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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Short Stories, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 280
26. Alexander Drake Blog Tour & Giveaway with Elizabeth Parkinson-Bellows


Today I’m reviewing the first two books in the Azra’s Pith Series. This is a middle grade fantasy series by Elizabeth Parkinson-Bellows.

alexander 1

In Book 1, Alexander Drake’s Extraordinary Pursuit, we meet young Alexander Drake. He lives alone with his distant father and has recurring dreams of his mother who has passed away. When his father leaves on another trip, Alexander is sent to stay with his grandmother. In his father’s old room, Alexander discovers a box in the bottom drawer of the dresser. Inside is an odd-looking key and maps and pictures drawn on a tweed fabric. His curiosity gets the better of him, leading him into the forest near his grandmother’s home and on an adventure that will change his life.

Alexander 2

The second book, The Return of General Drake, picks up immediately where the first book left off. Alexander makes it to Verhonia, which angers the evil Imperius. His minion, Roman, prepares his murk army to attack the city. With the safety of the realm in jeopardy and Alexander under a spell that has placed him in grave danger, General John William Drake returns to Verhonia. Can evil be defeated or is all lost?

The premise of this series is a great one. A young boy without friends, who is feeling neglected by his only living parent, is sent away and ends up on a life-changing adventure. In Alexander Drake’s Extraordinary Pursuit, Alexander discovers many surprises about his destiny and his family. The book ends with a cliffhanger that leads into the next book.

By Book 2, Alexander is starting to put some of the pieces together. What he underestimates, however, is how far the evil Imperius is willing to go. With his plan to stop Alexander from reaching Verhonia a failure, Imperius wages war on the city and casts a spell over Alexander, sending him on a journey to Cantilonia. Though General Drake had vowed never to return to Verhonia, but with Alexander in danger he has no choice.

What I feel Parkinson-Bellows does well in these books is create a series set primarily in a mythical land filled with quirky characters like Ferdinand, a talking frog and Cozmo, a cunning wolf. These are exciting adventure books filled with action that middle grade readers will devour. Where the books fell a bit short for me was in the stilted dialogue and lack of depth in character development. My feeling is that the focus on creating quirky characters might have led to how the dialogue didn’t flow well. The conversations didn’t seem natural. There are also places in both books where resolutions came too quickly for the characters, so there isn’t a deep digging into the character’s–primarily Alexander’s–emotions and thought process.

That said, both books were enjoyable light reads. Though, I don’t like it when a book ends in a cliffhanger that forces you to buy the next book in order to see how it all plays out, these are short and economically-priced stories, so it doesn’t prevent the reader from continuing.

Rating (for both): :) :) :) :)

Alexander Drake’s Extraordinary Pursuit
File Size: 1169 KB
Print Length: 110 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Wild Child Publishing (June 6, 2011)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

The Return of General Drake
File Size: 269 KB
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Wild Child Publishing (April 25, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English


Being the frizzy-haired tomboy with buck teeth gave me a slight case of shyness as a kid. A colorful imagination meant escape and adventure at the drop of a hat.

Over the years I learned that the insecurities I carried around were a waste of time. I still prefer a football game to a manicure any day of the week. That indispensable imagination has found its way into my writing providing a sense of joy and a true purpose.

Website * Twitter * Facebook

Blog Tour Giveaway

$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash (Ends 5/15/13)

Enter for your chance to win at http://www.iamareader.com/2013/02/alexander-drake-blog-tour.html


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27. A New Anthology of Russia's Greatest Gothic Writers

Muireann Maguire's Red Spectres: Russian Gothic Tales from the Twentieth Century, a new collection of supernatural fiction featuring eleven short stories from both classic and lesser known Russian writers, is out later this week. Featuring nine pieces never before translated into English, the anthology combines many of the best-loved aspects of the traditional ghost story with the full Gothic

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28. The Inimitable Jeeves (1923)

The Inimitable Jeeves (Jeeves). P.G. Wodehouse. 1923. 225 pages.

The Inimitable Jeeves is my favorite Wodehouse yet. (I've also read The Man With Two Left Feet and My Man Jeeves.) I loved this short story collection because it is all devoted to Bertie and Jeeves! Featured stories include: "Jeeves Exerts the Old Cerebellum," "No Wedding Bells for Bingo," "Aunt Agatha Speaks Her Mind," "Pearls Mean Tears," "The Pride of the Woosters is Wounded," "The Hero's Reward," "Introducing Claude and Eustace," "Sir Roderick Comes to Lunch," "A Letter of Introduction," Startling Dressiness of a Lift Attendant," Comrade Bingo," "Bingo Has a Bad Goodwood," "The Great Sermon Handicap," "The Purity of the Turf," "The Metropolitan Touch," "The Delayed Exit of Claude and Eustace," "Bingo and the Little Woman," and "All's Well."

These stories introduce one of Bertie's friends, Bingo Little. He is quite the character. He is always falling in love with someone. And there's always drama that Bertie and Jeeves get drawn into! But Bingo Little isn't the only source of drama! There's also Bertie's family, including Aunt Agatha and two of his cousins, Claude and Eustace, to name a few. Some of the stories are set in the city, others take place in the country. All are delightful!!!

My favorite sequence of stories is "The Hero's Reward," "Introducing Claude and Eustace," and "Sir Roderick Comes to Lunch." In this sequence, Bertie finds himself accidentally engaged to a girl, Honoria, a young woman that Bingo was once quite smitten with! Sir Roderick is Honoria's father, and their lunch together is quite delightful! He's not quite sure he likes Bertie, not quite sure Bertie is sane... enter an insane number of cats, fish under Bertie's bed, and a stolen hat... and you've got an unforgettable chapter!

Read The Inimitable Jeeves
  • If you like short stories
  • If you love short stories
  • If you hate short stories
  • If you enjoy P.G. Wodehouse
  • If you want more Bertie and Jeeves
  • If you love to laugh
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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29. Weekend Reading

I've been thinking about short fiction a lot recently. The truth is, after working on three Best American Fantasy anthologies, I was shellshocked from reading piles of short stories, and stayed away from them. I pretty much stopped writing them for a while, focusing instead on academic writing, film stuff, etc. Judging the Shirley Jackson Awards was fun and brought me back to short fiction, but again in such an overwhelming way that by the time it was done, I didn't want to read another short story for months. And I didn't.

I've gotten over that, finally. I've read a few short stories over the last month (and it's been a busy month, so reading a few of anything is an accomplishment!), and, just as importantly, for the first time in years I've gotten back to writing stories — two so far this year, one of which already sold (I'll reveal the details once I've signed the contract).

I've had plans to write more about short stories here, but the time for doing so has eluded me. But I've still been reading, and still want to share. I've decided to do so occasionally, probably on weekends. An offering of weekend reading. So here are 5 stories, all available online, that I think are worth at least the time it takes to read them:

"Heaven" by Alexander Chee (TriQuarterly)
He wants to at least tell him, he understands what he wanted. He always had. He just hated that anyone could tell.

