“ Monthly magazine. Tabloid format. Companion fiction magazine to Take a Break, a weekly magazine of true-life stories, given as Take a Break's Fiction Feast on the cover. „
Once upon a time there were lots of readers of glossy weekly magazines. They had titles like Women's Own, Woman, Take a Break and More. These magazines contained lots of different features and at least one short story in every issue, which the readers loved.
But then a whole batch of newer, trendier magazines pushed their way onto the newsagents' shelves. These were the likes of Best, Now! and Bella and they found a readership that liked true stories of personal suffering much more appealing than life-affirming fiction. So instead of stories about people who had interesting incidents the magazine shelves became full of lurid tales of abusive partners and gory illnesses. And they also carried the promise of huge payments if the readers were willing to air their own personal dirty laundry through their pages.
For reasons that are beyond my comprehension these became hugely popular. So much so that the more traditional magazines quietly dropped short stories from their publications. Now there's pretty much only The People's Friend (aimed at older ladies) and Take A Break that include these little coffee-break slices of fiction, with Take A Break even producing an entire monthly magazine devoted to the short story form.
Take A Break's Fiction Feast costs £1-80 (at January 2014) for every 50-page issue. There are usually around twenty short stories in each copy, with each story being between one and six pages long. Anyone can submit a story for consideration - there are no in-house staff writers commissioned to produce this magazine - but in truth the same names do crop up time and time again. That's presumably because they write good, tightly crafted stories that people seem to like reading, but anyone can have a go and, if they're accepted for publication, all get paid the same.
Of course having a multitude of writers of varying different experiences and abilities means that the quality of the stories does vary quite a bit. A lot of it is down to personal choice (and whether your preferences coincide with those of the editor) but most of the short stories included in the magazine are of good quality. Some can be a little predictable and most of them feature a young woman as the main character. This makes sense, as most people like to identify with fictional characters and young women in their twenties or thirties make up Fiction Feast's core readership.
Until very recently the stories were divided into categories called Love Story, Put Your Feet Up, Spine Chillers, One From the Heart and Tale With a Twist. This gave you a clue as to what to expect from the story but in recent editions they've done away with these pointers, letting each story stand on its own without a category header. I think that I like this recent change as the reader goes in to each story cold, with no preconceived ideas and prejudices.
At the end of the day whether you like this magazine will depend totally on how much you like to read a short story in your coffee break or on the bus on the way to work. That's the kind of length of story we're talking about here, ones that take just ten minutes or so to read. They're generally simple tales, many with a little twist at the end and sometimes a little spooky, but there's nothing that will scare you or require you to think too hard to understand it. It's simple, gently, non-demanding fare.
There are very few non-story pages in the magazine. No advertisements, very few competitions or editorial pieces. It really is all about the stories. And that can't be a bad thing.
Take a Break's fiction feast is a great option for a bit of light reading, if you don't fancy starting a book, or are just short on time. I find it's especially good for taking to work and provides great entertainment for a lunchtime read.
It costs £1.70 per issue and is released once a month, however, the subscription offer (12 copies) will cost you £15.40 which adds up to a total saving of £5 (www.subscribe2fictionfeast.co.uk). Benefits included with this subscription are; free home delivery, a guarantee that you will receive your issue before it hits the shops and includes an offer of receiving a free gift card with all gift subscriptions. Having read the smaller print however, it may take six weeks for delivery of your first issue.
Design and Advertising
The front cover very much follows the same format as the normal take a break magazine (same logo, pretty girl on the front, etc), and displays a few headlines of the stories you can expect to find inside, along with pictures. The pages inside however are not glossy, but rather on paper and are in black and white with one custom colour thrown in.
The only advertising you will find in this magazine is on the inside front cover, and the back page. The index page (as well as including the contents), however, displays around 3 or 4 short book reviews - This is where everyone can get involved as it offers the chance for readers to send in their own reviews of your favourite book (in less than 70 words) which they will pay £20 for each one that is used!! (I'll put the details at the bottom for anyone who wants to give it a go). One page for details of the subscription offer and then its fiction all the way from there.
There are around 15-20 short stories included, spanning anywhere from 1 to 6 pages in length (written in tabloid format) and are divided up into 5 categories:
Tale with a twist - in the issue I am using for this review (Aug 09), this seems to be the most popular, with 8 stories covered in this category. Having read all of them and with the exception of 1 or 2 the twists are really unexpected, and those that are a little more predictable are still enjoyable to read as the quality of the writing is good.
One from the heart - these stories mainly cover hard hitting life issues, or those of a fairly sensitive nature (in this case; adoption) but are written in such a way that is not overbearing for the reader.
Love Story - good old romance stories - believable characters and realistic storylines.
Put your feet up - usually the longest in length, and seem to be more in depth than the others - and as is states one for 'putting your feet up' - best saved for when you have a little more time, where the main themes seem to be family and friendship.
Spine Chiller - Usually the shortest of stories - won't leave you shaking with fear or cause horrible nightmares, but creates just about the right amount of tension to make your hair, if only very briefly, stand on end.
Just as in the normal take a break edition, there are a few puzzles thrown into the mix. How, it differs is that there is only one puzzle offering the chance of a cash prize. For all others the solutions can be found in the same issue (this particular issue includes an arrowword, crossword, wordsearch and codebreaker).
Horoscopes (1 full page)
Not really much to say about this except that I'm hoping mine proves to be true (and for all sagittarians out there) as we should be looking forward to coming into some cash and a satisfying love life this month!!
If you want to have a go at writing your own story for fiction feast, I have found a good site, which provides you with basic guidelines, details of payment and where to send them.
For Book Reviews, send them to:
My Favourite Book
H Bauer Publishing
24-28 Oval Road
I think that's pretty much it. In my opinion, it's good value for money for really high standard stories.
~~ Take a Break Fiction Feast ~~
I do enjoy reading, but I dont always have time to read a book, actually I go through phases in my life where I can read book after book and then not touch one for months, if someone lends me a book then I will read it straight away so that I can return it to them, but if you buy me a book I have a tendency of putting it in my to read pile of literature and it gets left, as I never do seem to find that time. So I do tend to stick to magazines with their short snippets to read and in the case of Fiction Feast short stories.
The magazine I am looking at today is the May 2007 edition, I will take a look at a few of the stories in detail and I will give away the plots of them to show examples of the stories you will find. I will not be spoiling your reading as the July edition will be on the shelves very, very soon and with each month comes a different selection of stories.
~~ The Cover ~~
Very much in the TaB (Take a Break) style, with their logo, a pretty girl and pictures and snippets of what to expect when you open up the magazine, which is a respectable 52 pages long.
~~ Advertising ~~
Unlike many magazines this one is not filled to the brim with advertisements which subsidise the magazine. They have limited it to the front inside cover and both sides of the back cover and these are only promoting subscriptions, other TaB magazines and a book to help new prospective writers.
The advertisement to encourage freelance writers was quite interesting offering a home study course via the writers bureau, who even offered a full money back guarantee if your work did not get published. Sounded pretty fair to me, so may be worth checking out their web site for prospective writers out there www.writersbureau.co.uk.
~~ Book Review ~~
A very short book review on the index page, it only takes up about one fifth of the page, maybe we should send them some of the book reviews from here so they can see how its done. For those that are interested they reviewed April in Paris by Michael Wallner, giving you a short snippet of the basic plot to wet your appetite and one sentence giving you their opinion. This was slightly disappointing, but I have been spoilt by reading all your reviews on here.
~~ Tale with a twist ~~
These are stories of various styles, they can be slightly spooky, or a short detective story, a love story or even just a normal story with a slight twist. The one thing you can guarantee with these tales is that they lead you one way and put a little twist in at the end, which sometimes you can guess and other times they can totally throw you with the element of surprise. In this months issue there were five such stories of Tales with a twist, all over various lengths some a page long, others stretched over a few pages giving you something more substantial to read.
One of the stories in this section was called Take a tip from me; the story starts with the mother-in-law (Jean), popping in for a visit on he new daughter-in-law (Sue), who is not at all pleased with Jeans interventions (or should that be interfering). Sue who has been married before tried to explain that she knows what to do and how to look after her husband, but Jean just sniffs in disgust with a suggest that she did not do things right the first times, which is why she lost her first husband.
Sue knew just how to handle her mother-in-law; she worked on the solution to bring about just the right outcome; just how she wanted it. Such a shame and such a tragic accident that befell on Jean, how devastated her hubby will be, she could never tell him the truth like she did with her first husband Martin, he just did not see it the same way as she did.
I probably have not done the short story justice, but they are really quite good.
~~ Love Story ~~
Only one love story in this months issue and it is spread across four pages, it is a story that some people may relate to, and you could possibly be forgiven if you thought it was a real life story from their weekly magazine. It is a story called Whats SHE got that I havent?
It tells a story of Jasmine and her daughter Leah, her husband has left her for another woman called Stella. You get to share her emotions as she comes to terms with the hurt and jealousy that she feels. The confusion as another woman tries for her daughters affections (a replacement mom, oh dear). Jasmine finds hope in a friendship with an elderly neighbour (Jean) and gets an invitation to have tea with her. This gives Jasmine something to look forward to and stops her worrying about if Leah will love Stella more than her own mom.
It is at Jeans where Jasmine gets introduced to her son David who is a widower and his 8 yr old son Nathan who happens to be just the same age as her daughter Leah.
The story moves on and it even has its own little twist which sends Jasmine into confusion as she discovers just how small this world really is as her new friend Jean introduces her to her daughter who pops over for a visit; as it turns out that Jeans daughter is Stella the other woman. As all true love stories it has a happy ending as we read that Jasmine and Leah move on in their lives towards a happier future as she learns to put the ghosts of the past to rest and find love again with David. It is a heart warming story.
~~ One from the Heart ~~
There are two stories this month that will pull at your heart strings, both being approximately 3 pages long each. The story I have decided to give you an example of is Ill never be Grans blue-eyed girl. This is a lovely story about two young girls Pippa and her younger sister Josie; they have lost both their parents and are being bought up by there Gran. The story is told through the eyes of Josie, starting from her rebellious days after loosing her parents, her jealousy of the love shown by her Gran towards her big sister Pippa and her first love.
We read how Josie got married and how she cared for her Gran as they all lived together, how she found it hard to express her feelings of love and gratitude towards her Gran, because she always felt that she was never good enough for her and that her sister was the best and she could not live up to that image. The story drags you into the depth of her emotions so you can sense how she felt.
It is a story that bought a tear to my eye when I had finished it, as towards the end her Gran looses her fight with cancer and Josie and Pippa are reunited in grief as they share stories, one of these stories we heard about earlier was that you always got to where a butterfly broach when Gran was proud of you. Though their lives Pippa had worn this on a few occasions as a child, but Josie only got to wear it with pride on one occasion when she jumped into a river to save a little boys life. At the reading of the will a small package was left for Josie, it was that broach it was a gift from Gran saying just how proud she was of Josie and grateful she was for all the care she gave to her. So Josie finally got to realise just how much she was valued and loved.
~~ Spine Chiller ~~
Two spine chillers this time, one is a lengthy four pages long and the other a short one page story. I have chosen the short story to tell you about (mainly because I had to quickly read it during my lunch break today).
I like these stories as they have a slightly spooky feel to them, this one is called Am I Cursed? It is about a lady called Emma who started having strange things happen. It started at a 60th Birthday party when she looked over to see Barry her friends dad dancing, but he was not there, she could not see him. Well whats strange about that you may ask, its strange because he was there and other people could see him, but she couldnt? A couple of days after the party Barry died of a heart attack.
A short time later she went on a girlie night out to cheer her friend Lisa (Barrys daughter) up and they had a fantastic night out and took a group photograph to remember the moment on her mobile phone. Hung over the next morning she started to relay the nights events to her hubby and went to show him the picture of them, but it was a strange picture as it appeared that another friend of hers called Kate was missing from the photo, but she was definitely standing there in the middle the previous night when she took it. Yes, youve guessed it two days later Kate died of a brain tumour.
Emma got really spooked by this (admittedly I would be spooked too if it were me) and gladly nothing happened for the next few months, but maybe this was because she buried herself away from people. Hubby thought it was about time they went out again and arranged a night of ten pin bowling. So all the friends got together and had a fantastic evening at the bowling alley. It was on the way home that something strange happened, Emma saw her friend Gavins car, but she could not see the driver, she checked in her mirror and she could not see the driver in the car, she started to panic and what she did not realise as she yanked at the steering wheel accidentally pulling the car into the path of an oncoming lorry, was that it was actually her reflection she did not see and the car she was in was a left hand drive as the lorry hit her side of the car.
Spooky eh, with a little twist at the end, great just how I like them.
~~ Put your feet up ~~
There are four stories under this category as you have possibly gathered form the title they are all a little longer, with the shortest being three pages long and the longest being six pages. They usually follow a heart warming story, but they can follow any storyline from any of the categories as they seem to be here because of their length.
These stories are lovely if you have a little longer to set a side to enjoy the read. I have chosen What you need is a makeover for a sample story. This is a lovely story of a lady called Diane going out into the world after the loss of her husband. You get to know the characters in more depth in these stories because there is simply more time for filling us in.
You discover what made Diane go out and get herself a little job, after listening to a radio broadcast about bereavement. You read how hard she found it mixing with younger people all under the age of 20 and how it made her feel so ancient.
We meet Gemma a young girl that has got her own ghosts, that she lost her dad when she was just 6 years old. The unlikely couple come together for a Friday night out, which turns out a lot better than Diane could ever have imagined. Gemma has a talent for seeing what will suit people and how to get the best out of them, so she encourages Diane to buy a new top that will bring out the colour of her eyes, and they then go back to Gemmas home and meet her mom and step-dad. It is here whilst they have coffee that Gemma takes Diane under her wing and gives her a make over, styling and tinting her hair taking years off her.
The two become friends and are very good for each other as Diane encourages Gemma to go to college and take a beauty course. Back at work there is one more thing that Gemma and Diane need to do and that is take Peter with is big head phones and old grey jumper under their wings and bring some life back into him.
This is simply a lovely story nothing more or less, it makes you feel good when you see the age gap bridges and read of them helping each other in their friendship.
~~ Puzzles ~~
If you fancy a break from all the stories, then why not try one of the four pages of puzzles. Anyone that has read TaB magazines or puzzle books will be familiar with these. They are:-
Picture Pointer: which is a competition to win £500.00; this is a crossword with a couple of pictures to name. To get the answer for the winning word you need to answer all the clues then read down the highlighted squares.
Jumbo Crossword: is exactly what it says on the can a Jumbo crossword, with a total of 61 clues going across and 57 clues going down the page; you can cheat if you wish as you will find the solutions on a page at the back of the magazine.
Word search: a giant word search grid taking up the whole page giving you a selection of 40 words to find, again if you need some help turn to page 50 for the solutions.
Code Breaker: I love this puzzle it looks like a crossword grid with each square given a number from 1-26 which of course corresponds with a letter from the alphabet but not necessarily in chronological order. There is two more smaller grids one with empty boxes numbered 1-26, here you are given four letters to start you off, the other is the list of the letters in the alphabet with the ones you have already been given crossed off.
The crossword grid will read words as a normal crossword would, but you do not have any clues just numbers to correspond with letters of the alphabet. You put the letters onto the grid next to the retrospective numbers off the bottom grid i.e. 1 = S so every blank square that has the no 1 in it you place and S and so on. You continue doing this until you have used up all the letters and all the 26 numbers on the grid. Once again the back of the book will help you if you get stuck.
~~ Horoscopes ~~
This is stretched over two pages, with a bigger section given to the sign of the month, for this issue May this spot went to the sign of Taurus giving them a run down on Money, Love, Luck, Destiny and Red Letter Days. All the others just get a brief indication on what will happen to a 12th of the population in the forthcoming month and Red Letter Days for that month. These red letter days are specific days to look forward to in the coming month. There is also a celebrity picture and a short description of that celebrity, they do have a birthday in that calendar month, this month they featured Billy Joel bn 09.05.49.
~~ My Opinion ~~
I really like this magazine it is definitely not depressing like some of the weekly real life stories you get these days. It is a little bit of escapism where you can let yourself get engrossed in a short story. Some of the stories may be predictable, some you may like, some you will think are brilliant, that is the nice thing about it, each month you get a selection of around 14 stories to suit various tastes in reading. So no two months are the same and the variety will keep you reading.
I like it because like I said at the beginning I dont always have the time to put in the commitment to reading a good book, with this I can read a short story, then pick it up again a few days later and read another one. My hubby even enjoys reading these as well and we often discuss a story that we have both just read.
I also think compared to other monthly magazines it is excellent value for money at £1.60 per issue, but it is even better value if you subscribe to it like I do. The nice thing about subscribing as well is that it is delivered right to your front door, so watch out for the special offers in the magazine (This months offer was 14 issues for the price of 12 saving you £3.20). It is very easy to subscribe as you are given three options, via landline (01795 414850), via the internet (www.subscribe2fictionfeast.co.uk) or finally by post (Fiction Feast, H Bauer Publishing, PO Box 290, Sittingbourne ME9 8AF) the choice is yours. As I dont have a credit card I opted to post my application and send a cheque. Everything went smoothly and I have been subscribing now for a couple of years. They are very good at reminding you when your subscription is due to end so that you take up the current offer and continue receiving your magazines.
I also think this is a great gift idea subscribing to a magazine, I have been doing this for a couple of years for my mother in law as well, as it was what she really wanted for her Christmas present and as a pensioner it meant she had more money for other things and in her words, every time she received the magazine it was like getting another gift from us. Sadly this will be my last year of sending them to her now as her eyesight has deteriorated.
If you get the chance to give this magazine a look in, then please do as I think its great and yes I do highly recommend it.
Thank you for taking the time to read my review
Publishers: H. Bauer Publishing