This is the Death Of 1000 Cuts Pitch Rush Special episode. 55 authors, 55 novels looking for agents and editors. I read out a rapid-fire showcase of 100-word synopses and extracts.

This is a great episode to listen to if you’re trying to figure out how to pitch your novel, how to write a synopsis, how to write a query letter, and what makes the best extract of your work to share. It’s also a great episode to listen to if you’re interested in finding new talent!

If you fancy supporting me and this podcast, please buy my novel, THE HONOURS.

You can also drop me a few quid via my Ko-fi page.

Here are the authors and novel titles, in order, with full extracts. Get in touch via the ‘Contact Me’ button to the right if you’re an agent or editor who is interested in seeing more of any of them.

Number 1
Name: Thomas Russell
Novel Titled: The Curse Of The Go Force Warriors 5
Blurb: A washed up sitcom actor from the 80’s has a part in the equivalent of Power Rangers. He is playing a comic relief character. He goes out to the desert to film the first scenes. The 5 Rangers inherited prop helmets from the Japanese show. These are cursed due to mass murder on last day of filming on show they are doing English remake of. The Rangers become possessed, homicidal leading to supernatural, and stalk the film crew and sitcom actor around a trailer park at night. It’s a horror comedy.
“Linus you get here right now!”
The acne covered teen shuffled over, eyes locked on the floor.
“We’ve been over this mam.” he spoke with a southern twang pockmarked by the erratic tone shifts of unfurling puberty. “I’m the boom operator, I’m not here to-”
“Shut up Linus. Take Mr Pollock’s bags and escort him to Trailer 5. And quickly. I don’t want to be waiting an hour like I was for my latte this morning.”
“We were doing a sound check.” Linus mumbled. “I was working.”
“I don’t care.”
“The nearest Starbucks is a 45 minute journey.”
“That’s not my problem Linus.”
“Each way.”

Number 2
Neil Hughes
‘The Shop Before Life’
PITCH: A novel set in the pre-life.
Before being born, every person visits the Shop Before Life, where they must choose from countless magical jars of human traits, and decide what kind of person they will become on Earth.
Faythe spent two centuries mastering the art of annoying her friends in the pre-life before – accidentally – becoming the Shopkeeper’s new Apprentice. But her curiosity leads her to uncover the Shop’s ancient secrets, enraging the Management of the universe. If she doesn’t unravel the mystery of human individuality for herself, then nobody will be able to ‘become themselves’ ever again.
To understand Faythe’s story—or, truly, anybody’s—you must first understand the entire history of the universe. Luckily, provided you’re willing to skip some details, that doesn’t take long.
Before anything, there was nothing. But after that, there was plenty. Bacteria. Geese. Tables. More kinds of cheese than anybody could count. Trees. Cathedrals. Even GOATS.
And that’s not all! Due to the universe having an unnecessarily extravagant level of detail, every single goat was a unique individual with its own personality.
No-one knew for sure how goats managed this, as none had ever been seen in the Shop Before Life.

Number 3
PITCH: Jixin, the son of a great dragon physician, tries to survive as a stable hand in a matriarchal world of dragon racing. Things become interesting when he befriends the daughter of the Rookery mistress. She makes him her dragon physician. Does she has her own agenda?
“How did you know my mother?” Jixin breathed. “Who are you?”
“I met her once years ago. I do not think that the Tian Shan women cared even to tell you. Shu, the Great Dragon Physician. You even look like her! But pity…”
“What happened to her?”
The old woman’s face crumbled, softening. “You didn’t know, youngling? She was clawed to death by a raging mother dragon.”
“You lied! She left for the Docks!”
Tears were in Jixin’s eyes, blinding him. The image of the old woman swam before him, blurry and distorted.
“She did. But she found employment at a shithole of a minor Rookery. The conditions were horrible. She died. I am so sorry, Jixin…”

Number 4
Name: Christopher Galvin
BLURB: Magic is annoyed…no, she’s FURIOUS. For too long Her powers have been used for evil. Now She wants them back. But it’s not as clear cut as She imagined and now She has become corrupted, wiping out any magical beings She encounters like they were nothing.
Arthur Smallwood has been told he can defeat Magic, that he can stop what She has done. But what if he doesn’t want to fight? What if that responsibility is too much and what if what he has been told… is wrong?
EXTRACT: “Mother. What did you just do to those men?” Arthur asked. He was a bit frightened by whatever Catherine had done. He was also intrigued.
Catherine ran her hands over her tired face.
“Remember when you asked me if magic exists?”
Arthur nodded, not sure what this had to do with his question.
“Well I never answered that question. Here’s my answer now. Yes. I do believe in magic. And I just used it to save you from going to jail.”

Number 5
NAME: Joseph Sale
TITLE: Against Such Reckless Hate
Against Such Reckless Hate is a kaleidoscopic Lynchian horror-fantasy novel. The miracle-worker has been kidnapped by shadows, taken to a place called Darktown. There, shadows torture him, breaking his spirit to make themselves real. It’s up to an unlikely rescue team: a criminal, a serial killer, a psychologist, a spider, a knight, a waitress with a secret power, a shifu, and a spirit from the fabled Black Lake, to save him. An allegory of battling suicidal depression, this novel asks what we can do in the face of the reckless hate within ourselves.
Two shadows met in the graveyard beneath the old church.
There was hardly any starlight, and the pale eyes of the city’s skyscrapers were far off, less than real. The church and the graveyard lay at the heart of the city, the point of deepest dark. If you were
staring into a pit, it would be the point where your eyes begin to ache, the centre where not only solid ground but reality itself seems to fall away.
‘Brother,’ the first shadow said.

Number 6
Name: Lola Phoenix
Title: The Fifth Kingdom
Blurb: Weeks after her granddaughter Gabby goes missing, Julia has a run in with a kangaroo and a frog who attempt to steal a stone from her home. When the animals mention a young girl who has been living with them for days, Julia uses the stone to barter her way into the Kingdom, where she finds Gabby. The two are entangled in a centuries old conflict between the Kingdoms of Hop, Climb, Walk and Transformation while dealing with their own conflict: Julia wants Gabby to become a scientist like her when all Gabby wants to do is play outside.
“MADAME!” the toad shouted, jumping the the air with the force of voice. The toad coughed, then massaged a rubbery chest with the smooth pads of his fingers, “I do apologize for the shouting, but… if I may? I am a guest in your home and you are being considerably rude.”
Julia guffawed. “Well, a guest are you? A guest in my house?”
“It’s certainly not my house,” the toad gestured to the background.
“You’re a guest, are you? Huh? You’re a toad.”
“Yes. And? The point?”

