Friday 31 January 2014

Signed Copy of The Cult of Me Winner

Congratulations to Sheri Wilkinson who won the signed copy of The Cult of Me giveaway here on my blog, the signed copy will be on its way to you shortly.

Thanks to everyone who entered, keep your eyes open for a new giveaway soon for the next book in the trilogy 'Conversations in the Abyss'.

The Cult of Me is available in paperback and e-book formats from the various stores listed below, you can also get a free e-book copy of this (or one of my other listed books by signing up for my mailing list here:

The first book in 'The Third Path' Trilogy.

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

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

Thursday 30 January 2014

Guest Authors Revisited - Carl T Smith

In today's guest authors revisted interview I catch up with thriller author Carl T Smith, find out what he's been up to since we last spoke below:

What has changed in your life since we last spoke?
Since then, I have finished the new Sam Larkin novel (this is the fourth in a series), begun a fiction novel loosely based on a disappearance on Hilton Head Island, SC and am still negotiating for the film screenplay with two people interested in an option.

Have you learnt any new wisdom?
New wisdom? I learn something new every day by keeping my ears and eyes and mind open. I study other writers who I respect and invite critiques on what I am working on from a select group of writer friends. And, I continue to watch the “world walk by in its curious shoes.”
Have you become a better writer? If so, how?
I guess the new book will tell. I certainly hope so. I approach every sentence as a learning experience and an adventure. Something taught to me by my college bud, Tom Robbins, who first encouraged me to write. I have also learned to slow down and become more critical of my own work.

What are you working on at the moment?
Right now I am proofing the Larkin manuscript again and working with my P.R person for advertising strategies for the release of the book. I am also consulting with my website designer on a new website to coincide with the release of the book.

Tell us about your latest release and how we can find out more?
The new Sam Larkin novel falls in the psychological suspense category and has a great deal of information regarding personal isolation and prison, though it is not a prison novel. It is set in 1982 in South Carolina, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania and San Francisco. The opening line is: “It was the first visitor he had had in twenty-eight years.” Sam continues his role as an enigmatic man and Karen Chaney faces the question of leaving the D.E.A.

For more information check the website at and the blog at You can also visit me and ask questions on the blog. I am also on Facebook (, Twitter @carltsmith and, of course, GoodReads.

Purchase Books by Carl T Smith on Amazon:

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Guest Author Interview - Bethany Turner

In today's guest author interview we meet Bethany Turner, author of the Abigail Phelps series, you can find out more about her and her writing below:

Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
My name is Bethany Turner, and I am a wife, mom, commercial banking vice president, and self-published author of RIDICULOUS reality-bending fiction known as The Abigail Phelps Series (Abigail Phelps, Scenes From Highland Falls, and Two Thousand Years).

What first inspired you to start writing?
I've written all my life, but I'd never previously finished anything because I always got bored. A lot of authors say the most difficult part of writing a book is getting started, but I never found that to be true. I've started countless books, but I never cared enough to finish one. Then I had an idea for a story which never got boring in my mind.

Your released books so far have formed a series, why did you choose to create a series?
There are a couple of different answers for that. One, as the story developed I realized that I couldn't do justice to Abigail's story in just one book. I'd created multiple layers of reality, and in one book I could adequately explain one layer, maybe two. But it's layers three and four which are the most fascinating and the most fun! But the second answer, if I'm being truthful, is that I just didn't want to say goodbye to these characters - especially Abigail herself. She fascinates me, and there is always more to tell.

What is it about your stories that makes them stand out?
This book began with the simple, fun idea, "What if I write a book about a fictional character, but all of her supporting characters are real people? Celebrities, and athletes, and politicians." And that alone makes them stand out somewhat, I suppose. But what really makes them stand out is that idea being taken a step further. Not just the idea, for instance, that Abigail was somehow involved with JFK Jr. and ice dancer Christopher Dean, but that actual events in JFK Jr.'s real life - his speech at the 1988 Democratic National Convention, his marriage to Carolyn Bessette, his fatal plane crash - may have come about due in part to the role of Abigail Phelps in his life. Christopher Dean didn't just meet Abigail Phelps. She was actually his partner all along. Jayne Torvill never existed. And yet, she did, of course. You know this, and yet after reading the books, you will never watch Bolero the same way again. After reading the books, you will never again be able to watch a clip of JFK Jr.'s DNC speech without picturing Abby's heartbreak as she watched on the television in her apartment, certain that the words he spoke that night represented the end of the life she thought she had. After reading the books, you'll never again see George Clooney smile that smug smile that he seems to smile before he kisses a woman in a movie or on TV without thinking about how it all came about because he and Abby couldn't get through a kissing scene without laughing at each other. And if you haven't read the books, everything I just said makes no sense. But somehow - and I can't explain it - after reading the books, you'll know exactly what I mean. Reality is in the eye of the beholder.

What was the last book you read?
I recently read Jane Austen's "Persuasion" again - I've probably read it 10 times.

What is your favourite song lyric?
Well, in the dedication of Abigail Phelps, I thank Billy Joel for being my muse, and his music and lyrics are basically supporting characters in the book. So I think I will have to go with the lyrics to the song which is most at the heart of who the character of Abigail Phelps is, and which really guided so many of my choices - the following lyric from Billy Joel's "Summer Highland Falls":

 "Now we are forced to recognize our inhumanity,
Our reason co-exists with our insanity.
And though we choose between reality and madness,
It's either sadness or euphoria."

Which author do you most admire and why?
I have to say Jane Austen, and there are many reasons, but the primary reason is that she had a gift for getting right to the heart of what her reader wanted. Her readers may not have even realized that it was what they wanted, but it was. Deep down. And it's not difficult to guess how a Jane Austen novel is going to end, but somehow she still found a way to get you to hold your breath, just in case you were wrong.

What are you working on at the moment?
I have a couple projects in the works. My best friend (who happens to be my favorite author, along with Ms. Austen!) and I are collaborating on a very comedic murder mystery, and I am also working independently on another book in the Abigail Phelps Series, but with a very different spin...

Tell us about your latest work and how we can find out more.
Abigail Phelps, Scenes From Highland Falls, and Two Thousand Years are available for Kindle and in paperback, and you can find out more on my website, There are lots of fun ways to interact through the website, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. On the website, you don't only interact with me, you also interact with Abigail herself. After all, reality is in the eye of the beholder!

Purchase  Books by Bethany Turner from Amazon:

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Film Review - Jarhead

I'd seen this before, but I remembered it being a good film so I thought I'd watch it again and I have to say it was better than I remembered it. It tells the story of a  young man who joins the marines, he's actually a bit disillusioned by the experience until he trains as a scout sniper and finds his calling. Like many soldiers he yearns for the chance to put his training to use and that opportunity comes when Kuwait is invaded and he is deployed as part of Desert Shield and ultimately  Desert Storm.

If you're looking for an action film then this isn't the film you are looking for, however it is interesting look at the characters and interactions of a small unit. Like most modern war films it doesn't shy away from the horrors of war, although it doesn't do so in any real detail, it's covered only in glancing as something these marines see. One scene that did stand out for me was the burning of the oilfields, an oddly beautiful as well as a disturbing sight.

For a character based film it's all down to the actors playing their roles and everyone does a good job here. They are all convincing as marines, but also as young men under the stresses of war and naturally of the relationships between the marines and those back in the world.

There's also a fair spread of dark humour throughout the film, which helps balance some of the more morose moments. Overall I liked this film a lot, it's an interesting story that was well told - worth watching twice in fact!

Sam Mendes directs this adaptation of former Marine Anthony Swofford's Gulf War memoir. Young recruit Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal) joins up with the US Marines (nicknamed 'Jarheads' because of their distinctive haircuts) on the eve of the 1990 Gulf War. After a brutal spell in boot camp, during which Swofford and his fellow recruits are systematically geared up for the conflict, the Marines are dispatched to the deserts of the Persian Gulf to take part in a war that sees them required to do very little in the way of fighting. Bored and frustrated in the middle of nowhere, the young soldiers resort to a macabre sense of humour as they wait for the war to happen to them.

Click here to purchase Jarhead from Amazon (and it's a fine watch)

Guest Author Interview - T.S. O'Neil

In today's guest author interview we meet T.S. O'Neil (author of Tampa Star), find out more about him and his writing below:

Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
I am 54 years young and originally from Newington, CT. I went to undergraduate school at Northeastern University in Boston and have an MBA from the University of Phoenix in Technology Management. I spent a good amount of time in the military; first as an enlisted Marine in the Marine Reserve, then about ten years on active duty as an officer in the Military Police Corps of the U.S. Army and I finished out my career in the Army Reserve.

During that time, I traveled a lot of the world, picked up Spanish, as the Army sent me to language school and managed to have a lot of fun while managing to avoid combat. While most sane people look at the being shot at as merely a life threatening situation, those in the military look at it as an opportunity for career advancement. 

As a careerist, I was an abject failure as I was always in the wrong place at the wrong time. Meaning wherever I happened to be, peace was breaking out like mad. 

I was supposed to jump into Omar Torrejo Airport with the Rangers during Operation Just Cause, but instead I went on to the MP Officer Advance Course. The invasion took place in December of 89, as I drove home to Connecticut for Christmas break members of my former unit parachuted into glory. Later, as I sat in Panama enjoying the new era of peace and prosperity, Operation Desert Storm took place. My luck finally caught up with me and I spent part of a tour in Iraq. Other than a couple of nights of rocket fire, the period in Iraq was relatively peaceful. 

I got out of the military and eventually gravitated to the IT Field. I am currently an IT Architect for a healthcare company. I live in Seminole Florida with the love of my life, Suzanne and we got married on Oct 4th of this year.

What first inspired you to start writing? 
I have a very active imagination and was always getting into trouble in grade school for day-dreaming. I think being a fiction writer is a great endeavor in that you get to invent your own reality and create a different world.

When not writing how do you spend your time?
I work a regular job for forty or so hours a week and spend time golfing, biking and taking my wife out to keep her happy. I used to do a lot of scuba diving with trips to the Great Barrier Reef, the Caribbean, Thailand and the Philippines, but I think those days are behind me and I’ll just make do with snorkeling.

What attracted you to writing thrillers? 
Thrillers are fun. I’m not a romantic guy, so that genre is not for me. I think it’s interesting to impart thrills and suspense into the plot and ensnare the reader in the action. My military background allows me to place believable technical and operational characteristics into the story-line and I believe this lends a certain level of credibility to the characters and story. 

I've rubbed shoulders with lots of Special Ops types and actually served in a unit within that command for a while, although I've never claimed to be a true “snake eater.” During my time in the Marines and in Special Operations, I learned enough about how certain special ops units like the SEAL, Force Recon, Army Rangers and Special Forces operate and researched a lot more to write accurately and realistically about that particular subgroup. 

What do you bring that's new to the genre? 
After thirty or more years association with the military, I feel I bring a verisimilitude (sorry, but I've always wanted to use that word in a sentence) to the genre that a lot of authors may not be able to. When I write about firing a particular weapon, chances are I've actually fired it. That may not mean much if you’re talking about a nine millimeter pistol, but it might if you’re talking about firing the M2 Machine Gun. 

I can detail how different units operate that might not be able to be accurately captured by writers without that experience. I have experienced first-hand experience ranging from being a Marine Corps Recruit up through being the Deputy Support Operations Officer for a Theater level command. I also received the military education to cover any potential holes in my military curriculum vitae. 

In my opinion, some of the funniest guys in history are Service Members; a catch all phrase for Soldier, Sailors, Airmen and Marines. Another thing I try to impart is the humor with which these guys view life. I think it’s because they are often living in austere conditions and have lots of time on their hands. I believe that there are a lot of frustrated comedians in the service as they’re given a lot of material to work with―based mostly on the stupefying ridiculousness of the huge bureaucracy that is the U.S. Military. They are given lots of material to work with, but little freedom to do so; hence the frustration. I try and imagine what would accurately be said in humor to mask the occurrence of a bad event. 

Someone once said that war is interminable boredom punctuated by moments of terror. An active imagination is what keeps you in good spirits and help you fill the void or salve your fear. I bet King Leonidas was an especially funny guy to be able to crack wise when confronted by hundreds of thousands of Persian Soldiers. “Come get them,” is, if not the first bad ass line in history, probably the best known. 

What is your favorite song lyric? 
There was a song lyric that I wanted to use for the first paragraph of my newest book, Starfish Prime. It’s from a song called Apathy. The opening lyrics to the song are very dark and it helps set the mood for the opening sequence of events in Starfish Prime.

Which author do you most admire and why? 
Elmore Leonard, may he rest in peace, taught me to believe that you can and should try to write the way people speak. People are funny and they say lots of humorous things, even in tense situations. He famously said, “Try to write what people want to read and leave the rest out.” 

Leonard labored in obscurity for most of his career and finally found some level of acclaim after Hollywood discovered him by basing movies on Get Short, 3:10 to Yuma and Jackie Brown. 

Another great author I admire is Norman Mailer, but for different reasons. He managed to write a really twisted thriller called Tough Guys Don’t Dance and also wrote the script for the movie of the same name. The protagonist, played by Ryan O’Neal, is watching his world crumble all around him; his wife leaves him, he can’t stop drinking and oh yeah, there are two heads in a bag in the basement and he is left trying to figure out how they got there. I would always watch the movie when my life was at a low point and it would allow me to say: “Well, at least I don’t have it as bad as that guy.” I believe the movie bombed, but the script closely followed the book and I liked that. 

