Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Valle Pintado Contest is a Tie!



Our First Visual Arts Junction
Writing Contest is a Tie.

Contgratulations
Ed Leonard & Jacki Donnelly!!!


A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say, and that was your assignment. Well, more accurately, 500 — 600 words. And writing about the above photo art, Valle Pintado by Aggie Villanueva, was the subject.

Our six judges returned a split decision, so without further ado Visual Arts Junction, and our many contest sponsors, take pride in introducing you to our two winners, and their winning entries. Click on the links below to see the entries on sponsors' sites.

Life in the Valle Pintado
by Ed Leonard (Papa Ed)

Ankles tucked and breathing slowed, I feel the tree dance, my wood platform sways and rocks in the hot southern trade winds. My sad, burnt, drought-stunted valley stretches before me. My humble ranch home swelters in a dry, coarse bunchweed field surrounded by stunted agreste woods that threaten to become caatinga.

Death menaces life like a Samhain specter. Gnarled stick trees grasp each other for desperate support. Their life juices drawn deep to survive the uncommon warm, dry winter. Earth spirits have driven the Numida fowl and the high plains antelope down the Tocantins to richer lands. The loss of precious water and the increased heat are taking a horrendous toll on animal and plant habitats in the Valle Pintado.

I have barely survived another winter. Spring has arrived with little promise, and my energy and will are suffering. I call out to the spirits of the jaguar and of the ocelot who once roamed here. But, they do not hear me.

I close my eyes, intent on escape. I release my saddened spirit. Hawk spirit enfolds me and I soar to a better time. I stroke the heavens and relish a gentle wind with a smooth glide. I alight to proudly perch atop a tall post and search the autumn grass for my choice of scampering breakfast.

The Valle Pintado proudly displays a dappled Autumn abstract quilt with primary colors blended and fused like fresh oils on nature’s canvas. My well-tended red adobe brick home blends quietly and comfortably before a large sugary wave of Palo Verde, Box Elder, and Hop Trees in full glory. My harvested corn patch glows golden yellow and my second growth wheat field rusty red.

A warm wind whispers, flicks leaves loose to float and flip their way to rich soil, and bathes my feathers in ripples. A hazy gray cooking fire screen rises among the trees with the rich smell of mesquite fired meat.

Two distant sandstone buttes, glimmer and flash with life, shrouded in milky early morning light. My world is balanced, healthy, and harmonious. I know now that the natural cycle of seasons will return my ranch to glorious life.

I spot a striped field mouse and launch, flapping lightly, then diving fast to my target. I dive and dive, but my prey remains distant. I linger, but the inevitable change reaches me. My spirit snaps back to my earth-bound body. Hawk has brought me hope and reminded me of the potential of my life in the Valle Pintado.

I resolve to exercise patience, to go back and seal my roof against the rain that must come again, to mend my fence against the predators that will return, to plant my corn and wheat knowing they will be nourished and watered. I resolve to hike to the top of the distant butte blessing all earth along the way. I resolve to come often to my tree platform and to meditate with the spirit of my totem animal, the hawk.

My sadness is gone.


Ed Leonard: My online name is papaed. I've been a compulsive reader and writer for nearly 50 years. I prefer poetry and have over 100 poems posted online. I've never tried to publish a book or articles in a magazine although I've done journalistic reporting freelance for several newspapers. I chose to place the Valle Pintado in the Tocantins watershed of Brazil and researched the habitat, geography, watershed, language, and native animals so that my 500 word piece reflects a possible mystical scenario there. I advocate meditation and peace issues in many of my writings and found your picture inspirational along those lines.

Judges Comments for Ed's Entry

What I liked: You made the what and why of your transformations clear without actually saying it. I liked that you didn’t insult our intelligence as readers. That’s good storytelling. I empathized with your transformations; physical, spiritual and emotional, that produced a trust in, and ultimately a submission to, the Great Spirit through nature – a trust that transforms despair into hope restored, and then finally seeing things as they really are.

What could be improved: I know you had a word limit, but I’d like to see it more developed.

What I liked: What an intriguing story of hope. Beautifully painted images; excellent use of the first person POV. Thank you for your contribution to the contest and good luck with your writing career.

What could be improved: My only criticism pertains to the structure of one sentence: Two distant sandstone buttes, glimmer and flash with life, shrouded in milky early morning light. I don’t understand the comma after buttes or the switch from present to past tense (glimmer, flash, shrouded). I wish my own writing problems were so small.

What I liked: The imagery of the story is good and the writer's effort to paint a story with apt descriptions works well.

What could be improved: The story reads like a synopsis for a much longer story. The grammar needs a little attention -- split infinitives and occasional change of verb tense.





A Painted Mountain Life
by Jacki Donnelly


It was almost a month since I resigned as Editor in Chief of New York’s most popular fashion magazine “Moda”, but my mental alarm clock was still sounding off promptly at 6 a.m. For the past 29 days this annoyed me, but today was different. Today I started my new life- I left my upscale life and the chaos in NYC. I traded it all in for what I hoped would be a more peaceful and meaningful life.

***

My dearest friend lost a life long battle with cancer. During her last few months I didn’t spend as much time with her as I should have. I didn’t have the time, you know, with being successful and all. Luckily I made it to her before she died. She reminded me to enjoy the life’s little things, and not always focus on money and work. “You are only what you let yourself become.” she gently whispered. And with that I gently embraced her frail hand for the last time.

I finally understood the meaning behind her unsolicited suggestions. She always wanted me to take time off work, to go on a date or read a book, which I refused. I always justified my disregard by her not having or wanting the lavish lifestyle I was accustomed to. I was wrong. Now I sat humbled and dissatisfied.

At that moment I decided to change. I resigned from my job, sold my apartment and packed only the necessities, which included a book I had been working on for over twenty years. I searched the internet for a cabin to retreat to in the mountains. Finally I found a quaint cabin rental nestled in the Apache-Sitgreaves Forest. After a short telephone call with the owner I packed up my car and headed west.

***

I slowly got out of bed letting my feet touch the cold wooden floor. The sunrise was creeping over the mountains and into the cabins’ windows. The fall air had a slight chill with a sweet smell to it. I managed a fire in the ancient woodstove, the only heat source for the small cabin. I walked to the kitchen and poured me a cup of coffee in my only mug. I grabbed a sweater from the pile of clothes on the floor and wrote a few items on a box lid I needed from the market. My chores today were to unpack, set up a space to begin writing again, and groceries.

That would have to wait I wanted to enjoy my first cup of coffee of my new life. I walked out onto the porch and sat down in a rickety, wooden rocking chair. The warmth of my coffee felt good as it trickled down my throat to the pit of my stomach. The scenery took my breath away.
I was overwhelmed with a feeling of awe and tranquility, foreign feelings to me. Such beauty greeted me with open arms on that porch. I listened to the sweet melody of the Mountain Chickadees’ and the Western Meadowlarks’ coming from the forest that surrounded me. The wind was swooshing gently through the Locoweed and Indian Paintbrush wildflowers that outlined the small wooden cabins land. The trees adorning the mountains were reflecting shades of crimson, wheat and amber down to me.

I sat captivated. At that moment, with that warm cup of coffee in my hands, I knew I had made the right choice. Today would mark the day I started to “live” life. A Painted Mountain Life - one I could only dream.



Jacki Donnelly: I currently live in the tropical state of Florida. I am new to writing and am currently discovering my talents. Any commentary on the attached piece would be greatly appreciated. This will be my first piece entered for review! I am very excited and look forward to continuing my path of writing. I am 30 years old, married to a wonderful husband and have a wonderful Boxer puppy named Baxter.
This picture reminded me of a trip we took recently to the Appalachian mountains - Life is so much different in a quiet country setting. I have recently returned to college in pursuit of a degree in English with a Creative Writing emphasis, and so far I am loving every minute of it. I hope to one day become an editor for a small press!

Judges Comments for Jacki's Entry

What I liked: I thought the story was well written and had a great story line. If the Author wished she could make this into a novel.

What could be improved: The one thing I would change would be to describe the picture more in depth.

