Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Short story review: Le Cirque de Magie

Title: Le Cirque de Magie
Author: Marsha A. Moore
Genre: Fantasy
Price: Free

Point of Sale: Smashwords
Reviewed by: Emily Veinglory

At around 7000 words, Le Cirque de Magie is certainly a short story. Moore throws us into an intriguing and vivid word where divine beings scrape by as performers in a depression-era-style circus.  The plot is minimal: defeat the villain, get the girl. But the fantasy world is wonderful and I can only hope there might be longer stories to come, in this same setting? The only real disappointment here is the cover art, which completely fails to capture the rich, ornate, gritty notes of Moore's creation.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

REVIEW: Finding Fiona

Title: Finding Fiona
Author: Emily Ann Ward
Genre: YA/science fiction
Price: $2.99
ASIN: B005P44Z5W
Point of Sale: Amazon, Smashwords
Reviewed by: Emily Veinglory

Finding Fiona is an accomplished, fast-moving novel.  It involves a amnesiac teenager who uncovers her past as the child and assistant of researchers who were developing a radical technique for creating human replicas. The first third of the book zooms along with a sequence of revelations about what led to the fire in which Fiona's family died, and the real motivations of the people around her.

The pacing seems to slip a little with a sluggish middle section and, in my opinion, the wrap up at the end seemed a little rushed. Also there is not so much as a hand-wave explanation for the underlying science of creating human "replicas". But perhaps this is wise given the difficulties inherent in making such a process even remotely plausible.

Finding Fiona might be of interest to readers who enjoyed one of my favorite books: Chion by Darrel Sloan. Finding Fiona is also a fast-moving story with an intriguing scientific premise, and suitable for a young adult audience. The plot and writing are clean, well structured, and enjoyable--and Emily Ann Ward is clearly a writer to watch.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Some Final Thoughts from a Pod Peep

It is with great joy and sadness that I announce my departure from the Podpeople blog and the Indie Book Bloggers Review arena.

Over the past year, my writerly focus has shifted a bit. I put my own current WIP on hold and decided on a whim to dedicate my attention exclusively to the short fiction community, specifically, the flash fiction community, a genre generally misunderstood and sorely in need of advocacy and publication venues. Self-publishing has gone mainstream since I began advocating for the industry back in 2005, and I have reviewed many a good book and have seen many of those authors move on to traditional publishing contracts. I have also read and reviewed a good many excellent books whose Indie authors have chosen to stay the course, myself included, and I wish much success to everyone and anyone who has the guts to take their words and put them out there.

I have finished reviews for authors in my queue who paid for and sent me a hardcopy of their book. All eBook queries in my queue will remain, though I cannot specify timeframes on when they will be read or even if they will be read and/or reviewed. I do hope to get to all of them eventually, time permitting, and if I do, the reviews will be independently posted by me to Amazon and Goodreads, but not necessarily to the Podpeople blog.

Change is good, and often we need to reevaluate not only our work but also the direction we have chosen to take on our artistic journey. This year, I have had over sixty-five of my own short stories published and/or accepted for publication at various online and print journals and have already published dozens of excellent authors.

It is just time for me to move on. I want to focus on publishing other authors now instead of just reviewing them. To me, publication has more impact than a review. I have my own publication imprint, and I thought that now might be a good time to take advantage of it in creative ways other than simply publishing my own work.

I do hope you will visit me at my new flash fiction eZine: Apocrypha and Abstractions.

If you write micro flash, feel free to submit. We are listed at Duotrope's Digest, and if you love reading it, we are currently working on our eighth issue with possible print editions in the future. You can also find me over at Fictionaut, the premier short fiction networking community.

Thank you for being a Podpeople supporter. As always, Emily is looking for book reviewers, so if you are interested in taking my place, give her a shout.

Good luck to all the Independent writers out there. Rock on! Keep doing what your doing, unless of course, it’s bad editing.

Happy Holidays from a peep.

Review: Just a Few Seconds

Title: Just a Few Seconds
Author: Nemo James a.k.a. Derek Newark
Genre: Autobiography/Memoir
Price: $9.95
Pages: 266
ISBN: 978-0956798602
Publisher: Derek Newark Publishing
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed By: Cheryl Anne Gardner

Description: A Story From The Hidden World of Music and Beyond Derek dreamt of becoming a professional musician from the first time he picked up a guitar following a talent contest disaster. Thought of by his friends as being the person most likely to make the big time he turned professional but was continually side tracked by the need to earn a living from music. His journey takes him all over the world from private gigs for the rich and famous to the roughest pubs. Starting in the late sixties when heavy rock was born, through to the 1980's and 90's when discos and electronics decimated live music in dance halls. An amusing and heartrending story of perseverance showing how the road to success can lead us down the strangest of paths.

