OK guys, we’ve a few things going on, so I’ll cut straight to the chase and get on with last week’s reviews.
‘Cut to the chase’ – There is a wee bit in the irony of that as it was originally a phrase used to get rid of the written word when we are reviewing the written word. No matter…And on to this week’s stories!
We had one new writer and three who coincidently have more than one mention in this Anniversary Post.
Our mix was as eclectic as usual. We had ongoing issues, ghosts, perceptions, and an inspirational find.
As always, our initial comments follow.
On Monday our only newbie was published. After all this time it still gives us a kick when we can showcase a new author.
We welcome Phoebe Reeves-Murray and hope she has a long involvement with Literally Stories. ‘Aref And the Hermit Crabs‘ began the week.
‘A well written, imaginative and yet perceptive story.’
‘There is something very powerful about this tale.’
‘Within the story there are a few sad but beautiful moments.’
‘Unsettling and addressed issues that are still relevant.’
‘There were some excellent phrases.’
‘Great lines and well put together!’
The legend that is Mr Tom Sheehan graced us yet again on Wednesday with ‘At A Loss for Words.‘
‘I love the premise behind this. The train of action that was instigated by the original reader was clever.’
‘The book could have been magical, a muse or simply inspirational. I enjoyed considering all of these.
We did things a bit different on Thursday and Friday. But to be truthful, we have done this before with Tom Sheehan.
We published another two-parter.
Now, before you all get your serial typing started please note that the two authors that we showcased in this way are two of our most prolific and skilled writers. They have been with us from very early days and their support and volume of pure quality is something that is very rare. So that is the sort of standard you have to aim for if you want us to stray from our own guidelines. (We are nothing if not adaptable).
Leila Allison is a very intelligent and witty lady. She is straight talking and has a take on the world that is refreshing due to her honesty and cutting perception. Leila is a pure delight to work with!
It was fitting that her stories led up to our anniversary.
‘Beautifully pulled together and poignantly wound up.’
‘Leila is a proper and complete writer!’
‘Lovely! There was never going to be a doubt that we’d publish this!!’
That’s the reviews for this week and we will be back to bog standard / quotidian / conventional / wonted next week. (I’m trying out some new variations for the horror word that is ‘normal’)
Since we decided to do this I have been wondering what I was going to write. I thought I’d look back to where I was and then consider where I am now.
In the past three years I have been disappointed more times than I care to mention, had five different jobs, been disappointed in my work life, had my fiftieth birthday, was disappointed with that and been disillusioned with life in general. And when I think on it, life has disappointed me as well. (Surely you didn’t expect anything happy from me?!!)
However, I have had two constants in my life, one is Gwen and the other is Literally Stories. I have been frustrated and at times have sworn and ranted and raved. I have been so annoyed that I have contemplated murder. I bet you are thinking I would say that Literally Stories has been so much better?? But no, I am talking about us setting the whole thing up. Well, if I am truthful, all the other guys set the systems and website up. I just sat in a corner, drooled and picked my feet. I am an idiot man when it comes to all this magic shit that I don’t understand. But I expect that I should be able to do it no problems. Unfortunately, as I said, I am an idiot man and I end up with pulsing neck veins and bulging eyeballs. ‘On’ switches should be fucking bigger and in a bright colour!
We went from a few breakdowns (mainly mine) to the site that you are all part of now. It’s still difficult for me as systems tend to do things that no-one understands when I try and work them. If God is a microchip, he can go fuck himself.
But and it is a huge but, I am so grateful for all the snot and tantrums as I have got to do something I love. I read wonderful stories and ‘meet’ some of the most interesting folks that I have ever come across.
It’s so strange that I am using technology (In so many ways) to access a medium that is old as time. (Or should that be as old as speaking?)
Story telling is trying to hold its own against game systems, social media bitchiness and relentless amounts of television. And to be truthful, I think that it is losing. But we have a wee corner that anyone can visit,and they will see that it is important. It is alive, and it has a voice. That is all to do with all of you who have either commented, submitted, or hopefully been published. I am honoured to be a part of helping this to be available.
