Sunday, 29 November 2015

Welcome Christmas Lites V!

For a couple of years now, I've been lucky enough to be an annual contributor to the fabulous Christmas Lites charity anthologies and I'm happy to say that I'm participating again this year.
And now the book is here!

So with no further ado, I present...

Christmas Lites V




Tis the season to celebrate, to love, to dream, to hope. Unfortunately, many people have lost almost everything they have – including hope in this most festive and beautiful of times. Across the globe, authors, illustrators, and artists of all sorts have come together in the anthology you now hold in your hands with one goal in mind. To give hope. To spread love. To give people a chance to dream again.

Christmas Lites V is a special anthology. Every dime raised goes directly to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). Not a single person who worked on this book or donated their time and their art form to it receives anything from it, other than the knowledge that he/she is making a difference in those affected by domestic violence.

Inside these pages are stories of all genres—Romance, fantasy, horror, action, children’s stories, stories written BY children. Please, dive inside, read, laugh, and spread the love and joy.


The book is available at:


Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon Canada

Createspace




Stories and authors included in this anthology are:

A Tale of Two Urchins by A. F. Stewart
Accidentally Courted by Tricia Kristufek 
Undead Christmas by D.T. Dyllin 
Christmas in July by William Gent 
Riley’s Christmas by Ottilie Weber 
Mini-Folder by S.L. Garrett 
Santa’s Unexpected Helper by JB Lynn 
A Christmas Tail by JG Faherty 
The Krampus Tree by Douglas Wynne 
Homicide by Phil Cantrill 
Love of a Lifetime by Angela Yuriko Smith 
Christmas under the Canopy by Amy Eye 
Daniel’s Gift by Monica La Porta 
Devour by Tiffany by Michelle Brown 
The Gift by J. A. Clement 
Mrs. Knight’s Honeymoon by Vered Ehsani 
Baby Jesus by Rachel Reese 
The Masquerade by Frank W. Smith 
Keeping Christmas by Alana Lorens 
The Den by S. Patrick Pothier 
Ulysses II by Dani J Caile 
A Monster Miracle by Brandon Eye 
Blinky Goes Home by Annabelle Kristufek 


A great line up, right? My story in the book, A Tale of Two Urchins, is a bit of a fanciful fairy tale about two orphans, Santa, and Krampus. I think of it as a mix of Dickens and Hansel and Gretel, tied together with a ribbon of dark humour and a touch of whimsy. (You can also find my stories in Christmas Lites III and IV and proceeds from every book in the series go to National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.)





Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Drabble Wednesday: Quests

Today on Drabble Wednesday we go questing with warriors, peasants and kings…




The Eye of Blood

The messenger died at the feet of his king.
King Andras tossed his bloodied dagger on top of his latest victim.
From a limp hand of the dead, the king retrieved a wooden box, the prize that cost the messenger his life. Inside lay treasure, a dream that set his kingdom to fire and ruin.
The Eye of the Gods. The Bloodstone.
Power.
The king lifted the lid. A large scarlet gemstone nestled within, resting on black velvet.
“Mine, you are mine.” He closed his fist around the stone. And screamed.
The body of the king fell beside his messenger.

~*~




Fabled Journey

Warriors never die easy.
A saying he should have remembered five days ago, and stayed home, safe in his bed. Glory, honour and fabled riches weren’t worth slogging through a swamp on a daft quest. Nor ease tired joints after being chased by a ballycoot wraith through the Forest of Shadows. And they sure as spit weren’t worth dying at the hands of a dragon.
“What are you waiting for? Slay the beast.” The frantic shout came from inside the cave, from his companions.
“No.” With a whisper, he turned around and headed home.
This warrior would die another day.

~*~ 




Be Careful What You Wish…

All Evan dreamed came true, one rainy afternoon.
The day the warriors rode into town, looking to recruit men to join their ranks. To serve the Baron. They promised camaraderie, adventure, a better life. Evan swallowed the stories whole, but it wouldn’t have mattered what they said, for they promised a life away from the pokey village he called home. Away from his dreary future as a sheep farmer.
Funny how that was, how he longed to leave. Now two years in, two long years riding hard, fighting ogres, dragons, and everything in-between, all he dreamed was to go home.



© A. F. Stewart 2015 All Rights Reserved 

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Interview With Author Julia Starling

Today I have an interview with author Julia Starling, who stops by to chat about her writing and her debut book, Against the Oaks of Bashan, a literary science fiction novel. Enjoy.


