Wednesday, July 27, 2016

J. Cornell Michel On Being Indie

On "Being Indie" is a blog series that introduces us to a wide variety of small press authors and publishers as they discuss what being indie means to them.

San Francisco resident J. Cornell Michel is a fourth generation writer, but she's the first one in her family to write about zombies. She works in a patent law firm as a docket supervisor during the day and spends her free time writing stories about the undead. 

Jordan's Brains, J. Cornell Michel's first novel, was praised by IndieReader for being "funny and fast-paced" and for "offering a new look at a dead-tired subject." Zombie Zeitgeist is a chilling collection of Michel's short stories. In her book 'Twas the Bite Before Christmas, she added zombies to Clement C. Moore's classic Christmas story. Michel's second novel, Where's My Dinner?, is about a virus that turns women into zombies but doesn't infect men. You can find out more about J Cornell Michel and her novel at: , and on Twitter at 

Deciding how to publish your novel is pretty overwhelming these days. There's self-publishing, submitting directly to small presses, querying literary agents, or disappearing into the slush piles at big publishing houses. Once I finished my first novel I researched all my options, and after much deliberation I decided not to even bother submitting to publishers or agents. I didn't send a single query. Instead I saved my pennies to hire a decent editor and cover artist.

I had several reasons for going the indie route. Part of me was terrified of rejection, but a bigger part was terrified that a publisher might want to change my story or my protagonist. My first novel, Jordan's Brains, was fairly strange in that I never revealed my main character's gender, and I didn't want anyone to change that. So I decided to keep total control over my story and do everything on my own.

Another reason I chose to self-publish is that agents and publishers usually run away screaming from trendy topics, like zombies, which is what I write about. Since traditionally publishing a novel usually takes eighteen months, industry professionals don't know what's going to be trending by the time the book is actually published, so they usually don't want to take on clients who write about something that could be passé by the time it's published (totally understandable). The thing is, people want to read books about said popular subjects, so if you write about zombies, vampires, or other trendy topics, then self-publishing might be the best option for you.

The two main perks of self-publishing are 1). There's a lot of freedom involved. You can write about whatever the hell you want, be it risqué or bland, and no one can force you to change it. You also have total control over the cover design, blurb, etc. 2). Self-publishing is much faster than traditional publishing. You can publish your novel in a couple days as opposed to a couple years. For impatient folks that's a real plus!

I definitely made some mistakes when publishing my first novel. I spent too much money on a mediocre cover by buying the proofreading/cover design/formatting package through CreateSpace. Big mistake. For my subsequent novels I networked and met some outstanding indie artists who designed exponentially better covers for a fraction of the price. That would be my advice to first-time authors who want to self-publish: seek out other indies to design your cover and edit your manuscript. And it's a huge help to interact with other indie authors who can cheer you on and maybe even beta read for you. A great place to meet fellow indie authors is

My publishing journey has been so much fun, and I've met several authors along the way who have become great friends. Yes, it's expensive and a lot of work, but if you're passionate about your book, I say go for it. Self-publish that sucker!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Book Review: The Shooting

Read 7/20/16 - 7/23/16
5 Stars - Highly Recommended / The Next Best Book
Pages: 347
Publisher: Unnamed Press
Releasing: Sept 2016

We're living in some seriously fucked up times. When were you last able to turn on the TV without hearing about another act of outrageous violence? Another robbery, another rape, another shooting? So many people in the wrong place at the wrong time, so many needlessly dying. So many protests and riots. So many speaking, screaming, shouting, vying to be heard. So many others not willing to listen, blocking it out, shutting down, making excuses.

Holy fuck you guys, James Boice's The Shooting could not have been more perfectly timed! In the midst of our own recent crazytimes with gun violence, Boice brings us Clayton Kabede, the 15 year old son of a black immigrant couple who is shot to death one evening when he enters the apartment of Lee Fisher, a rich, white, reclusive gun enthusiast. Who can prove Clayton wasn't just another street thug looking for trouble? Do we believe Lee was just protecting his infant child from a dangerous intruder? Will the media just paint it as another hate crime?

What about this... why did it happen? What forces pushed these two men together? What choices had they made that propelled them towards this moment?

Boice is determined to leave no stone unturned and we're sitting front and center, nearly drowning in the ripple effect this act of gun violence has created. We're not just talking about its impact on the friends and families of the shooter and his victim, but on a much grander scale. This is the shit the media never shares.

