Tuesday, 30 December 2008

The Trilogy Complete!

Quite a lot's happened since I first jotted down my rough outline for a sci-fi survival trilogy in early 2006. I remember it seeming insanely ambitious at the time, perhaps because of the word 'trilogy'. But I was adamant that each book should be no more than novella length, and that the setting for each installment should be vastly different than the other two. Kate Borrowdale is an interesting character to build a series around because she doesn't tend to say much. And when she does, it's often terse. A survivor through and through, Kate is as close to an American pioneer woman as I'll probably ever get to write. She's stubborn, single-minded, and endlessly resourceful. The unforgiving alien planet of Kratos is in some respects her home turf--it calls into action all of her considerable physical and mental attributes. And as she has the man of her dreams to look out for as well, let's just say it's going to take more than Red Indians to stop her.

Eternal Press released the The Eleven-Hour Fall as an eBook in April 2008. It did solid business, ending up in the top five bestsellers for that month. In November, it received a nomination for Best Short Fiction 2008 at the Red Roses For Authors Christmas Awards.

Part two, The Elemental Crossing, is set on a vast ocean. Kate and Jason must try to cross it if they are to procure long-term survival on Kratos. It's a harrowing journey, but with this being an alien ocean, the creatures and scenarios they encounter provided many fascinating passages. Of the three books, I think this is the most consistently imaginative. Sea survival stories carry an inherent sense of scale and isolation, and there's a strong element of fate, in that there's only so much a person can do on a tiny raft. The rest is up to chance.

Eternal released The Elemental Crossing in September 2008. I've now signed a contract for the third and final installment, Kate of Kratos. This is a longer novella (29,000 words), but there are also more characters. The forest and mountain setting sets it apart from the previous books in every possible way. There's finally a chance of finding a permanent abode on Kratos. But there are also fresh mysteries to solve, deadly new creatures to contend with, and personal questions Kate must ask herself if she is to live within a family unit. This was the quickest book to write, and easily the most enjoyable. There's a sustained chase sequence half way through that I think will have readers chewing the screen in excitement (I know I did while writing it). All told, this is the strongest installment in terms of plot and character. It pays to be critical of your own work when looking back, but I'm genuinely proud of what I did with Kate of Kratos. It's such a relief to know that I didn't screw the whole thing up at the final hurdle.

I can't wait to share the last part of Kate's adventure with you next year. It's been a great ride on Kratos!

Monday, 15 December 2008

The Basingstoke Chronicles - Coming 2009!

April 2005. It began as a short tribute to my favourite Victorian-era adventure writers--Wells, Burroughs, Verne, Rider Haggard. Six months later it was a fully-fledged time travel novel with fun characters and a grandiose plot. I'd never really intended it for publication, at least not in the style I wrote it. But earlier this year I revisited The Basingstoke Chronicles and, to my genuine surprise, found an enthralling yarn buried in the grandiloquence. My next task was to re-edit, re-shape, re-write the entire text, trimming the fat while still maintaining that old-fashioned charm and flavour. No mean feat, considering my latest sci-fi short, Save the World, Tax-Deductible was the most cynical thing I'd ever written.

So it came as quite a shock last week when I was offered an eBook contract for The Basingstoke Chronicles!! I'd submitted it to Uncial Press because I love the specific historical periods featured in their books--Regency, Edwardian, Victorian. My novel wasn't so specific, yet it was a throwback to the formal vernacular and style inherent in those periods. Turned out to be a good match, and I'm thrilled to have found Basingstoke such a fitting home.

Take a look at the prologue (unedited):

The Basingstoke Chronicles/Robert Appleton/Time Travel Adventure


My name was once Pacal Votan. How the two rarest flowers on Earth came to rest a mere few feet from where I sit every evening for dinner is a tale many years in the telling. I have never been one to exaggerate - being a man of science, such is not my nature - nor am I prone to lend weight to unlikely claims, especially when their basis is un-scientific. Therefore, to the fantastical elements of this story I am forced to lend the more illustrative voice of my good friend, Lord Basingstoke: a man whose daring propelled him a great distance to find me; a man for whom the unlikely is, and always was, only ever a matter of time.

Throughout that winter’s night on the shingle of Ten Gulls Beach in Devon, southern England, I believed every word of my companion's absurd account. So too, now, do I remember them. The flames from our campfire resisted the onshore breeze with zeal. We had hoped to find a more sheltered spot in which to dry ourselves, but had happened upon only a rudimentary cove. The frank moonlight distilled enough rocky shapes and creeping lines of surf for my every thought to feel stolen or in harm's way.

"Strange, after all we've been through," I said.

"What's that?" replied Lord, rubbing his hands in the heat.

"How such a harmonious place can give me - what was that word - the creeps?"

He laughed, recalling the last time he had heard that term used outside of its original dialect. "Oh, just before the journey began – about seventy-eight years from now," he said.

I shook my head in mock disbelief. The year was nineteen hundred and one. Across the beach, I spied the shape of our vessel bobbing like the neck of an empty bottle, inconsolable in dark silhouette, an ocean messenger bereft of its long-held message.

"The fellow’s name was Rodrigo Esteban Quintas, my diving partner from Cuba. We had hired a research vessel for some serious underwater work," he continued. “And by work, I mean spending a scorching summer in cool, turquoise seas, searching for sunken treasure. Hey, we were the hardest workers of any rich people I knew."

I had to interrupt, "How rich were you, exactly?"

"Rich enough to make a difference and too rich to care. Let's just say if we were in nineteen seventy-nine, you wouldn't be sitting so close to me without a title of some kind - Sir Votan perhaps, or Duke Votan. Seeing as you're a foreigner to these parts, an honorary Count might suffice."

My friend's manner was often so aloof it would veer between outright arrogance and a tone that was utterly endearing without a second's warning.

"Here! Here! Count Pacal Votan, emissary from a distant land, has arrived at this fair isle with a priceless secret for us all and otherwise not a clue. Let us drink a toast to his brazen heroics and sadly poor grasp of English colloquialisms."

With that, he produced his familiar, gilded-silver whisky flask. Alas, as he tipped it, it was empty.

"Damn your hide, man. What did you fill it with?"

I replied with a sheepish whimper, "I didn't."

Despite his insistence at my being out of place, it is Lord Henry Basingstoke who will always be the anachronism. But what great adventurer isn't? To say Columbus or Alexander were simply products of their times is paradoxical, for history tells us the reverse is true. While events may have aligned for conquest, their eras have become the products of their own legacies. The discovery of the New World belongs to an Italian, not he to it; likewise the forging of an Eastern Empire to a Macedonian King. Man creates history, and time - that most cold inevitability - can be made to bow to these bold, aberrant figures.

Lord (as I liked to call him) is one such figure, though I thoroughly doubt he would agree. An Englishman in every sense of the word - from what I have come to know of them, that is a fine compliment - he relishes every challenge life has to offer as surely as every comfort. As he sat opposite me on Ten Gulls Beach, orange firelight waving shadows across his animated face, I knew it would probably be the last time I'd see him. The telling of his great adventure, of which I had only been a small part, was his parting gift to me - the culmination of our friendship through time.

And I miss him to this day.

Though written from memory, I could not have fashioned this account any closer to Lord Basingstoke’s own words without excluding myself from the latter chapters, for that was how he told it to me. This I have remedied by telling it as he would to a stranger. As far as possible, I have tried to assume his mannered dialect. This upper class way of speaking is, it seems to me, both timeless and proper.

So it is here that I'll submit, as I did then, to his incredible tale: the adventures of a fine gentleman as told to me, a humble listener, on December 16th, 1901.

The Basingstoke Chronicles has a tentative release date of September 2009 at Uncial Press.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Cover Art for Lot 62

The multi-talented Dawne Dominique has created the classy cover for my upcoming spy mystery short, Lot 62. She previously did the artwork for two of my books, Grandiloquence and the first Esther May Morrow anthology, Buy or Borrow. This one's another winner.

Julie Blalock is approaching thirty and has an unfulfilling job with an accountancy firm. But she also has a secret—she was once an MI6 Agent. A personal tragedy forced her to quit eight years ago, but a chance offer to return for a one-time op is too tempting to ignore. Her mission—to pose as a rich socialite at Sotheby's, to gain critical intelligence during the most anticipated high-class auction of the year—Esther May Morrow's sale of antique treasures, featuring Lot 62, a prize that has even the Ministry of Defence worried. What secrets will Julie discover on her impromptu return to espionage?

Lot 62: An Esther May Morrow Mystery is scheduled for release on January 7th at Eternal Press.

Friday, 28 November 2008

EP Christmas Party!

December 21st. Mark it down on your cyber calendars. My publisher Eternal Press is hosting a one-off Xmas celebration, chock full of prizes, book excerpts and stellar company, at the usual address:


I believe it's an all-day party--which probably means a three-day party if you factor in the musical chairs we always end up playing with our various time zones--so feel free to expect the unexpected. Bring a friend. Duck past the maitre d'. Make new friends. At these bashes, anything can, and does, happen.

