Monday, January 31, 2011

The Free Book Friday Winner Is...


Congratulations to the winner. We hope you enjoy the book.

To everyone else, thank you for participating and supporting Indie publishing.

Stay tuned for our next free book Friday on February 25th. I will be giving away one of my own ebooks this time around in honor of Valentines day, so stay tuned.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Picture

Friday, January 28, 2011

Free Book Friday

Our Pod Peep Free Book Friday this month is: The Metal Girl
Author: Judy Sandra
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Psychological

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

Enter to Win by commenting on this post by Midnight January 30, 2011. A Winner will be announced on Monday January 31st.

Good Luck and Happy Reading.

My Review, April 2010: As the story begins we find our protagonist living in a cheap hotel located in Copenhagen’s red light district. The hotel is run by an odd old couple named the Blumendhals. However, not too far into the story, the Blumendhals disappear never to be heard from again and we find the new hotel management, much to our protagonist’s displeasure, are completely the opposite of the comforting grandparents she was used to. It’s not a pleasant interaction when our protagonist finds herself confronted with Elke, a stereotypical Scandinavian blond bombshell, and, who we assume is her German Tank of a husband, Manfred.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thoughts on The Outline -- c.anne.gardner

If you know what you are going to write when you’re writing a poem, it's going to be average. Derek Walcott

I want to talk about plotting this week, as in: How much plotting do we actually do? I am thinking about the conscious proactive stuff, and do you think over plotting can make a story average at best, contrived at worse?

Some writers live for the outline, and I can see where that would be extremely helpful especially if you are writing an epic say like Lord of the Rings or even Stephen King's The Stand, which is one of my all time favourite books, BTW. When writing that sort of novel, you've got a lot of time and space to keep straight, not to mention all those characters to keep track of. However, some writers just don't work that way. To over analyse the story like that would put unnecessary constraints on the process and would limit the freedom of movement that stream of consciousness writing normally has.

I am kind of in the middle of the road here. I never consciously say, "This should happen next, and this is the result I want." The process for me is more fluid in an emotionally subterranean way.

My stories just come to me, and they are usually influenced by some sort of catalyst: a news article, something I overheard, something I witnessed that got me hot under the collar. So there is always an underlying intent present at the onset -- intent meaning more the underlying theme, not a particular point I am trying to make because a story will be interpreted differently by different readers, so foisting ones authorial opinion is never a wise idea. Anyway, that intent, or whatever it is, comes to me in the form of scenes -- daydreamed mostly -- which I make sure I write down as sloppily and as soon as I can. Yes, I keep notebooks and post it notes at hand no matter where I am. After I have collected a few scenes, a story begins to develop in my mind. I can now get myself intimately acquainted with the characters that have made themselves known to me. In this case, I do some brief outlining as in where they were born, where they went to school, how old are they, what they look like, how they dress, and have they had any trauma to contend with, etc. Some of that will be written into the story, but much of it is simply for my own reference. I do the same with story location. I research my locales, download pictures to post on my desktop, study the culture and the history of a place ... but again, much of that is just background noise because in my stories, the characters interact more with each other than with the world they inhabit. Much of my research is used only for scene setting and a bit of mood to ground the story in a time and/or place for the reader, and even then, it’s all open to debate. I don’t necessarily like to lock a story into any particular place or time. In Kissing Room the entire story takes place inside a local pub, and I did that so the reader could experience the confinement the main character felt. It would be a cheap movie to make: one location, no waiting.

But I digress. After I have a bunch of scenes, usually 10-13 or so, I re-read them through and give them titles, as these will more or less later become individual chapters. At this point, I start moving them around in an effort to develop a reasonably coherent story arc, and yes, it has been known to happen, much to my chagrin at the time, that the scene I chose for my first chapter won't be the right one when I get to the editing/revision stages. That, however, is a struggle for a different day much later down the road. After I get everything roughly organized into a first draft, I start what I call the filling in and filling out part of the writing: adding the background scenery, the descriptive content, the mood and movement, and all the transitional stuff that will get me from one scene to the next. I write novellas, so I tend to write very lean in the first few drafts. I find adding easier than cutting, so I don't get obsessed with word count. The right words matter more to me since I use so few of them.

I normally do three rough drafts, and then I back away from the manuscript for at least 3-6 months. Sin-eater -- now titled And Death Dreamt Us All -- sat for over a year, and even now, I find myself still re-arranging things, so I don't know how well an outline would really work for me when it comes to plotting one of my stories. I think a formal outline, while it might offer comfort for other writers, would only make me feel boxed in, but if you live for the outline, I was reminded of a Microsoft Word add-in that's currently getting some great feedback: it's called WritingOutliner, so check it out.

How heavily and formally do you plot your stories? And as a reader, how aware are you of what some might consider over-plotting?

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What is the Deal With Lulu?

Seriously.  When they made it impossible to search for lulu books at I was a bit annoyed.  When they decimated the forums and Bob-the-Founder decided to imply anyone voicing criticisms was some kind of corporate spy, well, whatever. When they described me as a "forum mainstay" a month after I public quit the forum for good, and deleted my comment correcting that description... Oy.  And buying notorious scam site  Well. None of these things are major issues.

I stopped buying from them at that point but still thought they were basically okay as a supported self-publishing service. When they published private or retired books to Amazon, and when they crashed their customers Amazon pages, I started to get a bit worried about their underlying competence for the first time.  Reports of books not arriving, arriving defective or just being the wrong books seem to be increasing. Shipping costs have gone through the roof at the same time.

As of yet I have never found an ironclad case of royalties not being paid in full and on time--their last remaining virtue? But do they really have to go that far before their reputation gets seriously muddied? At what point is enough enough and Lulu's public status has to go from 'going through a rough patch' to 'circling the drain'?

New Website: The Indie eBook Hall of Fame

From the Tele-read Article

This site is designed to be a one-stop filter for readers to help them find the best of the best indie ebooks being reviewed out there in Blogland. To land on the list, the book must be available in ebook form in multiple formats, and must have been reviewed (and recommended!) by at least three independent bloggers—not just Amazon, Smashwords or Goodreads reviews, but full-on write-ups by bloggers who are reviewing indie books.

From the Website

Welcome to the Indie eBook Hall of Fame! In this digital age, authors can get their work out there in the world without going through the 'gatekeeper' of a traditional publisher. But with no gatekeeper, how do readers separate out the really great indie finds from the sea of mediocrity as they navigate the uber-slushpile that is the internet? Well, they can start right here!

