Saturday, 11 August 2018

PRESS KIT: Tales From Alternate Earths 2

Tales From Alternate Earths 2 is now available on Amazon. 

The successor to the Sidewise Award winning Tales From Alternate Earths is here. 

Step into the worlds that might have been, the worlds of alternate history where climate change plunges the Earth into a frozen landscape, where the Moon landings may not have happened the way they did in our world, where a 10th century polymath invents the glider and changes the world, where Jacques Cousteau's successors create an undersea city, where Soviet astronauts are feted as heroes as they lead the way in space, where time travel runs wild and where fairy beings tiptoe into reality. All this and more. There are Americas of a different tilt, an alternate path steering away from world war, and nations where the most dangerous thing is knowledge. 

Authors Jessica Holmes, Daniel M. Bensen, Rob Edwards, Leo McBride, Christopher Edwards, Gideon Marcus, Casia Courtier, Jeff Provine, Cindy Tomamichel, Brent A. Harris and Bonnie Milani show us the world that might have been - if the world had taken a different path. 

This is the seventh anthology from Inklings Press, as we continue to open the door onto different worlds, with a foreword by Sidewise Award winner Daniel M. Bensen.

The universal link for the anthology (taking readers to their local Amazon store) is:

Graphics for use for promotion: 

Graphics for paperback story title pages

Animated gif of the above frontispieces: 

Friday, 1 June 2018

COVER REVEAL: Stratus - Fallen Skies: Book One, by Miranda Brock

One of the nice things about having a blog is being able to help out a fellow author now and then - always a pleasure, and I'm happy to help Miranda Brock reveal the (very pretty) cover of her new book. Which is now available for pre-order. Check out the information below - and you can keep up with the latest from Miranda by following her Twitter account here.

Fallen Skies: Book One

Coming August 21!

Lily Calhoun wants nothing more than some excitement on her quiet, small-town life. When she gets caught in a storm one afternoon she gets more than she bargained for. Excitement suddenly falls into her life, literally.

Stratus is mysterious, fun, and has a danger to him that Lily finds herself drawn to. Learning that he is either a demon or an angel only makes him more irresistible. But when strangers start turning up dead in her town, Lily begins to fear her new found flame may be the cause.

Caught in a tempest of lies, secrets, and betrayals, Lily must discover who Stratus really is behind his stormy eyes. Is it an angel who will win her heart, or will it be a demon who stakes his claim?

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Meet The Clockwork Cowboy - now in print in Hideous Progeny, from Writerpunk Press

She looked up at its oddly-shaped head, which despite its larger figure was similar to that of a large man's in size. It appeared to be made of brass, but with circular glass protrusions held in place by an x-shape of brass struts that reminded her of a drawing of a diving helmet from one of her father's books. 
The rest of the apparent face was smooth and implacable. Within the creature, she could hear the echoing of many ticks, the noises of gears and cogs in motion that she had heard from outside. 

The Clockwork Cowboy is my newest short story in print - and it's a delight to be included in the latest anthology from Writerpunk Press. 

Regular readers of the blog will have heard of Writerpunk Press before - they published the fantastic Edgar Allan Poe goes punk collection of short stories that I gave five stars to and rated as one of my books of the year, so it's a real honour to feature in one of their publications. 

This collection sees classic horror stories given the punk treatment - there are takes on stories by HP Lovecraft and Sheridan Le Fanu, of Oscar Wilde and Franz Kafka, of Bram Stoker and... well, then there's Frankenstein, which inspired my story. 

I love Shelley's tale, and the thought of reimagining this manufactured man was irresistible. So in I plunge to a Wild West world with Tesla tech and whirring cogs. The rest? Well, you'll have to see. There's more to come from this world from me too - look for further stories in this same setting, starting here on this blog soon. 

A special word of praise for artist and author Enesha Bennett, who created this image of the Clockwork Cowboy himself. Many thanks for creating a vision of the character, helping to bring him lurching to life! You can find out more about her work on her website, here, or follow her on Twitter, @ejbennett123.

I hope you'll join me and the Clockwork Cowboy in our world - and the other writers in the anthology. Funds raised from the sale of the anthology are to be donated to PAWS Lynwood, an animal shelter and wildlife rescue facility located in the Pacific Northwest. 

