Saturday, 30 April 2016

April Short Fiction Contest Winners


I've finished reading through the entries for April's Short Fiction Contest and as always I'm astounded by the variety and the quality of the stories. There were some excellent tales on offer, and it was difficult to pick just three, but here they are:

 - First prize of a £50 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Tim Maidment for 'The Road Crew'
 - Second prize of a £20 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Jason Purdy for 'Frank and the Faeries'
 - Third prize of a £10 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Jay Bookout for 'The Tinkerbell Gang'

Congratulations to the winners and a big thank you to everyone who entered - keep on writing!

Unfortunately this will be the last short fiction contest as I'm pretty much out of time or energy for anything but work at the moment. I'd like to thank everyone who took part, whther by submitting stories, or reading the winners, or by sharing the links and posts - it's been a great couple of years.

And now enjoy the winning stories:

The Road Crew by Tim Maidment

http://timmaidment.com

The Road Crew "“It’s the way they go about as if they owned the place.” The first voice said. The river flowed by as it ever had done before them as they rested in the shade of the bridge.

“Yeah, no respect for people who’ve lived here for generations - it’s got to be their way or else.” The second voice was as rough sounding as the first, as if they’d been gargling gravel, or had been smoking for many years.

“And they won’t learn our lingo will they? Insist on living in their little, whatchamacallits? Oppidums? Urbs?”

“Is that what they call them? Sounds so dreary, and rude to to all cluster together like that, crowding us out. It’s like they’re too good to mingle with the likes of me and you.”

“Ah, you just got to look at them and you know there’s going to be trouble.” The first voice sounded troubled. “They’re all armed you know? Never go anywhere without a blade. Smile at ‘em wrong and they’ll cut you as soon as look at you, they will.”

“Be fair - you’re no better. You’ve got that axe out the back for special occasions haven’t you?”
“That’s different. Defence, innit? Plus, it sorts out the woodpile so it’s just a tool.” There was perhaps a smidgen of defensiveness in the voice now.

“You’re a tool. I saw you threaten that road crew the other day.”

“Well, they were on my land - didn’t ask me before they started digging did they? I ask you, who just marches up and just whips out pick axes without checking whose land they’re on? First I know about it, they’ve taken down my apple tree!”

“What? You’re joking! No wonder you went for them - bloody good apples they were! They apologise?”

“No chance! I climbed out from down here and they just started gabbling in that funny language of theirs. They soon ran when I waved my axe at them, you can bet.” The owners of the two voices looked up at the light reflecting from the river on the underside of the bridge. “You reckon they’ll be back then?”

“You’ve got a death wish haven’t you?”

“Nah, they’ll back down, just got to teach them their place - give ‘em a good thumping, maybe break into one of their temples and smash it up a bit, soon have em going back where they came from.”
“Really? You’re disgusting, and how can you tell they’re not from round here?”

“They’ve got tans and it rains here all the time. No one local has a tan.”

“For the love of Titania, you’re blue and have lichen on you, what’s colour got to do with it? You’re just a racist troll.”


“They’re trouble, mark my words. I ask you, what have these Romans ever done for us?”"

Frank and the Faeries by Jason Purdy

www.twitter.com/JasonAPurdy

Uncle Frank had made the sign down by the river for a laugh, but it had always been an important part of my childhood.

My dad was an only child, but Frank was his lifelong friend and drinking buddy, and an all American hero. He also believed in aliens, Faefolk, the Sasquatch, the flat earth theory, and Making America Great Again.

That sign had always comforted me when I was down in the woods, even by myself. Even when Frank told me the story about the skin changers after we found a dead deer. I couldn’t sleep for weeks, but I always felt safe by the river, because that’s where the faeries were.
When I went to middle school, I told the other kids that we had faeries living near our house.

They called me Fairy for the next four years, and into High School. I contemplated suicide several times and one time chickened out at the last moment and put the belt back in my dad’s room.
At times, I even blamed Frank. He could have warned me about this. He was so paranoid of everything else – so afraid of monsters and Mexicans alike. Surely he’d know what I would face.

I sat by the river once, aged sixteen. I stared at that sign until I thought I might burn a hole through it, like that guy from the X-Men comics my brother loved. Goddamn faeries. Goddamn High School.

I threw a stone at the sign.

“Don’t do that,” Uncle Frank said from behind me, emerging from the woods. He and my dad had been drinking in the garage, as they often did now that the factory had closed.

“Go away, Frank,” I said, without lifting my head. I lifted another stone and palmed it. It felt cold and smooth in my trembling hand.

He sat down beside me. He’d never been one to listen a word anyone else said. Three wives deep, I wasn’t sure if it was working out for him or not.

“You’ll piss them off,” he said, nodding towards the sign. “The little folk. They keep us safe from the monsters of the forest.”

“There are no monsters,” I snap. “No faeries, no nothing. Not even a single fucking bear.”

“Don’t curse,” Frank said. “Your dad will kill you.”

“He curses all the time.”

“Sure, and he’s drinking beers in the garage on a Wednesday afternoon with his childhood friend,” Frank said, sipping from the tin he brought with him. “Don’t you think we want better for you?”

I said nothing. I threw the stone into the river.

“They hurt you, don’t they?” Frank said. “The kids at school.”

If I speak, he’ll hear the tremble in my voice. He squeezes my shoulder.

