Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Fat Lady Never Sings

The Fat Lady Never Sings:  
How a Football Team Found Redemption on the Baseball Diamond by Steven Reilly  
(iUniverse / 0-595-39467-1 / October 2006 / 228 pages / $18.95)

All the sports channels are programmed out of my cable connections to make it easier for me to channel surf through movies, Boston Legal, and CNN. Watching a baseball game bores me silly, and I get enough college football to watch without resorting to the sports-only channels. I am a certified nerd: knowledge and new experience to me are like winning the big game is to most people. I had a feeling about this book before I selected it for review, and my gut instinct was right on the money. The Fat Lady never sings a boring tune. This is a true story about passion, desire for success, and the ethics and overall goodness inherent in the teaching of life's lessons to a group of high school pitchers and bat-swingers.

The Derby Red Raiders were a winning football team in the smallest (by area) town in Connecticut, at least up until the 1992 season that yielded the first losing high school football team that Derby fans had seen in decades. At the end of that psychological disaster, three of the leading players faced an upcoming baseball season with two of them as pitchers and the third, the son of the town's mayor, as a hitter. The head coach of the baseball team and his assistant coach, Steven Reilly, faced an uphill battle to instill confidence into the team who had lost so much self-respect on the gridiron. The book covers the trials and tribulations of the baseball team as they work their way toward the championship.

Fans of Bull Durham, A League of Their Own, and the head coach's own favorite, Hoosiers, will love this book. You get to ride the yellow school bus to the out-of-town games, enjoy an inside look at the coaching strategies that sometime seem to come from out of left field, and of course, you have a dugout view of the detailed action on the diamond. The author's combination of closeup viewpoint and straightforward language sell the book. The point of my opening statement is that you do not have to be a baseball fan to appreciate the smooth storyline and depth of character The Fat Lady so adeptly presents. No, the grammatical editing is not absolutely perfect, and I would have chosen a cover photo with a lot less chiaroscuro for more online appeal, but that's about all I can complain about. Riles, as his friends call him, is a lawyer, a baseball coach, and a genuine writer. Even nerds will enjoy this book.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A New Ring of POD Reviewers

We seem to be informally creating a cadre of reviewer blog sites to accomodate the many genres of Print On Demand books. I don't know exactly who started it, but it seems to be happening. You can see for yourself by clicking on the links listed on this page. As one of these guys said to me recently, even I have a niche of sorts. Mine may be difficult to define, but so are my own books. I'm looking for mature iUniverse authors who are serious about their work. I ask that you question your own motives and abilities before you contact me. This is probably the reason I have not waded through the incompetent muck submitted by hordes of I-want-to-quit-my-day-job tomorrow daydreamers. I don't even wear my hip boots at my computer because I know that I don't have to do so. I know there are many authors out there who did not compose a novel for the instant-sales at Amazon marketing model. Some of us write because we are on a mission from God, and we care deeply about our readers and how they spend their dollars.

I asked in the beginning for werewolves and vampires, but I have just added a new link to a new reviewer of Fantasy POD. Here is a little clarification.
2001 and Dracula (1992) are my two favorite movies of all time, but I don't give a gnome's butt about most fantasy and/or science fiction. Yes, I wanted to see the movies, Underworld and Van Helsing, at least once, but once was quite enough. Although these two are crammed to the gunwales with computer-generated werewolves, give me The Howling anyday! I want to see actors in ugly suits. I want to go to Transylvania in an old-style gothic mode, not a pseudo-gothic mode. I shall gladly consider reviewing any iU book, and if you send a copy to me, you will get four original reviews, as always, but I do want to support other reviewers who are also trying to lift deserving POD authors up out of the muck. By the way, I've read all of The Howling books. Gary Brandner just plain got lucky that John Sayles wanted to rewrite his slightly interesting book into the best werewolf screenplay in history.

