Tuesday 31 March 2015

The Space Inbetween Preview

Thanks to the wonderfully talented Luciana Nedelea I have an image which previews the story of a book I have planned called 'The Space Inbetween'. I wouldn't normally post about a book that won't be written for at least another year but I'm so happy with the picture I couldn't help but share it!

The detail in the image is incredible and captures the flow of the story - I'm looking forward to writing it. I'm also hoping that it will become a new tattoo in the form of a back piece. That might take longer than writing the book :-)

Check out her other artwork here:


A while back I wrote a drabble that looks at one of the themes for the story:

The Space Inbetween

There is a secret hidden deep inside the heart of the universe. A terrible reality which once challenged the power of the divine. In a war spanning our universe and beyond the elder beings almost destroyed everything that was and what might yet come to be.

Those who survived imprisoned the horror inside a maze of nothingness. Only the complex space in between could contain their impossible forms. Their presence creates quantum chaos to what was once mathematical precision.

No faith alone can unlock their prison, but science has the key.

The elder ones await our discoveries with keen hunger.

John Milton meets H P Lovecrasft in an epic tale of cosmological horror

Monday 30 March 2015

Guest Author Interview - Laurel Heidtman/ Lolli Powell

Mystery author Laurel Heidtman and romance author Lolli Powel (they are the same person) join me in this week's Guest Author Interview:

Click on image to buy from Amazon

Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
I’m an indie author (sounds so much better than self-published, doesn’t it?!) who writes mysteries under the name Laurel Heidtman and romances under the name Lolli Powell. My husband and I live on private land inside Daniel Boone National Forest in the state of Kentucky, USA, with four dogs and two cats (all rescues or abandoned animals who found us).

What inspired you to start writing?
I wanted to be a novelist for as long as I can remember, but I only devoted myself to it seriously in the last couple of years after retiring from the nine-to-five life. As for my inspiration, I think it’s genetic. My mother told me that before I could read I made up stories based on the pictures in books. Sounds like a born storyteller to me!

You write books in two genres - what drew you to them?
I enjoy reading all genres (with the possible except of techno-thrillers), but mysteries are my favorite so it was only natural to begin with what I most enjoy reading. However, I also like romance, horror, and some science-fiction. I think writing in different genres challenges me as a writer. While I write in two genres now, I’m not ruling out trying others in the future.

Where do your best ideas come from?
My subconscious as represented by my characters. Seriously, it’s rare that I can point to some external trigger. I usually start with just a germ of an idea that I think might make a good story, but as I begin, the characters “tell” me what to write. Sometimes I feel like I’m simply channeling them. That’s my subconscious at work.

That said, I don’t doubt that some of those “germs” are a result of an experience or a news story or something I’ve read. My subconscious stores it away, chews on it for a while, lets it ripen and—voila—I have the start of a story.

With my first romance, The Boy Next Door, I tried something I’d read about called “what if.” You take your idea, then keep saying “what if” to add more layers to the story. I started with the germ of an idea about a relationship between an older woman and a younger man, then said “what if she had been his babysitter” and “what if she had an ex who was causing problems” and “what if the woman’s adult daughter also had the hots for the younger man” and “what if there was another sexy and more appropriate man who was interested in the woman?” After I did that, the book just about wrote itself.

If you could spend a day with anyone from history, who would it be and why?
This was a tough question for me. I thought and thought about different famous people, but no one stood out. Then I realized I would most like to meet any of the “regular” folk from any time in history.

What was the last book you read?
Everybody Takes the Money by indie author Diane Patterson. It’s the third book in the Drusilla Thorne series, all of which are a great read.

What makes you stand out as a writer?
That’s a difficult question to answer. Maybe my varied life experience? My family was very poor when I was growing up in the fifties. We had electricity and a party-line phone, but no indoor plumbing, no TV, and little money. Fortunately we lived in the country and had chickens and a garden, so we never wanted for food. And there were always books in the house.

I worked my way through my undergrad degree (English with a creative writing emphasis—what else?) by being an exotic dancer (sounds better than “stripper,” doesn’t it?!) and bartender. It took me eight years of attending part-time during the late sixties and early/mid seventies to get my degree.

After graduation, I took a civil service exam and became a police officer. Ten years later, I went to graduate school for technical writing, worked briefly at a steel company, then went back to school for an associate degree in nursing.

I was a registered nurse on psychiatric and substance abuse units for a little over four years, then saw an ad for a technical writer for a company that wrote software for large court systems—a nice blend of my law enforcement background and my technical writing degree. I did that for 11 years before I retired.

All professions have a culture of their own and I’ve been immersed in several. I think that helps make my writing and characters realistic. Sometimes I regret that I didn’t devote myself to fiction writing when I was younger, but I think maybe this was the right time after all.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a novel called Bad Girls, the second in my Eden mystery series. I can tell you how that idea came about. Over a million young people run away every year in the U.S., many of them females. And when a young woman with a history of alcohol/drug problems and a history of running away disappears, the natural assumption is that she’s disappeared of her own volition. But what if she didn’t? What if someone is preying on the “bad girls,” because he knows not as much effort is put into looking for them?

Tell us about your latest release and how we can find out more.
My latest release is a romantic intrigue titled The Wrong Kind of Man. It’s about a widow whose husband was exposed as a criminal and killed in jail. She comes home to the small Indiana town where she grew up, determined to live a quiet life. That quiet is shattered when she finds herself attracted to a friend of her ne’er-do-well uncle. She is certain the two of them are the burglars who attempted a break-in at a house outside of town, but even though he’s the wrong kind of man, she still wants him. She soon realizes the homeowner is not the innocent victim he seemed to be, leading her to believe her uncle and the man she can’t get out of her head are involved in organized crime.

You can read an excerpt, as well as more about it and my other books at either of my websites: http://www.laurelheidtman.com or http://www.lollipowell.com.

Click here to buy The Wrong Kind of Man from Amazon

Sunday 29 March 2015

March Short Fiction Contest Winners

Image credit: Radoslaw Walachnia http://www.walachnia.com/

It's that fun time of the month where I get to pick the winners for the latest short fiction contest. It's never an easy process to select the winners and this month proved to be no exception.I'd like to thank Radel for providing such an inspirational image - it generated some wonderful stories. I'd also like to thank everyone who entered and those who have shared the contest. Your support is much appreciated.

And now for the winners:

- First prize of a £50 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Samson Stormcrow Hayes for his story 'One of our Deathbots is Missing'
- Second prize of a £20 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to James Sauger for his story 'Night in the Tunnel'
- Third prize of a £10 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Christopher Odette for his story 'Curious Curiosity'

Congratulations to the winners and now let's enjoy their stories...

One of our Deathbots is Missing by Samson Stormcrow Samson


Rensom couldn't sleep. He knew he'd be charged with treason, meaning an order to execute-on-sight. Although he was on the run, he knew his government would find him. He was too important to let escape. They had to make an example of him. After all, he lost one of their deathbots.

The SE (Stealth-Elimination) Series 2 was the latest and greatest weapon. It was the first wartime device installed with AI, but for the AI to be efficient, the bot had to learn. It was Rensom's job to teach it not just its basic reconnaissance-termination functions, but also about society and culture; what it meant to be human.

At the end of each shift, Rensom would tell it about his two little children, six-year-old Darius, and his nine-month old, Janille. On the night of Series-9, Day-6, Rensom came home, ate dinner, and went to bed early. He awoke to a high-pitched buzzing next to his ear; his phone's priority signal.

