn good action movie.”

What do you find most rewarding about writing?
Occasionally, and I stress occasionally, someone (other than my mother haha) will message me on Facebook and express their appreciation for my novel. I find it fascinating that we, as writers, can simply pull words out of nothing, combine them and have them elicit deep emotion within the reader, which sometime you, as the writer, did not even expect to happen.

Also, it was amazing to see my paperback version of my novel on my book case, sandwiched between Anne Rice’s Memnoch the Devil and Jeff Lindsay’s Darkly Dreaming Dexter (my two favorite novels)

And the most challenging?
Sometime, it is find inspiration, or motivation to write. My novel Until We Die, literally took me like six years to write, because I was going to school part of the time, working full time and then at the end, my wife and I had a baby. It was hard to find the time to write. I now wake up at 4:30am to write before my wife and kids get up. It is my only private time where I can truly focus. 

Secondly, it is the fact that everyone in the world thinks that if you are a writer than you should also be an editor. I did not major in English and I do not pretend to have. I got a message on Facebook the other day basically informing me that I put an S at the end of a word that didn’t need an S.

On one hand, you want to be thankful that they are reading your novel and offering reviews, but it is also annoying sometimes.

What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently working on my second novel, In The Flesh, which is sort of a continuation of Until We Die. It has the same antagonist but follows a detective 10 years after the major crime in the first novel. 

Until We Die is more of a historical novel, which takes place in multiple time periods. In The Flesh is all present day and is more of cat and mouse game between the antagonist Damon Drake and the detective Mark Walker. 

Tell us about your latest work and how we can find out more.
Until We Die:
Events in Damon Drake's past lives caused him to kill a girl in the present day. Detective Davis was merely looking for viable information on a cold case. Instead they take a dive into the darker side of history, in this epic thriller. The world's possibilities revealed; the blindfold removed. 

You can download it for FREE @ https://www.smashwords.com/books/view....
No strings attached. 

After two years since publication, I have noticed one thing. People are no longer buying books, they are downloading eBooks and they are going to FREE section first. At my current position, it is more about spreading the word and boosting number than it is about making money.

Until We Die is available from Amazon

Film Review - Deja Vu

Deja Vu is a thriller about a terrorist attack that blows up a ferry filled with a Navy crew. Denzel Washington plays an ATF agent who helps the investigation. He's invited to join a special team that has the technology to view into a fixed point in the past.

It's an interesting premise and while it follows the laid out path it's an excellent watch. Denzel Washington is always fun in action, the support cast less so, but they're not too detracting. The bad guy was interesting (I enjoyed watching him in Person of Interest), I would have liked to have seen more of him in the film.

The film starts well, but unfortunately loses it's way near the end. To be blunt it goes all Hollywood, which kind of spoils it the good work from the beginning. I didn't mind the intent, but they should have tried to follow the parameters they'd explained earlier on. It would have been more difficult to accomplish, but would have made a more interesting story.

Overall it's not a bad film, in fact it's quite an entertaining watch, but it could have been so much better.



When a ferry filled with crewmen from the USS Nimitz and their families is blown up in New Orleans, Federal Agent Doug Carlin is brought in to help with the investigation. He becomes attached to an experimental FBI surveillance unit that uses space-folding technology to look back a little over four days into the past. While tracking down the bomber Carlin gets an idea in his head: could they use the device to actually travel back in time and not only prevent the bombing but also the murder of a local woman whose truck was used in the atrocity?

Deja Vu is available from Amazon

Sunday, 25 August 2013

An Odder Quintet Launch Event - 1st September


I'm pleased to announce that my next book 'An Odder Quintet' will be released this coming Saturday (1st September). I'm aiming to release in as many formats as possible, so far Amazon and Barnes and Noble have been confirmed.

On launch day I'll host a launch event on KUF in this very thread. It will start at 10am (UK time) and will continue until 10pm and throughout the day there'll be prizes to win. To start the festivities everyone who posts in the thread before the launch event starts will be entered into a draw to win a signed copy of all of my novels (The Cult of Me, Conversations in the Abyss and Faust 2.0).

Come join the fun here:

http://www.kuforum.co.uk/kindleusersforum/thread-14618-post-123239.html

Here are the details of the book:

An Odder Quintet explores a world of dark and strange happenings. From new technology to ancient legends, nothing is quite what it seems.

