Welsh Wednesday Writing – ‘June In The Valley’ – Book & Poetry review.

library1Welcome to this, the first review/writing post of my newjune2 Welsh Wednesday writing series where each Wednesday I hope to be posting book/poetry reviews of Welsh authors, those authors living in or with a strong connection to Wales, or books that simply have an equally strong Welsh theme to them. In addition, I’ll also be posting information about Welsh writing groups, bookshops, and anything to do with Welsh literature whatever the genre be it fiction, history, travel, culture etc.welsh2

library2I’m proud to present here my review of a collection ofwelsh1 writing from the Tonypandy Writer’s Group, June In The Valley, a little gem of a book I discovered while searching for Welsh creative writing groups. It’s only available in print format but at only £3.00 it’s an absolute literary bargain … click title for Amazon link.

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June In The Valley

By

The Tonypandy Writer’s Group

 

timberwolfamazonA fine collection of poignant short stories & poetry from the Welsh valleys but with an appeal extending far beyond …

juneinthevalleyI discovered this little gem of a book whilst researching Welsh writing groups. Within its seventy pages, there are thirteen contributions of short stories and poetry.from various members of the Tonypandy writing group. Written to commemorate the group’s founder June Bacon, the book opens and touchingly closes with one of her stories, concluding a surprisingly fine collection of writing …

‘Plain Jane’ – a heartwarming ‘twist in the tale’ type story that puts you in mind of the ugly duckling discovering it’s a really a beautiful swan, and with a nice revelation at the end.

‘Where The Heart Is’ – a sort of mid-life crisis that turns into a heart-rending journey of self-discovery, a very powerful piece of writing.

‘A Story For June’ – A clever comic piece of people watching, a smartly dressed gorgeous woman being met at Cardiff station by … well, you’ll have to read it to find out …

‘The Bedroom’ – A short but moving tale of dying contentedly and how a brother and sister look back on and examine their own lives while dealing with their mother’s death, each in their own but very different ways.

‘My Hero – The Lamplighter’  – a short gentle poem quite literally almost ‘illuminating’ a bygone era, when a new invention was to change people’s lives. A youngster remembers such a time and how they watched in wonderment and a man making the streets safe for people, conjuring up images of dark Victorian nights.

‘The Sacrifice’ – Another ‘twist in the tale type story, this time with a bittersweet ending; a brutal snapshot of life in New York City, an incident that any of us could be witness to, compelling the reader to consider what they might do themselves in similar circumstances. Intertwined with the main story, we learn of a child’s confusion about the Sunday school version of god and the bible the literal reality of the Old Testament stories along with other memories that an unfolding drama conjures up in the child’s now adult’s mind.

‘The Curtains Are Closed’ – A prose style poem, simple and elegant, about a close-knit community showing their concern and respect when learning of the loss of one of their own.

‘Rhondda Past’ – a wistful trip down memory lane as an elderly resident of the Rhondda valley looks back to a time when it was a traditional mining community, and how things have changed since then, and not always for the better. Amid those changes are plans to close some of the writer’s beloved local libraries and it’s the proposed closures that bring back so many childhood memories.

‘Kindly’ – one of those stories that defy description, that you have to read for yourself to understand …

‘The Vicar’s Wife’ –   A truly bittersweet story of a wife jolted into doing something about her life and appearance, of wanting something from a life and marriage that has lost its magic.

‘The Mirror’ – Another trip down memory lane, this time a wistful poetic one as a middle-aged woman reflects on what the passing years have done to her once youthful body and looks, though ever mindful that like so many of us, inside she’s still the youth she once was …

‘Song Of My People’ – A poignant poem that takes the reader through the generations from great-grandfather down to father, and ultimately the son telling the tale of those gone before, determined to remember; the eager anticipation of a youngsters life ahead through to the realities of a miner’s life that bears much in common with the slaves of ancient Egypt, the realisation that men’s lives mean less than the profit that can be obtained from their labour and the further cold political reality that the way of life of entire communities can be discarded to make way for easier profit elsewhere.

‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses’ –  A spooky little story, shorter than most yet beautifully simple yet and everything a story of this type should be. I won’t say more as to do so would almost certainly give too much away. A super must-read for fans of the paranormal …

‘Till Death’ –  A touch of comic gallows humour in this short but sweet prose style poem, again too short to say too much without spoiling it but suffice to say, absolutely loved it!

‘The Box’ – As sentimental and beautiful a story you could hope read of a man’s remembrance of past happiness, again a short one but equally, just the perfect length it needs to be for the desired effect.

‘Breathtaking’ –  The perfect ‘twist in the tale’ short story, ‘ though given its short length it’s really more a flash fiction story, leading the reader in one direction only to throw them off course with all the force of a suddenly discovering you’ve had the map upside down the whole time and you’re in totally the wrong valley, another little gem and the perfect way to round off this excellent collection.

As well as appealing to residents of South Wales, I think anyone who lives in or appreciates growing up in a village or the countryside will find much to enjoy and identify with this in this lovely collection of short stories and poetry, or indeed just about anyone who simply enjoys thoroughly well crafted and entertaining creative writing.

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The Tonypandy Writer’s Group meets every other Wednesday at:

Tonypandy Library, 21 De Winton St, Tonypandy CF40 2RA

 

* And in the words of the group itself, if you would like to join just call in and inquire at the desk. In the spirit of June (the late founder of the group) you will be guaranteed a warm welcome and a cup of coffee courtesy of Debie and the staff …

 

 

A Triple Treat for Halloween …

IASDpicWell okay, I know we’re another nine months off from Halloween but hey, give it another couple of months and we’ll be seeing all the usual adverts for Christmas and whatnot. It’s with great pleasure I present my review of IASD member Lacey Lane’s 2nd book in her Halloween Pumpkin Horror short story series and another of her short story collections, The Little Book of Horrors (and for those of you that missed the first one of the Pumpkin series I’ve included my review of Book One of that as well).

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The Revenge of the Pumpkins  – Amazon Blurb:

It’s Halloween and the Smith family are having fun carving pumpkins. As the witching hour arrives and the pumpkins come to life will the Smith family live to regret the monsters they created?
Find out what happens when the pumpkins come to life and take their revenge…

 

The Revenge of the Pumpkins

timberwolfamazonA tiny tale of sheer horror genius!

