Friday, 19 September 2014

A Friday Read: Hug Your Dolly?

A bit of flash fiction for today, from my Killer Toys series...

Hug Your Dolly?

“I Love You”
The faint phrase drifted into Alice’s ear as she turned off the vacuum. For a moment, she believed her daughter walked into the living room and turned around with a grin on her face. Only, she was alone. An involuntary shiver ran through her skin.
“I Need a Hug.”
Alice pivoted her head toward the toy box, and realization dawned. Her body tension relaxed and she chuckled.
“It’s just one of Cindy’s toys.”
Alice ambled over and lifted the lid. Her daughter’s talking doll, Suzy Smiles, lay on top. Alice picked it up.
“I Need a Hug.” The doll’s eyes blinked. “I Love You.”
Alice laughed again. “Well, isn't that nice.” The doll blinked. “I hope this mean Cindy’s been playing with you again. Her attention span for toys is abysmal.”
Alice found the doll’s switch, and flicked it to off, placing the doll back in the confines of the toy box. She closed the lid, but as she walked away a tiny voice cried out,  “I Need a Hug!”
Alice gasped, her forward movement halted, her heart thumping. She spun around and stared at the box. She shuddered, shaking her head.
“I imagined it. Or… Her pause hung there, a wall between reality and lunacy, as her mind raced for an answer. “Maybe something’s wrong. The switch, maybe. It could be faulty. That’s it. Must be. A bad switch.”
A deep instinct urged Alice to run, but she stepped forward and thrust open the lid in an act of defiance, a force of will to verify her sanity. She reached down and snatched up the doll.
“Hug Me!”
Trembling, Alice flipped it over and opened the battery compartment. It was empty. She screamed and dropped the doll, any tangible certainty collapsing.
The toy fell on its head, toppling into a lopsided heap. Alice stumbled back, anxious and frightened, but unable to look away. Slowly, it moved, righting its small body into a sitting position, and glared at Alice.
“I just want hugs.” The words spilled from the doll, its synthetic, mechanical voice laced with anger. “Cindy hugged me. Then she stopped. Why won’t she hug me anymore? I need hugs.” The doll held out its plastic arms to Alice. “Hug me.”
Alice whimpered, and then flinched, lurching backward. The doll lowered its arms.
Its painted, molded mouth contorted into a frown. “Why won’t you hug me?”
Alice quivered, but didn't say a word.
Slowly the doll clambered to its tiny feet. It took a step toward Alice, and then another, its unnatural face sneering.
“I Hate You!”

And I leave you with this parting...

Fluffy the Clown says Die!

Friday, 5 September 2014

Spotlight on Shadow of the Last Men by J. M. Salyards

Today, dear readers, I bring you the dark dystopian future courtesy of J. M. Salyards and his book, Shadow of the Last Men. Xchyler Publishing is relaunching this excellent book with a new cover, and all the deserving pomp and fanfare. So take a look at the book, read the mini-interview with the author, enjoy the excerpt, enter the contest, and check out the fabulous book trailer...

Mini-Interview with J. M. Salyards

1- Welcome Jason, why don’t we start with an introduction.

Thank you for having me. I write as J.M. Salyards, and my current series, The Next Man Saga, is published by Xchyler Publishing. I live in Maryland with my wife and daughter. We're a very literary family of readers and writers. The unique and fascinating thing about authors is that the good ones write from their hearts and do so with passion. The best way to get to know me is by knowing my work. 

2- Your book, Shadow of the Last Men, depicts an apocalyptic and dystopian future. That particular fantasy/sci-fi sub-genre is a favourite of mine, what attracted you to write your series in this setting?

In some ways, we live in a dystopian present. That made Shadow of the Last Men somewhat easier to extrapolate. The work ended up as this hybrid creature of so many different genres out of necessity, rather than any desire on my part. There is wild fusion of high technology and old-fashioned human willpower and grit that has always attracted me about an apocalyptic setting, and the availability of so many moral and philosophical contrasts made a dystopian framework a natural fit for the kind of story I wanted to tell. With traditional fantasy there are handcuffs, and an author might be stifled a bit by the hidebound ways of approaching magic or characterization, racial issues, or class conflicts. I wanted a different kind of magic for Shadow of the Last Men, and as Arthur C. Clarke put it: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." I considered that my license to write the story. He also wrote that "... one cannot have superior science and inferior morals. The combination is unstable and self-destroying." That cuts to the heart of the book. 

3- Do you have a favourite character from the book, and if so why?

