Saturday, 31 October 2015

Three The Space Inbetween T-Shirts up for Grabs




As my alter-ego Old Ones Productions I have three t-shirts up for grabs. This t-shirt features Luciana Nedelea's amazing artwork she created for an upcoming book - it's also a back piece I'm having tattooed on my back!

The t-shirt is available in unisex sizes S to XXXL and in black or white. You can buy the t-shirt from my online store here:

http://www.oldoneproductions.com/

To enter to win one of the three t-shirts check out the Rafflecoptor giveaway below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

One Week Left to Enter the Festival of Drabbles 2015 Competition

The Festival of Drabbles kicks off its celebration of stories told in exactly 100 words in just over a week's time. If you're not signed up for the event yet then you can do so here:

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

The countdown means that you only have this week to enter your drabble into the festival's drabble competition. There are two prizes on offer: £30 Amazon or PayPal prize and four voters will also be randomly selected to win £10 Amazon gift cards for participating. One winner will be picked by me and the other by public vote.

There's no fee to enter the competition and you can submit your drabble here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/festival-of-drabbles-2015-drabble.html

Remember that your drabble must be exactly 100 words!

Monday, 26 October 2015

Book Review - The Dunfield Terror by William Meikle

I'm a huge fan of Lovecraft and cosmological horror stories in general and this is a fine take on the genre. The story is told in two threads - the more immediate of which is set in the present day with a small Canadian town tormented by an otherworldly fog during a heavy snow storm.This forms the meat of the story, but the bones comes from the second thread set in the past about how this fog came to be.

Of the two threads the present day is the stronger and epitomises everything that a decent horror story should be. It's more immediate and has some wonderfully tense and scary moments. The main character is well drawn and you feel for him as he tries to survive through the night and rescue his fellow townspeople.

The historical thread isn't as strong, but not bad by any means. It has a different feel that sets it apart from the more chaotic present day story. I enjoyed the slower, more considered build up of the historical journal. The how and the why of the tale is told here and that adds some depth.

The only real issue I have with the story is the ending - the actual ending is fine, but the final sequence feels a tad abrupt and I think deserved to be expanded. I would also have liked to discover more about the phenomena itself as the glimpses of what it contained were astounding.

The quality of the writing is superb and the story is well placed. A definite recommendation for any fans of the genre.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

It starts with a strange glowing fog that arrives at the height of a snowstorm.

A terror from the past has returned, bringing with it death and destruction that threatens to overrun the town. The old stories tell of a post-war experiment gone wrong, one that opened the way for the fog—or whatever was behind it—to begin its reign of terror.

A small team of workmen are the last hope to keep their town alive through the long, storm-filled night. But the many horrors that await them are beyond anyone’s worst nightmares.


Click here to buy The Dunfield Terror from Amazon (and it's a tense horror read)

Currently Reading - Evil Never Dies by Rick Haynes

Click on image to buy from Amazon

The Maxilla are a peaceful clan but when rumours of dark magic arrive in their land for the second time in a decade, can they survive the latest threat from Myracadonis, the shaman?

Tarn is ordered to lead the Maxilla into battle for the first time, but a man with the mark of greatness will always have enemies. Grona hates everyone, including his son, Tarn. Both are destined to be heroes yet only one can stand before the gates of hell and win.


Click here to buy Evil Never Dies from Amazon


Sunday, 25 October 2015

October Short Fiction Contest Winners


Picking the winner's for October's Short Fiction Contest proved to be a tricky task. The image inspired some diverse and wonderful stories and I think you'll enjoy the three stories I've selected. Thanks to everyone who submitted their stories - I enjoyed reading them all! Thanks also to everyone who shares the links to these contests, please continue to do so, these writers deserve their stories to be shared.

