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.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

New Release: Seasons of Love Anthology

Last week - 31st July - we (Beaten Track) released our sixth anthology. Sixth! I can hardly believe it. It's a bit like giving birth, really. The pain, the hard labour...all forgotten once that beautiful new life is in our arms.

I made the decision back in 2014, with the release of Boughs of Evergreen (our firstborn) that Beaten Track anthologies would be diverse, with few creative limitations on authors beyond the specific remit of each anthology.

For Boughs of Evergreen, the call was for hopeful holiday stories featuring LGBTQ+ characters, suitable for young adults. For Summer Bigger Than Others, it was hot summer romances. Love Unlocked features stories themed around 'Love Lock Bridge'. Take A Chance is a collection of Young Adult M/M romance. Never Too Late features characters aged fifty-plus. And Seasons of Love...

Seasons of Love is our most diverse anthology yet. I've included the genre and keywords with my review of each story below, but in summary, there's young adult, new adult, adult, romance, fantasy, contemporary, comedy, neuro-diverse characters, LGBTQ characters, British stories, American stories... It's an amazing collection, if I do say so myself.

I'm going to keep my commentary on each story short and to the point, but know that I love them all, right along with the authors who permit me this privilege. So much talent! I live in awe. I really do.

What I also love about this anthology is the mix of authors familiar to me and less so, and even those I have read in most cases wrote something quite different to their usual fare.

We (the Seasons of Love authors) decided to add an 'advisory' note about mature content (sex, essentially) as most of the stories in this anthology are suitable for young adults. All of the stories are available to purchase separately - we're confident there's something for everyone.

Tourist Season - Deven Balsam
Genre: fantasy LGBT dark romance
Keywords: Asheville, greekgods, mythology, dark romance, queer, trans, gay
Sometimes the darkness becomes too familiar. Sometimes, love lights the way out.

One of Zeus's own children has a favorite office, hidden deep beneath the streets of Asheville, NC. Hades' existence, while satisfying, is due for a surprise when his path converges with that of Korey, a gifted art student.

This is the first full story of Deven's I've 'read', and my word, it's good. It's one of those stories which I like to share with my nearest and dearest by regaling them with snippets as I edit. There were no complaints, and why would there be? Deven's writing is incredible. I mean, look at this:
The maples held their yellow coins in gnarled fingers. The oaks shivered as the death-sweet wind teased their vintage, book-paper leaves, trying to pry them loose like a banker pulls a deposit slip from a confused, old man.
I also admire authors who can write short stories that are fully fleshed out and complete, as is the case with Tourist Season, even though it makes writing a review difficult when the blurb already offers as much detail as is possible without spoiling the story.

Tourist Season is evocative, sensual, beautiful, melancholy yet uplifting. Black and purple...if you see what I mean.

Machete Betty and the Office Sharks - Neptune Flowers
Genre: contemporary LGBT fiction, humour
Keywords: surrealism, British, romance, LGBTQ+, mermen, mayhem, humour
Advisory: mature content
Tim is in the A team, professionally trained to investigate allegations of the potential mass hypnosis of the nation... But Tim is bored and horny. Who wouldn't be? The office is full of idiots, and summer just keeps getting hotter and hotter. Reality starts to blur, screensavers come to life, and before he can say jiggyjig, he finds himself cavorting with a chain-smoking foul-mouthed merman.

Tim's training is forgotten as he becomes immersed in fishy hedonism and office shenanigans. Can he save the day? Or will the team be forever lost in shameful acts of bouncybounce?

Find out in this tail of office boredom and surreal fun.

Warning! This story does not reflect realistic relationships with mermen or sharks.

Machete Betty is one of those stories that makes your eyebrows disappear into your hair while you laugh behind your hand, wondering what on earth is going on. It begins:
Monday, it was bloody boiling, the air stale with sun and apathy, both weighing heavy on my limbs and eyelids. Even the screensaver fishes seemed sluggish, limping past the coral reef like they couldn't be bothered.
...and only gets more bizarre, but with the recent heatwave in the UK, I imagine many an office worker will recognise the downward spiral into unproductivity, demotivation and losing one's grasp on reality.

