Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Review: The Dead Survive

Um, well, this was more brutal than I expected it to be...




Lori Whitwam's The Dead Survive was a little different than I expected. Yes, I've been reading a lot of zombie at the moment, perhaps overdosing on it. But I thought I'd give this a try.

The story starts at the beginning of the zompocolypse. It was handled differently to a lot that I've read in books and seen in movies. It focused on people and behavior. If you've seen the recent Schwarzenegger vehicle "Maggie" you'll know what I'm talking about. People are trying to keep stores open. Civilization is trying to survive.

It's bleak, but not unbelievable.

Then the shit hits the fan.

For the majority of the first half of the book, there is no real zombie action. If you're looking for arm biting and head shots, then you'll be sadly disappointed.

But if you want the hard-hitting, brutally real downfall of humanity, then yeah, you'll find it here.

I'm not going to lie. It's a hard read. It's certainly not only not for children, but also not for the faint-hearted. It's exceptionally well written. You'll be captivated by it. Won't be able to put it down. An amazing read to be sure.

At the half way mark, I did think the author was going to slip. It suddenly seemed like it was going to go all Twilight on me. But Whitwam reigns it back in, and ramps up the emotion (if you could believe it could be ramped up further) and smashes it out the park.

Whitwam's characterization is what makes the story. The protagonist, antagonist, the would-be could-be wasn't antagonist...hell, even the dog. It's a masterclass is characterization within a traditionally hard to character sub-genre.

If you're writing zombie, read this.

The end is heartbreaking, action packed, and left me wanting more. Dammit. Another book on my to-read list. Yes, the sequel is already out.

You can purchase the book from Amazon UK here, Amazon US here, and find out more about the author here.


Monday, 31 August 2015

New Release: The Multiverse of Max Tovey


About the book







Fourteen year old Max Tovey’s world is blown apart when he discovers that his problems are nothing to do with him, and everything to do with being a Time Traveller. 

Following his mysterious grandfather’s funeral, Max finds himself on a wild journey through first century Celtic Britain, real and mythological, as his every action threatens to change the past, and his future.

Max battles demons – both real and psychological – on his mission to find the legendary Montacute Cross, stolen by his Viking ancestor Tofig, in order to close the gates to the Underworld, and lift the curse on his family.


Excerpt



“So now you can find what you seek,” whispered the Chief­tain.
Max pulled The Coin from his pocket, which now glowed very brightly, and hummed very loudly. Hoping desperately that it wouldn’t wake the General, Max walked slowly towards the end of his bed, as The Coin was directing him to, until he came to a wooden chest.
“It must be in there,” he whispered, before very very carefully opening the lid. Inside, the chest was full of coins.
“How do we find the right one?” whispered Myvi. But they didn’t need to – for just outside the chest, was one coin that had fallen out, now pressed into the ground by the General’s boot. And it was glowing. As Max, Myvi and the Chieftain watched in amaze­ment, The Coin began to glow, and hum, and then rise slowly out of the ground.
“What is this magic...?” said Rhydderch, a little afraid despite himself.
The coin continued to rise, until it was at Max’s waist. Tenta­tively Max held out The Majyga Coin in his palm under the one that was rising, until the two were touching. And then there was a blast of light, and both coins disappeared.
“What...?!” said Vespasian, waking suddenly, and on seeing Max, Myvi and Rhydderch immediately called out.
“You?! I told you I’d kill you if I saw you again! Guards!”
Vespasian leapt out of bed and grabbed his sword as two guards with their own swords out rushed in. But then all three were stopped in their tracks as a strange glow began to form between them and Max and the others, a glow that was slowly taking form, and which, with a deep, deep growl, now became flesh, a huge man, easily seven feet tall, dressed in glowing silver armour, and carrying a long, barbed, razor sharp silver sword.
“You wish to destroy The Coin...?” came a voice out of it that was even lower than a Gurt Dog’s. Max was staring wildly at the ap­parition, but somehow managed to nod.
“Then you must destroy me, for I am The Coin!”
Max ducked the first sword swipe, astonishingly fast for one so big, but one of the guards didn’t, and fell instantly dead.
“What is this?!” yelled Vespasian as he managed to parry a second blow, before leaping out of the bed chamber and into the Hall proper.
“Never mind what it is!” yelled Max, as he and the others followed the General, fleeing the demon soldier. “If you want to live, you’ll have to help us kill it!”
More soldiers ran into the Great Hall now, until many dozens surrounded the Demon. No match for the Demon’s lightening quick sword work, they fell as quickly as they arrived. Vespasian now ran up behind the Demon as it was occupied with two of his men and ran it through with his sword. Nothing happened. The Demon mere­ly turned toward Vespasian and laughed.
You cannot kill me!” it yelled, pointing its sword at Max and Myvi. “Only they can kill me!”
“I think we’re in trouble,” said Max, hugging his sword to his chest.
“You may be right,” said Myvi, instinctively ducking a blow from the Demon, memory of many fights now returning to her. She rolled across the floor, parrying another blow, before bringing her own blade up at its sword arm, but it went right through, with no effect. The Demon laughed again.
“All they have to do is work out how!”
But now Myvi was pointing at Max’s sword.
“Max! Your sword! It’s glowing!”
The Demon growled low now, backing away as Max ad­vanced towards it, his now glowing sword held out in front. He just hoped he could remember how to do this.
“How did you get it to glow?” said Myvi.
“I think I must have touched it against The Brooch!” said Max, slashing at the Demon, but the Demon slashed back, heavily, again and again, forcing Max to desperately parry time after time before falling to the ground. The Demon advanced on him now, and put its sword to his throat.
“You cannot beat me,” growled the Demon. “The Coin is not for destroying!”
“Oh yes it is!” yelled Myvi, and before the Demon knew what was happening, with one movement she touched her sword to The Brooch then brought it up fast, taking the Demon’s head clean off its shoulders.