And here are the winners:

 - First prize of a £50 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize goes to Chad Lutzke for his story 'Tug 'o War'
 - Second prize of a £20 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize goes to Tim Robson for his story 'The Earnest Discussion'
 - Third prize of a £10 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize goes to Rose Thurlbeck for her story 'Games Night'

Congratulations to the winners and here are their stories:

Tug 'O War by Chad Lutzke

www.chadlutzke.weebly.com

The four of us had looked after our good friend, Jonathan, for the past several weeks while he lay in bed suffering from the fever.  It had taken his wife as well as half our city council and a rather large handful of local residents.

 Per the physician’s orders, we were to remain on the bottom floor of our friend’s house while he was cared for on the second.  We were to never go upstairs.  There was talk of extreme contagiousness and no medical personnel had yet been able to determine the exact cause of the epidemic or how it was transferred.  We had all agreed that, at the very least, we would remain in the house to see our friend through to the end, thinking perhaps any positive energy omitted from us would bring healing to his dying bones.

We were wrong.

During the wee hours, the physician woke us and shared the grim news that our dear friend would most likely not see another day.  He would die before daylight.  The physician then went back upstairs to care for Jonathan.  An hour later, Thomas, the most curious and daring among our group, ascended the stairs and peeked in Jonathan’s room.  The physician was slumped over in a chair sleeping soundly, and our friend lay motionless on his bed.  There was no sound of breathing; no evidence of respiration.  Thomas then reported to us that Jonathon had passed.

Through the next hour, my companions and I gathered around the dining table and shared fond memories of our friend, when one of us spoke of a séance—to call upon the spirit of our friend and offer a final goodbye and perhaps find closure.  Surely there would be no closure in cowering a floor below while our friend deteriorated above.

Vincent, the scholar between us, held the ceremony.  We followed his strict instructions and soon found ourselves calling upon the ghost of our recently deceased friend.  When speaking to the spirit world, Vincent seemed to struggle making communication.  He broke into a profuse sweat until at last a ghastly, luminous sphere tore down the stairs, circled us, and promptly exited out through the window.

Seconds later the physician descended the stairs and shared with us some very chilling news.

“I’m sorry, gentlemen.  Jonathan has passed.”

“Yes, we know.  Thank you, Doctor,” Thomas spoke.

The physician gave Thomas a puzzled look.

“I crept up and saw that he was no longer breathing.  You were asleep,” Thomas told him.

“Sir, I’m afraid that your speculation was false.  He passed only minutes ago.  Within the hour I watched as Jonathan’s fever miraculously broke to the point where I became optimistic regarding his recovery.  He had become nearly coherent.  But then only moments ago he took a turn for the worse.  I could see him struggling to stay with us.  But it was as though something called him, pulling him to the other side.  Something he could not fend off. “

The Earnest Discussion by Tim Robson

www.timrobson.eu

“We are all men of science, I assume,” said Gerald.

The company agreed that they were.

“And that our goal is to seek answers, wherever they lie or whomever they may upset.”

Again there was a general murmur of agreement.

“Well gentlemen, allow me, if you will, to demonstrate something that I feel will engage you at this late hour.”

Gerald lit his cigar. His best friend and erstwhile colleague Giles did likewise. Humphrey and Frederick contented themselves with another glass of port.

“These past years, I have been conducting experiments into the very nature of existence. If you will, an enquiry into life itself.”

“Steady on, old chap, that’s damned heresy!” exhorted Humphrey. He was the newest member of the dining club and still clung to some of the old ways.

 “Easy Humphrey,” cautioned Frederick. “Gerald conducts his enquiries with an open mind.”

“Correct, my friend, as a man of science,” Gerald emphasised the word, “We must allow our investigations to go wherever they wish. Science is the pursuit of fact, not belief. But neither is it a substitute for morality.” Here Gerald waved his cigar in front of him. “Both religion and science can happily co-exist.”

“Well said, sir,” agreed Humphrey placated.

Gerald looked at his three companions. Were they ready for what he was about to reveal?