What are you working on at the moment?
Starfish Prime is the sequel to Tampa Star. I am done with the manuscript and am now editing it. Michael Blackfox is pulled back into Marine Special Ops for one high risk assignment. Since he has been out, a new Special Operations unit has been formed and his skill set makes him uniquely qualified for a mission in the jungles of Venezuela. Michael is forced to participate in the operation or watch his father be sent to jail for the crimes he committed in Tampa Star. 

Tell us about your latest work and how we can find out more.
I published Tampa Star late last year and it is my first book. It’s the story of a father and son that’s told in two parts. The first part of the book starts in the early seventies in the aftermath of the Viet Nam War.
The father, Char, is a Seminole Indian and former Green Beret who is wounded by a dead guerrilla in the aftermath of a firefight. He is subsequently evacuated and discharged with a bum leg. Char moves to the Florida Gulf Coast, gets a job, meets a girl and life seems to be going his way, until he falls in with the wrong crowd and things spiral out of control from there. The second part of the book picks up in two thousand and four when the son, a former Recon Marine Officer, is discharged and travels to Florida in search of his father. The story has a host of villains you will love to hate, including a corrupt cop, a Mafia Capo and a Russian ex-CIA interrogator. I think the story has a lot to offer as the characters are richly drawn and are believable. I takes place in and around Florida and is written in the “Florida Glare” style of authors like Elmore Leonard and Laurence Shames. It has the same style of witty, realistic and somewhat caustic dialog that they are known to employ. 

I have a website with information about upcoming promotions and other projects:
Twitter: @tselliot3
Book by T.S. O'Neil on Amazon:

Tuesday Tease - Dreaming, Not Sleeping by Julia Kavan

I usually feature novels in the Tuesday Tease, but today we have a short story from the talented Julia Kavan, you can read the excerpt and her bio below:

Dreaming, Not Sleeping
by Julia Kavan

Some nightmares are simply too good to resist...


Come with me. The words insinuated themselves into the hushed conversations of my dream, but my tempter remained elusive. Amid the chaos and shattered images that made no sense, his voice remained; a constant lure, drawing me to the shadows, tempting me down nightmare alleys and into windowless rooms - searching. Buildings shifted and changed, evolved and collapsed until I was wandering across wastelands. And so it continued each night– my dreams became empty but for the promises of something I’d always wanted but never found. I didn’t want to wake in the mornings, and bed became a battleground. All I wanted to do was sleep.

Short story - approx 2,500 words

Buy Links:







Also available to borrow via Amazon Prime

About Julia Kavan:

Born in the University city of Cambridge, England, Julia has lived most of her life in Cambridgeshire - atmospheric and the perfect inspiration for ghost stories.
She loves exploring the darker side of human nature, writing psycho-sexual and psychological thrillers, horror and supernatural mysteries. She finds inspiration in the British landscape, art, photography and music. When she isn’t writing you can find her rambling (or tripping over) in forests or being crushed against the barriers at a rock gig – she loves the great outdoors and deafening music equally (and has a death wish...really, she’s too old for gigs).

Author links:




Books by Julia Kavan on Amazon

Monday 27 January 2014

Book Impressions - Visitor in Lunacy by Stephen Curran

Sometimes you pick up books on impulse and this is one of those occasions, the title piqued my interest and so did the cover. Thankfully this was one of those occasions where acting on impulse proved to be a good thing - that's not always the case!

The story concerns Dr Richard Renfield (a name that should be familiar to readers of Dracula) and provides an interesting angle of the famous story. He is a respected doctor, a visitor in lunacy (an excellent name for essentially an inspector for lunatic asylums) travelling between asylums. We start the book at the end of the story, with the famous scene after Dracula's visit to Carfax Asylum.

We are then taken back in his life to the events that led to the opening scene. I'll admit that I struggled to get into the book at first, the jump from the beginning to the story proper is jarring. However I stuck with it and I'm glad that I did, from the rocky start it develops into an interesting and well written story.

The language is well crafted and evocative from the time, the author has done his research and that shows. It is well paced (once it gets going) and has some interesting ideas along the way. There were some early encounters that I thought could be more developed and the latter half of the story is better constructed than the opening half, although it has great flavour throughout.

All in all this was fine read and if you enjoyed the Dracula story then this provides an interesting new angle to appreciate it.

It is 1897, and confined to his room in Carfax Criminal Lunatic Asylum, Dr Richard Renfield is dying from injuries which could not be self-inflicted. His door has been barricaded from the inside and the Night Watcher swears nobody has been allowed in or out. With his last words he imparts a dire warning: “He is here.”

Moving between London, Yorkshire and Ceylon across the 19th Century, Visitor in Lunacy re-imagines the downfall of the enigmatic inmate from Bram Stoker's Dracula, from a feared and respected member of the government's Lunacy Commission to a resident of one of the madhouses he once oversaw. It is a bizarre and unsettling tale of memory, regret and horror; of how the terrible secrets of a person's childhood can inescapably shape their life.

Murder Drabbles - Questions

The latest drabble in the Murder Drabbles series has been posted in the Indie Book Bargains newsletter (you can sign up for the newsletter on their website:

If you haven't read the rest of the Murder Drabbles series then you can do so here:


The police were full of questions, no great surprise there I guess, it is what they do after all. I wasn’t prepared for them though.

Where was I on the night in question? That was the big one, I hedged my bets saying I wasn’t sure. I needed to know what they knew before I committed to a response. Not my smartest play, that only made them suspicious.

It might have been better to say nothing at all, but it’s too late for that now. The one in plain clothes frowns and tells me that I must come with them.

Sunday 26 January 2014

Tales of the Imp - A True Gentleman

The latest Tales of the Imp drabble has been posted in today's Indie Book Bargains newsletter (you can sign up to the newsletter on their website: If you haven't read the rest of the Tales of the Imp newsletter you can do so here:

Fans of the Imp can read his origin story in the Off the KUF anthology, available from Amazon here:


A True Gentleman

Like all good things that amazing first date came to an end, my usual nervousness returned as I escorted her home. Should I kiss her? The Imp said yes and so we kissed and she tasted of strawberries, which was unexpected but not unpleasant.

She invited me in and I was very much up for that idea, but the Imp said no. A bit unfair I thought, but he seems to know best, keep her keen for next time was his advice.

Besides I had some test to undergo before I first mated, I wonder what he meant by that?

Film Review - Aftershock

This film is an average exercise in shock horror and gore, once it finally gets going. Unfortunately it takes half of the film to get going, so long in fact that I almost gave up. The set up isn't anything special, there is a group of men enjoying themselves in Chile, going to parties, clubs and seeing the sights. They meet a group of girls on a similar trip (with one exception, the miserable woman in the group) and go to the party of all parties.

It's at this party where things finally get going in the form of an earthquake, things then go rapidly downhill for the party goers and the residents of the area. Pretty much everything that could go wrong then proceeds to do so.

The film isn't terrible, but its not very inspired either. When it gets going it's brutal, but it not in an imaginative way, it just piles on whatever could go wrong. The production values are decent, the cast do a reasonable job, but nothing really stands out. It's on ok watch, but I wouldn't really recommend it.

Co-written, produced and starring Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever), Aftershock is an unsparing horror of epic proportions that takes the disaster movie genre to a terrifying new level. Relentlessly gruesome and intensely unsettling, this is a dark and thrilling journey that you will never forget. Gringo, Ariel and Pollo are travelling through Chile in search of adventure, women, and as much fun as they can possibly handle. Their destination is a remote and idyllic coastal town that feels just like paradise. But their nights of hedonistic abandon comes to a nightmarish end when an earthquake strikes. Rising out of the ruins of devastation, deadly criminals take to the streets, and as the three friends struggle for survival, society collapses around them and the body count keeps growing.

January Short Fiction Contest Winners

It's that fun time of the month again where I read through the previous month's short fiction contest entries and complete the tricky task of picking the winners. January's image was a rather enigmatic picture of a wooden statue and is inspired a good variety of stories making the job of picking the winner as hard as ever.

Before I announce the winners I'd like to thank everyone who entered, the standard of the stories continues to be high and it was a joy to read them all. Thank you also to those who have helped promote this contest, your help is much appreciated and please continue to share the contest and winners links wherever you can.

And now for the winners:

  1. First prize of a £50 Amazon gift card goes to Darren Grey for his story 'The Playground'
  2. Second Prize of a £20 Amazon gift card goes to Andrew Campbell-Kearsey for his story 'Urban Myth'
  3. Third prize of a £10 Amazon gift card goes to Jason Purdy for his story 'Turpentine'
Congratulations to the winners and now lets enjoy their excellent stories:

The Playground by Darren Grey

“I think it’s a statue of a Viking god,” said Roger, who always liked to get his opinion in first.

The children stood round the tall, wooden statue. The new addition to the park had attracted their attention immediately upon their arrival. Its carven features stared down at them sadly, sombre eyes set above a ruddy face and a long beard.

“Do you think it’s magic?” asked Billy.

“No, it’s probably some god that’s dead by now,” replied Roger, gaining more authority in his voice. “Maybe from Iceland or Scandavianland. Somewhere like that. They have old gods there but no one prays to them anymore.”

The children crowded closer round the statue, trying to detect some ancient divine energy from the dark wood. When no evidence of miracles presented itself their minds began to wander again.

“My dad says it’s out of a movie, one with dragons and things in it,” said Jessika, twisting a pigtail around her finger. The rest of the group ignored her. They’d learned long ago that any statement beginning with “My dad says” means it was made up on the spot.

“It’s probably just one of a thousand statues made in a factory somewhere. There’s nothing special about it.” Victoria’s dismissive attitude broke the spell around the group, and the statue became just a normal object, devoid of mystery.

Victoria walked up to the statue and knocked on its chest. “See? It’s hollow. Probably isn’t even real wood. Just made in some big factory out of plastic stuff and empty inside.”

“It’s not empty,” said Celia in a low voice. The children all turned to her – it wasn’t like Celia to say something without being prompted first.

“There’s a man in there,” she continued, staring down at the statue’s feet as she talked. “He tried to hurt me, here in the park, so I trapped him in wood. He can’t get out now.”

A brief moment of silence settled over the children as they exchanged glances.

“Let’s go play on the swings,” said Roger, pushing Celia’s comments out of his mind. The children all ran off, leaving just her behind.

The young girl walked up to the statue and placed her hand against its chest.

“I can hear you screaming still,” she said. “No one else can, but I hear, and I know. I’ll come visit you every day just to hear you scream.”

She turned and ran off to join the others. The statue stared on sadly, its sombre eyes unable to look away.

Urban Myth by Andrew Campbell-Kearsey

Max had paid a fortune for his detached house with a swimming pool and integrated sound system. The blinds were programmed to open at dawn and each regular visitor had a personalised doorbell sound. The gardens were kept immaculately as he was a tough employer. Each room was redecorated on an eighteen month cycle. He was modern-day lord of all that he owned but not of all that he surveyed. He could not control the view from his den.

His opposite neighbour had erected a wooden monstrosity in her front garden, near to the kerb. Max was enraged at this eyesore. He’d hired environmental lawyers to determine whether it had been carved out of endangered timber. In which case it may be impounded by the authorities– unfortunately not. The object was over thirty feet tall and seemed to have been positioned so that it faced Max’s property. He took great pride in the low-level Japanese style front garden. It was out of the question for him to plant a fast-climbing shrub or erect a front wall. The asymmetrical bonsai acacias and rare orchids nestling amongst the miniature rock formations and water features depended upon unfettered views. Max was too busy to rake his own Zen gravel driveway. He paid somebody daily to create new patterns and vicariously calm Max’s mind.

He intentionally knew none of his neighbours. He valued his privacy. However Max broke his rule and approached his neighbour when she arrived home one afternoon. He struck up a conversation about the wooden statue.

‘It’s fabulous, isn’t it? My late husband was a huge “Lord of the Rings” fan. He picked it up in Thailand. He named it “Gandalf”. We had it in storage. It was only when I moved here after he’d died that I knew I’d found just the right place for it. Glad you like it.’

Max uncharacteristically did not have the heart to tell her how much he detested it. Over the weeks he spoke to his therapist. She designed breathing and meditation exercises for him to overcome his antipathy towards it. Every morning when he spied it anew he felt anger and revulsion welling up inside. His therapist had grown accustomed to early morning calls demanding emergency appointments. She always fitted him in as he was a wealthy man.

Eventually, she suggested an unusual solution.

Everybody had heard about gnomes going missing from front gardens and then their owners, sometimes months later, receiving postcards from them from exotic locations. Max was all about taking it to the next level. He had to go one better.

Naturally, Max’s neighbour was distraught when she realised that her beloved “Gandalf” had been stolen. It even made the local news. However, a week later she received the first of many webcasts from increasingly exotic locations. It had cost Max a fortune in transportation costs and the hiring of an Ian McKellen soundalike but his neighbour gained much comfort from the heart-warming messages she regularly received from Gandalf.

Turpentine by Jason Purdy

Her father had many hobbies, but was especially fond of wood carving. The house forever reeked of fresh shavings, turpentine, and varnish. When there was no wood to hand, no time to carve or work the lathe, the house stank of other fluids. The sort you’d more readily associate with a middle aged, recently divorced, overweight and bald man.

Things were better than there was wood around. He used to buy it, but when he was laid off it was hard enough to put food on the table for the girls, never mind splashing cash on supple oak, firm maple, or fortified wine. After that, he started lifting it off the backs of trucks, or sneaking into the woods in the dead of night and grabbing what he could find. Even when he shot the man and buried him deep in the frozen earth, that didn’t stop him stealing. 

His daughter’s left shortly after his wife, and then all he had to do was feed his dying liver and feet his insatiable lust for wood. His friends would have made a joke about that, but they were all long gone. He’d taken to carving extravagant figures out of the wood. Towering figures, resplendent, solid bodies, masterfully crafted and smoothed to perfection. Strong faces, long, hard oaken beards, and deep set, polished eyes that seemed to followed you around the room.

People had always told him his craft was good enough to sell, but he had been brought up well, and he knew never to sell out your friends, never to rat on them. They were the two ground rules, the core tenants that any and every friendship should, and must, be built on. So he’d never sell them and he wasted away, carving figures of splendour, wooden gods, unsullied and untouched effigies. A testament to the sense of humour that God obviously has when he hands out talents, picking and choosing, deciding that the sperm cell that runs down the leg was the one that could have been the doctor, while he makes the winner a certain Jeremy Weed. An unhinged alcoholic with the temper of an inferno and the hands of a savant.

Jeremy Weed lived in his workshop with his friends, his friends who never asked him if he really needed another bottle. 

It only took his neighbours three days to smell it. They were used to the strange smells, wood shavings, booze, varnish, a heady mix if there was one, the smell of old bars and dirty barns, but the smell of rotting flesh was unmistakable. Even if you’d never smelt it before, it’s there, a spiritual stink, an ancestral odour, a reeking that you know on every level of your being.

The police found Jeremy Weed covered in blood and puckered with so many stab wounds that he looked like a pin cushion. Each of the wooden warriors held a knife. Each of the officers would swear that the eyes followed them as they left.

Film Review - Outpost 11

The blurb for this looked interesting so despite the bad reviews I 'd read I thought I'd give it a chance and I'm glad I did. Don't get me wrong this film won't set the world alight, but it has an interesting premise and while it doesn't quite deliver it does do enough to provide an entertaining watch.

Outpost 11 is set in an alternate history where steam power still rules the world and Britain and Prussia are fighting the second 100 years war. The war is global and in an isolated base deep in the arctic circle three British soldiers are monitoring Prussian radio communications. There's a mysterious power core on the base and strange events start to put a strain on the three soldiers.

The biggest problem with the film is the production level, it lacks polish. The three actors do a reasonable job with their roles and their descent into madness comes across well. The lack of budget is very evident and while it doesn't prevent the film from telling its story, it does prevent it from really shining. In many ways it feels more like a play than a film with the intimate setting and character led development.

All in all I enjoyed it, it didn't realise its potential but it did enough to keep me watching and overall it did have some interesting ideas and some excellent moments (like the spider alliance).

Outpost 11 is the story of a group of soldiers stationed on a remote Arctic outpost. One day the warning light goes off unexpectedly and their world is plunged into chaos, as they become prey to an unknown enemy.

Battling the sub-zero temperatures, isolation & madness, they now have a new & even more deadly foe confronting them; one that is set to destroy them all.

Saturday 25 January 2014

Film Review - Insidious Chapter 2

I enjoyed the first film and the second is a decent sequel, it's far from the best horror film out there, but it is an entertaining watch. The story continues from the first film, but the family have moved into a new house, unfortunately strange occurrences and visitations continue to haunt them. Even more troubling is the fact that the father may not have returned from the other world, but something more sinister has taken his place.

As I said I enjoyed this sequel, it continues the story in an interesting and entertaining fashion. The production values are high and everyone does a good job with their roles.

The main flaw with the film is that it takes the ghost train approach of using sudden movements and loud noises to scare the audience. While it does this reasonably effectively I personally prefer a more considered approach of creepiness and tension.  The shame here is that the film does go someway to building a sinister atmosphere, but then shatters it with a sudden bump.

Still the film is what it is and that is a well made shock horror that is a fun watch, although if you didn't enjoy the first film then you're unlikely to enjoy this one.

Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai (Rose Byrne) have a happy family with their three young children. When tragedy strikes their young son, Josh and Renai begin to experience things that science cannot explain. James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the co-creators of Saw, join forces with the producers of Paranormal Activity to take you on a mind-bending journey into the world of the unknown.

Click here to purchase Insidious 2 from Amazon (and it's an entertaining watch)

Friday 24 January 2014

Only a Week Left to Win a Signed Copy of The Cult of Me

There's only a week left to enter for a chance to win a signed copy of The Cult of Me, you can enter using the Rafflecoptor widget at the bottom of this post:

The first book in 'The Third Path' Trilogy.

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

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday 23 January 2014

Guest Authors Revisited - Stacy Bender

In today's guest authors revisited interview I catch up with Stacy Bender, you can find out what she's been up to since I last spoke to her below:

What has changed in your life since we last spoke?
Not much, I'm afraid. I was laid off, so I'm looking for another full time job but I have an interview in the next few days, so wish me luck.

Yes, I'm sorry to say that I have yet to achieve 'Rock Star' status with my writing but at least I’m out of the garage. However, I'm not dead yet, so there is still hope.

Have you learnt any new wisdom?
How about learning creative ways to promote ones books?

Most people think 'Book Signings'. Yet if you’re not a big name, don't plan on a crowd. Granted, if you have a publisher they will promote your book but that doesn't mean that you should sit like a bump on a long waiting for your royalty check.

Pass out your business card or bookmarks with the title of you book printed on it. Talk to strangers in the store, (Just don't make them think you’re a nut.)

Aside from friends and family giving you a hand with telling everyone they know, there are plenty of avenues to get the word out and when people find out that you are a published author, they usually want to know more.

Try SM. (Social Media silly, not the other one.) Computers have made our world smaller and we can reach just about anyone around the world.

When I first found out that I sold books in England and Germany, I was stunned, then I found out someone in Australia had my books up on EBay. This would not have been possible in such a sort amount of a time, fifty years ago. (OK I'm not that old but you get my meaning)

Have you become a better writer? If so, how?
Oh, I certainly hope so. I know that my spelling has improved and I'm always looking to try new things from writing tools to storytelling. (Have you ever tried voice recognition software? I’ll only say, Interesting translations…)

What are you working on at the moment?
Hummm, let's see...
'Diamond Mind' just came out Nov. 1

 And I was working on the final edits for Sons of Amethyst before I send it to my publisher. Both of these books are a part of my Sav'ine series. Did I mention that each one is a standalone book and that you don't have to read them in order to know what's going on?

'I like - Alice' (Another Sci-Fi story.) is finished but it needs some shelf time before I run through it one last time to make sure I didn't forget anything.

I'll be focusing on my other stories here soon, hopefully.

Oh yeah, just as an FYI - I wrote a screenplay called Widgets - Ship Unknown
It's based off of a short story I wrote for the Word Branch Publishing Anthology. Here is the slug line.

When a group of pirates boards a seemingly abandoned space freighter, they get more then what they bargain for. Now Xandi, the second in command with a death wish, is in a race for survival against an adversary that’s determined to deal with them one pirate at a time.

Now I just have to sell it. (I don't suppose anyone out there knows anyone?)

I also wrote another short story for the Cincinnati Fiction Writers Anthology called ‘Murder My Pet’. Most pet owners get a good chuckle out of it. You never know what is truly going through the minds of our four legged friends.

FYI - Any profits from either of these anthologies, when published, will be donated to charity.

Tell us about your latest release and how we can find out more.
That would be 'Diamond Mind'. I wrote the story with the question on Sav'ine culture and stability. You see, the way I have them set up, each one depends on the other, especially mentally. So what happens if a Sav'ine all of the sudden finds them self marooned on a distant world? I hope that Diamond Mind answers that question.

Here is the first page.

Silence…. There was nothing but utter, deafening, silence. Of the kind that seemed to have a substance. So immense is it that it forces itself down on to the listener with a crushing vengeance. Breath, she had to remember to breath but the silence would not let her. Her eyes flew open and in an instant registering everything around them, bed, dressing table, chairs, paint, artwork, figurines.
Hands gripped the bedding just shy of ripping it apart. She screamed a scream filled with pain, anguish, terror, immense loss, longing, despair, and perhaps a touch of insanity. Yet no one was there to hear.

You can get the Kindle edition or Trade Paperback from either Word Branch Publishing or Amazon.

Books by Stacy Bender on Amazon: