Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Drabble Wednesday: Years

Welcome to the New Year’s Edition of Drabble Wednesday, where I ring in the season from apocalypse to space, and beyond…




From Ashes

Dearest daughter,
Things have not changed much since you left. The protests have stopped, and the funeral pyres in the square increase daily. None of our neighbours and friends have succumbed to the plague yet.
The plague, that dreaded cloud hanging over this planet. It defines us now, it’s the clock by which we measure our existence. It will come for us all soon. All but you and your fellows.
You cannot imagine my heart’s joy when the government took you away, conscripted you for the space exodus. Live for me, for everyone, carry our new future to the stars.

~*~


  

Rising Horizon

We’ve kept Earth’s twenty-four hour time cycles on our ship, though it matters little in the depths of black void space. Our latest captain calls it an homage to the original crew, but it’s probably more a habit. Or acclimation. Our studies show this new planet has a similar orbital cycle to old Earth.
I wonder what it will be like, living planetside. For four generations the citizens of this ship have known nothing but metal bulkheads and confined communal existence. Strangely, by the old Earth calendar, planetary landfall coincides with a holiday. Humanity’s revival begins on New Year’s Day.

~*~




Brave New World

It is year sixteen After Planetfall, in this new world.
Life was not as we expected.
Adjustment from the ship to Nova Terra did not go… smoothly.
Adapting  to planetary gravity, weather, farming was problematic; even the novelty of open spaces created unforeseen difficulties. Many crew members grew fearful, even phobic, of our new life here.
Which led to the rebellion.
I still remember the day. Half our numbers seized the ship and abandoned us to our fate on Nova Terra.
If they could only see the thriving colony we’ve built, our paradise. I pity them, lost among the stars.




© A. F. Stewart 2015 All Rights Reserved






Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Drabble Wednesday: Christmas Fun



Today on Drabble Wednesday I celebrate the Christmas season… strangely. I have some new drabbles and two old favourites of mine. Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!






The Tree

Every year.
Every year they erect the garish, smelly thing.
With its scent of evergreen assaulting my nose, and its blinking lights disturbing nap time. Not to mention it’s a giant scratching post. And those dangly ornaments.
It’s like they dare me.
It’s not as if they tuck it in corner. No, it’s in the MIDDLE OF THE ROOM. IN THE WAY. What am I supposed to do, walk around the monstrosity?
I think not.
So why do they get mad when I pounce? Oh, the language I hear.
Truly, it’s their fault.
What else is a cat to do?

~*~






Naughty List

Cheesecake and Snickerdoodle waited in the shadow of the Christmas tree, tails wagging in anticipation. The two terriers knew Santa was coming; their namesake treats lay on a plate next to a tall glass of milk. They missed their shot last year, falling asleep too soon, but this year would be different.
Yes, this year had success written all over it, and a place in the dog hall of fame. They’d sink their chompers into Santa, maybe get a piece of Santa’s rump, complete with a velvet souvenir.
They both knew it would be epic. Even better than the postman.

~*~






Christmas Wars

Jingles the reindeer found the crumpled corpse under the Christmas tree, missing a hand. He pawed the body, but it was too late.
“Why? Why? Who would do this awful thing to the Elf on the Shelf?”
“A great disturbance, I sense.”
A tiny wizened green creature appeared from beneath the holiday foliage. In his hands he carried the Elf’s missing appendage and a shiny cylindrical object. He stared at the deceased Elf.
“Teaching him, I was. Listen, he did not. Defeated not the enemy, failed did he.”
A laugh rang out. “He underestimated the power of the dark side.”

~*~






A Fairy Tale Christmas Story

Once upon a time, far from the land of BB guns, there was me, Rutherford B. Hasenpheffer, and like all boys (aged 6-12) I had a Christmas wish. I wanted a dragon (yes, you heard me, a dragon). One legendary, fire-breathing, winged lizard.
I badgered my parents night and day for a year, following them around the castle, begging for a dragon.
“No,” they said. Repeatedly. Consistently.
But I persisted, until somewhere around November they relented. So I found a baby dragon under the Christmas tree.
The only problem—the darn beast burned down the castle and now we’re homeless.

