Sunday, May 29, 2011

Emma Newman's Week - Book Review: From Dark Places

Understand why the fuss, HERE.
Picture credits on this post.
To close up Emma Newman's Week, read a review of her anthology, From Dark Places.

Please note that it's not because I'm grateful to Emma for her help that I'm not observing my review policy to the letter. Just saying. 

Finally, Emma Newman's Week also features an interview and a story with a character of her book.


My first impression at opening the pdf file from which I read From Dark Places, by Emma Newman, was relief, followed by delight. 

The old cliché says you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but it's nice to have a cover to try and not judge the book from it! Several ebooks I've read in pdf format were missing their covers and I found it very frustrating. Emma's book is complete in many senses, including the back cover, so I started the reading it with an extra dose of good mood. (I also liked the cover, but don't ask me if it made any difference in my general opinion on the book, because I won't tell.) Another good surprise was the book's layout, but if the book didn't disappoint me, it sure wasn't because of its good looks. 

There are 25 stories in this anthology, the great majority of which are of the fantasy genre. 'From Dark Places', the story that gives title to the book, and 'Seeing Him Again', explore the (possible) mental illness of two different women; 'The Tenth Lord' gives a modern and strange look on fairy tales, something that could be happening to our neighbor; 'Sunday Lunch' is about family, sanity and the loss of a loved one. It gave me a big knot on the throat at the end. 'The Letter' is a goodbye by a hurt woman, which gave me several chuckles and left me wondering how the heck did the dog die. I'm still curious. 

There are also gods and goddesses; death, the devil and angels show up in varied forms (as well as false ones) and there are zombies. I was pleased to learn that 'And Then There Were None' was published in this anthology, as it was one of my favorite entries for the Zombie Luv Contest. The take on love between the brainless undead (sorry for the pun) is very touching. 

Most of the stories lead the reader to a false conclusion that will be clarified in the end with a humorous or creepy twist. As the reading progresses, it's impossible not to expect a twist in the end, which could diminish the reading experience if not for the author's creativity. Another ever-present element in this book is her love for tea;  it shows up in no less than seven stories and made me pause the reading to brew my own tea to keep the characters company. 

Two stories have stayed with me longer, making my favorites (apart from the dog mystery in 'The Letter'): 'The Need to Create' is a very curious view on how god handles its creations and on the making of humanity most (in)famous historical characters. 'The Unwoven Heart' is a lovely story about loss and restoration with a twitch of magic. Devil shows up as a metaphor for grief, and the gathering of threads represents the healing process and the strength to move on with life. The story has a lyrical tone that made me smile. 

'From Dark Places' is certainly a recommend, and I would love to see how the author handled longer fiction. '20 Years Later' is on my to-read list. 


Emma drinks too much tea, has too many ideas and writes too many stories. You can find out more about her debut novel '20 Years Laterhere. She blogs and gets up to all kinds of writing mischief at

'From Dark Places' is available in print and e-book book formats. You can buy a signed copy from her website and if you like dark short stories, join Em's Short Story Club to get an original short story for free in your inbox every month.

Emma has recorded audio books for publishers and has narrated short stories for fiction podcasts. To find out more about her voice work go to can  also find Emma on Twitter: @emapocalyptic.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Emma Newman's Week - Underestimated - #FridayFlash

Understand why the fuss, HERE.
Picture credits on this post.
In continuation to Emma Newman's Week, I present you a story featuring one of her characters from her anthology, From Dark Places

Emma's week will close up with a review of one of her books, and you don't want to miss her interview here at randomities.  Stay tunned! 


They were crouched in a small balcony, cornered at the 15th floor apartment, their opponent closing on them.

“See what happens when you come up with this humanity crap?” whispered Pete. “The last time I heard I should act more like a human being or some bullshit like that, I almost got killed.” To the girl’s set face and trembling lips he continued, “You have no idea the kind of shit I’ve seen, rookie. Now where’s the holy water I gave you?”

