Saturday, June 30, 2007

Help Wanted

Reviewers are needed at Cocktail Reviews. Check it out. Gain fame and a feeling of power (no money involved).

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Tales Now in BIG PRINT

I've found that Tales of a Texas Boy has a great appeal to our venerable elders, that is, anybody older than I am. Thus, I created a large print version in 81/2x11 size book. Because the pages are bigger, there are fewer pages even with the larger size print. So (yea!), it's also cheaper. This will only be available through me or on Lulu. Since I've got two books to sell, I set up a Shopping Cart thingie through PayPal.

The buttons don't want to work inside this post so pop on over to my website and test them for me. Yes, you can cancel the order (or go ahead and buy a copy!).

Guest Review - J.W. Coffey on Tales

I'm turning the blog over to Jesse Coffey today since she wrote such a nice review of Tales of a Texas Boy. Here's the review just as she wrote it.

Book Review by J.W. Coffey -- Tales of a Texas Boy

A lovely lady by the name of Marva Dasef asked me to do a review exchange and I agreed. Now, I normally don't read subsidy press books for the magazines I write for. But when someone asks me as nicely as Ms. Dasef did. I decided to give it a whirl. I'm very glad I did. The read/exchange was worth it.

Tales of a Texas Boy
ISBN: 978-0-6151-4896-0
Publisher: Texas Boy Publications
Rights Owner: Marva Dasef
Copyright: © 2007 Marva Dasef Standard Copyright License
Language: English
Country: United States
Edition: First Edition

Buy at Marva's Website (save Shipping) OR at

Tales of a Texas Boy is a series of short stories detailing life in a simpler time, life in Texas during the early half of the 20th century. Ms. Dasef sat down and spoke with her father--Eddie--at length, listening to his memories of Texas at a time when the radio was all they had for entertainment. When lightning filled the sky. When life was simpler and the work was harder. Taking her father's memories, she has woven bits of fiction in with the historical and come up with a lovely book.

Each story is told in the first person dialect, giving a sense of Eddie's personality. Ms. Dasef has drawn up a delightful person, full of the awe and wonder of a young lad. Eddie tells us about hunting jackrabbits (Rattlesnakes and Jackrabbits) and the purchase of one obstinate, nasty tempered jackass (The Auction). The characters are well rounded but still presented from young boy's point of view, seen as he would see them. These are only two of the stories included but easily my favorites. The rest of the stories are very engaging, the book a true page turner in a very gentle fashion.

The stories give a very accurate portrayal of life--post depression era--Texas. The characters are endearing, real, and complex. Ms. Dasef has created a marvelous world that will please any reader--from young adult to older audiences. The characters are vivid. The stories are told in such a way that you feel as if Eddie is talking only to you. The feel is intimate, true sharing. The style is very vivid, as if you're right there with Eddie in all of the situations.

If there is one flaw here, it will be in a bit of editing choices that I would have disagreed with. "Ever" as in "every" that should have had an apostrophe (ever', e. g. ever' bit of it...). But if all I can find is something mechanical, then it's of small consequence.

Tales of a Texas Boy is available in paperback format. I heartily recommend this book for readers sixth grade and up. The kind of thing that will make you smile and give you great entertainment.

I give Tales of a Texas Boy 4.5 out of 5 stars. Kudos to Ms. Dasef for a great book.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Wager of Blood - Book Review

A Wager of Blood
by J.W. Coffey
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: LBF Books
ISBN-10: 1885093454
ISBN-13: 978-1885093455

Buy it at Amazon.
From Amazon: On a night in 1760, Matthew Harper played a seemingly innocent game of chance in the parlor of the inn he owned. However, before the night was over, the inn belonged to Newell Thornton. Matthew, his wife, and two other people lay murdered, and the inn burned to the ground. 240 years later, Zachary Harper is determined to reclaim the Thornton Inn for the Harper family. What he doesn't know is that the old inn holds the key to that ancient murder, the gateway into Zachary's private hell, and the souls of the four murdered people. He is soon swept up into a diabolical game of chance where his own soul is the prize, and dice are loaded against him in a demonic Wager of Blood.