Number 7
All That The Light Touches
Thomas Carson
During a period of drought, Maggie Miller, a young farmer realises she is pregnant again and begins to sleepwalk. Her husband John, a teacher on summer holidays is still finding it hard to gain acceptance within the community of cold patriarchal farmers.
In a neighbouring farm, alopecia stricken Mrs Pascoe adds yet more layers of concealer to her cheeks, while her proud, financially stricken husband, Jim Pascoe, having averted prison for the poisoning of two gypsy car thieves, is soon shaken to hear that the group of travellers have returned to their old camp.
Then the fires begin.
Monroe drew his finger across the map he’d been studying and marked out a line along the quarry road that they would try to secure. The sirens spun and the crickets in the grass verges, the roosting pheasants in the gorse, the swallows on the telegraph lines all fell silent upon their passing, as if acknowledging the passage of some macabre parade, and when the smoke elevated and passed across the sun’s spokes of light, the land ascertained a diffuse and jaundice shadow, like viewing it through a vat of old cooking oil, or flies’ wings.

Number 8
Laura Sweeney
Chasing Waterfalls
When 32-year-old Amy Hannington goes in search of glamour and excitement she can’t believe her luck when handsome, wealthy Timothy enters her life. As the glitz starts to fade, and she learns some uncomfortable truths about her boyfriend, she is forced to dig deep to uncover what true happiness means to her, before she loses herself.
Chasing Waterfalls is a story of one woman’s search for happiness, what happens when you get what you wish for, and how what we think we want isn’t always what we need.
Laughter and chatter and the clink of glassware floated up at her as she made her way along the hallway towards the stairs. As she passed the bedroom that Timothy was using as a study she could hear giggling from the other side of the door. She paused and listened for a moment, a slight frown creasing her forehead. The giggles subsided, and she heard a man’s voice, too quiet for her to make out what he was saying, but clear enough to be recognisable. There was no mistaking whose voice it was; after all she knew it well.
Mike appeared on the landing, wheezing slightly at the exertion of running up the stairs. Seeing her at the door his eyes widened and the colour drained from his face. He gripped the banister so tightly his knuckles turned white. Not taking her eyes off Mike’s face, Amy placed her hand on the handle of the study door and pushed it open.
Two familiar faces looked back at her as she stood in the doorway.
‘Oh fuck,’ said Timothy.

Number 9
Name: Nolan Dean
Title: Moonflower
Blurb: Eleven year old Millie Robertson wants nothing more than to be brave like her favourite fictional hero, Moonflower Jones. In the summer of 1985, her holiday gets more exciting when she discovers a teenage pixie Jade, and a handsome inventor Zigzag in her London suburbs.
A monster has escaped from their world, so Millie wishes for Moonflower Jones to come to life to help them. However, once Moonflower discovers the truth about her tragic fictional origins, Millie must face the dark side of her role model and find the hero within herself to save her town and her new friends.
“Plus,” Millie coughed, “People in real life kinda suck. Not all of them, I mean there’s one or two I kinda like, but…in stories people are always kind, and the bad guys always get defeated. They’re thrown in jail or something, but that doesn’t happen in real life, and I don’t get why. If you’re good…shouldn’t good things happen to you?”
“Sometimes you’ve gotta make those things happen for yourself,” Jade said, “If you sit around all day waiting for a miracle, you might blink and miss it.”
Millie shrugged. “I guess I’m not that smart.”

Number 10
Author: Marisa Noelle
Title: When the Raven Mocker Calls
Blurb: Traumatized teen, Luna, desperately wants to cope without her other personalities and so starts a house fire to shock them, perhaps even kill them. Second dominant, Matthew, risks it all to save them, but also craves Luna’s love. As they flee through the woods to Grandmother’s house with supernatural beings picking them off, he must fight for control over the host body, or lose himself forever.
Extract: Luna. Where was Luna? Matthew threw open her bedroom door, but she wasn’t there. Her sheets spilled off her mattress and puddled on the floor. Her curtains blazed a trail of flames, mantling an open window. On the ledge sat a trio of church candles, an incense holder and a framed picture of her at last year’s Homecoming dance, burning, wilting, fading from existence.

Number 11
C O Vollmer
Winter, 1536: Cesare Aldo is an officer for the Otto di Guardia, the most powerful criminal court in Renaissance Florence. But he’s also a gay man at a time and place where sodomy is punishable by imprisonment, banishment – even execution. Aldo lives a double life, enforcing the law despite his sexuality making him a criminal.
Investigating the murder of a Jewish moneylender, Aldo uncovers a plot to overthrow the city’s ruler, Duke Alessandro de’ Medici, during the Feast of Epiphany. Can Aldo stop the conspirators while keeping his secret from those who would destroy him?
‘The way Samuele was slain, that required genuine skill.’ Doctor Orvieto picked up a short knife, balancing it in his palm. ‘May I show you?’
Aldo spread out both arms, inviting an attack. ‘Please.’
The doctor approached, blade in hand, until they were close enough to embrace. Looking Aldo in the eyes, Orvieto thrust the knife at his chest. It stopped a hair’s breadth from Aldo, the tip sharp and steady. ‘This was a close killing. Almost… intimate.’
‘So I see.’
For a moment there was nothing but the two of them – then Benedetto stumbled back in through the doorway.

Number 12
Name: M S Clements
Book Blurb:
In the totalitarian regime of New Albany former elite Albian, Sophie and her foreign husband, Finn, attempt to live a normal life despite state interference When Finn begins to tutor the sociopathic teenager, Catherine, it is not only Sophie’s marriage that faces danger. Sophie must find a way to save her husband and escape the country before New Albany’s ‘Final Solution’ kills her husband and extinguishes what’s left of her freedom.
It was all about pretence. A performance for his captor. Finn, the actor with decades of experience. His current role, give life and body to 568216, the happy and relaxed tutor. He’d master the part, regardless of the panic raging through him. He’d allow the character to consume him, softening the torturous lesson. A portrayal steeped in method obliterating the restrictions. The audience locked out of her sitting room theatre. He was alone on her stage with no one listening, no one watching. A forgotten hour of freedom, three times a week.

Number 13
Author: Romi La Paz
The north of England. A tough neighbourhood on the edge of a tough town. Kathy has lost her father and she and her mother are about to be evicted. When new kid Gabriel arrives at school, he’s a welcome distraction, nothing more. But Gabriel opens the door to a whole new world, to friendship, hope, and something out of the ordinary: a chance to experience life beyond poverty, beyond mind, even beyond the grave. Gangsters, walking windmills and a geeky American scientist guide us to this conclusion: there’s always a way out of trouble, but it’s never the one you expect.
He walked past me to the door.
‘I’ll be back in the morning,’ he said. ‘Make sure your mother knows. Oh, and once you’re out, I’ll be changing the locks, or else you’ll be sneaking back in. I know your sort.’
‘Our sort?!’ My blood was boiling. ‘How dare you talk like that when you’re throwing us into the street?!’
He opened the door.
‘You don’t get it, do you? I talk like that BECAUSE I’m throwing you into the street. That’s how it works. Nighty night.’
And he lurched off into the gale, leaving the stink of his aftershave behind him.

