Monday, 24 August 2015



TITLE: Once Upon A Dragon
Author: Tabitha Ormiston-Smith
Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, General
ISBN: 978-1-311223-31-9
Word Count: 37, 780

This eclectic collection includes a number of short stories previously published in various anthologies and as single shorts, and some new material.

  • In Sophie’s Revenge, a woman is sweet and kind - until the day someone messes with her...
  • In Professor Tomlinson’s Last Revenge, a scientist thinks he is going to get the Nobel prize. But there is one thing he’s left out of his calculations...
  • In Perspectives on a Dragon, the same event is recounted from two very different viewpoints...
  • In Nigel’s Holiday, a best-selling author brought low by writer’s block thinks a holiday will be the solution to his problems, and finds more than he bargained for...
  • In Lifestyle Choice, a young girl’s life is changed by the Perfect Dress...
  • In The Last Dragon, we learn what really happened to the Last One Ever...
  • In Excuse of the Day, we see how far a person can push the envelope when she is late for work...
  • In User Pays, a family tries to put into practice a political philosophy, with horrible results...
  • In The Dragon of Butter, a lowly smith’s apprentice saves his country from disaster...
  • In The Real Winner, we see just how far love can take a person...
You’ll laugh, shiver and cry.

PRICE: $2.99

Available now at  SMASHWORDS
Available from 31/8/15 at Amazon - PREORDER HERE

Author Pages: Amazon; Smashwords

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Book review - Blade of the Destroyer, by Andy Peloquin

Blade of the Destroyer is a fresh and original offering in a genre I have heard described as 'grimdark', or more traditionally, dystopian fantasy. It follows the adventures of The Hunter, a mysterious figure who, we gradually discover, is the last of the Bucellarii, human/demon hybrids.

Unlike so many works in this genre, the development of the nameless Hunter's character is three-dimensional and believable. This above all is what makes the book work as well as it does. The story is exciting without being overdone, the writing smooth and the dystopic world is detailed and grainy. Peloquin has avoided the trap that so many fantasy writers fall into, of saving all the sympathetic characters; there is plenty of grief and loss for our hero to deal with, and this is used to good effect in the exposition of his character. A very nice piece of work.

Available from AMAZON in both ebook and paperback.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Book review - Parmenter's Wager, by Terri Main

A seminarian's casuistry problem comes startlingly to life in this high-impact short story.

Of the many things by Main that I've read, I think this is quite the finest. The central problem is clothed in flesh by way of a scenario with real human characters and a mildly sci-fi world, but there is not an inch of fat in this beautifully stripped-back story. It's as lean as a racing hound, and this spareness beautifully heightens the impact of the Christian issue. It's a fine piece of writing and a fine piece of preaching too. 

Parmenter's Wager is available from AMAZON.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Book review - The Children of When, by Jennifer Redmile

An unhappy, abused child taken out of her life and into circumstances of glory is a trope as endearing as it is ancient, and in Children of When it has lost none of its age-old appeal. The Cinderella motif, however, is not the main theme of the story, serving more as an introduction to a solid quest story with coming-of-age overtones, in which three children on the verge of adulthood must seek the answers to the riddle of an ancient, legendary amulet in time to save their own lives.

The story is well constructed and paced, and the characters well drawn and believable, although the resilience of Belle, abused practically from birth, did stretch my credulity a little - it was hard for me to accept a personality so undamaged coming from such origins. However, this is not likely to trouble the younger audience who are the book's primary target, and it could be argued that, for a young audience, Belle's rising like a phoenix from the ashes of her ruined childhood is a necessary message of hope, and works artistically despite its psychological improbability. Certainly in other works of this kind, the same thing has been the case, and it does not appear to interfere with the success of, for example, Lackey's enormously popular Valdemar series.

The book is properly finished and draws to a satisfying conclusion, with the wicked tyrant nicely slain, yet the shadows of a land long subjugated and an exploitive political system make it very clear that the way is open for this to become the first work of a series.

If I had one criticism of the work it was that the solution to each problem came a little too promptly, a little too easily - I'd have liked to see a little more dramatic tension in the book. All around, though, a very solid piece of work, and one which I enjoyed very much.

The Children of When is available from AMAZON both for Kindle and in paperback. 