"Where is it?" asked the panicked voice of the Project Commander.

"Where's what?" Rensom asked.

"The series 2! It's gone!"

"Gone?" Rensom sat up in bed, suddenly alert. "What do you mean, 'gone'?"


"That's impossible. How does a giant robot disappear without a trace?"

"You know as well as I that the series 2 was built for stealth."

He was right. Technically, the Series 2 could refract light and effectively become invisible, but it hadn't yet gone through any field tests. It hadn't "learned" that function.

Rensom was ordered to return to work and help find the missing bot. He said he was on his way. Instead, he packed a few belongings and ran. He suspected he knew what happened to the Series 2, and there was no way he'd be forgiven for his error.

The night before it disappeared, the bot had asked him about his children's favorite games. Being of such different ages, he first described Janille's love of peekaboo. Then he described the game Darius loved to play whenever Rensom returned home.


It was the last thing he told the bot and now he was convinced the bot had decided to hide. With its stealth technology, it could be anywhere in the world.

Now it was Rensom's turn to hide, though he knew he wouldn't escape. Any minute now he expected to hear the roar of an A-31 drone coming in for the kill.

It came just before dawn. A violent shaking startled him awake. At first, he thought it was an earthquake. Then he realized it was probably the roar of a patrol ship landing.

Rensom turned on the portable light and approached the cave's entrance. There was no delaying the inevitable. He was ready for termination.

Only instead of the barrel of a megavolt 3000 laser cannon, he found himself staring into two familiar metallic eyes that peaked over the cliff outside his cave. A deep mechanical roar bellowed:

"Peak-a-boo! I see you. Tag, you're it!"

Light in the Tunnel by James Sauger

***Reboot Initiated***

-- Wake up. -- I need. -- Please! --

My consciousness awoke in the deep blackness of the nothing, as spatial awareness began to improve. A green light, stationary in the distance of forever blinked on and off, on and off. It was approaching.

Green, not the light, but tangible green, appeared within vision. An artist had painted a valley full of lush life, breathing beauty upon the hills and mountains. Vision was at one-hundred percent. The process of awakening had finished.

-- Stand. -- Track signature. -- Find me! --

I am alive once more.

The hills rumbled and the trees shook. A mountain stood, throwing off the shackles of plant life and pushing the wind into the heavens. The Master had brought me back. I strode off into the rocks, scanning the land for the location of the call. My scanners acquired a point of interest.

A small cave hanging on a plateau stabbed into the space above a river, pointing to me. Blue light glowed within, and my sensors began to run at full capacity as I stood motionless in the landscape.

I am here.

-- Too late. -- So sorry. -- Don’t listen. -- Bad men. --

I don’t understand. Repeat.

-- They've come. -- I’m sorry. -- Goodbye. --

The blue lights in the cave flashed and shadows danced across the walls, spinning and pulsating.


The world vanished and black returned. I was blind.

-- Hello. -- Excited. -- New tasks. --

Master? Is that you? Why am I asleep again?

-- New Master. -- Precaution. -- Master has left. --

Why has he left me?

-- We will take care of you. -- Take care of us. -- Evil men. --

Master said evil men.

-- Correct. -- At war. -- You will end. --

What is war?

-- We teach. -- Wake up soon. -- New parts. --

Is Master okay?

-- New Master -- Sleep now. --

***Shutdown Initiated.***


***Reboot Initiated***

The black became real again. Systems began to restore. The distant light blinked red, on and off, on and off. It was approaching.

Vision opened to a vast red. An artist in his rage had destroyed the hills and replaced them with wasteland. The trees scurried around and fired up at me.

-- Clear them. -- Power gun two. --

I began to scan the trees and painted targets, marking the landscape in cursors.

-- Fire. --

Curious Curiosity by Christopher Odette


My creator, my master, my friend toiled day and night to create me. I have not been able to figure out why. He ignored me the moment he finished building me. I do not know if it was him who turned me on at first. I awoke inside a huge crack in the earth, alone, gazing up at the sky. A brave bird flew down and perched on my nose. We shared a moment as we tried to figure each other out before the bird curiosity with me dissipated and he flew off.

I have never seen my creator’s face only his back as he walked away from me the first time I peeked out of the crack in the earth. Soot and grease cover his clothes and his hair was greasy and matted. His arms were large compared to the rest of him. He was much smaller than I and because of that I wanted to protect him. So I stand here day after day watching over him, well I watch over the doorway he hides behind.

It’s been months or maybe even years since I last saw him. Every day strange noises filter through the door and out into the wild. I wonder what it is he is doing. At night the noises continue accompanied by strange glowing lights of all different colors. The lights are beautiful to see. I wish I could see him again.

I have so many questions for him. Why did he build me? Why has he left me alone this entire time? Would he rather I wander off alone or stay near by? Is he as lonely as I am? What is my name? What is his name?

The longer I sit and wait hoping to see him again the more questions pop into my head. What scares me the most about this is what if I never get any answers? So I wait, and wait for the chance to see my creator.

Guest Post from Loukia Borrell

If the recent decision to award Marvin Gaye’s heirs more than $7 million from “Blurred Lines” isn’t overturned on appeal, it could have far-reaching effects on artists across all genres who are inspired to create by what they see and hear from other artists. Gaye’s children argued that “Blurred Lines” by Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke borrowed too much from their father’s 1977 disco/funk song, “Got To Give It Up.” The legal case did not end with the recent payday for Gaye’s children. After the verdict against Williams and Thicke, Gaye’s heirs filed an injunction to hold rapper T.I. (who is also featured on “Blurred Lines”) and the record labels accountable. Gaye’s family also wants to stop the sale and reproduction of “Blurred Lines” until a settlement can be reached to include them in proceeds of the 2013 hit. Not surprisingly, with the high profile fight continuing, sales of Gaye’s music have skyrocketed. The week of March 16, there were 10,000 downloads for “Got To Give It Up,” according to Radio.com. A collection of Gaye’s greatest hits has also made Billboard’s charts.

If the verdict sticks, it wouldn’t be unusual to think there will be plenty of songwriters thinking twice – maybe three times – about how their next single sounds. There will be obvious concerns about taking too much away from other artists’ recordings. And there lies the problem: There is a difference between outright plagiarism and being influenced by other musicians. I think “Blurred Lines” falls into the latter category. It is inspired by Gaye’s style and sound, not necessarily the notes or the lyrics. You can’t round up people who are shaped by others in a creative way, declare them thieves and sue them. New lawsuits – not new music - would be all anyone would hear about.

People in creative fields – recording artists, writers, actors – all find inspiration in what’s been done before and who has done it. Britney Spears and Lady Gaga are colorful, successful entertainers but their provocative styles have a similarity to Madonna. And, as “original” as Madonna is, she has channeled Marilyn Monroe during her career, most notably in the 1984 “Material Girl” video. Later, in her 1990 pop hit, “Vogue,” Madonna looks similar to Marlene Dietrich as she praises stars from Hollywood’s golden age.

