Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Free Book Friday

Title: Family Business
Author: Brett Williams
Genre: Fiction/Thriller/Horror -- Hardcore
Price: $ 16.95
Publisher: Lulu
ISBN: N/A
Pages: 268
Point of Sale: Lulu
Reviewed By: Cheryl Anne Gardner

Erika’s husband doesn’t want to have kids -- yet. He is in the prime of his life, and he wants to enjoy himself, and I do mean ENJOY himself. But Erika, prima Donna trophy wife that she is, wants what she wants, and if she can’t have it, well, then she wants a puppy. Steven, the husband, doesn’t want a puppy either, but Erika manipulates men, not the other way around, so going behind his back doesn’t seem like a big deal. Subsequent to their argument, she does the obligatory pet store romp, then she calls the shelters, but none of them have exactly what she wants: a Yorkie female, a puppy that she can dress up in ribbons, pamper, and paint its toenails. One she can treat like her little girl, her baby. After having crossed a picket line at the pet store only to find no Yorkies and after having to listen to some preachy shelter worker, Erika, frustrated that she can’t get the designer accessory she wants, starts checking the classified ads. She finds an ad that looks promising and then decides to go off to buy a puppy at some shanty shack puppy mill off a dirt road in Missouri, despite her friend’s warnings. Like most people in this world, Erika has no clue when it comes to the unspoken grotesqueries of the Pet Trade. Anyway, she winds up at a shitty ole deliverance type back-wooded farmhouse where she finds more than a cute little puppy. She finds Levi, his son Jake, and the retard Bubba with no one around to hear her scream.



Enter to win a brand spanking new copy of this book by leaving a comment by Midnight, Sunday November 1st. Please make sure there is an email address attached to the comment. The winner will be drawn on Monday the 2nd. This book is graphic hard-core horror, adults only please.
Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thoughts on The Craft -- c.anne.gardner

If I hear the “Show Don’t Tell” mantra out of context one more time, I am going to blow an academic gasket. Why? Because the Show Don’t Tell catch phrase is bandied about without the depth needed for new authors to truly get a grasp of the concept that it is so often misinterpreted to mean: Strip your work of summary and write strictly in scenes. Any learned writer knows this is not accurate nor is it even remotely good advice. The best of the best writers use both techniques -- showing and telling -- in a complimentary way to increase the depth of the narrative. Yes, showing and telling are techniques, and Fiction cannot exist without both. Good writing shows as it tells and tells as it shows. The best written narrative summary is as alive and vibrant as a scene. It can deepen the theme, reveal character, set the mood, give us relevant back story, and it’s where the narrative voice rings out with authenticity. Narrative summary is about language, style, and tempo. It’s where the poetry of the narrative is brought to the forefront. So here is some clarification by a few learned professionals:

Janet Burroway in her book Writing Fiction says: Summary and Scene are methods of treating time in fiction. A summary covers a relatively long period of time in a relatively short compass; a scene deals at length with a relatively short period of time. Summary gives information, fills in background, lets us understand motive, alters pace, creates a transition, and leaps moments or years.

Robie Macauley, former Editor with Houghton-Mifflin, Fiction writer, author of Technique in Fiction, and founder of the Ploughshares International Writing Seminar, said: The traditional rule is that episodes meant to show important behavior in the characters, to make events dramatic as in theater, or to bring news that changes the situation should be dealt with in the scenic, or eyewitness manner. Stretches of time or occurrences that are secondary to the story’s development are handled by what is called a “narrative bridge.”

All good fiction needs a sense of time and space in order for the reader to make the associations necessary to understand the story, and that is where narrative summary comes into play. We should not be discouraging writers from writing summary. A clever writer is not afraid to use it because they understand its value to the overall foundation of the story. The tricky business has always been the where, the when, and the how to write narrative summary so that it comes across with just as much depth as a scene. Comes across with Impact. In order for Narrative summary to do that, it must have the same movement, emotional content, and descriptive characteristics that a scene has, give or take dialog. Narrative summary is where voice and style are of the utmost importance. H.P. Lovecraft is one of my favorite authors and one of the great writers of narrative summary, often blending it so seamlessly with the scenes that we never notice we are reading summary at all. Lovecraft is a master storyteller, and one of his particular quirks was that he rarely used dialog, even in scenes. His work is in the public domain, so I can quote freely here. In this excerpt from The Dunwich Horror, we can see how deftly he uses narrative summary to create mood, give us back story, and set the tempo for the scene to come:

Yet all this was only the prologue of the actual Dunwich horror. Formalities were gone through by bewildered officials, abnormal details were duly kept from press and public, and men were sent to Dunwich and Aylesbury to look up property and notify any who might be heirs of the late Wilbur Whateley. They found the countryside in great agitation, both because of the growing rumblings beneath the domed hills, and because of the unwonted stench and the surging, lapping sounds which came increasingly from the great empty shell formed by Whateley's boarded-up farmhouse. Earl Sawyer, who tended the horse and cattle during Wilbur's absence, had developed a woefully acute case of nerves. The officials devised excuses not to enter the noisome boarded place; and were glad to confine their survey of the deceased's living quarters, the newly mended sheds, to a single visit. They filed a ponderous report at the courthouse in Aylesbury, and litigations concerning heirship are said to be still in progress amongst the innumerable Whateleys, decayed and undecayed, of the upper Miskatonic valley.

An almost interminable manuscript in strange characters, written in a huge ledger and adjudged a sort of diary because of the spacing and the variations in ink and penmanship, presented a baffling puzzle to those who found it on the old bureau which served as its owner's desk. After a week of debate it was sent to Miskatonic University, together with the deceased's collection of strange books, for study and possible translation; but even the best linguists soon saw that it was not likely to be unriddled with ease. No trace of the ancient gold with which Wilbur and Old Whateley had always paid their debts has yet been discovered.

It was in the dark of September ninth that the horror broke loose.

What Lovecraft does in those few paragraphs is just brilliant. The sensory details leave us with a sense of foreboding, a bleak picture of the countryside and its people, and a lot of unanswered questions. Sure, he told us a lot of details, but what we are ultimately left with is a tense “want to know.” He has established intrigue by using the narrative summary to reinforce a very purposeful sense of ambiguity: Officials who just want to be done with the investigation. Details that were kept from the public. Ancient gold. Manuscripts with strange characters. A farmhouse with an unwonted stench and surging lapping sounds. Rumblings coming from the domed hills.

Sure he could have said it like this: Yet all this was only the prologue of the actual Dunwich horror. Formalities were gone through, details were duly kept from press and public, and men were sent to Dunwich and Aylesbury to look up property and notify any who might be heirs of the late Wilbur Whateley. They found that the townspeople were afraid of the Whateley's boarded-up farmhouse, so the officials filed a report at the courthouse in Aylesbury, and litigations concerning heirship are said to be still in progress amongst the innumerable Whateleys of the upper Miskatonic valley. No trace of the ancient gold with which Wilbur and Old Whateley had always paid their debts has yet been discovered.

