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Showing posts from May, 2011

Guest blog on the concept behind "Algernon and the Narcissus," a short story by Die$el

Based on a true experience two months ago, “Algernon and the Narcissus” by Die$el is a short memoir that tells of a young Asian American man's confrontation with the police for writings that were deemed unusually dark and cruel for his age. In four simple passages, the reader becomes immersed in the troubles that the protagonist faced for his writing after the infamous Virginia Tech incident in 2007, the effort and failure to change his image in a social journalism college class, and the ultimatum that the protagonist faces after his detainment: stop his one true passion or risk destroying the lives of those he loves the most.

“Algernon and the Narcissus” didn’t start out as a short story “idea” for me. It was more of something that I had to write for myself. The form, while important, took a backseat to the content in the beginning. The experience was something I wanted to write when I was little, but I brushed off because I thought it was an incidental thing. However, after repea…

"The Last Hunt," flash fiction by Alain Gomez

Rain dribbles down his nose as he lays motionless in the tall grass.  He was given the honor of leading the last hunt.  Today he would become a man.  The mammoth herd was grazing not far away.  If he could kill just one of these great beasts, his tribe would have food for the entire winter.

Guest blog on the concept behind two stories found in "13 Broken Nightlights," a short story collection by Barry Napier

My collection 13 Broken Nightlights  is the literary equivalent of one of those cardboard hearts filled with candy that we’re all accustomed to on Valentines Day.  We know what’s waiting inside (in the case of my collection, it’s primarily dark fiction) but are never really quite sure what to expect. (Did you hear me restraining myself from making a Forrest Gump reference there?)
13 Broken Nightlights was put together with the purpose of creating a collection of my short fiction that had been published in print and online publications over the past 4 years.  More than that, there is a wide range of dark fiction to choose from: from character driven mild sci-fi to twists on traditional myths; from whimsical supernatural dramas to over the top B-movie horror; from coming of age ghost stories to what-the-hell-did-I-just-read?
To cover that vast selection, I have selected two stories to represent the collection.  And just like the Valentines boxes, some have the exquisite caramel centers and…

Review of "Bed Green" by Caedem Marquez

Summary:
Never have tendrils of dust been described as beautifully as in Caedem Marquez's haunting story about a boy whose home is nothing more than a tiny mud-baked box in the middle of a desert. Though his family is full of drunks, his strength is found in the calloused hands of his grandmother who shows him what a woman will do to protect all that she loves, even when the enemies are her own family.


Review:
It's hard to quantify what it is that makes a character become "lifelike" on paper.  It could be any number of things.  But an author's ability in this arena really stands out in the short story genre.  With so few words to work with, how a character reacts to a situation becomes far more important than a wordy monologue.

Marquez's skill as a short story writer is certainly put on display in Bed Green.  As the summary suggests, this is a beautifully written story.  The characters are incredibly real.  You are immediately sucked into the dusty world presen…

Guest blog on the concept behind "The Chemist," a short story by Chris Blewitt

The Chemist is based on a true story from the 1920's Prohibition era.  About a year or so ago, I came across an article about something that happened in 1926.  It was a story of corruption that was shocking to me.  I thought to myself that this would be a great movie.  In fact, I was surprised that it wasn't a movie already!  I found myself obsessed over this story and scanned the Internet to find more information.  My mind wandered and pretty soon I had the concept for The Chemist.  I had already written a novel, Deep Rough, and was working on my second one, but I could not wait to tell this story.  So I thought, how about a short story.  I probably could have made this into a full-length novel, but I felt that the short story portrayed the event so much better.  It's filled with action from beginning to end.  My beta-readers loved the story and were disappointed it was so short!
I'm extremely happy how The Chemist turns out.  There is also an interview in the back of …

Word of mouth as it applies to authors

A term authors (or any self-employed person) love to throw around is "word of mouth."  That golden moment when books just start to sell themselves because they have taken on a life of their own.

But is it really "word of mouth"?  I mean, be honest, how often do you bring up books in daily conversation?  Do you highly recommend to your friends every book you really enjoyed?  I'm sorry to say that I don't.  Lots of things factor into a book recommendation.  For one thing, I have to think about it at the time.  For another, the friend or family member I'm talking to has to share the same taste in books.

