Friday, April 29, 2011

Free Book Friday

We are doing things a little bit differently this month. No Contest. Everyone who wants a free eBook gets one. How bout that.

For this month's free eBook, we are featuring Editorial by Arthur Graham. Mr. Graham alerted us to his free ebook promotion, and since we reviewed the book here, we thought, why not make sure our readers know about it.

You may download your free copy at the Editorial sales page over on Smashwords:
using Coupon code: LC43P

The coupon is good until May 31, 2011.

For More Information on the book, see my review below:

Title: Editorial
Narrator: Arthur Graham
Genre: Humour/Novella
Price: $ 9.99
Paperback: 136
Publisher: Createspace
ISBN: 978-1450550789
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed By: Cheryl Anne Gardner

At the onset, our protagonist is sent to live with an aunt/uncle after the untimely death of his parents, and he finds the routine and familiarity therapeutic in a sado-masochistic sort of way, until the day comes when his aunt and uncle basically throw him out on his own with nothing possession-wise to speak of other than his porn mag collection. Well, at least our narrator handles it well: with wit, sarcasm, and what was probably a heat stroke induced delusion.

"Most of my time was spent reading and masturbating in my room, activities that seem equally self indulgent in retrospect. Hours of page-peeling and penis-pumping (and sometimes penis-peeling and page-pumping, when things got really out of hand) were punctuated only by mealtimes, when I would descend the stairs to eat with the strangers who presumably read, slept, and pleasured themselves in the room down the hall from mine."

Either way, he makes his way and quickly discovers, via a travelling salesman who "befriends" him, that sex for cash is an easy way to make a living. Then the narrative shifts from a first person to a close third person narrative, still in the head of our original narrator. The initial shift is jolting. We aren't sure if it's the same person we have been intimately familiar with up to that point, but the inscription in a small leather journal will get the reader back on track. Personally, I liked the shift. It felt to me as if the narrator was now looking upon his life as if it were foreign to him, as if he no longer knew or understood himself, and that his life was nothing more than surrealist fiction. Then in the next chapter, we jump again from editor in an office cubicle to a merchant marine ship powered by solar energy.

The Gulf of Mexico...welcome a frigid July morning in the year 2484 CE, well, frigid until the 3 suns rise and radiate everyone on deck to a crisp.

Cut back to our Editor
Cut again to our travelling sex-a-holic salesman
Cut yet again to the Whitehouse at the onset of a nuclear holocaust...

And so it goes on like this in a very hyperbolic Burroughsesque Fear and Loathing in modern America style of storytelling. Although their really isn't a story here, just a series of victims, cataclysmic events, witty suppositions, political postulating, and philosophical musing.

I did find the juxtaposition of the end times of the world and a young man's adolescent end times to be intriguing. The boy’s transmutation into his reptilian self fit well with the de-evolution of humanity theme going on in other chapters. And don't worry; this is one of those books in which it's perfectly ok NOT to know what the hell is going on. That’s part of the adventure, so don't look for mainstream writing via a nice linear plotline and one restrictive point of view, because you won't get it here. It’s experimental for sure, and while the writing is sarcastic and very dark, I wouldn't categorize the book as humour like the author did. It's more existentialist fiction with a black comedy bent to it.

Young man loses his parents and is forced to live with unsympathetic aunt and uncle, relatives he doesn’t recognize as his own and suspects them of being demons...
Young man is thrown out on the street...
Young man gets seduced by travelling salesman...
Young man turns into a snake...
The world is nuked by greed...
An editor's personal manuscript gets stolen and sold to another publisher...
But all books have all been destroyed by a virus...
Eve is taught how to pleasure herself by a really really bored serpent...
End scene and cut to editor on trial for crimes against humanity...
Until a lunatic starts screaming on a domestic airline flight prophesizing that the plane is going to crash, and yet, our editor continues on to Florida to write the fictitious biography of a client who shall never be identified by name but only by non-descript pronouns. I love this bit of meta-fiction BTW. Bravo!

In my opinion, I felt the central theme to this work was humanity's evolution, or rather, our lack of, and how, no matter how much time we have, no matter how much time is behind us, we just seem to be doomed to a repeat performance of the past. Our logic never changes, our ideology never changes, and like lunatics, we expect different results after each performance, so we, self-righteously so, are shocked an appalled by the same ole shit when it happens to us. We can excuse it away, say we have a mental illness or an addiction, but the real reality is that Humanity distorts reality to suit its own needs, whatever they may be at the moment, because we are fickle, and we have no fucking clue what we need to begin with, and much in the style of Vonnegut, our author here makes it his mission to point out the obvious when it comes to human idiocy. Maybe if we all stopped trying to hard-line the divide between fate and choice, we could all see the possibility of everything. We could all see that fact and fiction are not that easy to distinguish from each other over time.

