Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Concept Behind "Tempered Flight" by Alain Gomez

So after a loooooong hiatus I finally resurrected the Calen Natari Saga with a second installment.  I admit that I had a bit of writer's block when it came to Calen's character.  I created her because I liked the initial, shallow idea of a bounty hunter/assassin.  That profession is always romanticized in science fiction because, let's be honest, it's ripe for adventures.  The scenario possibilities that the character can be placed in are literally endless.

But that is what caused the block.  I was fixated scenarios, which was the focus of book one.  I realized that scenarios are quickly going to become redundant if I don't go deeper.  I started to question who Calen really was as a character other than just a killing machine.

Tempered Flight was the result of those pondering.  Calen's weaknesses are delved into more.  She has flaws.  I'm liking the way this particular saga is headed.  It will be interesting to see her develop more.

Buy this story on Amazon.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Review of "In the Dust," flash fiction by Tony Rauch

This piece was whimsical but I enjoyed it.  It's charming in a "crazy" sort of way.  The main character is clearly out of his mind but that's part of the appeal.

I hate putting words in the author's mouth but I really wished the ending had a bit more punch.  The idea of an eccentric artist is just so funny that I couldn't help but feel that the ending deserved a touch of irony or something to make the story linger just a little longer than it did.

But I'm nitpicking.  It's a fun, short piece.  Well worth going over to Rauch's website and spending five minutes reading it yourself.

3.5/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Story may be read on the author's website.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Getting back into the swing of things

I have been remiss with my blogging.  I apologize.  I have a very good excuse, however.  I got married.  And if anyone has ever attempted to plan for a wedding involving more than two people, you will know what I'm talking about.  It just has this way of occupying all of your spare time.  And I was a very low maintenance bride!

Anyway, it's done.  And I finally feel like I have recovered from the events along with the eight hour time difference of our honeymoon destination.  I can be in sync with the planet once more.

I'm looking forward to being a writer again.  During all the hubbub I made a point to keep writing a little each day but nothing else.  I was out of the loop and I missed it.  I enjoy staying on top changes to the publishing world and blogging.  I like the satisfaction I glean from regularly producing new work.

So I'm back!  And hopefully I'll be able to start hammering out some reviews for those of you who are waiting on one.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Half Decade Anniversary

I did it!  I hit five years of being a self-published author.  I feel especially proud of this milestone.  If you can say you did five years of anything it's significant.  A five year relationship is definitely long-term.  Writing for me at this point has just become a way of life.  It's a part of my work day that I do no matter what.

Earlier this year I got engaged and wedding planning activities have a way of just consuming free time and mental energy.  I couldn't keep up with my strict, daily word count anymore.  But you know what?  I needed the break in the schedule.  I switched from daily word counts to just writing daily and it did wonders for me mentally.  I'm making less because I'm publishing less but I'm enjoying the process more now.

Coupled to all this, my beta reading business has been increasing.  Beta reading really helps me to learn and process the dos and don'ts of writing.  I think it's because while I'm writing I'm in the creative zone.  But really examining someone else's writing gives me new perspective.

I feel like this past publishing year was a time of learning.  I don't think I've made any writing technique breakthroughs yet but I can feel like I'm getting close to that point.  Backing off a little from my grueling word counts let me examine what I was writing more and beta reading has made me more sensitive to things like cliches, plot holes and stale characters.  I just haven't quite figured yet how to 100% avoid all those things.

I'm excited about my learning process.  I feel like I'm approaching the end of my "generic story" phase.  I think every writer has to go through this.  You feel a need to write but lack the skills to tell the story in your head so it comes out sounding like every other story you've read before.  It takes time to insert that unique twist.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

To Teach is to Learn Twice

I'm a logical soul.  Yes, I have bouts of irrational behavior just like the rest of humanity.  But in general I find comfort in rationale.  I will believe something because I've argued all the cons in my head and tried to poke holes in it.

