Author Archives: RuddersWriting

Short Story – A taster from my up-coming anthology, Canine Tales, book2 in The Creature Tales collection …

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Still some final edits to go, but a little preview taster story from Canine Tales, book 2 of my Creature Tales collection – Twenty-four ‘canine-themed’ tales, drawing their inspiration from mythology, folklore, and traditional horror: tales of touching loyalty sit alongside those of throat-ripping savagery, from the modern day all the way back to Biblical times.

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Cerebus

df1There aren’t words to accurately portray the sheer viciousness of an organised dog-fight. Think of the most brutal boxing or cage fight you ever saw. Now imagine that fight being fought bare-knuckle instead of gloved, and the fighters wearing sharp protruding rings on their hands to rip at their opponents’ face, eyes, and body. There are no rounds between which wounds or injuries can be attended, no referee to ensure fairness or enforce the rules – there are no rules.

Perhaps not since gladiatorial Rome had such barbarism existed for viewing entertainment, and even then, at least those combatants knew why they were fighting, with the remote possibility of freedom or some reward for putting on a good show. Imagine all this multiplied a thousand times, and still it won’t come close to the bloody spectacle of a dog-fight.

Seven such dog-fights had taken place the night Geoff Richards’ life was to change, quite literally forever.

It had been another profitable show, not even marred by two of the combatants having died from their injuries. Geoff had made a lot of money and was proud it was two of his own Staffordshire Bull Terriers that had been the ones to inflict those fatal outcomes. They had been hard fights though. Every dog that had taken part fought with a savagery to match that of any wild born creature. But Geoff’s dogs, they were something entirely different. If it weren’t that every combatant was checked over before a match, the baying spectators and other dog owners, or ‘dogmen’ as they called themselves, would have sworn Geoff’s hounds were either possessed or infected with some maddening rabid disease, making them fight like the devil. Even so, there was no occult or extraordinary secret to Geoff’s dogs’ extreme savagery other than the dogman’s willingness and determination to use every trick in the book to make them so. He gave no thought of the long-term health problems in using the same anabolic steroids he used in his own bodybuilding to increase their muscle mass and aggressiveness. Like most fighting dogs, Geoff’s were devoid of any social skills from having been raised in isolation, mostly at the end of short heavy chains. But even without the drug-induced ‘roid-rage,’ such a life was practically guaranteed to produce brutalised hate-filled creatures or ‘canine killing machines’ as he liked to call them.

In many ways, Geoff Richards was a man born out of his time. He would have been more in his element amid the Victorian London seedy alehouses, when and where all manner of such barbarous blood sports were at their height of popularity, and more shamefully, were as legal and accepted as placing a bet on the horses is today. A century later though, a more civilised society had moved on; the likes of Geoff and his fellow dog fighting enthusiasts had not.

After the usual night’s drinking, settling of bets lost and won and the swapping of fight and other dog-related stories that followed such an event, Geoff made his excuses and left. He faced a long drive home from the remote farm where this latest dog fighting horror had taken place, one of many such venues where fans of the supposed ‘sport’ could indulge their perverse fascination with such heinous cruelty.

Getting into his car was the last thing Geoff remembered from his life as a dogman.

 

Were it not for the immediate danger, Geoff would have given more thought to where he was and how he came to be there, but such trivial concerns were the last thing on his mind at the moment …

They were getting closer. Never had Geoff seen such a ferocious looking pack of dogs, which for a dogman, was quite something. He counted three, but it was difficult to tell given the darkness and remote location. Still, the roar-like bellowing of distant, angry growls and snarls made him think there might be several more just out of sight. He knew it would be a hopeless task attempting to outrun them if they gave chase, but an instinct for survival compelled him to try.

 

Three-headed dog Cerberus.Mention the name Cerebus and most people if they’ve heard it before would likely tell of some mythical three-headed beast of a dog guarding the gates of Hell. Of course, no one believed such myths now despite the test-tube monstrosities presently being created in rogue laboratories across the world. Nor do most still believe in the concept of Hell, except perhaps ones of their own making.

It was quite a shock then when Geoff Richards found himself confronted with both; the sight standing before him was several orders of magnitude more frightening than the horror he had just run from, only to see it leap and land to his front. It was another shock to realise too it had not been three dogs he had seen, but one enormous three-headed monster, the like of which defied even the darkest imagination. The creature’s teeth would have glistened like finely sharpened ivory tusk-sized fangs but for being coated with copious amounts of foul-smelling drool, mixed with the still warm blood of its last meal. Everything Geoff’s father had ever said about never showing fear to a dog, that they were more afraid of you, suddenly seemed absurd. Only an imbecile wouldn’t have trembled before the monstrous sight towering over him. Geoff doubted that even the Devil himself could induce the slightest fear in this particular dog, wondering if this was indeed the Devil himself in canine form. He was not far off the mark in his speculations …

Cerebus was a great favourite of Satan and was confident the Horned one would let him keep this mortal dross for his own savage amusement. Oh yes, Cerebus had grand plans for the quivering frail man creature.

 

Geoff was past any hope he might soon wake up from his starring role in the bloody nightmare unfolding around him. Cerebus had bellowed another mighty growl, the deafening intensity of which had sent Geoff fleeing for all his worth, headlong into the dark of the surrounding woods. It was only the fire and lightning illuminating patches of the ground and sky that made it possible for Geoff not to hurtle face first into some tree trunk or tumble head over heels. But whatever benefit the flames of the fire provided in the way of light, it took back in other ways. Great wafts of smoke drifted and blew all directions, sometimes obscuring his vision, but mostly filling his lungs to the point of choking. Still, it was a relief there seemed no open space where the creature he had just fled might reappear. Sadly, for Geoff, that relief wasn’t to last.

df2A new pack of growling hounds had appeared. They were immeasurably smaller than Cerebus, and yet, they seemed all the more terrifying for their seemingly normal size up close. This time there were no heavy chains to keep the dogs in check or a weapon with which he could defend himself should a dog go rogue on him. At any other time, he would have felt embarrassed by the slow trickle of urine now escaping his bladder, but given the circumstances, it was quite inconsequential. Geoff knew Cerebus could snuff out his life with a single swipe of a paw, or rend his body into a dozen pieces in the blink of an eye if it chose – either would be a quick and merciful death – but these, they were of a size that made it possible for Geoff to perhaps offer some token resistance, enough to drag out his suffering several more agonising minutes.

