Saturday, 30 September 2017

DailyFlash: Trimmer

My beard trimmer doesn't work. Its juice is gone and when I connect its charger the red light does not come on. It just whirrs for three or four seconds and dies. It sits useless in the basket of toiletries getting slowly buried and relegated to the bottom with the one or two unused earbuds, and that novelty bar of soap. But it was my father's. The last time he used it, well: it was used on him. I opened the bedroom door and he was sitting in the light of the lamp, his friend running the trimmer over his bald head. He silhouette was thin, or maybe him. I don't remember the words that were spoken; perhaps there were none. I just remember the electric buzz of the trimmer as it mowed that head of his. I remember the nonchalance, feigned perhaps, covering an embarrassment. Not of the act, but that it wasn't my hands holding the trimmer. The trimmer that now does not work. Not as intended anyway.

Friday, 29 September 2017

DailyFlash: Terraform

The martian river flowed red. The rising temperatures caused by the nucleonic clouds, and the sub-mantle explosions, were working! Mars shook and cracked, it's semisolid core heated from all sides, waking the titan. Expedition leader Guinan watched from the safety of her shuttle floating in the atmosphere. Below her, molten geysers erupted, and on the feeds in front of her she watched as similar scenes played out across the planet. She took the controls and steered the shuttle down, a flyby of the surface, swerving left and right as red flames licked up - and, she smiled, more importantly: steam. Great, bilious, clouds of unlocked gasses to sweeten the air. It had begun.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

AmReading - Rarity from the Hollow by Robert Eggleton - List update

My list is still so long! And now I'm well into writing Neon Sands it may take longer than usual to get through them. But books are friends, always there when you want them. I did finish The Method (4 stars) and Humanity's Hope (2 stars) and now I'm about to begin Rarity from the Hollow. I was a bit mean reviewing Humanity's Hope - as a rule if saying negative things it's good to make a positive-negative-positive sandwich out of it. I'll try harder next time. Thing is whenever I do criticise I'm always sure the same criticisms could be thrown back in my own face. But that's fine. You read, you write, you learn what works and what doesn't, FOR YOU. Screw the rest, right?

Currently reading

Lacy Dawn's father relives the Gulf War, her mother's teeth are rotting out, and her best friend is murdered by the meanest daddy on Earth. Life in the hollow is hard. But she has one advantage -- an android was inserted into her life and is working with her to cure her parents. But, he wants something in exchange. It's up to her to save the Universe. Lacy Dawn doesn't mind saving the universe, but her family and friends come first. Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy, comedy and satire.

Reading list

The Mask of Sanity by Jacob M Appel

On the outside, Dr. Jeremy Balint is a pillar of the community: the youngest division chief at his hospital, a model son to his elderly parents, fiercely devoted to his wife and two young daughters. On the inside, Dr. Jeremy Balint is a high-functioning sociopath--a man who truly believes himself to stand above the ethical norms of society. As long as life treats him well, Balint has no cause to harm others. When life treats him poorly, he reveals the depths of his cold-blooded depravity.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Humanity's Hope by Pembroke Sinclair REVIEW 2/5

Even the cover is a bit misleading on this one. I hate to bash on another indie author, but Sinclair has quite a few books out all released in the last year and a bit. That could tell you something. This zombie story follows Caleb and his tryst with the authorities after he discovers a life-changing fact about himself - the clue is in the title - and then does a runner.

So much of this plot makes no sense: authorities who can't even use a little subterfuge and subtlety to get what they want (something they already had); a twist for the sake of a twist which leaves massive gaping holes in everything that happened previously; random events to push the plot, or convoluted decisions to push the plot (that even Caleb himself questions his motivations); and a protagonist with narcissistic tendencies (but in his defence, it's not his fault - at no point are we as readers left in any doubt about what he is thinking.) This is on-the-rail-writing, with tell-me back story and tell-me feelings: tell-me feelings that are repeated so often the only purpose is surely filler on the writer's behalf.

