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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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Further study needed – Flash Fiction short story (No:34)

iasdpic1This will be no:34 (of 100) in the eventual Flash Fiction collection, a a1FlashFictionhumorous little Sci-Fi tale coming in at just over 500 words (521).

Further study needed

fuzzy1It was an odd-looking creature. Not in a bad or ugly looking way you understand, but just on account of being so alien. With its green fur, the one cyclops eye, and those insect-like six legs it defied description; despite the six legs, it wasn’t an insect, or at least no one thought so, not with it being two foot long.

The scientists had yet to decide on an official name or designation for it; in the meantime, they stuck with the name decided on by the two kids who found the little creature on the banks of the Pescos river in New Mexico, they had called it Fuzzy.

 

roswell1“I really don’t what to make of it, really I don’t,” Drroswell3 Markham was telling Colonel Bingley from the nearby Roswell air base, “definitely not native to earth though,” she added.

“I agree. It’s like nothing we’ve ever found before, either,” the Colonel replied, poking Fuzzy with a pencil, fascinated by the animated reaction as all its six little legs started to wave about randomly.

Fuzzy was taken to the Roswell Alien Studies facilities, deep underground below the innocuous looking air base. What followed was a seemingly endless series of tests, blood and tissue extractions, X-rays, and in between, Fuzzy would be exposed to extremes of temperature, noise, and other distressing stimuli to assess the creature’s reactions in each case. A couple of the junior lab assistants felt sorry for the little creature, sad that more efforts weren’t being made to understand or communicate with it. Unfortunately, compassion and understanding weren’t on the ‘what to do’ checklist of the military and senior science staff.

“I concur. We should keep the creature alive. We can determine the possible applications of its unique DNA, both medicinal and for weaponising. We can then move onto live dissection, pain threshold analysis, and so on,” Dr Markham agreed.

“I’ll put that in my report then – further study needed.”

 

The Roswell staff never did get to complete their studies. The following day, despite being kept under 24/7 surveillance, Fuzzy simply vanished. The whole episode was, of course, hushed up like an unclosed case from the X-files.

*

Species report of interstellar agent, Xenzorion1379 (aka Fuzzy)

roswell2A cruel and hostile race for the most part. A few specimens show kindness and compassion in the early years of their development but soon adopt the aggressive and self-destructive tendencies of the wider collective. During my time with the humans, I was prodded,  poked, and tormented in all manner of painful ways with no thought to the pain and suffering they were inflicting on me. I witnessed several of them indiscriminately kill many smaller life-forms for no other reason than they were an annoyance.

A few might be worth saving for our species archives, but overall, they must on no account be allowed to spread beyond this planet. Furthermore, should they continue the extermination of their fellow indigenous species, and each other, at their current rate, consideration should be given to recycling and replacing them with a kinder and less destructive life-form, one that would appreciate such a beautiful world.

Further study needed …

           roswell4

The worst driving test ever! – Flash Fiction short story

IASDpicStory number 11 of 100, and a mere 830 words. Given my last post was a tad on the dark side, this one’s s humorous contrast to that. 

I must say I’m really enjoying writing this series, and it’s aa1FlashFiction great way of taking a break in between my longer WIPs – I’d definitely recommend having a go at these ‘short’ short stories if/when you’re feeling a bit stuck with longer projects.

 

The worst ever driving test!

If everything went well, Reggie’d be a qualified driver by lunchtime. He was as excited as hell, but nervous too; Reggie had good reason to be nervous, it would be his fourth attempt. It wasn’t that Reggie wasn’t a good driver, he was – no one got to level 8 on Xbox driver4Motorsport without top-notch driving skills so yes, Reggie knew driver5he wasn’t just a good driver, but a great one. It was just a shame he always got so nervous come the day of the test. Today was going to be different, Reggie just knew it.

 

“Hello Reggie, all set are we? Feeling confident?” The driving assessor asked.

“Yes thanks, Mr Dokes,” Reggie answered. He was pleased to see it was the same bloke who had assessed him last time. He was a friendly sort. Reggie already felt more relaxed.

“Good. Let’s get started then.”

Reggie was doing everything right: Seatbelt. Pre-driver checks. Mirror, signal manoeuvre. And off they went.

The test was going fine. Despite a racing pulse and sweat dripping from his brow, Reggie was remaining calm. They had parked up to do the obligatory reversing round a corner manoeuvre bit of the test. Reggie tried to ignore the alarm coming from the shops across the road. Immediately after completing the manoeuvre, Mr Dokes had gotten out to check their distance from the kerb. It looked fine. Both Reggie and Mr Dokes’ attention was again drawn elsewhere though. Two men were running out from a sub-post-office into a waiting car parked outside, seemingly from the same direction of the sound of the blaring alarm. Just then, a man ran up to Reggie and the assessor, bundling Mr Dokes into the back seat while he jumped in the front passenger seat.

 

“I’m Detective Sergeant Huxton. Follow that car. Now!” The DS screamed at Reggie.

