Thursday, December 29, 2011

Trailer for Space Hotel Series

I decided to branch out into the book trailer arena.  It's my very first iMovie project.  Let me know what you think!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Review of "The Restoration Man" by Simon John Cox

One man's obsession with the restoration of a near-mythical car is thrown into sharp perspective following the death of his wife.

After reading this story there is no doubt in my mind that Cox is able to write well.  An author's descriptive ability is always tested in short stories.  And in that area Cox excels.  He does a fantastic job creating a protagonist that you can't help but feel connected to.

Where I feel that this story is sort of lacking is in the obsession department.  It's the main plot point but, strangely enough, is not really focused on.  The protagonist's wife is dead but you never find out how his obsession with the car affected their relationship.  Most of the story centers on his current grief.  There are a few hints that he regrets his past actions.  But if I don't know what they are, how can I tell if he was really ignoring his wife for the car or if it's all in his head?

Story lines like this are tricky.  There has to be a careful balance of past and present information in order to present the inevitable future.  I need to know what role the car played in the past so I can understand his regret now

All that said, this is still a beautifully crafted story and well worth the read.  The fact that it made me think as much as it did is a major plus in my mind.  I enjoy short stories that last well beyond the final sentence.

4/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this short story on Amazon or B&N.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Reading Short Stories Online

This whole post may seem like I'm pointing out the obvious, but if there's one life lesson I've learned it's never assume people think the same way you do.

I think that a lot of people separate "reading" from "browsing the internet."  Reading involves sitting in a cozy spot and getting lost in your own little world for a few hours.  For many it's an intellectual pastime.  In this mindset, reading things on the internet does not count as "reading."

Browsing the internet is its own activity.  Unless you're trying to research something, internet browsing is usually not taken very seriously.  You end up clicking on random links and before you know it you're up-to-date on Paris Hilton's latest breakup.

I would say that I definitely fall into both of those categories.  But I would like to make people aware of a third option: you can "read" while "on the internet."  Personally, I don't like staring at a computer screen for hours which is why I will step away when I want to read a novel.  But short stories don't take that long to read.  A five page short story will probably take you less time to read than watching the video on the tragic Paris Hilton breakup.

Even better is that there are thousands of free classic short stories online.  You can  find tons of public domain (author is dead essentially) works and not even have to leave your chair.  So if you're in a situation where cozying up with a book isn't an option (say, on a break at work), short stories aren't a half bad way to go.

This isn't intended to be a sermon or anything.  I just wanted to make people aware.  It doesn't have to be mind-improving reading vs. brain-numbing internet.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Review of "The Lamprey Stone," a single story in a collection by Maria Violante

It's a side of the southwest never glimpsed by mortal man - a heartless, barren outback riddled with ruthless demons. In its ignorance, humanity is powerless to stop these escapees from Hell and the havoc they create with their dark magic.

Good thing De la Roca isn't human.

A gunslinger with no memories of her previous life, she has fought for the last three hundred years on the forefront of a supernatural war, relying only on her wits, her reflexes, and her own demonic powers - all to pay for her own release from Hell.

The Angels wouldn't send her in alone and unarmed, though; Alsvior, her gifted - if contrary - steed, and Bluot, a legendary revolver with an unquenchable blood-lust, have been with her every step of the way - alone with a series of terrible nightmares that might hold the keys to her past.

Then, an Angel appears with a bargain that seems to good to be true - five final targets, and she is free from her penance.

Quickly, she discovers that her old methods are not up to the task, and she's forced to team up with a mysterious gatekeeper and another mercenary - both of which need her for their own plans. With time running out, she has to figure out who to trust and who to kill, and fast, before she's demon-food.

With over a hundred pages of explosive action, breathtaking visual descriptions, and a host of shadowy players that will keep the reader guessing until the very end, HUNTING THE FIVE is Maria Violante's stunning debut to the De la Chronicles.