As for technical issues, I noticed a few editorial problems along the way, mostly with the formatting and presentation. In the PDF I reviewed, the matter pages were nonexistent. I do expect a book to follow proper conventions with regard to interior content, even if it's an ebook. This did not, so I had to take off points for that. I could not address the cover except by the image on screen, but it looked to be very rudimentary and very reminiscent of some of Vonnegut's covers from back in the 70s. Beyond that, there were some other fiddly proofreading issues, none really bothersome or prevalent enough to affect the read. I did note that the author used the ellipsis in a more European way, so I did not count that in err since I noticed the word gray was spelled "grey" and there were a few other spelling and usages that, while not American, were not actually incorrect, so I didn't count any of it as an issue.

If you want a straight story with everything all nicely written to mainstream writing conventions then this book is not for you. However, anyone who likes experimental literature will probably just love this book. To me, it had a Vonnegut/Naked Lunch/Hunter eS.que feel to it, and I don't mind feeling disoriented during a narrative providing that a thesis is being argued in the process. That is certainly true of this book, which is darkly humorous and even a little obscene. NC-17 warning here for mature content.

Bottom line: Fans of Breakfast of Champions, Naked Lunch, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas will feel like they are in familiar territory and will probably give the effort a thumbs up even if it doesn’t say anything new -- but then again, that’s the point I think -- and Apocalyptic fiction lovers will also be pleased at the indulgent retrospective. This is an odd little book, but not without its merits especially to those readers who like the above mentioned authors. It may be an emulated style, but it’s still nice to see someone attempting to keep it alive. It's an intellectual read and a fun one at that, provided you don't mind a strange trip; though I felt the author didn’t really “need” to justify the absurdist nature of the narrative like he did in the end.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thoughts on Grammar and Style from a Reviewer's POV -- c.anne.gardner

Writing isn't about words; it's about sentences. Sentences are made up of two parts: vocabulary and grammar. The Words = The Idea, and Grammar = The Tone, The Mood, and The Inflection, or rather, the grammatical choices you make directly affect how the idea moves through the words.

There once was an author who had taken to rant on their personal blog. Nothing unusual there, writers tend to rant, and I do it all the time, but this was a rant specifically leveled at reviewers, and this particular rant specifically addressed the question: Why can't we [the reviewers] be more specific when we mention editorial issues in a review?

As a reviewer, I can be blunt and simply respond to that by saying: Reviews are for readers, not for authors.

Too blunt? Ok, I will elaborate then. It is not generally a reviewer's job nor is it generally their inclination to proofread and/or to edit a book for an author via pointing out all the grammatical and/or structural problems in a review. Potential readers want a book review; they want to know how the story and the reading experience affected the reviewer. They don't want a list of all the errors that the reviewer caught while reading. Simple as that. That sort of detail is best left for the workshop or for the beta read, not for the review. A review is an overall critique of the reading experience, not a copy edit. If I stumble during the read due to grammatical and structural issues such as poor punctuation, missing words, homonyms, poor sentence structure, etc. I will just say "editorial issues" in the actual review. I will also let potential readers know if they were pervasive or not and whether or not it affected the read for me. Sometimes, if I am reviewing from a PDF and the file isn't locked out, I will highlight the issues and make comments during the read, and in some cases, I will share those with the author privately if they ask. I prefer not to make a nitpicking spectacle of a book in a review. Some things should be left only with a mere mention. The rest can be taken offline.

This is not about style here. This is strictly about grammar, and there is a huge difference between the two. A missing comma here and there isn't going to rock a reviewer's world or even reduce a review score, but if they cannot deduce what you are trying to say because they have stumbled over your ineptly placed clauses and your litany of redundant adjectives and adverbs, then yes, there is a problem, and they will probably mention it. Readers don't give a rat’s ass about statistics; they don't want a laundry list of your faux pas; they want a review. If you want to pay a reviewer for a comprehensive copy edit along with your review, then by all means, I am sure they would be happy to do so, but when someone is reviewing -- FOR FREE -- they normally note the errors and move on. Sure, there are typos and errors in traditionally published books too, but they tend to be an occasional thing. That, unfortunately, isn't the case with some self-published books.

