Friday, November 28, 2008

REVIEW: Free Book Friday -- Freak by Ron Sanders

Title: Freak
Author: Ron Sanders
Genre: Literature/Satire/Sci-Fi/Suspense
Pages: 164
Price: $10.95
Publisher: Masterpiece Press -- Ron Sanders
ISBN: 978-0615142371
Point of Sale: Amazon

The Blurb: A shadow haunts the sunny streets of Venice Beach, working his way through all the women and valuables he can handle. So far he's been lucky. But too much of a good thing makes a man careless; he gets sloppy, he lets down his guard. From bizarre arrest to explosive conclusion, Freak is a wild rollercoaster of a ride, featuring impossible escapes, a dizzying manhunt, and a gothic mini-movie of a courtroom confession, wherein you'll meet the real Nicolas Vilenov, slippery opportunist and soulless predator, bogeyman of a thousand suppressed dreams.

I reviewed this work independently on Amazon a while back. I am giving away my purchased copy of the book this month. Details at the end of the review.

Freak is a thrilling and entertaining read. It has a little bit of everything: The sad pathetic tortured soul, a little mysticism and sci-fi, and a damn fine crime drama, without the overly cliché cop/attorney speak. The book is extremely dialog dependent, which gives it the intimacy of a first person narrative, while allowing for continued shifts in points of view - and dimension.

This story also makes some rather demanding statements regarding the degradation of women in today's society - the undeniably beautiful, egregiously disturbed, fashion magazine brainwashed women - so easily taken in, used, and abused. This story also speaks to the power that our media possesses. In the endless search for ratings, criminal acts spin into fantastic stories of terror, often turning criminals into Gods.

Mr. Sanders weaves together many common elements and themes into one captivating and suspenseful story: The dark, mysterious stranger, having his way with a bevy of females who seem to lack even basic self-control; a gritty crime drama; compelling courtroom scenes; murder; crazed fanatical media-obsessed civilians; not to mention the media's sleazy hold on the public; a wrenching tale of childhood abuse; mass hysteria; panic stricken citizens converging in the streets; mob rule; rioting; car chases; apache helicopters; a city in flames ... all leading up to an edge of your seat conclusion sure to send the reader into a dizzying frenzy.

And if that wasn't entirely enough ...

Then there is the antagonist of the story, or protagonist depending on how you choose to see him, is spine-chillingly disturbing in a surreal serial-killer/magician sort of blend. I got the willies from the very first chapter. Vilanov has all the subtle command and fierceness to him of classic Stoker's Dracula with a hint of Charlie Manson - powerfully hypnotic. So hypnotic that it begs the question: Did Vilanov actually commit any wrongdoing, other than sidestepping society's definition of morality? Or was he merely expressing the savagery of a man's search for true manhood in an emasculated world?

I recommend this book to anyone who appreciates a little American Psycho, a little Fight Club, blended together with a little Stephen King.

Giveaway Details: Comment on this post by Midnight, Sunday November 30th. A name will be drawn randomly and will be announced on Monday December 1. If your name is announced as the winner, please email: podpeep at gmail dot com with your snail mail address. Good Luck!

Reviewed by: Cheryl Anne Gardner

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving from the Peeps

The staff here at the Pod People would like to wish all our U.S. authors a Happy Thanksgiving.

We thank you for all for all the wonderful books we have read and reviewed over the year.

So while we will be stuffing our faces today and hopefully getting in a bit of reading and writing, we hope all of you will be enjoying your holiday as well.

Don't forget to start your holiday shopping right by stopping back in tomorrow and over the weekend for our book giveaway: Free Book Friday. Good Luck to all.

Best Wishes!

Emily Veinglory
Chris Gerrib
Cheryl Anne Gardner

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Publish Yourself and Long Dash To Team Up with Amazon to Offer Low-Cost Self-Publishing

Long Dash Publishing merged with Publish Yourself! and has recently begun offering a much larger distribution arm and higher quality books through Amazon. Publishing your book to sell has become easier to market through their customer service.