Here's a preview trailer - and at the bottom is a link to buy the book. Happy reading! 

Link below not working? Click here instead.

And looking for some music to get in the mood? Check out the Clockwork Cowboy playlist on Spotify

Monday, 28 May 2018

FREE STORY: A Matter of Perspective, by Leo McBride. Inspired by artwork from Ian Bristow.

Ian Bristow is a very talented artist. He's an author too - and an active member of the Sci-Fi Roundtable Facebook group. One of that group's activities is a regular flash fiction challenge - one of the group's artists posts one of their creations, and the writers try to concoct 200 words or so to live up to the work. And that's how this flash fiction piece came to be - as I was intrigued to explore this unusual encounter. Read, enjoy - then check out the links below to find out more about Ian's work.

Artwork copyright Ian Bristow

A Matter of Perspective

by Leo McBride

"You're amazing," said Jenna as she cradled the winged being in her hands. "What are you?"
A tinny voice chirped back, "I'm an explorer."
"An explorer?" said Jenna, "But you're so small! How can you get anywhere?"
The creature shrugged, and with a buzz and a glimmer of light, the wings on her back fluttered. She raised a little from Jenna's palm, then drifted down. 
Jenna gasped in shock, the gust of air almost knocking over the tiny figure. Jenna raised one thumb to stop it tumbling over the edge of her hand. 
"Where do you come from? Are there others like you? Are they tiny too?"
The questions came in a rush, until she was halted by the creature raising a hand. 
"Wait, wait," said the tinny voice, "too many questions. My translator is having trouble keeping up."
"Your translator?" asked Jenna. 
"It's... it lets me speak to you, it's part of my suit," said the explorer. "But yes, there are more like me. We come from a planet called Earth and - well, you see, we're not tiny. They call this the Planet of the Giants - you're as tall as a... well, we'd call it a mountain. You call it a chair."
"And," it said with a tinny laugh, "we come in peace."

Find out more about Ian's work here:

Or check out his novel, Hunting Darkness, at the link below.

Friday, 25 May 2018

BOOK REVIEWS: Hobgoblin, by John Coyne; Steering The Craft, by Ursula K Le Guin; The Spider, by Maria Savva; Voices in Crystal, by Mary Woldering; Lineage: The Memory of the Sphinx, by CH Clepitt.

Welcome back to our regular review round-up here at Altered Instinct. A couple of changes have taken place in Amazon Land since our last round-up. Ordinarily, the reviews posted here have previously been posted as well to Amazon UK, Amazon US and Goodreads - but Amazon has changed its criteria for posting reviews. Now, a reviewer has to have spent a certain amount of money within the past 12 months in an Amazon store - so for example, I no longer live in the UK so don't tend to have a reason, or sometimes even a possibility, of spending money in that store. So sadly, I can't post to as many places as before. I feel a little sad about this - as posting reviews is a positive thing to do, whatever you may think about a particular book. I hope they reverse that policy, but we shall see. Members of the AI team will continue to post reviews wherever possible - sorry to writers in zones where we can't post to their local stores because of the new rules! Anyhow, back to some good reading - and starting off with Brent A. Harris reviewing Hobgoblin, by John Coyne, and Ursula K Le Guin's Steering The Craft. I'll hop in with my reviews after that. 

