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.