Friday, July 29, 2011

Indie Book Buzz: Unbridled Books

Indie Book Buzz is a cool feature here at TNBBC. Over the past couple of weeks, we have been inviting members of the indie publishing houses to share which of their upcoming 2011 releases they are most excited about!

This week's picks come from Libby Jordan, who handles the Marketing, Publicity, and Social Media for Unbridled Books.

Fall 2011

The Mistress Contract
by She and He
October 2011

This one’s the “conversation starter” on our Fall list. Everyone who reads it, has something they must share afterwards. From “[It] just about made my brain explode!” to “My brain is on fire.” and all points in between. This one made me think — about things like: How far we’ve come in our revolution as women . . . and how far we still have to go as human beings. It made me think about the vulnerability of men and how we, as women, don’t always see that for what it is. And, especially, it made me to think about my own point of view when answering the question: Would I have put forth — and signed — that contract?

THE MISTRESS CONTRACT opens with a piece of paper that was signed in 1981 by a woman and her wealthy lover. The contract establishes an exchange that she thinks fair: If he will provide an adequate and separate home for her and cover her expenses, she will provide him with “mistress services”: “All sexual acts as requested, with suspension of historical, emotional, psychological disclaimers.”

For the duration of the agreement, she will become his sexual property. Then — on a small recorder that fit in her purse — this extraordinary and unconventional couple began to tape their conversations about their relationship, conversations that took place while traveling, over dinner at home and in restaurants, on the phone, even in bed.

This book is based on those tapes. It is a candid — and true — account of what they had to say to each other privately about the arrangement and its power relations, their physical relationship and the sexual forces that shaped it. As private and intimate as it is, though, the book also turns an unblinking light on a period of intense upheaval between men and women.

Looking back now, thirty years later, this extraordinary couple — who are still together — are willing to reveal their most private moments to our scrutiny. What they capture in THE MISTRESS CONTRACT is an unapologetic revelation and a bold provocation.

by Thad Nodine
September 2011

You’ve heard me talk about this one before — yep . . . time for a Road Trip! This is the one that makes me smile and glad to be alive. Think As I Lay Dying meets Little Miss Sunshine with a hint of On the Road. Jonathan Franzen called it “a high-velocity vision quest that keeps surprising and surprising.” I call it: A darn good read!

To escape an addiction, a young blind man in California steps into a station wagon with his slightly off-kilter friends and their foster kids to deliver a handmade casket [strapped to the roof of the car] to a dying grandfather in Florida. As they battle their way across the southern half of the nation, this rag-tag American family falls prey to love and lies, greed and violence, crime and Katrina — and all manner of strange things up there in that casket.

With a voice reminiscent of John Irving, Nodine produces a classic “road-picture” novel.

A rich and rangy story about the careful and careless ways we treat each other—and ourselves—in a fast-paced, changing world. Kevin, the novel’s blind narrator, is one of the most perceptive figures in recent fiction. And his desire to do no harm is positively contagious. Through Kevin’s rich senses and boundless compassion, Nodine gives us a multicultural portrait of a true America. The Real Deal. And he does so with deep affection for everyone along the way.

by Katherine Kindred
September 2011

Our second nonfiction title on the list this season, AN ACCIDENTAL MOTHER pulled on my heartstrings long after I closed the book. This is the one that made me cry.

After her divorce, Kate Kindred decided that she would live her life without children. But then she fell in love with Jim, a handsome, caring man who had custody of his two-year-old son, Michael. And she fell in love with the boy, too. During the six years they all lived together, Kate learned the deep joys of motherhood—that was the gift that Michael gave her. But when her relationship with Jim ended, he denied her any contact with Michael.

And her heart was broken.

AN ACCIDENTAL MOTHER beautifully describes the joys of mothering a young boy through complicated times. With sweet simple anecdotes and complex emotions, Kate Kindred marks every page with tears, including those that the most loving laughter can bring to any parent.

About Libby

I've been working on marketing, publicity and social media with the Unbridled Books team for the past three years. What's my favorite genre, you ask? That's a little like asking what's my favorite kind of candy — it changes with the season! Summertime, for me, is very definitely all about nonfiction. I'm sure once the Fall arrives, I'll slip into something a little more noir.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Greg Olear Cast My Chart

It's not every day that an author offers to read my chart! So I took full advantage, and felt incredibly flattered, when the opportunity arose. Now, if you know me at all, you'll know that I'm not one to read my daily horoscope. I don't really put a lot of stock in the stars. But it sure is fun to see how things line up now and again. Plus, I have a super cool Zodiac, and Greg Olear is a super cool dude... (and before you go and question me on the relevance of posting a zodiac chart on a book blog, helloooo... it was created by a kick-ass author!) so check it out *:

Pluto in the First House is the most important planet in your chart. The First House is your personality; how you appear to others. Pluto brings strong leadership, occasional bursts of tumult, and a tendency to change. The volatility of Pluto is mitigated by the Pisces Sun, which brings great sensitivity and, because it’s below the horizon, a propensity to brood…or, at least, to wax artistic. You are a Libra Rising, too, which also serves to harness the angry power of Pluto.

There is no earth in your chart at all, which means you’re not well grounded. You are mostly air and water…you operate at a high intellectual level, your thoughts move quickly from one idea to the next, and because you are a Libra Rising and you have both Venus and Mercury in Aquarius, the highest of air signs, you are particularly good at communicating these ideas. All of that, plus Pisces below the horizon and the placement of the Venus/Mercury conjunction in the Fifth House, indicates an artistic touch.

Saturn in the Tenth indicates a fear of public failure, or career failure…that plus Pluto’s prevalence suggests you’ll probably change careers a lot (and Uranus in the Second suggests lots of dramatic shifts in income levels) especially early on, before finding something in which you can shine. The Moon in the Seventh suggests that your partner is the most important person in your life, your filter and touchstone; that you married young; and that before that, you didn’t like to be single.

