Tuesday, May 31, 2011

BEA Breakdown - Networking and Name Dropping

If there is one thing I took away from BEA last year, it's that you need to be extremely organized. Create a networking game plan and STICK TO IT. No matter what happens, stick to your plan. Otherwise you will miss out on all the things that are important to you.

This year I was much more prepared:

*Droid in hand for split second photos, tweets, and texts
*Phone numbers for all of the people I planned to see and spend time with
*Business cards easily accessable
*A print out of my excel schedule spreadsheet listing author signings, books I wanted to get, and publishers I wanted to visit
*A bottle of water (for when the Javits gets too hot for comfort)
*Pre-arranged lunch dates with my two favorite Publishing Girls

The Publishers

When the flood gates opened, I made a bee-line for the Indies - straight through the tunnel and over to the high 4000's. I avoided the crazy crowds of people making mad dashes for the big name galleys and took my time meeting the publishers I have worked with over the past year - finally putting a face to the twitter handles and emails.

Two Dollar Radio: Not only are they one of my most favorite Indie publishing houses, but they were also giving away galleys of Joshua Mohr's upcoming release Damascus. His book was among the top on my "must have" list for BEA. Brothers Brian and Eric were there, all shy and quiet and sweet. I gushed over them and made them promise to never ever stop publishing books. For the entirety of BEA11, I sent everyone I knew or spoke to over to their booth. I could be overheard answering the question "so who is your favorite publisher?" with "Two Dollar Radio. They put out some really great shit!".

Otherpress: I popped over to their booth, asked who tweeted under their handle, and was greeted by Terrie - the Online Publicity and Social Media Manager. It was great to meet her in person and she seemed genuinely thrilled when I asked her what novels she would like me to review for them. Rather than carry a tote full of books around, she agreed to pull a few from the shelves and have them shipped out to me - I have no idea what is coming, but I am really looking forward to it's arrival.

Graywolf Press: I was extremely excited to finally meet one of my favorite publishing people face to face.. Marisa!! After much hugging, we calmed down enough to discuss her flight out to NYC, her first few hours of BEA, and our lunch date with Erica from Harper Perennial later that afternoon. Then Marisa did what she does best and pulled out a couple of Percival Everett novels for me to take home to review. She knows my tastes and I trust her judgement. We would go on to sneak coffee breaks and catch up at her booth throughout all of BEA. Of all the publishing people I met and hung out with, I miss her the most!

Soho Press: This is a new publisher connection for me. I love the look of their lineup, and want to build a closer relationship with them. Quite a few of the author signings found me lined up in front of their booth, and at one point I thought the dude who worked there looked extremely familiar. Trying not to stare, I racked my brain until I remembered where I had seen him. I excused myself for sounding crazy and asked him if he has recently read at Word Brooklyn as part of Blake Butler's reading marathon a few months back. "Hello 444. Hello 444." He confirmed, my memory was validated, and then we exchanged cards. Mark Doten, it was a pleasure to meet you, even if I came off a bit stalker and strange-ish.

Picador: I was introduced to Nicholas Richardson, their Digital Marketing Manager, among other cool Picador peeps, Monday evening. We had some pretty cool conversations about weirdo bus people, his I-Can't-Believe-I-Actually-Survived-Getting-Lost-on-the-Bus story, and the pros and cons of the indie and self-published crowds. I bumped into him at the MacMillian booth a few times and set up a meeting between him and my buddy Tara of BookSexyReview. He introduced me to his fiance Rachel, who works for St. Martin's, and was an overall, all around nice guy.

Harper Perennial: No bookish event would be complete without hanging out with Erica of HP. Not only does she and her publisher throw kick-ass blogger parties, as evidenced on Monday with their blogger lunch (where I met Greg Olear face to face after almost a year of communication over books) and Wednesday night at Bill's Gay 90's (where I hung with Greg, Andrew Shaffer, and Levi Asher), but she also hooks me up with some awesome places to eat. During BEA week, she led a few starving bloggers to Chipolte's for lunch. It was my very first time and it was yummy! We also enjoyed a small lunch with Marisa the first afternoon of BEA, and suffered through the Book Blogger Convention's Author Speed Dating together - *cringes at the memories* - but that's a whole other blog post!!

Unbridled: At The Book Blogger Convention I sat in on a panel that featured small Indie Press's who discussed partnerships with bloggers. Libby represented Unbridled and caught my attention right away. You all know how I feel about indies, the "underdogs" of the literary community, and how unfair I think it is that they need to reach out to bloggers for support, rather than having bloggers reach out to them. She made me want to work harder to spread the word about Independent publishing. We had a great conversation about the books they were releasing that they were afraid would go unnoticed but that they felt very strongly towards. I look forward to working more closely with her in the future.

Publishers I wish were at BEA: Atticus Books, Leapfrog Press

The Authors

Throughout all of BEA, I found myself rubbing elbows with some great authors. I have a deep appreciation for what they do, and how they do it. Getting a novel published is not an easy feat, and getting your novel read by the world is even harder.

Greg Olear: First introduced myself to him on Goodreads when I discovered his novel Totally Killer. Immediately began communicating via email and twitter and sharing our love of authors and great literature - I got him to read Ben Tanzer, and he got me to read Jessica Anya Blau. Met him face to face at the Harper Perennial Blogger lunch, was first in line to snag a signed copy of his upcoming release Fathermucker, and hung out with him a few more times throughout BEA week - chatting about all sorts of things. I got all fan girl when I had an opportunity to introduce him to Kit, Rachel, and Tara. "I'm a sucker for the author of Fathermucker!"

Andrew Shaffer: BEA ain't BEA without a run in with Andrew Shaffer! We met last year at the Book Blogger Reception. This year I had every intention of hitting his table for a signed copy of his newest release, but it overlapped with one of my lunch dates. Luckily I saw him wandering the floor of BEA later that afternoon, and stopped him to chat. Introductions to Kit and Tara (2/3rd's of my BEA posse) were had, and so were signed copies of his book with cute little doo-dads to boot! We also ended up hanging out at a party or two. Andrew is the king of sarcasm, and even though I am certain that half the time he is pulling my leg, he is always great company to be in.

