Whatever Holiday Shopping Guide 2013, Day Two: Non-Traditionally Published Books

A little holiday shopping help.

Authors and publishers? Might want to post your stuff in the comments.

Readers? Some great stuff listed in there. Check it out.

Whatever

Today is Day Two of the Whatever Shopping Guide 2013, and today the focus is on Non-Traditionally Published Books: Self-published works, electronically-exclusive books, books from micro presses, books released outside the usual environs of the publishing world, and so on. Hey, I put my first novel up on this very Web site more than a dozen years ago now and told people to send me a dollar if they liked it. Look where it got me. I hope you find some good stuff today.

Please note that the comment thread today is only for non-traditional authors and editors to post about their books; please do not leave other comments, as they will be snipped out to keep the thread from getting cluttered. Thanks!

Authors/editors: Here’s how to post in this thread. Please follow these directions!

1. Authors and editors of non-traditionally published books only. This includes comics and graphic novels…

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Neverworld

neverworldE. Racine did a fabulous job in this novel.

I’ll start with the bad, just to get it out of the way.  The book could, as all book could (I swear there are typo gremlins that will make sure that no matter how many times you edit, there will STILL be mistakes) use another proofread pass.  That’s it.  There’re as few as 2 or 3, as many as 5 typo grade mistakes or small missing or extra words per chapter.  Big deal, no?

The story.  You start with a mysterious, otherworldly stranger dropping a baby off on the doorstep of Child Services in modern America.  The little babe grows up to be an outcast teen girl.  Then the fun starts.

I love the very creative Neverworld, a world where fairy tales live … in a manner of speaking.  Truly an imaginative twist on an old standard.

The characters are wonderful.  Sam and Charlie are endearing enough to make you want them to succeed and to be all right.  Captain Jones is the quintessential good-hearted and good-natured buccaneer,  Tom is the great swordsman you’re promised he is …

Is it light hearted?  Yes.  Is it a “serious work of fiction”, I shouldn’t think so.  Is it perfect for a younger reader — maybe 8-10 years old?  Absolutely.  Is it perfect for the young at heart of any age?  You bet.  This story reads well, and is not so terrifying it couldn’t be read to a small child for a bedtime story, or by an older child to themselves, or by an adult looking for a good bit of damned good fun; but it’s exciting.  You’ll devour it before you know as the narrative, the characters, and their misadventures suck you in and don’t let go.

My greatest disappointment?  The sequels haven’t been published yet.  I’ll be standing in line to get them when they are.

This book appears to be available only through Amazon.

Twilight

The_twilight_saga_hardbackYes, that one.  I’m still reading my next submitted book and got bored, so here’s an easy one.

First off, no, this is not a “let’s bash on Meyers” post — not intentionally, but as you can see this one warranted a Bad, so any Meyers fans who wish to might want to go sharpen their pitchforks and light the torches.

There, now on to the review.

Frankly, the sparkling vampires?  Kudos points, really.  It’s new, and different.  I can’t think of anyone else who decided to tinker with the vampire mythos in quite that fashion before.  It could have been pretty good — in fact, after reading what is available of Midnight Sun, the first book of the Twilight saga rewritten from Edward’s point of view is … mediocre.  Could even be awesome, but for the fact that I really must say that Ms Meyers could stand to think a little harder about characterisation.

Back to the actually officially published work, though.  It’s bad.  Normally I won’t review a book I couldn’t finish, but in this case I will because I couldn’t finish it, not because it wasn’t my cup of tea, but rather because it was so badly written that I could not bring myself to complete it.  Watching the movie was … an improvement as it avoided the narration.

You are given a young lady, Ms Bella Swan, who … how should I put this?  By page two you just want to slap the stupid out of her.  The first pages are, I believe, trying to establish her as the sympathetic protagonist — the character you’re really rooting for and all that.  I’ve never wanted a POV character to shut the hell up more in my life.

Frankly the trouble is this:  she’s upset because she’s moved to Washington, a part of it that apparently rains more than the Noah story in The Bible out near Seattle.  And she thinks it’s cold.  Also, she apparently has some form of albinism that doesn’t impact her hair and eyes — plausible, I’ve heard of it in other mammals, just not humans.  She’s upset because she doesn’t want to be there, yet she is there voluntarily.  The reasoning might be more believable if it weren’t for the constant griping about having done this which seems to go “oh look at what a tragic self-sacrificing person I am … woe and angst”.  It’s artificial in the extreme.

