Monday, February 28, 2011

Bloodstains On The Wall by Mike Dennis

About Mike Dennis:
After thirty years as a professional musician (piano), Mike Dennis left Key West and moved to Las Vegas to become a professional poker player. In November 2010, his noir novel, The Take, was released by L&L Dreamspell. It's a story of human desperation, set in Houston and New Orleans.  In addition, Mike has had short stories published in A Twist Of Noir, Mysterical e, Slow Trains, and the 2009 Wizards Of Words Anthology.  A collection of three short stories from the dark side, Bloodstains On The Wall, is now available on Amazon Kindle.

Mike's opinion of the short story genre:
With the explosion of digital publishing, short stories now have a vast, new outlet. The rise of e-readers, especially among younger people, will provide the market for these stories, and as long as they are priced correctly and are well-written, new stories will be joined with new readers.

Summary of this work:
From the other side of the human condition comes this collection of noir tales by Mike Dennis.
It's 1984 and Biloxi, Mississippi has seen better days. Sherry Lamar, used car saleswoman extraordinaire, is feeling the pinch. Then one day, a stranger walks onto her small car lot and ushers her into a world of steamy sex and murder.

A seven-year-old boy is playing with his two younger sisters when a minor accident occurs. One of the sisters is to blame, but she blames the boy and their mother believes her, punishing the boy. This starts him on a downward spiral into self-doubt and later, depravity, that will last his entire life.

A famous crime fiction novelist thinks the current book she's working on will revive her sagging fortunes. Halfway through it, however, she develops writer's block and is unable to continue her story, until a mysterious early-morning phone caller claims to have the answers.

Buy now:

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Half price sale for my short story collection on Smashwords! Offer ends 3/4.

I am offering my short story collection at half price on Smashwords.  This offer will end March 4th.  That means you could get THREE short stories for 99 cents!  In my humble option, this is great deal you should not pass up =)  Joking aside, I feel one of the best ways to become established as an author is to build a readership.  So if you like short stories with a Twilight Zone feel to them, I'd love to have you give them a shot!  I use feedback to help improve my writing so feel free to tell me what you think.

Here's the link:

Here's the coupon code:  CM57T

Titles include:

The Sacrifice - Set during the Spanish Civil War. The Captain of a naval vessel is sent away on a secret mission to destroy an enemy fort. Before he leaves, his fiancée begs him not to go. But he tells her he would give his life to protect Spain.... 

Celebrity Space (Part 1 of the Space Hotel Series) - Set in the not too distant future, a worker hopes that his new job at the spaceport will allow him to get his life back on track. While taking passengers to the space hotel "Moonwalk", a collision with an unknown object brings his dreams... and possibly his life... to a screeching halt. 

A Model Railway Man - Working on his model railroad set is more than just a hobby for John Wilson, it's his desperate attempt to fix the ghosts of his childhood. But his obsession with his creation may have an unexpected side-effect...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Sagas of Surgard the Traveler by Robert Collins

Summary of "The Sagas of Surgard The Traveler":
Foolish giants. Suspicious savages. Duplicitous wizards. Monsters with attorneys. It's all in a day's work for Surgard the Traveler!  The collection has 13 short stories, all fantasy and all humor.

Why he feels anyone should read any of his short stories:
We all need a good laugh from time to time.  There's lots to poke fun at in the genres of fantasy and myth.  An inspiration for one of the stories was a satirical RPG character Steve Jackson invented called "Conman the Barbarian."  Another was inspired by one of the "Hitch-Hiker's Guide" books.  In another I got to reference "What's Opera, Doc."  They were loads of fun to write; I hope readers enjoy them as much.

Buy now:
The Sagas of Surgard the Traveler on Amazon

The Sagas of Surgard the Traveler on Smashwords

Friday, February 25, 2011

Writing short stories vs. long ones

Writing a short story is a different experience from creating a longer one.  This seems like an obvious statement, but you don't realize how true it is until you've attempted both.  I feel that the biggest difference is in how you pull the reader into your world.

In a longer story, the characters are introduced slower.  A reader will come to know your characters' personalities through dialog and bond with them  based on how they react to situations.  This type of relationship takes time to develop.

In a short story, the reader is instantly drawn in to a world already in motion.  The bond a reader feels has less to do with the dialog and more to do with emotions.  The character is worried and therefore, you feel worried.  The trick when writing short stories is for the author to make the reader care about the characters in a very short amount of time.

