Unity of Vision in a Story Collection

Rhys Hughes, whose short story collection ‘Salty Kiss Island’ has recently been released by Immanion Press, shares his thoughts on creating a unity of vision in compiling a collection of short stories.

SKI one photo

My new collection of stories is my favourite among my books of stories, but I wasn’t fully aware of this fact until I actually held a published copy in my hands and took a deep breath. The sigh that came out was one of deep contentment and then I knew.

I have often said that such-and-such a book is my personal favourite and there have been many candidates for that distinction but Salty Kiss Island has a quality, I’m not sure what, that most others don’t have, an unplanned quality. Purity perhaps.

Not purity in the sense of lacking bite and darkness, but purity in the unity of the visions that the book assembles and disseminates. The stories just seem to fit together very nicely. They amplify each other. I feel great delight at the final sum of the parts.

We write stories over a long period of time, years, even decades, and when we collect them together into a book we can’t really know what the end result will be like. The stories weren’t written to be together, they are discrete pieces existing on their own.

And now they are suddenly required to appear with other stories, to dwell with neighbours between the covers of a book, and they are asked to do this because they have themes in common, or an approach or tone that categorizes them. They are allied.

How will they get along? This is impossible to predict accurately until the book is ready. Sometimes they will interfere with each other, quarrel, contradict, attenuate, decay. If they are juxtaposed like this, elements that weren’t weaknesses may become so.

For example, any repetition of ideas, moods, events and reactions will be plain to see. Such repetition may not be self-plagiarism on the part of the author, it may not be indolence, it might be convergent evolution, the same solution to utterly different texts.

But it won’t look that way to the reader, it will appear like a limitation or an obsession, unless the repetition has strong intertextual attributes and adds its pulsation to the bigger rhythm, to the heartbeat of the entire book, the general health of the fictive gestalt.

That is a difficult thing to engineer. It means that every time a story is being composed, the author responsible must take care not only with the aesthetic parameters of that particular work but also consider how it will unite with and complement every other story he or she has written or will write. This is surely too much to ask. The writer therefore must fall back on the emergency option of serendipity.

Happy chance can assemble a short story collection from many pieces that turns out to be harmonious, cohesive, synchronised. The stories may amplify each other in ways the author never imagined, reveal aspects that were hidden before the gathering. Such a story collection has the unity of a novel while remaining a true collection.

I never supposed that the majority of my fantastical love stories would appear in a single volume. It wasn’t planned at all. I didn’t even realise I was in thematic thrall while writing them. Each was just a new tale and a striving to express burning ideas, to get them out of my head and onto the page, where they would leave me alone.

But I truly believe it has turned out very well, better than I had hoped, and that Salty Kiss Island is an important stage of personal fulfillment on the somewhat rickety career ladder of my writing life. I am not especially successful in terms of sales, despite the critical acclaim my work garners, yet I am satisfied now. This book exists.

Every writer has a host of influences and inspirations. These might be situations and circumstances, remarkable people, abstractions, sensations, the desire to be different or to be the same. And other authors will always play a large part in the creation of a prose style, in the fundamentals of a writer’s vision and method. We attempt to imitate, then we rapidly go off on tangents, and our tangents collide and mesh with other tangents given off by other influences, and fly off again.

My fantastical love stories were influenced by my love of whimsy and invention, by certain individuals, by memories of (and yearnings for) the tropical life, by music from Brazil and Cape Verde, by the sea and stars, by the incredible writers Amado, Pessoa, Couto, Vian, Calvino, by hope and anticipation, and always by language.

salty kiss 1

Para Animalia – New Wraeththu Anthology Call for Submissions

Storm Constantine’s Wraeththu Mythos

Para Animalia: Creatures of Wraeththu

Following on from the previous anthologies of Wraeththu Mythos stories, this new collection will focus upon the Wraeththu’s relationship with the animal kingdom – creatures both existing and imaginary.

We are calling for submissions to this anthology, of stories between 3,000 and 10,000 words. As with the former anthologies, we are mainly looking for pieces that do not involve characters from the original Wraeththu books, although such characters may have ‘cameo appearances’ if it suits the story. Writers who were included in the previous collections may also expand upon characters (or their descendants or ancestors) who they created for their earlier stories, if they so wish.

Contributors can explore how various Wraeththu tribes interact with animals, have spiritual or working relationships with them, or even encounter zoological mysteries out in the world. Stories may also include Wraeththu shape-shifting, or their relationship with the sedim. As long as the story focuses around some kind of animal, your imagination is otherwise given no restriction. The stories can also be set in any time period of Wraeththu history.

Please let us know if you are interested in contributing and provide a short synopsis of your idea, by mailing Storm at the above email address. The deadline for completed submissions is 31st March 2015.  As before, there will be a one off payment of $25 per story. Contributors are welcome to submit more than one.

If you know of anyone who might like to contribute, please feel free to pass this information to them.

Para Kindred Blog Hop – Day 2

Welcome to the Immanion Press blog hop for the new Wraeththu anthology, Para Kindred. Every day until 25th June the PK authors will be posting a blog post about their story in the collection. Read every contribution to the blog hop, answer all the secret questions about the posts, and you will be entered into a prize draw to win an item from the New section of our Café Press store.

Authors who don’t have blogs of their own will have their articles posted here. Today’s featured author is Maria J Leel. The secret question is at the bottom of this post, along with details of yesterday’s author’s (Earl S Wynn’s) contribution.

 An Unravelling Thread

Maria J Leel

Like most writers I keep a scribble book. Not a diary or journal as such although some entries do read very much that way. I use it as a place to download, to keep thoughts and experiences… like the sadly sodden, rotting hare corpse I nearly stepped on whilst hiking the other day – never know when that memory is going to come in useful… It’s also the place where story ideas are recorded and where I loosen up and practice writing exercises. Anyone who didn’t know what writers were like and what writers do would find my notebook a very strange place indeed and would, in all probability, question my grip on reality.

Sometimes the scribble book is the place where a story suddenly and surprising takes off and pages and pages of ideas, dialogue and description ensue. Every page is numbered and referenced at the back. So if a project has languished for a while I can always go back and pick up the threads…

Which leads me to Threads – my contribution to the latest Wraeththu Mythos anthology Para Kindred. The story of Chenga, a harling who lives in a repressive regime in a secluded territory in the Far East. Chenga is unusual as he can hear the chatter of the fungi, the threads, which carpet the forest floor where he lives. He does not understand them but through his human teacher, Master Deshi-Tu, Chenga learns to decipher the threads’ meaning and eventually is able to make use of them to escape the cruel situation he finds himself in.

At something over fifteen thousand words Threads is on the hefty side for a short story and even though there is an ending, an escape, there is no resolution. Many threads are left hanging. And so in February (24th to be precise) my scribble book holds an entry exploring some of those ‘what next’ questions.

Chenga escapes by faking his own death. Would that be believed? Like most abusers, Zu-Lee, Chenga’s oppressive consort, viewing Chenga as his ‘property’, would be unlikely to let go that easily. The continuing story begs for a confrontation.

Chenga planned to spend several years travelling the threads with Master Deshi – what does he learn in that time? Despite his travels Chenga will, inevitably, be drawn to contact his sons, both of whom have made their own escapes to Immanion. How might that reunion proceed? Would Xan and Nisha have seen through Chenga’s ruse or would they believe him dead? Would they welcome him back or be angry with him? And would rumour of this family reunion alert Zu-Lee that his lost consort had resurfaced? How had Xan and Nisha made lives for themselves in Immanion and would Chenga find a place there? Then what of Dolah? The servant who kept Chenga sane and safe during his years in Zu-Lee’s palace? Dolah was planning his own escape to his brother over the mountain. Did that go well or badly and does Dolah still have a part in the continuing story? And then there is Mildor, one of Chenga’s fellow consorts, a pale-skinned Freyhellen who dreams of the dark pine-scented forests of his own homeland. Slowly awakened to rebellion, Mildor facilitates Chenga’s escape by keeping quiet but, never particularly stable, would Chenga’s apparent death have completely unsettled Mildor or can he find his own route to freedom?

Finally there is Zu-Lee. After all his abuses and cruelties would some kind or reconciliation ever be possible? Could Zu-Lee have some kind of epiphany and wake up to what he was? Oh I do hope not… The pages of my scribble book contain a deliciously nasty death scene for him… at the hands of Chenga and the threads. So what could have prompted this? And how will Chenga live with the consequences afterwards?

Stories never end… they just take the occasional breather.


Maria’s question: Where was Chenga’s servant Dolah planning to escape to?

Earl’s question: Who do the spirit wolves watch over, according to legend?

Link to Mon 16th June post by E. S. Wynn http://www.eswynn.com/2014/06/ghost-wolf.html

Link to Wed 18th June Post by Storm Constantine http://dreamsofdarkangels.wordpress.com/