My review of ‘100ne Hundred’ by Laura Besley

I stopped doing reviews a while back but when I was asked by Saira at Arachne Press to review Laura’s collection, I didn’t hesitate. Flash fiction is my favourite form of creative writing and Laura is a regular, often successful, entrant to my monthly 100-word competition so two reasons to say ‘yes’.

Split into four seasons, each section contains 25 stories, some of which are familiar territory but most new to me.

I love titles, especially quirky ones, and ones like ‘How to be Normal’, ‘Raining Colours’, ‘The Pupa Stage in the Lifecycle of Audrey Brown’, and ‘Housewife 500’ were ones I was especially looking forward to… and they didn’t disappoint.

Speaking of quirky, although I know Laura’s writing well, I challenge anyone (not for money!) not to be hooked on the opening of the first story: Dave carries his girlfriend in the left-hand breast pocket of his shirt. 

It’s a very emotional collection. As a competition judge (for others, not just my own) the best stories tend to be ones where you have a reaction at the end. A ‘huh?’ is not good and it goes from there all the way to ‘wow’. With this collection I soon lost track of how many ‘wow’s I was uttering to the point where my dog had that ‘here she goes again’ look.

The stories take us to various points around the globe but one thing that links them all is humanity. I love characters, and while most stories are understandably plot-led, there is a wealth of characters we can relate to, even if they’re nothing like us, or we’ve not been through what they’ve been through – for that we should be thankful!

Some films started life as short stories (The Shawshank Redemption and Brokeback Mountain to name two) and while Laura’s are incredibly short, many lent themselves to being the start or plot of a larger work. There are unions, reunions, meetings and greetings, thought-provoking pieces, and those simply there to entertain.

Although I read this collection in one sitting, it’s the kind you could dip in an out of and let these stories linger, returning for a second, third and umpteenth read.

I’d love to share with you my favourites but there were simply too many, although one in particular made me chuckle as a character loves his Alexa (Amazon Echo device) even more than I do.

As well as being a competition judge, I’m an editor. While I would have made very minor tweaks had this been something sent to me for editing (e.g. sighing isn’t a dialogue verb so should be a separate sentence to what’s said, some words hyphenated or unhyphenated, a ‘his’ changed to the character’s name where another of the same gender has just been mentioned, I’d have chopped some ‘said’s where the character’s doing something, and some of the ‘just’s 🙂 ), the stories are written to such a tight (100 words exactly) format that losing a word or two would have meant ‘padding’ to return to the correct figure.

I had high expectations and was not disappointed, as I’m sure you won’t be when you read this wonderful collection. It was published on 27th May 2021, so hot off the (Arachne) press! Available from https://arachnepress.com/books/short-stories/100nehundred-laura-besleyand where good books are sold, as the saying goes (ISBN: 978-1913665272). Laura can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

My thanks go to Saira and of course Laura, not only for creating this endearing collection but for being one of the many stalwarts of my competition.

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Laura

About Laura Besley: Laura Besley writes short fiction in the precious moments when her children are asleep. She has been listed by TSS Publishing as one of the top 50 British and Irish Flash Fiction writers. Her work has been nominated for Best Micro Fiction and her story, To Cut a Long Story Short, will appear in the Best Small Fiction anthology in 2021. 100neHundred is Laura’s second short fiction collection.

 

About 100neHundred: A man carries his girlfriend in the left-hand breast pocket of his shirt. During World War II, a young soldier searches the houses and barns of the families with whom he grew up. An astronaut wonders whether she can adapt to life back on earth.

In her second collection of short fiction, Laura Besley explores a kaleidoscope of emotions through 100 stories of exactly 100 words each.

The November (free) 100-word competition is open!

** Please check your word count. Your stories have to be 100 words (excluding the title) EXACTLY,
and PLEASE stick to the month’s theme… which for November is ‘America’! **

01 - 100 in veg 669778As I’ve been involved in others in the past (entering, organising and judging – I was the 2015 H.E. Bates Short Story Competition Head Judge!), I launched my own competition in September 2015. As a fan of micro-fiction, I invite you to send me your 100-word stories (excluding title) – a ‘drabble’ – with the chance to win some of my online creative writing courses (full details and entry form on this blog’s 100-word comp page). The prizes are a choice of three courses to the winner, two courses to the second placed and one course of the third placed choice, plus up to three honourable mentions (depending on quantity / merit of entries) per month winning free entry coupon code to my entering writing competitions course.