She lifted her hand to the mouth, eyes widening. “You didn’t lose it, did you?” asked Pete. Blond slick hair blurred the girl’s face. “Where’s it then?”

“Yes, where’s that little bottle of salvation?” said Gerome, his mouth twitching up in a sardonic smile.

Pete lost color, his pallor matching Gerome’s. All of Anna’s body froze up, except for her eyes, which moved up to the bum’s void eyeballs.  Her nose reacted and she instinctively pressed it with her fingers to prevent the horrid smell from absorbing all her attention.

“I’m disappointed at you, Pete,” continued Gerome. “I’d expect the girl to underestimate me, but not such an experienced hunter as yourself.”

“How do – ?”

“Yet again you misjudge me.” Gerome sighed and dismissed the crouching girl passing by him on her fours. “You should have noticed my accent and the fact that my mouth didn’t smell as foul as my clothes.”

“What else do you know?”

Gerome laughed. “Do you believe I’d tell you?”

Pete stood up to face the monster. “You parasite piece of shit. You shouldn’t believe I’d rely only on a clumsy stupid girl.”

He thrust his hand inside his pants but the beggar was too fast; he grabbed Pete’s wrist and pushed him forward, making him hit the balcony’s cold metal. Pete’s back hurt both from the impact and the odd angle of his spine. Gerome was so close that he could see the scars where his eyes were once placed. The vampire extracted his fangs and went for Pete’s neck, forcing him to lean back even more.

Better dead than undead, he thought. Pete used his free hand to change his balance but he wasn't strong enough, so it only caused him more pain. Gerome noticed his attempt and chuckled, an inch from his jugular. Then he opened his mouth wider, and Pete closed his eyes.

Gerome’s scream was so loud that Pete would have fallen off if not for his free hand clutching the balcony’s bar. The vampire released him and stepped back; Pete reacted instinctively and threw his flask’s content on Gerome’s chest, who danced at the sound of hissing holy water.

Breathing hard, Pete looked up to see Anna setting an arrow to a black crossbow. His mouth hanged open as she pointed, aimed and fired. Gerome fell with a thud and Pete slid down in front of his extended hand.

He followed her approach with blank eyes. Only when she shook him by the shoulders he managed to focus on her concerned grey pools.

“Are you out of your freaking mind? Do you know how hard it is to get the heart, even at short distance? You could have killed me!”

She released him hastily, losing her balance and sitting in Gerome’s mummified hand. She yelped and stood up too fast, dizzily stepping in Pete’s foot, and grabbed the balcony’s bar for support. Pete shouted in pain.

“Oh, sorry!” She extended her hands towards him but he growled back something unintelligible. “I do know how hard it is, and I have been practicing.”

“Where was the fucking holy water, anyway?”

“In the living room.” She pointed, pouting. “It fell from my hand when Gerome showed his fangs for the first time.” She looked up to avoid meeting his gaze.

Pete snorted and asked, “Did you ever consider that Gerome could have kneeled or something? I was right in your shooting line!”

“Oh, vampires are fast…”

“Yes, darling. They’re freaking fast!”

“Will you please stop shouting? You are alive, aren’t you?”

Pete sighed. “How the heck do you have a crossbow at home, anyway?”

Anna cleared her throat before replying, “I descend from a long line of hunters. I don’t think they’d have taken me in otherwise…” She lowered her head.

Silence fell until the stench of decay mixed with the odor of the beggar’s clothes was too much for them.

“Gimme a hand.”

She helped Pete up and they called headquarters. After letting the cleaning crew in, they left, keeping silent until the bright lights of the E.R. entry shone on their faces to wake them up from their reveries.



“I’m worried that Gerome knew so much about you.”

“Yeah.” Pete shuddered, and grunted in pain.


Note: I apologize for the feel of incompleteness this story gives. Since Pete is not my original character I didn't want involve him in any "definitive" situation. If you'd like to read more of him, he's featured in the Emma's story "The Victim" in her anthology From Dark Places.

