First Review of The Turning Stone


My latest title is The Turning Stone – Arshaana’s Calling, which is realistic YA Fantasy set in an alternate present day Earth. I’m very pleased with reader feedback. Below are extracts from my first review

Terence Park completes a breathtaking work in The Turning Stone.

the dialogue is sparkling authenticity

The story line is impeccable, and I searched deeply for plot holes but found no inconsistencies

The Turning Stone builds reputability… to the point of building a poetic atmosphere with its audience

Read the full review: http://iloveuniquebooks.com/book-review/the-turning-stone-arshaanas-calling

Go check out The Turning Stone on Amazon

Make it a Want to Read on Goodreads

Banner for KBoards - The Turning Stone

The Turning Stone – Bow of Athene

 

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Science Fiction and Fantasy from the Edge of Nowhere (that’s Accrington, UK)

 

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My First Newsletter


I’m starting my first newsletter. Sign up and earn a free download. Plus: you’ll be notified (monthly) on blog updates, book deals, free PDF downloads and news of upcoming titles, and you’ll also get a flavour of SF from Up North (the North of England). Here’s a preview.

Upcoming Titles

After months of bubbling away under the radar The Turning Stone is ready for publication, and have you seen the cover?

The Turning Stone cover

The Turning Stone cover – a star seeker

What’s it about? The ancient spell that binds humanity together is weakening. If it breaks, civilisation will fall, markets will crash, Labour will – oops that’s Brexit – let’s just stick with civilisation will fall. Anyway, an amazing discovery in far off Central Asia brings to light an ancient runestone unlike any other. Join Beni, Tinder, Athene, Jak and Hunda as they probe its secrets.
The Turning Stone is YA Fantasy

Angel In My Heart is still waiting for cover art. Slothmeister, Slothmeister! where’s my art? (Slothmeister is actually doing exams at the moment).
Genre: Dystopia

Dragon Shard is bubbling under. Here’s a detail from the cover sketch detail.
Genre: Space Horror

details from Dragon Shard: Kevin-1

detail from Dragon Shard: Kevin-1

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DC Comics: Mystery in Space and other SF


It’s exactly ten years since I started to write. My first novel reached first draft in between the 2008/09 Championship play-off finals (as a result of which Burnley FC were propelled into the Premier League) and the start of the new season – 60,000 words. It was SF but nothing like the SF I first read.

As a teenager I used to have three paper rounds which took me around the centre of Burnley, delivering to the Public Library, the Police Station, Banks, Accountants, Solicitors and Building Societies, and also to the town Grammar School (which was actually three miles from the centre but as I attended it, I also dropped off their papers, magazines and periodicals). Coming from a one-parent family and well aware of the precious nature of money, I saved up pretty much all my earnings, only occasionally letting loose to splash out on second hand comics. Back then I’d grown out of titles like Beezer, Topper, Dandy and the Beano, preferring instead American comic books – basically Marvel and DC comics. Back then, most newsagents had a wire-frame stand carrying a few comic book titles but there best place for them was Burnley market: new comics from the bookstall in the covered market and second hand from the open market. Most of my pre-1970 comics came from the latter.

