The Red Grouse Tales by Leslie W P Garland

The Red Grouse Tales: The Little Dog and Other Stories by Leslie W P Garland, 358 pages, December 2nd 2015, Genre: Contemporary Fiction. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

The Red Grouse Tales is a collection of four novellas into a larger work. Each tale is tied together by style and theme. The style of the work is first person storytelling narration. A person is telling the story to another person for the duration of each tale. This is my least favorite style, but that’s a personal preference. Others may like the way the stories are presented.

The theme that binds the tales together is the nature, origin, and manifestation of evil in our world. Each tale presents ‘evil’ in a different way and compels the reader to reflect on it. What is evil, truly? Can we know someone is ‘evil’? Is evil a sentient force striving to release itself and cover the world? Or is evil just a name we give to things that horrify us? How do we confront evil when others can’t see it for what it is?

Of the four tales, my favorite is the third one, “The Golden Tup”. In this tale, a couple having marital problems discovers a journal from one hundred and fifty years ago. The journal reveals information about an evil on their farmland. Once the couple agrees as to the place where evil dwells, what they do to remedy the situation is truly horrifying. Were they right? Or were they now “evil”?

Overall, I really liked the concept of each story. I think the style made it more difficult for me to really get into it. The stories weaved the theme well throughout the work and the style remained consistent.

You can find this book at The Red Grouse Tales.

Book Description:

Comprising four intriguing novella length contemporary adult fantasy stories which contain mystery, a hint of the supernatural or paranormal, together with a passing nod towards philosophy and religion – though in these modern fairy or folk tales the fantastic doesn’t happen in some remote fantasy world, but right here in this one, in very ordinary, almost everyday circumstances!

The Little Dog – a story of good and evil, and retribution.

This tales is told by Bill, a retired forester, and takes the form of most of the stories in our lives, namely, that we have no idea that we are living a story until later when previous events suddenly seem to fall into place and make some kind of sense.

Bill recounts a week in his early working life when, paired with an older, unsavoury and unpopular colleague, they find a little dog sitting beside the forest haul-road way out in a remote part of the forest. What is the little dog doing there? As the week progresses Bill finds himself becoming emotionally attached to it while also becoming increasingly concerned about just who is his objectionable workmate, and when he notices that the little dog is no longer present at its usual spot his concerns heighten, as he cannot help but feel that his workmate has something to do with the dog’s disappearance.

Although a troubled Bill has a conversation with his local priest and learns of the nature of sin and evil, he remains blind to that which is right in front of him. However the very next day events suddenly take an unexpected turn and the young naive Bill starts to learn some awful truths.

The Crow – a poignant tale of misunderstanding, dying, blame and bitterness.

This story, which centres on our almost desperate desire to leave something to mark our lives upon this earth, is told as a history recounted by Dave, of the time when he, as a child, was taken by his mother to a hospice where he met a dying and embittered old Irish priest known as Mad Father Patrick, who told him about the school days and subsequent rise of a local councillor, Reginald Monday, and of his (Monday’s) involvement in the construction of a dam which flooded a valley. Father Patrick’s increasingly mad tale is told with a blend of biblical quotations, philosophical musings and wild fantasy, but how does it end and just why is he so bitter?

The Golden Tup – a dreadful tale of paradise being cruelly taken by latent evil.

Can evil be in a place? The tale opens with Verity, a farmer’s wife, recalling how a young couple were arrested a few years previously for killing their newborn baby. How could such a nice young couple have done such a dreadful thing? Through a series of flashbacks we learn how they had created their rural idyll, how an enigmatic man had come into their lives and how their idyll and relationship had gradually fallen apart – how, with references to Milton’s Paradise Lost, their paradise was lost. Gradually the young wife reveals a dreadful past, but Verity realises that she is holding something back, but what? What is the terrible truth that caused her and her husband to kill their baby?

The White Hart – a happy ghost story, if there can be such a thing!

Told by a likeable male chauvinist, bachelor and keen fell-runner, Pete Montague recalls three strange incidents which he initially thought were unconnected. The first is his encounter with a little albino deer which he found in the forest when he was out for a jog. The second is that of a chance meeting with a beautiful, young but somewhat enigmatic girl in a remote chapel, and of their conversation in which she told him of the tragic story of the daughter of the family which built it. And the third incident …. A ghost story with a happy ending!

