Short Sharp Shocks! #46
Christopher Beck: The Birthday Girl & Other Stories
Reviewed & Additional Questions By Steve Stred
Demain Publishing is wrapping up the first wave of their Short Sharp Shocks! Series and I decided to jump on a few that were offered up for review for Kendall Reviews.
Christopher Beck’s release is a collection of three short stories.
First up is ‘Missing Child.’ I had no idea going in what to expect with this story. The story follows a man as he enters his daughter’s school to pick her up for the first time in months. Through flashbacks we learn the back story that has led up to this moment and wow did this story pluck at the heartstrings.
I almost loved this story – except for the ending. While it does work in the context, it is an ending that is dreaded when you get invested in a story, so it gave me a letdown when it happened.
The middle story is ‘The Birthday Girl,’ and if ‘Missing Child’ was any indication that Beck likes to make you “cut some onions” while reading, he doubles that up with this one. The story is simple. A young girl wakes up, excited because it’s her birthday. Her mom has promised them they would have a fun weekend filled with her favourite activities. A frosty storm is raging outside, but the girl is still confident that they will be going and doing fun things. The story takes a turn when she goes to wake her mommy up. When she doesn’t wake up when prodded, we get launched into a horrific panic attack of a story. Loved this one. The ending here was awful, but absolutely perfect.
The final story is ‘The Trash Can.’ While the first two stories were bleak and despair filled, this one is a campy romp. It felt like an 80s throwback with a possessed trash can. We get introduced to Karen, all excited because her dream kitchen remodel is finally finished. She places the pristine, brand new trash can in a perfect spot. She starts to make dinner and then the trash can decides it’s time to start chomping humans. Tons of fun and a very sharp emotionally turn after reading the first two stories.
Overall – another fantastic release from the Demain crew. Beck wrote three strong stories and I’ll be watching to see what else he has coming out down the road.
Steve Stred Post Review Questions
Steve Stred: Is there an author or piece of literature that really motivated you to start writing?
Dean Koontz was a huge influence early on. I devoured his books and hoped one day to be like him. However, it was a rough time in my personal life that really led me to take writing more seriously and opened doors to the publishing world. My marriage had failed, I was laid off from my job, and I hadn’t healed from the loss of my parents about ten years before. I didn’t know how to deal with any of it properly, or how to express and sort through my feelings. I turned to drinking and let my life spiral downward. Writing became therapeutic for me. It was a perfect way to express all of my feelings and, in time, kill off the darker parts of myself.
Steve Stred: You dedicate ‘The Trash Can’ to Karen, who I presume is a friend or family member in real life. How did this idea even come about?
Karen is a long-time family friend. At one point in time we both were roommates with my older brother, Josh. My brother’s dog, Hunter, liked to rummage through the trash, so Josh bought a trash can that he couldn’t get into. One day while I was at the kitchen table writing, Karen was cleaning up the kitchen. She went throw some papertowels in the trash can and when she released the pedal the lid came down fast and hard, almost catching her hand. It startled both of us. Instant story.
Steve Stred: If you could co-author a book with another author, who would you choose?
Big name, because of the influences, I’d say Dean Koontz. On a more personal level, I’d go with Craig Saunders. We’ve chatted for years and he’s always been kind and supportive. And he’s a fine writer. I think I flirted the idea to him before, but he was busy with other projects at that time.
The Birthday Girl & Other Stories
Writing about the stories contained in his Short Sharp Shocks! entry, author Christopher Beck said: “MISSING CHILD is based upon my life. I was once married and my ex-wife had a little girl with whom I developed a great relationship. After the marriage failed, things between the ex and I were sour which left my relationship with her daughter uncertain. MISSING CHILD was written as an attempt to deal with that uncertainty. Though it was tough at the time, I’m happy to say that now, years later, I have a wonderful relationship with the kiddo. [I would say of my second story] THE BIRTHDAY GIRL, you know sometimes in life terrible things happen and sometimes there aren’t happy endings. Stories like this aren’t easy to tell but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be told. [My final story in this mini-collection is] THE TRASH CAN. In my opinion, the great thing about short stories is that they don’t have to explain everything, they can just be pulpy fun. I used to live with my brother and he had a dog that raided the trash constantly. He bought a trash can which was basically dog proof. Soon after our roommate threw a paper towel into it and the lid slammed down way too hard and I had an instant story!”
