Friday, December 9, 2011

Mixed News if You Self Publish

Anyone could have seen this coming. In fact, it's nothing new, publishers have always invested more into hardcover versions of books with the reasoning that readers collect them.

Now they've gone all out with book covers in hopes of luring readers away from eReading devices. I think publishers are on the right track, although if most readers are anything like me, they collect hardcover books and still buy the digital versions as well.

The major drawback is for self-publishers who cannot afford nor do they have the resources to produce these kinds of covers. I've asked CreateSpace if they're going to print uncoated, or matte (not shiny) book jackets or give the option to coat portions of the cover or offer embossing, but they have no plans to offer these options in paperback or offer hardcover versions. Hopefully that will change.

I think the main problem is obviously the cost factor. Hardcover books offered by outfits such as LULU, are already too costly and I doubt they'll be adding premium printing options such as embossing, coating, and gold or silver foil to their covers.

So what does this all mean to independent publishers like you and me? We're screwed for now but all things in life are subject to change, hopefully for the better.

Click on the Title for the whole story.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Was Shakespeare a Fraud?

Here's an idea that's been floating around for some time. Were the works of Shakespeare really his own words?

Who's to say? I don't think the movie will answer the question either, but it's going to be interesting to see how it tries.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Why Emily Dickinson? Protagonists We Love

(Emily Dickinson, circa 1863)

Ever wonder where the fascinating characters in your favorite novels come from? Protagonists in particular can sometimes pique our interest especially when we see ourselves reflected in these characters, or even better, when we want to become these characters. It’s an exercise in vicariousness that readers live by.

Whenever I read Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, I always put myself in Finn's shoes, or lack thereof, and imagine what it would be like to be Huck Finn. This is the real reason we read. We want to become someone else for a time. It’s the perfect escape into another world—-another time and place. We want to live another life in someone else’s shoes and walk around in their skin, as Atticus Finch would say, which begs the question, who was the star in To Kill a Mockingbird anyway?

Forgive my digression, but it seems to me it was Scout who led the way in the book and in the movie version, although Atticus, played by Gregory Peck, was clearly in the lead role, it was his daughter, Scout, who the story centered around for the most part. Having seen the movie as a young boy, I naturally identified with the young, curious, and feisty tomboy that dominated most every scene.

That’s the same effect I tried capturing when I created my main character, Virginia Mae Mercy in A Death for Beauty. First, I thought, Virginia had to be a complex woman. A confident woman with many personality quirks, but also, someone with a vulnerable disposition. Because what good is a strong main character without faults and insecurities?

For the most part, I modeled Virginia after both, a common and uncommon woman of the mid nineteenth century. Modern women can certainly identify with Virginia’s feminine traits, her needs and wants as a woman who takes care of herself and someone who aspires to be something more than she is. A woman in search of herself. I think most women can relate to that.

Virginia’s flip side is less predictable, however. While she often comes across as surefooted and resolute, in the same breath, she questions everything around her. She’s never certain of anything. This wavering is what makes Virginia human. It’s what readers empathize with above all else and what they connect with. In essence, it’s the one trait, which drives her character forth and propels readers into the story. They want to care and they want to follow her along her journey.

Multifaceted characters are what makes stories resonate and can sometimes take readers by surprise, but again, that’s what readers enjoy and what they expect from interesting characters. Aside from Virginia’s quirky personality, I had to tap into a voice that fit. At first, during my research for part two of the story, where the Sioux tribe absorbs Virginia into their culture, I couldn’t get the voice of Fanny Kelly—-the woman in the true story—-out of my head so Virginia sounded very much like Fanny. But once I decided to include Emily Dickinson’s poetry, for some reason, I thought Emily Dickinson’s tone of voice, her manner of writing, was more fitting and almost inescapable from my point of view.

The rhythm of Dickinson’s poetry (featured in chapter openings) was more than an accompaniment to the writing, it was for me, a melody of words that set the tone for the whole novel, so giving this voice to Virginia was as natural as including the poetry itself.

I think I can safely admit that Virginia Mae Mercy’s personality has shades of Emily Dickinson. They certainly share a fierce and witty style all their own and writing that kind of dialogue was a lot of fun.

