Friday, April 30, 2010

Free Book Friday

This months free book Friday giveaway is:

Some of Your Blood By Theodore Sturgeon

This is not a self-published book, just one I had available from my own home library.

Genre: Horror/Psychological Thriller
Paperback 192 pages
ISBN 978-1933618005

Description: Theodore Sturgeon's dark and foreboding look at the vampire myth was an instant classic when originally published in 1956. When George Smith is arrested for assaulting a senior officer, a military psychiatrist is assigned to the case. The secret of George's past is unearthed, and a history of blood lust and murder. Innovatively told through letters, interviews, and traditional narrative, Some of Your Blood effectively portrays the tragic upbringing of George Smith to his attempts at a stable life and the great love of his life to his inevitable downfall. Millipede Press is proud to present this masterpiece of macabre literature in a brand new edition.
Theodore Sturgeon wrote science fiction, horror and fantasy over a four decade career. He also won the Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. Theodore Sturgeon died in 1985.

My review: The take on vampirism was indeed unique, one of the best I have read, but that wasn't what struck me most about the "story." This was as far from traditional storytelling as one can get, and would probably have lesser experienced literary critics up in arms. There is only one traditional scene to speak of and that doesn't appear until the very end of the book, which is only 143 pages in total. Dialog is practically non-existent for the exception of two interviews between patient and psychologist, and the remaining narrative is completely exposition. As far as character arc goes, well, don't look for growth here. The monster is created and subsequently remains a monster.

There are a lot of different telling techniques used here to great effect. The book begins with a series of letters back and forth between a couple of Army psychologists who have initially conflicting views on a patient by the name of George Smith. Smith was thrown into lock-up for punching an officer who had become alarmed by a letter Smith had attempted to send home to his girlfriend. The book then flows into a third person narrative of George's life, written by George as instructed in the course of this therapy. Everything seems pretty standard fare for an abused backwoods undereducated -- possibly mentally retarded -- child. But ... nothing should be taken at face value here. Intuition plays a huge role in this story. The intuition of one psychologist who wouldn't give up digging until George's pathology, in all it's horror, is finally laid bare. We don't even know what the letter to his girlfriend said until the very end of the book. Every move each character makes is based on gut instinct. Everyone is speaking in code, hiding and yet revealing their intent at the same time. This is what gives the book its brilliance, not the gripping action, of which there is almost none, but the characterization. The style is very reminiscent of Stoker's Dracula, and George Smith was nothing less than Frankenstein.

Put all your notions of storytelling aside and pick this one up. Its nature is entirely subliminal versus visceral, and it strikes to the core. Very frightening, and yet in the end, disgusted, our sense of humanity shattered, we can't help but feel for George.

To win a copy of this book (like new condition) leave a comment on this blog post -- with a valid email address -- by Midnight Sunday May 2, 2010.

The winner will be announced Monday May 3rd. Good Luck and Happy Reading!

Review: Alembical 2

Title: Alembical 2: A Distillation of Three Novellas
Editor: Lawrence M. Schoen and Arthur Dorrance
Genre: science fiction / fantasy
Price: $28 hardcover / $16 trade paperback
Publisher: Paper Golem LLC
ISBN: hardcover 978-0-9795349-7-3 / paperback 978-0-9795349-8-0
Point of Sale
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

Paper Golem is a micro-press which focuses on novellas and short fiction from new and up-and-coming writers. Alembical 2, their fourth book, is a really great read, offering a trifecta of wonderful novellas from Tony Pi, David D. Levine and J. Kathleen Cheney. The novellas in this book individually would be worth the purchase price, together, they’re a bargain.

The Paragon Lure by Tony Pi

Leading off the collection is Tony Pi’s fantasy novella The Paragon Lure. Set in modern-day England, it is an interesting combination of caper piece and urban fantasy. Told in first person by “Felix Lea,” a British thief / semi-immortal shape-shifter, the bulk of this action-packed story takes place in modern-day England. However, there is an extended cameo appearance by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I and Cleopatra’s pearl earring. There are stories that just hits right – like a fine automobile just out from a tune-up – and this story purrs like a Rolls Royce.

Second Chance by David D. Levine

The middle novella in this book is David D. Levine’s Second Chance. This is a hard SF story of the first expedition to the Tau Ceti system. Seven astronauts, or rather tube-grown clones of the astronauts with the original memories uploaded into them, have been shipped out on a one-way trip to explore the system. But there are two immediate problems – first, one of the astronauts, Chaz, wakes up to discover he’s an outcast in the tiny ship, but he doesn’t know why. Second, they’ve lost communications with Earth. Although solving these two mysteries are the external plot, the story is largely about the characters and true second chances – both personal and societal. I really liked this story, and found it riveting.

Iron Shoes by J. Kathleen Cheney

Rounding out the trifecta is J. Kathleen Cheney’s horseracing novella Iron Shoes. Set in the turn of the 20th century in and around the Saratoga Springs, NY track, it stars Imogen Hawkes as a young widow struggling to keep her dead husband’s horseracing operation afloat. Borrowing from the movies and fiction of the era, the mortgage is due, and the banker wants paid. What’s also obvious (Well, to everybody but Imogen) the banker’s interests are more than financial in nature. But Imogen isn’t entirely helpless – the Lesser Folk – Irish elves and other magical creatures – are about and can be used.

In many ways, Iron Shoes is a combination of the first two stories. It has all the action and high stakes of The Paragon Lure, while having the character growth and development of Second Chance. Young Miss Imogen has, well, a complicated history regarding magic, and has lived her life so far to please others. The circumstances of this story force her to decide what she really wants, and what she’s willing to do to get it. This happy mix of character and plot leads me to call Iron Shoes the best story in an outstanding collection.

This is the second book I’ve read put out by Paper Golem. All I can say to the publisher is “more please!” Do yourself a favor and order a copy of Alembical 2 today.

Rating: 10/10

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thoughts on Vacation Redux -- c.anne.gardner

I love honesty and freedom and giving. I love making, I love doing. I love being to the full, I love everything which is not sitting and watching and copying and dead at heart. – John Fowles from The Collector

I stunned myself this past week when I said aloud to my husband. “I am a much happier gardener than I am a writer.” Of course, he agreed.

Gardening is not a committee process. There is no one standing over you editing or critiquing your artistic creation. The garden isn’t yours. You are a laborer at best, offering gentle guidance. It’s between you and the earth. Simple as that. Sure, there are some parallels to writing of course: there are some basic rules, but mostly, gardening, as with nature in general, is more free form and the enjoyment comes from the doing. That being the process of creating without control. With story writing, we, the author, control everything. In nature, we control nothing. We can attempt the illusion of control by choosing the right plants for the right spot, making sure we have tended to the soil and so forth, but even then, the end result is at its best when we relinquish all control and enjoy the unpredictability of it. With writing, you can’t do that, not entirely. The garden is full of mistakes and happy accidents. The less of a plan you have, the better the whole thing turns out, and no one needs to be around to witness the final result, which is never actually final in the true sense of the word. Mother Nature does her best work in solitude, and it is always a work in progress. There is no “done” and never a human eye need gaze upon it for it to be beautiful and satisfying. If the flower is happy, then I am happy, and I am happy a lot when I am in my garden.