Each of the new bloggers presenting free reviews of POD books is offering something a little special and different from all the rest. You can easily discover precisely what I do by reading through the posts here and reading my reviews. You will find them here and at Authors Den, Amazon, and B&N. Let's all retire our hip boots, shall we?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Open for Submissions

Is this it? Are there no more iUniverse authors who want legitimate reviews of their books? Does no one else desire an honest review that can be used in any promotional manner? I am shocked, appalled, and flabbergasted! Ya'll just go on paying for reviews if you want, and I'll get back to reading stuff by Thomas Frank and Al Franken. There's one of those businesses literally right down the street from me. I'm sure they will be glad to tell you whatever you want to hear, as soon as your credit card clears, that is. I'm sure you have at least a few friends who will blow smoke up your derriere at Amazon, too! The good part of that deal is that they don't even have to read the book! As for the rest of you brave souls, read the earlier posts about submissions and post a comment. All it will cost you is the author's price of your book and a small payment to your local post office. I'll do the rest. I can promise you that no smoke will be blown. While you're here, feel free to take the poll at the top of the Links column.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Missing Peace of a Heritage Puzzle

The Missing Peace of a Heritage Puzzle:  
A Memoir Uniquely Set in a Vanished Sudetenland  
by Frank Koerner
(iUniverse / 0-595-33344-3 / March 2005 / 196 pages / $16.95)
I was very pleasantly surprised to find another iU book that shares certain rare qualities with my first book, Plastic Ozone Daydream. Both books are compilations of previously published articles and both have a number of b&w photos scattered throughout the text! These are the only two iUniverse books I have seen that include photos.

Missing Peace
cannot be discussed without mentioning Schindler's List, since it is the work most familiar to readers seeking knowledge of a similar subject. Although everyone knows about The Holocaust, few are aware that over three million ethnic Germans were thrown out of their homeland when the nation of Czechoslovakia was formed after World War II. These displaced people once lived in the area then called Moravia. Most were deported to Germany and other areas. The author's parents left Moravia for a new life in the U.S. Frank Koerner and his two older sisters grew up in New Jersey in the '40's and '50's with all the attendant influences of American life. Mr. Koerner's first language is English. He also speaks German and a very little Czech. He long ago envisioned himself as a future pro baseball player, but as he matured, he became increasingly fascinated with the tragic history of his parents in the Moravia they so grudgingly left behind. They had had no choice except to see their homeland disappear. Frank takes the few ancient b&w photos he owns of his parents and their lives in the old country, and goes with his wife to Sudetenland, another name for the area in which his parents lived, to discover as many details of his family history as he can in a short vacation period.

Although not particularly large, this is a very complete book. Frank Koerner's story is told in the form of articles previously published in the U.S., Canada, and Germany. Many reproductions of his original family photographs are included, as well as additional photos Frank took on his vacation to Sudetenland/Moravia/Czechoslovakia. Although the core of the story represents a bleak and depressing issue, Mr. Koerner tells the tale in a delightfully personal and pleasant manner. His eccentric use of humor and the English language keeps the subject matter of his 1992 European vacation bouncing along. Missing Peace is part autobiography, part history, and part genealogy, and all three components blend smoothly together. The seventeen separate sources in which the stories were originally published are listed in the back, along with a bibliography. The cover is nicely designed, and the aptly credited painting on the cover is significant to the story line. The author's research and dedication to his subject come shining through!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Portraits in the Dark

Portraits in the Dark  
by Nancy O. Greene  
(iUniverse / 0-595-39280-6 / August 2006 / 96 pages / $9.95)

Nancy O. Greene has released her first book, a collection of short stories mining the vein opened by Richard Matheson, Dean Koontz, and Stephen King. The cover has a classy design and the price won't break the bank, although the page count is skimpy, even at this price. Ms. Greene has assembled nine stories ranging in length from two to seventeen pages. Fortunately, the better stories are the longer ones. My favorites are A Guy Named Pierce and The Affair. Although The Descent of Man and Down the Rabbit Whole are the most original of the nine stories, I was somewhat left in a fog by the author's intent with these two; i.e., I am not sure that I got the point.

The author used a few big words that sent me to my dictionary, but she also used a few common words incorrectly, leaving me uncertain as to the real quality of Portraits in the Dark. A few of the characters displayed thoughts racing through their minds concerning crimes they may or may not have perpetrated, but they could have done so in sentences of normal length and structure. Even a long-distance swimmer could never take one breath deeply enough to read one of these marathons of racing rumination. Most of the technical discrepancies are displayed in the early parts of the book, so if you are tripping over one of these, take heart that the bumpy ride smooths out in the latter half of the journey. Perhaps the author has been just a bit too naive about story development and editing....