“I love you Darlin, let’s go. Birdy would never forgive me. Besides if he were here he’d knocked the old croaker galley-west.”

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Better World Books - A Better Way to Buy Books

Here's a great way to feel even better when you buy books. Maybe it's just me, but when I indulge in a book buying spree, I feel a little guilty about it. (probably for good reason) but buying from Better World Books has changed all that. Now I can go nuts and buy all the books I want because for every book I buy, Better World Books donates a book to someone else. Plus shipping is free.

That's a pretty good deal and a great business model, which I'm sure will catch on and keep spreading throughout the world. We can credit Kelsey Timmerman with that business innovation, at least its publicity, as he's sold millions of shoes that way too.

BWB is now matching that business model with great fanfare. Check out their books here: See the Green Video (bottom, right) Better World Books

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Subtext in Literary Fiction -- It's Good for You

Fans of literary fiction have a dirty little secret. At least I’d like to think they do. I’ve heard derogatory remarks about fiction from comedians and the scientific crowd, all denouncing how fictive stories are a waste of time and that if they wanted the real truth they’ll seek it elsewhere. I suppose they could find it in a non-fiction title or the KJV Bible perhaps?

What critics of literary fiction—or any other type of fiction for that matter—don’t realize is that the truth about anything is always hard to find, regardless of the medium. Even the King James Version of the Bible can be a bit confusing at times and finding the truth within its pages, a labyrinth at best.

What critics are missing is that fiction is about the truth. The secret is that writers cloak the truth in a veil of mystery, comedy, and tragedy. But that’s what makes literary fiction so fascinating.

For example, let’s take Flannery O’Connor’s short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” If comedic intellectuals can’t find any truth in that story, they certainly are missing the point altogether. What is the point? Well, let’s see … how about that the world is a dangerous place, filled with uncertainties and fatal pitfalls at every turn, and that unless we’re careful or hyper vigilant, it’s just a matter of time and place, and we’re all in for a surprise, sooner or later.

I think that sums up the status quo very nicely. O’Connor’s story is a statement about many things, many truths that lie dormant in society, dormant until they appear in the headlines and remind us what the truth really is—that the ugly truth lurks in plain sight.

It’s like searching for sex offenders in your neighborhood. You can’t see them because they don’t parade the dirt roads in shimmery hot-pants or stand on street corners waving colorful signs that read: “Hello neighbor, I’m a sex offender and I want to snag your little princess, or your little boy.”

That sounds absurd, but when you search your local sex offender’s database, you’ll be surprised to learn that all those little red dots, like buckshot scattered around your town, each represent a registered sex offender in your precious neighborhood. If that isn’t the truth, I don’t know what is, but that’s truth enough for me, and reason enough to believe that fictive stories are in fact plausible and can indeed represent the hidden status quo—the truth beneath the surface.

And that my friends, is the beauty and the ugly truth, all wrapped up in one neat little package writers call, literary fiction. So the next time you’re searching for the truth and you need a break from the KJV, dive into some good old-fashioned literary fiction and enjoy the ride because the words between those salient covers, are just as good for your soul.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

DIY Author 101

Last time I checked, America was still a capitalist society. Want something done right? Do it yourself, of course. After all, commissions and incentives only go so far.

It amazes me when people suddenly realize something that has been around since the founding of this nation. In a word, "Capitalism." What's wrong with that anyway? What's so bad, so evil and so deviant about being a capitalist? Isn't that how America was born over 200 years ago and still thrives today? These are rhetorical questions, folks. Don't bother trying to formulate an answer for each and every one.

The answers are quite simple. YES, to all the above.

Okay, but what does capitalism have to do with writing books? Yes, another annoying rhetorical question.

Want to build your author platform? Sure you do, but what does that mean? Well, you know, you want to become a well-known writer who has something interesting and important to share with the world.

You want to be known in social circles as an authority in your field. You want to be top dog because people believe, follow and buy from the top tier, and more importantly, they want to associate with them, on their level, which makes them feel and appear just as relevant and important. They want to belong to and be part of the best because that kind of status could bring them fame and fortune when their Amazon ranking skyrockets due to a spike in book sales.

Got all that?

