The Monthly Speculative Fiction Prompt has Moved

I loved my 5 months of hosting a Speculative Fiction Prompt. I loved reading and sharing the amazing poems and stories and artwork.

But life got in the way, and though parental caregiving may be smoothing out in the near future, there’s no guarantee that everything won’t fall apart again. In fact, it will. The only question is when.

Carol Forester of Writing and Works contacted me about taking over the monthly prompt, and though I was sad to let it go, I took her up on the offer immediately. I want it to continue. I want to write for it and read everyone’s stories. Thank you, Carol.

September’s prompt is up!  I can’t wait to see the responses.

Here’s the link: September’s Speculative Fiction Prompt.

(I’m heading north again for the week, so I closed comments here. But I’ll be reading. Happy Writing!)

 

Indie Book Reviews: Part I

The best thing about spending the last 2 months driving between Oregon and Washington, living out of a suitcase, and ignoring my bossy muse has been catching up on reading. Indie books were gifts from heaven!

It’s been a while since I’ve shared reviews of books I’ve enjoyed. These are in no particular order. And there are more to come!

 

A Thousand Yesteryears

by Mae Clair

Intriguing plot and believable characters. At the death of her aunt, Eve Parrish returns to Point Pleasant to sell off the family hotel. Not only is the town known for sightings of a fantastical creature, the mothman, it’s also the location of a bridge collapse that, fifteen years ago, claimed the life of Eve’s father and friend. That tragedy still hangs over the town, and Eve has no plans to stay.

But her old crush Caden Flynn still lives in town, a man haunted by the events of the collapse that took his sister’s life. The truth about what happened that day begins to unravel when the home of Eve’s aunt is vandalized, and she begins receiving threatening notes. Someone wants her gone, even if he needs to kill her.

The story is a high-paced paranormal thriller with vivid worldbuilding and a touch of romance. The plot holds together well with all pieces falling into place. The characters are emotionally rich and thoroughly credible, not only the main characters but those on the periphery. I was intrigued by the mothman and its mysterious relationship to the events. Excellent fun and highly recommended. I’m eager to read more of the series.

Global Link to Amazon

***

Survival of the Fittest

by Jacqui Murray

Fascinating world-building. I seem to have developed a taste for prehistoric fiction. After reading Murray’s Born in a Treacherous Time, I was looking forward to her next foray into the dawn of man. This book takes place 850,000 years after Born in a Treacherous Time and is the first book in a trilogy. It’s not a stand-alone novel so be prepared to move on to Book 2 when it comes out.

The plot of the story is something of a quest as three separate groups of early man abandon their home-bases in search of safer ones. A changing climate, dwindling resources, and danger from a growing number of aggressive tribes drive them onward.

To some extent, the first half of the book is three separate stories, one for each group. They join into one larger group about mid-way through the read, and the rest of the book deals with the choices made to procure peace and ensure their survival. Subplots and characters add flavor to the story, all in the well-researched context of prehistoric life where, naturally, the norms are different than they are today.

One group dominates more of the book than the other two. The main character is a female leader, Xhosa. Her responsibility is to protect her people from a variety of dangers, particularly from other humans, while they search for a new home. She’s a complex character, thoughtful and ingenious, and callous as needed in a world where the weak jeopardize the entire group.

Secondary characters have distinct personalities, strengths, weaknesses, and quirks which add complexity to the “human” tale. There are power struggles, deceptions, kindnesses, and wisdom. The world-building is a fascinating foray into prehistoric landscapes. Though fiction, Murray deftly brought to life a time we have little record of. Highly recommended.

Global Link to Amazon

***

 

Short & Not Always Sweet

by Dorinda Duclos

Stories to savor. Duclos offers a generous selection of over 60 short stories, pieces of poetic prose, and flash fiction in a compilation that kept me enthralled for an entire afternoon. The writing is lovely, evocative, and in many cases emotional. Some pieces are lyrical and heartfelt reflections with themes centered on nature, serenity, and empowerment. Others are dark forays into ghostly hauntings and the realms of murder and revenge. Some of my favorites are Patience, Dusk, Wilted, and I Am. A wonderful way to spend an afternoon or to savor over a week, one page at a time.

Global Link to Amazon

***

Happy Reading!

May Speculative Fiction #Writingprompt

Pixabay image by Brigitte Werner

For visually challenged writers, this is an image of a man who is part human and part machine. Behind him are gears and wires as well as a hint of fire or electricity.

Yay! It’s that time again, finally. Thank you to everyone who responded to March’s prompt (we skipped April due to my travels). Now, we’re heading in a new direction once again!

Above is May’s image. If interested, you have until May 23rd to submit a response. Happy Writing!

Note: WP seems to be sketchy with pingbacks lately. Please take a moment to add your link to the comments below. Then I’ll be sure to get it. Thanks!

Here’s how it works:

On the first of every month, I’ll post a speculative fiction prompt from Pixabay. These images are attribution free so you can use them on your blog without worrying about copyright restrictions.

Throughout the month, in order of receipt, I’ll reblog as many of your prompt-inspired creations as I can. And on the last day of each month, I’ll share a complete round-up of ALL contributions with links to the original posts. Visiting the blogs of participants is a great way to meet other speculative fiction writers.

Post your response on your own blog and link back to this original post (not to WP Reader) with a pingback, so I can reblog your post as well as include you in the month-end round-up. If you’re unsure of how to create a pingback, Hugh has an excellent tutorial here. If you prefer, you can copy and paste your link into the comments of this post.

There are no word limits or style restrictions, but please keep it somewhat family friendly.

Above all, have fun.

March Speculative Fiction Prompt

pixabay image by Natan Vance

For visually challenged writers, this is a silhouette of a young person walking in a street in a darkened and empty city. Overhead is a huge moon eclipsing the sun.

Thank you to everyone who responded to February’s prompt. I loved reading and sharing your stories, poems, and artwork. Now, heading in a new direction once again! Above is March’s image. If interested, you have until March 23rd to submit a response. Happy Writing!

Note: I haven’t been getting all the pingbacks from stories. Yikes! Please be sure to link to this post, not to WP Reader. If you’re unsure, just pop a link in the comments below. Thanks!

Here’s how it works:

On the first of every month, I’ll post a speculative fiction prompt from Pixabay. These images are attribution free so you can use them on your blog without worrying about copyright restrictions.

Throughout the month, in order of receipt, I’ll reblog as many of your prompt-inspired creations as I can. And on the last day of each month, I’ll share a complete round-up of all contributions with links to the original posts. Visiting the blogs of participants is a great way to meet other speculative fiction writers.

Post your response on your own blog and link back to this post with a pingback, so I can reblog your post as well as include you in the month-end round-up. There are no word limits or style restrictions, but please keep it somewhat family friendly.

I encourage all authors to stop in and reply to the kind readers who leave comments about your story. This is a lovely way to build connections.

If you’re unsure of how to create a pingback, Hugh has an excellent tutorial here. If you prefer, you can copy and paste your link into the comments of this post.

Above all, have fun.

Fairies, Myths, & Magic: Book Review

Colleen Chesebro has a new book of poetry and short stories. The tagline is “A Summer Celebration” and how perfect that it was released on the summer solstice. I snapped it up and read it while the sun lollygagged overhead.  Rather than quiz Colleen, I asked her if I could share my favorite short story from the book, and she agreed. Her gorgeous story “The Pond” struck a deep chord, as if she’d written it just for me. My review for the collection follows. ❤

The Pond

by Colleen Chesebro

My journey brings me to a nearby prairie slough where prescient reflections shimmer under the summer sun. Today, I am in pursuit of mythical enlightenment. You know, the kind where magic resonates in the shriek of a hawk and in the howling yips from the coyote pups that play on the sandy shore under a full moon. The alchemy of the moment is not lost on my hungering soul.

A numinous pack –
as turquoise heavens beseech
Mother Gaia’s goal.
Spirit, water, fire, earth, air,
her connection reigns supreme.

As I gaze into the pond, I see the reflections of the woman I’ve become, Past and future meld as one. For today, the wisdom I seek is my bond with the one.

***

My Review:

The tagline on this book is A Summer Celebration, and what better day to read it than on the summer solstice. Chesebro’s book is a collection of poetry and short stories that celebrates not only the presence of summer, but the connection of the human spirit to the Earth, a bond that is ancient, new, and eternal.

Some of the selections are playful like the mermaid bedtime story “A Fish Tale.” Or endearing like “Just What the Doctor Ordered,” in which two pixies get soused in a pitcher of mojitos. Others like “The Healer” take on mythic proportions and read like ancient legends.

But most delve into the mysterious and magical nature of the world around us and our journey through it. The theme of rebirth and self-discovery appears in both story and poem form, and these were perhaps my favorites because they felt both personal and universal. “The Rebirth” is a gorgeous haibun/tanka poem. “The Fairy Spider’s Lair” is full of Earth magic, and “The Pond” is a story that spoke to my soul. Just gorgeous.

I could go on and on, but you’ll have to pick up this book and read them yourself.

Have a free afternoon with nothing to do? …. Amazon Global Link

Bio:

Colleen M. Chesebro is a writer of YA fantasy and magical realism, cross-genre fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. She loves all things magical which may mean that she could be experiencing her second childhood – or not. That part of her life hasn’t been fully decided yet.

A few years ago, a mystical experience led her to renew her passion for writing and storytelling. These days she resides in the fantasy realm of the Fairy Whisperer where she writes the magical poetry and stories that the fairy nymphs whisper to her in her dreams.

Colleen won the Little and Laugh Flash Fiction Contest sponsored by the CarrotRanch Literary Community.com in November 2017 for her piece, called “The Bus Stop.” Her debut novel, “The Heart Stone Chronicles: The Swamp Fairy,” won gold in the 2017 AuthorsDB.com cover contest.

Colleen lives in Colorado with her husband. When she is not writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband and friends. She also loves gardening, reading, and crocheting old-fashioned doilies into works of art. You can learn more about Colleen at www.colleenchesebro.com

Short Story Collections – Settle in and Read

Right about now, I can’t think of anything more enjoyable than sitting outside in the spring sunshine, nibbling on strawberries, and reading. (For those in the southern hemisphere, just turn it around, and contemplate those cool, comfortable autumn days of hot cocoa and swirling leaves).

Short stories somehow complete the picture, and I wanted to share my 5-STAR reviews for 3 short story collections that I enjoyed over the winter. All beautifully written, all with a broad variety of stories, all wonderfully entertaining. I hope one or two or all three appeal to you.

Global links to Amazon are below the books, and if you want to connect with any of these three wonderful bloggers, click on their names. ❤

Ripples on the Pond

by Sebnem Sanders

Ripples on the Pond is a mesmerizing collection of short stories. I was swept into Sanders’ imagination from the very first selection, Through the Wings of Time, and it ended up being a favorite. But that was only the beginning of this generous collection of 71 stories, all different, all exceptional reads and beautifully edited. The stories wade through numerous genres and topics including the whimsey of magic, the pain of loss, the marvel of friendship, and the cost of crime, to name a scant few. Sander’s range is remarkable and no two stories are alike, a feat considering the size of this collection.

Sanders is a native of Istanbul, Turkey, who now lives on the Southern Aegean, thus many of the stories have an international flavor that I enjoyed (and also made we want to travel). I love literature that transports me to different settings and cultures where the wide range of human experience and emotion feels so familiar – just another reason among many to dive into this read. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a wide variety of wonderfully crafted short stories.

***

The Storyteller Speaks

by Annika Perry

Perry’s debut book is a beautiful read. The twenty-one selections in The Storyteller Speaks are primarily short stories, with a smattering of flash fiction and poems. The author states in the afterword that the thread binding the work together is “the belief that there is no such thing as an ordinary life,” and this insight is clearly borne out in her book. It’s what captivated me as I read.

The stories are all quite different, some dark and some lighthearted, though most are filled with the deep emotions of ordinary people as they navigate disappointment, loss, redemption, healing, and love. These are feelings that will strike a chord with most people, even if the circumstances aren’t quite the same. Most of the tales felt “quiet” to me, personal, as if I was looking beneath the outer appearances of a person into the rich pathos of their inner lives.

I tried to pick favorites as I read, but had to give up; there were too many. I recommend this book to anyone who loves short stories and wants to feel moved by the strength and courage of the human spirit.

***

What’s in a Name, Vol. 2

by Sally Cronin

I read the first volume of What’s in a Name and was eager to give the second a try. Volume 2 is a collection of short stories that picks up when the first ended, covering names starting with K through Z (Kenneth through Zoe). Cronin includes a bonus short story for a collection coming out later in 2018.

This is a quick read that I breezed through in a few hours, sitting outside in the spring sunshine. Many of the stories have older characters, covering a range of topics from heartwarming reunions, grief and loss, recovered dignity, and romantic love beyond the grave. There’s also a bit of happily ever after and match-making, as well as some swindling, and a taste of well-deserved murder! The variety is highly entertaining and kept me engaged throughout.

Cronin is a master storyteller and I recommend this collection (both volumes) to readers of all ages.

(You can read my review of What’s in a Name, Vol. 1 here.)

Happy Reading!

Guest Post: Andrew Joyce and his Stories

Click on Any Cover for Amazon Link

If you haven’t run across Andrew Joyce in your blog travels, he’s a prolific writer of short stories and novels. He’s here at the Mirror to share a bit of his writing journey, and if can entice you, sell a book or two. His latest book, a collection of short stories, is on sale today for $.99. Take it away, Andrew:

Hello, my name is Andrew Joyce.

I have a new book out entitled Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups. It is a collection of short stories I’ve written over the years. Inside Bedtime Stories you’ll find tales of fiction and nonfiction. There are all sorts of genres within its pages, from westerns to detective stories to love stories and just about anything else that you can imagine. Some of the stories are dark and some are lighthearted, but I hope you’ll find them all captivating.

Okay, now that I’ve got the commercial out of the way, I can get down to something Diana and I thought I should talk about. Namely, my experience writing short stories versus novels, and why I chose some of the stories included in the book.

First, a brief history of the modern short story:

Magazines had been around for a while, but were never widely distributed until the early 1900s. That’s when future novelists such as Jack London, Ernest Hemingway, Louis L’Amour, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Raymond Chandler, to mention just a few, honed their writing skills by writing short stories for monthly publications. They all thought the stories would be a one-time shot and that would be the end of them.

Long after they and their novels became celebrated, their short stories were collected into anthologies and published. I’ve read every one of those collections. My point is, they all wanted to write novels, but while they were writing their first novel, or in between their first and second, they wrote and sold short stories as a way to keep the wolf from the door.

Not that I’m putting myself in their class—no friggin’ way! I’m just saying that I, too, started out writing short stories, but they were not for publication. I wrote them because I like to tell stories. My earliest short stories were just emails to friends, telling them of my youthful adventures. They were all true, but because I led a somewhat colorful life way back then, the emails read like fiction stories. When I ran out of stories about myself, I started in on writing fiction.

Just for the hell of it, I threw one of my early nonfiction stories up on a writing forum on the internet, and it was granted the honor of being included in a print anthology entitled The Best of 2011. I even got paid for it.

That prompted me to try my hand at writing a novel. I had read an article about the Great Sioux Uprising of 1862 and it outraged me. I had never heard of it before, so I started doing research and that research led to a 164,000 word novel (eventually edited down to 139,000 words). It took about two years to research and write. To entertain myself when not working on the novel, I would write short stories, but I never did anything with them. They just sat in a file folder.

So anyway, I set out to get an agent to help me publish my recently completed novel. I sent out about a million query letters. But in the publishing world, anything over 80,000 words for a first-time author is heresy. Or so I was told time and time again when I approached an agent for representation. After two years of research and writing—and a year of trying to secure the services of an agent—I got angry. To be told that my efforts were meaningless was somewhat demoralizing, to say the least. I mean, those rejections were coming from people who had never even read my book.

So you want an 80,000-word novel?” I said to no one in particular, unless you count my dog, because he was the only one around at the time. Consequently, I decided to show them City Slickers that I could write an 80,000-word novel!

I had just finished reading Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn for the third time, and I started thinking about what ever happened to those boys, Tom and Huck. They must have grown up, but then what? So I sat down at my computer, banged out REDEMPTION: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer in two months, then sent out query letters to agents.

Less than a month later, the chairman of one of the biggest agencies in New York City emailed me that he loved the story. We signed a contract and it was off to the races, or so I thought. But then the real fun began: the serious editing. Seven months later, I gave birth to Huck and Tom as adults in the Old West. And just for the record, the final word count is 79,914. The book went on to reach #1 status in its category on Amazon—twice—and it won the Editors’ Choice Award for Best Western of 2013.

I wrote two more books before I finally got my original novel published. And in all that time, I continued to write short stories. You see, I don’t own a TV. So at night, after working on a novel all day, I’d bang out short stories, mostly for my own entertainment.

That’s why I write novels and that’s why I write short stories. But some of my short stories are not that short. Some are over 20,000 words. Many are in the area of 10,000 words. I do have a few that are no more than 100 words. But I would have to say that the majority of my stories fall into the 2,500 word category.

My current book came about because my editor hounded me for two years to put all my short stories into one collection. Actually, it was supposed to be a two-volume set because there was so much material. I fended her off for as long as possible. I didn’t want to do the work of editing all the stories—there were a lot of them. But she finally wore me down. Instead of two volumes, I put all the stories into a single book because I wanted to get the whole thing over with. I had other books to write.

Bedtime Stories is comprised of 218,000 words. I couldn’t fit another story in if I had to. Yeah, for an eBook I could have, but the print book already had 700 pages and was three inches thick, so I kept a few stories out. And it’s a good thing too. The ones I left out, I didn’t think were up to par. One cannot hit a home run every time one’s at bat.

In the month since I published Bedtime Stories, I’ve written at least ten new short stories. But please don’t tell my editor.

Andrew’s Bio:

Andrew Joyce left high school at seventeen to hitchhike throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. He wouldn’t return from his journey until years later when he decided to become a writer. Joyce has written five books. His first novel, Redemption: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, was awarded the Editors’ Choice Award for Best Western of 2013. A subsequent novel, Yellow Hair, received the Book of the Year award from Just Reviews and Best Historical Fiction of 2016 from Colleen’s Book Reviews.

Joyce now lives aboard a boat in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he is busy working on his next book, tentatively entitled, Mahoney: An American Story.

Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups: 

Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups is a jumble of genres—seven hundred pages of fiction and nonfiction … some stories included against the author’s better judgment. If he had known that one day they’d be published, he might not have been as honest when describing his past. Here is a tome of true stories about the author’s criminal and misspent youth, historical accounts of the United States when She was young, and tales of imagination encompassing every conceivable variety—all presented as though the author is sitting next to you at a bar and you’re buying the drinks as long as he keeps coming up with captivating stories to hold your interest.

Comprised of 218,000 words, you’ll have plenty to read for the foreseeable future. This is a book to have on your night table, to sample a story each night before extinguishing the lights and drifting off to a restful sleep.

Mr. Joyce sincerely hopes that you will enjoy his stories because, as he has stated, “It took a lot of living to come up with the material for some of them.”