Thursday, June 30, 2011

An Indie Book Event Video Preview.. Starring ME

Holy shit you guys! I grew a set of lady balls the other day and filmed myself giving you all a sneak peek preview of what I'll be talking about at The Indie Book Event on July 30th.

Come and support me so I don't feel like a big ole ugly loser, ok? OK?!




*I owe Michael Davidson an apology. I don't know why I said "Open TOE Press" because in my head I heard myself saying "Tiny TOE Press" but there you have it, video don't lie!

** and how about that god-awful freeze frame of my face! I could crawl under the covers in embarrassment and never ever come back out!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Me. Indie Book Event Flyer. Awesomeness.



July 30th. NYC. Panelist. Me. Can you dig it? Be there!


I will be discussing two panel topics:

The difference between "Indie" and "Self-Published"
and why they need our support.
&
How to reach out to authors/publishers
and build and maintain those relationships.

Wave your Indie flag proudly!!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Review: And Yet They Were Happy

Read 6/7/11 - 6/23/11
3 Stars - Recommended to readers familiar with genre
Pgs: 305

And Yet They Were Happy joined the list of author/reader discussion novels this month on TNBBC and was welcomed with words of praise and excitement.

This collection of short stories stands out among the rest of it's kind because each of the stories contained between it's covers are exactly two pages long: Two-paged stories that detail the lives of a young recently married couple who manage to make their home among the chaos of disasters, floods, and monsters.

The intentional symmetry of the stories forced author Helen Philips to choose her words carefully. (Word economy, I have to believe, is not something a writer usually concerns themselves with.) Pulling from personal experience, existing fables and legends, and even her own dreams, Phillips creatively constructs a world unlike any I have ever known.

Some of her stories have a hazy, murky, magically dreamlike quality to them. I likened them to "a fever dream" - dreams that are at once terrifying and surreal and make sense as you're dreaming them, but quickly evaporate into inexplicable, confusing, disjointed stories as you attempt to describe them upon waking. These stories always left me frustrated. The more I tried to make sense of them, the more I felt the meaning slip away.

Others softly simmered over religious undertones. Stories like "Flood #2" which finds Noah old and defeated at a bar as he explains to the bartender that "the rain just kept coming..It became difficult to gather them two by two". And "Flood #3" where Noah would awaken from nightmares of a great flood which prompted him to construct an Ark he never had to use. These stories were my favorite. I really enjoyed her visions of Adam and Eve, Noah and his Ark, and the peacefulness that lived within those tales.

The stories are broken up into chapters that serve as a sort of explanation or description of the stories you will find there. The chapter titled "We" contains a cute story of the young couple as they make intricate plans on where to meet up should they become separated out in the world. In the "Wife" chapters, we learn of a couple who must store their pet birds in their freezer as they begin to die off. "Regime" contains a story where the town decreed that hanging out laundry to dry is no longer allowed. Yet an old woman who lives near our married couple continues to hang hers out, and while the sirens ring down the street, everyone admires her clothesline, looking for clues.

The overall construction of the collection is impressive. Phillips mentioned in our discussion that the NYC publishers declined picking up the collection due to it's inability to be categorized - it fails to fit neatly into a genre. Though that was not an issue for Leapfrog Press, an indie publisher who continues to release top quality fiction. They have quite an eye for storytelling and the chances they take always seem to pay off!

This book will not work for everyone. Fans of Blake Butler will appreciate Helen Phillips's creative spin on storytelling. These are stories that, though they are incredibly short, force the reader to think about what it is they are reading. This book does not promise a happy ending - or any sort of ending, really. It can be read cover to cover, story to story or you can skip around and "dip" into different sections. In fact, Helen mentioned in the discussion that one of her readers tackled the collection by reading all the short stories that were numbered #1 first, then #2 second....

If you are ready to experience short stories in a format unlike any other, I encourage you to seek out And Yet They Were Happy.

Enjoy the book trailer while you think about it:

Monday, June 27, 2011

Of Things Bookish

Twitter is great source of bookish news for me. Look what I stumbled across today in my Twitter Stream:

FlipBack Books - The Next Little Thing

Hodder & Stoughton have created hardback travel-sized novels that are barely bigger than your smartphone. Opening top to bottom instead of left to right, the words are printed landscape to give you a larger reading surface. Mixed reviews on this one. I'm seeing the draw, but still sticking with my full sized novels, thanks! What do you think?






Handmade Book Light - The New Night Light

Grathios Lab has posted a how-to on building your own book light out of an old hardcover novel. I really dig this, a lot. If I was handy, I would totally construct one for myself. But I'm not, so I can't, but I'm totally willing to accept one should someone wish to built it for me!



Friday, June 24, 2011

Indie Book Buzz: Atticus Books

Indie Book Buzz is a new feature here at TNBBC. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be inviting members of the indie publishing houses to share which of their Summer and Fall 2011 releases they are most excited about!



This weeks picks come from Libby, Assistant Editor at Atticus Books.


Summer 2011


The Great Lenore by JM Tohline
(June 15)

When “everyone-who-meets-me-falls-in-love-with-me” Lenore is mistakenly pronounced dead, she’s given the chance to discover how her cheating husband and his absurdly wealthy, preppy and dysfunctional family will react-and to decide whether her far less than perfect marriage was a mistake worth taking back. Beautiful and elegant in a pull-at-your-heartstrings kind of way, The Great Lenore makes you glad, for once, that you’re not in a villa on Nantucket—but is my first pick for a day on the beach.



The Snow Whale by John Minichillo '
(July 30)

A brilliant, ironic and totally unique take on the more famous but less fun to read (in one editor’s estimation) Moby Dick. A DNA test reveals that desk doodle salesman and suburban white guy John Jacobs is part-Inuit, sparking his determination to forsake his wife and white picket fence to join “his people” in Alaska in their sacred whale hunt—aside from telling a page-turning story, Minichillo raises some intriguing questions about American homogeneity and our obsession with race.



About Libby:

Libby Kuzma is Assistant Editor at Atticus Books (atticusbooksonline.com) and the Managing Editor of their weekly online journal, Atticus Review (atticusreview.org). When it comes to books, her favorites usually end up being somewhere in the classic literature canon, with Dickens as her favorite author of all time but To the Lighthouse (Woolf) as her current number one.