Margaret Atwood: A literary icon. I was with my BEA posse and just happened to walk past the IdolVine stage as Margaret was introducing the breakthrough software. We stopped and gawked as she handpicked both Tara and Kit to approach the stage and interact with the author. Once IdolVine was over, we snagged a shot with her and her agent Phoebe, and I bravely asked her if she would like to participate in TNBBC's goodreads group discussion of her novel The Handmaid's Tale. I'm still keeping those fingers crossed!!

Diana Spechler: We met at Harper Perennial's Blogger lunch. She and I have a mutual author friend, Teddy Wayne (well, ok, he's more my acquaintance, and HER friend...). We also have a little of history between us - her recently released novel Skinny was supposed to be the center of a cool little blog series I had thought up last year, back when I was an overwhelmed and under-organized new blogger. She didn't let my faux pax come between us though. We chatted about the book and brainstormed other ways that we can work together. Her book will be featured as part of TNBBC's author/reader group discussions this summer, so be sure to snag a giveaway copy and join us when the time comes! I am really excited about introducing her to all of you!

Chuck Palahniuk : The elusive and twisted Chuckie P. (inside joke: if you know me, you understand) appeared at BEA. Hard core Palahniuk fans were lining up an hour before his signing creating pre-lines that Random House, god bless them, were trying their hardest to disperse. I was terrified of getting trampled when the real line went into effect so I initially backed off and backed out. Tara talked me into getting back in line, since I love so many of his novels, and I am glad she did. Even though it was a long wait, it was all worth it when we approached the table and met Chuck in person. He was an absolute sweetheart, all smiles and willing to converse as he personalized our novels with tidbits of our conversation. For someone who writes such fucked up shit, he is really quite normal :)

Other notable authors at BEA: Talia Carner, Alta Ifland, Bill Torgerson, Kristine Gasbarre, Gayle Weiswasser, Raymond Rose, Sandra Brannan.
Authors I wish were at/could have met at BEA: Joshua Mohr, Rob Kroese

The Bloggers

What is BEA if not a networking space for bloggers to meet other bloggers while they trip over each other to get their hands on galleys, their faces in front of the publishers, and they're crushes on the authors, right?

Rachel from A Home Between Pages: Rachel was my anchor at The 2010 Book Blogger Convention. I knew no one there and she happened to sit near me and we struck up a conversation. It's been blogger buddy-dom ever since. I was really looking forward to teaming up with her again and taking BEA and all it's parties by storm. She is an excellent NYC navigator, she has mastered the Art of Snark, and can talk books like nobody's bid'ness. We spent a lot of time together walking the floor, attending events, and being goofy and gabby girls.

Tara from Book Sexy Review: Of all the things that happened and of all the people I met, being reunited with Tara is by far my favorite experience of BEA. You can read how it all happened here. She and I were practically inseparable that week, and I share some of the most awesome BEA memories with her. We met Margaret Atwood and Chuckie P. together, we suffered through the god-awful Author Speed Dating event together, and we killed an hour with fantastic and I'm-not-going-to-lie-somewhat-over-my-head conversation with Greg Olear when we were all experiencing a bit of downtime! Even though BEA is over, Tara and Lori Take On The World time is not! We live extremely close to one another and plan on getting together on a regular basis to celebrate our love for the written word!

Kit from Books Are My Boyfriends: One of my favorite "discovery" moments was when Kit walked by me on the BEA floor. After calling out her name and gushing over how much I love her newbie blog and vlogs, we spent the better part of the day hanging out. She became part of my BEA Posse (see the girls above) and we networked the hell out of ourselves. She was there when Andrew Shaffer signed over his books to us, when we chatted up Greg Olear, and when we met Margaret Atwood. She is EXACTLY like her blog, full of spunk and energy, and an absolute riot to be around.

Heather from Age 30 Books: Heather and I met last year at the Book Blogger Reception. She was a Lost fan like me, and I'd followed her blog. This year, we spent some time together at Lolita's during the Bookrageous Bash, and I discovered we have one other thing in common - our inability to navigate the city OR a map! Ha! She made me feel so much less of a loser as we shared stories about how we could both get lost in a paper bag and need to position a map to reflect the angle at which we are physically standing in order to limit our chances of walking in the wrong direction. Ahhhhh....

Other notable bloggers of BEA: Colleen of Books in the City, Ra(y)chel of Books I Done Read, Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness, Jenn of Jenn's Bookshelves, Candace of Beth Fish Reads, Cassandra of Indie Reader Houston, and the elusive Reading Ape.
Bloggers I wish I had met: Melissa of The Sunday Book Review

Notable industry professionals that I had the immense pleasure of meeting

Otis Chandler of Goodreads: This was a huge deal for me. Otis founded Goodreads, which is the social networking site that stirred the sleepy reading gene in me. It's the site where I got my start in all things bookish, and meeting him was like meeting the president (at least, that's how I imagine it...shut up!). He was on the BBC panel for Technology and then sat at a roundtable with a bunch of bloggers brainstorming and sharing upcoming projects and tools for the site. I was just flattered that he was asking for my opinion on things, and recognized TNBBC as the largest group on his site. My little heart went pitter-patter!!

Levi Asher of Literary Kicks: Probably the oldest running literary blog out there, Levi is quite the book blogging idol. Very well versed in literature, very picky about what he reads and promotes, very low key but oh so powerful when he speaks. We met through Tara at the HP reception and conversed on favorite authors, our love of the indies, and building a blog people respect. It was really cool to meet him and pick his brain a bit. I believe there will be more conversations like that one in the future!

I believe that about does it for me kids! Phew! Who'da thunk BEA would be such hard and rewarding work?? I am thankful to everyone who spent time meeting me, chatting with me, and being harassed by me. I had a blast at BEA and BBC and cannot wait to do it all over again next year. Will I see you there?