Way back when, people used to talk about books the way we talk about TV shows.  "Word of mouth" was definitely how an author got exposure.  But I would say the more accurate term these days is "word on the internet."  Sad, but true.  I would argue that an author can be extremely successful by simply being an internet presence alone and n…

Comic Book Hero by Kate Jonez

“In comics, the hero's story always has a happy ending,” Joe said aloud, or perhaps the words appeared over his head in a bubble. In a flash, the speed at which Joe’s life unfurled increased so much that space lost it grip on him and time stopped. But time didn't really stand still. Joe knew this because the squiggly lines all around him told him so. They emphasized his monumental descent.
            Before time and space got all turned around, Joe was the good guy – a hero even. Like all heroes, he had one true love. Joe loved Kelly the moment he saw her big blue eyes at the bank. Kelly waited patiently when Joe talked. She didn’t glance sideways at her co-workers. She didn't complete his sentences when he took too long to get them out. Joe’s heart stuttered in his chest whenever he saw her.
            A hero has one true love. Joe told Kelly it was his duty to protect her. Kelly didn’t understand. She told him never to come to her apartment again.
            Kelly read t…

Review of "Martian Rebirth" by Walt Trizna

Summary:
Mars seems to be a dead planet to the first of Earth's astronauts to walk its red surface. Any signs of life appear to be long gone as the explorers search for evidence. But the possibilities for life are found with the evidence carefully sampled and taken with the space travelers back to Earth. What results from this journey will forever change both planets.

Review:
Grammatical accuracy and the beginnings of an interesting twist at the end are the two things this story has going for it.  Stylistically, it reads like a technical manual.  Much of the potential tension that could have occurred in the promising setting of exploring Mars is lost with action sequences such as these:

"The touchdown on the Martian surface set both their hearts racing. Each had wondered about the feelings this moment would produce. In the end, pure awe was the product."

Emotionless characters and virtually no dialog gives the reader very little to connect with.  I will give this author cr…

Saturday Schooled by Eileen Granfors

Bus exhaust spews over me on this quiet Saturday, and I smile, remembering high school in Missouri.  I cross Weyburn Avenue, anticipating today’s seminar, reveling in the freedom to step into the role of avid student, leaving the blown-off teacher to the week days. I spot two Asian women, each sporting a UCLA visor, one blue, one gold, pointing towards Wilshire Boulevard, studying a map, pointing again. The blue visored woman opens her phone and taps the key board. They argue. “Tourists,” I think. “Looking for campus. Or maybe Beverly Hills.” I am good at directions. I can help them. My hearts thumps with the thrill of their gratitude for my good deed.             A homeless man who camps near the Westwood Center Building kicks out of his blanket and rises from his fortress of possession bags and newspapers.  His bulk shadows the sidewalk.  He lurches forward, grabbing the wrist of the smaller woman of the gold visor.  Her friend yells and pulls her companion towards her. The gold viso…

Multiple Publishers -- Is That a Good Thing? Guest blog by short story author Wanda DeGolier.

When Alain suggested I blog about having multiple publishers, I hung my head. I felt as if I’d been caught cheating. Where is my loyalty—what kind of heathen am I? Then I thought about it, and I decided my side of the story should be told.
I imagined myself in front of a support group, “Yes, I’ve been playing the field,” then to gasps, “I don’t intend to stop.”  The extent of my problem? I currently have seven stories out with three different publishers and four more under contract with these same publishers.
Do I play one publisher against the other hoping for the best contract? Never. Not my style. Am I a philandering writer with my eye on the next cute guy, er, I mean publisher. No! Then why can’t I be happy with just one?
I have a few reasons:

1. The industry is volatile: diversify. That’s my kind way of saying, no publisher is safe. I know every company opens its doors with the intention of staying in business, but the harsh reality is ninety-five percent of businesses fail in the fi…

A Future Imperfect by Garry Grierson

I will walk into a new world, and it will change me. There will be so many things to learn, glimpsed at things. I will do it. I will. Soon, I will do it soon.
There it will shine, covered in a cacophony of light. My lives work, a molecularly engineered miracle of biomechanical engineering, it will be my doorway. Although very real it will only half exist in this reality. The other half of its existence will be somewhere else, over the rainbow, at the end of the yellow brick road.
Any minute now I’ll step into the machine, and everything will be the same until I return. Then I will be different. Then the world, the universe will be different.
We have already achieved so much over the long millennia. Our ancient ancestors learned what it is to open their minds to the past, and to the future, and look into the torrent of time. We began to glimpse the myriad of other possibilities of existence. Places that lay beyond and between our own thin realities. We will spread our reach throughout the …

Review of "The Pit" by Andrew Warwick

Summary:
The Pit; Thrust into the fighting pit is Elad, a bitter, jaded knight who remembers better days, before the Empire fell in ruin. Against him is sent a creature unlike any he has seen before, for it comes not from his world; a giant bull-man. Who lives, who dies?


