Posts Tagged ‘Guest Blog’

Guest Post by Rayne Hall: Rayne’s Five Favourites: Short Story Collections

Today we are welcoming back Rayne Hall! 
She has published more than thirty books under different pen names with different publishers in different genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. Recent books include Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel), Six Historical Tales Vol 1, Six Scary Tales Vol 1, 2 and 3 (mild horror stories), Six Historical Tales (short stories), Six Quirky Tales (humorous fantasy stories), Writing Fight Scenes and Writing Scary Scenes (instructions for authors).

Rayne’s Five Favourites: Short Story Collections

Here are five short story collections I enjoyed, each by a different contemporary author, each published recently in ebook format.  The selection is highly subjective, based on my personal taste. I like stories which are creepy, quirky, twisted or dark, or which allow me to peek into different cultures and faraway places.

1. Dark and Twisted: The Fairy Cake Bake Shoppe And 13 Other Weird Tales by April Grey

These are easy-to-read, entertaining stories, but they have a bite to them.  Paranormal elements – vampires, zombies, fairies, ghosts, sexbots, magical cupcakes – are woven into everyday reality. Some of the stories have dark or erotic content  – nothing overly graphic, but unsuitable for young readers.

I enjoyed Exile where a vampire gigolo tempts an older woman with eternal youth.

2. Short and Vivid: Short Stories To Read On The Bus by Frederick Langridge

I wouldn’t read stories on the bus – I’d get travel-sick if I tried – but there are many other occasions when there’s just time for a quickie read. Since I take my Kindle almost everywhere these days, it’s handy to have short story collections like this. The stories are short, but not too short. I felt I was getting a good complete story with every one.

Some of the stories resonated more with me than others, some I didn’t care for, others I loved. But that’s ok. The collection contains a lot of stories, and it’s fun to choose favourites. My favourite was the ghost story Beware of Tuesdays because the suspense is high, and after reading it I kept thinking about the nature of this haunting.

What I liked particularly: The beginnings are vivid, immediately introducing the characters, the location and the premise, so I was hooked from the start. The pacing is perfect and the stories keep up the interest (at least, this reader’s interest) throughout, and there’s no dull middle. The narrative voice changes from story to story, always appropriate to the main character’s perspective.

3. Exotic and Sensitive: Coloured and Other Stories by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar

These stories deal with cultural contrasts and different societal traditions in an intelligent, sensitive way. Many of the characters experience some kind of culture clash, for example, they grew up in one culture and now learn to adapt to another, or they belong to one culture and their family to another. The stories are about the characters’ way of conciliating and integrating these cultures.

I like the vividness and sensitivity, and I felt I learnt quite a bit about the concerns of people who come from those cultures. In places, the stories are sad, but the overall tone is uplifting.

The story which stuck in my mind long after reading is Dasi. It has an interesting structure, told backwards from when the narrator is a 78-year old widow to when she’s a 14-year old bride, and it is at the same time gentle and shocking.

4. Intelligent and Entertaining: Ghosts Can Bleed by Tracie McBride

I love the stories, every one of them. Each develops a ‘what if’ scenario, sometimes taking a very basic idea and spinning it out into a plot. The ideas a surreal, but utterly plausible. Based on human nature, I can believe these bizarre things are really happening.

The stories are intelligent and entertaining. Some are thought-provoking, too. Many have a paranormal, fantasy, science fiction or horror element.

My favourite yarn in this book Last Chance To See which offers an original take on the undead state.

5. Atmospheric and Moving: Gifts – Four Poignant Stories by Jonathan Broughton

These stories are a little sad in places, but filled with hope and beauty. They’re set on the south coast of England where I live, so I can personally relate to the location.

My favourite is Three-Ply Fantasy Special, a sensitive piece about an older person with a domineering daughter. I first read this story more than two years ago and still can’t get out of my mind.


I’m delighted to have discovered many excellent short story collections and anthologies recently – far more than ever before.

A few years ago, most publishers would not touch single-author short story collections. This kind of book didn’t sell in big enough numbers to cover the costs of printing, paper, storage, transport and shelf space.

But things have changed. With the advent of e-books, these costs no longer apply, and single-author story collections have become viable ventures. Many get published, and some are very good indeed.

Another benefit of the internet age is the ease of communication between readers and authors. Many authors include an e-mail address at the back of the book, inviting readers to get in touch. I’ve corresponded with the authors of these books, something which would have been unlikely in the days of snailmail.

I liked some of the stories so much that – wearing my Editor hat – I selected them for inclusion in my themed anthologies. You’ll find, for example,  a story from The Fairy Cake Bake Shoppe in Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, and one from Ghosts Can Bleed in Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts.

Character Development: A guest post by Craig Hallam!

This week I am pleased to host author Craig Hallam as he writes about Character Development. I was first introduced to his work on his short story anthology Not before Bed. His debut novel Greaveburn will be coming out August 20.


I don’t know about you, but I tend to write the kind of characters that I also like to read. That’s how I get excited about a project. It’s like getting psyched up to see a movie you’ve been waiting for. So, since we’re talking about writing characters, it might be helpful if I tell you what my favourite books are, right? Here goes:

Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast

Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series

Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club

Nick Horby’s High Fidelity

I hope that helps.  But if not, then basically I like my heroes to not really be heroes at all. And that’s the kind of philosophy I put into my own writing. You can sum it up with the old adage “No-one’s perfect”. When I think about my characters, what they’re going to do, who they’ll meet, I don’t think about how their virtues will carry them through to a positive conclusion. Rather, I think about what makes them tick, what are their character flaws, and how does that effect their drives and desires and so how they act when they come across others. Because, as far as I’m concerned, that’s how the world works. It’s our quirks that drive us. And I reckon that’s how you make an interesting and well-rounded character, too.

Let’s do a case study (I know, I’m all about the fun).

Let’s call this character Boris. Now, Boris is from a working class family, but he’s done pretty good for himself with a little hard work and a whole lot of luck. He has a steady job with decent wages. He’s managed to bag himself a great girlfriend. Boris would like to be a painter.

Sounds fine, right? But it’s boring. And Boris will be boring in everything he does. So let’s give him some flaws.

He’s a dreamer, who sometimes forgets that the real world exists. Sometimes, he’d rather sit and paint the world than take part in it. His sense of humour is dry enough that no one really knows when he’s joking. And his parents splitting up when he was younger and the subsequent fallout has left him with a desire to be always independent, and never get too close to anyone. It’s made him cynical in a lot of ways and his sense of humour feeds on that.

Yowza. Boris is pretty interesting now, right? And it’s the flaws that make him that way. His relationship with his girlfriend could be strained because he doesn’t want to let her too close to him just to leave him alone (like what happened to his parents). He uses that dry sense of humour and vivacious imagination to keep people at arm’s length. His paintings become his world, and he would be almost reclusive of it weren’t for his girlfriend’s influence.

Can you see hoe the character’s flaws are what create the plot. All we have to do is have Boris’ girlfriend leave him, and you’ve got yourself the start of a good novel!

When I was writing the character of Abrasia for Greaveburn, I knew that she would be the heroine (or protagonist if you prefer that), that she would be in dire straits, and that it would be through her that the reader saw the incredibly dark and dangerous world that she was trapped in. But to leave it at that would make her one dimensional; the typical damsel in distress. Who wants to read that? I certainly don’t. She’s a sixteen year old girl in dire peril with no hope of survival. And so, understandably, Abrasia can be a little…spikey sometimes. She can also be ruthless and spiteful. She has to be in order to stay alive. But she also happens to be quite sensitive when she needs to be. That all amounts to a lot of character in the little spitfire.

And so, dear friends, readers and writers alike, that’s the best advice I can give to you today. In order to make your characters truly lifelike, and help your reader to engage with them, make sure they have flaws just like we do. It doesn’t mean they won’t be likeable. No-one’s perfect.

Thanks for reading.

Greaveburn hits the shelves (both virtual and corporeal) in most major book retailers on August 20th from Inspired Quill Publishing.

A hero murdered.

A girl alone.

A city of villains.

From the crumbling Belfry to the Citadel’s stained-glass eye, across acres of cobbled streets and knotted alleyways that never see daylight, Greaveburn is a city with darkness at its core. Gothic spires battle for height, overlapping each other until the skyline is a jagged mass of thorns.

Archduke Choler sits on the throne, his black-sealed letters foretell death for the person named inside. Abrasia, the rightful heir, lives as a recluse in order to stay alive. With her father murdered and her only ally lost, Abrasia is alone in a city where the crooked Palace Guard, a scientist’s assistant that is more beast than man, and a duo of body snatchers are all on her list of enemies.

Under the cobbled streets lurk the Broken Folk, deformed rebels led by the hideously scarred Darrant, a man who once swore to protect the city. And in a darkened laboratory, the devious Professor Loosestrife builds a contraption known only as The Womb.

With Greaveburn being torn apart around her, can Abrasia avenge her father’s murder before the Archduke’s letter spells her doom.

Contact Craig

eMail: craighallam@live.vom

Twitter: @craighallam84



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