A fantastic short story with a kind of Ghost Rider feel to it.  But, thankfully, it has a much better plot and no Nicholas Cage starring in it.

I've read other work by Violante and she has displayed, yet again, that she is highly skilled in short form fiction.  The premise of the series takes a classic plot structure (going on a quest to find specific objects) and adds some fun new elements.  With vampires and werewolves seeping out of practically every paranormal/supernatural story these days, the demon twist was very refreshing.

Violante's writing style is descriptive without being overly wordy.  This is definitely a plus when it came to the action sequences.  I could picture the entire scene playing out in my head.  I also enjoyed how Violante managed to give just enough background to the protagonist as to make her seem real yet still keep her origins mysterious.  This is the kind of thing that makes me want to continue reading the rest of the collection.

I liked how there was action but it wasn't gory.  I loved how the author introduced a very complex supernatural type of universe without ever going into mundane detail.  This collection is definitely worth looking into and a highly recommended read.

Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this collection on Amazon or B&N.

Monday, December 19, 2011

To Translate or Not To Translate

With the latest Spain and Italy Amazon additions, more and more people seem to be looking into translating their works.  I've really been weighing the pros and cons about this in my mind.  I haven't come to any definite conclusions but I thought I would share my thoughts thus far.

On the one hand.... much of a short story author's success is based on their ability to reach their niche audience.  I do believe that this initially requires casting a wide net.  Make your work as available as possible and then earn those one or two fans that will buy all of your work.  So in this sense, translating makes sense.  The "foreign language" markets are much smaller.  So there is the potential to become a big fish in a small pond.  Plus, some countries are far more open to short stories than Americans.  Hispanic cultures, for example, have a very rich background in short stories.

On the other hand... considering how much one makes on a single short story, it would take a loooooooong time to even begin to recoup the cost of paying for a professional translation.  Plus, there's just a smaller online shopping market compared to the USA.  Let's face it: Americans love to shop.  I sell a handful of stories every month in Amazon UK.  But it's nothing compared to US.  I think it's reasonable to assume that the "other" Amazons would eventually come to be like the UK in terms of number of units sold.

If I wrote novels, it would make perfect sense to get my work translated.  But given the more limited appeal of short stories, it just doesn't make sense to me to translate right now.  It would be hundreds of dollars that I may never see back.  If I ever become a more established writer with a larger audience, I might be open to reconsidering.

Anyone else have any thoughts on this?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Concept behind "Shabti" by Alain Gomez

The idea for this story came from a friend who had recently gone on a trip and visited the local museums.  She showed me this whole series of pictures she took of these small, blue Egyptian statues called shabti.  They're really fascinating to look at.  It kind of makes you wonder how the ancient Egyptians got the statues to be that blue.  I mean, the statues are thousands of years old.

Mysterious blue statues practically scream "short story."  So I caved in.  There were a lot of directions I considered taking but ended up deciding on creating an unusual romance.  When I first traveled over to Europe, I very clearly remember having my concept of time change.  I remember standing in Barcelona staring at a cathedral that had been under construction for almost as long as my own country had existed.  

I imagine that it would have been similar for some of the British when they first started traveling to places like India or Egypt.  Being in a country so different from your own changes your perspective.  For the purposes of this story, I liked the idea learning to appreciate the beauty of something. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Short Story Collections

There seems to be a lot of heated debate about collections of short stories.  I think that many new authors or just authors new to writing short stories often try to overcompensate with collections.

Thanks to the publishing industry we have the idea in our heads that more words equals more value.  So I think a lot of writers feel guilty about charging the same for a short story as they do a novel.  So they lessen the guilt by just packing together a ton of stories into what is essentially a novel-length collection.  So everyone is happy, right?

There is a certain validity to this thinking.  And I do think that a short story writer should provide readers with as many options as possible.  However, for the most part, I feel like there are two HUGE issues that are  overlooked when a writer approaches short stories in the manner I just described.

