Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Review of "The Session" by Mike Dennis

Jeff Dryden is a top recording session guitarist in LA. Makes big money. Has a beautiful wife and a big house. Life is good.

But one night, he's awakened by a phone call from a record producer who needs him for a session right away. The money is good, so he agrees, but this session will dredge up long-buried memories and dreams, and wind up changing his life forever.

THE SESSION calls together Mike Dennis' past as a professional musician and his present as a noir fiction author in a harrowing portrayal of a man who can't quite grab the brass ring.

In general, noir fiction is not really my thing.  I respect it as a genre I just tend to be more of a "happy ending" type of person and noir, by definition, is usually about crime and decline.  

But I can't deny Dennis' strength as a writer.  I've read stories of his before and he always does an excellent job pulling you into his depressing little world... in a good way.  This particular story is not your typical murder investigation that you think of when the word "noir" is used.  It focuses more on the repressed dreams of one man being brought to surface and then crushed.  An interesting and refreshing take on the genre.

As a musician, I did find myself relating to the protagonist.  There's definitely a reason why it's called the music business.  Much depends on your name and who you know.  One minute you're in, the next you're out.  Dennis pulls does a credible job accurately depicting just how fickle the industry is in surprisingly few words.

If you enjoy noir fiction, Dennis is certainly an author worth looking into.  His short stories in particular are consistently good.

4/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez  

Buy this story here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Founders

For those who do not yet know, I have banded together with three other short fiction writers to form a group called the Short Fiction Writers Guild.  The purpose of the group is to promote short fiction to new readers and provide opportunities such as contests for those that write it.  Think of it like a short fiction club.

Something that we thought worth exploring is the publication of anthologies.  And it seemed only fitting that our first anthology should feature those that founded the club!  Volume one is all speculative fiction but there's a nice variety inside.  Everything from young adult scifi action to epic fantasy.

I'm pretty excited about this whole thing.  Writing is, in general, a lonely profession so it's nice to have some "coworkers" to chat with and discuss what our next "company direction" is going to be.  In a couple of years I see this being a really valuable resource for people.  Especially considering the increasing number of novellas/novelettes out there.

Buy link here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Delusions of Verbosity

There is a sizable population of readers, American readers in particular, that seem to feel that all story ideas need to be long.  Everything must be exactly spelled out less the reader feel gypped.

But you know what?  The things that really make a story memorable are the things that aren't said.  Pride and Prejudice?  Women for all time are haunted by the fantasy of being married to Mr. Darcy.  Lord of the Rings?  Imagining the epic battles unfolding before you (which is why the movies were so popular).

In both of these cases the authors laid out the framework and left it to your imagination to take it the rest of the way.  Spelling out the adventure would have actually ruined the story.

Adding more words doesn't always fix storytelling problems.  The trick is making sure that the words you do add are the right words.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Review of "The Hunt," a single story in a collection by Tara Fox Hall

From the murky depths of a summer lake to the echoing halls of an insane asylum, evil lies in wait for victims. Innocents might escape by a hair’s breath, if they’re lucky. Then again, they might not. The shadows are waiting. Dare you step into the darkness and be judged?

**This review contains spoilers**

The stories in this collection are short.  Bordering on flash fiction kind of short.  I enjoyed this aspect to the collection because you never forget that you're reading short stories.  

"The Hunt" is a suspense horror piece about a frontier woman being chased by a psychopath killer.  Think Scream only gold rush style.  Hall does an excellent job introducing her main character quickly and in a way that makes you instantly sympathetic.  Almost immediately you feel fearful for the woman's life.

The tension doesn't really let up as more and more is discovered about the this person stalking the protagonist.  I did find myself to be a bit skeptical at the number of people our leading lady just happens to run into while out in the wilderness.  If lost in a frontier forrest, the chances of stumbling across multiple parties of people in a short space of time are slim to none.  But it didn't change the fact that I was seriously creeped out by the killer so, for me, the plot pacing remained unbroken.

This story kept me going right up until the very end  when it just... stops.  Things are kind of resolved but not really.  There just wasn't enough concluding information for me to finish the story in my mind.  It's the type of story where the end needs to hint if the protagonist may have found something to give her and edge or a hint needs to be dropped that she just fell into the killer's plan perfectly. 

But, overall, this was a strong story and an entertaining read.  It's certainly worth picking up a copy if you enjoy a little night fright.

3.5/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this collection on Amazon.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Difference Between Novels and Books

Somehow the word "novel" has become synonymous with "book."  I have no idea when and how this happened but it did.  The fact of the matter is that they are NOT synonymous.  People just think they are which is causing some unwanted problems for those of us that happen to write short stories.

All novels are books.  Not all books are novels.


A book is anything that is bound and published.  In the case of this ebook area, it's really just anything that's published (i.e. packaged) and sold as a single reading entity.  That's why we call the things that we buy on our Kindles or Nooks eBOOKS and not eNOVELS.  A collection of articles could be a book if it's packaged together.  A comparative study on the flora and fauna of the Great Plains is a book.  An essay, if put together and sold as an individual entity, is a book.

And, yes, a single short story is a book.

A novel is one of the major forms of literature.  This means that there are certain style elements that must take place.  It's usually fictional or has fictional elements.  There has to be a story arc of some sort and a novel must have a certain number of words (40,000 and up is usually the standard).  Once all this is said and done and you created your finished product, the novel is packaged together and sold as a book.

Hope that helped to clear things up.