Just as a reader is pulled into a world already in motion, so too do they leave it that way.  A short story does not have to end the same way a longer one does.  This is one of my favorite aspects of this genre.  In a longer story, a reader will cry out in protest if too many loose ends are present.  You feel gypped.  All that time invested in reading the book and nothing is resolved.

A short story, on the other hand, may end at any time.  The uncertainty of  the character's fate is half of the fun.  Since the reader came into a world already in motion, it is up to the reader to decide how future events will fall into place.  The job of the author is to leave just enough clues to enable that train of thought.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Feed The Enemy by James Everington

About James Everington and why he likes the short story genre:
I'm a short story writer from Nottingham, England. I'm proud to write in the short story form - it is a separate form and not just a condensed and lazy novel as some people now seem to think. I love novels too, but short stories, when they hit home, are unique. And I refuse to call them 'shorts'. Ughhh.

Summary of this work:
Attempting to flee the capital on a day dominated by the threat of terrorism, one woman discovers that the real source of her fears might be closer to home. A story about the psychological effects of terrorism on our minds and relationships.

Buy now:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Penguin Mini Modern Classics

Fellow blogger Helen Smith brought to my attention the Penguin Mini Modern Classics now available on Amazon.  In the UK they are called Modern Classics - a collection of short stories by famous writers.

At $4.19 per Kindle edition, this could be a huge breakthrough for the short story writer.  Not only are these small collections receiving good reviews from readers but it's also a sign that major publishers are now acknowledging the importance of this form of fiction.

With the ever rising number of ebook readers, the short story genre may once again be a viable source of income for writers rather than just something to do for fun.

Check out these collections on Amazon

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Love, Murder, Etc. by Kathleen Valentine

About Kathleen Valentine and why she likes the short story genre:
To me a good short story is a microcosm of experiences both sensory and intellectually. As a writer of short stories I try to create a small world, much like one might find in a snow globe, that is precise, exquisite and satisfying. Whether it is a story about love or about a crime or just the story of one person's experience, I want to give my readers a rich experience, a glimpse into my character's world. Though I have published novels and non-fiction, I love the art of the short story for its ability to create a complete little world that can interest readers without a great investment of their time. People today lead busy lives and often do not have the time to commit to a novel. But a short story can be like a mini-vacation in which they can slip away and leave everything behind for just a little while.

Summary of this work:
My book love, murder, etc. contains 8 short stories, some about love, some about murder, some about both.

Buy now:

Monday, February 21, 2011

My What Interesting Lives You Monsters Must Have

Classic Bugs Bunny.  If you haven't seen that clip, I highly recommend watching it.

It always reminds me of the real life scenario that I'm sure most of you other writers have been in.  You're getting your hair cut or just standing around at a party and a person asks you "So what do you do?"  Usually I just keep it simple and painless by saying, "Oh, I'm a violin instructor."  If they ask me to further extrapolate, I'll go into greater detail.

As far as my writing goes, I think I'm going to have to find a healthy medium for being about to casually mention my writing vs. just not mentioning it at all.  I believe a good deal of my reluctance to bring up my fictional works in person comes from not being entirely confident yet as a writer.  It's easy to sell things online to faceless strangers.  But having to actually straighten your spine and say, "Yes, this is my work."

It's not so much that I am ashamed of what I wrote (far from it!).  It's just that writing is such a personal thing.  If you tell someone about your writing, they happen to buy the work and then give you the polite half smile to disguise the fact that they thought it was just average... I think that would be difficult not to take that to heart.

But, I've only been trying to sell my writing for a few months.  I have high hopes that time and experience will give me both confidence and a thick skin.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Your Average Ordinary Alien by Adam Graham

About Adam Graham and why he enjoys his short stories:
I'm an author and columnist living in Boise, Idaho with my wife and cat. My first novel, Tales of the Dim Knight was published in May 2010. People will enjoy my stories if they appreciate a quirky sense of humor, and fun stories that often have a serious point behind the humor.

Summary of this work:
Kirk Picard Skywalker is the world's biggest sci-fi fan. He's also unemployed and living off his girlfriend. When she leaves him, he faces the prospect of having to find gainful employment. However, before that happens, his dreams come true as he's abducted by aliens. But will alien abduction solve his problems or lead to disappointment?