So it's really no wonder that I enjoy teaching the violin so much.  On a daily basis it forces me to rethink and challenge and question everything I know about the instrument.  And after teaching the instrument for nearly seven years I've found that the saying really is true.  "To teach is to learn twice."  I was never attentive to musical details as a student.  Frankly, I didn't care.  But trying to instill artistry in young children has made me care.  I am forced to set the bar high or they will have nothing to aim for.

Interestingly enough, this same principle is now starting to trickle over into my writing.  I started a beta reading service about two years ago.  I had been offering basic reviews since 2010.  However, the beta reading forced me to take that to the next step.  I had to really think about all the little details that was making the story work or not work for me.  Was it the characters?  The dialogue?  The pacing?  All those little things that I had previously glossed over in my own writing now stood out as blaring errors.

Is this making me a better writer?  I'm not sure.  I hope it is.  But it is certainly making me a more attentive writer and that, I believe, is a solid step in the right direction.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Review of "Hour of Darkness," a short story by Rocky Rochford

With the Shanzi King's return to Mares looming on the horizon, ready to unleash an eternity of chaos, three of his most trusted and dangerous generals take to the World of Oceania to begin preparations for the return of Darkari, the Dark King of Death. Shaymon, bringer of diseases. Stavros, the always hungry wolf. Mongra, the maker of war. Each one desires nothing more than the total eradication of all humanity. But to do that, each must find a place in the world they seek to destroy.

While I could appreciate the concept behind this first installment along with the author’s budding writing style, this particular tale was unfortunately lacking in story arc. Short story authors have the freedom to explore a larger variety of story telling devices than novelists. If planned out, entire worlds can be explored snippets at a time and through the eyes of a multitude of characters.

However, in order for this to be pulled off well, there still needs to be a larger scope for the reader to grab hold of and this was where Hour of Darkness falls short. It is structured in a few, short chapters that all read disconnected from one another. With no obvious sense of direction by the end and no character to sympathize with, it is difficult to find a reason to continue to the second installment.

The author’s concepts and general writing style were promising enough to offer some redeeming qualities to the reading experience. I would be interested in revisiting his work in a few years time.

2/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

By this story on Amazon.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Review of "Gathering of Souls," a single story from a collection by D.F. Holland

What do a psychic, a family of four and a computer programmer have in common? Unfortunately for them, they reside in the Beaumont House apartments. What appears to be a serene, picturesque apartment complex is actually an otherworldly reality consisting of the supernatural, the strange and the unimaginable.

In “Gathering of souls” ~ An interior decorator buys an antique painting with a heartbreaking, supernatural history that will turn her world upside down.   
The tortured soul trapped in the painting is always a classic a fun horror read. “Gathering of Souls” does a credible job adding the appropriate level of creepiness. You immediately know something is up the second the main character, Holly, hangs the picture up.

The promising start to this story is unfortunately followed by a little too frantic of a pace toward the conclusion. In short stories I don’t expect chapters of description but it is important for the reader to be allowed to marinade for a bit in the terror felt by the characters.

Overall, a good story concept and, for the most part, a fun read that could have been polished up just a bit more.

3/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this collection on Amazon.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Review of "Purple, Silver, Olive, Orange," a short story by Helen Smith

An entertaining short story set in a futuristic England, Purple, Silver, Olive, Orange is a bite-sized introduction to Helen Smith’s writing. Sarah wanted a sensitive, poetic, romantic boyfriend who would bring her flowers. Ryan ticks all the boxes. So why isn’t Sarah happy? Recommended for readers who enjoyed Alison Wonderland by Helen Smith.

Smith’s stories always have such a light, refreshing flavor to them. She makes it so easy to get lost, if only for a few minutes, in her whimsical world.

I especially enjoyed this story. Science fiction implants/cyborgs are often approached as a very serious subject. Every aspect of the pros and cons the technology holds for humanity must be examined. But Smith basically throws all this out the window and creates for us a cute little love story.

It’s an opinion but I do wish just a teeny bit more time went into explaining exactly what the main characters were. But by no means did this feeling of curiosity ruin the story for me. Overall, an excellent read and definitely worth picking up a copy.

4.5/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this story on Amazon.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

World Building Woes

For some time now I've been developing my Muzik Chronicles world.  For some time I focused entirely on the blog but lately I've been developing the world more through series of novelettes.

I have to say, I love it.  The stories never make me any money but I really don't care.

However!  I have now gotten to a point where the universe is expanding.  New characters, new planets, terms... the list goes on.  How do I keep track of all of this?  The blog does help me keep track of species and planets.  But the characters.... I honestly don't know how George RR Martin does it.

It almost seems like it's time to make an Excel sheet?  Or something?  I'm not sure if that would make this more or less complicated...

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Review of "The Memory Man," a short story by Helen Smith

The Memory Man is an intriguing new short story from bestselling British author Helen Smith. Two women become friends in an abandoned post-apocalyptic building. A psychic makes contact with a lost soul. His apprentice tries to find news of a man he has lost touch with. Fragments of memories are traded and twisted. Friendship provides comfort, but the recovery of memories brings torment rather than reassurance - until truth becomes secondary to survival.

I can't help but like Smith's style.  Even after ruthlessly throwing her characters into a grim situation the tone of the story always remains cheeky.  This allowed me to instantly connect with the characters and feel genuinely interested in their fates in a comparatively short space of time.

I would say that, as a whole, I liked The Memory Man.  But it did seem to suffer from one major flaw: transitions.  Not quite enough attention went into providing backdrop for the tale.  The summary actually reveals more than the story ever did.  This would have been fine if it weren't for the occasional switches back and forth from some sort of "dream state" to reality.  By the end I found myself confused with more questions than answers.

Still, I liked the journey.  Short stories, to me, are about the experience.  They aren't long enough to become involved in a world so the impression you are left with is everything.  I found this story engaging.  I just wish a few more loose ends had been tied up.

3/5 stars
Review by Alain Gomez

Buy this story on Amazon.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Pacing and Consistency Continued

A few months ago I wrote about how my writing schedule had to change for 2015.  I felt the need to follow up now that some time has passed.

So far I've remained extremely consistent with sitting down to write each weekday.  I still haven't been able to work myself back up to a strict word count but I don't see this as a sign of losing steam with my writing.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

For about a two years ago I made the decision to treat writing like it's my job, which, for the most part, was a good thing.  It made me buckle down and get serious about my publishing schedule and keeping track of income and expenses.  It made me start the process of really honing skills.  I haven't mastered these skills yet but I feel I'm heading in the right direction.

But I'm starting to realize more and more that my treating writing like a job was a source of deep frustration.  It was a necessary act to push me to the next stage but now I'm glad I was forced to change my pace.

Someone once told me that you don't decide to become a full time writer, the writing decides for you.  I always saw the wisdom in that advice but I think I subconsciously ignored it as I doggedly went about my daily word count minimums.   And while the consistent publishing helped me to become a better writer, it really didn't have any life-altering effects on my sales.  The numbers continued at their own pace no matter how much mental agony I put myself through.

I now feel at peace with the writing and publishing process.  If the numbers can move at their own pace, why can't I?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Working Blogging into the Schedule?

So I feel like I have a fairly decent writing routine going.  I get stuff on the page, I get stuff published.  Success!

But blogging always seems to fall by the wayside.  I like blogging.  I actually feel bad when I forget to write a post.  More importantly, it's a way for me to "think out loud."  Yapping to myself is one of my best learning tools.  And yet somehow it always gets shoved to the back of my mind/day.

I've been trying to figure out a way to change this.  Some of the big indie authors are crazy prolific with their blogs.  Like, they will crack out a 1000 word post every three days.  How???  Writing is their job, that's how.

However, that's no excuse.

What about some of you regular bloggers?  Do you devote one particular day to blogging?  Or do you write as the spirit moves?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Review of "Dead on the Floor," short story by Rocky Rochford

The beginning of the End starts now. For some of us, Life can be cruel, dealing us a losing hand and for Matthew Radley, a young Wiccan practitioner that is exactly what he got. After a lifetime of chaos, pain and losing himself, he finally got everything he wanted, the woman he loved, the future he desired and a reason to live, but in a single moment he lost it all. Unable to take the pain and no longer desire to live, Matthew takes the one thing he has left, his own life. For Matthew, his story has to end, in order for it to begin, his story has no happy ending, for his is a life of Love, Magick, Corruption, & Death and only asks for understanding.

The title page of this short story makes it abundantly clear that it is part of a larger series.  When a story is labeled as such I try not to think if it makes a good "standalone" but rather "would I read the other books in the series."

Unfortunately Dead on the Floor simply has too much going on in its few pages to make for a satisfying reading experience.  The reader is immediately bombarded with the entire life history of the protagonist along with a liberal dose of magic and special powers.  All of these are interesting things I would have liked to know more about but it was too much too soon.  I had no chance to really even form an opinion about the protagonist before he ends up (spoiler alert) dead on the floor.

I could, however, see the author's potential as a writer.  In the few moments where the story actually centered itself around the character's pain and desire to bring everything to an end I was deeply engaged.  So while the lack of focus was a turnoff from the rest of the series, I could see this author making a compelling tale if allowed to flesh things out.

2.5/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez  

Buy this story on Amazon.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Creative People Say No?

I was reading this article by Business Insider here that suggests that successful creative people all share the ability/trait to say "no."  In other words, they don't allow for others to monopolize their time.  It was interesting because the thought never occurred to me yet saying "no" is such a huge part of how I operate from day to day if I want to get some writing done.

I made the decision a few years back that I wanted to take my writing seriously.  I know this sounds kind of obvious.  I mean, what writer doesn't take her writing seriously?  But I feel there a distinct difference between aspiring to be a writer and seriously writing.  The main difference being a dogged determination to put the butt in the chair and words to paper on a regular basis come hell or high water.

The moment I took writing that seriously is when I started having to say no.  A writer can aspire all she wants but if words are going to go on that page then time has to be made for the craft.  Thirty minutes here.... ten minutes there... it all adds up.  Writing has to become a priority or it doesn't happen. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Review of "Argentina," a single story from a collection by Guy J. Jackson

In this collection of rare, hard-to-find, and often too-short short "stories", Guy J. Jackson wields his not particularly helpful but still relatively charming (at least compared to being chased) worldview in order to pretty much study and correct all of humanity's foibles, or at least the ones that need correcting by the end of this year. Also, if you read these "stories" at the rate of one per day, you'll feel Zen for however many days that there are "stories", or so claimed Roundfire Books' late editorial assistant, Nils Samuels Chastain, even though it wasn't his place to decide that.

One word came to mind as I read "Argentina": rambling.  The entire story consists of a protagonist lamenting over the general ban the world has placed on smoking with a small side order of remorse about his misspent twenties.

Too be fair, I'm not a huge fan of the rambling style.  I know it works for a lot of readers, just not for me.  But it felt especially out of place in so short a story.  "Argentina" is less than 1,000 words.  When working with fiction that short every word needs to count.  There's no room for rambling.

I could see how a piece like this might be the kind of story that works better as part of a collection.  On its own it seemed to lack direction.

2.5/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this collection on Amazon.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Pacing and Consistency

At the beginning of this year my life got busier.  It's all good things, nothing bad.  And the extra busyness is temporary (I hope).  But, needless to say, it has put a cramp in my writing output.

This cramp led to some frustrations.  When I got back from my Christmas break I just couldn't get back in my groove.  It seemed like something was always getting in the way of cranking out my 850 words (daily goal in 2014).

I was forced to take a step back.  I love writing but it's not my primary source of income.  And I realized that the frustration I felt was sucking all the enjoyment I gleaned from the process.

It wasn't worth it!

So I dropped the rigorous schedule I had built up for myself last year.  That schedule worked for 2014, not 2015.  I contented myself with just writing every day, word count be damned.  I'm still making steady progress just maybe not as much as I used to.  And I'm ok with that for right now.  The joy returned when I sit down to write so I believe the decision was a good one.

Consistency is key when it comes to writing.  I realized that this will probably not be the last readjustment I'll have to make.  Life gets in the way but that doesn't mean the writing has to stop.  Writing is a lifestyle.  You make it work.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Advice from Siblings – A Review

Jennifer Vandenberg’s Advice from Siblings is light but not simple, textured but not harsh, and neither is it predictably literal. However, it is refreshingly infused with selfishness and a moral ambiguity that belies the honest humor inherent in this tale of emotional conundrums. Advice is a charming little gem that played out perfectly with SFWG’s Evil Christmas Holiday Flash Fiction Contest, taking first place as the unanimous favorite.

At its heart, the story illustrates that evil, although most often associated with horror and overt acts of malevolence, is a slippery notion at best, often born of good intentions, but maligned by manipulation and baseless fear. And for Jon, our protagonist, Christmas Eve is just another day of dealing with his controlling girlfriend and her ever changing list of acceptable behavior. Jennifer shows us that evil can wear many masks and go by many names, even ones masquerading under the guise of altruism.

Flash fiction, by its very nature, cuts to the chase, omitting the breadth in favor of depth. Jennifer Vandenberg reaffirms in Advice from Siblings that the richness of the tale need not depend upon anything as pedestrian as word count.

“Advice from Siblings” was the first place story in SFWG’s 2014 Flash Fiction Contest.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

SFWG 2014 Flash Fiction Contest RESULTS

We would like to thank everyone that took the time to submit to our "Evil Christmas" flash fiction contest. We were simultaneously scared and amused by all the creativity.

And now for the results!

First Prize goes to Jennifer Vandenberg for her story, "Advice from Siblings."

Second Prize goes to Al Stevens for his story, "Santas on Patrol."

Third Prize goes to Robin Leigh Morgan for her story, "A Haunted House at Christmas."

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

$100 a Month Writing Short Stories

As this new year begins, I pulled up Quickbooks to look at my sales numbers (because I get an odd satisfaction from looking at numbers).  At the conclusion of 2014 I completed my second year in a row where I averaged a little over $100 a month over the course of the year.

As a side note for future record's sake, I was on course to make $150 a month for the first half of the year.  And then Amazon decided to release it's Kindle Unlimited program.  In a nutshell: it messed up the selling algorithms for indie publishers everywhere.  But things are starting to stabilize once more.

Even with this temporary setback, the fact that I was able to more or less maintain my monthly average for another entire year proved that slow 'n steady is really the key in this business.  Continually write, continually publish.  The more books you have in your catalog, the higher the likelihood that someone will find your work.

It also solidified in my mind that I can make money from short form fiction.  Maybe not six figures.  But enough to pay all the bills eventually. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Review of "Children of the Artificial Womb," short story by Edward Lange

Hector, a member of the Plasmid street gang and product of the artificial womb, is not doing well. His girlfriend is pregnant, his best friend is a murderous, technological genius and his gang boss is a violent bully. But when a once in a lifetime opportunity comes his way, Hector will have to choose between safety and freedom, in the dangerous world of gang warfare.
This story can also be found in the short fiction collection, Nightmares and Premonitions.

I've reviewed Lange's work before and I have to start out by saying how impressed I was by his progress as a writer.  This story--compared to the one I read before--is sleeker, more engaging and, most importantly, has characters that felt real.  I was immediately drawn into the turf wars and the emotional struggle behind the character's actions.

The plot itself is interesting.  It feels very vintage scifi in that it presents a questionable concept (the artificial womb) and explores the ramifications of such technology development.  Does the artificial womb really solve the abortion debate?

I felt this concept was a little too interesting.  Short stories always walk a fine line between presenting too much and too little information.  In this story's case, too much was given.  A very rich world was presented but much of its potential was left sadly unexplored.  This particular story could have easily gone on into novella-length or longer.

Overall, however, it's an engaging read.  Well worth picking up if you're in the mood for some dystopian scifi.

Review by Alain Gomez
3.5/5 stars

Buy this story on Amazon.