Saturday, 9 February 2019

Valentine's Day 2019 - Free stories, poetry and prose

We want to celebrate our readers this Valentine's Day. Thank you so much for supporting our work. We appreciate you.

We hope you enjoy this collection of short stories, poetry and prose - the links below will take you to contributors' blog posts (where available - will be updated throughout the day).

After the 80s Party - Bob Stone
Dancing Queen - Elizabeth Corlett
Does your mother know - A. Zukowski
Dolce - A.M. Leibowitz
Hustle and Hart - Alexis Woods
I’ve Been Waiting for You - Dawn Sister
Lay All Your Love on Me - F.E. Feeley Jr.
Nina, Pretty Ballerina - Debbie McGowan
So Long - Ashley Corlett
The Bucket List - Caraway Carter
The Song of King Kong - Al Stewart
The Visitors - Neptune Flowers

Also available as a free ebook from Smashwords.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

New Release: The Mice and The Owls by Julie Pryke

Title: The Mice and The Owls
Language: English
Published: 8th November, 2018
Length: 18 pages (12 illustrations)
Illustrator: Humilta Abigail Holmes
ISBN: Paperback: 978-1-78645-209-2
eBook: 978-1-78645-210-8
Genre: Children's Fiction

The Mice and The Owls is a delightful read-aloud picture book poem about the friendship between five little woodland animals which will make you

Editor's Review:
You know when an author sends a manuscript entitled 'The Mice and The Owls', and you think...well, this won't end well for the mice...

Obviously, it was all going to be fine. It's a children's book, and while it does turn out OK for owls and mice alike, it was a bit tense at times.

This is a lovely short read, no messages or themes, just quirky verse and cute illustrations. I imagine it would be a lot of fun to read this with a group of littlies - lots of interaction and opportunities for discussion about nature.

The Mice and The Owls is released today - 8th November, 2018 - and is available in paperback and ebook formats from all the usual places.

Purchase Links:
Beaten Track Shop: Ebook EditionPaperback Edition

Other Vendors:
Amazon [Kindle]SmashwordsBarnes and NobleKoboiBooks

About the Author:

Julie Pryke is a mum and grandmum. She has been a playgroup and play-scheme leader, worked with youth and community groups; she was also a college lecturer. She is a 'born storyteller' and a member of Bradford Writers Circle.

She loves reading and encouraging young readers to 'get started'.


Tuesday, 23 October 2018

New Release: Cold as the Clay by Stephen Osborne

Title: Cold as the Clay
Language: English
Published: 23rd October, 2018
Length: 61,150 words (approx.)
ISBN: Paperback: 978-1-78645-284-9
eBook: 978-1-78645-285-6
Category: Fiction
Genre: LGBT, Horror, Paranormal, Supernatural
Series: The Duncan Andrews Thrillers (Goodreads series link)

Private detective Duncan Andrews is used to dealing with things strange and bizarre. Luckily, he's got friends to back him up, including Gina, a witch, Robbie, his boyfriend, and Daisy, their zombie bulldog. A new case brings Duncan face-to-face with a demon named Asmodeus. If that wasn't enough, one of the original Gorgons wants revenge against Duncan for killing her sister. Duncan and his team must pull out all the stops if they're going to get through this alive.

Editor's Review:
So, if you've read any of my editor's reviews before, you'll know that horror is not my thing. Supernatural/paranormal...yes, I can go with some of that, as long as it's not too scary. I'm a complete wuss when it comes to scary stuff.

Also, I've not read the first five books in Stephen Osborne's Duncan Andrews Thrillers series.

But you know what? None of that matters, because Stephen's storytelling is pure brilliance. There are plenty of subtly placed background details in Cold as the Clay to give new readers the context of this instalment, and it stands entirely on its own.

That said, now I've read Cold as the Clay, I recommend you do as I will be doing and read the first five books (published by Dreamspinner). Of course, reading them in the wrong order might spoil some elements of the over-arching plot lines, but it won't ruin your enjoyment.

Cold as the Clay isn't really horror (it's a thriller, Deb, the clue's in the series title...). True, there are events in this novel that would make for some corking (gruesome) scenes in a movie, and there are a fair few of (what I these days know are called) 'jump scares', which is so clever - no scary music or lighting tricks, just building up the suspense with words and characters' observations.