They were circling him now, making it impossible for Geoff to know from which direction the first bite or clawing would come. Before he knew it, teeth and nails were ripping through his soiled trousers, simultaneously shredding the flesh from his lower legs even as he felt his body falling to the ground. More bites quickly followed, more rending of flesh by sharp claw-clad paws, but now, all about every part of his body.

And then, quite suddenly, the attack stopped, the dogs’ angry growling silenced by a more thunderous one from God knows where. Just as suddenly, the dogs scampered away into the night. Geoff didn’t know whether to be relieved for the however brief respite or further terrified that instead of a quick death, it would be an excruciatingly slow and painful one from the savage mauling he had suffered. Oddly though, the pain was beginning to subside ever so slightly, and looking down and about his bloodied legs and torso, neither was pouring out blood as he expected. His mind returned to the dogs that had just attacked him. Now that he had a moment to think, he was reminded of the many dogs he had trained to fight, and that same look of wretchedness of their opponents. Those minute details started to haunt his mind: the ripped ears and every old wound and battle scar screaming of a violent and savage past. They were clearly fighting dogs, dogs that had taken part in battles to the death, and evidently the victors in such battles. Even with his own steroid fuelled pit bull like physique, he doubted now if he really could have fended them off for any amount of time had they continued their attack. For now, he was simply glad of the chance to rest. Everything started to go black as lay back on the grass …

*

“It’s an unusual case,” Dr Ronald Marsh was telling his attentive audience, students from the sanatorium’s neural studies department. “Despite the patient’s comatose state, he’s prone to violent thrashing about, hence the use of the restraints while we sedate him. He should remain quiet now for several hours.” Geoff was strapped down on a gurney, like some state prisoner about to be administered a lethal injection. Were such an action able to release him from his nightmare state, Geoff would have gladly accepted it.

“And he’s been like this for how long?” asked one of the students.

“Seventeen years now to the day since he was dragged from the burning car he’d crashed. I can’t imagine the traumas running through his mind to invoke such reaction, even under heavy sedation.”

Though loath to admit it, the sanatorium staff thought it might be a mercy to their comatose patient to ‘gently slip away’ in his sleep one quiet night. They weren’t to know that Geoff’s many years of suffering were just a prelude to his eventual arrival in a realm beyond that of his mortal mind and body. However long he had or was destined to suffer his nightmares, it would seem like a fleeting moment in comparison to the eternity that awaited.

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Geoff wasn’t sure how long he’d slept but he was sure it had been several hours, maybe longer given how much better he felt. His body no longer hurt or ached. As his mind brushed aside the cobweb strands that briefly tie us between that half-way state between sleep and consciousness, memories of his ordeal with the dogs came flooding back. Hell, that was some nightmare, he thought, judging from the drenching of stale sweat he was lying in. Still, it was over, time to get up. He went to pull back the bedclothes he assumed would be covering him. They weren’t there, and he felt cold – much colder than if he were back in his own bed if that was the case? Nor was he lying on some nice comfortable mattress. Whatever it was, it was stone hard and icy too. Perhaps’ he’d fallen to the floor in his sleep? Geoff raised himself up. All he had to do was turn on a light and this nightmare would be done with. He’d barely taken two steps when a sudden and painful jolt to his ankle stopped him in his tracks. He reached down to feel what it was. He was chained by the ankle to what felt like a rock-like wall, the sort of chain he used to tether his dogs before a match. His eyes were adjusting to the dark and he could see he was in some sort of pit, about 20 or so feet square, much like the pits many a dog fight took place. Coincidence? Geoff thought not. He was still in his nightmare, albeit seemingly recovered from the last part of it, but equally dreading what might be coming next? He didn’t have long to wait to see just what.

Fires sprung up to the sides of the pit, while a rapid succession of lightening sparks lit up the sky. Hideous faces started to appear, peeking over the pit wall with an intense look of curiosity. More startling though was the gradual appearance of dozens of rats, emerging from scores of little cracks in the pit walls. Soon there were far too many to count. Was this to be his next ordeal, to be attacked by rats? For the moment they seemed mildly indifferent to him. Directly opposite to where Geoff was standing, part of the pit wall started to crumble before his eyes. Through the rubble of the crumbled wall, several pit bull dogs scampered over the ruins. They were smaller than the last pack, but what they lacked in size they made up for in numbers, six in total. Geoff recalled reading of such spectacles, of monumental rat baiting battles where some rat killing dog would kill scores of the loathsome creatures in quick succession. Is that what this was about, to be made to witness such horror first hand? But no. Something was wrong. Rats and dogs alike seemed totally at ease with the others’ presence. One by one, their eyes focussed on Geoff. The dogs slowly started their approach while the rats darted back and forth about his feet. This time, the ordeal was to last much longer. There was no outright attack, more a slow wearing down as the rats and dogs intermittently nipped away at him, sapping his strength while the life and blood gradually drained from his body. Geoff knew he wouldn’t die though, at least not from any horror in his nightmares. Memories lingered of countless other such encounters. Once again, he recalled hazy images of hospital staff sticking needles into him, of white-coated doctors and nurses during those brief moments when he would occasionally emerge from his comatose state. Those fleeting memories were enough for him to realise everything that was happening was just in his mind, even if the pain was a real as any he remembered from his previous life. It was made worse knowing too that the current terror could and probably would continue till the levels of sedation from the hospital staff were sufficient to plunge his mind into darkness again. As always, Geoff prayed the level might finally be a fatal one.

 

Such nightmares continued through the years, too long for Geoff to know just how many? They no longer shocked him in the same way, not that that diminished the pain each time. Sometimes it was rats, others it was insects crawling about his body, but mostly it was the biting and clawing of the dogs that was to be his ongoing punishment. His only solace lay in the fact that his body would die someday, and with it his mind too, that he’d one day be free of the nightly creature inflicted torments. It suited Cerebus to allow the comfort of that belief to continue till such time as Geoff did indeed die. But there was never to be the eternal peace the dogman craved so desperately. The three-headed canine lord had promised its growling minions as much, and whatever else, Cerebus was a demon of its word.

