Friday Night Drinks with… Jennifer Fliss

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My last Friday Night Drinks of 2021 and it’s what is known as ‘Mad Friday’ here in the UK. Only one week to go until Christmas Eve and tonight I am sharing a festive drink with author… Jennifer Fliss.

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Jennifer, welcome to the blog and thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking? 

Something fun, but non-alcoholic. But maybe a fancy coffee drink because we are going dancing after this, right? Gotta stay awake because I’m basically middle-aged now and staying awake is one of those skills that goes away with age, like being able to put your leg up straight in front of you in the shower to shave. We’ll hit up a club that plays 90s/00s hip hop. But for now, assuming we are not going out after this, a Shirley Temple or the house mocktail…which many places are doing now, and I’m grateful for that.

If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

It’s raining, okay? And we go to a dark wood-filled bookstore, maybe Mother Foucault’s in Portland here in the U.S. or somewhere in Edinburgh, and we drink coffee and eat Indian curry. And I know they wouldn’t allow eating & drinking in the store, but this is my fantasy, so…I make the rules. Maybe it’s Halloween. And there’s a reading of spooky stories. Remember, it’s raining.

That sounds perfect, I can picture it clearly. If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

Michelle Obama and Edward Gorey. 

So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I’m always working on several projects. First novel revisions. Second novel generating. I will always write. I love it so much. Also working on the preparations for getting my first book out into the world. I have a flash fiction collection, The Predatory Animal Ball, coming out in December.

What I really would love is to be able to have my writing career be sustainable financially, which, these days: Ha! Ideally, I’d publish enough to be able to do all those supporting role jobs for writers: teach workshops, edit, etc. as well as make money off the books themselves. I’d never want to be famous; that sounds atrocious. But to be a known enough name so that people would pay me decent dollars to do what I love.

I also dream of my book being translated into different languages. Imagine a wall of framed covers with different designs and languages!

What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

Someone teaching my work. When someone reaches out to me and says they’re teaching one of my essays or stories in their class, be it high school, college, or a workshop. What a gift that my writing is being taught! It’s such a gift when people tell me that my writing has made them feel less alone, in particular when it’s traumatic stuff. That’s why I started writing, so when my work is being shared in classrooms, especially to young people, I feel it’s my way of reaching them and saying: it will get better. Let me help.

My biggest challenge is revision in my novel. Writing longer form is not my natural literary state. And while it’s fun to generate the story, when I have to revise something that’s several hundred pages long, I feel mired down and terrified by the breadth of that work.

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

In addition to having my work translated into many languages, I’d love to see a film adaptation. Or stage play. It just fascinates me how other eyes and minds see my writing. How they are interpreting it. I love when the literary and the visual meet, so this would be the ultimate take on that.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

Writing novels is way harder for me, generally a flash fiction writer. But I am quite excited about both of my in-progress novels. I love their settings – honestly the thing I’m most a sucker for when I read. When they say: write what you want to read, THIS is that for me. I would love love to fall into these story lines. I just hope I can do a good enough job that others actually get to read them one day.

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

Scotland. The old buildings, brick roads, twisty darkness, reading. Cozy tartan blanket. Those great accents. The castles intrigue me, but if I had to choose it would be to spend time in Edinburgh. Get an Airbnb and spend a month there. To write and read and wander the streets. Spend time in cafes. Watch everyone.

Yellowstone National Park was a bucket-list item I didn’t know I had. Initially I was intimidated by it being the U.S’s most visited National Park. But we went during the shoulder season and it wasn’t too crowded. The geothermal features are astounding. Not just geysers – I could not care less about Old Faithful – but the rainbow colored pools! Bubbling mud pots! Landscapes that look like Mars, if Mars was made of porcelain. I have never seen anything like it and chances are, most people haven’t, since there are more geothermal features there than anywhere on Earth. 

And the bison. I am newly obsessed by those dopey cute incredible large creatures. They were everywhere, including running down a hill towards our car, only to slow down and traipse across the road calmly, just feet (meters) from us. 