Portraits in the Dark is just the kind of book I liked to read back during my under-thirty years, when I was a little naive myself. I liked any sort of story of dark humor with a twist at the end. I have seen every episode of The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and The Night Stalker. I still have a paperback copy of Matheson's The Shrinking Man that cost fifty cents in 1962, and I have read numerous Hitchcock collections. Ms. Greene is seeking the high ground these classics inhabit. She just hasn't yet made it past the quicksand pit. If you are a fan of this genre, you will enjoy this book for the originality of some of the ideas. Maybe you are still young enough to get the point of each and every story.

Monday, October 16, 2006

More Info About Tabitha & This Blog

Tabitha was born in October of 1990. She is a Balinese, which means she has the coloration of a Himalayan and the musculature of a Siamese. In other words, she is slender with long fur....

That's enough about Tabitha. Let me tell you a few pertinent things about myself. The original version of my third book was written in 1966-74. I totally rewrote it in 2002 after I had gained a lot of experience with my first two books. Most of the content of my first book was published in a local newsletter as short articles and stories in 1985-95. I spent an enormous amount of time re-editing and organizing this material into Plastic Ozone Daydream. I am retired and I spend 4-12 hours a day at my computer. I am not writing. I am researching. I have spent more time than you would ever believe trying to learn about POD publishing and marketing. Without looking it up, I cannot remember how much I have spent on the marketing of my four books, but I can swear in court that it has been a lot more than you would ever believe. It would be the understatement of the century to say that I have learned a lot about the POD market.

The most important thing I have learned is that the #1 element that sells an iUniverse book is a title and subject matter with which a certain segment of the reading population is obsessed. People do not buy iU books because the writer is a genius or the material is the most carefully crafted in the world. They buy them because the title and genre indicate a subject that they want to read. The second element is subject matter that the reader cannot readily find anywhere else. Other than many nonfiction releases, the biggest sellers at iU in this category are male gay fiction. Look it up. The third issue, quite unfortunately, concerns what I call the slap-fighters. These are the same type of people as those who are feeding the social and political civil war the US has been engaged in throughout this millennium. On one side we have the innocent, naive iU authors who think their books should sell easily with very little effort. On the other side, we have a pack of smarmy fatheads who simply live to insult and crush the first group. All the second group can say is how the first group is incapable of writing or editing, and therefore, they deserve all the derision they get. The fatheads' mantra is all about typos in the text and fonts chosen for the covers.

Have you noticed the disproportionate number of reviews of POD books at Amazon that are either five-star or one-star? How many of the five-star reviews are by the authors themselves or their friends? How many are by people who have not actually read the book cover-to-cover? How many are copied and pasted from paid review sites? If you want to see how out of control the reviews at Amazon can get, look up Solomon Tulbure's books. The bottom line is that when I see an Amazon review pattern of a large number of five-star and one-star reviews, with very few ratings between the extremes, I cannot help but think the one-star reviews must be saying at least one thing that is correct about the books, even though we know at least a few of these are simply posted by slap-fighters. Remember, I have been studying these patterns since 1999. I know that many of the Amazon reviews for iU books are not really legitimate in one way or another. I feel that by providing a little constructive criticism in my reviews, I provide credibility to my blog site, which of course, it desperately needs if I am to really provide any useful aid to the iU authors I am trying to help.

I cannot tell you how much I despise the slap-fighters. I feel the same way about our politicians. Instead of trying to do something honorable, they just want to stand there and slap each other in the face with insults. I do not feel that way at all. I think our corporations have destroyed us. I think iU is one of the best outlets we have for fighting back. As a wise person has said, POD books are like indie bands. Without either, the publishers and record companies would give us nothing but worthless trash to read or hear. We need to normalize the market for POD books. The slap-fighters will ruin the market for us if we let them, just as surely as our current music market is nothing but rap noise and country drivel. (Remember, I am a 58-year-old white man who has seen Jimi Hendix and The Allman Brothers live numerous times.) My goal is to be the voice of reason for deserving iU authors. I want to be the dim little lamp hidden in the nasty, murky swamp of POD denigration by fatheads who just want to proclaim themselves kings of the publishing world and declare all iUniverse authors misguided losers.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Lyda Phillips

Lyda Phillips has released a pair of short novels for young adult readers. Like many legendary Disney movies, these books should appeal to not-so-young adults, too. Since I am of that persuasion, I was not expecting to enjoy these two nearly as much as I did, but the author's sensitive handling of the mature subject matter easily won me over.