Now, you can call the reviewer a grammar Nazi if you want to. I am sure they don't mind or care. I know this because I've made my own share of mistakes over the years and have gotten slammed for them. I still trip over my words sometimes, but I am not going to take a lackadaisical attitude towards grammar and say it doesn't matter because grammatically and structurally sound writing makes the writing virtually invisible to the reader, as it should be. Again, I am not talking about style here. Style is subjective. Grammar is not. I love the language, and I respect it, as well. It can take a bit of manipulation, but when it comes to clear and concise thoughts, you need to follow some rules. Personally, I don't care if you use an extra period or not, or put in extra spaces or not, when using an ellipsis. Both are acceptable. I do care if you use a hyphen instead of a proper em-dash because the two are not interchangeable and it makes the read confusing when you mix them up. Most reviewers expect authors to take care with word usage, punctuation, and spelling. If you practice lazy writing, then the reader/reviewer has the right to feel as if you don't respect them, more so if they paid good money for your work. Now, I am not talking British versus American English either. I have mixed the two deliberately with little complaint. I am not talking about adverbs, or first person/third person head hopping shit, or present, past, future, and infinite tense nonsense. Those are stylistic choices, not language issues. Push the boundaries at will here; you'd just better know what you are doing before you decide on anarchy. Some reviewers out there don't appreciate anarchy, and some don't even know what anarchy means. Yes, that was a shot at those fly-by one-line Amazon reviewers who can't spell.

I also realize that our language is ever changing -- the lesser/fewer debate rages on -- but the way to express clear and concise thoughts has not. Verb tense and placement, dependent and independent clauses and their placement, the use of participle phrases, and all the wonderful bits of punctuation at our disposal help us say what we mean in a universally understood manner. Language is a glorious thing, and you can get as simple and/or as complex as you want. Even so, there is a little something we call Basic English, and with that comes a few basic rules. Learn them, love them, and live them.

As for style, I've spoken at length about the so-called style-guides and the mainstream writing conventions/fashions of the time. Writing should not, and in many cases, cannot always be confined to traditional structure. In this case, writers and critics can take the style guides too literally. I have seen stories suffer due to hack and slash editing based upon misconceptions and misunderstood principles, many of which were gleaned from the latest and greatest Writing for Dummy books. Maybe the confusion lies simply in the definition of the word guide. Guide and Rule are two completely different animals, and in the case of writing tutorials, they are often used interchangeably, so the confusion is understandable.

Grammar has rules. The art of writing is a wondrously different beast, well beyond the basic physics of the see-spot-run sentence construction. The only rule is concise thought, and grammar takes care of that. You have to know proper grammar. Everything else is open to manipulation. Strong writing has a strong foundation. Grammar is that foundation. Great writing goes beyond just being well written. Great writing is beautifully written. Great writing is where the author has been able to combine grammar and style. Grammar works from a set of logical principles; style is where the basic mechanics are put aside for more poetic and experimental construction, where the focus is on the underlying theoretic principles of literature and not just the physics of a story. Every author would be wise to understand both and the distinction between the two.

And not all literature has to fit traditional convention. I think Kafka would agree with me on that one. Standardization destroys original thinking and thus destroys art. So how seriously you take style guides and the conventions of the day really depends on what you are writing. How seriously you take grammar depends on how seriously you want to be read.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Note: I have not read Mr. Fish's book titled How to Write a Sentence and How to Read one, but it is getting rave reviews across the net. The equation in the beginning of this article is not from the book; it's my own theory. However, the basic premise of the book is: In order to learn how to write a great sentence, you have to read great sentences and understand what makes them great.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Page 99 -- Trap Door

Page 99 from Trapdoor A Novel
By Vixen Phillips
Reprinted with Permission: Copyright Vixen Phillips.
All Rights Reserved.

Book Description: Raven and Pegasus each have their own reasons for denying their feelings for one another, but once they are all they have left in the entire world, how long can this charade really hold out? Sometimes, if you wish hard enough, dreams can come true, even if you should wake to find them gone like shadows in the morning. Set in Melbourne in the late 90s, Trapdoor is a psychological journey through darkness and light-a story of love, obsession, and beautiful self-destruction.


A shabby sign lurches drunkenly over the doorway, announcing the word JoJo’s to the sleepy alley. As we linger outside the entrance, the ghosts of soulful guitar riffs echo behind the curtain.

“Here we be.” Raven lets go my hand to light up a cigarette before leading me in. “Our very first date.”

Somehow, indoors, it’s even darker—the only lighting comes from the fridges by the bar, and the stage, where a feather-and-jewelled woman with dark skin perches under a spotlight, crooning and wailing alternately about her latest love gone wrong, while the cool cats in her shadow look suitably laid back as they jam effortlessly around her melodies. There could be more people here than the handful scattered around the stage and the bar, but it’s too dimly lit to tell.