~*~






Christmas Eve

Lights glow from the Christmas tree, softly reflecting through the windowpane frost. The faint scent of pine and undertone hints of mulled wine imbue the room.  Ribbons and bows and papered packages await the morning, while from somewhere above a snore or two drifts downstairs.
Everyone sleeps, pretty dreams and wonders in their heads, waiting in slumber for the morrow.  All is calm and quiet. At least inside. If you listen, really listen, while as the snowflakes fall outside, you can hear. Sprinkled with the moonlight, there’s the jingling of bells and jolly laughter with a hearty, ho, ho, ho





© A. F. Stewart 2015 All Rights Reserved



Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Drabble Wednesday: Myth

Today on Drabble Wednesday, we journey past reality into the world of myth…




Fate

I weave with thread as brittle as the worst spurned heart, across the pale puffed clouds and shimmering stars. I craft names and heartbreak, death and carefree laughter.
I contrast spring among the bleakest nights, when voices murmur with unspeakable refrain, and hope burns to ash and smoke. I entwine the heavens, scattering radiant pinpricks that make the black skies dance, though their light be old and lost.
I cast the glow into their eyes, lace their blood with fire, their minds with thought. I walk the shadows and through the mists, past time and construct.
I weave the world.

~*~





Fear the Skies

On the longest winter night, when the chill wind slithers through the cracks and past your bones, I will warm you. On the beating heartbeat of outstretched wings, from the snow locked mountains, I come. I will fire the skies and burn the night. I will rain spark and fury, flame and ash.
I will be a ghost, a dreaded whisper, a story to frighten your children. A warning you will not heed. They never heed. But you will scream. Scream and flee, a game of chase with ferocity, and my blazing destruction.
And you will shout my name.
Dragon.

~*~




Harbinger

Grey light and wafting mist settled over moor and peat, across verdant grass and gnarled trees. Sunshine traced its farewell to the dappled blue firmament, and melted into the tangerine cerise embrace of the gloaming.
In a breath of moulded air, shrouded in tattered, forgotten scent born of inevitable end, a presence stirs. An entity, a purpose birthed from mortality and tied to name and heritage. The ether quivered, the moon hid its eyes, and the earth itself held still.
Waiting.
She lifted her head, and silver eyes beheld the world once more. She inhaled… and then the banshee screamed.    




© A. F. Stewart 2015 All Rights Reserved


Tuesday, 15 December 2015

My Holiday Book Picks

Here’s my end of the year list of some of the books that have piqued my interest over the past year. This year I’ll be listing them by genre.

But first, I want to feature two books I'm a part of that are also raising money for charity:


Christmas Lites V

Tis the season to celebrate, to love, to dream, to hope. Unfortunately, many people have lost almost everything they have – including hope in this most festive and beautiful of times. Across the globe, authors, illustrators, and artists of all sorts have come together in the anthology you now hold in your hands with one goal in mind. To give hope. To spread love. To give people a chance to dream again.

Christmas Lites V is a special anthology. Every dime raised goes directly to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). Not a single person who worked on this book or donated their time and their art form to it receives anything from it, other than the knowledge that he/she is making a difference in those affected by domestic violence.

Inside these pages are stories of all genres—Romance, fantasy, horror, action, children’s stories, stories written BY children. Please, dive inside, read, laugh, and spread the love and joy.

You can find Christmas Lites V on Amazon


Here's the video for my story, A Tale of Two Urchins:





A Rewording Life: Finding Meaning in the Wor(l)d 




With A Rewording Life, Sheryl Gordon brings clarity to obscure words, collaborates with over a thousand cool Canadians (Yann Martel, Jane Urquhart, Terry Fallis, Miriam Toews, Wayson Choy, Sass Jordan, Colin Mochrie, et al.), and raises money for dementia research. When Ms. Gordon saw her mother, Yolande, lose her words to dementia, she understood like never before that words have meaning. To honour her mom, she asked Canadians who make her life more rewarding to pen an indelible sentence for an abstruse, bemusing, or convoluted word; she chose words she tends to forget. She hopes to harness these scintillating sentences to help eradicate dementia. Interwoven amongst the plethora of contributions are eight heartfelt essays written by Ms. Gordon. The initial letters of her essay titles (a, d, e, i, m, n, t, e) spell dementia. She hopes readers can embrace this scattered concept. Confusion is, after all, the nature of this disease.

A Rewording Life can be found at:


Now on with my picks...

