Friday, 26 February 2016

The Lady of the Helm by T.O.Munro

Did you know that J.K.Rowling's first book, Harry Potter and the Philospher's Stone, was rejected by every major publisher in the UK before it was picked up by Bloomsbury? The Harry Potter series are possibly one of the most loved book series ever, and it almost wasn't published.

So how many more writers are out there waiting to be discovered and plucked from obscurity? Are there more J.K.Rolwings out there floating around in the void of anonyminity?

Since deciding to take my writing a lot more seriously through writing and publishing short stories I have learnt that there are so many great authors out there. You can easily find them through short story magazines such as Sanitarium, Lamplight, Nightmare Magazine and Apex to name just a few. For every literally superstar there are ten others that have yet to receive their much deserved recognition.

The good news now with the ability for us writers to self publish is that it's not that hard to find them. The world of self publishing is much like entering Aladdin's cave you may find the odd duff book but you'll definitely stumble across a few gems.

And The Lady of the Helm by T.O.Munro is a gem.

T.O.Munro is a name that keeps cropping up on  many fantasy fiction forums and social media sites. With his debut novel on sale in kindle format for only 99p I thought it utter madness not to give this book a try.

Upon buying this I saw the first good sign of a great fantasy novel; a map. Then I smiled and sat back to enjoy the first pages as I knew I was in good hands.

The novel starts off in an underground dungeon, a secret mission with far reaching consequences. Admittedly the beginning of this tale starts off with numerous characters being intrduced which is a bit confusing, but trust me when I say it is well worth persevering for a little while. Before I knew it I found I had a story which was impossible to put down. If I'm going to be completely honest I wasn't expecting to find that feeling whilst reading a book that has been self published. I never realised how much of a literary snob I was!

Lady of the Helm is set in the fortress mountain city of Sturmcairn in the Salved Kingdom but there are dark forces encircling which frees the dark lord Maelgrum from his 1,000 year imprisonment.

The Salved Kingdom's only chance for survival is Niarmit, a young woman who was once a princess of the Salved Kingdom and a priestess but does she want to save the people who wronged her father? Is she up to the challenge?

I really like the complexity of the book and the rich characters there's a brooding tension which pulses through the book. It's an epic sword and sorcery fantasy on the scale of the Lord of the Rings but the Lady of the Helm is also utterly different to Tolkien's masterpiece. There is none of the black and white simplicity of good vs evil you'll find in Lord of the Rings. The 'bad guys' are not actually all that bad. Most of the 'baddies' are just unfortunate people who found themselves in exile for practising illicit sorcery as a harmless hobbie. These people were once normal citizens who had had to fight for their own survival by allinging woth more unsavoury characters. In the poor case of Dema she fell victim to a spell gone wrong and has been locked in a bitter battle to retain her humanity. She had no choice in who to align after being exiled from the kingdom of the salved.

Most of these people who have now found themselves on the wrong side have been condemned to exile by the people who are supposedly peaceful and good. These people are only alligned with the force of evil after being forced to do so. This is a complex tale that examines human nature and how small events in our lives can have far reaching consequences.

Lady of the Helm, the first instalment of the Bloodline Trilogy also has some great female characters that are strong, powerful and refreshing. It's a fast paced read free from boring info dumps and cliches. The plot is very cleverly constructed and despite it's complexity is not too difficult to lose track of as you read.

For those who love this book you can contnue Niarmit's adventures with book two and three; The Wrath of Medusa and Master of the Planes.

Shadows at the Door

I'm very proud to announce that my latest short story, Earthly Joy, is appearing on a brand new site Shadows at the Door

Shadows at the door is a new site that publishes original horror fiction on their site as well as audio productions. Their stories are also accompanied by beautifully macabre illustrations by London artist Barney Bodoano. I thoroughly recommend taking a look at this great site and all their stories, podcasts and articles are free to read online.

One of Barney Bodoano's wonderful illustrations

My latest story, Earthly Joy, is about a man who comes to in the middle of nowhere, he has no idea how he got there or where he's going but inside there's a desperate instinct for survival. He comes across a house which stirs his memory, he knows it is a bad place but he must enter if he is to save himself.

