Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"Parking Space" by Alain Gomez

“This place makes absolutely no sense.”

“Tell me about it. And I have no idea who we could even talk to for directions.”

“Pull our options up on the screen. We need to figure out who would be the best representative.”

“Just a moment… hmm… all right here’s a complete list… I think.”

“What about Russia? They seem to have the most land.”

“But not the most people.”

“Good point. Why do they need so much land then?”

“Beats me.”

“Ok it looks like this place called China has the most people and the biggest military.”

“But not the most militaristic. Look at this number here. Korea has fewer people but more of those people are signed up to be soldiers.”

“Is that important?”

“Maybe? This species is always always fighting. Maybe we need to find the best warrior among them?”

“That sort of makes sense. However, they must not be very good warriors. Not one of them has managed to conquer the entire planet. Earth isn’t that big.”

“Fairly small, actually. Do you remember Germok the Great? His reign ended… I dunno… three centuries ago or so?”

“Haha! I do! Now that was a warrior the humans could learn a few tricks from. Eight planets in eight days!”

“The natives didn’t even have a chance… Okay, forget looking for a warrior. These humans can’t even get that right. What about the most successful?”

“I’m not sure that’s the answer either. No one government seems to be all-powerful. They all owe currency to each other. Plus, they all have different government structures and they all have problems.”

“Why would they all owe currency to each other? Wouldn’t that logically mean they’re not in debt? These humans have a strange notion of success. Perhaps the oldest government then is the most successful?”

“Maybe… hmm… no, according to this list, Earth’s oldest governments don’t seem to be any better off than the others.”

“Ugh. Forget it then. Let’s move on to the next planet.”

“But the technology we were going to share would change the course of their history!”

“That may be but this species wouldn’t know what to do with it even if we gave them step-by-step instructions. We’ll come back in another century. Maybe then they’ll have organized this mess.”

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Review of "Circe's Pool," short story by Pen Clements

The water nymphs love their crystal pavilion and the sparkling waters flowing through it. So much so they can't be bothered to fulfill their bargain with Circe, the island's sorceress.

It's time the pleasure seeking, comfort loving creatures are taught a lesson. And who better than a sorceress to give it to them?

I liked the idea behind this piece.  One really cool thing about the dawn of ebooks is that authors now how the freedom to bring back the fairy tale.  I love fairy tales.  I purposely seek them out to read and have delved into some of the lesser-known fair tale writers (Oscar Wilde, for example, has a whole collection).

It's difficult to really define what separates a fairy tale from just a regular fantasy story.  For me, one big thing is the moral/life lesson undercurrent.  "Circe's Pool" definitely has that feel.  The nymphs are lazy and must be taught a lesson.

However, the lesson they learn was just a little too tepid.  In fairy tales it's completely permissible for the bad to end really bad and for the good to have an over-the top happily-ever-after.  I feel like Clements could have done more of that.  If a morality point is going to be driven home I not only need to know what happens if I'm productive and open-minded, I also need to know what happens if I can't learn my lesson.

3/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez
Buy this story on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Theory: Use separate pen names for short stories

I am a short story writer.  I'm also something of an anomaly in that I exclusively write short fiction.  No novels for me just yet.  I'm having too much fun with the short stuff.  But you know what I was thinking?  IF (big if) I did attempt a novel, I would probably write it under a completely different pen name.


Two facts come to mind:

1)  Novels sell better than short stories.  They just do.  They're more mainstream and, frankly, there are more people out there that want to curl up and be lost in a book for hours than there are people who want to savor and contemplate.

2)  A large part of a short story writer's success is branding and expectations.  People go IN to an Edgar Allen Poe story expecting it to be shorter.

It's impossible for a short story writer to completely avoid those scathing "too short" 1-star reviews.  They happen.  But the reason why they happen is because of reader expectations.  The buyer wanted a long book, they got a short story.  1 star.

I see many authors sell a mix of short stories and novels.  Even famous ones do this.  But I'm not sure this is a smart business move.  Put all the description and page count numbers you want, if your fans became a fan because of novels, there is a good chance they will be disappointed by a short story.  People can't help it.  They want more of the same.  They don't want a sappy, romantic Clive Cussler.  They want action-packed Clive Cussler.

When someone buys one of my novelettes and then a few days later buys the rest of the stories in the series, I know I don't have to worry about getting "too short" reviews.  They've already read book 1 and they want more of the same.  Therefore, if I put more novelettes out under that same name, people learn to associate that with this author they are getting this length of a reading experience.  Reader expectations have been made.

Which is why I would probably start a new pen name for any future novels.  I want a clean set of expectations.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Review of "My Mother's Shadow," a single short story in a collection by M. Eigh

This collection packs eight exquisite short fiction from M. Eigh, including Bitter Tea and Braided Hair, My Mother's Shadow, Oscar’s Extraordinary Life, Planned, Dear Teresa, The Manchurian Express, A Eulogy for Edwin Bogardus, Not A Bad Day and Double Sauté.

All of the stories have been previously published by very selective professional or semi-professional literary magazines and some of them have been re-printed since their first publication.

A truly beautiful piece of short fiction.  What it lacks in action it makes up for in literary depth.  There are a lot of layers to this story, each interesting enough to mull over for some time.

I was impressed with how easily M. Eigh introduces his racist world.  In just a few short paragraphs that contain no blatant description you understand the conflict and empathize with the characters.  I appreciated the symbolic use of shadows.  It was a clever literary reference to other literary references.  

I only wish there was a little more emotion attached to the mother.  This story is told from the point of view of a young child.  But I felt these innocent emotions could have been more balanced.  I was sympathetic with the mother's cause more than the mother herself.

All in all, though, an excellent piece.  This collect is well worth picking up if you're in the mood for a bit of literary fiction to read with a glass of nice wine.

4/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this collection on Amazon.