 

Such was the vileness of Geoff’s ‘business,’ Satan Himself had taken an interest in the comatose man, initially seeing great promise in him. Such evil depravity in the heart of man might make for another fine minion of Hell, Satan had thought. But the dark one had misjudged the mortal creature he had shown interest. Had Geoff truly revelled in the cruelty and torture he made his living by, been the sort of man who took pride in being an offence to all that was good and decent, then indeed he might have been worthy to sit by Satan’s side. But Geoff Richards was none of these things. Looking into his soul, Satan saw him to be everything he loathed in mankind. Unlike a few of his fellow dogman who were both evil in mind and heart as well as deed, despite appearances, Geoff was a coward of the worst kind; he made a pretence of honest respectability, and while he took no pleasure in the suffering of those poor creatures at the sharp end of his activities, neither was he repulsed. Instead, he was utterly indifferent, his sole motivation being money and the luxurious lifestyle it provided. No, he was just another sick greedy bastard – a worthy inhabitant of Hell by any means, but not one to enjoy the prize of Satan’s favour. Cerebus was welcome to him.

The old saying, that the Devil looks after his own, wasn’t just applicable to the Lord of the underworld. Cerebus’s drool dripping tongues swirled around its three jaws, salivating at the prospect of the dog fighting Geoff’s arrival in Hell, the real Hell, where the three-headed demon would be waiting … they may not have had much of a life in Geoff’s world, but every dog he’d ever trained, or those others that had died fighting his ‘trained canine killers’ would be waiting too, as would every other creature ever to suffer at the hands of a cruel master, waiting their turn with the dogman … . In this one dark corner of Hell, it was the creatures that tortured and tormented man, not the other way round … forever.

For many more stories like the one above, stay tuned for the March publication of:

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Book Review – The Herbalist: Memoirs of a ‘so-called’ Witch.

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norman7A great introduction to a talented and new author for me, Norman Turrell is the best-selling author of several books covering Sci-Fi, fantasy, horror, and other strange stories, and one Iiasdpic1 discovered via the IASD Indie Author Support And Discussion Fb group/website.

 

The Herbalist:

Memoirs of a ‘so-called’ Witch

stars5A sometimes sad but equally enchanting tale of recollection and another time, when the magic of nature and witchcraft were often confused.

norman5Advertised in an online social media post as ‘a short, cheap read’ hardly does this little gem justice. I must admit, a cursory glance of the cover would have had me scroll pass this one, assuming it to be a book on either homoeopathic remedies or cooking with natural ingredients. Thankfully I was intrigued enough to catch the sub-title and blurb, and was rewarded with a short novella length story and an hour and half of bewitching entertainment. Even before I got into the wider story, the opening imagery struck me as some of the best I’ve read in a long time. Far from just providing unnecessary padding or distracting me as is so easily the case when they’re over-done, the descriptive elements here really brought the story alive for me; images of picturesque woodland cottages with old-worldly rustic kitchens and sitting rooms, norman3bottled potions and herbs sitting on shelves, and wizened old witches and the spritely younger generation learning their craft  filled my imagination.

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This is a story that through its flashbacks to the past spans three generations, of old and now somewhat forgotten knowledge being passed from mother to daughter in each case. It’s also one filled with drama as both a young and then aged Amelia recalls the past, and what today might be called superstition and old wives’ tales, but which was once as very real to the people of the time as modern medicine and science are to all of us today. Though hardly on a par with the witches of Salem or burnings at the stake, there is throughout a strong undercurrent of witchcraft and magic, and indeed the danger of such practices or even the suspicion of it brought on by the use of herbs and potions. If I had but one minor concern, I would have preferred a more conclusive ending, though having said that, perhaps the author will reveal more of the young Amelia’s past life in the future and answer some of the questions the story left me with. Nonetheless, an easy five stars for this one. 

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With the exception of the cover, images are simply to illustrate my review and do not form part of the book

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Norman Turrell can also be found at the following social media links …

Author site:  www.normanturrell.com — Twitter: @NormanTurrell Facebook: @AuthorNormanTurrell

Click HERE for the Norman Turrell’s Amazon author page …

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Book Review – Wolvz: Whispers of War

toneye3Toneye Eyenot is an author I discovered via The Bold Mom horror review/promotion blog. With an extensive catalogue of novellas, short stories, and even some flash fiction covering everything from werewolves to vampires, ghouls and demons to freaks and the supernatural, there’s pretty much something for everyone among the horror fan community … 

This is the first story of his I’ve read/reviewed, but it proved to be every bit as good as I had been told.

See below for the author’s social and other media links …

Facebook: @toneyeeyenothorror  & @luniakkpublications

Twitter: @ToneyeEyenot  & @Luniakkpub

Bookbub: @Toneye Eyenot

Website:  www.luniakkpublications.com

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Wolvz: Whispers of War

stars5Be afraid … Be VERY afraid … Creature savagery at its very best!

toneye1This is a fine and well-written novella length story that draws on the folklore and mythology of werewolves and Lycans, those creatures of the night that epitomise the horror that can accompany a full-moon. Written in the first person from the perspective of Shona, a Lycan and high-ranking member a werewolf/Lycan pack, we learn that she has good reason to hate humankind, showing them no mercy when she confronts them.

As the Wolfhaven pack prepare for their long-term and, ultimately, final battle with their hated human adversaries, the action is both savage and gory, yet doesn’t rely on overly explicit bloody detail for its impact, instead being portrayed in a cold and matter-of-fact way that, if anything, makes it all the more chilling.

While this is a story filled with savagery and hatred towards humans, the author skilfully avoids losing the reader’s sympathy with subtle commentary on why such animosity exists, and the differences between how wolves and humans interact with nature and the environment. Amid all this savagery though, there are some wonderful lines of subtle humour too i.e. …

‘… the humans played their final hand, and we are biting it off.’

‘… he showed a bit of guts, so I won’t gorge on his.’

