Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Balancing Act

It's not easy balancing publishing me with author me.  Essentially, balancing what makes money with experimental stuff.  Starting a new series in a new genre is fun for the author me but it's always a risky decision.  You're stuck with the series until the end and if turns out to have low sales numbers, it's time wasted that could have been spent writing something that was more certain to make money.

But money isn't everything.  Even if the new series never sells, it's still valuable writing experience.  The more action scenes you write, the better you become at writing them.  Every word that is put on a page teaches you more about the craft of writing which, in turn, will actually make your books sell better.  Genre isn't everything.  It can attract your audience but it can't make them buy the rest of your work.  Your work has to sell your work.

To keep me from neglecting pen names and to keep my inner author and publisher happy, I finally broke down earlier this year and made myself a writing project schedule.  I thought it would really stifle the fun but I have to say that my writing life is vastly improved because of it.

For one thing, I'm no longer wasting brain space trying to plan out when I'll be writing which installment in a series.  For another, I no longer run the risk of going a year between pen name publications (one name was neglected for almost a year and a half).

It also helps me to alternate between profitable and non-profitable projects.  For me, profitable means the series is already selling well and/or I'm starting another series that continues off of one that's already selling well.  Non-profitable means I have no idea how the series will do and/or it's a story with a very niche audience and, therefore, will be slow to move copies.

So at any one time I have two series going.  I write book 2 of one series and instead of going straight on to book 3, I'll start work on book 2 of my other series.  This only works because I write short stories so the lag time between series installments is really only a few months.  I find this system keeps me from getting disheartened due to lack of earning while at the same time avoiding frustration from not getting to write a storyline I'm excited about.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Review of "Gnit-wit Gnipper and the Perilous Plague," short story by T.J. Lantz

No matter how hard she tries life never seems to go quite right for Gnipper Tallhat, an eight-year-old Gnome determined to receive the recognition her intelligence deserves. This time, however, she's got it all figured out. Finally, her father will have to be proud of her accomplishments...provided he manages to live through them.

I felt like this story completely missed the mark given the target audience.  There is one point I would like to make clear before I go on: Lantz can write.  This story was polished and read smoothly.  My issues are with the content and plot.

"Gnit-wit Gnipper" is a child's story.  My guess is that Lantz was trying to go for more of a Grimm's fairy tale approach rather than Disney.  There's a dark humor to the story which is not necessarily a bad thing if done correctly.

I'm a teacher and I work with children ages three through teenager on a daily basis.  I'm not one for talking down to children but I also understand that certain things need to be age appropriate.  For example, I am not sarcastic with my four year olds but with my seven and eight year olds I am because they get sarcasm.  

The humor is just a little too dark in this story and the vocabulary is just a little too mature.  Very few eight year olds are going to understand the phrase: "No, when it came to personal catastrophe Gnipper was a child prodigy."    

The plot is also disturbing.  Basically, Gnipper poisons her father with a serious plague, severely hurts him in the process and then almost kills him before she manages to figure out a cure.  There's really no sugar coating that one.  I mean the number one fear for most kids is the death or loss of their parents.  And this is supposed to be read to them before they go to bed? 

In short, I have no issues with Lantz's writing style.  But if you're a parent looking for a new book for your kid, I would definitely read through this story first and make a judgement call.

2.5/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez   

Buy this story on Amazon.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Flash Fiction Fumblings

Writing flash fiction is not easy.  So anyone who thinks they can just whip together a collection... think again.

I enjoy the writing process but in a different way from longer works.  When putting together a novelette, it's several sessions of just nonstop writing.  I set up the characters and the scenario and then it becomes a matter of putting as many words down as I can during my writing hours.

Flash fiction is not the same.  It requires more brooding.  More mulling.  Let's be honest: the resulting story may only be twenty words long.  So the words must be carefully chosen.  A flash fiction writing hour may involve a lot of staring out the window then turning to the computer and spend fifteen seconds writing down those twenty words it took me an hour to think about.

