Tuesday 31 May 2011

Tomorrow Begins Storytime Wednesday

Tomorrow, June 1st, my new weekly feature, Storytime Wednesday launches.

Every week, provided I get enough submissions, I'll be showcasing a new story or an excerpt by a writer for your reading pleasure.  It will be a mixture of experienced and novice storytellers, writers published and unpublished, in a variety of genres.

So far on the schedule:

June 1st:  Excerpt from The Judging by Ellen C. Maze

June 8th:  Excerpt from The Alestrion Chronicles: Salve's Redeemed by LeAnna Shields

June 15th:  The Mirror by Dee Brown (note: this story most likely will be posted in two parts, continuing on June 22nd)

So I hope you can join in the fun and the reading!

Wednesday 25 May 2011

New Feature: Storytime Wednesday

In June, I will be starting a new feature on my blog called Storytime Wednesday, where I post a story or excerpt from a writer other than me. I'll be showcasing genre fiction such as fantasy, sci-fi, horror, mystery, or romance, but I’m certain some general fiction or non-fiction will sneak in as well.

If you are a writer, published or unpublished, just submit your story or book excerpt (I would like the book excerpts to be relatively self-contained, though) to afstewartauthor@gmail.com along with a paragraph bio and website/blog link. I'll also include a bio picture if you wish and links to your books if you are published.
Ideally, I'd like the length to be between 200 and 1000 words, but I'm not overly concerned with word count and will consider longer or shorter stories.
Also, please attach your story to the email as a Word document if possible; if not then send it in the body of the email.

Now here’s a sneak peek (using one of my stories from Killers and Demons) so you get the idea of what Storytime Wednesday will be:

Today’s story is the horror tale, Devoid by A. F. Stewart:


I wish I had my eyes closed.
Then I’d know why I can’t see.

Everything is black, there’s no light, no shapes.

I’m blind.

And I don’t know where I am.

I’m sitting on a damp cold surface, my back against something hard; it feels like stone under my hands. Maybe I’m in a basement. I think I am alone, at least I can’t hear any sounds, in fact there’s no noise at all. It’s a perfect silence.

I don’t know how I got here.
Or where here is.
I’m so scared.
The last thing I remember is… being happy.
I was with Jeremy.
Jeremy, where’s Jeremy?!
What if he’s been…?

I reach out and my hand touches a hard surface, more stone, I think. I feel my way along the stonework to find four walls. I think I’m in a very small room, but I can’t locate a door. I try to stand, but my head hits a solid ceiling before I’m upright. I sit down again, the dread slowly crushing my thoughts. It can’t be true, I can’t be imprisoned!

I’m trapped!
I’m alone and I’m trapped!
What happened!
How did I get here!
And how do I get out!
Someone has to get me out!

I’m screaming now. I can’t help it. I’m in a nightmare and I don’t know how to wake up. I claw at the walls in a futile attempt to escape, but all I manage is to bloody my fingers. I stop and take a breath, to calm myself.

I need to figure things out.
To remember last night.
Was it last night?
I don’t even know how long I’ve been here.
Jeremy and I were celebrating our six-month anniversary.
With champagne, in my apartment.
I was laughing and drinking.
Then…? Wait, yes. I stumbled, fell and...
Jeremy was smiling?
Why was he smiling?
I think I passed out.
Why did I pass out after one drink?

“Hello, Anna.”
“Jeremy?!” Relief floods through me. He found me; I’m getting out of here! “I’m here, Jeremy! Help me! Get me out of here!”
“Why would I do that? After all the trouble I went through to put you in there?”
“Wh-what?!” The awful realization finally sinks in to my foolish mind.
“I spent months constructing your little underground prison, planning how to get you inside. I took great care in getting it all right. I made certain the stone was thick enough, the hatch could be permanently sealed, that there was a wireless setup so we could talk this one last time. I’m so happy. Everything fell into place flawlessly.”
“Why?! Why did you do this?!” I heard him laugh. A twisted version of the sound I used to love.
“For fun. I like doing this sort of thing. I like tormenting. I like killing.” There was more laughter. “Good-bye, Anna, and enjoy your new home. For the rest of your very short life.”
“No! You can’t mean it! Jeremy! Jeremy, please! Please don’t leave me here!” I wait for an answer, but there is only silence. “Jeremy! Please, please! Don’t leave me here!” I pray he is still there, cling to hope he will let me out, strain my ears for any noise, but nothing. He is gone.

I’m going to die.
He locked me in a hole to die.
He buried me alive and I’m going to die!
I’m not getting out!
There is no way to get out!
Somebody help me!