All the books listed on this page have been personally reviewed and vetted by book reviewers who feature indie books on their blogs. In order to be listed on this page, a book must meet the following criteria:
  1. It is available in ebook form
  2. It is sold in multiple formats, at least one of them from a DRM-free vendor
  3. It has received a positive recommendation from at least three independent bloggers -- Goodreads and Amazon customer reviews do not count.

There are some other rules for reprint and backlist books, so please see the site for more information.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Page 99 -- Child of the Mist by Kae Cheatham

Page 99 from CHILD OF THE MIST
A Science Fiction Novel
By Kae Cheatham
Reprinted with Permision. Copyright 2010 by Kae Cheatham. All Rights Reserved.

Book Description: Juilan Pranss must overcome cultural ignorance and personal fears as she struggles against adversaries to attain the highest position of a land where memories are paramount.


Beyond a small balcony, buildings of light-blue stone, the architecture spare and direct, intermingled with huge everlasts. She was higher than most of them, and made out various gardens and parks bathed in golden light. Narrow streets spiraled toward a central plaza, leveling out on several tree-lined terraces. At the center of the array she made out the glint of light coming from a vast pool of water. An abaress.

“This is a young town,” Ortaal said. “Only two years old. But years ago, Daren Surlesi lived here.”

Juilan turned to her, wary. “Daren Surlesi. My—my mother?”

The woman frowned and drew a long breath. “There’s a landmark in town—the high house where she lived—kept rather like a shrine.”

Juilan looked back at the town; it revealed nothing but a serene view. I don’t remember my mother, she thought. My father I know with my heart and soul. (Keeping me part of you.) She closed her eyes, realizing her harp had been left at the seep during the fighting. Anguish struck her and tears bloomed hot on her eye rims. I’ve lost my only contact with Papa.

“Um. Valhoqurin Pranss,” the woman said with disapproval. “I’d advise you not to speak about him. Many people are certain that a half-breed shouldn’t be the holder.”

Juilan swallowed a lump of fear and asked. “Do you believe I’m the holder?”

“It doesn’t matter what I believe. The Evincor will determine; it will only allow the touch of the qualified aspirant.”

“Joddrie said someone was about to go through the final ceremony.”

Ortaal stepped closer to her. “You have special ties to that Rudeg?” she asked coldly.

“What do you mean?”

“You were with him for several days and seemed willing enough to do what he wished.”

“What choice did I have? He helped me during the attack on my spaceliner, then inveigled Xis to rout Stoljet and carried me off into the everlasts.”

“We’ve sensed an emotional attachment between you and him. From what does that stem?”

Thoughts came to her of the unpredictable moments she had been struck

Available in print and on Kindle: Kindle link -

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, January 23, 2011

Review: The Marlowe Conspiracy

Title: The Marlowe Conspiracy
Author: M. G. Scarsbrook
Genre: historical fiction
Price: $2.99 (ebook) $11.99 (paperback)
Publisher: CreateSpace
ISBN: 978-1456310967
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

I recently received an electronic copy of M. G. Scarsbrook’s historical novel The Marlowe Conspiracy. Christopher “Kit” Marlowe was a real person, a contemporary of Shakespeare, and both a playwright and spy for Elizabeth I. The book is set in the last few weeks of Marlowe’s life, which history tells us ended in a brawl in a tavern in 1593. As fits a novel about a playwright, the book is divided not into chapters but Acts and Scenes. The book also comes with a couple of helpful maps, and author’s notes which outline where Scarsbrook parts from the historical record. Lastly, my ebook came with an extended sample of Scarsbrook’s next novel, Poison in the Blood.

I found The Marlowe Conspiracy to be a book with high production values, and a great deal of historical research. There’s a lot of action and intrigue as well as some romance, which makes this a novel that should be pleasing to everybody. All of that is the good news.

The bad news is that, for me, I found Kit Marlow’s character underwritten, and actually a bit dim. There is a scene early in the book in which Kit has to sneak out of France and has disguised himself as a doctor. Despite being an actor and educated, Kit’s performance is lacking. This is followed up by a scene with which Kit’s company is performing a play for the Queen, yet the final scene is sitting in Kit’s pocket, depending on him getting to the performance to deliver it to his actors during the intermission. These episodes caused me to lose faith in the lead character.

Overall, I found The Marlowe Conspiracy an entertaining read, but I wish that Marlowe, the key character, had been better developed.

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, January 22, 2011

National Indie Excellence Awards

The 5th Annual NIEA's are for books published from 2008 to the present by self-published authors, small press, and independent publishers in many different genre categories.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Lulu Strikes Again

It seems that Lulu's latest improvement to marketREACH has crashed the Amazon page for many users' books.  With some suffering pages that are incomplete or do not offer the book for sales over a week later, despite no warning for the downtime and a promise of a 24 hour fix.  Oops.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Educated Thoughts on -- c.anne.gardner

Back in September 2010, I posted about a new feedback site called The site launched in October, and sad to say, I was just too busy with the release of Logos to get over there and check it out. I know; I should have got over there sooner, and I am perturbed at myself about that, even though I was then and continue to plug the site to all the writers I know far and wide who were/are looking for objective criticism of their work. Heck, I even started an Indie Page 99 group over on Goodreads, so my not signing up immediately wasn't for any lack of enthusiasm. I just missed the mark.

However, it's a brand new year, and I wanted to be able to share an "educated" opinion about the site based on my real time experience as a reader and a writer. I love it BTW, but my professional opinion is as follows:

I always have some downtime around my birthday, and so on January 8th, I loaded up the page 99s of three of my print books: The Splendor of Antiquity, The Thin Wall, and Logos. I didn't have to enter much information about the books, just the title, author, genre, and then select whether it was unpublished, published, or self-published. After that, they give you some formatting guidelines, and pretty much, you just copy and paste your page 99 into their text editor and hit go. The only bit that was problematic for me was selecting a genre, since my work, though primarily literary, does cross a few here and there. I was forced to pick literary as the default, which I thought was kind of limiting, but it is a start up website, so there might be tweaks down the road.

