Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Review of "The Movie Maker," a single story in a collection by Chris Turner

A collection of ten gripping speculative fiction tales:

. . . a gang of teens discover clues to their heritage and unsettling facts about their backward world
. . . a university student develops an innovation to revolutionize the holographic film industry
. . . alien pirates compel a pilot to know what it means to be alien
. . . a hybrid man struggles for freedom on a mining planet
. . . solar power in the new age is in jeopardy
. . . and more!

Brace yourself for an elaborate food metaphor because I really feel this is the best way to describe how I feel about "The Movie Maker."  Here it goes:

When you read a good book it's like having a three course meal.  You know you're in it for the long haul and a lot has to go in how each courses will mix with each other.  A good short story, on the other hand, needs to be like a perfect one-bite snack.  A lot of thought and care needs to go into what you're putting on that one cracker because it has to taste both complete and be memorable.

As I read this story I felt like it was a rushed dining experience.  The type where the food was good but the sit-down experience was totally cancelled out by the need to get me in an out of that restaurant as fast as possible.  Turner has an engaging style of writing but basically took a concept that should have been fleshed out and crammed it into a few thousand words.

If you are a consistant reader of this blog you will know that it is significant when I say: this would have been way better as a novel.  With large jumps in the plot's timeline, switching between moments of intense detail and then no detail at all, plus a kind of half-hearted romance... I have to wonder if maybe the author was indecisive about what kind of story he really wanted to make.

Overall, Turner has a lot of potential as a speculative fiction storyteller.  I would definitely recommend checking his work out.  His writing and ideas are solid there just needs to be... more.

3/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this collection on Amazon or B&N.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Self-Employed Writer

For some reason the term "self-employed" seems to have a sort of mystical power.  I'm not even kidding.  I speak from experience.  People ask me what I do for a living and I tell them I am a violin teacher.  The follow up question is usually where I work and I tell them I'm self-employed.  That's when I get one of two looks:

Look Option 1:  The cynical look.  I am clearly full of it and probably make no money because I am a self-employed music teacher.  If I was any good at what I do I would be working for a school.

Look Option 2:  The enamored look.  I am a wild and crazy musician living the dream life of freedom.  No rules or conventions could hold ME back.

In reality I am somewhere in between those two.  I do make a living off of my self-employed teaching state.  I choose not to work in schools because that is a totally different type of teaching that is really not my cup of tea.

I can set my own schedule but being self-employed actually takes quite a bit of work.  I have to spend quite a bit of time at the computer responding to emails.  I get no healthcare benefits or paid vacations.  Plus I have to keep track of every business expense if I want to have any hope of tax rebates.

What this is all leading to is the fact that self-published ebook writers are self-employed individuals.  Even if you only make a few cents a year from it, the same rules still apply.  Establishing a self-employed business takes time.  It's not a get rich quick scheme.  At best you can reasonably hope for steady income that allows you to support yourself.

 But reaching this point will take years.  Any startup business takes 2-5 years to establish.  It also takes consistant effort on the part of the owner (that would be you).  So if you write one ebook and then don't do anything to promote your business for 6 months, don't expect sales to be the same.

If you are writing as a hobby, that's fine.  But you still need to approach it in a professional manner regardless of how much money you make.  Acting like a professional, even if it's just online, is crucial.  It's ok to appear "like a human."  But at the core you still must be a professional.  If you want people to treat your work seriously, you must take your craft seriously.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Review of "The Bone of St. Isis," a single story in a collection by Chris Turner

A collection of twelve original fantasy-adventure tales:

. . . a thief with a conscience takes on the formidable Magistrar
. . . a warrior monk avenges his fallen master after falling prey to a mysterious seductress
. . . an upstart swordswoman battles a mechanical abomination at a famous tournament
. . . treasure hunters disturb an ancient menace – who will appease the guardian?
. . . a healer must wield the infamous Tithys to protect her clan
. . . and more!

I was very impressed with Turner's grasp of the fantasy genre.  He clearly gets how to set that kind of mood.  If you've ever tried to write fantasy you will know that it's not easy creating this type of universe.  Authors will frequently resort to using lots of terms th'at h'ave excessi've com'mas.  Because commas are exotic.  Or something.

Turner falls into no such trap there.  His scenery descriptions are rich and detailed and his characters are interesting.  As a chapter from a larger novel, I feel like this story would have been excellent.  As a short story, I would say that Turner was a bit too verbose.

This particular story is just shy of 10,000 words.  So it's bordering on a novelette.  In my opinion there is just a little too much lingering on the scenery before we come to what ends up being a very well-written action sequence involving a creepy labyrinth.

Short stories must be precise and to the point.  So in that sense, "Bones of St. Isis" is lacking.  But this verbose quality is actually what makes Turner an excellent fantasy writer.  So if you're into the genre, this is definitely an author worth checking out.

3.5/5 stars
Revewied by Alain Gomez

Buy this collection on Amazon or B&N.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Ignorance is.... bliss?

I recently received a review of Celebrity Space that kind of embodies what I've been saying for a long time is the biggest issue for short story writers: ignorance.

Here's the review:

"Ok I read it. It isn't much of a story, I'm not even sure what happened. Maybe as an outline for a story twice or even 3X as long it wound be good. i don't think you can write a good story this short"

It's a two star review.  It's neither the first two star review I've received nor the harshest.  The first part is just him saying he didn't care for it.  I'm fine with that.  What bothers me about this review is the last line.  It basically says it didn't matter what words I had written on the page.  The reviewer didn't care for the story because there weren't enough of them.

Maybe this guy is a reading connoisseur and has read hundreds of short stories to finally come to this opinion.  But I doubt it.  I think he would be shocked if someone gave him a list of movies he probably enjoys that are based off of short stories.

But the point of this post is really not to rail on this guy.  What I wanted to show is that if you are a short story author the biggest hurdle you're going to have to jump is ignorance.  Not just like or don't like.  The general public these days does not understand the purpose of a short story.

So while you further yourself as an author, make a point to educate your public as well.  Maybe tell them about short stories you've read and why you liked them.  Do blog posts on the differences between novels and short stories.  That way there is a higher likelihood of someone buying your short story and hating/loving the content, not just obsessing over the length.