You can read Earthly Joy here 

Monday, 8 February 2016

Aphelion Magazine Issue 203 Volume 20 - February 2016

Aphelion is a webzine that brings you the latest tales of science fiction and fantasy. It has been running since 1997 and now celebrates it's 20th year. Aphelion produces a monthly webzine that is packed with short stories, long fiction, poetry, features and flash fiction.

You can read all the issues including this one for free here!

Initiation by Stephen Faulkner

"It's just the way of things," Joe explained to me, whispering close to my ear. "When I came here for my 'nitiation 'bout five years ago, this place was crawlin' with guards and we had to be careful. Now that the place is closed and they're all gone, well... We just keep it up as a sort of remembrance to back then when it was really dangerous t'learn the secret.' "

At half-five they always come for Janie and because it's a Wednesday she heeds their call and follows. This great story is dark from the offset and foreboding with a conjured atmosphere of doom. Left all alone by her parents on a date night she leaves the family home seeking adventure. 

But who are they? What is the initiation?

Initiation by Stephen Faulkner is a thrilling  tale that keeps you entralled right through to the end that keeps you feeling as nervous as poor Janie who's about to have her initiation. The story has a feel of childhood innocence shortly to be lost with the onset of adolesence. Janie is growing up making her own choices but are they wise options.

Stephen Faulkner is a former college administrator who now writes. He has previously been published in Aphelion with  Sex in the Afterlife and Playing God

A Winning Combination by Roderick D.Turner

"Angela was the blonde in lane five. Calmly self-assured, eyes set on the lane in front of her, total focus on the event. That would be her."

Howard Vasquez has come to watch a swimming race - The Four Hundred Metre Mixed Individual Medley. He's come in particular to watch Angela Dysart, an amazing swimmer with apparent superhuman capabilities. She's still just a school girl who enjoys hanging out with her friends at the mall on weekends she doesn't want to be an international star she just loves to swim. 

But how does she swim so well? Is she the ordinary girl she makes herself out to be?

A clever sci fi tale that is highly original and thought provoking that explores all the secrets locked in our genes.

Roderick D.Turner loves to write. In his own words - "I like writing stories, and get really fired up when I enjoy what I have written. That's the best part of writing - you are, after all, most often your only audience. What's really inspiring is when you start writing about a character and they take over, almost literally writing the story themselves"

He also has his own websit

The Elite by Noel Carroll

"The giant star Betelgeuse explodes into supernova, its close proximity to Earth making it both an attraction and a source of apprehension. Not to worry, the scientists say, but are they correct?"

Gilbert Carter had everything in life, the perfect soulmate and great prospects after leaving university with a degree in aeronautical engineering. But then the giant star Betelgeuse exploded into supernova...

"Looking back, I count that as the moment when we both awakened to the possibility that our future might not be entirely ours to decide"

However this strange celestial star is not acting as it should and even the scientists don't know what's going on, but the look on their faces says it all. Gilbert is determined to save himself and his beautiful girlfriend Nicole and receives an offer too good to turn down. But there's a catch will he sacrifice everything he holds dear for survival? Does he deserve to live? A great sci fi tale that also  serves as a chilling warning to us all! 

Noel Carroll are a husband and wife team who have published many short stories and novels. They have appeared before in Aphelion with Aliens Need Not Apply, By Invitation Only and  Beyond Sapiens

The Corner Lot by Shawn D.Brink

"He walked along the large corner lot that existed about a block from his home. He had heard that this was haunted land."

Amos, a little boy of seven has inadvertantly come face to face with the school bullies, the Sullivan brothers, that he lives in fear of . They quickly have him surrounded before he has a chance to get away. One of the brother snatches something most dear to Amos and throws it into the garden of an abandoned house that is supposedly haunted.

Is Amos brave enough to go and get it? Is the house as haunted and dangerous as it looks?

The Corner Lot by Shawn D.Brink is a very original and creepy tale that really has you rooting for Amos the hero of the tale.