“That’s all fiction.” He nods to the river. “This is real. Me and you, faeries or not. High school is bull shit, as much as aliens and the little folk are.”

I sat there for a long time after he left.

The Tinkerbell Gang by Jay Bookout


www.jmw2author.wordpress.com

“I love the United Kingdom, daddy!  Can we move here permanently?” Johnnie asked his father.

Smiling, his father sighed, “It would be nice wouldn't it?  Everything is so beautiful here!”

Running ahead, little Johnnie pointed up to an odd sign he never seen before.  “Daddy, what does this mean?”

Seeing the silhouette of a fairy and the inscription “Little Folk,” David laughed.  “Apparently there are Faeries in these woods.”

“Faeries?” Johnnie said excitedly.  “Like Tinkerbell from Peter Pan?”

Chuckling, David nodded.  “Apparently so.  Come on, let's see if we can find any.”

Taking Johnnie by the hand, David walked on, admiring the beautiful vegetation and flowers that seemed to springing up from every direction.  These woods are absolutely remarkable.  There was nothing like them back home in Colorado.

Suddenly, the plants began to sway to and fro.  The entire forest seemed alive.  Johnnie held David close to him as he stared in disbelief at the thirteen midgets, all wearing wings tied to their backs, came running out of the woods, carrying everything from baseball bats to knives which were twice as long as the midgets were tall. 

The apparent leader, a shaggy looking chap smoking a cigar, came up and busted David right in the knee cap with a bat.  Hopping on leg, David couldn't believe his eyes.  The bat wielding midget demanded, “Give us all your money or you get it again.”

“What?” David asked, wondering if he was somehow being pranked.  In response to his question, the cigar smoking midget unleashed another barrage as six of his cohorts jumped in as well.  Soon David was on the ground, being pummeled as his son watched on in horror.

“Give us your money, asshole!” the leader of the small gang demanded.

Not wanting anymore trouble, David fished out his wallet and handed over all the he had, cash, credit cards, everything.  As quickly as they had appeared, the gang of midgets disappeared back into the woods, giggling and laughing at the loot they had claimed.

Three Hours Later

“Yes, officer, there were around thirteen of them, wearing wings, and armed with baseball bats and knives!”

The officer nodded.  “Aye, sounds like the McAllister Gang.  They've been robbing people on this tiny stretch of road for the last three months or so.  You're the fifteenth victim they've robbed.”

“Fifteenth victim?” David shouted.  “You mean this is a highly dangerous crime zone and you've done nothing about it?  Shouldn't there at least be a sign warning people of the danger?”

“There is.” The officer replied, pointing at the sign that read 'Little Folk.'  “What the fuck did you think that meant?  That there were fairies around here or somethin'?  How ridiculous would that be?”

David looked at his son Johnnie, who burst into giggles.  “Daddy, you got robbed by the Tinkerbell gang!”

David returned to Colorado and never spoke of these events again.  Though from then on, he was always nervous around little people.






Monday, 25 April 2016

Tau Ceti Mission - 09.03.2352 - Observations

Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31766
Seb reports his latest findings on the Cetians from the Venti probe in orbit around Tau Ceti e:

http://www.taucetimission.com/2016/04/09032352-observations.html

Book Review - Pearly Incognito by Salem

This was a bit disappointing for me. I loved the first book and eagerly anticipated reading the sequel only to discover that what was described as book 2 is actually only a very short teaser.

On the positive side this looks like it will turn out to be another cracker of a read. The peculiarities of quantum realities are very much evident and there's a diverse range of characters. As with the first book I love the concept, and it promises to be another challenging read. The writing is good and I'm looking forward to the actual book being released.


Detective Rook Black is having a tough time solving crime in a New York City where reality is traded on the black market by the mysterious quantum butcher, Jack the Butterfly.

A new reality loophole in a plastic universe leads him through a convoluted, endless city, toward a bank-robbing vampire monster. The monster files his teeth with diamonds and calls himself, Pearly. Pearly Incognito.

It’s just not a good idea to get close to Pearly. Not at all. Not even Pearly likes being in his own skin. Let alone inside his own imagination.


Click here to buy Pearly Incognito from Amazon (but I would for the full book to be released!)


Currently Reading - The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu


Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion.


Click here to buy The Three-Body Problem from Amazon

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Old Ones Productions - Win a Cthulhu Chess Set!



Here's a chance for one lucky customer to win a Cthulhu chess set!

Every order on the Old Ones Productions store between now and the 31st May 2016 will automatically be entered into a draw to win the pictured Cthulhu chess set.

www.oldonesproductions.com

The draw applies to all products on the store from prints, to t-shirts, and original art to chess sets. I will announce the winner on June 1st.

Book Review - Is It Her? by Jonathan Hill and Kath Middleton

This book has a very interesting premise. They have each written a novella length story inspired by the painting 'Is it her' by Rod Buckingham. Both of these authors share the ability to entice me beyond the borders of my usual reading domains, and I'm always eager to read their latest releases. With this interesting concept it allowed me to compare their styles while they handle similar subject matter.

The book opens with Jonathan Hill's story which is an intimate tale of a small group having a last night together before two of them leave to fight in the war. The story plays the author's strength. He has a particular talent for emotion and this is well represented here. As the evening unfolds you discover more about the loves and fears, and also the secrets that bind, and separate them.

As with his previous books, the story is very well written, he has a real talent for word play which always make his stories a joy to read. The pacing is solid and for the most part fits the length of the story. There is an odd miss-beat near the end with a large jump in the timeline, although there is a purpose for this, it adds a discordant note. The final scene recovers this, and ends the tale in style.

Kath Middleton's story follows a similar them, although the details are very different. It's also told in a very different style. It has the feel of a memoir, or two memoirs as it is told from two perspectives. It's also set against the background of the war, and that also plays a more overt role in the story. The plot follows a slightly more expected line than the earlier story, but also contains a wider scope.

And right there we have the more obvious contrast. Jonathan Hill's story is much closer, with much more personal revelations. Kath Middleton paints with broader strokes, but on a larger canvas. I also enjoyed how they both brought their stories back into the painting. To conclude, the book is an excellent read by two master story tellers.


One painting.
Two authors.
Two very different stories.

Inspired by Rod Buckingham's enigmatic 'Is it Her?', Jonathan Hill and Kath Middleton present two novellas, their own takes on this painting.

Is it Her? - Jonathan Hill

The celebration, as Violet so determinedly put it, is falling away before their eyes. Her attempt at buoying up everyone has resulted only in her being drawn farther into a web so complex that no one thread can ever lead to the entire truth. Violet. Cliff. Tom. Jack. Each holds and withholds. Each knows and doesn't know. Each chooses what and what not to say. The picture can never be complete for any of them. Never.

Tonight four sit round a table playing cards. Tomorrow two leave to fight. Over an evening already fraught with tension, emotions run deep and life-shattering secrets threaten to escape.

Is it Her? - Kath Middleton

I'm quite ashamed to remember how rarely we spoke about the politics of the day. The dark cloud that loomed over all our futures. We were simply looking the other way.

Frank and Vera fall in love the summer before the war. They vow that when it's all over they'll marry. But war has a way of tearing lives apart.


Click here to buy Is It Her? from Amazon

Currently Reading - Pearly Incognito by Salem


Detective Rook Black is having a tough time solving crime in a New York City where reality is traded on the black market by the mysterious quantum butcher, Jack the Butterfly.

A new reality loophole in a plastic universe leads him through a convoluted, endless city, toward a bank-robbing vampire monster. The monster files his teeth with diamonds and calls himself, Pearly. Pearly Incognito.

It’s just not a good idea to get close to Pearly. Not at all. Not even Pearly likes being in his own skin. Let alone inside his own imagination.


Click here to buy Pearly Incognito from Amazon


Saturday, 23 April 2016

Gustav the Railway Gun


Image credit: Unknown, but let me know if you know who created it!

Gustav the Railway Gun hadn't always lived on the Island of Sodor, although he had been there for many years. Even after so much time he dreamed of the days when he and his friends conducted their grand tour of Europe. He enjoyed the excitement and the noise as they travelled to all the famous cities of Europe. He even travelled to Russia and the city of Leningrad.

He was a lucky engine, although these days he didn’t think so. When the grand tour of Europe came to an abrupt end his Prussian owners were due to dismantle him to prevent ownership by the rapidly approaching Russian engines. He remembered how crazy things had become, and was sad to learn that he’d never steam along a railway track again.

He was saved by the Fat Controller who had been busy making arrangements for some of his friends while visiting from Switzerland. When he saw Gustav he knew that he had to bring the giant engine back home to the Island of Sodor with him. As the Prussian Train Company was in so much trouble they agreed to let him take Gustav with him.

When he first arrived at the island Gustav was amazed by the vibrant colour of the landscape and even more so of the engines. He saw that they were bright blue, distinguished green and even fancy red! He had his own siding and watched as the other engines of the island pulled shiny coaches and dirty trucks along the tracks.

He would call out an eager greeting to them in his deep, gravelly voice, but they ignored him. Even worse was when they did answer him, and they mocked him for his dull, grey paintwork.  As well as dull, they called him a ‘useless engine’ because he never pulled any coaches, or even trucks.

In the evenings the Fat Controller would visit him, and polish his paintwork. The Fat Controller always wore grey overalls when he visited, and didn’t seem to mind that Gustav wasn’t brightly painted like his other engines. He asked the Fat Controller if he could join the other engines and pull coaches or trucks around the island. He explained that he felt left out and wanted to make friends.

The Fat Controller always shook his head sadly and said that Gustav wasn’t like the other engines. He was special, and belonged only the Fat Controller. There would come a time when Gustav would be needed, and when that time came he would be more important than any engine with trucks, or even coaches. Those words always saddened Gustav, but the Fat Controller visited him every day and at least provided some company.

Years passed by and Gustav retreated further into himself. He barely heard the taunts of the steam engines anymore. Thomas was the worst, he really was a cheeky little engine. Then came the day the diesels arrived. They weren’t brightly coloured like the steam engines. They were gruff and dirty, although not quite as grey as he was. Here, he thought, were engines he could be friends with.

But they were worse. They ridiculed him for his slowness when he crawled along his lonely track. Gustav was massive, weighing over 1300 tonnes. They called him fat and slow and laughed at his grey paint. Thomas had been mean, but the diesels were relentless. They even changed their routes so that they could spend more time insulting him.

Gustav wasn’t alone though.

The steam engines didn’t like these rough diesels and a campaign of pranks quickly ensued. Naturally Thomas was the worst, and the cheeky little tank engine soon incurred the wrath of the diesels. The low intensity conflict continued for days, and Thomas wasn’t intimidated by the diesels’ greater strength and speed. He mocked them and played childish tricks on them. Gustav watched them fight, relieved that he was no longer the sole target of both sides.

It came as no surprise to anyone when Thomas pushed the diesels too far, and they plotted revenge for a showing of oil that he’d lured them into. Two of the larger, and meaner diesels prepared their own trap as Thomas steamed happily along his branch line. As he chuffed a happy song to himself he saw a diesel blocking the line and slowed so that his buffers wouldn’t touch the smelly diesel.

It was then that he was rammed violently from behind as another diesel charged into him, and pushing him into contact with the diesel in front of him. Thomas was trapped! And then the diesels took him for a ride so hard that Thomas’ wheels still hurt when he thinks about it. They pulled him like a dirty truck and called him names that no engine should ever be called.

All day they abused the little tank engine until he was drained of all steam and the fire had gone out of his bunker. Still they dragged him up and down the branch line, ignoring his whistled pleas. The other diesels soon learned of the sport and joined the instigators and with their speed and numbers soon clogged the network. Edward was next and ravaged in the same manner as Thomas. The other steam engines tried to save their friends, but even Henry and Gordon weren’t strong enough to pull them free.

The Fat Controller acted swiftly and attempted to communicate with the diesels. He spoke to them sternly and ordered them to cease their behaviour immediately. But their oil lust was hot and couldn’t be cooled by mere words. They laughed at him in the same way they chuckled at the other engines’ effort to save Edward and Thomas.

And the Fat Controller smiled and told Gustav that it was time.

For the first time since he had arrived on the Island of Sodor Gustav puffed onto the mainline. He belched black smoke and wheezed as he crawled along the branch line. His mighty boiler pushed great clouds of steam through his pistols as behemoth like, he approached the rebellious diesels.

Once again, the Fat Controller ordered the diesels to stop their naughty behaviour and they laughed even harder as they saw Gustav moving painfully slowly towards them. They could move too quickly for Gustav to catch. That might have been true, if not for the 31 ½ inch siege gun that weighed the giant engine down. From that massive gun he could fire seven tonne shells. He could only fire one, but one is all it took as the diesels tried to run.

His gun thundered louder than the darkest storm, and the blast from the shell’s impact scattered the diesels like toys across the landscape. He had adjusted his aim so that the two captives only caught a fraction of the blast and unlike the diesels remained on the tracks. The steam engines tooted their whistles in celebration.

The Fat Controller smiled and said, “Gustav, you are a very special, and really useful engine.”

Friday, 22 April 2016

Book Review - Boo! by David Haynes

I say this at the start of every review of this author's books, but it's true - I'm a huge David Haynes fan. Even if I wasn't, I think the happy smiling face of the clown would have sold the book to me! This book sees a bit of a departure from his usual themes, most notably the lack of a supernatural presence. For me his best were the earlier Victorian era stories. I have enjoyed his more contemporary stories, but not quite as much, but his latest release has challenged that opinion.

The story centres around a murderous clown, which is quite a common horror theme. Here the author's strength at bringing something new to the story shines. The horror here is in the mind as well as the terrible acts that are committed and there is a twisted logic to the delusion which grounds the whole story.

As well as the killer clown you have the author who wrote the book that inspired the clown's actions and story and how he is dragged ever further into the unfolding events. This is balance by the detective trying to solve and stop the murders. All of the characters are well realised and provide a perfect balance to each other. Its here, that the author shines with excellent writing and providing enough detail for you to fully appreciate what is happening without forcing the reader to wade through unnecessary text.

The pacing is brisk and draws you through with barely a pause and makes it feel like a shorter read than it is. The ending is a little unusual and acts as a counterpoint to the more frantic build up. There is an element of sadness here that underpins the madness and for me really pushed the quality of story.

To sum up - we have another winner from David Haynes, and a superb horror read. I'd recommend this to all fans of the genre.


Maldon Williams was nine years old when he saw a clown murder his parents. The clown used a kitchen knife to cut their throats from ear to ear, and blood dripped down the walls in thick, oozing rivers.

Ben Night was once a successful author, whose career now seems washed up. But his horror novel ‘Clownz’ is about to become all too real. Real enough to break into his own home.

Jane Brady is the police detective investigating a string of monstrous killings, connected only by Night’s book. Has its villain, Sparkles The Clown, inspired these real-life atrocities?

From the pages of fiction, Sparkles walks the world, leaving behind only the flayed faces of his victims and a single word written in blood:

“Boo!”


Click here to buy Boo! from Amazon

Currently Reading - Is It Her by Jonathan Hill and Kath Middleton



One painting.
Two authors.
Two very different stories. 

Inspired by Rod Buckingham's enigmatic 'Is it Her?', Jonathan Hill and Kath Middleton present two novellas, their own takes on this painting.

Is it Her? - Jonathan Hill

The celebration, as Violet so determinedly put it, is falling away before their eyes. Her attempt at buoying up everyone has resulted only in her being drawn farther into a web so complex that no one thread can ever lead to the entire truth. Violet. Cliff. Tom. Jack. Each holds and withholds. Each knows and doesn't know. Each chooses what and what not to say. The picture can never be complete for any of them. Never.

Tonight four sit round a table playing cards. Tomorrow two leave to fight. Over an evening already fraught with tension, emotions run deep and life-shattering secrets threaten to escape.

Is it Her? - Kath Middleton

I'm quite ashamed to remember how rarely we spoke about the politics of the day. The dark cloud that loomed over all our futures. We were simply looking the other way.

Frank and Vera fall in love the summer before the war. They vow that when it's all over they'll marry. But war has a way of tearing lives apart.


Click here to buy Is It Her? from Amazon

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

The Top 5 Horror Books Which Influenced my Reading

I'm currently taking part in the Seasons of Reading: Spring into Horror Read-a-Thon, which is intended to encourage readers to trying horror fiction (they also run events for other genres). I'm already a big fan of horror stories, and have been for many years, so I thought it would be fun to look at five of the books that defined my exploration into horror. There are of course many other fine horror authors out there, and discovering them is one of the fun aspects of the genre!



Dennis Wheatley might not be the first name that springs to mind when you think of horror writers as he's better known for his various adventure series. However he was the first introduction for me for horror subjects, in particular Satanism and the constant battle against evil. To the Devil a Daughter and The Devil Rides out were both read at a young age and inspired a desire to delve deeper into the darker forms of literature - up until then my staples were fantasy, science fiction and adventure or thriller books.

Hi writing is very much of its time and can seem almost ponderous compared to modern authors, but I recently re-read three of his books and still enjoyed them. I particularly liked the matter of fact way in which he portrayed the supernatural and didn't feel the need to try and justify the events - they just where.

Click here to buy To the Devil, A Daughter from Amazon



Clive Barker is probably my favourite contemporary horror authors, although my first encounter with him was with the Hellraiser film, and I discovered his books after that. Choosing a representative book of his was difficult as there are many fine examples. Weaveworld almost won, but The Books of Blood not only shows his skill as a writer, but also the breadth of his imagination. There's some real darkness within these pages, but also elements of wonder, and I often find that with the best horror stories there is a blend of the two.

He's also a firm favourite of mine through his word play. I sometimes despair when reading his works, because it puts my own efforts to shame and I know that I will never match the skill he wields!

Click here to buy The Books of Blood Volumes 1 - 3 from Amazon

Click here to buy The Books of Blood Volumes 4 - 6 from Amazon




Dennis Wheatley might have originally enticed me down the path towards horror, but it was James Herbert who helped me set up camp for the long stay. He also introduced me to a much more visceral form of horror with The Rats. Now he's written many better books since then, but this was the book that introduced me to the gore horror, which I'd seen in films, but not appreciated in books.

I enjoyed his straight forward style of writing, he sketches a scene or a character in a tighter form than many of his contemporaries, and with The Rats maintains a blistering pace. If you're squeamish then you might want to give this one a miss! As with Wheatley he has a practical approach for his stories that sinks them into possibility of them existing in the real world.

Click here to buy The Rats from Amazon



I don't think that any list of horror authors would be complete without Stephen King, he's probably done more to bring horror tales into the mainstream than any other author. IT is my most loved stories out of his works (although there are plenty to choose from) as it demonstrates the writing that King does well. He builds characters well and casts the reader throughout their lives. He writes small, peculiar towns in an amazingly vivid reality.

It also highlights what he doesn't do so well, and that is endings. There are few King books that I like the endings of, but it doesn't matter too much as the journey always make it worth the effort. And in this case it's worth the read for Pennywise alone :-)

Click here to buy IT from Amazon



My final choice is a relatively unknown author, who I believe should be much better known within the horror genre. I resisted the advent of the e-reader for as long as I could, but I finally capitulated and now I'm a fan. In particular it opened up a world of indie and self-published authors that I was previously unaware of. David Haynes illustrates what is exemplary about these lesser known authors. His writing is superb, but he brings a new imagination and unusual stories that really stand out. Even when he tackles familiar topics he brings something new to the table which sets him apart.

Of all the authors, picking just one of his books was the most difficult. He writes both period and contemporary horror stories, but The Scream of Angels is perhaps his finest. For the Read-a-Thon I'm reading his latest Boo!. If you're a fan of the genre, or looking to give it a try then he's a great place to start.

Click here to buy The Scream of Angels from Amazon

Seasons of Reading: Spring into Horror Read-a-Thon - Prizes! #SpringH...

Seasons of Reading: Spring into Horror Read-a-Thon - Prizes! #SpringH...: This is the prize promotion page for all the prizes being given away for the read-a-thon. We have several amazing book prizes donated ...

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Monday, 18 April 2016

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Final Week to Enter April's Short Fiction Contest


By Phil Champion, CC BY-SA 2.0

We've entered the last week of April's Short Fiction Contest, so this is your last call to submit your entry if you haven't yet. The deadline is this coming Sunday, the 24th April. It's easy to enter, first write a story of no more than 500 words based on this month's image and then submit it through the form on the competition page here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/april-short-fiction-contest.html

There's no entry fee and you could win one of the following prizes:

 - First prize is a £50 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize
 - Second prize is a £20 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize
 - Third prize is a £10 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize

If you've not read the winning stories from March's contest yet then you will find them here, and they're a cracking read:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/march-short-fiction-contest-winners.html

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Book Review - Devil's Day by Kyle M. Scott

I wanted to like this book more than I did. The blurb was enticing and the reviews sounded promising, but it didn't quite deliver on those expectations. The core story starts of interesting, it's a different take on the Faustian legend, with the new aspect being the scale of the bargain, or so it seemed. It loses that hook by the end, which was a shame as following that through might have redeemed it a bit.

My biggest issue with the book was the writing style, although paradoxically this is also its greatest strength. The author uses a very dense style of description and is overly fond of metaphor. It can be a powerful tool in telling a story, and indeed, the author uses it very effectively. On occasion there is some beautifully crafted wordplay, but the technique is used to often. On every other page something is like something else and that stands out and makes reading it laborious - just describe the thing!

In my opinion the book needed a tighter edit pass to let it flow more evenly. The Kindle edition also had some issue with apostrophes, none of them were displayed, which again didn't help with the reading flow.

On the plus side it is a well paced story and keeps going at a cracking speed. The horror is visceral, although almost entirely physical, which felt a bit of a wasted opportunity considering the subject matter. There's some inventive violence here, so much so that if you're squeamish then you'll find some of this upsetting.

Overall it has some decent horror moments, but it's not a smooth journey, but could have been an excellent read with some tighter development.


Welcome to Blackhaven, October 31st, 1984..

A small, sleepy town cut off from the hardships and the horrors of the modern world - Blackhaven has enjoyed a fruitful, peaceful history in it's 300 years.

That's all about to change...

Something is coming. Something unspeakable. Something evil.

300 years ago to the day, the founders of Blackhaven made a deal. A deal that now, centuries later, requires payment. A deal that will see the quiet streets run red, and the fires rise. The people of Blackhaven are about to learn the true cost of sacrifice, for Hell is coming to claim what's owed.

And the Devil will have his day....


Click here to buy Devil's Day from Amazon

Currently Reading - Boo! By David Haynes


Maldon Williams was nine years old when he saw a clown murder his parents. The clown used a kitchen knife to cut their throats from ear to ear, and blood dripped down the walls in thick, oozing rivers.

Ben Night was once a successful author, whose career now seems washed up. But his horror novel ‘Clownz’ is about to become all too real. Real enough to break into his own home.

Jane Brady is the police detective investigating a string of monstrous killings, connected only by Night’s book. Has its villain, Sparkles The Clown, inspired these real-life atrocities?

From the pages of fiction, Sparkles walks the world, leaving behind only the flayed faces of his victims and a single word written in blood:
“Boo!”


Click here to buy Boo! from Amazon

Friday, 15 April 2016

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Luciana Nedelea Original Art


 I'm a huge fan of Luciana Nedelea's work, she's a gifted artist whose work touches upon my own interests in a profound manner. So much so that her artwork provided some of the inspiration for setting up Old Ones Productions. I thought that her art would make some cool t-shirts and prints.

I'm very pleased to announce that some of her original artwork is now available on the Old Ones Productions store. You can buy some of her amazing artwork here:

https://oldonesproductions.com/collections/original-art



Monday, 11 April 2016

Cthulhu Chess Set Concept Art Winners


I'm pleased to announce the winners for the Cthulhu chess set concept art giveaway. Each will receive the original drawings by the wonderfully talented Luciana Nedelea for each of the pieces. The winners are:
  • King piece - Monica Marie Hernandez
  • Queen piece - George Creighton IV
  • Bishop piece - Michael Woods
  • Knight piece - Amy Jane Beckett
  • Rook piece - Tracy K Nixon
  • Pawn piece - Sophie Raine

Congratulations to the winners!



You can order the Cthulhu Chess Set now from the Old Ones Productions Store:

https://oldonesproductions.com/collections/frontpage/products/hand-painted-cthulhu-chess-set

You can even paint your own set by ordering the pieces here:

https://oldonesproductions.com/collections/chess-set/products/paint-your-own-cthulhu-chess-pieces

You can see more of Luciana Nedelea's artwork here:

https://www.facebook.com/LucianaNedeleaArt/?fref=ts

Tau Ceti Mission - 27.11.2351 - Tau Ceti Star Fly-by

By Geoff Elston - Society for Popular Astronomy, Solar section, http://www.popastro.com/solar/solarobserving/chapter.php?id_pag=30
The Venti probe passes close to the Tau Ceti star on its continuing mission to learn the source of the Tau Ceti signal:

http://www.taucetimission.com/2016/04/27112351-tau-ceti-star-fly-by.html


Saturday, 9 April 2016

Book Review - Void by David Staniforth

This gem almost passed me by, but some recommendations on Goodreads convinced me to give it a try and I'm glad I did. It's not my usual type of read, but I loved it. It takes the familiar plot device of memory loss and does something extraordinary with it. It hooked me with the opening paragraph and pulled me along to the end without a beat.

The pacing is spot on and the revelations fill in the gaps, while also increasing the mystery. There was one scene where I feared that it had slipped into a cliché, but that was the only off note in the story. It was later explained, but it still felt a little false. It's a minor complaint and almost churlish considering the quality of the rest.

On top of a solid story and good pacing the author demonstrates a flair for the craft. It really carries the emotions of the characters, although here I encountered a second odd aspect. The story is told in first person, but for two different characters. That does add an uncertain note when switching chapters, but as odd as it sounds, that actually works with the sense of confusion.

