Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What I Want To Know

Welcome to TNBBC's "What I Want To Know" - a mini series of sorts that will hopefully answer some of the questions and quiet some of the concerns I know fellow bloggers, authors, and publishers have regarding how to choose a reviewer or book to review, review etiquette, how to pitch and be pitched.. among other things.

Last week, We heard from the authors and publishers on how they felt when book bloggers refused to review a book that was self published or published by an independent publisher. So you know what's coming... I turned it back around to the bloggers and want to know

What's your opinion of self published or independent authors/publishers?

Here's what they had to say:

"At one point in time EVERYONE was an indie author. Stephen King was not always Stephen King. He used to be some random guy with a story who wrote it down and lucked out. The only difference now is the medium in which to make your product available.

In 1973 when Carrie was first published there was no such thing as the Kindle or Nook. You had the big 6 and you had to work at getting noticed. Today however is a self-made market. People can write and sell their own work. Sometimes you will have brilliantness and sometimes you will have a flop, in the end that is no different than what you can picked up printed off the shelves, and as for the Indie Publishing Houses.. well, they are just listening to the readers and forming their decisions based on their opinions versus a 6 figure copy editors." - Misty Baker, KindleObsessed.Com

"I think it’s a very important development in book publishing. Even the physical book itself may be left behind. This morning I caught a story that Rambo-author David Morrell has released a title exclusively to Kindle. Online publishing presents a fantastic opportunity to writers looking to go it alone and I am curious to see how this will develop further.

There have been some great success stories where self-published authors are concerned. Eoin Colfer put his own money into releasing the first Artemis Fowl novel. Now he has two book franchises for children in the shops, a sequel to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a television series based on his Half-Moon Investigations series and a comic book adaptation of Artemis Fowl. David Moody, a British horror writer whose novel Hater is to be adapted for the cinema by Guillermo del Toro I believe, had previously attempted a writing career working with a publishing house. He apparently didn’t enjoy the experience, went away for a few years and then returned with this blistering self-published novel that managed to be equal parts horrific and quite gripping.

I think control over the final product is very important for a lot of writers and if the necessary capital is a viable option, those who would like to get a foothold in the book market, should definitely explore options in independent publishing." - Emmett O'Cuana, ABookADayTillICanStay.wordpress.com

" Most of the pitches I get are from self-published books. If it sounds interesting, I'll accept." - Kelly Hager, KellyVision.wordpress.com

"It is hard for me to have an opinion as I haven't had much experience with them. At the Broke and the Bookish, when we first started out, said yes to a bunch of self published books and for the most part they were just utter trash. I should have known by the emails they sent me but we were so eager to review books that we realized too late. I've heard other people, such as yourself, have really great success with indie authors & pubs so I'd be more willing to build relationships with them." - Jamie Bennett, PerpetualPageTurner.blogspot.com

As I mentioned last week, indies are very near and dear to my heart. It upsets me greatly when reviewers turn up their nose at a book or author simply because they are self or independently published.

A good percentage of your self published authors CHOSE to be self published. They believed in the novel they wrote, they wanted to remain in complete control of it's content and packaging, and they invested their own money into it's production. The lack of a paid editor may cause the books to have slight grammatical errors, and the lack of a paid illustrator may leave the cover art wanting, but that doesn't make it an undeserving read.

Independent publishers and small press companies like Two Dollar Radio and GrayWolf Press continually amaze me with the novels they release. Most of my 5-star, "Next Best Book", favorite reads of 2010 were indies!

If you are declining the opportunity to review an indie, simply because it is an indie, you are really missing out on some breathtaking, heart stopping, gut wrenching novels. Do your research - check out the publisher, read the authors website, determine if the storyline or genre match your tastes - and have an open mind.

And, if I can't convince you to give them a shot, when you decline... will you at least send them my way??

What did you think?

Was this post helpful and insightful? Was there anything here that shocked you? What interactions have you had with publishers or authors that support or negate what you read here?

Next week, we head back to the authors and publishers one last time to find out how they handle requests for reviews from bloggers. Be sure to check back on Tuesday!

Monday, November 29, 2010

In Which a Serial Killer Compares Himself To a Butterfly

Here's a peek inside my current read:

“I was confused and unsure of what I was becoming. I wondered in half conscious, half subconscious thought if this is how a caterpillar must feel. It wraps itself tightly into a cocoon and drifts off to sleep, not fully aware that when it awakens it will be to an entirely new world. It’s life will have forever changed. How can you begin to understand with a rational mind the transformation of turning into a creature that can fly after having a simple relaxing slumber? It’s like waking up as if you’ve just been born as a new being who can now, and forever will, see the world from an entirely new perspective. I felt as if this would be my last night as a caterpillar. Tomorrow would be the awakening of a butterfly that would have the abilities, both mental and physical, to conquer this world.”

- Duncan’s Diary - Birth of a Serial Killer by Christopher C. Payne

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Personalize Your Scourge

Another bookish holiday gift! This one releases in eBook format Monday 11/29. According to it's author, David Burton, the print version of Scourge should be available just in time for Christmas!

Here's a brief summary:

Two dads, five siblings, and goggles!

Grim Doyle has always known his life was not exactly "normal", and things gets even more curious when he discovers a set of stones that sweep him and his family to the fantasy, steampunk world of Verne - a place they had escaped from years ago. Now that they've returned, Grim and his siblings hide from the evil Lord Victor and his minions. And while learning about Jinns, Mystics, and the power of absinth they try to discover who is trying to kill them with the deadly Scourge.

Need a little more help deciding? Take a peek at the book trailer:

Still not sure? Really? Ok, there is one last thing - David Burton is currently offering a special personalized version of this novel if you purchase it from his website. It will come with an autographed dedication page and a fun feature where he will alter the name of a minor character to the name of the purchaser.

What else are you waiting for? Happy book buying everyone!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Let the Holiday Book Shopping Begin!

I hate the hustle and bustle and early morning beat down of Black Friday. I dislike spending hours upon hours running from one shopping center to another trying to scratch another item off the christmas lists. I am not much of an online shopper either. So each year, I am amazed that I manage to get any shopping done at all!!

I do, however, try to take advantage of every great deal that passes by me. Like this one:

Author Justin Kramon is hosting a great holiday sale on his website via The Open Book, an independent bookseller located in Long Island, NY, for his novel Finny. You can buy a personalized signed and gift-wrapped copy of his novel for for $17.00 (the price includes shipping). One dollar from every order will be donated to feedingamerica.org - a charity that feeds hungry children all around the US.

How can you say no to that?
Happy Book Shopping, everyone!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Review: Autumn

Read 11/24/10 - 11/15/10
5 Stars - Highly Recommended / The Next Best Book

I am a huge fan of David Moody. He knocked my socks off back in September with his Hater series - in which normally rational people suddenly and violently turned against one another in an attempt to survive from an irrational fear of hate. (I am still impatiently awaiting the release of the final book for the trilogy!)

Flattered by the embarrassing amount of love I was gushing on him (or so I assume!) he offered to send me a copy of the first novel in his zombie series - Autumn. This novel was originally released as a free online download and sold so well (and landed Moody a movie adaptation) that it is now being rereleased in print. Autumn dropped this October, and the remaining novels will be available in 3 month increments.

