Tag Archives: comedy science fiction

This week, I have been mostly … reading.

This week I thought it was time for some book reviews, so here are two that are completely chalk and cheese yet despite this, I find they go together surprisingly well.

First Light by Geoffrey Wellum

First up, I’m a sucker for history books and I’m a total sucker for biographies or autobiographies, especially when you get a good writer/ghost writer or someone who knows how to write up a transcript.

However, this is neither of those.

This is the most wonderful, evocative book about one of the key moments in my nation’s history, written first-hand by someone who could clearly turn a phrase every bit as well as he could fly a Spitfire. It’s fabulous.

The story is of a young man, Geoffrey Wellum, who leaves school at 17 in 1939 to become a pilot. In the book, he takes you through his training, and then, later, some of his best/worst/scariest missions. He is utterly honest, documenting his thoughts and feelings with a frankness that only someone who has been through the mill, and come out at peace with their own humanity, can. He describes his emotions, his fear and his distress as his colleagues and friends are lost, one by one. He describes how the threat of loss deepens the relationships between those who are left and how he, and they, deal with the omnipresent threat of death, themselves. When the heat of combat is finally over, after eighteen long months, and he is taken out of combat and sent home on sick leave, he briefly outlines how he reacted. For those few pages, alone, it’s worth a read, if only for the honesty they contain. The whole book is unfailingly frank about the daily business of being human under stress, and also about the personal and emotional cost.

The style of writing is quiet, understated, yet deep thinking and powerful. Geoffrey Wellum describes flying so vividly you feel you are right beside him, and the writing is compelling. This may be an autobiography, but it’s also a page turner. I read late into the night when I really should have been asleep. I found myself looking for a sequel, it was that good. But over and above that, I came out of it with a great deal of affection for Geoffrey Wellum. Because what comes across in this book is the story of an absolutely lovely chap; a complex and thoughtful young lad trying to do the right thing, but enduring horrors to do it. A man looking for answers which ultimately, perhaps, he finds and accepts, but which may not always be the ones he might expect. A man of great wisdom, so much so that I thought about writing to him to say how much I loved his book, but unfortunately he died in April this year (2018), aged 96.

As people who remember the horrors of the second world war, people like Geoffrey Wellum, die off, we seem to be forgetting. The modern world appears to be more and more profit-driven, our politics polarised and compassion, tolerance or kindness towards people who are weaker than/or different from us fading from daily life. This book is definitely worth a read, if only to face up to the reality of what lies at the end of the path some of the world’s major politicians appear to be embarked upon.

One of the best books I’ve ever read. Recommended.

Scout Pilot of the Free Union (Space Scout Book 1)

This is a comedy but run with me on this, there are similarities, I promise. Our hero, Frank Eric Russell is captain/pilot of a Valhalla Class Star Destroyer in the Free Union’s Star Fleet. We meet him as the Free Union and the Imperium are in an uneasy truce after years of war. Unfortunately Frank makes an embarrassing cock up during a diplomatic mission which leaves the Free Union looking … well … a bit rubbish, to be … Frank (badoom tish). He is punished by way of being transferred to the Free Union Star Fleet’s Reconnaissance Unit. There, he is assigned an ancient and outdated ship and sent on missions which are less prestigious, less carefully overseen and far more dangerous than the crappy obsolete vessel he is assigned to fly them in would suggest.

What I like about this is that Frank is very flawed and human. He can be a bit of an idiot, but he is well meaning and for all his averred cowardice he Does The Right Thing. There’s not a lot of descriptive world building, yet the world in question is very much alive and everything you need a handle on to imagine it properly is in place. Frank describes his missions in the first person which means he clearly understates the case most of the time. Things go wrong on most of them and he is forced to change the plan, or take radical action to fulfil his tasks and escape with his life. Indeed, most of his efforts are about survival and he just does as much of whatever it is he is supposed to be doing as he can while lurching from one crisis or ship’s mechanical failure to the next. But as the book continues, you begin to realise that, though he makes light of it, he is clearly an excellent pilot with a capacity for lateral thought that gets him out of situations that would certainly prove fatal to others. There are also the first hints that his exploits are beginning to get out and that he is beginning to be thought of by his peers as a hero.

Because this is all seen through the prism of his view, he is very understated and matter of fact in the way he describes his exploits – except when he is talking about lack of coffee at which point a hint of drama might creep in. It’s that style of delivery that reminded me of some of the sections in First Light. But also, I believe there was a lot of gallows humour in the RAF in WW2 as a way of dealing with the high casualty rate. This gallows approach is similarly abundant in the world of the Free Union’s Reconnaissance Unit. Likewise, the way Frank questions the ethics of the conflict but at the same time, steps up to do his duty, anyway, also echoed some of the moments of thought Wellum outlines in First Light.

Scout isn’t a deep book, by any means, or at least not like First Light; the humour is slapstick in places and very Milliganesque, so you have to like that sort of thing. It’s all very light and as such is chalk to First Light’s cheese. But, while it’s a quick entertaining read, at the same time, it’s way more complex than it appears when you start in. Macmillan Jones is smart enough to know the important truth that few heroes ever see themselves as such and that’s a facet of Wellum’s personality that is noticeable in First Light. I found the parallels between the two books interesting. Indeed, I found it very intriguing that I even noticed parallels. I’ll leave you to decide if I’m bonkers or onto something.