The blast of sound and light this time knocked everyone to their feet, but then receded, and faded to nothing. After a moment, Max leant up on one elbow, looked around, then felt in his pocket. The Coin was gone.

And a giveaway



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Purchase Links



B&N:

Amazon:

Amazon UK: 

European Geeks Publishing: 

About the Author





Alastair Swinnerton has been writing for children’s television for over twenty five years. Among his many credits are ‘The Wombles’, ‘Sabrina, Secrets of a Teenage Witch’, and the Bafta-nominated CBBC Christmas Special ‘The Tale of Jack Frost’, which he wrote, co-produced and co-directed. He was also one the co-creators of Lego® Bionicle®. ‘The Multiverse of Max Tovey’ is his first Young Adult novel.

Alastair lives in Somerset with his family, and spends much of his spare time walking the dog, more often than not at his beloved Ham Hill.



Social media Links



Author Website:  www.alastairswinnerton.com
Author Twitter:   https://twitter.com/alswinn







Tuesday, 18 August 2015

SALE: Small Cuts to the Psyche.

"This book will make you guess your mental state of sanity." ~ Amazon Review


For two weeks only, and to celebrate the forthcoming re-release of SHUTTER SPEED, the newly edited, revised edition of SMALL CUTS TO THE PSYCHE is only 99c / 99p!!


The Devil may be afoot in this latest release from author of the macabre, Mark Taylor
.
Herein you will find 27 stories of terror. Whether you long for the bloodlust of bizarre medical experimentation, the demons that live in the young, or the monsters in the night, Small Cuts will deliver in the most disturbing way.


From the acclaimed Alice in Monsterland, to the terror of Mirrors of Madness, each page turned will twist your senses, make you doubt yourself, wonder what that noise was...sleep with the lights on...


EXCERPT from Alice in Monsterland

Alice waited as the two left and she listened as they passed down the hall to the stairs. The third one went along the hall in the opposite direction and during a lull in the music she listened as a door opened. She slowly dropped the door handle and peered out through the smallest gap she could make as she opened the door. She could see the corridor was empty but not back towards the stairs. If one of the others were to return, she wouldn’t be able to see them.
She opened the door enough to slide her body out and into the hall. Both directions were empty, but she didn’t know where to go. The only reasonable option of escape was to return to the first floor and try to get out the back of the house—at least with all of the windows locked up here.
She turned and crept down the hall towards the stairs as quietly—and as quickly—as she could.
“Bitch.” The voice came from behind her.
She turned to face The Mummy.
“You hit Kevin with that?” He was about twelve feet away from her.
Alice made a split second decision. She launched herself toward The Mummy like she was in the hundred meter dash. Within two steps she had dropped the bat from her shoulder and held it like a battering ram. 
He didn’t have time to react. She thrust it as hard as she could into his lower stomach, her hand covering the end of the hilt as she did to help maintain the force. He doubled over instantly, and without sound—apart from a barely audible hrrr—but Alice lost her balance as well and thudded down on her knees to the carpet.
Shit…I bet they heard that.
She dragged herself up on the bat like it was a crutch and looked only for a second at the whimpering figure lying winded on the floor.
No time.
Alice raised the bat like a stake and brought it down on the back of The Mummy’s head, knocking him unconscious. It wasn’t as hard as she had hit Kevin and she hoped he wasn’t dead, but as she turned to make her exit—back into the room that Kevin was in—she noticed a small slick of blood start to appear beneath his lifeless head.
A small part of Alice no longer cared.
They were monsters.