Without ever using the "Z" word, David Moody manages to recreate the walking dead apocalypse. A unnamed virus suddenly and swiftly suffocates and kills 99% of the population. A handful of people, seemingly immune to the deadly virus and displaying various signs of shock and disbelief, slowly congregate to the town's community center building. The dead all lie where they fell, mouths open, stained in blood, looks of absolutely horror and pain frozen on their face.

As the first few days pass, and the survivors decide what they should do, a third of the dead begin to rise. At first unresponsive and harmless, little by little they regain their most basic senses - sight and hearing - and frighten three of our survivors into action.

I practically read this book in one sitting. Fighting off a miserable head cold on our snowy, slushy, dark and gloomy Thanksgiving day, I cocooned myself in a blanket on the couch and got completely lost in this eerie and awful world that Moody had created. Had the real world come to a similar end in those hours while I was reading his novel, I would not have been surprised. The books setting and the weather outside my living room window were just too perfectly matched!

While just about anyone can guess what the final outcome will be in a genre that tends to leave little room for imagination, Moody managed to keep me turning the pages, cringing inwardly as he repetitively placed the characters in situations that had me thinking to myself "oh no, I wouldn't do that if I was you."

I mean, sure. There are twenty-something adults crammed together into a decrepit and not-very-well-stocked one floor building in the heart of the city, surrounded by thousands of rotting dead bodies that slowly begin to stand up and move around. And sure. So a few of those people are going to think that ditching the city for the fresher, more isolated parts of the country might be the right thing to do. And yeah. That causes some tension within the group. But really, people? Three of you, running away to an isolated farmhouse, where you are miles from any other form of protection? Do you really think that is a wise choice?

The rest of the novel had me sitting on the edge of my seat, anxious to see what was going to happen to our little group of survivors. And now, it would appear that I will be impatiently awaiting the rest of the novels in this series as well!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Evolution Day - From Stephanie Dray

Yes. I know. Today is known to most of us as Thanksgiving Day! But did you also know that yesterday was the anniversary of the first publication of Charles Darwin's book The Origin of the Species? I apologize for being a day behind - this holiday cold is kicking my butt!

Today, I am hosting Stephanie Dray - author of a forthcoming trilogy of historical fiction novels set in the Augustan Age, (starting with Lily of the Nile: A Novel of Cleopatra's Daughter) - on the blog, where she shares with us an evolution all of her own.

Today is Evolution Day, but I won’t be reflecting upon the origin of species. Instead, I shall discuss the concept of evolution in the context of my debut novel, Lily of the Nile.

I’m often asked what inspired me to write about Cleopatra’s daughter and the easy answer is that her story moved me. As a little girl, Selene suffered through the suicide of her parents and the murder of her brothers. She marched through Rome as a chained prisoner and endured the humiliation intended for her mother. But in the end, this little girl evolved from a humiliated captive into the most powerful client queen in the Roman Empire.

Now that was an evolution.

I tried to imagine the strength of character Selene, the lone survivor of the Ptolemaic dynasty, must have possessed to forge an alliance with Augustus, the same man who destroyed her family. It would be easy to think that her captors had brainwashed her to disdain her mother and forget her siblings--but the historical evidence of her reign tells us she never forgot her past and found ways to honor her family and her goddess without falling afoul of Augustus.

Selene’s life is a bittersweet story of triumph over tragedy and her astonishing transformation can be an inspiration to us all. She made the ideal heroine because good fiction should always have a character who is evolving. The inner journey is just as important, perhaps even more important, than the external plot.

People evolve, but societies evolve and change too. I was drawn to write about this period of history because it was a turning point for the whole of Western civilization.

Though students of the classics have been taught for years that Rome treated its women better than most other cultures in the ancient world, this is true only in the aggregate. The best place to be born a woman in the ancient world was undoubtedly Ptolemaic Egypt where Selene was born and raised. Certainly, Selene grew up with stories of her ancestresses, powerful Ptolemaic queens who wielded considerable power and influence, though all of them would be eclipsed by Selene’s mother, Cleopatra VII. It was not only the royal women whose status was elevated; Egyptian women had significant legal rights. Female scholars are known to have studied at the Musaeum in Alexandria (which included the Great Library). Some exceptional women in ancient Egypt enjoyed careers as scribes and physicians. There in Cleopatra’s Alexandria, Egyptian liberality met with the flowering of Hellenism under the growing influence of female-centric Isis worship to expand opportunities for women.

As a young girl, Selene might have imagined what that opportunity meant for her, only to watch the Romans snatch it away. It is difficult to guess how the world might be different if Cleopatra and Antony had won the war against Octavian, but they are almost certain not to have instituted the “back to family values” propaganda campaign that Augustus used to transform Western culture. In short, it was from this crucial period of time that we evolved--or perhaps devolved--to embrace many of the misogynistic attitudes still with us today.

All of this should not be taken to mean that Lily of the Nile is some sort of scholarly exploration. In my own evolution as a writer, I’ve come to embrace that my first duty is to write a story that will entertain you, move you, and stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page. Thanks for having me here today and Happy Evolution Day!


Before she wrote novels, Stephanie was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the transformative power of magic realism to illuminate the stories of women in history and inspire the young women of today. She remains fascinated by all things Roman or Egyptian and has–to the consternation of her devoted husband–collected a house full of cats and ancient artifacts.

She is currently sponsoring the Cleopatra Literary Contest for Young Women, the deadline for which is March 1, 2011, but join her newsletter now for updates and a chance to win a free copy of Lily of the Nile and additional prizes.

We will be hosting a giveaway here at TNBBC for Lily of the Nile sometime at the end of December - so keep your eyes peeled!

I want to thank Stephanie for preparing this post, and wish all of you a very happy Thanksgiving full of turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What I Want To Know

Welcome to TNBBC's "What I Want To Know" - a mini series of sorts that will hopefully answer some of the questions and quiet some of the concerns I know fellow bloggers, authors, and publishers have regarding how to choose a reviewer or book to review, review etiquette, how to pitch and be pitched.. among other things.

Last week, the bloggers shared their views on writing negative reviews. The ball is now back in the Author and Publisher's court and I want to know:

What is your opinion on bloggers/reviewers who refuse to accept review copies from self published or independent authors/publishers?

