Wednesday 31 July 2013

Guest Author Interview - Thelma Zirkelbach

Welcome to the latest guest author interview, today we meet Thelma Zirkelbach, you can see what she has to say below:

 Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
My name is Thelma Zirkelbach. I have two careers-writer and speech pathologist.

What inspired you to start writing?
When I was four, I composed a poem and announced that I wanted to be a writer. I doubt anyone believed me and I’m not sure I believed myself, but the statement stuck in my mind and many years later I began writing romance novels. When my husband died seven years ago, I turned from romance to creative non-fiction and that’s what I’m writing now.

If you could spend a day with someone from history, who would it be?
Elizabeth I. She was such a strong woman and a great leader for her country.

What writer do you most admire?
Harper Lee. She only wrote one book, but it was a masterpiece.

What do you find most rewarding about writing?
I’m always surprising myself with the direction my writing goes. And of course, I like the thrill of having something accepted for publication.

And the most challenging?
I think in fiction characterization is hardest for me. In non-fiction I worry that what I say won’t be meaningful enough.

Do you have a favorite place where you write?
I write in my study with the door shut so my cats don’t jump on the keyboard.

What are you working on at the moment?
My writers group did an anthology on life transitions that was published by Texas Review Press in 2011, and now we’re working on another which we plan to publish as an e-book.

Tell us about your latest work and how we can find out more.
Stumbling Through the Dark is a memoir of my husband’s and my final year together. He had leukemia and went through medical triumphs and tragedies and eventually died in 2005. My own journey through that year was marked by fear and guilt and also love. As an interfaith couple, we had very different ways of dealing with life’s greatest spiritual challenge, its end. That added more tension to an already dark year. The book follows me during my first year of widowhood when, to my surprise, I realized I could face life on my own. Stumbling Through the Dark is available on Amazon  and also at Barnes and Noble, both in paperback and e-format. And I’d love to hear from readers either there or on my blog

Book Impressions - His Work to See by

His Work to see is an excellent short story about a forbidden love affair between an angel and a demon. They believe they have kept the affair secret, but the higher powers for Heaven and Hell decide to make an example of them so that it will not occur again.

I enjoyed reading this a lot, despite being so short iis a satisfying read by managing to encapsulate the story and still hinting at a wider world without feeling that you've missed something. I will definetly be checking out the other releases around these two characters.

It is very well written with economical style that pulls you through the story. I especially liked the tactic the demon uses, but I won't spoil it for you :-) Overall this is an excellent read, highly recommended.

The game is ancient, played out in cities and towns across the world. The players are powerful beyond measure, and their champions and foot soldiers battle in perpetuity. There are over seven billion prizes to be won, each precious beyond measure. They are the souls of every man, woman, and child on earth, and both sides will stop at nothing to claim them.

Pandora and Ambrose are opposites in the Greatest War, an angel and a demon, combatants locked in a furious struggle for the people of a single city. There are rules of engagement, long established. There are eternal principles, that none would think to break. Each is destined to despise the other, and their mutual hatred is written into the DNA of the Universe.

They shouldn’t have been able to fall in love.

Now Heaven and Hell are hunting them. Nobody on Earth can help them. To survive, they must face the most terrifying champions their superiors can muster, and the consequences of failure are beyond imagining.

Tuesday 30 July 2013

Guest Authors Revisited - Michael Cargill

At the very beginning of the year I interviewed Michael Cargill, I recently caught up with him to see what he has been up to since then. You can read his original interview here.

Click on the images to purchase

What has changed in your life since we last spoke?
Andy Murray won Wimbledon and those fiends at National Lottery HQ are still fixing things so I don’t ever win the jackpot. I also boshed another book out and it’s had lots of good reviews. I’m past that initial period of paranoia whereby I worry that no-one likes my latest story.

Have you leant any new wisdom?
Well, I’ve learnt that hayfever can strike without warning even if you’ve never suffered with it before. I’ve also learnt that going through the process of committing your books to real paperback editions is definitely worth it. When they’re physically in your hand, you go through moments of wanting to take photos of them in every room of the house.

Have you become a better writer? If so, how?
Yes! Or so I’ve been told. Someone recently wrote a review of my second book and stated how much my writing had improved, which is always nice to hear. I’ve gone back over some of my older releases and made fairly significant changes to them. It’s hard to explain exactly what improvements I made, but when you spot numerous mistakes and weak points that you didn’t notice before it makes you realise just how important it is to keep writing.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently working on a story that’s set in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. I’m something of a WWII nut anyway so I rather enjoyed doing the research, but reading about the Holocaust is as depressing as it is fascinating.

