Category Archives: Anthologies

Cast Off – more excerpts

Regular readers of this blog may know that I’m working my way through the opening or Cast Offclosing paragraphs of my latest collection of stories – Cast Off (six down, seven to go). Each story concerns one of Shakespeare’s female characters whilst they are off stage. What are they thinking or doing? Do they have any opinions about the play they are in? Will they actually go back on stage? The stories are not to be taken seriously, but you may be able to identify the odd quote and, to quote the character in Red Dwarf, ‘engage smug mode!’ Here are my next three excerpts:

Closing paragraph of Our Mad Sister (Troilus and Cressida)

Of course, it all worked out exactly as I had foretold. Hector was killed and his body was dragged round behind a Greek chariot for all to see his ultimate degradation. And, as Troy fell and the Greeks swarmed in, the usual murder, rape and pillage ensued. Then my own fate as a captured concubine was sealed. Not pretty. Not pleasant. Definitely a humiliating way for a princess and a scholar to end her days. But, as I think I might have said before, utterly predictable.

Opening paragraph for Chains of Magic (Othello)

Senator Brabantio felt he should send his daughter to her private chambers when he Chains of magicrealized that Othello, a man of colour, would be among his important guests that night. He wasn’t sure what worried him most. Was it only Africans he needed to worry about, or Asians too, or maybe Muslims of any colour, or all of them? All his instincts and upbringing told him he must protect his daughter. Aside from any germs they might carry, or outbreaks of unprovoked violence, there was their attitude to young girls and women. And, oh yes, their gross clasps, their foul charms, their drugs….

Opening paragraph of A Virtuous Maid (Measure for Measure).

What in Heaven’s name was I thinking of? I must have been mad! Yes he said he was a friar, but a most unlikely one, wandering in and out of prisons and places at will. He’s new to Vienna too – at least I’ve never met him before, or heard mention of him, even. Come to think of it, I still don’t know his name, or what religious establishment he’s linked to. And, yet, I’ve just agreed to go along with his plan which, he says, will preserve my virtue and save my brother’s life without causing death or dishonour for anyone. Dear God, these are unchartered waters for me.

You can find the full collection of stories in Cast Off on one of my Amazon Author pages, where you can also find other novels and short stories I have written. One story, Mary’s Christmas in Festive Treats, is permanently available as a free download so you can ‘try before your buy.’

Most stories are also available from the publisher – http://www.solsticepublishing.com

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CAST OFF – the collection (continued)

A few blogs ago I started a mini series of posts giving opening or closing excerpts fromCast Off the collection of short stories in Cast Off. Each story is a glimpse into the character of one of Shakespeare’s female characters whilst they are off stage – and quite possibly not behaving at all as Shakespeare had envisioned them. But, after the hundreds – or maybe thousands – of adaptations of his plays, and books using his characters or plots as the starting point for going off in many weird and wonderful directions, I don’t think he will be too bothered by my efforts.

Anyway, here are three more opening paragraphs, which I hope will pique your interest enough to read further:

The Quality of Mirth (The Merchant of Venice)

(Portia’s maid, Nerissa, is keeping a diary of her life with her mistress)

Dear Diary, Well, I haven’t had a chance to write much in you recently. It’s just been sooo busy, what with the old master dying, the funeral, and stuff. Then the lawyers read out the will. All to go to his only daughter Portia, my mistress, as was expected. But the crafty old goat has tied it up in such a way that it depends on who she marries whether she gets anything. Or nothing. Did I say crafty? Cruel more like. What if my poor mistress ends up having to marry someone she doesn’t like, or hasn’t met before? When I just know she already fancies someone else rotten.

Journey to the Fair Mountain (Hamlet)

Journey to the Fair Mountain(Gertrude is to be married off to a distant cousin in Denmark to save the family home for her mother and sisters)

We were so cold when we arrived. My hands and feet were numb, my nose felt raw and my cheeks were stinging. I could feel my hair, damp and icy, clinging round my face and neck. Alise, with blue lips and streaming eyes, stumbled as she helped me down from my horse. She arranged my gown whilst the old retainer, who had accompanied us on the last part of the journey, dismounted stiffly and knocked on the great door. The rest of the retinue melted away into other parts of the castle, taking the horses with them. The clip-clop of their hooves on the cobbles created a ghostly echo that lingered in the chill air. Alise pushed my hair back from my face and patted my shoulder gently.  “You look lovely, milady,” she said, encouragingly. The door was opened by a young man, who took my hand and drew me quickly into the great hall. Alise followed, as did the old man who bowed deeply to the younger man then settled into the background, his cloak merging with the tapestries on the walls.