If you don't and you'd like an in depth, professional take on author platforms, I'll defer to Alan Rinzler, who offers an insiders scoop. Unless you want to take my word for it, here's all you need to know: Get the most attention, be controversial, witty, be attractive, and for the love of God, write a damn good book. Leave any one of those elements out, and you're SOL.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Can You Hear That Fantastic Whooshing Sound?

Two Authors Stick it to The Man!

Gotta love it folks. Authors like J.K. Rowlings and Seth Godin are finally taking control of their intellectual property and raking in big cash in the process. The process of digitizing their own books, that is.

The beauty of capitalism is that it works for one and all. Rich or poor, young or old, it doesn't matter. If you know how to market yourself and how to present your products, there's no one to stop you from making a good profit.

And that whooshing sound? That's the gust of wind from millions of authors rushing to do the same thing.

Right. The man's been sticking it to you. It's time to turn the tables.
Here are the articles:

J.K. Rowlings Cashes in: (Titles are mine.)

Seth Godin Sticks it To The Man--Hard!


BOOK TOUR ALERT: "A DEATH FOR BEAUTY" VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR STARTS THIS OCTOBER (Unless I change my mind again, which I doubt because I'm not getting any younger. Besides, with all this "sticking it to the man" going on, I'm inspired too.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Death of Pulp Books? Please.

You can feel it coming. Everywhere you look, headlines scream from mountaintops. “Paper and ink books are dead!” Really? At some point, I’m expecting the coroner from The Wizard of Oz to officially declare it. “The wicked book is undeniably, most certifiably dead!”

Seems to me that certain people want to see the demise of the printed book. Could it be a group of environmentalists leading the cause to bury pulp books so they can save more trees. Or could it be a handful of manufacturers who’ve conspired to put the old, tired, pulp fiction six feet under and profit from the newest trend of e-gadgets?

Is the printed book really dead, or are electronic reading devices the equivalent of microwaves? Ovens are still around, you know. Nobody shouted from mountaintops about the demise of the oven back in 1945. Microwaves were just a new, faster way to cook.

Hmm, maybe it’s a given that reading devices will some day replace printed matter altogether. So, we should get over it. Let’s not forget the dwindling newspaper and magazine subscriptions. Have you seen a copy of the Sunday newspaper lately, or the thinning monthly magazines? They look more like flimsy pamphlets on crash diets these days. Remember when the Sunday newspaper was part of your muscle toning routine? Whatever happened to that? Heck, the Kindle only weighs about ten ounces, and the iPad isn’t that much heavier. Bummer.

One thing’s for sure. The days of rolling up newspaper and bitch slapping your Chihuahua when it pees on your imported Oriental rug, are most definitely over. And what’s one to do when you need to level your dining room table with a good hardcover book, wrap yesterday’s fish, or soak up that oil stain from your garage floor?

Yes. If you ask me, we still need paper books and monstrous Sunday newspapers. They’re still useful for something.

All I know is that electronic gadgets don’t work as well for any of that other stuff. Not even when all their wondrous electronic components have inexplicably failed.

Believe me, I’ve tried.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Orphan Book Rescue Society

It's a crying shame, but there it was. That poor book stood proud among the other rejects and misfit books in the Dollar Store bargain bin. It had a magnificent cover, an intriguing title, and a great story concept. What's wrong with this book, I wondered?

I turned to the back cover and read all the glowing reviews, opened to the back flap and saw the Random House logo in all its glory, along with the author's photo and short bio. Everything was certainly in place and the book was in pristine condition. No remainder marks, no stains, no dents, no curves, a straight spine. It was a brand new hardcover book in perfect condition.

I flipped to the first chapter and began reading. Sounds like a good story, a strong opening, filled with intrigue. Nice first chapter cliffhanger. Gotta have it. WTF! Why is this book in the bargain bin? Beats me. I've never heard of it though, or its author. What gives?

Then it hit me. As an author, peddling my own literary mystery novel, is this what I have to look forward to? Uh, yeah. Why should I expect my story to do any better, especially these days? Can things possibly get any worse than for a great book to wind up in the bargain bin of a Dollar Store? I thought the Dollar Store was already a bargain.

Hey, it's not all that bad though. The books weren't tossed about like yesterday's trash. They were neatly stacked and displayed with a good measure of dignity. They just looked like lonely orphans waiting for someone to rescue them. They seemed helpless. I rescued all 37 of them and took them home where they stand tall in my library. I'll keep my favorites and give the others away as gifts.