"Understanding Human Behavior" by Thomas M. Disch (originally F&SF; here, Strange Horizons)
A lot of the time he couldn't suspend his disbelief in the real people around him, all their pushing and pulling, their weird fears and whopping lies, their endless urges to control other people's behavior, like the vegetarian cashier at the Stop-and-Shop or the manager at the convenience center. The lectures and demonstrations at the halfway house had laid out the basics, but without explaining any of it. Like harried parents, the Institute's staff had said, "Do this," and "Don't do that," and he'd not been in a position to argue. He did as he was bid, and his behavior fit as naturally as an old suit.

"Declaration by the Ghost of Emma Goldman" by Rick London (New American Writing)
I see now that the mind is occupied territory. Most likely, as long as we’re thinking the mind is under occupation. Despite our high ideals and surging rhetoric, we go on as if we were alone and adrift, seeking some small moment of advantage. Indeed, amid so much of the usual sectarian bickering you’d think we couldn’t see past our noses or had to close one eye to see out of the other. Will we ever pull aside the curtain on this hapless drama?

"Arbeitskraft" by Nick Mamatas (The Mammoth Book of Steampunk)
I was an old hand at organizing workers, though girls who consumed electricity rather than bread were a bit beyond my remit.

"Please Note That I Am Not Burt Reynolds*" by Sarah Sorensen (Identity Theory)
*Although I might be introduced to you as such a person. There was probably a point when I should have mentioned that I wasn’t actually Burt Reynolds. Of course, I’m not sure why she thought that I was Burt Reynolds to begin with. I don’t resemble Burt. Burt was never a portly woman in a pug t-shirt and skinny jeans.

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30. Get a FREE Book Today

The online literacy site for children, KNOWONDER!, is offering a free book of 30 short stories for children--THE LONELY DRAGON. Just visit their site and register. It's as simple as that. There are also free stories to read and enjoy at their site as well.

Last November, they published my short story, "2 Much Laughter." And my story, "The Dragon Artist's Tale," will be featured in their upcoming print and ebook story collection of princess and dragon stories. Look for that soon!

But today, don't miss this opportunity to get a book that your whole family can share!

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31. The Man With Two Left Feet (1917)

The Man With Two Left Feet. P.G. Wodehouse. 1917. 200 pages.

I loved this collection of P.G. Wodehouse short stories. These thirteen short stories had originally appeared in various magazines in both the UK and US before being published in book form in 1917. The stories: "Bill The Bloodhound," "Extricating Young Gussie," Wilton's Holiday," "The Mixer: He Meets a Shy Gentleman," "The Mixer: He Moves In Society," "Crowned Heads," "At Geisenheimer's," "The Making of Mac's," "One Touch of Nature," "Black for Luck," "The Romance of an Ugly Policeman," "A Sea of Troubles," and "The Man With Two Left Feet."

Some of the stories are set in America, other stories are set in England. A few of these stories even have animal narrators: that's how diverse these stories are! (The two "Mixer" stories are narrated by a dog.) "Black for Luck" stars a traveling black cat that may or may bring luck with him.

I absolutely LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Wodehouse's writing style. "Extricating Young Gussie," introduces Bertie and Jeeves. Readers will be treated to plenty of stories starring these two in following books. "Bill the Bloodhound" was an interesting "detective" story of sorts. It starring a detective that isn't clever and brilliant, but just a likable guy who may not be good at his job but is fun to know anyway. "Wilton's Holiday" and "The Man With Two Left Feet" are short stories with a dancing theme. I really, really enjoyed both of those. In "Wilton's Holiday," readers meet a professional dancer who entertains some out of town visitors. The husband has been to New York before and is very proud of himself and confident that he knows everything there is to know. The dancer has pity on his poor wife who is sitting in the background watching her husband behave foolishly. He won't dance with her because she's never been to New York before and couldn't possibly dance well enough to be seen in public. She goes to speak with the wife and convinces her to dance with someone else, to even enter a dance competition....It is a story well worth reading! "The Man With Two Left Feet" is also a story about a newly married couple. The man who cannot dance falls in love with a beautiful woman; after a year of marriage he realizes that his wife may miss not being able to go out and go dancing. He begins to secretly take dance lessons. It does not go well. But he's persistent. The wife meanwhile wonders why her husband is acting so strange and has changed his habits... It's also a fun story, in a way, because the man is reading his way through the encyclopedia.

I enjoyed so many of these stories! I would definitely recommend this one!

Read The Man With Two Left Feet
  • If you love short stories
  • If you hate short stories
  • If you enjoy humorous stories
  • If you enjoy great writing, great storytelling

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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32. My Man Jeeves (1919)

My Man Jeeves. P.G. Wodehouse. 1919. 256 pages.

My Man Jeeves (1919) was my first introduction to the wonderful writer, P.G. Wodehouse. I absolutely loved, loved, loved it from first to last. This is a short story collection containing eight short stories: four short stories starring Bertie and Jeeves ("Leave it to Jeeves," "Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest," "Jeeves and the Hard-boiled Egg," "The Aunt and the Sluggard") and four short stories starring Reggie Pepper ("Absent Treatment," "Helping Freddie," "Rallying Round Old George," and "Doing Clarence a Bit of Good.") The writing is WONDERFUL. I just loved, loved, loved its cleverness, its playfulness, its attention to detail. It's just a DELIGHT to read this one. My favorite stories were the ones starring Jeeves and Bertie. But I also enjoyed the other stories.

This is a collection I see myself rereading again and again just because it is so very fun!  

Read My Man Jeeves
  • If you love short stories
  • If you hate short stories
  • If you enjoy humorous stories
  • If you love Bertie and Jeeves
  • If you enjoy P.G. Wodehouse
  • If you love great storytelling or narration
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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33. Larry Constantine

Larry Constantine is  a professional member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the author of a number of science fiction short stories. He writes thrillers under the pen name, Lior Samson.

Please tell everyone a bit about yourself.

Larry ConstantineThe older you get, the harder it is to be brief, to condense the lifetime journey into a paragraph or two in a biographical sketch. In your twenties, you pad the resume; by your forties, the thing stands on its own; by the time you are looking back at your sixties, radical compression and redaction are in order. What’s important, what irrelevant? What’s of interest? What is a boring distraction? I tell my students at the university where I teach that I am not a real professor but that I am a real industrial designer. Both parts are true — in part. What they reveal is a complexity hidden behind brevity. I have been a pioneer in software engineering, in family therapy, and in interaction design. I divide my time between Europe and the US. I am deeply entrenched in academia and in industry and fully belong in neither. I am a novelist. I write under a pen name, but my official identity is no secret. I do most of my writing evenings and weekends in my apartment near the University of Madeira. My loving wife and kids put up with my long absences. I love to cook. I am a composer and would write more music if I were not so busy writing novels.

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

I have been writing professionally all my adult life, but nearly all of that was technical non-fiction. I was good at it — even won awards — but I can’t say I enjoyed it all that much. I really started writing with passion and pleasure when I began work on my first novel, Bashert. I have never been one to color within the lines, so, although my novels are nominally in the thriller genre, they frequently break out of the boundaries of genre conventions. My forays into fiction actually began decades earlier with science fiction short stories and a couple of novellas. Those earlier works have been republished in Requisite Variety, which takes its title from my last published SF short. My recent novel, The Rosen Singularity, might nominally be called near-future science fiction, but it violates the terms of engagement that SF readers expect and is probably more literary thriller than SF.

Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

If I had wanted to be a preacher or rabbi, a long-form journalist or a self-help guru with a message, I would have taken a different path. So, no, I don’t have a message for readers. But I do have a mission. I want to challenge my readers, to get them thinking, to leave behind semantic seeds that grow into fresh inspiration and insight. Thoughtful thrillers, provocative page-turners, intelligent intrigue—these are among the phrases that have been used to describe my novels. I want to raise questions more than offer answers. What is the nature of extremism and its connection with terrorism? Who are the good guys and who the bad in a world of shadow and deception? What are the unintended consequences of medical advances? And I want readers to have a great time and a grand ride on the road to the last page.

Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?

ChipsetMy most recent novel is Chipset, which is both part of The Homeland Connection series and can be read on its own. Readers who missed the first three novels — Bashert, The Dome, and Web Game — will not be lost, but those who go back and catch up will be doubly rewarded.

Like its predecessors, the story turns on a real threat, in this case malicious computer code actually embedded in the very hardware on which the entire world now depends. Like the other novels, it centers on ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances, not superheroes or larger-than-life figures, but people you could know dealing with outsized challenges. Let’s just say that Karl Lustig, an American technology journalist, and his British-Israeli wife, Shira Markham, a jewelry designer and all around smart lady, are in for an adventurous holiday when Karl uncovers a secret within the computer chipsets he is delivering to colleagues at the University of Madeira.

Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?

I really like all my characters, even the bad guys and walk-on players are lovingly crafted. In Chipset, I have to admit to having developed a special affection for Karl’s mother, whose story-within-a-story in a packet of letters takes Karl back to World War II Poland, Germany, Portugal, and England. She was an amazingly resourceful lady, as Karl finds out.

Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?

Perhaps it is the influence of my career as a designer, but I write much as a portrait artist paints, moving from one place in the canvas to another, filling in details here, sketching broadly there, painting over something that doesn’t look right one place, adding an element for balance someplace else. I make lots of notes but do not work from a strict outline. Instead, just as the painter steps back from the canvas, I keep going back and approaching the work as a whole, as a reader, taking on the perspective of the reader’s experience. Does it hang together? Is the pace and rhythm satisfying and engaging? Are there holes or is too much given away or at the wrong time? Then I go back and rewrite. And revise. And rewrite.

Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?

Every writer, even those who mimic others, has a writing style. In my case, I confess to writing in a fashion that echoes not some particular writer or writers but broadly fits the sort of writing I like to read. I enjoy reading rich description, insightful exposition, and colorful, clever narrative. I like hearing the voice of the writer as well as of the characters. I enjoy the poetry of language, the music of well-crafted sentences, and the rhythm of flowing paragraphs. These are the things I aspire to. Others will judge how well I reach those aspirations. In any case, I strive for something more classical than contemporary, despite the thematic currency of my thrillers.

And while we are on the subject of style, if I read one more self-appointed expert blogger cajoling modern writers to “show not tell,” I am likely to reach violently through the screen with malicious intent. It’s called storytelling for a reason. The language has adjectives and adverbs for good reason. The passive voice is useful. I see it as the writer’s job to master and use it all.

I have always favored third-person POV because of its flexibility, but I have no religious orthodoxy about acceptable incursions into the inner thoughts of characters. I am more interested in spinning a good story than purity of viewpoint. I try not to throw readers for a loop as I take them around curves and through twists, but I am not writing to please some professor of creative writing. I am telling stories.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

My environment and upbringing are as different as land and sea, but I suppose both have colored my writing. From my growing up, I would have to credit my mother, a newspaper columnist and editor, for instilling in me a love of words and a healthy respect for the craft of writing, in which it has taken me a lifetime to develop some craftsmanship. But my environment, which spans the globe and washes me with life’s complexities, is far the more direct influence. I often use familiar places to anchor my fiction. The Rosen Singularity is centered in the North Shore communities of Massachusetts near my home, but also in London and outside Moscow, where I have worked and visited numerous times. Chipset is largely set in Madeira, my second home. But I also go far afield, as far as the wholly invented African country of Busanyu, where the long lived dictator Edgar Jabari Mbutsu rules with brutal efficiency and plays a pivotal role in The Rosen Singularity.

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.

“Few thriller writers can match Samson’s ability to deliver a gripping story. In previous reviews, I have compared him to John le Carré and Tom Clancy. As an Indie writer, he probably doesn’t have the same name recognition or sales, but he is equal to or better than both those authors. His work deserves to be on the New York Times Seller list.” That from mystery writer James A. Anderson.  More than I deserve, I am sure, but to soar in such celebrated company, even for a paragraph, is delicious.

What are your current projects?

I like that you end this question with a plural, because I have two novels in progress. I imagine that writers are not supposed to do that, but there it is, the confessed truth. I am just not ready to commit fully to one or the other. Both are quite daring, in a sense, and each represents an entirely new literary direction for me. The one that has the tightest grip on me at the moment is my first murder mystery, although, as with my other works, it jumps the genre gaps and might be thought of as a love story except … Well, it’s still in progress, so exactly what it is remains an open question. Literary fiction? The other novel, which is also well under way but temporarily simmering on a back burner, is a work of quiet terror. So maybe it’s horror, except… These novels are quite experimental, stories that defy expectations and take the reader in new directions. I am excited. And scared.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

My author page at Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk is the best jumping off point. And it makes it easy to purchase the books with One-Click!

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34. L.M. Montgomery Short Stories 1904

L.M. Montgomery Short Stories, 1904. L.M. Montgomery. Dodo Press. 144 pages.

This is the third L.M. Montgomery short story collection I've read and reviewed this month. (The first covering 1896-1901; the second covering 1902-1903.) This collection features eighteen short stories: "A Fortunate Mistake," "An Unpremeditated Ceremony," "At the Bay Shore Farm," "Elizabeth's Child," "Freda's Adopted Grave," "How Don Was Saved," "Miss Madeline's Proposal," "Miss Sally's Company," "Mrs. March's Revenge," "Nan," "Natty of Blue Point," "Penelope's Party Waist," "The Girl and the Wild Race," "The Promise of Lucy Ellen," "The Pursuit of the Ideal," "The Softening of Miss Cynthia," "Them Notorious Pigs," and "Why Not Ask Miss Price?"

It is always interesting to read her short stories. I noticed in this collection in particular that there were several ideas or themes that were later developed more fully and used in several of her novels. For example, "The Promise of Lucy Ellen," reminded me of the West sisters in Rainbow Valley. And "Miss Sally's Company" reminded me of Miss Lavendar from Anne of Avonlea.

