It was a real pleasure to welcome Val Portelli as my guest last month – if you missed her wonderful post on how to be a blogging author, you can read it again here. Weird and Peculiar Tales, written in conjunction with Paula Harmon, was published for kindle in May (UK/US), and is now also available in paperback (UK/US) – my copy came from the authors for review, and I’ll admit that I was slightly nervous that it looked several streets away from my usual reading…
Housework fairies, strange events, dragons, unicorns and alternative fairy tales; there’s something for everyone in this unique collection of short stories.
Ranging in length from succinct teasers to longer narratives, the characters mix and match to provide a roller-coaster of emotions. The variety of styles and themes will keep you intrigued until the final ‘And they all lived happily ever after.’
Or did they?
I’m not often a reader of short stories – and you’ll find very few dragons and unicorns here on Being Anne. But it was a hot afternoon in the garden, difficult to settle into anything needing concentration, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to give this one a try. I set out meaning to read just a few stories – they probably wouldn’t be my kind of thing, but I could get a flavour, maybe write a short review, and cross it off my list. But how very wrong can you be? The first story was so unexpectedly emotional and totally enchanting, the second an inspired time travel retelling of Cinderella – and I was totally hooked for the afternoon. Should you be equally sceptical, and you read on a kindle, just download the free preview and give it a try – and I’ll be very surprised if you don’t find your finger on the “buy” button.
As is often the case with a short story collection, there’ll be some you’ll enjoy more than others. You might even find some you really don’t like at all. But when the authors wrote that there was “something for everyone”, they got it absolutely right. I particularly loved the fairies – the disgruntled brownie in the wardrobe defending himself with a mascara brush, the aggressive and tattooed laundry fairies, the way they interact with the modern world of phones and the internet. There are dragons, there are trolls (not the best choice for crowd control), there are unicorns and werewolves – there’s even a quite wonderful werehuahua that really made me laugh. And you’ll laugh too – the imagination and creativity that went into these stories is quite remarkable – but there are also a few that are really touching and surprisingly emotional. And did you know about travel rabbits? Or the reason you see so few dragons (they’re for life, you know, not just for Christmas…)?
Weird and peculiar these tales may be – but they’re also some of the best and most original writing I’ve read this year, and I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon. Go on – you know you really want to…
About the authors (with thanks to Amazon)
The author’s pen name Voinks began many years ago. It started as a joke when a friend bought a holiday home abroad, then gradually spread through the family, so it was an obvious choice when her first book was published.
Despite receiving her first rejection letter aged nine from some lovely people at a well-known Women’s magazine, she continued writing intermittently until a freak accident left her housebound and going stir crazy.
To save her sanity she completed and had published her first full length novel. This was followed by a second traditionally published book before deciding self-publishing was the way to go. In between writing her longest novel to date at over 100,000 words, she publishes weekly stories for her Facebook author page and web site.
She writes in various genres, although her short stories normally include her trademark twist of ‘Quirky.’ From having too many hours in the day, she is now actively seeking out a planet with forty-eight-hour days, to have time to fit in all the stories waiting to be told.
She is always delighted to receive reviews, as they help pay for food for the Unicorns she breeds in her spare time.
Paula’s Harmon was born in north London but her life as a country girl began at eighteen months when the family moved out, trailing slowly westwards from small town to village before settling in South Wales when she was eight.
Her writing life started with “Clanger” fan fiction and making up stories to act out with a kindred spirit. These largely involved flying unicorns. In later Welsh years, she wandered lonely as a … well, lonely person, in woods and streams and wrote about portals to another world and mysterious woodland spirits.
With no clear idea what she wanted to be when she grew up apart from a writer, she graduated from Chichester University (Bishop Otter College) with a BA in English Literature and a vague idea that, after a bit of life experience, if all else failed, she’d become a teacher, even though she had never grown taller than the average ten year old. Whatever else happened, she was determined NOT to become a civil servant like her mother and be able to talk in form numbers.
At her first job interview, she answered “where do you see yourself in 10 years” with “writing” as opposed to “progressing in your company.” She didn’t get that job. She tried teaching and realised the one thing the world did not need was another bad teacher. Somehow or other she subsequently ended up as a civil servant and if you need to know a form number, she is your woman.
Her short stories include dragons, angst ridden teenagers, portals and civil servants (though not all in the same story – yet). Perhaps all the life experience was worth it in the end.
She lives in Dorset with husband and two teenage children and is currently trying to work out why she thought it would be a good idea to include alpacas in the novel she’s writing, when it’s about wolves and witches.