Prisons without Walls
A prisoner serving a life sentence takes part in an experimental programme that manipulates the perception of time to rehabilitate prisoners and ensure they never reoffend.

The Tapestry
Legend speaks of a Great Loom, operated by three women who guide the fate of every living person. The secret kept for thousands of years has now been found by someone with his own designs for it.

Ghost in the Cloud
Everyone knows not to click on links in strange emails, but what do you do when the link comes from your dead husband?

In the Depths
This story continues from ‘Forced Entry’ in ‘An Odd Quartet’.
Bravo Team took part in a hostage rescue mission in what they thought was a normal suburban house, now trapped in the basement they try to find a way out and only discover only more insanity.

Not Welcome at the Gate
This story continues from ‘The Reluctant Demon’ in ‘An Odd Quartet’.
Morlock failed his possession exam in the most spectacular way possible, now ninety years later he faces returning to Hell.

Guest Post - What is True Horror? by Michaelbrent Collings

What is True Horror?
By Michaelbrent Collings


So I got a weird question on my Facebook fanpage the other day. I’m paraphrasing, but it more or less went: “How do you find the strength to write about such emotionally draining things? I’ve been wanting to write a certain idea for months now, but the place it goes is so dark I’m worried about what it will do to me.”

My answer was simple: once you’ve actually lived through a couple real terrors, writing fake ones gets a lot easier.

Now this doesn’t mean that I’ve faced down serial killers or ghosts or aliens that want to make my face into an interesting knick-knack for their billion pod-children. Yet.

But it does mean this: bad things have happened to me. Some were my fault. Some were the fault of others. Some were the fault of no one at all, just the (bad) luck of the draw. But some truly terrible things have happened in my life, and to be honest they make anything in fiction pale by comparison. After all, what’s to fear in a book about ghosts when you’ve really lost someone you love? Why am I going to worry about some mythical killer when I know someone who really got murdered?

You get the picture.

Now, not everyone has had my experiences. But everyone has experienced loss. Trials. Tragedy. One of my personal axioms is this: “Everyone’s life is the most difficult thing that has ever happened to them.” Meaning that to each of us, our experiences equal the maximum possible pain we are equipped to understand. Example: I have a great friend who is a quadriplegic. And that looks rough. Really, honestly, super-duper rough.

But I don’t truly get it. Just like I didn’t truly “get” being a dad until I’d cleaned my millionth diaper in the middle of the night, just like I didn’t understand what marriage “really was” until my wife and I had our first bang-up fight, just like I didn’t understand hard work until that first job I thought was going to literally kill me.

We don’t understand anything beyond ourselves. (Heck, sometimes we don’t even understand ourselves.) But that being said, every one of us has gone through life’s rough patches. You look at “the beautiful people,” those folks out there who seem to have it all going on. You know, the tall, beautiful, successful folks with nice hair and nicer cars. Even they crumble when you aren’t looking.

If a tree is tall and lovely in the forest, and no one sees it, trust me, it can still be eaten from within by worms.

So back to my earlier question, and a nice thing about humanity and horror. We all experience horror in our daily lives. Kinda sucks in a way.

BUT….

But you’re still reading this. Which means not only did you survive the entire list of your horrors, you thrived. You’re reading an internet piece about some random dude who has turned his nightmares into a living. Maybe you’re thinking about doing the same.

Think about that.

The human race gets a lot of flak for a lot of stuff. And we deserve it. We beat each other up, we kill each other sometimes. We mistreat ourselves, our environment. We belittle those who don’t deserve it and lionize those who deserve it even less.

BUT…. (yeah, I’m full of big buts)

But what other animal has found a way to turn its nightmares into gold? What other creature tells scary stories around a campfire, not merely as a way to survive the night’s terrors, but as a way to draw closer together? To chuckle nervously, then watch that laughter those nervous titters turn to genuine laughter as we realize that we are not alone? As we realize that others are afraid, that others have felt the pain we have felt. That the dark is large, but the brightness can be – and often is – so much larger.

So where do I get the strength to write such awful ideas? Really? Pssst…. Lean in close…. I get it from my readers. I get it from my friends. I get it from people.

I get it from you.

Keep on reading. Keep on being afraid. Because fear is part of life. Terror is a reality of our world.

But (one last but) so is hope, so is light. It’s why we read.

It’s why I write.

Michaelbrent Collings is a #1 bestselling novelist and screenwriter. His bestsellers include Strangers, Darkbound, Apparition, The Haunted, The Loon, and the YA fantasy series The Billy Saga. His newest novel, The Colony: Genesis, was released on August 19, 2013.