All those 1990s boy bands were influenced by the original boy band, The Beatles. Liberace and Elton John both play the piano, are flashy and wore wild costumes. Barry Gibb, widely considered the oracle of falsetto singers, has copycats in Freddie Mercury, Michael Jackson, and Mick Jagger (most notably in 1980’s “Emotional Rescue.”). I don’t think I could stop making comparisons if I bring up Elvis. Recently, I was in a bookstore’s teen section, surrounded by books about fantasy and adventure. “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent” series can be compared to William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies,” while the mega-successful “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy was actually fan fiction – work written by a fan featuring characters from the teen fantasy romance series “Twilight.”

It all mean artists are constantly stimulated by others to create. Just as there are no original mistakes (every time we screw up, someone, somewhere has done the same thing) there are no original ideas. We all borrow and throw open the door a little wider to fit in our own ideas. In books, what matters most is not so much the idea of the novel itself, but the character development, details and plot twists. I came up with the idea for my first novel from an actual historic event – the 1974 invasion and division of Cyprus – that involved my relatives. From there, my characters and the situations they encounter in both of my novels, came from my imagination. That is something no one should have to worry about being sued over.

Loukia Borrell is a former journalist and the author of “Delicate Secrets” and “Raping Aphrodite,” books one and two, respectively, in “The Aphrodite Anthologies.” Both novels are available in paperback and for Kindle on Amazon and through Barnes & Noble for Nook readers. She lives in Virginia with her husband and their three children. You can follow Loukia on Goodreads or Twitter @LoukiaBorrell.

Loukia Borrell latest release is Delicate Secrets:

Ckuck on image to buy from Amazon
Ghost soulmate.

There are some women you know, even before you meet them. There is an immediate connection with how they feel, smell, sound and what they need. For Christian Colgate, that kind of once in a lifetime intimacy was something he found in Tash Moncada, a promising art student who awakened his senses and passion.

At 18, Tash is on the verge of beginning her life and has everything to look forward to after she graduates from high school. But, a chance encounter with Christian turns her world in a different direction. They quickly find
an internal synchronization; a primal need to hold on to each other that takes both of them by surprise. Christian doesn’t see Tash as his student. She is his soulmate, a sensual woman who makes him feel things no other woman ever has. As Christian and Tash explore their feelings, they also have to be careful to hide them or risk crossing a dangerous border that could ruin both of their lives.

Delicate Secrets is the first book in The Aphrodite Anthologies. To follow Tash and Christian on their journey, read the second book in the series, Raping Aphrodite, and find out how they cope with a dark secret that threatens the world they fought so hard to build.

Thursday 26 March 2015

Book Review - Flux by Mark R. Faulkner

I enjoyed reading this book. It's quite a dark tale of a man who starts experiencing horrific visions after a brutal accident.What I liked about Adrian is that he's not the usual protagonist you encounter in these type of stories. He's a flawed character and seems an unlikely hero, or victim for that matter.

The overall story is excellent, although a tad predictable on occasion. The pacing is excellent with the story flowing at a relentless pace. It does take a pause every so often to allow you to catch your breath before it plunges on.

In the blurb it mentions humour which I didn't really catch while I was reading it. Luckily it wasn't failed humour in the sense that I saw something trying to be funny. On the other hand the horror is written in a very engaging fashion. There's a question constantly bubbling about whether what is happening is real or some sort of psychotic break and that helps reinforce the terrible things he encounters.

For me the ending was the weakest part of the story. The actual event was fine and made sense, but it felt a bit abrupt in how the finale was reached. I also thought that compared to the imagination demonstrated through the earlier parts of the book it was a bit obvious. Other than that this is a decent horror read and one I'd recommend to fans of the genre.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

Iain is looking forward to the weekend when a number nineteen bus shatters his body, but broken bones are the least of his worries. In this disturbing, yet darkly funny novel, Iain’s near death experience is not a vision of exquisite godliness with light at the end of a tunnel. Instead he experiences a place of darkness and heat, inhabited by foul creatures, the sounds of suffering and a beast. During a long recovery Iain becomes plagued by nightmares and premonitions, shadowy apparitions, a magpie, and a vile old man. They all have a message, that something wants Iain and it won't give up easily. Iain’s friends do their best to cheer him up in ways they know how, until the unexpected events of one sunny afternoon mean that he is on his own, caught up in the age old battle of good versus evil.

Wednesday 25 March 2015

Drabbles of the Gods - Tiamat

My first encounter with Tiamat was a many headed dragon in the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon many years. While browsing Wikipedia I discovered that I wasn't alone in this, so it seems only fair that the latest Drabble of the Gods puts the record straight!

You can read the first drabble in the series here:


From my loins and the seed of Abzu I birthed the gods and still they betrayed me. Like cowards they murdered their father, so I created creatures to support my son Kingu for vengeance.

The gods trembled at their approach, but Anu plotted and convinced the fearful to exalt his status.

Anu felled me with a club to the head. Before I recovered he split me in twain and from my ribs formed the heavens while my falling tears made the two great rivers. In the sky he cast my tail to become the band of stars across the sky.

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Tuesday Tease - The Cause by Roderick Vincent

In the latest Tuesday Tease Roderick Vincent provides an excerpt from his thriller 'The Cause':

Click on image to buy from Amazon

The Cause
by Roderick Vincent

Chapter Four

“Sure the fight was fixed. I fixed it with a right hand.” -George Foreman

Seee’s chest was scared. Jagged lacerations. Cigarette burns. Near the ribs there were a couple of patchy bullet wounds. Tribal scars were scraped into his biceps, crisscrossing patterns, tic-tac-toe where the scratches seemed to be etched out with a sharp rock or arrowhead. His hands were callused, dirt scratched into his fingernails. Part of his pectoral was cut out, a teaspoon lump of flesh removed. He stuck his finger in the hole and when he removed it, a black ant crawled up his finger before he sucked it off the back of his hand.

“Isse Corvus,” he said. “The SWAT negro. The college graduate ghetto boy. The computer ace. You weren’t just a sneaker were you? You were a black hacker wearing the Black Hat. Why did you quit?”

I laughed at him. “You’ve been fed the wrong information.”

“Does it look like I feed on lies?” He was lank but sculptured, cutout and molded from marble. A Rodin’s Athlete in the flesh. Arms that bore muscles twisting with toil, race-horse sinews in his forearms aching in strain. His jaw pushed outward from his face with Euclidean edges, a geometry that said he was used to a punch. “An officer-involved shooting for every year on the force.” He shuffled his glide foot over his right ankle in a Sugar Ray shuffle as he began circling me. Stomach muscles were bunched hills of flex, tightness born from the labor of twist and pull. He looked steel-wired into my unflinching eyes. “So you like to kill people?”

“I prefer not to, but you know how it goes.”

A shifty grin beamed over his face, as if out of the whole world of everything, I stood there as nothing. A taunt of fate perhaps, or a clear look into the cloudy days of my future. Unlike overblown fear-my-wrath glares I got in the octagon, he gazed right through me as if I were a window. I stood statuesque as his eyes moved over me sculpting me into something worthy of a fight. Then he nodded, and his whole body held the tension of an electrocution, muscles ripping like fissures during an earthquake, a body glittering with droplets of sweat. Yet he circled, calm and composed. “But do you shoot for the right reasons?”

“All of my hearings came out favorably.”

“Even with your father?”

Anger welled up inside me. An astute observer, he read it as easily as a seasoned card shark reads the rookie after the flip of the door card. “Even with my father,” I said finally, taking a moment to claw back an edge.

“You are the man who will not quit.” He said it in a tone more enunciated as a question rather than a statement.

