Thursday 30 July 2015

Drabbles of Art - The Examination by Wayne Barlowe

(c) Wayne Barlowe
I've done something a little different for this week and that's feature a piece from a contemporary artist in the Drabbles of Art series. When I spotted The Examination by Wayne Marlowe I had to write a piece based on it. His visions of Hell are superb and you can see them on his blog here:

The copyright for this image belongs to the artist and his writing looks interesting too, so much so I've ordered a couple..

If you haven't read the earlier drabbles in the series yet then you will find them all here:

The Examination by Wayne Barlowe

“And what is it we have here?” the first demon asked. “It’s shaped a bit like us, but puny and malformed.”

“It’s soft and warm to the touch,” said the second. “And there are things inside that crack when I bend its appendages.”

“I don’t like its strange stink,” complained the third. “It smells sharp and rotten like bad food. Fragile too – part of it has fallen off.”

“Well I think it tastes just fine,” opined the fourth. “Here try for yourself.”

“What a peculiar keening noise it makes,” said the fifth as its teeth crunched through skin and bone.

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Drabbles of the Gods - Lei Gong

We travel to China for this week's Drabble of the Gods and discover Lei Gong, the Lord of Thunder.

If you haven't read the previous drabbles in the series then you will find them all here:

Lei Gong

Banging his mallet against the drum Lei Gong is the thunder. With the finely honed chisel he punishes the wicked. From flashing mirrors his wife, Dian Mu, casts lightning from the sky.

Once mortal, he now stands as a fearsome clawed creature, bat wings shade his shoulders and a bird’s beak protrudes from his blue face.

He is more than the Lord of Thunder, upon Heaven’s order he hunts those committing crimes in the shadow and spirits who harm living mortals.

Yet despite his great ferocity he can be held at bay by the most base, and pleasurable of actions.

Sunday 26 July 2015

August Short Fiction Contest

"Watain 27 03 2014 08" by Vassil - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

I'm going a little old school with the image this month. Some of the first horror stories I read were Dennis Wheatley's satanism themed adventures. I'm still a fan of supernatural evil stories so it seemed like a good idea for a prompt. What do you think someone would pray for at such an altar?

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 September 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 August 23rd 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 25 July 2015

Discover Centos on Book Hippo

I'm a big fan of Book Hippo :-) As a reader the daily newsletter of Kindle bargains helps keep my TBR list longer than I'll ever manage to read! The daily drabble is always a good read as well. As a writer it's also an excellent place to help promote books and deals to a UK audience. I also like to submit the odd drabble - regular readers will know that I'm a huge fan of drabbles.

Book Hippo has added a new feature - the Auto Cento. A cento is a poem or story comprised of extracts from other works. The Auto Cento automatically creates a cento from a database of indie works (including some of mine) and also from some classics.

Here's a fun example of an Auto Cento:


By Cento, using the words of Michael Brookes, Rosen Trevithick, Jane Austen, David Wailing, Rosen Trevithick and 300 Children

He painted pictures of his childhood, the long years as a demon spawn. (1)
Salmon laid their spawn in the upper streams to give them the best possible chance in life. (2)
Mind you, I'm happy with my life, and I still want to meet them. (3)
"Now I am quite happy," said she, "for you will be as happy as myself. (4)
I didn't come here to say happy birthday to Bob. (5)
Simon looked at Bob with admiration. (6)
His admiration was certainly very warm; yet she thought, but for Mrs. (7)
Here it comes, the young demon thought. (1)

1: An Odder Quintet by Michael Brookes
2: Sun Dragon by Michael Brookes
3: Seesaw by Rosen Trevithick
4: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
5: Bang by David Wailing
6: Monster Avengers by Rosen Trevithick, 300 Children
7: Emma by Jane Austen

You can discover your own centos here:

Thursday 23 July 2015

Drabbles of Art - The Number of the Beast is 666 by William Blake

"The number of the beast is 666 Philadelphia, Rosenbach Museum and Library" by William Blake
We return to a biblical theme with one of William Blake's series of paintings from books of the bible. The Book of Revelations has been the inspiration for many a fine horror story, so seems a fitting choice for this series.

