Writing since I could hold a pencil, I've always been fascinated by words and their power to transform, educate, illuminate, entertain and influence. Stories are so fundamental to human beings that they form an essential part of our psyche, and to be privileged to tell my own versions of tales that have abounded for millennia is an honour.
I was born in Hull, England, in 1948 and had my first writing published in the form of illustrated articles for the British photographic press when I was 19. My fiction started with a radio play, Hitch Hiker, produced and broadcast on national radio by BBC Radio 4 in the 1970s. Several of my short stories have been published and others have been prize winners in competitions.
I am married, for the second time, to a charming and lovely lady who proof-reads my work for me. We have a daughter who, at the time of writing, is attending university to take a photography degree.
Where to find Stuart Aken online
Where to buy in print
Heir To Death's Folly
by Stuart Aken
Price: $2.99 USD. 10520 words.
Published on May 12, 2013. Fiction.
Julie is controlled by Kasim, a fiancé desperate for her to inherit Aunt Agatha’s great wealth. Hustled into paying the old woman a visit, she learns that the folly, a tower looming over the grounds of the old manor house, holds a treasure chest. She and Kasim, tricked into searching for these riches, enter the folly and soon discover there’s more to Aunt Agatha than they could ever have guessed.
by Stuart Aken
Price: $2.99 USD. 37100 words.
Published on June 6, 2012. Fiction.
This erotic collection includes some romantic sex, a BDSM story, an adult fairy tale and some humour. Exotic locations, fantasy men and women, and vivid descriptions of heterosexual love will arouse and satisfy those looking for excitement in and out of bed.
The Methuselah Strain
by Stuart Aken
Price: $0.99 USD. 26940 words.
Published on August 20, 2011. Fiction.
Finding a suitable partner from the remnants of mankind isn’t easy for Lucy, especially when she discovers that automation tempts more than flesh.
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Smashwords book reviews by Stuart Aken
- Web Secrets
on March 26, 2011
Sometimes a book is compelling in spite of its faults. I found Web Secrets, by Ronnie Dauber, such a book. The story is tremendous and moves well, with cliff-hangers at the end of each chapter. I had to finish the story.
But, I read as a writer, and other readers may have no problems with aspects that I find difficult. I hate to have to say this; but, in my opinion, it needs editing. I found typos, malapropisms, occasional lapses of tense, changes of viewpoint and an some repetition. Certain phrases are used repeatedly to describe the main character's physical response to events that leave this reader wondering how she ever managed to continue with her life, let alone do all the amazing thing she accomplishes. And the use of 'Just then', as an introduction to a paragraph or sentence, grated on me.
Having said this, the twists and turns of the story; it's pace and complexity, had me turning the pages and wanting to discover what was happening and who was guilty of all the wickedness. The main character is drawn very well and I had no difficulty empathising with Maddie as she travelled a journey that would have defeated many less courageous heroines. The author manages, very skilfully, to keep the reader guessing about the identity of the perpetrator of the crimes and I found I was unable to be certain who was a goodie, who a baddie. Each time I thought I'd nailed the murderer, I discovered something else that cast doubt on my conclusions.
The denouement, which pulls all the threads together in a convincing and satisfying way, leaves the reader nodding in agreement and full of admiration at the way the author managed all the false turnings and misdirection to ensure the end comes as something of a surprise.
And I enjoyed the read.
- Empty Chairs
on April 07, 2011
Empty Chairs, by Stacey Danson, is a remarkable piece of writing. This autobiographical insight into the early life of a girl subject to physical and sexual abuse is honest, frank and characterised by a refusal to hide unpleasant detail. That the abuse was initiated by her mother, who acted as her pimp, when Stacey was the tender age of 3, makes the revelations all the more horrific.
It is natural to expect that an account of this type would be driven by bitterness and revenge but the author manages to tell her story without undue hostility. And that, in itself, is an amazing feat. If ever a woman had just cause to resent the world into which she was born, Stacey Danson is that woman. But she simply lays out the facts; emotional, physical, mental, spiritual and rational. There are places where the text is almost too hard to read. I have been kept awake nights by some of her descriptions. This is, as you would expect, a difficult book to read. But I urge you to read it simply because it is hard.
