AGENT TO THE STARS, J0HN SCALZI – THE AUDIOBOOK, NARRATED BY WIL WHEATON

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This was the first book by John Scalzi I ever read. I so loved it, I’ve been following him ever since.

This book is funny, clever, witty. The characters are oddly believable even though the story is totally wacky. Or is it? Michelle Beck — former cheerleader and box office hot ticket is Hollywood agent Tom Stein’s biggest client. Until Tom meets extraterrestrials who hires Tom to represent them. The Yherajk believe their best hope for a peaceful first contact between their race and humanity is via the movies. Even out in space, they know they need a great agent to make it in Hollywood … and they’ve decided Tom is it.

Agent to the Stars stands out as one of the most memorable science fictions books I’ve read in the last decade. Which is saying a lot since I read a great deal of fantasy and science fiction. From my first reading, it has been in my top five favorite sci fi audiobooks and in the perhaps dozen science fiction books I’ve read more than once.

One of the mast interesting things about Scalzi is his ability to write in a wide variety of styles. He can be serious, funny and often, a mix of both. He can be wild and crazy or highly technical — or both –and he makes it work. No one writing in the genre today works harder or produces more good science fiction. This was the first of his books I read, but it hooked me like a fish on a line.i

Read it. If you like sci fi, humor, wit — or just appreciate well-written stories. It will not disappoint you.

THE REST OF THE STORY – THE PLAGUE FORGE, Jason M. Hough

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The Plague Forge by Jason M. Hough

Book 3 of The Dire Earth Cycle

Random House Publishing Group

Del Rey Spectra – Del Rey

Publication Date: September 24, 2013

This story of a future dystopian earth continues where The Exodus Tower left off.

SPOILER ALERT: This review contains spoilers If you have not read the first two episodes of this series, stop now, go back and read them. 

On their first visit, the aliens  left an elevator that can lift space craft up high enough so that they need little fuel to launch out of Earth’s atmosphere. For a while, it gave the world a great economic boost … until they dropped by again and left the plague. It killed millions upon millions and left millions more as mindless, kill crazy sub-humans.

The setting for all the books is the late mid-24th (2385) century. The first “gift” from the aliens was the elevator in Darwin, Australia. The second was the plague that forced the remainder of earth’s population to gather in their remnants. The Elevator — its proximity — confers a kind of protection from plague.

Skyler Luiken is an immune. It’s a naturally occurring phenomenon affecting a tiny percentage of the population, enabling them to walk freely in the atmosphere without special breathing apparatus. Originally, with a crew of fellow immunes Skyler flew scavenging missions to collect resources to keep Darwin alive. His ship is gone and half his crew dead. Those not killed were separated when a piece of Darwin’s population broke away to build a new settlement in Belém, Brazil where the aliens dropped a second space elevator.

Now, the aliens are back again. On schedule as predicted. Why? What do they want? They’ve left artifacts, keys for the humans to patch together … to what purpose?

Not only are they back, but they are heading for the exact spot where the plague started. Are they coming to finish off what they began and kill the rest of the human population? Or are they coming to save earth and end the plague? How about both?

In this third volume of the Dire Earth trilogy, the intrepid Skyler Luiken is back in touch with Samantha, who is living undercover in the Jacobite-dominated city of Darwin … and his original group captain has reappeared.

It’s time for a reckoning. Skyler and Tania — now the unwilling “head” of the Belém colony — have to figure out how to put the puzzle together. Their problem? They have little to go on except hints, speculation, and fear. The urgent question remains: what do the aliens want? The secondary question is … well … who is going to wind up with who when it’s all sorted out. Skyler and … Tania? Ana? That is if anyone survives.

This final volume is where you will get the answers you’ve been waiting for. It’s a fast, taut thriller-type trip into a badly broken future as the good guys have to figure out who the bad guys are, if the bad guys are the bad guys or maybe they are good guys, sort of. Then, there are the Jacobites and Grillo who have taken over Darwin … bad enough without the potential doom coming with the aliens. Ultimate destruction or salvation await — in the air and on the ground. Talk about caught between a rock and a hard place …

Of the new science fiction I’ve read in the past couple of years, this is one of the most interesting. It is classic sci fi, the kind of story that hooked me on the genre more than 40 years ago.A tight, taut thriller, it raises plenty of questions, an endless number of questions. The final book holds the answers and I can hardly wait!

The Plague Forge is a great read. If anything, it’s faster moving and more like a thriller than the first two books. It is exactly what you have been hoping for if you’ve been following the series. Now available!

Gift of doom? The aliens return with The Exodus Tower, by Jason M. Hough

The Exodus Tower by Jason M. Hough

Book 2 of The Dire Earth Cycle

Random House Publishing Group — Del Rey Spectra – Del Rey

Publication Date: August 27, 2013

This unique story of a future dystopian earth continues where The Darwin Tower left off.

Dystopian futures for our planet have become a genre. This story manages to combine elements of the Zombie apocalypse (not real Zombies, but  similar behavior), alien visitors with a strange, secret and maybe lethal agenda … and of course … the post plague survival.

On their first visit, the aliens  left an elevator that can lift space craft up high enough so that they need little fuel to launch out of Earth’s atmosphere. For a while, it gave the world a great economic boost … until they dropped by again and left the plague. It killed millions upon millions and left millions more as mindless, kill crazy sub-humans.

The setting for all the books is the late mid-24th (2385) century. The first “gift” from the aliens was the elevator in Darwin, Australia. The second was the plague that forced the remainder of earth’s population to gather in their remnants. The Elevator — its proximity — confers a kind of protection from plague.

Skyler Luiken is an immune. It’s a naturally occurring phenomenon affecting a tiny percentage of the population, enabling them to walk freely in the atmosphere without special breathing apparatus. Originally, with a crew of fellow immunes Skyler flew scavenging missions to collect resources needed to keep Darwin’s population alive. His ship is gone and half his crew dead. Those not killed were separated when a piece of Darwin’s population broke away to build a new settlement in Belém, Brazil. Because the aliens have been back and that is where they have dropped a second space elevator.

Structural diagram of a space elevator. The ea...

Structural diagram of a space elevator. The earth is shown in a “top-down” perspective looking at the north pole, with the space elevator in equatorial orbit.  Space elevator structural diagram.

Confusion and fear deepen as the human population starts to tear itself apart. Skyler Luiken and scientist Dr. Tania Sharma have formed a colony around the new Elevator’s base, utilizing mobile towers to protect humans from the Builders’ plague. After fending off an attack from a roving band of plague-immune mercenaries bent on world domination (do humans ever learn?) a frightening suspicion is growing day by day.

The aliens are coming back. There’s a schedule. What will they do this time. But more important? What do they want? Why have the come, what’s the real purpose of the elevators and the towers? Deepening unease and ever wider rifts between colonists makes the future dark indeed..