An Interview with Julia Starling



Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and started my adult life as a medical student there. When I met my husband Alex in Europe I moved to Cambridge, UK, and then London, where I finished my medical studies. We moved to California after five very formative years in the UK. Disappointed with the medical system in the US, I went back to school and became a psychotherapist. Right before I graduated, our home burnt down in the 2007 wildfires. It took years to reconstruct our lives. I had always written, but I started writing much more after the trauma of the total loss. We moved to the Santa Fe area in 2012 and I opened a small (but busy) private practice from my home. I kept writing whenever I could. In 2014 I was forced to take a leave of absence from work due to health reasons, and it is then that my creative life really took off. I started writing intensely every day, and painting my dreams. Against the Oaks of Bashan came from an intensive year and a half of soul searching. I have found my true passion in fiction and can’t wait to get started on the next project. 


Could you tell us a bit about your latest book?

It’s set in Buenos Aires, between the 1970’s and the 1990’s. It follows the story of two brilliant young scientists, Vera in the 70’s and Frances in the 90’s, in their struggle to find themselves, breaking free from other people’s agendas and what the world expects from them.
The narrator takes different characters’ points of view and motivations, making for a very rich exploration of psychological profiles. The whole story is infused with an Argentine flavor, and there are even some Argentine Spanish words inserted, in context, throughout the text, for added cultural enjoyment.
There is a strong social commentary that runs across the book, and a philosophical base for the science fiction elements. While rich in literary gems, it moves fast and has the quality of a thriller, keeping people frequently at the edge of their seats.


How long have you been writing, and how many books have you published to date?

I’ve been writing since I was a child, mainly personal reflections and poetry. As an adult, I wrote countless essays for med school and psychology school, and, whenever I would have time (even in the subway on my way to the hospital) I would write snippets of my perceptions and observations of the society around me. Having lived and worked in so many countries and settings, I was privileged to have lots of material to write about. When I finally had real time on my hands, on my leave of absence, I started to take writing to another level. I was surprised to find how easy the fiction genres worked for my style, and how compatible I was with this whole field. I actually wrote Against the Oaks of Bashan in less than a year, after a few months of gathering notes and structuring plot and characters. This is my first novel and I am absolutely positive that many more will come in the near future.


Why did you decide to write in the Science Fiction genre?

It came as a spontaneous process. My style is generally literary, so I set out to write a literary fiction piece. And when it came to drafting plot and characters, I found myself creating worlds that fit the sci-fi category. I am pleased with how this genre allows me to let my mind soar with no restrictions and how it is amenable to transmitting symbolic and philosophical material in a way that is engaging and moves fast.


What did you find most challenging about writing your book?

Perhaps the editing process: it was hard to go from 80,000 words to around 68,000. My literary style had to be adapted to fit the plot and overall flavor of the novel. I had to make sure that everything flowed smoothly and that the plot was not sacrificed to the literary elements. That was hard. But I think I succeeded in making an easy-read that also has substance and literary merit.
And of course, I had to trust myself when it came to writing my first novel in English, which is not my mother tongue. I think the second-guessing was harder than the reality of the finished work. I prefer to write in English because I have been thinking, speaking and writing in English since I was 21.


Did anything surprise you about the process of writing your book?

Yes, the action scenes: I had no idea I would be writing involved action and exciting car chases. It was really fun.


When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I think I was always a writer. I wrote on my free time every since I can remember. But the decision to fully dedicate to writing and make it a full time career came after I begun writing Against the Oaks of Bashan. I knew at that point that this is what I am truly meant to be doing with my time.


Can you tell us about your writing process? Where do your ideas originate? Do you have a certain writing routine?


I start with notes and observations, and character development, on my typewriter at my north-facing studio (which has direct views of a field with the Sangre de Cristo mountains in the back). This is the idea/ conceptual stage. Once I have enough material, I go to cafes (I need to get out of the house for this, for some reason) and begin plot development. Once I have the plot and general structure, I gather all my materials and start typing the novel on my computer. That is the easiest part: I tend to finish this within a few months. Then, the grueling editing process begins. That is the hardest part. But after that, I have a full manuscript ready to send to professional editing, interior design and publishing.


Do you have a favourite author, or writing inspiration?

I am a little bit unusual in that I mostly enjoy classical novels and authors. I really like Goethe, Hesse, Huxley, Nietzsche, Dante, and some Sturgeon, Sloane and Stapledon.  And many ancient religious texts, like the Bhagavad-Gita, the Upanishads, and the Dhammapada.


Are you working on another book?

Yes, I have just got started with the preliminary stages. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into it. 




Against the Oaks of Bashan



The best way to rule a populace is from behind the scenes. Let people think they control their opinions and actions, and you can lead them anywhere.

So believes Professor Litvac, who dreams of engineering the “perfect consumer,” creating a populace living a life of mediocrity, anxiety, and malleable opinions. And in the turbulent political climate of 1970s Buenos Aries, he’s got plenty of opportunity to experiment. Any young adults who disappear are assumed to be the victims of ongoing political unrest.