Light fun but fluff with more than one level! Recommended.

So there we are. If you want to read either book, just click on the picture and it will take you to a page with links to buy it in all the major stores. Although Scout is only available from Amazon both books are available in paperback and ebook – there’s also an audiobook of First Light.

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#ComedyBookWeek, two reviews.

Three weeks ago Comedy book week was looming and I wanted to join in but at he same time, looking at my diary, it was patently clear that I didn’t have time to do it justice. So I decided I would read as many books off the list as I could and review them. That’ll be a nice series of posts over the week I thought. And then I read … er hem … two books. But if all the others are as good as these, you will find a fair few new authors to follow and worlds/stories to enjoy.

The Bumpkinton Tales, Volume 1
by Matt Drzymala

Matt Drzymala’s books have been vaguely on my radar for a while. I think he posts in some of the same Goodreads and Facebook groups as me. As someone without much time, I really like short stories so I when I saw this collection featured in Comedy Book Week I downloaded it at once. They’re all based around the imaginary town of Bumpkinton. Here’s the blurb:

bumpkintonTalesWelcome to Bumpkinton!

Come in, have a cup of tea and a scone, and lose yourself in five humorous tales from the village.

Follow Father Whitworth O’Grady as he chokes on a penny, Albert Scatterhorn as he becomes the grubbiest Father Christmas ever, and Amelia Goose as she feuds with… well, anybody. Plus a whole host of characters as they attend the village’s first Singles Night with a sex-crazed ladies’ man.

Jump in and find out more for yourself…

So I did jump in.

First impressions, this kind of reminded me of Barbara Pym in that there’s a wry wit that crops up in the observation from time to time which is reminiscent of hers. The pace is gentle and this book is series of short stories so you can dip in and finish an instalment. For the most part I really liked the characters, and I enjoyed that some were rather trying, just as people in a real life village are. There was a great atmosphere of gossip created and I enjoyed the whole, does he or doesn’t he? thing surrounding a couple of characters and their reported misdemeanours. There’s a fair bit of comic mileage in the total madman in charge of the paper who, basically, just says ‘hello’ to you and then makes up some spurious interview.

However, these stories are much more than a light read. The characters have empathy and depth and you do start to care about them quite quickly, even the ones that are, frankly, a bit grim. There was a point where I almost felt sympathy for the village busybody and found myself hoping that she might find love, or something. We find out how and why she was transformed from a shy bookish girl to nightmare harridan. After I discovered her past I found her just as odious but at the same time, with understanding, came an ability to give her a little slack! And this depth and reality to the characters, and the way we find out little tit bits here and there as the stories proceed, just as we would if we actually lived there and were genuinely getting to know these people, was an excellent touch and really cleverly done. There is an intelligence and subtlety to it that I really liked.

As someone who grew up in a small village and sang in the church choir (for my sins) I did find it slightly unseating, at first, that the priest is Roman Catholic – it’s definitely more Father Ted than Rev in that respect. But if you, too, find that strange, it’s worth persevering because you soon get used to that.

So, all in all, I recommend this. It’s a lovely bit of light, gentle humour except that, like life, it works on many subtle levels and there’s a lot more to it than that.

Four stars.

Where to download The Bumpkinton Tales

The book is £1.99 as I write but should be reduced to 99p for Comedy Book Week.

Mission Improbable
by J J Green

ImprobableThe galaxy is in crisis, and Carrie Hatchett is the last person on Earth who should be fixing it.

Carrie is a low-achieving daydreamer. After providing a good home for her butt-ugly dog and psychotic cat, her biggest challenge in life is to avoid being fired, again.

But a strange green mist sucks her beneath her kitchen sink, and an unusual clerical error leads to an offer she foolishly doesn’t refuse.

The Transgalactic Council hire her to settle a conflict between the mechanical placktoids and the mysterious oootoon. Carrie must overcome her personal weaknesses and, for the first time in her life, succeed in her job, to uncover a threat to the entire galaxy.

Mission Improbable is Book One in the light-hearted, fast-paced Carrie Hatchett Space Adventures series. “…like Scully and Mulder on acid.”

As a big humorous fantasy/sci-fi fan I had to give this one a go. I think I may not have been in the mood for this book to begin with. I felt that Carrie was the most annoying, thoughtless, irritating woman and I wanted to give her a sharp rap over the head and tell her to belt up. Then something happened to the cupboard under her sink and suddenly, things began to look up, and Carrie got interesting enough for me to forgive her.

This is a much more straightforward book, in many ways, than its partner in this post. Where The Bumpkinton Tales is all half tones and subtlety, Mission Improbable is blocks of primary colours and is definitely not subtle. However, in this case it isn’t a bad thing. Carrie is really quite dim to start with, but she has a good heart and you can’t help rooting for her eventually once the author’s imagination kicks in. Because what really lifts this book is the wonderful originality of thought in it. The oootoon were inspired, I liked Gavin, I particularly liked that Gavin was called Gavin, and the placktoids are a stroke of genius. This book is a piece of light fluff, total whimsy but it’s none the worse for that. You’re looking at a reviewer, here, who has written a book about lobster-shaped aliens who are covered in marmite (vegemite if you’re Australian) scented goo. Let’s just say there were aspects of this book, and I, which were pretty much made for one another.

It was a quick read, the action clipped along at a good pace and once it got going I really enjoyed the twists and turns of the plot and zipped through it in an afternoon. I also got to like Carrie by the end.

