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Short Story – Last Goodbyes

Macmillan5

In 2015 my good friend and fellow author, Ian D. Moore invited members of our FB writing group the IASD (see www.indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.com) to write and contribute original stories for an anthology of short stories on the theme of Relationships in all their many and varied forms. The idea was born out of the author’s personal loss of a much loved close relative to cancer.

Many of the authors, both in this edition and the forthcoming 2018 Macmillan anthology have had personal experience of cancer, either coming to terms with it personally and/or via friends and family.

Even as I post this story, Ian D. Moore and a number of Indie authors are busy editing and formatting the contributions for the 2018 edition, also in aid of Macmillan cancer.  In addition to the adult contributions, a number of younger writers have also contributed to the book.

Needless to say, I will be blogging nearer the time and when it’s finally published. In the meantime, if you’ve not yet read the 2016 edition just click Here for the purchase link to You’re Not Alone.

Youre Not Alone 3d inamge (1)

You’re Not Alone

By

 Ian D. Moore & Friends 

 featuring:

Last Goodbyes

By P.A. Ruddock

“Ready for our adventure, Lucy?” I asked. A gentle squeeze of her hand in mine and the almost imperceptible smile on her lips was all the answer I needed.

“Do you remember the last time we were there, just the two of us?”

She did remember; it had been a glorious weekend, one where we enjoyed all that nature had to offer and lost ourselves in each other’s arms and company. This time though all the immediate family would be joining us: Lucy and me, our two grown-up children Cody and Nicola, and Gemma, Lucy’s younger sister. We knew it would be the last time we would all be all together.

“I’m sure that’s where we conceived our Cody.”  I added with a wink and a wry smile. Cody chuckled at my last remark, old enough now to no longer be embarrassed at the thought of his parents having once enjoyed all the passions of youth that his generation were presently taking for granted. But enough of all that, best be on our way …

We started off at a nice easy pace, no need to tire Lucy unnecessarily, I thought; I mean, neither of us was still in our first flush of youth, leave the mad scrambles to the youngsters, I laughed, not that Cody was likely to move more than a few feet away from us; our six foot two hulk of a son had always been his mother’s boy; I remembered when he was a nipper, whenever he wanted something, needed help, or anything for that matter it was always ‘Mum, can I…’ or mum this, or mum that… and when she wasn’t around it was simply ‘Dad, where’s mum?’ or ‘Dad, when’s mum back?’ I didn’t mind of course, how could I?

Navigating the majestic scenery of Rannoch Moor was something we had all enjoyed many times before, and even though Lucy knew the landscape and features as well as any of us, I couldn’t resist my usual running commentary: “It was like having Scotland’s answer to Wainwright tagging along.” Cody chipped in.

“Mum loves the sound of my voice,” I chuckled in my defence, adding as I turned back to Lucy, “don’t ya Luv?”

I reminded her of every site and feature we’d ever come across, so yes, I probably did sound like some over-enthusiastic tour guide. But it was more than that; what made it special was its proximity to Leum Uilliem, a nearby mountain where I had first proposed, and where we might well indeed have conceived at least one of our two children during subsequent visits.

“I remember that time dad tried to show you how to use a compass, he nearly went mad trying to explain mag to grid, grid to mag, taking bearings, and the differences between grid north, magnetic north, and then true north, that really got you going… ‘So what are you saying, that the other two are untrue’ you would ask just to wind dad up even more.” Cody was saying to his mum.

Nicola smiled, adding: “Yes, I remember that … ‘What you on about? How can you have three different norths? North’s north, it’s like saying there’s three different Glasgows or Scotlands’ you would say.”

“I remember too,” I said jokingly as I turned back towards Lucy: “It was your way of getting your own back for all those times I came back with completely the wrong things so you wouldn’t send me out shopping again, or mixing all the colours when you had me to do the laundry … you knew I hated owt like that.”

“Well, for what’s worth, I was always with you on that mum,” Nicola said defiantly, holding her hand, adding: “I never could see the point of all that map and compass stuff when you can click a button and see exactly where you are on a colour screen.”

“Don’t be daft Nic, we didn’t have all that back then, and what if we had, not much cop if the bloody batteries die on you or you can’t get a signal is it?” 

“Well, that’s made the day complete, ain’t it Luv?” I said to Lucy.

“Sorry mum, sorry dad,” the two of them said with a smile, almost in unison.

“Nowt ta be sorry for kids, I mean, what would a day out be without you two getting into a row over something?” They both smiled.

“Does anyone remember the time we turned up at Corrour railway station and we saw all the camera crews, we thought there must have been an accident?” I asked, changing the subject.

“Um?” Cody grunted.

“Well, it was when they were filming a scene from that film, what was it …Trainspotting … and the catering guys shared some of the film set food with us, and you scoffed three hamburgers.” I said in mock remonstration: “… and then you scolding me for letting him when he was being sick on the walk back later.” I added, turning back to Lucy.

It was nearly midday now, some four hours since the start of our reminiscing adventure, time for a break I thought: “Speaking of scoffing, sarnie and a brew, anyone?” I asked.