Lacey5Anyone looking for a gory Halloween story for kids, say twelve or thirteen upwards need look no further than Lacey Lane’s The Revenge of the Pumpkins; we all know what happens on Halloween, or at least we think we do, when little boys and girls dress up for trick or treating, or carve shapes and faces in to unsuspecting pumpkins, and in that respect the story here is no different, or at least to begin with – what starts off as a fun filled day for the Smith family, dressing up, and indeed, carving their pumpkins in preparation for Halloween night, quickly descends into a scene right out of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

What Lacey Lane has done with a seemingly harmless tradition, but which actually has its origins in ancient Celtic tradition when spirits and ghouls supposedly come back to haunt and cause mischief, is nothing less than sheer genius. The start of the story could easily be that of any traditional children’s story or perhaps a Roald Dahl tale, but it very soon takes a giant step into the much darker world of bloody and psychological horror – this is most definitely not a ‘young’ child’s bedtime story. Within this tiny tale of horror and revenge, and I say tiny because this really is little more than a ten-minute read, the author has managed to take a traditional story format and turn it on its head; the combination of seeming innocence and normality with incredulous horror is done to perfection. Without giving any of the plot away, all I would say is never underestimate or take for granted the power of a child’s imagination.

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The Return of the PumpkinsAmazon Blurb:

Peter Smith is a patient at West Hills hospital. He has been there for nearly a decade. At the age of thirteen, his parents were brutally murdered and Peter was tortured to near death by his Halloween pumpkins. Killer pumpkins haunt his dreams and his doctor thinks he’s delusional. Determined to turn his life around, he has eventually decided to join in with the Halloween festivities in the hospital and carves his first pumpkin. Will Peter survive the tenth anniversary of his parents’ death? Or will his pumpkin be the death of him?

 

The Return of the Pumpkins

timberwolfamazonAnother delicious slice of horror filled pumpkin flavoured terror

Lacey4A dramatic and scary flashback to the first book provides the perfect springboard opening for Return of the Pumpkins. This sequel is much longer and is more of a psychological horror story than its predecessor; set ten years after his first bloody encounter with the demonic knife-wielding pumpkins, Peter is now a patient in a psychiatric ward being treated for the trauma he suffered many years before. Needless to say, the doctors believe Peter’s stories about killer pumpkins being responsible for the brutal murder of his parents and he himself nearly dying in a fire to be his mind’s way of dealing with whatever happened – Peter’s far from sure of that though and still harbours very real fears of Halloween and any thought of pumpkins.

The hospital setting alone conjures up a mental image of an asylum and helps add to the increasingly sinister tone of the story, the classic scenario of being normal while everyone around you are the insane ones; added to the mix we have some less than sympathetic hospital staff and a downright creepy doctor. Fortunately for Peter, he finds an ally in fellow patient Sue, who seems determined to befriend and help him deal with  his traumatic past. With her help, Peter develops a new sense of confidence and hope for the future, but as in any good story, events take a different direction, placing the two of them in the gravest danger, leading Peter to believe the murderous knife-wielding pumpkins are indeed real and not just the delusional creations of his imagination. How Peter and Sue face that danger provides a clever and frightening climax whilst leaving sufficient scope for another instalment to the series should the author decide to write one, which I hope she does.

With just a couple of characters it would have been easy for the author to write this story from a first-person point of view to really get inside the main character’s mind but somehow manages to achieve the same result with a third person perspective, an excellent balance between narrative and just the right level of dialogue and action.

As a psychological short horror story, this (and its predecessor) really is as good as they come, a story that would stand out as a classic Hammer House of Horror episode if it were ever adapted for film/tv – impossible for me to praise this story more highly!

 

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The Little Book of HorrorsAmazon Blurb:

A deliciously wicked treat, no holds barred horror served up bloody with a side dish of sex. The Little Book of Horrors is macabre, disturbing, viciously satisfying and definitely not for the squeamish.

 

The Little Book of Horrors

WPscreenshotAdult horror in every sense of the word, three bite-sized helpings of horror. 

Lacey3Another quick read from this extremely talented horror author, this time a trilogy of blood and gore filled tales encompassing a mix of karmic justice for someone most deserving of it, a blood and lust fuelled sexy vamp encounter that you probably wouldn’t want to have, depending which side of the encounter you were on of course, and finally a mix of all three in the last tale of poetic justice.

The author has blended horror and a touch of erotica to produce three entertaining horror tales. I must admit to finding the first story a tad obvious but still enjoyable to read nonetheless. The two remaining stories were definitely more to my taste and in each case held my attention from beginning to end. I enjoyed the way the author combined an erotic setting and situation with a violent and bloody conclusion, and then in the final tale, my favourite I might add, again it was a relatively simple story and a tad predictable in where it was headed but it was told in such a way to keep you guessing just how it would actually unfold. Once again, enough horror here to keep any devoted fan of the genre more than happy.

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More about the author:

Lacey Lane was born in the UK and as a child loved writing stories. At the age of 31 she decided to rekindle her passion for writing.

Her debut ebook The Revenge of the Pumpkins was first published in October 2014. Since then she has published five more books. With the current exception of Revenge of the Pumpkins, all Lacey Lane’s books are available in both Ebook and paperback formats.

Lacey’s other passions include reading and gardening along with being an avid reader and book reviewer. For further info please links below:

@LaceyLaneAuthor
www.facebook.com/laceylaneauthor

Lacey Lane IASD entry

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&

Lacey Lane’s Amazon Author page for all the author’s books …

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Book Review – The Oscar Dossier

IASDpicThis is the third review of one of Lesley Hayes’ books I’ve written (I’ve still got a few more to be written up). I first encountered Lesley via a chance post on Twitter of all places and from that, I was intrigued enough to take a look at her website and then one of her books, and since then I’ve been a fan. Most members of the IASD will already be familiar with some of her books, but for others, if you’re not I highly recommend you give one of .. Click above for website them a go to see for yourself. 

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Lesley Hayes on the IASD

Amazon Description:

Who exactly is Oscar? He seems to be one thing for one person and something quite different for another. Is he a brilliant artistic genius or a mad, lovesick fool? And the women into whose lives he sweeps with his wild Genghis Khan looks and his courtly passion each have their own tales to tell. Be beguiled along with them as you enter the slightly surreal world they inhabit. And watch out for the Polish ranting parrot – he spits. 

This delightful collection of four interlinked stories will amuse and intrigue you, and leave you wanting more. Luckily, Lesley Hayes has provided them. Two other collections are here on Kindle, and more are yet to come.

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The Oscar Dossier

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timberwolfamazonBoth funny and sad, beautifully written, totally enchanting… loved it!

