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Showing posts from 2012

Diversification and Selling Short Stories

I am going to make a rather bold statement about short stories and say that the only thing that ensures an increase of overall writing income over a prolonged period of time is diversification.

The number one mistake people make is publishing a single short story in a single genre.  The story never sells so they automatically assume there's no money to be had publishing shorter works.  Not true.

Publishing short stories is a constant process of throwing spagetti on the wall and seeing what sticks.  It's stupid to put all your hopes on a single strand.  This type of mentality should be left to the novel writers as they slave for years over their supposed masterpiece.  Short story writers don't have this kind of luxury.

You must experiment and you must make your work available to as many readers as possible.  My sales increased once I stopped thinking that I was a sci-fi short story writer and started thinking that I was a short story writer.  I branched out.  I started new…

SFWG 2012 Speculative Fiction Contest RESULTS

We would like to thank everyone that took the time to submit to our first contest. We received a number of very intriguing stories that led to some fun discussions for us. SFWG does plan on making contests a regular part of our yearly events. So there will certainly be more prizes to earn in the future!

And now for the results!

First Prize goes to Aaron Engler for his story “Event Zero.” You can read this story for freehere. Second Prize goes to Erin Lawless for her story “Deadlands.” You can read about the collection containing this storyhere. Third Prize goes to Anthony Stevens for his story “Statuary.” You can read this story for freehereand read about his upcoming projecthere.

Short Fiction Writers Guild

Review of "Low-Budget Monster Flick," a single story in a collection by Mary Anna Evans

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Summary: An eight-year-old girl who has just watched as her sister was kidnapped... A nurse who holds the lives of a mother and child in her hands... A makeup artist who has just found a murdered starlet on a movie set... Find these characters and more in this book-length collection of short works by Mary Anna Evans, author of the Faye Longchamp mysteries. This collection includes stories and essays originally published in anthologies including FLORIDA HEAT WAVE, A KUDZU CHRISTMAS, MYSTERY READERS JOURNAL, NORTH FLORIDA NOIR, MYSTERY MUSES, and A MERRY BAND OF MURDERERS, as well as never-before published stories by Evans. Bonuses include a story by guest author Libby Fischer Hellmann and an excerpt from her environmental thriller WOUNDED EARTH. Mary Anna Evans is a recipient of the Mississippi Author Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award, a Florida Book Awards Bronze Medal, the Patrick D. Smith Florida Literature Award. KIRKUS REVIEWS called her latest release, PLUNDER, "delightfull…

Genre and the Short Story

Short stories generally tend to belong to more artsy genres.  By this I mean that's it's not at all uncommon to classify a short story as a fantasy/fairy tale/sci-fi/young adult/thriller hybrid.

For a novel, this would probably end up being confusing for the reader.  But often for a short story, it makes perfect sense.  Starting mid-action in order to lead up to a slightly twisted ending often requires pulling elements from multiple mainstream genres.

While fun to write and even more fun to read, the lack of clear genre makes it tricky to market to your target reader.  Therefore, it's important to keep two things in mind:

1)  Who is your target reader?  Think about the personality type of the person shopping around and let that be your guide.  For example, say your story is a bittersweet romance with supernatural elements.  At first glance, this type of story could fall under "paranormal" and "romance."  But is your story the type of plot those shopper…

Review of "Christmas Past," a short story by Owen Adams

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Summary: The Time Travel story with a dark side.

A man died while the snow fell. His body would be hidden until summer, but there are strangers in the woods today. During a long forgotten Christmas, three time travellers come to town; is their presence just a coincidence or are there darker secrets hidden beneath the ice.

Review: An interesting time travel piece that has a classic cult sci-fi feel.  I really enjoyed Adams' style of writing.  He spoon-feeds you details in a way that keeps one engaged throughout the story.  His descriptions are sparse yet concise.  It doesn't take long to form the complete scenario in your mind.
The story unfolds at a nice pace, becoming more and more intriguing with each page turn.  Who are the time travelers?  What do they want from the man they were trying to track down?  And then.... it just ends.  Vague inferences are made on what the protagonists are up to, but not enough.  I don't need all of my questions answered.  Just some of them. …

SFWG Speculative Fiction Competition!