Visit J.W. Coffey's Website.

My Review of the Book

A Wager of Blood plays out in both the 18th and 21st Centuries. Good friends Meg and Frankie have a reunion in a small town in New Hampshire. Meg is married to Zach, the manager of the rebuilt Inn, now a restaurant. Frankie's significant other, Sean, couldn't come along on the trip, but also grew up in the same New Hampshire village.

We learn within the first fifty pages that a killer is on the loose, luring naive businessmen to their death by torture. Coffey has vividly written those opening scenes and made the hairs standup on the back of my neck.

Following this brief intro to the bad guy, the book takes the reader to the reunion of the two women. They go to lunch at the restaurant at the Inn. Meg has already expressed a fear of the old Inn, hearing whispering voices and experiencing some poltergeist activity.

While having lunch, the owner of the Inn appears. Frankie immediately fears the man. Of course, we readers will understand that nasty Mr. Thornton is part of the evil that Meg feels at the Inn. Frankie hears the whispering voices like Meg did and is drawn to the upper floors of the Inn, a place that is off-limits to the Inn's customers.

The two women ascend to the second floor and all hell breaks loose, complete with blood pouring across the floor, screams of tortured souls, and ghostly presences.

Frankie opened her mouth to try and speak, to give some comfort or assurance, but she didn’t get the chance. She turned to see the brass handle of the door twisting up and down; the door, violently, battering itself in the socket that held it. The shaking grew in strength until a picture hanging nearby flew off the nail holding it, dropping to the floor and shattering the glass. The shards mingled with the pool of blood, causing an obscene sparkle to the mess.

She felt a tingle and her right palm began to itch and crawl with unseen insects under the flesh. A burning began to build under the skin, making it feel like it was blistering. She held the hand up to reassure herself that the flesh was not about to bubble off. The pain was becoming increasingly excruciating, and she cradled her palm against her ribs. It was a moment before she realized that the hallway had been plunged into silence again. The door had stopped its insane vibrations.

. . . rattle, rattle . . . .

But that's all I'm going to say about the plot because I'd think the readers would like to discover for themselves what happens next in "A Wager of Blood."

I can add a few comments that aren't spoilers. J.W. Coffey is a very good writer and you'll have no problem being carried along in the book. I stayed up way too late reading the first day I received the book. I paced myself after that and firmly shut the book at the end of a part. Not a chapter, but a Part.

Coffey has cleverly divided the book into parts with intriguing titles taken from gambling terminology.

Part One - The New Shooter Steps to the Line
Part Two - Seven's a Bruiser, The Front Line's a Loser
Part Three - The Stickman and the Come Out Roll

Now, I don't know diddley about Craps, the dice game on which Coffey based these titles. That's okay, though. You don't have to know how to play the game to get the connection, sinister as those connections are.

If you like horror, Wager will satisfy your desire for blood. If you like historicals, there's plenty of time spent in the 18th Century. If you like romance, there's some of that going on, too. That's not to say the book doesn't know where it's going; it does. It provides an interesting and balanced crossover of genres to interest a broad range of readers.

From the first pages describing a kidnap and torture to the last page telling of an unholy alliance between an ambitious woman and the devil, Coffey carries you along with plenty of heart-pounding excitement, lots of the 'ew' factor. And maybe you'll learn how to play Craps, but you may wish you'd never heard of the game.

Okay, there are some down sides to the writing. Hey, I've got to be real here. Some chapters dragged for me. A few times (and it was few), I felt like saying "Get on with it. I already know this." An author, I think, doesn't need to keep restating the obvious. How about an example. In Part titled "Interlude Two: The Dark Side," we find Meg back in the office talking to Zach. She's hesitant to tell him what she saw and he's hesitant to tell her what he knows. I'm thinking, "Hey guys! You're in love. You trust each other! Get on with it!" I tended to skim here because I didn't think these two would be so cagey. If my hubby was beating about the bush like Zach, I'd smack him. I think Meg should buck up and tell Zach what she saw and Zach should trust his wife.

