The heron is in full flight alongside the canalboat, just like the one we saw on our first trip. Then it was so sunny and warm, now just drizzle and chilly. God, I wish you here.
Love you, Sheila xx
More downs today. Beth and Gary bickered non-stop through all three locks; remember those just before the Moorhen pub. You and I laughed our way through them, our playful giggles no doubt both a balm and irritation to fellow travellers. Much better than the rotten language and atmosphere permeating the deck and tow-path today.
Your one and only, Sheila xx
At last the sun and as promised I took out the painting set you bought for me. Thank you again! I think I’ve captured your likeness and spirit very well, although the colours smudged a smidgen. No, neither wine nor river water alas, rather tears. My eyes and my life still blurred, awash and adrift.
With all my love, Sheila xx
You won’t believe it! I sold a sketch! I can just imagine your guffaw followed by your proud bear hug. The picture? A fair representation of the humpback bridge near Beasley lock. Oh, the tunnels we go through and this time no songs to echo inside them; our dear kind friends would be mortified if I broke out into ‘Three Little Maids’! That’s just between you and I!
Loving you always, Sheila xx
Dearest Bob, history buff,
You would have loved to wander around the ‘castle’ again as pictured on the front. Or as I see them, a heap of ruins, just stones. Last time I felt an ethereal presence. Do you remember? Now it all seems drab … dead. Oh dear, I fear I’m becoming a morose travelling companion. Three is such an awkward number.
Missing you, Sheila xx
Laughter and smiles today! Ten locks successfully negotiated, without a sour word. Then pub lunch at the Keeper’s Inn! We all raised a glass for your birthday. Bother, I didn’t mean to cry then. Hate that you’re not here.
Lovingly yours, Sheila xx
My dear soulmate, husband, best friend, my Bob!
Home tomorrow! A bittersweet return. As the lone oak tree on the postcard, so am I — truly alone. Two months of crushing grief, loneliness, of missing you, our life together. Your spirit has been with me every day of the trip, it always will be. Though I’ll always treasure our time together, our memories, I must forge ahead with my own life.
RIP dearest Bob, our love will last into eternity. Sheila xx
Thank goodness for the blogging challenges that inspired Sally Cronin’s Life’s Rich Tapestry Woven in Words. An enriching and engaging collection of verse, micro fiction and short stories, her work is mesmerising, always uplifting and often humorous. Throughout humanity and the spirits of humans (and some animals) is a beacon of hope for us all.
Sally’s poetry is enticing, thoughtful and soothing; they are written tightly within the framework of syllables for various formats such as haikus and tankas yet explore a vast range of topics encompassing the wonder of the seasons, recognising human frailties and celebrating the warmth of togetherness. She manages to take us on a journey from cave drawings to digital code across the universe, from the mystical of the ugly troll with his bewitching music in The Moonlight Concerto to the enchantment of Fairies!
As a writer, one poem – an ode to writing – particularly struck a chord with me:
The Freedom to write
The freedom and time to create written words to be read by those open to our thoughts intoxicating.
by Sally Cronin
Sally Cronin is a master storyteller and I was immediately drawn into the lives of the characters in all her short stories. Her writing flows with ease and self-assurance within this diverse selection of short stories. I was moved by the reunion of siblings, impressed how a story told through the point of view of a polar bear both touched me and touched on environmental issues. The reason for a black sheep was raised in one story and had me smiling as did My Mouse, a clever play on words and a predicament experienced by most of us!
The superb stories in The Underdogs section had me in awe of the strength of the individual personalities of the dogs. Later, in For the Love of Lily, I was cheering on as eighty-year-old Millicent found her courage to stand up to her overbearing son with the help of her cat Lily and her kindly neighbour Eric. This was an excellent depiction of what I hope isn’t a scenario that takes place often.
The final longer pieces in the book are under the title of Speculative Fiction and these are all exceptional and shows Sally Cronin’s incredible imagination and ability in writing across all genres.
A moment of alignment is superlative and left me with goosebumps (of the happy variety!) as a child, following her death, manages to cross from the other world for the briefest of times on certain occasions to talk to her mother. Great Aunt Georgina left me tear-eyed and is a wonderful and powerful story partly told through the use of old letters; a deft use of an evocative writing technique. The Enhancement Project combines the tantalising hint of romance between a surgeon and her patient cyborg, all against the backdrop of the end of civilisation. It is a terrific blend of human and futuristic, of dark and light, love and destruction.
I can’t recommend Life’s Rich Tapestry Woven with Words highly enough and look forward to reading more of Sally Cronon’s books.
Sally Cronin is the author of fifteen books including her memoir Size Matters: Especially when you weigh 330lb first published in 2001. This has been followed by another fourteen books both fiction and non-fiction including multi-genre collections of short stories and poetry.
As an author she understands how important it is to have support in marketing books and offers a number of FREE promotional opportunities in the Café and Bookstore on her blog and across her social media.