“Sounds good to me.” Cody agreed.

“Well, there’s a surprise.” Nicola laughingly added, at which point we all had a chuckle; Cody may have been the youngest but he had an appetite that matched the rest of us put together.

And so it went on, time flying by all too quickly as we swapped stories and memories of our travels together, like when we took the kids wild camping for the very first time; come to think of it, it was only the second or third time Lucy had agreed to camp out overnight as well. The kids, of course, took to it all like ducks to water and had no inhibitions whatsoever when I explained about ‘toilet etiquette’ in the wild.

“Not like you, Luv, I swear the first time we wild camped you thought the countryside would be littered with public conveniences or portaloos.”

Her curt and ‘not amused’ answer of ‘it’s different for men’ was just so funny at the time, especially as just then Cody and Nicola came running past trailing toilet rolls behind them just like the dog in the Andrex advert.

“Oh my god, yes, and Cody planting little flags all over the place to mark where he’d buried his poo.”

“Okay okay, there’s plenty I remember about you as well, Nic.” Again we all laughed.   “And then there was that time when we saw that Brocken Spectre, that was amazing,” Nicola said.

“Brocken Spectre?” Gemma asked. Gemma had never been much of an outdoor sort of person so wasn’t familiar with the phenomenon: “It’s a rare and lovely rainbow and cloud formation you sometimes see on a misty mountainside or cloudbank.” Nicola answered.

“It’s a sort of triangular or circular rainbow with a hazy figure in the centre. The figure you see is actually an optical illusion created by your own shadow reflected from nearby clouds. It’s hard to explain but your own movements can often appear to be reflected by the movement of the figure in the spectre.” I added by way of explanation.

“And you and dad convinced me and Cody all the angels in heaven were looking down and waving at us, and we started calling out to them and waving back,” Nicola recalled as she positioned herself to sit back next to Lucy …

***

Almost fortuitously, it was then that the doctor entered the room. He smiled – not a wide a beaming smile but just one of gentle sympathy. I imagine his manner and sympathetic demeanour was something he had had to perfect over many years but it was still appreciated nonetheless.

There was no need for us to wait for him to ask the question: “We’re ready.” I said. Gemma agreed. A heavy intake of breath and a slight nod of the head from Nicola and a stifled cough and tear-filled flicker of the eyes from Cody told me they were too. Gemma was the first to approach and lean in to take Lucy’s hand and kiss her on both cheeks: “See you again my kind and lovely wonderful sister.”  It had been a wonderful day for us all, just sitting with Lucy as we chatted about our times and memories together. And credit to Cody, it has been his idea to enjoy and share those memories at Lucy’s bedside while we imagined one last great adventure together.

I raised myself from the bedside seat, allowing room for Cody and Nicola to approach Lucy’s bed from either side. It was the first time I had released my Lucy’s hand from mine since I had entered the room early in the morning; it was now half four in the afternoon.

“Bye mum, love you always…” Nicola whispered, just loud enough for those immediately near enough to hear.

“Me too mum…” Cody added, the frailty and softness of his quivering voice totally at odds with the strong young man I knew my son to be: “You’re the best mum in the world, the best anyone could have … I’ll …”

I could sense Cody was welling up and could practically see the lump in his throat. He’d struggled to keep his feelings in check the entire day but now that the moment had come, the tears were rolling. He fell to his knees beside the bed, to place one last kiss on his mother’s cheek. I, in turn, placed a hand on his shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze, comforted by the return of his own hand to meet it: “It’s not fair, dad, it’s just not …”

“I know, son, I know …

Cody rose to his feet and slowly moved backward away from his mum’s side, not once looking away from her sight until he reached the window, when he finally looked away, supposedly to cough and clear his throat; but what parent doesn’t know every little nuance of their children? Nicola was always more open with her feelings, and rarely tried to hide when she was upset, but Cody, ever since I could remember would rarely let on if something was seriously bothering him, a practiced master of the ‘something in my eye’ ruse. I recognised all too well the truth of the matter; this time there was little disguising his stifled sobs, and I daresay it was probably only my greater years and experience of death that was giving me the strength to hold back my own, at least for now.

“Mr. Rogers.” The doctor said. I’d almost forgotten his presence. Although it had only been a few minutes since he had entered the room, it was as though a lifetime of memories had come flooding back in that brief time, much like how they describe how your life flashes before you when you’re about to die suddenly.

“I know,” I replied. We all gathered round Lucy’s bed one more time. Just the merest nod was all the final consent he needed to flip the little red switch off the respirator machine, while a nurse simultaneously switched off the various monitors. The cold reality and physical reminders of my wife’s condition seemed to disappear with the extinguishing of the lights and noises of the life-maintaining machinery and assorted apparatus.

“Time of death, 16:47.” The doctor declared. It sounded cold and clinical but I knew he was just following the hospital’s set procedures and other legal requirements.