Pretty flat and very boring. Here we are told everything we need to know, in essence, but what is missing is the emotive voice of the narrator and the descriptive content that makes well written summary compelling. The best written narrative summary can and does, often enough, feel like reading a scene: It has action, movement, dialog, and vivid character emotion without actually being a scene. The best written narrative summary has presence and authorial voice and style, which can be the author’s or the narrator’s. So a new author should not be discouraged to tell, nor should they be afraid to tell. It’s a technique that requires practice just like any other writing technique, and it’s in the telling that we find our voice. So the next time you hear that catch phrase about your own work, step back for a second and think about the real meaning behind Show and Tell before you strip one word from your manuscript, or heaven forbid, attempt to hide the summary in dialog. Just relax and ask yourself a few questions first:

  1. Is the narrative summary relevant to the story overall, to a character, to a theme, to the moment?
  2. If so, is it at the right place and the right time for it, and are you bridging the right amount of time and space?
  3. If it is and you are, does it have movement and emotive descriptive content? Does it have style, voice, and presence?
  4. If it does, does it give insight, or foreshadow later events, or does it create mood and/or a sense of intrigue?
  5. Lastly, if you are combining techniques, as in, if you are using the narrative summary like a flashback or to temper the pacing of your story, are you giving too much, too little, or just the right amount. For me, I like to use narrative summary for back story, specifically to subtly reveal character motivations. I don’t like my characters to tell their stories in dialog to other characters. To me, it makes them seem self-absorbed. People don’t give lengthy dissertations about themselves, so I tend to wrap the narrative summary in the guise of a flashback, which, like in film noir, alters or obscures the linear sequence of events, and I never tell you everything. But that’s just me. Because I write novellas, I have to be careful to make sure only the most important moments are written as scenes. Everything else is kept to summary due to length constraints.

Now, how you use narrative summary will also depend on the story you are writing and the genre you are working in. Some genres and stories lend themselves very well to a good deal of narrative summary and some don’t. Mainstream fiction tends to have a much faster pace, and readers want action. They want a scene based story, they want it to move quickly, and the language should be invisible to a great degree. Literary and experimental fiction seem better suited to narrative summary. Readers want ambiguity, they want language and style, they want a unique voice, and they tend to want a more leisurely read, one that gives them things to ponder: a story where some things are left off the page. Summary can be used in some wonderful and very exciting ways to stunning effect. I am currently reading The Gargoyle and the majority of the book is narrative summary, where one character is telling our protagonist of his prior lives. There is very little actual scene and very little dialog: actually, there is very little movement in real time in this story, and the protagonist is one of the most loathesome I have seen. But I'll review it later when I am finished.

So, you will never hear me tell an author to Show don’t Tell. The craft is all about learning how to balance the two in a manner appropriate for your story, and the art is all about making both as compelling as possible. The books I mentioned in the article are good places to start if you want to learn more about writing narrative summary along with Deepening Fiction and Words Overflown by Stars.

The Book Cover shown is from Show & Tell by Dilys Evans. The book deals with the art of illustrating children’s books, but the cover copy actually applies here as well: Show and Tell teaches the reader (the author) how to look for the perfect marriage of art and text.

Yup, that about says it all, doesn’t it.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Monday, October 26, 2009

Review: Haunted Naperville


Title: Haunted Naperville
Author: Diane Ladley (author’s website)
Genre: history
Price: $24.95
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-7385-6122-6
Point of Sale: publisher
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

Please note updated information below

Diane Ladley is a fellow member of the Naperville Science Fiction Writers Group and she mentioned at a meeting that she had published a book about ghosts in Naperville. My curiosity was piqued, and she was able to send me an electronic copy of her work, Haunted Naperville.

Now, I do not believe in ghosts. However, I am interested in history, and that’s the vein in which I reviewed Diane’s book. As a work of local history, I found Haunted Naperville a perfectly lovely read. Diane opens the book with “The Amorous Apparition of Fifth Avenue Station.” Here, she tells the tale of a fatal passenger train crash in April 1946, which she then ties to the use of a nearby factory as a temporary morgue. The factory was converted to mixed use, and a pair of condo dwellers tells the story of a ghost who was apparently making advances on the lady of the condo.

Like I said, I don’t believe in ghosts. But Diane’s account of the train wreck, including several archival news photos, is an interesting snap shot into history. Diane also tells the story of how the factory came to be, and what led to its conversion into condos and mixed use. I’ve actually been in the building, having dinner in a restaurant converted out of the factory’s boiler room (which still had the original boiler) so getting “the rest of the story” was fascinating.

Diane’s attention to this detail flows throughout the book. Most ghost stories are of the “it went bump in the night” variety, but here we get pictures of the buildings and people, as well as a glimpse into their lives. For example, Diane talks about the “Halfway House” which originally stood halfway between Naperville and Aurora. Not only do we hear about the haunting, we get a picture of the building and the story of its existence and move from its original location.

Haunted Naperville is written in a conversational style, but well organized into sections and well-researched. I would estimate that a quarter of the 160 pages are illustrated, and overall the book appears to be a solid piece of history. Diane’s publisher, Arcadia Publishing, is a relatively new operation. They appear to be exploiting print-on-demand publishing to target very small niche markets, that of people interested in a specific town or region. It’s an excellent use of POD, and I hope that the other books in their catalog meet this high standard of excellence.

Update 10/27/09 PJ Norlander, the director of marketing for Arcadia Publishing, emailed me today. Norlander points out that:

1) Arcadia has been in business since 1993, thus they don't consider themselves a new company.
2) Arcadia is not a POD publisher. They are a traditional publisher, and have nearly 6,000 titles in print.

RATING 9/10

Note – I received a free PDF download of the book reviewed, which remains my property.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thoughts on Vacation -- c.anne.gardner

Listening to my sweet pipings,
The winds in the reeds and rushes,
The bees on the bells of thyme,
And the birds on the myrtle bushes.
-Percy Bysshe Shelly

Needless to say, I have been on vacation all week, so writing has not been my top priority. Fall is upon us here in the Northeast, and there is just too much to do outside and too much beautiful scenery to enjoy. I have a lot to do in the backyard before the weather turns on me and the holidays arrive. I shall return next week with a much overdue Thoughts on The Craft rant and our Halloween Edition of Free Book Friday on the 30th.

Happy Leaf Peeping.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

See, The Sky isn't Falling -- c.anne.gardner

I ran across this in depth interview with Richard Cleland from the FTC, and his comments echo what I have been saying all along: For book bloggers and many other other bloggers, the new FTC guidelines are really nothing more than a nuisance, one that is easily remedied with a simple disclaimer.

The Podpeople already have ours up. Why would we do that if there probably won't be any ramifications for us personally or professionally? Well, I, personally, mirror the sentiments of Dear Author here. It's the law, and the Peeps intend to follow it.

I understand that having ones' integrity called into question isn't a pleasant feeling. No one wants to be the focus of that sort of scrutiny -- feels a bit like a witch hunt. So it's natural that emotion took over and accusations went flying, but I read the 81 page document, twice, and I didn't feel any more angst over it that a few words of disclosure wouldn't immediately alleviate.

So, hands washed ... let's get on to more important things.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Review of Wayland's Principia


Title: Wayland’s Principia
Author: Richard Garfinkle
Genre: science fiction
Price: $32.95
Publisher: Achronal Press
ISBN: 978-0-578-03514-7
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

I’ve met Richard Garfinkle at various Chicago-area science fiction conventions, so when he offered to send me a book to review, I accepted. Richard and his wife, Alessandra Kelley, founded Achronal Press to publish “top-quality, difficult-to-classify fiction.” The book I reviewed, Wayland’s Principia, fits that description perfectly.