We at SFWG are happy to announce our first Speculative Fiction Competition!
Submission Guidelines:
Entries have a limit of 5,000 words. Stories beyond that will not be considered.Stories may be previously published.The genre is restricted to speculative fiction (fantasy, horror, or science fiction).Entries will be accepted beginning on November 12, 2012.Entry Deadline: December 1, 2012.All submissions should be sent as a PDF attachment to shortfictionwriters@gmail.com with “SFWG Contest” as the subject.
We will announce the winners by the end of the year.  For more details check out the website:  http://shortfictionwritersguild.wordpress.com/contests/speculative-fiction-competition/

First Place: Will be featured on the SFWG Blog, announced on various forums and websites, included in a future Anthology (with your approval), given an SFWG logo and winner image that can be used on your book cover, and receive a free original cover art design from C.C. Kelly Studios (valued at $300) for your …

Announcing the Start of the Short Fiction Writers Guild!

Mission Statement

“The Short Fiction Writers Guild (SFWG) celebrates and promotes all genres of short fiction in an effort to share the entertainment of the form with new readers, provides a robust marketing platform to expand market viability and profit potential for the works of its members, and offers a range of services to help members improve as writers, while embracing the virtues of honesty, professionalism, and integrity.”

The SFWG invites writers of all genres to discuss and improve their work, take advantage of promotional opportunities, participate in writing contests, and publish in our Anthologies. We are also planning to add additional services and promotional opportunities soon. Please bookmark this thread as we will make all announcements regarding SFWG here and on our Facebook page. We invite everyone to explore the site and see how SFWG can help you in your writing and your career.

Member Benefits

Beta Reading
Marketing/Cross-promotion
Ability to trade professional se…

Review of "Send Krupac Through the Portal," a single story in a collection by Tony Rauch

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Summary: A man comes home to discover a Bigfoot-like creature watching his tv, a giant robot pays a visit to a couple, a new kid has some unusual toys to share, an inventor creates a gorgeous robot in order to meet women, a girl becomes so ill she has her head replaced with a goat head, someone wakes to discover little eyes growing all over his body, small, hairy creatures come looking to retrieve an object they had misplaced, and a boy finds an unusual pair of sunglasses in the weeds. These are the whimsical, surreal adventures of Tony Rauch.

Review: **May Contain Spoilers**
This story has the effortless ease about it that one gets from an author that has been writing for awhile and knows his "writing voice."  It's both entertaining and whimsical.  Outlandish ideas seem like perfectly reasonable solutions.
Since the summary does not cover this particular story's plot, I will briefly recap.  It's about a man that has been rejected by the woman he loves.  So with t…

Pen Names, Promotion and Productivity

A few months ago I branched out and started some new pen names.  Despite my normally calm and collected appearance, I inwardly brooded over this for a really long time before finally deciding to take the plunge.  I worried about having to divide my time writing and promoting.  I worried about losing my current audience.  I worried about why I was so worried.

Then I was like, who was I kidding?  What audience am I losing?  I've only been publishing (at the time) for a year and a half and I write wacky science fiction short stories.  Which means that my niche audience is probably 1 out of every 100 billion people that shop on Amazon.  I haven't been around long enough to have a cult following.

So I took a chance.  I waited a few months to see if any guilt has set in and it hasn't.  In fact, the opposite occurred.  I now feel totally liberated as a writer.  I don't feel the need to cater to a particular audience.  If I want to write something totally different, I do it.

Review of "Silver Elvis," a single story in a collection by Michael Ramberg

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Summary:
A compilation of four previously published stories from Minnesota writer Michael Ramberg. Ramberg's dark wit, combined with a strong compassion, creates memorable, oddball journeys through modern landscapes.

The Downstream Crossing:
A young man takes a woman on a riverboat cruise as an internet date; he jumps from the boat to save a girl, and ends up on a long, strange downriver odyssey.

