666, An Anthology of Horror Shorts, Reviewed.

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A scary collection of thirty-two horror shorts, every one of them exactly 666 words long!

These Fantables were mostly the result of a contest run by the publisher, Fantastic books Publishing, but include some tales by selected invited professional writers. The stories run the whole spectrum of horror writing from the traditional through to the contemporary weird. So, there’s something for all tastes here.

There’s a long tradition of scary stories for Halloween and this book is officially launched on the night of frights. You’ll find mystery, crime, tension, tales with a twist, vampires, black humour and threat in these 131 pages of well-written, frightening short stories.

I enjoyed the whole book, but among my favourites were Headhunted, by John Hoggard, A Prologue, by Rose Thurlbeck, Loft Conversion, by Denise Hayes, The Perfect Family, by Kester Park, Entombed by Ulla and Marko Susimetsa, The Number of the Beast, by Celia Coyne, His Spectre, by John Scotcher, Assisted, by Richard Dixon, The Statue in the Playground, by Darren Grey, Parents’ Evening, by CM Angus, Opening Doors, by Penny Grubb, Music at Full Moon, by Melodie Trudeaux, She Sings Only at Night, by Nathan Robinson, and Number Thirteen, by Linda Acaster.

A missed title is no reflection on the quality of the tale or author, merely a reflection of my personal tastes, since all the stories are worthy of inclusion in this great collection.

I should confess, for the sake of honesty, that the collection also includes my own story, Ouija.

As the anthology includes my own story, I can’t review on Amazon. However, I can place the review here and on Goodreads. If you’d like a copy of the book in either paperback or digital form, please click on the links. And, make sure you don’t read it before bed, or when alone!

And, should you wish to chat with the authors, or simple join in the live launch tonight at 19:06 (66 minutes past 6 o’clock, GMT), please follow this link.

Added after Fantasticon: The paperbacks were so popular they ran out at the convention, but there’ll be more stock added as new orders come in.

SciFi Made: Now Available in All Formats!

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My latest science fiction novel, Blood Red Dust, is now available as an ebook as well. You can get a copy by clicking here to buy from Amazon. The paperback version was mentioned in a previous post.

As readers of my blog, you get to know about the new book before the official launch. That’s happening at Fantasticon 2016, in Hull, on 19th November. And I’ll be there to sign copies, and to take part in a litfest at the same venue, alongside other Fantastic Books Publishing authors and Royd Tolkien, JRR Tolkien’s great-grandson!

If you’d like a review copy, please use the Contact tab to let me know whether you’d like it in .epub, .mobi or .pdf form.

What is Blood Red Dust about?

As people struggle to survive in an increasingly hostile climate on Earth, plans are afoot for the preservation of the human race. Mars, already occupied by commercial mining interests, is the only viable option. The Chosen are sent to colonise the new world and germinate the seeds of their new Utopia. But dark forces not only want to halt the plan, they want to see the end of all human life, everywhere. If mankind survives the divinely inspired crusade of death from dogma-driven martyrs, will The Chosen’s new Utopia be the real route to salvation?

Animal Magnet, by Gary Anderson, Reviewed.

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A remarkable book, this. And one that makes several demands of its readers. It tells the story of a family through a number of centuries, dipping into significant life events and back-referencing to identify the particular family member placed under the microscope.

Starting in Hungary and ending in USA, via France and Mexico, it travels from the 1700s to the mid 2000s in short leaps of fertile imagination. Along the route, the reader is treated to short phrases in some of the languages of the homes encountered, mercifully in context, so the non-linguist can glean essential information.

There are troubling events at the heart of this intelligent work: it is not for the squeamish! Sex, drugs, some violence, and murder feature within the layers of satire, humour, and ranging philosophical themes that build this unusual novel.

Some readers will love the book and will ‘get’ the messages. Others will find it difficult, maybe obscure and perhaps too oddly structured for their tastes. After some initial frustration with the first, rather lengthy, chapter, I was absorbed in this fascinating history and read with enjoyment.

This is the first of several books I read whilst on holiday, lying on a sunbed under the heat of a Mediterranean sun by a calm blue pool. I will review them on here during the next few days.

Hot Flashes, by Barbara Raskin, Reviewed.

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A literary novel, seeking to reveal the internal lives of a group of friends who grew up just after WWII, Barbara Raskin’s ‘Hot Flashes’ concentrates on menopausal feminist Jewish women in the USA. As such, it lacked some appeal for me. At the time of its initial publication, it was a NYT bestseller. But time hasn’t been so kind to this book as it has to other classic feminist novels. I think that’s due to its grounding in a group of women of privilege who appear to believe they are victims. These women have known no real poverty, none of the everyday challenges that characterise what most would generally understand as normal lives. It’s difficult for this reader to empathise with the whining of people who’ve lived comparatively easy lives.

This is also a very American book, a very Jewish book. Much of the detail was alien to me, a UK agnostic male, and I confess I skipped some passages out of sheer frustration.

Having said all that, the dense, clever and always apposite language of the book did engage me. The quality of the writing leaves many more modern works standing. And, yes, the emotional conflicts, the genuine sadness at the loss of a good friend, the angst of the generation all hit the mark. The sexual revolution brought about by readily available, cheap birth control in the hands of women, clearly had a profound effect on those raised in a paternalistic tradition steeped in ‘family’ values at the expense of personal liberty. But, for me, this novel lacked the universality of the themes present in Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying. It was too immersed in its own rather exclusive world.

No doubt this book will appeal to many of that generation, currently reaching the end of their lives. But I suspect it will not regain the general success it enjoyed at the time of its original release.

This book, first published in hardback in 1987, was released as an eBook this August (2016). I was offered a copy by the publisher who’d seen my review of ‘Fear of Flying’ and felt I might be interested.

 

My New Kindle has Arrived!

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My old Kindle expired a while back. I replaced the experience with my iPad, but that entails reading from a backlit screen, which isn’t comfortable over long periods, and it’s pretty poor in bright sunshine. So, I took the plunge, removed the padlock from my wallet, and shelled out for a new eReader. Whilst I was at it, I bought a cover, too.

The new Kindle, a very reasonably priced version at £59.99, does so much more than my old one. It integrates with my Goodreads account, allows connection with Twitter and Facebook, and will download documents from my computer so I can read them more easily in comfort.

The cover, a snip at £5.99, is elegant, protective and pleasant to the touch. With the light weight of the new Kindle, it’s now just like holding a small print book. The touch screen is more convenient than the old click switch used to turn pages. And the small size and low weight means it’s easily transported.

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All in all, I’m very pleased with this new device and it means I can take it on holiday instead of having to cart a dozen paperbacks. All I need now is the time to actually do some reading! Still, once the WIP is finished, I can enjoy the luxury of some real reading time.

If you haven’t yet tried an eReader, I can thoroughly recommend this one. I enjoy reading from print and on an eReader: both have their place and the mixture allows me to read more books and do so in places where I might otherwise not have access to books.

Go on, spoil yourself and grab an eReader: think of all the great books you might otherwise be missing.

Last Week of #eBook Bargains

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Final reminder that you can save money on eBooks during July. And a further reduction on my own books for the last week of this promotion.

Smashwords is a publishing platform for all formats of eBooks. I’ve several books with them. July is their promotional month, when authors who wish to participate offer discounts. This gives readers the chance to buy books at reduced prices. So, if you’ve been wondering whether to sample some of my work, now’s a good time for those with eReaders. Below is a list of the books on offer, the discount applicable, and the code you’ll need to use to gain that reduction, along with a one-click link to each book (just click on the title). See, I make it easy for you!

Enjoy the read!

Ten Love Tales – PD92R                       Free

But, Baby, It’s Cold Outside                 Free – no code needed, as this is my free short story for all readers.

Breaking Faith – QK22J                         50% off

Heir to Death’s Folly – AC59Y             50% off

M.E and me – QU29L                            50% off

Sensuous Touches – WD68Z                 50% off

Ten Tales for Tomorrow – MZ27N      Free

To get to all my books, simply click on this link.

To browse the full catalogue of all Smashwords books on offer, click on this link. (But only when you’ve looked at my books, of course!)

Synthesis, Published by Fantastic Books Publishing, Reviewed.

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This anthology of science fiction stories by many different authors is a fantastic collection of disparate views of the future presented by creative talents. I must, however, before I expand on that summary, confess to my vested interest: I’m one of the authors. But, as a single voice among 27 stories, I feel justified in commenting on the other tales simply as a reader.

The anthology includes dark humour, dystopian fiction, crime in a future setting, AI and its potential consequences for humanity, and surreal stories of imagination. What ties the collection together is the excellent quality of the writing and storytelling. That the anthology has a Foreword by none other than Robert Llewellyn (Kryten from Red Dwarf for those unfamiliar with the name) gives some indication of that quality.

Dan Grubb, owner of Fantastic Books Publishing, explains that his early inspiration for the book was a collection of stories by Ray Bradbury, an author who also inspired me when in my twenties. And you’ll find here great variety in subject matter and treatment, much as is evident in Bradbury’s work.

The compilation begins with A Cosmic Dilemma, a poetic and surreal fantasy tale, by Boris Glikman, with a suitably enigmatic ending.

In Alice, by David Styles, we are immersed into a future world where population has reduced to a small number of mostly ignorant peasants facing uncertainty. The ending is clever.

All in the Mind, by John Hoggard opens with the most impressive and haunting description of a car crash I’ve ever read. The story continues through a dreamlike unsettling fantasy: that box and those aliens…

Amerika in the Sky, by Boris Glikman, is a strange, eerie, nightmarish fantasy that uses great imagination and portrays a fate at once inexplicable and unexpected.

Marko Susimetsa gives us Dying Star, an end of the world story where the last curator of man’s history walks through a dying environment noting the folly of humankind.

Eternal, by Shaun Gibson tells an amazing and magical story of a journey into a black hole.

Pierre le Gue presents Fastbreeder, a humorous tale of cheese mites and radiation set in northern UK after the strontium 90 fallout from the 1961 Soviet atom bomb. It brought back memories of schooldays bereft of the usual free bottle of milk!

In Hope, by David Styles, the hope for humanity lies in an untested theory and the vague expectations of possible life on planets orbiting distant stars.

Hybrid Dreams is my contribution. It’s a version of an event added to my novella, The Methuselah Strain, when Dan decided to produce the original ebook in hardback form. Androids bring pleasure in a world under the absolute control of technology and a scientist discovers, through a rogue artist, that nature has much to offer.

Ulla Susimetsa presents If We Start Killing as a moral parable set in a world where species destruction seems inevitable, and gives us a surprise ending.

John Harper’s Indirect Harm gives us action in a world dominated by unfeeling robots. A tale of hunter and hunted: but which is which?

In Anthony M Olver’s Lisa Lives, we find a crime story with a difference.

Man-akin, by Nici Lilley is set in an unexpected future and tells a moral tale with a sting and great tension.

Night Monsters – A Tale of the Golf Planets, by Pierre le Gue, is an amusing tale of illicit golf on distant planets. I loved the ending.

Thomas Pitts treats us to a horrifying future, as applied to writers, in Noble Savage. Literature in the hands of AI; a terrifying prospect exposed with tongue in cheek.

Private Show by DK Paterson is a darkly humorous parable on addiction and the desire for fame.

Colin Ford’s Regen is a dark satirical piece written around the transference of consciousness and highlighting the dangers inherent in allowing deals when improperly prepared.

Starburst by Andrew Wright tells an end of the world story that takes a poke at commercial greed and incompetence.

Pierre le Gue’s Steam Punk Striker is a darkly comic take on the way that profit before everything else has overtaken the world of professional sport. Dire consequences dripping in black humour.

The Curious Story of Frank and his Friend, Mr Stims, the Hydrophobe, by Boris Glikman, is dark humour at its most effective. A highly amusing tale about the sometimes unforeseen consequences of scientific endeavour.

John Goh’s The Everything Equation, where Groundhog Day meets Alice Through the Looking Glass meets the complexities of quantum physics, presents us with some startling results.

The Moon a Balloon, by Rose Thurlbeck is a fairytale along the lines of H.G. Wells’ The First Man in the Moon. As funny as it is absurd, this is a story with a satisfyingly equivocal ending.

Aaron Miles gives us The Package, where we discover through the action that gangland morality doesn’t change with the passage of time. I enjoyed the clever ending of this one.

In, The House, John Hoggard combines time travel and quantum physics with references to religion to give us an intriguing and entertaining tale.

Three Second War, by Darren Grey, was, for me the most disturbing story in the collection. A potentially real future in which AI and human arrogance combine to form… read it to find out.

In Two Reviews, by Thomas Pitts, we are treated to a deep and strangely disturbing pair of faux reviews that analyse and expose the species specificity of human art. Written with irony and dark humour, it’s a fascinating read.

The end piece is Drew Wagar’s Written in the Stars. This is great fantasy science fiction full of action and black humour with a clever reference to the self-fulfilling story.

So, there you have it: my brief assessment of the tales within this eclectic and high quality collection. There’s something for everyone here. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

At present, the book is available as an ebook and can be obtained through this link. However, there will be a paperback version soon. I’ll let you know when on this blog.