This story can be read on various levels - in a quest for allegorical depth, a commentary on groupthink, or just a mad office caper in the heat of summer. It's fun, funny, surreal, a bit saucy in places, just generally a great read.

Once Around Seven - Ofelia Gränd
Genre: gay romance
Keywords: gay, Nortown, HFN, prior abusive relationship, lumberjacks, acupuncturist, romance
Advisory: mature content
Oswald Sattle is out of money and out of options. After more than eight months of sleeping in his car, when an acquaintance from his past offers him a job opportunity in the middle of nowhere, he can't turn it down. No matter how much he'd like to.

Joshua Roth moved to Nortown four years ago, and he has everything he needs - a job, friends, peace and quiet. He's not interested in a relationship, or anything else that would upset the life he's built for himself.

But sometimes fate has other plans, and a single glimpse can completely change the course of a life.

In a small town, where everyone knows everyone else's business, reaching for what you want can feel like a risk. But some risks are worth taking.

Ah, Nortown, how I have missed you, you curious little town. For those unfamiliar with Ofelia's Nortown series, each story is stand-alone and focuses on an M/M couple, one of whom is a lumberjack or close approximation thereof (beards and check shirts abound), and native of Nortown, the other a visitor. They stay. Of course they do.

Once Around Seven is (visiting acupuncturist) Oswald and (almost but not quite a lumberjack) Joshua's story. Their first meeting is...well, wet.

The form moved again, and a moan travelled in the wind. F*ck [Josh] hoped he'd imagined it. "Are you all right?" Stupid question.
"Splendid. Thanks for asking."
Josh smiled. A man, judging from the voice, and probably not in danger of dying on him. "Well, then, are you planning on sleeping out there tonight or could I perhaps persuade you to join me up here where it's a little dryer?"

This is a fun story, but there is a serious undercurrent too, as well as the trademark Nortown sexy times, so definitely an 18+ read.

Winter Blossoms - Paul Iasevoli
Genre: gay/bisexual literary fiction
Keywords: love, romance, New York City, 1980s
Advisory: mature content
Chris, a naïve twenty-four-year-old, breaks up with the first man he's ever lived with. In the months that follow, he travels from Queens to The Hamptons, Manhattan to Brooklyn to find love. In the process, he discovers more about himself and realizes the man he hoped to meet has been in front of him the entire time.

Winter Blossoms will take you on a ride through the streets and subways of New York City. Every stop along the way highlights the 1980s' vibrant, gay nightlife. Part nostalgic romp, part coming-of-age story, Winter Blossoms will delight the reader as it comes into full bloom.

I love literary fiction - not the pretentious nonsense that has to be read with a side order of Roget's, but the real deal. Clever plays on words, themes, metaphors and other literary devices that the author hasn't forcibly inserted into the story to elevate it to high-brow.

Winter Blossoms is a beautiful piece of literary fiction, and it was only when I came to writing this review that I noticed the sheer brilliance of juxtaposition all the way through the story:
As I climbed down the subway stairs, the smells of alcohol-laced urine and the smoky essence of axle grease mingled with the September night's cool scents from above.
This constant push-pull drives (and puts the brakes on) protagonist Chris's personal journey as he comes to terms with a failed relationship and tries to rebuild his social life.

Winter Blossoms is a story that will resonate with those who were there, in 1980s New York City, but also with 'modern' readers of LGBTQ+ fiction with love/romance.

Year of the Guilty Soul - A.M. Leibowitz
Genre: young adult LGBT fiction
Keywords: bisexual, genderqueer, literary YA, romantic elements, religious (Christianity & Judaism)
Antonia Moskowitz is caught in the middle, always having to pick a side. Whether it's between her family's two religions or in her relationships, she has choices to make. But learning who she is has a price, and every decision has consequences. Sometimes it's hard to choose between being good and being right. Four seasons. Four kisses. One year to figure out what her heart wants.

Rain is beating down sideways. The wind whips around me, blowing my hair into my eyes as I fumble in my bag for my key. The key I've apparently forgotten or lost because it's not in there in the inside zipper pouch. Frustrated, I stamp my foot and make a small screech. No one will be home for at least an hour.
This is from the very first scene I read from Year of the Guilty Soul, and even now, after reading the story three times and loving it more each time, it is still my favourite scene. I was amazed how many parallels there were with my adolescence - the (church) social situations, the understanding of self, the not quite knowing if relationships are meant to feel like that...