There are four main characters in my first novel, and it's difficult to pick a favorite. They're all so different from one another, with animating, informing archetypes that often come into opposition. I don't like to play favorites. When I read a novel, I want my favorite character to be the one I'm reading about at that moment, because it means that the author has managed to inject the right amount of humanity and sufficient conflict into each mind present in the story. That said, Harrow, Quintain and Alouine all have traits I admire and, in some cases, wish that I had. The same can't be said for their antagonist, Carver Delano. Readers and reviewers have universally come to revile that character, so I consider him a smashing success in his own right.

4- What was the hardest scene in the book to write? And the easiest?

Action scenes are fun to write, and when one writes for fun, it's easy. What ends up being difficult is describing horrible things as they happen to good or innocent people. It was necessary, I think, because in a good vs. evil story, the reader can't know just how desperate the battle is unless there is a taste of darkness. There's genuine good, and genuine evil, in the story. On occasion, the line blurs. While Harrow can be considered a good man, he's better at merely being a man. He's good, but very rarely is he nice. To the contrary, Carver is never nice and doesn't care to be. Scenes of cowardice or bullying are hard to write and especially when a character is smashing or degrading something pure out of spite.

5- As Shadow of the Last Men is the first in a series, can you share any teasing tidbits about upcoming books?

What Shadow of the Last Men began, I hope to continue in Volume 2 of the Next Man Saga, Black Sunrise. We'll see some of the focus shift to some characters that there was no room for in the spotlight of the first novel, while ratcheting up the intensity. With the majority of the world-building complete, I can concentrate even more on a brisk and exciting pace. Story wise, it may remind some of an Empire Strikes Back feel. I'll endeavor to keep the stakes high and everything is in place to have a showdown type of climax. Look for Black Sunrise in the first half of 2015.

And if you enjoyed this interview be certain to check out 
J. M. Salyards' live author event!

Shadow of the Last Men by J.M. Salyards, Book 1 of The Next Man Saga

Here's the contest:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Follow Salyards on the web at:
Xchyler Publishing, an imprint of Hamilton Springs Press

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

My Newest Book: Killers and Demons II: They Return

Here's a preview of my newest book, Killers and Demons II:  They Return (the sequel to Killers and Demons). The book officially launches on October 4th, but it is available for pre-order now if anyone wants a copy.

Killers and Demons II:  They Return
by A. F. Stewart

Evil is back, with a greater appetite for death.

They lurk forever in the shadows, smile at you in the morning, and haunt your dreams at night. You can’t hide, you can’t run, and there’s no escape. You can only scream when they come for you.

Killers and Demons II:  They Return is a collection of thirteen tales, blending short stories and flash fiction, tales where the blood lingers on your tongue or spurts quickly from the swift cut.

The Villainous Roster:

Wade, every parent’s nightmare.
Hannah and Mr. Greeley. Who is the victim and who is the villain?
Simon and Zoe, a married couple who are dying to be single again.
Norman and his "cookie" of a wife, Mabel.
Millicent and Jane, a delightful duo you shouldn't invite to your Regency tea party.
Amanda, who literally has a skeleton in her closet.
Balthazar, the demon bounty hunter on the hunt once more.
Sarah, a young woman going through some changes and craving new tastes.
Emmeline, burned as a witch, now back from the dead for revenge.
Gabrielle, a woman haunted by shadows.
The Dollmaker, she showers death, and an umbrella won’t help.
Nightmare Demons, bent on driving a town insane.

And then there’s Alice, a little girl locked in the basement by her Daddy…

Together they form a spine-chilling cadre of predators.

And here's a little excerpt from the story Runner:

The thief smiled as he ducked in the back alley off a London street. He opened his hand and stared at the gold watch and fob he nicked.
“You’ll be worth some money. Enough to buy my mates a few beers.”
He shoved the watch into his pocket and glanced out into the lane. As the gas light cast shadows over the cobblestones, he saw no sign of the bobbies. Still, he decided to wait a few more minutes, leaning back against the brick of the alley wall. He shifted uncomfortably and wiped sweat from his brow. The air had turned warm and muggy.
A tall, lanky gentleman stepped out of the gloom, and a wave of searing heat washed over the thief. He collapsed, wheezing, his lungs burning from the air he breathed. His clothing smouldered and his skin blistered, flesh peeling off his body in crisp, black patches and he smelled the acrid odor of his own roasting flesh. The thief screamed before his vocal chords cooked as his body slowly sizzled.
The gentleman smiled as he watched the thief’s pain. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Balthazar, one of Hell’s demons. I believe you stole my watch.”

You can check out the Smashwords page here:

Or, check out these pages to pre-order the book before the October launch:

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The Traveller

Here's the start of a story idea that came to me the other day. Not sure what it will turn into to, but I like the premise...