He didn’t need telling twice. The car they were following, or rather chasing now, was the same one the two men running out of the little post-office had jumped into before speeding off.driver2

            driver1Reggie was in his element. This was real driving, even better than level 8 on Xbox Motorsport! Reggie needed no further urging from the DS, weaving in and out of the traffic like a character out of the Fast and Furious films, beeping his horn every few seconds to warn pedestrians and other drivers.     

Reggie swerved to an emergency stop to avoid a woman with a pram, but immediately resumed his direction of pursuit once she had moved out of the way. DS Huxton wondered just what sort of madman he had ordered to drive, silently regretting not jumping in the driving seat himself.

The robbers headed down a one-way street. Reggie went whizzing past it.

“What the … what you do that for, we’re gonna lose them now,” the DS screamed at Reggie.

“No we won’t,” Reggie snapped back, annoyed at his concentration on the road being interrupted, “that’s a one-way system with no way of turning round, and no houses or building to hide in. We’ll get to the other end of the system a good five minutes before the robbers,” Reggie explained. After four previous driving tests and over a hundred driving lessons in the area, Reggie knew these roads like the back of his hand.

They reached the exit of the one way road the robbers had taken and waited. Half a dozen cars exited it before the robbers’ car came into view. Reggie moved forward to block them. The robbers had no choice but to stop and try and make a run for it on foot. Two more police cars with back up arrived a second later, and the two fleeing men were arrested.

Reggie was on a high. No Xbox game had ever come close to this, it had been exhilarating. It was even worth failing his fifth driving test.

“Great work there, mate,” DS Huxton told him. Reggie felt ten feet tall.

“Thanks.”

“Pity they didn’t have you as their getaway driver,” the DS joked. Reggie laughed at the irony of the remark.

“You commandeered our car in the middle of my driving test,” Reggie told him, chuckling away.

“Your test?” The DS exclaimed, questioningly, “I just assumed you were the instructor!”

Again Reggie laughed and turned to Mr Dokes:

“Oh well. I guess we’ll have to reschedule again – maybe it’ll be fifth time lucky now, eh, Mr Dokes?”

driver6“Well, let’s see, Mr Dokes began: “No faults prior to the reversing manoeuvre. Good use of mirrors throughout. I haven’t faulted you for speeding given you were under police instruction,” he added while turning to glare angrily in the Detective Sergeant’s direction. DS Huxton looked to the floor, somewhat embarrassed. Mr Dokes turned his attention back to Reggie and continued:

“The independent driving was definitely some of the best I’ve seen. And the emergency stop to avoid the woman with the pram, that was perfect.”

“Uh?” Reggie replied, somewhat confused.

“That’s a pass!”driver3

Teething Pains – Flash Fiction short story

IASDpicNumber 10 in my Flash Fiction series (just 90 to go – yayyyy). A hint of horror but with a very small ‘aitch.’ Got a a1FlashFictionbit carried away with this one, but with a bit of ruthless editing, still managed to keep it just under 1000 words (966 for those who are curious lol).

If you’re enjoying these flash fiction stories, for some even shorter 100-word microfiction from different authors, see link below:

IASD Micro-fiction

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Teething Pains

bran1Jack and Mary were a couple of twenty-somethings travelling around Eastern Europe. They made a living from travel writing and blogging about their adventures and way of life. For the past six months, they had settled in Romania, exploring its picturesque views, the historic villages and towns and the imposing stone castles that dotted the countryside. It was a country Jack knew well, being able to trace his ancestry back several generations there.

It was during a stay at one such Gothic fortress, Bran Castle, that Mary fell ill. It didn’t appear serious, but with Mary’s recently discovered pregnancy they were taking no chances.

 

“She’s a touch anaemic I’d say and has a slight fever. A virus would be my best guess until we get her test results back,” Doctor Miereanu of the Bucharest emergency hospital was telling Jack, “but let me assure you, there’s no danger to the baby,” he added, guessing that’s what they wanted to know.

“Thank you. But this virus? I mean, have you any idea how she may have contracted it, doctor?” Jack asked.

“I don’t know at the moment, but if you’re taking her back to Brasov today, I’d ask your local doctor. I’ll give you a letter for him, and I’ll be emailing your local surgery some patient notes.

Despite being widely travelled in some of the most remote and primitive parts of the world, when it came to health matters, particularly someone he cared for, Jack’s mindset was firmly geared to the high-tech facilities of a modern hospital.

Upon their return, Jack took Mary to their local surgery, just like the Bucharest doctor had suggested. Apart from all the usual health and lifestyle questions, Doctor Dragulescu asked how long they’d spent at Bran castle and if they’d done any wild camping in the area during their travels. Jack thought the doctor was merely going through the motions with his questions, at least until about where they’d travelled in Romania.

“Yes, as a matter of fact, we did some hiking through the Carpathian mountains and surrounding forests” Jack answered. The doctor gave a gentle, knowing nod of his head.