Oh, and I was the one who put the cursing in Pete's mouth. Just for the record. ;P


Emma drinks too much tea, has too many ideas and writes too many stories. You can find out more about her debut novel '20 Years Laterhere. She blogs and gets up to all kinds of writing mischief at

'From Dark Places' is available in print and e-book book formats. You can buy a signed copy from her website and if you like dark short stories, join Em's Short Story Club to get an original short story for free in your inbox every month.

Emma has recorded audio books for publishers and has narrated short stories for fiction podcasts. To find out more about her voice work go to can  also find Emma on Twitter: @emapocalyptic.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Emma Newman's Week - Interview

Understand why the fuss, HERE.
Picture credits on this post.
This week's knight is the lovely Emma Newman. Besides being a regular contributor of the #FridayFlash community and having her stories featured in several anthologies, Emma has published an anthology with 25 of her short stories, From Dark Places, and her debut novel, 20 Years Later was recently released on ebook format and will come out in print this July. Can't miss it! 

Today Randomities will be featuring her interview and later this week you'll be able to read a story featuring a character of 'From Dark Places' and also a review of one of her books.



Silly questions:

1. What's your favourite color? 

Blue, any shade. It makes me feel calm and happy.

The writer:

2. When did you start to write?

I was four years old, and my profession was Seeker of Answers to Everything. My grandmother has told me she remembers me sitting at her table, writing and when she asked what I was doing, I replied "writing a story Nana."

3. Where do you want to go with it? (the writing)

However far it can take me. I've done many, many things in my adult life whilst avoiding being a writer. Now I know that I should be writing, nothing will stop me from doing all I can to carve out a living from it so I can devote all of my time to writing books and not boring press releases.

4. How did writing influence your life?

I don’t think writing influences my life, it underpins it. It got me a place at Oxford University (that's a weird story in and of itself) and now it dominates everything I do. All of my thoughts come back to the current story or novel, or future plans, all of the changes I have made in my life lately have been to make more room for it. That'll be that obsessive streak…

5. Who most influenced your writing?

Do you mean books I've read or people in the real world? Well, the former I answered in an interview with the publisher of 20 Years Later over here so I'll focus on the latter.

Someone who had a major impact on my writing was my last primary school teacher (I was 10 at the time) who was called Mr Axon, and he was wonderfully eccentric. He used to give out the most amazing story titles, or first lines, and then tell us to go and write the rest of the story. I loved that so much, I used to ask him for titles to take with me on holiday. No surprise that I love writing to prompts now for my Short Story Club!

6. Which part of writing do you like the most? 

Oh blimey, there's a question. Whenever I write a short story, I get the shape of it clear before I start, then there is a moment I love when it is perfectly formed in my mind. I am so excited about it, but also so fearful that as soon as I press it onto the page, it will be rubbish. I've learnt how to deal with that now, but it used to really cripple me.

Above all else though, I think I love going to other worlds. Being there. Totally. Now I am being published, I can take other people with me, which is what I have always wanted, really.

7. What's your favourite genre? Which other(s) genre(s) do you write in?

Speculative fiction. I know that's broad, but that's because I read broadly, and the genres I love most, like science fiction, magical realism, urban fantasy and just weird fiction (what China Meiville calls the genre he writes in) comes under that umbrella.

I write dark fantasy, science fiction, dystopian and post-apocalyptic and sometimes just plain old slice of life, whatever the story fits into. The trilogy I'll be writing after 20 Years Later is a quirky mash-up of urban fantasy and lots of other things too.

I find genre classification quite frustrating.

8. Which is the favourite character you ever wrote? Why?

Wow, you like your tough questions, don't you?

In From Dark Places, I think my favourite character is either Nathaniel in "Someone to Watch Over Her" or Charlotte in "Getting Fixed" because both of them know exactly what they want. I like Nathaniel more, perhaps, because he is so deeply, deeply selfish. But I can't say much more without spoiling it.

In 20 Years Later it's either Titus or the Red Lady.

And in the Split Worlds (the project that will come after 20 Years Later is finished) it's either the Shopkeeper or Cathy. Actually I like her brother too. Oh forget it, I obviously can't answer this question at all! Maybe I should add "indecisive" to answer 3.