Happy anniversary to all of you and as always, I thank my fellow editors for their advice and more importantly, friendship.
All the very best.
So, three years. It’s incredible. When we first started this, we had no idea how many wonderful new friends we would make or how many amazing authors would allow us the privilege of showcasing their writing.
There’s no denying it’s a lot of work. Acknowledging and sorting submissions, reading, emailing, formatting and uploading and then keeping an eye on the posts. But, it’s also a lot of fun.
The reading takes a great deal of our time of course, but there would be no site without it, so we will never complain about that. Sometimes, it’s obvious quite early that a story either, isn’t quite ready for publication, or, isn’t a good fit for us, but we still read each and every one and discuss them all. Sometimes, and this is magic, it is obvious from the first couple of sentences that a story has already booked its place, but we still read and discuss those – usually with lots of superlatives and excitement. Then there are the ones that, for whatever reason, have to be more carefully considered. It could be argued that these are the most fun. Hugh, in his brilliant Saturday roundup posts includes some of our original thoughts, but often they are a tiny thumbnail of a long and interesting conversation. We sometimes disagree – always with good humour – we often persuade each other to have another look, have a rethink and always there has to be an overwhelming positive or negative vote. I love it, I really do.
The formatting is something that falls to me most often and I really do enjoy it. If I could be a bit of a nag-basket here and just say my work is much easier with stories that are Left aligned (that is for one of our regular contributors – I wonder if you know who you are?) No, indents or fiddly formatting and no odd spacing. Having said all of that I know that the story is the main object of the exercise and if the post needs a bit of fine tuning so be it.
Searching for images takes a lot of time and because we have to be very careful about copyright I do sometimes have to compromise with what I want and what I can have. So, if you have an image in mind for your story, one that will not be liable to copyright and one that will fit in the banner – bearing in mind that we have the black logo in the centre which is immovable – once you have confirmation that your piece will be published we don’t mind at all if you either send a link or image. No promises because it all depends on what will fit but we will always have a look.
Anyway, I am sure that’s enough of me blathering on – all I really want to say is thank you, thank you authors, readers, and commenters, for your support in all the different ways over the last three years and Thank You to my fellow editors for your friendship, your kindness and your humour. I really do count you guys among my best friends.
One is the loneliest number.
Two can be as bad as one, it’s the loneliest number since the number one.
Three? Three, that’s the magic number.
I’m celebrating three anniversaries over the next three days. On Monday, I’ll be at a long service event at work for those employees who’ve lost all ambition and kept turning up for a decade or two. My actual ten-year anniversary was on 1 April (oh the irony) but hey a free lunch is a free lunch.
Today I’m doubling up so to speak. It’s my ten-year wedding anniversary (I married wisely and way above my station) and of course, the reason I’m waffling on in the first place, three years of Literally Stories.
As one of the three currently active cogs in the Literally Stories machine my job is to stay in the shadows and keep the background stuff neat and tidy. I look after the forum where we discuss every story that gets submitted to us (1902 stories from 811 authors at time of writing) and I spend time digging into the numbers for fun (I need to get out more).
So, I’m the guy who can tell you that we’ve had 39 authors who have submitted exactly three stories. I can also tell you that 70% of the story titles you come up with have three words or less in them. Cumulatively we’ve had more submissions in March (month 3) than any other month, and for those stories we’ve received on the third day of any month only a third of them have been accepted.
But numbers don’t tell much of the real story of LS.
I’m the kind of guy who is fairly prone to moments of self-doubt, particularly when it comes to the subject of writing. When LS launched, I felt horribly under-qualified to be looking at other people’s work and making a decision on whether or not it was right for our website. My fellow editors all seemed to be able to bang out new stories for fun while still finding time to critique effectively and insightfully which compounded my sense of inadequacy. For the whole first year, I tried to make sure I wasn’t the first one to voice an opinion on any story to avoid sounding like (more of) a fool (than usual). For large chunks of the second and third year I agonised over whether the time I was putting into LS was curtailing my ambition to write. LS became an easy target for my misguided blame.