There's very little creativity here, phrases repeated, action repeated, tendrils of pain repeated, giving me tendrils of pain too. It's all very rote and by the book. Maybe I'm being harsh as this is aimed at the YA market - but don't they deserve something better? Both in writing, and plot? Honestly, Caleb is supposed to be a badass who has survived out there in 'the wild' among the zombies, but all he does throughout (and this isn't helped by the tell-me nature of the narrative) is whine, second-guess, and doubt himself. Maybe I'm forgetting what being a 17-year-old was really like!

Added to this is that it has no ending to speak of. Previous books of Sinclair are labelled volume if they are in a series, which this is not (yet). If there isn't to be a follow-up then I would definitely think about that ending. Helpfully, it would perhaps not burn plot holes in all that had just gone!

Monday, 25 September 2017

DailyFlash: Bathpod

The space station spun with the living quarters at the outer edges to get the most benefit from the centrifugal force. On downtime occupants could retreat to their cabins for the required daily exercise, then cool off in the viewing pod. With the windows at their feet, the viewing pod was a half bulb and doubled as a bath. You could run water into it, turn off all the lights, or dim them, perhaps have the television on in the background, or the stereo with its pumping sound display flashing; and step down into the window. Recline, legs outstretched, ass pressed against the cool solar glass of the pod, mooning the world as you rotated past.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Stranger Writings Dot Com - Author Resources

In case it helps anyone (really probably only for newbies) I've added some info to my Author Resources page on Go there or be square, or click here:

Thursday, 21 September 2017

The Neon Series trilogy of trilogies announcement and cover!

Shout out to Blue Skin Design for my newest cover. It's fair to say I love it! Fellow writers out there, I'm sure you're way more ahead of the game than I have been, but after recently joining the Facebook group 20booksto50k, something you need to do if you have not already; and after reading about the success stories, some achieved in only a few months, my mojo is back. My mojo and enthusiasm. I've read a lot of Indie books lately which has also helped hone what's possible, and opened my eyes to the competition. But, from this, and from others' success stories, a few things are key:

  • A good cover
  • Good editing
  • Serialisation
  • Bookbub
Previously, I was relatively sure you needed a lot of luck to break through with consistent sales in this ebook market, but looking at Bookbub, and reading what others have read, I see now you can buy yourself that luck. Of course, the key is getting yourself a Bookbub deal, but when my trilogy is out, that will become the over-arching goal. The returns look practically guaranteed, with knock on effects continuing into following months. The key there being a reliable writer who has regular new books. So that's why I love my new cover so much: I've had lots of positive feedback and I am so confident that if it appeared in the Bookbub advertising people would snap it up.

Neon Sands will be book one in the Neon Sands trilogy. Following this will be Neon Driver and its trilogy, and then an as-yet-unknown third trilogy, all set within the same universe. I am excited to write this and excited for others to read it. reliably informs me this trilogy of trilogies would be an ennealogy, but I'll have to roll Neon Ennealogy off my tongue a few more times before committing to calling it that!

Book reviews and regular updates and flash fiction may become less frequent as I unpick this story from my brain and get it into semi-readable sentences. However, if you like the look of the cover and would like to know when it's available, and grab a copy of an ARC for review, sign up here:

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

DailyFlash: Behind the Curtain

Faced with the curtain, he froze on the spot. Later he was able to laugh it off, thinking back to the sudden shock of panic that bolted down his legs, setting roots in his feet. He felt suddenly heavy, unable to even bend his knee; and his throat constricted with dry, sandy swallows. He was going to suffocate, drown in his own fear, his heart throttled by a tightening chest and lungs suffering nascent rigor mortis. Already, the fluid of decomposing enzymes dampened his palms, slipped like great sticky slugs down his temple.
     He heard his name, heard "What's keeping your daddy?" Such a sweet, but tired sounding voice.
     Daddy. Just like that, air swelled in his lungs until he was floating, whatever atmosphere his head was in was thin; was moist too, burning where eyes met lids until he blinked with life.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

How I feel starting and finishing a new book

Indie Book Review: The Method by Duncan Ralston - 4/5

Duncan Ralston's The Method is a brutal exploration of a relationship falling apart; Linda and Frank's last gasp effort to save their marriage; a weekend getaway at Lone Loon Lodge to undergo The Method — whatever that is. Recommended to them by mutual friends who were experiencing similar issues, but who are now closer than ever, it seemed like a good idea. What could go wrong?

