Now Available: IU 2015 Flash Fiction Anthology

indies-2015-flash-fiction-anthologyThe Indies Unlimited 2015 Flash Fiction Anthology features a year’s worth of winning entries from the weekly flash fiction challenge [including two from yours truly]. It contains 51 stories by 36 different [awesome] authors from around the world, with full color pictures by award-winning photographer K. S. Brooks and thought-provoking prompts by five-star author Stephen Hise.

From a war veteran’s revenge to the misadventures of Og – everyone’s favorite caveman, there are a myriad of genres and stories to appeal to every taste.

Included in the anthology are stories by Susan Berry, Robert Capko, AV Carden, Victoria Ann Carr, Thomas Diehl, Leland Dirks, Jules Dixon, Stephen Douglass, Ed Drury, S.K. Fischer, Kira Flynn, R.B. Frank, Christine Frost, Terveen Gill, Dusty May Jane, A. L. Kaplan, Zack Lester, William Lewis, S.A. Molteni, John D. Ottini, Rachel Palmer, Brenda Perlin, Daniel Peyton, Greg Phelan, Diane Selby, Hannah Selby, S.B. Smith, Chris Sparks, Sara Stark, Kat Stiles, Steven M. Stucko, Janni Styles, James R. Tate, Richard Trisdale, Byron Wade, and M.P. Witwer.

Check out my two entries:

Forever Hold Your Peace, 17jan15, and Bargain Bin Valentine, 14feb15


10 Books that Have Never Left You – What are Your Ten?

IMG_20140906_140406A while back a friend–I think it was Kathleen–pinged me on FB to list ten books that have stayed with me over the years.   I know the challenge is to just list them without really thinking about it, but that’s not who I am. I over think everything. No, really. I know I do.

I’m challenging you to do the same. Whether it’s here as a comment or on FB.  I ended up with a dozen, because I can never follow the rules, well, not exactly.

But you only have to do ten.  Unless you want to do more.

~ o ~

This challenge provided me the perfect opportunity to think about two of my favorite things: books and me.

So the real question is what does it mean that a book, its story has stayed with me. I can remember many–I’ll even go as far as to say most–of the books I’ve read. That doesn’t imply that I can remember the title, because I have been known to buy books that are either already sitting on my shelf or that I’ve already read. [I love that Amazon tells me, umm, yeah, we see that you already own that book. With an implied: dumbass.]

Anyway, instead of pondering why books stay with me, I’m just going to list the books that have most influenced me, in my life and my writing.  And a short bit about why. Most of these I have read multiple times. That I’d go back and re-read a book, several of them many times, when there are so many good books available, says more than any theory I can provide as to why they stayed with me.

(1) Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

000download (2)I read this in high school and was enthralled with Mr. Vonnegut’s writing. But it was the idea behind the book that kept evolving in my head that made me love this book. The story is funny and sad at the same time. It gave me perspective, if that is possible in a sixteen year old, on man’s stupidity, man’s willingness to destroy everything around him in the eternal search for more/better/happiness. And it helped developed my style of handling authority. I will never forget the ending, the image of Man’s final act of giving the finger to You Know Who.

(2) Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

This is another one I read in high school, only this time I was scrunched down under the covers in a spooky, supposedly haunted house. Haunted, interestingly enough, by Mr. King, or so said Nettie, our housekeeper. But back to the novel… I had always loved scary movies, so this was a natural progression. Back then kids didn’t have TVs in their bedrooms. And in the living room, we only had three channels. We read books. But what impressed me about this book was how well, how easily Stephen King could get into my head. And scare the crap out of me. If you’ve read his better books (and there are some I sincerely do not like), you’ll understand what I mean. Since reading Salem’s Lot I have been an ardent fan of Stephen King.

(3) Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

You’ll see references to Practical Magic in my own novel, An Untold Want.  My story is nothing like the one told in Practical Magic, but it is the story that nudged me to write my novel. I love Alice Hoffman’s way of telling stories.

(4) The Odyssey by Homer

You’re thinking, finally something classical and meaningful. Yes, this book was so meaningful to me, so powerful that I ended up with a degree [one of three] in Classical Culture and the ability [sadly, a skill that has faded into oblivion] to read ancient Greek. How amazing is it that someone living 2500 years ago, without the use of a laptop, without even writing it down, created something so brilliant, so beautiful as the story of Odysseus and his efforts to return home? This book has everything. Action, intrigue, romance, betrayal, murder, magic. Everything.

(5) The Mystery of the Gingerbread House by Wylly Folk St. John

000downloadThis book would be considered pre-teen now; back then it was just a kid’s book.  I read it when I was nine, maybe ten. And it started my love of mysteries. The book blurb: “An abandoned baby. A locked trunk. A man called Finch. A stolen car ring. And a missing grandmother. Ronny and Greg Jameson didn’t realize that one girl could be so full of mystery. But that was before they met Evie Hollis.”  What inquisitive kid wouldn’t want to read it?

This book is so old, when in a nostalgic moment I looked for it on-line, it was out of print, but I did find a copy recently on eBay or some such site. Amazon now has some re-prints, though third-party vendors.

Wylly Folk St. John wrote the Southern version of Nancy Drew. And when I go back and read these books, it makes me realize that there is some of Ms. St. John’s style in my writing.  She even wrote one called The Secret of the Seven Crows.  If you’d like to read more about her, there’s a nice post here on WordPress:  Wylly Folk St. John -A Life In Words

(6) Shingebiss — unknown

This is not a novel, not even a full book, but I remember it so well from my childhood, from my mother reading it to me from a big book of fairy tales, that I went and found it in print.

Shingebiss is the story of perseverance and self-confidence, or at least that’s how I remember it. If you know anything of my history, you’ll know that it’s an interesting concept that my mother often read this to me.

The book blurb [a re-print]: “… this ancient Ojibwe story captures all the power of winter and all the courage of a small being who refuses to see winter as his enemy. This sacred story shows that those who follow the ways of Shingebiss will always have plenty to eat, no matter how hard the great wind of Winter Maker blows.”

(7) Small Gods by Terry Pratchett

How can you not love social statements encapsulated in humor? The main character is Brother Brutha.  If you haven’t read this book, you should. ‘Nuff said.

(8) The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

To be honest, I don’t even remember what the story is about, but I loved that it is a story within a story within a story. I loved the writing. I need to go back and read it again, for the third time.

(9) Light in August by William Faulkner

061281b0c8a0fdff169c9110.LAnother perseverance book, by one of my all time favorite authors. I love long complex sentences. Faulkner gives me something to chew on and has affected my writing style significantly.

“Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders.”

— William Faulkner, Light in August,”Chapter Six

(10) Throat by Peter Straub

A dark, intellectual thriller, it is the last in the Blue Rose trilogy. I read this one first, and then read the other two books, then re-read this one, several times. Like Stephen King, Peter Straub understands and expertly uses the mechanics of writing a dark story that gets in your head and burrows into the soft brain matter, taking root. That’s what makes it disturbing. Not that it’s a dark story. It’s disturbing because it makes you wonder, long after you’ve put it down.

(11) American Gods by Neil Gaiman

This is one of the books that I’ve read many times. I will say that if you aren’t versed in mythology it may not make any sense, or at best be difficult to understand. I love this book because of the layers and layers of complexity. I read it the first time because of the mythology. Read it again for depth of the story. It’s like one of those movies where every time you watch it you see something different.

(12) Imagica by Clive Barker

000567704Last listed, but certainly not least, is Imagica. Take the complexity and depth of Straub’s and Gaiman’s books, the in your head style of Stephen King, and add a lot of grizzly, disturbing horror to it, and you’ve got Clive Barker. Imagica is 900 pages of earth-based, dark, violent fantasy which questions everything we know about the universe. About “themes such as God, sex, love, gender and death.”

~ o ~

I could go on for days talking about books that have stayed with me, but this has become a long post, and I’m tired after a long week at my soul-sucking job. If you want more info on books I’ve read, you can check my Goodreads author page.

Or you can pick your own.

Authors: Established vs Newbies

I’ve been following the Amazon/Hachette melee, and maybe because I’m a new author, I am leaning toward Amazon’s view of the world. No, I’m not in favor of monopolies, and Amazon is heading that way, but I’m also not the least bit happy about the way new authors are treated by the traditional publishing industry.

My view of the world is that there’s a double standard when it comes to established, well-known authors versus new authors.

Some of it I can understand.  I can see that a publisher may not want to take a risk on a thousand page novel by a new author, one which may tank after they’ve made a major investment in physically creating a tome that size. Most new authors start out with a novel significantly less than 125K words [approximately 400 pages], and so I had a hard time selling An Untold Want to an agent. In fact, I never was able to get an agent to represent me. Several specifically said they wouldn’t even consider a manuscript with more than 90K words from a new author. One agent told me to cut it down to 85K words and then come talk to her. She wasn’t offering me a contract up front. No, she was just saying she would possibly consider it if I cut my novel in half. I passed on that offer.

Some of the issues I don’t understand, like quality of writing. Awhile back I did a review of The GoldFinch. If a newbie author had submitted The Goldfinch to a major publishing house, let’s just say Hachette, that author would have been laughed out of their office.  The book is long and convoluted and badly edited. And yet, the publisher is pushing it. And it won a Pulitzer. Yes, it has some beautiful prose and is an interesting story, but it would never have seen the light of day, a book that won a Pulitzer would never have been published if it had been written by a new author.

Agents and publishers expect newbies to come to them with a complete, fully edited manuscript. With a social presence already in place. From what I’ve read, in multiple articles from well respected news outlets, publishers now only focus on supporting their big draw authors, the J.K. Rowlings and James Pattersons of the book world. If I were to get a contract with Hachette today, I’ve no doubt that I would have to do a large majority of the advertising myself.  So for a whopping 7% of the sale price [yes, that’s what new authors tend to get from publishing houses], I would get to do 70% of the work, not including writing the novel.

When I couldn’t get an agent, [Your book is too long. Your book doesn’t fit our genre. Your books just wasn’t for us.] I went down the indie route. By self publishing with Amazon, I get 70% of the royalties and I own the rights to my book. Yes, I did all the work, but the ROI is significantly better than if I’d gotten an agent and gone down the traditional route, say with Hachette.  There are tons of agent/publisher horror stories out there. My favorite, the one I tell myself at night when I’m trying to boost my ego about why an agent wouldn’t want my book, is that many authors finally get an agent only to have their books placed at the bottom of a huge pile of I’ll get around to this later.

The Huffington Post posted a great article that sums up the indie versus traditional situation: Are There 5 Reasons to Stick With Major Publishers? No, There Are Zero Reasons

Just to be fair, there is a down side to self publishing. Indie books are still considered substandard. All self published authors are lumped into a huge ball of what appears as mediocrity. Those who do the work to polish their novels are pulled down by those who don’t. Even I shy away from indie authors because I’ve paid for too many books that were badly written. I wrote about this phenomenon in my post Do Yourself a Favor: Edit Your Book. Too many new authors write what is in essence a first draft and then rush to publish it. As one web article said, we are drowning in indie books, and my take is that many of them are sub-par.

With that said, the best reason to be an indie author is that I’m in control of how successful I am. I can edit or not. I can create a great cover. Or not. I can do what I want, but what I do is in direct relation to how successful I am. I am not waiting on someone else to promote my book.

#AmazonCart – Shopping from Twitter??

According to an article on CNET (Amazon, Twitter link up for easy shopping through #AmazonCart), Twitter users can now link their Twitter and Amazon account, allowing them to add items to their Amazon cart directly from Twitter.

It sounds like a great idea for those of us who are basically unknown authors. Right? Now when I pitch my novels on Twitter, someone reading my post doesn’t have to remember to go to Amazon to purchase it.

But having read The Circle by Dave Eggers, I am concerned about how all of my accounts are being linked. How all my information is now being stored in a huge data vault in a cloud somewhere, where companies like Amazon can mine information about me, can suggest items I should purchase. It’s already happening. Data mining has been around for years, literally.

Maybe that’s why after reading The Circle, even FaceBook creeped me out for awhile, because we willingly are moving in that direction, to a place, a society where no one will have privacy anymore. And we’re doing it to ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for convenience–I love the digital world, what with on-line shopping and banking, and I don’t want to go off the grid–but I also enjoy my ability to turn it off when I want to.

Your thoughts?