Her podcast shares book reviews and short stories Soundcloud Sally Cronin
After leading a nomadic existence exploring the world, she now lives with her husband on the coast of Southern Ireland enjoying the seasonal fluctuations in the temperature of the rain.
It was twelve minutes past one the day Sadie ran out of words. A Monday she recalled, just after lunch. She’d retreated to the arbour to the east of the garden, the sunlight drizzling in through the vine leaves, the insipid summer heat dissipated by the shade.
Lunch itself had been an unremarkable affair, the legs of the iron-wrought table playing a tuneless melody as the wrap was assembled. Tortilla, lettuce, avocado, parmesan, a couple of drooping slabs of tomato. They angered her, those tomatoes which had lost their lustre, their brightness. What right did they have to give up?
The conversation turned to the usual, the usual, the usual. When would it end? Mid-sentence, his, not hers, Sadie stood up, the chair scraping harshly against the rough patio stones. A surprised ‘where are you going’ drifted after her, the words floating on the hot haze, trying to follow her to the cooling seat.
It was there, as her body sunk into the pebbledash pattern cushion that she ran out of words. She tried to call out an answer to the question still hanging in the air. Like a guppy her lips puckered and pursed, air expelled with the tiniest of breaths, barely audible. Was there a hint of a whimper on the exhalations? Was there a hint of life even?
Sadie tried, again and again, her lips increasingly an inanimate part of her body, lifeless, detached. They moved like her daughter’s play dough, malleable enough, formed into the required shape, yet failed to fulfil their purpose. She tried another formation, a big round ‘O’, the attempt foiled by utter silence. Her eyes copied the shape, a wild, agog expression fastening upon her face; a rigidity trickling down her body.
Was this it? The day that had haunted her since childhood. The day she ran out of words.
Wouldn’t our existence be monotonous and bland if we didn’t share our lives, thoughts, events and experiences? Sharing with family and friends is at the core of living and so it is with books.
Finishing a book I am always keen to talk about it with a person close to me, chatting away about the story, the characters development and the emotions evoked. At times (not nearly often enough!) I take a step further and with joy review the book and as a writer, I fully appreciate what this means to fellow authors.
Personally, I treasure every single review! I’m uplifted and heartened by this precious gift of time and energy. This is true for one recent review for my book “The Storyteller Speaks” and within a few paragraphs it delivered a positive punch to my spirits. It is an incredible feeling when someone is deeply touched and affected by one’s work and a terrific boost to one’s writely self. I promise that being mentioned in the same sentence with the outstanding Alice Munro has not gone to my head!
“The Storyteller Speaks” is a beautifully written book of timeless stories, poetry and flash fiction.
Annika Perry writes a carefully constructed, powerful, multi-layered story. She skilfully foreshadows events and a life less than ordinary.
Annika Perry has the gift of a true story teller. She engages the reader to emotionally connect with the characters and stories: My heart aches for an inconsolable child. I have an unexpected visceral reaction to an accident. I am transported to the exact moment in time where I hear the silence. I realize courage can come in many colours. I am moved by the strength and resilience of the human spirit.
“The Storyteller Speaks” reminds me of the powerful stories written by Alice Munro. They are stories that never leave me. The words forever change me. I continue to savour these stories, of ordinary people living a remarkable life. I highly recommend “The Storyteller Speaks.”
Review by Erica Henault on Goodreads
Many thanks to Erica for her review and in the time I’ve known her I value her warm friendship, honesty and humour. Her love of life, family and friends shines through her wonderful and inspirational blog at Behind the Scenery ‘Grateful for the Present Moment’. Do take a closer look at her posts as they brim with her passion of ‘… sharing new perspectives with each other and learning from each other … always observing and paying attention, especially to the lessons that begin in whispers, lessons that get louder and louder.’
“Infinitely more important than sharing one’s material wealth is sharing the wealth of ourselves our time and energy, our passion and commitment, and, above all, our love.” William Simon
*Quote from Erica Henault’s review of “The Storyteller Speaks”.
“The Storyteller Speaks” is available to purchase on all Amazon websites including Amazon UK and Amazon US as well as directly from myself for an autographed copy of the book!
It was a grisly sight first thing that morning. The garrotted dove lay lifeless on the lawn, a storm of feathers upon the dull green grass. Bright red blood seeped out of the neck wound, the purity of white blemished by death.
Near to its kill, the raptor looked on with an expression of huffed up pride and indignation. Not one to usually brave suburban gardens, this enclosed haven with its regular visitors of peace proved too irresistible for the falcon. What could go wrong?
Earlier, replete after eating fallen sunflower seeds, the doves ambled leisurely, without care, along their promenade route, bidding each other a quiet good morrow. Then the raptor struck. It was almost too easy. Yet, he had not taken into account the witness. Loud urgent slams on the glass followed. These he nonchalantly ignored. The raptor loomed over the stricken dove and gripped its corpse tightly in its talons.
Crash! A door was violently flung open. An angry shout. Then a pneumatic drill of curses. The raptor would never relent. Until a sudden flurry of towels as the human windmill careered towards him.