What I liked: BROUGHT TEARS to my eyes. She obviously was drawn into the picture and let the emotions of it be real in her story.

What could be improved:

What I liked: I chose Jacki's story because of the creativeness of her story and how well it went with the picture. It showed a lot of imagination. That's a good thing! Keep up the good work!

What could be improved: The one thing I would've changed in the story, was that it was told in the first person, a pet peeve of mine. First person should be left for non-fiction stories, in my opinion, such as the author's biography in his/her own words or a memoir. Otherwise, it was great!

The Fine Print: Entries are judged on storytelling quality only. We do not judge on editing, manuscript prep, etc. Congratulations winners.

Sponsors

Your winning entry will also appearat each of the sites below

Aggie Villanueva Visual Arts Junction: http://www.visualartsjunction.com/Rightfully Mine http://www.aggiev.org/rightfullymine/
Carol Langstroth The Frontpage http://www.carollangstroth.com/Author Meeting Place http://www.authormeetingplace.com/mindfogreviews.html
Linda Yezak 777 Peppermint Place http://lindayezak.wordpress.com/AuthorCulture http://authorculture.blogspot.com/
Cindy Bauer Cindy Bauer Bookshttp://www.cindybauerbooks.com/Reviews by Cindy http://reviewsbycindy.blogspot.com/
Nanci Arvizu Page Readers http://pagereaders.com/Nanci’s Thoughts http://www.nanciarvizu.com/
Shelagh Watkins http://shelaghs.blogspot.com/http://shelaghwatkins.wordpress.com/
Kim McDougall Blazing Trailers Blazing Trailers http://www.blazingtrailers.com/
Melinda Elmore Melinda’s Blog Spot: Pen to Paper http://www.melinda.essentialwriters.com/
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Jo Fulkerson Writer’s Life http://www.freewebs.com/thedesertwriter/
Elena Dorothy Bowman Elena Dorothy Bowman’s Book Blog http://elenadorothybowmansbooks.blogspot.com/
Hank Quense Blog, the writing blog of Hank Quense http://hankquense.com/blog/
Mark Stephen Levy Overland http://authormarklevy.blogspot.com/
Jay Heinlein Publishing Professional http://heinleinpubservices.blogspot.com/
J. Michael Orenduff author of the Pot Thief series http://www.thepotthief.blogspot.com/
Yolanthaiti Harrison-Pace YOLANTHAITI yolanthaiti.blogspot.com

Monday, 21 December 2009

3-Part Review for Esther May Morrow's Mysteries


I think even Esther May herself would be proud of these new reviews at Bitten by Books. All three EMM ebooks are praised, especially for their unpredictability--which makes me a very happy mystery writer indeed. Paranormal mysteries, I might add.

Check out Carol's views on the eponymous gift shop and its many enticing trinkets:

Esther May Morrow's Buy or Borrow:


Lot 62: An Esther May Morrow Mystery:


Fruitless: An Esther May Morrow Fantasy:



All titles are available as ebooks at Eternal Press & Fictionwise, or in paperback on Amazon.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Kate of Kratos Nominated for Red Roses Award!

GREAT NEWS for Book 3 of my Eleven Hour Fall trilogy. Kate of Kratos was nominated for a Red Roses For Authors Christmas Award in the 2009 Short Novel category!

You can view the announcement and the nominees here.

To vote, send a quick email to indsole@yahoo.co.uk with your favourite in each of the two categories.

Woohoo!

Rob

Charlie Runs Rings Around the Earth - OUT NOW!



Ready....?

Set....?


GO!!!!

Charlie Runs Rings Around the Earth right now at most online bookstores, priced $4.50. If you're a fan of outer space adventures a la John Carter of Mars, or my Eleven Hour Fall trilogy, this is one sci-fi odyssey you won't want to miss!

Celebrity athlete, Charlie Thorpe-Campbell is living out his family legacy of being among the fastest men in the world. Arrogant and self-absorbed, he prefers the limelight to facing up to emotional and social issues. And certainly, as the reigning champion RAM-runner, he literally runs rings around the earth.

All this changes when during the annual Tonne Run he is whisked away through a wormhole and finds himself on a barren, isolated planet with the fate of the galaxy resting on his athletic ability.

Will Charlie run rings around his enemies or will he continue running away?


Read an excerpt here.

And here are a few of the ebook stores where you can find Charlie available for purchase:


Lyrical Press

Fictionwise

Mobipocket

Books On Board

If you'd like to read a recent interview I did for Charlie Runs Rings Around the Earth, visit author Tabitha Shay's blog here.


Hope you enjoy!

Best,

Rob

Friday, 4 December 2009

TOO CLOSE TO THE FIRE with Author Jaydyn Chelcee


Dear Readers,

"I would have liked to have seen Montana." -- Who said that and in which film? (hint: the actor is from Down Under)

And that leads me nicely into today's guest interview. American author Jaydyn Chelcee writes the Montana Men series, a brilliant blend of romance, spectacular landscapes and pulse-quickening danger! The first two in the series were In the Arms of Danger and No Holds Barred, both bestsellers at Eternal Press. Book Three, Too Close to the Fire, is set for release on December 7th. Stay tuned for a contest below, where you can win an ebook copy before anyone else. But first, here's the blurb:

Feel the heat—taste the passion—expect to get burned when you’re too close to the fire….

Out of luck—When Dianna’s plane crashes in the Australian rainforest, her life is in the hands of her passenger, Taylor Spencer, a bitter, venom-filled man who so far has only made her life miserable.

Out of hope—The last person Taylor Spencer wants to be stranded with is the spoiled sweetheart of the wealthy Remington family of Rimrock, Montana. Hell, he didn’t even want to be in the plane with her in the first place.

Out of time—Dianna and Taylor, two people at odds, with nothing in common, except a strong will to survive and a desire for each other that neither is willing to acknowledge.


Sound fun? You betcha!! Jaydyn's legion of loyal fans will tell you she NEVER disappoints. As well as westerns, she writes a paranormal romance series, the Winslow Witches of Salem, under her pen name, Tabitha Shay.

It's with great pleasure that I welcome Ms. Chelcee for this exclusive interview. Let's see how close to that fire we can get...
Nice of you to visit, Jaydyn.

Jaydyn--Hi Rob. Thanks for having me here today and I'm looking forward to what I know will be some fun questions...

1. I love the set-up of TCTTF--a bitter man and a spoiled woman crash-landing together in an Australian rainforest. Is it a scenario you've had in mind for a while?

Jaydyn--Actually it is. I wrote all five books to the Montana Men series years ago and tossed them on my closet shelf. Once I was published, I dragged them down, blew off the dust and done some rewriting, but I always saw Dianna and Taylor in a plane crash in Australia, just not a rainforest. That was new. (Laughs)

Rob--Wow, you just dusted off FIVE books! You're my new hero. Makes me wonder what *else* is waiting on that closet shelf!

2. As a couple, who would you liken Dianna and Taylor to?

Jaydyn--Oh goddness, I have no clue...How about Rock Hudson and Doris Day. (Giggles) Dianna and Taylor definitely have their fights and the same personality types.

3. What kind of dangers do they have to contend with?

Jaydyn--Well, I tried to keep it as real as possible, but the possibilities were endless, from starvation, to lack of water, to snake bites, broken bones, severe injuries, you name it. And some of these things do happen, but I also wanted the reader to get the feel of the vastness of the country, of how difficult locating them would be. A friend of mine who now lives in Oz once said to me that everything in Australia is bigger and louder. I worked those words into one of my scenes to create the feeling of just how overwhelming it would be for someone who was unfamiliar with the noises of the birds and animals around them. I hope I managed to get that across. And to answer your question a little better, they do battle with a couple of nasty critters among other dangers.

Rob--Sounds great. And I'd pay good money to see Doris Day and Rock Hudson go through all that. ::evil laugh::

4. Your characters are always a lot of fun to read. How big a part does humour play in TCTTF?

Jaydyn--I try to balance the dark with the light so the reader isn't bogged down with just gray scenes. TCTTF is really two stories in one. On one hand, you have Dianna and Taylor, they're in trouble, but the things they get into, do and say are funny. On the other hand, you still have Lacey and Danger's story moving along beside Dianna and Taylor's and believe me, there's nothing funny going on in that part of the book. It's all deadly serious and the characters from that part of the book are tottering on the edge of disaster.