These four short stories each look at the seemingly eccentric and enigmatic Oscar and the different women in his life, and of course a foul-mouthed Polish speaking parrot. Oscar is one of those larger than life characters, hugely talented and yet flawed in equal measure. There is a certain type of woman he is attracted to yet he seems blind to the love an altogether different woman has for him. The opening story introduces us to Oscar and his longtime friend, Lily. For some reason, these two names immediately put me in mind of the relationship between Oscar Wild and Lilly Langtry, and oddly enough there are some similarities between our characters here and their more famous namesakes. Each story effortlessly connects with the next, first introducing us to Oscar himself and then exploring the characters and stories of the women in his life, all intertwined with that of Oscar; how a foul-mouthed parrot fits into the grand scheme of things is best left for the reader to discover for themselves.

What we have in these four short stories is a beautifully written peek into the lives of a small clutch of captivating characters, brought alive by the fascination surrounding Oscar. The author skillfully plays with and switches the time frame from the present to the past and then a little into the future from the time of the initial story. Even though the stories are interconnected, there’s not so much an overall story as such but more a series of episodes that provide the reader with a lovely look into a part of Oscar’s life. It’s a present-day setting but the writing has a period, almost timeless quality to it. Within this book’s short length there is humour, sadness, perhaps a little albeit justified bitterness, and – on more than one occasion – unrequited love. There’s also perhaps a hint that the author knew such a character herself once, or at least someone on whom Oscar might be based. At just under an hour or so’s read, these four enchanting stories will immerse you in a world of literary imagination. I do so hope we get to meet Oscar again in other stories, though if not he’s certainly a character I will remember with a smile.

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* Once again as has recently been the case with other books I’ve read, I’m not sure the cover connects with the story; yes, the cover here might loosely reflect the written description but personally I don’t think it reflects Oscar’s character, looking more like some ‘hoodie’ wearing juvenile than the fascinating larger than life persona that comes across in the book. 

 

More about the Author:

lesley2Lesley Hayes lives in Oxford, where she gains much of the inspiration for her writing. She had numerous short stories and one novel published prior to training as a psychotherapist, and for two years had a weekly slot on BBC Radio Oxford reading her short stories. During the past seven years she has surrendered to the compelling urge to write fiction again, and has now published six novels: ‘The Drowned Phoenician Sailor’, ‘A Field Beyond Time’, ‘Round Robin’, ‘Dangerous People’, ‘The Other Twin’, and ‘The Girl He Left Behind’. All are available in paperback and on Kindle. She has also published four collections of short stories on Kindle: ‘Oxford Marmalade’, ‘The Oscar Dossier’, ‘Without a Safety Net’, and the aptly named ‘Not Like Other People’ – the last two are available in paperback in a collated version titled ‘Through a Glass Darkly’. You can find out more about her on her website, blog, and on social media:

www.lesleyhayes.co.uk

www.blog.lesleyhayes.co.uk

@hayes_lesley

Fb author page

See Lesley Hayes’ Amazon Author page for all the author’s books.

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2 Short Story Reviews – The Consuming & Survival by Rhonda Hopkins

 

 

IASDBanner4

IASDpicHere are my reviews of two short stories written by Rhonda Hopkins, an avid reader and prolific reviewer as well as being a valued IASD member and contributor. Having already read and enjoyed ‘The Consuming’ I knew  I was on safe ground taking advantage of the free download of ‘Survival’ (though it has now reverted to its original price. Having said that, both are free to read if you have Kindle Unlimited).

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Amazon Description: Survival: Survival Series Prequel

When Sarah escapes from her brutal abductors, she promises to return to rescue her twin sister, but with the walking dead invading Fort Worth, TX, she is forced to rely on a competitive coworker who made her work life hell for years. With her coworker weakened by cancer treatments, her sister still imprisoned, and zombies looking for an easy meal, Sarah’s only plan, if she can pull it off, is Survival.

SURVIVAL is a 14,000 word (approx. 45 pages) short story and was originally published in the Let’s Scare Cancer to Death anthology.

 

Survival: survival series prequel

timberwolfamazonA great start to what could well develop into a gripping ongoing series …

Rhonda2I haven’t read all that much in the Zombie genre so I can’t say how this compares with similarly themed stories but it certainly sets off at a cracking pace with the fight for survival starting right from the opening sentence almost; it was a nice touch that the initial ‘survival’ efforts were quite unrelated to the Zombie apocalypse occurring. It’s probably premature to make comparisons but the opening scene could easily be one straight out of the hit tv series ‘The Walking Dead,’ though the cover does invite such comparisons, which given its current popularity, I’m not sure is such a good thing.

Although it would read quite well as a stand-alone story, I’m glad the author indicates there will be future instalments thus hopefully allowing the reader to explore the characters in greater depth. It’s impossible to tell what direction the story will take in the future but the story has been written in such a way as to leave open all manner of possibilities and a yearning to know the hows and whys of the current situation the characters have found themselves plunged into.

 

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Amazon Description: The Consuming

Serena knows her late uncle wasn’t crazy. So when she inherits his sprawling Carolina mansion and leaves the big city to restore both his home and his name, she uncovers a mystery that could cost much more than her sanity. As the house slowly reveals its dark secrets, and the extent of her peril becomes evident, she’ll settle for escaping with her life—if it isn’t already too late.

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The Consuming: A short story

WPscreenshotA classic ‘haunted house’ tale of long-dead restless family spirits … 

Rhonda1A supposedly haunted dilapidated old house you’ve just inherited, the sudden death of an uncle you haven’t seen since childhood, rumours of madness, the locals refusing to go near the place, and a psychic best friend who warns you not to go near the place … It’s hard to say too much about a short story without giving too much away but here we have all the ingredients of a spooky little ghost story, the sort that would make for a great episode of Hammer’s House of Horror. I liked the author’s style of writing, hints of a modern Edgar Allen Poe but obviously more current and without overdoing the gothic atmosphere, striking just the right balance at the beginning between outward normality while feeling and knowing something’s not quite right. Sometimes a short story will leave too many unanswered questions but in one such as this, a bit of mystery left to the imagination just adds to its enjoyment.

Taking just under an hour to read, this is the perfect story if you like a little mystery and the supernatural in your reading but aren’t in the mood to take on the challenge of a full-length novel. Personally, I would have preferred this to be a little longer, perhaps with more involvement of the psychic friend but overall a fine short story that horror fans will appreciate.

Peer reviews: 

 “The Consuming by Rhonda Hopkins is the literary version of what films like Paranormal Activity tried to be. This has the bumps in the night flying off the page.”  ~~  TW Brown, Author of the Dead, and the Zomblog series.

“The Consuming is a wonderful, chilling tale that leaves you listening too hard in the quiet of a dark night, and jumping at shadows in mirrors. Definitely looking forward to more from Ms. Hopkins.” ~~ Stacey Joy Netzel, USA Today Bestselling author of Beneath Still Waters and Lost in Italy.