Trapped in one of Litvac’s torture camps are Lucas and Vera Freund. Brilliant scientists, the Freunds hold the key to Litvac’s success, but they’re not talking. With the backing of a powerful Catholic sect, Litvac puts a plan in motion that will transcend generations. He’ll have what he wants—no matter the cost.


Julia Starling is a medical doctor and psychotherapist born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

You can find Against the Oaks of Bashan on Amazon.


Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Drabble Wednesday: Hidden Things

In today’s Drabble Wednesday, I delve under the surface of reality, to find the secrets…




Butterfly

Such a delicate thing. Its wings fluttered on the winds, their white-tipped, crimson pattern vivid against the sunlit afternoon. It danced against the clouds, before settling on a shaded branch of an oak tree.
There it waited, its insect antennae twitching.
Golden hair, and a sunshine smile, the woman passed beneath its tree. She laughed as it landed on silky skin. For a moment, it perched, wings outstretched. She gasped in awe.
“Beautiful.”
It quivered. Minuscule fangs punctured skin, injecting poison into her bloodstream.
Ow!” One breath, before she convulsed and died.
Such a delicate thing, such a deadly touch.

~*~




The Long Path

“Only a fool begins the long path. Only Death will end it.”
That is the saying among my people. If any remained alive they would call me a fool.
A thousand years I walked this road, past war, past famine, past all I loved. The summer rains have drenched me, the winter snows have chilled my bones.
Yet, I walked.
I was your name whispered on the wind, that shadow on the wall, the ghost in the graveyard. I have strode the path between worlds, and I am at its end.
I stand in the grove of night awaiting Death.

~*~





First Kind

I am the last of my kind. Eons ago we swarmed the skies, the earth, the seas, and fed on the giants that lived here. Then the giants died, and we turned on each other. Only I survived, hibernating all these long years.
I am the last of my kind.
Or I was, until I met the human. This new breed that inherited our domain. Puny, but he served his purpose.
Now my eggs are buried deep under his decaying skin and tissues, feeding off his corpse. Soon they will hatch, and we will feast on more of his race.




© A. F. Stewart 2015 All Rights Reserved 


Sunday, 15 November 2015

Festival of Drabbles: Discord and Harmony



And we come to our farewell post for this wondrous Festival of Drabbles. I shall play you out with a bit of a dark melody…




Rime and Season

The frost wind swirled down from the mountain, and the icicles hanging from the trees chimed with its passing. It blew down the cobblestone streets, and around the corners and cracks of brick and mortar. It rattled the wooden shutters and howled down the chimneys. It churned the snow drifts and swooshed about the settled grime.
Nothing else moved in the quiet, solemn town.
Nothing else would ever move in this place again.
They occupied each house, every structure. While the wind howled, while the snow blew, the dead remained. Frozen, lifeless, forever locked in an eternal world of ice.

~*~




Desert Song

Across the sands, beyond the dunes, when the Mother of Moons rises in the night sky, you can hear their song on the sirocco winds. A velvet melody vibrating through the amber radiance, twirling in the light of the desert moon. They sing arias, of roses blooming in the paradise oasis, of the first raindrop and its petrichor echo. Their chorus shivers the firmament that binds the universe, and soothes the disquieted fires of the soul.
They serenade of all things sacred, but beware, listen too long…
…and the Night Sisters will sing you to your final place of dreams.

~*~





Just An Old Tune

The guitar sits in the corner, weather-beaten, with dust gathering across its worn down varnish and strings. It has some scratches and some blackened streaks; it has survived much. Countless hands have plucked it chords—old and young--through wars, through blistering summers, and long cold winters. It has strummed many a tune, and captured the vivacity of spirits in the melodies it harmonized.
Spirits it never let go.
Sorry souls that bled their happiness into the hungry maw of a demon instrument. And now… well that guitar, it’s waiting to be played.
By the next servant of the devil.




© A. F. Stewart 2015 All Rights Reserved




And today’s the last day to downloaded my book Passing Fancies for free on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/151594


Friday, 13 November 2015

Festival of Drabbles: Bad Luck



Welcome my minions to this Festival of Drabbles post upon the infamous Friday the 13th!
In celebration of this ominous date on the calendar, I bring three drabbles telling of ill fortune and the worst of luck…



Black Cat

The hearth fire does not warm the chill in my bones. The barricaded door will not keep me safe. Fate comes to claim me. Last evening the black cat crossed my path.
A silly superstition, you say. Not in my family.
That cat is our curse, one triggered by my own folly and arrogance. I truly thought I could get away with my evil deed. Get away with murder. But no.
Some part of me wishes to believe otherwise, that my precautions are for peace of mind, not born of helpless futility.
Yet… is that a meow outside the window?

