Against You

Against You

My body is against you

Rib bones flex under your weight

Smothered by masculinity

I disappear into the mattress

 

My heart is against you

When we are pressed together

Fists of muscle almost touch

They pound at each other

 

My spirit is against you

Your finger pins it down

As you dance around it

And wait for it to wither

 

My mind is against you

Every flaw and every blow

Every lack and disappointment

A coarse stone that sharpens me

That strengthens me

Against you

YouTube Book Review – The Wrong David with Christie Adams

YouTube Book Review – The Wrong David with Christie Adams

It was such a nice surprise to see that Christie Adams reviewed my first published work, The Wrong David. This is my first video review and it is exciting to see my book in the hands of another human being across the ocean!

Make sure you subscribe to Christie’s YouTube channel and check out her new collection of short stories Knickers and Other Bitesize Flashes.

About Christie Adams

Christie Adams is a writer, blogger and creativity coach. Her passion is sharing the inspirational art of words to motivate, educate and widen horizons. She’s over 50 and enjoys pushing her boundaries, challenging age stereotypes and travelling to experience all the beauty on this amazing planet.

Connect with Christie

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Project 13 Dark – The Interviews – Ross Jeffery

Project 13 Dark – The Interviews – Ross Jeffery

You may remember Ross Jeffery from my interview with the staff of Storgy Literary Magazine. Ross is their Executive Director of Books and always has his nose in one. He is also a burgeoning writer who is part of Project †3 Dark and has just had his story Judgements published in Idle Ink.

†3Dark is the brainchild of author, editor, and book coach Joseph Sale. It’s a unique dark fiction project that showcases both the written and visual artwork of some of this century’s greatest creatives.

Ross Jeffery’s transcendent story Bethesda opens the project’s first issue called Dead Voices. I asked Ross to answer a few questions about the idea for this story and how he emerged from a bout of writer’s block that lasted 7 years. He also talks about the future of dark fiction and how to avoid the slush pile when submitting to literary magazines like Storgy.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

To be honest I think I have always wanted to do something creative. I guess words just clicked for me. When I was at school I had a fabulous Media Studies teacher called Mr. Peckett who looked like Harry Hill, but he was a phenomenal teacher. He opened my eyes to writing, to authors I’d never heard of and he pretty much showed me the power of words. From his guidance, I went on to study Media Arts and Video Production at University and a large portion of this degree was writing, writing scripts, essays and other works – so it’s always been there lurking in the background until it came into the foreground, thanks to Tomek and Tony. Now I couldn’t imagine my life doing anything else.

You went through a period of not writing that lasted for years. What caused it and how did you push past it?

I had been writing for years up to this point. I’d been writing about lots of dark and disturbing things, writing really graphic and spiritually dark material; because before I became a Christian this was the area of writing I felt at home in – I’d go for shock value all the time, there was no filter and no subject I wouldn’t talk about.

After becoming a Christian, I continued to write in this vein. My wife raised the subject with me and I had a moment of reflection and clarity. I stopped. Just went cold turkey. I didn’t write for seven years. Seven years. I of course made notes about things but I didn’t actually sit down to write for a long time.

After seven years, I felt God tell me to start writing again; so, I began writing and wrote the short story ‘Bethesda’. I put myself out there and sent it out into the world. Firstly I wanted to see if I was writing anything people wanted to read; plus, now I was writing with a freedom I’d not experienced before. In those seven years, I also read an awful lot of books, from a variety of authors and genres and I think if you want to be a better writer, you need to read anything and everything.

I sent the short story out and heard back pretty quickly. It was a fabulous feeling and it also connected with the publisher on a personal level so for me that is what being a writer is all about – writing words that move, effect and connect with people!

In Bethesda, you take an ordinary day at the beach and make it extraordinary. What sparked this idea in this setting?

I love reading the Bible, it’s full of so many wonderful stories – that in my opinion are as relevant today as they were when they were originally written. I’ve always loved the story about the pool of Bethesda and wanted to incorporate this into a story. It also came at a time where personally I was struggling with being Ill, not being able to do anything – I had a portion of my neck (vertebrate) removed and replaced by some artificial components but at the time I was writing I was crying out to God for help.

The beach itself was and is a place I visit frequently in Bournemouth when we go to see my wife’s family. It’s a place I always find peace and comfort and I thought – this is where I want to base my story – I wanted to re-image the story of the Pool of Bethesda and bring it into the modern age to a new audience who possibly have never heard of the tale before.

Project 13 Dark is a collection of dark fiction. What kind of writing do you think fits into that category? What future do you see for it?

