Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thoughts on The Craft -- c.anne.gardner

A novel is a commodity that fulfils a certain need; people need to buy daydreams like they need to buy ice cream or aspirin or gin. They even need to buy a pinch of intellectual catnip now and then to liven up their thoughts..." -- John Dos Passos

I once, in my infinite stupidity, asked another writer if they wanted to be an artist or an entertainer, when in reality, there isn't exactly a hard line distinction between the two. Intellectuals find literary works to be quite entertaining, just in a very different way than a commercial piece fiction would be. And by commercial, I mean your average escapist beach read, knowing full well that that also means different things to different people. Some might say that category fiction, fiction that is written to a very specific formula, is less art and more light entertainment than other sorts of fiction, but I have read category fiction written as richly as a classic literary piece, and I have read literary works that were not long, morose, and laboriously boring walks through the human house of pain either.

One thing I particularly like about Dos Passos quote is that I like the idea that people are buying daydreams when they purchase a book. They are buying our daydreams, and some people want something light and fun, others want something intellectually stimulating: some want high concept, and some want deeply conceptual.

The definition of Art states that Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging symbolic elements in a way that influences and affects the senses, emotions, and/or intellect.

The definition of Entertainment is that Entertainment consists of any activity which provides a diversion or permits people to amuse themselves in their leisure time.

So if we overlay the two, we can say, without stretching the facts, that a daydream is a diversion, and if it affects your senses, emotions, and/or your intellect, then that daydream is Art.

As writers, we create the daydreams, which means we are artists and entertainers. How could we be anything else? I apologize to Will for my moronic question.

So ... who is going to make the argument about porn first? It's most definitely a diversion and most definitely affects the senses and the emotions ... in some cases, it can even affect the intellect, specifically in those instances where I am wondering the whole time how the parties involved even managed to get that elbow there and that foot over there and still be effective enough to induce screaming with orgasmic delight while at the same time managing not to injure anyone in the process. And yes, joking aside, IMO, there are cases where something technically classified as porn can be art. I guess what I am trying to say is that literary fiction can be entertaining and mainstream fiction can in fact be art. I’ll just stick to my daydreams and leave the classifications to someone else.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

The Art this week is The Apothecary by Pietro Longhi circa 1752

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pubit Is Now Live

PubIt! is now open and ready for you to start selling your eBooks! In no time at all, you can create an account, add your first title, and put your eBooks in front of millions of readers with the world’s largest bookseller.
Please note that to complete the PubIt! registration process you will need to have:

  • Your U.S. bank account information (routing number and account number)
  • Your U.S. credit card information (credit card number, expiration date, and billing address)
  • Your tax identification information (Social Security Number, ITIN, or Employer Identification Number)
Click here to begin the PubIt!
I am not sure yet if I will be using this service since my books are distributed to Barnes and Noble through Smashwords, which means I would have to take them out of circulation with Smashwords B&N link and then reload them all with Pubit. Sure, I could cut out the middleman and make more if I went direct, but for me, I am not sure it's worth the hassle. Shannon Yarbrough over at the LL Book Review is going to do a test run with one of his books, so stay tuned to his site for a detailed account of the process.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Want Reader Feedback?

I often speak of my book buying habits here on the site, specifically when they pertain to whether or not I accept or decline a book for review. I am not a first page "hook" kind of person. The first page, to me, is the most overly orchestrated page in a book these days and is not generally representative of the overall quality of a book, so when I am sampling, I skip the first page; hell, I skip the first chapter. What I want is a random sampling of the writing. I don't want plot; I don't want to connect with a character; so I am not looking for emotional intrigue and/or manipulation because offering that up in the first couple of pages doesn't mean anything when I am staring down a 300+ pager. I want to sample something towards the middle of the book. Now in the middle, I might hit on a page that isn't very interesting, one that might be devoid of action or dialog, and basically that is the whole point of the exercise. Why? Because I am interested in the writing style and the voice, and the question I often ask while I am reading that random sampling in the middle is: “Does this voice and style command my attention even during the most boring of passages?” Obviously, if I have picked up the book I know enough about the basic plotline to know that the story might be of interest to me. Now I have to decide if the actual writing fits the mood I am in and the type of reader of I am. I like complicated prose. I love well written exposition, and I love lean and beautifully vague description. I want a confident style, one where I can see that the author was not afraid to take chances. One that doesn't second guess itself. At the end of this post I will be sharing a Page 99 of my own, stay tuned.

Ford Madox Ford once said: “Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.” and I can agree with that. Apparently many others do as well.

And that brings me to the a new reader feedback website launching in October. Note: this is a separate site unaffiliated with the Page69test and Page99test over on blogspot. Same premise, and yes, there is a fee based service offered along with the free stuff, so I will share the FAQ from their website:

We’re doing the same thing here, but with a twist. Here, writers (published or not) share their page 99s with a world of readers... and get real-time feedback. Does your writing hook readers? Let them be the first to tell you.

So, how does it work for writers?
Writers – published or not – come to the site, sign in (easy 4-field sign-up), and copy-and-paste their ‘page 99′ from their manuscript (MS) into the text field on our site. They enter a few details – like book genre, title, and publication status – and submit it.

Writers can upload up to 3 page 99s (all from different MSs, obviously). Each page stays up for 30 days or 50 reads/ratings, whichever comes first. As ratings come in, writers go to their My Uploads page to see reader feedback, including comments.

