Dying Embers out now

Dying Embers out now

Monday 30 September 2013

Review: Dark Spaces by Dionne Lister

Dark Spaces by Dionne Lister is a collection of short stories and flash fiction. In the author's own words, they are 'stories of survival, fear, suspicion and emotion'. I am a particular fan of short stories of the darker kind, so I was looking forward to trying these out.

Breathe in Autumn is a strong start to proceedings, the clever title only becoming apparent in retrospect. Autumn is out for a run, and is concerned at recent reports of a stalker. When her fears become reality, the perspective changes and we see events unfold from the eyes of her attacker; but is there more to the situation than it would appear? Edge of the seat stuff, and the last line is great too.

Next up is An Awakening, an intriguing tale of love and forgiveness. Marian has a choice to make, and she is forced to come to terms with a relationship which has been at times difficult. A very human story, Dionne has the ability to encapsulate feelings and emotions, engaging the reader completely. An Outback Lament follows, a powerful piece of flash fiction worthy of any collection of Australiana. Capturing the harsh and unrelenting beauty of the country, I could almost hear the cicadas singing.

There's a different kind of beauty in Sarah's Story, that of survival and desperation. Sarah is struggling with a failed relationship and needy infant. However, the reader's sympathies change as the story unfolds, and we learn who the real victim is. By contrast, in The Presentation there is no doubt about the villain of the piece, and there is a real sense of satisfaction at the conclusion. Revenge is a dish best served cold!

Timmy's Escape is a modern-day fairy tale about failed relationships, and is all the more powerful for being brief. The sense of sorrow and regret is tangible, and leads the reader into the next tale Amy, which is perhaps the meatiest story here. Amy would seem to be the victim of abuse, and the product of a broken home; but who is responsible? Another edge of the seat story with a twisty ending.

Helen enjoys 'watching other people suffer', so as a nurse it might be said she is ideally placed. In Heart of an Angel we see what happens when the vulnerable Elizabeth arrives, and she is tempted to go too far; then is confronted with her own worst fears. The hunter becomes the hunted, and we are left to wonder how – or if – she will cope. The final story here is Climbing Everest, which tells Evelyn's story of estrangement, addiction and eventual reconciliation. The power of human relationships conquers all, despite everything.

These tales are insightful snapshots into human nature, taking a hard look at the decisions which have to be made, and their consequences. We see deeply into the minds of the characters, and as a result we care about their actions. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection, and it left me wanting more; I look forward to Dionne's next collection of short stories.

Sunday 22 September 2013

Review: Impossible Spaces, by Hannah Kate

This collection, published by Hic Dragones, consists of twenty-one short stories themed around the idea of 'other worlds'. It is not, strictly speaking, a collection of supernatural tales, nor even so-called strange tales. More an eclectic mix from some excellent writers, some better known than others, giving their takes on the idea of a place that exists somewhere between the familiar and the unknown.

Some of these impossible spaces are represented psychologically, some physically. Opening up proceedings is The Carrier, by Daisy Black, a bleak and claustrophobic tale involving both approaches. The protagonist tells her tale of being taken from her family as a child and leading a life of drudgery as a carrier; that is, being confined within a spiral staircase, taking objects up and down the steps, at the behest of a 'strange master' living at the top of the tower. The staircase becomes her whole world, the number of steps known to her by heart. That is until she starts to take an interest in the objects she carries. One day she is given an astrolabe to deliver, which becomes the precursor to greater knowledge and the expansion of the world within her mind. She begins to examine all the strange objects she carries, eventually obtaining a strange enlightenment, resulting in role reversal.

A different kind of space is involved in Mistfall, by Jeanette Greaves. Luke is killed in a car accident, leaving Georgia, his wife and his passenger, unscathed and with a sense of survivor's guilt. The fog which had concealed the jack-knifed lorry returns to her increasingly over the ensuing years, becoming a welcome world of its own into which she gratefully disappears, finding some kind of peace at last.

Rather less inviting is the nether-land at the crux of Nepenthes by Keris McDonald. This is a gritty and tense tale of Council cleaners assigned to Campbell House, a tower block in Howe Farm, a very rough housing estate. Brian is partnered with Alan, a more experienced operator, and they are subjected both to abuse by tenants and the filthy, thankless task of cleaning the place. The oppressive atmosphere is having its effect upon them by the time they reach the seventh floor, when they get to the end of a dark, forbidding corridor and smell something bad from behind the door of a flat. They call the police, and after a nerve-wracking wait, inexplicably they find a constable walking through the car park who helps them investigate. "Do policemen get lost?" Brian wonders. Nevertheless, they break in to the flat, finding flies and cockroaches but not much else. Until, that is, they check in the bedroom; a black place into which more than just light is sucked. This is a satisfying tale of urban squalor, and one of my favourites here.

Sharpened Senses has a fascinating premise, that of someone being able to see more than the usual number of colours, and therefore witnessing things that others do not. As such, Miss Ebisawa is a Tetrachromat, having to wear a blindfold to avoid seeing ghosts and monsters normally invisible; unable to function normally, she has checked herself into an asylum, and sits in a white room. She is studied with interest by the doctors, who believe her problems are psychological. The circumstances of her disappearance, however, provide more questions than answers.