Shawn D.Brink is the author of The Space Between and The Devil's Revenge out now from Martin Sisters Publishing. He has written many short stories and has appeared in many publications such as Specklit, Flashes in the Dark, Theme of Absence as well as Aphelion.

You can find out more about him at his website

The Tale of the Sea Upon the Thief's Path by S.J.Budd

 "Some say they're the bells of the sea marshals closing in."
"Some say it's the voices of the dead stuck on Torr Island."
"Whatever they are," The landlord concluded, "They never bloody shut up!"

Jack is a smuggler who roams across the rough seas of Gunaylia. He'll say anything to get his way and spares no thought for consequence. One night he is drawn back to the savage and lawless fishing town of Torrpoint  made famous for the legend of the phantom bells.

Why do those bells ring? No one knows...

I write stories for fun and so far my short tales have appeared in Sanitarium Magazine, Siren's Call Publications, InnerSins, Bewildering Stories and of course Aphelion! 

You can find out more about me here -

The Lost City of the Neanderthals by Julio Toro San Martin

An epic fantasy tale set in an alternate universe. Giglamesh  the great King who is also part god is bored and looking for excitement in his life. His friend Enkidu tells him of the lost city of the Neanderthals and the legend associated with it.

" "There, it is whispered, he found terrible tablets fashioned by gods ancient and unknown. It is said just reading the tablets drove him mad. He grew darker in countenance, learned blasphemous secrets and magic, while becoming long-lived."

Giglamesh and Enkidu set off for adventure seeking the lost city of the Neaderthals. Giglamesh is hell bent on learning the secrets locked in the Zagros mountains. Will they foind what they are looking for? Will anyone or anything stand in their way?

Julio Toro San Martin is a Canadian writer he has written numerous short stories that have appeared in Innsmouth Free Press, The Lovecraft Ezine, NonBinary Review and many others.

A Happy Reminder That Spring Has Sprung

I'm very happy to announce that one of my short stories, The Tail of the Sea Upon the Thief's Path,  has been published in Aphelion Magazine - The Webzine of Science Fiction and Fantasy. This is my first story to be published in 2016 and I hope it signals more sucess to come in the following months.

With my darling daughter turning one last month things have certainly calmed down, the sleep has returned and with that my sanity! Now I have more time to do what I love- writing!

Aphelion is a great magazine and if you've never read it before I suggest you give it a go, issues are free to read online and are packed with top quality stories and poetry.

If you like to read my short story - The Tail of the Sea Upon the Thief's Path - click here

Jack once made a solemn and binding promise, except now he can't remember his pact, he'll say anything to get what he wants. 

But when he arrives back in the lawless town of Torrpoint there's the  constant sound of bells ringing. No one knows where the sound comes from or what it means. What and who are they ringing out for?

Saturday, 6 February 2016

The Inn of the Seven Blessings by Matthew Hughes

The Inn of the Seven Blessings by Matthew Hughes

Raffalon is a young thief down on his luck with dismal  prospects. Hiding out in the forest near the border of Vandaayoland he witnesses a savage band of Vandaayo warriors steal away with their intended human sacrifice. There he sees an opportunity and rummages through the victims scattered posessions that had been left behind. To his amazement he finds, amongst the usual rubbish, a small wooden box that he can sell on at the bazaar in Port Thayes, but it gets even better, it's a puzzle box and then on even further closer inspection it's a magic puzzle box. Raffalon is a clever thief and figures out how to open the magical box leading him on a mad escapade through the forest that borders with the notorious Vandaayoland; a land inhabited with savage beasts who fear nothing.

Along his way he meets with funny characters that through Mathew Hughes writing skills are quickly brought to life. This is a great tale which is refreshingly absent of stereotypical characters usually found in fantasy fiction. The plot is cleverly constructed and takes the reader on a real adventure. The Inn of the Seven Blessings is full of fun with no overused dull cliches. There are so many twists and turns in the narrative which keeps the reader enthralled, it's hard to see which way the story will go next. Also the story has some really interesting concepts and I'd love to see more fiction from the world in which this story is set in. Nothing is what as it seems in this witty tale which keeps the reader on their toes. It was sad to see it end.

