Throughtalking books

Bookbeer7Have you ever heard the term “throughtalking”?

I hadn’t, till the other day.

In fact, Google doesn’t seem to know the term.

But I do:

Screen Shot 2016-12-30 at 10.58.29 AM

This insight, which I love, is spliced out of a post by a Facebook friend. I tend not to have to deal with this phenomenon socially, because I don’t go to high-gloss parties where the movers and shakers move and shake, but I recognize it from my days at professional conferences.

There’s nothing more disheartening than watching the eyes of the person you’re talking to scanning the crowd for someone other than you. 

You may be good, but there’s always someone out there who’s better.

My Facebook friend thinks there may be a “throughtalking” trend for beer that’s manifesting itself in online reviews. No matter how high the quality of one craft brew, somehow there must be a better one out there. So proper attention is given to nothing. 

I think we can apply this same trend to books, but bear with me for a little on this. 

If “throughtalking” beer is a thing, I think it has to do with the sheer number of beers now available. Time was, there were about seventeen brands of beer, and if there was something new, you had plenty of time to taste it and figure out whether you liked it.  

I remember in the previous century sitting down in a restaurant near Cincinnati and asking the waitress whether they had any local beers on tap. She looked at me as if I were from Mars.  

I wasn’t talking about brewpub stuff. Back in the old days, there were some regional brands. if you were in New Orleans, you drank Dixie. Texas, Lone Star. Oregon, Henry Weinhard’s. Upstate New York, Genesee. Baltimore, Natty Bo. That’s what I was asking for. Even Bud is supposed to taste good if you order it in St. Louis.

But Cincinnati, apparently, had its Waterloo (or Beer-loo) during Prohibition, and never recovered.

Today things are different. I can get thirty kinds of beer brewed onsite in just one establishment. 

How am I going to keep up with that? 

Maybe, by “throughtalking” beers until I get to the “ultimate.” 

Except that there isn’t an ultimate. 

Now for the books part.

Independent (small-press and self-) publishing, like craft breweries, has exponentially increased the number of books available, especially novels. 

Now, instead of there being a thousand “literary” or “high quality” novels per year, of which ten to twenty were played up by publishing houses and the media, there are tens of thousands that may be good or not. But because there are so many, it’s impossible for anyone to curate them the way we used to when traditional publishing had a chokehold on supply. 

For me personally, I seldom buy books anymore. I “try” a lot of them. I will go to the Amazon page and dip into the book, effectively taking a sip. Some of them are just bad or don’t interest me, so I move on.

Others look like they might be good, but I’m not looking for “might be.”

I want that one that knocks my socks off.

So I end up not buying anything at all. 

I am guilty of “throughtalking” books. 

The last book I bought was The Bookminder by M.K. Wiseman. It’s a historical fantasy about a teenage would-be wizard set in what appears to be medieval Serbia. I was attracted by the setting and similarity to my own The Mirror and the Mage, and the sample shows that the author has respectable writing chops.

I hope to “drink it down” and give a review soon. 

So what’s the upshot of this? Am I advocating, like some, that we should turn off the taps on the book supply?

Should us authors all voluntarily stick to one book per year, to let breathless readers catch up?

Maybe we’d get less “throughtalking.” 

No. Not at all.

I’m still in the more-is-better camp. I think especially of those dedicated book devourers who have benefited the most from the independent revolution. True book lovers always want more.

And I say, give it to them.

Online book curation methods are still pretty crude, but I think they'll improve.

And we “throughtalkers” will always be around, and maybe we’ll leave snarky reviews about the few books we actually bought.

But that shouldn’t spoil the party.

So write on, authors. Your readers await.

Image taken from here.


Why I will never worry about what I write, ever again

Myselfiewithstuart

Sometimes when I am in the valley of the shadow of self-doubt about my writing, I think, "I write ridiculous things in my novels. Who would ever believe them?"

One book has talking bears and a parallel universe, another a kind of Pez dispenser that does magic if you know Latin grammar. In my latest book, the hero defends a mystical goal against a hockey-puck-spitting pelican.

Weird, right?