5. Who are your biggest influences in the western romance genre?

Jaydyn--Oh wow, I'd have to go all the way back to my days as a Harlequin reader and pick Janet Daily and Margaret Way. Margaret Way almost always wrote romances set in Australia with a western flavor, loved her books. Janet Daily set a lot of books in the western states and I followed her to each one....(Laughs)

6. Your books are consistently among the biggest-selling at Eternal Press. What's your secret?

Jaydyn--Loyal fans...I'm very lucky to have the wonderful following I do, and I talk to them every chance I get. I hold a lot of contests and probably give more books away than I earn pay, but I don't care. Every time a fan emails me and tells me how much they love my books, I feel very humbled and honored.

Rob--Absolutely. And everybody wins.

7. What have you got planned for the next installments in the Montana Men series?

Jaydyn--Playing For Keeps, book four will be out sometime in 2010, I hope at least by late spring. It's Duel Remington's story and it's quite a tale. Nothing like the other books. The readers won't see much of the serial killer in this book, but look out in book five, The Wilder Side, because Smitt Davis returns with a vengeance. I also have plans for a spin-off series which will be set in Australia and tell the stories of the Remington cousins from that side of the world.

Rob--Well I think several of your fans just booked the first plane out to Oz after hearing that. Or it might be because I told them summer has already begun there. TCTTF, just as things are literally hotting up.

A huge thank you to Jaydyn for stopping by. Her new book can be bought here (electronic format) on December 7th: http://www.eternalpress.ca/tooclosetothefire.html

And a couple of weeks later, it will be available in paperback from Amazon.

EBOOK CONTEST:

If you'd like to win an ebook copy of Too Close to the Fire, simply comment on this blog and Jaydyn will enter your name into her prize draw. I'll announce the winner here on December 8th. Easy!

In the meantime, you should definitely visit Jaydyn's website: http://www.tabithashay.com/
Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/tabithashay
And her publisher, Eternal Press: http://www.eternalpress.ca/
Until next time...
Happy reading!

GODIVA Contest Winners!!

Congratulations go out to Mina Gerhart and Judy Cox! Ebook copies of Godiva in the Firing Line should be in your mailboxes now. Hope you enjoy the read!

Thanks to all those who entered. Stay tuned for a new contest, to be announced shortly.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

CONTEST - Win a free copy of Godiva in the Firing Line!

Hi everyone,

To celebrate the release of my science fiction novella Godiva in the Firing Line, I thought I'd hold a quick contest. For your chance to win a free ebook copy, simply send an email to

sevenmercury7@aol.com

and write GODIVA FOREVER in the subject line. Simple! Don't forget to include your name. I'll pick TWO winners at random on Thursday night.

Good luck!

By the way, several of the new releases at Damnation Books are still for sale at less than $1. That's under ONE dollar! Head on over for some serious dark bargains, before they get snapped up.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Godiva in the Firing Line - OUT NOW!


For those of you who like science fiction with an edge, Godiva in the Firing Line, my short futuristic novella, is available now at Damnation Books, priced $4.50. The story starts on the eve of deployment for Lupine Corps, a paratrooper unit set to patrol a human mining facility on a hostile alien moon. But if you're expecting a standard shoot 'em up sci-fi adventure, think again. Godiva Randall and Dash Collingwood are friends (and potential lovers) unwittingly headed for the most controversial military scenario of their time...

Here's the blurb:

The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack! Join Godiva Randall, the beautiful daughter of a powerful politician, as she puts her paratrooper unit’s motto to the test. A delicate truce on Hoarfrost’s icy moon is about to explode, and blood will be spilled. This is the moment Lupine Corps has trained for—combat against a nightmarish alien foe, light-years from home.

But Godiva and her best friend, Dash Collingwood, are secretly in love. All mixed-gender combat units must take Celiba-C—a pill that suppresses sexuality—under threat of court-martial. Its performance record is amazing. The military swears by it. But it’s a lonely war so far from home. What if they skipped a dose, just this once? One night for themselves. What’s the worst that could happen?


Check out the official book page at Damnation, where there's also a very unique pricing plan in effect for all new releases. Each ebook will start off at 25 cents each. That's TWENTY-FIVE CENTS! Then with each subsequent purchase, the price will increase in 25 cent increments until the full list price is reached. You'd best be quick, though--there are some great-looking titles this quarter!

I'll finish with a choice excerpt from Godiva's journey (warning: strong language)


“Listen up.” Major General Horowitz, a grey-haired, tanned, sturdy man in his mid-fifties, slurped down the remainder of his mug of coffee as he turned to face the head of the shuttle gangway, to observe over a hundred greenhorn Lupines clinging to their seatbelts with white knuckles.

“Ah, that’s what I call coffee. Nicaraguan can’t be beat. All right, you horrible lot, seeing as we’re T-minus, and the next time you get to hear my dulcets will be in orbit around Scimitar, now’s the time to tell you about a delightful little thing called Celiba-C. Okay, you’ve all heard of it before. Whoopee for you. But as you’re no doubt aware by now, girls and boys fighting side by side pose a very real and very dangerous practical problem. A biological phenomenon of the utmost import. A profound physiological conundrum. Namely, the hard-on.”

Desperate laughter shook the aging, discoloured metal cabin. Godiva and Dash resisted making eye contact.

“All right, all right. Simmer down. We’ll be administering Celiba-C shortly, in the shape of these.” He shook a plastic medicine bottle full of half-inch capsules. “Take two now and one just before we land, and then one each morning all the while you’re on Scimitar. Don’t fuck with us on this. Sex is the biggest killer in warfare. You’ve got the hots for someone, or you’re secretly a bit of a Don Quixote, your first priority will invariably be to that person’s welfare ahead of the mission. I tell you, I’ve lost more troops to hurdy-gurdy in the loins than any other human factor. I’m dead serious. Celiba-C neutralizes all sexual or gender-oriented urges while you’re in the field. No more hard-ons, no more getting wet. Same for any same-sex scenarios. You won’t see men and women out there. You’ll see comrades who’ll follow fucking orders to whatever end! Trust me, it’s the only way this works. Four years and counting…and the upturn in performance has been amazing. Basically, you all end up androgynous for the duration. But that’s it. No side effects, no long-term deterioration. You can fuck each other senseless when you’re on leave, but for now it’s monks and nuns and you’re married to God and the fucking corps. Any questions?”
“Yeah, where are all the stewardesses before I take that shit?”
More laughter.
Horowitz smiled and nodded at the clown near the front. “Still trying to figure out why you’re not in the cargo hold with the rest of the fucking tools.”
Scattered applause accompanied a deafening cheer.

“Why take two now if we’re taking one when we get there?” asked Godiva, immediately embarrassed by her serious question.

“Aha, a sensible one,” replied Horowitz. “What’s your name, Sergeant?”

“Randall, sir.”

A male voice from the back added, “Lady Godiva’s asking about hard-ons? Tell her to get her tits out and we’ll demonstrate.”

Dash replied right away, “That guy can skip his pills. He was born dick-less.” This retort even prompted a chuckle from the Major General, but Dash himself wished the words had been fists instead. He caught Godiva blushing, and he hated that Horowitz had been made privy to her sex object status.

“All right, that’s enough,” Horowitz insisted, noticing how red Godiva’s cheeks had become. “Save it for the return trip. In answer to your very sensible question, Sergeant Randall, the body has to acclimate to Celiba-C, and during the time you’re unconscious, about two days, those first two capsules will be doing their work. After that, it’s one per day. And don’t any of you think about skipping a dose. Your C.O. will always have a spare supply, so if you happen to mislay your quotient, it’s your duty to let him know. And remember, he can test you for Celiba-C at any time. The punishment for not taking it is a mandatory court-martial, so like I said, don’t fuck with us on this.”