Within its pages, we find ourselves bounced between the past and present lives of the many people who have been touched, however briefly, by both Clayton and Lee, for better or for worse, and how those interactions shaped who they had both become in that dark moment inside Lee's apartment, right before the gun flashed and that first shot was fired.

A poignant reminder that even media monsters were once men and that, sometimes, even the most unfortunate circumstances can have a silver lining.

Boice continues to reinvent reality through his fiction. This is our world, our now, our future, if we don't get up off our asses and do something different. This is our wake-up call.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Buried in Books - My New Precioussssess

Because I can't possibly read every single book that finds its way into my home IMMEDIATELY, though I fully intend to die trying, allow me to show off our most recently acquired precioussssess...

For Review

Lex Williford
Rose Metal Press

A concise and compelling novella-in-flash spanning decades from the 1960s to the present, Lex Williford's Superman on the Roof offers an elegiac coming-of-age tale and a family portrait imbued with tragedy, guilt, grief, and forgiveness. The arguments, injustices, and triumphs of childhood echo into the adult world in unforgettable detail in these short, powerful stories.

Winner of the 10th Annual Rose Metal Press Short Short Chapbook Contest with an introduction by contest judge Ira Sukrungruang who says: "Superman on the Roof did not let me go. [...] In its brevity, its pace, the contained voice of the consistent narrator, in the flashes of story about a family trying hard to find themselves after heartbreak. The book asks: What is lost when someone we love passes on? What do we keep losing? How do we shoulder this loss and carry on, even decades later? "

*Review copy from publisher / I never say no to RMP chaps!

Eric Shonkwiler
MG Press
Fall 2016

In an abandoned Midwestern city, there’s one last vestige of order and days gone by: 8th Street Power & Light. Part government, gang, and power company, 8th Street tasks Samuel Parrish with keeping the city clear of meth and bootleg liquor. Most nights, Samuel tracks down criminals, while others find him navigating hazier avenues: in between drinking and fighting, he’s falling for his best friend’s girl. But when Samuel rousts a well-connected dealer, he uncovers a secret that threatens to put the city back in the dark.

*Requested from publisher / It's the sequel to Above All Men / Hollaaaah!

James Boice
Unnamed Press
Sept 2016

Clayton Kabede is a regular New York City kid, the son of immigrant parents living in the basement unit of an upscale apartment building where his father works as the superintendent. Lee Fisher lives in the penthouse of that same building — wealthy, paranoid, and armed. One night while sleepwalking, Clayton knocks on Lee’s door. A gun explodes senselessly. The Shooting is the story of the journey to this moment.

No city is better suited to be the setting for James Boice’s tour de force about gun violence. The encounter between Clayton and Lee, like gun violence itself, is one that Boice imprints on our national identity, bloodied by its own most sacred myths.

*From publisher for review / It's a new Boice!!! Squeee!

Wendy J Fox
Underground Voices
Sept 2016

Laura Clarey is unemployed and frustrated when her husband proposes a deal: take a solo vacation to recharge. When she accepts, this wife and mother of one has no way of knowing how it will upend her life; away from her family, she must face the failures of her marriage, the people of her past, and the decisions she has made that haunt her.

*From author for review

Thursday, July 21, 2016

It's a #BigBookGiveaway

Hey there everyone! I'm thrilled to play a part in the Girl Who Reads #BigBookGiveaway. Who the heck doesn't want a big ole box full of free books delivered to their doorstep?! If you like discovering new independent titles and authors, you really need to check this thing out. She's got a slew of books to throw at you.

To help whet that appetite of yours, we're showcasing one of the giveaway copies today. It seemed to be the most fitting for us... because, well, Bukowski!

(Disclaimer: The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....)

Today, we're putting Kim Addonizio's Bukowski in a Sundress to the test!