The Inn of the Seven Blessings first appeared in the anthology Rogues which was edited by George.R.R.Martin and Gardner Dozois which features  tales from all many fantasy fiction giants such as Patrick Rothfuss,( The Kingkiller Chronicles - Name of  the Wind, The Wise Man's Fear) Scott Lynch (The Gentlemen Bastard Series - The Lies of Locke Lamorna, Red Seas Uner Red Skies, The Republic of Thieves,) Neil Gaiman, ( Sandman, Stardust, Neverwhere,) George R.R. Martin, (Game of Thrones series,) and Matthew Hughes work sits perfectly between them.

Matthew Hughes was born in England but has spent most of his life in Canada he has written many many novels such as Song of the Serpent, The Yellow Cabochon, Hespira, Template and Majestrum. He has also many short stories as well as crime fiction under the name of Matt Hughes.

You can find out more about him on his website

Friday, 5 February 2016

Sprig by Alex Bledsoe

As I mother I firmly beleive that children have just as much knowledge to teach adults as we have to impart to them.Children are magical creatures in themselves their views have not been manipulated and moulded by our society, logic and adults. Still they retain a sense of magic that sadly most adults lose as they grow.

There is more magic in the world than we realise and this charming and delightful story captures that perfectly. It recounts the tale of a little boy,Cyrus who has lost his parents at Bristol Renaissance Faire. For those who don't live in the U.S these are outdoor festivals where people come together to celebrate a time and way of life  long since passed in the mortal world, such as vikings, folklore, medieval etc. There he meets a beautiful young girl, Sprig Petalbotom, who is not as she seems. Is she a fairy or just a college kid dressed like one?

Sprig by Alex Bledsoe was first published in issue 42 of Apex Magazine which also features an interview with him about his work as an author.

ALEX BLEDSOE is an American author from Tennesse he has written many sucessful sword and sorcery and urban fantasy novels; Memphis Vampire series, Tales of Tufa series, Tales of the Firefly Witch series as well as many short stories and stand alone novels such as The Sword-Edged Blonde, Burn Me Deadly, Dark Jenny, Wake of the Bloody  Angel and He drank and Saw the Spider.

You can find out more about him here at his website

Sea Magic by Mary Williams

Mary Williams was Cornwall's leading ghost writers and during her career produced 17 volumes of amazing ghost stories most of which were set in Cornwall. Before she turned her hand to writing these ghostly tales she was a romance writer and had several novels published. What's clear in her writing is that she loved Cornwall where she lived from 1947 until her death in 2000 at the grand age of 97. It was reported that she carried on writing right up to her death.

What I really love about Mary Williams is that she has the ability to both amuse and disturb, her stories are not horrific or gore infested but light and creepy. She is able to plunge her readers into a totally immersive atmosphere that is both haunting and beautiful and shows you the ancient hidden depths of Cornwall which was once a savage and powerful land deeply associated with ancient Celtic folklore and legends.

Sea Magic which was originally published in The Dark Land - A Book of Cornish Ghost Stories (Kimber Press 1975.) This particular tale is more quaint and amusing than chilling which showcases Mary William's talent for conveying humour in her stories whilst also keeping them dark and ghoulish.
This story centres around Mr Forsythe who returns home to his native Cornish village, Port Carn, to find it is much changed, he feels removed from the land he had once known and loved so well. However when he sets foot in the local inn and finds Joe Tregorse, an old familiar face, still working behind the bar who welcomes him back into the fold of village life.

Joe Tregorse gladly offers to put him up for the night usptairs in Miss Pretty's old room, "a fading spinster of indefinite age, with a certain talent for sketching and an arty way of dressing which gave her a humourous, slightly grotesque appearance."

Remembering this well known local character, he is sad to learn of her recent passing but intrigued when he finds out it was a most unusal deat that ended a most unusual life. Everyone has their own story worth telling and it was certainly true for Miss Pretty who was very much changed with the onslaught of a savage and wild storm which broke upon  the Cornish coast and changed her life forever.