Thursday, 6 August 2015

On Freedom of Speech

We hear a lot nowadays (when don't we, but there is usually a change in focus as the agenda of the free-speechers shifts). Earlier this year, the Federal Government, led by Tony Abbott, cited freedom of speech as its reason for attempting to repeal sections 18C and 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act. For those non-Australians reading my blog, those sections were the ones dealing with vilification; for example, they make it illegal to shout racial epithets in the street. And yes, the attempt was unsuccessful, following massive protest by every church, law society and human rights-related organisation in the country. (Read about the Law Institute of Victoria's

We may all choose our own socks.
It is a Fundamental Human Right.
However, I digress. My point here is that Freedom of Speech tends to be treated as though it were a fundamental human right, and therefore a thing in itself, separate and distinct from, for example, the right to choose the colour of one's socks.

This is, in my view, a fallacy, and a dangerous one. Speech acts (shouting a slogan, greeting a friend, reading aloud, etc etc) are just a subset of acts in general. There is no rational ground for granting speech a special status, exempting it from the usual considerations that limit human action.

We limit our acts in a number of ways. Aside from practicality (it's just too difficult to climb that telephone pole, and the kudos obtained from balancing a full glass of champagne on top of it is not worth the effort and risk involved) and law (climbing telephone poles is a Public Order offence), human action is in practice restrained by a number of normative forces, including but not limited to religious strictures, social sanctions, consideration for others, etc.

Because no one wants to step in it.
Or smell it.
What all of these limitations have in common is that their function is to restrict our liberty at the point at which it intersects with the liberty of others. For example,  where I live it's illegal to smoke in restaurants and on public transport. The rationale behind that is that a person's right to smoke is necessarily modified in its exercise by another person's right to eat and travel without having to breathe smoke. There is a legal duty imposed on dog guardians to pick up their dog's poo whenever it is deposited in a public place. This law exists to protect the right of other citizens to walk about freely without having to run a brown obstacle course.

No one likes a thief.
At a more fundamental level, the illegality of expressing your dislike of people by punching them in the face protects your own snoot from the disregard of others. And then there's private property. Have I said enough about this? I think so.

In the same way, speech acts may be subject to limitation where they impinge on the rights of others. For example, the use of racist language in a public place. This goes to the right of people (not necessarily those targeted by the language, but all of us) to move about in an environment that's safe and level for us all. More specifically, it speaks to the right of, for example, a black person, not to be subjected to racist harassment every time he pokes his nose out of doors.

This is not, of course, an argument for wholesale censorship. Laws restricting freedom of speech need to be carefully scrutinised, in the same way as do those restricting freedom of action. There needs to be a clear rationale and a genuine good to be obtained. But equally, free speech is not a sacred cow, to be held immune from all restriction.

*** my own collected short fiction, Once Upon A Dragon, will release on Amazon on 31 August.
Preorder it here.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Book review - An Unwanted Arrangement, by Ray Anselmo

With its likable, engaging characters and charmingly Wilde-ish plot, this new offering from the gifted Mr Anselmo is sure to please readers old and new.

It's a delightful comedy of errors, centring around that most traditional of antagonists, an arranged marriage. How the clever, resourceful Pella Lensoil deals with her predicament, the reader must discover for himself; this book is far too good to take the slightest risk of letting loose a spoiler.

The world setting is delightful, too, really original, with its hint of steampunk rendered with delicacy and taste. I often find steampunk writers rather heavy-handed with their creations, but no such thing with this writer. The world's religion, too, is a marvellous creation - embodying all of the normative precepts of Christianity, and yet wholly exotic in its execution. All round, a fine piece of work which I very much enjoyed.

One understands this is to be the first of a series, and my joy at hearing this was unqualified. 

An Unwanted Arrangement is available from AMAZON.

*** my own collected short fiction, Once Upon A Dragon, will release on Amazon on 31 August.
Preorder it here.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Book review - Clarence the Snake from Dunolly, by Susan Day

A new Susan Day is always a treat, and although this one is very different from the dog-related books we've come to expect from this author, it is certainly no disappointment. I thoroughly enjoyed the adventures of Clarence, which were related with wit, charm and sympathy. A nice introduction to the various wildlife to be found around the Dunolly area, and I was particularly pleased to see snakes receiving a friendly treatment.

With charming line-drawings to set off each story, this book is bound to be a favourite with the children.

Clarence isssss availablessssss from AMAZON and SMASHWORDSSSSSSS.