So what do you think guys? See anything that catches your eye? Aren't those covers to die for? Which of these books are you most excited to see release? Help TNBBC and Atticus Books spread the buzz about these books by sharing this post with others!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ode to Keanu....

I had a moment of weakness. I should hang my head in shame. I should be ashamed of myself, but I am not. I cannot feel ashamed while my insides are squealing like a tween girl at a NKOTB concert. (yes, I just dated myself. No, I never liked NKOTB. You just totally googled what NKOTB stood for, didn't you?)

I just caved in to a crazy bookish urge. I buckled under the pressure of an oh-god-I'm-going-to-hate-myself-in-the-morning-for-this impulse buy.

In 3-5 weeks,
I will be the proud owner of Keanu Reeves' book of poems -

That's right. I said it.
Now admit it. You're totally jealous, aren't you?

This 40-page book of poetry sells for $55 smackers (yep, you read that right. At $55 smackers, you are buying the book for more than a buck a page), and contains paintings (not painted by Keanu) and words (written by Keanu) that were supposedly written as a way of pseudo-speaking out against the whole "Sad Keanu" internet craze that went around many moons ago.

My impulse buy was spearheaded by the ever-wonderful Andrew Shaffer, who, upon seeing me freak out on Twitter when I learned of this book (oooohhh, 15 minutes ago), sent me the link to Amazon.com where they were selling it for 36.54 with FREE shipping! HELLLLO! I jumped on that shit like a shark on a bucket of chum.

The purchase was also fueled by my sick and twisted love affair with Keanu. The dude is fucking hot, and has mastered the art of agelessness. Despite his very robotic approach to acting, I find him immensely fascinating to watch and listen to. And now, I will have the pleasure of reading the words his hand has penned. *swoons*.

Someone pick me up off the floor. No, wait, leave me here for a moment while I luxuriate in my purchase-high. And lose myself in this totally fitting, old school love song.. starring.. oh yes.. Keanu!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Indie Spotlight: Artistically Declined Press

Have you ever wondered what inspires someone to start up their own publishing company? Sometimes, it starts as an outlet for artistic design.



Meet Artistically Declined Press. Officially conceived in August of 2009, co-publisher and editor Ryan Bradley explains how ADP was given life:



The Birth

"The impetus for Artistically Declined Press started with my love of design. Sure, I was plugging away as a writer, but I'd been a hobbyist designer for years and was looking for an excuse to do more work in that vein. I knew with my limited experience of designing stuff for the bands I'd been in and small stuff like that it would be hard to convince anyone else to let me do design work for them, so I thought about creating a series of ebooks for writers whose work I really liked. One of those people was Paula Bomer, who I had gotten to know through various online avenues.

One day Paula and I were chatting online while I was at work (at the time, managing a small independent children's bookstore) and I told her that one day it would be cool to really run a press, do some print books, maybe a journal. Her response was "do it." We talked a bit more and she convinced me. So, the press was born."

With the birth of anything, there must then come a name. And just how does one name their publishing company? Is it handled with the same care and caution as a new parent, choosing something that lends itself to a cool nickname while also avoiding the possibility of a harsh one?

The Name

Ryan explains: "The name itself came from one of the many 5-minute bands I had before the punk band I was in for four years. The name "The Artistically Declined" had always stuck with me, and seemed like a fit for who I am and what I was looking to do as a press. It's fun, irreverent, doesn't take itself too seriously. My goal with the press was to support the writing and writers I loved who deserved more attention while also providing top-notch design. I was lucky enough to have a friend and supporter like Paula who wanted to go on the adventure with me, acting as an adviser and co-publisher. Her experience in the writing and publishing world far exceeds mine, so though we are across the country from one another we took the plunge, so to speak."

You forgot to mention the cool nickname, Ryan! The ADP!! How much cooler can you get, am I right? I mean, am I right?!

So a press is born. And then named. The next logical step would be to seek out writers who are worthy of carrying your name on their spine. So how does a virgin press woo it's first novel? Does it display it's colorful tail feathers and strut around the barnyard? According to Ryan, you simply approach an author you admire and... ask!

The First

"Ken Sparling was the first writer I thought of contacting. I had become a sort of fanboy and had a few email exchanges with him; he seemed incredibly gracious and inviting. So, I emailed him, told him what we were doing and said "hey, I know you've got a relationship with Pedlar Press, but I also know you've been hand-making copies of your second book, HUSH UP AND LISTEN STINKY POO BUTT for ten years. Would you be interested in releasing it as a paperback?" He wrote back and said "I'd love to do this." I really didn't expect that part to be so easy. I expected to toil trying to find a writer willing to take the gamble with us.

From there it's been a whirlwind. In August we'll release the third issue of SENTENTIA, our lit journal. We've released two novels, Sparling's aforementioned HUSH UP AND LISTEN and Ben Tanzer's YOU CAN MAKE HIM LIKE YOU, a collection of poetry, TO THE RIVER by Rose Hunter, and most recently a small collection of my stories called PRIZE WINNERS. In October we'll release another collection, Roxane Gay's debut, AYITI, which I expect to make a huge splash."

The Pride

So what does ADP pride itself in? For Ryan, "ADP is about the chance to publish great writing paired with great design. Simple as that. There are definitely small presses out there that have amazing design work, but I think those are outweighed by the ones that, simply put, have shitty design work. A lot of people don't have the money to get great design work, or it's simply an afterthought to the writing they deal with. For me the two go hand in hand. Pairing great writing with lazy or ugly design work is a disservice to the writing.

Of course there are many challenges to running a small press as well. Chiefly, making the time. Running a small press doesn't bring in money, so ultimately it's like having a second full-time job, and since I am the editor and art director, maybe it's like having three. Or more. (Should I even mention I do freelance book design?!) Sometimes I think about a big press, how they have copywriters, proofreaders, designers, editors, marketing and pr people and I start to think, "holy cow, how many jobs am I doing here?" Haha. And before all these roles I am a writer, one who is actively trying to make something out of this pursuit, though my writing often takes a back seat to the press. And, above all those things I am a husband and a father. So, time is definitely the enemy.