You can read the previous drabbles in the series here:

The Number of the Beast is 666 by William Blake

And from the earth rose a second beast, this one horned as a ram. His words moved the world to fall under the sway of the first beast.

He summoned fire from heaven to fall upon the earth. With other great wonders he deceived mankind into making an image of the first beast.

The image was granted life and he slew those who refused their worship. Those who cast their lot with the beast were marked forever.

Wisdom allows you to count the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.

Wednesday 22 July 2015

Drabbles of the Gods - Baron Samedi

For this week's Drabble of the Gods we visit Haiti and in particular Loa of Haitian vodou.

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

Baron Samedi

He can fool you with his coarse banter and sharp threads. He drinks in the shadows wearing cool shades and the toothiest grin you’ll ever see. If you’re faint of heart then don’t listen to his wiles because his words will burn your face red with shame.

He dwells in the realm of the vodou spirits, but enjoys the human world, especially the ladies. Black magic is as familiar to him as the rum in his glass. The curse on the spirit as common as the curse on his lips.

He is the Baron Samedi and he rules the dead.

Sunday 19 July 2015

Last Week to Enter July's Short Fiction Contest

John Tenniel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
What do you think the girl sees in the mirror? Why is she staring into the looking glass? If you have a story to tell us about this month's image then this is the last week to submit it for this month's short fiction contest. The story must be no longer than 500 words and can be of any genre. There's no entry fee and the winning story will receive a £50 Amazon or PayPal prize. There are prizes for second and third place winners too.

If you've not read the winning stories from June's contest yet then you can read them here:

Thursday 16 July 2015

Drabbles of Art - The Water Ghost by Alfred Kubin

I'm loving hunting through paintings to pick the next image for the Drabbles of Art series and this week's image 'The Water Ghost' by Alfred Kubin is another wonderful chance find.

You can read the previous drabbles in the series here:

The Water Ghost by Alfred Kubin

They say that there is only really one storm in the world. When it wakes, it rages with all its force until its strength is spent. Then it sleeps awhile and drifts upon the currents in the sky until restored and ready to blast its fury once again.

But very few know the real secret. Only those wise in the ancient lore know that at the heart of the storm is a creature. It wears the storm as its garb, a cloak of wind, rain and lightning.

Even the wisest of us don’t know why it hates us so much.

Wednesday 15 July 2015

Drabbles of the Gods - Kisin

"God A Ah Puch (Kimi)" by unknown Maya artist - Justin Kerr: The Maya Vase Book. Vol. 6, Kerr Associates (2001).. 
In the latest Drabbles of the Gods we visit the Mayan civilisation and the death god Kisin.

You can read the previous drabbles in the series here:


After the Upper God created the underworld, Kisin took advantage and slew the higher being. The Upper God resurrected himself and condemned Kisin to the underworld. We feel his fury whenever he kicks and shakes the earth.

He tried again to outdo the Upper God by attempting to create humans in his own likeness. From his failure spawned the existence of some of the totemic animals.

Kisin’s duty is to measures the souls passing into his realm. The sinners are cast into eternal flame and those whose evil deserves special punishment become the beasts destined to serve at his whim.

Tuesday 14 July 2015

Book Review - Defiance by Lucas Bale

This is the second book in the author's Beyond the Wall series and I enjoyed the first book a lot. It was an impressive debut novel. I was a little worried when I started reading this one as it didn't immediately grab me like the first one did. I'm glad I persevered with it as after a few chapters it found its stride and was a remarkable read for the rest of the book.

There's three main story threads in the book. The first concerns a young woman with the capability to navigate through the tunnels connecting star systems. The second concerns an officer tracking her for the murder she committed and the third follows intrigue in a world on the edge of the imperium.

All three threads are well written and provide a decent contrast between their experiences. The characters are well drawn up. I found the first two the most interesting, but I can see the third developing into something meatier in the next books. They revealed more about the world the book is set in and in particular we start to discover more about what lies beyond the wall.