Buy now:

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Concept behind "Celebrity Space," a short story by Alain Gomez

Celebrity Space is one of my more recent short stories.  It is my fledgling attempt to experiment with sci-fi.  I've been a Star Wars/Star Trek fan since I was a wee thing.  So I've always thought it would be incredibly cool to author some epic intergalactic adventure.  But those are surprisingly difficult to write!  

In my first attempt to write a sci-fi story, I went all out.  I tried to create lingo, terms, alien species names, planets... the works.  This quickly becomes an exhausting task.  After embracing the fact that Rome was not going to be built in a day, I backtracked a little.  I decided to start slow and create a story that was in the not too distant future.  So I could still have most of today's terms but futuristic concepts.

I really liked the way Celebrity Space turned out.  It has a kind of fun Twilight Zone feel to it.  I'm working right now on turning it into a mini series.  I'm writing at least two more stories that will all revolve around Moonwalk Space Hotel (introduced in this story).

Friday, February 18, 2011

Ten Typewriter Tales by Mobashar Qureshi

About Mobashar Qureshi:
MOBASHAR QURESHI was named one of the ten rising Canadian mystery writers to watch by Quill & Quire Magazinein 2007. He was born in Benin City, Nigeria in 1978. When he was young he lived briefly in Karachi, Pakistan. He now lives in Toronto, Canada. He graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in Economics.  

Why he thinks the short story genre is interesting:
After taking a university class on short stories I decided to write one and found I enjoyed it immensely. Sometimes an idea can only be stretched so far, so the short format allows you the freedom to just focus on that one idea.  Also, I can play with different genres without feeling any pressure to make it work in the long format.

Summary of "Ten Typewriter Tales":
A collection of ten short stories that vary from crime to drama to sci-fi to mystery.

Buy now:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Overlooking a Category in the Major Forms of Literature List

Much like the animal kingdom, literature has been broken down into neat little categories so that way we may all rest easy at night knowing that the world is in order.  The five major categories for literature are:

-Short Story

An interesting thing to note is that "short story" is not only it's own category, but it's also one of the major categories.  Contrary to current popular belief, a short story is not, in fact, a sub-genre of the novel.  Nor is it a novel cut short.  A short story is its own clearly defined approach to literature.

So why then do we rate them by a novel's standards?  All too often the only criticism of a short story will be "it was too short, waste of money."  Of course it was short, hence the category.  A waste of money?  I suppose that is a matter of opinion.  If number of words is vitally important to you as a reader, then yes that would be a viable concern.  In order to get the most bang for your buck, it would be best if you did not buy a $4.99 paperback copy of Peter Pan (too short!) and instead went with the $0.99 ebook version of War and Peace.

Or we could think about what it is that we actually want to read.  Reading should be a pleasure.  If the summary of a story looks interesting, why not try it?  Number of words is never an issue for any of the other categories of fiction.  People usually go for the novel or set of poems that appeals to them; trying to find the cheapest, longest book that money can buy is almost never a priority.  It is important to give all the categories of fiction a fair trial before passing judgement.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Support Our Troops by Robyn Bradley

About Robyn Bradley:
I’m a Copy Bitch by day and Novelist Ninja by night. I've wanted to be a writer ever since I was nine years old and I wrote a short story for Mrs. Shea's fourth grade class, a short story that I loved writing and sharing with my classmates. Storytelling is as old as time, but that was my first experience -- that I can remember -- as a true storyteller. I was hooked after that.

Why she thinks the short story form should - and will - make a comeback:
I think e-readers will transform the Art of the American Short Story. Fewer and fewer print publications issue short fiction. When was the last time you could read one short story, without buying a whole anthology or a whole magazine? With e-readers, you can buy one and only one short story. And then there's the form itself. Short stories are immensely satisfying. You can read them in one sitting, which is perfect on so many different levels. You can experience so much in such compact space, and all the while marvel at how the author accomplished this enormous feat. They’re great learning tools — for kids, for adults, for students, for everyone, really. I think the right short story can actually help reluctant readers discover the joy of reading. A reluctant reader is liable to take one look at the size of a novel like Great Expectations and his or her stomach will turn. But a 10-page short story? Okay, the person might say. I can give that a try.

