Short Story Saturday Review 017: Fireflies by Sullivan Leigh

Welcome to the Short Story Saturday review slot and the seventeenth review in this series. This week’s review is of ‘Fireflies’ by Sullivan Leigh.

All stories should have strong hooks and make the reader want to know more and Sullivan’s is no exception. We immediately have the dilemma, the character is nervous going to the house and we want to know why.

The sign of good writing is that we feel the emotion the character is feeling and as Kyla was hiding behind her mother’s legs, so was I, and then later when her parents are righting and we find out it’s a regular occurrence.

There is more description than dialogue in this piece but when the dialogue comes it’s very authentic, entertaining and spare.

A first person story is great at getting inside your character’s head and I could hear Kyla saying, “blah blah blah”. Sullivan has her tone spot on.

The dilemma continues as we go from her backstory to present day and find she has a rival for her love’s affection and I love her being labeled with a nickname (no spoilers here).

I know that Sullivan has not been writing for long but the writing is already well-crafted which phrases such as ‘crawling the walls her hands made’ and ‘the swing made the moonlight dance across the porch’.

If I had to pick at the story (which I do because this is an unbiased review), I would suggest she looks out for the tells vs shows. For example, “I was intrigued by her”, “She was gorgeous to me”, “Naturally, this delighted me to no end.” are tells, whereas “…my knees kept shaking and my tummy felt weird”, says it all and would take us quicker into the action. If you find you do the same thing where you show us what’s happening and tell us then you can most likely take out the ‘tells’. If the story still stands up without them, then you’ve done the right thing. 🙂 I mention show vs tell on my https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/writing-101 page.

While I’m on a pick, and I hadn’t intended this as a red pen session but another of my bug-bears is repetition and this may help other writers reading this. One line reads, ‘A loud noise in the hallway startled me. I ran to the hallway.’ If you can avoid using the same word twice then do, unless it’s to emphasise the first. In this instance, Sullivan could change it to ‘A loud noise outside my door (or ‘on the landing’) startled me. I ran to the hallway.’ Because she’s just been talking outside the house I’d recommend not using ‘outside’ as it would confuse the reader as to where ‘outside’ refers to.

The mark of a great story is where you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster and this did not disappoint. A writer should make their reader turn the page, wanting to know what’s going to happen next and most importantly how it’s going to be resolved. In a romance you can presume the two main characters are going to get together and whether they do or, for whatever reason, they don’t (I’m not going to say which here) by the time you read the end you should have been entertained and this story ticked that box.

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Thank you Sullivan for inviting me to read your story.

coverSullivan is a writer from Mississippi. She lives in Amory with her partner and her son. ‘Fireflies’ is available from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk and below is the Amazon synopsis:

Kyla is moving in with a family friend, Marie, for her first semester of college. The two of them carry a special bond – they’ve known each other since Kyla was eleven. The chaos in her life was only balanced out by the safety she felt with Marie.

So moving away to college is the first shred of normalcy her life has ever really taken on.

However, her heart carries the secret that after all this time, she is still in love with Marie.

If Kyla chooses to confess her love, her life will be anything but normal.

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You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internetview my Books (including my debut novel!) and I also have a blog creation / maintenance service especially for, but not limited to, writers. If you like this blog, you can help me keep it running by donating and choose an optional free eBook.

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As I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do, and I also review stories (and post others in their entirety) of up to 3,000 words on Short Story Saturdays. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 3,000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me posting it online in my new Red Pen Critique Sunday night posts, then do email me. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Short Story Saturday 016: review of ‘Bewilder’ by James Eddy

Welcome to the Short Story Saturday review slot and the sixteenth review in this series. This week’s review is of ‘Bewilder’ by James Eddy.

BewildersmokeI love stories that unfold as they go along, no info. dump at the beginning but just enough to intrigue us then explain as we read.

Any reader who is also a writer is going to pay extra attention to the quality of the writing and they will not be disappointed here. My favourite phrases included ‘He’d drunk in’ (rather than the more usual ‘taken in), ‘melancholy undercurrent’, ‘diamond cascade of rain and tears’ and ‘misery dripped from my face’.

James has avoided using commonplace metaphors / similes and they’re not overdone, as is the mix of past (saw) and past perfect (had found); once the reader is advised that something happened before the simple past, we get our head in the time frame and are then told of that in the simple past (rather than too many ‘had’s). The descriptions of the characters and places are detailed yet leave enough for our imaginations to fine-tune.

I’d printed out the story and taken it for a dog walk where I made comments (in red – I love red pens) and ticks where there were passages I liked. The pages (five of A4 in Arial 12, in case anyone was wondering how long the story was) are covered with ticks so that says it all.

On the down-side… this is a review after all, giving the name of the bar spoiled it for me as I then had a clue as to the ending (which I won’t give away) but I still enjoyed the story enough to write a “Wow!” at the end. 🙂

Thank you James for inviting me to review your story.

Bewilder is available at: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Smashwords.com (free), Diesel ebooks.com, and Kobo Books.com.