And so that is how my vacation went. I only went online once, and that was only because none of the six nurseries I went to had the self-pollinating dwarf blueberry bush I wanted, so I had to order it online. Yes, the interwebz is good for that at least. Beyond that one twenty minute online excursion, I spent the entirety of my time outside. We had great weather, and I had a lot to do. We had some wood rot to tend to around the back patio door, and our side yard, due to poor drainage, has become a mud pit. The soil needed to be amended, tilled, and then dug out for a path. Digging and lugging stone around is an exhausting and satisfying job. I also got all my cooking herbs in the ground and a few trees that suffered wind damage this winter had to be pruned. Actually, the only less than pleasant job was the Annual Shed Cleaning, but this year, I didn't have to wear a respirator: thank you stray kitties for eating all the mice. I did take a break one day for a trip to the little artsy village we like to go to and stumbled upon the 1960 Golden Anniversary Edition of The Wind in The Willows, illustrated in full color by Ernest Shepard. $25.00 bucks, and it’s in stellar condition. Only a bit of fading on the dust jacket. That was my happy dance find of the week. It was one of my favorites as a child, and I tend to revisit it again and again. I also read some really great books in between the digging and the planting. My review last week for Comfort Food had me in the mood to revisit John Fowles debut novel The Collector, which is on the surface a psychological thriller but in reality is an allegory, and much like Ellis’ American Psycho, it takes a satirical view of our beloved dysfunctional society. Even for being written in 1963, it’s still a haunting story of sexual neurosis, class neurosis, and bourgeoisie vulgarity. Then I read Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar again because my review book this week was subtly evocative of it. Lastly, I have been meaning to read The Baby Jesus Butt Plug, but it had gotten lost in the shuffle until Emily’s review of Razor Wire Pubic Hair reminded me that it was sitting on my shelf. I hope to review that soon.

All in all, it was nice to just *be* every day. Up at six-thirty AM, in the garden by nine, getting a ton of exercise that was anything but boring. I also had the opportunity to cook every day. Two squares a day. I ate well and only gained a few pounds that will drop off as fast as they went on. But Alas, I am back to my stuffy office, and the pile of paper that seems to have multiplied on its own in my absence is staring me down like I have done it some kinda wrong. I hope to get back to the reading, writing, editing, and reviewing shortly, that is if I don’t wind up in a padded cell because my stapler started making sexual advances at me.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

GUEST POST Lulu Authors: Please Read. This Concerns You

The following post by Julie Anne Dawson is reprinted with permission from the Lulu forums.

All Lulu Authors: Please Read. This Concerns You

So now Lulu is not only selling ebooks by traditionally published authors, but it is also selling print books by traditionally published authors. Now I don’t particularly care about Lulu printing these books themselves. How the books get printed is of no concern to me. But what IS of concern to me is the preferential treatment these books are getting as opposed to OUR BOOKS.

Referencing The Last Song for points:

Preferential pricing: This is a 413 page book, selling for $10.94. Do you know what my cost to print a 413 page book is? $12.76! It costs me almost $2 more to print than this book sells for! And if I went through retail with the book, with NO ROYALTY the book would sell for $19.52. WTF!!!???

Preferential tools: Notice that this book has a “retail” price and a sale price? Well, I have been asking for this FOR YEARS for US, and Lulu has systematically refused, claiming that they couldn’t let us sell the books on Lulu for less than what the book retails for due to contractual agreements with Amazon and other vendors. I think this proves beyond a shadow of a doubt Lulu was LYING.

I have always assumed that when Lulu did something stupid, it was because they were doing something stupid. But this, this is downright CORRUPT. Lulu is whoring itself out to the big publishers to make money? Why? Because they never figured out how to make enough money on self-published authors? Well, maybe if you had bothered to listen to us all these years and give us good tools you would have made money.


Today I will be retiring all of my products at Lulu. I can’t even stomach being associated with Lulu anymore. Createspace has a distro program now. I don’t even need Lulu to get listed in online bookstores, and CS gives me better pricing without bending me over. I have spent thousands of dollars with Lulu over the years. They will never see another f-r-i-g-g-i-n- DIME from me.

Review: The Metal Girl

Title: The Metal Girl
Author: Judy Sandra
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Psychological
Price: $14.95
Paperback: 194 pages
Publisher: JSM Books
ISBN: 978-0578038780
Point of Sale: Amazon or JSM Books
Reviewed By: Cheryl Anne Gardner

Cover Excerpt: During the dreary month of March in Copenhagen in the early 1970s, a 25‑year‑old American woman travels on a solitary quest to become, in her mind, a "woman‑of‑the‑world." In fact, she is lost, adrift, dislocated, not only from familiar surroundings but from her innermost being: "It was the era of rising feminist consciousness, but my mind had not yet caught up to my age and my consciousness was not the part of me that was rising up that winter."

As the story begins we find our protagonist living in a cheap hotel located in Copenhagen’s red light district. The hotel is run by an odd old couple named the Blumendhals. However, not too far into the story, the Blumendhals disappear never to be heard from again and we find the new hotel management, much to our protagonist’s displeasure, are completely the opposite of the comforting grandparents she was used to. It’s not a pleasant interaction when our protagonist finds herself confronted with Elke, a stereotypical Scandinavian blond bombshell, and, who we assume is her German Tank of a husband, Manfred.

Now one might think it odd that our young woman, who is obviously at a crossroads in her life, would choose to go to Denmark in the winter, but I found the location rather fitting for someone who was obviously suffering from depression, and anyone who has suffered from even mild depression understands that loneliness is cold, silent, sitting on a rock in the middle of nowhere looking out at nothing through the grey, much like the Little Mermaid statue that resides in the Copenhagen harbour at Langelinie, and is pretty much the only thing our protagonist manages to truly connect with, understandably. Touching the statue is only one of a litany of mundane adventures our displaced American has in this strange land, and while she professes to want to be “a woman of the world” all she really wants to be is a woman other than the one she is, so much so, she either deifies or vilifies every single woman she meets in an effort to recreate herself somewhere in the middle, somewhere acceptable.

Having recently been the victim of a failed relationship and a failed career, our protagonist is hiding, from the world, from the feminist consciousness and all the expectations that came along with that, and most of all, she is hiding from herself. She slathers herself in the mundane like it’s a Disney Vacation, until one evening at a Jazz club where she meets Elizabeth and Olaf: Olaf who attracts her with his handsome face, kindness, and charm, and his friend Elizabeth, whom she finds the most alluring of all -- beautiful, poetic, intelligent, mysterious, wise and tragic. Yes, her obsessive fixation with Elizabeth takes a sobering turn later in the story when she finds Elizabeth is NOT the ideal she had imagined.