Fantasy/Paranormal





Sigil of the Wyrm by A. J. Cambell

Richard Lampton never believed in fairy tales, so when a stunning stranger at his uncle’s funeral warns him of an ancient family curse, he pays no heed—until a very real wyrm attempts to destroy him. Now, with the help of a homeless runaway, a fledgling jackdaw, and a key none but he can use, Richard must find the courage to meet his death or his destiny as he plunges headlong Into the Weirding.

Love the cover.

Check it out here: Amazon







Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.
Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.
The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.
But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.


Best book I read all year!

Find it on Amazon









The Heartbeat Thief  by AJ Krafton

Haunted by a crushing fear of death, a young Victorian woman discovers the secret of eternal youth--she must surrender her life to attain it, and steal heartbeats to keep it.

An intriguing new book, by a wonderful author.

Find it on Amazon






The Reaper's Daughter by KM Randall

I've always felt like an average girl ... except for my strange relationship with death. You could say I like to court it.
But now Death is courting me―in more ways than one. First, there’s Rishi, a rogue death deity who has a penchant for annoying me nearly to my grave and whose intense gaze has the power to see right through me. Then there’s Hades, who I’d rather had stayed just a myth. Now that he knows I exist, he’s not going to leave me alone until I meet the same end as my mother.
They call her the Grim Reaper.

I adore the premise for this book.

Here it is on Amazon.




Steampunk




The Dharian Affairs series by Susan Kaye Quinn

This steampunk-goes-to-Bollywood (Bollypunk!) romance that takes place in an east-Indian-flavored alternate world filled with skyships, saber duels, and lots of royal intrigue. And, of course, kissing.

Who can resist steampunk and kissing?

Find the series on Amazon:




Sci-Fi



The Legacy Human (Singularity #1) (Singularity Series) by Susan Kaye Quinn


What would you give to live forever?

Seventeen-year-old Elijah Brighton wants to become an ascender—a post-Singularity human/machine hybrid—after all, they’re smarter, more enlightened, more compassionate, and above all, achingly beautiful. But Eli is a legacy human, preserved and cherished for his unaltered genetic code, just like the rainforest he paints. When a fugue state possesses him and creates great art, Eli miraculously lands a sponsor for the creative Olympics. If he could just master the fugue, he could take the gold and win the right to ascend, bringing everything he’s yearned for within reach… including his beautiful ascender patron. But once Eli arrives at the Games, he finds the ascenders are playing games of their own. Everything he knows about the ascenders and the legacies they keep starts to unravel… until he’s running for his life and wondering who he truly is.

The first book in this acclaimed series.

Find it on Amazon



Dark Beyond the Stars anthology (multiple authors)

From humanity's first contact with alien life, to the challenges of space travel, to colonies established light years from Earth, this anthology celebrates the wide sweep of space opera at its most sublime. Eleven of today's bestselling authors join forces to bring you these tales of action, adventure, and brilliant imagination.

This book courted controversy, and praise.

Check it out on Amazon



Horror




The Island by Clarissa Johal

Exploring a remote island can get you into trouble
Especially when you stumble upon a cave and awaken two demons
Rumors and superstition.
That's what Emma thinks about local gossip concerning her grandmother's "cursed" private island. Emma journeys to the island to ready it for sale. While out exploring, she unearths a hidden cave-a cave which holds answers to the island's dark past.
There may be more to the rumors than she thought.

Another great author!

Find The Island on Amazon 






Young Adult



You'll have to wait for the new year for this one, but I'd thought I'd give you a sneak peek.


The Bookminder by M.K. Wiseman

Sired by magick and violence, sixteen-year-old Liara is found guilty of witchcraft and banished from her tiny village by the very priest who raised, then betrayed her. However, a mysterious mage steps forward to assume custody of her: Nagarath, the Wizard of Parentino, whose secret spellwork has long protected both Liara and Dvigrad from the ravages of war.
Despite Liara’s best hopes, Nagarath refuses to apprentice her to his craft but tasks her instead with the restoration of his neglected library. Liara gleans what magickal knowledge she can on the sly, determined to learn, come what may. But the first test of her stolen knowledge goes awry and renews an evil wizard’s interest in the people of the Limska Draga valley.
Only by tapping Liara’s inherent magick and joining it with his own can Nagarath protect Parentino from suffering a horrible fate. However, her discovery of his secrets destroys their fragile trust and ignites the darker tendencies of her gift. Now, he must rescue her from the influence of his mortal enemy before their powerful new alliance destroys them all.






