Wednesday, January 30, 2008

John Grisham

I watched the very informative interview with John Grisham on Charlie Rose last night and I want to make a few comments. You may not know that he graduated from Mississippi State University six years after I did. Although I had already moved to Texas by the time Mr. Grisham was making a name for himself at my old alma mater, I have followed his career at a distance. He went on to earn a law degree at Ole Miss, where he still spends much of his time, and then he practiced law for a while in Southaven, MS, where he had gone to high school. Back in the Sixties, I knew Southaven as the Mississippi town where Elvis kept his horses just south of Whitehaven. Southaven was a small town back then. Now it's just South Memphis, MS.

The point of this story, though, does not concern Memphis, horses, or Elvis. It's about writing and publishing quality books, and Mr. Grisham had plenty to say about the subject. He said there are two parts of the business that he does not particularly enjoy; however, he did emphasize that at least one of them is quite brief in duration. He does not enjoy creating the complete outline of a story. Just as Danielle Steele said to Larry King a while back, it usually takes about a year to work up a complete outline. The actual composition of the book usually takes less time than the outline. The second thing he said he does not enjoy is the editing and proofreading stage, a chore that is thankfully brief. To paraphrase one of the most successful authors in American history, After you have read through the manuscript five times, you are quite tired of it, but then that part is over and you can go on to parts of the work you enjoy.

Five times, authors! Five times. Is that too much to ask of you before you put your carefully composed (but not carefully re-read, proofread, edited, proofread, and read again) book out there for the public to closely associate with your name, at least until Amazon goes out of business?

Charlie Rose asked John Grisham about his opinion of Dan Brown and The Da Vinci Code. The two of them discussed how Brown has had to deal with hordes of angry Catholics and other issues, but I mention Brown and his book for quite another reason. Many of you may be wondering why my posts on this site have been sparse lately. The short answer is that not only have I been devoting a little time to some other issues, but I am about two-thirds of the way through Amy Lane's Bound, the 479-page, third installment in her Little Goddess series. You can read my review here soon, and unless the storyline turns south in the final quarter, I do not expect the review to be difficult to write. I shall not say that The Da Vinci Code is a better book. Bound is superior in compositional style. I found Dan Brown's writing style or storytelling ability to be nothing special. Yes, I did enjoy the originality of Dan Brown's earth-shattering concept, but Amy Lane can make me care about flawed characters. I am a big fan of the Robert Rimmer books about relationships, as well as Anne Rice's complex tales of vampires and The Mayfair Witches, and Amy Lane has created a similarly large cadre of lovable, but unlikely, characters with her Little Goddess books. Please don't make me eat these prematurely printed words, Amy, but in the areas of character development and writing style at least, Bound is a superior read to the multi-platinum The Da Vinci Code.

There is only one problem with all three of Amy Lane's Little Goddess books. She has not completed the shorter of John Grisham's two stated chores. Amy is far from the only iUniverse author guilty of this slacker modus operandi. I know without reading them all that there are tons of these out there for sale at Amazon, seemingly forever, and these flawed books will sit on their virtual shelves, blackening the name of POD books for all future readers. I am picking on Amy here simply because she is at the zenith of this problematic issue. Ms. Lane is a poor schoolteacher, creating her books all by herself, while Mr. Brown is stinking rich with a major publisher at his back, but that does not stop me from saying that Bound is more fun to read than The Da Vinci Code. If I give Bound five stars at Amazon, it will have been because that last quarter was so stunning that I had felt compelled to overlook Ms. Lane's rush to publication. She already has four stars. That part's easy.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

New Reviewer



Dr. Al Past, retired linguistics professor and author of the celebrated Distant Cousin series, has joined me in the fight for the recognition of genuinely deserving authors at iUBR. We are cautiously taking one step at a time through this transitional process. I put out a call for volunteers to join the team and Dr. Past has graciously accepted the challenge. As I have previously indicated, iUBR has been a bit bogged down lately with the list of books awaiting review and the recent holiday period in general. In addition to this slowdown, a modest lifestyle change has had a very positive effect on me personally while simultaneously diminishing the time I have available for reading. Right now I am about one-third of the way through Amy Lane's Bound, with Joy Collins' Second Chance waiting on the shelf. There are still six books on The Waiting List, and the first of these authors has already been notified that his number is up.

Once again I welcome any further volunteers to join iUBR as reviewers. I would really like to see the whole process speeded up and the submissions reopened. Anyone with questions about this issue is welcome to contact me at ice9 at e-tabitha.com. Thank you.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The State of iUBR

Would anyone like to be the first to join the iUBR team as a satellite reviewer? I have been thinking over this concept very carefully for several weeks now, and I have concluded that this is an obviously possible option for the future state of iUBR. This would be one way that reviews could be sped up, rather than slowed down, as has recently been the case. I can personally read and review just so many books in a year. Certain issues of positive change in my personal lifestyle have also conspired to decrease the time I have available for reading and reviewing. The addition of at least one more reader/reviewer could speed up the posts at iUBR considerably, which should make both the authors and the readers happier. If anyone is interested, you can contact me at ice9 at e-tabitha.com. I shall be happy to discuss the parameters of the project with you at that time. Of course I would prefer another iU author, especially one with more than one iU book already released, but I am open to the consideration of adding anyone with the appropriate skills and interest to the team.