The first problem is an artistic one.  When a writer approaches short stories with the intention of writing as many as they can to put together a novel-length collection I feel that not as much effort is put into each story.  The focus becomes quantity rather than quality.  For a literary genre that emphasizes choice, spartan wording, this is really inexcusable in my mind.  You lose the "story" and just end up writing something that's "short."

The second problem is the idea that by having a novel-length collection you will suddenly appeal to novel-only readers.  This is flawed logic.  If someone is looking for a new novel to read they are not going to think "oh well, this short story collection is really long so it'll do as a replacement."  I like short stories and even I don't do that.  If I'm in the mood for a novel, I'm buying a novel.  If I want a short story, that's what I'm looking for.  Two separate shopping experiences.

Your audience should be those who enjoy short stories.  Since this is your target audience, effort should be put into each short story.  The goal is appeal to customers that go out of their way to find short stories.  Not the ones that are maybe willing to give them a try if they stumble across a collection that's long enough.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Interview with Author Tony Rauch

First, tell us a little about your writing journey. Would you consider yourself to be a "short story author" rather than a "novelist"?

I have three collections of short stories published. Two from Eraserhead Press and one from Spout Press. I have been writing shorts since childhood. In college I had some shorts published, which attracted the attention of my first book publisher. That first book then attracted the attention of my second publisher.

I mainly concentrate on short form because that's all I have time for, and it's the easiest for me. Also, to me long work feels bloated with a lot of useless background filler and could use trimming. Short form gets to the point without messing around and wasting time. There's a lot of power concentrated in the short form. Also, I tend to generate a lot of ideas, so short form allows me to implement them with a minimal expenditure of time. 

I've been working on longer stories though, expanding my tales. So that's been a nice evolution and a happy surprise - to get into 12 page, 18 page, 22, 36, 50 page epics. I think it's good to stretch your wings, grow, and try new things, new forms and formats - to keep things fresh, mix things up.

I have two mainstream novellas no one seems to want. For some reason my speculative short work stands out to someone, so go figure. Maybe because it seems fresh in comparison to my mainstream work.

In the past I've written experimental shorts and main stream shorts. The last two books have been more whimsical, surreal, fairy tale, action adventures bordering on absurdism mixed with sci-fi. You can read samples on my website - 

Tell us about your experiences selling short stories. Any successes? Failures? What has worked for you when trying to find an audience?

Just writing what I want is what seems to work best. I've found that so far, for me there's very little money in speculative short fiction (it's only a matter of nickels and dimes, nothing that would appreciably change my financial situation), so that fact liberates me to write whatever I would want to read.

I write stories to specifically fit into collections, thus the individual collection becomes a document, a piece of art onto itself. So my work is geared to fit with other stories, although they can also stand alone as individual artifacts.

I've had shorts published in journals and a few anthologies, but not in anything that ever paid much. Getting shorts into journals is mostly a marketing device to help advertise my story collections. I have not sold any stories on-line as individual pieces in terms of e-files. I haven't had time to investigate that route. I have some free samples on my website.

Mostly I would hope people would look at my collections and consider them as whole objects, with the stories as pieces of that whole.

Eraserhead Press liked my fiction and was excited to put out some of my story collections. That's the key - finding a publisher who is supportive and into what your vision is. The next step is marketing the book, which is a daunting task with so much competition out there.

My successes include having three collections of shorts published by reputable publishers. I have been interviewed by the Prague Post and Oxford University student paper in England. I've been reviewed by the MIT and Savanna College of Art and Design student papers. I've also been reviewed and interviewed by bloggers and smaller journals. So a degree of peer review is nice.

There are always things that don't work out. For every review or interview that makes it into print, there's at least another that doesn't make the cut. Marketing takes a lot of free time and is a commitment that demands sacrifices.