Here's the goodreads summary: 

A dazzling, edgy, laugh-out-loud memoir from the award-winning poet and novelist that reflects on writing, drinking, dating, and more
Kim Addonizio is used to being exposed. As a writer of provocative poems and stories, she has encountered success along with snark: one critic dismissed her as “Charles Bukowski in a sundress.” (“Why not Walt Whitman in a sparkly tutu?” she muses.) Now, in this utterly original memoir in essays, she opens up to chronicle the joys and indignities in the life of a writer wandering through middle age.
Addonizio vividly captures moments of inspiration at the writing desk (or bed) and adventures on the road—from a champagne-and-vodka-fueled one-night stand at a writing conference to sparsely attended readings at remote Midwestern colleges. Her crackling, unfiltered wit brings colorful life to pieces like “What Writers Do All Day,” “How to Fall for a Younger Man,” and “Necrophilia” (that is, sexual attraction to men who are dead inside). And she turns a tender yet still comic eye to her family: her father, who sparked her love of poetry; her mother, a former tennis champion who struggled through Parkinson’s at the end of her life; and her daughter, who at a young age chanced upon some erotica she had written for Penthouse.
At once intimate and outrageous, Addonizio’s memoir radiates all the wit and heartbreak and ever-sexy grittiness that her fans have come to love—and that new readers will not soon forget.

Now, take a peek at Page 69 of her memoir: 

What do you think? Does it dazzle and inspire? Is this something you'd like to read more from? 

Then join the #BigBookGiveaway hosted by Donna over at Girl Who Reads. 

The giveaway is open to US residents only. 
You can enter by clicking here - a Rafflecopter giveaway
Giveaway ends July 31st!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Drew Reviews: Conversations

Conversations by César Aira
Translated by Katherine Silver
5 Stars - Highly Recommended by Drew
Pages: 88
Publisher: New Directions Press
Released: 2014

Reviewed by Drew Broussard

The Short Version: A man lays awake at night replaying a conversation he had with a friend earlier in the day, about a movie the two of them had seen and their wildly differing conceptions of it - all spinning off the sight of an incongruous Rolex on the wrist of a lowly goatherd...

The Review: Have you ever been talking with a friend - a friend you respect and admire and have known for a while - when they suddenly say something that makes you think, "Oh shit, this person might be an idiot?" If that's happened to you (and I think it has happened to most of us), you will get along swimmingly with the narrator of Conversations.

I picked up this book during a bout of insomnia a few nights ago, thinking I would either read myself to sleep... or finish the book and have, at least, accomplished something during my sleeplessness. I mention this because Aira's narrator begins by explaining how he doesn't sleep so well anymore. He passes his nights by going over the conversations of the previous day, which has the added benefit of helping keep his memory sharp, as he's starting to approach the point where it'll only get worse until he dies. On this particular night, he's remembering a conversation with a good friend of his over a movie that they'd both caught on TV the night before. What begins as a simple "what'd you think" sort of conversation takes a startlingly sharp turn when the narrator expresses disbelief (in an offhand, throwaway kind of way) that the continuity people didn't catch the Rolex on the wrist of the famous actor playing a Ukranian goatherd.

What should've been little more than a casual remark becomes the crux of an entire reconsideration, by both men, of each other's intelligence - and of the nature of stories, fiction, and perception. The other man, the narrator's friend, responds rather aggressively in the contrary to the narrator's snarky comment and explains that he sees it as entirely a part of the film and not an error at all. The two engage in a discussion, then, of verisimilitude and what it means to be a part of a story versus a consumer of that story. It's all rather high-flying philosophy, even as Aira keeps it entirely grounded in the sort of terms that you and a friend of yours might use while chatting over coffee at your local café. Assuming, of course, that you and your friend might occasionally get in a tiff while using words like verisimilitude - and if you're reading this review, I'd wager you're at least more likely to be that sort of person than not.

The disbelief that the narrator feels as his friend takes seemingly absurd stances on the film and topics surrounding it is vividly and hilariously rendered here. That sense of the rug being pulled out from under you suddenly, of slamming into a wall of reality that redefines what you previously thought to be the scope of the room you were in... like I said earlier, I daresay we've all had those conversations and suddenly had to reconfigure how we see a person or how smart we believe them now to be. But the real joy in this book comes from the way that the friendship and respect between the two men is in fact reinforced and reaffirmed over the course of their conversation - because the movie turns out to be far more than either of them realized. The late-novel revelations about the ways in which the both of them misinterpreted the goings-on is not only a reminder to be generous to your friends (even when you think they're being colossally stupid) but a strong defense of the continued existence of movie theaters as opposed to watching films in the comfort of your own home. Also, and this will vary depending on your sense of humor, but I found the whole ending set of revelations hilarious and delightful.

