Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Incredible, Astonishing Beauty of Being Short

The cover art first drew me to Wet Thaw, and the collection of two short literary stories by Deb Elkink gets five stars from me today.

Deb is a personal friend, and I was first introduced to her artful—and that is the only word for it—writing in The Third Grace, an award-winning novel about love and longing.

The two stories Wet and Thaw follow along in Elkink’s gorgeous style, and as you can imagine from the title, Elkink pays a lot of attention to the weather in both. You can see and feel it on every page, practically in every sentence.

Wet is about a sister and brother, each of whom carry their own problems. He, with his physical and mental challenges, and she with her emotional baggage. Yet, they are all each other has. 

The very first sentence grabbed me and wrapped its sodden arms around me.

 Humidity hangs like a presence about the graveside.

Thaw begins - 

 It is snowing in Istanbul.

I like the way she sets the stage. Thaw is about two women traveling in that country. If you follow Elkink’s website, you will know that she loves to travel and travels a lot. She also is a person who places a lot of emphasis on friends and family, and that is so evident in these two stories. I love the weather references in stories.

I am told that the cover art for Wet Thaw is her sister’s work. Here is the website for the artist, Lorenda Harder.

Not only am I endorsing Wet Thaw here today, but I'd like to recommend short fiction in general. A short story only has room for one emotion - but hints at many others. It is one afternoon in a saga that in some novels spans centuries. And it's well worth the time spent on it.

A brand new collection of stories, which came to my attention a couple of days ago is The Sea Crystal and Other Weird Tales by Susan Berliner. Anything with the words “weird” and “tales” are sure to be of interest to me. I dropped what I was reading and right away read the first two of these weird tales.

These stories will cause you to give another look at those familiar buildings and storefronts that you may pass by every day on your way to work. Do you really know what's going on inside? (No spoilers here!) The title story, The Sea Crystal, is intriguing and compelling as well. 

Remember the old episodes of The Twilight Zone? That’s what those three—and I’ve only read three so far—stories put me in mind of.

Berliner includes a quote in the front of her Sea Crystal collection which is a perfect definition of a short story:

Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams. They are journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still be back in time for dinner -  Neil Gaiman.

I have always loved short stories, from Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood to the short mysteries in the Ellery Queens and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazines. Back when things to read were only available in print, you could often find old copies of those magazines in used bookstores for twenty-five cents. There was a lot of good reading there for a quarter. 

There used to be a time when short stories were in—ahem—short supply. This was back when book publishers decided that people didn’t like short stories, and so no one, except for a few magazines, literary publications and genre magazines published them. Back when I was a teenager women's magazines always included short fiction, and when my mother would bring home McCalls or Redbook, the stories were what I turned to first.

But now that authors can easily publish on places such as Kindle and Kobo, everything has changed. 
Now that I do most of my reading on my Kobo or Kindle apps, I’m always on the lookout for short stories. 

Another favorite short story writer of mine is Stephen King. He is known for his doorstop huge hard covers books, (A friend once gave me a hard cover copy of Under The Dome, which I couldn’t read because, well, the book ended up being too heavy to hold!) He also writes wonderful short stories. 

Four Past Midnight and Just After Sunset are a few of my favorite collections of his. A couple of years ago I bought The Man Who Built Boxes by Frank Tavares. I was so taken with his stories, that I looked for more works by him. Alas, there are none yet. I am waiting.

I also have family members who would sincerely disown me if I didn’t mention my own short story collection,  Strange Faces. (And I'm SO pleased that it just received a great review on Fantastic Fiction!)

The beauty of short story collections is that they are often less expensive than longer works. 
Like my twenty-five cent copies of Ellery Queens, short story collections on Kindle or Kobo usually sell for less than the price of a cup of coffee. Sometimes these collections are only offered as eBooks. It’s so nice to have a short story or two downloaded onto my phone to read during those times when I find yourself waiting in line somewhere.

Now it's your turn. what are some of your favorite short story collections or writers? Mention them in the comment section below. I'd love to add to my TBR pile! (That's "To Be Read" in case you were wondering.)

Next time: What She Doesn’t Know, a romantic suspense and fun-to-read- nail-biting-non-stop action-treasure-hunting novel by another friend of mine, Lina Gardiner.


  1. Great reviews, thanks Linda. I also read Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen at an early age. In fact my first story of that kind was written when we took creative writing in grade 3. And I'm excited to be your next review!

    1. Thanks Lina! Yes, there are some real "gems" in those Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen magazines!

  2. Lawrence Block's "Catch and Release" is an excellent book of short stories.

  3. This is the one I was trying to remember - excellent collection: No Comebacks is a 1982 collection of ten short stories by Frederick Forsyth.