Friday, 11 September 2020

FLASH FICTION: What happened to Ribbons? By Leo McBride

There's a very welcoming Facebook group I'm part of, called Write Askew. You'll find them here. Every now and then, they throw down a writing challenge. In this case, they posted the picture below and urged writers to tell the legend of what happened on this trial. I fired up a reply, and rather than it vanish into the history of Facebook, I thought I'd share it here too. A flash fiction piece, if you will. Enjoy. 


They called her Ribbons. No one remembers what her real name was now, it's so long ago. She was an out-of-towner. Her family came her for the summer, and everyone remembered she always had ribbons in her hair.

When they found her down that trail, the sheriff brought in six boys from the local gang. Each of them swore they had nothing to do with it. The sheriff had nothing and had to let them go. If you caught him drinking down at Old Bill's Lodge, he would tell you he knew they'd done it but there was nothing he could do. Perhaps if he had, he could have changed what was coming.

Everyone called it the Red Fall. At first because the colours of the trees had never seemed so rich. Later, because of what happened.

The first of the boys, young Bill Cheney, was found dead the week the leaves turned. The police tried to keep a lid on things, said there was nothing to worry about, he'd broken his neck in an accident. The Old Bill's regulars said the sheriff was drinking a lot harder from then, though.

It was once a week after that. Bill's brother, Scott, was next. Then the Lansing boy. Then Cheeter Willis. Bobcat Lawrence after that. The last one was the gang leader, Will Farthing.

All accidents? The police couldn't keep that up when the deaths kept happening, but they insisted there were no wounds to be found. Even brought in an out-of-town coroner but the outcome was all hush-hush.

I cornered the sheriff one night at Old Bill's years later, when he was six bourbons to the wind and whispered to him, "What really happened, sheriff? What did the coroner find when he opened them up?"

"They were all through 'em," he said. "All their insides jammed up with 'em. Couldn't breathe. Suffocated on 'em."

"On what?" I asked. "What was inside 'em?"

He looked me dead in the eye and said one word, and I swear to you now I don't know if he was drunk, or mad, or the coldest sober I've ever seen him.



Sunday, 30 August 2020

Superheroes, aliens and more - Rob Edwards talks about his new book, The Ascension Machine

I'd like to welcome Rob Edwards back to the blog - and this is a very, very special occasion. Let me throw a couple more verys on that too. Rob's debut novel publishes in the coming week - The Ascension Machine. It's a novel of heroes. More to the point, superheroes. So I'm delighted he's here to talk about it. 

Hi Rob, and congratulations on your debut novel! We’ll get to the meat of the book soon – but we know it’s got science fiction, aliens and most importantly superheroes! So, let’s start with caped crusaders – what’s your first love when it comes to comic books and what is it that hooked you about those characters?

Thank you, sir. Exciting times.

The first comic book I remember reading was issue two of the comic adaptation of the very first Star Wars movie. My dad thought these silly space comics (this was before Star Wars was, you know, Star Wars) were missing the point, so he bought me the latest Green Lantern and Justice League of America to show me what comic books should really be like. Now I think, this blend of sci fi and superheroes has been with me a long time now.

And I guess that also informs my first love for comic books, DC’s Legion of Superheroes, a title which has been goofy, weird, fascinating, dark, light, popular, forgotten, epic and personal. That’s comic books, always something new, always something fresh and creative just around the corner.

You and I got to know each other across the gaming table playing Heroclix – that’s a superhero tabletop strategy game for those who don’t know – but what was your favourite team you used to play?

With so many miniatures to play with (so very very many), I tried to vary my teams as much as possible, playing Marvel teams, DC teams, Lord of the Rings teams and Star Trek teams pretty regularly (and mixing it up to enjoy things like Gandalf driving the Batmobile). But eventually I’d always come back to Legion of Superheroes or Birds of Prey.

I think I need pictures of Gandalf driving the Batmobile! OK, so tell us a little about the novel – what was the hook that drew you into writing about superheroes?

