Archive for the ‘short story’ Category

I have finished reading my sixth novel for 2022, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Best of Friends. I came about ownership of a few Alfred Hitchcock books recently. In our neighbourhood, people put unwanted household items out on the grass verge in front of their houses for the folk passing to take away. On my walk one morning, I spied a box of books on the sidewalk. All the books were obscure but recognizing Alfred Hitchcock, I grabbed the three novels bearing his name. I wondered if he was an author as well as a filmmaker and figured it might be worth a look.

The first thing I discovered was that this was not a book written by Alfred Hitchcock. It was a collection of horror stories he had compiled. A delightfully devilish digest of death, by a student of the sinister. After my initial disappointment that Hitchcock had not written the content, nevertheless, I read the stories curious to see what he’d chosen.
The slim volume starts with an introduction written by Hitchcock, a mini horror story in itself. Then I read the novel with trepidation, hoping the stories would not scare me too much. There was no need to worry. The stories were not too spooky. They were cautionary tales about how things can go wrong in the high-octane, high-risk, daredevil world of crime.

The tagline for the book reads It’s always evil weather when Alfie and his pals get together! That pretty much says it all right there. The tone is old-fashioned and as quaint as two sticks rubbed together to make a fire. Its tagline shows its age by being light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek about the horror. Authors of that era (the late 1960s, early 1970s) did not need to shock us into infinity or hit us with gore and other questionable content. They produced storylines of high calibre, focused on dialogue and interaction. These authors rendered scenes in remarkable detail while adding slight turns of fortune, then the falling from grace, that has readers wincing for the characters and feeling doubly glad we are at home safe in our beds and not walking in their shoes.

The short stories are professional and convincing. The authors often hold out the “a-ha” moment until the last minute. However, given that modern readers expect thrills and spills on every page these days, this might be one of those books that belongs to our collective past and is only for those readers who can appreciate the difference.

Alfred Joseph Hitchcock KBE, the iconic and influential film director and producer, was born in London in 1899. Following a successful career in Britain in silent films and talking pictures, he moved to Hollywood. He became an American citizen with dual nationality in 1956 and directed more than fifty feature films in a career that spanned six decades. For a complete list of his films, see Alfred Hitchcock’s filmography.
I found his compilation, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Best of Friends, entertaining and a charming window into a bygone age. It gets extra merit points for being low-key horror and not scarring me for life. I recommend it for nostalgia value alone.
My rating: Two stars

Talk to you later.
Keep reading!
Yvette Carol
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Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. ~ Neil Gaiman


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I have finished reading my fifteenth novel for 2021, Constancia and Other Stories for Virgins by Carlos Fuentes. It was one in a pile of books I picked up while visiting my sister on Waiheke Island in the upper north island of New Zealand. We popped into the Salvation Army shop. I drifted into the books section and walked out thirty minutes later with two bags of books! That always happens. I got the lot for ten bucks. You’ve got to love that.
Usually, I stick to reading within my genre of middle-grade fiction, but I will also buy anything that takes my fancy. Constancia and Other Stories for Virgins sounded so quirky. I thought, what is that about? And I recognized the author.

The book consists of five short stories. In the title story, a kind and happy husband discovers the true nature of his marriage. ‘As though he has walked through a mirror and found that the life held in the glass was not his own at all.’ ‘…you repeatedly seem to shudder awake, you think you’ve opened your eyes, but in fact, you’ve only introduced one dream inside another.’ I would try to precis the stories, but I fear that might be beyond me. From a doll coming to represent a human woman to a story narrator in bed with a ghost, the stories pitch you from the boat into a dark swirling morass of imagery and ideas in which there is no life raft. There is no way of making sense of the stories contained within this book. The stories located from Savannah, Georgia to Glasgow, depict the moments in life when worlds collide, and they are fittingly chaotic.
Carlos Fuentes Macías (1928 – 2012) was a Mexican writer. He also served as a diplomat in 1965 in London, Paris (as ambassador), and other capitals. Though he became one of the best-known novelists of the 20th century in the Spanish-speaking world, he found the time to teach courses at Brown, Princeton, Harvard, Penn, George Mason, Columbia, and Cambridge. The author of thirty works, his first book, Aura, was published in 1962. He published Constancia and Other Stories for Virgins, in Spanish, Constanciay otras novelas para virgines by Mandadori Espana, in 1989.