In this second volume of the Dire Earth trilogy, the intrepid Skyler Luiken in Belém, and Samantha, his co-explorer from his first crew each begin to uncover and to some degree, unravel a lot of truth … disturbing and frightening truths with dark implications.

It’s a great read, as good as the first book. I’m just taking a short break before I dive into the final volume.

Of the new science fiction I’ve read in the past couple of years, this is one of the most interesting. It is classic sci fi, the kind of story that hooked me on the genre more than 40 years ago.A tight, taut thriller, it raises plenty of questions, an endless number of questions. The final book holds the answers and I can hardly wait!

I enjoyed these books from the first page of the first book. Taut and tense, full of thought-provoking concepts, there is nary a dull moment..

The Exodus Tower is scheduled for release on Kindle and paperback on August 27th.

The third and final volume of the trilogy — Plague Force — scheduled for release September 24th.

Keep watching the skies … and this site for the review of the final book in September.

Dystopia with a twist – The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough

The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough – Book 1 of The Dire Earth Cycle

Random House Publishing Group — Del Rey Spectra – Del Rey

Publication Date: July 30 2013

Books about the dystopian future of earth are an entire genre nowadays. Whether it’s the post Zombie apocalypse, earth after the aliens have worked us over, earth after the bombs have dropped, earth after we’ve destroyed our own environment, earth after a plague or any of myriad unpleasant futures our imaginative science fiction writing community envision for us, postapocalyptic dystopian science fiction has proliferated. We can’t get enough of it. Me neither. I just eat it up.

The Darwin Elevator fall into two dystopian categories — post alien and post plague. It’s also a fine, fun piece of science fiction writing. It has great heroes (male and female) and some seriously nasty, bad-ass villains. There’s plenty of action and nary a dull moment.

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In brief? The aliens came. They built an elevator in Darwin, Australia that is functionally a ladder to the stars as well as a quick-launch (well, not so quick, but highly economical of energy) pad for space shots.

The setting is late mid-24th century — around 2385 in Darwin, Australia. It’s the last human city. Most of the world’s population died of the plague brought by the aforementioned aliens. No one is quite sure whether the plague was unleashed intentionally or not, but the results of it have been devastating. Any parts of the human population not huddled around the elevator (built by the aliens) in Darwin — an area that confers protection on people under its “umbrella” — are now mindless, savage subhumans. Not zombies. Just very nasty.

Skyler Luiken was born with a natural immunity to the plague. It’s rare, though not unheard of. He and a group of fellow immunes  fly missions to scavenge urgently needed resources to keep Darwin functional. When the Elevator starts to experience frequent — unprecedented — power outages, Skyler and his intrepid crew, as well as the young and beautiful scientist, Dr. Tania Sharma are tasked to solve the mystery and repair the elevator. If the elevator fails, that’s the end of humanity. Doom.

This is the first book of a trilogy. The second and third parts are due out in mid August and early September. This is good insofar as you don’t have a long wait for the rest of the story. Bad, insofar as you know the good guy — Skyler — is going to make it, no matter how dubious his situation looks because, well, he’s the hero and there are two more books scheduled for publication. I don’t have a problem with this since I read a lot of series, trilogies, duologies and frankly, I prefer knowing the hero is going to survive. I’m not good with high level literary stress.

Although this certainly falls into the dystopian postapocalyptic science fiction designation, it isn’t quite like anything else I’ve read. The elevator — the entire concept — is interesting and unique. There are hints that there’s a lot more to this technology than mere technology. It’s not just power and gears and engineering specs. There’s something more going on, but we aren’t going to find out what that is quite yet.

I enjoyed the book from the first page. Sometimes, when you start a book, you just know it’s going to be a good one. This is a good one. Real science fiction, well written, nice and tight and tense. And based on an interesting premise. As sci fi goes, that’s pretty much what you need. It’s available on Kindle and paperback.

I highly recommend it. I can promise a good, not boring read that will make you absolutely want to read the next installment — The Exodus Tower — scheduled for release August 27th.

Tomorrow, you can read my review of The Exodus Tower. You can pre-order it through Amazon and probably elsewhere, too.

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Daily Prompt: Bookworms in a Bookish Home

Photographers, artists, poets: show us BOOKS. And here are books. Audio books. Hardcover books. Paperbacks. Kindles. Books for everyone in a home full of books.

The World’s Most Powerful Soccer Mom Vampire – Samantha Moon Rising, by J.R. Rain

Samantha Moon Rising, by J.R. Rain includes 3 short novels and a short story.

Under one cover, you’ll find books 5, 6, and 7 in the Vampire for Hire Series: Vampire Dawn, Vampire Games, Moon Island, and the short story Teeth.

BenBella Books — Publication Date May 21, 2013

I was really happy to have the opportunity to review this collection. I read the first four books when I had just gotten my first Kindle and they were on sale, whipped right through them and looked for more. Alas, there were no more and I grumpily moved on.

A couple of years have passed and lo and behold, she’s back. And wow, is she back. More powerful than a locomotive. Maybe more powerful than two locomotives and not merely able to leap tall buildings at a single bound, but able to fly long distances on her very own, powerful wings. Okay,  she’s not really human when she’s flying having morphed into “something else” which I glean is more or less bat-like, but still and all … she can fly. She can do a lot of things. Read minds. Send mind messages. Control other people’s minds. Beat the crap out of almost anyone, human or other.

But she’s still a total wimp about her kids … but her kids are growing up. Fast and they aren’t your ordinary kids, either.

Her ex is still a total sleaze, but hey, what are exes for, right? She’s more than a vampire. Much more. She has powers and abilities well beyond the ordinary and she is beginning to realize what she knows she can do is the tip of a very large iceberg of power she has barely tapped. It may turn out that Samantha Moon will be the most powerful of her kind — ever. Because she is changing and growing and learning … and so are her children and even the friends and family who are in frequent contact with her. It turns out that power is contagious.

She retains her ambivalence about her peculiar condition. There are aspects of it she loves. There’s nothing like a good long fly to clear ones head and her physical strength and ability to virtually instantly heal from injury is nothing to sneer at. But she knows her powers come from a foreign entity who lives as a parasite in her … an “other” who is not the kind of creature she would welcome into her parlor, much less her body. She has a lot to sort out. In the mean time, there are crimes to solve and wrongs to right — and Samantha Moon is the vampire to do it.

These are short books. Too long to be novellas, but not really long enough for me to consider them full-length novels. Having three of them under one cover is much more satisfying. I could dig in and read my way through to the end. These are very smooth reading and quite addictive. The characters are unique, interesting, with enough back story for long contemplation. A bit of philosophy, arcane history, modern mystery, some love and cuddly sex … and you have a formula that will keep you up until dawn is breaking. I lost some serious sleep reading this book — or maybe books.

