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Archive for May, 2007

bc_small.jpgThe Loch
By Steve Alten
Tsunami Books
ISBN: 0-9761659-0-2
Copyright 2005
Hardcover, 487 pages, $27.95
Thriller

Brilliant young biologist Zachary Wallace takes part in an underwater expedition in the Sargasso Sea. However, while deep in the water, something goes terribly wrong and he’s eventually blamed for what happens.

His career seriously damaged, Zachary plunges into alcohol. The fact that he’s lost his job isn’t the biggest problem. The biggest problem is that now, for some mysterious reason, he’s incredibly afraid of going into the water. But how can a marine biologist be afraid of the water? At the same time, he begins to be tormented by dark memories of his childhood, when he was nearly drown in Loch Ness.

Then one day a stranger—who claims to be his half-brother—shows up at his hotel with a strange request: Zachary must return to Scotland to help their father, who has been accused of murder.

But how can Zachary help a man for whom he feels nothing but contempt? Besides, that would mean going back to Loch Ness, a dark place that plagues his dreams with horrific images, for when he nearly drowned all those years ago, he saw a creature there, a creature with icy cold eyes and gigantic pointed teeth…

As Zachary helps his father and tries to solve the mystery of the Loch Ness monster, he takes off into a journey of self-discovery.

Whether you believe in the Loch Ness monster or not, one thing is for sure: this is a book alla “Jaws” that will be relished by thriller fans. Combining action, mystery, horror, history and scientific research, the book sure offers an intriguing and exciting read.

In Zachary we have a real guy with faults, not the perfect romantic hero of so many commercial novels, heightening the realistic aspect of the story. Indeed, the protagonist is not only insufferable at times, but, for all his brilliance, possesses the most deplorable taste in women.

In spite of its length, almost 500 pages, this is the type of fast-paced novel that will be finished by most readers in a matter of days. The history adds an intriguing, original aspect to the tale, while the scientific research gives it credibility and helps to maintain a good suspension of disbelief throughout. It is obvious as one reads the pages the amount of time that the author spent on research. Recommended as an interesting, thrilling, action-packed read.

Reviewed by Mayra Calvani

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The Ghost Mirror
by Jamieson Wolf
www.etreasurespublishing.com
Copyright 2007
Ebook/Paperback
YA/Dark Fantasy

Thirteen-year old Mave is no ordinary girl. For one thing, she happens to be a black-eyed, redheaded powerful witch, so much so that even her own parents fear her. Not understanding her powers, her mom and dad have chosen to ignore and neglect her to the point of emotional cruelty.

The only person in the world who seems to love and understand Mave is her grandmother, and when she takes Mave to live with her in her big mansion, the young girl couldn’t be happier. Soon, however, Mave discovers a strange and mysterious old mirror in the attic. Grandmother warns her to stay away from it, but sometimes curiosity can be more powerful than reason. Mave touches the mirror, with dangerous consequences. She’s transported into a dark and magical world and faced with a grand mission: she’s to destroy the evil Lavender Man… or die.

Talented author Jamieson Wolf has penned a dark, sometimes macabre, beautifully written novel for young adults and adults alike. His lyrical prose flows like the magic in his story and has an old-fashioned tone to it which perfectly complements the plot. Some of the vivid images in the book are quite haunting, like the Tree Lady of the forest and the Lavender Man sucking the spirit from his victims. Above all, the beauty of the language stands out, as well as the author’s obvious love for storytelling. I was drawn from start to finish into Wolf’s darkly magical world and look forward to reading the sequel soon.

Reviewed by Mayra Calvani, The Dark Phantom Review

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Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers
By Shel Horowitz
AWM Books
ISBN: 0-9614666-3-3
Copyright 2007
Writing/Publishing

If you’re serious about book promotion, this work by marketing guru Shel Horowitz is one you’ll want to add to your permanent reference shelf.