Raven guides me to sit at a table by the wall, and squeezes my hand. “I’ll get us a drink.” His warm breath against my earlobe sends a shiver down my spine. I lean back, try to relax, and keep an eye on his shadow as he lopes off towards the neon glow of the bar. He takes a seat next to a man wearing a big straw hat and a spotted fur coat, with a younger boy playing ruined-glamourous on his arm. I don’t allow my thoughts to linger on this boy too long. Not so short a time ago, that could have been me. I can spot my own kind, even in the dark of a smoky club that probably isn’t even open, legally speaking.

Now what are you up to? Money’s changing hands between Raven and the faceless older man, before he takes our order from the skimpy barmaid. A moment later he slides back to our table, and finishes his drink in a couple of mouthfuls, all the while pretending to ignore me. But when I look away, from the corner of my eye I can see him glance at my glass. “Better start drinking, if you want to keep up with me.”

My heart sinks. So this is how it’s going to be. No protection, no remorse. You want me to be as sick as you were before. You don’t want to be in control.

To hell with it, it’s not like I care anyway. I scull the Midori and lemonade as fast as I can without gagging. It’s a lie, of course.

Vixen Phillips was born in Ballarat, Australia, in 1975. Mostly, she writes, programs computers, and plays guitar and keyboards, but in former lives she's also worked as an audio engineer, in & around various media production studios, as a graphic designer, and in computer sales.

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, April 25, 2011

New Review Site

Please welcome a new review site from indie and small press books: Good Book Alert.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thoughts on Vacation -- c.anne.gardner

Well, I am officially on vacation for the first time this year, and exhausted already would be putting it mildly. Too much smoke, too much drink, to much food, too much sun, and more hard labour in the garden than my body can stand. The allure of a spring day and the scent of freshly dug earth is far too enchanting to go unnoticed. I will have to resume my book reviewing duties shortly, but for now, Mother Nature's poetry is enough for me.

You see, gardening, to me, is art at its most chaotic. It's pure romance: Beethoven's fifth symphony and the subtle words of Shakespeare's pining poets all muddled together. It's a thousand brushstrokes, some delicate, some ardent, and some violently streaking across the landscape. It's dance and song and colour in an orgy of wild exuberance. The bleak winter sky has retreated, and as the plants push through the wet earth, awakened once again by the sun's sumptuous embrace, it feels as if all my long lost friends have come back to me. The summer birds are returning; nest building has commenced with unmatched fervour. The animals have come out of their burrows to dance and shower each other with dewdrops and spring kisses, and the air smells like cow shit. Well, it's not as romantic as Shelly would have described it, but you get the point.

"Nature's first Green is Gold." -- Robert Frost

Nature feeds the soul, and it's the soul that feeds the artist.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sift Books Reviews

Quite a few years ago I suggested that the next step for self-published book review sites would be genre-specific sites. And it seems like just such a creature has arrived in the form of Sift Book Reviews:

"At Sift, we're here to help Readers make educated purchases by providing detailed reviews of self-published science-fiction and fantasy books."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Page 99 -- Serpent's Keep

Page 99 from Serpent’s Keep
A Fantasy Novel
By David R. Beshears
Reprinted with Permission: Copyright By David Beshears. All Rights Reserved.

Book Description: "I bequeath to my nephew, Jacob Quigley, all that I own, all that I dream, and all that I am, in the hope that my life's quest will become his quest."

-- Last Will & Testament of Tobias Quigley

Those few cryptic words send Jake into a bizarre world that couldn't possibly exist. In his quest to gather together the Artifacts, he will befriend a network of eternal Guardians, defend against an ancient enemy no one has ever heard of, travel a series of Gateways to Other Worlds, and if his quest is successful, sacrifice his freedom.

Meara thrust the staff toward the lead wolf, keeping it and its companion at bay. The two stayed just beyond the reach of the weapon, continually watching for an opportunity, studying and reevaluating, knowing that sooner or later Meara would make a mistake.

Jake rolled up onto his side and attempted to sit up. He froze then, suddenly, hearing the sound of snapping brush and breaking tree branches.

Something was coming out of the mouth of the ravine.

Oh, great…

The dragon pushed its way between two trees and came roaring into the clearing. With two quick strides it was on the wolves. The lead wolf jumped aside, but the other wasn’t fast enough. The dragon dropped its clawed foot down on the animal and held it. The wolf struggled to free itself, digging frantically with its front paws, but it wasn’t going anywhere. Ignoring its efforts, the dragon turned its attention to the other wolf.

