Archive for February, 2013

Sharkways cover“Bill peered into the gloom, tried to pick out the scurrying things. He could imagine them going for his fingers first. Eating them away so that there was nothing holding him up any more, and then just swarming over him in the water, feasting.

He tried splashing at the water with his free hand. Heard water slapping back off the rock. Felt it raining down on top of his hard hat. Felt it trickling down his cheeks too, though that may well have been something else.

He saw movement.

It came vertically on the rock face, moving slowly down the incline. He’d only seen it because of the light emanating from its core. The creature looked like an animated Egyptian artefact. It shone gold, royal blue, racing green. At times, the creature’s shell was transparent. Bill could see all of its inner workings: the pumping heart, the roiling stomach, the panting lungs. At other times, the shell hardened, glistened like diamonds.

He thought it might be put off by the water, but it wasn’t. It skittered with a new purpose, heading straight for his fingers, which whitely gripped the rock.

Bill couldn’t find the strength to flick the bug away. He feared that if he touched it, it could shock him. But as it crawled onto his left hand, he shivered. Hell, the bug was smaller than his hand, not much wider than his ring-finger, but he didn’t dare bash it flat. It started to scramble over the mark where his watch had once taken up residence on his wrist, onto his arm. His eyes widened. The tiny hairs on his arm stood to petrified attention.

The bug continued to creep over him. Bill itched to flick it away, but he knew he couldn’t use his right hand, couldn’t let go of his precarious hold on the rock. And his left hand, the one the bug had already crawled over, was frozen. For a beat, he thought about trying to edge his chin down, somehow knock the thing off him with a twist of his neck, but he quickly dismissed the idea. The thought of that thing anywhere near his face was too much to bear.”

Read more from Sharkways here.

An Excerpt from ‘Bully’

Posted: February 25, 2013 in Bully by AJ Kirby

41m2iTg-3fL._SL500_AA266_PIkin3,BottomRight,-16,34_AA300_SH20_OU02_“I don’t know when I first noticed it. As a kid, you don’t really go around comparing and contrasting towns. Measuring the number of shops or restaurants or houses and then coming to some kind of conclusion about the nature of the town was not really anything any of us ever paid any mind to. Newton Mills was simply home to us, and we wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was a known quantity, a given. Even when changes occurred, such as when a shop came under new ownership or new houses were built, we never thought of it as change. It was on the periphery of our vision, and as long as the shop that changed hands wasn’t Burt’s sweet shop, and as long as the new residents of the new garish redbrick houses across the tracks were not going to be introduced into our classes and clubs, we simply didn’t care.

But one day the understanding had washed over me. I suppose it was as though I’d finally given voice to that silent knowledge which I’d always known, deep down. Newton Mills had an unnatural amount of graveyards. And I mean there were a lot; miles more than such a town that size should have had.

‘The Graveyards of Newton Mills’ was the first school project that I ever aced. It was the first that I’d ever tried in. I suppose I was morbidly fascinated by them. I put together this lever-arch file full of photographs and maps, pencil rubbings of some of the gravestones. I even tried to draw some conclusions about why there were so many graveyards.

My dad loved that I was getting interested in history, and helped me out at the local library. We dug out loads of old books and newspapers. Gradually, he edged me towards his own conclusion about the graveyards. He suggested that working on the mills was a terrible, life-sucking existence and that most of the folk would die young. But because the farming industry was doing so badly, people kept coming into the town from the surrounding countryside, looking for work. He suggested, in his fiery working class hero way, that the mills were doing more than manufacturing cotton. They were cleansing the local area of the undesirables. They were processing the workers; depositing them straight into the graveyards at the end of the shift.

I stared out over the town and remembered. I remembered my dad and the way that he’d been a little obsessed with the graveyards; after my project, the teacher invited him in to talk to the class about them. Later, my friends gave me no end of crap for having a loony-tune dad. Nobody but nobody ever wanted their parents to come to the school, let alone if they came in and ‘talked to the class.’ That was the lowest of the low. But despite my embarrassment, I had found myself becoming interested in what my dad had to say. He was talking about the amount of different burial sites; there were some for the Protestants, some for the Catholics, some for the rich, and some for the poor. There were some that weren’t affiliated to any church. In fact, he said, only two of the graveyards in the whole town came with your traditional church spire in the scene too. I’ll always remember what he said at the end of that talk. It was like he’d shaped that voice in my head even further. He’d let me see the light.

‘Newton Mills,’ he said, ‘is a town which has always been surrounded by an awareness of death. We’re comfortable with it, even. But we shouldn’t be. We don’t have to allow ourselves to simply sleep our way along the conveyor belt and succumb to our fate.’

Suddenly, I remembered the taxi driver that had dropped me off at the airstrip in the desert in Afghanistan. I remembered what he’d said about the ‘awareness of death.’ I also remembered that I now knew what death and pain really were, in the end. Involuntarily, I shuddered.

Dad wasn’t invited back to the school again after the talk. I think the teacher thought that it wasn’t his place to rant about stuff like that and put ideas like that in children’s heads. The teacher was from out of town though, and probably hadn’t grasped the fact that Newton Mills life was exactly how dad said it was. Most of us were surrounded by an awareness of death. We saw it in the heavy grey stone of the suffering houses. We saw it in the faces of the men and women that had grown up in the town.

As I stared out, I picked out some of the graveyards that I knew. And we did know some of the graveyards fairly well. Unconsciously, all of the lads I grew up with spent times in the graveyards. We were a little scared of them, of course, but what kids don’t like doing things that are a little dangerous; a little close to the bone?

What we really liked were the old abandoned ones, like the one off Dye Lane, which I could pick out as it scarred across the land, running parallel to the river. Back then, we knew that we could play in the graveyards to our hearts’ content and no adults would come asking questions or telling us to shove off. They were kind of like secret gardens or something. I didn’t tell anyone, but I thought of them as magical places, like the plateau in The Lost World. I thought that time stood still in those places and that lurking in the dense bushes would be prehistoric creatures and mythical demons and the like.

As we got older, the yards had begun to mean less to us in terms of fright-value. Instead, they were places where you could go and let loose; rid yourself of the existential teenage angst by pushing over gravestones or writing other kid’s names in the place where an old name had worn away. My friend Lee (Twinnie), the first of us to become sexually active (by a long way), chose the graveyard at the end of Cutter Street as the ideal place to lose his virginity to the local bike, Lisa Fletcher. In the end, she became his missus, and he told us that he loved nothing more than boning his bony missus in the bone-yards. Lee was right about his missus being bony; her face was downright skeletal and sometimes if you looked at her in the right/ wrong light you got to thinking that you could see right through her skin. I couldn’t see the graveyard at the end of Cutter Street now; it had most likely been concreted over to act as a car park in the new industrial estate. But the knowledge that it had been there… well, it was enough.”

Read more from Bully here.

Good evening ladies and gents. Just dropping by to let you know that Wild Wolf Publishing are doing a sales promo at the moment. There’s a cool 35% off Paint this town Red, the ebook, which means that now, for the first time, UK readers can get their hands on a copy for less than two quid.

You can get your hands on a copy here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Paint-This-Town-Red-ebook/dp/B007ET9UC4/ref=sr_1_31?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1361355765&sr=1-31

PTTR KindlePaint This Town Red is a high octane dark fiction novel set in a small, isolated town, Limm, which is on a tidal island separated from the mainland – the north east coast of England – whenever the tide drags in. It is an island drenched in history and myth, and also one with a bloody history; it was one of the first places the Vikings pillaged their way through, and over the years since, it has had its fair share of tragedy (although nobody on the island likes to talk about it, especially the business with the cult in the early eighties.) This closed community is set on fault lines of corruption, mistrust, and family feud and blood curses and when an external agent, in the form of a wild beast, is let loose, the fabric of society starts to crack open and the darkness is exposed.

The novel begins with the arrival of the beast, a large, hungry black panther who appears through a portal from another dimension, released by a golden valve. The panther insinuates himself into the edges of society, lurking in the woods, and is spotted by a number of residents. At first it picks off farm animals, but soon develops a taste for human flesh. But for a variety of reasons these residents don’t tell the relevant authorities. Until it is too late. Until the day of the town’s talent show, when the panther’s second victim staggers into the crowd covered in blood. The town’s mayor, MANNY COMBS, there to judge the contest, immediately decides that, for fear of panic sweeping the town, as well as for political reasons of his own, the victim must not be allowed to talk about the ‘black panther’, and when it becomes clear he will survive the attack, Manny takes matters into his own hands and suffocates the victim with his pillow.

But the bodies continue to pile up and the town is whipped up into a frenzy. Panicked townspeople form hunting parties. The local newspaperman starts to uncover deep, dark secrets. ELY ‘YOGHURT’ RHODES and the other former members of the island’s disgraced cult, start to be preyed upon by religious doubt. They believe the panther is an agent of God, come to pass final judgement on their sinning ways. Meanwhile, KIRSTIE SHAY, exiled from the community because of her teenage pregnancy, discovers the beast’s lair…

Thanks to everyone who entered my cover design contest last week. The challenge was to design a new cover for my crime shorts collection ‘The Art of Ventriloquism’. The prize? All of my back catalogue in print, basically.

I’ve had some really interesting entries from all over the world, and I’m delighted by how much interest this has generated. From all the entries I have selected four front-runners… But I’m also keeping the competition open, in case anyone wants to sneak one in at the last minute.

Otherwise, why not vote for one of the four covers below, by leaving a comment stating the cover artist and I’ll give y’all the results next week.

(These are in no particular order…) First up, we’ve got Rich Harding from Kent, with this excellent effort:

THE ART OF V4

Second, thanks to Benji G from Berwick upon Tweed for this classy number:

art of v cover 1

This one scares me quite a lot, but it’s certainly eye-catching. Thanks to Faisal (hasn’t given a location) for this:

ART OF V 3

And last but not least, here’s one by Chrissie Forrest, Manchester:

ART OF V COVER 2

Ace Cameron kindle CoverThey say the best things in life are free. Well, here’s your test. Ace Cameron’s Ace Offer starts today, 15th February, and it offers my ebook novella, ‘Ace Cameron and the Red Peril’ FOR FREE  for 3 days from 15th February to 17th February inclusive.

US Readers can download their freemans copy here: http://www.amazon.com/Ace-Cameron-Red-Peril-ebook/dp/B00865VYV0/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_2

UK Readers can download their freebie copy here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ace-Cameron-Red-Peril-ebook/dp/B00865VYV0/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_2

And don’t worry if you don’t have a Kindle. You can DOWNLOAD Kindle for your PC here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/kindle/pc/download Or you can download free reading apps for your Smart Phone here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000493771

Everyone’s a winner baby.

heartIt’s been noted that there is a rather glaring gap in the oevre of AJ Kirby. Sure I’ve done sci-fi, crime, horror and all that dark stuff, but what about something bright and breezy? What about something rosy and Valentiney? Isn’t there anything I’d like to say on the subject of relationships, or on love? Well, bearing all that in mind, here’s a few ‘relationshippy’ tales for y’all to feast your peekers on. Please note that not all of them* have happy endings…

*None of them.

– Follow this link to read my flash fiction story ‘Desire’: “His eyes are glittered with sated desire; his lips parted in the wake of a contented sigh.”

Wrap your hearing-gear around this radio drama, ‘History & Her Story’.

– And here’s ‘A Question of Trust’ : “‘Social networking’ they call it.” “In my day they called it adultery.” snorted the fat man.

– Here’s a story about sport and love: ‘Court Out’

– And here, finally, is the piece de resistance, ‘Moore’s Law of Relationships’. A story we can all learn from. Ahem.

Seeing as though I’ve already named two ‘books of the month’, it seems a bit rich to add another… But I just had to mention Herman Koch’s The Dinner, which has just been published, and which I’ve reviewed for The New York Journal of Books. Top read. Very sinister, and, at times, quite hard to swallow!

Screenshot Koch The Dinner ReviewYou can read the full review here.

And here’s a few highlights:

“It would be maddeningly easy to begin my review of Herman Koch’s The Dinner like this:

Take a pinch of intrigue, sprinkle in some sibling rivalry, spice with tension. Mix well. Then let the concoction simmer and stew for a while, before serving with a side order of violence, and you have a recipe for a riveting read.

And I was seriously tempted to do so, for the simple reason that such blatant cliché would be bound to get up the nose of author Koch’s protagonist/narrator, Paul Lohman. For Paul is a man waging war on cliché, driven wild by the hypocrisy of modern life and to the edges of madness by his hatred of “performance.”

The Dinner CoverAnd getting up Paul Lohman’s nose has one sure-fire result in The Dinner: There will be fireworks. Broken crockery. Overturned plates. A dinner spoiled.

Because in essence that’s what we yearn for as readers. The premise of this novel—two well-to-do families meet at an exclusive restaurant on an idyllic evening in cosmopolitan Amsterdam—is all well and good.

But we don’t want to get our teeth into some placid fable, we want to read of conflict, of hairs in the soup. We want to hear that terrible false note in the awkward silence as one diner scrapes his knife on the plate.

As Paul observes: “tornados, hurricanes, and tsunamis have a soothing effect. Of course it’s terrible—we’ve all been taught to say that we think it’s terrible. But a world without disasters and violence—be it the violence of nature or that of muscle and blood—would be the truly unbearable thing.”