Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Wolves of Midwinter


The Wolves of Midwinter
by Anne Rice
(Knopf / 0-385-34996-3 / 978-0-385-34996-3 / October 2013 / 400 pages / $25.95 hardcover / $19.49 Amazon / $7.99 Kindle)

The Wolves of Midwinter is Anne Rice's 34th book and the 27th I have read. She is easily my favorite fiction author. This book currently has 766 reviews at Amazon, so Ms. Rice obviously does not need my help to sell her books in huge quantities. This is far from my favorite of her books, so why am I taking the time to review it? The answer to that question will appear after the following brief summary.

After decades of writing about vampires and witches, Anne Rice finally decided to add their best pals to her repertoire, werewolves. Of course I like werewolves at least as much as vampires and witches, so I read The Wolf Gift, the first in this new series, last year. As a longtime fan of both the author and the genre, I rate The Wolf Gift at approximately #15 and The Wolves of Midwinter about #18 among the Anne Rice books that I have read. The head howler is somewhat of an interesting character, but he is certainly no Lestat! The lavish mansion setting hidden in the woods of Northern California is up to Ms. Rice's standard format and the surrounding characters are well developed. The weakness of The Wolves of Midwinter is a storyline that drags on too long in a low level of plot action in several chapters throughout the book. When Anne unleashes the surprises when you least expect them, the old black magic is there, but overall the plot is not as riveting as her best. The author surprised me by releasing another Vampire Chronicle next when I was expecting more from the werewolves. Maybe the pack will stir up more excitement in a future volume.

You may have noticed that I recently reviewed Linda Gould's Handmaidens of Rock and then wrote a second report on Dr. Al past's Two Worlds Daughter. Just before that you might have read one of my most scathing and poignant rants about the current state of publishing. The point is that I intend to tie these posts together in a way you might not expect.

Only Anne and Knopf really know how many copies of The Wolves of Midwinter have been sold, but you can bet it's A LOT. Dr. Past's most recent volume in the Distant Cousin Series has sold moderately in Kindle, but I would guess that I own one of the few copies in print in existence. Linda Gould's latest of four novels has barely sold at all, even though I think it is her best work yet. For the record, Handmaidens has two reviews at Amazon and Two Worlds Daughter has thirteen. For comparison purposes, note that my first book, Plastic Ozone Daydream from 2000, has zero reviews! I have never tracked its sales religiously, but I estimate them to be in the neighborhood of 100-150 copies. Al Past has three books with iUniverse and three with CreateSpace. As with my own four/three split, you can identify the publisher by the price. The iU paperbacks are somewhat overpriced, but the CS books are not. All four of Linda Gould's books are with iUniverse.

The error counts of my own books and those of Linda Gould and Al Past have all lessened with each successive release. All three of us began at the top of what was something of an embarrassing heap of books reviewed over the years here at PODBRAM. Those at the bottom of this sordid pile will chill you to the bone as experienced readers, just like facing a werewolf for the first time. Speaking of which, Anne Rice's 34th book contains more errors than I have ever seen in a top-selling, traditionally published hardback! There are errors of every kind: repeated common words, misused spellings of words that are real words that actually mean something else, misuse of tense, and various other types of boo-boos. What do these errors all have in common? They are the sort that appear in books because human eyes did not read and reread and proofread the text before publishing it. There was an obvious reliance on computer programs to find the errors. Was this by Ms. Rice, her editor, or Knopf in general? Who knows? The point is that the error count of The Wolves of Midwinter easily surpassed those of Handmaidens of Rock and Two Worlds Daughter. The corporate downsizing has come home to roost!