The story itself is finished and I’m just churning my way through the editing process at the moment. It’s my favourite of all my work so far.

Tell us about your latest release and how we can find out more.
My most recent published work is called Jake and it’s a YA tragedy story about a teenage boy. It’s a book that seems to have split opinion amongst readers, with some loving it to bits and others not being quite so keen. Everyone has said that they love the characters, but it’s what happens to them that seems to be upsetting people...! I even had someone email me to say that they hated me... although she wasn’t actually being serious.

Jake is now available in paperback as well.

Click on the images to purchase

Book Impressions - Followed by Sara Kjeldsen

Followed is a gothic horrror novella about a young girl who is living with her wealthy and elderly aunt. She is being tutored a by an aspiring novelist and to start with it all seems reasonably normal, if a little dysfunctional. After a secret in the house is discovered things change rapidly and a nightmare chase ensues.

The pacing is pretty good, it takes a while to build, but when it does it really get's going. I enjoyed the writing style, it really evoked the period in which it is set in. There's some varied characters to keep it interesting, although they do edge a little to being a bit stereotypical for the era. The governess come novelist was the most interesting character for me.

The story managed to surprise me as the ending headed in a direction I wasn't expecting. It follows a formula I'm not a big fan off, but the author does it in such a way that I wasn't put off.

My only real complaint is that I would have liked to learn a little more about what was going on. This is the first in the series so I'm sure more will be revealed and there is enough in this story to make me want to read the next book. All in all a good read and a strong start to a new series.

Adeline assumes that her life is on track when she befriends her spirited governess, Julia, followed by her ex-midshipman cousin, Gabriel. But when her great aunt passes away after revealing a terrible secret, she is torn away from Julia by her new guardians.

After their home in Bath is set aflame, Adeline and Gabriel flee to the woods. Separated from Gabriel after being chased down by a strange horseman, Adeline is then approached by a madman and is given an ultimatum to follow him - or to die alone in the forest.

Followed is available from Amazon (and well worth picking up)

Monday 29 July 2013

Film Review - Creep

Creep is a fairly decent low budget British horror movie. A young woman takes the last train and finds herself trapped in an underground train station after being attacked. She is then stalked by a mysterious who is killing everyone she encounters.

It's a good watch, the suspense builds nicely. It does suffer from some dodgy acting and stupid decision syndrome, which is a shame as the rest of the film is very well done. It balances the gore and the creepiness well, in some ways it reminds me of The Descent, but not as good.

It has a similar claustrophobic feel and using the underground as a setting works well. The loneliness of it adds to the film. Well worth a watch.

Gruesome horror set on the London Underground. Unable to find a taxi, Kate (Franka Potente) heads for the Underground and waits for the last train. She falls asleep and when she wakes, everyone has gone. She panics until another train pulls in. She gets on the train, unnerved that she's the only passenger but relieved to be on her way. Halfway through the tunnel the train jerks to a violent halt. The lights shut off and the train is plunged into darkness. Kate is trapped, in the dark and she is not alone.

Creep is available from Amazon

Film Review - Ghostquake

Danny Trejo has been in a range of films, some good, some bad and this is terrible. It really has no redeeming qualities. He plays the Janitor in a school where an evil ghost has awakened. The ghost is the serial killer who once ran the school.

In fairness I wasn't expecting much, but I didn't even get that much. The effects are rubbish, the acting terrible and the story uninspired. It's not even in the 'it's so bad, it's good category' it's just rubbish.

At first I thought it might have been a dodgy comedy, but it wasn't funny either. The ghost is ridiculous. You should avoid this film.

An unlikely earthquake shocks the students and faculty at Helville High. Unknown to all, the earthquake releases spirits that have been trapped in the walls of the school for years and who immediately possess the Principal and other teachers. When eight kids find themselves trapped inside the school with no way out it soon becomes clear they re teachers not who they used to be! Starring Danny Trejo (Machete, Lost) and Charisma Carpenter (Buffy, Angel) , find out if the group of students can put an end to the killing spree terrorising their school.

Ghostquake is available from Amazon (but even £3 is too much to pay!)

Guest Author Interview - James Traynor

We start another week with me gain another year on the old growth rings and as always, a new guest author interview. Today we meet science fiction and fantasy author James Traynor.

Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
Hi, I'm James Traynor, and I'm a life-long geek and scifi & fantasy afficionado. Writing, building worlds and creating characters have always been a passion of mine. When I'm not writing, I work for the logistics division of a large online retailer starting with the letter "A" in Europe.