As the story progresses, we have meals, and drinking, and polite surface conversations. There is no wild sex, no grand epiphanies, and no finding one’s soul mate; it’s just a bunch of people struggling through everyday life trying to make and keep meaningful connections. It’s the ordinariness that’s important here. The main character's experiences are real, conflicted, and so significantly insignificant. The book doesn’t try to shock the reader by trying to ascribe some monumental meaning to it. It simply tells its tale, leaving the melodrama off the page. Sure, this book might be challenging for some readers, as the interpretation is left entirely up to the individual. Some might interpret her struggle as a sexual one because of the rather overt way she relates to Elizabeth and to her sexual experiences with Olaf, Elke, and Manfred. Some might see it as a struggle to find her inner feminist (if there is one), and some might see it as her struggle to reconcile her desire for the old dogmatic social conventions instead of the feminist leanings of the time, and some readers might just view it as the wanderlust of a depressive. One thing is certain, nothing is as it seems; even the banality is a lie.

My personal interpretation of our main character is that she was a depressive, but if you have never been exposed to a depressive, you might not feel much sympathy for her, and you might feel the storyline is implausible because, for a vacation, it seems dull and boring, and why on vacation would our main character torment herself for no particular reason. There is only one point in the story where she feels totally happy and fulfilled, and that is when she attends the ballet alone. Of course, the happiness doesn’t last long after she allows the opinion of another to turn her idealistic view of her evening into something pathetic. Obviously she is an attractive and a smart woman, but at this point in the story, she has already been completely stripped of her self-esteem, so she already feels inferior, and throughout the story she is deeply affected by other’s perceptions of her and their opinions. She is awkward and clumsy well beyond the language and the cultural barrier she uses as a shield. She hides from people and even hides from herself. I don’t think she even knows what kind of person she is. Of course Olaf and Elizabeth often comment on this, telling her that she hides her feelings and is mysterious, but in reality, she has no self confidence, and so she is easily led astray in thought and action. It doesn’t take long before she finds herself being seduced by Olaf, the first man who comes across her path and shows any interest in her. Of course sex like that is only momentarily satisfying before the shame and the guilt move in. Her erratic behaviour was a manifestation of that.

The Book reminded me a lot of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, except in this novel, much less hits the page, and as a result, readers might be sharply divided into the love it or hate it camps. This is a story about the rather dull self-imposed exile of a depressed woman where most of the notable events take place off the page. However, unlike The Bell Jar, there is nothing shocking here. Even the sex scenes are kept to the white space. There are no raging emotions and no clichéd neurotic behaviour. When reading this story, it’s much more about what she doesn’t do and doesn’t say than about what she does. You have to read into everything. Our protagonist is self-involved but in sharp contrast to how self-involved people normally behave, she is so hyper-focused on the people around her that they become caricatures of irrational proportions, and this leads her into several unpleasant encounters. Our protagonist is an observer, a voyeur. She watches everyone else living their lives yet is unable to understand how they manage it. It’s not that she doesn’t want to participate; she does and she doesn’t, but I felt it was more of a not knowing how because she was afraid to fail. She can’t understand how Elizabeth can be friends with her ex or how Manfred and Elke can have such an open relationship. I felt it was about the struggle to be a woman in a world where being a woman was no longer so clearly defined. She kept fantasizing about the “couple in the window” and how much she would never “have” that sense of normal intimacy, so when she makes an half-hearted attempt with Olaf, it ends in disaster as predicted.

Eventually our protagonist discovers that she has to define herself and that projecting her conflicted ideals onto others isn’t the best approach, but it’s a whole lot better than locking yourself in a dark and shabby room and obsessing on your perceived inadequacies. Yes, this story is thankfully bereft of the pages and pages of expository monologue often found in this type of story, so you never really know how she is feeling except through her vague and muddled commentary on her surroundings and the goings on around her. How she feels about a meatball is more honest than how she feels about herself, and therein lies the irony.

I thought it was an honest story and very realistic. The book’s ending is optimistic but may leave some readers wanting for an explanation. Personally, I felt the ambiguity suited the situation. Depressed people rarely “know” what’s wrong with them, even after they come out of it. The story is very subtle, and I would liken it in style to Hemingway’s White Elephants, where the reader has to infer much of the meaning. The Metal Girl was a book I put down with an “I wonder” still left on the tip of my tongue. I remember my struggle trying to define myself as a woman, so I can only imagine how difficult it was being in your twenties right smack in the middle of the feminist movement when sexual liberation was the order of the day.

9/10 and on a side note, the editing was quite clean. I only noticed two typos.

This book was reviewed from a submitted ARC and will be given away during one of our Free Book Friday Contests.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thoughts on Vacation

"In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous." -- Aristotle

Everyone who knows me knows that I am an avid gardener and an earth activist. My garden is a certified wildlife sanctuary with the, and I participate in Earth Day Clean up Projects every year. This year will be no different. That would be why my vacations tend to be unplugged vacations. Not that I don't love the interwebz or watching the occasional TV program or playing a video game or two now and then. I like those things, but I grew up unwired. None of this shit existed except for Television, and that was more for a rainy day than the mind numbing staple of modern life that it is now, and I survived my twenties without a cell phone or a computer. Even as young adults, I remember spending the majority of my time outside when I wasn't working. Even house parties on New Year's eve always managed to work their way outside for some reason. So maybe that's why I can detach myself from it so easily and have no trouble finding sanctuary while weeding. And sitting in the backyard or on the beach with a good book ... that is an ideal way for me to pass the time. That's why I am an e-ink dedicated ebook reader. All the literature I can handle with none of the distractions. If I am gonna get distracted, it's going to be by a real bird tweeting. And yes, I read outside in the sun!!

Happy Earth day all. Our regularly scheduled programing will return next week, maybe.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Lulu and the London Book Fair Affaire: a Timeline

26th February
Lulu: "Your book will be displayed physically at the New Title Showcase on the Exhibit Floors AND Your book, along with your contact details will be listed online and in the printed catalogue given to attendees ... $399" (250.17 British pounds)

28th February
Peter May: "First, Lulu is not shown as an exhibitor at the London Book Fair. They do not have a stand ... Your book will be displayed on a shelf in The New Title Showcase area of the show for passers by to look at if they want to ... Does it cost £250.17 to place a book on that shelf? Not if you book directly with the New Title Showcase organisers at who charge £125 plus VAT per title. Yes, £125."

1st March
"Sherrie" from Lulu Publishing Services: "The first seems to be whether Lulu will have a booth at the show...the answer is YES! ... There is a fee to have your book represented at the show and it also included in the catalog that is supplied to the buyers, librarians, etc. attending the show ... I welcome your feedback."

