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Welcome. Whether you read, write, or both, you'll find something here. Free reads, book reviews, writing contest details and links, and much about the writing process. By all means comment; I'm always interested in the views of readers and writers. Follow the blog and connect with me on social networks; the more, the merrier.
And, if you'd like to send me a personal message, contact me here

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Updates from my Publisher

Regular readers will know I have a great relationship with my publisher: unusual for author and Fantastic Books Publishing is something of a maverick and a man who knows the value of talent and honesty.
publisher to be friends, of course, but Dan Grubb of

Two bits of great news today and to present them, I'll simply copy the words from recent newsletters sent out by the publisher:


Stuart Aken’s final novel in his ‘A SearedSky’ series
Stuart’s trilogy has been very well received by epic fantasy fans and his attention to detail, meticulous planning and hand drawn world maps all combine to make this series something really special. The third in the series ‘Convergence’ will be available as an ebook soon and as a print-on-demand paperback shortly afterwards.

SA: Can't wait for it!

SA: This collection was formerly only available in digital form. now those who prefer to hold a book in their hands can also read it!
A collection of 25 stories of fantasy and science fiction from around the globe, each illustrated by digital artist Alice Taylor.
This collection has been compiled from the winners of the Fantastic Books Publishing International Charity Short Story Competition 2012 and features 2 stories from our professional contributors Danuta Reah and Stuart Aken.
10% of the proceeds of this book will be donated to the WCRF (World Cancer Research Fund – Registered Charity Number – 1000739) who do sterling work in the field of global cancer prevention.
SIGNED BY THE ARTIST!
This is a PRE-ORDER purchase. Orders placed on or before the 15th December will be delivered to you in time for the December holidays.
SA: To order your copy, click on this link.
Price: £7.99


AUTHORS:
Apeksha Harsh
Brad Greenwood
Celia Coyne
Danuta Reah
David K Paterson
Dawn Hudd
Denise Hayes
Drew Wagar
Joanna Vandenbring
John Hoggard
John-Paul Cleary
Jonny Rowland
Katy Huth Jones
Leonie Ewing
Natalie Kleinman
Peter Ford
Peter Holz
Polly Robinson
Rose Thurlbeck
Sarah Cuming
Stuart Aken
Thomas Pitts
Walt Pilcher
So, there you go. More good stuff for those who love to read. Enjoy.

#BookADayUK; A Reader Event For October. Day 30

The penultimate day of the Books Are My Bag.com promotion for independent bookshops. I hope it's encouraged lots of readers to support these bastions of literature and entertainment.

Today's theme is 'Favourite experimental book'.  Not something I've ever been really keen on. Most such volumes turn out to be more or less unreadable or incomprehensible. I have no problem with the artist allowing him/herself some freedom in the manner of expression, of course. But language, and therefore writing, is a means of communication and it seems to me that w work of literature that fails to communicate is ineffective.
So, I won't cite James Joyce's Ulysses, here. I started to read it and gave it up as a bad job, much like his Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which I found decidedly self-absorbed and puerile.

Instead, I'll nominate the rather charming, if slightly cheesy, Jonathan Livingston Seagull. It was, at the time, an interesting idea, portraying the story through words and pictures on different types of paper and in different ways. I recall enjoying it at the time, though that was a very long time ago and, for reasons I won't bore you with, I no longer have the book.

If you haven't come across it and can find a copy, it's certainly worth a read.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

#BookADayUK; A Reader Event For October. Day 29

The Books Are My Bag.com promotion to support independent bookshops is coming to a close.

Today's theme is 'Most memorable fashion moment'. For me, this is a difficult one, since I am of the same mind as Oscar Wilde on the issue of fashion. He said: 'Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.' In fact, I'd go further. Fashion is probably one of the most irresponsible industries that we have to endure. It makes women, and more recently, many younger men, feel inadequate and unsatisfied with their bodies. It demands that people replace their wardrobes with increasing frequency, thus wasting valuable resources in a world with finite supplies of almost everything. And it grants an inappropriate status to those who simply have the good fortune to be today's accepted version of beauty.

However, since this is actually about book shops, and therefore books, I shall have to find something that has some mention of fashion or at least clothing in its content. To be honest, since the issue doesn't interest me, I'm struggling. And the only book I can recall with any sort of mention of clothing is one of my own. So, I'll shamelessly promote my own book, which can be ordered from your local book shop. It's received a lot of 5* reviews, so it must be considered a good read. Try Breaking Faith: you never know, you might enjoy it!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

#BookADayUK; A Reader Event For October. Day 28

The theme for today is 'Has the best advice'. For me, this was a simple one. Some time ago, I read Oliver James' They F**k You Up: How to Survive Family Life. It's a singularly informative book. The case studies, mostly regarding well-known people, or celebrities, as we are required to know them, are enlightening as well as informative. But it is the advice that the author gives to readers that is most useful and helpful.