But I'm here to declare that I will fear no idea that comes from my muse, ever again. That is because I have just re-read Stuart Little by E.B. White, and I'm going to tell you, he has us all beat.

E.B. White is probably more famous for Charlotte's Web, which has a talking spider and talking pig, but that type of weirdness is nothing compared to that of Stuart Little.

I don't remember reading Stuart Little all the way through as a child, though I'm pretty sure I was impressed by his toy sports car. I just went along with everyone who thought the book was adorable.

Adorable it may be, but it's just straight-up bonkers, too.

Now let me be clear that I'm not dissing the classic status that Stuart has achieved. There's a lot of whimsical fun in the book. It's charming and witty. There is much food for thought and respect and love for those who are different.

I'm just saying what happens in the book strains the boundaries of credulity in a thousand ways, small and large.

First of all, and this has been noticed before, the book claims that Stuart came to the Little family naturally:

When Mrs. Frederick C. Little's second son arrived, everybody noticed that he was not much bigger than a mouse. The truth of the matter was, the baby looked very much like a mouse in every way.

I usually read books before bed, when I'm already sleepy. But this shook me wide awake. I was sure that Stuart had been adopted and was all ready for that fact to be announced in Chapter One.

But no.

So Stuart is genetically a Little, but in substance a mouse. Right there, any New York editor would stop reading and have his or her assistant prepare a rejection notice. But E.B. White wasn't a peon from Peoria. He was in the inner circle of the New York literary world, a respected writer for the New Yorker magazine.

So he got a pass.

Now Stuart gets into a number of scrapes and has a number of charming adventures, but it is natural that a mouse have a love interest, and that love interest is a bird.

Stay with me, here.

The bird's name is Margalo, and she is one of those talking birds you see quite often in Manhattan. Margalo is responsible for a number of charming acts, including saving Stuart's life, but she flies the coop (the Littles' Manhattan apartment) when a pigeon writes her a note warning her that a cat is plotting to eat her.

This motivates the action of the book, which is Stuart's quest for Margalo. He obtains his transportation from his friend Dr. Carey, a dentist, who claims that Stuart will be less noticeable as an anthropomorphic animal driving a toy sports car when he activates the car's invisibility function.

Yes, indeed.

When Stuart tests out that function, hilarity ensues, but the author never explains whether Stuart himself will be invisible when he drives the car, or whether he will seem to others to be sitting in thin air being self-propelled, which would definitely be noticeable.

It's actually more astonishing that anyone in this book would think that anything strange would, in Stuart's words, "attract too much attention".

Are you getting the message, here?

I'm going to pass over the charming scene where Stuart takes over a one-room schoolhouse for a day, although I find it highly unusual any school district would allow such an unqualified substitute to teach children.

Then again, maybe that's not so far-fetched.

But I do have to mention the two-inch tall Harriet Ames, a tiny human equally as tiny as Stuart. How does a local storekeeper explain her presence in the world?

"...All of her clothes are specially tailored for her... Yes, Harriet's quite a girl. Her people, the Ameses, are rather prominent in this town."

Harriet almost but not quite makes Stuart forget about Margalo. Clearly, she is a more suitable partner for a mouse than a bird, but their love isn't to be, mainly because Stuart can't get over the fact that his miniature canoe, in which he was going to take Harriet for a ride, has been smashed, presumably by malicious boys, though this is never confirmed.

Okaaaaaaay.

Finally, and most incredibly for the story, Stuart Little peters out at page 131 in my edition with this sentence:

But the sky was bright, and he somehow felt he was headed in the right direction.

In other words, Stuart never finds Margalo. Not even close. He just drives off into the sunset with the quest still unfinished.

I kept stupidly looking for more pages, as if I'd find another chapter in a hidden trap door of my paperback.

Unreal.

Again, I'd be the first to say, "Whatever! This is a children's book, and in children's books, anything goes. As long as the spirit of the writing is true, children (and adults) will love it."

And so that must be the case with Stuart Little, though I'm going to tell you it creeped me out when I read it this time.

But all of this has taught me a valuable lesson: if E.B. White can write from his imagination and succeed, then by golly, I'm going to write from mine. No more self-censorship, no more self-suspicion. My cup of weirdness runneth over. And I will dwell in the house of--

You get the idea.

