Tag Archives: short story

Book Review: Next Year, Things Will Be Different

Photo credit: <a href=http://www.designedbystarla.com/next-year-things-will-be-different/>Designed by Starla</a>

Photo credit: Designed by Starla

Note: This post is not paid for or sponsored in any way. All opinions are entirely my own. Got a book you’d like me to review? Get in touch using my contact form and I’ll see what I can do. 🙂

As a writer and blogger, sometimes I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to review a novel or a short story collection. This time around, I read Next Year, Things Will Be Different: A Collection of Short Stories by Tyramir Ross, John Biscarner, and J. C. Sayer and edited by Chris Forshner. I love reading YA fiction, so I was eager to dive right in. Here’s a breakdown of the stories that make up the collection:

Next Year by Tyramir Ross

Walker may not have finished high school yet, but he and his team are certainly finishing off every one of the G’laek they can. Now they face one of the oldest and most powerful of the ancient demons they have encountered. Can Walker use the power granted to him in Quellios of the Rising Waves, the great staff that conjures fire, as well as his own brains to save himself and his friends?
Illusion Of Choice by John Biscarner
When given the chance to have everything your heart desires, what would you ask for? Many of us have thought of what we would ask for, but have we ever really thought about the consequences of said wishes? Darren, a young teen, has been asked a simple question:  “What do you want from life?”
The Garbage Man’s Boy by J.C. Sayer
In the 1950s, the small northern Ontario town of Mallieu was terrorised by a serial killer named the Ferry Man.  Ron, the Garbage Man’s Boy, navigates small town politics in the wake of these murders, finding hidden truths he probably shouldn’t have found, while trying to protect the ones he loves from a terrible fate.

I love all of these stories. Each of them has well-crafted prose, believable characters, and an engaging plot. They combine everyday concerns with magic and a touch of darkness. Although “Next Year” and “Illusion of Choice” are based more in fantasy than “The Garbage Man’s Boy,” I find them no less appealing. Overall, these three stories succeed because they weave facets of adolescence–such as coming-of-age, loss of innocence, and the desire to find one’s place in the world–among the threads of narrative arc.

The only problem I have with the work is that it is so short. I didn’t want it to end. It’s been a while since I read a decent short story collection, and I’m pleased to say that this one didn’t let me down. If you’re looking for some new YA fiction to read, give this amazing collection a try.

If you’d like to read Next Year, Things Will Be Different, you can purchase it on Smashwords for 1.99 USD.

What short story collections have you read and enjoyed? Which of these stories sounds most interesting to you?

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The Session: An Excerpt

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Author’s Note: This is an excerpt from the short story I read for my senior capstone presentation. If you’re interested in reading more of my work, feel free to contact me.

The therapist’s office was a stuffy, wood-paneled room with beige carpet, tall windows, and mahogany furniture. There were golden curtains on the windows. The room was furnished with four chairs, a desk, a bookcase, and a potted plant. The room reminded Sheila of her gynecologist’s office, though she wasn’t sure why.

“I’ve heard of you two,” said the therapist, a blonde woman who could’ve been a model were it not for her height. “Then again, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t. I’m surprised you’re just now seeking therapy for what you both went through.”

Sheila twisted the white gold band on her left ring finger. Although Dirk had taken his ring off, she wanted to keep hers on. She felt naked without it. She’d grown accustomed to its weight. “This isn’t about the island. It’s about an affair.”

Dirk scratched his red stubble. “It’s about our whole marriage.”

“I see,” said the therapist. She scribbled something on her yellow legal pad and tapped her pen against her nose. She could be pretty, Sheila thought, if only she did something about her weight and her nose.

“A week ago I found him having sex with someone else.” Sheila pulled her hair into a ponytail. She had to keep her hands busy so she wouldn’t bite her cuticles. She’d made them bleed that morning. Her fingertips were covered with polka-dot Band-Aids. “We’ve only been back for two months. How could this have happened so quickly?”

“Did you ask him about it?” the therapist asked.

Sheila felt like smacking her. “Of course I asked him about it. He’s my husband, isn’t he? Why wouldn’t I have asked him?”

