If you’ve read my blogs in the past, you might know that I belong to a writers’ group. A few years back, when we were gearing up to release our first anthology, Hunger: Stories of Desire, Discovery, and Dissatisfaction, we named ourselves The Penheads.
While each of these anthologies focuses on a theme, the volumes themselves all have something in common: they touch upon a basic component of human existence. Hunger is something that everyone has, in one form or another, whether it’s a physical need or a longing for something. Smoke is around us, masking reality, signaling the truth, and inviting us into other worlds.
And then there are the elements. The universe is filled with the elements. We are made up of, and surrounded by, them. Yet how do we relate to them? Elements: Tales from the Substratum explores the many possibilities.
J. M. Levinton does something clever with her story, “Airborne”—she uses characters who we’ve met in previous stories, keeping a character continuity from anthology to anthology. People love “universe stories”—stories that are connected through characters or locations.
What I like about J. M.’s writing is how streamlined and clean it is. You know how you might refer to décor or architectural design as “clean”? Well, that’s how J. M.’s writing is. She tells an engaging story that doesn’t rely on frivolous verbiage. It’s what makes her stories “fly-throughs.” Which is appropriate, since her tale focuses on the element of air.
Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin offers in “An Opening Black and Infinite” a story of trespassing through dangerous worlds, and how people can find themselves in situations they hadn’t counted on. And the notion that not everyone is necessarily as they seem.
Carrie is a master at horror telling. Her descriptions—of people and places—are so vivid, you feel as if you are there with the characters. She has a way of not only bringing the story to you, but bringing you into the story. She’s evocative, eloquent, and a touch on the dark side, perfect for someone writing about the element of ether.
But Carrie’s is not the only horror story in the collection. Anne Wagenbrenner gives us a story called “Walk Around On Earth In My Body.” Set in New Orleans, it tells us about what might happen if an evil spirit takes over a human body. If the thought of that alone isn’t creepy enough, what ups the horror ante is the fact that the possessed person is just going about her business on a vacation and is ambushed by the demon, and it threatens her life.
Anne has a flare for telling stories that are off the beaten track. She has a unique voice that lets readers know that there are lives being lived that are perhaps unexpected by most. Her style is quirky and humorous, yet finds the bruises of the soul to poke. Her story of demonic possession, of the unknown side of death, is reflective of her chosen theme of earth.
Arielle Prose offers a slice of life in “A Sea Change,” the story of a woman on the threshold of the next phase of her life as she tells about the last day of work before retirement. And, as with so many things, that event weaves through the other aspects of her life, including her marriage.
Arielle has a knack for exploring the everyday experiences of life, the common things that most people would not deem worthy of a story. But all those things—the marriages, the children, the jobs, the strife of everyday life—they are stories, aren’t they? Arielle’s theme is water, and it is reflected in the ebb and tide of her character’s experience.
And then there’s my story. “Pyromaniac” is about a woman who has the ability of telekinesis, but it’s tied to fire. She has visions, literally within the flames of a pyre, a candle, or even a lit match. Although she has come to terms with the dark side of this gift, she worries that the woman she’s fallen in love with will not understand it. But worst of all, she fears for the woman’s life.
I can’t talk about my own writing, except to say that I love telling stories. It’s through writing that I can create people exactly as I want them, whether they’re based on myself or others or no one in particular.
And, in case you haven’t figured it out, my element is fire.
Elements: Tales from the Substratum is available on Amazon. I hope you’ll give it chance, and that you like our offerings.