A male junior officer with red hair and freckles wheeled a trolley filled with hundreds of Celiba-C bottles up the gangway. The wheels clattered across the gridiron. Every member of Twelfth Lupine swallowed the two capsules, some having to use water from conical containers retrieved from inside the armrests. There was no discernible effect right away, and Godiva tried not to think about the imminent banishment of Dash Collingwood from her thoughts. Or could the drug really neutralise those instincts? The sexual kind, yes, but what about close friendship, a bond not governed by the loins? What would he be to her in the grip of Celiba-C? A stranger? A brother? Déjà vu? She winced. How would he treat her? As a comrade? A sister? A piece of equipment?

She bowed her head and felt bitterly alone. When the drug kicked in, he wouldn’t go out of his way to protect her any more, and she would no longer care. But there was a downside to Celiba-C that only someone in love could perceive. It wasn’t a question of sex, it was a question of love. How does one isolate and suppress love? And how much of a person is lost when that passion is denied? Would it not filter into the camaraderie of the corps? Godiva realised she wanted a man to look out for her, she wanted to look out for him, and without that protective instinct, Lupine Corps would be a well-trained unit without a heart.

Maybe it was better that way. Maybe.

A loose gridiron hatch rattled like a supermarket trolley across cobblestone as the engines heaved the shuttle upward, and after a long, teeth-chattering ascent, punched it beyond the earth’s magnetic pull.

“That had better be the worst of it,” whispered Dash, pale as guano. “I never did like roller-coasters.”

Godiva leapt on the opportunity. “Are you kidding me? That was nothing. Just wait until we ride the bullet into deep space. Now that’s a roller-coaster.”

He closed his eyes, shook his head, and mouthed a few expletives. Pleased with herself, Godiva patted his shoulder, whispering, “And that’s something they don’t have a pill for. Best to think of it as therapy: what doesn’t kill you…makes you even more shit-scared of dying.”

“Thanks, Di,” he replied sarcastically. “I guess Celiba-C works after all.”

The quip dove straight to the ringing part of her brain. She knew what she ought to be feeling—mild regret at having treated his suffering with contempt, however playful—but the impulses were incomplete. They lingered off-key., Vague xylophonic notes that meant nothing, but which she knew had dampened that part of her compassion. What else did Celiba-C have in store? She swallowed, conscious of the stubborn phlegm clinging to her throat.

“Only kidding,” she said, not quite recognising her own voice. “Light speed is a piece of cake. And hey, I’m not going anywhere.”

He looked at her strangely, and she knew why. What a thing to say to a death-defying paratrooper! What next, holding hands!? This was going to be a long trip, and a lonely one.
By the time the shuttle had fully charged its photonic cells inside the giant, elliptical wormhole gateway, the soldiers of Twelfth Lupine were fully indifferent to one another. And in the split second between drifting through space and being yanked into an interstellar corkscrew, every man and woman lost consciousness. The only sound on board was the hatch rattling over the stairwell to the upper deck. Merely overlooked, it was of no consequence. But even so, it had not been designed for that.



Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Miles and Miles of Crocodiles


On February 19th, 1945, more than one thousand Japanese soldiers retreated into the fetid swamps of Ramree Island, off the coast of Burma. Days later, only twenty were found alive. It remains the deadliest crocodile attack on record. In the passage that first piqued my interest in the incident, British marine (and naturalist) Bruce Wright wrote:

“That night of the 19 February 1945 was the most horrible that any member of the M.L. [marine launch] crews ever experienced. The scattered rifle shots in the pitch black swamp punctured by the screams of wounded men crushed in the jaws of huge reptiles, and the blurred worrying sound of spinning crocodiles made a cacophony of hell that has rarely been duplicated on earth. At dawn the vultures arrived to clean up what the crocodiles had left...Of about 1,000 Japanese soldiers that entered the swamps of Ramree, only about 20 were found alive.”

That compelling testimony has been hotly disputed over the years. Ramree natives maintain such an attack never took place, while others attribute the high number of casualties to enemy fire, disease, scorpions, and various other perils indigenous to the island. But in many Indo-Pacific regions, saltwater crocodiles are feared even more than sharks. Indeed, they eat sharks! And they do, on occasion, attack people. Ramree Island is itself not far from the Burmese coast. It stands to reason that such a large number of crocodiles, when disturbed and confronted with a widespread smell of blood, would react with deadly force. Further, crocodiles like to feed at night. The Japanese troops spent three nights in the swamp. There is therefore much circumstantial evidence in support of Wright's account. Exactly how many men were killed by crocodiles, rather by than the myriad other perils, can never be known. But Wright's testimony has endured, in all its nightmarish glory.

So, how to adapt these horrific true events into a story that people would find compelling and not nausea-inducing? Not an easy task. Crocodile attacks are unimaginably vicious. And war—equally so. So I decided to shift the focus to two men, one a musician in civilian life, the other an owner of a men’s fashion store, and reveal how they came to rely on each other through the unspeakable events. It became a tale of friendship and survival.

Privates Nakadai and Kodi were never meant to be soldiers. As for many young Japanese men, Imperial duty was foisted upon them under pain of death. Nakadai is a musician without music. Kodi’s love of fashion and cleanliness is buried under layers of black swamp mud. But something clicks when they’re together, and each substitutes the other’s dwindling humanity. It is the strongest kind of friendship there is—a life-or-death bond between ordinary men in extraordinary times.

To delve the reader headlong into the swamps of Ramree, I decided to tell the story in first person present tense. It added so much immediacy that I was literally breathless after writing certain passages. I also gave each chapter a musical title, reflecting the memory of home kindled between the two friends.

Here are two brief excerpts from Sunset on Ramree:


1. PRELUDE

Lance-Corporal Hokuto Mayazuki has always been one of the luckiest soldiers in the Japanese Imperial Army. The scars of no less than six shrapnel cuts and bullet wounds tattoo the left side of his neck, all the way from ear to shoulder. So many miraculous escapes over a three-year tour of duty in the Pacific. Yet he will be among the first to die this evening—according to the medical officer—though not from any wound. Today is February 19th, 1945, and he is succumbing to a strange, horrid fever. If one so tough can fall easily, I tell myself, what chance have any of us, retreating into these deadly marshlands of Ramree Island?

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.

The water I pour onto my neck to drown a dozen large ants is drinking water. I curse the decision. From here on, saltwater is all we’ll find. When my canteen runs dry, I’ll start to die of thirst. The thought occurs to me to pilfer some of Mayazuki’s—he’s almost dead anyway—but the reasoning proves double-edged. What if he contracted his disease from that water? Is it worth the risk? Thirst or fever: in prolonging life by one means, might I not simply protract death by another? I decide to leave him his flask and take his can opener instead.

We’ve been rushing for hours. Our battery stronghold is now miles to our rear. Colonel Ojihoru is a determined man, but determined to do what? If we are not permitted to surrender, and there is no way through the British lines, what is his hurry? Suicide now or suicide later, it seems academic. Stoicism is my only refuge. It’s as much a performance as those I give each night in my dreams—in the orchestra of Chadwick Hall in Canberra, where I play the clarinet—except this performance is to myself. Of all the ways to leave this swamp, suicide is the most impossible, at least to me. I’m quite sure that when the time comes to die with honour, I’ll cry in front of the whole regiment. Will I be the only one?


4. VARIATIONS ON A THEME

I try to conjure a memory of before the war—something, anything to distract me—but draw a blank every time. I purse my lips to whistle a familiar tune, but nothing comes out. I shut my eyes tight and roll them inward until they ache and release a heavy pulse. The screams and shots and calls for surrender are still there. Kodi and Sobiku are still there. I imagine the reed of a clarinet between my lips and the long, sustained breath given to making sweetly aching music. But nothing comes out. No tune, no melody, no woodwind to soothe the mangroves. Just the damp, cold harmonics of the night. I’m lost without music, and there is no music on Ramree.

Sunset on Ramree was released on July 7th at Eternal Press as an eBook, priced $3.95.


The paperback version is available from Amazon.

And finally, here are a few facts I learned about saltwater crocodiles:

*The largest and deadliest reptile on the planet, the saltwater crocodile lives in northern Australia, eastern India, and southeast Asia.