No, it’s not deathless literature, but it’s very well written, smooth as silk. The characters are unique. Highly recommended and I do hope that more books are on the way!!

Samantha Moon Rising follows your favorite suburban-mother vampire to where she’s never gone before as she tackles her most frightening cases yet.

Book 1: Vampire Dawn – Someone is leaving victims drained of blood, and all signs point to a killer vampire. At the same time, Samantha’s son is undergoing some astounding changes. He’s becoming a little super guy and she needs to understand what this means. But her work is keeping her busy, tracking down a serial murderer. Soon, another ancient medallion will change her world …

Book 2: Vampire Games – Samantha Moon is investigating the strange death of a popular boxer. She realizes the official story doesn’t add up; there’s a lot more going on than reports indicate. A talk with the M.E. confirms her suspicions and as she uncovers the young fighter’s past, she comes face-to-face with an unexpected evil. Samantha has to confront the growing supernatural powers of those near and dear to her and the unexpected betrayal of someone she has come to trust, maybe love.

Book 3: Moon Island — In a very Agatha Christie setting, Samantha and her new best friend travel to a private and remote island off the Pacific coast. Here she must hunt not merely a killer, but an entity of enormous and evil power who has been murdering members of one family for generations. Still struggling to understand what she has become and is becoming, she realizes that this creature is personally targeting her,  threatening to destroy her and those about whom she most cares.

Available in paper back. So far, I could not find the three-in-one version on Kindle. Probably it will become available. In the meantime, you can buy the paperback and you can buy each of the books included as a separate Kindle download. Worth it, no matter how you do it.

Retrocausality: All You Zombies, Robert Heinlein

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Time travel makes my brain go “eek.” This is not a criticism. It’s a compliment. Not many things make my brain do back flips and somersaults. Time travel is an impossible concept I cannot understand because it is inherently incomprehensible. Therefore, I love it.

One story by Robert Heinlein which I read long decades ago in a compilation of his classic short stories remains on the top of the heap of such tales. It took me a while to find it. It is called “All You Zombies.”

In this strange endless and infinite loop, a baby girl is mysteriously dropped off at an orphanage in Cleveland in 1945. “Jane” grows up lonely and dejected, not knowing who her parents are, until one day in 1963 she is strangely attracted to a drifter. She has a brief passionate relationship with him and becomes pregnant.

The stranger disappears. During a weird and complicated birthing, Jane’s doctors discover she actually has two complete sets of sex organs. With her life on the line, the doctors change her from female to male. Jane is now a man.

And then …. a mysterious stranger kidnaps her baby. Jane is a man and childless. Depressed, lost, he becomes a drunk and a drifter and eventually, meets a young woman in a bar, who he makes pregnant during a brief affair. It gets even more complicated with the involvement of the Time Corps and a bartender all moving forward and backward in time. Find it, read it, and get your own brain in a twist!

Suffice to say that all the characters are one. The story is a paradox, completely impossible yet so logical you can neither reject nor accept it. And, my brain goes “Eek!!” Jane is everyone and everyone is Jane. She is her complete family: tree, trunk, branches, roots. I found this amazing diagram of the story. I do not know where it originated and I would love to credit whoever drew it in the first place.

Tree of lives

The logic combined with the impossibility of the sequence where the same person is mother, father and child forever living in an infinite loop — the snake eating its tail — is delicious and mind-blowing.

You can get it for your Kindle from Amazon for $1.25 right now, click here. OR … probably you can find it as part of an anthology of Heinlein short stories, but I don’t know exactly which anthology. I’m sure you can find it somewhere, though. It’s a classic and if you read it, you will not forget it. I promise.

I have read many hundreds of time travel books and stories over more than 50 years of loving science fiction. But this one, this  particular story, has stuck fast in my brain as probably the most perfect paradox as the past, present and future all roll in on themselves.

Druids Vs. Olympians — Hunted by Kevin Hearne — The Audiobook

Not content with having read the book, I also had to listen to it. Usually, if I like the book in one form, I like it equally well (or nearly so) in another. This, however, was not the case this time. I still love the book. But I have issues with the narration.

Hunted, by Kevin Hearne, is the sixth book in the Iron Druid Series. It’s an action-packed run-for-your-life tour of Europe. Atticus and Granuaile should definitely have taken a cruise, or something relaxing. I’m pretty sure as honeymoon’s go, this wasn’t the best choice. Not that they had any choice in the matter.

Atticus O’Sullivan, the 2000-year-old last of the Roman Druids is running top speed across Europe. Romania, Germany, Holland, France … then swimming the English channel to get to the woods by Windsor Castle. This is not exercise — it’s survival — and as he (Granuaile and Oberon) race, they are fending off two angry, homicidal Olympian goddesses — Artemis and Diana. And as experienced hunters, they are formidable adversaries.

Atticus messed with Bacchus and put him on a slow time island. Although it was self-defense, the Olympians aren’t interested in why. They are just pissed off. Actually, more than that, watching the druids try to outrun the goddesses has become a sporting event for a wide range of deities.They don’t seem so upset about Bacchus as they are eager to kill Atticus as well as Granuaile and Oberon. Freeing their crazy family member and co-deity is not their biggest issue.

The usual ways open to Druids of shifting to the safety of Tír na nÓg, are closed. Every tree and grove is guarded. The old ways are locked tight — leaving them running long, hard, and fast in whatever physical forms and using whatever magic they can. They no longer have Morrigan’s help, though they get some assistance from other immortals.

It does seem that just about everyone and everything is out to get them. Old enemies and new, vampires, gods and goddesses, dark elves, and some weird things who fit no category. Sea monsters. And Loki’s on the loose bringing Ragnarök with him. The world is going to end. That’s sort of Atticus’ fault. Sort of. Sides are forming up for the big battle at the end of the world — Ragnarök – the Apocalypse — is it the end? Of everything? Could there be a new beginning? It’s never happened before, so who’s to know?

No one’s banking on anything but death and destruction, so avoiding it as long as possible seems the sensible choice.

Sensible isn’t part of the equation anymore. No one wants to negotiate, no one feels like chatting. It’s kill or be killed. It’s magic, weapons, a race to find a safe haven — hide and seek along the way. No matter where they go, what they do, the Druids and all of their allies — and enemies — know the big finale is unavoidable. It will leave no one untouched. Meanwhile, the goal is to stay alive.

Atticus and Granuaile have almost no time in this book — to my disappointment — to develop the relationship they began after Granuaile was finally bound to Gaia and became a full Druid. There’s no time now … and given the perils, there may never be time. Not enough, anyway. A day, a few hours, grabbed here and there. This couple is not going to get that leisurely honeymoon, unless you count touring Europe in various forms – stag, horse, sea-lion, sea otter, falcon, mountain lion, wolfhound — and of course, invisible. Most of the time, naked, a traditional form of battle dress for Celts, but not romantic.