Also, you have a lot of cardinal energy, which means you’re better at starting projects than finishing them.

* A huge thanks to Greg for taking time to whip this up and doing such a great job of it! Did you know he is a semi-professional astrologer?

And now, gentle readers, I leave it up to you to decide what fits and what doesn't :)

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Worlds of Indie and Self Publishing are Colliding

The face of publishing is changing. Traditional hardcover, original paperbacks, trade and mass marketed paperbacks are suddenly finding themselves competing with eBooks and POD publishing. The days of worrying about submission policies and fretting over rejection letters are quickly becoming a thing of the past. With sites like Lulu, Blurb, Booksurge, and Createspace, the ways in which a writer can become a published author are seemingly endless.

In this new era of publishing, the line between true indie authors and self published authors is becoming extremely blurred. The word "indie", as we know it, is evolving. No longer is it exclusively used to describe small press and not-for-profit publishing houses. Self published authors are now appropriating the word to describe themselves.

Which, if you look at the definition of "indie", may actually make a fair bit of sense:

1. One that is unaffiliated with a larger or more commercial organization
2. An artistic work produced by an independent company or group

A few months ago, in an effort to better understand this movement or evolution of self published authors who suddenly began referring to themselves as indies, I created a monthly series for my blog, called On "Being Indie" - where I invited traditionally published authors, true indie authors, and self published authors to define what being indie meant to them. Here's what a few of them had to say:
  • Self published author and owner of Lorena B Books, Lorena Bathey: " I like the moniker Indie author because it fits the definition more than simply self-published. As an Indie author you must be writer, editor, printer, sales, marketing, publicity, and promoter all rolled into one."
  • Self published author and owner of {Tiny TOE Press}, Michael Davidson: "Indie writers create their thing on the outside, prepared for a litany of small failures...There's infinite hope".
  • Self published author Penelope Fletcher: "To me, an Independent Author is a creative soul who understands the fundamental need to be business orientated".
  • (Upcoming) Traditionally published author James Boice: "The term indie... connotes something, and it is this: underdog".
  • (Upcoming) Traditionally published author David Maine: "..indie writers... can be trusted to know their own work, and their own talents, and their own strengths as storytellers, as well as or even better than the editors and marketers in the publishing industry".

I could post these definitions all night long, and I guarantee that no two would be exactly alike. But I think you are catching the gist of it, right?

The interesting thing to note, the thing I've been seeing more and more recently, is the self published author's tendency to create their own publishing company - which I've read is quite cheap and easy to do. Pay a fee, fill out a few forms, think up a unique name, and voila... you are no longer a self publisher, but owner, publisher, editor, marketer and independent author!

I want to introduce you to two wonderful independent presses that were created by authors who wanted to publish their own work, but who also willingly took on the responsibility of all other aspects of publishing for other writers:

Artistically Declined - Owner and independent author Ryan Bradley
Curbside Splendor - Owner and independent author David Victor Giron

I recently attended a local book expo at my library, where I had an opportunity to meet Mary Shafer of The Word Forge, and listen to her speak about the pros and cons of self publishing. She explained that we are on the cusp of a major paradigm change - the world of "dead tree" publishing versus POD and Digital publishing. She likened it to turn of the century, when the world made the change from horse and buggies to automobiles.

There are those of us that cling to the traditional ways, that appreciate the book as an object, while the younger generations are moving forward with digital technology. They recognize that with this new digital technology comes a whole slew of advantages, some of which have created unlimited advantages for the self publishing crowd.

Here's an informative video that lays out the pros and cons of self publishing....
So whether you are a true indie author, published through an independent press where you went through the traditional submission, rejection, and acceptance process - or you decided to self publish via LuLu or Createspace - OR you decided to meld the two by creating your own publishing company and self publishing to the tune of indie author.... there is a growing space for you out there in the publishing world. And it's expanding every day. And there are more and more bloggers and book reviewers out there, like me, who are willing to support you and help spread the word.

And when the dust from those worlds colliding has settled, will self published and indie authors be standing side by side, shoulder to shoulder, on equal ground? Will the public start to see self published authors as more than editorially and compositionally inferior to true indie and traditionally published authors?

Come find out as I discuss this in even greater detail at the Indie Book Event this coming Saturday (July 30th) in NYC at the New Yorker Hotel!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Review: Fight For Your Long Day

Read 7/6/11 - 7/20/11
3 stars - Recommended to readers familiar with genre
Pgs: 264
Publisher: Atticus Books

So you think you've had a long, hard day? You ain't see nuthin' yet! I dare you to compare your worst against Cyrus "Duffy" Duffleman's in Fight For Your Long Day.

In Alex Kudera's first novel, which won the regional IPPY award for best fiction in the mid-atlantic region, he introduces us to the overweight, underpaid, unattractive adjunct english instructor. Unhappily working multiple jobs to make a respectable wage, Duffy has accepted part time teaching jobs at four urban Philadelphia colleges.

On his longest day, Duffy will fight to survive every curve ball the universe throws at him as he makes his way from one side of the city to the other, commuting from college to college. And boy, does it throw some doozies. From reporting a mentally unstable student who makes racial comments and cries rape in class, to witnessing a political assassination attempt, to nearly being attacked in the subway by a voter-registration man, Duffy manages to scrape by on the hopes of getting laid later that night by one of students. One thing is for sure, this poor guy has made an art of being in all the wrong places at all the wrong times.

Lonely and mostly introverted, Duffy spends most of his long day deep in thought, thoughts which range from deep and sentimental to shallow and perverted. He experiences guilt at not being able to help the homeless he sees in the streets and subways (and perhaps the fear of one day becoming one of them). He worries about his students' well-being. He mentally deconstructs the political and emotionally frustrating educational system he finds himself trapped in. But he also obsesses over teenage tits and ass and pines for sexual attention. He thinks about sex so often, in fact, that he finds himself sporting half-hard boners on and off all throughout the day.