“Is that relevant, doctor?” Jack immediately asked, sensing the doctor was holding something back.

“Possibly. I suspect she may have been bitten by something. Some of our local insects transmit a harmless virus that induces temporary fever, but like my colleague in Bucharest told you, it’s nothing serious that might affect the pregnancy.”

 

Within the week, apart from her continuing anaemia, Mary had recovered. Three months later she gave birth to a seemingly healthy baby boy.

The local villagers were happy for them. It was an area where people tended to have large families, and childbirth was celebrated.

Because of her recent fever and anaemia, Mary and Jack had decided against breastfeeding, fearing that traces of the virus she had contracted might still be in her system and be passed to their baby.

 

Little Jack Jnr wasn’t doing well at all. He’d hardly put any weight on since his birth, and cried almost constantly; it was more like screaming, really, the sort you associate with being hungry, yet he refused to eat, bringing up whatever little milk he could be coaxed into taking from his bottle.

bran2Mary and Jack worried at how pale and sickly their baby looked. Their friends and neighbours never commented on it though and continued to make a fuss of the new baby, assuring Mary the lack of appetite and constant crying would soon pass. The doctor had dismissed the young couple’s concerns, explaining the frequent crying as being due to teething pains; Jack Jnr was a rarity being that 1 in 2000 babies born with natal teeth. Even rarer in Jack Jnr’s case was being born with two front upper incisors.

 

Jack Jnr continued to refuse food, and after just a month, Mary decided she was over the virus and tried to breastfeed him. Jack Jnr seemed to quieten when she brought his face closer to her. A moment after putting his mouth to her breast, Mary recoiled in pain when she felt a sharp pain akin to a needle piercing her nipple. Jack Jnr seemed oblivious to her discomfort and appeared to be feeding. Mary instantly forgot the momentary pain, elated at seeing that Jack Jnr was finally feeding and had stopped crying. He suddenly looked a picture of health; even a trace of colour appeared to fill his otherwise deathly pale complexion.

After ten minutes or so, Jack Jnr ceased suckling, and she slowly put him back in his cot, not even noticing at first the trickle of blood around her nipple.

She gasped in horror when Jack Jnr smiled. She saw the two tiny front teeth in his top gum. Jack Jnr may indeed have been ‘a rarity’ as doctor Dragulescy had put it, having been born with some natal teeth, but these seemed much bigger than they should be and were dripping a small amount of blood. She thought it must be his gums, and that the traces of blood around her nipple was from Jack Jnr.

After that first breastfeeding session, Mary felt no more pain when Jack Jnr suckled on her. The traces of blood in each case, the doctor assured her, were down to the premature development of Jack’s front teeth and was nothing to worry about.

 

bran3At just three months old, little Jack Jnr was already sporting two impressive quarter inch front incisors that would protrude over his lower lip whenever he was hungry.

The locals too were delighted at the progress little Jack Jnr was making. It had been several centuries since Bran castle had boasted an aristocratic Count in residence.        

Dracula’s Castle as legend more accurately knew it would once again be restored to its former glory in the coming years, no longer just another tourist attraction.

 

 

Reboot – Flash Fiction short story (No:9)

IASDpicFlash Fiction story number 9 in my 100 story series. There’s no particular order to the stories I’m posting other than their eventual place in the full collection later in the year.

I Managed to keep this one at a shade over 500 words (511). It’s a theme that’sa1FlashFiction been explored in other stories (and films) but I’ve tried to give it a new slant here. Hope it brings you a smile …

Reboot

The world was in a mess, no doubt about it. People were reluctant to turn on the TV for fear of another of the almost hourly newsflashes popping up, informing the public about the latest terrorist outrage or of yet another pre-teen shooting half his classmates with a high-powered rifle. And on those rare days when no such atrocities took place, the regular news would be giving us the latest statistics on climate change, air pollution, and the imminent collapse of the economy.

A lot of people though had stopped worrying or even caring, convinced that it was only a matter of time before one of the bickering world leaders took umbrage at the latest social media insult and irradiated us all in a giant mushroom cloud.

trump1Such fears weren’t helped by reports that the eastern dictator, Ting Wee Dong, had scheduled another nuclear test, the exact time andtrump2 date to be kept secret. And just to show the West wasn’t to be outdone, the western dictator Donald Blair Bush had tweeted to the world that he too had ordered a nuclear test of the biggest and baddest bomb ever made, the exact time and date to be kept secret.

*

“I told you before, I want you to stop playing that game,” a mother was telling her son.

            “But …” the young boy started to protest.

            “No buts. I told you, it’s way too violent. The makers have allowed far too many psychopathic characters and guns and bombs and all sorts to spoil it.”

            “But it’s at a really good bit now. Can’t I just play a little longer?”

            “Why don’t you start a new game, one where people aren’t getting killed all the time?”

            “Cos this one’s more fun. But I probably will start another one soon; this one keeps crashing every time the two sides start fighting or blow something up.”

