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Kenneth J. Ester
June 9th, 2012, 06:06 AM
First I want to say I am sorry for not replying to many posts lately. Things are more than rough on this end right now and I have very little time to write my own stuff much less read. If I did not see writing as the only possible future for me where I can finally get ahead, I would not even spend time on this right now either.

So anyway, I thought about writing a series of short story e-books and selling them for .99 each. I would ask for two favors. Read this and tell me if you think the idea is one that would grab some interest for a series of books, and then tell me if you think the first person aspect would pull it off in this case, or if I should switch it up before I get too far into it. Thanks ahead of time for your help.

--- Chapter One ---

Most people are afraid to die. Many are afraid of the unknown in what comes after death. Will there be a Heaven and Hell? Will they be born again as another person? Another creature? Perhaps they will just seize to exist. To a few, the idea of just not existing anymore would be worst than anything else at all. Some fear that Hell will be real, and that is where they will end up. There are those who are afraid of the pain they might suffer when they die. To me, the worst thing about dying is coming back to life, a few hours later, screaming bloody terror.

It always happens that way for me. I donít remember what I was screaming at, or why, but I will suddenly sit bolt upright, screaming from the depths of my soul. My ear piercing shrieks will go on for a few eternal seconds before my brain catches up to consciousness. Sometimes, I wish I could just once, die, and not come back to life!

The first time I died, Iíd been broadsided by an eighteen-wheeler. My car caved in like a pop can some hic smashed against his forehead. When the windows exploded, a shard of glass cut my jugular and I bled out before help could arrive.

To this day, I donít know, just how long I was dead. However, I have come to realize that it gets shorter every time it happens. After that first time I died, the next thing I remembered, I was lurching to a sitting position, screaming.. It took a little while for my senses to come around and when they did, I saw the medical examiner lying on the floor, a scalpel still clenched in his fingers. Apparently, the sight of me coming back to life, screaming as I did, was too much for the old fellowís heart to take.

I immediately began CPR on the old man, taking time every few seconds to shout for help. It took a half an hour before someone, walking past the building, heard my pleas and called the police. The cops didnít show up for another twenty minutes after that. Then they arrested me for murder. Imagine the shock on the officerís face when he ran my finger prints and they matched up to someone who had died in a horrible accident earlier that day.

I saw a movie once, about a group of teens who escaped death. Only there was a twist to the story. There was no escaping death. It came for each of them, one by one. The writer for that story had no idea how close he-- it may have been a she-- was to the truth. The fact is death does seem to seek you out after you cheat it. At least it seems that way for me.

One week after coming back to life, I was mugged for the seven bucks I had in my wallet. The, dumb ass, with the gun didnít believe me when I said it was all I had. For seven lousy bucks, he took me into an alley, shot me in the chest, and I died again. I laid there behind a closed party store, for eight hours, before someone found me and called the police. As usual, the cops never got there in time.

When my screaming came to a stop and I finally started to look around, the woman who had found me, still stood with her back against the wall and her hand covering her mouth. She was trembling and her eyes were as wide as mine were. I got to my feet, still gathering my wits, as I tried to tell her it was all right, but she just stood there staring at me in fear, saying I was dead. It took a little patience, but I finally prodded her to speak a little more clearly and she explained that she saw the hole in my chest just moments before, and I had shown no signs of life.

I noticed her eyes continued to drop from mine to look down, then quickly popping up again. Finally wondering what was wrong; I looked down at myself and saw I was naked from the waste down. It appeared that the local homeless had found me before she did and decided I wouldnít need my clothing anymore. I quickly covered myself with my hands and hopped around, looking for something to either hide behind or cover myself. There was nothing. Finally, the woman was kind enough to take her jacket off and hand it over to me.

I had nothing! No wallet, no money, no keys to my car or apartment; I had no clothes and no place to go to get some without causing a lot of embarrassment and uncomfortable questions. The womanís name ended up being Jessica, just like my sister, and I thank God she was not as big of a bitch as my sister is. She knew I was dead just moments before and had the sense to take it all in and think clearly. Something must have told her I was not dangerous, so she took me back to her place. Nothing crazy happened with her. Trust me! Not that she isnít good looking enough. She is and then some, but when you die and come back to life, sex is the last thing on your mind for the next few days. Nah, she let me clean myself up, made me some food, it is amazing how hungry one gets when he dies, and the next morning, she went out and got me some clothes. Quickly, Jessica and I became close friends, and after that, sex never became an issue.

Whenever I was in a strange situation, I called on her and she was always there to help. Even though she had seen me come back to life once, she didnít really believe me when I told her it had happened before. She tried to convince herself that she was mistaken and I had not actually been dead. Then she saw me electrocute myself when I sneezed while changing a fuse at her place. After that, a drunk driver hit me in her apartmentís parking lot. A week after that she found my lifeless body on her kitchen floor after I had choked on a piece of apple I forgot to chew. Then, there was the time, when I was running in from the car during a storm and I was struck down by lightning.

She saw me die too many times, and I think it just became too much for her. I could tell she was not the same anymore. She became more withdrawn and was no longer available for simple things like lunch or shooting pool. When I confronted her, she finally admitted to me that it was too hard on her to keep finding me dead. She told me that if I ever needed her help, I could call her. She would always be there for me when I needed help after coming back, but she didnít want to see me die anymore.

The next three weeks were pure hell. Life just was not the same without her. Life didnít hold the luster it once did, when she was a bigger part of it. That was when I realized I loved her. Then another thought hit me square between the eyes. I was sure to continue dying. How could I put someone I loved through that, over, and over? Because I loved her, I had to leave her.

Since the last time I saw her, I have suffered another five deaths. I have been attacked by a pack of dogs, mugged again, struck by a stray bullet, suffered a stroke, and was in two more car accidents. Both of those were the other driverís fault, by the way. Each time, two things happened. Any wounds I suffered, healed up, just before I returned from whatever was after death. They left no scars, and I returned to the living, somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen minutes sooner. Finally, one morning, I woke up and realized I was in the ultimate conundrum. I could not die, but I no longer wanted to live.

akrathan
June 10th, 2012, 06:43 PM
Hi Kenneth,

This doesn't read so much as a story to me, rather than a collection of strange episodes. I think you may need to write out a plot line, or a summary of what you're writing about, and submit that first, because as it is, it's a bit difficult to give a critique on. Doing this might help develop the story as well. Good luck! Allison

Galen
June 10th, 2012, 08:48 PM
Kenneth E: -- You have a clean direct writing style.

Read your story, liked it. But would I buy it for .99 as an ebook? I would not buy a single short story but I would consider buying a collection of short stories for .99.

To compare short story e-pricing to Amazon's selling a song for .99, can a short story evoke the same sense of time, place, and emotion as a song? Does anyone ever say I remember where I was when this short story was popular?

I have Kindle app on a mac. I get books from various sources: Amazon, Project Gutenberg, and others. I chafe at Amazon's Kindle prices, so I do limit my expenditures there. Still exploring the e-book purchase options, it's a new frontier. I'd say go explore. From what I have heard, you can change your e-pricing later in the process.

Gaseimasha
June 10th, 2012, 09:08 PM
I would say that this story was not nearly well written enough for me to buy it, at any price. I would also say that the problem with selling e-books is that the economics is completely skewed. Online e-book sellers attempt to sell these e-books at prices much too high. In fact, because it is so easy to produce an e-book, and so incredibly easy to distribute it at almost no cost whatsoever, any book that is less than 3000 words is, from an economy of scale standpoint, less than worthless.

The same problem occurs with this story. Even novels should really be sold at about $1.99, so a 99 cents short story? I'm sorry, but there's just not enough investment in content that would make me pay that much. And I suspect that the e-publishing industry will only come into its own when all the publishers realize that cold hard economics and logistics makes the sale and publishing of e-books much, much too cheap to be profitable.

I also suspect that in order to fix this scenario, individual novels for sale as e-books will fade away into massive collections of written material on scales comparable to the Encyclopedia Briltannica. Such massive content would probably be valuable enough to justify charging competitive rates, I suppose.

jbwrites
June 11th, 2012, 12:20 AM
What if you wrote one full length novel and sold it as an eBook for a reasonable price? Then, you could write shorter sequels, side stories, whatever and sell those for 99 cents. This is assuming you want to do it in this format because you have a lot of ideas that simply won't fit into one book.

Kenneth J. Ester
June 11th, 2012, 02:38 AM
Please understand, when I say short story, what I wrote here would not be it. Im talking more of the 20k to 30k words. Maybe that would be called a novella or something. lol But I do see what you mean about the pricing. I may yet turn it into a full length novel.

Can I ask if the anyone thinks the first person aspect would deter from the story? This is only a part of what I have already written, but I would hate to continue writing in the first person and decide later that it doesnt work and needs to be in the third person. So I am looking for what others think rather than trust my own biased judgement. lol

Kenneth J. Ester
June 11th, 2012, 02:39 AM
By the way.... Thanks for all your replies. :o)

VancouverLady
June 14th, 2012, 05:47 PM
Hm, it's definitely an interesting concept. I kept reading because of that. But I think the other reviewers are right: it lacks something. Like a thread of togetherness, that makes it all flow to the same point. I don't really know how to describe it. Maybe, start the same way you did, about the dying... and put a current situation/dilemma in. That always makes it more interesting. Make something happening (he's running from something, doing something, etc) while we hear the story. That's my suggestion.

I like you're style though, it's very modern.

Nemesis
June 14th, 2012, 06:35 PM
Love the story, agree with the other posters about pricing so we don't even need to get into it again right ;) I am interested in what else happens to this guy, why it is happening, what happens when there is no more time between dying and coming back again. Think it would be a little cooler if he did have scars to some extent, but thats personal opinion

TruthSeeker
June 15th, 2012, 07:17 PM
Good approach. I guess the text needs some more polishing, but my main problem was with the protagonist. He's sad and tired from both life and death, which is something that you might have wanted to send across, but as a reader, i don't think i would want to read-on about someone who seems to be so lost, especially that the ending doesn't hint for any hope that he will change. The cost with such protagonists is that they make the reader tired and exhausted. It's contagious. So since this is a series of short story, i hoped for a stronger hook in the end, unless you want it to be a tragic story.

I also believe that the speed you are going with between each episode/thought is not enough to make the protagonist's argument convincing. I know it's a short story, or planned to be one, but you end up "Telling" more than "Showing". You will notice that towards the end, the protagonist starts telling us more than showing. You can, for example, end the first part when the protagonist finds his love, and maybe then in the next part you show more how this relationship didn't continue as the hero would have hoped.

Anyhow, these are just my thoughts. Surely, though, I find that there is something worth following in this story, and i hope your changes will work well for you.

Velah
June 24th, 2012, 07:14 PM
Hi Kenneth,

This is my first reading of a story here, so I apologise if my critiquing style is in itself in need of critiquing. :) I will warn you now that I have been known to nit-pick, but I mean this in a helpful way.

Firstly, I like the opening paragraph but I feel a little removed from it. It feels slightly list-like rather than engaging the reader and making them think about where they stand on the subject. Also, I think "seize" was meant to be "cease" and "worst" should be "worse".

"It always happens that way for me" I would change to be a little shorter, snappier. Something more along the lines of "It never changes" would, I feel, convey more of a sense of his hopelessness and weariness of it all, rather than sounding slightly analytical.
After describing how he died, I think it would benefit from something a bit more tactile, something that will help people imagine what it was like instead of just saying his jugular was cut and he bled out. Personally I'd write something like: "First it was warm, then very cold, and then nothing at all."

The comma between "I don't know, just how long" seems like it shouldn't be there, or at least, it doesn't read smoothly in my head. Similarly with the following sentence and " next thing I remembered, I was lurching"

The paragraph about seeing the movie (I assume you're alluding to 'Final Destination'?) feels awkward to me, and also the reference to the movie would date it quite quickly. Personally I would reword it and remove the movie reference entirely, make it more along the lines of feeling as though death had an intelligence, a sentience that *knew* when it had been cheated. And it was pissed.

Again, the commas between " The, dumb ass, with the gun" don't seem to belong, at least how I'm reading it. It also seems highly improbable that someone would commit murder during a mugging when, presumably, the character's handed over his wallet and the mugger can see he doesn't have any more money (besides, I know plenty of people that carry around little to no cash in this credit-based society, so I can't imagine the mugger would be all that incredulous). Assault maybe, but not murder. The implausibility of it just catches me up and removes me a bit from getting into the story.

"the woman who had found me, still stood with her back" Again I'd remove the comma, and also the word "still". Using 'still' indicates she was doing it from the beginning, which doesn't fit with her finding the character (and presumably rushing up to him to check he was alive). Also, the sentence beginning, "I got to my feet..." feels much too choppy to me with four commas in it. Or maybe I just have a vendetta against commas, you may have noticed. ;-)

The paragraph talking about Jessica feels very colloquial to me, more the cadence of someone speaking than what you'd expect to read in a story. That's fine if that's what you're going for, but personally it's not a style that I'm particularly keen on as I feel it keeps the reader at arm's length. Especially the bit about calling his sister a bitch. Unless it's of importance later in the story and you need some sort of opening into it, I would reword it as it feels redundant and again too conversational.

As with the mugging over $7, electrocution via means of a sneeze is highly improbable and makes me draw back in skepticism. That would have to be a *lot* of mucus (Eww!).

"there was the time, when I was running" I would again remove the comma.

In the second to last paragraph I would reword it so that the two consecutive sentences didn't both start with 'Life'. And with the thought that suddenly strikes him during this paragraph, I would have assumed it would have occurred to him sooner - specifically when she herself was telling him that it was too much to put someone through. It makes him seem a little slow on the uptake when she leaves him for that reason (which she makes quite clear) but it takes him three weeks to suddenly come to the realization himself.

"Both of those were the other driver’s fault" I could be mistaken, but I believe it should be "drivers'" (apostrophe after the s) instead of "driver's", as it's referencing multiple drivers. And I would remove both commas from "Any wounds I suffered, healed up, just before I returned", similarly with the following sentence, and remove the second comma from the sentence after that (the one just after "one morning").

Hopefully you don't mind me going through it with a medium-toothed comb.
I agree with the other writers here in saying there needs to be a bit more in the way of a plot. Short stories need to get to the point *really* quickly to keep people interested. Writing from a first person point of view in itself doesn't put me off - there's many fine books that have done so - but I think a large trap to be wary of is making it sound too conversational, like a friend down at the pub telling a story rather than a well-crafted short story that has a beginning, middle and end.

I'm currently reading the Amber Chronicles series by Roger Zelazny, and I would strongly recommend you flip through them for an example of how first person perspective can work very well. It has a sarcastic edge to the writing that really makes you warm to the character and see him as a well-formed entity, rather than someone a bit faceless and analytical.

So in summary, aside from the hunting season I had on some of your commas (sorry), I would suggest giving the character a bit more of a personal voice and reason to empathize with him, and then also having some central plot that makes it more of a short story and less of a chat.
Hope that helps, and good luck with the e-books.
Cheers,

Velah