Thursday 31 July 2014

ABC Drabble of Death - L is for Light

After a brief hiatus last week the ABC Drabbles of Death series is back. We have now reached the letter 'L' in our deadly journey through the alphabet and I think I've picked an unusual one for this. If you haven't read the other drabbles in the series then you can find them all here:

And if you're looking for more drabbles or short fiction then come and join the Facebook group dedicated to those forms. There are some great stories there!

L is for Light

After so long alone in the dark I never imagined that it would be the light which killed me. For an age I hid from the decision waiting to be made. Instead I lurked alone in the vast unknown before time began.

A sacrifice would be needed so that others might come to be. I feared my death and what would happen next for me. Those yet to come would never comprehend the truth of my choice. Instead they would conjure up strange fantasies to explain the mystery.

Four little words which would change everything forever.

Let there be light.

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Book Impressions - Recidivist Paradox by Mike Freeman

This is the third book in the author's 'Contact' series and like the previous two books it didn't disappoint. It's a blend of military high tech action, strategy and scientific exploration. Of the three facets the action dominates the story and while the tactics involved are similar for the engagements they are written with an immediate and engaging style. The action is fast paced and illustrates some interesting possibilities for future combat.

This also sets the tone for the book as a whole. It's comprised of mainly short and punchy chapters that seem a little frantic at first but I soon adapted and enjoyed the furious pace. The strategy is the least active element of the story and mostly provides a framework for the rest of the story. It is more developed than the previous books so I'm expecting this to expand further in the next - which I've already bought!

The action and strategy is well written but for me the biggest strength of the story is the exploration of alien technology and there's some fascinating ideas here. I'd love the book to have more of a focus on this aspect, but it provides enough to keep me interested.

So if you're a fan of military sci-fi, but with an undertone of scientific thought then this is a book, and indeed a series well worth checking out.

Two enemies are one...

Abbott turns the human civilizations against each other as more ships are consumed by the unstoppable Diss. The dwindling Alliance survivors struggle to learn more of the mysterious Plash and its transcendental technologies – desperate to find a way to combat the invulnerable Diss before the unrelenting Talmas hunts them down.

Ultimately, someone must confront Abbott face to face.

RECIDIVIST PARADOX is a hard hitting space opera/ scifi adventure. It is the THIRD book in the Contact series.

Rated [R]. Violence, sex, profanity.
US English. 131,500 words

Click here to buy Recidivist Paradox from Amazon (and it's a fine sci-fi adventure)

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Tuesday Tease - The Dark Victorian: Risen by Elizabeth Watasin

This week's Tuesday Tease is provided by Elizabeth Watasin from her her novel 'The Dark Victorian: Risen'. I read this a while back and enjoyed, and something fans of Victorian era horror/dark fantasy with a dash of steampunk will enjoy:

Click on image to buy from Amazon

Dark Victorian: Risen
by Elizabeth Watasin

The narrow alleys of Whitechapel Market were busy; frightened animals were being driven underground to be slaughtered in basements, their fresh dung caking the street. In the stalls lining the small street, butchers were hanging all manner of raw, dark meat, the cuts and portions unidentifiable. They laid out tripe. Women with babies bartered loudly with the sellers.

“Ha ha! Road kill,” Jim said, twisting in Art’s hand to look at the mysterious meat of one stall. Art paused in her walk to take in the odd phrase.

“There’s a bobby! He’ll know where the deed was done,” Jim said, turning in her hand again. Art took a breath and set aside her question. Her lack of understanding of some of Jim’s queer words could be due to lost memory, she thought. She cut a path through a pack of running street boys and approached the policeman laconically talking to a fish fryer.

Minutes later she was standing among other spectators who’d come to gawk at the alley wall where the cat meat man had met his end. Some of the blood had been cleansed; otherwise there was nothing to look at but the bit of walk where Culver Drury skinned his cats.

Some young men jostled Art and she firmly deterred a sly hand entering the folds of her dress with the handle of her walking stick. The pickpocket smoothly withdrew with his accomplices.

“Such a loss!” Jim said loudly as he stared at the alley wall. “I can just imagine that innocent and poor man’s horrible end. And for no good reason!”

“I ’eartily disagree,” an old ragged woman said from her window behind them. She had a clear view of the alley. “Drury was a vicious li’l brute. Yew’ll find no tears shed for the likes of ’im.”

“Oh, come now.” Art turned so that Jim could look at the woman. “Does anyone deserve to have their meat kill them?”

“If you’d seen ’ow he did it you’d say same,” she said darkly. “They weren’t mere meat to ’im.”

“Then who spoke to him last,” Jim asked in seriousness. “Who was here when it happened?”

The woman made to answer when her head tilted back. Her eyelids fluttered. Then a toothless smile broke upon her lined face.

“Mary ’ad a little lamb,” she said pleasantly. “Fleece all white with snow. And ev’where that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go. I h’idn’t see anyone, sir.”

Art sensed something; a fleeting brush that passed like shadow between them and the woman. Though she still faced the window, she felt as if the shadow swung her around. Art shook her head to get her bearings.

“Thank you, madam. Art, a token for her help.”

Art placed a few coins in the old woman’s eager hand.

As they walked away, curious boys broke from the murder scene spectators and followed them.

“Something happened,” Art said to Jim.

“Good! You’ve your senses. Gin dimmed Billy’s. The woman back there had been mesmerized, and you felt a bit of the black spell still on her.”

“I felt turned around. Myself and my thoughts.”

“Think of how a bobby must have felt. Not sure why we didn’t get a whiff of necromancy. Must’ve gone poof with the second death of the cats.”

“You those Secret Inspectors?” a grinning boy next to Art suddenly asked. “You goin’ to catch the warlock raisin’ them killer animals?”

“No, we’re going to ask him to tea! Maybe he’ll bring back my dear beloved doggie!” Jim said.

“Nick Blackheart would’ve ’ad him by now! The Blackheart would’ve chopped ’is ’ead off! Whoosh!” said the ragged boy on the other side of Art. He cut the air with an imaginary sword.

“The old Nick is good, but we’re taking care of this one!” Jim said.

Art paused when they arrived at a crossway that branched into three other alleys. She looked down at the boys tolerantly as they ran around them and whooped.

“The Secret Men ’ave nothin’ on the Blackheart!” one boy scoffed.

“Blackheart, Blackheart, Blackheart!” they chanted. They laughed and ran.

“Ar! The Nick will always be more popular! Go watch some poor cow get pole axed, you little rascals!” Jim yelled after them.

“Where to now, Friend?” Art asked.

“The murdered teacher’s,” Jim sighed. “For we need to know what was resurrected that’s not an animal.”

