Eclectica, a bundle of fantastic short stories in a range of genres has its release day today, and – food lover that I am – I’ve decided to celebrate with a few of the collection’s authors at a virtual potluck dinner party, where we’ll be talking – of course – about books!
Because books, and especially compilations of stories like Eclectica, are very much like potluck dinners.
If you’ve ever held a potluck dinner, you’ll know that it can either end up like a fabulous food festival, or turn into the spitting image of a children’s birthday party… with an array of tables heaped with sweet things. The trick – just as it is when arranging a short story bundle – lies in making sure beforehand what everyone is planning to bring. So that you’re assured of a tasty mix of food, even if someone has to drop out or head to the nearest store to pick up a cake in a hurry…
So what did I do? I asked my fellow authors for their plans while I asked them about their stories, of course! And I’m delighted to say that we’ve ended up as well supplied with comestibles as we did with fabulous tales.
Diana Deverell writes short mysteries featuring FBI Special Agent Dawna Shepherd to explore crimes other than homicide. In her spy caper Blown, Dawna deals with treason, and Diana Deverell experiments with multiple viewpoints. Exhausting for both, so in Shaken, Not Stirred, Dawna gets to go on vacation at SpyGirl Fantasy Camp. Unfortunately, the bad guys do not leave her in peace. She’s too busy in both stories (and the two accompanying bonus stories) to sit down and enjoy a decent meal.
It sounds very much as if Dawna should have accompanied her creator to our dinner party. There will be plenty of food to go around, along with the pitchers of mojitos, Diana is starting us off with to “kick back, enjoy healthful fresh mint and lime juice, and catch up with one another before we savor the edible delights”.
Barbara G. Tarn, who has described her story, The Hooded Man, as Zorro in masala sauce – and isn’t that a delectable image! – is Italian, and she’s kindly volunteered to bring the wines. I think we’ll have a bit of each. Red to go with the main, white to match the salads, and bubbly for before and after.
As for Zorro? Barbara’s story is set on her fantasy world of Silvery Earth, in the southern kingdom of Akkora, inspired by India and Persia. Her hero goes back to his hometown to find it under a cruel governor who of course has also set his eyes on our hero’s beloved… hence he shall become the Hooded Man to bring back justice!
Definitely a setting to get out the bubbly for, right?
So, as always, the drinks are taken care of first… Now for the edible parts of the menu:
My nexty guest, author Thea Hutcheson, takes advantage of the fact that her significant other doesn’t like pasta… so she’s going to indulge herself and us with a big, mouthwatering pasta salad. And oh, I’m going to be right there with her – never mind the carbs! 🙂
How we got from pasta salad to wondering about the magical ability of socks to disappear in the wash, only a tablefull of writers will ever be able to explain… but this mystery is at the heart of Thea’s story Socks and Pins and Aliens, and its resolutions isn’t quite what you might expect. Thea herself doesn’t lose socks in the laundry anymore since she bought some super fancy clips to keep them together. Except for once… or twice…
Donald J. Bingle sounds like a man after my own heart… his dinner contribution includes protein to combat the as yet fictional sweets many potluck dinners have in abundance.
And while his story in the Eclectica bundle, Dashed Hopes, marries steampunk, historical fiction and romance, the food didn’t include cogwheels or mechanical add-ons. Instead, Donald tried to devise an invention that was based on steam, rather than electricity, and that could be used in a romance in some manner and provide a satisfying twist. And I, for one, look forward to finding out what he came up with.
My next dinner party guest, Felicia Fredlund, is another salad aficionado. I entirely agree that there can never be too many salads, and Felicia is bringing something with lots of veggies, and perhaps some apple or pear in it, too, to make it fresher.
We had the red wine out by then… proper talking wine… and the discussion turned a little more serious. Writers often pick themes to deal with real-life issues, or write to overcome personal challenges. Felicia wrote her story, Dear Brother because she was grieving and needed an outlet for it. Having grown up with three brothers, she understands love between siblings and knows how hard it can be to maintain or build or even rebuild.
Grief is a powerful driver, for writers as well as stories, and in my fantasy tale Sword Oath, it commands the actions of both my main characters. I kept the tale in my fantasy world, Karak, but I wrote the story to explore how far love will go to overcome death. In my world, that’s very far indeed.
Which brings us to the coffee and dessert part of the dinner party and – maybe for the first time in potluck history – there’s no excess of sweet things taking over the dinner table. Instead, I’ll be serving coffee, tea, bubbly and a huge basket of the finest chocolates to sit alongside this fabulous stack of books…. all 1230 pages of it! After the potluck dinner for our bodies, it’s time for a potluck for our minds…. and I hope you’ll join us!
From fantasy to space adventure, pirates, mystery, horror, historical fiction, romance and coming of age you’ll find short, snappy reads herein.
There is something for everyone in this potluck bundle.