The story I loved MOST of all is "Them Notorious Pigs." Here is how it begins:
John Harrington was a woman-hater, or thought that he was, which amounts to the same thing. He was forty-five and, having been handsome in his youth, was a fine-looking man still. He had a remarkably good farm and was a remarkably good farmer. He also had a garden which was the pride and delight of his heart or, at least, it was before Mrs. Hayden's pigs got into it.
 Mrs. Hayden is a widow raising two young children and struggling to keep up with her new farm. After the pigs get into Mr. Harrington's garden one too many times...he loses it...
Harrington had never seen his neighbour at close quarters before. Now he could not help seeing that she was a very pretty little woman, with wistful, dark blue eyes and an appealing expression. Mary Hayden had been next to a beauty in her girlhood, and she had a good deal of her bloom left yet, although hard work and worry were doing their best to rob her of it. But John Harrington was an angry man and did not care whether the woman in question was pretty or not. Her pigs had rooted up his garden—that fact filled his mind.
"Mrs. Hayden, those pigs of yours have been in my garden again. I simply can't put up with this any longer. Why in the name of reason don't you look after your animals better? If I find them in again I'll set my dog on them, I give you fair warning."
A faint colour had crept into Mary Hayden's soft, milky-white cheeks during this tirade, and her voice trembled as she said, "I'm very sorry, Mr. Harrington. I suppose Bobbles forgot to shut the gate of their pen again this morning. He is so forgetful."
"I'd lengthen his memory, then, if I were you," returned Harrington grimly, supposing that Bobbles was the hired man. "I'm not going to have my garden ruined just because he happens to be forgetful. I am speaking my mind plainly, madam. If you can't keep your stock from being a nuisance to other people you ought not to try to run a farm at all."
Then did Mrs. Hayden sit down upon the doorstep and burst into tears. Harrington felt, as Sarah King would have expressed it, "every which way at once." Here was a nice mess! What a nuisance women were—worse than the pigs!
"Oh, don't cry, Mrs. Hayden," he said awkwardly. "I didn't mean—well, I suppose I spoke too strongly. Of course I know you didn't mean to let the pigs in. There, do stop crying! I beg your pardon if I've hurt your feelings."
"Oh, it isn't that," sobbed Mrs. Hayden, wiping away her tears. "It's only—I've tried so hard—and everything seems to go wrong. I make such mistakes. As for your garden, sir. I'll pay for the damage my pigs have done if you'll let me know what it comes to."
She sobbed again and caught her breath like a grieved child. Harrington felt like a brute. He had a queer notion that if he put his arm around her and told her not to worry over things women were not created to attend to he would be expressing his feelings better than in any other way. But of course he couldn't do that. Instead, he muttered that the damage didn't amount to much after all, and he hoped she wouldn't mind what he said, and then he got himself away and strode through the orchard like a man in a desperate hurry.
Something changed after their meeting...Mr. Harrington finds himself wishing that those pigs would get in again...because he would LOVE to see her again...

I also LOVED The Girl and the Wild Race. Mrs. Theodora Whitney desperately wants Judith to get married. (She is twenty-seven after all.) Mrs. Whitney feels that Eben King would be the perfect match for Judith. He is her choice for Judith. But Eben King is NOT Judith's ideal. Judith thinks Bruce Marshall is her "right one." When Judith overhears her aunt talking to a notorious gossiper about how horribly contrary she is and how she's unlikely to ever marry...she reacts.
"I will," repeated Judith stormily. "I'm tired of being nagged day in and day out. I'll marry—and what is more I'll marry the very first man that asks me—that I will, if it is old Widower Delane himself! How does that suit you, Aunt Theodora?"
Mrs. Theodora's mental processes were never slow. She dropped her knitting ball and stooped for it. In that time she had decided what to do. She knew that Judith would stick to her word, Stewart-like, and she must trim her sails to catch this new wind.
"It suits me real well, Judith," she said calmly, "you can marry the first man that asks you and I'll say no word to hinder."
The color went out of Judith's face, leaving it pale as ashes. Her hasty assertion had no sooner been uttered than it was repented of, but she must stand by it now. She went out of the kitchen without another glance at her aunt or the delighted Mrs. Tony and dashed up the stairs to her own little room which looked out over the whole of Ramble Valley. It was warm with the March sunshine and the leafless boughs of the creeper that covered the end of the house were tapping a gay tattoo on the window panes to the music of the wind.
Which suitor will arrive first when he hears the news of Judith's bold declaration? It WILL lead to quite a race!

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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35. Valentine Craft Time

VALENTINE'S DAY is only two weeks away now. So if you need to make some special Valentines for the special people in your life, here is a fun craft video from HIGHLIGHTS magazine on making "secret" Valentine cards.

And if you'd like to read a story about two new friends and a super-fancy Valentine's Day card, then please read my story, "The Fool Proof Valentine Plan."

Do you have a plan for Valentine's Day???

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36. A New Story

I'm interrupting my self-imposed exile from blogging to give you a story.

It's called "The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid". That link will take you to its Google Docs page, where you can read it online or download the PDF.

There's a story behind this story, and also a story to why I'm giving it away. I don't think those stories are even remotely necessary for appreciating the tale itself, but if you're curious, read on...

I wrote "The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid" almost five years ago. It was the first story I wrote after my father's death, and some of the concerns within it clearly come from my own anxieties about inheriting his house, business, and collections of various historical memorabilia. I'm not much good at writing strongly autobiographical fiction, though, so the characters, particularly the narrator, are quite different from me. Without that distance, I couldn't possibly have written the story.

Around the time I was finishing up the first draft, editors of an anthology asked me to submit something, so I finished this and sent it to them, since it was all I had that wasn't either sold or junk. They liked it, but the book never happened. I sent it to a prominent and quirky literary magazine, but after more than a year never heard back. Normally, I query and pester, but something kept me from doing so this time. I just let it go. (I've still never heard from them.) Then I sent it to another strange and interesting lit journal, and they gave me lovely rejection, saying various members of the staff liked it a lot, but it didn't fit the next issue and was too long for the website. "Too long?" I thought. In my mind, the story is 5,000 words or so. I looked at it again. Oh. It's over 10,000 words.

Then I realized that though, of course, I'd be happy to have the story published by any of the places I'd submitted it to, I had always been unsatisfied with how the story looked. Because it's comprised of numerous scraps of manuscripts — emails, letters, a journal, old science fiction magazines — my ideal form for it would be something that replicated those manuscripts in some way. It is, after all, a story about (among other things) artifacts and what they do to us.

I decided to play around with it and see if I could give it some of the visual life it had in my imagination. I added images and colors and typefaces. And when it was done, it felt to me like a much more powerful and mysterious story than it had as only words.

Then I was stuck. Because the imagery, type, etc. is precisely positioned, I don't know of a file format other than PDF that will work for it. But this is really the only form I want the story to exist in. (Well, I'd love it to exist as actual artifacts in a box, but I'm afraid the printing and manufacturing costs would be rather prohibitive.)

I needed to get this story out there, though. Sharing and publication are not only about the glory of having other people read and love your work; for me, the biggest benefit of publishing something is just to get it out of myself. It doesn't matter whether it's a blog post or a story, whether it's in a giant publication that all sorts of people read or a tiny little thing all of 7 people on Earth ever encounter. It's the expulsion that matters, especially for work that has some sort of emotional connection. Just having it out there means it's no longer in me. Because of when and why it was written, I didn't want "The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid" to kick around anymore. I needed it out of myself. I needed to be able to let it go.

So here it is. A story-artifact. A thing. In as close to an ideal form as I can get it. No matter its fate, it's a wonderful relief to have it out there in the world, no longer possessed only by me.