Mystery In Space #107 cover

Mystery In Space #107 cover. Note Go-Go Checks at top

Let’s take stock of the Sci-Fi comic books I’ve had lying around since then, DC titles: Mystery in Space, Strange Adventures and From Beyond the Unknown. My sole copy of Mystery in Space is the oldest of these, cover dated May 1966 for #93 – this being a second hand comic book. The sub-title ends ‘… Mindless and Berserk’. The front cover is slightly schlocky. At the time I ummed and ahhed about buying it – certainly wouldn’t have bought it if it didn’t have ‘Space’ in the title. Space was exciting, rockets were real and having already been gripped by the story in Patrick Moore’s Invader From Space, Science Fiction was worth exploring. So I liked my SF to be spaceships, space cadets and plausible – but please, no flying saucers, these were for weirdos and the like, and a big no-no – barely a step up from the horror vampire / franken-gore types. Obsessive and Creepy.
Comic book stats
Comic book: Mystery In Space #107
No of story pages: 25
Original or Reprint: Original (DC and Marvel often pumped out reprints – avoid!)
Stories: Ultra the Split Multi-Alien, The Wierdies of Mist Valley
Ultra, the Multi-Alien was a (naff) series concerning a human who has been transformed into a multi-alien, made of of four super-powered aliens. It ran in Mystery in Space from #103 to #110, when the comic book was discontinued. Prior to Ultra, Mystery in Space ran Adam Strange.
Ultra, the Split Multi-Alien sees Ultra invent a device to make himself human again. The device malfunctions and splits him into four separate beings: ‘Three of them Mindless and Berserk’ Eventually he gets them under control but has to recombine with them and make Ultra to save the girl he loves. The story is far-fetched.
The Wierdies of Mist Valley concerns a reporter who falls for a girl and follows her to a vacation spot on Jupiter where a converter is used to transform her into a synthetic life form. He uses the converter to follow her and manages to rescue her father and protect her from an evil villain. They convert back to human and get married. As in Ultra, the events are far-fetched but the dialogue is snappy (US American colloquial).

Despite the fact it was second hand, The comic cost about the cover price. 10d = around 4p.

Points of interest
The cover, there’s a B/W checkerboard behind the DC insignia. The last story page in the comic book has the soundbite:
Don’t Hesitate… Choose The MAGS with the GO-GO CHECKS!
Most DC titles at that time could have had ‘avoid for sheer dullness’ stamped on them. The only stories I liked were Legion of Super-Heroes and Metal Men. Also note that the story ended two thirds of the way down the page. Did they run out of ink… or story? Were the artists on a piece rate per panel of artwork? I suspect this was part of dodgy corporate-think, kind-of: ‘The reader will be fooled into reading our dodgy Go-Go Checks because it’s: ON THE SAME PAGE AS THE STORY!! That’ll really put one over Marvel Comics – Muah-ha-ha-ha-ha-haaaa!!’

Last story page and Go-Go Checks

Last story page and Go-Go Checks

Also in this comic is an announcement that Direct Currents – a column devoted to previews of coming DC attractions’ will feature in DC comics. This announcement is accompanied by half a page of DC comic book chit-chat, in the style of Stan Lee’s Bullpen Bulletins (which had started in 1965).

Mystery In Space #107 Announcing Direct Currents

Mystery In Space #107 Announcing Direct Currents

Beyond the Unknown #9, cover dated March 1971, was big 64 pages.

From Beyond the Unknown cover #9

From Beyond the Unknown cover #9

The thing that attracted me was the new insignia – below are a couple of extracted insignia.

     

Wow, it looks like an atom or a rocket. bet this comic is really cool.

There were seven stories inside, these were:
The Man Who Moved the World (5.66pp)
Riddle of Asteroid 8794 (7.66pp)
The Two-way Time Traveller (7.66pp)
The Man Who Aged Backwards (6pp)
The Last Horse on Earth (8pp)
The Sky High Man (8.66pp)
Doom Trap for Earth (9.66pp)

Note the ‘.66’s. This is where the story panels only fill 2/3 of a page. Sometimes it felt like I was being short-changed – as a comic book buyer I expected maximum art on every page. the other cheat was the splash page announcing the story without telling any story at all. Wasted pages. Below are the splash pages in From Beyond The Unknown #9. Pretty much every one of these barring The Man Who Aged Backwards had no story content. The splash pages are reproduced below, the latter at a larger zoom.

Back then I’d do the maths – what was I getting for my money: 64 Big Pages was the promise. Per the above page counts I was getting 53.33 pages, then strike out splash pages – that’d bring the result down to 47pp. Compared to a standard comic which were 32 pages with 24 or 25 pages of actual story… the 64 Big Pages wasn’t such a great deal.

    

    

It was only much later I discovered this was a relic from earlier times – these being reprint stories from the 1950s. Reprints – I’d wasted my money on reprints. Enough analysis let’s have more comics.

From Beyond the Unknown #10 cover

From Beyond the Unknown #10 cover

Yep issue no. 10, May 1971 was also chock full of reprints from the ’50s.