OK, so this is a book of it’s type, and in this case, it’s madcap space comedy. It’s not deep. It’s not designed to be deep, because what it is, and what it’s designed to be, is FUN. That said there is a pretty solid and commendable message about not judging by appearances, listening to both sides, thinking and evaluating before jumping to conclusions.

For me, the greatest test of a book is whether or not you think about it after you’ve read it and if you do, how long for. I found that I was chuckling about some of the creatures and ideas in this book for some time. In fact I still am, as I write because the more I think about them the more delightfully off the wall they seem. So although to start with, I was thinking, hmm… not sure, as time goes by, I am looking back on the reading experience more and more fondly.

So did I like it? Yeh. Another four stars. I will definitely be buying other books in this series. It’s not deep, but it is what it is, and I enjoyed it. Recommended.

Where to download Mission Improbable

Mission Improbable is free to download, everywhere.

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Killing Zombies with household pets and other stories. It’s Bloghop time! Books 2 Brain Cyber Convention Sci-fi Blog hop! Stop 4 Excerpts!

It’s a bit of a new thing for me, today because as well as the usual lovely peps, I am welcoming many of you to my blog for the first time as part of a blog hop. Hello and welcome to the Books 2 Brain cyber convention blog hop.

You are now mostly at, stop 4: Excerpts.

What you will find in this post is a brief wee snippet from a selection of fabulous speculative fiction books. Also, just for interest, I have asked the authors to answer ‘The Zombie Question’ you know the one, it goes like this:

‘The zombie apocalypse has begun. A zombie crashes into the room. You pick up the first thing you can see on your left hand side, right now, to defend yourself. What is the object you pick up and how will you kill the zombie with it?’

So without more ado, I welcome our first guest, J D Brink.

invasion

Here is an excerpt from Invasion (Identity Crisis, Book 1):

The creature’s head split in half with a burst of steel wool brains and azure sparks.  Ballista’s big glaive proved sharp enough for cleaving the skulls of even robotic alien vermin.  She planted the weighted pommel of her staff in the thing’s back and easily vaulted over it in the low gravity, catapulting herself into the next target.  Her kick sent it sideways, and she twirled her weapon back for another slash, severing a segmented limb.  It had many, however, and another insect arm snapped around, firing a bolt of green bio-electric energy that barely missed burning a hole through her ribcage.  In these close quarters, that miss was as much luck as skill.  She couldn’t give the thing another shot.  With a flurry of blows, Ballista repelled the beast with the glaive’s pommel and slashed with its heavy blade, repeatedly trading one side of the staff for the other until the thing had but one leg and an exposed underbelly.  One more swing and the collection of wires and tubing that the bug called organs were leaking into the compartment.

Ballista breathed heavily.  She stretched a kink out of her neck and felt the dreadlocks of her spongy hair stick to her sweaty back.  These metallic monsters were a challenge, at least, and though she fought for her life, she found that she was enjoying it.  This was much more like what the gladiator was used to; being a “superhero” on Earth, especially in American society, was more delicate work.  You often had to pull your punches, and killing was largely frowned upon.  Though not killing, she had found to her own surprise, had been a relief to her conscience.  Mercy was not a bad thing.  Still, her combatant’s muscles had missed this kind of fight.

She strode to the next hatch and punched the button to open it.  The octagonal room beyond was dimly lit white with grey shadows.  It took a moment to recognize the crumpled shape of a man wearing a spacesuit and hiding among two empty suits hooked to the bulkhead.  (The big white clown costumes were too cumbersome and confining for her tastes.)  Ballista marched up to him and lifted him from the floor by the suit’s big round collar.  “Captain Marcus?” she asked sternly.  The panicky man’s mouth gaped and his blue eyes flashed around, not seeing anything but his impending death.  “I asked you a question,” she barked, shaking him.  “Are you Captain Marcus or not?”  She’d not paid enough attention to these astronauts to keep track of which was which.

The jarring got him to focus on her.  His mouth made a few attempts to speak, gasping for air like a fish thrown from water, before finally finding words.  “Ye—yes.  Marcus.  I’m Marcus.  Oh, thank God it’s you.”

She did recognize him now, between the eyes and the thinly-trimmed beard.  He was the one who’d said something stupid about never having seen a purple woman before.  It had been some pathetic attempt at flirtation, which she’d been nice enough to let go without physically injuring him.  “Make prayers to your deities later,” she said, turning and flinging him toward the open hatch.  In the low-g, he soared through perfectly.

Want to read more? Here are three places to grab a copy of Invasion:

From Amazon – links to your local store
From Barnes & Noble
From Fugitive Fiction

The Answer (to the Zombie Question).

To my immediate left as I type this is my dog, Jack.  He’s a fluffy white Maltese with a fierce attitude, a cross between a mop and a shark leaping for a seal.  As the zombie crashes through the front door, I react with lightning reflexes, pick up Jack, and spiral-pass him like a football.  Jack soars teeth-first into the zombie and proves himself more vicious than any brain-starved walking corpse!

Three places to find out more about J D Brink.

J D Brink’s Blog: http://brinkschaostheory.blogspot.com
J D Brink on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jd.brink.3
J K Brink on twitter: https://twitter.com/J_D_Brink

And now, I welcome our second guest, Chess Desalls.

