Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

New Short Story Collection

I compiled thirty-one stories that I have written over a span of thirty-one years into a story collection available in paperback and e-book editions. I chose the story The Cat Who Would Be a Woman as the title piece because of its whimsical nature.  As the lead story, it puts a new spin on the age-old fictional device of anthropomorphism.  Don Rogers, graphic designer, created the cover. We discussed whether it would be perceived as too risqué, but a survey of both men and women who read the story thought the sensuality of the cover image was tasteful while suggestive of  the playful cat Gretchen whose fairy cat godmother Nabila appears to grant her wish.

Just as some cat tails are long and some are short, the tales in this collection offer something for every reader.  Their diverse subjects often employ eccentric characters and fantastical situations with surprise twists at the end. Some tales are a few pages that can be read in a few minutes while waiting for an appointment. The longest tale “Cosa Distinta” takes a woman on a romantic adventure between Chicago and Buenos Aires. The stories are quirky and unusual, the settings ranging from contemporary America to Chernobyl. Modern love relationships are explored in a humorous tone. A fractured fairy tale “Jack on the Beam,” which I originally composed for my son when he was ten years old, adds to the eclectic mix.  On serious notes, the death of a child in “Of Those Who Sleep” and the ravages of old age in “When the Curtain Comes Down” are explored.

This collection presents a kaleidoscope of delightful tales, mostly short, on a variety of themes with a goodly mixture of humor, horror, realism and fantasy. For a quick romp through a collection of stories that are unlike any others you may have read, I invite you to read my The Cat Who Would Be a Woman and Other Strange Tails,” the long and the short of my venture into the realm of short-story writing.

Other story titles in the collection are: Horse Wife Hattie, Some Peace and Quiet, Spirits from Down under, Beauty Secrets, Stella’s Farm, An Alien Game of Jacks, The Devil Went Down, Dostoyevsky in Chicago, Fortune Smiles, Celia, The Red Shed, What Horrified Mother, Year of the Drought, Cousins, Lazy KZ Bar, First Leson, Merlin, Suddenly Sane, Oh For Fudge Ripple, Road Work, A Visit to Mrs. Gulik, Rivalry, The Wolf at Our Door, Out of Character, The Tie That binds, Cycling of Maureen.

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Write What You Know: A Dubious Dictum?

We have heard this dictum from writing teachers–certainly, sage advise for reporters and journalists, but rather nonsensical when it comes to creative writing where the imagination is empowered in the breach of the known, indeed, to venture where no novelist has gone before. The essence of fiction and poetry is to behave and to think as our characters, most of them completely different than we are–different sex, different ethnic background, different traits, likes and dislakes.  This dictum would have me never writing about a farmer because I have never lived on a farm, never writing about a first-person male character because I am female, never writing about Borneo because I have never been to Borneo, never write about ancient Etruscans, and so on. If this was truly sound advice, Jean Auel would not have ventured to imagine Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals of the Ice Age in her novel The Clan of the Cave Bear. Extensive research is the key. Do your research and you can write about anything. Yet there will still be something you do not know; you cannot know. Let your imagination fill in the plot, conflict, characters and the blanks in the historical record.

What if Tolkien had written only philological articles and not ventured into Middle-earth? Assuredly, Tolkien brought his Anglo-Saxon scholarship and his World War I experience to bear upon his mythical creations.  Even a cursory review of the jewels of world literature reveal how bland and prosaic this dictum is, so simplistic, so ordinary that it cannot create the extraordinary.  Taking this dictum seriously demolishes the edifice of not only the fantasy genre, but all fiction.

From the beginning I blatantly ignored the dictum. I had the temerity to describe places where I had never been, bolstered by my research, films, and photographs. That is not to say that an author should not authenticate his fictional reality by visiting his settings, if possible, but it is not necessary unless he has written an article for a travel magazine.  Jean Auel could not buy a ticket to Ice Age Europe. I wrote a short story about Chernobyl, never having set my big toe an inch inside the former Soviet Union. The writing temperament encompasses empathy, desire to get under the skin of other people, suppositions about human motivations and the ability to envision the back story behind whatever is observed. True lies are inescapable. They are imagination–the one indispensable component of the creative process.