What first inspired you to start writing?
I've always been fascinated with epic stories, with reading them, watching them, and trying my own hand at them. I read 'Lord of the Rings' for the first time when I was twelve. While my friends played 'Street Fighter' on their consoles, I was glued to my controller, experiencing 'Zelda'. This fascination with grand tales then followed me into my teens and beyond, with the great role-playing games on the PC and around my kitchen table. David Weber, Feist, Robert Jordan and later GRRM pretty much are what kept my interest in scifi and fantasy going, though they are far from the only influences.

I always had stories to tell. I suppose that's what started my role as a GM when I still was a teenager (which feels awefully long ago, by the way). Once that avenue ended after high school, I found myself on the internet, digging through various fantasy and scifi related forums. That must have been around the time the 'Lord of the Rings' movies were made. I got stuck in a few text-based forum RPGs and well, that restarted my writing ambitions. Over the following years my skills improved (I look back in horror at what I wrote fifteen years ago), and after writing and completing some fanfiction pieces I finally decided to give something that's truly my own a try. And here I am.

And what attracted you to science fiction?
Rockets. Aliens. Rayguns. Well, that was as a kid. When I got older got to appreciate the more complex issues a story and universe have to offer: the intrigue, the politics, how perception drives what people do, regardless of whether they are human or alien. Now? Ultimately, it's the idea of consequence. In scifi (and fantasy) actions matter, often widely so. Most other genres up to the late 1990s tended to discard the consequences of the events that happened. I found that to be notorious especially with (political) thrillers. With the exception of Clancy the most outrageous things could happen, and more often than not the world would have been completely resetted with the next novel. Scifi instead offers a wide open playing field.

Who is your favourite author and why?
Hard to say, as I've found myself enjoying the works of lots of different authors writing different styles. From a purely worldbuilding perspective, who sticks out for me would by David Weber with his 'Honor Harrington' series. The plot is hit and miss, but the universe he has created is fascinating. A big shout-out goes to GRRM for what he has done for the fantasy genre, giving it a more mature touch. Going back to the classics, Raymond Chandler for his characters and the atmosphere he achieves to create.

What do you find most rewarding about writing?
There's nothing like the experience of seeing a plot come together or realizing that your universe is coming to life. Though the most humbling experience has to be to receive positive reader feedback. If you've entertained and interested someone from halfway across the world enough for that person to write you, you know you're on the right track.

And the most challenging?
To keep writing! I have the attention span of a cat chasing a laser pointer. Sites like Wikipedia or TvTropes are like poison for me.

If you could spend a day with anyone from history, who would it be?
If I had to chose I'd either pick Adolf Hitler or Churchill. Both are wildly different but equally fascinating personalities I'd like to gain some personal insight into.

What are you working on at the moment?
I'm working on the sequel to 'The Tears of Orion: Opening Moves', which is called 'The Long Road'. Between that and my dayjob I'm also writing a short story in the same universe, set on Mars.

Tell us about your latest work and how we can find out more.
The Tears of Orion: Opening Moves is a military space opera and the first installment of the "The Tears of Orion" series:

As Samantha Lee and her squad of elite soldiers embark on what everybody believes to be a routine patrol mission along the borders of Union space, she's certain she'll be back home with her family on Mars for Christmas.

At the same time, Tarek Winters and the motley human and alien crew of the freighter IRON MAIDEN take on a job a thousand lightyears away from Earth, expecting it to be an easy and profitable run.

But a war is coming.

The three human superpowers watch each other warily from behind vast fleets while plotting to take control of key colonies and trade routes. The great Rasenni Empire, once the unchallenged master of known space, is in decline, ensnared in debauchery and beset by old and new enemies. Pirates, raiders, and slavers run rampant on the fringes of civilized space.

Everybody is looking for the proverbial spark that ignites the powder keg -- and everybody is looking in the wrong direction!

For Corr'tane of the Ashani Dominion has set out to guarantee his people's survival - even if the cost is a war that will drown known space in blood...

You can read the first two chapters for free at my website and can dig deeper into the universe, including star maps, ships and character bios on the wiki-like Codex I'm building there .

You can find it in a format of your choice here or directly via Amazon.

The Tears of Orion is available from Amazon

Sunday 28 July 2013

August Short Fiction Contest - Three Weeks Left

Image Credit: Adam Woods
August's Short Fiction Contest is well under way. I've received ten entries so far and they're already showing a diverse range of topics and there's some excellent stories. I can see that this month's judging will be the hardest yet!

