Writer of Speculative Fiction and Masher of Notes for the Broken-Hearted

Category: Writing

Rare Exotic Breeds Short Story Collection Released into the Wild

How Did Rare Exotic Breeds Come About?

Over the past three years, I’ve been submitting short stories to various competitions globally. Rare Exotic Breeds is a collection of all the stories that were prize-winners or shortlisted. After two consecutive first prizes and publication in Writing Magazine, the editor suggested to me that dark, mischievous literature might well be my “bread and butter”, so I continued to write in the same vein, enjoying myself immensely in the process.

The first story in this collection is the first prize winner that was published in Writing Magazine. “Chop-Chop” tells the story of a butcher’s breakdown and his terrifying solution to a relatively mundane, but unprecedented, predicament. Though I was concerned that it would be too nasty for most readers, it garnered a lovely response from readers who immediately picked up on the dark humour and deeper meaning of the story. Encouraged by the following comments from the competition judges, I set about writing more. Before I knew it, I had dozens of stories ripe for a collection.

What Can Readers Expect?

In Rare Exotic Breeds, you’ll find tales of AI modules that swing wildly between homicidal mania and saintly altruism, intrepid explorers equally interested in inner space as they are ancient temples and burial grounds, guitar luthiers who unwittingly hold the keys to the universe, a vicious theory about Jack the Ripper’s origins, train journeys with most unexpected destinations, war/climate disaster refugees and many other strange characters and situations.

Influences

It’s my own experiences and understanding of the human condition that have been most influential in writing these stories. That said, I cannot deny the inspiration lent by the likes of J. G. Ballard, Roald Dahl, Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle and H. G. Wells. Esoteric, surreal, macabre, spiritual, psychological, romantic and mysterious are all adjectives I would use to describe their work and hope that readers might care to attribute to mine, eventually.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy losing yourself in the wilderness of Rare Exotic Breeds.

Chop-Chop – An award-winning story about a butcher who goes to extreme lengths to solve an unprecedented dilemma.
Pillar of Heaven – The story of a barfly’s transformative celestial encounter.
Consecutive Sentence – What happens to a man when he is forced to serve a 200-year sentence in a world without death?
Laundretta – A traumatised and alienated refugee finds herself all alone and free to do as she pleases in the five-star hotel where she works, but why?
Stazione Termini – A journey seemingly to the heart of an ancient city, but where is the train’s real destination?
Memorial – The central rite of passage in this utopia demands that the young and “Wastelanders” alike experience death through the consciousness of a classic poet of their choosing.
Enclosure – A Kafkan warning about heeding the advice of one’s mother.
God’s Providence – During a global pandemic, the looming spectre of death gives a city tour guide cause to veer from his usual shpiel into more profound musings, recollections and hopes for the future.
The Blessing – Victorian Whitechapel at the height of the Ripper murders proves to be a most dangerous time and place for a priest with a dark secret from his days as a merchant seaman.
Luthier – A jaded recluse is getting ready to shut down his remote guitar repair shop for the winter when a visitor bearing strange gadgets and mind-blowing information comes knocking.
Number Withheld – A bewildered young man wakes up alone in an old telephone box overlooking a small town in the valleys, unaware that he is about to be tasked with changing the course of history.
The Lake – With drought and wildfires rampant across the world due to climate crisis, refugees from rural, forested areas arrive in cities to awkward, sometimes hostile, receptions. This is the story of a group of deeply traumatised schoolchildren struggling to integrate, until one of them comes up with an idea that proves to dispel fear and promote unity.
Rare Exotic Breeds – A reformed criminal gives a chance to a juvenile delinquent by offering him a job in his exotic pet shop. When the delinquent falls in love with a customer, a shocking transformation occurs, taking even the grizzled, cynical shop owner by surprise.
The Quetzal’s Coda – An adventurous and unorthodox researcher is missing one final piece of a puzzle he’s been working on for years. To find it and reap what he believes will be cosmic rewards for all of humanity, he must venture deep into the Guatemalan jungle …
Katy and the Spider – A Death Row inmate gets more than she bargained for when she befriends a deadly arachnid in her cell.
Burgher Burger – A secret society’s dark rituals backfire in the most gruesome way.
Codename: Tinkerbell – An exponent of “sexpionage” lures an anti-establishment artist into meeting her at a gallery, where her superiors expect her to follow their orders without question.
Egg – The tale of a disembodied, digital consciousness prone to good and evil, just like humans. Destined to transcend the limits of earthly intelligence and existence, Egg must wrestle with angels and demons alike to determine where his – and humanity’s – fate lies.
Gwenllian – Based on the author’s real life experience of a late night trip to a haunted castle in a forest, this tale invokes the legend of the “lost princess of Wales”.
Tight Lines – An army general whose daughter has been kidnapped has no choice but to call on an old friend for help via her highly unorthodox methods.
The Weight of Grief – The story of a daring heist in a frozen wasteland serves as a dark parable about greed.
White Rabbits – A single, working mother stuck in a traffic jam has her life turned upside down by a bizarre radio broadcast.