Available from Amazon now: 


Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Reasons to Write Horror: My neighbors an asshole.

So, my first apartment, (you know, the one I nearly burned down in the "sausage incident") was above a shop, in a block 4 storeys high. I had the apartment above the shop, there was one other apartment on my floor, and then two on each storey above.

And when I first moved in it was empty.

Completely.

The shop was a junk shop in raggedy Cliftonville (possibly still is), only open a few hours a day, and all the other apartments were empty. It was bliss. I was in a band, and we could rehearse there as long as the shop was closed. I could turn my TV up as loud as I wanted. Listen to music day and night. It was fantastic.

In this actual building!
Until I got company.

The nights started to draw in.

And one day I was sitting in the dark wondering how I was to afford electricity when I heard footsteps above me. Hm. I had company. Someone had moved into the apartment above. At first it was fine. I didn't really hear much from this interloper (in my building). But I wanted to know more. So I learned the sounds of footsteps. Learned when this person was leaving.

Waited by the spy-hole of my front door to find out what this person (or now, my stalkee) was like.

A young man. Maybe eighteen? Scruffy. No problem.

He was a night owl. Kept to himself. Never knocked on my door. I respected him, kept my music down, TV off at night. It was fine.

And then it started.

One night, when it was cold, I mean real cold, I'm wrapped up under the duvet. I'm struggling to sleep. My water on the night stand had grown a thin layer of ice on it. It's 2 a.m.

I hear him come in. Nothing unusual. He'll go to bed. Stay up. What do I care? I won't hear him again. But I do.

Music.

Loud music.

DEAFENINGLY LOUD MUSIC.

Jeez. It's 2 a.m. and he is blasting Oasis. My band used to do a couple of Oasis covers. I hated Oasis.

And this isn't just the thud of the base. I can actually sing along to it. It's that freakin' loud. Shit. I have no desire to go bang on this guys door. But it'll be fine. (What's the Story?) Morning Glory could only be what? 40 minutes long? I can deal with that. So I wait.

Time ticks on.

Then, Wonderwall is playing again.

More shit. He's put it on a loop. Now, I'm going to have to do something about it. I've got work in the morning. Get up. Get dressed. Shoes on. Into the hallway. Up stairs. Bang on door.

Bam, bam, bam.

No answer. I try again. Still no answer. And again.

Shit me. He's put the music on repeat and gone out.

I spend the whole night listening to the same songs, over and over and over and over...

But I can forgive. I can forget. (Clearly I can't.)

And I do, until it happens again.

Bam, bam, bam.

No answer. I try again. Still no answer. And again.

So I complain to the agency I rent from. They say they'll speak to him, whatever that means. And it happens again. So, fed up, pissed off, what am I to do? The police don't respond to this sort of disturbance. It's a council matter.

And then it happens.

One night, I'm laying in bed. All is quiet. I'm pretty much waiting for him to come home and start the music, when I hear footsteps. Not in his apartment, but on the stairs. Going up. And it's not him, or at least not just him. There must be eight? Ten?

So I'm prepared for the worse. A party. In the early hours of the morning.

But the footsteps don't stop. This isn't just a bunch of people going up. There's up, down, crashing, banging.

I kid you not, I'M SHITTING MYSELF.

What's going on?

Now, kids, I need to remind the younger ones here: There is no internet yet, no cell phones, I have no landline telephone. From my kitchen window, I could leap twenty feet to the pavement and run for the payphone down the street. Call the police. With a broken leg, most probably.

So I get up, and creep to the door. Look out the spy-hole.

Police. Weird. I look again. Armed police.

For those that don't know, in the UK armed police means serious shit. That means they expect him to be carrying a firearm, and in the UK? That's unheard of.

They're dragging him down the stairs.

And other people.

I didn't know there was anyone up there.

Turns out the kid was a drug dealer. Had the music on and was up there. He was either selling under the cover of the music (or, under the cover of being an asshole), or he was laying unconscious from whatever he was on.

Either way, I never heard from him again.

And my next neighbor? Nice chap. Rode a bicycle to work.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Reasons to write horror: My kitchen's not flat.

Shortly after I started my second job, I moved out of home. My first apartment.