See you there,


Thursday, 27 November 2008

Adventure Classics: Book to Film - Part 2

H Rider Haggard

I have to confess I've only ever read Haggard's two most famous novels, King Solomon's Mines and She. But what novels! The first, and arguably the most influential adventure story since Homer's The Odyssey, is an infectious high of daring characters, exoticism, and journeying into the unknown. An English aristocrat teams up with a Navy captain and the most famous white hunter in Africa, Allan Quatermain, to find the former's lost brother, who was last seen on a treasure hunt. They are guided by a map to the fabled King Solomon's Mines, which Quatermain doubts ever existed. Haggard's goal is a potently simple one--to transport you mind, body and soul to the wilds of darkest Africa. I've read the book three times, years apart, and loved it each time. Simply put, it's the adventure story.

Of the many film versions, I've seen three. They span fifty years of Hollywood history, and the comparisons are fascinating. The earliest of these was made in 1936 and starred Cedric Hardwicke (stoic as ever) as Quatermain, and perhaps most intruigingly, black singer Paul Robson as the mysterious native they befriend along the way. The musical interludes are actually a nice touch; they heighten the film's romanticism between action sequences. With it being black and white, the jungle scenes suffer in comparison with later versions, but there's striking cinematography on display--the whole film is gorgeous to look at. But what I like most about this version is its relative faithfulness to the novel. Characters are added or omitted, and there's a godawful romantic subplot (Haggard left the women at home), but particularly in the second half, the book's most memorable scenes are vividly brought to life. We even get to spend a decent amount of time in the mines themselves, something sadly lacking in the 1950 version. Overall, I'd rank this one highly as a film and as an adaptation.

My favourite King Solomon's Mines starred Stewart Granger as Quatermain and Deborah Kerr (regal actress, stunning redhead) in 1950. Two directors travelled to Africa to film the wildlife and primordial landscape, while also managing to squeeze in a quietly powerful love story. It's the epitome of English adventuring--abrupt manners, stubborn pigheadedness, and repressed attraction that slowly boils to the surface. Granger and Kerr look and sound fantastic. That the plot takes a back seat is surprising when I think of this as my fave version, but it has more to do with Granger being the perfect Quatermain than anything else. There's also a frightening (and real) stampede, a canoe trip, and various other perils along the way. The finale is very much scaled-down from the book, but it's a quiet, satisfying ending to this particular romance.

The 1985 romp was an embarrassing mishmash of trendy heroics and daft comedy (it had to compete with both Indiana Jones and Romancing the Stone). A fine actor like Richard Chamberlain would probably have made a superb Quatermain in a straight version; he even had the thin physique of Haggard's hero. But the whole project was souped up and dumbed down. A case in point: Sharon Stone as the female lead! It seems Hollywood is incapable of filming this story in its original, all-male format. Of the three versions, this one is by far the weakest, and frankly should have a different title, as it bears no resemblance to King Solomon's Mines.

Haggard's second hit was another adventure into the exotic. He wrote She in just a few weeks, in what he called a state of "white heat". Again, it's a variation on the treasure hunt, with three companions journeying into the unknown, but this time there's something decidely supernatural at work. The eponymous lady is in fact Ayesha, a powerful queen who hasn't aged in millennia. Her secret is a strange flame that renders anyone who steps inside it immortal. She rules her ancient kingdom with brutality and superstition. In the story's most famous twist, she reveals this secret to one of the adventurers, whom she believes to be the reincarnation of her long-dead lover, but when she demonstrates the effect by walking into the flame, it reverses her immortality, and she crumbles before his eyes.

The 1936 film adaptation of She is purportedly the best, but I still haven't seen it. That leaves Hammer's 1965 version, starring Ursula Andress, John Richardson, and those two great horror icons, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Being a British production, it's relatively low-budget, but, by that same British token, looks a lot more expensive than it is. There's a nice array of cave interiors, temples, and exotic costumes. I always enjoy this one for its cast, and the fact that it stays fairly close to Haggard's fascinating story. The most famous thing about Hammer's She is Ursula Andress as Ayesha. I think she's well-cast. Striking looks and monotone delivery an exotic queen doth make. Cushing and Lee are good, as always, and there's no shortage of nastiness towards the end. All in all, a pretty good version of a great book.

Edgar Rice Burroughs

If you take away Tarzan, poor ER Burroughs is the most unfortunate author on this list, in terms of screen adaptations of his work. I've read the following books of his, all of which would make terrific family films: The Land That Time Forgot, At the Earth's Core, Pellucidar, A Princess of Mars, Gods of Mars, Warlords of Mars. So what went wrong?

Unfortunately for Burroughs, it's pretty much all been about the jungle guy. Tarzan has overshadowed his other books so completely in the public eye that, even though they were all successful, none has been able to out-muscle audience demand for yet another Tarzan adventure. The Land that Time Forgot was brought to the screen in the seventies. It starred Doug McClure and Susan Penhaligan, and, on balance, was the best of that particular cycle of cheap monster flicks (all starring McClure). Actually, the first half an hour or so of The Land that Time Forgot is rather great. A group of American and English survivors manage to take over the German U-Boat that sank their ship. For the next few weeks, there is a tense seesawing of power on board, the ultimate result being that they end up thousands of miles off course, at the long-lost island of Caprona, a prehistoric world. The film tweaks the books's opening chapters somewhat, but the characters, scenario and action are deftly handled. It's an engrossing start. And to be fair, the remainder of the film is never boring. Despite woeful dinosaur effects, there's always a sense of escapist fun. The ending, too, is admirably faithful to Burroughs'. But I can't help thinking that a modern-day remake would be spectacular.

Same for At the Earth's Core, Burroughs' compelling adventure set in a hidden world deep underground, at the centre of the earth. The land of Peullidar has its own sun (a bright "core"), various disparate human tribes, and a race of hideous, telepathic bird-like creatures called the Mahars, overlords of this realm. Out two heroes, having burrowed down in a proptotype "giant mole", have a hard time resisting the Mahars and galvanizing the tribes into insurrection. Sweeping adventure, corny plot twists, etc. give the story a delightfully juvenile vibe. It would make a terrific matinee movie for kids. Unfortunately, the 1977 attempt was by the makers of The Land that Time Forgot. Cheap sets, feeble sound effects, crummy acting, and maybe the worst monsters ever paraded on screen sink this one like a stuffed diving bell.

In terms of potential, nothing anywhere in this list compares to the scope of Burroughs' great Martian series. He wrote a dozen books in all, I believe, and while I've only read the first three, there was so much imagination in those pages that only a mega-budget Hollywood movie would ever do it justice. That's probably why it has been mooted/started/rumoured/planned/slated for over eighty years. At one point, Ray Harryhausen considered it. Lately, at least five big-name directors have been attached. There's one thing for sure--it could never have been done satisfactorily before the advent of CGI special effects.

John Carter is a Civil War Confederate soldier on the run. One night, in a high cave overlooking the desert, he is whisked away to planet Mars, or what he learns, from its inhabitants, is called Barsoom. Naked, but possessing great agility (due to the lower gravity), he quickly becomes a feared warrior on Barsoom. He befriends a fearsome, twelve-foot green Martian called Tars Tarkas, and finds a loyal pet in multi-eyed, multi-fanged, multi-limbed Woola. But most important of all, he meets lovely Dejah Thoris, the most beautiful (and also naked) woman on the planet, whom he later finds out is none other than a princess of Helium. Carter's various battles, conquests, adventures etc. grow ever more ambitious and dangerous. Spectacular is the world, and the word. It's Burroughs' most gleeful creation--everything you could possibly want from a Martian adventure. Hopefully we'll get to see it some day.

In closing, I'll leave you with my top five books and films from this list. See how many you've read/seen, and if there are any you haven't, I hope I've convinced you to seek them out. It really is like taking a trip back in time. A timeless one.



Top Five Books

1. Mysterious Island
2. King Solomon's Mines
3. A Princess of Mars
4. War of the Worlds
5. The Time Machine

Top Five Film Adaptations

1. War of the Worlds (1953)
2. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
3. The Time Machine (1960)
4. The Invisible Man (1933)
5. King Solomon's Mines (1950)

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Adventure classics: Book to Film - Part 1

As others have often pointed out, I was born in the wrong century. A hundred years earlier would have been pretty much perfect for me. The smart fashions, the eloquent, proper English, the still-thriving romance of adventure, the reserved social modes: late-Victorian England, on the whole, would have suited me to a tee. Many of my favourite writers are from that era: H.G. Wells, H. Rider Haggard, Jules Verne, Rudyard Kipling, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. They blended eloquence with clarity in a way that hasn't really survived to today's abbreviated world. I personally think the written word reached its apogee in those decades approaching and just beyond 1900.

One thing I would definitely miss, though, if I went back in a time machine, would be films. Let's take a look at the adaptations those classic novelists did not live to see (for better or worse), courtesy of Hollywood:

H.G. Wells

The grandfather of modern science fiction, Wells wrote prolifically, socio-politically, and in his day was without peer as a speculative fiction writer. His daring novels inspired some of the most successful screen adaptations of all time. Of the writers in this list, Wells arguably comes off best in terms of his relevance; his themes and scenarios are still pertinent today.