Now go out there and write some puck-spitting pelicans into your book.

Image: my selfie with Stuart.


Borschland colonizes Amazon

Talesofborschlandcover_promotionalBig news about the Borschland Hockey Chronicles for all fans and future fans of Sherm Reinhardt.

For those familiar with Sherm's ice hockey exploits, Breakfast with Pandora Books has just released a new Tales of Borschland anthology, Sherm Reinhardt and the Black Rose, including the first story involving Sherm Reinhardt since The Skater and the Saint

Sherm journeys to Zimroth, one of Borschland's neighboring nations, to scout a new goalie for his Te Staff hockey team, but he soon finds out why, as one Borscher puts it, "Going to Zimroth is like going back in time."

There are six other tales in the anthology, each one opening up the world of Borschland in various ways: you'll learn about the Borschic way of romance and Borschic spirituality.

There's also the origin story of the Flowering Branch which is the centerpiece of The Skater and the Saint.

And there are chilling tales as well, one about the Loflins, native people of Borschland, and about why there are no movies in Borschland.

But wait, there's more.

In celebration of the new release, for a limited time the entirety of the Borschland Hockey Chronicles (Skater in a Strange Land, The Skater and the Saint, and the Tales of Borschland anthology) will be available to read for free in the Kindle Unlimited lending library.

And here's an offer for you: anyone who reads one of these three selections and leaves a review somewhere online (e.g. Amazon, Goodreads, your blog) will be among the first to receive, absolutely free, an e-copy of the third and last installment of the Borschland Hockey Chronicles, The Last Phase Shift, which with any luck will be available to give as a Christmas gift this year.

Utter fabulousness.

And if you've read this far, then you deserve further insider information, which is that the cover of the Tales of Borschland anthology shown here is actually a beta cover, and if you yourself want to or know someone who would want to design a better cover, please let us know in the comments or email us at teenage underscore heroes at yahoo dot com.


Here's to Shelley, Myst, and H.L. Burke

12557822_1148142651892799_1635258862_oA spotlight for H.L. Burke, who is, for my money, one of the coming author-personalities in indie publishing today. She writes good books, but she's also an engaging person who's fun to follow on social media, especially if you like dragons and cats.

Burke's latest is an attractive YA steampunk novella called Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors. The title protagonist is (according to Burke) "a reformed cat burglar turned electrician's apprentice, settled into a life repairing videophones and radio-sets. However, when her past comes calling, she finds herself framed for murder and forced into one last job."

Nyssa Glass has a lot of things going for her, as does the book itself. She's smart, tech-savvy, and tender at the proper times, and Burke has presented for her in this first book of the series a worthy set piece in the elaborately wired and booby-trapped mansion where mirrors are used in an innovative way. 

I got attracted to Nyssa Glass because of my Steampunkish series, the Borschland Hockey Chronicles, which is not what you'd call classic steampunk. In fact, I never intended it to be Steampunk, but it sort of fits in the genre.

Burke's take on the genre is similar. She told me in a recent email that she came to Steampunk in high school through the computer game Myst, which has "a definite steampunk aesthetic (gears, levers, goggles)... I'd keep detailed notebooks as I struggled to solve the complex problems and gather clues. I read the 'Myst Reader' which involved a young girl finding an advanced society living under the earth. A society with geothermal power and massive tunneling machines … I really wanted to live there. Well, not necessarily under the ground in D'ni, but in one of the ages Atrus wrote and settled."

Burke says she's read and likes three Steampunk novels that differ amongst themselves quite a bit, first "Romulus Buckle and the City of the Founders ...[which] has a lot of Steampunk trappings, but the world is post apocalyptic and added in aliens … so not completely traditional.

"Then I read Dream Eater's Carnival, because I knew the author mainly. It had some wonderful Steampunk flair, with a circus of rogues and freaks, a heroine who had amber embedded in her arm she could use to do magic, and a carnival performer who may very well be stealing the life force of those around him...