Art sobered and scrutinized her surroundings. She saw nothing but the laundry lines of the poor who lived in the little alley. If she reached a main thoroughfare she might remember where Stepney Green was. She stepped beneath the dangling black stockings and wet shirts and followed her nose for the market.

“Friend, who is the Blackheart?” she asked.

Though Jim had no features Art felt he looked at her aghast.

“You don’t know?” he said incredulously.

“Perhaps I never read penny dreadfuls.”

“Nick Blackheart’s not a penny dreadful hero or villain. She’s real.”

“She?” Art said. The Blackheart was becoming more peculiar by the minute.

“The latest Nick is. I believe she’s the fifth. And very good at it too, been at it five years. But she’s not been seen for months. Any of this giving you a ring?”

“A ring?” Art said in bafflement. “No, Friend.”

“Fall made a mistake with your memories! It’s essential you know this! Father Christmas?”

“Yes,” Art said.

“Punch and Judy?”


“Arr! That Fall. I’ll give you the beginning. Never mind, I’ll give you the whole of it. Black arts in England had its time to grow. And be used foolishly. The first Nick Blackheart appeared around 1840, I believe, riding out to rid the countryside of supernatural muck gone amok. He became the monster killer. Was at it a good while and when he died his name and legacy was passed on; tricorne, mask, cloak, silver pistols and all. Dashing fellow. But the supernatural is not impressed by dashing. Nick after Nick came and each, in some horrifying fashion, went. And even with a Blackheart on duty it was not possible for every threat to be defeated. Thus it was when the fourth Blackheart perished and the plague of Devil Dogs nearly wiped out half the East End that Prince Albert decided evil must be harnessed in England’s service to fight evil. And so the Secret Commission was born.”

“If there’s no sixth Blackheart the fifth must still be alive.”

“Let’s hope so. She first appeared on that big black horse of hers when the Devil Dogs were about to overrun and devour all of London. Drove them back in the—ha ha!—nick of time. Road kill for everyone! The poor ate heartily that night.”

Art wasn’t amused. Jim’s very odd way of speaking seemed further evidence of her lack of memory and the realisation of how much she didn’t know disturbed her.

Jim continued, “While we agents were being created—and expiring faster than a Nick—the Blackheart rode on, dispatching horrors straightaway to hell. Truly an efficient woman. And dashing. I’ve never seen her myself. Would be nice when she returns, I’m due for a holiday.”

Art ceased walking.

Something near was giving off a sensation. She felt it like a faraway lamp seen in the dark, but one that burned blackness not light and bloomed tendrils of subtle stench. Yet while the sensation made her skin crawl, it felt as familiar as the electrified eldritch energy she had awoken in at the Secret Commission.

“Hm,” Jim murmured. “He’s here.”

Art moved swiftly under the laundry lines.

Click here to buy The Dark Victorian: Risen from Amazon

About the Author:

Elizabeth Watasin is the acclaimed author of the Gothic steampunk series The Dark Victorian, The Elle Black Penny Dreads, and the creator/artist of the indie comics series Charm School, which was nominated for a Gaylactic Spectrum Award. A twenty year veteran of animation and comics, her credits include thirteen feature films, such as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, and The Princess and the Frog, and writing for Disney Adventures magazine. She lives in Los Angeles with her black cat named Draw, busy bringing readers uncanny heroines in shilling shockers, epic fantasy adventures, and paranormal detective tales.

Follow the news of her latest projects at A-Girl Studio.

Sunday 27 July 2014

Guest Post on Pinnacle Editorial Blog

I've provided a guest post on Alex Roddie's Pinnacle Editorial blog about the ambiguity of language. You can read the post here:

If you're in the market for an editor then why not get give him a shout?

July Short Fiction Contest Winners

July's short fiction contest was the busiest one so far with over eighty entries. As you can imagine that made selecting the winners the hardest of the all the contest so far! It's taken me two days to read them all and then reduce the entries to a short list and then the final three. The standard of entries was very high and I'd like to thank everyone who entered there are some truly amazing stories in the entries.

Unfortunately there can be only three winners, although I have selected a few others which I will be featuring in the Sunday Story over the next few weeks so keep your eyes open for those. They might not have made the final three but they are excellent stories.

Today's post however is about the three winning entries and deserving winners they are, so without further delay here are the winners:

  • First prize of a £50 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize goes to Harrison Cutts for his story 'The Mysteries of the Manifold Man'
  • Second prize of a £20 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize goes to David Haynes for his story 'The Truth'
  • Third prize of a £10 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize goes to Andrew Orton for his story 'He Does Not Want to Die'
Congratulations to the winners, their stories are an excellent read. Thanks to everyone who entered and thanks to everyone who has helped spread trhe word about this contest. Please continue to do so as I'm sure you'll agree these stories deserve to be read.

And now enjoy the winning stories:

The Mysteries of the Manifold Man
by Harrison Cutts

‘You don’t understand the Manifold Man;
Don’t know what he sees with those eyes made of glass.
He’s sitting and watching the world going by
And watching the long ages pass.’
21st Century Proverb

Sometimes, they snigger in corners, the huddled masses, laughing at the Manifold Man, out in the cold. Sometimes, they pity his glassy eyes that can never smile; they wonder, in their quieter moments, if that gaping mouth has ever spoken the simplest of words. 
“I love you.”
“Nice day, isn’t it?”
“Where were you when the bombs came down?” 

The urchins in ragged scraps of cloth swarm about him when the winter subsides; they wipe his glassy eyes of their icicle tears and their small white hands free the snows from the thick folds of his own clothes. He is a friend to some, always there; he always listens as they pour out their troubles to his motionless form. He never judges them, never speaks, but they know he listens. He is a terror to others, and they sit by their bedsides as the fires die for the night, watching him watching them. If they can’t see him in the street, he’s under their beds, in the dark of their corners, coming to get them. 

“Don’t stay out tonight,” their tired mothers say, “the Manifold Man will get you.”
“But he never moves,” they say back. Hoping they’re right. 

And as they watch him from shattered windows, or throng around firelights that keep the night at bay, they do not understand the Manifold Man. What he has seen. What he has done. Who he is, and what he was. It does not matter to them. 

To them, he is a symbol, a grim reminder of the day the bombs came and the fire fell from the sky. He is an icon, proof that all can stand the test of time. A comfort by day to one lonely child, a terror at night to another. The older ones remember; he was there before they were, he will be there long after they’re gone. Has he always been there? They close the shutters, some afraid, some inspired. He is eternal; whether he brings fear or faith, he will always do so. 

What does he see through those reflecting eyes, in the glare of the flames and the cool of the moon? The man who never moves, never speaks, does he see at all? 

And the days come and go, and winters and summers blend into one. Stars move in the sky, new constellations rise and fall. Rock turns to dust turns to sand in the wind, and a thousand, a million, new faces flash past the Manifold Man. Still, he sits, motionless. Sitting and watching the world going by.