Okay, that may be coming from my LONG time marriage. Meg and Zach are newlyweds, so maybe don't have the trust established. I'd urge Coffey not to let these scenes drag down the pace. I think that "A Wager of Blood" is a wild ride of mayhem and, as a reader, I'm up for it tearing along at a fast pace.

On the other hand, maybe the average reader wants a breather once in a while. That's fine. I'll skim, though, and I think other readers will, too.

That is not a huge downside to "A Wager of Sin." I am of the opinion that most readers who like a bit of devil worship, torture, ghostly presences, and so on will enjoy this book immensely.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Jeremy Shipp - Dealing with the Devil

The Vacation by Jeremy C. Shipp is available from Raw Dog Screaming Press.

It’s time for blueblood Bernard Johnson to leave his boring life behind and go on The Vacation, a yearlong corporate-sponsored odyssey. But instead of seeing the world Bernard is captured by terrorists, becomes a key figure in secret drug wars, and, worse, doesn’t once miss his secure American Dream.

Jeremy says, "I suppose I'd describe Vacation as "A journey into civilization's festering wound--metaphorically speaking."

"This is an intriguing, challenging, literate, provocative novel I'm not sure I understand and suspect I'm not meant to… I recommend it to those who find reality boring; it may make them see it in new ways."
—Piers Anthony, author of the Xanth series

To see if you'd enjoy Jeremy's writing, check out his short story Camp in Chizine.

Find out more about Jeremy on his website Haunted House Dressing and on his MySpace site.

I was thinking of interviewing Jeremy Shipp about his book "Vacation." I read some of the reviews and decided I really couldn't think of the right questions to ask. The only person (or should I say 'entity'?) qualified to interview Jeremy is The Devil. Herewith is the interview. Please pardon the fire and brimstone emanating from your computer screen.

Devil: First of all, let's get this out of the way. Do you dislike to avoid abstaining from not eating babies?

Jeremy C. Shipp: What?

D: Just answer the question!

JCS: No.

D: Ah, you do eat babies then.

JCS: No, I meant that I won't answer such a confusing question.

D: So you're not as smart as you claim to be.

JCS: I'm not claiming anything.

D: You wrote a novel. Isn't that another way of saying, "Look at me. I'm smarter than everyone else. I belong on a pedestal so that I can throw tangerines at people's kidneys."

JCS: Are you evil or just stupid?

D: Moving on. Let's talk about your novel.

JCS: Finally.

D: What inspired you to write a story that's pure evil?

JCS: I wouldn't say it's evil.

D: Aha, but didn't you say in a prior interview, and I quote, "I'm Jeremy. I like writing evil stories. Anyone who reads my book loves the Devil and wants to marry him?"

JCS: I never said that.

D: Your word against mine. Anyway, if your book isn't evil, then why do you kill every single character?

JCS: You haven't even read it, have you?

D: I can read it in your eyes.

JCS: That's it. We're done.

D: No, wait! I'm sorry. Sometimes I get a little overexcited. It's a condition. If you say your book isn't pure evil, then it isn't pure evil. I'm sure it's filled with baby puppies dancing on giant sunflowers.

JCS: Don't get me wrong. Bad things sometimes happen in the book, because bad things sometimes happen in life. People don't always act respectfully towards one another. The book, I'd say, has a good heart. It wants the world to be a better place.

D: I understand. You're saying that you're some sort of savior who can save mankind from all its suffering.

JCS: Just…forget it. This interview's over.

D: Fine. But before we can publish this interview, I'll need you to sign right here.

JCS: There…wait a second. What was all that fine print?

