Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Page 99 -- Triune by Willow Polson

Page 99 of Triune
A Fantasy Novel
by Willow Polson
Reprinted with Permission: © 2010 Willow Polson, All Rights Reserved

Book Description: The Mason brothers had always been close, but until the day ex-Navy officer Mike discovered he was actually an angel, they had no idea just how close.

This paranormal/urban fantasy novel brings readers along on the Mason brothers' shared journey of discovery, because where one brother goes, the other two follow, sometimes kicking and screaming. Not everything is heavenly for these three men tossed into strange new circumstances without an instruction manual, and being an angel isn't as easy as it sounds. But along with the thorns there are roses, and for the suddenly-immortal Mason brothers, the journey is only beginning.
“I am an angel. Far as I know, anyway. My name happens to be Mike, or Michael, but I’m not the big guy on the candles. Okay?” He looked earnestly into Javier’s dark brown eyes, which were glued to the huge dark wings that moved gently with each breath. Mike smiled softly and plucked out a medium-sized feather, and handed it to him.

“We’re around,” Mike said quietly. How he knew there were others, he didn’t know, but if nothing else, logic dictated that there had to be more than just himself and his brothers walking the earth. “We can’t be everywhere, but we do the best we can. Here,” he said, taking the candles out of the alleyway and handing them to the woman and her son. “Take them somewhere safer.”

Javier gave the feather to his mother, who took it with a shaking hand, and gave her two of the candles to help carry. “Can we... would it be all right if I kept this one...?” he asked, indicating the unlit candle he’d brought.

Mike shrugged. “Like I said, I’m not him. Just tell whoever’s leaving these things to light them somewhere else, all right? It’s a nice gesture, but I’d rather not burn down my brother’s studio.” He realized as soon as he said it that he probably shouldn’t have, but also remembered that he’d said something about Brian being his brother on that first night to the drug dealers in the alley. If nothing else, he figured, maybe they’d stop breaking into Brian’s car because of him.

“What about them?” Javier asked, nodding at the brothers in the distance, which only confused his mother. A tiny smile crept up on one half of Mike’s face.

“Who?” he replied with a wink, and then it was Javier’s turn to smile a little.

“Uh...” he said, recovering, “...the other angels. That are... around.”

“Like I said, we do the best we can. Hey, I gotta get going. You should too.” On a whim, he decided to give them a good show, and took a few steps back. They were good people, he knew somehow, and he wanted to give them a little treat for helping to keep the alley clear of the candles, if nothing else. He pushed off powerfully with a muscular sweep of his wings, his brothers deciding to follow, Javier’s mother crying out with surprise when she suddenly saw them as well.
Willow Polson
Writer and whatnot.
Willow Polson's major in college was Art, and was on the Education track at SFSU to get a secondary school teaching credential when two things happened: Her dad decided to stop paying for college, and she answered an ad for a full-time graphic artist for EGW Publishing, which produces consumer magazines. The job was interesting enough, but when an assistant editor position opened up, she gave writing samples to one of the editors and was virtually hired on the spot. From there she helped develop new titles, became a department editor, and eventually became managing editor of both a newsletter and related website.

Willow's first love, however, was always fantasy novels. When she was five, she received The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe as a Christmas present from grandpa Steve, and received comic books from grandpa Albert. Add to this the fact that her mother produced a monthly magazine out of their home, complete with printing press in the basement, and you can see where her enthusiasm for writing and publishing began.

But something was missing. Non-fiction, while a perfectly valid market, wasn't entirely satisfying to write about. It was at this point that another two things happened: She read Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury, which gave her permission to write about what she loves, and she followed her late father's advice. "The world is your oyster," he used to say, and Willow applies that to everything in her life. She figures there's no reason, with a little determination and skill (and "luck"), that she can't achieve what she sets her mind to.

And that's exactly what she's doing now, and continuing to work towards.

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Review: Introducing the Richest Family in America: a Novel

Title: Introducing the Richest Family in America: a Novel
Author: David Drum
Genre: comedy
Price: $14.95
Publisher: Burning Books Press
Point of Sale: Direct
Reviewed by: Emily Veinglory

I am going to assume Burning Books Press is a micropress.  Their website is a bit of a hot mess, but they seem to have multiple authors on board. I don't really remember how I came to buy this book.  It may have been from an adsense ad.  I know I ended up on a website specifically for the book that took payment directly, via paypal.

Halfway through the first chapter I thought I had made a terrible mistake.  The first half of the book is very heavy on 'tell' and there are at least five main point-of-view characters, arguably more.  I found the humor wry rather than laugh-out-laugh comedic, and some of the shit/fart/dick-based jokes wear a little thin upon repetition.

That said, this story about a scheme to move a family company's production to China has a certain ineffable charm and sheer momentum.  The evil brothers-in-law, the flawed pater familia, the Chinese femme fatal, the spoiled daughters and the remaining cast of factory workers, wildlife and lawyers create a rather charming circus of a plot, culminating in a surprisingly upbeat serving of just deserts.

This novel feels a bit like it was created by an experienced writer, but inexpert novelist.  There are a lot of rough edges and dodgy moments but overall "Richest Family" is over-blown, no-holds-barred fun.  It is the kind of profoundly idiosyncratic story that keeps me reading self- and micro-press fiction.  It has an energy and confidence that is often missing in more note-perfect commercial fiction.  I also liked that the larger-than-life villain is given an avenue for redemption, which saves the story from descending into melodrama at the end.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Review: Assassin and Other Stories

Title: Assassin and Other Stories
Author: Steven Barnes
Genre: science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction
Price: $30
Publisher: ISFIC Press
ISBN: 978-09759156-4
Point of Sale: ISFIC Press
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

I routinely attend Windycon, my local science fiction convention. As part of the convention, ISFIC Press publishes a book of stories from the convention’s author Guest of Honor. This year, Steven Barnes was the guest, and so I picked up a copy of Assassin and Other Stories. As usual, I’m glad I did.

The bulk of this book consists of the previously-unpublished novel Assassin, which is the story of Abdul-Wahid, a child of a Christian mother and Muslim father living in a small village in what is now Syria during the Crusades. Very early on in the story, Abdul’s life is upended by those Crusades, and he becomes Haytham, a member of the cult of Hashashiyyin. This cult gave English the word “assassin” and, some say, the word “hashish.” At any rate, the story, told mostly from Abdul / Haytham’s point of view, is a very sympathetic portrayal of a group of Islamic fundamentalists.

When the original manuscript came out, shortly after 9/11, the market for sympathetic Islamic fundamentalists, not a big market to begin with, dried up. However, Barnes kept the story on his hard drive, and eventually produced the book I reviewed. This is a good thing, because it allowed me to enjoy a wonderful and action-packed story. There’s really very little to say about Assassin, as the novel is note-perfect. All the characters, Christian and Muslim, are well-developed, and the assassins are not without their flaws. Steven Barnes, the author, is a martial arts expert, and so the combat is portrayed realistically. Although written for a science fiction convention, Assassin is almost completely historical fiction, with a small bit of mysticism regarding the Holy Grail.

The rest of the book consists of four short stories and one screenplay (unproduced). Three of the short stories are science fiction, and the remaining works are fantasy. A few specific thoughts:

The Woman in the Wall – a short story reflecting on what people do to survive, involving a science fictional plague. It’s rather grim but riveting.

Trickster – War of the Worlds from the point of view of a primitive African tribe.

The Locust – written with Larry Niven, this science fiction story takes a new view of human evolution.

Father Steel – a screenplay starring a young Hannibal, as recounted by the older Hannibal while crossing the Alps.

Danger Word – a really scary zombie story, written back before zombies were cool.

