by Byron P. Merritt Walter Gourlay, Mark Angel, Lele Dahle, Ken Jones, Chris Kemp, Frances Rossi, Shaheen Schmidt, Pat Hanson, Mike Tyrrel
||Oct 10 2002
An amazing array of genres in a short story collection, all set within the idyllic Monterey Bay area of California.
Fiction Writers Of the Monterey Peninsula
Monterey Shorts contains everything a reader could want: thrills, chills, comedy, romance, history, and unusual encounters.
The cover art was designed by renowned artist Daniel Koffman (who worked with Wolfman Jack in the 60's), and the book contains a foreword by the four-time NY Times Best-selling author, Brian Herbert.
"Monterey Shorts charms, chills, intrigues, and entertains. These ten authors have created a collection of stories that is a pleasure to read and one that is full of revelations about the Monterey Peninsula area they call home. Enjoy! ----Steve Sharon, Screenwriter of the Clint Eastwood film, The Dead Pool.
Peninsula Writers Collaborate on Monterey Shorts Anthology
Peninsula writers collaborate on 'Monterey Shorts' anthology By LISA CRAWFORD WATSON, Special to The Herald:
On a crisp, beautiful fall day, Dr. John J. Ackerman, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at Michigan State, got into his new Lexus, intending to stop at the Faculty Club and have a couple of drinks with the dean before going home. Instead, he went to California."
Makes you want to read on, doesn't it ...
That's exactly what Walter E. Gourlay had in mind when he wrote the short story expressly for "Monterey Shorts," a new anthology of short fiction composed by the Fiction Writers of the Monterey Peninsula, better known among friends and writers as "FWOMP."
The book, available throughout the Peninsula as of Oct. 10 and eventually through amazon.com and barnes&noble.com, is the culmination of two years' work by the 10-member club established in January 2000. The group is the brainchild of founder Byron Merritt, who sincerely believes that necessity really is the "mother" of invention.
"I wanted to improve my fiction-writing skills but couldn't find what I was looking for," said Merritt, an ER nurse at Community Hospital and the father of teenage twins. "I wanted a group of fiction writers in the Monterey area who were not just reading each other's work but were dedicated to doing serious critique. I contacted my uncle, Brian Herbert, a New York Times bestseller and the son of Frank Herbert, who wrote the "Dune" series, and asked his advice."
When his uncle recommended he join a writers' group, Merritt realized he needed to establish his own. He ran an ad in the paper and contacted local friends he thought might share his mission.
Fiction writers on the Monterey Peninsula? Careful what you ask for. When 38 people showed up to his first meeting at Borders Books, Music & Café in Sand City, Merritt was overwhelmed.
WWII veteran and writer Walter Gourlay saw the panic in my face," said Merritt, "and said, 'Don't worry about this. Most people will wander off as soon as they hear about the work you want out of them.' Quickly whittled down to 10 people, we went to work."
Once they had a goal to reach, an anthology of short fiction, the group wrote constantly and met regularly to support, critique and raise the bar on each other's writing.
"It's been an interesting group to belong to," said Gourlay, who was a freelance writer before he went into academics. "All the other members are much younger than I; I belong to the prewar generation. But, it's been great to be with them and get back to my writing. I wrote and edited for a while in the '50s, but this is a completely different thing. The standards are higher; we were more meticulous. We're a contentious lot; we argued, but we all like and respect each other."
The parameters for the stories were simple. Length was limited to 15,000 words or less, whatever could be read through in about 30 minutes. Anything over got "hacked." There was no limit on theme, except the plot had to take place in Monterey County. The intent was to let writers create in the subject or genre with which they felt most comfortable - most creative.
"I think our work has paid off," said Merritt. "The quality of these stories and the depth at which we put these plots together are going to be impressive to most people."
As the anthology came together, Gourlay contacted longtime friend and artist Dan Koffman and invited him to submit a sketch for the cover. Koffman, renowned for his bold style, outrageous humor and capacity for "multiple entendre," was delighted with the opportunity to design a visual expression of "Monterey Shorts."
The result is a clothesline zigzagging across Cannery Row and laden with an assortment of, well, shorts, mostly "under," flying in gay profusion over the busy vintage street below.
"When Walter, a longtime friend, approached me about 'Monterey Shorts,' I was thrilled," Koffman said. "After a couple of sketches, we had consensus, which is a wonderful achievement among 10 other artists. While I don't carry books or artwork other than my own in my gallery, I'm going to carry this book. It's a perfect book for travelers who want to take 20 minutes to get a colorful taste of Monterey flavor as they go."
Once the stories were written and the cover art confirmed, the group elected to out-source the layout of the book. When that didn't happen, they called upon technical writer and FWOMP member Chris Kemp, who already had contributed his own "short" to the book.
"Walter Gourlay, Frances Rossi and I split up the final editing duties, and then I got it all pre-press ready" said Kemp. "It was a kind of traumatic experience, but the cover looks great, the galleys are great, and we think it's going to stand up to other self-published works.
"Putting together something like this and seeing the finished product is pretty exciting. Of course, our big advantage was having talent like Brian Herbert to write the foreward and Dan Koffman design the cover. Still, it's been good for all of us. I know my writing's improved."