As with the first book, the world building worked well for me. It has sufficient nuances to mark it as its own and with the reveals in this second book kept me interested and eager for more. There are still mysteries to be explored so I've picked up the third and final book. I'm always a fan of new and good science-fiction and the author provides that with a well thought out thriller. A recommended read.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

Earth is gone. Centuries have passed since life ended on the blue planet. Humanity's survivors are now dispersed among distant colonies, thousands of light years from the barren, frozen rock that was once their home.

At a time when power means everything, the ultimate power, the imperium, rests with the Consulate Magistratus. In return for its protection, citizens must concede their rights absolutely. The Magistratus controls interstellar travel, access to technology, even procreation. Every citizen is implanted with a device to monitor their location, health and emotions. Freedom, religion and self-determination are anachronisms. Humanity's true history only survives in whispers of a secret archive.

The murder of a man in the lowest caste is seen as inconsequential, but Weaver, one of the few Caesteri lawmen who still believes in justice, refuses to ignore it. Fighting his own indoctrination, and the voice inside his mind that forces him to ignore his conscience, he follows the trail of evidence all the while struggling to hang on to the thin thread of his humanity.

The killer he hunts is violent and unstable, and haunted by her own callous ghosts. A woman who sells her body to fuel her drug addiction. She possesses an almost supernatural ability navigate the wormholes which connect humanity's distant colonies - an ability the Magistratus fears and must eradicate. Weaver will follow her to a planet the Magistratus has abandoned, where the only law is that of criminals. And then to the furthest reaches of space, where the truth that awaits them leads to the corrupt heart of the Republic - a truth the Magistratus will do anything to conceal.

The war to control humanity's future is about to begin...

Defiance is the second book in the Beyond the Wall series, an epic, hard science-fiction space opera about the future of humanity and the discovery of the truth of its past.

Monday 13 July 2015

New Drabble - The Pond

By Yostkr (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

A new drabble of mine has been posted in today's newsletter - visit them to sign up for a daily newsletter with a drabble and Kindle bargains. If you've writen a drabble then why not send it to them?

You can read some of my other drabbles here:

The Pond

It’s hard to go back sometimes. The pond was once my hidden place, my refuge from a world too large to feel comfortable in. I always felt safe and hidden within the trees lining the banks like sentries. The lap of water and the sigh of the wind soothed my fevered thoughts.

Now it’s dark and rotten. A sombre reflection of the person I had since become. Its power to protect had diminished with time’s passing. When I look in the mirror of the water I am not surprised to see that it’s not my face looking back at me.

Sunday 12 July 2015

Two Weeks Left to Enter July's Short Fiction Contest

John Tenniel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
There are only two weeks left to enter July's Short Fiction Contest. We have an Alice in Wonderland theme for this month's competition and there's already some imaginative tales of what the girl sees in the mirror. What do you think she sees? Why is she looking? If you know, or have another story that fits the picture then write it in no more than 500 words and submit it through the form on the contest page here:

The closing date is July 26th and the winning story will win a £50 Amazon or PayPal prize. There are prizes for second and third places too.

If you haven't read the winning stories from June's contest yet then you will find them here:

Sunday 5 July 2015

Book Review - Milk-Blood by Mark Matthews

This book has been languishing on my TBR list for quite some time and I'm glad that I have finally gotten round to reading it because it is a fantastic horror read. The title comes from the rather unsavory practice of injecting blood taken from people who are high to experience their high. It also leads to other evntualities that become apparent as the story progresses.

It's a relatively quick read that packs quite a punch. It's not often I feel actual horror even when reading the most gruesome of tales but this book managed it on more than one occasion. It is, however, quite a sombre story that is quite heartbreaking in places.

The story is told from a few perspectives: A father trying to take care of his sick mother and sick daughter. The daughter who has been born with congenital defects. A crazy homeless man who hears voices and the author himself, a social worker whose life intersects the daughter's. Each perspective adds a unique viewpoint on the events as they unfurl. The author does a very good job with the shifting between characters. They also have have very different personalities which, when combined really add to the horror of the situation.

Often with stories there is a favourite character, but the strength of the author's writing brings a balance to the different characters so they are all integral to the story. Good or bad the story would have been diminished without any of them. The author's presence in particular is a small part for the most part but everything clicks into place by the end.