Here is what they had to say:

"Luckily, in our experience, I don’t think we’ve ever had a reviewer refuse to accept a review copy from us because we’re an independent press. (Who doesn’t love free books?!) We certainly understand if a reviewer doesn’t have time in their reading/reviewing schedule to add another title, or they don’t think their readership is a good fit for the book in question. But I certainly hope reviewers aren’t turning away publishers just because they’re an independent press." - Marisa, Graywolfpress

"The number of books being self-published/indie-published is increasing dramatically due to e-publishing/POD. Unless the self-published/indie-published book comes with a glowing recommendation or blurb from a well-known author/authority, I understand that bloggers/reviewers need to institute policies like this in order to sift through the slush. A book published by a well-known publisher means that there are dozens of people who have vouched for the book's quality. I've only self-published small comics and parodies (via Scribd), and would frankly be shocked if anyone actually took the time to review them." - Andrew Shaffer, HuffPost columnist and author of GREAT PHILOSOPHERS WHO FAILED AT LOVE (Harper Perennial, Jan '11)

"They are out of touch with the changing world of publishing, especially when it comes to small or independent presses. There are, sadly, many self-published books that are poorly written and edited, but on the other hand, some have more attention to detail than their big publisher counterparts. This year's Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction, Tinkers, was published by tiny Bellevue Literary Press and had not been reviewed by many of the big magazines and only sold a couple thousand copies. Now it's a bestseller and the author has a three book deal with a major publisher. Don't overlook small books from small presses -- their are treasures to be found." - Collin Kelley, Poet, journalist, social media consultant, author of Conquering Venus

"We're an independent publisher so, we're disappointed, but otherwise no opinion. No time to do anything else but move along." - VagabondagePress, Arts/Lit Online 'Zine The Battered Suitcase

" The bigger the reviewer is, the harder it is to reach them with something, and I sort of understand that. Granting that it's the small publisher that is most in need of the publicity a major review can bring, there's a law of averages in play in terms of quality. But if you're a small blogger/reviewer blanket-declining indies and self-published books? Those are what you SHOULD be looking at.

I'm reminded of a story. In college a friend and I were interviewing to host a show on our college radio station. When the obvious question-- what would we play-- came up I answered with a list of the music I usually listened to. This was the wrong answer. The station played small indie rock, not U2 and Springsteen. The question wasn't even whether those bands were any good (although I suspect the station manager's answer to that would have been "no") but why I would want to play something that you could hear on any other station? For some bands college radio was their only exposure.

I feel the same way about reviewers. I can go anywhere to read a review of, say, Jonathan Franzen's latest book. Give me something I can't read about anywhere else.
- " - Gene Doucette, author of Immortal

I love Gene's final sentence. "Give me something I can't read about anywhere else"! Why read and review the same 50 books that everyone else is reading and reviewing? I want to read reviews on great books that I might never have heard of. I want to expose myself to those amazing unknowns and then spread the word to anyone who will listen!

I know this has been a topic of discussion on blogs and other social forums before, and I really wanted to address it and hear what the indies thought - how do they feel when they see review policies that say "no self-published or independent" books, or "all books released independently have grammar and spelling errors, poor content", etc.

Most of you know me well enough by now. I will read just about anything that comes my way. If the summary sounds interesting, and the book is pitched well, sign me up, I'm game! I am always on the look out for that next best book, and you never know who will write or publish it!

I say - give the little guys a chance! Blockbusters and award winners are not the only books out there worth reading!

What did you think?

Was this post helpful and insightful? Was there anything here that shocked you? What experiences have you had with independent publishers or self-published authors that support or negate what you read here?

Next week, it's back to the bloggers to find out what their opinions are on self-published and independent authors/publishers. Be sure to check it out!

Note: We are quickly closing in on the end of the current "What I Want To Know" series. There are three weeks left. I am still seeking publishers and authors who would like to participate in the next series! Please email me at mescorn@ptd.net or tweet me @tnbbc.

Giving Up - An Object of Beauty

Started 11/19/10
Threw in the towel 11/24/10

Read 162 out of 292 pages

Oops. I did it again. I quit on another book.

At least I didn't wait until I was 20 pages from the end this time, right?

What has gotten into me? This is so unlike me. I've said it before, and I will say it again. I just do.not.give.up.on.books. (except, well, that I do now, apparently!)

This is a book I snagged at BEA10. It might have actually been the 1st book I snagged, to be honest. I adore Steve Martin, and have loved his other novels - Shopgirl and The Pleasure of My Company - to death! He's got a great sense of humor, and it reveals itself subtly in his writing.

However, An Object of Beauty was completely devoid of humor. It was all seriousness and artsy-fartsy highbrow sophisticated drivel. Yes - I get that Lacey was an aggressive young up-and-coming associate in the art gallery world. And yes - I get that there is more going on behind the scenes when it comes to the acquisition of art, and the showcasing of art, and the storage of art, and the selling of art. There was so much time and energy spent on the behind-the-scenes set up of the novel that the characters felt a little underdeveloped and stale.

Even the few sex scenes that I managed to read through were dry and creaky (I was so disconnected from what was going on that I tweeted that it was creepy reading a sex scene written by Steve Martin, that it felt very much like walking in on my parents in the middle of the 'act').

It was so unlike his other novels that I found myself peeking at the cover of the book to reconfirm that...yes... this book really was written by Steve Martin.

I have all the respect in the world for this actor-cum-writer and cannot imagine the amount of research that must have gone into the creation of this novel. I really wish I could have lost myself in it. Set in the 1990's contemporary art craze in NYC, I just felt totally disconnected from the entire thing, and kept waiting for something, anything, to happen. And when something kind of, sort of, did start to happen, I found that I really didn't care anymore.

The book released yesterday to the public. I wish Steve Martin all the success in the world with it. And I know that it is receiving high praise within it's true audience. It just was not my cup of tea.

And so I am moving on....

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sick For the Holidays

Somehow, I can never seem to make it through the holidays without getting sick.

When I was younger, I remember quite a few trips from my dad's house to my mom's with a bucket and plastic bag between my legs in the front seat of the car, throwing up on Easter break. I recall spending an entire thanksgiving day wrapped up in a comforter on my couch watching reruns of X Files on the Sci-Fi channel feeling nauseous and feverish while the hubby and kids enjoyed their turkey dinner at the in-laws.

This year, it appears I have a caught a nasty little cold that is nestling in my throat. Painful to swallow, ears so itchy I want to scream, body just achey and blah.

Thank goodness for three days off and good books to lose myself in. The plan is to take scolding hot baths, drink lots of hot tea, curl up on the couch with my current read, and do as little as possible.

How are you spending the days leading up to Thanksgiving???

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Review: A Tale Dark & Grimm

Read 11/15/10 - 11/18/10
4 Stars - Strongly recommended

This is not the Hansel and Gretel you grew up with.

It's darker. It's bloodier. Think "The Book of Lost Things" and "The Eyes of the Dragon" - a twisted spin on the fairy tale you thought you knew.

It starts as all fairy tales start... Once upon a time.

A young boy and a young girl, children who should never have been born, were born into a life of unhappy endings. After running away from their murderous parents into the edible home of an evil old witch, Hansel and Gretel find themselves searching all throughout the land for good grown-ups who will take care of them. This search finds them running from bad homes to worse ones - walking for months to the crystal mountain, outwitting the Devil at the Gates of Hell, killing and sacrificing for their own survival...

Adam Gidwitz breaks into this unexpectedly, delightfully, macabre tale to warn the reader of upcoming terrors and traumas, pleading with parents to send their children to bed, faking a happy ending until he is certain every last child is out of hearing (or reading) range, before continuing with his gruesome story.

A Tale Dark & Grimm was a refreshing take on a favorite fairy tale. Delivered tongue in cheek, Gidwitz's style works well for both the old and young at heart. Full of witches and warlocks, dragons and demons, you can't go wrong!