“The Consuming by Rhonda Hopkins is the perfect example of gothic horror…” ~~ Jennette Marie Powell, Author of Hangar 18: Legacy and the Saturn Society series.

“…Rhonda Hopkins’ The Consuming had me turning on all the lights in the house and checking behind doors.” ~~ Stacy Green, Author of Into the Dark and Tin God (A Delta Crossroads Mystery).

“…This tale will give you shivers up your spine, make you take second glances in mirrors…Superb!” ~~ Penelope Anne Bartotto, The Library at the End of the Universe.

More about the author:

Rhonda4Award-winning romantic suspense and horror author, Rhonda Hopkins, has learned firsthand that truth is stranger than fiction. Her two decades of experience as an investigator for her state and family courts give her characters a depth and realism that gives truth a run for its money. In addition to stories published under her own name, Rhonda Hopkins has also contributed stories to a number of other multi-author IASDpicanthologies. You can find out more about Rhonda at:

www.rhondahopkins.com.

@Rhonda_Hopkins

On Fb – Author page

 

 

See also Rhonds Hopkins’ Amazon Author page for all the author’s books

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Book Review – The Crime Writer’s Casebook

IASDpicNothing to do with the IASD this time, but something that might well be of use/help to our members as well as all Indie writers who write Crime  & Detective, ‘Whodunnits,’ or anything really that’s likely to feature a police presence at some point. Given that my own writing doesn’t require a comprehensive knowledge of police procedures (at least not yet) it’s difficult for me to write this review with any real authority so I’d be interested to hear from or see some reviews from those who actually write in the genre. I would say though from the information publically available about the authors, both appear eminently well qualified to collaborate on such a book.

As I stress in the main review, this book is written from a UK perspective with primarily the UK market in mind which is why I won’t be posting the said review on the .com site. 

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Amazon Description: 

For anyone interested in writing or reading crime, whether historical or modern day, this book is an essential reference companion.

In addition to detailed information on police and criminal procedures, the book features true crime case studies from two leading experts in their field.

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The Crime Writer’s Casebook  

A Reference Guide to Police Investigation Past and Present

By 

Stephen Wade & Stuart Gibbon

casebook

timberwolfamazonAn essential ‘turn to’ resource to be kept at the Crime & Detective author’s side – excellent writer’s reference book.

It took me a little longer to read this than I thought but it was well worth the effort. The first thing to stress is that this book is written from a UK perspective so isn’t likely to be of too much use to anyone writing the next Sam Spade or Columbo type book. I was afraid that it might read like a dusty old academic lawbook, the sort Judges keep by the side but thankfully that’s not the case; divided into fourteen easily digestible chapters, each divided under various useful sub-headings this book packs a lot of comprehensive but relatively easy to understand information.

Given the popularity of Murder Whodunnit type Mysteries, I was pleased to see the first chapter is an examination of the Murder victim and Scene of Crime, especially since that’s often the starting point for many a great story.

This book won’t tell you exactly what or how to write or give you formulaic step by step instructions on how to deal with police methodology in your story but what it does do, and really well I might say is provide lots of guidance on many of the essential elements to think about in any given scrime scenario, little areas of detail such as all the different experts that might be called to assist in an investigation that could easily be overlooked (or not even thought of by the writer), and of course accurate terminology and a general outline of police procedure. Throughout the book, the authors provide relevant case studies to accompany and illustrate their own thoughts and narrative, enabling the prospective Crime/Detective writer to craft an authentic story either now or at any time in the past, and for anyone writing in the Victorian era there’s an interesting account in chapter 14 ‘A Victorian Policeman’s Lot’ of policing and the resources available at the time as well as lots of miscellaneous but invaluable detail to give authenticity to a story set in that era.

As well as the fourteen specific chapters outlining everything from the initial crime/murder scene and investigative processes through to the many lines of enquiry and tools at the Detective’s disposal there follows an excellent reference section, also divided under various useful sub-headings, and again for the more ‘historical’ writer, an A-Z of Legal terms for historical fiction reference.

I would also say the book is well laid out and easy on the eye in its presentation, something that’s rarely an issue in regular fiction but for a reference book, such details can often mean the difference between a dull and laborious book and one that is kept as an essential research aid. Related to what I’ve just said, whilst I am happy to read regular fiction on my Kindle when it comes to reference books, especially ones for writing that are likely to get a lot of use I find having a physical copy to hand far more useful than having to mess about with an E-reader. In this particular case, given that the difference in price between the eBook and paperback is less than five pounds I would highly recommend the paperback version.

 

 More about the authors:

casebook5StuartStuart Gibbon: Stuart Gibbon is well qualified to collaborate on a book such as this having served over years as a policeman, many of those years as a Detective. During that time he has been centrally involved in the investigative processes of numerous categories of crimes including rape, serious assault and robbery, eventually qualifying as a Senior Investigation Officer in a number of Murder cases. On the writing businessman with magnifying glassside, he now acts as a writing consultant, including to the to the Crime Writers Association, advising authors on police procedure and investigation to ensure authentic accuracy in their portrayal of such things. Additional information about Stuart Gibbon’s life and career can be found in the book’s introduction.

www.gibconsultancy.co.uk/

 

casebook6Steven Wade: Stephen Wade was born in Leeds and educated at the universities of Wales and Leeds. He taught in further and higher education for many years, and this was followed by six years as a writer working in prisons.  He also lectures part-time at the University of Hull. Having written over fifty books, mainly in non-fiction, Stephen Wade is equally well qualified to collaborate on such a book. Over the years he has become a specialist in crime history and biography. Again, much more additional information about Stephen Wade can be found in the opening introduction

http://www.stephen-wade.com/

See Stephen Wade’s Amazon author page for his full catalogue of work …

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Book Review – Summer Day

 

I would have been inclined to say ‘Summer Day’ was a bit out of my regular reading comfort zone but as I’m discovering, even from within the IASD writing group of which I’m proud to be a member, there’s enjoyment to be had from almost any genre, you just have to find the right book …

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When it comes to the term ‘literary’ there are a few names that spring to mind but having read ‘Summer Day,’ the name Frank Parker can now be added to that list’

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Amazon Description:

Bess, a Welsh Collie sheepdog, is old and ailing. Jack, her owner, has decided it is time to put her down. His young son, Henry, tries to prevent this, causing Jack’s gun to go off injuring Jack. Believing he is responsible for his father’s death, Henry runs away, taking Bess with him. Will this summer day be the last of Bess’s life? Or of Henry’s? Set on a Welsh Border hill farm in 1947, a time and place lacking land-line phones, let alone broadband, the story follows Henry’s desperate attempts to evade capture, and the amateurish efforts of family and neighbours to find him and explain that his father’s injuries are not life-threatening and no-one holds him responsible. Each member of the family has his or her own fears for the future and these influence their behaviour throughout the long sultry day as storm clouds gather. Henry’s older brother, Cecil, wants to have a bigger say in the running of the farm, his mother and his sister, Margery, are preoccupied with planning her forthcoming marriage. His aunts, too, have problems that demand attention. Assorted professionals have their own distorted view of the family and of Henry: the family Doctor, the district nurse, the vicar, the school teacher. Henry, meanwhile, faces an escalating series of setbacks and injuries which lead him to make a near-fatal decision.

