Showing posts with label Short stories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Short stories. Show all posts

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Smoke & Mirrors: and other stories by Tom Benson

I'm quite familiar with this writer and have even shared the pages with him on the Anthology 'You're not Alone.' So when he advertised that his bundle of short stories was free, I had no hesitation in downloading it. It is a short book and even shorter for me as I had come across some of them in other publications. However a good introduction to Tom Benson's work. 5 stars.
This is a nice bundle of short stories. Short, but full of impact, drama and excitement. The themes vary, from an Alien criminal on the loose here on earth to a pilot trying to find his way to his downed plane in order to stop it falling in enemy hands. If there was one common thread it would be retribution, hence the tag line ‘The end justifies the means…’. There is something warm and comforting (somewhat nostalgic even in the Pawnee express.) in reading these stories; we encounter some good guys doing the right thing or a wronged person getting his pound of flesh. I think the writer really comes into his own when he sets his story in a battlefield situation. I know Tom Benson has a military background and it shows in the detail. It makes the stories that much more real and believable. Some of the stories have since or before appeared in other bundles, so if you have read some of Mr Bensons work you might have already come across some of these. If you are new to this writer it is a great introduction to his work. Recommended.


Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Work in progress a preview



I'm working on a bundle of short stories. They are going to be in the form of a journalist interviewing characters. Traveling always gets the creative juices flowing and my recent trip to New York compelled me to write a little satire about the airline industry. I'm not saying we had to stand on our way back, but I felt a bit herded and prodded. Enjoy.

A cut above the rest
‘It’s a new airline, it’s low cost but they claim to do things a bit different from the rest,’ said Sander Forrester handing his journalist Michael the booking confirmation.
Michael took the note somewhat surprised; he thought he was to work on his series of remarkable people from Edinburgh for the supplement.
‘The CEO of this company is from Edinburgh; you’ll have a meeting with him once you get off the plane,’ added his editor if reading his thoughts.
A few days later Michael was trying to check into his flight online. The procedure was mostly in-line with other low cost airlines he had flown with, until he came to the part where he expected to print off his boarding card. A message came up saying they were a paper free airline and he was just to turn up at the counter with his identity papers.
Michael duly turned up for his flight at Edinburgh airport and found the counter for Prime Airlines. He didn’t like that the counter and the uniforms of the staff were all white, somehow the clinical look didn’t fit with the image he had of a low cost airline. He would have preferred some weird colour of green or orange.
‘Good morning Mr Barnes, how are we today?’ asked the smiling agent after he had handed over his passport.
‘Very well, and are you excited about your company’s first flight?’
‘Yes I am, I think we are going to be bigger than Easyjet,’
He smiled at the agent’s enthusiasm and wondered if a few weeks from now she would still be this perky.
‘Now could you lean forward so we can get you boarding.’
‘excuse me?’ asked Michael surprised.
‘Could you please put your head over the counter,’
Expecting some camera on the other side that would take a picture for a boarding card, he stuck his head forwards. A sharp pain in his neck made him jerk back.
‘What the hell?’ he barked rubbing his neck.
‘We do things differently here at Prime, we’ve inserted a chip so the next time you fly you can use our handy app, scan your chip and all your information is already there. It is also better for the environment,’ she added smiling brightly and wished him a good flight.
Michael felt very unnerved by having a chip inserted under his skin and wondered what other uses the airline had in mind for it.
The normally long queues at security were even longer as a separate queue handled the Prime airline customers.
‘Blood scanners didn’t arrive in time,’ grumbled the guard, trying to get the normally stationary boarding card scanner to line up with Michael’s neck. A beep indicated the system had found the chip and he was let through after his belt, wallet, bag, shoes and laptop had gone through the x-ray machine.
He found the gate and a seat and waited for boarding while checking his emails.
‘Passengers traveling on Prime can now upgrade to Prime cuts for ten pounds only. Speedy boarding, seats and views are some of the many benefits,’ Michael heard announce over the Tannoy. He wasn’t at first sure whether he had heard all the information correctly until the female agent made the same announcement again. He went to find her and questioned her about some of the things he’d heard.
‘Am I correct in stating that I’m not guaranteed a place on this plane unless I upgrade to Prime cuts.’
‘No sir, everyone who is waiting for this flight will get on, but we have grades of traveling. Standing, standing with a view or seated,’ explained the agent.
‘But I thought non seated flying wasn’t safe and illegal?’
‘We at Prime Airlines have put a lot of research into new harness technology and its safety in case of a crash; we’ve been cleared by the civil aviation authority.’
‘Ok,’ said Michael rather stunned, having to stand during his flight to London was not what he had expected. He left the agent to set up some barriers to make sure that boarding would proceed in an orderly fashion.
‘Boarding flight PA0346 to London Gatwick will now commence at gate A4, we now call all Prime cut passengers to board first.’
Michael got up and watched as some passengers moved to the front, had their necks scanned and disappeared through gate A4. He had to admit it was very quick and efficient and soon it was his turn to make his way onto the plane.
The safety card in the pocket of the panel in front of him told him that he was on board a Boeing 737-400 series, but it wasn’t like any plane he had been on before. He hoisted himself into the uncomfortable 5 point harness that held his body against a rigid partition wall. There was barely enough space to hold a magazine to read in front of his face. He had counted several rows like this when he came in and just a few rows of seats at the front of the plane. He anxiously waited for take-off and hoped there weren’t any delays.
An hour and twenty later, the plane touched down in London and Michael freed himself from his uncomfortable harness. He moved his limbs as much as he could and waited to get off.
‘Dean Smyth,’ introduced the man who Michael had spotted with a sign saying his name in the arrivals hall.
‘I didn’t expect the CEO of Prime Airlines to meet me in person.’
‘Well I’m very involved with every aspect of the company, including public relations. I make sure I have a look at all aspects of the business. I’m not someone that runs the company from behind the desk,’ he suddenly laughed raucously and winked, ‘I don’t mind getting my hands dirty!’
Michael didn’t find this all that amusing but he laughed politely anyway. He observed the man as he led them to his office. He was tall and dressed in a smart suit, but something shouted country dweller. Maybe it was his ruddy red complexion or his brusque way of moving but Michael could tell that Dean Smyth was not from the city.
‘So Mr Smyth have you worked in the airline industry for long?’ started Michael his interview soon after they’d sat down in Dean’s comfortable office and his assistant had brought in some coffee.
‘Not at all, I used to manage an abattoir outside of Edinburgh,’ Dean answered grinning at the shocked expression on the journalists face.
‘Quite a departure from air travel slaughtering animals.’
‘No disrespect to our customers, but getting animals from farm to shop is a lot like getting passengers from A to B.’
‘Really?’
‘Of course our customers are willingly going from A to B, but in the end it is about getting there at the lowest cost in the most efficient manner. Getting a nervous crowd fast and safely on a flight is remarkably like getting cattle into an abattoir.’
For a moment Michael was speechless and when he remembered the name of their customer priority plan, his stomach churned.
‘It is a bit tasteless calling your priority plan Prime Cuts, knowing your history in meat processing.’
‘Oh god I never thought! The boys in marketing thought the amalgam of Prime Airlines and cutting lines was a good idea,’ said Dean rather worried, he was aware of the potential PR disaster this could be. Michael wondered if the boys in PR were having a laugh at their bosses’ expense. He asked Dean some more questions about his fleet of aircraft and what destinations he was planning to fly to. When he had enough information for his article he thanked Dean Smyth and promised to contact him when the article would be in the paper. He was not looking forwards to his return flight to Edinburgh and debated upgrading to Prime cuts. He decided it was against the spirit of low cost flying and suffered his standing place back to Edinburgh.
‘So winner or loser,’ asked Sander on his return.
‘Winner, the tickets are half the price of the competition,’
‘But standing during a plane ride?’ asked Sander scepticaly.
‘I think as passengers we have learned to put up with a lot for our desire to travel the world at a minimal cost. I think the days of luxury air travel and sterling service are long gone. Even regular airlines only treat their first class passengers with some service beyond the expected,’ Michael sighed, ‘face it, low cost, economy, you might as well call it cattle class. Standing room was always only going to be a matter of time.’

Monday, 7 September 2015

Murderous Little Darlings - A Tale of Vampires - Book One: A Tale of Vampires - Book One by John Hennessy

The book promo is going well, so far I managed to sell about 60 books and the countdown runs till the 9th. The next couple of weeks will reveal the full impact, but it's encouraging. I also reached another milestone in getting over a 1000 twitter followers. I still have to be convinced about twitter. I spend many hours doing tweets and retweets and met some interesting people, but as regards to book sales, well I think it is probably a waste of time. I'll sit on that fence a little longer and tweet on:)
Now back to my cup of tea; vampires. This was an interesting one and some new fresh ideas here. It was a short story, but one that will be part of a seven book series. Five stars.
Murderous Little Darlings - A Tale of Vampires - Book One: A Tale of Vampires - Book One by John Hennessy

What a tasty morsel this was. It was very short and I’ve would have liked to get my fangs into something a bit longer, but the good news is that this is part one of seven. This excellent short story starts a promising series.
John Hennessy very cleverly messes with his readers minds. Firstly his characters are young children; they have the faces of angels but are capable of gruesome and violent acts. Marcus the oldest of the three siblings has fully embraced his vampire nature and tries to get his siblings to follow his lead. His brother is easily manipulated, but his sister objects. Here the author messes with us again by throwing doubt on the assumption that Marcus is a vampire. Is he just a disturbed young boy that thinks he is a vampire? Vampires are just a myth, right? Marcus, despite his young age, is a manipulative character and I found him quite chilling. People who like things clear cut and logical might have a problem here, but I took it as a story told from the perspective of the children. You get three kids in separate rooms and you get three completely different stories and two will be far removed from the truth. (At times this might even be a little trippy.) The ending was unexpected but a little sudden. I do hope that in the next stories we will delve a bit deeper into the lives and backgrounds of the three siblings (or that the reader gets further messed with). A different take on the vampire genre and certainly something I want to read more of.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Wacky Stories With Twist Endings Volume 1 by John M W Smith

I'm normaly not this quick of the mark with book reviews, but this was a very quick read. Very enjoyable and a four star from me.
Wacky Stories With Twist Endings Volume 1 by M W Smith on Amazon.com


This was a very enjoyable book of short stories. I’m glad the title Wacky Stories was a bit of a misnomer as often things that are described as wacky/zany/madcap are often very unfunny.  This was a collection of situations with a surprise ending, or it’s not quite what you think it is about like; Act of Love. If I would have to pick a common theme I would say the complexities of relationships. It’s a great subject for twists in the tale stories, as relationships are a minefield of miscommunications and misunderstandings. My only complaint is that with eight stories, the book is very short. I certainly would like to read more of this author as he has a good easy-to-read style. Great for a commute or a weekend away.
 


Friday, 8 May 2015

Not What You Thought? And Other Surprises by P.A. Ruddock

One of my favourite books are collections of shorts. It is a great way of discovering new authors, and I certainly discovered a few in this book. It is a combined effort by Mr Ruddock and five guest writers (Lesley Hayes, Tom Benson, Matthew Williams, John M.W. Smith, Peter Nena.) to raise money for the 'Forget-Me-Not' charity. Some of the stories were better than others, but a well deserved four star.

Not What You Thought? And Other Surprises by P.A. Ruddock


I love short stories, there is nothing better than to have a good short to entertain you during a commute or lunch break. No need to remember what was going on, or missing your stop as you were just so engrossed in a thriller. This book certainly entertained me. I can see mister Ruddock took great glee in what is an inspiration to many writers; fictionally murder the people that have gotten on your bad side. There are some excellent contributions from the five guest writers and the overall standard of writing is high. A variety of styles and subjects are used and the changes in pace work well. With such a mix of themes it was obvious that I would like some stories better than others. There is a common thread with many of the stories having a twist at the end. This mostly works well, but sometimes it is a twist too far. Life behind bars was for me a highlight and a low point at the same time. It is a powerful tale about arriving at prison after sentencing and I don’t think the twist was appropriate. I would recommend this book as it is a fine collection of shorts and the proceeds are going to the ‘Forget-Me-Not’ charity for homeless ex-servicemen and those affected by PTSD. Do good and have a great read at the same time; what more do you want!