1st March
"Sherrie" from lulu Publishing Services:"Yes, Lulu has a booth at the show ... The London Book Fair service includes having your book represented in the book catalog that goes out to 25,000+ show attendees."

2nd March
"Sherrie" from Lulu Publishing Services: "Again, to clarify...Lulu has a booth at the London Book Fair .. Let's talk about the BIGGEST benefit of participating in any book fair and that is to get into the book catalog that goes to buyers."

Peter May: "You say "Yes, Lulu has a booth at the show" Why then is Lulu not shown as an exhibitor on the show website? What is your stand number, whereabouts in the show is your booth situated? ... Will our books be displayed at your booth or in the New Title Showcase area?"

20th March
Eyjafjalla Glacier: PhfrlOOOOOOORb fssth BluuUUUUUrkkkk Boom Fsst (etc)

21st April
Barry Nugent: " I did in indeed find a Lulu section but it was not at all what I was expecting. Basically it was a section of Lulu books under the New Title Showcase banner which had a fairly large stand which comprised, from what I could see, of a number of self publishing companies"

Peter May: "there were 91 books listed in the catalogue under the heading. But it wasn't clear on the shelves which books were Lulu's as there was no separation on the shelves ... I couldn’t see any advantage over the Lulu £250+ package and paying £135 directly to the organisers. Lulu author Francesca Jobling from Gloucestershire must have dealt direct for her one book The Hunt because she got her own section with her address and contact details as well as her book details. Seems to me that is the way to go, if you’re going to go." "The CBE New Directory Showcase directory was available only on the CBE stand. If you didn't stop at the stand you wouldn't have got a directory. And, as you'll know, there were so many stands spread out over two halls."

"Sherrie" from Lulu Publishing Services: [crickets]

(Take home message, Lulu merely over-charged, Sherrie from Lulu Lublishing Services seriously over-promised, including on Lulu's own forums).

* Lulu Announcement
* (an independent forum about Lulu)
* Video of the Booth
* (official forum)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Review: Comfort Food

Title: Comfort Food
Author: Kitty Thomas
Genre: Erotica/Psychological Thriller
Price: $2.99 eBook
Publisher: Burlesque Press
ISBN: 978-0-9819436-1-9
Point of Sale: Amazon and Smashwords
Reviewed By: Cheryl Anne Gardner

Book Description: Emily Vargas has been taken captive. As part of his conditioning methods, her captor refuses to speak to her, knowing how much she craves human contact. He's far too beautiful to be a monster. Combined with his lack of violence toward her, this has her walking a fine line at the edge of sanity. Told in the first person from Emily's perspective, Comfort Food explores what happens when all expectations of pleasure and pain are turned upside down, as whips become comfort and chicken soup becomes punishment.

Disclaimer: This is not a story about consensual BDSM. This is a story about “actual” slavery. If reading an erotic story without safewords makes you uncomfortable, this is not the book for you. This is a work of fiction, and the author does not endorse or condone any behavior done to another human being without their consent.

With a disclaimer like that, I knew this submission was something I would like to read, especially since I am a huge fan of John Fowles' best selling novel The Collector and the chilling 1965 film adaptation of the book. Yes, I am addicted to the dark matter, and, pretty much when it comes to fiction, nothing is too taboo for me to read, and if you have read Fowles' book or seen the film, you will feel like you are in familiar territory; although this story has a much more psycho-sexual bent to it.

At the start of our story, our female protagonist, Emily Vargas, a writer/public speaker and an inadvertent “voice” of women everywhere, finds herself blindfolded and tied to a chair in a dark and silent room. The sensory deprivation sends her spiralling into a lengthy monologue focused on the “how could this happen to me” conundrum. At this point, the monologue is used to explore our victim’s background and her discomfort with her own sexuality, which aptly solidifies the thesis of the story. She liked it when her first boyfriend forced oral sex on her. She was on the receiving end in that situation, so in her mind, it couldn’t be rape if she eventually enjoyed it and thought about it often while masturbating.

We can see where this erotic story is going by this point, but the early set-up didn’t make me want to stop reading. I am a huge Nancy Friday fan, so, the darker side to women’s sexuality interests me very much ... and on that note, I am just going to come right out and say it: This is a rape fantasy story. You have been warned, but before you throw your arms up in the air in outrage screaming “torture porn” or “books like this demean women and send the wrong message” please stop for a moment. When you label like that you ignore the deep-seated psychology behind the metaphor and in so doing you diminish the catharsis readers might obtain by confronting the conflicted emotional struggle that comes with kidnap, brainwashing, rape, and torture behind the safety net of a fictional story. Fiction is a way to reconcile how we feel about certain taboos, and it’s perfectly healthy and normal to want to confront the dark side. Otherwise, horror movies and fiction would not be so popular. It’s a way for us to explore our own psychological conflicts without the threat of real damage to our person or our psyche. Women who write and read these types of stories do not want to be kidnapped, brainwashed, raped, and tortured, even women who are into sado-masochistic sexual practices don’t want that.

Now that that is out of the way, we can talk more about the psycho-sexual and the sociological aspects of the story, specifically from a woman’s standpoint, understanding that the rape fantasy is not exclusive to women by any means. Men also have this fantasy regularly: the one where they are kidnapped and turned into a sex slave by some Amazonian knock-out with a Barbie body and a leather whip, so let’s not forget that. However, the fantasy for women digs in deep. Women, as far back as history allows us to go, have been repressed and oppressed in all areas of life, specifically our sexuality. Social morays and religious dogma have dictated and defined womanhood down to what is acceptable for us to wear, how we must behave -- sexually or otherwise -- how we must articulate our thoughts, what jobs we are allowed to have without fear of ridicule ... the list goes on an on. It wasn't long ago that women were considered property -- a slave to their husband -- and in some cultures this is still true today. Women bear the weight of so much guilt and shame; it’s amazing we can function at all in today’s society. We feel guilty for being intelligent, for having ambition, for being sexually self-aware, for being independent, for not wanting to get married, for not wanting to have children, for being too pretty, for not being pretty enough, and for basically seeking equality in all things. We constantly have to work harder and harder to leap over the double standard that in this modern day and age is still imposed upon us. And to top it off, we have to live in fear, because we are told we are the weaker sex. You think this prejudice still doesn’t exist, think again.

So my dear readers, the rape fantasy has nothing to do with men being violent or women secretly wanting it. Our kidnapper here is never expressly violent. It doesn’t have anything really to do with sex at all. It has everything to do with feeling a release from guilt, and in this story, it is very nicely explored, right down the religious imagery. It’s about acceptance and freedom from repression. Our Male lead is also oppressed and repressed, but I will get to that later.