BEA Breakdown -Pre-Event Publisher Parties

Monday: And so it begins....

Event 1: After walking the city snapping photos to kill some time, Harper Perennial
officially kick-started my BEA at 11:30am on Monday morning with their blogger lunch. Entering the reception area of the Harper building a few minutes early, I ended up standing around with Jenn of Jenn's Bookshelf, Candace of Beth Fish Reads, and Colleen of Books in the City, where introductions were quickly had. Nicole from Linus's Blanket (who I met at BKBF '10) and Rachel (my BBC'10 buddy) from A Home Between Pages were there as well!!

Erica, HP's Marketing Manager and writer of the blog The Olive Reader, ran the first half of the event - How a Book is Made. The book they introduced was The Bee Keepers Lament. Michael Signorelli, the book's editor, began by explaining his role which includes not only editing, but also pitching/launching the book to rest of the team. Robin Bilardello, from the art department, demonstrated just how many covers are created for a novel before the right one is chosen. Erica covered the role marketing plays, Jessica Wells covered the sales end, and Gregory Henry finished up with publicity.

Then we were introduced to the authors: Diana Spechler (Skinny), Lauren Belfer (A Fierce Radiance), Greg Olear (Fathermucker), and Talia Carner (Jerusalem Maiden). Of all the authors who were there, I was most excited to meet Greg in person. We had been communicating through twitter and goodreads ever since I reviewed his debut novel Totally Killer, nearly one year ago.

Of course he was initially seated far far away from me, so during the lunch we didn't have an opportunity to talk much. Instead, Rachel and I were locked into a conversation with Talia discussing how book bloggers review novels, the fairness of giving one-star reviews to a book you cannot finish, the unprofessional act of responding to bad reviews, and how she came to write the Jerusalem Maiden.

Once the food was cleared away, and books were passed around, Rachel and I managed to steal Greg's attention for a little while. It's surreal having a face to face conversation with someone you've gotten to know solely over the internet. And he was so sweet, he made me a mixed tape CD of some of his favorite new bands!! The conversation weaved back and forth between DC and NYC traffic, the books we are reading and digesting, and what our schedules looked like for the week. We promised to get together again throughout the course of BEA as time allowed.

I also spent a few minutes chatting with Diana. We discovered that her novel Skinny was supposed to be the center of a new series I had cooked up last year when I was an overwhelmed and completely disorganized blogger. Sadly, the series never saw the light of day, but we promised to find a new way to work together... keep your eyes out for this one!

Before I knew it, the lunch party was over and I hadn't even grabbed copies of the novels for the other authors to sign!

Event 2: Rachel and I took off for the second event of the day, Random House's Reader Circle Tea Party. I met the face behind the @atrandom tweets, which turned out to be Rachel's friend from college. The set up in the tea room was pretty cool, even though the room itself felt like the inside of an oven. Man, I was melting in there! They had cookies and fruity wine and hot tea. They also had backlist titles, recent releases, and tote bags stacked throughout the room for the taking.

My favorite memory of the Random House event took place before the author, Lisa See, took the podium to discuss her new novel. I was reunited with a long lost friend from 15 years ago. Follow the link to see how it all went down!

Event 3: After catching up and introducing her to Rachel (apparently they shared an "awkward" moment at the backlist table), my long lost buddy Tara and I parted ways for the evening, and Rachel and I continued on to the Picador Cocktail party.

We were a bit early so we swung into a tea shop near the Flat Iron Building, and I had the yummiest sun dried tomato and cheddar cheese pastry I have ever tasted. (It was like heaven somehow got wrapped inside those three delicious bites.)

Up to the 19th floor we went, where we saw some familiar blogger faces (Colleen, Nicole, Jenn, and Candace) and were introduced to the Picador Staff - Heather Kirkpatrick and Nicholas Richardson, and a gentleman whose name I forget but I believe was the head of sales for the imprint. Many memorable conversations were born at that party, but the one I remember best was when I found myself standing up for the self published authors who chose to be self published. Boasting that I was the voice for the underdog, Nick, Rachel, the sales-guy-whose-name-escapes-me, and I had a pretty vibrant discussion that took us well into the evening. It was loads of fun, and I felt I had won myself a new friend at Picador because of it.

Then the coolest thing happened! Picador opened their backroom to us! I admit to being completely overwhelmed back there, and struggled with the decision of which books to take. I was afraid to take too many and appear greedy, but I was also afraid that by not taking enough, the Picador crew might wonder why their novels weren't good enough for me. So I settled for three - two books by Sam Lipsyte (who I've seen read, but have never read) and a novel called Lowboy.

Finally, they had a raffle drawing where I won my first ever audio book "Among the Mad" and we were given adorable I Love Picador tote bags.

With Rachel's help, I was directed to the subway that would take me back to Port Authority and my car, and headed back towards the Pocono's with a contented sigh, and my ears filled with the new music of Greg Olear's CD.

If this post didn't bore your brains out, check back tomorrow to hear all about the Authors and Bloggers I was lucky enough to meet during my week at BEA.

Monday, May 30, 2011

BEA Breakdown - TNBBC Takes on NYC

Last year, because I didn't really know any better, BEA was all about the books. As a brand new book blogger, I was focused on only two things - getting my hands on future releases so I could finally start reviewing books BEFORE they released, and meeting other bloggers like me.

When I look back, I can honestly say "Mission Accomplished". I made some life-long blogger connections and managed to get copies of books that I would go on to review before their release date.

This year, however, I was a whole year older and wiser and my priorities had shifted in a different direction. Shortly after BEA 2010, I discovered my true passion for indie authors and publishers. Maturing as a book blogger, I began rebuilding my blog and developing monthly series and features by which I could spotlight these underdogs of the literary community. I worked hard at establishing and maintaining connections in the Indie publishing world. I wanted to help readers and fellow bloggers get behind the books and meet the people who made those books possible.

My focus for BEA 2o11? Meeting as many of those connections face-to-face as possible. Publishers and Authors beware... TNBBC was on a new mission!