“Gentlemen. I have conducted experiments combining electricity with physical chemistry. I have been searching these many years for a key that would unlock inert matter and create life itself!”

There was a general unease around the table as his three companions digested this unexpected news. Gerald pressed on.

“Life can be created. I can ape the mannerisms and powers of God!” he announced grandly.

“You go too far, sir!” shouted Humphrey.

“It’s too late. Here is life!” shouted Gerald and clicked his fingers.

Nothing happened.

“Here is life!” he clicked his fingers again with the same result. The four men looked at each other sheepishly.

Out in the stalls the audience tittered a amongst themselves and rustled in their seats.

“Here is life,” shouted the actor playing Gerald.

Above the stage came a tremendous noise as Bob, the principle lighting director, realised he’d missed his queue with the Number One bright light. He kicked it roughly into action. This tilted the light dangerously and sent the harshest beam possible not into the air, as rehearsed, but right over the heads of the four actors.

“Bloody hell!” shouted the actor playing Humphrey whose head was closest to the beam. “Turn that thing off!”

Above him, Bob tried to do that but Number One light tumbled from its precarious position over the stage and down into the orchestra pit. Bob, holding on for dear life, fell along with the light.

There was an eerie silence in the theatre as everyone waited for signs of movement from the orchestra pit. Slowly, painfully, Bob lifted himself and his confused face looked up at the audience.

Seizing his moment, Gerald stood up: “Behold! Life!”

Games Night by Rose Thurlbeck

http://elite-anthology.co.uk/authors/rose-thurlbeck

It was Ludo night at Portermonger's. Finch-Finchley had just succeeded in setting up a rather cunning 3-way block just before the green exit ramp, and the mood was tense.

The four of us were in competition for a rather fine bottle of vinegar I had set my heart on after its recent appearance in the good Professor Barnfather's collection, and until that point I had thought myself to be winning. The GPB had promised to join us later in the evening to present the prize and also share some 'Rather exciting news.'

Portermonger had just left the table to call for cigars when I noticed a shifting light in the darkening garden beyond the French windows - a glowing yellow ball floated forth from among the Begonias and made its way up the bank towards us. Before I could share my wonderment with my friends, however, the doors crashed open and the ball entered the room.

We reacted in our different ways:  Finch-Finchley ducked to avoid the initial attack and Portermonger grabbed  the first thing to come to hand to use as a weapon – the chair he had been sitting upon. Standable, having spent the evening with a drake glued to the palm of his right hand -ostensibly to treat a crick in the bird's neck,  but really to provide the punchline to the extended  'Making a duck understandable' anecdote he'd been failing to share all evening - was no use to anyone not wanting to stuff a pillow. It should have been down to me to defend the Portermonger homestead, for normally I never leave home without the cricket-bat-and-butterfly-net combination which had rescued us during the many trans-dimensional incursions brought about by our experiments testing the fabric of the multiverse, and I saw Finch-Finchley glance expectantly in my direction. I shrugged and saw panic enter his soul.

The sphere came to a bobbing, slowly rotating standstill before the fireplace, and we crowded forward  to examine it more closely. It looked to be a crystalline shell containing barely tamed energy, the nature of which was completely beyond my understanding. I felt no heat from the glowing orb, but could hear a highly-pitched hum or buzz coming from it.

Standable's duck now showed its distress, making a enough noise to force the foolish man to retreat to the open doors which he awkwardly closed with his free left hand. Thus momentarily distracted, we almost failed to notice the changes by the hearth: the crystal had begun to grow, and the energy field contained within changed colour from yellow to orange to a sparkling shade of deep red. The hum was also altered, performing a slow glissando to a lower register.

At last the shell burst, to reveal a smiling GPB wearing a rather fetching red evening dress and holding bottles of champagne and fine vinegar. Her endeavours in matter transferral had been successful.

We certainly hammered some hamsters to the wall in celebration that night!