The book has an interesting premise – humans receive a communication from aliens, but they are so different from us that, even after years of trying, we simply can’t translate or understand the message. Then, one Constance Marchant decides that the key to cracking the code is to become like an alien – a Guest. One of the first things revealed is that the aliens can’t travel faster than light and are not coming to visit us.

Cracking the code after the failure of human science causes massive upheavals, both social and political. The United States becomes divided into dozens of “Manders” (from gerrymander), as do many other states. Universities and professors become almost extinct, and the world is largely ruled by Guests, who distribute a flood of alien technologies. Then, it’s suddenly discovered that the aliens are coming after all.

Since all that happens in just the prologue and first chapter, to say Wayland’s Principia is dense is somewhat of an understatement. The rest of the book concerns the voyage of a small human contingent on the alien ship, cycling through all five known alien worlds. During the trip, we discover that the human Guests have underestimated how weird the aliens are. It's a wild ride, and personally, I found one rather minor character, a “Skyvolk” (human who lives in a space habitat) named Britt Lookdown to be my point of stability on this trip.

This is the science fiction of Ideas, and it immerses the reader in a whole new universe. It’s the kind of book that could use a glossary and a table of characters, but at 490 pages it’s already a doorstopper. Don’t get me wrong – I liked Wayland’s Principia – but it’s not light beach reading. Garfinkle has delivered a thought-provoking, intelligent and interesting read.

Since Achronal Press is a new and experimental publisher, I’d like to briefly digress from the actual book to talk economics. I’ve said before that writing is an art and publishing is a business. In a self-publish environment, especially Print-on-Demand, which Achronal is using, page-count matters. A lot. Wayland’s Principia is 490 pages, and they are asking $32.95 on Amazon. The trade paperback of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War (admittedly over a hundred pages shorter) lists at $12.95. The economics of POD push authors to write short. Actually, it’s much like the Golden Age of science fiction, where paper costs and markets favored short fiction.

At any rate, I found Wayland’s Principia an enjoyable and thought-provoking read, and I wish Richard and Alessandria the best of luck on their new venture.


RATING 9/10

Note – I received a free copy of the book reviewed, which remains my property.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thoughts on Reviewing -- c.anne.gardner

Professor Shapiro noted in his interview with The Observer that “If you look at most of the major fiction writers from the 18th century until today, you’ll see that many, probably most of them, reviewed extensively. I’d probably go so far as to say that Coetzee, Toibin, Banville and Joyce Carol Oates—four of my favorite contemporary novelists—wouldn’t be as good at their craft if they hadn’t reviewed and continued to review. And I suspect that they would say much the same.”

Mr. Shapiro is a Columbia University English professor, and he was interviewed by the Observer regarding his undergraduate seminar titled: “The Book Review,” which, he said, teaches skills necessary for students to make it as freelance literary critics, but is on indefinite hiatus. Doesn’t surprise me. We all the know the “freelance reviewer” industry is tanking at the moment simply because with all the readers reviewing books on blogs now, it doesn’t make sense anymore for media outlets to use revenue from advertising to pay book reviewers either on-staff or freelance. That money is better spent on journalism versus editorial content, and many media outlets are ditching their book review sections altogether, but that issue has been talked to death recently and it’s not what I want to discuss.

I think the rationale for teaching a course such as this has to change in order to preserve it, and Professor Shapiro, whether he realized it or not stated the most important reason to change that mindset right now: Reviewing makes a better writer.

Why is that, you say? Well, knowing all the theory in the world is one thing, but putting it into practice is easier said than done, and perfection doesn’t come with having the knowledge all on its own. We have to put that knowledge to practical use. The Theorist and the Artist need to get to know one another on neutral ground. So it makes sense that these two things are always recommended to new writers as a means of improving their craft: Read widely and write. We get both when we review books. When we read a review book, we have a different kind of focus. We are reading on a deeply cognitive level as we take all that theory and apply it to what we are reading. It’s not our own work, so we can see what works and what doesn’t more easily. We can make sense of it all because our perspective during a review is that of an interpretive reader and not that of an artist. It’s not that reviewing requires any deeper level of attention to detail than writing does or vice versa; it’s just a matter of cognitive perspective. While we are creating, we generally shut the internal critic/analyst out of the experience so we can allow the art the fluidity it needs in the initial stages. The analysis can come later, and all good writers know how important that analysis can be in the first few drafts.

So in essence, when we review, we are taking all that theoretical knowledge and putting it to practical use with a sense of detachment we don’t normally have for own work during the creative process. As an end result, we end up being able to see what works and what doesn’t and how that theory applies to our own project with an unbiased clarity. For any writer, that is worth its weight in gold bullion, or at the very least, a whole shitload of blue pencils.

I think review writing seminars should be a mandatory part of any creative writing curriculum, and I think all writers should review the books they read from time to time. No amount of textbook learning equates to anything of value if you don’t use what you’ve learned. That’s why in the academic world, we have essays to write and exercises to stimulate practical application. Unfortunately for most people, when they leave academia behind, practical application is abandoned, and so the theory gets shoved to the back of our brain with the collection of other “stuff we know.” Some of that stuff being the crap writing cliche's we see so often perpetuated in mainstream style guides, like the show don't tell nonsense. There is more to it than that catch phrase, a catch phrase that is so often misinterpreted, but that, alas, is another post for another time.

I’ve talked about the value of reviewing extensively on this site. I believe in its value not only to the reader but to the author and to the review writer, who in many cases is also an author themselves. Reviewers with theoretical knowledge tend to make better reviewers too. So writers, do yourself a favor: Learn how to do it properly and review books, as many as you have time for. Read widely and review widely. Do it on your own blog or web-site, or get in contact with your favorite review blog and see if they offer guest reviewer space, or maybe they might even be looking for full time reviewers. Most of the self-publishing review blogs are short-staffed with a few die-harders committed to the cause. They could use the help, and the benefits to the site, to the community, to the readers, and to the authors are greater than you might think. If you are a writer yourself, the benefits you will reap when it comes to the honing of your own craft cannot be measured.

We here at the The Podpeople are always looking for guest review submissions for self-published books and full time reviewers who are interested in reviewing Indie/Self-Published books. We are looking for reviewers who can offer a well balanced critique, love to read out of the mainstream material, and have a basic knowledge of editing and literary theory. Indie and Traditionally Published Authors are welcome. If you are interested, please email the peeps at (podpeep at gmail dot com) with a bio and a sample review. We are always looking for genre specialists and reviewers who read widely. There is no quota, and you select the books you want to review from our incoming queries or from your own private fossicking efforts.

Podpeep.Blogspot is a not for profit volunteer review site dedicated to Indie/Self-Published Books. We are a no Fee Review Site: Predators & Editors recommended. In order to maintain a standard of objective editorial commentary, our site is advertising and sponsor free, our sales links: unaffiliated. Our reviewers are avid readers, some are authors themselves, but all are volunteers and receive no compensation for their posted content other than the occasional ARC. ARCs, which have received a posted review, become the property of the individual reviewer. In most cases, ARCs are generally offered up to our readership during our monthly book giveaway contest or are donated to local libraries and/or other charitable organizations. Exceptions to this policy will be disclosed on an individual case by case basis as required by the new FTC guidelines.