All around me it is darkness, and it is so still, so quiet.
I start screaming again.

A. F. Stewart is the indie author of several books, including Chronicles of the Undead and Killers and Demons, who favours writing dark fantasy that borders on horror.

Website: http://afallon.bravehost.com/

Monday 23 May 2011

Two for One: Sci-fi and Fantasy Stories in Review

The following are reviews of two short ebooks:

My Review of The Manus System by Guy Betar:

The Manus System by Guy Betar is a brief, intriguing science fiction story that tantalises the reader with its premise. It is a substantial bite of tempting science fiction.

The story postulates the scientific advancement of an integrated human/spaceship control system and narrates the inaugural launch of this ship. The story’s point of view is from pilot as he prepares to test the new system and the author does a nice job of mingling the nervousness of the character with the technical aspects of the plot.

One of the best features of The Manus System is the smooth blend of the science into the plot, without becoming so procedural that your eyes glaze over as you read. You get a great sense of tension and dealing with the unfamiliar from the main character that leads to a wonderfully intriguing ending.

The Manus System does favour explanatory passages over dialogue, but given the nature of the plotline it is a logical structure and not a detriment to the overall story. I enjoyed this story and recommend it.

My Review of When Dragons Sleep by William Fulks:

The story When Dragons Sleep has a nice fantasy premise, the proverbial quest to slay a dragon. The two main characters, Bishop, a magical cleric and the elf Thormir are drawn into this mission by a stranger and find an adventure with surprising results.

I found When Dragons Sleep had a decent, solid plot and I liked the reliable fantasy setting. The portrayal of characters is well realized and their relationships are soundly formed. The ending is the best part, being both atypical and dark.

I thought this story had real potential, but unfortunately When Dragons Sleep leans too much on passive, lengthy, detailed description and protracted, somewhat prosaic, dialogue passages which create a very slow narrative and dull story flow. The plot is imaginative and well realized, but it simply did not engage my attention as it should. It could have been great, instead of just good.

Sunday 22 May 2011

Sci-fi Sequel Success: A Review of Trans-Human

My Book Review of Trans-Human by David Simpson:

Trans-Human by David Simpson is an engaging sequel that will delight fans of his book Post-Human. It is a thought-provoking, energetic sci-fi book, with a robust dose of high-octane exploits.

This book carries the story forward after the occurrences in the first book, but it is not a standalone sequel; it does reference Post-Human and I think both novels should be read in sequence. In Trans-Human far-reaching consequences from the events in Post-Human have come calling, looking for the Artificial Intelligence that summoned them. Are they friend or foe? Who is lying, who can be trusted and was the malicious A. I. really defeated?

The first part of the novel is very fast paced; the reader is thrown into action scenes that are pelted at your senses almost to the point of confusion. I say almost, because half-way through the book a revelation transpires that pulls everything into focus and turns the perspective of the narrative. From that point the book extends its reach through the conflict and into an absorbing introspective and theoretical storyline.

I found the book enjoyable and entertaining, nicely balancing the scientific storyline with the characters, both ally and enemy. The novel raises interesting questions about the nature of being, and the ending -if a happy one- poses its own great exploratory uncertainty. So, if you like your science fiction speculative, philosophical, a little theological and action-packed, Trans-Human is the book for you.

Sunday 1 May 2011

Into the Mists of Arthurian Legend: A Review of The Circle Cast

My Book Review of The Circle Cast: The Lost Years of Morgan le Fay by Alex Epstein:

The Circle Cast: The Lost Years of Morgan le Fay by Alex Epstein is an excellent addition to the genre of Arthurian folklore and legend. The author crafts worlds past with a deft hand, easily pulling a reader into the story.

The book tells the story of the Arthurian sorceress Morgan le Fay. The Circle Cast portrays the early years of this character, first as the child Anna and then as Morgan after she flees Britain to Ireland. It tells the story of her life as a stranger in a strange land, enslaved and surviving hardship to return to Britain and reclaim what she lost.

The plotline is fresh, delving into a piece of Arthurian legend not excessively written about, yet still keeping to the traditional lines of the tale. The author has a nice take on the magical aspects of the story, weaving a mysterious aspect in to the narrative by his effective use of Celtic religion and myth.

The writer also does an exceptional job at creating the main character, making her a full person with fears, doubts and weakness, while still showcasing her strength of purpose. The people surrounding her are nicely sketched as well, interacting and bringing the world around Morgan to life, filling a past age with solid reality.

Being a devotee of the Arthurian legends, I’ve read many books on the subject, both fiction and non-fiction, and this delightfully enchanting novel is a welcome complement to the mythology.

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