The book, which is divided into four main parts—Creating a Marketable Book, Publicity, Getting into-and out of-Bookstores and Libraries, and Advanced Marketing—covers the most important topics you’ll need to master to market your book successfully. Horowitz begins by explaining how to prepare an effective marketing plan according to the audience of your book, using actual plans as examples to demonstrate his point and make his ideas clear to the reader. He also discusses topics such as how to build a high-traffic website and the importance of branding yourself as expert by writing articles on the subject of your book.

The author devotes a whole chapter to Google and examines its services beyond the basic “Search”, as well as the use of Adwords and Adsense. Another thing I found particularly helpful in this book is that Horowitz uses specific examples of press releases to clearly demonstrate what works and what doesn’t. Other chapters deal with the importance of discussion groups, building your own newsletter, doing interviews, selling to bookstores and libraries, getting into Amazon, trade shows, book fairs, direct mail advertising, foreign rights, sub rights, etc. In sum, all the topics you need to cover in order to be able to market your book inexpensively but successfully. At the end of the book there’s an Appendix with a list of helpful resources.

The book is written in an engaging style and is a solid addition to other marketing books available today. I especially liked the use of specific examples in the press releases section and the fact that he devoted a whole chapter on the different uses of Google. I would have liked to see a longer list of book review sites on the resources section, and not only those publications that often ignore the small publishers and small press authors. In sum, the book is full of practical tips and advice and offers an amalgam of information you’ll be able to profit from when promoting your book. Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers comes highly recommended from this reviewer.

Reviewed by Mayra Calvani

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0156032325_65.jpgThe Ghost Writer
By John Harwood
Harcourt Books
ISBN: 0-15-603232-5
Copyright 2005
Paperback, 384 pages, $14.00

Be prepared to leave the night light on, because this is one of those rare books that will haunt your dreams.

Gerard Freeman is a timid, antisocial librarian who lives with his mother Phyllis—a seemingly cold, strange and secretive woman who appears tormented by something “terrible” that happened in her past. In Gerard’s mind only two things are alive: his mysterious pen pal Alice, with whom he has been exchanging letters for many years, and a story he found hidden in his mother’s drawer years ago written by his great-grandmother Viola. He’s always been curious by his mother’s childhood, but Phyllis never talks about it. In fact, the mere mention of it fills her with an inward terror, not so much for herself as for her son. In spite of Phyllis’ protests, Gerard decides to travel to England to investigate her past and meet his beautiful Alice, who is confined to a wheelchair. As he discovers more of Viola’s stories, a sinister pattern begins to form. But what connects the stories together? Where does his beautiful pen pal Alice fit into all this, and why does she always come up with an excuse to delay their meeting? What, if any, was his mother’s crime? All these questions and more are answered in a hair-raising conclusion that will keep readers glued to the book until the last page.

The author has an exquisite, traditional style that is highly reminiscent of 19th century ghost stories. Harwood has done a brilliant job in creating a complex, intricate plot of “stories within stories,” and achieving a chilling, macabre atmosphere all throughout the novel. There’s no gore; the horror is suggested, making it all the more powerful and ghoulish to the human mind. There’s also an eerie quality of unreality to the story, making the reader wonder what is real and what is dream. Because of this quality, it is important to read the story carefully, especially towards the ending, in order not to be confused. That said, this is one of those books that many people, including this reviewer, will want to read a second time just for the pure pleasure of it.

The Ghost Writer is an addictive, totally absorbing read. Fans of ghost stories will relish this one. So will anyone who enjoys a beautifully written, mesmerizing novel with lots of suspense and heavy atmosphere.

Reviewed by Mayra Calvani

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When and how did Omnidawn get started?
At least ten years before we began Omnidawn Publishing, we I had begun to explored the possibility of starting a press that would focus on serious non-realist literature. As fiction becomes more non-realistic it tends to lose acceptance as serious fiction by the literary critics. They have tended to equate non-realism with escapism and in most instances categorically disregard it.

