Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Concept Behind "Awakening: The Uxel Herum Saga" by Alain Gomez

If you find out about this story through this post, mention it in an email and the first five people will receive a complementary copy from an e-store of their choice.

This is the fifth book and conclusion to this particular Uxel story arc.  It's funny because as I wrote my way through the series I was dead set on five books.  I planned for five, I mapped out five and that was going to be it.  Other series would involve other characters.

But by the end of this book I realized that Uxel's story had only really begun.  I had told the story of how she becomes a full-fledged tuner but that's only the beginning of her career.  She has a long way to go.

So my plan is to do at least another five book series set several years after Awakening.  The adventure continues!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Author Interview: Justin Bog

First, tell us a little about your writing journey.

Hello, nice to be here. Thank you for allowing me the space for an interview. My own writing journey began shortly after learning how to write in grade school and watching a lot of 70s television and reading comic books. I created my own SNL skits, fake news, adventures, after discovering an old typewriter of my mother's. From there I studied creative writing as an undergrad and then received an MFA in Fiction from Bowling Green State University. This gave me time to write, and that is key. When working full or part time at a job that pays the bills, writing is given short shrift, but I always tried to make time for it. Usually this meant a lot of 6am wake-up calls before heading to open a bookstore. I worked in three bookstores over the past 30 years, all independent, and becoming an author has always been in my dreams. I believe working behind the scenes of the book business has helped form a stronger mindset going into the business side of my author's life. I understand what the main goal of a bookseller is, and also the point of view of a publisher . . . an author's point of view is vastly different from those others. When they mesh well together, magic can happen.

Would you consider yourself to be a "short story author" rather than a "novelist"?
Not at all, but I don't mind being thought of as either one. It's difficult to write and publish anything. Some short stories take years to write, while a novel can be whipped out in a month's time (look at NaNo tales)! I write the length of the tale. Since I'm a pantser and rarely outline, I go where the characters tell me to go, mark their journey, whatever the length. I've written three novels so far. They are unpublished, but yearning to be read. I'm in the middle of a long horror story, a weekly serial on my blog titled A Play Demonic (The Queen's Idle Fancy), and up to chapter 24 at this writing. I can feel that the story is far away from an ending point, but when it comes, I imagine fireworks and an explosive end for the characters. Short fiction is something I love to read and write. My first three publications were short story collections, and I like that energy, the twist story, or a tale that simply ends without a precise moment to guide the reader's thoughts, like life, which hardly ever comes to closure. Leave the reader with something to think about, I say.

Any successes? Failures? What has worked for you when trying to find an audience?
I follow this guideline: do what you love, and stop thinking (worrying) about what others may think, even a potential audience. If I love a story, I know that others may also like it, maybe not as much, or possibly, even more. I also know that some readers may loathe it, hate it, may never want to read anything else I write. And that's okay too. This was so noticeable after I published my first book of dark tales, Sandcastle and Other Stories. They're not for every reader since a lot of readers do not love to be upset on purpose, and a lot of the darker stories in Sandcastle are upsetting, push buttons---and these readers and friends tell me this. One friend told me she couldn't read past the second story because she had daughters, and the title story is terrifying if one is a parent . . . I completely understood. I hope to evoke an emotional reaction; I hope the stories do that. How wonderful. The reality though? Short stories do not sell as well as novels. I don't believe this will change. Many people love to write short fiction and I hope to continue.

Do you think eBooks will change the way short stories are viewed by the general public?
No. When I worked in bookstores for twenty years, I don't remember ever selling a short story collection. Not one. My own local bookstore tries to sell short fiction, carries short story collections, but the clerks there confessed to me that they do not like to read short stories. Word of mouth is what sells short fiction, and that's the only thing. People who already enjoy reading short stories are wonderful, and these are the people who tell others how good a book of short stories is, and I love that.

What do you think is the biggest obstacle in introducing someone to a short story? As in, is it the length? The price? Not knowing what to expect?
The biggest obstacle comes from people who just don't give short stories their due, feel that being short is a weakness rather than a strength. They want to get lost in a longer novel, a broader narrative with a multitude of characters/settings. A short story is but a moment, usually, but it can also be a wide universe, encompass years, decades of a life. I hope readers embrace Hark---A Christmas Collection, and take a chance on these off-kilter holiday tales.

Find out more about Justin on his website.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Review of "An Artist's Story," a single story in a collection by Dorothy Johnston

"The stories in Eight Pieces on Prostitution span the whole of my writing life and include my first published story, 'The Man Who Liked to Come with the News', which Frank Moorhouse chose for his 1983 anthology, 'The State of the Art'. My first novel, 'Tunnel Vision', is set in a Melbourne massage parlour, and I have continued to return to the theme of prostitution in my novels and short stories, notably in 'The House at Number 10' and in this collection. 'Where the Ladders Start' is a long story, almost a novella, based around a suspicious death. Many of the stories are set in Canberra, Australia's national capital, where I lived for thirty years before returning to Victoria's Bellarine Peninsula.
The cover design is based on a painting by Bartolome Esteban Murillo called 'Two Women at a Window', which is held at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC. Though the women in the painting are probably prostitutes, it is not absolutely clear; there's an ambiguity about them, as well as an amused self-awareness. I like this very much and feel that it suits my stories."

- Dorothy Johnston

I was left with mixed impressions after reading this story.  The words were beautifully strung together.  Johnston's writing style borders on poetic in allowing the reader to appreciate the details of something as simple as a comfortable room.

But as the story unfolded, the enthralling words gave way to a sense of confusion.  Scene changes happened abruptly and with little explanation.  Added to all this was a cast of characters that almost seemed real.  I wanted so desperately to understand the main character.  Teasing hints of her personality were given but then a sudden new development would quickly crush that conception.

The end result was a beautifully written story where I felt like I enjoyed the reading experience but I wasn't entirely certain what I read about.  I confess, the main character's life revelation was lost on me.

3.5/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez 

Buy this collection on Amazon.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Kindle Unlimited Follow-Up

It has now been a few months since the launch of KU.  It has been good and bad for me so far.  The good part has still been a pick up in borrows for books that hadn't received any attention in years.

The bad... has been wonky sales for just about everything else.  Things that were selling consistently are no longer doing so.  And the rate of borrows seems to fluctuate from month to month.  It's enough of a change in numbers to really make me consider if I want a particular title to be exclusive or not.

So I've pulled a number of titles out of KU.  The trickle of borrows wasn't compensating for the exclusivity to Amazon.  But I have still left all of the works under one pen name entirely under the KU umbrella.  For some reason the combination of borrowing and genre works for that pen name.

I have to say, the jury is still out for me on the practicality of KU.  The dust is starting to settle and I'm not sure if short stories are going to come out on top.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Four to Score

I have now been published for four years.

Sweet Alaskan asparagus tips!  That's, like, how long I was in college.

Did I think I would make it this far?  Who knows.  But if there was a theme to this past year I would say that it was proving to myself I'm in it for the long haul.

When I first started this whole self-publishing thing I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  To be honest, I thought I could just throw the stories I had already written onto the Internet and make money off them.  That, as it turns out, is not how this business works.  Making money off of your writing requires time, effort and patience.

I feel that I do deserve a pat on the back because I did stick with it even after the harsh reality started to sink in.  After all, blogs are really about giving oneself pats on the back.

So here I am... four years later.  I wouldn't say that I've struck it rich yet.  But I am making a very small but steady side income.  That's something, I suppose.  At least it's a noticeable difference from the big fat zero I was making when I first started.

