Thursday, July 31, 2008

Coming Attractions

Cheryl Ann Gardner, one of my co-reviewers here at POD People, reports that she's reviewing Burning in the Heat and Other Stories by Michael Martin. That's probably the next review to be posted here, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Review of Ron Sanders For Readers Only

Title: For Readers Only
Author: Ron Sanders
Price: $15.50
Genre: Literature
ISBN: 978-0-6152-1772-7
Point of Sale: Lulu

Ron Sanders contacted me directly via POD People, and asked for a review of his works. I selected For Readers Only, which was billed on his web site as his “best of” collection of short stories. Ron is an eclectic writer, and it shows in this book. The 26 short stories in this book cover several different categories. The only way I know how to review the book is to discuss individual stories, and since I have limited time, not all will be mentioned. Before I go on, I should mention from a technical perspective that For Readers Only is as flawless a book as you will see from a major publisher. Sanders did a great job on layout and proofreading.

The first third of the book is a collection of stories with elements of magical realism, strong urban settings, and the occasional straight parody piece. A good example is the first story, Common Denominator. There’s a bit of weird goings on which are not explained, but otherwise the story is set in the here and now, an urban area vaguely reminiscent of Los Angeles. Savage Glen is a gritty tale of a modern hobo, and probably the most memorable story in the book. This is followed by another strong entry in the urban realist school, A Deeper Cut. The protagonist could be being absorbed by aliens, or he could be just going crazy. Thelma, about a little old lady’s last few days of life, was another interesting urban realist story, and surprisingly touching.

Sanders’ collection then switches over to a more science fiction setting. Home Planet is a pretty interesting tale of Earth’s demise. This is followed by Shade, which is a Lovecraftian “unspeakable horrors” tale. The three related tales of The Fartian Chronicles has Earth invaded by exceptionally kind aliens, who find the kind of urban grifters and punks of the first half of the book entirely too much to handle. They are science fiction parody, and one either buys into the parody or not.

We then transition back to urban parody with ScanElite, about an unscrupulous literary agent (there are no other kinds in Sander’s world) with a very familiar name. The reader is then hit by three parody pieces in a row, Why I Love Democracy, The Book of Ron, and the ever-timely Vote For Me. Although these were interesting works, they all express strong opinions of the “South Park Republican” school of thought, so if you’re easily offended, beware.

Overall, the collection is a very eclectic book. I’ve classed it as literature, because a lot of these stories would not be out of place in the type of student review put out by a small college English department. Where Sanders goes for a straight realism, as in Savage Glen, A Deeper Cut or Thelma, he’s enjoyable and interesting. Some of the parody pieces were a bit heavy-handed, although if you enjoy Mad Magazine (either the print or the TV version) you’ll like this as well. For Readers Only is an enjoyable work, if somewhat scattershot.


Monday, July 28, 2008

In The Mail Today

Today's mail brought my copy of Francis Hamit's historical novel The Shenandoah Spy.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday Publishing Update

Well, I had hoped to at least start on Ron Sanders' book For Readers Only, but Real Life (tm) interfered. Until I get to it, here's some publishing news of interest.

First, I recently became aware of Francis Hamit, chief cook and bottlewasher at Brass Cannon Books. Hamit, who has traditional publishing credits to his name, self-published what appears to be an interesting novel, The Shenandoah Spy, about a real-life female Confederate spy. I have a copy coming, so more on that later. I should note Hamit took the "traditional" self-publishing route, and had his book printed in bulk.

Via Hamit, I learned of Carol Buchanan, who recently released a POD self-published effort, God's Thunderbolt: The Vigilantes of Montana. This story is set at in a gold mining area at the very beginning of white settlement in Montana, when the nearest law was literally 500 miles away. Although I'm always interested in a good story, my real attraction is more science-fictional. The science fiction I write takes place in isolated settlements which have by necessity created their own laws, much like the real-life place Buchanan writes of.