"Finally I picked up Lady of Devices. This was by far the most traditional Steampunk I'd read yet. It had Victorian social issues and a feisty heroine who rises above social mores while still managing to be very proper. 

"So between all that, I never had a real guideline for what the genre ought to be, which probably works out for the best. You give me rules and guidelines, the urge to break, bend, and twist them becomes pathological. I tend to write my books first, then find a genre box I can sort of stuff them into rather than write to the conventions of any one particular genre."

I agree.

For Nyssa Glass, Burke makes several bends in the whatever might be considered the classic Steampunk structure:

"My characters use mostly modern speech. While I appreciate an author who can hold up 'old timey' dialogue for long periods of time, my characters tend to speak to me in whatever voice they darn well want, and I just let them.

"I cheat and use electricity … my characters have computer technology that is way too advanced for your average Steampunk setting. A lot of the story-line features strongly around a character who is a computer, in fact." 

That probably would be one of my few objections to this book as Steampunk-- that there is twenty-first century tech in it without being explained by steam and gears.

But there are a lot of stories with improbable technology that people swallow whole, including original gothic works like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Not coincidentally, Burke considers Nyssa "Shelley meets Verne meets Wells, but there's also a taste of the adventure games (such as Myst) that I love so very very much. I hope people can lose themselves in it, the way teenage me longed to visit the Ages of Myst. That's my goal in this series."

I'd say that is the distinctive characteristic of Nyssa, putting the story front and center without a lot of background fuss about worlds and tech. Check out all her other books as well on her website. Dragons abound.

Some other links for the inimitable Mrs. Burke:

Website

Blog

Twitter

Facebook Author Page

Amazon Author Page 

 

A lovely, thoughtful review of Skater and the Saint

I respect Richard Abbott's fair-minded, insightful reviews. He has recently published a string of posts on steampunk books, and he's lucidly imparted his thoughts on each one. The Skater and the Saint is (sort of) the next in line, and he gave it 5 stars.

As they say in Borschland, Ergut!

The Borschland Hockey Chronicles are sort of steampunk-y. As Richard says in his review, "[T]he book drifts somewhere out of phase between fantasy, science-fiction and steampunk..." I consider it steampunk lite. Richard goes on to say that the Chronicles demand to be read on their own merits.

This is true. I don't think I have the gene for writing genre fiction, though I respect those who can. My imagination is too all over the place for me to write to a series of expectations. At the same time, I wouldn't call the Chronicles "literary." There's too much goof in them for that. 

My friend Bob Mustin probably got close to the truth when he called the Chronicles "postmodern fantasy."

Postmodernism is sometimes thought of as a movement that tried to argue that everything is meaningless, but in its best form, it takes the conventional and stands it on its head, bringing out new possibilities and meanings.

I see the conventions of genres-- the magic sword in fantasy, the sexy man who can be improved in romance-- and I want to do something original with them, knock them about, change people's expectations.

So in Skater in a Strange Land, the romance is between a nerd hockey player and a nerd poetess. There are no dandelion fairies floating in front of a soft-focus lens. But the hero and heroine do have a waltz together.

In The Skater and the Saint, there's no magic sword. But there's a weird branch-like thing that blooms every 300 years and is shaped like and can be used as a hockey stick.

The third book, still in the planning stages, promises to be more science-fiction-y. Hopefully plausible and well-researched stuff. And full of a kind of goof, too.

Speaking of expectations, I wasn't expecting Richard to like this one better than the first. He liked it because it delved into Borschic culture and religion more deeply than the first; I thought that might be a hindrance to some readers. And it may just be.

But the one wonderful thing I've discovered since publishing these two novels is that every reader comes to every book with a unique set of eyes, and fixes on different things in those books. If a book is packed full enough-- of plot, character, world, turn of phrase-- then each reader can appreciate something different, and like the book regardless of their particular eyes. It sounds trite, but I think it's true.

Anyway, go read the review if you'd like, and check out Richard's newest, Scenes from a Life, a view into the everyday world of ancient Egypt.


In honor of the Winter Classic

In Borschland, ice hockey is an outdoor sport.