Monday, 18 September 2017

DailyFlash: Mushrooms

Once upon time ago, an eon far gone, pre-Mesozoic and further still, the vertebrates unlinked and the tetrapods unlimbed; pre the branching colours of coral undersea, grew fungi: in an alienscape, all shapes at sizes small as thought or large as time, hooded umbrellas spreading wide canopies in burning yellow light as saturated as the skies back then. Spores barely spores in the great shadowcast, clinging to whatever. Altogether, nuclear clouds, not the meteroric first or atomic last, but a blast offing of the future.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Website launch -

A few hours ago I launched Stranger Writings as a website.

As well as using this space to develop my own work, I'll also be quite prominent about highlighting the work of fellow Indie authors. At the moment I post my reviews on Cultured Vultures, which means I can't post them in full elsewhere. However, when I link to them from here, this blog actually gets a lot more views then the post on Cultured Vultures! Therefore, if the trend continues and the new site also picks up its fair share of views, the reviews will be posted exclusively here and on the new site. Better content and more views!

I'll also help promote other books by having a recommended section, as well as the best of a year, and anything else I can think of, like useful links and groups that have helped me.

There's always my flash fiction too; my odd forays into weirdness - and the great art that comes as a result! I need to figure out how to showcase this too!

Instafreebie - Hereafter (Virgin Suicides novella) & Short Stories free for a week

You can grab Hereafter as a free download from Instafreebie for a week - download here:

Hereafter is a collection of stories written over the last decade. Featuring the leading title novella: Hereafter tells the story of how the boys from The Virgin Suicides grew into men unable to shake the suicides of the Lisbon girls from their subconscious, and their subsequent failings. 

The other short stories feature a family dealing with life on the Frontier, a man who can't resist the urge to strip to his birthday suit any longer, a Big Brother who is no longer in control, a scientist who ties himself up in time, and a couple who allow possessions to own them. 

Cyberpunk fans will also be treated to the first 6,000 words of my forthcoming novel, Neon Driver.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Instafreebie - The Risen - Apocalyptic Horror Thriller

For the next week, head over to this link to grab a free download of The Risen from Instafreebie.

As always, would love your reviews and stars on Goodreads and Amazon, long and many may they be!

DailyFlash: The Boss

I wonder how much longer he can keep up the pretense. How much longer before everyone heeds my words of warning about him. He's not on the level I tell them: Pat in Accounts, who just nods and types away with fingers that never stop moving; the warehouse operatives going about their heavy lifting, grunting dismissively and lumbering around in their steel-toe-capped boots; the Sales team jabbering with one ear on the customer and the other on the gossip. You're in danger, I try to tell them. The Boss has flipped and you need to get out. But they can't hear me. My old office in the basement is locked. I messed up sure, and received my final notice. But I messed up again and got my marching orders; a pair of hands around my throat. We can merge your department with Marketing, the Boss said, to himself more than me. Yes, moving with the times, he said. He has cold hands, I shriek now, but no one comes down here any more.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Dystopian Indie book review - Indigo By DL Young 4/5

"I grind my teeth, try not to react. He wants me to break down, to beg him to stop. He wants me to know this is only a taste of what he’ll do to me if I don’t play along."
Texas has finally seceded from the United States, and while it was prosperous for a while, it wasn’t long before it disintegrated into self-interested factions willing to do whatever it took to hold on to power, or push for more.

Within this world is Indigo, the narrator; a successful trader keeping her head low and out of trouble inside her own turf, managing a fleet of other traders and ‘greenies’ (traders-in-training). Until the crap hits the fan and she is taken prisoner by religious fundamentalists for a purpose she slowly begins to piece together.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Movie Review: IT - For the Constant Reader

I'm about 30 hours into the IT audiobook, with another 20 to go. That'll tell you something about the impossibility of translating IT to the big screen with any kind of satisfaction for the Constant Reader. And yet, IT succeeds in the places the Constant Reader would want. Stephen King's novel is as much a coming-of-age parable as it is about horror. When I first read it in my very early teens, it was transformative: here's this seriously scary horror novel, written by an adult, but about kids. I loved it, and I loved the characters. Stephen King's style is informal, sometimes unfocused and often tangential, as you may expect at over 1,000 pages, but it is immersive. There's plenty of major plot points to hit, but the journey between them is just as important, and that's what I took from the movie.