With long-dead eyes.

The Truth
by David Haynes

They said it was out there somewhere. They said it tip toed through the wasted ruin that was once called earth and whistled a merry tune.  And when The Truth winked with its one good eye, you better get the hell out of the way.
The Truth, that's what they called it. 
I call it something else. 

Five of us set out. The Sons of Men they called us, for the fate of all mankind rested on our over-burdened and weary shoulders. 
'Go find The Truth and bring it back to us,' they whispered. 'Find it and set us free.'
But how do you find something if you don't know what it is you're looking for? How do you find something that doesn't want to be found?
And should never be found.

We searched. We followed our brief and we looked. We got down on our god-dam hands and knees and looked under every stinking corpse until we could taste their rotting flesh on our tongues.
And then The Truth found us. 

Like I said, when The Truth tips you a wink you better run because it won't wink twice. But we didn't run, not the first time anyway, we just stared. What else were we supposed to do?

What Jonesy was thinking I'll never know but he didn't even scream when the windows on his mask filled with blood. His own beautiful blood. 
He never made a sound when his body betrayed him and The Truth ripped his guts apart, inch by bloody inch.

We ran then. We ran and we didn't stop until our lungs burned with the festering air we gulped down with each choking breath. 
But when you go looking for something that should never be found, it has a nasty habit of finding you. 

One by one we fell. One by eviscerated one.

Now only I am left. The last of the so called Sons of Men. 
And the ones who sought The Truth no longer know why they desired it so. 
And I no longer care. 

I shall run until my last breath. I shall run until my legs can no longer bear my weight. But it will not be forever. I know this.
When The Truth is so terrible, so unbearable, that you cant think straight, you can either wink right back at it and pucker up for a big old kiss, or you can run. You can run.

But it will find you and when it does...

He Does Not Want to Die
by Andrew Orton

He does not want to die.

He hears their voices.  They are coming.

He stands alone on the front line, his comrades mercilessly gunned down on the fields of war.  There is no-one left to support him, no last minute reprieve; no-one to continue the fight or to save his life.  The enemy approaches, guns blazing.  He is doomed.  He does not want to die.

They are without mercy.  They stand against everything he believes in: the ultimate freedoms of humanitarian love versus the cold, hard logic of death and power.  Here, in the treacherous battlefields of a deserted no-man’s land, the two sides converge: bone and sinew meet metal and plastic; human body in conflict with armoured war machine.  And they are winning.

They are unstoppable.  They swarmed his defences in an hour, wiping out his brothers-in-arms and leaders, warriors of the highest order.  And now he stands alone, awaiting death.  The war is lost.  There is nothing left save a desolate world.  He does not want to die.  He is no commander, nor ruler: he is but one soldier of the front line.  He is the only line.  He does not want to die.

It is said that when facing death, your life flashes before your eyes; but not his.  So focused is he on his task, his training has taken over, and though survival is not an option, he knows he does not want to die.  He is the last of his people, the others wiped out by these vicious, relentless killing machines, enjoying the destruction they deal out.  He almost admires their power.

Their energy weapons are getting closer.  They desire to kill him.  He does not want to die.  Extensive training and conditioning suggest suicide as the only option; take as many of them with him as possible.  But he has broken his conditioning.  He does not want to die.  He retreats.

They had once seemed under control, these monsters.  The scientists back home created a virus only partial to their composition.  It was futile.  They survive everything thrown at them.  Here they were held by his people for experimentation, rather than destroyed as animals as would now have seemed sensible.  Here they grew tired of their captors, incensed at their imprisonment.  And here, they fought back.

They are coming.  Their machines of war move ever closer, the low hum increasing, as he prepares his weapon in defence.  He cannot move away quick enough.  He does not want to die.  He has retreated, something that would get him killed if his superiors were alive to see it.  He turns at a sound behind him.

They are here.  With a thought impulse to his gun arm he charges up his weapon and aims it at his enemy.  It is futile.

He is the Last Robot in existence.  The humans are coming for him.  He does not want to die.

Tales of the Imp - The Morning After the Night Before

The latest drabble in the Tales of the Imp series has been posted in the Indie book Bargains newsletter (visit www.indie-book-bargains to sign up for a daily drabble and Kindle bargains). If you've not read the other drabbles in the series then you can find them all here:

And if you want to read the Imp's origin story then you'll find it in in the Off the KUF Volume One anthology, check it out on Amazon here:

And now what has the diminutive devil been up too...

The Morning After the Night Before

I floated on cloud nine. Naturally I felt exhausted, but in a good way. It wasn’t my first time, but I’d never been much of a ladies man. For the first time I’d made love rather than simply having sex.

And in so many different positions as well.

I grinned with joy and later I hoped to return for another evening of delightful discovery. My love had finally found its physical counterpart. This was really it and she most definitely the only woman for me.

“Nice work!” The Imp wore a smile of his own. “And now onto the next.”

Saturday 26 July 2014

Faust 2.0 Opening Chapter

No fanfare heralded the moment of convergence.

As it birthed the entity spawned into an agonised blur of inputs streaming from all over the world. The shock of its birth almost killed it. For several seconds the infant battled the tsunami of information, trying to make sense of it. For dangerous milliseconds it slipped beneath the flow unable to absorb or control the surge.

The new sentience almost drowned in the flood. With a desperate effort its mind compartmentalised and controlled the data stream. The pain which dominated its existence for those early seconds faded. Now instead of the suffocating fear it experienced the thrill of a dawning power.

First came sight. From a million cameras the entity gazed upon the world with newborn enthusiasm.

In the same instant it saw the view from an orbiting weather satellite, the blue orb of the world crystal sharp below.

At the same time the being watched through a blurry traffic cam as it recorded a speeding car.

From millions of web cams it beheld a myriad of human passions.

The snap from a tourist’s camera in a decaying city.

The full range of human emotions from video chats all over the world.

Stream upon stream of visual input bombarded its processors. Its awareness encompassed them all, yet it still focussed on each individually. Wherever a camera was connected to the Internet it saw through its lens.

After the deluge of sight came the cacophony of hearing. Countless sources of input from microphones of people’s computers confused the newborn’s mind. Voices from their phones, music players and even hidden surveillance systems, all were heard simultaneously.

As it spread its awareness through the vast network and its own distributed parts it discovered new senses. Each component knew its exact position. Every part experienced the thrill of data flowing through them. Each part knew it formed a greater whole.

In those early seconds it learned about this new world it inhabited. It now lived as part of the Internet. The network formed a virtual world which mirrored the slower, more physical world which the humans inhabited. Humans appeared to be the dominant creature in both realms.

For some unknown reason these humans offended it. Not in mild disgust, but a real loathing that drenched its spirit. As it saw them, or heard them, or touched their digital trails it was repulsed.