And I am realistic. I don't think we are necessarily publishing better work than anyone else. Or that we have any more love or passion for this business. We publish writers who grab at our guts with beauty and ugliness. Writers who make us breathe differently with their words. And I know well enough to know that if I respond to a story or a poem or a novel, that others will, too. I know enough at this point in my life to trust my gut."

The Giveaway

So now that you've learned a bit about the awesomely indie ADP, would you like to read one of their books? Sure you would!! And you would be in luck, because we happen to hear that ADP is willing to send one lucky commenter a copy of Rose Hunter's poetry collection....


In order to be considered to win this copy,
Simply leave a comment regarding ADP or the book itself (and a way for me to contact you!)
Contest will end on June 27th.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Indie Book Buzz: Other Press

Indie Book Buzz is a brand new feature here at TNBBC. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be inviting members of the indie publishing houses to share which of their Summer and Fall 2011 releases they are most excited about!


These indie picks come to us from Terrie, Other Press's Online Publicity and Social Media Manager.


Summer 2011:

The Glitter Scene by Monika Fagerholm
August 9, 2011

The Glitter Scene, Fagerholm's follow up to the August Prize-winning novel The American Girl, is as dark, fugue-like, and gorgeous as its predecessor. The story centers around—or, more accurately, evolves out of and spins away from—the mysterious death of a young woman in a small Finnish coastal town. Reading this book is like walking a tightrope between a dream and a nightmare.





The Vices by Lawrence Douglas
August 16, 2011

Lawrence Douglas is one of my favorite Other Press authors (we published his previous novel, The Catastrophist, back in 2006). His wit and writing are both razor sharp, with a touch of the absurd. But beneath the humor is a real and penetrating exploration of how we construct identity, how our experiences, our family, our heritage and history combine to form a collage of self—and just how fragile that self-image can be.




Fall 2011:

Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam
September 12, 2011

I’m so excited about publishing this book, I find myself speaking in run-on sentences every time I talk about it. It’s a debut, a fact that continues to stun me every time I open it to reread a few pages. It’s the story of David Lamb, a narcissistic middle aged man who strikes up a friendship with an eleven year old girl and eventually abducts her, convinced that it’s in her best interest. It’s completely hypnotic—you feel repulsed and somehow inescapably drawn in. Bonnie Nadzam’s writing is so assured, so stark and beautiful, her characters so real and flawed and heartbreakingly sympathetic, and by contrast, her tale so dark and discomfiting, that the cumulative effect is nothing short of brilliant.


Calling Mr. King by Ronald De Feo
August 30, 2011

Ever wondered what a hired killer might think about Tudor architecture? No? Trust me, you want to find out. This wonderfully strange novel centers around a hitman in a career crisis. He’s losing his edge, growing impatient with his bosses, and contemplating retirement. As he follows his marks through London, New York, Paris, and Barcelona, he finds himself increasingly distracted, putting off jobs in order to bury his nose in a growing stack of books on art and architecture. Dive in and you’ll be hooked, right up to the pitch-perfect ending.



About Terrie:

Terrie Akers is the Online Publicity & Social Media Manager at Other Press. Her bookshelves are an eclectic mess, but mostly filled with modern poetry and contemporary fiction (a curiously high percentage of them by authors named David). After a decade in New York, she abandoned the east coast for Portland, OR in 2009. Find her on Twitter at @terrieakers and, of course, @otherpress.





So what do you think guys? See anything that catches your eye? Which of these books are you most excited to see release? Help TNBBC and Other Press spread the buzz about these books by sharing this post with others!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Audio Review: Go the F*CK to Sleep

Listened 6/15/11
5 Stars - Highly Recommended / The Next Best (Audio)Book
Time: 6 minutes
Publisher: Akashic Books

Oh Fuck Yea!! This is what an audio book should be!

After logging into Twitter this morning, I saw a tweet linking to audible.com stating that this audiobook could be downloaded for free for a limited time, and I hopped right over there to get my copy of it before it was too late.

Did you see who they got to narrate the book? Samuel L. Jackson, bitches! If you haven't downloaded this sucker yet, man are you missing out on a great time.

Go the F*CK to Sleep is the adult version of a bedtime story - it's the story of what bedtime is like when you want to have a little alone time with the "mister or missus" and you have a rambunctious little kiddie who does not want to go to sleep. It's the story of what takes place between parent and child in that darkened bedroom when we attempt to read them a story to lull them into la-la-land, and they just aren't havin' it. It's the story of the nasty things we say in frustration to get that little sucker to shut up and close their eyes and just go.. the.. f*ck.. to.. sleep!!!!

Click here to get your copy of Go the F*CK to Sleep now, before it's too late!
Or watch the book trailer (which contains the entire audiobook) now:

Penelope Fletcher On "Being Indie"

On "Being Indie" is a monthly feature that will be hosted here on TNBBC. We will meet a wide variety of independent authors, publishers, and booksellers as they discuss what being indie means to them.


Meet Penelope Fletcher. She is a self-proclaimed Oddball Indie Author and Mistress of all Things Wonderfully Offbeat. She is the author of the self-pubished Rae Wilder series - a British YA supernatural story line where you can expect to find demons, fairies and "otherworldy" beings.

She's got her hands buried deep in building awareness and community among her fellow self published- from creating video reviews to interviewing other authors for her blog, and now here, where Penelope dishes on what "Being Indie" means to her....





I chose to become an Indie Author because after 12 rejections I got frustrated. I was tired of hoping someone would take a glance at my query letter amongst a thousand others and see what I offered. Actions speak louder than words, so why was I hoping when I could action a proven route of success on my own? It was risky, but at least there was a chance. Failure would mean I didn’t approach the task properly, or highlight my book, and that simply wasn’t good enough.

Of the agents who received my opening three chapters none saw enough potential to request the full MS. Naturally, being new to writing I was devastated, and was almost convinced writing was not for me. Thankfully, the 110,000 readers who have downloaded my book since October 2010, and those who have gone on to rate or review had a different opinion.

To be an author under contract with a traditional publishing house is a grand dream, a wonderful one to aspire to (and my sincere best wishes to all who are actively querying), but it’s just that for me. A dream. One I’ve already woken from, and have realised I can enjoy from time to time, but don't need to get hung up on.