*

trump5At precisely 12 noon GMT the next day, the two most destructive weapons of mass destruction ever conceived were exploded simultaneously on opposite sides of the world. The earth literally shook. The combined blast of the two bombs had knocked it several degrees of its axis, along with opening up a ten mile crack in the earth’s crust that was getting longer with each passing hour. It had also done something to the magnetic core, causing our planet to stop spinning. To put it bluntly, we were all well and truly fucked!

*

“Are you still playing that game?” The mother called to her son.

            “I was, but it’s crashed again. It’s stopped working all together now. I’m going to erase it and start again like you said …”

 

A trillion light years away in a different dimension where a million years was as a second to the beings who inhabited that place, a little boy and his mother had lost patience with us …

trump3

The lights went out, and our world ceased to exist …

Restart …

A flash of light and a Big Bang … hopefully, we would do better this time around?

trump4

 

Short Story collection – Short, Long And Tall Stories … (Review)

 

Another of my Welsh Wednesday Writing reviews of Welsh authors, this time a collection of short stories by Welsh author, Stuart Kear, a life-long resident of the Rhondda Valley. I first discovered Stuart’s stories via the Tonypandy Writer’s library1Group’s multi-author collection of short stories and poetry, which featured two of Stuart’s stories. Having been impressed with both contributions I checked to see if the author had anything published elsewhere, and so discovered this awesome collection of short stories here …

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Click on book cover thumbnail below for Amazon purchase link …

Short, Long And Tall Stories

timberwolfamazonAs clever and entertaining a collection of short stories as I can remember reading, ever!

StuartKear1

All the stories here have a Welsh theme, and in most cases specific to the Welsh valleys; now when I say a ‘Welsh theme,’ I don’t just mean that the author simply mentions Wales in passing or has perhaps given each story a Welsh character – in most cases, the Welsh setting, being Welsh, or having grown up in the valleys is an integral part of the meaning of each story.

This is quite a substantial body of varied stories, thirteen in total. Among the stories, the author tackles a variety of topics including bereavement and how close relatives deal with loss in their own very different ways, tragedy in the coal mining pits, plots of murder mixed up with irony and poetic justice, and even an incredulously funny flash fiction piece in ‘The Letter,’ – as simple a premise as you could imagine but a guaranteed ear to ear smile for the reader. 

Some of the stories are more a reflection of the human condition and are simply satisfying to read for their own sake without the need for any clever or surprise conclusions. Others though are quite definitely of the ‘twist in the tale’ type, often blended with a deliciously wicked element of humour, and I have to say, Stuart Kear has demonstrated a real talent for that type of story.

My favourite story? – I’m torn between ‘The Look, ‘ a brutal tale of murder and poetic justice with a little touch of black humour, and ‘The Departure,’ another relatively simple story but having the impact of being hit right between the eyes with a claw hammer! Others that also caught my particular attention – ‘The Accident’ and the ‘The dig at the Station Hotel.’

If I had but two tiny criticisms it would be that I would have preferred a more ‘Wales’ orientated cover as the one here puts me more in mind of a major city than the Welsh Valleys. Secondly, given how many people like to read on their Kindles, tablets, and phones etc it would be nice if this collection were more widely available as an eBook too as these stories really do merit the widest possible readership! Apart from that, an absolutely superb clever and entertaining collection of stories. No hesitation in rating it a thoroughly well-deserved 5 stars!

***

About the author …

Born in 1945, Stuart Kear, was born and raised in the Welsh Valleys, having also lived and worked there all his life.  With three children and two grandchildren, Stuart Kear was recently widowed and it is to the memory of his late wife of 47 years he dedicated the above short story collection.

In addition to his love of books and language, Stuart Kear’s other interests are photography, walking, quizzes, snooker, and of course, writing.

 

 

Book Review – A Time for Courage: and other military stories

Tom Benson is a multi-genre author and artist whose work I’ve reviewed several times since first discovering his writing on his wordpress site (see link below).

In 1969 at the age of 17, Tom left his native Glasgow to join the British Army. Tom’s military career spanned from 1969 to 1992. He followed this with a career in Retail Management, in which he was employed from 1992 to 2012.
Tom is a prolific writer and book reviewer and has been writing since 2007. He has published seven novels, five anthologies of short stories, a five-part novel, a five-part series of erotica novellas, and a series of five anthologies of genre-based poetry. In addition to his own writing, Tom Benson has contributed short stories to several other multi-author anthologies both commercially and in aid of various charities.

Youre Not Alone 3d inamge (1) TBpics  PR1

IASDpic

Tom is presently working on a number of other projects including helping manage and promote an international collection of indie authors on the indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.com website which he helped create.

 

Tom’s other websites and contact details:
www.tombensonauthor.com 
www.tombensoncreative.com
www.tom-benson.co.uk

&

@TomBensonWriter

***

 Amazon Description

A collection of 12 stories created using a wide spectrum of scenarios. Military experiences can be funny, heart-breaking and, everything in between.
This anthology is a blend of my personal experience and knowledge together with specially created pieces to highlight the highs and lows of service life.
These tales can be enjoyed equally by those who have served and, those who have never donned a uniform.

