AJ Reid

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

Tag: free ebook

Interactive Fiction Experiences

Interactive Fiction Experiences are my latest obsession. As a kid, I was enthralled by Ian Jackson’s/Steve Livingstone’s Fighting Fantasy books and more recently, their app adaptations. I recall writing my own short one about zombies that fed not on flesh, but on energy, and could not be distinguished from normal human beings (I had some shitty teachers).

When Charlie Brooker’s “Bandersnatch” episode of Black Mirror came along, I began thinking about the process again and saw an opportunity to engage a new audience with my stories, just in a different format.

I’ve been working from 4am every day on the Interactive Fiction adaptations for a week and there are now four in the pipeline:

Tread carefully in the role of an abused employee caught up in the spectacular downfall of their perverted boss. One wrong step in the department store this Christmas could land you in the shoplifters’ padded room. Or worse, your boss’s office after hours.

Kodiak

A vulnerable woman wanders into a lonely, hungry bear’s territory. You must fight your savage instincts to save her life and your soul. As this mysterious and deadly spirit animal, your task is to decode your dreams and fulfil your true destiny.

Diary of a Caveman

There’s not much down for you as a hospice resident abandoned during a nuclear missile strike, but you’ll do anything to survive: take refuge in a fishing boat, an island cult, the mountains, abandoned petrol station, decontamination camps … “World War 4 will be fought with sticks and stones.’ – Albert Einstein

Ludovico

You’re a psychiatrist at the end of his rope. A recent bombing campaign by the corrupt government killed your family and you see no other way to change things. The experiment is necessary. You don’t want this to happen to anyone else. Now that you have the man responsible for these war crimes in your makeshift warehouse lab, what will you do with him to convince him never to repeat these horrors? Will you inflict horror of your own and risk losing your soul or will you follow the moral and scientific laws to which you’ve adhered your whole life?

I really can’t wait to share them with you. I’ll be publishing the Interactive Fiction Experiences on the website and making them available for free to all members (just enter your email in the form and you’ll receive a password for access to all stories, poetry and games – I’ve had to do this so that I can still enter my work into competitions that stipulate online publishing as a reason for disqualification).

If you enjoy what you read/see/hear, it’s up to you whether you donate. That’s it.

A Smaller Hell

I should also mention that the novella of A Smaller Hell is Pay What You Like on Smashwords until Christmas, so download yours ASAP and get yourself in the festive spirit.

Here’s what some reviewers had to say:

“AJ Reid’s novel is a travelogue for all of us. It’s a reminder of what’s available above and below ground, should we have the misfortune to encounter it. The plot weaves its way around the rooms like the acrid smoke of an over active crack pipe. The resulting humour is never forced nor generic, but it evolves and catches you by surprise. Dramatic irony is alive and well and living in A Smaller Hell. “

“A highly enjoyable tale with a bit of everything; love, crime, black humour and magic. Engaging writing with strong characters, all set against the evocative background of a department store in the north west of england. 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! “

“This book offers everything you might expect from an adult-rated novel – sex, deceit, sadism, violence – yet the author still manages to convincingly incorporate the most beautiful love story into the mix. This is sophisticated work.”

“A hot-and-cold tale of darkness, light and the tribulations faced by those willing to stand up to cruelty in the name of love, ‘A Smaller Hell’ will leave you feeling like you have been punched in the face with words. I highly recommend it. “

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/958121#

UPDATE: First two Interactive Fiction Experiences now LIVE. Check out Ludovico and Kodiak HERE.

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The Lonely Little Drone Christmas Story Giveaway

On 20th December 2018, mysterious drone shenanigans occurred at Gatwick Airport, England, causing huge disruption to over 100,000 passengers. What really happened during those curious 36 hours when a tiny flying device brought a major international airport to its knees? Here’s a theory in the form of a heartwarming Christmas bedtime story, suitable for all ages.

To get your free copy of The Lonely Little Drone, click  The-Lonely-Little-Drone.pdf

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If you enjoy the story, please consider leaving a small tip here: 

Merry Christmas, everyone. Be excellent to each other.Facebooktwitterredditpinterest

Promo Ends at Midnight: Get your Free Download of Brit-Grit Dark Comedy A Smaller Hell Now

U.S. readers click here
U.K. readers click here
Canada readers click here
Australia reader click here

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Dark Christmas Films

Christmas lights are going up, along with burglary rates, energy bills and collective blood pressure. It must be that magical time of year again, so let’s celebrate with a list of festive films for the broken idealists among us who need their fix of sarcasm and cynicism to keep them going over the following month.