And how does it work for readers?
Readers come to the site, sign in (easy 4-field sign-up), select their preferred genre, and get shown a page 99, which is randomly generated within the selected genre. They read the page from top to bottom (hopefully) and then answer these 2 questions:

(OPTIONAL: Add comment for writer.) Once you hit Submit Feedback, you’re taken to a page that reveals to you info you didn’t otherwise know, like:

• Whether the page is from a published book or not
• Who the author is
• What the average rating is for each of the 2 questions
• Verbatim feedback/comments

What’s the revenue model?
There are 2 phases to our site; the first phase has been described thus far – and the second won’t be described until we’re closer to launching it. The first phase is a free service; it will remain when the second phase rolls out, so there’ll always be this free, fun, addictive little reading part of the site.

In Phase 2, the plan is to focus on connecting unpublished writers and agents or editors/publishers. Essentially, we will eliminate for writers the entire [painful, soul-sucking, time-consuming] querying process and for agents/editors the towering slush pile. We’ll be charging for this service. Here’s how it works:

• A for-writer service called “Read My Chapter”, where writers pay ~$15 (TBD) to upload a chapter of their unpublished manuscript… and the readers who rated that writer’s page 99 favorably get pinged that the whole chapter’s ready to read, and nature takes its course
• Something with lit agencies and/or editors

We want to keep it free for as many writers as possible (because they’re usually starving!), readers, and writing clubs/classes/workshops. We’re also thinking of pulling in some cash to cover operating costs as Amazon affiliates (for published books).
So even though its fee based portion of the site is just another manuscript display service like Authonomy or Bowker's new manuscript service or any listing site that claims to connect writers with agents and publishers, the free portion for actual readers is what interests me the most because it complements my own selection style, and hopefully, its ease of use and the fun factor will get more people reading Indie published books. If you are looking for simple reader feedback, then this might be a fun place to start.

So in the spirit of Page 99, here is an excerpt from my latest release Logos:

I wanted to make passionate love to him, if only to keep alive what little humanity remained in me, but as I began to cast off my clothes for the portrait, his expression changed. It became tainted of fear mingled with an unexpected hint of dazed bewilderment. His eyes grew into great blue tearful oceans, and his lower lip paled and trembled when he asked, “What are you doing, Selena…that’s not necessary?”

The nervousness in his voice prompted me to tread lightly. I was trying to seduce him and apparently not having a great deal of success with the endeavor, but all I could manage to say was, “Don’t worry, Ian, I gave up any shred of modesty centuries ago…and this is what you want, isn’t it?”

Apparently it wasn’t. He whispered a shameful yes, then shouted a very dramatic NO, then he attempted to negate his anger with a softer no until finally admitting, "Shit, Selena, I don’t know what I mean. I simply want to paint your portrait.”

Simply paint my portrait? Again, it was the way he said it: Simply. He said it as if he were unaffected by my presence, as if our relationship were free of deceit. Nothing was further from the truth. “Nothing is ever simple, Ian, and why would you want to do that, so you can imprison my soul as well? Take care now, good sir, the waters might be muddy, but I can still make out the depraved desires hidden in the recesses of your mind.”

He had barely a reply, nothing more than an “I can’t,” which came stuttering out of his mouth as he continued his slow and steady backward stride.

“Can’t? Can’t what, Ian? Can’t get close to anyone unless they are covered in paint? Why on earth not?

Cheryl Anne Gardner

If you would like The Podpeople to feature your Page 99, send us an email to: podpeep at gmail dot com with the subject line Page 99. Please include a link to your preferred e-commerce site, a cover jpeg, and paste your page 99 into the body of the email or attach it as a .TXT file. If your page 99 happens to be a chapter start or chapter end and does not contain a full page, you may use the full page before or after your page 99. One page only please.

Monday, September 27, 2010

And The Winner Is ...

The winner of our Free Book Friday giveaway is shawna68.

Thank you everyone for particpating and supporting Indie authors.

Next month, for Halloween, I will be giving away a Vampire Spoof titled: Bloodsuckers Must Die, so stay tuned.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Agio Publishing House Chutzpah Award

Which is to say, I am giving Agio Publishing the inaugural POD People Chutzpah Award. 

It takes a rare "entrepreneur" that charges $4000 dollars and more to format and prepare a book for self-publishing.

But what really tips Agio over the edge is that what you get at the end of the day is a book released via Lulu (example).

So, for around  $4000 you get a prettified manuscript, plus what Lulu provides for free or less than $100.

That for some books that have, at best, and Amazon rank of over 500,000

So, um, best of luck in recouping that investment.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Free Book Friday

This Month's Book Giveaway is:

Title: Threshold
Author: Bonnie Kozek
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Price: $ 11.95
Publisher: iUniverse
ISBN: 978-0595497584
Pages: 128

Description: Honey McGuinness hasn't weathered the storm of life; she's been chewed up and spit out by it. Although she hasn't exactly landed on her feet, she's a strong, enigmatic, and untamed creature-with more than enough juice to play with the big boys. When a haunting past becomes too painful, she moves to Skid Row where she hopes to disappear among the forsaken and forgotten. But things don't work out like she hopes. And when she finds her friend Billy lying in a pool of blood with a tape recorder strapped to his waist, she is sucked right back into the slough. To avenge Billy's murder, Honey risks it all. Her fearless pursuit of the killer thrusts her straight into the murky, seedy world of sex, drugs, and greed-a sinister and depraved world of panacea and oblivion that holds particular seduction for a gal like Honey. In the final round, bloodied and defiled Honey hooks up with a big lug of a cop who's willing to lay down his life for hers-if both of them live that long. Bawdy, gritty, and unrelenting, Threshold pushes you to the edge of darkness ... and beyond. My review can be found here.