You can find it on Goodreads or pre-order it from Amazon   


Saturday, 12 December 2015

Book Spotlight: The Lights Went Out and Other Stories

Today I have a book spotlight, on the story collection, The Lights Went Out and Other Stories by Fiona Cooke Hogan, an eclectic mix of supernatural, humorous, poignant and eerie tales. I also have a tantalizing excerpt from one of the stories in the collection, The Welcoming Committee. Enjoy.





The Lights Went Out and Other Stories by Fiona Cooke Hogan 

An eclectic mix of flash fiction, short and longer stories. At times humorous, eerie and poignant; a mother burdened by financial troubles shares her problem with a stranger, a young couples' journey to the the airport takes a strange turn, a wedding anniversary in Dingle goes from bad to worse, a small dog is forced to change his ways and a vampire hiding out in suburbia just wants to be left alone. Dip your toes into this quirky collection and find your favourite.


You can find The Lights Went Out and Other Stories on Amazon






Story Excerpt:



The Welcoming Committee


There was no moon the night the vampire moved into the Close.  
As the Mercedes pulled into the driveway of Number Five a thick fog rolled down the street like a hungry wave. It poured across the tarmac, swirling and eddying about the walls of the slumbering houses before moving through the alleyways to cover swings and climbing frames. Under cover of the muted street lamps’ glare, a figure exited the driver’s side moving swiftly round the front of the car to the passenger’s door where an elongated form peeled itself from the seat and slipped out to join the shadows in the front doorway.  A rattle of keys and the hallway was illuminated briefly before the door was pulled shut and the house returned to darkness. The sedan slipped silently from the driveway, its blackened windows glinting like the eyes of a large beetle.
Well past the witching hour, the mock Tudor houses in the cul-de-sac sat silently, their inhabitants tucked up in their king sized beds. House alarms had been set and appliances switched off.  No dog barked. No cat slinked along the dividing walls of the properties. The fog held The Close in its grey laced fingers. All were under its spell. 
Save one, a curtain twitched at Number Seven, and a pair of eyes peeped out and watched as the strange and silent car moved into the drive way opposite. The curtain twitched again and then closed. A light went on in the bedroom. 

The new occupant of Number Five lay in his sarcophagus in the basement and brooded. The house disappointed him; it was just too…modern, a mere fifty years old. Where was the sense of history? He realised that he hadn’t given his people much time to organise the move. But really, a cul-de- sac? He sighed.  Circumstances beyond his control; a century long feud with his neighbours had escalated (a silly misunderstanding about drinking on their boundaries) had necessitated a swift leave of absence. A brief sojourn in the UK was deemed prudent (he had business to conclude) and his staff needed time to ready the New York house, where he hoped to pass out the next hundred years or so until it was safe to return to the family pile. 
He travelled from Budapest to Edinburgh by private jet where a car waited to bring him to a secluded hotel in the Highlands; the ancestral home of an old friend.  Hardly touched in over a hundred and fifty years, the building reminded him of better times when the world was younger. The staff were polite and discreet. He ordered take away and two working girls arrived from the nearest town. They left the next morning tired, pale and a few thousand pounds richer believing they had spent the night partying with a wealthy recluse. 
From Scotland he journeyed down the length of the country under the cover of night to this anonymous town and non descript house where he now resigned himself to quietly wait until it was time to travel across the Atlantic. 





Author Bio

Fiona Cooke Hogan is a Laois based writer and poet who hails from rural Ireland. This is her first collection of short stories; an eclectic mix of humorous, eerie and poignant tales. She has been writing since childhood and takes inspiration from her everyday life and experiences. Her novel "Martha's Cottage" will shortly be out on Kindle and she is currently working on her second: a horror story as yet untitled.
When not scribbling away she is an avid reader and self confessed addict of Tolkien, Game Of Thrones and The Walking Dead. She dreams of playing one of the undead in a George A Romero production.
Fiona designed the cover for her short stories herself using one of her own photographs; - a beautiful autumnal shot of the ivy covered entrance to a little hall near her family home in Meath, Ireland.