After you load up the goods, you make some coffee, have a smoke, pet the dog, or just sit back and wait for the comments to come rolling in. Well, I tend to exaggerate, it’s the writer in me, so maybe rolling in, isn’t the right term. It will take some time before you get commentary, and here's why: the site is completely anonymous by design. You won’t be able to find your friend's or relative's book and vote them into the top anything. The site is designed to provide objective commentary from real readers, and it does that brilliantly, mind you. Here's how it works for a reader:

I log in and select the read a page 99 button at the top of the screen. This randomly generates a page 99 based on the genres I selected as preferred when I signed up for my account. I can read the page 99 in front of me and give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down based on how likely I am to turn the page. I also select, based on my reading experience, whether or not I would be likely to buy the book. After that I can add critical commentary if I choose to do so. I can also opt out by selecting "no opinion." And here is the beautiful truly liberating thing ... you are not forced to read or rate anything. If a page doesn't grab your attention, you can just move on to the next randomly generated page without voting at all if you don't want to, which is especially nice for me. Sometimes, a page might be well written but it's just not my style or maybe the subject matter isn't something I would normally like. All I see at the onset is one page of a manuscript. The reader doesn't know the title, the author, or any other information about the book until they cast their vote on the page. Comments are optional. You can just vote and move onto the next page 99. If you do decide to vote, once you hit submit, the title, author, and whether or not the book has been published will be released to you, the reader.

So what about scamming the system? you ask. I am sure it can be done, but the system is designed to avoid authors monopolizing the site in an attempt to use it as a free promotional tool. You, the writer, can only load three page 99s at a time, and they only stay active for 30 days or 50 reads/ratings.

Here is the FAQ from their website:

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 2 questions: Would they turn the page and how likely would they be to buy the book.

(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

I have to say, I am loving this so far. There was talk of a fee based service for authors, which technically would connect their unpublished manuscripts with agents and editors, but that is still in the works and everyone already knows my feelings about that, so I won't go into it here.

With respect to my own work, all three books have been live on the site as of this writing for exactly 12 days, and here is the vote/commentary I have received thus far:

The Thin Wall -- 3 thumbs up and 3 thumbs down with the comments:
1. It isn't that this is poorly written, it is just not the type of book I read.
2. Not bad, I was drawn into the story.
3. Gooey emotion ... yuk

Logos -- 3 thumbs up and 2 thumbs down with the following comments:
1. Gabriel Garcia Marquez (100 years of solitude)? I think this is professionally written, and if not, it should be published.
2. Well written, and interesting. Curious as to what it's about, and as to what happens next.
3. Not my favored type of reading.
4. Brilliant. The "and I did...want" seems a bit fragmented though, especially as there was a really nice flow up till that point.

Antiquity -- 2 thumbs up and 2 thumb down with the comments:
1. Interesting
2. Not Bad
3. "the how" does not seem grammatically correct.

As you can see, the comments, such as they are, are not really all that insighful or helpful in most cases, and some are downright inept. "Gooey emotion is yucky" doesn't really fall into true literary criticism and doesn't help the author at all, nor should the author take that sort of subjective commentary seriously. The commenter who thought the article "the" in front of "how" was grammatically incorrect was obviously an inexperienced reader who didn't understand that the paragraph preceding it alluded to the analytical construction in the common phrase: the what, the why, and the how, and that to remove the article would have made the idea and the sentence structurally unsound. As for the commenter who thought the "and I did...want" sentence was fragmented, I am not sure what they meant by that. I did break the flow there for a reason, so maybe they just found it uncomfortable. Anyway, For the sake of viable feedback, I am really hoping more hardcore critical readers and writers will embrace this site. There will always be new material to read; you don't have to invest in writing a full-blown review; everything is random and completely anonymous provided you use an anonymous user ID; it's not a popularity contest site; and it's a nice quick no obligation way to help the Indie community. So come on ... whatcha waitin' for? Give it a try. It's fun, easy ... and you might find a few new authors to read while your at it. Currently, I am rating one page a day and it only takes about 10 minutes to read and formulate a useful comment.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

P.S. So how many of you have listed your work with Tell us about your experience; we would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Page 99 -- The Losing Role by Steve Anderson

Page 99 from The Losing Role
By Steve Anderson
A Historical Espionage Spy Thriller
Reprinted with permission: Copyright © 2010 Steve Anderson. All rights reserved.

Book Description: In the last winter of WWII a failed German actor, Max Kaspar, is forced to join an absurdly desperate secret mission in which he must impersonate an enemy American officer. So Max cooks up his own fanatical plan — he'll use his false identity to escape tyranny and war and flee to the America he'd once abandoned. Max the performer is hardly a soldier let alone a double-crossing commando, yet in the deadly Battle of the Bulge he has to fool battle-shocked American GIs as well as dodge discovery by his reckless German comrades. Belgium's Ardennes forest becomes a snowbound hell and the magical America he'd loved is lost to him, replaced by a somber invading juggernaut. In the end, Max's gambles will lead him to a grim but honest payoff. Part espionage thriller, part expatriate noir and the first in a series, The Losing Role is based on an actual false flag operation that's been made infamous in legend but in reality was a doomed farce. In all the tragic details and with some dark humor, this is the story of an aspiring talent who got in over his head and tried to break free.

Up front, Max and Zoock smoked the American cigarettes. They were Pall Malls. Max had smoked the very same in New York City. For a moment the fine musky aroma took him back to his apartment on the Lower East Side, to the stoops and drug store diners, the salary men in the elevators, and even to that strange automat where he ate pie with a slice of cheese. And then the moment was gone. It didn’t take him back to Lucy. She smoked Camels.

The sky became a heavy, dark grey mass. The morning mist formed drops on their olive green wool. It was time to consider the mission, and Felix took the lead. He checked the maps as they drove on. As planned, they had been dodging the major crossings and villages. They passed only minor crossings and checkpoints. At every signpost Felix had Zoock stop so he could jump out and switch the signs backwards. Ideally this would send any unwary or retreating Americans right back into the advancing Germans, and, similarly, any counterattacking Americans far to the rear. It was Vaudeville to the death. And with every switch Felix jumped back into the jeep giggling.

They headed downhill, and a fog thickened. A stream had washed out part of the road, revealing the tops of rocks through the mud. Zoock shifted down to cross the water. Max peered through the fog. Something was ahead, at the base of the hill. He grabbed the binoculars.

It was a roadblock. Two jeeps, an armored car, and a squad of roughly ten American soldiers stood ready. The silhouettes looked unreal in the fog, like two-dimensional cardboard cutouts. Seeing them, Felix cocked his Colt pistol. Max shook his head at Felix. “Don’t worry, lieutenant. I’m all right,” Felix said.