Silver Elvis
Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol star in the tale of fame and jealousy in old New York City. Inspired by actual events!

First Avenue
Beige is approaching thirty, balding, lonely, and insecure. Can a night at the local dance institution save him, or just drive him over the edge?

Obituary
A short short about a homeless man's discovery of the death of his mother.

Review:
This story was, unfortunately, a very poor reading experience.  To start, there was a lack of basic grammar and syntax.  This is a direct copy/paste of a portion of dialogue:

– Why we here? Bob said suddenly.
– I d…

Share Your Web Fiction on Reddit!

This post is addressed to those of you that write/read web fiction.  And who are interested in Reddit.  The rest of you can just bugger off.

Ok, now that I've scared everyone away, I can continue this conversation with myself in peace.

I've been writing a serialized scifi blog for about a year now as a sort of for fun project.  Lately though I've been looking into different ways to tap the very niche audience that actually follows web fiction.  It's been kind of cool!  For example, there's a whole web serial branch of NaNoWriMo called WebSeWriMo (Web Serial Writing Month).  Whodathunk?!

Seeing as there was no Reddit category for web fiction, I decided to start my own: http://www.reddit.com/r/webfiction/

For those of you unfamiliar with Reddit, it's basically a place to share links.  So you post a link, people can vote it up or down and then comment on it.  Think of it as a fast-paced hub for sharing the latest funny cat video.

If you're an author it's r…

Review of "Love in a Cafe," a single story in a collection by Ted Gross

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Summary:
Ancient Tales, Modern Legends, a short story collection by Ted William Gross presents the reader with engaging and thought-provoking stories spanning the ages. Covering subjects of love, loss, pain, desire, need, frustration and hope these stories are meant to entertain as well leave an indelible impression upon the reader. Ted Gross cleverly combines ancient lore in his "Tiny Slivers From A Silver Horn" weaving Unicorns, the story of Adam & Eve and the modern world into a tale of lost wisdom and gained hope. "Love In A Cafe" moves the reader within the soft aura of love until the surprise ending. "Elijah's Coins" leaves us wondering about the great "what if" of life and just how blessed or cursed it would make us to change the future. "Reverieing" is a glimpse of the slow descent of one individual into his own personal hell. "Addiction, Obsession, Love", "Tenuous Webs" & "And So They Dance…

Happy Publishing Birthday To Me!

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Yes, that's right.  I just sang a birthday song TO ME.  Muahaha!  Now before you roll your eyes, I only do these basking in the glow of my own glory and personal growth posts once a year.  So you're just going to have to deal because I like them and it's a way for me to journal my uphill progress.

Moving on...

It's hard to believe another year has already gone by!  It seems like I was just writing my one year anniversary post.   For nostalgic purposes I went back and reread it and I thought, "Wow! A lot has happened since then!"

If I remember correctly, this time last year I was feeling like I was by no means achieving financial success but I at least had a handle on what it would take to make it in the self-publishing industry.  Yes, I could spend gobs of money and have better everything (covers, ads, writing, etc...) but at least I knew what it would take.  And then going, "Ok, this isn't so bad.  I can do this."

So while at one year I was st…

Review of "Idea Man," a single story in a collection by Carole Fowkes

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Summary:
Two short stories straight from a writer's nightmares and two scrumptious, original recipes.

In Out of Character, a novelist who prides herself on creating realistic characters, is writing a gritty murder mystery. Unfortunately, her story takes a more personal turn when her villain is bent on making her his next victim.

To what lengths would a highly successful novelist go to overcome her writer’s block?

In Idea Man, Lucinda’s muse materializes in his thong bathing suit and offers her a story she can’t refuse.

Review:
An amusing story about an author that has finally hit the end of her rope but help arrives just in the nick of time.  Despite the somewhat unconventional appearance of Lucinda's muse, what else is a writer to do but go along for the ride?

I found myself enjoying this story quite a bit.  Fowkes has a charming style of writing that may not make you laugh out loud but will definitely keep you smiling throughout.  I found myself getting really involved with…

KDP Select and Short Stories?