Lantern 5 StarsHere is an excerpt from here free novella Lantern:

Fireflies lit the sky, dancing and twirling beneath a curtain of stars. Weary eyes found it impossible to tell where the stars’ twinkling ended and the fireflies began.

One by one, rays of light flickered to life, stretching from torches held by a circle of party guests. No sooner would one’s eyes adjust to a new beam before the one next to it made itself known, appearing to the former’s right, and so on, until the circle of light was complete.

Tori found herself standing in the center of the circle. Funny, she thought, squinting. I don’t remember being invited to a party. She looked down at her dress and smiled. Fabric and lace in soft pastels blossomed from a belt of lollipops cinched around her waist. Her gaze followed the knee-length hem to her legs, covered with tights banded red and white like candy canes sticking out of clumps of mud. She frowned. Instead of dainty ballerina flats, she’d worn her hiking boots.

Confused as to why she’d forget such an important detail for her costume, Tori ran her fingers through her blue and pink wig. Feeling the weight of a handle pulling against her other hand, she looked down, expecting to see a trick-or-treat bag filled with candy.

She stared at her hand as a sick feeling washed over her. Instead of a bag, she held a lantern. All of the torches were aimed toward it, making it glow more brightly than she’d ever seen. Trembling, she lifted the lantern away from the converging beams of light. She sucked in a breath as she stared at an unlit globe, empty with darkness.

“What’s wrong, Tor?”

Tori’s mouth fell open. “Shawna, what are you doing here?”

“You invited me, silly. I wanted to check out that lantern you’ve been telling me about.” Shawna’s broad shoulders shrugged forward as she bent to look inside the lantern. “Hmm, not much going on in there tonight.” Silky black sleeves and leggings accentuated the slim outlines of her arms and legs as she straightened up. Brows lifted above gray eyes in a mock accusatory look, which Tori might have taken seriously had it not been for the mini witch hat perched on her head.

“Great costume,” said Tori. “How come you’re not dressed in your volleyball uniform this year?”

“I had time to come up with something different while you were away. I wanted to surprise you.”

Tori squeezed her friend. “I’m not sure what’s going on, but I’m happy to see you.”

“I brought someone with me.” Shawna smirked. “He’s been waiting a long time to see you.”

Jared? Is he here? Is that why he’s not inside the lantern? Before Tori could repeat her questions aloud, Shawna playfully shoved someone in front of her, a male dressed in a plum-colored cloak; his regalia sparkled with candies made of silver and gold.

“Surprise! I hope you don’t mind that I hinted at your costume. You know, so you could match.”

Want to read more? Here are three places to grab a free copy of Lantern:

From Amazon – links to your local store
From Barnes & Noble
From iBooks

The Answer (to the Zombie Question).

I pick up a retractable pen and shake it back and forth. “Here, boy,” I say, whistling. “Tastes like brains.”

The zombie darts his half-rotten eyes back and forth, following the clicking sounds I make with the pen’s push mechanism.

“You want this, don’t ya? C’mon, you can get it.” I wind up my arm and let it spring forward.

A trickle of drool leaks from the zombie’s slackened lips. Groaning as his prize soars through the air, he turns to follow. He leaps after the pen—catches it. But not until it falls below the gutters lining the roof’s edge.

Three places to find out more about Chess Desalls:

And now, I welcome our third guest, Kate M Colby.

The Cogsmith's Daughter - Ebook SmallHere is an excerpt from The Cogsmith’s Daughter:

“Until we meet again,” King Archon said, staring only at Aya.

Lord Varick took Aya’s arm and led her away from the thrones. With every step, she tightened her grip around his elbow. Varick must have noticed, but he didn’t let on, keeping his face even and greeting the various nobles as they passed. The nerve of King Archon. Sitting up there on his throne, taking compliments on his new wife as though she was some sort of trophy. And the way he looked at Aya! If he kept up such piggish behavior, Aya would have no problem setting him up for execution.

Aya tried to temper her breathing by gazing around the room. She saw many noblemen she recognized from working at the Rudder, but she’d never served any of them. She doubted any of them would remember glimpsing her in the hallway or through a cracked door, but even if they did, they could not reveal her identity without exposing themselves as adulterers. She searched the crowd for Lord Collingwood or Lord Derringher to see if she could get a look at their wives to report back to Dellwyn. Unfortunately, she didn’t see either of them. Perhaps they had already paid their respects to the queen. She made a mental note to look for them again at the ball—assuming she really did attend.

When they were back in the corner of the room, Lord Varick released her arm. “For a woman, you have quite a strong grip.”

Aya shrugged. “I do a lot of clinging in my line of work.”

Lord Varick laughed.

“How did I do?”

Lord Varick grinned, his eyes crinkling. “You did quite well, my dear. I would say the king already seems intrigued by you.”

“I had forgotten his voice.” A shudder slipped down her spine. “I thought I could hear it clearly in my nightmares, but it is much sharper in person. And his eyes, they pierce you.”

Lord Varick nudged her. “Some women find piercing eyes appealing.”

“And some women find piercing eyes a reminder of the ax that pierces through a man’s neck.”

Lord Varick’s eyes widened, and his lips curved into a smirk. “The more you speak your mind, Miss Aya, the more delightful you become. You really should be more open with your thoughts.”

Aya rolled her eyes. “I was taught to be open with nothing but my legs.”