The kids are great, written with an edge and comedy that reflects the novel well. Inevitably they are condensed versions, borderline caricatures of themselves, but they are played with such enthusiasm by the actors that you can be forgiven. There's a couple changes; Haystack is no longer Haystack; when they called him simply the New Kid, it didn't feel honest, simply because it wasn't a proper nickname I think. Ben Hanscom instead becomes the foil that bring the kids together; being new, and being a loner, he researched the town and its history to shoehorn the myth and cyclical nature of past events into the movie. A little backstory.

Richie Tozier is perhaps the most memorable of the kids; as the comedic relief, he gets all the best lines. Some laugh out loud. But not to do a disservice to all the kids, they all get moments to shine and make the viewer smile; subtleties that you might miss the first time round, such as Eddie (or perhaps Stanley) being the only one to hitch their bicycle while the others chuck them down to the ground.

Where the film falls is when it pushes too far with its horror. Bill plays Pennywise just fine, it's just that Pennywise's effectiveness comes to a height about two-thirds in, and thereafter loses all tension. Spoilers follow. Two great horror moments in this are set pieces that don't rely on jump scares or quick movements, or individual stupidity, but instead on visuals. The bloody scene in Beverley's bathroom was executed brilliantly, gushingly. As a recent reader, there was even more blood in the movie than there had been in my head. The other high point was the projector scene in the garage, with slow reveals of the clown being shown on the wall, culminating in the best jump scare, simply because of the size of the his head as he comes at them. The CGI lets it down in the end, with too much of the scene cutting away so you can't get a clear idea of what's going on and then miraculously they get the garage open and all is well.

The trouble with these scenes is they are outlandish and extreme, but with very little time after them for reflection. That none of the kids were harmed in the garage too, when the chance was obviously there (and they were all in 'fear' and could have fed Pennywise) just took the edge away. And later, when the kids truly lose their fear, it stops being a horror while continuing to try and be one, simply because the tension is gone.

There's too much reliance on CG, more practical effects would have been great for authenticity. On top of that, the movie tried too hard to scare us, pushing the kids into one-on-one situations that just made you want to scream at the screen, seconds after saying let's stick together. In other words, it became cliched and formulaic. Which is why it's the kids that hold it all together. There's barely an adult in the whole film who isn't a total asshole, which fits with the lore of the novel well (at least when they're kids). The movie pushes this to the extreme, ensuring we end up rooting for them.

This is why the Constant Reader will like this movie, and this is why I give it 4 out of 5. There's plenty of straight up horror movies out there, cliched and formulaic, whose characters you don't care about, that have no energy and life or humour; that don't even have high points of horror. But IT does have all those things, even romance! Bring on chapter two.

Friday, 8 September 2017

DailyFlash: Wailing

1056 Mitton Street. Every day, the same crying, the same high pitched wail followed by sobs sad enough to melt a Republican heart - no offense to Republicans. "Some taken, actually," he says to himself with a smile. A smile that immediately turns back into a look of concern as he looks over his shoulder to the basement grating.
     1056 Mitton Street; a red-brick townhouse, one of many down this block. He walks past every day on his way to work, and every day for the last two weeks, that he has noticed (lost half the time in his phone) a baby has wailed from the basement. Today he stops, and turns back towards it.
     Looking down into the grating, he sees nothing but darkness, but the baby cries on. He stands there a moment, looking around and at his phone, looking for answers, wondering about making a decision that will take him out of his daily routine. The baby cries on.
     He sighs and steps up to the front door of the townhouse. He knocks to no avail, waiting five minutes before really banging on the door. No answer, yet the baby cries on. No answer, so he turns the doorknob. The door opens inwards, so he calls out down an empty hall. No answer, but the crying has stopped.
     He steps inside, listening, but there's nothing to hear. Smells like there'd be nothing to hear: fetid - dusty, damp and musty. No-one's lived here for ages, he thinks. And then he steps quickly to the basement door, and he's just about to open it when the wailing begins again, causing his hand to freeze. That wailing, it ain't no baby, It ain't like nothing I've ever heard before.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

DailyFlash: Intrusion

"I'm ooold, you don't want to hear anything this old man has to say."
     "Oh but I do. Don't hold nothing back now. Ooold man." The intruder hovers all hoody and black scarf, pointing a knife and waving it around in front of the seated pensioner. The tall arms of the armchair seem to wrap themselves around his frail frame as he sinks into it, urging his body away from the tip of that knife. His wrinkled face begins to shake, his lips moist, almost drooling.
     "What say you tell us where the key is?"
     The old man shivers.
     "Hey! I'm speaking to you, want me to cut out your tongue? Then you'll be really mute."
     The old man shrinks, almost, disappearing into the armchair.
     "Hey, Badger! Oi!" shouts the intruder, backing away.
     Badger shows up behind him. "Where'd the old dude go?"
     The door of the safe, set into the wall and revealed by removing a painting, clicks. It swings open.
     "Look, it's open," laughs Badger, bounding, almost gleefully, like a child chasing the ice cream van, towards it. "I wonder what's inside."
     The old man's face shoots from the darkness within the safe. Only it's smirking, eyes yellowed and fangs dripping saliva. "You wanna talk now?" he howls.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

DailyFlash: Bathtime

"No, not yet," said Gemma, flattening her pink body in the bath, submerging herself and sending waves up the sides.
     "You have until the water's gone," said her Auntie Maisie, pulling the plug. "Then out, out, out."
     "Alright," sulked Gemma, sitting back up and grabbing the plastic jugs. She began to pour water from one to the next, the sound like feet shuffling along gravel. Ssccchhhht. Ssccchhhht. "The water's going, Auntie Maisie."
     "That's right," she agreed. "Do you know where?"
     Gemma looked up, a confused expression on her face. "Under, ground?"
     "Almost. The house is thirsty."
     "Oh," smiled Gemma. Picking up the plastic toy duck, she squeezed it under the water and then let it enlarge again, sssucking the water in. "Look. Duck is thirsty too," she laughed.
     "That's right, sweetheart. Just like the duck." Auntie Maisie hovered, and began to twist the towel she was holding between her hands. The water circling the drain began to gurgle like the last dregs of coke at the bottom of a straw.
     "All gone," said Gemma, standing as the last bit of water began pulling, pulling towards the drain. Pulling, almost sucking around her tiny feet. She could feel a tugging sensation, like octopus feelers clamping to her skin.
     "And now the house is hungry," said Auntie Maisie, watching as Gemma's legs were upended by the almost tidal pull towards the now gaping mouth.

ReadingList Update - AmReading - Indie Goodness - Indigo by DL Young

Another day, another indie book finished. Can I get the first one now please DL Young? You sent me #2 in the series and now I know #1 is from the POV of a certain character in #2, I wanna read it!

Anywho, Indigo was a fun read and the review will be up shortly. The review for Under the Amoral Bridge by Gary Ballard, who I accidentally just wrote as Gallard - bet you got that all the time, eh - or maybe not - went up on Cultured Vultures last week - delight in it here. In fact, for more of my Indie book reviews, check out my CV page.

Reminds me, I now have 10 indie novels I can order from best to worst - or more likely, most favourable to least. I've only really read one that fell short. Once I've sorted that I'll tweet away like the magpie I am.

Currently reading

The Method by Duncan Ralston

How hard would you fight for the one you love?

Frank and Linda's marriage is falling apart. When old friends tell them about an "unconventional therapy retreat" called The Method, they jump at the chance to attend.

Dr. Kaspar's Lone Loon Lodge is a secluded resort deep in the Montana wilds. The staff is friendly. The other couple joining them is intense. But when a death occurs events quickly spiral out of control, leaving Linda and Frank unable to trust anyone but each other.

Nothing is what it seems, and only one thing is certain: Love Is Pain.