Number 14
Lon E. Varnadore
Void Emissary
The Void Emissary are the peacekeeping force of the Twelve Worlds. Some of them belong to the Order of Hunters, those charged with assassinations. Pieter Strahd is one of them and he is given a mission to kill someone or the Twelve Worlds will sink into chaos. Soon he is joined by Kyp, a young æthernaut and Sarena Corr, with a living tree ship as transport. All of the together struggle against a mysterious force that could swallow all of the Twelve Worlds.
Extract: The Eye of Jove blazed bright, causing Pieter Strahd to close his eyes while he exited the æther tunnel into the Jove system. The smoked goggles did little good against the glare. He reached out for the Void as a reflex. The Void responded to his touch, calming and reassuring him while the æther tunnel created by the ætherscrew on the prow of his ship collapsed. It churned through the eldritch æther that surrounded all the planets of the Imperium.

Number 15
James Otsa
In the last city on the mainland, The Fifth Monarchy government has fabricated a new history of the world. The teachings of The Historian are compulsory reading, leaving a divided population unsure of who, or what, is real. Information on every person is recorded in the overflowing Memory Vaults, including every ill-thought or intention they’ve ever had. Despite all this, Bathis Mere is only concerned with his own misery. Searching for his estranged family, he will discover chilling truths at the heart of the Memory Vaults that force him to choose between his own problems, or those of the city.

“The deserts were made by the hot breath of Cancer and Capricorn, the cold flow of the oceans, and the rain-shadows which fell from the homes of the Gods. At first they were empty, like the universe, but then they teemed with things which had learned to live on through death. In the freezing nights and blistering days, life was sealed in stone and sand—but it prevailed.”

Number 16
Name: David Court
The Concordance; An intergalactic alliance of worlds and species, spreading peace and enlightenment throughout the dark corners of space. To be a member brings protection, stability and wealth. Refusal of membership or expulsion brings the indignity of being declared Recreant. It’s a carefully balanced system that, in its lengthy history, has never failed.
However, this tentative harmony is threatened from without and within. Fragile alliances are weakened to breaking point as an unseen enemy strikes without apparent motive or warning. Against this backdrop of political turmoil, there are those who seek to exploit the situation for their own Machiavellian ends.
The sound that Yolqun had originally thought was the noise of some gargantuan beast attempting and failing to clear its throat turned out to be the shuttles engines engaging. The hold of the shuttle was cold and uncomfortable, and it took him eight seats until he found a working seatbelt.
Strapped in now and marvelling at the sheer majesty of the incredible view – four walls and a ceiling – he slumped back in his chair. He’d hoped his last ever space journey would have been on some manner of pleasure cruise, not hurtling towards certain death in something barely space-worthy.

Number 17
Stephanie Nicholls
Of Kings & Queens
Brenin wants change, being King; he’s in the right place. The challenge – surviving the prophecy. He’s about to realise that he’s not their only target. Can he survive and raise his Kingdom above slavery and a church that craves power over peace?
General Rizario wants revenge, and he knows all the right people. Can he, himself see past the grief and rebecome the great General.
Urelai must start a rebellion, his brother is dead, his country in shambles. Only one person can help but she won’t; because he killed her brother.
‘You have lost your voice through no fault of your own; taken away by the very people who are supposed to listen. I am not here to keep you silent nor to make false promises to you. I am here to make amends, to give you back your voice. I cannot promise you anything, except that I want change. I want…’ I stopped, again looking at the faces around me. And realised where I’d been going wrong, I sat down on the floor. I let all the breath leave my body, drawing it back in slowly. ‘What do you want?’

Number 18
From: Elissa Soave
Subject: Pitch Rush: How Will You Love Me?
This is a novel about the devastation that can be wreaked by those who love or have been loved dysfunctionally.
England, 2014. A man is convicted of a brutal attack on the person he believes kidnapped and abused his teenage son. But nothing is as it seems: in a group of broken individuals, each one affected differently by the ways in which they love and have been loved, who is really to blame?
The parents are caught between abandoning me as too difficult, and taking the credit for who I am. As if they had anything to do with it. I am Morgan Vance. I am the person I was born to be and the person I always will be. I am smarter than you and everyone else you know. The parents want to take the glory. I can’t have that: all plaudits belong to Morgan.
Listen carefully, and I’ll worm my way into your head. And blow it open. I’ll get behind your eyeballs. And peel away the layers like an onion.

Number 19
Jennifer Kennedy
Galloping Catastrophe – A year in the life of a menopausal woman
Alexis Nightingale is menopausal and begs to feckin differ with anyone who tries persuade her it is anything but a repeat of the hormonal hell that was puberty but made worse by being no longer in the fountain of youth. She does not want to take up yoga or go on a silent retreat or take supplements made from an ants eyelids or whatever the latest fad is. She does not want to fade into middle aged invisibility. She wants, and is going to get, another bite of the very juicy cherry that is life.
100 word extract:
?This morning I was walking back from the supermarket convinced I had forgotten something. I had made a list but I had left it at home – so had to rely on my menopausal memory. I ran through the things in my head – bread, bananas, eggs, bacon, washing powder. I racked my brains all the way home. I was just sitting down to a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea when I remembered. The Dog! Our Sweet Dog was still tied up outside the supermarket waiting for her brain fog addled owner.

Number 20
My name: Bill Bradbury
=== 100 word BLURB/PITCH ===
Holly’s scared, for a smoke-jumper that’s abnormal. Takeda’s actedstrangely since the mass suicide of red-legged birds. He’s complaining about repeated visions of a little girl named Chimera. Although, it’s his birthday, and ’The Event’ gives you a dose of enlightenment on that day, coincidence? Maybe. But then a tree with blood red eyes appeared and screamed. Seamus was found dead, an assassin attempted to kill her, and any computer she touches seems to have been hacked. Now, a text from someone holding her mother hostage.
Holly was scared; now she’s terrified.
=== 100 word EXTRACT ===
He had no sense of time on earth, though his body was resting comfortably in the chamber for just a few seconds. Roused by a gentle pulling away from infinity he began to regain an impression of existence. He remembered he was called Takeda. It wasn’t jarring; he was filled with light and safe in the knowledge that he could keep it.
A feeling like he was liquid filling up a form washed over him as he returned to his body. Pulsing with energy and filling up his mortal consciousness, each cell expressed gratitude.