“It was the right decision, and what she wanted…” I could hear the doctor saying, again his tone and manner caring and sympathetic, just as it had been these past months since the accident. Despite the finality of the moment, there was a sense of peace now, almost of closure for us all, just not for me … not yet …

***

Two weeks later we were once again reunited on the summit of Leum Uilliem, only this time for real as I looked westward to watch the setting of the sun, just as we had so many times before. The gentle breeze that had complimented the fading light had now grown into an angry storm, telling me it was time. I took the small urn and removed the lid; like a celestial carriage waiting to carry my Lucy’s soul to a better place where I knew she would wait for me to join her someday, the raging winds carried and scattered her ashes…

It’s not goodbye, it’s just You leading the way this time…

***

www.indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.com

IASDpicAn international group of indie authors, inspired by the personal grief of one, decided to collaborate in the spring of 2015 in a project to create this multi-genre smorgasbord of original short stories, all with the same potent theme – relationships. Some are heartfelt, some funny, some poignant, and some are just a little bit scary – much like relationships themselves. All are by authors fired by the shared enthusiasm to give something back in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. Cancer touches us all. It has in some way affected those who have contributed their time and talent here. This is our way of showing that we care.

Indie authors carry forward a revolutionary shift in publishing, which allows the author to be the creative director in their own work. There are many exceptional, experienced and acclaimed writers who have decided to take this bold step in publishing. In producing this anthology we have also had the inestimable assistance on board of artists, graphic designers, and bloggers – all of whom have a place in our acknowledgments. You, the discerning reader, are the other vital part of this equation. By buying this book you are supporting the work of indie authors, as well as discovering their worth. You are also supporting the charity to which we have chosen to dedicate our work. And if you enjoy this book, hopefully you will continue your support in buying, reading, and perhaps reviewing the 2018 edition too …

Sincere Thanks,

P.A. Ruddock

 

* 100% of the royalties earned or accrued in the purchase of this book, in all formats, will go to the Pamela Winton tribute fund, which is in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.

Short Story collection – Short, Long And Tall Stories … (Review)

 

Another of my Welsh Wednesday Writing reviews of Welsh authors, this time a collection of short stories by Welsh author, Stuart Kear, a life-long resident of the Rhondda Valley. I first discovered Stuart’s stories via the Tonypandy Writer’s library1Group’s multi-author collection of short stories and poetry, which featured two of Stuart’s stories. Having been impressed with both contributions I checked to see if the author had anything published elsewhere, and so discovered this awesome collection of short stories here …

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Click on book cover thumbnail below for Amazon purchase link …

Short, Long And Tall Stories

timberwolfamazonAs clever and entertaining a collection of short stories as I can remember reading, ever!

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All the stories here have a Welsh theme, and in most cases specific to the Welsh valleys; now when I say a ‘Welsh theme,’ I don’t just mean that the author simply mentions Wales in passing or has perhaps given each story a Welsh character – in most cases, the Welsh setting, being Welsh, or having grown up in the valleys is an integral part of the meaning of each story.

This is quite a substantial body of varied stories, thirteen in total. Among the stories, the author tackles a variety of topics including bereavement and how close relatives deal with loss in their own very different ways, tragedy in the coal mining pits, plots of murder mixed up with irony and poetic justice, and even an incredulously funny flash fiction piece in ‘The Letter,’ – as simple a premise as you could imagine but a guaranteed ear to ear smile for the reader. 

Some of the stories are more a reflection of the human condition and are simply satisfying to read for their own sake without the need for any clever or surprise conclusions. Others though are quite definitely of the ‘twist in the tale’ type, often blended with a deliciously wicked element of humour, and I have to say, Stuart Kear has demonstrated a real talent for that type of story.

My favourite story? – I’m torn between ‘The Look, ‘ a brutal tale of murder and poetic justice with a little touch of black humour, and ‘The Departure,’ another relatively simple story but having the impact of being hit right between the eyes with a claw hammer! Others that also caught my particular attention – ‘The Accident’ and the ‘The dig at the Station Hotel.’

If I had but two tiny criticisms it would be that I would have preferred a more ‘Wales’ orientated cover as the one here puts me more in mind of a major city than the Welsh Valleys. Secondly, given how many people like to read on their Kindles, tablets, and phones etc it would be nice if this collection were more widely available as an eBook too as these stories really do merit the widest possible readership! Apart from that, an absolutely superb clever and entertaining collection of stories. No hesitation in rating it a thoroughly well-deserved 5 stars!

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About the author …

Born in 1945, Stuart Kear, was born and raised in the Welsh Valleys, having also lived and worked there all his life.  With three children and two grandchildren, Stuart Kear was recently widowed and it is to the memory of his late wife of 47 years he dedicated the above short story collection.

In addition to his love of books and language, Stuart Kear’s other interests are photography, walking, quizzes, snooker, and of course, writing.

 

 

Book Review – Alone: and other short stories

Lopez1A truly lovely short story collection from the pen of C.L. Lopez,IASDpic with three guest stories from Tom Benson, both authors from our very own IASD stable of indie authors, writers, and bloggers. I only discovered this writer by way of reading one of her short stories in Tom Benson’s own short story collections and was sufficiently impressed to seek out others by her. The moral of the story – get your writing featured in as many places as possible!