The book received mixed reviews. The deconstructionists of the world heralded Constancia as a miraculous conception and a great example of the ‘imagination unbound.’ The great unwashed masses, of whom I count myself one, reviled the book, like a big shiny house to which we did not possess the key to get in. There are no story structures, nothing to grasp, no compass or road map through the forest of words.
I would not go so far as to say what some of the critics said. I wouldn’t call the book ‘the ravings of a madman,’ or ‘a senseless mess,’ or ‘UNREADABLE.’ But I will tell my ultimate truth, and that is I couldn’t finish it. It’s not often I can say a book has beaten me. This one did. It is one of the few books I have put down halfway through and walked away from. I literally could not take another word of such nonsense. Magical Realism. Definitely. Not. My. Genre.
My rating: No stars. But I will give it two groans.

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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As a literary fiction style, magic realism paints a realistic view of the modern world while also adding magical elements, often dealing with the blurring of the lines between fantasy and reality. ~ Wikipedia

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It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

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Question: Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? (For example, by trying a new genre you didn’t think you’d be comfortable in?)

I have a frightening tale to tell…

For many years, I’ve thought about trying my hand at short fiction. Joe Bunting inspired me on his terrific blog, The Write Practice, when he was blogging about making the shift from novel writing to short stories. But, unlike the youthful abandon with which Joe leaped, I held back, feeling daunted by the concept. I felt afraid at the thought of having to minimise word count while at the same time freighting every word – much in the same way as poets do – as truth to tell, that just wasn’t me. I’ve always been the talker in the family. My books always make a good thick doorstop.

I felt challenged by the discipline needed for penning short stories and, I was too green at the time. I’m not a much better writer now, but I’m more willing to give things a go and fall flat on my face than I used to be when I was young. I’m more willing to get things wrong.

Daniel Jose Older

Last year, I signed up for a writing workshop with Daniel Jose Older, on writing short fiction. Daniel Jose Older was as informative and inspiring as expected. I felt electrified.

When he set us loose to write a short story, I had no preconceived agenda, no thought in my mind as to subject. We were given as broad a set of parameters as you could imagine, in that we could write about any subject.

I write for children and persons who are young at heart. I have always done so, since the day I began writing my first children’s story at the age of seventeen. That was my automatic go-to. As I moved the pen across the page, I was writing for children. And yet, the story which came to me on the ether was different, bustling and rustling. It wrapped me up and rushed me headlong on its dark wind. I particularly love when it’s like that, when the muse is speaking loud and strong and the ride is the most beautiful exceptional rush of creativity.

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Imagine my surprise! I looked up later and found that instead of the usual adventure/quest type stories I like to write, I had written my first ever spooky tale! I’m still not sure how that happened, or where I veered off the path.

Birdy is  set in a modern Kiwi suburb. It’s a story about an old Maori woman, who the neighbourhood kids believe is a legendary water demon, and the creepy way that Birdy preys upon the weaknesses of her neighbour’s child. The story takes place over one hour in the victim’s life, with the clock ticking.

This story is dark, macabre, tense, unlike anything I’ve written before.

Horror is a genre I tend to shy away from in all its forms. I far prefer fantasy that is uplifting. Even so, I had surrendered to the process and this chilling tale was the result.

The horrible thing is, I’m not sure if the story is any good. I have no idea. In fact, I sincerely doubt it is. While I might be unsure if I will ever go that way again, you can be sure my hands are clammy. I’m looking at every granny sideways, and hearing twigs creak in the night, and shadows slide out of the corner of my eye!

How about you, have you ever surprised yourself with your writing?

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Talk to you later…

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘I’d rather sing one wild song and burst my heart with it, than live a thousand years watching my digestion and being afraid of the wet.’ ~ Jack London

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‘Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think.’ ~ Brené Brown

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A year ago, I lived with a debilitating fear of public speaking. In other words, I was paralyzed by the fear ‘of what other people think.’