Luke Daniels, the narrator is skilled and he does a fine job with Atticus and Granuaile … and all other humanoids, but I really disliked his voicing of Oberon. It sounded like Bugs Bunny and was, to my mind, definitely unsuitable for the great wolfhound. I let it slide by me, but every time the voice came one, I got annoyed. I also didn’t like his voicing of a bunch of the other secondary characters. Fine on the two Druids, but not fine on the others. Fortunately, there’s more good narration than bad … but be warned: if you don’t like the idea of a dumb sounding Oberon with a lisp or cartoon deities from various pantheons, you won’t like this audiobook.

This is the most high-speed book of the series to date. I had hoped for more character interaction and a bit less breathless and perpetual motion. If you like action — and who doesn’t? — there’s more than enough fighting, battling, scheming, running, swimming, dying, recovering — but not much conversation. No down time. Not much relationship development. The book is a bridge to the next. Which is necessary. But you won’t get resolution, not yet. Next book soon please!

It’s beautifully written (as always). This is the first book in which Granuaile has her own voice. She’s a full character now, co-equal with Atticus. Chapters alternate in the first person, her speaking, him speaking. At first, it jarred me a little, but then, I liked it. Nice to have both a male and female primary character in a fantasy novel. I can’t remember if I’ve ever read a book in this genre where both sexes had equal roles. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s all good.

I’m not going to give anything away. No spoilers, sorry.

If you are a fan of the series, you will like the book. It’s probably not quite what you expect, but it’s a critical link for what’s coming.

It’s Granuaile’s coming of age — and in its own way, also Atticus’ coming of age. Although you would think he’s seen it and done it all in his very long life, not so. He hasn’t had a lot of human friends, much less lovers. There’s a lot of new stuff for him to work his way through. Having a real relationship with a human woman requires relearning old habits. Like any relationship, come to think of it.

There are a lot of plot twists. Not all endings are happy. There are victories and temporary wins. Holding actions. I’m not sure there are solid victories to be had as the world draws ever closer to Ragnarök. It’s all about survival, treachery and slippery alliances. The fate of the world hangs on a razor’s edge. See you next book!

If you have not read the previous books, don’t start with this one. There is a lot of history and the characters have all been built through the entire series. They won’t make sense without the earlier books.

The book is also available in paperback and on Kindle. And, obviously, as a download from Audible.com. This is the first of the audio versions I’ve read. I don’t know that I will try another. I think I’ll stick with printed words for this series.

A Book Junkie’s Confession

If reading were illegal, I’d have spent my life in prison. The most frightening book I ever read was Bradbury’s Farenheit 451. I couldn’t imagine anything more terrifying than a life with no books.

As a kid, I literally read myself cross-eyed, but today, I have been redeemed by audiobooks. Praise the Lord and don’t make me give up my subscriptions to Audible.com. Early during the 1990s, I discovered audiobooks. I was a “wrong way” commuter, which meant my commute started in Boston and took me out to the suburbs. This was supposed to make the drive easier than going the other way.

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Reality was different. Traffic was heavy in all directions, from Boston or from the suburbs. The east-west commute was nominally less awful than the north-south commutes, though coming from the north shore down to Boston was and is still probably the worst commute anywhere.

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When we lived in Boston on the 17th floor of Charles River Park, we had a perfect view of the Charles River … and an even better view of 93 northbound. We could look out the window any time of the day or night. It was bumper to bumper as far as the eye could see every day of the week, any time of day or night. Garry had a 5 minute walk to work. I always drove somewhere. You’d think at least once during the more than 20 years Garry and I have been together I’d have found one job near home. Funny how that never happened.

In New England, you do not measure a commute by distance. Distance is irrelevant. It’s how long it takes that matters. No one talks in terms of miles. The mall is half an hour away. Boston is about an hour in good traffic, who knows how long in rush hour traffic. It can take you 2 hours to go six miles, but maybe you can travel 15 miles in half an hour. In which case 15 miles is the shorter commute. Ask anyone.

My commute was never short. Wherever my work took me, it was never anyplace convenient, except for those wonderful periods when I worked at home and had to go to the “office” only occasionally.

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The 1990s were serious commuting years. Boston to Amesbury, Boston to Burlington, Boston to Waltham.

It got worse. By 2000, we had moved to Uxbridge. It’s never easier to get from Uxbridge to anywhere, except one of the other Valley towns … and I never worked in any of them. Probably because there is no work there …

As jobs got ever more scarce and I got older and less employable, I found myself commuting longer distances. First, Providence, Rhode Island, which wasn’t too bad. But after that, I had to drive to Groton, Connecticut a few times a week — 140 miles each way — a good deal of it on unlit, unmarked local roads. It was a killer commute and unsurprisingly, I was an early GPS adopter. Even though I didn’t have to do it every day, Groton did me in.

Hudson was almost as bad, and Amesbury was no piece of cake either. The distance from Uxbridge to Newton was not far as the crow flies, but since I was not a crow, it was a nightmare. On any Friday afternoon, it took more than three hours to go twenty some odd miles. On Friday afternoons in the summer when everyone was taking off on for the weekend, I found myself battling not merely regular commuter traffic, but crazed vacationers, desperate to get out of Dodge.

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The job market had become unstable, and it seemed every time I turned around, I was working in a different part of the Commonwealth or in another state entirely. If it weren’t for audiobooks, I’d probably have needed a rubber room.

First, I discovered Books On Tape. Originally intended as audiobooks for the blind, me and a million other commuters discovered them during the mid 1990s. They were a godsend. Instead of listening to the news, talk radio, or some inane jabbering DJ, I could drift off into whatever world of literature I could pop into my car’s cassette player.

I bought a lot of audio books and as cassettes began to disappear and everything was on CD, Books On Tape ceased renting books to the consumer market. Fortunately, audiobooks had become downright popular and were available at book stores like Barnes and Noble. Everybody was listening and most of us couldn’t imagine how we’d survived before audiobooks.

In 2002, along came Audible. At first, it was a bit of a problem, figuring out how to transport ones audible books into ones vehicle, but technology came up with MP3 players and widgets that let you plug your player, whatever it is, into your car’s sound system.

Audible started off modestly, but grew and grew and having recently been acquired by Amazon (a company that, like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Verizon, is plotting to take over the world and succeeding pretty well), is getting bigger by the minute. For once, I don’t mind a bit. The company was well run before Amazon, and Amazon had the good sense to not mess with success. It is still easy to work with them, literally a pleasure doing business.

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Five years ago, I became too sick to work anymore. Would that mean giving up audiobooks? Not on your life. When I was nearly dead, I listened to books and they distracted me from pain and fear, kept me company when I was alone and wondering if I’d live to see morning. Sometimes, they made me laugh in the midst of what can only be described as a place where humor is at a premium.