Beyond that the setting of the run down city provides a stark backdrop to the story and also a sense of social commentary throughout the story. The pacing is solid and the writing has a clear style that pulls you through the story.This is a highly recommended read for any horror fan.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

Lilly is ten years old, born with a heart defect, and already addicted to heroin. Her mother is gone from her life, and there are rumors that she was killed by her father and buried near the abandoned house across the street. The house intrigues her, she can't stay away, and the monstrous homeless man who lives there has been trying to get Lilly to come inside.

For her mother is there, buried in the back, and this homeless man is Lilly's true father, and both want their daughter back.

Thursday 2 July 2015

Book Review - Islands in the Sky by Arthur C Clarke

This is one of the books that drew me into science fiction. That was about thirty years ago and it's been almost as long since I last read this book. Now there's always a danger when reading something pivotal in your childhood years that it no longer stacks up when you re-read it with adult eyes. Thankfully this didn't prove to be the case and I think I enjoyed more now that I have a more analytical mind - and it's still a cracking story to boot!

What attracted me then and still does is the solid engineering basis for the technology and the experience of living in space. In many ways it acts as an easy introduction into the key elements of hums surviving in orbits. There are some key differences though which reflect the time from which it is written. Most notably is the romantisism of mankind's expansion into orbit. We unfortunately haven't come close to this vision.

Following that point is that it's interesting to see what isn't there and that's a reflection of what we have learned since then. A good example is the issue of health, the problems suffered by stronauts on extended missions in orbits aren't mentioned. Another notable inaccuracy is the planetary science, there's life where we know that there isn't.

But these issues don't really matter because the story reflects the dream of anyone who has wished to go into space. It delves into concepts that are core to understanding that dream and fascinates with the imagination of the author's vision. It's a short, fast paced book that packs a lot in and reminds me just why I enjoy science-fiction so much.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

The story of 'Island in the Sky' centers around a young man, who, after brilliantly winning a space-related competition, requests a vacation on a space station as his prize. It is written with Arthur C. Clark's obvious knowledge of science, but moves at a page turning rate througout the entire narrative. The short novel gives a realistic possiblilty of work and play in future space, hightened with constant excitment and action. Character development is very good, as are the not-overdone (but still awsome) visual descriptions.

Click here to buy Islands in the Sky from Amazon (and it's a classic sci-fi read)

Book Review - Solom: The Scarecrow by Scott Nicholson

The blurb contains a reference to Stephen King from a review and I agree with some of the sentiment from that statement. The author develops the characters well and with the sort of detail that King provides for even his minor characters. It has the downside that it stretches the story out more than it probably needs, but doesn't really matter because there's joy in getting to know the characters. It also meant that before things really get going you're aleady inside their heads.

The story is solid, although it does follow a traditional theme of scarecrows and harvest sacrifice. While I did find the main plot a bit predictable there's some nice twists along the way to keep things interesting. I did enjoy the goats - they deserved a bigger part!

The writing is good and accessible,it conjoured up plenty of atmosphere. The pacing also worked well with a gradual build up in the tension and horror until reaching the conclusion. Most of the pieces fit into place along the way and cocludes in a satisfactory way. There were a few details I would have liked to have learned more about, like the old preacher for example.

Overall this is a solid horror read and one worth checking out for horror fans and I've ordered the second book in the series to see what happens next.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

"Like Stephen King, he knows how to summon serious scares." - Bentley Little, The Burning

"Always surprises and always entertains." - Jonathan Maberry, Patient Zero

Book#1 in the Solom series.

When Katy Logan moves her troubled teen daughter Jett to the Appalachian community of Solom, she envisions a peaceful rural lifestyle on her new husband's farm.

But there's more to Solom than she ever imagined. Gordon Smith's first wife Rebecca died under mysterious circumstances, and Katy believes her spirit is still in the house. Gordon's great-grandfather was a horseback preacher who vanished while on a mission one wintry night, and local lore holds that he returns from time to time seeking vengeance. And Gordon teases Katy and Jett with a story about a wicked scarecrow that comes in from the fields at night to slake an unnatural thirst.

