Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Author Interview: Justin Bog

First, tell us a little about your writing journey.

Hello, nice to be here. Thank you for allowing me the space for an interview. My own writing journey began shortly after learning how to write in grade school and watching a lot of 70s television and reading comic books. I created my own SNL skits, fake news, adventures, after discovering an old typewriter of my mother's. From there I studied creative writing as an undergrad and then received an MFA in Fiction from Bowling Green State University. This gave me time to write, and that is key. When working full or part time at a job that pays the bills, writing is given short shrift, but I always tried to make time for it. Usually this meant a lot of 6am wake-up calls before heading to open a bookstore. I worked in three bookstores over the past 30 years, all independent, and becoming an author has always been in my dreams. I believe working behind the scenes of the book business has helped form a stronger mindset going into the business side of my author's life. I understand what the main goal of a bookseller is, and also the point of view of a publisher . . . an author's point of view is vastly different from those others. When they mesh well together, magic can happen.

Would you consider yourself to be a "short story author" rather than a "novelist"?
Not at all, but I don't mind being thought of as either one. It's difficult to write and publish anything. Some short stories take years to write, while a novel can be whipped out in a month's time (look at NaNo tales)! I write the length of the tale. Since I'm a pantser and rarely outline, I go where the characters tell me to go, mark their journey, whatever the length. I've written three novels so far. They are unpublished, but yearning to be read. I'm in the middle of a long horror story, a weekly serial on my blog titled A Play Demonic (The Queen's Idle Fancy), and up to chapter 24 at this writing. I can feel that the story is far away from an ending point, but when it comes, I imagine fireworks and an explosive end for the characters. Short fiction is something I love to read and write. My first three publications were short story collections, and I like that energy, the twist story, or a tale that simply ends without a precise moment to guide the reader's thoughts, like life, which hardly ever comes to closure. Leave the reader with something to think about, I say.

Any successes? Failures? What has worked for you when trying to find an audience?
I follow this guideline: do what you love, and stop thinking (worrying) about what others may think, even a potential audience. If I love a story, I know that others may also like it, maybe not as much, or possibly, even more. I also know that some readers may loathe it, hate it, may never want to read anything else I write. And that's okay too. This was so noticeable after I published my first book of dark tales, Sandcastle and Other Stories. They're not for every reader since a lot of readers do not love to be upset on purpose, and a lot of the darker stories in Sandcastle are upsetting, push buttons---and these readers and friends tell me this. One friend told me she couldn't read past the second story because she had daughters, and the title story is terrifying if one is a parent . . . I completely understood. I hope to evoke an emotional reaction; I hope the stories do that. How wonderful. The reality though? Short stories do not sell as well as novels. I don't believe this will change. Many people love to write short fiction and I hope to continue.

Do you think eBooks will change the way short stories are viewed by the general public?
No. When I worked in bookstores for twenty years, I don't remember ever selling a short story collection. Not one. My own local bookstore tries to sell short fiction, carries short story collections, but the clerks there confessed to me that they do not like to read short stories. Word of mouth is what sells short fiction, and that's the only thing. People who already enjoy reading short stories are wonderful, and these are the people who tell others how good a book of short stories is, and I love that.

What do you think is the biggest obstacle in introducing someone to a short story? As in, is it the length? The price? Not knowing what to expect?
The biggest obstacle comes from people who just don't give short stories their due, feel that being short is a weakness rather than a strength. They want to get lost in a longer novel, a broader narrative with a multitude of characters/settings. A short story is but a moment, usually, but it can also be a wide universe, encompass years, decades of a life. I hope readers embrace Hark---A Christmas Collection, and take a chance on these off-kilter holiday tales.

Find out more about Justin on his website.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Review of "An Artist's Story," a single story in a collection by Dorothy Johnston

"The stories in Eight Pieces on Prostitution span the whole of my writing life and include my first published story, 'The Man Who Liked to Come with the News', which Frank Moorhouse chose for his 1983 anthology, 'The State of the Art'. My first novel, 'Tunnel Vision', is set in a Melbourne massage parlour, and I have continued to return to the theme of prostitution in my novels and short stories, notably in 'The House at Number 10' and in this collection. 'Where the Ladders Start' is a long story, almost a novella, based around a suspicious death. Many of the stories are set in Canberra, Australia's national capital, where I lived for thirty years before returning to Victoria's Bellarine Peninsula.
The cover design is based on a painting by Bartolome Esteban Murillo called 'Two Women at a Window', which is held at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC. Though the women in the painting are probably prostitutes, it is not absolutely clear; there's an ambiguity about them, as well as an amused self-awareness. I like this very much and feel that it suits my stories."

- Dorothy Johnston

I was left with mixed impressions after reading this story.  The words were beautifully strung together.  Johnston's writing style borders on poetic in allowing the reader to appreciate the details of something as simple as a comfortable room.

But as the story unfolded, the enthralling words gave way to a sense of confusion.  Scene changes happened abruptly and with little explanation.  Added to all this was a cast of characters that almost seemed real.  I wanted so desperately to understand the main character.  Teasing hints of her personality were given but then a sudden new development would quickly crush that conception.

The end result was a beautifully written story where I felt like I enjoyed the reading experience but I wasn't entirely certain what I read about.  I confess, the main character's life revelation was lost on me.

