Thursday, February 26, 2009

REVIEW: Cluck by Eric D. Knapp--Free Book Friday

Title: Cluck: Murder Most Fowl
Editor: Eric D Knapp
Genre: Humor/Horror
Price: $15.99
Publisher: BookSurge
ISBN: 9781419682643
Posted by: veinglory

Cluck: Murder Most Fowl by Eric D Knapp is wonderfully presented, cleverly promoted and skillfully written book. As a lover of chickens and of horror stories I approached it with great expectations. I was hoping for something along the lines of the small budget agri-horror zombie movie 'Black Sheep'.

Cluck, however, is a much more mixed bag. The first third of the book meanders somewhat, where some mysterious event touches a rooster and a boy who move rather erratically towards their fated roles. The middle section brings together the rooster, now a villain with a harem of followers and the boy, now a rather strange poultry-oriented leader of a secret occult society (with an unfortunately an inept farmer in the middle). And everything is, at least temporarily, tidied up for a feel-good ending.

The problem for me was a writing style that as witty and whimsical by relentlessly tangential, round-about and parenthetical (foot-note-ical and otherwise wandering). This meant that for a large part of the book, where there is more a promise of a plot than an actual plot, the book was very easy to put down. I read Cluck intermittently over many months which probably interfered still further with the coherence of the story.

It was rather like the author was constantly pointing out things of interest but so obtrusively present that he obstructed my view, as a reader, of the very things he was pointing out. While the book is highly original, written with assurance and flair, and full of the kind of things I normally enjoying a book (yes, I normally even enjoy humorous authorial intrusion such as practiced by R A MacAvoy in the Damiano trilogy)… I was never very engaged by this book. I think wry whimsy is a great condiment, like mustard, but if you add too much it really can spoil a meal.

I would give this book a 10 in its objective qualities, but no more than a 5 in terms of how much I enjoyed it, so I will split the difference and call it 7.5. For free book Friday I will give you a chance to decide for yourself. Just reply here with an email address. A winner will be chosen on Monday to received a brand new copy of Cluck.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Selling Cartoonish Characters with Wooden Dialogue -- Carol Hoenig

The Huffington Post -- February 22, 2009
I stumbled across this article by Carol Hoenig, author of the multi-award winning Novel "Without Grace" and it really did give me a giggle, so I thought I would share her thoughts. The full article can be read here.

"I often write about the publishing industry and most recently wrote here about its standards. Admittedly, I am rather vocal when it comes to self-publishing or print-on-demand. Nevertheless, in spite of the new publishing paradigm, there is still often a stigma when it comes to self-publishing. The idea that if a book hasn't been vetted, even though most print-on-demand publishers now do offer editorial services, then it is not worth time or money. With that in mind, let's look at recent feedback on some novels with titles I'll keep anonymous:

  • "Clunky pacing and cartoonish characters"
  • "reads like a superficial TV script"
  • "overall silliness and lack of credible characters"
  • "a mechanical plot and an improbable ending far from satisfy"
  • "descriptions of technology and applications are painstakingly overexplained"
  • "wooden dialogue"

No wonder an element of writers cannot find a traditional publisher! Savvy agents simply cannot sell a story with "cartoonish characters" or "wooden dialogue." Right? Actually, that's not quite true because all those reviews were from Publishers Weekly and were for traditionally published books, which makes one wonder about the nature of this business."


Now, I don't think this article should be taken as a license to write badly. But it does make me wonder about that old adage I hear so often: "If your book isn't real published then it isn't any good." Based upon the PW review comments on these so-called mainstream real published books, I am now completely confused as to what actually makes a book good in the eyes of a mainstream publisher. But then again, I never had much faith in the mainstream publishing world to begin with. Most of the authors I love weren't noticed or appreciated until after they were dead. During their lives, they were nothing but unpublishable madmen. So all I can say to self-published authors is: keep learning and improving your craft, study your grammar and your literary theory, and write the best damn stories you can. Keep it fresh, keep it edgy, keep it honest. If you are writing for art, then write what you feel and how you feel it. If you want to write for the market, well, I can't really help you there, but there are a million cookie cutter "how to" books out there that speak to that. -- cannegardner

Sunday, February 22, 2009

San Francisco-based self-publishing company Blurb has reported growth of 200 percent in ‘08, with sales of nearly $30 million.
I took a walk on over, and it seems like a pretty straight forward Lulu type site, per book prices seem comparable, sizes are very limited, and there is no distribution ... all selling is done from the in-house bookstore. But, they do offer something called "Book making software." I assume this is some sort of template software type deal, and since it's free, if it helps a self-pub author create a professional layout, then that's a good thing. -- cannegardner

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Writers Digest 2009 Directory of Self-Publishing Companies--veinglory

Available here. Index of relevant threads at AbsoluteWrite here.

