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

Tag: indie author

News Update

A quick round-up of latest news about the books:

The British Library

I’m pleased to announce that nearly all of my recent publications have now been requested by The British Library, GREY NOISE and THE KNIGHTS OF SNOWDONIA being the most recent.

SEPPUKU Launch

My latest collection of short stories was published in May and enjoyed some chart success upon release and promotion in the Occult and Psychology categories. Thanks to all who bought it.

THE HORSEMAN’S DREAM Reviews and Articles

Massive thanks to all my reviewers (even the mean ones). I appreciate you taking the time. Check out Ian D. Hall’s website Liverpool Sound and Vision for film, book and music reviews. I should also mention that Ian is an excellent author himself and his latest novel can be found here.

This article was featured in Heswall Magazine recently. Many thanks to the editor for including me.

THE HORSEMAN’S DREAM for Sale in Local Bookshops?

THD is currently under review for sale in a well-known local independent bookshop called Literally. Based in New Brighton, they run a brisk trade in all kinds of literature and seem keen to help out independent authors. Well worth a visit next time you’re up in NewBo.

New Book Trailers

Forthcoming Poetry Collection

MARSHMALLOWS is currently undergoing a final draft and should be released before the end of summer 2022.

THE HORSEMAN’S DREAM NFT Gallery

Polygonal digital art NFTs set in the world of The Horseman’s Dream. If you’d like to buy one as a collectible and help support the writing of my next book, make me an offer! Check them out here.

Upcoming Radio Interview

Looking forward to an interview with local station New Brighton Radio about the books and such in the next few weeks. Keep your dials tuned!

That’s All, Folks

That’s about it for book news. Thank you to those kind souls who have gone out of their way to leave me reviews. If you’ve read any of the books, but still not left a review, please don’t be shy. It helps me out as an independent author HUGELY. Hope you’re all enjoying the recent publications and that you have a wonderful weekend.
AJ X

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Grey Noise Now Available in Paperback

Buy

UK readers buy GREY NOISE HERE

US readers buy GREY NOISE HERE

What is the Grey Noise?

Grey noise is random noise whose frequency spectrum follows a psychoacoustic equal loudness curve. In other examples, we can find pink noise, brown noise and the most familiar one, white noise. For our protagonist, Patrick McDonagh, it’s the bane of his life. He finds himself driven to unspeakable acts in trying to quieten its constant ringing in his head. These acts eventually lead him to become entwined with the criminal underworld where he is offered a chance to turn around his miserable existence.

What Inspired Grey Noise?

Having served time as both performer and sound engineer, I came to understand the dynamic between these two roles as vital, but often fraught with all kinds of tension and misunderstandings. Once, when I was working with a sound engineer on a full album project, we became quite good friends and he admitted to me that he kept a list of musicians he’d like to murder, which I found hilarious. Doubly so upon checking his list and recognising many of the names. He was such a gentle guy with a great sense of humour, but there was a glint in his eye that made me wonder just how well I knew him.

Another engineer from very early in my career also provided inspiration as I worked in the same studio as him for several years. He was so unassuming and quiet that few people ever gave him the credit he deserved for his talent. At soundchecks, it pained me to listen to how other people, musicians and managers mainly, would treat him so rudely and disrespectfully. I often wished that he would slap the granny out of some of them, but he never did. He just always made sure that he did his job as well as he could and I admired him for that strength of character.

Conversely, I’ve encountered the genuinely sociopathic, too. At a gig in Wales a number of years ago, I was robbed of 60% of my hearing in my left ear and blighted with permanent tinnitus by a “sound engineer” who was furious that I’d been asked to perform instead of him. Using a hugely powerful sound system, he “accidentally” produced feedback at maximum volume from a speaker that was maliciously directed at my ear. I couldn’t prove that it wasn’t an accident and he apologised profusely, but that didn’t help to repair the permanent damage already done.

Of course, there are scenes and events inspired by my own musical adventures in Nashville, LA and NYC, too. Having worked with legendary Motown session musicians, Def Jam Records producers, 80s synth-pop platinum-sellers, chart-topping girl bands and Spinal Tap-esque rock bands, I’ve seen and heard quite a bit across the board that made for worthy inspiration.