I think Project 13 Dark’s premise is brilliant. Dark fiction is all relative. Life is difficult, life is messy and at key moments in our lives we will all find ourselves clawing at the walls trying to escape the darkness. I am a huge fan of dark fiction (transgressive fiction). I love the writings of Chuck Palahniuk and Bret Easton Ellis and think this is the type of writing that I would associate with Dark Fiction and if we can use these guys as our measuring stick we won’t be going far wrong. I can see the future for Dark fiction really kicking on – as long as there is a reason for the dark, I don’t have a problem!

'Life is difficult, life is messy and at key moments in our lives we will all find ourselves clawing at the walls trying to escape the darkness.' @Ross1982 #amwriting #darkfiction #shortstories Click To Tweet

At Storgy you read and review a lot of emerging and well-established writers. What do you feel is the key ingredient that makes a story good?

At STORGY we read and review a lot of books, short stories and other writings from emerging and well-established writers and we all look at things differently – it’s such a collaborative place to work and I work with two amazing guys who have helped my writing to no end (Tomek Dzido and Tony Self). I want a story to punch me in the face, that first page has got to either knock me out or blow me out of the water. If I don’t have that hook, I don’t want to read on. I also love stories that look at the real life, look at the things we often take for granted – I also love a flawed character, we are all fallible – that’s what I love to read about.

What is the ultimate goal of your own writing?

I guess I would be happy if my writing continued to connect with people. If I were able to forge a career in writing that would be a bonus – but for me my main passion at the moment is STORGY Books our independent publishing arm of STORGY Magazine. We recently published the anthology Exit Earth featuring twenty-four short stories and critically acclaimed authors such as James Miller, Michael Carey, Courttia Newland and Toby Litt.

I am still writing and if recognition of my work comes from this, that’s a bonus.

Who is the writer you most admire and why?

Chuck Palahniuk all the way! I owe this guy so much, he opened my eyes to what writing should be. I remember reading Fight Club for the first time, before the film had come out and it blew me away. The way he is able to reinvent himself time after time is astounding – he’s such a huge catalogue of books and I have read every one, and he just keeps on blowing me away! Even his foray into colouring books was a masterstroke and shows the man knows what he is up to. Plus, I was also privileged enough to interview Chuck and he was such a great guy, his insights into writing really helped and just speaking to one of my writing idols was something I’ll never forget – and the signed copy of Fight Club he sent me afterwards shows that the man is all about his fans!

What advice do you have for new writers who want to submit to literary magazines and anthologies like Project 13 Dark?

Make sure you are writing for you and not the paycheck or the competition (they help, don’t get me wrong). Write about what matters to you, your honesty and personal experiences transfer so much better onto the page than trying to make stuff up. Write about what you know when you can. When you can’t, research! Also, you need to make sure your work is shit hot! I don’t want to be reading peoples work that is littered with spelling or grammatical mistakes. Treat us with respect people. We are taking the time out to read your work for publication. The least you can do is put across or submit the best you can do! Review and edit, and when you think you are going to send it off, leave it for a few days, read it again and do a final edit!

Will you be writing any novel-length fiction in the future? Why or why not?

Personally, I would love to. I have a few ideas floating around and also got about 60,000 words into a project but have since put it on the shelf and not looked at it since. I have a bit of a problem, that is that my mind is always so active. I come up with ideas for stories all the time. I carry a note pad around with me wherever I go. I use it to write ideas down when they spring into my mind. I write down bits of dialogue I hear from people’s conversations. I put down things I have observed in nature – everything goes into this book. I guess at the moment I am happy in the short story realm. I have an idea I am fleshing out at the moment for a possibly novella length piece, but the short story is where I call home. I love its boundaries and its rules, its functions and the impact a short piece of fiction can have. That’s not me writing off the novel thing, I just at the moment don’t have the patience to write something that long. I need to get rid of some of the clutter in my mind first to free up the time and space to focus on a novel.

And what everyone wants to know – what can we look forward to from you?

Well exciting news is that last year my story Bethesda was published by Project 13 Dark, I had a story in the Anthology Exit Earth by STORGY Books called Daylight Breaks through and at the start of 2018 I had a short story accepted for publication in Idle Ink (being published at the end of the month 29th January 2018) called Judgements.

I am currently working on a short story that I am so excited about, something I can’t wait to share with people. It’s based on something horrific that happened to me, but the idea and concept of the story is something that has really been pushing my writing boundaries (homelessness and mental health). It’s really challenging and there are a lot of moving parts but if I can pull it off I will be thrilled with the outcome and how it has helped me become a better writer. I’ve immersed myself in the writings of Chuck Palahniuk, Charles Bukowski and Dan Fante to help me get into writing about a flawed character, so hopefully some of their greatness will be gleaned and help me write a character that is believable and people can connect with.