  • Deadline: the deadline for the current competition is midnight (UK time) Wednesday 30th November.
  • Theme: the current theme (which changes each month, the next few are listed on this blog’s 100-word comp page) is ‘America’, used in any way you like, and please do stick to the theme or your story will be disqualified (at least one has been each month). Please don’t submit other months’ themes at any other time than the month they are due or they will be disqualified and won’t be held back for the correct theme and you won’t be able to resubmit them during the correct month. You’ll have to write new stories, but of course you can send them elsewhere.
  • Fee: there is no fee for entering this competition. I enjoy reading flash fiction… and giving away prizes!
  • Prizes: as mentioned above, you could win one or more of my online creative writing courses, or free editing and critique of your writing up to 2,000 words (worth up to £14 (€20 / US$22 / CA$ & AS$28)). See prize breakdown on this blog’s 100-word comp page.
  • Word count: You must stick to the 100-word count, no less, no more, or you will be disqualified (again, at least one has been each month!). Bullet points do not count as words, neither do ellipses (e.g. ‘and… we’ counts as two words), and hyphenated words (e.g. well-known) count as one not two. (See ‘rules’ on this blog’s 100-word comp page.)
  • Entries: You can enter up to three times per month and it’s worth it as I’ll pick my favourite of the three to go into the competition. Regardless of whether that is successful or not, the two I don’t select won’t be published so you can use them elsewhere, as you can with anything you send over the months that doesn’t come first, second or third.
  • Entrants: This competition is open to anyone of any age or geographical location, as long as the story is in English.
  • Results: The results will be announced on the second Friday of the month following the relevant deadlines (see ‘themes’ on this blog’s 100-word comp page for full details).
  • Previous competitions: The winning stories of previous competitions can be found via the links within ‘themes’ on this blog’s 100-word comp page).
  • And finally… the Judge’s (Morgen’s) decision is final. Good luck!

Last call for October’s 6-word stories (& 100-word comp)

number 6Hello everyone. This is a shout-out for anyone interested in writing 6-word short stories (which I publish along with your 6-word biography, including your name).

I publish up to ten per author per month on the last Friday of each month (tomorrow this month) and the details (including guidelines) are on 6-word FFFs. I recommend reading at least the previous submissions: thirty-seventh batch of 6-word stories, so you get a feel for what’s needed.

Please read the guidelines carefully. I will be publishing the next batch tomorrow (Friday) so won’t have time to chase you up for anything that’s missing. Yours won’t be published if they’re not accompanied by the correct six-word biography (including your name which can be one or two words) which can include one link to your books, Amazon page, or other website.

I also run a free 100-word competition which closes next Monday (midnight UK time), 31st October and this month has to be a crime story (my favourite genre). It can be about anything you like as long as it is 100 words exactly excluding the title. Any shorter or longer than 100 words and it will be disqualified. You can submit up to three stories to the relevant theme, during the month only, not ahead of time.

Morgen’s Weekend ‘What’s Up’date

Hello everyone.

Some of you may be wondering where I’ve been. Apart from the weekday exercises, I’ve been unusually quiet on here. Never fear, there are some guests coming along in the next few weeks (if you’re one of those and haven’t heard from me, I do apologise. I’m not ignoring you… I plan to blitz my emails next week).

I’ve been busy getting all my eBooks (apart from the single freebies) paperbacked – see pictures below and My books, and have even added a ‘Selected Shorts: Morgen’s Favourite Stories’ – my favourite twenty-two stories from my five collections of ‘Fifty 5pm Fictions’ and three ‘Story A Day May’ collections (see pic bottom right below) – which I’ve paperbacked before eBooking!

I’ve also created another online creative writing course called ‘Plot Scenarios Month 1’. As the other six courses, it’ll be £15 / $20 and like the other six, I have half-price coupon codes on my Online Courses page, or you can just go to my Udemy profile page, click on any of the courses and ‘redeem a coupon’ below the green ‘take this course’ button and type in MB-BLOG-HALF and you’ll get any of them for half the price I just mentioned. A bargain… although I could be biased. 🙂

Speaking of my courses, I’m hoping that both Month 1 and a forthcoming Month 2 Plot Scenarios course will be available before I announce the results of April’s 100-word competition next Friday, 10th June, so that the successful entrants have more choice than the existing six courses. I’m also pleased to say that after a quiet few weeks’ worth of entries to the 500-word challenge, there are now* enough for me to pick my favourite three and I will be announcing the results of that the following Friday, 17th June. * those received up to the 15th May, any winning entries received 16th May to 15th June will be announced 1st July.