PRLog (Press Release) – Nov 20, 2008 – Is there a book in you? Getting published has never been easier, faster or less expensive. Long Dash Publishing, a new self-publishing print-on-demand service based at and in New York City, can print and bind a trade paperback for prices starting at $175 for the first 10 copies – and the prices go down for more copies.

"We're writers ourselves," said Tim Harper, one of the partners in Long Dash. "That's why we started the company. We aim to be the most author-friendly and author-supportive self-publishing operation in America. We work with lots of experienced authors, but we welcome first-time authors, too. We know they have lots of questions, and we try to answer them. Every book is different, and every author is different, and we try to meet all their needs."

Of course I always take a walk on over to the websites to see what's what with pricing and service. The website is a little on the amateurish side, and so I don't know how comfortable I would feel with their "graphics design" consultation/assistance.

Their basic package, for writers who have experience in self-publishing, is $299.95, and aside from the free copy, it's basically less than what you would get with Lulu published by you distro for $99.95, and right now published by Lulu is still free. This place only gets your book on Amazon unless you pay more. They also say that they make your book 'available' to bookstores. We all know that means listing it with Ingram, and listing doesn't mean the bookstores will want it for stock. As the prices go up, and they do go up, the professional package for $6995.95 there is a lot of editing, marketing kits, and consultations added. It all seems a bit pricy, though editing usually runs about $30.00 per hour on average, but even Readerviews full publicity package is only $1500.00. Longdash charges $100.00 for copyright registration, and we know that you can do it yourself for $45.00, an envelope, and two copies of your book.

So, do your research authors. You are paying for service, and while I love start-up self-publishing companies, you need to get the bang for your buck ... read all the fine print and the FAQs thoroughly. I wish them well, but I am not sure the prices are really competetive.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Self Publishing Made Easy -- iPhone App

Self Publishing Made Easy – iPhone App Publishes Directly To Millions Of Users

WEBWIRE – Thursday, November 06, 2008

eBook App – The Newest iPhone App For E-book Publishing Helps Authors Ride A New Wave of Computerized Publishing, Opening Doors For Many Aspiring Self-Publishers.

November 4th, 2008 – announced this week that they are launching a brand new service, designed to provide authors with worldwide exposure and readers with content that can be read right on their iPhone. This marriage of convenience has the potential to revolutionize the publishing industry and is at the forefront.

Thanks to this new application, authors will have access to millions of readers via the popular iPhone. The service converts existing books into iPhone friendly reading material, which can then be purchased and downloaded, right from the iTunes store. eBookApp is also designed with readers in mind, giving them one of the best iPhone reading experiences in the industry.

The CEO/Founder of Roger Lichfield stated, "I am always amazed at how quickly developers can produce some great applications so quickly, we feel we are one of the first to the help lay people access to the best and most affordable iPhone applications, without needing technical knowledge. Our goal is to help Authors / Publishers put their content into reader’s hands, we expect developers to want to use this app engine as well.”

For a limited time, is offering free service to authors who wish to take advantage of this technology, at their main site -

About the Company: was founded with the purpose of providing both authors and readers the ultimate experience in reading for the iPhone. The company has dedicated themselves to making sure that both ends of the market have the tools they need to enjoy books, reach out to new readers and find success in the crowded publishing arena.


I took a browse around the site and it looks pretty spiffy. Pricing seems pretty straighforward as well. According to the site's main page it seems pretty easy to get done:
  1. Submit your book in digital format: .html, .doc, .txt, or .rtf
  2. We convert your book into an iPhone book format.
  3. We take that and submit for distribution through the iPhone app store and Apple iTunes.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Review -- Little Stories

Title: Little Stories
Author: Jeff Roberts
Genre: Literature/Fiction/Short Stories
Pages: 108
Price: $15.80
Publisher: Outskirts Press
ISBN: 978-1432727277

The book blurb says: Little Stories takes a critical look at the inevitable moments of betrayal and loneliness in our awkward quest to love and be loved, but the reader will discover the value - and even joy - to be had by looking backward and facing the past.