As always with ISFIC Press books, I highly recommend ordering your copy of Assassin and Other Stories today.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

What Does a Pod Peep Read the Abridged Holiday Version -- c.anne.gardner

Where did the time go? I can’t believe it’s Thanksgiving already. Of course, I will off-line spending a long holiday weekend hopefully sculpting and not writing. In the mean time, I thought I would share some rather random thoughts on a couple of books I read over the summer -- a few mini reviews for your enjoyment.

Drood by Dan Simmons. I had never read anything from Simmons before I stumbled on this over in the horror section of my local Borders. I had a gift card to use, which was the only reason I was there. I read the back cover copy, and since I am a huge Dickens fan, love historical fiction, especially when it seems like it might be a psychological type horror story, and I don't mind a six-hundred plus page book from time to time, I bought it. I wasn't disappointed, unlike many Amazon reviewers. Granted, it's in the horror section, but frankly, the book isn't a horror novel ... not by a long shot. The book, beginning in 1865 with the Staple Hurst accident, is supposed to explore Dickens growing obsession with the mysterious character Drood, but in reality, it's an exploration in hatred, arrogance, and jealousy, and the real monster in the story is Wilkie Collins not Drood. It had a Picture of Dorian Gray feel to it in story and writing style, which apparently didn't please many of Simmons loyal fans. It was a long and brooding, meticulously researched book, chronicling the obsessive state of dementia Wilkie Collins descends into over the course of the narrative, culminating in a crazy plot to kill Dickens and strip him of his literary glory. I recommend it if you have the patience for a rambling narrative. There are moments that are spectacularly creepy even though you know Drood does not exist except in Wilkie's opium twisted mind. I also picked up The Woman In White because of this book.

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. What can I say about this convoluted who-dun-it thriller other than I just loved Lisbeth Salander. The story centers around Mikael Blomkvist who is on trial for libel at the beginning of the book. He loses the case, but before he has to serve his prison sentence, he is recruited by octogenarian industrialist Henrik Vanger to research the disappearance of his niece. An odd turn of computer hacking events teams our young disturbed Lisbeth with Blomkvist on a quest to catch a serial killer. As many sidelines as there are in the story, it only further helps to advance the "small world" theory and the notion that everyone has skeletons in their communal family closet. There are Nazi sympathizers, child abusers, rapists, sadists, secret torture dungeons, and a very James Bond styled ending with a corporate asshole getting his comeuppance. As for the serial killer stuff, nothing is overly graphic, despite claims to the contrary. The violence is nothing you wouldn't see on the Sopranos. What I did especially appreciate was that despite the book being littered with misogynistic/sadistic men/monsters, Blomkvist was quite the opposite, pretty much going along with whatever any woman wanted of him. His long-time girlfriend is married, he has no problem having sex with the niece of his benefactor, and doesn't take the slightest issue with Lisbeth, who is many years his junior, throwing herself at him sexually. Some readers might take issue, but I thought his laissez faire attitude fit the story perfectly. He simply respected a woman's individual right to fulfil their needs and expected nothing of it in return. Lisbeth on the other hand is well beyond her issues. We only get dribs and drabs of her story, so it really is her will to survive herself that endears her to the reader. She's a fighter, and we all love a fighter. I watched the Swedish film version and absolutely loved it. I don't think any other actress will be able to play Lisbeth as well as Noomi Rapace. Sorry Hollywood, I just ain't buying your casting on this one. As for the book, much has been said of humanity's propensity towards violence, expecially violence towards the weak, and much has been said of the psychological defense mechanisms we put in place to survive ourselves. In this exploration, the book delivered. However, some readers might find the pacing a bit slow and some of the storylines overdone at the expense of the main serial killer plot point. I didn’t mind and enjoyed most of the detail even if the text had more clichés than I would have liked. However, I would have cut some of the unnecessary detail in order to give a more upfront and personal account of Blomkvist and Salander. Much of their backstory is ambiguous and needs to be inferred by the reader, which isn’t really a problem, but for me, personally, I would have liked to get a little more intimate with both of them, sans the coffee.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn. Meet Libby, survivor of the “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas,” where her convicted child-molester brother slaughtered their family. Libby, only ten years old at the time, testified against her bother, sending him to prison for life, but when she meets a national "Kill Club" in search of some easy cash, she begins to doubt her brother's guilt as they do. For a who-dun-it, this is quite good. All the characters are loathsome and there are enough twists, turns, and chapter end cliff-hangers to keep you turning the pages, thought some might find the narrative choppy and abrupt. I especially enjoyed the shifting time and point of view; however, by the second chapter, I understood that the main character's narrative was present time first person POV, so the chapter titles: Libby NOW became annoying after a while. Even so, the book is quite a dark and violent thriller, but almost all the characters managed to redeem themselves in the end. Almost. I really liked that the story candidly addressed our rather inept legal system not to mention the uncomfortable notion that some children who claim abuse are not actually telling the truth. Because of their innocence and desire to please, a child's testimony can be manipulated and is often shaky at best. The book also addresses the alienation of youth and how susceptible the outcast teenager can be to negative influences. I didn’t find anything that Ben “actually” did all that far off base. As for Libby, she reminded me a little of Lisbeth Salander in Dragon Tattoo, well, actually, she reminded me of Lisbeth a lot, except that Lisbeth you like immediately and Libby won't rub you quite the right way until the end of the book. Libby is selfish and hateful, choosing to exploit her victim status for sympathy and cash, which eventually leads to the truth, but it is a nasty way to get there. This is not a book for readers who need to like and connect with the characters. It’s not just dark in its story, it’s dark in its ideas and implications. It's a story about misinformation and misdirection. It's a story about the good and the evil in all of us.

I am off to have turkey, so Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Don’t forget to stop by tomorrow for our Black Friday Free Book Giveaway Announcement to start off the Holiday shopping season.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Review -- Grundish and Askew

Title: Grundish and Askew
Author: Lance Carbuncle
Genre: Lit Fic/Bizarro
Publisher: Vicious Galloot Books
Price: $12.50
Pages: 316
ISBN: 978-0982280003
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Cheryl Anne Gardner

Book Description: Strap on your athletic cup and grab a barf bag. The Dr. Reverend Lance Carbuncle is going to kick you square in the balls and send you on a wild ride that may or may not answer the following questions: what happens when two white trash, trailer park-dwelling, platonic life partners go on a moronic and misdirected crime spree?; can their manly love for each other endure when one of them suffers a psychological bitch-slap that renders him a homicidal maniac?; will a snaggletoothed teenage prostitute tear them apart?; what is the best way to use a dead illegal alien to your advantage in a hostage situation?; what's that smell?; and, what the hell is Alf the Sacred Burro coughing up? Carbuncle's latest offering, Grundish and Askew, ponders these troubling questions and more. So sit down, put on some protective goggles, and get ready for Carbuncle to blast you in the face with a warm load of fictitious sickness.

Oh Grundish, when are you gonna learn that that boy [Askew] ain't right?

I had a lot of fun with this book. Sure, it's got my kinda characters: deviant, damaged, and absurd. It also has a whole lot of toilet humour, but that didn't stop me from loving Grundish and Askew or wanting to root for them even though I knew from the prologue that it was gonna end badly. Why did I love it so much, even with the detailed descriptions of puke and shit and masturbation and old donkey hairballs? Well, I loved it because it was about friendship and a man's word. It was about doing the right thing just because you know it's right, not necessarily because it is right.