Nothing about my publishing has really changed this past year.  I have no new strategies.  And I've also come to terms with the fact that each word I put down on a page--be it good or bad--is all helping to develop my skills at telling a tale.

Even though nothing has changed on the outside, on the inside I feel different.  This past year I've finally come to terms with the fact that I'm a writer.  I know that sounds stupid.  Of course I'm a writer.  I've been writing for years, right?


Writing for years and thinking of yourself as a writer are two very different things.  It takes time to become comfortable in the shoes you chose to wear.  For a long time they seem like someone else's shoes.  They wear you.  You're just pretending to be a writer while there are others out there that really are writers.  The end result is feeling almost ashamed of your endeavors.  Root canals sound more appealing than telling strangers you have your art for sale somewhere.

Well, this past year I finally got over that mental block.  I am at peace with my writing self.  People ask me about it and I no longer feel like a poser when I answer, "Yes, I'm a writer."

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Considering a Publisher Name

I've been considering a publisher name.  As in, instead of not listing any publisher at all I have fictitious name listed.

I realize that most people don't even think to look at a publisher name.  But it seems like an easy way to organize my books.  I also think it looks a little more professional should someone actually scroll down to look...?

I'm worried, however, that I am just creating pointless work for myself that will just cut into my writing time.  Establishing a separate publisher name would mean hours of redoing copyright pages and republishing stories.  Will this affect sales at all?  Probably not.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Review of "My Card," a short story by Matthew Allred

A bizarre relationship between two young men proves more dangerous and bloody than anyone would have guessed. From the outside looking in, Christopher Card and Stephan Maccabee are close friends--always at each other's sides--but the truth is much more brutal and horrifying.

A simply enthralling short story.  The focus centers around a (schizophrenic?) high school boy's inner struggle with himself.  

This story was the perfect balance of "psychology" and "horror" without becoming overly gruesome.  To me the brilliance of this story was in how the reader's perception of the characters change.  It starts out like they're normal friends.  Then you wonder if there's something else going on between them.  Then the horror of what they're about to do really hits.  I actually felt nervous for the victim!

This is an excellent piece of horror fiction and well with picking up a copy.  

4.5/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this story on Amazon.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tortured by Novels

I am a short story writer.  The thing is that if you are not a short story writer this is a difficult concept to understand.  The only thing I can equate it to is music.  You find the instrument that you consider to be your voice.  I can play both the violin and viola very well but I consider myself to be a violist.  It's my instrument.  It's me.

The same goes for short stories.  The precise, compact writing style is my voice.  It's me.  Even before I started writing my brain would constantly think of new ways to streamline the story I was reading.  And now that I've been writing for a few years the problem is even more pronounced.  It's aggravating for me to read long, drawn out sections in a novel that serve no purpose whatsoever.

Is it really necessary for the heroine to be looping around in her head why she can't be with the hero a FOURTH time?  We know their issues.  Address the issues.  Maybe readdress the issues to remind the reader.  And then move on!

What's even more aggravating to me is that I'm haunted by the idea of writing a novel.  I mean, they sell way better than a short story.  Why do I put myself through the agony of writing story after story when I could just spend the time making one LONG story that may actually sell?

I've lost track of the number of times I've mentally succumbed to the novel's siren's song.  I sit down thinking: "This will be the story that I'll turn into a novel.  I'll drag out all the scenes.  I'll pad all the descriptions.  The works."

I write the story with this mindset.  And then it ends up being a 12,000 word novelette.

So I give up!  I'm tired of being tortured by novels.  If one happens to come out of my brain, that's great.  But in the meantime I am resolved to be content with my short story existence.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A soapbox rant on KU royalties and short stories

Ok I've seen some discussion lately about the issue of short stories and KU. Lots of talk on whether or not the 10% marker is fair because it takes way less effort for the reader hit the 10% mark in a short story than it does in a novel.

Now I'm not trying to bash anyone. And I'm not trying to point fingers or accuse people of being right or wrong. Because you know what? It'snot fair that someone can just go through the title page and be 10% into a short story.

But you know what's also not fair? I have to pay the same amount for cover art no matter how long or short my novelette is.

You know what's also not fair? I get one-star reviews solely because a story did not exceed X number of words (not even a mention about the actual content).

You know what's even less unfair? Short stories are really hard to sell. For every 100 people that read novels maybe one likes the occasional short story. And an even smaller percentage of that one actually goes out and buys short stories.

But you know what? I don't care. I choose to write short stories. It's my problem.

So now one thing comes along that kind of gives a slight advantage to short story writers and people are getting up in arms about the fairness of it. It's not even that much of an advantage! People are still going to read way more novels than short stories. So yeah the 10% mark is hit more easily but we are talking about one "read" every five days. Not five reads every day.

If you choose to write novels then you have to take the good with the bad. That means taking a hit on reads if you participate in KU. If it doesn't suit your business needs, don't do it. Make an informed decision based on the product you are trying to sell.

But it's ok for things to not be completely fair.

All right. End of rant.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Review of "Lilies," a single story in a collection by Torrance Calder

Three stories all focusing on relationships and loss in different stages of life:

A Broken Camera
The most horrible events in our lives stick in our minds like images in a camera. But, what happens when the camera breaks?

Do flowers respond to our feelings?

The Waterfall
Why is his father's nose crooked?

I hate to say it but there really wasn't much to this story.  Two people go out on a date and they didn't suit.  With no conflict, no character progression and no real sense of any emotions the end result was, unfortunately, boring.  

The story came to its conclusion with the main character realizing that the flowers her date gave her wilted.  Was this supposed to be symbolic of something?  There was so much opportunity for plot subtleties that were missed out on.  

2/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this collection on Amazon.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Looking Good with Kindle Unlimited

I realize it's still early days.  Kindle Unlimited is still smells fresh and everyone is in that lovely honeymoon period called "the free trial."  But so far I've been liking what I'm seeing.

Let me first say: I hated Select.  I tried it several times.  No luck.  Not a single borrow.  Maybe it was because Prime members didn't utilize the service.  Maybe they couldn't figure out how to borrow books.  I have no idea.  But it was so not worth being exclusive to Amazon.

But I'm always one for experimentation.  As a controlled test, I added a few titles that have been getting zero attention.  Like, not one sale since their publication on any channel and they've been on sale for several months.  These titles comprised of multiple pen names across multiple genres.  My logic being that I had nothing to lose and if I got any sort of sales it would be obvious as to who gets the credit.

Since adding the titles I've definitely seen an uptick in attention on some of them.  But not all.  As with regular sales, it does seem to be genre dependent.

A few of the titles are doing really well.  The number of reads/borrows outnumbers the sales 2 to 1.  This was impressive to me for two reasons.  One, that it even started getting sales.  And two, that people were actually reading through the story.

For now KU does seem to be working.  Perhaps due to the larger audience base?  Who knows.  I'll take what I can get.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Review of "Infinity," a single story in a collection by Carla Golian

Journey through the Magical and Enchanting world of "Dreams of Love." 19 Poems dispersed throughout, act as interludes and are complimentary to 13 short stories; Tales of love, passion, romance and erotica. It reads like a novel.

This book is not for the fainthearted.

Infinity is the story of a chance (fated?) encounter between two authors.  It's a classic love-at-first-sight tale.  The story is sweet and the writing style is easy to get into which makes for a promising start.

I liked everything about this story except for the end.  It kept going when it should have stopped.  Part of the charm of short form fiction is that it's a snapshot.  It doesn't have to go into a happily ever after or all the nitty gritty relationship details.  It just is.