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Amazon blurb:  A collection of short stories of various genre, including suspense, thriller, sci-fi, mysteries, and paranormal. These are stories about the resilience of humanity. They are stories of people and their strengths and weaknesses. Stories of life.

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Alone: and other short stories

timberwolfamazonA varied short story collection where not a single one even slightly disappoints!

lopez2I first came across this author when I read one of her short stories as a ‘guest’ story/author in another short story collection, and was impressed enough to see if she had any collections of her own published, hence my finding this one. 

Having already read one of C.l. Lopez’s stories in Tom Benson’s anthology of science fiction short stories, even though the description mentions different genres I had slightly been expecting more of these stories to lean towards the sci-fi genre, but no, the stories are spread across a multitude of genres. Despite the variety of genres, the stories here actually have a lot more in common than their differences, more so than many a single-themed collection, each story providing real impact in its telling, using some dramatic scenario to both entertain and portray some aspect of human determination and resilience, what I would call real ‘people’ stories. Some are quite dark but still hinting at hope for the future such as in ‘Alone’ and ‘Cold Case,’ the latter being a story reminiscent of several what I would call typical True Crime stories. Others have a certain ‘feel good factor’ to them i.e. ‘Sulley’ and ‘Moving On.’

This super collection of seven short stories, along with three bonus ones from guest author, Tom Benson, were a truly unexpected delight to read, exceeding all expectations.

If I had to pick out one single story as my favourite it would have to be ‘Moving On’ for its combination of not only its feel-good factor but also a clever and ‘poetic justice’ type ending, and even though the general direction of the story was clear early on, it was still a refreshing twist.

And of Tom Benson’s guest stories here, I particularly liked ‘Bewitched,’ a love story but again with a bit of twist and moral dilemma about it, and the one of the three here that best complemented the other stories in this collection. 

Both C.L. Lopez and Tom Benson write across several different genres but in this particular collection they have stuck to writing stories with poignancy and dramatic impact rather than relying on clever endings and/or ‘twist in the tail’ type formats in most cases (though not all).

Any complaints about this book? Only that I was disappointed when I ran out of further stories to read at the end of it so hopefully C.L. Lopez is working on further stories for the future! A very easy and hugely deserved five stars for this one, not a rating I usually find easy for short stories given that it’s rare to read a short story collection where not a single one even slightly disappoints!

A Triple Treat for Halloween …

IASDpicWell okay, I know we’re another nine months off from Halloween but hey, give it another couple of months and we’ll be seeing all the usual adverts for Christmas and whatnot. It’s with great pleasure I present my review of IASD member Lacey Lane’s 2nd book in her Halloween Pumpkin Horror short story series and another of her short story collections, The Little Book of Horrors (and for those of you that missed the first one of the Pumpkin series I’ve included my review of Book One of that as well).

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The Revenge of the Pumpkins  – Amazon Blurb:

It’s Halloween and the Smith family are having fun carving pumpkins. As the witching hour arrives and the pumpkins come to life will the Smith family live to regret the monsters they created?
Find out what happens when the pumpkins come to life and take their revenge…

 

The Revenge of the Pumpkins

timberwolfamazonA tiny tale of sheer horror genius!

Lacey5Anyone looking for a gory Halloween story for kids, say twelve or thirteen upwards need look no further than Lacey Lane’s The Revenge of the Pumpkins; we all know what happens on Halloween, or at least we think we do, when little boys and girls dress up for trick or treating, or carve shapes and faces in to unsuspecting pumpkins, and in that respect the story here is no different, or at least to begin with – what starts off as a fun filled day for the Smith family, dressing up, and indeed, carving their pumpkins in preparation for Halloween night, quickly descends into a scene right out of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

What Lacey Lane has done with a seemingly harmless tradition, but which actually has its origins in ancient Celtic tradition when spirits and ghouls supposedly come back to haunt and cause mischief, is nothing less than sheer genius. The start of the story could easily be that of any traditional children’s story or perhaps a Roald Dahl tale, but it very soon takes a giant step into the much darker world of bloody and psychological horror – this is most definitely not a ‘young’ child’s bedtime story. Within this tiny tale of horror and revenge, and I say tiny because this really is little more than a ten-minute read, the author has managed to take a traditional story format and turn it on its head; the combination of seeming innocence and normality with incredulous horror is done to perfection. Without giving any of the plot away, all I would say is never underestimate or take for granted the power of a child’s imagination.

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The Return of the PumpkinsAmazon Blurb:

Peter Smith is a patient at West Hills hospital. He has been there for nearly a decade. At the age of thirteen, his parents were brutally murdered and Peter was tortured to near death by his Halloween pumpkins. Killer pumpkins haunt his dreams and his doctor thinks he’s delusional. Determined to turn his life around, he has eventually decided to join in with the Halloween festivities in the hospital and carves his first pumpkin. Will Peter survive the tenth anniversary of his parents’ death? Or will his pumpkin be the death of him?