~*~





Turn of a Card

I can feel a bead of sweat sliding down the back of my neck. It’s just the two of us left in this game of Faro, Lefty Mason and me. All the rest lost their stake to the dealer.
It’s the last bet, the “calling of the turn”, and I went all in to the bank. Stupid maybe, knowing I can’t afford to lose my wager, but I’m feeling lucky.
She deals three cards. My jaw drops.
“I lost.”
“Yes, sir. Time to settle your bet. Hand over your soul, please.”
The devil imp grins, and I know it’s over.

~*~




Ill Omens

Such a modern world. Progress, technology and busy people on the go. Very few would believe the world of superstition underneath it all. That their life could change on the whim of fate. Black cats, unlucky numbers, spilled salt, it all seems quaint to the contemporary person.
Until they meet me.
I’m the nightmare, the walking, talking harbinger of ill fortune and bad luck. A touch of my hand, a whisper in your ear, and dark clouds will follow your days. Forever. And no lucky clover or horseshoe will ever change it.
So sleep well, and don’t piss me off.




© A. F. Stewart 2015 All Rights Reserved



And don't forget my book Passing Fancies, can be downloaded for free on Smashwords until the 15th: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/151594


Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Drabble Wednesday: Festival of Drabbles



On today’s edition of Drabble Wednesday, I have another post for the Festival of Drabbles. So, I thought I’d revisit where Drabble Wednesday started, with the cyber adventures of Frankie and Joni. I have some new tales from our wacky duo, and you can also check out their first adventures here:  http://afstewartblog.blogspot.ca/2014/10/drabble-wednesday.html

I now present…

More Virtual Adventures with Frankie and Joni




HoliDaze

“It needs more mice.”
I paused in taking a bite of my sandwich and placed the sardine roll back on my plate. I took a breath and asked, “What are you blathering about, Frankie?”
“The holiday program. It needs more mice. In little red elf hats. Maybe singing carols. But definitely not baking.”
I sighed, controlling my exasperation. “Okay. Supposing we do need mice, and that’s not a given, why can’t they be baking?”
“Because of the poem.”
“Poem?”
“‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. Not a mouse was stirring, remember.”
I face planted into the table, right next the sardines.


For the Birds

“Who shot the robin? Not I.”
“Shhh, they’ll hear you.” I nudged Frankie and peeked out from behind the virtual bushes. No sign of them. “What possessed you to arm a flock of robot chickadees?”
“Not I, said me. Programmed the wren, not the chickadee.”
“Then who—uh, oh.” I remembered.
“It was you! You shot the robin, uh, chickadee, whatever.” Frankie grinned. “You screwed up the program. You screwed up the program.”
“Shut up. I just downloaded a game on the same server. Maybe they got mixed together.”
Oh, I get it. Now it’s angry and armed birds.”
“Exactly.”


Game Over

I stared at sparks flying off the shorted vid wall. Frankie shouted and cackled beside me.
“Hoo wheee! Pop goes the weasel, baby!” He laughed manically. “Fireworks!”
“That was the memory chip, wasn’t it?”
“Yep. And the hi-res holo function. So much for the new interactive Space Marines scenario.”
“Is there anything we can salvage? Or do we start over?”
“Hmmm. You know…”
“What?” Hope bloomed. “Did you think of a way to fix it?”
“Oh no. The game is toast. It’s just—well, this place would look better with puppets.”
It took everything I had not to smack him.


Puppets, or What?

“You’re telling me the puppets got up, and walked away?”
Frankie nodded his head with all the vigour of bartender shaking a martini. “They’re alive! Alive!”
“You’re crazy. Puppets just don’t—” I stopped talking, staring at the guilty look on Frankie’s face. An angry flush crept up the back of my neck. “What did you do to the puppets!”
“Well, I sort of implanted a robotics chip in them. I wanted to see them dance.”
“You… you...”
“But the weirdest thing isn’t that they left. It’s that they took my suit with them.”
Oh, I have to lie down.




© A. F. Stewart 2015 All Rights Reserved



And don't forget my book Passing Fancies, can be downloaded for free on Smashwords until the 15th: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/151594


Monday, 9 November 2015

Festival of Drabbles: Literary Inspiration

Today I begin my participation in… (cue the dramatic music)


The Festival of Drabbles




This wonderful event that celebrates those 100 word stories of perfection runs from November 9th until November 15th and is organized and hosted by author Michael Brookes. The listing of participants can be found here: http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/festival-of-drabbles-2015-calendar-of.html

There is also a Facebook event, if you care to drop by: https://www.facebook.com/events/375605662648575/

I’ll be doing four posts for the occasion: one today, plus one on the 11th (a special Drabble Wednesday segment), Friday the 13th, and a last closing post on the 15th. I’ll also be listing my part drabble book, Passing Fancies, for free on Smashwords from the 9th-15th. You can check the book out here:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/151594


For today, I revisit three of my literary inspired drabbles, plus one newly penned tale. So with apologies to Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Edgar Allen Poe, and Shakespeare, I present…





Charge of the One Hundred

Forward into the shortie, write the one hundred. Press onward, onward, to half the word count, write the one hundred. Forward, always forward, into the valley of the impossible prompt. Yours is not to reason why, just to make certain all the words are included and figure how the deuce to work in the ridiculous puce.
Forward we go, write the one hundred. Charge for the end and make it a mental twist. Badgers to the right of you, armadillos to the left, and look out, the slinky Moai are in front.
For the glory you write the one hundred.