It's kind of creatively draining.  After putting together a flash collection I often find it a relief to switch to something longer.  Something more "brainless" (bad choice of words, but you get it).

It's a good writing exercise, though.  I would say the most important lesson I've learned from writing such short stories is how information is conveyed.  Like most n00b authors my early stories are littered with a lot of dialogue tags.

"What do you have there?" she asked coyly.

"Why it's nothing more than a banana in my pocket," he said with a wink.

"Are you sure?" she laughed.

I still add the dialogue tags but not not nearly as much as I used to.  It's a difficult lesson to learn because in order to take dialogue tags out you have to find a better way to convey the same emotion.  Flash fiction lets you explore that concept.  If your whole story is literally one conversation, everything about that conversation matters.  It's not something that can be buried in a chapter somewhere while you hope that other conversations turn out to be more impressive.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Review of "True Equitation," short story by Caitlyn Santi

Tuscany, Italy 1341.
Have you ever wondered who first turned dancing with horses into a dressage competition? Or maybe how the arena letters got their order? This short story is an enchanting ride through history to a time and place where most men considered themselves experts in all things, they were harsh riders and considered horses as merely tools of transportation. In this time when women working with horses was frowned upon by society, will one young woman teach the men a thing or two about about True Equitation?

Without a doubt Santi has considerable knowledge in the equestrian area.  However, the historical value of this short story seems to stop there.  Not only is it completely implausible that a woman publicly display herself in such a fashion but even more unrealistic is the fact that the knights (men) would create a competition with such loose contestant rules.

I get that it's supposed to have a fantasy feel.  But there are dozens of writing devices the author could have employed in order to tell the story in a more "realistic" fashion while still driving the same point home.  For example, why not pretend to be a man until the very end?  But to choose what was, essentially, the easiest way out told me the author's main interest was in the horse moves.

This story is riddled with grammatical error and indentation problems.  Grammar I can gloss over but indentation issues made the dialogue difficult to follow.  At several points a whole conversation between multiple characters was had in a single paragraph.

There is value in this work in that I did learn something about historical horse treatment and practices.  I think with some polish, this could actually be the first in an interesting short story series.  As it stands right now, however, the cons outweigh the pros.

2/5 stars
Review by Alain Gomez

Buy this story on Amazon.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

An Unexpected Lesson from Publishing Short Stories

I may not be making a million bucks from writing them but one nice thing about being a short story author is the freedom to publish constantly.  You're not trudging through an epic 150,000 word fantasy for years.  You can write a 25,000 word fantasy, publish and be done with it.  Still on a fantasy kick?  Right more.  Bored of fantasy?  Try a different genre.

This publishing flexibility suits me.  It also helps me to stave off writer's block.  When I publish too many stories of the same genre I start to feel like they're all turning out the same.  A formula rut as it were.

But what I didn't expect was that branching out in genre also taught me a lot about the business of publishing.  I started to see that certain genres really do sell better than others just because of subject material alone.  Certain genres simply have a bigger audience.  But with a bigger audience also comes more competition.

Seeing certain stories take off under a brand new pen name just because it falls under a certain genre was very much an eye opening experience for me.  I think that's when I became a publisher.  Sure, call it selling out.  But I do care about making some money from my writing.  It's not the reason I write but it's the reason why I stay on a strict writing schedule.

Believe it or not, being a publisher has just as much of a learning curve as writing.  It takes time figuring out what sells and what doesn't.  Followed by what makes something sell and what doesn't.  And then trying to find that happy medium of writing vs. promoting.

It's interesting work.  While I may be slacking in the promotions department, I have been very particular about watching which series are doing well.  If it starts to gain traction, I spend more time producing more stories with a similar vibe.  I've only really spent a year monitoring sales as it relates to genre but I image, just like writing, the more I work at it the easier it will become.