As well as editing my own writing, I’ve also been helping new and existing clients and if you’re considering taking on an editor, do take a look at my Editing & Critique page and take advantage of a free 1,000-word sample full edit. I now also offer a kindle-read through service (see option 6 on the Editing & Critique page) which is now included in the (post-freebie) full edit option.

courses & book covers

Results of Morgen’s (free) 100-word competition: November 2015

Hello everyone. There were twenty-two entries this month, two of which were disqualified: one entrant had submitted for the October theme of ‘unlucky Halloween’ rather than ‘fireworks’ and I had to disqualify another story for being the wrong word count (102). It’s because there were two sets of ellipses (…) then the next word without a space in between. Put the space in between and it creates two words instead of one, i.e. “I’m not sure that… oh, OK.” is six words rather than five. ‘that…oh’ is not one word. Don’t rely on Word’s (or whichever software programme you use) word count. It’s only 100 words. Double-check yourself. It’s good practice. Oh, and remember that – as listed in the rules – a hyphenated word (e.g. well-known) counts as one, not two, and bullet points don’t count as words.

I know judges say this but it was a tough choice this month… quite a few authors narrowly missed out on being Highly Commended and some had only submitted one story. You can send up to three per month so it’s worth doing so. If you don’t succeed – or even if you do – you still have the piece to send elsewhere.

So without further ado… drum roll please… here are the results…

Winner: Alyson Faye with ‘A Guy for the Children’

a. bonfire 175864Fear coats me, like a second skin. ‘Remember remember the 5th November….’ The kids shriek the old rhyme while they leg it round the playground, chucking old cans and used condoms at me. Huddled, shivering, inside my tatty raincoat, I rock myself for comfort. ‘Go away,’ I whisper. It’s dark. Late. I wish I had somewhere else to be. Their shadows flit in and out of the swings and climbing frame, looping, swirling. Their hands ablaze with sparklers, which they thrust at me. ‘Run!’ one shouts. ‘Jump!’ screams another. The newspapers around me burst into flame. I will be headlines.

(Alyson wins three of my six Creative writing courses)

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Second placed: Eleanor Wrightson with ‘Our Guilty Embers’

b. tag 934233There he was. The man who charred my soul. He was beside the river, a cigarette plucked between his teeth. The burning tobacco sparked reminders of my bubbling flesh. It scolded my senses. His lulling grin ebbing as the firework bolted through my chest. Now he’s calm, rooting in the algae, puffing away the sadness that I created. His stuttering body is trapped by an ankle tag, a crude reminder of the life we lost. He spits fire, “It’s all your fault”. This time, it’s my guilt that forms the flame, that shoots our firework to light up the night.

(Eleanor wins two of my six Creative writing courses)

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Third placed: Aileen with ‘Things Better Left Unseen’

c. fireworks 979183The darkness smothered her. Fireworks, Irina sighed happily, were best enjoyed alone — but as pinpricks of light danced above, Irina’s solitude was rudely interrupted by a drunkard clutching a bottle and picnic rug. She frowned, but resignedly ignored him. Rat-tat-tat. The clearing lit up, the man’s face awash in red, before going dark. Too red, Irina realized with sudden clarity. Rat-tat-tat. Irina squinted before plunging back into blindness — Rat-tat-tat. — at the wild splotches of crimson, the bottle that was actually — Rat-tat-tat. — a severed hand, the rug that was a human body. Rat-tat-tat. His head swiveled around. The darkness smothered her.

(Aileen wins one of my six Creative writing courses)

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Highly commended (in alphabetical order):

  • Julia Thorley with Kamuro
  • Nick Robley with ‘The Firework Ghost’ and ‘Explosions’
  • Obinna Omotayoith ‘Firework’
  • Paul Isaac with ‘Into Orbit’ and ‘End of the World’
  • Rohini with ‘Adamantine Anger’ and ‘Dinnertime’
  • Wendy Steele with ‘Bonfire Night’

All the Highly Commended win my Entering Writing Competitions course (which if they have won previously can be given to a writing friend). Well done, everyone. I have already received entries for this month’s theme which is Christmas so regardless of whether you’ve entered before, do have a go. You could win one or more of my courses for free! 🙂

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Results of Morgen’s 100-word competition – October 2015

competition 612589For the October competition, we had eighteen entries. You can send up to three stories per author per month and I will pick my favourite of the three for consideration. Details of this competition, the current theme (fireworks), and how to enter can be found here.

