Monday 30 June 2014

Guest Author Interview - Carmen Stevens

In this week's guest author interview I am joined by Carmen Stevens, author of the historical thriller 'Anne'. Discover more about her and her writing below:

Click on image to buy from Amazon

Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
I'm Carmen Gross, though my pen name is Carmen Stevens. I'm 22 years old and currently attend college for law. I self-published my first novel, a historical thriller titled "Anne", in July of 2013. 

What first inspired you to start writing?
I love writing, and I've been doing it for as long as I can remember. However, I had taken a break from writing shortly before writing my novel. My youngest sister was the one who got me back into writing, as she began to write herself, which inspired me. However, I also wanted to use my love of writing and write something that would teach the world to live in peace and love, because that's what "Anne" is about.

If you could spend a day with anyone from history, who would it be and why?
This is a hard question for me. I would have to say someone from the Bible, like Christ. That would be neat.

What is your favourite book?
I have several favorite books, not one all-time favorite. I love "The Sound and the Fury", "Gone With the Wind", "Crime and Punishment", "And Then There Were None", and others.

Where did the idea for 'Anne' come from?
I wanted to write historical fiction, since that is my favorite book genre. After that, I just thought of a complex protagonist and decided to set the book in England, since I love that setting for a novel. Personally, I think Anne's character kind of represents my own dark side. I wanted to write something in which the main character matures and learns from her experiences.

What do you find most rewarding about writing?
I love it when a story comes together on the computer or on paper, when it used to be only in your head.

And the most challenging?
The most challenging part about writing is probably keeping the story's plots sufficiently exciting and consistent.

What are you working on at the moment?
Right now, I'm busy promoting "Anne". I try to do this a few hours a week, at least. 

Tell us about your latest release and how we can find out more.
I think that many people would love "Anne", especially the ones who love English history, drama, mystery, and suspense. You can check it out on Amazon or Smashwords. Thanks!

New Drabble - Life of a Prayer (Believer Version)

The second drabble from the Life of a Prayer pair has been posted in the Indie Book Bargains newsletter (Visit to sign up for the newsletter). The first drabble was the Atheist version and can be found here along with my other dtabbles that aren't part of a longer series:

Life of a Prayer (Believer Version)

From my heart comes the pain, a physical thing too terrible to bear.

From my mind emerges understanding of my suffering and the desire to be whole once more.

From my lips issue the words of my prayer, my dream for a life reborn anew.

Through God’s ears he comprehends the anguish that my lips have spoken.

Through God’s great benevolence he provides comfort and hope in a world that has none.

Through God’s wisdom I understand a world greater than the darkness around me.

Day by day I am comforted and from grief’s long night dawn rises once more.

Sunday 29 June 2014

Sunday Story - Deities for Dummies by Nav Logan

As I mentioned in last week's Sunday Story I changed the rules in the monthly short fiction contest so that I could feature some of the stories that didn't make the final three but I felt deserved to be showcased. One of those stories was Deities for Dummies by Nav Logan which was one of the fine entrants for June's short fiction contest. Take a look for yourself below:

Deities for Dummies by Nav Logan

Gods are immortal. Everyone knows that. What they don’t know is that gods can be born. This is because the phenomenon is rare, but nevertheless, it’s true.

I know because I am one such god.

I never knew my mother, well that’s not exactly true. Mother was the vacuum of chaos that I grew up in, swirling amidst the stars. Father was the sun and I grew up basking in his benevolent glow.
My first memories were of solar flares lighting up the darkness as he showed me tricks. He was always in my head, teaching me the important lessons that I would need as I grew. Things I needed to be successful.

“It’s not easy being a god,” he advised me regularly.

With childlike naivety I ignored him. It seemed easy enough to me, at least at the time. It was only later, when I learned about the consequences of my actions or inactions, that I learned the bitter truth.
A god needs to be loved. It is the food which all gods crave. It becomes an addiction. Once you’ve tasted the sweet elixir of love, there’s no going back. Heroine, crack, gambling, these things are petty in comparison to love. Love conquers all: including deities.

It comes in many forms so there is no getting tired of it either, but for a god it is the headiest of potions.

Of course, that’s where the problem arises. Gods need someone to worship them. It is their food and drink. Without it, we simply cease to exist. Here is the difficulty though. People are fickle creatures. You cannot please them. If you manage to encourage love in one of them, you turn around and another one has learned to hate you.

What is this hate thing? Where did it come from?

The answer holds a certain amount of irony. Gods made love, but other gods made hate. Thus, the heavens were never going to be at peace. What folly!

I would have been better off to remain in the soft cocoon of chaos that was my mother’s embrace than venture forth and learn these bitter truths.

I was barely past my first eon when I learned this awful lesson about the life of gods. I’d barely begun to learn about the bizarre world I had found myself in. I was in my early studies on the relationship between deities and mankind, and I was not yet equipped to deal with the ramifications of this particular revelation.

I hadn’t even lost my virginity yet! I’d barely managed to make lightning, for crying out loud.
Surely there was some manual I could read: Divinity for Dummies, or something to explain this conundrum.

I headed home, hoping that father could shed some light on things, but he just shrugged indifferently. Where there was order, there was chaos. It was just the way it was. Immortality was a bitch, but over time you learned to deal with it.

Faust 2.0 Available on Scribd

Good news - I'm pleased to announce that Faust 2.0 is now available on Scribd:

The Internet witnesses the emergence of a new entity.

Is it the rebirth of an ancient evil in a new realm? Or something more dangerous?

A sexy looking avatar is granting wishes for people across the Internet. But nothing is ever truly free and for those accepting the gifts a terrible price must be paid. 

Sarah Mitchell must learn the truth of this creature and stop it while it can still be stopped. She must also find out why a mysterious lawyer is present at every step.

Faust 2.0 is the first book in the new Mitchell & Morton series.

