Three Short Stories about Johannesburg by Elizabeth Pienaar

I have a confession to make. I love short stories. I love reading them, I love writing them and I love recommending the good ones to my fellow readers. A lot of people tell me they don’t like to read short stories, because they “get to spend so little time with the characters”, or “just when they get into it, the story is done”, or even, and this surprises me, “short stories don’t give authors enough scope to exhibit their abilities”. While you are allowed to have that opinion (if you happen to share in it), allow me the chance to change your mind. I know just the short stories that’ll do it.

I’ve mentioned Elizabeth Pienaar here before, because I adore her writing. The previous time I wrote about her, it was about her book “Bobby”, a beautiful tale about a dog’s life, based in truth and told from the dog’s perspective. But today I want to talk about her new series of short stories, collectively named “Breaking Down The House”, in which Elizabeth takes a very candid look at life on the streets of Johannesburg. The first story, Pius, is about the stark reality that faces every South African today; that no place is really safe anymore, that work is scarce and hard to hold onto and that sometimes life takes you on the roads you’d rather not have travelled. This story won the South African PEN Award, which is a much better endorsement than I could ever make. Nevertheless, I’m telling you, read it!

Get “Pius” on Amazon Kindle by clicking the link below.

The second story, “Breaking Down The House”, placed 2nd in the PEN Award. It takes a whole new look at the interplay between rich and poor and how, by helping someone else, you can sometimes also help yourself. It’s smart, intriguing and, even though it’s a short story, the characters are so well developed that you’d struggle not to identify with them. It’s short enough to read while waiting at the doctor’s office and it will keep you hooked until the end (or when your name gets called, whichever happens first).

Get “Breaking Down The House” on Amazon Kindle by clicking the link below.

The third story, “Rejoice”, was the story that really got to me. I’m a sucker for hero types and flawed characters and I’m an even bigger sucker for stories with heart. This one’s got all of that and more. It’s about the relationship between a worker and employer, and the many facets of the human condition, of relationships founded on uncommon ground. This story was so good that I’m biting my tongue not to tell you any of the details, because it’s something you should experience first hand. And it has all the scope of a full length novel without the time-investment of reading a four hundred page book. If you can only afford to get one, this is the story you should get! But really, you should just get all of them.

Get “Rejoice” on Amazon Kindle by clicking the link below.

Now, if after reading these you still don’t like short stories, there’s probably no ointment for that particular condition. If you did, feel free to scroll down for more recommendations!

Find out more about Elizabeth Pienaar by visiting her website at www.elizabethpienaar.com.

As always, be kind and review. Authors don’t only want to know what you thought, they want others to know what you thought and they depend on your reviews, shares and endorsements to get the word out.

Have a great week!

 

“The Deermaster: A Christmas Novella” free ’til Christmas Day!

Christmas has always been my favourite time of year, not only because it brings together family and friends and reminds us to be humble, thankful and charitable, but because Christmas is that time of year when one can really feel the air crackle with magic. The magic, for most of us, lies in the Christmas spirit, the excitement that surrounds preparing to have friends and family over and, most importantly, the reasons why we choose to celebrate: what we believe.
In my new Christmas novella, The Deermaster, Chris Claussen wishes Christmas could be this straightforward, but for the inhabitants of Snow Falls, Christmas holds a different meaning altogether. Only one person can be The Deermaster, but what if he is completely ill-equipped for the job and non-committal to boot?
This Christmas, follow Chris Claussen and Carol Stern into the perilous North Pole, where nothing is what it seems and simple acts of goodwill can be more dangerous than a pack of starving wolves in sub-zero temperatures.
Get your copy free on Kindle from 21 December, 2017 until 25 December, 2017 and be sure to share! To make this Christmas extra special, I’ve designed a gift-certificate that will allow you to gift The Deermaster to friends and family for Christmas. Please remember though, The Deermaster will only be free for downloading until the 25th of December, 2017 at midnight PST or in South Africa until 10:00 on 26 December, 2017.