Moving on, Strange Adventures #221, cover dated Dec 1969 relates the adventures of my favourite DC SF hero of that time: Adam Strange. Also included was The Atomic Knights, and third story: The Square Earth. The comic book is a 32 pager meaning actual story content was around 21 pp.

Sadly this was another (unannounced) reprint, however he letters column does refer to the need for all new Adam Strange adventures.

Next up is Strange Adventures #233, cover dated Dec 1971, with the following stories:

  • Earth’s Frozen Heat Wave (orig pub Strange Adventures 161)
  • Adam Strange in Invisible Raiders of Rann (orig pub Mystery in Space 73)
  • The Man Who Stole the Air (orig pub Strange Adventures 51)
  • The Space Rovers in What Happened on Sirius-4? (orig pub Mystery in Space 69)

These were all reprints – by now DC had got into the habit of noting where each had been taken from. Total story content: 32pp out of a 48 page comic book. Around this time DC got a decent tally from the first annual Academy of Comic Book Arts awards – also known as Shazam Awards. Their success was noted in this (and other) comics. My old but seasoned eye would guess that the artwork on the page below was Neal Adams, Dick Giordano or a combination of them both – noting that both got honours at this event. So

  • Best Continuing Feature: Green Lantern – Green Arrow
  • Best Individual Story: No Evil Shall Escape My Sight*
  • Best Writer (Dramatic): Denny O’ Neil
  • Best Pencil Artist (Dramatic): Neal Adams
  • Best Inker (Dramatic): Dick Giordano
  • Best Pencil Artist (Humor): Bob Oskner
  • Best Inker (Humor): Henry Scarpelli
  • Best Colorist: Jack Adler

* Green Lantern – Green Arrow #76 which was by new writer / artist combo Denny O’Neill / Neal Adams, Cover date: April 1970. This is well worth noting as Neal Adams realistic art was a treat and the storyline was good.

These 48 page comic books arose from DC flirting with increasing comic book page count, for all its titles, this new format that lasted one year – from August 1971 to July 1972. Most of the extra pages were filled with reprints – National Periodicals had a burgeoning back catalogue. Marvel experimented this for one month, covering Oct-Nov 1971 editions, and then slipped back to the regular 32 page comic book. Pressure on costs meant a hike in comic book prices; the 32 page edition started at 15¢ and after it was 20¢.

With the benefit of hindsight I realise that comic book SF – though visually interesting – failed to deliver the SF kick. Times change. Maybe it does now, however my tastes are more complex and I now write the stuff.

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New Species of Human – Homo Luzonensis


For the first chapter of my first novel I imagined the Earth 100,000 years ago. It’s rare for those pre-historic times to hit the news and be popularised but the recent announcement that there was evidence of diminutive sized humans in the Philippines nearly 70,000 years ago – Homo luzonensis – caught my eye. The dating for their remains puts them there some time after the Toba event – scientists and climatologists have theorised that Toba was a climate defining event; in brief it seems to have triggered the last ice age. That ice age hit its peak about 20,000 years ago and was still retreating 10,000 years ago. The Guardian article mentions that they were there some 67,000 years ago which is several thousand years after the Toba event. I’ll touch on how I think they survived when most of our brand of humanity was wiped out.

Lake Toba in Sumatra, Indonesia

The number of breeding human pairs has been estimated at less than 10,000 following the Toba event circa 75,000 years ago. The Toba event was the most significant volcanic eruption in that last few million years depositing a 6 inch layer of volcanic dust over South Asia and is held to be the trigger of the last ice age as well as the cause of a bottleneck in our genetic heritage. Toba, being in Indonesia, wouldn’t have been good news for these extinct pygmy folk who used to live just around the corner (in a geographical sense) in the Philippines.

General location of Toba in South East Asia

Like many, I’m fascinated with how we experienced and lived through those extreme and dark times. To imagine how bad things were, let’s take stock of similar events in human history.

