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Short Story – A taster from my up-coming anthology, Canine Tales, book2 in The Creature Tales collection …

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Still some final edits to go, but a little preview taster story from Canine Tales, book 2 of my Creature Tales collection – Twenty-four ‘canine-themed’ tales, drawing their inspiration from mythology, folklore, and traditional horror: tales of touching loyalty sit alongside those of throat-ripping savagery, from the modern day all the way back to Biblical times.

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Cerebus

df1There aren’t words to accurately portray the sheer viciousness of an organised dog-fight. Think of the most brutal boxing or cage fight you ever saw. Now imagine that fight being fought bare-knuckle instead of gloved, and the fighters wearing sharp protruding rings on their hands to rip at their opponents’ face, eyes, and body. There are no rounds between which wounds or injuries can be attended, no referee to ensure fairness or enforce the rules – there are no rules.

Perhaps not since gladiatorial Rome had such barbarism existed for viewing entertainment, and even then, at least those combatants knew why they were fighting, with the remote possibility of freedom or some reward for putting on a good show. Imagine all this multiplied a thousand times, and still it won’t come close to the bloody spectacle of a dog-fight.

Seven such dog-fights had taken place the night Geoff Richards’ life was to change, quite literally forever.

It had been another profitable show, not even marred by two of the combatants having died from their injuries. Geoff had made a lot of money and was proud it was two of his own Staffordshire Bull Terriers that had been the ones to inflict those fatal outcomes. They had been hard fights though. Every dog that had taken part fought with a savagery to match that of any wild born creature. But Geoff’s dogs, they were something entirely different. If it weren’t that every combatant was checked over before a match, the baying spectators and other dog owners, or ‘dogmen’ as they called themselves, would have sworn Geoff’s hounds were either possessed or infected with some maddening rabid disease, making them fight like the devil. Even so, there was no occult or extraordinary secret to Geoff’s dogs’ extreme savagery other than the dogman’s willingness and determination to use every trick in the book to make them so. He gave no thought of the long-term health problems in using the same anabolic steroids he used in his own bodybuilding to increase their muscle mass and aggressiveness. Like most fighting dogs, Geoff’s were devoid of any social skills from having been raised in isolation, mostly at the end of short heavy chains. But even without the drug-induced ‘roid-rage,’ such a life was practically guaranteed to produce brutalised hate-filled creatures or ‘canine killing machines’ as he liked to call them.

In many ways, Geoff Richards was a man born out of his time. He would have been more in his element amid the Victorian London seedy alehouses, when and where all manner of such barbarous blood sports were at their height of popularity, and more shamefully, were as legal and accepted as placing a bet on the horses is today. A century later though, a more civilised society had moved on; the likes of Geoff and his fellow dog fighting enthusiasts had not.

After the usual night’s drinking, settling of bets lost and won and the swapping of fight and other dog-related stories that followed such an event, Geoff made his excuses and left. He faced a long drive home from the remote farm where this latest dog fighting horror had taken place, one of many such venues where fans of the supposed ‘sport’ could indulge their perverse fascination with such heinous cruelty.

Getting into his car was the last thing Geoff remembered from his life as a dogman.

 

Were it not for the immediate danger, Geoff would have given more thought to where he was and how he came to be there, but such trivial concerns were the last thing on his mind at the moment …

They were getting closer. Never had Geoff seen such a ferocious looking pack of dogs, which for a dogman, was quite something. He counted three, but it was difficult to tell given the darkness and remote location. Still, the roar-like bellowing of distant, angry growls and snarls made him think there might be several more just out of sight. He knew it would be a hopeless task attempting to outrun them if they gave chase, but an instinct for survival compelled him to try.

 

Three-headed dog Cerberus.Mention the name Cerebus and most people if they’ve heard it before would likely tell of some mythical three-headed beast of a dog guarding the gates of Hell. Of course, no one believed such myths now despite the test-tube monstrosities presently being created in rogue laboratories across the world. Nor do most still believe in the concept of Hell, except perhaps ones of their own making.