[Note: The answer 3 Emma refers to, is from the original batch of questions. In that one, that didn't make it to the final interview, I asked her to define herself in a few words.]

9. Do you have some habit/trait that you feel defines you as a person (and eventually as a writer)?

An imagination that just won't stop. It sometimes gives me insomnia, that's true, but that's what I would call my defining feature. Also, a love of tea.


Emma drinks too much tea, has too many ideas and writes too many stories. You can find out more about her debut novel '20 Years Laterhere. She blogs and gets up to all kinds of writing mischief at

'From Dark Places' is available in print and e-book book formats. You can buy a signed copy from her website and if you like dark short stories, join Em's Short Story Club to get an original short story for free in your inbox every month.

Emma has recorded audio books for publishers and has narrated short stories for fiction podcasts. To find out more about her voice work go to can  also find Emma on Twitter: @emapocalyptic.


Note: If you're curious to know how Emma got her book deals, I suggest you check out this other interview with her. Excellent advice here too. :) 

Also, check out her book tour for 'From Dark Places' at Sam Adamson's Future;Nostalgic. Neat! :)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Sweetest Trolls #16: The Finding - #FridayFlash

This is the 16th installment of the Troll Serial. To read from the beginning, or to find past and future installments, click here.


Aimee averted her eyes.

“Look at me, or I’ll make you share my meal.” She raised her head. “There,” said Kratan, and smiled. Aimee lifted her hand, covering her mouth and nose with it.

Through her hands she asked, “What are you going to do with me?”

Kratan licked his lips and sucked the last remaining bone, throwing it in careless aside before answering, “Why, I’m going to eat you, of course!”

Aimee frowned, not wanting to show how scared she really was, cold sweat forming in her hands. Although her head was directed to this new Kratan, she turned her attention inwardly to consider De Faumont’s sign at the village. She could not understand what he had meant. Did he know what was going on? Or was he just trying to calm her down? Was he aware of this new danger? She gazed at her feet, feeling the absence of the fire Kutril would have built, and decided that she wanted old Kratan back, prince charming or no prince charming to the rescue.

“What’s happened?” she asked defiantly.

“What do you mean?” he dodged.

“Don’t act stupid. You’ve changed and I want to know how it happened. Where’s Kutril?”

“Oh, the little dame in distress is showing her teeth, eh?” he said getting up. Before Aimee could open her mouth, he was looking down into her eyes, his teeth inches from her nose. She recoiled both in fear and disgust.

“I... I just…”

“What? Not so brave now?”

Aimee swallowed hard and looked up his hollow eyes, “I thought we were friends.”
Kratan stood up and hip cuffed, his smile unnaturally broad. He looked up and let his laughter roar throughout the hiding place, shaking the ground above them. With his hands in his hips he replied, “You are so naïve, little dame! I bet you’ll taste as good as the crying boy. Will you cry before I eat you? I like salty food.”

Aimee gulped down again but did not give up, “What about Kutril? He is your friend, isn’t he?”

Kratan’s smile vanished. He stared at her for a long time, seeming lost in thought. She didn’t dare breaking his reverie and when he turned his back to her to rest for the day, she smiled. She had planted a tiny seed she hoped would grow inside him in time. She didn’t keep her hopes up though.

It took the villagers the whole night to put off the fire at the Mayor’s house, which by the morning was left into ruins. Although Madam Daussy and her father in law were rescued in time, she was still unconscious and the old man was frailer than ever.

“But papà, you never left your room anyway, why ask for father Pélerin?” The Mayor patted his father’s hand. “You’ll see, you’ll get better and live to see Aimee married to a nobleman as Agnes always wanted.” He showed his teeth in a poor attempt of smile.

The old man gazed up from the Velin’s family’s bed right into Daussy’s eyes, and then looked aside. The Mayor’s chin met his chest and a heavy silence fell between them.

