Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Advice from Siblings – A Review

Jennifer Vandenberg’s Advice from Siblings is light but not simple, textured but not harsh, and neither is it predictably literal. However, it is refreshingly infused with selfishness and a moral ambiguity that belies the honest humor inherent in this tale of emotional conundrums. Advice is a charming little gem that played out perfectly with SFWG’s Evil Christmas Holiday Flash Fiction Contest, taking first place as the unanimous favorite.

At its heart, the story illustrates that evil, although most often associated with horror and overt acts of malevolence, is a slippery notion at best, often born of good intentions, but maligned by manipulation and baseless fear. And for Jon, our protagonist, Christmas Eve is just another day of dealing with his controlling girlfriend and her ever changing list of acceptable behavior. Jennifer shows us that evil can wear many masks and go by many names, even ones masquerading under the guise of altruism.

Flash fiction, by its very nature, cuts to the chase, omitting the breadth in favor of depth. Jennifer Vandenberg reaffirms in Advice from Siblings that the richness of the tale need not depend upon anything as pedestrian as word count.

“Advice from Siblings” was the first place story in SFWG’s 2014 Flash Fiction Contest.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

SFWG 2014 Flash Fiction Contest RESULTS

We would like to thank everyone that took the time to submit to our "Evil Christmas" flash fiction contest. We were simultaneously scared and amused by all the creativity.

And now for the results!

First Prize goes to Jennifer Vandenberg for her story, "Advice from Siblings."

Second Prize goes to Al Stevens for his story, "Santas on Patrol."

Third Prize goes to Robin Leigh Morgan for her story, "A Haunted House at Christmas."

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

$100 a Month Writing Short Stories

As this new year begins, I pulled up Quickbooks to look at my sales numbers (because I get an odd satisfaction from looking at numbers).  At the conclusion of 2014 I completed my second year in a row where I averaged a little over $100 a month over the course of the year.

As a side note for future record's sake, I was on course to make $150 a month for the first half of the year.  And then Amazon decided to release it's Kindle Unlimited program.  In a nutshell: it messed up the selling algorithms for indie publishers everywhere.  But things are starting to stabilize once more.

Even with this temporary setback, the fact that I was able to more or less maintain my monthly average for another entire year proved that slow 'n steady is really the key in this business.  Continually write, continually publish.  The more books you have in your catalog, the higher the likelihood that someone will find your work.

It also solidified in my mind that I can make money from short form fiction.  Maybe not six figures.  But enough to pay all the bills eventually. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Review of "Children of the Artificial Womb," short story by Edward Lange

Hector, a member of the Plasmid street gang and product of the artificial womb, is not doing well. His girlfriend is pregnant, his best friend is a murderous, technological genius and his gang boss is a violent bully. But when a once in a lifetime opportunity comes his way, Hector will have to choose between safety and freedom, in the dangerous world of gang warfare.
This story can also be found in the short fiction collection, Nightmares and Premonitions.

I've reviewed Lange's work before and I have to start out by saying how impressed I was by his progress as a writer.  This story--compared to the one I read before--is sleeker, more engaging and, most importantly, has characters that felt real.  I was immediately drawn into the turf wars and the emotional struggle behind the character's actions.

The plot itself is interesting.  It feels very vintage scifi in that it presents a questionable concept (the artificial womb) and explores the ramifications of such technology development.  Does the artificial womb really solve the abortion debate?

I felt this concept was a little too interesting.  Short stories always walk a fine line between presenting too much and too little information.  In this story's case, too much was given.  A very rich world was presented but much of its potential was left sadly unexplored.  This particular story could have easily gone on into novella-length or longer.

Overall, however, it's an engaging read.  Well worth picking up if you're in the mood for some dystopian scifi.

Review by Alain Gomez
3.5/5 stars

Buy this story on Amazon.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Concept Behind "Awakening: The Uxel Herum Saga" by Alain Gomez

If you find out about this story through this post, mention it in an email and the first five people will receive a complementary copy from an e-store of their choice.

This is the fifth book and conclusion to this particular Uxel story arc.  It's funny because as I wrote my way through the series I was dead set on five books.  I planned for five, I mapped out five and that was going to be it.  Other series would involve other characters.

But by the end of this book I realized that Uxel's story had only really begun.  I had told the story of how she becomes a full-fledged tuner but that's only the beginning of her career.  She has a long way to go.

So my plan is to do at least another five book series set several years after Awakening.  The adventure continues!

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.