 

 

Krampus (2015)

80s nostalgia seems to be a thing at the moment and although Stranger Things was more comprehensive in its fanboy-like homages, Krampus does it with delicious dark humour, strong performances from the cast, snappy dialogue and a creepy take on the Christmas redemption story, which all makes for a fun ride for adults wishing to relive the excitement of watching Gremlins for the first time, or for older kids who still want to believe in Father Christmas.  Special mention must go to the delightful animation sequence in which the grandmother flashes back to post-war Germany to explain her connection to St. Nicholas’ malevolent counterpart.

 

Scrooged (1988)

Something of a spiritual predecessor to Bad Santa and a truly 80s New York take on Dickens, this films sees the brilliant Bill Murray on fine form, dishing out sarcasm and meanness as a dastardly TV company exec.  The sentimentality is offset by surprisingly dark and imaginative dimension-hopping sequences with the ghosts, all of which are met at first by an unimpressed, sardonic Murray, who soon finds himself forced to alter his outlook, as Scrooge does in A Christmas Carol.  Karen Allen puts in a wonderful performance as Murray’s old girlfriend, whose love and generous nature helps to bring him in from the cold, while the family scenes of Christmas possess an air of warmth and authenticity that will pull at even the most rusty heartstrings.

 

In Bruges (2008)

Debatable as to whether it’s a true Christmas film, but there are myriad aspects of Michael McDonagh’s 2008 masterpiece in which to revel as a seeker of dark festive fayre.  Let’s start with the performances from the cast.  Previous to watching this film, I disliked Colin Farrell quite unfairly on account of a most untrustworthy upper lip and a dastardly set of eyebrows.  I didn’t like the way they moved.  However, his portrayal of a bungling, guilt-ridden hitman in this film was enough to win me over and I’ve enjoyed his work ever since (even if the eyebrows get a bit hammy now and again).  Given the perfect foil in Brendan Gleeson’s character, a seasoned veteran of the same dirty game, the two set the screen alight with their chemistry and along with the haunting, atonal piano soundtrack and “fairytale” scenery of Bruges, keep our attention and build our sympathies until Ralph Fiennes shows up and steals the show briefly with his pantomime, psychopathic gangster, Harry.  When Harry turns up in Bruges, the film accelerates into action thriller territory and we are rewarded with an electrifying chase through the cobbled streets until the rather brutal climax.  Sacrifice, redemption and forgiveness are all themes explored by the film, but what sets it apart is a curious, subtle acknowledgement of the cycle of life and the sanctity of family.  By their nature, existentialists are usually rather miserable, but here they will find enough mischievous musings on the void to raise a wry smile at the very least.

 

Gremlins (1984)

Cosy, friendly, small American town subverted by a plague of creatures can only be saved by small town boy and his girl.  Sounds like a B-movie plot?  That’s because it is, but it is executed with such flair by cast and crew that we couldn’t help but be beguiled and terrified by it back in the 80s.  The microwave and the blender death scenes were legendary amongst schoolkids because of the parental disgust factor.  Subversion is a vital ingredient in nearly every film in this list and the Gremlins symbolise that perfectly: grimy green, fanged, homicidal reptilians that reproduce asexually and were considered to be the cause of mechanical failures in aeroplanes during World War Two, according to the legend recounted by the memorable Dick Miller as Murray Futterman.  If people really do crave the catharsis of the utter chaos and destruction of Christmas in their viewing material, then Gremlins is the one, even taking down a department store in the proceedings.  The more politically-inclined amongst you might be able to divine some symbolic meaning from this, but for me, comparing gremlins to Communists might be a bridge too far.  Maybe Anarchists …?

 

The Ref (known as Hostile Hostages in UK) (1994)

Motormouth comedian Denis Leary goes into sarcasm overload in this black comedy following the events of a failed burglary on Christmas Eve, once again in a snow-covered, small American town.  It’s a smarter, more highbrow take on the Christmas crime capers we know and love, largely thanks to a good script, Leary’s comedic timing and Kevin Spacey’s double act with Judy Davis as his neurotic, unfaithful wife.  It is remarkable how similar Spacey’s character is to the now-legendary Lester Burnham character he portrayed in American Beauty, but to neither film’s detriment.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  As I mentioned earlier, subversion is key to the functioning of most of these films and here, it takes the typically John Hughesian house from Home Alone and delivers the criminal into the midst of a family that’s corroding under the emptiness of modern life, even though ostensibly, they have everything we found so seductive in those onscreen mansions.  A delightfully mischievous and sardonic romp, especially fun if you like Denis Leary.