Gangland

Regarding inspiration for the gangland elements, the less said about that the better, probably. I’ve always been in touch with Merseyside’s “underbelly” ever since my parents received a threat on my life when I was 5 years old. It was over a protection racket being forced on my dad’s nightclub that had already turned violent on the door. Throughout my whole life, these shady characters always seemed to be around. At 18, I experienced something at the hands of organised crime that I’d rather not go into here, but suffice to say it changed my life, leaving me with severe PTSD.

The following year, I was working as a PT instructor at Liverpool University Sports Centre and before long, found myself contracted to a notorious Liverpool security firm for boxing circuits. I became friends with a few of the lads, but it was to be short-lived as the whole episode concluded rather violently. With no desire to be staring down the wrong end of any more firearms in the future, I quietly excused myself from the whole situation. Sadly, it also meant forfeiting my job at the university, too.

Despite trying to put some distance between me and this world, performing in bars and clubs would still later get me sprayed with the blood of a gangland assassination victim, stitches from confrontations with self-proclaimed “gangsters”, teeth knocked out and death threats for refusing to be pushed around. There seemed to be no escape from these people.

The truth is that most “gangsters” are juiced-up, coked-up, cowardly, narcissistic bullies, but often, new “recruits” are just ordinary guys swept up in things over which they have no control. Some genuinely repent and change their lives for the better. Some get shot in gym car parks. Or worse. Some of them are genuinely terrifying psychopaths. In case you’re wondering, the character of Inky Joe is based on a debt collector I knew who used exactly the methods described in the book to extract money from overdue debitors …

Sounds Dark, Violent and Depressing. Remind Me Why I Should Read This Book?

Because we all have our own “underworlds” to navigate at some point: serious illness, bereavement, toxic workplaces, abusive relationships, mental issues, etc. My hope is that Patrick’s story serves as a reminder that beautiful things can flourish in the darkest times and places of our lives and although we might not always get what we want, we can still get what we need.

Admittedly, you’ll need a dark sense of humour and a strong constitution to get the most out of this psychological crime novel, but I think we’re all developing those qualities increasingly to cope with the absurdity and darkness of our ever-changing world, so don’t be afraid: pick up a copy today and immerse yourself in Grey Noise.

Other Works

If you enjoyed Grey Noise, why not check out A Smaller Hell – a gritty novella shot through with the same dark humour, set in a department store at Christmas.

https://www.ajreid.org/buy/a-smaller-hell-novella/
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The Horseman’s Dream Tops Amazon Bestseller Chart

In an entirely unexpected turn of events, the paperback version of The Horseman’s Dream recently smashed its way to the #1 spot in Amazon’s Religious and Spiritual Fantasy Bestseller chart! This was most welcome news after working on the novel for nearly 20 years. Beating luminaries such as H. G. Wells, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman and Paulo Coelho to the top spot was gratifying enough, but to see Dean Koontz’s Phantoms at #2 blew my mind as I remember taking that book into school when I was 11 or 12, sneaking paragraphs here and there whenever I could during breaktimes and even lessons.

Obviously, I’m under no illusions as to the significance of this: it simply means that The Horseman’s Dream sold more paperbacks that week than anything else in that quite narrow field, but independent and even trad authors alike have to celebrate whatever small victories they can these days! I treated myself to a glass of Rioja with a veggie Penne Arrabbiata, followed by an early night – a far cry from the celebratory rituals of some authors, but pleasant nonetheless. Besides, I’ve never really been a champagne-in-the-club kind of guy: more a bottle-or-two-of-stout-on-top-of-a-big-hill-in-the-middle-of-nowhere or a-few-down-the-local type. Hopefully, it won’t be the last cause of celebration for THD, so I may yet push the boat out when that day comes with a Black Velvet or two. Fair compromise?