Mostly I think what has worked for me has been striving to be unique and not a faint copy of something else. I think that experimenting with form, content, genres, and mixing genres into a swirl has caused my work to stand out from the pack a little without having to resort to shock just for shock's sake. Meaning and story craft are also important to me. What is the story arc? What does the story mean? Is it told in an interesting manner? Or if it's just a fragment, is that fragment interesting or thought provoking? Do the pieces make you think? I also write little adventures too. I want them to be compelling page turners. If some of the pieces are similar to previously established genres, then hopefully I'm adding something fresh to that established paradigm.

Do you think ebooks will change the way short stories are viewed by the general public?

I hope so. The internet has helped a great deal in that there are more e-zines out there to promote the art form. So there are more venues with stories readily available to anyone. I think ebooks will serve the same purpose and be yet another venue or delivery system for the art form.

The problem then becomes one of saturation. If there are tons of stories readily available, does that dilute the specialness for everyone? How can a writer stand out from the crowd? You would hope that quality of writing and story craft would make you stand out and thus word of mouth eventually would help sell your book. 

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?

I think the biggest impediment is people investing the time in reading. How do you convert non-readers and reluctant readers? I fear it's like getting a vegetarian to consume a large T-bone steak. But if you offer an interesting experience, quality writing and compelling stories or ideas, then you are offering something of value. But how do you reach non-readers?

I think people don't read fiction because of a general lack of free time, laziness, or not being inspired enough by what they've been exposed to. But this is where short stories can really fill a void as they don't gobble up too much time.

Potential readers may be hesitant to risk their time in something they don't know will bear fruit. Reading is not a passive activity, like watching a movie or television show (although if someone is a great writer and their words just flow effortlessly like warm syrup, then it's a much easier form to digest as your brain seems to just go along for the ride. But few people can write like that - where the reading becomes effortless).

It's a dauntingly crowded field out there with so much competition for our time, and so many entertainment options. It's a wonder anyone sells any books at all. In the past there were no cable TV or video games or shopping malls. At least now with the internet it's much easier to find your niche market and get the word out about the book to the people who would probably be most interested in it. There are pre-existing e-zines already set up that a writer can market to and readers can find what they're interested in.

So I think that's the hardest part - marketing, getting the word out that the book exists, just fighting your way through the clutter to try and reach potential readers in your own genre.

People are going to spend some money on entertainment anyway, so it might as well be spent on short stories. If someone gets something out of the experience, then it's worth the value - the time and money invested in that experience.

What to expect can be managed by having a blurb about the book on the back or inside cover. Or by a reader reading a few lines or looking on an author website or checking the book out on amazon or the publisher's website.

So I would go back to laziness and lack of time as big reasons people don't read. To some people reading seems like work. Others may be scared off if they feel they're just not knowledgeable about the form - maybe they feel like there's a test to take, or something that would make them feel like they didn't “get it” if they don't understand a story. Why are comic books so successful? That is a simple, but effective short form with complete story arcs. I think because they're easy to digest in a short time frame, the writing is generally simple and direct, and that appeals to people in that it's a style that does not tax the brain too heavily.

If you can offer a potential reader a sense of adventure, fun, knowledge, information, or discovery, they may be more inclined to read. What is their incentive to read? What are they getting out of the experience that they couldn't get from another form of leisure activity?

Many people like to hear stories or go on adventures they otherwise would be unable to experience. So there are pre-existing opportunities out there for writers to find people to read their work. It's just a matter of searching for those people.

My hope is that people will read more in the future as other forms of entertainment become more stagnant. How many sitcoms can you watch before they all seem the same? Reading offers unique adventures that are very direct and immediate. A reader is living inside of a book, whereas other forms of entertainment have built-in distances to experiencing them.

The potential for readers to experience other forms of writing has never been better with the internet offering exposure to an expanse of genres. So hopefully this will expose the non-readers and reluctant readers to other forms of writing they may not otherwise come across. Though in the end it's up to a potential reader to take a chance on something and invest the time to investigate a piece of writing.