Borschlanders are used to lacing up their skates on rivers, ponds, or man-made rinks, and chasing after a puck while snow is falling. Indoor rinks exist, but are considered to be, in a way, cheating.

The following is an excerpt from Skater in a Strange Land, narrated by the greatest ice hockey journalist in Borschland, Kadmus Greningen, who describes the first Borschland Hockey League game every played in by our hero, Sherm Reinhardt:

...On this night there was much pomp and pageantry at Te Rijngk, our skating place. The river shined with the lights on the far bank, from the longshoreman's city of Natatck and the glittering suburb of Rirlver. The spit of land, Te Saandmaas, that extends between the river and Te Rijngk was full of workingmen, standing, standing, throughout the game, and not seeing very well, for that spit does not rise much above the river level, and they were standing ten and fifteen deep, but cheering none the less as our skaters waved to them under the spotlights and the bands played. 

The grandstand proper of Te Rijngk is built into the bluff that borders the river and guides it on, moves it along, saying, you shall not swamp this city. There is room for six thousand here, some of it in seating, some of it in benches, and at the very top in the grand boxes sit the dignitaries of the city, its richest and sometimes its happiest citizens. One level below sit the press, and there is where I am, humble reader, with the river lit up and the spotlights following the players as they skate the oval with grim, determined smiles. 

I know not exactly what was transpiring in the mind of Sherman Reinhardt at this time. Surely he had been in bigger rinks, for he had played in North America. And surely he had been cheered louder, for I think in America they have grandstands that seat twenty and thirty thousand fans at a time. 

But Sherman Reinhardt never would have been cheered so sincerely. Of that I am humbly confident. 

Of the game many thousand words could be written, yet it seemed to pale in significance to the historical nature of the event. To be sure, Te Staff won, by a score of 7 goals to 2, which was an impressive total, though there is no reason for us to have given up any goals at all, but that once we had gotten to 7 it seemed ungentlemanly not to let them score a couple. 

But we did not long remember the score. It was our Sherm who shone, our Sherm, our guest, our adopted son. 

Sherm lost his first faceoff. The lights off the river must have dazzled him. The venerable center of Tarlunz, Habel Baarda, who has scored a century of goals in his career, slipped the puck back to his defenseman and seemed almost to take a bow, as if to say, you were not expecting this North American to beat us Borschland boys, were you

Sherm went after that lost puck, furiously skating for it, and extended his stick as one defender attempted to pass horizontally to the other. The puck, headed for its intended target, clipped Sherm's stick and spindled high in the air. Sherm plucked it like a ripe Borschic apple, laid it at his feet, and let fly a shot on goal that went so fast it was in the net before any of us had time to pick up our field glasses. 

You have never heard such cheering. 

Lubert Veeststaff, the Tarlunz net minder of whose age we have now lost track, told us he had never seen a puck struck so hard. 

Afterwards, Sherm said through his interpreter Kevin Busby, "I apologize to the nation of Borschland for my selfishness. I was caught in the moment and my blood was up." 

It was a proper thing to say. We Borschers tend not to play the game by ourselves. But how can one apologize for a lightning bolt? It is a force of nature, an act of God. 

I believe that, by that shot, the will of the Tarlunz team was broken, like dry kindling over one's knee. Through the rest of the game it seemed as if Te Staff danced the Premujr Ball about the slow-footed Tarlunzers. Sherm took his part, but every time he got the puck he seemed to want to pass it, though the crowd begged him to shoot again. Chrujstoff, our young hothead, ended up with 2 goals to take the honor of the flowering crown that night, and Sherm was credited with 3 assists as he skillfully furnished the puck to the blades of his teammates. 


"Skater in a Strange Land" #1 book for Phil Naessens in 2013

Phil Naessens, Internet (and soon to be terrestrial) sports talk radio host has named Skater in a Strange Land his #1 book for 2013.

It's great to be #1 for anything, but for an author, it doesn't get much better. I thank Phil for his support for the Borschland Hockey Chronicles from the beginning.

I was on Phil's show today, Monday, December 30, looking back at Skater in a Strange Land and giving everyone a sense of the sequel, The Skater and the Saint. Click here to listen or on the player below.