Number 21
From: Umar Abubakar Sidi
The Autobiography of a Power Monger
My novel, The Autobiography of a Power Monger is a 70,000 word novel adorned with elements of magic realism. It tells story of how a mysterious manuscript titled: A Guide to the Secret of the Alphabet and other Matters Related to the Construction of Words and Sentences was transported through the ages from Baghdad to Timbuktu and to Sokoto in Northern Nigeria.
The novel is a salutation to Italo Calvino, Orhan Pamuk and a meditation on Borges. Hence, it would appeal to fans of postmodern and experimental literature. The Autobiography of a Power Monger is genre – bending with the potential to ignite a spark for new labels.
By reading me you are inviting death upon yourself. And who but a fool will read himself to death? I know you want to throw this book away, dash out and shout ‘Help! Help! Help!’ A book wants to kill me! And when you realise that the door is locked from the outside you think of another way out. A status update on facebook or a hash tag on twitter #RescueMe #IAmAloneInARoomWithAKillerBook. But forget it that would not help. There is no escape. We are hooked. Do you think it is for joke that I am called Book of Sorcery and the Evolution of Superstitious Allusions?

Number 22
Ann Godridge
The Witch House
Grieving and vulnerable after a breakdown, Alice Steele stumbles on the body of her trustee Harry Rook, who has been ritually murdered. She is forced to confront the tangle of secrets and lies at the heart of her family and community to prove her sanity and to clear herself of murder.
The Witch House centres on a dysfunctional family. There’s a Roman silver hoard, a pagan cult, and a property fraud as well as murder.
This dark psychological thriller explores gaslighting, wilful blindness and questions of nature and nurture.
My heart started beating faster. Something was deeply wrong. I sensed an otherworldly presence in the air.
On the stone in front of me, a rabbit. Dead. Splayed open down its undercarriage, and staked through its heart with a sharp stick. What monster did this? The sick, sick bastard. Defiling this sanctuary.
I was possessed by rage, then disgust.
Pulling myself together, I looked more closely. Wax residue, black, on the north side of the stone. All around the sides, fresh chalk markings, demonic looking sigils and pentagrams.
Not this again. After last time, I wanted nothing to do with it.

Number 23
Author: Emae Church
Title: Earth 101
17-year-old Jayne has a problem: only she remembers the two girls from her school, erased from existence; from everybody else’s memory. The girls have been Deleted.
Jayne doesn’t possess any strange powers of recall. She’s normal, just like anyone else, except she happens to be dating some guy, Aithen from another world. Big deal. We’ve all done it.
But there’s a connection with the visiting aliens and the missing girls. And now Jayne’s relationship with Aithen has placed her on the target list of the Deleters.
No one on Earth can help Jayne. It’s time to run.
All I hear is the despair in her voice. “Why are you doing this?” The fear. “Please, wait. Let’s go back-”
Who is she with? I’ve seen her hanging with a lanky fella with white hair after school, but… should I go after her?
Do I really want to find myself in another argument and fight?
The feet and voices grow faint and are replaced by the whistle of the wind. Billowing clouds chase across the dark sky. Peering down from my hiding place, a faint flash catches my peripheral vision, from the direction of Laura and whoever went.

Number 24
Sara-Mae Tuson
Selina and the Six Lost Songs – YA
100 words blurb
A trip to Ireland goes horribly awry when teenage SELINA tumbles into the tomb of long-dead (or is she?) faery queen, MAEVE. Selina and BARD (her reluctant half-fey sidekick) travel the world to find the six lost songs, unlocking clues leading them to QUEEN MAEVE’s runaway daughter, FINDABAIR.
Dealing with Maeve’s vicious reprisals, monsters and more, Selina and Bard fight a growing attraction for each other – because he’s promised to someone else.
Culminating in an epic battle on Liberty Island, Selina must face the implications of her fey heritage and her own self-doubt to save the people she loves.
100 words extract
It all started when a boy fell out of the sky.
Well, he didn’t exactly fall, more like tumbled on top of me, knocking the air out of my lungs, the big idiot…but hang on. Let’s back it up a bit…
One year earlier…
I’m staring up at the huge pile of stones that are meant to be Queen Maeve’s Cairn, on top of Knocknarea, the hill we’ve just climbed, west of Sligo, Ireland.
“This it?” I mutter, looking up at the enormous mound. It looks like someone filled a giant bowl with stones and then flipped it over onto this hilltop.

Number 25
From: Ruby Parker
TITLE: Riverborne
BLURB: Abandoned at birth, 13-year-old Ghost grows up with the witch Maeve and her niece Nella. When a slumbering evil is woken in the woods, it’s up to Nella and Ghost to save the village. Together, they must journey to the Wildwood to find the bone witch, rumoured to know the secrets of death. But the price she asks in return for the knowledge may be too high for Ghost to pay…

EXTRACT: There was something eerie about the empty riverbed, Ghost had always thought. As he stood in the middle of the stream of stones, he imagined a sudden tide rushing down and sweeping him away. Still, it was beautiful in a barren way he supposed. The white rocks stood out against the surrounding green like the bare bones of the valley.

Number 26
Callum Beesley
The Carer
A modern take on the vampire, The Carer follows Jane Edge, a disillusioned and desperate care worker struggling to support herself and her dying mother. Taking a job at modern and forward thinking care company, ‘Your Life’, Jane finds herself drawn to the mysterious elderly patient Mr Comfort and the secret he possesses. But ‘Your Life’ is no ordinary care company and Jane is about to learn it has secrets to protect of its own.

Victoria pulls my hand out of her mother’s mouth.
‘Just checking,’ says Mother, her eyes rolling back into her head.
A long, thick and syrupy strand of drool connects my fingers to the old woman’s tongue as I pull them out of her reach. I hang my wet hands out in front of me, not sure where to put them when Victoria hands me a tissue. It’s small, it’s used, but will have to do before I can get to a bathroom and wash my hands, scrub them clean of this phlegm and mucus concentrated brown with coffee and age.

Number 27
From: Judith Parker
The Bumblebee Princess
(Children’s age 9-12)
Three giant Bumblebees, one pest of a boy called Bellamy, a clockwork mouse, a flock of freedom fighting dragons and Og, the Bumblebee Princess, with her golden bee power and a special secret hidden deep inside her soul but will it be enough to destroy the Vampyre Faery, will it be enough to survive?
‘SO!’ Bellamy said, trying to get things straight in his muddled up head ‘The Great Bumblebees are dying Og’s a Bumblebee Princess whatever one of those is when it’s at home the Vampyre Faery are poisoning the world Og’s Watcher’s missing in the Blood Mines looking for a Famous Device but we dunno know what it is and we dunno know what it does except it blasts the Vampyres away which is awesome but unlikely and the mines are all icy and we can’t find them.’ Bellamy said all on one breath. ‘That about it?’
‘Pretty much,’said Og.

