Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Review of "Smite Me, Oh Dark One," short story by Steve Thomas

Acerbus hates his job. While he is content to watch and study the mortal races, the other gods constantly look for reasons to destroy their newly-created world. When they finally find an excuse, they command Acerbus to become the Smiter, destroyer of all creation.

Armed with nothing but spite and goblins, Acerbus decides that there is only one way to ensure his own failure and save the world: by becoming an Evil Overlord.

This is an absolutely delightful story.  Thomas has such a fun style of writing!  "Smite Me" was a perfect blend of whimsy, humor and thought-provoking ideas.  I frequently found myself laughing out loud as I read though this story.  The way Acerbus interacts with his fellow gods is priceless.

While this story remains engaging throughout, I found myself a tad confused in the middle.  It was unclear to me why any of the gods, including our main character, would obey the main god, Lux.  Acerbus constantly seems torn between obeying the commands of Lux and just doing whatever he feels like.  But other than a serious frown, it doesn't seem like Lux had any power whatsoever over Acerbus.

What this led to were a few "whys" for me at the end.  Why did things unfold the way that they did?  Why did Acerbus have to find loopholes when he could clearly defy Lux without being any worse for wear?

But those are just trivial little points that I noticed.  It didn't really affect what was, overall,  a very solid, enjoyable reading experience.  "Smite Me" is fast paced and will put a smile on your face.  I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys short, fun fiction.

4/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this story on Amazon or Smashwords.  Currently listed as "free" at both locations.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Interview with Author Hugh Howey

Welcome to Book Brouhaha! Why don't you start out by introducing yourself and telling us a little about "Wool."

Thanks for having me, Alain! I suppose I'm just this normal guy who just wrote a little story called Wool. It's about a group of people who live underground. When their society turns on itself, it threatens all of mankind. In a way, it poses the conundrum of every revolution: How do you destroy an unjust social structure without the collateral damage being worse than the injustices were?

I suppose the most interesting thing about me, personally, is that I lived on a sailboat while I was in college. This led to a career as a yacht captain, which sent me all over the Caribbean and the East Coast. I didn't start writing in earnest until my wife dragged me away from the sea and into the mountains. I've always loved the short form. I've been told that it isn't as marketable, even though science fiction has a long and glorious history of celebrating shorter works. It's strange, then, that my fame is growing on the backs of one of my smaller pieces.

Your novelette, Wool, really seems to be taking off! Just the other day you had mentioned on Kindleboards the possibility of a movie contract. Very exciting! Do you think that some of the success of the story is due in part to the word count (a "mere" 12,000 words) of the story or in spite of it?

I think if I'd stopped with the first Wool story, I wouldn't be quite where I am today. Ridley Scott wouldn't have optioned the work for film. It was following it up with more novellas and sating reader demand that really pushed me over the edge. The Wool series ended up being a serialized story, with releases coming more quickly than traditional sequels. I think early readers enjoyed this process as much as I did. And luckily, the end result hangs together nicely as a novel. It's a publishing method I hope to employ again some day.

Despite the fact that you have clearly written a well-crafted tale, I see you've still acquired a few of the reviews all short story authors fear: "Well written BUT too short..." Do you think this is an attitude that will eventually change as more and more short fiction becomes published?

I hope so. E-readers are a natural fit for works of all length, as there's no publication costs to satisfy. As for the bad reviews, I don't understand giving something a 1-star mark because you loved it but you think the length is incorrect. I charge the minimum allowed for the first Wool story (and way under-price all my other works as well), so it is a bit baffling. Still, I've learned to take these comments as a compliment. I've set aside many books as a reader that I couldn't get into enough to want to finish. The works I really loved were the ones I hated to see end. Also: if readers hadn't clamored for more, there's probably would be any more!

On Amazon you have a little disclaimer about how you are charging the absolute minimum for your ebook and that you make far less on standalones than you do on your collection. Why do you feel that this explanation is necessary?