Yet, two weeks ago, I delivered my ninth speech, ‘The Phoenix,’ at Toastmasters. I achieved something I thought impossible, through the help of my local Toastmasters club. I thought, yes, I’m doing so great. I can memorize a whole ten minute speech. I can get up on stage without falling flat. Yes! I’ve made it. Uh, no. You haven’t. Why? Because there’s always more to learn.

Part of the Toastmasters leadership program is the “CRC” system, or “Commend, Recommend, Commend,” by way of oral and written evaluation. My evaluator’s “recommendation” after watching, ‘The Phoenix,’ was that I looked like I’d rehearsed to a mirror and had simply written and learnt a speech by rote. I needed to learn how to connect with the audience.

5 Speeches Award, 2016

I’d never thought about it that way before.

My sister sent me a bunch of links for incredible talks on the TED channel. I could see the difference and began to understand what the next level of speaking could look like. My evaluator was absolutely right.

I realized I had bumped up against another of my own self-made limitations.

At our club’s 20th anniversary celebration the other day, founding member, Bruce Powell, gave a speech about the formation of the club. He told us stories, like the one about the girl who, upon hearing the “recommendations” of her evaluator, burst into tears and ran out of the room, never to return. Or the one, about the aspiring politician who joined our club, he later became elected to parliament.

Swearing in on the committee

It’s true. Even on a good day, the “recommendation” part of the process can be hard to stomach. I had worked so hard on my speech, and when I got my evaluation it felt as if he burst my balloon. Yet, sometimes, a bit of balloon-popping is just what we need. You can either run from it and stay the same, or you embrace it and grow.

It’s good to prune the ego sometimes, to go, ‘hey, I’m not always right.’ That’s a stable, balanced way to go through life.

It’s wise to cultivate within ourselves, the ability to say we’re wrong. Not to just to pay lip service to a nice idea, but to really then put in the work as well, to make change.

DJO

At the moment, I’m taking a free writing class, Story Fundamentals, with Daniel Jose Older. The brief for our writing assignment was given during the video presentation, and then, we were to post our efforts in the online classroom. There, our beloved, sweated-over prose would hang out in the public forum, waiting for “likes” and/or “comments.”

The assignment was to write a short story. My least favourite form of fiction. My taste lends itself to the epic form, I like to sink my teeth into a meaty book or writing project. I’d also traditionally shied away from writing short story, believing I wouldn’t do it justice.

But, sometimes, I think when we have an instant, “no, I can’t do that” reaction, this can be a pointer, a sign-post to a hidden limitation we’ve held about ourselves.

My dear friend, writer and artist, Steve Attkisson, said, ‘Someone told me that the stuff you try to avoid makes for the most powerful literature.’

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I decided to go boldly forth and tackle this assignment, regardless of whether I wanted to or not. I sweated over my short story, ‘Birdma, she Taniwha’ for two days and posted it. I’ve returned and edited the story every day this week. Still no likes, no comments. Sigh! Yet, despite the lack of response, I still feel good. Victorious, even. Because this story represents yet another hurdle I’ve overcome. Another thing I said I couldn’t do.

These personal milestones are what we live for. Or they should be. Because, it’s in proving to ourselves first that we are worthy that we disengage from that old fear of ‘what other people think.’

It starts to become more important what we think of ourselves.

Fear is a Gift

Some of our self-made armour comes off with each limitation we overcome. Is it frightening? Yes. L. Frank Baum once said, ‘The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid.’ Even a single display of bravery towards oneself carries rewards, and brings more courage. We grow incrementally. We start to build our first real foundations of self-confidence. Know thyself. Healer, heal thyself.

If you think of the opening statement, by Brené Brown, that our armour was keeping us from really living into our gifts, then we’d imagine that by releasing some, and putting ourselves out there, we start to achieve things. We can connect with an audience. We can write a short story.We can get elected to parliament. We gain the forward positive momentum we want in our lives.

Just think of all the unexplored adventures ahead! What do you want to achieve?

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See you in the funny papers!

YC

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Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.  ~ William S. Burroughs

The hero’s redemption (and ultimate victory) hinges on their transcending their self-concern. ~ PJ Reece

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