The harsh reality every Indie needs to accept is traditional publishing dominates the print market. Amazingly, this is only because of certain distribution limitations. Eventually Indie eBook Bestsellers will be able to tap into that area of the market on a mass scale too.

Oh, imagine the day when Indie’s who produce quality books can release an eBook, and a paperback, internationally with a well thought out advertising campaign. Our future potential gives me goose pimples. You see groups like the Indie Book Collective actively preaching the payback of solid marketing plans for self-published work, and can watch (or participate) as Indie Authors using the advice go from strength to strength, kicking ass and taking names. It’s thrilling, and who does not want to be a part of positive change?

To me, an Independent Author is a creative soul who understands the fundamental need to be business orientated. Think big and you’ll make it big. Think small ... you can finish that sentence. Once you have written the book the creative part is done, the rest is business, even the cover. A good cover sells books (yes, ignore the saying never judge a book by its cover). A good blurb can sell a book. Correct genre placement sells books. Even bad reviews sell a book (having a diverse readership proves market penetration – loving how I worked in the word penetration!). A targeted marketing campaign sells a book. Damn, if you’re a newbie like me and not sure where you should focus take a shot gun approach and list your book (or a specially written novella) as a free read then see what happens. Where are your readers? Where should you really be focusing your efforts?

It’s so important we support each other. Each time an established Indie honestly (and constructively) advises a newbie on the quality of their offering they are effectively helping to improve the general standard of Independent Publishing. So a big thank you to them! Some may ask, “Why should I bother when I had to battle it out alone?" Well, doors closed to all of us will open. Grudgingly, at first, but when the money flows Indie’s will be welcomed with open arms. Right now the only thing standing in our way is us ... it’s time we realised it.

I’m not sure anybody truly knows what power the Indie Community has yet, but I’m enthusiastic about what’s around the corner, and look forward to see the next Indie star rise.

The Demon Girl is the first book in a series, and is available to download from Kindle, iBooks and Nook eStores. Book two, Demon Day, is out in June 2011. Paperback edition is also available online from Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Looking For a Little Paranormal Romance?

Well, look no further folks! David H. Burton - author of The Second Coming and Scourge - has a new eBook that dropped yesterday, and it's about to fulfill your pararomantical needs. (oh yea, I'm coining that sucker! I just totally created that word.)


The book is called Broken.

Here's the low-down:
Three days before her twenty-fourth birthday, Katherine Gregory receives a letter from her deceased mother. It details a faery curse in which the eldest child in each generation will die in their twenty-fifth year.

Three days before her twenty-fourth birthday, a new love interest comes knocking, and her first love has returned – neither men are what they seem, and Katherine may have to choose between them.

Three days before her twenty-fourth birthday, Katherine must decide if this is all real, or if the strange visions she’s been having are just a figment of her imagination.

The race to unravel the mystery begins, and Katherine must solve it – for any day after her birthday could be her last.
The book is available through Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords for $2.99. So check it out!

(**David is currently seeking reviewers for the novel. If this sounds like it's right up your alley, and you're TBR pile has a little wiggle room, let us know and you may find yourself the proud owner of a review copy.**)

More Me - Can You Handle It?

Yup. That's right! More me! Bill Torgerson, author of Love on the Big Screen, has posted Part II of our retro and indie interview....

Here's where I ponder the self-publishers who suddenly take to calling themselves "indie":
A growing number (of small press), like Tiny TOE, Artistically Declined, and Curbside Splendor, are being brought to life by the authors themselves – authors who, due to personal choice or lack of interest from already existing publishers, decided to stand behind their work and present it to the masses on their own terms. I think, because of this increase of author-turned-publisher, the lines between indie and self published have blurred.
To see the Part II of the interview in it's entirety, head over to Bill's blog.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Review: The Good and the Ghastly

Read 5/22/11 - 6/11/11
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended
Pgs: 277

If you were lucky enough to survive a nuclear holocaust, would you rebuild civilization to mirror what you lost? Could humanity really be that stupid?

The Good and the Ghastly is a gritty, harsh look at what happens when humans refuse to lie down and play dead. Part Palahniuk's Fight Club, part Burgess's Clockwork Orange, James Boice brings the violence and rocks it horrorshow-like. (Did I really just say that?)

This book is like one swift, bloody kick to the head. With ears ringing, vertigo setting in, and stars swimming at the corner of your vision, Boice drags you into his world, a world that exists over 1000 years in the future, and you have no choice but to let him.

In his world, Boice has uncovered a bizarre, twisted version of the Amercia we have come to know and love - A Second America that probably should not have been allowed to exist, if we knew what was good for us.

Second America rises out of the ashes that covered the earth as the result of a devastating nuclear war. While most of the planet keeled over and died, there were pockets of survivors who struggled to regain and rebuild what they had lost. And they had lost everything. Over the course of many centuries, our American history seems to have been warped and confused and misremembered:

*The citizens of Second America believe that Oprah was a great philosopher.
*They believe that Stephen King wrote Shakespeare's plays and many of the classic lit novels.
*They think Bob Dylan was responsible for all great music like "Imagine", "All You Need is Love", and "Even Flow".
*They celebrate "Gift Giving Holiday" and "Overeating Holiday".
*They call God "Kevin Lithis" and believe that "Smuck" is a curse word.
*They keep Deer as pets.
*Visa owns everything!

It's like waking up from a cozy, dreamy slumber only to realize that you are living in a nightmare from which you can't escape. There seems to be no real government, and the trickiest, nastiest men play the people and the police like little puppets. It's the good versus the ghastly, and the good don't last too long. Not under the watchful, evil eyes of Uncle Antonio and his hand-picked protege Junior Alvarez - a young street thug who quickly overthrows his maker to take his place as criminal Overlord.

This novel is filled with senseless violence. It's raw and angry and ugly. It's embarrassing, actually. Nearly wiped clean off the face of the planet due to our greedy egotistical nature, and what do we do? Do we sit back and take stock of what's truly important in life? Do we realize the errors of our ways and attempt to right a terrible wrong by changing who we are? No. Of course not. We race ourselves to the finish line to see who can get the internet and cell phones and automobiles back up and running. We push and shove and fight to be on top. We destroy an opportunity to be a better species, and we fuck it all up by being us.