Go ahead, get your Grimm on!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What I Want To Know

Welcome to TNBBC's "What I Want To Know" - a mini series of sorts that will hopefully answer some of the questions and quiet some of the concerns I know fellow bloggers, authors, and publishers have regarding how to choose a reviewer or book to review, review etiquette, how to pitch and be pitched.. among other things.

Last week, authors and publishers talked about their views on negative reviews. This week, we pass the potato to the book bloggers because I want to know:

How do you handle writing negative reviews?

This is what they had to say:

"I hate writing negative reviews, but I pride myself on honesty. I have found that authors appreciate this quality in my reviews more than anything. As a matter of fact I have had authors email me thanking me for my input and even offer me a copy of their next novel in hopes to change my view on their writing ability. So my approach? Write what I think, don't skirt around it, it does nobody any favors in the end." - Misty Baker, KindleObsessed.Com

"I try to give it some balance. Much like with favourable reviews, I think it is a mistake to publish a hysterical raves (or in the case of a lousy book, frothing-at-the-mouth spite). So for example with Stephanie Meyer’s New Moon, which I had a number of issues with, while I said it wasn’t to my taste, I acknowledged that a lot of folk love this series. The internet is a realm of extremes and I try to make it a rule of thumb to exercise moderation in my reviews.

(A few weeks ago)in a coffee shop I was talking about Twilight with my wife and a friend. A young woman sitting at a neighbouring table became visibly upset with our discussion, stood up and left. Had this been a discussion on the internet, her reaction may have manifested itself as a page long diatribe on our failings as human beings. This is the difference between the real world and online discussion, and it applies to every popular forum, from message board debates on American health care to the dissolution of Spider-Man’s marriage. I feel this is a great shame, so I try to eschew negativity when I can." - Emmett O'Cuana, ABookADayTillICanStay.wordpress.com

" I only request books that I'm fairly certain I'll like. I've been reading for most of my life and I know my own taste by now. ;) If it's something I really can't stand, I won't finish it, but if it's a book I just didn't like much, I try and say good things about it and then explain why it didn't work for me. I don't want to keep someone who would really like the book from reading it." - Kelly Hager, KellyVision.wordpress.com

"Like I would if somebody had a really ugly baby. I wouldn't come right out and say that is the ugliest baby I've ever seen but I'm not going to be telling you to enter in a cute baby contest anytime soon.

But seriously, I try to respect that it IS like somebody's baby by having tact and trying to not be harsh. I've learned in college how to be professional while disagreeing and giving negative opinions and I think that is important. It is my personal blog but it is a part of my resume so I try to be professional yet let my personality show through.

I will not, however, compromise myself and my opinions for the sake of making an author like me or sleep better at night. If your book sucks, well, I'm going to explain why. I might try to throw in a redeeming aspect of it but I'm not going to try to be nice and gentle all the time. The reality of it is that not everyone is going to like a book. It might not be everybody's taste and not everyone will "get" it. My job, in a negative review, is to explain why I did not care for it so that a reader might be able to gauge whether or not they will enjoy it. I let myself be available on email to more fully explain a book to readers wanting to know more." - Jamie Bennett, PerpetualPageTurner.blogspot.com

As I mentioned in the last post, no one enjoys negative reviews. They can be difficult to write and even more difficult to read. The best negative reviews are honest reviews that incorporate specific critiques. Pull excerpts out and analyze them. If it's the writing style, what was it specifically that didn't work for you? What could the author have done differently? Is it the subject matter, the character development...? How did that hinder the novel?

Before I learned how to say no to authors seeking reviews, I had accepted a book that I knew I was not going to like. It was called "The Spiritual Significance of Music" and the author had interviewed over 1,000 artists and musicians to find out what the spiritual significance of music meant to them. I gave the book 2 stars, and struggled to finish it. But finish it I did, and when I wrote the review, I pulled out quotes and themes - and countered them with my own personal feelings.

The author contacted me almost immediately to thank me for such a well thought out review, and shared it on his facebook page.

That is when you know you have created something worthwhile for your readership. Sharing your personal reactions, but also reviewing in such a way as to try to find the books audience too.

What did you think?

Was this post helpful and insightful? Was there anything here that shocked you? What interactions have you had with publishers or authors that support or negate what you read here?

Next week, we will find out what the authors and publishers think about bloggers/reviewers who decline requests to review copies from self published or independent authors/publishers.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Review: A Cake Appeared

Read 11/15/10 - 11/16/10
3.5 Stars - Strongly recommended to readers familiar with genre

Now this is how you write unconventional short stories!

Shane Jones blew me away with his novel Light Boxes, in which the month of February refused to release the townspeople from it's cold clutches.

In A Cake Appeared, - a collection of poems, fables, and scrolls - we get a larger sample of the type of writing Shane is capable of.

Twisted and dark, silly and strange, we discover the man with the ax for a nose, the nightmares that cause townfolk to kill themselves, a man and woman who build chimneys around themselves.... it's all so bizarre, and yet, at the same time, quite believable.

Here is a sample of what this collection contains:

"I promise to myself each year that I will set the trees on fire. I have imagines what burning trees would look like through the blue stained kitchen windows. I can see the leaves as ghosts burning and flying and curling through the air. And each year I find myself in bed like all the rest of you, small and sweater clad." - pg.72

This collection is perfect for readers who like their short stories with a splash of imagination!

Review: Pee on Water

Read 11/10/10 - 11/12/10
3 Stars - Recommended for readers familiar with genre

Rachel B. Glaser has a unique way of looking at the world. She sees beyond the surface, into the blood and marrow of things, and she exposes that through the people and things that populate her collection of short stories in Pee on Water.

In the story THE JON LENNIN XPERIENCE - Our main guy's sister purchases him a Beatles reality video game. He is anti-everything technological and ignores the game for many days. Eventually he decides to give it a whirl and ends up becoming obsessed with being John Lennon.

In THE TOTEMS ARE GRAND - a family comes together to celebrate their terminally ill grandmother's life by creating totem poles out of the trees in their yard.

THE KID is a story about a bored guy who takes his dog and his girlfriend on a road trip to deliver drugs for his dead brothers friend. On one particular drop off, someone holds the kid and his girlfriend at gunpoint - and forces the kid to choose between his girlfriend, who he loves having sex with, and his dog, a loyal sidekick who he has raised since it was a puppy.

THE MONKEY HANDLER deals with the complicated and tragic ending of a puppy-dog crush in the confined quarters of space travel.

The title story, PEE ON WATER, takes a creative look at the process of evolution.

These stories were my favorite - by miles. They had the perfect pace. They were pretty straight-forward. They snagged my attention from the first sentence and held it throughout the entire story.

Some of the others, like ICONOGRAPHIC CONVENTIONS OF PRE- AND EARLY RENAISSANCE, INFECTIONS, MY BOYFRIEND BUT TRAGIC, and MCGRADY's SWEETHEART, appeared to take on too much all at once. They confused and frustrated me, and in the case of ICONOGRAPHIC and MCGRADY'S - turned me off so much that I stopped reading them and moved on to the next one.