He made no secret of the dark parallels between British Imperialism and the role of his Martian invaders in War of the Worlds. In 1953, George Pal and Byron Haskin updated the story to mirror Cold War paranoia, while in 2005, Steven Spielberg tapped into our post 9/11 fears. Of the two, I think the older version will always be regarded as the classic. It's such a taut, brilliantly realised vision of unstoppable destruction, and while the recent movie echoes Wells' book as a first person experiential journey, its predecessor, a childhood favourite of Spielberg's, projects armageddon onto a (seemingly) more innocent age. Critics often cite Haskin's 1953 original in their lists of Top Ten sci-fi films. The new version is impressive, though, full of bravura filmmaking and nightmare imagery. Gene Barry and Ann Robinson gave strong performances in the original, while Tom Cruise and young Dakota Fanning excelled in 2005.

The Time Machine, Wells' breakthrough, was the first major novel about time travel. Its intriguing vision of two-caste human future was brought vividly to life in George Pal's charming 1960 adaptation. Less successful was Dreamworks' 2002 attempt to update the concept; the Eloi's tribal civilization didn't create a stark enough visual contrast with that of the underground, cannibalistic Morlocks. In the original, they were almost a literal heaven and hell, whereas the update depicts a bedraggled human community besieged by a bedraggled, monstrous enemy. The first thirty minutes of Simon Wells' remake, though, with the hero building his machine to try and alter fate, to save the life of his fiancee, are inarguably more powerful than either Pal's or Well's original openings. It is at the far future break off point, the second act, when the 1960 film trumps the 2002, by sticking close to the novel. And on balance, the older adaptation is by far the most successful.

Only one version of The Invisible Man is worthy of note--James Whale's 1933 film of the same name. It stars the brilliant Claude Rains as a scientist who tries his formula out on himself, quickly succumbing to the omnipotence of invisibility. Power corrupts where there's no accountability. The special effects are great even now, and it's really one of the absolute best horror films of that golden age.

First Men in the Moon remains a quaint story in book and film. It's a kind of flipside to War of the Worlds, with intrepid earthlings travelling to the moon (by way of an anti-gravity paste!!) and inadvertently destroying an ancient lunar civilization. They didn't invite us, and it's our germs that do the trick again.

I'm still waiting for a terrific adaptation of The Island of Dr. Moreau. It's such a topical, cautionary horror tale for our genetics age. A genius scientist manages to splice human DNA with those of various creatures, engineering a horrific hybrid community on his island. A hierarchy soon develops, with its own set of social codes and laws. But which half will prevail: the human or animal? Lord of the Flies meets The Jungle Book, by way of someone's (Wells'?) worst nightmare. Apparently, the 1933 film Island of Lost Souls is a brilliant movie based on this story, but it's tough to get hold of. The only versions I've seen are a bland '70's effort starring Burt Lancaster, and a dire 1996 film starring Marlon Brando.

Jules Verne

Another renowned sci-fi author whose work has enjoyed mostly great Hollywood success is the Frenchman, Jules Verne. His novels were much more adventure-oriented than Wells', and less interested in socio-political analogies.

I think the best of these (adaptations) is Walt Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, starring Kirk Douglas and James Mason as Captain Nemo and Ned Land, respectively. It's a brilliant distillation of the themes, and, more importantly, it expands the scope beyond the confines of Nemo's fortress submarine, the Nautilus, in which the three survivors are held captive. It's also a lavish production, the like of which wasn't afforded Edgar Rice Burroughs film projects of the 1970's. More than anything, though, it's a lot of fun, much more than the book. Who can forget a drunken Kirk Douglas singing "It's a whale of a tale", and then being applauded by a sealion? James Mason gives the first of two definitive performances of Verne characters; his Nemo is borderline insane, yet sympathetic as well.

His second, and arguably even better, Verne role was that of Professor Lindenbrook in 1959's Journey to the Centre of the Earth. A Scot in the movie, a German in the book, Li(n)den bro(o)k is determined and eccentric in both guises, and it suits Mason the actor perfectly. He has an extraordinary range. The adventure of the book is very much a variation on the treasure hunt, with the ultimate prize being to reach the centre of the earth--no mean feat if you consider that we now know it to be molten, but never mind. The film stands up really well today (even with Pat Boone's crooning), and I think it captures that "spirit of adventure" better than almost any other movie. The new 3D version starring Brendan Fraser is a travesty of an adaptation, but as an experience, it's like nothing else--the 3D effect transports you to world as impressive as anything Verne described.

Around the World in 80 Days is a loooong movie, and it feels it. I haven't read the book, but I'm guessing it won't vary much in terms of plot and the locales visited. I love Niven as Phileas Fogg, any scene set in London, and quite a few of the various exotic sights. It's ultimately too much of a good thing though, and could happily lose the lengthy bullfighting and much of the footage shot from trains.

Mysterious Island (1963) is one of my favourite classic novels, and one of my favourite adventure films. The two are almost nothing alike, but that's alright. For starters, Bernard Herrman's score is so good it evokes all the exoticism and excitement needed to fill a dozen adventures. Inspired casting of the lead, too, with Michael Craig embodying the macho Cyrus Harding perfectly. The oversized monsters (not in the novel) are all fun, courtesy of Ray Harryhausen's magic, but really this is about capturing that elusive spirit of adventure on a wonderfully tropical island. It succeeds in the best possible way. It makes you feel young again.

Next time...Edgar Rice Burroughs and H Rider Haggard.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Eleven-Hour Fall Nominated for Red Roses Award

Great news! My debut science-fiction novella The Eleven-Hour Fall has been nominated in the best short fiction category in the Red Roses for Authors Christmas Awards. The nominees were chosen by readers as the best books reviewed there during the year.

Red Roses is primarily a review site for romance books, but they did accept my sci-fi tale back in June, as it was a love story of sorts, with a strong heroine. It received five red roses.

To vote for the winners in both categories, here's the place to visit:


And as an added bonus, a few of my fellow Eternal Press authors are nominees as well. Fantastic!

Thursday, 6 November 2008

New Release Today - Grandiloquence!

Good news! My latest sci-fi eBook launches today at Eternal Press. Like Cafe at the Edge of Outer Space, it features two characters caught between the earth and the stars. It's the second story in my Earth orbit collection, and I'm especially proud of this one.

Grandiloquence - a lofty, extravagantly colorful, pompous, or bombastic style, manner, or quality especially in language

It is the distant future. A giant exoskeleton built around the earth permits anyone who can pay the price, access to the solitude of a space booth—the ultimate place to stargaze, get laid, or just escape for a while...

Benjamin Umbize recently lost his family to a Namibian genocide while he was studying in England. All he wants is a little quiet time to himself, to research a legendary writer...whose suicide is said to haunt Room 328. Bianca Burnett is a famous pop starlet scheduled to meet her boyfriend for a hot tryst miles above the earth. She hides her sophistication beneath a prickly for-the-cameras persona. But tonight, in Room 328, a friendship will develop that no one saw coming, least of all the student and the diva—a friendship that might just change both their lives forever...


“Who were you, Andrea Castor?” he whispered. “Why did you do it?”

Benjamin Umbize thumbed to the previous page of his scrapbook—a laminated excerpt from an old typed manuscript. The bottom left corner of the text was missing; in its place, the Xerox copier had left a blank black space. Benjamin slid his fingertips over the words and closed his eyes. But however hard he tried, he couldn’t feel her presence.

“Andrea, why did you do it?”

The grey sofa creaked as he leaned back with a sigh. He rummaged through his rucksack next to him on the seat, craving a ham, egg and cheese slice sandwich. Three left. Delicious in a way only he knew. And his last meal away from Earth.

The constellations never moved. Amazing things never do, he thought, we just move around them. During the ninety minutes he’d spent in booth three-two-eight above the atmosphere, the Perseus constellation had shifted from the left half of his window to the right. He finished his sandwich and wrote on his notepad: the cosmos doesn’t remember. The cosmos doesn’t care. We get to choose which of us are remembered. Will I be remembered?

He turned to the first page of his scrapbook—a photograph of his family taken on the day he’d left Namibia for his scholarship at Oxford University. It was the biggest smile his father, Simeon, a local schoolteacher, had ever given. His two sisters, Reba and Philomena, hugged his waist from either side. In the background, damp red sand and a sleek white cone-nosed jet left a lump in his throat. The contrast could not have been more blatant—his origins and his future in the same frame. It was the last time he’d seen any of them alive. He remembered Philomena’s Coca-Cola yoyo she used to take everywhere, and Reba’s incorrigible fascination with toy six-shooter revolvers. But he couldn’t quite hear their voices. Benjamin’s eyes misted as he glanced up into deep space. The Namibian genocide two years ago was a blank in his mind.

But I remember, Dad. I care.


Through the automatic sliding doors, a narrow blue-carpeted corridor wound to the left. It smelled of fresh ink, or some strange detergent. Transparent panels, set at equidistant points along the ceiling offered staggering glimpses of the elevator shaft—a gargantuan tower that rose above the atmosphere itself.

“Anyone afraid of heights?” she muttered.