Enter to win this book by leaving a comment -- with a valid email address -- on this blog post by Midnight, Sunday September 26, 2010. The winner will be announced Monday September 27, 2010.

Good luck and happy reading everyone!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read -- c.anne.gardner

September 25 - October 2, 2010

From the Website: Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.

Intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week. BBW stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them.

Now those of you who know me know that I am adamantly opposed to censorship, especially when it comes to the arts. But like I said last week, being offended seems to be everyone's favourite hobby these days, one where people feel it's their god-given right to foist their personal dogma on others. I am all about being your own person, and one personal freedom we have is the freedom to develop our own moral identity, and each person’s is as individual as the next person's. We have the right to be individuals, think for ourselves, and the personal principles we develop over time and choose to live our lives by belong to us, kind of like intellectual property. We can share them, of course, but we have no right to force them on others by means of coercion or otherwise. And if I might throw in a little conjecture here, how would we know that our moral identity is true and right for us if there were nothing in the world to challenge it? We wouldn't know, of course: we would all still be thinking the world was flat, and I am certain some people would agree that a blind consensus on that matter would have been a good thing.

Anyway, my point being is that it's banned books week next week, and although I tend to read challenging literature all of the time -- I think I own everything the Marquis de Sade has ever written that is out in print -- I might revisit a few favourites next week, in particular: Animal Farm by George Orwell. I picked up the 50th illustrated anniversary edition while I was on vacation last month. It's an absolutely gorgeous edition with over 100 black and white and colour illustrations by the world renowned Ralph Steadman. He did illustrations for some of Hunter S. Thompson's work. So why Animal Farm you ask? It was the first novella I ever read. I fell in love with the form right then and there, and it changed the way I felt about literature. I think I was in 8th grade at the time and had this idea in my head that literature had to be thick. All the stuff my father had me read was thick, so what's a kid to do when you really don't know any better?

So my question this week is: Should you get time to revisit a banned book next week, what book would it be -- an old classic or something new?

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My Story -- Henry Baum

Our My Story segment this week is with Henry Baum, Editor of the online Indie Review Magazine: Self Publishing Review and author of The American Book of the Dead, which I reviewed here, so let's give a warm welcome to Henry.

Why did you choose to self-publish and what were your expectations?

My first novel was published traditionally with Soft Skull Press and in the U.K. and France. It took three years to write the follow-up, which was an entirely draining experience. Not getting published rubbed salt in that wound. So when the next novel came around (and didn't find a publisher with an agent) I wasn't going to be idle anymore.

My expectations were - Oh My God, I'm going to be in print. After struggling for so long, seeing that first copy from Lulu actually felt like being published and I wondered what had taken me so long. I hoped to become some kind of overnight phenom like any writer, though I was of course realistic. That didn't quite happen, but the book was well received and got some readers. I feel like I've had to scratch and claw to get attention my whole life, so this wasn't much different - whether it was self-releasing a 7-inch record of my high school punk band or stapling together a fanzine dedicated to the movie "Taxi Driver" in college, I've always been pretty DIY.

Why did you select your specific publisher?

My first self-published novel was published with Lulu - because I didn't know any better, and liked that it was a free service. I saw it as a kind of Blogger for self-publishing and thought maybe the community there would help the book sell. That wasn't really true because it was the off-site stuff (reviews etc.) that helped sell the book.

With my current novel, I chose Lightning Source. Same printer as Lulu, but instead of getting charged $9 a book - plus stupidly-high shipping charges - it only costs $4 a book. This is not only good for royalties, but allows more freedom to send the book out to reviewers, free copy promotions, and the like.

How is it going so far? Are you achieving your goals?

My goal (to quote Steve Martin) is to become the All Being, Master of Time, Space, and Dimension. But that hasn't happened yet. Baby steps. But this book is going much better than the last one. I've learned from my mistakes, but also it's easier. Twitter/Facebook etc. didn't exist the last time around. Ebooks were barely a reality. So while I'm not really paying the rent with sales yet, I'm releasing my ebook for free and I've had 16000 downloads since April. I don't really care at this point about turning a profit, especially as this book is part one of what's going to be a three part series. So the book I've released is basically the introduction and I want as many readers as possible. I can't be guaranteed that those 16000 are actually going to read it, but odds are good that some will when I'm getting around 100 downloads a day.

What advice would you give a person who has completed their manuscript and is considering self-publishing?

My answer is usually, "Be patient." I ran out of patience and I really love the "culture" of self-publishing. I love being a part of this revolution. And I love giving the finger to corporate publishing - which, while having advantages, also has a lot of faults. But if you've got the patience to query, do it, because having a publisher that will do some of the work and be an advocate is a good thing. But if you're ready to self-publish, it really depends on the kind of book you write. Like mainstream publishing, the self-published books that become really successful are usually mainstream-oriented. So you can't really expect "indie" publishing to be like the world of indie film - where quirkier, more offbeat stuff finds an audience. It's as hard for that quirky novel to find an audience as it is to find a publisher. So you should really be thinking about promoting a book in terms of years, and not the few months that are usually given in traditional marketing.

Bio: Henry Baum is the author of The American Book of the Dead. The novel won Best Fiction at the DIY Book Festival and the Gold IPPY Award for Visionary Fiction. Largehearted Boy says it's "reminiscent of Philip K. Dick and Haruki Murakami, a book that boldly explores the future and defies genre." He's also the author of North of Sunset, winner of the Hollywood Book Festival Grand Prize, and The Golden Calf - first published by Soft Skull Press, with editions in the U.K. (Rebel Inc.) and France (Hachette Littératures). Visit, where he's posting the soundtrack and Part II of the novel. He is the editor of Self-Publishing Review.