Adult fantasy stories for those who like to think about what they are reading

(Warning to sensitive readers; these tales are for adults and so do contain some bad language and references to sex).

About the Author:

Leslie Garland was born in 1949, qualified as a Chartered Civil Engineer and worked for several years on projects in the UK, the Far East and Africa. During this period he won the Institution of Civil Engineers “Miller Prize” for a paper on tunnelling. Changing times resulted in a change in direction and after qualifying as an Associate Member of both the British Institute of Professional Photography and the Royal Photographic Society he started his own stock photograph library and wrote for the trade press. An unexpected break in his Internet connection fortuitously presented the time to make a start on a long cherished project of a series of short stories, and the first two of “The Red Grouse Tales” were drafted. Two more tales have followed and he is now working on a second batch of tales. He lives with his wife in Northumberland, England. More information is available on http://www.lesliegarland.co.uk.

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Why You Should Be Writing Short Fiction

Why You Should Be Writing Short Fiction

By Leigh Holland.

The novel. It’s such a massive project. There’s outlining, character arcs, pacing, setting, and am I the only person who’s ever taken days to pick the perfect names for characters? How do we find the time to work, take care of our homes and yards and kids, have a social life, and still find time to write a novel? Sometimes it can seem like a slogging chore instead of the passion fruit of our joyful, inspired labor. We want that gleaming, finished product of our imagination to be ready now rather than later.

I’m not saying to stop writing your novel. Keep at it, by all means! But you don’t have to wait until your novel is complete to create and publish another project. Sure, people want novels.  But I love picking up a short read that can entertain me through my lunch break. I’m not alone. There’s a market out there for short stories.

Short fiction helps readers discover you. How does that work? For Amazon, the more published works you have available, the more likely it is that someone will find one of your books. If they like it, they may buy more. This leads to your books showing up more often in Amazon’s recommendation queue, which in turn leads to even more work being found by readers.

It’s helpful if at least one of your short fiction tales sells for .99 cents. You’ll make .30 cents on each copy, but most people will spend .99 cents on anything that looks interesting. You want to eliminate their reason to not buy one (or more) of your books. It helps get your book in front of the reader and if they enjoy it, they’ll buy other works from you. Once you’re ready to publish your novel, this will help you sell the novel because you’ve established a base of readers who already enjoy your work.

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How much should you charge for short fiction? Most people would consider it fair to charge .99 cents to $1.99 for a story under 10,000 words. Most short stories run around 5,000 words. Let’s say you write 2 short stories per month. After one year, you have published 24 short stories at an average price point of 1.50 per copy, of which you’d keep about .45 cents. Even if you sold one copy of each book per day the following year, that’s over $3,500 you’d earn from those stories in one year. Now, I’m not saying money should be the focus when you write books- I’m saying that those short stories can have added financial benefits. Once you’ve published several stories in a genre, pull them together into a larger collection. Price the collection at less than the sum of the individual stories.

Additionally, run giveaways once every three to six months. Offering stories for free helps build up your readership. This can also be helpful in trying to obtain honest reviews from readers.

Apart from marketing, platform building, and sales strategies, there are artistic benefits to writing short fiction regularly. If you want to expand on a minor character from one of your published novels, a short story is a wonderful way to do that. If you loved the world you created in a novel but felt you didn’t have a chance to explore it further, short fiction is another way to expand and explore that fictional world. Want to write the prequel for your hero, but there’s not enough material for a novel? Are you worried it’s still too much for a short story? Try writing a novella. The lengths for different types of fiction can be found at Ironclad Ways To Increase Your Word Count.

Suffering from writer’s block as you work on your main novel? After trying these tips, check out some writing prompts. Find one that inspires you and write a short story or piece of flash fiction (under 2,000 words, flash fiction is typically about 500 words). It can help break you out of that cycle and get you back to writing productively.

Happy writing!