You can find out more about the author on:






Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Drabble Wednesday: Fall

It’s time for another Drabble Wednesday, and today we fall from grace, the sky, and loneliness…




Choices

One step.
Down the dangerous path.
One step aside of normal.
Tumbling into that dark temptation, past self-preservation. Hoping you don’t get caught, but loving the adrenaline rush. That’s how it feels the first time. Your heart pounding, your breath seemingly frozen in your throat, right before you thrust the knife. There’s nothing better than watching someone bleed out, seeing that pool of red seep into ever widening circles. Knowing someone else’s fear. Knowing you ended a life. That you held all the power.
It just takes one small step.
So, what do you think? Are you ready to try?

~*~




From Heaven

Have you ever felt the delicate wisp of cloud vapour tickle your face?
I have. I’ve raced the migrating birds, and soared through sunbeams at the edge of the world. I’ve flown past snow-capped mountain peaks, and let the starlight touch my wings. Children of sorrow took shelter under those strong wings, and I flew far. To the heavens and back, and all the beauty in-between.
Sweet memories tucked away to warm my thoughts. To chase away regret, that one mistake. Sometimes I stare at the sky and pray, but I can’t go back.
Fallen angels don’t get second chances.

~*~




Ardency Perception

Free falling into sunlight, aloft on capricious summer winds. Every sense reworked, floating as downy feathers, each sundry care dispelled in dappled daydreams. You are plummeting from dizzying heights, surrounded by the perfumed scent of roses and honeysuckled jasmine. Pulse pounding, awash in heady Elysium.
There is no safety net.
You descend blissfully, tumbling against the currents of wisdom and fools. Each breath exhaled with transcendent exaltation, and nebulous joy tempered by trepidation. You want no pinions to sustain you, nothing to break your intoxication euphoria.
You are eager for more. You let go, engulfed. You are falling into…
Love.



© A. F. Stewart 2015 All Rights Reserved




Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Drabble Wednesday: Echoes

Today on this fine Drabble Wednesday, I spin tales of things lost, but still lingering, of echoes past…




Train Station

Anya saw the little girl sitting alone on the bench. The child seemed out of place, with odd clothes, and a quiet demeanor. The expression etched on the girl’s face stirred sadness in Anya; the child held the weight of a hundred souls under her skin. Anya settled on the bench beside her.
“What’s wrong, little one.”
“You don’t know, do you?”
Anya smiled. “How would I know what’s wrong with you, little one?”
“No. I mean, you. You don’t know you’re dead. A ghost.” The child gave a look filled with countless heartache. “You don't know yet, do you?”

~*~



Normal

People shout at me sometimes. They say, “Sylvie, why can’t you be normal?”
But what’s normal? Bits and bobs, in floating flotsam of happy things and timeless strings. Pull a string and it all unravels. That’s me, unravelling.
I’ve always been a strange creature, not quite right, but it’s really showed lately. Ever since I died and came back. A little heart attack, from a tiny, tiny defect. It all worked out, though. I was revived and fixed. Well, as fixed as they could make me.
You see, even a few minutes in Hell can truly screw with your head.

~*~


  
Shade of War

He kept vigil on the hill, as insubstantial as the morning mist, or a lie whispered on the wind. Beneath his gaze, the modern city sprawled, as had the town before the metropolis, and the village before the town. He had stood his ghostly watch for a very long time.
In his ears, the battle sounds still raged, the cries of the village children still pierced his heart. He still smelled the burning wood, saw flames lick at the houses. He smelled the blood, watched the red stain the ground.
He stayed because his guilt refused to let him leave.





© A. F. Stewart 2015 All Rights Reserved



Sunday, 29 November 2015

Welcome Christmas Lites V!

For a couple of years now, I've been lucky enough to be an annual contributor to the fabulous Christmas Lites charity anthologies and I'm happy to say that I'm participating again this year.
And now the book is here!

So with no further ado, I present...

Christmas Lites V




Tis the season to celebrate, to love, to dream, to hope. Unfortunately, many people have lost almost everything they have – including hope in this most festive and beautiful of times. Across the globe, authors, illustrators, and artists of all sorts have come together in the anthology you now hold in your hands with one goal in mind. To give hope. To spread love. To give people a chance to dream again.