Although this is an easy five stars for me, I would have liked just a tad more explanation of the subtle differences between werewolves and Lycans woven into the narrative, but otherwise, this is an absolute must-read for any horror or ‘creature tales’ fan. I’m not sure at this point if ‘Wolvz: Whispers of War’ is to remain a stand-alone novella or is the first of a continuing series (hopefully it is!), but either way, I’m looking forward to reading a whole lot more from this author.

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Click HERE for Toneye Eyenot’s Amazon author page:

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More Longer Wacky Stories with Twist Endings – Book Review

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jmwThis latest short story collection is the fifth by John M. W. Smith that it’s been my pleasure to read and review. John M.W. Smith has had many stories published in various women’s weekly magazines and literary journals, and his short story collections are an established favourite among Russian readers where as well as being hugely popular, are also used as an English language teaching aid.  

In addition to my review here of ‘More Longer Wacky stories,’ I’ve also included my past reviews of some of his other collections.

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See below for John M.W. Smith on social media …

Website:             www.johnmwsmith.my-free.website

Blog:                    www.johnmwsmithswackyweeklyblog.blogspot.co.uk/

Facebook:          @twistendings

Twitter:              @wackyscribe

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More Longer Wacky Stories with Twist Endings

stars5‘Twist in the Tales’ scenarios done to sheer perfection, loved every one of these little gems !!!

jmw3It’s been a  few years since I read one of this author’s excellent short story collections, and I must say this latest novella lengthed 13 story anthology is the best so far. As in previous collections, the stories culminate in some unexpected twist in the tale, some quite startling while others are more of Ah-ha moment, though not once did I remotely see what it would be in each case. Mostly the stories stick to just one or two female characters (though not always), allowing the author to develop them more than is usual within the confines of a short story. Some of the tales are truly uplifting and will make the reader smile, but in a bit of a departure from previous books, others are indeed a tad sad, and equally sad, are more reflective of the not so nice side of human nature, as is the case in A Lonely Heart Breaks Easily.

This collection is definitely grittier, and with more of an edge to some of the stories that I’ve seen in previous ones, venturing into more controversial (almost taboo) themes such as in the third offering, It’s So Easy to Fall in Love, where the wronged woman turns out to be far more predatory than the reader is originally led to believe. 

Most of the author’s stories centre around female characters, some strong and self-assured while others are often more fragile and vulnerable, so in some respects it’s easy to see why they would enjoy such popularity in women’s magazines/journals, and yet, I maintain, these stories are of a much wider appeal to anyone who enjoys cleverly crafted scenarios, great writing and dialogue, and in every case, an unexpected but totally satisfying conclusion to a story. I really can’t praise these little gems more highly.

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MY PREVIOUS REVIEWS OF THE AUTHOR’S WORK …

Wacky Stories with Twist Endings  – Volumes  1 to 4

(Available in eBook & print formats via Amazon)

 

 

Volume 1: 

stars5Stories to bring a smile and a chuckle to any reader

This is a short collection of eight humorous short stories, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. The ‘twist at the end’ in the first four stories are more the sort to make you smile and chuckle rather than gasp in amazement, but every scenario and ending are entirely believable and just the sort of situation that any reader might readily identify with. In the later stories, the twist ending tend to have a bit more ‘punch’ to them, and the stories steadily become a little more intricate.

The author keeps the number of characters to a minimum in each case, and within the obvious confines of a short story, the characters are well-developed with convincing and natural dialogue. Each story is written in an easy to read and follow style, yet despite their apparent simplicity, all are actually very clever and well crafted.

By the author’s own admission, the stories are primarily aimed at a female readership, but the quality of writing and story-telling does I believe give them a much broader appeal. I shall certainly be reading and reviewing the other three volumes in this series.

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Volume 2:

stars5 More chuckle-inducing stories with a mischievous and unexpected twist at the end.

Another short collection of eight short stories; as in the previous volume of this collection, every story is well crafted and wholly believable. Again, not one of these stories will fail to bring a smile and a chuckle to the face of the reader, but unlike the previous volume, the stories here are a little more involved, with a slightly more adult and mischievous flavour to them.

For such short stories, some of them are quite complex, dealing with issues of romance, family, and work issues. Again the characters are convincing and well-developed. The increased complexity of the stories, as compared to volume one, does require a slightly greater degree of concentration from the reader, but the rewards are more than worth it.

Overall, another great volume of well written and light-hearted stories which fans of the short story genre and women in particular, will really enjoy.

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Volume 3:

stars5Another ‘naughty but nice’ addition to this highly entertaining series …

Well, this is the third volume of stories I’ve reviewed in this series and once again, I’ve not been disappointed.

Without reiterating too much of what I’ve said in my previous reviews, each of these delightful short stories has an unexpected, and in this volume more so than in previous ones, a quite often rather `naughty’ and punchier twist in the ending – never more so was the term `naughty but nice’ quite so appropriate. Compared to previous volumes, I think the stories here are, whilst still quite charming, are tending towards slightly more adult orientated themes. Again the reader never really sees what’s coming, and the author is an adept at leading the reader up the garden path so to speak before firmly tugging them back to a really effective punchline and conclusion.

What I’ve also noticed and enjoyed in this third volume is the way author very quickly settles the reader into feeling comfortable and familiar in what they’re reading; although each story is different and unique in its own way, there are often striking similarities in names, places, and the domestic settings in which they occur that you could almost feel that you’re reading another chapter in the lives of the characters in a previous story, much like that sense of familiarity you might encounter in reading the sequel to a novel. By employing such techniques, many of the characters appear much more developed and rounded than they might otherwise, given the limitations of the short and flash fiction genres.

I would agree with the author’s own admission that his stories are indeed aimed at a primarily female readership, and this volume perhaps more than in previous ones, but as your typical Neanderthal male, I too enjoyed them immensely and as such would contend that they still have a much broader appeal that of their intended market. Another great collection, and again, highly recommended …

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Volume 4: 

stars5A deliciously diverse collection of stories to both shock and make you smile …

This is the fourth and last volume of the ‘wacky stories’ series. Like the previous ones, all the stories are well written, and mostly with a deliciously naughty twist in them.