3.5/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez 

Buy this collection on Amazon.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Kindle Unlimited Follow-Up

It has now been a few months since the launch of KU.  It has been good and bad for me so far.  The good part has still been a pick up in borrows for books that hadn't received any attention in years.

The bad... has been wonky sales for just about everything else.  Things that were selling consistently are no longer doing so.  And the rate of borrows seems to fluctuate from month to month.  It's enough of a change in numbers to really make me consider if I want a particular title to be exclusive or not.

So I've pulled a number of titles out of KU.  The trickle of borrows wasn't compensating for the exclusivity to Amazon.  But I have still left all of the works under one pen name entirely under the KU umbrella.  For some reason the combination of borrowing and genre works for that pen name.

I have to say, the jury is still out for me on the practicality of KU.  The dust is starting to settle and I'm not sure if short stories are going to come out on top.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Four to Score

I have now been published for four years.

Sweet Alaskan asparagus tips!  That's, like, how long I was in college.

Did I think I would make it this far?  Who knows.  But if there was a theme to this past year I would say that it was proving to myself I'm in it for the long haul.

When I first started this whole self-publishing thing I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  To be honest, I thought I could just throw the stories I had already written onto the Internet and make money off them.  That, as it turns out, is not how this business works.  Making money off of your writing requires time, effort and patience.

I feel that I do deserve a pat on the back because I did stick with it even after the harsh reality started to sink in.  After all, blogs are really about giving oneself pats on the back.

So here I am... four years later.  I wouldn't say that I've struck it rich yet.  But I am making a very small but steady side income.  That's something, I suppose.  At least it's a noticeable difference from the big fat zero I was making when I first started.

Nothing about my publishing has really changed this past year.  I have no new strategies.  And I've also come to terms with the fact that each word I put down on a page--be it good or bad--is all helping to develop my skills at telling a tale.

Even though nothing has changed on the outside, on the inside I feel different.  This past year I've finally come to terms with the fact that I'm a writer.  I know that sounds stupid.  Of course I'm a writer.  I've been writing for years, right?


Writing for years and thinking of yourself as a writer are two very different things.  It takes time to become comfortable in the shoes you chose to wear.  For a long time they seem like someone else's shoes.  They wear you.  You're just pretending to be a writer while there are others out there that really are writers.  The end result is feeling almost ashamed of your endeavors.  Root canals sound more appealing than telling strangers you have your art for sale somewhere.

Well, this past year I finally got over that mental block.  I am at peace with my writing self.  People ask me about it and I no longer feel like a poser when I answer, "Yes, I'm a writer."

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Considering a Publisher Name

I've been considering a publisher name.  As in, instead of not listing any publisher at all I have fictitious name listed.

I realize that most people don't even think to look at a publisher name.  But it seems like an easy way to organize my books.  I also think it looks a little more professional should someone actually scroll down to look...?

I'm worried, however, that I am just creating pointless work for myself that will just cut into my writing time.  Establishing a separate publisher name would mean hours of redoing copyright pages and republishing stories.  Will this affect sales at all?  Probably not.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Review of "My Card," a short story by Matthew Allred

A bizarre relationship between two young men proves more dangerous and bloody than anyone would have guessed. From the outside looking in, Christopher Card and Stephan Maccabee are close friends--always at each other's sides--but the truth is much more brutal and horrifying.

A simply enthralling short story.  The focus centers around a (schizophrenic?) high school boy's inner struggle with himself.  

This story was the perfect balance of "psychology" and "horror" without becoming overly gruesome.  To me the brilliance of this story was in how the reader's perception of the characters change.  It starts out like they're normal friends.  Then you wonder if there's something else going on between them.  Then the horror of what they're about to do really hits.  I actually felt nervous for the victim!

This is an excellent piece of horror fiction and well with picking up a copy.  

4.5/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this story on Amazon.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tortured by Novels

I am a short story writer.  The thing is that if you are not a short story writer this is a difficult concept to understand.  The only thing I can equate it to is music.  You find the instrument that you consider to be your voice.  I can play both the violin and viola very well but I consider myself to be a violist.  It's my instrument.  It's me.

The same goes for short stories.  The precise, compact writing style is my voice.  It's me.  Even before I started writing my brain would constantly think of new ways to streamline the story I was reading.  And now that I've been writing for a few years the problem is even more pronounced.  It's aggravating for me to read long, drawn out sections in a novel that serve no purpose whatsoever.

Is it really necessary for the heroine to be looping around in her head why she can't be with the hero a FOURTH time?  We know their issues.  Address the issues.  Maybe readdress the issues to remind the reader.  And then move on!

What's even more aggravating to me is that I'm haunted by the idea of writing a novel.  I mean, they sell way better than a short story.  Why do I put myself through the agony of writing story after story when I could just spend the time making one LONG story that may actually sell?

I've lost track of the number of times I've mentally succumbed to the novel's siren's song.  I sit down thinking: "This will be the story that I'll turn into a novel.  I'll drag out all the scenes.  I'll pad all the descriptions.  The works."

I write the story with this mindset.  And then it ends up being a 12,000 word novelette.

So I give up!  I'm tired of being tortured by novels.  If one happens to come out of my brain, that's great.  But in the meantime I am resolved to be content with my short story existence.