Monterey Shorts Review by Scifidimensions.com
Monterey Shorts is the first short story anthology by the Fiction Writers of the Monterey Peninsula (FWOMP), a group of aspiring writers based on the central Pacific coast of California, not far south of San Francisco. So why would science fiction fans be interested in this book, with its cover art featuring cartoon underwear on clotheslines superimposed over a vintage photo? Surely this will appeal only to little old ladies who frequent curio shops and read Erma Bombeck!
While there are some tales in Monterey Shorts that will appeal to the curios-and-clotheslines demographic, half of this book's tales are of the SF/F/H varieties (or are surreal, at the very least); plus, there's a connection between FWOMP and one of SF's great family dynasties.
Among the SF/F/H entries are:
"Reunion" by Walter E. Gourlay, in which a tenured professor at Michigan State flees his stagnant upper-middle-class existence for the coast of California. But wait - it's not the California of today, but the California of his memories - from 1943! The story says it's set in Monterey, but it could equally be The Twilight Zone.
"Monte-Ray Gunn" by Byron Merritt, a corny far-future space-noir starring a hard-bitten detective whose partner is a gelatinous alien living in a coffee cup.
"Resurrected" by Chris Kemp, about a young woman who takes her mother (a witch going through a nervous breakdown) on a weekend getaway to nearby Pacific Grove, only to discover the town is a weird doppelganger version of their own hometown - and the inhabitants have been expecting them!
"If the Tubs Could Talk" by Pat Hanson, is more whimsical than "genre". A businesswoman, taking a break from her hectic day, muses as to what the hot tubs at the Sycamore Mineral Springs resort might say if they could talk.
"Dot's Dad Visits Dinosaur Town" by Mike Terrell, in which a little girl takes her skeptical dad on a midnight dragon ride to a secret land where's kids' (and dads') grandest wishes come true. It's great read-aloud adventure for the pre-schoolers.
Not only are the tales in this book written by inhabitants of the Monterey Peninsula - they take place there, as well. The place names and concomitant descriptions will be lost on anyone who's never been to Monterey (like this reviewer), but it really doesn't take away from the overall quality of the stories.
Speaking of quality...like any collection of works from nascent authors, it varies from mediocre to impressive - but one has to admire the gumption and persistence of the FWOMPers in getting their work onto the bookstore shelves.
Oh, and the "connection" to an SF dynasty? Contributor Byron Merritt is not only the founder of FWOMP, he's the grandson of SF legend Frank Herbert (scifidimensions regulars will also recognize him as the author of the movie/TV analysis "Dune versus Dune"). What's more, the foreword to Monterey Shorts is written by Merritt's uncle, Brian Herbert, son of the aforementioned legend and co-author of the Dune prequels, including the current bestseller Dune: The Butlerian Jihad.
Monterey Shorts is available at Amazon.com and at the FWOMP website.
Monterey Shorts' features 10 spellbinding stories by FWOMP, The Carmel Pinecone, The Bookshelf
When 10 local writers get together to produce a book of short stories, the process is long and grueling. They critique each other's work again and again. And again.
You can imagine the haggling, the justifications, the pleas for leniency before precious, much loved lines are cut, the elation when a particularly well-wrought sentence is unanimously praised.
What has emerged from these critique sessions is a book of tales, "Monterey Shorts --- Stories by Fiction Writers of the Monterey Peninsula." The stories have been perfect-bound into a trade paperback with tongue-in-cheek Dan Koffman cover art depicting all manner of under shorts on clotheslines stretched across Cannery Row.
Widely diverse in subject matter and style of writing -- spellbinding, funny, fantastic, mysterious, nostalgic, suspenseful --- the stories are all well written, and are based around [Monterey County]...
This diverse group of writers has equally varied backgrounds: a WW II veteran, a young immigrant from Iran, a male ER nurse, [an Emergency Medical Technician], an aircraft technical writer, a PR and marketing consultant, a director of religious education, a health and sexuality educator, [a real estate agent], and a software designer. Six are men, and four are women.
Ten stories are too many to comment on individually. We have randomly chosen a few: "Monte-Ray Gunn" by Byron Merritt is a laugh-out-loud sci fi story of a Monterey Alien Homicide detective who talks like Sam Spade, and whose partner is a sort of liquid gelatin he carries around in a cup.
"Borscht in the Bay" [by Ken Jones] is a delightful story of a retired Army officer who "keeps an eye on things" around his P.G. home, and frequently reports suspicious happenings to the police. When he reports that he's seen three Russians emerging from the waters off Lovers Point in the dead of night, they think he's gone 'round the bend. But he hasn't.
"Mortuary Beach" is a suspenseful SCUBA diving adventure off Monastery Beach that turns deadly. Author Mark C. Angel writes so convincingly, I felt, vicariously, that I had been trapped underwater in dense, roiling kelp beds, unable to make it back to the beach --- or even to the surface.
Lele Dahle's "The Lizard Catcher" is a chilling remembrance of a summer long ago when the young protagonist betrays and then loses a friend who is ostracized by her other friends. It will take the reader back to school days when relationships with schoolmates dominated one's life.
These are just a few of the quality stories in the book. I apologize to writers Walter Gourlay, Chris Kemp, Frances J. Rossi, Shaheen Schmidt, Pat Hanson, and Mike Tyrrel whose stories all deserve reviews. But we'll leave it to our readers to judge for themselves. The -page book, published by Thunderbird Press, retails for $12.95.
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