Friday 29 May 2020

Review: Sleeping Beauties, by Owen King & Stephen King

Sleeping BeautiesSleeping Beauties by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I can't settle on whether I should rate this a two or a three, so maybe a two and half would be more accurate.

Reading this book wasn't easy, I dragged myself through it as I don't believe in reviewing anything that I don't finish, so I insisted on finishing it, because I wanted others to not waste their time with it.

The only reason I can think that this book made it through is due to Owen King being son of Stephen King. If this book had been written by anyone else it wouldn't have been accepted for publication in its current form, a lot would have had to happen to it first. So I am disappointed with the editors that were thanked at the end of this book. I think they did a disservice to their profession - one I share as a developmental editor - and they sold out to sales over quality. Because by putting Stephen King's name on this book it guaranteed sales, so it didn't matter if it was edited well or not. And I am fairly confident there isn't much of Stephen King in this book, not much at all.

I am a Stephen King constant reader. I feel I know his writing and the first couple of hundred pages of this book read nothing like his style of writing, even down to the use of words. It felt like someone trying to copy his type of writing and approach to a story (switching between characters to show what is going on). There was a point in this book that it actually built some momentum and flowed for a while, maybe that was SK's influence or piece in it, but sadly it didn't last long.

As an editor there were entire chapters I would have cut out of this book. While reading it, there were entire sections that added nothing to the story at all and were just surplus to requirements. This book is a lesson in adding too much background information and information dumping, practises frowned on in the writing world. This 700 page novel could have come in at 3-400 pages and been a great, tight, read.

The general premise of the story is okay, but it failed in execution. Too many characters by far, so many unnecessary to the story and FAR too many brought in at the end. And within those characters, unnecessary interruptions in the story to tell the reader something completely irrelevant to the story about the character. I actually found myself skim reading, something I hate doing, and usually when I find myself doing that I stop reading a book, because for me it means I am no longer engaged in the story or interested in the characters. There were too many to care about, and there didn't need to be.

The story was also not resolved fully in any way - no explanation given as to the events of aurora or who Evie Black was. It seemed only to be used as some kind of platform to talk about men and women and how men might behave if women were gone (violent and irrational). It felt like a sort of apology to women, and what they have to put up with from men and living in a man's world, which I was fine with, but then towards the end it turned into a sort of man-hating narrative, which I don't agree with, and tried to use it as a reason for the story, but it didn't work well at all.

For me personally, Tommyknockers was the worst SK novel until now, as in that SK spends too much time on character backstory, but it wasn't badly executed like this, it had a proper story and story arc. Which then makes me question SK's On Writing and all his writing advice in that. It makes me wonder if he has actually read this book in its entirity, and actually did collaborate, or simply endorsed it with his name to give his son a boost.

This book has done nothing to inspire me to read any future work from Owen King - and I don't plan to. I read this solely due to SK's name being on it, which it's publishers knew would work. Some might say that I was the one being gullible, but really, he and his publishers should make sure what they publish under his name is quality otherwise that audience will disappear.

I am now dubious, as The Outsider was disappointing, and I still haven't bought Elevation or The Institute yet, and I am wondering if I should.

So no recommendation here.

View all my reviews

Wednesday 27 May 2020

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 159

This week's picture prompt is Jeannie Anne Numos aka i-am-JENius over on their page on DeviantArt, an artist based in the Philippines. They have some incredible pieces. I might have to use a few more. This one's titled 'Vanished Route to Demirville'. 

And we have another Tricky story, the 10th one, providing even more background information about her. She is easy to write. I hope to write something quite a bit longer for her soon. 

Here's the catalogue for my reference as much as anyones
Week 154 
Week 148 
Week 146 
Week 138
Week 132 
Week 126 
Week 122
Week 119
Week 77

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.

Brewing Storms of Change

Tricky looked at the sky. It was coming and she needed to prepare. Others wouldn’t, they’d think it was just another storm, but she knew that sky, she’d seen it before - and over these same train tracks.

It had been when she’d had to flee with her mother. Well, mother, she used the word loosely; she hadn’t been Tricky’s biological mother and despite raising her, she hadn’t really mothered Tricky either. She’d solely seen Tricky’s gift when she was a baby, and been in a position of power to take possession of her and nurture it, and bend it to her will. Tricky thought she should feel some kind of gratitude, but really she felt nothing. Feelings hadn’t been important when she had been growing up; they’d only been used for tuning into things and to manipulate others. Tricky had learnt otherwise over her, but back then she’d had no choice but to do as she was bid.