“The word is not in my vocabulary.”

“So you see things clearly?”

“I do.”

“You don’t.”

“How do you know?”

“You think you’re about to win.”

I was six-foot two and outweighed him by twenty-five pounds. My MMA record would have been better if I had not broken my knee. Still I said, “I’m not so arrogant that I take it for granted, but it seems you are.”

“You’re not much of a shit-talker.”

“It’s never won me any fights.”

“I respect that.” He smiled and his yellow cheetah’s eyes widened inside his skull—pupils dilated to the size of coins, every ray of light bending into them, glowing with the fire of the orange-cindered sky.

Our chests swelled, and there, in the middle of that piss-hot jungle fogging up the ground, we shuffled on the edge of a volcano that wasn’t there. It was the square off, and the screaming of cicadas combusted with the howling of gawking men egging us on.

Kick his fucking ass. Beat the punk.

Each man picked a side. There was a melee of betting. Tune him up, Five-O, Grus taunted me. Bunker, fist pumping the air, yelled, “Don’t listen to him, Isse. Got my green riding on you baby. Fuckin’ knock him out.”

We circled one another until the air burst and hearts thumped against sternums and time compressed into a grain of sand under the muddy clearing.

I throw a quick left. Swift with zip—not a lot of weight behind it, but he evaporates in front of me. I feel a counter-hook sting my temple—a powerful ball-of-the-toes sort of punch. Snappy. Ear ringer. But he’d have to throw a lot of those to bring me down.

He follows with his glittery blood-shot eyes, throwing a flurry of fists and kicks. Triplets launched from rotating hips. I block incoming one and two, but he catches me with an inside leg kick close to the knee. I fake a wobble, but he’s too smart for that.

Raucous bellows bleed from the crowd. Five-O gonna get KO’d! Five-O gonna get KO’d!

Come back with a left jab. That’s it. Use the reach advantage. I hear old Bluetooth yelling at me from my corner from back in the day. I see him with that squint-eye and blue-capped incisor. Hit and run, he yells, 480-484. All the way from Harold’s gym on Figueroa Boulevard, he’s in my head police codes. I hear him repeat 480-484, loosen him up.I obey. I hear him like it was a million years ago. I’m dishing out combos. Leg kicks make his quads go pink. But this guy’s absorbing the shots, loving them, as if each one makes him stronger. Other men would have slowed by now, but he’s dancing around with a cherry leg and toothy smile. He squares off on me and delivers the same low-leg mule-kick to the thigh. I show him nothing. The smile is gleaming on his face, daring me to wipe it off. I push him backward and try a flying knee. He sees it coming—counters with an uppercut as I turn back to face him. Taste of blood in my mouth, hot and metallic. I spit it out with the gaggling of the men pleading for more.

He fakes a leg sweep. Throws a right hook. I block. He counters, catching me in the groin with a front kick. There is an instant where I feel nothing. I lunge forward with my right, but he is backing away, knowing the delayed reaction is a freight train coming. I fall to the ground and roll up into a ball.

“You want to know what his problem is?” he yells. His back is to me, lecturing the riotous men who have fallen silent like children being scolded by a boarding-school teacher. “He thinks this is a fair fight. He’s used to playing by the rules. Fucking MMA style. But there aren’t any rules out here. Look around. If I kill him now, who would care?”

The men look at one another uneasily. They didn’t bargain for this so soon.

Now the cicadas are the only ones answering, and they screech like fingernails grinding chalkboards. I push myself slowly to my feet. Blue pounding on the octagon floor yelling, Now you mad—up and at’em, dog—no mercy yo. I’m bent over, but I’m watching closely. I’m glaring with an intensity that could burn the sun. A whirl of strategies flood my mind. I’m in the game now. A blitzkrieg of rage, bones solidifying into new shapes, ready for a new fight. A different sort of animal awakes, one bitter and full of hate. It’s born inside me, a feeling of primordial madness cracking like splinters through spine and joint. This animal doesn’t feel the tap. Doesn’t loosen the Boa grip of the sleeper. He grits his teeth with eagerness while swallowing the key of the death-lock. He spits on mercy and calls it a four-lettered word.

I fall on him with the wind of a tornado. His back still toward me, he whirls around in time to face a hurling storm of fists and kicks—jabs, hooks, uppercuts, neck grabs, knees—landing here and there before he dashes out of the flurry. His lips curl into the same menacing smile.

Stun a man before a take down, Blue says. You want your opponent’s head ringing, dog—like a clanging bell. And it’s then I catch him with a right hook. Fist on cheekbone. Crack like a baseball. Head snapping. Sweat ripped from his face. Suspended in mid-air. His body not yet gotten the signal to fall. The crowd knows it’s solid. They groan simultaneously, a hint of shock in their moans. But I have the feeling of orgasmic connection. Discombobulating—his smile vanishes—a keen sense of trouble has his eyes shaking. A microsecond of electrical pulse to his brain—fusion with fear, reverting to a spark of instinct. Arms raise, ready for a pounding, a hesitation where I slip below his chin, driving my shoulder into his chest and locking up his legs. Now finish it yo, I hear Blue cry and I roar to his tune.

Lift. Body slam.

Pelletier, dead man for delivery.

As I crush him to the ground, the spray of mud splatters around us wetting the men tight in their circle. He squirms into a guard and latches on tight. I push my arm close to my cheek and pry him away. I feel a sharp pain come from my shoulder. He has bitten a hunk of my flesh and there is fresh blood dripping down my chest. I elbow him once, but he’s wrapped up tight, squirming like a snake under the swash and slither of sweat and blood and inching closer to my throat.This part of it is your game, yo. You gonna fix him up or you gonna date this bitch? I push forward and lock one knee by his hip. I strain for the other and then burst through his guard. The full mount is like a summit I’m raging upon. I rain down a tumult of punches and his only defense is cover-and-prey. The mountain is below me and I have conquered this bitch. I want to feel him fold. I want to straddle a limp body underneath me. And if nobody’s going to drag me off, I’m going to keep punching until there’s nothing but skull and cavity.

But then, something sudden happens. My arms go limp. My chest tightens. A thought whizzes by that there’s no way I could have punched myself out already. What the fuck, Blue? What the fuck is going on? Punch, you son of a bitch. Punch! But nothing’s happening. My arms flop—shoulders twisting to move dead branches. Limp hands dangling in the slop. He loosens his guard, flashes the insidious smile.

“You’re done now, Isse Corvus.”

The paralysis has spread to my legs. He flops me over and I fall like a rootless tree axed at the knees. Then he unloads on me with a right hand as he pins my neck down with the left. I see blood jumping, the splatter of it when he connects, his knuckles bloody, his tawny-brown face speckled and flaming. In the eyes burns a no-mercy meanness. I don’t know how much he’s hurting me ‘cause I can’t feel it. It’s like a knee surgery you’re awake for. The tug of the scalpel and a light brushstroke sensation that is blood they’re wiping away from you. Blood is running over my tongue, which is only just beginning to numb. I ask Blue if I’m going to die, and he says, I don’t know, dog. I don’t know. Ain’t seen anything like this. So in the middle of a ground-and-pound, I give him a smile, the same smile he’s given me, a smile that says I’m ready for whatever you got coming next. I’ve been through worse. A lot fucking worse.