I will be the first to defend nearly any character in the world, in original fiction, as not a Mary Sue.  Why?  Because Mary Sue syndrome is supposed to only infect fanfiction characters.  I’m often inclined to make an exception for Ms Swan.  Why?  The narrative says she’s plain, boring, ordinary, and exceedingly clumsy.  The narrative shows remarkably beautiful and drawing the attention of all of those around her, remarkable in being rather unique in her reactions to the vampires, and the clumsiness seems to amount to “oh, now might be a good time for her to fall down” rather than actually presenting a klutz (believe me, I live with one, she laughed at Bella’s “clumsiness” not identified and empathised with it).  As I understand it, even at the end of it all, when she becomes a vampire … forgive the pun, but she takes on every mark of a sparkly Sue except for being in original fiction.

Enough about the poor characterisation — Bella’s the best example, but the vamps get a little hard to swallow, too, just not as bad.

Plot.  Oh, so Romantic, yes?  No.  Romance is not, necessarily, roses and candy.  It doesn’t have to be starlit walks on the beach.  No.  Borderline abusiveness, stalking, a deep rooted possessiveness, and a powerful urge to murder someone … it’s not terribly romantic by most standards.  Gothic, sure.  Romantic, no.  Midnight Sun presents an interesting basis for a great Horror novel.  Twilight is just a sad attempt at wangst and dwama.

Oh, but bad writing can sometimes be overlooked if the story is good enough.  As I just said, nope, didn’t happen.  Repeatedly you want to scream to Ms Meyers that there’s these little things call reference libraries, and Wikipedia.  Prime example?  The baseball scene.  Many people hate this because “Vampires don’t play baseball!”  — bah, get over it, I think it’s cute.  Original idea, but oh no, no no no, Stephanie, love — if they’re so strong and fast that they have to wait for thunderstorms to play it … well, you might want to remember that ordinary human athletes are wont to breaking the ball with a good homer off a fast ball.  These vamps would need to have made bats out of good solid metal, probably not aluminium, but steel or titanium, or similar and they’d need to be using something on the order of an old cannonball.  And I’m pretty sure a baseball game, regardless of the tools in question, doesn’t much sound like thunder.  To say nothing of the fact that, as I recall, that corner of Seattle isn’t prone to thunderstroms, a mix of the sea and the mountains.  I know Hawai’i rarely does for those very reasons.

There’re some fascinating other signs that Ms Meyers didn’t get a lot out of her Biology, Physics, and other classes as a youth.  I wouldn’t comment on this, I’m a SF writer who loves things where starships are making banking turns and going “whoosh”, but the difference comes in the fact that physics ignored and discarded is a whole other universe from physics misunderstood.  The former … well, how few people ever watch Star Wars and think “that ain’t right” about the fighter-craft scenes over the death star?  In this case, science was set aside for the sake of excitement and you enjoy it.  In the latter case … there’s explanation, both in the novel and in later interviews by the author.  It’s painful.   It really is.

Really, many many points for originality with vampires enjoying baseball, and the myths about dying in the sun being wrong — oooh shiny!  Supernatural/paranormal/horroresque romance with a bit of Destiny Born in the Stars … what the Hell, it worked for ol’ Bill Shakespeare, I won’t knock it.  Sadly, though, Stephanie Meyer runs amok with these ideas in a way that would be right at home on fanfiction.net, and would very likely have been invaded by the Protectors of the Plot Continuum.

If you can stomach bad narrative and poor characterisation in favour of unique and interesting ideas, and can put aside all you ever learnt about physics and biology, then pick this up.  Otherwise, I’d say give it a pass.

The Mine

TheMine1John A Heldt has done a fantastic job with this story.

Great characters, amazingly interesting plot, excellent mix of emotions, terrific sense of humour. It’s all here.

Frankly I had exactly three complaints about this novel:

  1. There is no TOC for the eReader to work with.  I suggest remembering to use your reader’s bookmark function whenever you have to walk away, I’ve yet to find a reader or app that doesn’t sometimes forget your place on the next load.  Better safe than sorry with a book this long.
  2. The chapter layout was very strange.  Mostly it was a lot of very short chapters, but now and then there’d be longer ones with scene breaks.  I’d chalk this up to a stylistic thing, but I couldn’t quite fathom a rhyme or reason to when it’d be a three page chapter, or a chapter with three three page scenes.  Too, I find lots of little chapters a distraction because when I hit chapter 35, I don’t like discovering I’m only something like a third of the way through the book.
  3. The story mostly takes place in 1941, and the history is very well researched.  Usually, when I thought that an anachronism had cropped up, it turned out it was truth if rather obscure and unexpected.  There is one blatant exception and one nitpicking one.  The former:  he has one character driving a shiny new Plymouth of a model that was not first produced until the year after WW2 ended, yet this story takes place in the half-year leading up to America‘s involvement in that particular chapter of history.  The nitpicking?  It’s 1941 and he referred to “saddle-shoes” – according to my fashion expert it’s an incorrect usage so common as to beg the question of just how much longer it’ll be incorrect; it’s peeking around the corners of linguistic drift.  All-in-all, big deal.

