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Judy Croome: Author on the Prowl

Judy Croome lives, writes and reads in Johannesburg, South Africa.  A novelist & poet, Judy loves cats, exploring the meaning of life, chocolate, rainy days and cats (who already appear to have discovered the meaning of life.) Visit Judy on www.judycroome.com or join her on Twitter @judy_croome

Notes from Underground - Michelle Davidson Argyle, Judy Croome, Anne R. Allen, Lavanya Krishnan, Simon C. Larter, B.A. McMillan, Cee Martinez, J.B. Chicoine, Jean Michelle Miernik, C.N. Nevets, Yvonne Osborn, Beth Overmyer, Susannah E. Pabot, Summer Ross, Rachel Becker, Lisa M. Shafer, Nevine Su Ever felt that the stories you’re reading are the same ho-hum? Nothing new, nothing interesting? Well, that reading malaise will vanish when you settle down with this anthology of short stories by twenty-four authors.

The Literary Lab’s latest offering "Notes from Underground" is a cornucopia of diverse voices. No story is the same as any other; each author has a distinct imagination, wonderfully reflected in the story they tell.

The contrasting styles are clearest when reading the gentle poignancy of Yvonne Osborne’s “Maybe” and the passionate anger of Nevine Sultan’s “The Smell of Closed Windows.” Both stories deal with grief and loss, yet are utterly different in tone and characterisation.

This variety of style and content continues throughout the anthology. From the precise humour in Lisa M Shafer’s “Private Family Memoirs of Mr George Wingrave” to the exotic tapestry of life in Lavanya Krishnan’s “Heat Three Spices In A Pan”; from the romantic wanderings of Simon C Larter’s “The Return” to the vengeful lover in C N Nevet’s “Terminal Instar”; and from the dawning wonder of discovery in Aerin Bender-Stone’s “Travalogue: Australia 2002” to the sad losses in Susannah E Pabot’s “Trees Without Trunks”, there is a story for everyone.

Whether you like the fantasy (with a quiet emotional kick) of B A McMillan’s “The Making of a Witch” or the post-apocalyptic desolation of Matt Zandstra’s “Competence,” you won’t be disappointed. If you’d prefer more a gritty reality, then you may enjoy the hard-hitting brothers in R MacWheeler’s “Hot House” or the madness of Marion in Erin Leigh Harty’s “Reflecting the Imperfect.”

Authors Rachel Becker and Candace A Ganger explosively explore a variety of issues from death to sitting around the seder table in their collections, while Summer Ross and Anne Gallagher keep the reader guessing right until the end. The enchanted worlds of Taryn Tyler, Beth Overmeyer and Jean Michelle Miernik were fascinating, while Anne R Allen tantalised with excerpts of her current novel.

Anthologies run the risk of being a mixed bag. “Notes from Underground” was particularly risky, because the author’s stories were accepted before they were written. The Literary Lab editors chose authors who had impressed them with previous work and, in an experiment celebrating artistic freedom, invited the authors to submit whatever they wanted to.

The editors were well-rewarded for their gamble. The Literary Lab has done a highly commendable job of compiling twenty-three individual stories of high quality into one slim volume. The twenty-fourth story is my own, and all I can say is that I’m privileged to be a part of this anthology. I enjoyed every story I read, and I enjoyed the adventure of not knowing quite what to expect when I started a new one.

All the stories moved me in some way, whether it was a child’s tormented regrets in JB Chicoine’s “Four Words” or an uncle’s betrayal in Cee Martinez’s “Little Shark, Little Shark.” But one story did become my favourite: Loren Eaton’s clever and imaginative “The Apocalypse Closet” was simply superb. When you read this anthology, I’m sure that you’ll find your own personal favourite too. And I can guarantee that, from the first page to the last, you won’t ever be bored!