The leader of the wolves had moved to the far edge of the clearing, where it stopped and now watched and waited. It clearly wanted to get back into the fight, to win whatever prize it had come for, and was displeased at this turn of events.

It knew that it had lost, and didn’t like it one bit.

It gave its companion a final glance and looked up into the eyes of the dragon that held it prisoner. Knowing that it could do nothing to save the other wolf, it growled angrily at Meara and Jake, then turned and disappeared into the surrounding woods.

The dragon turned and looked down at Jake, gave him a studied, knowing gaze. Jake nodded, as if to say yes, I have it…The dragon then curled its claws around the wolf, gripping it so that the helpless animal couldn’t move. The dragon opened out one great wing, stretching it its full length, then stretched out the other wing. It gave two heavy beats of these massive wings, pushed off with its powerful rear legs, and leapt into the sky. It circled high overhead and turned into the darkness of the ravine, carrying the wolf with it.

“Master Jacob!” Meara ran to Jake and dropped to her knees. She grasped his arm and held him up.

“I’m okay,” said Jake.
David Beshears is an author, a screenwriter, a programmer and a teacher. He founded Greybeard Community Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping those with disabilities and their families, after his son was severely injured in Afghanistan. He established greybeard publishing to support the creation of the community center. All proceeds from the small publishing company go to the fund for the center. Among the titles is "Climb the Mountain", the story of his son’s struggle to recover from severe traumatic brain injury. David is currently training to climb Mt. Rainier this summer and will be making the ascent in the name of his son, SFC David M. Beshears, recipient of the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. He lives in McCleary, Washington with his wife Sylvia.

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, April 17, 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rejection Sometimes Simply Means Finding The Right Market -- c.anne.gardner

My very first piece of flash fiction was accepted and published this weekend. More on that later.

Many of you know from my constant blathering that my current pet writing project of late has been and is flash fiction, specifically the micro variety 500 words or fewer. [BTW, I hate the term "fewer" in this context. It has no rhythm even if it is the grammatically correct way to use it. 500 words or less just rolls better off the tongue.]

Sorry, I am easily sidetracked these days, I was talking about flash fiction, I think? Yeah, that's right. Anyway, I've been writing a lot of it: abstract, difficult, literary type stuff, because that's what I like to write. It just suits my writerly mindset. However, that sort of writing can be hard to place, and the more difficult, the more literary, and the more art-house you get, the more rejections you are going to get.

Now, being rejected isn't all bad. Sure, the form letter variety is annoying as hell because it says nothing of the writing. You're left in limbo to wonder was it them or was it you? I hate that, which is also why I rarely submit my work and why I went the self-publishing route directly with my novellas. I am way too high-strung of a scab picker to handle the whole submission/rejection process. I do it every once and a while for a piece of poetry or something, but I let the longer works alone. Lately though, I have been cranking out the flash and have quite the impressive collection at this point, so the question becomes: Now What? Sure, the work has improved my ability to think outside the cliché. The form works wonders if you are trying to expand your range when it comes to experimental styles and voice, and there is the off chance you may be able to slip some of it into a longer piece. Should a freak astrological occurrence occur, say if the sun happens to be in Aquarius on the third Tuesday of the month, which coincides with a gibbous moon, a particularly good piece might wind up as the inspiration for a novella or a novel, but barring all that, what do you do with all the dark fiddly bits?

I decided to slip a rubber bit in my mouth and submit a few to various online lit journals specializing in flash fiction. My very first story submission was titled Persian Cat and it tells the story -- in the very abstract surreal way -- of the reconciliation of two estranged lovers on a train.

It went almost 75 days in the submission queue over at Every Day Fiction. I was thrilled to death it made it past the slush readers. Sadly though, it was rejected, which I will share with you now because it was one of the nicest rejections I have ever seen, let alone received.


Thank you for your submission to Every Day Fiction. I regret to inform you that we are unable to use it at this time.

Very lyrical writing. Lovely. It reads more like poetry than prose fiction. Sadly it doesn't have enough plot for this venue. -- Nicole [last name redacted]

Nice imagery. But we tend to go for pieces with a strong story arc and good character development at EDF. -- Aliza [last name redacted]

The prose is solid and but for so short a piece it really makes the reader work to figure out what is going on. I don't doubt this will find a home in a more literary-minded venue, or a micro-specific market. Engaging read. -- John [last name redacted]

We wish you good luck in placing the story elsewhere.