Christmas Lites V is a special anthology. Every dime raised goes directly to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). Not a single person who worked on this book or donated their time and their art form to it receives anything from it, other than the knowledge that he/she is making a difference in those affected by domestic violence.

Inside these pages are stories of all genres—Romance, fantasy, horror, action, children’s stories, stories written BY children. Please, dive inside, read, laugh, and spread the love and joy.


The book is available at:


Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon Canada

Createspace




Stories and authors included in this anthology are:

A Tale of Two Urchins by A. F. Stewart
Accidentally Courted by Tricia Kristufek 
Undead Christmas by D.T. Dyllin 
Christmas in July by William Gent 
Riley’s Christmas by Ottilie Weber 
Mini-Folder by S.L. Garrett 
Santa’s Unexpected Helper by JB Lynn 
A Christmas Tail by JG Faherty 
The Krampus Tree by Douglas Wynne 
Homicide by Phil Cantrill 
Love of a Lifetime by Angela Yuriko Smith 
Christmas under the Canopy by Amy Eye 
Daniel’s Gift by Monica La Porta 
Devour by Tiffany by Michelle Brown 
The Gift by J. A. Clement 
Mrs. Knight’s Honeymoon by Vered Ehsani 
Baby Jesus by Rachel Reese 
The Masquerade by Frank W. Smith 
Keeping Christmas by Alana Lorens 
The Den by S. Patrick Pothier 
Ulysses II by Dani J Caile 
A Monster Miracle by Brandon Eye 
Blinky Goes Home by Annabelle Kristufek 


A great line up, right? My story in the book, A Tale of Two Urchins, is a bit of a fanciful fairy tale about two orphans, Santa, and Krampus. I think of it as a mix of Dickens and Hansel and Gretel, tied together with a ribbon of dark humour and a touch of whimsy. (You can also find my stories in Christmas Lites III and IV and proceeds from every book in the series go to National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.)





Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Drabble Wednesday: Quests

Today on Drabble Wednesday we go questing with warriors, peasants and kings…




The Eye of Blood

The messenger died at the feet of his king.
King Andras tossed his bloodied dagger on top of his latest victim.
From a limp hand of the dead, the king retrieved a wooden box, the prize that cost the messenger his life. Inside lay treasure, a dream that set his kingdom to fire and ruin.
The Eye of the Gods. The Bloodstone.
Power.
The king lifted the lid. A large scarlet gemstone nestled within, resting on black velvet.
“Mine, you are mine.” He closed his fist around the stone. And screamed.
The body of the king fell beside his messenger.

~*~




Fabled Journey

Warriors never die easy.
A saying he should have remembered five days ago, and stayed home, safe in his bed. Glory, honour and fabled riches weren’t worth slogging through a swamp on a daft quest. Nor ease tired joints after being chased by a ballycoot wraith through the Forest of Shadows. And they sure as spit weren’t worth dying at the hands of a dragon.
“What are you waiting for? Slay the beast.” The frantic shout came from inside the cave, from his companions.
“No.” With a whisper, he turned around and headed home.
This warrior would die another day.

~*~ 




Be Careful What You Wish…

All Evan dreamed came true, one rainy afternoon.
The day the warriors rode into town, looking to recruit men to join their ranks. To serve the Baron. They promised camaraderie, adventure, a better life. Evan swallowed the stories whole, but it wouldn’t have mattered what they said, for they promised a life away from the pokey village he called home. Away from his dreary future as a sheep farmer.
Funny how that was, how he longed to leave. Now two years in, two long years riding hard, fighting ogres, dragons, and everything in-between, all he dreamed was to go home.



© A. F. Stewart 2015 All Rights Reserved 

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Interview With Author Julia Starling

Today I have an interview with author Julia Starling, who stops by to chat about her writing and her debut book, Against the Oaks of Bashan, a literary science fiction novel. Enjoy.


An Interview with Julia Starling



Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and started my adult life as a medical student there. When I met my husband Alex in Europe I moved to Cambridge, UK, and then London, where I finished my medical studies. We moved to California after five very formative years in the UK. Disappointed with the medical system in the US, I went back to school and became a psychotherapist. Right before I graduated, our home burnt down in the 2007 wildfires. It took years to reconstruct our lives. I had always written, but I started writing much more after the trauma of the total loss. We moved to the Santa Fe area in 2012 and I opened a small (but busy) private practice from my home. I kept writing whenever I could. In 2014 I was forced to take a leave of absence from work due to health reasons, and it is then that my creative life really took off. I started writing intensely every day, and painting my dreams. Against the Oaks of Bashan came from an intensive year and a half of soul searching. I have found my true passion in fiction and can’t wait to get started on the next project. 