What I want to know is what are you going to do about it? When are you going to realize that there are fresh, high-quality authors out there who may not have entered the traditional publishing world back in 1976 when it was relatively easy? When are you going to wake up and realize that just because the latest Anne Rice book has 58 times the reviews as that of Al Past's latest or 95 times that of my Tiddler Invasion or 383 times that of Linda Gould's latest that the traditionally published book by the big-name author is the superior product? Yes, we can make a difference. We may lack the big names and the big distribution to every Barnes & Noble in the country, but we do not lack the writing talent or the drive and dedication to our craft. We can publish a quality product without the help of Knopf or one of their smug pals in their slowly dying industry!

See Also: Linda Gould's Amazon Page
Dr. Al Past's Amazon Page
Floyd M. Orr's Amazon Page

Monday, November 24, 2014

Distant Cousin: Two Worlds Daughter


Distant Cousin: 
Two Worlds Daughter
by Al Past
(CreateSpace / 1-496-13199-1 / 978-1-496-13199-7 / March 2014 / 316 pages / $13.66 paperback / $12.29 Amazon / $2.99 Kindle)

This is not going to be the traditional book review you might expect to find at PODBRAM. This book was reviewed here a couple of months ago. Consider this one a booster shot to encourage further reading of the series! Two Worlds Daughter is the sixth book in the Distant Cousin Series by Dr. Al Past. I have reviewed the books in the series, including this one, at both PODBRAM and Amazon. Therefore this will be the last word that I shall publicly say about Two Worlds Daughter.

I cannot say for certain where I rank this one in relation to the other five. Of course it cannot offer the introductory excitement of the first book, but it is clearly superior to the the second in the series, probably the weakest of the bunch. My second favorite has always been Reincarnation, the third book, and Two Worlds Daughter fails to knock that one out of second place. Of course your opinions are your own and all are subject to personal interpretation. I can state for certain that if you have enjoyed the previous Distant Cousin books, you will be pleased with this one, too.

The focus in this story is clearly on Ana Darcy's daughter and not Ana herself. If there is a weakness in the reading experience, this is most certainly it. Again, your opinion may differ, but as far as I am concerned, most of the magic of the Distant Cousin storyline comes from the central Ana Darcy character. As with many long-running, successful television series, the storyline has to diversify or it dies the death of repetition. On the other hand, the first season of most sitcoms is comparable to the first book in a fiction series. The recapturing of the initial magic is by nature always fleeting.

Dr. Past continues to educate himself on the mechanics of book publishing and the results are obvious. The editing and proofreading mistakes in this edition are practically nonexistent. The design and layout continues to improve as well. I do have a quibble about the cover: the image is too dark and fuzzy.It certainly lacks shelf appeal to the unseasoned reader of the series. This detail and the fact that Ana Darcy is not the leading character are my only complaints. Overall I cannot recommend all the Distant Cousin books enough, including this one. A new reader might skip books 2-5, but a reading of the original Distant Cousin first would definitely be a good idea. The reader needs a good dose of the origin of Ana Darcy and her story to fully comprehend this one. If you want to learn much more about the Distant Cousin Series, be sure to follow the links below. (The two links listed lead to many others.) For several years now, Dr. Past and his work have consistently remained two of the bright spotlights of The PODBRAM Experience!

See Also: Ana Darcy's Blog
Interview with Dr. Al Past
Review of the original Distant Cousin

Friday, November 14, 2014

Handmaidens of Rock


Handmaidens of Rock
by Linda Gould
(iUniverse / 1-491-74543-6 / 978-1-491-74543-4 / October 2014 / 290 pages / $17.95 paperback / $15.61 Amazon / $2.99 Kindle)


There is little that I can say here that was not stated in my review of Linda Gould's earlier book, The Rock Star's Homecoming. You can refer to that review for the flowery prose (see link below). In no uncertain terms, Handmaidens of Rock is Linda's best work yet, easily deserving of five stars. The author has a genuine knack for taking us back to a nostalgic, more starry-eyed era with her novels. Surely Ms. Gould is writing at least somewhat based on her real experiences! The prose is so clear, the plot twists so familiar from that special time.