It worked on all levels and most of all with the mystery of it. It kept me guessing right up until the end and did so without cheap tricks. A superb read and highly recommended.


A void in one’s memory is filled with more than the fear of not knowing; it swirls with the dread of what those missing memories might contain.
When a young man wakens in a freezing car, his mind a complete blank, he embarks upon a journey that brings that very dread to the fore.

Who is he?
What has he done?
Where does he belong?
Why can he not remember?

VOID: a psychological journey of discovery that forces the question: To what extent can our memories be trusted?


Click here to buy Void from Amazon


Currently Reading - Devil's Day by Kyle M. Scott



Welcome to Blackhaven, October 31st, 1984..

A small, sleepy town cut off from the hardships and the horrors of the modern world - Blackhaven has enjoyed a fruitful, peaceful history in it's 300 years.

That's all about to change...

Something is coming. Something unspeakable. Something evil.

300 years ago to the day, the founders of Blackhaven made a deal. A deal that now, centuries later, requires payment. A deal that will see the quiet streets run red, and the fires rise. The people of Blackhaven are about to learn the true cost of sacrifice, for Hell is coming to claim what's owed.

And the Devil will have his day....


Click here to buy Devil's Day from Amazon

Friday, 8 April 2016

Book Review - The Binary Man by Jacob Prytherch

This was a bit of a mixed read for me. The premise sounded interesting and it starts off really well. The world is well thought out and decently portrayed with some excellent and thought provoking details. The characters are strong and the writing solid. It settled into a decent plot and I was happily reading the story.

The flipside for me came for me about halfway through where one of the characters gains some spectacular powers and turned from what had seemed like a well grounded science fiction into something a bit more fantastical. Considering the effort in building a plausible future I expected these powers to have some similar development, but are finally explained away with a rather thin description - more of a superhero's origin story than the type of science fiction I prefer.

Now in fairness this is purely a subjective opinion, so if you don't mind a more fantastical bent to the story then ignore what I've said and give it a try. Even with this issue I did enjoy the story and found the ending satisfying. The writing is a little uneven, mostly workmanlike, but with flashes of real craft. Not a bad read at all.


The #1 Cyberpunk bestseller.

2013 version - re-edited by Kathryn Perkins.

Everything is possible, somewhere in time and space. All it takes is the right viewpoint.

Yannick Meyer's life seems locked in a downward spiral of ill health and worse luck before a knock at the door changes everything. Offworld opportunity beckons, a release from the rampant pollution and social decay of Earth, or so he thinks. He will soon find out that the bright lights of Washington station hide their own shadows...

Two engineers stumble upon a signal that holds a promise of inescapable violence...

One man sits alone, pleased with his work as he watches the funeral of someone that only he truly knows, losing count of how many have died before...

All these stories come together, bound by the power of The Binary Man, the first true magician.

For updates visit https://www.facebook.com/jakeprytherch and 'like'.
Main website - jakeprytherch.wix.com/main


Click here to buy The Binary Man from Amazon

Currently Reading - Void by David Staniforth


A void in one’s memory is filled with more than the fear of not knowing; it swirls with the dread of what those missing memories might contain.
When a young man wakens in a freezing car, his mind a complete blank, he embarks upon a journey that brings that very dread to the fore.

Who is he?
What has he done?
Where does he belong?
Why can he not remember?

VOID: a psychological journey of discovery that forces the question: To what extent can our memories be trusted?


Click here to buy Void from Amazon


Tau Ceti Mission - 18.01.2351 - Tau Ceti e Gravity Assist

By Planetary Habitability Laboratory @ UPR Arecibo

Seb discovers more about the Cetian world as the Venti probe performs a gravity assist manoeuvre around it:

http://www.taucetimission.com/2016/04/18012351-tau-ceti-e-gravity-assist.html

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Book Review - The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett

With this being the last book from Terry Pratchett and most likely the last Discworld novel I'd put off reading this for some time. I'm a big fan of his writing and the Discworld series in particular and while this wasn't the best of the series (Small Gods is my favourite) it is a welcome return.

The story focuses on the more recent characters with the witch, Tiffany Aching as the main protagonist and of course the attendant Mac Feegles - who add a bit of fun to every story. As well as some short appearances from old favourites, there's some new characters to meet. I liked Geoffrey, a young man with a rather spectacular goat. The quick cameos did feel a little forced though.

The story itself is a familiar blend of social commentary and humour. I didn't have many laugh out loud moments, but the humour did keep me smiling through most of it. One of my favourite scenes was the goblin facing the Queen of the Fairies. I like the goblins and would have liked to see more of them.

The faeries provide the enemy in the conflict and are well represented with their casual cruelty, but there are some twists and turns here. Although it's here that I had a few issues with the book. In his best writing there are subtleties and nuances that strike you after reading the lines and I found this aspect missing from The Shepherd's Crown. The plot was solid and well paced and as always his writing is strong, but just lacked the sparkle evident in some of his other books.

Reading a Discworld novel is like putting on well worn socks - they're lovely and comfortable. This final book felt like that, there was a comfort to it, it followed his established pattern. I enjoyed reading it a lot, but it won't be the book that his remembered for.


A shivering of worlds.

Deep in the Chalk, something is stirring. The owls and the foxes can sense it, and Tiffany Aching feels it in her boots. An old enemy is gathering strength.