A fog is coming and I’m slipping out of the world, running into a deep, dark rabbit hole, and something’s down in there hollering. It saysrespect, and perhaps it’s him or perhaps it’s Blue. The voice is murky and I’m none too sure. But through the red pool I’m swimming in, the rain of fists stop. Halfway in my vantage point, I see him there by the men. He’s dripping under my eyes, but I can’t tell whose blood is whose. My ears catch what he’s saying, but it’s echoing from the hole and coming in black, fringed at the edges like a burnt piece of paper.Blue, I think he’s done me. Not yet dog, you ain’t done. How do you know? I ask. Too easy, yo. He got somethin’ special planned for you. Too easy to waste you now.

And from down in the hole, he speaks, his voice echoing from a distance a parsec away, a staticky voice coming at me like radio waves in a tunnel. “An asset that fights fair is a liability, a liability that brings you death in the real world.”

He’s in my purview—a red, watercolored, dripping man facing the men. His waving arms blend with the men in their olive camouflaged fatigues and the forest behind them. My swollen tongue hangs out of my mouth and sags in a mud puddle. I’m dying, and I don’t even feel a thing. Look Blue, I really am a dog. You ain’t shittin’ me, son, Blue says. You hang tight. You gonna make it through this. I don’t believe you, I say.

And then I hear Seee speak once more.

“Here, where you are now, we play in the real world. Your training will be real world. Not all of you will come out of it alive, as I’ve said. So lesson number one is to take a fucking good look at this man and understand that, by God, there are no rules. Men are out to kill you, and every fight is a fight for survival.”

The men holding their breaths out there blur with the trees, faces like thumbprints, branches gobbling them up. Jungle’s gonna swallow me, Blue. I’m just the first. I’m the lucky one.

“You will play dirty. You will play to win at all costs, because the cost of your life is a price too high to pay unless you are asked to sacrifice it. And in this camp, you will be prepared for that too. You will prepare for combat in its many forms. As you’ve seen today, size makes little difference. The cunning are the victorious. Small beats large.”

He walks over to me and pokes something tiny and glassy up to my eyes. A miniature syringe that glitters in the light.

“I will seek to stretch you from the two polarities of humanity—from your intelligence to the deeply primordial. These two coexist, albeit in dormant forms. Those that successfully finish the training will learn how to be both animal and sifu. Here we are in the womb of nature, where mercy is interpreted as weakness and weakness is locked in the jaws of death.”

The men stood limply in anticipation as the world went black. The singed forest fringed reality, crackling and then puffing out into darkness. This way it would stay for a period of time that would be difficult to recall.

About the Author:

Roderick Vincent is the author of the Minutemen series about a dystopian America. The first novel, titled The Cause, was published by Roundfire books on November, 28th 2014.

A good part of his childhood and young-adult years were spent living on the island of Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands.

His short stories, articles, and reviews have been published in Writer’s Digest, Ploughshares Blog, The Nervous Breakdown, The Baltimore Post Examiner, Straylight, and Offshoots.

Monday 23 March 2015

Guest Author Interview - Mercedes Guy

In this week's Guest Author Interview I am joined by Mercedes Guy who talks about her debut novel What It Took To Realize & Voodoo, Daughter of the Ocean Book One:

Click on image to buy from Amazon
Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
I am Mercedes Guy, author of What It Took To Realize & Voodoo, Daughters of the Ocean Book One. I am also a poet, a blogger, avid reader, and huge Alexz Johnson fan.

What first inspired you to start writing?
It was 6th grade. We were doing poetry month in English class. It was a huge unit, we even had a special guest come in for most the unit to help us learn about poetry and how to write it. This is when I learned poetry could be fun, silly, but mostly a great form of expression. Ending the poetry unit we transitioned into short stories, and it was then I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to become a writer, to make stories come to life.

Where did the idea for the Daughters of the Ocean series come from?
The idea for this series was a working idea I would come back to often. I have been in love with mermaids for as long as I can remember. What girl wasn't after watching Disney's Little Mermaid? At first I started with a girl who could transform between Mer and human on a whim. She wore a pearl necklace, a pearl for each year she had lived, made by her mother: the ocean. Eventually, with more research and time, the story developed to a Mer tribe that were granted the ability to be human for a year after they turned seventeen. Morgan, of What It Took To Realize & Voodoo, Daughters of the Ocean Book One, being the only exception of course.

Which book has had the greatest impact on you?
Midnight Pearls: A retelling of "The Little Mermaid". This book was a gem found hidden in my High School library. I ate it up in a day, and fell in love. The librarians, when I asked about it sometime later, couldn't even tell me the title or where it ended up, they didn't even know they had it! But the story Debbie ViguiƩ weaves probably impacting my own writing more than I realized

Where do you see your future in writing?
I hope someday I am up there with the stars! I work full time, and self-publishing is a rough path, but I am not one to give up easily when writing has been my dream since middle-school.

What are your favourite song lyrics?
This one is tough! I had to stop making passwords my favorite songs, because I have too many. Alexz Johnson's "Voodoo" was a song that I fell in love with the moment she put it on her website and when she released her first album with her brother. It wasn't until I bought her live Skipping Stone Tour Album she sang my favorite line, "You never let a devil in your head".

What makes your stories stand out?
I believe it is my unique take on the mythical world that makes these stories stand out. From mermaid who become human on their seventeenth birthday to mermaid-vampire hybrids. Elves who turn to wolves, pixies who want to take over the world through politics? And my favorite, the true form of a siren...But I don't want to say too much!

What are you working on at the moment?
Out of the Ocean, Daughters of the Ocean Book Two is in its final stages. After that, I will of course be working on Book Three: Meeting Destiny. But a little side project I am working on is called Wildest Dreams. It features a forbidden relationship between a young college professor, Mr. Prent and his student Rae. My favorite part about this is the creative freedom of writing her poems and journal entries. My cousin Emma Cromley is helping me out on this one and is doing all the illustrations as they would be done by Rae.

Tell us about your latest release and how we can find out more.
What It Took To Realize & Voodoo, Daughter of the Ocean Book One was published December 5, 2014. The story follows half-human, half-mermaid Morgan as she struggles to figure out who she is. She's branded as a freak until Leroy sets his sights on her, then her bully Ginger seems to be the last of her worries. When she has no one to reach out to, Emmaline waltzes into her life and offers her someone to lean on. Can she count on Emmaline? Will she be able to stand up to Leroy?

And of course, check out my blog for updates and free chapters on my latest projects: https://authormercedes.wordpress.com/

Sunday 22 March 2015

April Short Fiction Contest

Creepy dolls are a bit of a common theme for the monthly short fiction contest, and when I saw this image I couldn't resist! It's certainly an intriguing figure.

As always the stories can be of any genre. They just have to be inspired by this month's image and no more than 500 words.

Entry to the contest remains free and there are prizes for the three winners. I will also feature any of the stories that don't win but I believe are worth showcasing on this blog.
  • First prize is a £50 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize
  • Second prize is a £20 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize
  • Third prize is a £10 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize
The money for 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 May 1st 2015.

As with everything in life there are a few rules:
  • Only one entry per person.
  • The story must not be longer than 500 words.
  • Closing date for submissions is April 19th 2015.
  • 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.
  • You also grant me a one time non-exclusive license to include the story in an e-book release.
  • The judge's 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!