The story is a familiar one that occurred all across the USA back in the 1968-74 period in which the action is set. A few naive young men start a band in high school and try to develop it into a famous professional outfit. Linda Gould offers a new perspective as the story is told by three girlfriends of the band members. Candy, Hope, and Theda follow their new love interests into college, where some of the band and its entourage are more interested in an education than are others. The relationships intertwine romantically and otherwise as the group finds itself in several unexpected locations ranging from the Apple Studios in London to a California music festival. The plot twists are grounded just enough to be believable in that remarkable era. All the characters, both primary and secondary, are carefully presented with just the right amount of detail. As a lifelong music fan and a concert promoter during that period, I personally lived through similar experiences. Linda Gould is a genuinely accomplished writer who deserves recognition.

Do not be put off by the iUniverse imprint! As with this author's previous books, Handmaidens of Rock is a thoroughly professional work in every way, from its style to its editing to its proofreading. Typos and other boo-boos are practically nonexistent in this book. The cover is appropriate. The back cover blurb is informative. The special title fonts and layout are exceptional for an iU product. The type face is not too large and neither are the margins, as they are in so many products from this publisher. What you get is a real book offering genuine, professionally produced nostalgic entertainment! Few readers have yet discovered the writing of Linda Gould. The rest simply do not realize what they are missing. Handmaidens of Rock easily makes the top ten list of my favorite books that I have read and reviewed for PODBRAM.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Interview with the Founder


The PODBRAM website has evolved through several iterations since its inception a number of years ago. I have remained mostly mute on both my websites for nearly a year, so I think it is time for an update. Many new readers may stumble upon PODBRAM without realizing the true depth of its history, so here is a recap.

The first draft of my first book was composed in 1966-70. After receiving the unsurprising rejection letters from a few prospective publishers, I left the manuscript filed away for the next fifteen years. As real-life maturity arrives, most of us come to recognize in hindsight the immaturity we possessed back when we wrote our college scribblings. This was certainly true of my experience as I realized just how blatantly obtuse, nonsensical, and silly my earliest navel gazing had been. I began writing in 1984 what would be published decades later as my seventh book. I would totally rewrite my first manuscript as my third published work in 2002. My first published book consisted of a collection of stories I had published serially and locally from 1985 through 1994. The point of this convoluted path is that if we are to become serious authors, first of all we must act like it. If you go into the writing game thinking that your first manuscript will be the next bestseller, your delusions of grandeur are most likely preceding your reputation as a future author.

Now on with the show. In this PODBRAM interview I shall be referred to as 77TA66. That is my Discus name. My real name of course is Floyd M. Orr. You can find me all over the Internet if you care to look. The only reason I have a different Discus name is because I thought I had to have one when I first began with Discus years ago. Otherwise I never post or comment anywhere online except under my own real name. If you think you have ever read a comment on a blog that was written by me under any name other than Floyd M. Orr or 77TA66, you are mistaken.

PODBRAM: When did you first try to reach a national audience?

77TA66: When I began composing a serialized set of stories about Corvettes and other sports cars in 1985, I knew that I had a captive audience for them, the local Corvette club, which at that time at least, was the largest such club in the world at more than 100 members. These stories were typed on a 1959 IBM typewriter, but I planned to eventually publish them in a book format.

PODBRAM: What was the next step in your goal of reaching a larger audience?

77TA66: I knew that computers and the Internet would eventually reach a technological development point at which I could move my plan forward. I had fully realized by this time that my subject matter had limited audience appeal and a couple of publishers already completely controlled the genre. They had rejected my submissions by this point and I was not surprised by that. After all I was attempting to launch my own new genre, what I now call Nonfiction in a Fictional Style.

PODBRAM: Then iUniverse was launched in 1997, right?