“Ha! That is it!” Lord Varick clapped. “That fire! Keep that blazing, and King Archon and every other man in this palace will come crawling to you.”

Aya blushed. She hadn’t meant to be so forward, but seeing King Archon again ignited something in her—something she hadn’t been allowed to express when she’d been thrown out of her home and selling off her dresses for bread and washing noblemen’s seed off of pillows. She had been good. Mouth shut and legs open. She had allowed Madam Huxley to command her every action and Dellwyn to speak for her. No more.

This was her chance to reclaim her life, to get back her father’s shop, and finally attain justice for his death. She was going to take it or die trying.

Want to read more? Here are three places to grab a copy of the Cogsmith’s Daughter:

From Amazon – links to your local store
From Barnes & Noble
From iBooks

The Answer (to the Zombie Question).

As the zombie staggers toward me, I grab my aluminium water bottle off my desk. It’s rather useless–cylindrical, blunt–but it’s the only object within reach. I fling water at the zombie. The stream hits it in the eyes, but the zombie keeps coming, undeterred. It opens its mouth to groan at me, and I seize my opportunity.

With a war cry of my own, I run forward and ram the narrow end of my water bottle into its mouth. We fall to the ground, and I use my body weight to grind my water bottle further into the zombie’s head. A crack, a pop, a spurt of blood, and the zombie falls still.

I stand, my entire body shaking, and wipe the sweat from my brow. I notice a tear in my sleeve, and search my arm. No scratches. For once, I feel grateful for my apartment’s inefficient heating system and the thick, wool sweater my grandma knitted. With a sigh, I head to the kitchen. The water bottle proved its worth, but next time, I’d rather be attacked near a butcher knife.

Three places to find out more about Kate M Colby:

Website: http://www.KateMColby.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorKateMColby
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/KateMColby

And now, I welcome our fourth guest, David Kelley.

Dead Reckoning And Other StoriesHere is an excerpt from Dead Reckoning and Other Stories:

Snap!

A white-hot pain burned through Hector’s chest and head; for one brief second he was overwhelmed by agony roiling up his spine and cauterizing every nerve.

No, wait. Maybe this isn’t such a good idea after all. Can I think this over a little longer? His mind skittered in fear.

Snap!

A second stab of agony completed the transfer. The pain was gone. The ache in his limbs that had been there for at least twenty years was gone. The stabilization-induced torpor was gone too.

And so were his clothes.

While the first three items were blessings and made him want to jump around screaming like a madman, the idea of wandering naked around the virtual heaven of LifePlus Inc’s Select community bothered him. He’d have settled for just about anything, even a pair of pajamas. He had a beautiful pair of dark red silk ones Kaydianne had bought him. She said they made him look just like Bublé in all those classic movies, a little heavier perhaps but…

Hector’s confusion grew as he examined himself. He had the same body he’d died in. Where was the twenty-four year old hunk-body he’d never had, but ordered? And why didn’t he have any clothes? Dark red silk, gray woolen worsted, a pair of jeans and a T-shirt promoting General ToyoSan Motors would have been acceptable. Where was his luxury villa, complete with swimming pool and maid service?

Instead he gazed down on a flabby chest, gray-hair covered man-breasts, flaccid arms and thighs. This wasn’t what he’d signed up for. Glowing letters flared up inside his vision, but they were meaningless:

——————————————————-

Tren-Hump, Hector. TH15D3AD-1485-13A6-5661A946B3101857

Cycles: 1            CPU Credit: 1%           Ducks: 0.0

——————————————————-

Snap!

Hector jumped, his body arching reflexively. This wasn’t the same moment of disconnection he’d experienced during the transfer; this was a blistering pain that cut across his back as though his spine had been ripped out.

“Okay, Noob. Time to get all those gleaming new Hoxels dirty.”

The creature facing Hector was huge: a powerful humanoid at least three meters tall with four arms and a physique that would have made the Hulk turn white.

“I’m Marshal, but you call me Sir, and make sure you shout it loud so there’s no mistake.”

“What the hell’s going on here — yeow!” Hector squealed again as the whip snapped out and flayed across his shoulders. Virtual or not, the pain felt like his skin had been torn from his body.

“SIR!”

Hector cowered, the searing pain in his back throbbing mercilessly. “What the hell’s going on here, Sir?”

Again the whip lashed out and Hector screamed.

“And be respectful when you speak to me,” bellowed the Marshal. The whip flicked several times like a cat swishing its tail but didn’t land a blow. “Join the line and get ready to do some heavy duty Judgment.”

“Judgment? Ahhhh!” The whip lashed out again, wrapping around Hector’s flabby torso.

Want to read more? Here are three places to grab a copy of Dead Reckoning and Other Stories:

From Amazon – links to your local store
From Barnes & Noble
From Kobo

The Answer (to the Zombie Question).

The object on my immediate left is my wife. I’d grab her. She’d be useless for killing the zombie with, but I’d throw her in anyway. This would buy me time to make a run for it and get to safety. 😉

Mwah hahahargh! And if his wife sees that one, look out for David Kelley in a shallow grave near you!

Three places to find out more about David Kelley:

Websit: http://www.davidmkelly.net
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/David.Kelly.SF
Twitter: http://twitter.com/David_Kelly_SF

And now, I welcome our fifth guest, Massimo Marino:

Daimones-663x1024Here is an excerpt from Diamones (the Daimones Trilogy: Book 1):

Excerpt. Characters: Dan, and his wife Mary. Location: their place, turned into a stronghold, in the Geneva countryside, at the border with France.
After the culling of the human race, and months spent surviving and in search of others, Mary lost all hopes.
“[…] this proves there could be others. With time, maybe, many others.”