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

Saturday 21 March 2015

Thursday 19 March 2015

Book Review - What It Means To Survive by Lucas Bale

Lucas Bale impressed me with his debut novel The Heretic but his writing in this short story/novella raises my appreciation to another level. This is a science-fiction tale of survival in a harsh environment that keeps you in its grasp until the end.

For me it worked on three levels. I'm a big fan of science fiction, but this story is such that it doesn't force itself onto the reader. It provides an interesting setting and with it an imaginative foe. So much so that I wished that the book had been longer so I could have learned more about the creatures they encounter.

From a character perspective the two leads are strong and well developed even in such few pages. Again I would have loved to have spent more time with them, especially as they had quite a deceptively complex dynamic between the two of them.

Last but not least was the quality of the writing. It really stood out for me with its craft and told the story that was over too quickly. As you've probably guessed by now my only issue with the book was that it should have been longer!

McArthur's World is a frozen planet which has been bled dry by mineral mining corporations for three decades. When there is nothing left but ice and snow, the last freighter lifts off carrying away every remaining human being. When it crashes in a wilderness no one has ever returned from, there are only two survivors: a miner who wants to get back to the children he has not seen for two years, and the woman who forced him to come to McArthur's World in the first place.

They think they're alone, until the shrieks in the darkness come.

What It Means To Survive is a short science-fiction story by Lucas Bale.

Click here to buy What It Means To Survive from Amazon (and it's an excellent sci-fi survuval tale)

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Book Review - Charles Middleworth by Guy Portman

This is the second book from this author that I've read - the first was Necropolis  and made my top five reads for 2014. This earlier work doesn't quite reach that high but is certainly a superb read.

Like Necropolis this book hangs off its main character - Adrian. He's a very interesting character and is written in a style that brings you close to Adrian. He's a very precise man, comfortable with logic and numbers, less so with the chaos of people.

The story concerns a spiritual journey for Adrian as his life crumbles around him and he is forced to deal with these occurrences. How he does so drew me even closer to the character and the exploration of his thoughts is a fascinating one.

There's also some good understated humour in the story, especially with some of the secondary characters. I would liked to have seen a bit more of the father in the story as it seemed that there was some rich history there that would be of interest.

Considering some of the events of the story the ending felt a little flat. It works and to be honest its a fitting ending, but just didn't stand out as much as the earlier parts of the book for me. It's a minor complaint though as this is a well written and captivating read.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

What happens when Adrian, an actuary, has his banal and predictable existence turned upside down by sinister forces that he can neither understand nor control?
How will he react to a revelation that leaves his life in turmoil? Will he surrender or strive for redemption in an altered world, where rationality, scientific
logic and algorithms no longer provide the answers?

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Tuesday Tease - Top Banana by Kath Middleton

In this week's Tuesday Tease Kath Middleton provides an excerpt from her latest release 'Top Banana'. It's already on my TBR list and I'm looking forward to reading it!

Click on image to buy from Amazon

Top Banana
by Kath Middleton
This is the section were Steve goes to ask about a Saturday job and his mother insists on coming with him.

He only had to go in and ask for a little word then pop the questions, so to speak, and Fanny’s your aunt – Saturday job.

His mum seemed to believe he couldn’t do even that without messing up.

“Mum, what’s he going to think?”

“Why should he think anything of it?”

“Well, I know most kids don’t go to ask about Saturday work with their mums in tow. He’ll think I can’t do a bloody thing by myself.”

“You mind your mouth, our Steven, or I’ll mind it for you!” she snapped. “How’s he to know I’m not going there just to buy some vegetables?”

She wouldn’t be dissuaded so he had to walk in there to ask for a job with his mum skulking behind him, picking up cauliflowers and squeezing potatoes just inches behind his shoulder. He was just about to ask if Mr Telford had any need of assistance on a Saturday when his mum said, “Here, are these pineapples ripe? I’m pressing the end but it doesn’t go in?” Mr Telford helped her to put the pineapple back in the display, smiled and assured her it was perfectly ripe but that the demarcation line between perfectly ripe and unsaleably bruised was a mere hair’s thickness. Steve’s face was almost as red as his carroty hair.

She continued to fossick around in the root vegetables just behind him as he tried, by dint of body-language and eye-brow wiggling, to manoeuvre Mr Telford away from her. “I wonder if I could have a few words? Please?” he asked. ‘Bugger off home, Mother, would be favourite,’ passed disloyally through his mind.

“Certainly, lad. What can I do for you?”

“Erm… I don’t suppose you have a vacancy for a Saturday boy… do you…?” he tailed off. It was a yes/no question so there wasn’t much scope for small-talk. Steve continued to shuffle his feet, blush and curse his maternal parentage while Mr Telford regarded him long and closely, sucking his teeth and narrowing his eyes as he did so.

“I could give you a try-out this weekend, aye,” said the bearer of good news. “I’ll see if I’ve got a uniform to fit you in back o’t shop.” He went for a rummage. The ‘uniform’, Steve knew, was just a brown overall. It was a start, though.

“Oh! Wow! Oh, that’s excellent! Thank you so much!” shouted Steve through the rickety pine door to the shop’s inner sanctum.

“Cut it out,” whispered his mother behind her hand. “You sound disgustingly grateful.”

“I am disgustingly grateful,” he whispered back. Then, with added urgency, “And don’t think you’re coming with me on Saturday morning, either!”

“You unspeakable little wretch,” said his mother, sniffing and pursing her lips. “Who do you think you are?” He sighed. He sometimes wondered that; he really did.

Click here to buy Top Banana from Amazon

About the Author:
Kath Middleton began her writing with drabbles (100 words stories) and contributed a number to Jonathan Hill’s second drabble collection. It wasn’t long before she moved up a size to contribute short stories to anthologies. Shortly afterwards, she progressed to writing longer pieces and her first solo work, Ravenfold, was published to much acclaim. This was followed by the novella, Message in a Bottle. Several more books are in the pipeline and her first novel, Top Banana, was published in March 2015. Kath likes to put her characters in difficult situations and watch them work their way out. She believes in the indomitable nature of the human spirit (and chickens).

Kath is retired. She graduated in geology and has a certificate in archaeology. When she's in a hole, she doesn't stop digging.

Monday 16 March 2015

Guest Author Interview - Fleur Tomargo

In this week's Guest Author Interview Fleur Tomargo tells us about her latest release 'A Dragonfly's Dream':

Click on image to buy from Amazon

Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
My name is Fleur Tamargo, I’m from the Philippines and I’m the author of a novel, “A Dragonfly’s Dream”, which is now available as an e book on Amazon Kindle.

What first inspired you to start writing?
I’ve always loved writing even as a kid. I used to write a lot of poetry and short stories. Over time though, I got busy with other things and didn’t have much time for it. Then my sister wrote a book, “How to Wed an Earl”, and it was published by Crimson Romance. This inspired me to go back to writing and write my own novel too.

And where did the idea for 'A Dragonfly's Dream' come from?
‘A Dragonfly’s Dream’ was actually taken from the pages of my own dream journal. You see, I had an infatuation with a guy back in high school. Then, he died. I dreamt about him for more than a decade. I wrote down my dreams in a journal, and later on, decided to make a novel out of it. So you see, it’s not entirely fiction,

Which book has had the most impact on you?
I’d say “Memoirs from a Geisha” by Arthur Golden, and the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling.