I was inspired to write J for … Jameson after reading an entry in Mslexia magazine for their regular ‘L is For…’ competition where a piece of creative non-fiction writing is inspired by a single alphabet prompt. Although my story is fundamentally non-fiction, elements within are tweaked to fiction and as a result I doubt I will be submitting this one but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the challenge, particularly the exacting and creative re-write and edit to be within the 300 words limit.
‘The Storyteller Speaks’ by Annika Perry brilliantly illustrates how short stories can capture your heart, transport you to the scene of action and submerge you in the emotional journey of the characters. Her stories are a little above your expectations…a lot has to be discerned, which she leaves unsaid and therein lies their magic. Only a few can create it.
The symbolism of ‘Chillies in my Handbag’ is chilling, the agony that the words hide slowly spills out as Perry writes in the style of dual timeline, lending a touch of realism to the story, keeping a firm grip on the reader’s attention, actually hinting at profound matters of domestic strife. Carl’s loss too unravels itself gently as you keep wondering where is he heading in snow and who is constantly whispering “keep safe” in his ear. It is the style and the exquisite language that raises this book above an average storybook.
My heart missed a beat when Jake and Ellie got lost in the shroud of mist and snow and it sank with each shout for them. Such is the effect of Annika’s style of writing! It is difficult to pick up a favorite one from this collection of stories because all of them strike some chord somewhere as they are based on varied themes, each one connects us with the complexities of life, giving a subtle message that we are mere puppets or mute spectators in many situations that we wish to control.
by Balroop Singh
Perry’s debut book is a beautiful read. The twenty-one selections in ‘The Storyteller Speaks’ are primarily short stories, with a smattering of flash fiction and poems. The author states in the afterword that the thread binding the work together is “the belief that there is no such thing as an ordinary life,” and this insight is clearly borne out in her book. It’s what captivated me as I read.
The stories are all quite different, some dark and some lighthearted, though most are filled with the deep emotions of ordinary people as they navigate disappointment, loss, redemption, healing, and love. These are feelings that will strike a chord with most people, even if the circumstances aren’t quite the same. Most of the tales felt “quiet” to me, personal, as if I was looking beneath the outer appearances of a person into the rich pathos of their inner lives.
I tried to pick favorites as I read, but had to give up; there were too many. I recommend this book to anyone who loves short stories and wants to feel moved by the strength and courage of the human spirit.
by D. Wallace Peach
Writers may exaggerate the negative and write dystopian fiction. They may exaggerate the positive and write utopian fiction. In this fascinating collection of short stories, the positive being brought into greater relief is our ability to choose integrity and kindness rather than degenerative and uncaring mindsets and actions. Each story is a core sample of a human moral issue, a history of resiliency and loss, exposed to the light.
In most of the stories the characters are challenged by a tragic or potentially damaging event outside their control; in a moment, their lives are changed drastically, forever. Some of the characters have caused their own dilemma. They go on in a fog or struggle with painful memories and swings of emotion before they reach the tipping point: how will they respond? And it is to their credit they reach this tipping point, because it is done through conscious moral effort. But whether tragedy has come to them or they have made their own mistakes, they eventually recognize the situation through a severe exercise in honesty. This honesty springs from valuing the best sense of who they can be and become. They often draw on enriching relationships with other people and humanizing traditions. Then they go beyond: they make amends. By taking this action, they rise to a new level of moral and ethical consciousness. This is portrayed in clear-eyed fashion, showing how difficult it is to do, and yet liberating.
It is more than interesting for stories like these to be told; it may be necessary for our adaptability and survival, for our thriving as a species. The same could be said for the negative. In fact, these stories blend both in a new and perceptive way.
The flaws in her writing and story composition are small quibbles. For instance, just when I thought the stories would all be similar samples, there was a radical change. It is my hope Annika Perry will continue to hone her craft as a writer. She may yet give us an iconic work.
by Mary Clark
‘The Storyteller Speaks’ is a collection of short stories, and a couple of poems too, about life, love and death. This is the debut book of Annika Perry and she has certainly managed to write a lovely selection of very different stories.
‘Chillies in my Handbag’ is a story of a woman’s gradual disillusionment with love, her married life and even her child. The Mother’s inability to protect her only son from entering the traditional boarding school attended by her husband and his father before him, sets him on the road to becoming everything she has come to dislike in her husband. The son’s gradual reshaping of himself, a round peg, to fit into the traditional square hole is interesting. Will the Mother finally rebel against the dictates of her husband and if she does where will it all end?
‘The Man on the Flying Trapeze’ is a rather interesting poem about a trapeze artist who finds himself in an accident situation. The format of the poem was rather unique with each stanza reading almost like a limerick. I did enjoy this very much.
‘Smouldering Shame’ was another tale that fascinated me with its very likelihood in the set of circumstances. A tale of a woman whose life suddenly comes unraveled because of the secret activities of her husband. He is a man who cannot see the blessings in his life and, as many older men do, seeks more excitement in his retirement than is on offer in his home with rather disastrous consequences.