Her mother’s will had been one of greed and power, but despite having been successful initially, she’d pushed it too far, and they’d had to run for their lives. The world might have been reduced to a mere scrap of its population, but humans were the same creatures they’d always been – suspicious and jealous. And the wheels of time turned in circles, or some said spirals, repeating itself until someone twigged. Tricky and her mother had twigged – her mother was link and had taught Tricky to be – but only a handful of others had, and they had gained power by other grubbier means, and wanted to possess Tricky’s mother and Tricky – or have them burned at the stake like in the good old days.

Tricky still remembered that night: her mother pulling her by the arm through the forests, shouting incantations to get the trees onside and hide them. Then she’d heard the train, the freight ones that travelled between the remnants of cities carrying what little people had to trade. Her mother had dragged her to the edge of the tracks, the rushing of the passing carriages making Tricky dizzy, and counted down to a giant leap into one of the semi-empty freight cars. And they’d managed it, bundling up in a corner, hiding behind a couple of crates, and stayed that way until they’d safely disembarked in the next district.
Tricky had looked out at the sky through the cracks in the slats that made up the freight carriage, and watched the storm gather and swirl, feeling it inside, knowing it was more than just a standard storm.

It had been a prelude to change, another cleansing for the people who had grown too big in their boots. It was the kind of storm you wouldn’t survive, not just for its wrecking winds and flooding rains, but for what was contained within, the very poisons that had brought about the end of what they’d called ‘civilisation’ all those centuries ago.

Tricky and her mother had known that then, as Tricky knew it now. They’d found a safe place and hunkered down, protecting themselves, not only from the storm above, but the one that would rage again through the people.

Tricky had since returned after control of it had changed hands, knowing that what she needed was here; her mother having taught her that it held the core of all manifestation.

Tricky sniffed the air, and gauged that she had just a couple of hours to get back to her dwelling and ward it with protections. There was no time for dawdling, she must gather what she needed on the way and get ready. Others might be scared, but Tricky was thrilled. A new time was about to be ushered in, and a chance for her to find a new place within it.

Thursday 21 May 2020

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 158

This week's photo prompt was taken by Mariana MA on 500px. She calls it 'Freedom'. Very powerful picture. 

I went for a different kind of story this time. I don't often write gangster things, but this is what came out.

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.

Broken Links

It had taken a while but Mikey had found the broken link. He’d made sure he’d been thorough; he didn’t want to make a mistake – that would be bad – and now he was taking care of it.

He drove up to the cabin where Paulie had told him to get some R&R after disposing of it. He smiled to himself. They were pleased with him. He’d finally garnered some respect and might move up a few links in the chain.

The cabin came into view. It was a luxury one Paulie had had built. It had all the trappings of a resort, but was more secluded and only used by their organisation.

When he pulled up outside there were two other cars. He frowned, he wasn’t alone, even though he'd expected to be.

A large, stocky man in his late forties came out. “Mikey, how the hell are you? Paulie told us to expect you.”

“Hey Jimmy, I’m good thanks. Paulie sent you?”

“Yeah, he said you may need some help, you know. You got it with you?”

Jimmy nodded.

“Okay, let me get Ahmed.”

Jimmy disappeared inside to return with Paulie’s number two, Ahmed. He was as wide as he was tall, and solid muscle. He wasn’t someone you messed with – but then neither was Mikey.

“Hey Mikey, how you doing?”

“Hey Ahmed, I’m good now I’ve resolved the problem. Looking forward to taking a break.”

“Sure thing. Everything’s been laid on. Me and Jimmy’ll be leaving you in peace after.” Ahmed winked at Jimmy.

“What do you want to do, Mikey? Take five minutes or sort it now?” Jimmy said, ignoring whatever Ahmed had meant by the wink.

Mikey paused. These guys were further up the chain and he didn’t know them well enough to read their body language, but his gut told him something was wrong.

“I could use a drink and a leg stretch; it’s been a long drive.”

“Sure, come in and have a drink.” Jimmy beckoned him in, Ahmed following behind.

The place was spotless and no expense had been spared on this enormous ranch-like house. It was open plan and the extensive hallway led into a huge lounging area with wall to ceiling glass windows overlooking a huge swimming pool with the sweeping view of the forest covered mountains as backdrop.

“Wow, impressive.”

“It is,” Ahmed said. “Paulie knew what he was doing when he built this place.”

A bar ran along the back of the room and they all headed that way, Jimmy slipping behind to prepare drinks. A bourbon was put in front of Mikey and he swallowed it down in one, hoping it would quell the bad feeling. It didn’t. Jimmy immediately topped it up and Mikey swigged the next one down.