One of the dangers of anthologies such as this is that there can be a tendency for the stories to become repetitive, but here we have a refreshing diversity. Just when you think you’ve got the stories figured out, the author throws in a couple that are as delightfully sentimental and smile-inducing as you can imagine; the first story has quite an adult theme to it, treating the reader to a really sharp and almost shocking twist, whereas in another of the stories, the author leads the reader in a very definite direction, only to delight with a more gentle shock, and of the most touching confirmations of enduring love as I’ve read in a long time.

Yes, the stories are aimed at a female readership, but I think their appeal extends much further. I will certainly be reading some of the author’s differently themed anthologies in the near future. All in all, a great series that I would heartily recommend not only a female readership but anyone who enjoys cleverly written stories of the ‘twist in the tale genre’…

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Click HERE for the author’s Amazon author page, and links to all his books …jmw9a

Please, Granddad … Flash Fiction story.

A little ‘Flash Fiction’ piece, part of another little project I’m working on for later in the year, hope you like it …

 

Please, Granddad …

I’d been pretty darned healthy my whole life and fit too – a long stint in the army had seen to that! Even after I joined civvy street, despite a brief period of being a complete and utter slob for a few months following my freedom from the discipline of military life, I stayed active. The one blot on my otherwise healthy lifestyle though was the fact that I smoked. We all did back then. Most of my friends, including many from my army days, had long since given up the filthy habit. I hadn’t though. It had never occurred to me to even try. The fact was, I enjoyed smoking. And why shouldn’t I? I mean, I was a damned sight healthier than most of my non-smoker friends. Maybe it was just good genes; my grandparents had both smoked all their lives and lived well into their eighties. And what would the National Health Service do without the exorbitant taxes I paid on every puff I took? It was us smokers who practically financed the NHS, I told myself.

smoking6And then I got the news, the diagnosis that nobody wants to hear. I had Stage Two Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. I had no idea what stage two or non-whatever it was actually meant other than it was cancer. I couldn’t help thinking the worst. For it to be stage two meant there was a stage one, and that stage two must be worse?

            The news hit me hard. Why me? Apart from the smoking, I had always looked after myself. I drank only moderately, I got plenty of exercise, cycled, and hell, I even climbed bloody mountains.

I was 57. I knew I was no spring chicken, but I’d hoped for maybe another 20 good years of life, or at least long enough to see my grandson grow to be a man.

Was I just one of the unlucky ones, or had I only myself to blame? I’d never really believed my own rationalisations about smoking. I knew damned well it was bad for me.

            My doctor didn’t approve of smoking. Well, they don’t, do they? But he knew it was a typical reaction to blame oneself. He reassured me it was just one of those things, that the smoking had nothing to do with it. I was sure it was through gritted teeth he admitted that last bit. I was grateful though. Still, whether it had anything to do with or not, I was going to give up anyway.

smoking1I failed miserably – quitting cold-turkey, nicotine patches, vaping – nothing worked. I was a confirmed addict, even with the threat of death staring me in the face. I gave up trying to ‘give up.’

 

smoking2It had been several months since my last chemo session. I’d deliberately not visited my family for over a year. Of course, I’d seen my son and his wife when they visited me in the hospital and at a few other times. One thing I was adamant on though, young Patrick, my grandson wasn’t to see me while I was going through the barrage of treatments I was having.

I knew it upset him not being able to see me. It worried me that he’d think I’d stopped loving him. But what could I do? Seeing me completely bald, no eye-brows, sickly and gaunt looking, it wouldn’t have been right for a wee lad.

 

Since my last treatment, my hair had grown back, and I’d put most of my weight loss back on (and even a bit more). I just couldn’t wait to see my grandson for the first time since I had started the chemo and radiotherapy treatments. My son and his wife were spending the day with friends, leaving Patrick and me to some quality grandson and gramps time together.

We’d spent hours just playing, laughing, and watching films together until I was pretty exhausted. Amid all the fun we’d been having, I’d gone without nicotine for several hours now …

 

smoking3“Now you sit here, Little man, and watch your cartoons while Granddad goes for a smoke.”

“Please, Granddad, please don’t smoke. I don’t like it.”

            “It’s okay, Patrick, I’m going outside to keep all the smelly smoke out of the house.”

The look on his face told me his reaction had nothing to do with the smell of cigarette smoke. I sat beside him on the couch, putting an arm around his shoulder.

“What’s up little buddy?”

“I’ve missed you. I don’t want you to be ill again.” It was beginning to make sense now.

“Aww, you don’t have to worry about that. It was something quite different that made me ill. The smoking won’t make it come back.”

He stared at me. I could see he was trying not to cry.

“Smoking’s bad for you. It makes you have cancer.”

That last bit startled me. The little lad was only six, but he already knew the word cancer. He certainly didn’t know exactly what it meant, but clearly, he knew it was bad. By now it was me trying not to cry.

“Smoking didn’t cause my cancer, Patrick, really it didn’t.”

I held him a little tighter, hoping that might reassure him. He was having none of it.

“Promise you won’t smoke again. Please, Granddad … I don’t want you to die.”

smoking4By now, the wee lad was sobbing. Now you all know the feeling: You feel your throat tightening, and a screwing up of the eyes as they fill with tears. You breathe a little harder. You take an almost ‘gulp-like swallow, and then another. All the while, that ‘welling up’ feeling overcomes you, right down to the pit of your stomach.

            “You win. I promise.”

I’ve not smoked since …

smoking5

 

***

Why Write?