There's still three weeks for you to enter. There's no entry fee and you could win a £50 Amazon gift card. All you need to do is write a story of no more than 500 words based on the photo on the competition page. Visit the competition page to check the rules and enter your story:

The winners from July's competition have been announced, if you've not read the winning stories yet then check them out here:

As always, a big thank you to everyone who has entered so far. If you'd like to help support this contest then please spread the word through any means you know - thanks!

Film Review - Flight

Flight is an excellent film. It starts with two disparate lives, the first is that of a pilot who is a drunk and likes to mix that with drugs and girls. The other is a woman trying to shake her drug addiction. The pilot flies an airliner while drunk, but when disaster strikes manages to save most of the passengers onboard. It's while he is in hospital that he meets the addict and the film follows their relationship and the crash investigation.

Denzel is always good to watch in action and this is no different. In fact everyone does a great job in their roles. John Goodman as the drug dealer provides some light relief.

The flight crash is really well done. The rest of the film lacks that excitement, but that's fine as it's not what it's about. The pilot's struggle with his addiction and the investigation is the core of the story and is well filmed. It's an interesting story and while it's not the most original tale it is a very good watch.

Academy Award® winner Denzel Washington stars in this “riveting and powerful nail-biting thriller”* from Robert Zemeckis, the Academy Award-winning director of Forrest Gump and Cast Away. Airline pilot Whip Whitaker (Washington) miraculously lands his plane after a mid-air catastrophe. But even as he’s being hailed for his heroic efforts, questions arise as to who or what was really at fault. Action-packed, engrossing and powerful, Washington’s performance is being hailed as “a triumph”** and one that “will be talked about for years.”***

* Pete Hammond, Deadline Hollywood
** Richard Corliss, TIME
*** Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

Film Review - Cirque Du Soleil - Worlds Away

This is a simply stunning display of dance and acrobatics. The story is a simple one, a girl visits a circus and is captivated by a trapeze artist. He misses his jump and falls to the ground, she rushes to help him and he is sucked into the ground to a magical world. Yes it's a love story and a good one at that.

For once (for me at any rate) story isn't king, it's the spectacle that kept me glued to the screen. All kinds of acrobatics are on display and presented in a fantastic way. There's syncronised swimming, trapeze, rope work, trampolines and all kinds of crazy machines and characters. It's a great mix of form and movement.

All the way through the dance is accompanied by an excellent soundtrack that highlights the visuals well. The visuals themselves are also worth mentioning, there's a range of effects that adds to the experience. This is an amazing and beautiful show, you should watch it right now.

A young woman visits a traveling carnival one evening, where a silent clown convinces her to visit the carnival's circus and see The Aerialist, the show's star attraction. She is entranced by The Aerialist, but during his act he misses a catch and falls to the ground. She rushes to help him, but then the ground falls out from beneath them and they pass through into the dreamlike world of Cirque du Soleil. Separated, they travel through the different tent worlds trying to find each other, meeting strange and wonderful performers along the way.

Guest Post - You’re Reading WHAT?: Thoughts on Horror as Literature by Richard J O'Brien

You’re Reading WHAT?:  Thoughts on Horror as Literature

by Richard J. O’Brien

Not long ago I read poet Mark Doty’s essay “Insatiable” about Bram Stoker, his correspondence with Walt Whitman, and Stoker subsequently visiting the American bard not once but three times. Doty proposed that the inspiration for Dracula was not based on the infamous Vlad the Impaler, but on Walt Whitman himself, that larger than life American poet who took a shine to Stoker. Doty’s musings on Whitman, Stoker, a possible physical relation between the two, and this revelation about the inspiration for the Dracula character was interesting. But, more than anything else, it made consider how horror as a genre is still pooh-poohed by so many colleges and universities.

That horror fiction, barring the ubiquitous Dracula or Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, is still met with some resistance on an academic level astounds me. And for those two books, many courses are taught but the horror aspect is rarely given due diligence. Dracula is read as an allegory for forbidden love, erotic love, homosexual love, or a mixture of all three. And Frankenstein becomes mired in the same old ‘fear of science’ debate. Horror novels are rarely taught as part of an upper level literature course. A survey course on the horror genre? Sure. Putting those works of horror in the same ring against heavyweights of British, European or American literature? Not likely.

During my undergraduate days, I met two professors who made the same face when I talked about authors I was interested in at the time. One was a Dickens specialist; the other, a Joycean. The Dickens professor equated horror fiction, erroneously I might add, with fantasy in that the action in stories of that genre was, by his estimation, not of this world. I did not argue with him.  And the Joycean? Some men you just can’t reach.