“Hey,” said Dirk, bumping Sheila’s knee with his, “do you need to get some air?”

Sheila realized that her nails were digging into her thighs. She stood and smoothed her skirt. “I’d like a drink of water.”

While she watched the therapist pour her a glass from the pitcher, Sheila thought about water. She remembered how much they’d come to value water on the island. She remembered the first few days, lying spread-eagle on the sand with the sun beating down, begging for Dirk to kill her, please, so she wouldn’t die of thirst. She remembered him asking her when. He’d wanted her to be certain when she wanted to go.

In the present, the therapist handed Sheila the glass of water. Sheila sat back down. She chugged the water without stopping and drained the entire glass. Dirk took the empty cup from her and set it on the table in front of them. Sheila wondered if he remembered the water. She wondered if he remembered how it felt to be so thirsty, so bone-dry-as-the-desert inside of his cells.

“Sheila,” said the therapist, “when did you notice that something was amiss?”

Amiss, she said, like their marriage was a painting hanging crooked on the wall. Sheila stared at the glass on the table. She’d always known that she and Dirk were destined for divorce. As high school sweethearts, their chances of growing old together were slim. Both of them had known that going into the marriage. Still, they’d decided to make it work. If Sheila closed her eyes, she could still feel the way her wedding dress hugged her. She remembered the first affair. She remembered the second. Back in the present, her stomach lurched.

“We were doing all right until I cheated,” said Dirk. There was no need for him to elaborate. The therapist had their file. She knew about the affairs. What she didn’t know, thought Sheila, was how their time on the island had almost repaired them. She didn’t know that the day they’d found water had been the first time they’d made love in months. She had no idea that Sheila was pregnant again. She didn’t know that, and she most likely never would.

“Sheila,” said Dirk, “are you sure you’re all right?”

That concludes the excerpt. What did you think?

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How to Develop Stronger Characters

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In contemporary fiction, one of the greatest tendencies of the budding novelist is to develop characters that are flatter than the state of Florida. One-dimensional characters create boredom, prevent your reader from sympathizing with them, and make your entire story fall flat. If you’re looking for a way to improve your character development, here are some tips for building better people to inhabit your next story:

1. Watch out for cliches. We’re all familiar with “the hooker with the heart of gold” (Pretty Woman) and the unreliable narrator with dissociative identity disorder (Fight Club, Secret Window). No one wants to read about a character they’ve met before. Put simply, if you’ve heard it or seen it in a movie, on television, or in another book, either throw it out or turn it on its head.

2. After you’ve managed to pick out the cliches, look for ways to defy your readers’ preconceived expectations. For example, if your protagonist is a cheerleader who is sleeping with the football team, find a way to change it up and deviate from the stereotype. You could, for instance, paint a picture of an unattractive cheerleader who only made the squad because her mom is the school principal. See how much more interesting that is already?

3. Give your characters flaws. In the previous example about the unattractive cheerleader, the protagonist’s flaw would be her homely appearance. Flaws are essential to characterization because they make your characters seem more human–and, as a result, much more sympathetic. When developing flaws for your characters, consider the emotional and mental as well as the physical. While there’s nothing wrong with making a character fat or ugly, wouldn’t it be more interesting to give them schizophrenia?

4.Don’t go overboard with physical description. It doesn’t matter too much what your character looks like. Just give a brief overview–with one striking detail, such as a beaked nose–and your audience will be able to come up with the rest.

5. If you can’t get into a character’s head, try writing up a one-page character history. On this page, you can include your character’s age, appearance, wishes, dreams, failures, successes, possessions, love interests, hobbies, occupations, philosophies, and so much more. This piece of paper will be a guideline as you go through writing a draft of the piece. Not all of the information needs to make it into the work itself, but it’s useful to keep in mind.

In closing, characters are one of the most significant elements regarding writing fiction. After all, most people read fiction to learn about people who are different from themselves. By improving the quality and depth of your characters, you can make your prose much more appealing to your readers.

What do you think about these tips? How do you go about creating your characters?