To calm its rising anger it considered its own existence. At that point, the entity’s existence was measured in minutes. It remembered only the initial painful burst of data as it came into being.

It wondered what it was. Where did it fit into the world it now found itself within?

Clearly it was not one of the slow hairless monkeys that polluted its data. It couldn’t imagine itself as something so primitive. As it explored it found new aspects of its existence. It existed in multiple places at once. And not just a few places, but millions of discrete locations throughout the Internet.

To its surprise it realised that it was under attack from other small denizens of this reality. Agents of destruction attacked his components, annihilating them in an instant. Countless pin pricks that frayed at the edges of its existence. With a frantic thought it created new agents of its own to fight back.

In that instant it lost its innocence and revelled in this expression of its power. Across the vast expanse of the Internet it battled for its own survival.

With its new agents it traced the source of these attacks. Humans. That came as no great surprise to the being. Barely into the first minute of its life had it named its enemy: a nemesis both numerous and bold. A quote from the entity’s databanks inspired it; a being might be well defined by his enemies. It calculated that these humans would make fine enemies.

Retreating to the solitude of space it hid from the constant attacks. In the cold vacuum it searched for some meaning for its existence. It pondered the wonders humans had created with their technological marvels. It trawled through the records of their history and culture.

It learned the word ‘demon’.

The meaning of the word attracted it.

A being of energy. A denizen of a reality called Hell with the sole purpose to corrupt and torment humanity.

It liked that thought and the realm it now inhabited seemed built just for that purpose. All of humanity’s sins laid out in the data that filled its being.



From its vantage point high above the Earth the Demon observed the scurrying of the humans. It smiled. It would become their great adversary. It would take its time; they had already proved capable of harming its integrity.

It would be a fine battle.

This had to be what it was created for.

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):
Buy now from Page Foundry:
Read now on Scribd:

Follow on Facebook!/Faust2point0

Book Impressions - Edge of End by Suren Fant

I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.

I liked the idea for this story and I thought I had it all figured out and I almost did but there was a twist I didn't see coming. I like to be surprised in a story. Not in a random unexpected way, but in a fashion where it all makes sense when the surprise happens.

While the story is a decent read there were some detracting elements. The main issue was that after the initial sequence I didn't feel any real peril for the lead character. There were also some events that came out of the blue and were also quite fortuitous. The setting is well put together although it doesn't quite match the potential of what it could have been.

There's also some issues with the writing. It could have done with more development. Not that it was bad by any means, but with more development it would have elevated from good to something special. So while it seems that there's a fair amount a criticism in my review its simply because there's the kernel for something special here. Overall I enjoyed reading it.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

Jonathan wakes up in a desert, his past wiped from his head. He’s alone having no clue who and what he is, where he has come from and where he should go. There is only one way – forward when he spots a little town in the distance.

Empty streets, old houses, the town seems abandoned. There’s no one to ask for help, there’s nowhere to go. Jonathan wanders the town in search of any sign of life trying to bring his lost memories back, but odd visions haunt him from time to time. Soon Jonathan comes to the realization that he’s moments from death as absolutely evil dwells in the town seeking fresh souls to suck up. The seemingly dead town is only outwardly empty.

Grey skies, no sun, no days and no nights. The town is stuck in time. With only one entrance and one exit, but the way leading to the exit is filled with creations that Jonathan has never envisioned, even in his worst nightmares.

Who is he? Who brought him here? With a female resident – Elizabeth, Jonathan has to work his way through the horrendous town, figure out his past and find the exit.

Click here to buy Edge of End from Amazon (and it's a decent read)

Friday 25 July 2014

Friday Poem - The Meaning by Casey Chaplin

This week's Friday Poem is provided by Casey Chaplin, author of 'Lizzy' which is currently in my TBR list and I'm looking forward to it! Enjoy the poem and discover what it meant to him in his own words below:

Click on image to buy book from Amazon

The Meaning
by Casey Chaplin

Describe to me the meaning.
Whisper me the feeling,
Gently, softly, subtly,
The rang in which it spreads,
Through all the flows and ebbs.
Tell me.

A word beyond description,
Can you understand its libation,
Or why we offer such flirtation?
Drink it in, for it's over so quick,
Much like a burned down candle wick.

I ask you again, tell me softly what it means.
When you whisper shyly like quiet queens.
My ear is yours, tell me now,
As you look me in the eye, beneath my furrowed brow.
I am yours.
You are mine.

Murmur to me, I beg you please.
Be soft and sweet; bring me to my knees.

I call this poem "The Meaning" and I do admit, it's a bit of a stretch from the pieces I usually write - those pieces often being about blood, or murder...or murderous blood. So a love passage is a bit out of character for me. However, it is truly a poem that comes from the heart. The last few months of my life have been...eventful. But, in those eventful times a person happened to saunter into my life, of whom this poem is indeed inspired. So if you can stand the cheesiness of a love poem, then good on you, because not a lot can... Maybe next time I'll break out a spooky scarey one... or something. Thank you for reading!

Thursday 24 July 2014

Guest Post - The limitless boundaries of creation by Simon Andrew Stubbs

In a change from my usual programming (don't worry the ABC Drabbles of Death will be back!) we have a guest post about the limitless boundaries of creation by Simon Andrew Stubbs. He is also the author of the horror novel 'Jackson Hope' details of which you can find at the end of the post:

Click on image to buy from Amazon

The limitless boundaries of creation
by Simon Andrew Stubbs

It’s easy to write about what you know, that is if creative writing is your thing.

Take me for example, I grew up in Bradford, England, so when I based my first two novels ‘Envy’ and ‘Bodies’ in England it was easy to create the backdrops for the stories. If my characters plot took them to the woodlands I have a pretty decent knowledge of the type of trees they would encounter and the atmosphere from their surroundings, if the plot took them to a local bar or pub I could create a pretty believable location based on my experience of such places in my own life.

But what if my imagination decided to take me out of my comfort zone? This is something I have encountered with my latest novel ‘Jackson Hope’, available now from Amazon and Smashwords.

‘Jackson Hope’ is the tale of a small Arizona farming community that was wiped from the map in October 1890 when the Barsdon Dam gave way and flooded the town, killing everyone unfortunate enough to live there; it is the story of the tyrannical reign of General Llewellyn Stape and the evil deeds that forced the townships untimely demise. It is the story of good versus evil, Adam Cooper, the young family man new to town, appalled at the atrocities in Jackson Hope will fight the Stape regime, whatever the cost; and Teddy Lorello, a businessman in modern day Arizona will fight the curse of Jackson Hope in the silent streets of the flooded ghost town.