Today, I listen as I do everything except write. I can listen to books as I play mindless games on Facebook, edit photographs, pay bills or make a seven letter Scrabble play. I admit I cannot listen and write at the same time. That seems to be the point where multi-tasking ends. Actually, I can’t do anything while I write except write.

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I get a lot of reading done while accomplishing the computerized tasks of life, not to mention turning hours of mindless messing around into valuable reading time. I am, in effect always reading.

Reading in Bed: My Guilty Pleasure

I read at night on my Kindle because reading in bed has always been one of my guilty pleasures. Oh how I love snuggling into bed with a book, electronic or paper, I don’t care. A book is a book by whatever format.

I remember reading in my bedroom under the covers using a flashlight, or worse, trying to read  from a sliver of light from the hallway nightlight, or, if everything else failed, by the light of a bright moon.

“You’ll ruin your eyes” cried my mother who probably had snuck books into her bed and read by candlelight.

To this day, I don’t know why she didn’t just let me turn a light on. She had to know I was going to read anyhow. She was always reading too! In fact, if books were my addiction, she was my dealer. Even in today politically correct world, giving your kid too many books to read is not yet considered child abuse. Aren’t we glad!

So my love affair with books continues. My tastes change, favorite authors move up or down the list. I go through phases: all history, nothing but fantasy, a run of thrillers, a series of biographies. Getting older has few advantages but there is one huge gift — time.

I have time to read. I can get so involved in my book that I look up and realize that oops, the sun is coming up and I’ve lost another night’s sleep.

75-Kindles-NK-04

It doesn’t matter. Because I don’t have to commute anywhere anymore. I don’t have to leap out of bed with 10 minutes to shower, dress, make up, and get out.

I can stay up too late reading, or writing, or watching movies and for the rest of my life, no one can make me stop. And that, friends, is really, truly, my fondest dream come true. And in the end, it doesn’t matter to me what form the book takes. Kindle, paperback, hardbound, audio or printed … the story, the author, the book is the thing. Everything else? It doesn’t matter. Not even a little bit.

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Daily Prompt: Opposition – Grrrr

Grrr. Arf. Grrr. Arf. Rrrrgrrr … Who will win this battle of the titans? Not the teddy bear, that’s for sure!

75-TerribleTwoARTO-NK-Fade

 

Daily Prompt: My Life, the Book — Calling James Lee Burke

I’ve already proved I’m unqualified to write my autobiography. My life needs a different approach. Less sappy and more darkly detective. Perhaps something a bit Faulkneresque.

Oh, I got it.

James Lee Burke.

75-JLBurkeShelf-NK-08

Hi Mr. Burke. I love you. Will you write my life story puleeze? Pretty puleeze? You’ve got the perfect style. You can describe my dark, abusive childhood, yet retain enough wry humor to deal with the ironies of my adult life. You do flawed heroes so well and I have more than enough flaws to satisfy anyone’s literary needs.

And strange characters? I got’em. Plenty of them. The legion of the weird who have marched through my story, sometimes stayed for decades before moving on to wreak havoc elsewhere.

This could be the story that would make a great movie. I know you’ve had problems getting Hollywood to produce any of your books as films without murdering them. Hollywood murders most books. It’s not personal, just Hollywood. That’s why Stephen King is producing Under the Dome himself and it’s pretty good so far. Maybe there’s hope for you, if you have the right property — like me. Stop laughing. I’m sort of semi-serious here.

You see, if you add your moody, sardonic, southern style to my apparently ordinary middle-class New York upraising, meld it with the reality of those years, add the bizarre life since using your unique style, it couldn’t miss. How could Hollywood not want it?

It would be good for you, good for me. Though maybe I’ll be dead, but who knows? Like the ghost-soldiers of In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead, maybe I’ll hang around and wait for the reviews.

 

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Daily Prompt: Bookworm — Where books live …

Where books are read, thoughts are alive and ideas matter.

Leather, explicit sex, immortals with magic powers — The Dark Hunter Series

I read a bunch of these books, but quit before reading all of them. I realized I didn’t need to buy another one because I could reread ones I already own. I don’t remember which was which. What’s more, it doesn’t matter because if you are reading these books, it isn’t for their literary merit or intricate plots. Or three-dimensional characters.

Cover of "Acheron (Dark-Hunter, Book 12)&...

To say all of Sherrilyn Kenyon‘s books are the same is not overly harsh. Some books are longer than others. The covers are different as are the titles. Also, some characters have dark hair, others are blond. I think that sums up the differences.

It’s important to like explicit sex and a lot of it because that’s pretty much where these are at. All the books have the same characters and plot. The dialogue appears to have been copied from one manuscript and pasted into the next with the names changed. Characters recur in multiple books, so Ms. Kenyon doesn’t always have to change all the names. The formula has been highly successful and profitable for the author and publisher. Her books sell very well, probably because you always know what you’re getting.

This is just what the doctor ordered for late nights when you want something to read in the sleepy minutes before you fade. Nothing in any of these books will keep you awake.

Now for the plot. There’s a guy. He has suffered terribly — frequently tortured — and for no good reason. He’s immortal so the torture goes on a really long time, like thousands of years. He is a total hunk. Insanely handsome. Perfect body. Sex on a stick. He meets a young woman. She is stunning. Gorgeous, sensitive, caring, powerful and very horny. They have sex. They have more sex. Then, they have more sex. After that, she cures his neuroses and guilt complexes. She banishes his evil memories however horrific, even if they lasted for ten thousand years. Literally.

As a couple, they must fight to avoid being killed by other powerful (evil) immortals with amazing powers. They triumph because their powers are more powerful than the evil powers of the bad guys. And the author is on their side.

They get married, live happily forever after because somehow, she too has become immortal — if she wasn’t in the first place. Did I mention magical powers? Godlike powers? Godhood itself? That too. Oh, I almost forgot. Sometimes the main character is a woman, so reverse the sexes but retain the plot.

Apply this to every book in the series. Don’t worry about names. You won’t remember them. I was halfway through one book before I realized I’d already read it.

These are fun if you want what they offer: a lot of sex with hot immortal guys and gals who wear leather, drive expensive cars, fast bikes and have magical powers. Keep your expectations modest. Kenyon’s books are entirely predictable. You will never experience surprise or disappointment. If you want or expect more, you’ve chosen the wrong books. To quote a famous football coach, “It is what it is.” No more, no less.

The entire series is available on Kindle, Audible.com and in paperback.

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The Slow Death of the American Author

See on Scoop.itBooks, Writing, and Reviews

LAST month, the Supreme Court decided to allow the importation and resale of foreign editions of American works, which are often cheaper than domestic editions. Until now, courts have forbidden such activity as a violation of copyright. Not only does this ruling open the gates to a surge in cheap imports, but since they will be sold in a secondary market, authors won’t get royalties.

This may sound like a minor problem; authors already contend with an enormous domestic market for secondhand books. But it is the latest example of how the global electronic marketplace is rapidly depleting authors’ income streams. It seems almost every player — publishers, search engines, libraries, pirates and even some scholars — is vying for position at authors’ expense.

Authors practice one of the few professions directly protected in the Constitution, which instructs Congress “to promote the progress of Science and the useful Arts by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” The idea is that a diverse literary culture, created by authors whose livelihoods, and thus independence, can’t be threatened, is essential to democracy.

That culture is now at risk. The value of copyrights is being quickly depreciated, a crisis that hits hardest not best-selling authors like me, who have benefited from most of the recent changes in bookselling, but new and so-called midlist writers.

Take e-books. They are much less expensive for publishers to produce: there are no printing, warehousing or transportation costs, and unlike physical books, there is no risk that the retailer will return the book for full credit.

But instead of using the savings to be more generous to authors, the six major publishing houses — five of which were sued last year by the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division for fixing e-book prices — all rigidly insist on clauses limiting e-book royalties to 25 percent of net receipts. That is roughly half of a traditional hardcover royalty.

Best-selling authors have the market power to negotiate a higher implicit e-book royalty in our advances, even if our publishers won’t admit it. But writers whose works sell less robustly find their earnings declining because of the new rate, a process that will accelerate as the market pivots more toward digital.

And there are many e-books on which authors and publishers, big and small, earn nothing at all. Numerous pirate sites, supported by advertising or subscription fees, have grown up offshore, offering new and old e-books free.

The pirates would be a limited menace were it not for search engines that point users to these rogue sites with no fear of legal consequence, thanks to a provision inserted into the 1998 copyright laws. A search for “Scott Turow free e-books” brought up 10 pirate sites out of the first 10 results on Yahoo, 8 of 8 on Bing and 6 of 10 on Google, with paid ads decorating the margins of all three pages.

If I stood on a corner telling people who asked where they could buy stolen goods and collected a small fee for it, I’d be on my way to jail. And yet even while search engines sail under mottos like “Don’t be evil,” they do the same thing.

Google is also at odds with many writers because in 2004 it partnered with five major libraries to scan and digitize millions of in-copyright books, without permission from authors. The Authors Guild (of which I am president) sued; years later, with a proposed settlement scuttled by the judge, the litigation goes on.

Google says this is a “fair use” of the works, an exception to copyright, because it shows only snippets of the books in response to each search. Of course, over the course of thousands of searches, Google is using the whole book and selling ads each time, while sharing none of the revenue with the author or publisher.

It got worse in 2011, when a consortium of some of Google’s partner libraries, the Hathi Trust, decided to put online some 200 books that the group had unilaterally decided were “orphans,” meaning they couldn’t locate the copyright owners. The “orphans” turned out to include books from writers like the best-selling novelist J. R. Salamanca — alive and well in Maryland — and the Pulitzer Prize winner James Gould Cozzens, whose copyrights were left to Harvard. The Authors Guild sued, and Hathi suspended the program. But that litigation also continues, even while millions of copyrighted works are stored online, one hacker away from worldwide dissemination free.

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on April 8, 2013, on page A21 of the New York edition with the headline: The Slow Death of the American Author.

Scott Turow, a lawyer, is the president of the Authors Guild and the author of the forthcoming novel “Identical.”

See on www.nytimes.com

 

How I Didn’t Set the Publishing World On Fire — The 12-Foot Teepee and Me

Every once in a while, much to my surprise, Amazon informs me someone bought my book. It happened a few times during 2012 and just happened again … wow! Any personal friends who were going to buy or read my book have long since done so. Therefore whoever bought it is not someone I guilted into buying it and is a genuine voluntary reader. This is cause for celebration. Woo hoo.

Don’t think I’m going to make any money from this. Hell no. The Kindle version of my book yields a whopping $1.87 per sale (or loan) and Amazon won’t send money until they owe at least $20. I guess that would require the sale of 11 electronic books? Something like that. Since my 2012 sales totaled 2 and there have been 2 more this year, I have now broken the $5 barrier and need only 6 or 7 more sales, downloads, or borrowers to earn enough for a trip to McDonald’s. If we order from the dollar menu, we could even afford a small beverage. I can barely control my excitement, but Garry has warned me not to count on it.

The_12-Foot_Teepee_Cover_for_Kindle

I still get buzzed when anyone buys or reads my book and delighted when they let me know they enjoyed it, but next time, I think I’ll write about dogs.

I wrote it in 2007, though it really didn’t “hit the market” — so to speak — until 2008. I did author things, television interviews on local cable, radio interviews. I got some nice local press. I arranged some book signings. None of them amounted to much, but they were fun and I met other local authors, some of whom have become friends. I sold a few hundred books which isn’t bad for a self-published book. For a while, I got regular royalty checks, sometimes large enough for a cheap dinner at a local fast food joint. I briefly thought Teepee would be a minor straight to DVD movie, but financing did not materialize. So much for Hollywood.

It’s difficult to successfully market a self-published book. When it first came out, I had dreams of glory. My husband had (still has) some good media connections, though as time passes, colleagues retire and there are fewer … but 5 years ago, many more of Garry’s colleagues were working.

English: Grave of Jean Paul Sartre and Simone ...

When you write a highly personal book largely based on your own life experiences, you know it’s not going to hit the top of the New York Times bestseller list. Books like this become popular only if written by celebrities  revealing scandalous details of things done with other celebrities, usually of a sexual nature, or if someone pumps it up on a national television, which did not happen to me and doesn’t happen to most authors.

Unless you have a recognizable name, there’s no market for this genre. The ones that get published because they are written by a celebrity don’t sell well either, usually going from a  display in the front of the store to the discount bargain bin faster than you can say “I didn’t know he/she wrote a book …” It’s not likely that me or you, unknowns that we are, would be able to convince a publisher we are worth the ink and paper to produce even a trade paperback. And don’t even think about an advance.

Books so bad they should have a warning label

Lately, I had the task of reading a lot of books that were deemed among “the best of 2012.” I have no idea on what basis these books were determined to be the best of the year’s offering, but I’d like to meet the judges and ask about least half the entries: “What were you thinking?” There are okay books amongst the dross, a couple of great ones and a few pretty good ones.

Unfortunately, there are many awful ones, books so bad it’s hard to imagine how this could be regarded by anybody as worth publishing at all. The worst book I had to slog through was J. K. RowlingsThe Casual Vacancy.” If you buy this book, you will want your money back. All I can think was she had a contract, got an advance, the due date came around and she threw this together to satisfy a contractual obligation. I certainly hope that’s the scenario because I cannot believe that even she believes this book is good.