77TA66: Yes. After thorough research I decided that iU was head and shoulders above the rest. The release of Plastic Ozone Daydream was a project of massive proportion! First of all, I tried to scan the typewritten pages into my Windows 98 computer. That's when I discovered that OCR software was far from perfect! After wasting an enormous amount of time and effort, I wound up retyping the entire book into Word. There were countless hours expended upon the inclusion of about forty photos and numerous other technical issues, but the book was finally released. Then the real fun began!

PODBRAM: I understand that you had few delusions concerning potential book sales. You never expected to set any element of the book market on fire.

77TA66: I thought if I did much of nothing in promotional effort, that I would sell about 200 copies. Many people had already read some of the material in the serialized stories. They had a basic understanding of the content. Some of them were even personally named in the book! I had hoped to spend some time and money on advertising and maybe sell 1000 copies.

PODBRAM: Things did not exactly turn out that way, did they?

77TA66: My wife and I were retired and we spent all our energy on the promotion of Daydream for a couple of years. We purchased and developed numerous mailing lists. We created flyers, posters, bookmarks, and T-shirts. We licked thousands of stamps and envelopes. We bought print advertising. I even went on a local radio show. Before it was over, we had released four books with iUniverse and spent something over $20,000.

PODBRAM: And you have now sold thousands of copies of your books, right?

77TA66: I quit keeping track years ago, but I can swear in court that to this day my first four books have not collectively sold more than 300 copies. The one of the four that my wife and I have always been certain should have the broadest audience appeal, Timeline of America, has yet to sell twenty copies!

PODBRAM: Wow! Let me catch my breath! I cannot believe you are still writing books. What happened next?

77TA66: Somewhere along the line back in 2000-2002, I began to really dig deeply into Internet research about this astounding phenomenon of Print On Demand books. What I discovered began to really open my eyes. It began with an iU author named Solomon Tulbure who called himself Lord Satan on the iU message board. He was a controversial figure who deliberately riled up a lot of people by spamming their in-boxes and message boards back before the government cracked down on such tacky behavior. In my opinion, he may have been tacky in his approach, but he knew what he was talking about! The fact was that iUniverse never gave a rat's ass if any iU author ever sold a single book and he was the first to fully understand this surprising new concept.

PODBRAM: Was he successful in selling his books?

77TA66: Many times more successful than 98% of the rest of us! His Amazon numbers may appear pathetic now, but we are now several years after his untimely death. It was ruled a suicide by the police, but he always claimed while alive that he would soon be murdered. That's another story.

PODBRAM: What was so significant about the Lord Satan story, as it applies to PODBRAM?

77TA66: Tulbure was not only the first to discover that iU cared only about publishing more and more authors who would sell a minimal quantity of books, but that Amazon was the only retailer that mattered for POD books, online or off. To this day, Amazon sells a minimum of 90% of all POD books sold! It matters little whether we are talking about POD, print, Kindle, or CreateSpace, it's practically all Amazon.

PODBRAM: Let's move forward about fifteen years to the present day. What has changed?

77TA66: In two words, CreateSpace and Kindle, both Amazon products, of course. CS has all but knocked competing POD print operations into the dustbin. The technology has advanced to the point that only a prospective author with more money than brains even considers paying iUniverse or one of their direct competitors, and this includes Amazon's own similar, full-service, overpriced imprint. Anyone with a modicum of computer experience can publish with CreateSpace. You may spend a lot of time with the learning curve, but in the end there is no comparable substitute for CS. My first book with iU had forty small B&W photos; my seventh (with CS, under my NIAFS imprint) had over 200 larger, sharper photographs. The only thing that has not changed is that they are still in B&W. Even CS still charges a ridiculous retail price requirement to publish a print book with color photos.

PODBRAM: I'm sure most of your fiction writers and readers want to hear about Kindle. That format has certainly conquered the world of e-books in an unprecedented manner.