Independence!

I was working in the offices of British Gas. Sure, I'm a temp...again...but that's the way the world works, right?

This time, I'm not even employed by BG themselves, but by an agency. But that's a whole different horror story.

So I got a flat. It's large on floor space, but small on rooms. The living space consists of dining/living/kitchenette room. I'm twenty. I think it's classy. Anyway, the kitchenette consists of a sink, space for a fridge freezer (but only a low three footer) and gap where in you should slide a gas cooker. All of this backs onto a bar which faces the couch, and the appliances will face the bay window, overlooking the main shopping streets one storey below.

I furnish my kitchen from the local second hand shop, even get a proper fitter to attach my cooker. I do work for the Board after all.

I then promptly lose my job, because the site closes. The temps: Last to know everything. I'm offered a permanent position in another centre about a hundred miles away. But as I said. Twenty years old. I'm not ready for that.

So I'm unemployed.

But hey, I can "live off the state" for a couple of months.

So I learn to live cheap.

Sausages are cheap. Pasta is cheap. Condensed soup is cheap. (These days I'm actually quite accomplished in the kitchen, but back then? Needs must.)

So I concoct a dish lavish enough for a king.

Then invite my parents around for dinner.

For the sausage thing.

They smile, I serve beer (broke, remember?), and then I can chat and entertain while I cook. Because I'm facing them.

Thing is, I can't get my sausages to do what I want. I know, I know, a more experienced cook would have handled this better, but the thing is I realize that my kitchen isn't flat and my sausages keep lolling to the hot side of the pan and they're cooking too quick and it's all going wrong and FIND A WAY TO FIX IT.

MY MOTHER'S WATCHING HER YOUNGEST SON COOK DINNER IN HIS OWN PLACE FOR THE FIRST TIME.

The look in her eyes is priceless: one of pride.

Think. I've seen cookery shows. Well, Ready, Steady, Cook. It's got cooking in it. Sort of.

Slap the grill (broiler) on.

Put them on the tray, slide under. Wink. Looks like you know what you're doing. Score.

Mother is now glowing with pride at the chef-ery of her son.

Thing is, the sausages are going a bit mental. Keep smiling. They can't see this. It's below the level of the bar. Shake them a bit. They're smoking. But it's okay. I turn and open the window. It looks reasonable because I'm now sweating Niagra Falls. Work the pasta. Look in control.

They're making spitting noises.

Like, really loud.

Right by my groin.

I edge away. The smoke's escaping the window. All seems well apart from the volcano of heat near my pants. Sidle away, three or four feet. Sip beer. Chat. Look in control.

Then there's this WHUMP.

Never heard a noise like it before or since.

I have learned this is the sound of what is known as a back-draft.

The sausages were cheap. Frighteningly cheap. You-don't-know-what's-in-them cheap. And it appears they consist largely of fat. Fat which has leaked into the grill pan. Fat which has gotten hotter than the fires of hell.

And it's caused a small - yet effective - fireball to be evacuated from the grill.

I calmly look to my side, a half smile. I still know what I'm doing. It's all good. The curtains are on fire. I look to my mother, my father, they're in some sort of slow motion pointing thing. I step over to the curtains and quite calmly pour beer down them. I glance through the window and wave to the two people pointing at what, from where they were stood, was a flat burning furiously. I smile and raise my beer, mouthing cheers.

I turn back to my parents who stare in stunned silence.

"I think it's ready," I announce.

Cajun sausages, I claim, with pasta in a cream sauce.

I think I got away with it.

I found out later that my kitchen was flat, and in fact my frying pan was warped.

And it was years before my parents came over to dinner again. They always looked...terrified when I asked...for some reason.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

New Release: By The Stars

Science Fiction Space Opera? Yes please!

Allie is faced with her worst nightmare as she boards a space ship that will transport her and her children from their home forever. The human population has dwindled to around 15,000 as the Earth’s become hostile.

If they stay they will die.

The alien race who’s come to their rescue seem to have no concept of selfishness, but Allie has her doubts. She’s separated from her husband and left to fend for her family on her own. It’s up to her to make sure that they survive the trip across the stars.





Excerpt

I go through our bags and pull out our clothes, a few books, and my tool belt. It would have been straining in line, something for the girls to tug on and fiddle with unwanted. Here, I tie it around my waist hoping for a job. The Cih’lnarians expect us to work together, carry the cause as one.
I have my doubts as to how this will be productive. Humans need incentive. We don’t just do things to make sure all goes well like they do.