A couple of the stories could definitely have continuations. I think the author may have quite a bit more to tell us about these characters. I really enjoyed this book. I think Annika Perry has a lot of potential as a writer.
by Robbie Cheadle
My heart and mind were opened as the author promised in her “About the Book” section at the end of this marvelous collection of short stories. I’m generally not a reader of short stories, because I like the longer process of getting to know a character for an entire novel. But Perry gives full stories in a short story format that touch the reader while allowing the reader to imagine the before and after of the characters’ lives. The stories aren’t all happiness and light, some are edgier and sad. But they all give out a light through the expressive language used by the author. Also, each narrator is different in these stories, and the point of view can be first person or third; Perry switches it up. I took my time reading this collection, because each story is unique, and I liked spending some time with each one after I’d finished reading it. Well done, Annika Perry!
by Pamela S. Wight
The Storyteller Speaks is a wonderful collection of short stories, flash fiction and poems that depict a wide range of events, characters and viewpoints. At the centre of each is human relationships and the effect that a single event can often have on the course of a life. A full gamut of emotions is here, including love, grief, anger and redemption. The stories are moving, uplifting, sometimes dark, sometimes amusing. My favourites include: ‘The Whiteout Years’ which is a heart-breaking and touching depiction of grief and hope; and ‘Loss of a Patriarch’, a moving story about saying goodbye to the author’s grandfather. I also enjoyed the influences of the author’s Swedish heritage. This is a collection to savour and a book that fulfils its promise to win your heart.
By Andrea Stephenson
This is not about the war between lovers of dogs or cats. It’s about Annika Perry, a talented writer who works like a cat.
A dog is all blubbery love smeared across your cheeks, a loyal paladin stationed stalwart by your side. Tongue lollygagging out of its jaw, tail flailing around like a pig in a muddy pit – you’re gonna be drowning in slobbery canine love in about five seconds. Or maybe a fangy foreign agent hired to attack: a German shepherd or English pit bull. Teeth bared and muzzle lowered –you better run. You always know where you stand with Rover.
But a cat – you can’t tell anything by looking at a cat. There it sits on the windowsill, licking its paw, indifferent to all things human – the tasty treats, the dangling mouse toy, the arms ready to cuddle it. Suddenly it pounces, its claws deep in your bicep leaving parallel bloody tracks or a snip of your skin flapping loosely as it samples your nose. And then sashays back to the windowsill to await its next victim. Go ahead, stick around, it could be you again, if you dare to get close enough. Silly you, thinking Puss loves ya.
I mention this because Annika Perry writes like a cat. There she sits at the window, chewing on the end of her pencil, watching the world go by. And if you are anywhere near her line of sight, she’s probably watching you. Observing you and all your little peccadilloes. Like the way you hold a letter that might seal your future, or how you sip wine while your mind is loitering elsewhere. How the March wind drives rain upwards, making an umbrella useless. How a bouquet of vibrant flowers devastates you with memories and also lights up your world. You didn’t know she was looking that closely, did you? That’s a cat for you – indifferent but all knowing.
At first glance, ‘The Storyteller Speaks’ appears to be gentle family fare, tales written by a sweet faced, blue eyed lady who spends her time between Great Britain and Sweden, bearing candles and roses, taking photos, penning notes.
It’s how she entices you to her book. I’ve read ‘The Storyteller Speaks’ twice, the first time in order of presentation, the second in a meandering stroll through her poems and short stories.
If I attempt to review each of the twenty-one entries, I’ll over-report and do the book no justice. So I’m going to focus on a few tales that blew me away, as if driven by a sirocco out of the Sahara. This is important to remember, because like a cat, Perry sneaks up on you to lunge for your emotional jugular while you’re unaware she’s even in the room. She’s a keen observer of people, absorbing cultural details and body language.
‘Sofia!’ is about a little girl and her stuffed toy whose uncle takes her to visit the local zoo. It’s told through eyewitness accounts of zoo visitors and officials who answer Inspector Nunn’s questions. Apparently the child, Sofia, has been kidnapped or gotten lost as the focus of each interrogation appears to be what has happened to the child. Perry escalates suspense as we wait to find out if Sofia is safe or remains lost or even perhaps is dead, our suspicion and concern for the little girl mounting with each witness. The final person interviewed is Marija, Sofia’s mother, to whom Nunn relates the awful conclusion of the story. A shred of flesh hangs from Perry’s claws.
‘At a Loose End’ is a sweet story, about the time of life when you want to make significant changes to accommodate a different economic reality and new opportunities. Some decisions need only a small alteration, an act not possible a few years earlier. But family wedges into the narrow spaces and – I won’t ruin the story for you. But I bet you’ll agree. It’s a rather sweet story, proving sometimes the cat just wants to sun herself on the sill.
‘Lasting Sanctuary’ is a shorter story but one that packs a twist worthy of Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot. To encompass so much in a wisp of a tale, just a brief iteration of this cat’s nine lives, is brilliant.
