Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Year from One Tired PodPeep -- c.anne.gardner

Any resolutions folks? I have a few, though I don't really believe in making resolutions on The New Year. Too much pressure to perform, and for me, making resolutions is all part of the process of living. We are continuously running up and down the twelve steps in an attempt to become better more enlightened and happy people. Resolutions are all part of the deal, and so here are some of mine:

1. Quit smoking. I don't smoke that much: 1/2 a pack a week, and I only smoke on the weekends, but I really need to put an end to it once and for all. This goes along with keeping my weight stable, eating healthy, and continuing my daily running regime. Problem is: I like to smoke. Especially on Sunday’s when I am in full blown writing mode.

2. Blog at the Podpeople for another year. Let's face it: I am getting tired: reviewing is exhausting work, and it gets frustrating hearing yourself talk all the time, not to mention that some of the submissions we receive are astoundingly bad. Admittedly, I have begun screening my review books with a more stringent eye, and I am taking a lot longer to read and review the ones I do accept. This has helped a lot, as I have read some really excellent stuff this year by some very talented writers, but sometimes I flounder for things to say on a regular basis, article wise, that I haven't ranted on a millions times already. I love giving to the Indie community, and have met a ton of wonderful people over the years, but sometimes the me-centric attitude from Indie writers can get to be a bit much. We had to retract a review for the first time this year because the author "didn't like it" according to her publicist. Even though it wasn't one of my reviews, that sort of thing doesn't sit well with me. The reviewer took the time to read the book and labour over a very lengthy review only to have the author act like an ass-hat. I could make a million really nasty and snarky comments about the situation, but it is the New Year, so I'll just say that if the Indie community wants people to review their books then they need to get a bit more Zen about the whole process. The number one reason bloggers state for lack of interest in reviewing self-published books is that the authors are immature jerk-offs, and that is second only to the crap quality of the books received. The universe doesn't revolve around your book, or my book, or anyone else’s book, for that matter, and while snarky reviews aren't my cuppa, and some get way out of hand, glowing gold star please-refrain-from-eating-the-paste reviews don't do anyone any good at all, either. I mean let's be completely candid here, this is a second job for me, one I don't get paid for. I am honest as are Chris and Emily, so if you are just looking for a glowing review, you might want to go pay for one because it's no guarantee at the Podpeople. That's the price of honesty, and some people must like it because our review queue is backed up out the door. Note: this is my last Rant of the year, and as a second note, we will not be retracting reviews in the future, so if you can't take critical commentary, please do not submit your book to us for review.

3. Finish my current manuscript and get it out in print. I am looking at Halloween 2011, but my resolution for 2009 was not to rush anything creative anymore. That is an active resolution because I am such a Type A nut bag that sometimes I feel the need to masturbate with timetables and lists instead of just rocking back and forth, drooling in the corner, while letting creativity get the better of me. I am a work in progress that way. I always feel the urgent need to set deadlines I know I can't make. This is why I am not and will never be a career writer. My muse doesn't work well with deadlines.

4. I have begun sculpting again, and I want to devote more time to that. I love writing, mind you, but there is something about using your hands and your creative mind in unison that is more fulfilling for me. Don't know why, it just is, and I have neglected the sculptor and the painter in me for far too long. I am one of those artists who can't focus on one process for too long, otherwise I stagnate and my muse shuts down on me. Sure, each story is new with new challenges, but the process of writing is the same, and if I don't take periodic breaks from it, it becomes an exercise in tedium instead of a passion. Oh and that would be the second reason why I will never be a career writer: My muse is fickle. The little bird is just one of many sculpting projects I have been working on over the past weeks. Cement is not the easiest medium to work with, but I am liking the results very much.

5. Make a conscious effort to "unplug" more often. I think the interwebz is the best and the worst thing to happen to humankind in a long time. Best because it eliminates the distance and worst because its a distraction that has made us lazy and illiterate. I unplug on the weekends now anyway, but in the New Year and moving forward, I plan to extend my time away from the matrix and all its white noise.

So, what about you? I did have a resolution to get readers to comment more, but that is completely out of my control and I don't think posting naked will have any effect besides grossing people out. I enjoy comments, but I rarely comment on blog posts myself. I'm just shy that way for the most part, and I don't like getting into the fray much. I am not really good with the lynch mob mentality or the shout it at the top of your lungs opinion sharing thingy. Others mileage will vary, but I do like replying to comments when I have the time, so I hope to see more interaction here. If there is a topic you want to discuss, feel free to send it along. We are always open to guest posts about the art of writing or the publishing industry. We love opinion pieces. Lord knows we are vocal enough on our own. We will be continuing the weekly Indie Page 99 column as well as the My Story Interview column and my Thoughts on The Craft, providing I continue to have any.

So Happy New Year Everyone. We, The Podpeople: Chris, Emily, and I wish you much happy reading and writing in the new year.

Cheryl Anne Gardner


The Art this week is: Midsummer's Dream by David Robert Hughs. I like it as my version of watching fireworks.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Page 99 -- The Discovery of Socket Greeny by Tony Bertauski

Page 99 from The Discovery of Socket Greeny
by Tony Bertauski
A YA, Sci-Fi Novel
Reprinted with Permission: Copyright © 2010 by Tony Bertauski All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

Book Description: The Discovery of Socket Greeny is the first book in a young-adult scifi trilogy that explores love, angst and Zen-like acceptance of true nature in kick ass fashion. Reluctant readers, especially boys, will find this story compelling, enlightening, entertaining, and, yes, even emotional.

Work has always come first for 16-year old Socket Greeny's mother, especially since his father died. But when she shows him the inner workings of the Paladin Agency, he discovers why it's so important. It's an underground world of technological wonder including bat-like grimmets, spherical servy-mechs and humanoid butlers with brightly lit faceplates. They traverse the planet through wormholes to keep the world safe, but from what, they won't say. Although his mother is not actually a Paladin, and neither was his father, both have worked for them for most their lives. Socket, however, is different than his parents. He somehow is a Paladin and soon finds himself in the center of controversy and betrayal when he's anointed the agency's prodigy. He didn't ask for the "blessing" of psychic powers and the ability to timeslice and he doesn't want to be responsible for the world. He just wants to go home and back to school and be normal again. But, sometimes, life doesn't give us that privilege, his mother tells him. And when the world is soon threatened and the Paladins are forced into the public eye, Socket discovers what his mother means. If he doesn't embrace his true nature, life as we know it will change forever.
--

“There is not much to know.” Spindle’s faceplate was blue. “Pivot has always been withdrawn, but he responded to your father. The Paladin Nation encouraged their relationship in hopes Pivot would fully develop.”