(originally written for a drabble writers group with, as the tale suggests, some very unusual prompts)

~*~



The Salesman

From the dark recesses of her office, where she tippy taps on her keyboard, she hears knocking…
“Who is that gently rapping, rapping at my front door? ‘Tis some visitor, only this and nothing more.”
She peers past her curtain, yet uncertain, to spy upon her step a hockey masked man, wielding knife in hand.
“This sight thrills me—fills me with fantastic terrors never felt before.” Yet she rises, walks, and opens the front door.
The man smiles and speaks. “Knives I bring, my only stock and store. A onetime offer, then it shall be gone. Seen nevermore. Nevermore.”

~*~





Now Is The Winter Of Our Discontent

’Twas quite the conundrum put before William Shakespeare. To be the playwright, or not to be, to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or join Yorick in his millinery business.
“Alas, poor Yorick”, William exclaimed, “Tempt not a desperate man, and dangle your lure of enticement. Yet, ‘tis our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt. There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so and this above all: to thine own self be true.”
And with that he plucked up his quill to write.

~*~





A Shakespearean Pirate’s Life

To be the scourge of the seven seas, or not to be the scourge of the seven seas, aye that be the question, methinks. I task myself to take up arms, to strut and fret aboard deck, and cast aside sound and fury of convention. What mind me, those tittle-tattle slings and arrows of a jackanapes society?
Best to give not a wit, nor a thought, to those who say me nay, but rather tell truth, and shame the devil. `Tis better to have crossed swords with a scurvy dog Englishman, than never to have sailed under the Jolly Roger.



© A. F. Stewart 2015 All Rights Reserved 


Friday, 6 November 2015

Author Spotlight: Miracle Austin

Today I have a spotlight for an author, the very talented Miracle Austin. Enjoy...


Miracle Austin

~Bio~

           Miracle is a YA/NA Cross-Genre author; adults also enjoy her works. She’s been writing ever since first hearing Drive by The Cars in junior high.
          Horror/suspense are her favorite genres, but not limited to. She enjoys writing diverse flashes and short stories, while threading social themes in between.
          She’s currently working on her first novella, Doll, a story about three outcast teens versus the popular mean girl in an untraditional way. She’s completed her first extremely, eclectic—requires mind to be open to the impossible—short story collection, Boundless.
          You could say that Boundless is a gumbo of themes, some light-hearted, while others are much darker… She plans to release both by the end of the year.
          Lonestar UnOrdinary Girl, her next work, is a supernatural tale with comedic elements. She enjoys attending Comic cons and book festivals. Miracle resides in Texas with her family.

“Lingering fiction that ignites diverse mind journeys and beyond…”

For more about the author and her books check out these sites:
Twitter: @MiracleAustin7
Instagram: MiracleAustin7





*ANTHOLOGIES*

The Study Break
 (Short Story)
Ivory and Catalina, two college girls, head into the big city to a hot club. Before dawn, their destinies change forever!

The Meat Lover’s Special 
(Short Story)
Dash, a young domestic violence victim, finds her way out like she never imagined!
LAST PASS 
(Short Story)

A vengeful ghost, Coop, haunts a popular highway with his ghost truck and it’s very, very personal!


Thursday, 5 November 2015

Book Spotlight: An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Today I spotlight the horror anthology, An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. This book is a delightful and strange collection of Sherlock Holmes stories from Mocha Memoirs Press, edited by A.C. Thompson.  Enjoy...


An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes


“When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

Sherlock Holmes is one of the most recognizable characters in Western literature.  Conan Doyle’s inimitable detective has been the subject of literally thousands of books, movies, television shows, plays and even songs.  With the rise of the BBC series and the release of most copyrights, the beloved character has found a new life among modern audiences.  
In An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, 14 authors of horror and mystery have come together to create a unique anthology that sets Holmes on some of his most terrifying adventures.  A pair of sisters willing to sacrifice young girls to an ancient demon for a taste of success, a sinister device that can manipulate time itself, and a madman that can raise corpses from the dead are just a few among the grisly tales that can be found within these pages. 
Curl up with a warm cuppa and leave all the lights on. This is not your grandfather’s Sherlock Holmes.