My favorite story is ‘The Whiteout Years’, and I’ve read it four times. Out of the gate, it captivated me with passages as lyrical as this one when Carl is driving through a winter storm, remembering his wife, Karin:
‘A moment of total silence. With the windows down he sat and listened. He never failed to be awed by the silence, the odd rustle of snow falling gently to the ground from the laden fir trees. The odd animalistic sound deep in the forest, feral and prehistoric.’
While this scene describes the landscape surrounding Carl, it also describes his isolation from the world. Lost in the snowdrift of his grief over his wife’s death, he is blinded by silence and whiteness and can’t move on with his life. The threat of Carl’s possible death looms throughout the story.
Annika Perry is a writer in tune with our deepest responses to the human condition, capturing the nuances of our psyche. Like an alert cat, she assesses carefully, knowing what to absorb for future use, how to convey realistic dialogue, which details will reveal more than the sum of their parts, and how to wind an unpredictable plot out of simple fare.
Unlike cats, Perry is respectful of people and all their foibles.
Sharon L. Pratt
The sub-title of this book is no overstatement. “Powerful Stories to Win Your Heart” is entirely apposite. I found the majority of the short stories fascinating and moving.
Annika writes succinctly, engaging the reader from the outset. She’s quick to paint a scene and I immediately felt I was “right there” with the characters. Scenes include a kitchen, a bedroom, a classroom, the inside of a car, even a prison cell. And she soon pulled me into each story with a turn of phrase that quite often injected a bit of suspense into the plot.
Topics cover the whole gamut of human experiences. Gambling debt. Redundancy. A fatal accident. A loveless marriage. A petty argument with long-lasting consequences. Injustice. Theft. Suicide. And much more. Likewise, be prepared to experience a range of emotions. Regret, joy, fear, horror, relief, shock, happiness …
I’ve been a fan of Annika’s blog voice for many years and particularly her ability to say so much with so few words in the short stories she often shares. Annika has a way of saying just enough to engage readers without giving too much away. She dribbles out clues. I hang on every word, wondering how it will unfold. I want to know–but not too fast because I’m enjoying the verbal journey. I need to savour every paragraph, every parsed thought, every surprise conclusion.
In ‘The Storyteller Speaks’, Annika provides an eclectic mix of short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. All of these are character-driven explorations into the raw feelings so often part of everyday events and yet, through Annika, I see them in a different light.
by Jacqui Murray (Vine Voice)
The stories and poems in Annika Perry’s debut book are indeed compelling. Each one evokes various emotions from everyday life. I’ve followed Annika’s blog for a while now, so I wasn’t surprised at how wonderful the final outcome turned out to be. The cover alone is stunning! She has her magical way of playing with words to pull the reader in, but keep one hanging on until the end.
However, not all of her writing in this book is lighthearted; some is pretty dark. There were times when I smiled, moments when I was horrified, and occasions for tears. The beauty is that with each turn of the page to a new story or poem, the reader is pleasantly surprised. With this being said, it was difficult to choose favorites, but I managed to pull out a few: ‘Chillies in My Handbag’, ‘Bouquet of White’, ‘A Rare Passion’, ‘Stars of Wonder’, and ‘Loss of a Patriarch’, which personally resonated with me because of my father’s passing last fall. Another bonus to this creative compilation was the ‘About the Stories’ section at the back of the book. I really enjoyed reading how each story was born. Overall, anyone who chooses to read this wonderful collection of short stories and poems will not be disappointed. This was a wonderful start to Annika Perry’s writing journey, and I’m sure I’m not alone in anticipating new publications from this amazing author.
by Lauren Scott
This is a brilliant collection of stories and poems. Each one offers a poignant message, sometimes uplifting, sometimes heartbreaking. What is consistent throughout is the command of the language, the eloquent turn of phrase, and the obvious passion behind each tale. There truly is something for everyone in this collection. I was particularly drawn to two stories: the last one, as it reminded me of my own grandfather, and the handbag story, which broke my heart (no mother should have to live through that). The author information at the end of the book was a lovely addition to the piece. I’m looking forward to more from this author.
by Luanne Castle
This abundant collection of stories is well-written and an affecting read. The stories of everyday life go straight to the heart; some nostalgic, some reflective, some uplifting, and some heartwarming. I enjoyed reading this book, and the notes at the end about what inspired some of the stories.
by Khaya Ronkainen
Annika Perry is a natural storyteller, a wordsmith of great talent. She writes at times with the language of a poet, at other times with the sharp and daring strokes of Picasso.
Sheer light infuse her pages;
Darkness where the soul cries.
Annika’s Anthology consists of stories filled with depth and entertainment. Joy and grief. Romance and thriller. They all share a deep care and love for their characters. The pace is unhurried, yet entirely without superfluous words. You are left totally absorbed in the events and settings.
How does she do it?
All I can say is … Annika, keep on writing.
I am hungry for more.
A wonderful book filled with meaningful stories. It would make a great gift.
by bernadette laganella
The appeal of short fiction is that it offers a glimpse of a character’s life, a problem, a twist and a quick finish. Annika Perry’s debut collection, ‘The Storyteller Speaks’, makes good on this promise in her newly published book of fiction and poetry.