All of this brings me to another thought that has plagued me: when Whitman was writing Leaves of Grass (and rewriting it and rewriting it) and when Stoker wrote Dracula, were they concerned with whether their work would live as great literature? I like to think that neither of them had thoughts of longevity, acceptance, college canons, etc. No writer should. Only time dictates what written works will endure. Still, it is the horror writer who seems to be the odd man out where serious consideration is concerned.

Of course, people will argue the merits of Stephen King, the importance of Song of Kali by Dan Simmons, or even the contribution made by lesser known writers now obscured by the passage of decades like Abraham Grace Merritt (A. Merritt) whose novel The Moon Pool, published in 1918, still creeps me out. I would add to that list the likes of Thomas Ligotti, Mark Z. Danielewski, and even Laird Barron; each in their own right great sentence stylists.

The stigma attached to genre of horror fiction in academic settings will no doubt go on, but serious study of the human condition as seen through the lens of horror should be reconsidered. There are works out there by contemporary horror writers that, when thoroughly explored, will shed new light on the relation between that author and the world in which they live; much the same way Mark Doty did on the relation between Whitman and Stoker, and the birth of the undead count who haunts us all.

As for us writers, we shouldn’t concern ourselves with thinking in terms of genre. One of the worst questions someone can ask a writer is “what genre do you write in?” My answer is: I don’t write in a genre. I write in a room. Write what’s true to you. Whitman and Stoker did it. And Doty continues to do so. Write the books you would want to read and the rest of the world be damned.

Richard is the author of 'Strange Bird', find out more below:

One night, Michael Mahoney, a small-town newspaper reporter writing his first true crime book, interviews Harvey Underwood, an old man once convicted of mass murder, and uncovers an intricate tale of black magic and demonic spirits. By night’s end, the past has come back to haunt and kill Underwood, and it wants Mahoney to be its witness…

Strange Bird is available from Amazon

Tales of the Imp - Dead Man's Shoes

The latest Tales of the Imp drabble has been posted, you can read it below and it has also been featured in the Indie Book Bargains newsletter. Thanks as always to Vicki for the excellent artwork.

Tales of the Imp - Dead Man's Shoes

Okay, I’ll admit that the new job hasn’t turned out so bad. I soon fell into the new routine and having the Imp on hand made the whole experience a lot easier. For starters I didn’t have to do any real work, he’d climb into one of their facial orifices and mess with their brains and then they did my work for me.

‘You can’t get better than that,’ I thought.

The Imp had other ideas, he had ambitions for me. He wants me to become the Manager.

“How do I do that?” I asked.

“Dead man’s shoes,” he replied.

Book Impressions - The Graveyard Speaks by Hunter Shea

The Graveyard Speaks is a short novella about a young woman who hunts ghosts. She learns of a ghost that is appearing by a specific grave every night and investigates it. It's well written, but has a few issues.

The first is that it feels a bit rushed. There's lots of interesting backstory that is only mentioned in passing. Now I'm sure that more is reavealed as more stories are released, but it felt like a lot of what made the character interesting is glossed over.

It also felt too easy. There was no real peril (except for one excellent moment) where you felt that maybe she was in any real danger. She never really had to struggle in any way, everything she needed was conveniently provided for her. I felt that she needed to work at the situation more to be satisfying.

My other issue was that the book ended abruptly. It finishes then hints at the next case and then ends. At 75% of the book. A quarter of the book was devoted to advertising other stories and the author. Now don't get me wrong authors have to make a living so some advertisement at the end of the book is expected, but not to the extent that it occupies a quarter of the book. Anyway, it's a pet peeve of mine, but I haven't factored it in to the score.

Overall it's a fun read read, the ghost is well done and I enjoyed the interactions between it and the main character, but it's also a bit of a disappointment, it could have been so much more.

"Some secrets can t stay buried. "

Deep in a dark, snow-covered cemetery, a terrifying, moaning apparition rises from the same grave night after night. Even the most hardened caretakers won t go near the Spooner gravestone on their midnight rounds. Only one ghost hunter has the will to face the unknown, but at what price? In the chilling blackness, only Jessica Backman is prepared to answer the spectral cry from beyond when the graveyard speaks.

The Graveyard Speaks is available from Amazon

Saturday 27 July 2013

Film Review - Killing Them Softly

Killing Them Softly is a crime drama with some dark humour. It starts with two street thugs robbing a card game run by the mob. The story itself is simple enough, following the aftermath of the robbery. In the background, heard through the news on TV is commentary on the economic issues of America. The two threads tie together quite well, although the theme is far from subtle.