He hopes someday to develop superpowers, and maybe get a cool robot arm.

Michaelbrent’s website is michaelbrentcollings.com, and he also has a Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/MichaelbrentCollings and can be followed on Twitter through his username @mbcollings. Follow him for awesome news, updates, and advance notice of sales. You will also be kept safe when the Glorious Revolution begins!


Books by Michaelbrent Collings


Saturday, 24 August 2013

Film Review - Escape from Alcatraz

I'd forgotten how good this film is. Clint Eastwood does an excellent job in the lead role of the only successful escape from Alcatraz (although officially they were listed as dead). I really like the fact that he almost underplay's the role, in fact the whole film has an understated feel that gives a more authentic feel. Of course it's not all Clint, the rest of the cast perform well.

The story itself is interesting and there's some excellent moments of tension throughout. All in all a great film to watch.


Whether acting or directing, Academy Award® winner Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino) always manages to make it gritty and keep it real. And it doesn’t get more real than this fact-driven thriller starring Eastwood as Frank Morris, the cunning bank robber who masterminded the only successful escape from Alcatraz’s infamous maximum security prison. In 29 years, the seemingly impenetrable federal penitentiary, which housed Al Capone and “Birdman” Robert Stroud, was only broken once--by three men who were never heard from again. Filmed on location at Alcatraz and directed by Clint’s frequent collaborator Don Siegel (Dirty Harry), this tough, taut re-enactment of the true story has all the intense character study and sheer power that mark Eastwood’s finest work.

August Short Fiction Contest Winners Announced


The winners for August's Short Fiction Contest have been announced:

First prize winner of a £50 Amazon gift card is Andrea Harding with 'Life: Interrupted'.
Second prize winner of a £20 Amazon gift card is Sarah Bird with 'Simplicity'.
Third prize winner of a £10 Amazon gift card is Daniel J Weber with 'A Storm is Coming'.

As with the previous contest selecting the winners wasn't easy as I received 40 entries, all of them to a high standard.

Congratulations to the winners and you can read the winning stories on the winners page:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/p/august-2013-short-fiction-contest.html

As always thanks to everyone who entered and I hope you'll take part in the September contest which is currently running.

Film Review - Quest for Fire

Quest for Fire is a French film that tells the story of a tribe of primitive humans that lose the source of their fire (they haven't discovered how to make fire yet), three of them set off to find some more. I remember watching this many years ago and enjoying it. I'm glad I re watched it though as I missed some of its brilliance with younger eyes.

Ron Perlman is always good to watch, but he plays a very good caveman. In fact the whole cast do a great job, their job is made more difficult by the fact that all communication is gestural or in a gutteral proto-language. It's not a faithful recreation of the era, but it does evoke the feeling of the challenges and circumstances they faced.

The quest itself results in some wonderful moments, made all the more poignant by the crucial nature of fire for these people. Some of the effects haven't dated well, but that's only a minor complaint. All in all this is an excellent film that tells an interesting story, filled with discovery. Highly recommended.

80,000 years ago a primitive tribe desperately guards its most valued possession fire. They know how to tend it, how to use it, bit its creation remains a mystery. During an attack by neighbouring tribe their flame is lost and so begins an epic, obstacle-filled quest to find another source of the element so precious in their struggle for survival.

Quest for Fire is available from Amazon (and well worth a watch)

Guest Post - Should We Fear Contrast Dogma by Lex Allen

SHOULD WE FEAR CONTRAST DOGMA?
by Lex Allen


It’s important to know what contrast dogma is before making that all important “fight or flight” decision. The phrase, however, is not easily defined and when defined, not always understood.

By definition, contrast is to compare in order to show unlikeness or differences; note the opposite natures, purposes, etc., of whatever the subject might be. Dogma is a specific tenet or doctrine authoritatively passed down, as by a church. So, contrast dogma would be a comparison of differences in the doctrine of a church and alternative doctrine or concepts. The question that begs an answer is; should we fear contrast dogma?

The answer, like the definition, is not easily interpreted. For more than two thousand years, people all across the globe have been dominated by the dogma of the Catholic Church; that of the omniscient and vengeful God. A God who, throughout the stories of the Bible’s Old Testament, incited war, famine, genocide, incest and an innumerable amount of iniquities upon his own creations. Not only is such a God worthy of complete and paralyzing fear; the Catholic Church dogma demands that He be feared!