This is the sort of rejection you very rarely see. It was clear that they liked the piece but that it just wasn't a good fit for their site as their editors tend to look for a more traditional story structure in the work they accept. My piece was just too abstract and too experimental, which is the whole reason I started writing flash to begin with. It's a very malleable form. Anyway, I probably would have set the piece aside if it weren't for their reassuring and positive commentary. The next day, I resubmitted the story to another online journal, one that seemed to favor the super literary, quirky, what-the-hell-just-happened sort of thing, and it paid off. Within a week, the piece was accepted and was published at Dustbin on April 10, 2011 with these remarks:

New author in the house, Cheryl Anne Gardner, writes this short, fiery story of a little over 100 words that stumped us the first time we read it. Then we read it again. And again. And again. And then, we smiled. We’ll leave you to experience it your way.

Needless to say, I was thrilled to death. This is my first published piece of flash, and I hope to have many more. Nevertheless, it wasn't the acceptance that thrilled me so much, it was the hope it gave me. Not hope for my own writing; as you all know, I do not lack confidence in my own writing. I mean, in order to survive in this business – the business of writing – you have to have at least a modicum of delusional belief in your work, and validation is just not my style. So what does it give me hope for, you ask? Well, it more revives my hope in that literary, or rather, difficult, abstract, art-house, thinky fiction is not a dying art and that there are readers out there who appreciate it.

What's the moral of this story? Rejection sucks, of course, but then sometimes it doesn't. Don't read into anything, and don't automatically think the work sucks rubber bands just because you got a standard form rejection. Lastly, and the most important lesson of all: Research Your Markets. The submissions process is work -- hard work. Don't spam your writing to the world. Before you submit, research the venue in order to ascertain if the work suits their style and suits their current publication schedule. I am a subscriber to both of the sites I submitted to. Both are literary sites, one is just a bit more edgy than the other is when it comes to form. I took a chance, lost out, and then ended up winning on the rebound. Your chances of this are much better when you make a good match. It works the same for review sites. Write what the market wants simply means find your market first and then write to it. You have to write what you love and what suits your voice. If you do, your odds of success are much better, keeping in mind that certain markets are harder to work in than others are.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Page 99 -- Vengeance

Page 99 from Vengeance
A Crime Thriller
BY J.E. Taylor
Reprinted with Permission: Copyright By J.E. Taylor. All Rights Reserved.

Book Description: Living large in New York City as a corporate lawyer for the most savvy drug lord on the East Coast, Special Agent Steve Williams carefully plots Charlie Wisnowski's downfall. His plans go to hell when his wife Jennifer survives an attack by a serial killer. With her life in jeopardy and his undercover guise threatening to unravel, he orders Charlie's arrest. But the sting goes woefully wrong and Steve becomes the target of a mafia assassin hired by the biggest crime boss in America. Escaping from the city, Steve and Jennifer settle back into their quiet life on the banks of Mirror Lake. Their peaceful existence shatters with a crippling loss and Jennifer's visions escalate, forecasting a brutal assault on their family. Armed with scant details from her dreams, Steve trudges through a litany of past connections, searching for the key to stop the course of fate. What he uncovers chills him to the core - a brother with a grudge, a serial killer and a mafia assassin are all on his trail. The hunt begins . . .

“What exactly does Bondino want?” Charlie sat on his couch, his arms extended comfortably over the back cushions.

“He wants a bigger cut,” Kyle answered.

“Bullshit! He can take a flying leap off the Brooklyn Bridge.” Charlie stood, crossing to the window of his penthouse. “I’m the one whose ass is on the line.” He glanced at the reflection in the glass. He hadn’t seen Kyle in years and this wasn’t the reunion he’d imagined. It would have been better if Kyle had left after the play last night, but no, Kyle had to be interjected in the middle of the business arrangement he had with Tony Bondino, the biggest mafia boss in America. Kyle was Tony’s personal assassin, so the current conversation laid out more like a threat than a friendly visit.

Kyle didn’t say a word. He just leaned back in the seat with his arms crossed.

Charlie turned toward him. “Why did he send you?”

Kyle smiled and shrugged, keeping silent. His orders were to lean on Charlie, but that wasn’t going to happen. Tony Bondino was not aware of the ties between them and neither Kyle nor Charlie was inclined to enlighten their boss.

Charlie turned away, his hands curled into fists. “Tell him to pound sand.”

“You really want me to do that?”

Charlie grinded his teeth. “No. How much does the bastard want?”

J.E. Taylor is a writer, an editor, a manuscript formatter, a mother, a wife and a business analyst, not necessarily in that order. She first sat down to seriously write in February of 2007 after her daughter asked:

"Mom, if you could do anything, what would you do?"

From that moment on, she hasn't looked back and now her writing resume includes four novels either published or targeted for release in late 2010 and early 2011 along with several short stories on the virtual shelves including a few within upcoming eXcessica anthologies. Ms. Taylor also moonlights as an Assistant Editor of Allegory, an online venue for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, and as a "slush slasher" for Dark Recesses, an online venue for literary horror. She also lends a hand in formatting manuscripts for eXcessica as well as offering her services judging writing contests for various RWA chapters.She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children and during the summer months enjoys her weekends on the shore in southern Maine.
Visit her at

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Monday, April 11, 2011

REVIEW: Goblin Tales

Title: Goblin Tales
Author: Jim C. Hines
Genre: Fantasy
Price: $7.99 (paperback) $2.99 (Kindle)
Publisher: Lulu
ISBN: 978-1-257-04941-7
Point of Sale: kindle paperback
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

I’ve met Jim Hines at various SF conventions, and found him to be a likeable guy. He’s also very helpful to new writers, which is probably why I named a spaceship after him in my upcoming novel! Jim’s published seven novels with DAW, a big New York publisher, and various short fiction. He decided to gather five of his short works into one volume. The result is Goblin Tales, which I purchased and recently finished reading. It’s very much worth the price.

Jim’s first three books were the Goblin Quest series, starring a runty goblin named Jig and Jig’s pet fire-spider, Smudge. Three of the stories in this collection (Goblin Lullaby, The Haunting of Jig’s Ear and Goblin Hunter) deal with various bits of Jig’s back story, including in Goblin Lullaby how the runt came to be cared for in the first place. Much like Jim’s longer fiction, these short stories are humorous and suitable for all ages. Jim does not take his Goblins very seriously, and neither do they.

The forth story in the collection, School Spirit, follows Veka, a secondary character from the novels as she goes to a school for wizardry. Like all goblins, Veka’s not what you’d call a high performer. Yet despite (or maybe because of) that, she accomplishes quite a bit at the school.

The final story in the collection, Mightier than the Sword, serves as a prequel to Jim’s upcoming Libriomancer series. In the Libriomancer world, magic allows people to physically pull stuff into our world through the pages of a book. If it fits, it comes through. If, as Jim does, you add that power to your typical Chicago-area science fiction convention, sparks will fly!

The book Goblin Tales is a slim volume, at only 132 pages, but it packs a lot of fun reading into a small package.

Rating: 10/10

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday Picture: Promo

[click picture to enlarge]

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Review: Mercy

Title: Mercy
Author: Joshua Grover – David Patterson (Author's site)
Genre: science fiction
Price: $2.99 (Kindle) - other formats available
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Point of Sale: Amazon Author's site
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

Here at POD People, every week we get from 5 to 10 requests to review self-published works. Since this is not anybody’s full-time gig, we simply can’t accept all of those books for review. But even if we could, it’s usually clear to me at least from the query letter which books aren’t going to be worth the review. The queries are poorly written, and usually the story outlined is the same generic stuff that I’ve seen dozens of times. It’s easy for me to take a pass on those.

Then we get something interesting and different, of which David Patterson’s book Mercy is a good example. The book is the journal of Georgina Fulci, a wife and mother. Her husband Rob gives it to her so that when she gets back from her missionary trip to Ethiopia, she can tell a coherent story. Unfortunately for Georgina, on the way back, her plane crashes on a deserted island in the Atlantic. The reason for the crash? A zombie outbreak.

This crash sets up a very interesting Lost meets The Walking Dead story, as the handful of non-zombiefied people struggle to survive the rigors of the island, the zombies from the plane, and figure out what the hell is happening in the rest of the world. This is a small spoiler, but when a boat finally shows up, it’s not at all clear whether that’s a good or a bad occurrence.

What impressed me most about Mercy was Patterson’s characters. There are a handful of non-zombies, including an 11-year-old girl and a flight attendant who was looking forward to retirement. All of these characters are well-defined, believable and people I found myself caring about.

I also liked the journal format. It’s hard to generate suspense in first person narration (I know – been there, tried it and got the T-shirt) but Patterson pulls it off. Tricks like a journal entry that read in their entirety: “We lost [character name]. I just wanted to make sure the date was written down somewhere” can be very powerful.

The only nit I have was that there aren’t a lot of small and uninhabited islands in the Atlantic, so part of me was trying to figure out “where are they?” Although in defense of Patterson, the efforts to figure that out by the characters is part of the story. At any rate, I found Mercy to be an outstanding read, and highly recommended.

Rating: 10/10

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Review: Cinders

Title: Cinders
Author: Michelle Davidson Argyle
Genre: Fairy Tale/Fantasy
Publisher: Createspace
Price: $8.00
Pages: 184
ISBN: 978-1453629956
Point of Sale:
Reviewed By: Cheryl Anne Gardner

Book Description: Cinderella's happily-ever-after isn't turning out the way she expected. With her fairy godmother imprisoned in the castle and a mysterious stranger haunting her dreams, Cinderella is on her own to discover true love untainted by magic.

Poor disappointed Cinderella, or rather, Christina, in this case. Her wish was granted, and now, ironically, life isn't turning out to be the ideal happy ever after she wanted or expected. Written in the gothic styling of traditional fairy tales like Aesop's Fables, what we have here is a "be careful what you wish for" cautionary tale. An allegory, if you will, about the brutally honest awakening -- the enlightenment -- of an impetuous child dissatisfied with her current life. Sure, we all know the story: Cinderella’s father died and her step-monster and sisters have abused and tormented her, but in this case, there was another man, so to speak, come before the Prince. But in Cinderella’s haste to avenge herself and serve the desert best served cold, she allowed herself to be manipulated by magic into making a choice that was not mature and not entirely her own, which ultimately would betray her heart and the heart of another. Most girls would be hard-pressed to resist when confronted with this situation. The thought of being offered a chance to escape a life of misery with one wave of a fairy Godmother's wand. The thought of being a Princess and of having a charming handsome husband who dotes on you and lavishes the tenderest of affections on your flesh in the quietest of hours, hell, who wouldn't jump at the chance for that? It's that sort of impetuousness that leads us to temptation. Cinderella seeks nothing more than the fulfillment of her desires without actually contemplating anything beneath or beyond the surface. Our Cinderella, in this case, will discover the truth behind her naive and childish choice, and she will find all this out the hard way. A person is defined by what they do and what they don't do, and every choice or action has a positive and a negative reaction equal in strength and ferocity. She has been warned. Even if the choice she makes isn’t the right choice for her upon later reflection, it’s too late. With some choices, you cannot go back. The fact that she even asks this is very telling.

Therefore, our Cinderella in this story is not an easy character to empathize with. She has everything, and all she can do is complain. She pines away in secret for another man, whom she met before the Prince and now believes may be nothing more than an artifact of a dream. Her in-laws, the King and Queen, are not the kindest and gentlest of rulers, and she isn't sure her husband, the Prince, would actually truly love her if it weren't for the spell cast upon him. She finds her dresses too heavy, the castle too cold and boring, and the laws of the land too unfair, even if she secretly wanted her Step-mother to suffer -- just a little bit. Cinderella herself can often be cold and unyielding, and by mid-story, we find that she has grown little from the experience, and predictably and selfishly, she allows herself to be manipulated again for the second time in her life by the same magic that put her in her current predicament. However, this time, people will die because of her fickleness of heart. The powers manipulating her know this and have conspired to use her immaturity to get exactly what they want.

In the end -- no spoilers here -- things end badly, depending on your perspective. Cinderella winds up in a predicament much worse than what she was in before, but, we can hold fast to the hope that she has gleaned some enlightenment from the circumstances thrust upon her. In the end, she has a real chance to make some positive choices, choices that will be entirely her own. We can only hope she chooses wisely. She does keep one promise, so that’s a start.

All in all, I loved this book. It is a true novella in every respect. The cover is beautifully done. The writing is lovely and imaginative and simple in its tenor. It’s a quick fluid read. If there were any editorial issues, I certainly didn’t notice them, and the interior layout is designed with ample whitespace and clean elegant styling. Even a young reader will be able to understand the concepts being presented here. The feel while reading it is that of a much older fairy tale, fairy tales which were rather dark, gruesome, and abrupt, written mainly to teach a lesson by scaring the crap out of impressionable children. And while this book, like the original fairy tales of old, is loaded with abuses and intrigue and death, the treatment of these issues is quite subtle, so to sum up, if you are looking for the story of Cinderella annexed as a romance novel, you will be disappointed. If you are looking for Cinderella erotica, a la Anne Rice, you will also be disappointed, but if you are looking for a real tried and true Fairy Tale with all the grimness and subterfuge fables like these have to offer, then this is what you want. Enjoy. I certainly did.

9.5/10 I only took half a point off because I felt the “other man” could have been explored just a little bit more.

This book was reviewed from a print copy provided by the author and will be offered as a giveaway in one of our upcoming monthly contests.

Author's Note: Cinders as a stand-alone novella will be going out of print in the next few months. It is scheduled for re-release in the Fall of 2012 as part of a fairy-tale themed omnibus titled Bonded through Rhemalda Publishing, a small publisher based in Washington. For more information, readers can visit Michelle's author page here:

Sunday, April 03, 2011