Could you tell us a bit about your latest book?

It’s set in Buenos Aires, between the 1970’s and the 1990’s. It follows the story of two brilliant young scientists, Vera in the 70’s and Frances in the 90’s, in their struggle to find themselves, breaking free from other people’s agendas and what the world expects from them.
The narrator takes different characters’ points of view and motivations, making for a very rich exploration of psychological profiles. The whole story is infused with an Argentine flavor, and there are even some Argentine Spanish words inserted, in context, throughout the text, for added cultural enjoyment.
There is a strong social commentary that runs across the book, and a philosophical base for the science fiction elements. While rich in literary gems, it moves fast and has the quality of a thriller, keeping people frequently at the edge of their seats.


How long have you been writing, and how many books have you published to date?

I’ve been writing since I was a child, mainly personal reflections and poetry. As an adult, I wrote countless essays for med school and psychology school, and, whenever I would have time (even in the subway on my way to the hospital) I would write snippets of my perceptions and observations of the society around me. Having lived and worked in so many countries and settings, I was privileged to have lots of material to write about. When I finally had real time on my hands, on my leave of absence, I started to take writing to another level. I was surprised to find how easy the fiction genres worked for my style, and how compatible I was with this whole field. I actually wrote Against the Oaks of Bashan in less than a year, after a few months of gathering notes and structuring plot and characters. This is my first novel and I am absolutely positive that many more will come in the near future.


Why did you decide to write in the Science Fiction genre?

It came as a spontaneous process. My style is generally literary, so I set out to write a literary fiction piece. And when it came to drafting plot and characters, I found myself creating worlds that fit the sci-fi category. I am pleased with how this genre allows me to let my mind soar with no restrictions and how it is amenable to transmitting symbolic and philosophical material in a way that is engaging and moves fast.


What did you find most challenging about writing your book?

Perhaps the editing process: it was hard to go from 80,000 words to around 68,000. My literary style had to be adapted to fit the plot and overall flavor of the novel. I had to make sure that everything flowed smoothly and that the plot was not sacrificed to the literary elements. That was hard. But I think I succeeded in making an easy-read that also has substance and literary merit.
And of course, I had to trust myself when it came to writing my first novel in English, which is not my mother tongue. I think the second-guessing was harder than the reality of the finished work. I prefer to write in English because I have been thinking, speaking and writing in English since I was 21.


Did anything surprise you about the process of writing your book?

Yes, the action scenes: I had no idea I would be writing involved action and exciting car chases. It was really fun.


When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I think I was always a writer. I wrote on my free time every since I can remember. But the decision to fully dedicate to writing and make it a full time career came after I begun writing Against the Oaks of Bashan. I knew at that point that this is what I am truly meant to be doing with my time.


Can you tell us about your writing process? Where do your ideas originate? Do you have a certain writing routine?


I start with notes and observations, and character development, on my typewriter at my north-facing studio (which has direct views of a field with the Sangre de Cristo mountains in the back). This is the idea/ conceptual stage. Once I have enough material, I go to cafes (I need to get out of the house for this, for some reason) and begin plot development. Once I have the plot and general structure, I gather all my materials and start typing the novel on my computer. That is the easiest part: I tend to finish this within a few months. Then, the grueling editing process begins. That is the hardest part. But after that, I have a full manuscript ready to send to professional editing, interior design and publishing.


Do you have a favourite author, or writing inspiration?

I am a little bit unusual in that I mostly enjoy classical novels and authors. I really like Goethe, Hesse, Huxley, Nietzsche, Dante, and some Sturgeon, Sloane and Stapledon.  And many ancient religious texts, like the Bhagavad-Gita, the Upanishads, and the Dhammapada.


Are you working on another book?

Yes, I have just got started with the preliminary stages. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into it. 




Against the Oaks of Bashan



The best way to rule a populace is from behind the scenes. Let people think they control their opinions and actions, and you can lead them anywhere.