Book link:

If you would like to participate in the My Story Column, please send your responses to the questions above to podpeep at gmail dot com with the subject line of My Story. Please include a short bio, a link to your website and/or blog, and a link to whatever book you happen to be promoting at the moment along with a good quality cover jpeg. You may be as brief or as long-winded as you like.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thoughts on Being Offended -- c.anne.gardner

The atmosphere of orthodoxy is always damaging to prose, and above all, it is completely ruinous to the novel, the most anarchical of all forms of literature. -- George Orwell

Last week I was alerted to a situation on Facebook. R.J. Keller, author of the wonderful novel Waiting For Spring, which I reviewed here, apparently received another bout of nasty "I am offended" emails from readers of her book, to which I replied with this comment:

All a writer can do is be honest, be true to the story and the characters. A writer has no other choice. What other people take away from a story, or rather how they interpret it or misinterpret it, is nothing more than a projection of their own inner self and is of no concern to you, as a writer -- unless you want to use them as a character in your next book. In the moment of writing, all that matters is the story.

Now this is not just my personal take on the issue, many other literary authors have made their stance known: Zoe Heller, author of Notes on a Scandal, said that it is not a writer's job to offer up moral avatars; if you want friends, go to a cocktail party. In the Gospel of Mark it is said that John came to “agitate the comfortable and comfort the agitated.” Now that was used in a religious context, meaning the people were spiritually asleep, and it was the prophet's job to wake them, but “art” does this as well. It awakens people, challenges people and their ideals. I am not saying that the readers' opinions don't matter, I am saying that reader opinions only matter to a certain degree. That's how art works. Artists, including writers, have been commenting on society's indiscretions since the dawn of time, i.e. The Bible, which is full of some god-awful violent and disturbing stuff.

The fact of the matter is that there is someone out there who is bound to be offended by something you write, say, or do. In this world, being offended is like a hobby. And like any other truly egocentric pursuit, the offended’s opinion is the only one of value. Not to mention, those who love to engage in this sort of thing have a huge fan base. But I digress. All this is really irrelevant to the writer. It's all just static, and it means nothing in the greater scheme of things. If you have got yourself a controversial book, you have done yourself a favour as an artist, so bask in the glory despite your detractors.

Writers are like explorers, and the human psyche is like the greatest fucking adventure land that ever existed -- yes, even Disney sucks ass by comparison -- and many serious writers feel compelled to explore difficult, challenging, and often controversial subjects and ideas. Some writers have a point to make, and they make it, and some writers take the objective approach and simply tell a story. Some parts of that story might be objectionable to some readers; hell, the author might even find them objectionable for that matter. Just because an author writes about something does not necessarily mean that they advocate said thing. I wish more readers understood this, because it's a painful process, and it takes a lot of time for an author to build up some sort of resistance to being affected by this ... this purely subjective criticism that some feel the need to level not only at the work but at the author personally. I'll share a story that set me into a tailspin of personal doubt for about a year. I haven't shared this with too many people, but maybe it's time.

When I wrote the book The Thin Wall, my idea was to explore the dangers of the co-dependent relationship. When the story and the characters came to me, the main coupling just happened to be between two fortyish single people who shared certain sexual proclivities. The fact that they were a BDSM couple was relevant to the theme of unconventional love that I had in mind for the story. While the story is not graphic by any means -- I just don't write graphic sex -- there is a scene in the beginning of the book which illustrates that the relationship between these two people had reached a level most compassionate human beings would find abusive. Anyway ... along comes this internet person, a person who had not even read the book, who decided in her infinite wisdom to take it upon herself to vocalize her opinion that my story could not be a romance and how dare I call it one while she proceeded to have herself a love-in at my expense. Basically, she declared, that to write such a thing and call it a romance made me some sort of pervert. Yes, all this was said while ignoring the fact that the story is about a confused woman in the middle of her midlife crisis who is trying to sort out her feelings after discovering that the man she has spent the last twenty years with isn't really right or healthy for her at this stage of her life. The happy ever after comes when she winds up with the man that is at the end of the book. But this blogger didn't even have the courtesy to read the book before commenting on something she knew nothing about, so the fact that it actually fits the exact definition of a romance was rendered a moot point by her ignorance of the facts.

Now I look back at the incident and laugh because I have come to understand how irrelevant and biased the comments were, and that it was really nothing but a self-projection and had nothing to do with my story specifically, or my art, or me personally as a writer. At the time though, it really dug in deep. I began worrying about what other people might think of me or that people might think I was advocating such sexual activity. The whole thing made me so sick down to my core that I actually pulled the book from print after it had been out only a few weeks. I actually took all my books out print. I completely shut down. I knew that in order for me to resolve my feelings about my own artistic freedom, I had to shut everything out for a bit, which I did. I took a year off to pull my boot straps up. I needed to step back, away from readers, away from the net, and spend some time with my writerly person -- do some self-affirmations. While I had the time and all the books out of print, I decided to take a long hard editorial look at them, and what I found was that I liked what I had written, I had been objective in my explorations, so I revised some and then sent my deviant thoughts back out into the world.

It took a year, but I have reached a level of Zen about this sort of thing. If I am going to be honest and true to the human condition, which is ugly at best, I can't be worried about offending someone. It takes too damn much energy away from the writing.