I especially loved the end, it left tears in my eyes.  This story, most assuredly, deserves an Awesome!  

Don’t believe me?  It’s us$2.99 on Amazon.  Go.  Take a look.  You’ve nothing to lose except the cost of a … is that even the cost of a laté anymore or have those hit $5?

UPDATE: It turns out that, despite my very desperately looking for a 1941 Plymouth Deluxe Special, because I’m a HUGE fan of 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s era cars I could not find anything anywhere that said the line existed prior to 1946, but the author has kindly send me information on that very year model of Plymouth.  A perfectly stunning car:  http://auto.howstuffworks.com/1941-plymouth-special-deluxe-convertible.htm

The saddle shoes comment – I will apologise if I give the impression John was not diligent in his historical research.  I mean, even the car thing could easily have been a mistake (glad to know it wasn’t, such a pretty thing!) and the saddleshoes is really not a profound difference either.  From what I can gather the shoes in question for the characters in question are often, and this is considered incorrect to Fashion People but is common usage for The Rest of Us, called saddleshoes.  There’s debate if they were called that in the 1940s or if, indeed, anything was called that back then.  My fashion sources do say that the shoes existed before the 50s, though when exactly isn’t given, but Good Girls didn’t wear them till the 50s/60s and that it refers specifically to the types of shoes you’ll see on the Bobby Socksers in a good movie set in the 1950s.  John kindly provided the source for his side of things “saddle shoes”, but even trying to confirm it with people who were teens in the era got mixed answers.  Lending to a belief that, possibly, it is a regional thing to some extent.  History is a slippery subject because truth is such a tricky and confusing thing.  Facts, even facts within living memory, are not always perfect.  I know someone who bought toys in middle Tennessee in the 1980s from a common department store that all accounts of say was never sold in America.  So … please, do not misunderstand me.  one fashion reference and one year make of a car should never condemn a historical novel – we all make mistakes, and in Mr Heldt’s case, he didn’t even do that, Goggle merely failed me.

Cheers.

It was bound to happen

In the submission guidelines there is listed an email address. Leading up to this address is a careful explanation of the situation in which one is expected to use that address and the manner in which to use it. This circumstance and method are the only uses of this address. Using this address serves no purpose except being a backup method of landing on the backlog at exacly the same expected turn around time.

With this detail is a note. This note is now bolded, italicised, and underlined, in fact. The note explicitly states use of the address in any manner or circumstance save the one described will lead to immediate deletion of the message without opening it.

Naturally one assumes that authors, agents, and publishers would be a literate crowd. It would be rather a serious handicap to their profession if we weren’t.

Sadly, my day job puts me in regular contact with people whose profession ought to require knowing their own arses from holes in the ground who, in fact, could not manage this with illustrated instructions. Thus I suspected (even with the warning, or perhaps especially with it) that someone would, sooner or later, get that far and fire up an email without first engaging their brains.

Today it happened.

To the hapless author of said email. You know who you are even if we do not – as promised the message was unceremoniously discarded – so if you would like to try your message again using the correct submission form we would be glad to hear from you.

The rules are not there to be difficult. Our submission form is not complex and we’re quite loose about it; believe me, some folks could use a lesson in what short & sweet means … Or book description (really, the autobiography with the summary isn’t necessary, we’re reviewers not journalists) and a few books have come across without links and such … still we dutifully post them and dutifully consider them for the next book to read. The rules are there so that things can go quickly. The form keeps the data tidy and eliminates searching or things like the author name or book title when posting to the backlog, quickly finding the book on your site or retailer so we can create the appropriate links, etc. the forms and rules help us help you.

Bypassing them gets you nowhere except possibly mocked. Please don’t think it clever to play those kinds of games. You waste far more of your own time – it takes less than a second to mark a message for deletion.

Do Amazon and Createspace rip off Indie publishers with failure to correctly report sales?

Author beware.

Amazon might not be doing this on purpose, or they might not be that incompetent. Regardless if it’s stupidity or malice/greed, this is uncool. Let’s get the word out and keep these jokers honest (or get them some remedial courses in common sense).

jeanettevaughan

Guest post by John. R. Clark, Managing Editor at AgeView Press

When AgeView Press Indie pubbed the book FLYING SOLO in May of 2012, the author, Jeanette Vaughan  immediately began tracking sales.   She heard from excited friends and family who immediately emailed when ordering their copies.  The first sales were off of Createspace’s e-store with the title ID number given to the author.   Then, through Amazon, a week later, when the book went live on the site.  Finally on Kindle, when the ebook format was completed.