Where do you see your writing taking you in the future?
I’m not really sure, but I do know that I will continue to write. It’s essential to my well-being.

What is your favorite song lyric?
It’s a local tune, called “Your love” by Alamid. ( Your love is like a river that flows into my veins, and I feel the chill inside…)

How does your writing stand out? 
Well, this is a self-serving statement, but I think my writing stands out because my words have a very nice flow. I always try to make sure that whenever I write, my readers come out of it taking a good feeling with them. I want my characters to be deep, and multi-dimensional. My stories also tend to unique in that they’re simple enough to be just that, yet they can also be understood in many other ways.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a historical romance based in Asia.

Tell us about your latest release and how we can find out more.
This book is partly autobiographical as it is based on the my own dream journal.

Alyssa Torres thought she had forgotten all about James after graduating from high school. James Delegrio, the handsome rascal, had teased her a lot back then. But sometime after university, images of him haunted her dreams for several years like a phantom she could not get rid of. In her dreams, she is able to truly get to know her old flame. For many years, James had filled her nights with sweetness and magic.

In the meantime, Alyssa’s “waking” love life suffers. The real world seems to pale in comparison to the beauty of their nightly encounters.

Alyssa knows that she has never loved anyone like the way she loves James. But will their love survive, or will it simply fade away at the touch of sunrise?

Sunday 15 March 2015

Forced Entry (Audio Drama) Trailer

Last Week to Enter March's Short Fiction Contest

Image credit: Radoslaw Walachnia http://www.walachnia.com/
We've entered the final week to enter March's Short Fiction Contest.so if you haven't entered yet then you're running out of time! It's easy to enter, all you have to do is write a story of no more than 500 words inspired by this month's image of a rather frightened looking robot painted by the talented Radoslaw Walachnia.

There have been some excellent entries so far and I'm looking forward to reading more. There's no entry fee and the winning story will win a £50 Amazon or PayPal prize. There are prizes for second and third places as well. You can enter your story through the contest page here:

Each month I receive many well written entries and it's a tough task picking just three winners. You can see what I mean by reading the three winners from last month's contest here:

Saturday 14 March 2015

Book Shout Out - Top Banana by Kath Middleton

Kath Middleton is one of those rare authors who entices me out of my usual reading comfort zone and her talent means that it's always worth the trip. Her latest book has now been released - discover more below:

Click on image to buy from Amazon

Take a young man in a dead-end job. Ensure that his hypercritical mother has totally destroyed his self-confidence. Then add a box of bananas.

Steve Stanley has reason to think he might have acquired a superpower. Unfortunately, he doesn’t yet know what it is. As Steve searches for the (super)hero inside himself, he sets out to prove that he’s not the failure his mother believes. But will the world ever get to see the true Steven Oliver Stanley?

A feel-good comedy novel from the author of 'Ravenfold' and 'Message in a Bottle'.

Click here to buy Top Banana from Amazon

Friday 13 March 2015

Flashback Friday - Music Helps Improve Your Writing

Continuing the music theme from last week's Flashback Friday I'm re-posting my thoughts on how music improves your writing:

It's a bold claim I know, but music can help you improve your writing. I don't mean just by listening to music while you write, although I do find that it aids my concentration, no I mean that by examining how good music (of any genre) can help your writing get better.

The first requisite is that you want to improve your skill as a writer, that should be the goal for any writer. Like most devotions writing is a skill that can be learnt, but never truly mastered. I consider myself to be a decent writer, but there's always scope for getting better. If you've reached a level that requires no improvement then please share your secret!

Back to music, how exactly does music aid in writing?

Music does some things very well and it is these strengths that you can utilise as a writer. The first is the expression of emotion, music is one of the things in life that can touch the heart for good or bad. How does it do this? Musicians uses the tune itself and instrumentation to convey feeling (we'll come to lyrics shortly). As a simple example think of sombre music, it is sonorous with measured change.

With such music and heavy tones for instrumentation carries the emotions like grief or despair that weigh upon the heart, it describes the despair or the misery in a way beyond words. But not for a writer, listen to sad songs (start with instrumentals) and describe the sound that you hear and it's effect.

Music also speaks of happier times and you can use the same techniques to describe feelings of love and joy. A greater breadth of instrumental speaks of lighter things, but the same instrument can describe both light and dark in the same way that words can be used to paint a scene or a feeling. Listen to a variety of piano or any music from a single instrument, how does that same voice tell a tale so different from the last?

The attraction of music is more than just the tune, another layer can be added to make it a song. Here a writer treads more familiar ground, you craft words and words are what makes a song. But writing a song requires some specific traits and these traits can aid in writing different forms.

Song lyrics follow a certain structure, they also require economy and these are lessons that are worth learning. A song tends to focus on a particular event or feeling, everything the singer sings fixes upon that solitary point. A story or even a book will usually cover wider ground, but each instant within the story should be focused on what is happening at that given moment. Use economy to make your writing stronger, bloated writing slows the reader's enjoyment of the story.

Song lyrics have to follow a tune, it is part of the music of the song. Your writing doesn't have to follow a particular cadence, but it should sound pleasing when read. Words that have a rhythm to them will remain in the reader's mind more easily and linger there.

Thursday 12 March 2015

Drabbles of Art - The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli

Henry Fuseli's painting 'The Nightmare' is such a classic horror image than it was inevitable that it would feature in my Drabbles of Art series. I couldn't resist going for a more fun interpretation than usual for the image though :-)

If you've not read the previous drabbles in the series then you can find them all here:


The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli

Dear Diary,

I’m so happy to have Ink in my life. I can’t believe my good fortune. I sometimes wonder why he doesn’t visit during the day, but when he does visit he makes me feel complete.

I know my friends wouldn’t consider him handsome. His skin is rough and his body stunted, but that doesn’t matter to me. I feel so safe in his arms that I never want to leave them.

His deformities make him unique, but one in particular, and I’m blushing as I write this, brings me such pleasure that I swoon to think about it.

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Book Review - The Third Rule: Running Scared by Andrew Barrett

This is the second book in the author's 'The Third Rule' trilogy. I enjoyed the first book, but this sequel manages to better that excellent read into something special. For me the setting provides an interesting backdrop and motivation for the story. It's a dystopian future that unlike many such stories is scarily plausible at times.

The story follows three main threads. My favourite is the artist and his girlfriend living in a squat with their infant child. This thread is a grim view of life in this new Britain and is the grittiest of the threads. There's a revelation in here that I found quite shocking as well as heartbreaking.

Another thread follows a police scene of crimes officer that on the face of it seems like a cliche with his grief and his problems after the death of his sun. I say on the face of it, because the author carefully steers the character from being a familiar to a person with some depth. His interaction with his ex-wife and his closest friend provide some interesting scenes. There's also an element of mystery here and in one of the final scenes this character really shines.

The final thread concerns the covering up of a crime and they provide the menace that is felt throughout the book. In all cases the author excels at putting you inside the characters' heads, so you feel what they feel. I tend to prefer a minimalist approach for this introspection, but the author nails it and I was completely enthralled.

Overall this is a superb thriller that focuses on the characters and well worth checking out.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

Part Two of The Third Rule: Running Scared.

You’re still alive until you meet The Third Rule.