Last month, two stories were disqualified for being too short. This month one was for only being 81 words. Last month, another two submissions had nothing to do with the theme (which was ‘white’) and this month one was because it was themed on ‘white’ rather than ‘unlucky Halloween’. As mentioned above, the theme for November is fireworks.

The prizes for October (and ongoing) are:

  • First prize: winning three of his / her choice of my six online creative writing courses
  • Second prize: winning two courses of his / her choice
  • Third prize: winning one course of his / her choice
  • Up to five Highly Commended: winning my Entering Writing Competitions course (which if they have won previously can be given to a writing friend).

The first, second and third prized being published on this blog and the highly commended being listed by just author and title. So without further ado, here are the results of the October 2015 competition…

1st place: Miranda Westbrook with ‘A Trick Treat’

Halloween sweets 52121It lay there innocent, nestled among the other shiny foils of the candy bowl. It promised sweet sensation, excited giggles and energetic happiness, but that promise would be an empty one.

The painted faces stared up into the age-ravaged eyes.

“Trick or treat.”

Smooth, silk-skein fingers clamoured into the bowl, hastened treasure into their pillowcases and were gone.

The door swung close with a click. Staring into the bowl, the faintest smile erupted on his lips. It was gone, on its way to stoke disappointment. Oh, yes. One child was going to be having a very unlucky Halloween this year.

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2nd place: Paul Isaac with ‘Brave’

police tape 924966I slipped away from the others under cover of the storm, running a finger along the police tape that lined the path to the door.

‘I’ve come for my sister.’

I pulled back my green hood and buffeted him over the threshold. He tried to distract me with poisonous edibles, but I pushed deeper into his lair.

Then I saw her, everywhere, she lined the walls.

I screamed my fury, but it was only one more cry against the chorus of this unhallowed night. My one chance cruelly reversed.

I spied an empty place on the mantelpiece, undoubtedly my own.

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3rd place: Tobenamed with ‘Not for burning’

Cool Red Barn 987721The straw-strewn barn held the glowing pumpkins and a novel opportunity. Rumour was that our celebrity was hungry for fresh meat. I nudged away skeletons, witches and goblins, and kicked the door shut.

She swivelled to face me, frowning. I strode forward to offer my autumn fruit, a taster for the main act.

I sensed her interest rise. She took four incisive bites then her eyes travelled down towards my masterpiece.

I held it out proudly to her and pleaded,  ‘Jay Darkling, literary agent, please read it now.’

‘Ah,’ she breathed, ‘hop onto the scaffold. We have our guy.’

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There were no Highly Commended this month.

Congratulations to the three placed winners, especially to Paul who was Highly Commended last month. I shall be in touch with details of your prizes.

For anyone who didn’t enter (or did), November’s competition is already open with the theme of ‘fireworks’. Details here and the results will be announced on this blog on Monday 11th December. You can enter as many competitions as you like but a maximum of three stories per month, and the first version of a story will be accepted so if you spot a mistake after pressing ‘send’ you don’t need to send a revised version because it won’t be read.

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Results of Morgen’s first 100-word competition – September 2015

competitions 677265For the September competition, we had eighteen entrants with twenty-four different 100-word stories… twenty-four ‘drabble’s. You can send up to three stories each per month so a potential there for fifty-four stories! Details of next month’s here.

Two stories were disqualified for being too short – 92 and 93 words (as per the rules, hyphenated words count as one, and another story seemed to stop too early) – and another two submissions had nothing to do with that month’s theme, which was ‘white’.

A couple had glaring errors – incorrect words, e.g. ‘in’ instead of ‘is’ – so weren’t disqualified but lost points. Mistakes happen but they should only happen in 10,000-worders or perhaps 1,000-word stories, not 100-word stories.

If you’re going to enter a competition – not just my one – read your story aloud… then get someone else (or your computer) to read your story, again ideally aloud. Once you’re both happy it’s perfect, only then click ‘submit’. It’s a shame because they weren’t half bad.

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Because September was the first month I’d run this competition, the prizes were:

  • First prize: winning all six of my online creative writing courses
  • Second prize: winning three courses of his / her choice
  • Third prize: winning two courses of his / her choice
  • Up to five Highly Commended: winning my Entering Writing Competitions course.

With the first, second and third prized being published on this blog and the highly commended being listed by just author and title.

Hereafter the prizes will be: three courses, two courses, one course, then the EWC course respectively.

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I know every judge says this but it was a tough choice (some tougher than others) to whittle it down to the top three (as you will see, it’s actually a top four!) and then only have five highly commended (another two fought valiantly to be on that list).

So without further ado, the winners are…. <opens gold envelope>

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