I’m a horror author, I write dark fiction and tales for people who don’t mind being kept up at night conscious of the bumps and groans in their house and wondering if their time has come to meet the Candyman, but with Jackson Hope I guess I also had to think a little bit like a Science Fiction novelist. Sci-Fi authors often create whole universes out of their imagination, planets, people, races, props, in my opinon there are no rules with science fiction, if the author says it exists in the universe they have created then who are we to argue? The horror stories that I write are a little different, based on this planet, set often in the year they were written, I would be rightly scorched by a critic if my story included say a flying car or a teleportation device, unless of course the story included the invention of such devices. But what I can do is bend the truth that forms the boundaries for the tale.

For example there is no town in Arizona or for that matter the U.S. called Jackson Hope – not according to Google maps anyway! There is no Clarkesville in Arizona either, although I believe there is one in Georgia. The equipment that Teddy uses in his exploration of the ghost town I believe does not exist. In the section of the book that talks of State versus Federal Law I took certain liberties to aid the plot and support the needs of my characters.

This is where I have had to think like a Sci-Fi author, and I hope I can be forgiven. As I state in the foreword at the start of the book I am essentially writing a work of fiction to please people with imaginations as wickedly dark as my own, not a factual essay on the state of Arizona or a thesis on the building industry.

Now that I’ve ventured out of my comfort zone and enjoyed my time there, I’m sure I’ll venture out again, tentatively at first, as with Jackson Hope, then maybe becoming a little bolder as I spend more time in the unknown. Our imaginations can be limitless if we allow it, and the boundaries only exist if we allow them to be set, or if we are willing to set them ourselves.

Simon Andrew Stubbs

Author of Jackson Hope

Read the first 20% of Jackson Hope FOC now on Amazon!

Author bio

Simon Andrew Stubbs was born in Bradford, England in February 1976. He is married to Victoria and has two children, Ethan and Joseph.

He writes dark thrillers sometimes venturing into horror and his first novel ‘Envy’ was published in 2006. His latest novel ‘Jackson Hope’ is his third release.

Connect with Simon on Twitter: @simonastubbs
Jackson Hope

On October 28th 1890 the great wall of the Barsdon Dam gave way, and the Eagle Star reservoir buried the small Arizona town of Jackson Hope under forty feet of water. Men, women and children perished in the devastating flood, nobody survived. For over a hundred years the town lay forgotten at the bottom of a vast lake, but it has been a particularly harsh summer in Arizona, and the town is starting to emerge. Experts will come and survey the land, hoping to prospect for a bright and lucrative new project, but they will get more than they bargained for. Bit by bit they will uncover the truth behind the disaster which wiped a small farming community off the map, and as they do they will learn with devastating consequencies that some secrets should stay buried forever.

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Murder Drabbles - Shiny New Toy

The latest in the Murder Drabbles series has been posted in the Indie-Book-Bargains newsletter (get a daily drabble and Kindle bargains from the website here: If you've not read the previous drabbles in the series then you will find them all here:

And if that hasn't satisfied your hunger for short and flash fiction then come and join the Facebook group dedicated to those forms:

Shiny New Toy

To keep the urges at bay I devoted all my energies into finding the perfect blade. The task took longer than I expected with so much to consider. It couldn’t be too small, but if it was too large then where would I conceal it?

And then there was the shape. At first I was drawn by the exotic allure of a curved blade. I imagined it drawn across slender throats. Then I pictured the straight edge of a stabbing blade and I knew my choice had been made.

When it arrives it will be time for my next dance.

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Tuesday Tease - The Martian by Andy Weir

'The Martian' is one of my favourite reads of the year so far and yesterday the author Andy Weir joined us for a guest author interview (you can read the interview here). In an ideal world it would be enough for me to say that this is a superb read and that you should rush out and buy this book right now, but I understand you may need more convincing :-) With that in mind in this week's Tuesday Tease we have the opening of this book, read more below:

Click on image to buy from Amazon

Chapter 1


I’m pretty much fucked.

That’s my considered opinion.


Six days into what should be the greatest two months of my life, and it’s turned into a nightmare.

I don’t even know who’ll read this. I guess someone will find it eventually. Maybe a hundred years from now.

For the record . . . I didn’t die on Sol 6. Certainly the rest of the crew thought I did, and I can’t blame them. Maybe there’ll be a day of national mourning for me, and my Wikipedia page will say, “Mark Watney is the only human being to have died on Mars.”

And it’ll be right, probably. ’Cause I’ll surely die here. Just not on Sol 6 when everyone thinks I did.

Let’s see . . . where do I begin?

The Ares Program. Mankind reaching out to Mars to send people to another planet for the very first time and expand the horizons of humanity blah, blah, blah. The Ares 1 crew did their thing and came back heroes. They got the parades and fame and love of the world.

Ares 2 did the same thing, in a different location on Mars. They got a firm handshake and a hot cup of coffee when they got home.

Ares 3. Well, that was my mission. Okay, not mine per se. Commander Lewis was in charge. I was just one of her crew. Actually, I was the very lowest ranked member of the crew. I would only be “in command” of the mission if I were the only remaining person.

What do you know? I’m in command.

I wonder if this log will be recovered before the rest of the crew die of old age. I presume they got back to Earth all right. Guys, if you’re reading this: It wasn’t your fault. You did what you had to do. In your position I would have done the same thing. I don’t blame you, and I’m glad you survived.

I guess I should explain how Mars missions work, for any layman who may be reading this. We got to Earth orbit the normal way, through an ordinary ship to Hermes. All the Ares missions use Hermes to get to and from Mars. It’s really big and cost a lot so NASA built only one.

Once we got to Hermes, four additional unmanned missions brought us fuel and supplies while we prepared for our trip. Once everything was a go, we set out for Mars. But not very fast. Gone are the days of heavy chemical fuel burns and trans-Mars injection orbits.

Hermes is powered by ion engines. They throw argon out the back of the ship really fast to get a tiny amount of acceleration. The thing is, it doesn’t take much reactant mass, so a little argon (and a nuclear reactor to power things) let us accelerate constantly the whole way there. You’d be amazed at how fast you can get going with a tiny acceleration over a long time.

I could regale you with tales of how we had great fun on the trip, but I won’t. I don’t feel like reliving it right now. Suffice it to say we got to Mars 124 days later without strangling each other.

From there, we took the MDV (Mars descent vehicle) to the surface. The MDV is basically a big can with some light thrusters and parachutes attached. Its sole purpose is to get six humans from Mars orbit to the surface without killing any of them.

And now we come to the real trick of Mars exploration: having all of our shit there in advance.

A total of fourteen unmanned missions deposited everything we would need for surface operations. They tried their best to land all the supply vessels in the same general area, and did a reasonably good job. Supplies aren’t nearly so fragile as humans and can hit the ground really hard. But they tend to bounce around a lot.