De Faumont labored to prevent panic to settle on the villagers’ hearts, as well as on his own. He had never seen such audacity in a troll, not even in the evilest ones he had encountered before. He set to organize a search group, a night watch, and a rebuilding group. All this was more to have the peasants busy than anything else. He also dispatched a second bird to ask for reinforcement and a third to his uncle.

At mid-afternoon he received an answer that help was on their way. When he finished crowing a compliment to the bird, there was a wide eyed young man in front of him, changing feet impatiently. Upon having his presence acknowledged, he bowed hastily and pointed to the road, “Please come, Monsieur Le Prince. You must see this!”

Without word he followed the young hammer, praying to his ancestors to send him good news. He almost smiled when he was received by a loud cheering, but lost the little color his face held when seeing two trolls turned into stone in the middle of the road to the castle, just outside the village. The man’s cheering died instantly, being replaced by a mix of worried and puzzled faces.

“What’s the problem, my Lord? Shouldn’t we be celebrating that the trolls are dead?” asked Monsieur Depré.

It took De Faumont a moment to gather his thoughts around the question, “This is worse than I thought,” he said, almost to himself. “Much worse.” He finally looked up to the men and explained, “Don’t you see? These trolls were placed here to be found. They were unconscious before the sun came up.”

“Who would put them there?” asked someone to his right.

De Faumont looked down to hide his shame and his grief, “A third troll.”

There was a commotion, which the Mayor was unsuccessful to control. Some people shouted against the troll’s mischief, but most whispered doubts about De Faumont’s ability in dealing with such monsters. Perhaps the tales of his feats were false, planted by him to make himself famous and respected. 

De Faumont heard none of that. He gave a loud and anguished bird-like cry and turned back to the village. He paused after a few steps to meet the stunned faces.

“Come,” he summoned. The faces sobered up and followed.


<< Back to episode 15                   Go to episode 17 >>

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Spotlight Time!

This is something I've always wanted to do here at Randomities. It's spotlight time! 

One of the most important things in a writer's career is to have people talking about their books and stories. (and buying them, of course :P) So I'm dedicating a "spotlight series" to the projects of my writing pals. 

Today, Randomities will be featuring Jodi Cleghorn, who organized not one but two anthologies in the past few months. (wow) 

Both books are being released in paperback through Amazon Chart Rush tomorrow (May 17th), and revenues from both books go to charities to help with the Queensland community in Australia, which suffered greatly with the Yasi Cyclone last February

These are beautiful projects that gather a great many writers in them. Check them out and help them climb Amazon's ratings!

Click here to buy

Inspired by the Talking Heads’ song of the same name, Nothing but Flowers explores the complexities and challenges of love in a post-apocalyptic landscape; from a take-away coffee mug to a gun to the head, a fortune cookie to a guitar, the open road and beyond.
Poignant, funny, horrifying and sensual, this collection of short fiction leaves an indelible mark on ideas of what it means to love and be loved.
All profits from the sale of this anthology go to The Grantham Flood Support Fund.
Click here to buy
“One hundred beautiful stories. Our stories. 
When so much was lost or destroyed, this was created. 
That’s something that can never recede or wash away.” 
~ Kate Eltham – CEO of The Queensland Writers Centre 

100 STORIES FOR QUEENSLAND has something for everyone, from slice of life to science fiction, fantasy to romance, paranormal to literary fiction. Heart-warming, quirky, inspiring and funny, the stories between these covers will lift readers to higher ground. 

Proceeds from the sale of the anthology go to the Queensland 
Premier’s Flood Appeal.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Sweetest Trolls #15: Plans Executed - #FridayFlash

This is the 15th installment of the Troll Serial. To read from the beginning, or to find past and future installments, click here.


The Millet family was in tears, several villagers looked shocked or worked up, fists shaking above their heads. The Mayor looked about himself, trying to locate his wife. He realized she wasn’t around and sighed; he was on his own then. He was trying to calm down the surging mob when De Faumont arrived. Everyone silenced and bowed, and Aimee slipped through the crowd unnoticed.

