Writing since I could hold a pencil, I've always been fascinated by words and their power to entertain, transform, educate, illuminate, and influence. Stories are fundamental to human beings; they form an essential part of our psyche. It's an honour to be privileged to tell my own versions of tales that have abounded for millennia.
Born in Hull, England, in 1948, I had my first writing published as illustrated articles for the British photographic press at age 19. I stilll take photographs in a semi-professional capacity. I have 8 published novels, a science fiction novella, a self-help guide to ME/CFS, and several anthologies. My fiction started with a radio play, Hitch Hiker, broadcast by BBC Radio 4 in the 1970s. My short stories have been published and have been prizewinners in competitions.
I'm married to a charming, intelligent and lovely lady who proof-reads my work. We have a daughter who, at the time of writing, is working in Australia.
Heir To Death's Folly
by Stuart Aken
Published: May 12, 2013
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.
Ten Love Tales
by Stuart Aken
(3.00 from 1 review)
Romance for lovers of gentle stories. You'll find no gratuitous sex here, just simple stories about love. I hope you enjoy them and they make you laugh, cry, sigh; but mostly, I hope they make you smile.
Ten Tales for Tomorrow
by Stuart Aken
(4.00 from 1 review)
This collection of speculative fiction, largely science fiction, is a broad selection covering many different themes. The ten stories vary in length, style and content but all are intended for an adult readership. Some have won prizes in international contests and some have been published. But most are new and published for the first time here. Enjoy.
by Stuart Aken
(5.00 from 1 review)
Brought up in isolation and ignorance by a religious fanatic, Faith is forced to take work with local glamour photographer, Leigh. His cruel, misogynist assistant hates her on sight and threatens her with violence. When Faith falls in love with Leigh, will she defeat the dangers she faces or will corruption overcome her innocence and destroy her?
Contains adult language and erotic scenes.
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.
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.
Mementoes of Mai
on Sep. 21, 2011
Written by a writer for whom English is not his first language, this novelette reads rather like a piece of autobiography. Although Helmy is writing in a language which is not his native tongue, he has a better grasp of idiom, grammar, spelling and sentence structure than a lot of indie authors who claim English as their mother tongue. That's not to say there are no errors; there are slips in tense, structure and word order. There are occasional odd characters (textual rather than fictional) scattered amongst the words, suggesting that the conversion from a PC document to the format needed for an ebook has not been totally successful. But I'm nit-picking. The story has a charm and innocence about it that drove me to finish the book in spite of its slight deficiencies. It is a coming of age tale, a story of personal enlightenment and epiphany.
Some of the language borders on the poetic and Helmy paints word pictures that are both evocative and instructive. I feel I now know a great deal more about his homeland and those places he visits in the pursuance of his dream, and, more importantly, my wish to visit these places has grown stronger.
The philosophical asides chime well with the narrative and rarely come across as author intrusion, since they seem to come naturally from the mouth of the viewpoint narrator.
I enjoyed this story. It is a good book in search of an English speaking editor to make it into a very good book. But, even as it stands, I can recommend it as a gentle and feelgood read.
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.
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.
The Unheard I
on Aug. 28, 2013
This short piece of esoteric literature came my way via contacts on Facebook. The book is divided into three sections: A Serious ToF (Twist of Fate); Yogic Poetry: the Indian Heritage; The Translator ‘I’. So, I think you will realise this is not a work of interest to what might be called the ‘common reader’. It is a scholarly piece that will appeal to those with an interest in poetry, particularly spiritual poetry expressed as literature, as well as those who have a leaning toward or a significant interest in Indian myth and religion.
The Twist of Fate referred to above is an anthology of pieces collected together to present to readers as a way of gathering funds to help those left in distress by the tornado that hit Oklahoma in May 2013. And this first chapter of the book is a presentation of the author’s experiences in contributing to that anthology.
Poetry, let alone Yogic Poetry, is a genre of which I have little experience. My admiration of the craft lies within the bounds of the variety of works produced by the two Dylans (Bob and Thomas). And my knowledge of Indian culture is minimal. So, I found this section both illuminating and confusing. The many references to the Yogic culture were lost on me, but the general sense of spirituality came through.
The Translator ‘I’ deals with the author’s work and attitudes regarding translation as a craft. He is an acknowledged translator of work from Bengali to English. I’m no linguist, but I have always admired the skill that allows those who understand more than one language to translate not just words but meaning. The ability to convey the essence of a piece written in one language when converting it into another is almost magical to me.
So, not a general reader’s book, but a piece of work that will undoubtedly find favour with those interested in the subject matter discussed. It is to those readers that I recommend the book.