Mr. Touchdown by Lyda Phillips
(iUniverse / 0-595-35900-0 / July 2005 / 182 pages / $13.95)

Mr. Touchdown is the fictional recreation of a common type of event that took place throughout the Deep South in the Sixties as all-white schools were integrated. A small number of exceptional black students are transferred to Forrest High in Memphis in 1965. The lead character is an athlete who has lettered in several sports at his old school, but the football coach at Forrest won't let him off the bench, even though the team is good only at losing. The story takes us through the many conflicts these kids experience in their first year at an all-white school. The actions of the revolting rednecks are realistically described and the story has a pleasant ending. I do wish, though, that the book was much longer, with a lot more detail. The story is one that needs to be told.

If you want to further explore the subject matter, I recommend you watch the movies, Hairspray and Remember the Titans. These two examples are not better than Mr. Touchdown, but they are a little different in that they do not capture the deeply rooted essence of The South. This book shows how truly hardheaded people can be, even at the expense of their beloved football team. The poignant emotions described during the football action bring Mr. Touchdown up to the level of Remember the Titans, and for me at least, this is the best recommendation I can give. Since I lived very close to the action of the civil rights movement in that time period (I even spent the summer of '68 in Memphis), I can honestly say that Ms. Phillips has captured the era perfectly.

Peace I Ask of Thee, Oh River by Lyda Phillips
(iUniverse / 0-595-36172-2 / August 2005 / 120 pages / $10.95)

Ms. Phillips takes us to a girls' summer camp in this misleading title that sounds like something a neocon soccer mom would like her daughter to read. Fortunately for us all, this summer camp is full of teenage angst and realism. The characters are more akin to the kids at Ridgemont High than those at church camp. The title is derived from a campfire song the girls sing. The action is focused on the camp counselors more than the girls, with the exception of one particular problem child upon whom the whole plot hinges. As in the movie, Little Darlings, the lead characters are busy trying to get laid while the campfire patrols are up to the usual summer shenanigans. The author has crafted an engrossing short novel about the way teenagers really feel, think and behave. You will be wishing the story went on much longer. Ignore the blah cover and the holy-moly-difficult-to-remember title and you will discover a story with the depth of Stephen King's movie, Stand By Me.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Interview with Tabitha

Interviewer: Is your name really Tabitha? From looking at your website, I thought you were someone else.

Tabitha: That is correct. I have published four books for iUniverse and contributed stories to a pair of traditionally published coffee table books, all under my real name. Tabitha is my sixteen-year-old Balinese cat. I am much older than Tabitha.

Interviewer: How did you choose iUniverse to publish your books?

Tabitha: I completed my first manuscript in about 1972, but I felt it was practically unpublishable due to its obtuse eccentricity. The Corvette Chronicles began as a long series of stories in The Longhorn Corvette Club Newsletter in 1985. I had planned from the beginning to edit the whole series into a book called Plastic Ozone Daydream. By 1999, iU had been established, and I had learned enough about computers to begin my publishing journey. I had always had in mind the complete package of Daydream. I wanted the cover to look a certain way; I wanted the order and structure of the stories to be a certain way; and I wanted to market the book in a particular manner. iU offered me the freedom to do things my own way, and the company seemed far ahead of its competition in most every facet of the business.

Interviewer: How did you get published in those coffee table books?

Tabitha: A publisher of that type of book for car enthusiasts read Daydream and wanted to buy a particular story from it for his next project. I don't know exactly how he came to discover Daydream. I followed that project with a pair of stories written exclusively for Mustang Legends. That release was very convenient for me because it gave me a small publishing project during an extended period (2002-06) when I was not planning another iU book. This was a clear case of bringing a POD author to the attention of a traditional publisher.

Interviewer: What became of your first manuscript?

Tabitha: After a total rewrite in 2002, that manuscript became The Last Horizon.

Interviewer: What is the single most important thing you have learned about POD publishing and marketing?

