Friday, January 30, 2009
Title: Fairy Tales Can Come True: The Very Best Erotic Fairy Tales
Editor: Natasha Brooks
Posted by: Chris Gerrib
Time flies when you're having fun, so apparently January has been a barrel of laughs. At any rate, it's now time for our monthly Free Book Friday.
This month's book is Fairy Tales Can Come True, the first anthology by EmergingEdge_Publishing, the publishing arm of Bareback Magazine. All of these entities consist of Natasha Brooks, making this a micro-press. In 2007, she/they held a contest for erotic fairy tales, and this book is the result. The anthology consists of ten short stories, and clocks in at 176 pages, including various extras such as author profiles. It has a bit uneven production values, specifically the occasional editing or layout glitch, but overall readability is good. My full review is available here.
Perhaps obviously, this is an adult anthology, so don't plan on giving it to your kids to read. As always, to win this book, post a reply with your email address in it to this thread, and we'll randomly pick a winner come Monday.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona Published: 01.18.2009
Inside today's ¡Vamos! is a road map of sorts to help would-be authors realize their dreams of being published." — Cathalena E. Burch
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Monday, January 19, 2009
"Reading The Fine Print is akin to taking a favourite uncle who’s mechanically inclined car shopping with you. Levine walks with you through the services and legalese presented by these companies. If you plan on publishing with a publisher that you pay for its services, you cannot afford to skip reading The Fine Print of Self-Publishing. This is a required title in your stacks of research materials. Shell out the $12.21 at Amazon; you could potentially save thousands of dollars and a vicious, life-long loss of rights to your work that some authors have suffered from at the hands of unethical publishers."
Sunday, January 18, 2009
I don't play the game of saying 'industry is broken' or 'any book written deserves to be published'. The industry is what it is, imperfect but basically functional. As things stand conventional publishing is generally going to reach a larger audience and make more money. So yes, as authors we have a range of options available for any given book--sometimes a wide range and sometimes.... not so much. But self-publishing is absolutely not a quick and easy route to fame and fortune.
So... I am not a cheerleader for self-publishing, but I am not a cheerleader for conventional publishing either. After two years of writing and six month of post-submission editing this is more true than ever. As an academic text, this book won't sell much over a thousand copies, and no matter how many copies sell I will be paid nothing. Oh, and I had to completely remove the final chapter which contained most of the important points I wanted to make. Let's just say: I could be more thrilled.
That said, when I mention this publisher's name people are impressed. It will help my career, and all that. It shows I know how this is done, and I can do it. Does that make it a good deal? I don't know. People will read this book due to its publisher, imprint and brand who wouldn't read it if it was anywhere else, and being an academic book it will stay in print a lot longer than conventional published books often do. But I still need to write a book that really says what I wanted to say--so the next one is going to a smaller press and every chapter is damn well staying in there or I will walk away from the deal.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Bloomington, Ind. (PRWEB) January 7, 2009 -- iUniverse, the leading book marketing, editorial services and supported self publishing company, has unveiled a new premium publishing package focused on enhancing a book's appeal to major booksellers - the Bookstore Premier Pro.
Authors who choose to utilize the Bookstore Premier Pro publishing package to publish a book will benefit from enhanced services including the Booksellers Return Program. This high-value feature gives authors a distinct advantage over other authors in the marketplace.
"The Bookstore Premier Pro publishing package offers iUniverse authors a mix of services that will make their books more attractive to the largest booksellers," said Terry Dwyer, vice president of sales for Author Solutions - parent company of iUniverse. "The Booksellers Return Program in particular, is extremely valuable because booksellers realize they are assuming diminished risk by stocking titles that are returnable.
$2099 is the pricetag for this package, but it does include some bells and whistles and an editorial critique as well as interior and exterior design assistance, but the selling point for this package is that they are offering full returnability on the title, which makes your book more appealing to bricks and mortar bookstores. Of course this is no guarantee that you will be stocked, it supposedly gives you better odds, as meager as those odds are.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Title: Luggage By Kroger: A True Crime Memoir
Author: Gary Taylor
Genre: memoir, true crime
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib
Gary Taylor is an interesting fellow, self-described as one-third rogue, and his book Luggage By Kroger is an entertaining read. In 1979, Gary was working the courts beat for the Houston Chronicle. He was also getting a divorce from his second wife, and broke enough that he was using a Kroger grocery sack to transport his dirty laundry. (Hence the title – Luggage By Kroger).