The Traveller

Dalia sidled to Imogene and whispered, “See that gent in the cloak at the far table?” Imogene nodded. “He gave me the right shivers when I served him. There’s something wrong with that one. I think we maybe ought to keep an eye out for trouble.”
Imogene stared at the gentleman in question, and a small memory of his features needled at the back of her brain. With a flicker, and then a surge, the memory flowed free. She sucked in her breath. For a moment she wanted to shiver.
“Leave him to me, Dalia.”
Imogene strode across the tavern floor and plopped her girth down on the bench opposite the stranger. “You haven’t changed much.”
The stranger gazed at her, his face partially shadowed by his hood, but she trembled under the bore of his intense jade-coloured eyes.
“Have we met before?”
“No, but you came to my village once when I was a child. Cathburg, up near the northern border. Do you remember it?”
“Yes. I remember it very well.”
“I thought you might. They didn’t let my cousin go easily.” She smiled, a sad and rueful twinge twisting the edges. “You haven’t aged. Not a day. But your kind don’t, do they?” She tilted her head. “Your eyes are different, though. Still formidable, but a weariness in them now, less fervour.”
“The passing years will do that…to my kind.”
“I expect so.” She sighed. “Who are you here for?”
“I don’t know yet.” He smiled, a disconcerting gesture. “But not you. That much is clear.”
Imogene chuckled. “Not much chance of that, not now, not at my age. You most always take `em young, don’t you?”
The man nodded. “As a rule, the magic calls early.”
“And pity the unfortunate soul that it summons.”
“There are worse lots in this existence, than to enter into the service of magic.”
“Aye. But not many.” Imogene rose to her feet, a reflective look on her face. “Just letting you know you’ll get no difficulties from me, but try not to bust up the place if there’s resistance.”
The man gave a low, horse chortle. “I’ll try.”
With a polite nod, she left the man to his business, to find her path blocked by an eager, inquisitive Dalia.
“So who is he, is there trouble brewing?”
“Yes, but it’s the kind to keep clear of, so stay away and don’t interfere in whatever happens.”
Dalia frowned. “I don’t understand. If he’s a good-for-nothing prone to bring problems, why let him stay?”
 “Leave it be, sometimes you’re too curious for your own good, girl.” At Dalia’s irritated look and refusal to move, Imogene sighed. Dalia was nothing if not persistent.
“If you must know, the gentleman in question is a Realm Traveller, from the Wizard Keep.” Imogene felt a twinge of satisfaction as Dalia’s complexion turned pale. “He’s come to collect some poor soul fated to become a practitioner of magic. So steer clear of him lest you find yourself caught up in wizardry.”
Dalia nodded vigorously and scurried back to her work serving the tavern’s patrons, taking a wide berth around his table to avoid the Traveller. Imogene wandered behind the bar, and idly stared at the stoic, formidable man.
I wonder who he’ll take, which one will walk in this place and have their life changed.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Book Spotlight: Forever The Road

Today I have for you the second part in our weekend double feature, where the spotlight shines on the soon-to-be released (Sept. 8th) third book in the Rucksack Universe fantasy series, Forever the Road by Anthony St. Clair.

Forever the Road by Anthony St. Clair

The world's greatest traveler never thought he’d be staying put.

Jay had planned to move on after marking Agamuskara, India, off his list of places to see. Then two strange men steal his passport, and the long-roaming loner stays in Agamuskara to find it. After years of globetrotting with no companion but his trusty big backpack, Jay befriends the stout-quaffing, ever-grinning Faddah Rucksack, the world’s only Himalayan-Irish sage. Now Jay finds himself being steered toward an unknown fate by a man who lost his own destiny long ago.

No Jake or Jade is better than Jade Agamuskara Bluegold at slinging drinks, destinies, and decisions. Yet after spending ten years helping The Management keep the world turning, the solitary, mysterious bartender at the pub at Everest Base Camp has begun to doubt the life she chose over another path. When Jade's uneasy friendship with Rucksack leads her to help him unravel the mystery at the heart of the city, Jade finds her loyalties changing in ways she never could have imagined.

When the bartender and the backpacker meet, forces are set in motion that won't just change the world forever—they might end it. Then Jay accidentally awakens an ancient evil, and only Jay, Rucksack, and Jade stand between it and its terrible purpose: destroying all life in a smiling fire.

Book webpage & pre-orders:

Launch campaign:

Author Bio:

Anthony St. Clair has walked with hairy coos in the Scottish Highlands, choked on seafood in Australia, and watched the full moon rise over Mt. Everest in Tibet. Anthony’s travels have also taken him around the sights and beers of Thailand, Japan, India, Canada, Ireland, the USA, Cambodia, China and Nepal. He and his wife live in Oregon and gave their son a passport for his first birthday. Learn more at

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