“Got a thirst, Mikey?” Ahmed perched on a stool next to him.

“I need it to take the edge off, you know?”

“Sure do.” Ahmed glanced at Jimmy and that was when Mikey knew. The broken link he’d discovered and disposed of hadn’t been the only one, there were two more right here. Paulie didn’t know they were up here. They were here to stop Mikey.

A third bourbon was placed in front of Mikey, and this time he stood up and took it with him, walking to the windows and taking in the view again. They didn’t follow him. His mind raced trying to work out a plan. He could run to his car or stand his ground? Which would it be?

The choice was taken from him as Ahmed barrelled into him. They weren’t wasting any time. Jimmy ran over as Ahmed tried to pin Mikey down and hooked a piece of wire over his head, aiming for his throat. Mikey managed to get a hand under it to stop it tightening. He thrashed about, making it difficult for them to hold him as he bent his right leg up under him and reach for the knife attached to his calf.

He plunged it in under Ahmed’s ribs and twisted, but didn’t wait, pulling it out and swinging his arm up over his head, hitting Jimmy full in the face with it, causing him to topple over. Mikey wriggled out from under them and took a breath as they lay there dying.

Now he had three bodies to dispose of, and a phone call to make to Paulie, before he could take his R&R.  

Wednesday 13 May 2020

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 157

This week's picture is of the cover of an old novel - La Chartreuse de Parme (The Charterhouse of Parma) and was written by French writer Stendhal in 1839. It's a story about a fictional Italian nobleman who lived in Parma during the Napoleonic era. The story was very popular and has been turned into Opera (1939), film (1948 & 1964), TV (Series in 1981 & 2012) and translated in novel form as recently as in 1997 & 1999). 

This particular picture was taken by a writing friend, Jessica Maybury, who makes things out of discarded objects such as this cover, and I was attracted by the colour and design of it. 

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.


Natalie smoothed her hand over the cover. She loved it: such a vibrant colour, such a perfect symbol on the front and with that title among her bookshelves, no one would pick it out. But if the contents were revealed … Natalie took a deep breath, she didn’t want to think about that. It was her secret.

She traced the lines of the candles and couldn’t resist another glimpse at the scribbled pages within. No, she told herself, you had to wait until tonight to try them.

She stayed busy throughout the day, going to work and daydreaming about what might happen that evening. And once home she waited until it was dark, occupying herself by moving furniture around and setting the scene. Then, with great awe, Natalie took the book down from the shelf and opened it. 

Standing in the middle of the room she began to read the words out loud. They sounded strange to her ears and she wondered if she was saying them right, with their true pronunciations forgotten over the centuries. But the light in the room began to dim and she was sure there was some kind of mist forming.

She kept reading until she came to the end of the first part and waited. By this time the entire lounge was full of some kind of ethereal smoke. She couldn’t see the fireplace a few feet in front of her, or the armchairs she’d moved up against the wall either side. She wasn’t sure if the manifestation had worked until she heard a cough, and then a voice cut through.

“Hello.” There was more coughing. “Oh dear, it seems the superfluous words have made a bit of a mockery of this business with all this mood smoke.”

Natalie waved the air in front of her face to try and clear it, and saw the outline of someone in one of the armchairs. Eventually a thin figure came into view, lounging in what looked like a smoking jacket, one suit-clad leg over the arm of the chair, swinging a black and white brogue shoe. It appeared to be a man with a long spindly moustache and Brylcreemed hair, holding a long cigarette holder in one hand. He looked as though he’d come from the 1920s.

“Who are you?” said Natalie.

“You called me up, my lovely, you should know,” he replied, casually taking a puff from his cigarette. 

“Erm …” Natalie scanned the next section in the book.

The man chuckled. “I’m just playing with you. Ernest’s the name. The dashing gentleman you ordered.”

“Oh.” Natalie felt her face flush. She’d never been good at hiding her disappointment.

“Not quite what you expected, it seems.” Ernest swung his leg off the arm of the chair and sat forward. “Where did you find the scripture?”

“What this?” Natalie indicated the scribbled words. Ernest nodded. “It was in my grandmother’s chest in the attic. It was given to me when my father passed away last year. I don’t think he ever looked in it. He’d would have left this for me to find otherwise.”

“Was your grandmother Maud Rivensby by any chance?”

Natalie felt goosebumps rise on her arms. “How do you know that?”

“Because she used to call me up all the time when she got bored, which happened a lot after her husband ran off.” Ernst sat back. “We had some good times,” he said wistfully, puffing some more on his cigarette.

“Ran off? He died in a car accident.”