Come to think of it, some day I hope to reach this level of success in today's publishing world. The Dollar Store dollar bin. Heck, might even be a step above self-publishing.

You see, I knew there was a bright side, after all.

But, the real question is. What's an "emerging author" like me doing at the Dollar Store anyway? Oh, I get it. I'm not the next James Patterson. Right.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I Was So Bored, I Joined Shelfari

(This article is from my initial ProseFreak Blog concept. I had to scrap it for lack of time and segued into this one. I'd finally realized there were only 24 hours in a day and I needed at least 4 to sleep.)

Here's the classic article and what really happened:

I unleashed one of my classic, and extreme ProseFreaks, just for Shelfari readers, inside my profile, and it goes like this:

The books I enjoy are like music. I'm really selective about what I read because life is way too short to waste time with a book that you're not absolutely crazy about. I do stick with mostly mainstream and popular titles. For me, it's many of the classics: Tom Sawyer, The Catcher in the Rye, and the tried and true; a lot of the books that have been made into films, such as: The Scarlet Letter, The Bridges of Madison County, The Hunt for Red October, Apocalypse Now, Platoon, All The Pretty Horses, to name just a few.

I also love to read screenplays because they’re much faster to get through: Moonstruck, The Fourth of July, JKF, Jackie Brown, Pulp Fiction; you gotta love Oliver Stone and Quentin Tarantino. Too many others to mention: The Godfather Sagas, great dramas, and just about every war movie you can think of. Kubric’s Full Metal Jacket, a favorite. (How can you not love a movie that inspired the song, “Me so Horny”?) A few romantic comedies/comedic movies: Monster in Law, Meet the Parents.

I’ve also authored several screenplays and my first novel, A Death for Beauty. What can I say, it’s inspired by many of the great books that I’ve read and it’s a story that’s very close to my heart and soul--I enjoyed writing it. I love mostly literary fiction, westerns and coming-of-age stories.

Biographies/Anthologies: My favorites so far, Norman Mailer’s, The Spooky Art. And Summer's/Swan, Sinatra.

Yeah, I’m also a big Frank Sinatra fan: He's the subject of one of my screenplays. His daughter, Nancy Sinatra’s, classic oldies hit: These Boots are Made for Walkin', is cool too. If only she could’ve realized that my story, some day would also become a classic. After all, I did make Nancy the subject of my letter, but I prosefreaked my pitch right into it, near the ending. The moment she opened that letter, and I know that she did, I swear that I felt the tectonic plates of planet earth, shift and moan, ever so slightly in my direction, in the form of a curse.

Yeah, I was brash (and stupid) enough, and tried pitching my Sinatra screenplay to Nancy Sinatra ( I made a big point about how she was mentioned in it, as a baby.) but she still wasn’t interested. Where did I go wrong? Well, I could hardly believe it, but I had dug deep into her website and came up with her home address in Beverly Hills. And I sent her the sweetest letter ever, trust me.

The day after she got my pitch in this gigantic certified envelope, she yanked her address off the website so fast, that I think her Webmaster is still reeling from it. Did she really think that her home address would be safe? She could thank her agent for dodging me for so long.

That was soooo wrong, but I knew it would be fun somewhere along the line. Either that or I might’ve gotten a call. (Sure thing.) Gotta work on my pitch, the screenplay is on the “dinero” folks.

Uh…still planning on selling that Sinatra story. Trust me, it’s a modern cult classic (waiting to happen, unless I die a horrible death first).

This PF is extreme because I worked my shameless plug into it.

Be proud Shelfari Reader: You’ve just been tagged by ProseFreak!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"South of Broad" by Pat Conroy

Ever since I saw the movie The Prince of Tides, and then read the book, I've been a Pat Conroy fan. Critic's pet peeve about Conroy is his over-the-top use of literary devices, namely, purple prose, if we can call it that. I suppose it's a matter of taste, since I tend to enjoy his writing style. I'll admit Conroy seems to get carried away with some of his most promising passages, although, I can only wonder if Pat Conroy would be himself without them.

