Penny Palabras – Episode 05: A Gun in Act One

Penny Palabras 005The charactarisation deepens, the plot twists, and your mind will blow.

James B. Willard and Patrick K. Beavers do not disappoint.

We’ve yet another instalment of Penny Palabras, and this one gives us a deeper glimpse of Penny, a better understanding of her family and past, and then we get a classic comic book plot twist to blow the mind and make this already delightfully surreal read even more so.

We meet Penny’s father, we learn just who the librarian is/was.  And Penny’s already completely bizarre life gets just a bit weirder.

Now, I will say, Penny is given a bit of a dysfunctional family and the tone of this episode is possibly, due to that, a bit darker than most of the books before.  It fits wonderfully with the overall dark tone and look of the series.

So far the story continues to be something recommendable even to those who don’t normally like the dark, paranormal, psych-thriller sort of story.

New policy

Here’s the deal.  I’ve been trying to politely reply to incorrect submissions.  People using the last resort email without reading the guidelines have been getting summarily and unceremoniously deleted, but others have used the submission form for non-fiction, or they’ve submitted their query via the contact us page, one person even recently read the submission guidelines and somehow got the impression it was pick-mix and skipped straight to the last resort option and even admitted as much in the email.  Until today the ones not just sending us any and sundry email on the last resort address have been getting polite replies directing them to the submission guidelines and form.

No more.

The forms explain themselves.  The submission guidelines, while possibly able to stand being phrased more business like and stuffy (something I’d rather slit my own wrists than attempt to do to the poor defenseless English language), are pretty straight forward and clear.  If you can’t read them, it is now our policy to assume that this also means you cannot write and that we will not be able to finish your book; literacy, after all, ought to be a prerequisite for being a writer.

I’m sorry, but it’s going too far and getting to be too much.  There have been days where over half of the submissions were incorrect and it took the better part of an hour to reply to all of them before adding the people who did as they were asked to our backlog!  That’s time that might have seen the start and finish of someone’s short story.  It’s certainly the amount of time it took me to read our first comic submission!

When you waste our time you waste other authors’ time.  So no more.  When you can follow the guidelines we’ll consider your book.  Until then you’re refiled to the bin without a glance or a tear shed.

Yes, this post is rude.  Believe me — there are hundreds of bad submissions behind it.  Patience and politeness have been exhausted and have left the building.

Penny Palabras – Episode 1

Penny Palabras 001James B Willard has given me the opportunity to take a look at the first issue of his Penny Palabras story — available through Amazon (just click the cover, as usual) — and I must say, it’s very interesting.

Now, I will admit, it’s hard to decide what to say about a single issue of a larger story.  I don’t have the whole plot, after all.  But each issue does have a job:  it has to establish some stage of the larger plot; in this case, it needs to introduce everything.

This does very well.

Let’s start with the fun stuff in graphic media:  the art!  Patrick K Beavers does a wonderful job.  The comic is in greyscale, and this was a great stroke, I think, in maintaining the somewhat … let’s use creepy, creepy’s a good word, tone of the overall story.  The lines are crisp — despite the monochromatic scenery, you can distinguish features; this puts this lightyears ahead of some of the offerings I’ve seen from DC or Marvel at times.

The story itself, an introduction to, well, as the blurb says:

Penny Palabras, 17, has experienced the paranormal for years. She knows that things aren’t always what they seem. Now, she’s tormented by a malevolent entity called the Straw Man. As she searches for ways to banish him from her life, she’s haunted by more than ghosts. Her nightmares won’t let her sleep, her friends and family can’t understand, and the Straw Man is getting more powerful every day.

The setting, the characters, the story, all leave you wanting more — leave you needing that second issue.  In this it does its job well.  I’m not personally a fan of the issue-by-issue story arc format usually called “writing for the trades” and will lean more quickly toward the old-school episodic issues with occassional multi-issue stories, or just a good ol’ graphic novel.  But, that’s me, and the comic universe right now is this.  So who am I to judge?

If you’re looking for something light-hearted and silly, I’d say stay clear of this.  But if you want a good bit of paranormal thriller, with some suspence thrown in … or maybe that’s the other way around … whichever, you should certainly give this a read.  Hell, it’s worth the $2.99 sticker price just for the artwork!

An observation about publicists

As this is an indie reviews blog, I think it is within my responsibility to point out a trend to my fellow broke, struggling authors out there:  Publicists, probably aren’t worth what you’re paying them.

[horror]Whatever do you mean!?[end horror]

I mean out of all the improper submissions to this review site a good 90% of them are made by publicists.  Publicists tend to do things like give me anything and sundry for the title of the book, except the title of the book.  They submit non-fiction or self-help to this fiction only review blog … the list goes on.  Really, if they can screw up the book submission in some way, they’ve done it.  Authors & publishers?  Some, but not hardly as often nor as badly.

So, just from a reviewer’s stand point, you’re really wasting your time and money on most of the publicists that I’ve come across.

Does  this mean publicists are bad?

NO!  Gods, no.  Just like with publishers and agents, some are brilliant (or at least competent) and others are an utter waste of carbon – they tend to resemble humans in this regard.  The key is in carefully research your publicist, ask questions of them before you hire them, then keep an eye on them.  Ask for progress reports, and otherwise check up on them to be sure you’re getting your money’s worth.  Remember:  they’re your employee, but unlike the agents and publishers (unless you took a scam artist one of those) where if you don’t make money, they don’t either, a publicist gets paid no matter what.

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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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).

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.

Junie B series

junie_b_jonesJunie B Jones is a truly delightful series by Barbara Park with adorable illustration by Denise Brunkus.

I shall review the entire first series as a gestalt since, in the end, it tells one story — the kindergarten career of one Ms Juniper Beatrice “Junie B.” Jones.

Each book takes you through a small (mis)adventure in the little girl’s life and each one, while perfectly ordinary and innocuous on its own is exacerbated and magnified by the quirky imagination and unusual perspective of the little heroine.

If you have children, I sincerely recommend them.  If you don’t have children, I sincerely recommend them — really, they great for a laugh and a great light read, no one’s too big or too old for cute.

The stories are told from Junie B’s point of view, which only serves to make them even more delightful as you follow her train of thought throughout the day’s scrapes.

There is a sequel series, Junie B: First Grader, which (in case the name was too subtle) is her in first grade.  This one is done as a series of school journal assignments, but otherwise continues the theme of Junie B telling the story of her latest amusing anecdotes.

Really — they’re short, they’re cute, they’re sweet, they’re silly.  The synopsis of any of the books could easily be a sentence (in fact a quick check of Wikipedia confirms just that), and wouldn’t do them the faintest justice.  Go, pick them up — they’re about us$3 each, and short enough that you could easily read a quarter of the series over a latte.