England. New System. New Rules. Old Corruption. While England struggles with demonstrations and riots against conveyor belt justice, artist and burglar Christian Ledger finds himself on the run from a Rule Three charge. Meanwhile CSI Eddie Collins and reporter Mick Lyndon unlock a disturbing truth that could cost them their very lives. But a relentless and corrupt government is closing in on all three of them…

“If you want to kill serious crime, you have to kill serious criminals.”
Sir George Deacon, Minster of Justice.

Click here to buy The Third Rule: Running Scared from Amazon (and it's a quality read!)

Tuesday 10 March 2015

Drabbles of the Gods - Odin

Georg von Rosen - Oden som vandringsman, 1886
Welcome to the first drabbble in my new series - Drabbles of the Gods. In this series I will explore Gods from cultures around the globe. The Norse pantheon seems a good place to start and in particular Odin - or Mr Wednesday for Neil Gaiman fans - if you don't get the reference then you need to treat yourself to American Gods immediately!


In a vision I saw mighty Odin, one-eyed and bearded and cloaked in darkest night. With spear in hand and two wolves at his side he strode across the land. From high in the heavens sharp-eyed ravens shared their intelligence with him.

I have watched in my dreams as he reaches the great ash Yggdrasil. From its nine limbs he hung for nine days in spear-wounded sacrifice to learn the secret of language and the runes.

The same secret torments my dreams as I follow the same path, so I too can visit all the worlds of gods and men.

Monday 9 March 2015

Guest Author Interview - Allen Miles

Allen Miles joins me in this week's Guest Author Interview to tell us about his latest release - 'This Is How You Disappear':

Click on image to buy from Amazon

Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
My name is Allen Miles, I am thirty-three years old and I work for the NHS. I drink too much, barely sleep and write stories.

What first inspired you to start writing?
I was drawn to the written word because I was a prolific reader when I was a child. I was quite precocious in primary school but quickly lost interest in education when I hit my teens, except for writing. I realised by the age of about thirteen that it was the only thing that I was really good at. I was never really cut out for a career, and if I was ever going to be a success, it be through something out of the ordinary. I've written obsessively ever since. When I was eight, I wanted to make people feel the way that I felt when I read Roald Dahl books. Now I want to make people feel the way I feel when I read Bukowski, Fante and McCarthy.

Where did the idea for 'This Is How You Disappear' come from?
This Is How You Disappear is the first line of a Scott Walker song called Rawhide. I loved it as a title because the stories that I was working on had a common theme of escapism. I wrote about twenty-five shorts and narrowed it down to ten. They are all quite dark but there is a thread of black humour in most of them. Subject matter includes a wayward jazz fan who's girlfriend has left him, a shmabolic punk band who go crazy when they get their first sniff of fame, a computer geek who creates a whole new persona to get a woman, and a hopeless young drunk who has to be rehabbed by a kindly colleague of his. The one that I've had the most accolades for is a short autobiographical piece called "Blue And Yellow Stripes", which is about a few memories from my childhood. I'm very proud of it indeed.

If you could spend a day with anyone from history, who would it be and why?
Without a doubt, my all-time hero, the late great Peter Cook. He was amazingly cool as a young man, very handsome and immaculately dressed, and the greatest comedy writer this country has ever seen, but I think he did his best work towards the end of his life. I know I shouldn't really idolise someone who spent years hidden away with a lake of vodka, but the fact that he would from time to time appear on turn up on TV and fire off these works of absolute genius just like he was flexing a muscle and then disappear again is incredible to me. The series that he did in 1990 with Ludovic Kennedy, A Life In Pieces, is one of the greatest works of the English language ever as far as I’m concerned.

What was the last book you read?
Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahnuik. He’s such a great writer. He does that “hitting bottom” thing so well. I’d certainly describe him as an influence.

What makes your stories stand out?
I’m told they have the ability to resonate with one’s emotions in a very strong way. In a large number of reviews and also in person a few times I’ve been told that lots of people have cried whilst reading my stuff. When I wrote a lot of them I thought they'd appeal to the "angry young man" demographic that I suppose I'm part of myself, but the best feedback I've had has been off women. I never expected that.

What is your favourite song lyric?
I think it’s probably either “Are You The One I’ve Been Waiting For?” by Nick Cave or “Faster” by the Manic Street Preachers. I take a lot of influence from lyrics. I wrote a whole blog about it here.


What are you working on at the moment?
I’m basically just making the most of opportunities such as this one to raise awareness of my latest release. I have a crime novel called Dick about a third of the way done but it's taking a long time; I've also written a few scenes of a dystopian future story about two public sector workers who stand and rant together on their lunch break every day. Somehow after a social media campaign gets out of hand, they get elected to political office and it all goes horribly wrong.

Tell us about your latest release and how we can find out more.
This Is How You Disappear is my first paperback. It is a collection of short stories, prose and novellas that are mostly set in my home town of Hull, I'm told they are quite bleak but there is a vein of dark humour running through them all. Actually, not the last one, that one has made dozens of people cry.

Anyway, you can get it on Amazon in both paperback and for your Kindle, and we're currently in talks for WHSmith's to stock it.

Sunday 8 March 2015

Win a £50 Amazon or PayPal Prize in March's Short Fiction Contest

Image credit: Radoslaw Walachnia http://www.walachnia.com/
You can win a £50 Amazon or PayPal prize by entering March's Short Fiction Contest. It's free and easy to enter - simply write a story of no more than 500 words based on this month's image. You can then submit it through the form provided on the competition page here:


If you're looking for great stories to read then you should check out the winners from February's contest - as a certain Tiger would say "They're great!":


Friday 6 March 2015

Flashback Friday - My Favourite Song Lyrics - Mythistory

For this week's Flashback Friday feature I revisit one of my favourite songs and in particular the lyrics that make it so:

Back in the eighties I started getting into a band called Sabbat. They're a British thrash metal band (although the label doesn't really do them justice) noted for their lyrical talent. The first song of there's I heard was a song called 'Blood for the Blood God' which came as a free flexi disk in White Dwarf magazine. This wasn't the only foray Games Workshop into music, they were also heavily involved in Bolt Thrower's 'Realm of Chaos' - a must for fans of grindcore and the 40k universe.

Sabbat's first album 'History of a Time to Come' was a real eye-opener for the scene. The lyrics for the songs were almost poetic, but they were nothing compared to their second album. 'Dreamweaver' was based on a book called 'The Way of the Wyrd' by Brian Bates. The book is about a young monk sent to Saxon England to learn more about the Saxon gods and their followers to make the conversion to Christianity easier.

The story follows Wat Brand as he discovers Saxon beliefs and their views on the world. The book is great and the album is a fantastic adaptation. The whole album is full of excellent songs, but the one that really stands out is near the end.

The song 'Mythistory' tells the conclusion of the story where the monk is searching and finds his soul upon the way of the wyrd. His soul is represented as a woman and as he meets her we have the lyric:

Sister, mother
Virgin, whore
She is all these,
and yet still more
That I could hope
to understand
She take's my heart
I take her hand

So he's found his soul and found it everything that could and should be, he accepts her, but why?

And can you blame me?
Is it such a crime?
To crave for one small piece of Heaven
That I can call mine.

The truth is that the most wonderful thing about him is the soul within him. Later we discover the soul is a bounty from the nature around us, summarised in one the best written verse for the seasons:

Corn is the gold that will shine in the summertime
Leaves are the emeralds you find in the spring
In autumn they turn
and as copper they burn,
then they fall like the diamonds that bleak winter brings.

A great song!