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Summer Day

By Frank Parker

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timberwolfamazonA charming and delightful village drama, as fine & enjoyable a book as I’ve read all year …

An expertly crafted village drama, Frank Parker’s ‘Summer Day’ is a charming and delightfully written snapshot of postwar Britain among the rural villages and farming communities in and around the Herefordshire border between England and Wales. Part of this snapshot brings alive the huge social changes that were taking place at the time: the newly elected Labour government’s raising of the school leaving age and the effect that had on local communities where a youngster’s life was pretty much already pre-determined, the changing and conflicting social attitudes of the time, and even a reference to to the spread of mains electricity. Getting back to the main story though, right from the start the reader is drawn into an intense scenario, rewarded by an unexpected and what ‘appears’ to be, a climactic and tragic ending to the first chapter. What follows are the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the events of that short opening chapter, in which the truth gradually emerges surrounding an accident and tragic misunderstanding, during which neighbours and family pull together in the search for Henry, a young boy widely regarded by locals as ‘not quite right in the head.’ Secondary to the main story we learn that there is much more to Henry than most people, even his parents, give him credit for.

Throughout the story we are introduced and return to a variety of characters ranging from the ageing but dedicated village vicar who refuses to give up riding his bicycle, a District Nurse who has helped bring most of the local youth into the world including Henry, and who provides some insight into why Henry is the way he is, and an opinionated Headteacher stuck in his ways to name but a few. Others include Henry’s parents and other family members followed by an assortment of friends and neighbours; often when an author introduces a large number of characters it can become confusing, with the peripheral characters coming across as a bit one-dimensional, but the author has skilfully breathed life and substance into every last one, each by way of their own story and circumstances playing their part in the bigger picture and driving the story forward, and although I was completely hooked on the unfolding drama of the search for Henry, part of what really brought this story to life were these other character’s backdrop stories, many of which could feasibly warrent a book or short story in their own right.

Elements of the characters, the vivid depictions of rural everyday life, and the time period put me in mind of Laurie Lee’s ‘Cider with Rosie.’ Sadly books such as this don’t appear as often as they once did, possibly because of the passage of time and the  inevitably diminishing pool of writers with sufficient personal experience to draw on.

An unexpected literary gem and as fine and enjoyable a book as I’ve read all year.

***

* Quite separate from the above review as it’s really nothing to do with the story and quality of the writing, I have only two minor concerns about this book. One, that I’m not overly keen on the cover; even though the story is reflective of a past era, I don’t believe the dated look of the cover really does the story justice (just my opinion). My second concern is the Amazon description – whilst I think a good book blurb is essential, this particular one I think gives a little too much away, the sort of description that if a review were to reveal the same level of detail (if it hadn’t already been revealed in the blurb might) might well be termed as being full of spoilers … other than these minor asides, a superb story impossible to find fault with.

 

More about the author:

Frank is a retired Engineer. He spent most of his working life in England where he was employed by UK based multi-national companies. He always wanted to write but has only found the freedom to do so since retiring to Ireland in October 2006. He lives with Freda, his wife since 1963, in Stradbally, County Laois. In addition to the above, Frank Parker is an active and valued contributor to the IASD FB group.                                  ( see also: http://www.indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.com )

***

Frank Parker Fb author page

www.franklparker.com

@fparkerswords

 

See Frank Parker’s Amazon Author page for the author’s full catalogue of work

FP2

……..FP3FPlast

 

 

Short Story – Digital Escape

 

 

digitalescapeBack in 2015 I was delighted to write and contribute aIASDpic ‘guest’ story to a forthcoming Sci-fi anthology by one of my favourite authors, Tom Benson. It was only after accepting said Tom Benson’s invite in our IASD writing group (without hesitation I might add) I began to wonder just what I had let myself in for, given that I had never before written anything even remotely Sci-fi related. With that in mind I set about crafting something in the genre, but adding just a hint of the sort of dark humour I feel most comfortable with and taking the opportunity to poke a little fun at Amazon and Facebook to boot. In December of 2015 I saw my story appear in all its glory in The Welcome by Tom Benson, and I’m delighted to say I don’t think it turned out too bad, even achieving not one but two accolades among the reviews …

 WPscreenshot An interesting read.    “… My favourte story, was “Digital Escape” by guest author Paul A Ruddock. I can imagine technology advancing in the same way that has been described in this story. It certainly would be scary if this happened. The ending to this story is very clever…”

timberwolfamazonGlad I Found This One. ” … The Best In Shorts Award – Paul Ruddock for ‘Digital Escape’. Absolutely loved it! … ”

… I hope you enjoy …

***

Tom Benson’s The Welcome

tb1

featuring

Digital Escape

By

Paul A. Ruddock

 

2215 AD

Digital escape, a short story by Dave Brown had been available for download for over 100 years, though it was only in the last 10 years the title had been available for neural interfacing. Michael Wright liked the look of it, intrigued by a storyline from so long ago could so accurately mirror the reading technologies of the present.

He might have enjoyed it too if he’d had more faith in the latest neural-interfacing technology, namely the neural implants that made the reading experience a more seamless one. But no, Michael preferred the tried and tested writst-worn e-Reading devices; no way was he going to risk his extended life-span with a neural-interface brain implant.

A quick tap of the wrist and Michael was in a world of imagination made real. Having read the reviews, he was anticipating an interesting and educational experience. Something didn’t feel right though.

He’d expected to be experiencing the story from the perspective of the main character, a story-hopping psychopath. Instead, he found himself in a long-forgotten profession, behind a shop counter serving a customer. He was confused at this unexpected role, and never having handled money before, he was even more confused.

The customer looked agitated with him, and Michael started to feel afraid. Apart from the hands around his neck it was the last thing he would ever feel …

***

Due to diminishing attention spans of the public and the abolition of crime, older stories featuring the darker side of human nature had become popular. So too had many other genres, simply for the quality and originality of the writing.

The automated content generators. Although powered by tens of billions of the most advanced analytical algorithms and capable of churning out thousands of new books each day, had never really fulfilled the potential hoped for by their designers – Flawless grammar, formulaic plots, and perfect sentence structure made for poor and lifeless writing, which was why so many centuries-old stories had been digitally resurrected.