“Good,” Max said, and to Zoock: “So. We’ll just proceed slowly.”

Zoock nodded, slowly.

This was the first semblance of order they had seen. It meant they had to be well behind American lines. I could end it here, Max thought. Just step out of the jeep, stroll over and tell these Americans that German soldiers were with him. Then he’d be free. Wouldn’t he? He looked again with the binoculars. The Americans’ helmets had horizontal white stripes. They were Military Police—MPs, they called them. Could it be that easy? Max wasn’t sure. Logic and sentiment clashed and sputtered in his head.

Felix passed around American chewing gum—Black Jack gum. ...

Steve Anderson has worked in advertising, marketing, and journalism with the Associated Press in between being a language instructor, a waiter, and a freelance copywriter. He is a screenwriter and has had short stories published online and in print. He has traveled a lot and has lived in Germany but always comes back to his hometown of Portland. His historical espionage thriller The Losing Role is available for the Amazon Kindle and other e-readers. As a writer and a reader, he always roots for the underdog. Other titles include: Besserwisser: A Novel and False Refuge.

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.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Review: Sherlock Holmes in a Flash

Title: Sherlock Holmes in a Flash
Editor: Stephen Abbott
Publisher: Abbott Epublishing
Price: $2.49
Reviewed by: Emily Veinglory

Writing pastiche is an act of hubris, but that does not make it a bad thing.  A bold thing, certainly--and particularly sad and tawdry when it fails.  HOLMES IN A FLASH, as it happens, fails on pretty much every level.

A full 7 of the 14 stories are by one author: George Polley.  All of these stories are, in my opinion, dismally bad.  I am baffled by them both individually and as a group because they lack style, characterisation and plot.  Nothing of note happens in any of them as Holmes and Watson have a series of conversations in which simple cases are described as being easily solved, often without Holmes' direct participation.

The best of a bad lot are two short vignettes by Alice Wright, the first of which--Cliff-Side Musing--has a flash of pathos.  In common with the rest of the stories, Wright's works lack any kind of plot, but her prose is descriptive and evocative.  The rest of this collection pretty much blurs into a melange of disappointment, lacking a single clever deduction or novel twist.  None of the stories demonstrates the pithy intensity or flash fiction, reading instead as isolated scenes or excerpts.

The one story that is pretty much guaranteed to be worth reading is Conan Doyle's own "How Watson Learned the Trick."  Most Sherlock Holmes fans will already know this story, but for those who don't--the editor ruins the slight twist ending by disclosing it in his introduction. Clocking in at around 15000 words in total this anthology was, at least, a quick read.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


I will confess that I think AuthorsDen is a bit of an exercise in futility, but some people seem to like it.  I recieved an email today announcing the launch of there self-publishing endeavour "BookFactory".

"2011 is an exciting time for the Authors of AuthorsDen as we are launching our BookFactory self-publishing application, developed with the Author’s best interest in mind."

I would have thought that any author worthy of an initial capital letter would have more than one interest, but never mind.

"The BookFactory places the profit rightfully where it belongs, in the pockets of the authors. You earn all $$ after printing costs.  If your book costs $4 to print and your retail price is $15 – you earn $11. It’s really as simple as that."

If one assumes that 'printing costs' includes the printers overheads and presumably a healthy profit margin?  Oh, and a print cost of $4 would get you a perfect bound book with a color cover and exactly 43 pages.

In order to prove what a good deal this is BookFactory provide a Bookstore Profit Comparison chart including exactly one other servce: Lulu.  They decided (for some reason) not to show a comparison with Createspace....

Thoughts on: Can I Make Myself Any More Mental? c.anne.gardner

So, as most Indie authors already know, especially if you are on Twitter, that Amazon announced on December 8th that it would make weekly geographical BookScan results available free to any author who has an Author Central account. Now those of us who have had Author Central accounts for a while know that of late Amazon has been making some dramatic changes to its Author Central Portal and these are just some of the new ones...

Author Central News

See how your print books are selling across the U.S.!
December 8, 2010 5:24 PM

We're happy to announce that - for the first time ever - authors can see weekly sales trends of their print books as reported by Nielsen BookScan. On the new Sales Info tab you can view your print book sales geographically, as well as by paperback or hardcover. These features are on the same page as the existing Amazon Bestsellers Rank History so that you can view all your sales-related activity in one place.
Note that BookScan doesn't report every book sold. Though it's still widely regarded as the industry standard for tracking print book sales. And now, through Author Central, you have access to this data for free. Check out Sales by Geography and Sales by Week now!

Introducing the new Sales Rank and Customer Reviews tabs
October 27, 2010 2:57 PM

Many of you have told us you check your Amazon Bestsellers Rank often to see the changes in your books' ranks, so we thought we’d make it easier for you. Check out the new Sales Rank tab to see how your Bestsellers Rank trends over time.
We’ve also consolidated Customer Reviews across your bibliography on the new Customer Reviews tab. You can sort by oldest, newest, star rating, and conveniently add a comment to a review.
Let us know what you think with our Contact Us form. Enjoy!

Multiple Author Photos
July 22, 2010 4:10 PM

Some of you have asked for more than one photo on Author Pages and we're happy to say it's possible now. Visit the Profile tab, and add up to eight images in total. You can use the image editor to drag and drop them into any order you want. The first image will be the primary “full size” image readers see first on the Author Page. Smaller versions of the other images will be featured below it, waiting for readers to scroll over them for a looksy (look-see?)

...and I can say, in my opinion, that the changes for the most part have made the portal easier to use and much more functional for retrieving data. I can access reviews as they come in without accessing individual book pages, and now with ranking and BookScan information, I've got a lot of information twiddling around in the cyber-air right at my fingertips, as do many authors, and I am certain that for the Type A stat watching sort, this is the last thing we need. Oh yeah, I had my moments when I first started out. I was watching sales ranks and reviewer ranks and page hits and a whole bunch of other equally meaningless shite for no good reason at all other than I felt some sort of delusion that the ubiquitous cosmic forces had granted me magical power. Hoooo Wheee! I could actually see how popular I was -- or NOT -- just by gazing at a few randomly shifting numbers. For a while there, I felt like I was chasing marbles across a glass floor. I had become obsessed with the wrong thing, obviously, and for those who are terrible marketers and rather shy on the net like myself, numbers watching can send you spiralling into the depths of a whiskey bottle or worse. I had to strap myself in and take a time out a couple of years ago. I discovered during that break that I am an art writer, not a career writer, and trying to jack my vein with statistics was an addiction I just didn't want or need, and so I refrain from stat watching now. Sure, Amazon doesn’t make it easy on us with the nice new sleek look and all the information we can stand a click away. It's like walking by someone smoking when you are only a week or so into your New Year's resolution. That smoke smells so sweet, all the promise of relaxation and contentment billowing like a misty puff of hope on a spring breeze. The taste of the menthol on your tongue, the cool mintyness of it as you inhale a wish for inner peace and exhale a moment's worth of anxiety out of your life, but we all know, later -- when we've got the shakes and we are clawing at the walls because we feel like shit inside and out -- the full measure of our addiction.