Reading list

Caleb, a 17-year-old boy, survived the zombie uprising, but he didn’t come out of the ordeal unscathed. He’s been scarred—both mentally and physically. The rest of humanity is trying to rebuild, to make the world normal again. Caleb is trying to return to a normal life also, but after all he’s seen, after the loss of his family and friends, the transition is difficult. The darkness that led him down a path of self-doubt and self-harm keeps trying to creep back into his mind.
Things only become worse when he discovers he’s immune to whatever makes a zombie a zombie. Fighting zombies was predictable. He knew what to expect. Fighting humans is volatile. They are malicious and treacherous. They won’t stop to get what they want, and Caleb has to figure out exactly what that is.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

DailyFlash: The Wedding Speech

James stands, champagne glass in hand, and looks out at his friends and family waiting for him to speak. So many eyes on him, so much expectation; from those who know him best to Melissa's cousins, aunts and uncles whose faces he has seen today for the first time (and in them, the uncanny of the bloodline).
     "We met," he begins, smiling and turning to Melissa, "in first-year molecular biology. I said something along the lines of how beautiful your chromosomes had combined, which degenerated into the worst gene-related jokes we'd heard. But it was enough to break the ice." He reaches into his pocket and withdraws a remote, pressing a button. As a projector screen descends behind them he continues. "But you know. You've never really understood how truly the girl of my dreams you are."
     Melissa turns, a confused look on her face, to look at the screen. James can almost feel the weight of eyes shift from him to the screen. Another button, and the lights dim slightly and a video is projected onto the screen. "Is that?" says Melissa, clutching James' hand. "Is that you?"
     "Yep," says James of now. "Hi, everyone," says James of fifteen years ago. "If you're watching this, you're at my wedding. Well, not my wedding - our wedding."
     "Aww, you look so cute," says Melissa.
     The boy on the screen continues. "So thank you for coming. I must've said that already, right? No? Where have my manners gone?" The boy smiles, and then breathes deeply, straightening his face. "I'm so impatient. I've imagined this day since - well, since I was a boy! I've imagined marrying you. I can see you now; you're blond, most of the time." Small gasps in the crowd.
     "Good guess," whispers Melissa.
     "Blue eyes. My height. Most of the time. You like a lot of the same stuff as me, but you're more of a rocker than me."
     "Hmmkay," Melissa furrows her brow, looking up at her new husband, and then back to his boy-self.
     "You like it when it rains, more when it snows. Oh, and when it's cold you get a little cramp sometimes in your hip. We should get that looked at."
     "What the?"
     "But Melissa, you know, I just can't wait to grow up and find you. The man standing next to you right now is the luckiest man alive."

Monday, 4 September 2017

DailyFlash: Neon Knight

The police waves are static white noise broken by intermittent code-words and numbers, all of which he knows. One hand on the wheel, with the other he flicks through different channels, cruising at speed on the urban highway, slashing the asphalt of the night with tires blazing a trail from one scene to the next. It's raining, of course it is, this damn city would be underwater if not for the storm drains letting it all run away. No one overtakes, instead he glides quietly past fellow travellers with glowing advertisements running down the sides of their vehicles; goddamn sell-outs. He is a void on the tarmac, a shadow weaving through the neon. The homicide frequency whispers "Ten-fifty. Perp go, sight on foot, T with BC. BH." He flicks a switch and the car rises above everything, no longer a shadow.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

DailyFlash: Bloody Knuckles

His right hand is shaking - his small child hand - still balled tightly into a fist at the end of a hairless arm and thin wrist. The knuckles are red and raw with bits of white skin torn away. For an instant he sees his father's face as he reacts to the news, gearing into a rage. Not now, man, he thinks, pushing it aside with deep breaths, quelling an urge to pant.
     The other boy, the one on his haunches, is looking up at him, one eye beginning to puff up. He glances at the girl who started it all and then shuffles backwards, inadvertently putting his left hand in the sticky, bloody residue left on the tarmac by the second punch he'd dodged. Had I dodged it, though? Didn't he just punch the ground?
     To the girl, it's as though the sun has just broken through the clouds. Which it had, funnily enough; it settles over the scene casting shadows. From behind, she eyes her saviour's fist as it shakes, and reaches out to grab it. As she takes it, it stops shaking, and the boy stands taller somehow, stretching his shadow until it reaches and covers the hopscotch pattern chalked into the pavement.