Speaking of delight, the thing I found most wonderful about this particular Aira is its relatively concise scope. We're reading the late-night thoughts of a man reflecting on a conversation from earlier in his day - and while the plot of the movie they're talking about takes some interesting and unexpected twists and turns, the 'narrative' of this conversation doesn't suddenly fracture or spin off or disappear entirely. There are no sudden demon children, no surprise romances, no absurd fourth-wall breaks - it's simply the recollection of a conversation, much as any of us might recall a conversation that we had. In this way, it is the most approachable of any of Aira's novels that I've read so far, because it doesn't require any suspension of disbelief or acceptance of the absurd/surreal. I'm reluctant to also call it my favorite so far because that would, to some extent, belittle the three novels I've previously enjoyed - but I do genuinely think that I liked this one more than any other so far. There's a moment, late in the novel, where the two men decide (after concluding their argument) that they both liked the film even if they wouldn't call it good, and Aira indulges in a little digression about the difference between thinking something good and liking it - and the way that you can like something that is not good, because the act of liking is entirely subjective. Which is a nice reminder, as a reviewer, too.

Rating: 5 out of 5. Perhaps the most straightforward of any Aira I've read so far - but by no means does that imply it's simple or easy or lacking in the strange wonder that characterises his work. The late night remembrance of a conversation has never been so captivating and I think one of the great successes of this book is the way that the whole thing feels like, well, what it's like to sit up late at night, unable to sleep, and to reflect back on something you'd talked about earlier in the day. Not only are you working your memory but inevitably you're thinking about other things too - and they're all somehow related in the great swirl of your brain. It's just that César Aira knows how to deposit the swirl of his brain onto the page in a captivating fashion - whereas most of the rest of us are just lucky to be along for the ride.

Drew Broussard reads, a lot. When not doing that, he's writing stories or playing music or acting or producing or coming up with other ways to make trouble.  He also has a day job at The Public Theater in New York City.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Buried in Books - My New Precioussssess

Because I can't possibly read every single book that finds its way into my home IMMEDIATELY, though I fully intend to die trying, allow me to show off our most recently acquired precioussssess...

For Review

Karl Taro Greenfield
Short Flight/Long Drive Books

Fiction. Asian American Studies. In the stories in Karl Taro Greenfeld's NOWTRENDS, a reporter is sent to Chengdu, China, to interview a young, drug-addled starlet and finds that a fellow journalist with questionable political ties has been imprisoned; a struggling, Japanese artist is asked by government officials to invent a cartoon character that will prove as popular as Disney's Mickey Mouse; and a man carries 2100 milliliters of his own urine as he encounters heckling youths, Meg Whitman, and his father, who may or may not be dead. Greenfeld writes beautifully crafted stories with an authority, humor, and confidence reminiscent of Bret Easton Ellis, Phillip Roth, and Ernest Hemingway. 

*Unsolicited from Publisher

Uzodinma Okehi
Short Flight/Long Drive Books

Fiction. They say it takes an average person about 10 years to master a given thing. This was my thinking in 1995 when I dropped out of college in Iowa City to draw comics. Because I'd seen a lot of movies, I figured Hong Kong was the place, so I went there, hoping to put a tap on that excitement. After that plan went bust I tried another, then another. I put down the pen too many times to count, only to pick up again because there was nothing else. If there was a theme to come away with it was that nothing is ever as easy or even as worthwhile as "They" make it seem. The years passed and I was just as deluded, but also still excited, about drawing, though my life was just as ordinary. My name is Blue Okoye. Anyway, that's the short version...

*Unsolicited from Publisher

Chloe Caldwell
Short Flight/Long Drive Books

Women is a novella exploring sexual confusion, female friendship, being a woman, and being a daughter. The book is an urgent recall of heartbreak, a stark portrait of an identity in crisis.

*Unsolicited from Publisher

Elizabeth Ellen
Future Tense Books

Elizabeth Ellen is one of the most thrilling writers to come out of the literary Internet. She writes boldly about her wayward characters: reckless women, cold-shouldered men, and unsupervised children. In her debut collection, Before You She Was a Pitbull, Ellen unleashes six stories that will crush your heart and leave you begging for more.

*Requested From Author for Review

Andrez Bergen
Roundfire Books
November 2016

Teenage gunsel-cum-aspiring-hero Mitzi (last name unknown) breezes into Heropa with twin 9 mm pistols blazing - only to be targeted for recruitment, betrayal and assassination. French femmes fatale, an out-of-touch super-powered elite, and one hell of an underlying mystery, figure heavily in this fusion neo-noir, science-fiction dystopia. Interweaving the scrappy one-liners is a story much more than the sum of its parts, concerning questions about grand creative process. 