Humour, fact, fiction, and fantasy are used to portray service in theatres as varied as Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Ancient Briton, the Persian Gulf, Africa, and elsewhere.

screenshotTom1ascreenshotTom1c.jpg

***

A Time for Courage: and other military stories

By Tom Benson

(Available as an eBook from Amazon – click on above title for link)

A Time for Courage - 2Of all the short story collections the author has written this is by far and away my favourite. Tom Benson has drawn on both his imagination and his considerable length of service to craft a poignant collection of short stories across a variety of military theatres. Unusually for a short story collection, not a single story here disappointed or fell even slightly below the high standard of every other.

Throughout this collection, Tom Benson has applied meticulous attention to authentic military detail but not to the point of overkill as to confuse the non-military reader. As anyone who has served will know, the army and other services practically speak another language with all the acronyms, slang and other assorted colourful phrases, but the author’s  clever use of dialogue and context give all the slang and military terminology clear and obvious meaning thus ensuring  the non-military is never left confused or wondering at certain words.

The opening story is a real ‘lump in the throat’ one of courage and self-sacrifice but it is immediately contrasted by the side-splittingly funny satire of the second, one that any military wife (or husband for that matter) will immediately identify with but its razor-sharp humour it cannot help but appeal to all. In the third, the author takes a somewhat personal trip down memory lane in a way that we can all relate to from some time in our lives when we were determined to prove our doubters wrong. Others in the collection highlight much of the military ethos of courage and protecting the weak and vulnerable but still providing the reader with a captivating story, and in the case of Photographic Memory, a real ‘punch the air feel good factor. In The Odd Couple we get a glimpse into some of the more covert activities of ‘The Toubles,’ bringing back painful memories for some of real events that mirror some aspects of the story. Another thing I liked about this collection was its sheer variety; from modern-day Afghanistan and  Northern Ireland right back to the 2nd Century, from Jungle warfare to covert missions in the desert, from the sadness of a family torn apart from being on opposite sites to the sort of comradeship that transcends family that can only be formed with those you would die for and they for you. One story that is particularly pertinent to modern times is that of Walking Wounded; with today’s modern medicine and better field facilities, many more servicemen and women are surviving the sort of injuries only a few decades ago would have spelt certain death. The downside to this, of course, is that we have a whole generation of soldiers returning from conflicts having to face and cope with life-changing disabilities, and it is easy to understand the increased cases of PTSD in many such people. In the Walking Wounded we see the beginnings of one such man’s journey in finding a reason to look to the future with some hope, and with an unusually heart-warming twist too.

In ‘The Afterlife’ the author once again uses mostly his personal experience to round off the collection, giving the reader some brief comparisons of his life since leaving the army with that of a younger man who has never served and through it we see just why so many ex-servicemen refer to themselves as such rather than simply accepting their post-service ‘civilian’ status.

Overall, a thoroughly entertaining collection that will not only entertain but give the non-military reader some rare insights into military service. For others, again it will entertain but also bring back memories, some good, others not so maybe, but if nothing else, for me personally they remind me how very much I have to be thankful for still being in a position to read such stories when so many others are not.

 

For further links to Tom’s many other books please visit his Amazon author page by clicking on the link below:

TBimage2A Time for Courage - 2

Tom Benson Amazon author page TomB1 

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Murderous Little Darlings – Book Review

Murderous Little Darlings is the first book by John Hennessey I’ve read and reviewed, another author from the IASD stable, but it certainly won’t be the last. I actually downloaded this little gem of a book on a whim when I saw a post in the IASD Fb group without even reading the Amazon freebie sample first… though the fact that the author had mentioned it was Free to download on kindle might have had something to do that considering I had already gone way over my monthly book buying budget! Having said that, I’ll be more than happy to pay for any future books I read from the is author.

hennessypicJohn Hennessy is the British author of paranormal fantasy horror for YA, psychological horror and murder mysteries, plus his own unique take on vampire lore. He has also written ghost stories and delved into high epic fantasy with a hint of romance.

A kung fu addict; he teaches martial arts full-time but writes at all other times, working on four series:- Dark Winter, Haunted Minds, Stormling and A Tale of Vampires.

When he doesn’t have a book in his hands, he likes to travel and see weird and wacky things. He admits to having an unhealthy addiction to Star Trek, Batman, Charmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to name but a few. He will also travel to reputed scary places in England, as he feels it makes his books more real.

John has an exclusive Readers Group where they can receive FREE Story Previews and Chapters from his books: available on his blog/website at: http://johnhennessybooks.blogspot.co.uk/

 

Amazon Blurb:

With two specimens of the undead on either side of her, Juliana knew there was no escape. Kill the one they had selected for her, or be killed, and become one of them. What had the neighbours in the road called them, back when their childhood pranks were just that?

Oh yes, she remembered now. Murderous Little Darlings. They had the faces of angels, but possessed the very soul of the Devil.

