Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Really Random Tuesday #76: Blog Talk, Book Winners, and Jane Austen

It's a good thing we have a sense of humor.  I think many bloggers can relate to this humorous card.  My husband gave me the card above for Valentine's Day (along with a more traditional card), in an envelope addressed to "Suko".  I do find this quite funny, and "spot on"--I've watched numerous eyes glaze over when I've talked at length about my blog.  ;)


Please help me to congratulate Laura from Library of Clean Reads and traveler.  Each has won a copy of The Pact by Mitchell S. Karnes.  Congratulations to both of you! 

Dear readers, if you didn't win this time, please scroll down and take a look at the other book giveaways listed on the right side of my blog.  I update this list frequently, so check back as often as you wish for new book giveaways. 


Isn't she lovely?  GoneReading, a glorious online gift shop for readers, now has a Jane Austen action figure available, part of an entire collection devoted to this English novelist.  Like me, you may think of Jane Austen as more cerebral than action-oriented, but imagine her lending unmistakeable poise and presence to your writing desk, home library, or reading nook, or as a special guest at your next book club meeting.  It'll be hard for Jane Austen fans to resist the wonderful stuff in this collection. Through the end of March, enter SUKOS20 at the check-out for a 20% discount on all GoneReading purchases!


Appearing on random Tuesdays, Really Random Tuesday is a way to post odds and ends--announcements, musings, quotes, photos--any blogging and book-related things you can think of. I often announce book winners in these posts. If you have miscellaneous book news to gather up and are inspired by this idea, "grab" the button for use on your own blog, then add your link to the "master" Mister Linky on the Really Random Tuesday page.

Thanks for reading!  Your comments are welcomed.

Monday, February 24, 2014


When you look back at your childhood, chances are you wish you had not felt so helpless and at the mercy of others. You may wish you hadn't felt so much, that perhaps you'd been less sensitive.  I know I wish I'd been less affected by everyone and everything around me.  I wish I'd felt and acted more like an adult than a child at times.  But you can't change the past, can you?

In the novel We by Michael Landweber, published in 2013, the forty-two-year-old gay protagonist, Ben Arnold, has recently had an accident.  He's experienced a bad fall, and strangely discovers that he's also fallen back in time.  Inexplicably, Ben now sees his childhood self, a rail thin seven-year-old nicknamed Binky.  He's somehow managed to travel back in time to his own past, to June of 1977, right before the occurrence of an awful event.  Ben sees this as a chance to prevent his sister, Sara, from being raped by a group of boys, an event that shattered her life and also affected the rest of the family, his parents, Lance and Charlotte, and older brother, Charles.  Given this mysterious opportunity to revisit the past, Ben hopes he can intervene and change the past, and rewrite his family's history.

We is a short title, the shortest one I can think of, but it's the perfect title for this book, as adult Ben "joins forces" with himself as a child, to form a distinct "we".  It's difficult to describe this merge, but it's precisely through this bizarre yet bewitching mingled consciousness of Ben as an adult and Binky as a young boy that we learn about the Arnold family, and about his relationship with Roger, who has recently left him.  Ben discovers while looking back--or while being back--that some of his beliefs about himself, his family, and others, were not as accurate as he'd thought, and he garners new insights about his life.  As for Binky, with Ben's help, he does better the second time around in some respects.  Notably (and a bit humorously) at school, when Binky now speaks knowledgeably and matter of factly about sex, a topic that many children are naturally interested in, he commands a new respect from his peers because of his knowledge of adult matters.  His popularity is boosted in this manner.

I found this short novel (under 200 pages) to be different, exciting, and hard to put down.  We is a book that I'll think about and remember for a long time.  The idea of traveling back to your own past and making things better is quite fascinating, and it's well done in this deftly written novel.  We is a thoroughly gripping and thought-provoking debut novel by writer Michael Landweber. 

Special thanks to Lisa from TLC for sending me this book.  For other reviews, please visit the other stops on TLC's blog tour for We.

Thanks for reading!  As always, your comments are welcomed. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Pact: Review and Giveaway

There once was a bully named Cheezy.  My friend and I called her this simply because we saw her eat cheese crackers (I think they were Cheez-Its).  She scowled at me, she picked on me, and she may have even punched me once or twice--probably because I was  skinny and didn't fight back.  I was in fourth or fifth grade at the time, and very shy.  I was too shy to tell an adult about her actions, and luckily they were infrequent.  But I know that for many children, sadly, bullying is much more frequent, and much more harrowing.  Published by Black Rose Writing in 2013, TLC Book Tours described The Pact in an introductory email as "middle grade fiction about bullying, wrestling, and boys".  I decided to read The Pact because I think the problem of bullying needs to be addressed and dealt with.  Written by Mitchell S. Karnes, a pastor and father of seven children, The Pact is the first book in a four-part series.