*Sent by Author / Fan of his other work

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Andrez Bergen Recommends Dashiell Hammett

And so we continue our Writers Recommend - a newish series where we ask writers to, well, you know.. recommend things. Like the books that they've enjoyed. To you. Because who doesn't like being recommended new and interesting books, right?! Think of it as a PSA. Only it's more like an LSA -Literary Service Announcement. 

Andrez Bergen Recommends The Maltese Falcon By Dashiell Hammett

I’d say I’ve read Dashiell Hammett’s 1929 detective novel The Maltese Falcon about ten times at least.

I’ve also seen the 1941 film directed by John Huston a hundred-odd times.

The written version narrowly pips Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep as my all-time favorite book. Although I’d say The Big Sleep has better one-liners, The Maltese Falcon has a grander plot and a superior ensemble of quirky characters.

Also, I love my black hardback edition – purchased for 155 Rupees in India by an old friend.
The price-sticker's still on the back, so I can remember.

In a nutshell, the story involves a treasured statuette that gets passed about in the early twentieth century, from Constantinople (prior to the events in the book) to San Francisco. People are knocked off, and P.I. Sam Spade is dragged into the fray.

That leads him directly into involvement with a Miss Wonderly, actually Brigid O’Shaughnessy, and a collection of oddballs like Joel Cairo, Floyd Thursby and Casper Gutman.

In the process, with each playing the other, it’s hard to say who the real victim might be, or if there actually is a winner.

Spade is described in the opening paragraph as looking “rather pleasantly like a blond satan”, and the text is peppered with dialogue quips such as this:

Joel Cairo: “You always have a very smooth explanation ready.”
Sam Spade: “What do you want me to do, learn to stutter?”

Our detective doesn’t care that his partner’s been killed in the second chapter – this gives him prime opportunity to redo the business name paint-job on window and door – but he is annoyed he now has to fend off Archer’s grieving widow.

And Spade does have principles:

“When a man’s partner is killed he’s supposed to do something about it. It doesn’t make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you’re supposed to do something about it. Then it happens we were in the detective business. Well, when one of your organization gets killed it’s bad business to let the killer get away with it. It’s bad all around - bad for that one organization, bad for every detective everywhere.”

The Maltese Falcon – along with Hammett’s other work with the Continental Op – has been a major influence on my writing, one reason I called my protagonist ‘Floyd’ in Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat, and his favourite bar Kemidov’s.

Author Ross Macdonald also paid homage to Spade’s murdered partner Miles Archer by calling his own famous detective Lew Archer.

If you’ve read it, I recommend a second look. If you haven’t – buy!


Andrez Bergen is an expat Australian writer, journalist, DJ, comic book artist and ad hoc saké connoisseur who’s been entrenched in Tokyo, Japan, for the past 15 years. His 1970s crime/noir novel BLACK SAILS, DISCO INFERNO just released in last month. Check it out here. Oh yeah, and he makes music as Little Nobody and ran groundbreaking Melbourne record label IF? over a decade. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Melanie Reviews: Snow Glass Apples

Snow Glass Apples by Neil Gaiman
Wood carvings by George Walker
Pages: 44
Publisher:Biting Dog Publications
Released: 2011

Reviewed by Melanie Page

“It is always wise to hear both sides of a story before we cast judgment: this is something that is greatly lacking in our culture of one sided views.” -- George Walker

Snow Glass Apples is originally a play for voices, like an audio play. There are voice actors, sound effects, and music to set the mood. The plot is a re-telling of Snow White from the queen’s perspective. It turns out, the princess was not a pale, sweet, animal-loving girl; she’s something of a vampire, and sexual one at that.

The book is introduced by Professor Jack Zipes, who doesn’t give much of the story away like many poorly-written intros, but uses literary theorists to discuss the Snow White tale. We love the Disney version, but in the pivotal text Madwoman in the Attic, the authors argue that Snow White is about an angel and devil that battle it out for an absent dad’s attention. Anne Sexton theorized that Snow White would eventually grow older and have a child, which could start the whole process of hating the newer, younger child just like the stepmother did; it’s an unending cycle. Zipes gives us lots to think about before we read without spoiling the story.

If you’re familiar with theater, Snow Glass Apples isn’t difficult to digest. The queen’s present voice is in red, her telling of the past in black. We’re given cues like ETX, INT, SFX. If you don’t know much about theater, it might be hard to imagine how this play would be presented to the audience. Perhaps that is why Biting Dog Publications made a print copy.