Marcus had fully embraced his vampire side from the moment he was born. Rocco was the second eldest, and had fought the temptation all of his life. Then Marcus finally broke him.

That just left Juliana. Will she resist them, or join in the hunt?

A vampire novella which is the first in a Tale of Vampires Series. In A Tale of Vampires, there will be seven short horror stories that can be read alone, but should really be read in order. Murderous Little Darlings could be considered a dark urban fantasy. When you’re finished reading this, go straight to The Blood and the Raven.

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Murderous Little Darlings

By John Hennessy

(Available from Amazon in eBook & paperback formats)

FREE on Kindle !!!

5Starscropped

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Pre-teen blood thirsty little monsters… or are they?, 24 Nov. 2015

hennessy9cI read this novella in under two hours but it was two hours of darkly humorous pure entertainment. I’m not really a fan of gory horror so a story involving vampires wouldn’t normally appeal but the humour and unusual scenario of triplet pre-teen vampires kept me hooked from beginning to end. For the real purist fans of the vampire genre expecting black cloaked Dracula like characters only coming out at night, avoiding crucifixes, and sizzling away at the touch of a drop of holy water, this might not be to their liking but if you enjoy your reading full of dark humour and the unexpected then this is definitely worth a go.

I particularly liked the line ‘Oh yes, she remembered now. Murderous Little Darlings. They had the faces of angels, but possessed the very soul of the Devil.’ I wasn’t sure at first if the three young siblings really were vampires or whether it was all just the over-active imagination of Marcus the eldest convincing the others of it. Whatever they are or turn out to be though, as the story progresses it becomes clear there is definitely something sinister and different about them. In terms of traditional vampire characters they defy all the usual traits and stereotypes but given their tender years and being ‘born’ of a vampire rather than ‘turned’ as it were, the reader can allow their own imagination to run wild with speculation. The indiscriminate violence along with the blood and gore was well handled without venturing into over elaboration of it – in fact it was well incporporated into the story when you consider Marcus’s extreme youth; it’s hard to conceive of such a young boy commiting gory acts of murder but Marcus knowing (or believing) himself to be a vampire with superhuman abilities but without all social constraints and discretion we learn as we get older, its easy to accept his violent behaviour, and the others too as they come round to his way of thinking. You do have to suspend disbelief at times but considering this is a tale of child vampires that’s hardly surprising; the siblings’ dialogue and manner of speaking is rarely what you would expect from youngsters but given their apparant vampire nature and existance the story remains entirely credible.

Just when you think you can see the direction the story is going or the end in sight, events take a totally unexpected and impossible to foresee turn. Were this a stand alone story I might have been a little disappointed, being left wanting to know more about these characters and perhaps their further developement and adventures. Thankfully this is just one of a whole series of related vampire tales, all of which will be going on my reading list for the future.

 

 

Further links to John Hennessy’s writing:

John Hennessy on Facebook:

https://twitter.com/_JohnHennessy

John Hennessy’s Amazon Author page:

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The John Hennessy collection: click on thumbnail for Amazon links:

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Cold Callers…

Preface:

 It’s funny, the little things that provide the inspiration for a story. In the following story, the seed of the idea started with a TV commercial featuring a woman in the kitchen receiving a phone call from a loft insulation salesman. She puts him on hold while she goes off to make a cup of coffee. It got me thinking of all the different ways to deal with cold callers…

 

 Cold Callers…

 

Time – 08:00: Here I am, Sunday morning, sitting at my keyboard, working on my blog. It’s another short story, not so much a whodunit as a whytheydunit.

The TV’s off, I’ve put my mobile on silent, logged off from Facebook, Twitter, and all the other social media, and locked the wife and kids in the cellar – well, not really, I made that last bit up, but you take my point.

I’m lost in my own little world, the only external contact being my fingers tapping away at the keyboard. The words are flowing, bringing the page alive before my very eyes, I couldn’t be happier… The last time I had a flow like this was a burst water pipe.

Disaster… The landline is ringing. I think for a moment to ignore it. Only my family and close friends know my home number; it might be important. Reluctantly I emerge from my other world…

“Yeah, who’s this?” I ask, making little effort to hide my annoyance at the interruption. If it’s anyone I know I can make my apologies later. If not, I don’t care…

“Is that Mr Brown?” The twat didn’t even have the courtesy to answer my question.

Who is it that’s asking?” I ask, again…

 “Oh I’m sorry, did I not say?”

“No.”

“Ah, okay, I’m sorry…” He’s lying; he’s not a bit sorry, obviously a salesman of some sort.

“So you said. Now, who are you?”

“Yes of course, my name’s Colin, Colin Smithers.” Smarmy git, he’s trying to control the exchange, like a chess player trying to dominate the middle of the board. Well, I’m not playing…

“What do you want?” I already know what he wants, a sales commission. He won’t be getting one, not from me…

“I’m calling on behalf of Snuggly loft insulation, and…”

“I live in an igloo! I’m not interested.” I say, slamming the phone down. I take a deep breath, just like my therapist advised.