This is a book that I feel everyone should read. If it doesn't inform you about your own life and the reasons for some of your failures, hang-ups and prejudices, it will at least help you understand why some people are so odd, angry, depressed or apparently insane. I strongly advise everyone to read this. I took it on holiday and, although it is far from normal sunbed reading, it is a fascinating study with great insight into the human condition. Really, try it!

You'll find my review of the book if you click on this link.

Ruled by Intellect or Emotion? Tips on Word Choice #8

The Houses of Parliament are situated within t...
The Houses of Parliament are situated within the Palace of Westminster, in London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There are words/phrases that can induce fairly specific responses in readers. As writers, we all know this, but do we use the power of emotion in our work?

For the next few weeks, I’ll be looking at something subjective: how to choose between emotional and intellectual words for effect. You won’t always agree with my interpretation, of course; you’re writers. But, hopefully, my suggestions will get the thought processes going.

In this series I’m looking at the difference between words that seem intellectual as opposed to those that invoke a more emotional response. How you use them is obviously up to you. The point is that the alternatives have the same, or very similar, meanings, but their effect upon the reader can be markedly different. I’ve made some suggestions here, but I’m sure you can think of others.

Intellectual: Anticipate
Emotional: Expect

The major political parties all anticipate a landslide in the General Election, as the majority of people never actually give much thought to their choice of candidate but vote on an emotional rather than an intellectual basis.

I expect most voters will do their usual thing and either fail to make their mark or do so on the ignorant say so of some friend or partner.

Intellectual: Concerned
Emotional: Worried

Many parents are concerned about the nature of the world in which their children will have to live.

I’m worried my daughter will inherit a very uncomfortable world because of the selfish attitudes of my own generation.

Intellectual: Futile
Emotional: Hopeless

To oppose the status quo is a futile exercise bound to result in disappointment for the protesters.


No matter how hopeless our cause appears, we must fight for it for as long as we’re able.

Monday, 27 October 2014

#BookADayUK; A Reader Event For October. Day 27

Coraline
Coraline (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The theme for today is actually quite straightforward. It's 'Favourite epigraph', which, as the Books Are My Bag.com promotion relates to books, I assume to mean a literary epigraph. So, I've chosen the following, though I haven't yet read the book:

'Fairy Tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.'  G.K. Chesterton
Quoted by Neil Gaiman in Coraline.

Of course, as a writer of fiction, and especially of speculative fiction, I am always in favour of any sensible quote that elevates the status of stories. But the quote is accurate. That's what stories do for us; they tell us what is possible.

Don't forget to use the #tag, #bookadayUK if you decide to join this promotion. But, more importantly, don't forget to visit your local independent bookshop (if you're lucky enough to have one in your vicinity) and BUY a book there. It's the only way we'll keep these vital outlets going and a wonderful way to erode the growing power and control of the online retail giants.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

#BookADayUK; A Reader Event For October. Day 26

The Time Traveler's Wife
The Time Traveler's Wife (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Today's theme, somewhat lately responded to, is 'Clocks go back! Best book on time-travel'. Now, of course, I could cite the classic H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, but that's bound to be promoted by thousands. Mind you, my own choice here is also likely to be very popular. I've chosen The Time Traveller's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. It's a great story and well written. I reviewed it on here after reading it and you can read that review by clicking on this link, should you feel so inclined.



Writing and Running for ME/CFS #5

Training progress for this week.
The running goes well. This week I had to do 3 x 3 minute runs followed by 3 x 1 minute walks followed by 3 x 2 minute runs followed by 3 30 seconds of walking on Tuesday. Friday was a 40 minute easy walk. Today I did my second 10 minute easy run. I knew I'd find this a bit tougher, as I had a 'flu jab yesterday and am suffering a minor level of the usual symptoms, but I thought the run might help disperse those negative effects so went ahead anyway. Glad I did, as I completed the run in the right time. So, still on course.

The writing is still at the preparation stage, a bit more research and a start on curating the diary entries to determine which pieces I need to include. So, that's also on course, though I do hope to make a start on the actual writing some time this week.

As Dan, my publisher at Fantastic Books Publishing would say, 'Onward!'

#BookADayUK; A Reader Event For October. Day 25

I missed yesterday's piece on the #bookadayUK topic - too busy with other things. But I'll do a brief piece now, before I do today's.
The theme was 'Mmmmm! Most memorable food/drink moment in literature'. I could point out the pre-sex scene in Tom Jones, but I suspect that's very well known.  Beyond that, I couldn't think of anything to begin with. Then I recalled the spoof restaurant critic review that takes the form of a darkly humorous story in my speculative fiction collection, Ten Tales for Tomorrow.
The story, A Gastronomic Treat at the Edge of the Galaxy, details the experiences of an alien restaurant critic on a tour of our solar system and discovering some edible delights on planet Earth. Those who've read the story have enjoyed it. Might be worth a look.