Friday, October 25, 2013
Yes, the exterior needs some tender loving care and most of the lights in the old sign were burnt out long ago, but still they come. Some come with hopes of finding the perfect treasure to place upon their mantel. Others come to rid themselves of things unwanted. But this is no ordinary shop and for those who are compelled to cross its threshold... well, I fear they may never be same.
So come. Come if you dare. Open the door, wipe your feet on the mat, and have a look around. The proprietor, Mr. Blank, is looking forward to meeting you. Just ask anyone how long he's been there and they'll say, it seems like forever...
I was immediately interested when Wendy Tyler Ryan of Lemon Twist Press announced her idea for a short story anthology project back in 2011. The idea was for authors of multiple genre’s to write their own stories to the central theme of an object either purchased from or sold to a second hand store in the town of Bottle Bay, and using the store owner by name of Mr Blank who owns a fluffy white cat called Smithy. The rest of the story was up to the author. I’d participated in a similar on-line writing project a couple years prior, and I enjoyed the variety of stories and characters that were produced in a theme driven environment.
Second Avenue Second Hand accepted ten authors and their short story concepts that ranged from horror, mystery, adventure, humor, and romance. The opening story titled WELCOME TO BOTTLE BAY by Ethan Blake is a well written, insightful introduction to the mysterious Mr Blank, Smithy the cat, and the fascinating merchandise that comprises the Second Avenue Second Hand thrift store. Whatever your need, Mr Blank has exactly what you are looking for at the right price.
I was lucky to be one of the featured authors with my story ONE MORE TIME, a horror story involving a cursed object, a vengeful spirit, and a ghastly murder that gives the reader good reason to fear the basement.
Roland Yoemans also contributed a horror story with the lead character Adam ‘rescuing’ a damsel in distress on Halloween night. In PICTURE IMPERFECT, Mr Yoemans unfolds a complex story of deception and unrequited love, using his unique style of descriptive phrases and intense dialogue to reveal the unsavory characteristics of the undead patrons. Secrets and lies are unraveled in a battle of wits, and Adam forgives Rose her deathly qualities as the couple is ushered out of the club for their own protection just as the clock strikes midnight.
Murder is also the focus of Kathie Leung’s PUT A RING ON IT. Detective Felix Cranston is suspicious of a series of seemingly accidental deaths. An omniscient narrator and well crafted transitions guide the reader through a series of superstitious events that challenge both the reader, and Bottle Bay’s detectives to question reality. In the course of his routine investigation, Cranston discovers the theft of an ornate ring from the finger a wealthy woman recently deceased. As the town huddles in fear of a serial killer amongst them, Cranston is able to link the ‘accidental deaths’ to a common factor: all had worn the stolen ring at some point prior to their deaths. To solve the case, Cranston and Lt Hoff must first convince themselves of the validity of the incredulous story surrounding the ring's travels.
Julie Smyder contributed a more light hearted investigation in her post WWII romance story BETWEEN THE LINES. Our hero Dan Whitmore has just returned to Bottle Bay and accepted a teaching position. After settling in his apartment, he visits the second hand store in search of a good book to read and discovers a bargain he cannot pass up. As he reads the printed story, he is distracted by the Latin writing between the lines and gets out his Latin dictionary to satisfy his curiosity. He discovers an adventurous romance with an unfinished ending. Curiosity leads him to the library, where he meets Librarian Polly Leopold, who has also read the story and desires to discover both the author and the hopefully happy ending. Ms Smyder effectively weaves the two developing romances together using the language and social culture of 1946 as if the story is unfolding in the present.
BRING ME BACK AN EDELWEISS by Jennifer Harding is a darker romance, set in the last two years before the ending of WWII. Written in flattering first person, our lover Paul lets the reader be their own judge of whether the Edelweiss is lucky or not. With a quick pace and economy of words, Paul describes how the love of Daisy May and a desire to impress her into marriage leads him to enlist as rumors of the ending of the war is near. The Edelweiss is a gift from his father, who states it is a lucky charm as his own father carried it through the Great War and returned with good fortune. So armed against the unveiling horrors of war, Paul describes the events that sent his luck from good to bad as he is gravely injured, imprisoned in POW camp without proper medical care for three months, and finally rescued and returned home, only to be denied back pay. Paul remains sarcastically optimistic throughout his adventures all the way until he returns home and discovers the fate of his family, and Daisy May. As Paul accepts his changed circumstances, he discovers that luck is a matter of choice, not a whim of fate.