It was quite a shock then when Geoff Richards found himself confronted with both; the sight standing before him was several orders of magnitude more frightening than the horror he had just run from, only to see it leap and land to his front. It was another shock to realise too it had not been three dogs he had seen, but one enormous three-headed monster, the like of which defied even the darkest imagination. The creature’s teeth would have glistened like finely sharpened ivory tusk-sized fangs but for being coated with copious amounts of foul-smelling drool, mixed with the still warm blood of its last meal. Everything Geoff’s father had ever said about never showing fear to a dog, that they were more afraid of you, suddenly seemed absurd. Only an imbecile wouldn’t have trembled before the monstrous sight towering over him. Geoff doubted that even the Devil himself could induce the slightest fear in this particular dog, wondering if this was indeed the Devil himself in canine form. He was not far off the mark in his speculations …

Cerebus was a great favourite of Satan and was confident the Horned one would let him keep this mortal dross for his own savage amusement. Oh yes, Cerebus had grand plans for the quivering frail man creature.

 

Geoff was past any hope he might soon wake up from his starring role in the bloody nightmare unfolding around him. Cerebus had bellowed another mighty growl, the deafening intensity of which had sent Geoff fleeing for all his worth, headlong into the dark of the surrounding woods. It was only the fire and lightning illuminating patches of the ground and sky that made it possible for Geoff not to hurtle face first into some tree trunk or tumble head over heels. But whatever benefit the flames of the fire provided in the way of light, it took back in other ways. Great wafts of smoke drifted and blew all directions, sometimes obscuring his vision, but mostly filling his lungs to the point of choking. Still, it was a relief there seemed no open space where the creature he had just fled might reappear. Sadly, for Geoff, that relief wasn’t to last.

df2A new pack of growling hounds had appeared. They were immeasurably smaller than Cerebus, and yet, they seemed all the more terrifying for their seemingly normal size up close. This time there were no heavy chains to keep the dogs in check or a weapon with which he could defend himself should a dog go rogue on him. At any other time, he would have felt embarrassed by the slow trickle of urine now escaping his bladder, but given the circumstances, it was quite inconsequential. Geoff knew Cerebus could snuff out his life with a single swipe of a paw, or rend his body into a dozen pieces in the blink of an eye if it chose – either would be a quick and merciful death – but these, they were of a size that made it possible for Geoff to perhaps offer some token resistance, enough to drag out his suffering several more agonising minutes.

They were circling him now, making it impossible for Geoff to know from which direction the first bite or clawing would come. Before he knew it, teeth and nails were ripping through his soiled trousers, simultaneously shredding the flesh from his lower legs even as he felt his body falling to the ground. More bites quickly followed, more rending of flesh by sharp claw-clad paws, but now, all about every part of his body.

And then, quite suddenly, the attack stopped, the dogs’ angry growling silenced by a more thunderous one from God knows where. Just as suddenly, the dogs scampered away into the night. Geoff didn’t know whether to be relieved for the however brief respite or further terrified that instead of a quick death, it would be an excruciatingly slow and painful one from the savage mauling he had suffered. Oddly though, the pain was beginning to subside ever so slightly, and looking down and about his bloodied legs and torso, neither was pouring out blood as he expected. His mind returned to the dogs that had just attacked him. Now that he had a moment to think, he was reminded of the many dogs he had trained to fight, and that same look of wretchedness of their opponents. Those minute details started to haunt his mind: the ripped ears and every old wound and battle scar screaming of a violent and savage past. They were clearly fighting dogs, dogs that had taken part in battles to the death, and evidently the victors in such battles. Even with his own steroid fuelled pit bull like physique, he doubted now if he really could have fended them off for any amount of time had they continued their attack. For now, he was simply glad of the chance to rest. Everything started to go black as lay back on the grass …

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“It’s an unusual case,” Dr Ronald Marsh was telling his attentive audience, students from the sanatorium’s neural studies department. “Despite the patient’s comatose state, he’s prone to violent thrashing about, hence the use of the restraints while we sedate him. He should remain quiet now for several hours.” Geoff was strapped down on a gurney, like some state prisoner about to be administered a lethal injection. Were such an action able to release him from his nightmare state, Geoff would have gladly accepted it.

“And he’s been like this for how long?” asked one of the students.

“Seventeen years now to the day since he was dragged from the burning car he’d crashed. I can’t imagine the traumas running through his mind to invoke such reaction, even under heavy sedation.”

Though loath to admit it, the sanatorium staff thought it might be a mercy to their comatose patient to ‘gently slip away’ in his sleep one quiet night. They weren’t to know that Geoff’s many years of suffering were just a prelude to his eventual arrival in a realm beyond that of his mortal mind and body. However long he had or was destined to suffer his nightmares, it would seem like a fleeting moment in comparison to the eternity that awaited.

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Geoff wasn’t sure how long he’d slept but he was sure it had been several hours, maybe longer given how much better he felt. His body no longer hurt or ached. As his mind brushed aside the cobweb strands that briefly tie us between that half-way state between sleep and consciousness, memories of his ordeal with the dogs came flooding back. Hell, that was some nightmare, he thought, judging from the drenching of stale sweat he was lying in. Still, it was over, time to get up. He went to pull back the bedclothes he assumed would be covering him. They weren’t there, and he felt cold – much colder than if he were back in his own bed if that was the case? Nor was he lying on some nice comfortable mattress. Whatever it was, it was stone hard and icy too. Perhaps’ he’d fallen to the floor in his sleep? Geoff raised himself up. All he had to do was turn on a light and this nightmare would be done with. He’d barely taken two steps when a sudden and painful jolt to his ankle stopped him in his tracks. He reached down to feel what it was. He was chained by the ankle to what felt like a rock-like wall, the sort of chain he used to tether his dogs before a match. His eyes were adjusting to the dark and he could see he was in some sort of pit, about 20 or so feet square, much like the pits many a dog fight took place. Coincidence? Geoff thought not. He was still in his nightmare, albeit seemingly recovered from the last part of it, but equally dreading what might be coming next? He didn’t have long to wait to see just what.

Fires sprung up to the sides of the pit, while a rapid succession of lightening sparks lit up the sky. Hideous faces started to appear, peeking over the pit wall with an intense look of curiosity. More startling though was the gradual appearance of dozens of rats, emerging from scores of little cracks in the pit walls. Soon there were far too many to count. Was this to be his next ordeal, to be attacked by rats? For the moment they seemed mildly indifferent to him. Directly opposite to where Geoff was standing, part of the pit wall started to crumble before his eyes. Through the rubble of the crumbled wall, several pit bull dogs scampered over the ruins. They were smaller than the last pack, but what they lacked in size they made up for in numbers, six in total. Geoff recalled reading of such spectacles, of monumental rat baiting battles where some rat killing dog would kill scores of the loathsome creatures in quick succession. Is that what this was about, to be made to witness such horror first hand? But no. Something was wrong. Rats and dogs alike seemed totally at ease with the others’ presence. One by one, their eyes focussed on Geoff. The dogs slowly started their approach while the rats darted back and forth about his feet. This time, the ordeal was to last much longer. There was no outright attack, more a slow wearing down as the rats and dogs intermittently nipped away at him, sapping his strength while the life and blood gradually drained from his body. Geoff knew he wouldn’t die though, at least not from any horror in his nightmares. Memories lingered of countless other such encounters. Once again, he recalled hazy images of hospital staff sticking needles into him, of white-coated doctors and nurses during those brief moments when he would occasionally emerge from his comatose state. Those fleeting memories were enough for him to realise everything that was happening was just in his mind, even if the pain was a real as any he remembered from his previous life. It was made worse knowing too that the current terror could and probably would continue till the levels of sedation from the hospital staff were sufficient to plunge his mind into darkness again. As always, Geoff prayed the level might finally be a fatal one.

 

Such nightmares continued through the years, too long for Geoff to know just how many? They no longer shocked him in the same way, not that that diminished the pain each time. Sometimes it was rats, others it was insects crawling about his body, but mostly it was the biting and clawing of the dogs that was to be his ongoing punishment. His only solace lay in the fact that his body would die someday, and with it his mind too, that he’d one day be free of the nightly creature inflicted torments. It suited Cerebus to allow the comfort of that belief to continue till such time as Geoff did indeed die. But there was never to be the eternal peace the dogman craved so desperately. The three-headed canine lord had promised its growling minions as much, and whatever else, Cerebus was a demon of its word.

 

Such was the vileness of Geoff’s ‘business,’ Satan Himself had taken an interest in the comatose man, initially seeing great promise in him. Such evil depravity in the heart of man might make for another fine minion of Hell, Satan had thought. But the dark one had misjudged the mortal creature he had shown interest. Had Geoff truly revelled in the cruelty and torture he made his living by, been the sort of man who took pride in being an offence to all that was good and decent, then indeed he might have been worthy to sit by Satan’s side. But Geoff Richards was none of these things. Looking into his soul, Satan saw him to be everything he loathed in mankind. Unlike a few of his fellow dogman who were both evil in mind and heart as well as deed, despite appearances, Geoff was a coward of the worst kind; he made a pretence of honest respectability, and while he took no pleasure in the suffering of those poor creatures at the sharp end of his activities, neither was he repulsed. Instead, he was utterly indifferent, his sole motivation being money and the luxurious lifestyle it provided. No, he was just another sick greedy bastard – a worthy inhabitant of Hell by any means, but not one to enjoy the prize of Satan’s favour. Cerebus was welcome to him.

The old saying, that the Devil looks after his own, wasn’t just applicable to the Lord of the underworld. Cerebus’s drool dripping tongues swirled around its three jaws, salivating at the prospect of the dog fighting Geoff’s arrival in Hell, the real Hell, where the three-headed demon would be waiting … they may not have had much of a life in Geoff’s world, but every dog he’d ever trained, or those others that had died fighting his ‘trained canine killers’ would be waiting too, as would every other creature ever to suffer at the hands of a cruel master, waiting their turn with the dogman … . In this one dark corner of Hell, it was the creatures that tortured and tormented man, not the other way round … forever.

For many more stories like the one above, stay tuned for the March publication of:

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More Longer Wacky Stories with Twist Endings – Book Review

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jmwThis latest short story collection is the fifth by John M. W. Smith that it’s been my pleasure to read and review. John M.W. Smith has had many stories published in various women’s weekly magazines and literary journals, and his short story collections are an established favourite among Russian readers where as well as being hugely popular, are also used as an English language teaching aid.  

In addition to my review here of ‘More Longer Wacky stories,’ I’ve also included my past reviews of some of his other collections.

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See below for John M.W. Smith on social media …

Website:             www.johnmwsmith.my-free.website

Blog:                    www.johnmwsmithswackyweeklyblog.blogspot.co.uk/

Facebook:          @twistendings

Twitter:              @wackyscribe

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More Longer Wacky Stories with Twist Endings

stars5‘Twist in the Tales’ scenarios done to sheer perfection, loved every one of these little gems !!!

jmw3It’s been a  few years since I read one of this author’s excellent short story collections, and I must say this latest novella lengthed 13 story anthology is the best so far. As in previous collections, the stories culminate in some unexpected twist in the tale, some quite startling while others are more of Ah-ha moment, though not once did I remotely see what it would be in each case. Mostly the stories stick to just one or two female characters (though not always), allowing the author to develop them more than is usual within the confines of a short story. Some of the tales are truly uplifting and will make the reader smile, but in a bit of a departure from previous books, others are indeed a tad sad, and equally sad, are more reflective of the not so nice side of human nature, as is the case in A Lonely Heart Breaks Easily.

This collection is definitely grittier, and with more of an edge to some of the stories that I’ve seen in previous ones, venturing into more controversial (almost taboo) themes such as in the third offering, It’s So Easy to Fall in Love, where the wronged woman turns out to be far more predatory than the reader is originally led to believe. 

Most of the author’s stories centre around female characters, some strong and self-assured while others are often more fragile and vulnerable, so in some respects it’s easy to see why they would enjoy such popularity in women’s magazines/journals, and yet, I maintain, these stories are of a much wider appeal to anyone who enjoys cleverly crafted scenarios, great writing and dialogue, and in every case, an unexpected but totally satisfying conclusion to a story. I really can’t praise these little gems more highly.

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MY PREVIOUS REVIEWS OF THE AUTHOR’S WORK …

Wacky Stories with Twist Endings  – Volumes  1 to 4

(Available in eBook & print formats via Amazon)

 

 

Volume 1: 

stars5Stories to bring a smile and a chuckle to any reader

This is a short collection of eight humorous short stories, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. The ‘twist at the end’ in the first four stories are more the sort to make you smile and chuckle rather than gasp in amazement, but every scenario and ending are entirely believable and just the sort of situation that any reader might readily identify with. In the later stories, the twist ending tend to have a bit more ‘punch’ to them, and the stories steadily become a little more intricate.

The author keeps the number of characters to a minimum in each case, and within the obvious confines of a short story, the characters are well-developed with convincing and natural dialogue. Each story is written in an easy to read and follow style, yet despite their apparent simplicity, all are actually very clever and well crafted.

By the author’s own admission, the stories are primarily aimed at a female readership, but the quality of writing and story-telling does I believe give them a much broader appeal. I shall certainly be reading and reviewing the other three volumes in this series.

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Volume 2:

stars5 More chuckle-inducing stories with a mischievous and unexpected twist at the end.

Another short collection of eight short stories; as in the previous volume of this collection, every story is well crafted and wholly believable. Again, not one of these stories will fail to bring a smile and a chuckle to the face of the reader, but unlike the previous volume, the stories here are a little more involved, with a slightly more adult and mischievous flavour to them.

For such short stories, some of them are quite complex, dealing with issues of romance, family, and work issues. Again the characters are convincing and well-developed. The increased complexity of the stories, as compared to volume one, does require a slightly greater degree of concentration from the reader, but the rewards are more than worth it.

Overall, another great volume of well written and light-hearted stories which fans of the short story genre and women in particular, will really enjoy.

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Volume 3:

stars5Another ‘naughty but nice’ addition to this highly entertaining series …

Well, this is the third volume of stories I’ve reviewed in this series and once again, I’ve not been disappointed.

Without reiterating too much of what I’ve said in my previous reviews, each of these delightful short stories has an unexpected, and in this volume more so than in previous ones, a quite often rather `naughty’ and punchier twist in the ending – never more so was the term `naughty but nice’ quite so appropriate. Compared to previous volumes, I think the stories here are, whilst still quite charming, are tending towards slightly more adult orientated themes. Again the reader never really sees what’s coming, and the author is an adept at leading the reader up the garden path so to speak before firmly tugging them back to a really effective punchline and conclusion.

What I’ve also noticed and enjoyed in this third volume is the way author very quickly settles the reader into feeling comfortable and familiar in what they’re reading; although each story is different and unique in its own way, there are often striking similarities in names, places, and the domestic settings in which they occur that you could almost feel that you’re reading another chapter in the lives of the characters in a previous story, much like that sense of familiarity you might encounter in reading the sequel to a novel. By employing such techniques, many of the characters appear much more developed and rounded than they might otherwise, given the limitations of the short and flash fiction genres.

I would agree with the author’s own admission that his stories are indeed aimed at a primarily female readership, and this volume perhaps more than in previous ones, but as your typical Neanderthal male, I too enjoyed them immensely and as such would contend that they still have a much broader appeal that of their intended market. Another great collection, and again, highly recommended …

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Volume 4: 

stars5A deliciously diverse collection of stories to both shock and make you smile …

This is the fourth and last volume of the ‘wacky stories’ series. Like the previous ones, all the stories are well written, and mostly with a deliciously naughty twist in them.

One of the dangers of anthologies such as this is that there can be a tendency for the stories to become repetitive, but here we have a refreshing diversity. Just when you think you’ve got the stories figured out, the author throws in a couple that are as delightfully sentimental and smile-inducing as you can imagine; the first story has quite an adult theme to it, treating the reader to a really sharp and almost shocking twist, whereas in another of the stories, the author leads the reader in a very definite direction, only to delight with a more gentle shock, and of the most touching confirmations of enduring love as I’ve read in a long time.

Yes, the stories are aimed at a female readership, but I think their appeal extends much further. I will certainly be reading some of the author’s differently themed anthologies in the near future. All in all, a great series that I would heartily recommend not only a female readership but anyone who enjoys cleverly written stories of the ‘twist in the tale genre’…

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Click HERE for the author’s Amazon author page, and links to all his books …jmw9a

National Rat Day – Rat Tales short story collection …

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Rat Tales is Book One of a three-book collection, titled …

The Creature Tales.

Books Two Three, scheduled for publication, early 2019.

Rat Tales    Book Trailer …

 

 

Click HERE for UK Amazon buying link – Click HERE for Amazon.com link

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Rat Tales

A Mischief of Little Horrors 

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Had your rabies shots yet? The rats are loose!

Rat Tales. Twenty-four ‘rat’ themed short stories, and the first book in a three-book collection, The Creature Tales. 

Many of the stories here are traditional blood and gore filled horror, but several venture slightly into the realms of science fiction and the supernatural.

Within this collection, the reader will find every rat incarnation imaginable, from the super strong and ultra intelligent to bloodthirsty and seemingly immortal. 

While every story has been written to stand alone, several are loosely inter-connected with an ongoing reference to the future. Among the stories are:

A farmer’s imaginative though barbaric attempt to solve his rat problem backfires in the worst possible way.

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A young boy’s efforts to repay the kindness of his childhood rodent friends has consequences that will change the course of history.

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A vicious ghostly rat falls victim to karma

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A centuries-old rat looks back on how it became the seemingly immortal creature it is ...

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Some escaped convicts realise too late they’ve chosen the wrong couple to terrorise when their rodent pets see their own comfy lives threatened.

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A grim fate awaits those who take shelter in an abandoned house.

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A country squire finds himself on the receiving end of his sporting cruelty.

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These are just some of the stories in this extensive collection, so brace yourselves for … A Mischief of Little Horrors.

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Amazon Reviews …

24 October 2018

Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase

24 October 2018

        Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase

Deliciously gruesome bitesized morsels to infest your nightmares. There are no holds barred yet many teeth bared in the flesh-rending descriptions. Despite being repulsed, reading the tales from the rat’s point of view had me sympathising with their plight. Love them or hate them, this is a must for horror readers.

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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!

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:

mw2 mw3

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

Not What you Thought

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!

Whacky Stories with Twist Endings – Book Review

This is a four book collection of short stories by John M. W. Smith, a writer who has had many stories published in the women’s weekly magazines and literary journals. The author originally contacted me after reading one of my previous reviews offering to send me a preview copy of Volume One of his Whacky Stories series in return for an honest review. Having looked at the freebie pages of a couple of his books on Amazon, I was sufficiently impressed to actually buy the first book in this particular series, and after having enjoyed the first one was more than happy to buy, read, and review the other three in this series.

I think any aspiring writer who writes or would like to write short stories with surprise endings would do well to take a look that at the style and technique of John M. W. Smith.

His website is:  http://jmwsmith.webeden.co.uk/

Blog:                    http://johnmwsmithswackyweeklyblog.blogspot.co.uk/

Twitter:              https://twitter.com/wackyscribe/

 

Whacky Stories with Twist Endings  – Volumes  1 to 4

(Available in eBook format via Amazon Kindle)

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Volume 1:

This is a short collection of eight humorous short stories, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. The ‘twist at the end’ in the first four stories are more the sort to make you smile and chuckle rather than gasp in amazement, but every scenario and ending are entirely believable and just the sort of situation that any reader might readily identify with. In the latter stories the twist ending tend to have a bit more ‘punch’ to them, and the stories steadily become a little more intricate.

The author keeps the number of characters to a minimum in each case, and within the obvious confines of a short story, the characters are well developed with convincing and natural dialogue. Each story is written in an easy to read and follow style, yet despite their apparent simplicity, all are actually very clever and well crafted.

By the author’s own admission, the stories are primarily aimed at a female readership, but the quality of writing and story-telling does I believe give them a much broader appeal. I shall certainly be reading and reviewing the other three volumes in this series.

Volume 2:

Another short collection of eight short stories; as in the previous volume of this collection, every story is well crafted and wholly believable. Again, not one of these stories will fail to bring a smile and a chuckle to the face of the reader, but unlike the previous volume, the stories here are a little more involved, with a slightly more adult and mischievous flavour to them.

For such short stories, some of them are quite complex, dealing with issues of romance, family, and work issues. Again the characters are convincing and well developed. The increased complexity of the stories, as compared to volume one, does require a slightly greater degree of concentration from the reader, but the rewards are more than worth it.

Overall, another great volume of well written and light-hearted stories which fans of the short story genre and women in particular, will really enjoy.

Volume 3:

Well, this is the third volume of stories I’ve reviewed in this series and once again, I’ve not been disappointed.

Without reiterating too much of what I’ve said in my previous reviews, each of these delightful short stories has an unexpected, and in this volume more so than in previous ones, a quite often rather `naughty’ and punchier twist in the ending – never more so was the term `naughty but nice’ quite so appropriate. Compared to previous volumes, I think the stories here are, whilst still quite charming, are tending towards slightly more adult orientated themes. Again the reader never really sees what’s coming, and the author is an adept at leading the reader up the garden path so to speak before firmly tugging them back to a really effective punchline and conclusion.

What I’ve also noticed and enjoyed in this third volume is the way author very quickly settles the reader into feeling comfortable and familiar in what they’re reading; although each story is different and unique in its own way, there are often striking similarities in names, places, and the domestic settings in which they occur that you could almost feel that you’re reading another chapter in the lives of the characters in a previous story, much like that sense of familiarity you might encounter in reading the sequel to a novel. By employing such technique, many of the characters appear much more developed and rounded than they might otherwise, given the limitations of the short and flash fiction genres.

I would agree with the author’s own admission that his stories are indeed aimed at a primarily female readership, and this volume perhaps more than in previous ones, but as your typical Neanderthal male, I too enjoyed them immensely and as such would contend that they still have a much broader appeal that that of their intended market. Another great collection, and again, highly recommended…

Volume 4:

This is the fourth and last volume of the ‘whacky stories’ series. Like the previous ones, all the stories are well written, and mostly with a deliciously naughty twist in them.

One of the dangers of anthologies such as this is that there can be a tendency for the stories to become repetitive, but here we have a refreshing diversity. Just when you think you’ve got the stories figured out, the author throws in a couple that are as delightfully sentimental and smile inducing as you can imagine; the first story has quite an adult theme to it, treating the reader to a really sharp and almost shocking twist, whereas in another of the stories, the author leads the reader in a very definite direction, only to delight with a more gentle shock, and of the most touching confirmations of enduring love as I’ve read in a long time.

Yes, the stories are aimed at a female readership, but I think their appeal extends much further. I will certainly be reading some of the author’s differently themed anthologies in the near future. All in all, a great series that I would heartily recommend not only a female readership, but anyone who enjoys cleverly written stories of the ‘twist in the tale genre’…

Military Matters – Poetry Review

This is just one of Tom Benson’s many books that I have a reviewed and each time I have I have been thoroughly impressed, though for very different reasons in this case. Tom Benson, he is a prolific writer whose works include a number of novels, short stories, flash fiction, and several poetry anthologies. For further information on Tom Benson, please see his blog at:

http://www.tombensoncreative.com

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stars5Poetry to break the heart and lift the spirits in equal measure…

 Military Matters, by Tom Benson (available as an e-book on Amazon Kindle)

pt6This is a substantial anthology of poetry by author Tom Benson. The poems themselves follow a broadly traditional style and format, covering the life and times of the British soldier during times of modern warfare and terrorism. Set amidst the backdrop of Northern Ireland, the Middle East, and Afghanistan, every poem tells a story, each one unique in its own way. The subject matter covers everything from frontline battle operations to the pride and dedication of those who serve, saddening tales of heroism, love, and its loss, and of loyalty and courage. You’ll not find the glorification of death and war as epitomised by Brooke or indeed the flowing prose of Owen in his vivid accounts of its horror. What the reader will find here are the hard, often tragic and brutal, but always true and honest observations of a man whose marched and trudged in the very same boots and in the same wars as the men and events he portrays in his poems. In comparison to these past writers, I would say Military Matters bears more relation to Owen than to Brooke, perhaps on account of, Like Owen, Tom Benson did indeed live and experience the things he writes about, whereas Brooke’s sonnets were borne more from the hopeful idealism with which Britain entered the first world war.

Tom Benson neither glorifies nor condemns, but with acute poignancy relates the thoughts, feelings, and accounts of a soldier’s life and the job he does. Whilst the author assures the reader that people and events in the poems are largely fictitious, there can be no doubt amongst the lines and verses there are real memories and experiences upon which some of them are based. I doubt if any serving or ex-serviceman or woman could help but be moved, and pause for thought whilst reading through this anthology. Military Matters also presents a unique and heartfelt glimpse to the non-military reader of a different world and one that helps protect and maintain the peaceful one in which we all hope to live and enjoy our lives.

Those readers who have read and enjoyed the works of Wilfred Owen and Rupert Brooke might well appreciate these up-dated, modern-day accounts of war and the military and how they compare.

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For further biographical information on Tom Benson and links to his previous and current writing projects HERE for Tom Benson’s Amazon author page …

Twilight – Book Review

Twilight: Short Stories

by Maurice Northmore

stars5A great variety of stories here, many treading a fine line between the mainstream and the surreal. Loved it!

694b4bdf7183a2d82767668a9580d9bbe9922491-tinyThis anthology is aptly named; the stories tread a fine line between the mainstream and the surreal. The variety of settings and scenarios never fail to hold the reader’s attention and take them somewhere new with each story, whether it be during a storm aboard a transport ship or the cells of a Bangkok jail. In each story the author skillfully manages to set the scene and atmosphere to such an extent the reader really does feel like a fly on the wall of what’s happening, which is quite apt as in one of the stories, a very clever and original idea, the narrator is indeed, ‘a fly on the wall.’

At nearly sixty thousand words, this is no throw-away effort of slightly elongated flash fiction, but a real collection of well written and thoughtfully developed stories that keep the reader thoroughly entertained, effortlessly combining elements of the adventure genre with that of the thriller and suspense.

Some of the stories follow the tried and trusted short story format of providing the reader with a clever and unexpected ending, whilst in others they simply draw to a logical and satisfying conclusion, thus keeping the reader guessing and intrigued right to the end.

I would definitely recommend this to fans of the short story and novella genre, and indeed anyone who enjoys reading well-written stories of any length.

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See HERE for Amazon links to all the author’s works …

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