D: Nothing.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Brief Announcement

I'm now selling Tales of a Texas Boy direct from my website and from the sidebar on this blog. Buy directly from me and save the shipping costs. $13.95 paid through PayPal, and you'll get your book lovingly hand addressed and delivered by the esteemed Postal Service.

For overseas orders, I might need a couple more bucks to cover the extra shipping costs.

Now, we'll return to our regularly scheduled blog post. Next up: Interview with Jeremy Shipp, author of Vacation.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Plug Your Book

Steve Weber's name couldn't be more appropriate. He makes money from the web. He's an ebay entrepreneur, selling used books and, he's published a couple of books of his own. Specifically, "Plug Your Book: Online Book Marketing for Authors" and "The Home-Based Bookstore: Start Your Own Business Selling Used Books on Amazon, eBay or Your Own Web Site".

Weber Books
Amazon link to Plug Your Book
Amazon link to The Home-Based Bookstore

Marva: How did you get the idea for Plug Your Book. Just from selling your own book? This seems like ouroboros, it circles around: selling books, how to sell books, selling books on how to sell books

Steve: Exactly. When I finished "The Home-Based Bookstore," like most new authors, I mistakenly believed that the marketing would take care of itself. But I soon realized the book wasn’t selling because nobody knew about it. So I tried all sorts of advertising, I spent about $4,000 on Google Adwords and Yahoo search marketing. That was a complete disaster, I was spending $30 on ads to sell a $20 book.

So as a last resort, I tried grassroots marketing, and that’s when sales of "The Home-Based Bookstore" took off. The three most important things I did was starting a blog, networking on MySpace, and was getting Amazon Top Reviewers to review my book.

It was such a revelation: All the paid advertising I’d done had been a complete waste, but the free advertising was working wonderfully. So I put all those lesssons I learned into a new book, "Plug Your Book."

Marva: I see that you've put the entire contents of Plug Your Book on a website for all to read. Why do that? Don't you want people to buy your book?

Steve: Yes, I want to sell as many books as possible. But I do give away the entire text free online at Weber Books, on the theory that the more people who find out about the book, the more people will buy it.

My hunch is that the book is good enough that people who read a few pages online will be compelled to buy the paperback. Nobody enjoys reading something on a computer screen for more than several minutes. So if you can hook people with part of your book, I believe they’ll buy it.

So I’ve posted the entire book online using a Creative Commons license, meaning that anyone is free to read, print and share the book for noncommercial use.

Marva: Will this work for any book, or is this a tool for non-fiction? Is "The Home-Based Bookstore" available on-line, too?

Steve: I think it will work for any book, as long as the book fulfills a need, whether it’s entertainment, business information, or whatever. Having said that, it’s much tougher for the non-superstar author to sell fiction than nonfiction. A competent nonfiction book is very compelling to its target audience – it solves a problem or promises to help the read make money. With fiction, you’re competing against all the other leisure activities your audience may want to do. But I’d argue that this makes it all the more important for your target audience to discover the quality of your writing. The best way to do this is to give them free samples. You don’t need to give the whole book away, you could give sample chapters or other short stories you’ve written.

I don’t have the entire contents of "Home-Based Bookstore" online, but I give away the first few chapters.

Most big publishers still don’t believe in giving away your book as a way of generating word of mouth. But many authors have been successful doing it. Forbes Magazine recently had an excellent piece about this by Corey Doctorow.

The book includes just about every conceivable technique you could use to promote your book online. To give you a few specifics, here are some ideas that appear in the MySpace section:

Create a MySpace profile for your book. For example, author Marcy Dermansky creatively used her MySpace "Top 8" friends list to help promote her debut novel Twins. Drawing from her 3,000 MySpace friends, Dermansky found several with names matching the character names in her book, like Lauren, Chloe and Smita.

