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Allusionary Assembly

The Writing of Kerry E.B. Black

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Short Stories

Book Review: “The Poison Eaters and Other Stories” by Holly Black

Holly Black’s short story collection “The Poison Eaters” showcases her distinctive style and unique take on the paranormal world. To her, there’s nothing unusual for a runaway to be hooked on drugs to keep thoughts of her real home in the fairy realm at bay. A bookworm on a beach might find a mysterious white flower that transforms him into a wolf. (That story, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” had my favorite last line in the collection! Nicely dark.) A girl might visit a graveyard’s Night Market to save her sister in one story while another has a competitive eating contest with the devil to save her dog’s life. “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” exposes the gritty part of vampirism, and there is a story set in Wallingford for fans of Holly Black’s Curse Workers series. The book’s title piece, “The Poison Eaters,” has a Poe-like creepiness to it, and I enjoyed “Paper Cuts Scissors” for its lush, fantastic love of literature and acceptance of goodbye.

This collection showcases twelve wonderful short stories in about 212 pages with diverse characters.

Book Review: Unhallowed Graves by Nuzo Onoh

The Amazon blurb reads: Oja-ale is the night market run by the dead. Everything can be bought for a deadly price. Alan Pearson is a sceptical British diplomat, contemptuous and dismissive of native superstitions…. Until the day he receives a terrifying purchase from the Night Market, which defies Western science and logic. And Alan must finally confront the chilling truth of Oja-ale. (Oja-ale) A dead child returns to haunt his grieving mother with terrifying consequences. (The Unclean) The ghost of a drowned slave is resurrected from his watery grave to exact revenge on the family that betrayed him and sold him into slavery, with tragic consequences. (Our Bones Shall Rise Again) Three chilling stories of revenge by the restless dead buried in Unhallowed Graves by the front-runner of African Horror – Nuzo Onoh.

Nuzo Onoh impresses with her terrifying vision of the darkest sort of magics and the angriest of spirits. Western skepticism must face and come to terms with unimaginable horrors, and those raised with the knowledge of such things know what to avoid and who never to insult (or even be noticed by!) These creepy glimpses into African mysticism leave this reader with dread.

Book Review: Baker – Demons and Other Night Things by Terry M. West

Once again, Terry M. West turns his devious writing talents to craft a devilishly gory collection of tales. Horrors best contained, maddening visions, and surprisingly charming monsters! This collection of short stories follows the unflappable Baker Johnson who reminds me of a cross between Sherlock Holmes and the old television paranormal detective Kolchek. (Yep, showing my age, kiddies…) This timeless character strolls into West’s rich, monster-filled universe with the command necessary to gain respect. Using a nightmare demon, Mr. Stucke, and H.P. Lovecraft himself, West joins his creepy contemporary Night Things with the period perfection refined by Baker. This collection of five short stories provides an excellent introduction to the rich, monster-populated, often gory, and always entertaining world Terry M. West creates.

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

 

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.”

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.

 

 

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!

6 Sentences, 1 Story

Through a friend, D. Avery (https://shiftnshake.wordpress.com/)  at Carrot Ranch, (Check out the newest 99 word challenge there! The story must somehow involve Key Lime Pie. https://carrotranch.com/2019/12/06/december-5-flash-fiction-challenge/ I’ve added my B.O.T. 99 word story below, with names changed to protect the guilty.),  I found this charming prompt site. https://girlieontheedge1.wordpress.com/2019/12/04/its-six-sentence-story-thursday-link-up-84/.

The challenge there is to write a story in 6 sentences. This is mine. What do you think?

 

Lesson in Electric Lighting

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

 

The string of red and green lights flickered, blinked, and died in his hands. His jaw clenched as he lifted his sigh toward the ceiling, biting back a tyrade of temper for the sake of the youngster at his feet. He removed and replaced each bulb until they flickered, blinked, illuminated, and he strung them around the top of the tree. 

The sleepy tot asked, “Why’d they do that, Grandpa?” 

“These old-fashioned lights are all we had when I was a kid. The trick’s to find and replaced the burnt out bulb and complete the circuit so they can light up again.”

(To complete the story, I’d add one further sentence: He thought, “If only I could find the burnt out bit inside me, too.”)

 

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Sampling 

(99 words)

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

 

Kiesha’s mouth dropped. “Were you hungry, honey?”

Barney shrugged. “It benefited a good cause, and the pies’re from my favorite shop.”

“Yes, but what’re we going to do with all these?”

Barney swallowed a piece of peach and shrugged. “Eat them.”

Kiesha glared, dwarfed by a stack of boxes. “They’ll grow stale before we can eat them all.” She squinted at the boxes. “Why don’t we take some to the shelter?”

Barney plated a piece of lime pie. He spoke around a bite. “Sure.”

“Barney, how’re we taking these to the shelter now? You’ve taken a piece from each!”

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