Time – 08:35: I’m back at my keyboard. I can’t help wondering, if I can’t even get some peace and quiet in my own home to write, how the hell did JK Rowling manage it in a cafe? I put the thought from my mind as I resume the sentence I was writing. Now what was it, oh yes I remember, the outline of a murder plot, my fingers returning to the keyboard once more..

Dingggg Dongggg… It’s the front doorbell going…

“What the fuck now?” I mutter under my breath, once again having to tear myself away from my beloved keyboard…

“Yes?” I ask, throwing the door wide open. Standing before me are a man and a woman, of African origin I would say, wearing bright coloured clothing and with equally bright beaming white teethed smiles that would grace the covers of Dentistry Monthly

“We’re from the Holy Hackney Church of the Apostles…”

“And I’m from the Battersea Boy’s Home for waifs and strays, what of it?”

The beaming smiles momentarily wither beneath their puzzled frowns. But only for a moment; they’re trained you know, to deal with stroppy unbelievers. The greater the challenge the greater the reward in heaven, they think. I’m about to throw doubt on their hypothesis…

“Would you be interested in any of our leaflets on the life eternal…?”

I’m glad it’s the man who’s asking. I’m not sexist or ‘owt, but I do find it so much easier being rude and abrupt to another man. It’s a failing, I know; I’m sure if I was a woman I’d feel comfortable with either.

“Not in the slightest!” I reply, about to close the door on this interruption.

“You’re not a believer then my friend?” Asks the female half of the double act.

I feel my blood pressure rising, I take another deep breath, just as I’ve been told. My therapist is going to have to devise a more effective coping mechanism for me; this one is beginning to fail…

“Oh but I am,” I reply, treating them both to a broad smirk, “a fully paid up member of the Sun Worshiping Pagan Tree Hugging Society,  have you heard of us? No? …Thought not…”

It was amusing to see those ‘far too happy to be true’ smiles fall from their faces as they turned to walk away in sync with my closing the door on them. Another unwelcome interruption satisfyingly dispatched…

Time – 09:15: I’m back at my keyboard. A full stop concludes the sentence I was writing, and indeed the paragraph. It’s also the conclusion of my muse for the moment. My ‘flow’ has been become a trickle, and no, that’s not a reference to a prostate problem so please forgive the unfortunate analogy.

The brief satisfaction of my dismissal of the God botherers has worn off. I’m still annoyed at them, blaming them for my loss of focus. I sit staring at the screen, the words on the page a blur, my fingers seemingly paralysed. Another hour passes and still the words don’t come. I fill the following hour with all manner of meaningless tasks: tea making, email checks, Facebook updates, anything to fill the void until the words return. Nothing seems to work, I’m becoming jittery, like an ex-smoker in those first few days of giving up. The deep breathing exercises have lost all effect. I resolve to make another appointment with my therapist. I really should take one of my pills, but I don’t want to blur my imagination even more…I take one anyway.

My morose mood is punctured by the sound of the landline ringing, my second call of the day…

“Hello, is this Mr Brown?” A voice asks. With my mind and fingers still not communicating, this time it’s a welcome intrusion.

“Yes it is. Who’s calling please?”

“My name’s John Hargreaves. I’m calling on behalf of Winter Warm Windows about an exclusive offer we have for your area, Mr Brown.”

“Sorry, what was that name again…Har…Grove… was it? Could you spell that please?”

“Spell it..?” I can hear the frustration in his voice.

“Yes, that’s right, just so I know who I’m talking to…” It’s only fair; he already knows who I am…

“Errm… Yes, right then… H – A – R – G – R – E – A -V – E – S.”

“Thank you for that. And the name of your company? Was that Winter Warm or Warm Winter?”

“The first one, Winter Warm, but as I was saying…” The resignation in his voice is becoming more evident, I wonder if he has high blood pressure too?

“And is that all one word or two, or hyphenated maybe?”

“Oh, erm, two words, without a hyphen… But, what I wanted to…”

“Thank you for that John…I can call you John can I?” I’m enjoying this. Before he can answer I continue:

“Tell me John, what’s it like working for Winter Warm? Are they a good firm to work for, it’s just that I’m thinking of a career change  and  I quite like the idea of sitting round all day just talking to people…”

“It’s… a bit like that, but…” Again I cut him short…

“And the pay, would you say they pay well? It’s not one of those ‘commission only’ set ups is it? I would insist a on a decent basic salary as well, wouldn’t you agree…?”

Time to give him a moment to splutter some blurb about what it is he wants me to buy…

“Yes, the pay’s okay, and yes, there’s a basic salary, but what I was calling about was our special offer to customers in your area…”

“A special offer you say, how exciting.” I hope he recognizes the distain in my voice.

“Are you offering to double glaze my entire house for free then?” If he says yes I might even start taking this conversation seriously…

“Not free exactly, but we are offering a fifty per cent discount to the first twenty customers who sign up for six new windows.”