Our victim is a successful independent woman who was raised with the traditional Christian upbringing. She has some unexplored sexual proclivities discovered in her youth that she feels ashamed of. Our Kidnapper and Sexual Sadist is a handicapped man suffering from a debilitating lack of self-esteem when it comes to social interaction with women. Both are classic stereotypes of the sexually repressed. However, sexual repression is no excuse to violate moral and legal codes of ethics. Kidnapping and sexual torture in the modern world would have our young man here staring down a very long prison sentence. But this book is not about what is right and what is wrong. It’s a sexual fantasy, and only in the fantasy world can we explore the felony/love affair paradigm shift. This scenario is well studied -- Stockholm Syndrome -- and has become sort of a cliché in the dark-fic genre. In this case, the book is aptly titled. It reminded me slightly of The Story of O and others of its ilk. The only difference being is that our Emily Vargas is a victim here. She is put into a situation without her consent. Doesn’t matter if the torture techniques free her spirit and heal his wounds: It’s non-con, so readers need to be aware of that going in. This is a story about total submission. Even with the Happily Ever After ending, some readers might find the scenario and the graphic sex scenes to be a bit much. It’s not as freakishly graphic or repetitive as Anne Rice’s Beauty series, but the psychological feel is much the same. The reader will feel as conflicted as Emily does.

As for me, I found it to be a truly compelling story on so many levels, specifically as we experience the victim’s point of view upon discovering that her family had given up hope of finding her. That to me was more telling than her psycho/sexual rebirth. On the surface, the book appears to be about power and control, but in reality, acceptance is the primary theme here, eloquently explored through the horror of obsessive need. Both our victim and our persecutor suffer from Social Stigmata, and so to experience their liberation from their own personal dogma through sexualized violence was moving to say the least. The surrender in this story is entirely mutual.

With regard to the technical stuff: In the ARC I received, there were pervasive editorial issues, enough to be annoying to some readers, enough to reduce the review score, but nothing a good proof-reader couldn’t catch. The author informed me that another revision of the work was still to come. The story could have easily garnered an 8/10, but the copy I received wasn't quite ready yet. I liked the cover, but didn’t much like the floating soup bowl and felt it rendered the title too literal. As for the story, the plotline was plausible, there are enough interesting angles and plot twists, the psychology was definitely authentic and well researched, and the use of POV to imply detachment and distance was quite well done. There were only two plot points that thrust me out of the story: the graveyard scene, which the author told me she reworked to correct the implausibility, and the fact that our Felony-Rapist/Kidnapper came off like Bruce Wayne in Batman. Aside from those minor issues, I found the story to be frighteningly sexy. That’s one of the brilliant things about transgressive fiction: It allows us to go where we can’t and understand what we won’t. I hope to read more from this author.


This book was reviewed from a promotional PDF supplied by the author.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thoughts on The Editing Process -- c.anne.gardner

Since I have been doing a lot of this lately, including Beta reads and formatting, I thought I would discuss the various stages of the editorial process. This is by no means specific to self-publishing; all authors go through an editorial process of some sort, and for some, the process is much deeper than it is for others, and for some it could be a whole lot deeper.

First Reader(s) is normally the person(s) you trust the most. The Person(s) who will give you honest feedback straight out of the gate, understanding that this craptacular mess of paper you have just handed them is a work in progress, and that your mind at that moment is too scrabbled to see it clearly anymore. For me, I have different first readers for different types of stories. For many authors, their first reader is their spouse or best friend, possibly another author they admire and respect.

Beta Readers are people who read a written work, generally fiction, with what has been described as "a critical eye, with the aim of improving grammar, spelling, characterization, and general style of a story prior to its release to the general public." The author or writer, who can be referred to as the alpha reader, may use several "betas" prior to publication. A beta reader, who may or may not be more personally known to the author, can serve as proof-reader of spelling and grammar errors, or as a traditional editor, working on the "flow" of prose. In fiction, the beta might highlight plot holes or problems with continuity, characterisation, or believability; in both fiction and non-fiction, the beta might also assist the author with fact-checking. [Wikipedia]

Manuscript Critique and Evaluation or the Developmental Editor provides an overall assessment of your work. Manuscript critiques generally focus on the broader picture along with adherence to theme, plotting, story arc, and characterization. The primary focus is that the story is balanced and follows the rules of logic within the confines of its world. Does it make sense and is it well written? Often this is the same as a literary critique, and literary theory will be applied to the evaluation, similar to a book review. Generally in today’s publishing climate, this task falls with the Agent first. The Critique partner or Agent/Editor will offer suggestions to improve thematic clarity, expand and contract plotlines, remove areas of implausibility, and deepen characterization. The suggestions made during the critique process usually require substantive editing on behalf of the author or rather, further revision. This is a time consuming process, and the Editor and Author need to work very closely, the relationship between the two is critical here. Sometimes a Beta Reader is qualified to perform this function.

Copy Editing corrects grammar, punctuation and spelling errors as well as logic and continuity problems. The "five Cs" summarize the copy editor's job: Make the copy clear, correct, concise, comprehensible, and consistent. Copy editors should Make it say what it means, and mean what it says. Typically, copy editing involves correcting spelling, punctuation, grammar, terminology and jargon, timelines, and semantics; ensuring that the typescript adheres to the publisher's style. Copy editors also add any "display copy", such as headlines and standardized headers, footers. Copy editors are expected to ensure that the text flows, that it is sensible, fair, and accurate, and that any legal problems have been addressed. [Wikipedia] Copy editors are often called “Grammar Nazis” and will tend to have a favourite style manual at their side at all times. Mine is “Words into Type.” Yes, that’s right; I am not a Chicago girl, so sue me.

Line Editing checks each sentence for paragraphing, structure, dialog and word usage to ensure a smoothly flowing document. Oftentimes this can be combined with the copy-editing function.

Proofreading is the final check for typos, punctuation/spelling mistakes, formatting errors and other minor problems. The term proofreading is sometimes used incorrectly to refer to copy-editing. This is a separate activity, although there is some overlap between the two. Proofreading consists of reviewing any text, either hard copy on paper or electronic copy on a computer, and checking for typos and formatting errors. [Wikipedia] Normally this is performed with a proof copy of the work either manufactured or an author printed copy.

Now in the self-publishing world, finding people who can do this sort of editing is a tricky business. All too often authors choose family and friends to act as Beta readers, and in this case, they may not be qualified to give a thorough literary evaluation of the work, they may not be grammatically inclined to catch what a proof-reader would easily, and they are definitely not objective. Many authors try to do it all themselves, but again, you need a second set of eyes, and in the beginning stages you need more than that.