While all this drama was going on, Catherine Mehaffey, a young and attractive Houston lawyer, was suing for alimony from her boyfriend of three months, who she called her common-law “husband.” The case wasn’t going that good for Catherine, until on January 15, 1979, Catherine’s boyfriend, George Tedesco, turned up bludgeoned to death in his garage. Undaunted, Catherine amended her case to proceed as his widow, despite being the obvious lead suspect in the murder. Fully aware of Catherine’s background, Gary Taylor started a relationship with Catherine. Four months later, Catherine put a bullet in Gary’s back.
The story of that shooting and the tempestuous, illogical and frantic maneuverings of the controlling Catherine Mehaffey take up a good third of the book. Another third of the book is an entertaining recounting of Gary’s life as a young reporter. For example, the first day on the crime beat in Houston, Gary lost $25 in a poker game that broke up when a bank president, armed with his personal gun, was killed chasing bank robbers. The final third of the book is taken up with the story of Gary’s divorce from his second wife, a soap-opera-like story of infidelity and drug use.
All three of these narratives are skillfully and carefully woven into a coherent and interesting tale. Gary has a self-deprecating sense of humor, and a reporter’s eye for critical details. He’s also done some research (alas after his shooting) into the nature of mental illness, and has come to understand that the obsessive “love” of Catherine Mahaffey was really a need to control everybody.
The Mehaffey story, which was well-publicized at the time, became one of the inspirations for the movie Fatal Attraction. Taylor’s book is a window into that attraction. It’s also a damn fine read. There’s adult language and sex, so it’s not for the faint of heart, but I highly recommend buying Luggage By Kroger.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Title: Return to Luna: Stories From the Lunar Settlements
Editor: Eric T. Reynolds
Genre: science fiction anthology
Publisher: Hadley Rille Books
Point of Sale: publisher | Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib
Hadley Rille Books is a new small publisher, specializing in science fiction anthologies. The press, named after a valley or “rille” on the Moon, is the brainchild of Eric T. Reynolds. They’ve put out six or so books so far, and if they are anything like this one, my second purchase from the company, one can’t go wrong buying from them. Although Hadley Rille Books may be a small operation, they have first-rate production values, so this book is solidly edited and assembled.
Return to Luna is the result of the National Space Society’s 2008 fiction contest, and the nineteen short stories in this anthology were selected by a jury of editors and writers. In a typical anthology, I find a couple of the stories less engaging then others – not so here. All nineteen of these short works are gems, well worth your time.
The rules of the contest were simple: write a short story about man’s return to Earth’s moon. The story had to be relatively near-future, and couldn’t include aliens or non-realistic levels of technology. This might seem to be a limiting rule-set, but the stories here all met the rules and a surprising level of originality.
Since I liked all the stories, deciding which ones to talk about in this review was a bit difficult. I ended up settling on the criteria of “most memorable” out of the group. They are:
Visual Silence by M. C. Chambers – This short was the Grand Prize winner, and deals with the interaction between a man born deaf since birth and a woman rendered mute by a stroke. Both of them are residents of a lunar colony on the Moon’s south pole.
Joe the Martian Goes to the Moon by Ken Edgett – The title refers to a character in a children’s educational program. A young man goes to the Moon wearing the “Joe the Martian” costume, and his adventures during the trip prove interesting.
The Return by David Schibi – This story tells the tale of the ill-fated first settlement on the Moon and that settlement’s sole survivor, 62 years later. It’s a real tear-jerker.
Apples on the Moon by Karen T. Smith – A shipment of apples arrives on a lunar settlement, and some of the local teenagers decide to intercept a few. Romance and danger follow.
In Their Own Words by Brenta Blevins – A historian conducts several interviews while developing a history of lunar settlement. Not much plot, but a very interesting character study.
Return to Luna is an outstanding short story anthology, and I hope you decide to buy it.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Friday, January 09, 2009
Author: Eddie Wright
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Existentialism
Price: $8.97 E-book Free
Point of Sale: http://www.lulu.com/content/1098841
Reviewed By: Cheryl Anne Gardner
Now most everyone knows, I love deviant and damaged. I am also a huge fan of Burroughs’ “Naked Lunch” Dick’s “A Scanner Darkly” and Johnson’s “Jesus’ Son” … so it’s safe to say that I love the drug addled mind on exhibition – providing it’s making a satirical statement, of course. This book is no exception. And even though the writing style is not as rich and elaborate as I normally like, I am standing and applauding as I write this.