EXCERPT From "The Canaries of Clee Hill Mines," by Robert Perret
Holmes placed a hand on my arm and we came to a stop. I could see him close his eyes and slow his breathing. Lacking his Eastern training in meditation I did my best to make as little noise as possible. I saw Holmes jerk his head to one side ever so slightly and then a moment later I felt the gentlest of winds stir the hairs on my right hand. I looked down at that hand and was surprised to see the pistol it was holding shaking erratically. Even my fingers had gooseflesh and it was then I realized with a shock that I was terrified so far beyond reason that my mind appeared to have disassociated with my body. Holmes began smoothly stalking down the passage from which the wind had blown. I looked down and saw my feet clumsily stomp along one after the other. As we progressed down the tunnel I heard a clicking sound like crickets in the distance. I think my mind read it as an indication that we were exiting the mine to return to the surface, for I found myself strangely soothed. However as we progressed the clicking became chattering and scraping and squealing and my terror returned. We saw an opening to a larger chamber ahead and the inhuman sounds now echoed all around us. In the lamplight I saw a strange constant movement ahead.  
“The royal chamber,” observed Holmes. When I failed to give a sensible response he continued.
“I’ve taken to studying bees as of late. Admirable creatures. Truly superior. But I digress. We have followed a proverbial worker bee back to the royal chamber. I suspect we will not be welcomed.”   
As we crossed the threshold all noise and activity stopped. In the silence we could hear the sound of water dripping from overhead into an underground reservoir. Around us, on every possible surface of the cavern, like bats, were hundreds of the uncanny Feeders. They regarded us with their milky, dead eyes. Holmes continued in and pointed his lantern around, taking in the ceiling, the walls, the floor and then moving to the lake. He gasped.  
“Watson!” 
  To my own amazement I found myself hurrying to his side. In the water, floating vertically in translucent vein-shot sacs were a dozen bodies. Umbilical cords seemed to trail down into the darkness. The way they moved in unison showed that there were all attached to one large abomination down beneath the inky, subterranean depths. Still, the Feeders regarded us passively. I took my lantern to the edge of the water and attempted to inspect the sacs more closely.
The thing below seemed then to turn around, for all of the sacs bobbed along in a circle. The first few appeared to contain juvenile Feeders. The next few my mind refuses to recall except in the abstract. They were of poor souls, presumably the lost miners, mid-transformation between man and Feeder. The strange mutilations of their human bodies was horrifying to see.


~*~

An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is available at:



Editor Bio
A.C. Thompson is the editing alter-ego of novelist Alexandra Christian.  Lexxx is a native South Carolinian who lives with an epileptic wiener dog and a pet ghost hunter. She has published several novels, novellas and short stories with Ellora’s Cave, Purple Sword Publications, and Mocha Memoirs Press. Her long-term aspirations are to one day be a best-selling authoress and part-time pinup girl. Questions, comments and complaints are most welcome at her website: http://lexxxchristian.wordpress.com/


Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Drabble Wednesday: Souls

Today on Drabble Wednesday, we whisper to the destroyer of souls…






The Soul Blade

The weight of blade felt like lead in her hand, not so much the ivory hilt or its metal, as the consequence in wielding it. Killing a man, she was used to that, but this dark magic…
She wondered how it felt, to be cut with the blade. To feel your life sliced from your skin and drawn into the dagger’s black limbo. She ran a finger along the metal.
How many poor souls are imprisoned there, hundreds, thousands?
She looked at the man tied to the chair.
I suppose one more won’t make a difference.
She swung the blade.

~*~

  

Ghost Ship

The tattered sails rippled in the wind, as if they sighed. A year past, this ship—the Sapphire Belle—left port to race the wind and tame the seas. Now it drifted, forever aimless with the tide, empty save for its ghostly echoes on moonlit nights.
For upon the full moon, when translucent feathers of light fell on deck, its crew of the dead stirred. Pulled from the hell where they condemned themselves, the sailors moved as in life, steering their wayward ship toward a home no longer attainable.  On these nights, the ship rejoined the world of the living.

~*~




 Soul Eater

The smoke and dust swirled, arising into barely corporeal form. The dark, androgynous figure moved forward, its vaporous edges mere wisps melding with air. It smelled of sulphur and wet earth, and a hint of apple. In its wake it dragged the still silence of oblivion.
For a thousand years it slept in dormancy, nothing to sustain its appetite, all souls of life drained and forgotten, every corpse rotted into the soil.
Now it waited patiently, watching the crew embark from the space ship. Soon it would dine on their essence, their souls. Soon their bones would join the rest.



© A. F. Stewart 2015 All Rights Reserved 



Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Book Spotlight: Whispered Echoes by Anne Michaud

Today I shine the spotlight on the talented author Anne Michaud and her paranormal fantasy novel, Whispered Echoes. I have a look at the book and an excerpt, plus the Kindle edition of the book is free on Amazon until the November 5th. So enjoy...


Whispered Echoes by Anne Michaud



Whispers of death keep her sister alive.
Echoes of ghosts warn her danger is near.