They do say “write what you know”! I’ve been consuming superhero media for decades now; if you cut me, do I not bleed four colour inks? The kernel of this story, though, comes from a question of identity. Everyone in the book is going through some kind of identity adjustment, either because they’re trying to get out from their parents’ influence, or habitually lying about who they are, or they are superheroes, for whom the secret identity thing is baked into the concept.

It’s set in an academy for superheroes – where did your inspiration come from there?

It was a function of the theme, really. For many, college is where they begin to find out the kind of people they will be as adults. It’s all back to that question of identity. The working title of the book was “So you want to be a space alien superhero?”, I changed it for several reasons, but it’s still the core of what the academy is about.

Plus, I just loved the idea of taking some of the sillier elements of the superhero genre and making them into college courses. If you want to study Grapnel Gun Maintenance, Costume Design and Rescueology, the Justice Academy is the place for it.

Tell us about Grey, your hero – a person out of place, it must be said, living a bit of a fraud!

At the start of the book he would (and does!) tell you that he has an awesome life, drifting from one space station to another, seeing the whole galaxy, earning his way with odd jobs, petty crime and grifting. He gets into a lot of trouble and has a knack for lying. But he has nothing to ground him. At seventeen he has no friends, no past, no future. He’s a little lost and doesn’t realise it until chance (and a scam) find him enrolled at the Academy under false pretenses.

The book reminds me a bit of Harry Harrison – but what would you say your influences are?

I’ve not read any Harrison since I was a teenager, but yes, I see the comparison to the Stainless Steel Rat. I wrote a post on Altered Instinct a few years ago about the books I carry with me, and you’ll find most of my influences there! Erik Frank Russell’s Wasp, Bujold’s Vorkosigan books are both in the DNA of The Ascension Machine, stir in a little Dumas, a hint of Rowling and top it off with some great comic book storytellers like Keith Giffen, Gail Simone and Mark Waid.

The artwork for the cover is fab – was that a custom commission?

It’s the work of the talented Ian Bristow, a scifi writer in his own right. I love what he did with the cover, and he was very professional when it came to handling my fussy last-minute changes.

What was your favourite part of the writing? (Without too many spoilers!)

Dialogue always flows the easiest for me, so my favourite part is the banter between Grey and the people he meets and friends he makes. I particularly enjoy writing for the characters Seventhirtyfour and Gadget Dude.

You’ve published quite a few short stories, but this is your first full-length novel, how did you find the difference in the different formats as a writer?

What I found with novels, I mean the essential difference in my approach, is that when writing novels you have to come up with so many more words. The biggest issue, aside from that, is that for most short stories I can keep it all in my head. I know what I’m doing and where I’m going, and consistency flows from that, but I couldn’t do that with the novel, so I had to be a little more rigorous with note taking so that Seventhirtyfour’s height didn’t change, for example.

What’s cooking next in your literary kitchen?

No rest for the wicked, I’ve gone straight on to the sequel for The Ascension Machine. This book will be called The Crossover Paradox and Grey and his friends must deal with the changes that happened in the first book, plus a murder on campus.

Where’s the book available?

All the usual places. Amazon, Barnes and Noble and the like. Kindle and paperback.

Traditional last question here – what are you reading at the moment, and what’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past year?

I’ve just started on Brandon Sanderson’s Skyward. I’ve not read any of his stuff before, other than when he stepped in to help with the end of The Wheel of Time, but I know he has quite a following. Looking forwards to finding out if he lives up to the hype.

What have I read this year? I confess that the whole lockdown thing, I’ve found it difficult to sit and read during it, I’ve not read half as much as normal (not helped by needing new reading glasses since before the lockdown started! I’ve actually managed to get a new pair now, so that will help). Oh, of course, I must mention Brent’s A Twist in Time, steampunk meets Dickens, and with a hint of the superhero to it too.  And of course, Tales from the Pirate’s Cove, Inklings Press’s latest. Seems a bit self-indulgent, but eleven of the stories in there aren’t mine, so I don’t feel bad about plugging it.

Thank you very much for calling by, Rob. I'm looking forward to reading the book. It's pre-ordered, so that'll be my reading for the week ahead! Good luck with the launch! 