The prose style is simple, yet eloquent. She writes pretty much as you would expect her to think and spares none of the expletives that, for her, have been an integral part of her upbringing. There is no attempt to deviate from the truth for effect, no attempt to embroider or exaggerate the facts. The simple truth is enough here, and Stacey has recognised that and allowed integrity to describe her experiences.
I am, by nature, an optimist and a lover of women in general. The experience of this book has caused me to question some of my beliefs about people more than any other work I’ve read; and I include such classics as All Quiet on the Western Front and A Town Like Alice as examples of man’s inhumanity in this comparison.
Men and women, authorities and victims, the respected and the reviled, all feature in this book as adults. And all are shown as flawed, many of them seriously so. There are those who simply looked the other way and thus allowed the terrible abuse to continue. There are those who worked in trusted occupations and yet tormented and harmed the vulnerable child they should have been protecting. There are those who exploited, or wished to exploit, a girl who so distrusted people that even those who might have been her friends could not win her trust. And, in the end, it was the children, the other victims, who rescued her from what might otherwise have been a violent and untimely death.
There is no sentimentality, no attempt to rouse the reader’s pity, in the words on these pages. What you get is the simple truth of a life damaged and abused. Yet, through it all, the spirit of the writer rises and grows to become aware of the greater world and, as the book ends, to begin to wonder if there are, after all, some good people in the world, after all.
Stacey wrote this account to alert the world to the reality of child abuse; to tell those complacent souls who blind themselves to facts, by blaming victims, that sometimes children have no choice; to educate those in authority about the reality of life on the streets for the abused. But she has achieved something more than that. She has made a work of such integrity that the reader emerges from the experience both wiser and more compassionate. And she has earned the unbounded admiration of this reader for telling it exactly as it is.
- Beneath The Shining Mountains
on April 26, 2011
In ‘Beneath the Shining Mountains, Linda Acaster brings to life a tribal myth of the Native Americans in a way that thoroughly engages the reader. Always meticulous and comprehensive in her research, Linda has managed to catch the attitudes, beliefs and customs of these proud and ancient peoples, employing a love story to bring alive a tradition now sadly lost. Her heroine is drawn with such empathy that the reader feels every doubt, every triumph, every sorrow and every passion as she strives to understand her world and her place within it.
That this is a book Linda wrote early in her career is evident from minor faults that she would avoid now. But these are both few and almost inconsequential when compared with the quality of most of the writing.
All the stereotypes we learnt as children, crowding round the TV or visiting the cinema to watch the westerns we embraced, are utterly destroyed as she clothes her characters with the flesh of real human beings. With a subtlety that permits her people to worm their way into our affections, she undermines our prejudices and reveals those we were told were savages as civilised, complex and spiritually profound individuals.
Reading this novel, I was transported to a different world, where priorities changed according the seasons and the needs of the tribe. I felt the anxieties of the hero, his great desire to be the man his peers and followers wished him to become, his confusion as he experienced love for the first time and slowly recognised that this was what it was.
The antagonists are drawn with equal understanding; the pressure to succeed and become respected figures, within a society that demands a great deal from its heroes, is tangible. Failure is so absolute in its consequences that those who desert honour for personal gain are rewarded with a fate worse than death.
This tale of love amongst a tribe that once freely roamed the plains and mountain passes of the great American west is vibrant, funny, poignant, occasionally erotic, moving, illuminating and romantic.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it to all who love a good story, regardless of gender. A damn good read.
- Reading a Writer's Mind: Exploring Short Fiction - First Thought to Finished Story
on Sep. 16, 2011
Writing manuals come in many guises. Linda Acaster's 'Reading A Writer’s Mind: Exploring Short Fiction – First Thought to Finished Story', if you'll forgive the reference, does what it says on the tin.
If you're a reader, you'll find this book worthwhile and entertaining simply for the stories it presents for examination by writers. The fiction is varied in genre and style but consistent in its good quality. Even the stories specifically written for the 'women's fiction market' are well structured and populated by rounded characters who will be familiar to most readers.
If you're a writer, this is a book that will help develop your short fiction. The sample stories illustrate the author's points perfectly as she explains her reasons for the various selections a writer must make as a piece of short fiction is constructed. Here you'll find advice on character forming and building, plot structure, language choice, viewpoint selection and much more. Linda introduces each story, and then presents it for reading in full. She follows this with an explanation of the processes she used in the construction. Finally, she sets the reader an exercise in order to consolidate and fully bed in the lesson of the section.