She moved them to her "Top 8" friends list. For the more unusual names in the book, like J├╝rgen and Yumiko, she had to search for new friends using MySpace’s search engine. New friends who got invitations were so intrigued about the book, they often bought it simply to read about namesake characters, adding to the book’s buzz. Her MySpace profile is at ChloeAndSue

Become MySpace friends with well-known writers in your genre. Horror novelist Michael Laimo says he got more than a dozen big media interviews after reporters noticed his MySpace page, which is linked to several big-name writers. He inked his first movie deal through MySpace after an independent director sent him a MySpace message asking about film rights. Hundreds of fans have told him they bought his books after seeing his MySpace profile: MichaelLaimo

Browse the "friends" lists of similar authors. Find the MySpace profiles of authors with similar books, writing style and similar target audience as yours, and send them a friend invitation. For example, up-and-coming memoirist Josh Kilmer-Purcell sends friends invitations to fans of David Sedaris and Augustine Burroughs, bestselling memoirists in the same vein. Each time he makes his rounds on MySpace, Purcell watches his Amazon sales spike for days afterward.

Marva: Here's the place to add anything you'd like. Go for it. 500 words or less.

Steve: All right. Here are the most common questions and answers:

QUESTION: What are some other ways authors can get exposure?

I’m a huge believer in "amateur" book reviews. The balance of power is shifting to book readers, and away from gatekeepers like professional critics. Online book reviews by amateurs are crucial now, especially for new authors. The word of mouth from Amazon customer reviews can be tremendous. "Plug Your Book" has a whole chapter devoted to getting customer reviews on Amazon and encouraging Amazon "Top Reviewers" to review your book.

QUESTION: How do you approach an Amazon reviewer and convince them to read and review your book?

· Click on the pen name for anyone who's written an Amazon review, and you'll find their Amazon profile containing biographical and other information they’ve posted about themselves.

· Ensure your book is of interest. Some reviewer profiles explain what types of books they prefer--some reviewers stick with fiction; some review only movies or music.

· Contact potential Amazon reviewers from their profile page, clicking the link "Invite to be an Amazon Friend." This generates a pop-up form where you can enter a message, and Amazon will forward it in an e-mail.

· Safeguard yourself a bit by requesting that readers not post a review if they simply hate the book. But it’s the reviewer’s call, don't do anything to suggest you're expecting favorable treatment.

· Avoid sending your book to reviewers who usually post harshly negative reviews, but don’t shy away from those who offer frank criticism. These voices lend credibility to your book.

· Ask readers who praise your book to post an Amazon review. For example, whenever you receive an e-mail from a satisfied reader, you might respond this way: "Thank you for the kind words about my book. If you ever have a spare moment, it would be a great help if you could post a review of it on Amazon and let other potential readers know why you liked it."

Marva: Wow! What great advice. Thanks for shining some light on this for the many writers out there needing to publicize their books, be they traditional or self published.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Tales of a Texas Boy - Reviewed!

Kimber An at Enduring Romance Reviews posted Tales' first review.

These stories are a fun and fantastic read for any age. Childhood is universal, so kids will totally relate. It also provides a glimpse into Texan life in that time period. I'm sending a copy to my mother and I have no doubt she'll read it out loud to my grandmother. When she does, I hope she remembers to use her best Texas drawl. If your Texas drawl is a little rusty, you might want to watch an old cowboy movie first.

Kimber An - Enduring Romance

Read the review here.

Buy the book here.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Mr. Ed

Okay, we all know Mr. Ed's a horse of course. Wrong! Ed Kostro goes by Mr. Ed at the Author's Den. I get email nearly every morning: "Mr. Ed has added a new poem." Or story, article, book. He's a busy writer.

But Ed is more than just a writer. He's an animal activist, but not one of those letting out lab monkeys (well, maybe he is). Instead Ed Kostro spends his time and energies in a variety of ways helping animals wherever they're in need: shelters, rescue groups, wherever he can help.

Please stop over at Ed's Author's Den or Ed's MySpace and check out what he's up to. You'll be inspired if you love animals even a little bit.