One of only thirty-two on the planet, the giant tower was over sixty years old. Project Dreamcatcher—an exoskeletal framework over Earth had recently been completed to the tune of many trillions of dollars. In terms of interstellar freight and logistics, the project was expected to save corporations many times that amount in the long term. The amount of fuel required to pull a shuttle free of the earth’s gravitational pull was prohibitive, especially when multiplied by tens of thousands of shuttles per year. Despite global opposition, the exoskeleton did constitute a sound long-term investment. Entire industries had emerged on the giant framework over the planet. A cooperative venture hitherto unprecedented in human history, the Dreamcatcher itself had required the exhaustive mining of eleven planets in neighbouring systems.

In the olden days, this would all be science-fiction, she thought. Too bad all I’m using it for is to get laid.

She adjusted her handbag strap on her shoulder and untangled the other two straps—one belonging to her black tank top, the other to her purple bra. Rummaging in the pocket of her denim skirt, she retrieved a stick of gum. Bland flavour. I wonder if it’ll last me to the top, she thought, glancing up to where the tower met the clouds in a vague, blue hue.

eBook priced $2.50 at


Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Top Ten Superhero Movies

I hadn't realised how much this genre has dominated the 21st century until this morning, when I overheard a little boy telling his dad in HMV, "There can't be any more superheroes--they'd have to outnumber normal people."

It's true. Not that any of us kids are complaining. It used to be that there were two kinds of comic book movie--awful or Superman. Throughout the '80's, we had bargain basement supers like Flash Gordon and Captain America, that the makers seemed almost embarrassed to put on film. Even after Tim Burton's superb, baroque Batman soared onto screens in 1989, rival comic franchises stuttered into production, and became misguided failures like The Shadow and Phantom. Okay, Joe Johnston's Rocketeer was damn good, but it wasn't until 2002 that Hollywood got its act together and really started dominating the market. It was a little film about a teenager bitten by a spider...and the world went nuts. It's been bedlam ever since.

These are my favourite superhero movies since then, in no particular order...

Spider-Man 2 & 3 - the great special effects tend to get all the attention, but this series packs a real emotional wallop when needed. Tobey Maguire is a terrific Peter Parker, and Kirsten Dunst is luminous. Best villain so far...Doctor Octopus, played by Alfred Molina. The negative reaction to the third film mystifies me. It was superb.

Batman Begins & The Dark Knight - I admire what Chris Nolan did with the Batman reboot--both these films are gritty, brooding crime epics. There's realism and despair in Bruce Wayne's struggle against villainy in Gotham, and Christian Bale, as usual, nails every beat. But the movies aren't much fun. They're adult, nightmarish chapters in a dark, dark saga. I still prefer the twisted, gothic persona of Burton's two films--they had a unique flavour. Nolan's vision has stripped all trace of fantasy from the story. It's impressive stuff, though, if you're in the mood. Heath Ledger is amazing as the Joker.

Unbreakable - tehnically, this came out before Spider-Man, but again it's a gritty and sombre approach to the genre. I love the slow-burning fuse of this one--Bruce Willis' character, David Dunn, is reluctant to embrace his extraordinary secret of invulnerability. Director M Night Shyamalan made his best film here. It's absolutely captivating to watch.

Superman Returns - It isn't as good as the original Reeve classic, but it's ambitious and entertaining. Brandon Routh is just about perfect as Kent/Superman. I thought Kate Bosworth was okay as Lois Lane, not a patch on Margot Kidder. It's about time a fresh villain was introduced into the franchise--Kevin Spacey's Lex Luthor seemed more nostalgic than threatening.

The Incredibles - Probably the best Pixar movie so far outside of Toy Story. A family of superheroes gets to realise its true potential in this witty, spectacular family film. The filmmaking, script and animation are all razor sharp.

X-Men 2 & 3 - I never did buy the "origin" of the mutants' powers in X-Men. "A leap in evolution"? Um, that's it? These freaks can shapeshift, teleport, control metal, heal in seconds, control minds and God-knows-what-else. It has to be the lamest attempt to justify superpowers. I can swallow a radioactive spider bite, an alien superbeing, a horned demon, even a fifteen foot tall green gamma monster, but in X-Men, there are no rules. A person can conceivably be capable of anything if he or she has naturally "mutated". Bonkers. Still, it's fun to watch the awesome cast take it so seriously. Hugh Jackman is the breakout star. Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart are the prodigiously talented Brits trying to make us swallow the whole thing. Best thing about X-Men--the cast. Worst thing--something called Cerebro, a kind of mind control machine that is just too ridiculous for words.

Iron Man - fun mix of Robocop, Rocketeer and Transformers, except this comic character has been around for decades. Robert Downey, Jr tones down his usual manic genius to give us a suave hero driven by a sense of moral obligation. Great action scenes, witty dialogue. Gwyneth Paltrow is sexier than ever as his loyal assistant, Pepper Potts. Ace casting choice, apart from Downey, is Jeff Bridges as the powerful president of Stark Industries.

The Incredible Hulk - more action, less psychology. I still like the 2003 version by Ang Lee, but this one is a lot more fun. Edward Norton is good as the hunted scientist/monster trying to find a cure. Spectacular monster showdown at the climax.

Hellboy - a real oddity, this one. Personally, I think the humour falls flat and the monsters leave a lot to be desired. It's an uneven film, but a hugely entertaining one. Tremendous makeup on the big red guy, and also on his aquatic sidekick, Abe Sapien. John Hurt is word perfect as always in his role as Hellboy's surrogate father. This film gets better with multiple viewings, if you can put up with the bonkers fantasy masterplan hatched by a resurrected Rasputin.

Blade 1 & 2 - the stale vampire legend gets kicked into overdrive by Wesley Snipes, as he hunts all bloodsuckers with a mix of wry humour and electrifying martial arts. Style abounds. Nice attempts to stir vampire mysticism into the mix. And the pace rarely lets up. Of course, the whole thing would fall flat on its face without Snipes' natural charisma and action man athleticism. He's on great form.

Next time...Top Ten Historical Epics.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

New Review for The Elemental Crossing!

Elemental Crossing/Robert Appleton/Eternal Press/ebook/68pages

Marooned on Kratos with the man of her dreams, Kate isn’t always happy to go along with Jason’s wild schemes. Yet they have to find a place where they can survive in this hostile environment while they wait to see if a spaceship will come to rescue them.

Once again in this second book Kate and Jason are confronted by strange creatures. Some are friendly, some are dangerous, some are simply food – and some are poisonous to eat. How can they tell the difference? Kate falls ill and in a terrifying electric storm caused by an unidentified creature, Kate and Jason are separated. Each has to journey on alone to find a place to survive neither knowing if the other has survived. Will they survive and find happiness?

The second book in this fascinating sci-fi thriller series is as good as the first.

Five red roses, Linda


Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Cover Art for Grandiloquence!

Dawne Dominique created this eye-catching front cover for my sci-fi eBook Grandiloquence. Great work as always from the Eternal Press team--Dawne previously did the cover art for my Esther May Morrow anthology.

Here's the blurb for Grandiloquence:

The distant future. A giant exoskeleton built around the earth permits anyone, at a price, access to the solitude of a space booth—the ultimate place to stargaze, get laid, or just escape for a while...

Benjamin Umbize recently lost his family to a Namibian genocide while he was studying in England. All he wants is a little quiet time to himself, to research a legendary writer...whose suicide is said to haunt Room 328. Bianca Burnett is a famous pop starlet scheduled to meet her boyfriend for a hot tryst miles above the earth. She hides her sophistication beneath a prickly, for-the-cameras persona. But tonight, in Room 328, a friendship will develop that no one saw coming, least of all the student and the diva—a friendship that might just change both their lives forever...

Grandiloquence is scheduled for release on November 7th at Eternal Press. Keep an eye on this one--it turned out better than I could have imagined.


Saturday, 13 September 2008

Check out this movie - Time After Time (1979)

I love time travel stories. I think they're playgrounds for a storyteller's imagination. Though I've written a fair few myself (not to mention a series of poems), I'm constantly enthralled by the scope and exciting ideas thrust up by the genre. Wells, of course, is the grandfather of time travel, but I'd also cite The Twilight Zone as a collective source of many of the trends of modern time travel conceits.

Last night I happened upon a terrific little time travel movie called Time After Time, in which H.G. Wells must pursue Jack the Ripper from 1893 to 1979, in order to stop the madman's killing spree. It's chock full of lovely creative flourishes, such as the Ripper actually being one of the distinguished dinner guests invited to Wells' unveiling of his new creation, the time machine. In 1979, the Ripper (played by Brit veteran David Warner) fits in far more easily than poor H.G., whose misplaced theses on a future utopia come crashing down about him. But love, he decides, is the perennial constant that makes the decadence bearable; and in this case, his romance with sweet Amy (Mary Steenburgen) forces him to address his pacifist theories--if he wants to save her life.

Scripted and directed by Nicholas Meyer (Star Trek: Wrath of Khan), it's a witty, inventive and rather elegant film. The Ripper is never a one-dimensional villain--indeed, he's very much the intellectual counterpart of Wells--but Warner knows how to play nasty when required. Malcolm McDowall's performance as Wells is a delight. He's naive and bumbling, yet also resourceful and tries, whenever possible, to underplay what could have easily been a cartoon character. Mary Steenburgen plays a younger, ditzier, more neurotic version of her Clara Clayton character in Back to the Future Part III. She's great as always.