 

The Return of the Pumpkins

timberwolfamazonAnother delicious slice of horror filled pumpkin flavoured terror

Lacey4A dramatic and scary flashback to the first book provides the perfect springboard opening for Return of the Pumpkins. This sequel is much longer and is more of a psychological horror story than its predecessor; set ten years after his first bloody encounter with the demonic knife-wielding pumpkins, Peter is now a patient in a psychiatric ward being treated for the trauma he suffered many years before. Needless to say, the doctors believe Peter’s stories about killer pumpkins being responsible for the brutal murder of his parents and he himself nearly dying in a fire to be his mind’s way of dealing with whatever happened – Peter’s far from sure of that though and still harbours very real fears of Halloween and any thought of pumpkins.

The hospital setting alone conjures up a mental image of an asylum and helps add to the increasingly sinister tone of the story, the classic scenario of being normal while everyone around you are the insane ones; added to the mix we have some less than sympathetic hospital staff and a downright creepy doctor. Fortunately for Peter, he finds an ally in fellow patient Sue, who seems determined to befriend and help him deal with  his traumatic past. With her help, Peter develops a new sense of confidence and hope for the future, but as in any good story, events take a different direction, placing the two of them in the gravest danger, leading Peter to believe the murderous knife-wielding pumpkins are indeed real and not just the delusional creations of his imagination. How Peter and Sue face that danger provides a clever and frightening climax whilst leaving sufficient scope for another instalment to the series should the author decide to write one, which I hope she does.

With just a couple of characters it would have been easy for the author to write this story from a first-person point of view to really get inside the main character’s mind but somehow manages to achieve the same result with a third person perspective, an excellent balance between narrative and just the right level of dialogue and action.

As a psychological short horror story, this (and its predecessor) really is as good as they come, a story that would stand out as a classic Hammer House of Horror episode if it were ever adapted for film/tv – impossible for me to praise this story more highly!

 

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The Little Book of HorrorsAmazon Blurb:

A deliciously wicked treat, no holds barred horror served up bloody with a side dish of sex. The Little Book of Horrors is macabre, disturbing, viciously satisfying and definitely not for the squeamish.

 

The Little Book of Horrors

WPscreenshotAdult horror in every sense of the word, three bite-sized helpings of horror. 

Lacey3Another quick read from this extremely talented horror author, this time a trilogy of blood and gore filled tales encompassing a mix of karmic justice for someone most deserving of it, a blood and lust fuelled sexy vamp encounter that you probably wouldn’t want to have, depending which side of the encounter you were on of course, and finally a mix of all three in the last tale of poetic justice.

The author has blended horror and a touch of erotica to produce three entertaining horror tales. I must admit to finding the first story a tad obvious but still enjoyable to read nonetheless. The two remaining stories were definitely more to my taste and in each case held my attention from beginning to end. I enjoyed the way the author combined an erotic setting and situation with a violent and bloody conclusion, and then in the final tale, my favourite I might add, again it was a relatively simple story and a tad predictable in where it was headed but it was told in such a way to keep you guessing just how it would actually unfold. Once again, enough horror here to keep any devoted fan of the genre more than happy.

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More about the author:

Lacey Lane was born in the UK and as a child loved writing stories. At the age of 31 she decided to rekindle her passion for writing.

Her debut ebook The Revenge of the Pumpkins was first published in October 2014. Since then she has published five more books. With the current exception of Revenge of the Pumpkins, all Lacey Lane’s books are available in both Ebook and paperback formats.

Lacey’s other passions include reading and gardening along with being an avid reader and book reviewer. For further info please links below:

@LaceyLaneAuthor
www.facebook.com/laceylaneauthor

Lacey Lane IASD entry

Lacey11

&

Lacey Lane’s Amazon Author page for all the author’s books …

Lacey8 Lacey5 Lacey7 Lacey4 lacey10 Lacey3

Goin Postal – Book Review

rhodapicAnother prolific book reviewer and facebook group activist in her own right, it gives me great pleasure to present my first review of one of her books, Goin Postal & The Creek by Rhoda D’Etorre…

Rhoda D’Ettore was born in Woodbury, New Jersey, into a family of 5 siblings–which has provided her with plenty of comical material. She began working at the United States Postal Service at 25 years old, and over the past 15 years has accumulated many humorous stories about situations that the public never gets to know about. Her first eBook, “Goin’ Postal: True Stories of a U.S. Postal Worker” was so popular that readers requested it in paperback. Recently, she published the humorous “Goin’ Postal” in paperback along with another story entitled, “The Creek: Where Stories of the Past Come Alive”. Combining these two into one book may seem strange, as one is humorous and the other is a heart wrenching historical fiction, however, doing so proves to the reader Rhoda D’Ettore’s versatility. 

Rhoda D’Ettore received her degree in Human & Social Services while working at USPS, has travelled extensively, and loves history. Over the years she has volunteered for several community service organizations, including fostering abused and neglected dogs for a Dalmatian rescue.

Further links to Rhoda D’Etorre’s wring can be found at:

Rhoda D’Etorre’s Amazon Author page:

https://bobandval.wordpress.com/

http://www.rhodadettore.com/

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Goin Postal & The Creek

Rhoda D’Ettore

(Available as an eBook, paperback, and as an audio book from Amazon)

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RhodapostalI first decided to read this book out of curiosity of the cover and the two different titles listed there, probably not the best of reasons I know but what a little gem it turned out to be. Here you get two very different stories for the price of one, the first being a series of side splitting snapshots and anecdotes of the author’s time working in the US postal service, and in the second story, The Creek, the reader is treated to a delightful family and local history of stories from in and around a creek in New Jersey dating back to the American civil war to the present.