I found Great Rates, Central Location by Hannah Kate to be most intriguing. A Sisyphian tale about the tribulations of Sarah, who has misguidedly booked a few nights in the very cheapest of the chain hotels in Manchester, it conveys the sense of dislocation felt in such circumstances. This is worsened for her by waking up the next morning in a different hotel room; one without windows (this premise recalling Aickman's The Hospice of course). She also finds herself strangely transformed, and about to be captured by the hotel itself; by which time the price she paid no longer seemed like a bargain.

The Meat House by Maree Kimberley is a powerfully written and bold tale, but perhaps the most literal of the stories here, and a little too gory for my taste. By contrast, The Hostel is the closest to a conventional ghost story in the collection, investigating what seems like a parallel universe accessed from a tiny room in a hostel. Blurring reality with hallucination, with humour and a delightfully light touch, its message comes across clearly; everyone has their own unique reality.

I enjoyed the rest of these stories, particularly The Place of Revelation, Unfamiliar and Bruises, and no weak links are present. An eye-catching cover and good design and production by Hic Dragones (I have the kindle version) add up to an important collection that every fan of short stories, be they ghostly, strange or weird, should read.

Wednesday 18 September 2013

3 – a trio of short stories by Maria Savva

Maria Savva has released a great new collection of short stories, entitled 3... I have enjoyed her previous collections, and 3 is just as good. Details are below, and I will post a review soon. Meanwhile, get yourself a copy and enjoy.

Memories of the past can haunt the present

1. Never To Be Told – Tom and Amber are on a romantic date... but the past is always present.

2. The Bride – In this paranormal short, Olivia makes a chilling discovery.

3. What The Girl Heard – Victoria revisits a place that holds a dark reminder of an incident from her childhood. She had vowed she would never return.

Maria is a writer of short stories and novels. She has always been a storyteller, and an avid reader, and is now having a lot of fun in her adventure with the creative art of writing. She has published five novels, including a psychological thriller, a family saga, and a fantasy/paranormal/time travel book. She also has five collections of short stories, the latest 3 has been described as an “Innovative showcase” of her short stories. If you like stories that will take you deep inside the characters’ hearts and minds, and you like twists in the tale, you will probably want to try these stories.

As well as writing, Maria is a lawyer (not currently practising law). During her career, she worked in family law, criminal law, immigration, residential property law, and wills & probate, among other things. Many of her stories are inspired from her own experiences and the experiences of those she knows or has known. Chances are, if you get to know this author it won’t be long before you are changed forever into a fictional character and appear in one of her books. If she likes you, you may become a romantic hero/heroine; if she doesn’t... well, she writes a good thriller I hear.

Maria currently divides her time between working as an administrator in a university, and writing/reading/editing/blogging. She maintains the BestsellerBound Recommends blog helping to promote fellow indie authors. She’s also a music blogger for UK Arts Directory where she helps promote independent musicians.

Official website: http:www.mariasavva.com
Goodreads Blog: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1418272.Maria_Savva/blog BestsellerBound Recommends: http://quietfurybooks.com/bestsellerboundrecommends/
UK Arts Directory Blog: http://ukartsdirectory.com/category/blog/maria-savva/
Twitter: http://Twitter.com/Maria_Savva
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Maria-Savva/171466979781

Buy links:
3 is Currently available in Kindle format (Can be read on a Mac, PC, iPad, Smartphone etc., with the free downloadable apps from Amazon). Look out for the paperback coming soon.

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/3-ebook/dp/B00EUM59XM/
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/3-ebook/dp/B00EUM59XM/
Amazon FR: http://www.amazon.fr/3-ebook/dp/B00EUM59XM/
Amazon ES: http://www.amazon.es/3-ebook/dp/B00EUM59XM/
Amazon CA: http://www.amazon.ca/3-ebook/dp/B00EUM59XM/
Amazon BR: http://www.amazon.com.br/3-ebook/dp/B00EUM59XM/
Amazon IT: http://www.amazon.it/3-ebook/dp/B00EUM59XM/
Amazon JP: http://www.amazon.co.jp/3-ebook/dp/B00EUM59XM/

Book Trailer:

Sunday 15 September 2013

Guest post Q&A; Maria Savva

Today the guest post on my blog is by that excellent writer Maria Savva. I have read her short story collections Love and Loyalty, which I reviewed here, and Delusion and Dreams, reviewed here. Both were fascinating, thought-provoking and varied collections, delving beyond the obvious in everyday lives, and I thoroughly enjoyed them.

By the way, Maria has just published her latest collection of short stories, entitled 3. I will post more details and a review soon.

She was kind enough to answer these questions for us; take it away, Maria!

What has been the most influential short story you've read?

It’s more of a novella, really, but it’s Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. That book really made me want to write one of my own. I can’t recall any influential short stories, only because up until a few years ago I was never much of a short story reader; it was always novels for me. More recently, I have discovered that there are some wonderfully talented short story writers out there.

What is the most interesting character from a short story you can recall off-hand?

Again, more of a novella. The main character in The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. Totally fascinating.

Why do you write short stories?

Initially, I used to write short stories for competitions. In my twenties, when I was determined that I would write the next bestselling novel, I was browsing some writing magazines and came across Writers’ News (I’m still a subscriber to that magazine, many years later!). The magazine has a short story contest and I fancied myself as a bit of a writer at the time, so I thought I would enter. I went on to enter quite a lot of short story contests for many years. I had many short-listed stories, and I even won a prize of £150 once, for the short story The Game of Life, which now appears at the end of my collection, Delusion and Dreams.

Nowadays, I write short stories because I love them, and I can write one in about an hour. It’s fun how the creative process works. I never know how my stories will end when I start writing them, which makes it even more fun. Writing short stories fits in well with my life at the moment because I have a full-time day job. I’ve mainly written my novels when I’ve been out of work, or working part-time. It’s very time-consuming to write a novel. I started writing my sixth one last December and got to about 15,000 words when I had to abandon it because work became busy and real life took over. I really want to get back to that, but for now, realistically, I’ll probably be concentrating more on short story writing for the foreseeable future.

Another reason I like writing short stories is that they help to develop writing skills. You have to be able to write something, explain something, using fewer words, and this is a skill you learn when you write a lot of them. You also learn how to play around with words more, because there are fewer words and you get more of an urge to add depth to the story more succinctly, so you find yourself coming up with fancy sentences that sound nice and use words that are maybe new to you (Well I do that anyway!).

Why did you start writing?

Probably because of my love of reading. I have always been an avid reader. I was the typical bookworm as a child. The natural development was to want to try to do what my writing heroes/heroines were doing, I suppose. I’ve always had a very wild imagination as well, so this is one way to do something useful with it.

To what degree are your stories autobiographical?

All of them, to some extent, contain bits of me and my life. I think it’s natural for a writer to be inspired by his/her own world. That’s what makes fiction so interesting: it’s other people’s take on reality, an insight into their soul almost. Sometimes my stories only contain a hint or whisper of my own experiences, and other times they are a veiled reality dressed up as fiction. Some, of course, are completely made up :)

Do you like scary stories?

I like writing them, apparently. I kind of scared myself when I was writing Haunted, and again when I wrote The Bride (which is one of the short stories in 3). I’ve always had an interest in ghost stories because I have had a few paranormal encounters. I used to live in a haunted house. I was a child then (between the ages of about 5-9). At that time I enjoyed telling ghost stories to my friends. I even invented, in collaboration with one of my best friends at the time, a fictional ghost who lived in our school—or, more accurately, a family of ghosts. Me and my friend would tell the other children all about these ghosts and how we had seen them (which we hadn’t, of course), but it got to the stage where many of the children believed our tales and me and my friend had to explain ourselves to one of the teachers.

What is the most frightening thing you have read?

There was a really scary bit in Haunted by James Herbert. I’ve forgotten what it was except that it was something to do with ghosts. I doubt I would ever be brave enough to read it again, so I guess we’ll never know LOL. I’ve been through just about every reading ‘phase’ you can go through, and when I was younger, horror/thrillers were included. I kind of grew up watching horror films. I don’t think there were the kind of ratings restrictions in the 1970s as there are now for films. As a child I watched some really scary horror films. It’s funny because back then I wasn’t fazed by them. Now I am too frightened to watch them (and I don’t read horror anymore for the same reason!).

Who is your favourite writer?

I have too many to mention. There are so many talented writers out there.

How different would your writing career be without social media?

I would get more writing done!

How many books would you read in a year?

It varies depending on whether I am involved in other projects. For example, when I’m writing my own stuff or editing, it leaves me with less time to read. I read a lot of books, but go through slumps when I can only maybe read a couple in a month. I am more attracted to shorter works nowadays because I have less spare time. I’ve been reading lots of great short stories. Including your ones, Martin, which I’ve really enjoyed. I think I’ve read about 30-40 books this year so far.

At what stage of your writing career would you 'give up your day job' (or would you)?

I would definitely, because I find myself staying up into the night just so I can finish writing projects. I would like to be able to get to the stage where I can write for a living. If I was earning a living wage from my writing, I would choose writing over any other ‘career’.

Dying Embers – it's nearly here!

I have decided to bite the bullet, so to speak, and announce a publication date for Dying Embers, my first collection of short stories. It will consist of ten tales of the strange and unlikely, and will initially be available as an e-book from Amazon. Having never published anything off my own bat before, it will be a steep learning curve no doubt; however, the aim is to have it out there in time for Hallowe'en. So your spooky reading material is sorted!
I have also created a website (www.martincosby.com) which features Dying Embers and contains more details.

By the way, I have also updated the cover design.

The final story listing is likely to be as follows:

The Next Terrace
Playing Tag
Unit 6
The Source of the Lea
Necessary Procedure
Abraham's Bosom
In Transit
Building Bridges
La Tarasque
Plus, something about my influences and references (some of the stories are based on local legend, others are, to a degree, autobiographical).

I'm not sure about the running order.
Wish me luck in sorting it all out for (hopefully) October 25th!