(sorry, guys, but it's the truth. Tell me none of you have ever done that!)

He's one of the most likeable unlikable protagonist I've read in a long time. And that's a nod in Alex's direction. Not many authors can turn such a homely, self conscious guy into a hero.

As I read the book, I found myself mentally categorizing it as the bizarro version of Ian McEwan's Saturday. I hated Saturday. It bored me to sleep, literally. For two weeks I struggled to get to through the book. It was an incredibly boring, dry, uneventful day in the life of a well-to-do neurosurgeon. Fight For Your Long Day, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. It's about a struggling writing instructor who experiences more shit in one day than most people experience in a month!

While not an intense page-turner, it's the type of book that nestles back inside your brain and pokes you about a bit. You'll find yourself suddenly thinking about Duffy and his disgusting habits or his annoying ability to zone out and daydream when people are talking to him. You'll find yourself wondering how his long day is going to end. If you're like me, you may even create your own endings for the book - all of which will never come close to the actual ending.

The book oozes with middle-class stereotypes, racial profiling, and terroristic fears. Fight For Your Long Day is not going to be for everyone. At times, I was even wondering if it was going to be a good fit for me. But if you stick with it, I am sure you will find it rewarding. For me - it was sleeper. It snuck up on me when I least expected it to. I certainly appreciate it more now, after I've finished and pondered over it, than I did while I was reading it.

I would definitely recommend it to anyone who fights, day in and day out, for what they have. This is a book for anyone working a job they sort of loathe, but desperately need. And it's a book for people who can find hope in the sorriest of places and situations.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Indie Book Buzz: Featherproof Books

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

This week's pick comes from Zach, Co-Publisher and Creative Director of Featherproof Books.

Fall 2011

The Karaoke Singer's Guide to Self-Defense by Tim Kinsella

We're very excited to release this book by Chicago musician Tim Kinsella. It's written in this mind-twisting way, very dense prose. I think people will be surprised. It's not what you might expect from Tim, different than his lyrics or past projects. It's got a straight narrative, realistic plot, but this dark pall over everything. Everyone is strange, ambivalent, cruel. Sorta like a noir for the Midwest without any romance, heroism, or adventure. Unsexy noir. Where everyone sings Karaoke. I can't wait until people read this one. (Releases October 2011)

About Zach

Zach Dodson has launched such experiments as Featherproof Books, Bleached Whale Design, and The Show N' Tell Show. He is the author of the hybrid typo/graphic novel, boring boring boring boring boring boring boring. His writing has appeared in Proximity, Monsters & Dust, ACM, and 30 Under 30: An Anthology of Innovative Fiction. He is currently working on a sci-fi/historical southwestern adventure romance about bats.

You can locate him on Twitter and facebook.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Indie Reader Discovery Awards

As I was perusing the emails that accumulated in my inbox yesterday, I found one that I couldn't help but share with all of you. The tagline initially caught my attention:

"What do you get when you cross a bunch of great self-published books with extraordinary publishing industry professionals? IndieReader’s first annual “Discovery Awards” (IRDAs), where undiscovered talent meets people with the power to make a difference."

I'm no stranger to I appreciate their focus on introducing independent (read=Self Published) books to people with independent minds. And this new venture of theirs is something that I secretly wish I could have been involved in. *caging my green eyed monster*

The First Annual IndieReader Discovery Awards are open to all self-published books with a valid ISBN. Judging is based on quality and originality. Submissions opened yesterday and will close Feb 29th, 2012. Winners will be announced June 18th, 2012.

Did that whet your appetite? Here's a bit more:
  • There are no restrictions on release dates
  • Both eBooks and print books are eligible
  • Entry costs $150 per title per category with an extra $50 per additional category
  • There are 2 main categories, and 49 sub-categories
  • Additional information can be found here
  • First, Second, and Third prize winners will be awarded for the each of the two main categories - with the potential for one winner in each of the sub-categories
  • You can submit your entry here
  • See what you get if you win here

So, self-published friends of TNBBC, what say you? Are you in?

Please help me spread the word about the IRDA's to other self published authors by sharing the link to this post or the And good luck!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Book Giveaway: The One That I Want & Time of My Life

TNBBC is excited to present the following giveaway!

To celebrate the paperback release of Allison Winn Scotch's novel The One That I Want,
TNBBC is going to give away three sets of prizes:

Here is the book description as posted on Allison's website:

What if you woke up one day to all your dreams coming true...but those dreams were more like nightmares?

Tilly Farmer is thirty-two years old and has the perfect life she always dreamed of: married to her high school sweetheart, working as a school guidance counselor, trying for a baby. Perfect.

But one sweltering afternoon at the local fair, everything changes. Tilly wanders into a fortune teller's tent and meets an old childhood friend, who offers her more than just a reading. "I'm giving you the gift of clarity," her friend says. "It's what I always thought you needed." And soon enough, Tilly starts seeing things: her alcoholic father relapsing, staggering out of a bar with his car keys in hand; her husband uprooting their happy, stable life, a packed U-Haul in their driveway. And even more disturbing, these visions start coming true. Suddenly Tilly's perfect life, so meticulously mapped out, seems to be crumbling around her. And as she furiously races to keep up with - and hopefully change - her destiny, she faces the question: Which life does she want? The one she's carefully nursed for decades, or the one she never considered possible?

What if you could see into the future? Would you want to know what fate has in store?

2 Grand Prize winners will walk away with:
Signed copies of The One That I Want & her previous novel The Time of My Life.

1 second place winner will win:
a signed copy of The One That I Want.

How do you enter?

1 - Simply comment here explaining "WHO or WHAT is the one that you want".

2 - You must be from the US or Canada to enter. Sorry - no international shipping on this one, guys.
3- Leave a way for us to contact should you be chosen as a winner.