When the legends come to life, Katy and Jett discover the Smith family secrets cut deep. And they must face the supernatural menace together or become part of Solom's legends forever.

Click here to buy Solom: The Scarecrow from Amazon (and it's a pretty good horror story)

Drabbles of Art - Vanitas with Sunflower and Jewelry Box by Maria van Oosterwijck

This week's Drabble of Art is inspired by a painter unknown to me, but the odd collection of items in this still life fitted an idea I already had perfectly.

You can read the previous drabbles in the series here:

Vanitas with Sunflower and Jewelry Box by Maria van Oosterwijck

She loved to collect things and always placed her favourites in the gloom of my study. Some of them were so weird that I didn’t dare ask her where she’d found them.

I liked the flowers. They brought new and delightful scents into the air. Most of what she collected were dead things, except for flowers. She cared for them. With delicate care she tended to them to keep their bloom alive until the inevitable wilt.

Now the decay happens faster because the bouquet will never be cared for again, not in this empty house.

I miss her so much.

The Cult of Me now Available on Oyster

The Cult of Me was  my first release and is the first book in the Third Path tilogy. It is now available on Oyster:

The Cult of Me is also available on a wide range of online stores - see below for a full list:

In my youth I developed a talent for reading other people’s minds and with practice, forcing my will upon them. I have never encountered anyone capable of resisting my thoughts and for a time I enjoyed the fruits of my power. A terrible tragedy led me to a darker place and then I wielded my ability not simply to satisfy my desires but to torment and judge the throng of humanity around me.

Years passed until I realised that my life lacked meaning and I lived without purpose. It wasn’t a difficult change to make. And with that choice I have one final act to inflict upon the world and they will remember my name with fear for ages to come.

The Cult of Me is the first book in The Third Path trilogy.

Review Highlights

"An Enjoyable Romp through a Tortured Mind"

"This book is so hard to define. It’s a dark, psychological thriller but also philosophical, metaphysical and totally unusual."

"In The Cult Of Me, Michael Brookes has created one of the most memorable villains I have ever read about - and he is sort of the good guy of the story."

"Whatever genre you read I would recommend this book, it's not quite horror, not quite fantasy and to be honest I'm not entirely sure where this would sit. But, whatever its genre it's good and that's really all that matters."

The Cult of Me is available from these online stores:

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

Follow on Facebook:
The Cult of Me on Goodreads:

Wednesday 1 July 2015

Drabbles of the Gods - Moloch

"MedinaPL1" by John Baptist Medina (1655/1660–1710)
I'll confess that I cheated a little with this week's Drabble of the Gods and took a small extract from my favourite story Paradise Lost to match this week's deity. It's such a great piece of text that I'm sure you won't mind!

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


Moloch, the Sceptered King took his turn to speak. In defeat the fiercest of the rebels was eager to return to the fight.

“I counsel open war. We mustn’t diminish in this Hell. Within this prison of shame we should grasp the fires of our punishment and rise to challenge the tyranny which cast us down.

“Fear not the possibility of a second defeat for we’re already in Hell. Already we suffer but there is no lower pit to fall. Together we can rise and even if victory eludes us then at least we’ll cast our revenge against his throne.”

An Odd Quartet Now Available on Oyster

An Odd Quartet was my first published collection of short stories and it is now available on Oyster:

It's also available from a wide range of online retailers, the full list is provided below:

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

The Yellow Lady

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

This Empty Place

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

Forced Entry

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

The Reluctant Demon

A young demon prepares to take his possession exam.

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

Review Highlights

"This is an intriguing collection which I raced through in an evening. Each tale has an unexpected element to it and this is what makes the book interesting."

"I enjoyed the darkly satisfying twists that surfaced in a couple of the tales, and I loved the imagery throughout."

"All in all a very good and entertaining read with some well executed and different approaches to the stories."

"It has been speculated that writers of the bizarre must have broken minds. I say, they simply have potent imaginations because they are the ones who have the ability to see beyond the edge of reality, capture those images, and truly bring them to life. Michael Brookes is surely in possession of a most potent imagination."

An Odd Quartet is available from these online stores:

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