Speaking of science fiction, the large New York-based SF publisher Tor has unveiled their new Internet site There are blogs, behind-the-scenes discussions, and some free short stories written by name authors. Also, until Sunday July 27 there are 24 free novel downloads and quite a few cool artworks. So, if you want to catch up on your SF reading or try out a new author, hustle on over to this weekend!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Review of MultiReal

Title: MultiReal (Volume 2 of the Jump 225 Trilogy)
Author: David Louis Edelman
Price: $15
Genre: Science Fiction
ISBN: 978-1-56102-647-1
Point of Sale: Amazon

Pyr is a new, up-and-coming science fiction press, and David Louis Edelman is one of their hot new stars. His first book, InfoQuake, was called “the love child of Donald Trump and Verner Vinge.” If that’s the case, MultiReal is what happens when that child starts driving and going out on dates – entertaining to watch but not something you’d want to experience.

Let’s get my quibbles out of the way. MultiReal is a very tight sequel to InfoQuake. In order to understand the second book, I had to read the summary of InfoQuake (included) as well as the glossary. Also, the ending of MultiReal is a cliff-hanger. Lastly, from a writing point of view, Edelman uses a lot of “said-isms.” A said-ism is where the writer, instead of using, “[Character’s name] said X” will use, “the neural programmer…” It’s a bit irritating, but again, it’s a quibble.

Moving on to substantive matters, the book is full of Big Ideas, in the best tradition of science fiction. Hundreds of years after the Autonomous Revolt, an attempt by artificial intelligences to take over the world, humans have rebuilt society and use “bio-logics,” programs which run in the human body, to interact with the world. Natch, an entrepreneur and programmer, has helped develop a radical new technology. This technology, called MultiReal, allows users to manipulate virtual computer networks in such a way as to gain vast powers. They can literally think rings around any human opponent.

In InfoQuake, Natch defied the world government to demonstrate his software, earning considerable ire from the government. He was also injected with “black code,” malicious programs which run on the body, affecting various aspects of his existence. MultiReal is in effect “The Empire Strikes Back” part of the trilogy, in which an increasingly desperate set of adversaries use whatever means are available to stop Natch and his company.

Edelman is a programmer in real life, and his understanding of the process informs the book. Multireal is a deep book, full of plots and counter-plots, with a stunning vision of the future. It manages what seems to be impossible, making the act of computer programming exciting, while reflecting on the nature of government and business. This is high science fiction at its finest.

RATING 10 / 10

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Experiments - Further Thoughts

So, my Friday post about some experimental book formatting by the Lulu author Crusade Redux prompted some discussion. I was going to respond in comments, but thought that my response was general enough to merit a post.

First, I'm not against experiments. But, they need to be labeled as such. Especially if the experimenter is not known. Self-publishing has a credibility issue and always will. Second, the nature of this experiment (formatting) runs up against "the gate effect." If you are traveling down a road and come across a gate, the logical assumption is that it was put there for a purpose. Until you understand the purpose of the gate, it's probably not a good idea to rip it down.

Friday, July 18, 2008

What Are You Trying To Accomplish?

One of the things a self-publisher has to determine is "what am I trying to accomplish?" For example, the author "Crusade Redux" published a book of the same name on Lulu. He then jumped on the Lulu forums and asked for a review. Ron Miller, author of 30+ books, editor and generally Certified Expert On Publishing (tm) says to Crusade, "you need to format the book like X."

Crusade says "I'm trying to make this like a comic book without pictures." Most self-publishers (like me) are trying to create a book that's just like what you get from a regular publisher. We've asked and answered the question "what are we trying to accomplish?" This is the typical answer, and unless one clearly states otherwise, that's what people assume when they look at a book.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

In The Mail Today

In the mail today, I received my review copy of Ron Sanders' best of collection, For Readers Only. I'll get it reviewed as soon as possible.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Testing (Is This Thing On?)

So, Emily, ringmaster here at POD People, has given me the keys so she can free up some time for her writing projects. I thought it appropriate to make a quick test post while she's still around.

I should also mention two upcoming reviews. First, Ron Sanders is sending me a copy of his "best of" anthology, For Readers Only, available via Lulu. Second, I am working on David Louis Edelman's second novel, the science fiction epic MultiReal, and I hope to have a review of that up soon.

Well, enough for now. (if I can just figure out how to post pictures of covers in blogger...)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The PODLer review blog has reappeared as The New PODler.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

There are discussions at the Lulu forum about Lulu's suggestion that their terms of service prevents concurrent use of Createspace. I am off to my writing group right now but will be back to try and make sense of it later.

Friday, July 11, 2008

REVIEW: 'It was never about a hot dog and a Coke!' by Rodney Hurst

Title: It was never about a hot dog and a Coke!
Author: Rodney Hurst
Price: 27.95 (hardcover)
Genre: History
ISBN: 1595942017
Point of Sale: Amazon

The most poignant histories are those written by the people who were there, getting their hands dirty, breathing in the air of the moment, and Rodney Hurst, author of It Was Never About a Hot Dog and a Coke!, was unarguably one of those people.

Already a highly involved civil rights activist at the age of 16, Hurst’s account guides the reader through his memories of his civil rights protest years, adding his memory banks to the archives of American history.

“Mr. Pearson gave us this definition of history,” Hurst explains, “’History is a narration of facts…arranged in chronological order…with their cause and effect.’ He wanted to make sure, and wanted us to make sure, that the narrated facts were actually facts. He also wanted us, as Dr. Cornel West would say, to refuse to settle for mediocrity” (29). A noble goal, perhaps, but one obscured in Hurst’s book by constant references to God’s influence on the civil rights movement’s success (undermining the hard work of the activists themselves), the absence of a bibliography, and a presiding defensiveness that is left unaddressed.

However, It Was Never About a Hot Dog and a Coke! does house the occasional historical gem: a vivid account of the violence on Ax Handle Saturday, the failure of the press to accurately cover events, and just what it felt like to be a black, Christian, teenager in the 1960s.

As in nature, it is diversity that leads to a healthy ecosystem, or in the case of books, a more complete (or complex) understanding of events. Despite its shortcomings, Hurst’s book does boldly insist that we face up to history’s ruddy complexities—unlike high school history textbooks—and challenges the reader to examine how far we’ve really come in the present, never forgetting, as Hurst repeatedly chants, that “freedom isn’t free.”


Nicolette Stewart is the co-author of College Prowler’s Guide to Skidmore College, an ex-journalist, reluctant English teacher, and travel writer. She currently lives in Frankfurt am Main, Germany with her typewriter Herman and blogs on

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Freebies for self-publishers

Two self-publishing services are currently offering freebies to authors: Free "Published By Lulu" service for a "limited time." This service gets your book distributed to online bookstores (and theoretically bricks-and-mortars bookstores). Lulu is the publisher on record.

CreateSpace, run by Amazon. Free "Pro Plan" through July 31. This gets your book onto Amazon's U.S. site, with a higher percentage of earnings than CreateSpace's regular plan.

Dusk Peterson writes fantasy stories on friendship, gay historical fantasy tales, and contemporary gay fiction. Occasionally, a heterosexual love story will appear as well. Peterson's stories are often placed in dark settings, such as prisons or wartime locations. Romance and friendship, especially male friendship, are recurring themes.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Of PODs and Packs

Once upon a time Aaron Rayburn wrote a book called the Shadow God and published it through Authorhouse.

Some time later Charles Moore wrote a review about this book. He didn't like it. He really didn't like it.

A small pack of people were very amused by how well Mr Moore described what he didn't like about the book. Perhaps some of these same people went onto the authors forum to poke him with sticks. To which he said ouch, stop it and generally continued to be a large, slow moving target.

So. A self published book wasn't terribly good. This is not a surprise. But why did so many people decide to give a damn? A nasty confluence of Digg, snark and and author who apparently goes out of his way to be unlikeable?

If this is in any way effective promotion and sells copies of his books... well I despair.

A new review blog

Always room for one more: Metha's Book Review