Stories: Short & Sweet

It’s no secret i’m a lover of short stories. I’m also aware that a lot of other people aren’t. My love of short stories is so easy and natural that it baffles me a little why other people don’t seem to enjoy them as much as I do. I can’t understand what it is about them that’s unappealing. This left me wanting to articulate the reasons I think short stories are brilliant, so I had a go.

Most obviously, there is less commitment in reading a short story, and therefore a much quicker pay off. I can read a short story in minutes. I can experience the wonder, the tragedy, the humour, of a single narrative much more swiftly than with the commitment of reading an entire book. Even if I don’t enjoy the story, I haven’t wasted hours or days of my life reading it. They’re like chapters of a book, but with an entire set up and conclusion in each.

You get to the good stuff quicker because the whole story is the good stuff. Novels can take pages and pages and chapters and chapters to really get your teeth into, but short stories are wham and you’re there. Linked to this is the fact they draw you into the world and the characters so much quicker—you’re made to care and get invested from the get go, which leaves you no time to get bored.

Every word has to count in a short story. They’re not the place to wax lyrical about unimportant side notes or superfluous details. Everything mentioned in a good short story will add something to the narrative. It might be plot, character, mood—whatever the important things are to get across, and whatever it is the author is trying to convey in the small time they have your attention. It all matters.

My very favourite kind of short stories often have some sort of twist or unexpected revelation at the end. Something that makes you view the whole story in a new light, and makes a second read a whole new experience. It’s almost like you get two stories in one, and it can add such depth to such a short narrative. Of course, novels can have twists and turns and revelations, but re-reading short story is a much simpler task. There have been times i’ve finished a short story and gone straight back to the beginning to start it again. As much as i’ve loved any novel, i’ve never wanted re-read it immediately.

I find short stories can often make the reader work harder. The more thought and attention you put into a short story, the more satisfaction you get out of it. Novels can often over explain, or spell things out too much over time, but short stories won’t make it that easy for you. They give you all the pieces, but you might have to ponder on them before they fit together. They might, for example, not answer all the questions the story raises. They might leave the ending ambiguous or open to interpretation. I love endings like that anyway (be it novel, film, TV, whatever), but in a short short it forces you to take stock of the information you have been given and find new and extended meaning in it.

I just really love short stories okay? But don’t just take my rambling, biased word for it. Let these wonderful quotes persuade you to reading more short story collections…

A short story is a different thing altogether – a short story is like a quick kiss in the dark from a stranger.

– Stephen King

A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.

– Edgar Allan Poe

Short fiction seems more targeted – hand grenades of ideas, if you will. When they work, they hit, they explode, and you never forget them.

– Paolo Bacigalupi

A short story is confined to one mood, to which everything in the story pertains. Characters, setting, time, events, are all subject to the mood. And you can try more ephemeral, more fleeting things in a story – you can work more by suggestion – than in a novel. Less is resolved, more is suggested, perhaps.

– Eudora Welty

A short story is the ultimate close-up magic trick – a couple of thousand words to take you around the universe or break your heart.

– Neil Gaiman

My advice would be this: Don’t get all up in your head thinking short-short stories have to be poetry without the line breaks. Don’t put on your beret. Just tell a story, an actual story. Quick, while they’re still listening.

– Rebecca Makkai

A short story…can be held in the mind all in one piece. It’s less like a building than a fiendish device. Every bit of it must be cunningly made and crafted to fit together perfectly and without waste so it can perform its task with absolute precision. That purpose might be to move the reader to tears or wonder, to awaken the conscience, to console, to gladden, or to enlighten. But each short story has one chief purpose, and every sentence, phrase, and word is crafted to achieve that end.

– Michael Swanwick


Fifty Shades of Blackout Poetry

I remember when I first came across blackout poetry. I thought it was a wonderful idea. Writing a poem from scratch had always felt quiet intimidating to me. Sitting with a blank piece of paper and my own mind, conjuring meaningful words, placing them in a rhythmic order, and having the whole thing tie up and make some sort of abstract sense… I’m better with prose. But having a page full of words, and pulling from that certain words to create short poems or single poetic lines… maybe even I could manage that!

My foray into blackout poetry started when I picked up an old Point Horror book for 50p. It wasn’t easy, and took me at least 15 minutes, but i’m quite pleased with what I managed…

Belinda thought she could turn out differently
She hated the world, the people
The stupid was too much
If only. If only. If only,

Along with having a go myself, I did like to search for, read, re-blog, and pin other people’s blackout poems. It was this way that I discovered the tumblr blogs Fifty Shades of Black and 50 Shades of REGRET, both of which focus of creating blackout poetry for the notorious book Fifty Shades of Grey.

From here, an idea began to form.

My sister is, for some reason I have still to fathom, a fan of Fifty Shades of Grey. She loves the books, has been to see the film (films? I can’t bring myself to google if and when the sequels were released), and, most astonishing of all, is not ashamed of this.

So, a year or two ago I make a decision. I had the fabulous idea to take a copy of Fifty Shades, and create blackout poetry with the whole thing. I would wrap this up and present it to my sister for her birthday. I am a genius.

I only hit a few snags.

First of all, I couldn’t bring myself to pull the book from a charity shop bookshelf and take it to the counter. I just… couldn’t. In the end, my mum picked up a copy for me. Phew! Secondly, I underestimated the amount of time it would take me to compose the damn poems. I wasn’t going to just cobble it half-arsed by throwing random words together—they had to make some sort of sense. And if the writing took ages, so did the blacking out of the words I didn’t want. In my infinite wisdom I decided to forgo plain old blackout, and broke out my colourful sharpie collection to turn these little poems into literal works of art. Thirdly—and really, this is the one that did me in—actually having to read the book was just an exhausting, cringe-worthy experience. I ended up giving up after 50 pages.

On the plus side, my sister got an already started blackout poetry art project for her birthday! She loved it, and has composed a few more since her birthday. However she’s a busy working mother with a multitude of hobbies, so she hasn’t yet finished the entire book.

The project was a lot of fun, though. I’d enjoy doing it again without the time pressures, and with a book I’d actually enjoy reading! I’ve picked out a few of my favourite of the blackout poems below. Of course, with it being Fifty Shades, a few of them are a bit… risqué. Let me know what you think of my efforts, and let me know if you’ve done any blackout poetry.

I scowl with frustration at
my wayward semi
I can’t blow this

I take him in
I swallow and try to look professional
But he looks vaguely disappointed

I’m free
No man can limit me

I frown, I huff
He doesn’t talk
I check my watch
“I’ll see you later”
I leave

He’s fascinated by a sandwich
I scowl at him
A sandwich?

I watch him disappear
I’m glad he’s leaving me
It’s a lost cause

I flash a brief dazzling, unguarded, natural, all-teeth-showing, glorious smile.
But I don’t trust him

You make me weak
You push and pull me
I’m suffocating

His eyes are large
He’s watching me
He does not see me

Book Spine Poetry

Book Spine Poetry I loved this idea when i saw Rosemawrites do it over at A Reading Writer, and i just had to give it a go myself.

The idea is to browse your bookshelves, pull down any inspiring titles and pile them up until their spines write little poems. It was both harder and easier than i thought! For random silliness that makes no sense, it’s great fun. Except for all my weirdness, i do still like things to work. How do you think i managed?

This really was an interesting and enjoyable thing to do with my books, and i heartily encourage everyone to try it. Feel free to leave me your best book spine poems in the comments, or make your own post and tell me about it.

Books + creativity = ♥


Explorers of the New Century


Florence & Giles
Free Fall
off the map
The Two of Them
Alone Against Tomorrow


The Doors of Perception
A Sense of Wonder
Wild Abandon

Book Hauling

I’ve decided i’m being too careful, too precious and too controlled with this blog. I don’t post much save reviews and memes and TTTs for fear of posts not being “good enough” or something. And it’s a load of crock. I have a “random” category for a reason, and i’m going to start using it.

And so, this post.


One of my recent bookish resolutions was to buy fewer books. So of course i’m going to talk to you about the newest books that have come into my possession! I decided it would be nice to have accompanying photos, so broke out the 50mm lens, a bunch of fairy lights and some props. AM I DOING IT RIGHT?

Now, not all of these are books i bought. Some were Christmas presents, some are borrowed, and yes, some i did buy… but not that many, i swear!

IMG_8623Undermajordomo Minor is a book that’s been on my wishlist since before it was released. That so very rarely happens; i’m not one to chase new releases or request advanced reading copies or anything like that. But Patrick deWitt is apparently an exception. This is his third book, and i adored his first two. Adored them enough to click “to read” on his third without even reading the synopsis. He is a witty, entertaining and readable author. The fact he sticks to short chapters really, really helps too (must keep reading!). This was a high priority on my wishlist, and happily my parents got it for me for Christmas. Bless them, they had no idea what they were buying, but they knew it would make me happy. I’m very much looking forward to getting stuck into this one!

IMG_8627I’ve only read one or two Charles Dickens, many years ago at school. I don’t really remember them at all, but what i do remember is one of my teachers recommending i read The Pickwick Papers. I never did read it, but for some reason it stuck with me all these years. Stuck enough for me to add the book to my Classics Club challenge. This book has been lent to me by my mother-out-law, who owns an entire Charles Dickens collection. I’m fearful of cracking its beautifully untouched spine, but not enough to stop me from reading it. I’m making this book a priority in the first half of the year, both to get it ticked off my classics list, and to get it back to its owner.

IMG_8630The Scorch Trials has been on my radar since i finished The Maze Runner. I wanted to give it a go, because i very much enjoyed the story of the first book and am interested to see how it continues. However, i wasn’t so keen on the books that i was going to rush out to buy the sequel. Serendipity did its thing, and i found this copy, in excellent condition, in a secondhand shop on new year’s day for one single measly pound! I couldn’t not buy it! I’m saving this for when i need a light, easy and quick read, where i know what to expect and am prepared for the poor quality writing.

IMG_8647The third and final book in the Howl’s Moving Castle trilogy, i had The House of Many Ways on my wishlist and received it for Christmas. I haven’t yet read, though do own, the second book, Castle in the Air. I loved the first book so so much, and it was such a joyful lighthearted read, that i’m sure it won’t take me to long to get through the two sequels. I’m sure i’ll be able to finish the series this year, if i choose to prioritise them; i’ll certainly be finishing this series before starting on any new ones!

I’d never really given much thought or notice to Wodehouse until recently, when i read some of Annie’s favourite Wodehouse quotes over at Curious Wren. They were an utter delight and i knew i had to get my hands on some Wodehouse fairly swiftly. I hadn’t known where the hell to start though; the man wrote a lot of bloody books!


The decision was taken out of my hands when in that same secondhand shop on new year’s day i spotted a mint condition copy of Full Moon, again for the bargainous price of £1.00. I snapped it up, only later looking up which number of which series it’s from–seventh book in the Blandings Castle series. Me being me, i can’t jump into a series at book seven, so i promptly order the first book in the series, Something Fresh, to begin the series proper.

IMG_8696I watched the I, Robot film years ago not long after it came out. I liked it well enough; it had an interesting sci-fi theme, posing some interesting questions and with a bit of action to boot. But still, it was a shiny hollywood film, playing it too close to bland and safe. From what i’ve heard, the film took one aspect of the book and ran with it in a different direction. So, i’m hopeful that a) the book will still hold surprises for me and b) will be far and away more interesting, dark and thought-provoking in comparison to the film. Also, check out that amazing cover! Really, that’s the sole reason i bought it; i didn’t want to miss out on the book cover perfection.