Rachel takes the english language and makes it her own. No matter what story you're reading, you can see her fingerprints all over them. I would be very interested to see what she could do with a full length novel.

Many thanks to Publishing Genius for sending me the review copy! Check out Pee on Water for the Kindle and Nook. And check out this interview with the author from WeWhoAreAboutToDie.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Your Favorite Book Can Tell Time

With the holidays right around the corner, tell me this isn't the coolest gift idea ever?! A step by step guide on how to turn a favorite book into a clock.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Review: Cursed

Read 11/9/10 - 11/10/10
4 Stars: Strongly recommended

This novel was exactly what I needed because I:

1. Finally threw in the towel on a three-week struggle with my previous read.
2. Wanted something fun and fast to help me fall in love with books again.
3. Was dying to read me a little Jeremy C. Shipp.

Cursed is a novel unlike any other. When the book opens, Nicholas has been slapped in the face 11 days in a row. He is expecting #12 to come from his sister. He is pretty sure that he is cursed.

He starts to question whether it is something he is bringing upon himself until he talks to his friend Cicely, who is also struggling with a strange curse of her own - an inability to let go of a tennis ball for fear that the world will end.

Together, this team of two join forces with Nicholas's blind roommate - who has an unhealthy obsession with profiling serial killers - and Abbey - a girl who answers their wanted posters for other 'cursed' people - in an effort to uncover whoever it was that did this to them.

An absolute page turner from the first to the last, Cursed hooked me with it's list-fetish narrator, who outlines almost every thought and action in a humorous 1. 2. 3. format. The author creates these perfectly fucked up, quirky, lovable characters that you can't help but root for, and delivers them to you on a plate that is overflowing with witty comments and a side of neuroses.

Jeremy C. Shipp has definitely caught my attention with this novel, and will have me quickly seeking out his others... A clever player-on-words, an active tweeter, and a man with a unique imagination, Jeremy twists the english language and knocks it to its knees. And the world really should take notice!

A great introduction into the realm of Bizarro fiction, for those who have yet to wet their feet, and a softer horror fiction for those who want to skip the screams and just get their creep on.

What I Want to Know

Welcome to TNBBC's "What I Want To Know" - a mini series of sorts that will hopefully answer some of the questions and quiet some of the concerns I know fellow bloggers, authors, and publishers have regarding how to choose a reviewer or book to review, review etiquette, how to pitch and be pitched.. among other things.

Last week, we listened as the book bloggers explained how they choose what they will read for review. These week, the ball is back in the authors' and publishers' court, because I want to know:

How do you handle negative reviews?

Here is what they said:

"As we all know, reading tastes can be very subjective and not all reviews can be as positive as you’d hope they would be. It’s certainly easier to stomach a negative review if the criticisms of the book are constructive and thoughtful. And you have to consider the fact that the reviewer is reviewing the book on behalf of its intended audience, and of course not every book is a great fit for every audience. You can’t dwell on negative reviews; you just have to read them, consider them, and move on." - Marisa, Graywolfpress

"I would leave (the review) as is, and likely not approach the reviewer again unless I was in agreement with the reasoning behind the review, and felt it to be smart and demonstrate careful reading." - Lucinda, Book Marketer

"Thankfully, my book isn't out yet until January, so I haven't had to deal with negative reviews yet! Most writers advise against reading reviews altogether, but I'm enough of a narcissist that I doubt I can resist the allure. When I encounter the first negative book review of my book on a blog or review site, I will undoubtedly transform from my mild-mannered self into a fire-breathing, angry demon and leave scathing comments on the post ripping the reviewer apart on a very personal level. And then link to the negative review from my blog, Facebook, and Twitter feed and ask my friends and followers to join in tearing the reviewer apart." - Andrew Shaffer, HuffPost columnist and author of GREAT PHILOSOPHERS WHO FAILED AT LOVE (Harper Perennial, Jan '11)

"They are to be expected because writing is so subjective. I had a couple of mediocre reviews for Venus and I posted the links for my readers to see. I never respond to reviews. Okay, I take that back. When my poetry collection After the Poison was reviewed by The Pedestal, the reviewer called me a racist after failing to read the collection in context with its political themes. It was clear this reviewer had their own agenda and I wrote a very strong letter to the editor and reviewer, but I also posted the review. That is the only time I have protested a review because it moved from critical thinking to personal attack." - Collin Kelley, Poet, journalist, social media consultant, author of Conquering Venus

"I haven't gotten one yet. But to go back to an earlier point from a different angle, a good book reviewer is one who can write a critical review in such a way that even the author says, "yeah, okay; that's fair."" - Gene Doucette, author of Immortal

I love the variety in responses here! A confident author with a sense of humor, a publisher who understands not every book is a great fit for every reader, a poet who links his readers to the negative as well as the positive... It's great to hear how well negative reviews are received by the people who supply us our books.

Writing a negative review can be a very difficult thing to do. When I've written them in the past (thankfully this is something I do not have to do very often) I am basically reviewing the feelings I had as I read the book, and stick to critiquing the specific elements of the story line or writing that did not work for me . I never bash or belittle the novel or author or use subjective adjectives. I also try to offer up some constructive feedback - what would have made this novel work better? what could the author have done differently?

I also try to point out the things that DID work for me. It helps to keep in mind that this novel might be perfect for someone, somewhere out there. I want to try to help this novel find it's readership!

As you can see from the statements listed above, most people want to know what it is about their work that you didn't like. They understand that not everyone is going to like what they wrote, or what they publish. Be honest, be constructive, and give examples. Write a review you can be proud of!

What did you think?

Was this post helpful and insightful? Was there anything here that shocked you? What interactions have you had with publishers or authors that support or negate what you read here?

Next week, we turn the tables and hit up the book bloggers - I want to know how they handle writing negative reviews. Be sure to check back next week to see what they had to say! Thanks for reading...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Giving Up - Aurorarama

Started 10/21/10
Threw the towel in 11/9/10

Pages read: 386 out of 409

I just made one of the hardest decisions in my life: giving up on a book!

This is something I just simply do.not.do. so it is strange for me to admit defeat and just chuck Aurorarama to the side like this. And with only 22 pages left to go??? Well, I look at it this way... At least you can't say I didn't give it a fighting chance!

It started out really slow and rough for me. I couldn't get a handle on what the storyline was, and kept flipping back through the pages I had just finished reading to try to get a better understanding of what was taking place.

Then, just as my motivation started slipping, right around the 200 page mark, the book began to get incredibly creepy and twisted, and I finally found myself sucked in and unwilling to put it down.

And then, somehow, somewhere towards the end of the book, it all just started falling apart again. To the point where I found myself even more frustrated and confused than I was in the beginning!

The book has so much potential - An underground movement to purge New Venice of it's current leadership, street police and policy enforcers called Gentlemen of the Night, an evil magician, secret Siamese Twins, and Eskimo orgies.... Tell me this doesn't sound like the recipe for a great book?

I am thinking that this book needed a stronger editor - one who could take the mumble-jumbleness of the story and organize it into a cleaner, smoother novel. There was so much right about it - but in the end, it just didn't work for me.

