This Hell of Mine, by Lara Blunte

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Lara Blunte writes immediately absorbing stories. Her stories grab me with an irresistible magnetic pull, right from the start. “This Hell of Mine” is certainly no exception and, as in all of her work, includes an extra unexpected element that makes the whole thing jump to another level entirely. It’s this kind of magic that compels me to read everything she writes, no matter the genre, and she has written in many.

I first happened across Lara Blunte’s writing on Wattpad, through her fascinating collection of travel essays called ‘The Lazy Traveler’. She seems to have been everywhere and seen everything, and brings a unique depth and perception to her writing. In “This Hell of Mine” she is just at home in Mexico City high society or out in the middle of the Sonora desert, at a fancy dress ball or in the streets of Cuernavaca during Day of the Dead festivities. Her writing is clear, fresh and compelling, her characters vivid and alluring. There is plenty of romance here, and also tremendous suspense, danger and thrills. It’s great stuff. Highly recommended!

Peer Glen

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I was very pleased to come across an excellent collection of speculative/sci-fi short stories called Flashed, by Peer Glen, which includes some sparse but evocative tales containing a great deal of originality and unexpected depth. I have several favorites, and several favorite moments within them. Highly recommended!

“Rift or Die” has a unique take on the practical side of life extension, where even those who theoretically can live forever are still stalked and haunted by death, which has all the time in the world at its disposal.

“Free Fall” has an all-too-believable twist on virtual reality (hosted by The Environment ™)

“User Security” takes monopoly capital to a logical and desolate conclusion.

“Blackout” brings to life the kind of “internet of things” nightmare that my own current place of employment spends most of its time worrying about.

“Mesoplanet Triumphant” is a well-told tale of a friendly alien encounter – you wonder why there aren’t more like this in the annals of science fiction.

Ericka Clay

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Wren” is an ongoing serialized novel by Ericka Clay (free on Wattpad) about a character from another novel  (“White Smoke”). Wren is a dirt-poor hard-scrabble small-town high-school girl in some Arkansas backwater, up to her eyeballs in multiple disasters and surrounded by a wooly collection of losers. As they said in the Occupy days, “shit is all fucked up”. She uses, she deals, she gets in fights, her mom’s aborting her baby sister, her dad is dead, her boyfriend’s a cheating scumbag, and high school sucks. In the midst of all that, this girl crackles with life. Ericka writes a vivid character, so alive you can almost even hear the kid’s thoughts out loud. The story is well in line with a long tradition of “poor kid” novels, from Oliver Twist on down, and films like Boy and many others, and it has the contemporary touch of a Breaking Bad as well, so it’s familiar territory. Readers will know their way around, and the tricky parts are 1) avoiding the easy cliches and 2) giving the character her own distinctive perspective and voice. So far (three chapters in), Ericka’s “gittin’ ‘er done”. You might get hooked on Wren. I’d say give it a whirl.

Rowena Wiseman

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The short novel “Bequest”, by Rowena Wiseman is an excellent story found free on Wattpad. It is the story of an old man who has had his entire body covered in tattoos, all the work of an artist known as X. She no longer does tattoo work, but has come into her own as a world-famous artist. She and Leonard were once close, but she no longer has any interest in him or his body.

This story comes to life in the same way the tattoos on Leonard’s body come to life, in vivid, hallucinatory passages. Leonard wants nothing more than to leave his literal “body of work” to a museum, but nobody wants it, as nobody wants him either, or wants to hear about the strange things that have started happening to him. The story also doubles as the story of an old man no longer valued by the very people he values most, the people to whom he is “connected like electricity”. I loved how the form of the story is in itself a mirror of the story, its elements step out in turn just as the individual tattoos take the stage one by one. An excellent story, highly recommended.

You can find it here on Wattpad

I’m also reading, and loving, her novel “Searching for Von Honningsbergs”, which I also recommend. You can get it for one dollar at screwpulp.com and you should.

“Searching for Von Honningsbergs” by Rowena Wiseman is a travel novel, a journey through time and space but also through personal growth and development. The first person narrator, an unappreciated art gallery employee named Lawson, is clearly not the same person depicted in the novel as the one who is telling the story. Years have passed, and the events related have had a major impact on him. He tells the story on two simultaneous tracks – the linear track of things as they happened, and the series of paintings he has created based on those events. As we move from one place to another, from Australia to Ukraine to Siberia to China to Brazil and back again to China, and as we meet important characters along the way, these places and people become the subject of the paintings described to us. But the art came after, and we discover that Lawson himself only began to learn to become an artist later in the book. The tale hangs on the framework of an assignment to travel about and collect some important “lost” works of a world-famous painter, Von Honningsberg, but that artist’s work is far less interesting and important than the narrator’s own.

Lawson’s paintings do not so much depict the people and places themselves as their personal meaning to Lawson, and this relates to a central theme throughout the book. Indeed, the novel begins with a lecture from Lawson to an art gallery manager about the superficiality of the labels you see alongside paintings in galleries. These texts cannot tell us what the painting meant to the artist, only the dates and names and some generalized academic themes, which miss the point entirely, according to Lawson. Art IS personal meaning or else it is nothing more than illustration, mere appearances. The deceptive nature of surface impressions is also a strong theme throughout. Again and again Lawson characterizes the people he meets from his first impression, and only later discovers his error. The “fire dancer” is not at all a fire dancer. She only happened to be doing that one day. The Ukrainian in Siberian seems to be quite a disloyal person, a thief who ran in the night, then later seems the opposite, extremely loyal to certain objects, persons and feelings, only to turn around again. He is not what he appears, nor is anyone, really. The people who seem crazy and dangerous in China turn out to have very good reasons for their rage and anguish. The character Lawson is like a child drifting through these events, but the narrator Lawson has delved deeper and seen farther. We take some of these lessons with us when we read this exceptional book.

Nazli Hardy

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I usually filter my Smashwords by the Free keyword, but recently I accidentally came across a set of 99 cent short stories by Nazli Hardy, which I find myself scarfing down like candy. The stories share a common thread of New York City life among immigrants from Bangladesh, and cross-reference one another through characters and neighborhoods. Nazli writes with great fluidity, grace and humor, and each of these stories suffers only from the reader wanting more, which I’ve always thought of as a true sign of good story telling. I was not surprised by her talent – I had come across her blog on the web nearly a decade ago, where she was writing by another name – but I had no idea she was writing fiction. These stories were all published in 2011. I can only hope she publishes some more. She brings to life a world I’d be happy to see more of.

Lee Robert Adams

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The Woman Who Danced in Church:

I very much enjoyed this free short story by Lee Robert Adams from Smashwords. Besides telling an interesting story in a compelling manner, it also conjures up a fine sense of place and character in its brief time and small sp

Ray Daley

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A fun short story of cryonics by the always entertaining sci fi writer and Doctor Who story teller Ray Daley, Waking up Different is free from Smashwords as are many of his stories. It’s like free candy for light-hearted science fiction fans! And who doesn’t like free candy?

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