***

Literature had come along way from those primitive days of the printed page and eBook readers. No longer did the public have the tedium of exercising their imagination, flipping book pages, or scrolling their electronic counterparts, although e-Reading devices had become the new way of reading in the 21st century.

Within 100 years of the first e-Reader, the world had become a sterile and colourless place. Little was left for nurturing the creative imagination, the very thing needed to compete with the automated production lines of CGI generated visual media.

It had become the norm to use mindless entertainment, requiring no more effort from its audience other than to click the ‘pay to watch’ holographic screen tabs. But the Interplanetary Products and Entertainments Corporation (IPEC) – more commonly referred to as The Mighty Zon, was not about to concede its cash-cow without a fight, and losing what had previously been a very profitable source of income.

The latest e-Read Intelligence devices (EI’s from The Mighty Zon’s e-Read Artificial Intelligence Division), allowed readers to connect neurally with books.

The system was similar to the ancient Virtual Reality game playing, but a thousand times more sophisticated and minus the nuisance of all the necessary physical accessories. In use, the EI devices allowed the author or reader’s imaginations to interpret and become involved in the world in which the story takes place. It also caused the demise of movie entertainment.

***

Dave Brown, the acclaimed author and pioneer of ‘active plot’ had been dead a long time. His full name was David Bolingbrook Brown, but when he gained celebrity status he preferred being referred to as Mr Brown. Prior to his death, he resented being told his theories were wrong.

It is perhaps not hard to imagine his surprise at once again feeling the familiar tingle of apprehension and excitement prior to snuffing out the life of someone for whom he’d taken a particular dislike, but something felt different this time.

Everything about him looked fuzzy and disjointed, like a bad copy of the worst pirate copy of an old video film. Just as bizarre was his mind. He knew who he was, and his memories were fully intact, but some of the detail was more like having read about himself as a person, a character in his own right.

Conceiving himself as being the person he was would have made sense, but remembering how he died – how could he know such a thing? That was the problem. He remembered how he died, but not in the same way as having read about it.

Anyway, such thoughts were temporarily put aside while he turned his attention to the matter in hand – the obnoxious shop assistant who’d failed to offer a grovelling apology for short-changing him by 23 pence.

Choking the shop assistant came naturally. It was immediately afterwards when Michael Wright was slumped across the counter, that Mr Brown noticed something odd … an electronic wrist attachment. It looked out of place in this artificial world, like seeing a digital watch in a period drama.

“Hmm, what have we here I wonder?” Mr Brown mused aloud. Instinctively he knew the odd-looking device had something to do with his newfound consciousness, so he carefully removed it and placed it on his own wrist. It took a few seconds for the EI sensors to interface with his nervous system.

Of course, Mr Brown wasn’t to know that these external devices weren’t as quick as the implant versions, but once device and wearer were synchronised and calibrated for interactive use, the wearer’s mind became flooded with the billions of titles available just two writ-taps away.

In Mr Brown’s case, he also became aware of what happened in the past.

***

“There’s been another one, Chief, another random victim and no sign of how the behavioural deviant accomplished their egress.”

“No, I don’t believe that,” Chief Regular Investigator Hilary Jackson snapped in reply, adding. “While we’re at it, Lester, please drop the official speak. Whoever’s done this is a murderer … and they escaped, plain and simple.” She allowed her words to sink in before continuing: “I’m sure these aren’t just random victims as you put it, there must be a connection, we just can’t see it yet.”

Hilary Jackson was an enigma in the Ministry of Surveillance and Investigation. She was an individual whose imagination and ability to think outside the empiric mind-set boundaries of her colleagues set her apart. Much to the annoyance of CRI Jackson’s superiors, she had the attitude and used the methods of generations long past, but she got results.

“I want to see the scene of crime, “ CRI Jackson declared, before adding disdainfully, “… before the clean-up squad completely sanitise everything.”

“But why?” asked regular investigator RI Lester Horton. “The SOC officers have taken all the sensor and surveillance readings available?” Horton protested. He lacked enthusiasm at the prospect of being in the physical presence of an actual corpse. In Horton’s opinion, that particular duty was best left to the ‘lower’ genetic work grades.

***

The sight of a dead body under the age of at least 150 years old was new to them both, but seeing one belonging to a man clearly in the prime of life was beyond the experience of anyone in the developed world. This had been the case for more than a century.

“There’s no sign of anyone else being here, just the life-drained victim lying slumped in the hover chair.” RI Horton casually remarked. He was trying hard, but failing dismally to hide his revulsion at being so close to a dead body.

“And no sign of a struggle either,” CRI Jackson said, “Just bruising around the neck.”

“Not the case,” RI Horton said, “according to the Central Health and Monitoring Centre, the victim’s life-light flickered for several seconds and then went out like it had just been switched off.”

The CRI looked in Horton’s direction with a blank expression.

Horton continued. “ The behavioural … I’m sorry, I mean the murderer … has left no sign or footage of making their egre-, I mean escape. There is no trace of their presence after.”

It was this last aspect of what had happened that most troubled the investigators. In a world where advanced technology and surveillance of every kind had made any type of deliberate crime a thing of the distant past, what they had encountered was quite impossible.

There were 1000 nano-cams for every man, woman, and child on the planet, so for anyone hoping to evade capture and justice, it was simply no longer possible. It was widely regarded as unthinkable to even try.

The ’whys and wherefores’ of a crime were no longer important to most investigators. They were only interested in the apprehension and punishment of the perpetrators. To CRI Jackson such attitudes and disinterest in the means and motivation behind a crime were a constant frustration. Equally frustrating was the lack of any additional evidence or clues to what was behind the recent spate of murders … She refused to treat them simply as unexplained deaths.

***

Since putting on the wrist version of an EI brain implant, Mr Brown’s world changed, frequently and quite literally. From the moment he discovered he could hop back and forth between countless imaginary worlds, which was something the EI was never originally designed for, Mr Brown exploited the unintended feature to the full.

Mr Brown had always fancied himself as a master criminal, preferably one with a few homicidal tendencies. The Thomas Harris novel he was currently immersed in was just the ticket. In true Hannibal Lecter style, he slowly choked the life out of his latest victim and was looking forward to making a stew from their soon-to-be dismembered body parts.

How disappointing it was when he awoke to find himself in a prison cell, having been denied his pleasure. His mind was a complete blank from the moment after he had stifled the last gasps of breath of the man he had seemingly strangled only moments before. It was indeed puzzling.

Perhaps it was a formatting glitch in the original upload? Mr Brown thought.