Still, it's an enjoyable read and the collection has bits of poetry interspersed which makes for a nice variety.  Perfect for a summer afternoon of light reading.

3.5/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this collection on Amazon.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Snippet on Short Fiction Money Making

I was lurking about the KBoards Writer's Cafe (which is an awesome place) and came across possibly one of the most inspiring things I've ever read about the business of short fiction.

The forum thread was discussing Amazon's new Kindle Unlimited program and people got to discussing how whether or not this could lead to a flood of short stories and, basically, put an end to novel-length works.

Short story author EelKat (yes, that's the name she writes under if you're curious) gives this epic reply:

But there are already 5 shorts for every 1 novel in Select, and there has been right since Select began. Predictions like this occurred when Select/Prime/KOLL first rolled out and that was what 3 years ago?

Amazon has no need to change the prices and you want to know why? Because for every 10,000 novels sold only 10 short stories sell. Do you realize I'm listed by critics as one of the world's top selling Short Story writers and I'm lucky if one of my titles sells at a rate of 1 copy a week? My highest sales days ever I can count on 1 hand. In 36 years I have had exactly 4 days where I have sold more than 10 copies in one day. Those are NOT 10 copies of a single title. I have NEVER sold 10 copies of a single title in one day. I have 683 stories published and I have only sold more than 10 copies per day across all titles combined exactly 4 days. Those totals were as follows:


Total sales in one day across 683 titles.

The only 4 days I've ever sold more than 10 titles in one day.

And I repeat what I said earlier: I'm considered 1 on the Top Ten Highest Seller and Most Paid Short Story Writers In the World.

Go back and look at those numbers, than think about that title.

Than start asking other Short story writers about their sales. the average Short story Writer sells across all of their titles combined 5 to 10 copies PER MONTH and gets 2 to 3 borrows PER YEAR.

NEWSFLASH: There are approximately 2billion readers on the planet. Of them, there are almost exactly 37,000 readers of Short Stories.

I'm sorry, but on what planet do novelists think they can find enough readers of short stories to get rich writing shorts? Even at $2 a pop, which I what I make on my shorts, because I price them @ $2.99. My price chart, for those interested in pricing shorts (and you will want to price them high like this IF you want an income, once it hits you square in the face that people don't borrow shorts and KU won't be paying you a penny.)

More than 400 of my 683 titles have under 5k words.

I write Horror, Dark Space Opera, and D&D/S&S Style Fantasy, fewer than 100 of my titles are in other genres.

With that in mind I price my work based on word count:

0.99c = less than 3,000 words
$1.49 = 3,000 to 7,500 words
$2.99 = 7,500 to 30,000 words
$4.99 = 30000 to 50,000 words
$6.99 = 50,000 to 90,000 words
$8.99 = 90,000 words or more

I price my collections/bundles/box-sets like this:

$2.99 =
3-pack of 10ks (30k total) or
5-pack of 5ks (25k total) or
10-pack of 2ks (20k total)
25-pack of 1ks (25k total)

$4.99 =
3-pack of 15ks (45k total) or
5-pack of 10ks (50k total) or
10-pack of 5ks (50k total) or
25-pack of 2ks (50k total)

$6.99 =
3-pack of 20ks (60k total) or
5-pack of 15ks (75k total) or
10-pack of 7ks (70k total) or
25-pack of 3ks (75k total)

$8.99 =
3-pack of 30ks (90k total) or
5-pack of 20ks (100k total) or
10-pack of 10ks (100k total) or
25-pack of 5ks (125k total)

My Erotica skews slightly higher (keeping in mind fewer than 50 of my 683 titles is Erotica):

0.99c = less than 3,000 words
$1.49 = 3,000 to 5,000 words
$2.99 = 5,500 to 15,000 words
$4.99 = 15,000 to 36,000 words
$6.99 = 36,000 to 60,000 words
$8.99 = 60,000 words or more

I price my Erotica collections/bundles/box-sets like this

$2.99 =
3-pack of 5ks (15k total) or
5-pack of 2ks (10k total) or
10-pack of 1ks (10k total)

$4.99 =
3-pack of 7ks (21k total) or
5-pack of 5ks (25k total) or
10-pack of 2ks (20k total)

$6.99 =
3-pack of 15ks (45k total) or
5-pack of 10ks (50k total) or
10-pack of 5ks (50k total) or
25-pack of 2ks (50k total)

$8.99 =
3-pack of 20ks (60k total) or
5-pack of 15ks (75k total) or
10-pack of 7ks (70k total) or
25-pack of 5ks (125k total)

I make money as a Short Story writer ONLY because of my higher prices. Take a look at that price chart, if I was writing novels, I'd be charging $8.99 a book, not .99c or even $2.99 or even $4.99.

Shorts are a hard sell. Even at .99c most writers can't sell theirs, a lot of writers complain at having shorts at permafree and they can't even give them away. Because there simply is no demand for shorts. So the notion that novelists are going to storm Select with flash floods of shorts and make millions is silly at best.

I continue to laugh at the novelists who are running around like chickens with their heads cut off, thinking they can switch to writing short stories and see the same amount of sales/borrow they did with novels. They have no clue how hard it is to sell a Short Story.

No, I don't doubt that novelists will flood Amazon with short stories thinking they can write shorts and get rich quick. I also don't doubt that novelists will learn fast that writing a GOOD short story is hard to do and takes years of practice and requires a totally different skill than novel writing.

Everyone and their cousin and their dog thinks they can write Short Stories because they are short. Ha! I laugh again at the brainless idiocy of such thinking.

Quantity is key. You are NOT going to see a livable income on short stories, even at $2 a pop until you have at MINIMUM 200 titles in you backlog. Barest minimum.

I've had folks (other authors) laugh at me and say I was nuts because I have a short story series I've been writing for 36 years and it's now got 231 volumes, but the sales are so horrible. Why do you keep writing it, they ask me, why don't you write something more profitable, write a best seller. A novel. Stop wasting time writing a series that has most of it's titles ranking at the bottom of sales rank.

Why do I keep writing it? Well, I love it and I'll never stop writing it. Even if I stopped publishing it I'd still keep writing it, so why not publish it and make a few penny a week on each title? Those pennies do add up after all.

Uhm...let's do the math...

If each title in the series sells just 1 copy a week, not a day, but a week:

231 x $2.99 x 70% x 52 = $25,105.08

Well that's a pretty good income, for such a crappy bottom feeder with sucky sales-rank and sales as low as 1 a week.

Keep in mind too that I have a cult following of 7,000 die hard fans who literally land in my driveway and follow me around town, some of them claiming following me around is even better than the days when they followed the Greatful Dead around. They follow me to WalMart and McDonald's, and the laundromat, and they meet me at conventions where they CosPlay as characters from my short stories. I don't know of any other short story writer who has gained the fandom my series did, there aren't even many novelists who have a pack of fans CosPlaying their characters vigorously like this. Did I mention I'm a fluke?

And that is just ONE of my series.

I write several series and across all of them I have just under 700 titles now. Yeah. A lot of them only sell 1 or 2 copies a month. A lot of them sell only a single copy a week. The most any has ever sold in one day was 27. But 700 titles. Yeah. It adds up. I don't need a best seller to live off my writing. I don't even need a good seller to live off my writing. Heck, a lot of my books are out right poor sellers and I still make a living off my writing! LOL

So, yeah, I don't really care if my books sell horribly, because I got enough of them out there that it really doesn't matter.

