Jeffrey Archer – Cat o’Nine Tales

Published 2006 by McMillan (Pan McMillan Ltd)

ISBN 13 9781405032575 HB

Cat O’Nine Tales is the fifth collection of irresistible short storeis from the master storyteller.  These yarns are ingeniously plotted, with richly drawn characters and deliciously unexpected conclusions and with the added bonus of illustrations by the internationally acclaimed artist, Richard Searle.

I like Jeffrey Archer.  He can spin a yarn and make it quite believable.  What I liked about these stories were that they were a collection of tales that he heard while on the inside (in prison) so relate, in some way to crime and punishment.  There are only three stories which he didn’t hear in prison, but fit in well with the rest of the tales.

Like most of Lord Archer’s stories, these are told rather than shown, but that doesn’t take away from the essence of the tales and their morals, which is mostly that you can’t bring a good crook down.  There are tales of innocence, murder, swindling, cheating and big companies, but all are about the human being who makes mistakes.  Some are on purpose, others are… well just plain criminal!

If you enjoy a collection of amusing short stories, you will like Jeffrey Archers short stories.

4 out of 5

Slightly Peculiar Love Stories

Whimsical, intense, pensive or amorous — we bring you a love story for every mood, each a little unorthodox, mysterious, or slightly peculiar.

Slightly Peculiar Love Stories paint a grand mandala of experience and circumstance: love appears and disappears; it aches and it dares; amuses and amazes; hurts, heals and begins again.

Love preoccupies writers from New Zealand, Israel, Hong Kong, Argentina and Athens, the UK and the US. Their 26 stories have been selected and edited by Penelope Todd.

Rosa Mira exceptional e-books first popped up on my radar a few months ago when I saw the name on twitter. Ever eager to discover new gems of publishing in New Zealand, I checked out the site and found that an anthology was coming out soon.

Of course, when I saw a tweet asking for reviewers, I jumped at the chance. I’m quite fond of anthologies, really enjoying the variety that you get. This one in particular interested me as the writers who have contributed are from all over the world – I felt like it was a good opportunity to experience ‘love’ from the perspective of other nationalities.

As the title suggests, these are not your typical love stories. The foreword puts is nicely: “Of course the story of love fulfilled is no story at all; it’s in the gap between longing and completion that the narrative appears.” And it is in those spaces that these stories come to life. Each one gives a glimpse, an insight, into the lives and loves of someone else.

The anthology starts off really well with some of my favourite stories: Beyond Pluto by Sue Wooten, a beautiful story of how life can get away on you, of potential love, lost but not forgotten, followed by the haunting tale What Exactly Did I Lose? by Lawrence Pun. This is translated from Chinese, but loses nothing in translation.

In fact, that was one of the striking things for me – that while the telling of these tales of loves differs quite dramatically depending on country of origin, the expressions, the pains, the difficulties and splendors of love are the same the world over. It felt like with each story another strand was woven to show the web that links humanity together.

The stories within these pages are short, some incredibly so (as short as a few sentences), and as such I think it’s an anthology best savoured over a few days. Each story stands on it’s own and will provide a unique experience. I really enjoyed taking my time with the collection and think there is something for everyone here. There were only a few stories that I didn’t really connect with, though I am sure they will appeal to other readers.

Definitely worth checking out. I know I’ll be browsing further titles from this publisher, and hunting out other works from the authors featured in this anthology.

Interview – Christopher Ruz

Yesterday I posted my review of Ruz’s brand new collection of short stories. Today we follow up with an interview with the man himself!

Here is a bit about Chris, in case you haven’t checked out his website. Blatantly stolen from his ‘about’ page’:

I’ve been writing for the past six years and studying industrial design for the past four, graduating in 2010 from RMIT with a BA Design (Industrial Design) (Hons). I’m now developing my design portfolio while also working on a number of fiction projects, both largeand small. If you’re interested in publishing anything you see here, please drop me a line.

I’ve had short stories previously published by fiction blogs such as Weaponizer and Labyrinth Inhabitant’s Magazine. I also have shorts to be published in upcoming issues of Birdville Magazine and Vehicle Magazine. My short story Long Way Home won the first Ergofiction Search Term Challenge. I’ve also been rejected by lots of very famous people, which must count for something.