Number 28
Hayley Gullen
Another Age
Two women swap lives. Each thinks they’ve found an easy route to success and happiness, but will they repeat the mistakes of their pasts? Julia is fifty-two, wealthy and fed up. She abandons her luxurious lifestyle in search of east London’s hippest parties. Cassie is twenty-two, broke and miserable. She trades thirty years of her life for a house that’s worthy of the style pages of a Sunday broadsheet. The novel is a witty but heartfelt exploration of whether there can ever be an easy route to happiness, or if we are doomed to be trapped by our flaws.
While she’s upstairs, I’m in my study, pretending to run a business.
The small amount of fun it gave me at the start has vanished. It’s all arty and floaty and cultural on the surface. I even went into a shop to admire it and lord it over the staff a bit (I know that’s not cool, but you try resisting the temptation).
It all looks aesthetically nice. But almost every fucking thing I do is related to spreadsheets and numbers and emails. The personnel stuff has lost its tiny bit of voyeuristic appeal too: it turns out sacking someone involves a fuckload of paperwork.

Number 29
Liam Garnett
“The Stowaway”
Theo Halliday, nephew of the wealthy widow Lady Marianne, fears the unscrupulous Edmund Arundell’s advances are more for his aunt’s land than her hand. Hoping her exiled son will stop the marriage, Theo stows away on a boat destined for Jersey. But this merchant ship isn’t heading that way, it’s heading for another world. The New World.
Stranded in the Caribbean, Theo must find a way back to England. But first he must join forces with orphans, escaped slaves, and an alcoholic conman to battle smugglers, kidnappers and pirates. And avoid Arundell’s privateer captain who’s close behind…
How can you all watch, thought Theo. The captain ordered Plank to remove his shirt, then kicked him between his shoulders. Plank fell to his knees. You all know it wasn’t him who stole the rum, Theo screamed in his head. Lee turned away, but Tweedy still watched. Captain Eastland raised the whip high. Theo thought back to Mr Thwaites caning his palm at the docks, and how he’d wished one of his classmates had stood up for him. He glared at the sailors. I can’t believe not one of you has the courage to shout…
‘It wasn’t him!’

Number 30
Nicky Abell-Francis
Book Blurb
Retreating to the Highlands entwines past with present. Zara’s life comes crashing back into an emotional rollercoaster of passion, fear and the consequences of following your addictions. Bruce’s hidden secrets emerge causing impending financial ruin to any inheritance for other family members. New life brings further confusion to the eternal triangle.
100 word Extract:
The smile on Mr Campard’s face vanished as suddenly as it had appeared on entry. His face darkened, though it was hard to distinguish shadow to blood flow in the half light. ‘That is not good news to hear and may spoil my weekend far too much. You know late payment is not accepted. You will make sure it doesn’t happen again.’
‘I do of course, but it is just impossible to find the extra at this precise moment.’ Bruce’s focus was on Mr Campard’s expression, he didn’t notice one of his colleagues moving to his side. Suddenly he…

Number 31
“My name is Katherine Haven and I’m a strong-willed, independent woman. No one can ever control me or so I thought. How wrong could I be?”
Katherine Haven thinks she has the perfect life in Surrey. Sadly,her world comes crashing down and she is forced to return to Nottingham. Katherine has so much guilt for ending her marriage. She wants to recreate the perfect family for her son. Finally, she meets a half-Italian man, Andrea. However, there are tiny clues that show that Andrea is not all he seems. The once light-hearted and humorous Katherine, becomes increasingly insecure. Her desperation to make a better life for her son and a pregnancy push her closer towards Andrea, and they get married. Andrea convinces Katherine that she is suffering from mental illness and alcoholism. Now her every move is being controlled.
My name is Katherine Haven and I am a victim of domestic abuse.
There, I’ve said it now so it must be real. People think I’m making it up. They can’t see how someone who appears as strong as I do, can be a victim, let alone one of domestic abuse. But no one comes up to you and asks your permission to control you, do they? It’s a slow, gradual process that starts out as the odd slight of word, the odd change to your daily life, until what you were once is eroded away and you become someone else altogether.

Number 32
Lorna Eifflaender
THIS MORTAL COIL meets the complex mother-daughter relationship of LADY BIRD. 17-year-old science-prodigy Nila defies her locust-expert mom to follow artistic dreams. But when a superswarm of man-eating locusts threatens the US, Nila must reconcile with her Mom and combine her creative and scientific abilities to stop it.
Another wave of locusts hits, thrashing into me like I’m being whipped with a hundred lashes over every inch of my body. They clatter against my helmet, twisting it to the side, and the visor shatters. I clamp my eyes shut and hold my breath as my face is covered with clumps of glass and fluttering creatures. The smell of dirt blasts up my nose like a sandstorm. They’re inside my helmet, crawling in my hair.
I can’t get them out.
As I try to shake them free, I lose control, and the scooter veers to the right.

Number 33
Jane Flett
Not a Witch
In a metaphysical brothel in Berlin, Jennifer finds employment transporting clients into the fantastical realm of their strangest desires. She soon masters the art of turning a man into a steel arrow, thrumming in the bow, or transporting her boss inside Godzilla’s skin—though she can’t admit these abilities mean she’s a witch. When one client gets stuck inside a twisted world of his own creation, she must find a way to dig him out while coming to terms with the humiliating past she thought she’d left behind. Not a Witch is a literary novel with elements of magical realism.
I should stop, but it’s already too late. Already, it doesn’t matter.
This is what is happening now. Pedalling into the darkness with perfect trust, my heart high and hammering in my throat.
I close my eyes, and I let Shakti come close to me. Her breath on my lips, on my cheeks, the gentle tapping of rain. Let me in says the wolf at the window, says the fox, and how can you refuse?
There are only two things I know: that she’ll be able to see whatever is inside me, and that I’ll let her.

Number 34
Rebecca Milton
It is 1815, and a young woman has started to Remember things that aren’t her own memories. This would be bad enough, but with the war with Napoleon over, another is brewing – and this time, with a far more powerful force. Never in history have the Fae of Secundus invaded the Primal realms, but Corentine is as certain about the future as she is uncertain about her past. And it’s up to her, her best friend Kalyani, and a mysterious Archmage to uncover their plans. What could possibly go wrong?
“There’s a tree to our right,” Kalyani said, as the third shift change approached. “We can use its roots to climb down. If we do it whilst they’re changing, they’ve no chance of seeing us.”

“We’re deep into Oberon, Kaly, they’d have a lot of treacle putting eyes on us anyway.”
“True. But you know what they say, better safe than…”
“Waving a white flag.”
“You know, I’ve always found it interesting that you conflate apology with surrender.”
“Plenty of wakers paint it in that image.”
“That’s not unfair. Here, this is the one.”