I know, seems a rather dramatic analogy, but I also know there are a lot of writers out there right now reading this and nodding their head in understanding because they are fighting the addiction as well. When I think about every minute my obsession with statistics kept me distant from my writing, and more importantly, kept me mentally disengaged from my family and friends and peers, it makes me shudder with shame. Now I am not saying that we should completely disregard statistics. If you write for the art of it, then yes, statistics are not really important. If you want to be a career writer, then of course you should pay attention to your sales trends -- in moderation. Every minute you are slobbering over your computer screen, picking at scabs, you aren't writing your next book, or blog post, or press release, or review, or whatever. Your eye isn't on the right ball. And if your stats are depressing -- however the word depressing might be relevant to you -- just remember that there are a thousand million trillion different combinations of reasons why you might think that, and it's not always about your writing.

So Amazon, we love you and all that -- as much as we can within reason -- and we thank you for your continued support, especially when it comes to Indie authors, but some of us cannot manage the knowledge you have given us without gnawing our fingernails up to our elbows. And authors, if you find yourself saying: "Let me just quick check my stats first..." more than once a day, you might have a problem: that goes double for obsessing over Twitter Followers or Facebook Friend numbers. Shake it off man. Get to a meeting.

Cheryl Anne Gardner was a stat addict. She has been net sober since January 2008.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

10 Biggest Predictions on the Future of Book Publishing

January 5th, 2011, reprinted with permission Online

The future of books is at stake, for some readers and industry members. But even those who are nostalgic for smelling pages before they're read can get excited about what's to come in book publishing.

Obviously, predictions should be taken as just that. Just because some
educated experts formulate projections based on trends and observations doesn't necessarily mean they will come to pass. Nor does it mean that if they do prove real, everything ends up exactly as stated within a specific time frame. So consider the following finds, collected from relevant corners of the internet, information to ponder and process rather than anything truly definitive. They are merely conjectures, not absolute facts.

1. Vanity presses and self-publishing will swell in popularity: Self-publishing carries with it a rather interesting dual reputation. Some view it as an excellent means to get great stories out there without having to worry about editorial intervention begging for less personal, more commercial properties. Others chide the publishing houses that charge the authors themselves an exorbitant fee to print — hence the term "vanity press" — and sell their services based more on ego-stroking than actual talent. The reality likely lay somewhere in between, as the superb
Self-Publishing Review showcases. Regardless of one's political leanings, a visit to Daniel McCarthy's Tory Anarchist at The American Conservative provides an intriguing, yet logical, prediction for the future of these divisive businesses. He argues in favor of an increased relevance and de-stigmatization of self-publishing, especially with the surge in blogging's popularity, and details possible (but obviously not definitive) economics behind such measures.

2. More writers and artists will experiment with motion comics:
Major, independent and self-publishers alike have been exploring the outer fringes of the motion comics medium to varying degrees of success over the past couple of years. The fact that it remains in a largely nascent stage provides an excellent challenge to creative individuals, begging them to take it as far as it can possibly go. Domenic Defina at Septagon Studios praises Amo Tarzi's Superare as a particularly striking example of what sort of quality creations the motion comics medium inspires. Anyone can watch it on Vimeo, yet the layout particularly pops on gadgets such as the iPad. It stands to reason that many innovators will turn their attention towards customizing their works to suit the features of new technologies rather than going retro.

3. There will be little need for gargantuan publishers:
Off in the far-flung future of 2020 (which hopefully sees those personal jetpacks that science has been holding out on), Richard Eoin Nash believes that many of today's publishing giants will instead resemble their far smaller, more independent counterparts. He thinks the overemphasis on churning out bestsellers and profits will lead to executives slicing back on personnel and resources until their businesses have streamlined to produce around one hundred or so titles a year — all of them perfectly crafted to stir up mainstream hype and sell thousands of units. A "lack of entrepreneurial capitalism," Nash argues, leads him to believe that the industry will structure itself as such within the next ten years.

4. More people will be authors:
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mark Coker believes that more authors will begin emerging onto the literary scene at an ever-climbing rate. Considering the amount of opportunities available in self-publishing and vanity presses these days, anybody rejected by mainstream outlets or desiring to forego editorial involvement has little to fear. With manuscript in hand and a story to tell, the masses may very well flood the very market that ten years ago would have never given them a voice. This leaves the literary world ripe for new ideas and innovations that many publishers turn down for fear of losing profit and bestseller status. Anyone who feels as if the current literary climate takes few risks and putters about in a sea of mediocrity and repetition should find this prediction particularly tantalizing.

5. eBooks will only get more popular:
Plenty has already been written about the Kindle, Nook and iPad and how they've revolutionized the way people read. And experts across the board repeatedly posit that it will only expand from there, with many experts postulating that 95% of books will go straight to a digital state in the future. Considering the hubbub swirling about the iPad, the prospect of more interactive, dynamic literature increases in likelihood as well. But even factoring out that element, readers flock to these devices for their ease of use, durability, portability and the fact that they clear up plenty of space on those shelves in the living room.

6. Authors will grow even more media-savvy:
By this point, many fans have made note of the ever-closing gap between themselves and their favorite authors. Through Facebook, Twitter, message boards and blogs, they can completely bypass the agents and managers and publishers and go straight to the writers themselves. Authors themselves feel as if the trend will continue, with those hoping to "make it" in the industry feeling intense pressure to maintain an active, viable internet life. Failure to do so, they fear, compromises their chances of getting picked up for publication and/or capturing the interest of readers — and their money. Therefore, it makes sense that the industry will probably experience an upswing of writers eagerly embracing social media and blogging in order to promote their work.