Now, on with the questions!

What made you decide to put together and publish a collection of short stories yourself?

The problem with writing shorts is that there are fewer and fewer outlets willing to take a punt on unpublished authors these days. Short fiction mags rely on stories by big names to pull in sales, and the web-zines are inundated with so many email submissions that it can take up to and above 9 months for a reply. As a result, my short stories were languishing. I put them up on my blog for free and got great responses but absolutely nothing in the way of commercial interest, and the Kindle store seemed like a fantastic way to reach out to a wider audience. I would have made the book free on Amazon, but I wanted to experiment with how the site works as a sales platform, because I have plans to release a few novels on there in the future. Thus, the idea of the 99c collection was born.

I’ve had the pleasure of reading several of your short stories online, at various venues. How did you go about deciding which stories to include in this particular collection?

I would have made the collection far larger, but a few folk I was chatting to on reddit.com recommended I keep the wordcount for the collection under 30,000, so the book could be considered for inclusion in the Kindle Singles program. So, I started with my two fan-favourite stories, They Trade in Eyes and The Ant Tower, and then looked through my collection for others to fill the gaps. Two of my personal favourite stories, Black Rain and What You Bring Back, were too similar in tone, so I tossed a coin and chose Black Rain. The rest were chosen to roughly balance out the ratios of fantasy to scifi to paranormal weirdness.

From the reviews you’ve had so far, it would seem like a clear favourite of readers is ‘They Trade In Eyes’ (I think it would be my favourite as well!)—do you have a favourite?

I love all the stories in Past the Borders – the stories I don’t adore or that don’t resonate with readers, I throw in the bin. But my absolute fave is The Ant Tower, for a number of reasons: the first is the central image of the tower itself, which came to me in a dream one night and never let go. Second is the dynamic between Parkin and the Magician, which evolved through a series of accidents – I never originally intended for the two to fall in love. At one point in the story I wrote, “Parkin felt a burning in his gut, in his groin,” or something to that effect. It was just supposed to be indicative of his fear at the time, but when I re-read that part later I realised, damn, Parkin loves this guy. And that flipped the entire story on its head. Third, is that there was so much history and conflict implied around the edges of the story that I couldn’t get it out of my head, even after the fifth re-write. It sat and mouldered for two years, until finally I realised what the aftermath of The Ant Tower would be, and how grand and sweeping a story it would provide. Hence my current project, the Century of Sand trilogy.

Having done this once, is it an experience you’d be keen to repeat? Or do you think you’ll be focusing more on your longer works now?

I’ll definitely be repeating the process soon. I almost have a second collection of great shorts compiled, which will go up in the coming months, as well as a scifi novel of mine called Alpha Slip that aaaaalmost made it into publishers hands. All will be priced at 99c. There’ll be more collections to follow, in time. Short stories are in my blood.

I really enjoyed the novella ‘The Ant Hill’, I believe that’s a story that comes into play in your novel ‘Century of Sand’ –are you looking to self-publish that title as well? If so, when do you think we’ll be able to get our grubby little hands on it?

Century of Sand is, I think, the first novel of mine that has a solid chance of print publication. So I’ll be shopping it around to publishers for at least six to nine months when its done – if they don’t want it, up on the Kindle store it goes! I’ll have the entire trilogy drafted by about September, and the first book edited into final-draft shape by the end of 2011.

Finally, if you had to choose a friend based solely on five movies, what would those movies be? (Yes, I know it’s not writing related, but I’m always interested to know which movies people think best represent the traits/similarities they would appreciate in a friend).

Tough question. Most of the movies I love don’t make for good friends. For example, be wary of anyone that loves Fight Club or Requiem for a Dream. Monty Python and the Holy Grail would have to be #1. Second… maybe Children of Men. It implies imagination, patience and empathy. Memento is third, I think it takes a keen, analytical mind to appreciate that one. And finally… Born to Fight and Terminator 2. Because I need friends who appreciate the fine art of things being blown up and people being kicked in the face.

Thank you SO much for joining us here today, Chris, and for answering my questions. Best of luck with your current short story collection, and all future works. I for one am looking forward to reading your novels when they are released, whatever the format.