Initially, things appeared kosher.    People exclaiming that they had ordered the book, were showing up within a day or two on the electronic royalty reports with a reasaonable accuracy.    But by June and July, sales descrepencies were noted by the author from customers claiming that they had purchased the book directly through Amazon, not an Amazon affiliate.    Many of these sales were simply not listed.The author contacted…

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Break for birthday

Normally I’m the one who adds the new queries to the backlog.

It’s my birthday today, so I’m going to take a break.

If Toby wants to add them she’s welcome to, but I’ll get to them tomorrow or Wednesday.  Don’t worry, though — they will get added, just a day or two later than typical.

Wow!

What a response!

Looks like our listing on The Indie View is getting some folks’ attention!  Every day someone else is added to the backlog.

Toby and I have each claimed a book and are dutifully working our ways through them.  Feel free to peruse the backlog, see if there’s anything you like and consider writing a review of it for us (even if you don’t, go ahead and check it out, there’s some rather amazing variety in there — something for nearly everyone type of thing).

Aversion by Kenechi Udogu

This review may contain spoilers.

Today I read Aversion, which is the first book of the Mentalist Series by Kenechi Udogu. It’s about a girl named Gemma who has the ability to see an occasional glimpse into a person’s future, and the power to insert a thought into their mind in an effort to avert the disasters she sees in her vision, allowing the person to continue on through the life they are meant to have. She is part of a secret society that uses this power for the good of mankind. Imagine if your guardian angel was one of the Men in Black, and he protected you from your own mistakes instead of aliens.

Aversion is a novella, so it’s naturally a short read. It’s got a pretty nice cover that is actually related to the story. There are a couple of typos, but nothing serious. I felt as if the writing was a bit clinical- I could see the emotions, but they mostly seemed to have been expressed in a passive manner. Despite the tone, the unique angle to the story drew me in anyway, and eventually I ceased to notice it.

There’s plenty of things going on. Gemma’s in high school, but also finishing the training her father has spent her entire life preparing her for, and now it’s come to the final test. Mistakes are turning into forbidden romance, until the villain’s come to town and it’s time to pack up and leave. That part was a little abrupt. I was trying to read carefully but I missed the part where they actually moved and had to flip back a couple of pages.

The pacing up to this point has been pretty good, but now things are happening faster as the secrets are being revealed.

Here’s where the world starts to tilt: Forbidden is turning into fate as she unexpectedly runs into her love interest, and I find this to be the most emotional scene in the book. He wasn’t aware he was even searching for her, but the villains knew and the cast is finally forced into a confrontation.

Which is great. You can’t run forever and expect that to be a satisfying story.

The exposition here got a little thick, throwing definitions and teasing you with a partial infodump, but it was still more information than we’ve been able to pry out of anyone else. The villains don’t get a lot of time to develop a characters, but they have believable motivations, and the new information ties everyone together in a way that makes sense. It isn’t just a conflict between good and evil- the villains have a good reason for their actions, but you can’t just let someone hurt your family.

I appreciate that nobody’s perfect here. Real people aren’t perfect, either.

It looks like the villains are going to win the day, but Gemma is a quick study and observes a familiar relationship between the villains, and uses that knowledge to her advantage. She overcomes her ignorance with ingenuity, and displays a remarkable maturity when she leaves well enough alone after her family is safely free.

I like to think she was able to see both sides of that situation.

In the end, it’s back to square one, except now Gemma’s all grown up and ready to face the world on her own. But the villains aren’t done with her yet, and the secret society is watching. Her love interest returns as well. I am only left with questions: Is her relationship doomed, or only just beginning? Are the Averters and Sentients two different secret societies, or factions within the same one? Is the association between the villains sanctioned?

I want to know. Please write the next book.

Despite its flaws, which turned out to be trivial for the most part, I give this book a rating of awesome! It’s wonderful for the first installment of a young adult series.  You can purchase Aversion on Smashwords.

The Indie View

Just taking a moment to bring attention to a lovely little site I recently discovered. http://www.theinieview.com

It’s a resourse for, you guessed it’ finding indie … stuff. Reviewers and writers in particular.

We’re listed there with, count ’em, over 200 odd other reviewers. This is good. Why would you want to see reviews from only one place?! Or, more to the point, have your stuff reviewed at only one?!

I think I’m going to browse around for a few places to send Stolen Time.