Friday, September 29, 2006

DIGGING TO INDOCHINA by Connie Biewald (iUniverse)

Connie Biewald's novel is comprised of literary favorites: a teenage girl suffering from the loss of her father (a Vietnam veteran who did not die in the war but by accidental means after returning home), the overwhelming ennui of small town life, a family that has seemed to alienate her, and a restless desire for love and contentment.

Where these items lead, however, is the real enjoyment of this book.

You'll be only a few pages into DIGGING TO INDOCHINA before you sit back in your La-Z-Boy and cozy up for a long night of reading. And you'll read even less before admitting that Connie Biewald is a wordsmith. She manages to grasp complex points and deliver them with deft accuracy:

All the old photos showed happy people. The only record of the raging fights between their parents was the mutable one of memory. Ivy and Bryan carried their own versions of those short years as a family of four, more distinct than mere variations on a recipe, more like the difference between chocolate and vanilla.

The story, ultimately, is of the aforementioned Ivy, a seventeen-year-old girl in search of the love missing from her crumbling family, how she finds it in a guy named Gil Thompson, a man who goes from lover to abuser, and Ivy's return home, pregnant and disintegrating.

Sounds like a downer, I know--but so does THE LOVELY BONES until you get to the core of what is going on. The book is absolutely worth a read, if for no other reason than the delightful writing. If you've had your fill of cookie-cutter thrillers, take a break and read something that will make you think; I'll bet, just like me, the characters will still be inside your head several days later.

Just superb stuff! Perfect for fans of Alice Sebold and Anne Tyler.

And, as luck would have it, iUniverse added it to their Star collection. Which means it's cheap. You can get it on Amazon for $10.17, which is less than the price of a pizza. Why not feast on some words for a change?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

One small step and one giant leap all at once.

Publishers Lunch has a great link to a Lulu release: has worked out a deal with Bowker to give self-publishers who use their service individual ISBNs that are particular to the authors themselves (without having to buy numbers in blocks of ten). Lulu says they are adding 2,000 new titles every week. Yes, every week.

Ultimately, this is really putting power in the hands of self-pubbers. Check out Lulu's release.

Is the publishing industry becoming like network television?

MJ Rose has a fantastic post today about how the publishing industry (needing to keep up with what is going on and the pressure to perform and produce) is starting weigh down on its authors.

It's interesting because I remember many of my writer friends criticizing John Grisham (not to his face, of course) for writing A PAINTED HOUSE a few years ago, and that he should stick to his what he does best. And I remember thinking at the time that John Grisham must get sick of writing about courtrooms and crooked prosecutors and dead judges and probably wanted to try something new. Granted, John got the chance because of who he is--but he managed to write a decent book. And I think most people would consider it a literary work. Same for Stephen King, whose books far less resemble horror than they do the internal machinations of the human mind--and I don't mean telekinesis or the ability to start random incendiary events with mental focus, but things like grief and sorrow and regret. Granted, Mr. King's transition was much slower, more subtle--but it is there nonetheless.

But what if you are a proven author (with sales) who wants to branch out? Does the publishing industry really foster creativity and experimentation? Almost never. It wants stability and sales. And anything that might push it in the other direction is quashed. So now we have talented authors (as proven with MJ's post) burning out because it is no longer about writing; it's about product.

If you are an aspiring writer on the cusp of a book deal, enjoy these days. Those moments you wrote your novel or memoir in some dimly lit corner of your house at the oddest times will be the most romantic memories you'll have of creating your art.