Perry gives the reader twenty-one distinct stories about the daily challenges of marriage, children, friendship, family and loss. Her characters are knowable and likable, even the ones who find themselves on the bad end of a decision. Many of her stories depict the author’s upbringing in Sweden and the United Kingdom, yet show a universal understanding of family and relationships. And even though the stories are separate, the reader begins to develop a sense of community, as it seems as if some of the author’s characters might know each other.
Several standout stories will stick in the reader’s mind because of memorable characters and conflicts. In ‘The Whiteout Years’, a young widower wonders how he can let go of the heavy burden of guilt. Likewise, a young mother faces a very different future in ‘Sophia!’ after a bizarre and tragic series of events. In one, there is a sign of hope. In the other, an unknown challenge.
Other stories finish with a warm feeling of love and friendship. In ‘Friends Forever’, Perry’s characters overcome a long and painful break and in ‘Role-Playing’, happiness is a given when old friends reunite.
But Perry isn’t afraid of exploring difficult or dark subjects. In ‘The Game’, children playing a seemingly harmless game discover the frightening power of their diversion. And in ‘Smouldering Shame’, Perry’s characters confront betrayal and a sorrowful tragedy. In ‘A Rare Passion’, a young man acts on impulse and immediately sees the folly of his decision. Can he fix his mistake in time?
Despite difficult subjects in many stories, Perry offers a strong overlying message of hope, love and family, as shown in her final story, ‘Loss of a Patriarch’ in which a family finds peace and comfort after a beloved father and grandfather dies.
‘The Storyteller Speaks’ is a touching look at the challenges of life and relationships, an excellent debut. I look forward to reading more from this promising author.
by Barbara Vitelli
Having been a follower of Perry’s blog for a number of years, I was thrilled when she announced she was releasing a collection of her short stories. I knew anything she published would not disappoint. ‘The Storyteller Speaks’ is a mix of poetry, flash fiction and short stories. Each piece is brilliantly written in a way that only Perry can do. She’s a beautiful writer who knows how to draw the reader into a story. I’ll look forward to more work in the future from this talented author.
by Jill Weatherholt
I think this book is a good read. Annika Perry is a perceptive observer of the human condition, and has a gift of harnessing the humdrum minutiae of everyday existence and bringing it to life in short, concise, well told stories. She also includes the occasional entertaining poem and limerick to further demonstrate her talents and add to the variety. As a bonus, Ms Perry includes notes at the end of the anthology, explaining her motivation for writing the stories, many of which, directly or indirectly, are borne out of her own experiences.
by Mark Charlton
Wonderful really wonderful. Beautiful stories that are moments of pure escapism. The characters make you want to know more and the simple but beautifully written stories are both moving and engaging. Thank you.
by Hayley Smith
Perry’s 21 stories are reflections on grief, love, murder and the extraordinary details of ordinary life. Her descriptions shine. Perry’s voice is one that sticks with you long after the stories have been read. They are emotional pieces. Moving. Honest. Filled with love and imagination.
Enjoyable and thought-provoking.
By Carol Balawyder
I am a big fan of Annika’s blog and ‘The Storyteller Speaks’ does not disappoint. It is a well written and eclectic mix of stories from different genres that will indeed “win your heart.”
‘The Whiteout Years’ is poignant and beautifully written and “The Game” is both short and spooky. I particularly enjoyed ‘A Rare Passion’ based on a true story, and ‘Loss of a Patriarch’, on the loss of Annika’s dear grandfather known as Morfar.
I believe both Morfar and Mormor will be incredibly proud of their granddaughter.
by Brigid P. Gallagher
‘The Storyteller Speaks’ is an electric collection of 21 short stories, flash fiction and poetry that makes for an entertaining read. These stories cover a wide range of situations such as love, murder, revenge, misadventures, injustices and grief.
The author bares her soul and grief over the loss of her Morfar and Mormor in the story, ‘Loss of a Patriarch’. She keeps the readers on edge and guessing until the end of some of the stories as in ‘Sofia’. She has an innate ability to use her words sparingly and dribble out little clues to keep the reader hanging on her every word until the end of the stories.
At the back of the book the author shares her inspiration for each story. It’s evident that she uses daily experiences in her life to create intriguing and fascinating tales.
This is a commendable beginning book for this talented author who will be one to watch for future books.
by J. E. Spina
This is a wonderful collection of short stories. The author does such an excellent job of bringing her characters to life, it’s like pulling back a veil and stepping into their worlds. The flow of the writing is beautiful, the descriptions especially vivid. I rode emotional highs and lows along with the characters, swept up in their tales. Some are simple, some complex, all engaging. There are many gems in this collection, but I believe the first and the last are my personal favorites. The back matter in the book–which explains how many of the stories came to be–made the tales all the richer. I look forward to more work from this talented new writer!
by Mae Clair
A compelling collection of short fiction. Each story engages right from the start, and keeps delivering surprises as the character is developed and the action unfolds. Every piece is powerful in its own way. My favourite is ‘Chillies in my Handbag’, and I don’t want to give the plot away, but enough to say this: it’s a perfect illustration of Annika Perry’s talent and skill in capturing the deepest moments of the heart. From hope and loss to a joyful decision. From ambition and small joys to quiet desperation, then a calm and certain decision to change one’s life. Highly recommended.
by Cynthia Reyes
Reading this book is like eating chocolate — total bliss! You won’t be able to put it down once you’ve started!
Sometimes it is good to sit down and read some short stories. So much can be said in a few carefully chosen words. Which is the case in this delightful collection of stories and poems. Stories about a first and forever love, stolen flowers, forgotten chillies, frozen landscapes and a miscarriage of justice evoke a wide range of emotions.
My favourite story is the ‘Loss of A Patriarch’, depicting a family saying goodbye to a much-loved family member told in such a heartwarming manner it is sure to produce tears. For a first time author, this is a wonderful collection showing a range of writing skills.
By Darlene Foster
Enjoyed the stories a lot.
By Yvette Prior
‘The Storyteller Speaks’ is full of wonderful thought-provoking tales that don’t reveal too much and leave plenty of room for the reader’s imagination to take shape. The stories are very British and some are inspired by true events.
By Kevin Cooper
A really well-composed collection. Varied too, with no common theme – a bit like a box of chocolates. Several beautifully written scenes based on the author’s own life – ‘The Whiteout Years’ and ‘Loss of a Patriarch’ are examples. A heartbreaking story about the miscarriage of justice – ‘The Green Cage’. An oddity based on an unsolved crime – ‘A Rare Passion’. The author writes with skill and emotion, not afraid to experiment with her writing by throwing in the odd limerick-type poem (‘The Flying Trapeze’) to tell a story.
I enjoyed this collection from beginning to end.
By Roy McCarthy
Every story had me feeling as though I was watching and listening from a hidden spot. Real characters with real emotions. Such depth in each and every one and no wasted words. I couldn’t believe the book came to an end so quickly. Wonderful read.
It’s been a wonderfully inspiring morning! Whilst preparing breakfasts, packed lunch, loading the washing machine I had the joy and honour of listening to the winning entries of this year’s BBC 500 Words short-story writing competition for children. The finale of the contest, which saw over a staggering 135,000 entries, was held at Hampton Court Palace and the Honorary judge was Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall.
The ability and inventiveness of the children in their stories is astonishing. Their creativity, lyricism and themes were both heart-warming and funny. The Gold Winners in the 5-9 age category and the 10-13 age category were both stories I’d read from the short-list; both enthralling, very different but brilliantly written stories. These youngsters have so much to teach us all. Below is the winning entry for the 10 – 13 age group. Enjoy.
Dancing on the Streets by Sadhbh Inman
Tai ya tai hi
Tai ya tai hi…
On a noisy, dusty road, a child’s bare brown feet are hardly noticed as she weaves in and out of the traffic, dodging cattle and halting at taxis. She presses her nose against the windows of vehicles carrying crowds of tourists. “Tissues ma’am, tissues sir, only ten rupees for a box”. Sita is small for a seven year old, but then seven year olds from the slums in Ahmedabad are often smaller than other children.
Tai ya tai hi
Tai ya tai hi…
The Bharata Natyam rhythm encourages her to dance, from car to lorry, lorry to rickshaw. On Sita’s tiny face a smile begins to form. She is so engrossed in the rhythm that she never misses a beat. A lady in a rickshaw spots her quick-footed movements and starts rummaging through her purse to find twenty rupees, “ten rupees for the tissues and ten for your dancing”.
Tai ya tai hi
Tai ya tai hi…
Sita is delighted about receiving that much money, and dances off to the tailor’s to get her Bharata Natyam dress made and her dream fulfilled. The tailor’s fingers work quickly with the silky, emerald fabric. The gleaming needle punctures the soft cotton cloth, creating neat rows of stitches. Sita watches as the dress is completed. Sita takes the dress, her eyes wide with excitement, her mouth open in anticipation. “That’s one hundred rupees child” the tailor says kindly. Sita carefully unfolds the notes she has been saving for over a year and with a hopeful sigh, hands them over.
“I’ll have that!” a voice booms. Sita stands, her back to the stranger. She strongly smells rum. “Oh! It can’t be” she murmurs. A dark shadow and fiery breath indicate his presence…”Uncle!” His eyes narrow menacingly, sending a shiver down Sita’s spine. “I’ll have that!” he booms again. Uncle takes the money off Sita. He turns around and slams the door behind him.
Sita knows it will be the end of her happiness. It feels like a part of her body is gone, fatally gone forever. Sita also knows that she should have given the money to Uncle, but it didn’t seem fair that he sent her to get money, to make him a rich man.
Tai ya tai hi
Tai ya tai hi…
On a noisy, dusty road, a child’s bare brown feet are hardly noticed as she weaves in and out of the traffic, dodging cattle and halting at taxis.