I RSVP'd to as many publishing events as I could. Harper Perennial's Book Blogger Lunch, and their after-event at Bill's Gay Nineties; The Random House Reader Circle's Tea Party; Picador's Cocktail party; The Bookrageous Bash held at Lolita's; The Indie Bookseller's party; Electric Lit's after-event; The Goodreads Book Club party; The Book Blogger Reception; the list goes on and on...

Of course, I double booked myself knowing full well that I wouldn't be able to attend every event, but I wanted a full dance card from which to choose from!!

My week of BEA goodness began quite early on Monday. I was driving in every day from the Pocono's and had to leave crack-of-dawn early in order to beat the horrendous bumper-to-bumper nightmare commuter traffic. This meant that I arrived at Port Authority, after clearing the Lincoln Tunnel with white-knuckled relief, with a whopping 3 and 1/2 hours to spare. I say white-knuckled because of my irrational fear that the tunnel will suddenly spring a leak while I am driving through it. Not to mention the fact that while I was how-many-hundreds of feet below the water, my CD decided to play Frogma's "I Need a Miracle" and my mind began replaying video footage from Sylvester Stallone's crappy movie "Daylight".

Enough about that though. Do you really want to hear about my irrational neuroses? I killed those 3 hours by wandering around NYC snapping some artistic cell phone shots (haha). I have no sense of direction, so me and my Hop Stop app became best buds as I entered in location after location of places to visit.

First stop: The New York Public Library. I knew my kids would get a kick out of knowing I had walked past the very library where Ghostbusters made it's debut! There was some construction taking place and the front of the library was blocked off but I thought I got some good shots regardless. Did you know that right before BEA, the library held an overnight scavenger hunt? I totally wanted to hit that, but I couldn't justify two trips into the city that close together. Have you seen GAS PRICES??!!

From there, I headed over to Bryant Park, which is literally around the corner from the library. It was chilly and gray and windy out, so I wrapped myself up in my coat, plopped down at a table where I could see into the park and also people watch, cracked open James Boice's upcoming release The Good and the Ghastly, and lost myself in the book for a half hour. It's a dystopian gangster noir novel that takes place in the 3300's. Bryant park is where I first met my UK blogger buddy and fellow Goodreads friend Becca from The Book Whisperer's Blog - she was up visiting NYC at christmas time two years ago and I brought the kids and hubby up to see her. We went ice skating for the very first time.

I don't know how I did this, but once I got up and walked around a bit more, I realized I was headed for Radio City Music Hall. So I snapped a shot of it, more for the fact that I accidently found it than for what it is or stands for. My elementary school used to take us on class trips here for the NutCracker and other weird dance-y, musical type of shows. It's one of those places that I think you begin to grow out of as you get older. Now that I come to think of it, neither of my kids have ever been here. The schools in Pennsylvania don't seem to travel outside of PA. And the class trips are small and silly compared to some of the ones I had when I attended school in a small town in upstate NY. Anyway....

After walking around a bit more, I started to head over towards building where Harper Perennial was throwing their blogger lunch. I am a worry wart, and easily get lost, and like to plan ahead to be sure I know where I am going. As I headed over the street, I noticed this cute little alley with a water fall and chairs. So of course I take a load off and have a seat and start to read again until it's time to head into Harper's for the first event of BEA 2011......

Tune in tomorrow for the Publisher Parties portion of my BEA Breakdown!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

BEA Breakdown - The Reunion Story

...Or, How TNBBC and BookSexyReview Reconnected

So there I was, chatting with my BEA blogger bestie Rachel (of A Home Between Pages) at the Random House Tea Party Monday afternoon when a familiar face walks by me. I shout "Tara?" and she turns to look at me. Holy Shit, I think. It's her! I haven't seen her in what....? 15 years? Maybe a little less? And here she is, walking past me in Random House?!!

What follows is my recollection of the conversation that took place immediately after calling her name:

Me: Oh my god, Tara (maiden name withheld)?!!
Tara: (looking at me with no recognition)
Me: You dated a guy named Keith. My husband's best friend Keith.
Tara: I've dated a lot of guys in my life, but Keith wasn't one of them.
Me: Yes you did! He was best friends with John, my husband, and Shannon. Up in the Poconos.
Tara: Wha...? Huh..? Oh My God!!!!

Cue loud, girlish squeeing as we discover that we both run book blogs and live 45 minutes from one another. And then the endless questions of what we have both been up to since we last saw each other back in the late 90's.

Of course we then sit down together and compare schedules. She is traveling in by bus, I am driving back and forth each day. We have similar evening plans, which means we will be able to hang out and reconnect throughout the week at BEA.

And that is exactly what we did! In my upcoming BEA Breakdown posts, you will hear a few of the TNBBC and BookSexyReview stories as we encounter literary idols, schmooze with the publishers, and enjoy a party or too along the way. Who'd have thought that blogging could bring two long lost friends back together?

Be sure to check out her blog. It's finding it's niche with Translations and International Literature. She's got wicked good taste and she's a ball to be around! If you stop by and check her out, let her know TNBBC sent you!!!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The BEA Blues

Well, Folks. It's officially over. BEA ended yesterday at approximately 7pm for me. After 5 days of networking with publishers, authors, book sellers, and book bloggers, I believe I am suffering from the BEA blues.

How do you know if you are suffering from the BEA Blues?

*If you find yourself stopped at the front door of a bookstore by security because you filled a tote bag with books that you had not paid for.... you might be suffering from the BEA Blues.

*If you approach random people on the street or behind retail counters, introduce yourself by your blog name, and ask if you can trade business cards... you might be suffering from the BEA Blues.

*If you stand in line at the deli counter and ask the associate who cut your turkey to sign the bag ... you might be suffering from the BEA Blues.

* If you see a line of people waiting somewhere and ask "which author are you in line for?"... you might be suffering from the BEA Blues.

*If you woke up this morning and walked over to the Javits Center to peek inside it's empty glass windows... you might be suffering from the BEA Blues.

