Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Short stories on the big screen

Yes, it's true that short stories will probably never outsell the novel.  And anyone brave enough to publish one has to face the risk of the dreaded "would have been good if it wasn't so short" review.  But give this genre a little credit!  There are some plus sides.  For one thing, they allow one to explore multiple genres

Another often overlooked pro to short stories is that they adept quite well to film.  The criticism most often made about movies based on novels is that the movie changed the book.  The eloquent descriptions and beautiful detail that make a book memorable usually have to be cut out or changed in order to translate to a two hour on-screen event.  Interesting sub-plots become an optional luxury.

But short stories thrive on the imagination.  The best ones merely create framework so as to let the reader fill in the blanks.  This works especially well when translated to the screen.  The director and script writer are completely free to provide their own interpretation of the story.  This very same freedom has led to some of the most memorable films of all time:

It's a Wonderful Life
The Birds
Breakfast at Tiffany's
The Day the Earth Stood Still
High Noon
3:10 to Yuma (1957 version)

You can read a more complete list here.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Review of "If You Go Into The Woods" and "The Reset Button" by David Gaughran


Summary:
If You Go Into The Woods is a collection of two unsettling short stories.

The title story is set in Caslav, a small town 60 miles east of Prague, Czech Republic. Jiri Beranek is drawn to a nearby forest, captivated by birds hidden high in the trees. Each time he enters, his desire to see the mysterious creatures is checked by his fear of the dark. When he finally forces himself to go farther, he finds a new reason to be afraid. This story was first published by The Delinquent (UK) then selected by Short Story America for inclusion in their anthology of their best stories of 2010.

The bonus story - The Reset Button - is set in Stockholm, Sweden in the depths of winter. Linus Eriksson, a divorced bachelor living alone in his small one-bedroom apartment, is a man with a memory problem: instead of not being able to remember anyone, nobody can remember him. This story is brand new, exclusively available in this e-book.

Review:
The two short stories in this collection, If You Go Into The Woods and The Reset Button, capture the psychological thriller genre in its most subtle form. The author himself likens his work to The Twilight Zone, a comparison which is both appropriate and deceiving. If your favorite episodes of that iconic television show involved mad scientists, disembodied brains and doomed lovers parked at the local makeout spot, you might be disappointed in this collection. Gaughran’s works are well-written, eerie, creative and thought provoking...there are no neatly bundled answers or resolutions in this collection.

In If You Go Into The Woods, a small boy is lured into the forest by the chirping of birds, only to find that the noisy avians are not what he expected. Thankfully, Gaughran avoids the expected plot twists. There are no killer, man-eating birds. The chirping is not a ruse to lure the boy to his doom. While the story does end in a satisfying manner, it leaves the reader pondering the implications. Gaughran’s ability to reel in his audience and keep them reeled in even after the story has finished, is the hallmark of great fiction writing.

Likewise, the Reset Button, about a man whom no-one remembers, is a delightfully and unexpectedly creepy story. As in the first story, there is a definitive but in-explicit ending that allows the reader’s imagination some leeway.

For this reviewer, the greatest charm of these stories is that they would be equally at home being told on the page, on the screen or around the campfire. And that is a compliment indeed.

4.5/5 stars
Reviewed by Aubrey Bennet

Buy this collection on Amazon or B&N.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Short story sales stats Kathleen Valentine

Your past short story writing history- I've been writing short stories for over ten years. I've had a number of short stories published in anthologies including three in Level Best Books' Crime Stories By New England Writers (Volumes 2, 4 &5). I've also published short "romatica" stories in e-collections by Ravenous Romance.

Date you electronically published your first story: I published my first collection of short stories, My Last Romance & other passions in paperback in 2006 and in e-format in 2009.

Amount of effort you put into advertising your short stories- medium - I list them on my web site and blog and have them listed on Goodreads and other author sites but that's about all


Genre(s)- crime/horror and romantic/love stories

The average length your individual short stories tend to be- they vary from 1500 words to 15,000 words.



Amazon sales data - From February thru the present I've had 2 short story collections (8 stories in each) and 1 stand-alone. In July I added a second stand-alone (The Crazy Old Lady In The Attic)
Feb. -11
Mar. - 9
Apr. - 4
May - 14
June - 6
July - 130
Aug. - 53


The big surge in sales is due to The Crazy Old Lady In The Attic which has been doing very well.