1 Comments on A New Story, last added: 1/22/2013
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37. L.M. Montgomery Short Stories, 1896-1901

L.M. Montgomery Short Stories, 1896-1901. L.M. Montgomery. 142 pages.

This short story collection features nineteen short stories by L.M. Montgomery. Stories in this collection include: "A Case of Trespass," "A Christmas Inspiration," "A Christmas Mistake," "A Strayed Allegiance," "An Invitation Given on Impulse," "Detected by the Camera," "In Spite of Myself," "Kismet," Miriam's Lover," "Miss Calista's Peppermint Bottle," "The Jest That Failed," "The Pennington's Girl," "The Red Room," "The Setness of Theodosia," "The Story of An Invitation," "The Touch of Fate," "The Waking of Helen," "The Way of Winning Anne," and "Young Si." While I didn't absolutely love each and every story in this collection, I enjoyed almost all of the stories. A few I really did LOVE.

I really did love "The Jest That Failed" perhaps because it reminded me a little of Edith Wharton's Roman Fever. In "The Jest That Failed," a few mean students decide to play a trick on Grace Seeley, a poor classmate that they look down upon. Wouldn't it be absolutely hysterical if Grace thought the most popular senior boy, Sidney Hill, was asking her to the prom? But their trick doesn't work like they hoped!

I also enjoyed "An Invitation Given on Impulse." This is how Montgomery described the heroine, Ruth Mannering..."If they had thought about it at all, they would probably have decided that they did not like her; but for the most part they simply overlooked her" and "painfully shy and reserved." This story is how one of the more popular girls decided to go with her impulse and invite "poor Ruth" to her home for the holidays instead of her best friend. This visit transformed Ruth in oh-so-many ways, and for the first time the girl catches a glimpse of what friendship is all about.

"Kismet," is an interesting story of a failed marriage that has been given a second chance...depending on the results of a horse race! This husband and wife meet accidentally after years of living separately. Both are surprised to see each other again, neither thought the other would be at the races. Conversation is strained at first, but, eventually these two happen upon an agreement. She's bet her money on one horse, he's bet on another horse...can these two make a success of it?

There is a wide variety of stories: some Christmas stories, some happily-ever-after romances, some tragic romances, some comedies, some rags-to-riches, some coming-of-age stories. They do range in sentiment. Almost all of the stories are interesting, however. All of them display human nature at its best and give a glimpse of Montgomery's greatest gift: her way of capturing human character and spirit with very few words.

Read this short story collection:
  • If you're a fan of L.M. Montgomery
  • If you enjoy short stories
  • If you'd like to enjoy short stories but are somewhat resistant or hesitant to pick up short story collections
  • If you enjoy a wide variety of stories: rags to riches, coming-of-age, family-friendly "feel-good" pieces, love stories--happy and tragic, ghost stories, comedies, etc.
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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38. The Queen of Hearts

The Queen of Hearts. Wilkie Collins. 1859. 484 pages.

  Although it took me months to finish reading this collection of short stories by Wilkie Collins, I still found most of it to be delightful. I just LOVED the framework of this book. Three (old) men are entertaining a young lady, Jessie Yelverton. (I believe one of the men is one of her guardians?). As her visit draws to a close, one of the men in hopes of keeping her around just long enough for his son, George, to return home--he would love to have her for a daughter-in-law--proposes that she stay for ten more nights to hear ten stories. The brothers will take turns writing/telling/sharing stories. In between each of the stories, there is narrative linking them all together. The three brothers are Griffith, Owen, and Morgan. The ten stories are: Brother Owen's Story of the Black Cottage, Brother Griffith's Story of the Family Secret, Brother Morgan's Story of The Dream Woman, Brother Griffith's Story of Mad Monkton, Brother Morgan's Story of The Dead Hand, Brother Griffith's Story of the Biter Bit, Brother Owen's Story of the Parson's Scruple, Brother Griffith's Story of A Plot in Private Life, Brother Morgan's Story of Fauntleroy, Brother Owen's Story of Anne Rodway. All of the stories had been previously published in various magazines from 1855 to 1859.

My favorite part of Queen of Hearts was the framework of the narrative. I loved meeting Jessie Yelverton. I loved Griffith, Owen, and Morgan. I loved seeing how she changed their lives for the better. I loved seeing the life she brought back into their lives. And I loved seeing her come to care for these men, too. How much at home she felt with them. She wasn't anxious to depart either. Many of the stories were good; however, some of them were just so long! I felt some of them were definitely long enough to be novellas. 

Read The Queen of Hearts
  • If you enjoy Wilkie Collins
  • If you enjoy short stories
  • If you like mystery, suspense, gothic, or horror
  • If you enjoy romantic comedies

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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I received an early Christmas present today with the publication of my seasonal story, THE LOST SHEPHERD BOY, in My Light magazine. I wanted to share the story with you as well. Jack Foster, an amazing illustrator who I know through Guardian Angel Publishing, has created a wonderful illustration for the story. He captures perfectly the excited face of young Tomas discovering an unexpected Christmas treat, while his mischievous kitty, Neto, looks on.

I wish you a joyous Christmas too!

Feliz Navidad!

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40. Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: New English Version

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version. Philip Pullman. 2012. Penguin. 400 pages.

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version is a collection of fifty fairy tales. I was familiar with almost half of these, though it had probably been two decades since I last read some of them. Half of the stories were completely new to me. I probably found a few new favorites. At the conclusion of each story, Pullman shares facts, details, and opinions on the story. He tells us the type of story it is, what other tales are similar, what other cultures this type of story can be found in, what changes he made and why, what changes he would have made but didn't because he wasn't trying to write a novel, what he really thinks of each story. I found these sections to be interesting. Of course, I enjoyed the fairy tales. Some stories better than others, of course, a handful I could have done without completely. Still, I found the collection as a whole to be quite fun! The kind of book that you can read a story or two a day for several weeks of entertainment. This is NOT a book to rush through. Reading two or three fairy tales in a day is great, reading thirty a day, well, it's just TOO MUCH. You may not love, love, love each and every story in the collection. You may not find all of them to be equally worthy of your time. But. Chances are you'll find something to enjoy!

  • The Frog King, or Iron Heinrich
  • The Cat and the Mouse Set Up House
  • The Boy Who Left Home To Find Out About the Shivers
  • Faithful Johannes
  • The Twelve Brothers
  • Little Brother and Little Sister
  • Rapunzel
  • The Three Little Men in the Woods
  • Hansel and Gretel
  • The Three Snake Leaves
  • The Fisherman and His Wife
  • The Brave Little Tailor
  • Cinderella
  • The Riddle
  • The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage
  • Little Red Riding Hood
  • The Musicians of Bremen
  • The Singing Bone
  • The Devil with Three Golden Hairs
  • The Girl with No Hands
  • The Elves
  • The Robber Bridegroom
  • Godfather Death
  • The Juniper Tree
  • Briar Rose [Sleeping Beauty]
  • Snow White
  • Rumpelstiltskin
  • The Golden Bird
  • Farmerkin
  • Thousandfurs
  • Jorinda and Joringel
  • Six Who Made Their Way in the World
  • Gambling Hans
  • The Singing, Springing Lark
  • The Goose Girl
  • Bearskin
  • The Two Traveling Companions
  • Hans-my-Hedgehog
  • The Little Shroud
  • The Stolen Pennies
  • The Donkey Cabbage
  • One Eye, Two Eyes, and Three Eyes
  • The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces [Twelve Dancing Princesses]
  • Iron Hans
  • Mount Simeli
  • Lazy Heinz
  • Strong Hans
  • The Moon
  • The Goose Girl at the Spring
  • The Nixie of the Millpond

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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41. Today is Launch Day for MAKE BELIEVE, the Story Collection Where You Can Read Lynda Young's Short Story: BIRTHRIGHT

Lynda R. Young’s short story titled Birthright has been published by J. Taylor Publishing in the Make Believe anthology launched TODAY! Virtual cake for everyone!! Make Believe is currently available in e-book format and includes Paranormal Romance and Fantasy stories inspired by the image on the cover. This will make great holiday reading. 