7. Memoirs expand as a genre:
Autobiography and memoirs have always been around, but over the past few years have enjoyed an upswing in popularity — even blending with other genres such as diet, self-help, business guides, comics and plenty more. Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett at Women's Memoirs believe that a combination of heightened demand and a plethora of self-publishing opportunities means even more will be available for perusal. It also opens the floodgates for even more experimentation. Graphic memoirs such as Maus and Persepolis have been around for a while, but never received the widespread, mainstream attention it so richly deserved. This could very easily push both literature and art in some interesting directions, especially when it comes to publishing autobiographies.

8. Books will no longer have a minimum length:
Mike Shatzkin notes that the burgeoning popularity of eBooks, along with its myriad other noted advantages, will also offer up more opportunities for novellas and other "lighter" fare. With so many publishers requiring a minimum length for the manuscripts they accept, writers now have a platform to release the works they want people to read on their own terms. No need to stuff filler into smaller pieces to meet demands. No need to worry about returns on printing costs. He also points out that magazines, newspapers and other periodicals could very easily adapt to an exclusively digital format as well. As could pamphlets, one-shot comics single short stories and poems, small collections and any other literary bits smaller than the average novel.

9. eBook readers will move even further away from E Ink:
Some of the devices themselves certainly have, anyways. And chances are, the next generations will rather quickly phase this technology out. E Ink helped solidify eBook readers' place in society, accurately reproducing the look of print on paper for a smooth, satisfying experience. But LCD and OLED displays make for a far cheaper, just as readable alternative — definitely an advantage for producers hoping to keep up with escalating consumer demand.

10. More young adult books will hit the shelves:
Or, more likely, the eBook readers. Both young adult books and graphic novels have undergone something of a Renaissance lately, with the former enjoying a 14% increase in sales this past October. With Harry Potter and the truly abysmal ode to emotional abuse Twilight carving out niches for themselves far beyond the bookcases, plenty of other publishers are also looking to capture the proverbial lucrative lightning in a bottle. From a far less cynical perspective, the glut of YA novels currently entering the market provides middle and high schoolers a much broader selection of genres to explore. Those who do not enjoy the fantasy and horror elements of the two current media juggernauts have plenty more options available than previous generations — and things only look more promising from there.

Now to add my personal commentary to this: I don't think this article is making any real predictions for the future; most of this is happening now, because as you can see, this article is really just a collection of quotes on the publishing industry from various venues around the net, and most of this is past tense already.

My biggest bone of contention here is the term vanity press and its implications in item 1. Sure, there are a lot of rip-off scam presses out there that charge outrageous fees and provide the author with a less than quality product, but there are also vanity presses out there that do a fine job. I know this for a fact; I have a reviewed enough books here to know the difference. As far as paying for services, well, some authors need help with editing, with cover design, with interior layouts, etc. Paying for those services is called outsourcing in the business world. Doesn't have anything to do with vanity, and whether or not you use one of these companies does not affect your status as an Independent Author. You are still independent from the Mainstream Publishing Model, so no one should really give a shit who you outsource work to as long as you, the author, are happy with the end product. What I do see in the future is more Harlequin Horizons now called DellArte Press. With author service solution companies making money hand over fist in the self-publishing arena, it only makes sense that more big publishers will want in on that game, and as long as they aren't simply ripping off naive young authors, I could care less. Have at it. Authors have a responsibility to educate themselves, so you can only get ripped off if you let it happen.

I also disagree with item 9. I don't think ereaders will ever be rid of e-ink. I get eyestrain reading on a back lit screen, doesn't matter if it's LCD, OLED or whatever the newest hip glowing multi-media platform is at the moment. I think e-ink will improve not disappear because most dedicated readers -- I am talking hardcore readers here, those of us who read 3-4 books a month or more -- will usually choose e-ink over shiny back lit screen technology. Oh don't get me wrong, readers like us will have both platforms for various reasons, but for long term reading jaunts, e-ink is still preferred next to traditional paper. I can read on my Sony for 10 hours straight. I can't do that with an iPad or my computer, and I certainly can't read on those outside in the sun like I am apt to do all summer long. Shit, those glossy screen jobbies don't even do well under standard office florescent lighting or in a room with a lot of windows and bright light.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Page 99 -- The Salbine Sisters by Sarah Ettritch

Page 99 from The Salbine Sisters
By Sarah Ettritch
A Fantasy/Lesbian Novel
Reprinted with permission: Copyright © 2010 Sarah Ettritch. All rights reserved.

Book Description: She gave up everything to become a Salbine Sister, member of a religious order of powerful female mages. But when Maddy nearly dies while trying to draw forth elemental fire, she learns that Salbine has withdrawn from her the gifts every sister works to master. Feeling trapped in an order to which she no longer has any right to belong and believing herself unworthy of the love of Lillian, one of the most powerful mages in the sisterhood, Maddy begs the abbess to let her travel to another monastery to research her condition. On her journey, Maddy's faith in both herself and Salbine are tested to their limits. When she attempts to draw fire and fails horribly, frightened townsfolk throw Maddy into prison. Fearing that the abbess will never learn her fate and rescue her, Maddy resigns herself to a short and brutal life. The only bright spot in Maddy's existence is Emmey, the pickpocket with whom she shares a cell. Through her and the steadfast love of Lillian, Maddy learns that Salbine's purpose is not always the same for everyone, and that love and compassion are more valuable than magic.


but the sister and her companion to leave and asked why she wouldn’t help us. She claims she can’t draw the elements.”
Catcalls and shouts filled the air. “Who ever heard of a sister who can’t draw the elements?”



Maddy stared straight ahead, cursing her hot face.

Langston rang the bell. “Silence!” When several still shouted, he rang the bell again, and continued to ring it until they’d simmered down. He turned to Wheeler. “You questioned her. You were at the inn. What do you think?”

“Before I answer, you should know that we’ve managed to get the fire under control, but not before it spread to a neighbouring shop. A man has also perished in the flames.”

“Yeah, my Frank!” Evelyn shouted from behind Maddy. “So either she murdered him, or she’s a lying, thieving bitch, posing as a sister so she can fill her pockets.”

“Now, now, murder is a bit strong, um, Madam,” Langston said.

“She stood by and did nothing while my Frank burned. Maybe that’s not murder to you, but she murdered him as sure as if she’d set him on fire herself.”

“Which she didn’t do, because apparently she can’t draw the elements,” Langston said, to raucous laughter. Clearly pleased with himself, he turned his attention back to Wheeler. “You didn’t answer my question.”