Yes, Frank is a drug addict, but the drug is actually more metaphoric in this case, more than in most other stories of this nature. This story, and again Bravo, deals with much more than the cliché numbing effect addiction is known for. Frank doesn’t become numb. He already lives in a world of fear and nothingness. His girlfriend hits him with massive doses of the drug, enough to make him open and understanding regarding love and all the possibilities in his life: his ability to love her back, his ability to feel happiness, his ability to create promise and joy, his ability to take notice. While he is on the drug, he is daring, handsome, desirable, talented – worthy of the air he breathes. But once it wears off and the fear takes over, he is, once again, the scourge of humanity.
And Bonnie, his girlfriend and dealer, is not reprehensible in this story. She reminded me of the Caterine Vauban character in I Heart Huckabees, and the story is quite similar in theme. The drug she provides is actually akin to love, and Frank’s own mind can’t let him accept it or enjoy it—can’t to the point that his flesh festers with a bloody infection at the injection site.
“I told her it didn’t work. I told her it felt wrong.
She said I looked great.
She said I looked happy. She said I looked right. She said I was fast.
I said I needed a new one.
She said the seed was just the inspiration.
She said that I take care of the rest.
She said it’s all a choice.
I said I needed a new one.”
The book is deliberately styled to be coarse and abrupt, disoriented, at times naïve, and a little reminiscent of Jack’s nervous breakdown at the typewriter in The Shining, but the metaphoric depth is truly sublime. Trainspotting meets Nietzsche in Wonderland; this is not a book about drug addiction. That would be too prosaic and easy in my opinion. No, the surface addiction is the excuse, as it always is. This book is about the addiction to fear, to cynicism, to blame and self-loathing, the black plague of humanity, which is just as dangerous and lethal as any drug. More so for some. So affected, they fear the very idea of being alive. Because no matter what they do, say, or think … none of it is good enough or worth anything, none of it actually means anything, thus, the lack of substance or something nullifies their very existence. They know they have a need and yet they cannot define it, and so the affected are beautiful creatures, suckers for the snake-oil, if you will, and exploitation is big business. Even the self-help charlatans will say, “That ain’t no secret.” The desperate will look for inspiration and magic saviours everywhere … even in toothpaste. Those white teeth might just be the something that will cure all your ills, at the very least, your toothache. Funny.
Yes … this is by far the best self-published book I read last year. One of THE best books I read all year, including the mainstream stuff. An existentialist’s dream, the author has dug in deep and laid bare the raw emotion so candidly that we can actually feel the futility, the desperation, and the humour. Yes, even with abject and impoverished souls, there is still humour: When a dark stranger comes to see Dusty, Dusty offers the man a glass of water. When the man declines, Dusty asks, “You sure, I have a Brita.” The implications of that line had me rolling out of my seat.
All in all, I think with a little minor editing this could be a real masterpiece, is a real masterpiece. Even the title is brilliant with its use of symbolism. I cannot wait to read more from this author. This is true and timeless literature. Philip Dick would be proud.
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Books like this are very handy, especially if you write using traditional story structure, which King does. He, admittedly, writes from situations. Another good one in this same vein is Self Editing for Fiction Writers.
However, many writers, including myself, are not situational writers, and writing should not, and in many cases, cannot always be confined to traditional structure. In that case, writers and critics can take these types of books too literally. I have seen stories suffer due to hack and slash editing based upon misconceptions and misunderstood principles, many of which were gleaned from books such as this. Maybe the confusion lies simply in the definition of the word guide. Guide and Rule are two completely different animals, and in the case of writing tutorials, they are often used interchangeably, so the confusion is understandable.
Grammar and Vocabulary have rules. The art of writing is a wondrously different beast, well beyond the basic physics of sentence construction. The only rule is concise thought, and grammar takes care of that. Everything else is open to manipulation.
So I recommend a good balance between this type of standard style guide and more intensive literary study, where basic mechanics are put aside for more poetic and experimental construction, where the focus is on the underlying theoretic principles of literature and not just the physics of a story.
And not all literature has to be a traditional story. I think Kafka would agree with me on that one. Standardization destroys original thinking and thus destroys art. So how seriously you take style guides really depends on what you are writing.