So believes Professor Litvac, who dreams of engineering the “perfect consumer,” creating a populace living a life of mediocrity, anxiety, and malleable opinions. And in the turbulent political climate of 1970s Buenos Aries, he’s got plenty of opportunity to experiment. Any young adults who disappear are assumed to be the victims of ongoing political unrest.

Trapped in one of Litvac’s torture camps are Lucas and Vera Freund. Brilliant scientists, the Freunds hold the key to Litvac’s success, but they’re not talking. With the backing of a powerful Catholic sect, Litvac puts a plan in motion that will transcend generations. He’ll have what he wants—no matter the cost.


Julia Starling is a medical doctor and psychotherapist born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

You can find Against the Oaks of Bashan on Amazon.


Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Drabble Wednesday: Hidden Things

In today’s Drabble Wednesday, I delve under the surface of reality, to find the secrets…




Butterfly

Such a delicate thing. Its wings fluttered on the winds, their white-tipped, crimson pattern vivid against the sunlit afternoon. It danced against the clouds, before settling on a shaded branch of an oak tree.
There it waited, its insect antennae twitching.
Golden hair, and a sunshine smile, the woman passed beneath its tree. She laughed as it landed on silky skin. For a moment, it perched, wings outstretched. She gasped in awe.
“Beautiful.”
It quivered. Minuscule fangs punctured skin, injecting poison into her bloodstream.
Ow!” One breath, before she convulsed and died.
Such a delicate thing, such a deadly touch.

~*~




The Long Path

“Only a fool begins the long path. Only Death will end it.”
That is the saying among my people. If any remained alive they would call me a fool.
A thousand years I walked this road, past war, past famine, past all I loved. The summer rains have drenched me, the winter snows have chilled my bones.
Yet, I walked.
I was your name whispered on the wind, that shadow on the wall, the ghost in the graveyard. I have strode the path between worlds, and I am at its end.
I stand in the grove of night awaiting Death.

~*~





First Kind

I am the last of my kind. Eons ago we swarmed the skies, the earth, the seas, and fed on the giants that lived here. Then the giants died, and we turned on each other. Only I survived, hibernating all these long years.
I am the last of my kind.
Or I was, until I met the human. This new breed that inherited our domain. Puny, but he served his purpose.
Now my eggs are buried deep under his decaying skin and tissues, feeding off his corpse. Soon they will hatch, and we will feast on more of his race.




© A. F. Stewart 2015 All Rights Reserved 


Sunday, 15 November 2015

Festival of Drabbles: Discord and Harmony



And we come to our farewell post for this wondrous Festival of Drabbles. I shall play you out with a bit of a dark melody…




Rime and Season

The frost wind swirled down from the mountain, and the icicles hanging from the trees chimed with its passing. It blew down the cobblestone streets, and around the corners and cracks of brick and mortar. It rattled the wooden shutters and howled down the chimneys. It churned the snow drifts and swooshed about the settled grime.
Nothing else moved in the quiet, solemn town.
Nothing else would ever move in this place again.
They occupied each house, every structure. While the wind howled, while the snow blew, the dead remained. Frozen, lifeless, forever locked in an eternal world of ice.

~*~




Desert Song

Across the sands, beyond the dunes, when the Mother of Moons rises in the night sky, you can hear their song on the sirocco winds. A velvet melody vibrating through the amber radiance, twirling in the light of the desert moon. They sing arias, of roses blooming in the paradise oasis, of the first raindrop and its petrichor echo. Their chorus shivers the firmament that binds the universe, and soothes the disquieted fires of the soul.
They serenade of all things sacred, but beware, listen too long…
…and the Night Sisters will sing you to your final place of dreams.

~*~





Just An Old Tune

The guitar sits in the corner, weather-beaten, with dust gathering across its worn down varnish and strings. It has some scratches and some blackened streaks; it has survived much. Countless hands have plucked it chords—old and young--through wars, through blistering summers, and long cold winters. It has strummed many a tune, and captured the vivacity of spirits in the melodies it harmonized.
Spirits it never let go.
Sorry souls that bled their happiness into the hungry maw of a demon instrument. And now… well that guitar, it’s waiting to be played.
By the next servant of the devil.




© A. F. Stewart 2015 All Rights Reserved




And today’s the last day to downloaded my book Passing Fancies for free on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/151594


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