KDP Select hasn't been treatin' me well.  I've tried to make the relationship work!  Every time we break up I think maybe I could have done something different.... maybe we should try again....

But no.
I just can't seem to get any short stories to catch on with KDP Select.  I've tried:
-Collections
-Various genres
-Altering the level of promotion I do on free days
-When I do free days
There's more.  I've even tried putting stories on there that sell regularly.  They continue to sell regularly without any noticeable difference in sales numbers.  But I've yet to have a single copy borrowed.  Which means the only pro is five free days.
Is this worth it?
Ehhhhhhh...... I'm thinking not.  iTunes, Sony and Kobo are turning into three of my main sources for sales.  Frankly, that's worth way more to me than five freebie days.  If someone is shopping online, comes across one of my stories and then is intrigued enough to buy it, that ONE sale is worth so …

Review of "Albert Got Shot," short story by Barbara House

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Summary:   Albert's an aging rock star who escapes the big city to kick back on a lake in the wilderness . . . no manager, no groupies, no tour bus . . . when out of the blue a hunter blasts the living chopsticks out of his shoulder. Instead of finding himself in a nice cushy ambulance, Albert wakes up in a remote cabin with the man who shot him. The shooter guards the lake, standing by it into the late hours of the night, staring at a strange a light in the depths that only he can see.
Review: Another excellent story by House.  This author continues to display her clear strength in creating deep, interesting characters with surprisingly few words.  We barely have a chance to meet Albert before he is thrown into his hair-raising adventure but immediately there is sympathy for him as a character.
I really enjoyed "Albert."  If you actually take it at face value it's a science fiction horror story.  But it's written with such whimsy that you find yourself laughing a…

Dear Readers of Earth,

Books are a product.  Yes, they may transport you to other worlds and absorb your time for hours but they are a product nonetheless.

This means that someone created this product, packaged it and then put it up for sale for your buying pleasure.  While the seller's job is to sell, he or she is also obligated to inform the general public what kind of product is being sold.  That is the seller's legal and moral responsibility.  

But this is a two way street!

It is the buyer's job to be educated in order to make informed purchases.  If the seller says their cereal is 100% sugar, it is the buyer's job to do a few minutes of research to find out if eating all-sugar cereal for breakfast every morning is a good health choice.  It would be foolish to rely on the seller for the total picture.  Sure, that cereal could be part of a complete breakfast.  But which part?  Dessert?

Therefore, if ebooks are something that interest you as a buyer, you must take a few minutes to resear…

My Thoughts Are Worth More Than A Value Meal (…At Least I Think They Are), guest post by Dennis B. Boyer

I write short fiction.

Very short fiction, typically. I have a terse style and I enjoy writing short tales. Particularly flash-fiction. I love very-short stories. My favorite author is Fredric Brown.

However, my following thoughts are uncharacteristically verbose, so I warn you now.

It’s been discussed before, but I’m new to the game. So I’m going to bring it up again. Join me, if you wish.

I’ve always written stories. In high-school and college I wrote all the time. But I never got picked up by traditional publishing. Sure a short-story here or there in some small lit mag or science-fiction zine. But I was never going to be the next big, breakout writer. So I largely put it away, focusing instead on more productive things. Work, family, you know… “real life”.

And then I bought my wife an e-reader last Christmas. She wanted one so I got her an Amazon Kindle. I was high-brow, so I wasn’t interested in an e-reader; I preferred “real” books. But when my wife was preoccu…

Review of "A Good Nanny," short story by Barbara House

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Summary: Maude Barrow smokes too much, drinks Wild Turkey, and desperately needs a job. When she sees a classified ad for a nanny in the wealthy Munford home, she fakes her resume and references, lies her way into the position, and seems to have it made. . . until they ask her to sign a contract with a mysterious, ominous clause.
Review: This story is fun though not exactly subtle.  House does an excellent job creating a likable antihero with the nanny.  Sure, the nanny lied a little on her resume.  But it was all for the noble cause of personal comfort!  On some level, we can all relate to that.
And so our intrepid nanny gets hired by a too-good-to-be-true family to watch the children.  It's at this point that the hints start to cut in like a butter knife.  There is the ominous clause in the contract (which I won't state here but suffice to say once you read it, you have a pretty good idea as to what's up with the kids).  The ominous clause is repeated multiple times coupl…

Rebranding Old Stories with a New Pen Name

So I may be crazy.  But I did it anyway.