Most writers are resistant to exercises: I certainly am. However, as with the excellent suggestions made by Dorothea Brande in her 'Becoming a Writer', Linda's practice pieces are designed to make the reader a better writer and will pay dividends to those who attempt them.
I'm not a lover of writing manuals, but I place this one alongside the excellent Dorothea Brande's book, already mentioned, and Stephen King's 'On Writing', both of which have been formative in my writing.
Linda Acaster's concise but comprehensive work on approaching short fiction now has a permanent place in my library and I shall return to it each time I begin a new short story, in the hope that I can improve on my skills and reach the market I am aiming at.
- Dead Men's Fingers
on March 01, 2012
As a teenager, when our first TV arrived, I loved to watch Westerns. But I've never read one, until Tyler Brentmore's Dead Men's Fingers came my way. I downloaded this book to Kindle for PC, reading from the screen in a way I generally avoid. That's how involving a story it was. Against all the odds, I felt compelled to read it.
The author has a great facility with words and molds language into sentences and paragraphs that drive the story forward at a gallop. But, at the same time, the characters are graphically drawn in a way that brings them alive. The action is superbly presented and grips the reader as each challenge increases the tension. The hero and his female counterpart are fully rounded, both possessing hidden qualities, and pasts, that are only vaguely hinted at until the story demands revelation.
That the writer has researched extensively is evident by the period detail and the way that the reader is not merely talked through the landscape but actually experiences it with all its fierce and wide-open qualities. You taste the dust, feel the burning sun, drown in the swollen river, cower in the darkness of a starless sky in the centre of a continent peopled mostly by enemies, and wonder at the vast spaces to be crossed by the wagon train.
This is more than merely a traditional western tale, though the book can easily be read on that level. Multi-layered, the story examines prejudice, the mind-set of the mob, courage, honesty, evil versus good, and even love.
I would have read this at one sitting, had circumstances allowed. As it was, I had to take a break and read it in two sessions. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and can happily recommend this to anyone who enjoys stories starring real heroes and heroines.
- Cutting Through the Academic Crap
on July 19, 2012
Are you a university student, or the parent, best friend, trusted sibling or confidante of such a student? If so, I strongly advise you to read this little book. It took me 40 minutes, that’s all. So, it’s hardly an imposition, is it?
Written in a friendly, approachable style, it details the methods, pitfalls, techniques and crucial points in the process of writing that all-important dissertation. I learned a good deal I didn’t know about this specialist academic topic and was prompted to read the book because my daughter is currently attending university and will be required to produce a dissertation in her final year.
The book is presented in easily digested bites, each of which deals with a specific aspect of the whole. Breaking it down in this way makes a difficult subject more easily understood. The author has personal experience of the needs, having two degrees herself. She demonstrates empathy with the lot of the student and uses some vernacular with which the student should be familiar. But she provides her advice in an authoritative manner without that off-putting arrogance and superiority that defines so much academic writing.
Students who follow her advice and take account of the various pitfalls and distractions she highlights will stand a very good chance of not only completing the dissertation on time, but also of gaining maximum marks. Such a chance to increase the success of all that hard work and study that exemplifies the lot of the student must surely be worth the short time and attention that this essential little book deserves.
So, if you’re studying for that degree, or supporting someone involved in that demanding task, I unconditionally recommend the reading of this book: BEFORE you start.
on Nov. 18, 2012
This collection of 25 science fiction and fantasy tales represents the cream of the entries for a short story contest run by Fantastic Books. The stories included are the contest winners plus a couple from professional writers, invited by the organisers. 10% of sales receipts will go to cancer charities.
Anthologies are sometimes patchy affairs, but not this one. The quality of the writing is pretty consistent and all the stories are well told (I must add here that I contributed one of the tales). But consistency doesn’t mean similarity. There’s great variety here. Some humour, some darkness and something for younger readers. All speculative fiction, the stories entertain, amuse, inspire and make the reader think.
There are characters of every sort lurking in this selection and plots to suit all tastes. This is a selection you can read at one sitting, as I did, or dip into for those short breaks over coffee, when a longer piece must be interrupted. I enjoyed all the stories but I don’t intend to describe them in this short review. All are different and all demonstrate the imaginative power of their creators, the skill of these writers as storytellers. I thoroughly recommend the book to all who love their fiction with a twist of the unexpected.