Many of the other self-publishing review sites, listed to the left, are also looking for contributors, so reach out if you are interested.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Thoughts on The Process -- Michael Martin

Welcome to the Guest Post Segment: Thoughts on the Process, where authors share some insight on their writing. Our guest post this week is by Michael Martin Author of: Burning in The Heat, which was reviewed by The Podpeople in August 2008. Please welcome Michael Martin.

MM: Perhaps, the most important thing about the writing process, and I'm only talking about fiction here, is that the story is believable and real. At least that's how it is for me, both as a writer and a reader. Even if you're writing about alien life on another planet, I have to be convinced that this really happened, otherwise I lose interest. In my opinion, you can only achieve believability and realism through in-depth characterization, and by conveying intense emotions and sentiments that are universal to humankind.

Whether it is a story or a novel, I try to start off with an ordinary situation that has the potential to become extraordinary, a point in a life located somewhere just before that fork in the road. I like it when my characters are troubled individuals, people who have limited options, people who are crushed by the combined weight of minor circumstances, things that when taken individually are never quite as overwhelming as they are in total. For example, when that guy on the subway, who looks normal in every respect, suddenly goes ballistic because someone bumped into him on the way out, everyone on the train usually stares at him, backs off a bit, and thinks, "Hey, this dude is crazy!" But when I see something like this I think, "Hey, this dude has a story to tell!" And right away, I want to get into his head. I need to see the rage on his face and find out why it's there. I want to know what it's like to be that guy at that particular moment and understand his motivation for behaving this way. Everyday, someone bumps into this man on the train and he never says anything, but today it's different. Today, he just couldn't control the urge to lash out. He's got self-esteem problems. His wife takes advantage of him, and his kids are a disappointment, as well. Maybe his boss is one of those mean bastards who finds new ways to humiliate him on a regular basis. People are always pushing him around because he's soft spoken and polite and they think they can do and say anything to him and he's just supposed to sit there and suffer in silence, and...well, not today!

And, for me, that's usually how the story starts. Something is going to happen, and you're going to take your readers there and make it as vivid and visual and sensory as possible, and when they put your book down, even if that man ends up choking some innocent old lady on that train, or perhaps quits his job without warning, or decides to cheat on his wife, or simply makes a stand and demands that the people around him finally give him some respect, your readers will identify with him because most of us want to be respected, and we all know what it feels like when we are not.

Generally, it takes several rewrites before I get everything in place to my satisfaction, usually five or more, sometimes ten, however long it takes. I am terrible when it comes to proofreading myself for typos. I write directly from my head onto the computer. I type about 80 wpm, but I'm probably thinking at around 500 wpm. In the process, I lose words like "an" "the" "a" "as" etc., and no matter how many times I read it through, I never catch these kinds of errors. Ironically, it's always the kind of thing that the spell checker will miss too! This is why it’s a good idea to include a trusted friend in the writing process. A friend whose opinion you regard well enough so that you will not dismiss their criticism out of hand, someone who has no obligation tip-toe around your emotions, but at the same time will not destroy you over a few minor errors and inconsistencies. I like structure, and I like to know where I'm going, but I find most plots contrived, probably because, in my opinion, the amount of coincidence and suspension of disbelief in order to make a plot work reduces the overall level of realism. For me, 80% or more of the writing process is rewriting, rewriting, rewriting, and more rewriting. Until you get it right. And I don't think the finished work ever looks exactly the way that you envisioned it at the beginning of the journey.

Michael Martin is a New York City based amateur photographer and fiction writer. His photography tends to focus on parades, protests, rallies, and other public events. He likes photojournalism, documentary photography, street photography, candid portraits, and anything that conveys mood or emotion, pictures that tell a story. He also enjoys shooting nature and urban landscapes. His books fall into the crime fiction private investigator genre, while his short stories tend to have a mainstream fiction focus with modern themes. Visit Mr. Martin at his website: http://www.michaelmartinimages.com/
--
If any of our regular readers would like to share their process, we would love to hear from you. You can email it to: podpeep at gmail dot com with the subject line: Thoughts on The Process. I will give it a quick proofread and post it to the blog. Please include a short bio and a link to your website or blog if you have one. If you have already been reviewed by us, please include the title of your book, as well.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Congrats To -- Craig Lancaster

Congratulations go out to Craig Lancaster. His Book Titled: 600 Hours of a Life was recently picked up by Riverbend Publishing and will be released with its new title and cover in November.

Some of you might remember that our own Chris Gerrib reviewed this title here and reviewed it highly. This is just another example of stellar self-published work getting the recognition it deserves. Craig put a lot of time an effort into promoting his book, and I am certain that he is overjoyed that it paid off. Read more about Craig's Novel here.

So congrats from the Pod Peeps. Much success to you Craig.

600 Hours of Edward will be released by Riverbend Publishing in November 2009.

From the back cover:

Edward Stanton is a man hurtling headlong toward middle age. His mental illness has led him to be sequestered in a small house in a small city, where he keeps his distance from the outside world and the parents from whom he is largely estranged. For the most part, Edward sticks to things he can count on … and things he can count. But over the course of 25 days (or 600 hours, as Edward prefers to look at it) several events puncture the walls Edward has built around himself.
In the end, he faces a choice: Open his life to experience and deal with the joy and heartaches that come with it, or remain behind his closed door, a solitary soul.

Book details
Publisher: Riverbend Publishing (866-787-2363 for purchases)
Format: Trade paperback (5.5 x 8.5)
Pages: 280
ISBN: 160639013-9
ISBN-13: 9781606390139
Retail price: $14
Where it will be available: Your local bookseller (either in stock or available by order), Amazon.com, BN.com, directly through Riverbend.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Friday, October 09, 2009

Review -- Family Business

Title: Family Business
Genre: Fiction/Thriller/Horror -- Hardcore
Price: $ 16.95
Publisher: Lulu
ISBN: N/A
Pages: 268
Point of Sale: Lulu
Reviewed By: Cheryl Anne Gardner

Erika’s husband doesn’t want to have kids -- yet. He is in the prime of his life, and he wants to enjoy himself, and I do mean ENJOY himself. But Erika, prima Donna trophy wife that she is, wants what she wants, and if she can’t have it, well, then she wants a puppy. Steven, the husband, doesn’t want a puppy either, but Erika manipulates men, not the other way around, so going behind his back doesn’t seem like a big deal. Subsequent to their argument, she does the obligatory pet store romp, then she calls the shelters, but none of them have exactly what she wants: a Yorkie female, a puppy that she can dress up in ribbons, pamper, and paint its toenails. One she can treat like her little girl, her baby. After having crossed a picket line at the pet store only to find no Yorkies and after having to listen to some preachy shelter worker, Erika, frustrated that she can’t get the designer accessory she wants, starts checking the classified ads. She finds an ad that looks promising and then decides to go off to buy a puppy at some shanty shack puppy mill off a dirt road in Missouri, despite her friend’s warnings. Like most people in this world, Erika has no clue when it comes to the unspoken grotesqueries of the Pet Trade. Anyway, she winds up at a shitty ole deliverance type back-wooded farmhouse where she finds more than a cute little puppy. She finds Levi, his son Jake, and the retard Bubba with no one around to hear her scream. Yes, of course there is a “Bubba.” How could there not be?

At this point of the story, we leave Erika in a cage for the moment and move on to her husband Steven, who at the start of chapter four is giving the high hard one to one of the many babes he has collected over the years to satisfy his need for enjoyment. He is your typical: I am too young and wanna have fun while I can misogynistic asshole. So far by this point, we have the making of a pretty standard mainstream psychological crime thriller. A little Kiss the Girls, with a dash of Deliverance, a touch of The Hills Have Eyes, and a little bit of the scary backwoods family a la Texas Chainsaw Massacre or House of a 1000 Corpses. “A good breeder is worth a lot.”

Mr. Williams likes to address the dark side of humanity and has a penchant for taking on some very serious and disturbing social and moral issues in his fiction, as all good horror writers do. In Back in Black, which I reviewed here several months ago, the story dealt with racism in the south and reparation in the form of revenge. There was a slight supernatural bent to that story, but the message was clear, as it is in Family Business. However, in this story, the hardcore horror is all human and all too close to the truth. This story doesn’t lightly touch on anything, and it doesn’t just slap you in the face, either: It rams the truth down your throat until you gag. The author’s approach is blunt, maybe too blunt for some readers, but when dealing with subject matter like this, blunt and horrific is the only approach one can take, and even though the “How would you like it?” allusion lies at the heart of the story, it manages to drive home its point without becoming intrusive or preachy. I haven’t been this moved since reading American Psycho. The stylistic approach is very similar: Unrelenting and Unabashed.

On a technical note, which reduced the review rating: The narrative POV needs quite a bit of work. Now, there is nothing wrong with shifting POVs -- at least that's what all my college textbooks say -- providing the transitions are smooth and the demarcation lines well defined. In this story, however, the shifting from various close third person narratives to an omniscient narrative and back again is so erratic at times that it can be a little jarring, and the inappropriate use of Italics only complicates this issue further. Italics used for internal monologue is a tricky business, and if not handled skillfully, the reader can get rattled and even downright confused. I often recommend a very spare use of italics, and if the author finds it necessary to use them, they should make sure to use a close third person narrative during the scene, and the narrative should be restricted to one character’s POV for the entire scene. There was a bit of head hopping in this story that made it difficult to discern at times which character was thinking and speaking. Italics stand alone: They should not be in quotes, and they should not be followed by thought tags. Often novice writers struggle with the use if italics -- I did myself for a time -- but with practice and attention to POV, we find that italicized thoughts are rarely necessary. Other issues include: a few misused words, some typos, some funky dialog tags, and some awkward sentence structure issues, but nothing that was so serious that if affected my enjoyment of the story. This story just sucks you in from chapter one and holds you in a death grip for the remainder. I found only one “yea right!” moment: Where did a wretch like Levi get clomid???? Sure, he could have taken his wife’s, but after 20 years, she wouldn’t have a supply left and no doctor would be refilling a twenty year old prescription for fertility drugs to a lady in her fifties, unless, the doc was in on it as well, but that was never addressed. Aside from those minor issues, Mr. Williams has really improved his technique since my reading of Back in Black. Instead of the backstory info-dump all in the middle of the book as it was in that piece, Mr. Williams very adeptly integrated it throughout the story this time, and the over the top hick diction was reduced greatly. We get just enough for it to feel authentic, not irritating.

Some readers might take issue with the stereotyping and clichés. I didn’t find the crazed southern hillbilly puppy mill scenario, or the hillbilly hooker at the bait shop, or the hillbilly meth lab, or even the Of Mice and Men mentally challenged brother who tends to squeeze things to death clichés bothersome at all, and Steven, Erika’s husband, is a typical asshole. Precedent has been set, what can you do? That’s what stereotypes and a clichés are after all. But, the “animals as a commodity” mentality doesn’t discriminate. Why not visit the Amish Country up here in Pennsylvania. Animal cruelty happens all over the country, all over the world, in the most unexpected places by the most unexpected people sometimes: Michael Vick comes to mind. Clichés noted, this lack of concern for life is not restricted to the low income undereducated lifestyle, but for this story, it worked. Life at Levi’s Missouri farm, all life for that matter, is pretty much meaningless, a commodity, nothing more, and that is what we experience in this book. True human horror. This story is not for the squeamish. We have graphic dog fighting scenes, graphic animal abuse scenes, murder, rape, and torture, but while horror like this is very disturbing to read, the point of it definitely doesn’t go unnoticed. Mr. Williams stays on point throughout the entire story. This is humanity at its darkest. This is truth as much as we would prefer to ignore it. Mr. Williams seems to like to take on the darker issues in his fiction, and he does it with ferocity. Mr. Williams does not restrain the rage. It hits the page full force, so this book would be for mature readers, and even then, discretion is advised.

But what I really liked was the subversive irony. The entire plotline for Family Business arose from the desperate desire to have a child, both Erika’s and Martha’s, the hillbilly mom. Desperation can and does make people do things no sane person would consider. We also have the Madonna/Whore juxtaposition playing out with Erika and Bobby Jean, the seventeen year old bait shop hooker and niece to the hillbilly family. A reader might also feel slightly conflicted about Erika. We, at one turn, are horrified by what is happening to her, and at another turn we might feel a bit of just deserts: Here we have the beautiful blond who knows she is beautiful, who admittedly manipulated many a man in her day, now has to do it to save her own life. The blond bombshell master manipulator with the perfect body, who can’t even control her philandering husband, who is utterly unaware that her marriage is a farce. The beautiful blond who wanted nothing more than a baby, whose husband rebuked the idea, will now end up with a litter of her own. Then there is Bobby Jean, upon discovering the Family Business, she feels no sense of remorse watching others like herself be exploited. Her justification is deep-seated: “Her uncle was pretty smart: It made a lot of sense to use someone else’s body to make money.”

All I can say is that this book is a page turner with enough twists and turns to keep the reader on the edge of their seat until the very end. The intensity level is consistent throughout, and the plotting is flawless, down to the last word. Each character is well actualized on the page, and while we may not agree with the motivations or the decisions made, and we might be equally repulsed by the justifications and the lack of morality, we can understand them on some base level, enough to find sympathy in the oddest moments. No one in this book is a saint, that’s for sure, and in the end, I got exactly what I was wanted. I feared from the start that Mr. Williams would go for the fluffy happy ending in order to justify the gore, but he didn’t, and this reader was thankful for that. The story needed to end exactly as it did: bittersweet with a side of biting irony. In one scene towards the end, I actually fell to tears. Erika’s character arc was so well done that this reader was torn in so many different directions. One moment I was shocked and appalled by her arrogance and narcissism, and the next, I was horrified and repulsed as I watched her move from defiance to acquiescence, watched her teeter on the brink of sanity. Eventually, I found myself sobbing with pity for her soul as her selfishness came full circle with a grand epiphany. Yup, this book has got it all. If you like hardcore, and I mean Hardcore with a capital “H” horror with purpose, and are able to find the value in movies like Hostel and can appreciate the tenor of stories like American Psycho, then you will absolutely love this book.

I will be giving a copy of this book away for our October 31st Halloween edition of our Free Book Friday. Stay tuned .

8/10

Book Cover Design by: http://christastjean.co.uk/

Disclaimer: This book was reviewed from PDF. ARC provided for giveaway only. Non-affiliate sales link provided by the author.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Thoughts on The Craft -- c.anne.gardner

“I don’t like people who have never fallen or stumbled. Their virtue is lifeless, and it isn’t of much value. Life hasn’t revealed its beauty to them yet.” -- Boris Pasternak

I was having a discussion with a new critique partner last week about the likable character paradox. Across the board you get a lot of conflicting information, which varies a great deal from genre to genre and from reader to reader. The one I hear most often is: “I didn’t like the character(s); I didn’t care what happened to them, and so I couldn’t get into the story.”

I am not sure if this is a majority opinion, a genre opinion, or a stylistic opinion, but whatever it is, I don’t share it. Maybe this is because I read primarily literary works. I don’t need to feel all warm and fuzzy about characters to appreciate and understand the thesis behind the story. Maybe after so much academic study, I have come to understand that some themes can only be articulated by using a loathsome protagonist. I love deviant and damaged. Call it morbid fascination if you want. When I choose a book to read, sometimes I want to feel connected to the protagonist: I want to relate on some level, be that with a character’s attitude or experience. Other times when I choose a book to read, I want to experience a viewpoint contradictory to my own even if that means I find the characters to be base, depraved, and repugnant creatures. The juxtaposition puts my own view into perspective, and oftentimes if we dredge the depths of our own psyche, we can actually relate to characters we might otherwise despise on the surface. Yes, we feel awkward and uncomfortable when faced with certain aspects of humanity that seem like an affront to our own. That’s natural, and I can see why some readers might avoid such a thing. Me, I like looking my own shadow in the eyes, and apparently literary readers and Horror fiction readers have much less of a problem with despicable protagonists than do readers in some other genres. During my tenure as a reader, I have been exposed to some pretty tasteless characters. Some of my personal favourites are: Hamson’s Hunger, Camus’ The Stranger, Ellis’ American Psycho, Bataille’s Story of The Eye or Blue of Noon, Johnson’s Jesus’ Son, de Sade’s Philosophy in the Bedroom, Suskind’s Perfume, and one of the greatest ever written -- Ducasse’s Maldoror whose misanthropic protagonist has renounced conventional morality and decency to such an extreme that the imagery is violent, macabre, and nihilistic to the point of being pure evil. Literary fiction is littered with protagonists such as this. Bukowski and Miller have some of the most reprehensible protags around. The dichotomy of the human condition just makes for an interesting read. It offers a way to experience the darkness with a sense of detachment, and during that process we can examine our own personal philosophies by proxy.

For authors, this is an even more perplexing issue. We want to write our story, and we also want people to read and like the story. We want to write the best book for our readers. It’s difficult enough to put all the pieces together without the ludicrous amount of personal reader diatribe we get bombarded with on the matter. And that’s all it really is: subjective opinion. If your protagonist is an asshole for a reason and his characterization is important to the thesis of your story, then rewriting that character in a more charming tone might actually make the work a confusing muddled mess. So, what’s an author to do? Do we stick with likability, or do we write the truth even if it’s ugly. Admittedly, I bring this up because I struggled to a great degree with my novella The Thin Wall. None of the characters are all that endearing. They are militant when it comes to defending their chosen lifestyle -- a lifestyle far from the societal “norm.”And they are arrogant and somewhat self-centred. They have written their own moral code and feel superior having done so. But even though their external view is somewhat tainted, within the confines of their social clique, they behave with genuine love and trust. Not everyone will be able to relate to or embrace these characters even though they are very, very real. The reality of them might be unpleasant and some readers just don’t like to read unpleasant characters or situations. I felt, after much late night languishing, that to soften them would have ruined the meaning behind the story. I am also not the only author who feels this way. Often to bolster my confidence, I like to think back to an article earlier this year with Zoe Heller: “Heller was a bit dismayed to learn that some readers found "there were no sympathetic characters," that "they didn't want to spend time with them," or that they "were not inspiring in any way." To which Ms. Heller replied: “"I don't write books for people to be friends with the characters," said Heller, 43. "If you want to find friends, go to a cocktail party. The point of fiction is not to offer up moral avatars," she added, "but to engage with people whose politics or points of view are unpleasant or contradictory."

Ms. Heller wrote the wonderful novel Notes on a Scandal, which I thought was brilliant. There you have two of the most repugnant female characters ever to hit fiction, and readers like me welcome them with open arms.

So tell me readers and fellow authors: How do you feel? Do you agree with the likability factor? As an author, are you ever concerned about your characters not being likable, or do you just write the character honestly even if they are vile. As a reader, are you willing to embrace a book with a less than savoury character, or do you snub a book because of them?

The art this week is a photograph of Joseph Merrick, The Elephant Man. Offensive to the eye, yes maybe. Can we feel sympathetic? Definitely. But how sympathetic would we be if the external was turned inward? I can't say that I sympathized with Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, but on some level, I could relate to his view on society, and I could understand how the disgust he felt for it could totally and completely transform itself into homicidal hatred.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Thoughts on The Process -- Don Meyer

Welcome to the Guest Post Segment: Thoughts on the Process, where authors share some insight on their writing. Our guest post this week is by Don Meyer Author of Jennifer's Plan and Winter's Ghost reviewed over at PODBRAM.

DM:I usually start with an idea for a story, or a general concept. Maybe I’ll create a scene or two and then I’ll start putting together an outline, a basic flow. I may type or write out a scene or two, or a chapter or two, or just notes on characters, scenes and such that I’ll put into a “work” folder.

The idea continues to evolve over time becoming a story, initially all middle flow maybe an ending and maybe a general beginning. At this point, I will sit at the computer and start to pound out a manuscript, albeit a very rough first draft.

After this pass, creating a bunch of sheets of paper, with words on them, I’ll print and go “sit in a corner” to mark up those pages. Usually I write up and down the margins, the top and bottom, the back and often times I add handwritten pages to the script, flushing out characters, scenes, dialogue and conflict. I typically do two passes one in red ink and the second in green - to highlight my second pass changes. (I created my first manuscript on a manual typewriter and spent more time “writing” than typing and I still continue that concept today.)

Once I am satisfied with that phase, I’ll sit back at the computer and create a manuscript from all those notes, still creating as I go. When that pass is completed, once again I’ll print out those pages, find another corner and start over with my red and green ink pen.

I will repeat that process several times, or until I feel I have the story down - there is no more to tell. I will make one more pass (or two) to check the pieces, the flow, cross check my characters, their introduction, do they belong and do they work. Do the scenes work? Usually that will require another retype, which I will then create one more “clean” copy that I send off to my editor and I am done until I get those “blood” red pages back!

About Don: Don spent two years with a literary agency (largely, as the purveyor of the slush pile). He also worked as a summer intern at a major chain bookstore, to better understand book selling in the retail world. In addition, Don had been asked to speak at several events, including writers conferences and writers groups. He also had been asked to be a guest speaker at writing groups, including moderating a writer's roundtable. He continues to speak and do presentations. At present he has published four books with five different POD publishers.

Books by Don Meyer:

Winter Ghost
Jennifer's Plan
The Protected Will Never Know- A Vietnam Memoir

Visit Don Meyer here: http://www.dpmeyer.com/

--

If any of our regular readers would like to share their process, we would love to hear from you. You can email it to: podpeep at gmail dot com with the subject line: Thoughts on The Process. I will give it a quick proofread and post it to the blog. Please include a short bio and a link to your website or blog if you have one. If you have already been reviewed by us, please include the title of your book, as well. Thank you Don for sharing.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

New self-POD book review blog

My Indy Book Review

"My mission is to: 1. Promote Indy books (aka self-published) by providing reviews of of books by self-published authors and networking opportunities for them. 2. Invite readers to explore and discover new independent authors and their books."

Lulu Partners

I used to feel pretty positive about Lulu.com, but every new scheme seems to plot another point in their downward spiral. The release of books to Amazon without prior notice (let alone permission). The movement of reviews over to WeRead. The help system that has pretty much ground to a halt. The suppression of all non-Lulu paid services. Etc etc.

Meanwhile tools to help sell books to readers languish, under-developed. The search engine is terrible. The store fronts are a joke. The handling of adult material and related complaints is terrible. Shipping charges are insanely high and climbing, especially for non-Americans. And if there was any doubt that Lulu is more interested in milking aspiring authors than selling books, they have unveiled an affiliate programs: Lulu Partners.

"The Publishing Partner Program provides organizations with a mechanism to register members as Lulu authors and earn a share of the revenue generated by those authors' book sales and services purchases. Unlike traditional affiliate programs, this is a lifetime revenue sharing partnership-you register authors once, and share in all future revenue they generate."

So Lulu is "partners" with people who will indenture authors to them. The relationship with the authors themselves seems somewhat less egalitarian. Lulu, Rather than cutting out a share of the profits for procurers to bring you even more authors, how about helping authors lower their cover prices to make their books more competitive?

My Take on the FTC New Guidelines -- c.anne.gardner

After reading the 81 page PDF, here are my thoughts on the new FTC Guidelines regarding "endorsements."

Most of the document doesn’t apply to us as far as our “product” focus goes. I am talking book bloggers and reviewers. Actually, the consumer protection part of it is definately warranted, specifically when it comes to food products, medical products, things of that nature etc. But because the guidelines have to be broad so they are not 10 thousand pages of exceptions, all consumer products must be included. And so they decided that the guidelines shouldn’t focus on products they should actually focus on “endorsements.”

There is a dilineation made between traditional media and “new” media: that being the independent editorial function traditional media has always had. It’s method of obtaining products and disseminating them for review for some reason isn’t called into question.

For the purposes of book reviews, which as far as consumer products go, pose no health or safety risk other than ratings and the contextual risk to say minors or something, the book reviewer would be considered the "endorser" and the publisher, or self-published author, would be considered the “advertiser.” According to example 7, a disclosure of a free book would be unnecessary as the endorsers relationship to the advertiser is inherently obvious. Other forms of payment between Advertiser and Endorser would need to be disclosed, like review fees, because authors paying for reviews directly to book reviewers is not the traditionally and inherently known model and does affect perception and credibility.

The gist of the whole thing is: Endorsements (Book reviews in this case) must reflect the honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences of the endorser (the reviewer). Furthermore, an endorsement may not convey any express or implied representation that would be deceptive if directly made by the advertiser (self-published author in our case). The only time I can see this being an issue is if the book review is glowing and the author paid for it. Or if the author would be reluctant to admit publically that the review was paid for.

As far as material connections disclosure: When there exists a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product that might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement (i.e., the connection is notreasonably expected by the audience), such connection must be fully disclosed.

I did find a nice little bit in there that does protect the Endorser should the advertiser take excerpts from the endorsement and use them out of context in a misleading way to increase sales. Someone is thinking of us a little bit anyway.

So, what I am getting from all of this is not really as miserable as it seems, at least not for book reviewers.

255.1 General considerations.(a) Endorsements must reflect the honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experience of theendorser. Furthermore, an endorsement may not convey any express or implied representationthat would be deceptive if made directly by the advertiser. [See §§ 255.2(a) and (b) regardingsubstantiation of representations conveyed by consumer endorsements.

§ 255.5 Disclosure of material connections.When there exists a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product thatmight materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement (i.e., the connection is notreasonably expected by the audience), such connection must be fully disclosed.

In reality, for us, this really isn’t that big a deal or even a deal at all. Nothing a policy disclosure posted on your site won’t immediately fix. If Sony calls you up and offers your reviewers free e-readers to get you reviewing more e-books, just disclose it. No biggie.

For what we do -- book reviews -- this is really just nuisance, but for products that could cause harm or even kill people, I would want to know if the product reviewer received compensation in some way for the review, especially if it was a good review. Wouldn’t you?

Emily recently posted our disclosure at the bottom of the the site here for reference. I don’t think we need to worry about any more than that. But I ain’t giving legal advice here. Just giving my interpretation of what I read. If I, personally, accept a free ARC and keep it, I'll let you know it in the review copy. Simple as that.

Fellow Bloggers. Should anyone want to skim through my highlighted copy of the FTC document, leave a comment with your email address and I will send it along.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

More Insight into the FTC Nonsense

Interesting Interview with Richard Cleland FTC representative.

http://www.edrants.com/interview-with-the-ftcs-richard-cleland/

FTC To Go After Blogger Freebies

I originally posted this back in July and thought we should revisit it today since the FTC has finally outlined its blogger compensation guidelines and the fines involved. See updated to add for new information at the bottom of this post.

From Cnet News
June 22, 2009
By Caroline McCarthy

The Federal Trade Commission is planning to crack down on bloggers who review or promote products while earning freebies or payments, the Associated Press reported Sunday.
This would, for the first time, bring bloggers under FTC guidelines that ban deceptive or unfair business practices.

"New guidelines, expected to be approved late this summer with possible modifications, would clarify that the agency can go after bloggers--as well as the companies that compensate them--for any false claims or failure to disclose conflicts of interest," the article explained.

The rules could be quite strict, even extending to the practice of affiliate links--for example, a music blogger who links to a song on Amazon MP3 or iTunes that earns an affiliate commission in the process.

The practice of free products for bloggers, most of whom are not bound by ethical guidelines that journalists have historically followed, has been making headlines for some time now. Read the Full Article Here.

--

Now, since Book reviewers are essentially critics, I am not sure how all of this is going to hold water, since we don't actually endorse the products we review: we merely state our critical opinion. However, free books is free books. So I am not sure how fine a line will be drawn or how pointy the stick will be. Updated to add: Here is your fine line via a choice excerpt: "In the case of books, Cleland saw no problem with a blogger receiving a book, provided there wasn't a linked advertisement to buy the book and that the blogger did not keep the book after he had finished reviewing it. Keeping the book would, from Cleland's standpoint, count as 'compensation' and require a disclosure."

As far as the Podpeople go, well, we tend to be fair minded and report negatively as well as positively on the self-publishing industry and the companies within that industry that we come across. Facts are Facts, and if it's our opinion, we make sure we state it. We might link to a book we review, but these are by no means "affiliate links" in that we don't profit from advertising on our site nor do we endorse or profit from the links we provide. Linking to our own author sites is acceptable, since we, as authors, have to report revenue from that anyway. Again, we have always taken a strictly professional editorial approach here. As far as books being reviewed, most often we accept PDFs or eBooks, which are provided to us at no cost to the author. We like it that way. Indie authors are generally poor, so why make them pay, and in many cases, we actually buy copies of the books -- Emily does this quite a bit, as do I. When we are sent ARCs, those ARCs are reviewed without bias and are offered as a giveaway during the month or donated to libraries and charities.


So, what does all this mean. Well, it means that the FTC has taken notice of bloggers, and that the issues of conflict of interest, journalistic integrity, and ethics are being called into question. So how can bloggers avoid being on the receiving end of an FTC enema? I got one answer for you: Full Disclosure. If you are making money, it better be on your books and fully disclosed to your readers. Not to mention the IRS.

Smart Blogging 101: Quote the Facts; Attribute, Attribute, Attribute; Clearly delineate your opinion from the facts; and disclose, disclose, disclose.

We can have a discussion about Libel and Defamation laws another day, or you an pop on over to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and review their Bloggers' Legal Guide. Consider making a donation while you are there.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Admit Your Writing Mistake -- Jim Murdoch

Welcome to our guest post segment: Admit Your Mistake. I was hoping for more response to this segment, but understandably, it is difficult to go public with our fumblings. Our first author who seemed up to the challenge is Jim Murdoch. Welcome Jim.

JM: My biggest mistake as a writer was nothing to do with typography. It was a hardware issue actually. This was at a time before the Internet. I was working on my first novel in two different locations and carrying the text back and forth on a floppy disk. I had just completed it and was saving from the floppy onto my hard drive when – and God alone knows why – I pulled my disk out before the transfer was complete. I corrupted the disk and the file didn't save properly.

Fine, you say, just go back to the other machine and copy the file again. Well, there's the rub. I hadn't saved a copy on that hard drive. My only copy was on the floppy and that was now unreadable. The last copy I had saved was 40,000 words long. I had lost 10,000 words, a fifth of my novel which I had to completely rewrite from notes. Luckily, at the time, I had taken copious notes and I had no real problems, it was just a chore, but I can tell you there was no talking to me for a couple of days.

Now I have Word set up so that it backs up constantly and I hit 'CTRL-S' after every sentence. And when I'm editing I save after every change. I also have copies on two machines and on two backup hard drives. Overkill? You tell me.

Jim Murdoch is a Scottish writer living just outside Glasgow. His poetry appeared regularly in small press magazines during the seventies and eighties. In the nineties he turned to prose-writing and has completed four novels and a collection of short stories. His first novel, Living with the Truth, came out in 2008 and the sequel, Stranger than Fiction, was published in August 2009. You can find out more about him on his blog, The Truth About Lies. Visit Jim at his blog: http://jim-murdoch.blogspot.com/

If any of our readers/authors would like to share their biggest writing mistake, submit your mistake and your thoughts on it to podpeep at gmail dot come with the subject line "My Biggest Blunder" and we will post it to the blog. Please include a short bio, a link to your website or blog, and a link to your current release if you have a book you are promoting at the moment.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Win/Win Hosted Promotion

Most authors carry out some of their book promotion activities, both on and offline, in areas hosted by some other private entity. One example being brick-and-mortar bookstores. It seems to me that the first rule of hosted promotion is that the event or activity should be of mutual benefit to both the author and the host. This win/win approach makes for a well-supported event and a host who will be glad to help out you (and other authors) in the future.

Thumbs Down
I was at my local Borders branch today and I saw two examples of a self-published author promoting their work. The first one I saw was this flier. The poster does not clearly identify much about the books except that some random quoted people thought it was really nifty.

But the kicker for me was that the author put up a poster in a Borders store suggesting that people go and by this book from another vendor. In my opinion this simply isn't a good look. If an author chooses to cut non-Amazon vendors out the supply chain by printing and distributing via Createspace/Amazon that is their choice. But they should not expect to make their bed and then go promote in somebody else's.

Thumbs up
On my way back through the store I came across Joseph S. Meraz with a well-placed official authors table covered in the big read Borders tablecloth. When asked he could sum up his book in a few sentences, briefly covering both plot and theme (i.e. what the book is about and why I might want to read it.)

Book signings for less-than-world-famous authors are always rather "quiet" affairs but Meraz had a good position, a nice manner, and a stock of books ready to go through the till and get signed. Kudos for keeping things classy. (And yes, I did purchase a copy).

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Thoughts on The Craft -- c.anne.gardner

“Keeping children rooted in nature is about many things: the science of good health, love of families, and importantly, the heartfelt poetry of the outdoor experience.” – NWF Action Report Article Titled: Where The Wild Things Are.

Most might remember reading this story as a child. It was one of my personal favorites, and after reading it again as an adult, I now understand its affect on so many levels. The aim of art in literature is to affect the reader to some degree. I can safely say that many of the books I read as a child deeply affected my view of the world, the natural world in particular. Fantasy or not, stories like White Fang, The Jungle Book, Stuart Little, The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, Black Beauty, The Bear, Alice in Wonderland, James and The Giant Peach, The Tale of Desperaux, Watership Down, Christopher Robin and the 100 acre Wood, Dr. Doolittle, and thousands of others help to make young readers aware of life beyond humanity. I personally feel that that awareness fosters a deeper appreciation of life in general. I might still, from time to time, like to imagine that the little shrews who take up residence in my walls are sleeping in sardine-can beds and are spiffily attired with waistcoats and pocket watches, and even though, as an adult, I understand that their social structure and behavior is not that of human society, the idea that they have a societal structure of their own makes me not only appreciate them but helps me appreciate how they fit into this world we share. Maybe their wildness helps me to connect on a deeper level with my own. It fosters a sense of compassion for beings that are not like us. It helps us make a connection, however abstract, with the living breathing thing we call planet earth.

Where the Wild Things Are, the movie, is being released October 16th 2009 and in conjunction with that the National Wildlife Federation is launching their Where The Wild Things Are Campaign. According to the article: “Outdoor time for kids has decreased, on average, more than 50 percent, while their time spent inside plugged into electronic media has grown to more than six hours per day.”

This is a startling and sad state of affairs. We know this as writers because in order to write an effective story, we, in essence, must interpret our own personal experiences and our oftentimes tainted view of the world. Our world view is grounded in our real life experiences, and the words we put to paper are a reflection of that. How can we truly reflect anything of value in our art if our experiences are limited to virtual ones?

So, in honor of all wild things great, small, and make believe, let’s all pick up one of those books we loved as a child and go outside. Let's find a nice shady tree, an urban park, an inner city balcony where you can see the sky. How bout a state park, a community garden, the front stoop, or even our own back yard. Let's rediscover the world. Nature is everywhere, if you look for it. Let’s find it. Sit down on the wet grass and read that book again with the same wonderment you had as a child. Give a squirrel a nut, a pigeon a bread crumb. Show a stray cat some kindness. Whatever. Then pass that book along to a child. Reading opens up the world. Of course, that is just my humble skunk lovin’ opinion.

So tell us readers and authors: What was your favorite book as a child? A Book that had animals in it. I have so many favorites, but The Dr. Doolittle Adventure series by Hugh Lofting stands out to me over all the others, specifically, The Green Canary, which was published after his death.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Movie art Copyright Warner Bros. Ent. Inc. 2009