This is a story that should be in every high school library, and on film. At the centre of the story is Toni and her friendship group, all distinct and imperfect in their own ways. Their conversations, the stuff they do together...I was there with them (I find this happens a lot when I'm reading A.M. Leibowitz's stories), and I'm now thoroughly invested and attached to these guys. I now know how to answer that author question 'if you could go back in time, what would you tell your teenaged self?' I'd just hand them a copy of Year of the Guilty Soul.

The Great Village Bun Fight - Debbie McGowan
Genre: contemporary fiction, humour
Keywords: LGBTQ+, humour, British, rockin' reverend, village politics, love
Advisory: There is some coarse language in the first chapter, as appropriate to the context, after which there are only a few mild swear words.
All's fair in love and war. But not in baking.

"Oooooh...gossip time!" [Nessa] perched on Henry's desk, her disgruntlement forgotten. "Someone told the council they found mouse droppings in their seeded batch."
"Now that's what you call an eye for detail," Henry joked, though he was terrified of mice, especially if they were only three doors down the high street. "So that's why she was here - she's been shut down?"
Obviously, I can't review this one, seeing as I wrote it, but here's A.M. Leibowitz's review:

This story is charming and funny and sweet in multiple senses of the word. The synopsis says it all, and I don't think there's any good way to describe it without spoiling the secret recipe. Let's just say that I loved it so much I read it out loud to my family, something I haven't done since before my younger one hit middle school. They hung on every word, though the interruptions to guess at what was coming next did get a little out of hand. This would make some quality radio theater. It's a good one to read if you're feeling down and need a hug.


A Springful of Winters - Dawn Sister
Genre: LGBT romance, humour
Keywords: gay, autistic MC, humour, dogs with jobs, love, romance
Kit is a bit socially awkward. In fact, the rules of social encounters are mostly a bit of a mystery to him, but he gets by, with lots of lists and contingency plans. He doesn't have any plans in place for when he first meets Stephan, however, and he keeps bumping into the man in the most embarrassing situations. The trouble is, Stephan keeps turning up in unexpected places, arousing suspicion that this gorgeous man might just have some contingency plans of his own where Kit is concerned.

I was thinking back, the other day, to how excited I was when Dawn emailed, way back when, wishing to submit work to Beaten Track. I just love her writing so much. A lot of British authors feel pressured to write stories in a more generic, international form of English, but not Dawn Sister. In fact, all of the UK authors' contributions to this anthology are distinctly British, and it's not about accents or dialect. It's in the settings and the ways the characters deal with them. Like, for instance, the beginning of A Springful of Winters...
"Snow? On the first day of spring. It goes against all the rules of nature, Yenta." I huff as I look out the window of the bookshop where I work.
Yes, we do all talk about the weather, all the time. We grumble when it's doing what it's supposed to, grumble when it isn't. Kit might be neuro-diverse, but he's still British through and through.

This is also a gorgeous romance with hilarious mishaps along the way and has one of my favourite endings of all time.

Out of Season - Bob Stone
Genre: fantasy fiction
Keywords: demons, unrequited love, time, literary
It's the old, old story. Demon meets girl, demon falls for girl, demon creates a perfect summer's day in the middle of winter. What could possibly go wrong?

The weather...
The day was another wet one, just as four out of the seven days since they last met had been. There was talk that it could turn out to be one of the wettest spells on record. Rural areas were beset by flooding as rivers swelled and overflowed their banks. Here in the city, it was just very wet.
Apparently, the adage 'when in Britain' even applies to demons, but Remick is no ordinary demon - by 'normal', my frame of reference is Supernatural. If you're a fan, Remick is more Crowley than the average Hell foot soldier, and I think I developed a bit of a soft spot for him in Missing Beat. Thus, I'm delighted he got a story of his own, Amy's editing comment at the end of the first chapter - 'are we meant to think Remick is a tool?' amused me far more than it should. Remick isn't one of the nice guys, and the power's most definitely gone to his head, but perhaps he isn't all bad.