So much so, that I simply could not bring myself to read the final 22 pages. I care that little about how the novel ends. It's just not worth my time to find out. My motivation finally packed it's bags and took off running down the road when I wasn't looking... Never to return.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Seeing Your Review in Print - Priceless!

(click on photo for close up)

Author Gene Doucette and his publisher Lisa Hamel-Reader, of Hamel Integrity Publishing, each deserve a big bear hug and kiss on the cheek. I came home from work today to find a signed copy of Immortal on my doorstep, and nearly peed my pants when I opened it and saw my NAME and a portion of MY REVIEW on the inside page!!!!

There is no better feeling than what I am feeling right now! Thank you both for acknowledging this teeny tiny book blogger. And for making all of this so worth while!

The book is available now - run out and buy it! Support these guys! I promise you won't be disappointed.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Where's My Motivation?

Needed in order to finish my current read : AURORARAMA

Last seen: October 21st, shortly after starting current read.

Responds best when approached with new books by indie authors and/or indie publishers.

Distracted easily by Twitter, Goodreads, Blogspot, and Facebook.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Megan's Way Giveaway

Melissa Foster, founder of The Women's Nest, has offered to give away 3 signed copies of her novel "Megan's Way"!

Here is book description according to Goodreads:

"What would you give up for the people you love?

When Megan Taylor, a single mother and artist, receives the shocking news that her cancer has returned, she'll be faced with the most difficult decision she's ever had to make. She'll endure an emotional journey, questioning her own moral and ethical values, and the decisions she'd made long ago. The love she has for her daughter, Olivia, and her closest friends, will be stretched and frayed.

Meanwhile, fourteen-year-old Olivia's world is falling apart right before her eyes, and there's nothing she can do about it. She finds herself acting in ways she cannot even begin to understand. When her internal struggles turn to dangerous behavior, her life will hang in the balance.

Megan's closest friends are caught in a tangled web of deceit. Each must figure out how, and if, they can expose their secrets, or forever be haunted by their pasts."
Take a peek at the book trailer here.

The giveaway will end on November 13th.

Here are the rules for entering:

1 - Leave a comment here telling me why you would like one of the three signed copies of this book.

2 - Please do not enter if you have won a book from this blog in the last 3 months to give some of the other followers an opportunity to win.

3 - You must currently be living in the US and Canada. And you must leave a way for me to contact you in the event that you are chosen to win.

I will choose the three winners at random once the giveaway has ended. Good luck!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I Miss the Old Me

I was feeling nostalgic and took a peek through some of my older blog posts... from when I first broke into the blogging scene 11 months ago. (my how time flys!)

I really enjoyed my younger blogger self, and will be making a new year's resolution to revive some of my old funky spirit! Like listing the review books that are forever being added to the TBR piles (yes, plural pile..as in 'more than one'..yikes!), and all of the bookish events I was excited to be going to, and the cool bookish things I found while lurking around the internet. Like loosening up and having fun with it again, rather than taking it all so gosh darn serious!

I got a kick out of me then, so I am going to bring me back! Screw the whole recent 'oh my god i'm getting old' age-crisis thing I've got going on... I'm going to rock this blog like it's 2012!

Watch out World. I'm Baaaaaacckkkkkk....

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What I Want To Know

Welcome to TNBBC's "What I Want To Know" - a mini series of sorts that will hopefully answer some of the questions and quiet some of the concerns I know fellow bloggers, authors, and publishers have regarding how to choose a reviewer or book to review, review etiquette, how to pitch and be pitched.. among other things.

Last week, the authors and publishers explained how they decide who they will pitch books to. This week I throw it back over to the bloggers to find out:

How do you decide what you will accept and/or read for review?

I wanted to know if they weighed their decision on genre, or niche, and also what they thought drew the requests for reviews to them.

Here's what they had to say:

"I will accept anything but non-fiction. To be honest... it is just too hard to review. I love all things paranormal, or thriller, so I tend to steer towards those if I am picking out a book for a pleasure read, but my main audience (as of the last several months) has been indie based. Indie authors (I think) have realized I can give clear cut, unbiased opinions, and constructive criticism. If I dislike a book, I am going to tell you why, and offer up the techniques I think could have made it a success." Misty Baker, KindleObsessed.com

" 'A Book A Day Til I Can Stay’ has a very simple premise. I am reading and reviewing book titles for the duration of my appeal to gain residency in Australia. So this is part writing exercise, part would-be performance art in a sense. I will often try to challenge myself by reading books I am either not familiar with, or that belong to a genre I have not had much exposure to. After ninety-one days/books/reviews, I have found myself reading more detective fiction than ever before, as well as romance novels and histories. Previously I was a devoted fan of science fiction and fantasy. For the sake of my readers, and in an attempt to avoid repetitiveness, I try to avoid material that I am too familiar with. Given the length of time required by the challenge to read and review a book every day, I have relied on my local library in Thirroul, New South Wales. Buying books each week would have financially crippled me. I have found the selection at the library quite extensive and have taken to simply snatching off the shelves books I have never heard of, as I’m fairly confident I will get a decent read. The only book I have refused to read so far is Tolstoy’s War and Peace. I doubt I could cover that in a day." Emmett O'Cuana, ABookADayTillICanStay.Wordpress.com

" I read fiction pretty exclusively and I read everything but science fiction and romance novels, pretty much. I like mysteries/suspense, chick lit, YA (paranormal and otherwise) and general fiction. When I go to request a book, I consider the synopsis or if I've heard anything about it." Kelly Hager, Kellyvision.wordpress.com

" I decide based on the following factors: 1) If it sounds interesting or appealing to me in any way. 2) How much time I'll have in the next couple months/how many books I have awaiting me. 3) The expectations of the author and when they want me to have the review done by. I'm not getting paid to do this so I'm not going to rearrange my schedule just because you want it done in a week after I get it. 4) A small factor is if it is a publisher I've worked with before. If I like you and think you are good to work with and enjoy the books you send me then I'm more likely to accept the book even if it doesn't sound like a book I'm dying to read. I'm loyal. I read from every genre and would not say that I have a niche. I think what sets me apart is how eclectic my reading habits are from others. You might find me reading a classic, then a YA paranormal romance novel, followed by a book about Edie Sedgwick or a favorite band of mine and then I might rave about a new cookbook. I'm a new blogger so I'm still TRYING to find my "blog self" and what sets me apart but I think between my eclectic taste and my quirky personality I'll be set apart." Jamie Bennett, PerpetualPageTurner.blogspot.com

Many bloggers have been building up a reputation with authors and publishers and have established strong working relationships with them. Requests for reviews are pouring in from everywhere, by everyone. Others are reaching out on their own and just beginning to learn the in's and out's of approaching publishers or authors.

The best thing a blogger can do is to narrow their "reading range" and learn how to say no.

It can be very easy to say yes to every book that is pitched to you, but by focusing your blog on a specific genre or niche (for example, TNBBC likes to focus on Indie authors and publishers), you are doing yourself, your contacts, and your readers a world of good.

