Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Review of "The Memory Man," a short story by Helen Smith



Summary:
The Memory Man is an intriguing new short story from bestselling British author Helen Smith. Two women become friends in an abandoned post-apocalyptic building. A psychic makes contact with a lost soul. His apprentice tries to find news of a man he has lost touch with. Fragments of memories are traded and twisted. Friendship provides comfort, but the recovery of memories brings torment rather than reassurance - until truth becomes secondary to survival.

Review:
I can't help but like Smith's style.  Even after ruthlessly throwing her characters into a grim situation the tone of the story always remains cheeky.  This allowed me to instantly connect with the characters and feel genuinely interested in their fates in a comparatively short space of time.

I would say that, as a whole, I liked The Memory Man.  But it did seem to suffer from one major flaw: transitions.  Not quite enough attention went into providing backdrop for the tale.  The summary actually reveals more than the story ever did.  This would have been fine if it weren't for the occasional switches back and forth from some sort of "dream state" to reality.  By the end I found myself confused with more questions than answers.

Still, I liked the journey.  Short stories, to me, are about the experience.  They aren't long enough to become involved in a world so the impression you are left with is everything.  I found this story engaging.  I just wish a few more loose ends had been tied up.

3/5 stars
Review by Alain Gomez

Buy this story on Amazon.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Pacing and Consistency Continued

A few months ago I wrote about how my writing schedule had to change for 2015.  I felt the need to follow up now that some time has passed.

So far I've remained extremely consistent with sitting down to write each weekday.  I still haven't been able to work myself back up to a strict word count but I don't see this as a sign of losing steam with my writing.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

For about a two years ago I made the decision to treat writing like it's my job, which, for the most part, was a good thing.  It made me buckle down and get serious about my publishing schedule and keeping track of income and expenses.  It made me start the process of really honing skills.  I haven't mastered these skills yet but I feel I'm heading in the right direction.

But I'm starting to realize more and more that my treating writing like a job was a source of deep frustration.  It was a necessary act to push me to the next stage but now I'm glad I was forced to change my pace.

Someone once told me that you don't decide to become a full time writer, the writing decides for you.  I always saw the wisdom in that advice but I think I subconsciously ignored it as I doggedly went about my daily word count minimums.   And while the consistent publishing helped me to become a better writer, it really didn't have any life-altering effects on my sales.  The numbers continued at their own pace no matter how much mental agony I put myself through.

I now feel at peace with the writing and publishing process.  If the numbers can move at their own pace, why can't I?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Working Blogging into the Schedule?

So I feel like I have a fairly decent writing routine going.  I get stuff on the page, I get stuff published.  Success!

But blogging always seems to fall by the wayside.  I like blogging.  I actually feel bad when I forget to write a post.  More importantly, it's a way for me to "think out loud."  Yapping to myself is one of my best learning tools.  And yet somehow it always gets shoved to the back of my mind/day.

I've been trying to figure out a way to change this.  Some of the big indie authors are crazy prolific with their blogs.  Like, they will crack out a 1000 word post every three days.  How???  Writing is their job, that's how.

However, that's no excuse.

What about some of you regular bloggers?  Do you devote one particular day to blogging?  Or do you write as the spirit moves?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Review of "Dead on the Floor," short story by Rocky Rochford



Summary:
The beginning of the End starts now. For some of us, Life can be cruel, dealing us a losing hand and for Matthew Radley, a young Wiccan practitioner that is exactly what he got. After a lifetime of chaos, pain and losing himself, he finally got everything he wanted, the woman he loved, the future he desired and a reason to live, but in a single moment he lost it all. Unable to take the pain and no longer desire to live, Matthew takes the one thing he has left, his own life. For Matthew, his story has to end, in order for it to begin, his story has no happy ending, for his is a life of Love, Magick, Corruption, & Death and only asks for understanding.

Review:
The title page of this short story makes it abundantly clear that it is part of a larger series.  When a story is labeled as such I try not to think if it makes a good "standalone" but rather "would I read the other books in the series."

Unfortunately Dead on the Floor simply has too much going on in its few pages to make for a satisfying reading experience.  The reader is immediately bombarded with the entire life history of the protagonist along with a liberal dose of magic and special powers.  All of these are interesting things I would have liked to know more about but it was too much too soon.  I had no chance to really even form an opinion about the protagonist before he ends up (spoiler alert) dead on the floor.

I could, however, see the author's potential as a writer.  In the few moments where the story actually centered itself around the character's pain and desire to bring everything to an end I was deeply engaged.  So while the lack of focus was a turnoff from the rest of the series, I could see this author making a compelling tale if allowed to flesh things out.

2.5/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez  

Buy this story on Amazon.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Creative People Say No?

I was reading this article by Business Insider here that suggests that successful creative people all share the ability/trait to say "no."  In other words, they don't allow for others to monopolize their time.  It was interesting because the thought never occurred to me yet saying "no" is such a huge part of how I operate from day to day if I want to get some writing done.

I made the decision a few years back that I wanted to take my writing seriously.  I know this sounds kind of obvious.  I mean, what writer doesn't take her writing seriously?  But I feel there a distinct difference between aspiring to be a writer and seriously writing.  The main difference being a dogged determination to put the butt in the chair and words to paper on a regular basis come hell or high water.

The moment I took writing that seriously is when I started having to say no.  A writer can aspire all she wants but if words are going to go on that page then time has to be made for the craft.  Thirty minutes here.... ten minutes there... it all adds up.  Writing has to become a priority or it doesn't happen. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Review of "Argentina," a single story from a collection by Guy J. Jackson



Summary:
In this collection of rare, hard-to-find, and often too-short short "stories", Guy J. Jackson wields his not particularly helpful but still relatively charming (at least compared to being chased) worldview in order to pretty much study and correct all of humanity's foibles, or at least the ones that need correcting by the end of this year. Also, if you read these "stories" at the rate of one per day, you'll feel Zen for however many days that there are "stories", or so claimed Roundfire Books' late editorial assistant, Nils Samuels Chastain, even though it wasn't his place to decide that.


Review:
One word came to mind as I read "Argentina": rambling.  The entire story consists of a protagonist lamenting over the general ban the world has placed on smoking with a small side order of remorse about his misspent twenties.

Too be fair, I'm not a huge fan of the rambling style.  I know it works for a lot of readers, just not for me.  But it felt especially out of place in so short a story.  "Argentina" is less than 1,000 words.  When working with fiction that short every word needs to count.  There's no room for rambling.

I could see how a piece like this might be the kind of story that works better as part of a collection.  On its own it seemed to lack direction.

2.5/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this collection on Amazon.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Pacing and Consistency

At the beginning of this year my life got busier.  It's all good things, nothing bad.  And the extra busyness is temporary (I hope).  But, needless to say, it has put a cramp in my writing output.

This cramp led to some frustrations.  When I got back from my Christmas break I just couldn't get back in my groove.  It seemed like something was always getting in the way of cranking out my 850 words (daily goal in 2014).

I was forced to take a step back.  I love writing but it's not my primary source of income.  And I realized that the frustration I felt was sucking all the enjoyment I gleaned from the process.

It wasn't worth it!

So I dropped the rigorous schedule I had built up for myself last year.  That schedule worked for 2014, not 2015.  I contented myself with just writing every day, word count be damned.  I'm still making steady progress just maybe not as much as I used to.  And I'm ok with that for right now.  The joy returned when I sit down to write so I believe the decision was a good one.

Consistency is key when it comes to writing.  I realized that this will probably not be the last readjustment I'll have to make.  Life gets in the way but that doesn't mean the writing has to stop.  Writing is a lifestyle.  You make it work.