77TA66: No doubt about that! If you want to reach a specific genre audience with a low-priced product, Kindle is king. For nonfiction, larger books, heavily researched works requiring higher financial returns for their creators, works with large numbers of photos, the Kindle phenomenon offers a conundrum beyond the scope of that faced by new fiction authors. The Kindle option does allow photos to be published in full color at a consumer price that will not choke an elephant, but even that concept fights an uphill battle against the common Kindle low-price strategy. I tested this premise with the design and release of my seventh and most recently published book. Only 7% of my total sales have been for the Kindle version, even though the price is a few dollars lower than the print version and nearly all of the included photos are in color!

PODBRAM: That is a shocker! Most POD authors struggle to sell even a small percentage of their output in print these days. The Kindle seems to have taken over. What about other e-book formats?

77TA66: My four iUniverse books and my one text-only CreateSpace publication have also been released with Smashwords, a company that makes them available in the Nook format for Barnes & Noble and in the miscellaneous other formats. My sales, and certainly my royalties, have been a steady trickle. Even I have been surprised at how pathetic the B&N sales have been, although B&N is clearly the ringleader of all my non-Kindle e-book sales. My CS books with photos are way too large in file size to be published with Smashwords.

PODBRAM: What do you see in the future of publishing?

77TA66: Not a pretty picture, that's for sure! With the caveat that I hope I am not offending the many Kindle fans out there, I have to say that there is a certain unmistakable something for nothing attitude that has become all too prevalent. The low price points of Kindle books on the retail consumer market drives that market, period. If you think the truth is otherwise, I am afraid you are sadly mistaken. If you are a new author trying to break into a genre fiction market, by all means publish in the Kindle format, but if you want to sell any serious numbers, your retail price point must be low, preferably below $5. You nonfiction guys can join me at CreateSpace. No other format or publisher is likely to ever surpass these two for the unknown and little-known author marketplace.

PODBRAM: Some experts think Barnes & Noble and other bookstore chains are already in their death throes? Do you agree with this?

77TA66: A couple of years ago, I was certain of it, but I recently read about a situation of which I was previously unaware. Did you know that once upon a time when Apple was struggling to survive that Microsoft invested a wad of cash in Apple to keep their competitor alive? They did this to avoid an attack of monopoly regulations from the federal government. Smart, huh? If it comes down to the wire, I would not be at all surprised if Amazon does the same thing with B&N. Otherwise, yes, I do expect we shall see the demise of the store chain and website, the latter of which has been quite pathetic since the store corporation took it over a number of years ago. The Kindle has undoubtedly stomped the Nook into the dirt.

PODBRAM: Will we soon see the extinction of print books?

77TA66: Only if the publishers change their outrageous pricing policies of books containing color photos, and only if nonfiction and research and reference books disappear from the culture. In other words, no. I think the dichotomy of Kindle for fiction and print for nonfiction will only grow larger. Unfortunately, the publishing of bullshit by celebrities will also continue to grow while the words of inspiring, intelligent authors will languish. As with everything else in our rotten culture, money screams and everything else falters.

PODBRAM: The current reality sucks, but could we leave this discussion on a somewhat higher note?

77TA66: My most recent book is my largest and most expensive, and it is also my best selling. The irony is that this is that same book that I started out to write and publish in 1984. Back then I changed my mind because I thought the subject matter held the least appeal for a wide audience. As I stated above, my book with potentially the largest and broadest market has been my weakest seller. After well over a decade in the publishing and marketing game, I have to admit that I have learned the lesson from Lord Satan. To become a success as a nobody author, you have to have a target market. You must be able to shoot an arrow into the bull's eye of that target, no matter how small it might be. You can tell potential readers how great your book is in the most perfectly scripted language you can muster and no one will care a whit. You cannot buy their attention with advertising, either. Unless your book's title is so generic and boring as to be nauseating in its lack of creativity, no one will search for it on Amazon. You have to spoon feed the potential audience. You have to hit the target. Think like Robin Hood or Annie Oakley and maybe you will get lucky and sell a few books. Welcome to a very exclusive club!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Scarlet Kingfisher