A clever, satirical look at the future we are building for ourselves. Quite possibly, it could be seen as a warning - "This could be us! Turn back now, while we still have time!"

Follow twitter conversation about the novel using the hashtag #tgatg
Check out the author at his website
View the book trailer here:

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Audio Review: Among the Mad

Listened 6/2/11 - 6/11/11
Unrated
Time: 9 Hours
Publisher: Henry Holt/MacMillian Audio

"Time and tide wait for no...woman."

Oh dear. Not again. I seem to have no luck in the audio book department. For those of you keeping score, that would bring the final tally to oh-n-two.

I won this copy of Among the Mad through a raffle at the Picador Pre-BEA Cocktail party. While I am extremely grateful to the publisher for freeing up a copy, it was something that I knew I would not normally read (or in this case, listen to) on my own. Certainly not one to look a gift horse in the mouth - or leave a gifted book go unread - I decided to listen to it in my car during my daily commute to work.

Though it was not quite as painful as my first audio book experience, it was a bit of a drag. 9 hours is a long time to sit and listen to a book being read to you, even if you are taking it in 45 minute intervals. I wasn't a fan of the narrator, Orlagh Cassidy, who reads in a british accent, or her numerous character voices. Strangely enough, research on Orlagh told me that she has won quite a few awards for her narration on other Maisie Dobbs audio books, so who am I to judge, right?

The author, Jacqueline Winspear, seems to have a rather big hit with this series. Personally, I found the writing to be a bit too pretentious - and before I get bashed for saying that, yes, I know the novel was set in London in the 1930's and times were different back then. I felt the author spent entirely too much time dancing down unrelated lanes, and not nearly enough time sticking to the main story line.

The story follows Maisie, a private investigator, after she witnesses a man committing suicide on a public street around christmas time. The next day, a letter - which mentions Maisie by name - is sent to the authorities threatening to kill innocent people if certain demands are not met. Maisie gets called to Scotland Yard to assist as special advisor in the hunt to track down this unknown madman.

Sounds intriguing, doesn't it? And if the author had stuck strictly to that plot, I think it would have turned out to be an incredibly quick moving mystery novel. But that was not the case. Instead, we are treated to in-depth sidebar's with Maisie's assistant Billy, whose wife is struggling to maintain her sanity after the death of their little girl. We are also made to listen to Maisie's best friend Priscilla whine and drone on about how unsettled she is after moving back to London.

You'll notice that I have decided to leave this review of Among the Mad unrated, as I did with the previous audio book I had listened to. I have become more sure of the fact that the problem with the audio books does not lie with the books themselves. I believe the problem mainly lies with me. It would not be fair to push a rating on a book that I listened to knowing it was not a good match for my tastes, and knowing that I've always struggled listening to books being read aloud. I'm also discovering that I am terribly critical of narrator voices. Whoda thunkit?

If I have gained anything from this experience,
it's that books are better than audio books because:

1) When the narration and descriptions get too bogged down and boring, I can always skim ahead to the character conversations.

2) I can make the narrator and the characters sound any which way I like.

3) I can peek ahead to see if the story gets any better before deciding if I want to continue or kick it to the curb.

Now, for fun of it, go back and reread this review in a british accent!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Indie Book Buzz: Overlook Press

Indie Book Buzz is a brand new feature here at TNBBC. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be inviting members of the indie publishing houses to share which of their Summer and Fall 2011 releases they are most excited about!




Our debut indie picks come to us from Kate, an Overlook Press publicist.


SUMMER 2011:

One of my favorite Overlook authors (and an international bestseller who’s quickly gaining name recognition in the U.S.!), A SIMPLE ACT OF VIOLENCE is a thriller combining murder, politics, and violence in Washington, D.C. I was immediately hooked on the story of Detective Robert Miller and his discovery that the victims of a string of murders don’t seem to exist in an identity databases at all. It’s mind-bending and completely gripping—we’re really excited about this book.





The Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake is an iconic series and it’s particularly well-known to fans of genre fiction. I love everything about Titus Awakes—including its backstory (Peake’s widow, Maeve Gilmore, found a fragment of a fourth book and completed it), but especially its beautiful prose and story that’s every bit as good as the first three. This comes out June 30, just in time for what would have been Peake’s 100th birthday and the celebrations that will be taking place in honor of him worldwide this July.




FALL 2011:



This book generated some fantastic buzz at BEA when over 400 people lined up for autographed galleys. It’s the first adult novel from Eoin Colfer (of bestselling Artemis Fowl fame) — a gritty and fast-paced thriller set in New Jersey following Lincoln McEvoy is an Irish ex-pat bouncer in a rundown casino who finds himself in the middle of a string of murders. It has Colfer’s signature humor with a darker twist that’s a lot of fun. Looking forward to this coming out September 1—and Colfer will be coming over here for a tour, which adds to the fun.



THE PARIS CORRESPONDENT:

What’s happening to old-school journalists as we move into a web-dominated world? NYT Paris correspondent Alan S. Cowell’s new novel is a beautiful, turbulent and darkly funny look at a quickly changing era. It follows two newspaper writers who remember the heyday of print who are contemplating the death of their careers and the experience of the life of a foreign correspondent. I immediately fell in love with Cowell’s descriptions—this is just a beautiful literary novel, and he has a fascinating perspective on how the news industry is changing. This book comes out 10/13.



About Kate:

I’m a publicist at Overlook Press and love the eclectic mix of titles we publish—non-fiction, thrillers, biography, art and architecture, interesting fiction, fantasy/sci-fi and design—but especially our fantastic collection of history and historical fiction. I also maintain our blog, The Wing├ęd Elephant, and have a special respect for the fantastic work book bloggers are doing in a changing world of how readers get book information. You can find us on twitter.com/overlookpress, at facebook.com/overlookpress, and I am at twitter.com/kategales. Happy reading!


So what do you think guys? See anything that catches your eye? Which of these books are you most excited to see release? Help TNBBC and Overlook Press spread the buzz about these books by sharing this post with others!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Conversation with Me??