Now my thoughts here are based on my own personal struggle. I can't really give authors any advice on how to deal with this sort of situation, other than: NEVER EVER EVER RESPOND TO IT DIRECTLY. That is an exercise in futility, because in this situation, you cannot change someone’s mind, so it’s best to ignore it, lest it consume you with negativity.

Getting Zen with this takes courage and confidence, and you can't really combat that sort of emotional attack until you are faced with it and have taken the time to reflect upon it. You will question everything you have ever written. You will question your motivations. You will question your own ideals and your personal dogma, and you will question not only the words but the integrity of your writing, as well. I think, for a serious writer, the exercise is good for the art in the end. But that's just me. I practice “write what you want, how you want to write it.” Some writers will not be able to endure it and will bow to the censors. It's a personal choice every writer must make on their own, and I wish you the best and all the good energy I can send your way.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

The Art this week is: Erotische Burleske by Johann Heinrich Fussli circa 1772

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Review: Stranger Than Fiction

Title: Stranger Than Fiction
Author: Jim Murdoch
Genre: Fiction/Literary/Humor
Publisher: Fandango Virtual
Price: £6.29
Pages: 188
ISBN: 978-0955063626
Point of Sale: Jim
Reviewed by: Cheryl Anne Gardner

I reviewed Mr. Murdoch's Truth About Lies a little over a year or so ago and loved it. This is the sequel to that book, and so we begin with the marvellously crotchety Mr. Jonathan Payne, philosophically analysing his want to stay in bed, his desire to not deal with his life, and his utter frustration with his aging body, specifically why the morning urination ritual need be so emasculating. And as always, Mr. Murdoch's scathing sarcasm and dark humour keep me reading. Satire of this sort is always a fun ride.

Jonathan Payne is feeling a sense of loss because the entity of Truth we met in the last book has left him. But he did leave a note, and as it turns out, Payne actually died in his sleep this time around. Except ... well, Jonathan Payne, as it appears, is not really dead but more dead-ish.

You know, I don't think I have chuckled this hard at a book since Hitchhiker’s Guide. Note: tribute to Adams begins on page nineteen. Murdoch has that same slyness with his words, and Truth is even more of a shady character in this one, full of piss, vinegar, and double and triple entendres. I choked on my tea when I read that the Third World War was called "The Nuclear Misunderstanding." Take that and the multiple iterations of our "world" and by page thirty you have a perpetual smile on your face. As for the plot, I'll let Truth sum it up:

“Well, it’s like this: we’ve been told this time that we’ve got to get the macroverse right like I told you. Big G’s fed up having to set off big bangs every few billion years. They’re not cheap for starters. So, before we do this one, we’ve got to try and suss out where we went wrong the last four times. Which means we’ve got to go through every one that’s ever existed with a nit comb to make sure why they screwed up and to try and stop it happening again.”

In any event, Jonathan must return home, and the reminiscences come fast and furious: the beach, the fairgrounds, his mother, his sexual fantasies...

Having to deal with one’s own idiosyncratic perception of one’s childhood, I imagine, would be a truly uncomfortable experience, especially if you were Jonathan Payne, and the successful reconciliation of one's feelings on the matter would seem highly unlikely. In Jonathan's case, very unlikely. Having your mother and some dubious cosmic entity who calls himself Truth discuss the story of your life so flippantly --including the specifics on how you had become such a wanker -- and in third person as if you weren't sitting right next to them is bound to make anyone a bit itchy. Families ... what can be said of them other than: Best Intentions. The how and why families fall apart is really irrelevant. It just happens more often than not, and the pretence is always the same. But dealing with his mother is the least of Jonathan's problems, aside from the fact that being with him is like trying to outstare a goldfish:

One, he had died some seven billion years ago; two, he may or may not have been resurrected, he was animate and cognisant but he was having his doubts whether Cogito ergo sum applied to this particular afterlife; three, he was in a town generated by his own memories, in which, he was able to interact with people from his past; four, life the universe and everything had just ground to a halt for the fourth time and all of this that he was going through was, in some inexplicable way, connected with a fifth, and, from all accounts, final crack at the whip.

But on a serious note, I think the text, no matter how campy the writing, really addresses a much larger issue, one rarely spoken of in polite conversation: Regret. In Jonathan’s case, how he felt about his parents and how they felt about him, neither side really knowing the truth due to this inherent human inability to express ourselves with our biological relations, or anyone we really care about in our lives for that matter. I can remember the regret I felt at nineteen when my step-father passed away. Regret over all the things I had been meaning to say, should have said, and didn't because I couldn't compel myself to be assertive enough to ever say what was really on my mind, good or bad. I am sure he felt the same because the last thing he said to me was that he was sorry. For what, he never managed to elaborate upon. Now I just say what comes to mind, because you never know when or if you might miss your chance to say something important to the people in your life. Sure, all this stuff might be shit they don't want to hear, and they might have shit to say that you don't want to hear, but that doesn't make it any less important. Emotions might run hot, but, when has anyone ever said communication was easy, and whoever said our perceptions of other people were accurate. It isn't, and they aren't for the most part. If it was, and they were, we wouldn't have doubts, and lying wouldn't have been invented. And that, my dear readers, really sums up this story. The memory we have of our life, for the most part, is a complete and unadulterated fabrication.

I must pause here to note one niggling editorial issue. Sure there are a few typos and a formatting issue or two -- nothing too terribly dramatic -- but what my skirt kept catching on was that there are some areas in the text where the dialog can be rather confusing. Paragraphs often contain the words of one character and the thoughts of another mixed in so tightly that occasionally it’s difficult to decipher whose head you are in. At times, it's not always clear whose words and thoughts we are experiencing due to the lack of dialog tags. Other than that, the editing was spot on. Now back to the story...