Faust 2.0 is available from these online stores:

Buy now from Amazon (US):
Buy now from Amazon (UK):
Buy now from Barnes & Noble (Nook):
Buy now from Kobo:
Buy now from iTunes (US):
Buy now from iTunes (UK):
Read now on Scribd:

Follow on Facebook!/Faust2point0

Saturday 28 June 2014

Two Weeks into July's Short Fiction Contest

We're two weeks into July's short fiction contest and if you haven't submitted a story yet then you best get writing! We have a grim post-apocalyptic feel for this month's image although you should take your story in whatever direction you want to. It's easy to enter, write a story of no more than 500 words based on this month's image and then submit it through the form provided on the contest page:

The three winning stories will win a choice of Amazon gift card or PayPal prizes and there's no entry fee so you have nothing to lose!

The winners for June's contest have been announced and if you haven't read them yet then you have a treat in store. You can read the winning stories here:

Keep an eye for the Sunday Stories on my blog where I feature other great entrants who didn't make the final three but are stories that shouldn't be missed.

Friday Poem - The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

Yes I know it isn't Friday, but I had a busy day yesterday so I'm posting this a day late. To make up for my tardiness here is one of my favourite poems - 'The Raven' by Edgar Allan Poe. I'm a huge fan of horror (as I'm sure many of you already know!) and that includes the classics like Poe and Lovecraft. While doing the research for this post I discovered something interesting, I enjoy listening to the poem compared to reading it. Which is a little odd as I'm not a fan of audio books.Of course poems have a rhythmic quality that is enhanced by a good reading.

For 'The Raven' there's an abundance of quality readings although one by the master of horror himself Christopher Lee. Enjoy the recording below:

'The Raven' has also featured in my Drabble Classics series. A drabble is a story that is exactly 100 words long. It was a challenge to reconstruct a poem in a drabble and try and maintain what made it stand out. Was I successful, judge for yourself here:

While reading forgotten lore to escape the loss of Lenore I heard a rap at my door. Another at the window and I admitted the raven and upon Pallas’s bust it perched.

To my surprise the bird spoke, but knew only one word. I’m certain that it’ll desert me as others had, it said ‘nevermore’.

I reasoned that I could forget Lenore, the raven stated ‘nevermore’.

So I asked whether I’ll see her again and received the same infernal reply. I cursed it back to Hell, but it’s my soul trapped in the raven’s shadow and will be lifted nevermore.

If you'd like to look at the other Drabble Classics then you can read them all here:

If you'd like to get involved with the Friday Poem, either by providing a poem you'd like featured or if you have discovered a poem that people need to know about then drop me a line and I'll take a look.

Conversations in the Abyss Now Available on Scribd

I'm pleased to announce that Conversations in the Abyss is now available to read on Scribd:

The second book in 'The Third Path' trilogy.

Stealing Lazarus’s miracle gifted him immortality. Combined with his natural ability of invading and controlling people’s minds this made him one of the most dangerous people on Earth.

But the miracle came with a price. His punishment was to be imprisoned within the walls of an ancient monastery and tormented by an invisible fire that burned his body perpetually. To escape the pain he retreated deep into his own mind.

There he discovers the truth of the universe and that only he can stop the coming Apocalypse.

Conversations in the Abyss is available from these online stores:

Buy now from Amazon (US):
Buy now from Amazon (UK):
Buy now from Barnes & Noble (Nook):
Buy now from iTunes (US):
Buy now from iTunes (UK):
Buy now from Kobo:
Read now on Scribd:

Friday 27 June 2014

Guest Post - Cheap at Twice the Price by Devorah Fox

In support of her latest release 'The King's Redress' Devorah Fox provides a guest post called 'Cheap at Twice the Price', find out more below:

Click on image to purchase from Amazon

Cheap at Twice the Price

Guest blog post by Devorah Fox, author of The Lost King, The King’s Ransom and The King’s Redress in The Bewildering Adventures of King Bewilliam literary fantasy series.

The other day I was in the craft-and-hobby store looking for supplies with which to decorate my table at the upcoming book signing and sale for my latest release, The King’s Redress. The tale is set in the Middle Ages and peopled with kings, princes, knights and mythical creatures, so I was delighted to find an entire set of armored knight figurines complete with caparisoned steeds. I also spotted a robed- and crowned king and a delightful dragon. I was about to put the dragon in my cart when I realized that this single item cost more than a copy of the book that I sought to promote.

I found myself wondering why.

All right, somewhere an artist was involved. Someone had to come up with the initial original design but that was where the artistry ended and the mass production took over. This figurine was a piece of plastic stamped out in the gazillions by some machine, yet it still cost more than the book that I labored on for eight months. That didn’t seem right.

In Port Aransas, Texas, where I live, we have a rich and vibrant artistic. Our many galleries are stocked with stunning paintings and sculptures. I’m in awe of one painter in particular who can portray water so compellingly that I would swear there was actual movement on the canvas. His paintings sell for thousands and tens of thousands of dollars and while they are well worth it, sometimes I wonder why. It’s true that he has spent a lifetime perfecting his craft and puts weeks and months into his work, but so have I and my work doesn’t command anything like that price.

I tell myself, “His painting will hang on a wall where it will be seen many times a day, providing continuous enjoyment, whereas my book will be read once, so maybe that’s why his work carries a higher price tag.” Then I correct myself. I’ve been told by fans that they have read my book more than once and discovered something new each time. So it’s not a matter of amortizing the acquisition cost over the number of impressions.

Perhaps the price is related to the fact that there is only one iteration of that painting, but not even that is strictly true, but because he does issue giclee (digital) prints of his work.

Maybe the issue isn’t that his paintings cost so much but rather that books cost too little. This wasn’t always the case. When books were hand-lettered and bound they were precious and pricey. It’s tempting to blame Gutenberg’s movable press invention for depreciating the price of books. Being able to make multiple copies certainly made them more affordable but that’s no reason why they should be cheap. One could just as easily say that today’s books are cheap because digital technology makes it even less expensive to produce a book.