Click below to preview, “buy” and share The Deermaster. This book is also available in paperback format. Click here to buy it.

Click on the image below to open the gift certificate, which you can then download, email or print for friends and family! Do you live in the UK, Australia, Canada, or somewhere else? Send me an email to christina *(at) christinavandeventer.com and I will happily send you a gift certificate for your respective Amazon Online Market. *Replace with @

Last, but not least, have a wonderful Christmas 2017!

‘The Boy With The Coin: A Short Story’ Free on Amazon Kindle this Star Wars day!

Perhaps it would have been better if the boy had a lightsaber, but he doesn’t. Coins have greater value to fatherless children. Or perhaps it’s simply because lightsabers are probably, kind of, a little too sci-fi for this particular tale. Nevertheless, if you download ‘The Boy With The Coin’ today, or tomorrow, it is a sign that the force is strong within you!

Also, the story is about an old man, a young boy, and, maybe not very surprisingly, a coin! ‘The Boy With The Coin’ is free on Amazon Kindle on 4 and 5 May, 2017. It is always free on Kindle Unlimited.

Book review: Oil and Marble by Stephanie Storey

Last week I read Oil and Marble by Stephanie Storey. The book is a fictional rendition of Florentine life between the years 1501 and 1505, the time during which Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarotti were both in Florence, each working on creating the respective masterpiece that would later immortalize them for future generations.

As backdrop to the tumultuous lives of these two artists, history provides us with some of the most eventful years in Italy’s colorful past: the ascension of Pope Alexander VI, better known as the Borgia Pope, and consequently the ravaging of the Italian city-state system by the Spanish Pope’s son, Cesare Borgia, leading the Papal armies. The interplay between the Medici family, the French invasions of Italy and the near constant conflict between Pisa and Florence also comes into play here, but the much stronger underlying spirit of the book is one of pride, honor and love.
As an Art History student during my undergrad years, I briefly met these artists, learned about the zeitgeist that surrounded their genius and of course, the art itself. But coming to this book more than a decade later, purely with an eye on reading art-historic fiction, I was both surprised and delighted at the depth of perception it brings to the reader and how much of it is based in truth. The book not only lets us in on the machinations of sixteenth century patronage and politics, but also on the perceptions of art, art-making and society during a time when gender and class distinction dictated every aspect of a person’s life and education.
Storey’s Da Vinci is undoubtedly the genius we know him to be, but he is also a man of complex emotions, dreams and of great pride. In Oil and Marble, Da Vinci’s beauty and arrogance hides his own insecurities. He knows his allure, his power over people (by way of reasoning) and over art (by way of science), but he carries within him a kind of darkness that only comes to the fore in his most private moments. In contrast, Michelangelo’s character is portrayed as one of constant and very public turmoil. He lives and dreams at a pace unreachable by philosophers and scientists because he fears, above sickness, or starvation, or even death, that he will be forgotten. He does not, like Da Vinci, know his power, but he nevertheless believes steadfastly that it is within him to reach greatness. If only he would be given a chance, if only he can do so before he dies of hunger.
Both artists believe in possibility. For Michelangelo, the Duccio stone holds uncountable possibilities, despite its many flaws. He is at odds with the stone; if it would just speak to him, would allow him to see what is at its heart, then perhaps he can find what lies within the marble. The greatest possibility Michelangelo sees, however, is not the beauty of the art, or the amount of comfort the payment from its completion will provide him. He sees a future far beyond his own lifetime and he rushes toward it with unerring clarity. In contrast, Da Vinci sees, perhaps, too much possibility. He claims to leave his art unfinished because, by doing so, it will forever contain the possibility of greatness. Da Vinci, too, looks well into the future. Will the humans of the future achieve flight? Will they uncover the secrets he is forced to leave undiscovered because of time? And what about the arrogant young stonecutter? Will he perhaps make something more worthy of Florence than the Master from Vinci?

What struck me as most unusual was how biased my own opinion of these artists had been prior to reading Oil and Marble. Perhaps I had preconceptions because I had studied these artists somewhat at university, or maybe it was in spite of my prior experience of them, but I had always had this idea that Leonardo Da Vinci had come by his education and knowledge because of his privilege. This privilege, I now understand, only existed in name. Leonardo did not have a formal education on account of his being the illegitimate son of the notary Piero from Vinci. Though home-schooled in basic reading, writing and arithmetic, Leonardo couldn’t read or write properly until well into adulthood, when he had chosen to study letters by writing and rewriting words and sentences until he was fluent in their use. Even his signature, not an artist’s rounded lettering, but a child’s scribble, attests to his lack of skill in this regard. Yet, today, he is known equally as a writer, mathematician and scientist as for his art.
There is also another, perhaps much more important aspect to the bias I noticed while reading Oil and Marble, and that is the preconceived one-dimensionality of an artist’s sexual orientation.
It is a well documented fact that Leonardo Da Vinci had many male partners, specifically his long-time student and partner Salai, to whom he left the Mona Lisa upon his death, as well as Francesco Melzi, who shared his final years and inherited all of his notebooks. Based on his personal history it is reasonable to assume that Da Vinci was homo-sexual, and this is also what we are predominantly taught. Because there is sufficient evidence for Da Vinci’s homo-sexuality, it is easy for art historians to underplay and even overlook the sexuality in his works, especially his paintings, or to make sweeping statements about his experiences of and attitude towards sex, sexuality and gender. But in Oil and Marble, Storey achieves an intricate balance between what we know of the man’s sexual exploits and the interpretation of the artist’s very unique ability to imbue sensuality onto his female subjects, specifically Lisa Gherardini (del Giocondo). Storey suggests a side to Da Vinci that most historians wholly ignore: that through his careful study and constant questioning of the human condition, he not only learns to understand the suppressed intelligence inherent in his female sitters, but he comes to love them on a level that surpasses sex or sexuality.
The book culminates in the completion of each of these artists’ most iconic works, but it also leaves us with a new beginning for each of them. For Michelangelo, it is the beginning of a career, the beginning of acceptance by his family and friends, the beginning of a life underpinned by taking responsibility for himself. For Da Vinci, it is the beginning of a more personal journey, one of acceptance, understanding and humility.
In the afterword to Oil and Marble, Stephanie Storey says the book was twenty years in the making. As her first novel it set an impossible standard. Her prose is uncomplicated, well-researched and beautifully written. Her settings are colorful and tactile. Her characters are well-rounded, unique human beings who experience the entire spectrum of emotion while inspiring an equally broad range of emotion from the reader. But beyond her ability to write interesting characters and strong plot, Stephanie Storey understands that for the reader of art-historical fiction, there is the added expectation of well-written art. Art that comes to life on the page. Art that is tangible, vibrant and evocative. Stephanie Storey writes this kind of art.
There is a reason why, while reviewing a book that is essentially about art, I haven’t written a single thing about the art contained within Oil and Marble’s pages. This sacred task I trust to the writer.

‘A Ghost In The Darkness: A Short Story’ free this weekend on Kindle and KindleUnlimited

We’ve all known that kid in school. Every school has one. An angel. A kid who is perfect, loved by the teachers, adored by the students. But if every school has an angel, there is usually a demon hiding in its shadows. At St. Joseph’s Academy for Boys it is no different. And the angel brings out the worst in the demon.
Read my new short story, ‘A Ghost In The Darkness’ to find out what happens. It’s available for free on Kindle today (03/04/2017) and tomorrow (03/05/2017). It’s always free on KindleUnlimited.

‘Out Of This World: A Short Story’ free from Amazon Kindle

Anyone who has ever planned a wedding knows that doing it right is a little bit like becoming a grandmaster in chess: you have to know everything that can possibly occur and be prepared to overcome it. If you’re the bride, chances are that you’ve had your dream wedding mapped out in your mind for the better part of a decade by the time you finally get your big day. Which is why nothing can go wrong. But sometimes all the careful planning in the world can not prevent things from going off kilter. This happens to Jane in my new short story ‘Out Of This World’, which is free from Amazon Kindle for a limited time only. See the link below to get your copy. Your honest feedback, on Amazon, Goodreads or otherwise, would be greatly appreciated!

Travel blog: Jökulsárlón

There are few places in the world quite as magical as Svinafellsjökull, where you can get up close and personal with glacial ice that was formed millions of years ago.

There are few places in the world quite as magical as Svinafellsjökull, where you can get up close and personal with glacial ice that was formed millions of years ago.

Jökulsárlón means ´Glacial-river lagoon´ in Icelandic, but it´s far cooler than the name suggests. Ever seen those National Geographic specials where large pieces of glaciers tumble into the water? What about those shots of seals, sunbathing on the ice? You can view all of that, and more, at Iceland´s Jökusárlón. But sometimes, when you travel, the things that you can´t photograph make for your greatest memories. Find out why by reading my travel blog about my first visit to Iceland, first published by wesaidgotravel.com.

Bobby: Man’s best friend as you’ve never seen him before

 

Also available for Kindle at Amazon

I was introduced to Elizabeth Pienaar at the NB Books Authors’ Party earlier this year. A small, beautiful blonde woman with an open face and infectious smile. She was easy to talk to, even easier to listen to, as she is smart, well informed and a good conversationalist. That was my first impression, before we started talking shop.

What are you working on/getting published?

A new book, about to be released, she said. A Young Adult book called Bobby.

Young Adult? I had read only the week before that a multitude of American authors are suddenly finding themselves ranked as YA writers without ever having intended their work for that market. Did you write it as such? I asked.

She hadn’t, but it had become labelled during the publishing process. Labelled for teens, so it could be sold to teens.

What’s it about?

It’s about a dog, told from the dog’s perspective.

Pretty much the perfect elevator pitch, I thought. She hadn’t even needed two minutes. One sentence had me hooked.

Fast Forward two months.

In a charming bookstore in the heart of Melville, the lights are on tonight. Laughter flows out of the two entrances to Love Books at the Bamboo Centre on Rustenburg Road. Leopard’s Leap wine glows in every glass. Beautiful food disrupts happy conversation. In the midst of it all is Elizabeth, taking it all in. They are all here for her, but what they really came for is the book. A book, based on true events, inspired by the life of one creature that many would count insignificant. A dog. An animal so easily taken for granted, overlooked, forgotten. For the lucky few who understand, an animal which should never be taken for granted, overlooked or underestimated.

Elizabeth understands.

She speaks with mirth about her method as a writer, about discipline and belief. She speaks about Bobby, the real Bobby, with great love, from heartfelt remembrance. She looks with reverence to the couple who gave Bobby his final home. Arthur and Ingrid. They are among the attendees.

When she reads from her book, my signed copy burns me through its brown paper bag. I could have bought it a few weeks ago on Kindle, but then I wouldn’t be reading the real thing. Then I wouldn’t be able to hold the paper copy in my hands with the same anticipation, the same first-read jitters.

The cover is beautifully simple. A girl and a dark-coloured Alsatian with hazelnut eyes. A book that every dog-lover would pick up. A book that everyone else might pass by, not knowing what they missed.

 

“People coming, people coming to look!” Elizabeth Pienaar – Bobby

 

I met Bobby on page one. I’d heard about him, read snippets about him, but until I met him I couldn’t have understood the immensity of his presence. Bobby embodies every look, every wag of the tail, every yelp, or bark or whimper of every dog who ever lived. Bobby is the book you read to your children so they can understand the importance of being kind to animals. It’s the book you give to someone who’s been unfortunate enough to have to deal with the loss of a beloved companion. It’s the book that was written expressly to remind us that dogs are not pets, or protectors or mere companions. Dogs are family. And if you treat them right, they’ll love you more than is humanly possible.

Bobby tells the story of a dog who loses his human to death. Afterwards he is repeatedly abandoned by his caretakers until he ends up in a care facility, awaiting adoption or death. Along with so many of his kind waiting for someone to notice them, there is no knowing which of the two will come first.

On the other side of the special barrier, a young girl finds it hard to overcome her grief after losing her dog to Cancer.

Elizabeth Pienaar understands the human condition. She understands what grief is, that everybody deals with it in their own way and that it often defines who we become. In Bobby we have to deal with a new form of grief, a new understanding of our own reactions to the grief of others, whether they are human or not.

This book is not just for teenagers. Young Adult is not an apt label. It should have been labelled more distinctly. It should have been labelled “For humans”. It should be sold in pet stores, at shelters, by breeders and vets. Anyone with a beating heart should get a copy of Bobby. And since you’re going to the bookstore anyway, why not grab one for your friend, sibling, parent, grandparent or boss?

Get Elizabeth Pienaar’s fantastic debut novel (R120) at your local bookstore or buy it from Amazon via Kindle. Also available in Afrikaans as Bobbie. To learn more about the author, visit her website at: elizabethpienaar.com

Nuwe Stories 2014 Kortverhaalkompetisie kortlys: Eerste weergawes

Foto verkry vanaf litnet.co.za

Foto verkry vanaf litnet.co.za

Die eerste weergawes van die verhale wat die Nuwe Stories 2014 Kortverhaalwedstryd se kortlys gehaal het is nou beskikbaar om te lees op Litnet. Een van Christina van Deventer se verhale is ook op hierdie jaar se kortlys. Kortlyskandidate werk nou saam met twee van Suid Afrika se voorste taal-kundiges, Leti Kleyn en Suzette Kotze-Myburgh, om hul verhale af te rond vir publikasie. Die finale weergawes van die verhale sal in die Nuwe Stories 3 bundel opgeneem word. Die bundel word later vanjaar, in November 2014 deur Human & Rousseau gepubliseer. Klik gerus hier om die verhale op Litnet.co.za te lees.

 

The first versions of the short stories that made the Nuwe Stories 2014 shortlist are now available to be read (in Afrikaans) on Litnet.co.za. One of Christina van Deventer’s short stories are also on this year’s shortlist. Shortlist-candidates are currently working together with some of South Africa’s foremost language specialists, Leti Kleyn and Suzette Kotze-Myburgh, in order to refine their short stories for final publication. The final versions of their short stories will be published in the Nuwe Stories 3 short story collection. The book, which appears later this year in November 2014, will be published by Human & Rousseau. Click here to read the shortlisted stories at Litnet.co.za.

PEN Afrikaans Jong Stemme Kompetisie wenverhaal

Foto verkry vanaf litnet.co.za

Foto verkry vanaf litnet.co.za

Christina van Deventer, was in 2013 een van die twee nasionale wenners vir die PEN Afrikaans Jong Stemme Kortverhaal Kompetisie vir skrywers onder dertig. PEN bied weer hierdie jaar die geleentheid aan jong skrywers om deel te neem aan die gesogte kompetisie. Die wenner(s) se verhale word ingeskryf vir die PEN International Young Voices kompetisie waarin meeste wereldlande se PEN verenigings verteenwoordig word deur een of twee jong skrywers binne hul verskeie landsgrense. Die PEN kompetisie vir Suid Afrika sluit eersdaags, op die 6e Mei, 2014. Meer inligting oor die kompetisie kan hier verkry word. Lees ook Christina se wenverhaal hier.

Christina van Deventer was one of the two national winners in the PEN Afrikaans Young Voices Competition 2013. This year PEN once again offers young writers under the age of 30 the opportunity to participate in this sought after competition. The winners’ stories will be entered into the PEN International Young Voices Competition in which most countries in the world are represented by one or two writers chosen by their local PEN organization. The PEN Afrikaans Young Voices  Competition is still open for entries until the 6th May, 2014. More information about the competition can be viewed here. Read Christina’s winning entry here (only available in Afrikaans).