December 2014

As I’ve been working on other projects, my December output has been less than normal, but still managed to have 5 stories published this month.

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November 2014

I’ve been rather quiet on the feature writing front these past few months, but here’s my November published output for the magazine.

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October 2014

Here are my published stories and features for the month of October 2014.

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Published Stories September 2014

Here’s my published stories for September 2014:

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Sussex Tales. A Book Review

Once again I have been given an advanced reading copy of a  book that’s due to be published to review. The book is, Sussex Tales by Staffordshire Moorlands based author, Jan Edwards.

Sussex Tales is a collection of stories set in Sussex, with the addition of some interesting recipes and folklore to boot. The narrator is the young Susan, who at times demonstrates that she’s a little bit wiser than her years.

This collection that easily could be a twee and saccharine toe-dip into a time gone by has a darker edge to it. Instead of, oh wasn’t it jolly when people still spent ha’pennies and made their own country wines, we have stories with truth at the heart.

The first chapter opens with a new born lamb being kept warm in the family kitchen and the story relishes the youthful exuberance that children have when in the company of young animals, however Susan makes no bones about being aware where animals bred for food end up. The honesty of life and death at lambing season is written well without any hint of mawkish window dressing.

The chapters not only give an insight into the area where the stories take place but they clearly investigate the human condition, in Cowslips and the Gorgon, we get to see extended family interaction and the influence of the matriarch. In Oak Leaves and Hand Grenades it’s the politics of being siblings that is handled with ease as an amusing story of discovery unravels.

My favourite chapter, Scallops and Raspberry Pie is a cleverly executed story. An innocent Sunday school trip to the seaside is laced with enough potential danger to tempt the reader into creating sub-plots as it unfolds. Do the young girls understand how their actions could be interpreted by the intriguing man in the shell shop? Superbly crafted, the author introduces an undercurrent of malevolence that the reader readily interprets into alleged domestic violence, however, at no point does Edwards confirm our suspicions. Mixed with the comedy that is woven into this tale of fish paste sandwiches, beach cricket and tucking of knickers into skirts is that post 1965 paranoia of children going missing at fairgrounds that many of us grew with.

Ms Edwards has the ability to write a simple line that promotes involuntary facial tics, how can you not read, ‘Linda slid on her most wheedling tone as easily as dragging on a well-worn shoe,’ and not raise an eyebrow in remembrance of someone similar and lines like, ‘He clutched an achingly new duffle bag to his chest with both arms and smile big enough to swallow melons,’ tease the corners of your mouth into a smile

Each of the chapters run sequentially over the course of one year from spring lambing through to Christmas giving the narrative flow a sense of purpose and fluidity, something many collections of short stories fail to achieve.

The stories are peppered with Sussex phrases and dialect, but not so liberally that you find yourself constantly flicking to the handy glossary at the back of the book, there’s enough to give a sense of setting without alienating the reader.

Whether you’re from Sussex or not this is an appealing and often amusing collection of tales from a bygone age, and with sentences like, ‘I scuttled after him, face stinging with the small, gritty snow that had begun to whistle on the tail of the bitter wind.’ I defy you  not to like them.

Sussex Tales will be published by Penkhull Press and will be available towards the end of this year from all the usual outlets.

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August 2014

August was a busy month with 15 of my articles published in Italy magazine. Here’s the links to them:

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House of Shadows. A Book Review

Being a writer means that sometimes you get to read novels before they are published, and last week, I was fortunate enough to be sent an ‘advanced reading copy’ of House of Shadows, by Misha M. Herwin.

The story is a beguiling account of a prolonged haunting , that takes place in a newly converted art studio, a Bristol council estate and a magnificent house where fortunes are revealed to have been linked with a nefarious trade.

As a young girl, Jo is befriended by a ghost who seems able to slip through time to be with her earth-bound friend. Jo’s life is far from an easy one, she’s no stranger to heartache. As the book progresses her backstory is revealed, but none of this is narrated in a cloying, misery-lit style, it’s delivered effectively to help define Jo’s character and give the reader a deeper understanding of why she makes the decisions she does.

The text is like a weekend train that pulls away neatly, comforting the reader as it smoothly moves along, eventually gathering a steady pace throughout the first chapters until it starts to gain speed in the middle and then propels you at breakneck speed to the tumultuous finale. The nicely paced chapter lengths help the tension to build from the start without the need for jarring passages that would detract from the beauty of the writing. Herwin uses a nice blend of descriptive prose and believable dialogue mixed with inner character thoughts to produce a well rounded piece of literature.

The characterisation is well thought out and each one develops easily on the page to create a clear and visual image. The teenager, Strif is a well observed character, so much so, that I found her teenage petulance and mood swings annoying, which I felt was the aim of the author. I particularly liked the characters of Cecile and Helene, both of whom where richly blended together, giving an unequivocal clarity to their relationship. With the character of Nan was superbly written and I’m sure many people will have no trouble identifying with her.

The novel’s setting is a well crafted juxtaposition between old and new, the edges between the eras are blurred perfectly allowing Jo’s experiences of the haunting where she passes from present day to the past to move seamlessly throughout the text. I think the ability to dip in and out of both Jo’s past and present and the past and present of the ghostly characters would have been a difficult thing for a new writer to achieve, however Herwin, an experienced and accomplished wordsmith handles the task with aplomb.

There are many great lines, lying in wait amid the prose and these gems give a sense of satisfaction to the reader; the knowledge that words have been carefully selected to create and mould the perfect sentence. There’s the realism of lines such as, ‘In front of her two kids argued about whether they wanted curry sauce or gravy on their chips,’ and the intended imagery of one that followed, ‘Fish lay beached in glass tanks, skin puffed with batter.’

Finally, although this is written for the female literary market, it works very well as a stand alone tale of haunting, hostility and the human condition. Making it a suitable applicant for a crossover within its intended readership demographic.

House of Shadows, will be released in October 2014, via Amazon and other outlets and will be the perfect accompaniment to your Halloween reading.

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