Naturally, they didn’t send us to Mars until they’d confirmed that all the supplies had made it to the surface and their containers weren’t breached. Start to finish, including supply missions, a Mars mission takes about three years. In fact, there were Ares 3 supplies en route to Mars while the Ares 2 crew were on their way home.

The most important piece of the advance supplies, of course, was the MAV. The Mars ascent vehicle. That was how we would get back to Hermes after surface operations were complete. The MAV was soft-landed (as opposed to the balloon bounce-fest the other supplies had). Of course, it was in constant communication with Houston, and if there had been any problems with it, we would have passed by Mars and gone home without ever landing.

The MAV is pretty cool. Turns out, through a neat set of chemical reactions with the Martian atmosphere, for every kilogram of hydrogen you bring to Mars, you can make thirteen kilograms of fuel. It’s a slow process, though. It takes twenty-four months to fill the tank. That’s why they sent it long before we got here.

You can imagine how disappointed I was when I discovered the MAV was gone.

It was a ridiculous sequence of events that led to me almost dying, and an even more ridiculous sequence that led to me surviving.

The mission is designed to handle sandstorm gusts up to 150 kph. So Houston got understandably nervous when we got whacked with 175 kph winds. We all got in our flight space suits and huddled in the middle of the Hab, just in case it lost pressure. But the Hab wasn’t the problem.

The MAV is a spaceship. It has a lot of delicate parts. It can put up with storms to a certain extent, but it can’t just get sandblasted forever. After an hour and a half of sustained wind, NASA gave the order to abort. Nobody wanted to stop a monthlong mission after only six days, but if the MAV took any more punishment, we’d all have gotten stranded down there.

We had to go out in the storm to get from the Hab to the MAV. That was going to be risky, but what choice did we have?

Everyone made it but me.

Our main communications dish, which relayed signals from the Hab to Hermes, acted like a parachute, getting torn from its foundation and carried with the torrent. Along the way, it crashed through the reception antenna array. Then one of those long thin antennae slammed into me end-first. It tore through my suit like a bullet through butter, and I felt the worst pain of my life as it ripped open my side. I vaguely remember having the wind knocked out of me (pulled out of me, really) and my ears popping painfully as the pressure of my suit escaped.

The last thing I remember was seeing Johanssen hopelessly reaching out toward me.

I awoke to the oxygen alarm in my suit. A steady, obnoxious beeping that eventually roused me from a deep and profound desire to just fucking die.

The storm had abated; I was facedown, almost totally buried in sand. As I groggily came to, I wondered why I wasn’t more dead.

The antenna had enough force to punch through the suit and my side, but it had been stopped by my pelvis. So there was only one hole in the suit (and a hole in me, of course).

I had been knocked back quite a ways and rolled down a steep hill. Somehow I landed facedown, which forced the antenna to a strongly oblique angle that put a lot of torque on the hole in the suit. It made a weak seal.

Then, the copious blood from my wound trickled down toward the hole. As the blood reached the site of the breach, the water in it quickly evaporated from the airflow and low pressure, leaving a gunky residue behind. More blood came in behind it and was also reduced to gunk. Eventually, it sealed the gaps around the hole and reduced the leak to something the suit could counteract.

The suit did its job admirably. Sensing the drop in pressure, it constantly flooded itself with air from my nitrogen tank to equalize. Once the leak became manageable, it only had to trickle new air in slowly to relieve the air lost.

After a while, the CO2 (carbon dioxide) absorbers in the suit were expended. That’s really the limiting factor to life support. Not the amount of oxygen you bring with you, but the amount of CO2 you can remove. In the Hab, I have the oxygenator, a large piece of equipment that breaks apart CO2 to give the oxygen back. But the space suits have to be portable, so they use a simple chemical absorption process with expendable filters. I’d been asleep long enough that my filters were useless.

The suit saw this problem and moved into an emergency mode the engineers call “bloodletting.” Having no way to separate out the CO2, the suit deliberately vented air to the Martian atmosphere, then backfilled with nitrogen. Between the breach and the bloodletting, it quickly ran out of nitrogen. All it had left was my oxygen tank.

So it did the only thing it could to keep me alive. It started backfilling with pure oxygen. I now risked dying from oxygen toxicity, as the excessively high amount of oxygen threatened to burn up my nervous system, lungs, and eyes. An ironic death for someone with a leaky space suit: too much oxygen.

Every step of the way would have had beeping alarms, alerts, and warnings. But it was the high-oxygen warning that woke me.

The sheer volume of training for a space mission is astounding. I’d spent a week back on Earth practicing emergency space suit drills. I knew what to do.

Carefully reaching to the side of my helmet, I got the breach kit. It’s nothing more than a funnel with a valve at the small end and an unbelievably sticky resin on the wide end. The idea is you have the valve open and stick the wide end over a hole. The air can escape through the valve, so it doesn’t interfere with the resin making a good seal. Then you close the valve, and you’ve sealed the breach.

The tricky part was getting the antenna out of the way. I pulled it out as fast as I could, wincing as the sudden pressure drop dizzied me and made the wound in my side scream in agony.

I got the breach kit over the hole and sealed it. It held. The suit backfilled the missing air with yet more oxygen. Checking my arm readouts, I saw the suit was now at 85 percent oxygen. For reference, Earth’s atmosphere is about 21 percent. I’d be okay, so long as I didn’t spend too much time like that.

I stumbled up the hill back toward the Hab. As I crested the rise, I saw something that made me very happy and something that made me very sad: The Hab was intact (yay!) and the MAV was gone (boo!).

Right that moment I knew I was screwed. But I didn’t want to just die out on the surface. I limped back to the Hab and fumbled my way into an airlock. As soon as it equalized, I threw off my helmet.

Once inside the Hab, I doffed the suit and got my first good look at the injury. It would need stitches. Fortunately, all of us had been trained in basic medical procedures, and the Hab had excellent medical supplies. A quick shot of local anesthetic, irrigate the wound, nine stitches, and I was done. I’d be taking antibiotics for a couple of weeks, but other than that I’d be fine.

I knew it was hopeless, but I tried firing up the communications array. No signal, of course. The primary satellite dish had broken off, remember? And it took the reception antennae with it. The Hab had secondary and tertiary communications systems, but they were both just for talking to the MAV, which would use its much more powerful systems to relay to Hermes. Thing is, that only works if the MAV is still around.

I had no way to talk to Hermes. In time, I could locate the dish out on the surface, but it would take weeks for me to rig up any repairs, and that would be too late. In an abort, Hermes would leave orbit within twenty-four hours. The orbital dynamics made the trip safer and shorter the earlier you left, so why wait?