It's an entertaining film, while the story is far from original the characters make it a pleasing watch. Brad Pitt's character as the hitman come organiser is very well done. There are some excellent funny moments, setting fire to the car being one that stood out for me.

The film has a subdued feel, it sort of meanders along with no real pressure. As such it doesn't really have much tension, but conversely it doesn't really need it. To be honest I was happy enough just to watch the characters in action.

It's far from a great film, but it is a solid watch. There's some good songs in the soundtrack as well.

Brad Pitt stars in this darkly comic thriller based on a 1974 George V. Higgins crime novel. Jackie Cogan (Pitt) is a professional 'point man' - that is, the investigator who prepares the way for a hitman - who is assigned to track down a pair of junkies who have ripped off a mob-protected poker game. The star-studded supporting cast includes Ray Liotta, James Gandolfini, Scoot McNairy and Sam Shepard.

Killing Them Softly is available on Amazon

How Much Science Should There Be In Science Fiction?

Last weekend I posted about what attracted me to reading and writing science fiction stories. If you haven't read it then you can check it out here. I received a comment that I hadn't mentioned science in my post. My initial reaction is that the science is implicit, in the same way as the word fiction, I didn't talk about that either.

Upon reflection I think that it is an interesting point, primarily because it illustrates the changing tastes and acceptance of science fiction over the years. If we take the literal meaning of the term 'science fiction' it is stories about science. That covers a very broad range of subjects (which isn't unreasonable as most definitions of what is a science fiction story come to the same conclusion), for example many crime novels contain more than a little science, does that make them science fiction stories?

For the most part probably not, in this case the setting and the application of the science determine that it wouldn't be a sci-fi story. If the story was set in the future, or used techniques beyond our current understanding then that puts it into the science fiction camp.

I'll come back to setting shortly, but the understanding is a key factor. The science in science fiction isn't merely following the established consensus of the workings of the universe, but exploring new concepts or novel applications of that understanding. There is a sub-genre of science fiction, known as hard science fiction, in general this refers to accurate the science is represented in the story. That's fine, but in the current time, the definition of science fiction has become much broader.

If you ask many people what they consider their favourite science fiction they will often respond with Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica or one of many other popular books, TV shows and films. For many of these works the veracity of the science is a minor component, in some cases completely absent. For these it is the setting or the situation that puts it in the science fiction genre.

With my own writing I try to make the events plausible, although that plausability is relative to the domain in which the event occurs. Sun Dragon is very much set in the physical world as we understand it. I've played with some concepts, but it's all based on established research. For Faust 2.0 I've looked into the possibilities of what could happen with artificial intelligence (or more accurately sentience) in the near future.

In both cases the science helps provide authenticity for the story. It provides hooks that readers can connect their understanding with. However science in itself isn't the story, can you have science fiction without the science? Absolutely. Is it as good? Well that depends, a good story is still a good story whther it is scientifically accurate or not. Science won't save a bad story, but depending on the story, it can make a good one stronger.

Book Impressions - The Longest Fall by Cixin Liu

This is an excellent science fiction short story. It's built around a single idea, that of a tunnel travelling through the Earth to connect the opposite sides. It then explores the possibilities of such a creation in an ever worsening of the world's environment through human exploitation.

I can't speak to the veracity of the science, although much of it seems plausible and more importantly it is presented in a coherent manner. More than that it's a bold vision. For me the best science fiction stems from asking big questions. This story does that, the premise is cool and how the story unfolds is nicely done. The fall itself is a wonderful read.

It's a translation so it's difficult to comment on the writing itself, but the translation is good. I didn't encounter any jarring phrases. It's a crisp read and doesn't take long to read. This is a fine and imaginitive look at a game changing event.

It was an idea right on the thin line between madness and genius: Penetrate the Earth and build a tunnel through its core. Using nothing beyond gravity and inertia one could now travel from the eastern to the western hemisphere in less than an hour. The future of travel was not the sky, it was deep below the earth. It all came crashing down when its inventor was accused of crimes against humanity. With its creator a monster in the eyes of the world the tunnel has fallen into disuse, but now it will be used once more ...

The Longest Fall is available from Amazon

Friday 26 July 2013

July Short Fiction Contest Winners Announced

The winners for the July 2013 Short Fiction Contest have been announced, congratulations to the winners:

  1. First prize of a £50 Amazon gift card goes to R M F Brown for his story 'Reality?"
  2. Second prize of a £20 Amazon gift card goes to Leanna Falconer for her story 'Toad'
  3. Third prize of a £10 Amazon gift card goes to Jason Purdy for his story "Backwards".
Visit the winners page to read the winning stories.