Hobgoblin, by John Coyne

If you like games based around mythology and adventure, if you play Dungeons and Dragons, LARP, do SCA, or play Magic: The Gathering - drop your dice, cards, meeples, hand-forged swords, and go read John Coyne’s Hobgoblin.
Go ahead, I’ll wait.
It was good, wasn’t it? Told you. Now, roll them bones, Brian Boru!
Hobgoblin mixes Irish mythology, roleplaying, and social outcasts, in a very real-to-life horror story set against the backdrop of Ballycastle. Our sword-swinging hero is Scott Gardiner, a high-schooler in New York, whose father dies at the same time his fictional character also falls in battle. Devastated, the lines between reality and fiction blur for Scott when they move to an old Irish castle (moved brick by brick to the States).
Scott begins to see threats from Irish myth encroaching into daily life. But, he also must navigate the treacherous waters of high-school, as the new kid, where his RPG daydreams just don’t fit in. When bullies begin to cross the line to real, violent harm, the school intercedes to help Scott out, by suggesting students attend a Hobgoblin party (the name of the RPG which Scott obsesses over) at Balleycastle for Halloween. At the same time, a black annis – a creature of Irish legend, threatens the castle and all those who enter it.
What I liked most about this book was that the horror was real. These are real people facing real problems, and what students go through as an outsider, particularly those who would rather spend their days playing card games over football, which can be terrifying (and also a bit relatable).
The biggest issue is that Scott is a bit off-putting. He’s not sympathetic, or likeable. I almost think this was done on purpose, so that at times, you side with the bullies against him, which then places you in an uncomfortable position. Later, you begin to empathize with Scott, and relate to him, and once you can see things from his grief-stricken teenage adolescent, PTSD point of view, he takes on a much more heroic role.
Hobgoblin is tight-woven narrative that will make you wish the game was real and the horror wasn’t.
5 out 5 Hobgoblins!

AI Rating: 5/5
Brent A Harris

Steering The Craft, by Ursula K Le Guin

I was given this book by a very good friend of mine for my birthday awhile back. Given that this book is by the late Ursula K. Le Guin, whom I respect and admire, there’s no way I could give her book on writing anything less than five stars. She is a master storyteller and wordsmith. So, instead, let me tell you how the book has helped me.
Each chapter is divided into one of those tough obstacles of writing: voice, tense, style, characters, adjectives and adverbs, etc. At the end of each section, there are examples by authors who do those things well. It’s straightforward: most books on writing follow their advice with examples. But, where craft sails past other books is in Ursula’s matter-of-fact voice that fans of hers will recognize, and in her exercises pulled straight from her teaching days. She’s not only someone who can do, she knows how to help others do it too.
I’ve found taking the chapters one each week and doing the exercises the best way to approach the book and learn from its author. The book is great for readers of most ages. I’ve used some of her examples and exercises in teaching creative writing to 4th-6th grade students, and my 11-year old has stolen this book a couple of times – she’s enjoyed the exercises too. She’s going to be a much better writer than her dad. Dare I hope, the next Ursula K. Le Guin?

AI Rating: 5/5
Brent A Harris

The Spider, by Maria Savva

Do you ever have a book that has been sitting on your Kindle for far too long? Well... this was one on mine. And I'm kicking myself for not reading it earlier.
The Spider is a most unexpected novel. At first, it seems almost a very straightforward horror thriller. There's a bad man, doing bad things, and innocents are getting caught up in his plan. And yet... that seems to be resolved quite early on.
It's the after-effects that linger. There is guilt. There are lies. There is deceit. And somewhere in the middle of it all, you find yourself in the centre of the web being spun around the central characters that may be entirely in their heads, or may be very, very real.
The writing is deceptively straightforward, painting a seemingly humdrum world - under which things lurk and crawl and skritch-skritch with their otherworldly limbs.

AI Rating: 5/5
Stephen Hunt

Children of Stone: Voices in Crystal, by Mary Woldering

This is an intriguing book - and a thoroughly determined piece of world-building.
Voices in Crystal is the first in a series set in the shade of Mount Sinai, and the author carves out a mythology that is rich and sumptuous.
The story focuses on Marai, who becomes more than the simple shepherd he begins as, transformed by alien powers into... well, even he is not so sure what he is exactly. His powers seem god-like to those who knew him, and the world he grew up in is changed forever.
Elsewhere, a pharaoh's son wrestles with his own destiny, his path to leadership foiled. Where will his path cross with Marai's? That would be telling!
It's a big saga - a little light on action but exploring the history of the world in depth, and the psychology of its protagonists thoroughly. It can be a little slow as a result - only in that one needs to pay attention to the detail of the story to really appreciate it.
Woldering really does create a whole new world to experience - and deserves plaudits for that.

AI Rating: 4/5
Stephen Hunt

Lineage: The Memory of the Sphinx, by CH Clepitt

I honestly thought I'd reviewed this already - the day it came out, I gobbled it up, which shows how much I enjoy CH Clepitt's writing.
This continues her Lineage series of short stories - stories of vampires and the legacy they have bestowed down the years.
This time round, the author riffles in a whole extra legacy, that of the Sphinx, and the conflict that brings to the vampire family of the earlier titles.
It's very neatly, nicely done, and broadens out the potential for this series of stories. What myths come next? I'll be here to find out when the next short in the series appears.

AI Rating: 4/5
Stephen Hunt

Sunday, 6 May 2018

NEW RELEASE: Curtain Call, by CH Clepitt

I'm a regular reader of the work of CH Clepitt as those scouring my book reviews will know - so when she mentioned she had a new book coming out, I was only too happy to let her tell blog visitors all about it. Without further ado, let me raise the curtain on...

Curtain Call, by C H Clepitt

C H Clepitt has a knack for creating real, relatable characters, who face adversity with humour and humanity, and Curtain Call is no exception.

“Possibly the best thing I’ve read by C H Clepitt so far.” - Murray McLean

When an assistant to the director role turns into P.A. to her favourite film star, Jen can’t believe her luck. Eleanor Francis is charming, kind and funny, but she has a secret, and when tragedy strikes, things threaten to unravel at an uncontrollable pace. Despite being out of her depth Jen has to adapt to her new role quickly, to protect Eleanor, with whom she is rapidly falling in love.

This is a sweet, understated story that will have you laughing and crying in equal measure. If you’ve enjoyed C H Clepitt’s other books then this is not to be missed.

Release Date: OUT NOW


“The story is very well written and flows nicely… I would love to read more about the two main characters in future books.” - Simon Leonard - Black Books Blog

“Love blossoms in an unexpected place in this emotional short story. A change of direction for Clepitt but delicately written and heartfelt.” - Claire Buss - Author of The Rose Thief and other novels.

“The story's optimism that makes it such a joy to read and leaves one feeling there must be
hope after all.” A.M. Leibowitz - Author of Keeping the Faith and other novels.

Available on Kindle:

Get in touch via to order paperback

A Word from the Author
This started as a short story, prompted by an anthology call by friend and colleague A.M.
Leibowitz. I was at the maximum word limit, and felt the characters still had more to say, so,
when it turned out my submission was four times longer than all of the other submissions, I
withdrew it, expanded it and this novella was born. I am really proud of what I have achieved
here, and think it might be some of my best writing to date. I really hope you enjoy reading it as
much as I enjoyed writing it.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

BOOK REVIEWS: Godfall and Other Stories, by Sandra M Odell; I Wore Heels To The Apocalypse, by CH Clepitt; The Last City: A Dust Anthology; A World of Darkness, by Joshua Griffith; Dragon Lords, by Chris Turner

Godfall and Other Stories, by Sandra M Odell

One of the delights of the ebook market is the ability to discover new writers. I likely wouldn't have found Sandra Odell's book on the shelf in my local bookstore - and that would have been a darn shame.
This collection of short stories is a delight and a treasure - yet it's more than your typical collection. There's a challenge here, a defiance. The stories are broadly within the fantasy and science fiction realm, but many of these tales scratch at itches under the skin, or make you feel the pain settled deeply into bones.
Nowhere is this better seen than in The Home For Broken. It's a story confronting the issues of disability - challenging the idea of people being broken. It's an agonising, painful story of parental choices, denial, and dealing with a life that has no easy choices. It's never been published outside of this collection, and it is absolutely worth your money alone.
But it's not alone. There are other gems scattered throughout this book. There's Godfall, the title story, with humanity mining the fallen corpses of deities as they crash to earth. There's The Poison Eater, bitter with the taste of small town life. There are issues of sexuality, sexual identity, gender roles (Black Widow absolutely kicks butt while exploring this), mortality (or immortality in The Vessel Is Never Empty), and far more, all wrapped around characters who are never soaring ideals but as screwed up and complicated as any of us. Like any collection, there will be stories that hit the mark with a reader and others that won't - I wasn't sold on the whimsy of A Troll's Trade, for example. That's not to diminish the work as a whole, though. This has quality throughout - not so long ago I read an Octavia Butler short story collection, and I couldn't help but feel reading this that Odell's work bore comparison. 
I read this book before going on holiday and didn't have time to write this review before taking off. All through the trip, parts of this book stayed with me. As a reader, it opened horizons. As a writer, it makes me want to do better. Go read it, you owe it to yourself.

AI Rating: 5/5

I Wore Heels To The Apocalypse, by CH Clepitt

Given the amount of work by CH Clepitt I've read already, I probably shouldn't have been surprised by the splendidly named I Wore Heels To The Apocalypse. And yet here I am, surprised and delighted in equal measure.
I Wore Heels ain't nothing but a good time. It's fun, it's a frolic, it's the end of the world. Kerry is a website designer inclined towards baggy clothes and comfy shoes when an unexpected apocalypse leaves her in her least favourite shoe choice and with an absence of transferrable skills. Not much use for html in the wilderness since she left her one-bedroom flat.
Instead, she finds herself caught up in less of a battle for survival, more a forage for comfort - all while her travelling companions deal with their own issues of sexual fluidity. The end of the world can apparently do great things for clearing out those social pressures preventing you from admitting your attraction to the same sex. They won't laugh at you down the pub any more, after all.
This is a quirky, perky ride, frequently making you giggle and chortle in ways that make people eye you suspiciously on the tube train. Don't worry about that, you never know when an apocalypse might come along to let you chortle in peace.
I Wore Heels is the best I've read yet by CH Clepitt - and I was already a fan.

AI Rating: 5/5

The Last City: A Dust Anthology

Back in the day, I used to be a big fan of the Thieves' World anthologies - shared-world stories inside a fantasy city by a host of great writers. So it was with some glee I picked up The Last City, a sci-fi version of something similar.
The city of the title is the last bastion of humanity, built into an asteroid and separated by levels which function not only as physical structure but as social strata. The further you go from the hieracrchy, the dirtier the city gets and the cheaper life feels.
The opening pair of stories do a great job of setting the scene - first there's Robert M Campbell's tale of an adventure gone wrong and the low lifes ready to exploit an opportunity for advancing themselves, then there's Jane Jago's fabulous tale of Sam Nero PI, a detective up against the odds but smart enough to make the most of the technology at his hands.
There's a real mix of tales here - you might not get the most cohesive feel for the city as a whole but you sure do get a glimpse at the fragmentary nature of life there.
I really enjoyed Thaddeus White's tale of a colony ship on the way to the city whose crew is forced to make tough choices, and it was great to encounter a new writer to me in Juliana Spink Mills, whose Blood Makes Noise both intrigued me with its exploration of an unusual death and had me humming Suzanne Vega all day.
This isn't the last we'll see of the Dust universe - I look forward to more.

AI Rating: 4/5

A World of Darkness, by Joshua Griffith

There's a decent starting premise in this book - but alas, it tends to go wayward after that.
After the apocalypse, supernatural creatures have tiptoed back out from the hidden places they had survived in during the time of mankind - and have now reasserted their dominance of Earth.
We start with a group of such beings thrown into an impromptu alliance as they try to escape imprisonment. There's a native American shapeshifter - the lead character - and his unexpected companions, a witch, a necromancer and a gremlin, who collectively hightail it out of there and seek refuge in an abandoned Costco.
So far, so good - but sadly we get so bogged down in descriptions of the large breasts of the red-headed companion and before you know it, it's all about whether the shapeshifter will be sleeping with one or both of his female companions as they get overexcited by his magical touch.
It's shallow, and it treats the female characters as little more than sex objects, and from where it started out, it really could have been much more.

AI Rating: 2/5

Dragon Lords, by Chris Turner

If you're into old-school fantasy, then this is what Chris Turner seems to be aiming for. You know the type of tale, full of derring-do, sword-swinging and busty maidens, the kind that Robert E Howard used to pack Conan off on.
The busty maiden in particular in this tale is introduced as "barely a day over sixteen" so the frequent mentions of her high proud perky breasts and the swiftness with which she hops into bed - or, well, nearby bush - with muscled hero Vetra is more than a little uncomfortable. Oh, and of course she's a feisty redhead too - why is it always feisty redheads? (And I say that as a redhead)
The story zips along, and Turner also incorporates some of the horror elements that Howard used to love too. If you're into such old-school swords and sorcery, you may well have a good deal of fun. I just wish it had steered clear of cliche and not had me feeling uncomfortable and muttering about the age of the perky redhead.

AI Rating: 2/5