Number 35
Mark David Goodson
The Eighth Morning
Jack Newman must face the same fate as his father, the man he has vowed never to become. The Eighth Morning is a work of literary fiction about a young Jack Newman’s first attempt to get sober.
The reader experiences the mind of an addict through the waves of self-deception in a newfound love affair with pills. The fact that you are hearing this pitch when interest in opioid addiction is at an all-time high is mere coincidence. A graduate of both Dartmouth College and Betty Ford, the author knows the subject well and writes this story with excruciating detail.
“And you no doubt told yourself you were doing it for your sobriety. You had to in order to stay sober. Well, look at the good that did.”
Jack was staring at the kitchen cabinets.
“No. Look here.” She pointed to the refrigerator that was splattered with pictures of Davey. The sort of fridge photography collection you might expect from a widow with an only child. “Look at what you cleaned up when you got home.”

Number 36
Simon K Brown
Faders is about an organisation in the afterlife that dispenses karma and the corrupt, self-serving people who work there.
Anouk has been headhunted by this mysterious organisation in a half-hearted attempt to add some diversity to the group of middle-aged white men working there. She enlists on the understanding that once she performs a thousand judgements she’ll get to meet her dead mother, but with her colleagues killing for sport, starting their own religions or going mad entirely, that might be harder than it seems…
Birds. Steady streams of them soaring up from all over the city, converging on the church’s jutting spire so it looked like it was haemorrhaging something evil into the sky. The cloud quickly grew,
then started moving towards the tram, twisting, pulsing, shifting.
This patchwork murmuration, filled with every colour and type of bird imaginable, swirled round the carriage and blocked out the sun. The windows shook with the thunder of their wings.

Number 37
Name: Angelita Bradney
Novel title: Saint Michael
The Maitlands seem like an ordinary working-class family. They all have things to hide, of course.
Mike, a builder and an alcoholic, returns from exile in France to be reunited with his uptight brother John. As the two men struggle to face the secret that has divided them since childhood, John’s teenage daughter goes missing. Mike holds the key to where she is, but before the family can pull together, he must face his deepest fears.
Saint Michael is a contemporary family drama – think ‘The Corrections’ but set in Essex.
The call came from Mam a few days later, while Mike was working on a plastering job in a large local house.
‘Michael.’ Her voice was strained, faint.
‘Mam. What’s wrong?’
‘It’s your dad. He’s…’
‘What? Mam?’
‘He’s dead.’
Standing still, the phone to his ear, Mike felt a sudden cold penetrate his bones. He could barely hear Mam speaking. ‘I came back from the shops and… there he was.’ She said she’d found Joe on the carpet, limbs splayed, skin like putty. ‘Oh Michael. His chair – it was still warm!’

Number 38
Ian Murphy
In an alternate United Kingdom that is anything but, a middle-aged cocktail lounge pianist is notified by the local authority of his own death, stripped of his identity in a land where identity is everything. He returns to the isolated village he left behind as a young man to tie up his affairs and arrange his own funeral, where he soon discovers that somebody has been living his life for him. His renewed presence uncovers the disturbing truth of his past, his present and his role in the local community. Then he goes missing.
Returning to his apartment in a foul mood generated by being outside, Walter sat at his desk, kicked off his wingtips and placed his latest charitable acquisition amongst his papers. He had acquired the box at the Refugee Crisis Emporium, one of the few shops he was still allowed to do business with. It had struck Walter that it seemed only fair that, while donating his own items to a charity shop, said shop should in all good conscience give him something in return. He referred to this notion as ‘trade,’ though others, it transpired, called it ‘unconscionable.’

Number 39
Matthew Leach
After the End
In life, following the death of his overbearing father, and finding himself the target of bullying, seventeen-year old Liam Beck is plagued by Mr Static, a manifestation of his depression and anxiety.
In death, Liam has no memory of his final hours. That is until a mysterious woman calling herself Mother grants him two hours and contact with a single person of his choosing, to ghost back into the mortal world, where Liam not only uncovers the shocking truth of his fate, but also the dark secrets of those closest to him.
It was just a party. He loved parties. The music. The people. Dancing and drinking. The racing heartbeat. The overwhelming feeling of euphoria as the bass dropped and the chorus kicked in.
He used to love parties. But not now. Not this. This was too much.
Mr. Static was close, his hot breath on the back of his neck as he whispered sweet misery into his ear.
Liam felt light headed, his heart pounding. The knot in his gut tightening as the screams began to build in the dark recesses of his fragile mind.

Number 40
Kirsteen Stewart
The Mandrake
The blurb
The child somewhere out on the mud-banks of the Solway Firth on that foggy November night- was she running after her howling mother? Or away from her? Bruised by childhood, serious, violet-eyed, long-legged 19 year old Lydia is catapulted into the maelstrom of 1960s London.
She weaves her uncertain way between the old-fashioned values of her grandmother and the scary opportunities for sex and a career in a changing world. This novel is about the pitfalls and conflicts, unexpected friendships and opportunities, unsuitable love and tragedy as Lydia struggles to find herself.
The extract
The boutique was so small and glittery that she lowered her eyes. They spotted Brigitte Bardot on the pavement outside. Marvin chose a pink bikini for her. The sand of the rich and privileged pressed between her toes. Suddenly there was something unbearable about it. The umbrella pines, the blinding sunlight, the ice gold sand, the violent strips of bikinis slashed across beautiful brown bodies, and the tumbling ink blue sea. She longed to be back on the Solway Firth, in the sullen grey-brown sea, safe in her navy school swimsuit, the scratchy unflattering material protection against temptation.

Number 41
Daniel James
Grandma, the Devil and Me
Shirley Jackson meets Bukowski in this darkly humorous coming-of-age memoir. Jonathan’s mother is an air stewardess, his father a retired football hooligan. He is left under the care of his eccentric Grandma in a lazy suburb of Blackpool. They share a dilapidated house with seven budgies, three dogs, three cats, two tortoises, the occasional seagull, his auntie Karen (who Jonathan suspects might be a witch) and, of course, the Devil, who Jonathan decides is the force behind his OCD. Jonathan finds the Devil everywhere: in his Great Grandmother’s bra, under the North Pier and, eventually, on the internet.
Once I stole a book called ‘The Irish Witch.’ I couldn’t read it, but liked to look at the picture on the cover – a naked woman with horns, dribbling blood. Father David said the Devil had horns and I wondered if the Devil might be a she.
‘Can the Devil be a she, Mum?’ I asked.
‘He can be lots of things’ she nodded. ‘A bird, a goat, a woman, a man. But you always know him by his smell.’
‘What does he smell like?’ I asked.
She thought for a second. ‘Like Grandma’s back room.’