Mary nodded.

She was somber and stared at the stove. Without raising her eyes from the dinner she was preparing, she asked: “How many, Dan? Can you tell me? Maybe it’s just that girl we saw…and we might not see her ever again.” She paused then, looking straight into my eyes. “I love you, Dan. And I love Annah. Sometimes I wonder whether all this makes sense. What will be our life next winter, or a year or more from now? Can you tell me?”

“Mary…” I started, but Mary raised her hand to silence me.

“I will carry on, for you and Annah. But I cannot promise you for how long, not this way. Why didn’t we die, too? Why, Dan?” Her body seemed to implode, as if something broke internally. Resting both stiff arms on the counter, her head collapsed between her shoulders. “It would have been so much easier now.”

“Now? What are you talking about? We’d be dead, now. You would be dead, Annah would be dead. Is that what you want? You’ve seen those rotting remains. Don’t do this…”

She kept her head down. “Just hold me. Please.”

I held her tightly in my arms. I cried without making any sound. Mary wasn’t, and that made me cry even more. Warm tears, heavy, and coming from the depths. I couldn’t lose her. I simply could not.

As if she was reading my mind, Mary whispered in my ear, “I don’t have any more tears…”

I stayed there, and hugged my wife hoping she would not crumble any further. That night, the whole night, I kept searching for her, continuously pressing my body against her, breathing her.

During the night, Mary complained a few times she was cold, and asked me to lay next to her even closer and to put my arms around her. I prayed to God that I could be the fire that kept her alive, that kept her away from that cold that grows from the inside. It rises like a shivering fever, and consumes you inexorably, eating up all your strengths and leaving you emptied, hopeless, and ready to give up.”

Want to read more? Here are three places to grab a copy of Diamones (The Diamones Trilogy: Book 1):

From Amazon – links to your local store
From Barnes & Noble
From iBooks

The Answer (to the Zombie Question).

Depends on the room, but the one I’m in here right now gives me nothing I can turn into a real weapon. 
 To my left, books, some boring to death but reading won’t do it. The soft cushions of the sofa might suffocate a living, but not a zombie. On the coffee table a silver tray catches my eyes and I grab it. It’s sturdy, the edge is blunt and the zombie can’t bite through it. I push him back with all my weight. His hands try to grab me and I slam the tray into its open mouth. He gurgles and his grin wides as I push the tray through. We fall and his jaw rips off. I keep slamming with the tray over and over at the root of his rotten nose. Something breaks, and it’s not the tray. A fetid fluid sprays my face. I keep hitting with all my strength and I stop only when two hands grab me by my shoulders.
“We have to run! More are coming!”
The zombie’s head is a pool of black and thick goo and I’m covered with it.
“Let’s go!” screams my girlfriend. I fail to recognize her for at first. 
Scratching sounds and raucous snarls comes from the porch. The front door slams open and three bodies stumble in.
We run.
I’ve never been back home since.

.

Three places to find out more about Massimo Marino.

Website: http://massimomarinoauthor.com
 Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MassimoMarinoAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/J_D_Brink

And now, I welcome our sixth guest, Belinda Crawford.

hero-cover-smlHere is an excerpt from The Hero Rebellion, Book 1:

It was windy on the foredeck, and cold, but the air smelled like freedom and Fink was warm against Hero’s back.

The ruc-pard purred, a rumble that vibrated from his giant chest into hers, and all the way down to her toes. She snuggled deeper into the hollow between his fore- and mid-quarters, enjoying the feel of his thick winter coat. Golden-red and silky, she sank into it, the hairs brushing her bare arms with every giant breath he took, the longer, coarser hair on his ruff tickling her cheek. Fink’s black, hairless tail wrapped around them both, the heavy weight of it draped across her feet, warming her toes.

Lazy images swam through her mind, carried on the distinct pink and mawberry of Fink’s thoughts – the taste of them sweet, the touch of them a soft fizz winding through her brain. She might have stopped and played for a moment in his memories, if the huge skytowers of Cumulus City weren’t spread across the horizon.

She’d seen all the holotours, interrogated all of the guides, but she’d never thought the city would be so… there wasn’t a word big enough to describe it. Surrounded by its sprawling mass of satellite ‘burbs, Cumulus City rose thirty thousand feet through the atmosphere, an endless patchwork of grey and green connected by the silver threads of bridges and the restless movement of the skylanes.

Below, spires shot planetside and massive generators kept the city and its ‘burbs aloft, while giant tethers prevented it from drifting with the winds.

The city was her ticket, her chance, to see Jørn, to explore the planet’s surface without minders or gadgets or her mum looking over her shoulder. She rubbed the dull plasteel bracelet wrapped around her wrist. Or so she hoped.

She breathed deep and hugged her bare arms against the chill as freedom came closer and closer on the horizon.

‘Hero.’ The Lamb, the latest in her bevy of minders, stood in her peripheral vision clutching a heavy coat, the wind flattening her white-blonde curls against her head. Her mouth was pulled tight and her big green eyes were wide, almost swallowing her face. The way she eyed Fink looked to Hero as if she were waiting for him to flash his fangs and pounce, and she held herself like one of the old Terra creatures Hero had named her for, stiff and tense, leaning away from the ‘pard as if the extra millimetre would save her if he did. A brave lamb, wary but not scared.