The Pact begins in 1989, and is the story of Scott Addison.  His father, David, has died, and he and his mom, Barbara, move from Iowa City, Iowa to the small town of Meadowbrook, Illinois.  Like most children his age, Scott wants to fit in at school, but he also wants to do what's right, which gets him into trouble with some of the tough boys.  On his first day of eighth grade at Lincoln Junior High School, Scott, who's 6'2",  defends a small boy, Paul Strickland, who's being bullied by some larger boys, Joe, Sammy, and Mark.  Scott despises bullies, and the first pact in the book is that he will protect Paul from them.  As a result of Scott's intervention, he and Paul become friends.  Later in the book, Paul introduces Scott to his older friends, Chris and Luke, who are in high school. 

"Scott couldn't wait for Friday.  He had a rough week  and couldn't seem to get anything off of his mind, from the visit of Mr. Knowlton to Joe's dad, and from Mrs. Largent's comment about weaknesses to Sammy's physical and verbal shots in the stairwell.  Life was crashing down around him, and Warriors & Thieves provided the only true escape for Scott."
~ The Pact, Mitchell S. Karnes

Scott is smart, and he's a strong wrestler.  But in spite of (and maybe also because of) his talents, life is difficult, and he "wrestles" with several serious issues.  Unfortunately, Scott is now a target of the bullies, who are resentful, mean, and merciless.  He was close to his deceased father, who was a renowned fantasy-writer and an excellent role model and teacher, and although his mother is loving and wonderful, Scott is having a rough time in some ways at his new school.  He wants to be a good person, but he's young and inexperienced, and he doesn't know how to handle the behavior of the school bullies.  (He later witnesses something that gives him insight into bullying behavior, and he's not sure what to do with this knowledge.)  Religion is also a part of this story (it's presented in a low-key manner, and most of the boys do not attend church), and Scott is conflicted because the youth minister, Rick, does not approve of the fantasy-game that he enjoys playing so much, Warriors & Thieves (which is prominently featured in the novel).  Throughout the book, Scott struggles to control his strong emotions, and he also needs to learn to control his physical strength, and to use it intelligently.

The Pact seized my attention firmly, and I read it quickly.  I learned quite a bit about wrestling, an ancient form of combat and a sport that requires both physical and mental skill.  Throughout the book, Scott gets into several dangerous situations and I must say that at times I thanked my lucky stars that I was not born a boy--too much fighting and risky behavior!  I think this short novel will appeal to children--especially boys--who often struggle with various things as they grow up, including bullying.  The Pact would be a good choice for a class in middle school, and would naturally lead to important discussions about bullying, and hopefully about the value of friendship and character.  I also think that fathers and sons would benefit from reading and discussing this book, which features different types of father-son relationships.  I look forward to reading the next book in this series, The Dragon's Pawn, which will be published in a few months. 

Terrific news!  The author is generously offering a giveaway for two copies of The Pact (U.S./Canada only).

  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
  • Were you bullied as a child?  Leave a brief comment about your experience for an extra entry. 
  • For another chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower.
  • For an additional chance, post about this contest on your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.

Enter by 5 PM PST on Monday, February 24.  Two winners will be selected randomly and announced on Tuesday, February 25. 

Special thanks to Lisa from TLC for sending me this book.  For an interview with author Mitchell S. Karnes, stop by YA Reads.  For more reviews of this book, please visit the other stops on TLC's blog tour for The Pact.

Thanks for reading!  As always, your comments are valued and welcomed. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

An Insider's Look at Indie Publishing: A Guest Post by Dermot Davis

When Irish playwright and novelist Dermot Davis contacted me about reading his self-published book, Brain: The Man Who Wrote the Book That Changed the World, winner of the 2013 USA Best Book Awards for humor, I knew I wanted to read it.  I also knew that it would most likely be a few months before I could begin the book, unfortunately.  In the meantime, I invited the author to write a guest post about self-publishing.  As a book blogger, I've seen many changes in the world of publishing, and I thought it would be interesting to learn more about self-publishing, which has shown remarkable growth since 2007.  Today, there are numerous companies that assist authors who decide to self-publish (in August 2013, I posted an interview with Jacob Morris from Blue Publishing, a company that provides guidance and publishing training to writers).  I think this is just the beginning of the self-publishing revolution.  In this guest post, indie author Dermot Davis describes his experience with self-publishing.