*If you are still using the #BEA11 or #Bookbloggercon hashtags for Twitter... you might be suffering from the BEA Blues.

Go ahead and add to this list by commenting below with your own "You might be suffering from the BEA Blues" creations! How about tweeting them under the hashtag #BEAblues?

While I distract you with that, over the next few days, I will be writing out my BEA11 recap, which will be broken out into three posts: The Authors/Publishers, The Bloggers, and The Books!!!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Review: Austin Nights

Read 5/19/11 - 5/21/11
3.5 Stars - Strongly Recommended to readers familiar with genre

Austin Nights is the product of Tiny TOE Press, a DIY Publishing house run by Michael Davidson and his girlfriend. This is the first title released by the two person operation and each copy is handmade with love on their kitchen table.

The novel is a series of out-of-order journal entries that document the lives of Michael and Bridget (and their Honeyed Cat) during their relocation from Miami to Austin. Written in first person accounts, both Michael and Bridget share memories with the reader in what appears to be no particular order.

The chapters, or sections, are numbered but do not run sequentially. Initially I was going to try to read them in order, but quickly realized that I couldn't do that, since all of the chapter (or memory entries) were only one digit each, and those digits repeated endlessly throughout the novel.

It was until I neared the very end of the novel that the key to those oddly numbered chapters revealed itself, and even then, I didn't catch on right away. Ohhh, Michael.. you are a subtle little trickster!

Our narrators do a great job of creating this quiet, ever present sense of doom - for him, for her, or for both. Throughout the novel, you're anticipating something but you're not sure what exactly to anticipate. It's almost like "choose your own foreshadowing", which recurring concern will be the one to "get them"... Will the elven library leprechaun do harm to Bridget? Will Michael get stung by a bee? Will their crazy neighbor attack them? Will Michael fail to return from one of his runs?

Austin Nights is a relatively quick read. The chapters are quite short so you feel like you are making tremendous progress, which combats the frustration of the small font: More words on a page but less pages overall.

If the book had anything working against it, it would be the seemingly random story line. I found it hard to describe the book's plot, and ended up simply explaining what I had read up to that point. I am not sure that the author ever meant for the book to have a clear beginning, middle, or end - I believe the expectation was for it to appear as though it were pages ripped from a journal, shuffled through, and then stuffed back together. But the entire time I was reading it, I was wishing it was a bit more structured.

Michael Davidson did a wonderful job with the book as a physical object. To the average eye, it looks like any other paperback novel. I don't know that anyone would be able to determine that it was put together by hand in their home. It most definitely withstood the wear and tear and travel I put it through these last 3 days...Excellent job.

For more information on Michael, check out the article he wrote for us on "Being Indie". To get a better feel for the novel, check out the book trailer:

Many thanks to Michael for making a copy of this novel available for review.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

David Maine Goes Godless

Come join the celebration!

David Maine (author of biblical fiction novels such as The Preservationist and The Fallen) has gone paperless for his upcoming novel The Gamble of the Godless.

David was the catalyst for much of what TNBBC does today. A wonderfully kind and extremely humble human being, he made time to sit and chat with this fledling Goodreads-er and fan of his writing back in early 2009 in a NYC Barnes and Nobles coffeeshop. He helped me to realize that authors are people too, who can be easily flattered and embarassed, but who also have an immense passion for what they, and others like them, do.

Though his new eBook does not yet have an official release date (he hopes it will be ready for us by early-mid June), I would like to coordinate a book tour to help spread the word. Those who participate will get a free sample download of the novel once it becomes available.

If you haven't read any of Maine's novels before, now is the perfect time to start! And while you are there, why not friend him?

Interested in kick-starting a book tour with me? Comment below or contact me via email to get more information.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad BEA (Part II)

Now that I've got my BEA after-events sorted out, the next step in my "Things to do before BEA gets here" plan was to decide whether I wanted to drive myself in and out of the city each day, or shell out for public transportation.

See, last year, I drove the 4 hour round trip every day. But I was brand new to the blogging scene (my one year blogoversary only hit in December'10) and wasn't really aware of the fact that BEA continued to mingle once the Javits closed it doors so I was leaving at a relatively decent hour.

This year, I RSVP'd to some after-events that are going to keep me in the city quite late. And I was worried about how I'd handle that 2 hour drive home at night, and the return trip in the morning after minimal hours of sleep.

I've never taken a bus into the city ... and I wasn't going to make that leap without doing my homework. So I sat down and made a list of pros and cons:

Pro's for Public Transportation

  • The cost of a weekly commuter pass is the same amount I would spend on parking for the week at Port Authority.
  • I could sleep on the drive in AND out if I needed to.
  • I could read on the drive in AND out if I didn't sleep.
  • I could drink a helluva lot more.
  • It would save my car on gas and unnecessary milage.
  • There is a bus leaving the city to my neck of the woods practically every hour so I didn't have to worry about getting stranded in NYC overnight if I missed one.

Con's for Public Transportation

  • I would have to leave earlier or later than I wanted to.
  • I would have to pay for a weekly parking permit to park in the commuter lot.
  • I would have to limit myself to what I bring in AND out of the city.
  • I would not have the ability to drop things off throughout the course of the day.
  • I would not be able to bring an extra set of clothes (I've been known to rip the ass right out of my jeans!)
  • I could potentially be stranded at Port Authority for up to an hour if I miss the previous bus.
  • I drove to the Martz terminal to ask some specific questions, but refused to park and get out of the car because of the scary, shady people standing out there waiting to catch the next bus!

Needless to say, had I just driven to the damn place to begin with, I could have saved myself all the research.

Car it is!!!!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Review: The Bee-Loud Glade

Read 5/11/11 - 5/18/11
4 Stars: Strongly Recommended

What would you do for 5 million dollars? Would you give up life as you know it to live as a decorative hermit in some eccentric billionaire's backyard?

In Steve Himmer's The Bee-Loud Glade, that is exactly what our protagonist Mr. Finch does. Upon losing his position in Marketing as a blogger for Second Nature's hyper-efficient (read: fake, plastic, artificial) plants, Finch falls into a long, deep depression. His days and nights quickly become a blur as he lies around the house, unbathed in filthy clothes, flipping through nature shows and responding to spam email to pass the time.