Creativity blossoms behind a closed door, but the revision and polishing stage of the work requires a barn door flung all the way open. It requires beta readers and editors who can remain detached from the author and the story. It requires critical thinking and problem solving, not to mention theoretical knowledge and a firm grasp of the language. Beyond the technical stuff, every editor/beta reader/copyeditor has their own style, and every author should seek out those whose style meshes with theirs. I prefer the blunt, brutally honest, focused on the manuscript style of Editor. Recently over on there was an interesting post discussing editorial services. One of the comments that stood out for me was by Allison Dickson who stated:

19 Mar 2010 at 11:04 am Allison M. Dickson
As someone who does freelance editing, I have had to turn down a few potential clients when I have realized (after previewing their work) that it wasn’t an editor they needed, but an intensive writing class. Or a series of them. As for cost, I try to undercut my competition in order to help writers at least get some help and guidance without spending a small fortune, because I know from experience that writers are often broke and I don’t care to take advantage of that.

One thing I would add here (and one thing I offer to all potential clients) is a free sample. For a novel, I will edit 20 pages free of charge so they can see what they might expect from me. Many of them like what they see, and some don’t. I think in most cases it’s due to expectations. When you think you’re presenting someone your best writing only to get it back looking like someone took to it with a weed whacker, you’re going to feel a little deflated, and possibly antagonized. You will then seek out an editor (or more likely a friend who reportedly “loves” your work) who will be kinder to your ego.

I always urge people to remember that I don’t get paid to pet their egos. My reputation rests in the quality of a finished piece, so I have a vested interest in honesty. It is my job to read their books with the earnest eye of a new reader, without preconceived notions or fears of damaging a friendship.

Now that is the sort of editor Cheryl Anne Gardner likes and needs. That -- very up-front give you the straight shit -- style suits my own personal style and reflects my own editorial style as well. For some writers this will just not work and can cause a great deal of stress for the author and the editor/ agent/whatever and can end in disaster. No one wants to feel mistrusted, or patronized, or bullied ... etc. No one is intentionally acting that way, it's just that perceptions can get a bit skewed when styles don't match up. So if you begin to feel this way about your Editor/Agent/ whatever, then end the working relationship amicably and move on to someone who suits your sensibilities a bit better. The same goes for the Editor/Agent/Whatever. However, please keep in mind, no matter what the editor/agent/ whatever’s style might be, they have a vested interest in the manuscript. Whatever function you have contracted them to do, paying or non-paying, please understand that it’s their work and their reputation on the line. The manuscript is always the author's work, of course, but they have a stake in it too.

As for myself, I write in a variety of genres and can’t always use the same people. For Lit critiques, I normally have Beta readers that are teachers or other authors, and on occasion, I use critique groups. As for the copyediting, I do much of that myself, since I do it all day long at my day job. However, I am prone to missing things. Stare at a manuscript long enough, and you go blind to a degree, so I have three different software packages I use for grammatical checks, and I also have a live person final proof-reader. Even then, one or two stray commas or some other fiddly thing will get through. I also try to choose editorial staff based on my writing style: People who are well read in my genre and style. Someone who loved Twilight is probably not going to be a good Beta reader/editor for my work. This goes the same for choosing a reviewer: You want a qualified reviewer in your style and genre. No sense having a Romance only Reviewer read your Bizarro Science Fiction Novel, unless of course, Bizarro Fiction is their other personal favourite. My first questions to potential editors/beta readers are: who do you read, what style manual do you prefer, and how do you feel about the Oxford comma?

Every author is different, every book is different, and every editor is different. The process can be as simple or as elaborate as it needs to be, and selecting the appropriate services and collaborators is not a pick off the menu type of deal. If you have trouble with critical commentary, then you are not ready for the editorial process just yet. Hang back, keep revising, and start networking with people already involved in the process so you can get a good handle on what to expect before you turn your pages over. The same goes for reviews. Choose your reviewers carefully, and make sure you can handle a critical review before you submit. Don’t make it personal.

I work day in and day out in an editorial capacity. I am an author and also a reviewer. I am also human: An imperfect dysfunctional human with artistic sensibilities. I can tell you, no matter what side of the editorial process you are on, none of them are easy.

On that note: For the last many months, I have been involved in simultaneous writing, editing, formatting, and reviewing projects for numerous people including my own personal writing. I have reached burn-out state. I am exhausted. I need to decompress. Next week is vacation for me, so my posts will be limited. I need some time unplugged every once and a while, and next week, with Earth Day coming, is looking to be a good week for me to reconnect with the dirt.

Happy writing, editing, and reading to all.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Pitfalls of Using Self-Publishing Book Packages

From PBS Media Shift by Carla King

The rise of self-publishing has made it possible for anyone to be an author. Now, some people are also choosing to outsource their book project by hiring an author services company.

On the surface, this seems much easier than finding and hiring a half-dozen professionals to create your book. (For background on the self-publishing industry and author services companies, please read my previous MediaShift article.) But is it worth it? Below are some of the potential danger zones of working with these services, as exposed by authors who were seduced by the promises of quick and easy self-publishing packages. I also offer some advice about avoiding these pitfalls.

Read Full Article Here.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Whining, Whining, and More Big Publishing Whining

From GizModo
Ebooks, iPads, And The Terrifying Death Of The Dust Jacket
By John Herrman on April 1, 2010 at 12:31 AM

So, basically, the implicit question is: How will people ever know what to buy, if not by craning their necks to see what the cute girl across the subway car is reading? And who will compensate the publishing industry for this lack of free advertising, which they are entitled to? The answers: We’ll be fine; and shut up.

Yes, people who would have otherwise purchased a book because they saw three people reading it at Starbucks may not purchase said book. But they might purchase another book, because they saw it on their buddies’ Twitter feeds, or because iTunes spat out some kind of automated recommendation for you that’s actually grounded in data, beyond your 20-person, Dan-Brown-biased coffee shop sample group.

Read full article Here.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Idle Thoughts with Philip Persinger

Philip B Persinger has been writing stuff for over 40 years. At first, he wrote a mess of plays. Two of them were good. Then he wrote software. He was successful enough at that that he lived the suburban dream. He worried about his lawn. Then one morning, he saw a woman he hadn't seen for over twenty-five years, running down some subways steps. He called out her name. She stopped and looked up. It was indeed she. The next time he was in NYC, he took a different route. He cared about his lawn. Then Wham! He walked into her again. This time at a Starbucks. Gallons of coffee later, he moved across the Hudson River. At that time, Philip said to himself, "If I don't write this down, I'm an idiot." So he did.

Read the full saga at:

When were you happiest?
When I was cruel to someone to make my life better.

What is your greatest fear?
Taking a final exam for a class that I skipped for the entire semester, naked.

Which living person do you most admire, and why?
Bill Irwin, he doesn’t say much.

What was your most embarrassing moment?
That I actually answered this questionnaire.

Property aside, what's the most­expensive thing you've bought?
Fox bassoon, it cost $500 dollars more than my Cape Dory sailboat.

What is your most treasured possession?
I was delighted to realize that I don’t have one, when I walked away from most of what I owned in a previous life.