A big thanks for everyone for entering and make sure to enter August's competition!

Guest Author Interview - Judy Goodwin

We approach the end of another week, I've been so busy this week I don't know where the time's gone. Hopefully this weekend I will finish the final first draft for An Odder Quintet, then comes the fun part of editing :-)

In today's guest author interview we meet fantasy and science fiction author Judy Goodwin, read what she has to say below:

Click on the images to view the books

Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
I'm Judy Goodwin, academic counselor and technical writer by day, moonlighting as science fiction and fantasy writer by night. I've been writing since I was young--my fourth grade teacher commented to me that I should become an author after I created not one but two books for a class assignment. After graduating from college with a Creative Writing degree, I found real life and real jobs tend to take a lot of time, and I fell into the trap of putting aside my writing.

I had several short stories published in various magazines over the years but was never satisfied with the books I was working on, until the digital publishing phenomenon began. Just last year I began publishing the reprints of short stories that had appeared elsewhere, and then in January this year I published my first novel under my own publishing company, Diamond Print Press. The book has had several good reviews and is currently available on Amazon.

What first inspired you to start writing?
My imagination has always been overactive. To be honest, I can't say I was 'inspired' to write. Instead, I'm driven to write and get the stories out of my head. I'm not sure if I should be worried that my characters keep me up at night sometimes.

And what attracted you to fantasy?
I've always loved elements of fantasy in books, again from a very young age. Whether it was Mrs. Piggle Wiggle or Madeleine L'Engle's "Wrinkle in Time", I loved exploring other worlds and things beyond our understanding. I read "The Hobbit" at age nine and "Lord of the Rings" when I was ten. I think it's the struggle of good against evil that draws me to fantasy the most.

If you could write anybody's biography, whose would it be?
I'd love to write Stephen King's. The man is a hard worker who strove against failure for years before he found success. He hasn't stopped working since. I respect that.

Story, or plot - which is more important to you?
The plot is the story, so I guess I don't see the distinction. S\The story is more important than the writing. The writing is merely a mechanism to deliver the story and should be largely invisible, without errors or embellishment. I suppose story would also include characters where plot would not, so in that case, story over plot. If you don't care about the characters, why read it?

What is your favourite song lyric?
Green Day happens to be my favorite band, and that is because there is often a double meaning in their lyrics; they also have some rather fun if snarky humor. One song I like in particular is "Twenty-First Century Breakdown." The lyrics appeal to me as a member of Generation X and our disillusionment with the establishment.

What gets you in the mood for writing?
If I had to be in a 'mood' for writing, I don't know what I'd do. Or you could say I'm always in the mood for writing. I have a very busy schedule, so I steal minutes here and there to write, including during breaks at work. I often plot at night while I'm lying in bed, just imagining things. That way I'm always ready to get writing whenever I get a chance.

What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I am working on the last chapter of my second book, entitled "Journey to Landaran." This book has nothing to do with my first novel, but will be the beginning of a five book fantasy series featuring Tavish and Aidah, brother and sister twins born with powers that are highly sought after. The series is going to called "The Spirit Mage Saga." Tavish is a Sun Talent--a firestarter. His sister has the rare Talent of Spirit. Their country's enemy will stop at nothing to obtain them.

Tell us about your latest work and how we can find out more.
You can check out "Heart of the Witch," an epic fantasy novel that was published in January, over at Zerrick is a witch in a town where witches are burned at the stake. Worse, it is his father who is doing the burning.

I also plan to get more short stories out in eBook form soon, including the sequel to "A Troll Under Golden Gate Bridge" which tells the tales of Cathy Pembroke, special unit police officer in the Bay area who has to deal with creatures escaping from Fae. The next one is titled "Fairies At Fisherman's Wharf."

Click on the images to view the books

Book Impressions - The Hell Season by Ray Wallace

I enjoyed reading this a lot. It tells of a man who wakes up to find his family and everyone else has vanished. It then starts raining blood. From that promising start it continues to build. I liked the story, it deals which a subject matter that I enjoy, namely the Apocalypse and while the sequence of events may be familiar the take on it is refreshing and stands alone well.

The author uses an interesting mechanic of mixing first and third person. A risky strategy but he pulls it off well, it provides a nice blend of the events as well as more introspective thoughts.

I found it very much a story of two halves. The start and the build up is excellently done. There's a real sense of mystery about the horrors that are happening. Unfortunately the reveal felt a little flat. That's not to say that it's bad, far from it, it just doesn't stand up as well as what preceeded it.

Overall this is a very good read, if you like reading about the apocalypse then should you should give this a try.
Thomas Wright awakens to discover that his family has vanished. None of their possessions are missing. The clothes that they slept in are still in their beds. All too soon it becomes apparent that nearly everyone in town has disappeared, that only he and a few select others remain.

Then the sky starts to rain blood.

The Hell Season is available from Amazon

Thursday 25 July 2013

Guest Authors Revisited - Alex Roddie

Back in December I interviewed Alex Roddie, you can read what he had to say here. I've caught up with him to see what he's been doing since then, find out more below:

Click on images to view books

What has changed in your life since we last spoke?
In late December last year I was just starting to get to grips with the ins and outs of being an author. Six months later I have seen good months and bad, and have started to gain an impression about how to keep things going in the long term. I think in general I've been extremely fortunate: The Only Genuine Jones has got off to a good start, with well over 600 copies sold, and a small but very enthusiastic following of fans.

The paperback edition was published in February this year and set loose into the wild at a launch party at the Clachaig Inn, Glencoe. The launch was a great success and the presence of an illustrated paperback has given the book a huge boost.

My long-term goal is still the same: to become synonymous with my genre. Very few authors are writing fiction closely connected with mountain heritage and culture, and I believe my unique selling points have contributed to the modest success I've experienced so far.

Have you learnt any new wisdom?
Plenty! Perhaps the most significant lesson I've learned over the last six months is that authors can never stand still. The book market is constantly shifting, and if we don't adapt our tactics then we risk being wiped out. I have experimented with different price points and different promotional tactics although I'm well aware I haven't tried everything yet.

A slow sales spell last month also forced me to realise that, no matter how many good months you have, no author is immune to a sales slump.

I am also struggling with the balance that all authors must find between creating new stories and promoting their old ones. Something I've found really useful is timetabling my spare time and being very strict with myself when it comes to writing.

Have you become a better writer? If so, how?
I'm always trying to improve as a writer. I think my main area of improvement over the last few months has been knowledge of my subject. In my quest to understand the 19th century I've read as broadly as I can, studying everything from the rise of Bonaparte to the Romantic artistic movement, from sewage renovations in London to the revolutions of 1848. This is of course a never-ending task but I've already noticed huge improvements in my writing. I feel more able to inhabit the world of my characters and the language of the period comes far more naturally now.

Another trend which will yield benefits over the long term is a gradual, gentle shift in genre. The Only Genuine Jones was always historical fiction first and foremost, but (thanks to my marketing I suspect) it has become typecast as a climbing book. I believe this has restricted its appeal. Future projects are being tailored to appeal to a more general audience - without losing the strong inspiration from mountain culture that remains part of my DNA as an author.

What are you working on at the moment?
At the time of our last interview I was working on Alpine Dawn, an ambitious novel chronicling the very early years of Alpine exploration in the late 1840s. This has been suspended while I work on a new project, The Forbes Challenge, now nearing completion.

Tell us about your latest release and how we can find out more.

The Forbes Challenge is a slight departure from my existing work. Set in 1847, the story follows an adventure taking place in the Cairngorm mountains of Scotland and introduces the character of James Forbes. Forbes is the world's leading authority on glaciers and a noted mountain explorer who, five years previously, conducted an epic voyage throughout the Alps and literally wrote the book on Alpine glaciers. He suffers from chronic illness brought on by overwork, and now he is obsessed by the idea that a glacier has somehow survived in the unmapped Scottish mountains. The voyage north from Blair Atholl will prove to be one of the most testing of his life.

His journey into the heart of the Cairngorms is hindered at every stage by the machinations of the Duke of Atholl, a landowner infamous for hunting down poachers and trespassers. When Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visit the Duke's castle for their summer holiday things really start getting interesting!

I anticipate a late summer / early autumn release for The Forbes Challenge, which will be a long novella or short novel, depending on your definitions. You can read an overview of the characters in this new project here:

Newsletter subscribers are the first to know about my new releases and can take advantage of exclusive low prices. To sign up for my new release mailing list click here:

Visit my website here:

Sign up to my monthly newsletter
Facebook author page
Follow on Twitter
Goodreads profile

Click on images to view books

Interviewed On So Sayeth The Literary Dark Emperor Blog

I've been interviewed in a rather unusual manner on the 'So Sayeth the Literary Dark Emperor' blog, as part of the Book Blogger Fair. Click on the link below to see what I mean:

Thanks Nathan!