At least he was alone in the cell, though being in a cell at all was confusing, given that it played no part in the original story he was in. He still had a lot to figure out about his strange and recent digital resurrection, not that he was complaining – escape was a much more complicated affair back in the real world …

***

CRI Jackson said, “It may be nothing, but each of the victims had their EI interfaces active at the time of their deaths.” She was relieved to have found the connection she knew must exist.

“And?” RI Horton replied. “Most of the population spends half their time plugged into their books, news, or entertainment feeds.”

“On its own, I agree it means nothing.” CRI Jackson said. “But in each case, the victim’s life-readings started going awry precisely 11.62 seconds into their EI neural activations. That’s way too much of a coincidence to be ignored.” She had her subordinates’ renewed attention.

The surveillance technology has proved useful after all, Horton thought. Yes, she may have been right about some connecting factor but she would never have discovered it without the sensor and surveillance readings she was so quick to discount.

RI Horton felt vindicated, conveniently forgetting that it had taken no small measure of good old-fashioned detective work to bring the latest surveillance info to light.

***

“Yes. That looks interesting.” Mr Brown muttered to himself while browsing through the Sci-Fi and paranormal categories. Like most of the stories Mr Brown liked to read, the latest one to catch his eye was also listed among the IPEC’s Historical back catalogue, but was still a firm favourite among readers, even after 200 years since its first ancient print publication.

He allowed his mind to access the neural EI interface, submerging himself in the Look Inside sample pages. A further tap of his wrist and there he was, an actual character in the story. But Mr Brown was no ordinary reader.

A while back in one of his stories, he’d written a thriller fantasy about a man who could physically transport himself in and out of the digital worlds of the books he downloaded, using the ability to wreak digital havoc. Now as a result of some freak coding anomaly Mr Brown had that ability or something like it – for real.

The entire digital universe was his to explore. He regretted not having that ability many years before when he’d been sent to a secure psychiatric unit for hacking off the head of an irritating salesman who’d interrupted him while writing.

***

“I finally got a reply from The Mighty Zon,” CRI Jackson said. “Okay, it took the threat of going public to get it, but they’ve allowed me access to their customer database and records.” She grinned at her partner. All that was missing was the classic celebratory wave of a clenched fist.

“That’s impossible.”RI Horton replied, “ No one gets past their automated enquiry response firewalls.”

RI Horton’s response was understandable. It had been more than half a century since an actual IPEC employee had personally responded to an enquiry. On the previous occasion it had taken the entire resources of the Ministry of World Tax Revenue to elicit a single paragraph, buried among 5000 pages of legal jargon … and excuses.

“I’m as surprised as you are Horton, but The Mighty Zon is as worried about these murders as we are.”

It was an achievement by the CRI. For centuries the IPEC’s wealth and power had made it a law unto itself. The Corporation was practically autonomous, free from any outside authority. In a world practically without crime, where dying took place in secret wards, and where the elderly could quietly slip away, a few unexplained deaths could destroy the credibility of such an organisation.

Stern Dillinger, a member of the Board of Directors was prepared to explain and answer questions.

He said, “According to our investigations … one of our customers, a Michael Wright, downloaded Digital Escape, the classic by Dave Brown. While synchronised with the download, he should have assumed the identity of the main character but it appears that Mr Wright assumed the persona of one of the subsidiary characters of the story instead.”

CRI Jackson was squinting. “Are you telling me the subsidiary character died in both the story and in the real world?”

“Yes, “ Dillinger replied. “Somehow, due to the similarity of the main character’s own abilities to those provided by the EI neural-interface, the e-Read AI software mistakenly interpreted Dave Brown’s character as part of its own coding.” He paused. “Basically, the programme wouldn’t allow the customer to merge with it, instead choosing to shunt the customer’s mind into that of the one in nearest digital proximity.”

“Unfortunately for Michael Wright,” CRI Jackson said,”that just happened to be a rude shop assistant in the story.”

“Yes,” Dillinger said, nodding his agreement with the CRI’s summary.

“So, Michael Wright became the first victim,” RI Horton added. “What about the other victims in the story? Will other people in our world die as well?”

“No. Only the person accessing the story via their EI actually dies, and even then, only if they assume the character of an actual victim in the story. If they remain just an observer or an incidental character then they’re safe.”

“Surely, “ Horton asked, “there can be no interaction that could cause death in real time?”

CRI Jackson was impressed. Her young colleague was finally showing serious interest. Dillinger hesitated.

“In theory, it could only happen if the scene in the book was being accessed simultaneously, and a stronger character had taken on the identity of the antagonist… that’s what the planetary AI tells us, and no, I don’t fully understand it either.” CRI Jackson turned to Dillinger, asking bluntly. “So, how do we stop this happening again?”

“That I don’t know,” he replied with equal bluntness. “Have you any idea of the size of our customer database? We have over a trillion eBooks available. We can track this character, but only where he’s been. Trying to locate and isolate the code anomaly is impossible.”

“Surely your technical and programming staff can do something?”

What staff?” Dillinger said. “We have an army of maintenance technicians, but beyond that, the systems, the developments, the upgrades, have all been fully automated for the past century.” He shook his head. “The complexity of our interactive systems and algorithms started to exceed human understanding several decades ago.”

It wasn’t the answer CRI Jackson wanted to hear but it came as no surprise.

The CRI met Dillinger’s gaze. “If we can’t track this Dave Brown character in real time, we need to be ahead of him, steer him in a direction we want him to go.”

“Again, theoretically, yes.” Dillinger agreed.

“So, we could be waiting for him?” RI Horton added.

CRI Jackson nodded, pleased that her colleague was showing initiative rather than waiting for a computer read-out to provide him with a neat and tidy solution.

“I have an idea, “ the CRI declared, “but I’ll need the full and unrestricted resources of The Mighty Zon?”

Dillinger frowned.

The CRI was about to let rip with about how essential it was, but instead, she chuckled.,

“I mean of course, with the gracious cooperation of the IPEC.”

***

Mr Brown was choking on the smoke from an artillery shell. The acrid cloud had spread through the corpse-strewn trench in which he found himself. Bloody, limbless bodies lay all about. Flashes of shooting light dotted the sky, accompanied by the crack of explosive thunder.

Cries of ‘forward men,’were cut short by screams of pain. Dave Brown realised he was in a very different story to the one he had been expecting. Instead of having escaped to the relative safety of a Barbara Cartland romance novel after his latest adventure, this was like being dropped in the middle of a war zone.

Perhaps the summary justice of the Ministry of Behaviour might have been a safer option … It was bad enough that a minor formatting problem had caused him to skip an entire paragraph, depriving him of a cannibalistic feast, but this was inexcusable corporate negligence on the part of The Mighty Zon.