Late one night, he types "yes" as a reply to a spam request for daydreaming nature enthusiasts looking for full time employment... a reply would change the direction of his life forever.

The very next day, Finch is whisked away in a limo to the secluded Crane Estate where he agrees to live in Crane's backyard garden for the next seven years. Crane agrees to pay him 5 million dollars at the end of a one year trial period, and asks that Finch refrain from speech for the entirety of his stay on the estate grounds.

Finch's new home - a handmade cave overseeing the many acres of land that he will now call home. Crane supplies him with a pallet to sleep on, a scratchy tunic to wear, food to eat, and leaves him little gifts and notes that instruct him on what to do while Crane monitors his movements and daily activities through strategically placed cameras, microphones and speakers.

Over the years, Crane introduces fishing rods, gardening tools, paints and easels, and even a heavily medicated lion into Finch's world with the expectation that he adapts them into his daily routines.

The more I read, the more I came to think of Crane's Estate as the Garden of Eden. Crane would often call to Finch through the speaker system - in much the same way God would speak to Adam, a disembodied voice that would break through the hum of the bees and the quiet babbling of the brook - commanding Finch to perform some task. The garden - ever changing, ever developing under Cranes careful instigation and Finch's unsure but extremely capable hands. And in the absence of that voice, Finch soon found himself contemplating the motives of The Old Man, a god-like presence that he believed lived within the Garden, with whom he felt he had a strong connection with.

Though I was born with a "black thumb", I do realize that there is something very spiritual in creating something out of nothing; digging and planting, sculpting and beating back the land to mold it and shape it to your needs. Becoming one with the plants and animals, living off the land, enjoying the fruits of your labor...

Author Steve Himmer recently published an autobiographical essay outlining his backpacking adventures for The Millions.com. Reading this article while also knee-deep in his novel put a sharper focus on things for me. I now realize where Himmer's attention to detail in all that was happening around Finch has come from. The honesty and believability of Finch's situation is due in a large way to Himmer's experiences traveling abroad and alone. I can only imagine the places a mind will wander to when a person finds themselves alone, with minimal human contact, so far removed from all that you knew and found comfort in.

Could you live for countless years in a garden all alone, living like a pet to some rich old man who has nothing better to do than dictate your daily regime while observing your every move from afar? I am sure that over time, as it was for Finch, you would forget your current circumstance and live as though that lifestyle was normal... never batting an eye, or giving it another thought. Isn't that what we humans do best? Adapt to our situations? If for nothing else than to to simply preserve our sanity?

A big thank you to Atticus Books for reaching out and introducing me to a whole new slew of indie literature!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fucking Zombies!!! (A Review of Sorts)

Zombies hit Manhattan while you are in the middle of a corporate company meeting. Quicker than you can blink an eye, they are everywhere. People are panicking. The streets are clogged. And you have to make a decision.

Do you:

(a) Hail a cab?
(b) Walk 12 blocks to the subway and head out to Brooklyn?
(c) Run to your apartment?

This is the moment where all those Zombie books and movies are supposed to mean something. How many times did you sit there, on the couch, watching some dumb ass actors make some dumb ass decisions that ended up getting them cornered and killed? How many times were you yelling at them not to hide but to keep running, to remain out in the open, to leave the wounded and helpless behind?

Now it's your chance to shine! YOU get to choose what the character does. YOU are in control of humanities destiny, should you accept the challenge.

And we did. We accepted the challenge at 8:30pm this evening. My husband, my 8 and 13 year olds, and I snuggled up on the couch and passed Can You Survive The Zombie Apocalypse back and forth as we each took turns reading from it's pages.

We chose to run to our apartment. It's the smart thing to do. It's familiar. We can gather supplies. We can get our heads together before making an irrational decision.

We chose to answer the phone when we saw "mom" was calling, rather than ignore it and get wasted on beer. Mom made us take the ferry to get off the island, but the zombies were already out there so we ran and hid in a meat packing warehouse.

There were other people in there, Zombie aficionados, and we decided to cover ourselves in raw meat and cow guts to disguise our smell and "Shaun of the Dead" ourselves out into the crowd and over to the water where we would swim to Liberty Island.

But at the last minute, when given the choice, we chose to remain behind. We realized the plan was flawed. It wouldn't work.

As the others executed the plan, we attempted to distract the zombies, and wound up being chased by loads of them, straight into the meat freezer. Which is locked from the inside. Our frozen body was found two years later by the Army. We are not too smart. We lasted a whole 30 minutes. By 9pm, it was all over.

The End.

But it's not really the end. The cool thing about this book is the fact that we can start all over again tomorrow and make better decisions and hopefully last longer than we did tonight. We can read this book 100 times and come up with 100 different outcomes.

We LOVED this retro-reading experience! And, I don't want you to start judging me when I say this (even though I know you will), this was my 8 year old's first attempt at reading an adult novel out loud. Of course, he had to skip the bad words and replace them with "beeeeeep", but he had a blast!!

We have already made plans to pick it back up again tomorrow night and read it together to try to beat those fucking zombies! We're gonna show them who's boss! We won't lay down and play chicken, no way, Jose!

Family Fun Night at the TNBBC house has returned and it's all thanks to Max Brallier and his hilarous, heart-racing, nerve-wracking, blood-drenched roller-coaster ride of a story!

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad BEA

Well Folks. I'm officially in panic mode!

In typical TNBBC fashion, I kept telling myself that I had time... time to plan how I wanted to travel, time to plan which events to attend, time to plan meet-ups... and now, I feel like I'm looking down the barrel of BEA. It's rush, rush, rush to organize as much as I possibly can while still leaving myself time to work, read, and relax.

I just typed up an Excel sheet outlining all of the BEA events I want to attend. Last year, I skipped out on all of them except the BBC Reception. (1) I had only really just gotten started with the whole "serious blogger" thing and my contacts were still a bit loose and wobbly. (2) I had a two hour drive back and forth each day and was afraid to stay too late (where drinks were involved).