What would your super power be?
Ripping Saran Wrap cleanly.

Who would play you in the film of your life?
Alfred E Newman.

What is your most unappealing habit?

What is your favourite word?

Is it better to give or to receive?
To give without the receipt so they can’t return it.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Watching Susan Boyle YouTube clips.

What do you owe your parents?

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Not-So-Gentle Reader.

What does love feel like?
A bleeding ulcer on nitrous oxide.

What is the worst job you've done?
I left the entire classified section out of the Block Island Times in 1972.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I would have built bridges. They are the perfect representation of a culture, the merging of art and technology and form.

How do you relax?
I don’t.

How often do you have sex?
Every time I get an email about erectile dysfunction.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Writing award-winning books after spending 20 years in the wilderness.

What keeps you awake at night?
When I didn’t drink enough Vodka.

What song would you like played at your funeral?
Bartok string quartet No. 5.

How would you like to be remembered?
As the dead guy.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
If you complain about something more than three times in the same week, do it different next week.

Where would you most like to be right now?
In Iceland.

Tell us a joke.
Duchamp walks into a bar.
The bartender says, “What will you have?”
Duchamp says, “Anything spilled.”

Tell us a secret.
Julius Caesar had sex with Brutus’ mom.

If you are an Indie author and would like to participate in our Idle Thoughts Column, please email the answers to your questionnaire to: podpeep at gmail dot com with the subject line: Idle thoughts. Please include a pic and a bio. You make use a book cover instead of a headshot if you prefer.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

REVIEW: Razor Wire Pubic Hair

Title: Razor Wire Pubic Hair
Author: Carlton Mellick III
Genre: fantasy
Price: $9.85
Publisher: Eraserhead Press
ISBN: 9780972959810
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: veinglory

In a post-Apocalyptic style future a hermaphroditic living sex-toy is purchased by a warrior woman to sire a child. They live in an isolated house with a mutant warrior woman called Sister whose body is covered in vaginas. The surrounding land is populated by perverse creatures, hungry zombies and a gang of violent rapists is approaching threatening to wipe out the entire household. And other that our sex-doll protagonists, all of these characters are women, because in this world men are extinct.

Razor Wire Pubic Hair is a book that is predominantly about sex, but it is not erotica. It is very surreal, but has a linear plot and characters with clear motivations and relationships. It explores violent sexual acts but is not gratuitous. Even on of the central rather nihilistic ideas (that the only point of life is sex) are not particularly depressing given the sincere love that the sex doll has for his/it's owner/lover.

This is, in brief, a bizarre but eminently readable short novel. I sat down and read it on one evening, the short scenes, direct language, easy-reading format and even the lack of page numbers seem to propel the reader through the book. The only banal things about it is the cover--which could not conceivably be said to represent any character in the book and belongs in a world of sexually available cyber-Barbies that is almost diametrically opposed to this story full of aggressively modified, tattooed and armored self-obsessed sadistic amazons and devouring monster vaginas with eyes.

Do not read this book if you are offended by (or actively disinterested in) fiction containing graphic language, sacrilegious acts, torture, promiscuity, murder or thoughtful perversity in any of its forms.

Rating: 8/10

Ingram to Distribute to the iPad

For those who use Lightning Source, this is from Ingram's press release page:

Ingram to provide publishers with access to Apple's iBookstoreLa VERGNE, TN – Ingram Content Group Inc. today announced that it will provide publisher content to Apple's new iBookstore.

Through CoreSource®, Ingram's solution for the storage, management, and distribution of digital content, publishers will be able to submit eBooks to iBookstore for availability on Apple's new iPad.

"Digital book distribution is changing the publishing industry, and Apple is positioned to be a key player with the iPad. With Ingram, Apple is working with industry experts who understand the fundamentals of book distribution and the complexities of the digital model. We're pleased to be able to offer this new channel to publishers," said Phil Ollila, Chief Content Officer, Ingram Content Group.

Ingram will help manage the relationship between publishers and Apple. This will enable a publisher's catalog to be ingested, converted into ePub, Apple's required format, and submitted to the iBookstore.

Ingram currently distributes over 500,000 digital assets to major retailers and distributors worldwide. Ingram invests in the latest digital technologies and resources so publishers can invest in the next generation of e-books. To learn more about Ingram's Apple Referral Program and CoreSource, visit:

Monday, April 05, 2010

And Lulu Follows ... NOT!!!!

Self-published books on Lulu to be available on iPad
Venture Beat March 29, 2010 Dean Takahashi

Electronic book publisher Lulu told its top authors over the weekend that their electronic books can be made available on Apple’s new iBookstore that is debuting with the launch of the iPad on April 3.

This is one more way that indie books by self-published authors can appear on Apple’s iPad platform, which is a tablet computer that is expected to be one of the hot gadgets of the year. The self-publishing book company said that authors whose work is in iformat can use Lulu to publish their e-books on the iPad. Lulu will convert the books from the Lulu format into the ePub format at no cost. Authors will receive proceeds after Lulu and Apple take their cut.
Lulu said it would automatically convert books for submission to the iBookstore, unless authors didn’t want their books published on the iPad. Lulu supports the ePub and PDF formats, with or without digital rights management.
And Lulu lets you unpload your own nicely formatted epubs!!!!!
Edited to Add Lulu Announcement:

"We can help you get any project into the iBookstore, even if you’ve published only a printed copy of your work on Lulu so far. The key is that you must already have a project on Lulu — or publish a project now.

The simplest way to reach the iBookstore is to have us convert [note: Fees] your file into an ePub. As mentioned earlier, we guarantee that it will pass Apple’s validation process and we include distribution to the iBookstore as part of this service for no extra charge.

The other approach is a manual one. You’ll need to make your own ePub file and make any necessary improvements until is passes ePubCheck 1.0.5. Once you have that file on Lulu, add iBookstore distribution to your cart as if you were buying any other service. (Again, it is free for a limited time.) We’ll submit the file to Apple for the iBookstore.

In the coming weeks, we will automate more of this process and will incorporate it into our eBook publishing wizard."
So as always, Lulu rushes to task before it has any support platform in force or even the remotest clue what they are doing. My advice is to just go on over to Smashwords, who can distribute your ebooks to more places than just the iBookstore. ISBNs are cheap through them, and there is no conversion cost. If you want to make your own epubs yourself, there is a poor man's way to do it with the free software that's out there: Format a word doc using Smashwords specs, use MobiCreator to make an HTML file, then use Calibre to convert the HTML file to epub. Check your epub against the epubchecker program. You can manipulate the HTML file as needed, and you will need to learn the programs, of course, but they are basic and a bit of playing around is all the time you will have to invest. Mind you, this is for straight text only manuscripts. You can also create the epub in Sigil, but I don't find it as user friendly as working in Microsoft Word. Other user's mileage will vary. I use Mobi to create the files I upload directly to Kindle, and they come out perfect for some minor tweaking in the HTML file.