Not every book will be the right one for you. But that doesn't mean you can't continue to find ways to work with the author or publisher who presents it to you. I find that offering a giveaway, or interview, to spotlight them and their work sometimes works out better than reviewing a book that you don't like. You may find yourself struggling to write a negative review to an audience (your audience) who wouldn't have wanted to read the book in the first place.

Which leads us nicely into next week's topic: How the authors and publishers handle negative reviews.

See you back here again next week! Same blog site, same blog channel!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"Marvellous Hairy" Giveaway

Come one, come all....
We are releasing our Inner Monkeys in celebration of the

Author Mark A. Rayner has offered to give away a signed copy of his novel to one monkey-licious commenter!

Here is the novel's blurb as copied from Mark's website:

"So hair is sprouting in unspeakable places and you can no longer carry a tune, but if you're a surrealistic artiste with an addiction to Freudian mythology and guilt-free sex, turning into a monkey has its upsides. Nick Motbot may be evolving as a novelist, but his friends aren't too sure about his DNA -- at least, not since Gargantuan Enterprises started experimenting with it. And once they figure out what's happening to him, they decide to set things right.

MARVELLOUS HAIRY is a satirical novel about a group of friends sticking it to the man the only way they know how, with equal parts grain alcohol and applied Chaos Theory.

Part literary fun-ride, part fabulist satire, and part slapstick comedy, MARVELLOUS HAIRY is about the power of friendship and love, the evils of power, and the dangers of letting corrupt CEOs run our world. And most importantly, it's about how we have to release our fun-loving inner monkeys."

And that is exactly what Mark and I would like you, dear blog reader, to share! How do you release your inner monkey?

Check out chapter one to wet your appetite!

The giveaway ends November 10th.

Here's how to enter to win:

1 - Leave a comment here telling us how you release your inner monkey - that childlike, mischievous part of you that most people would never condone.

2 - Please do not enter if you have won a book from this blog in the last 3 months.

3 - You must currently be living in the US and Canada. And you must leave a way for me to contact you in the event that you are chosen to win.

Mark and I will choose the best Inner Monkey comment and announce the winner here on November 11th.

May the best Monkey win!

Author Interview w/ Joshua Mohr

TNBBC was thrilled to host a live, week-long interactive interview with Joshua Mohr, author of Termite Parade and Some Things That Meant the World to Me .

A writer, teacher, and insomniac who finds inspiration between the hours of midnight and five a.m., Joshua gave us free reign to his brain!

TNBBC asked: Where did you get the inspiration for Termite Parade?

I like this question about the book's inspiration, but it's really hard to answer. I knew I wanted to write about lying. And I knew that I wanted it to be immediate, compressed, almost like reading a stage play. I wanted it to be short enough that a reader could ingest the whole experience in a few hours.

I carried those "parameters" around for awhile, and then a friend of mine knocked her two front teeth out. As she was enduring the dental procedures to fix things up and relaying the severe pain to me, I built the story backward from there... knowing I wanted my female protagonist to be missing her chompers.

Tracy said: I was wondering how did you choose the title Termite Parade? How does the title relate to the characters and plot of the book? I am also interested in the cover art and it's significance to the book.

I actually have a hard time with titles. "Termite Parade" was probably my 8th attempt. I kept sending them to my agent and editor and they kept saying "Uh-huh, nice try, kid. Maybe go get an MBA instead..."

I finally settled on TP because one of the narrators has termites infesting his body, chomping on his organs (or so he imagines)... it's really his guilt gutting him as he's done something pretty terrible to his girlfriend.

Also, the phrase seemed to modify the whole flawed cast of characters: the dictionary defines termites as "insects that live in colonies and are highly destructive." I don't know about you, but that certainly sums up a few people I know!

The cover was designed by a San Francisco collage artist named Aubrey Rhodes. She's amazing.

TNBBC said: I love how you mixed in your own ideas with things that were happening around you at the time. It brings a whole new life to the novel that way!

When I was reading Termite Parade, I found myself relating to both characters so strongly. In too many ways to express, I'm very much like Mired (the female lead) - refusing or unable at times to see my part in the downfall of a relationship, or believing that I am in the wrong. Yet I'm also much like Derek (the male lead) - in that I allow guilt to eat me up inside before confessing to something.

Do you find that your fans relate more strongly to one character over another, or are they more like me, and see themselves reflected too clearly in both?

I don't actually think writers can separate what's going on in their own lives from their art. Sometimes, we tackle them head on (memoir), and others, we construct a series of metaphors (fiction) to examine what's going on in the weird, charming, scary, exhilirating world around us.

Mired is my absolute favorite character. She's definitely the heart and soul of the book. In Mired, I found a way to excavate all the self-destruction that characterized my twenties and early thirties--I needed to try and find meaning in all that chaos, the "slow learning"... the seeming impossibility of evolving into a better person.

Tracy said: The Termite Parade is a very intriguing book. Is it available in other e-book formats besides the Kindle edition? So far that's the only e-book format I see online.

For now, the only e-format is Kindle. But if you let me know what you're looking for, I can start bugging my publisher... maybe refuse to turn in my next manuscript until they get their e-shit together :)

Sarah said: I read Termite Parade a few weeks back and loved it and I just read Some Things That Meant the World to Me last night all in one sitting. Both were incredibly powerful and I was just wondering if there was a way to write to you and tell you that, when, bam, a message from Goodreads!

I was wondering if you find a broken male character harder or easier to write than a broken female character (Rhonda vs. Mired). Also, I know this must sound crazy, but is it as painful/beautiful to write their stories as it is to read them?

First off, thanks so much for reading both books! It means a lot to me (seriously, I know how many books are out there, and I'm incredibly thankful when anybody takes the time for my sordid little stories.).

I really like the question you're asking here about penning a broken male character versus a damaged female lead. I'd like to answer it two ways:

First--I do my best to deconstruct the idea of gender when it comes to pathos, vulnerability, and shame. We all do things that we're embarrassed by; we all possess that gruesome trove of humiliating memories. So I try to just think about is as a consciousness, independent of gender: maybe that's the writer's real job (or at least one of them)--to fully inhabit the mind, heart, and soul of the character, and not let genitalia trump earnestness.

Second--and only to complicate matters, of course gender is a real thing that needs to be pondered. Mired as a woman sees her life differently than Rhonda, a guy. And it's their very nuances and idiosyncracies that either make the story work or fail.

It comes down to a question of characterization--do you as a writer know your players inside and out? Do you know their secrets, motives, passions, biases? Often, this takes several drafts to figure out the protagonists' secrets, but once you do, that's when they stand on stage and sing.

TNBBC said: Speaking of secrets and passions, can you share a bit of each with us? What is one secret that you kept from someone else, before eventually spilling the beans, and what are the things you are most passionate about?

You're already after my secrets, Lori? We're just getting to know each other! :)

Let's see: a secret: on one vacation, every time people asked what I did for a living I pretended that I'd invented the Caps Lock key and was independently wealthy.

You asked about things I'm passionate about. First one that comes to mind is teaching. I have a fiction workshop here in San Francisco. I also do thesis advising in the MFA program at USF, which is a blast, reading and helping people with their first books.