Amazon Kindle 2.0 The Good, The Bad, and The WTF?

Email I received From Amazon:

"We’re excited to introduce Amazon Kindle 2 , the next generation wireless reading device. With a sleek and thin design that makes Kindle 2 as thin as a typical magazine and lighter than a paperpack, the new Kindle has seven times more storage and now holds over 1,500 books. It has a longer battery life and faster page turns. An advanced display provides even crisper images and clearer text for an improved book-like reading experience. And Kindle 2 even reads to you, with “Read to Me”, our new Text to Speech feature.

"With Kindle 2 we kept everything readers love about the original Kindle—the convenience of reading what you want, when you want it, the immediacy of getting a book wirelessly delivered in less than 60 seconds, and Kindle’s ability to “disappear” in your hands so you can get lost in the author’s words. We’re also excited to announce that the Kindle Store has over 230,000 ebooks available."
I just recently Kindled my first novella, The Kissing Room, which for me was quite a learning experience. Admittedly, I am html challenged. Thankfully, Smashwords has a wonderful "how to" pdf, outlining the proper formatting for your Word document that makes understanding this process very simple. And they offer conversion and sale in many formats. They seem to be the front-runner as the Lulu for ebooks at the moment. Now, with the sale of e-books on the rise, I think it’s worth the effort for authors to get their books to readers in whatever format is available, more options means more readers. Plus, I can offer the book at a cut-rate cost since there are no production dollars associated with the end product. Readers are more willing to take a chance on a new or self-published author if the investment is minimal.

Now, onto the hub-bub..
Over at Dear Author they have an interesting thread relating to a comment by the Author’s Guild where they are: Telling Authors to stay out of the Ebook Game because the Kindle audio feature may infringe on the author’s derivative right to audio performances. Have you ever heard audio readback from a computer? I have, and let me tell you, it’s painful, and I really don’t see it affecting audio book sales. But that’s just my .02. What can you do? -- cannegardner

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Dan Poynter on The Future of Books ...

"In an exclusive interview yesterday on the Smashwords blog, Dan Poynter discussed his views on the future of publishing. When asked to comment on the turmoil in the book publishing industry, Poynter predicted dramatic changes ahead: Said Poynter, "The large six publishers in New York have not altered their business plans since 1947. The downturn in the economy did not cause their problems but economics are making them reexamine the ways they do business. Brick-and-mortar store sales are decreasing. Online sales are increasing. We will see smaller advances, the elimination of returns, the abolishment of the three annual selling seasons and the proliferation of eBooks. pBook (paper) sales are decreasing. eBook sales are increasing. With change comes opportunity. The 86,000 self-publishers in the U.S. are prepared because they are closer to their subject than a large publisher and, being more nimble, are quicker to adapt to trends, conditions and changes. It takes a large publisher 18 months from manuscript to shelf. Smashwords can get your book out at the speed of light."

The full interview can be read here at the Smashwords Blog. Take from it what you will.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Ethics of 'Slush for Money'--veinglory

In the past I have discussed the case of Chronicle referring rejected manuscripts to a self-publisher (Blurb). Now it seems that Osprey is doing a similar thing and referring to Authorhouse.

see also:
This previous post
Authorhouse Courts Establishment

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The BBB--veinglory

The Better Business Bureau seems to have found a better way to list and discuss self-publishing providers. Take for example their updated pages about Lulu, Publish America and a.k.a. Watermark Press.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New Marketing Firm for Self-Pub Authors -- cannegardner

Chicago, IL (PRWEB) January 31, 2009

The principal of Marcus Bryan and Associates, Marsha Cook, a long standing member of the Chicago Literary Agent Arena has launched a new company. Michigan Avenue Media, is a marketing firm which in addition to various public relation services, will market, mentor, and increase the exposure of today's self published authors. Mrs. Cook decided that the self publishing market lacked a voice and its authors needed a vehicle to catapult them into the arenas that were reserved for large scale publishers. Michigan Avenue Media has teamed up with several self publishing houses to act as the marketing arm for their authors.

Marsha Cook has self published five titles, all of which are available on Amazon and other national retailers, including her companies website, After years of working with clients who felt disenchanted with the current publishing trends she saw her existing clients succeeding in this new medium. Michigan Avenue Media is also excited about the new technological advances in e-books, which will also be a large component to her client's success.