“Is that what she told you? No, he wasn’t good to her, ran off with some woman he used to work with. Shame. She deserved better.” He sat forward again. “So you’re her granddaughter then?” Natalie nodded. “And now you too are looking for a bit of fun in your life.” He winked at her.

Natalie’s smile faltered. “Erm … I’m not sure anymore. I mean, no offence, but you’re not quite my type.”

He grinned, and the air shimmered around him. His face altered, filling out, the moustache disappearing. His whole body reshaped along with his clothes: muscles and broad shoulders appeared, wearing jeans and a t-shirt. He flicked his head forward, and then threw it back, sweeping a hand through the full head of blond, chin-length hair that had appeared. He grinned. The cigarette gone. 

“Is this better? In this form I’m Eddie. Happy to be at your service.” He winked again.

This time Natalie’s blush was one of attraction. This was more like it. This had been what the book had promised.

Wednesday 6 May 2020

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 156

This week's photo is actually a Banksy photo - he took it himself. The Bristol based graffiti/street artist has become stupidly famous and his art chronically overpriced, but such things have given him leverage to speak out and be heard, hence this piece of art, which was done in the Gaza and he did a whole doco piece about it and life in Palestine. 

I think the piece doesn't just speak of Gaza but of all war and the general state of our world - particularly at the moment, and the emotion of it. And although I was unsure about whether to use this picture, I feel that it offers a lot of inspiration for writing.

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.


It was dead, it was decayed, and he could no longer do anything about it. Murphy retreated, he couldn’t stay out here; he had to find a safe place, as much within as without.

He found an opening in the rubble, an old doorway that led down into a cellar. He set up home there thankful for his survival pack, bringing out a windup light and a bed roll, and chewing on an old dried fruit snack. It was a good find.

After placing a few strategic pieces of debris across the opening, he was sure he could ride it out down here. A couple of good scavenges of some abandoned homes had rewarded him with enough to stay holed up.

He lay in the dark in his cellar, only using his light when necessary. He imagined the world above, the shit show that was going on. The killing, the death, the ravage of war – well they called it war, but it really it was annihilation.

They’d come in their droves out of the sky, with weapons that had never been imagined, let alone seen. And what had baffled everyone is that they’d been human – the same species. You couldn’t spot them once they were on the ground; they could be anyone. Murphy wondered how they knew who were them and who were us – but they did know, they seemed to know exactly.

There’d been no negotiation, just action, and they’d known about all the secret bunkers in all the countries. There was no place left unturned – in fact they’d gone after the politicians and leaders first, coupled with the religious factions. That was why Murphy had lasted so long; he’d been a part of neither at any point in his life and had no intention of being. He’d kept his head down and done his time in the service, learning all he could about survival. Some would say he’d gone AWOL now, but there was no such thing anymore, the military had fallen. When you couldn’t tell who the enemy was, you ended up recruiting them into your ranks. Then they’d taken it part from within.

It had been a detailed and specific attack. Murphy was sure they’d been observing them for a long time, they knew everything, and they’d known how to destabilise. Murphy’s plan was to wait it out. They were almost at the end; there were few native humans left, and they weren’t planning on staying once they’d achieved their aim.

Murphy heard a shuffling sound. He sprang to his feet ascertaining that it came from the opening. He had his knife at the ready as he moved to the wall closest to the steps. Was it animal or human? He heard footsteps: human.

He could see them in his mind’s eye coming down the steps, then he heard a click and the cellar was flooded with light. He blinked rapidly but couldn’t get his vision to adjust before he was on the floor facedown with someone on top of him. It was one of them.

He heard the crackle of a walkie talkie, and the words ‘got him’ whispered into it. He was surprised; they normally executed people, they didn’t waste time capturing them. Another person came into the cellar and together they manhandled him back to the surface. His eyes adjusted enough for him to see the open transport truck waiting for him. They cuffed him into the back and two more sat either side of him.

No one spoke as the van moved out through the shattered war zone, and Murphy watched the debris reduce and turn into open swathes of land. Eventually a town came into sight, one that was still intact, and the truck pulled up in front of a large municipal building.

Two men in white coats were waiting at the entrance.

“Oh good, you’ve found him. Let’s get him inside.” The one on the left stepped forward. “How you doing, Murphy? Unfortunately you’re going to have to spend some time in the quiet room. We can’t risk you escaping again.”

“We found him in a cellar on the old housing estate they took down last week,” said one of his captors as they handed him over. “By the look of it he’d managed to equip himself with a few things along the way.”

“He was a top ranking marine; he knows how to survive,” the one on the right said. “It’s just awful what shellshock can do to a person. You’re safe here with us now, Murphy.”