“Develop? What’s that mean?”

“Pivot emits an extraordinary level of psychic energy. He is a minder of another breed. His energy has a profound impact on other Paladins. His presence increases other Paladins’ powers.”

“So they’re using him. They’re leeching off him, is that it? They’re taking from him, does he know that?
Spindle’s faceplate turned many colors. “Pivot provides the Paladin Nation with precognition.”

“He can see the future?”

“It is not so much the future, but a deduction of events to come.”

“Deduction of events…” I shook my head. “That’s the future, Spindle. He’s helping them see the future.”

“The odds of future events,” Spindle said, proudly.

No wonder they built him a jungle. He gave them the ability to see what would happen. There was no limit to that. They were rich: building a jungle for the future was a wise investment no matter how many trillions of dollars it took.

“So that’s why they keep him,” I said. “They’re using him to watch the future.”

“They are not using him like a tool, if that is what you mean. Pivot is a remarkable and highly valued cadet…”

He blabbered the company line, again. Instead of remarkable and highly valued he should’ve just said Pivot was a great commodity. Getting a real answer from Spindle was impossible. He was programmed, after all. He said what the programmers wanted him to say. He couldn’t say what they forbid him to say. He had to follow the script. Every meaningful question just led to another standard answer, never a real one in sight.

--
Tony Bertauski lives in Charleston, SC with his wife, Heather, and two kids, Ben and Maddi. He's a college teacher and a columnist for the Post and Courier. He's published two textbooks that can be found at most book retailers. He was also a 2008 winner of the South Carolina Fiction Contest for his short story entitled, 4-Letter Words. Check out http://bertauski.com for more.

If you would like The Podpeople to feature your Page 99, send us an email to: podpeep at gmail dot com with the subject line Page 99. Please include a link to your preferred e-commerce site, a cover jpeg, and paste your page 99 into the body of the email or attach it as a .TXT file. If your page 99 happens to be a chapter start or chapter end and does not contain a full page, you may use the full page before or after your page 99. One page only please.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Review: Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider

Title: Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider
Author: Ellen C. Maze
Genre: Judeo/Christian Vampire
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Price: $17.95
Pages: 354
ISBN: 978-1432751012
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed By: Cheryl Anne Gardner

What if your bestselling novel attracts the wrong kind of attention?


In the prologue we are introduced to Shaffer [the rabbit] and a monster called a Rakum in what can only be described as an all out torture scene. Note: this book does not contain scenes of graphic horror, or graphic anything for that matter. Anyway, back to the story: Shaffer, the rabbit, cannot die at the hands of his tormentors; actually, he can't die, period. He has been marked a rabbit and his hell is eternal. This is actually the basic premise for the novel. Rabbits are traitors to the Rakum race, just as the original Rabbit "The Lost Rabbit" was a traitor to God. I'll give you some background here from the book, which will not spoil the story. In the beginning, four princes fell to the earth: Zalhdone, prince of pride and arrogance; Rah-Keel, prince of false witness and gossip; Zara, prince of sickness, affliction, and trouble; and Ta'avah, prince of covetousness, lust, and murder. But only Ta'avah fashioned an entire race with his evil intentions: The Rakum, the vampires of this Judeo-Christian vampire tale. In the Christian world, it would be as if the Devil decided he would not be satisfied living in the basement instead opting to populating the world with his own progeny. Vampires and religion are so closely connected in their superstitions that the basis for this story is quite believable, and so the mythos is plausible on a more mundane level. The background has already been written here in scripture, so the reader, if inclined, can make the leap of faith needed to believe in Beth Rider.

Our Beth Rider is a writer of vampire stories. Stories in which demons can be called back to God. Stories of redemption, specifically a story about Priest turned vampire by the Devil himself. Well, Miss Beth is at a book signing when a tattooed biker looking gentlemen [Jack Dawn] accosts her and tells her to watch her back. Turns out, he isn't too fond of the message her books are sending to others of his kind -- a message of hope in that a life of drinking human blood and living in the shadows is not the only option. An epidemic has arisen amongst his kind, and Rakum are falling for all the Bible-beating God nonsense and want to convert to the human race. This is unacceptable, and so Jack Dawn attacks Beth in her hotel room and marks her as a rabbit. Pretty much he has put the stink on her, and every Rakum within a bazillion mile radius is going to want to have their way with her for an eternity.

There are a lot of characters -- human and Rakum -- introduced to us over the course of the story and most are struggling with a crisis of faith in one way or another. Through these relationships we get to experience the Rakum from a variety of different viewpoints. Some Rakum and their human "donors" practice a very affectionate almost loving form of symbiosis, and others run the gamut between predator and prey and basically referring to humans as cows. We have the well-established Patriarchal society: all Rakum are men bred from mortal women who they use and abuse for no other reason than to increase their numbers. Too emotional and hysterical, women serve no purpose aside from the illustrious honour of becoming breeding bitches in a puppy mill, which is contradictory because all the male donors in the story are depraved and weak emotional basket cases. Yes, there are quite a few "ideas" in this story that might offend or disturb a reader or two. Drinking human blood is the least of it. Some readers might also find the homoerotic undertones a bit much to take, so be warned. Rakum men prefer their donors be men as well, and the relationships cross over into the obsessive. One might even make the connection that such relationships are evil by association, so again, depending on your particular religious inclination, you may find some of the subject matter offensive.

As for the plotting of the story, Beth now finds herself on the run without actually knowing it until she stumbles into Michael Stone at the airport. Michael doesn't understand how his master Jack Dawn could have marked this women. She is so innocent. He is just not getting a traitor vibe from her, so he decides to protect her until he can figure out what's going on. Beth comes to the immediate conclusion that Stone is the Archangel Michael sent by God to watch over her, so everything is meant to be and it will all turn out fine in the end because God plans everything. And speaking of that, Beth takes a bit of getting used to. Her faith is steadfast, and she adjusts to every iota of weirdness in her "new" world without flinching even once. Happy Go Lucky Fuzzy Bunny to the nth degree is how one can describe Rider. Some readers might have trouble with someone who behaves so lackadaisical in the face of bizarre supernatural events without a modicum of anger or a conflicted thought.

As the story progresses, other Rakum start making their pilgrimage to find Beth Rider ... a pilgrimage that will lead all the way to Area 51 and the Rakum secret underground compound there where an Assembly has been called to order to decide the demise of Miss Beth. Unbeknownst to them, Judgement Day for the Rakum is at hand, for you see, the Rakum have been deceived. They don't know where they come from. They don't know there is another choice, and they don't know salvation can be had for a pittance.

The rest of the book is basically everyone running from everyone else with oodles of close calls and torturous situations, while of course, Beth spends her time praying -- a lot -- and it must have worked to some degree because Michael falls in love with her, well, as much as he can: Stone isn't just his last name. However, he has other things to worry about. Michael Stone has a family secret to expose, and our poor Beth Rider, our little Alice dragged to Wonderland, must find her own sword and slay the Jabberwocky. Of course the deus ex machina comes in the form of an Angel at Rider’s back who thwarts any and all Rakum who stand in her way.

As you can see, the spiritual overtones in the book are a huge part of the story, so if you have a problem with God being mentioned frequently in your vampire stories, then you probably won't like this book. It's about evil incarnate turning towards the light; I mean, after all, if Vampires do indeed exist, then it stands to reason that God created them in the first place. Anytime you have a religious bent to a vampire story, it's wise to make sure the mythology coincides with various religious texts and interpretations of said texts. This book does a stellar job of it. If I go any further it will ruin the story, which is a very interesting take on the Nephilim or The Sons of God, which in some texts are considered to be fallen angels. Or in this case, they might even be likened to the Four Horsemen in a manner of speaking.

I also loved the cover, and the book's interior is formatted nicely. I did notice some minor editorial issues, nothing a proof-reader couldn't straighten out, but what struck me most about the story was that I really didn't feel anything for the two main characters. Stone and Beth Rider hit the page rather thinly. We don't know a lot about them and really get no emotional engagement from either of them at all even in the most climactic of scenes. Both of them are more or less divine vehicles: messengers if you will. Their purpose is to reveal secrets, nothing more. Now that doesn't mean that the story was emotionally flat. We just find it in the most unlikely of places: Jesse Cherie and Jack Dawn. The scene in which Dawn's brutally abusive childhood at the hands of Father Umberto is exposed made me wince. There isn’t a lot of brooding in this book, so if you are looking for Anne Rice vampire angst against a sweeping historical/religious background, you might be disappointed. This isn’t a horror story either: it’s a story with a very particular spiritual message, and my cautionary notations are really only for those readers who may be overly sensitive to the subject matter.

In the end, everything works out just as God intended. How could it not? And just like in any decent religious allegory, the battle must go on: the staff of Ta'avah is lost, and some Rakum choose to remain in the darkness, which means of course, there are more books to the series. Seems appropriate, since there were just too many characters, in my opinion, to flesh out in a book this size. I really wanted to get just a little more intimate with some of them. Hopefully, we will be offered that opportunity in subsequent books: There can be no Light without Darkness.

7.5/10

This book was reviewed from a PDF copy provided by the author.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Time of Rest -- c.anne.gardner

Those who know me well know that the week of the winter solstice is the only week out of the year where I truly, physically and spiritually, force myself to rest. Actually, I don't really need much forcing. After all, this is the week where darkness turns to light in many ways and taking a moment to reflect silently while the darkness makes to descend upon us so deeply seems appropriate and necessary. It's a time to rejuvenate my creative energies for the year to come, so I want to snuggle in, warm my body, and feed my soul. A lovely fire to do that by helps enormously.

So here's to a week of thoughtlessness. No thoughts on the craft, or the publishing industry, or eBooks, or sales stats, or reviews ... or anything else related to writing for that matter. I can't resolve a new direction for 2011 if I don't take a moment to look back over my shoulder at where I have been, so for me, this is a time of repose. I hope that I will see you all in the New Year. Merry Christmas, Happy Solstice, and much love and light.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

The art this week is: Heart of Snow by David Robert Hughs

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Page 99 -- The Kinshield Legacy by K.C. May

Page 99 from The Kinshield Legacy
By K.C. May
A Fantasy Novel
Reprinted with Permission: Copyright 2010 by K.C. May. All rights reserved.

Book Description: A mysterious stone tablet with five magical gems has sat abandoned in a cave for two hundred years. The kingdom is in ruins, with only warrant knights to keep the peace. But then, the gems in the tablet, one by one, disappear. Warrant knight Gavin Kinshield is a man of many secrets. He's the one deciphering the runes in the tablet. Unless he can find a suitable replacement, he'll be Thendylath's next king. All he really wants is the letter written by his ancestor Ronor Kinshield, champion to King Arek, confessing the truth of how the king perished. Daia Saberheart, warrior of the Viragon Sisterhood, wants to find the future king and help him claim his rightful place. Blacksmith Risan Stronghammer wants to reward him with a powerful weapon. And the sorcerer Brodas Ravenkind wants to capture him, steal his secret and claim the throne for himself. But when Gavin finally tracks down Ronor's letter, he gets more than he's bargained for, for the truth of King Arek's demise is far darker than he ever imagined.
---

"Yes," Risan said. "The sword I made for him has his gems in the hilt. They are the Rune Stones. He'll be the next king of Thendylath."

"Ahhh," Jennalia said, nodding and grinning. Her eyes stared past him. "Rune Stones. I understand now. A ribbon will finally be burned."

Risan looked at Arlet with wide eyes. A ribbon will be burned. Gavin was fulfilling his destiny. A shiver swept through him. No wonder his dream had been so powerful.

"We want to buy a special enchantment for his new sword," Arlet told Jennalia. "We have gold."

Jennalia chuckled and went to the dresser again. "You need no gold here, my dear." She opened a drawer and withdrew a piece of parchment. "Enchantments such as this cannot be bought for any amount of money." She shut the drawer and motioned Risan to follow her to a table. "Put it there."

Risan removed the leather wrap, set the sword on the table, and stepped back.
Jennalia laid the parchment on the table and ran her hands lightly over the sword. "The enchantment I will put on this weapon is very strong. It will bind to whoever claims the sword."

"I'll keep it safe," he said.

"You must not let anyone take up this weapon before the king does. It will speak to anyone with a warrior's spirit. No one but the king must utter its name else the weapon will bind itself to the wrong person."

"No one must handle the sword."

"Whoever speaks its name owns the sword. Only the owner's death can unbind the enchantment, which weakens every time it is unbound."

"Yes, I understand."

Jennalia opened another drawer in the dresser and withdrew an inkpot and a brush. She set them on the table and opened the inkpot. She dipped the brush into it. Risan watched the brush as she drew it across the parchment, first a horizontal line, then slightly curved line to the left, and then another at a downward angle to the right. She drew in the ancient script of Fartha, but he did not recognize the symbols. When at last she lifted the brush and wrapped it in a piece of paper, Risan studied the drawing, cocking his head. On the parchment were three symbols, one atop the other.

"Strength in battle," Arlet whispered, pointing to the top symbol. "But written backward."

"Yes, backward," Jennalia said. "The other two are for sharpness, so the blade will never dull, and Warrior's Wisdom. With the Rune Stones in the sword, the enchantments will become even more powerful." She placed three deep brown gems on the parchment around the three symbols and waved her hand in the air over them.
--

K.C. May was born in Chicago and grew up in the mid-western USA and in Hawaii, attended University of Colorado in Boulder and graduated with a B.A. in Russian from Florida State University. In 1985, she moved to Taiwan to teach English and study Mandarin Chinese. She also lived in the Arizona desert for 24 years, where she founded and ran a non-profit Rottweiler rescue organization, studied Ken-po karate, went backpacking, tried sky-diving, dabbled in bodybuilding, did some downhill skiing, renewed her interest in motorcycling, and spent some time on the shooting range. In 2010, she retreated to cooler, greener Georgia. She earns her living as a full-time writer.

Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003XT5IYI
Amazon paperback: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1453805869
B&N ebook: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/books/product.aspx?ean=2940011837036
B&N paperback: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/books/e/2940011837036/?itm=1&USRI=the+kinshield+legacy

If you would like The Podpeople to feature your Page 99, send us an email to: podpeep at gmail dot com with the subject line Page 99. Please include a link to your preferred e-commerce site, a cover jpeg, and paste your page 99 into the body of the email or attach it as a .TXT file. If your page 99 happens to be a chapter start or chapter end and does not contain a full page, you may use the full page before or after your page 99. One page only please.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Rather Conflicted Thoughts on Agency Pricing -- c.anne.gardner

A few weeks ago all the hub-bub in the Self-publishing world had to do with Smashwords announcing that they had made the move to Agency Pricing, and that made a whole mega-boatload of crazed self-published maniac authors happy people, including me -- sort of.

Let me preface this by saying that I, myself, am a spend-a-holic book buyer and a ridiculously obsessed book reader. Not all self-published authors can make that claim, by the way. So for me, lack of discounting is a big deal, but it's not even the discounting so much as it is an issue of reasonable pricing. I won't pay paper book prices for an eBook. I just won't do it because an eBook lacks the pretty ga ga designer packaging and it has certain limitations that paper books do not, as in I don't actually have a fucking book. So the real issue with Agency Pricing is that the pricing has been left in the hands of people who really have no clue how to price a warm turd at a country fare to make it sell. Retailers, however, know how to do this because all they are interested in is selling the most product for the most profit and sometimes that means discounting a product or offering loss leaders to generate traffic. They also know average consumer loyalty leans heavily towards the place where they feel they get the most for their money, and incentive programs are a huge draw. With Agency Pricing, the retailers’ hands are now tied when it comes to manipulating the consumer. If the eBook costs the same everywhere, then I am going to buy it from the most convenient place, that being the one that offers formats compatible with my eReader and one that has a wide selection. I like Kobo, but without the discount, the foreign transaction fee just doesn't make it worth it for me to buy from them if the book is priced the same over at Sony or at Diesel or on the Publisher's website. I have no reason to be loyal now to one shop, and sure, it levels the playing field, but it also removes any sort of choice from the consumer. I decide how much I am willing to pay for something and where I want to buy it, and to me it seems like that bit of autonomy has now been taken away from me, and I don't like that much. I don't like being locked into a format or a price or a shopping venue. We all know retail price contains a significant mark-up in order to allow for discounting at the retail level. Take away that discounting and retail pricing has to be adjusted, and yes, eBooks cost money to make just like print books, but some of those costs can be eliminated from the equation, like printing and warehousing and shipping costs. Some will get swapped out for other costs, but come on, consumers are not that stupid. If a trade paperback costs less than the hardcover version, and a mass-market paperback costs even less than a trade paper copy, then logic dictates, the eBook, having no physical form, should also be cheaper then the paperback. I don't care if you window, or graduate the price over time as the book ages and wanes in popularity, I can wait, whatever.

Now on the flip side of this, my being an Indie author with books for sale and all that, Agency Pricing takes on a more convoluted meaning for me. I didn't mind the discounting because I get paid on the retail price anyway, so it didn't really make a difference to me if Kobo wanted to discount and B&N didn't. However, what made me eventually care was the fact that price parity was now being demanded by retailers as a direct result of their hands being tied. Amazon got particularly upset if another retailer was selling your book at a discount and they were not. Some people had buy buttons removed as a result in the beginning, which is asinine, because discounting does not affect the retail price of the book, so I think many Indies actually misunderstood how this whole thing worked and Amazon was just being a huge cantankerous pain in the ass. I even did a little experiment with Amazon and B&N to see what would happen. I had The Splendor of Antiquity priced at $1.99 over all venues, but B&N was discounting it to .99 cents because of my summer sale, so I left my Amazon price set to .99 cents after my summer sale ended so they would not get all pissy with me, but since my summer sale was over, I really wanted to return the books to their $1.99 price tag eventually. No matter what I did on Smashwords to adjust the price at B&N they continued to discount to .99 cents, so in much frustration, I decided to just change my price on Amazon, come what may. If they slapped my hand, they slapped my hand, and I would work it out later. Much to my surprise though, within twenty-four hours of changing my price on Amazon to match Kobo's discounted price of $1.79, B&N followed suit. Please keep in mind that this was all way before the Agency Pricing shift at Smashwords. So the next day, I upped the price on Amazon to its normal retail price of $1.99, and wouldn't you know it, B&N followed suit within twenty-four hours and I didn't get my hand slapped by Amazon.

Now that Smashwords has changed over to Agency Pricing, as a businessperson and a publisher, I don't have to worry about this price parity shit anymore, meaning I don’t have to worry about wasting my time monitoring discounts on various venues. I can just set my retail price and be done with it. This I like very much: less days spent working myself up into a constipated mental tizzy over fucking buy buttons.

So how does the royalty earning author and the book buyer reconcile their conflicted feelings: It's simple really, I price my books with a consumer mindset and I leave the writer and the publisher out of it. I know what I need to charge to make a profit, and I know how much of a discount I feel is fair when pricing print to eBook. Look, we all understand the hard work that goes into writing a book and the cost to produce that book. As for industry costs, there are people involved at every step of the way -- people who manage the print to eBook conversion process, and at the very least, I am sure they would like to be paid. They need to eat too. On the writer end of it, our art has value, no one is denying this, but if the consumer doesn't feel your price is fair, your work just won't sell. I don't agree with Agency pricing in so far as it has been mismanaged by the Traditional Publishing Industry to date much to consumer chagrin, but as an author and a publisher, I can see the benefit in it if administered properly.

I am opening up the floor here to Indie authors, how do you feel about Agency Pricing?

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Page 99 -- Maids of Misfortune by M. Louisa Locke

Page 99 from The Maids of Misfortune: A Victorian San Francisco Mystery
By M. Louisa Locke
A Historical Mystery Novel
Reprinted with Permission: Copyright: 2009, M. Louisa Locke, All Rights Reserved.

Book Description: It's the summer of 1879, and Annie Fuller, a young San Francisco widow, is in trouble. Annie's husband squandered her fortune before committing suicide five years earlier, and one of his creditors is now threatening to take the boardinghouse she owns to pay off a debt. Annie Fuller also has a secret. She supplements her income by giving domestic and business advice as Madam Sibyl, one of San Francisco's most exclusive clairvoyants, and one of Madam Sibyl's clients, Matthew Voss, has died. The police believe his death was suicide brought upon by bankruptcy, but Annie believes Voss has been murdered and that his assets have been stolen. Nate Dawson has a problem. As the Voss family lawyer, he would love to believe that Matthew Voss didn't leave his grieving family destitute. But that would mean working with Annie Fuller, a woman who alternatively attracts and infuriates him as she shatters every notion he ever had of proper ladylike behavior. Sparks fly as Anne and Nate pursue the truth about the murder of Matthew Voss in this light-hearted historical mystery set in the foggy gas-lit world of Victorian San Francisco.
--

Annie scanned the room again and thought with a sigh that the only place left to look was the bookshelves, and that could take all night. She leaned over to look at the clock she had noticed on the desk and almost let out a gasp when she saw the hands at 4:30. No, that can’t be right, she thought, not that much time has passed. Then she realized that the clock was silent, probably hadn’t been wound since Saturday. So what time was it? No more than fifteen minutes could have passed since she entered the room. She stood and listened carefully, but could hear only the sound of her own breathing. Well, she thought, I should at least look closely enough to see if it looks like any papers have been stuffed between any of the books.

Annie crossed over to the end of the shelves to the right of the door and had just raised the candle up high to get a better look at the top shelves when a soft sound at the door gave her barely enough warning to snatch the candle down and snuff out its flame. The door was shoved open to its full extent, effectively boxing her into a tight triangle, with her back against the wall, the bookshelves to her left and the door a few inches from her nose. Annie held her breath and hoped that the candle, which she held clutched to her breast, didn’t have enough heat left in the wick to set her robe on fire. Clearly whoever had entered the room had their own candle, since flashes of light cut through the edges of the door against the bookshelves and then jerkily stabbed through the long opening between the door and the doorframe. She slowly turned her head to the right so she could look over her shoulder through this opening. She was so relieved not to see an eye peering through the door hinge at her that she almost let out a sigh. Instead all she could see was a narrow strip of the end of the book shelves on the other side of the door, but the concen- trated brightness of the candle light indicated that the person who had entered that room was standing right next to those shelves.

There was a light click, and then a sound of wood sliding against wood. A small rustling noise was followed by the sliding wood
--

For over twenty years, M. Louisa Locke was known by students taking U.S. History classes at San Diego Mesa College as Dr. Locke, an enthusiastic and amusing teller of stories about the past. Now semi-retired, she has taken her story telling in a new direction with the publication of Maids of Misfortune. She is currently living in San Diego with her husband and assorted animals, where she is working on Uneasy Spirits, the next installment of her series of historical mysteries set in Victorian San Francisco.

Author of Maids of Misfortune: A Victorian San Francisco Mystery http://mlouisalocke.com/
See her blog: The Front Parlor http://mlouisalocke.wordpress.com/

If you would like The Podpeople to feature your Page 99, send us an email to: podpeep at gmail dot com with the subject line Page 99. Please include a link to your preferred e-commerce site, a cover jpeg, and paste your page 99 into the body of the email or attach it as a .TXT file. If your page 99 happens to be a chapter start or chapter end and does not contain a full page, you may use the full page before or after your page 99. One page only please.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Review: Orphan's Quest by Pat Nelson Childs

Title: Orphan's Quest
Author: Pat Nelson Childs
Genre: fantasy
Price: $19.99
Publisher: Burning Books Press
ISBN: N/A
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Emily Veinglory

Orphan's Quest is a solidly entertaining fantasy about a young man with a hidden past and a sinister destiny.  Rokey thinks he is going to  join the monastic order that has raised him since he was two years old.  After being cast out he joins up with a band of adventurers to determine where he came from, why he seems destined to save or doom the world, and why--on a related note--so many thugs and monsters are trying to kill him.

That said, the band of adventurers is out of Dungeons and Dragons central casting and so are the wandering monster, dark dungeon and village of the elves encounters.  The party starts out by complaining about a lack of funds, but then seems to have limitless cash to pay for travel, purchases, bribes and so forth.  Oh, and the great quest occurs in stages that are never more than two days apart, travelling on foot, even if one town is in a desert and the next is in a jungle.

Childs does write very well and put an interesting little twist on fantasy staples like bards or amazons.  Nevertheless just a little more either realism or over-the-top camp would have moved this story from a bit of fun to a really memorable story.  At the close of the book the reader has some idea what has been going on all along, but Rokey is still just a befuddled 'chosen one' with a hot elf-boy lover (loving not shown on the page).  I am not sure that the inevitable triumph of good over evil scheduled for the sequel is something I really feel the need to read.

7/10

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Thoughts on Making a Book Look Like a Book -- c.anne.gardner

Warning: Sarcasm level is high in this post...

Note: This post is relevant only to works of Fiction, which is what we primarily review here on this blog. Non-fiction -- specifically textbooks and reference books -- has it's own set of guidelines.

In the three plus years I have been working as a reviewer for the Pod People Blog, I have seen my share of self-published books where it appears to me that the author has never once sat down and actually looked at a book. In other words, their covers and interior layouts just scream: I am a novice, and I have absolutely no clue what I am doing and probably shouldn't be doing my own covers and interior layout, but for some odd reason, I do them anyway without consulting the numerous experts out there who offer advice on their blogs for free. Don't believe me, take a walk around Smashwords and Lulu and look at some of the covers and interior layouts. I know: someone fucking shine a light already.

I also know you are going to ask: who am I to call the kettle black? Oh wait, I've been there, and while my covers aren't all foofoo fancy designer like, they aren't too shabby either. Now, admittedly, the covers on my first edition ARCs were lacking and rather pitiful to my eye now, but that was due to grainy print quality direct from my publishing company. At the time, Lulu made you upload jpegs if you didn't do your own one-piece cover, and we all know that jpegs suck on covers unless you absolutely know what you are doing. I, of course, didn't then. My covers got a lot better once I left Lulu and was able to use my artwork as intended. I found a better printer and then took an active interest in honing my design skills much like one should take an active interest in honing one's writing skills. So I am going to go off on a ranty rant right now, because some of the stuff I have seen lately in review books and on various sales sites, well, there is no excuse for it really with the wealth of information out there at your disposal. Not to mention that there are scads of experts who offer their services for reasonable rates and some who will even trade for services, which means you could pay nothing at all. I have seen many Indie authors redesigning their original covers over the course of this past year and coming out with spectacular results simply because they know where to get what they need and they know how to use it. Admittedly, there is a learning curve here, but you have to show some initiative and be willing to do the research. To get higher on the curve, you gotta learn a thing or two.

Anyway, here are some of my pet peeves when it comes to book presentation, and yes, when I write a review, how your book looks weighs heavily on the score. Sloppy presentation will only rob you of review points, and that's not the worst of it. Sloppy presentation does a heinous injustice to your work. You might have the greatest story ever told, but if your book looks like a grade school art project and not a real book, no one is going to want to take a chance on it because you've just told everyone you are an amateur who couldn't be bothered learning the proper way to do things. If your cover and formatting are this bad, they don't want to imagine how bad your writing is. Don't learn this the hard way.

This is my top ten in no particular order, and primarily, I am focusing on print books and ebook covers:

  1. Do not use crap low-res jpegs for your cover art unless you are a savant in Photoshop. If you don't know what savant or Photoshop or low-res mean, you are not up to the task.

  2. Do not use typefaces like Times New Roman or other standard fonts for your cover copy and title. Be Brave, Be Bold. Please people, you don't have to pay for fancy calligraphy; there are a lot of really nice free and/or shareware fonts out there to use. Your cover is your first impression, so why fuck it all up with a shitty blurry jpeg image and a crap font that has no personality whatsoever. Your cover should be a figurative representation of your story. We are not using a paper bag to wrap your high school text books here.

  3. Don't center EVERYTHING on the cover. It's Boring! Reserve the right to bore your reader later in the story with your unedited/unproofed words instead. Minor issues and the occasional typo do not bother me.

  4. Do not use sideways titles on the cover. You expect the buyer to turn their head halfway upside down so they can read the title of your book. I don't think so. Sideways titles are for spine text, nothing else. And yes, I hate when mainstream publishers do this as well, which is why you don't see mainstream publishers do it that often.

  5. Your book should not open to the copyright page. Come on people. Open a book for shit's sake. The copyright page always goes on the verso, or for those who don't understand that term, it goes on the back of the title page. If nothing else, your book should start when opened with a soft or hard title page. The copyright page goes on the back of that. Even if you have a fly-leaf with blurbs on it at the start, the copyright page will still go on the back of the title page, which should be the next page after the flyleaf.

  6. The front matter of your book is normally not part of the pagination of a book, and you certainly do not put headers and footers and page numbers on the matter pages. Matter pages include the title pages, copyright pages, dedication pages etc. Don't know what they are, look them up: you spend enough time on the internet, so why not search for useful information.

  7. Chapter starts and blank pages, or pages of verse within a narrative and/or image pages, do not get headers or footers or page numbers either.

  8. Do not double space between paragraphs. Use a proper paragraph indent and proper leading. Single space works fine for most people. Double spacing between paragraphs makes your book look like a child's primer and it also makes it seem as if you were deliberately trying to increase page count. eBooks are the only books that can get away with double spacing between paragraphs. In print books, we use a double space between paragraphs to indicate a time shift or POV shift, nothing else.

  9. Don't overdo your margins for that same reason. White space is good, but too much can give the wrong impression. Poetry is different and falls in line with a different set of rules.

  10. And don't set the interior typeface of your book to a san-serif or some other crazy non-standard font unless you have a specific artistic reason for doing so, and if so, be sparing with it. Choose a proper functional typeface and choose the right size for the trim size of your book. There are fonts optimized for printing and fonts for the web. They are not really interchangeable. So try a couple of fonts and sizes; print out test pages and show them to your beta readers or whomever. They will help you decide what looks best. Compare them to other books in your trim size and genre. Compare, compare, compare your book to other books. Look at every page and every detail.

So there they are: my top ten self-published book nitpicks. I had to learn all this shit too, of course, but basically what I am saying here is that if you can't work your way around your word processing program or other typesetting program, and you have no idea what sort of "pages" belong in your book and how to place and paginate them properly, and you are lacking the skill set needed to understand even the basic fundamentals of cover design [wicked ninja skills don’t count] then you need help and should not do it yourself. However, if you still feel compelled to do so without educating yourself, please do not submit the book to me for review if you can't take a rather stern critique about it. Self-published authors scream often enough about not being treated like professionals. Well, if that's what you want -- to be treated like a professional -- then why not put out a reasonably professional product. The readers expect nothing less and will notice your craptapulance. DIY has its limitations, sure, but it doesn’t have to be embarrassing.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

And yes, that is a real cover from a real book, and yes again, it is quite astoundingly bad in a very hilarious sort of way. Look at it for a minute and you’ll see what I mean.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Christmas with Craig Lancaster -- Inside The Writer's Studio

Craig Lancaster, author of the widely praised 600 Hours of Edward and the forthcoming novel The Summer Son (to be released by AmazonEncore in early 2011) wanted to do something for others this Christmas season, so he wrote a fantastic holiday-themed story, “Comfort and Joy,” to sell on Amazon and Smashwords for $1.

However, that he plans to donate 100% of the proceeds to Feeding America, whose 200+ food banks distribute to all fifty states, wasn’t enough for us at Inside the Writers’ Studio. When we learned of his plan to write some short fiction, he hadn’t yet begun “Comfort and Joy,” and we were more than happy to catch him early enough to challenge him to find a way to incorporate a few random words.

The words: snowman, hot chocolate, and jingle balls.


LANCASTER: I thought my "Jingle Balls" solution might have been a little reach, but I was 12 years old once, and it's something I might have come up with.

He managed to write the (approx.) 5,500-word story in just 24 hours.

LANCASTER: The idea has been bouncing around in my head for a while, and it's easily adaptable to a holiday angle. Short-story productivity, for me, comes and goes, and for whatever reason, I've been in a fertile period. I'll sit down in the next couple of days and knock it out. The funny thing is, I've never really written fiction on a deadline, but I have one now: I've pledged to send this story to the in-boxes of donors by Dec. 15.

He made good on his pledge; “Comfort and Joy” is available at Amazon and Smashwords right now (click a link to buy a copy – you can always come back here when you’re done), and it will stay there indefinitely with the proceeds continuing to benefit Feeding America. And, as promised, it’s only $1. “But why not charge more to give more?” we wondered.

LANCASTER: Two reasons. The first is the greater-volume-at-a-lower-price idea. The second is that I hope this isn't the be-all, end-all of people's giving. A few folks have written to me and said, "I want to give more than a buck," and my response has been this: "Send me a buck. Send your local food bank, or some other charity there at home, as much as you feel like you can give."

INSIDE THE WRITERS’ STUDIO: What made you choose this particular charity?

LANCASTER: I've been reading a lot about how stressed food banks are. Times are hard, and charitable giving is down. And since (I hope) donations will be coming in from all over, it didn't seem quite right to roll whatever money is generated toward the food bank where I live, though it certainly could use the help. So I figured that Feeding America, with its national focus, made sense.

One of the things that put this at the top of my mind was seeing a plea from my friend Carol Buchanan on Facebook that people not buy her books as gifts but instead donate to their local food bank. She said she'd eat whether the books are bought or not. Others -- many, many others -- are not so fortunate.

This effort is nothing like the NPR fundraising drive—there’s no dollar amount in mind, no set goal (“I have no expectation here,” Lancaster says. “If it's five bucks, it's five bucks.”), but he does hope to turn this into an annual effort, one that involves more writers contributing to a holiday-themed anthology.

LANCASTER: Say, 15 or 20 holiday-themed stories, from a wide variety of genres, all with the aim of putting some food on the tables of people who badly need it. Wheels are already turning for next year: an anthology, from writers across the traditional and indie spectrums. Zombie Christmas, romance Christmas, bizarro, whatever. I think if I were to get people on board in, say, July, we'd be able to offer all kinds of options: individual stories, the entire collection, e-book, short POD run.

IWS: Do you think you might choose different charities in the future?

LANCASTER: I haven't even thought about that. I'm pretty passionate about food banks. They're chronically understocked, and it's one form of charity that is completely without political overtones.

IWS: Have you ever donated to/worked in/needed a food bank?

LANCASTER: I've pulled a few shifts stacking boxes and such, and I'm a reliable bring-a-canned-good-to-whatever-event guy, but I've never done it on a consistent basis. One of the things I hope to do, beyond the holiday season, is become a lot more involved with that sort of thing on a local level.

IWS: That sounds like a perfect New Year’s resolution. Speaking of the new year—your upcoming novel, The Summer Son, will be released in January. Tell us about it.

LANCASTER: It's a multi-decade father-and-son story. Mitch Quillen and his father, Jim, have been largely estranged for nearly 30 years, and the breach stems from a violent summer when Mitch was 11 years old. In the present day, they've been thrown together again and they try to work through the distance between them. All the while, Mitch is reliving that long-ago summer in the form of a note to his wife, whom he's kept away from that part of his life, in an effort to reconcile his own failing relationship with her. It's a story about the things we experience and how those things shape us -- and how those same things get interpreted in different ways by other people who were there.

IWS: Final question. Fruitcake: yay or nay?

LANCASTER: You know, I'd love to say yay, just to be the contrary bastard I tend to be. But I cannot. Fruitcake is a nay. It's a nay to the 100th power. It's a nay that pushes at the outer edges of the space-time continuum. It's the nay that keeps on giving. Let's face it: Fruitcake sucks.

Thank you for allowing us to post our interview on your blog site and spread the word about Craig Lancaster's effort. - Kris & Kel, IWS

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Page 99 -- Trevor's Song by Susan Helene Gottfried

Page 99 from Trevor's Song
A Rock n Roll Novel
By Susan Helene Gottfried
Reprinted with Permission: © Susan Helene Gottfriend, All Rights Reserved

Book Description: Fame and Fortune have destroyed many a rock star, but Trevor Wolff has a bigger problem when his best friend Mitchell Voss commits an act of monogamy with sexy artist Kerri Broadhurst. ShapeShifter band dynamics will never be the same with this new woman on the scene, and the distractions of two girlfriends and a world tour aren’t enough to keep Trevor from feeling like his carefully constructed world is crumbling around him. The pesky little illness he’s been hiding from his band mates isn’t help, either.

Trevor is determined to drive Kerri away so life can run properly. He’ll do whatever it takes, or die trying, and not just because if he doesn’t get well soon, time might be up for old Trevor. The last person he expects help or sympathy from is Kerri herself, but he may have to make common cause with his enemy if he’s to survive the fallout from the secrets he’s been hiding.
--

Mitchell, who was an idiot, there hadn't been anyone in his corner. Why should that change now?
"I can't do my best by you without some help," Amy said, piercing him with those damn Voss eyes. "And dammit, Trev, you of all people deserve my best."

He had to look away. The silence stretched as he scuffed his boots on the carpet and twiddled with some paperclips on her desk. In typical Voss fashion, she waited.

"You sure?" he asked tentatively and sat down.

"So positive, I've already made the appointment for you. I'll tell you now, though: if you don't get her in bed before you're in remission, I'll be disappointed in you." With a knowing wink, Amy slid two small pieces of paper at him. One was a note with the appointment time and place, complete with directions on how to get there and where to park.

"What's this?" he asked about the other.

"Medicine. In men, there aren't a lot of side effects, so don't call me every time you sneeze. We want you on it now, and if I catch you missing doses, we're going to do more than cancel the tour."

He jerked his head up, eyes wide. "What do you mean cancel the tour? We're not cancelling shit, Aim! And for that matter, you're not telling anyone about this, either. Not the parents, not Mitchell, not anyone. Hell, not even Derek!"

He trusted she'd catch the way he hadn't used Mitchell's very fitting pet name for her dork of a husband.

"Patient-doctor confidentiality, right?" he went on when she pinched the bridge of her nose. Just like her baby brother did.

"Of course," she sighed. "But we need to talk about cancelling the tour until you're well."

"Why?"

--
Writer, blogger, and all-around book lover, Susan Helene Gottfried claims to have a "bad habit of writing about dudes in rock bands (and the people who orbit them.)"

When not writing, Susan runs the publicity blog West of Mars -- Win a Book, which helps out authors and book bloggers of all sizes and shapes. You can find this and all the rest of Susan's online world at http://westofmars.com/ Be sure to check out Rocks 'n Reads for more of Susan's reviews.

Links:
Lulu: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/trevors-song/11768723
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/18511
B&N: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Trevors-Song/Susan-Helene-Gottfried/e/2940011075964/?itm=1
Print copies also available at a discount direct from the author. Details here: http://westofmars.com/west-of-mars/the-books/trevors-song


If you would like The Podpeople to feature your Page 99, send us an email to: podpeep at gmail dot com with the subject line Page 99. Please include a link to your preferred e-commerce site, a cover jpeg, and paste your page 99 into the body of the email or attach it as a .TXT file. If your page 99 happens to be a chapter start or chapter end and does not contain a full page, you may use the full page before or after your page 99. One page only please.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Thoughts on The Craft -- c.anne.gardner

When people say there is too much violence in my books, what they are saying is there is too much reality in life. -- Joyce Carol Oates

I can remember my Grandmother saying to me a year or so ago, “I couldn't finish it. So many horrible things were happening to that poor woman.” when I asked her about my first novella The Kissing Room. Let's just say, I am not shy about writing the darkness: The story also fluctuates frequently between gentle, romantic, or bittersweet moments and truly ugly, stomach-churning scenes of violence and despair. When it is all said and done, Cheryl Anne Gardner’s The Kissing Room is a deeply touching love story; you just won’t know it til it’s over. -- Suspense-books.com

I suppose I enjoy writing from the abyss. Most of the literature I read when I was younger would be considered very dark stuff. Humanity's duality has always just intrigued me for some reason, and the darker bits make things all that much more interesting. Could you imagine The Bible without all the fire, brimstone, and violence??? That's right; it just wouldn't have the same impact, now would it? That is what literary fiction is all about -- Impact. That's what makes us think. It's what forces us to put our worldview into perspective. Being exposed to the darkness allows us to flex our immune system, adapt, fine-tune our coping skills. If we only ever received praise, adoration, and fists full of daisies in our childhood, imagine how unprepared we would be to reconcile criticism, rejection, hatred, jealousy, and death. All very much a form of violence in their own way.

We always hear from the daisy-throwing fear monger zealots that exposure to violence desensitizes us, but I don't think that's actually true. Maybe for sociopaths, but for most people, exposure allows us to put the scenarios into perspective through our awareness of it so we can safely work through how we would react emotionally to such circumstances. Shit, Disney has been doing violence and death forever and you hear barely a complaint about it in so far as accusing Disney of desensitizing our children. How many orphaned children appear in Disney movies? How many parents have died horrible deaths? What about kidnapping, domestic abuse, etc. Disney has always been very successful at balancing the light and the darkness in its stories. They are touching and horrific at the same time. They allow children a means to cope with the evil in the world and yet retain a sense of hope despite the brutality. The same can be said for my novella The Kissing Room, which is about an emotionally distraught woman who finds herself in a physically abusive relationship after the death of her husband. I confront a lot of emotionally disturbing issues in this rather short novella: suicide, depression, self-mutilation, and domestic abuse, but I never stray too far away from the light at the end of the tunnel, which is hope.

Sure, some people prefer to read only escapist fiction, meaning everything works out all neat and tidy complete with a big red happy ending bow. And while I agree that, on occasion, it's nice to read and experience a perfect world I can readily admit is a complete fake, I would much rather read literary horror because it helps me meditate on the realities of life from a safe distance. And sure, we get bombarded with horrific abuses on the news every day. There are rapists and serial killers out there, truly evil people, but unless we have direct contact, they are nothing more than abstractions, and that's where art comes in. Art attempts to give depth to the abstract concept of evil we find ourselves exposed to by proxy every day.

Most of the fiction I like, as well as my own work, tends to centre around the same themes: sex, death, love, and faith, specifically faith as it relates to spirituality and God, and I am sorry to tint the windows here with a bit of faecal spooge, but every single one of those thematic subjects has a dark side -- a nasty one at that. If duality weren't necessary, the Devil would not exist. And the Devil often has top billing when it comes to art and literature. For instance: Dragon Tattoo, while brutally evil in it's thematic nature, has got nothing on Ellis' American Psycho. Patrick Bateman was all Id and Ego, a satirical portrait of the 80s overindulgent successful male. The book is brutal to read because it's frightening to come face to face with someone who is so self-actualized. Bateman recognized the apathy around him, hated it, acted upon it with a vengeance. I think that everyone fantasizes about experiencing for themselves that sort of emotive response from time to time, so most readers were able to sympathize with a killer on some level, even if they didn't want to admit it.

I am a huge Jung fan. Carl Jung that is, and that should be no surprise: most writers who write about the human condition tend to dabble a bit in Psychology and Philosophy, and Jung speaks often of the Shadow self when describing the five main archetypes: Self, Shadow, Anima, Animus, and Persona. The Shadow is the repressed negative aspect our self. “Everyone carries a shadow,” Jung wrote, “and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.” Jung also believed that “in spite of its function as a reservoir for human darkness—or perhaps because of this—the shadow is the seat of creativity.” Jung believed that for a person to be whole he must reconcile with his shadow aspect. “Beneath the surface a person is suffering from a deadly boredom that makes everything seem meaningless and empty...as if the initial encounter with the Self casts a dark shadow ahead of time. The more consciousness gains in clarity, the more monarchic becomes its content...the king constantly needs the renewal that begins with a descent into his own darkness.” In essence, in order to reach totality, or rather, enlightenment, one needs to do a meet and greet with one's own shadow. I think the same can be said for all things dark and disturbing. You gain no perspective with avoidance.

People with phobias are often treated with what is called Systematic Desensitization or graduated exposure therapy, which is a cognitive behavioural process. The same process takes place when we expose ourselves through art to the dark side of life and the human psyche. We are allowing our minds, in this case, to process the violence in our world and consciously sort out our rational from our irrational feelings about such things.

We all know the old adage: Art mimics life, including the blackest parts of it, but I don't necessarily think mimicking is the point of the exercise when Art chooses to portray the darkest depths. The real point of Art is to create impact by attempting to understand life, not mimic it, at its deepest most subconscious levels. Nietzsche once said that when you stare into the abyss it stares back into you, and maybe that reflection is what we seek so we can better understand ourselves and the world around us, including its violence. Introspection is what we are after. Art just gives us a proper mirror, that's all. Sometimes the mirror reflects the blue of the sky or a field of daises, and sometimes it doesn't.

The Art this week [used with permission] aptly illustrates the point of this article and is titled Domestic Violence by Dale Crum. Stop on over to the Redbubble site to read what he wrote about the piece. You may purchase a print there as well.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Indie Holiday Mega Book Giveaway ...



47 Authors ... Tons of Free Books

This Holiday Season, the Pod People have decided to forgo our regular free book Friday promotions for the month of November and December in lieu of supporting an Indie community book giveaway instead, and I will actually be participating.

Quiet Fury Books, home of author Darcia Helle is holding a huge Indie Holiday Book Giveaway event starting Wednesday December 1st, 2010.

You must be at least 16 years of age to enter, and it is open Internationally.

47 Indie authors are participating, offering up hundreds of books [some print, some eBooks, some both.]

Entries will be accepted between 12:01 AM EST, December 1 and midnight EST on December 31, and the winners will be chosen using Random.org

So stop on by, check out the list of authors, and enter your name to win. Read an Indie today.