Another Wonderous Self-publishing Endeavor

From: SF Gate's Mark Morford

"The Daring Spectacle", as the title suggests, is also a bit of a wild experiment.

Given the bleak state of pretty much the entire publishing industry right now -- newspapers yes, but also magazines and books -- and given the advice I received from multiple agents and publishers both large and small who offered to publish TDS even as they secretly questioned the value and necessity of the classic "book deal" in the modern age, well, I decided to bite the bullet, take the red pill, and ride the new media train to glorious salvation all on my own.

In other words, I have self-published "The Daring Spectacle" under my own, newly created imprint, my own company, my own one-man publishing empire. It is called Rapture Machine, Inc. Yes, a whole corporation, all to myself. Imagine the power. I shall be exploiting the masses and oppressing the workers any minute now. And vice-versa. I mean, wouldn't you?

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Saturday, April 03, 2010

REVIEW: Wading in the Continuum

Title: Wading in the Continuum and Sandaling in the Sands of Time....
Author: Justin Invergo
Genre: Humor
Price: $7.95
Publisher: Lulu
ISBN: 978-1432730307
Point of Sale: LuLu
Reviewed by: Veinglory

Wading in the Continuum is reproduction of the journal of a mad scientist. It is full of brief humorous experiments like: "...creating a hybrid phoenix/chicken that cooks itself before it is reborn" and "working on patenting the near light speed diet , where you not only get thinner, you also get taller". You can see other examples in the Lulu preview.

There is some genuinely funny stuff in here, but I can't help but think that the idea falls a little short of its potential. After all, isn't it easier, and probably more entertaining, to create a crazy lab journal with a pen and paper than a font that is a bit like hand-writing and wiggly mouse drawing?

Rating: 5.5/10

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Idle Thoughts with Kristen Tsetsi

Kristen Tsetsi is one of the founding members of Backword Books, co-creator with R.J. Keller of the writers' YouTube series "Inside the Writers' Studio," and the author of the semi-autobiographical novel Homefront, the short fiction collection (e-book) Carol's Aquarium, and How to (Not) Have Children. She was raised in Germany and received her MFA from Minnesota State University Moorhead. She is a former reporter, former cab driver, and a former instructor of playwriting, screenwriting, expressive writing, and college English. Currently, she edits the literary journal American Fiction. Kristen Tsetsi's writing has appeared in a number of publications, and her award-winning short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

When were you happiest?
I've had many happiest single moments, but more generally, I've just reached a place in the last few weeks that I can only describe as "inner peace." I might be at my happiest right now.

What is your greatest fear?
I'm afraid writing it down will make the words available for later use in some commentary on the irony of life, so I'll just say "spiders."

Which living person do you most admire, and why?
Ian (my husband). He has a magical way of balancing professionalism and kindness that makes him an extraordinarily effective and valuable leader and/or teacher to those who need leadership. Some people have it and some people don't. He has it.

What was your most embarrassing moment?
I don't read Sci-Fi, so - to the horror of many, I'm sure - I had no idea who Philip K. Dick was until I wrote his publishing company one day, looking for authors to contribute short pieces to a flash-fiction magazine I'd created. I received an email informing me of his long-ago demise and was probably as embarrassed as I should have been. There was no space deep, small, or dark enough for me to crawl into.

Property aside, what's the most expensive thing you've bought?
A trip to Jamaica. Most relaxing, carefree week. Ever.

What is your most treasured possession?
My box of letters from Ian - dating from around 1993 to 2003, with a few empty years in between. The bulk were sent from Iraq or Afghanistan. But that's not why I like them - I like them because he writes incredible letters. In this box, too, is a short video of the two of us hanging out downtown Heidelberg when we were 17. When you don't get together with someone until over a decade later, it's pretty cool to have that recorded memory to look back on. And the hair. We had the typical, big and/or mullet-y, early 90s hair.

What would your super power be?
To be invisible.

Who would play you in the film of your life?
Julia Stiles or Kristen Stewart, probably.

What is your most unappealing habit?
Fidgeting. Picking at the skin around my nails. At least, that's the one that's least appealing to me. Someone else might not like ... well, many things...but what might stand out is a sort of OCD issue. It's not medically diagnosed, or anything, but there are days when I must have things just so.

What is your favourite word?

Is it better to give or to receive?
I like both equally.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

What do you owe your parents?
I don't know that parents and children owe one another anything. At least, not ideally. Parents live their role and we live ours, and with luck, we both do the best we can for one another.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Ian and writing.

What does love feel like?
Like a best-friendship but with the benefit of all the romantic-relationship extras. Even when I don't like myself, or even when I get the impression I may not be very likable to others, there is that person who knows the all of you and loves - and likes - it. It is, to me, not fidgeting during a conversation with him because with him, I am always comfortable. Never worried about judgment. Completely at ease.

What is the worst job you've done?
Assistant to a man who used a business-office restroom with the door open. Pants around his ankles. Newspaper open. Bad scene.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
The way I treated people when I was middle-school aged.

How do you relax?
Watching TV.

How often do you have sex?
As often as I like.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

What keeps you awake at night?
Leftover traces of anxiety. I'll find many things to worry about. "Did I say something stupid?" "Was I obnoxious?" "Why do I think about myself so much?"

What song would you like played at your funeral?
I used to think I'd want "Dust in the Wind," but that was after I'd first heard it and fell in love with it. Now it seems a little too obvious. I haven't thought about it much since then ... when I think about that day, I'm more interested in trying to figure out what I'd like them to engrave on my headstone. I think I'd like "Hi!"

How would you like to be remembered?
As kind.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
That the things I once thought were important aren't really that important, and that having only one go-'round means it's probably a good idea to retain some kind of focus on what will leave me with the fewest regrets. Some day, it doesn't matter when, but some day - as we all know - everyone alive now will be dead, and the planet may even be gone. I mean, we have to assume that, someday, it WILL be gone. No one will be left to remember anything, to read anything, to know anything. There will be no names lingering, no movies being talked about, no one to care who had money or who didn't and what they did with it. With this in mind, I've adjusted my priorities significantly and have a new relationship with life and living. I want to get to whenever my end is knowing those whose lives mingled with mine - whether "they" are animals or humans - were treated well by me, were made to feel interesting and/or loved. (Obviously it depends on the person. I don't love everyone. Actually, I don't like people very much as a species. But I do enjoy individuals, and when I meet them, I'd like them to feel & know that I enjoy them.)

Where would you most like to be right now?
Living in an old, character-filled home in anywhere, New England attached to acres of farmland where rescued strays of all kinds are cared for by a staff of veterinarians. Or Germany.

Tell us a joke.
God, no. I cannot tell a joke.

Tell us a secret.
I have tried and tried, but don't like apple pie.


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