After Rowlings dreadful novel, my next three top suggestions for your “don’t read this book” list, all of which should carry large warning labels saying Bad literature!! Keep away! – include:

Any of these books will cause you gastric distress and could lead to existential despair and a desire to read something involving wizards and vampires, or worse, Jean Paul Sartre. Don’t blame me. I warned you.

Then, there are a whole lot of books that are — at best — okay. Not so awful that maybe there might not be someone who likes it, but I find it hard to imagine who it might be. Some of these are may simply be an acquired taste I haven’t acquired. I didn’t like them, but I suppose you could. Some others had redeeming qualities, but not enough, making you wish the author had given the manuscript one more edit … or considered including a plot and a few interesting characters.

Which brings me back to my book. I will say, in advance, that it is not a piece of deathless literature, but it’s not bad — and a whole lot better than most of the books deemed the best of 2012. In fact, comparatively speaking, my book has features that used to be traditional in books: characters, humor, the semblance of a plot, and a good-faith attempt to make a point. At the very least, you will learn how to build a tepee (perhaps more of how not to build a teepee), should you care to have one of your own … something I highly recommend. Tepees are strangely wonderful. You might not love my book, but I’m pretty sure whoever you are, you’d really like having a teepee.

These days, books that sell are mostly cop and courtrooms, whodunits, thrillers, terrorists, vampires and other creatures out of myth and fable, many things magical and mystical. Novels about people who live in the real world and do real things … work at paying jobs, raise children who lack magical powers, don’t have access to time travel nor are likely to rocket into space to explore other universes are becoming rare.

Are we no longer able to find the real world sufficiently interesting to write books about it?

How boring are we?

So here’s my question: are we really that boring? All of us? Is the reason that there are so few good books set in the real world because we find our lives completely uninteresting? Are the day-to-day battles regular people go through every day so dreary that we can’t bear to write about them?

It is obviously more entertaining to read about things that don’t exist … things that may have happened long in the past … or about events that have or might happen in our real world, but are so far out of the ordinary experiences of regular folks that they might as well happen in an alternate universe.

Having someone buy a copy of my book today was a big deal. If thousands of people bought and presumably read “A Casual Vacancy” or “The Middlesteins,” maybe a half-dozen or so people will buy or borrow an electronic copy (or, be still my heart), a hard-copy trade paperback of my book. Although unlikely, it’s possible. And the book might even resonate with some of you.

It’s about the baggage we haul through life, the baggage loaded on our backs when we are too small to choose … plus the rest of the boulders we pick up along the way and keep hauling until one day — with a little luck — we realize it’s okay to dump  them.

So, in case you’re of a mind to buy a book … which maybe you’ll enjoy and then again, maybe you won’t … the book is about child abuse and getting over it as well as the strange ways it warps you as you plod through life . How building a tepee helped me dump the bullshit from childhood and other stuff added along the way. In advance, I ask your forbearance about typos. Without a proper proofreader and editor, I was left to my own devices. If you read me regularly, you know I’m  a terrible proofreader and the queen of typos.

Being a writer and a proofreader have nothing to do with each other. Different skill sets. It is also hard to proofread your own manuscript: you tend to see what you meant to write and not what is there. 75-BooksHP

If you have any interest in acquiring the book in whatever form:

You can buy the hardcopy paperback here and the Kindle edition here. If you belong to Amazon Prime, you can read it for free. I get the same $1.87 in royalties whether you buy it or borrow it.  Go figure.

I have serious concerns about the state of publishing. I am convinced there are more good writers who can’t find a publisher than good writers who get published. With the opportunities offered by the electronic publishing, I would think the potential profit has increased exponentially. Why not publish more? E-books cost nothing but a little electronic storage space … and books like mine that are published as “print to order” cost nothing until it has already been bought and paid for. It’s risk free. It would be good for everyone.

Perhaps publishers should consider taking a chance on more newcomers who don’t write in trendy genres. I love science fiction and fantasy more than most people, but I also enjoy books about the real world and people to whom I can relate in an earthly way.

I fear the best of America’s writers are being lost in the scramble to publish only best-sellers. It doesn’t work anyhow. Most books flop, just like they always have.  From what I’m seeing, most acquisitions editors wouldn’t know a great book if it bit them on the nose. It’s not that I’m such a fantastic author and couldn’t get a reading,  publisher or agent. It’s that the stuff that does get published is so bad. It’s not a healthy sign for literature or the publishing industry.

The 12-Foot Teepee … How I Didn’t Set the Publishing World On Fire

Every once in a while, much to my surprise, Amazon informs me that someone bought one of my books. It happened during 2012 and just happened again … wow! Any personal friends who were going to buy or read my book have long since done so. Therefore whoever bought it is not someone I guilted into buying it and is a voluntary reader. This is cause for celebration. Woo hoo.

Don’t think I’m going to make any money from this. Hell no. The Kindled version of my book yields a whopping $1.87 per sale (or loan) and Amazon won’t send money until they owe at least $20. I guess that would require the sale of 11 electronic books? Something like that. Since my 2012 sales have totaled 2 and there have been 2 more this year, I think I have now officially broken the $5 barrier and need about 6 more sales, downloads, or borrowers to earn enough for a trip to McDonald’s. I can barely control my excitement.

The_12-Foot_Teepee_Cover_for_KindleFor all that, I’m always a little tingled when anyone buys or reads my book and especially happy when they tell me they enjoyed it. I’ve been away from it for quite a while already and I don’t think about it often. I’m unlikely to go back that way again. If I ever decide to write a new book, it will be something entirely different. Dogs, maybe.

I wrote it in 2007, though it really didn’t “hit the market” — so to speak — until 2008. I did those authorly things, some television interviews on local cable, some pretty heavy-duty radio interviews with pretty big guns, locally and regionally. I got some good local press, not as much as I might have wished, but not bad. I arranged some book signings. None of them amounted to much, but they were fun to do and I met other local authors, some of whom have become friends. I sold a few hundred books which I’m told, for a self-published book, is not bad. For a while, I got regular royalty checks, sometimes large enough for a very cheap dinner at a local fast food restaurant. I briefly thought I was going to become a minor straight to DVD movie, but financing did not materialize. So much for dreams of Hollywood.

It’s difficult to successfully market a self-published book. When it first came out and I still held some dreams of glory in my aging brain, my husband had (still has) some good media connections, though as the years pass, colleagues retire and there are fewer … but 5 years ago, many more of Garry’s colleagues were working.

 

When you write this kind of book, a book that is highly personal and largely based on your own life experiences, you know it’s not going to hit the top of the New York Times bestseller list. The only time books of this kind will become wildly popular is when they’ve been written by some celebrity who is revealing scandalous details of things done with other celebrities, usually of a sexual nature. Or some other celebrity likes it and pumps it up on a national television show, something that did not happen to me and doesn’t happen to most people.

Unless you have a recognizable name, there’s no market for this kind of book. The ones that do get published on the basis of existing celebrity don’t sell very well either, usually going from the front of the store display to the discount bargain bin faster than you can say “I didn’t know he/she wrote a book …” It’s not likely that me or you, unknowns that we are, would be able to convince a publisher that we are worth the ink and paper to produce even a trade paperback first release. Don’t even think about an advance.

Books so bad they should have a warning label

Lately, I have had the assigned task of reading a lot of books that have been judged to be among “the best of 2012.” I have no idea on what basis these books were determined to be the best of the year’s offering, but I’d like to meet the judges and ask them — about at least half the entries — “What were you thinking?” There are some good books amongst the dross I was assigned. There are even a couple of great ones, as well as a bunch of pretty good ones.


Alas, there are also many really awful ones, books so bad that it’s hard to imagine how this literary effort could be regarded by anybody as worth publishing in any form. The absolutely worst book I had to slog through was J. K. RowlingsThe Casual Vacancy.” If you buy this book, you will want your money back. All I can think was she had a contract, got an advance, the due date came around and she threw this together to satisfy a contractual obligation. I certainly hope that’s the scenario because I cannot believe that even she believes this book is worth reading.

After Rowlings dreadful novel, my next three top suggestions for your “don’t read this book” list, all of which should carry large warning labels saying Bad literature!! Keep away! – include:

Any of these books will cause you gastric distress and could lead to existential despair and a desire to read something involving wizards and vampires, or worse, Jean Paul Sartre. Don’t blame me. I warned you.

Then, there are a whole lot of books that are — at best — okay. Not awful enough that maybe there couldn’t be someone somewhere that likes it, but I find it hard to imagine who that might be. Some of these are may simply be an acquired taste I haven’t acquired. I didn’t like them, but I suppose you could. Some others had redeeming qualities, but not enough, making you wish the author had given the manuscript one more edit … or considered including a plot, storyline, and a few interesting characters.

English: Grave of Jean Paul Sartre and Simone ...This brings me back to my book. I will say, in advance, that it is not a piece of deathless literature, but it’s not bad — and a whole lot better than most of the books deemed the best of 2012. In fact, comparatively speaking, my book has features that used to be traditional in books: characters, humor, the semblance of a plot, and a good-faith attempt to make a point. At the very least, you will learn how to build a tepee (perhaps more of how not to build a teepee), should you care to have one of your own … something I highly recommend. Tepees are strangely wonderful. You might not love my book, but I’m pretty sure whoever you are, you’d really like having a teepee.

These days, books that sell are mostly cop and courtrooms, whodunits, thrillers, terrorists, vampires and other creatures out of myth and fable, many things magical and mystical. Novels about people who live in the real world and do real things … work at paying jobs, raise children who lack magical powers, don’t have access to time travel nor are likely to rocket into space to explore other universes are becoming increasing rare.

Are we no longer able to find the real world as it exists in the here-and-now sufficiently interesting to write books about it? Perhaps we bore ourselves and find our neighbors and families equally uninteresting.

How boring are we?

So here’s my question: are we really that boring? All of us? Is the reason that there are so few good books set in the real world because we find our own lives completely uninteresting. Are our struggles to keep a roof over our heads, get to a doctor, be treated by society with respect … are the day-to-day battles that regular people go through every day so dreary that we can’t bear to write about them?

It is obviously more entertaining to read about things that don’t exist … things that may have happened long in the past … or about events that have or might happen in our real world, but are so far out of the ordinary experiences of regular folks that they might as well happen in an alternate universe.

Discovering the other day that someone bought a copy of my book was a big event for me. It couldn’t be anyone I know. They’ve already got copies, either bought them or got them as gifts from the author, who gets to buy copies at cost (gee). The purchase, which may actually have been a “borrow,” was in Kindle format, so if I sell another 9 books, I will reach the threshold at which Amazon will pay royalties (still hoping to hit that $20 threshold) . So, right now, they own me $3.74, which isn’t close. It’s possible in theory that more people will buy or borrow books, isn’t it? If thousands of people bought and presumably read “A Casual Vacancy” or “The Middlesteins,” maybe 9 or 10 more people, will buy or borrow an electronic copy (or, be still my heart), a hard-copy trade paperback version of my book. Although unlikely, it’s possible. And the book might even resonate with some of you.

It’s about the baggage we haul through life, the baggage that gets loaded on our young backs when we are too small to choose … plus the rest of the boulders we pick up along the way and keep hauling until one day — with a little luck — we realize it’s okay to dump  them.

So, in case you’re of a mind to buy a book … which maybe you’ll enjoy and then again, maybe you won’t … the book is about child abuse and getting over it as well as the strange ways it warps you as you plod through life . How building a tepee helped me dump the heavy load of bullshit from childhood and other stuff added along the way. In advance, I ask your forbearance about typos. Without a proper proofreader and editor, I was left to my own devices. If you read me regularly, you know I’m  a terrible proofreader and the queen of typos. Being a writer and a proofreader have nothing to do with each other. Different skill sets. It is also really hard to proofread your own copy: you tend to see what you meant to write and not what is really there. 75-BooksHP

So, in case there are nine or ten people out there who might want to splurge for an e-book or a paperback, you can find the books on Amazon:

If you have any interest in acquiring the book in whatever form:

You can buy the hardcopy paperback here and the Kindle edition here. If you belong to Amazon Prime, you can read it for free. Oddly enough, I still get the same $1.87 in royalties, even if you read it at no cost. Go figure.

Note: There is some weird version of my book that comes up indicating that the paper book as no longer available. It’s an Amazon error that I have asked them (sigh) to fix. You get the correct information if you search in Amazon under “books” rather than as a general search. Maybe they’ll fix it, but it’s there, I promise. the links I included here are correct, even though Amazon thinks I published at least one version of this book in 0001 … which would make me a VERY old author.

I have some serious concerns about the state of the publishing industry. I am convinced that there are more good writers who can’t find a publisher than good writers who have gotten published. With the opportunities offered by the electronic publishing services, I would think the potential profit in publishing has increased exponentially. Why not publish more? E-books cost nothing but a little electronic storage space … and books like mine that are published as “print to order” cost nothing until you print one that has already been bought and paid for. It’s risk free. It would be good for everyone.

Perhaps publishers should consider offering opportunities to talented newcomers that don’t necessarily write in safe and trendy categories. I love science fiction and fantasy, but I also enjoy good books about the real world and people to whom I can relate in an earthly way.

I’m afraid the best of America’s writers are getting lost in the scramble to print only best-sellers. It isn’t working, either. Most books flop, just like they always have.  I’m not sure, from what I’m seeing, that most acquisitions editors would know a really good book if it reached up and bit them on the nose. It’s not that I’m so great and couldn’t get a reading, much less a publisher or agent. It’s that the stuff that gets published is so awful. Not a good sign for literature or the publishing industry.