 

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

Technically set during Thanksgiving, but we don’t get that here in the UK for obvious reasons, so I think most us Brits just pretend that it’s set at Christmas so as not to confuse ourselves.  Steve Martin and John Candy are the prudish businessman and free-wheeling shower ring salesman who are thrust together by fate to get home for Thanksgiving.  It isn’t long before Martin’s stiff upper lip is wobbled by Candy’s incessant small-talk and oafish mannerisms and John Hughes begins really pitting them against each other in a series of set pieces, which will keep you laughing until the twist, carrying the emotional punch we have come to know to be typical of Hughes.  Themes of tolerance, compassion and co-operation underpin the spiritual message of the film, which serves as a helpful reminder to us all, come Christmas Dinner.

 

Bad Santa (2003)

Billy Bob Thornton explores the depths of the human condition whilst dressed in a Santa outfit, but it’s Bernie Mac and John Ritter who provide most of the laughs: Ritter need only react with a facial expression to keep us giggling with his sublime, understated performance, while Mac delivers his dialogue with such ferocity and cadence, that we can’t help but wait for the next vicious insult or epithet with bated breath.  Many would tell you that the crucible for this story is the department store, but the real pickle in which Billy Bob’s character Willy finds himself is human relationships, from which he has distanced himself to the point of developing an anti-social personality disorder.  Will the Christmas spirit help Willy rediscover his humanity?

 

Trapped in Paradise (1994)

One of Nicholas Cage’s less celebrated films, which has always taken a critical beating – probably not unfairly, to some degree.  However, if you need a film that will not tax the old grey matter too much and provide some cheeky laughs, you could do a lot worse.  Although the humour is brash and crude in places, the message is uplifting and the cosy, small-town atmosphere evoked by director George Gallo is most seductive.  Nicholas Cage is over the top as always (would we have him any other way?), but thankfully, there are no bees or wicker men involved here, and his style is well complimented by the Stooge-like Dana Carvey and Jon “who, me?” Lovitz.  The show is admirably stolen by their foul-mouthed mother, played by Florence Stanley, who torments her meathead, no-necked kidnappers to tears.

 

If you’re in the market for a dark Christmas story you’ve not heard before, try my take: A Smaller Hell my first novel, which I will be making a FREE Christmas gift for everyone to download from Amazon 5th-10th December.  Based on my own experiences of working in a department store, it follows the story of a disillusioned man who doesn’t realise that he is being pulled into a dangerous game by his new boss – a game that will change his life forever, come the night of the Christmas party.

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My New Novelette “Grey Noise” is FREE Today on Amazon

What happens when a disturbed sound engineer snaps?

Patrick McDonagh is a Liverpool sound tech who truly understands the old saying that “silence is golden”. Highly-skilled behind a mixing desk, but undervalued due to his lack of charisma and social graces, he remains forever on the fringes of the music industry, picking up whatever crumbs he can to look after his mother in their terraced house by the docks. What most people don’t know about Patrick is that alongside the guitars, drums, bass and vocals, there has always been the mysterious grey noise and fortunately for everyone in his little black book, he’s always been able to ignore it … Until now.

As he decides whether to exact his vengeance upon the lead singer of Summer Seems So Far, the grey noise builds to a crescendo, inciting deadly violence and macabre scenes at their wildest gig yet. Find out whether Patrick survives his jaunt through the Glaswegian underworld to fulfil his dark agenda in this rock and roll crime novelette, written by the author of A Smaller Hell.

Reviews:

 

5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional. 21 May 2015

Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Excellent short story, delves in to the sometimes murky dangerous world of Rock music, drugs and unpredictable self important so called rock stars clutching at their miserable ego boosted existence, AJ writes with believability, a very enjoyable story, hope there’s much more to come.

 

4.0 out of 5 stars A quick read 1 Jun. 2015
By jane
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Short and sweet but kept my attention till the end wish it had been a little longer. Great character and event description and darkly funny at times.

 

Get your copy FREE today:

US readers: CLICK HERE

UK readers: CLICK HERE

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