Yes, these are everyday stories of love, betrayal, and the general taint of humanity, so they are very relatable … maybe too relatable for me. With each story, I was looking for the edge. I wanted to gaze into the abyss, feel the heartbreak and the pain on a poetic, philosophical, and existential level, like we do in say Henri Barbusse’s “Hell”, but I didn’t with this book. Editorial issues aside, it was a mild and enjoyable read. The writing is succinct, using contemporary language and style, the story construction for the most part is tight, and the points are driven home very simply. There are a few aimless stories, but overall I would say: “Chicken soup for the faulty human.” Except, for me, there wasn’t too much to chew on. I was expecting the essence of Dark Romanticism that I normally look for in stories such as these, but to my disappointment, it just wasn’t there. I also, as a rule, prefer more internal exposition and unselfish inwardness from the characters. My taste for literature is on the darker side, with poetry and finesse reminiscent of a Shakespearean tragedy, so for me, personally, the stories felt a bit stark, and the editorial issues were so frequent that they really got in the way.

In the first story, we have a young couple living together, and the female wishes to go out for a few hours and visit her ex. The man obliges, being all understanding and cool about it. No drum roll needed here, we already know where this is going, and predictably, she shows up early in the AM, a dishevelled mess, and is forced to admit that she slept with the ex. The couple then has the predictable fight, with predictable dialog, and then they go to bed to rest. As he holds her tightly, his only thought is that he feels alone. The end. To say I wanted more is an understatement. With such a pat story and predictable outcome, I, as a reader, need a new take. I wanted to know the myriad of other thoughts cluttering his mind. We know why he felt alone, betrayal is a lonely place, but there is more that goes on in the mind of the betrayed: the conflicted thoughts, even the vile distasteful ones … We know they are there, and I wanted to see it. But my taste for truth was not fulfilled.

In the second story, we have a wealthy pretentious couple making off for a drive when they notice a woman working her way through the neighbourhood who obviously does not live there. In between the man bitching about his teenage son’s laziness and leering at the strange woman, he proceeds to describe her as a cross between a tweaked out whore and a goth. Judgements are made on sight and the story ends with: “Well, she doesn’t belong around here. This neighbourhood is for good moral people.”

And the collection goes on like that, job loss, alcoholism, the death of spouse, the birth of child, bad grades, etc. There are some brilliant lines, though: “Stepping into the main hall of the bus station, I saw what looked like a Norman Rockwell postcard for urban detritus.” or “Across the basement a hobby horse looked on silently with its mane flossed over with a sweater of dust, its springs swollen solid with a frosty coating of dross. An empty baby crib stood alone with it blankets tangled as they held years of mold topped off with some water stained pillows, decaying and yellowed from the sclerosis of time.” Yes, those lines pretty much sum up the universal theme of the book, and I wish there were more of them.

I would say this collection is sort of a modern day Aesop’s fables. Classic and timeless, humanity’s faults are laid bare in a very pat non-judgemental way, and the lessons are pointed and very clearly portrayed – the ink certainly didn’t run here. Too bad.

I liked it, but the style wasn’t as engaging for me as it could have been. I didn’t feel my emotions challenged. This writer has got a talent for noticing the painful mundanities of life, but that talent seems stifled, a bit too deliberate and contrived, in some places downright awkward. However, much is personal preference, although, a merciless editorial once over would have helped as well. So I have to give the book a slightly lower rating based on the pronounced and profuse editorial issues and that it lacked the sharp edge I normally like in contemporary literature of this sort. Humanity’s vile atrocities, the lies, the selfishness, the betrayals, the hope lost, and the precarious balance between life and death … I think all that deserves a grittier presentation -- less ink, more spit, more blood, and more passion. The writing shows promise, but we only glanced at the shadow; we didn’t get to look it in the eyes.