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I hold grudges. But I also hold onto every single kindness, big and small. If someone apologizes and works to change, I’m open to that, but if not, I have a hard time forgetting about it and moving on like nothing happened.

And it’s not necessarily a secret because I share it often as my “random fact,” but I did the flying trapeze for years. I’d still like to get back into. 

Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

This is a really hard question. I love love love reading and have forever. I used to have a book blog before I really started to do my own creative writing. I was going to say something by Yoko Ogawa, but then I just finished reading Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown and I’m blown away by it. It is a view a side of life being Asian American that we who aren’t gloss over, too readily, too easily. It should be required reading for everyone, frankly.

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Willis Wu doesn’t perceive himself as a protagonist even in his own life: He’s merely Generic Asian man. Sometimes he gets to be Background Oriental Making a Weird Face or even Disgraced Son, but he is always relegated to a prop. Yet every day he leaves his tiny room in a Chinatown SRO and enters the Golden Palace restaurant, where Black and White, a procedural cop show, is in perpetual production. He’s a bit player here, too, but he dreams of being Kung Fu Guy – the most respected role that anyone who looks like him can attain. At least that’s what he has been told, time and time again. Except by one person, his mother. Who says to him: Be more.

So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

Am I taking care of you? Because I haven’t been drinking. Ha! Maybe something to replenish your electrolytes, some Gatorade – the red kind because it’s not the most awful. Do you have that over there? I’m sure there’s some version of it.

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

Sleeping in is non-negotiable. So I wake up kind of late and then someone serves me eggs benedict with crunchy bacon and a really good mocha. Also a croissant. My daughter pops into bed for a little bit. We read together but separately. Maybe then I go for a run. In the rain. 

The next day, we go for a not-too-strenuous hike with a rewarding view of a turquoise alpine lake at the top. Yeah, maybe it’s raining for that too. And someone’s brought cookies. Someone has definitely baked fresh cookies. Is that you? Thanks for that!

In the most ideal world, I’m back in New York – where I’m from – and I wake up early for a bagel and mocha and then walk the streets for miles…in the rain. The rain breaks and I go down to the flying trapeze rig on the west side of the city and fly above the Hudson River (something I used to do regularly when I lived there.) 

Then I’m back home, it’s raining again (of course) and I order in dinner. I take a bath and eat dinner in the tub and read. Then into bed I go and watch bingeable mystery TV series for a few hours. Did you want all this detail?! Because there you go. From sun-up to sun-down and then some.

Jennifer, thank you so much for joining me, I have had a blast.

Jennifer Fliss’s flash fiction collection, The Predatory Animal Ball, comes out from Okay Donkey Press on December 14th, 2021. It’s her debut book, but she’s also had over 200 essays and stories published out there in the world. You can buy a copy of her book in paperback and ebook formats here.

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Jennifer Fliss (she/her) is a Seattle-based writer with over 200 stories and essays that have appeared in F(r)iction, PANK, Hobart, The Rumpus, The Washington Post, and elsewhere. She was a Pen Parentis Fellow and recipient of a Grant for Artist Project award from Artist’s Trust. She has been nominated four times for The Pushcart Prize and her story, Hineni, was selected for inclusion in the Best Small Fictions 2019 anthology. Her flash fiction collection, The Predatory Animal Ball will be published in late 2021. She is an alumna of the Tin House Summer and Winter Writers’ Workshops.

Connect with Jennifer:

Website: https://www.jenniferflisscreative.com/

Twitter: @writesforlife

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Book Review: The Jealousy Man by Jo Nesbo; Translated by Robert Ferguson

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Murder. Assassination. Revenge.

Discover the first short story collection from the King of Scandi Crime.

Meet a detective on the trail of a man suspected of murdering his twin; a hired assassin facing his greatest adversary; and two passengers meeting by chance on a plane, spelling romance or something far more sinister.

In his first ever collection of short stories, this master of crime delivers a gripping, edge-of-your seat read that you won’t be able to put down.

The first short story collection by Jo Nesbo and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this collection really blew me away with the range and depths of the ideas the author explores in these stories. He really mines the darkest and most base instincts of human kind here, and delves into some very dystopian ideas that are all the more disturbing for not being entirely incredible.

Normally I race through a book of short stories quite quickly, because they are consumed in easily digestible chunks – like grazing on snacks rather than consuming a three course meal. This book didn’t unfold that way for me. Firstly, many of the stories are not short, a couple are more like short novellas. Secondly, every one of them is dense and complex, in characterisation, theme and development so, for me, it was just impossible to race through them quickly. Each of them needed slow and careful reading to unpack and appreciate all the nuance contained within. This is a book which has to be read in a considered and thoughtful fashion. A pause after the end of each was necessary to fully absorb what the author have revealed in the story, and I even broke off halfway through and read something a little lighter to break up the experience because of the effect the book was having on me.

Because I found this book quite bleak in general in the issues it explores and the conclusions that are drawn in the stories. These are not tales of uplifting experiences and positive affirmations of human nature. They are all dark, even fatalistic, in tone and paint quite a negative view of humanity. They feel quite appropriate for the way things are developing at the moment, maybe even prophetic, so if you are looking for a book to cheer you up when the current news gets too heavy, this isn’t it. It is, however, brilliantly written, thought-provoking and a masterclass in how to write a complete and satisfying short story. I am more impressed than ever by Nesbo’s writing, and his fans will love it.

The Jealousy Man is available in all formats here.

About the Author

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Jo Nesbo is one of the world’s bestselling crime writers, with The Leopard, Phantom, Police, The Son and his latest Harry Hole novel, The Thirst, all topping the Sunday Times bestseller charts. He’s an international number one bestseller and his books are published in 50 languages, selling over 33 million copies around the world.

Before becoming a crime writer, Nesbo played football for Norway’s premier league team Molde, but his dream of playing professionally for Spurs was dashed when he tore ligaments in his knee at the age of eighteen. After three years military service he attended business school and formed the band Di derre (‘Them There’). They topped the charts in Norway, but Nesbo continued working as a financial analyst, crunching numbers during the day and gigging at night. When commissioned by a publisher to write a memoir about life on the road with his band, he instead came up with the plot for his first Harry Hole crime novel, The Bat.

Connect with Jo:

Website: https://jonesbo.com

Facebook: Jo Nesbo

Instagram: @jonesbo_author

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Book Review: Deadheading and Other Stories by Beth Gilstrap #BookReview

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Irrevocably tied to the Carolinas, these stories tell tales of the woebegone, their obsessions with decay, and the haunting ache of the region itself—the land of the dwindling pines, the isolation inherent in the mountains and foothills, and the loneliness of boomtowns. Predominantly working-class women challenge the status quo by rejecting any lingering expectations or romantic notions of Southern femininity. Small businesses are failing. Factories are closing. Money is tight. The threat of violence lingers for women and girls. Through their collective grief, heartache, and unsettling circumstances, many of these characters become feral and hell-bent on survival. Gilstrap’s prose teems with wildness and lyricism, showing the Southern gothic tradition of storytelling is alive and feverishly unwell in the twenty-first century.

I was provided with a digital copy of this book for the purposes of review by Lori Hettler of TNBBC Publicity, who has my grateful thanks. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

A collection of short stories, some a mere page, some a little longer, all tied together by their setting in the Carolinas and all exploring the intricacies of life and womanhood. I was stunned by the depth and breadth of experience that the author has managed to weave into even the briefest of tales in this extraordinary collection.

I didn’t really know what to expect from this book, and I have never read anything quite like it before. On the surface, some might argue that these tales are about nothing in particular. They aren’t identifiable crime stories, or romances, or horrors, but a collection of related and yet unrelated tableaux of ordinary yet extraordinary lives. Tinged with anger, passion, despair, melancholy, love, fear, joy and tragedy, they span the range of human emotion that can infuse even the simplest of everyday endeavours. The writer makes every life a miracle and quest for meaning, illustrated by even the smallest and most innocuous of happenings. Nobody in this world is nobody.

This is a great book to dip in and out of when you only have a few minutes to spare, or is equally a book that could transport you away for hours as you lose track of time. Each story is engrossing and moving, provoking a range of emotions in the reader that can take time to be fully realised. These are stories that you carry with you long after you have finished them and, I am sure, will be even richer on a second reading. Something out of the mainstream to relish.

You can buy a copy of Deadheading and Other Stories here.

About the Author

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Beth Gilstrap is the author of Deadheading & Other Stories, Winner of the 2019 Red Hen Press Women’s Prose Prize due out October 5, 2021 and available for preorder now. She is also the author of I Am Barbarella: Stories (2015) from Twelve Winters Press and No Man’s Wild Laura (2016) from Hyacinth Girl Press. Born and raised in the Charlotte area, she recently relocated to Louisville where she lives and writes in an ornery old shotgun house. She also lives with C-PTSD and is quite vocal about ending the stigma surrounding mental illness. Bruce and Bonnie (pictured) are terrible editorial assistants.

Connect with Beth:

Website: https://bethgilstrap.com

Facebook: Beth Gilstrap

Twitter: @BettySueBlue

Instagram: @bettysueblue

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Promo Post: Kiss & Tell – An Amaryllis Media Anthology

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I’m happy to be bringing you news today of a new limited edition anthology of new adult college romance stories which is coming September 2022 and is currently  available to pre-order for the bargain price of only 99p!

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ᴡʜᴀᴛ ᴄᴏᴜʟᴅ ɢᴏ ᴡʀᴏɴɢ ᴡʜᴇɴ ᴛʜᴇ ɢᴏᴏᴅ ɢɪʀʟ ɢᴇᴛꜱ ꜱᴛᴜᴄᴋ ᴡɪᴛʜ ᴛʜᴇ ʙᴀᴅ ʙᴏʏ? ᴀꜰᴛᴇʀ ᴀʟʟ, ɪᴛ’ꜱ ᴊᴜꜱᴛ ᴄʜᴇᴍɪꜱᴛʀʏ…
 
This limited edition collection takes readers on a whirlwind through new adult college romances where the good girl is stuck with the bad boy and she’s not happy about it, until their chemistry together makes her question everything she thought she knew about him.
 
This collection will include stories by the authors listed below:
☆ Mandy Melanson & Colleen Key ☆ H.M Shander ☆ C.A King ☆ Sofia Aves ☆ Lizzi Stone ☆ Kari Shuey ☆ Kira Cunningham ☆ Amy Stephens ☆ Sienna Grant ☆ Ainsley Jaymes ☆ Corinne M Knight ☆ Lynn Stevens ☆ Sarah Peis ☆ Sunny Abernathy ☆ TB Mann ☆ Rachel A. Smith ☆ Krista Ames ☆ Danielle Jacks ☆ C.N. Marie & Lizzie James ☆ Samantha Baca ☆ Zepphora ☆ Maci Dillon ☆ Lissa Lynn Thomas ☆ Adina D. Grey ☆ Jennifer Sucevic ☆ LJC Fynn & Hope Sherrill ☆ Leanne Davis ☆ Kaye Kennedy ☆ Lexi Noir ☆ Rhylie Matthews ☆ Helena Novak ☆ Kevin Berry ☆ Kira Cunningham
 
If this sounds like your cup of tea, make sure you pre-order it now. You can do so by following this link.
 
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Guest Post: Layers: A Collection of Short Stories by Zuzanne Belec

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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. 

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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

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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:

Website: https://zuzannebelec.com

Twitter: @ZuzanneBelec  

Instagram: @zuzannebelec 

Pinterest: Zuzanne Belec

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Blog Tour: The Lynmouth Stories by Lucy V Hay #BookReview

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Beautiful places hide dark secrets … 

Devon’s very own crime writer L.V Hay (The Other Twin, Do No Harm) brings forth three new short stories from her dark mind and poison pen:

– For kidnapped Meg and her young son Danny, In Plain Sight, the remote headland above Lynmouth is not a haven, but hell.