*Its average life span in the wild almost equals that of a human male (70 years).

*Its average length is almost three times that of a human male (17 ft).

*'Salties' (as they're referred to in Australia) occasionally reach a length of 23 ft and a weight of 1,200 kg.

*They are extremely good swimmers and have been spotted quite far out to sea.

*The female crocodile lays up to 60 eggs at a time, though only a very small number will reach adulthood.

*The saltwater or estuary croc cruises through the water at around 2-3 mph, but can sprint-swim at speeds of up to 18 mph.

*On land, its explosive acceleration can almost match a human runner, though only in very short bursts.

*It will generally bask for much of the day and feed at night.

*It is what is known as an apex predator, as its natural position is top of the food chain.

*It rarely attacks humans, mostly because the saltwater crocodile is fiercely territorial, and we have learned to avoid its domain. In regions where human precautions are poor, however, reports of fatal croc attacks are far more common.

*The controversial mass crocodile attack on Ramree Island, 1945, remains the deadliest recorded attack by wildlife on humans.

Learn more on my official webpage: www.robertappleton.co.uk/sunsetonramree.htm

Visual Arts Junction Writing Contest Goes Live!

All aspiring writers should check out the following link:

http://www.visualartsjunction.com/?p=3585

The VAJ monthly contest is an excellent opportunity for budding writers to gain exposure. This month, the challenge is to write about a piece of art titled Valle Pintado. The deadline is Nov 15th. The winning entry will be posted on each of the three VAJ-affiliated websites, as well as on the many supporters' blogs/websites. That's a lot of publicity!

What are you waiting for? Head on over to VAJ and show what you can do.

Best of luck!

Saturday, 24 October 2009

First Look at THE MYTHMAKERS!


As you can see, Samhain Publishing are pulling out all the stops for Impulse Power, their space opera anthology due for release in February 2010. The cover artist is Kanaxa, and she went truly stellar for this amazing tapestry of book covers. The three novellas are Hearts and Minds (by J.C. Hay), Metal Reign (by Nathalie Gray), and my own outer space adventure, The Mythmakers.


I've had great book covers before but these are just extraordinary! If the rest of the project turns out this well, Impulse Power will be the space opera book of next year, no question. Each novella is to be released as a separate eBook in Feb, before the paperback anthology later in 2010.

Here's an early blurb for The Mythmakers:

The last will and testament of a forgotten Earth...

For Captain Steffi Savannah and her crew of deep space smugglers, life has become little more than a dogged exercise in mere survival. Their latest disastrous heist ended with another dead crew member—and no place left to hide. She’s even finding it hard to dredge up any excitement over the giant, crippled ship that appears on their radar, even though it’s the salvage opportunity of a lifetime.

They find that it’s no ordinary alien vessel. It’s a ship of dreams, populated with the last remnants of Earth’s mythical creatures. Including the blond, built, mysterious Arne, one of a race blessed with extraordinary beauty—and few inhibitions. Though he won’t tell her exactly what he is, in his arms Steffi rediscovers something she thought she’d never feel again. Wonder, love…and hope.

It isn’t long, though, before the Royal guard tracks them down, and Steffi and her crew are faced with a terrible decision. Cut and run. Or risk everything to tow the ship and her precious cargo to safety.


Editing on The Mythmakers begins soon, and I have the lovely Sasha Knight overseeing this one. Can't wait!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Cover Art for Godiva in the Firing Line!


Artist (and author) Julie D'Arcy just sent me the finished cover for my upcoming sci-fi war novella, Godiva in the Firing Line. This was one of the most interesting collaborations I've had with an artist. We had such different initial takes on what the image should look like, and I think we both got a little frustrated with that incompatibility. For my part, I was perhaps too specific in what I asked for; it didn't give Julie much leeway in finding suitable digital elements. One has to remember our graphic artists can only use images already available to them, and the more specific you are, the tougher it becomes for them to exactly reproduce your idea.

On the other hand, there has to be good communication throughout the process in case those ideas aren't reproducable. With Godiva, I asked for a blonde, beautiful female soldier dressed a certain way. Poor Julie spent ages trying to find the right girl, without luck. Instead, she went in a new direction and chose a sci-fi woman that, while blonde and sexy, didn't, for me, fit the story I'd written. Better communication at both ends might have saved her a lot of time and effort. We'll both be wiser next time.

In the end, we chanced upon a nice middle ground that more or less fulfilled all the criteria of my initial suggestions, while also being practical enough for Julie to work her magic. We're both very pleased with the finished cover. In fact, it's one of my new faves. I *love* the alien landscape. And that girl is definitely Godiva.

Thanks, Julie!

Godiva in the Firing Line is due for release on December 1st at Damnation Books. Here's an unofficial blurb and excerpt:

The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack! Join Godiva Randall, the beautiful daughter of a powerful politician, as she puts her paratrooper unit’s motto to the test. A delicate truce on Hoarfrost’s icy moon is about to explode, and blood will be spilled.

This is the moment Lupine Corps has trained for—combat against a nightmarish alien foe, light-years from home. But Godiva and her best friend, Dash Collingwood, are secretly in love. All mixed-gender combat units must take Celiba-C—a pill that suppresses sexuality—under threat of court-martial. Its performance record is amazing. The military swears by it. But it’s a lonely war so far from home. What if they skipped a dose, just this once? One night for themselves. What’s the worst that could happen?

Excerpt:

So this was it.

There was an un-showy yet deliberate mobilisation, half-dressed figures she recognised trying their best to appear aloof while making their beds. No way were they so composed inside. Her abdominals tightened and she repeatedly unclenched her fists while straightening her sports bra, buttoning up her beige jacket, clipping her panties to the waist of her trousers and fastening the tungsten belt, tucking the trouser legs into her latex stockings, winding herself into the supple but impenetrable, thigh-length performance boots, and finally, combing her hair with damaged fingernails.

So this is it…

She closed her eyes.

No place to hide now.

Boys had always been wary of Godiva Randall. The beautiful daughter of a powerful politician, she was the gemstone lying in the middle of the pavement that every pedestrian would covet but think twice about picking up, fearful of the catch. But in Godiva there was no catch, no deviousness, no treachery, and that no boy had ever lasted longer than four dates was, it was rumoured, the thing that had ultimately driven her to a platonic career in the world of men—a paratrooper par excellence. It might have been the one place where, if you were brave enough to put your life on the line, politics had no dominion.

She was five-seven, golden blonde, with a very pale complexion and a lithe, athletic physique. Men in her various squads quite rightly nicknamed her Lady Godiva. It had become the object of contentious betting that she would one day agree to pose naked for the Lupine Corps’ female calendar and that if she did, she would outshine all those gone before. Sooner or later, everyone knew who she was—rich, super-educated, the daughter of presidential candidate Rupert Randall. Corporals and colonels alike had taken on the conquest, until she’d dropped Daddy’s name and seen that same gulp of the eyes, that silent “Oh, shit! Where the hell are my car keys?” glance.

But now, no one else seemed to notice her, and she liked that nervous throb of anonymity.



Wednesday, 7 October 2009

SEPTEMBER Round-Up

Quite a busy month on the quiet! Two new eBook releases, a new contract signed, two short stories subbed, final stage re-writes on two novels, a family camping trip, and...other stuff.

Stayed at a campsite near Dumfries, southwest Scotland, for three days. There were eight of us in all, and only two tents. Boys in one tent, girls in the other, plus one labrador apiece. Needless to say we didn't get much sleep, but the location was great--right next to the beach--and the weather stayed uncharacteristically fine. One crazy excursion involved my brother and I clambering over coastal rocks to get back to our beach. Before we knew it, the rocks had become a cliff face and we were hanging on by our fingertips, unable to go back. After an hour of precarious Sylvester Stallone antics, we had no choice but to scramble down to the water and wade the rest of the way through freezing, chest-high waves. No, we weren't dressed for that.

But we'll never forget it.