From Ed's Author's Den site:

Ed Kostro is a freelance writer with a passion for nature, animals, our valiant veterans, world history, nostalgia, and humor. He's a member of The Society of Southwestern Authors and The Cat Writers' Association, and the Vice President of the newly formed International Animal Writers and Illustrators Association.

Ed is also a veterans' advocate, an environmentalist, animal rights activist, animal rescue worker, and proud member of The National Wildlife Federation, The World Wildlife Fund, Defenders of Wildlife, The Humane Society of the United States, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, The Assisi Foundation, The Best Friends Animal Network, and Alley Cat Allies.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Steal This Book

Abbie Hoffman had the right idea. It's so establishment to go to a bookstore and buy a book that will mostly profit the publisher and the bookseller. The author is on the bottom of the food chain. His book title suggests what he thinks the potential reader should do: Steal it.

I went to the dark side again and had Lulu publish "Tales of a Texas Boy." The snobs over at Absolute Write would curl their literary lips in disgust. Lulu is a step up from Publish America. It has no pretensions of selectivity. You write it, they'll print it. End of deal.

If you happen to see the book laying around somewhere, by all means, please steal it.

Although, Tales is a darn good read, it doesn't fit any of the molds for major publishing. Short story anthologies get published only if the author is Mr. or Ms. Already Famous. The likelihood of little Eddie finding a print home is zero.

Therefore, I did it myself and it looks very good. The straw that pushed me over the edge was a special for the Published By You distribution package. Marked down from $149 to $50, it was just too good for me to pass up. I've not quite shoved the book off the bank into the river of self-published books. It's still clinging to the Lulu dock. At some point, I'll hit the Approve button and off it will go to Bowker's Books in Print. If it floats, then fine. If it sinks, yanno what? I don't much care. The point was to get the danged book printed up in a nice format for my father. He's 85, he's the little Eddie in the stories, Father's Day is coming up soon. Do the math. Wouldn't you do the same thing?

So, go buy it over at Lulu if you want. I'm not counting on that happening, so you could surprise me big time if you did. I offered everyone the chance to get a cheaper copy and nobody took me up on it, so I hardly expect anybody to buy the higher priced book ($14.95 plus about $2.56 shipping).

I'll say it again: You know what? I don't care.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Truth About Publishing

Non Sequitur is one of my favorite comic strips. I love the way the cartoonist, Wiley Miller, cuts to the truth of things. Read Non Sequitur daily here. Now to the series that exposes the truth about publishing.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Review - Sylvia Beach Hotel

Sylvia Beach Hotel - A Place for Writers

Okay, so one of my first reviews will be a hotel and not a book. So, sue me. I became aware of the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon through the Willamette Writers' newsletter. It sounded cool. I'm close to Newport (an hour or so from Eugene), so I went to the website and started salivating.

From the Sylvia Hotel website:

This is truly a hotel for book lovers. There are no t.v.'s, no radios, no phones (although 2 public phones are available.) It is a quiet place on most days. Except for the glorious storms. Then the wind howls, the building shakes, and the rain pounds down. Some days it's warm and sunny and the sky is bright blue. Some days there's morning fog. Some days the wind makes you stay inside and read! Some days are rainbow days, the weather just can't decide. The ocean is always present. (The hotel is on a 45 foot bluff right above the surf.) You move into the rhythm of the sea. Perhaps that's why time seems to slow way down, almost to a standstill.

The rooms go by the names of various novelists and poets. Ooo! The Mark Twain Room. My favorite writer. Want to stay in Edgar Allan Poe, complete with pendulum swinging over the bed? Like Agatha Christie, Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Melville? There's a room for you here.

Breakfast is included in the room price and dinner is family style, where the owner might be en table and challenge everyone to a game of Two Truths, One Lie.

You'll like the website, too. No funky photos making the rooms look twice their size. Every room is illustrated with tasteful line drawings.

Forget I said this. This isn't anyplace you'd want to go. Of course, I say that because I'd like to save it for myself. Don't live in Oregon? Eat your heart out.