The press didn’t simply transcribe the play to paper. Included are gorgeous black-and-white wood carvings that use strong lines, crosshatching, and negative space to present images like shadows in pain. Because I was so focused on Snow Glass Apples being for my ears while I’m actually reading, it was hard to really appreciate the art. I could image, though, sitting in a theater with only these images projected on the stage while I listened to the play. That would be superb.

Gaiman carefully gets around moments in the story that would be much more striking if seen by having the Queen describe what she sees in her mirror. When the annual Spring Fair had a paltry attendance, the “LORD OF THE FAIR” told the Queen there could be no more; all the merchants would starve from lack of sales. It turned out the princess, who is traditionally thought dead but then actually playing housewife with seven dwarves, was in the forest draining everyone’s blood. The queen confirmed the princess was alive when she scried in her mirror: she was drinking from a friar who had plied her with a penny for sexual favors.

“She sank her teeth deep into his breast. His eyes opened, then they closed again, and she drank. She straddled him, and she fed. As she did so a thin blackish liquid began to dribble from between her legs...”

Gaiman’s clever technique left me surprised by what I didn’t even see for myself.

We’re lulled into a “once upon a time” story that in short order creates sexual unease: the perverted friar, a vampire princess who drains her father from his thighs and genitals, a prince who wants to have sex with cold and inanimate women. My brain is reeling from the quick advances of a church man, but also the suggestion that the prince’s sexual desires can represent necrophilia, or the cold, lifeless plastic of a Barbie, which ties in current culture to an old fairy tale. They layers Gaiman piles up is certainly brain food.

Melanie Page has an MFA from the University of Notre Dame and is an adjunct instructor in Indiana. She is the creator of Grab the Lapels, a site that publishes book reviews and interviews of folks who identify as women at

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Juliet Blog Tour

After a month of planning and creating content, our blog tour for Laura Ellen Scott's The Juliet is finally here! We're super excited to share it with you. 
Be sure to follow us all week long!

Here's the low down on where we'll be
because we want to make sure you don't miss a single moment.... 

July 11th: The Lovely Bookshelf: Laura shares some of her favorite Western's penned by women authors.

July 12: Lectito: We get an inside peek into Laura's writing process.
             A Literary Vacation:  We get to see where Laura knuckles down and puts pen to paper.

July 13: Rainbow of Books: Laura shares how she outlines the story for the book and determines who her characters are and how they will behave on the page. 
             Alternating Current's The Coil: Here we get to listen to Laura read a snippet from The Juliet.

July 14: Historical Fiction Excerpts: Laura shares the story behind the story, and gives us the scoop on who the real Lily Joy was.
             The Book Wheel: For those who are on the hunt for more awesome murder mystery literature, Laura name drops a few of her favorites. 

July 15: Grab the Lapels: Laura is interviewed by Melanie in her series Meet the Writer.
             History From a Woman's Perspective: Lauralee reviews The Juliet.


If you haven't read the book yet, we urge you to check it out. 
 You can take a peek inside and purchase it here.


Here's a little of what you can expect: 

During Death Valley’s great wildflower bloom of 2005, retired cowboy actor Rigg Dexon gives a rootless woman a gift that will change her life forever: the deed to The Mystery House, a century old shack long thought to be the hiding place of a legendary emerald known as The Juliet. Willie Judy remembers Dexon from cereal commercials she watched as a kid, but now she’ll spend the next seven days searching for the truth about him, the house, and herself, as the history of The Juliet reveals the American Dream’s dark side—one that is corrupt, bawdy, and half insane.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Indie Spotlight: Sharon Nir

Today, we shine the spotlight on Sharon Nir, author of the memoir The Opposite of Comfortable. Sharon shares her thoughts on being an independent author and how the release of her book, a very private, personal invention, compares to some of her other "life events".

Check it out......

The Rewards of Indie Authorship 
(Spoiler: Money and Fame Is a Windfall)

I was prepared. Two years of hard work that included writing literature for the first time in a non-native language, receiving more rejections than most people get in a lifetime, learning about the publishing industry and concluding that being an author in the 21st century required superhero qualities or a medieval-style patronage had come to an end.

The podium stood five feet away. The last time I spoke to an audience from that spot had taken place years earlier when I was a breakthrough innovation project manager, before I accepted the United States Immigration Services’ regulations mandating I stay unemployed until the conclusion of my legal highly-skilled immigration process.