This year, I am hoping to crash as many parties as my schedule will allow me! Whether I am driving in on my own again, or taking the commuter bus each day (more to come on that tomorrow!), I refuse to miss out on all of the fun this time!

Evilreads published this extremely helpful post today outlining most of the after parties that are occurring during the week of BEA.

Here's what I hope to attend:

Monday the 23rd:

The Harper Perennial Blogger Lunch at 11:30am
The Random House Readers Tea Circle at 3pm
- or -
Picador's BEA Reception 6-8pm
- or -
The Electric Lit Party 6-10pm.

Tuesday the 24th:

- or -
The Soho Press Party 8-10pm

Wednesday the 25th:

The Harper Perennial Party 6-8pm
The Goodreads Book Club Party 7-9pm

Thursday the 26th:

The Book Blogger Convention Reception 3-5pm

Friday the 27th:

Which events are you planning to attend? Will you be at any of the ones I listed above? Care to travel together as we crash party after party? Comment below and share which event you are most looking forward to! And I look forward to meeting you out there in BEA Party Land next week!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Michael Davidson On "Being Indie"

On "Being Indie" is a new 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 Michael Davidson. He and his girlfriend started a DIY Press called {Tiny TOE Press}. Every copy of their books are handmade on their kitchen table. They design their own covers and print them on cardstock. Their first title was written by Michael. It's called AUSTIN NIGHTS. I have a copy of this book and it's absolutely lovely. This month, Michael shares his thoughts on what he believes indie stands for.

I don't know what it means to be indie. When I think of an 'indie' writer, no image comes to mind. I can think of 'unforgettable' writers, and I can think of 'fan fiction' writers, and I can think of 'aspiring' writers, but I can't think of 'indie' writers. I guess their image falls through the cracks. Even though I would prefer to be an unforgettable writer, at the moment, in this very specific dimension, I am probably best described as an indie writer. I simply don't have the readership required to be any other kind of writer.

There are, as of today, 100-150 copies of my book in the hands of gentle readers. I created each of these copies of Austin Nights with exacting detail on my kitchen table, and I will continue creating copies every week for as long as I can. No small press represents me. I am not a 'small press' writer. I have signed no contracts. Nor do I pay any kind of printer to make my books. I am unbacked and self-made. This, more than anything else, is what makes me indie (if I must be something other than unforgettable).

Indie writers create their thing on the outside, prepared for a litany of small failures. Indie writers know that to put their book in front of readers is really just a matter of doing it. There's infinite hope, infinite ways indie writers may not have seen or tried yet. Whereas traditionally published writers are more at the mercy of the contracts they signed with the so-called publishers that do everything they can to get their book in front of readers, indie writers are self-reliant, with no one to blame but themselves.

This is probably why no one really believes in indie writers, at least not until they prove their merit in some significantly quantifiable way. Indie writers are buskers on the corner of busy streets, alone and open to the caprice of the world, performing for themselves and any stranger who has enough compassion to listen. Indie writers rely very much on compassion. This is their currency. Often indie writers are in love with everything around them, firm believers in the inherent goodness of life. Without this kind of faith, they wouldn't be able to roll against the odds.

At the risk of sounding desperate, indie writers sometimes qualify their 'please' with 'pretty.' They don't assert themselves or stand up for what may in fact be theirs. They don't believe they deserve anything at all and, apart from becoming unforgettable in the long run, they don't really care about much when it comes to their reputation. Although indie writers are entitled to nothing, they leave 20% tips at coffeehouses and hand bums beautiful apples. They are fond of smiling when getting stomped on. Indie writers are this way only because they are immeasurably grateful to be their own person every minute of their lives.

Becoming an indie writer isn't a feasible investment for most people to make. Capitalists look at indie writers and shudder deeply and feel completely flummoxed. None of the economic theories they worship apply a lick to this lot. Indie writers transcend discovered laws. They care only about producing iterations of themselves, fully aware that each 'unit' is a small piece of their own death. But they are all right with this.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Review: Sophomoric Philosophy

Read 4/28/11 - 5/10/11
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended

Sophomoric Philosophy is a highly deceiving little novel. The title and design reminds you of something you might find on the cover of a college textbook, doesn't it?

Funny story... During the Little League Opening Day Ceremony, I stood out in the field holding this book, watching my kids getting their team photos taken and I was asked by the photographer what I was reading. Holding the book out to her, I said "Sophomoric Philosophy". She nodded and said, "Are you a student, then?", and I said, "Uhm...no. It's independent literary fiction." - I suppose you had to be there....

Though it is fictional, it very much reads like non-fiction, and for good reason, as it draws heavily on author Victor David Giron's actual life experiences. Giron wanted to write about the things he knew best - being a first generation Mexican-American growing up in Chicago surrounded and influenced by the music, movie, and drug trends of the 80's and 90's - without being held strictly to the facts. (Which is similar to the way Jessica Anya Blau and Michael Kimball approached their latest novels, Drinking Closer to Home and Us, respectively.)

The book is essentially the fictionalized autobiography of Alex Lopez, an accidental 30-something year old accountant who looks back on his teenage years as possibly the best years of his life. He tells his life story out of order, in a series of short chapters as the moods or memories hit him, pondering deep and meaningful things that he feels childish speaking out loud about now - things like God and religion, the universe, life and death.

He reminisces over all the lost loves and missed opportunities he's had, dissecting specific moments from his past over and over again from different angles. He is a constant worrier and noticeably sweats when he get nervous. He is awkward and honest and painfully complicated when he doesn't need to be. He is hyper-aware of his inability to fit in socially and hides from it under the cover of some really awesome music.