Alyx lost everything in the fire, her family, her home, her freedom, but she discovered something, too: something lurking in the darkness. To protect her from harm, the ghost of her dead sister haunts the walls of the mental institution holding Alyx captive for the last 9 years. But even she can’t help when patients suddenly act possessed and turn against Alyx, who must find the strength and knowledge to rid them of evil and save their lives.

After a narrow escape from the institution, Transcend welcomes Alyx in with opened arms since she’s the daughter of a former star agent; her mother. They hope to teach her ghost seer abilities to help them keep the leaders of the world in check and give her a normal life. With her friends and newly acquired knowledge, Alyx prepares to battle against evil, but when facing her greatest enemy yet, everything she knows might not be enough to save the people she loves. No matter what her choices, the consequences will be paid in blood – maybe her own.

Whispered Echoes is available at:





~*~

An Excerpt from Whispered Echoes


A slither, a hiss like hot blood hitting the snow. I stare at their broken forms on the ground, and something dark leaks into the ground, looking very much like Shadowmen. It only lasts a few seconds, but I wait for more to come.
“The bad left, leaving their bones to dust.” Kat speaks close to me, like whenever we’re out in the open. Maybe she’s afraid the wind will take her away or the rain will wash her soul until nothing remains. “We should go. They’re gone too.”
“Just like that, one moment alive, then the next...” Swallowing hard, I turn away from them. These guys had families, people waiting for them to come back home tonight. Something I don’t have. “Rest in peace, for the little you had here.”
Together, we race to the back of the parking lot, where the garage stretches as far as the shallow woods circling the hospital. My sister’s light guides me to the hole in the fence—the same I’ve been using for two months straight trying to escape—and just as I reach it, the garage door clicks open by itself. I hide in the shadow of the wall, but no one comes out, no headlights either. My sister scares the shit out of me at times.
“Please tell me that electric trick of yours will get old soon?” I ask. Katrina stands by the garage door to lure me in, and when I won’t move from my spot, a car honk comes from inside. “Curiosity killed the damned, Kat. Stop playing games. Let’s go.”
Only the soft hits of ice falling on the tin roof next to me answer back, and so I go to the opened door to have a look-see. Last time we played hide and seek, I’d just come in the hospital. I’d just turned nine; she was forever sixteen.
“Surprise!” Kat glows next to a huge SUV, smiling so bright it’s hard to look at her. The driver’s door is opened, the vents throwing up so much hot wind inside that fog comes out in clouds outside. My sister invites me to step in, but it’s probably more trouble than it’s worth. Stolen property is much worse than just running away, no? Oh, and driving into people and cars and killing everything—much worse. “It’s Docteur Lise’s,” I tell her, as if she doesn’t know. I clutch my coat. The ceiling light almost warms me up just from looking at it. A car is faster than legs, but... “I can’t drive and I don’t have a license.”

“It’s too cold. You won’t make it alive to Close Falls.” Katrina never lies. She never plays pretend to get her way. She’s not like me. “And hurry, because the others have seen and they’re not happy about the massacre.”

Voices echo all the way from the second floor of the building, the door hanging open above nothing, the stairs twisting on the ground. From this distance, white lab coats flap in the wind, which means the nurses are back to themselves. Whatever that means, because frankly, they haven’t been themselves for a while.
“You’d be better at this driving thing,” I say to Kat, who brought me all the way in here when I could be running outside. Well, stuck in high winds and freezing pellets falling from the sky, but still out of here. “Oh wait, is that why you got me in here? You want to test it out?”
“Only if you let me in,” Kat says, getting ready to plunge into my body. “You don’t have to—it might not work, but we have to try.”
“OK,” I say, not fighting as her ghostly shape becomes mine.

It’s like sitting in the backseat, really. She moves my body and she guides my movements, with no struggle on my part. I trust her; she’s my sister—even if it does feel like I might vomit. The intrusion feels so weird.
“No wonder my friends are all possessed,” I whisper. “This is easy peasy.”
I sit down behind the huge steering wheel, and the letters BMW stare back at us. Then I watch my hands on the steering wheel, the motor roaring from within. OK, I’ll admit that my sister controlling electricity that easily is kinda cool.
“It’s wicked cool,” Kat says, her voice coming from inside instead of my side.
As the SUV rolls out in the rain, the pellets come down harder than before on the hood, and on the roof they sound like gunshots. A flash of white comes from the second floor and then nothing: they spotted our runaway car, so they know we’ll be harder to catch.
“What are you doing?” I ask my sister, as she turns the wheel to stay in the parking lot instead of racing out of here. Oh no, I think she’s losing control of our vehicle: she’s driving directly toward Nurse Ruth’s tiny red car. “Careful, you’ll wreck everything!”
“Quiet, sis.” I feel a smile cracking my cold skin as our huge SUV rams into the car and pushes it to the deep ditch at the end of the lot. A final slip and it’s gone from view. And a bit of Kat logic, “If they don’t have anything to follow us with, they just won’t.”
“Um, maybe the cops will?” I don’t need to fight my body to point at the boulevard below the long driveway of the hospital park. Red and blue lights glitter in the dark, far away, but still too close for my liking. “Step on it, Kat.”


