A. J. Henry (Athol Jack Henry) lives in Queensland, Australia. He has had several short stories published in various anthologies and is finishing the second novel in this series.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The theme of this book is about deception and reality. On the surface the story concerns a teenager who enters an abandoned building to get his basketball back. He finds others in the place, but as he questions them over why they are there, their tales get weirder by the minute. The protagonist Harry is left with questions of his own--is his direction in life set or can he actively influence events seemingly beyond his control.
Underscoring this story is a notion faced by teens and young adults across the globe who stand to inherit massive debt and environmental degradation, the legacy of a previous generation. Are they helpless, or do they act? Rather than present an apocalyptic future, I want this story to be one of hope.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I guess I've always been attracted to independent publishing. Over the years I've had short stories published with various 'boutique' publishers. My last story published with Smashwords was A Voice Through The Fence in the anthology The Ghostly Stringybark.
Issue #49 of Aurealis Magazine is the first digital edition I have read. I am a fan of speculative fiction, especially in short story format, and the digital version works well. I should quickly add I am not a fan of technology, preferring to dog-ear pages of books and magazines.
It is no surprise, then, to read Crisetta Macleod’s interview with Grieg Beck about his forays into digital publishing. Other interviews I have read with publishers agree with Beck’s comment about printing costs being marginal to the overall production costs. He makes the point about public expectation as seeing no wad of paper involved therefore a digital publication should cost basically peanuts. He goes on to say the difference between ‘guys uploading their books for free or or 99c is if you have fine editing.’ How much life space does any individual have to wade through dross on the internet to find a good read? Will story editors in the digital future become as notable as let’s say movie producers in acquiring followers who trust their judgement, me wonders?
The First Boat by Sean McMullen is a story told by a thirteen year old caught in post-apocalyptic Perth where an Electromagnetic pulse bomb has destroyed all things electrical. The family escape marauding gangs by stealing a boat and steaming north. The boy’s father surmises that Indonesia is better placed for life without technology and the family will have a better chance there, mostly due to the father’s foresight in arriving when they do. The story ends with a twist on situations currently used for political advantage in Australia.
Rolling For Fetch by Jason Fisher is a dazzling story set in an unspecified period. The story opens with the character Whip being converted to a Skeg. His legs are amputated and a skeg rig fused to his shin-bone, a dive train is rigged to pneumatic tyres and he is no longer a typical human. Whip earns his gangdanna and joins a cruising mob who dash through metro traffic, wild like hornets. Jason Fisher creates a fascinating world where technology and nano science freely mix with nineteenth century horse cart and with steam bikes. Whip eventually gives up everything for love, but his physical modification has implications.
George W Bush is quoted as saying, ‘One of the greatest things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures.’ A good point. Let’s not forget the book designers and artists who enhance a reader’s enjoyment of the publication. My one irritation of digital editions is that publishers have yet to get a good handle on the media; there is none of the pop-up windows, slide shows and other bells and whistles to feature art and design. For me to appreciate the front cover of issue 49, for example, requires scrolling around the image, and I don’t think the resolution is as good as a printed copy.
As for a monthly publication creating an outlet for those who love Australian speculative fiction, Aurealis Magazine is at the forefront and well worth dipping into.
Listening to someone say they saw a ghost is a bit like hearing them, but not truly believing. In this collection of ghostly tales, twenty-nine award-winning writers have told stories of vastly differing experiences and all unnervingly credible. Stories such as Maree Teychenne’s I Know What I Hear, Dear Rita create a new and spine-chilling twist to ‘monsters under the bed’. Vickie Stevens uses a historic shot tower in Tasmania as a device to uncover strange occurrences. Roger Leigh delves into the realm of implants and technological horrors in I Can Stand The Despair. For most of us, thinking about ghostly habitats involves old buildings and graveyards, basically, man-made structures formed around European folklore. David Slade in The Wilangarra uses ‘old land’ in the ancient country Australians live and its spirits to tell the tale of Barra fishermen who go missing in ‘big salty’ country. So does Rachel McElleney in The Rock Pool, a lover’s trysting place where love turns decidedly dark. The four judges at Stringybark Publishing have put together an anthology of stories about the paranormal to line bookshelves along with thousands of books in this genre, but this offering sits next to what Australia does so well in films such as Snowtown, Wolf Creek, The Reef and Razorback—it unsettles the trusting reader.