We’ve been given a three day period of rest to help us adjust, but I wish to have all necessities ready in case my services are required. I’ve always been an active person. I don’t intend to sit around waiting for other people to do their portion of the work. I’ll do what I have to regardless of what everyone else does.

Maybe that’s the mom in me. All my life I’ve been taught to prepare for the worst. Ever since becoming a mother, it’s only driven me further. I’m always cautious about our safety and survival.
The girls help me arrange our things on the shelf. Clothes on the bottom, books beneath our provisional supplies. It looks scant. Then again, our lives have always been a series of small surroundings.

Adam encouraged each of us to bring a book. These rare heir­looms have become sacred to those of us who have been taught to read. Time wears them down, but most humans have passed on favorites through generations. Many classics are only spoken through memory now. It’s a tradition that links us, but I do feel a connection to the pages that transfer specific words from our ancestors.

I laugh as I stare at my husband’s copy of his favorite space fiction. Running my fingertips along the cover, I slide them over the tattered edges and let the earthy aroma of the dusty pages sweep over me. It’s much like traveling to another world.

Adam’s always had space travel in him. It’s in his blood. He’s a descendent of the astronauts who used to travel beyond Earth, before our lack of resources caused the programs to shut down exploration. Of course, traveling through space physically as opposed to philosophically is very different, but I enjoy reading his torn up old book.

With a squeeze of my hand on the binding, I hear my husband’s voice in my head, think of the days when we made time to read to each other. It didn’t matter that they were the same stories told again and again. The feel of the tales always brought us together.

“You okay, mom?” Maddi gently touches my hand.


“I miss him is all.”

You want this? Yes?

B&N 


European Geeks Publishing



WHAT ABOUT A GIVEAWAY?


a Rafflecopter giveaway





About the Author




Jessica is a member of The St. Louis Writer’s Guild. Her stories have been featured by Bewildering Stories, Fiction on the Web, Beyond Imagination Literary Magazine, Hellfire Crossroads, and others. She has a Paranormal Romance novelette titled Tale of Two Bookends through Cobblestone Press LLC, and a children’s book about religious diversity and acceptance titled, My Family Is Different. You check her out at www.jessicamariebaumgartner.com

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Review: Undead Regeneration, by Rebecca Besser

The sequel to Undead Drive-Thru is here:


Following on from the events of Undead Drive-Thru we continue into the slightly surreal world that the author has created.

In the first book, reviewed here, we were introduced to a somewhat bizarre situation involving a single zombie. As always, I'm spoiler free, so if you haven't read the first book I won't be spoiling the ending of that, either.

The book continues, some time after the events of the first, following on a natural progression. Yes some answers are given, no it's clearly not the end.

First thoughts? Well, first off, this one's novely. (Novelly? Noveller?) Anyway. It's a novel. Cool. I can dig that. The first instalment was a novella and while a great read, didn't have time to let up the pace. Character build. Lot of action, (Is that a bad thing?) but as I stated in my review of it, it gently plucked the heart-strings with emotional depth. The sequel works on that layer but heavier than the first.

So, down to the meat and bones. So to speak.

Okay, let me advise you first, if you're looking for an action zombie, grit, blood, brains, goo, ick, sick, bludgeoning, gorefest... this isn't for you. Think of it as the second act to book one.

Undead Drive-Thru slapped you in the face. It gave you the opening action-horror fest. It gave the protagonists a journey they had yet to follow. This is act two. The protagonists learn about the world, themselves, and each other. A broader world is given over. In other words the zombies don't arrive on page one. So it's a slow burn.

The two main protagonists of the piece (hey, give me a break. I can't give you names without implying the end of the first one!), share a solid relationship, going through day to day problems. And yes, they're real. They come across as relateable characters. This is the slow burn.

They're edged into the company (possibly) involved in the events of the first book by (possibly) shady government agents to help unfold things. That's when slow burn turns into page turn.

At the end of the character development, you of course have to ramp things up, and Besser does it in her usual style. Things turn from bad to worse (to worse again) for our hero's and we get the second half of the book full of what we were waiting for. Zombies, monsters, good guys, bad guys, fighting, romance, and a twist in the tail.

Overall, it's a good read, well paced, with just the right blend of horror and action, but because of the added emotional content in first half of the book, it may be more suitable to mature readers than it predecessor.

For me? Well, I'm now waiting for the next one.

You can buy it on Amazon US here, Amazon UK here, and by all means, drop by and say hi to the author, here.

UPDATE: The paperback is now available on Amazon US here, and Amazon UK here.