I don't normally like reading memoirs of any sort simply because most of them are of the "I went here and did that and met these people and they were like this, then I went here, did that and it didn't work out, so I went here and did that ... over and over again and over again." Most memoirs tend to lack the flare and fiction writer’s finesse that I normally like in my reading material, and this is really no exception. If you like memoirs like Running with Scissors then you will find this autobiography interesting but not all that entertaining. It's frank, sometimes funny, but for the most part, the futility makes it kind of a depressing read. You want Derek to succeed, but even in the end, he never really attains the level of musicianship and fame the reader hopes for him.

Just A Few Seconds is the story of Derek Newark, and it charts his rather muddled path as he tries to make it in the music business. If you are looking for sex, drugs, and rock and roll, you will not find it here. This isn't the memoir of a rock star, it's the story of an average guy who has a passion for music, but for the most part, he just can't seem to make it work as a self-sustaining lifestyle/profession. Many musicians, and I know quite a few, will be able to relate to the struggle, as will the indie author.

Newark is a self-taught guitar player who struggled with reading music, so you do have to admire his stamina. He perseveres when most people would have called it a day and just given up. From dance halls to failed garage bands, from rough London pubs to ski resorts, and from private parties to nursing homes, Derek survived it all, making little to nothing for his efforts over many years. Failed business, failed relationships, and mounting credit card debt would have been enough disappointment for most people, but through it all, Derek always seems to find his way back to music, which is inspiring, if not a little crazy. It's the life and times of a working musician: the session guys, the backing bands, the wedding entertainers, the cruise ship musicians, and the guys who play the local pubs. Not glamorous. The pay is shit, and the music business as he describes it has a lot of similarities to the book publishing industry: rejection, rejection, rejection.

“There are two types of musicians: those who are famous and those who are not. But while there is a mountain of material written about the famous, there is almost nothing written about the unknown ones. Whilst no musician ever sets out to become unknown, most have it thrust upon them,” said James. “It is an absurd notion that only famous musicians have stories to tell.”

Despite the constant failure -- and not just as a composer -- Derek Newark struggles on through failed racquetball clubs, failed restaurants, and failed relationships of all sorts. For most, the defeat would have been too much to bear, especially having to move home and live with your parents as a grown man, but Newark always remained optimistic. In this story, everything really did happen for the best, and there was always another opportunity around the corner. The crap opportunities counted as much as the good ones in Newark's book.

"Yes, it's been quite a journey. I failed in nearly everything I did and yet always loved life and ended up enjoying the kind of success that the rich and famous only dream about. All that effort and hard work and yet it was nothing more than blind luck that brought about my success. No amount of talent or hard work can replace luck."

As for the read, there were enough serious grammatical issues that it became somewhat of a frustrating endeavor. Newark seems to have a comma aversion complex, which made the rereading of sentences necessary a lot of the time. That said, the chapter titles were very funny, even if the linear timeline felt bogged down by repetitive details. "Cheeserat & Gorilla" was probably my favorite chapter because it had the absurdist flare I tend to go for.

All in all, If you're looking for a celebrity autobiography, you won't find it here. If you're looking for a fiction writers poetic flare and sense of the absurd, you also won't find that here, but if you are looking for an honest look at the life of a struggling want-ad musician, then you will get that in spades. It's a working Joe story, a light hearted reflection of a work-a-day guy. If you like that sort of thing, then you won't be disappointed. Success is what you think it is, and Derek Newark seems to have found his.

Derek Newark a.k.a. Nemo james now lives in Croatia with his wife and family. If you want to read more about his life, his book titled Croatian Diaries will be released in December 2011.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

What Does A PODPeep Read - Well Of Sorrows

Title: Well of Sorrows
Author: Benjamin Tate
Genre: Fantasy
Price: $16 (trade paperback) / $7.99 (Kindle)
Publisher: DAW
ISBN: 978-0756406028
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

POD People, or any people for that matter, should broaden their reading horizons. Based on that idea, I decided to take a flyer on a fantasy novel recommended by somebody in my LiveJournal friendslist. They suggested Benjamin Tate’s first novel, Well of Sorrows.

Well of Sorrows is the story of Colin Harten. When we first see him, he’s twelve, and living in some unnamed fantasy world with a vaguely feudal European feel and technology-level. Colin and his family are refugees, fleeing to the New World to avoid a war in the old one. However, Colin (in particular) and the fugitives (in general) aren’t fitting in, and Colin’s fights with the younger son of the local lord dominate the first third of the book.

Due to circumstances beyond everybody’s control, Colin and Walter, the lord’s son, are sent out as part of a small party to settle the wilderness just inland from their coastal city. Here the story takes a radical turn, as the party is attacked first by gazelle-riding dwarren and then the unstoppable Wraiths. Colin survives by drinking of the titular well, and the last two-thirds of the story is set a half century later as Colin attempts to broker a peace between various warring factions.

Well of Sorrows is very much an epic tale of high fantasy, told in epic length. I did find the book well-written, with solid characterization and full of action. I also liked the way Tate riffed off of the European settlement of America. I found the first third of the book, which involved Colin and company working as mere humans, quite engrossing.