Tabitha: The #1 element that sells books is the fact of the title and description of the book fitting within a genre that a particular consumer audience is obsessed with reading. Nothing sells like a celebrity scandal or a get-rich-quick scheme. Starting a good slap-fight over religious issues will do the job, too. From the online retailers, what I think is by far my weakest book has been consistently my best seller. I think that is because I wrote Ker-Splash! to fill an open niche in the market. There are a zillion books about fishing, sailing, and classic wooden boats, but there are almost none about common, recreational runabouts and ski boats. Ker-Splash! docks right in that slip! My other three books are more esoteric, to say the least.

Interviewer: How much do you think a bad review hurts the sales of a book?

Tabitha: As long as the one bad review is not alone on the page, I think it matters very little. I think it matters more when your review space is empty. (Look at my books!) That is why I began this blog. A wise person has said there is no such thing as bad publicity, and I generally agree with that. For the thousands of POD books listed on Amazon, I am far more skeptical of those with a long list of five-star reviews than of those with only a few, or with a range of stars in their review list. Even with all these generalities stated, I do not intend to ever post a really bad review for someone unless they sign off on it first. After all, my goal is to help iU authors and enhance the reputations of all of us.

Interviewer: What is the most common editing mistake you have found in iU books?

Tabitha: The repetition, deletion, misplacement, or otherwise misuse of the most common words in the English language is far and away the most common mistake. We seem to get the punctuation and sentence structure right just about every time. It's the the's, an's, and's, a's, and other common words that trip us up. We tend to read right over the mistakes when we are proofreading. We also tend to make more mistakes toward the end of the book, as opposed to the beginning or middle. I suppose the proofing is getting overly monotonous by the end of the process.

Interviewer: Why are you writing these reviews when so many other online sources are doing the same thing?

Tabitha: Very few of those sources are actually reviewing in the same manner as I am. Review for hire sites are popping up like mushrooms in cow patties. How accurate can a supposedly unbiased, but paid, entity be? How many of you would buy a book based on a review if you were aware the review had been paid for by the author? Many of these reviews are purchased in an indirect manner, such as a part of a marketing package. How many of the unpaid reviews were written by friends and associates of the author? My research has shown to me that many of the reviews of iU books you find on the net fall into one of the above categories. Certainly some of these reviews are legitimate, but my guess is that number is a small fraction of the total, especially among the endless parade of five-star reviews on Amazon. My reviews are the real deal. This is not a business, and I am not a personal friend of any of the authors I review. You won't find me telling you about the horde of trashy POD books that caused me to barf on the first page, either. Those books, if they exist at all, do not exist on this website. I am not in this project to stuff my wallet or my fat head. Let's face it: we all know many who are. If you want an honest review, let me know.

Interviewer: How does an iU author secure one of your extensive, four-part reviews?

Tabitha: I invite any iU author to reply to this or any other post on the blog site. You can see examples of the previous reviews by visiting the same books found on this site at Amazon, B&N, and Authors Den. Please read the submission guidelines first. You can find them in the first post and in a later update. The early bird gets the juiciest worm.

Miss Stephanie: Eeeeeuuu!!!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Dead On

Dead On by Ann Kelly
(iUniverse / 0-595-32664-1 / August 2004 / 204 pages / $14.95)

Brian DePalma is one of my favorite directors, and the movies of his that I like best are in the same genre as Dead On. We don't know who the killer is until the end, but he seems to be a fascinating, psychopathic character. Ann Kelly has crafted a fine first novel with a plotline that is easily visualized as a movie thriller. Homage is also paid to William Petersen as both Gil Grissom and the Manhunter, a movie that I have always felt should have been a monster hit for both Petersen and Michael Mann. The former had to zip up his Quincy suit to become famous, and the latter was already famous for the coke and Scarab patrol on Miami Vice, but those are other stories. The plot of Dead On would seem like just another pyscho killer chase if Scully and Mulder had not let one of their spooky plots escape from the set of The X-Files.

Ann Yang is a new ME of Chinese descent who has just begun her new job in Doylestown, PA. She would really like to forget that butthead she had married in an immature moment of stupidity, and a mystery based in the history of her own century-old house was sufficient to drive out the rotten marriage demons. Although she is never really certain if the butthead has not returned to terrorize her, someone has insinuated his way into her life in a most disturbing manner. A serial killer is leaving buttons from a Civil War uniform at the scenes of his crimes. Ann has discovered an intriguing diary hidden in her new/old house, and the issues may or may not be related. She has a trusted friend to help her with the case, a retired FBI agent with loads of street sense and a devotion to both Ann and his own family. The two sleuths track the killer through both time and space. Don't ask me to explain it. The plot is a mystery, and the secrets are not revealed until the end. Is Dead On a supernatural story? To some degree, yes. Is it a mystery with convolutions that would make even Mr. DePalma dizzy? Yes.