We suspected serious non-realistic fiction in the U.S. was being discouraged in this system and we wanted to create a press that would help encourage such fiction. Meanwhile Rusty and I were both aware that significant works of poetry were also under published, because poetry books rarely break even, and publishers are reluctant to publish books that they know will lose money.

We thought we might be able to establish a press where the non-realist fiction could support the poetry books, and create a home for both. We started publishing poetry first, in 2001 to be exact, because we knew we would lose money on our first books, and poetry books are smaller and printed in smaller runs, so that our initial losses would be much less. Also, Rusty knows a number of excellent poets, and we realized that we could ask them for manuscripts, something we could not do in the field of fiction. Once we had made something of a name for ourselves in poetry publication, we felt we could begin to make contacts in the area of fiction.

The situation with regard to the acceptance of non-realistic fiction is thankfully changing, and critics are beginning to recognize authors who focus on non-realistic themes. We think we may have started publishing at just the right moment, or least we hope so.

I understand your press specializes in new wave fabulist fiction? Who invented this term? What differentiates it from regular science fiction, fantasy and/or horror?
The term new wave fabulist was coined for the Fall 2002 issue of Conjunctions, the literary journal from Bard College, by Brad Morrow, editor of Conjunctions, and Peter Straub, who guest edited that issue. As Brad and Peter described it to us, they considered a number of terms before settling on new wave fabulist. Conjunctions defined the term by stating that “For two decades, a small group of innovative writers rooted in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, and horror have been simultaneously exploring and erasing the boundaries of those genres by creating fiction of remarkable depth and power”, thus extending the definition of “Fabulist,” which generally does not include fantasy, science fiction or horror. Fabulist, is generally taken to mean magic realism without geographical boundaries, in other words, not necessarily Latin American. New wave fabulist simply stretches that definition to include other more non-realistic forms. We decided to publish fabulist and new wave fabulist fiction because it is difficult to say where one begins and the other leaves off.

Would you consider the new wave fabulist writers elitist?
Actually the intention in using this term is break down elitist barriers, so I would say that it is the exact opposite of elitist. In the past, genre writers have been consigned to what has been described as the “genre ghetto.” Once they are defined as genre writers it has been difficult to gain acceptance as authors of serious fiction. Literary critics have in the past rejected much that is not narrative realism because they consider non-realist literature to be primarily escapist genre fiction. They have also tended to reject the authors who write it, so this has reinforced the feeling of a “genre ghetto.” This is beginning to change, but there are still barriers that we believe should fall. Many writers whose work may be called genre fiction are writing serious fiction, some of which may move beyond the expected parameters of the genre, just as many actors who star in high profile genre films also star in art films or off-Broadway plays. The difference is that while successful actors who do genre films have little difficulty finding serious films or stage roles because they will draw an audience, successful genre writers who want to write outside of those parameters may well have difficulty getting that work published, partly because publishers expect to lose money on any book that doesn’t fit an established market, especially if it might be considered “serious literature.” One thing that we are trying to achieve is greater mobility for genre writers.

I want to emphasize that each of these categories has a very important place in literature. Many readers, especially young readers, become interested in highly entertaining genre fiction before they read serious literature, so this is a doorway. And it has obvious values for the writer as well. Because high-volume genre fiction can be more lucrative, it can be a means of earning a living for a writer, while that writer continues to work on other, less easily marketed projects. And, of course, it isn’t only young readers who will turn to such books. Most people like to be entertained with escapist adventures at least some of the time, and so we might read a popular genre novel or watch a genre movie. But we all know, only too well, that life is not just about entertainment, and that we also need to take some issues seriously, or we will not survive, either as individuals or as the human race. Of course, serious literature has to be entertaining, engaging, as well, or no one will read it, but it is not intended to be purely entertaining. Serious literature opens our eyes to new perspectives, new possibilities, new realities, or non-realities that stretch our perceptions. All of them, genre fiction, narrative realist fiction, and serious non-realistic fiction are important parts of our culture, and each should be encouraged.