SELMA’S CHOICE by Norah Deay Jansen is a warm-hearted story of young Selma; a runaway earning her meager keep as a singer/guitarist on the chilly streets of Bottle Bay. A mystery unfolds as she is offered a meal by Angela, an old woman with a vibrant but familiar aura. Selma dines at a modest restaurant, where more questions than answers accompany the hot mean. Ms Jansen effectively imbues the ambience with sensuous sights, smells, sounds and a healthy dose of curiosity as Angela produces a velvet bag and request for Selma to return it to Mr Blank “in payment for the key” at the second hand shop around the corner. Suspicious but intrigued, Selma accepts the task, and discovers that compromise is preferable to pride.
Stuart Sharp’s A SENSE OF ADVENTURE is a romantic comedy that extensively reaps the rewards of compromise. Acting on impulse in purchasing a unique birthday gift for her grandfather, Susan finds herself face-to-face with a self proclaimed knight in shining armor. Displaying the rakish British humor of a Monty Python misadventure, Sir Trevor at first simply requests Susan hand over the sword she recently purchased in order for him to complete his quest and become a full fledged Knight. Through persistence, Susan settles on a compromise; she will loan him the sword but will accompany him on his adventure. An unlikely romance has begun to blossom between the two when Sir Trevor finally confronts his nemesis, a middling corporate executive with a girlfriend/secretary as opposed to the prospective violence as Susan. The two women collaborate and come up with an acceptable competition, leaving the reader with the assurance that a damsel in distress is a formidable opponent - in the right arena.
Violence is unavoidable for the scantily clad Trish as she rescues her currier husband Malto from evil scientists in the speculative fiction thriller SPECIAL DELIVERY by Tyler Lambie. While her husband is off on a seemingly routine delivery in the neon city of Atraxia, Trish is at home in their woodland cottage, cooking dinner in nothing but her apron. To hurry him along, she sends a vid message to his tablet. Malto accidentally leaves the interrupted call active as he arrives at his destination, and the visual implants that link to his tablet transmit his distress signal back to Trish. Discarding the flimsy apron in favor of an overcoat, Trish rushes to rescue her sharp tongued husband as he is bound and bleeding on a stool that is about to be launched into the past. Spouting dark humor and sexual innuendo, the couple ruthlessly blast, stab and burn their way through the goons that hold Malto captive. As reinforcements arrive, Trish and Malto are left with no escape except through the pre-set time machine, where they meet the curious Mr Blank, and are faced with the uncomfortable need to sell something.
Buying and selling is exactly what scam artist Peyton is up to in CRYSTAL HEALER by Jamie Robertson. Robertson eloquently draws the reader into the desperation of his anti-hero Peyton, an intelligent man of limited means and a sickly family to feed. Peyton soothes his guilty conscious by assuring himself that his elderly victims have no need for the ancient junk he liberates and sells off to supplement his baker’s wages. His scheming takes and unexpected turn when he purchases an expensive set of healing crystals from a second hand store that is more than what it seems.
THE EPILOGUE written by editor Wendy Tyler Ryan of Lemon Twist Press, sums up what was started by Ethan Blake by assuring the reader that the curious shop of Second Avenue Second Hand is always open for one more adventure, one more possibility.
I enjoyed reading this anthology as much as I enjoyed writing my own contribution to the project. I admit some of the stories could have used a second glance by the editor, but I still give the anthology a 5 star rating. Overall the stories were well polished, incorporated the proscribed theme, and were intriguing short stories to read. I laughed, cried, and shivered in all the appropriate sections, and even got a bit of a warm and fuzzy feeling at times.
If you enjoy short stories in any genre, you should definitely read Second Avenue Second Hand
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The GoodReads giveaway is still available through Nov 5. Click here for details. You can click here for a list of Lemon Twist Press novels, and also for a variety of media to purchase Second Avenue Second Hand.
Thanks for reading. Have a good weekend everyone.