And the characters... Obviously, by book six, the author knows the characters intimately, resulting in natural interactions, believable dialogue and touching little nuances. Duncan can be quite serious, but is adept at well-timed sarcasm (which I love). Robbie, I get the feeling, can be quite a handful. Gina is all of the awesome. I need Gina in my life. But my favourite character of all is Daisy - Duncan's zombie bulldog. She's loving and fierce and typical of her kind, undead or otherwise. Her dinnertimes are, um, grim, but even a zombie dog's gotta eat, right?

So that's the dream team - our supernatural crime-busting quartet. Then there are the baddies: a demon (Asmodeus, mind you), a Gorgon and her sidekick Anton. He reminds me of the time I had a sliver of apple skin stuck between my teeth for an entire day. He's a bit more pernicious than that, but you get the idea: he's a nuisance.

As always, it's impossible to do justice to a story in a review that is necessarily sketchy so as not to spoil anything, but take a look at that blurb and tell me this isn't a perfect read for the season.

Cold as the Clay is book six in The Duncan Andrews Thrillers series (and there may well be a seventh instalment on the way, squeeee). Available from Beaten Track and all the usual places.

Purchase Links:
Beaten Track Shop:: Ebook EditionPaperback Edition

Other Vendors:
Amazon [Kindle]Smashwords • Barnes and NobleKoboiBooks

About the Author:
Stephen Osborne lives in northern Illinois with a border terrier mix named Miss Christine Daae. He enjoys Broadway musicals, board games, and British television, especially Doctor Who. He recently wrote a Doctor Who audio adventure for subscribers to Big Finish Productions Doctor Who range called The Smallest Battle.

Social Media
Twitter: @southbendghosts
Instagram: osborne5894

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Recent Release: The Death of Poetry by Ian D. Hall

Title: The Death of Poetry
Language: English
Published: 31st August, 2018
Cover: Artwork by Cyrano Denn; Design: Roe Horvat
Length: 70,000 words (approx.)
ISBN: Paperback: 978-1-78645-211-5
eBook: 978-1-78645-212-2
Category: Fiction
Genre: Crime, Thrillers and Mystery, Literary

Set on Malta and written partly as a homage to the beat generation writers, The Death of Poetry is a taut psychological exploration of relationships and situations that entwine the characters we observe through the narration.

Opening with a seemingly unsuspicious death at a facility for 'the unhinged', our island detective at first feels it is just a circumstantial accident; after all, many inside are damaged and alone, having dealt with their addictions and afflictions. It is when a fresh victim appears, most definitely murdered, that he begins to unravel the fragile links and faint memories of those he now must confront from his own past - one he may not have wanted to remember for himself.

Editor's Review:
I may well be the only publisher who asks authors to NOT send a synopsis. I don't mean the short synopsis that forms part of the back-cover blurb - what Amazon, Smashwords and other vendors call the 'description'. I'm talking about the full precis of the story, spoilers, conclusion and all.

I'm not suggesting authors should ditch the synopsis entirely. If you're submitting your work to an agent/big publisher, they'll likely require a synopsis, and writing one can be a helpful part of the self-editing process, i.e. before your work is seen by anyone else. It can give you a sense of how the plot hangs together and may even highlight holes and discrepancies.

Synopses do nothing for me. In my experience, most authors can put together an impressive pitch for their story. It's what we've been told is crucial to securing that great publishing deal with advances and all that jazz. But it gives no indication of how the author tells their story.

I want to experience the story as the reader will. Does it grip me from the start? Do I want to read on? Does the prose transport me to another place? Of course, I'm in the privileged position of publishing for the love of books, not for money. If I love a book, I want to publish it, and there is nothing that can kill my enjoyment of a good book faster than spoilers, which a full synopsis necessarily contains.

And so to Ian D. Hall's debut novel, The Death of Poetry. A full synopsis (Ian might have sent me one, I don't recall because I didn't read it) would have laid out all the connections that unfold as this novel progresses, and what we'd get is a neat, linear investigation beginning with a death in a psychiatric hospital and ending with the detective solving the case, which would have been nothing like a real police investigation, and also not at all how it works in The Death of Poetry. The connections are intricate, fragile, overlaying each other, breaking apart, weaving together.

Is it obvious who the killer is? I have no idea. This is a novel that is less about actions than intentions, and these are revealed to the reader as they are to the detective, but, like the individual strokes of a painter's brush, we only have the vaguest notion of what the finished picture looks like. Standing back to admire that picture...I was truly wowed. Ian D. Hall is a clever, clever author, and I'm hopeful he'll take his hand to mystery-writing again, although in truth, he had me hooked from 'partly as a homage to the beat generation writers'.