After that poor Jonathan Payne is subjected to a film of his life very reminiscent of the wonderful Albert Brooks movie Defending Your Life, only in Jonathan's case, the audience is loaded with psychiatrists, from Breuer to Jung to Freud and beyond. The film, as embarrassing as it is, doesn't take very long, and soon Jonathan is off to meet his maker, who, as I would have expected, sounds like Jackie Mason. I think Eddie Izzard did a fine interpretation, if I remember correctly. But Jonathan doesn't meet God; he actually meets his maker, who has this to ask of him:

“Whatever. According to your file which I have in front of me, of all the humans who have ever lived, you have made the least use of almost every faculty, every nuance I designed. Apart from one. I mean the thing was built to last but hey. All in all, though, you seemed just about the most dissatisfied with your personal humanity that I just had to have a chat with you before I submit my schematics for mankind’s replacement. So, if you think all men should have forty-four inch chests and genitalia a female gnu would shy away from then speak up.”

I won't spoil the end of the story. If you like campy existentialist literature and love Douglas Adams, then you will no doubt enjoy this book. It definitely made me think about what I could change should I be given the opportunity to converse with my maker. Huge penises would be high on my list too, as well as the talent to use them properly. Aside from that, I would un-invent lying and have humankind's brain wired for only honest communication. But that's just me. Jonathan Payne is a tired crotchety old man who lived in a tired old town and had pretty much a whole lot of tired old ideas about how life should be lived, until now ... Now that he is dead-ish, he has an opportunity to make some changes. He has been confronted with Truth; confused, shocked, and appalled by Reality; and accosted by Destiny. In the end, he is given the opportunity to confront millions of pasts, to justify and defend every decision and non-decision he had or had not made in his life, and he is given a chance to reconcile his own feelings about his own feelings. Maybe if he had finished watching Star Trek in the 60s it would have helped, but he hadn't. Probably the best thing that could happen to Jonathan Payne is that he be turned into a sofa. No doubt it would certainly be better than going to a convention about you in order to be confronted with millions of alternate versions of yourself to sort out, especially when one is nothing more than a character in a novel. But you will have to read the book to find out what happens, and I highly recommend that you do, if you like to think while you laugh and vice versa. It is pure joy to read, even if you don’t “get” all the references.

If truth were a pigeon??? Now that is hilarious and poignant beyond words, but Truth isn't a pigeon, and everyone, even an old curmudgeon deserves a second chance. This is a very imaginative tale: psycho analytics by cosmic proxy and high philosophy disguised in the sardonic, who wouldn’t love a book like this, especially since it ends with a whole lot of kissing and honesty? Yes, that's my kind of book. Bravo Mr. Murdoch. Well played -- again.


This book was reviewed from a PDF provided by the author.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Thoughts on The Craft -- c.anne.gardner

Back of every creation, supporting it like an arch, is faith. Enthusiasm is nothing. It comes and goes, but if one believes, then miracles occur.
-- Henry Miller

Since I began my journey down the path of Indie publishing, one thing I can say for sure is that enthusiasm isn't in short supply. Sometimes there is a bit too much enthusiasm, I fear, and it's often mixed with a healthy dose of delusional naiveté. Sadly, that is the vast majority of self-published authors, and the Lulus of the world make a small fortune from them.

On the flip side of that are the serious writers. For art or otherwise, we are talking about the authors who have faith. Not blind faith in their own work, but faith in the word, in the art form, in the mindset, in the process, and in the path to publication, be that the Traditional route or the Indie route. And let me tell you something here: They know, without a doubt, that enthusiasm and delusion only go so far. It doesn't take long for reality to settle in -- the reality that the real writing is in the revision and editing part of the process, that the first draft isn't total genius, that an editor isn't going to "fix" everything, and that no one is going to sell the book for them. As crushing as it all seems, the reality of the matter is that writing is writing, as difficult and frustrating as it might be, but publishing is a whole convoluted mess unto itself and more hard friggin' work than any humble self-respecting writer deserves to endure. Doesn't matter if you are working the query process or tackling all the technical aspects of DIY Indie Publishing. Enthusiasm won't get you there, only faith will. Faith gives you the stamina to trudge on through revision after revision after revision -- rejection or ridicule, come what may. Faith gives you the self-awareness to know what you don't know. Faith gives you the power to see the flaws in your own writing and the desire to make it better. It gives you the will to persist and the constitution to stomach a bit of blood letting along the way. Traditional or Indie author, doesn't matter. We share the same deep-seated desire: to see our work in print and to have our work read. The paths might be different, but the struggle and the pain are the same, and those who persevere have one thing in common. Yup, you got it: Faith.

And for some reason, it just makes the writing better, and I should know: I was a victim of delusional enthusiasm in the beginning, but then I found my faith and with it, my voice. I stopped listening to the static and started listening to my own creative spirit. Once I shut my pie hole and started really listening, to the praise and to the criticism, I began to have faith in the word and the poetry I discovered within. Will I ever be as good as Proust? Probably not, but I have the faith to keep trying, and that is what makes me happy, as a writer and as an artist.

Others’ mileage will vary.

