Friday, October 20, 2006

MONKEY WRENCH by Harland W. Carson (Authorhouse)

Well, talk about a long road. This clever, engrossing novel came out in 1999, significantly before POD had dug in its heels and overloaded the listings on Amazon. Add to that that it took me a half a year to get around to reading it, and you've got a book that was a long time coming.

Well, it has arrived.

The book I'm talking about is
MONKEY WRENCH by Harland W. Carson (real name A. A. Allan), not to be confused with the book by the same name by P. J. Tracy (MONKEEWRENCH).

I haven't read a captivating, funny mystery like this since MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN. Mysteries, with me, are a tough genre. Like romance, it's easy to step out of bounds and go somewhere ridiculous. But not so with MONKEY WRENCH. He had me from the first page--the first line even:

Face your fear and conquer it, or die slowly by degrees of self-loathing.

WRENCH tells the story of a weathered, mid-life-crisis-aged private eye, Harvey Stubbs.

Jesus, I must have guzzled down a drink for every color there was in the rainbow; only wish I'd stopped at Creme de Menthe for green.

Like any good cozy, it's a mystery that unravels from the opening pages and keeps you guessing chapter after chapter (I tend not to synopsize mysteries, if you happen to be new here). For those of you who enjoyed last year's Needle Award winner, ISN'T THAT BIGAMY? by Mike Vogel, you will be the perfect audience for the page-turner.

I was glad to see somebody else was occupying my preferred stool as I wedged my way up to the bar. Nostalgia for your old routines won't cut it if you're trying to set a new stage in your life.

A simply marvelous book. Loved every word. Grab it on Amazon for $15 and change.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

From ForeWord to the IPPYs

Received a great email from Jim Barnes, the Managing Editor and Awards Coordinator for Independent Publisher Online/Jenkins Group Inc. The Independent Publisher Book Awards (or IPPYs) are yet another classy/prestigious award for books coming from independent publishers (just like ForeWord). Jim got in contact after I ran the blog entry about the increase in POD presence at the ForeWord awards and he had this to write:

I run the Independent Publisher Book Awards and we also received a lot of POD entries in last year's 10th Annual IPPY Awards. We don't name as many semi-finalists as ForeWord - 464 total for our 60 national, 20 regional, and 10 outstanding book of the year categories - and a total of 11 titles from the major POD houses got awards (down a bit from the previous year). There were 3 category winners, all Fiction titles, one each from iUniverse, AuthorHouse and BookSurge. Complete results at

This year, one month into entries, out of 155 titles we have 12 iUniverse entries (8 entered by iUniverse from their Star program); 6 BookSurge, and one each from Xlibris, PublishAmerica, Hard Shell and Books on Demand.

My message to POD authors is a typical one: don't scrimp on cover design, layout, and editing. The competition is very tough and gets tougher every year. It should look like it belongs on the shelf at Borders, and customers should be drawn to it and want to pick it up. And when they do, by all means make sure the first few pages are perfect - a typo or awkward language on page one is the kiss of death. You MUST impress the reader immediately.

This month we're running an article, Independent Authors and Publishers Unite! about a call to organize a clearinghouse for reviews and promotion that POD and self-published have so much trouble getting from corporate media today.

Sage advice and great insider info! And you have to remember, getting awards for your POD title is what will make it stand out (second only to enormous sales) with a traditional publisher.


And remember Macmillan's New Writing program? (Brief summary: open to debut novelists, no agent needed, no advance given, little to no publicity given; essentially the same as PublishAmerica except . . . well, Macmillan is not PublishAmerica, if you catch my drift). Here is an update for the past year (they just released book number 12). Was it a success? For Macmillan, the jury is out. For authors, they had 5,000 submissions and published 12 novels. Same as it ever was.

Not sure about the content, but the covers are a real mixed bag. Some look undeniably professional, while others look undeniably PublishAmericaesque.


And by the way, I love this editor.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Memoirists of the world unite and take over.

I always feel a little happier (yet curiously melancholy) when I can reference the Smiths and the literary world in the same sentence.


Where James Frey was getting pounded for being too loose with the facts, it seems poor Augusten Burroughs is getting pounded for being too honest. What a (literary) world we live in.

I feel bad for all those future memoirists out there. Unless you're an attorney, how do you make sense of it all?

Stop the POD presses!

Are you a crime novelist? Well, here is a contest (a real one, unlike the Sobol nonsense) that can get you a direct book deal with Regan Books (that’s HarperCollins for those of you new to the scene).

Court TV is hosting the “Next Great Crime Writer Contest”, where not only are the judges accomplished writers (i.e. Lisa Scottoline) but also Judith Regan herself.

Best of all, the public is going to help determine winners by voting on the site. So no more complaining about the publishing industry snubbing you.

And what do you know: It’s free.

This is a must see if you are an aspiring crime writer.


Also - thanks for the hammering on my posting of "Lulu, an embarrassing zero" regarding the ForeWord Book of the Year Awards. I did overlook the fact that many (if not most) Lulu authors use their own "imprint" to publish their books. And now I have been notified that at least two Lulu books listed were finalists under different publisher names. So it just goes to show that, as always, Lulu produces some fine books (as I have mentioned so many times previously).


Also, Publishers Weekly reports that Lightning Source (where the far majority of POD titles are printed) is installing 15 new Oce presses, which will improve capacity up to 3 million books monthly. Speeding things up is much needed!

In addition, PW has a little talk back feature going about the "Value of POD"--and we all know where this is going. Though, surprisingly, there has been a lot of positive feedback so far.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Nail. Head. Hit upon.

Bryan Appleyard writes. You should read.

It's just *sniff* beautiful.