I reviewed his story Heart over Head over Heels (which is available for free from Smashwords.com) here.

Youngblood booksJames Eddy was born in Braintree, Essex in April 1980. After moving first to Colchester, Essex, the family settled in South Norfolk and James was able to enjoy the wide-open spaces and quiet of the area which fed his imagination.

Following an undistinguished University career, he began writing scripts for films and acting out the cliche of the drunken writer. He diversified by moving into prose and eventually focussed enough to write a collection of Short Stories called ‘Diamonds’ along with several other short stories a novel and novella. He released ‘Bewilder’, the first story from ‘Diamonds’ in April 2012, followed by ‘Heart over Head over Heels’ in May. James’ website is http://youngbloodbooks.webplus.net.

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If you’d like to submit your story (3,000 words) for review, or  take a look here.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with lad lit novelist Andy Holmes – the five hundred and sixty-ninth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

** NEW!! You can now subscribe to this blog on your Kindle / Kindle app!

See http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B008E88JN0

or http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008E88JN0 for outside the UK **

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internetview my Books (including my debut novel!) and I also have a blog creation / maintenance service especially for, but not limited to, writers. If you like this blog, you can help me keep it running by donating and choose an optional free eBook.

As I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do, and a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me posting it online in my new Red Pen Critique Sunday night posts then do email me. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Short Story Saturday Review 015: The Outside World by Omoruyi Uwuigiaren

Welcome to the Short Story Saturday review slot and the fifteenth in this series. This week’s review is of 1,546-word story The Outside World (which comes from his collection ‘The City Heroes & Other Stories from the Heart of Africa’) by children’s author Omoruyi Uwuigiaren.

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One of the first things we’re taught as a writer is to avoid clichés and this story opens with one of the classics ‘dead as a doornail’. Whilst some of the language is a little flowery for adult readers, I can imagine children finding it charming as it’s not talking down to them but with them as they read.

I’m actually a big child myself, loving anything animated, and this story would make a good short film.

The characters in this piece are animals (cats) rather than humans but it doesn’t make them any less human and they are in fact very eloquent which adds charm to the writing. The names Ruyi has chosen for them are great, with Dag, Fred and Pork amongst them.

Like all good stories we have a dilemma early on and they discuss their predicaments and possible solutions.

It’s very hard to avoid ‘telling’ in any form of writing but there are some times when the dialogue is enough. For example, when we learn by what he is saying that Pork is alarmed so we don’t also need to be told that he is.

What Ruyi does well is let us learn of the human behaviour from what the cats are saying about them and the humans’ actions (not pleasant) and that makes the piece all the more realistic.

Any reader should learn / be entertained / moved by their stories they read and I’d say this has all three. By what is said of the cruelty, yet not told in a direct fashion so as to scare younger readers, it should hopefully be impressed on them that this is not acceptable and if they care about the characters they will care about animals in real life. It’ll certainly make me listen closer when I’m walking past a group of cats when I’m out for a walk next.

Writing for children is clearly Omoruyi’s comfort zone and if the rest of his collection is anything like this story, you’ll be in for a treat.

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Thank you Omoruyi for inviting me to read your story.

Omoruyi Uwuigiaren’s writing achievements include articles, cartoons, editorials and nine books. Guardian, Vanguard newspapers, Town Crier Times, Moronic Ox Literary and Cultural Journal, the Publicist International and other literary journals have published his works.

The book which this story comes from his collection ‘The City Heroes & Other Stories from the Heart of Africa’ which is available at http://www.open-bks.com/library/moderns/the-city-heroes/author.html, and Omoruyi blogs at http://omoruyiu.blogspot.com.

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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I review stories of up to 2,500 words on this ‘Short Story Saturdays’ feature. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internetview my Books and I also have a blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Next up is my author spotlight of novelist and children’s author Barbara Ebel, then the blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with non-fiction author and White House correspondent Fred Lucas – the five hundred and forty-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

Short Story Saturday Review 014: Torn by Tracey Alley

Welcome to the Short Story Saturday review slot and the fourteenth review in this series. This week’s review is of the 1,009-word short story ‘Torn’ by fantasy and thriller writer Tracey Alley, taken from her short story collection The Kaynos History Tales.

They say to start any writing with action, and although the first half of this story is slow, it is very intense with highly descriptive detail of our protagonist’s surroundings and situation. This gave it more of the feel of a chapter beginning which allows for an elaborate unwinding, but there’s no doubt that we have empathy with the character, who until the second half is nameless. Some months ago a beta reader critiqued one of my short stories (which went on to be Aprils’ Fool) and said that I hadn’t named April until half-way through the story, and therefore felt more engaged with the character once she knew her name. I agreed and brought her name in at the beginning (also to connect with the title quicker). Whether a writer should do that or not may be a matter of opinion but something I probably notice more now than I would have done and something for authors to think about.

I mentioned titles (and I’m a big fan of them), short snappy titles work well (anything short and snappy should attract the reader’s attention) and ‘Torn’ is very apt for this story.