On a reader note: I do believe that readers can tell the difference between the two. When a writer has faith, well, the words and the stories just seem more honest to me, and the genre is irrelevant.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

The Art this week is Newton by William Blake circa 1795

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

New Review Blog: Smashwords Reviewed

Let's give a welcome to the new review kid on the block. Smashwords Reviewed -- obvious by the name -- will be focusing strictly on Smashwords books. As for what it takes to get reviewed, this is from their initial opening post:

What Smashwords Authors Need To Do

To get your Smashwords book reviewed, do this: email the manuscript as a Word doc or PDF to neilcrab at hotmail dot com. Include in the body of your email a bio and anything cool about yourself or your work. Tell me the genre, the plot, whether or not it's a series or single, what you want me to be sure to notice, what books you feel are similar, and anything else that will help me convey to our readers what makes your book special. Ordinary reviews don't do this, but I know how hard it is to market your own product. When you take out a full page ad in the Sunday Times Book Review, you'll end up doing the same thing.

Tell me your websites and blogs and provide links. Give me the link to your book and your author profile at Smashwords. If you have multiple books, let me know how they relate to the one we'll review.

If you have other reviews, send the links to those as well. I don't mean the Amazon links. I mean from other blogs, mags, newspapers, etc. The problem I've seen with some books is they have great reviews that Smashwords doesn't allow because they're not from buyers. We will work with Smashwords to make sure your review is available. Smashwords is very good about helping its authors, so I see no problem there.

Go over the list: manuscript, bio, website links, Smashwords page links, plot summary, word count, selling price, author's other books, maybe a photo, anything else that will help.

I don't guarantee I'll like your book. But for some genres, I will ask for guest reviewers with more experience. The readers are the best reviewers, the folks that buy the books. Let's work together to get them to share this experience.

And at some point, the reviewed get to be the reviewer, and put me through the process. Telling the truth will make us both laugh.

We here at the PodPeople wish much luck and a long life to this new review blog.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Wordnik Announces New Smarter Online Thesaurus

OMG, this is a wordnerd's wet dream come true. I am a wordnerd -- I admit it -- and I have been known to spend countless hours on, but this is the best online thesaurus I have seen. It allows for true contextual comparisons. It's so important to use the right word: simple or complex, it has to be the right word. I am an advocate of: Say what you mean and mean what you say. In fiction, clarity is so important. As for the technical bits, the pages load quickly and each section is set off nicely. It even includes my favorite: an Etymology section.

From the press release:

Wordnik, the online dictionary and language resource, today launched a new, smarter online thesaurus that shows related words in context to help writers find the right word quickly and accurately.

Traditional online thesauruses show related words, but ignore context. They don’t tell you that people like brownies that are moist but not brownies that are damp, or that it doesn’t make sense to moisten your enthusiasm.

Wordnik’s thesaurus lets you see words in real-world sentences drawn from a vast and constantly updated collection of texts. Whether a word was coined by Shakespeare or Sarah Palin, you’ll find high-quality sentences to help you understand how that word is used by others, and how to use it correctly yourself.

Wordnik is also the first online thesaurus to let you compare words side-by-side. Want a more nuanced understanding of ‘vacant’ vs. ‘void’? Viewing their definitions and example sentences next to each other reveals that they’re not interchangeable …

You can find the Wordnik Thesaurus here.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Review: Journey into Tomorrow

Title: Journey into Tomorrow
Author: Veronica Camille Tinto
Genre: poetry
Price: $8.30/$16.76
Publisher: Authorhouse
ISBN: 978-1449062811
Point of Sale: Authorhouse/Amazon
Reviewed by: veinglory

The blurb for this volume reads: "Writing these poems began as a therapeutic process which turned into words that supported me during a very tumultuous period in my life. The poetry that unfolded manifested itself as an inspirational source that further comforted me during this difficult season. Ironically, the poems were able to transcend my own personal experiences and can be applied to anyone's life as an inspirational thought that can be carried through out your day. Then it becomes my hope for you my reader, that the poems found within these pages bring you the same amount of solace, inspiration, and contentment, that it provided me as I created them just for you."

Respectfully, I must disagree.  While I have no doubt that these poems reflect a genuine and deep inspiration in the author, I could not connect to them.  This book provides a very specific kind of outlook and inspiration that some will connect with and others will not.  The poems are actually rather specific (rather than  in many ways there are references to the female experience, having siblings, and constant reference to God which was completely alienating to me as an atheist who does not draw her spiritual and personal solace from that source.

For those who do not relate to the authors message there is no other level on which to admire the works.  They do not exhibit any obvious excellence of form or concept ("You can sit under your favorite tree... and enjoy reading a favorite book... Wow!!!...").  Ellipses are seriously overused and the overall presentation is unsophisticated at best. The imagery is drawn from well worn places, flowers, breezes, birds in flight and whispering voices.  My recommendation to any reader would be to look at an excerpt (here or here) and see whether there is anything there for you before purchasing.  If one if these poems is interesting to you, the rest are more of the same and could be the basis of a daily contemplation.  But all I saw was the largely unedited journal of a nice woman whose message did not interest me.

Rating: 2.5/10

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Oxford English Dictionary - Online Only???? -- c.anne.gardner

Internet may phase out printed Oxford Dictionary

The Associated Press
Sunday, August 29, 2010; 6:43 PM

LONDON -- It weighs in at more than 130 pounds, but the authoritative guide to the English language, the Oxford English Dictionary, may eventually slim down to nothing. Oxford University Press, the publisher, said Sunday so many people prefer to look up words using its online product that it's uncertain whether the 126-year-old dictionary's next edition will be printed on paper at all.
Ah ... the net has been buzzing with this news, and to tell you the honest truth, it's probably a good thing in more ways than one.

