Wednesday, July 25, 2012

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!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

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

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.

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 a short story).  The first few opening paragraphs really did nothing to alleviate this confusion as there was no one line that gives the reader a clear idea as to what is going on.   Add to that the fact that many of the characters had nicknames that were used interchangably.

But Attwood's story is definitely worth toughing out to the end.  Eventually you start to sort out the characters and their relationship to each other.  The nagging suspicion that the town of "Peculiar" is just a little off becomes fully confirmed.

What actually made this story so charming for me is that there really isn't a "point" to it.  It falls in that short story grey area where you really couldn't classify it under any one genre.  It wouldn't do it justice. It's a funny story for a story's sake.

All three pieces in this collection are just as strong.  So if you are a fan of the whimsical short story, I would highly recommend picking up this work.

4/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this collection on Amazon or B&N.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

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

In the town of Kaiyeth on the edge of Birviod wood, Kenhesho discovers the power of fear. A Tale of the Shining Lands.

**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. Kenhesho was driven by fear and then fear turned on him.  But that in and of itself is a very powerful concept and should have been more fully played up.  His death should have dragged out a tiny bit longer in order to see the change of the fearful becoming the feared.

But, overall, this was a face-paced, enjoyable story and well worth the read.  I would recommend it to anyone that likes action fantasy.   

3.5/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this story on B&N.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

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 in the foot by trying to sell everything at 99 cents.

Personally, I think this is a skewed view for several reasons.  Dean is unquestionably successful at his writing.  I won't even try to argue otherwise.  But he came into ebooks already established from the old business model.  Same goes for Joe Konrath.  Those guys are correct in that we should value our work but they still have what a lot of us lack: established readership.

And I mean established readership on two levels.  The first is just people that are familiar enough with your author name to trust that they will probably enjoy any new works you produce.  The second level is you as an author have enough writing experience and have developed your style to the point that even if you published a book under an unknown pen name, it would probably appeal to that same target audience.

Dean and Joe are aware of the first level.  But I think that they often discount the second level while doing their "calculations."  It takes years to fully mature as a writer.  To hit that point where you are both writing what you want to write and able to factor in the needs of your paying audience.

A few weeks ago I interviewed Hugh Howey and he said something that I think is really important:  "Give your work away until you can afford to charge for it."  Frankly, setting your book at $2.99 out of principle and then having it never sell is a waste of time.  You're not establishing your readership.  And if you are fresh into the ebook business, readers are your editors.  The feedback that you get from reviews is really the only way you can refine your skill.

So, yes, value your work.  But also realize that if you want to make a living at it you first need paying readers.