Past the Borders – Christopher Ruz

I haven’t done an ABC Indie Fiction Challenge read for a little while, so when Chris Ruz announced that he’d released a collection of short stories I jumped right on over to Amazon and got myself a copy. At .99c it’s a bargain!

Disclaimer: I met Chris awhile back through mutual friends and have admired his writing skills for awhile. However, I had no idea he was putting out a short story collection until it happened. It was a happy surprise.

This is the second short story collection I have read this year, the first being A.M. Harte’s Hungry for You. They are both fabulous in completely different ways.

I have always loved Chris’ writing style – he tells a story with very little excess, clean yet beautifully written. For some reason that I haven’t yet placed my finger on, I had a similar emotional response to some of the stories in ‘Past the Borders’ as I did to those in ‘Looking for Jake’ by China Mieville, and at times I felt unsettled, anxious even (and I say that in a good way!). I think it’s this core response to the characters and stories which really elevates the work. When the pages disappear and you’re there inside the story, you know the writer is doing a good job.

This collection has six short stories and a novella in it. I really like this combination; the stories chosen range through science fiction, contemporary fantasy, and general oddness. I thought the novella was a great way to end the book, rounding out a solid collection. Not only is it a fantastic story in itself, but it also gives a wonderful introduction to the world where Chris’ novel ‘Century of Sand’ is set.

I loved each of these stories for different reasons, but all of them for their intelligence – and for the fact that Ruz appears to have written for an intelligent audience. I very much appreciate not having every last thing explained to me, it is a refreshing thing in this day and age where far too many people (in just about every entertainment media) feel the need to do so.

This collection is a bargain at .99c. If you like speculative fiction, you should definitely check it out.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting an interview with Chris, so tune in then to get a little more insight into this up and coming writer – I firmly believe he is one to keep an eye on.

H is for Harte

Originally posted at just-cassie.com on February 11th, 2011

Disclaimer: I’ve known Anna for awhile now through the wonders of the internet, but that doesn’t mean I won’t give an honest review of her work 😉 I am pretty sure that even if I didn’t know her, I’d have wanted to read this collection of short stories. Zombies. ’nuff said.

My fourth read for the ABC Indie Reading Challenge was Anna’s recent release ‘Hungry For You’ which combines zombies and romance in various interesting, and original ways. From her site:

Love is horrible. It’s ruthless, messy, mind-altering, and raw. It takes no prisoners. It chews you up and spits you out and leaves you for dead. Love is, you could say, very much like a zombie.

In this haunting short story collection, anything is possible—a dying musician turns to tea for inspiration; a police sergeant struggles with a very unusual victim; a young wife is trapped in a house hiding unimaginable evil….

With Hungry For You, A.M. Harte explores the disturbing and delightful in an anthology that unearths the thin boundary between love and death.

There is a lot to like in this collection. It’s a nice length, each story can be devoured quickly, and then mulled over, she re-imagines zombies in many different ways, some of which I can’t say I’ve ever seen before. Which is saying something. Zombies have been done to death (‘scuse the pun), rehashed in so many ways, but often using the same old bits and bobs. You know – meteors, folks rising from the dead, brain eating, that kind of thing. I love that it explores some new angles, and blends two things you might not think to bring together as the focus point for a collection: love and zombies.

I actually wish I had this in paperback – and that’s the first time I’ve had that thought since my Kindle arrived. I think perhaps collections such as this are more fun in paper book form though, because you can easily flick through, jump from story to story, read it in any way you want to. I am still a newbie Kindle user, but it seems easiest just to read from start to finish on the thing, and not so easy to flick through a text.

This is a book I would like to flick through. I’d have an easier time picking my favourites if I could. There are a couple in there that really tickled my fancy, and when I figure out which ones they are (I’ll be reading it again, I have no doubt!), I’ll make sure I come back and post them. I think for now it’s enough to say that there are some really fantastic stories in there, and the ones that aren’t as fantastic are still good stories. A really entertaining read. I gave it 4/5 stars.

Next on my list is Heirs of Mars, by Joseph Robert Lewis. I’m about 1/4 of the way through and really enjoying it so far!