“Tissues ma’am, tissues sir …only ten rupees for a box”.
The 500 Words short-story writing competition for children contest started eight years ago and was originally created by Chris Evans, a Radio 2 presenter, and supported by the BBC, as well as this year by Oxford University Press and a multitude of volunteer readers. It is a competition that fosters not only the love of reading, but as evident here, the absolute joy of imagination and writing! To listen and read to all or some of the top 50 entries in both categories click here.
This was Jensen’s tenth hat in as many weeks. The first, a cranberry felt Fedora lasted only a few days, before being replaced by a grey knit Beanie. He’d learnt a new word that time … Beanie and it had looked as inane as he’d imagined, even after he’d cut off the wobbly black bobble. His two ears refused to be tethered beneath its soft surface. Like two aircraft landing light beacons his ears poked out from beneath every imaginable hat.
Jensen had high hopes for the dark blue navy trilby with a feather tucked into its suave red band. His expectations were of course in vain. The tweed flat cap was anything but fashionable on his pathetic head. It rested neatly on the top, “a perfect fit”, the shop-keeper declared. What he did not say, did not need to mention were the ears, coming up and over the cap, stroking its sides. Nothing would hide these atrocities.
“Buggerlugs!” they’d yelled at him at school. All those years ago. He’d tried to laugh along … at first. He’d even tried to take the daily abuse as a joke but failed as the non-stop flicking of his ears dragged on relentlessly for three long years. Every month his grotesque ears seemed to sprout further from his head. The fourth year offered respite as a new and younger pupil started school, a new ‘Buggerlugs’ for his tormentors to feed off.
Jensen thought it was all over these last thirty years, that the school days were filed away in a remote recess in his brain, never to be accessed again. Until the luncheon at The Ivy eleven weeks ago. With his usual Moss Bros striped shirt and his long grey trousers he’d walked proudly into the coveted restaurant. The bar at the centre gleamed and glistened, the stained glass windows lent a mystical reverential aura to the meeting with his agent. Relaxed they’d chatted away until he spotted Slater. Two years his senior at school, an expert at delivering taunts and injury, Slater now sat at the next table. Jensen continued to sip his whisky, taking in the grown man that had been his persecutor. Dapper in a navy striped suit, Slater’s hands swung back and forth as his procrastinated with vigour and brashness. Slowly sinking into his chair, drink clutched tightly in both hands, Jensen hoped Slater would not spot him. No such luck, as with a curt nod, his adversary mouthed a greeting. Surely it couldn’t be! He couldn’t have said it! “Buggerlugs!”
Eleven weeks since the fateful meeting and the eleventh hat. Jameson whisky had become Jensen’s best friend and his head was reduced to a fug of memories. With shaking hands he reached for his most recent acquisition. So many had been discarded in disgust as they proved mediocre for their main purpose – to hide his blasted ears! A baseball cap was quickly disregarded, the beautiful cream coloured Panama hat had been sent flying across the room. The straw hat held such promise of summer days on the canal, however once in place it not only accentuated his ears but his shiny forehead too.
This last purchase was perfect, Jensen was sure of it! The tweed deer-stalker, as worn by the infamous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, had adjustable earflaps … no need for his ears to be visible in public ever again! It was the only answer he felt, apart from taping down the abominations on the side of his head. He’d tried that once when young but the beggars refused to be tamed and flamboyantly sprung up and out for inspection.
“Sir looks fine in this,” insisted the shop-keeper.
Jensen checked in the mirror again. What a lying…
“Jensen? It’s you, isn’t it?”
Slater, shifting warily from one foot to the next, stopped in front of Jensen. Slater was no longer so dapper, his shirt partially out his trousers, his hands clenched nervously.
“I never forget what we did to you. I tried to tell you there, at The Ivy, when you rushed out. So Sorry! For Sorry! I deeply regret our, my behaviour…”
Jensen smiled, then waved imperiously as if swatting away an annoying bug. With a small push and shove with his shoulder against Slater, Jensen walked to the shop counter. With a ‘harrumph’ he sent his latest hat flying onto the wooden surface, calling out at the same time to the shop-keeper.
“I’ll no longer need this one. Nor the others. I’ll return them promptly and expect an immediate refund. No more hats for me!”
Just in case you might have forgotten (I know, how is it possible!) my debut book, The Storyteller Speaks, was published earlier this year. The ebook was released mid-December.
As the whirlwind of promotion is calming I want to share some of the lovely people who let me visit their blogs.
One of the first ones was Denzil over at The Book Owl. His searching and insightful questions had me pondering as amongst many queries, I answered how I convey emotions and how easy or hard I find it to write from the male point of view.
Not satisfied with just an interview he also reviewed my book and described it as covering ‘the whole gamut of human experiences.’ What these could be and for his impressions of my book as well as the overall owl rating, please read the full post by clicking the link below. Comments have been turned off on my blog for this post. I look forward to reading your comments over on The Book Owl.