By contrast, Jesus as portrayed in all three novels of the Imagine Trilogy is a soft spoken, kind young man (mostly like the Catholic version). He performs miracles that help people in need (like the Catholic version). He has come to save humanity from oppression (sort of like the Catholic version). He has returned to save the world (a tiny bit like the Catholic version) and He has returned to teach the people of the world The Way to happiness and immortality (not anything like the Catholic version).

This Jesus… whose name is really Eloah… comes from a parallel universe (not the womb of a virgin). He says that an omniscient God does not exist, nor is there a place called Heaven and another called Hell. He claims that the spiritual energy of all people is immortal (no confession or church affiliation required), and that morality and ethical behavior is instilled within the spirit, and passed on to each and every human physical life.

Eloah (Jesus) is a human being from a society that is technologically and sociologically advanced. His sole purpose is to do good deeds, and to teach others how to live harmoniously throughout all of the multiverses. Eloah and all that he represents is the walking, talking contrast dogma to the Catholic Church and all other monotheist religions.

Would you be afraid of a man like Eloah… of contrast dogma? Not likely. On the other hand, the omniscient God that dominates the religious beliefs of Christians, Islamists and Jews has often been characterized as a fractious God. He has been described as loving and gentle one moment, and extremely vicious the next. If He existed, I would be very afraid of this God, wouldn’t you?


*********************

Although I’ve no proof, it is said that Stephen King appointed himself the Master of Horror. So, it is that a close associate to a professional partner of mine, after reading the first novel in the Imagine Trilogy, labeled me, Master of Contrast Dogma.

I like it, although most people simply scratch their heads and walk away whenever I try to explain it to them. That’s okay… not every new idea or phrase becomes an overnight success; sometimes it takes a week, a few months or even years. Whether or not contrast dogma ever becomes a household phrase, or even a new fiction book genre, is not the question. The original question was should we be afraid of contrast dogma? You tell me.

About the Author


Born in San Marcos, Texas, Lex Allen was raised in the Bible Belt towns of Corpus Christi and Austin. At the age of 17 he began an extensive military career with the U.S. Army. The Army took him to Germany where he met his wife, raised a family, and remained after he redirected his career into a civil service position with the U.S Department of Defense. During this time Lex also wrote, performed, and published fourteen songs with MCP Records in Austria that led to accolades from the European Country Music Association as “Best Band and Best Album” in 1997. In 2012 he left his civil service career to pursue his passion for writing – this time trading the 12-note musical scale for the 26-character alphabet. He has since published the first two books in The Imagine Trilogy in addition to an anthology of horror stories, “Lovably Dead”, published under the pseudonym Alex Eldrich.

Lex’s views began to take shape in a stereotypical Southern Baptist home in the Bible Belt of America. An astute and eager student, he studied alternative views on spirituality and quickly became disenfranchised with the organized religion he was presented with at home. A lifetime of contemplation and over a decade of intense research into the history of Christianity, alternative spiritual philosophy, and quantum physics provided the foundation for The Imagine Trilogy. Allen has used his research and personal spiritual journey to sculpt a work of fiction that presents a thoughtful and plausible alternative dogma and religious conspiracy in a fast-paced, thriller format.

Lex currently resides with his wife of 30 years in a century old Bauernhaus in Germany where he spends his days feverishly writing the anticipated conclusion to The Imagine Trilogy, “No Religion”, scheduled for publication in late 2013. About No Heaven:





The first time He walked our Earth, He came to teach people the way to inner peace and everlasting life without fear of death or oppression by those with religious or political power. He failed.

In the streets of Germany, a mysterious man appears proclaiming himself to be Jesus. In the middle of the afternoon mass in Kölner Dom, this man shocks the masses with unfathomable healings and miracles. However, this Jesus is different from the stories and age-old traditions. He claims to have returned to Earth to save the human race from impending nuclear war and rebukes the religion sculpted around his name.

With the help of the skeptic blogger Jack Schmidt, university film student Kate Barrow, and theology professor Dr. Beth Washburn, Jesus races to save the world’s fate as political and religious forces attempt to stop him at every turn. Here's a link to listen to or read a sample chapter:

http://www.lexallen.com/sample-chapter-no-heaven/

No Heaven is available from Amazon

The scavenger hunt code for this post is "Contrast Dogma". Visit all four blog tour stops to collect each code word, then visit www.lexallen.com/scavenger-hunt for a chance to win prizes!