The Death of Poetry is a murder mystery novel by Ian D. Hall, available in ebook and paperback editions from Beaten Track and the usual places.

Purchase Links:
Beaten Track: eBookPaperback
Amazon: KindlePaperback
Barnes and Noble • Kobo • iBooks

About the Author:
Having been found on a 'Co-op' shelf in Stirchley, Birmingham by a Cornish woman and a man of dubious footballing taste, Ian grew up in neighbouring Selly Park and Bicester in Oxfordshire. After travelling far and wide, he now considers Liverpool to be his home.

Ian was educated at Moor Green School, Bicester Senior School, and the University of Liverpool, where he gained a 2:1 (BA Hons) in English Literature.

He now reviews and publishes daily on the music, theatre and culture within Merseyside.


Thursday, 11 October 2018

New Release: Buried Desires 3 by Neptune Flowers, Ofelia Gränd and Amy Spector

Author: Neptune Flowers, Ofelia Gränd, Amy Spector
Language: English
Published: 10th October, 2018
Cover Design(s): Amy Spector
Length: 70,000 words (approx.)
ISBN: eBook: 978-1-78645-277-1
Paperback: 978-1-78645-280-1
Category: Fiction
Genre: LGBT, Horror, Romance and Relationships, Short Stories, Adult, Paranormal
Series: Buried Desires

Buried Desires 3 - A Horror Anthology

More tales of love, death and love after death.

Buried Desires is back. And now there's even more to love. From the ghostly to the grotesque, this time around Buried Desires 3 brings you three tales from horror authors, both old and new, offering up a perfect collection of romance and the macabre.

The Reluctant Ghost Whisperer (Barrow and Sparrow #1) by Neptune Flowers
All you need is love, or so they say!

Owning a building company means long hours, lonely days and too much physical labour.

When Adam Barrow employs a fit, capable guy, life begins to look up. His business thrives from the extra muscle, and so does Adam. Being around chatty Johnny really helps the time fly past. Adam is shy and inexperienced in ways of the heart, but very soon his awkwardness eases and he finds himself flirting and having fun.

Johnny Sparrow has a mysterious past and seems to have a knack of stirring up inexplicable presences. From the day he arrives on a motorbike, weird things begin to happen, like strange noises and creepy mists. Even motorbike Angus has a personality!

All you need is love, but can Adam find the strength to confront the ghostly goings-on? Can Johnny find a use for the egg whisk, and can Angus really carry them both to safety?

A story of paranormal divas, supernatural aromas and head-over-heels romance.

Barrow and Sparrow book one.

The Snowflake by Ofelia Gränd
Nothing inspires art like love.

Theophile Lekas has spent the last seventeen years trying to build a name for himself as an ice sculptor. Ice is his world, but he lives for Dylan Mincer.

But loving from afar isn't enough, and if Theo wants to win Dylan's heart, he'll need to sweep him off his feet. And what better way to do it than with a sculpture that will leave Dylan breathless and the world in no doubt of Theo's genius?

After an argument leads to murder, Theo is hit with true inspiration. And he has the perfect block to begin his project. For Dylan, Theo will create his masterpiece. And it will be as unique as a snowflake.

Great art requires the perfect muse.

Pretty Plastic (Cold Fingers #3) by Amy Spector
Christopher Minnick is still not a zombie.

Three months after his run-in with the vampire Marcus Grâsson, Christopher's ankle has healed but his life is anything but perfect. There are people watching the house. Flora's worried about the scarecrow. And after an unexpected tragedy strikes, Christopher will need to figure out how to deal with the loss without tearing a rift between his brother and himself.

When Victor accepts a job with Pretty, a prestigious private hospital, to work alongside the handsome Austen Poole, Christopher ends up with one more thing to worry about. While it might seem like a dream job, there's something not quite right in paradise, and when Vic starts acting strangely, Christopher will stop at nothing to get his man back.

When striving for perfection, you sometimes need to get your hands a little dirty.

Editor's Review
When Amy and Ofelia emailed to tell me they wanted to put out a third Buried Desires, they did so apologetically, as if I wouldn't want to publish it. As if! True, horror is not my thing, although I have discovered that, as an editor, the scarier/more gruesome aspects pass me by, for which I'm very glad. Were it not for this, I may never have had the chance to read these stories, and it is 'reading' for the most part rather than 'editing'. Amy and Ofelia make my job very easy indeed.

Better still, for Buried Desires 3, Neptune Flowers joined the roster, and my word, these three stories are corkers.

The Reluctant Ghost Whisperer - Neptune Flowers
This is a lovely romance featuring builders. That's not really important to the ghostly theme, but it did have me wondering when I was parked in the middle of a building site the other day...what's behind the hard hats and hi-viz jackets? Anyway... On Adam and Johnny's first job together, things get a bit spooky - cold spots, oppressive feelings, that sort of thing, but it's only the start of both their blossoming romance and their mission, should they choose to accept it. Because ghosts have problems too, and who better to call than a builder with an egg whisk and a sentient motorbike?

The Snowflake - Ofelia Gränd
This is, probably, a stand-alone story about an ice sculptor, and it occurred to me, the first time Theo is...erm, struck by inspiration, shall we say, that the line between gifted genius and crazed bloodythirsty psychopath is really, really fragile. Seeing events unfold through Theo's eyes, I kept thinking...I can see why he's done that, his heart's in the right place and then having to remind myself he's actually batsh*t crazy. But my favourite part of this is the ending, which was absolutely not what I expected. Also, Cat.

Pretty Plastic - Amy Spector
So this is Cold Fingers 3, and it's as darkly funny as the first two instalments. Christopher Minnick's sense of humour is dry as ashes and dust, but he's not dead. Kinda. He's not a zombie, at any rate. In this, as in the previous stories, he finds himself mingling with other not-dead folks - mostly those with whom he's personally acquainted - and there's a great 1960s classic horror vibe that results in me reading Cold Fingers in Technicolor. It's much fun, and scary, of course. I really admire the way the author combines suspense and humour and hope she's far from done with this series.

It's tricky for me to say more without spoiling the stories, so I'll leave it at saying this is a great read for Halloween or, indeed, any other time of year from three incredibly talented authors whose stories I will never, ever tire of reading.

Buried Desires 3 is available as an ebook and paperback from Beaten Track Publishing and the usual places.

Purchase Links:
Beaten Track: eBookPaperback
Amazon: eBookPaperback

Stories also available separately as eBooks - please visit the links below for more details:
The Reluctant Ghost Whisperer - Neptune Flowers
The Snowflake - Ofelia Gränd
Pretty Plastic - Amy Spector

Thursday, 20 September 2018

New Release: The Dragon Princess by Hans M Hirschi

Title: The Dragon Princess
Author: Hans M Hirschi
Illustrator: Felicity Swan
Language: English
Published: 20th September, 2018
Length: 40 pages (18 illustrations)
ISBN: Paperback: 978-1-78645-274-0
eBook: 978-1-78645-275-7
Category: Fiction
Genre: Children's Fiction, Fantasy

Love is love and dragons are evil or are they really?

The Dragon Princess is a story about love and how it holds the power to transform even the coldest of hearts.

A classic bedtime story for children of all ages written by bestselling author Hans M Hirschi and beautifully illustrated by Felicity Swan.

Editor's Review:
It's a [very] long time since I read a traditional fairy tale for me rather than for children or [cough] grandchildren. My favourites were The Magic Porridge Pot and The Enormous Turnip, although I recall being in awe of the intricate embroidery work on Cinderella's ballgowns, and Rumpelstiltskin scared the life out of me, as did Hansel and Gretel.

The classic fairy tale books of my younger childhood contained a good deal more story than modern fairy tales, or perhaps that's just how I remember them. Either way, the first time I set eyes on Hans M Hirschi's The Dragon Princess, it felt like a proper fairy tale, made all the more beautiful by Felicity Swan's rich, vibrant illustrations.

And, of course, it has all the necessary elements of the classic fairy tale: a love that transcends social barriers, a terrifying yet (potentially) redeemable adversary, and a happily ever after.

The Dragon Princess is the first story featuring Valerius and Evander, and an excellent addition to your child's bookshelf, the classroom and/or the school/local library.*

Available from Beaten Track Publishing and all the usual vendors.

*Organisations wishing to stock The Dragon Princess or any other Beaten Track title, please contact us for a quotation. Discounts may be available.

About the Author:
Photo: John O’Leary
Hans M Hirschi has been writing stories since childhood. As an adult, the demands of corporate life put an end to his fiction for more than twenty years. A global executive in training, he has traveled the world and published several non-fiction titles as well as four well-received novels. The birth of his son provided him with the opportunity to rekindle his love of creative writing, where he expresses his deep passion for a better world through love and tolerance. Hans lives with his husband and son on a small island off the west coast of Sweden.


Thursday, 13 September 2018

Recent Release: A Rising Evil by Graham West

Title: A Rising Evil
Author: Graham West
Language: English
Published: 29th June, 2018
Length: Length: 99,000 words (approx.)
ISBN: Paperback: 978-1-78645-176-7
eBook: 978-1-78645-177-4
Category: Fiction
Genre: Paranormal

It is two years since they buried the remains of Amelia Root on the edge of Mosswood in the small affluent town of Tabwell, and for Jenny Adams, life has moved on. She has created an idyllic new home with her fiancé, Jake, the son of a wealthy businessman, while Jenny's father, Robert, has settled down with Josie Duxbury who runs The Keys, a popular suburban pub.

But Sebastian Tint, a retired professor with a gift, is becoming increasingly uneasy, sensing that someone close to him is in danger. Then he finds a chilling message on the grave of Elizabeth and Hanna Adams, and Jenny's dreams begin again...


Publisher's Review:
This is, ostensibly, the editor's review of A Rising Evil - book two in Graham West's Beyond The Dark Waters series, released 29th June, 2018. Except, I wasn't the editor this time, and that is a story in itself.

Andrea - my bestie and also my editor - does rather enjoy a good horror/paranormal story, so she willingly took on the editing of Graham's series. Her editing style is...well, let's say it's for the hardy. What ensued was some really funny editor-author banter because not only can Graham tell a corking story, he's also got a wicked sense of humour, fortunately, seeing as he hadn't seen Andrea go to town on Finding Amelia (book one of the series). I did tell him that if there was no red pen, he was doing it right.

Ultimately, all authors need an editor who will fearlessly take them to task if the need arises. I'm not advocating meanness. The best kind of feedback/guidance is clear, honest and, above all, respectful. It needs to take the author's feelings into consideration but without kowtowing.

When it comes to editing a series, the editor also needs to have some idea of how each instalment fits into the whole and know the characters well - perhaps as well as the author knows them. Certainly, the editor will retain a sense of how the author wishes to portray their characters, to the extent they notice if something is 'out of character'.

All of this makes Andrea the perfect editor for Beyond The Dark Waters, particularly as Graham made the risky but right decision to switch from first- to third-person for book two. In Finding Amelia, the narrator is Rob Adams, a widower whose youngest daughter and wife were killed in what appeared to be a horrific accident, leaving Rob and older daughter Jenny picking up the pieces and trying to get on with their lives. By the end of book one, Rob's story is done, up to a point, but the events (supernatural and otherwise) have far-reaching consequences.

Aside from Rob passing the narrative baton to Jenny, there are other prominent players whose lives intertwine with the Adams's, the details of which Jenny is not privy to. What we readers discover in A Rising Evil is, in essence, what the title tells us. This story is so much more than what happened to Rob and Jenny in the aftermath of tragic loss, and finding Amelia was not the solution. So book two (and book three) is told in third-person, from multiple perspectives, and the shift doesn't jar in the slightest because each scene expertly depicts the nuances of each character.

Nor are those characters perfect. At times, I want to take Rob Adams to task on his sexism - same for a lot of the other male characters - but I can't argue against the accuracy of the gender role portrayal. Luckily, the female characters aren't pushovers.

As infuriatingly real as the men are in this book, I sense a deeper theme underscores the trials of adultery and over-protectiveness, and it is, perhaps, pivotal to 'the rising evil'. I guess I'll find out soon enough (well, summer 2019) when Mosswood (book three) is released. It's currently with the editor.

All in all, A Rising Evil is an excellent second instalment in Graham's series, taking us deeper into those dark waters. The story concludes in itself, but there are plenty of threads yet to be woven. Whilst readers could pick up A Rising Evil and enjoy it without reading Finding Amelia, this series is best read in order.

A Rising Evil is a paranormal thriller, written by Graham West, and is available in ebook and paperback formats from Beaten Track and all the usual places.



About the Author:
Graham West studied art at Hugh Baird college in Bootle, Merseyside, before joining the display team at Blacklers Store in Liverpool city centre where he spent seven years in the art department before moving on in 1981 to become a sign writer. He lives in Maghull with his wife, Ann, and has a daughter, Lindsay, and two grandchildren, Sonny and Kasper. Graham also plays guitar at weddings, functions and restaurants. He took up writing in 2000 and has had a couple of factual articles published in magazines. Finding Amelia is his first novel.