Alas, I am not the target market for epic fantasy, and starting from the point where we learn that Colin has drunk of the titular well, I started caring about him much less. Since this is Colin’s story, that proved problematic. Again, I am not the target reader for epic fantasy, so take this with a grain of salt, but the last two thirds of the book felt to me to be twice as long as needed. It wasn’t that nothing happened (a lot of stuff did) but I wanted to cut to the chase.

Epic fantasy is hard to pull off. Well of Sorrows does have a lot going for it, but in the end it’s just not my cup of tea.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Story – Spin the Plate, by Donna Anastasi

Why did you choose to self-publish, why did you select your specific publishing company, and what were your expectations?  
Black Rose Writing is a small independent publisher. Truthfully, I picked up the “Writer’s Market” and by the time I had hit the “B’s,” I’d received a request for the full manuscript and shortly after an acceptance letter. That said, I do think it’s been a good place for the book in its first year or two of publication. My non-fiction animal care books are with a large, traditional publisher. With an indie publisher, for good or bad, you have almost complete control. As far as my expectations versus reality, as someone who has published (non fiction) with a large traditional publisher, I did not realize how much of the work of preparing the book, cover, and promotions I’d be doing. I also didn’t realize how much freedom I’d have and encouragement to “go for it” when it comes to ideas on the book content or marketing.

How is it going so far? Are you achieving your goals? 
It has been a huge effort that has taken up much of my outside of work time. The book is widely available and has been receiving recognition from several indie book awards. It has been extensively reviewed and featured on many blogs. I think it is going well. It’s on the right path and is positioned to succeed, though of course I’d love to see the sales sky rocket.

Tell us a bit about your latest release and what have you been doing to promote it? 
 I’m doing a three-leg virtual book tour with Jennifer Walker for my novel Spin the Plate. To help promote the tour, I did a Goodreads giveaway of two paperback copies. Over 400 people requested the book and of those about 40 marked the book as “to read.” I offered a coupon for a free ebook off smashwords for these 40 Goodreaders and asked them to follow me on the tour. I’ve gotten extremely positive responses to the ebook giveaway, and several offers from bloggers to include their reviews of the novel on their blogs. My wackiest marketing idea was to promote the free short story version of the novel on my inexplicitly popular YouTube video which features a real-life rat who is the basis of one of the animal characters in the book. You can see “Muzzy” here:

What advice would you give a person who has completed their manuscript and is considering self-publishing?  
Today there is a whole continuum of publishing options – self publish, transitional publisher, and all sorts of indie publishing options in-between. And, there are a tremendous number of options for ways to self-publish. Smashwords is one example of a place to self-publish; if they like your work Smashwords will automatically distribute it for you on iTunes, kobo, Sony, B&N, Amazon, etc. You may want to provide a free Smashword version (for me, this was Spin the Plate Short Story), in addition to the full-length novel you sell. I’d recommend researching the pros and cons of differing publishing routes and asking questions on writers, forums.  Email other authors for any avenues you are seriously considering. I’ve found authors to be very generous about taking the time to respond, especially once your manuscript has been accepted by their indie publisher.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

REVIEW: The Price of the Stars

Title: The Price of the Stars, Book One of the Mageworlds
Author: Debra Doyle and James D. MacDonald
Genre: science fiction
Price: $6.99
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

I’ve heard of James MacDonald, half of the dynamic writing duo Doyle and MacDonald, through the blog Making Light, where he’s one of the co-bloggers. But I had never read any of his fiction, so when he announced that he was e-publishing his backlist, I decided to give his stuff a shot. I’m glad I did.

The Price of the Stars is your basic space opera. Humans are zipping across the galaxy on faster-than-light ships, cracking wise with alien beings, and shooting blasters at each other whenever the mood strikes them.

And damn if it isn’t a cracking good read! I mean, who wouldn’t want to crack wise with an alien, or zip from star to star with the same ease as flying to Pittsburgh for a shoe salesman’s convention? (If you wouldn’t want to do the above, you can stop reading now.)

In this space opera, some thirty years ago, humans had fought a knock-down-drag-out war with the Mage Lords, a separate group of humans. This was a nasty war, with planets melted down to bare rock and biological weapons deployed. The good guys, the humans of the Republic, won, and a somewhat uneasy peace has settled onto the galaxy. Beka Rosselin-Metadi, co-pilot of a starship, is happy with that peace.

Then she discovers that somebody has assassinated her mother, the Domina of Entibor, in a very public way. Besides making her the new Domina, a political post that she despises, it also proves to have put a massive target on her back. She also has decided to go off on a private vendetta to figure out who pulled the trigger on her mother and why. This being space opera, the answers are neither simple nor immediately forthcoming.

Now, space opera tends to get a bad rap because of cardboard characters who seemingly never get hurt. In Price of the Stars, there is no cardboard, and people are not bulletproof. Everybody has a past, and that is reflected in what they do now. Price of the Stars is a fast paced romp through an interesting world.

Rating: 9/10