I recommend Time After Time without hesitation. It's one of the better time travel movies I've seen.

Here are a few others:

Back to the Future (1985) & Sequels
The Time Machine (1960 & 2002)
Deja Vu (2005)
Groundhog Day (1993)
Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
Timecop (1995)

Sunday, 7 September 2008

The Elemental Crossing Released Today!

Today marks the one year anniversary of Eternal Press. Happy birthday EP! It also see the release of my new novella. Check it out...


One woman. One man. A daring voyage across an alien ocean. The Elemental Crossing is the exciting sequel to Robert Appleton’s science-fiction adventure, The Eleven-Hour Fall.

After their hard-won escape from the perils of the desert, Kate and Jason are faced with their most difficult challenge yet on Kratos - crossing a vast ocean on just an improvised raft. Their relationship grows as hope dwindles. Procuring food, water, and a safe course across stretches their survival expertise to its limits. Despite help from an unexpected ally, what lurks beneath the surface of this alien sea?

Intimate character reflections weave through the epic scale of this second installment in the thrilling romantic survival series.

Excerpt #1

The occasional coarse gust stung Kate’s ears and tried to unstitch a wound on Jason’s chin; by the time the winds eased, both were red raw. The sky, too, bled reddish purple between blue clouds.
Bruised in the aftermath, thought Kate.
Jason suddenly scooped her off her feet from behind and, holding her close, pressed his cheek against hers.
“We’ve made it,” he said softly. “The only sand from now on is beachfront property.”
Kate closed her eyes and sighed. Swept up by the man of her dreams, her lift was physical, spiritual, vital. A week ago, in the desert, she had started a survival cycle for two; here, on the mysterious shore of a green-blue ocean, the cycle had come full circle. Jason Remington…Jason and I. Though fate had raised its skull and crossbones more than once on Kratos—most tragically to sink the Fair Monique—Kate had in fact won everything she’d wanted: her man, her life, and a chance to explore a hidden world. But in the bargain, just as many questions, if not more. Their journey to the ocean was now complete…
But in a survival cycle, she knew nothing was ever complete.
The seascape was an elemental brew, a dark green wilderness settling after a hurricane upheaval. It tossed columns of spray from the crests of its swells. These danced and merged like feverish loners in an icy rave. Two miles to the north, the giant precipice curtailed the ocean for as far as the eye could see. This straight line amid the chaos haunted Kate. The idea of an entire ocean being little more than a puddle on the surface of a giant craft made her swallow self-consciously.
“If you had to guess, how far would you say it stretches?” Jason asked.
“Well, how far can we see to the horizon?”
“Hmm…” He shrugged. “Say about five times farther than on Earth.”
“That’s conservative,” she replied. “Kratos is proportionally a lot bigger than that.”
“Yes, but our eyes can’t see infinitely through this atmosphere,” added Jason.
“I know—the electromagnetic anomaly we were told about. Something to do with gravitational distortion.”
“Let’s just say if there wasn’t an anomaly, we’d never have made it through the E.M. shield. The biggest planet ever explored, in terms of circumference; I can’t even imagine the gravitational forces we should be experiencing right now.”
“We’re miraculous survivors on a miraculous world,” she said vacantly. “And you can make a note of that for our epitaph.”
Jason chuckled and kissed her on the cheek before setting her down on the sand.
He resumed his walk. “So what’s the plan?”
“I thought this was the plan,” she replied.
“I mean what now? Saying we can make a go of it here for a while—if there’s a permanent food supply—what next, Mrs. Miraculous Survivor on a miraculous world? Where do we go from here?”
Kate smiled. “Haven’t the foggiest.”

Excerpt #2

Spectacular! The underwater visibility improved dramatically. Jason felt as if they’d crossed a purifying meridian. The partition between pale, murky green and glassy emerald stood out a mile, as clearly defined as night and day. Kate dipped her hand in the new water.
“It’s balmy,” she said, wide-eyed.
“Shall we try it out?” asked Jason.
Kate hung from the starboard side, Jason from the port. They submerged to view the secrets of the transparent ocean. From between clouds, capes of sunlight wavered across the deep, highlighting minute formations of sea life no bigger than fingernails and introducing enormous, roving shapes that spread and contracted like bloating submarines. Slender white shoots stretched up to within a hundred feet of the surface; these were identical to the spaghetti slime-line Jason had snagged during his fishing debacle. Quite where they originated from he still couldn’t fathom.
The farther they drifted across this new ocean realm, the more it teemed with life. Jason and Kate lifted their heads to breathe every couple of minutes. The sunlight intensified over the next hour, penetrating deeper into the aquatic. Enormous mandibles clasped shut far below, sending whirligigs of plankton up toward them. Kate even spied a dolphin, identical to those they’d befriended back at the reef. It dodged between a school of tiny lights and a spinning starfish.
Amazing, she thought, what evolution, unchecked, can produce!

Excerpt #3

A chevron formation of birds streaked across the sky. Kate counted twenty-six. She shuddered at the memory of being clamped in the huge beak during her eleven-hour fall, awaiting the crunch, with no way to defend herself or the man in her arms. How quickly horror had turned to hope.
Clouds parted overhead like a stratospheric Rorschach, morphing the heavens into a shape she’d only ever seen rendered by computer-generated imagery. She lost her bearings for a moment, forgetting the direction of the Elemental’s drift.
Yeah, east to west, but which is which?
Kate couldn’t find the impetus to get up and check. Though bone-dry bodily, her resolve was damp. Two days of lying on her back in a floating limbo had atrophied her every motivation. Eating, exercising, planning ahead, making even the tiniest decision now felt beyond her. At the nadir of existence, it was theoretically the peak test of a survivalist’s aptitude. But she couldn’t get over how cruelly fate had played its hand against her. Remorseless. Sadistic. From the bottom of the deck.
Just before midday, the Elemental turned slowly through forty-five degrees. The sensation wasn’t severe, but Kate felt it.
There’s no wind. Some kind of current?
She instantly forgot her maudlin marathon and shot across to the port side. The water was on the move; as she dipped her hand, it rushed through her fingers.
“Strong current, too!”
No signs of life below the surface, submarine-sized or otherwise, only a full-depth, concerted gush toward the northwest. Toward the precipice!
The entire ocean?

Excerpt #4

Two hours later, the rumble was as loud as a Harley Davidson’s engine ticking over. The throttle hadn’t yet been turned, but her ears felt the grip. White mist boasted a full rainbow and reached high over the precipice. Kate tested the lines securing her belt one more time. One fastened to each of the four cleats—more than enough.
“It might be for nothing,” she whispered, “but nothing could mean anything…”
She shook her head.
“A bit late for optimism, Katie girl.”
Her heartbeat quickened as the noise increased. The sea’s current now seemed rapid, incontestable. Still no view of the precipice through the mist. Only the nonstop fall of thunder. Billions of tonnes of water pouring into oblivion.
The depth of the ocean did not appear to lessen. She could still see a fair way down. The whole thing’s moving this way! On Earth and other planets, she’d seen waterfalls fed by either a river or a lake; here, a sea at least the size of a continent overflowed. Kate could barely hold her hand steady enough to scratch an itch on her neck. As the first specks of spray peppered the Elemental, the cascade roared with the power of a rocket launch.
She screamed at the top of her voice, but no sound escaped.
Oh, Christ, this is it!
The veil of no return. A film of cool moisture covered her hair, face, and neck. Visibility was now that of a white, backward balaclava. She felt the boat glide more rapidly and quickly through the water, and the dread welled up like hot oil in her gut. Her eardrums rang. She fought giant panic breaths with all of her pride.
The Elemental now hurtled faster than it had ever surfed as a sand yacht. Kate’s hair flapped wildly, and the spray drenched her eyes shut. Still louder, still faster, then…

To read the rest of Kate's adventure, you can buy The Elemental Crossing as an eBook at:


It's quite a ride!

Monday, 1 September 2008

'Bits of the Dead' Now Available

I can't wait to read this one. My flash fiction zombie story Cemetery is in some pretty intimidating company. Check it out...

Geoff Bough, Editor, Revenant Magazine

"I'd put Bits of the Dead right up there with the likes of Skipp and Spector's Book of the Dead or David J. Schow's Zombie Jam -- each eerie tale featuring it's own new take on the dead. If you're a fan of zombies and zombie fiction . . . load your gun, stock your basement and make a run to grab this book!" From the Back Cover

They live.
They die.
They return. Zombies.
38 authors.
38 gut-wrenching tales.
Flash fiction at its finest, all illustrated by underground favorite Sean Simmans and edited by Keith Gouveia.