Contest ends July 23rd.
May the best comments win!!!

Alan Tucker 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 Alan Tucker. He is the author of two sci-fi fantasy YA novels - A Measure of Disorder and its sequel A Cure for Chaos, and the upcoming third book for the series. He's a dad, a graphic designer, and a soccer coach, and writes book that he hopes his kids will enjoy.

He can be found on Twitter and Facebook. He took some time to explain what being Indie means to him and has some tips for indie and self-published authors. Take a look:

Why Indie/Self Pub?

For me, this question boiled down to a simpler one:

Why Write?

Generally, aside from the pleasure of the act itself, there are three reasons people write: to persuade, to inform, and to entertain. All of these reasons require one thing: readers! A persuasive essay is nothing without someone to persuade, and a fantastic adventure story becomes empty with no one for it to entertain.

The publishing industry is in the midst of a Gutenberg-type revolution. Ereaders and print on demand are turning traditional publishing on its head and the model for success as a writer is changing just as quickly. Most of you have probably read or heard about the huge advance Amanda Hocking received recently for a future series of books. A number of other best sellers have come from the ranks of the Indie or self published the past few years as well. The chances, of course, of any single author having that type of success are still extremely small, but not much smaller than making that first big sale through the agent/editor route as was tradition until recently. Many authors are finding readership through the internet, and while most won't be on any best seller lists in the near future, their work is finding an audience — which is the purpose of the work in the first place!

My only advice/plea to someone looking to make the leap into the self publishing world is this: have someone who is not a friend or family read your work before you push your pixels onto the internet for all to see. Secondly, as just as important, listen to what they have to say. Correct your spelling, punctuation and grammar errors because they matter! Let's look professional out there! You may have written the next Lord of the Rings, but if it's riddled with errors, it won't be able to shine.

Write for the joy of it, and take that next step to let the rest of the world share in that joy!

Indie Book Buzz: Graywolf Press

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

This week's picks comes from Marissa and Erin of Graywolf Press!

Fall 2011

Marissa's Pick:
In Caddis Wood by Mary Rockcastle

The title I’m most looking forward to on Graywolf’s fall list is Mary Rockcastle’s IN CADDIS WOOD. This is Rockcastle’s first book in over 15 years (Graywolf published her much-acclaimed debut novel, RAINY LAKE, in the mid-90s), and I can assure you it was well worth the wait.

The novel is set in Minneapolis and a summerhouse in fictional Caddis Wood, Wisconsin, and follows Hallie and Carl, a much-contented and long-married couple whose bond suddenly begins to unravel in the twilight years of their marriage. First, Carl is struck with debilitating mystery illness. Then, nearly simultaneously, Carl uncovers a secret about Hallie that has him questioning their seemingly-contented devotion to one another and rewriting their shared history.

Moving back and forth between locations and time periods, Rockcastle uses Carl and Hallie’s story to explore the ebbs, flows, and clashes of married life and the ever-competing demands of family and ambition. Did I mention how beautifully, jaw-droppingly well-written it is? The lush, wooded landscape of Caddis Wood itself is the beating heart of this novel, and serves as a silent—but vivid—entity present in nearly every facet of Carl, Hallie, and their daughters’ lives.

Graywolf will publish IN CADDIS WOOD in September, and it will be the perfect novel for you to sink into during the last hazy days of summer.

Erin's Pick:
Child Wonder by Roy Jacobsen

When it comes to books, I’m a sucker for the following things, in no particular order: precocious child narrators, translations, an overwhelming sense of nostalgia, and things that are simultaneously funny ha-ha and funny-sad. Which is to say, Child Wonder by Roy Jacobsen, forthcoming this October, is one of my new favorite novels.

Nine-year-old Finn, the narrator of Child Wonder, is self-conscious, confused, and a bit mouthy—but he’s also charming, whip-smart, and vulnerable. As I read the book I found myself feeling very protective of Finn; he’s the type of character that instantly endears himself to you. When his life is turned upside down upon the arrival of a six-year-old half-sister he didn’t know he had, Finn struggles to find his place in an incomprehensible adult world of loyalty, moral ambiguity, and family secrets.

Roy Jacobsen has written a coming-of-age tale in 1960s Norway that is at once heartbreaking and hilarious, nostalgic and unsentimental, and has created an unforgettable protagonist in Finn. Trust me: Child Wonder belongs at the top of your must-read list for the fall.

About Marissa

Marisa Atkinson is the Marketing and Publicity Associate at Graywolf Press, where she has worked with Belle Boggs, Marie Mutsuki Mockett, Jim Moore, Melanie Rae Thon, and others. She will read any coming-of-age or campus novel you put in front of her. She has never read The Great Gatsby, but promises it’s on her summer reading list. You can follow her on Twitter at @totesmarisa and check out Graywolf on Facebook.

About Erin

Erin Kottke is the publicity director at Graywolf Press, where she has had the honor of working with Per Petterson, Ander Monson, Tiphanie Yanique, Tony Hoagland, and others. Some of her favorite non-Graywolf books are No Great Mischief by Alistair McLeod, Straight Man by Richard Russo, Ordinary Victories by Manu Larcenet, Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes, and The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon, though it pained her to narrow it down to just five and she’s sure she’s leaving out some obvious ones (The Great Gatsby! Mrs. Dalloway! Le Petit Prince! Anything by Jane Austen or Sam Lipsyte or John McPhee!). She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and their three-year old son, Linus. You can find her on Twitter at @eekottke and @graywolfpress.

Can I just tell you how much I adore both of these lovely ladies? They are made of awesome, really and truly!

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 Graywolf Press spread the buzz about these books by sharing this post with others!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ode To Happiness - A Review In Pictures

A surprise was waiting for me when I got home from visiting my brother and his wife in New York today. Ode to Happiness - the highly-anticipated-by-me Keanu Reeves poetry book - was here!