Hero wondered at where Tybalt–butler, tutor, substitute parent–had found someone who didn’t quake before six-hundred kilograms of genetically engineered ruc-pard, bigger at the shoulder than Hero was tall, and twice as long. This woman wouldn’t be as easy to get rid of as the others.

Want to read more? Here are three places to grab a copy of The Hero Rebellion, Book 1:

From Amazon – links to your local store
From Barnes & Noble
From Author’s Website – get a signed copy.

The Answer (to the Zombie Question).

I immediately pick up my tea cup and, channeling Riddick, smash it against the arm of my chair before shoving the broken, jagged end into the zombie’s rotted eye. The eye will burst and the cup’s ceramic teeth will shred its flesh, spraying my hand with old blood and the zombie’s putrid stink, but I’ll keep digging, pinning the thing to the wall with my other hand, until the shards pierce its brain.

The zombie will shudder and twitch, and I’ll give the cup a nasty little twist–just to finish the job–before letting the body slump to the ground at my feet.

Three places to find out more about Belinda Crawford:

And now, I welcome our seventh guest, Me, M T McGuire.

9781907809262_LowResHere is an excerpt from Escape From B-Movie Hell:

I noticed Eric was beginning to go a bit blurry round the edges. If I caught a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye, I would see something … else, but when I turned to look closely, he’d be Eric again. Whatever was going on, I decided it was best faced on a full stomach, so for now I’d cope with it the British way: ignore it and pretend nothing was happening. Eric kept drifting in and out of focus and the pain behind my eyes intensified each time his image sharpened. He was looking increasingly worried and uncomfortable, and judging by the expression on his face, he thought I was about to have a stroke. I was beginning to think the same thing.

“Andi,” he began haltingly but I interrupted him.

“Eric, have you got an aspirin on you?”

“Yes.”

“Can I have one?”

“What? Now?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because I have a headache, you dolt.” Blimey, what was the problem? I wished he’d hurry up, if he didn’t give me one of those aspirins absolutely immediately the top of my head was going to blow off.

“OK, Andi, I can stop your headache but you have to promise me you won’t go all limp and fall over again.”

So Eric was Norwegian but surely he’d seen people faint before – I mean people faint all the time don’t they? His expression was panicky but also slightly shifty.

“It’s called fainting, imbecile and no, I won’t.”

He pressed me.

“You promise?”

“Yes I promise!” He eyed me sceptically. For heaven’s sake! How much reassurance could a person need? “I will not faint again,” I told him. As if I had some kind of control over it. “Satisfied?”

He nodded.

“Good! Now for God’s sake give me an aspirin or I’m going to die.”

“No. I’m not going to give you an aspirin. I’m going to stop your headache.”

My reply died on my lips as Eric went into soft focus at the edges again. As he did so, my head began to hurt less. I didn’t like this one bit, there was definitely a correlation between the amount of ache in my head and the amount of blur round Eric. I turned away from him and looked out onto the City of London through the plate glass windows which made up two-thirds of the Student Union canteen wall. I scanned the familiar skyline. The Post Office Tower and the Gherkin were where they should be. The Shard? Check. The Walkie Talkie? Check. All was right with the world and nothing, except Eric, was blurry. I faced him again and as I stared, something moved by his head. Was that a tentacle? No, no. My friend did not have tentacles.

“Andi?” Eric waved his hand in front of my face except …

Hang on. That definitely was a hint of a pincer there. Maybe it was a joke. Yeh that was it: a joke; a piss-poor one at that.

“Eric, what are you doing?”

“How’s your head?”

“It hurts a bit less.”

“OK,” he said slowly. “Andi, this is going to freak you out a bit.”

“Then don’t do it.”

“I don’t have any choice.”

“Yes you do.”

“No, I don’t. Your brain can’t take it.”

My breath caught.

“Can’t take what Eric? Tell me right now or I swear to God I’m going to—”

I stopped. My headache had gone and this time, I knew I wasn’t imagining it. Slowly Eric became a translucent wavy outline and behind him something else appeared. It looked a bit like a lobster, but without a tail and with fewer legs: two pairs to walk on and a pair of ‘arms’ with huge pincers on them. It was about seven feet tall with two long antennae. It had mouth parts like a praying mantis and on top of its head were seven stalks, each with a human-like eye on the end: the eyes were blue, like Eric’s. The creature’s exoskeleton was reddish-brown and glistening with translucent slime. I sat there for a few moments with my mouth open.

“It’s difficult to explain,” he said.

Yeh. I reckoned that was the officially certified understatement of all time.

Want to read more? Here are three places to grab a copy of Escape From B-Movie Hell:

From Amazon – links to your local store
From Kobo
From iBooks

The Answer (to the Zombie Question).

Ah, the thing on my left is my cat, Harrison. Harrison is a food obsessed moron. I can’t see him defeating a zombie.

‘Brainsssss,’ says the Zombie shuffling closer.

I pick Harrison up and contemplate how I can damage the zombie with him. He starts to purr.

The zombie shuffles closer still. I notice that it has a distinctly cheesy smell.

‘Have you been eating Doritos?’ I ask it.

Harrison’s ears go pointy at the mention of the C word.

‘Brainssss,’ the zombie says.

