Wednesday, May 29, 2013

No Escaping Destiny

I really don't know what I would do with myself if I didn't have my writing.  It's like there was no escaping it.  The creature had to be made.

I had this weird reflective moment a couple days ago.  I started thinking about my younger, elementary-aged self and then compared it to what I am doing right now as an adult.  I have to say, I would never have called it.  Just about the last thing I wanted to do was teach the violin.

I should have known better than to jinx myself.  Now in retrospect I can't think of anything else I would rather be doing that teaching music.  The pieces just all seemed to fit together.

The thing is with private teaching is that most of your work happens in the after school/work hours.  Aside from a handful of homeschoolers and adult students, I mostly have the morning and early afternoon free.  Which is nice.  It's when I make the time to exercise or run errands.

It's also when I write.  I've always had an interest in writing but as soon as I learned about e-publishing the whole thing became "real" to me (for lack of a better way to phrase that).  It became a challenge.  I don't care how many copies I sell but just the sheer act of publishing pushes me to improve my craft.  Sort of like doing a concert in front of the public.

Teaching challenges me as well but it's different.  It's more draining.  You're constantly having to motivate others to do better.  It's a lot of your energy going out.  Writing balances that out for me.  Outside factors give inspiration and motivation.  So it's outside energy going in.

This weird reflective moment continued and I realized that I don't know what I would do with myself if I didn't have my writing.  For me the writing and the teaching are a perfect balance.  Yin and Yang.  If I only taught students all the time I would probably burn myself out and do god knows only what in the afternoon (obsess over emails?).

It was only by chance that I happened to see an advertisement for e-publishing.  And I just so happened to stumble across it in the early stages of my teaching career which allowed the two jobs have grown up and intertwined with each other.

I don't make as much writing as I do teaching but that doesn't matter.  Emotionally, it's necessary.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Review of "Asha," short story by Kevis Hendrickson

Asha is a 15-year old girl with the soul of a demon. She plans to wage war against heaven and hell using humanity as her main weapon. Asha begins the epic tale of the revenge of the dark goddess of demons!

I've read quite a few works by Hendrickson and this story certainly speaks for his ability to present interesting story lines move along at a nice clip.  I liked the protagonist.  She was an intriguing juxtaposition of human emotions and demon knowledge. 

And yet it's because I liked her that I found myself a little frustrated with the story.  I wanted to know more about her motives but all dialogue explanation remained frustratingly vague.  I learned more about the plot reading the summary than I did reading the story.  At no point in the story does Asha explain that she wants to wage a war or that humans will play an integral part in this war.  I don't expect an in-depth outline but I do need enough to put some of the pieces together.

But other than this the story is actually really, really good.  It's frustrating because it is good and as the reader I want to know what all that buildup was leading toward.  

Reviewed by Alain Gomez
3.5/5 stars

Buy this story on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

And the Summer Slump Sets In

So it had to happen at some point.  It always does.  Book selling is cruel like that.  The very moment you start to think "Wow! My sales are really doing well!  At this rate I'll be buying that private island I've had my eye on in no time!"

Then the Summer season sets in.

But there's no need to panic.  Really.  It's just a cold reminder of what actually happens in your own life.  The weather is nice... you have some time off... you're on vacation... you're not reading...

Wait?  Not reading?  Oh yeah, I guess I'm not really. At least not as much as I do during the winter when the sun sets at 4:00pm and there's no reason to be outside.

But it doesn't change the sting of seeing your sales numbers drop like a rock to the bottom of the sales rank ocean.  This too shall pass.  Just keep publishing.  Avoid hitting the refresh button on your KDP window.  And know that places like Amazon are not broken.  They are simply going through the natural cycle of money-making life.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Review of "Born Again," a short story by P.J. Lincoln

Beth Tanner has a secret. It's one she's kept from her husband, Jackson, for more than a decade of marriage. Now, a chance encounter with a device that allows your past to be viewed in full detail, Beth Tanner must confront her long ago transgressions.

Beth lives an ideal soccer-mom suburban lifestyle. It's a life she's grown accustomed to and she doesn't want to give it up. But Jackson needs to know the truth and that world she treasurers so much could be taken away.

A short piece with a quick, engaging plot that somehow feels lacking in the end.  Lincoln has some writing skills, no question there.  The opening scene to the story is quite good.  He immediately manages to create sympathetic characters with only a few short paragraphs.  Beth and Jackson are having the type of conversation that almost any person that has been in a long-term relationship could relate to.

The mysterious salesman and "life-sync" device piques your interest.  How does it work?  If I were in the same situation would I use it?  Would I want to use it?  You know, the classic Star Trek questions that make starship captains blatantly ignore the Prime Directive.

Thanks to the device, Beth's secret is blown and her dark past uncovered.  And that's when the story just sort of leaves you hanging.  There are too many questions, too many unknowns, and just not enough emotional resolution.  Yes, it's implied that things could be worked out between her and her husband.  But the decision seems to be reached with little more than a gasp of shock and a loving hug.

I don't necessarily think the story needs to be longer.  As a short story writer/reader, I don't always feel that more words is the solution to everything.  The conclusion to this story had the potential to be either touching or humorous.  Unfortunately neither really happened which produced a "meh" reaction.

All in all it's not a bad read.  The concept was good and I think Lincoln has some real raw talent showing through.  

3/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this story on Amazon.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Food for Thought

My dad, being the engineer that he is, always says that 5% or more is statistically significant.  So does it solidify my nerdiness if I said that more than 5% of my Netflix recommendations are documentaries?

What?  I like National Geographic!  And it's only a matter of time before Nova actually catches the Loch Ness monster on film.  What's really pathetic is I get hooked on these things late at night.

So the latest installment was "Jiro Dreams of Sushi."  If you haven't see it, go watch it now.  It's on Netflix instant watch.  It's about one of the world's best sushi chefs.  He runs a restaurant that has ten seats and his sushi starts at $300 a plate.  Crazy right?  But everyone who eats at his place says it's totally worth the money.  Customers have to book their spot a month in advance.

What's really interesting about the documentary is Jiro himself.  They talk a little about what goes into his sushi making but most of the film is about his work philosophies.  The man is completely focused on always bettering himself.  Here's a guy that is arguably top in his field and yet he is always striving for more.  This or that adjustment to make the flavor that much better.

It's just really refreshing to watch.  He doesn't care about being the best.  The man has ambition for his craft alone.  And what it really teaches you is to take pride in your work.  If you make a mistake, who cares?  It's just part of the learning process.