However, the low cost of manufacturing copies doesn’t make it any less time consuming to write the book in the first place. Writers still put a lifetime of learning and practice into their craft. Weeks, months, even years go into writing just one novel. Yet e-books sell for 99 cents from which the author may earn 35 cents. Thirty-five cents, on which income taxes must be paid.

It seems hardly worth it. We might was well give our work away and the industry encourages us authors to do just that. Visual artists are also often asked to give their work away and many of our Port Aransas artists donate work to be auctioned off as a fundraiser for a worthy cause. That’s not the same as being urged to give away books to “get your name out there.” All that does is get our name out as writers who think their work has no commercial value. I fear that recipients of free books consider the work to be worth exactly what they paid for it.

Of course, the list price isn’t the only measure of a book’s value. Being told by fans that my books opened up the world of fiction for them, or validated their own life experience, or inspired them to write has given me immeasurable satisfaction but let’s face it. We have bills to pay. We have to earn a living and writing is what we do. We should be paid for it and paid well. Why aren’t we?

Click on image to purchase from Amazon

Dragon slayer of renown, Robin, King Bewilliam, has bested both man and beast to battle his way back to the Chalklands and reunite with his sons. In Book Three of "The Bewildering Adventures of King Bewilliam," discord threatens the kingdom's hard-won peace and prosperity. When war breaks out, Robin finds that there is no one he can trust, not even his closest knights. Fighting for his throne pits him against a shocking, unsuspected rival. With his own life and lives of all his imperiled subjects at stake, Robin faces off against his fiercest enemy in mortal combat.

An Odder Quintet available on Scribd

I'm pleased to announce that my short story collection 'An Odder Quintet' is now available on Scribd:

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Odder Quintet is available from:

New Drabble - The Life of a Prayer (Atheist Version)

A new drabble (100 word story) of mine has been posted in Indie Book Bargains newsletter (visit their website for a daily drabble and Kindle book bargains). This drabble is the first in a two-parter. You can read my other drabbles on my drabble page here:

And if you're looking for more drabbles or flash and short fiction then come and join the Facebook group dedicated to those forms:

The Life of a Prayer (Atheist Version)

From my heart comes the pain, a physical burden, too terrible to bear.

From my mind emerges understanding of my suffering and the desire to be whole once more.

From my lips issue the words of my plea, my hopes for a life reborn anew.

Through my ears I hear the words that my lips have spoken.

Through my mind I tease meaning from the memories of the life I have lived.

Through my dreams I ponder the solution to my grief.

Through the passage of time I accept what has gone and what has come and life rolls on.

Thursday 26 June 2014

ABC Drabbles of Death - I is for Imp

We reach the letter 'I' in our trip through the alphabet and for this drabble we have a special guest star. The Imp is no stranger to death, although he does have his own unusual methods.

If you want to read the previous drabbles in the series then you can find them all here:

And if you're looking for more short and flash fiction to read then come and join the Facebook group dedicated to those forms:

I is for Imp

The Imp’s a tiny fellow; even so he once killed a man in the most horrible fashion I have ever witnessed.

He waited until the poor fellow slept and then superglued his lips and one nostril shut. He waited patiently to make sure that the skin had properly fused.

He then pissed into the man’s nostril.

He did it in my ear once and it burns I can tell you!

The man awoke panicked, unable to breath and demon urine flooding his lungs. The glue held firm and I stood amazed that such a tiny creature could piss so much.

An Odd Quartet is now Available from Scribd

I'm pleased to announce that my first short story collection 'An Odd Quartet' is now available on Scribd:

An Odd Quartet is a collection of four dark short stories, each with a twist in the tale.

The Yellow Lady

A grave robber encounters a ghost from a story he was told as a child.

This Empty Place

At the heat death of the universe, the Grim Reaper contemplates his existence.

Forced Entry 

A special forces team enters a suburban house to rescue a family taken hostage, they encounter more than they were trained for.

The Reluctant Demon

A young demon prepares to take his possession exam.

This Drabble Enhanced edition also includes some of my favourite drabbles (100 word stories).

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Book Impressions - FAG by Jonathan Hill

I'm a fan of the author's previous work. The Maureen stories are funny with deceptive emotional depth. His short stories and drabbles are often dark and perceptive and they demonstrate a mastery of the art. This first full novel of his is a very different beast and represents a departure from his usual forms.

Not only does he stretch his literary endurance he also tackles some very difficult and emotive themes and he does so with such a skill that you wouldn't expect this to be his first novel. The bulk of the story takes place in a boys boarding school in the post war years of World War I. The practices of the boys to those weaker than that is shocking and unfortunately not something lost in the mists of history.

Bullying, even in (or maybe especially in) institutional forms is a terrible abuse and such is starkly portrayed on these pages. It also delves into how the boys handle (or don't as the case may be) these difficulties. Accompanying this is the discovery of the characters' sexuality and these are handled in a bold fashion. In many ways this is not a pleasant book to read, there is a great deal of unfairness and grim reality in this story.

It's worth the effort it takes to read. It's a moving tale and it's a testament to the author's talent that he does so in a way that keeps you absorbed in the unfolding events. If this is the quality we get for a first novel then I very much look forward to the next.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

Brierley's Boarding School for Boys, 1930s

Gray - a kindly but weak teacher with a secret he cannot reveal
Hodges - a headmaster who wields a terrifying and brutal power
Keen - a first year boy bullied viciously and mercilessly
Smythe - a ringleader intent on enforcing his fagging rights
Thompson - a prefect struggling just to survive

A new term opens with appalling tragedy, the repercussions of which lead to devastating consequences. The headmaster, who will stop at nothing to cover up the incident, fights for the reputation of Brierley's, while several of the school's inhabitants are left fighting for their lives.

A novel of approximately 73,000 words. Readers should note that the book contains strong language, scenes of a sexual nature and adult themes.

Click here to buy FAG from Amazon (and it's an incredible read)

Tales of the Imp - Sharp Scratch

We see a bit more of the Imp's machinations in the latest Tales of the Imp drabble. If you're not familiar with drabbles then they are a story that is exactly 100 words long. You can read the previous drabbles in the series here:

You can also find the origin story for the Imp (and it is a more traditional short story length) in the Off the KUF anthology, full details can be found at the end of this post.

And now let us see what the Imp is up to...

Sharp Scratch

I shouted at the Imp. I demanded to be allowed to make my own choices. He told me that the time had arrived; I needed one more change to become ready. And God help me I asked him what that was.

He showed me a syringe, it looked huge in his tiny hand.

I could have sex that very evening if I let him inject me with his secret concoction. I immediately offered him my arm and he shook his head and pointed down below. I hesitated, but figured it would just be a sharp scratch.

How wrong I was!

Off the KUF Volume 1 is an anthology of short fiction, guaranteed to appeal to readers of all genres! Whether you're a fan of mysteries, thrillers, historicals, romance, humour, literary fiction, horror or science fiction, Off the KUF will keep you entertained.

Volume 1 brings together 30 quality stories by 25 highly talented authors. Some will be well-known to fans of the indie fiction scene, while others will be new discoveries. All may become firm favourites after sampling their storytelling skills.

As well as short tales of varying lengths, this collection includes some drabbles - stories precisely 100 words long. So you can dip in and out as you wish, or consume the entire book from start to finish and be assured of an exciting degree of variety.

Volume 1 is edited by David Wailing and the contributing authors are (in alphabetical order): H.K. Abell, Andrew Barrett, Helena Hann-Basquiat, Jessica B. Bell, Nigel Bird, Michael Brookes, Anna Faversham, George Hamilton, John Gregory Hancock, Jennifer Hanning, David Haynes, Rick Haynes, Jonathan Hill, Sibel Hodge, K.M. Knight, Ken Magee, Kath Middleton, Cecilia Peartree, Lexi Revellian, Rosen Trevithick, David Wailing, Louise Warman, Lynda Wilcox, Andrew Craig Williams and Anne Wrightwell. The front cover is by Katie Stewart at Magic Owl Designs.

The Off the KUF trilogy of anthologies is brought to you by the Kindle Users Forum (KUF). All proceeds from ebook sales are used to maintain the forum. Join us at

Look out for Volume 2 in December 2013, and Volume 3 in February 2014!

Buy now from Amazon (US) | Buy now from Amazon (UK)

Blog Shout Out - Cas Blomberg

For this week's blog shout out we pay a visit to Cas Blomberg's blog. Discover more about this blog in her own words below:

My name is Cas and I’m a former police officer, gamer, and currently exhausted mother who decided to explore the world. Last fall when the kids began school, and I made the decision to turn to writing full time, I created a business plan. I know, I’m a geek. What can I say? The police officer still living inside of me needed to see stats and details--not to mention dates, times and a list of witnesses. When I began plugging in the details for a marketing plan, I knew I needed a blog. So on one chilly April morning, I sat down and created my own space. (

I learned a lot those first few weeks. I learned that ‘tags’ was not a strange internet game played by popping up on someone’s computer monitor, tapping them on the shoulder and running away laughing. I learned that no matter how many times I proof a post, without fail AFTER it’s published I’ll notice two other mistakes and need to go back in to correct them. And I learned widgets were not tiny creatures trying to control my brain. All in all, it’s been so much fun!

It’s been almost two months since I started the blog, and I try to post at least twice a week. I don’t have a pre-planned schedule of what I’m going to write about. I envy people who do this, but I just can’t do it. Believe me, I try it. I go to bed and think about posting a series on storms or eco-friendly wizards. When I wake up, for some reason I’m compelled to write about my daughter’s writing phase. As a result, my posts will span a variety of interests. Of course, I write about my journey as a writer, things that inspire me, and even setbacks. My most popular posts, not to mention my own favorites, are:

What Writing Teaches Us (, where I talk about my daughter’s writing journey,

The launch announcement for an additional content page called Jakob’s Journal (

I also love the post Publishing Launch Weekend (, mainly because it commemorates the launch of my first novel.

At the moment, simplicity is the theme for my blog. I have a static page, complete with a photograph of some ruins in Visby, Sweden (beautiful place). An about page, where folks can read more about me, and all of my blog posts pop up on a Blog page.

I’m excited to announce a new page on the blog. I’ve recently added a section called Jakob’s Journal. Jakob Borchain is one of the priests in my novel, Ashborne. When his city falls under siege, Jakob risks his life to protect a handful of survivors. His story wasn’t told in the novel, but as I read through his notes I realize how important it is for his voice to be heard. I’ve never done anything like this before, so I’m excited to see the response. So far, it’s been fantastic!

I can’t wait to see where it all leads =).

The Cult of Me is now Available on Scribd

I'm pleased to announce that The Cult of me is now available on Scribd:

Read now on Scribd

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.

Tuesday 24 June 2014

Murder Drabbles - A Drabble Too Far

The latest in the murder drabble series has been posted in the Indie Book Bargains newsletter (sign up to their newsletter at for a daily drabble fix and the latest Kindle book bargains). If you haven't read the previous drabbles you can find the whole series here:

A Drabble Too Far

The need to kill became physical, more than simple desire. My waking mind tormented by the sweet images of severed throats and spilling guts. The music of screams, I yearned to hear them again, but they would be watching. Fear tempered my desire and a despairing thought reminded me of these drabbles.

These confessions of the acts I’d committed. Who had read them and who would connect them? I couldn’t stop though, they were my trophies, my memories of treasured moments. I could no more give up these drabbles than I could killing, I would need to take precautions though.

