Eight short stories on the power of the human spirit.
Layers is a debut collection of imaginative short stories celebrating life and the human spirit despite the ever-present spectre of melancholy in our lives today. With their distinctive blend of wit and humour, they light up any underlying darkness. From the Americas to India, from Africa to Europe, and through a range of genres, voices and styles, layers are unraveled, revealing the textures and contrasts of old and new in the environments and cultures of today’s fast-paced world. With vivid descriptions, we are drawn into enchanting worlds with characters that leap off the page, leaving the reader lingering long after the pages have been read.
- In The Christmas Charge: Instead of enjoying their Christmas preparing eggnog cream pie and sipping sherry by the fireside, three batty grannies go on an African safari. At this stage of wisdom in their lives, nothing can go wrong. Right?
- In Paths Taken: When her grandmother ‘kills’ a man on a busy town square, Hecate is forced to face her worst fears and use her own unsettling powers to help her. But where will these new paths take her?
- In White Noise: All Earl needs to do is hand his work over to his successor. But is it that easy to let go? And where does one hide from one’s inner noise when things go wrong?
- In The Old Man and the Donkey: Deep in northern Portugal, an old man and his donkey go about their lonely routine. When an unexpected visitor shows up, everyone is given a new chance of happiness. But have they all been stubbornly avoiding it for too long?
- In The Arctic Haze: Since he was little, bad luck has stuck to George’s soles like clingy dog mess. Some of us are luckier. Or are we really?
- In Penny’s Purple Robot: A loving father exceeds himself to make his daughter happy after her mother passes away. But can he force himself to face a brutal truth?
- In Mothers: Deep in Africa, a desperate mother accepts her own fate, but refuses to face an even harsher reality. Mothers will do anything for their young. And things may not be as they seem.
- In Yeehaw: Running from their regular lives, Sam and Patsy end up in an artificial town – Yeehaw Theme Park. Will they find their true selves in this synthetic world?
If you like a minimalist and dark, yet humorous look at the contrasts we face in the world today, you will enjoy this collection of mixed-genre stories.
Today I am delighted to welcome to the blog, Zuzanne Belec, who has very kindly written a guest post for me on the writing process behind her debut collection of short stories, Layers.
Now, over to Zuzanne for her guest post:
My writing process by Zuzanne Belec
How I began writing
To keep a very long story short: mine is not one of wanting to write ever since I was little. I’d always thought that writing was a gift allocated only to the gods. Also, times were busy, so there was no room for any creativity whatsoever (nor even for reading, besides the obligatory academic material).
And now suddenly I am a published author of Layers: A Collection of Short Stories. How could that happen when I hardly knew what creativity was? I haven’t a clue. All I can determine is that the creative energy must’ve been accumulating somewhere within me all those years, only to let off a major creative blast once the tornado that’s life had settled down. And what a mess this blast left behind – I had the urge to delve deep into creativity of all sorts and I didn’t know why, I didn’t know how. But I took it slowly, step by step and patiently learned the craft of writing over the years. And gradually that mess transformed into what is a published book today (which is not doing too shabbily in the reviews department either). See? Anything’s possible!
What inspires me
Among the creative splotches to clean up from the ceiling after that blast was the question of ‘what to write.’ I had no clue either. This is the point, perhaps, when my upbringing in the African bush came to the fore: I used that survival instinct and put to work all the senses to really ‘see’ the details of my surroundings, I began listening to the noise outside, the noise inside of me, and also to my creative urges. That’s when all the people and places I’d visited really began to ‘speak’ to me. They showed me their hearts – both their joys and their tribulations. That is what inspires me the most, and which forms the basis for most of my stories: the contrasts and dynamics between nature, cultures and societies today. I especially enjoy taking a minimalist and, where possible, a humorous look at some of these dark realities.
We have a lot to learn from one another still, no matter whether we’re educated/uneducated, rich/poor, male/female/other, black/white, animal/human… So here’s a big thank you to the people and places that have inspired me, and will still inspire me!
What I write
I admit that I began writing short stories because they said it’s the quickest way to learn the craft. Specifically contemporary mixed-genre stories – the best way to learn the genres! As difficult as writing short stories has turned out to be though, I really enjoy writing them. And the upside: I can get a lot more stories written in the time I have left.
Either way though, I like to keep my stories short. And I like to keep my stories simple.
Short because life is short. Because when it’s our time to go, we won’t go remembering the entire duration of our life. We will remember the short bits. So, in this light, that’s what I try to capture in my short stories: small, memorable bits of life lived.
And simple because when it’s our time to go, we won’t be pondering all the detailed complexities of our lives – we will remember the simple things. And so, in this light too, my short stories attempt to reflect just that: simple, wonderful bits of life lived.
All in all, it is just as Ali Smith says, “short stories consume you faster...” I like that brevity and impact.
I am trying my hand at the long form too, but I’m pretty hopeless at that still. I’m finding it very difficult to stay focused when I reach the more ‘long-winded’ filler, sections. Maybe I have a short attention span, I don’t know. Perhaps one day I’ll manage it though. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, I still have some writing to do before I reach those 10 000 hours anyway…!
My writing process:
First thing every morning, after having my cup of tea, I do my morning pages (which I started doing about a decade ago after reading Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, and Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way). I owe a lot to them because I know that all those morning pages written over the years are what allowed me to connect with my creative side. Full stop. This ritual still yields surprises, with valuable ideas and insights still popping up every now and then. This is my favourite part of the day.
Once I have a story idea, this is how I develop it into a story: I determine the ‘why’ of the story using Jennie Nash’s excellent Author Accelerator method. Once I have this deep and solid foundation to build my story on, my next step is doing my character profiles. I use the OneStop writing tool for this. Then, with characters brought to life as deep as I can, I plot my story out using the GetPlottr visualization tool to make sure all my timelines, ages, dates, sequences, etc. correspond. Then I finally get down and write the actual story using that fabulous Scrivener. See? Tools! Maybe one day, when I have more books behind me, I won’t need those tools to help me along my newbie path, but for now they’re a life saver!
Who are my favourite authors?
I still have many to catch up on, but a few of my favourites so far are George Saunders (mainly his excellent non-fiction), Theodor Seuss Geisel, Roald Dahl, Marina Lewycka, Niklos Kazantzakis, Terry Pratchett …. Oh, and Czech author Evzen Bocek, who is author of the hilarious Aristokratka series (unfortunately not translated into English yet).
Thank you for having me on, Julie, and giving me the opportunity to connect with your audience. And thank you, dear reader, for taking the time to check out this post.
On 3-5 May, 2021, Zuzanne’s highly rated collection of short stories, Layers, will be available to download for FREE on Amazon. To get your eight short stories on the power of the human spirit during this period, please click here: https://books2read.com/u/4A77zd
To subscribe to her newsletter, get access to her members-only Zuu Zone, and receive a FREE download of her short story The UnAdorned – a warm, modern tale of ancient good, set in modern India – you can click here: https://zuzannebelec.com/books-and-signup/
About the Author
Zuzanne is a writer, poet and translator who survived growing up with large critters in Africa. She has two beautiful daughters, and now lives in the heart of Europe with her very patient partner.
Connect with Zuzanne:
Pinterest: Zuzanne Belec