Grundish and Askew have been friends since childhood, and they sort of have this platonic life partner situation going on -- not in a gay way. Born and raised in the trailer park, Grundish has been in and out of prison his entire life it seems, and Askew, the frailer and more sensitive of this demented comedy crime duo, knows he is damned by bad genetics and would rather die than find himself incarcerated; yet he can't stop getting himself into trouble. Grundish has taken the rap for him several times, cuz that's just the kinda person he is. He lives his life by a rather disjointed ethical code, but he's got one nonetheless. If I had to make a literary reference, once might compare them to Steinbeck's George and Lennie; although Askew isn't mentally disabled, he's just uneducated trailer trash. That's his lot in life, and he isn't happy about it. He'd rather be with his best friend running a yacht brothel in international waters, getting stoned and drunk all day long, and taking care of the "ladies." Delivering pizza to rich assholes isn't the life he aspires to but at least he isn't miming advertising on the corner and fucking his fat parole officer like his friend Grundish. However, a clean life just wasn't what they were meant for. If you want a modern reference, I thought the boys reminded me a little of Seth and Richard Gecko from the movie Dusk till Dawn: Grundish being Seth, the practical contemplative criminal who dreams of whores and a life of luxury in Mexico, and Askew definitely reminded me of Richie, a whacked out sociopath and downright psycho waiting to happen.

Couple that with a crime spree comedy plotline, Aunt Turleen -- the one-crispy-lunged feisty grand Aunt of Askwew -- the reaper dog she killed at the old folks home for licking her feet who now shows up in her dreams and gives her knives and cigarettes and tells her how best she can help the boys, Dora, the skeevy anorexic moneyed up teenage prostitute, and then throw in a whole cast of trailer park paedophiles and sex offenders and you got yourself a recipe for frozen meat assaults, burglary, Git-an-go convenience store stanky bathroom sex, a whole lot of interesting meals, and murder.

The boys are like a shit-storm of bad judgement. Like a Julian and Ricky without a Bubbles to rein them in. Aunt Turleen tries, but, despite her spunk, she just doesn't have it in her to keep the boys from going astray. When Askew kills a paedophile at the trailer park because the man ejaculates on him in a scuffle and everyone has to go on the lamb, including Aunt Turleen, it's like watching Smokey and the Bandit with a couple of criminal retards behind the wheel. Eventually Askew's mental state deteriorates to the point where he is beating people to death with his feet, kidnapping local teens and cutting their ears off, and subsequently killing the owner of the house they are hiding out in before they get a get a chance to finish their squat/burglarize and leave huge stinky turds in the toilet routine. It doesn't stop there either. After taking the homeowner's afternoon delight hostage, they wind up in a shitty ole junkyard with a puking farting old circus donkey, a dead Mexican hoodlum, and a bona fide police standoff. Throw in Turleen's dream rendezvous with the dead reaper dog and you've got one hell of a ride here.

As for the writing, the editing was excellent, minor formatting issues aside, and the author makes a deliberate decision opting to bash his head through the third wall, which didn't really bother me in the slightest. The author even made up his own words from time to time, which I also admire. Sometimes you just gotta embellish like that to keep it all fresh, and I howled when the TV news crew admitted they were just some made up part of a story and that they could do anything they wanted to whenever they wanted to, on air or not, including cursing and killing each other. Even Askew's constant mispronouncing and misspelling of words wasn't distracting enough to break the spell; although I did stop reading the footnotes after a while. They were funny, but they kept pulling me out of the story for no real good reason, so after about the third or fourth one, I just ignored them and read them later after I had finished the book.

Trailer Park Loonies on the Lamb would make a nice movie title, and just like the comedy series Trailer Park Boys, in the end it's all about friendship and tenacity, even if they don't make it to prison this time around. Askew even finds love. I won't lie, we are not talking high philosophy or some dark Jungian satirical tragedy replete with artistic brooding or soapbox preaching here: raunchy and nauseatingly vile, this book somehow manages to transform itself into a hilarious and touching story. Think Thelma and Louise with a couple of meaty, belching and farting misfits, sans the justification, and you've got it. I recommend this to all readers who like anti-hero stories and bizzaro criminal caper dramedies.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Page 99 -- Pepe by Robby Charters

Page 99 of Pepe
An Adventure Novel
by Robby Charters
Reprinted with Permission: © Robby Charters, All Rights Reserved

Book Description: The year is 2040. We have people living on Mars, but haven't sorted out life on earth yet. To the boy washing windscreens at the traffic signal, it could just as well be 1940.
The boy is Pepe. He doesn't know who his real parents are. His 'grandma' dies in a slum fire, and he is left to fend for himself and his grandma's biological granddaughter, Po, whom he treats like a real sister. They live in an abandoned construction site with other homeless children. With help from a young computer hacker named Raul and a mystical old man named Atsuko, Pepe discovers his true identity.

The villain: General Don Juan Clemente, who seized power from the king ten years ago, and installed himself as president for life. The General has a degenerative disease that is paralysing him. However, his brain has been linked to a computer network that enables him to control the country and destroy any threat to his power. Right now, his biggest threat is the very existence of Pepe.
on line. Raul booted his own laptop off the battery, and then hurried outside, started the
generator, ran back again and rebooted his desktop system.

By the time he was back on line, The President was already on the phone again with
the First Army commander.

"It's worse than I feared," said the President. "Primavera and the whole Northern
Army Division are attacking from the North..."

This was worse than Raul had feared. Soon the President would be ready for them.

"...Get your units out there on the double! Here's a satellite map..."

Drat! The power failure unblocked the satellite links!

"...You'll know where to go. Just hold them off as best as you can while I contact the
Southern Army Division. They've got a paratrooper battalion."

Raul was pulling his hair. We lost the element of surprise! It'll take forever for Papa to
get through! And now the Southern Army -- with paratroopers, too -- will Papa be able

A flash: Raul linked his laptop into the port that would control communications to the
Southern Army Region. Again, Elvis went to work. Then he tried to see if he couldn't hack
backwards into the President's Bin2neuro Interpreter.
* * *
Francisco was sitting on the back of his Honda at a point where he could see the
Presidential Palace about a block down in one direction, and the President's Guard
Headquarters two blocks down in the other. His helmet was wired up for two-way
communications to Romeo and Sergeant Simonez, the leader of Carlo's men.

He had already noticed all the lights go out. Policemen had been directing traffic by
hand until sirens suddenly began sounding. Then, they began directing traffic to stop
and pull off into side streets.

Francisco stayed where he was, behind some parked cars. Then he saw something
coming down the street from the Guard Headquarters. It was a procession of troop
carriers and combat robots.

"Watch Three here, are you receiving me, Watch Two, Watch One? Over."

"Watch One, here, Receiving you loud and clear, over," came Romeo's voice.

"Watch Two, also receiving. Over."

"They're on the move, going towards Dockyards. Looks like an invasion force. Over."
* * *
Pepe, Raquel, Po and the others could see the first battalion through their VR masks.

They were approaching the street that ran along the other side of the motorway from
Dockyards. They were also wired for sound to Romeo and his boys.

"Don't let 'em get a foothold!" came Romeo's voice. "Over to you bots."

"Right," said Pepe. "We start shoot'n then."

They started shooting, and the ground troops began to retreat. But suddenly, a row of
robots moved in. They were all bigger than their's.

"Where did those come from?" gasped Pepe.

"I don't know!" said Raul.

A gunfight between opposing armies of robots started.

After a bit of fumbling, Raul added, "They're not on any of our frequencies."

Even though the kids aimed at all the right places, the big bots were impenetrable.

Pepe's screen suddenly went all snowy. "Oh, God! I been hit!"

"Me, too!" said Muhammad.

Raquel's and Yakov's went out at the same time. Then Po's.

"What the heck do we do now?" said Pepe.