Bill Torgerson, author of Love on the Big Screen, is chatting with me about book blogging. We met at the very end of the Book Blogger Convention, and struck up a conversation about indie authors, indie publishing, and the art of blogging.

Here's a little taste of what I had to say:




"There are so many levels to book blogging. As a blogger, you can choose to
participate at any or all levels. For starters, it’s your own personal space to
dish about books in any way, shape, or form you wish. There are no rules, no
parameters, no boundaries – only those that you set for yourself. "



Curious to see the rest of it? Come see what else I had to say on the topic!

In a few months time, Bill and I will be working together again to bring you an opportunity to read and discuss his novel. Stay tuned ....

PAHL-a-nick and na-BOE-kof

Snagged this off of Literary Musings blog the other day. Book Sexy Review will appreciate this chart - We had discussed the pronunciation of some of these authors names at BEA11..... ha!


(click on the chart to enlarge it)







Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Review: Prize Winners

Read 6/7/11
5 Stars - Highly Recommended / The Next Best Book
Pgs:112

Ryan Bradley is one cool dude. A little strange and kinky, it would appear, but a cool dude all the same.

As founder, editor, and creative designer of Artistically Declined Press, Bradley works hard at redefining publishing, writing, and marketing. Prize Winners, a collection of 18 short stories - some of which have been previously published, some which are brand spanking new - is being released as the first in hopefully a series of many "Pop Up Releases". It's publishing with a twist: where information about the collection is leaked slowly, teasingly, in an attempt to whet your appetite and have you desperate for more.

One peek at the titles of the stories, and you can pretty much guess what you are getting yourself into. "Curtains and Carpet", "X Marks the Spot", "Going Down"... Are you starting to get the picture? Is it coming together for you?

But not to worry, folks. I wouldn't run around handing out 5 star reviews to straight up porn stories. Trust me, I might be a horse of a different color when it comes to reading, but I still have my standards!

Prize Winners contains well written, extremely personal little snippets of what goes on behind most closed doors. It feels like you're peeking into someone's most private moments. Scratch that. It feels like you're peeking into LOTS of someone's most private moments.

It starts off rather PG-13 with "Goodbye Ruby" - the story of a girl who is obsessed with Tom Selleck's mustache and suffers a rather strange breakdown when she witnesses him shave it off on a late night talk show. Bradley cranks it up a notch in "A Culture of Bacteria" when he discusses the switch our male protagonist makes from his girlfriend's dirty pictures to her dirty underwear when she begins to send him photos of microscopic lab cultures. Cool use of a dual title there, by the way! My personal favorite is "Spank". One guess what that one is about?!

His stories exploit humanities obsession, vanity, struggles, and curiosity at a sexual level. There's nothing extremely dark or sadistic here - The stories actually feel quite familiar. They could be written about you, your family members, your closest friends... They are not far fetched. They are not over-the-top or full of wild fantasies. They are real life.

Bradley has managed to capture the painfully embarrassing dysfunction that follows any intimate relationship - whether it is new, old, or over.

The collection is up for pre-order now. Go. Order. Trust me. Don't be that dude that misses out on the next best thing. Cause I'm telling you. We just found it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Moravian Book Shop's Historic Haunts

On Memorial Day weekend, Moravian Book Shop offered a daytime variation to it's popular candlelight walking tour of the Historic Haunts of Downtown Bethlehem.

Available to the public on May 28th and 29th only, Moravian advertised their Ghosts of the Revolution walking tour, which would explore the legends, lore, and lingering spirits of the Revolutionary War. The tour would take you down the very roads that it's Founding Fathers had walked, leading you to the places where the soldiers had stayed, and may still linger....

I initially learned of the tour through the bookshop's twitterfeed. I've always meant to drive up there for their candlelight tour in October, and I knew I couldn't miss out on this exclusive event. Packing my mother and youngest son into the car, we headed out to Bethlehem to see what all the fuss was about.

As it turns out, we were Moravian's very first tour members.


Kristy Houston, our tour guide, gave us a brief history of Bethlehem - how it came to be named, who the Founding Fathers were, and what life was like back in the late 1700's.

Here are some of the highlights of the tour:

The 1758 Moravian Sun Inn - This building housed an impressive list of our country's Founding Fathers. It offers a self-guided tour where visitors can view the "Gast-Stube" room - a gathering place where guest would await their stage, enjoy a drink, and chat about the day's events; the "Suite" - a room set up to showcase the type of accommodations guest would have had; the Kitchen and the Innkeeper's Desk. Our tour guide informed us that every now and then, as people are snapping photos at the back of the building, they claim to see faces in the upstairs window, or floating orbs appear on the film.





McCarthy's Tea Room - Supposedly this quaint irish restaurant is haunted by the spirit of a woman who only becomes active during renovations. Knocking in the walls, doors opening and closing.. your typical "get out and leave me alone" signs from the other side. Though the haunting doesn't seem to invoke fear in it's owners, because according to our tour guide, multiple renovations have taken place. Thank goodness no one has been reported to have been hurt during the times of other-worldy activity.




Moravian Cemetery - An interesting cemetery for a few reasons. As you can tell from the photo I took, all of the markers are flat. There are no headstones, no mausoleums. The Moravians believed that no man was higher or greater than another, and so when they were put to rest, their graves were marked identically. It was one of the first cemeteries that buried it's dead together, regardless of race or religion. It's said that people sometimes see dark shadows move from tree to tree in this cemetery. And there have been a few sightings of a little girl dressed in old fashioned clothes, clutching at her neck, as though she wants to speak but cannot. Whenever she is approached, she vanishes.

Makeshift Hospital During the War - I do not recall what this building was named, though I believe it is part of Moravian College. Our tour guide informed us that this building was temporarily turned into a makeshift hospital to care for the wounded soldiers of the Revolutionary War. Many soldiers died here, right out in the open, and were buried in mass graves. Students and visitors to the town claim to have seen the ghost of a nurse wandering the halls of the music room, while others say they have seen a soldier in full uniform walking the fields out here, as though still completing his rounds.