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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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Short Story Do Not Disturb Wins Second Place in Writing Magazine Competition

Thrilled to announce that my short story about a suicide in a hotel room has won second place in Writing Magazine’s competition. The judges gave it a lovely review, which you can read alongside the story itself here.

Or you can read about a dystopian near-future in which celebrities are cloned for prostitution here.

Or a splinter story from The Horseman’s Dream, which you can read here.



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“Feuilles Mortes” Shortlisted in Writing Magazine’s Poetry Competition

Delighted to have made the shortlist for this one, being the first poetry competition I’ve entered in a few years. Thanks to Writing Magazine. It will be available to read in a collection called The Crystal Barrel, which I am compiling for 2020. You can read “Feuilles Mortes” for yourself here.

Find more poetry here. Sign-up required to access poetry and stories.

Check out some of my favourite poetry from T. S. Eliot and Seamus Heaney.

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The Horseman’s Dream: A Tale of Conspiracy, Corruption, Cruelty and Conditioning in Post-Disaster Britain

It’s taken me nearly 20 years to write The Horseman’s Dream: its origins lying somewhere in the ashes of the Twin Towers and the ensuing maelstrom of disinformation.  It’s about something good that still exists in a bad world.  This is the best story I can come up with to frame the notion of a force within all of us that can survive anything: grief, addiction, trauma, enslavement, conditioning and, in near-future Britannia, even a natural disaster and the rise of a terrifying new brand of fascism.

An early map for The Horseman’s Dream, showing how the British Isles have been reduced to a tiny archipelago by a near-extinction level natural disaster.

I started writing it in late 2002 in an MOT garage waiting room. Next to the mountain of Heat, Hello, Ok!, Cosmopolitan and Loaded sat a pristine hardback of the Holy Bible. The juxtaposition of the literature seemed absurd, even more so when flicking between them. It made me consider how human consciousness might have evolved over two millenia, if at all.

Two years earlier, 9/11 had brought religious fundamentalism into the spotlight with an event that was truly shocking to witness live on TV. It felt unreal, like a waking nightmare. I’d stood on top of one of the buildings a year previously and the memory made me shiver. A toxin was leaking into my bloodstream through the television as I watched these hellish events unfold. It was tough to escape the feeling that somebody had crafted this nightmare for a specific purpose: to alter the consciousness of the world, to upset the balance to serve their own ambitions, whatever they might be. Someone had turned down the dimmer switch for humanity and all its higher virtues, leaving us all suspended in a darkness, not of physical light, but of the spirit.

I remembered my experience at Ground Zero, where it was all no longer just on the TV.  Since I had been booked for label showcases in New York before 9/11, I assumed that they would be cancelled, but I was wrong.  They went ahead anyway in the November.  Getting on a plane became a totally different proposition overnight.  Twitchy faces seemed riveted to their headrests, casting anxious glances at their fellow travellers and security checks both in arrivals and departures took so long that you could see the weariest visibly ageing as they stood in line.  It wasn’t just the time it took or the draining effect of air travel: they had been poisoned like me.  They were afflicted by the same sadness that took control of the veins, arteries, nerves, muscles and ligaments, not just the brain or the heart.  A genuine malaise that saw altruism and other romantic imperatives smeared from the collective consciousness and replaced with a cold objectivism.

An early impression of what the broadcasting corporation’s logo might look like.

Reading the tributes amidst the still-rising smoke and dust at Ground Zero was harrowing.  As a young man, I had been looking forward to writing stuff that would comfort people and encourage them to be kinder to each other, to make the world a more interesting, peaceful place.  It suddenly seemed a most naive, childish ambition, and my motivation to write faltered badly.

Back in the MOT garage, I scribbled as many notes as I could fit within the confines of Ben Affleck’s forehead, before I had to move on to Jennifer Aniston’s dress on the next page of the magazine.  I inconspicuously removed the notated pages and stuffed them into my pocket before diving back to the Bible.   Flipping it open randomly landed me in Revelations.