"We'll win without high-tech! That's what we do!" retorted Raquel.
Robby Charters once worked in a place very similar to Mercy House (one of the settings in the story), and often wishes he were back. He writes from experience with street children, computer technology, and other issues, but most of the story comes from his imagination. He, his wife and young son feel at home in both Northern Ireland and Thailand. He currently teaches at a Bi-lingual school in Bangkok.
Blog: http://bobcharters.blogspot.com
Novels: www.tinyurl.com/RobbysBooks

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.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Review: The Vampire with the Pink Handbag

Title: The Vampire with the Pink Handbag
Author: Sharee Greene
Genre: Romance?
Publisher: Lulu
Price: $19.99/$5.00 (ebook)
Pages: 316
ISBN: 978-0557161010
Point of Sale: Amazon/Lulu
Reviewed by: Veinglory

I wanted to like The Vampire with the Pink Handbag, I really did.  It is gay fiction, it has vampires--two of my favorite things.  Oriole, a unfeasibly gorgeous male teenage vampire is going to a school specifically for vampires for the first time.  He immediately becomes friends with two vampire girls, Jamie and Pear.  He also immediately gets caught up in a tumultuous romantic relationship with another boy called Josh, and entangled in Josh's mysterious connection with two other powerful teen vampires, Roland and, um, Rayon.  (Yes, a sexy mind-reading vampire named after a cheap synthetic fiber).

My first stumbling block was that none of the characters are very nice.  They behave erratically and several of the 'love interest' males are extremely abusive, violent, judgemental, unfaithful and controlling.  But that's fine so long as they love you, apparently.  I get that vampires in this world are slow to mature and at the mercy of a turbo-charged form of adolescence, but that doesn't mean I find their melodramatic dialogue and sexual violence acceptable and entertaining.  (By contrast Edward Cullen starts to look like a sensitive new age metrosexual.)

I suppose I could have gone with the premise and content of the book if the writing and formatting had allowed me to get swept up in the hyper-hormonal world of vampire college.  Unfortunately Ms. Greene's prose is feels like it needs some time to mature.  The narrative seems more focused on costume than motivation, and is rife with shifting points of view and jarring word choices.  Add to that the lack of right justification and spacing between paragraphs that ranges from none to four of five lines for no apparent reason, and reading this book became something of a chore.

The Vampire with the Pink Handbag is a reasonable and timely idea for a teen vampire novel but it fails in the execution, quickly becoming a mire of head hopping and bed hopping lacking either the style or narrative momentum needed to make this a book a pleasure to read. (4/10)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Word Made Flesh -- c.anne.gardner

I stumbled on this video book trailer over on tattoolit.com, which is the promotional site for a new book highlighting the trend of Literary Tattoos.

The Word Made Flesh - book trailer from Tattoolit on Vimeo.

I am sure non-tattoo people are wondering: What's a literary tattoo? Well, in a literal sense, it means getting your favourite author's words tattooed to your body. In a more figurative sense, it could mean any artistic interpretation of those words or perhaps even an illustration from your favourite children's book. I've seen some people even get portraits of their favourite authors. Poe always looks good in a tattoo portrait. However, it's not really a new trend. People have been getting inspirational words tattooed to their bodies at least as long as I have been getting tattoos, which is going on twenty plus years now.

I've been drawing on my body probably as long as I have loved the written word. Of course, I wouldn't confess to either when I was younger. I made a fuss when my step-father made me read the classics, and when I drew on myself, I made sure no one could see it, lest I get grounded along with the lecture about how I was going to poison myself.

Now at forty-five years old, I openly confess my love of literature, including the ole stodgy classics, but sadly, I don't always openly confess my love of tattoos, especially if I am in mixed company. When I first starting debating the idea of a tattoo, I heard all the crap in the world about it via friends and family: Nice men won't want to date you. You won't ever get a proper job. When you get older, you will look like a circus freak... Yup, I have heard it all, and while there is "some" validity in those statements, getting tattooed does not automatically condemn you to a life of Helga the dungeon master or Lolita the biker gang bitch. I married a nice man, he doesn't have a single tattoo, and I have been able to sustain a career in a very conservative environment working with high-level executives without anyone being the wiser. So you don't have to change your name to "skank." Not if you think about what you are doing as an art form and treat it that way. I knew I would someday, possibly, probably have to steer the course towards a mainstream career if I wanted to pay a mortgage and do all those other responsible things adult people do, so when I contemplated getting my first tattoo at nineteen, I was very conservative in my approach. The anarchist in me got what it wanted, but I made sure the tattoo couldn't be seen if I didn't want it to be seen. I have followed that tattoo philosophy since then and have been able to enjoy the artistic expression to the tune of fifteen tattoos and counting, including a large back-piece I just had finished over vacation. I do mean my entire back. To look at me in my business suit from 9-5, one wouldn't think it of me, and most people are surprised when they find out how many I have and how big they are. See, tattooing is like writing for me, it's a very personal thing, and while I love explaining to other artists why I wrote about a particular something in one of my novellas or what this particular tattoo imagery means to me, I am not always ready to drop my clothes for the general public. Because some people just don't "get it."

I got into a discussion over on Facebook when someone a friend knew got the Chinese character for "Honor" tattooed to them, and yet, they aren't Chinese. They wanted to know why the person just didn't get the word "honor" tattooed instead. Therefore, I had to run it down for this friend of mine in art terms. Sometimes we can be literal and sometimes we can't or don't want to be. Real writers know this. Sometimes we can just say what we mean, and sometimes we need to use imagery in the form of a metaphor to get the effect we desire. See Spot Run might be to the point, but it lacks finesse. Anything you contemplate putting permanently on your body should have a bit of finesse. It's a visual interpretation of who you are, and I don't think it should be taken lightly.

Where is this article going? Nowhere, really. I just wanted to share the link to the book, share my love of the art form, and I wanted to discuss how hard-pressed I would be to choose a specific author's words for a tattoo. Don't get me wrong, I have plenty of words tattooed to my body. I have Logos and Epignosis in Greek tattooed to my arm. Both are from the Bible, but both are also from a much older Greek philosophical order I subscribe to. Logos just happens to be the title of one of my books, as well, which was convenient. On my back, I have a bit of verse in Elder Futhark next to a very large tree with a snake and an apple. I know people who have scripture tattooed to their bodies, and I know people who have the words of Poe and Shakespeare. If I took all the dog-eared pages of all the books I have read in my lifetime and used those words, I would be covered in prose from head to toe.

So, my fellow writers and artists out there ... do you have tattoos, and if so, were any of them inspired by a book you loved?

Read the interview with Eva Talmadge and Justin Taylor over on Mediabistro here.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Official Indie Book Reviewer List by Christy Pinheiro

Christy Pinheiro is the owner of PassKey Publications an independent press focusing on Accounting, Finance, and Tax preparation books. Christy is also an Indie Author and runs the Self Publishing Review blog under the moniker The Publishing Maven and the Indie publishing resource site Step by Step Self Publishing.net.

I met Christy a while back when she sent me an invitation to join a book bloggers network over on ning.com where she was creating a list of review blogs willing to take on self-published books. That list eventually morphed into a full-blown ebook released by Christy this week on her blog, which you may download here for only 99 cents in PDF format.

There are a number of review blog listing sites, first and foremost, the Preditors and Editors site, but there has never been a more comprehensive list than this, and at 99 cents, it's a bargain considering all the work that went into it. Christy also keeps an abridged version of the list on the website as well, which is updated frequently.

Need to find some new review sites for your indie published book, here's the place to go.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Story -- S.L. Armstrong & K. Piet

Let's give a warm Pod-Peep welcome this week to S.L. Armstrong and K. Piet, authors of Cast the Cards.

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

[S.L.] We write, mainly, in the niche market of erotic fiction. Right now, our offerings are primarily M/M fiction, though that will change as we continue to write, and after checking into the various e-presses we could publish with, we decided it made more sense to just do it ourselves. The professional e-presses didn't offer much in the way of editing, the formatting of their e-books was atrocious sometimes, the cover art was enough to make one's eyes bleed more often than not, and very few offered the books in print. After debating it for a few months, we decided it would be best for us to self-publish if we wanted to sell a product we were proud of.