An Insider's Look at Indie Publishing: A Guest Post by Dermot Davis

As a playwright and screenwriter, I was not considering writing novels until a friend of mine started her own publishing imprint (eXu Publishing) and asked me if I had any unpublished manuscripts that she could take a look at.  When she told me that she could have an approved novel of mine published and listed for sale on Amazon within a few short months, I decided to write a short novel and submit it to her for consideration.  Within a few weeks, she had the book edited, proofread, and once a cover was designed, true to her word, the book was listed on Amazon for sale to the world.

When I say that I was not considering novels, I mean to say that despite the fact that it was my secret dream and that I always knew I would eventually write novels, I figured that the time was not yet right.  I had assumed that, just like the field of play-writing and screenwriting, it would be a long drawn out process involving a whole series of submissions and rejections that would take years of hard work and painful slogging to finally get something approved and maybe, just maybe into print.  I had had enough of such heartache with my existing fields of endeavor and I knew that I just wasn't up for another fight, just yet.  What I didn't realize was that advances in digital technology were reinventing how books get published and turning the traditional publishing world upside down.

I can't tell you what an amazing thrill it was to hold my first published book in my hand!  I could have wallpapered my apartment with the mass of rejection letters that I had received over the years, yet, here I stood, published book in hand and I was over the moon.  It was like all the years of hard work and pursuing a dream, despite almost daily rejection, was now finally paying off.  I couldn't wait to write my next one!

What the new publishing model provides for writers is nothing short of amazing!  To be able to completely bypass the middlemen - the gatekeepers - and present my work directly to the public makes me thank the stars that I was born at the right time.  Although the concept of writers publishing their own works and presenting them directly to the public is not a new one (Mark Twain and James Joyce come to mind), the very notion that I can sit at my computer, write a story of my choosing and without leaving my desk, my book can get printed and sent out to anyone in any country of the world is... astounding.

I now have three books in print and there's no stopping me now!

Okay, having said all that... there is a downside, which I could probably sum up in one word: marketing.  It's all very well to have your work published and put out for sale but what if no one sees it or even knows that it exists?  Sure, my books look terrific sitting along with Dickens and Homer on my bookshelves but if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it... did it really make a noise?

What I've quickly come to realize is that to have books published under the new Print On Demand (POD) model is that to be successful and actually sell some books, you must become your own promoter and marketer, which is something most writers would wish to avoid like the plague.  To be a success in the new model, you effectively take on all the duties that the traditional publisher has been doing for decades and it is here that ultimately determines the indie author's success.

The biggest hurdle for me and most other writers that I talk to is getting people to read the work.  It was a champagne popping, celebratory moment when my first book came out and friends and family duly bought the book and inundated me with congratulatory best wishes.  When my third book was printed it got greeted with mostly silence and maybe one or two friends bought the book and added it to their to-be-read stack.  According to some recent studies it was found that over 80% of published books will sell less than 50 books in their lifetime.  Selling books is hard, hard work and ironically, it has given me a greater appreciation of how much effort the traditional publishers need to put in to get their authors noticed and get their books sold.

Because study after study has found that people buy books based on recommendations from friends or from people that they trust, it is crucial to have your book be talked about and receive such positive recommendations.  Publishers know who the influencers are and they have a system in place where they get their author's titles to the right people at the right time in order to effect a successful roll out of a new work.  Publishers begin selling a book long before it actually gets printed and sending Advance Readers Copies (ARCs) to book reviewers and bloggers is a main part of their strategy, for instance.

This is where it starts getting tricky for the POD author: many doors that are open to traditional publishers are closed to the indie author.  Most major newspapers and literary journals will only accept pre-publication works for review, which rules out POD titles (most public libraries will not accept books that have not been reviewed in the major literary journals).  Most bookstores will not stack their shelves with POD books but customers may be able to order books through them as long as they accept that they cannot return or exchange the book.  As many influential book review bloggers have been burned in the past by either authors behaving badly or being inundated with sub-standard, error-strewn self-published books, many of them will now only accept review copies from publishers or publicists.  Most major literary prizes and awards do not accept self-published titles, which is traditionally an arena where new authors in particular can receive breakout recognition... and the list goes on.

Because in some ways, this is a new frontier for book publishing, things are shifting constantly and the rules of the game are changing almost on a daily basis.  What is true for today may not be true tomorrow.  If you or someone you know is contemplating taking the self-publishing route, bear in mind that a degree in marketing may benefit you more than your literary skills, at least as far as actually selling what you write is concerned.

Dermot, thank you for very much for eloquently sharing your experience and thoughts about self-publishing.  Best of luck with your new book, Brain: The Man Who Wrote the Book That Changed the World.  It's received many terrific reviews on Amazon and other sites.  Bookfool calls Brain "a delightful, humorous satire that pokes fun at the world of publishing".  I'm super excited to read it!


Your comments are welcomed, as always.

Some of the books featured here were given to me free of charge by authors, publishers, and agents. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.


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