I started a new pen name.  Even worse, I changed the author name on stories that have already been out on the market for two years.  There is a high probability that this could turn into a gigantic headache.  Nothing lost, nothing gained, right?

And so world I would like to introduce you to the Western story branch of the Alain Gomez corporation: Annie Turner.

Will this help with sales eventually?  I have no idea.  But it was not a decision I came to lightly.  I've been thinking about it for quite some time.  I've talked to friends and family, discussed it on forums, etc.    The pros and cons seem to be equal in number.

What helped spur me into action was reading Dean Wesley Smith's blog about things authors do to shoot themselves in the foot.  One of them happens to be being shy with pen names.  He flat out states that pen names help to define reader expectations.  You see Clive Cussler and you expect a certain type of reading expe…

Review of "Seven Lives to Repay Our Country," short story by Edward Carpenter

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Summary:
The battle of Saipan pitted US Marines and Allied soldiers against the island's Japanese defenders in one of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific War. In this short story written by a US Marine, a pair of Japanese soldiers on Saipan confront the inevitability of defeat in different ways.


Review:
I had to mull over this story for awhile before I could write a review.  War stories such as this really aren't my preferred genre so I wanted to make sure that my assessment was fair.

This story switches between two main viewpoints.  The first viewpoint is a pair of Japanese grunts as they talk to each other and prepare for what will obviously be the final push.  In between these conversations is the second "greater power" viewpoint.  Basically, little snippets that read like a newspaper article with an obvious political agenda.

The exchange between the soldiers is really quite good.  Carpenter does an excellent job showing two believable characters as they cope with…

Readers Buy the Brand, Not the Story

What is a short story worth?

This seems to be a hot topic these days among indie authors.  There is this ridiculous obsession with what "readers" will think is a fair price for a story.  Some authors think that the story should be at least 5,000 words long in order to sell it for 99 cents.  Others argue it has to be 10,000 words to be worth 99 cents.  And still others (like me) will put a 2,000 story for sale at 99 cents.

You know what?  None of this arguing matters.

You want to know why?  Readers by the brand, not the story.

People don't pay $4 for a coffee.  They are paying $4 for a Starbucks coffee.  That same person would probably refuse to buy a gas station coffee for $4 because in their mind it would be a rip-off.  Gas station coffee is low quality whereas, in their mind, Starbucks provides a high quality coffee drinking experience.

The same goes for short stories.  When you first start out as an author, you are gas station coffee.  It's not that your stuff is …

There's a new blog in town: Short Fiction Spotlight

Dear Short Fiction Fans and Writers,

There's a new short story review/feature blog in town called Short Fiction Spotlight.  It's run by fellow short story writer, Jason Varrone.

Jason really liked the idea behind Book Brouhaha and Short Story Symposium and wanted to take his own stab at it.  I told him to go for it!  There are a ton of novel review blogs but very few short story friendly ones.  There definitely needs to be more places where short story authors can submit their work and not fear a scathing "so short it's a waste of time" type of review.

For reviews Jason has a strict 10,000 and under word count cap.  If you want to just have an excerpt from your story featured, he allows any story/collection that's 40,000 words and under.  For more information check out his submission guidelines.

So definitely take a moment to go over and check out this new site!

Review of "Tell Us Everything," a single story in a collection by Randy Attwood

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Summary: 3 Very Quirky Tales

In Tell Us Everything a Goth girl discovers how to plug herself into the world of the real and tell its secrets, much to the dismay of those who populate the world.