My short horror story, Val and Tyne, was released by Damnation Books as part of their inaugural book launch on September 1st. They utilised a very unique pricing method. All prices started at five cents and, with each purchase, increased in five cent increments, until they reached the full list price. Most of them are still available for under a dollar, so you should head on over for some serious bargains. My story is a black comedy horror involving movie makeup effects, zombie re-animation, and plenty of macabre Hollywood touches. I had a great time writing it. Hopefully I can get around to doing a full horror novel soon. I have soooo many ideas waiting.

Uncial Press released my debut time travel novel, The Basingstoke Chronicles, as an eBook. My editor Judith B. Glad and I worked hard to find a balance between old-fashioned (Victorian) and modern style prose. I have to admit it was too wordy at first--as if I was trying hard to be Edgar Rice Burroughs or H Rider Haggard--but now it reads exceedingly well. Brisk and smooth. Jude deserves a huge thank you for that! Nice to see Basingstoke is selling well on Fictionwise. In fact, it's been in the top five sci-fi bestsellers for weeks now, something I've never achieved before.

The big news this month is my contract with Samhain Publishing. Their Space Opera Anthology submission call drew three times the expected number of entries. In the end they picked just four stories, one of which was The Mythmakers, my first attempt at space opera. It's not only a dream come true to be published at Samhain, it's a testament to how much I've improved as a writer since I started in 2007. And there's a long way to go yet.

I received the cover art and returned the final draft for Charlie Runs Rings Around the Earth, my short sci-fi novel due out December 7th at Lyrical Press. It's pure action adventure from the first orbital racing scenes to the startling climax on an alien planet. Not a great deal in the way of re-writes for this one--I must have turned in a pretty good first draft. My regular readers will eat this story up, and hopefully Charlie can make some noise around Christmas.

I submitted two new short stories to e-zines. The Gauntlet is provocative sci-fi, Happy Meal is a fun horror. Both were under 3,500 words. It felt good to bring a couple of long-in-the-offing ideas to fruition, and I'm curious to see how they do. Both have a more fast and loose style than I'm used to.

A sci-fi mystery novel I finished this summer, well, never quite lived up to my initial vision. I'd planned to make it a fun erotic romance in a sci-fi mystery setting. It became something else, though, when I chickened out of the steamy stuff. I really liked the end result--an entertaining detective mystery on a lunar colony--but that initial vision kept nagging me after I was done. So I've taken steps to rectify the problem...namely, bringing in my favourite erotic comedy writer to "sexify" the story. I'll make a real announcement when we're further along, but right now I'm pysched that she'd even consider my proposal, let alone jump in with both high heels. I can't wait to see what gems she comes up with!

Phew! No time to mention books read or movies watched this time. It's getting late. Promise I'll do a full-on end of year film post soon, before the awesomeness that is Avatar blows our collective minds in December.

Till then, be safe!

Robert

Monday, 21 September 2009

REVIEW: Finnish Fantasies by Sloane Taylor



Sloane Taylor
Published by Amber Quill Press (Amber Heat)
Length: Novella
ISBN-13: 978-1-60272-572-0 (Electronic)
Erotic/ Contemporary Romantic Comedy

Being Maid of Honor in Finland over Midsummer’s Eve is supposed to be fun, but for jingle writer Kate Adams it’s a nightmare. Things go from bad to worse when her high-priced rental car dies on an endless ribbon of bone-dry country road. Help arrives in the form of a delicious-looking, blue-collar local who just might make it all worthwhile.
Rurik Jaacko knows better than to stop for the princess perched on the hood of a Mercedes. Hot women and expensive cars are trouble, but he’s a sucker for any damsel in distress. The last thing he expects is to play bellhop to the sensual American, and love every sizzling moment.

A rustic pig farm and a friend who isn’t combine with deception to create the backdrop for earthy passion and international fraud...


So...what can a hunky pig farmer who owns a forest, and a strong-willed jingle writer on her way to be Maid of Honour at a posh wedding, possibly have in common? Well, this being a Sloane Taylor story, you already know there will be a lot of witty repartee, lots of neurotic fireworks, and LOTS of very hot sex. No one combines these elements of erotic comedy better.

Ms. Taylor is on fine form with this hugely enjoyable Scandinavian concoction. Kate’s snarky put-downs are a hoot, while Rurik, quickly revelling in his role as impromptu host, serves up plenty of surprises for his sexy American guest. Both characters are fun to be around. I was also intrigued by a sub-plot involving Kate’s best friend, Lucy, whose high society betrothal to the loathsome Lars takes a startling turn.

One thing I love about Ms. Taylor’s writing is the endless reservoir of wit she can dip into at will. Mundane exchanges become sparkling back-and-forths as her characters vie for dominance. Also worth mentioning is the satisfying research that goes into bringing these exotic countries to life. The customs, language, and genuine feel for this rural environment kept me immersed. I’ll definitely look forward to seeing where Ms. Taylor visits next. In the meantime, Finnish Fantasies is great fun.

Warning: contains scorching sex scenes, BDSM, a flagrant disregard for clothing, and the cutest spokes-pig ever.


Hurry on over to Amber Quill to purchase:


And here's another by Sloane Taylor: Czech Mate



Don't forget to visit Sloane's website and blog. She's one of my favourite authors.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Robert Appleton on The Basingstoke Chronicles


My newly released book, the time travel adventure The Basingstoke Chronicles is actually the first novel I wrote, back in 2005. I’d already written a few short stories and my debut poetry anthology, Mercurial Verse, but epic storytelling is what I’d always wanted to explore. The scope of grand adventure, mixed with intimate character moments, fired my imagination in my teens, when I spent rainy afternoons delving into the worlds of Victorian genre authors Wells, Verne, Burroughs, and H Rider Haggard.

Time travel in particular, fascinates me. The ideas are constantly in our faces, the opportunities tantalisingly out of reach. Time is such an intricate part of our everyday lives, yet we have absolutely no control over it.

What science fiction does so well is boil the universe down to two words: WHAT IF?

What if a dead body found floating off the coast of Cuba wore a strange garment? And what if the wool of that garment, while only twenty years old, came from an animal extinct for over nine thousands years?

A group of professional scuba divers, including Lord Henry Basingstoke and his friend, Rodrigo Quintas, eagerly search the ocean bed for clues. But when they find the secret of time travel in the deep, a fun vacation becomes an obsessive quest to be the first to solve the mystery. This involves a daring journey back through time, to a hidden land of rainforests, deadly creatures, and a doomed civilization. And the longer they stay, the more their adventure becomes, quite literally, a race against time.

In the early chapters, I wanted to introduce a very particular lifestyle, namely that of rich, bored pleasure-seekers whose pursuit of archaeological relics is less a burning passion, more a rite of privilege. For Lord Basingstoke, these treasure-seeking adventures around the globe are a fun hobby. Any true value in archaeology or history eludes him. A rebellious English aristocrat, he feels he has no real place in the late twentieth century, a time without magic, in which discovery is obsolete.

But finding the mysterious vehicle in the deep gives him a sense of purpose. For the first time in his life, he is in possession of something extraordinary. Discussing it with his closest friends only invigorates him further. Those exchanges are some of my favourite in the book—speculative, naïve, yet so passionate. He guards his discovery jealously, which leads to a fateful decision one night, when other interested parties are loitering nearby…

I won’t spoil anything of his adventure, but I will say that it was truly a vicarious thrill for me to write this journey of exploration. I could happily spend years wandering the hidden land of Apterona, learning its secrets. All I’d need is a very big rifle, Quatermain as a guide, and Jennifer Love Hewitt…for moral support.

Robert Appleton

The Basingstoke Chronicles is available now as an eBook at Uncial Press, priced $5.99

http://www.uncialpress.com/books/basingst/basingst.html

And at the following online booksellers:

Fictionwise: http://www.fictionwise.com/ebooks/b94736/The-Basingstoke-Chronicles/Robert-B-Appleton/?si=0



Don’t forget to drop by in the coming weeks for a Basingstoke Chronicles contest or two, and your chance to win a free copy.

