Fictional Short Story About Anorexia

The Heart Fails Without Warning is a beautifully written story about a family’s struggle with anorexia.  It starts like this:

September: when she began to lose weight at first, her sister had said, I don’t mind; the less of her the better, she said. It was only when Morna grew hair – fine down on her face, in the hollow curve of her back – that Lola began to complain. I draw the line at hair, she said. This is a girls’ bedroom, not a dog kennel.

Visit the link above to read the entire story at guardian.co.uk.  The Heart Fails Without Warning was written by award-winning author and novelist, Hilary Mantel.   Go here to see a list of Hilary Mantel’s books at amazon.com.

2 Pulitzer Prize Winning Books That Look Like They Don’t Suck

What may be surprising to many is that a pulitzer-prize-winning book isn’t necessarily a bestselling book.  What makes a book great to the general public isn’t necessarily what makes a book great within the smaller circle of the literary world.

Add to that the fact that my tastes, as an average reader, tend to be rather specific in genre (paranormal, horror, fantasy, sci-fi), and you can see why I won’t be making my way through the pulitzer list any time soon.

However, after searching long and hard through a list of previous pulitzer winners, I did find 2 books that  look accessible even to someone of my usually jaded, mass-market tastes.

1. House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday (1969): 

Description:  “He was a young American Indian named Abel, and he lived in two worlds. One was that of his father, wedding him to the rhythm of the seasons, the harsh beauty of the land, the ecstasy of the drug called peyote. The other was the world of the twentieth century, goading him into a compulsive cycle of sexual exploits, dissipation, and disgust.”

I was especially drawn to this book after reading this quote that an amazon reader included in their review:

“Dypaloh. There was a house made of dawn. It was made of pollen and of rain, and the land was very old and everlasting. There were many colors on the hills, and the plain was bright with different colored clays and sands.”

Momoday is also a poet laureate who was born on a Kiowa reservation in Oklahoma.  The publication of this book in the 60’s was a huge breakthrough for Native American writers.  To learn more about this author, see his interview with Modern American Poetry or read some of his poems at PoemHunter.com.

2. The Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever (1979):

Description:  “These stories seem at times to be stories of a long-lost world when the city of New York was still filled with a river light, when you heard the Benny Goodman quartets from a radio in the corner stationary store, and when almost everybody wore a hat. Here is the last of that generation of chain smokers who woke the world in the morning with their coughing, who used to get stoned at cocktail parties and perform obsolete dance steps like ‘the Cleveland Chicken,’ set sail for Europe on ships, who were truly nostalgic for love and happiness…”

This book is a collection of short stories.  Here’s a little bit from a story called The Enourmous Radio:

“Irene was proud of her living room, she had chosen its furnishings and colors as carefully as she chose her clothes, and now it seemed to her that the new radio stood among her intimate possessions like an aggressive intruder. She was confounded by the number of dials and switches on the instrument panel, and she studied them thoroughly before she put the plug into a wall socket and turned the radio on.  The dials flooded with a malevolent green light…”

Cheever had an interesting but sad life.  He was once kicked out of a school for smoking, his education ended when he was 17, his father abandoned the family after losing everything in the stock market crash, and his mother drank herself to death.  Find out more about this author by reading his biography or read quotes by the author at BrainyQuote.com, including gems like this one:

“When I remember my family, I always remember their backs. They were always indignantly leaving places.”

If you’ve read either of these books, or even if you haven’t but think they look interesting, leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Funny Short Story About What Happens to Displaced CEOs

The latest edition of the literary journal, Word Riot, is out, and it includes a short-story/flash-fiction piece called CEO by Billy Middleton.  I thought this was cleverly written…

“I adopted a corporate CEO from the local shelter. He was let out on the street after his company folded, was picked up rooting through dumpsters, running through busy intersections. The volunteer at the shelter told me he was unfriendly…”

To read the rest of the story or hear the story read to you by the author, go here.

Horror Flash Fiction – A Taste for Life

There’s a new flash fiction story by Patrick Freivald over at Flash Fiction Online that you should really check out, especially if you like it when your stories come with a healthy dose of creepiness.  It’s called A Taste for Life

“And how old were you when you died, Mister Beauchamp?” Joan Rothman asked, leaning back in her chair. The scientists watched her behind the one-way mirror, hands clasped behind their backs.  “Twenty-seven,” the corpse replied, more gurgle than speech, as it gazed idly around the interview room.

To read the rest of this short short story, click the link above.

Stephen King, Werewolves, and a Literary Meem

Grab the book closest to you.  Turn to page 31.  Count down to the eighth sentence.  Write down the next 5 lines (keep writing into the  next line, if needed, until you finish the last sentence). 

“Later, no one will be able to say where the sound came from; it was everywhere and nowhere as the full moon painted the darkened houses of the village, everywhere and nowhere as the March wind began to rise and moan like a dead Berserker winding his horn, it drifted on the wind, lonely and savage.”

That was from Stephen King’s Cycle of the Werewolf.  This is a great book full of short stories about werewolves; I highly recommend it.

What book are you currently keeping close by?

Once Free, Forever Free?

Yesterday I referred to a NYT essay by Stephen King on short fiction. Today, I’m cribbing from the Wall Street Journal, specifically a piece by Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) .

Adams used some of his past blog entries for a new book, which meant they had to be removed from the web. For that, he caught flak from readers, some of whom retaliated by giving the book bad Amazon reviews. As he said, “For readers of my non-Dilbert books, I inadvertently set the market value for my work at zero. Oops.”

Why does this interest me? Because next year I have an anthology coming out…of work I originally posted online for free. Let me explain…

In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned I did annual online novellas. Freebies. The #1 ongoing question I get asked is: when will these be available in a real book? I’ve always said they’re meant to be free, but I’ve admitted to hoping that someday I can publish them as a charitable endeavour.

My chance came this summer. Long story short, my agent was approached and, ultimately, the collection went to my regular publishers. We negotiated to keep most of the short stories, my latest novella and a graphic-novella-in-progress online. The older stuff (4 novellas & 2 stories) is being edited, and put into a single volume. My advance and any royalties I earn will go to World Literacy.

This seemed a good way to balance the demand for a “real book” version with my unwillingness to profit from these “freebies.” But am I totally comfortable with it? No. And I wouldn’t have been any more comfortable turning down the offer.

I would have liked to keep the stories online. I understand why the publisher won’t allow that (and it was what I expected). I suppose if I bought a book and discovered the same stories were currently free online, I’d be miffed. And I don’t even like to read online. I just wouldn’t like the feeling I’d been “ripped off” (yes, I’m cheap)

So, is Adams right? Does putting work (fiction or nonfiction) free on the web set the market value at zero? What would you say if you bought a book of stories, only to discover they’d once been free online? Or that they were still free online?

Kelley Armstrong is the NYT bestselling author of the urban fantasy series, The Otherworld. For info on her novels or to read sample chapters, check out her website at www.KelleyArmstrong.com