Sitting down to write this piece and reflect on the last three years has made me realise what an amazing gift it has been. I interact every day with people who I’ve never met but have become close and trusted friends. I’ve been able to learn from the words of both new and experienced authors and have realised that all of us are learning this craft the whole time. There is no perfect story, just the occasional magical moment where words, mood, time, emotion and a whole host of other factors fall into place.
Have I written as regularly as I’d like over the last three years? No.
Am I better writer for being part of this wonderful LS community? Undoubtedly.
Thank you all for allowing me to share in your brilliant works of fiction – it’s been a true pleasure and privilege.
Since we are in celebration mode, we thought that now was as good time as any to showcase some of the wonderful writing that we have enjoyed.
We have been collecting some memorable lines. There are no rules or formulas, all we decided was that a line had to catch us and would be able to be taken out of context of the story.
Here are the ones that we came up with over the last year.
‘You cannot effectively describe an emotion until the emotion has ceased.’
‘The man’s a soldier no matter what he wears.’
‘The sea, respectfully, unconditionally has its laws and regulations.’
‘…free to go back to the ordinary life that had been stolen from him by a diagnosis.’
‘I don’t want to feel ago today’
‘Just like God, I see it all, and I don’t care’
Dreams of a past that never happened isn’t much of a future.
‘Ah the sinister voice of truth. If truth was a person, it would be a fucking pariah.’
There were many, many more as you can imagine but we have to stop somewhere don’t we?
And, because this site belongs to the authors and readers just as much, or perhaps even more than it does to the editors, we asked some of our friends for comments. We were thrilled and humbled by the responses we had. Thank you.
Irene Allison: In my first Comparative Lit class I was introduced to writing’s greatest strength, it’s ability to communicate effectively through styles as diverse as, say, Hemingway compared to Poe. This is evident at LS. We hear different minds speak on topics as high as affection for plastic “cuddle” dolls and as low as losing faith in life’s many illusions. I have my favorite LS pieces, as well as those I didn’t like much. Yet all are valid. I get no sense of writers parodying the voices of established authors–which is easy to do, especially in genre fiction. Congratulations to the honest writers at LS. I support those who mean what they say no matter how they say it. Happy birthday. Leila Allison.
Adam Kluger: In very short order, Literally Stories has established itself as one of the UK’s top literary arts magazines. Thanks to the fierce sincerity and intelligence of the site’s editors, Literally Stories has quickly grown from a tight-knit community of passionate and interesting writers of short stories into a true showcase for today’s most creative writing talent. Very proud to be a contributor.” -Adam Kluger
June Griffin: Finding Literally Stories and instantly making five new friends with you editors has been a major event in my life. I not only get to enjoy wonderful short stories, but once I started to comment, I haven’t been able to stop because it makes me so happy to think a line or two of praise and encouragement can make a writer’s day – either in my country or across the seas. Thank you all for giving me the privilege of being a part of LS for three great years. June
Dave Henson: I’ve been sitting here trying to think of something to say for your third anniversary. I want it to be serious, but also dressed up with a bit of sophisticated humor. Well, I think I finally have it.
For me, Literally Stories has an ideal formula for encouraging readers and writers and enhancing their experience. Being open to almost all styles and genres has resulted in a rich variety of stories being published on your website. I can’t imagine how many hours it takes for you to review all the submissions, then select and publish five pieces a week. The opportunity to “like” and comment on stories adds to the engagement of readers and can be very reinforcing for authors. The Saturday post is always fun, and the sharing of reviewers’ comments on the week’s stories is especially interesting. In all, your approach has resulted in not just a literary website, but creation of a virtual community and fellowship of writers and readers. That’s the best part of all.
OK, that was the serious bit. Maybe too serious. But I realize I’ve left out the sophisticated humor. What if I I told you that while writing this, I’ve been wearing large webbed feet and a giant Donald Duck head? That’s pretty humorous. And sophisticated. Am I right? Seriously.