[K.] In addition to what S.L. said, one of the main reasons we wanted to self-publish instead of seek out traditional publishing contracts was that we wanted to have full creative control over our work. By that, I mean that we wanted control over not only the editing and cover art, but also of the content itself. We wanted the freedom to write whatever story we thought deserved to be told. We wanted to be able to address controversial elements in our stories without anyone breathing down our necks who would have a final say about our characters, worlds, or plots instead of us. We also wanted the freedom to pursue stories that aren't part of what may be popular at any given time. Many great stories don't get contracts because they aren't part of the current fad. We didn't want to have to wait years to have someone validate our work with a contract when we could do it ourselves and not hand over the majority of our royalties.

[S.L.] Our expectations, I feel, were—and still are—quite realistic. We'd like to sell enough books to return the investment we've placed in the books, and then make a enough to just pay our bills. We don't want to be rich and famous, gain a traditional contract, or anything of the sort. We'd like to just pay our bills and make back our investments, and that's all. Anything beyond that is icing on the cake. Ultimately, we don't expect to be turning a larger profit until Year Three, and we're just now concluding Year One, so we have a ways to go. We're in this for the long-haul, and we've only just begun.

[K.] Indeed, this is just the beginning for us! It's less about an expectation on what we get and more an expectation on ourselves and what we give. We have an expectation of ourselves to consistently put out quality material. We're hoping that effort and dedication to the work comes across to our audience and pulls in enough readers to pay the bills and make back the investments. Definitely nothing extraordinary.

Why did you select your specific publisher?

[S.L.] The very first time I self-published (which was a book that is no longer available), it was through Lulu. The experience was a nightmare that ended with me barely selling 100 books. This time 'round, we decided we'd bypass any sort of self-publishing company and contract with the printer directly. For our printed books, we work with Lightning Source. Our e-books are produced by my husband who does that sort of thing for a living.

[K.] I hadn't been previously published, but after learning about it all, true, independent self-publishing made the most sense, and that meant creating our own company to work directly with Lightning Source. Storm Moon Press is the product of our efforts. Thanks to our team of writers, artists, editors, formatters, and typesetters, it has become a great small press.

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

[S.L.] Our first e-book, The Keeper, was released in August. We've sold about a book a day. I think that's pretty damn good as it shows a steady interest. I think we'll see more sales as we release more books. Backlist is important. Right now, we just released Cast the Cards in both print and e-book, which included works by us and four other authors. So far, we have reached every goal we set for ourselves when we created Storm Moon Press back in January.

[K.] It's incredibly exciting and fulfilling! Each goal we set for ourselves is realistic, and though it takes effort, we always feel those intrinsic rewards when we reach those milestones. In addition to our two releases, we have several more in various stages of the writing and editing process. We have even expanded a bit to include an audiobook version of our first release, The Keeper. There is a great deal on the horizon, and we can't wait to continue on and drive the roots of the company deeper and see where time takes us.

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

[S.L.] Be sure you know all you're getting into, and be certain you have the fortitude to create a quality product. Patience is a virtue you will need. A bit of money wouldn't hurt, either. It can be expensive to produce a book that is indistinguishable from the mass market product in the local bookstore. While that may not be everyone's goal, it has been my own, and so an average book costs us between $1,000 and $2,000 to produce. It's important to have the money to invest—because it is an investment. This is something you will be asking people to pay money for, and so you owe it to them to give them an enjoyable and near-flawless experience if you don't want your book held up as an example by both traditional and non-traditional publishing of what not to do.

[K.] Also, don't be afraid to ask questions of those around you and seek help from people who are better equipped to handle one aspect of your publishing experience, be it marketing, editing, or making cover art. Independent publishing means you're in charge, so you have to be willing to take the bull by the horns but reach out for help when needed. You might be in charge, but you don't have to be alone and an expert on every detail to put out a quality product. You can hire someone with professional experience to take care of an aspect in which you lack skill. On the other hand, you might decide that your goals aren't in line with full-on self-publishing, and that's perfectly all right. Just do your research on your options and find what's best for your work, even if that means changing the game plan for each manuscript.

K. Piet
was born in California and raised in Flagstaff, Arizona with her older sister and two cats. A graduate of the University of Nevada—Las Vegas in Allied Health Kinesiology, K. is a nationally certified, licensed massage therapist and specializes in therapeutic bodywork for those involved in artistic sports such as gymnastics and figure skating, circus performance, and professional dance.

Writing is her newly discovered passion, and, in addition to her adventures with the written word, K. enjoys drawing, Cirque du Soleil, musical theatre, and hoop-dancing, all of which she feels balance her scientific, kinesiology side with her flare for the artistic and dramatic. She currently has one novel available from Storm Moon Press, The Keeper, which was co-authored with S.L. Armstrong. She loves to hear from her readers, who can e-mail her at K.Piet@logophile.net.

S.L. Armstrong was born in West Virginia and raised in Tampa, Florida with her younger brother and a family dog. She has been a voracious reader since early childhood, a hobby encouraged by her mother. In middle school, S.L. began to write as a hobby, scribbling poetry and snippets of prose during her classes. By the end of her high school career, she'd filled three binders full of her writings. It was the beginning of a life-long obsession with words and worlds, characters and plots.

Shortly after high school, S.L. married her husband, who has always encouraged her in her chosen field. They currently live together in Bradenton, Florida, with seven cats and two dogs, and she is one of three founders of Storm Moon Press. S.L. currently has one novel available from Storm Moon Press, The Keeper, which was co-authored with K. Piet. Upcoming projects include Rachmaninoff and Catalyst, both also co-authored with K. Piet, and will be available from Storm Moon Press.

Website & Blog Links:
K. Piet's website: http://www.kpiet.net/
K. Piet's blog: http://kpiet.wordpress.com/
S.L. Armstrong's website: http://www.slarmstrong.net/
S.L. Armstrong's blog: http://slarmstrong.wordpress.com/
Storm Moon Press website: http://www.stormmoonpress.com/

Buy Link for Book: http://www.stormmoonpress.com/books/Cast-the-Cards.aspx

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, November 11, 2010

Review: 9/11 Heartbreaker by Craig Staufenberg

Title: 9/11 Heartbreaker
Author: Craig Staufenberg
Genre: Comic
Price: $4.99/$2.99
Point of Sale: IndyPlanet/E-Junkie
Reviewed by: Veinglory
9/11 Heartbreaker is appealingly presented and easy to read.  It is 28-page comicbook that combines some thoughts about the events of 9/11 with a simple story about the meeting of the protagonist (female) and a young man who is collecting peoples stories of people's memories of the events of 9/11.  It is a pleasant enough read but ultimately I found that it's message was muted and somewhat undermined by the story's short length and internal contradictions. 

The reader is presented with a deeply personal account of an iconic American event, but from what must be a fictional point of view given the contrast between the writer and protagonist (for example, in race and gender).  Simultaneously a love interest is inserted into the story who in many ways resembles the author.  Thus 9/11 Heartbreaker seems simultaneously insightful and immature, empathetic and self-involved, revealing and deceptive.  This comic's virtues are ultimately, in my opinion, more in its texture and tone rather than its message or meaning--which while very well presented strike me as ultimately not of lasting interest.


Thoughts on The Craft -- c.anne.gardner

You know, I was reading this absolutely wonderful interview with writer Yiyun Li over at Fiction Writers Review when I stumbled upon yet another award winning author speaking the truth about writing. I will share this snippet and everyone can then pop over and read the entire interview, as it is very informative.