I wasn't expecting this book to arrive for another 2-4 weeks. Apparently Amazon's shipping schedule is not to be trusted! The book itself isn't really a book. More like watercolor paper that is folded in half and sewn together, placed inside a hardcover (cardboard and fabric) sleeve. But I was so excited to see it that I couldn't restrain myself and spent some time unabashedly hugging it.....
... and kissing it...

After the mini-lovefest ended, I sat myself down to take a peek inside and see just what kind of poet Keanu is. Would it be heady, intellectual stuff? Playful, sexy stuff? Abstract, impressionable stuff? I crack the cover page and....
...Heyyyy! Wait a minute. Wait. Just. One. Minute. Here. Is this it? Is this really it? REALLY? You're kidding. You are kidding me.. right? This can't really be it. I don't believe it.

While there is nothing wrong with drawing a hot sorrow bath... this is not what I was expecting. Not by a long shot! I was imagining gorgeous paintings and heady, intellectual, heartbreaking poems. POEMS. As in multiple poems. As in lots of words on lots of pages. But the more I turn the page, the more I see it is just like that first page. Each displaying one big bleeding childish watercolor with 5 - 7 words beneath it...

I admit I let my frustration and high expectations get the best of me for just a moment. I wanted to inflict pain on Ode to Happiness. I am not proud of this, but I bit him. I wanted to tear the stitching from his pages and send him fluttering across the floor so that, instead, he would become an Ode to My Unhappiness...

..But then the violence slowly left me and I realized that it wasn't Keanu's fault, or the poor little poetry book's fault. It was my own fault for getting so worked up about it in the first place. I took the book's blurb too seriously, I created unreasonable expectations. Expectations that the book and it's author could never truly live up to. So I can't really blame them, you know.

And I can give the friggen thing 5 stars for working a fucking amazing blurb out of so little actual content and getting me to fork over 36 bucks based on the fact that I'm a sucker:
"*Ode to Happiness is a grown-up's picture book, a charming reminder not to take oneself too seriously. With drawings by painter Alexandra Grant, text by actor Keanu Reeves, and in collaboration with mutual friend Janey Bergam, this facsimile artists' book is about making the best of a bad situation. In the tradition of a classic "hurtin' song", Reeves' text externalizes a melancholy internal monologue and subtly pokes fun at it. Grant's images, delicately realised in sombre inky washes, reflect the dark and light, the pathos and humour of the text. Neither entirely earnest nor wholly ironic, Ode to Happiness is both a meditation and a gentle tease about how we cope with life's sorrows."

Gentle Tease... Ha!

*blurb credit goes to Goodreads

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Indie Spotlight: Ryan W. Bradley

Author Ryan W. Bradley jokingly calls himself a "blue collar renaissance man". He's pumped gas, changed oil, worked in a mechanic's shop, painted houses, done construction in the Arctic Circle, and has just started a job as a shipping and receiving coordinator for a university bookstore. Oh yeah, and he runs the very impressive, very indie Artistically Declined Press, which was featured here on Indie Spotlight back in June.

Here's what he had to say on how these experiences have shaped him:

"I've learned to not take myself or the writing world too seriously. I've been writing since I had a string of injuries in high school that kept me away from my passion for sports. Originally I'm from Alaska, and my love for my home state plays a big role in my writing.

During my MFA I was encouraged to write about the people I worked with and it really opened up a lot for me in terms of my writing. So, most of my energy over the last couple years has been compiling an Alaska-themed story collection called GLACIERS & OTHER STORIES, which I've been shopping around. Some of my non-Alaska stories were collected recently in the aforementioned PRIZE WINNERS. "

Ryan has had mild success with poetry, specifically his chapbook called AQUARIUM which came out last summer from Thunderclap Press. He has another titled MILE ZERO coming out this fall from Maverick Duck Press and a mini chapbook called LOVE & ROD McKUEN coming at some point from Mondo Bummer.

"I have two full-length poetry collections that I've been shopping around as well. And if that weren't enough, next year my debut novel, CODE FOR FAILURE will arrive from Black Coffee Press. I also have three experimental novellas that just sit on my hard drive. Occasionally I find a place to try submitting one to, but for the most part I don't really know what to do with them.

Beyond all the writing, I do freelance book design. I work regularly with Thunderclap Press, and have done covers for a number of other small presses and writers. It's really something I'm always looking for opportunities with, because I feel like it's an area where I can provide a unique and complimentary vision for a writer's work. I guess all these roles in my life start to weave together at some point."

Working a full time job, writing poetry and novels, running a small independent press, AND creating cover designs... he truly is a renaissance man. To check out his artwork, visit his website Aesthetically Declined Design.

And now, Ryan and TNBBC have a little present for you:

Comment here for your chance to win a personalized signed copy
of his short story collection Prize Winners.

Tell us how you would like to book to be personalized.
Ryan can be as clean or saucy as you like. He's even agreed to draw a cartoon !

Contest ends Saturday July 16th.

Good luck!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Indie Book Buzz: Quirk 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 week's picks comes from Eric Smith,
Social Media & Marketing Coordinator at Quirk Books.

Out Now!


Broetry is a hilarious debut from a new author, Brian McGackin, and I’m so SO excited to be working on this title. With poems titled Final Final Fantasy, O Captain! My Captain America!, and When Patrick Stewart Rules the World the book is chock full of references to video games, movies, and television shows I know and love. His poems speak to guys, the everyman… dudes like me. It’s a ton of fun; people are going to love it.

As a special bonus for your readers, here’s one of his broems that you won’t find in the book. A haiku. 

Airport Dating Service

They should sit single
guys next to hot single girls.
Maybe charge extra.

Broetry hits stores July 5th.