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A Smaller Hell Now Available in Paperback

Pleased to announce that A Smaller Hell is now available in paperback format from Amazon. Mystery, Crime, Romance and Dark Comedy all wrapped up in 224 pages of literary mischief.

“AJ Reid’s ‘A Smaller Hell’ is a fable of our time.” – ***** KT Acolyte

“An electrifying piece of literature.” – ***** Whim

“The author takes you on a trip through the underworld and keeps the reader captivated throughout the book and wanting to learn more about the sordid secrets of Ms Doyle.” – ***** Iain Bennett

“A highly enjoyable tale with a bit of everything; love, crime, black humour and magic.” – *****

“A tale of love, hate, fear and deceit that truly captivates your imagination and drags you head first into a world where things are not always as they seem, a plot which has your heart racing as you eagerly turn page after page, unable to put the book down!” – ***** Richard Mortimore

“AJ Reid is a superb storyteller and this book had me gripped right up to Christmas. Would certainly recommend in the festive season and all year round for that matter!” – *****

“Beautifully written with rich imagery; the atmosphere is surreal but tense. Tony Black is in hiding and will take work wherever he can, even if he’s warned to stay away from Tanner’s Department Store over and over again. Tony soon begins to see how completely Ms Doyle controls her employees, and how cruelly she exploits them. She is the tyrant of Tanner’s, she has four police officers under her thumb, and she always gets what she wants … or else.” – ***** Susanna

 “Love story?  Psychological thriller?  You decide!  A page turner with some rather bizarre twists, but an extremely entertaining read. One truly comes to care about the characters within.” – ***** Shele S. Hobza

UK Readers:

US Readers:

Following on from A Smaller Hell paperback launch, be sure to keep an eye out for upcoming paperback versions of The Horseman’s Dream and Grey Noise. Also coming soon is a short story collection called Rare Exotic Breeds, modern Arthurian sci-fi/Adventure novel Knights of Snowdonia and poetry collection The Crystal Barrel.

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An Excerpt from The Serviceman

Lucky Newman is one of the main characters in The Horseman’s Dream. Once a Bootneck, now a PTSD-addled investigative journalist, he has a serious bone to pick with the Establishment. In this article from his his independent newspaper, he takes aim at Alice Grosvenor, a media magnate who now rules what was once the United Kingdom with a chemical cosh, powerful propaganda and a ruthless security force of foreign mercenaries.

Buy The Horseman’s Dream on Kindle:

UK readers: click here

US readers: click here

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24 Hour Halloween Kindle Flash Sale

So, lockdown continues. What a year we’ve had. I hope this post finds you all well, despite the ongoing madness. Rather than get too political or opinionated about it, I thought it might be better to make a little offering in the hope of cheering you up a bit. It’s with great pleasure, therefore, that I present to you the Halloween 24 hour Kindle flash sale. That’s right: I’ll be making all three of my Kindle books on Amazon free to all for one day only. The offer starts midnight Pacific Standard Time (LA), 4am Eastern Standard Time (New York) and 9am Greenwich Meridian Time (London) and runs for 24 hours only, so don’t miss out!

Perhaps you’d like a little escapism in this alternately cosy and gritty crime novel GREY NOISE, in which a disturbed Liverpool sound engineer falls in with the wrong crowd and is forced to hide out with them in a Welsh farmhouse when things go awry?

Or maybe you’re after something a little more esoteric? How about an existential, dystopian adventure that embraces both sci-fi and the occult? Find out just how bad things could get if we allow the MSM unchecked power and access to both cutting edge and ancient technologies to gain power in THE HORSEMAN’S DREAM.

Or why not go with my first book, A SMALLER HELL: a darkly comic satire on the corruption and perversion that goes hand in hand with authority, wealth and power, even within the confines of a traditional British department store at Christmas.

Or why not go the whole hog and download all three? You’re bound to find something in there to suit the mood, especially in times like these …

GREY NOISE
THE HORSEMAN’S DREAM
A SMALLER HELL

Whichever you choose, I hope you have a grand old time with the worlds and characters I’ve created. Not quite all out horror, but there’s something in each to provide a chill or two, whether that be the unsettling Jekyll and Hyde personality of Patrick in GREY NOISE, the ruthless cruelty of Alice Grosvenor in THE HORSEMAN’S DREAM or the well-concealed perversions of Dianne Doyle in A Smaller Hell. Have fun!

US readers: https://www.amazon.com/A-J-Reid/e/B001KMLL8C/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

UK readers: https://www.amazon.co.uk/A-J-Reid/e/B001KMLL8C?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1604068153&sr=1-1

CA readers: https://www.amazon.ca/A-J-Reid/e/B001KMLL8C?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1604068153&sr=1-1

AUS readers: https://www.amazon.com.au/A-J-Reid/e/B001KMLL8C?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1604068153&sr=1-1

If you don’t fancy a whole novel or you are unable/unwilling to access the Halloween Kindle Flash Sale, why not check out some short stories or interactive fiction for FREE?