Stories by
Piers Anthony, Robert Appleton, Joel Arnold, Drew Brown, Adam-Troy Castro, Nick Cato, C.M. Clifton, Christopher Allan Death, Ed Dempster, J.G. Faherty, Paul A. Freeman, Charles A. Gramlich, J.H. Hobson, M.M. Johnson, Michael Josef, Kiernan Kelly, Nancy Kilpatrick, Michael Laimo, Catherine MacLeod, James Newman, Kurt Newton, Jeff Parish, Matthew John Peters, Jeffrey C. Pettengill, Daniel Pyle, Gina Ranalli, Steven Savile, Julia Sevin, R.J. Sevin, Nate Southard, Jeff Strand, Simon Strantzas, Marcie Lynn Tentchoff, Lee Thomas, William T. Vandemark, Steve Vernon, Tim Waggoner, John Weagly

Bits of the Dead is a hard-hitting, pulse-pounding collection of zombie tales that'll have you ripping through the pages faster than a ghoul through a warm body.

Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1897217811/themaniworlof-20)

Eternal Press Birthday Party!


Today starts our week long birthday party at Eternal Press. Head over to the blog all week for fun or free stuff. Today starts off with a short trivia contest.


Sunday, 10 August 2008

Cover Art for The Elemental Crossing

Shirley Burnett has excelled herself once again with the cover art for my sequel to The Eleven-Hour Fall. Book 2 in this sci-fi adventure series, The Elemental Crossing, is scheduled for a September 7 release at Eternal Press. I'm sure you'll agree, the picture is a striking one.

Here's a quick blurb for The Elemental Crossing:

One man. One woman. A daring voyage across an alien ocean. The Elemental Crossing is the exciting sequel to Robert Appleton’s science-fiction adventure, The Eleven-Hour Fall.

After their hard-won escape from the perils of the desert, Kate and Jason are faced with their most difficult challenge yet on Kratos - crossing a vast ocean on just an improvised raft. Their relationship grows as hope dwindles. Procuring food, water, and a safe course across stretches their survival expertise to its limits. Despite help from an unexpected ally, what lurks beneath the surface of this alien sea?

Intimate character reflections weave through the epic scale of this second installment in the thrilling romantic survival series.

Excerpts to come soon...

Friday, 1 August 2008

TV shows on DVD

I've always been something of a cinema snob. Whatever television can do, movies do it better. Budget, time constraint, talent: there's no getting round the gulfs that exist. Exceptions have always been rare: I, Claudius; Twin Peaks, X-Files, Star Trek: TNG. But recently, incredibly, the exceptions have become the norm. IMO, the greatest advantage TV has over film is the passage of time. A movie has two or three hours to familiarise you with a world, its characters, patterns of dialogue, a filmmaking style, and provide a full plot and resolution. But a TV program can draw you in over weeks, months, years of familiarity, during which time you truly care about these people and their plights. The characters are your virtual friends. They are as real as the actors playing them. Serial television is to film what the lengthy novel is to a poem or a short story. You live these shows a chapter at a time.

I never thought I'd say this, but TV is pretty awesome these days. Not that I ever watch shows as they air. Hell, the last time I did that, The A-Team and Knight Rider were hot. But over the past decade, DVD has revolutionised television. No longer throwaway schedule fillers, shows now have a shot at immortality and huge sales revenues, as network competition and audience demand for quality has hiked a handful of series into hitherto undreamed of levels of bravura filmmaking.

I know I'm missing some absolute corkers, but for now, here are the recent American TV shows I can't get enough of (on DVD):

1. West Wing - I realise it's finished, but for those seven series, Aaron Sorkin's political drama was the best thing in the history of television. I don't say that lightly. It's scripted like a neverending fuse to a series of dazzling verbal fireworks, which the cast nail every single time. Bradley Whitford is superb as Josh Liman, the sharp but arrogant Deputy Chief of Staff, but Allison Janney gets the role of a lifetime as Press Secretary C.J. Cregg. Martin Sheen's President Jed Bartlett might just be the greatest match of star and character in television. Unmissable.

2. House - Hugh Laurie was one of the goofiest BBC comedians on shows like Blackadder and Jeeves and Wooster. So who the hell came up with him to play the sarcastic Sherlock Holmes of medicine? A genius, I reckon. This is quality stuff through and through, and I've been a huge fan of Robert Sean Leonard ever since Dead Poets Society. The humour is biting, the diseases mind-boggling, and the script is very, very clever.

3. Boston Legal - Completely absurd and irresistable show set in the world of high-priced attorneys. I would never have given this a try but for the cast. So glad I did. Quality acting from the likes of Candace Bergen and Julie Bowen, but this belongs to two sleazy, unpredictable characters played to perfection by James Spader (often magnificent) and a hilarious, non-PC William Shatner as Alan Shore and Denny Crane, respectively. It's preachy, heartfelt and insane in equal measure. Great show.

4. Lost - Not much to say about this other than it's either going to be an ending of unprecedented genius or an anti-climax. No middle ground. So many disparate supernatural threads and coincidences--it's often infuriating (why do characters never give more than half or cryptic explanations) but always compelling. The quality of filmmaking is stunning. Matthew Fox as Jack Shepherd is another brilliant piece of casting. He's got charisma to spare. Evangeline Lilly is gorgeous and enigmatic as Kate Austin. High class show.

5. Prison Break - formulaic yet always exciting cons-on-the-run show. It benefits from a good cast, a frenetic pace, and about a dozen twists per episode, so it's never, ever dull. Ridiculous, maybe, but count me entertained.

And a few other shows which, for various reasons, I revisit are:

Ghost Whisperer - Jennifer Love Hewitt's Melinda Gordon is an iconic apple pie (and eye candy) medium. She has a perpetually patient husband, a loyal friend, a cute, never-quite-finished house in small town America, and moreover she's sweet, with good morals, even with the spooks turn all Freddy Kruger. Its the corny little sister of shows like Medium and Supernatural, but Hewitt makes it all work. She's luminous and really seems to believe in all this stuff. Plus she's incredibly hot.

Firefly - Okay, so it was yanked off the air eons ago, but this western in space is the best sci-fi show since Star Trek: TNG. Pretty much everything works: the jokes, the storylines, the cobbling together of sci-fi elements. It's a wonderful show, with a genuine sense of danger when needed. Criminally overlooked, it was resurrected in a one-off, and not quite as good, movie called Serenity. If nothing else, this should have made a star out of Nathan Fillion as the gruff, Han Solo like captain, whose quick draw and quicker mouth would out-gun most western heroes.

I'm always on the lookout for new, quality shows. I hear Glenn Close's Damages is worth a look. Might have to give that a whirl...on DVD, mind. TV has its second wind, on the shiny discs.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Cafe Opens at #1

Great news! Simultaneously with the record-devouring debut of The Dark Knight in cinemas, my sci-fi short Cafe at the Edge of Outer Space took the Eternal Press number one spot at Fictionwise.


It's still early days for the coming-of-age story, but EP boasts plenty of talent and is very competitive these days, with many genres selling consistently well. It feels terrific to have such a high-flying opening week. E-books are still minor compared to the global print market, but they're growing rapidly with the advent of pocket e-readers. Short stories in particular provide an ideal pastime for commuters and frequent travellers. Exactly how popular e-books will become in the future is debatable but all the indications point to them being a natural complement to paperbacks in this digital age. It's also telling that many of the major print publishers are re-releasing their catalogues in e-book format. Whereas Cafe would once have competed against other small press releases, it's now going head to head with established genre heavyweights.

In any event, each of my EP e-books has reached the top five. And with my first number one, I'll be dining out at the cafe this week. I wonder what the weather will be like down here while I'm gone.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Review For The Eleven-Hour Fall

Red Roses For Authors have just posted a review for my sci-fi romance novella! Here it is:

Robert Appleton/Eleven Hour Fall/Eternal Press/ebook/54 pages

Kate is with a team looking for important minerals on a new planet called Kratos. She is in love with one of the other team members, but Remington doesn't know it - though he seems interested. While exploring a mountain range they suffer a terrible rock slide and are sent sliding down the surface. Kate is trained in survival and when she discovers that Remington is still alive but unconscious she ties them both together and jumps, hoping to land on the surface of the planet with her chute. However, she goes into a long, long free fall. When they are swooped on by huge birdlike monsters and then dropped the adventure begins.

This is a story of surviving and of a determined woman. Kate is going to do her utmost to save her man and she has to fight off various monsters and all kinds of perils. It is a relief when Remington recovers consciousness and starts to help her. This excellent book is imaginative and well written and has a surprise in store at the end. I don't often 'Love' science fiction but I did this one! Five red roses, Linda

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Visit the Cafe

My science-fiction romance short story CAFÉ AT THE EDGE OF OUTER SPACE is due for release on July 7. If you're a fan of those two genres, you'll love this one…

In the distant future, our overpopulated planet requires all sixteen year olds to undertake a ten-year exile as a rite of passage. Paired with a mate on the voyage out to kick-start adulthood, they must all pass through the café on the edge of outer space, the legendary waystation orbiting Earth.

Frank Archer isn't ready for life away from home. He's smitten with his new girl, Emma Whitaker. But whether he likes it or not, it's time for the boy to become a man. He has a beautiful girl to protect...through the deadliest terrorist attack ever conceived!

Here are two short excerpts:


Strangely, I find an air of nostalgia where there is no air. I’m looking out of a window that never needs cleaning from outside. It’s pretty much impenetrable, too. Just the faint threat of things over which we’ve no control – you know, asteroids, solar flares, terrorism, things like that. “Facing space,” they call it. Something to do with a rite of passage. Everyone leaves Earth at sixteen – that’s the law – and we’re not allowed to return until our twenty-sixth birthdays. Talk about a graduation.

There’s a kind of window over the Earth as well. It isn’t solid, it’s translucent – a hazy helmet of cloud and pollution. Great Britain passed by a few minutes ago. I could just about make out where I lived, more or less dead centre on the island. Apparently, Britain used to be much bigger. And warmer. More sandy beaches, less pack ice. I can’t quite picture Blackpool without snow, though. Outdoor roller-coasters? They must’ve been insane.

It’s been days since I saw anyone familiar. All my classmates are still hundreds of miles below, probably wondering what the café at the edge of outer space is really like. I wish I could tell them. I’m the oldest, but their turns will come soon enough. It’s actually not too different from the school diner: everyone’s in each other’s way, no one wants to stay here long, and the food is bloody awful.

So, I’m out on my own. I left Earth a boy, and they’re counting on me to find Frank Archer the man. There’s something disconcerting about that whole idea. I don’t want to change. Why should I? Where will travelling the universe take me, except away from here? What if I never find another place as peaceful as Lancashire. What if I change for the worse? We’re the future of Earth; without proper guidance, who’s to say we won’t become a planet of cutthroats? So much for their claims of overpopulation – by the time you’re old enough to understand the notion, they’ve already shipped you off into orbit. It’s a bizarre way of treating children, if you ask me.


Our gentle footsteps seem invasive, illegal somehow. The dark tunnel effect is dizzyingly effective as we tiptoe out onto a three-hundred-and-sixty degree stellar walkway. I hold my breath. If Emma’s hand wasn’t squeezing mine, I’d be head over heels off balance instead of head over heels in . . . liking her a lot.


It’s a deep-bone thrombosis of stars and gravitational attraction. Body to body, orbit to orbit, me to her. We’re cosmic trespassers, and I feel just as transparent as the see-through window encasing us. She looks right into me, her warm breath reaching my cheek where it lingers. Utter silence. My heavy breathing now feels part of oblivion, hers a solar wind from light years away. We’re together now, though. So together. She roves her flat palm from my side across the front of my t-shirt, exciting a halo that dissolves down through my entire body. As I take that hand, I’m a wisp at her mercy. Her fingers pulse magic as we draw near, and her breasts press against my rib cage. Near. No fear. We’re…

Coming July 7 at www.eternalpress.ca

Bon Appetite!

Here's a quick preview of the book cover for Bits of the Dead, the zombie horror anthology edited by Keith Gouveia and published by Coscom Entertainment.

Nightmares? Who? Me?


My flash fiction short Cemetery will appear in this one, alongside some famous names in the genre. It promises to be an eye-opening (and otherwise gouging) read. I can't wait!

It's out in late July. But you can pre-order HERE.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

New book released!

My five story anthology, written under pen name Arthur Everest, is a fascinating look at time and time travel.


Who is Esther May Morrow? Why is it that her strange shop, resembling something out of medieval England, has remained unchanged from the nineteenth to the twenty-third century. What is she selling? And who will come to buy...?

Stories in this collection feature a professional cardsharp with a dark secret; an old man, his dying dog, and a chance for immortality; a vengeful Marine and a special pocket watch; and a celebrated male prostitute and his unrequited love…for Olivia de Havilland!

Eerie, amusing and always original, these stories address the personal journeys of five haunted individuals, for whom quirks of time shed new light on their dilemmas. No one who enters Esther May’s shop is ever the same again.

Here’s a brief excerpt from Miss Olivia:

Reclining, deflating against his stack of pillows after a long day, he smiled as her familiar profile came to life. The backdrop only fidgeted, but Olivia herself, arguably at her most ravishing, began to walk toward him with breathtaking fluidity. She hoisted her dress slightly to prevent it snagging on the uneven ground. She watched her footing over stiff clumps of grass. Her smile bloomed into sweet dimples whenever she looked up. And as Olivia stood within inches of him—the close-up of all close-ups—he turned to walk with her. A beautiful, innocent piece of programming. Courtesy of Sexual Fantasies, Inc.

Rex tapped the pause button with Miss Olivia staring directly at him. What a remarkable technology, he thought, that inks in the pixels to approximate beauty. Her round, angelic face, flush cheeks, big eyes, butter-wouldn’t-melt smile with a hint of naughtiness behind the teeth. The visor had got her exactly right in every detail. Except one.

It wasn’t really Olivia.

And Rex was in love with the real Olivia.

Here’s a brief excerpt from Gin Rummy:

Horace Exeter didn’t like to lose.

From the moment he strolled into the Francis Drake, his waistcoat pocket bulging with wealth that was not his, he set about weighing up the competition. A blurry-eyed threesome emptying a pint apiece near the far window? Heck no, they were far gone, animated only by the cartoon gestures of a giddy colleague. They wouldn’t last two rounds—either beer or cards. A well-dressed couple lost between glances in a silent love charade? Hmm, slim pickings, he thought.

“Anything for you, sir?” asked the barkeep, ever so politely.

“Three gins. Make one a double, and you can point me to the third.”

The barkeep laughed. “Right you are, sir,” he said. “That’s the game just there—that table facin’ the far window. Gins…gin rummy...I’ll ’ave to remember that one.”

“Much obliged,” Horace replied curtly.


He’d always despised the quick-to-make-friends, particularly those with one hand in a till drawer. A smile cost nothing, so why should that suggest it was worth anything? He’d never understood why businessmen were so well-respected in a community. Their sole purpose was to relinquish others of wealth. Any benefit to the community was incidental. They were beneath contempt because they knew not of their crime. Larceny. Purveyors of platitudes, robbers with the law behind them.

At least I know I’m a son of a bitch, he thought, grinning. Time to ply a few platitudes of my own. Here’s to larceny!

With a flick of his chin, he downed the double gin.

Amber light from ship lanterns hanging in each alcove combined well with the varnished mahogany tables and plush maroon carpet to give an authentic period vibe. It was 1899, but to Horace, it felt more like 1599.

Whatever the century, they’re about to be fleeced.

And here’s a quick excerpt from Cretaceous:

“Come with me,” she said, untying her apron and nodding him toward the curtain door. Her small, slim figure and prematurely veined hands suggested to Vincent she’d spent a lifetime washing up, doing housework, being run off her feet.

Very chirpy, though. A lot like my Esther...just not in looks.

Rows of shelves greeted him as he ducked under the low doorframe into the shop. Dozens of wooden shelves, items upon them neatly arranged in a Sunday morning, bric-a-brac sort of way. Without his glasses, he couldn’t see the contents in much detail, but those he could discern—a Bedouin headscarf, a violin bow, a beige fedora hat, an old copy of the Bible, a futuristic-looking crystal clock—tickled his curiosity.

“What business are you in, Esther?” he asked, inhaling a gorgeous smell of fresh pastry from a shelf behind the counter labelled “something...something...Pies.”

“Buy or borrow. I’m in the time business,” she replied.

He leaned in, straining his old eyes for a closer look at the label.

Hmm...Fresh-Baked Pies.

“Buy or borrow? What’s that when it’s at home?” he queried. In seventy years of car boot sales, flea markets, and what have you, he thought he’d seen every kind of money-raising idea known to man. But “buy or borrow”?

Esther smiled and beckoned him over to another shelf set along the back wall, one full of coloured bottles. Vincent thought it resembled something from a Victorian pharmacy or perhaps even older than that, an apothecary’s stash.

“What’s this buy or borrow?” he asked again, softer this time as he stood beside her.

“It’s exactly as it sounds. You say whether you’d like to keep an item or rent it, and then make us an offer. It’s very rare we refuse.”

“Fair enough.” Vincent smiled, instantly dubious of the whole idea.

Esther’s snowy-white skin contrasted with the colours of viscous liquids across three jam-packed rows of glass bottles.

Unlabelled...like her, he thought, glancing approvingly at the woman who’d saved his life.

Don't miss ESTHER MAY MORROW'S BUY BORROW by Arthur Everest


Sunday, 25 May 2008


Plenty going on here at the moment, writing-wise, in the world of Robert Appleton. I thought I'd share a few bits of news.

My flash fiction short Cemetery has been contracted to appear in a print anthology, titled Bits of the Dead, for Coscom Entertainment. Other featured authors include Piers Anthony, Nancy Kilpatrick and Adam-Troy Castro. Zombies abound!

Another sci-fi short story, Grandiloquence, will be published as an e-book by Eternal Press. If you enjoy my Cafe on the Edge of Outer Space, due out there on July 7, you'll love the characters and scenario in Grandiloquence. It's definitely one of my best.

Anticipating the release of Esther May Morrow's Buy or Borrow on June 7 (again, at EP), I've been hard at work completing a few more stories in the paranormal series:

Esther May Morrow's Fruitless (novella)
Esther May Morrow's Lot 62 (short story)

and The Temporal Man, the exciting genesis story for this entire series.

Finally, I've just put the finishing touches to part 3 of my Eleven-Hour Fall trilogy, titled Kate of Kratos. The action scenes are even more epic, the alien world throws up more bizarre creatures, and Kate's character really comes into her own. Again, if you like survival stories, and don't mind a dash of romance, this one's for you.