I am a word nerd. I was one of those insanely irritating kids who always scored 100% on their vocabulary tests and had a penchant for checking off the words she looked up in the dictionary. I have a paper dictionary in my office at home, one of those old doorstop collegiate dictionaries, and I have a small Webster's pocket dictionary and a separate Roget's thesaurus within arm's reach in my overhead cabinet at my daytime office, but to be frank here -- not Shirley -- I spend most of my time on or over at Why? Well it's not just because the internet is faster, and it's not just because if for some reason my spelling is a bit off that day -- it happens -- I won't be lost leafing through pages of bad assumptions. Those things are nice, sure: it's fast, it's easy, and it's right at your fingertips. Hell, sometimes, if I don't want to deal with logging on and then subsequently having to deal with all the advertising downloads on, I will actually use Word's dictionary and thesaurus. When I am editing, my Whitesmoke editing software also has a built in dictionary and thesaurus, but what is more important to me than easy instant access -- and should be to all writers -- is that these word repositories can be updated on the fly.

Let's face it; our language is a living language. If it weren't, the Chicago Manual of Style would never have to be updated. Then there is the space issue. How many people can afford the price or the space to house a 750 pound 20-volume dictionary? Don't get me wrong. I love the paper dictionaries I own, and when I am leisurely proofing on paper, as I am apt to do in the final stages of manuscript formatting, it's nice to be able to just grab a dictionary off the shelf and do a quick on-off without the hassle of getting on the computer. However, to expect a slim usable dictionary that changes with the latest and greatest stylistic evolutions/de-evolutions of the language is to expect too much. I swear slang changes just about as fast as a fly picking an apostrophe out of his ass, and when I want to look something up, I want it to be current.

I also, being a total geek, appreciate some of the other amenities an online dictionary can offer that a paper dictionary cannot due to space restrictions as in: etymology and various sample sentence constructions along with alternate spellings. If you are writing something in say British English versus American English, this can make a huge difference, and don't get me started on the All right versus Alright. Both of which are correct.

All in all, I will miss the paper dictionary, which will inevitably be reduced to common usage only, but I get so much more from a good online dictionary that I don't think I will necessarily be weeping at Oxford's print funeral.

So tell me Indie authors: Do you online dictionary or what? Do you have an online preference, and if so, why? is starting to get on my nerves with the slow advert laden page loads. It might be time to switch.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

The Art this week is Old Woman Reading a Lectionary By Gerard (Gerrit) Dou, circa 1630

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

My Story: Zoe Winters

It’s been a long time since we did a My Story Indie Author Bio, and I think we should pick it back up again because there are so many wonderful voices out there advocating Independent Publishing that it would be a crying shame not to give them open forum. Many of you already know who Zoe Winters is, and I reviewed her free ebook Kept last year. Zoe notified me this week that she is running a Kindle giveaway contest on her blog to promote her first dead tree format release Blood Lust, and I thought it would be a perfect time to do a My Story. So let me introduce Zoe Winters:

Why did you choose to self-publish and what were your expectations?

I mainly chose to self-publish because I don't like having to answer to anybody else. I've had 33 jobs, none of which "took". I'm not "mean" but I often don't play well with others. And in a work environment, I don't take direction well. Publishing a book may not be the exact same type of thing, but it's the same type of loss of control over the work you do. Originally, my focus was going to be mainly on print books. Even though I put a book on Kindle and was starting to see some potential there, I originally thought my goal was going to be to focus mainly on print. My expectations were that if I built a solid platform, within 10 years with a backlist I could get to the point where I could sell at least 10,000 copies of SOMETHING a year. And that would be a teacher's salary for me in profits. I still think that's doable, but I see a lot more promise and financial future in ebooks right now.

Why did you select your specific publisher?

I'm not completely sure what you're asking. I didn't use an author services company. I am my publisher. I use Lightning Source for my print books, but they are a printer, not a publisher. It's a pretty important distinction for me because a lot of the self-publishing companies end up being your publisher of record if you don't have your own ISBNs and they try to sell you on all these packages. To me having one's own imprint versus using an author services company is like the difference in being an Avon lady, and starting your own cosmetics company. As Michael N. Marcus says... nobody can SELF-publish for you. It's like having somebody go to the bathroom for you or eat for you.

Plus, you keep more of the profits if you cut out as many middle men as possible. And author services companies are definitely a middle man and in "most" cases your profit per book won't be as high as if you went with a company like Lightning Source. (I know I sound like their little puppet. I talk about them all the time. But, I just think they have the best quality product as well as the best earnings potential for publishers/indie authors.)

How is it going so far? Are you achieving your goals?

It's going great! There are obviously people out there doing better than me, but I feel like I'm on track to make a living writing fiction, which was what I wanted. I don't know how far I'll go, but I hope far!

What advice would you give a person who has completed their manuscript and is considering self-publishing?

Realize that it's a lot of hard work. I work 10 hours a day writing, editing, packaging, promoting. It never really stops and I'm horrible about taking breaks/vacations. Succeeding in publishing will be hard work no matter how you choose to publish but with self-publishing, you are responsible for everything. Also don't skimp on cover art and editing if you can help it. If you put out an amateur product, you play into the stigmas already against what we're doing here.

Zoe Winters is an indie author of quirky paranormal romance and an outspoken advocate of indie authorship. Her favorite colors are rainbow and clear. Check out her blog this week to find out details on how you can win an Amazon Kindle!

If you would like to participate in the My Story Column, please send your responses to the questions above to podpeep at gmail dot com with the subject line of My Story. Please include a short bio, a link to your website and/or blog, and a link to whatever book you happen to be promoting at the moment along with a good quality cover jpeg. You may be as brief or as long-winded as you like.