B&N sales data 
        I currently do not offer them in e-format on B&N


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Short story sales stats for Ellen O'Connell

Your past short story writing history - None, except school long ago, of course. Other than some non-fiction articles, I haven't done shorter works.

Date you electronically published your first story- I published my first novel in February 2010. The first (and only to date) short story mid-April 2011.

Amount of effort you put into advertising your short stories- Pretty much none. You reviewed it when I answered your post on KB, and I mentioned it on my own blog.

Genre(s)- The short story is western historical romance. My novels are that and cozy mystery.

The average length your individual short stories tend to be- My short story is 6,000 words.

Amazon sales data
        All data for one short story, 6,000 words.
        Partial month of April (first available and first sales April 13): 56
        May: 125
        June: 117
        July: 101

B&N sales data 
        None. Not available on B&N

This story has been available free on my website since the beginning. It was also available for free on Smashwords through May. I don't know how many free downloads there have been since my website doesn't tally them.

www.oconnellauthor.com

Monday, August 22, 2011

Short story sales stats for Isaac Sweeney

Your past short story writing history-
I began writing short stories as a kid and really worked on it in college. For my grad-school thesis, I wrote a short story collection. Some of those stories are in Evolvement, my chapbook-length story collection.

Date you electronically published your first story-
Dec. 31, 2010

Amount of effort you put into advertising your short stories-
I put in a fair amount of effort for the first few weeks. I didn't spend any money on advertising except for one KB Book of the Day ad that will appear next month. I did other things, like press releases, blogs, tweets, etc. Now, I don't do much and I kind of just let it happen.

Genre(s)- literary


The average length your individual short stories tend to be-
2,000 words

Amazon sales data
February=1 standalone (0 sales) and 2 mini-collections (4 sales)
March=1 standalone (0 sales) and 2 mini-collections (1 sale)
April=1 standalone (0 sales) and 2 mini-collections (2 sales)
May=1 standalone that went free this month (3992 sales) and 2 mini-collections (5 sales)
June=1 standalone, still free (1284 sales), 2 mini-collections (0 sales), and 1 medium-sized collection - 15,000 words (1 sale)
July=1 free standalone (977 sales), 2 mini-collections (0 sales), and 1 medium-sized collection (3 sales)
As a side note, I have a nonfiction essay collection about adjunct labor in higher ed that outsells my fiction as of now at Amazon. 

Smashwords and its affiliates, including BN-
These numbers do not include coupons or promotions. Keep in mind that slaes results come back slowly from Smashwords affiliates and I don't have all the numbers yet for June or July. Also, March had "read and ebook week" and July was ebook month, so I gave away a lot of my ebooks for free. Those numbers aren't in here, except for the 1 standalone.

1 standalone has always been free at Smashwords and its affiliates: 3727
February=2 mini-collections (2 sales)
March=2 mini-collections (1 sale)
April=2 mini-collections (2 sales)
May-2 mini-collections (1 sale)
June=2 mini-collections (1 sale, all affiliate numbers not in) and 1 medium-sized collection (0 sales, all affiliate numbers not in)
July=2 mini-collections (0 sales, given away free at smashwords.com, all affilliate numbers not in) and 1 medium-sized collection (0 sales, given away free at smashwords.com, all affiliate numbers not in)


Check out Isaac's work here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What teaching has taught me about the long term

A few weeks ago I wrote a post on all the things working against me as a writer.  One thing I definitely have working for me is my sense of the long term.  Oh, I definitely get frustrated from those no sales days.  But I always have an ever-present sense of the long term.  This is really something that was instilled in me from over twenty years of playing the violin.  It's further amplified by the fact that I now teach the violin.  You think the writing process is slow?  Try learning a musical instrument.

I think a lot of independent writers fall into the trap of losing long term focus.  We're constantly chanting "this is a marathon, not a sprint."  But what does that really mean in your mind?  Are you saying that but actually thinking "if I advertise enough, next month with be my big break"?

In order to really be effective as a teacher, you really have to be tuned in to the little things.  If you simply compare this week's lesson to last week's, there may not even be an apparent change.  Months are good to look at, but really you have to look at the year.

Parents will frequently pull me aside and ask in a worried tone if their child is on track.  Are they falling behind?  Are they making any progress at all?  At times like these, I have to point out the bigger picture to them.  Sure, their kid may just know Twinkle.  But they can play Twinkle now.  Twinkle is not just about the notes.  It's literally an accumulation of learning everything you need to know in order to play the violin.  Could they do that last year when they just started?  Nope.