The Scarlet Kingfisher: 
Discovery of a New Species 
by Robert Henry Benson
(CreateSpace / 1-500-71684-7 / 978-1-500-71684-4 / August 2014 / 328 pages / Paperback $9.95 / Amazon $8.96 / Kindle $4.99)

Reviewed by Dr. Al Past for PODBRAM
 

When I was a youngster I went through a period when I read some of my father's whodunnits. One series he particularly loved was by Dick Francis, a one-time British jockey turned mystery writer. Frances must have written forty books set within the world of horse racing and I probably read ten before I went on to something else. Each one featured a different angle on horse racing, from the points of view of a jockey, trainer, bookie, owner, or the like. With each one I felt I had been given an inside glance by an expert into an interesting field I'd never have known about otherwise. To this day I've never seen a horse race live, nor bet on one, but I'm still happy to know a little about an area of our society that, until then, I knew nothing about. A mystery is a mystery, but if you can learn something while being entertained, how could that not be good?

In The Scarlet Kingfisher, a young professor looking to achieve promotion and tenure learns of a possible new species of bird in South Texas, something that is not impossible but extremely rare and noteworthy. Such a discovery would practically guarantee instant fame and a successful academic career. Complications ensue, of course: a dead body, bizarre behavior by the department head, a mysterious Asian billionnaire, being arrested and jailed by a small town sheriff, and more. There will be no spoilers here. It's a mystery.



All this is by way of saying that The Scarlet Kingfisher is an entertaining thriller per se, but perhaps even more interesting as a look at the life of a wildlife scientist, professor, and bird lover. We not only see the severe South Texas ranchland and wildlife through the mind of an expert far more observant than we are, we also get to watch him practice his craft using skills and techniques that are unknown and undreamed of by the general public. The story may change the way you think about "bird watchers."



The book reads cleanly. There are no major editing issues. 

See Also: Robert Henry Benson's Goodreads page
The Big Year, an excellent movie about birdwatching

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Two Worlds Daughter


Two Worlds Daughter
by Dr. Al Past
(CreateSpace / 1-496-13199-1 / 978-1-496-13199-7 / March 2014 / 316 pages / $13.66 paperback / $12.29 Amazon / $2.99 Kindle)

 As a reader and reviewer of all six of Al Past's Distant Cousin books, I rate this one as the second best of the sequels. Of course you can never duplicate that first introduction to the exquisite Ana Darcy in the first book! Like my other two favorites, DC1 and DC3, Two Worlds Daughter is one of the longer books in the series, and I like them that way.

This DC6 stars Ana's seventeen-year-old daughter Clio and her ex-Navy SEAL bodyguard, Fergus. Clio discovered earlier in life, and in an earlier book, that she had special healing powers she could impart to patients through a special lightness of touch, an exquisite massage. She had proven prior to finishing high school that she distinctly had possession of a delicate healing power. In a search for more knowledge of this unusual talent, she joins a small entourage of doctors and nurses who are devoting two weeks of their time in a small town in New Mexico. Forever the protective mom, Ana insists that Clio travel only with a protector of both her person and her secret identity.

The story unfolds pleasantly, slowly and smoothly through the first half of the book. There may not be much excitement happening, but the reader is easily sucked down the rabbit hole of the storyline. The deep experience and professionalism imparted by the author guides the reader to a second half with considerably more action and surprises. The special relationships among the characters, Ana and her friends and extended family, Clio and her patients, and Clio and her recalcitrant traveling companion, will warm your heart much like that first meeting with Ana Darcy did. The book is never long enough as far as all the Distant Cousin Series go. The ending arrives all too quickly.