Because some people who came late to the party and saw the individual entries thought I was trying to maximize my earnings. As you probably know, the opposite is true. Authors make half the royalty rate on less expensive works, which means you need to sell quite a few short stories before you can buy yourself a cup of coffee. To head these comments off at the pass, I finally decided to include something in the product description. It isn't the reader's responsibility to know and understand Amazon's royalty rates. It's my duty to inform them.

Despite the rich history behind science fiction short stories, they can be a tough sell these days. Any promotional tips for authors trying to work in niche markets?

Give your work away until you can afford to charge for it. I've been posting my shorts for free on my website for ages. I gave Wool to anyone who would even express a slight interest in reading it (and many others who did nothing more than glance my direction!). Most of all, write because you love it. Do it for the joy, and you can't go wrong. I don't have a single bad memory of the years I spent writing while working a day job. In fact, those were some of the happiest writing moments of my life!

Thanks, Hugh!  Readers, you can check out his work on Amazon and stop by his website to see upcoming projects.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Concept Behind "Worth the Risk" by Alain Gomez

This particular story is a standalone I have available on Amazon, BN, etc. that takes place in my Muzik Chronicles universe.  Muzik Chronicles is my serial sci-fi blog I started it a little over six months ago.  It's kind of like a weekly comic strip only blog-style.  The goal is to eventually have it be a place where people could submit their own little mini adventures.

On the blog, all adventures are flash fiction in that they are under 1,000 words.  In an effort to help attract a wider audience, I created this longer short story featuring one of my reoccurring characters, Calen Natari. 

I really enjoy writing these stories.  They're to create.  I guess they let me relive my Star Wars fandom from when I was little?  It helps me to unleash the geek within?  I dunno.  What I do know is that I hated it when the Star Wars books got really serious.  To me, that totally defeats the purpose.  There's just something very comforting about the heros that always make it out alive to save the day. 

As one quick side-note: I've been working with concept artist Andrew de Guzman to help spice up my blog.  He's been doing a fantastic job making me pictures of the various planets, weapons, races and ships I've described on Muzik Chronicles.  This cover art is his latest creation.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Review of "Terror in London," short story by Shane Ward

A London bus driver runs into a gang of youths who begin a campaign
of terror in London. Will these reeling events take more than the streets?

Though never flat out stated, this short story references the riots that took place in London a few months back.  As far as I remember, the youth of London were upset about the lack of jobs.  Or something along those lines.  Which leads to problem I had with this story...

While Ward's writing is solid and engaging, much of the impact a piece like this could have is lost due to my lack of knowledge of the events taking place.  Our protagonist is is a normal-guy-turned-hero that has the unfortunate luck to just be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  However, if the reader is not up-to-date on current events, they would have no idea as what is going on in the story.

I get that Ward was trying to convey "the untold story."  When the real life events were taking place, the media really focused on London's youth and how they were getting out of control.  This story is about an innocent civilian that falls victim to their destruction.

But a story such as this needs to present the reader with enough information in order to pick sides.  It could have been such an easy fix for our protagonist to have been listening to the news on the radio or something where the riots are explained.  Otherwise I'm left with nothing.  What if the hoodlums were angry because they were being unjustly treated?  What if it was a gang war?  In order for me to feel sympathy for the protagonist, I need to know what he was up against. 

2.5/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this story on Amazon.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

How Do I Market to a Young Adult Audience?

This has been a problem I've really been mulling over for several weeks now.  I write a serial sci-fi blog that could be enjoyed by anyone but is aimed at a young adult audience.  The problem is figuring out how to get that audience to notice.

From an SEO standpoint the blog is slowly gaining traffic but not as fast as some of the others I've started.  When you write about "short stories" and "kindles," Google is quick to pick up on that stuff.  When the blog consists mostly of sci-fi terms... different story.

I've tried emailing/calling middle school teachers with not much luck.  Schools are really particular these days about who they invite as a guest lecturer.  I suppose I should try using my teacher contacts?

I have a twitter account for the blog which does help to generate some hits.  I make a point of following my target reader types regularly.

But still.

I guess I'm just going to have to let age help this one?  I mean, it's not like I have Amazon to help me along here.  Anyone else been in a similar situation with a really targeted audience?