I am currently reading Amy Lane's Bound for the next review. Yes, the typos are, indeed, everywhere, but boy, can that Little Goddess write! So far at least, I would say that Bound may be bound to be the best of the Little Goddess series. Bound will be followed by Joy Collins' romance entitled Second Chance. Further applicants from The Waiting List will follow these two. A few interview subjects are currently being considered, but these may never actually materialize. My time constraints are limiting how much I can contribute to iUBR right now, and it is difficult to say if the situation will change soon or not.

What I would ideally like to see is the rebirth of The POD Review Ring so that many more derserving POD books could receive legitimate reviews, including those not published by iUniverse. I would like to see one or more satellite reviewers join iUBR at the same time, so that many more deserving iU authors could receive legitimate exposure, too. If I could farm out some of the reviews, I could devote more time to the composition of articles and interviews. It's always the reading and reviewing that absorbs so much time and burns out the POD bloggers. I am very much an organizational type of person. I enjoy the creation and editing of articles and posts as much or more than I do the reading and reviewing. If one or more volunteers for this project appear, maybe together we can speed up what has become a very slow process and reopen submissions soon. Otherwise, I'll still be putting my boat in the water before the last book on The Waiting List has been reviewed.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Love Divine



Love Divine:
The Life of Henry Ward Beecher

by Anya Laurence

(iUniverse / 0-595-38010-7 / February 2006 / 154 pages / $15.95)

Anya Laurence's first book, entitled Women of Notes: 1,000 Women Composers Born Before 1900, published in hardcover in early '79, is still available at Amazon! That's certainly a first for this blog. Not only is this fact somewhat remarkable, but also the professional look of Love Divine will certainly allow it to hide in a forest of traditionally published biographies. Unfortunately for this very accomplished iU author, Love Divine has been unceremoniously hidden behind another biography of Henry Ward Beecher released only a few months after Ms. Laurence's book. To add insult to injury to this exceptionally professional iUniverse author, that book took home The Pulitzer!

For those of you who flunked U.S. History, Henry Ward Beecher was a very successful abolitionist preacher during the 1800's and also the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin. He was an acquaintance of Abraham Lincoln and many more legendary disciples of the anti-slavery movement. Anya Laurence offers a tautly edited biography of Henry that includes numerous details about many members of his famous family and their positions within the culture of the time.

Henry died leaving a national scandal unresolved. He was accused of having an adulterous affair with the wife of one of his close associates. The newspapers carried the story endlessly, with viewpoints of both his guilt and innocence. A lawsuit and trial ensued, but the final question of did he or didn't he was never answered. Ms. Laurence never claims to know the truth of this affair. She presents the facts as they are known. The explosion of endless gossip and news coverage of the events may remind the reader of certain modern affairs of which we never seem to hear the end. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I am always looking for iU books that can comfortably reside on a shelf with traditionally published books, and Love Divine is certainly one of them. It is the first iU book I have seen with footnotes, and these have thankfully been abbreviated, with the details exposed in the bibliography. There is an extensive index, as well as a prologue and an epilogue. Although I am not overly impressed with the front cover photo or the details of the front cover design, the back cover is excellent. The author photo has been well chosen and the blurbs provide the prospective buyer with accurate information about the text and the author. In case you were wondering, The Proofreading Police failed to make their ticket quotas. They failed quite miserably, in fact. Most of the tickets they did write were for such dinky offenses that they most certainly will be torn up in court!

What's not to like? Love Divine has only one clear weakness: its brevity forces an overall impression of dryness in the text, much of which is composed of italicized passages from the writings of Beecher and his contemporaries. The multitude of names, dates, births, deaths, and other significant facts seems to crowd out the space left for author commentary and opinion. In short, Love Divine could be a lot more fun to read. To remedy this problem, either some of the quotes or facts would have to be eliminated or the book would have to be much longer. I am sure many true-blue fans of the subject matter will love it just as it is, but I think more casual readers may wish for a little more extrapolation of detail from the author. Compared to the 560-page competitor mentioned earlier, Love Divine will certainly score as a fine quick-read for many wanting just the facts, ma'am, but I personally prefer to read a lot more detail about most subject matters. Don't take my criticism too strongly, though. The great majority of POD authors could use some lessons in professionalism taught by Anya Laurence, and Love Divine, without a doubt, credibly earns four stars.

See Also: Tabitha's B&N Review