Reviewed by: Cheryl Anne Gardner

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Natural News Launches Print-On-Demand Publishing Services

NaturalNews Launches Print-On-Demand, Publishing Services for Book Authors, Self Publishers

From MarketwatchLast update: 7:55 a.m. EST Nov. 10, 2008

TUCSON, Ariz., Nov 10, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Natural health news site has announced the launch of print-on-demand and publishing services that allow authors and alternative information writers to produce small batches of perfect-bound books up to 400 pages in length. In addition, NaturalNews has announced plans to publish and promote many authors' books on its popular natural health news website while paying royalties back to the author.

To provide these print-on-demand and publishing services, NaturalNews sister company Truth Publishing has acquired book publishing and binding equipment that automates the printing and perfect binding of softcover books. Authors submit their books electronically, and Truth Publishing prints, binds and ships the books while offering them for sale on its website, now read by 1.2 million health consumers monthly.

Truth Publishing ( is welcoming the printing of books on "alternative" topics, including alternative science, natural medicine, alternative history and other exploratory themes. It welcomes books on controversial issues like mandatory vaccines, cancer cures, health freedom, global warming, politics, peak oil and the true history of the world that isn't taught in public schools. Truth Publishing president Mike Adams is the editor of NaturalNews and the creator of this new service, which he describes as, "An opportunity for intelligent, inquisitive authors to see their books published even when mainstream book publishers are too conservative to embrace their work."

Authors interested in either printing their books or submitting them for possible representation by Truth Publishing can visit for more information. "Truth Publishing is all about exercising free speech and empowering authors with the technology they need to see their books published, even if those books do not conform to the limited belief systems that dominate modern society," Adams explained. Quoting Noam Chomsky, Adams adds, "If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all."

For more information on Truth Publishing, visit SOURCE NaturalNews


The site is very informative, and, even though we don't get many review requests for this non-fiction market, it's nice to see a self-publishing venue for such books. For more information on this venture please visit:

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ebooks Get Social ...

ZDNET October 28th, 2008
eBooks get social, pose further threat to traditional publishers

"When most industry observers examine the impact of social media on traditional media industries, the focus inevitability turns to easily digitized media such as newspapers, magazines, radio, television and music.
But what about books, and more specifically eBooks? To get a sense of where eBooks are headed in the socialsphere, I checked in with Mark Coker, founder and CEO of Smashwords, an innovative eBook publishing startup I’ve been watching since their public beta launch earlier this year. In the interview, Mark comments on how the rise of social publishing, eBooks and indie authorship could spell difficultly for traditional book publishers."
I took a jump on over to Smashwords site, and I was very impressed. This is an exclusive digital lulu, so to speak, for Indie Ebook authors. The site is very user friendly. The content is searchable by category, title, etc. Publishing on the site is free and Smashwords takes 15% of net sales. There are no hidden charges, and the only charge I could see was the pay-pal processing fee that is charged per transaction, per sale, which does affect the cost of the book.

The site is pretty spiffy. The have a nice blog attached to the site. The founder's Bio is inspirational. The actual book pages are laid out professionally with all the pertinent cost and format information. All in all, I give it a two thumbs up.

Smashwords gives the authors the ability to publish free content and also allow readers to sample up to 50% of the book before committing to purchase. Now, I am not an ebook author, but there are many of you out there, and in the terms of service section, there was one point, listed below, that made me cringe a little regarding the free works. Not sure how ebook authors feel about such things, but I would love to hear comments.

10a. Rights of Use.

  • 1. Purchased works: As End User, you acknowledge that all Work furnished by Smashwords is licensed for the use of the End Users of the Site and may not be sublicensed or resold. If you purchase a work, you hold a non-exclusive, non-transferable, and non-distributable right of use. In other words, you are free to enjoy it for your own use, but you are not authorized to share, sell, or distribute the work to others.

  • 2. Free works including sample works: By definition, if an Author sets the price for the Work at zero, or if the author samples a certain percentage of their work, End Users may duplicate, share and reproduce the work or sample during the time the price is set at zero, but only for non-commercial purposes. Therefore, free works may not be reproduced for the purpose of generating traffic for your web site or blog, or for running advertising or promotional messages. Print or online reproductions should contain the following legend containing live clickable hyperlinks at the beginning and end of the document that reads, “This is the copyrighted work of [insert author’s first and last name], as originally published on at and at [insert direct hyperlink to the book page of the work]. This work may be freely duplicated and shared for non-commercial purposes. All reproductions are to maintain this legend at the beginning and end of the work, in its entirety.” Blogged excerpts of under 3,000 words need only either hyperlink to the author’s page on Smashwords, or place the above legend at the end of the excerpt:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

YouPublish releases v2.0 of Online Publishing Platform

New Site Feature Enables Users to View 28 Different File Types Directly in Browser

From Businesswire October 24, 2008

BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS, Oct 24, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- YouPublish (, an innovative, new file-sharing web site that lets users publish virtually any digital file type or format, free or paid, today announced v2.0 of the site that features multiple upgrades, including the ability to view 28 different file types, like video, audio, text, PDFs and photographs -- directly in the browser without downloading.
I took a look at the site and the terms of service seem fairly typical. It seems to be a standard Lulu type site for digital publishing. There is no fee for setting up an account and no fee for publishing. The largest file they can accept at this time is 100MB. They get 50% of the revenue, but they only make payments when your royalties reach $100.00. In that case payment is made monthly, and you have to pay the transaction charge. The site layout is a bit amateurish, and in the terms of service they refer to the authors' digital media/publication as "stuff", but their FAQ seems pretty comprehensive. If anyone is currently using the service the peeps would love to hear comments.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Xlibris Offers Large Discounts on Book Publishing Packages

Xlibris offers 50% discount on black and white and full color publishing packages and 33%, on marketing services.
November 3, 2008 (FPRC) -- Large discounts are offered by the book publisher, Xlibris, for publishing and marketing services availed of for the whole month of November as an early holiday present for writers who wish to become authors. The leading self publishing company gives 50% price cut on black and white and full color publishing packages for writers and photographers who wish to publish their work and 33% on marketing services for authors who wish to widen the exposure of work.

I have read quite a few Xlibris books, and again they work much the same way as say an Outskirts Press or any other Non-DIY self-publishing company. Costs are comparative and packages vary according to services needed. Their basic service package for $299.00 includes a little less than what you would get with Lulu including: 3 basic cover templates, 2 interior templates, and the assignment of an ISBN but no distribution. As you add services like editing and distribution the cost goes up. You don't get copy editing until $2,999.00, which is what most Indy authors need. 50% off seems like a good deal in that case.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Review -- The Organ Grinder and The Monkey

Title: The Organ Grinder and the Monkey
Author: Sam Moffie
Genre: Fiction/Literature – Contemporary
Price: $19.99
Publisher: Xlibris
ISBN: 978-1-4363-2775-6
Point of Sale:

For a typical converging lives story, I do have to say that I actually liked it. I liked its honesty, its complexity, and its blunt philosophy. The language is vulgar and abrupt; there are some imaginative boundary pushing scenarios to mull over; the worldview is rather dark and gritty; and the triangulation of the three therapeutic philosophies is very amusing – serious – but not overbearing. There is a lot of good stuff in this story. What I didn’t like about the book was its lack of technical finesse.

The first half of the book is nothing but straight narrative as we get all the down and dirty background information on our three characters: Seymore, Irving, and Constance. Yes, the entire first half of the book is background. We get a lot more background than we actually need and in some cases background that really isn’t all that relevant and offers no additional depth to the characters or the plotline. The characters’ hometowns were thoroughly profiled down to every broken window, racial slur, and sporting event, but I felt lost in the minutia after a while. It felt repetitive, and it really slowed the pacing for me. The narrative moves forward and backward rather erratically, and it is often interrupted by informational vs. interactive dialog. The problem with this is that the narrator’s voice is so pronounced that all the one-off one-liners end up sounding the same. There is so much out of context he said she said that the distinguishing idiosyncrasies of the characters became so blurred with the narrator that I couldn’t really appreciate them or really feel them as psychological beings, and that is a shame since their psychological worldview is the thrust of the story.

As far as the characters go, we have some standard archetypes: Seymore, victim number one, is the product of a broken home, bitter parents, an eccentric father, and an old-fashioned curmudgeon of a grandfather. Seymore is slight of temperament, studious and withdrawn, and is traumatized and invariably haunted by his father’s death, which is graphic and definitely over the top – Bravo to that! Lastly, Seymore wants nothing more than to escape the shit-hole town he was born in, move to NYC, and become a veterinarian – he becomes a killer instead. Then we have Irving, victim number two. Irving is product of radical liberal parents, who happen to have died in a tragic car accident. Irving is a classic co-dependent, all around good guy, actually wants to be the good guy, and has developed an unnatural fixation for conspiracy theories. Irving also wants to move to NYC and become a police officer – go figure. And lastly, we have Constance, victim number three. Constance is the product of single parent home. Her father died after losing the family fortune gambling. Her mother is the stereotypical waitress, and Constance is a bit of a control freak and nasty kinky in bed – Brava to that! She wants to move to NYC and become a Rockette and predictably ends up dancing in a strip club. All the characters come from similar degenerative towns, and they all share the same therapist – who is vague, barely mentioned, and who really has no relevance to the story except as the butt of offhanded callous remarks.

The plot is typical for this type of story, filled with life’s ups, downs, and enemas, and it doesn’t actually exist until midway through. If it weren’t for the chastising dark humour, I would have given up after chapter 5. I kept on reading because of the story’s angle, which attempts to compare the therapeutic philosophies of the three characters: Seymore and his traditional therapist. Irving and Al-Anon, and Constance, who doesn’t suppress her desire to see everyone and everything be given an enema from the almighty. I can sympathize. During the reading of the story, one is supposed to see the differences within the three, but again, this is an area where I felt the detail and depth was lacking. If you have prior knowledge in the science of psychology, then the underlying theorem will be apparent: all people are affected and the only way to get on with it is to confront the issues, confront the shadows, focus on what we can change, and let everything else go. Focus on the inner self, if you will. Both conventional therapy and Al-Anon work much the same way, as does an enema. The funny bit for me was, each of the therapeutic philosophies had exactly the same effect. Each in their own way, all three characters managed to detach, better themselves, and fulfil a need. I suppose that is the irony of personal therapy; it’s all a matter of interpretation.

Overall, I really think the author had something pretty damn fantastic here, not the story per say, but the angle. We have all seen the convergent lives story: the killer, the tormented cop, and the seductive damsel. Unfortunately, the narrative itself was a deterrent to the writing. The third person narrative just got in the way. I think if the narrative had been in first-person with shifting points of view then we really could have gotten a better feel for the three characters. Their personas and their subconscious pathologies would have been more palpable. Even the use of italics didn’t help, as the narrative in those sections was not appreciably different from the rest of the book, which it should have been for 40+ pages of italics. I wanted to feel Seymore, know him like we knew Patrick Bateman in American Psycho or the narrator in Fight Club, but we don’t. Same with Irving and Constance, we just don’t get that depth with such a detached narrative. I would have liked to have seen more internal exposition.

This story could have easily been a 10 for me if it weren’t for the technical issues, the serious grammatical issues, and the narrative issues. It had everything I like: psychological story, socio-political commentary, sarcasm, satire, strong characters, gritty language, darkly comedic world-view, and some nasty boundary-crossing skin-chilling scenes. With a professional editor, I think this story could be reworked into something quite spectacular and would be on par with others in the same vein like “American Psycho” or "Fight Club." As it stands now I have to give it a 6. The detached overbearing narrative voice and the one-dimensional textbook characters just didn’t work for me as well as they could have.

RATING: 6/10

Monday, November 03, 2008

Free Book Friday Winner

The winner drawn out of my hat, well actually from the basket I keep my mail in, is the poster anon/Blackroze. Thank you to everyone who came by to enter.