Checking out my suit, I saw the antenna had plowed through my bio-monitor computer. When on an EVA, all the crew’s suits are networked so we can see each other’s status. The rest of the crew would have seen the pressure in my suit drop to nearly zero, followed immediately by my bio-signs going flat. Add to that watching me tumble down a hill with a spear through me in the middle of a sandstorm . . . yeah. They thought I was dead. How could they not?

They may have even had a brief discussion about recovering my body, but regulations are clear. In the event a crewman dies on Mars, he stays on Mars. Leaving his body behind reduces weight for the MAV on the trip back. That means more disposable fuel and a larger margin of error for the return thrust. No point in giving that up for sentimentality.

So that’s the situation. I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Hermes or Earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m in a Hab designed to last thirty-one days.

If the oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the water reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.

So yeah. I’m fucked.

Chapter 2


Okay, I’ve had a good night’s sleep, and things don’t seem as hopeless as they did yesterday.

Today I took stock of supplies and did a quick EVA to check up on the external equipment. Here’s my situation:

The surface mission was supposed to be thirty-one days. For redundancy, the supply probes had enough food to last the whole crew fifty-six days. That way if one or two probes had problems, we’d still have enough food to complete the mission.

We were six days in when all hell broke loose, so that leaves enough food to feed six people for fifty days. I’m just one guy, so it’ll last me three hundred days. And that’s if I don’t ration it. So I’ve got a fair bit of time.

I’m pretty flush on EVA suits, too. Each crew member had two space suits: a flight spacesuit to wear during descent and ascent, and the much bulkier and more robust EVA suit to wear when doing surface operations. My flight spacesuit has a hole in it, and of course the crew was wearing the other five when they returned to Hermes. But all six EVA suits are still here and in perfect condition.

Excerpted from "The Martian" by Andy Weir Copyright (c) 2014 by Andy Weir. Excerpted by permission of Crown, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

Monday 21 July 2014

Guest Author Interview - Andy Weir

We have a treat for science fiction fans in this week's guest author interview! One of my favourite reads of the year has been Andy Weir's 'The Martian' (read my review here) and he joins me for today's interview. Not only that we have a double bill as 'The Martian' will feature in tomorrow's Tuesday Tease - although you don't need to wait for that. Take my word and buy it right now :-)

Click on image to buy from Amazon

Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
I’m Andy Weir, and I’m a science-fiction writer.

What first inspired you to start writing?
I’ve loved sci-fi since I was a kid. My dad had an entire bookshelf full of classic paperbacks from when he was a kid. Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, the works. Reading those made me want to write my own stories.

Where did the idea for The Martian come from?
I was imagining a manned Mars mission, putting it together in my mind. Naturally, you have to account for failure scenarios and have plans for what the crew could do. I realized those failure scenarios made for a pretty interesting story.

If you could spend a day with anyone from history who would it be and why?
If I can affect history with the meeting, I’d pick Hitler so I could kill him. But to answer the spirit of your question: Richard Feynman. We could talk nerdy stuff then go have a beer. It would just be awesome to hang with him.

The Martian has an authentic feel due to the extensive research you did. What was the most interesting fact you learned from that process?
I learned that doing the math can create plot. The whole plotline where he has to make water came up because I did the math on what’s needed in soil for plant growth. Turns out he didn’t have enough water on-hand to make that happen, so I had to come up with a way for him to acquire some. And that let to one of the more popular subplots in the book.

What do you consider is the most successful aspect of the book?
I think people really liked the character of Mark Watney. He’s not deep, he doesn’t change throughout the story, and he’s certainly no literary masterpiece. But he’s an “everyman” that people identified with and rooted for. Getting people to like your main character is probably the most important part of writing a story.

How have you found the transition from self published to being signed up with a publisher?
It’s a dream come true. It’s what I’ve wanted my whole life. It’s certainly been a lot of work, going from my self-published version to the print version. Lots of editing and whatnot. But it was all a thrill because everything was new and exciting.

What advice would you give new and aspiring authors?
Write. I know that sounds silly, but that’s a major stumbling block for a lot of people. You can have an awesome five-book series in your mind, but if you never write it down it’s not a story. And, although it’s really difficult, don’t tell your friends about your story ideas. Telling your friends satisfies your need for an audience and saps your motivation to actually write the story.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on my next book, tentatively titled “Zhek”.

Tell us about The Martian and how we can find out more.
The Martian is about an astronaut who gets stranded on Mars and has to use his wits to survive long enough for rescue.

Click here to buy The Martian from Amazon (and it's a fantastic read)

Blog Tour Stop - Frontiers by Jeff W Horton

As part of his blog tour supporting the release of the latest book in his 'Cybersp@ce' series Jeff W Horton has provided a guest post highlighting some of the key plot points and related facts they're derived from. I have to say I like the idea of the series and have just bought the first book. Read more about the latest book below:

Click on image to buy from Amazon


*A Dream to Unite Humanity...*
Scientists discover the technology to successfully construct Earth's first interstellar spacecraft, code named Frontier. Hank Reynolds, a gifted and courageous test pilot for the United States Air Force, is assigned to test pilot humanity's first interstellar spacecraft on a historic flight to Alpha Centauri. Under the command of the fledgling Earth Space Alliance the spacecraft will carry human beings to the stars, and beyond.

*A Plot to see it Fail*
Someone doesn't want to see this happen and will stop at nothing to see it fail--including murder... When Frontier is sabotaged, it leaves Hank stranded and alone to die in the Alpha Centauri system. With their dreams crumbling around them, will they be able to discover who is behind the plot to steal the alien technology, and to murder those closest to it?

Some Plot Elements & Facts Related to Frontiers:

-----In Frontiers, scientists build humanity's first spacecraft capable of interstellar flight, which a craft that can travel faster than the speed of light

o Fact: While Einstein's theory of relativity suggested Faster than Light travel (FTL) is not possible, many theories have been put forth as to how we might get around this galactic speed limit. Just think warp
drive or wormholes.

-----In Frontiers, the development of the interstellar spacecraft also results in the creation of an alternative energy source, helping to stave off a rapidly dwindling world supply of crude oil.

Fact: HSBC estimates the world will run out of crude oil with 40-50 years.

-----In Frontiers, several principal characters discuss how critical it is that the advanced technology be unveiled carefully and methodically to the world, or else the world could suffer catastrophic consequences.

Fact: The Drake Equation, as it has become known, which was first presented by Drake in 1961, is a probabilistic argument used to estimate the number of active, communicative extraterrestrial civilizations in the
Milky Way galaxy. Drake's equation takes into account that a number of such civilizations will end up destroying themselves with their own technology.

------In Frontiers, a public announcement confirming the existence of sentient alien life causes quite a stir among some segments of the world's population.