– A summer of fun for Catherine in Killing Me Softly becomes a winter of discontent … and death.

– In Hell And High Water, a last minute holiday for Naomi and baby Tommy  becomes a survival situation … But that’s before the village floods.

All taking place out of season when the majority of tourists have gone home, L.V Hay uses her local knowledge to bring forth dark and claustrophic noir she has come to be known for.

Did You Know …?

Known as England’s ‘Little Switzerland’, the Devon village of Lynmouth is famous for its Victorian cliff railway, fish n’ chips and of course, RD Blackmore’s Lorna Doone.

Located on the doorstep of the dramatic Valley of The Rocks and the South West Cliff Path, the twin villages of Lynton and Lynmouth have inspired many writers, including 19th Century romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who honeymooned there in 1812.

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for The Lynmouth Stories, a short story collection by Lucy V Hay. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the author for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is a very brief book containing just three short stories but it packs a punch that greatly belies its length. Tightly woven with impressively realised characterisation in such a small word count, Lucy V Hay has produced here a masterclass in the art of the short story.

All three stories are set in the tiny, coastal village of Lynmouth, popular with tourists. However, we visit during the low season, when the village shuts down and empties out, giving it a deserted and melancholy air, which provides the perfect backdrop for this collection  of dark and brooding stories. Focusing on the kind of threats that lurk behind closed doors, they remind us that appearances can be deceptive and we never know what dangers are lurking unseen in the most ordinary of settings.

All three stories have female protagonists, who are all very different. Some strong and determined, some finding strength they never knew they had and some crumbling under pressure, the stories explore different reactions under stress and what women can do in protection of themselves and those they love. Probing the darkest aspects of the human psyche, the author manages to convey an awful lot about these women in a very compact word count so you can feel exactly what they are going through in that moment. I really enjoyed the fact that the focus here was entirely on the women and their experiences, with the men largely remaining nameless, shadowy figures whose feelings and motives exist only in relation to the women’s.

This book left me feeling very unsettled. The author has produced an oppressive atmosphere throughout the stories, asking the reader to put themselves in the far from comfortable shoes of the protagonists and walk a little way in them. The stories will shake you out of your complacency and ask you to think about what other women may be dealing with in places we don’t see, even in the cosy seaside towns that the rest of us visit on happy family holidays for reasons of pleasure. It’s easy to sail along, forgetting that our fellow women may be struggling and fighting against enemies we can’t envisage. Maybe we should be more alert for the signs that may be laying in plain sight. The stories are asking us to look and ask, to think about what we are actually seeing. 

A short, uncomfortable but enthralling read.

The Lynmouth Stories is out now as an ebook and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure to visit some of the other blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

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Lucy V. Hay is a novelist, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. She is the associate producer of Brit Thrillers Deviation (2012) and Assassin(2015), both starring Danny Dyer. Lucy is also head reader for the London Screenwriters’ Festival and has written two non-fiction books, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays, plus its follow-up Drama Screenplays. Her critically acclaimed debut thriller The Other Twin was published in 2017.

Connect with Lucy:

Website: https://linktr.ee/lucyvhayauthor

Facebook: Lucy V Hay Author

Twitter: @LucyVHayAuthor

Instagram: Lucy V Hay Author

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Book Review: Backstories by Simon Van Der Velde #BookReview

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CAN YOU FIND THE FAMOUS PERSON HIDDEN IN EVERY STORY?

Dreamers, singers, heroes and killers, they can dazzle with their beauty or their talent or their unmitigated evil, yet inside themselves, they are as frail and desperate as the rest of us. But can you see them? Can you unravel the truth?

It’s publication day for Backstories by Simon Van Der Velde, a unique and novel collection of stories that are a mysterious peep inside the lives of some people you might think you know. But can you work out who they are? Happy publication day, Simon, and thank you for providing me with a digital copy of the book for the purposes of review. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

When Simon approached me about reviewing this book, I can say I was intrigued. It is a concept I haven’t come across before – a collection of stories about the early lives of famous or infamous people, revealing clues about who they are, and little known facts about their early lives, but leaving the reader to try and guess who the author might be talking about. A curious but fascinating mix of fact and fiction, it was definitely something I needed to take a look at.

The book comprises fourteen short stories, giving us a snapshot in time in the lives of well known or notorious characters who will be familiar to most of us, but maybe not in the ways portrayed here. An interesting mix of fact woven into fiction, the author writes as if he is telling a story, and it is for the reader to dig beneath the prose to find out who is hiding behind the mask, and possibly find out things about popular figures we never knew before. This was certainly true for me. Whilst I am sure I worked out who each story was talking about, there were certainly some facts in there that I hadn’t known before, and sent me scuttling to the internet in search of confirmation that the author hadn’t made the basic facts up. The story, Banjo Boy, in particular had me saying, ‘Well, I never knew that about him before!’ From this perspective alone, it is a fascinating book to pick up.

The collection of characters that Simon chooses to explore is a curious one. Some I can understand why he wanted to discuss, a couple were less obvious, and a couple of them made me incredibly uncomfortable. Simon really gets under the skin and into the minds of the people he is talking about, and this is disturbing in the case of a couple of the less savoury characters. Being able to stir an emotion in the reader is the sign of a good writer; this is no less true when the emotion stirred is disquiet. I’m not sure I want to be in the skin of some of these people.

This is a book that is good for dipping in and out of, rather than reading through in one go, and would make a great topic of discussion between friends. I have already seen a fellow blogger saying she can’t work out who one of the subjects is and, since I think I know, I will reach out and see if she agrees with my theory later. Some of them are more obvious than others and, I think some of them will be easier to suss out for people of my generation than younger folk. It is a concept that played out well against my expectations and I applaud the author for achieving something new and interesting.

Backstories is available in all formats from today and you can buy a copy here.

And, if you need any additional reason to buy the book, beyond my review above, Simon is donating 30% of all profits from Backstories to Stop Hate UK, The North East Autism Society and Friends of the Earth.

About the Author

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Simon Van der Velde has worked variously as a barman, labourer, teacher, caterer and lawyer, as well as travelling throughout Europe and South America collecting characters and insights for his award-winning stories. Since completing a creative writing M.A. (with distinction)

in 2010, Simon’s work has won and been shortlisted for numerous awards including; The Yeovil Literary Prize, (twice), The Wasafiri New Writing Prize, The Luke Bitmead Bursary, The Frome Short- story Prize, The Harry Bowling Prize, The Henshaw Press Short Story Competition and The National Association of Writers’ Groups Open Competition – establishing him as one of the UK’s foremost short-story writers.

Simon now lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, with his wife, Nicola, their labradoodle, Barney and two tyrannical children.

Connect with Simon:

Website: https://www.simonvandervelde.com/

Facebook: Simon Van Der Velde

Twitter: @SimonVdWriter

Instagram: @simonvdvwriter

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Tales of What The F*ck by D. A. Watson #BookReview #BlogTour (@davewatsonbooks) @WildWolfPublish @RaRaResources #RachelsRandomResources #TalesOfWhatTheF*ck

Tales of the What the Fck

I’m happy to be taking part in the blog tour today for Tales of What The F*ck by D. A. Watson. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey from Rachel’s Random Resources for the blog tour invitation and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Billionaire terminal cancer patient John Longmire’s going to die today, and he’s going out in style in the classiest euthanasia clinic in the world. But the strange nurse with the clipboard and the look of a goddess is spoiling the mood, with all her irksome questions about how he’s lived his life.

Recent retiree Gerald loves his wife Barbara and he loves his garden, but Barbara hates the garden. Because the garden’s taking Gerald over, and Barbara says he has to stop before he has another ‘incident’.

Bullied, ridiculed and unloved, moustachioed schoolgirl “Hairy” Mhairi Barry has never had any friends but the ones she finds on the shelves of the library where she’s spent most of her lonely childhood. But tonight, she’s going to a party with all the cool kids, to show them what she’s learned in all those books.

A suspicious smelling smorgasbord of lovelorn psychopaths, vengeful mugging victims, pawn shop philosophers and rhyming Glaswegian alien abduction, Tales of the What the Fuck is a dark, touching, horrific and hilarious collection of short stories, flash fiction and epic poetry from People’s Book Prize nominated author D.A. Watson. Things are about to get weird.

Well, I stepped well outside my comfort zone with this book, but that is always one of the pleasures of book blogging, reading things you would not normally pick up. This is definitely a book that would not usually find its way in to my reading schedule, and I’m still not 100% sure what I just read, but it certainly shook me out of any reading complacency I may have found myself in!

This book is extremely hard to categorise, such a random mix of flash fiction, poetry and short stories across a very diverse bunch of genres, with not much to link them except the perverse mind that wrote them all. And I think that the mind which came up with all of these may be something we don’t want to dwell on too much, because a lot of the stories are very dark and twisted!

Any one of a squeamish disposition should steer well clear, along with anyone offended by swearing. However, readers of a more robust and curious nature may wish to dip a toe in and explore this unique compendium of dark tales. If you do, you will encounter the unexpected at every turn, come face to face with criminals, psychopaths, aliens and much, much more around every corner, and wonder how you ended up where you find yourself.

The big draw for this book is that parts of it are very funny, if your sense of humour takes a turn towards the black side, and there are a lot of wry observations on the vagaries of modern life and relationships. This book will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is certainly different, and the author is obviously talented, lending a hand to a lot of different styles. One for those times when you fancy stretching the boundaries of your experience and opening your mind a little.

Tales of What The F*ck is out now as an ebook and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour for the reactions of other bloggers to this book.

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About the Author

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D.A. Watson was halfway through a music and media degree at the University of Glasgow and planning on being a teacher when he discovered he was actually a better writer than musician. He unleashed his debut novel In the Devil’s Name on an unsuspecting public in the summer of 2012, and plans of a stable career in education left firmly in the dust, later gained his masters in Creative Writing from the University of Stirling.

He has since published two more novels; The Wolves of Langabhat and Cuttin’ Heads, a collection of short fiction and poetry, Tales of the What the F*ck, and several acclaimed articles, poems and stories, including Durty Diana, which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in the US in 2016, and the Burns parody Tam O’ Shatner, prizewinner at the Falkirk Storytelling Festival and Dunedin Burns Poetry Competition, and nominated for the People’s Book Prize in 2018.

Watson’s writing has appeared in several anthologies and collections including 404 Ink, Dark Eclipse, Speculative Books, Haunted Voices and The Flexible Persona, and he is also a regular spoken word performer, with past gigs at Bloody Scotland, Tamfest, Sonnet Youth, Express Yourself, Clusterf*ck Circus, and the Burnsfest festival in 2018, where he appeared on the main stage as the warm up act for the one and only Chesney Hawkes, a personal milestone and career highlight.

His fourth novel Adonias Low will be released by Stirling Pubishing in 2021. He lives with his family in a witch infested village on the west coast of Scotland, and continues to write some seriously weird sh*t.

Connect with Dave:

Facebook: Dave Watson Books

Twitter: @davewatsonbooks

Tempted by….Being Anne: Help The Witch by Tom Cox @cox_tom @Williams13Anne @unbounders #bookbloggers #bloggerlove #readingrecommendations #booklove #HelpTheWitch

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Inspired by our native landscapes, saturated by the shadows beneath trees and behind doors, listening to the run of water and half-heard voices, Tom Cox s first collection of short stories is a series of evocative and unsettling trips into worlds previously visited by the likes of M. R. James and E. F. Benson.

Railway tunnels, the lanes and hills of the Peak District, family homes, old stones, shreds fluttering on barbed wire, night drawing in, something that might be an animal shifting on the other side of a hedge: Tom has drawn on his life-long love of weird fiction, folklore and nature s unregarded corners to write a collection of stories that will delight fans old and new, and leave them very uneasy about turning the reading lamp off.

I know this is usually a Monday feature but yesterday was impossible so I’m sharing it today instead. Surprise! A change is as good as a rest, they say, and I’m relaxing into the Christmas holidays.

Anyway, today on Tempted by…. I have Help The Witch by Tom Cox and the review which inspired me to buy it was this one written by Anne Williams on her blog, Being Anne. Anne is a hugely respected and inspirational book blogger, who also talks quite openly about things going on in her life in general so you really feel like you get to know her through her blog. I have been lucky enough to meet her in person and she is as lovely as she comes across on the blog. her reviews are always very detailed and honest about what works in a book and what doesn’t, so I completely trust them. No flannel here!

This was the main draw of the review for me, the pulling out of the positives and the negatives; the emphasis on what worked for her and what didn’t; the quirkiness of the stories. I do like a short story collection that you can dip in and out of when you are short on time or don’t have the brain space to embark on a longer literary journey and these sound like something out of the ordinary. I’m very drawn to something a bit different, although I’m not sure I will read them late at night while I am on my own! This book was published by Unbounders and I have found that their unique publishing model have produced some very diverse and interesting books this year, including some of my favourite reads, so I am looking forward to dipping in to this over Christmas.

If, after reading Anne’s review, you would like to get your own copy of this book, you can buy it here. And please do visit Anne’s wonderful blog, Being Anne, and get to know her, I know you’ll love her too.

 

Bittersweet by Veronica Henry #BookReview #ShortStories #Freebie (@veronica_henry) @orionbooks #Kindle

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A chance encounter on New Year’s Eve brings one woman’s dream alive; a woman begins her new life by the sea; and one strawberry tart can change everything…

From forgotten loves to second chances, new happiness and old friends, this is an uplifting and moving collection of short stories about how love changes, and how it changes us – from Sunday Times bestseller Veronica Henry.”

** Features an exclusive extract of her upcoming novel Christmas at the Beach Hut! **

Just a quick review today of Bittersweet, a delightful collection of short stories by one of my favourite authors, Veronica Henry. The book also has an exclusive extract from her new novel Christmas at the Beach Hut which will be published on 15 November.

There are seven short stories in this little collection, and everyone of them is delightful. It is really hard to write a short story but Veronica manages to imbue each of these with an impressive range of activity and emotion; I defy any of you to read them and remain unmoved. Despite the restrictions on the length of each, Veronica’s trademark warmth and empathy is obvious in each one, no one else could possibly have written these stories.

Each of these has a different twist on relationships, some of them happy, some more melancholy, but all of them ultimately uplifting. I think my two favourites were Escape to the Country, where I found myself inwardly cheering as Holly finally takes her future in her own hands, and A Certain Likeness, where we are left believing that it might never be too late.

I must admit, I didn’t read the extract from Veronica’s new book because I have it on pre-order and I didn’t want to have to wait three weeks to be able to carry on reading once I was drawn in to the story. However, if you haven’t read either of the two Beach Hut novels (and if not, why not, they are wonderful!), the extract will be a great taster of the seaside town of Everdene and I am sure you won’t be able to resist diving in to the series.

The best thing os all about this little collection is that it is FREE to download on Kindle. Yes, you heard that correctly – it is absolutely free to download, so what on earth could possibly be stopping you? You can download it here, then grab a comfy chair, cosy blanket and a mug of your favourite hot beverage and settle down for treat. You can thank me later.

If that wasn’t enough, Veronica will be guesting on my blog on Friday 16 November as part of my new Friday Night Drinks feature, to celebrate the launch of her new book, Christmas at the Beach Hut, so make sure you check that out. Veronica’s new book is available for pre-order here.

About the Author

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Veronica Henry has worked as a scriptwriter for THE ARCHERS, HEARTBEAT and HOLBY CITY amongst many others, before turning to fiction. She won the 2014 RNA NOVEL OF THE YEAR AWARD for A NIGHT ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. Veronica lives with her family in a village in north Devon.

Connect with Veronica:

Website: www.veronicahenry.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/veronicahenryauthor/

Twitter: @veronica_henry

Instagram: @veronicahenryauthor