 About the Author:



Anne Michaud is an author of many talents, especially getting distracted by depressing music and dark things. She likes to write and read everyday, and speak of herself in the third person.

Since her Master’s degree in Screenwriting from the University of London, England, Anne has written, directed and produced three short films, distributed internationally after being shown on a selective festival circuit.

And then, after hundreds of hours spent on studying and making films, she changed her mind and started writing short stories, novelettes and novels. Some have been published, others will be soon enough.

Keep your eyes open, she’s behind you.



You can find Anne Michaud on:



Monday, 2 November 2015

A Campfire Chat With Steve Vernon

Today I have a guest stopping by to chat. Talented horror author, and fellow Atlantic Canadian, Steve Vernon discusses writer's block and tips to get through those "staring at the blank page moments" we all have. Plus, there's a peek at his hockey horror book, Sudden Death Overtime. Enjoy...


A CAMPFIRE CHAT WITH STEVE VERNON

ON BURNING THROUGH WRITER’S BLOCK


Autumn is my favorite time of year.
You can feel the changes whispering at hushed gallop in the breeze as the sky leans down to kiss the leaves into bouquets of flame and color. It feels as a doorway has opened up in front of you and you know that you are going to have step right through the doorway into the weird winter world that is just waiting beyond it.
It is November and a lot of you folks – like me – are getting set to take part in NaNoWriMo. You are getting set to try and lay down 50,000 freaking words in a month that is only 30 days long.
That is a daunting task – but it shouldn’t ought to be so.
Let me give you the secret.
Let me whisper it into your ears.
Sit down.
Sit down here at the campfire.
These are magic words to the human ear. The campfire is a place in the universe where we all come to listen to the crackling dance of wood upon flame.
Every time that a writer sits down at their keyboard they get in touch with that inner spark as they blow their words upon the embers of their imagination trying to roar that flame into life.
That is what you need to remember whenever you find yourself at that fatal sticking point. When you start to think too damn much and you worry about what word you are going to put down next.
Remember – this is not rocket science.
It isn’t even writing – not really. Not when you stop to think about it.
You are just telling a story.
Don’t fear that.
Don’t let yourself freeze up.
Remember – we are ALL born knowing how to tell stories. Just as soon as you open your mouth and say “A funny thing happened to me just yesterday morning…” you are getting set to tell a story – and that is ALL that writing really is. At the heart of it, at the root of it – you are just telling a story.
You cannot open your mouth without a story falling out.
Whether you are talking about the hockey game that you watched last night, or the reason why your girlfriend has decided to run away with the local hot tub salesman, or if you are trying to sum up the answer to the meaning of life in 42 words or less – you are telling a story.
I always get a quiet little giggle out of how many people think that I am some kind of a freaking genius just because I know how to wrap a story around the framework of a novel and make it work.
It isn’t brilliant.
It isn’t freaking rocket science.
It is just telling a story.
 As you sit down at the keyboard today just stop and picture yourself sitting at a campfire across from your very best friend in the universe.
I mean besides your dog.
Just picture yourself sitting there and telling a story to very best friend and stop freaking out about how you are supposed to be writing and how this is supposed to be hard and just let the words ember and roll.
Blow each syllable upon the flames of your imagination and let the fire rise up inside of your spirit.
And if you think that I am just talking at you and telling you something that really isn’t all that true just stop and remember that I wrote this entire 600 word blog entry utilizing a strong underlying autumnal subtext with overtones of flame and fire without ever using the word “kindle”.
Speaking of kindle…


SUDDEN DEATH OVERTIME – A STORY OF HOCKEY AND VAMPIRES



Meet Sprague Deacon - one of the toughest old-time hockey players who ever skated upon a rink of hand-poured ice. Sprague was born and raised and he expects to die here on the Northern Labrador coast. What he did not expect was a tour bus full of vampires - none of whom glitter in the least bit - to pull into his town and begin lowering the population level - one corpse at a time. Sprague and his three best friends - an over-the-hill never-say quit bush league hockey team from Northern Labrador go toe-to-tooth with a tour bus full of vampires in an immortal-stakes showdown of street hockey? For the answer - throw Paul Newman's Slapshot into a blender with Steven Niles 30 Days of Night and hit frappe! Also including the bonus time travelling hockey tale, "Time Out" as well as a bonus hockey-oriented ghost story, "Smoke Signals". Only 99 cents for this week only.




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