Birthright by Lynda R. Young
Christa can mask the pain and hide the scars, but running from a birthright is impossible.

She’s tried to escape her grief by fleeing to a small town in Florida. Much to her frustration, the locals think they recognize her even though she's never been there before. To make things worse, a man named Jack spouts outrageous theories about her.

Both spur Christa to bolt, to start fresh yet again, but there’s something about Jack that intrigues her enough to stay. The only problem? Someone else wants her to leave, and they won’t stop until she’s dead. 

Go this minute to the J. Tayor Publishing Make Believe  website HERE to read blurbs about all the stories in this wonderful collection, as well as how to order it.

About Lynda R. Young:
Lynda R. Young lives in Sydney, Australia, with her sweetheart of a husband who is her rock, and a cat who believes world domination starts in the home. She writes speculative short stories and is currently writing novels for young adults. In her spare time she also dabbles in photography and all things creative. You can find her here: Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads  

7 Comments on Today is Launch Day for MAKE BELIEVE, the Story Collection Where You Can Read Lynda Young's Short Story: BIRTHRIGHT, last added: 12/5/2012
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42. Locus 20th & 21st Centuries Poll

Locus this month has been conducting a poll to find out the "best" science fiction and fantasy novels and short fiction of the 20th and 21st centuries. Though I first suggested on Twitter that I would be filling it all in with Raymond Carver stories, I gave in today at the last minute and instead filled in the poll with some choices other than Carver stories (though I was tempted to put "Why Don't You Dance?" on there, since it has a certain fantasy feel to it, at least to me).

I'll post my choices after the jump here.

Because I did the poll at the last minute, the choices were as much impulsive as rational. I'm not much interested in differentiating science fiction and fantasy, so I paid only the barest attention to categorization. For lengths, I used the lists Locus posted or what I could find on ISFDB, and for the few items not on either, I just relied on my own memory and guessing.

Were I to write the lists now, or tomorrow, or next week, they would be different, both in content and order. Such is the nature of these things. Only a few items are absolute for me (e.g., Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand is the best science fiction novel ever written). Many of the choices are there not because I think they are Eternally & Canonically Important (though many are) but because they remain vivid and powerful reading experiences for me. Also, some things didn't make it on because I would need to reread them to decide — for instance, I couldn't pick one of the novellas from Le Guin's Four Ways to Forgiveness, because though I'm fairly sure one of them belongs on the list, I haven't read the book recently enough to decide between them. M. John Harrison's Viriconium probably belongs on there, too, but I couldn't decide on one of the books in particular, wasn't sure if the big collection would count as a single novel, and in any case had The Course of the Heart on there already (it's another absolute for me — no list of best 20th century fantasy novels is complete without it). And then there are things that probably belong on such a list, but I've never read them, such as Gormenghast. And then there are the obvious items I forgot and will be chastising myself for tomorrow.

I know of lists from a few other folks: Niall Harrison, Cheryl Morgan, Ian Sales. Once Locus publishes the results from the poll, I'll put a link here.

Finally, I am perfectly aware that I will be the only person voting for quite a few of these.

(Note: Because I cut-and-pasted these into the Locus poll form, I deliberately removed diacritical marks and any other punctuation that might mess up the tally. And I'm being lazy here and just pasting my master list in.)

20th century science fiction novel
1. Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand by Samuel R. Delany
2. Ubik by Philip K. Dick
3. 1984 by George Orwell
4. China Mountain Zhang by Maureen McHugh
5. 334 by Thomas M. Disch
6. Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
7. Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler
8. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
9. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
10. Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban

20th Century Fantasy Novel
1. The Castle by Franz Kafka
2. The Unnamable by Samuel Beckett
3. Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany
4. Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee
5. The Course of the Heart by M. John Harrison
6. The Affirmation by Christopher Priest
7. Explosion in a Cathedral by Alejo Carpentier
8. Neveryona by Samuel R. Delany
9. Mickelsson’s Ghosts by John Gardner
10. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

20th Century SF/F Novella
1. The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka
2. Empire Star, by Samuel R. Delany
3. The Stains, by Robert Aickman
4. Great Work of Time, by John Crowley
5. Souls, by Joanna Russ
6. Pastoralia, by George Saunders
7. Pork Pie Hat, by Peter Straub
8. R&R, by Lucius Shepard
9. The King’s Indian: A Tale, by John Gardner
10. Mr. Boy, by James Patrick Kelly

20th Century SF/F Novelette
1. Invaders, by John Kessel
2. The Man Who Painted the Dragon Griaule, by Lucius Shepard
3. The Asian Shore, by Thomas M. Disch
4. The Hell Screen, by Ryunosuke Akutagawa
5. The Hospice, by Robert Aickman
6. A Little Something for Us Tempunauts, by Philip K. Dick
7. The Juniper Tree, by Peter Straub
8. Solitude, by Ursula K. Le Guin
9. Bloodchild, by Octavia E. Butler
10. Sea Oak, by George Saunders

20th Century SF/F Short Story
1. A Country Doctor, by Franz Kafka
2. Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, by Jorge Luis Borges
3. The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, by Ursula K. Le Guin
4. Day Million, by Frederik Pohl
5. The School, by Donald Barthelme
6. Your Faces, O My Sisters! Your Faces Filled of Light!, by Raccoona Sheldon
7. Or All the Seas with Oysters, by Avram Davidson
8. The Terminal Beach, by J.G. Ballard
9. Abominable, by Carol Emshwiller
10. One Ordinary Day, with Peanuts, by Shirley Jackson

21st Century SF Novel
1. Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon
2. Light by M. John Harrison
3. Liberation by Brian Francis Slattery
4. Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders by Samuel R. Delany
5. Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

21st Century Fantasy Novel
1. Shriek: An Afterword by Jeff VanderMeer
2. The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia
3. The City & The City by China Mieville
4. Oh Pure & Radiant Heart by Lydia Millet
5. One for Sorrow by Christopher Barzak

21st Century SF/F Novella
1. Tainaron, by Leena Krohn
2. A Crowd of Bone, by Greer Gilman
3. Magic for Beginners, by Kelly Link
4. Near Zennor, by Elizabeth Hand
5. Memorare, by Gene Wolfe

21st Century SF/F Novelette
1. Stone Animals, by Kelly Link
2. Only Partly Here, by Lucius Shepard
3. Yellow Card Man, by Paolo Bacigalupi
4. The Empire of Ice Cream, by Jeffrey Ford
5. Revenge of the Calico Cat, by Stepan Chapman

21st Century SF/F Short Story
1. There’s a Hole in the City, by Richard Bowes
2. Cold Fires, by M. Rickert
3. Abraham Lincoln Has Been Shot, by Daniel Alarcon
4. Delhi, by Vandana Singh
5. Safe Passage, by Ramona Ausubel

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43. The Star Trek Reader

The Star Trek Reader. Twenty-one Novelized Episodes Based on the Exciting Television Series Created by Gene Roddenberry. James Blish. 1968, 1969, 1972. Dutton. 372 pages.