Krakatoa eruption lithograph (public domain)

Krakatoa eruption lithograph (public domain)

Volcanic dust from Krakatoa (1883) darkened the skies for several years (+ produced amazing sunsets) and Tambora (1815) produced a year without a summer. Going further back, the 1257 Samalas eruption (on Lombok) is estimated to have deposited 2½ cubic miles of ash and this is held to have caused the Little Ice Age. The effects of Toba would have been much more dramatic; it ejected 200 cubic miles of ash. The 1,000 year cooling event that followed is thought to have triggered the last ice age. There’s archaeological evidence of pre-Toba settlements in India which become inactive after the event. Those there would have had a choice: try to live in a land covered with volcanic fallout or flee.

In the Philippines getting further away wouldn’t have been an option however, if the local climate then was anything like it is now, the typhoon season would have pretty much washed away significant levels of fallout dust by year 1, and given this it’s arguable that vegetation might have bounced back more quickly.

They keep pushing back the earliest evidence of agriculture – atm it’s at 23,000 years ago – this being around the peak of the last ice age. The reduction to 10,000 humans comes from mitochondrial data + Y chromosome DNA modelling, i.e. from the genetic material that was passed on. Pre-Toba populations would have been greater but by how much?

I speculate that we (our ancestors) were in a settled albeit pre-agricultural phase and Toba had such a dramatic impact on human patterns of life, we were knocked back to the Stone Age. Going back to my first novel (A Guide to First Contact) I began with a picture of man living in harmony with nature (a total antithesis of how we live our lives now) and then gradually introduce change. This change is growth according to a plan. Change is painful, it hurts and in the end it is endured rather than enjoyed. Any joy comes from successfully riding the wave, and of course, of being witness to those that adapt less successfully.

For more about my first novel A Guide to First Contact, it’s big, it’s complex and yes, the Toba event gets a name check, and it’s here: POD, Kindle.

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Angel in my Heart – update


This is an update on my current writing projects.

I am ready to pull the trigger on final edits to Angel in my Heart. This is the third of three upcoming titles which I will publish from June 2019 onwards. The other titles are:

  • Dragon Shard
  • The Turning Stone

Angel in my Heart has proved the most difficult of the three; I’m shifting a dream sequence from the end of the story back to where it belongs: the start. In addition I’m wrestling with how much world-building detail should be given a way. I’m a great fan of giving the reader something to speculate on – in the manner of PH Newby’s first chapter in The Spirit of Jem; I’m also conscious that the reveal of detail can be a big let down. The reader’s imagination is often greater than the author’s. That’s cool by me – the writer frames the world and the reader populates it.

The Turning Stone will be out first; Dragon Shard will probably be next with Angel in my Heart last. I will put them on Kindle as well as on Print on Demand.

Other works in progress:

  • Dryads – Pastoral fantasy set in the world of the Northland Steppes and the Khaif – in first draft
  • Men for the Stars – a take on our near future including stopovers at the Mexican Wall plus peacekeeping around newly independent state in South-East England: Londany!!
  • Artefact – a Sci-Fi Detective (one in the eye for Raymond Chandler!)

That’s enough for now.

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Review of ‘Moving Times’ by Phoenix Writers


A story behind a story.
When I joined Phoenix Writers in 2016, what first struck me was how understated they were. The group has fine writers but they hid their qualities in broad daylight. During my time there I came to the conclusion that for the group to promote itself, it should take a view on publishing its members. I held my fire until one AGM where the subject of future events came up and – to me blindingly obvious – mentioned my thoughts: maybe it should consider an anthology. I’ve self-published for some years now so the mechanics were a known, all that was required was the will.
I was pushing at an open door
As things turned out, work commitments meant I wasn’t in a position to do as much as I’d planned but I was able to make some suggestions on what needed to be done and, in the end the anthology went ahead.