Some Sites Where You Can Sell Short Fiction (Check Their Submission Guidelines)

May and September Only: AGNI

American Short Fiction

Asimov’s

Clarkes’ World Magazine

Daily Science Fiction

Devilfish Review

Flash Fiction Online

Giganotosaurus

Glimmertrain

Strange Horizons

Vestal Review

A Boy From The Chesapeake by Larry Roszkowiak

A Boy From The Chesapeake: A Collection of Short Stories by Larry Roszkowiak, 146 pages, February 13th 2017, 2nd Edition, Published by Betsy R. Johnson, Paris. Genre: Satire. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

by Leigh Holland

A Boy From The Chesapeake is a collection of thirty-five short stories. Each story is about one of the narrator’s “girls” and runs roughly chronologically. Told in a first person narrative style, the longest story runs eighteen pages. The shortest in the collection is about 3 lines on a page. All the stories share a common theme. The narrator is searching for his girl. Is she the one? Is she his true love? Maybe one of the girls we read about already fits that bill. Maybe more than one does. Maybe they all do.

Here are some of my favorite stories. First, I enjoyed “Chesapeake”, in which we learned that his first girl was his bay. Literally, the Chesapeake bay was his first love. Mysterious, comforting, always waiting for his return, the bay could draw him home anytime. Second, I liked “Holy Saturday”, a tale in which he witnesses the elaborate dating rituals of his older brother, learning from him how important girls truly were.

“True Love” was the sweet, sad, wistful tale of the woman he still calls “true love”. She introduced him to literature and inspired him to become a playwright. She changed him and gave him a great gift. My favorite was “Mrs. Crunch”, a story in which he has an affair with a married woman, how it affects her marriage, and what becomes of the relationship in the end. I loved the way he describes the sound of the gravel upon her car’s approach and how he calls himself “Pavlov’s concubine” for her.

The last story isn’t so much a story as it is a reflection on what has been prior. “Girls” reflects on the work itself. What was the author trying to discover about life, about himself, about his love of various women over the course of his life? What is it about “girls” that “boys” love? What is it that women have that men need so desperately from them?

I enjoyed reading A Boy From The Chesapeake. It was like looking into someone’s memories and their reflections on their life experiences. At times, the stories were funny. Other times, they were more thoughtful and serious. At all times, they were made more meaningful simply through knowing the stories reflected something real.

You can find this anthology at Amazon at A Boy From The Chesapeake.

The Itching Scars by Mohy Omar

the itching scars

The Itching Scars (The Scars Book 1) by Mohy Omar, May 9th, 2017, Genre: Anthologies/Psychological/Suspense. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

by Leigh Holland

The Itching Scars is the first anthology of short stories released by Mohy Omar. It contains three short stories. The anthology currently sells for $2.99 at Amazon and is available through Kindle Unlimited for free reading at the time of this posting. The Itching Scars is a collection of stories tied together by a central theme, namely, that being human is hard and we all carry the scars of our failures and defeats. We can hide the scars, but even so, we know they’re there. They “itch”, affect our choices and behavior, and shape who we are as human beings. Omar excellently weaves this theme throughout three different genres in turn.

The first tale is “To Court Death”. In this story, the narrator reflects on those he has known who have passed into the great unknown. Gritty and dark, our narrator takes us on a journey into the past of these acquaintances and lovers, causing us to wonder where the tale is taking us. What lies at the end is horrifying, and it is only at the end that we see how these deaths linked together in the narrator’s mind.

The second story is “The Space Above, The Space Within”. We’re abruptly thrust into a dystopian future long after the Hate War ended. The authorities are taking Votum’s father to be slain for believing in God; in fact, they are executing him for opposing the ‘truth’ of the regime. Votum wants his father to live, wants to save him, as would anyone. Omar once more builds to a horrifying conclusion.

The final tale is “Under the Rust”. Told in a first-person perspective, this story focuses on a grim conversation between the narrator and a summoned demon. He confesses his sins to the demon. The demon is anxious to get to the root of his worst sin, to remove it from him and take his soul in the process. He wants desperately to unburden himself, but has difficulty admitting to his true crime. The ending is interesting and unexpected.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this anthology.  Much of the narrative style reminded me of the narration from “Sin City”; particularly in “To Court Death”. The most horrifying situations not only chilled me, but made me think about what I might do if I were in that character’s shoes. As the author writes, “They never said being human could be this hard.” As a fan of gritty, grim tales, I was left wanting more. My only complaint was that there were only these three tales in this anthology. I read the collection in forty minutes. I’d recommend this anthology to readers of short stories who love dark tales that examine the underbelly of humanity.

This book can be found at The Itching Scars.