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Well, what to say here? This is an article I wrote back in 1995 for no other reason than that it was the very first piece of writing I ever had published (3rd prize in a competition for which I was awarded the princely sum of £20). I’ve tidied it up a bit since then, but the text essentially remains the same  

***

                             Why Write?                                                         

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Why Write? An interesting question you might agree, but one with a multitude of answers. The same question could well be asked of those who follow other creative pursuits. What compelled Van Gogh or Gaugin to paint, despite their sufferings, or Beethoven to compose even though he was profoundly deaf? Or, returning to my original question, the Bronte sisters to write when publication seemed an impossible dream? This passionate need for self-expression is in every writer who yearns to achieve authorship as their career. Many of course believe writing to be an easy job with huge financial rewards at the end of it; if money is your sole motivation then you are probably not a born writer. This isn’t to say money should not be a consideration, but its value to many writers is the freedom it allows them to work at what they most enjoy, in their own time and at their own pace. Then, a writer’s intention may merely be to entertain, which is I believe to be an excellent reason for writing; any occupation that brings light relief and enjoyment to so many people is an admirable one. To bring enjoyment to even one person can be a source of profound satisfaction:

rona“One of my greatest rewards came a year or two ago, mailed to me care of my publishers –  an envelope with a Glasgow postmark containing a scrap of paper on which was written very simply, ‘thank you for all the enjoyment your books have given me’.  It bore no address and no signature, and accompanying it was a Scottish pound note. I have never parted with either. That kindly gesture has been kept as a talisman ever since. My only regret is that I have never been able to thank that unknown reader.”

Rona Randell, (authoress)

quillIf, in your own writing, you are fortunate enough to experience such a moment you may well be well on your way to answering the above question. For many though the urge to write is born out of circumstance. One important thing to appreciate is that writing is a solitary and often lonely occupation. This works both ways: writing leads to solitude, but solitude can also lead to writing. It is this last consideration that brings me to my own reasons for writing. It would be untrue to say that I had never wanted to write before a serious accident rendered me housebound for several months, but it was little more than an unconscious desire, submerged for the most part by the many competing attractions and obligations of everyday life, emerging only rarely during moments of quiet solitude, or after having read something particularly enjoyable or inspiring. It was only then I sometimes thought, yes, I’d like to write something like that and to write as well as that! But such occasions are few and far between. For myself it had always been impossible not to allow the pressures of family and everyday life combine to make any serious attempt at writing an impractical, if not impossible dream; perhaps I used this as an excuse, for indeed there are many who overcame such obstacles to realise their dreams, but for me, the constant rationalisation that there was always tomorrow, the day after, or the weekend, to start putting pen to paper, held me back. My own fault I admit. What made me do so was, again, among other things, having read a book that I found particularly enjoyable, Nineteen Eighty-Four if I remember correctly. Upon finishing it I decided I too would like to write something similar (or at least try). Being housebound as I was I felt as trapped and imprisoned as is possible to be short of being a guest of Her Majesty. Ironically though it was those very circumstances that provided the very time and freedom I needed to write – or at least freedom from all the excuses that had fed my past procrastination. Thus finally inspired, my main obstacle was to put down that first word, a daunting prospect for any fledgeling writer. But once you have taken that first step the writing becomes easier. Word follows word, sentence follows sentence, and paragraphs take shape to form chapters until such time as that elusive first poem, article, short story, or even a novel may one day emerge. It may seem ironic, even absurd that such an incapacity might provide one with any kind of freedom, but given the right attitude and self-discipline it can be equally surprising just how conductive a temporary restriction of one’s physical freedoms and mobility can actually be to any new, or even I should imagine an experienced writer. Cut off from many of the distractions of the outside world and pursuits of ordinary life, being housebound encouraged me to call upon the resources of my imagination and experience. One only has to think of those have found themselves truly cut off from the outside world, I speak of course those writers and authors who have for whatever reason begun or continued their writing whilst in prison:  Dostoevsky, Oscar Wilde, Daniel Defoe, and, more recently, the likes of John McVicar, and Jimmy Boyle. Evidently, solitude can be developed into a valuable resource. It can enable one to get in touch with one’s deepest feelings, to form ideas, and encourage the growth of one’s creative imagination, culminating in the elusive ‘written’ word. But what of the benefits of writing? Not the obvious ones of possible fame and fortune, but the more personal, more intimate? During those months of recovery, it would be absurd to suggest that writing in any way changed the physical reality of my situation but it did provide an enjoyable and often fascinating pastime, a marvellous form of escape if you like. It was only when I was alone, with a pen, paper, and a desire to write that I finally produced my first literary efforts. The circumstances were far from ideal but with pen in hand (or fingers on a keypad these days), a few ideas, and a fair degree of imagination, I could be anywhere in the world, create any scenario – an entire world and its characters were there for me to create and immerse myself in. Often I would find myself totally absorbed in what I was trying to say and the struggle involved in trying to transform my thoughts into some form of readable prose. This was not always and indeed still isn’t an easy task. My recovery was slow but nonetheless eventually complete, and my enforced solitude came to an end. It was by no means the ideal milieu for my writing but it was the catalyst for it for which I shall always be grateful. To conclude then, there is no magic formula as to how or why people write. Only you, the writer, can answer that question. And for each of us, I suspect the answer will be different. But whatever the reason, only you can make it happen: imagination, a love of words, creativity, enthusiasm, and the desire to write – those are your tools. All you need is to take the opportunity to use them.

National Rat Day – Rat Tales short story collection …

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Rat Tales is Book One of a three-book collection, titled …

The Creature Tales.

Books Two Three, scheduled for publication, early 2019.

Rat Tales    Book Trailer …

 

 

Click HERE for UK Amazon buying link – Click HERE for Amazon.com link

***

Rat Tales

A Mischief of Little Horrors 

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Had your rabies shots yet? The rats are loose!

Rat Tales. Twenty-four ‘rat’ themed short stories, and the first book in a three-book collection, The Creature Tales. 

Many of the stories here are traditional blood and gore filled horror, but several venture slightly into the realms of science fiction and the supernatural.

Within this collection, the reader will find every rat incarnation imaginable, from the super strong and ultra intelligent to bloodthirsty and seemingly immortal. 

While every story has been written to stand alone, several are loosely inter-connected with an ongoing reference to the future. Among the stories are:

A farmer’s imaginative though barbaric attempt to solve his rat problem backfires in the worst possible way.

farm rats

A young boy’s efforts to repay the kindness of his childhood rodent friends has consequences that will change the course of history.

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A vicious ghostly rat falls victim to karma

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A centuries-old rat looks back on how it became the seemingly immortal creature it is ...

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Some escaped convicts realise too late they’ve chosen the wrong couple to terrorise when their rodent pets see their own comfy lives threatened.

rat house

A grim fate awaits those who take shelter in an abandoned house.