So this applies to the writing as well.  As with every art, it takes time.  I'm not even going to dance around with the vague term "marathon"; unless you get really lucky, it will take years.  That's right: YEARS.  You must look at your whole year.  Not week to week.  Not month to month.  Your entire year.  In the past YEAR of being published:

-Have you made any sort of attempt to get your work in front of strangers (gifts, freebies, reviews)?

-Have you sold at least one copy?  Or, if you have been published for more than a year, have you sold equal amounts or more from the previous year?

-Have you worked on getting more things published?

If you have answered yes to any of those, you have made progress.  Actual progress.  If you haven't yet been published for a year, I don't want to hear any whining.  Unless you give me some cheese to go with the whine.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Review of "My Grandfather's Skeleton," a short story by Kiyash Monsef


Summary:
A short slice of near-future Americana about a boy, his missing grandfather, and a robotic exoskeleton.

Review:
This story left me feeling, for the most part, literarily satisfied. Monsef’s writing is good, drawing the reader in and presenting a well crafted short story about life and death and the way our relationships are affected by them. Both the grandfather and the grandson are realistic characters that the reader cares about almost instantly. The plot is well paced and interesting, if somewhat predictable. Presented by a lesser writer, this story could have been overly saccharine. However, Monsef’s skill keeps the heartwarming nature of the piece respectably subtle. The only problem with this story, and to me it’s a big one, is the skeleton.

The skeleton plays a pivotal role in the story, almost becoming a character itself. Perhaps it’s just the prejudice of my archaeological background, but I had a hard time disassociating “skeleton” from what is clearly a “Skeleton.” Even once the reader realizes what the skeleton actually is, it takes several pages of sporadic descriptors for Monsef to craft an image of the contraption. This is problematic in the short story world, where the engagement of the reader must be secured by the end of the first few paragraphs. The skeleton is an original idea and clearly important to the plot of the story, but for this reviewer, Monsef’s lack of clarifying details detracts from its power. 

3/5 stars
Reviewed by Aubrey Bennet

Buy this story on Amazon US.  It is also available for web reading here.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Review of "What to Change" and "A Stop at Stanford," two short stories by Robert Collins



Summaries:
What To Change: Doug Patterson is nearing 30 and feels his life has been one mistake after the other. A mysterious professor sends him a letter, offering him the chance to go back in time to change his life. Will Doug take that chance? If he does, what will he change?


A Stop At Stanford: Doug Nyren makes videos. He wants to move to a place where the other artists aren’t snobs and his neighbors won’t try to push him to be a sell-out. He visits the tiny town of Stanford on the planet Gypsum. He meets some interesting people there, but will Stanford be the new home he’s looking for?


Review:

In “What to Change” and “A Stop at Stanford,” Robert Collins combines science fiction with realism, exploring the banality of everyday life through the lens of time and space travel. In both stories the main character is named Doug, despite the fact they don’t seem to be the same character. Apparently Collins just loves the name Doug. Although it is refreshing to see science fiction that isn’t all about action/adventure, aliens or robots, Collins plays it a little too safe. The result is two pieces that are...dare I say it...boring.


Collins’ writing is fine, but not great. The author’s use of italics to denote the main character’s inner thoughts is a nice touch, but italicized sections also appear for other purposes, particularly in “What to Change,” so it is confusing to read at times. The plots are okay, but not fantastic. I feel like time and space travel is an exciting thing, particularly for the two Doug’s (both of whom are looking to make big life changes) but the author makes it all seem humdrum. The main characters are uninspiring, and as they embarked upon their respective quests I found my mind wandering.

The stories aren’t bad. My literary sensibilities weren’t offended, but neither were they impressed. Ultimately, the stories lack memorability. In many ways, they are rather like the lives of the characters they are written about: mediocre. Yet another instance of art imitating life.

2.5/5 stars
Reviewed by Aubrey Bennet

Buy "What to Change" on Amazon US.
Buy "A Stop at Stanford" on Amazon US.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Review of "Last Night," a short story by Jennifer Powell


Summary:
Deep in the wildwood a shining blue meadow appears, the birthplace of forest spirits with varying forms, all determined to destroy the people who live nearby. Deyant and her sister Mrinda are among the few of their folk with the power to walk the hidden paths that lead to the meadows. They alone have the ability to twist the connection between the wildwood and its spawn, killing the creature before it can emerge.

