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.