RatSwarm

A country squire finds himself on the receiving end of his sporting cruelty.

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These are just some of the stories in this extensive collection, so brace yourselves for … A Mischief of Little Horrors.

***

Amazon Reviews …

24 October 2018

Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase

24 October 2018

        Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase

Deliciously gruesome bitesized morsels to infest your nightmares. There are no holds barred yet many teeth bared in the flesh-rending descriptions. Despite being repulsed, reading the tales from the rat’s point of view had me sympathising with their plight. Love them or hate them, this is a must for horror readers.

***

Three Against The World – Book Review

SS2Sarah has studied English language and literature, and history, with delight since her early teens. She is a qualified adult literacy tutor and has written short stories, in addition to other resources, for her students. Her published articles have been in magazines dedicated to wildlife and dogs. The Royal Command series, her debut into full-length fiction, has been well received. Book One, Dangerous Liaisons, is a Romance Finalist in the Independent Author Network Book Awards 2015 and the first version of this book, now lightly edited, gained a five-star rating from Readers’ Favorite within weeks of publication.

Sarah’s hope is that readers will enjoy her novels as an escape from reality, but be left understanding that fame and fortune often comes at a high personal cost. Also, an increased perception of the threat to animals: those shot in the name of sport for trophy heads, endangered species, many poached for their fur and ivory, and tragically discarded pets.

In addition to the above, Sarah Stuart is a prolific reader and is a Readers’ Favourite official book reviewer, and a valued member of and contributor to the IASD indie author support and discussion site …

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www.indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.com

Further links to the author’s social media are listed below:

Bookbub: Sarah Stuart Blog: www.sarahstuartweb.wordpress.com

Twitter: @sasspip  Goodreads: SarahStuart

***

Three Against The World 

 

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Twists and turns at every juncture … a wonderful mix of romance and human drama

SS1Romance and melodrama don’t normally feature high in my reading preferences but I was in the mood to read something different, and this looked like it would fit the bill.

After the day from hell, to say that Richard’s life and those closest to him will never be the same again would be the mother of all understatements. I’m tempted to say that some elements are at first reading a tad implausible, but Sarah Stuart weaves them into the story with such seemingly effortless writing that you accept and believe them from start to finish.

The same qualities and compassion that led Richard Carpenter to adopt a problematic and previously abused little stray dog are the same ones that would make him the perfect father and husband. After his ex-wife, Naomi, turns up on his doorstep with a teenage girl, Maria,  declaring her to be his daughter, Richard Carpenter is facing life-changing choices and dilemmas.  Being the sort of man he is, Richard doesn’t hesitate in accepting responsibility for Maria, determined from the start to be the best father he can be. What emerges is a story of domestic and personal drama, filled with twists and turns at every juncture as his life lurches from one tribulation to the next while trying to build a home and future for his new family.

Some of the characters, male and female alike are as delightfully loathsome as ever graced the page of any book: an ex-wife who thinks nothing of dumping her teenage daughter with a complete stranger to her simply because the girl would get in the way of her new and extravagant lifestyle, a gold-digging fiancée that makes Cruella De Vil look like Mother Theresa, who calls off the wedding the moment her would-be future husband’s fortunes take a turn for the worse and who then strands Maria with a non-existent aunt just to get him back, and an utterly vile teenage lad who would threaten anything and anyone to hide and keep quiet what he’s done to name but three.

Amid all the turmoil going on in his life and a string of failed relationships with totally unsuitable women, indeed narrow escapes in some cases, Richard is lonely and desperately wants to settle down with a woman he truly loves, one who loves him in return and in the same way.

Starved of the love she never got as a child, Maria too wants love and the man of her dreams, and in one final twist of fate, both Richard and Maria might just find the happiness they both crave.

The first book I’ve read by this author but certainly won’t be the last.  One of the easiest five stars I’ve given all year, so thoroughly looking forward to the sequel and other books by Sarah Stuart!

***

For details of all the author’s work, see HERE for Sarah’s Amazon author page:

SS3

A bit of September Silliness – another flash fiction short story – Flat Earth

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Welcome to another report from SNNC, the Silly Nonsense News Channel, your reporter as always, P. A. Ruddock

 

The Flat Earth society had already gotten plenty of flak for their latest conference, claiming members from all around the world were attending.

A number of ‘experts’ had been assembled from among the farthest fringes of the crackpot science and conspiracy theory communities. The attendees were to be treated to the very cream of implausible nonsense to explain away such inconvenient concepts as gravity in a two-dimensional world and photographs of the earth from space 

‘– they’re all fakes, just like the moon landings, it’s all big conspiracy by the global – err, sorry, I meant big-business corporations,’ a flat-earth spokesman told SNNC. 

FE2There was even to be a weird and wonderful explanation as to why people should end up back where they started if they kept travelling in the same direction – apparently, the closer you got to the edge of the world, it would increasingly tilt so you sort of rolled back to the middle, I kid you not – It’s still under discussion, we’ll keep you posted.

Also on the agenda was to be a debate on the general consensus that the edges of the world were surrounded by giant impenetrable and unclimbable mountains, a great wall of ice, or Antarctica as we Round Earthers call it. It was these mountains that, apparently, stop us all falling over the edge like we would a cliff, and of course the oceans doing the same. This last aspect was also to be an urgent topic of discussion. Not all flat-earthers were utterly bereft of common sense or indifferent to the wider scientific community, and climate change was troubling many of the society’s saner members.

FE1They worry that all the mountains are going to melt. Others were less concerned, claiming the situation is all under control – Donald Trump’s plans to build a giant wall to keep out all those awful Mexicans is really just a clever ruse to disguise the wall’s real purpose – it was to be much bigger, all around, oops, sorry, along the circular perimeter of the earth, and that would be our new sea barrier

FE7FE8– yes, that’s right, Donald Trump is going to save the world! Hmm? Hilary Clinton was asked for her comments on that last bit … probably best not to repeat her reply.

Needless to say, the broader public has some difficulty getting their head around the idea of the earth being a giant pudding bowl, attracting ridicule from all around the world, especially from among their equally deluded arch rivals, the Hollow Earth believers.