As mentioned above I will be trying to plan my novella length idea at some point this year, it’s a little like Bethesda as being rooted in the Bible, but I am looking at the story of Moses and the plagues and seeing if there is something there – a modern retelling of some sort!

But at the moment I have a book full of short story ideas that I would love to flesh out and possibly try to submit to other magazines. I’d also just love to hone the craft I love so much a bit more before delving into the full novel!

Keep reading and writing and when you think you have it nailed, read some more!


Ross Jeffery is a Bristol based writer and Executive Director of Books for STORGY Magazine. Most often than not found collaborating with Tomek Dzido and Anthony Self with either pen or camera. He is an avid reader of an eclectic mix of fiction and is a lover of the short story form. He is hard at work with his own collection of short stories and a novel for publication in the near future. Ross has been published online at STORGY Magazine and Idle Ink and in print with STORGY Books Exit Earth (Daylight Breaks Through) and Project 13 Dark (Bethesda). Ross lives in south Bristol with his wife and two children. If you would like to follow him he’s on Twitter @Ross1982. 

Connect with Ross

Twitter – @Ross1982

Instagram – rossi_bozzi

Website – www.storgy.com

Judgements

by Ross Jeffery

Idle Ink – Curious Fiction

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†3Dark

Issue #1 – Dead Voices

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EXIT EARTH

Storgy Anthology

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SICK Part I – The Storgy Review

SICK Part I – The Storgy Review

The Sick Series Kindle Countdown Deal only 99¢ each 1/22/2018

Originally published in Storgy Literary Magazine

By Joseph Sale – I first read Sick back in July 2016. It was a half-hearted summer for sun – it almost always is in the UK –  but made up for by the fact that at that time I was enjoying what seemed to be the atomic boom of the independent book world. I discovered so many favourite indie authors, and many of them are still firm favourites today. For me, that was the summer which cemented a concept I already knew in my heart: that self-published authors and independent presses could easily compete for quality with the major publishing houses. As I scoured the internet for new authors doing interesting things in fantasy, horror and science fiction, I encountered Christa Wojciechowski. She’d written the novella Sick, and the blurb piqued my interest because of the way it dealt with disturbing themes in such a domestic, realistic setting. Sick stood out from the crowd, and still does, for its compellingly rich psychological insight. It stayed with me, remaining a unique point of reference. I found myself recommending it in almost every discussion I had that veered towards great books off the beaten track.

It’s hard to write a character that feels three-dimensional, rich, historied, as unpredictably human as you or I. And funnily enough, it’s the lead protagonists of most novels seem to end up being the most flat and two-dimensional of all the characters on offer. Christa Wojciechowski gives us two completely three dimensional protagonists however: Susan and John Branch. Sick is told from Susan’s viewpoint, and there’s not a single word out of place in that regard. The voice is so clear, and so distinctly realised, you’ll feel as though Susan is in the room, confiding in you in secret.

Susan and John are opposites, or appear to be: Susan is the dull, boring nurse, a plain and unremarkable woman longing for her knight in shining armour. John is flamboyant, charismatic, but physically weak and perpetually bedridden, requiring Susan’s continual attendance and care. Add to this another layer – John was from a wealthy family, used to having the silver spoon, but his fortune has been destroyed by his ill health, leaving them struggling to make ends meet in a hovel adjoining John’s old mansion (which is now owned by another family), with Susan working as hard as she can to keep them afloat. Christa brings the relationship to life with the intricate details – the pet names, the gestures, the conversational patterns, the habits – so the story feels so grounded it becomes like an undertow, inescapably gripping.

All is not as it seems in this marriage, there’s more than meets the eye. Why does the groundskeeper behave so oddly when Susan mentions John’s illnesses? How do john’s injuries manifest so quickly? And is Susan all she appears? Why does she pleasure herself at night, when she thinks John is asleep? And does John know? Early in the novella, we cotton on to the truth, but through a deft and ingenious use of dramatic irony, our viewpoint character Susan is left in the dark. Her unwillingness to confront the truth of the situation becomes an increasingly agonising tension, building until the novella reaches a startling denouement. The brevity and clarity of the novel means this ending really lands with the punch – not being clouded by the extraneous detail so often used to pad out novels to what is deemed as an ‘industry standard’ word length. Sick is distilled. It’s a shot of black vodka. And it kicks.

These characters, and their relationship, are the heart of the novel – and the portrayal of their marriage is masterfully handled. Quite simply put, you will believe in and root for these two people and the conflicts, pitfalls, triumphs and tribulations of their ‘love’ without a second thought. Christa manages to sketch a deeply troubled, mentally ill individual, whilst simultaneously holding up the mirror and demonstrating that we are all, most certainly, sick in some profound way.