Are books in this genre placed in a different section in bookstores?
A large reason the “genre ghetto” exists is because bookstores file all books by a particular author in the same section. It makes things a lot simpler for bookstore staff when they are asked where to look for a particular author’s books. Because its subtitle says “Fabulist” first, we expect that bookstores will shelve the anthology with general fiction, and we are hoping that many literary critics will do so as well. Novels by a single author that we call Fabulist/New Wave Fabulist will probably get consigned to general fiction as well if the author is new, but an established author will probably still be filed in the same section where the rest of their books can be found. The good news is that the other aspects of book publicity, particularly reviewers and the Internet, are breaking away from this classification system.

What has been the reviewers’ response to this new type of fiction? Do you think important review publications like Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal are more open to review this type of fiction from small presses as opposed to regular “commercial” SF. Fantasy, and horror?
Since our first new wave fabulist title, the anthology ParaSpheres, is just about to come out, we still don’t know the answer to this question. Of course, we do have contact with some reviewers, and their response has been very encouraging. They love the fact that we are coming out with an anthology with a very broad acceptance of any serious non-realistic fiction. And we certainly hope that the big pre-publication reviewers you mention will take notice. In January of this year we sent out hundreds of press kits to reviewers for these publication, as well as other mainstream review media to start the publicity rolling early, and we are continuing to follow up on that publicity. So we are making sure they know who we are and what we are trying to do.

What titles or authors do you consider perfect examples of this genre?
Our earliest literature did not concern itself with narrative realism, and so works like The Bible, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, and Dante’s Divine Comedy would also qualify, as well as the grand master of the English language, Shakespeare. Hamlet is, after all, a ghost story. So there is a much longer tradition of serious non-realistic literature than there is of narrative realism. The emphasis on realistic literature is much more recent, with a major emphasis starting in the nineteenth century.

Among twentieth century writers, I often mention Kafka, Huxley, and Orwell because these are writers whose work is recognized by virtually all critics as serious literature, even though it does not meet the narrative realist criteria of literary fiction. This is probably obvious to most readers, but I think it proves the point to all the literary community that non-realistic literature can be serious. Also specific novels from writers who primarily write literary fiction also qualify. Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time, and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale are examples that are well known to the general literary community. I tend to get myself into trouble when I start to mention writers from the genres, because I cannot list them all, so I am going to admit in advance that I am being very prejudiced when I only mention the long recognized masters of this form that we have included in ParaSpheres, including Alasdair Gray, Ursula LeGuinn, Michael Moorcock, and Rikki Ducornet. I won’t begin to mention the more recent authors in this arena, because I simply can’t name them all.

What do you NOT like to see in a manuscript? Do you often receive regular SF, fantasy, and/or horror simply because the author thinks it is new wave fabulist when in fact it isn’t?
We get a wide range of submissions, ranging from excellent narrative realism to more standard SF, fantasy, and horror. We are interested in work that takes an innovative approach to the traditions of storytelling, and we enjoy character based narrative realism, but for us to take such a story it has to have non-realistic elements. These non-realistic elements do not have to dominate the story, especially if the rest of the story is good. On the other hand, stories that have very significant amounts of non-realistic or highly improbably events need to have some way of creating relevance to the readers’ lives and to our world. For example, we would generally not be interested in stories of alien conquests of the Earth, a common SF theme, because it does not seem to have happened in the known history of our planet and therefore seems extremely unlikely in the foreseeable future. However, if such a story had deeper meanings, for instance if it showed American readers what it feels like to be conquered and occupied by a superior force so that we might better understand what we do in the countries we try to conquer, than we could be very interested in that story. The more layers of meaning we find in a story, the more we are likely to want it.