The words reminded me of the apocalyptic dread I’d felt as I watched the Twin Towers fall on television and being at Ground Zero only a few weeks later. It made me wonder whether the apocalypse would take the form of something as concrete in the physical world or something more esoteric and abstract. This imperceptible parasite travelling through airwaves and feeding on higher virtue seemed to me to be a grave, real danger and it was clear that we had all been affected by it.  Infected by it.

I took the idea of a reality TV mogul rising to power and using media and technology to control and ultimately destroy the minds of a population to achieve complete dominance.  I had always been disturbed by the incredible influence that the media has over people, but post 9/11, it became an assault rather than an influence.  Something wasn’t right. And that pristine passport.  Building 7.  Temperatures required to melt steel beams.  Conspiracy theories about conspiracy theory.  To the shadowy forces at the helm of this dark vessel cleaving through the waves of the collective consciousness, tampering with crime scenes seemed like more of an afterthought.  Their real quarry seemed to be our very souls and it was jaw-dropping to see truth and logic escape from family and friends as they belched and regurgitated the desired narrative, becoming more exhausted and enraged by cognitive dissonance by the day.

This was the beginning of fake news as we now know it.  The parasite no longer lived only in the airwaves, now it had fibre-optic broadband and the ability to create hate, confusion, polarisation and foster narcissism, cruelty and desensitisation in anyone on the planet in microseconds.

Fortunately for the resistance, short wave radio still works in Britannia.

And it’s still working.  The ego is inextricably entwined with social media in a way that TV, radio and print has never been, creating more profound lacerations to the user’s psyche and generating slow-burning, but dark consequences for our society.  A week ago, a seven-year-old boy was slashed with a knife only a few miles from my home.  I recently received death threats for intervening to prevent a woman being verbally and physically assaulted by four men outside a local bar.  The hunt is still on for the man who thrust a pint glass into someone’s face at the bottom of my road a few weeks ago.  Not far from the supermarket, a running street battle with machetes took place last month, resulting in some horrific injuries.   And in true Ballardian fashion, someone recently smashed up a police mental health support vehicle while the officers were in a nearby house, attending to an emergency call.

And all the while, funding for health and emergency services is being strangled to death.  Or to privatisation, I should say.

I don’t think it takes a genius to see that someone is conducting a symphony of chaos from the wings.

The arrival of dreck like the Jeremy Kyle Show and X-Factor fed the parasite, which had found its natural home online for the reasons outlined above.  These programmes were designed to appeal to the lowest aspects of our humanity: merely an update of the Victorian freak show, so that people could give air to their desperate need to sneer at the pathetic plights and dreams of the poor, vulnerable and mentally-ill.  Like a self-sufficient, perpetual eco-cycle, the circus continues ever apace, gathering more momentum every day under the watch of leaders who care nothing for us and everything for their offshore bank accounts.

And all this before I’ve even mentioned Brexit.

The Horseman’s Dream became a revenge story for the meek and a tale of justice for the abused.  A protest against faceless, psychopathic corporations controlling our governments and our minds.  The perpetrators would see their own cruel weapons turned against them amidst the howl of trumpets from the skies.  I wrote that the horsemen would not come as War, Famine, Pestilence and Death, but in the form of an institutionalised, 16-year-old catatonic.  His weapon would not be a flaming sword or burning bow, but something else altogether more nebulous and abstract.

The polarisation of the public in the UK and the USA continues to worsen, aided by technology and social media to create wider and deeper contamination and control of our people. It’s highly recommended to be a hustler, a playa, a gangsta, an outright narcissist or a gold-digger in our culture: anything else and you’re “weak”.  The sneering attitudes fertilised by reality TV (or reality “programming” could be more apt) have become the norm, while the wretched mantra of the staunch objectivist might as well be tattooed on our foreheads: “I’m alright, Jack.”

As a protest and admonition against that, I wanted to create a shrivelled, cruel near-future where a tipping point has been reached: a world where kindness, honour, loyalty, compassion and altruism would finally be rewarded by a mysterious cosmic power operating outside of the grimy reach of the Establishment. A power that makes their attempts to control others appear quite ridiculous and futile. A power that meets their unkindness with a vengeance a thousand times more powerful than anything they could muster. A power to whom we could all be grateful for liberating us from our slavemasters’ thrall.