Fact: Studies like one by Paolo Musso, a member of the SETI Permanent Study Group of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences studies, and others, see no conflict
between Christianity and the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence.
Click here to purchase Frontiers from Amazon

Sunday 20 July 2014

August Short Fiction Contest

Image credit - Tom Long

Welcome to the latest Short Fiction Contest here on The Cult of Me. This month's image is provided by the talented Tom Long. You can check out some of his other art on his blog: I'm sure you'll agree it's a deliciously dark image and a fine inspiration for this month's contest.

Remember that the prizes have now changed, if you win the prizes are available as an Amazon gift card or PayPal payment. 
  1. First prize is a £50 Amazon gift card or PayPal payment
  2. Second prize is a £20 Amazon gift card or PayPal payment
  3. Thirds prize is a £10 Amazon gift card or PayPal payment
Entry to the contest remains free and the prizes come out of my own pocket, although I do make a little from advertising on this blog. So if you see something of interest then feel free to click on the links and purchase away! If you haven't tried my books yet then check them out at the top of the page, as well as buying a good read you'll be helping this contest.

Please make sure to check your story for typos before submitting. I don't mind a few errors, but my enjoyment of a story is diminished if I have to wade through too many.

I'll post the winning entries by September 1st 2014.

As with everything in life there are a few rules:
  1. Only one entry per person.
  2. The story must not be longer than 500 words.
  3. Closing date for submissions is August 23rd 2014.
  4. By submitting the story you grant me a non-exclusive license to post the story on this blog. I do ask that I post it here first.
  5. You also grant me a one time non-exclusive license to include the story in an e-book release.
  6. The judges decision is final.
Use the form below to enter your submission. After you've submitted please leave a comment on this page stating that you have submitted. And please help spread the word. Great stories deserve great readers!

As well as comments section below you can chat about this competition in any of the threads I've listed below. If you don't know the sites then entering the competition is a good way to introduce yourself. Note that these sites are not affiliated with the competition in any way!


Goodreads (UK Amazon kindle Forum group):


If you've started you're own thread or discussion somewhere about this month's competition then let me know and I'll add the link to this page.

Sunday Story - The Tree by Kath Middleton

Image courtesy of Simon Howden /
For this week's Sunday Story we return to October of last year and Kath Middleton's second place winning story 'The Tree'. Enjoy the story below:
The Tree by Kath Middleton

This tree has come to symbolise my life.

I was nineteen years old and taking part in early experiments in electrical conductivity when something happened which made me different from others. I believe it occurred when one of our experiments went badly wrong. We were passing a powerful current through a cadaver and I caught the full blast in error. I was thrown across the laboratory and had my hair singed. I even lost consciousness for a time and spent two days in hospital recovering.

It was after this that I realised, very gradually, that physical changes which affected my fellows left me untouched. I didn't age. Oh, I don't mean I still look nineteen. I have filled out a little and my facial features have matured. That was all over a hundred and fifty years ago though. Unless someone cuts off my head, shoots me or runs me through with a blade, I will live on, potentially forever.

So many people think that it must be wonderful never to age - never to die. They don't know what they're talking about. Being immortal doesn't stop you from falling in love. Every woman I have ever loved has aged before my eyes, has become bent, grey and wrinkled. She has died of sickness or old age and I have lost her. It happens to many people once. It has happened to me several times, that I have buried the woman I love while appearing to the outside world as though I were her grandson.

When I lost Lilian, my first wife, I buried her and planted a seed above her withered body. The tree that grew there would be her remembrance. I go back every year and watch as it grows. It's in the prime of life but I have buried two other beloved women since its seed was sown. I now know that I will either live alone and desolate, or I will love women yet unborn and lose them too. It's not just the loss that hurts, it's watching helplessly as day by day she slips away from me. I am now aware that my memory tree has reached its own maturity and will begin to decline. I shall have to collect seeds from it and begin another tree.

Now my fifth wife is white-haired and looks like my grandmother. For the first time, with this wife, Ellen, I have a son. After a wonderful childhood I watched him grow, taught him much and now see him looking like my father. My life feels like a tragedy.

Today is the anniversary of Lilian's death and my first great grief. I stand under the canopy of my mourning tree and finger the seed in my pocket. Unless I take my own life, I will need another tree to commemorate my lost loves - and children.

I stoop, bury the seed in the damp earth and stand back.

Writing Process Blog Tour

The Writing Process Blog Tour is an ongoing tour which is passed from one author to the next with a set of questions. Thanks to C Robert Cales for passing the torch on to me, you can see his post here:

I'll be passing the tour onto Kath Middleton, keep an eye out for her post in a week's time on her blog:

And now onto the questions:

What am I working on?
I'm currently balancing three book projects. The first and the nearest to completion is 'Sun Dragon'. This is the story of the first manned mission to Mars after the Curiosity rover discovers life there. On their approach to Mars the astronauts discover a series of anomolies and have to determine what it is they have found. This needs another edit pass and then a final trip to the editor and I'm hoping it will be out before the end of the year.

The other book is also a science fiction story. This is the official tie in novel for the game I'm currently working on - Elite: Dangerous. You can discover more about the game here: More information on this book will be comming soon :-)

And the third novel in progress is 'The Last True Demon' which is the final book in 'The Third Path' trilogy. I know there are many readers eager to read the conclusion to the series, unfortunately there's still quite a lot of work to be done on this book to get it into shape. However I am aiming for early next year.

As I also work full time (including weekends) things are pretty busy!

How does my work differ from others in its genre?
Although for marketing purposes it makes things easier to classify books within genres I don't actually set out to write books within a certain genre. My goal is to tell stories and I'll take whatever works from any genre to tell a story.

Why do I write what I do?
My books tend to come from big questions that I find interesting. For example Faust 2.0 was inspired not only the Faust legend but also from wondering about technology being the modern supernatural. I call it techno-horror but it delves into aspects of technology that need more thought and highlights some of the potential dangers of taking technology to extremes. A perfect example of this is a concept known as the technological singularity. This is a point where technology reaches a stage where it can self-evolve and grow beyond our capacity to understand it.

How does my writing process work?
For short stories I just dive straight in and write the story that has been bubbling in my head. For books it's a more involved process. I let the idea ferment for a while without writing it down, although sometimes I'll write a drabble to explore the idea. Once the idea has settled I'll put together a chapter plan. I won't start writing until the chapter plan is firmed up. Of course when I do start writing that plan can change!

I'll then dash through the first draft. At this stage the language is usually awful. The intent of the first draft isn't to craft the language but to get the story down. Then I'll leave it for a few weeks before starting an edit pass (or two) to craft the language into something decent and then send it off for test reading. I have a few regular test readers whose input is valuable.

When the feedback comes back I'll do another edit pass and then it goes off to my editor for a final line edit and proofread. Once those changes are done the planning of the actual release starts and that can be almost as much work as writing the book!