Buy this story here on Amazon UK.


Review:
I quite enjoyed this story.  It terms of flavor, it reads like a scene from Spartacus with a touch of gore from Gladiator.  The premise and plot is very straight forward.  In many ways, this is why I like reading short stories so much.  I find reads like this to be refreshing after getting a throbbing headache from needless drama often found in novels.


Warwick's writing style is strong and highly engaging.  The Pit is basically a single action scene told from two points of view.  The author manages to pull this off without creating confusion or redundancy.  I also liked that the reader is highly aware of what is taking place but is not bogged down by a bombardment of detail des…

Looking Back by Melanie Nilles

She looked back at the road. It had straightened since she set out walking it. All the curves had vanished, the dips and holes leveled out. The obstacles she had struggled so hard to overcome, sometimes until she reached the verge of giving up, had vanished.  Behind her lay nothing but a straight road to where she stood. The land was flat and barren, as if none of the tears and pain and moments of wanting to give up had happened. Ahead lay deep valleys and tall spires and wide and sharp curves peaking out occasionally through mounds of boulders and dense foliage. The growl of predators rose from hidden places. And yet she must go on. "You can stay here," a sweet melodious voice said. "Take it easy, never hurt again." She could indeed. It would be so much easier than all the sweat and blood and tears and the risk of failing to reach the end somewhere ahead. "Where would that get you?" a deep, rich voice countered. "You would be stuck in familiar, boring te…

Review of "5 Short Stories from this Small French Town" by Pia Isabella

Summary:
A collection of stories in the series called "This Small French Town."


Review:
In this series of five short stories, the author shares her experiences as an American living in a small French town. The pieces alternate between heartwarming, funny, and just plain entertaining. However, the stories are poorly edited. Punctuation and spelling problems, run-on sentences and a generally clumsy writing style make the collection difficult to read, even confusing at times.

Several of the pieces, most notably “How to Kill a Guineahen,” feel more like school reports than short stories. “The Wifebeater” is particularly disjointed, sprinkled with off topic and unnecessary paragraphs that make this reviewer wonder if the author was attempting, but not quite succeeding at, a stream-of-consciousness piece. Of the five, my favorite is “The Green Chair.” It has all the potential to be a great story, but again the execution leaves something to be
desired and the tale falls flat.

Ultimat…

A Man and His Castle by Rejean Giguere

My life is a normal one I think. I work and come home. We all know about a man and his castle, here’s my take on it. I like settling into my yard when the night has set, the stars and the fresh air are relaxing. Usually I sit back in the dark, among the shadows where it's calming. The lawn’s cut short and the shrubs are lined and pruned. I can see the outline of the barbeque up on the deck. The kid’s lights are on upstairs and will be going out soon.  I see the woman who feeds me daily and smile, she is always so busy, never a chance to talk. She brings a platter out to the yard and sets it in a container with a cover. While she marches off to the house, I check over the assortment of food. I always enjoy the variety, even if in small amounts. I settle back into the dark, leaning against the fence and take a contented look around. I keep the bottle hid here, just for occasions like these, where an after meal drink is more than appropriate and where sleeves rolled up, right from the…

Review of "Rachel's Eyes" by Ellen O'Connell

Summary:
Rachel's Eyes features characters from the author's western historical romance novel, Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold. Rachel Miles Ross has shunned her former best friend, Anne Wells Bennett, since the day of Anne's marriage to half-breed Cord Bennett. Yet when Rachel's life crumbles around her, she turns to Anne for help. Anne can give sympathy, but Cord is the one whose help Rachel really needs. Will he help a woman he considers an unworthy friend and first-class snob?


Review:
I had to think a bit about this story before I could write a review.  My initial reaction was that it was not really a "short story" in that it almost reads like a mini-novel.  But as I thought about it, I was able to accept the fact that this story was created to fulfill a specific purpose: to be a spin-off from a novel.  TV shows have "webisodes" these days, so why shouldn't a novel have a short spin-off?  A very intriguing idea and an interesting approach to the …