Conversely, we do not like action for action’s sake, or gratuitous sex or violence, or formulas. We like to be surprised.

Do you accept unsolicited submissions? How may writers interested in submitting to Omnidawn contact you?
We absolutely do accept unsolicited submissions. About forty percent of the stories in ParaSpheres came in from writers we did not know as a result of ads we placed in various writers magazines, and we intend to keep that ratio. Several of these writers had relatively minimal publishing experience before we accepted them. The two novels we will publish next year also came in from writers whom we did not know, and one of those novelists has only had a few short stories previously published. We are very much excited by new talent. We strongly suggest you check our web site, www.omnidawn.com for submission guidelines. I should also point out that we are currently swamped with submissions, and are very much behind in our reading. We don’t expect to even be opening new submissions until after ParaSpheres comes out at the end of this year, and then we have a large backlog to get through.

What advice would you give to aspiring, new wave fabulist writers?
The term ParaSpheres means “beyond the spheres” of literary or genre fiction, and that is part of the subtitle. But fabulist and new wave fabulist fiction is also a hybrid of the two. Therefore my first suggestion would be to study the masters in both genre fiction and literary fiction and learn from both worlds. And I would offer a word of warning. Serious literature generally does not sell as well as genre fiction, and I personally don’t expect that fabulist and new wave fabulist fiction will sell as well as genre fiction. You may want to do most of your work in the genres. I think the barriers are finally falling, and it will be much easier to break out of the “genre ghetto” in the future.

Interview by Mayra Calvani, aka The Dark Phantom
www.mayracalvani.com

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Paraspheres: Extending Beyond the Spheres of Literary and Genre Fiction
Edited by Rusty Morrison and Ken Keegan
Omnidawn Publishing
http://www.omnidawn.com
ISBN: 1-890650-18-8
Copyright 2006
Release date: August 2006
Trade Paperback, $19.95, 640 pages
Anthology/New Wave Fabulist Fiction

In the United States, most published fiction falls under two categories: “genre fiction” and “literary fiction.”

According to Ken Keegan, editor at Omnidawn Publishing, genre fiction, which accounts for about 90% of all fiction published, is often defined as “escapist,” usually follows a “winning” formula, and seldom has any lasting literary value. Literary fiction (also referred to as narrative fiction), which accounts for the remaining 10% of all fiction published, is primarily realistic and possesses more depth, characterization and lasting cultural impact. (625-8)

But what happens to fiction that doesn’t fit into one of these categories? Novels like The Mists of Avalon, Brave New World, or Life of Pi, for instance—works that have unrealistic settings or plots and aren’t officially “literary,” yet have incredible depth and power?

As we all know, necessity is the mother of invention. Thus, in the Fall 2002 issue of Conjunctions, the literary journal from Bart College, a new term was coined: New Wave Fabulist. Put simply, New Wave Fabulist is non-realistic, literary fiction. You may also think of it as literary fiction with strong elements of horror, science fiction or fantasy.

Looking back, other terms have been used to describe this type of fiction: magic realism and speculative. Yet magic realism is chiefly associated with Latin American novelists like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, whose One Hundred Years of Solitude greatly exemplifies it. On the other hand, speculative fiction disregards literary quality, making it impossible to always represent serious works.

Omnidawn’s latest anthology, Paraspheres: Extending Beyond the Spheres of Literary and Genre Fiction, excellently illustrates New Wave Fabulist fiction. The carefully crafted stories, fifty in all, combine elements of magic realism, the paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, mythology, fable, dream vision, even fairy tale, yet are serious literary works filled with symbolism and allegorical power, inviting the reader to ponder at their underlying meaning.

The authors, many of who have won prestigious prizes such as the Nebula, Hugo, Kafka, and National Book Awards, and who have published works in such renown publications as Ploughshares, Chicago Review, The American Life, The Literary Review, Pearl, Pleiades, The Berkeley Fiction Review, American Literary Review and Glimmer Train, among others, offer the reader an interesting array of styles, plots, settings and character studies.