Mr. King’s book was written with a good deal of objectivity, but even some of his “rules” are open to debate, simply because they are grounded in traditional standardized practices, nothing more.
Sunday, January 04, 2009
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Memoir/Writing Technique
Paperback: 288 Pages
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Inc.
Point of Sale: Amazon
I love surprise Christmas gifts, and this one was no exception. The friend who bought it for me is a huge Stephen King fan, and I am a fan myself, not necessarily for his horror fiction, but more for the admirable way in which he handles the novella genre, specifically those written under the pseudonym Richard Bachman.
Let me first preface the review by stating that I am not a fan of memoirs. This is mostly due to the uncomfortable feeling I get when reading them. I don’t like getting too involved in people’s real lives, and I certainly don’t want someone’s real life floating around in my head, smashing into and getting entangled with the real lives of my fictional characters. That is always bad business. Then, memoirs, to me, always seem to smell and taste like history books with a healthy dash of narcissism thrown in for good measure. This isn’t one of those. I found the memoir part of this book to be an extraordinary read, and this is probably because King’s easy prose blossoms from the creative mindset of a fiction writer -- it has an innocence to it that I really like. Innocence peppered with sarcasm and a bit of self-deprecation – always a good mix. However, this review won’t be about the memoir portion of the book. I want to focus on the second half, which is the writing technique and advice half. After all, this is a self-publishing review and commentary site. We comment on other authors’ work, so this site, though titled POD, is really about writing. Most of our readers are writers; we here at the peeps are writers, so it makes sense for me to talk about writing, even if my opinions are of the biased anarchist sort.
The first part of the technique section is appropriately titled: The Toolbox. Plain and simple, these tools are the backbone of good writing. I’ll discuss each one a little and then add some additional tools, ones that I keep in my own personal toolbox, which aren’t mentioned in the book, but have served me well over the years.
- Vocabulary. Of course this is number one. Can’t write without words. King states that a writer should not consciously seek to improve their vocabulary. I agree. Anything forced always reads forced. He says vocabulary improvement just comes naturally through reading. I also agree. Every writer should read … a lot. Me, I am word nerd, can’t help it. I was that kid who got a perfect score on every vocabulary test they ever took. Every word has an attitude all its own. Sometimes the attitude is nothing more than simplicity; regardless, that’s what I want in my work: attitude, and it doesn’t matter if I use a nickel word or not to get it, but I always try to use the right word for the right situation.
- Grammar. Mr. King says relax, chill. You need to know it, can’t get around it, but, and I quote: “One either absorbs the grammatical principles of one’s native language in conversation and in reading or one does not. If you don’t know it, it’s too late.” Mr. King doesn’t go into grammar too much because of that statement. I, myself, love grammar, always have, but every once and a while, a writer might need a refresher, for that he suggests the tried and true The Elements of Style by William Strunk. Me, I have numerous grammar and style manuals, and I blame my day job for that. Professional business writing is just one of the skills required to be successful in my particular line of work. The manuals were unavoidable, as were the endless business writing workshops. I am not saying you have to love it, but if you want to be a writer, you have to know grammar like the back of your hand. The key to good writing is articulation, and grammar is the grease for the lock.
- Optional toolbox stuff. Everyone’s toolbox will be different according to the writer and what it is that you write. For me, since my stories are mainly psychological character studies, I have my literary study textbooks, which cover all the weird and wondrous story construction stuff like metaphors, symbolism, character arcs, story arc, voice and tone, foreshadowing … etc. I also have psychology and sociology reference books, can’t write characters unless you watch and understand people, and on a broader scale, understand humanity. Lastly, I have some editing manuals, which I highly recommend. Editing your own work is a downright nasty task, but the way publishing houses are cutting staff in that area, every writer should know how to edit and do it with some level of confidence. But you gotta watch the editing books. Written by editors of major publishing houses, the rules they expound smack to me of the Stepford Writer syndrome. Remember, they want books that sell, and they have a formula. I worry about that. If every book is written exactly the same, following the same set of rules without fail, it does make it easier for the publisher, but I wonder what that costs the writer in the end with respect to their individual voice. In much of the literature I have studied over the years, the flaws were often viewed as endearing quirks, giving the writer an unmatched uniqueness. I would hate to see artistic style suffer in the wake of conformity. But even with my reservations, I still think it wise to at least know the rules and their particular justifications. Some I agree with and some I don’t, but understanding the rules makes it much easier to know when, why, and how to break them. I have broken many, some accidentally because I wasn’t paying attention, some deliberately because I was, and sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. But hey, that’s what revision is for.