In his latest literary endeavor, South of Broad, which refers to Broad Street in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, Conroy delves into a familiar and too close to home subject--suicide.

I'll be in Charleston this weekend and with some leisure time on my hands, and in honor of Conroy's new novel, I hope to read as much of it as I can.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

"The City of Falling Angels" by John Berendt

I just ordered this book and I have no idea when I'll start reading it. I started about half a dozen books and can't seem to find the time to finish any of them. I love to collect my favorites though. Tiger, Tiger seems like a good read too. Good thing I can speed read (what a sin) because that's how I have to read these days. What a shame, especially for someone that likes to enjoy the words.

That's what it's all about and I can usually savor my literature on Sundays with a nice glass of wine. I like Boonesfarm, BTW. Kidding, of course. That's what we'd get high on in high school. Ahh, those were the days, my friend.

Okay back to "Falling Angels." John Berendt is not exactly a household name when it comes to authors, but you'll know his other book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. This is one of those books I haven't finished yet. I just saw the movie (How far behind am I?) starring John Cusack and Kevin Spacey, who steals this movie with his performance as the wealthy antiques dealer. Loved this film.

Berendt's new book, also categorized as non-fiction with not as many fictive elements as "Midnight," according to the author. Here, Berendt delves into the city of dreams, Venice, Italy. How could I pass this up? The story centers around the Fenice Opera House fire but offers so much more about this nostalgic city. It's sure to be an eye-opener. I Look forward to getting it.

I've had to limit my book reviews for lack of time, so I'm just posting my favorites here, highlighting the most interesting things about them. I think I'll finish this one.

Friday, March 4, 2011

"TIGER, TIGER" by Margaux Fragoso

Here's an interesting take on pedophilia, for those who can handle this sort of thing. The book, which is actually Ms. Fragoso's daring memoir, chronicles her life and times as a 7 year-old girl who was seduced by an older man. A fifty one year old man, at that.

Among many things, what makes this story so interesting to me is its setting, which takes place where I lived for many years, in Weehawken and Union City, New Jersey. The many references to the Cuban culture certainly brings back memories. In 1985 I was 24 and for all I know, I might have crossed paths with Margaux at the Pollo Supremo, (Supreme Chicken) one of my favorite eateries mentioned in the book.

But what really makes this story so compelling is that we can only wonder how something like this could ever happen. Based on Fragoso's introduction and her opening paragraphs, I get the eerie feeling that many young girls (precocious and misguided) have also dabbled in this kind of forbidden love affair at such an early age. I can only surmise the publication of this book might serve as a catalyst in bringing out another disturbing truth.

Whatever the case might be, this story brings to mind, "Last Tango in Paris," which also has shades of pedophilia or at least, very graphic sexual content between an older man and a younger woman, which also borders on hardcore pornography.

Strangely, Margaux Fragoso's lover of 15 years encouraged her to pen this story in many of the suicide notes he left behind. (No spoiler.) How's that for artistic encouragement? Very freaky indeed.

Do I recommend this book? Everything I post here is highly recommended, albeit of the unusual but intriguing variety. If you're a subscriber to this Blog, you already know that I painstakingly choose my literature, and this is no exception. While written mostly for a female audience, there's enough here to keep me, as well as other men, interested and intrigued, hopefully, to the bittersweet end.

The book borrows its title from a William Blake poem by the same name (although spelled "Tyger") and used metaphorically, of course, reflecting the authors fascination with tigers and apparently, how they prowl the dark, dangerous jungles of life, hence, the cover.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"Out Stealing Horses" by Per Petterson

While this book is not new, I've always had an interest in it because of its curious title so I just got a nice hardcover copy of it and after starting to read it, I've had a hard time putting it down. Petterson begins the telling gently, which I'm lead to believe by the reviews, that it ends on a much different note, and it seems to be headed in that direction after the first chapter.

Originally written in Norwegian, this tale has won Petterson various literary awards over the years and has proven to be a favorite in its genre. Seems like a book I'll be able to finish. A much easier read than Froderberg's Old Border Road, which I'd been enjoying and expect to finish too. What a difference in writing style. Although, I think it's safe to say that Froderberg's style, while reminiscent of McCarthy's, is all her own and not to be compared with other writers in this genre.

My review of both of these wonderful books is in the works.