In this part of the interview Ms. Li was asked what she felt the difference was between writing a screenplay and writing a novel, and her answer, of course, did not surprise me:

[...] when your characters talk all the time, actors cannot act, directors cannot direct.” Which was illuminating to me. I realized it’s the same thing. When you write fiction, you’re always told to show not tell, which I strongly disagree with. We say “storyteller,” we never say “storyshower,” because stories are told, not shown. In any case, I went back to the screenplay. Wayne was very helpful. He said, “I want forty percent of silence in your script. Forty percent of silence—they cannot talk.” I realize that when they don’t talk, you’re actually writing about real things. You’re doing a lot of summary, too, and that’s a very important skill in fiction. You don’t have to show everything. I know that’s what a lot of younger writers would say. They would give you dialogue to give you information, which is the most inefficient and artificial way to give information, right? You can just tell your readers. So I did a few drafts of the screenplay, and I thought, Oh, this is so easy. This is exactly as when you write a story. You choose what to show and what to tell.

Wow! Actually writing about real things, she says. So, how many award winning writers have to say this before we all stop listing to that crap writing cliché???? If I hear one more literary ignoramus spout off about writing in scenes to avoid the craptapularly heinous info-dump, I am going to projectile vomit my disdain all over them -- with chunks of greasy bile thrown in for good measure.

Ms. Li says that writing summary is a very important skill in fiction. She is not the only one who says that. Ask any MFA student and they will tell you the same thing. Ask any Lit Professor and any real reader for that matter. It is very important, and writing good summary is harder than writing a scene. There is a correct way to write summary and then there is the dreaded info-dump. Beautifully written and engaging summary is not the same as an info-dump. Who coined that idiotic phrase anyway? Info dump? Shit, half the people I hear say that don't even know what the hell it means. But you, as a serious writer will know what it means, if you want to, and the more excellent literature you read, the more, as a serious writer, you will understand this. You can tell things to a reader and still make it engaging. I kid you not. If done well, summary contains just as much mood and movement as a scene, without actually being one. I particularly like the forty percent silence constraint Ms. Li mentions. A book heavy on scene is exhausting to read. It doesn't give the reader time to slow down and contemplate what is happening. Summary works to break up the manic moments in a story. It's a place for flashbacks and flashforwards, for fitting in a bit of backstory -- because people don't spew their life history to each other. Normal conversation is disjointed at best -- and it's also used for scene setting. Sure we can squeeze all this into the action, but then the reader is never given an opportunity to just relax in the silence and take in the moment. Not that it's anything spectacular, but I'll share an example from my latest release Logos:

Elise, the young sweet thing. “The apple of my eye,” her mother would say to her while foisting a condescending opinion at her down the length of a rigid bony finger, and Elise would ingratiate herself, if only for the moment. Rebellion just felt natural, like a prerequisite to adulthood, so being labeled a little wild child of the X-generation didn’t seem such a cliché after all. She could tolerate the finger pointing: there were no real consequences, so what did it matter?

To the outside world, even those closest to her, she was cheerful, well adjusted, and exuded a genuine love of life. “A shiny new penny” people often said of her. However, underneath that vivacious and affable exterior — the bouncy red hair, the apricot sheen of her lips, and the quiet blue of her eyes — the twenty–one year old grappled with a hopelessness utterly beyond her control. She was not of a strong mind. She was, in fact, incredibly weak when it came to the opinions of others, more importantly, their opinions and perceptions of her. Could she ever be perfect enough? Popular enough? Smart enough? Pretty enough? As if any of it mattered. But it did. What she adamantly claimed didn’t matter was actually everything she needed. There is something to be said for one’s own perception, how it can be so easily manipulated and distorted, but I was tired of walking and tired of pondering the existential conundrums of the dysfunctional. I just wanted a drink.

Now in that excerpt, I am telling the reader about Elise. It's not necessary for Elise to show herself to the audience, since she dies at the end of the vignette, anyway, and that's not what is really important to the story. How the narrator, or rather the main character Selena, perceives Elise is what is critical here, not Elise's perception of herself. It's the projection that matters to use psych terminology here. However, a summary like this doesn't have to be bland: there is action, dialog, movement, and vivid description. It's not Proust, just my own feeble attempt, but you get the point. I could have just said Elise had low self-esteem and that her insecurities were crippling. Sure, one sentence would have done it all, but it would have been rather flat, I think. That's the difference between showing and telling: with practice and attention to the craft, you show while you tell and you tell while you show. Showing has nothing to do with writing in scenes; it has only to do with mood and movement.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

The Art this week is Schonagauer's Temptation of Saint Anthony circa 1480.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Review: Last Exit in New Jersey

Title: Last Exit in New Jersey
Author: C. E. Grundler
Genre: action / thriller
Price: $2.99
Publisher: Amazon / Kindle
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

The promotional copy for Last Exit in New Jersey starts Nice young ladies from the Garden State really shouldn't be dumping bodies at sea. Then again, 20 year-old Hazel Moran is anything but your typical Jersey girl. Those events start in Chapter 1, and that’s a fairly good indication of what you’re getting in C. E. Grundler’s first novel. The work, available only electronically, is a modern hard-boiled / noir novel with a serious fixation on boating.

The characters spend ten days in late June and early July running up and down the Jersey coast in various boats, trucks and fast cars. For reasons unknown, a group of people is desperately trying to find Hazel’s cousin and best friend Micah, and they are perfectly willing to carve the information out of Hazel. The first problem is that Hazel has no idea where Micah is, and the second problem is that Hazel can drive or sail just about anything smaller than an aircraft carrier, which makes finding her difficult. But Hazel’s no Woman of Steel – she’s remorseful, rebellious and moody, basically pitch-perfect for her age.

Last Exit is well-written and fast-paced, and has high production values. It’s definitely worth the read. Having said that, Grundler does something that I personally dislike, even though it’s a common plot device. I call it “false suspense.” In the basic form, false suspense works like this: Character X, a trusted confidant of Character Y, tells X to trust Character Z, whom Y has never met. However, neither X or Z bothers to sit down and explain why Z should be trustworthy. So, Y doesn’t trust Z, and acts accordingly. This happens several times in the book, usually in conjunction with an attempt to kidnap Hazel to keep her safe.

People, just talk to each other! (Sorry, that was me yelling at the characters.) Seriously, even if a character explains why they can be trusted, the requisite tension and distrust can still happen. After all, just because a character says something doesn’t make it true.

Other than that somewhat personal peeve, I found Last Exit in New Jersey to be a fast, well-written and entertaining story. I hope to see more from Ms. Grundler.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Page 99 -- Jillian's Gold by Levi Montgomery

Page 99 of Jillian's Gold
A Novel
by Levi Montgomery
Reprinted with Permission: © 2009 Levi Montgomery, All Rights Reserved

Book Description:
Jillian has lost her mother, her home, her favorite aunt, and every friend she's ever known. Now she's found Royal. But is he the most perfect boy ever made, or is he a serial killer with a grudge?

lecture that he’s obligated by every rule of teachership to deliver to her.

He’s grinning a big wide grin, and he says “Headed for lunch? In a hurry to get to that nice, nutritional lunch, huh?” rubbing his hands together and heading down the hall a step like come on, let’s walk. She stands her ground like no way am I walking with you! and he stops.

“Jillian, I’ve been meaning to talk to you, anyway.”

Come on, let’s just get the it’s-unsafe-to-run-in-the-halls lecture over with.

There’s an outside door nearby, and he moves that way, saying “Let’s step out of this crowd, ok?” and out of this crowd with him is exactly where she doesn’t want to be. There’s a big window in the door, though, and a narrow one on either side, and people in here will still be able to see her, so she follows him, but her hands are starting to get sweaty. She’s got a big binder that won’t fit in her backpack, and she hugs it to her breast like armor.

He’s still got that big smile on. Daddy says a smiling wolf is not a sheep, it’s a wolf with a smile, and there is no way she’s being Little Red Riding Hood for this creep. As the door closes behind them, he does that come on, let’s walk thing again, and she stands as still as she can, watching his shirt button as he moves backward toward the parking lot. If she stares hard enough at that button, she can either stop him with the sheer drag of her gaze, and make him say what he’s got to say right here, or push him away from her so she can go eat with Royal.