Congratulations, Team LS, on three great years. Keep’em coming! Dave Henson
Frederick K Foote: Wishing LS a happy birthday and many, many more to come. On my doorstep every morning the pitter-patter of 3000 binary based words or less. My inoculation against the vicious, violent, viruses attacking the brain waves and airways.
An escape into the Wonderland of Words, a reader’s delight, a writer’s flight of fantasy
It literally makes my day to be counted among the readers and wordsmiths of your stories. Fred
James McEwan: I have to applaud and congratulate the founders and editorial team of Literally Stories for reaching the third year of presenting their gem of a site. A short story site that publishes a new piece every day – continuously – apart from Saturdays when Hugh, under the pretext of providing a weekly summary, vents frustration and steam about some unrelated situation that has crossed his path. (Usually with the full force of colourful language that makes Sister Marie blush and pray for forgiveness on his behalf).
I believe one of the greatest achievements over the years has been the attraction of a range of the writers, some who have outstanding literary qualifications and previous published work under their belts, and other equally talented people who tell fascinating tales with extraordinary word craft or else sheer determination.
A great example of one such artist and writer, I believe, who has made some excellent contributions is Adam Kluger. If you have not already done so reading the “Interview with Adam Kluger” on Literally Stories is both entertaining and insightful.
Over the years I have read the stories from Frederick K. Foote, Jr. and occasionally feel I am sitting in the same room, that is how deeply engrossed I become. I have not commented frequently on his work since I feel it speaks for itself. I particularly enjoyed Mr Lucky and Interrogator.
The first line in Jane Dougherty’s story Friday “There are some lives that don’t begin in earnest until they are almost over”, made me sit up and listen. Well I have so much to do in life and best get a move on. This is lovely gentle tale of a retired butcher befriending a stray puppy during a walk in the park. I thought it was beautifully written and lead the reader along on a gentle stroll in the park, I could feel every thought and sense through François. The relevance of the story about loneliness in retirement was clear.
I suppose you could call it the Alfred Hitchcock moment, when you feel the tension of the character and at the same time are kept guessing, and hooked up until the end. This was the feeling I had with Amanda McTigue’s, You don’t Say No to Ituango, a hit and run story that is never resolved.
One author who always astounds me is Ashlie Allen. There is no preamble or wordy introductory leads into her stories. It seems is as if someone has switched the light off followed by a death gurgling loud scream. The first sentence sets the scene and the horror unfolds slowly with progressive fear, shock and in some cases weird depravity. Very enjoyable reads, only because I get hooked so easily and dragged straight into the middle of the horrific environment – I scream let me out, but read on regardless. Those first lines are in my opinion just brilliant:
The garden has faces.
She cries a lot because her teeth are gone.
I burned my face off last night.
I heard my orchids screaming last night.
My cat suffocated in my hair last night.
He won’t do anything else. All he ever does is sit downstairs and stroke his violin.
I could go on about the many other stories that have entertained me over the three years – I am not sure of the statistics, the number of writers and stories published – and although I would like to mention everyone there is just not enough time or space – but well done everyone.
The next author I will say a few words about, but will tread carefully is, Hugh Cron. Perhaps I should start with a warning about adult content. His contributions, both as the editor and writer are profoundly offensive at times by the very nature of their bad language. However, since Sister Marie will not read this I find the hard-punching social grit both entertaining for its representation of the seedier side of life and humorous because I know people who are just like his characters. In many ways, he shows the results of a society that has lost its way through carelessness.
I wonder, every Saturday, after reading his expressive views if any of the doors in his home still have their hinges in place.
In all honesty, I must also take my hat off to Hugh for his consistent dedication and hard work on keeping Literally Stories going as the best site for all professional and budding writers, worldwide, to showcase their wonderful talents.
I would like to say thank you to the team for being persistent and maintaining the courage to keep this production going.
Best wishes. James