Well, I suppose it would.

‘Conversation’s not your strong point is it? Did you know you smell of cheese?’

 The zombie doesn’t answer. Cat in arms, I stand up and back away. What to do? Throw Harrison at it and leap through the window? Possibly but knowing my luck I will bounce off the glass and the zombie will feast on my unconscious form while the cat looks on with a confused expression. Even if I lob Harrison at the zombie, will he distract it long enough for me to pick up a chair and chuck it through the glass. And what if it eats him? It’s hardly responsible pet ownership is it? And the idea of owning a zombie cat lacks appeal.

Then I am distracted by Harrison. He is wriggling. I try to hold onto him but he escapes and leaps to the floor rushing towards the zombie. For a moment I stand petrified and then I realise he’s doing The Cheese Meow. Harrison is obsessed with cheese and the cheesy smell of this particular zombie is driving him wild. In seconds he leaps into the air. Then he is on the zombie. The battle is bloody and swift, and judging by Harrison’s eager and speedy snarfing, the zombie tastes as cheesy as it smells. Soon, the stripped skeleton is all that remains. Harrison drags his distended stomach a few feet away and flops contentedly onto his side. He will enjoy the mother of all sleeps after his feast of undead cheesy flesh. When he looks up at me and winks, I swear he burps.

Three places to find out more about M T McGuire (apart from here):

On my website: www.hamgee.co.uk
Thanks for reading everyone, the next post in this smashing tour is author interviews and you can find it and all the other posts on this Goodreads thread here or just head on to the next stage at Kylie Jude’s blog, here.

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Filed under Blimey!, General Wittering, Interesting

Dipping my toe into the world of #Sci-fi #Romance

Back cover, Looking for Trouble.

Back cover, Looking for Trouble.

Like many of the laideeeees I like a bit of romance: no squelchy bits, I prefer to imagine the squelching for myself. I’m interested in the way love affects people and that’s probably why my characters get it on from time to time. That said, I’ve never dared pitch my books as full on romance because… well… there’s the odd snog, and a bit of enthusiastic grinding, no actual sex. Even so, I have got to know many romance writers as cyber buddies over the years and as well as being ruthlessly well organised and efficient they are an incredibly friendly bunch, and generous about sharing their knowledge with dumb schmucks like myself. A lot of the stuff I know about selling books on the internet is information I’ve gathered from romance  writers.

And guess what? There are many, many flavours of romance and they are not all spicy, some are what’s referred to as ‘clean’. So that makes my books ‘clean romance’ which is cool because it’s yet another genre I can add to my ever expanding book description. Imagine my delight when I happened up on the Science Fiction Romance Brigade. Yes, there is a niche for sci-fi with romance in it. So obviously, I joined up straight away!

They are a lovely bunch with many and varied books to their names, some spicy, some clean and some between and they have kindly allowed me to witter on on their blog, so if you liked the romantic aspect of the K’Barthan Series it’s worth a visit. Forget reading my drivvel, there are give aways, book recommendations and all sorts of new authors for you to try while for authors there is expertise, camaraderie and general interest from other people who write science fiction with romance in it.

You can find the Brigade’s blog, and my post, here. And you can interact with them on their facebook site here,

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Secrets of the K’Barthan Series unlocked.

One of the great things about being an author is that you get to be a bit… hmm…. let’s call it, ‘eccentric’. It is one of the parts of the job I truly delight in – and probably the bit I am best at. Certainly I’m far better at being a bit weird than I am at writing books, but I digress. One of the things I get asked sometimes, apart from, ‘Are you mad?’ is where I get the names from.

Well, clearly we authors can make some of them up, like The Pan of Hamgee, while others are normal, like Ruth or Lucy or a bit comedically untrendy, names normally associated with the elderly, for example, like Gladys and Ada. Then again, judging by the amount of Masies, Ediths, Dots and Daisey’s under ten there are now, and the rate the real Gladys and Adas are dying off, there will probably be lots of toddlers and babies named Gladys and Ada before long. Christened by people too young to remember that no-one under 70 was called Gladys or Ada for many years.

In other instances, if you’re looking to name characters you can turn to the world around us… things like this:

philip softone2

Yes, Philip Softone got his name from some lightbulbs. Ever since I saw the first advert for these in about 1989 I have been giggling quietly to myself about who Philip Softone is and wondering what he is like.

Meanwhile his assistant…

20140627_154147

I know, I know… I really should grow up. 😉

There must be a way I can work Clancy Docwra in there somewhere – just because it’s such a jolly silly name (sorry Clancy, if you’re reading this). Indeed, I reckon I may have to write some wild west punk specifically for him, because with a name like Clancy, he can only be a sheriff or a sharp shooter right… or do you think he might be a card shark? Hmm not sure.

Another rich source is place names. When I’m driving along and I see signposts to places like Leighton Bromswold and Carlton Scrope I immediately start wondering who they are, what they do and what they’re like. It’s easy to pick and choose, too. You can go for something off a random signpost sighting, like Carlton Scrope, or you can choose something more simple like Alton, Ashington, Norton, Dacre, Derby or even Troon. You can put them together to make first names and surnames: Alton Troon, Norton Dacre etc. If you want to get seriously wacky you can go off piste and try another country.

So if you’re about to name your main character Kyle, hold up! Why not see if there’s an interestingly named town near you?

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Filed under General Wittering