In Goin Postal, the author takes us through the trials and tribulations of being a temporary and then permanent worker in the postal service; it’s not so much a story in the conventional sense but more a collection of memories and hilarious anecdotes loosely linked via an amazing array of characters in the form of her fellow workers. Her colleagues are every bit as varied and funny as the anecdotes themselves, ranging from traumatised Vietnam war veterans, a mad forklift driver chasing the white devils, a big hearted bisexual supervisor, and a Russian history buff, not to mention Aunt Gertrude and a bigoted Nigerian. Despite the racial and cultural diversity reflecting the huge melting part of immigrants that made America the country it is today, for the most part they all get along as one giant though often somewhat dysfunctional family. The author’s time with the postal service starts with the time consuming FBI checks for her employment, but once passing them she finds herself immersed in a truly mad and chaotic workplace, filled with its very own sub cultures including betting on who will be the next person to go on a shooting spree, or ‘goin postal’ as it might be called, dodgy dvd and arms sales, and a host of other ‘have to be there’ to be believed scenarios. The characters and language are as colourful as you can imagine, reflecting the working class diversity and backgrounds of the postal workers. The day to day humdrum of the work is punctuated with numerous pranks and hilarity, not to mention the bizarre situations that arise from the many strange things people try to send through the post, a severed head being among them, but despite the seeming madness of the workplace, in the true tradition of the Pony Express, underpinning the chaos is the workers’ determination that the post will go out no matter what, even amid the security and horror of 9/11. The writing is sharp and witty, and in a style that perfectly complements of the comedy of what the author is describing, and for anyone who has worked in a menial shift environment will certainly be able to identify with much of the humour, and probably recognise similar characters from their own work places.

In The Creek the writing and subject matter takes a surprisingly more poignant direction; the reader initially encounters what at first impression comes across as a truly heart-warming and delightful tale of love and romance set against the backdrop of the civil war, only to have that perception completely turned its head. The reader is then transported through a succession of stories carrying on from the first, taking the reader through the depression of the 30s, prohibition, two world wars, and the civil rights struggle, to almost the present day, covering love and romance, murder, bigotry, the Black Panther movement, and even ghostly apparitions. Although the stories through the decades take very different turns, they retain the creek as a sort of anchor connecting them all, and eventually conclude in such a way as to tie them all together really well. As I’ve said, the writing and content in the Creek is somewhat different, but still retains an entertaining story telling style throughout. Goin Postal and the Creek might seem like an odd combination at first but they subtly complement one another; whereas as in the former in its portrayal of the incredible diversity the author has presented a snapshot of American society as a whole, so too in the latter, she has presented the reader with an entertaining portrayal of how America has evolved to what it is today.

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 More titles from Rhoda D’Ettore: click on thumbnails for Amazon links:

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The Final Box – Book Review

Matthew1Matthew Williams’ The Final Box is the third anthology of short stories I’ve read and reviewed from this author.

Such was my admiration for his short stories, I was delighted to be allowed to include two of them as guest contributions in my own debut anthology of short stories… Not What You Thought? and other surprises

 

Matthew Williams is a new and aspiring young writer who has been writing ever since he can remember. Like myself, he is a great fan of ‘twist in the tale’ stories, and tries to include them in his own writing. In his spare time he is working on a number new writing projects, including a new children’s book, and a Young Adult (YA) novel.

Further links to Matthew Williams and his writing can be found at: 

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Matthew Williams’ Amazon Author page:

www.twitter.com/williamsmatthe5

Author Matthew Williams Fb group:

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The Final Box

By Matthew williams

(Available from Amazon Kindle)

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mw1This is the third of this author’s short story anthologies I’ve read and reviewed, and once again I’ve not been disappointed in my expectations. Not every story worked for me in quite the same way as in the two previous anthologies but having said that, one of the things that impressed me here was seeing the way the author has taken his stories in different directions rather than relying on a tried and trusted formula in serving more of the same; whereas all of the author’s previous stories were humorously light-hearted with a definite twist at the end, some of the ones here are more abstract and open ended. A couple of the stories did leave me wondering at the end, but never was I failed to be entertained. As always though, I found I had finished the book all too quickly, and especially given the more abstract tone here, felt a longer collection would have been in order. Having said that, every story was well written and equally well crafted, and anyone who has read the author’s previous works will I think see a certain maturing in his writing, and a willingness to venture into new territory. Matthew Williams is a writer who is equally adept at making the reader laugh as he is at pulling the heart strings, and as I’ve seen here, getting the reader thinking, and I enjoyed the new direction he has taken in this latest anthology.

Another very entertaining collection, and one I would highly recommend to flash fiction fans as well as those of the more traditional short story.