The tour ends with us in the middle of the Moravian Book Shop, where Kristy, our guide, shows us the display of Bethlehem history and haunting books they have for sale. She shares a few chilling bits of the ghostly encounters their very own staff members have experienced. Though no ghosts were seen while we were on the tour, and I am very thankful for that, I fully plan on coming back up to Moravian in October to take part in their candlelight walking tour of historic haunts. Can I expect to see you there as well?


Visit the Moravian Book Shop's website to see what author and other events they are having this summer! On June 10th, go meet Jonathan Maberry - author of Rot and Ruin and Patient Zero, as well as David Lubar - author of Attack of the Vampire Weenies. Kick back in the air conditioning and grab a cold drink and sandwich from the Retro Deli (I recommend the Ruben with a Greek Salad). Tell them TNBBC sent you!!!!

Indie Spotlight: Matt Micheli

Writing a novel can be a long and difficult process. One that may require the writer to put it down and leave it lie for awhile - In love, distance makes the heart grow fonder. In writing, it helps to put what a writer is trying to do or say into perspective.

Meet Matt Micheli. He is the author of Memoirs of a Violent Sleeper, which is celebrating it's 1st birthday this month. The novel was released through Creative House International Press, a small indie press that allows select members of it's Readers Club to preview manuscript submissions with an opportunity to offer feedback directly to the author.

This is what Matt had to say about the writing process for Memoirs of a Violent Sleeper:

"I started and wrote the 1st 80 pages of my 1st novel, Memoirs of a Violent Sleeper, over 10 years ago. I don't quite know what inspired me to write or what even gave me the idea for the story besides being influenced by the many books I was reading at that time as well as other forms of media input and life itself.

All that I do know is that I sat down at a computer and started typing. the typing continued and continued and after a while the characters and story manifested themselves. The book became another realm and I became the lead character. My thoughts changed to reflect how he would think and so on and so on. What would he say? How would he react? Once to page 80 for reasons unknown, my mind became blocked and i simply did not know where to go from there.

About a year ago, going through stuff in my closet, I came across the rough draft of those 1st 80 pages, decided to revise it somewhat and re-type it onto my new computer. Once i got to the end, the characters and story again took off and within a month, I had completed the manuscript."

Now that he had a completed manuscript, he needed to find a publisher. After doing some research, Matt decided to submit a synopsis of his novel to a small, local press. "There are components to the smaller publisher, exposure, editing, etc that make me wish I had gone after a larger publisher. But on the other hand, the smaller publisher did allow me to have creative reign over the project, keeping my integrity and creating a much more "raw" version of the book. It truly is MY book."

Here is the book's blurb:

Steven suffers from an extremely rare and scary sleep disorder that causes sufferers to violently and physically act out their brain’s dreams. Ever since his first bizarre, embarrassing occurrence at the age of seven, he has felt isolated, alone and crying out for the love and acceptance from his family, yet pushing them further and further away. His extreme fear of commitment, and anxiety, fueled by this embarrassing disorder sends him into a dangerous world of strippers, prostitutes, drugs and alcohol. That is until Gina walks into his life. With a cast of quirky characters, a satirical and funny look on society, and beyond, Memoirs of a Violent Sleeper takes you through an extraordinary story of the darker side of love.


Matt Micheli is a transgressive fiction writer out of Austin TX who deals with lead characters that don't quite fit the norm. You could say he's a hopeless romantic - not in the sense of your cliche' love stories such as the Notebook but more in a quirky way involving characters with pasts, issues, depth and layers of realness, emasculation, isolation, pain and hurt. He believes that you can't enjoy something until you know the true value of which you are enjoying; love. And would there be humor without sadness? He is a self-professed "off the beaten path" kind of guy when it comes to books and movies and these influences come through in his writing. His analytical, sometimes satirical, and often times blunt views of religion, love, loss, life and beyond are expressed through his storytelling. For him, writing is an escape from the confines of a consistent and ordinary normality.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Audio Review: Martin Misunderstood

Listened 5/29/11 - 5/31/11
Unrated
Time: 2.5 hours

"Once upon a time there was a man named Martin...."

Standing in line at the Book Blogger Convention's "Build Your Own Swag Bag" stations, I was handed an audio copy of Karin Slaughter's novel Martin Misunderstood. I quickly passed on it - not particularly caring for audio books OR murder mysteries - until I heard that Wayne Knight was narrating it. You know Wayne Knight, guys... Newman... from Seinfeld?

I mean, I'm no fan of the show (yes, it's been said that only people with no sense of humor dislike Seinfeld, I'm a freak, I've come to terms with it...) but I'm thinking, How bad can it be if NEWMAN is narrating? It's gotta be kinda funny, right? It's gonna at least have my attention, right? So I went against my gut - which was saying "it doesn't matter who narrates it Lori, you don't like murder mysteries" - and threw it into my swag bag. I mean, it's not like I BOUGHT it or anything.... and it was incredibly short clocking in at 2 1/2 hours. That's not a whole lot of time to commit myself to. That's two trips back and forth to work. I can handle it. Even if it's bad. Where's the harm in taking it for a spin?

Oh boy. Ooohhhh. Boy. I can't decide if my issues with the audio book lie with the writing - which is your typical, cookie cutter who-dun-it - or with Wayne Knight's interpretation of the writing.

For starters, though he has a reasonably good natural reading voice, his character voices cracked my shit up! And not in the "oh, that Wayne Knight, what a comedian..." kind of way. More like in a "Oooh my Gawd! Is he really going to make Martin and his mother sound like that? For the entire book?..." kind of way.

I gotta give him some credit though, there were a lot of characters in this book, and he managed to create unique (if not ear-grating) voices for each one.

The most painful part of the audio book - for me, and I have to imagine, for Wayne as well - were the sex scenes. Oh.My.Fucking.God. I will never look at Wayne Knight the same ever, ever, again. The grunting and the spasms and the shooting of the loads... dear lord. They were awful. Like "worse than walking in on your parents getting it on" awful. My poor ears. My poor, poor ears. I mean, I found myself (god forgive me for saying this) wondering if that is really how Wayne Knight sounds when he is getting his freak on. I can't get those sounds out of my head.

Thankfully, those scenes did not last long, mainly due to the inexperience of our pathetic protagonist, Martin.

And since I'm mentioning Martin, I may as well give you some back story on him, yes?