The Tangled Knot (Twelfth Night)

(The clown has his own theories as to why Olivia doesn’t want to get married for seven years).

They call me the clown, and clowning is what I do. If I can’t make people laugh, I go hungry. But opportunities for laughing, and getting paid for it, are in short supply in my current household, that’s why I need to look around. Not that I don’t care about my mistress, mind. Or that I don’t understand why her current predicament is no joke. Just because I’m a clown, doesn’t mean I can’t be serious and think. Or that I don’t see things that some of my supposed betters are blind to even when it’s staring them in the face. That’s the life of a clown I suppose. Some of us are better suited to a thinking cap than a hat full of bells. But that’s not the life we’ve been called for. So it’s “Hey Ho,” and on with the motley, as they say.

Links:

Cast Off: myBook.to/CastOff

Or you can go straight to my Amazon author page for this and other books. There is always at least one story available free on this site, so you can ‘try before you buy.’

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

Cast Off, and several of my other stories, are published by Solstice: http://www.solsticepublishing.com

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Meet author Susan Lynn Solomon.

Susan Lynn Solomon was formerly a Manhattan entertainment attorney and a contributing editor to the quarterly art magazine SunStorm Fine Art. She now lives in Niagara Falls, New York.

Suzy 1After moving north at the start of the millennium, she became a member of Just Buffalo Literary Center’s Writers Critique Group, and since 2007 many of her short stories have appeared in literary journals, including, Abigail Bender (awarded an Honorable Mention in Writers Journal’s short romance competition), Ginger Man, Elvira, The Memory Tree, Going Home, Yesterday’s Wings, and Sabbath (nominated for 2013 Best of the Net). A collection of her short stories, Voices In My Head, has been published by Solstice Publishing, and her latest short story, Smoker’s Lament is online in the journal Imitation Fruit.

Susan was a finalist in M&M’s Chanticleer’s Mystery & Mayhem Novel Contest, and a finalist for the 2016 Book Excellence Award. Her first Solstice Publishing novel, The Magic of Murder, has received rave reviews, as has Bella Vita, a short story that continues the adventures (and often missteps) of these characters.

What is the title of your latest book?

I am the author of the Emlyn Goode Mysteries. Well, at least the characters in the stories grudgingly allow me to take credit for creating them. Most days, though, I feel as if they’ve created me. I suppose that’s what happens when imaginary friends become as real as people I’ve known all my life. I invite them to my house for a play-date, supply a few toys (also provide a meal—Emlyn and her friends insist on being fed), then I sit back and make notes about what these people say and do.

The last time I had them over, I told them about a body discovered forty years ago in the woods below Lewiston—that’s a town just north of Niagara Falls. This is what they made out of what happened:Suzy 3

When Emlyn Goode’s mother returns to Niagara Falls for a high school reunion, so does murder. During the reunion, a woman’s body is found in the ladies room. Is this killing connected to the one that occurred 40 years before in the woods below the town of Lewiston? Harry Woodward, then a young police officer working his first murder case, suspected Emlyn’s mother of the crime, although there wasn’t enough evidence to arrest her.

Home from a year-long leave, Harry—now the Niagara Falls Chief of Detectives—together with Emlyn’s friend, Detective Roger Frey, investigates the latest killing. Distraught over indications her mother might have been involved in both murders, Emlyn, with her cohort, Rebecca Nurse, sets out to prove otherwise. But danger lurks in the shadows when amateurs—even ones with witchy skills—get involved with murder.

With my characters dictating, this scenario became the novel Dead Again.

What are the most challenging aspects of being a writer? And the most rewarding?

For me the most difficult thing—and it’s a horror—is staring at a blank page, praying for the muse to speak, and dreading that this time she won’t. It isn’t only when I’m ready to begin a new story that this fear rears its head. It might strike when I’m facing the next chapter of a story in progress. Recently, I panicked because of a silent muse. About a third of the way through writing the new Emlyn Goode novel, even my characters refused to speak to me. Stuck, I was certain the fun had ended. Never again would I have a story to write. To the annoyance of my family, I sulked for a week. Don’t laugh. A writer is the only thing I ever wanted to be. It’s who I am. The sulking ended when I woke one morning. Apparently the muse spoke to me while I slept. She told me to change the name of one of the characters that appears for the first time in this new book. Once I did this… What a joy! The words are flowing. Once again I’m a writer.