Matthew Williams’ previous short story anthologies – click on thumbnails for details:

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* Two stories by Matthew Williams also featured in my own debut anthology:

Not What you Thought

Park Avenue to Park Bench – Book Review

 

Short story writer and poet, Mike Domino, is yet another very talented writer I discovered via my Indie Author Review Exchange Fb group. Previous to Park Avenue to Park Bench Michael Domino published three books of short stories and a novella: Wandering MindCadillac on the BoweryLoud WhispersTime to Pay the Rent

Author Michael Domino found his voice first as a writer of poetry. He composed two collections titled Cadillac on The Bowery and Wandering Mind.  From there he moved on to the art of the short story after realizing that many of his poems and prose were in fact stories in the miniature.  He is now working on his first Novel. Further information and links to the author’s works can be found at:

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http://parkavenuetoparkbench.com 

& at his WordPress blog: 

http://michaeldominowriter.com/

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Park Avenue to Park Bench

By Michael Domino

(Available from Amazon in both eBook & print formats)

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MD1We’ve all seen pictures and film representations of New York but here we have a collection of short stories that really portray the everyday life of its inhabitants and the character of the city, from the splendid sky scrapers to the dingy motels, of high flying business men to the street side bums. What impressed me most was the author’s ability to truly put me in the shoes of the characters, as though I too were walking those same streets and avenues of that great city. The language and terminology all had a distinct New York feel – even if you’ve never actually visited New York, you really feel as though you’re there; Michael Domino takes the reader into the heart of his world, telling tales that are a splendid mix of both the past and present, and of the changing face of the city as its many old buildings and enterprises slowly give way to the new.

Whilst there is a real and uplifting ‘feel good’ factor enshrined within the streets and character of New York throughout the book, every facet of the city and its varied inhabitants are explored here; a billionaire business man whose gone from rags to riches, hence the title of the book, second and third generation Italian/American pizza restaurant owners adding to the rich character of the city, the stereotypical private investigator meeting up with a client in a pizza place, ex-convicts living by their wits, a gypsy fortune teller giving a self-doubting writer a glimpse of the future, and above all, stories of everyday people going out of their way to help their fellow New Yorkers; any perception of New Yorkers as being too busy or too focused on their own lives to allow time for their neighbours are emphatically dispelled here.

The writing and descriptive elements were without doubt absolutely brilliant, and the dialogue was as rich and varied as the stories and people themselves. What was also interesting was that not one of the stories relied on any sort of twist in the tale or contrived ending to give them meaning, relying instead on the story as a whole to provide the reader’s enjoyment. I did feel a couple of the later stories in this collection veered away slightly from the character and feel of most of the early and midway ones, but not to the detriment of the collection, showing as they did a slightly different perspective. There’s no doubt that much of the author’s own life and experience has gone into these stories, as he clearly states in the introduction, giving each story a genuine authenticity. One of the best short story collections I’ve read in years, and as a committed fan of the genre, that’s quite something. Looking forward to reading more from this author…

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Michaels Domino’s other works: click on thumbnails for details

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Hawaiian Lei of Shrunken Heads – Book Review

katerina1This is a book that came to my attention via my IndieAuthorReviewExchange Fb group. The author, Katerina Sestakova Novotna, was born and raised in the Czech Republic. She lived in New York where she went to college. Currently she is living in Hawaii. She holds a Masters in Philosophy; her specialties are ethics and comparative philosophy. She has written numerous essays on those subjects. Her first collection of short stories “Hawaiian Lei of Shrunken Heads” is the subject of the following book review.
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Hawaiian Lei of Shrunken Heads, by Katerina Sestakova Novotna
(Available from Amazon in eBook format)

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This debut collection of short stories is the absolute epitome of originality and dark imagination; although there are only five stories here, it’s important to note that they are somewhat longer than the average short story, placing them almost in the mini novella category. Set on the island of Hawaii each story gives the reader an insight into the mythology and traditions of the indigenous population there, mixing it up with all the darker elements of psychology, comparative religion, and vengeful gods, along with the all too human traits and motivations of its modern day characters.

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Among these stories there are tales of human and animal sacrifice, the bigotry and bitterness of an old war veteran, the untimely end of foreign prostitute, and the equally strange and horrific conclusion to another foreigner’s stay in Hawaii. Some of the stories are written as a narrative, cleverly imparting information about Hawaiian folklore whilst still driving each story forward. Although each of these stories might well be described as dark with a touch of psychological and mythical horror about them, each one is unique in its presentation and theme, but with the common thread of Hawaiian culture and folklore as the vehicle for each tale. There is some mention in one of the early stories of there being no written text of Hawaiian beliefs as there is for Christianity or Judaism, but rather an oral tradition of such beliefs being passed down from generation to generation; the narrative style is in each case perfectly in keeping with this oral tradition, reading very much as you might imagine a tribal elder telling of the ancient stories and myths to an eager young audience, and in this respect the narrative style works extremely well. In others though, the author switches to very convincing and well written and sometimes explicit dialogue to advance the story, and amid the esoteric names and language associated with Hawaiian culture, the author maintains an authentic credibility with her use of some modern terminology and reference to some of the darker sides of modern culture..

These five stories were highly original and imaginative in the way they used island folklore as the framework for them, yet cleverly interwoven into present day themes and settings, they achieved a real believability that is sometimes missing in similarly themed stories. I would have liked a more definitive ending to some though as I did think in a couple of the stories, the endings were a little too open ended, leaving a tad too many unanswered questions, but overall these were five extremely entertaining and well written stories, well researched, and due to their longer lengths than the average short story, were able to really engage me in a way that that I find quite rare with short story collections. Highly recommended!

The Room – Short Story Review

This isn’t one of my normal book reviews as such, being a review of a single short story instead. One good thing about about Amazon is that it allows authors to upload and publish individual short stories that for practical reasons would not be viable via the more traditional or mainstream publishers. The Room by John Brunton is an excellent little short horror story I discovered when he joined my Fb book review group. John Brunton doesn’t have a blog site (yet), but I’m sure he’s a writer we’ll be hearing more of in the future…  

 

The Room, By John Brunton 

(Available for download via Amazon)

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This is a short story that might well appeal to fans of both the more traditional horror genre as well as those who like their horror dosed with a fair degree of psychology and mind games – think ‘Stephen King meets the Twilight Zone’ and you’ll be pretty close to what kind of story this is.

As the author rightly points out, there is some strong content here in terms of what is happening and the language, but it’s all within and essential to the context of the story. In a short story such as this, it’s difficult to say a lot without giving too much away and possibly spoiling it so I’ll keep it brief: What we have is a man, Paul, who finds himself in some strange room, plagued by whispering voices and the sight of a bloodied dead woman, and those same voices urging him to harm himself too. Right from the start the story poses questions to the reader, drawing them in as to why and how he came to be there, whether any of it is actually real. The author creates a good sense of urgency, fear, and grief in the early part of the story, and as the story moves on, skilfully portrays the changes in the Paul’s perception of what‘s happening most effectively.

There are some good transitions in the story, and overall the writing is very professional. Just a couple of minor points on that though – there are a couple of times, particularly early on, where there’s some repetition of words and phrases, and I would have preferred a more consistent and traditional approach to how the dialogue was presented, but apart from that, the storyline and its conclusion was first rate. For entertainment value it would definitely warrant a 5* rating but as I said, a couple of stylistic preferences didn’t quite work for me hence the 4* rating instead. But would I buy/read anything else by this author? Absolutely!

 

 

 

 

Not Like Other People – Book Review

LesleyHayes1This is the second of Lesley Hayes’ books I’ve read,  having already reviewed ‘A Field Beyond Time’.  I first discovered this author’s books by way of Twitter (who says Twitter doesn’t work?), and after some initial chat, emails, and taking a look at her blog I added ‘A Filed Beyond Time’ to my read & review list. This is however the first short story collection of hers that I have read and reviewed.. again, it won’t be the last….

Lesley Hayes has been writing ever since she was a child. Since then she has been published in several woman’s and literary magazines, read her stories on BBC radio, and in 1986 had her first novel, ‘Keeping Secrets,’ published. In addition to that and ‘A Field Beyond Time,’ Lesley Hayes is the author of several more successful and well received novels. Further information and links to her writing can be found at:  

http://www.lesleyhayes.co.uk

http://blog.lesleyhayes.co.uk

https://twitter.com/hayes_lesley

 

 

Not Like Other People, By Lesley Hayes

(Available in eBook format from Amazon)

LesleyHayes1A truly fascinating and poignant anthology of ten short character driven stories that centre on the lives, loves, and emotions of its characters; just as in real life, not every character here is one we sympathise with, and nor does every story end with a ‘happy ever after’ conclusion – stories that are sometimes funny, sometimes sad, occasionally heart warming, but which never fail to captivate the reader’s full attention.

In addition to the stories, there is an informative preface outlining the author’s approach to writing these tales, and how they differ from writing from that of a novel, giving the reader a real insight into them right from the start.

Although each story is entirely different in its theme, scenarios, and characters, the writing style remains consistent, characterised by crisp sharp sentences and dialogue, with just the right balance of description and dialogue to drive each story forward and keep the reader intrigued and entertained throughout. What was especially impressive about the dialogue was that despite there being ten different stories, and many more characters to contend with, each character still possessed their own unique voice, personality and attributes, and the imagery and descriptive prose of each never fell into any sort of predictable pattern.

Many of the stories don’t follow the usual short story format of a clever plot-line followed by the customary twist in the tale ending, instead concentrating on the subtle interactions between the characters, and whereas many short stories rely on the reader’s imagination to ponder on the ‘before and after’ of the story, here the reader is treated to brief yet fascinating self-contained interludes of the character’s lives, which allow you to really enjoy and immerse yourself ‘in the moment’ so to speak. Yes, each story ends in such a way as to either enlighten or surprise the reader, but the endings are mostly of the more subtle or gentle ‘aha’ moment.

Anyone who likes their reading to challenge their perceptions as well as entertaining them will not be disappointed: Intelligent and well written, highly entertaining and thought provoking, I cannot recommend this anthology more highly!

 

Other Short Story collections by Lesley Hayes:

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