Fall 2011


Are there bedbugs attacking Susan Wendt in her supposedly perfect brownstone, or are they just a product of her delusional, paranoid mind? Bedbugs is like the lovechild of books like The Amityville Horror and Rosemary’s Baby … just with terrible little bloodsucking bugs thrown into the mix.

Sigh. Okay, The Next Best Book Blog. I’ll be honest with you.

I was a fanboy of the author, Ben Winters, before I even started working at Quirk. When I met him at BEA this year, it took everything in me not to scream like a 14-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert. Other folks were psyched to meet the New York Times bestselling author too. We gave away over 100 ARCs of Bedbugs during his signing.

The book comes out September 6th, in time for the Halloween season.


When it comes to this title, people either coo and exclaim “aw!” or wince and say “gross!” I’ve really seen no in between reactions. And that’s okay.

Originally released in Japan, Crafting with Cat Hair is exactly what it sounds like. A craft book details ways you can craft with your cat… using your cat. It’s a zany title that we’re really excited about, and we’ve actually had people mailing us their cat hair. So seriously, if you have any extra sitting around, send us a bag.

About Eric

Eric Smith is the Social Media & Marketing Coordinator at Quirk Books. He is hopelessly addicted to good books, bad movies, writing (especially blogging), Nerf guns, and video games. You can find him on Twitter at @ericsmithrocks and @quirkbooks. What else what else… oh! His chinchilla’s name is Mittens.

Ok, who (besides me) thinks that Crafting With Cat Hair is a little..uhm.. awkward? Hahah! I love that Quirk books is Quirk-y enough to publish something like that! I am also very sad to hear that I missed arc's of Bedbugs at BEA11 this year. I am highly anticipating that one!

And how cool of Eric to share a broem with us that doesn't exist anywhere within the pages of the Broety book? You rock, Eric!

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 Quirk Books spread the buzz about these books by sharing this post with others!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Review: alt.punk

Read 7/3/11 - 7/4/11
5 Stars -Highly Recommended / The Next Best Book
Pgs: 202

I gotta tell ya, it's nice to have author friends. What's even nicer is having author friends who have similar literary tastes to you. Wanna know what's even nicer than that? Having author friends who have awesome taste in literature (who like what you like) who introduce you to new awesome literature!

I may never have read Lavinia Ludlow's alt.punk if it wasn't for longtime TNBBC buddy Ben Tanzer mentioning the author's name on a post I wrote back in March illustrating the top 10 authors who deserve more recognition. An anonymous account commented on how surprised they were that I named only male authors, and to be honest, until I had created that list, I hadn't noticed just how few female authors I had actually read.

Looking at it, my female to male ratio was really embarrassing. Just to give you an idea - out of 52 books on a random bookshelf, containing books I have already read, only 2 were written by females. (Since my lack of exposure to female authors was brought to my attention, I have made an attempt to level out the reading field - currently, of the last 20 books I have read, 6 of them were written by females.)

And before I take this review and turn it into a blog post where I compare and contrast gender in literature and rationalize my obvious-to-everyone-but-me preference for male authors, let me just say that I didn't chose to review alt.punk solely on the fact that it was penned by a female. It may have been brought to my attention because it was penned by a female, but that is not why I decided to review it.

I decided to review it based on the jacket copy, which described it's protagonist as a "middle-class hypochondriac" who hates "her boyfriend, her family, and her life", and refers to the book as a novel that "explores the ragged edge of art, society, and sanity...". It sounded edgy, angsty, and right up my alley. And I suddenly had to have it.

The novel begins with our germ-and-pubic-hair-hating protagonist delivering a less-than-enthusiastic blowjob to her boyfriend. As she performs the act with eyes squeezed shut so tightly they go numb, wishing she could glue them together to avoid them randomly popping open, she fights the urge to dry heave as she thinks things like "This is where he pees" and "maybe I am gay because it's not natural to hate it this much".

Within the first few pages, Ludlow paints an extremely awkward and uncomfortable picture of what it is like to live life as Hazel - a woman who is tortured by the very thought of unclean, unsanitary, unbleached objects coming into contact with her. She scrubs her walls with disinfectant, pours herself bleach baths, and repeatedly visits her doctor convinced that she's contacted every single illness or virus she's ever heard of.

No wonder sex is such a disgusting concept to her. It's a breeding ground for disease! All that sharing of saliva and bodily fluids... yuck!

As if suffering through all of this wasn't enough, she is also tormented by her family's constant nitpicking over her weight. Tipping the scales at a mere 115 pounds, Hazel is the heaviest female in her family, a fact that she is reminded of almost daily. She refuses to eat in front of them for fear of being called "fat" and binges on cases of diet soda, handfuls of chocolate, and bags of chips within the uncontaminated walls of her apartment.

It doesn't help that her boyfriend Kree is a jobless mooch, leaving her the responsibility of "bringing home the bacon"(another concept she despises since she doesn't eat meat). She hates her job as Manager of Safeway, gets no respect from her subordinates, and secretly wishes she could punch every single customer who complains directly in the throat.

Of course, one can only handle the stress and pressure of living like this for so long. One stray pubic hair floating in the kitchen sink is all it takes to break her. In a suffocating moment of fury, she kicks her boyfriend out of the house and soon finds herself hanging out with the lead singer of a punk rock band.

Desperate for a change, and incredibly drawn to this unclean, slobbering, drug and alcohol addicted frontman, Hazel makes the incredibly difficult decision to leave her extremely controlled life behind and tour with the band across North America.

We watch as Hazel slowly evolves from a severe hypochondriac/germaphobe to a prescription drug addicted groupie who finds herself bathing in gas station bathrooms, wearing the same dirty clothes days in a row, and cleaning up the vomit and blood that nightly find their way out of her lover.

Ludlow reveals the imperfections and ugly truths of life on the road with a punk rock band, while endearing us to this emotionally stilted and sarcastic woman. It's sort of like a "coming of age" story, although that isn't quite the right term, since our leading lady is in her early thirties. So perhaps it's more of a raw and ragged look at a woman suffering from a quarter-life crisis?