When I finally finished the novel last year, I went through a stringent drafting process and reluctantly let go of about 30,000 words, leaving the final draft at 75,000.  In a fit of childish enthusiasm, I offered the manuscript to Will Self after attending one of his lectures in Liverpool and he was gracious enough to accept it.  It was an exciting moment for me until I returned to my car and realised what I had done: I had just given a manuscript to one of the most complex, capable (and acidic) novelists ever for a review.  What did I expect? What a ludicrous notion that he might even read it.  

Alternate Cover

I put the episode out of my mind until a few weeks later when I received an email from Will (him)Self. I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared of opening an email.  I needn’t have worried: he was polite.  It wasn’t the “kind of thing he usually read”, but he said it was “full of fascinating ideas”.

I’ve been knocking together a few ringbound proofs in anticipation of the next step, which is to print a short run of paperbacks to sell from the website and perhaps the odd art/book fair here and there in a bid to remain as independent as possible.  If you can’t wait and would like a ringbound proof, email me and we’ll work something out.  Readers have bartered beer, guitar strings, homegrown vegetables and cigars so far, all of which I will continue to accept as tender until the paperback is released.

Ringbound proofs with holographic foil covers.

If you have any thoughts on any of the above, feel free to put them in the comments or send me an email.

Misprints feel like such a waste, so I deployed Arthur here as a beta reader.

If you’d like to read a few snippets The Horseman’s Dream (and others) and check out some weird doodles, click here

If you’d like to read the odd sarcastic tweet or see some nice art (I RT a lot of paintings/photography), go here

If you would like to be kept up to date on release dates and special offers, sign up to my mailing list by clicking here 

Lots of love,
AJ

UPDATE April 2020: Get your download of The Horseman’s Dream here.

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The Horseman’s Dream Update

It’s taken me years of drafts, scraps and rewrites to get to this point.  Since I was (and still am) no scientist, I read psychology books and articles daily during those years for the sole purpose of writing The Horseman’s Dream.  I studied other fields of science, met with psychologists, military veterans and brushed up on my theology, or divinity, as we used to call it when I were a lad.  I’ve even visited abandoned Victorian lunatic asylums in the dead of night on the Welsh moors and consulted with staff at the notorious Ashworth Hospital.  Over the years, researching this book has led me to a cup of coffee with the local vicar; chicken, greens and cornbread with a preacher from Mississippi; beer with a Zionist and lasagne with an evangelist from Birkenhead, amongst others.  It’s been an obsession by most psychological standards.  I remember how it started: sitting in a garage, waiting for my car to be MOT’d and the only reading material provided was Heat magazine and the Holy Bible.  The juxtaposition of the two texts right there on the coffee table set a few wheels in motion concerning doctrine, escapism, existence and control.  I scribbled as much down as I could while I was waiting, paid my bill, then drove home to resume scribbling.  The idea was so absurdly complicated that it’s taken me this long to unravel it into a story, rather than a rant.

Writing Third Person Multiple POV makes it obvious why many successful actors also write: it’s an extension of what they have already practised and honed for years.  Imagining how a completely different personality would respond in any given situation whilst retaining authenticity is a dark art indeed, but what fun.  Apart from the needs of the story, the Third Person Multiple ties in with the psychological/sociological subject matter of the book: the broadcasting of the contents of peoples’ minds for entertainment and propaganda purposes.  Alternate reality entertainment, if you like.  At least, that’s the kind of pretentious tagline that Grosvenor Media favour when advertising Totem.

The TV was an amazing invention, as was the internet.  You may have noticed my use of past tense there.  I used it because they have been hijacked, restricted, censored and controlled to suit the demands of very wealthy corporations and individuals even now in 2015.  It begs the question of who provides our reality and just how far our illusions go.  What would you do if faced with the truth behind the veil?  Would you beg for the illusion to resume or would you revel in your freedom from it?

Horseman's Dream Logo-Recovered

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