Tuesday Tease - The book of Abominations by Conrad Jones

The Tuesday Tease is a fun feature for me as it often adds new books to my TBR list! That was the case with this week's tease as the excerpt from Conrad Jones collection of horror stories 'The Book of Abominations' encouraged me to pick this up immediately. Have a read for yourself and see if it does the same for you:
Click on book image to buy from Amazon
The Book of Abominations
A Collection of Horror Stories
Conrad Jones



2014 Liverpool

The Librarian pulled out the sheet of paper from his scanner and added it to the file beside him on the polished walnut desk. He lifted a cut glass tumbler to his lips, enjoying the aroma of a Scottish single malt. It was from the Isle of Skye and distilled into oak barrels, which were draped with seaweed and drenched regularly with spring water to infuse the whisky with the flavour of the sea. He could almost smell the salt air as he savoured the flavour. Sometimes he could hear the gulls gliding on the sea breeze above the island’s distillery hundreds of miles north but that was usually after one too many. The whisky burned pleasantly as he swallowed it. Its soothing effect settled his nerves and numbed the pain in his wounded arm. Twelve stitches this time, each one a reminder of this investigation. He couldn’t take the case any further. It was finito, ended, complete, finished, done and yet he felt no satisfaction or relief in its closure. It had taken him many months to discover the truths behind the tragic events in that small, insignificant terraced house in Liverpool.

44, St Oswald’s Street had been a brick-built conundrum with an insidious past, that seemed to seep through time to affect the present. He couldn’t prove things one way or the other but at least there were some answers to the many questions. Granted, there were not enough answers, but there were some. They would never know for sure, but for now his work was done as far as this dreadful case was concerned. The head of that particular serpent had been severed by his own hand.

There was no celebration to be had. The cost of human life had been too high. Everything comes at a price. One investigator had lost her life during the project and he had to put it down to the evil at 44, St Oswald’s St. If he allowed the guilt inside him to get a grip, then it would never let go of him. He would be in its suffocating grasp for all time. Everyone who became involved in such an investigation knew the risks. He always told those who dabbled with darkness, ‘If you want to play with madness, then never be surprised by its ability to twist your mind. Once you believe that real evil exists, there is nowhere safe in this world or the next, for it will seek you for all eternity. When you experience true darkness, your heart never sees the light quite as it did before.’ The mystery behind the series of disappearances and violent deaths at number 44 which had taken place regularly since the late 1600’s, had finally been uncovered. He hoped that the publication of his findings may clear the names of the innocent and put the blame fairly and squarely where it belonged. But he didn’t know, even now, if his evidence would be believed. He had found it hard to believe himself.

His association with the events at Old Swan had led him to uncover tales of horror which were masked on brief occasions by periods of happiness in unequal measure. It was an address tainted by murder and mayhem, stories which were sad enough to make the strong weep. There were too many stories, verified and hearsay, for them to be a coincidence. He knew that in the dimension of Magick, coincidence didn’t exist. He felt the weight of guilt as he rose from his desk and switched off the reading lamp. Deciding to have another whisky before bedtime, he made his way from the study to the tiny living room, where a coal fire was burning in the hearth. The flames flickered and jumped as if being fuelled by an invisible draught. It cast a warm glow around the room, although the corners were still hidden in shadows which advanced and deepened as the flames danced. It seemed that he was in a constant battle with the shadows at the corner of the room. They tried to advance and swallow him at every opportunity. Every time he turned his back he felt the darkness creeping up behind him. It was a living, breathing entity with a life of its own and it was evil incarnate. He knew that it would win the battle one day. One day it would overwhelm the light and envelop him. It would absorb him into itself, making it a little darker and a touch more evil than it was before. But for now he would use every ounce of power that he had to fend it off. 
With the fire blazing and the curtains drawn, it was hard to believe that he lived in a basement flat. Number 9, Bold St had become infamous to all who stepped into the dark world of the occult. Some thought occultism was a joke, a place where idiots found solace with other idiots; witches and wizards and wrinkled old druids prancing about Stonehenge. The Librarian knew better, as did the others who shared his title. Similar libraries had been set up in many cities, all at the same address so that those in need of help could find them. He had been sent to the Bold Street which was in Liverpool. The front was a small book store, specialising in out of print editions. It had few legitimate customers, although it had many visitors. When the shop was closed and he was in the basement flat beneath, he could be anywhere that his imagination allowed him to be. His private collection of books lined every wall. Wicca, The Books of the Dead, The Encyclopaedias of the Damned, The Nature of the Beast, Satanism, Paganism and the Sigil of Baphomet, all the dark religions were represented within the thousands of pages of documented dark arts. He had read but a fraction of the powerful works that he guarded. The knowledge which they imparted could be used to help others battle the darkness, but it came at a price. Sometimes he felt the insidious energy which was held within the pages bleeding into the atmosphere of the room. It was like static electricity before a thunderstorm and yet other times, he felt nothing at all. His dreams were haunted by the eyeless faces of the dead, although he had no time to pity them. They were lost to the evil side and couldn’t be saved. His focus had to be on the living. Saving them was his remit. He glanced up at the clock on the mantelpiece and sighed. Nearly midnight. His mind was still working overtime, the details of the investigation still jostling for his attention. He didn’t think he would be able to sleep, even though his eyes were sore and his body was exhausted. As he poured himself another scotch he heard the clock chime. It was the witching hour and cold fingers of fear toyed with his mind, sending a shiver up his spine. The living room window exploded in a shower of glass, lethal shards sent in every direction. They had come for him.