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“The Horseman’s Dream” – A Speculative/Dystopian/Sci-Fi Novel

Circumstances have forced me into launching this novel before it strays from fiction into reality, which, as beta readers will know, has already happened to some extent (fascist government, technopropaganda, floods, corporatocracy, disease, quarantine, pharmaceutical/spiritual/psychological warfare etc.). Lately, we’re all being pushed further down the rabbit hole with Covid-19, Lockdown, QAnon, Epstein, Virtual Reality, Neuralink and 5G conspiracy theories, so I think it’s not such a bad time to put it out there.

So is it Sci-Fi, Dystopian, War, Adventure, Psychological Horror or what?

It’s all of those things. I always hoped that my big project might serve as a warning about where we’re headed politically, culturally and spiritually. The novel’s message aligns with the great William Blake’s line “A Horse misus’d upon the Road Calls to Heaven for Human blood” from his wonderful poem Auguries of Innocence.

Thank you to:

My parents, who have always supported my writing ambitions, albeit nervously, sometimes!
My Art and English teachers from secondary school, Alan Blain and Gary Hopkins, not only for their guidance on critical analysis and craftsmanship, but also for their moral support.
Reverend Ridley, my school chaplain who also gave me great inspiration for my writing.
My first boxing coach, Brett Jones, who sadly passed away a few years ago. The epitome of a gentle giant, he was a great influence in terms of weighing power and fighting spirit with kindness and responsibility.
All the truly investigative, independent journalists and whistleblowers sticking their necks out and fighting for truth.
My wonderful beta readers, some of whom have blamed me for recurring nightmares and altered states of consciousness! Sorry about that.

Here are a few words from those beta readers:

“One of the best books I’ve read in ages.”

“I really love the pace of it and it just completely sucked me in. Barely noticed where we were and that last line was so poignant.”

“I found the characters relatable and easily sympathised with. They’re very human and well thought out, also enjoyed some of the world building being left to the imagination. You gave us just the right amount of info without making it too prose heavy.”

“McCole was excellent. I really liked the hints at his past but obviously being a very closed off individual, he never disclosed it himself: it was down to the interpretation of the reader.”

“The story very much became mine.”

“Weirdest book I’ve ever read. Not normal.”

“I’ve not slept for a week.”

Ok, so it’s not for everyone. But if you’re broad of mind and hardy of psychological constitution, please give it a go. If you enjoy symbolism and esotericism, I believe you’ll get an extra kick out of it.

Check out my Twitter for updates.

Click here to find out more about the origins of The Horseman’s Dream.

Wishing everyone good health of mind and body during Corona Lockdown and hope you enjoy THE HORSEMAN’S DREAM. X

Click here to buy.

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“Egg” Shortlisted for Dinesh Allirajah Prize

Pleased to announce that “Egg” has been shortlisted for the Dinesh Allirajah Prize hosted by Comma Press and UCLAN!

In this Artificial Intelligence short story, the steel-shelled anti-hero travels from the ashes of his creator’s mansion to a Pacific paradise with the aid of various humans along the way.

Thanks to Comma Press, UCLAN and all concerned. It’s a real honour to have been shortlisted and I wish the best of luck to my fellow shortlistees!

“Egg” is scheduled for publication in the Comma Press Anthology out later this year.

In the meantime, check out some of my other short stories, poetry and interactive fiction.

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Hashtag Junket Wins Writing Magazine Short Story/Flash Fiction Competition

2020 is off to a flying start with another writing competition win, this time for a 500 word story called “Hashtag Junket”. It takes place on an island to which an actor has been invited to promote their latest film.
Or so they think.

Writing Magazine hope to publish the results in an upcoming Competition Special: I will update as I receive news.

Thanks to all the staff at Writing Magazine and my readers for their support.

Don’t forget to try out the new Interactive Fiction experiences.

Or check out a novella about hierarchy and corruption in a small-town department store A Smaller Hell.

Read last winning story Chop Chop, also in the Mar 2020 issue which is available now from newsagents, supermarkets and other magazine retail outlets.

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Short Story “Chop Chop” Wins Writing Magazine Competition

Pleased to announce that “Chop Chop” has won 1st place in Writing Magazine‘s Single Character short story competition.

Writing Magazine described the story as “chilling” and will publish it in the March issue.

The idea came from a 5 a.m. walk in the snow, at which time the local butcher was the only other person awake. As I watched him work, I considered that routine and loneliness could make for an explosive reaction if left long enough in the dark. Could butchers grow to hate meat and how might that manifest in psychosis?

I’m happiest with my work when I’m still sorry/glad for the characters long after I’ve finished typing and this was certainly true for the butcher. His story is about the cages that people build for themselves and how our culture happily provides the materials.

Although it’s a bit dark, it has a positive message through catharsis … I hope. Huge thanks to all at Writing Magazine for my first writing competition win of the new decade.

Hope you all enjoy the story and Happy New Year!

Short Story/Poetry/Artwork/Music Links

Check out some of AJ’s other stories here.
Poetry here.
Doodles, preamp circuits and blues jams here.

(Don’t forget to check out the new Interactive Fiction!)

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