Giron practically wrote me into a 1990's coma with all his references to the music and fashion statements of those times. Bands like R.E.M., The Cure, Front 242, Ministry, and The Pixies who were forced to give way to grunge rock trend setters like Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana.. Horrid clothing like Z.Cavaricci's and french cuffed jeans giving way to the open flannel shirts, baggy jeans, and converse sneakers. It was like he had somehow been spying on me during my high school years. He was speaking about my generation! Those were my memories he was writing about..!

Filled with a lifetime worth of drug use, sex, partying, and havoc-wreaking, Sophomoric Philosophy is going to speak loudest to those of us who have reluctantly given up our 20's and firmly refuse to stare our rapidly approaching 40's in the eye. Giron is not afraid to make his narrator look like an asshole, openly admits his fear of making the first move on the fairer sex, and dispels the whole opposite-sex-being-friends myth by exposing it for what it really is.

What? You think I am going to give everything away? Do yourself a favor, my fellow GenXers, and purchase yourself a copy of this novel. While you are placing your order through it's publisher - Curbside Splendor - please check out this teeny tiny little excerpt - and take a peek at it's trailer:

Many many thanks to our good buddy Ben Tanzer, for turning my head and pointing it in the direction of this book and it's author. Many many thanks to it's author-slash-co-founder-of-Curbside-Publishing for making the review copy available to me.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I'm in The Party Pit

Mom, my blog is in print again! Look, look, right there, see?!!

Last month, author Ben Tanzer did us a solid by writing a brand new, previously unpublished, short story for our Tell Me A Story feature.

His publisher, Ryan Bradley of Artistically Declined, loved it and included it in the chapbook that accompanied Ben's most recent novel You Can Make Him Like You. The chapbook is a collection of other really cool things too, like a few pre-edit pages from the novel and an interview between Ben and Ryan.

As always, TNBBC is proud to support and be supported by the Indies!
But... (ahem).. Ben, you have me worried with this new intern obsession. Just sayin, bud!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Getting 'Steamy' With It... Nah Nah Nah Nah Nanah Nah

Oh god, do I love me some hot, steamy, quiet time with a good book when I'm feeling bad.

I've had a rough weekend. A co-worker, with whom I am very close, lost her job this weekend. I feel like I just lost a vital organ, and am suffering from a range of new and frustrating emotions because of it.

Though soaking in a tub full of lava-hot bath water doesn't help sooth my bruised emotions, it certainly works wonders on my tense shoulders and neck, aching arms and legs, and allows me a few uninterrupted moments to shut off the sad part of my brain while I relax with my current read.

I'm still hanging tough with Sophomoric Philosophy, or perhaps I should say that it is still hanging tough with me. I haven't been able to devote much time to the poor little guy - it's been one hell of a busy past two weeks. It's been around long enough that it's starting to feel like an old, supportive friend. I've become extremely comfortable with it, and look forward to picking it back up every night after work. It's gonna kill me when I get to the end and we finally have to say goodbye. So I'm trying to make what time we have left mean something.

Reading and bathing is a dangerous book-sport, but one that I find highly enjoyable. The hot water swirling around me as I lye back and try not to get my hands or the book wet as I finish page after page. The steam adding a slight curl to the corners of the pages... My toes and fingers pruning ever so slowly... Mmmmm....

Yes, folks, I've admitted it. I am a book-bather. What about about you? Where do you like to relax with a good book?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What I'm Reading: Wednesdays

"What I'm Reading" Wednesdays is my way of sharing what I am currently reading.

In the right hand column of my blog, you will see a section called "currently reading". I update this as I start each new novel. Today, I am currently spending time with Sophomoric Philosophy by Victor David Giron, who also happens to be publisher, editor-in-chief, publicist, and accountant for Curbside Splendor - the company that published the book.

Here's a funny encounter I had while sitting at my sons' Little League Opening Day Ceremony the other day:

Lady: Oh, what are you reading?
Me: Sophomoric Philosophy.
Lady: Are you a student, then?
Me: uhm. No. It's independent literary fiction.
Lady: .... oh.

Ok, so I admit, it is a misleading title. And the book cover does sort of resemble something you would see on a college textbook. But seriously, reading a college textbook on a weekend day? I think not, lady!

Although a lot of the material was taken from his life, this is a work of fiction. While it's not hard core philosophical, the narrator "Alex" does spend quite a lot of time throughout the book discussing heavy topics like death, God, and the universe with himself, his friends, and his girlfriends. There are loads of retro 90's references... here's a peek at one where Alex reflects on the evolution of music:
"Andy and his friends started doing a great big sing-along to songs like "More Than Words" by Xtreme, and "Sweet Child 'O Mine" by Guns 'N Roses. You can't forget that great guitar intro, arguably one of the greatest introductions to a song. From the first notes it's unmistakable, and to this day it brings a chill up my spine when I hear it at a bar and a bunch of 30-something's break into the first verse. It's like our fucking generational anthem.

I listen to some really good shit today, or so I think I do, but none of my friends know what the hell it is, so there's no way we could sing along to the stuff I like. I mainly like stuff with inaudible lyrics or none at all, as in bands like Explosion in the Sky, which you've probably never heard of before. Additionally, I don't know what the hell my friends like anymore, if they like anything at all. My friends and I have become so dispersed with our interests in music, movies, and books that we hardly have anything in common anymore. I like to think it has something to do with today's access to information over the internet. You'd think it'd have the opposite effect, but it seems to also have turned us all into isolated, individual consumers downloading whatever we want and not really sharing anything. I miss the days when we would make tapes for each other in order to share albums and songs. It could also be that we, including myself, are just getting old and crusty and are completely losing touch with what kids are into these days.

We seemed to be more carefree back then, less restricted...."

Victor's novel has been knocking me repeatedly over the head with flashbacks from my teen years - the music and lifestyle references are enough to put me into a 1990's coma. He is the voice of my generation, and he captures these moments so clearly.

This novel was a recommendation from author Ben Tanzer, and I knew I would be foolish to pass it up. I'm currently about 1/2 way through and looking forward to seeing what other parts of memory lane Victor will be taking me down.

If this is the last update to my blog, send someone back to 1990 to collect me. Be forewarned, I may put up a fight upon being rescued.