Timothy Thomas, driving home from work, looks at the driver in the next car and sees himself, not the person he is today, but the person he was 30 years ago. Are there start overs? In It Was Me (I) Timothy is about to find out.

The Notebook: When Jeremy stops by the house were he had an apartment when he was a college student and asks if he might look in the attic to see if a notebook he left there still exists, Sarah lets him in. They both discover truths they had rather not known.

Review: What an absolutely delightful piece!  What started out for me as a "what the heck..." story ended up unfolding into a genuine chuckle of a conclusion.
There was quite a lot to take at the beginning of "Tell Us Everything."  It started mid-action and had a plethora of names/characters (for …

Review of "Child of Chaos," short story by Ron Leighton

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Summary: In the town of Kaiyeth on the edge of Birviod wood, Kenhesho discovers the power of fear. A Tale of the Shining Lands.
Review: **May contain spoilers**
I have read/reviewed other work by Leighton and I have to say that his short story writing skills have vastly improved.  He's really done a good job changing the feel of his stories from "rambling" to "concise" without losing any of the fun fantasy feeling.
On that note, Leighton continues to impress with his grasp of fantasy language.  Often times you read stories in this genre and the only reason why you know it's fantasy is from the fact that they are killing orcs.  Not so with Leighton.  And he does it all without doing the "Old English" type of speech.  The end result is that you are immediately pulled into a rich other world of high fantasy.
My only gripe about this story is the end.  The death of the main character felt a little abrupt.  I get where Leighton was going with it. Kenhesh…

Dean Wesley Smith on Making a Living With Short Stories

For those of you that missed the bandwagon, Dean Wesley Smith wrote a blog post that spelled out the math behind making a living with short stories.  It's an interesting post.  Well worth the read.  It's also the same thing I said six months ago but it's always nice to know others support your theory =)

The general gist of his post as that you have to bank on both quality and quantity.  As a short story writer, you have to crank out new stories constantly and be versatile enough to spread yourself out to different genres.  I agree with all of that.  What I didn't agree with was that he suggested pricing standalone short stories around 5,000 words at $2.99.

Which is why it was interesting to me that he followed that up with another post on book pricing.  He talks about consumer expectation.  People have been conditioned to pay $5 for a coffee.  Whereas in ebook land we have a whole crowd of authors that essentially know nothing about pricing models so we shoot ourselves…

Review of "The Outlaw's Wife," a single story in a collection by Elisabeth Grace Foley

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Summary: A collection of Western short stories that go beyond the standard action and adventure of the genre to focus on character and conflict. In the award-winning "Disturbing the Peace," honorable mention in the 2010 Rope and Wire short story competition, a sheriff experiences a revelation about himself and his relationship with the people of his town, while in "The Outlaw's Wife," a country doctor worries that his young friend is falling for a married woman whose husband is rumored to be a wanted criminal. From the suspenseful "Cross My Heart" to the comedic romp of "A Rangeland Renaissance," to a Western twist on star-crossed romance in the title story, "The Ranch Next Door," these stories will appeal to a variety of readers, as well as established fans of the traditional Western.

Review: I'm kind of a sucker for westerns.  I love the setting and Foley's collection is a perfect example of how artlessly it can fit into t…

Interview with Author Daniel McInerny

Thanks for agreeing to interview, Daniel. I love your concept! I think people often forget that some of the most memorable short stories are, in fact, children's stories. Why don't you familiarize us a bit with The Kingdom of Patria?

Last summer I started a company, Trojan Tub Entertainment, which publishes and promotes my humorous Kingdom of Patria stories for middle grade readers. What is the Kingdom of Patria? Well, you've heard of the U.S. Government's mysterious Area 51? Have you ever wondered about Area 1? For 3,000 years a tiny, unknown kingdom has existed in the remote woods of what we know as northern Indiana. The kingdom was founded by a hearty bandy of refugees from the Trojan War who sailed across the Atlantic in a reconfigured Trojan Horse. Good thing they packed extra sandwiches!

In the first book in the Patria series, Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits, Oliver Stoop, age 11, moves with his family to a remote piece of land in the country, and soon di…