 

The Skater and the Saint is available as an e-book here, as a paperback here, or pay through PayPal (button above and to the right) and you can get an autographed copy straight to your doorstep.

Phil asks me whether it was difficult to write a sequel, and among other things I told him it was easy, because readers like him were looking for more from Borschland.

But off air he clarified that he really wanted to know if I thought it was going to be difficult to "top" Skater in a Strange Land, whether I thought it was a hard act to follow since it was so good.

It's a funny thing, because I know where he's coming from. I remember waiting for the sequel to Star Wars, and being very happy with The Empire Strikes Back, so happy I yelled in the theater at the end, "Now I have to wait two years for the next one!"

I don't know about George Lucas, but I never thought Skater in a Strange Land would be hard to top because I never had the sense that it was as good a book as Phil thought it was. Authors by nature are pessimistic about their work, and I'm no exception.

However, I did think a lot about whether The Skater and the Saint would be a good book. I worked my tail off trying to make it good, and didn't worry that much about comparisons.

I hope readers like both books; they're somewhat different in that the first one spends more time on hockey and the second on relationships (though there's a lot of hockey in The Skater and the Saint, too).

And yes, there will be a third book, slated for 2015, which I also hope will be good. I'm going to try my darndest.

In the meantime, thanks again, Phil, for making Skater in a Strange Land #1. It's good to know I touched the life of at least one reader. That's what it's all about.


Dean Wesley Smith on books as (non-)events

Skater.cover.smallBack in the old days, before the Continental book tour, before Skater in a Strange Land, even before computers, I wrote a short story.

It was set in Anvoria, a neighbor nation of Borschland and Bearland and my next destination on the book tour.

I can hardly remember what it was about, but I'm pretty sure it involved musical instruments.

I was a sophomore in college at the time, and I showed it around to some people to see what they thought.

A couple of people liked it, but there was one who said it wasn't right and I had to rewrite it.

So I ignored the people who liked it, threw out the old draft and rewrote it, and I hated it. I showed it to the people who had liked it before, and they agreed with me that I had lost the spirit of the first draft. The reader who thought it wasn't right hadn't "gotten" it, and so I explained it, and in the explaining, I lost whatever there was of a story.

Problem was, I didn't have the first draft on disk. There were no disks then. The old draft was in a landfill.

I learned that day that you should never throw away your first drafts.

More recently, I learned from Dean Wesley Smith that your first draft should be your only draft.

In this post, he introduces the radical notion that you should think of your stories and novels not as "events"-- that is, a momentous, significance-laden work of art that needs to be labored over for years in tortured solitude-- but as entertaining tales to be told for an interested audience.

In other words, write the thing, publish it, and move on to the next story.

Smith is a genre writer with over 100 traditionally-published novels under his belt. He is currently on an ambitious campaign to write a magazine containing a full novel plus a bunch of stories every month. He's been blogging about writing a novel in 10 days, 15 days, crazy short periods of time.

I don't exactly know why he has decided to go this route, but he is very successful with his sales. People like his stuff. He doesn't have to write and rewrite.

What about the rest of us?

My second novel in the Borschland Hockey Chronicles, "The Skater and the Saint," is set to launch on November 16. I will have spent a little under a year writing and publishing it. That's very fast for me. But I like this book and I think if you liked Skater in a Strange Land, you'll be thrilled with this one.

Even a couple of years ago, I never would've thought such a thing possible. I was still in the write-and-rewrite-crowd. Heck, I was in the traditional-publishing-or-die crowd.

Now I'm leaning towards DWS's camp. I am big devotee of Malcolm Gladwell's axiom that once you've spent 10,000 hours on any one skill, you are a master regardless of your "talent" level. I've definitely reached 10,000, I feel I have finished my apprenticeship, and I am writing faster and better than ever before.

I don't know that DWS's advice holds for beginning writers. I've spent a good amount of time online this year checking out indie writers, and I don't see a whole lot of skill in storytelling. I see a whole lot of poor style as well, but that's not as important as telling a good story. I may be jaded-- and I may be thinking too much of my own storytelling skills-- but I think there are still a lot of writers out there who could use seasoning.

In other words, I still believe in apprenticeship.

DWS thinks that even beginning writers should at least self-publish, on the off-chance that they'll sell. Yes, probably true. Why not?

At the same time, I'm still enough of a devotee of the literary crowd to value a gorgeous sentence for its own sake. DWS doesn't think your novel is a work of art. I think it can be. English, written well, is a beautiful thing. And good storytelling is a learned skill.

So what would my advice be for beginning writers? Don't throw away your first draft. It may be your best. But spend some time on learning how to tell a story in a way that doesn't make us English afficionados cringe.

And yes, you may need to completely rewrite your story. You may need to rewrite it from another point of view. You may need to completely recast your opening. You may realize that you don't have a story at all, just a bunch of people talking. You may have enormous plot-holes that emerge only when careful readers show them to you.

When do you know that something's good enough to publish? That's the beauty of it. If you keep apprenticing, you will learn. In the meantime, get the opinion of someone who's spent 10,000 hours writing.

And if you can't tell, go ahead and publish it as DWS suggests. He's right: the worst you'll get is ignored.

If you do go the apprenticeship route, I think you'll look back on what you published with a lot more pride and sense of accomplishment-- even if you sell millions of that first draft.


I read Skater, Lyn reads Wendy

Truenorth.smallTrue North Writers & Publishers Co-operative, of which I am a co-founder, is having reader events! My colleague Lyn Fairchild Hawks will also be reading from her novel, How Wendy Redbird Dancing Survived the Dark Ages of Nought.

Please come if you are local. It will be great fun.

Friday, September 13, 6 PM, Purple Crow Books, Hillsborough, NC. Friday evenings in Hillsborough are hopping. Come by to hear us read, soak in the literary atmosphere of the town, then get out into the town, walk the beautiful fall evening, and find a great restaurant to Tweet, Yelp, or Facebook about later.

Saturday, September 14, 2 PM, McIntyre's Books, Fearrington Village, Pittsboro, NC. We're doing a tribute to our mentor, brilliant, literary-medalled, late author and creative writing professor Doris Betts. McIntyre's is a great independent bookshop. We will have a couple of surprises for this one.

Sunday, September 15, 2 PM, Fullsteam Brewery, Durham, NC. A laid-back party with games, trivia, munchies, and beer. Come by to say hi and have a pretzel, a craft brew, a signed book. Perfect for your Hallowe'en (?) gift plans.


Skater, a clean read for you

Picture 2
If you click on the above screenshot, you will notice something remarkable.

  • This is an actual email that Amazon.com sent to a friend of mine.
  • Amazon.com did actually suggest to my friend that she should buy "Skater in a Strange Land."
  • Amazon.com did group "Skater" with a number of books on the same topic: ice hockey.
  • And yet, you can tell by the covers of the other books that "Skater" isn't selling what the others are.

I am proud of the cover of "Skater." It was done by Streetlight Graphics and I think it beautifully captures the mood of "Skater." The silver, icy flourish of the title is superimposed over the mysterious, wintry blue of the background with its old-style buildings and snowflakes.

But it is clear that "Skater" is hard to categorize. Although it is about ice hockey and romance, it is not an ice hockey romance. In addition to the romance, it has elements of the classic sports story; suspense and political intrigue; steampunk; and flat-out travel and adventure.

It is certainly not a "steamy" ice hockey romance like the ones it's grouped with here. Romance novels are a very large market, and sports romance novels have their niche. Attractive men, and intimate relationships, can be found in every walk of life, and book covers are used to advertise that fact.

No, the romance of "Skater" is based on anticipation rather than fulfillment. So even though our hero, Sherm, is tall, athletic, and with a ruggedly handsome face, and even though our heroine Rachael is young, elegant, and with eyes "dark and shiny like black coffee in a white mug," there is on purpose a dynamic of old-fashioned courting and waiting.

Which is why I felt it was good idea to sign up on the "Clean Indie Reads" blog, which is a site dedicated to promoting books that are free of offensive or explicit content.

Someday I may write a book that resembles so many of those popular reads out there. In Borschland, however, it'll stay clean.