I remembered the feeling. An astonishing sensation of accomplishment blended with pride, satisfaction and self-fulfillment, which made me naturally smile and sense a chill up my back followed by goosebumps along my arms.

The bookstore manager presented me to the crowd. She said, “Allow me to introduce you to Sharon Nir, who will be sharing her debut memoir, The Opposite of Comfortable: The Unlikely Choices of an Immigrant Career Woman.

Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sharon holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in language and literature from Tel Aviv University and an MBA in marketing and international management from Northeastern University of Massachusetts. She blogs for the Huffington Post and has contributed to many women’s interest publications, including Women’s ENews, Shelf Pleasure, and The Glasshammer.

Sharon’s memoir follows her journey of immigrating to the U.S.  When her husband was offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in New York City —a surgical fellowship at Mount Sinai – Sharon made the tough choice to leave behind her career and country to keep her family together and embarked on an adventure that would change her and her family’s lives forever–  a decision that has brought her here.”

A lifetime in less than a minute.

I rose, stretched my skirt down, stood a little taller and stepped up. I looked at the guests and had a revelation. No matter how many people would buy my book, no matter how many reviews it could receive, how many awards it might be nominated for, how many endorsements and praise comments would adorn the second edition cover, no matter if I ever covered the expense or justified the opportunity cost, ALL that mattered was this moment on the podium presenting my greatest creation. Because unlike other creations in my life, such as my two magnificent children or the smart and innovative knowledge management system I designed and implemented, my book was not a success shared by others.

How many achievements in life are the product of our individual motivation and created solely by us? Most people, small businesses, companies, campaigns or organizations need help to create something, anything. Indie authors are different. They need a computer or a notepad and a chair.

Indie authors do not require an agent, a publishing house or a promotion company. From the idea for the story and the writing process, through the formatting and design and the distribution to social media—they do it all, with very little help. Their success is based solely on their vision and resourcefulness.

I think that in life people do much better if they owe their success to as few people as possible, because that forces the individual to be the best he or she can be, and work harder for the desired goal. Indie authors’ reward is the fact they owe their success first and foremost to themselves, and that is one of the most incredible feelings in the world.


Sharon Nir is the author of The Opposite of Comfortable: The Unlikely Choices of a Career Immigrant Woman (Viki Press/May 2016). Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, she holds a Bachelor of Art degree in Language and Literature from Tel Aviv University, and an MBA in Marketing and International Management from Northeastern University of Massachusetts. Sharon, her husband and two children reside in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Visit and connect @sharonvnir and for more info.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Drew Reviews: A Planet For Rent

A Planet For Rent by Yoss
Translated by David Frye
5 Stars: Highly Recommended by Drew
Pages: 227
Publisher: Restless Books
Released: 2015

Reviewed by Drew Broussard

The Short Version: When aliens finally do show up, it won't be to induct us into their company - but rather to intervene on our behalf, because we can't be trusted not to destroy ourselves and the world. So begins this collection of stories about a universe where Earth has become a protectorate of the galaxy and what it means to be an Earthling when Earth doesn't mean that much anymore...

The Review: The best science fiction is not the kind full of adventure and majesty and scantily clad alien babes - although the best science fiction often has some or all of those things. But those who would remove social commentary from science fiction miss the point and lack the intelligence, you might say, to see that science fiction has always been a place where authors and readers alike go to better understand our present. The future is nearly impossible to imagine - and I'd wager that most sci-fi authors aren't attempting to predict but rather they're imagining what could be based off of what we have right now. But, of course, you can only understand an extrapolation once you know the original data...

So we come to Yoss, a new arrival for the English-speaking world but "science fiction's brightest star" in Cuba. He's written over twenty books and is a massive success at home - but it's only since the normalization of relations between Cuba and the U.S. (and by extension the rest of the "Western World") that we've had the chance to encounter his work, or at least in any significant way that I can divine. This is his first book translated into English (editor's note: props to Restless Books for putting the translator's name on the cover, which is something more publishers ought to do) and if it's any indication of the rest of his canon, he's quickly going be a bright star in the international sky too - both because of his potent imagination and his whip-smart politically minded prose.