Christopher Beck: The Kendall Reviews Interview
KR: Could you tell me a little about yourself please?
My name is Chris. I was born in San Diego, CA but raised (and still live) in a small Southern New Jersey town. I currently live on an old campground. Some of the women I’ve dated thought the campground to be creepy, especially at night, but I find it peaceful.
KR: What do you like to do when not writing?
Love reading, of course. Absolutely love hiking through the woods and finding new places to explore. I also enjoy video games, concerts, browsing new and used bookstores… I could go on and on, I just enjoying experiencing life and what it has to offer.
KR: What is your favourite childhood book?
My mother read to me a lot but, unfortunately, I cannot remember what books she read to me.
KR: What is your favourite album, and does music play any role in your writing?
There are so many great albums out there…even if I could choose one, I’m sure the answer would be different next week. I like to write with music in the background but I’m not one to create special playlists for it.
KR: Do you have a favourite horror movie/director?
Not really. I love a wide range of good and bad horror movies.
KR: What are you reading now?
THE M.D. by Thomas M Disch.
KR: What was the last great book you read?
CARNIVOROUS LUNAR ACTIVITIES by Max Booth iii.
KR: E-Book, Paperback or Hardback?
Print over E-book, doesn’t matter if it’s paperback or hardback.
KR: Who were the authors that inspired you to write?
Koontz was a huge influence early on.
KR: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
I prefer just to see where an idea goes.
KR: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
That all depends on the story: some require a good bit of research and some require none at all.
KR: How would you describe your writing style?
KR: Describe your usual writing day?
It’s changed over the years. Right now, with the day job and such, it’s just getting the words down when I can. The creative mind, however, doesn’t stop and mentally I’m always writing.
KR: Do you read your book reviews?
KR: How do you think you’ve developed as an author?
Learning how to tell a story in fewer words.
KR: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received regarding your writing?
There’s been a lot of good advice from some awesome writers but the best, I’d say, is to keep writing. You cannot try out the tips and tricks offered if you don’t write. You cannot get better without writing.
KR: What scares you?
Not much, honestly, but if I had to choose, I’d say death and loss of loved ones.
KR: Can you tell me about your latest release please?
THE BIRTHDAY GIRL is a collection of three short stories that range from personal to gut-punching to over-the-top horror.
KR: What are you working on now?
In the process of figuring that out. Have a number of ideas ready to go, just have to figure out the pecking order.
KR: You find yourself on a desert island, which three people would you wish to be deserted with you and why?
You can choose…
a) One fictional character from your writing.
The Birthday Girl. Perhaps things would have been different for her.
b) One fictional character from any other book.
John Rambo. Survival.
c) One real-life person that is not a family member or friend.
Brent Smith. He’s an inspiration. Love his story. Love his band.
You can follow Christopher on Twitter @Chrifive
Check out Christopher on Facebook HERE
For more information about SSS! please visit the Official Demain Website www.demainpublishing.com
Steve Stred writes dark, bleak horror fiction.
Steve is the author of three novels, a number of novellas and four collections.
He is proud to work with the Ladies of Horror Fiction to facilitate the Annual LOHF Writers Grant.
Steve is also a voracious reader, reviewing everything he reads and submitting the majority of his reviews to be featured on Kendall Reviews.
Steve Stred is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife, his son and their dog OJ.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred
You can follow Steve on Instagram @stevestred
You can visit Steve’s Official website here