Friday, 23 August 2013

Win a Signed Copy of Faust 2.0


There are three signed copies of Faust 2.0 available in a Goodreads giveaway:

http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/63109

Here's what one reviewer thought of Faust 2.0:

"A fast paced nail biter that kept me up late into the night. I would love to read more in this series."



Guest Author Interview - S. Thomas Kaza

The bank holiday weekend approaches, I'll be in the office for most of it, but at least I can lie in a bit :-) We end the week with a guest author interview with S. Thomas Kaza, you can read what he has to say below:




Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
I am S. Thomas Kaza, a mild-mannered salesman by day, a disturbed writer by night (Disturbed in the sense that until they go to bed my kids don't leave me alone long enough to write more than a paragraph at a time.)

What first inspired you to start writing?
I have always had stories, but I lacked the discipline to finish what I started. When my kids got old enough for me to start telling them to follow their dreams, I realized I had an unspoken dream of my own..... to become an author.

If you could spend a day with anyone from history, who would it be and why?
I am interested in military history, so there are many historical figures I would like to spend a day with- Alexander the Great, Genghis Kahn, Richard 1 of England, and even Napoleon. But since my native language is English, and I love the written word, there is really only one answer- Shakespeare.

What is your favourite word?
There are many, but I especially like the word watchamacallit. It is useful. I like the way it sounds. And Hersheys even named a candy bar after it.

What comes first, the story or the title?
The story comes first, but the title is always not far behind.

Where do your best ideas come from?
I believe my best ideas come from my subconscious, which for me is not a dark, shadowy dungeon of primal urges, but a bridge to places far brighter and more beautiful than I am probably able to fathom.

What advice would you give new and aspiring authors?
Since I feel like I am a new and aspiring artist myself, I am still in need of advice. But I have learned that a writer needs to write a lot in order to discover what they write well. There are many books that can help one get there. A young author should look for the book that they feel talks to them. For me it is The Elements of Style by Strunk.

What are you working on at the moment?
At this time I am revising Cedric of RoseThorn: Book Two, the sequel to Book One, which was published last year. I am also working on a short ghost story which will be published on the Good Story to Read.com website in July or August.

Tell us about your latest work and how we can find out more.
Cedric of RoseThorn: Book One is the story of a medieval lord who finds his privileged life turned upside down through a series of unfortunate events. In order to protect his castle and his people, he must stand alone against bandits, barbarians, and the forces that threaten to destroy him. You can read sample chapters on Smashwords, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble websites. I am also working on a website, www.cedricof rosethorn.com, which provides news and more detailed information about the medieval world where this story takes place.
Cedric of RoseThorn is available from Amazon

Faust 2.0 Now Available From iTunes


I'm pleased to announce that Faust 2.0 is now available from iTunes as well as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. Check it out on iTunes here:

US: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id689253733
UK: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/id689253733

Book Impressions - Mr Splendiferous and the Troublesome Trolls by Rosen Trevithick

This is the second book in the Smelly Trolls series, I read the first book some time ago and enjoyed it and this continued the fun. Mr Splendiferous is a mad scientist who owns a science park. This is no ordinary science park, but is a theme park based around crazy (and fun) science. He has captured and is studying a troll when Rufus and his classmates go on a school trip to the science park.

I think it's fair to say that this book isn't aimed at me, but that doesn't matter as it's a lot of fun to read. The story is straight forward and full of humour. It's not only humour that appeals to young children, but grown up ones like me :-)

You also learn important facts about trolls, for example little girls taste better than little boys. So if you're ever attacked by a troll, as long as you can run faster than a neaby little girl you'll be fine.

As well as being an entertaining story the illustrations deserve a mention. Quite simply they're great and add a lot to the book. It's suitable for older children to read alone, but where it would be best is reading aloud to kids. There's so much oppoertunity for silly voices and fun acting that it would be a sure fire hit with them.

In summary this is a lot of fun for kids young and old alike. If you're looking for an enjoyable read for your youngsters in the summer holidays then this is for you.


Rufus Sebbleford and his friends are looking forward to a school trip to the Mr Splendiferous Science Park unaware that the mad scientist is keeping a dangerous troll locked up in the grounds.
The scientist's obsession with trolls causes further problems for the Super-Troll-Knobbly-Foot family who are trying desperately to pass as humans.

Meanwhile, the stinky trolls of Gloopyglen Babblebrook begin digging a tunnel under the science park in search of a new bigger cave for their expanding bellies.

Before long, the children find themselves trapped as the park becomes swamped with revolting trolls. Rufus, Bruno and Polly must come up with a plan before their classmates become troll food.

A slimy, smelly, sausage-slinging adventure packed with mischief, troll traps and a really reckless wacky scientist.

Mr Splendiferous and the Troublesome Trolls is book 2 in the Smelly Troll series. You don't need to read the books in order but it helps.


Mr Splendiferous is available from Amazon

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Guest Authors Revisited - Nicky Peacock

 I first interviewed Nicky Peacock back in January, you can read her original interview here. I recently caught up with her to see what she's been up to since then, find out more below:

 
What has changed in your life since we last spoke?
Well, my first lone author book, Bad Blood has come out and I’m pushing aside my short story efforts (mostly) and concentrating on novels and novellas. I’ve learnt a lot more about the promotion work that’s involved in being an author, and actually discovered I enjoy that part almost as much as I do the writing bit! I’ve joined a couple of fantastic virtual book tour sites and am also loving reviewing books in my genres and interviewing fellow authors too.

Have you leant any new wisdom?
Research is key to everything! Especially when writing fantasy and horror. The more facts you can include, the more realistic the whole thing becomes – even though the other aspects of your story are unbelievable.

Have you become a better writer? If so, how?
I think all writers are consistently evolving – some for better, some for worse! I hope I’ve become better this last year and am currently studying grammar and the real nuts and bolts of writing. I’m a creative person, so find the technical parts of the process difficult.



What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a YA urban fantasy novel – I can’t say much more as it’s in its infancy. But it does have a very interesting character who is very different to any I’ve worked on in the past. I’m doing a lot of research on certain aspects of the plot and am hoping it’ll be quite unique by the time I’ve finished moulding it.

Tell us about your latest release and how we can find out more.
Pop along to my blog: http://nickypeacockauthor.wordpress.com to read my latest reviews, interviews, writing tips, lessons I’ve learnt and also news on my work. I also have https://www.facebook.com/NickyPeacockYaBooks where you can leave me comments and give me a quick ‘thumbs up’ like.

Bad Blood is available from Amazon

Faust 2.0 Now In Paperback


Exciting news - the paperback edition of Faust 2.0 is now available! You can buy it now from Amazon:

http://amzn.to/19znsrX


Book Shout Out - We the Separate Together by Jaye Viner

Today we have a reader shout out for Jaye Viner's 'We the Separate Together'. If you've read a book recently that deserves a shout out then let me know.

Here is what Lexie had to say about it:

We the Separate Together is a thought-provoking fantasy novella, set in a country where one race tries to dominate and extinguish another, an all too familiar scenario in our world history. The two peoples are well-drawn, with the decadence of the dominant race highlighted in their imaginative, artistic and deeply disturbing violence towards prisoners. Viner’s language is accomplished and elegant. I felt that the plot and setting had the scope to be a novel rather than a novella, as the format led to a surprisingly abrupt (though satisfactory) ending – perhaps the author will consider extending it in the future. I'd also add that anyone with a dread of typographical and grammatical errors in self-published books need have no fears here: it is extremely well-produced.


Book Blurb:

The Pyramid is the tool the Minister of Justice uses to punish violators of the Unclean Law. Most do not live long afterwards. Those that do are the marked ones, living isolated, and waiting for death.

Coming face to face with such brutality, the Mistress Regent Anselma, finds herself in a world she has never known where the half-blood witches are not extinct, the legends of the bear descendants still speaking the ancient tongue and living in hidden underground villages are true, and the shaved bodies of her father’s lesser citizens are shackled on display as living art.

Cohorts able to see in the deepest night terrorize the capital city, targeting government neighborhoods with vandalism and kidnapping officials’ wives. The women return pregnant with half-breed babies. It is illegal to carry them to term. When Anselma is kidnapped her fate becomes the same as her people.


We the Separate Together is available from Amazon



Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Guest Author Interview - Fritz Nordengren

In today's guest author interview we welcome Fritz Nordengren, author of 'Concealed - The Book of Joshua' to the hot seat, find out what he has to say below:

Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
I live at Two Mile Ranch, a small ranch in Iowa. Iowa is in the middle of the States, between Kansas City and Chicago. It's also home to Iowa Writer's Retreat. When I'm there, I write, I farm, I cook. I'm a digital storyteller turned author, and after helping others tell their stories for the last 30 years, I'm writing my own stories and released my first novel this year.

What first inspired you to start writing?
I began writing fiction in high school and then began working in traditional media. I moved into multimedia and the Internet. I actually designed my first website for a client in 1994. So I was always writing, but the end product was usually not the printed page. I think my recent inspiration came when I moved to Two Mile, the space and the vibe is very conducive to writing here.

If you could spend a day with anyone from history, who would it be?
I think any of my Swedish ancestors, especially the ones who immigrated to farms when they arrived in the States. I recently re-read Will Weaver's "Grave Stone Made of Wheat". He captures so much about the time in a short story.

Where do your best ideas come from?
I get many ideas from current events -- human drama and the stories behind the headlines. My current project includes a country music singer, so these day's I'm getting ideas from country songs.

What is your favourite word?
It's a word from Norse mythology, Fylgja, a supernatural being who accompanies someone to his or her fate or destiny.

What do you find most rewarding about writing?
I love listening to readers talk about the stories I share. Each reader brings their own perspectives and reactions to the words on the page. Everyone I talk to gives me a new and fresh insight to the characters. I think the reader is the most important "character" in a good book.

And the most challenging?
I imagine I'm like many authors, my challenge is finding concentrated blocks of time where I can focus and be alone with my project. A week or even a weekend where there I can write, or edit or diagram or even just imagine. That's one of the reasons I opened Two Mile Ranch to other authors as a retreat. I love lending the space to their creativity.

What are you working on at the moment?
When I finished Concealed: The Book of Joshua, I found myself thinking about the lead character, Joshua Stone. I wondered where his life would take him next and whom he would meet along the way. In real life, we meet people out of coincidence and circumstance, so my current project begins with the next person Joshua meets: Kolby Rae, a country singer with scars of her own. Her given name is Ruth. The working title is Unplugged: The Book of Ruth.

Tell us about your latest work and how we can find out more.
Concealed: The Book of Joshua is available via Amazon and Kindle. I'm flattered by the reviews at Goodreads and Amazon. It's the story of a college professor at a very typical Midwestern liberal arts college. He's quirky: he rides his bicycle everywhere and lives alone with this dog. He is social, outgoing, and well liked. After he's assaulted and left to die, he struggles to find a witness and make sense of the violence

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Guest Author's Revisited - R M F Brown

I first interviewed R M F brown back in February (you can read that interview here), I recently caught up with him to see what he'd been up to since then.


What has changed in your life since we last spoke?
My waist size has changed to say the least, but in writing terms, I've developed a more professional attitude towards writing. Nowadays, I treat it as a nine to five job, which allows me to get more work done, focus more on building up a fanbase, gives me time to look for more opportunities, and provides me with the opportunity of reviewing other people's work and giving feedback. In the past I was blasé with my approach to writing; treating it half-heartedly and missing deadlines. Nowadays, it's a leaner, more streamlined approach.

Have you learnt any new wisdom?
It's an old cliché, but I would recommend that any aspiring (or current writer) should read more. You need to get a feel for rhythms, tone, text, and general all round story telling. I wish I had a pound for every time I've said this, or heard it from somebody else, but you really do need other people proof-reading or an editor if you can afford it. There is nothing worse than having a book out, with a great cover, and people ready to buy it, only for somebody to spot a silly mistake such as 'here' instead of 'hear.' When I see mistakes like that in my work, I'm looking for something solid to throw against a wall!

Have you become a better writer? If so, how?
I don't know if I've become a better writer (I'll let the readers decide that) but I hope I've become a more professional writer, somebody willing to take risks and most importantly, somebody who can meet a deadline!. I will say that being a 'good' writer is no guarantee of success in the industry - there are plenty of bad writers out there. The writing world is one of the few places where quality, or a lack of it, is never a barrier to anybody who puts pen to paper, or finger to keyboard.

What are you working on at the moment?
I'm working on a psychological/horror novel which I hope to have finished by the Autumn. I've decided to move away from my German centric approach and focus on mutant turnips, or zombies. In other words, anything but war.

Tell us about your latest release and how we can find out more.
My latest release is 'The painter of Guernica.' A novella set during the Spanish Civil War. You can find out more by clicking on the book cover below:

Books by R M F Brown:

My Books on Goodreads