None of the girls she has much contact with trust him. The boys all think he’s great, with all his high-fives and back-slaps and half-hugs, and there are some girls in that crowd, too, but all the ones she’s gotten to know say to look out for him. They say there’s something disturbing about a grown man who wants that much contact with a teenage girl. Her own thoughts are that nobody can give that many high-fives, bump that many fists, unless he’s reaching for something. Nobody can show that many molars unless he’s hiding something.

When he glides though the morning halls on his skateboard, ducked down low so he won’t stand out like a penguin in a hen-house, the boys all line up to hide him. The girls move to the other side of the hall, watching the floor, studying their nails.
Levi Montgomery
on Twitter as @LeviMontgomery

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, November 08, 2010

Review -- Rolling With The Punches

Title: Rolling With The Punches
Author: Jamie Kerrick
Genre: GLBT/Dramedy
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Price: $14.95
Pages: 236
ISBN: 978-1432754471
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Cheryl Anne Gardner

Joey Douglas' dad always told him when things got rough to "roll with the punches," and let's just say that Joey takes quite a few hits over the course of his fifty years. This story is billed as a dramedy for gay recovering addicts and alcoholics, but it reads more like a memoir than a tragic comedy, even if the main character, Joey, is funny in his own sarcastic self-deprecating way.

If I had to describe the reader experience, well, mine anyway, I would say it was like Dolly Parton's favourite emotion in Steel Magnolias: laughter through tears. However, many readers will just find it very frustrating and want to reach in and slap some sense into Joey. If you have no experience with addiction and alcoholism, you probably won't be able to connect with the main character and won't find the story all that stimulating or Joey all that endearing. Now if you have experience, either personally or with a loved one, this account of a man living in despair will ring all too true.

Joey lives in rural Kentucky, not necessarily the sort of place a young man wants to discover himself gay. He is tormented and abused, labelled a sissy, and left on his own to live in a fantasy world comprised of cliché now gay iconic films, music, and Broadway shows. Liza is mentioned a lot as is Babs and Judy Garland. His father isn't too fond of him idolizing women, and the relationship is strained at best. Joey's isolation takes a terrible toll on his psyche. He thinks his father hates him and is disappointed in him. So, convinced that there is something "wrong" with him, he first seeks solace in God with prayer: "God, if you'd put your son through all that Easter stuff, no wonder you're so hard on the rest of us." to no avail, which leads him to seek solace in alcohol and then later drugs in an attempt to reconcile his place in the world. Being openly gay is something Joey fears right up till the end of the book. He never confesses it, not even in AA. He keeps his addiction close and those who care about him at a distance. Subterfuge should be Joey's middle name, but to grow up gay in such an anti-gay environment not only made being a liar possible, it made it a necessity. All Joey wants is for people to accept him and maybe someday for someone to love him. More or less what everyone wants and has the right to have.

Sexuality is and always has been the number one fucked-up topic of discussion of all time. According to normal society, unless you do it hetero-missionary position with your eyes closed and the lights off, praying to God that he's looking the other way so he doesn't see that you are actually enjoying it, then you are a sexual deviant in some way. Can you imagine how many people feel like that and feel that the decision to hide one of the most important parts of themselves from the world at large is a matter of life or death? I can. I can imagine and understand how painful it must be. It's no wonder why Joey got into dance and Broadway shows. He needed the release; he needed the stage so he could just be someone else for a moment, maybe a someone else people would like. And they do like him, after a fashion, but only superficially and he knows it. Artistic talent rarely brings relief to the tortured artist, so why would it for the tortured gay guy?

As the story progresses, Joey finds himself in a myriad of situations that are typical for someone in the middle of a very serious identity crisis who uses drugs and alcohol to blunt the punches life deals him. He is a blackout drunk, so one can only speculate on what might have been "done" to him in his compromised state. It sort of made me think of Teddy when he went through his addiction phase on Queer as Folk. Joey too distrusts everyone, even those trying to help him. Like a typical addict, he is a user and an avoider. Everything he tries fails because, like an addict, he gives no effort and chooses to blame his dysfunction on his "situation" so he can feel ok with feeling out of control and thus justify the drug and alcohol use as therapeutic. Sure, he takes quite a lot of knocks in his life: there's some hate crime in the form of assault, many of his friends die of aids, his dad gets cancer and dies, his close friends move away ... and his favourite shrink moves away and then subsequently passes away. Having to deal with bigotry, betrayal, and abandonment during one's formative years is certain to leave scars, but the real issue with Joey is that he refuses to acknowledge those scars and the part he has played in the process of obtaining them, hoping instead to compensate by using his innate talent to entertain in an attempt to persuade people to like him. However, his trip to NYC to become the Broadway dancer/actor/comedian doesn't pan out, and he is again left without something to hide behind.

It isn't until his sister tries to connect him with Narcotics Anonymous that Joey even attempts to make a half-hearted strike at a clean and sober life. Yet again, we get just another merry-go-round of self-loathing, loneliness, and despair. Over the course of many years, Joey levels one excuse after another at his detractors in an effort to explain why going to meetings wasn't going to help him. "I have to lie about this," he silently reasons to himself in an AA meeting, "because the God of my understanding is Hitler’s clone." So the relapses are frequent and ugly. He attempts suicide and winds up in a loony bin, but then after a while, you are flipping the pages saying, "So what's new?" to yourself. This is addiction, and Mr. Kerrick paints a very heartfelt portrait of someone who can lie to themselves every day of their life: I'm fine; I only drink or whatever a little, just to take the edge off; I got it under control. You don't know me. I can handle it. And we all tend to shake our head when confronted with this sort of dialog because we do know the person, and we know they are damn lucky to be alive.

I wouldn't say the story is inspirational: it's sobering, and sad, and often pathetic. If anything, it serves to remind addicts that dealing with things now instead of later is a much better idea and when help is offered -- take it. Wallowing in self-pity gets you nowhere. Joey does finally commit to AA -- he felt it was more hands on and offered more than NA -- and at the end of the book he is two years sober and in his fifties. He, like all addicts, had to hit rock bottom before he could accept reason. Everyone's rock bottom is different. I felt Joey had a lot of bottoms in this story, enough to be thoroughly disgusted and ashamed of himself, but all you get for most of the book is a joke and a justification. Yes, that, my dear reader, is a true addict, and Mr. Kerrick nailed it. There is no logic here. For an addict, they want something they believe they do not deserve, and the rest is all sabotage to drive the point home. Addicts have terrible reasoning and coping skills; they actually believe their own bullshit after a while, and Mr. Kerrick makes that evident.

The only thing I really didn't care for in the book was the constant actress, movie, and show references. I understood why Mr. Kerrick did this. Joey could only relate to the world through his interpretation of these characters and their tragic storylines. At times, only they gave him the strength to push on, and instead of exposing his own true feelings about anything, he deferred to a reference, but I thought it was a little bit overdone. Aside from that, there were some minor editorial issues and a few formatting issues, but most readers probably won't notice them. The book is full of little witticisms, often used to shield the reader from the pain, but insightful nonetheless, and this is one of the nicest covers I have seen and it illustrated aptly the topsy turvey life of a very talented yet unhappy man. I kept waiting for Joey to do jazz hands every time he tried to convince himself that nobody knew what he was doing, kind of like Scheider's Fosse did in All That Jazz every time he looked in the mirror after popping a fist-full of pills. "It's Showtime!" All the world's a stage, and everyone is struggling to act a part people will like. Sad but true.


This book was reviewed from an ARC provided by the author's marketing firm and will be given away during one of our upcoming free book Fridays.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Thoughts on The Craft -- c.anne.gardner

In the middle of life it happens that death comes and measures man. The visit is forgotten and life continues. But the suit is made, quietly. -- Tomas Transtromer

And that's the theme for my new WIP. It's taken me a long time to get back to this manuscript. The first draft went through some Beta reads and has been sitting in a drawer for two years festering in its own ooze. And for good reason. It's much darker than anything I have ever written. The characters are loathsome, and it doesn't have a happy ending, but I love it anyway.