This is the first volume in the book series of adaptations by James Blish. It contains three books, "Star Trek 2," "Star Trek 3," and "Star Trek 8." It was a great introduction to Blish's work. It features stories like, "The Trouble with Tribbles," "The City on the Edge of Forever," "Friday's Child," "Tomorrow is Yesterday," etc.

What surprised me is that I found myself liking the short story adaptations even when I didn't particularly remember liking the episode it was based on. (Though Spock's Brain didn't exactly improve.)

For anyone who loves the characters, the stories, the friendships, the themes of Star Trek The Original Series, this is a MUST. I enjoyed it very much. There is definitely something comforting and satisfying about it. I definitely want to reread it!

Read The Star Trek Reader
  • If you enjoy vintage science fiction
  • If you enjoy Star Trek The Original Series
  • If you enjoy short stories

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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44. The Stories of Ray Bradbury

The Stories of Ray Bradbury. Ray Bradbury. 1980/2010. Everyman's Library. 1063 pages.

It would be difficult to try to review a collection of one-hundred short stories by Ray Bradbury. My thoughts on these stories are scattered over two years. (To visit the other posts in the series: first twelve, next twenty-six, next three, next ten, next twelve, next-to-last twenty-two, final fifteen.) The collection is very diverse: science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, and realistic fiction. There are stories celebrating friendship, love, marriage, and family. And stories depicting the break down of human relationships. Some of the stories are extremely dark and disturbing, others very light and humorous.

Here are my thoughts on the MOST memorable:

The Coffin

There was any amount of banging and hammering for a number of days; deliveries of metal parts and oddments which Mr. Charles Braling took into his little workshop with a feverish anxiety.
"The Coffin" is just creepy. Readers meet two brothers--Charles and Richard. One brother dies soon after completing his "custom" coffin. He boasts to his brother about how revolutionary this coffin is--how it is a complete all-in-one funeral experience. "Simply place body in coffin--and music will start." His brother is curious. Perhaps a little too curious?!

There Was an Old Woman

"No, there's no lief arguin'. I got my mind fixed. Run along with your silly wicker basket. Land, where you ever get notions like that? You just skit out of here; don't bother me, I got my tattin' and knittin' to do, and no never minds about tall, dark gentlemen with fangled ideas."
"There Was An Old Woman" shows just how stubborn one woman is to conquer death. She refuses--I mean REFUSES to believe in death. So what happens when she dies and her body is taken away? You might just be surprised.

The Scythe

Quite suddenly there was no more road.
"The Scythe" is also quite interesting! It is about a desperate man with a family who suddenly finds himself in a new situation. Finds himself in plenty for once. But there is a price to pay for having everything so perfect. Is he willing to pay that price? He may have no choice!

There Will Come Soft Rains

In the living room the voice-clock sang, Tick-tock, seven o'clock, time to get up, time to get up, seven o'clock! as if it were afraid that nobody would. The morning house lay empty.  
 "There Will Come Soft Rains" is a very, very, very lonely story where we get a glimpse--just a small glimpse perhaps--of the desolation and destruction of life as we know it in at least one human city. We see the ending of an era, perhaps. There are no human characters in this one.

The Murderer

Music moved with him in the white halls. He passed an office door: "The Merry Widow Waltz." Another door: Afternoon of a Faun. A third:

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45. "How to Play with Dolls"

This little story was originally published in Weird Tales 352, Nov/Dec. 2008, edited by Ann VanderMeer.

How to Play with Dolls
by Matthew Cheney

Jenny's father spent a year making a dollhouse for her, a three-storey mansion with four gables and six chimneys and secret passageways and a dumbwaiter and a tiny television that, thanks to a microchip, actually worked.  He gave it to her on her seventh birthday.  Jenny thanked him and kissed him and told him she had always wanted an asylum for her dolls.

Though he wanted her to make the house into a pleasant place for tea parties and soirees, Jenny's father stayed silent as he watched his daughter restrain her dolls with straightjackets fashioned from toilet paper.  He kept his silence as she built prison bars with toothpicks and secured every door with duck tape.  But as she placed the dolls into their cells and set a group of them to stare at the television, he could not observe quietly any longer, and so he went to his workshop and reorganized his impressive collection of antique awls, adzes, augers, and axes.

Jenny continued in his absence.  She created schedules for the patients, times when they could wander through the halls or make origami birds or rant and rave without reproach, or sleep in the cots she had built out of matchboxes stolen from her late mother's private stash.  She had considered appointing some of the dolls to be doctors, but she did not trust them, and so retained all supervisory duties for herself.  She did not sleep, for fear that were she not to keep a vigilant watch, the dolls would revolt or, worse, harm themselves.  She despaired, though, because none of the patients seemed to be making any progress.  Instead, they were all becoming recalcitrant, and they did not want to wander or create anything, they stopped ranting, they let the television slip to a channel of grey static, they slept and slept and slept.  Jenny tried extreme measures: water dunking, severe lighting, simulated earthquakes, and even, with a contraption made from spoons and Christmas tree lights, electrocution.  Nothing got better, and the dolls might as well have been dead.

After a month, Jenny's father returned from his workshop with delicately-detailed miniature hot air balloons, and as Jenny sat beside her asylum and wept over the helpless despair of the dolls, her father orchestrated clever escapes for the patients, who proved to be masterful balloonists, each and every one.  They flew to the paradise of Jenny's bed, where they waited until she returned one night, the asylum having been abandoned, and they embraced her in their tiny arms and sang ancient songs in lost languages while she slept, her face wet with tears from her dreams.

Creative Commons License
"How to Play with Dolls" by Matthew Cheney is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

1 Comments on "How to Play with Dolls", last added: 9/8/2012
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46. Transitioning from Short Stories to the Novel Form

Today I wanted to talk about a question that people have been asking me ever since they learned that my novel, In Between Days, would be coming out this fall. Invariably, after learning of the novel's existence, someone will ask, "Was it difficult?" "Was what difficult?" I'll say. "Writing a novel," they'll say. "You know, [...]

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47. Wanted: a loving home for an orphaned short story opening

You may already know Five Dials, a (mainly monthly) literary magazine published by Hamish Hamilton, one of Penguin's imprints. If you don't, you probably should - the magazine is free and promotes work from both emerging and established talents.  Over the years it has featured a diverse collection of literary fiction and non-fiction from the likes of Zadie Smith, Hari Kunzru and Noam Chomsky, amongst many others.