There are other challenges to writing, of course. Once finished, I want my story published. This means I’ve got to create a synopsis. 1,000, maybe 1,500 words, and, it has to be compelling. I hate this! If I could have told the story in 1,500 words, I wouldn’t have used 70,000 or more words to do it in the first place. Even now that Solstice Publishing is accepting my mysteries, when I submit a story I have to give them a tag-line. This means telling the essence of the story in one or two compelling sentences… aaargh! And the biggest challenge is still to come. Once a story is published, I want people to read it. This means promote, promote, promote… When Mrs. Price, my 11th grade English teacher, encouraged me to become a professional liar (what? Isn’t writing fiction actually the art of lying convincingly?), she forgot to tell me this thing I’ve grown to love, eventually becomes work.

Ah, but there are great rewards for all the work. I recall the thrill the day my first short story was accepted by a literary journal, Witches Gumbo. So I’ll never forget how that Suzy 4felt, I had the first pages framed. It hangs near the desk where I write. Other stories have been published over the years, and several of them have been nominated for awards and a few actually won. I feel the same thrill each time one of my stories is accepted. Still, the greatest thrill came the day I received an email saying Solstice Publishing had accepted my first Emlyn Goode Mystery novel, The Magic of Murder. After its release, I felt elated each day I looked at the Amazon website and saw the incredible reviews posted by those who’d read the novel. In spite of all the challenges (and yes, rejections while I learned my craft) so many years later I still thank Mrs. Price for encouraging me to write.

What is your top tip for an aspiring writer?

There are so many. Certainly, write, write, write. And read. Everything. Join a writers’ group, and take their critiques seriously. I remember walking into Just Buffalo Literary’s Writers Group more than 12 years ago. I’d finished a novel and, in my grandmother’s words, I thought I was a whole goddamit. Then the critiquing began. I might have felt insulted and walked out, but didn’t. I locked my ego in a vault, and listened to what the other writers said about each other’s work. In listening, I learned. Today, when I look at what I wrote years ago, I can’t believe how much that younger writer needed to grow.

Perhaps, though, my top tip would be to spend time on research. When I finished a first draft of Witches Gumbo, I showed it to my friend, Al. After reading it, the questions began. The story was set in a Louisiana bayou. Is this the way people there would speak? He asked whether this is what a house set in this place would look like. The story involved herbalism and a touch of “the old ways”. Is this what people practicing magic in a bayou would actually do? Even fiction has to ring true for the story and characters to be believable. I actually forgot to research one fact, and after the story was published a reader’s review mentioned what I’d missed.

What are you working on at the moment?

At present, I’m about 40,000 words into the next Emlyn Goode Mystery novel—this will be the third. Called Writing is Murder, it focuses on a writers group. One of my writers’ groups, actually, though the names are changed to protect… uh, me. It’s okay. The group members have given me permission to kill one of them. Or maybe more than one. We’ll see how blood thirsty I get. In this novel, it’s Halloween. Emlyn Goode and her writer friends do a ghost hunt in a house reputedly cursed in the 1820s by a Tuscarora brave. The eerie fun ends when they stumble over the body of a member of their group. This isn’t the first murder to take place in the Bennet House. When her lover, Detective Roger Frey is shot and Emlyn returns to the house searching for a clue to the shooter’s identity, will she become the next victim of the Tuscarora Curse?

Another Emlyn Goode Mystery is also in the works—this one a Christmas novelette I hope to have ready to submit for Solstice Publishing’s holiday anthology.

What do you like to read?

I read everything. My only requirements is that a story be beautifully written. The use of language, I mean. I want the words to almost be lyrical. I also want well-constructed scenes filled with believable characters. I want to care about the protagonist. I found all of this recently in Tea Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife, A Manette Ansay’s River Angel, and in Blackbird Rising by Gary Earl Ross. I’ve also found it in recent books by A. B. Funkhauser and Maighread MacKay.

Of course, I’ll always come back to a good mystery. At eleven my mom gave me a Hercule Poirot story, and I was hooked. These days I’ve become enamoured of the missteps of Stephanie Plum in the Janet Evanovich series.

Where can readers find you?

There are presently three Emlyn Goode Mysteries readers can find on Amazon. Each has gotten rave reviews, and is a Readers’ Favorite 5-star pick.

The novels:

The Magic of Murder:

Dead Again: Suzy 2

 

Novelette:

Bella Vita: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01I01WEWW

I can be found on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/susanlynnsolomon

 

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CAST OFF – the collection

I have earmarked the next few weeks in my diary as the time to really promote my new book, Cast Off, which was released by Solstice publishing last month. It has been selling steadily, particularly in the UK, without much input from me, but I will soon have print copies delivered to take to local events. Enough of a hint, surely, to get out there and do a bit of marketing!

Cast OffCast Off is a collection of short stories based around female characters in plays by Shakespeare – what are they doing or thinking whilst they are off stage? Do they like the lines the bard has given them? What do they really think about all that cross dressing? There is no need to be an expert in Shakespeare to enjoy the stories, but for the knowledgeable, there are plenty of opportunities to ‘spot the quote.’

Today and throughout September, in between the usual author interviews and posts on words and meanings etc, I will share the opening or closing sentences for several of the stories. And if these tempt you to buy the book, the purchase link is helpfully listed below!

Here are the first three excerpts:

  1. Last paragraph of Is Not This Well? (The Taming of the Shrew).

And, gosh, the audience didn’t half laugh on opening night, so he succeeded in writing a great comedy all right. I’m still not sure about the title though. And don’t get me started on that closing speech. “I ran out of time for more changes,” he told me, quite unabashed, when I challenged him. I’m sure there’s a word for men like that.

  1. Opening paragraph for A Midsummer Day’s Dreama midsummer day's dream

“You’re welcome.” Mia smiled her thanks to the barman then, with purse tucked under her arm and a glass of wine in each hand, she hobbled back out into the glare of the midday sun. Her feet were hot and sweaty, and she could feel the skin on both little toes chafing, adding to the pain she was already experiencing from an old blister on her right heel that had burst back into angry life earlier in the morning. It was stupid to wear heels on such a hot day but, with Helen being so tall, Mia liked to give herself a bit of a lift when she was out with her.

  1. Closing paragraph for Time Out Of Mind (Romeo and Juliet)

Dear Nursey, had she been to see this play one time in Verona before she came to the Bella Vista Care Home? She was such an old romantic, I can see why she would have loved the story. And I’m sure that is far more likely than that some English chap had written a play about how she and an elderly friar had tried to help two star crossed lovers get together. Maybe, as old age had worn away her wits, his tragic love story had become more real to her than her own life? After all, if I remember right, someone says at the end of the play – “they don’t come much fuller of tragedy and of woe, than this one of Juliet and her Romeo.”

Purchase links for the Cast Off collection and other stories: 

(Remember – you can always download at least one of my stories for free if you want to ‘try before you buy’!)

Cast Off, and most of the stories on Amazon Books, can also be purchased from http://www.solsticepublishing.com

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Meet author Cyn Ley

The latest author to appear on my blog is Cyn Ley. I first came into contact with Cyn when she edited one of my short stories for a Solstice Anthology. As you can see below, she is the published author of several short stories herself.

What is the title of your latest book? THE OSSUARY PLAYGROUND AND OTHERCyn 1 UNEXPECTED TALES. It consists of four eerie and touching stories of our world and the ones beyond–whether they are real, or matters of the imagination. One of my readers called it “stunning!” I leave the rest to you.

 My other book is ENCOUNTERS: TALES RECOUNTED AND REBORN. These are the best of my previously published stories from 2014-2016, some expanded and re-imagined. From the blurb: “Ranging from social satire to the paranormal, from fight to flight to friendship, these stories touch base on the encounters of the human experience.” Reviewers have called it “original,” “captivating,” “magical,” “thought-provoking,” and “a satisfying and interesting reading experience.”

Cyn 2 What are the most challenging aspects of being a writer? And the most rewarding?

Taking your time writing the tale. I think we all get hit periodically with the impetus to hurry through our work—we want that stuff out NOW! The problem is, we tend to leave a lot of the story in our heads and not on paper when we do that.

The most rewarding aspect? There are two. The first is when I can read one of my stories over and say, “Wow. That’s really good.” The second comes when a reader comes up to me and says the same.

 What is your top tip for an aspiring writer?

Cat toys. Seriously. Write and rewrite as many times as you need to in order to get your wording absolutely right. Wad up the drafts for your cat to play with. No one’s first drafts are that good. Sure, there may be perfect bits. Your goal is to make the rest of the story as perfect.

What are you working on at the moment?

A collection of short stories based around a central concept, entitled Neighborhood Tales. It’s pretty much what it sounds like—tales of the microcosm right outside our front doors. There will be a lot of humor in this one.

I don’t write in a specific genre. It’s more like my Muse smacks me upside the head and orders, “Write this down!”

 Note to aspiring writers: Always obey your Muse. She hits hard.

 What do you like to read?

Everything. I’m a professional fiction editor by day for Solstice Publishing, which means my work runs the gamut when it comes to genres. (I was voted #6 Top Editor in the 2016 Predators & Editors poll.) Any well written story is worth the time it takes to read it. Beyond that, I love history and folklore and things that are generally rather strange. Finding where stories and facts intersect is a constant source of fascination.

Where can readers find you?

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Meet Author W. H. Matlack

W. H. Matlack, who has had several novels and short stories published, is the latest author to appear on my blog this summer. He writes in a variety of genres, including a recent venture into writing a series for  young children (see the end of this post for more information). He has another book released at the beginning of this month.

 What is the title of your latest book?

Latest book title: Grin of the Krocodil.  A new synthetic opiate has been discovered that offers a high that is hundreds of times more intense than Heroin. It’s also many times more dangerous than any other drug as it eats away flesh right to the bone.

Now a chemistry PhD candidate has worked out a formula that makes the drug safe and just as effective. As the word of this modification gets out both the US government and a powerful drug cartel become highly interested in obtaining the formula beginning a deadly tug of war.

What are the most challenging aspects of being a writer? And the most rewarding?

 Most challenging is plot-line development. Character development is the most rewarding. I can spend all day happily developing characters. It clearly releases endorphins when I’m working on characters. Then turning to what these characters should do, or what should befall them, the endorphins evaporate and the grind of plot development kicks in.

What is your top tip for an aspiring writer?

My top tip for all writers is to read like a writer. Go ahead and enjoy reading your favourite author, but the whole time be aware of how he or she phrases things, handles action sequences, builds characters and manages grammar.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m a third of the way into my sixth novel. It’s a bit too early to tell what it’s about, but it involves a pawn shop and a mystery gun.

 What do you like to read?

Raymond Chandler, Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Carl Barks, Dashiell Hammett

Where can readers find you?

 On Facebook at: W.H. Matlack – Author

Amazon: http://goo.gl/jloZ8w

Barnes & Noble: http://goo.gl/ufLCJe

Email: matlackpr@att.net

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Are all book reviews equal?

I’ve been reading quite a lot about book reviews in various Facebook groups recently. One theme has been that even bad reviews can help sell your book. (I believe that JK Rowling has more one star reviews than any other writer, and they certainly don’t seem to have held her sales back).

To date I’ve only had a single one star review – for an anthology in which I had a short story (Mary’s Christmas in Festive Treats): festive-treats

Mary’s Christmas by Margaret Egrot relates the highly boring Christmas of an OAP in a nameless British town. Nothing of note happens. It is related in excruciating detail.

This review came straight after a much more upbeat one for the whole anthology, in which my story was again singled out:

Some of the stories are moving and heart-warming. The story of Mary’s lone Christmas, standing above the rest in the bunch, I feared another outcome, which is testament to the cleverness of how the author made the story unfurl, the resolution made me joyously happy! Margaret Egrot has written a truly beautiful story.

Just goes to show you can’t please everybody.

Despite (because?) attracting the full range of star ratings, Festive Treats has almost never been out of the Amazon best seller list – though the fact that it is free as an e-book might help!

One of my favourite ‘critical’ reviews was for my first YA novel, And Alex Still Has And Alex -coverAcne. The young reviewer hadn’t much liked the book, because she didn’t like books about topics covered by the celebrated author, Jacqueline Wilson. As many readers do though (including me) I was quite chuffed:

The book certainly shows the author’s understanding of the idiosyncratic problems which certain young people today (often described in the novels of Jacqueline Wilson) have to deal with.

Whether one star reviews boost sales or not, it is still re-assuring for an author to get a good first review after a book is published. So you can imagine I was delighted to get the following five star review last week for Cast Off, my recently released collection of short stories based on female characters in Shakespeare’s plays:

One word for this short story anthology? Original. Certainly an odd descriptor for a Cast Offcollection of tales based on the characters in another’s works, but Mrs. Egrot weaves intriguing story lines utilizing some of Shakespeare lesser known supporting characters, and spin-offs from his heroines. My favorite two? “Time Out of Mind” affected me on an emotional level, and “Ban! Ban! Cacaliban” left me wanting more. Each story stands alone on its own merit. If you’ve never even heard of the bard, and you were born in a cave and raised by wolves, you will find a tale here to fall in love with. Thoroughly enjoyed.

On balance, whatever they say about the merits of one star reviews, vis-a-vis five star ones, I know which I prefer for a first review!

All the stories mentioned are available from my Amazon author pages:

All but Festive Treats are also available from Solstice Publishing.

http://www.solsticepublishing.com

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