Seashell Voices - Alexis Woods
Genre: young adult MM fantasy romance
Keywords: merman, love, romance, LGBT, gay
Once upon a time, a merboy spied a human child. The merboy, who longed to walk the sandy shore, spent his days watching the human boy grow to become a man who loved the sea. A man he's admired from afar. The one he wishes he could be.

But how can a merman express his greatest wish when he has no voice with which to speak?

I've been reading Alexis's stories for...four years! :o Seashell Voices is different in a many ways to all of the others, not least that it's Young Adult. However, Alexis has an admirable knack for fantasy romance, and this story is no exception, but it is exceptional. To build a world in so few words is an incredible skill, and there are just so many layers.
My people told horrific tales of what humans would do to us if we were ever caught. They'd cut us up to look inside. They'd put us in cages and display us to others. They'd make us learn skills and tricks and keep us far away from our homes and our families.
It's a sad truth of human 'nature' (I don't believe it's natural for a minute). We make new discoveries and, in our pursuit of understanding, we destroy them. Fictional stories are safe spaces within which we (authors and readers) can reconsider our beliefs and assumptions, and I love that Seashell Voices operates on this deeper level while also being a lovely story.

Courting Light - A. Zukowski
Genre: LGBTQ+, young adult contemporary, lesbian lit
Keywords: lesbian, coming-of-age, disability, teens, young adult, friendship, romance
Our days were numbered but precious.

Courting Light is the story of Josie, an eighteen-year-old about to leave home to start university in London. She volunteers at a summer camp for disabled children. When Josie is paired with the autistic teenager Lucian, she faces intense experiences that are truly eye-opening. To her surprise, Lucian is not the only one who captures her attention. Over the weeks, Josie develops powerful desires evoked by the camp's enigmatic young leader with a shaved head and tattoo on her skull.

I more or less went straight from editing A. Zukowski's upcoming novel Liam For Hire to editing Courting Light. Silly me for thinking I knew what I'd be getting. Or, at least, I did in the sense that I knew I was in for an emotional ride; A.'s style sits between literary and contemporary, making for a deep sensory experience, and yes, I cried. The characters are so real, the events so natural, this is full-immersion reading. And Lucian...I loved his humour, his insights.
[Lucian] stared at the table next to me for long moments. He wasn't smiling but there was a rare inflection of his lips. "I saw you and her, and the way you always follow her with your eyes. You two are like these people on television. My mum said they're love stories."
The romantic themes are clear, but this is not a 'happily ever after' romance. It's a young woman's coming of age, her first crush, her first taste of responsibility - those bittersweet youthful moments that underpin who we are and will always be.

Purchase Links

Purchase links for individual stories can be found on their respective Beaten Track pages (links on story titles above).

Monday, 30 July 2018

Recent Release: Missing Beat by Bob Stone

Title: Missing Beat
Author: Bob Stone
Genre: Young AdultScience FictionFantasy
Published: 7th June, 2018
ISBN: Paperback: 978-1-78645-198-9
eBook: 978-1-78645-199-6
Length: 57,250 words approx.

'Listen to your heart...'

When Joey Cale is almost knocked down by a car, he finds himself alone in a world which is familiar but also ominously different.

Can he overcome the odds and the threat of the terrifying Screamers to find his way home, or is he doomed to be lost forever amongst The Missing?

The first book in an exciting new trilogy.

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Editor's Review
I am so far behind with my editor's reviews, as's nearly two months since Bob Stone's debut novel Missing Beat was released and I'm only just getting around to writing this. On the plus side, Bob's written a short story in the intervening time, which means once you've read Missing Beat (and in a moment I'll tell you why you should), you'll get to read more about enigmatic Remick, who's a secondary character in Missing Beat but integral.

'Another Place' - Antony Gormley
Photo: Andrew Dunn
Before I get to the book itself, I need to say a little more about the author. I've known Bob Stone in passing for several years (I've lost count, but about five, I think). Ours is a relationship structured around bookshops and, by extension, books, but it's only in the past year or so I've come to realise Bob is an incredibly special and important man - the kind all indie authors need on their side. His bookshop - Write Blend - is the sort of place we all dream of: books downstairs and a big meeting space for signings and other authorly events; a coffee shop upstairs, which serves great coffee. Many of the books on the shelves are by indie authors, and while I'm pretty sure Bob does it for the same reason I do what I do (love of books, lest there's any doubt), I'm 100% sure he'd welcome your custom if you happen to be in the Crosby (Liverpool) area at any point.