The next part book deals with the craft and the writing process. Mr. King uses the self-deprecating, I was once where you are tactic, and it works. It doesn’t come off preachy and condescending because he is honest. Honesty is what makes any advice worth its weight. I am not going to go into too much detail because the book is fun to read, so here are section highlights:
- Read a lot and write a lot.
- Atmosphere and Schedule.
- Write what you know, what you love, and all the intricacies involved in that.
- Story construction, or as Mr. King calls it: “Digging the fossil out of the ground.”
- Description – too much, too little, too early, too late – and the Show and Tell issue.
- Dialog – the good, the bad, the ugly, and the adverbs.
- Honest Characterization.
- The Bells and Whistles: metaphor, symbolism, tense shifts, theme … “It’s all on the table, and you should use anything that improves the quality of your writing and doesn’t get in the way of the story.”
- The dreaded revision and editing process. I like Mr. King’s process, probably because it mirrors my own. It’s comfortable, easy to follow, and takes the confusion out of it. Mr. King uses the three draft method, of course he admits that during that time the manuscript will be looked over at least a dozen times or more, each pass focusing on something different. I do think this is the best approach, along with the minimum six-week resting period he recommends in between each draft.
- First readers and ideal readers: How to process the input from each.
- Research, again, too much, too little or is the porridge blended just right to add that extra bit of reality to the mix. I like research, but admittedly, I have issues blending it seamlessly into the story. It’s just one of my many flaws, that, and I love my adverbs. I use them sparingly and cannot give them up.
- Then we have Mr. King’s thoughts on writing classes, seminars, critique groups, and retreats. Does he think they help -- not really.
- Dealing with writer’s block.
- Lastly, seeking representation and publication -- an arduous and oftentimes frustrating task.
The End of the book moves back to the memoir and discusses, in depth, the tragic event in 1999 when he was hit by a car and almost killed, appropriately titled: On living.
I count this book as a must read. The advice is sound, even if I don’t agree with all of it. Littered with practical application, it offers value to all writers in all genres, and written with King’s notorious sense of humour and style, the memoir is heart-warming and inspirational.
Friday, January 02, 2009
I'm not big on New Year's resolutions, and besides, this isn't a personal blog, so let's just say I have them and move on.
In other news, my next review opportunity showed up in the mail, courtesy of the Big Brazilian River and Hadley Rille Books. The book title is Return to Luna, and it's a short story contest put on by the National Space Society.
So, watch this space for a review of Return to Luna.
Thursday, January 01, 2009
#1 and by far the most interesting was the trailer for The Anti-Resume Revolution. This is a genuine short video that doesn't promote the book, but show the process by which the book was conceived and produced. My main problem with most of the other trailers is that they generally completely failed to communicate to me what type of book they were advertising and where I could buy it. I mean I can glance at the cover of most commercial paperbacks and have some idea what I am getting--one or two minutes of audio and video should be plenty to communicate at least that much!
At #2 is an exception: Dawson Vosberg's very short trailers for Double Life and Terminal Velocity. Although the expanding font is over-used, these trailers show me the premise and style of the book very efficiently, and I can see them hooking in a target reader.
Many of the other books are on special topics. This trailer might help you decide whether the Millwater Press Dictionary of Farrier Terms is the Dictionary of Farrier Terms for you. So this trailer gets #3 by default. If you don't want a dictionary of farrier terms... well, you don't. Outsourcing by Rentacoder may be in a similar category but the music was tacky and annoying, as were all the capital letters.
The other trailers struck me (and yes, this is a personal opinion) as boring, ambiguous, confusing and a total mess. The trailer for the Antellus books has classy, if slightly over-dramatic, music and all the necessary information. But the quality of the cover art is variable and the whole thing doesn't seem very professional to me. I was curious enough to check out the website, so I guess it was neither good not bad overall.
I still think these trailers did nothing to interest me in buying the books, but maybe these are just not books I would have bought anyway. So I guess I remain a skeptic. But I think that even the most enthusiastic self-promoter should consider: a book trailer can make you book look better--or make it look worse. Sometimes bad publicity really is bad. If you have a totally hawht trailer that you think will change my mind, please post a link in the comment section and I will take a look.