Friday, December 9, 2011

What I Read vs. What I Write

There is something of a discrepancy between what I read vs. what I write.  This never fails to surprise me on some level.  I always thought the stories that would be the easiest would be the ones that are of a similar genre to what I read.  Not so!

I actually read quite a bit of British literature.  I'm particularly fond of 19th century British literature (maybe +/- a decade on either side).  This isn't to say that I don't read other things.  That's just generally what I lean toward when I'm browsing for a new book.

So when I really started writing with publication in mind, I just kind of assumed that I would probably end up creating a whole bunch of Regency romance novellas or something.  I even tried starting one but then I got stuck.  I will resurrect it eventually but I just hate forcing plots that aren't ready to be written yet.

Which brings us to what I actually really enjoy writing right now: science fiction and fantasy short stories with strange twists to them.  Now, I love reading stories with strange twists.  But they occupy a very small percentage of what I actually do read on a regular basis.  Same thing goes for sci-fi and fantasy.  I watch a lot of movies that fall in those two genres but don't actually ready it very much of it.

Going back to my attempt at writing a Regency romance, I found it to be surprisingly difficult.  Maybe just because my standards were set high?  Or I was locked up from trying to be historically accurate?  Maybe deep down I'm really just more geek than romantic?

Has anyone else noticed this with their writing?  Do you mostly write in the genre that you read?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

November 2011 Short Story Sales Stats

Since my last post, Smashwords has decided to start posting the date sold for ebooks.  How convenient!  I will continue to list B&N (sad tale that it is) but I also wanted to add my Apple, Sony and Kobo sales.  Since Smashwords updates their numbers at a slower pace, I will be listing the previous month for Apple, Sony and Kobo.  That way it will be a more accurate report.

Once again, all of these numbers that I list are for my under 10,000 stories plus collections.  I don't list my novella sales since the general public already knows that novellas can sell.  Also, I only list numbers for stories that I actually got paid for.  Not the free downloads.

Total number of short stories and collections available:  23

Amazon (US, UK, DE, FR):  29

B&N:  1

Apple (October):  2

Sony (October):  0

Kobo (October):  2

Now on to some interesting things of note...

I made my first Amazon France sale this month.  This was cause for much rejoicing.  I also took away the free status for Celebrity Space.  Since doing that, I've retained a steady number of consistent paid sales for the story.  Even though I made no money off the story by having it set at free, the large number of downloads was enough to feed it into Amazon's "also bought" system.  So I'm hoping that it will stick.

Monday, December 5, 2011

NaNoWriMo Follow-Up

So my goal for November was to write 10,000 words into my new novella.  All I can say is: FAIL!

In my defense, I actually started out pretty well.  I was writing every day and it felt kind of nice.  And then... I hit a wall.  It got to the point where I knew exactly where the story was headed but I wasn't exactly sure how I was going to get there.  For two days I tried to work through it by just writing down whatever with the intention of going back and fixing it.

But then I had a wake up call.  After the second day's attempt, I thought to myself: "Wait a minute... I hate forcing plots and writing whatever garbage comes to mind."  I mean, it was for that exact reason that I decided to not major in Literature in college.  I knew I would get burnt out if I was constantly required to churn out what was, in my mind, sub-par work.

So I put the novella aside for a little while to let it marinade.  But it wasn't a totally unproductive month!  Here's the tally:

  • 3,000 words into new novella
  • 2,000 word short story written and published
  • 1,000 word description for sci-fi blog written and published as free ebook
  • 2 short flash fiction stories for new collection I've slowing been putting together
  • 300 more words into non-fiction ebook I've been putting together
  • Numerous blogs
So I was just shy of 10,000 words.  Whatever.  I feel no remorse!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Last Moment by Alain Gomez

She places her hand in his.

Fingers twine together.

So many memories it makes them both smile.

He closes his eyes one last time.