Saturday 7 May 2011

[Book Review] From Dark Places

It seems like many months ago indeed that I stumbled across a blog by an English writer, whose work impressed me enough to find her on Twitter and begin an acquaintance. Since then, we've become (I hope!) friends, and Emma Newman has become one of my very favourite writers. Emma was really one of the first writers I interacted with on Twitter, so if it wasn't for her, there are a lot of writers I know now who I might otherwise never have met! She writes flash fiction as part of the #FridayFlash community, and she's currently promoting the e-book release of her first novel, 20 Years Later. However, it's her current release that interests me here, since I spent this afternoon at its London launch.

The short story is a splendid thing indeed, a snapshot into a time and place that we can visit with the writer as our guide. More fulfilling on a lunchbreak or while waiting for the bus than the gossip columns of a glossy magazine, the short story has become a bit of an artform. So much so that I've been looking forward to the official launch of Emma's anthology, From Dark Places, for a while.

Now, I already own the original e-book release that Emma did some time ago, and I've read many of the stories as a member of her Short Story Club (more on that later). However, the anthology was picked up, expanded, and polished by Jodi Cleghorn of eMergent Publishing, the Anglo-Australian independent publishing company behind the Chinese Whisperings and Literary Mixtapes projects, as well as 100 Stories for Queensland.

From Dark Places comprises twenty five stories of varying lengths, exploring a myriad of themes and ideas, yet always centred upon the very real dilemmas and problems faced by the characters. As the blurb says, "Abby finds a creative solution to her father’s problems. Ben makes a pact with the Devil for a new Mum. Katie is pursued by unrelenting voices. John just found his colleague’s hand in a strange girl’s lap. Jarvis is falling apart on his wedding day. Rosalind comes face-to-face with her number one fan. And that is just the beginning." They're dark and chilling, yet altogether human. Stories might deal with zombie invasions, angels and demons, or simply the fallout from a relationship gone awry, and yet it is the people at the centre of the stories that binds them together.

Emma also does audio work, so it was a real pleasure to hear her read aloud four of the stories - The Victim, The Letter, The Straw and In the Bag. The latter in particular is an impressive tale that encompasses the quest for eternal youth, celebrity stalkers and zombies. You can't say that of many stories. My own personal favourites in the volume are probably The Art of Desire, in which a little girl discovers a special artistic talent, Shedding, which is a wonderful little story of the true depths of understanding, Idolised, a powerful story about the dangerous reaches of belief, and the title story, From Dark Places. I award the anthology five blunt pencils out of five!

You can order a signed copy here, or you can buy the e-book for £2.99. You can read the first two stories here. If you like, you can follow Emma on Twitter @EmApocalyptic and you can "like" the book on Facebook.

Many of the stories in the anthology started life as stories sent to Emma's Short Story Club - members send prompts every month, and Emma chooses her favourite and writes the story. The winner gets to see it first, before it's sent to the rest of the members. If you want to get to read brand new and exclusive dark fiction, you can sign up for free here. In fact, my own prompt went on to inspire The Victim, included in From Dark Places, so I highly recommend signing up!

Friday 6 May 2011

Friday Flash - Lone Vigil

Original image by dragoroth-stock. Edit by me.
Fear not, dear friends, there is actually a Friday Flash, it's just not here this week. Instead, it can be found over on my brand new Fowlis Westerby blog since it features the fearless Cavalier!

In future I'll be posting his flashes on his blog, although I'll still be posting regular Friday Flashes here, along with my Monday Photo Prompts and any other nonsense I can rustle up during the week, including more deconstructions and deleted scenes!

As always, comments on Lone Vigil are welcome either here or there, but Fowlis would be exceedingly pleased to see you.

Tuesday 3 May 2011

Friday Flash - Deleted Scenes

I posted my Friday Flash, First Date, last week, and I promised I'd post a "deleted scene" since I found myself torn between two endings while writing the flash. I threw open the voting to the Twitterati and I got more votes for the so-called "unhappy ending", but for those who wanted a happy ending, here it is. I haven't posted the rest of the flash for the sake of brevity, but due to the way I split the flash into chunks, you can pick it up from the original story. Hopefully this will grant even more of an insight into my writing process.

Deleted Scene
I work up the courage to call Parker. His phone rings for what feels like an eternity, before I'm put through to voicemail. I hang up, knowing my voice will crack and betray my disappointment if I try to leave a message. I look out of the window, keen to face away from everyone in case they see me welling up. I think of going home, and I picture Tex greeting me at the door and wagging his tail when I give him a cuddle.

I look up and notice the food critic watching me. He smiles, and the warmth reaches his eyes. He looks so much like my Ben. Same twinkling brown eyes, same dimples. I can't stop myself from smiling back. He slips his notebook and pen into a battered briefcase, and walks over to my table. He gestures to the empty seat opposite me, and asks if he can join me. I sneak a glance at my phone. Parker is now almost an hour and a half late, and there is still no word from him. Normally I would say no, but I'm grateful for the company. I nod, and the critic sits down.

It turns out his name is Richard, and I was right - he is a food critic for the Post. He likes Johnny Cash and the plays of Oscar Wilde, and he speaks very good French and very poor Spanish. We spent two hours talking about everything and nothing. As he insists on paying the bill, I realise I still haven't heard from Parker, although I no longer care. Richard gives me his number, and walks me to my car. He kisses my hand as we say goodbye. I'm still smiling as I drive away.

Monday 2 May 2011

Photo Prompt 31

Latest prompt, ready and waiting.

If you want to use the prompt, all I ask is that you include a link to this entry and a credit to me for the photograph, and that you post a link to your story in the comments box below so I can see what you've come up with! If you don't comment on this entry, then I can't comment on your story.

The thirty-first prompt is Zombie at the Cashpoint.

Even Zombies Need Cash

All photo prompts are my own photography - you can find more of it on Flickr. You can also buy my prints from Deviantart. 20% of all proceeds go to charity - the other 80% go towards my PhD fees!