Reviews: Stepping into the Twilight Zone Again

I once did an earlier blog post called “The Twilight Zone of Reviews.” I tend to lean toward that old television classic because one of my first reviews referred to me as “Sinclair Lewis meets Rod Serling on Main St.”

I tend to agree with that assessment. However, now I’m in the Twilight Zone of reviews again, because I just can’t figure out why different groups tend to see my work in totally different ways.

I don’t blow a proverbial gasket over a review that has an unfounded criticism. Why? Because I know that the reader/reviewer missed the cues.

Ragged SoulsBlog

In my first short collection Ragged Souls, there’s a story called “Martha’s Kitchen.” When I first wrote that piece it was a big hit among my fellow scribes in the San Antonio Writer’s Guild. They loved it and laughed at the right moments. They even pushed me into reading it during one of their “open-mic” nights.

Therefore, when it was published on Amazon and I received my first reviews, I was eagerly awaiting to see how readers would react to the story. Unfortunately most of the reviewers just “liked” it instead of “loving” it.

Of course, this came as a bit of a shock to me. They didn’t load on a huge pile of praise for the story and they also criticized it because they saw it as a “horror vignette” rather than a story.

Color me surprised!

I intended “Martha’s Kitchen” to read like a wry dark-humored Twilight Zone episode. The difference between the Amazon reviewers and my writers group gave cause for me to scratch my head and try to figure this one out.

After pondering for a long while, the light bulb turned on and I think I had the answer. The story is sown with many subtle seeds. For some, it may take a second reading to turn those seeds into humor. That was the difference, my fellow San Antonio authors had read or heard it a few times.

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And…

Those same on-line reviewers also lumped on accolades for the lead story in the collection, “A Purveyor of Odd Things.”

Phew! In my mind, that lead story was the cleverest piece I have ever written.  So what’s the problem? Well…my writing buddies from San Antonio received that story with a rather “ho-hum” demeanor. I haven’t figured this one out yet, but I’ll try.

#Writing Motivation: Don’t Write!

Earlier today, an idea for a #shortstory came to me in a flash. Immediately I started making notes – even about foreshadowing and small details, which is not something I usually do. I’m dying to start slamming the keys, but I have to face the reality that I have too many stories in various stages of editing.

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Carrot on a Stick by Ben Sutherland used under CC License

Some are completed first drafts and others are partially-written first drafts. Still more have had a few editing passes and have been presented to critique groups. But those critique notes still need to be compiled and addressed.

Therefore, although I’m itching to get started on Night Flights (a working title) I’m going to use it as the proverbial carrot on my writing stick. Better yet, it could be seen as a rap on the knuckles by Sister Atilla the Nun – “No dessert until you finish your carrots.” I need to finish all the stories I’ve started before I allow myself work on this one.

Besides which, Night Flights wouldn’t fit in thematically with any of my planned short story collections, or even my current release Ragged Souls . You can check out my recent Progress Report for details on those.

So in the end, I’ll continue to make notes as inspiration strikes, but this story will just have to wait.

How do you motivate yourself to write each day?

Progress Report: #amwriting

I’m plodding through the first draft of my fantasy novel The First Light. I’m into chapter 16 and it stands at 35K words. However I broke a major rule and let the editor look at the first sixteen chapters. To my surprise I didn’t hear a tirade about cutting and slashing. Rather, she told me I needed to add more material. News like that really made my day, because I always find it easier to add than to remove.

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A Crumpled Paper Ball by Turinboy used under CC License

I also have three more short story collections waiting in the wings. I had wanted to publish one short per month as per my new year’s writing resolution. However, marketing considerations have forced me to adjust the timelines and put stories together in collections rather than singles.

The next collections to be released will be:

Stasis and Other Dystopian Tales

  1. Stasis (new extended edition)
  2. A Pound of Flesh
  3. Glossies
  4. Persons of Interest

(Stasis is finished, and A Pound of Flesh & Glossies have their first drafts completed. Persons of Interest is still in the first draft stage.)

The Lighter Side of Horror

  1. Little Red Revolution
  2. Dungeon Paths
  3. The UFOs
  4. Kindred Spirits

Liars and Fools

  1. The Psychic
  2. Wings
  3. The Candidate
  4. Adrift

I don’t have a specific timeline for these any more, as my wife and I are ramping up to move, and my time is being eaten up by a lot of other responsibilities. I hope to get at least two of these collections out by the end of the year, though.

How is your work progressing?

Ragged Souls

The title of my latest short story collection is Ragged Souls: 3 Tales of the Holy, the Strange, and the Bizarre. It was my editor, Ruth, who created the subtitle for this book. She read and pondered the three stories before having a flash of insight into a connecting theme.

Let’s take a look at “Holy” for a minute. In Martha’s Kitchen, one could discuss the concept of misguided piety. For A Purveyor of Odd Things, it would be a general lack of Holiness. Finally , in Cactus Valley, worldliness is the cause for impiety. However, we get to witness an attempt at Angelic intervention in this last story.

I can sum up the usage of “Strange”, and “Bizarre” quite readily. Within Ragged Souls you’ll meet Angels, Demons, Dopplegangers, Murderers, and Mummies. Need I say more?

Here are excerpts from the three stories that you’ll find within the pages of the Ragged Souls collection.

A Purveyor of Odd Things

Meet Detective Renner Branson, a man so enslaved to his work that he’s forgotten how to live. In his newest baffling case, he will discover secrets – not just about the world, but about himself. The terrors lurking within may shatter his grip on reality.  Or they may show him just how beautiful reality can be.

Excerpt:

Branson squeezed his eyes shut. His sense of real and unreal, of possible and impossible, was shredded by these apparitions. He wanted so badly to run, run anywhere, to the car, to the gate, anything to get away from this insanity. But he wouldn’t – couldn’t – leave Hannah. Through his panic he became aware of her clammy hand clutching his, and though he tugged on it, she seemed unable to move. Paralyzed by that cold stare. Fight or flight…or freeze.

Available for Kindle, Nook, Kobo and Smashwords for all other formats.  Free extended excerpt at Wattpad.

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Martha’s Kitchen

Martha and Jillian, two sisters from a dying town, cope with the hollowness of city life in a bloodcurdling way. Come explore this bizarre case of nostalgia gone horribly awry, but beware the secret recipe at Martha’s Kitchen!

Excerpt:

“His pants and suspenders are still on. I hope he didn’t soil himself,” Martha said.

“No, I heard the toilet flush.”

“It figures,” Martha said. “Mr. Jenkins always was a proper gentleman.”

Available for Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and Smashwords for all other formats.  Free extended excerpt at Wattpad.

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Cactus Valley

One New York couple’s vacation turns into a horrific nightmare. Ancient forces of good and evil do battle to win their souls – but which will be victorious?

Excerpt:

In a tense voice, Andrea said, “There’s still enough gas for thirty miles. Turn around.”

“We’ll never make it back that far. See if there’s another one ahead.”

Andrea studied the road atlas. “Okay. Get off at the next exit and make a right. There’s a service station about fifteen miles away.”

Available for Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and on Smashwords for all other formatsFree extended excerpts on Wattpad.

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A New Year: Resolutions and Goals

It’s always important to remember that when it comes to setting goals, they must be plausible. I’ve never agreed with other goal oriented sentiments like…Shoot for the stars so if you fail, you’ve still reached the moon. That’s like setting an unattainable goal and then being satisfied with second-best.

Therefore, I’m going to set some very logical and sane goals for myself for 2014.

  1. Finish my novel The First Light
  2. Get a second novel completed
  3. Get a short story up on Amazon and Nook each month.
  4. Increase my platform; maybe even figure out Pinterest and other services.
  5. I will market my work as an Indie author and take a stab at the traditional route.

Goal number 5 is important to note. Notice that I am only going to try the traditional route. My goal is not to definitely find a publisher. That would make my goal dependent upon the decisions of a nameless, faceless stranger.

What are your writing goals for 2014?