Abbey said: Some Things That Meant the World to Me is such a visual and visceral novel for me. The physical pulling apart of the house, the snakes, everything to me creates such a brilliant picture I was hoping you could tell us when the book will hit the big screen?

In both (of your novels) your characters are so perfectly fucked up in the most compelling way. I particularly want to share more of Rhonda's world-weary experiences. Have you written more for him or would you consider continuing his story?

Your characters have the most amazing neuroses is it diffcult to stop writing for them or do you enjoy creating new characters around the theme you are writing for?

Thanks for checking out the books. I appreciate it.

I'd like to see Rhonda (the narrator of my first novel) make his big splash in Hollywood, too. I'm getting tired of living in squalor. All this mac and cheese is twacking my skin.

People ask me a lot if there are plans for Rhonda to return. And the answer is I don't know... I'm definitely opposed to a "sequel" for a sequel's sake. But if the right plotline shows itself to me, I enjoy spending time in Rhonda's head and his damaged psyche allows my imagination an incredible liberty.

But the good news is this: the book I'm just finishing up now (and slotted for release next fall) is set in the bar that Rhonda frequents, Damascus. It's an ensemble piece, sort of like an old R. Altman movie, following 7 misfits. I promise to keep it twisted for you, Abbey!

TNBBC asked: What drew you toward teaching? What's the best piece of advice you have given to a student/aspiring author?

The best piece of advice I give students is from Pablo Picasso. In fact, they're such wise words I tattooed them on my arm: "The chief enemy of creativity is good taste."

Artists can't worry about what's popular now, shouldn't pander to an audience. It's our job to set trends, not follow them.

TNBBC asked: What do love most about teaching?

Teaching makes me articulate things about story construction that I may know intuitively (or think I know), but having to explicate it to others, I'm constantly learning new things, shifting prerogatives, evolving my thoughts on how to build narrative.

I also love the community aspect of the classroom, as writers spend so much time alone. Being surrounded by other people who love language helps me balance out all the time sequestered in front of the computer. We need community.

Plus, I'd yammer on like a pretentious douche for free, and the fact that I get paid for it, I feel lucky.

TNBBC asked: What is the writing process like for you? When do you find you write most productively?

I'm an insomniac, so I get most of my words down between midnight and 5 a.m. For me, it's an ideal time because there's no cell, texting, email, etc. The world is so quiet.

I also have this theory (based on absolutely zero science) that for some reason the gap between my conscious and subconscious mind is somehow smaller in the wee hours, and I'm able to access parts of my imagination that don't normally show themselves.

Tracy said: That's funny (last night either right after going to bed or this morning after waking up) I was thinking about the process of book writing and wondering Joshua, do you use any of you actual dreams in the writing of your books or you interpretations of them? If you think of something inspirational in the middle of the night, do you quickly jot it down for future reference and development?

I have a terrifying recurrent dream that my hands are made of carrots and i'm being chased by starving children. I try not to analyze what the hell it might mean...

I do think that dreams can be useful, though it's dangerous to write dreams for your characters (they can seem stilted, boring, spoon-feeding). But when you're able to incorporate your own in vital ways, they can add an exciting layer because they're not bound by "believability" or convention or all the voices in our heads that tell us to play it safe (our inner-critics, who are usually incredibly mean to us).

In "Some Things that Meant the World to Me," the main character comes from a broken home--a literal broken home... its rooms drifting away from one another like the separating continents. That's staight from a dream I had in grad school.

I always tell my students to write rough drafts like they're improvising musicians, go anywhere on the page that their imaginations want to. Don't be self-conscious (that's for revision), but be wanton and strong and liberated.

TNBBC asked: What are you reading right now? And what books or authors are your favorite?

I'm rereading "Infinite Jest" right now. It's been over 10 years since I spent time in that narrative. And it might be a high maintenance read, but man, are the pay offs amazing!

Tracy asked: Does your typical day usually include writing for a book you would like to get published?

I do write every day, or at least five or six late night/early mornings a week. With fiction, you don't normally sell a book until it's done--unlike nonfiction where people sell proposals. Unless, of course, you're a famous novelist, and I'm more likely to work at a fast food restaurant than get famous writing my tawdry stories...). So I've been working for about three years on what will be my next novel, which it sounds like will come out next October.

TNBBC said: Since you bring up your fears of working in a fast food restaurant (jokingly, of course) what were some of the strangest or most embarrassing jobs you have ever held?

My second year of college, I was a chimney sweep. I'd go from house to house, five days a week, almost 10 stops in a day. It was during the OJ Simpson trial, and it was interesting how everyone was watching it when I went in their houses, regardless of demography. Some of them offered me beer, some water, some nothing. Others just glared and told me to be careful on their white carpets. I began judging "good" customers by whether or not I left their houses with a buzz.

Lahni said: First I want to say thank you for spending time with us. I want to know what you were like in school and as a kid growing up. What kinds of classes did you like/hate? How did you do in them? Were you quiet? Popular? Nerdy? That kind of thing. Did you always want to be a writer?

I didn't come to reading and writing until pretty late in life. In fact, I faked my way through every book report until my senior year in high school. The books they were assigning just didn't grab me. There's nothing wrong with Jane Austen and Mark Twain, but I don't want to read stories like that.

It wasn't until a teacher called me on faking a report, threatened to flunk me, and told me I had a weekend to read and critique Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five" or I'd be on the five-year plan. And that's when my life changed; Vonnegut's novel warped everything, in a fantastic way. Suddenly, I saw the powers of reckless imagination I'd been craving. I asked that teacher for a reading list and he turned me onto some heavy hitters--Kesey, Orwell, Paley, Murakami, Lori Moore, etc. I've been a book-junkie ever since.

As for whether or not I was nerdy or whatnot, it would depend who you asked. I played in rock and roll bands, dressed like a postmodern rodeo clown, was an "average" student, and dropped a lot of acid in high school, which gave me cred in some circles, but in others (namely those who were going to good colleges), I was probably something of a laughing stock.

To which the narrator of "Slaughterhouse Five" would say: "So it goes..."

Sarah said: I know we're supposed to be talking about Termite Parade in this thread, and while I did like that a lot, I have one more question about Some Things That Meant The World To Me. Did you give Rhonda his own name in your head? You don't have to tell me what it is, but I'd feel better knowing his name exists somewhere, even if you/he don't use it.

I'm just as happy to talk about STTMTWTM, as opposed to TP. I did name Rhonda, and I had several endings for the book that dealt more explicitly with Rhonda's real name. In fact, if you'd like to check one of them out, here's a URL:


And yes, I know what his real name is. I'll tell you in person, but not online. Next time you're in San Francisco, let's get a beer.

Also, at that same web address, there are extra chapters written in the first person (the "I" voice) from old lady Rhonda's and Vern's perspective. Neither gets to speak on their own behalf in the actual book, so please let me know what you think of their voices.


Many thanks to Joshua Mohr for allowing us to take up some of his time this week, and for being such a great sport! And thanks also goes out to the TNBBCers who participated in this week's author interview!

For information on the Joshua Mohr, visit his website, view the Termite Parade book trailer, and follow him on Twitter, and Facebook