Which leads me to Missing Beat. You might notice that on the cover (designed by the incredibly talented Trevor Howarth) there are people and water: a stylised depiction of Crosby beach where there is a collection of statues known colloquially as the Iron Men (officially 'Another Place' by Antony Gormley). These statues also play an integral role in Missing Beat, but I'll say no more on't. Well, no more than saying how much I love books that feature a place I know quite well (the North West of England) but take me on a brand-new journey so that I see it in an entirely new light.

That's the preamble, really. The story itself is young adult (as Bob suggests, this means young adult and upwards in age - adult readers will enjoy this story just as much), and the protagonist, Joey, is a young man whose exam results day takes a bizarre turn when he's almost knocked down by a car and ends up alone in the world. Except it's not quite his world. Everything is slightly off and slightly scarier than before. The Screamers are, bluntly, terrifying, but far from the only threat to Joey's survival. Nor is he quite alone. However, we, the readers, are as much in the dark as Joey when it comes to distinguishing friend from foe.

Ultimately, Joey's sole aim is to get back home, but, of course, it's a little more complicated than that, and Joey is a little more important than he believes. A reluctant hero - imperfect, afraid, humble - absolutely the kind of guy you want on your side.

That's about as much as I can write about the story without giving away the central plot and its many twists and turns. What's different about Missing Beat? After all, there have been some very high profile British YA novels with a reluctant hero who, along with his friends, saves the world. Well, there are a few things. First of all, Joey isn't magical or gifted or anything like that. He's just an ordinary sixth-former with plans to go to university and that's about all. He also has a disability - nothing spectacular. He's no mystical savant. It's a physical condition, and he just gets on with it. Finally, Joey and his crew are from Liverpool (or thereabouts). No doubt, there are other fine YA novels out there set in Liverpool, but it's not those that make it onto the screen.

And that's precisely where Missing Beat should be too. So, if anyone at Netflix is reading this... ;)

Missing Beat is a YA fantasy novel, published 7th June, 2018. Paperback and ebook editions available from all the usual outlets. Book one of a trilogy.

Also available: Out of Season: a novella.

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Missing Beat Purchase Links

Beaten Track Shop:

Other Vendors:

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About Bob Stone
Liverpool born Bob Stone is an author and bookshop owner. He has been writing for as long as he could hold a pen and some would say his handwriting has never improved. He is the author of two self-published children's books, A Bushy Tale and A Bushy Tale: The Brush Off. Missing Beat, the first in a trilogy for Young Adults, is his first full-length novel.

Bob still lives in Liverpool with his wife and cat and sees no reason to change any of that.


Thursday, 21 June 2018

Recent Release: Say You Will by Alexis Woods

Title: Say You Will
Author: Alexis Woods
Genre: LGBT, Romance and Relationships, Pure Romance - M/M, Adult
Published: 4th June, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-78645-226-9
Length: 12,500 words approx.

Three years ago, Darren Goldman had no idea the man he met on his first day of work in a new town would become the man he'd been waiting for his whole life. With Ace's birthday approaching, Dare sets out to do the impossible: surprise his boyfriend with a party and a proposal. 

"Can't be done," they said. "Never work." "Don't bother." "Are you sure you want to do this?" 

He'd prove them wrong. He was sure of it, until he wasn't.

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Editor's Review
I'm a huge fan of series. I love getting totally immersed into a new world like ours but maybe once removed - an alternate form of ours, perhaps, where the characters are people as real as you and me.

It goes without saying that, as an editor, working on the subsequent instalments in a series isn't work at all when I'm as desperate as other readers to find out what's been going on while we've been away.

And so, Say You Will arrived in my inbox. Well, it didn't. Alexis and I collaborate via GoogleDocs, which is a lot of fun, especially as the version I receive from Alexis is very clean - grammar/punctuation-wise; this story, like the previous stories in the series, has on-page sexy times.

Those who've read Southern Jersey Shores from the beginning will know that each story focuses on a specific couple but always with the same cast of characters in the background. It began, in Opening Day, with Aaron and Darren (or Ace and Dare), and it is these guys we revisit in Say You Will.