Either way, it's edgy, it's full of sex and drugs and rock and roll, and it's impressive as hell for a first novel. It caught my attention from the very first line, and held onto it so tightly that I plowed through the novel in an entire day. I couldn't bear to be away from it - the only times I put the book down were to eat, pee, and feed the animals.

Though I'm not a neat and clean freak, and I've never traveled on the road with a band before, there were so many aspects of this novel that I could relate to. The griminess of the road paralleled my weekend camping trips - the initial shock of having to "go" in the woods, stinking like campfire and dirt, picking bugs off of your clothes and knots out of your hair. The stress of attempting to keep a clean house when you live with someone who can't put their own laundry away, or wipe up the pee they've dribbled all over the toilet seat...I get it. I really do.

Ok, I'm going to end this review before it becomes a book of it's own in need of a review....

Do me a favor, go out there and get yourself a copy of this. It's Catcher in the Rye in it's thirties. It's the female version of Banned for Life. It's everything you want a book written by a female about a female to be. It's the anti-chick-lit of independent literature. And it's waiting be read by you!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Review: Black Hole Blues

Read 6/24/11 - 7/3/11
3 Stars - Recommended to readers familiar with genre and author
Pgs: 203

Ever wonder what happened to Kenny Rogers? I have the answer... he has become the arch-enemy of J. Claude Caruthers - country music's biggest star, the man who is one name away from writing a country song for every woman's name on earth.

As Claude struggles with insomnia and the pressure of finding a word that rhymes with "Zygmut", his estranged astrophysicist twin brother Lloyd attempts to recreate the Big Bang and accidently opens a black hole that slowly reeks havoc on the world.

These events - plus the search for Claude's stolen guitar, his chef's desire to create the world's tastiest club sandwich, and the strange letters Lloyd has been receiving from his missing sister - propel the Caruther brothers to reunite under the most complicated of circumstances.

Black Hole Blues is a great example of literature that does not take itself too seriously. It's fun and revengeful, and even gives it's inanimate objects an opportunity to become part of the narrative:
  • Claude's guitar "Rusty" laments over the inhuman treatment his captors inflict upon him, locking him inside his guitar case, while reminiscing about the good and bad times he has experienced in his owners hands.
  • Claude's tour bus recounts Claude's multiple bouts of depression.
  • An uneaten club sandwich mopes over the fact that Claude left her to rot under his bed, never having taken a single bite out of her, leaving her destiny unfulfilled.
  • A happily married proton details his experience of smacking face first into his proton-wife in the Hadron Collider, and his disgust at having turned into a black hole that eats everything that crosses his path.
I first became familiar with Patrick Wensink when I reviewed his short story collection Sex Dungeon For Sale a little more than a year ago. I loved the unique way in which he viewed the world and thought his pacing within each story was perfect. If you are new to Patrick or the sub-genre of bizarro fiction, I would recommend starting there because I think it better demonstrates his flexibility as a writer.

You don't have to be a fan of country music or pseudo-science fiction to pick up what Patrick Wensink is attempting to lay down here. Black Hole Blues is an entertaining, multi-layered novel that keeps it's readers on their toes from the very start. Wensink cleverly handles the daunting task of meshing numerous side stories together in a satisfying finale full of tricks and twists and contains all the right ingredients to make a killer television dramedy .

**Oh no! I almost forgot:

Patrick submitted his book to Kenny Rogers' publicist in the hopes that The Gambler himself would write a blurb endorsing the book. Kenny's management team gave him the runaround, and to get even, Patrick created Death to Kenny Rogers - a website dedicated to ruining Kenny's career. Fancy a peek? Click here to see what all the fuss and hurt feelings are about!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Book Giveaway: Skinny

TNBBC has a great new novel up for grabs!

will be featured in August for our Author/Reader Discussion.

In order to stimulate discussion,
we are very excited to be able to offer 10 copies internationally!

Here is the book description as it appears on Goodreads:
After her father’s death, twenty-six-year-old Gray Lachmann finds herself compulsively eating. Desperate to stop bingeing, she abandons her life in New York City for a job at a southern weight-loss camp. There, caught among the warring egos of her devious co-counselor, Sheena; the self-aggrandizing camp director, Lewis; his attractive assistant, Bennett; and a throng of combative teenage campers, she is confronted by a captivating mystery: her teenage half-sister, Eden, whom Gray never knew existed. Now, while unraveling her father’s lies, Gray must tackle her own self-deceptions and take control of her body and her life.

Visceral, poignant, and often wickedly funny, Skinny illuminates a young woman’s struggle to make sense of the link between hunger and emotion, and to make peace with her demons, her body, and herself.

The contest will run through July 7th.

Here's how to enter:

1 - Simply comment here stating which copy of the book you would like to receive. If you have a funny or strange dieting or workout story, I encourage you to share it!

2 - Tell us if you are a resident of the US or if you are international (Canada is considered international for this giveaway), and leave me a way to contact you.

*If your comment is missing any of this information, it will be considered ineligible.

3- Agree to participate in a group read book discussion that will run during the month of August over at TNBBC on Goodreads. Diane Spechler has agreed to participate in the discussion and will be available to answer any questions you may have for her.

*If you're comment is chosen as a winner, by accepting the copy you are agreeing to read the book and join the group discussion at TNBBC on Goodreads (the thread for the discussion will be emailed to you at the first of the month).

Winners are chosen randomly
and will be announced here and via email
on July 8th.

Good luck!

Tell Me A Story - Michael Kimball

Welcome to another installment of TNBBC's Tell Me a Story!