FE3But getting back to the conference – the original proposal was to hold it in Australia, but they eventually agreed on Birmingham instead after the Flat Earth central committee decided that said continent didn’t really exist and that it was actually a huge compound at a secret location somewhere in South America, filled with American actors.

FEdWhen approached, Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan, stars of the Australian telly super-soap, Neighbours, appeared amused at the Flat Earthers’ claims but were otherwise unavailable for comment. On the other hand, Australian authoress, the lovely Patricia Puddle, while initially dismissive, has admitted, albeit amid fits of giggles, she intends to learn Spanish –  Just in case.”

It seems too that all the world’s airlines, pilots, and astronauts are also all in on the giant hoax, but nonetheless, oversees Flat-Earthers were not deterred from hopping aboard budget flights to Birmingham, especially after their membership being offered generous discounts from local hoteliers.

Unsurprisingly, Australian membership of the Flat Earth society has somewhat flatlined since. On the plus side, the people of Birmingham can sleep secure in the knowledge that their city does exist, and by default, the rest of the UK too. 

To attract more believers to their cause, the Flat-Earthers have taken a leaf out of Scientology and its dodgy Hollywood advocates. They cite several celebrities who also question the ‘global’ view of the earth – there’s Lofty Whatshisname, the well-known American basketcase, sorry, basketball player, along with British celebrity and former cricketer, Freddie Flintoff who has also admitted to coming round to their beliefs after asking several deep and meaningful questions …

FEf“… If you’re in a helicopter and you hover why does the earth not come to you if it’s round?

“Why if we’re hurtling through space, why would water stay still? Why is it not wobbling?

“The middle is the North Pole, around the outside is the South Pole which is like a big wall of ice. This is why all governments now have bases on the South Pole.”

(All true, we’re really not making this up!)

 

SNNC did approach several leading scientists for answers to these probing conundrums, but unfortunately, they all claimed to be doing something far more important than dignifying such bollocks with an answer, like counting the grains of sand. 

(Ok, we admit it, we did make up this last bit, but only because we already knew what the answer would be).

And that, readers and viewers, brings us to the end of our coverage of this year’s Flat-Earth conference.

*

“We’ll have to keep an eye on those bloody flat-earthers, they’re much closer to the truth than they realise,” the Galactic Council’s chief scientist was telling his mate.

“You’re right there. The only bit they’ve got wrong is that the water’s kept in by the sides of the petri dish – perhaps we should put them in a bigger one so we’ve got room for an Australia too?”

NASA scientists finally release …

FEg

… REAL photos of earth from outer space.

*** 

For the very best in internet bollocks, stay tuned for future reports … upcoming features include:

The Moon? Did we really land on it & Is it Really there?

Hollow Earth theories? Are they based on ‘solid’ science or just filled with hot air (or molten lava)?

Alternatively, keep a lookout for my upcoming book, Flashbulb Moments – Ninety-nine flash-fiction stories – some silly, some sad, and some plain scary ones.

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Book Review – Seer of Souls by Susan Faw

susan5Professional by day, book nerd and fantasy champion by night, Susan is a masked crusader for the fantastical world. Championing mythical rights, she quells uprisings and battles infidels who would slay the lifeblood of her pen. It’s all in a night’s work, for this whirlwind writer. Welcome to the quest.

Book One of the Spirit Shield Saga is now an award winning novel! April 1st, 2017, it was awarded First in Category for Young Adult Mythology and the Dante Rossetti Grand Prize winner for Best Young Adult fiction of 2016 by Chanticleer Reviews.

Susan Faw is also a contributing member of the Indie Author Support and Discussion network of writers and authors

 

Click HERE for IASD website – Click above pic for Susan’s IASD profile link

SEE ALSO:

Goodreads: Susan Faw  

Website: www.susanfaw.com 

Twitter: @susandfaw

***

Seer of Souls:

Book One of The Spirit Shield Saga

By Susan Faw

stars5Epic fantasy and magic wrapped up in good solid story-telling!

susan1.jpgI’ve always been a bit wary of epic fantasy sagas for fear they’d be too fantastical or far-fetched to enjoy. I was more than pleasantly surprised here though; whereas many such stories have too many different storylines that take too long to converge, Seer of Souls was remarkably easy to follow and understand from beginning to end with the different strands of the story being closely interlinked.

There is quite a dramatic start in the birth/death of two new-born twins, which tied in nicely with the wider story further on. There are several themes to the story that have been explored elsewhere but here they are merged and given their own originality; the central character, Cayden for example, put me in mind Andre Norton’s ‘The Beast Master,’ with his animal summoning abilities, while the idea of royalty and wizards is reminiscent of the King Arthur legend. The imagery of the Kingsmen soldiers in their battle armour and royal regalia, combined with the burning of witches and banning of magic had a certain medieval feel to it with echoes of the Cromwellian era and the battle between Parliament and the Royalists. There was of course magic, mythology, and elements of fantasy but they don’t overwhelm or distract from the basic story the way a sci-fi film might with too many special effects. To this end, much of it is set amid a more-earthly setting and definite storyline, with characters supping pints and tradesmen going about their business. ‘Healers,’ Mother Nature, and Goddesses along with a mythical underworld play their part, all of which have much in common with druids and paganism, so again, there is a comfortable familiarity in the way they’ve been portrayed here.

Another aspect of the writing that made for easy readability is that it wasn’t filled entirely with weird and esoterically named characters and places; yes, some of the names were unusual enough as you’d expect in a fantasy saga but they were balanced with more recognisable ones too. The overall story, which I won’t give away plot-wise, had just as many common elements such as ambition, treachery, struggles for power, and rebellion, with human and mortal battles fought alongside the more magical ones.

The author makes clear this is the first part of a series, so readers shouldn’t be surprised or disappointed when finding there are still many questions to be answered at the end. Having said that, the story here still reads well as a stand-alone one as far it goes, but clearly with further elements to be expanded upon, i.e. that side of the story surrounding the main character’s equally gifted twin sister, Avery, and future battles to be fought. This is a well-written and entertaining addition to the fantasy saga genre, and a great introduction to it if you’ve not read anything like this before.

 

See HERE for link to the author’s Amazon author page:

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