Sick is really only the opening move, however. Later in 2016, Christa published Sicker – Sick Part II, a much anticipated sequel in which we learn the origins of John Branch, going deeper into his twisted mind… I’ll be reviewing that next, so stay tuned!

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The Sick Series

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only 99¢ each 1/22/2018

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SICK Part III – The Storgy Review

SICK Part III – The Storgy Review

The Sick Series Kindle Countdown Deal only 99¢ each 1/22/2018

Originally published in Storgy Literary Magazine

By Joseph Sale – When you’ve created characters people care about in a series, ending it can be impossible. How to do them justice? How to resolve those arcs in a satisfying way? Endings are hard enough, but the weight of your reader’s time and commitment makes it even more challenging. I was concerned going into book three of the Sick series, because I knew, as a writer, how hard this can be. I needn’t have been. Christa handles the ending with a sure and steady hand. Sick Book III is the best of the series, undoubtedly. The prose is electrifying, and after a certain critical event which changes the dynamic of the relationship forever, the book becomes un-put-downable.

Both Susan and John prove that they are not tired old characters returned for a third outing, but rather living, sinuous human beings, desperately shaped by circumstance and desperate to change their fate. The two characters grow immensely, and in often unexpected ways. Christa also plays beautifully with symbolism, irony, karma, and tackles the timeless themes of death and love in original ways. Once again she proves that it is in the micro-logical, the infinitesimally small details of the piece, that we find the truth of the whole. She speaks with immense authority about medical issues, legal and police procedures, cementing the narrative as a compellingly real story, whilst also moving the story towards epic, spiritual, redemptive territory.

There are certainly shades of Shawshank Redemption in this novel in terms of its approach to character and its themes of psychological imprisonment, as well as shades of the Dallas Buyers Club in its portrayal of a slow evolution of character in the face of utter disintegration. The latter half of the book, where we shift from Susan’s perspective to John, is page-turning and harrowing. The prose style brilliantly mimics John’s mental and physical journey, paring down, stripping away ornamentation, until we are left with a naked prose reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy; it cuts to the core of life’s biggest questions, and resonates in a deeply moving way.

However bleak this review makes Part III, the ending is surprisingly upbeat. Christa puts her characters through the abyss and back, and in the end, she earns a hopeful flame. Although, in keeping with the rest of the series, that flame is distorted with one final, dark twist – one I honestly did not see coming.

Sick’s final gift is its last line, as Gothic as anything in Edgar Allan Poe, sending off the series and her beloved characters with a fittingly warped triumph.


 

The Sick Series

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UK Readers CLICK HERE

 

SICK Part II – The Storgy Review

SICK Part II – The Storgy Review

The Sick Series Kindle Countdown Deal only 99¢ each 1/22/2018

Originally published in Storgy Literary Magazine

By Joseph Sale – Sick Part II is how you do a sequel. Told from the perspective of John Branch, rather than Susan, the prose is tonally worlds apart. Whereas the first book had a zest of the Gothic, Sicker fully commits, with John’s labyrinthine mind and vast intelligence unveiling a far more lyrical storytelling that seethes with undercurrents of repressed emotion. Writing from the perspective of a compelling or mysterious character is not easy, because the reader can always see through artificial charisma.  But Christa carries it off seemingly effortlessly. John’s perspective is hugely entertaining to read, and leads to some incredible insights that are eminently quotable: ‘What’s normal for the spider is chaos to the fly’.

Sick Part II is principally a journey into the past, John telling his tragic story. The way this second book compliments the first is truly astonishing, as it explains so much of his thought process: revealing key events that have triggered aberrant behaviour, childhood neglects which have led to warped thinking. John should be, by all accounts, an intensely dislikeable character: he is self-pitying, self-obsessed, self-destructive and self-entitled – you might notice ‘self’ is the operative word with John – but you cannot help but warm to him when you realise the extent of damage done as a child, and even more chillingly, realise that his conclusions about how the world works are exactly the conclusions anyone would draw in his situation. There is an infallible and disturbing logic to all his actions, and this revelation is so profoundly realised. If Christa ever offered counselling sessions, I’d sign up immediately. You’d think from this book she could get to the root of anyone.