But Deyant and Mrinda have grown apart as Mrinda prepares for her wedding to Johnah. Mrinda has embraced her fiance’s faith, a faith that disapproves of the magical work that has been the focus of Deyant’s life. And Mrinda has another secret that she has not shared with her sister, a secret that could put them both in danger as they walk the paths that lead to the meadow where the forest spawn awaits its birth.

Will the sisters come together to defeat their ancient enemy? Or will Deyant’s anger and Mrinda’s secret bring disaster upon them both? Find out when you read this new fantasy short story by Jennifer Powell, a Clary Books presentation.

Review:
The recent surge in the popularity of fantasy literature has been, in my opinion, both good and bad. The good part is that the fantasy genre is no longer characterized as nerdy (I’ve even seen football players sporting “Team Jacob” t-shirts). The bad part is how formulaic so many of the stories have become. Fortunately, the plot of Powell’s story “Last Night” avoids formulaic pitfalls and is a truly original and enjoyable piece.

Powell’s writing is good, though not spectacular. Her literary voice has mastered the romantic poeticism that is popular with this genre of literature, favoring words like “shimmering,” “whispering” and “luminous.” Such language screams FANTASY in no uncertain terms, and if you like that kind of thing you will love this story. However, I would like to see more of an individualized voice from Powell, something that pushes
her generic fantasy jargon to the next level.

I would very much like to see more stories in this series. The complexity and compelling nature of the world the author has created provides the perfect springboard for prequels and sequels, and I say if you have a good thing going, keep it going.

3.5/5 stars
Reviewed by Aubrey Bennet

Buy this story on Amazon US or Smashwords.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Review of "Souls, Inc.," a short story by Shana Hammaker


Summary:
Being dead isn’t a thrill ride, but Patty Sullivan figures she could have done a lot worse for her afterlife.

After all, she’s got company with her in Purgatory: Jimmy, AKA the Grim Reaper; Brian, an adorable little dead boy; and Nexie, Jimmy’s feline familiar. And there’s never a dull day in Purgatory, what with the constant travelling and never ending parade of soul extractions.

But there’s something missing in Patty’s afterlife—meaning.

Patty can’t remember why she died. She can’t really remember anything at all about herself or her existence before Purgatory. And she knows there’s something important buried in her past, something that pertains to her death…but what?

And Jimmy, that snarky bastard, won’t tell Patty anything. He says she has all the answers inside her already, and all she has to do to discover them is “open her soul to the truth,” whatever that means.

Patty’s not impressed by Jimmy’s psychobabble but she’s determined to learn the truth about herself.

SOULS, INC. is book five of author Shana Hammaker’s short thriller series Twelve Terrifying Tales for 2011.

Review:
This story is written as the journal of seventeen year old Patty, a ghost stuck in purgatory who is trying to remember who she was and how she died before moving fully into the afterlife. The story is both original and well executed. Patty comes across as a believable seventeen year old, and each of the three main characters is well developed in their own right. 

This reviewer particularly liked the journal entry structure of the piece, as it allowed Hammaker to jump from event to event with ease, allowing the story to progress without becoming bogged down. The author’s writing is succinct and the dialogue both believable and clever, allowing her to keep the overall tone of the piece light despite it’s focus on death. 

The story is enjoyable enough that I found myself disappointed when it was over. In the end, Hammaker resolves the mystery of Patty’s death, thereby nixing all possibility of future Souls, Inc. installments. I would have enjoyed this story more if it were part of a serial, with each installment adding another piece to the mystery. As it is now, the ending feels too sudden and, as a result, heavy given the lightness of the rest of the piece. 

3.5/5 stars
Reviewed by Aubrey Bennet

Buy this story on Amazon US.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Giveaway!!!

Dear Book Brouhaha readers,

I am going to host my first ever blog giveaway.  I thought of hosting a competition, but that was just way too much effort.  I'm sorry.  I am lazy.

So cutting straight to the chase....

I will be giving away Kindle copies of this flash fiction collection right here:



The giveaway will last until the next blog posts (24 hours).  So if this is still the latest blog post, ask away!  In order to receive a copy, simply leave a comment on this blog post so I know you somehow came through Book Brouhaha.  Then just shoot me an email and I'll send you a copy.  Simple!

No strings attached.  Reviews are always appreciated but only if they're honest.  I want real, soul-wrenching feedback.