Summary of "Support Our Troops":
When Koty's husband volunteers her to visit Jamie, a quadruple amputee who lost his limbs while serving in Iraq, neither Koty nor Jamie is happy. Jamie resents being "babysat" every day. Koty resents her lot in life: almost 30, mother of four, married to an abusive alcoholic. But in one pivotal moment that brings Koty and Jamie together in a sexually-charged situation, all that changes.

Buy now:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Cost of Entertainment

Amazon has released a new section of entertainment called "Kindle Singles" where short stories by famous authors are being offered for sale on the Kindle device. A great deal of controversy has arisen with this new offered feature, mainly with regard to the cost. The average price for one of these Kindle Singles is about $2.99. 

Too expensive for a mere short story? 

Keep in mind that I live in San Diego, so prices may vary. But let's consider how much you pay per minute of entertainment: 

-It costs an average of $3.00 to buy a coffee at Starbucks. Consumed in 20 minutes, that's $0.15 a minute. 

-A 3d movie costs $15 to go see. With a running time of 3 hours, that's $0.08 a minute. 

-Bowling costs about $10 (including shoe rental) a person. Bowl for two hours, $0.08 a minute 

-Your average person reads about 200 words a minute. Which means an 80,000 word average novel takes about 6.5 hours to read. Bought as a $25 hardcover, comes to $0.06 a minute 

-With the same reading speed assumption, a 5,000 word short story would take about 25 minutes to read. Purchased at $2.99, comes to $0.11 a minute. 

-Same reading speed. A 5,000 word short purchased at $0.99, comes to $0.03 a minute. 

-Same reading speed. A 1,000 word short would take about 5 minutes to read. Purchased at $0.99, comes to $0.19 a minute.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Three Sisters by Helen Smith

What Helen has to say about her short stories:

"I'm a novelist and playwright. I recently had a couple of short plays produced in London, where I live, and this - together with a life-long love of reading short stories - made me decide to experiment with writing short fiction. I came up with a new mystery series for the kindle with 'episodes' that would be long enough to allow the characters to develop, and short enough to allow readers to sit down and enjoy them in one go."

Summary of this work:

Three Sisters is the first story in a cozy mystery set in London, featuring amateur sleuth Emily Castles. It's a fun, fast read.

Buy Now:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Short Story Project

I was introduced to the short story genre in high school and simply fell in love.  It's completely different from reading a novel.  A novel is a lengthy involvement.  Character development and plot must transport you into the author's world as the story gradually unfolds.

Short stories are distinct experience.  A good short story writer will make you care about the outcome of the characters even though you may not necessarily know anything about them.  It is a complete experience in one sitting; not too unlike reading a poem.  You read the short story/poem for itself and not for the hope that it will drag out for 800 pages and then maybe have a sequel.

The short story genre has become a lost art.  When newspapers were at their height, a writer could make a name for himself by publishing a short piece of fiction every week.  Charles Dickens is a perfect example of this.  Since then, the literary world changed.  You have to have an agent to even approach a publisher.  Magazines and newspapers won't even look at your writing unless you've already written for another magazine or newspaper.

I believe that the literary world is changing again.  E-readers and e-books have drastically altered the face of independent publishing.  Authors now have the freedom to experiment with novel length.  But now the problem is no longer the publishers; it's the readers.  People scoff at the short story genre.  The stories are just like a book only shorter, right?  Wrong.

So I'm starting The Short Story Project.  Starting tomorrow (2/14/11), I will be featuring authors that have written short stories.  Along with a bio, I asked each author to mention why they like their short story and/or why people should read short stories.  The idea behind this project is to raise an awareness of the genre.  Short stories are not novels cut short.  They are each pieces of standalone fiction.

The Curse of Impatience

One of the hardest thing about trying to sell stories on my own is suppressing my bouts of impatience. Normally, I am a very patient person. I teach four year olds how to play the violin so having a calm approach to life is essential. 

In general, I have the mindset: "Hey, I'm selling over twenty copies a month. That's great! Twenty random strangers every month are reading my work." But this seems to go completely out the window at times. I've always been a night owl. It's not at all unusual for me to stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning. This is usually my optimum writing time. But I've noticed this is also when I am most vulnerable. 