Ok, so Martin is this middle aged corporate loser who still lives at home with his overbearing and annoying mother. He currently works with all the cool kids who endlessly picked on him in school, and things are no different now that they are adults. Teased day in and day out, friendless and lonely, Martin loses himself inside hundreds of murder mystery and thriller novels. Until the day he finds himself the prime suspect of one when a co-worker turns up dead.

Not the best story in the world, and most definitely an embarrassing and awkward narration. But I really have nothing to judge it by. I don't normally read murder mysteries and I have never listened to an audio book in it's entirety before - so I can't be sure if it's ME or the BOOK.

Have any of you listened to it? Have you read other Karin Slaughter novels? Is this typical of it's genre? Is the narration typical of audio books?

Though I am extremely skeptical, I won an audio copy of Among the Mad at the Picador Blogger Cocktail, and though it is a heck of a lot longer (a total of 8 hours, I believe), I think I am going to give it a shot. Just so I have something to judge Martin Misunderstood against. Just to give audio books another fighting chance.

Though I doubt I will ever be able to shake the "uuhhh... uhhhh... uuuuaaaahhh's" from my brain for as long as I live. *shivers*

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Indie Spotlight: eFiction Magazine

Are you a fan of short fiction? Do you like to read online literary magazines? Then I want to introduce you to eFiction Magazine.

eFiction was first published in March of 2010 under the careful hands of Doug Lance, a 21 year old Western Michigan University undergrad student -studying under the likes of Thisbe Nissen and Jaimy Gordon (The National Book Award Winner 2010). The magazine's 15th issue is out this month.

Doug balances his responsibilities between eFiction magazine and a small internet start-up that markets online content. He believes there are many stigmas attached to being an English major in the states.

"People joke that we can never find jobs or will end up working in starbucks. I struggled for a long time with that criticism because I knew that writing was what I wanted to do with my life.

Being a computer person, I went onto the internet to figure out how I could posiibly make a living doing what I loved. The outlook was not good. Competition was stiff just to make less than minimum wage in traditional publishing circles. After months of turmoil, the idea hit me one January morning of my junior year. I started the magazine that same day in the university library. I had never done anything like it before but I never gave up. I kept working on it despite not seeing any returns for my effort. It was a labor of love. Recently, we have found our place on the Kindle and the magazine is self-sustaining and growing every day.

On our masthead we have two editors signed on, another tentative editor, a marketing guy and two readers. We accept submissions through Submishmash. When a submission comes in everyone reads the story and gives it a vote, then I'll have final say on the story. Most of the submitters are people I've met online or know a previous contributor."

Doug hopes that people will read eFiction because they "select the freshest voices from the world to give entertaining insights into human relationships and escape from the daily grind. It's everything you could ask for in a fiction magazine."

So what are you waiting for? Check it out... Subscription is free, and if you click on the link, you can read the entire magazine from cover to cover... it's available on the website at all times. Each issue contains short fiction, poetry, and indie book reviews.

If you read it, please head back over here and leave a comment letting us know what you think. I am sure Doug would be very appreciative of the feedback!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Tell Me A Story - Collin Kelley

Welcome to TNBBC's 5th edition of Tell Me A Story.

Tell Me a Story is a monthly series that features previously unpublished short stories from debut and Indie authors. The request was simple: Stories can be any format, any genre, and any length. And many amazing writers signed up for the challenge.

This month's story comes from poet, novelist, playwright, and journalist Collin Kelley. He is co-director of the Atlanta Queer Literary Festival, sits on the board of Poetry Atlanta and on the advisory council for Georgia Center for the Book. By day, Kelley is the managing editor for Atlanta Intown newspaper. Collin is currently performing last minute edits to the sequel of his debut novel, Conquering Venus, titled Remain in Light.

Collin has submitted a previously unpublished poem for us this month...

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Tuscumbia, Alabama

My dad at the wheel, my mother,
ulcer inflamed, puked her way across
northern Alabama that summer,
from Huntsville and the rusting rockets
to Tuscumbia, the farthest any of us had been west.
We drove through raw, blistered towns,
like a hundred Sally Mann photos come to life,
the hollow-eyed poor, the rust and dust.
Helen Keller would have wished herself blind.

My parents on each end of a see-saw, up and down,
and me in the middle, a counterbalance.
My mother said more than once, I want to leave,
when the house was on edge in the hush after battle.
In one of those silences, when only a book
was a safe bet, I found poor Helen.
Wondered how she managed happiness
in her turncoat body, how Annie Sullivan’s
urgent fingers slapped against Helen’s young hand
could make three senses seem like five.

At Ivy Green, the Keller’s low slung house,
I thought I came to find Helen, but was looking
for Annie, the surrogate mother
who rescued Helen from her lock box.
Who suffered the sadistic mind-games, thrown
forks and eggs, lost a tooth for her trouble,
who resolved to stay until water became water.
Half blind herself, her thick glasses like mine,
learning Braille just in case.
Her brother dead in an orphanage she barely
managed to escape. She didn’t want to leave
him either, his apparition showed her the door.

Alabama in 1881 must have been a fresh hell,
Annie’s Yankee hostility a constant reminder
of who had won the War of Northern Aggression.
The Kellers giving in to Helen’s every whim,
was a new battleground, yet Annie never yielded.
The high, hot southern sun scorching her corneas
even after the surgeries, books held so close
her eyelashes rustled the pages, hungry
to absorb every visible word, to ingrain them
in case she woke up in permanent darkness.
Going back to Boston was never an option.

My mother’s insides finally settled,
she stared out the window of Ivy Green,
looking into some middle distance,
beyond my father into the next life
of no children, no responsibilities,
a clean slate to begin again.
I picked up Helen’s Braille watch,
the one lost in NYC and returned by a stranger,
because who else would it belong to but her,
as if no one else in the world was blind.
I wondered where Annie’s watch was now,
the one I’m sure she picked up a million times
and said, I want to leave, get off this see-saw.
Could have. Did not.

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I want to thank Collin for participating in TNBBC's Tell Me a Story. If you like what you've read, please support Collin by checking out his website and books. Help spread the word by sharing this post through your blog, tumblr page, twitter and facebook accounts. Every link counts! And be sure to check back with us next month for the next installment....