Knowing nothing about this piece before I started reading it I admit to being a little disappointed (especially after such a long build up) when the true nature of her predicament was revealed but then I’m mainly a crime writer (and reader), and clearly have a dark side, and it felt to me like the beginning of a crime novel until I read on into the second half and realised it had a fantasy element. The character here did seem to recover very quickly, given how much pain she had been in during the first half of the story which left me wondering whether she had imagined it. We’re not given an indication of her age but she felt immature which would fit with her actions and thoughts.

The dialogue is convincing and although I’m not a fantasy expert (far from it), the writing felt realistic.

Stories should have dilemma and there’s plenty of it here. As I mentioned earlier, it felt like a chapter rather than short story and I wanted the story to continue, which is the sign of good writing. If the other stories in Tracey’s collection are of a similar vein, fantasy fans shouldn’t be disappointed.

Thank you Tracey for letting me read your story.

Tracey Alley was born and raised in QLD, Australia but caught the travel bug quite early and lived in Melbourne and Christchurch, New Zealand for a while. She considers herself a Christian, albeit a slightly esoteric, left of center one who also has a great amount of respect for Buddhist tradition and philosophy.

She’s infinitely curious about the world and her friends describe her as an intellectual butterfly as she flits from one topic to the next. She’s a pacifist, a little bit left of center and can, like most people, be very complex. She’s passionate about the things she believes in and believes firmly that you have to keep learning as you grow. So far she has two degrees and will likely do more study.

She believes she was born to be a writer and feels blessed that circumstances allow her to write full-time and still survive [although not on royalties yet :)]. She fell in love with words at a very young age and is a voracious reader, often with two or three books on the go at the same time.

One little-known but rather interesting fact about Tracey is that on the paternal side her great-grandfather owned a circus. He was a lion tamer and worked with all the big cats and her great-grandmother was a trapeze artist and of Romany Gypsy blood. On her mother’s side of the family she was born into Scottish aristocracy.

Her website is http://traceyalley.weebly.com and her novels and short story collection The Kaynos History Tales are available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I review stories of up to 2,500 words on this ‘Short Story Saturdays’ feature. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me. I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Short Story Saturday Review 013: The Little Man Who Was Almost There by Thomas Locicero

Welcome to the Short Story Saturday review slot and the thirteenth review in this series. This week’s review is of the 2,230-word story ‘The Little Man Who Was Almost There’ by Thomas Locicero. The story appears first (and therefore available in the free preview!) of his collection Under the Tree.

In the five-word first sentence we’re introduced to the protagonist immediately and ‘Clete’ is a fantastic name, and as it turns out a character with a colourful past.

Throughout the story we have ‘Chinese whispers’ where in some cases his memory lets him down, other times its embellishments and that just goes to add to the charm of the piece.

The writing itself is very descriptive, graphic in places, a very ‘educated’ read. There’s humour, I love that he’s in his eighties and his mother is still alive, and the banter between husband and wife.

Initially his wife, Greta, was my favourite character; as she was very calm and soothing, and having been married for so long knows exactly what to say to Clete, but (I have to ‘pick’ – this is a review after all), I was  disappointed with what she tells Clete the morning after the late news programme, and turns it to her benefit. I felt up to then that it was out of character, however (without wishing to give too much away), it does end up being to their mutual benefit so she redeems herself. 🙂

Thank you, Thomas, for inviting me to read your story.

Thomas Locicero is an award-winning short story writer, poet and essayist, as well as a playwright and monologist. His work has appeared in Roanoke Review, Boston Literary Magazine, The Long Island Quarterly, riverrun, Omnibus Arts & Literature Anthology, A&U: America’s AIDS Magazine and Beginnings, among other literary periodicals. Originally from East Islip, Long Island, Thomas resides with his wife, Lil, and their sons, Sam and Ben, in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Under the Tree is his first short story collection.

Thomas says, “From my earliest recollections of childhood, the one constant in my life has been my desire to be an author. I remember being in fourth grade at Timber Point Elementary School in East Islip and writing a poem for a girl named Jennifer Herman. While the class was watching a film, I was sneaking my way toward Jennifer’s desk to hand her the poem. Mr. Biangardi caught me and snatched the paper from my hand. The class was giddy with joyful anticipation because, as was the custom, Mr. Biangardi was going to read the ‘note’ aloud to the class, using my embarrassment as a weapon to deter future note passers. After reading the poem to himself, he said, “You wrote this?” I answered, ‘Yes, just now.’ To the dismay of my classmates, Mr. Biangardi handed the poem back to me and said, ‘It’s really good.’ After class, he encouraged me to pursue writing. As an addendum to the story, Jennifer Herman moved away the following year and I never saw her again.”

Morgen: What a shame, although there’s a story there… I wonder if she’s Googlable. 🙂

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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I review stories of up to 2,500 words on this ‘Short Story Saturdays’ feature. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Next up is my spotlight of mystery, YA and children’s author Marilyn Levinson, then the blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow morning with mystery / thriller writer Helen Smith – the five hundred and thirteenth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me. I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.