I'll hit a dry spell in whatever story I'm working on. The scene is just not playing out on paper the way it is in my head. Needing a distraction, out of habit more than anything else, I will check my sales. The days where it says "no sales for today" are the worst. I clutch my computer screen and growl "Why aren't you selling things for me?!?" Fortunately, my computer is more rational than me during these moments. So it just waits for the storm to past and we move on. 

But it's at moments like that where I wonder what else I can do. Surely, there has to be a faster way to generate sales? Why is there no site that just allows you to sign up and POOF you get an automatic 100 sales a month from adoring customers? 

Alas, life is not fair like that. At least the actual writing is something I CAN control. Just have to focus on that.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Concept behind "Payroll," a novella by Alain Gomez

Payroll is my first story.  I started writing it when I was sixteen and it was an on and off project all the way through college.  I'm really proud of this work because it's the first long(ish) story I've ever started and finished.  So it's a sort of psychological milestone.

Here's the summary:

"Jimmy Cochran thought that he had left his rough past behind him. But Ralph McCormick, the brother of the man he killed, didn't forget... or forgive... so easily. Jimmy knows he should just hightail it out of town to avoid getting into trouble. That is until Ralph puts the woman he loves into danger...."

Payroll on Amazon

Payroll on B&N

Paying For Ads: The bottomless pit of expenditure

I became an "independent author" last October (so this would be Oct, 2010). It all started with an email advertisement sent to me from Barnes and Noble advertising their self-publishing feature, "PubIt." I now know that digital self-publishing has been around for some time but at that point that was the first I had ever heard of it. 

Excited, I immediately went to work preparing a story I had written a long time ago for upload. Upload complete, I eagerly waited for it to become "live" on the site and.... I had a sales rank of 300,000 something. 

The cold dose of reality hit. Barnes and Noble's tag line of "just upload it and let us do the work" was totally misleading. I realized I would need to push this story on my own if I ever wanted to crawl out of the hundreds of thousands. 

So I gave Facebook ads a shot. I actually have had some experience with Facebook and Google ads in the past to promote my string quartet. With the string quartet, I had a lot of clicks on my ads but very little business generated. 

With regards to the string quartet ads, the lack of business generated was disappointing but not exactly shocking. When you're a musician, most of your business is generated from word of mouth. Plus, it's not like a string quartet is an impulse buy where you can just bank on people to randomly click and hire you right there. 

But I figured that a book COULD be an impulse buy, so why not give advertising a shot? So I signed up for two weeks of facebook ads. When you sign up for these things, you can choose if you want to pay for impressions (just having the ad on the web page and hope people look at it) or clicks (when someone actually clicks on the ad). Usually you pay for every 1,000 impressions or every 1 click. I chose clicks and facebook optimistically set my default daily budget to $50 a day. Nice try, facebook. I lowered it to a more modest $10 a day. 

At the conclusion of my two week campaign, I had averaged about 15 clicks a day. Not a single sale resulted. 

Before anyone leaps down my throat for this: yes, I do know that ads are a way of generating EXPOSURE. 15 clicks a day for 14 days means that, at the very least, 210 people saw my name and associated it with a work of fiction. Did that affect things down the road...? Who knows. 

But let's look at the more practical side. If I kept a continuous campaign, I would spend about $300 a month on advertising. Since my stories are all 99 cents and I make a 40 cents of that as my royalty, I would have to sell 750 copies of my stories just to break even. If I want a profit, it would have to be considerably more sales. 

Unfortunately, I do not have enough extra money lying around for me to see if a month or two months actually increase sales slightly. But I think there are several safe conclusions that authors in my same situation can draw from this: 

-ads definitely generate exposure but require a long term investment to be truly effective 

-ads are expensive 

-due to the nature of the product being sold (cheap indie books), it would probably take several years to make back what was initially invested in the advertisement

Allow me to introduce myself

My name is Alain Gomez. I'm self-employed and primarily work in the field of music. Writing has been a hobby of mine since I was sixteen and decided that I wanted to write what was (in my mind) the perfect romance. I've always hated it when characters in movies or books ended up with the wrong person or have needless drama as to why they can't be together. So I started writing that way I could control everything in my own perfect little world. This aspect of my personality may also explain my past addiction to The Sims. 

Blogs are always difficult for me to get into because I can only aimlessly ramble for so long. I need structure! So I decided to devote this blog to my learning process in the self-publishing industry. So take what you can from my trials and errors.