Tell Me a Story is a monthly series that will feature 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 the hands of Michael Kimball. His most recent novel, Us, was given TNBBC's "next best book" status when it first released in the states back in May. Michael is the creator and co-host of the 5ive:ten Readings in Baltimore, and is a super sweet human being to boot. The story you are about to read is part of a new novel that Michael is working on, and I am humbled that he chose to share it with us today:


I Wanted to Go With Her

It was my sophomore year of high school before I received a telephone call from a girl. Her name was Ellen Bonner and she sat across from me in our beginning typing class. I used to tease her about anything that I could think of—the way she styled her hair, the shape of her nose, the width of the stripes on her corduroys, the flowers on her blouse, the way that she spelled her last name, which was almost funny. Of course, I only did this to Ellen Bonner because I really liked her.

I don’t know exactly why Ellen liked me at first. I was even skinnier than most teenage boys and I had a haircut that hadn’t been popular for years. But I was really fast at typing and there weren’t many other boys in the typing class. Also, I had just turned sixteen years old and had just gotten my driver’s license on my birthday. Being able to drive changed me and, even though we were just teenagers, I feel as if Ellen Bonner thought that I might be able to take her somewhere. Wherever it was, I wanted to go with her.

Whatever it was that Ellen Bonner liked about me, it was enough for her to ask me out, which made it easy for me. She knew that I wasn’t going to say no. The whole rest of the week, all that I could think about was Ellen Bonner naked. The picture of that in my head made my whole body vibrate.

That Friday, I almost stood up Ellen Bonner because I was afraid to ask my dad if I could use his car. I didn’t know what he would make me do to get the keys. My request seemed to surprise him and he just gave me the car keys. I still don’t know if he was surprised because I had a date with a girl or because that meant that I probably wasn’t gay.

I don’t remember what restaurant we went to or what movie we saw or what we said to each other when we were driving in the car. All that I really remember is sitting with Ellen Bonner in the dark of the movie theater and the warmth of our touching arms on the armrest between us.

The next Monday, Ellen Bonner and I met each other at our lockers and we walked to our classes together. All of our classmates in the hallways looked at us between classes and the way that they looked at us together changed who we were. We became so much older in just a few days.

After a few weeks, Ellen Bonner and I started talking on the telephone nearly every night. We had long telephone conversations almost every night of the week. We talked about classes and other people at school. We talked about why we liked each other and if we were going to have sex. I don’t remember what my argument for having sex was, but her reasons for not having sex were fear and God. That seemed as if it mattered so much then. The best part about talking with Ellen Bonner was how great it felt to be somebody else’s favorite person.

My ear usually hurt after my long telephone calls with Ellen Bonner. After I made it upstairs to my bedroom, I would lie on my back in my bed and touch my telephone ear with my hand. I could still feel the telephone there and I could still hear her voice in my ear.


I want to thank Michael for participating in TNBBC's Tell Me a Story. If you like what you've read, please support Michael 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....

Indie Book Buzz: Two Dollar Radio

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 week's picks come from Eric Obenauf, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Two Dollar Radio.

Summer 2011

Releases August

This is the second novel we’re publishing by Francis Levy. His debut, Erotomania: A Romance, received pretty much my favorite reviews of any book we’ve published. I mean, it’s tough to compete with the subtitle that appeared with the Village Voice review, asking readers ‘Are golden showers the blowjobs of tomorrow?’ Erotomania earned Francis comparisons to Henry Miller, Jean Genet, Mary Gaitskill, and Nicholson Baker, and was placed amongst a couple year-end best-of lists. I think of his writing as Nicholson Baker catwalking on speed; it’s high octane.

Seven Days in Rio is about a Manhattanite, CPA, and sex tourist named Kenny Cantor, who becomes waylaid in an absurdist skewering of Rio de Janeiro, at a psychoanalytic conference. It’s hilarious, and features some real gems:

"Our parting had felt a little like the last scene of Casablanca. There was no plane waiting to take her away from me, there was no heroic resistance leader standing between us, no war, and I wasn’t a hardened American expatriate named Rick. Yet I felt I could hear the strains of “As Time Goes By” playing on the piano in some beat-up North African cafĂ©."

Fall 2011

Releases October

Joshua Mohr has done nothing but impress me since I read the manuscript for his first novel, Some Things That Meant the World to Me, a couple years ago. With a first novel by a young writer, the work can be really brilliant, but you realize it’s a first novel and can’t help but daydream about the potential for what will follow. Damascus is Josh taking his writing to the next level. I’m just thankful that we got to be a part of that process.

Damascus takes place in the volatile year of 2003 – remember when the country was split rabidly for or against Iraq? It tracks a motley cast of characters who orbit a dive bar, seeking their own quiet redemption, as the bar agrees to host its first (and last) art show. Josh’s strength lies in crafting singular and beautiful characters with incredible economy. I love how this book opens:

"Let’s start this one when a cancer patient named No Eyebrows creeps into Damascus, a Mission District dive bar. For years the place’s floor, walls, and ceiling had been painted entirely black, but that afternoon the owner added a new element, smashing twenty mirrors and gluing the shards to the ceiling so the pieces shimmered like stars, transforming Damascus into a planetarium for drunkards: dejected men and women stargazing from barstools.
When the first customer of the day walked in and witnessed the bar’s broken-mirror constellations, he said to the owner, “There must be 10,000 years of bad luck hanging here.”
“That would certainly explain a few things,” Owen said, who had a heinous birthmark underneath his nose that looked like a Hitler moustache."

About Eric:

Eric Obenauf is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Two Dollar Radio, an outfit he founded with his wife and brother. His writing has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, The Rumpus, Modern Fix, and The Huffington Post. He lives in central Ohio with his wife and two kids, enjoying the occasional competitive game of basketball.

First, can I just say that Joshua Mohr's was my absolute MUST HAVE galley from BEA 2011?! So psyched to see that it made Eric's buzz-worthy list!

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 Two Dollar Radio spread the buzz about these books by sharing this post with others!