This is a time of endings and beginnings, old friends and new, a blurring of edges and a shifting of power. Now Tiffany stands between the light and the dark, the good and the bad.

As the fairy horde prepares for invasion, Tiffany must summon all the witches to stand with her. To protect the land. Her land.

There will be a reckoning…


Click here to buy from Amazon

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Win Rook Concept Art from the Cthulhu Chess Set

You could win the hand drawn Rook concept art created as part of the development of the Cthulhu chess set. To enter check out the  Rafflecoptor widget below. Each piece has two drawings and there is a prize for each piece. The winners will be announced on April 10th 2016 and I'll post the images as we count down to that date.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


You can order the Cthulhu Chess Set now from the Old Ones Productions Store:

https://oldonesproductions.com/collections/frontpage/products/hand-painted-cthulhu-chess-set

You can even paint your own set by ordering the pieces here:

https://oldonesproductions.com/collections/chess-set/products/paint-your-own-cthulhu-chess-pieces

You can see more of Luciana Nedelea's artwork here:

https://www.facebook.com/LucianaNedeleaArt/?fref=ts

Monday, 4 April 2016

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Win Original Concept Art of the Queen Chess Piece


Here's the concept art for the Queen piece of the Cthulhu chess set that's one of the prizes in the concept art giveaway. To take part simply earn your entries through the Rafflecoptor widget below. Each piece has two drawings and there is a prize for each piece. The winners will be announced on April 10th 2016 and I'll post the images as we count down to that date.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


You can order the Cthulhu Chess Set now from the Old Ones Productions Store:

https://oldonesproductions.com/collections/frontpage/products/hand-painted-cthulhu-chess-set

You can even paint your own set by ordering the pieces here:

https://oldonesproductions.com/collections/chess-set/products/paint-your-own-cthulhu-chess-pieces

You can see more of Luciana Nedelea's artwork here:

https://www.facebook.com/LucianaNedeleaArt/?fref=ts

Have You Entered April's Short Fiction Contest?

By Phil Champion, CC BY-SA 2.0

The deadline for April's Short Fiction contest is rapidly approaching, so if you haven't entered your story yet then now is the time to do so. The contest remains free to enter and you could win one of the following prizes:

 - 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 deadline is April 24th and your story must be no more than 500 words and based on this month's image. You enter your story through the form provided here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/april-short-fiction-contest.html

If you haven't read the winning stories from last month's contest then you really should! You can read the stories here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/march-short-fiction-contest-winners.html

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Have You Read The Cult of Me?


In my youth I developed a talent for reading other people’s minds and with practice, forcing my will upon them. I have never encountered anyone capable of resisting my thoughts and for a time I enjoyed the fruits of my power. A terrible tragedy led me to a darker place and then I wielded my ability not simply to satisfy my desires but to torment and judge the throng of humanity around me.

Years passed until I realised that my life lacked meaning and I lived without purpose. It wasn’t a difficult change to make. And with that choice I have one final act to inflict upon the world and they will remember my name with fear for ages to come.

The Cult of Me is the first book in The Third Path trilogy.


Review Highlights

"An Enjoyable Romp through a Tortured Mind"

"This book is so hard to define. It’s a dark, psychological thriller but also philosophical, metaphysical and totally unusual."

"In The Cult Of Me, Michael Brookes has created one of the most memorable villains I have ever read about - and he is sort of the good guy of the story."

"Whatever genre you read I would recommend this book, it's not quite horror, not quite fantasy and to be honest I'm not entirely sure where this would sit. But, whatever its genre it's good and that's really all that matters."

The Cult of Me is available from these online stores:

Buy now from Amazon (US): http://amzn.to/1onGoyo
Buy now from Amazon (UK): http://amzn.to/Ot1Ze1
Buy now from Barnes & Noble (Nook): http://bit.ly/1pGQMUu
Buy now from iTunes (US): https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id639396634
Buy now from iTunes (UK): https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/id639396634
Buy now from Kobo: http://bit.ly/1jrsHxq
Buy now from Page Foundry: http://bit.ly/1o1t6rD
Read now on Scribd: http://bit.ly/1mliOB5
Read now on Oyster: http://bit.ly/1LFbYaJ

Follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Third-Path-Trilogy/135021196680047
The Cult of Me on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15778078-the-cult-of-me

Friday, 1 April 2016

Win Original Concept Art For The Cthulhu Chess Set

Here's a great contest for you! I recently launched the 3D printed Cthulhu chess set and to help spread the word of its release I am running a giveaway for the original concept art used to sculpt and print the pieces. The concept shows the front and profile view for the piece as separate drawings as seen for the Cthulhu King piece accompanying this post. They were created by the talented Luciana Nedelea.

To take part simply earn your entries through the Rafflecoptor widget below. Each piece has two drawings and there is a prize for each piece. The winners will be announced on April 10th 2016 and I'll post the images as we count down to that date.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


You can order the Cthulhu Chess Set now from the Old Ones Productions Store:

https://oldonesproductions.com/collections/frontpage/products/hand-painted-cthulhu-chess-set

You can even paint your own set by ordering the pieces here:

https://oldonesproductions.com/collections/chess-set/products/paint-your-own-cthulhu-chess-pieces

You can see more of Luciana Nedelea's artwork here:

https://www.facebook.com/LucianaNedeleaArt/?fref=ts

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