Little Red Boots by Karen Cantwell

Geraldine Hinkle would be meeting her maker any day.  The doctor said it could be weeks, but Geraldine knew better. Leaning one frail hip against the wooden counter of Watson’s Western Wear, and rubbing a hand over her bald head, Geraldine didn’t think about dying. “Can I hold one?” Her coarse voice was weak. The lanky man behind the counter waited a few beats before responding.  “Beauties, ain’t they?  Hand crafted, ever inch.  Three thousand dollar pair a boots right there.”  He scratched his crotch. “Are ya gonna let me hold one or are ya gonna just stand there all day playin’ with yer balls?” The lanky man frowned.  His long arm extended toward the shelf as he issued a warning.  “Don’t think about runnin’ off with this.  I got a gun.” Geraldine’s spontaneous laugh quickly turned into a wet, spittle cough.  That was the funniest thing she’d heard all week.  Damn funny, this bony man. By the time her coughing fit had subsided, the boot stood proudly on the counter.  Geraldine picked it up …

A Blog Series in Defense of Short Stories

James Everington is hosting a series of guest blogs with the subject "In Defense of Short Stories."  So you could write whatever you like so long as that was the theme.  I got to start the ball rolling with the first post but I'm actually really interested in what others come up with. 

Read the series on his blog.

Review of "Fools Gold" by Sheryl Nantus

Summary:
The Canadian wilderness can do strange things to a man. But there are stranger things out there, under the snow and ice, than anyone could ever think of.

For one poor trapper trying to survive, his discovery just might be the way out. Or the way to Hell...


Review:
In this piece, Nantus dresses up a story that has been told and retold for thousands of years: the discovery of a mysterious, magical object that requires horrific sacrifices in exchange for fabulous wealth. As happens in most such stories, the discoverer is ultimately consumed by the object’s power. I, personally, enjoy this type of story and believe the theme endures because of its versatility: it can be set in any place at any time and still work. In this case, the author certainly makes it work.

The author’s decision to set the story in the wilds of Canadian trapping territory is both fun and original, proving, as Robert W. Service wrote, that there are indeed strange things done in the midnight sun. Thankfully, N…

Urine Trouble Now by Isaac Sweeney

The cat won’t stop peeing everywhere. We have two litterboxes, but the cat just uses the damn floor. And all my husband can do is tell me it will be alright. That’s what he always says when I’m crying. How does he know everything will be alright? The damn smell. I’m two rooms away from the litterbox and I can smell cat urine. It’s a strong smell, bitter and distinct, that doesn’t go away. We tore up carpet and put down hardwood. We’ve replaced this sofa I’m sitting on twice because of cat pee. It’s costing us a fortune. “It’ll be okay,” he says. The damn smell. His arm is around me now. Of course I push him away. I can’t stand when he gets like this. He thinks he can fix everything by giving me a hug and telling me things will be better. When will things be better? We’re nearly 30 and we still live paycheck to paycheck. He doesn’t know what he wants to do. He’s a writer, but he doesn’t know what he wants to do for money. I hardly ever see him write anymore. I’ve been working steady for five…

Review of "The Project" by Sheryl Nantus

Summary:
Jeff McAllister's wife, Jessie, loved her quilts and her computer. But now she's gone, and Jeff has to figure out how to survive without her and how to deal with her online legacy. With the companionship of his faithful Golden Retriever, he begins the toughest project of his life, still grieving over his loss.


Review:
This story follows a widower’s quest for closure after his wife’s death. The author avoids the dark side of death, choosing instead to focus on the characters’ love for the deceased and their desire to help her legacy live on.

While the story is necessarily somber, it is ultimately a celebration of life. The author’s simple, smooth writing style makes this an easy read while the twist at the end keeps the story from being overly predictable. Overall, the story reminded this reviewer of a Chicken Soup for the Soul type piece. For those romantic souls who enjoy love stories and don’t mind getting a little choked up, this makes for a pleasant read.

3.5/5 stars

Some Like it Hot by Annie Bellet

Her name was Aidia and she never slept. The grey mists seeped down from the hills and covered her in a damp shroud as she walked. Her grey hair was pulled back and her steel eyes stared straight ahead. She stepped out onto the lake, the water clinging to the soles of her boots. Ice crystals formed and slivered outward from beneath her feet. As cold as midwinter she moved toward the island. Aidia looked up at the ruby walls of the keep and for a moment trembled. She gripped the icicle hanging from its silk cord around her neck and felt cold determination replace her fears. She set foot onto the island and walked through the open gate. It struck her how much easier it was to enter this time than before, but this time she had no intention of stealing anything away and she guessed that she was expected. The carved double doors of the hall swung open and a wave of heat rushed out to bid her welcome. Arhidfel did not. He stood at the end of the hall near the great hearth in robes the shimmered…