Two Worlds Daughter is the sixth book in a very entertaining fiction series suitable for all ages. Dr. Al Past has created a wonderful storyline with broad appeal. I highly recommend that any intellectually curious reader begin with the first book in the series. You will not be able to put it down. I also recommend a perusal of the Ana Darcy Blog (link below) to see the complete three-dimensional story that Al has created. Note that the story has been contracted to a movie agent, a fate it most certainly deserves. As All-American entertaining fiction, the Distant Cousin Series is hot stuff! 

See Also: Al's Ana Darcy Blog
The Original Distant Cousin 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Ghost Ship of the Desert



by Michael Cole
(Foremost Press / 1-939-87011-9 / 978-1-939-87011-7 / April 2014 / 200 pages / $13.97 Amazon / $4.99 Kindle)

Reviewed by Dr. Al Past for PODBRAM

There are two reasons I looked forward to Michael Cole’s Ghost Ship of the Desert:  (1) I love sea stories set in the time wooden ships, and (2), I was raised in El Paso, in the great Chihuahan Desert. To combine both concepts in one story was an intriguing idea. My initial enthusiasm was dimmed somewhat, however, by the cover, which shows an improbable fully rigged ship (though without sails on the yards, true) lying half buried in sand. Its rigging is completely intact, with all lines and ropes tight—even the ratlines! These lines would need daily attention, even hourly attention, to maintain their tautness on a modern vessel, but on a ghost ship in the desert? That’s not going to be the case.
 
Still, I should know better than anyone that a book should not be judged by its cover, since I have penned a number of novels with astronomical photos on the covers though the stories are actually only about ten per cent science fiction, being set solidly on our good Earth. Several hard core sci-fi fans have objected in strong terms. They have a point, even if the stories are good ones.

Fortunately, Ghost Ship of the Desert turned out to be a decent story too, despite the further contradiction that the ship of the title turned out, on page three, to be a Spanish galleon. The ship on the cover is a vessel several centuries newer than the tubby, hardy vessels of the days of the Spanish Empire.

In the story, we find an investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times is sent to report on a political squabble over the fate of the Salton Sea, a highly saline, highly toxic dumping ground for various California entities. In so doing, he stumbles into a murder mystery involving, among other things, the ghost ship of the title, a semi-deranged ex-SEAL Native American, rare and valuable black pearls, a gorgeous red-headed scientist with a violent boyfriend, and murder. The result is a mystery that fits squarely in its niche: a detective story replete with danger, romance, and a shadowy perpetrator or perpetrators. (As a bonus, we learn that back in sixteenth century and even later, the Salton Sea, now landlocked, was occasionally open to the sea, so that the occasional ship might indeed have sailed upon it. It’s not difficult to find lost ships and possible lost treasure mentioned online.)

All in the story is not smooth sailing, however. The text reads well enough provided you are not the sort who trips up at comma splices and similar copy editing oversights (as I am). There are some plot holes, not unknown in complex mystery stories. Most are minor, but I have to mention one which this former desert rat had to shake his head at: the notion that a three or four hour sandstorm could completely cover a Spanish galleon (or completely uncover it), and that after centuries under the sand and with some missing planks in the deck, the area below decks will remain open enough for a person to walk around and hunt for treasure chests. My family found the spring sandstorms sent drifts of sand into even a tightly sealed-up house. Left to accumulate for 400 years, I’m certain all our furniture would have been buried. And probably the refrigerator too.

Finally, I found the characters rather flat. The relentless investigative reporter and the traffic-stopping red haired scientist who inevitably falls for him fulfilled their functions in the story but were not quite unique enough to lodge in my long-term memory.

The bottom line is that Ghost Ship of the Desert is a worthwhile read but also a good example of the difficulty of putting out a polished, professional product independently or with a small staff. That requires meticulous attention to detail—to hundreds of details—a daunting task indeed, and that’s the good news. The rest of the story involves marketing, and we won’t even go into that here, except to mention that this blog offers quality advice and a good selection of the most helpful links in the column to the left.
 

See Also: Other Books by Michael Cole