The Five Dials team is going to start guest blogging here on The Penguin Blog - all their posts will be in the FiveDials category (we're literal minded in many ways...) so you can easily find them in the future.  And here's the first.


At Five Dials, we rarely know what's going to happen when we start putting together an issue. While assembling our 25th issue, which you can download here, we were offered the chance to hold a contest. Actually, it might be a stretch to call it a contest. It's more like we became, albeit briefly, a literary orphanage trying to find safe homes for lost children. The children, in this case, are a collection of beginnings by Vancouver-based short story writer Zsuzsi Gartner.

A while ago, we implored Zsuzsi to send in a new story for the issue. Instead, she offered up something better, both for us and for you. Below this introduction you'll find a list of beginnings to Zsuzsi stories - and, trust me, 'Zsuzsi stories' are a genre unto themselves. The scenarios come from her imagination - there's no doubt about that - but the middles and flourishes and endings will have to come from yours. These are, after all, orphans, and they deserve a good life somewhere in the world, even if it's far from their place of origin. Zsuzsi included her mailing address at the end of the fragments. I've been told she's off email these days, so aspiring writers will have to send a postcard instead. Get in there fast. Each beginning can only be adopted once. Zsuzsi even mentioned she'll send back adoption certificates to each lucky parent. The caveat: we'd like to see the resulting stories. Send Zsuzsi a postcard telling her which beginning you've chosen, write the thing, and send it to us. Who knows? We may include it in our next short fiction issue, nestled amidst names like Frank O'Connor and Lydia Davis and D.W. Wilson.

Eleven Orphaned Short Story Openings (circa 1996-2012) Looking for a Loving Home

 1) The Time I Tried: Then there was the time I tried to get my life made into a television series but failed. Everything ordinary happened to be in great demand. “Let’s hear what the ordinary people have to say,” that anchorman, the one everyone trusted, would say.


2) Karl: You would think they’d talk about money all the time. That’s what you’d think. All the time, endlessly, like a broken record, non-stop, ad naseum, infinitus spiritus amen. But they don’t. They talk about anything but. You have to make them sometimes. Get them to confront the incredible magnitude of their good fortune. Shove their faces into the enormity of it. But gently.

That’s Karl’s job.


3) Sperm Donor: The first time he saw the child he was startled that the boy looked nothing like him. My son.


4) Corner Office: Things were supposed to be different with Corner Office, brudder. Just wait ‘til Corner Office, I kept telling Twyla as her tears dripped onto the suction line offa l’il Felix’s shunt (every-so-often the generator goes and then it’s DIY), everything thing will be better when I get to Corner Office. If you could see l’il Felix now, with his flappy hands and cruxifying smile, oh your heart would surely urk.


5) Chastity: Sometimes they appear in great bunches, streaming down the street like a circus parade. Sometimes just out of the corner of your eye, when you’re not thinking about anything much. The women and their wild beasts. Can’t they give it a rest?

The nuns are the worst.


6) The Third Sister I: The barbarians are chewing. Chew chew chew all summer long. Blood pools on their plates, just the way they like it. The mothers wear halter tops; the fathers take off their watches; we run barefoot in the street, a thick seam of tar bubbles in the centre of the road and sticks to our feet. There are no boys on this block, except for spindly Johnny Falconi who hides his shovel teeth behind his mother's orange curtains. Girls run rampant, no boy could survive here. We run low to the ground, knees bent, hands dragging like monkey paws so that they don't see us. They are the barbarians. We see them through their haze of cigarettes and BBQ smoke and choked laughter. We watch our backs.


7) After Almadovar: What grown man can say that he married his own mother, and that although heartbreak was involved, no-one disapproved?


8) St. Elizabeth of the Miracle of the Roses: Anastasia Nagy is on a rampage. The boy, honestly he’s just a boy, they’ve chosen to play Zoltan is horribly unsuitable. It’s like casting Macaulay Culkin to play Heathcliff. She claims she can see the peach fuzz still gleaming on his cheeks. She writes fire and they give her green fruit! She burns up the telephone lines and is truly inconsolable.


9) The BBQ Nun: She came to us from Kansas City with smoke in her habit, shorn hair glinting copper. She came with her guitar and her firm belief in penance and her expertise in all things eschatological, although the latter was more of a private preoccupation than a part of her duties at Sacred Heart. She came with her talk of judgement, but there was always a kind of smile on her face and she even made the idea of Hellfire seem like fun.


10) The Third Sister II: The third sister with her bare skull like a crystal ball, but milky blue. When Betty and Lydia want to touch it she makes them pay. Sometime in pennies, sometimes in blood.


11) Lawn Boy: They say that if a house is on fire and a woman has to choose between her child and another – her husband, her lover – she will choose the child.

What if I told you I would choose differently?

What do you think of me now?



For Adoption Papers Write to (and please specify which opening/s):

Zsuzsi Gartner

c/o 1424 Commercial Dr.



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48. Christmas Comes Early


With help of authors across the country, Utah author Michael Young has compiled an anthology of short stories, each based on a different Christmas carol. All the proceeds from the anthology, SING WE NOW OF CHRISTMAS, will be donated to the National Down Syndrome Society, in honor of Michael’s two-year-old son, Bryson, who has Down Syndrome. The anthology is available in paperback and Amazon Kindle formats from Amazon.com.

Christmas carols capture the spirit of Christmas like nothing else, and Sing We Now of Christmas brings beloved carols to life like never before. 

Walk in the footsteps of good King Wenceslas.  Experience anew the bells on Christmas Day. Witness the journey of a soldier who lost his voice as he participates in the miracle of Silent Night.  Experience all this and more in these heartfelt, entertaining tales donated by a team of authors from across the country, teaming together for a good cause.

Covering twenty-five stories--one for every day through Christmas itself--this anthology is ready to become a new advent tradition for your family! 

CreateSpace eStore: https://www.createspace.com/3988322 (More money to charity this way)

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49. Tuesday Club Murders

The Tuesday Club Murders. Agatha Christie. 1932/2007. Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers. 256 pages.

I enjoyed The Tuesday Club Murders. While short stories are not my favorite, I prefer novels to short stories, I still enjoyed Miss Marple. This one may best be enjoyed one story at a time. There really isn't a need to rush through these stories all at once. There are thirteen stories in all: The Tuesday Night Club, The Idol House of Astarte, Ingots of Gold, The Blood-Stained Pavement, Motive v. Opportunity, The Thumb Mark of St. Peter, The Blue Geranium, The Companion, The Four Suspects, A Christmas Tragedy, The Herb of Death, The Affair at the Bungalow, and Death by Drowning. It wasn't so much that any one story WOWED me, it was more the fact that I enjoyed the cozy atmosphere of the stories as a whole. I liked Christie's writing and her characters. It was a pleasant way to spend my time.  

Read The Tuesday Club Murders
  • If you like short stories
  • If you like mysteries
  • If you like Agatha Christie
  • If you like Miss Marple

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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50. Flash Fiction from the City of the Dead - Joan Lennon

Vist Joan's website.
Visit Joan's blog.

5 Comments on Flash Fiction from the City of the Dead - Joan Lennon, last added: 10/14/2012
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