Click here to buy The Book of Abominations from Amazon

About the Author

Conrad Jones is a 49-year-old Author, who has 13 novels and has been published by Constable and Robinson, Champagne Books and Thames River Press. The Soft Target Series has six books following an ex-Special Forces operative, who battles crime and the first book, ‘Soft Target’ is permanently free to download. The Hunting Angels Diaries, A Child for the Devil (Always 77p/99c), Black Angels and Nine Angels is a horror series. The Detective Alec Ramsay Series, including the Best Selling ‘The Child Taker’ has five novels to date. You can find more about Conrad’s novels at. 

Monday 23 June 2014

Guest Author Interview - Harriet Pike

In this week's guest author interview I meet Harriet Pike, author of Enemy in the Garden, you can discover more about her and her writing below:

Click on the image to buy book from Amazon

Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
I am Harriet Pike, author of "Enemy in the Garden." Since the moment I picked up my first library book at age 5, I've always loved reading. I wanted to hold a book in my hand, read for hours in the comfortable chair near the window and, most of all, someday see my own name on the spine of a book. Born of a curiosity about how things work and why people do what they do, I hoped to capture these things on paper. I guess my first "writerly" thought was lying in bed at age 6 and thinking how I would describe myself lying in bed. Writing is something I have done all my life. After majoring in English literature in college, I graduated to a job as a daily news reporter, followed by a career in journalism, editing and political and non-profit public relations. Now that I've published a book, I can add novelist to the credits.

What first inspired you to start writing?
The beautiful, elegant writing of the masters of English: Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen, Gerard Manley Hopkins, plus Joan Didion, Philip Roth and Michael Chabon, to name a few. Their deep understanding of human nature is an inspiration to me.

Which author do you most admire and why?
I'd have to go with Virginia Woolf, the subject of my English honors' thesis.
She was a woman who struggled with mental illness but was still able to create a world in beautiful prose. (Maybe you have to be a little crazy to be an extraordinary writer).

Where did the idea for Enemy in the Garden come from?
I'm fascinated by the way in which anti-Semitism manages to morph and change in different countries and historical eras, but doesn't disappear. While it has always existed in some form in America, its twisted appeal ebbs and rises at different times. Exploring how it affects an ordinary suburban couple in a particular period, the 1970s, when conflicting ideologies tear at the fabric of society, was a tantalizing hook.

What do you find most rewarding about writing?
Playing with words, making them "perform" the task you've set, is what I find most satisfying.

And the most challenging?
Story ideas are everywhere: in the media, in your community, in your family. What is difficult is figuring out motivation for human actions. In order for a work of fiction to ring true, the actions of characters need to have a basis in reality.

What is your favourite song lyric?
"Over the Rainbow."

What are you working on at the moment?
Still in the thriller mode, I am considering a novel about a community on the brink of a nuclear catastrophe.

Tell us about your latest work and how we can find out more.
Once I have gotten over the hump of marketing "Enemy in the Garden," (available as a paperback or ebook on, I'll have more to say on the subject of future works. Goodreads' author page is a place to keep us with what I'm doing.

Click here to buy Enemy in the Garden from Amazon

Book Impression - The Devil and Preston Black by Jason Jack Miller

I realised as I started this book that I'd read them in the wrong order as I'd already the second book in this series. Thankfully that didn't matter as they are thematically linked rather than a trilogy in the traditional sense. The dark aspect of the folklore is less prevalent in this book than it was in Hellbender, it provides a background for some of the sinister aspects of the plot.

The real subject is music and how it becomes an obsession for those devoted to their art. It takes us on a journey not only for Preston Black but for the history of music and related folklore for backwoods America. And quite simply I was enthralled. Not only has the author created an interesting (if familiar in theme) story, but I found myself fascinated by the history itself.

There is a deep love and understanding of music here and of the effect that it can have on people. The main character is flawed, often trying and failing to do the right thing. My one complaint is the supporting cast, it's not they are badly done by any means. I just wanted more. There's a rich world here, populated with interesting people and I could have happily read more of it.

I'm a big fan of the Faust legend and this is a different take on that classic tale. In some ways it's predictable, but in others it brings a fresh perspective on the dilemmas is introduces. It's also a story that doesn't slot neatly into a genre. There are some horror elements, but it's not strictly speaking a horror novel. What it is though is a fantastic story that I'd heartily recommend to anyone.

Click image to buy book from Amazon

THE DEVIL AND PRESTON BLACK, HELLBENDER, and THE REVELATIONS OF PRESTON BLACK are part of a linked series, meaning they can be read in any order. These visionary paranormal urban fantasy novels contain elements of horror, dark fantasy, and magical realism, rooted in mythology and folklore.

Preston Black has a nasty habit of falling in love with the wrong type of woman. But girls who don't play nice are the least of his problems. This handsome bar band guitarist isn't washed-up, but he's about to be. He's broke, he's tired of playing covers and he's obsessed with the Curse of 27.

He's about to add 'deal with the devil' to his list.

Lucky for Preston, he has help. Like the angelic beauty who picks him up when he's down. And the university professor who helps him sort through old Appalachian hexes and curses to find the song that may be his only shot at redemption. And when things get real bad, he has the ghost of John Lennon to remind him that "nothing is real."

Let Raw Dog Screaming Press author Jason Jack Miller take you to a place where love is forever even when death isn't, where magic doesn't have to be seen to be believed, where a song might be the only thing that saves your soul.

The MURDER BALLADS AND WHISKEY Series is a unique, literary, blend of dark fiction, paranormal urban fantasy and horror. It's Appalachian Gothic, Alt.Magical.Realism, Hillbilly Horror. It's AMERICAN GODS meets JUSTIFIED. TRUE BLOOD with witches. It's Johnny Cash with a fistful of copperheads singing the devil right back to hell. This is your ticket into a world where love can save your soul, where a song can change your destiny, and where evil still hides in the dark corners of the night.

"With this new book, Jason Jack Miller has single-handedly cornered the market on Appalachian Noir fiction, and deservedly so. The Devil and Preston Black is a page-turner laced with an audiophile's longing for the days when music was genuine, and the storytelling reminded me of a strange array of similar stories -- High Fidelity, Crossroads, Justified... -- yet it stood out from the pack as fresh, thanks to Miller's authentic Appalachian voice. Any lover of guitar music or the history of the blues will instantly see themselves reflected in the story, filtered through a noir fuzz pedal, amped up with the electricity of dark fantasy. Miller's flair for words is evident even in the title alone: I can't think of a more appropriate name than "Preston Black"! With just the right touch of magical realism, this hip take on the 'deal with the devil' story conjures up a tale that's vastly enthralling and compulsively readable. Highly recommended." Five time Bram Stoker Award winner Michael A. Arnzen.

"Miller infuses his tale of longing and self-discovery with so many subtle and overt (in a good way) nods to music and its creators that his passion for music is quite evident. Even if you don't know all of the references, you know the type of music gods he's referring to. He also has created such a believable character in Preston Black that you care about the many ups and downs Miller puts him through. The finale, which I won't give away here, literally sent goosebumps down my arms. I can't remember the last time that happened while reading a book. All in all, a great read from an author with a mature voice. I look forward to reading more by Jason Jack Miller." Glen Krisch's novels include The Nightmare Within, Where Darkness Dwells, and Nothing Lasting.

Click here to buy The Devil and Preston Black from Amazon (and it's an excellent read)

Sunday 22 June 2014

Sunday Story - Garbage by Jason Purdy

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick /

Every month as I read through the entries for the monthly short fiction contest I have the tough decision of selecting only three stories from many excellent stories. So from June's contests onwards I have changed the rules. I will be posting stories from the contest that I feel are worthy of attention but didn't make the top three.

The first story showcased in this way is Jason Purdy's entry for June's short fiction contest. Jason is regular entrant to the contest and he has a real talent for writing. So much so that he's won a few times and usually makes the short list from which I pick the final three. Here is his entry for June's contest:

Garbage by Jason Purdy

It was a routine clean up job, until I found the fetus in the jar. I was little more than a garbage man, only with considerably more danger. Clad in a hazmat suit, it was my job to go into the old dwellings under the city and check for anything valuable, anything dangerous, and anything that might hurt the precious folks above. We rarely found much. The most interesting thing was probably four tonnes of TNT that could have brought the whole city above collapsing in on itself like a religious argument. They used it to crush old London.

The synthetics sent us regular old people down here for the filthy work. We got all the dangerous jobs, even though we were still entirely flesh, and everyone up in the city was well on their way to being machines entirely. I had no implants, no circuitry, I was all man, albeit grown and birthed from a synthetic womb. I was entirely vulnerable, poor, destitute, impoverished, and I was five hundred feet underground breathing stale farts through a respirator and picking my way through a family home straight out of the early twenty first century. It was creepy, I knew a little of history, but I didn’t know what any of this stuff did. I knew about the wars, the famine, the technological singularity, the nuclear holocaust, the oil shortage, and the second coming of Christ, all the important stuff. But the people, their lives, the clothes they wore, the way they loved, the things they cherished, that was all lost. 

It would soon be lost forever, once they got through destroying everything down here, turning the under city to ash. First, I had a job to do.

In the bathroom, there was a grimy tub half filled with stagnant water. A tentacle flicked against the side of the tub as I entered, and I shot my weapon into the water, sending a concentrated arc of electricity, like a lightning bolt, into the tub. I held the trigger until steam rose from the water. They shouldn’t send us down here alone, monstrosities lurked in the darkness, but we were expendable, poor, destitute, drug addicts, ex-cons, rapists, and murderers. I could try and tell you I was framed but the judge wouldn’t believe that, and neither would you. I’ve made peace with my crimes.

The fetus was sitting on top of the toilet tank. The jar was grimy but intact, floating in clear white fluid. The eyes were closed, and its hands were held before its face like it was praying. My body was suddenly slick with sweat inside my suit. My orders were to extract anything interesting and to approve the site for vaporization. What could I do? Here was the first fully human baby to exist in the last two hundred years. The last child to be born from a real womb. The synthetics above would destroy it without hesitation. 

I took the jar, and I ran.

Saturday 21 June 2014

June Short Fiction Contest Winners

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick /
It's that fun time of the month where I spend the day reading through the entries for the latest short fiction contest. June's image was a little abstract and generated a diverse range of stories. As always I'd like to thank everyone who entered. The standard of entries was high and it was a tough job to decide on the three winners. There's a few stories that didn't make the top three that I will feature in the Sunday Story posts over the coming weeks.

Today's post however is dedicated to the winners who can choose to receive their prize as an Amazon gift card or PayPal payment.

  • First prize (£50 value) goes to Lee Tonks for his story 'The Last Mother'
  • Second prize (£20 value) goes to John Moralee for his story 'Dream Baby'
  • Third prize (£10 value) goes to Michael D Brooks for his story 'Making Change'

Congratulations to the winners and please share the link to this page wherever you can so more people can enjoy these excellent stories.

The Last Mother by Lee Tonks

My sons and daughters,

By the time you read this I will be long gone, but through you our legacy will hopefully live on. As I dictate this I'm staring down at my home, or what remains of it. Earth was once beautiful and in a way it still is, but now the surface is red and scorched, the cities burning, the atmosphere poisoned by weaponry so terrifying I can barely bring myself to contemplate it.

They are gone. All of them. Not a soul remains on the planet below.

I am standing in the observation lounge of Orbital Science Platform 7. I have been here for several hours now wondering what I should tell you of myself, my family, the human race, our home, our achievements, our failures, our ultimate destruction at our own hands. And I've decided that it doesn't matter, none of it does. All that matters is that we survive, that the human race in some form or other continues. What came before is meaningless now that it's all gone.

The other scientists have taken the shuttle and headed for the moon-base. They begged me to go with them, of course, but I refused. For one, at least two of the missiles were aimed directly at it; we watched them pass. For two, even if the base survived there is no hope there - no air, no water, no food. Once the supplies are depleted all that awaits the people there is a slow, lingering death. That's not for me.

This facility was originally charged with studying the long-term effects of space travel on human and animal biology. In the past few days I have taken every human egg I can find from our stores and fertilized them in the lab. As a result I now have around two hundred thousand viable embryos, which I have frozen into twelve canisters and loaded into the life-pod. The pod was intended to enable the staff of the platform to survive for only a short period in the event of an accident, but frozen embryos do not require air or water or heat. The vacuum of space will ensure they remain frozen.

Soon I will also load the pod with as much equipment and information as I can find that will help explain how the embryos can be revived and brought to term. I've programmed a single burn of all of the pod's fuel and this should give it enough momentum to carry it out of our solar system and away. Away from all this destruction.

These embryos are you. If you are reading this then I have succeeded; some other civilisation has found you and revived our species from oblivion. It's a small hope, but it's all I have.

The oxygen here will run out tomorrow, but I don't intend to be around when that happens. For now I'll enjoy the silence and mourn my world just a little longer. 

Take care, my children. 

For you are humanity.

Dream Baby by John Moralee

My unborn child moves inside the membrane between our ship and the hard vacuum of space, squirming in delight as she downloads memories of Earth from the archives.  She floats in the zero-gee tank as though that was how she was meant to be gestated – without the comforting warmth of my body and womb.  It makes me ache to see her that way – but it can’t be done another way here on the Orbital, where everyone must fulfil their duties to the ship.  The regs don’t permit pregnancy.

I feel my flat stomach and sigh, regretting my decision to leave Earth for the  Orbital, where life is hard and short.  I press my hand against the glass and connect to my baby’s neural link.  I feel her emotions.  She’s content.  Blissfully happy.  She doesn’t need me, her mother, not with the ship giving her everything she needs to grow.  In a few months she will be ready to come out of the incubation pod – but for now she is still forming, an embryo swirling in a tank of nutrients against a background of stars.  She’s lovely, and she’s mine.  I feel a wave of love for her, but also apprehension.

The Orbital is not a place for a child.

An orange jumpsuit reflects in the glass.  It’s Stefan floating down the tunnel from the hub.  He grabs me when he reaches the birthing chamber.  He grins.

“Are you going to stare at her all day, Lu?”

“I’m off-duty for another three hours,” I say.  “This is how I relax.  Watching our daughter.”

“I can think of another way we can relax.”

“I know you can.  That’s how we ended up with a baby in space.  Shouldn’t you be guarding the executives on omega deck?”

“They’re in a meeting in the bubble, interfacing with the AI.  They let me have an hour.  I’m bored, Lu.  Let’s go to our cabin.”  Stefan kisses me – but I pull away.

“Did you feel that?”

He frowns.  “What?”

“Something is wrong with the Orbital.”

“You can’t possibly know -”

But I do.  The stars are moving behind our baby – which means the ship has altered course.  Our nameless child reacts by curling up into a ball, a defensive gesture against whatever unknown thing is affecting the ship.  My skin tingles like it has been brushed with cold feathers.
The view outside has changed.  Now the purple gas giant is visible.  Stellar data confirms my suspicions.  We’re no longer in a stable orbit.  We’re heading towards the upper atmosphere at greater and greater velocity, where the Orbital will break apart like a popped balloon … unless … unless …

“What’s happening?” Stefan says.

Our baby turns in the tank.  Her tiny mouth forms a smile.

I know what is happening.  The neural link to the ship works two ways.  Our child has hacked the ship’s network.  She’s taken control.

She doesn’t want to live here.

We’re slingshotting.

We’re going back home.

Making Change by Michael D Brooks

“There’s something wrong with that kid, I tell you.”

Ammon sat in his favored black recliner and stared at the wall-sized entertainment screen, but did not consciously see the images or hear the sounds that projected from it.

“You're an old-fashioned, close minded relic that’s going to break if you don’t learn how to bend,” his wife countered.

Beset sat in her more brightly colored recliner and glanced over at her husband before she returned her attention to the screen.

“It's not natural, Beset.”  He sipped his brew, but did not really taste it.    And though his eyes were hypnotically fixed on the entertainment screen, he intently looked at something only his mind saw.  “I’m not saying it’s wrong or anything—”

“Then what are you saying?” she demanded.

“I’m saying it just doesn't seem natural to me.   That’s all.”

Beset remained silent until the next commercial break before she turned and addressed her husband.

“Joachim loves Lawrence, he loves her, and they’re going to have a baby together.  You’re going to be a grandfather.  I’m going to be a grandmother.  I don’t see anything ‘unnatural’ about that.”  Beset sniffed derisively once then glanced at the screen intent on not missing her favorite show’s return from commercial break.

“Yeah, but did you see that ultrasound?”  Ammon barely heard anything his wife said.  “The darn thing looks like an alien or some kind of space baby or something floating around in there.”

“Pause,” Beset commanded.  The images on screen froze and the sound muted.  The irritation in her voice was unmistakable.  She turned from the screen and looked squarely at her husband and said nothing.   The silence in the room between them grew.  She stared at him as if her eyes could bore holes in his skull.   After what seemed like an eternity, he looked at her.   “Listen, you old coot,” she began, peppering her speech with short, precise sentences.   “Joachim is our daughter.  We love her very much.  We want her to be happy.  Lawrence makes her happy.  I’m happy with that and so are you.   And the doctors have all said the baby is healthy.  There is nothing wrong with the baby.  And when it’s born, we are going to love it unconditionally.   Period.   End of story.  Do you understand?”

Ammon stared blankly at his wife, took another sip of his drink and said.  “Yeah, I understand, but why does it have to be human?”