• Pick up The Ascension Machine at

Sunday, 23 August 2020

How cosmic horror and pirates came together for Tales from the Pirate's Cove

Let's talk pirates. 

After all, who doesn't love pirates? Especially sea monsters. They loooove pirates. Crunchy but good. 

Tales from the Pirate's Cove is the new anthology from Inklings Press - and I've got a story in it. First stop, look at that lovely cover, designed by the fabulous Ricardo Victoria. 

Ooooh, shiny.

My story for the anthology started to come into being when I was a kid. The challenge to come up with a pirate story was fairly straightforward. Any variety of pirate would be acceptable. The anthology has space pirates, time pirates and more, but for my story, one particular influence came to mind. 

As a kid, I used to devour the contents of the library. I would take them home, gobble them up and spend my time reliving in my head what had happened in the book. One of those books was a short story collection from Robert E Howard, of Conan fame. But it wasn't Conan that lived on in my mind, but a story called The Temple of Abomination, in which Cormac Mac Art and a band of Vikings (Celt hero and Vikings side by side being natural companions of course) came to a temple on an island filled with lizardmen. Battle ensued in classic Howard fashion. 

When I came to consider my pirate story, that lingering memory from when I was a kid stuck in my head. If you're a pirate out to sea, there's no one else to rely on. No one will come to your aid. Even if they did, they'd be as likely to clap you into chains as rescue you. And so I thought about that island of Howard's, and began to come up with my own impossible island, with an impossible threat, greater than a humble crew of pirates could deal with... 

It's set in the part of the world I live in these days, with references to Nassau and the Bermuda Triangle, and drawing on some of the reality of the era of pirates. 

To the End of the World is a doomed romance, a cosmic horror, a journey towards a destination that should not be. And it's out now in Tales from the Pirate's Cove alongside 11 other stories that are far better than mine. 

I shouldn't play favourites because I love them all, but if there were two that spoke to me particularly, it would be Jennifer Lee Rossman's queer story of a time pirate investigating who stole 1998, chock full of references to bands, games and trivia of the era, and Lawrence Harding's story of a romance between a captain and the fey being that powers his ship, a delicate and thoughtful story exploring the bonds between the families we come from and the families we make, alongside gender identity issues that I'm far from qualified to talk about, but which make me think. 

This is the ninth anthology from Inklings Press - and it's full of fun, capers, horror, sci-fi action and more. I do hope you'll give it a try. It's available as an ebook and in paperback - and you can find both at

Set sail with us, me hearties. We'd love to have you on the journey. 

PS After the book launched, I thought to myself I'd take a trip down memory lane and re-read that Howard collection - only to find it on Amazon for $830. If nothing else, I can promise our anthology is vastly cheaper! 

Sunday, 16 August 2020

BOOK LAUNCH: Glen Dahlgren launches new book The Child Of Chaos

Got a new book announcement? We're always happy to help spread the word. Check out this new book from Glen Dahlgren, pointed my way by the fabulous Courtney Cannon. But don't take my word for it - after all, when you've got Piers Anthony praising your work, you definitely should start there!

YA Author and award-winning game designer, Glen Dahlgren is pleased to present his newest release, The Child of Chaos!

Check out the stunning cover and blurb below! Also, get to know the author with Glen's bio and social media links.

And last, but not least, read the amazing reviews this book is getting from today's largest authors industry pros!

Galen loves dreaming up stories, but he never expected to be pulled into a nightmare.

An irresistible longing drags Galen to an ancient vault where, long ago, the gods of Order locked Chaos away. Chaos promises power to the one destined to liberate it, but Galen's dreams warn of dark consequences.

He isn't the only one racing to the vault, however. Horace, the bully who lives to torment Galen, is determined to unleash Chaos--and he might know how to do it.

Galen's imagination always got him into trouble, but now it may be the only thing that can prevent Horace from unraveling the world.


You can get your copy here:

Meet Glen Dahlgren


Social Media Links:






Editorial Reviews

"There is a quality of imagination and detail here that impresses me. This is no ordinary sword and sorcery story. [Glen Dahlgren] is a novelist who I think will become more widely known as his skill is appreciated. This is what fantasy fiction should be." Piers Anthony, New York Times bestselling author of the Xanth series

"It's rare that a fantasy story - and a YA one at that - manages to be both familiar (in terms of fantasy conventions) and yet strikingly fresh and original at the same time. But this one does... and the ultimate conclusion is very satisfying.” Michael Verdu, one of the founders of Legend Entertainment, designer and producer of Mission Critical

"An immensely satisfying page turner with some profound things to say about friendship, responsibility and true courage." Lee Sheldon, award-winning writer of Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Lion's Song

"The book managed to surprise me with clever twists and turns, and as a lifelong fantasy reader, that's a tough trick to pull off." Christy Marx, award-winning writer of Conan, Red Sonja, and Elfquest, and author of Writing for Animation, Comics & Games

Sunday, 2 August 2020

When Hurricane Isaias came to call

A hurricane blew through here today. Hurricane Isaias was an unwelcome visitor to The Bahamas, but in he came anyway. He passed right on through and out the other side. A nuisance it seems, more than anything else, knocking over a couple of trees here and there, and causing flooding in some areas. Family and friends are safe.
If you’ve never been in a hurricane, it’s a strange experience. The shutters go up ahead of its arrival, leaving you closed in a claustrophobic world of premature darkness. The shutters close out the light as well as fending off debris, so at best you have a half-light, and when night comes, and the power inevitably goes out, you’re left in pitch darkness except for the little pools of light from your lamps.
The major winds from Isaias came in the night, and we slept through them rather than peering out at the swaying trees and the lashing rain. Isaias was mild compared to some, but there’s always some nerves when a hurricane comes. Even the family dog felt the nerves, howling for some company at 2am.
In the aftermath, there were a couple of trees down in the yard. On the streets, the areas that tend to flood did so. Out to sea, the waves swelled like wild animals asserting their dominance.
Further afield, there were some strange effects. Fish practically leaping out of the sea at Inagua, giving fishermen an unexpected bounty.
I write this as the all clear has been given. The power is out, so we sit in darkness. The kids are playing on their electronic devices, watching YouTube and blissfully unconcerned by the storm that has passed. There’s an unusual feeling in seeing everyone happy after the storm – a mix of contentedness, pride that you saw everyone through with no harm, and something else. You realise your hands were clenched a little tighter. You realise you can let go of that mental list of what to do if you need to evacuate. You realise that your job is done, and you can relax at last.
Time to pour a rum. Be safe, everyone.

Sunday, 26 July 2020

PRESS KIT: Tales From The Pirate's Cove, by Inklings Press

It's that time again - a new book from Inklings Press! Tales from the Pirate's Cove is an anthology of short stories all about pirates. All kinds of pirates - charting courses across sea, space and even time.

This press kit is available for anyone to use - reviewers, bloggers, friends and soon-to-be friends. We love seeing reviews, whether you love the book or whether you don't. We value your opinion regardless of whether it's a five-star or a one-star. The graphics in here are free for you to use wherever you please - blog, social media, and so on.

So without further ado, here's the information about the book, and the graphics. The graphics will be added to as we get closer to launch, and include animations, so by all means check back to see what has been added.

Want to request an ARC of Tales from the Pirate's Cove? Email or

The book is available on Amazon at

Book cover

Book blurb

Set sail for adventure!

Join us in the company of pirates in this treasure trove of stories from a crew of talented authors.

Expect the unexpected - with tales stretching from the high seas to high orbit, from swashbucklers to space corsairs. Navigate these pages to find monsters, time travelers, buccaneers, ghosts and more.

Twelve stories. Twelve authors. Twelve worlds to explore.

Come, me hearties, there are new horizons to discover.

Launch graphic (sized for Twitter)

Chapter frontispieces

Each story in the book has its own graphic created to represent the story, hopefully giving you a flavour of what you are about to read! Here they are, in order as they appear in the book.  

Individual author graphics, Twitter size

Jennifer Lee Rossman

Kelly Lynn Colby

Ricardo Victoria

Allison Tebo

Bob Finegold

Rob Edwards

Pat Woods

Tom Jolly

Brent A. Harris

Leo McBride

Lawrence Harding

Claire Buss

Full-wrap book cover

Animated gifs of book covers

Each of the frontispieces has also been given a little animation magic in gif form - again, these are presented in the order the story appears in the book.


Author biographies

Each of these is included in the book so you can find out more about the authors who appear - but reprinted here for ease of use.

Meet Jennifer Lee Rossman

Jennifer Lee Rossman is a queer, autistic and disabled science fiction writer from Binghamton, New York. 
She says she is a writer of science fiction and fantasy stories and books that make her grandma say “well, that’s interesting”. She calls her stories weird, usually sweet, usually acceptable for children, and with most of her characters either queer, autistic or disabled in some way. 
This is Jennifer’s first story with Inklings Press, but she has plenty more for you to discover. Pop by her website, to find out about Jack Jetstark’s Intergalactic FreakShow, Love and Bubbles, tales of romance and space opera, short stories, anthologies, novellas, novel and more. There’s a bunch of free stories too if this has you wanting more. 
You can also find her on Twitter as @JenLRossman. 

Meet Kelly Lynn Colby

Kelly Lynn Colby is a writer of all things fantasy. Whenever she tries to create a mundane story, a dragon pops in to take over. She eventually stopped fighting and caved to the magic. The dragons must have known something she didn’t, because her debut novel, Tarbin’s True Heir, won a bronze medal in the IPPYs for fantasy. You can find her work in the Recharging series as well as numerous short stories in anthology collections. 
For her day job, she is the Publisher and Editorial Director of Cursed Dragon Ship Publishing, LLC. You can find out about this company on
Her BS in biology hangs above her desk looking important while she writes about other worlds. To learn more about Kelly, check out her website, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter @kcolbywrites.

Meet Ricardo Victoria

Ricardo Victoria is a Mexican writer with a Ph.D. in Design from Loughborough University and a love of fiction, board games, comic books, and action figures. He lives in Mexico with his wife and pet dogs and works as a full-time lecturer and researcher at the local university. He writes mainly science fantasy. 
His first novel, Tempest Blades: The Withered King, was released in August 2019 by Shadow Dragon Press, an imprint of Artemesia Publishing. The sequel is due for publication in August 2021. He has a number of stories published by Inklings Press and Rivenstone Press. 
His short story Twilight of the Mesozoic Moon, jointly written with Brent A. Harris, was nominated for a Sidewise Award for short form alternative history. His short story Silver Horn won first place in the Literary Creation Contest short fantasy story division in the State of Mexico. 
You can find out more at his website,, or follow him on Twitter, @Winged_Leo. 
Meet Allison Tebo

Allison Tebo is a Christian writer committed to creating magical stories full of larger-than-life characters, a dash of grit, and plenty of laughs. 
She is the author of the Tales of Ambia, a series of romantic comedy retellings of popular fairy tales and her flash fiction and short stories have been published in Splickety, Spark, Inklings Press, and Rogue Blades Entertainment. 
Allison graduated with merit from  London Art College after studying cartooning and children’s illustration and, when not creating new worlds with words or paint, she enjoys reading, baking, and defending her championship title of Gif Master.  
You can find out more about her work at or follow her on Facebook at Allison Tebo Author.

Meet Bob Finegold

Bob Finegold is a recently retired radiologist living in Maine. As a young man, he was a self-confessed grade school science nerd, devouring science books and then the works of Asimov, Clarke, Silverberg, Bradbury, Tolkien... and the road goes ever on from there. 
After hanging up his stethoscope, he picked up the pen once more that he had used for submissions to magazines such as Asimov’s and Fantasy & Science Fiction. He has been published professionally since 2016, and has been a multiple Writers of the Future contest finalist, and a guest panelist at a range of conventions. 
He is the consultant editor of Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales for the online magazine Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, and reads for the new Future Science Fiction Digest as well. He also edited the anthology 3rd and Starlight, from Future Finalists Publishing, in 2017. 
You can find more about his work at, and you’ll find him on Twitter as @DocHistory. 

Meet Rob Edwards

Rob Edwards was first published at the age of 11 in a Royal National Institute for the Blind anthology called Stories For A Prince in honour of the birth of Prince William with his tale Dragon Valley. He admits it went a little slower for the next two decades. Then he had several RPG scenarios published by Wizards of the Coast as part of their convention-based Star Wars campaign Living Force - leading to Rob having his own (very short) entry on Wookieepedia. 
Rob has been regularly published by Inklings Press. He has also appeared on RB Wood’s Word Count podcast, and has a podcast of his own called Storycast Rob on iTunes and at - where you can hear some of his previous stories and samples from his novel writing. 
He has published his own collection of stories titled Mic Drop - and his first novel, The Ascension Machine, is due out in September, 2020, published by Shadow Dragon Press. 
You can find Rob on Twitter @storycastrob. 

Meet Pat Woods

Pat Woods is a writer from Nottingham, UK, who moved to Taiwan in 2008 for an adventure that turned into a lifetime commitment. His short stories have been published by Zombie Pirate Publishing, Spring Song Press, and elsewhere. He writes fantasy and speculative fiction, and was nominated for the 2016 Pushcart Prize for his Sherlock Holmes pastiche “The Adventure of the Etheric Projection.” 

Meet Tom Jolly

Tom Jolly is a retired astronautical/electrical engineer who now spends his time writing SF and fantasy, designing board games, and creating obnoxious puzzles. His stories have appeared in Analog SF, Daily Science Fiction, Compelling Science Fiction, New Myths, and a number of anthologies, including “As Told By Things” and “Shards” - and Tales of Magic & Destiny, the previous anthology from Inklings Press. 
He lives in Santa Maria, California, with his wife Penny in a place where mountain lions and black bears still visit. You can discover more of his stories at 
You can also find him on Twitter @TomJolly19. 

Meet Brent A. Harris

Brent A. Harris is a regular in Inklings Press anthologies, and was nominated for a Sidewise Award for his short story in Tales From Alternate Earths, co-authored with Ricardo Victoria. He was also nominated for a Sidewise Award for his novel, A Time of Need, an alternate history in which George Washington fights on the side of the British. 
Brent has also recently published A Twist In Time, a steampunk take on Dickens’ characters. 
He has also featured in a number of other publications, including Anthology Askew, Altered Instinct, and elsewhere. You can find him on Facebook at and Twitter @BrentAHarris1. 

Meet Leo McBride

Leo McBride is a journalist, editor and fiction writer. He has been published previously in each of the Inklings Press anthologies, along with collections from the Sci-Fi Roundtable, Rhetoric Askew, Starklight Press and elsewhere. He has also self-published his own short story collection Quartet, available on Amazon, and ghost written a number of biographies. 
You can find more of his work on his blog,, on Twitter as @AlteredInstinct and on 

Meet Lawrence Harding

Lawrence Harding is the literary alter-ego of a (recovering?) medievalist from Cambridge, England. After filling his life with medieval literature, folklore and fantasy fiction on the other, it was inevitable that he would end up combining them. This is one of the results of that (un)holy union. He has previously appeared in Tales from the Underground at Inklings Press, having discovered our previous anthologies as a reader.
Lawrence publishes free-to-read fiction at and can be found lurking on Twitter at @lhardingwrites.

Meet Claire Buss

Claire is a multi-genre author and poet. She wanted to be Lois Lane when she grew up but work experience at her local paper was eye-opening. Instead, Claire went on to work in a variety of admin roles for over a decade but never felt quite at home. An avid reader, baker and Pinterest addict Claire won second place in the Barking and Dagenham Pen to Print writing competition in 2015 setting her writing career in motion.
Claire is also Deputy Editor for Write On! magazine.
She has published The Gaia Collection, a trilogy of hopeful dystopian cli-fi, and The Roshaven books, a series of humorous fantasy novels. 
Claire has also featured in a number of anthologies - including by Inklings Press - as well as publishing her own short story collections and poetry. 
You can find out more about Claire on her website,, or catch up with her on Twitter @Grasshopper2407.

Incidental graphics

Other graphics included in the book

What do the reviews say? 

Check out this review by Geoff Habiger on Goodreads