If this turns out well, hopefully there will be more giveaways to come!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Review of "A Matter of Faith, A Matter of Balance," a single story in the collection "Pandora's Children Book 3: Death Bleeds into Life" by Bradley Convissar


Summary:
Now, in Book 3: Death Bleeds Into Life, meet a young woman forced to face a horrible truth in her Gross Anatomy Lab ("Just Meat", 6,600 words), a religious leader forced to pay for his crimes in the Utah desert ("A Matter of Faith, A Matter of Balance", 9,300 words), a boy dying of a brain tumor as he looks for one last thrill in the Nevada desert ("The Madame Penitent", 10,500 words), and a college student looking to unravel the mysteries of the room next door where a girl was rape and murdered two years earlier ("The Transfer", 19,500 words)
These are four stories that are sure to keep you thinking long after you've stopped reading. 

Review:
Published as story in a collection of four, “A Matter of Faith, A Matter or Balance” is a fantasy story that explores the ever popular theme of good versus evil. From the start, the tale is one we have become all too familiar with over the years: a charismatic patriarch defending the polygyny and child-marriage practiced by his followers as the will of God. Convissar uses society’s fascination with cults (particularly ones based in Utah) to his best advantage and immediately captures the reader’s attention.

He manages to capitalize on this fascination without becoming overly sensationalist, keeping good writing and solid storyline the focus of this piece. Dr. Convissar sets the stage well, and the reader is both repulsed and drawn in as the patriarch’s fantastical story unfolds.

Convissar’s writing is effortless and the story well-paced, making this piece both easy and enjoyable to read. Though the Armageddon-based plot is not in itself altogether original, the author makes it his own with some imaginative twists. The balance of backstory and main narrative is perfect, a quality this reviewer feels separates the great from the good in short story writing. Convissar’s writing is descriptive in all the right ways, providing superb imagery without becoming wordy or overwrought. A strong addition for Dr. Bradley Convissar’s collection.

4/5 stars
Reviewed by Aubrey Bennet

Buy the collection on Amazon US or B&N.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

July 2011 short story sales

Read the previous months here.

Wow.  July was rough month sales-wise.  This is my first summer season where I've had stories up for sale.  I've talked to some other more established novel writing authors and they said it's usually pretty common for their monthly sales to drop as much as 30% in the summer months.

30% ?!?

For someone with measly sales like mine a 30% drop takes me to almost zero!  I guess people are less inclined to read in the summer and more interested in going outside to enjoy the weather.  Barbarians.

Anyway... here are my spectacular under 10k short story numbers for July:

Amazon (US/UK/DE):
         # of works:  13
         # of sales:  5

B&N
        # of works:  13
        # of sales:  3


One interesting thing to note:  3 of my 5 Amazon sales were for my shortest standalone short story.  The Sacrifice clocks in at a mere 1,000 words.  It has also been out the longest.  Is this significant?!  Who knows?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Review of "Lilies," a short story by Iain Rowan


Summary:
Lilies is a short story of the dead and the living, in a city at war where it is hard to tell one from the other, and where the men who carry the lilies commit the strangest of murders and kill the already dead.

Lilies was chosen for Stephen Jones' Best New Horror anthology and recommended for the British Fantasy Society's Best Short Story. Iain's short fiction has been reprinted in anthologies, won awards, and been the basis for a novel shortlisted for the UK Crime Writers' Association's Debut Dagger award.

Review:
There were a lot of layers to this story.  "Thick" would be how I would describe it.  It takes awhile to get into (for a short story) but once I worked through the beginning I got very involved in the story line.  It's quite intriguing.  

The war could really be any war that has happened here on earth but the occasional detail transports you to a not-quite-earth setting.  The two peoples fighting obviously have some religious differences.  Nothing is flat out told to you but you get the strong impression that one side believes in a god and the other side does not.  If you believe in this god, you will be resurrected for one week after your death in order to say goodbye to your loved ones.  An interesting premise.  

This story is told from the point of view of a young soldier named Alex.  For me, I felt this story really centers around is the idea of what it means to be living vs. what it means to be dead.  In this fantasy land the area is grey.  On the one hand Alex is as good as dead if they send him to the front line; this thought permeates everything he does.  On the other hand, there is the walking dead who get one week to live life to the fullest with their loved ones.  Which is really dead?

Though this story is classified as horror, I would say it's more of a "thinker" rather than a blood and guts "slasher."  The ending is somewhat abrupt.  Perhaps a little too abrupt given how the rest of the story reads.  But this alone is not enough to ruin an otherwise good quality, interesting short story.

4/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this story on Amazon US or B&N.