It's not that often that we see an imagined future that doesn't go either super well or dramatically, catastrophically poorly for humanity. I myself can't think, off the top of my head, of another book that denies human "exceptionalism" in the way that this one does - although some do something similar in their own way, like The Dispossessed. But here, we achieve first contact (called simply Contact) and screw it up royally - and when we do, the aliens retaliate with decisive but not catastrophic force. Just enough to put us in our place, as it were... and our place is decidedly second-class. Earth and its inhabitants are not only inferior organisms by the standards of the creatures populating this future, but those creatures have a vested interest in keeping our planet subjugated - both to "protect" humanity's best interests and to make sure that the nutjobs of our planet don't infect the rest of the damn galaxy. We're a "Galactic Protectorate" now and both we as people and as planet are available to anybody for the right price - so step right up!

If you have even a rudimentary grasp of international relations, you'll be thinking that this sounds a whole lot like a take on the situation over the last half-century in Cuba. And Yoss isn't shy about that: this is the kind of science fiction I was talking about earlier that uses an imagined future to better explore the present. All of the characters in the stories contained herein are trying to better their circumstances - many of them, to get off of Earth in the hopes of discovering a better life out amongst the stars, but some of them just trying to make a better time of it here while they can. We see an escort, an athlete, an artist, a cop, a young girl, a scientist, and more - and if you stripped away the futuristic trappings, you'd see that they all could exist in our present (or the present of the writing, which was the mid-late 1990s) with ease. Some of the analogues are more obvious than others; for example, the "Escape Tunnel" of the story of the same name is clearly the passage to Florida and if you changes "voxl" to "baseball", the athletes in "The Champions" suddenly seem far more modern than futuristic. It's impossible not to read every single story in this collection as political allegory - and, by extension, it's at the very least damned difficult not to feel a particular twinge in your innermost soul about the conditions being described here. Because in extending "Cuba" to encompass "Earth", Yoss' simple substitution makes an otherwise limited set of circumstances altogether more universal.

He's also just one hell of a writer. The novel is linked stories, in the vein of The Imperfectionists or A Visit from the Goon Squad (in that they tell a linear story of sorts but the connections between characters only become clear even sometimes several stories later), but also includes shorter stories that detail some aspect of life post-Contact - the advent of "mestizos", for example (mixed human and alien offspring), or the structure of the "World Human Parliament", which is exactly what it sounds like. These shorter chapters are usually more academic in tone but often pack just as much of a wallop as their longer, more detailed neighbors, largely because of just how academic-sounding they are: it borders on frightening to read something about dumpster divers or the world government of the future as though it were an entry in a more realistic Hitchhiker's Guide.

This world-building helps strengthen the impact of the story-stories, too. Every single one of the seven tales herein is guaranteed to hit you on at least a handful of various emotional levels - and a few of them manage to run the full gamut. There's something pitiful about every story but the pity quickly becomes a sort of self-pity because - and I do speak only for myself here, but I think other readers would likely agree with me - it's so easy to see oneself in these characters, even if your circumstances are completely different from theirs. Yoss has an amazing skill at creating human beings, ones who if they aren't you might be your sister or your cousin or your friend, even as he matches that skill in creating the galaxy at large. Speaking of, I shouldn't end before noting that even the most politically minded sci-fi would still suck as sci-fi if it didn't include fantastical representations of the possible future - and Yoss has fun imagining the various extraterrestrial beings (or "xenoids") that might populate the galaxy at large, from the sensual humanoid Cetians to the mysterious Auyars to the armored insect-esque Grodos. This future is a vivid one, full of realistically rendered possibilities - even if they aren't possibilities we would ever hope for. Still, if relations can be normalized between the U.S. and Cuba, perhaps there's hope yet for us as a species.

Rating: 5 out of 5. Perhaps some people knew about it before recently, but I'm thrilled to know now that Cuba has been a hotbed of intellectually potent science fiction for the last forty-odd years - and what an introduction A Planet for Rent turned out to be. Yoss, the rockstar of Cuban sci-fi (and also actual rock star; he sings for a metal band), is hands-down one of the best writers of sci-fi I've ever encountered and his portrait of Cuba-during-the-Special-Period-as-Earth-under-alien-'protection' should be an instant classic. He is wickedly funny, charming, evocative, quick with a smart phrase (props to translator David Frye for keeping the prose sharp), and deeply concerned about not just the humanity of his own nation but that of our entire race. I look forward to much more from Yoss and I'm excited to have the chance to read it.

Drew Broussard reads, a lot. When not doing that, he's writing stories or playing music or acting or producing or coming up with other ways to make trouble.  He also has a day job at The Public Theater in New York City.