Sick Part II not only develops John, but also many of the side characters, including, perhaps most critically, his mysterious and oft-absent father – John Branch II. Sick Part II cleverly mimics Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, in that it is a framed narrative (John’s first person account couched in a third person novel), containing a deeper framed narrative (the first person narrative of John’s father).  As we move down through these layers, as though through the levels of consciousness itself, we get closer and closer to an awesome catharsis where we discover the truth of why the male Branchs have such a dysfunctional and unloving relationship. Buried at the heart of this is an image as iconic as that of Alexander the Great being born, amidst a river of blood, as the city of his birth lay assaulted and besieged by invaders, an image that is clearly at the heart of who John is. It left me shaking with emotion.

Though this second entry could well stand alone, the story is certainly not done by the end of it. In fact, really, the first two books have only been set up for Sick Part III which was released midway through 2017. I’ll be reviewing the third and final book soon, so keep reading!


 

The Sick Series

Kindle Countdown Deal

only 99¢ each 1/22/2018

UK Readers CLICK HERE

Subterranean

Subterranean

Writers can get grouchy when life gets in the way of writing. It feels good to create something everyday, even if it’s a tiny off-the-cuff poem.


Subterranean

This is how she moves

in the dark

under the cover

of words

This is how she lights up

when the moon

winks

at her thoughts

They are His

and can be

nothing less than

perfect

And so she scurries out

to dismember theorems

and poke sleeping dogs

Because nothing

is safe

and everything

is sacred

in the dark

under the cover

of words


 

You try!

Writing Goal for 2018

Writing Goal for 2018

Life has been crazy. Life has been great. Life has left little time for writing. Writing is something I love. Writing brings me joy. Writing has become something frantically pounded out on the keyboard whenever I get a free minute. It happens after everything else is done, when I am tired and burned out.

But not this year. Nope. It’s time to make writing fun again. It’s time to get back the reason I began writing in the first place. I started by making a video look book for the story I’m currently working on. It was dead in the water and I needed something to get me back into it. It took me a whole Saturday to make this video and I will get absolutely no reward from it except the act of creating it. I used to create for pleasure all the time when I was a kid. Lately, I have forgotten how.

I encourage all creatives to create for the joy of creating with no expectation of what will happen to the end result. Only then will it be fun and only then will it be authentic and good. Forget about marketing and reviews and sales. Do it for yourself!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

When was the last time you did something creative just for fun?

What is your favorite creative outlet?

What are you working on this year?

Should an Author Publish His First Novels?

Should an Author Publish His First Novels?

Where I live in the mountains of Panama, the only change of season we see is from rainy to dry. This begins to take place in November. There’s a shift in the wind and the town braces itself for the Fiestas Patrias (Panama’s Independence Days). Strings of small plastic flags crisscross the streets and flap with a smacking sound as if applauding you whenever you drive beneath them. Grey clouds hover above the town as barjareque, (not quite rain, but heavier than mist) falls on the tourists and marching bands, covering them with a sparkling layer of microscopic droplets.

November also signals National Novel Writing Month, which I first participated in 2012. I had been wanting to write a novel my whole life, and the only thing that forced me to get a book started and finished was NaNoWriMo.

I completed my first ever book, surprising myself and triggering an addiction to finishing books ever since. Now when the winds of November change and I hear the echoes of the marching bands practicing for the Independence Day parades, I feel like a horse at the starting gate ready to race to my word count with all the other bucking writers.

I think anyone who’s participated in National Novel Writing Month start to look forward to it as a yearly tradition. It’s something to get excited about, and you are not alone in your enthusiasm and anxiety. You can connect with other writers who are on the same crazy train. NaNoWriMo helps to stop the usual procrastinating and put writing first for a whole month.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to participate in the last few years. My job consists of mostly writing now and my creative juices and tolerance for sitting at the computer are wiped out by the time I finish my work for the day. I’m often traveling during this time for the holidays, which makes it difficult to scurry off to some quiet place to write.

I also don’t allow myself to participate because have to stop piling up manuscripts. It’s becoming a problem. I wrote three novels in a mad dash and they are still left rumpled up and tossed aside like piles of dirty laundry on the floor. I have no business writing more Nano novels until I clean these up, right?

But I wonder… just because I wrote them, does that mean they should be published? Is it worth salvaging them? These were my first practice novels, before The Sick Series, when I had no idea what I was doing. Hell, I don’t even know if I should’ve released Sick on the world. I can just leave these drafts in some dark corner of my Dropbox and begin something with my new writing experience. Jack Kerouac’s debut novel was lost until 2011, and thank god it was because it was deemed sophomoric and might have barred him from the literary world.

(more…)

Thank you for visiting.

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"Anyone who has ever secretly longed for the significant other of a close friend will immediately identify with this well-written story set in the South of France. The dialog is sharp and the characters believable. The writing is both funny and poignant."
–Max Tomlinson, author of 
The Cain File

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