In “Skunk,” by Justin Courter, the reader takes a mesmerizing glimpse into the mind of a man who has a skunk fetish: “The first time I took skunk musk straight, the effects were overwhelming. I held Homer over my head, squeezed a full shot straight down my throat, and was aware of a burning sensation in my sinuses for an instant before I blacked out. I awoke on the ground, with little idea of how much time had passed. By overdosing the first few times I drank musk, I missed out on much of the experience. Measuring my dosage, I found I could administer myself just enough to induce a sense of euphoria without passing out. Instead of squeezing a full shot directly down my throat, I squeezed Homer over a glass and then used an eyedropper to obtain a single droplet I let fall to my tongue.” (421) Needless to say, the story stands as a metaphor for the protagonist’s dark childhood.

Contrasting with this morbidity is “The Tree,” by Noelle Sickels, which begins as a sweet fairy tale: “Long ago, in a land very far from here, there lived a prince and princess. They had a comfortable castle, which, by magic, stayed clean and in good repair.”(382) Not necessarily what you would call a beginning for a serious work of fiction, except this story turns out to be a serious allegory with a powerful message about gender roles.

Stories like “The Ice-Cream Vendor,” by Leena Krohn, have strong elements of science fiction in it, while others like “Third Initiation: A Gift From the Land of Dreams,” by Mary Mackey, combine dream vision and myth.

“The Town News,” also by Justin Courter, tells the paranormal story of a young man who is cursed with the “gift” of being able to visualize people’s future deaths as soon as he meets them. Poignant, beautifully written and filled with emotional intensity, this is one of the best stories in the anthology.

Many unforgettable images fill the pages of this book. The following is from “The Secret Paths of Rajan Khanna,” by Jeff Vandermeer. Notice how the language flows to create this haunting visual image: “…Rajan notices the boy off to the side, thrown clear, probably a pedestrian, and the way he sits under a newly planted tree, as if broken in on himself, a blotch of blood spreading across his side, and at first all Rajan can focus on is the spray of blood across the scattered snow, and the way the red, under the lights, doesn’t deepen but diffuses as it widens, until it’s pink and crystallized in the cold, and then just a shade deeper than the white.” (476)

In spite of the subject versatility among the stories, one thing ties them together—their authors’ faithfulness to the craft and a sharp, fresh imagination.

At the end of the book, Ken Keegan includes an intriguing and fascinating essay about New Wave Fabulist Fiction—its origins, history, and hopeful future.

Though the term is controversial, and most scholars will never accept a Fantasy or Science Fiction novel—no matter its depth or sociological impact—as “real” literature, one thing is for sure: New Wave Fabulist Fiction is a strong force to be reckoned with. Most importantly, it is a necessity for those gifted, consummate authors out there who give as much importance to the imagination as they give to the depth of thought and beauty of language.

Mayra Calvani is an author and book reviewer. Visit her website at www.mayracalvani.com

*This review was originally published in The Bloomsbury Review

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WIN A FREE AUTOGRAPHED NOVEL…VISIT OUR AUTHOR’S BLOG!

In honor of Mother’s Day, The Ten Mad Authors Blog is giving away
free autographed copies of the authors’ most recently published
books.

Simply visit the blog at:

www.madten.wordpress.com

The contest will run from May 7th until May 11th with winners
announced on Mother’s Day.

Books range in genre from mystery to fantasy to alternate reality
to young adult-fantasy. Titles include: Arturo el Rey, by Joan Upton
Hall, Lady of the Lake, by J.C. Hall, Death Game, by Cheryl Swanson,
and Vassal of El, by Gloria Oliver.

Moms, we’re doing this to honor you, but you don’t have to be a
mother (or even a father) to win. Don’t miss the chance to discover
a great new author and get a free autographed copy of their latest
novel.

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