In the meantime, happy adventuring!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Cover Art - Charlie Runs Rings Around the Earth



Renee Rocco just sent me this gorgeous cover art for Charlie Runs Rings Around the Earth, my upcoming sci-fi novel at Lyrical Press. I had a blast writing it at the end of last year, over about six weeks of unabashed, child-like outer space fever. What can I say? I'm a sucker for 1950's sci-fi films, late-Victorian speculative fiction writers (Wells, Burroughs etc.), and all-round adventuresome heroics. Charlie Thorpe-Campbell is a kind of modern-day spin on those virtuous, intrepid protagonists of old.

The cover wryly captures the dazzle and the arrogance of Charlie's status as the world's fastest RAM-runner. A huge thanks to Ms. Rocco for delivering this top-notch artwork.

December 7th can't arrive soon enough!

Here's the official blurb:

Charlie has spent his entire life running, but he can't outrun himself.
Celebrity athlete, Charlie Thorpe-Campbell is living out his family legacy of being among the fastest men in the world. Arrogant and self-absorbed, he prefers the limelight to facing up to emotional and social issues. And certainly, as the reigning champion RAM-runner, he literally runs rings around the earth.

All this changes when during the annual Tonne Run he is whisked away through a wormhole and finds himself on a barren, isolated planet with the fate of the galaxy resting on his athletic ability.
Will Charlie run rings around his enemies or will he continue running away?


You can learn about Charlie's real-life ancestors--British speed legends Malcolm and Donald Campbell--on my webpage here!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The Mythmakers at Samhain Publishing!


...and just like that, I'm now a Samhain author. I'd better keep saying that until it sinks in.

Say who? Okay, Samhain is one of the best, most well-respected e-Publishers in the market right now. They specialize in romance and erotica, but most of all they love a good story. If it bends the genre conventions a little, well...even better. You'll find many of the top eBook writers there (as well as some NY authors), not to mention editors and artists. But above all, it's the publisher I've wanted to sign with since I started in 2007.


My sci-fi romance/adventure THE MYTHMAKERS will be published as part of their Space Opera Anthology in February 2010. All titles will be released as separate eBooks.

THE MYTHMAKERS is the story of Captain Steffi Savannah and her weary crew of deep space smugglers. Fleeing the authorities after a disastrous heist, they discover a giant, crippled alien ship drifting aimlessly. Any opportunity for salvage is short-lived, however, when Steffi meets the inhabitants--a stunning array of mythological creatures, including Arne, a blond hunk with no inhibitions except one...his closely kept secret.

Rediscover the magic of romance and adventure in this thrilling adventure set in the deep unknown of space.

More details coming soon!


Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Welcome to Damnation Books!

The massive stone doors have opened. Step through into the realm of Damnation Books. Inside you'll discover places of wonder, things to fear and explore darkness you never knew existed until now. We are dark fiction. Damn Good Dark Fiction.

www.damnationbooks.com

All day long Tuesday, September 1st, we're partying in that special place in hell just for people who love horror, thrillers, paranormals, dark fantasy, science fiction and dark erotica. It's called our reader's group: home of The Damned Nation...our beloved fans. So bring your undead selves to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DamnationBooks

Chat with our authors and artists. Grab yourself a chance at some freebies: tshirts with our reading zombie dude on them, Damnation Books mousepads and BOOKS!
Come on in...it's nice and warm! Anything you bring with you can and will be used against you.

Welcome to Damnation Books!

Monday, 31 August 2009

Movie Review - Outlander (2008)

Vikings versus an alien monster.

Still reading? Good for you, because you're in for a genre treat with Outlander, an action-horror that knows exactly what it wants to be and makes no apologies. James Caviezel plays Kainen, an alien warrior whose spaceship crashes in Iron Age Norway. Captured by a Viking tribe, he quickly realises that the atrocities visited upon local villages are the work of a Moorwen, a deadly creature from his homeworld. The monster stowed away on his ship and is now wreaking havoc, unopposed. It's up to Kainen to help these poorly equipped people hunt and kill a far superior foe. The Viking King (played by the always brilliant John Hurt) and his sword-wielding daughter (lovely Sophia Myles) recognise the outlander's worth, while other members of the tribe would rather blame him for the bloodshed. An uneasy alliance begins.

It's an old, old formula but the sci-fi bent gives this hero tale (Beowulf from outer space) plenty of juice. Caviezel plays it deadly serious, and the story's much stronger for it. Kainen and the Moorwen share a bitter history; this isn't a straightforward hero versus monster scenario. Apart from the well-done action scenes and special effects, Outlander has a solid script, a strong visual look (misty forests, caves, waterfalls etc) and four or five good actors. Add to this a fascinating creature and you have one of the better 'B' movies of recent years. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Rating: **** (4 out of 5)

Saturday, 29 August 2009

August Round-Up

Damnation Books signed my latest sci-fi future novella, Godiva in the Firing Line, a fascinating mix of war, romance, politics, and deep space adventure. It's scheduled for a March 2010 release and will be my second title at Damnation. More info soon.

I read a number of strong books this month, including three I had on my TBR list for well over a year. Cormac McCarthy's The Road exerts a vice-like grip. Strikingly barren in terms of setting and even punctuation, it's also one of the richest post-apocalyptic tales I've read, by virtue of a wonderful, mostly unspoken relationship between father and son. It's man's existence pared down to day-by-day, scavenge by scavenge, survival. McCarthy's imagery is razor-edged, and his ending couldn't be more powerful. A must-read.

Stephen King's The Mist is one I desperately wanted to read after seeing the movie, which I loved. And a faithful adaptation it was, too (apart from the ending!). The novella is chock full of King's quirky observations on everyday folk; all his characters react differently to the truly horrific scenario. I especially liked the rise of superstition as the core group of "heroes" tries its best to steer a logical path. We get glimpses of the very best and (mostly) worst of people under pressure. Riveting stuff!

I'd heard so much about Stephanie Meyer's Twilight that, frankly, my expectations weren't high. Vampires were long-in-the-tooth decades ago, and I'm not a huge fan of high school romances. I like the sensual aspect of vamps, and the gothic settings they used to frequent; but how many times have we seen garlic, crucifixes, wooden stakes, shafts of sunlight etc? Too bloody many (pun intended). The Hammer horror Dracula movies are my favourite incarnations--period creep-fests with bags of atmosphere. Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Yes, yes. Here, I was prepared for a cringe-worthy modern soap with goths, bad text messages etc. What I got was a long-winded but compelling forbidden romance. Bella is a nicely written heroine--a gawky klutz in a new school, an unassuming beauty with real intelligence. She falls head over heels for the mysterious Edward Cullen, whose mood swings rival Jekyll and Hyde on a bad hair day. Edward is clearly the author's image of male perfection--extraordinary good looks, dark, brooding, with superhuman attributes. Their relationship takes many turns--probably too many--but I enjoyed Meyer's intimate storytelling, along with the clever disclosure of Edward's real identity. A good, solid read.

My favourite new DVDs this month were Knowing, an enthralling, portentous thriller starring Nicolas Cage; Zack Snyder's bizarre but impressive superhero opus, Watchmen, featuring a truly fascinating super-being called Dr. Manhattan; Doubt, an acting masterclass from Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman; and Mickey Rourke's The Wrestler, one of the best films I've seen all year.

I didn't really fancy any of the cinema releases this month, but I've seen trailers for a few that have caught my eye. District 9, an alien action-mystery set in South Africa, looks amazing. James Cameron's Avatar will be an absolute treat in 3D--to my mind, he's made six brilliant films in a row, not counting this one. More delicious 3D from Robert Zemeckis (A Christmas Carol) and Tim Burton (Alice in Wonderland), two of my favourite directors. I'm also looking forward to Joe Johnston's The Wolf Man, Roland Emmerich's disaster epic 2012, and Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones. A pretty good winter line-up!

Till next time,

Rob

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Sept 1st - Launch Day at Damnation Books!


Not long to wait now...for the grand opening of Damnation Books, a superb new dark fiction publisher! As the author of Val and Tyne, one of the twenty-five inaugural titles, I can honestly say this has been the smoothest pre-publication process I've been a part of. My story was treated with care and respect from day one, and the owner, Kim Richards, has gone to great lengths to ensure all our titles reach the widest possible online readership. I haven't read the other stories yet, but if the management is anything to go by, Damnation deserves to go far.