Wheeler shifted his weight. “I believe she’s an imposter, My Lord. I’ve never met a sister who can’t draw the elements, and I find it hard to believe that someone in Salbine’s service could be so devoid of morality and humanity that she wouldn’t at least try to save a man’s life. She must be an imposter.”

Langston grunted. “You said she and her companion carried documents?”

“Yes, My Lord.” Wheeler picked up the two documents and set them down directly in front of Langston.

Langston unrolled one and read it, then did the same with the other. He slid open a desk drawer and rummaged inside it. “Hold it flat for me, will you?” he said to Wheeler as he pulled out a magnifying glass.

The spectators fidgeted

Sarah Ettritch
The Salbine Sisters:
The Rymellan series: (Kindle) (Smashwords) (Print)

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, January 10, 2011

Review: Old West Tales

Title: Old West Tales
Author: CR Caldwell
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Lulu
Price: $21.95
Pages: 224
Reviewed by: Emily Veinglory

If Caldwell prose was an object in a second hand store it would have age and a beautiful patina.  It would be something that felt good in your hand, smooth and heavy.  Unfortunately, whatever it was the implement was meant to do, it would not longer perform that function. That is, if it was a gun, it would not shoot.

The tales in this book are more like vignettes.  They paint a picture of men and guns and horses and dogs, but only a few have much in the way of a plot. The time period varies from the Victorian era west to near recent times.  The protagonists of each tale are nice enough men to visit, having an authentic feel so that those drawn from life and those that are fictional are not easy to tell apart.

However a paragraph that begins on page ten is still going on page fifteen, containing not only a good deal of action but dialogue from three different characters!  A period might have one or two dots, an ellipsis eight to twenty.  For this and other reasons I suspect I would enjoy hearing the author tell a tale, but it is quite a chore to read them when they are written down.  I might change my opinion considerably if this book was copy-edited and formatted, but at over twenty dollars the current price is a little steep for something that reads like a first draft.


Review: The Death of Patsy McCoy

Title: The Death of Patsy McCoy
Author: Levi Montgomery
Genre: Fiction/Literary
Publisher: Inflatable Rider Press
Price: $2.99
Pages: eBook
ISBN: 978-0984491827
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed By: Cheryl Anne Gardner

His death began the moment we saw him. It just took a long time to consummate that death. We began to kill him when we first saw him [...]

The Death of Patsy McCoy is a story about a murder, but long before that, it was a story about suicide. The suicide of a small town, the suicide of a new kid seeking acceptance, and the suicide of five young men who would never be able to push aside memories left behind in their childhood, memories that are nothing more than the strewn wreckage of innocence gone lost.

I think what I enjoyed most about this novella was its non-linear plotting and the multiple first person points of view. Each character as they approach us with their confession reveals only a small piece of the story, and that reveal is done through each individual character’s own idiosyncratic viewpoint. We know Patsy McCoy is killed; Farmboy tells us this on the first page, but we really don't feel its full impact until we have heard the guilty pleas from each an every person involved, individually and in unison. And while the character Stud didn't necessarily have a literal voice, his confession is probably the most powerful of all.

Our story of a sorts begins with Farmboy, the most even or rather normal of all the characters, as he is making his way towards his hometown, the small town most people abandoned when the mill closed twenty years or so prior. Farmboy and his misfit group of friends are all on their way back home to attend a funeral. We don't find out whose funeral it is until much later in the story, so I won't spoil it. The cast of characters in this novella might be a motley crew but the jumbled mess of personality types is not uncommon for this sort of childhood cult, as I like to call them. We have Stud, the bullyboy, the leader of the group. Then we have his toadies: Farmboy, who is reasonable and level headed; Spittle, who seemed slightly retarded; Babyface, the rapist and budding sadist; Bowels, the sensitive philosophically artistic type; and lastly Patty, Stud's sister, whose own twisted back-story mirrors a sickening degeneration of the soul we would all prefer to believe isn't possible in children. Individually, none of them has the guts to take action on their own. They all know torturing the new kid is wrong, but as a group, feeding off each other's strengths, they manage to find a will of consensus fuelled by an acceptance they haven't found anywhere else. This drives them into a frenzy, and their need to feel control over something, anything in their world leads to acts of domination by violence. This is some dangerous stuff. It's the kind of psychopathology that breeds criminals, and that's what makes this story so very relevant. It's not just a story: this group dynamic exists, and we are seeing more and more of it these days in younger and younger kids.

Sensitive readers might find some of the incidents and the allusion to incidents in this story to be quite disturbing, and I think that's what makes good literature. The idea we are confronted with here is an unpleasant one but one we, as a society, need to address before more children commit suicide because they are being bullied on social network sites, before more children aim to gun down their classmates, before one more Patsy McCoy dies at the hands of his would be peers.

This might be a short novella, but it packs a wallop. The writing is stellar, the plotting -- cryptic -- and each character bleeds such raw emotion onto the page, even when they try to hide behind their own bravado, that it gave me the goose bumps at times. Those who like their literature dark and relevant will just love this book. Some readers might scream for more action, but I don't think it's necessary for such a deeply psychological character study, and a thoughtful one at that.


This book was reviewed from an ePub file provided by the author.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Thoughts on Reviewing to Start the New Year -- c.anne.gardner

So you want us to review your book. I mean, most writers stumble onto our site because we review Indie published books and they have written one they would like reviewed. Most readers come to our site to read our reviews and our commentary on the art of self-publishing, so the real question Indie authors must ask themselves before they query us is: Why? Why should we review your book out of all the queries we receive each week? Shit, I'm an Indie writer and I ask myself that same question when I am querying for reviews, and the answer to that question lies in your query letter. We ask that authors seeking reviews send us a brief query and stipulate what formats they are offering, and the majority of queries we see fall very short of answering the why question.

So what are we looking for in a query? The answer to that is pretty much the same as any agent's or publisher’s. To make it simple, here is what we want:

Start with a hello and then give us the title, the format, the genre, and a link to your book, preferably, somewhere our reviewers can read a preview. No preview, no review. Don't make us hunt down your book because we won't.

Then gives [yes, gives was a joke not a typo] us your hook, the short sentence or two that's going to grab us and make us want to give it a look-see. After that, give us a mini-synopsis telling us what the book is about, a brief plotline, if you will, and lastly, tell us about yourself. Include any links to your website, blog, facebook page, whatever.

That's it. Three short paragraphs. That's all we need. Another option is to just send us your press release with a link to the book.