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Beyond the Wail Bog Tour - Author Spotlight F. M. Longo

As part of the blog tour celebrating the release of Beyond the Wail (see the details at the bottom of this post) here is an interview with one of the collection's authors F. M. Longo:

F.M. Longo grew up surrounded by books. He started his own personal book collection at the age of seven, filling his shelves with The Hardy Boys and Tom Swift, Jr. It wasn’t long before he read his way through the entire works of Christie, Queen, Sayers, Gardner, and Wolfe. He started working in commercial kitchens from the age of fifteen, but he traded his whites for a blue pin-striped suit when he started working in Lower Manhattan, developing financial and communications software for banks, brokerages and other Wall Street companies. He later went back to the kitchen, working as the banquet chef for a large resort, and later, as the executive chef and general manager at a fine-dining restaurant. He is also an accomplished jazz drummer, playing professionally for many years. Now retired, he advises non-profit groups in his area on publicity and advertising. Originally from Stratford, CT, where his four children and seven grandchildren still reside, he currently lives in Woodbury, CT.

What is your preferred writing genre? 
Mystery - because everything I write turns into one. Actually, you can create a mystery in any other genre - paranormal mysteries, romantic
mysteries, historical mysteries.

How does writing impact other parts of your life? 
It’s the other parts of my life that impacts my writing. I have a solid hour between 4am and 5am every morning to write. After that, I may get 5-10 minutes a couple times a day to add a few lines to my work in progress.

What are some of your other published works? 
My earliest published works date to the mid 1980s, and were computer science  topics such as “Generating Square-Roots using Newton’s Method,” “Approximating PI with a Buffon’s Needle Simulation,” and “Principles of Parsing Computer Languages”. After that, most of my articles were on photography and music, and then, in the early 2000’s, about 100 articles on the history of food.

What is your advice to writers? 
“Find your own voice. If your writing sounds like you speak, then you’re there. If it sounds like someone else is speaking, go back and rewrite it. Don’t change your voice because it’s more marketable, or closer to what a specific market is looking for; find the market that matches your voice.

What's up next for you? 
I began a new short story series, this time, set in contemporary Tokyo. It falls into paranormal territory and, yes, they’re mysteries. There’s two stories so far, and I haven’t gotten around to polishing them up for submission yet. Soon.

Follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/authorfmlongo
And on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorfmlongo

Click on image to buy from Amazon

OF MICE AND MONSTERS by Tirzah Duncan: Troubled by ghosts within and without, Benjamin struggles to become the man his girlfriend needs instead of the monster he is.

GO GENTLE by Julie Barnson: After the death of her boyfriend, a young musician uses her talents and a fabled violin to stop the fatal accidents at a dead man’s curve.

DEAD WATER by Amanda Banker: A stalled truck, an abandoned graveyard, and a town not found on any map take two brothers on a detour they’ll never forget.

COLD SPOT by Jay Barnson: When a laptop is stolen from their computer security company, two high school buddies go to extremes to investigate. But, will they manage to return?

THE WEEPING LADY by A. F. Stewart: Eva Douglas must face her mother issues, past and present, when the disappearance of her sister forces a confrontation with a terrifying ghost.

THE POLTERGEIST AND AUNT BETTY by Ginger C. Mann: Aunt Betty is eccentric, but how much is ghost, how much is medication, and how much is just plain crazy?

THE ‘GRIM’ REAPER by L. K. McIntosh: When a soul reaper loses the source of their power, they must either find the witch who stole it or a new purpose for living.

SHRINE OF MIRRORS by F. M. Longo: A spy on a mission becomes a believer in the supernatural when the theft of three ancient relics threaten to bring down the empire.

DEAD MAN HOCKING by T.N. Payne: A world-weary zombie learns to beware what you wish for, and not all sure bets are worth the gamble.

ST. PETER’S FISH by Alex McGilvery: Sam is a walking disaster of biblical proportions, but how much is he willing to sacrifice to escape, and will the Powers That Be allow it?