Much of the plot surrounds a diary composed in 1903. Whenever the heroine reads this diary, the text is in italics. Multiple, whole pages of italics are annoying to read. This and the incredibly short chapters are easily the leading negatives of Dead On. A lot more description of the characters and the motives behind their actions would expand the length of these half-page chapters considerably. The text is so brief that the reader is sometimes left a bit confused. It is unclear if the author meant to impart an especially quick pacing to the story, intentionally lead the reader down blind alleys, or introduce characters and subplots that she is saving for a sequel. Whatever the case, this completes the actions of my Complaint Department.

Ann Kelly has crafted a highly rated first effort about a time-traveling psycho-killer and his CSI-type pursuer. She throws in the Civil War, schizophrenia, lesbian love, past-life regression, pre-Katrina New Orleans, and the kitchen sink. You wouldn't think all this would fit into 204 pages, but it does. You will like this little dose of escapist fiction if the genres of murder mystery and serial killers are two of your favorites. If you are an X-Files fan, too, you will probably love it to death.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Helpful Book Marketing Articles

This site has many free articles concerning the web marketing of books by unknown authors.

Author Insider – Free marketing articles to help make your book a success

Friday, September 22, 2006

Securing a Book Review

The next review will be of Ann Kelly's Dead On. Look for it soon.

The way to secure a review of your book on this site is to reply with a website or direct email address where I can reach you. Due to the limitations of internet availability in my area, I cannot easily contact you through a third-party source on a large server. For instance, if you give me an email address such as, I can quickly respond to your message. I can respond through Authors Den quite easily also, but I cannot go through Yahoo or Yahoo Groups or MySpace or another blog server very easily. I cannot put my direct email on the blog site or I would be spammed to death. If you do not want your email exposed, even within a comment, on the blog site, you can send me a message through Authors Den. This convoluted path is the only way I have been able to dodge the spammers. Please feel free to contact me about a review any time. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Traitor's Wife

The Traitor's Wife: A Novel of the Reign of Edward II by Susan Higginbotham
(iUniverse / 0-595-35959-0 / July 2005 / 492 pages / $25.95)

Susan Higginbotham's epic medieval soap opera is an engrossing tale of historical fiction surrounding the reign of King Edward II during the 1300's. This book has already been acquiring glowing reviews from many sources, and my two cents worth of opinion will hopefully add to the book's reputation. The Traitor's Wife is further proof that there are some marvelous iU authors out there, and I have proclaimed it my job to find them. This is a TV miniseries waiting to happen. Who's ready to write the screenplay?

One of my favorite fiction books of all time is Anne Rice's The Witching Hour, and strangely enough, I see many parallels between the two books, with two significant exceptions. The Witching Hour is a 1000+ page account of the fictional Mayfair Family of witches residing in New Orleans long before the devastation of Katrina. The Traitor's Wife is a lightly fictionalized account of the broadly extended royal family of England during the 1300's, centuries before the tragic ending of the reign of Princess Diana. The first difference between the two tales is that the witches flew out of Anne's imagination, but King Edward's court really did go through all those trials and tribulations. The second difference is that The Traitor's Wife is less than half as long as The Witching Hour. Most of the page count difference is the direct result of the many slowly simmering descriptions of places and events present in The Witching Hour; whereas, in contrast, The Traitor's Wife skips most of the narrative description and goes right to the conversation. Hence, The Traitor's Wife can easily be visualized as a screenplay in which the focus is totally upon the words and actions of the characters. Even a miniseries of The Witching Hour could never capture the intense depth of the Mayfairs and their control over the city of New Orleans that lasted for centuries. Most of the characters in The Traitor's Wife were married in their teens and lived relatively short lives. The Mayfair witches had spirits and vampires for companions, reflecting lifespans of an entirely different nature.

Americans have always been fascinated by both supernatural spirits that live forever and English royalty that live and die tragically. The New Orleans Garden District has always been one of my favorite places. On numerous occasions, I have visited the same streets haunted by The Mayfairs. I know there are many Americans, and I dare say that most of them are women, who have been equally as drawn to the lives of the many variations of the British royal family, culminating in the death of Diana. The story of Edward II is as appallingly shocking as anyone might want to discover, and the truth of its history adds to the reading pleasure of The Traitor's Wife. Although The Mayfairs were a matriarchal society and men ruled the kingdom in medieval England, the tale of The Traitor's Wife is told from the feminine perspective. The men do the dirty work and the women have to clean it up. The male spirit Lasher sets off an endless chain of tragic events by having sex with the female Mayfair witches, and King Edward sets the standard by having sex with another man, or two. Let the games begin....

Neither The Witching Hour nor The Traitor's Wife would ordinarily be a book I would select to read. They both look too much to me like books women would enjoy much more than men, and to some extent, this is certainly true. What makes me recommend The Traitor's Wife so strongly is how much I did like it, in spite of the fact that I am a lot more fascinated by Dracula than Diana. Of course I have read nearly all of Anne Rice's books (The Witching Hour twice). Susan Higginbotham has written only one book, and now Eleanor le Despenser resides on my bookshelf only inches away from the Mayfair witches. What higher recommendation can I offer?

See Also: Interview with Susan Higginbotham

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Book Review Update

I want to update a few statements made in the first post on July 12, 2006. As the plot has thickened, a few concepts have solidified.All of these updates fall under the heading, Examine the Following Details Thoroughly.

Concerning the statement referring to the sites on which a review will be posted: I shall post a review on this site, Amazon, B&N, and Authors Den. Anyone who sends a book for review, should get an Authors Den page, if you do not already have one, otherwise the review will be on only three sites.

Concerning the complexity of the review: The longest review will probably be placed on this site, with shorter versions on the other sites. If I have the time and inclination, all four reviews will be individually written. If not, there will be some copying and pasting utilized. A lot of this will be determined by the number of requests for reviews that I get, so the authors that make their requests early in the process will probably get the most attention.

The authors I would most like to help are those who have created carefully researched and crafted works, and then spent significant time promoting them, only to see horrible (or worse, no) sales rankings at Amazon and B&N. I am looking for great writers, not books by opportunistic hacks that just happen to publish the hot subject of the moment. Since I read every book cover to cover that I am going to review, this project is a slow process. The earlier submissions will invariably receive more of my time in the creation of reviews.

Concerning the types of books I like: I do not favor either fiction or nonfiction. I read about equal numbers of both. My favorite author is Anne Rice, but I find Stephen King a bit too repetitive and predictable. I have read most of Robert Rimmer's work, and I certainly like his subject matter. In case you did not know, some of his books have been re-released by iU. I just finished a 750-page biography of Bob Dylan. I read Scaduto's version decades ago and wanted to read another perspective. Al Franken entertains me, and I think Thomas Frank offers scholarly research on his topics. Carlos Castaneda told a spellbinding tale in his Don Juan series, however unbelievable it might have been. Harold Robbins has always been my favorite of the trash novelists. I try to inject a spaciness into my own books that I hope approaches that of Kurt Vonnegut. Jean Shepherd is the king of nostalgia and Peter Egan is the best writer of stories about cars and motorcycles. The bottom line is that I am not seeking a particular genre to review on this blog.

I am looking for proof that iUniverse authors are capable of writing great books that deserve to be discovered and read. Bring on the submissions!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Convergence of Valor

by Guntis G. Goncarovs
(iUniverse / 0-595-37055-1 / December 2005 / 250 pages / $16.95)
Dive! Dive! Put some muscle into it, men! Historical Fiction author Guntis Goncarovs takes us to the bottom of Mobile Bay in the first submarine developed during the U.S. Civil War. The H. L. Hunley was manned and powered by a crew of eight non-Union men who were not exactly soldiers, either. Most of them had to be very strong men because the screw was turned manually by the crew using an elaborate system of cranks and gears. The torpedo was dragged behind the sub with a rope, and the only light inside the sub emitted from a candle at each end. The Hunley was designed, built, and tested in Mobile, AL, for a mission crucial to the Southern cause, the breaking of the Federal blockade of Charleston, SC. Union ships had cut off the shipment of supplies to Charleston and held their position for months. The Confederate Navy was willing to take desperate measures at the risk of many lives. Convergence of Valor is a fictionalized account of whatever actually happened to several crews of the Hunley during its development and deployment. The exact details of the story are unknown.Convergence of Valor takes us to a special place in American history. If you are a fan of this type of reading, this book belongs on your bookshelf between Bruce Catton's This Hallowed Ground and Tom Clancy's The Hunt for Red October. The author has done his research on the history of the Hunley. Don't let his Russian-sounding name throw you: he lives not far from the location of the actual events. You can put the words H. L. Hunley in any search engine and discover plenty of details about the true heroic events surrounding this primitive submarine. As in the two classics noted, the technical details surround the unknown variables in a manner that brings the historical events to life. Yes, it's a shorter book concerning a very specific event, but the quality and mood are very similar. Mr. Goncarovs puts the reader on that manually powered sub. He lets the reader experience how scary such a place would be. Dead men tell no tales... but this one does.