Dare's a man with a plan, and a secret, and a lot of stress of his own making. I loved the glimpses of the Dare we first met - his uncertainty and vulnerability - because in general he's much more dominant (in and out of the bedroom).

While he's doing what he's doing, we get something of a virtual tour of the setting, and I have to say, the description is just beautiful - enchanting and vivid.

The ultimate treat for me, however, is the Easter Eggs for those of us who've been lucky enough to read ALL of Alexis Woods' stories. If you haven't, you should!

And the cover! This is my favourite cover in the series - my favourite cover this year!

Say You Will reads as a final instalment, and we're discussing a 'box set' of the six stories in the far? I feel like I've had a very satisfying fill of Southern Jersey Shores happy-ever-after, but I certainly won't complain if this isn't the end.

Say You Will is a contemporary M/M romance by Alexis Woods, book six in the Southern Jersey Shores series, released June 4th, 2018.

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About the Author:
Always an avid reader and colorful dreamer, it was only a matter of time before taking pen to paper, oftentimes literally. I sing under my breath, tap my toes and swing my hips, much to the delight of my coworkers and friends. I’m a firm believer in every song tells a story and every story has a song, so each story I write has a song or theme, oftentimes both, behind it. I freely admit that becoming a romance author is the best mid-life crisis a girl could ever have.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Recent Release: Returning to the Land of the Morning Calm by Hans M Hirschi

Author: Hans M Hirschi
Language: English
Published: 21st May, 2018
Publisher: Beaten Track
ISBN: Paperback: 978-1-78645-203-0
eBook: 978-1-78645-204-7
Category: Non-Fiction
Genre: LGBT, History, Romance and Relationships, Contemporary Fiction, Family and Friendship

Martin is eighty-four years old, a Korean War veteran, living quietly in a retirement home in upstate New York. His days are ruled by the routine of the staff, but in his thoughts and dreams, Martin often returns to the Seoul of his youth, and the lost true love of his life. Two close friends urge him to travel back to search for his love. What awaits Martin in Korea, more than six decades after he left the country on a troop transport back to the U.S.?

Returning to the Land of the Morning Calm is a story of friendship, love and family, in all its many shapes, across time, generations and cultures.

Editor's Review:
I recall reading somewhere (in Hans's newsletter, I think) that Returning to the Land of the Morning Calm originally started life as a short story about Martin - the octogenarian main character - and I can see why that simply wouldn't have been enough to do justice to this character's journey, nor to take us on that journey with him, from the USA to South Korea, twice in a lifetime.

It's the closest I'm getting to visiting Seoul, and that's OK. As is always true with this author's stories, I learn so much about cultures I've never (nor, likely, will ever) come into contact with. From the round-the-world tour in The Fallen Angels of Karnataka, to a trip to the northernmost reaches of Sweden in Last Winter's Snow, Hans takes us to incredible places, and is thankfully endowed with the talent to depict those locations, the people, the food, the smells, the literary form.

So there's the location and cultural elements, a rich context that is both backdrop and foreground to Martin's 'love story' - his love of Korea, its cities, people and food - and his love of Ji-Hoon, told through retrospective chapters interspersed with Martin's present-day situation as what my (82-year-old) mother-in-law calls 'an elderly' in a retirement home. While Martin seems happy to spend the rest of his days looking at the same four walls, his new friends have other ideas. Not content with sharing Martin's experiences vicariously, they somehow persuade him to take the trip back to Seoul, which is astounding, now I think about it, because Martin's set in his ways and doesn't shy away from telling people (nurses included) what he does and does not want to do...which leads me to conclude that perhaps he'd spent a fair bit of the sixty years since he left Seoul wishing he could go back.

Yes, I'm still thinking about the story now, three weeks after it was released and at least a month since I read it (I love that part of my job - reading the final story before it flaps its wings and takes flight for the first time). This is a novel that will appeal to many different readers - those who enjoy travel, those who appreciate a love story, those who appreciate well-researched settings - in other words, a story pretty much everyone will enjoy.

Returning to the Land of the Morning Calm is a novel by Hans M Hirschi, available in paperback and ebook formats.

Purchase Links:

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.