The Golden Peacock
on Nov. 10, 2018
A ‘thriller’ that actually concentrates on the characters, bringing them to life so the reader is eager to invest emotion and concern for them. In fact, this doesn’t read like an ordinary thriller at all.
This thoughtful, evocative and moving book is a very good read. I read as a writer and would have liked a little more ‘show’ and a little less ‘tell’, but many readers won’t mind about that aspect.
The story is cleverly woven around the central characters and presented through the eyes and experiences of the two main female protagonists. Shifting, in separate chapters, between the present, and the past as lived by one of the women, it presents the tale in a form that both illuminates and involves.
There are hard passages in this novel; hard to read, that is, because of the events revealed. And there are moments of supreme tenderness to offset the horror. The balance is excellent.
Many of the younger generation will be unaware of the realities of war for civilians caught up in conflicts over which they have no control, but this book illustrates such terrors in a way that drives home the sheer awfulness of such experience. For older generations, with first or second-hand knowledge of such events, it personalises them, bringing new light to these dreadful happenings.
This is a story of persecution, courage, mindless hatred, love, and sheer persistence and I’m glad I had the chance to read it.
The Verona Exchange: A Rainee Allen Mystery
on Jan. 26, 2019
I picked up a copy of this book, as I’d enjoyed Lauren B. Grossman’s first in the series, The Golden Peacock. That dealt with a mystery surrounding the holocaust. This book deals with a kidnapping by the Italian Red Brigade.
Although this is essentially a thriller, great attention has been given to building the characters and making them real people. There’s some small backstory for those unfamiliar with the central protagonist, Rainee, who is a writer. The scene is set quite quickly so that we’re into the story relating the intended meeting of Rainee with a son she gave into adoption when he was only a week old and she was 21. This section of the book provides a good deal of emotional content, and sets up the reader to care about what happens to the cast of characters in subsequent chapters.
There are some editing fails and sometimes a little ‘info-dumping’ but, by and large, the writing is good, and it certainly carries the story through. There are scenes in Italian cities that took me right back to a recent holiday I spent there; recognising those locations was fun.
The action starts when the kidnap occurs and continues as the risk and danger is ramped up with events. Rainee is one of those characters who never knows when she should stop and let others take on the task; there’s an element of obsession that places her in danger, for the best of reasons. The reader is therefore treated to situations in which the natural response is ‘Don’t do it, Rainee!’, and that’s followed by the need to make sure she escapes the danger into which she’s ventured.
The denouement builds well, with plenty of twists and jeopardy along the way, and is resolved in a satisfactory manner. The ‘clean-up’ of events following the climax is short, and provides the reader with closure regarding the characters.
A good read.
Halfway to the Stars
on Feb. 26, 2019
It appears I downloaded this book, through Smashwords, in 2014 and then completely forgot about it. I discovered it whilst tidying files in my ‘Digital Editions’ folder a few weeks ago.
As this is a book about female eroticism, I’ve no idea how I came to it, except that the title might’ve fooled me into thinking it was a science fiction story. In any case, I didn’t pay for it. It’s certainly not something I’d normally read, but there you are. I’ve read it now.
So, as a heterosexual male, happily married for over 30 years, what do I make of this book? I almost stopped reading very early on. But curiosity encouraged me to continue. Although it’s a novel, it reads more like a type of report to me. Lots of ‘factual’ information regarding the apparently rampant sex scene in San Francisco. I didn’t read the whole book, as I grew a little weary of the content. I skipped a few chapters in the middle and moved to the last few.
The relationship aspect is subservient to the sexual content, which I found completely unerotic, though the detail is illuminating for a writer from the UK.
I never really felt able to empathise with the protagonist, Rachel, though I had sympathy for her attempts to tell the whole truth against the wishes of her somewhat quixotic and deeply unpleasant employer.
With little interest in sex as simply a pastime, hobby, or social tool, and as a man who’s always equated good sex with connected love, I found it difficult to find common ground with any of the characters. The superficiality and self-obsession depicted as ‘normal’ for this city’s inhabitants I found deeply unattractive and, at times, disgusting. There’s an underlying hint, perhaps unconscious, that the prevalent attitude to sex in this city may be a backlash reaction to the religious conservatism that appears to hold half of America in thrall. That would be no surprise, of course.
In the end I found this book a curiosity rather than a good read. There are some interesting arguments relating to sexual freedoms and certain practices, and I did find the protagonist’s attitude to such aspects quite fascinating in its utter inconsistency. At times, I felt the author was trying to justify certain sexual freedoms almost in spite of her own beliefs and feelings. But with such a misunderstood subject, who knows? Maybe I’m hung up on real love. If so, I’ll happily stick to that and leave the sexual adventurers to their own antics: they’re not for me.