Gustis G. Goncarovs' website

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Welcome to iUniverse Book Reviews

Introduction for iUniverse Authors

Would you like an online review of your iUniverse book? The evidence suggests that tens of thousands of you would. After careful study of the POD market for about seven years, I am considering entering a new hobby, just to see where it leads me.

I am an author who has contributed to traditionally published books and released four books with iUniverse. My viewpoint toward iU and publishing is somewhat unusual. Three of my iUniverse books were never submitted to traditional publishers for many reasons, the most interesting one being that I want to create my own style in which none of my books fall within the same genre, at least from a conventional sense. My books are of a particular type of nonfiction that I want to release at a particular time. I want all the covers to reflect a particular style, and I prefer to slowly build an educated readership rather than go for the quick buck. I don't make money on my books, and I do not expect to do so. I write because I feel compelled to communicate with an audience, no matter how miniscule that audience may be. I write for quality instead of quantity.

My attitude toward iUniverse is unlike the horde of what I call the slap-fighters on the POD blogs and message boards. I am tiring of the snotty attitudes of those people, both the ones who have their own blogs and those who just pop up and dominate message boards created by others. I have only three negative things to say about iU: price, price, and price. They charge too much in set-up fees, book retail prices, and wholesale prices to the authors. Absolutely everything else I can say about the company is professional and positive. I have no interest in supporting competing companies, so this offer is for iU authors only.

Examine the Following Details Thoroughly

Send me a free copy of your iUniverse book and I shall review it. I'll consider a review on this blog site, Authors Den, Amazon, and/or B&N. Note: All self-published POD imprints (except Lulu) are considered for review as of 4/1/08.

Will I place the review on more than one site? I don't know yet.

Will I write an extensive, detailed review? I don't know that, either.

Will I write a review without actually reading the book? No.

Will I write a scathing review of a bad book? Not unless you happen to act like a butthead to me in some way, such as sending me flaming emails.

Will I read and review every book I receive? Probably not, particularly if the grammar and editing look like the book was written by Ernest T. Bass.

Will I let each author know if his or her book is being reviewed? Yes.

Will I let an author know if I am not reviewing the book because I could not in good faith give it a positive review? Yes.

Will I let an author know by email not to send me a book I have no interest in reading? Yes.

How can the author get my mailing address to send a book for review? (1) Respond on this blog site with your interest and categorize your book. (2) Either include your email or suggest an alternate contact point in your blog response. (3) We can connect outside the blog so I can give you my address.

Will I put your book up for sale at Amazon either after reading it or instead of reading it? No, I find that practice despicable. If I wish to dispose of a book, I'll give it to a prospective reader. I have no intention of spending or making any cash in this endeavor.

What types of books am I most interested in reading? I have a soft spot for werewolves, vampires, and other gothic horror, but I care very little for science fiction. I like political and economic nonfiction, but I want nothing to do with corporate propoganda about how to get more work out of your employees or how to get a million-dollar job in five minutes. I refuse to review any iU books that have sold well by what I call cheating; i.e., having a celebrity's name in the title or being about a celebrity. I do not want to read any iUniverse book that is selling well purely because of the title or subject matter. Get-rich-quick schemes and their associates will not be considered for review.

That about sums it up. If no one joins this blog, I shall assume that no one is interested in whatever I have to say in or about book reviews. If I get inundated with requests, I'll deal with that situation as fairly as I can if and when it happens. I am making this offer purely for my own entertainment and to satisfy my curiosity. Let's see if it goes anywhere.