Follow this article and do what it says step by step, you'll be living 100% off nothing but short stories in 5 years.
Making a Living with Your Short Fiction

But do keep in mind that for those 5 years you will be living on absolutely nothing while you write enough short stories to live off of. But, keep in mind, that I'm a fluke. I'm one of the VERY RARE short stories writes who gets a sale per title per week. Most short story writers don't get a sale per title per month.

I'm a fluke because I happen to be d*mned good at writing short stories. On the other hand I can't write a novel worth sh*t.

That's the thing there's a world of difference between writing a novel and writing a short story. Novelists are foolish if they think that just because they can write a novel means they can write a short story. Most people who think they can write a short story, can't. They suck at it big time. Why? Because they are trying to write a 300 page novel and stuff it into 10 pages, that's why. You can't do that. It won't work. Readers won't like it.

Few people who are very good at writing novels are also very good at writing short stories and vice-versa.

Novel writing is an art that takes time and practice.

Short story writing is a different art and requires different time and practice.

Sure authors can do both, but the ones that try to do both often are the ones who later complain to not having good sales, can't find steady followers, and wonder "what am I doing wrong?'

Novel readers follow novelists. They know all the greats, they know the upcomers, they couldn't give a rat's patooy about short stories or short story writers.

Short story readers follow short story writers. They know all the greats, they know the upcomers, they couldn't give a rat's patooy about novels or novelists.

What do you read? That's what you should write.

To read the rest of her reply click here:,190464.msg2689328.html#msg2689328

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Kindle Unlimited and Subscription Book Reading

Amazon is like Disneyland.  It just does everything bigger and better.  Other groups try to do parades.  Disneyland does parades better.

So the latest change to the book industry is an increase in subscription based book reading.  In other words, books are following the Netflix/Hulu model.  You pay a flat monthly rate to read any of the books available in the site's electronic library.

In response to a few of the book subscription places that have been popping up such as Scribd, Amazon has started a new program called Kindle Unlimited.  And, like Disneyland, they just do everything better.  They already have a huge library of books and now they are giving authors a legitimate reason to be exclusive to Amazon.

Frankly, I think this is awesome.  In my opinion, this is the future of ebooks.  This will completely eliminate the debate as to wether or not ebooks should cost the same as hard copies.  And it is also HUGE for short story writers.  We will no longer have to rationalize every cent we charge for our brain children.  If readers are paying a flat monthly rate it doesn't matter what the price is.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Definition of Success

Let's start with the literal.  According to Merriam-Webster "success" is:

  • the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame
  • the correct or desired result of an attempt
  • someone or something that is successful : a person or thing that succeeds
I often wonder about success when it comes to my writing.  At what point am I supposed to consider myself a successful writer?  According to definition option number one I still have a ways to go having none of those three listed things.

But according to definition option number two I may stand a chance.  "The correct or desired result of an attempt" kind of gives me a lot of leeway, doesn't it?  

I suppose I would have to be able to define what it was that I set out to do.  In this way, my teaching the violin is much easier to define.  I wanted to be a successful teacher.  A full studio of students that are able to play said instrument makes my personal validation easy.  But writing...?

To be honest, I'm not sure what I set out to do.  I suppose I started out because I wanted to make some money off of the stories rattling around in my head and hard drive.  Boy was I kidding myself.  If someone had told me from the start how much money it took to be SELF-published I'm not sure I ever would have started.

But I did.  And I'm hooked so too late now!

So to answer my original question: I suppose I am a successful writer by my own small standard (emphasis on small).  I set out to make money and I am.  Not very much but it's better than the $0 I was making before I started out.

I have to keep reminding myself of these small successes because, frankly, a writer's career path is a slog.  There are no promotions and certainly no bonus seasons.  You start paying a few bills with your royalty money and then read an interview by JK Rowling who has literally made billions.  How can I say that I'm successful compared to her?

But I can be successful without billions (though billions would be nice).  I'm accomplishing the goals I'm setting out to do and anything anyone else does is beside the point.    

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Review of "Tuning In," short story by Jayne Fordham

Canan Jones turns twenty-five and wants nothing more than to bury his painful past and enjoy his birthday celebrations. But when Canan receives an intimidating phone call from a man who knows his secret demanding he work for an underground government agency in Sydney, Canan fears his skill will be exploited. Canan has the ability to tune into the emotions of other people and his skill increases in strength daily.

Initially refusing to accept the job offer, Canan realises it may be the only chance he has to obtain answers to his past. To what lengths will Canan go to to piece together the fragments of his traumatic childhood?

Tuning In can be read as a standalone short story or as a precursor to Intuition (Book One of the Elite Series).

This story introduced an interesting concept but failed to deliver.  It reads like a prologue to a larger work more than a standalone story.  There's a cast of characters introduced, a problem presented and then... the end.

It's a shame because what I did get to read about this character was intriguing.  There's a hint of supernatural powers that make for a fun adventure.  But even short stories must present the reader with a complete concept.

2.5/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this story on Amazon.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I Would Give Myself 4/5 Stars

One thing that amuses me is how incensed artists (writers included) get over their art.  Trust me, I do it too.  I'm no saint.  Art is a highly personal thing.  The term "brain child" very aptly summarizes the situation.  So it's only natural that we become defensive when our creativity is questioned.

The thing is, our creativity is never the thing in question.  And that's something that took me a long time to really process.  The sheer fact that I'm even trying to create something makes me creative.  So when I receive a critique of my work the feedback is not about my viewpoint.  It's about how well I conveyed that viewpoint.

To put it another way, say I were a sculptor trying to make an elephant out of clay and it turns out looking like a blob.  I show it to someone and that person says it looks nothing like an elephant.  The issue is not about my mental vision.  It's my job as the sculptor to acquire the necessary skills with the medium to convey what I want to convey.

Easier said that done.

It's so important that writers learn how to be self-critical.  If you were reading your own story, what would you rate it?  Looking back at some of my older work, I would give myself a 3/5 stars.  Amusing stories but underdeveloped.  This October will be my fourth year writing and I'm just now getting to a point where I feel like I could be scraping the edge of 4/5 stars.

Will I ever reach a personal rating of 5/5 stars?  To be honest, I really don't know.  It also doesn't matter.  What's important was that I have come to terms with the fact that this is a journey, not a destination.  There's always room for more improvement.

Monday, June 30, 2014

My Writing Process - Blog Tour

A special thanks to Keith Darrell for inviting me to participate in this blog tour! Be sure to check out his blog at:

On to the questions!

What am I working on?

Currently I'm working on wrapping up a young adult science fiction series.  Books 1-4 are out.  Number 5 is in the works!

The series is called the Uxel Herum Saga and it's a coming of age story that takes place in a science fiction universe I created called Muzik Chronicles.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I would say the main thing that makes the series stand out is the path to power my main character takes.  I'm a music teacher and a martial arts nerd.  I combined those two things and created "The Tuning System."  People who practice it learn to control their own natural vibrations and use it as a way of affecting their surroundings.

Why do I write what I do?

Because I love it.

Pretty simple.  But it's true.  The scifi that I write appeals to an extremely niche market of readers.  So it's certainly not for the purpose of making money.  Scifi sparks my imagination in a way that very few other genres do.  It makes me think outside the box.

How does my writing process work?

It's sadly boring.  My only real "rule" is that I have to write a minimum of 800 words every day.  How or when that gets accomplished seems to fluctuate depending on how much other crap I have going on that day.

I used to outline my story before I started writing but I found that everything went a lot smoother once I threw that out the window.  I jot down a few general concepts and then just go for it.  Too rigid of a structure makes it difficult for characters to do their thing. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Website Addiction Problems

It's not what you think.  I'm not addicted to websites.  I'm addicted to designing them.

I go through strange phases where I won't touch a website at all.  Years could go by.  And then I'll find a new website design program or a blog host will offer a new set of templates and then... Pandora's box.  It's simply no longer enough to have one website looking nice for one business.  Suddenly life would be drastically improved if they all were looking nice.

There's probably some sort of psychological analysis you could do here about latent control issues.  Especially considering that time and effort may be put into a site that gets zero traffic anyway... yikes.

But since I like to put a positive spin on things I will say that this has made me fairly internet savvy.  A good trait to have if one happens to be pursuing a career as an independently published author.  It's not a bad addiction to have.  I probably should just not stay up until 3am feeding it....

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Concept Behind "Glory: The Uxel Herum Saga" by Alain Gomez

So I'm going to try something new with these "concept" blog posts.  If you find out about the story through this post, mention it in an email and the first five people will receive a complementary copy from an e-store of their choice.

Anyway... the adventure continues with Uxel!  Uxel continues to realize her true character in being captured by the Imperium and forced to design a set of special tuned ships.  The task is way beyond her but her but in doing so she learns what she truly values.

Originally I planned on this story arc spanning five books and it still will be.  But I've really be liking how Uxel's character is developing.  So I'm thinking of continuing her "saga" by later making another five book story arc that takes place several years after this one.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Fiction Arcade

My name is Alan Shelton, and I am a newly minted publisher of online short stories. I hang my hat at a website called Fiction Arcade (, and - thanks to the kind indulgence of Alain - I'd like to make a shameless-but-brief plug for it.

Fiction Arcade is YouTube crossed with iTunes, but for the short story. We provide a convenient platform where anyone can upload their work for free (a la YouTube), and we allow them to sell it for less than a dollar (a la iTunes). These two elements didn't mesh well in the days before omnipresent social media and online micropayments, but now they work like gangbusters for video and music sites. So why not short fiction?

Fiction Arcade is based on two premises: 1) that traditional publishers don't price short stories correctly and 2) that great stories get recognized and rewarded through a positive word-of-mouth feedback cycle.

Regarding the first premise, even other online publishers typically won't go below 99 cents. That's fine for a novel or even a novella, but for a six page story? A lot of readers might balk at that. But what if the price was, say, 20 cents? Admittedly, that's 80 cents less per sale for the author, but it's also potentially a lot more sales.

As to the second premise, consider YouTube. Sure, 99% of its offerings are junk, but there are a lot of gems to be mined from that remaining 1%. Besides, one person's junk is another's treasure. You may not think Skifcha the dubstep cat ( is all that entertaining, but I find it to be the pinnacle of human achievement. And people share what they like. A few downloads become a few dozen become a few hundred and so on.

But just like with any publisher, Fiction Arcade can only succeed if it attracts quality stories which in turn attract readers. So in order to entice authors to 'invest' their stories in Fiction Arcade, we're running a series of monthly competitions between May and December with a total cash prize pool of $9,000.

Each month from May to November, the most popular author in that month's genre will receive $250 as will the most popular author on the site overall. In December, the most popular author in each genre will receive $250, while the three most popular authors on the site overall (from May to December) will receive $1,750, $1,250 and $750, respectively.

Popularity in this case means story downloads and ratings. This turns readers into judges who vote with their pocketbooks. Thus, regardless of whether an author wins any prize money, all story downloads translate directly into royalties for the authors. Furthermore, stories remain available for download as long as the author wishes. The idea is to ensure that all good stories provide a return to their authors.

We've already awarded our first $500 in prize money for May to an up-and-coming sci-fi writer named Jacob Aldrich. The June contest is now underway, and there are still six months more after that. Come and help us grow Fiction Arcade so that Fiction Arcade can help grow the market for short story authors!

In addition to our main site (, you can connect with us through our Facebook writers' group (, Facebook page ( and on Twitter (

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Review of "Counterpoint," a single story in a collection by Elizabeth Morris

Fiction seeks the truth. What underlies conflict? What values can we relate to and what are the risks? And how, really, does the world work? Short fiction does the same, with closely-observed details, effortless dialogue, and familiarity

It’s the little things that make a short story into a big story. It’s the details and the intimacy. It’s the skillful knowing of the characters: their courage, obstinacy, fears, and resilience. In these stories we meet Josephine in Pal Jo and Linda in It’s a Long Time Pull, both holding to optimism like drowning sailors to flotsam. Amory, the man being robbed in an elevator in To Sketch a Thief is surprisingly and enchantingly thrilled by the encounter. The three bad boys in Lights Out are frightened into goodness by the 1965 Northeast Blackout, and Hank, the bicyclist in Down, Down, Down, Into the Valley of the Snake is startled by loneliness into clinging to his marriage.

Elizabeth Morris’s characters are sometimes racist or lonely or fat or confused or awesome, but always complex and both intuitively and authentically imagined. They are easily believable.

Many of these stories take place on or near the water. A child pokes among rockweed to find periwinkles; a New England divorcee concentrates on a limpet’s slime trail; ocean swells roil against cliffs on a Russian island in the Arctic Ocean; and off the coast of an island in the Aleutians in rough seas, a birdwatcher keeps his hand clamped to the gunwale of a small aluminum skiff.

Morris, a long-distance sailor, knows the sea and knows when to keep the foreground of her stories in the front and the background astern.

A sweet though not overly complex story about loss, acceptance and new love.  Morris has a gift for making believable characters in a very short space of time.  This particular story is about a woman traveling to a special location to spread her husband's ashes.  Within just a few paragraphs I felt a connection to the widow, an impressive feat.

The characters were created so carefully I couldn't help but feel like more should have been done with them.  The story should have either been more concise (developing a single moment) or longer (developing her life and experiences further).  As it stands, it leaves the reader in some strange limbo between the two.

Still, a promising author to keep an eye on.

3/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this collection on Amazon.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What Type of Reader Are You Trying To Appeal To?

The tricky thing about writing shorter works is there is much less time to make an overall good impression.  A novel's plot is an intricate weave of multiple plots, characters and themes.

In other words, lots of time to create a favorable impression.  It's not quite so vitally important for the reader to like every character.  So long as they like enough of what is going on, it's a satisfying reading experience.

What one person finds "satisfying"may be unsatisfying for another.  Therefore, a short story writer must be extremely clear about what type of reader the story is trying to appeal to.  If it's horror, the focus should be building that fear.  If it's science fiction, the focus should be on world-building.

Instant draw.  Instant connection.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Review of "Adrift," short story by Edward Lange

After narrowly escaping a deadly plane crash, David King now finds himself stranded in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. With no way to call for help, David's only hope is to brave the elements and somehow find land. But what David doesn't know is that he is at the mercy of the mysterious forces that lurk beneath the waves.

Everything about this story is simple.  Don't get me wrong, simple can be good.  I like a good action movie with a straightforward plot.  Or a romance with a predictable ending.  There's comfort in that.

This story was just a little too simple.  It's a classic man vs. nature tale.  However this type of motif is metaphorical for man vs. himself.  "Adrift" had none of that.  Our main character, David, lacks a discernible personality which makes the action feel stagnated.  I never felt connected to his plight and I didn't care one way or the other if he survived.

With some polish the concept could have been quite interesting.  I could see the dormant potential in the story but unfortunately much of it failed to deliver.

2.5/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this story on Amazon.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Business as Usual

I ordered business cards today.  For my pen names.

In the grand scheme of things, ordering business cards is not that big of a deal.  I'll be honest, I found some cute designs and I couldn't help myself (I dig office supplies).  But it occurred to me after I ordered them that I took yet another step to making this writing gig a business and not just a hobby.

I already took the big jump about two years ago when I started keeping track of my writing expenses and monitoring the income.  That made the writing real for me.  But it takes two to tango in the publishing world.  It's not just about what's real for me, it's about what's real for the readers.  If I continue to exist like some sort of sketchy black-market shadow business I am limiting my opportunities for finding potential new clients.

When people ask about violin teaching I whip those cards out so fast it almost results in near-fatal paper cuts for all involved parties.  But writing?  "Yeah... I write stuff... you can find me online but it's all under pen names so... never mind..."

Time to make some changes.  If this business is going to grow, I have to treat it as I would any other business and artistic insecurities be damned.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Readers Changing

Compared to some veterans, I haven't been in the publishing industry all that long.  Three years and change is nothing compared to those with battle scars from editors that have long since healed.  But compared to the vast majority of those testing the self-publishing waters, I've been around forever.  I've seen at least different generations of would-be writers come and go on the various writing forums I frequent.

Self-publishing is no walk in the park.  It's more than just the satisfaction of seeing your brain child for sale.  It takes determination and infinite amounts of patience.  It also takes a degree of humility to realize that maybe yours isn't the only story for sale nor the only story worth reading.

One really interesting aspect of self-publishing that I've watched change is readers.  E-books are literally changing the way readers read and by this I do not just mean the physical entity in their hands.  Digitalization has allowed the shopping experience to become far more efficient and it has also changed perceived market value.

I'm not going to go so far as to say that it's easier selling short stories.  But it is easier than it was.  Apps and subscription-based services are now a standard.  With simple iPad games costing $4.99 and hit songs $2.99, it is no longer in the realm of "ridiculous" to be paying for a 50 page short story.  In fact, I feel more and more people are starting to prefer this novelette length, especially if the story feels serialized like a TV show.

Who knows?  Maybe short stories really will make a full comeback.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Review of "Leaves of Departure," short story by Tony Acree

A sweet albeit abbreviated piece by Acree.  Since a summary is not available I'll provide a brief one: an old man must come to terms with the anger he feels about his wife dying before him.

Acree does an excellent job with imagery which is really the draw for this story.  The smell of the leaves being raked, the old man's mental state, etc.  However, the pacing of this story is just a little too fast.  Instead of delving into the old man's life and letting it unfold naturally, everything is summarized in just a few paragraphs.

I feel like this rapid-fire approach to plot points somewhat lessens the impact of the old man's emotional journey.  It still had a nice bittersweet flavor at the end but I couldn't shake the feeling that it could have been more.

Still, Acree's style of writing is enjoyable.  Definitely worth checking out more by this author.

3.5/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Find out more about this author on his website.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Way of Life

I've been a musician nearly all of my life.  I started playing the violin right before I turned four.  I can't even remember a time I didn't play the violin.  It's a deeply ingrained part of my life and something that contributed to my choice to study music in college.  When I arrived at that crucial life crossroad I realized that if I didn't choose to study music, I would probably stop playing forever (or at least make it hard to take up).  I chose to keep going.

I've never regretted my choice.  To this day I find music fascinating and by studying it in college it landed me in a career that I thoroughly enjoy.  Teaching the violin is something I feel like I was meant to do and I realize how rare that is when it comes to jobs.  Most people are not that lucky.

But as much as I connect with teaching, I realize more and more than I've never connected with a musician's calling.  I've never been a good practicer.  In college people would camp out in a practice room for hours like it was their job.  I put equal amounts of effort into avoiding said practice room.  I understand the need for practice but I never felt any sort of pressing desire to practice that intensely.  I didn't care, frankly.

Now that I'm out of school, I'll do the occasional gig for a fun change of pace.  But in general I view gigs as more of a chore than anything else.  Serious giggers practically live in their car as they lug their equipment from job to job, coming home at crazy hours from crazy-long rehearsals.  Again, I enjoy doing this a few times a year.  But on a regular basis?  No way, Jose.

Writing?  Now that's a different story.

I love the writing lifestyle.  Tell me to practice my violin for six hours and my soul curdles.  But work on my current work-in-progress for six hours?  Heck yeah.  I love camping out in coffee shops and tuning out the world as I get in a writing groove.  I love sipping tea as I work on blogs or editing.  I write every day because I feel like I need to, not because I have to.

This realization was a strange one for me to process because I always wished I had that kind of connection with music.  I enjoy music and it's important to me.  But it never became something I needed to do.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Review of "The Best of Fathers," a single story from a collection by Tony Williams

Who are the stars of these brief lives? A boy who steals a trundlewheel. An astronaut. A betrayed wife. A man jealous of his lover's chickens. Commuters. Glampers. Psychotic twins. What do they have in common? Nothing -- except the funny-haha and funny-strange conditions of their lives that bring them joy or misery and make us laugh at them and pity them and love them too. What happens when you lose both your eyes to squash accidents? When you inherit a shop full of curios? When you fall for the spirit of a famous murderer? When your son's a tramp? When the one you love is about to kill herself? Or has the Ganges delta in her bloodshot eye? When your butcher doesn't know anything about meat? Discovering the answers to these questions will knock you sideways -- and show that the more we understand about people's oddity, the more we come to appreciate their essential humanity. In these tiny stories, written over a period of a few short months, Tony Williams pushes the limits of prose fiction, homing in on the moments that sum up lifetimes and their complicated, bittersweet emotions. Each story crams a whole world into a couple of pages -- you can sneak them one at a time whenever you have a spare minute, or gobble the lot.

A phenomenal piece of flash fiction by Williams.  It's rare for an author to really grasp what it means to create flash fiction, often omitting character development or plot for the sake of a word count.

Not so with "The Best of Fathers."  It's concise yet it tells a very rich story of a con man and his spoiled daughter.  I loved the ending (though I won't spoil it).

Definitely worth picking up a copy of this collection.  Every story is less than a 1,000 words and you savor every one of them.

5/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this collection on Amazon.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I write about what scares me. I write about what fascinates me.

One of the most interesting parts of running a review/beta service is that I get to read all sorts of stories.  Sometimes even stories that I would not have personally chosen to read but ended up enjoying nonetheless.  It really makes you think about what YOU write as an author.

I write about what scares me.  I write about what fascinates me.  And you know what?  What intrigues ME may not be interesting to everyone.  Get a room full of music nerds together talking about chord progressions and you just started the party.

Talk about chord progressions while having a beer and you just cleared out the room.

But that's ok.  I don't have to please everyone.  In the past two years I've been working on toying with that fine line between writing what makes money and writing what I enjoy.  It really shouldn't be one or the other but some combination of both.

I know that most new authors are always looking for that magic golden ticket that will allow them to rise to the top of the heap.  Like if they could just pick the genre to write in right before it becomes SUPER popular they could make it.

I mean, yeah, genre certainly helps.  But it's not the only answer.  You have to be able to write that genre and write it well if you want it to sell.  With popularity comes more competition.

So write what you enjoy.  Try new genres, test trends.  But realize that a successful story really comes from the perfect combination of style, interest and readers.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Review of "Quantum Fashionistas: A Multiverse Tale," short story by Libby Cone

The Cloud is dead. It's the age of quantum computing. Join insurance actuary Sharon Feldstein and her sidekick, Shabbetai Zvi, as they travel the multiverse to change the history of footwear.

I read this story.  And I have no idea what just happened.  By the end I got the gist of things.  There was a 40s-something woman who works with time travelers (some company named Earwig?).  Something about shoes too (changing who invented flats?).

Cone does get points for her idea.  Like I could see where she was trying to draw out humorous elements.  The delivery, however, needs quite a bit of work.  Character after random character just gets thrown at the reader with no logical plot progression whatsoever.  Nothing was developed and there was zero character personality.  Granted, it is a short story.  But I still need to know enough to care about the fate of the characters.

Definitely needs some work.  But with some polishing I could see Cone having a cute series on her hands.

2/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez  

Buy this story on Amazon.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Concept Behind "Exchange: The Uxel Herum Saga" by Alain Gomez

This particular story takes place two years after the last.  I considered spending some time delving into Uxel's training on Kortholt (might make some short stories on the blog about it later).  The thing was that I really wanted these books to be more about her developing and maturing.  So book 3 starts with her already more confident.  She may have stuff to learn still but she also has a few tricks up her sleeve.  This has really unleashed her need for recognition and power.  

One of the most interesting things about learning is that it's not always just a steady climb upward.  Sometimes we can plateau or even get worse and something before we get better.  In Uxel's case, she is certainly changing but she's not quite sure if it's for the better just yet.   

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Blogging vs. Storytelling

I've been blogging for a few years now.  Almost as long as I've been self-publishing.  I started blogging not really sure what I was getting into.  But I stuck with it.  I've now been around long enough to see plenty of new bloggers come and go.

Blogging takes time.  And if you're a writer it takes time away from when you could be working on a story.  But I don't necessarily feel like it's wasted time.  For me, blogging is a way to get back in touch with reality.  To actually "think" about what I'm saying rather than rambling about in the bowels of some science fiction adventure.

Most importantly, blogging helps me to figure out my storytelling voice.  This is a concept I've really been thinking about lately.  Good writing is not just about having an interesting plot.  It's about making that plot come across in a memorable way.  It's your writing "speaking" voice.  Blogs are fantastic for exploring this.  You're at liberty to spew just about anything on a page and no one gives you guff about your plot or story pacing.

If I look back at some of my old Brouhaha posts the subtle changes that have been taking place over the course of many years becomes obvious.  Yes, it's still essentially me.  But I feel like my personality is now coming across more clearly.  It's not perfect.  I've got a long way to go.  Better get writing?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Lit Bits Rebrand


The Other Publishing Company rebrand short story imprint from Lit Bits to Cracked Eye, after further angel investment funding. 

After securing further investment from angel investors, and as part of their mission to bring the best short stories from new and established authors to keen readers around the world, The Other Publishing Company are rebranding their short story imprint from Lits Bits to Cracked Eye, focusing on new ways their content can be accessed.

London, 3rd March, 2014: 2013 was a great year for Lit Bits. They launched the imprint and have quickly established themselves as a force within the wonderful world of short stories. They’ve been featured widely online, run the hugely successful Lit Bits Weekend Challenge and continue to commission stories from bestselling established authors and exciting emerging talent.

Their stories are read by keen readers around the world but in 2014 they’re setting the bar higher.

This year they’re on a mission to become the leaders in short-form fiction. They’ve successfully secured more funding from angel investors to push on and create something exceptional. To do this they’re investing in commissioning more short stories, producing audio and visual versions of those short stories, novel serialisations, a new website, and finding inventive ways for people to access their content.

Because of their focus on short fiction, in whatever form that may take, they felt the name Lit Bits restricted them. They have grand plans for the imprint and needed something fresher, something that could come to stand for inventive ways of storytelling. Lit Bits has gone through a stage of metamorphosis, and has been reborn into something bigger, bolder, and more beautiful. From now on they’ll be known as Cracked Eye – nothing will ever look the same again.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Review of "The Handler," short story by Susan Kaye Quinn

It's time for Julian Navarro to fulfill the mission left to him by his dead parents: to spark a revolution that would allow mindjackers to live freely in a mindreading world. While his ability allows him to mentally control the instincts of others, Julian wants to win jackers to his cause with words, not weapons. But when his first recruit has a secret--and bloody--history, Julian has to decide how far he'll go to ensure his revolution isn't snuffed out before it begins.

While Quinn is a solid and engaging writer I found it difficult getting into this story.  It's a spin-off novella for what appears to be a series of novels.  This particular story occurs in the middle of the series and it's painfully obvious for the reader trying to enjoy it as a standalone (which was me).  I felt like I had been chucked into the middle of a conversation full of inside jokes.  By the end I was able to sort some things out but the minimal action never really grabbed me.  I had no idea what the mindjackers were nor did I know what their cause was.

So as a standalone plot, this story was weak.  As a part of a greater whole I could definitely see the appeal.  The concept was interesting enough to leave me frustrated that I wasn't told more.  How did the mindreaders take over the world, for example?

Worth looking into if you start at the beginning of the series.

3/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this story on Amazon.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Concept Behind "Fugitive: The Uxel Herum Saga" by Alain Gomez

The adventure continues with Uxel's second book!  I'll be honest: this series has my inner geek feeling all warm and fuzzy.  I focused more on the world-building elements of Muzik Chronicles with this installment.  This is something I've toyed around with on the blog but I've yet to really flesh out and put into use until now.

Book 2 continues Uxel's training as a tuner which has been a ton of fun to write.  I had to really mentally explore what a tuner was and how she could use these powers in a "real world" application.  Like it's one thing to say that you're a wizard but the coolness factor really all boils down to the nuts and bolts of a wizard fight scene.  How do tuners do battle?

Well, Uxel has to figure out the answer to that question as well....

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Review of "Strange Soul Mates," short story by C.L. Gordon

Steven has some serious trust issues and has done some serious drinking at the bar. 

Emily, his girlfriend, has unknown whereabouts and won’t respond to any of Steven’s alcohol-fueled and accusatory texts.

George Packard, an ex-government engineer and fellow bar patron, claims to have the solution: a machine that promises to link the couple in a permanent, unconventional way.

Steven isn’t sure that Emily will agree to his selfish designs. Though, if they truly are soul mates, Steven’s sure he’s allowed to take some liberties ...

**Warning: May contain spoilers**
An engaging story that gets to the point just a little too late and then ends just a little too soon.  The writing style does pull you in, however.  Gordon has a fun way of making her characters endearing.

As the summary suggests, a mad scientist offers a heartbroken man an unconventional solution to his problem.  The thing is that the solution has been "done" before.  Sharing a brain with someone is not a new concept in scifi.  Which is fine.  But this means that the author needs to spin it and make it her own.  Gordon does accomplish this in a way.  I don't think the story needed to be any longer it just needed more efficient pacing at the beginning so it had more time in the "unique" portion.

Still, I can't help but like the story.  It's worth picking up a copy if you're in the mood for a quick short.

3/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez 

Buy this story on Amazon.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Chicken or the Egg?

I know there's really no straight answer to this. I'm just thinking out loud.

So aside from blogging and announcing new releases on FB, I did absolutely no (ZERO) promotion for my work in 2013. No blog interviews, no chatting with people on Twitter... nothing.

It's now 2014 and I'm thinking maybe I could up things a little more. So I've gotten more into scheduling FB and Twitter posts. Nothing spammy and no life-improving quotes. It's still "me" just scheduled out instead of blasting all my random thoughts into Internet space all at once. I figure it takes minimal effort and it couldn't hurt. No one wants to like a FB page that has absolutely no content on it. I mean, I wouldn't so why would others?

So my question is whether or not it's worth it to go beyond this level of effort? My books sales are slooooooooowly increasing due to most of my energy being put into writing. So I figure it makes sense that I should put off more social media activity unless the readers start coming to me. Is this crazy talk? Why be screaming, "notice me!" into a void all the time? But if someone goes out of their way to comment on my FB page? Heck yeah I'll comment back! I'd like their comment twice if I could.

So what comes first? The book or the social media?  Is it worth spending hours every day for a handful of Twitter followers?  Or should I just stay active and wait for people to find me?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Concept Behind "Reborn: The Uxel Herum Saga" by Alain Gomez

For a couple of years now I've been writing stories for a serial-style blog called Muzik Chronicles.  It's nerdy and my mother comprises 30% of my audience but I enjoy writing it.  It's a nice change of pace and it gives me a chance to world build in a way a story won't allow.  All this world building has finally led to me branching out into longer story ideas.  "Longer" meaning it's a novelette and not a 200 word blog post.

And so... I give you Uxel Herum!

I've invented a system of powers called the Tuning System.  The Tuning System is to Muzik Chronicles as the force is to Star Wars.  Tuning powers are kind of a combination of music, acoustics and martial arts.  It's pretty cool, if I do say so myself.  Uxel is a tuner in training.  This five book series will follow her as she goes from an overlooked fruit merchant to a hardcore chick.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Review of "Flowers," a short story by Darnell Dickerson

George and Chloe are High School sweethearts nearing the end of their senior year with a serious problem. The adorable, inseparable couple that everyone sees smiling and holding hands is a façade. Behind George’s doting ways and charming smile lies a jealousy and paranoia so deep it drives him into a blind rage that is best kept under wraps. When Chloe announces she is moving to California for college George unravels and there is no stopping the rampaging, possessive beast that lives within causing him to do terrible, terrible things. Will George be able to take control of this inner monster before it destroys everything good in his life or will he be a slave to it just as his father was?

This is a story of young love and fear, affection and abuse, sunflowers and suspicion, innocence and blood.

A modern spin on "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall."  While engaging enough, the story lacks the psychotic depth necessary to give the ending some punch.  It's a little ironic that the summary for this story contains more description for the protagonists than the story itself.

Still, the writing style flowed nicely.  The potential was certainly there, I just wanted to connect a little more with George.  His M.O. makes sense but without a real understanding of his personality he could have been anyone from the news.

3/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this story on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Finding My Writing "Voice"

I've been struggling (good struggling) a lot with my writing "voice" of late.  It's such a crucial element to a good story and yet it's not something you think about right away when you first dabble in writing.

I've been reading a book that was recommended to me called Creating Short Fiction by Damon Knight.  He talks about how there are several stages of development for a writer.  The first stage is always very conceptual.  An author thinks of interesting concepts and little else.  Like a really good opening line or scene with no plans for how it could actually unfold into a fully developed plot.

I think if I had read that when I first started publishing my stories I would have totally denied it.  My stories were perfect back then.  Any reviews that said otherwise was an affront on my genius.

I think if I had read that by my second year of writing/publishing I would have acknowledged the truth of it and been embarrassed.  Like I should remove all of my books from Amazon and completely rewrite all of them.

But now?  I'm comfortable enough with my writing to acknowledge the truth of what he said and realize that I am, in fact, human.  I need to develop my writing skills just like every other human being who claims the title of author.  And this takes time.  There's nothing to be embarrassed about.  I had to write the stories I did in order to evolve.  It's a natural process.

There's nothing new under the sun when it comes to plots.  You could make an argument that just about every possible plot element has been done before somewhere else.  So the key is not your idea so much as how you deliver this idea.

I find this... difficult.

For one thing there's no way to quantify it.  It's not like you can always apply x,y and z to a certain scene and voila! Your writing voice appears!

For another thing I'm not even sure what my voice is trying to say at times.  What kind of a writer am I?  three years ago I would have scoffed at this question.  I would have said the story idea makes the writer.  Now I'm thinking it's the other way around.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Review of "Jibrayil and the Prophet," short story by Dennis B. Boyer

He had long suspected that he was being plagued by demons.

So begins the tale of the man from Mecca, a man unsure of his place in the world. Cast off by family and shunned by members of his own tribe, he longs to find meaning in his tortured existence.

But his grip on reality has been slipping away. The man who has been appearing to him, the one who calls himself Jibrayil, claims to be an angel of God. But this being could just as easily be a demon of Hell. Or even a hallucination created by his own fevered mind. Even more perplexing is Jibrayil’s assertion that he is destined to be the highest prophet of God.

A compelling but simplistically told story of faith.  Faith, much like politics, has a lot of facets.  It's a hairy combination of culture, experiences, education and personality.  Which is really why I think it's so interesting for people to study.  As much as we would all love to have ONE answer to everything it wouldn't be nearly as much fun to discuss.

This story has an engaging writing style but the plot is spread thin where it should have gone deep.  The scenario of a prophet before he becomes a prophet is a critical and interesting moment.  But instead of really exploring this concept, the plot rushes forward.

Still, it's thought-provoking enough.  Worth checking out if you enjoy religious philosophy.

3/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this story on Amazon.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Promotion Ponderings

So as this I get this new year going I find myself yet again pondering promotional pursuits.  I admit, I've kind of been off the social media bandwagon for about a year.  It just sucks so much of your time away it wasn't worth it to me.

I was losing writing time due to time spent on social media.

So, I stopped.  I kept blogging (obviously) but other than making new release announcements I did nothing on Facebook or Twitter (my medias of choice).

For the most part I feel like this was a good life decision.  When I first started I desperately tried to push books thinking that every new follower was a potential sale.  It was kind of a harsh wake up when I realized that every other author I was following was doing the same thing.

The end result was a year of forcing myself into a writing schedule.  Which worked out really well.  I'm now at the point where I'm writing 800+ words every day.  I wasn't doing that a year ago so I'm pretty proud of myself.

My only teeny tiny regret was this was all time lost developing a possible mailing list (among other things).  I have somewhat remedied this situation by creating simple websites for all of my pen names.  But I do realize the necessity of having to do slightly more.  Let's just say it doesn't hurt to connect with people on social media.

So I'm going to try and put some social media time on the schedule.  The schedule worked well with the writing thing.  It makes sense to set aside a half hour or two to shmooze with people on Twitter.  So long as it doesn't cut into writing time it's a good thing... right???

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Review of "Interview with an Android," short story by R.A. Hobbs

Popular and irreverent talk-radio show host, Chip Gregory interviews his latest controversial public figure – an android named Paul, who claims to believe in God. While on the airwaves of his volatile and popular call-in talk radio show, Chip finds his audience just as explosive as its subject matter.

A truly thought-provoking and interesting piece by R.A. Hobbs.  There's very little description.  As the summary suggests, it's an interview.  But this is one of the reasons why I like short stories.  A story can be a simple conversation and that's it.

I was a little skeptical about the story at first.  It started out with lines that reminded me of every android I've seen on TV ever.  But as things settled in the story began to have a life of its own.  Less "I Robot" as it where.

The radio show format was perfect.  The questions raised were answered just enough to make you think and not feel like you're reading a sermon.  I was surprised how sympathetic Hobbs was able to make the android protagonist.

Well worth picking up a copy.  This is a short story you don't want to miss.

4/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this story on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.