“That sounds good,” I lie, “and the payment, can I pay in instalments, would there be a deposit to pay first?”

“Yes, definitely, you can pay in instalments, with just a ten per cent deposit to pay first.”

“And the deposit, can I pay that in instalments too?”

“Well, not really, we do require the ten percent to paid before any commencement of work I’m afraid.”

“Oh,” I say, trying to sound disappointed.

“I’ll have to give it some thought then. Obviously before making any commitment I’ll need to take a few particulars about your company to verify its legitimacy, you don’t mind do you?”

“No, not at all,” he says, actually believing I’m genuinely interested now.

“First, could you give me the full postal code addresses of both your local and Head office premises, as well as that of any parent company, and of course their respective customer service and administration telephone numbers. I’ll also need your VAT and Company House registration numbers. I trust none of that will be a problem?”

“All the information you’ve asked for would be in the documentation we provide.”

He’s trying to maintain his composure and civility; sales calls are mostly recorded these days. I suspect this is being recorded too, for training and monitoring purposes, otherwise he would almost certainly have either put the phone down by now or bluntly asked if this was a piss take.

“I appreciate that, but I would still require it beforehand, for my checks you see. And another thing I forgot to ask, is it a new company, and who the directors are? You hear so many horror stories of rogue companies carrying out bad work, closing down, and then opening up again under a slightly different name… Your company isn’t one of those is it?”

There’s an uneasy pause before he answers:

“No, we’re not one of those companies,” he reassures me…

“I’m sure you’re not, but you do see I had to ask don’t you? It’s just that while we’ve been talking I’ve been googling your company. According to their entries your company was only formed six months ago, and it has… My gosh… Eighty seven consumer complaints against it and an honorary mention on both the Cowboy Builders and Consumer Watchdog TV programs…”

I wait in gleeful anticipation for his reply…. Oh dear, we seem to have been cut off, I conclude as the line goes dead. I’m so grateful for his call though, our little exchange has quite rejuvenated my creativity….

Time – 11:55: The words are flowing again, my mood lifted, and my blood pressure back down in the safe zone. Life is good again as I put together the final pieces of my literary jigsaw. The final dilemma was the method to be used for the actual murder committed by my principal character. I had been torn between a brutal bludgeoning or knife attack, and poisoning. The decision is clear to me now as the final scene comes alive on the page…

Dingggg Dongggg… The sound of the doorbell shatters the tranquillity, again…

 Deep breaths, in out, in out, fists clenching, blood pressure ready to explode again. I close my eyes in the hope that whoever it is will  go away…

Dingggg Dongggg… Why now? Sunday is supposed to be a day of peace and quiet…

They’re still there. I feel an anxiety attack coming on. I’ve not the time to take a pill or ring my therapist. Defeated, I rise from my desk to answer yet another intrusive call…

“Yes!” It’s not a question this time. The man standing before me grins like a Cheshire cat. He’s younger than me, mid-thirties I estimate. His suit is slightly ill-fitting. He’s gone for the executive look, but on a limited budget, it’s more dodgy second-hand car salesman.

“Hello, I’m Colin, Colin Smithers; we spoke on the phone earlier this morning. I think I may have caught you at an inconvenient moment at the time.”

My jaw drops in disbelief. The arrogance of this prick. Was I not blunt enough with him on the phone?

“What is it you want?” I’m bloody pissed; this really is taking cold calling to a whole new level. I’ve had enough. Well, I think my response will also have to be taken to a whole new level too…

“I think we may have gotten off to a bad start on the telephone earlier, and as I was in the area on another appointment I thought I might call on you personally to let you know about our limited time exclusive offer we are able to offer on account of a budget underspend last month.”

“Yes, perhaps I was a bit hasty this morning. Please come in…”

Time – 13:45: I’m back at my keyboard. I’ve just about finished my story. The murder scene came out better than I could ever have imagined, a gory brutal decapitation for dramatic effect…

 ********************

It just after 2:20pm when the armed response unit arrived at the house. Mr Brown was sitting at his desk, typing, covered in blood, muttering away to himself, something about ignoring anymore interruptions. He hadn’t even noticed when they came crashing through the door, armed to the teeth, screaming at him to drop to the floor. He just looked over his shoulder and calmly turned off his PC, and told them he was done now done and would be happy to oblige. It was the strangest call-out they’d ever had; the odd reports of a possible murder, the site of that severed head hanging from the external door knocker when they arrived and the make shift sign saying ‘NO COLD CALLERS’.

 *******************

One year later… Time – 08:00: It’s great here. I’ve got access to lots of PCs, and even one in my room. I no longer have to work, not if I don’t want to, so I’ve got all the time in the world for my writing. The doctors tell me I’ll be here for the next twenty years at least, even longer with a bit of luck, though I’ll have to play up a bit if I want an indefinite stay.

Now what was I writing, ah yes, a storyline for the murder of an annoying room-mate…

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