THE DIORAMA by Sebastian Bendix: A play set turns life around for Martin Taper, but things take a turn for the worse when he neglects it and the lonely child obsessed with it.

DATE DUE by Danielle E. Shipley: A magic library’s guardian determines to protect her treasured books, whether their authors elect to do things the easy way … or the fatal one.


Click here to buy Beyond the Wail from Amazon


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Book Review - The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons

I enjoyed the first book in the series a lot, but my main criticism of it was that while I the pilgrim's stories were all well written there wasn't much revelation in the core mystery of the story. I'm pleased to say that that mystery is revealed in this second book. I didn't agree with some of the direction, but it was at least thought provoking and didn't cop out in the same way as similar stories have - yes I'm looking at you Nights Dawn Trilogy! :-)

This is a much busier read than the first book with quite a lot to follow. Luckily each thread has its own texture so it's quite easy to slip from one to the other. It also handles the time travel aspect quite well, which is something that usually puts me off a story but is used to good effect here.

While there are many individual threads the story loosely groups into two - the first being the personal stories of the pilgrims. As with the first book these are the strongest aspect to the story. There is great drama here and great sadness, so much so that at one point I renamed the book to a litany of suffering.

The different characters blend together well in these threads and each cast a different focus on what it means to be human. I noticed a different quality to the writing here as well, the author deals with personal circumstance and tragedy in a fluid manner that really speaks to the emotion of the events. The father and the daughter with Merlin's disease really stands out as an example of this.

Less strong is the grand overview thread, or the space opera aspect if you prefer.While this has some nice ideas, it just doesn't come across as well as the individual tales of the pilgrims. What does work is how it draws the different threads together and comes together for a cohesive conclusion.

I love stories that make you think and science-fiction is a goldmine for that type of stories and here we have a wide range of different philosophies and concepts that give pause for thought. As I mentioned earlier I didn't agree with some of the direction, but that's just personal taste, in the end I enjoyed where the patterns took me.

In summary this is an excellent read and a stronger more rounded book than the first and I've already bought the next in the series to see where it takes me.

Click on umage to buy from Amazon
In the stunning continuation of the epic adventure begun in Hyperion, Simmons returns us to a far future resplendent with drama and invention.  On the world of Hyperion, the mysterious Time Tombs are opening.  And the secrets they contain mean that nothing--nothing anywhere in the universe--will ever be the same.


Click here to buy The Fall of Hyperion from Amazon (and it's an intriguing read)


Currently Reading - The Dunfield Terror by William Meikle

Click on image to buy from Amazon

It starts with a strange glowing fog that arrives at the height of a snowstorm.

A terror from the past has returned, bringing with it death and destruction that threatens to overrun the town. The old stories tell of a post-war experiment gone wrong, one that opened the way for the fog—or whatever was behind it—to begin its reign of terror.

A small team of workmen are the last hope to keep their town alive through the long, storm-filled night. But the many horrors that await them are beyond anyone’s worst nightmares.


Click here to buy The Dunfield Terror from Amazon


Sunday, 18 October 2015

November Short Fiction Contest

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

I decided to continue last month's theme and avoid an obviously horror image (although horror stories based on this months image are still welcome!) and looked for something a bit steampunk. I found this enigmatic image of a device and immediately saw the potential for stories based on whatever purpose the device has. So what do you think the device does?

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 December1st 2015.

As with everything in life there are a few rules:
  • Only one entry per person.
  • The story must not be longer than 500 words.
  • Closing date for submissions is November 22nd 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.

Discover Drabbles at the Festival of Drabbles 2015


The Festival of Drabbles 2015 is less than a month away and will be a celebration of all things drabbles for the week starting 9th November. If you haven't heard of drabbles before then they are stories that are exactly 100 words and are a favourite short form of writing. Here's one of mine to give you the idea:

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.

Whether you're already a fan of drabbles, or discovering them for a first time the festival welcomes you. Some of the finest drabblists are taking part and there will be amazing stories from a variety of genres to discover.

You can join the festival here on Facebook:

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

The calendar of events is coming together nicely with some well known names in drabbles. You can see the list of events here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/festival-of-drabbles-2015-calendar-of.html

If you'd like to host an event then let me know!



Thursday, 15 October 2015

Book Review - Famous Animals by Katie Stewart

There's a tradition with good children's books where they can be enjoyed by both adults as well as children and this book fits nicely into that category. The premise is a delightfully simple and fun one - famous people from history are re-imagined as animals and this leads to some amusing puns.

As well as the humour in the names the book has two strong pillars, the first are the illustrations. These are simply fantastic and there's a real talent on display here. They're bold and accessible as you'd expect from a children's book, but there's also some great detail there and each character is lovingly rendered.

As well as the illustrations each character is accompanied by facts about the historical personage and the animal they have been blended with. All of the persons featured in this book are deserving of their place and I was pleased to see that one of my favourite writers - Edgar Allan Poe, or in this case Edgar Allan Hippo, is featured.

I liked the style of the presentation and the facts are explained in a clear way without being condescending - a trap all too easy to fall into when writing for children. Usually at this stage in a review I talk about the aspects that I didn't like, but in this case my only complaint is that it isn't long enough. It's a charming idea and excellently done!

Click on image to buy from Amazon

What happens when you combine a love of art, animals and history with a sense of humour? You get a book that is delightfully different.

Famous Animals is an alternative history, an artistic peek at the world of such remarkable animals as Felix Mendelswann, Joan Aardvark and Luciano Pavaratti. At the same time, it takes a biographical look at some equally noteworthy humans.

A book that will appeal to young and old alike.


Click here to buy Famous Animals from Amazon (and it's a charming read)

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Festival of Drabbles 2015 - Calendar of Events


The Festival of Drabbles 2015 is a week long celebration of drabbles taking place between November 9th and 15th. Drabbles are a short form of story writing that is exactly 100 words long. If you haven't joined the festival yet then you can do so here:

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/375605662648575/
On Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/event/show/970201-festival-of-drabbles-2015

Below is the calendar of events for the festival. If you want to take part by hosting a drabble related event then post the details in the comments section below and I will add it to this calender post. I will update this post with links as the events are live.

Sunday 8th November



Monday 9th November




Tuesday 10th November




Wednesday 11th November




Thursday 12th November




Friday 13th November




Saturday 14th November




Sunday 15th November



Blogs and websites taking part but details not finalised yet:

Last Week to Enter October's Short Fiction Contest



Where has the month gone? We're into the final week for October's Short Fiction Contest already, so if you haven't entered yet then now is the time to do so! This month's image features four bemused gentlemen and an unusual visitation. What do you think is going on there? If you think you know then write a story of no more than 500 words and submit it through the form on the contest page here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/october-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 enjoy reading short fiction then make sure to read the winning stories from September's contest. There's three cracking stories here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/september-short-fiction-contest-winners.html

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Book Review - American Coven by Amy Cross

Apparently this is a collection of eight books, I'm glad I read it as a single collection as I think it would have been frustrating to have read it in smaller sections and that's the mark of a good story. The story follows two main threads, the first fifteen years in the past. This thread follows three young women who have been kidnapped and kept in a locked basement.

The second is set in the present and events are unfolding which mirror those of the previous thread. Both parts are well written and intertwine with each other. It can be tricky to pull off combining different timelines, especially in a way that builds like this one does.

Even more impressive is that the modern thread is told in the present tense. I often find it off putting reading in the present tense, but here it is an effective technique. To complete the hat trick we have constantly shifting perspectives between the chapters. Here it betrays the serial nature of its original format as on occasion the shift is jarring. For the most part it adds to the story though.

My one major complaint about the book is that it doesn't really delve into the mystery at the heart of the tale. There is a truth in there to be sure, as the story wrapped around it is superbly crafted. As well as this the book suffers from one of my pet peeves and that is padding. I really don't enjoy reaching the end of a story with another 15% remaining on the Kindle. If I want to read more then I'll buy another book!

Those points aside this is a good read, the writing is solid, the pacing is good and if you enjoy a horror story with a supernatural bent then this is well worth checking out.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

He kidnapped three women and held them in his basement.

He thought they couldn't fight back.

He was wrong...

Snatched from the street near her home, Holly Carter is taken to a rural house and thrown down into a stone basement. She meets two other women who have also been kidnapped, and soon Holly learns about the horrific rituals that take place in the house. Eventually, she's called upstairs to take her place in the ice bath.

Over time, however, Holly learns about a mysterious power that exists in the basement, and which the three women can use as they struggle to escape. When they finally manage to get through the metal door, however, the women have no idea that their fight for freedom is going to stretch out for more than a decade, or that it will culminate in a final, devastating demonstration of their new-found powers.


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

Currently Reading - The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Click on image to buy from Amazon

In the stunning continuation of the epic adventure begun in Hyperion, Simmons returns us to a far future resplendent with drama and invention.  On the world of Hyperion, the mysterious Time Tombs are opening.  And the secrets they contain mean that nothing--nothing anywhere in the universe--will ever be the same.


Click here to buy The Fall of Hyperion

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

The Cult of Me: Guest Author Interview - Andy Weir

The Cult of Me: Guest Author Interview - Andy Weir: We have a treat for science fiction fans in this week's guest author interview! One of my favourite reads of the year has been Andy Weir...

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Festival of Drabbles 2015 - Places to Discover Drabbles


We're all too rapidly approaching the Festival of Drabbles for 2015 which will be a week long celebration of drabbles. If you're already a fan of the form then make sure you join in by joining the event and if you aren't aware of drabbles then this is a great event to learn more about them:

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/375605662648575/
On Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/event/show/970201-festival-of-drabbles-2015

It was the Indie Book Bargains website (now known as Book Hippo) that first introduced me to the drabble form - drabbles are a story that is exactly 100 words long. Here are some sites where you can discover drabbles.

If you are aware of other sites to read drabbles then let me know in the comments section below.

Book Hippo

http://bookhippo.uk/

Book Hippo features a drabble in its daily newsletter. You can also submit drabbles here for inclusion in the newsletter.

Drblr

https://drablr.com/

Drblr is a social network dedicated for drabbles - it's easy to sign up and submit drabbles and even easier to browse the submissions.

Short Fiction Readers and Writers

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

The Short Fiction Readers and Writers group on Facebook has many drabbles posted from a variety of authors.

The Cult of Me

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

As such a devotee of writing drabbles I have a page dedicated for the drabbles I've written, There are other pages for the various drabble series as well.

Ken Magee's Author Blog

http://www.kenmageeauthor.com/?page_id=78

Ken's author blog has his drabbles posted.

Rick Haynes' Author Blog

http://profnexus.wix.com/rickhaynes

Rick is a prolific and award winning drabblist and you can read his drabbles on his site.

Ignite Books

http://www.ignitebooks.blogspot.co.uk/p/drabbles.html

Kath Middleton has some of her drabbles on her blog.

The Drabblecast

http://www.drabblecast.org/

A drabble themed podcast and website.

Microfiction Madness

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465369153574246/?hc_location=ufi

A Facebook group dedicated to stories of 100 words or less.

Are You Afraid of the Dark

http://afstewartblog.blogspot.ca/

Features drabbles every Wednesday.

Have You Entered October's Short Fiction Contest?


October's Short Fiction Contest is well under way and there's only two weeks left to enter if you haven't already done so. This month's image features an unusual visitation which has already sparked some interesting stories. |What do you think has the men so surprised?

To enter write a story of no more than 500 words based on this month's picture and submit it through the form on the competition page linked below. There's no entry fee and there's a £50 PayPal or Amazon prize for the winner, with prizes for second and third place stories as well.