We all know that marketing for your Indie title is an overwhelming undertaking, but without some marketing, your book just won't sell. A good marketing plan costs money. Readerview, one of the more well-known Indie Marketing Companies lays out their list of services and prices right on the website. I like that. I can respect that prices vary, but at least with Readerviews I have a ballpark. Michigan Ave on the other hand doesn't seem to have any pricing listed for their services, so I imagine you need to call for quotes:
  • MINI-MEDIA BLITZ - 50.00 per month for 3 months. - Mini Media Blitz is a comprehensive service that incorporates innovative public relations techniques and gets your book out to the masses. At 50.00 per month we are able to get your work in front of an enormous audience which could get the recognition you deserve. Feel free to contact us with any questions.
  • FROM THE SCREEN TO THE PAGE - By using our affliliations with self publishing houses, we can take your finished manuscript and convert it into a paperback book which makes distribution easier and also makes a great gift for the author's family and friends. Please call for details and pricing.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Publisher's Weekly - Review it Yourself -- cannegardner

Change I Believe Inby Sara Nelson -- Publishers Weekly, 1/26/2009

"Call me gullible or impressionable, but I'm actually feeling kind of hopeful this week. It's not just the new year or the inauguration (which I loved most for its goofs and gaffes) or even that—please, please—publishing business firings are coming to an end, at least for a while.
Then again, maybe I am buoyed by the start of the Obama presidency: While I know change is going to be slow in coming, it's energizing to look at what we've already started, at what we can do now.

For example, last week we launched a new feature on Developed from an idea a brilliant friend from San Francisco threw out at a dinner party in August, we came up with Review It Yourself, a place on our Web site for the reading public to review and rate self-published books and for traditional publishers to check out what's happening in the ever-growing self-publishing world. These are not the gold-standard PW reviews, but a chance for consumers and publishers alike to see if and how they can learn from self-published titles. (Note: Every once in a while a self-published title “crosses over.” See last year's The Lace Reader, a bestseller for Morrow, which started life self-published.)Unfortunately there is no informationr regaridng the selection process for which self-pub titles appear on the site."


Is the paradigm actually shifting? I never want to get my hopes up for nothing, but this is a good indication that self-publishing is gaining a bit of legitimacy, and I say, "It's about damn time." However, after wandering the site for a while, I could find no information regarding the selection process. I am certain there is certain criteria that must be met in order for a self-published book to make it to the list, but I was unable to find such clarification. Maybe PW can elaborate on this a bit more for us; though all in all, this is a step in the right direction. -- cannegardner

Friday, February 06, 2009

REVIEW: Back in Black

Title: Back in Black
Author: Brett Williams
Genre: Fiction/Horror/Thriller
Price: $13.95
Publisher: Lulu
Reviewed By: Cheryl Anne Gardner

Very matter of fact in its attitude and very Sling blade in its narrative voice. I am not a big fan of dialect, even when Faulkner did it, but it works for the story. After all, our bad boy protagonist is a colored man from 1950’s Mississippi, escaped from hell, and seeking revenge on those who have wronged him. The story is very reminiscent of Boris Vian’s “I Spit on Your Graves.” Maybe a little too reminiscent, but without the groundbreaking plot. Don’t get me wrong, I really, really like the story … I just had a few issues.

Now, this title is billed as: “A story of ultimate revenge.” and “Hardcore Horror that is black as hell.” Nice play on words, and yes, it is a story of revenge. It is very raw in its ideas and graphic in its language, definitely not for the reader with easily offended sensibilities, but hardcore, not so much. Ellis’ American Psycho was hardcore, Bataille’s Story of the Eye was hardcore, and this doesn’t come close to what I would consider hardcore. We have the lynching and the appropriate backstory, there is a little black magic slipped in off the cuff, and the plot device has been done to death: Tyrone Biggs returns from hell fifty years later and his wife and family are long dead. He hasn’t gotten over the heinous crimes perpetrated against his family, and his mission in life now is to find the men who killed him and get his revenge. Yup, we get all that and the requisite convulsing headless chickens and a few slashed throats. Actually,that sums up the first half of the book.

The issue I had with the book has nothing to do with the story or the ideas or the style, my issue has everything to do with the delivery. We start out right smack in the middle of the action, which is good. The opening chapter is engaging, and you are wanting from the very first page. Our main character emerges from Hell, finding himself in a world he is not at all familiar with and finding to his pleasure that it seems to suit him some. To his surprise, he is treated cordially in a roadhouse, and later he is treated to “fuckin’ a white girl.” What more could he ask for? But the story structure takes a turn for the mundane from that point on. Our narrator says: “A black man can get kicked out of anyplace if he sets his mind to it.” I love that statement, and it should sum up the reading experience, but it does not.