Mr Brown decided, should he escape with his digital life and in one piece from this latest story, he would write a very stern letter of complaint for listing what was clearly a dangerous War story under Romance. An idea came to mind, and he grinned as he considered taking other steps.

Another artillery shell landed nearby, hurling Mr Brown into the air, taking with it his left arm below the elbow … which included the wrist-worn EI neural-interface device. There would be no digital quick escape this time, at least there wouldn’t be till he recovered his missing arm.

***

They hadn’t solved the case to CRI Jackson’s satisfaction, but at least there had been no more unexplained deaths or EI related complaints. The best they could hope for was that the mysterious Mr Brown had been blown to pixelated digital bits and was finally dead – again – both physically and digitally this time.

Despite the uncertainty of that last hope, The Mighty Zon felt confident enough of that last statement:

‘The interplanetary Products and Entertainments Corporation would like to apologise to customers for the recent problems it’s been having with its Historical Content format and categorisation and sorry for any inconvenience and/or discomfort this may have caused.’

It was the closest anyone was ever likely to get to an apology for more than a dozen deaths and many more attempted murders by way of beheading, throttling, and dismemberment. Mr Brown it seemed had a penchant for doing away with people in the most horrible and violent ways.

***

What The Mighty Zon didn’t reveal in its apology or from its own internal investigations was that it had had numerous complaints from customers finding themselves surrounded by corpses and almost dying at the hands of a homicidal maniac.

Where readers hadn’t died or been attacked, complaints of stories changed beyond recognition flooded the light-wave communication channels – seeing a leather-jacketed., whiskey drinking biker making an impromptu appearance in a convent wasn’t what one expected when expecting to read a serious history of the Sisters of Saint-Hood.

Such incidents might have gone unnoticed for longer had they been confined to just the Crime, Horror, and Thriller categories, but they had appeared in all manner of genres ranging from Historical Romance to Children’s picture books.

As per company policy, such complaints had initially been ignored, but when they started finding the same complaints being posted on MeMeMe.Universe, the successor to MyFacePage.com, The Mighty Zon at last felt compelled to act, to curtail the activities of this mysterious digital assassin.

At CRI Jackson’s suggestion, every last one of it’s past and present catalogue of neurally-accessible eBooks were replaced with a particularly bloody and horrific scene from a shortened version of All Quiet on The Western Front, which is precisely where the mysterious Mr Brown continually found himself each time he ventured back into or from one digital story to another.

***

“Somewhere out there,” Stern Dillinger told the reflection in the mirror, “Dave Brown is still lurking, buried among a trillion lines of ancient Mobi-format page coding. He may still be very much alive …”

I JUST CAN’T GET IT LARGER!

Book Review – A Stitch in Time

SenanGilSean3Senan Gil Senan is an author who I’ve reviewed twice before, namely IASDpichis two-part (to date) highly acclaimed Outlander Sci-Fi series. In addition to his regular writing, Senan Gil Senan is a regular reviewer and valued contributor to the IASD fb writing group and its sister site at:

  www.indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.com

 

***

A STITCH IN TIME:

Six thought-provoking stories about time & reality. Kindle Edition

By Senan Gil Senan

SenanGilSenan4

 

5starscroppedHighly original and imaginative. Would definitely read more short stories from this author …

At first glance at the cover, one could easily be forgiven for thinking this might be just another collection of Sci-Fi short stories. I would say a couple of the stories do fall into that category while others venture into the realms of horror and the paranormal. I  loved the author’s style of writing for each one, three being written in the first person, a style I particularly enjoy when it comes to short stories, and the other three written in a style most suited to their content but still maintaining a very personal viewpoint. There are no clever explanations or theories about ‘time’ to be found here, but more the personal observations, perceptions, and experiences of it, all crafted into highly original tales, and while some stories were better than others, none failed to either intrigue or entertain. In those stories where a little ‘science’ added to the narrative such as in ‘The Fall and Rise of the El,’ the author struck a good balance between the sort of terminology that most sci-fi fans will recognise and have some understanding of and not over-explaining or confusing the reader.

I especially liked ‘Clocks Slay Time’  which for me, perfectly epitomised the title and description for this anthology. Another story that stood out, in my opinion, was ‘Hello Friend,’ a clever and imaginative set of scenarios all woven together by a frightening glimpse into the possibly intrusive path that social media and artificial intelligence might take, and sooner likely than we imagine. A couple of the stories, while captivating almost throughout, were I thought slightly let down by an unsatisfactory or less than conclusive ending; I accept that for some readers, being left with unanswered questions or puzzling for themselves what the ending of a story meant might add to its enjoyment but for me personally they didn’t quite work, and it’s for that reason alone it wasn’t quite as convincing a five star read as the author’s previous Outlander series (more a four-point-eight).

I’m not sure if fans of more traditional sci-fi will immediately take to this collection but for those whose interests extend beyond that of robots, outer-space, and alien invasions then I think it might well appeal. Despite a couple of minor misgivings, the style of writing, its originality, and the imaginative and well-written storylines lines would certainly induce me to read more of the author’s future short story offerings.

***

 

More about the author …

Senan Gil Senan believes that it is the job of a writer to visually transport a reader to a place he or she is unlikely to venture. Then without alienating them, it is to introduce them to a pattern of thought that may differ from their own.
His writing is not typical of the science fiction and dystopian genres. It is more visionary, in that it examines the effect of technology and bio-engineering on future society. He is an adamant believer that humans will integrate more and more with technology in order to keep up with the deluge of technological advances created by the advent of artificial intelligence. He believes that this emergent sentience will be shaped by human interaction, much the same as a child.
…….His own interests include psychology, noetic science, physics, theology & philosophy and ancient history. He agrees with RR Martin who said that any writer who is looking for an intriguing character, a gripping scenario or plot twist, needs to look no further than the pages of a history book.

He was named Senan, by his father Patrick Gilsenan who thought that the name would look good on the cover of a book. He was an Irish printer who yearned to see his own prose and poetry appear in print. Sadly he died before achieving either ambition. Senan left behind the beauty of Sligo in Ireland to set off for London and oblique strategy of career choices. These included working fourteen years as a computer systems engineer. He has also worked as a self-employed financial trader, a writer, an employment adviser, and as a bar manager. He still lives in South London with his wife and family.

http://senangilsenan.wordpress.com

6

 

In addition to the above, Senan Gil Senan also writes under the name Angus Cactus , a pen name he uses to differentiate his comedy writing from that of his other literary projects.

http://anguscactus.wix.com/author

To Hell or Sligo by Aangus Cactus ~ Amazon

SenanGilSenan2

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:

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Tom Benson Amazon author page TomB1 

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