Number 42
Tracey S. Rosenberg
Blurb/pitch: Jane Elliott, rejected by her adoptive family, passionately identifies with the heroine of Jane Eyre – except for that ridiculous decision to marry Rochester. Yet in her own desperate search for a home, Jane agrees to a visa wedding with the Edinburgh University professor who heads her English Literature programme. When she fails to build a relationship with him, Jane must face the possibility that she was never abandoned, but has pushed away everyone who tried to love her. To find the family and happiness she yearns for, Jane must become an even more courageous heroine than her beloved namesake.
Extract [the opening of the novel]:
The corridors of Edinburgh Airport were plastered with images of Scotland. Majestic castles gleamed silver in bright sunshine, and men in kilts grimaced as they hoisted wooden poles in preparation for hurling them. A trio of Shetland ponies strolled on a beach beside a shimmering loch.
All three ponies wore sweaters.
Jane halted. Jetlag was pounding behind her eyeballs, but she hadn’t expected a redeye flight to make her hallucinate tiny horses decked out in knitware.

Number 43
Trasie Sands
Freaky Yarn
Freaky Yarn: Eric Stoddard goes to the store in the snow. When he doesn’t come back, his wife fears he’s gone for good this time. On the one hand, to be free of his cruelty would be like a dream for Tamera, but on the other hand, how can she live alone? Brought up in a large family in a tiny fishing village, she was raised to marry and have children. Eric had work. He made the money. They couldn’t survive without him. But where is he? Why would he leave with nothing? No clothes, not even a toothbrush?
It wasn’t a restful sleep. She woke with every little noise and drifted back to sleep just in time for another creak or thump. They were nothing. The house was old, and it made noises, but the noises might mask an approach. If she wasn’t on high alert, she’d notice too late, if at all. She got up and walked around the bed to lie on the other side, putting Mason between her and door. She pulled the blankets back up and over herself and Mason, and willed herself back to sleep.

Number 44
A Mighty Stranger is a contemporary family drama set in London.
When Nicky’s wife dies, he’s thrust back into his estranged family’s household. With a stepmother he barely knows, a sister mired in resentment, and a father he can’t forgive, it won’t be an easy place to grieve. His ongoing presence drags up a past family secret, and threatens his stepmother’s delicately crafted status quo. Nicky has to weigh up if he is too much of a stranger to fit back into the family. After all, some strangers are more dangerous than others.
The wind raged against his cheeks as he rushed to the top to stand beside her and look at the cobalt blue sky and London’s silver buildings glinting in the sunshine. The sun caught her hair and she glowed. She was a magical spirit, caught in a flame. She looked round at him, smiling, and he was relieved in her happiness, as he knew those moments to be terrifyingly fleeting. After their long walk back down the hill, they slid into a booth in a small café to indulge in cake and inhale warmth through two large mugs of coffee.

Number 45
Fíona Scarlett
Seventeen-year-old Joe O’Reilly is from the wrong part of town, living in a Dublin city council flat with his Ma Annie and twelve-year-old brother Finn. His Da Frank, not only tears chunks out of Ma on a regular basis but is also the muscle for the notorious gangland criminal Des “The Minister” Murphy. Joe is determined not to become like his Da. However, when his brother Finn dies of cancer, Joe finds the lure of the dark side of his community too hard to resist. In Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha meets Breaking Bad, BOYS DON’T CRY is a story of family, love, loss, community and above all survival.
I still wish they’d let Da visit.
I wish they’d let me home.
I wish they’d serve Big Macs here instead of cabbage, mash and ham.
Dr Kennedy said to write it all down, the things I’ll miss the most.
It’s supposed to be part of the process, help me transition. But trying to fit everything in that’s busting out the top of my head is sending me mental. Plus nobody has come out and said it yet. Not the nurses, not Dr Kennedy, not Ma.
But Joe asked me if I was afraid.
And that’s when I knew.

Number 46
Alex Delve
So Say the Dead
Graverobber Violet Harkness can hear the dead speak. But when one whispers her name and accuses her of murder, she is pulled into the occult world beneath Edwardian London she has always resisted.
Accompanied by William Beaufort, a man trying to be good but irretrievably tempted by the forbidden knowledge Violet’s ability suggests, the two of them discover more about her powers than they ever wanted to know.
For a moment there was nothing but the thud of her heartbeat in her chest and in her head. She leaned closer, until her ear almost brushed the corpse’s lips. Then she heard it. Syllables and consonants twisted into something beyond language. Something profoundly inhuman that snagged on something primal inside her. Something utterly unrecognisable, but so recognisably language.
She repeated it, her lips and throat contorting to produce the sounds in ways that should not have been possible and yet flowed so naturally. The words passed through her, and Violet did as little as possible to examine them as they passed.

Number 47
Jenny Adamthwaite
Drawing Breath
Meg, who has no memory of herself or her past meets Michael, a graphic novelist, at a party. Michael has been struggling with his manuscript: his central character has disappeared from his drawings. As he falls in love with Meg, he comes to realise that she is his character. Meg struggles to cope with not being ‘real’, finding she needs Michael to help her figure out how she operates in the real world (why, for example, is it physically impossible for her to cut her hair?) Can Meg be both the character and the real person?
I almost choke on my tea. I put my mug down on the table.
He stares at me seriously, his face pale and his eyes wide. My laughter evaporates.
“What do you mean you think I’m fictional?”
He barely blinks. He presses his lips together and closes his eyes. A car with a wheezing exhaust passes outside. He opens his eyes slowly; they glisten like melting ice.
“I think,” he says slowly, “that you’re the character from my comic.”
I stare at him. Words catch in my throat.
“You’re…” I stop. He can’t possibly be serious.

Number 48
Rebecca McCormick
Title: Teenage Wasteland
Teenage Wasteland is a Young Adult novel about four teenagers growing up in Yorkshire. Childhood friends Jamie, Robin, and Joe, and Joe’s sister Beth, are a band on the cusp of stardom, about to sign a deal, when Joe is killed in a car crash that leaves his sister badly injured. Encouraged to carry on, the others recruit Daniel to take Joe’s place, even though they don’t trust him. Beth warms to him, just as the band is falling apart and friendships are tested. The novel is about friendship, found family, first love, and betrayal.
Beth is pretty sure that she is still, and that the world outside is moving around her. She sees the black sky, a tree, a wall, the dark ground, the sky, a tree, a wall, the ground, flashing past her.
There’s a revolting crunch of metal on metal and then everything stops. There’s silence.
Beth is still holding on to her phone, only when she looks it’s lit up and she’s making a call but she doesn’t know who to, or why. The pain is immense, like there’s a noise in her head about to explode. She can see her right arm but it doesn’t feel like it belongs to her.

Number 49
Maurice Suckling
Novel’s title: Do These Shapes Tessellate?
There’s Blapti in India looking for a thawed-out caveman… Wuchu in China working as a fish impersonator… Kelo in Japan reviewing video game reviewers… Ergy in Germany, who caught the dancing sickness… Shufri in Nigeria trying to return money to its rightful owners… Hexton in the UK who sells dreams to rich people… Lida in Iran, a deaf musician… Julip in Brazil who thinks she’s become a ghost… Moola in Australia, a tree psychiatrist… Emron in Mexico counting art for a reclusive billionaire… Shakespeare, an alien on a secret mission…
All these characters’ lives collide, and none of them will ever be the same again.
‘Ontario. Three cavemen in a block of ice. Defrosted. Brought back to life.
First one immediately escapes. Runs into the wilds. Two months later an SUV gets a flint-head spear removed from its blood-splattered radiator. Authorities find a crumpled caveman by the side of the road.
The other two undergo three years of intensive instruction in a government installation. Taught language, history, science, the internet…
One day they escape. Global manhunt finds one. Supermarket. Frozen food section. Naked.’
‘Rejecting the modern world!’
‘No,’ says Blapti, ‘it was summer and he ran out of cocktail ice.’
‘But…what about the third one?’

Number 50
Helen Loney
‘The Book Club Murders’
Miss Lyster Clemens is housekeeper and librarian for her rich eccentric uncle. A spinster and brilliant, she prefers scientific reports to men, but when Uncle Francis’s house is burgled and she is framed for theft, only the huge, grim, and most worryingly, American Detective Inspector James Harris can’t believe she’d stoop so low.
Will Harris accept her help as he juggles four similar cases as well as his warring mind? Or will she also fall victim before Harris can find his path amongst the rich and poor, faithful and godless of Victorian London as the burglaries turn to occult murder?
‘Listen careful,’ whispered Harris, ‘we are going to get off at the next station, but I’m not here to save you, I’m here to arrest you.’
Lyster’s eyes widened in fear. ‘I’m sorry, darlin’, I had to fetch you back, or find the murderer, but I couldn’t do both. I’ve no doubt been taken off the case, as I’m here against orders, but if I’m lucky, they’ll have me back. When you asked me if I’d promise to keep lookin’ for the truth, I got mad at you, but I do promise it, even if I’m on my own.’

Number 51
Heather Hughson
Jump Point
Hayley is just trying to live her life, but she has a secret, for years she has been plagued with vivid nightmares of strange worlds.
When a mysterious organisation comes for her, she learns something even more unsettling about her dreams. They’re real. With the help of an intriguing stranger, she discovers her secret heritage and is thrown into a terrifying world where she must fight to protect those she loves from those that wish to control her.
The beast appeared in the distance, lit by a beam moonlight streaming through the dense canopy. Its thick form, covered by coarse fur, lurched forward, charging her without warning. Her stomach dropped, she couldn’t move. With seconds to spare, she clambered up the nearest tree, barely evading sharp claws that swiped at her as her bare foot slipped on the smooth bark. The steady growls below her made her heart thunder in her chest and her stomach turn as she tried to will herself awake. When she did, it was abrupt, the smell of earth still lingering in her nose.

Number 52
Stuart Johnstone
The Red Doors
What does it mean to you?
A feeling in the pit of my stomach
Just a saying? Some heightened sense of intuition?
For Sgt Don Colyear it means more, way more.
His intuition is off the scale, but it’s unreliable. In the city things go wrong, as wrong as they get. His home, until dust settles, is the Scottish highland town of Stratharder. Picturesque, quaint; boring. Don longs to return to his career. The longer he stays, however, the more his stomach tells him something is wrong with this place. He can’t help but pick at the dark cracks appearing.
I held the ram out to John by its crude handles, my arms shaking with the weight of it, he just gave me a trademark look and I knew I was doing the swinging.
He was squat, middle-aged and out of shape, but his shoulders were better equipped for this sort of thing than my slight frame.
I pulled the ram to chest height and opted for the pendulum approach.
If John hadn’t been there I would probably have voiced the and-a-one, and-a-two, and-a-threeee out loud. When I reached the count of two, fingers burst from the letterbox, tiny fingers.

Number 53
Peter O’Connor
The Cloud
In a world permanently overcast by thick cloud, one man invents the balloon.
Maxim is a functionary of the Sacred Seat, a City surrounded by enemies. He wants an easy life, corresponding with fellow amateur scientists in a secret network, hidden from the theocratic government. They wonder whether the Cloud is truly the edge of the world, and invent a new machine to find out. But war with fearsome barbarians and heretical crusaders comes to the City, and Maxim tries to survive service on the Council of Viziers.
The Cloud is Game of Thrones meets House of Cards, set during the fall Of Constantinople.
I sit in church and look up at the man on the lightning rod. I always feel sorry for him. Dressed like that he must have been freezing, you’d think a Saviour would have known to wrap up warm.
Although – I’m remembering something here – the barbarians played dice for his clothes. So he might have been wearing something a little more impressive before they stripped him. The storms were worse back then. He would not have been cold for long.
Rumblings from the people around me. The priest has said something that causes them all to kneel so I follow suit. I hope I haven’t missed anything important.

Number 54
Luke Spry
Blood of the Phoenix
‘Blood of the Phoenix’ is a science fiction novel, set in a future Earth diminished by ecological devastation. It is written from the perspective of the protagonist, Felicia Obcasus, the daughter of a Phoenician and a Tonitrales, who lives with her family in Leo Protectorate. She is caught between the two worlds, proud of Leo but eager to know more about the outside world. When her home is invaded, she must confront her place and the place of the Protectorates in the world. Through her internal and external conflicts, Felicia evolves through the trials of love, death, change, and responsibility.
The door was open enough for Mati to get through. We needed no more. I had just enough wherewithal to not simply drop away from the door and smash my arm against the floor. I went to my knees before I let go the handle. Mati gave one last pull to no result and immediately went for the gap. It was too narrow for him to walk through, but there was enough space for him to go shoulder first. He had one shoulder in when he reached his hand out to me.
“You have to go on,” I managed.

Number 55
Charlotte Levin
An Explanation of Love
An Explanation of Love is a darkly humorous literary thriller, which tells the story of Constance Little, a young woman who develops an infatuation for Samuel, the new doctor at the private medical practice where she works. When he ends their brief yet passionate affair, past wounds surrounding her mother’s death and her father’s abandonment come to the fore, causing her obsession to spiral out of control.
Because for Constance Little…it’s never over.
Did you feel it too? When we lay on our backs, fingertips touching, the breeze from the open window cooling our stomachs. You did. I know you did.
And do you remember? How when I began to shiver, you pulled the duvet over me, kissed my goose-bumped skin. We shared a cigarette. ‘So, anyway Constance, your turn. Who was your first love?’ I didn’t reply. Merely blew smoke into the air and watched the white strings infiltrate your room. Because we both knew the answer to that. It was you.