I was drawn to read this book for reasons I don't fully understand. It is an enticing subject. Breton the surrealist painting having an affair with a woman suffering anosognosia. The story then morphs into a dream meeting with Kate, the painter's mistress. It hints at a secret society. The writing is crisp, the dialogue exchange engaging and in character... but the plot is unresolved. This book promises so much. I will trawl smashwords for a second installment.
Mario V. Farina has written a tale of an unimaginable apocalypse--a black hole is about to swallow the solar system. Just being close to the event horizon is enough to destroy life. This little story has a Philip K Dick feel about it. I wish Mario had written about a few individuals and how the news impacts their lives or made it a personal journey. If I was in that situation I would quit my job and max out the credit cards. And what of the mysterious message that adorns the sky. You will want to read Mario's book to find out.
(review of free book)
The memorial by J P Grider puts an interesting slant on mediums and communicating with the dearly departed. The story also deals with guilt and the notion of carrying a grudge to the grave. Twins Coner and Cole have unsettled business. Meanwhile, Mary is disturbed by her guilt after killing Cole in a car accident. The tale unfolds to a most haunting yet moving conclusion.
In writing this review of John Laurie and the Rum Hospital by Justing Cahill I have to concede to a fascination for the colonial days of early Australian ‘white’ settlement. And in that respect, this slim volume by Cahill is a worthy read. John Laurie was convicted of larceny, transported to Australia, rose to become a wealthy trader, only to see his life turn and imprisoned in the notorious Moreton Bay penal colony. In the middle of his rise to fortune and falling from it, he was instrumental in building a new hospital for the fledgling settlement. Rum was a form of currency exchange in the early days. And unlike many infrastructures of today, this project was a win, win for the government. “Yet the contractors themselves declared they had suffered a loss of about £2500. There was probably only one winner in the Rum Hospital saga: the New South Wales Government. It received a new hospital and £9000 in duty on the rum the contractors imported. Its only expense was £4200 for the provision of labour and live-stock, leaving it ahead by one hospital and about £4800.”
The cover of Cahill’s book is a reported picture of Laurie looking a benevolent figure, but Laurie was that and much more. He was somewhat of a scoundrel, an optimistic, energetic one at that. “In 1824, John bought the Fame, a schooner, and fitted her out for a trading trip to Newcastle. He hired a row-boat, the Pullfoot, to load her. Instead of returning the Pullfoot, he took it on board, sailed out through the Heads and went south.”
This easy to read volume would do well in classrooms where history and the colourful people who shaped it is discovered. As Cahill surmises: “He and Sarah proved the ‘Fatal Shore’ was a place of opportunity and left many proud descendants living throughout Australia, New Zealand and Canada to wonder at their achievements ”
True Shapes by Lea Tassie is a small book big on surprises. The story follows the well know fairy tale of the frog and the princess. But then like all good tales, turns, and witchery and enchantments haunt our good princess.
The story of Little John Lou is a wonderous tale inspired by Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem, Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Little John's house is washed out to sea by a tsunami. This story has all the mystery of a ship's adventure, except that it is in a house. A really enjoyable story.
The Edwards appear to be your average couple living next door. But normal is left at the front door and you would never want to flick through the Edwards' cookbooks. As for the backyards, you wouldn't want to go there even as a tourist. A truly gruesome little read.
The story reads as authentic, written by someone who has lived on a navy ship. The action builds following a mysterious accident and equally serious deaths, though not fully resolved in this publication and feels as if it should be part of a bigger story. Well worth getting a copy.
CK has created a magical parallel world coexisting within human milieu which populated by fairies and witches and all things make-believe. This is a delightful Christmas tale and one with a touch of romance.
Professor Lea Kell accompanies a student Adeline Beltz on a field study. They are guided throughout a steep climb by experienced guide Armin. They misread an Asperitas cloud formation and become trapped in a treacherous storm. This is where this well-researched story has credibility issues. Hydrology and meteorology are interdisciplinary fields of science. Their guide fears the weather will turn, and the reader would expect the academics to understand weather, especially as they have access to satellite information. Mistakes happen but Le’Clore could have played on this. Intellectual vanity, the arrogance over common sense—either Kell or Beltz needed personality flaws that pushed them into danger over and above sound judgment (to get down from the mountain as quickly as possible). Their mistake ushers dire consequences for themselves and the rescuers. The reader is given little insight into the personality of rescue officer Dietrich Jagger. What attributes or desires drive Jagger to put his life on the line? Had this been Hollywood, Dietrich and Adeline would be embroiled in a love interest—older man seduces young university student, for example? Thundersnow is a well-written story with suspense and adversity. Had it been longer with scope to develop characters and their relationship in the context of the story, it could be a great one.