Thanks for reading!

Till next time, respect the unexpected.

Robert Appleton

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Who Is Esther May Morrow?

Who is Esther May Morrow? Why is it that her strange shop, resembling something out of medieval England, has remained unchanged from the nineteenth to the twenty-third centuries. What is she selling? And who will come to buy...?

Find out in ESTHER MAY MORROW'S BUY OR BORROW, a one-of-a-kind paranormal short story anthology:

SPELLBOUND – featuring an eight-year-old boy and an old army canteen.

GIN RUMMY - Set in 1899. Featuring a professional cardsharp with a dark secret and a desire to win at all costs.

CRETACEOUS – featuring an old man, his dying dog, and a chance for immortality.

THE FACE NEVER LIES – featuring a vengeful Marine and a special pocket watch.

MISS OLIVIA - Set in Hollywood 2237. Featuring a celebrated male prostitute and his unrequited love…for Olivia de Havilland!

Eerie, amusing and always original, these stories address the personal journeys of five haunted individuals, for whom quirks of time shed new light on their dilemmas. No one who enters Esther May’s shop is ever the same again.

Coming June 7 at Eternal Press.


Sunday, 6 April 2008

I'm Proud to Present...The Eleven-Hour Fall

Well, the time has finally arrived. After much planning, writing, rewriting, climbing and general parachuting into unknown territory, my first novella, The Eleven-Hour Fall, is out today.

The folks at Eternal Press have been a pleasure to work with. My editor Heather Williams really understands the sci-fi genre, and you can see from the book cover how talented the artists are at EP. This one was designed by Shirley Burnett, and it's a corker.

So, on to the story itself...

It’s an exciting blend of science-fiction, romance and survival adventure.

What if you fell from a great height...toward a ground you couldn’t see…and hours later, you were still falling?

For love, for survival, on a mysterious planet light years from home. With the man of her dreams unconscious in her arms, astronaut Kate Borrowdale must escape the treacherous peaks of Kratos and traverse a strange, hidden world beneath the clouds…

And now for a short excerpt:

A quick glance here, a fleeting glimpse during a barrel roll there: Kate's knowledge of the world below was snatched from a dizzying descent. The violet sky streamed as colors in a fresco, running while still damp. Tremendous jets of gas washed up from below, pluming to giant mushrooms from tornado slivers.

But who are you trying to blame, Katie girl - no one ordered you on this frozen rock. You've got what you came for; he's just in a coma, that's all. Next time, next time, next time...

Her clock read 15:34. The fall had lasted how long? An hour and five minutes? That couldn’t be right. They seemed no nearer to the swirling cloud below. Another updraft caught them and Kate felt like they were floating again.

Kratos was a large planet in terms of circumference, yet physicists knew very little of its topography. The range of mountains in the northern hemisphere, the peaks of which Kate's party had partially surveyed, suggested mind-boggling geography. Scans, however, had failed to penetrate successive cloud layers. Experts cited an electromagnetic anomaly in the atmosphere as the reason for this. As a result, estimates of the height of those peaks varied by many miles. The surface of Kratos was, as yet, an unexplored world.

After all their bullshit, I'm the one left praying to a parachute.

Kate tried to relax through a fairly deep breath. Her shoulders ached. The fall now seemed smooth, consistent, almost gentle as they stopped spinning. Her throat was dry and ready for cracking. A terrible hunger began to swell inside as she tasted inviting flavors in her saliva, or at least thought she did. Remington never so much as twitched in her clutches.

To read the rest of Kate's adventure, buy The Eleven-Hour Fall in brand new e-book form at Eternal Press. You won't be disappointed!

A Legend Remembered

I love classic movies. They make life tough for modern efforts, which is exactly the way it should be. Too often studios feed us swill, thinking we won't notice - and I'm sure some don't - but the genuine filmgoers among us know what it takes for a film to pass muster. We've seen how they should be done, in colour or in black-and-white.

Recently, Paul Schofield and Richard Widmark, two of our great screen actors, passed away. I was going to write a column about Widmark, one of my favourite "forgotten" stars, but today, sadly, another legendary actor has died. And this one has left me reeling.


My dad told me stories for years about the old 50's cinemas - a world before multiplexes and credit cards and digital projectors. He said you used to get two movies (an 'A' and a 'B'), a newsreel, a weekly serial, and a few trailers all for the price of one ticket. Ladies used to sell ice cream and popcorn in the aisles, and during the epic films, there was always an intermission when you could stretch your legs, go to the bathroom or stock up on more drinks for the second half. OK, and the roof of the theatre occasionally leaked. It actually snowed inside during one screening of Alpine WW2 actioner Where Eagles Dare.

But one of these epics was the film that kick-started his love affair with cinema and music, when he was ten years old. His mother (my grandma) had a blistering argument with a woman wearing "a bloody great big hat" sat in the row in front. But it was the film itself that frightened, excited, awed him that night. Ben-Hur is the quintessential biblical epic. Its scale is unsurpassed even today because, far more than backdrops and extras, the story of Judah Ben-Hur and his quest for revenge against his old Roman friend Messala is set against the great turning point in history. The life of Jesus Christ. That my dad is a staunch atheist says everything - Ben-Hur is still his favourite film, for its passionate music, its emotional power and its eye-popping grandeur.

AND for Charlton Heston.

Muscular, charismatic, and with a strong voice, Heston commanded the screen so completely in all his films that he practically carved his own legend.

Early starring roles in excellent films like The Naked Jungle, The Greatest Show on Earth and The Big Country promised much, and he delivered big time as Moses in De Mille's The Ten Commandments. Heck, he even voiced God for the burning bush! His towering portrayal of Ben-Hur earned him an Oscar, and two years later he played perhaps the greatest knight in movie history as Spanish legend El Cid, opposite Sophia Loren. That happens to be my dad's second favourite film.

More complex roles followed in the 60's, mostly historical figures such as Gordon of Khartoum, a unique medieval War Lord, and Michaelangelo in The Agony and the Ecstasy. In the seventies he gave legitimacy to the oft-maligned but always entertaining disaster movie cycle, featuring in Earthquake, Airport '75, and Gray Lady Down. He also played a variety of western roles throughout his career, the most famous being Will Penny and Peckinpah's Major Dundee.

He was and will always be bigger-than-life. Who else could have played so many huge, pivotal characters and remained undaunted? He was an icon, a historical presence, the embodiment of moral virtue on screen. Tonight, my dad and I are going to pick out one of his movies to watch.

He died aged 84. The world suddenly seems that much less epic.

Farewell, Mr. Heston, and thank you.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

History's Deadliest Crocodile Attack!

Now only 99 cents on Amazon Kindle! http://amzn.to/NPEtW9

In Februrary 1945, 1,000 Japanese troops retreated into the swamps of Ramree Island. Most were never seen again. Inspired by actual events during WW2, this is the fictional account of one soldier's struggle to survive the deadliest crocodile attack ever recorded!

You can check out the book trailer here!
Learn about saltwater crocodiles here!
And to read about the history behind the book, visit:

A novelette, 15,000 words.
Written by Robert Appleton.

An excerpt from Chapter 1 - PRELUDE

It is 16:45 and the British forces have outflanked us. Word spreads throughout our battalion that there is no escape. The mangrove swamp – a thick, stifling, fetid place of only damp reprieve – suddenly provides our only protection. And it is here, in the coming hours, that from the jaws of our defeat, Nature will try to snatch us for herself. There are a hundred unseen ways for a man to die. We can never give in, and time must therefore be the grind of the blade, that by our own hand we draw death – an honourable death. What end waits for me, I wonder? My name is Shigeatsu Nakadai. I do not want this sunset to be my last.

An excerpt from Chapter 5 - FUGUE

Though you wouldn’t know it to look at them, crocodiles are among the quickest animals on the planet. There’s a split-second between an impala bending to drink and a crocodile leaping up with a sideways swipe, clamping its jaws around its prey, and starting the dreaded submergence. Once those jaws are locked, the hold is iron-clad; it’s almost impossible to pry them open.

On land, though only for short sprints, they can move extremely fast. In water, they are kings. Their muscular tails propel them upward with shocking speed toward their prey. It’s not hard to see why they’re feared even more than sharks in many Indo-Pacific regions. And as Ramree Island lies in the Bay of Bengal, we are in the heart of their domain.

It starts with one or two attacks. A quick cry of pain, a splash, limbs thrashing to escape, and if the water is too shallow for the crocodile to pull its man down for drowning, it will roll him over and over on the surface. There is nothing more terrifying than hearing that sequence – the staggered scream, the tail lashing the surface, the loud spurts of water being thrown aside. There might as well be a hundred crocodiles for the sheer panic that ensues on the bank ahead of us. As the men trample vegetation while fleeing the water’s edge, their flesh is torn on the sharp bracken. The smell of blood is in the air. On top of that, we have wounded soldiers among us, casualties of both British bullets and the previous crocodile attack. If these reptiles are attracted by open wounds, every last one ought to be headed this way.

What’s worse, they like to feed at night...

Don't miss SUNSET ON RAMREE, the action-packed war story by Robert Appleton.