That said, it's a difficult process to get back into a work after so much time has passed, but I am of the opinion that the fresher it is to your already weary writer's eyes the better. Even so, getting into the right frame of mind and the right mood for the story can be a difficult stretch to make, especially if you are just coming off the release of another book. In this case, I like to take a break from writing fiction for at least a month. I don't write anything, not a poem, not short, not even a chapter title because I find the words stilted if I dive right in without waiting for the right moment. So with all the idle time on my hands, I work on the cover. Nothing gets me in the mood to begin revisions on a story than spending time working with a visual interpretation of its themes.

I did a simple cover for this WIP when I was midway through writing the first draft. The title was different, obviously, and the cover was dark like many of my others, and I was happy with it at the time. It kept me going and focused while I was working on the story, but now that I am ready to revisit it, there were some things that bugged me about the title and the cover in general. First off, the title has been used many many times for movies and other books etc., and even thought it loosely represents part of the story, the title is too often associated with the folk legend of the same name, and that legend is really not representative of my story, so it had to go. The real title was on the page somewhere, and I just had to find it. Took me about two months, and once I found it, the entire cover needed to be changed slightly. The photography is mine, yet again, but it wasn't stark enough, disjointed enough to really work. What I ended up with was a happy accident. I misclicked on negative image and wound up loving what I got in the process, some minor adjustments aside. A negative image actually worked better thematically since the main character in the book is a photographer. Now I just had to find a font to match the new mood. I wound up finding commercial use freeware fonts over on Fontspace, and the cover just came together in almost an instant and with it came the headspace I needed in order to start the revisions.

Most of the authors I have met along the way at one time or another imagine some sort of visual interpretation of their work, and some traditional publishers are open to author feedback during the cover design process and some are not. Many Indie authors outsource their covers, and in that case, they are generally allowed a great deal of input when it comes to cover images and the overall design, and some Indies like myself give it a go on their own, for good, bad, or worse. Some authors, also like myself, enjoy doing mock-ups -- even if it will never see the light of day -- simply because it gets them creatively in the mood to immerse themselves in the story. It helps the author to flesh out the themes and helps bring the subliminal messages within the story to the surface. It also gives the author something to look up and focus on when they hit a rough patch. It gives them inspiration beyond the words, and so the suit is made, quietly.

As for resources, there has been a lot of discussion about book cover design and artwork. Joel Friedlander over on Thebookdesigner.com has loads of informative articles on the subject. Finding public domain artwork is actually pretty easy, but should you not want to go that route, you can find reasonably priced stock photography on places like istockphoto.com. I generally use my own photography, but when that is not possible or practical, I have never had a problem finding a good quality public domain image to use. Wikimedia.org is often a good resource, and the licenses are clearly stated. Just make sure you attribute on your matter page: some freeware actually requires this so check the license.

For a short list of resources from the Self-Publishing Book Expo see the mediabistro article here. http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/book-cover-design_b13309#more-13309

As for the photos used on my cover, one is a picture of the sun through the trees in my backyard. The other is a piece of Day of The Dead art I purchased at a local import store. I collect Day of the Dead stuff. I just hung it up on a blank wall and took a photograph of it. The actual Mexican artist is unknown.

So, how many of you like to doodle with your own covers, even if it's just a mock-up for inspiration. What programs do you use and where do you find your images?

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Carnival of The Indies Issue #1

Friend of the Peeps Joel Friedlander over at TheBookDesigner.com has unveiled Issue #1 of his Self Publishing Carnival of The Indies Publication and yours truly, Cheryl Anne Gardner, has an article under the writing tools & tips section. Stop on by and check it out. Instructions for submitting material to the blog carnival can be found at the end of the post.

It's Time For The IPPY Awards

For fifteen years the Independent Publisher Book Awards have been conducted annually to honor the year's best independently published titles. The "IPPY" Awards reward those who exhibit the courage, innovation, and creativity to bring about change in the world of publishing. Independent spirit and expertise comes from publishers of all sizes and budgets, and books are judged with that in mind. All independent, university, small press, and self-publishers who produce books intended for the North American market are eligible to enter. Independent authors using print-on-demand publishing services are welcome to enter their books themselves.

Independent spirit and expertise comes from publishers of all sizes and budgets, and books are judged with that in mind. National entries will be accepted in 69 categories, including the new Classical Studies/Philosophy. Last year, we updated our Current Events category, breaking it into three categories: Political/Legal; Social/Cultural; and Military/Foreign Affairs. This year we"ve also split the Gay/Lesbian category into separate Fiction and Non-Fiction categories.

For more information on the IPPY Awards and to enter click here.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

And The Free Book Friday Winner Is ...

Bmweida. Congrats on winning.

The Pod Peeps want to thank everyone for playing. Come visit us again for our Thanksgiving Free Book Giveaway on Black Friday November 26, 2010.

Happy Reading all.

My Story -- Shannon Yarbrough

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

Back in 2000, I was the assistant manager of Bookstar in Memphis, one of those tiny book retailers that B&N snatched up in the 80s. It’s in an old retro movie theater, where Elvis’s movies used to premiere, with leopard print carpet and neon lights. It was the ideal career setting for a book lover like me, but I soon found out I knew nothing about books, at least not about the industry itself. I’d never even heard of J.K. Rowling; I thought she was a man!

A local author by the name of Corey Taylor came in one day promoting his 178 page novel, The Dinner Club . With its plain white cover and black letters, it wasn’t much to look at, but it didn’t matter. I was talking to a real live author! We booked Corey for an author signing/discussion and about 40 people showed up, standing in line to get a signed copy and asking questions about the book. Corey said it was the best feeling in the world. I wanted to feel that too, to have someone buy and read my book. I’d been penning short stories and poems since grade school, and just dreamed of being a famous author some day.

After the event, I asked Corey how he got published. He told me. And two years later, when I’d finished a manuscript, I was giving Xlibris my credit card number.

My expectations? To be a published author and walk back into Bookstar and see my book on the shelf some day. Oh, and to be interviewed by Barbara Walters. I at least got half of that.

Why did you select your specific publisher?

In 2003, I paid for that publishing package through Xlibris. Like many, I knew nothing about self-publishing at the time. I’d written a book and wanted to see it in print as quickly as possible. By 2006, I was following the Lulu trend. I liked their free services and quick and easy set-up. In 2008, I started my own imprint with another fellow author. We use CreateSpace and have our own ISBNs, and hope to eventually tap into using Lightning Source one day.

I like CS’s easy functionality. I’ve had no problems with their customer service. Their printing and shipping is quick. Even without their Pro-Plan option, their pricing structure allows your book to remain affordable and for you to be profitable.

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

After I learned the ropes of self-publishing and knew I wasn’t going to get rich at it, I went back to my first goal of just wanting to get readers to buy my book. Goal accomplished! As for Barbara, I’m still waiting on her call. But I love hearing from “blind” readers out there that I’ve never met before and learning what they thought of my work. As an author, it truly is the best feeling in the world.

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

Don’t expect that just because you publish a book, everyone will want to read it. And don’t expect those who would want to read your book to be able to find it without your assistance.

Even when working in a bookstore, we never had the book the customer was looking for all of the time. These days, thanks to the web, there’s no reason you can’t find your audience. Never give up looking for them.

BIO: Shannon Yarbrough is the author of The Other Side of What first published with Xlibris in 2003, and re-released under his own imprint this year. His second book, Stealing Wishes was first published with Lulu in 2008, and re-released under his own imprint in 2009. His third book, Are You Sitting Down?, is due out later this year. Visit him online at http://www.shannonyarbrough.com/

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.