It is called: Moving Times, and I donated three pieces:
Wild Mouse (fiction), From The Light (fiction), By Design (poem)

Moving Times by Phoenix Writers - front cover

Moving Times by Phoenix Writers

In my copy of the anthology was a thank you note

Thank you note from Bernadette

note from Bernadette

Why did I join Phoenix Writers?
A cursory internet check returned little evidence of writing groups in Horwich; it was only by accident I discovered their existence. In keeping with my urge to write and to take feedback, I had to know what they were about. Ahh – the dark days of 2017 – it was then my writing took a hit and, as my ongoing consultancy was coming to an end, I was on the lookout for answers to more pressing matters – keeping a roof over our heads and putting food on the table – even it it was the cheapest of cheap supermarket leftovers (you can only buy what you can afford). Despite all the talk of full employment, more and more do we face the hurdle of being type-cast by our recent experience. It is said that truth is the key and you should hold no secrets but in many things it’s a case of: tell the truth and society will beat you down or, at best, ignore you.

Lesley Atherton - author

‘Moving
Times’ is a book put together to celebrate the decade-long existence of the Phoenix
Writers group, from Horwich Lancashire, and the contributors should be highly
proud of what they’ve achieved.

The first
thing you notice is that it is a very attractive book with a simple but
well-designed and effective cover. This really does the contents justice, which
is something not achieved by all small press and writing group books.

As a member
of three/four writing groups, I really do identify with the sentiments
expressed in the book’s foreword – ‘What moves you, gets you out of bed in the
morning, drives you to action? For us on a Thursday, it’s Phoenix Writers. We
meet as friends, share ideas and get support and inspiration’. Yes, that’s what
a strong and healthy writing group does for the usually lone creative. Such a
group provides a stable and caring home for…

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Back to the 80s


Last night I went back to school – again!
To explain, I’m the governor at local school Rhyddings. Now whatever we feel about the politics of education – and yep, it’s politicised – schools need to engage with the community. Rhyddings (where I am a governor) are making strides in that area. Last night they ran a musical show themed on Back to the 80s. The show flashbacks the 1980s schooldays of a now 30 something Corey, who’s remembering how he once had the hots for the girl next door. This is an excuse to redo a number of 80s hits which are delivered with gusto, the backing school band being on good form.
Our schools need our support and if you can turn up and sell out the last performance, how great that would be.


Dates 11th, 12th, 13th February 2019.
Tickets £3 (proceeds help fund the school)
Location: Rhyddings Business and Enterprise School
Haworth St, Oswaldtwistle, BB5 3EA

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Dryads gets to draft


Dryads, the last of my Nymph collection, has finally got to draft stage at 33,000 words. For those with a fictional frame of mind, Dryads is set in a place not dissimilar to medieval England – it has a Soke, a Ridings, a Caulder (ok there’s a spare ‘u’ in there but our river Calder is notionally the only river to join lands both east and west of the Pennines), and other familiar sounding places, all ruled over by the folks in the capital of Angelynn. Continue reading

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Burnley Literary Festival (2016) day 7 – Sufi Music


The following has been rewritten from fragments / reconstructed following some difficulties with a Windows 10 upgrade that deleted my profile nearly 2 years back.

Burnley Literary Festival 2016 - Brochure front cover

Burnley Literary Festival 2016 – Venue Guide

Rumi and The Wings of Love

Be in the world but not of it, so it is said. You hang around with a secret because you know there are seekers. The answer is not what they expect and besides, there are other things to consume – with addictive properties. This ignores the purpose and function of that that is doing the consuming. I suppose this needs a little background explanation. For this we need to go back 800 years.

About the Destruction of Khwarezm

Continue reading

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The Rick Sanchez (& Morty) Review


If you haven’t watched Rick and Morty, what is it? A comic, adult themed, sometimes gross Science Fiction romp through space, time alternate realities and dimensions, peppered with the suburban frailties of Morty’s family. Morty is Rick’s grandson and the rest of the family are Summer, Morty’s sister and parents: Beth (a horse surgeon and Rick’s daughter) & Jerry (unemployed). Rick moved in with them two years ago and has since taken Morty on many adventures, turning his life upside down. Okay Rick’s an asshole of the highest (inter-dimensional) order… but he does know what’s going, on the other hand Morty is an unsure, self-conscious pubescent 14 year old. Mental note: just how does Rick know a crisis is brewing before he hooks Morty out of class?
Continue reading

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