Queries without a link to the book and queries with typographical and/or grammatical errors are automatically rejected. If your query sounds illiterate, it doesn't say much for your book.

As for what we review, well, we have pretty wide-ranging tastes, so I will give you the short list of what we DON'T review:

We don't review YA Books
We don't review Children's Books
We don't review Self-Help Books or How-to Books unless they are about writing or self-publishing.
We don't review Memoirs, although I have in the past, but it has to be very edgy and transgressive.

Everything else is open to debate. So get that query in shape and send it along. We are always open to queries, but keep in mind, there are only three of us here. We are always looking for reviewers, but as it stands now, we have limited time and resources, so even if you do get accepted for review, it might take as long as 6 months before your review will post. We wish we could review more and faster, but we all have careers and our own writing, so we do the best we can. We are the longest running Self-publishing and Indie Review Blog, Preditors and Editors recommended. So here's to another year of Indie Literature.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Photo Credit: “Good Question” e-magic @ Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Writer's Digest Conference NYC

From the Writer's Digest Conference Website
Find out what some of today’s top agents think of your work!

Pitch Slam
NEW: Intensive Workshops & Bootcamps
Expert sessions, in-depth guidance on how to succeed
Ready for a critique? Is your work getting rejected? Unsure of how to take that first step? The Writer’s Digest Conference will help you get answers to these questions and help you better understand today’s marketplace. Put yourself in a position to sell your work!

Topics and Themes for 2011
Getting Published in the Digital Age
Formats for publication have exploded, but writers looking to land a publishing deal still have a tough road ahead of them. We’ll walk you through your options, show you what happens inside a publishing house, and get you where you want to be.

Perfecting Your Pitch
We’ve brought back our famous Pitch Slam, so we have plenty of sessions to help you make the most of your time to shine. Learn how to make a great impression, hear what agents want, and perfect your pitch!

Honing Your Craft
These sessions will do a lot more than “show, don’t tell!” Authors like John Greene, James Scott Bell, and Hallie Ephron will talk all about writing a page turner, no matter what your genre.

Platforms and Social Media
Every writer has been told they need to have a platform to publish – but building your base takes hard work. Successful marketers, authors, and publishers in social media will show you the how and why of brand building so that you can bring your writing to the largest audience possible.

The Future of Publishing
Doom and gloom pundits have declared book publishing dead a long time ago, but there are still great authors, publishers, and agents out there who believe there’s a place for the well written word. At the Writer’s Digest Conference, you’ll hear why we may be on the cusp of a massive explosion of literary opportunities and watch a rousing keynote by Richard Nash on “How to be an Author in a World Where Everyone Is a Writer.”

Who Should Attend?
  1. Writers interested in finding representation for their work and in honing their pitch to publishers and agents.
  2. Writers who keep getting rejected after submitting their manuscript to an agent or editor.
    Writers looking to understand their publishing options, including self-publishing in ebook and print.
  3. Writers who want to hear the secrets successful authors have used to build their platforms and sell books.
  4. Writers who know that publishing is changing and want to find the best format for their work.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Page 99 -- The Witch Awakening by Karen Nilsen

Page 99 from The Witch Awakening
By Karen Nilsen
A Historical Fantasy
Copyright Notice: March 8, 2010, Karen Nilsen, All Rights Reserved

Book Description: The odor of burning flesh and the screams of those condemned to the flames disturb the dreams of young Safire of Long Marsh. Safire struggles to keep the curse of her psychic abilities secret, lest she be burned at the stake as a witch in her native land Cormalen. Forced to keep her talents hidden instead of learning how to use them, Safire is ill-prepared to face the evil that awaits her. When she meets the rebellious Merius of Landers, a nobleman determined to escape his overbearing father's influence, she finally finds someone who accepts her. But their romance interferes with court plots and family duty and ultimately leads Safire to confront the dark secrets of the House of Landers alone. What she finds there proves to be a test of her unusual gifts, a test that could free the soul of a haunted man--or end in her death.

“Prince Segar seems to like it."

"Royalty oft has a peculiar taste for the common. Just don't keep up the habit after you're through with him."

She gave an impatient shrug, putting the lid back on the rouge pot with a clatter. "Or he's through with me. You seem to forget that princes discard their mistresses, not the other way around."

"You're hardly his mistress, Eden, and thank God for it."

She looked at me oddly. "But I thought that's what you wanted--a royal mistress in the House of Landers. The influence the Landers could have through me . . ."

"Is exactly the kind of influence we don't want," I interrupted. "Having a royal mistress in the House is like having the most bountiful harvest in a fallow year. Everyone's jealous gaze would be fixed on the Landers, and some would try to seed our fields with salt. We never want to be the most favored at court--the most favored are the ones most likely to lose their heads when the winds of fortune shift. If he starts giving you jewels and having his minstrels write songs about you, I'll send you away to the Sarneth court. Do you understand?"

Eden nodded as she picked up a perfume bottle. "I suppose."

"I'd rather you'd never attracted his eye in the first place, but since you have, we might as well make use of it." I stepped forward and pulled out the letter she had given me yesterday. "Here, that reminds me. Put this back where you found it."

"Is it what I thought?"

"Yes, and worse. Our prince is bribing the poor Bishop for the secrets told him in confession."

Eden laughed. "I have no doubt he's learning much--about cheating for coppers and overindulging on watered wine. Who confesses to the Bishop but virtuous fools like Cyril?" She pulled the stopper out of the bottle and began to dab perfume on her bare shoulders and between her breasts.

The faint scent of roses filled the air. Rose water. I choked on the smell, remembering how Arilea would get up naked from our bed and go directly to the washstand where she kept a bottle of the stuff.

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Saturday, January 01, 2011

Lord of Misrule, and the small press who could.

Although it is not, strictly speaking, self-publishing news I think that it is worth commenting on this year's winner of the National Book Award for fiction, awarded earlier this month.  Lord of MisRule by Jaimy Gorden is a stylish novel about the lives of people and horses entwined together at a run-down racetrack.

It was project the author had been working on for over ten years and at one point almost abandoned.  Lord of Misrule was finally published by McPherson, a very small literary press whose typical print run is a modest 2000 copies. In the wake of the win Lord of Misrule has been picked up by an imprint of Random House. 

Kudos to Jaimy Gordon, but also to Bruce McPherson for helping to shepherd this book from a desk draw to critical  and almost-certain economic success.

See also: