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Allusionary Assembly

The Writing of Kerry E.B. Black

Book Review: The Female of the Species by Joyce Carol Oates

Book Review: The Female of the Species by Joyce Carol Oates

 

In recent history, women have been held as alternately paragons of virtue or emotional, fragile beings incapable of defending themselves. 

Joyce Carol Oates turns that notion on its ear with this collection of short stories, The Female of the Species. 

Men have often exploited women, preyed upon their vulnerabilities. Certainly, that happens in many of these short stories. In fact, the first story in the collection proved difficult (almost impossible) for me to read. However, read it I did, and I am glad. 

Oates explores femininity, liberation (sexual, emotional, and financial), parenthood, and individuality in her own unique style. I recognized some of the stories from other sources (Such as “Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine”), but it was interesting to revisit them. Certainly, they were thought-provoking and boundary-pushing. Fans of crime fiction should enjoy these nine stories by a modern master.

https://www.amazon.com/Female-Species-1st-Printing/dp/B003RKCWJW/ref=sr_1_fkmr2_2?keywords=female+of+the+species+joyce+carol+oates&qid=1579322004&s=digital-text&sr=8-2-fkmr2

 

Book Review: The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher

Book Review:

The Twisted Ones written by T. Kingfisher (pseudonym of Ursilla Vernon)

Let me begin by saying knocking against a house in the middle of the night is NEVER a woodpecker, no matter how much a character may hope it to be.

That said, The Twisted Ones is told in a humorous first person by “Mouse” as, with the help of her faithful hound Bongo, she cleans out her horrible hoarder grandmother’s house. (How’s that for alliteration?) As she does so, she discovers her step-grandfather’s journal, looks for a lost manuscript, and discovers some creepy secrets. Luckily for her, she also befriends some aging hippies, including the irrepressible and resourceful Foxy.

The Twisted Ones is T. Kingfisher’s (pseudonym for Ursilla Vernon) take on Arthur Machen’s 1904 short story “The White People.” If you’re familiar with Machen’s story, the influence becomes apparent early on in The Twisted Ones. It has a healthy dose of folklore, charming interaction between the heroine and her pooch, a truly great friend, and just enough of the Gothic influences and nods to H.P. Lovecraft to keep horror fans interested. There was an instance of stereotyping that made me a bit cringy (Mouse expresses a supposition that the police officer is uneducated or lacking intelligence simply because he’s from a small town), and the narrator twists her words around to provide a lot of repetition (which was distracting and a bit annoying, though it might have been used to give insight into the stresses Mouse experiences.) However, there were also some wonderful quotes, including: “Monsters are stressful…” and “…maybe it was just perfectly innocent devil worship….” and “Families run on optimistic lies sometimes…” and overall, it was an enjoyable story.

I participated in the Ladies of Horror Readalong of this book and borrowed this book from my local library to do so.

Weekly drabbles from the prompts at Carrot Ranch and 6 Sentence Stories

Hello, my friends, and thanks for stopping by!

Once again, I’m encouraging you to visit https://carrotranch.com/ and https://girlieontheedge1.wordpress.com/

The stories below are the result of their weekly prompts. They’re not great stories, but they force me to think in creative ways due to the restrictions set by the rules. It’s really fun. So if you enjoy playing with words, give it a go! (They’re nice people, honestly!)

 

 

Epic Adventure

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

Carol and Ben had been best friends since the third grade, and as they graduated from college, they decided to take a cross country trip. “It’s our last chance to be kids,” she explained. “We’ll drive all the way across America and see all the little, overlooked places.”

He packed before she’d finished the sentence, and their epic adventure began. They spent a year and a day exploring, but in the end, to their great surprise, they realized an unspoken truth. “I love you, Carol,” Ben whispered, and she replied with a squeal, “I love you, too!”

 

 

Hutch of Treasures

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

Grandma asked my cousins and me, “What inside this hutch is my dearest possession?” She creaked as she settled into an armchair to watch our debate.

My eldest cousin took the lead. “The goblets. They’re gold, aren’t they?”

Grandma inclined her head. “Indeed, but they aren’t my treasure.”

Each chose something. Crystal, silver, china, linens. I noticed a stack of ribbon-bound letters in the top right drawer. When my turn came, I pointed to them. “Are these from Grandpa?”

“Yes, when he fought in the war.”

“Then these are your treasured possession.”

Tears dribbled from her white lashes. “Yes.”

Book Review: Slender Man is Coming: Creepypasta and Contemporary Legends on the Internet edited by Trevor J. Blank and Lynne S. McNeill

Book Review: “Slender Man is Coming: Creepypasta and Contemporary Legends on the Internet” edited by Trevor J. Blank and Lynne S. McNeill

This little non-fiction exploration of the Slender Man mythos packs a LOT of information into its 177 pages. It features nine essays that delve into the success of the modern folk lore that grew up around a Creepy Pasta meme. Well-researched and filled with citations and some photos, “Slender Man is Coming: Creepypasta and Contemporary Legends on the Internet” researches how Slender Man moved from the realm of modern legend and became a part of many young peoples’ beliefs – and how those beliefs caused mischief, lawbreaking, self-harm, and attempted murder.

I do wish the typeface was larger and better spaced, however. (Those with better functioning eyes would probably not find this to be an issue. haha!)

Book Review: Abnormal by A. J. Mullican

Book Review: Abnormal by A. J. Mullican

This “New Adult” dystopian sci-fi story drops action on the reader right away. Diminutive Clare lives in a sort of hiding. “Abnormal” people like her (She’s a telepath) are killed off if their families don’t have enough “credits” in their accounts. Although Clare has a passable network of friends and a fake ID, there’s someone who’s after her – someone with intimate understanding of Clare’s situation and personality.

Clare fights off attackers, an attempted rape, and escapes to a sort of hidden community with the help of a dashing stranger. She seems to use her sexuality as a way to defuse the tensions of living in such a hellish place as “Heaven’s Light” and its time of intolerance and classism. 

Packed with action, violence, and strong world-building, A. J. Mullican’s book hints at a sequel.

Carrot Ranch Rodeo Win!

Three Act Stories1In autumn, https://carrotranch.com/ hosted a writing rodeo, and I’m overjoyed that one of my 99 word stories WON a category! The participants produced some fabulous works, and as always, I’ve enjoyed reading them and am honored to display my work with theirs.

Below is my winning entry.

 

Literary Immortality

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

Benny stroked his wife’s brow. She hugged a teddy bear he’d given her when they were children. Benny knew even as a kindergartener he’d love her always. 

They’d been married five years before the sickness.

“I’m dying.” She nestled closer.

He kissed her sunken cheek. “Not really.”

When she passed, his emotions bled into words. Benny wrote a stirring obituary and composed poetry in her honor. He poured adoration into books in which she was the hero, a beloved literary legend. 

As Benny faced his mortality, a biographer asked his inspiration. Benny hugged a teddy bear to his chest.

Pine Prompt By Design

As always, I recommend you hone your craft with the prompts at https://girlieontheedge1.wordpress.com/2019/12/22/sundays-six-sentence-story-word-prompt-87/ and https://carrotranch.com/2019/12/26/december-26-flash-fiction/

My interpretations were seasonally inspired. Of course, I’m hoping your holidays are bright and beautiful despite all the crazy aspects of life. And may 2020 be brilliant by design!

 

Pine

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

For Candice, the holidays inspired false nostalgia, an overwhelming persistence of glorified remembrance tinsel-wrapped and tied with a glittering, aggrandize bow. She’d long for the days when childhood wonder replaced cynicism in even the most stoic of hearts. Evergreens glistened with lights bright enough to chase away winter’s bite, feasts piled on every table so none felt hunger’s gnaw, and families gathered to nibble away misunderstandings until all that remained was peaceful appreciation.

As she gathered and bound fragrant spruce and holly, she ignored the blood drawn by their prickles and sucked away their stings. When the glorious day dawned, wrapping paper floating like shrapnel and ash to canvas faces scornful of gifts and gift-givers, conversations devolved into arguments, and the news displayed anything but peace on earth – as it had every year of Candace’s life.

By the next November, however, the cycle renewed, and her feverish desire for Rockwellian perfection replaced hurt-filled memories, and she’d pine for what might never be.

 

 

 

Private Toast 

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

Karen decided New Year’s resolutions needn’t fail. 2020 could offer “vision,” and she’d craft herself into an ideal. As confetti drifted into her champagne and couples kissed through “Auld Lang Syne,” she visualized a successful self. 

Next year, she’d work harder toward her goals. New job. New home. New pant size. New romance. 

Before she tipped alcohol from her fluted glass as an anticipatory congratulation, she studied the pattern floating atop. Bits of colored tissue created images, and much like a tea leaf reader of old, she knew them by design. 

With a smile, Karen swallowed her private toast.

 

 

Book Review: The Winter Sisters by Tim Westover

Book Review: The Winter Sisters by Tim Westover

With some delightful turns of phrase, Tim Westover endeavors to transport readers to the little frontier town of Lawrenceville, Georgia in 1822. His “Winter Sisters,” Rebecca, Sarah, and Effie, know mountain magic- or is it intuition and herb lore? They’re at turns revered by the townsfolk for their remedies, and, when instigated by the local clergyman, reviled as witches. 

Lured by a rumor of a rabies outbreak, cock-sure Dr. Aubrey Waycross arrives to introduce science and modern medicine (such as it was in 1822, with its “bleeding” and “blistering” and amputating) to the superstitious citizens hoping to earn the “county seat.” He confronts what he suspects are “Grannies,” but discovers instead three young, wise, potentially magical women. Their treatments are gentler and often more effective than anything Dr. Waycross has learned. 

“If only people could control themselves, half of the world’s curing wouldn’t be needed, nor half the world’s guns.” The story sets up an antagonism between the Winter Sisters and the pastor. When asked why she wouldn’t leave, Rebecca Winter explained, “…in another place, I would not be the same person. I am my roots.” 

Told alternately by Dr. Waycross in the first person and (usually) in the third from the perspective of the Winters, the story includes a bit of romance. “She could talk about manure or the moon, so long as we were talking.” Atmospheric touches, some seriously high-falooting language (I had to consult my dictionary twice!) and research abound. “Every person cast ten foot shadows, so the earth writhed and wriggled with a thousand specters.” However, the story jumps around quite a bit, and some of the story lines “resolve” without a clear picture of what happened. Otherwise, The Winter Sisters provides an atmospheric peek into Georgia’s past.

Carrot Ranch 99 Words, 6 Sentence Contributions, and Happy Holidays!

My Prompt Pals are at it again. They offer the gifts of inspiration all year long, too, not only during the holidays!

https://carrotranch.com/2019/12/20/december-19-flash-fiction-challenge/https://carrotranch.com  hosts an “Open Mic Night”, and my 99 word response is below,

and

my 6 sentence contributions this week for the prompt of “Pine” and “In the Nick of Time” follow. You should check out this adorable take on the 6 Sentence prompt and get details on how to participate in the challenges at https://girlieontheedge1.wordpress.com/2019/12/19/in-the-nick-of-time-its-a-6/

Happy Holidays to you all, and a very blessed 2020!

 

Open Mic Winner

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

 

Christmas Eve, we host the annual Open Mic Contest. Acclaimed poets drip seasonally-affected despair. Freshmen giggle and blush through limericks or rondels. Some folks sing.

But then he hopped onto stage. He tilted his seasoned face to see me, standing no taller than my knee. I couldn’t adjust the mic low enough, so I brought up a chair. He leapt up with the grace of a falling feather. Jingly bells upon his costume tinkled like children’s laughter.

I don’t remember his whole recitation, only the end:

“Man in red, or green, white, or brown

Giving heart beating cheer

If only mankind listened.”

 

(*I’ve written a longer version of this little tale, simply because I loved the idea of a holiday visitor taking an artistic break from his duties.)

 

 

Saved by the Ball

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

It clattered down the aisle like an inebriated bridegroom. She feared it might, indeed, tumble into the gutter and ruin her chances. She was out of her league, a single girl in a room filled with couples. Her only chance staggered and meandered, with clattering disregard for its target. 

If only it would stay on track, pick off even a solitary pin, she’d help her team, but if she rolled another gutter ball, she’d be cut from the team. Her vision clouded and she swallowed around a huge lump of gratitude when, at the end of the lane, just in the nick of time, the ball curved and claimed a corner of the bowling pins.

 

Mistress of Christmas

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

No presents rested beneath the tree. No balsamic scent perfumed the air. 

Although the mistress of the house had everything arranged, from presents wrapped and hidden in closets to scented candles in need of a light, none of the wonders of Christmas morning brought joy that year, for the mother languished in a sterile hospital bed. 

“Please,” she begged the staff, “tell my husband to light the advent wreath,” but they smiled with incomprehension and smoothed her hair from her fallen and anguished face. 

“Will she recover from the stroke?” her husband asked as their children’s shock-widened eyes reflected concern.

When she did, theirs was the happiest, though latest, holiday celebration ever.

 

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Thank you all for stopping by, for reading, and for interacting. Sometimes, I feel like I’m writing in a vacuum, so any time I hear from you, it lifts my spirits and inspires my weary brain. See, you’re muses. Did you know?

Happy holidays!

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