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/october-short-fiction-contest.html

If you haven't read the winning stories from September's contest yet then you will find them here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/september-short-fiction-contest-winners.html

Friday, 2 October 2015

Guest Post - Illustrating Famous Animals Volume 1 by Katie Stewart

As part of her blog tour celebrating the release of her latest book 'Famous Animals' Katie Stewart has written a blog post about how she created the charming illustrations in the book:

Joan Aardvark

Maybe in a bid to prove to the world that I’m not as old as I look, the illustrations for Famous Animals Volume 1 were all done digitally. Until recently, (ie. the past few years) my illustrations were entirely done by hand. Occasionally, I’d do a drawing or painting, scan it onto the computer and enhance it in Photoshop. However, I found trying to draw with a mouse close to impossible. I would look longingly at drawing tablets, but they were all so expensive. Then a couple of years ago I decided to treat myself to a Wacom Intuos Pro, courtesy of Ebay. The Intuos Pro is a wonderful thing, but it demands great hand-eye coordination, something I found quite difficult with the tiny screen on my laptop. So I splurged some more and bought a large monitor. After using that for a while, I realised that my one reason for not buying the smaller Wacom Cintiq – the smallness of it – was no longer an issue. With a large monitor I could use the Cintiq to draw straight onto when I wanted detail or use it like an Intuos with the monitor if I wanted to do bigger work. So I broke the piggy-bank completely and bought a Cintiq 13HD and so begins the story of how I illustrate…

The illustrations for Famous Animals each started with a very rough sketch, each on a 12 x12in transparent ‘canvas’ (in Photoshop). The sketches were based on images I’d found of the historical figures and animals on Google. Most of the pictures only required sketches of the figure. Only a few needed details for the background.

Once I had the sketch to my liking, I’d add a layer underneath the sketch and begin to add my colours using a basic brush. I use mixer brush a lot to achieve form and shading, again mostly a basic brush, though sometimes I use a feather of fur brush to add texture. I find it a bit like sculpting.

When I was satisfied with the rough colour image, I’d turn off the original sketch layer and begin to add details. Some of the illustrations required a lot more layers than others. I tend to work with lots of layers because 1. It’s not so much work to redo if I muck it up and 2. It allows finer control over any adjustments or blending I might want to do. I think Joan Aardvark and Henry the Apeth probably had the most layers as their ‘costumes’ were very detailed. Each piece of Joan’s armour and weaponry was done as a separate layer and then the detail on the armour was another layer again. I used a style which made it slightly 3D metallic to add some depth to the picture. With some of the animals, I used a fur filter and cropping mask for added realism.

The background was the last thing I worked on, again a new layer under all the others. Generally, I made these fairly simple so that they didn’t detract from the figure, but with some of them, like Henry the Apeth, I wanted to set the figure in time and space, so I added more detail. Some of them have texture filters to add interest or the ‘oil painting’ look.

All this work was done in RGB colour, but to submit them to IngramSpark for printing, I had to convert them to CMYK with less than 240% saturation, which was a bit of a nuisance, but I think I managed to keep the colour pretty well as good as it was in RGB. I also reduced each one to just over 8 x 8 inches to fit the trim of the book. I would really have loved to have done a book that catered for the 12 x 12 paintings, but unfortunately IngramSpark didn’t have anything that big that allowed premium colour. Still, it will allow me to do prints on a larger canvas and maybe one day I’ll do a bigger book. I have plans for more in the series, hence ‘Volume 1’.


What happens when you combine a love of art, animals and history with a sense of humour? You get a book that is delightfully different. Famous Animals is an alternative history, an artistic peek at the world of such remarkable animals as Felix Mendelswann, Joan Aardvark and Luciano Pavaratti. At the same time, it takes a biographical look at some equally noteworthy humans. A book that will appeal to young and old alike.


Click here to buy Famous Animals from Amazon





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