Here’s the opening line up of authors and titles. Every single book will be offered in ebook and digital formats beginning September 1st. Only novels and novellas will be available in trade paperback.

Amy Grech - Blanket of White - Horror Novel length Short Story Collection
Christian Saunders - Apartment 14F: an Oriental Ghost Story - Paranormal/Horror Novella
Collette Thomas - Deadly Games Book 1 in Todd Hollow Series - Thriller/Erotica novel
Cory Cramer - Symptoms of a Broken Heart - Horror/Erotica Novella
Edward M. Erdelac - Dubaku - Horror Novella
Edward P. McDermott - On the Lake where the Loons Cry - Thriller Short story
Mark Edward Hall - The Haunting of Sam Cabot - Horror/Psychological Novella
Geoff Chaucer - Concubine - Horror/Erotica Short story
James Dorr - The Garden - Science Fiction Novella
Jason Kahn - The Killer Within - Thriller Short story
Joel Arnold - The Siege - Science Fiction/Paranormal Short Story
John B. Rosenman - Green in our Souls - Science Fiction Short story
John W. Podgursky - The One-Percenters - Psychological/Thriller novella
Lawrence Dagstine - Visitation Rights - Paranormal Short Story
Lily - Eden Fell - Dark psychology/philosophy Novella
Michael McLarnon - Dark Isle - Horror Novel
Noel Hynd - The Prodigy "Author's Revised Edition" - Thriller Novel
Robert Appleton - Val and Tyne - Horror Short Story
Alan Spencer - The Body Cartel – Thriller/Horror Novel
S. A. Bolich - Who Mourns for the Hangman? - Dark Fantasy Short Story
Ted Kehoe - Trip Trap - Horror Short Story
Tim Marquitz - Armageddon Bound - Urban Fantasy Novel
Yolanda Sfetsos - Faithless Book 1 - Erotica Novella
The Zombie Cookbook - Horror/Comedy AnthologyContributing authors include: Lisa Haselton, Cinsearae Santiago, Becca Butcher, Carla Girtman, Scott Virtes, Karina Fabian, Dawn Marshallsay, Lin Neiswender, & Kate Sender.

Where can you find our books September 1st?

Definitely here at our own website. http://www.damnationbooks.com/

We will have books for sale at Fictionwise, Mobipocket, Amazon digital, Shortcovers, as well as, a host of online bookstores.

However, we want you to shop here first. http://www.damnationbooks.com/

So much so, we’re offering variable pricing on ebooks from our website only. What the heck is variable pricing? It works like this: At 12:01 A.M on the day a new book goes live on our site, it’s offered free. Yes, you read correctly. The first copy is FREE! With each download the book rises in price by five cents until it reaches its full retail price. At that time, the book remains at full retail price. Coupons and discount codes are not applicable for any book until it reaches its full retail price.

This means that every single one of the books listed above will be launched using the variable pricing at 12:01 A.M. on September 1st 2009. Awesome, huh?

One more thing—we’re hosting a launch party at Killercon http://www.killercon.org/ in September. We invite you to join us for some fun, free stuff and a chance to meet a few of our authors. While you’re at the convention, be sure to visit our table in the Dealer’s Room.


Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Sunset on Ramree Available on Amazon!

Great news! My WW2 crocodile thriller is now available in paperback from Amazon.com, priced $4.50.

Sunset on Ramree, published by Eternal Press, is a novelette based on history's deadliest crocodile attack. You can learn facts about the incident here, and I've put together some trivia on saltwater crocodiles here!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Sunset on Ramree Out Now at Eternal Press!!



It was always a case of finding the right publisher. Thank you to all those who have waited patiently for Sunset on Ramree. I'm pleased to announce it is now available for purchase, priced $3.95, at Eternal Press, and also at Amazon (paperback or Kindle).

SUNSET ON RAMREE

It is the deadliest crocodile attack ever recorded. On February 19th, 1945, a thousand Japanese soldiers retreated into the fetid mangrove swamps of Ramree Island. Days later, only twenty were found alive.

Inspired by true events during WW2, Sunset on Ramree follows young musician-turned-soldier Shigeatsu Nakadai and his best friend, Kodi, as they head ever deeper into danger. Will friendship be enough to keep them alive in the deadliest place on Earth?


EXCERPT # 1

Lance-Corporal Hokuto Mayazuki has always been one of the luckiest soldiers in the Japanese Imperial Army. The scars of no less than six shrapnel cuts and bullet wounds tattoo the left side of his neck, all the way from ear to shoulder. So many miraculous escapes over a three-year tour of duty in the Pacific. Yet he will be among the first to die this evening—according to the medical officer—though not from any wound. Today is February 19th, 1945, and he is succumbing to a strange, horrid fever. If one so tough can fall easily, I tell myself, what chance have any of us, retreating into these deadly marshlands of Ramree Island?

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.

The water I pour onto my neck to drown a dozen large ants is drinking water. I curse the decision. From here on, saltwater is all we’ll find. When my canteen runs dry, I’ll start to die of thirst. The thought occurs to me to pilfer some of Mayazuki’s—he’s almost dead anyway—but the reasoning proves double-edged. What if he contracted his disease from that water? Is it worth the risk? Thirst or fever: in prolonging life by one means, might I not simply protract death by another? I decide to leave him his flask and take his can opener instead.

We’ve been rushing for hours. Our battery stronghold is now miles to our rear. Colonel Ojihoru is a determined man, but determined to do what? If we are not permitted to surrender, and there is no way through the British lines, what is his hurry? Suicide now or suicide later, it seems academic. Stoicism is my only refuge. It’s as much a performance as those I give each night in my dreams—in the orchestra of Chadwick Hall in Canberra, where I play the clarinet—except this performance is to myself. Of all the ways to leave this swamp, suicide is the most impossible, at least to me. I’m quite sure that when the time comes to die with honour, I’ll cry in front of the whole regiment. Will I be the only one?


EXCERPT # 2

I try to conjure a memory of before the war—something, anything to distract me—but draw a blank every time. I purse my lips to whistle a familiar tune, but nothing comes out. I shut my eyes tight and roll them inward until they ache and release a heavy pulse. The screams and shots and calls for surrender are still there. Kodi and Sobiku are still there. I imagine the reed of a clarinet between my lips and the long, sustained breath given to making sweetly aching music. But nothing comes out. No tune, no melody, no woodwind to soothe the mangroves. Just the damp, cold harmonics of the night. I’m lost without music, and there is no music on Ramree.

EXCERPT # 3

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 ironclad. 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 legs and 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 at the heart of their domain.

It starts with one or two attacks. A quick cry of pain, a splash, limbs thrashing, 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 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 men trample vegetation while fleeing the water’s edge, their flesh is torn on the sharp bracken. The smell of blood is now 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.


You can buy Sunset on Ramree at the following link:

http://www.amazon.com/Sunset-Ramree-Robert-Appleton/dp/1926704274/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1272726396&sr=8-2

Hope you enjoy it!

Robert

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Damnation Books - Artwork for Val and Tyne


Check out the new artwork for my upcoming release, Val and Tyne. The talented artist is Matt Truiano and you really should take a look at his portfolio:

Val and Tyne is a short horror story filled with black comedy and gruesome special effects (literally). It will be released on September 1st at the grand opening of Damnation Books, as one of twenty-five inaugural titles.


The CEO, Kim Richards, and her team have done a fantastic job setting up this new publishing house. If you have a dark tale you'd like to submit, check out the guidelines at the above link.

See you on the dark side,

Rob

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Saltwater Crocodiles in WW2

UPDATE! Sunset on Ramree is now available for purchase (priced $3.95) at:

www.eternalpress.biz (eBook)

AND as a paperback novelette (priced $4.50) at Amazon.com

With just three weeks to go until the release of Sunset on Ramree, my WW2 crocodile thriller based on true events, I've compiled a few facts about saltwater crocodiles. If you're curious, head on over to the webpage for a look at these fascinating creatures. They really are the closest thing we have to living, breathing dinosaurs!

www.robertappleton.co.uk/saltwatercrocodiles.htm