“I’m sorry for your loss, Madam,” he said to Petit Maurice’s mother. “I was certain that the trolls were not a menace anymore, but it seems that I underestimated their wits and wickedness. I am at fault with you and your village but I promise to track them down and kill them. This time, I will not stop until I do so.”

“What? You mean that there’s more than one?” shrieked a man in the crowd.

“I can only assume that. We were chasing two trolls the other day, weren’t we?”

The crow came back and landed on De Faumont extended arm, reporting its findings even before settling itself down. De Faumont focused his attention entirely on the bird, failing to notice the several degrees of uneasiness their communication caused on the villagers. Aimee observed both their communication and people’s reactions.

“What is it?” asked the Mayor, losing his patience and his manners with it.

“Unfortunately I was right, “ said De Faumont, ignoring the Mayor’s slip. Before explaining further, he crowed back to the bird with urgency and sent it away. “The trolls we had scared away are back.” He profited from the crowd’s reaction to search for Aimee, meeting her confused frown with the slightest of nods, which meaning he hoped she would understand.

Spreading his ears wide like his uncle had taught Kutril, Kratan heard their whole conversation. As the women and children scurried to their houses for safety and the men gathered their weapons, Kratan grinned ear to ear. He too had a plan.

While the villagers made their preparations, Kratan put his plan into action. The men were still forming teams of two or three when Kratan slipped into the Mayor’s house by the back door. He tiptoed through the kitchen, gawking at the smell of the fresh pie, and opened his ears flat to learn the house’s occupants’ movements. The hurried sound of slippers denounced the women’s position. He squeezed himself out the door and upstairs, straining the wooden steps with his weight. He paused, making another cracking sound in the process. This time, not even his privileged hearing could detect movement.

He gave up stealth and moved as quickly as his hunched position would allow, opening the room in the far end of the corridor with a punch. He grinned, knowing that the darkness wouldn’t prevent him to achieve the desired effect. He instantly heard a whimper and nodded to himself internally. “Kitty, kitty, kitty,” he said through his long teeth.

He heard movement from the opposite side of the whimper, and turned to it. “C’mon, little dame, you don’t sound like you’re in distress.” He showed his teeth and scratched his cheek gingerly, having learned to use his enhanced nails.

A different whimper, half-muffled by a hurried hand came from his left. Kratan chuckled.

“Oh, this is so fun,” he said in a conversational tone, “to know that these fool humans will be losing yet another night of sleep tomorrow; their little hearts heavy and bitter with grief for your loss.”

Since he hadn’t drawn out any reaction this time, he continued, “Aimee, isn’t it? I would very much like to see your pretty face again. It’s so dark here that I can only smell your delicate scent.” He smacked his lips. “This is so unsatisfying.”

From his right, he heard the sound of trembling limbs; from his left, movement and a lamp being picked up and lit.

Having only a bed as obstacle between them and Kratan, Aimee stood erect beside Madam Daussy, who held the lamp up. With the corner of his eyes, Kratan saw Aimee’s grandfather cornered at his arms’ reach. He snorted to the stricken-pale old man and turned to the women, but before he could take action Madam Daussy barked, “You wanted light? There you go!” and threw the lamp on the mattress with enough strength to brake the glass.
At Kratan’s surprised face the women thought they had succeeded in scaring the troll away, but alas, Kratan caught himself quickly enough and barred the door with his large body, cornering the women in their own trap. With a flick of his wrist, he threw the flaming bed to the side, almost catching the now unconscious man on the way. With one large step his lips, still bloody from Petit Maurice’s flesh, were an inch from Aimee’s head. She blinked at the nauseous smell. He smiled at her reaction and snatched her by the waist with his right hand, knocking the breath off her lungs. With the back of is left hand, he hit Madam Daussy, who flew to the wall and fell on the ground.


Note: Did you notice I have an ongoing poll on the sidebar? What happens is that I don't know which story to submit to BOFF #2 (uh) and I'd love to know your opinion on that. Pretty please? :)  In case your favorite isn't amongst the options, please let share your thoughts on the comments of this post. Thanks! 

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