IMG_86761Best for last? I do have the biggest, comfiest soft spot for John Wyndham. He is without a doubt, and with a couple of regretful second-placers, my absolute favourite. I’m still buying and working my way though his books, because i just… never want them to end. Consider Her Ways is a collection of short stories, and if it’s anywhere near as good as The Seeds of Time (of course it will be, pfft), then i will be deliriously happy. I’m a big fan of short stories and the biggest fan of John Wyndham, so when the two cross over, i get bookish perfection. This has been on my wishlist for a little while (pacing, pacing), and i was lucky enough to get if for Christmas this year. The warm comfort i feel inside at the unread Wyndham books on my shelves is a special one. The best kind of anticipation.

And with that, i hope to not buy another book for a good long while! I shall stop looking for books to add to my to read list, i shall not browse or my own wishlist, i shall not step foot inside a bookshop without good reason (like buying for someone else!). I shall not buy books!

Sigh. Even Dave isn’t buying it.


Blitzing the Bookshelves

BeforeWith my current books to bookshelves ratio, i had simply assumed organisation an impossibility for my books. The most organised i got was sections for read, sections for general to-read and one small bookshelf for my next planned 20 reads. The bulk of what you see there in my first photo is my general to-read section. It’s a mess. Or, it was…

I got it into my head recently to sort out my bookshelves. Even if i couldn’t organise them 100% to my liking, i thought there surely had to be a better way than haphazardly piled and precariously balanced. This idea didn’t have to sit with me long before i was pouncing on my books and pulling them from the shelves.

BooksAnd so, last Saturday afternoon i soon found myself amongst a sofa piled with books. I didn’t think too much about how i wanted to try to organise things–that way lay madness. I just went for it. I decided to stop segregating the books i’d read away from the many books i had to read. I can remember what i have and haven’t read (and if i can’t, well, goodreads was invented for a reason, right?). So i piled up the books according to author, with several larger piles of authors i only have one book by. There was so many, i couldn’t fit them all on the sofa (or on the floor near the sofa, and still leave myself enough room to manoeuvre), so a few piles had to remain on the selves for me to work around.During

After01The next step–the best step, as far as i’m concerned–was putting them all back again! I couldn’t resist some read/to-read divide, apparently, but when i have so many single books with no other by that author to pair them with, they are naturally drawn to each other (in my neat and tidy liking head). So, the top shelf ended up being largely (though not entirely) books i’ve read. The rest, i think, went by something resembling favouritism. With John Wyndham and William Golding taking pride of place as the front row on the second shelf. (I can’t even remember what’s behind them now. This might not end well…) Because yes, my books to bookshelves ratio is still too skewed to allow for a single row of books per shelf. It is a burden i will bear until i finally get my library.





I did also make better use of a small bookcase that had held the 50 books i read in 2012, until half of them were gradually removed and scattered around the house for some reasons i don’t even know. Now it holds (one row per shelf of!) authors i own more than just a few books by. It occurs to me now i may have put these in reverse order favouritism, but whatever, Hiaasen’s books are brightly coloured and jolly and nice to look at.


The many and wonderful Brookmyre books got housed atop my partner’s bookshelf, as they are, technically, his. (We may share our lives together, but mingling our book collections is a commitment neither of us may ever be willing to make.) (That’s a lie, i mingled some, in my commitment to keep authors together.) The lack of the rest of this shelving unit is because my partner’s bookshelf is still a mess, and i don’t want that contaminating this beautiful post.


For completeness’ sake, i also include a photo of my diddy shelf which contains the next 20 books i plan to read. Which for some reason are in order from right to left.

To Read

And finally, the books i have decided to say goodbye to. Whether loved or hated, these are simply books i know i will never read again. Now it’s time for someone else to enjoy them. And this may be the largest number of books i have got rid of in one go–i usually hate parting with books.


And that was my recent book blitzing adventure. I feel enormously satisfied. For days afterwards i kept wandering into the living room, simply to admire my shelves. My biggest worry now is what will happen the next time i visit a bookshop and come home with half a dozen new books…