My biggest concern is that I felt the backstory needed to be better integrated into the main narrative so that we get the true ebb and flow of life, the flashbacks and flash forwards, enough decadent details to tease us along, and even more importantly, the introspection and exposition we need in order to connect should be well balanced. We get so little of that that our main character seems nothing more than a caricature; all the characters are caricatures, which in turn, renders the violence gratuitous and impotent.

Secondly, for all the Hell and Demon hype, this book is actually just another period piece on the state of racism; it’s about hatred, reparation, and redemption of a sorts, and we have all read and seen this same story many many times. In the first hundred pages, the narrator’s time in hell is barely mentioned, and when it is, the imagery is pretty standard fair, nothing spectacular enough to engage the savvy horror reader, not to mention it was done in straight narrative, so emotional and visceral engagement is low as well. For the remainder of the book, that element disappears until the convenient ‘tie up the loose end’ at the very end of the book. Shame really, cause given its due, this would have been an edge over Vian’s Book. Biggs’ life as a black man fifty years ago was more torturous than the Hell portrayed here, so why even bother. It ended up being nothing more than a distraction.

The story has a promising blend of elements, but those fall short of being captivating because the narrative leans heavily on the cliché vengeance plot construct. The black magic and the escape from hell aspects are not fully actualized, and so they seem like afterthoughts to disguise an old story. I guess from the blurb, I was expecting something along the lines of Mississippi Burning meets Constantine. It has its moments, the zombie/monkey’s paw finale was a nice touch, but the lacklustre delivery couldn’t sustain those moments, most are predictable, and thusly, we have compromised momentum. The story is heart wrenching and one to be told … and told again, but I was hoping for a new voice and a new light. The ole hack and slash vengeance thing doesn’t quite work for me, and why does the Old Voodoo Crone have to cackle and look like the wicked witch of the west? Why? For me, I need visceral, psychological, and mystical … not to mention alittle less dry telling, a lot more intimate depth, and better imagery. I found the critical details to be spare; the intimacy restricted to the backstory, which is lumped all together in the middle of the book; and the pacing to be off. In a story this elaborate, those details are extremely important, in the right amount at the right moment, and I don’t think 200 pages was enough to do it properly.

Lastly on a stylistic note: the directlys and the I reckons got annoying after a while, so some editing might be in order to remove a bit of the stereotypical ethnicity. There are some other editing issues as well, including boundless clichés and repetitiveness, but all is easy enough to fix with a proper editorial pass by someone who knows what they are doing. I would say this is a fairly decent rough draft for what could be an awesome, edgy, and powerful horror story. The foundation is there, albeit a bit thin, but the technique needs work, and so does the cover. This story could easily be a full length and very engaging novel. I hope the author decides to step back and work it … I would. I think conceptually the story is worth it. Again, this is one of those promising stories where the edit/revision process wasn’t given the time it needed, and the story might have been rushed to print before it was really ready.


Monday, February 02, 2009

Bards and Sages Annual Contest now open

Contest for speculative fiction and poetry. Open until October 1st, requires Kiva membership or $10 reading fee.

We Have A Winner!

I fired up the Brownian Motion Random Number Generator, and the result was that Angela C won the free copy of Fairy Tales Can Come True.

Congratulations Angela C.!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Labyrinth Group Launches Labyrinth Press -- cannegarder

Cheyenne, WY, January 23, 2009 --( It's official, The Labyrinth Group, LLC has expanded their presence into book, music and art publishing through the launch of their new occult, new age and metaphysical traditional publishing division, Labyrinth House Publishing.

In mid February 2009, The Labyrinth Group will be expanding even farther with the launch of their Occult, Metaphysical and Paranormal Self-Publishing Division, Labyrinth Press. To their knowledge their is no other self publishing service, dedicated only to authors of these genres. This includes not only non-fiction but also the following fiction genres: Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, etc.

Woohoo! This is a very fine thing indeed for those Indie artists who write in this genre. Prices are comparible to other subsidiary/self-pub sites, and they offer some extra services as well. See Pricing/package info here and the Self-Pub Faq here. I did notice one stipulation that I must make mention of because Indie authors struggle with the importance of editing and proofreading. Labyrinth States: Stipulations for inclusion on Labyrinth House Publishing's website: We do look over all submissions and books with numerous grammatical and spelling errors will not be eligible for inclusion on Labyrinth House Publishing's site. If this occurs you will be notified via email, at such time you can either rework your book or choose to print it and make it available on Labyrinth Press only.