Thursday, April 24, 2008

Miracle of Discounting

Tales of a Texas Boy - Trade Paperback Edition

Through the Miracle of Amazon's Megalithic Corporate Presence, Tales is now offered at a miserly $9.86 on Amazon. Buy something else and toss in a copy of Tales to get that free shipping on $25 or more.

How did this happen? I caved in, that's how. I took my files and trotted (in cyber terms, I clicked) over to Amazon's book printer, CreateSpace, and made up a new edition. This edition is only sold on Amazon. Because the book is printed by Amazon facilities, no shipping is involved in getting a copy from somewhere else, thereby eliminating the additional shipping and allowing Amazon to take less on their share.

I can't even sell the book at this price unless I did add something on for shipping. So, I'm not going to sell this direct from my website any longer. The LARGE PRINT edition is still a better price from my website at $12.95, which includes shipping.

If you don't like Amazon, then the book is also available through Barnes and Noble. Or send me an email on my Contact page of my website: and we'll work a deal. You can also order the Large Print edition directly from me.

Monday, April 21, 2008

I've Been Eviled

Evil Editor posted a shredding of my query letter. Since it takes a month or so to collect all the fake plots for a query, my REAL query is much improved. Still, EE's points are well-taken, even if he doesn't know that bound is the past tense of bind, in addition to 'going in the direction of'. Oh, well, nobody's perfect. Check it out at:

Evil Editor Shreds My Query

To rise to my defense, here's my query letter (at least the meaty part) after a lot of aid and assistance from the fine folk on the Query Tracker Forum. Feel free to make suggestions. I'm always fine-tuning.

Dear Lovely Agent Person:

[something here to show that this isn't a spam query, but that I know a bit about the agent] I hope that BAD SPELLING, a completed 44,000 word middle-grade fantasy, might appeal to you.

Katya wants to be a good witch, but her spells don’t just fizzle, they backfire with spectacular results, like when she tries to transform a rabbit into a frog and plasters the walls with green goo instead. She discovers that a shaman has put a curse on her father’s glacier- bound body, and it’s not only ruining her magic, but it’s spreading to the rest of her arctic island home. Katya and Rune, her half-vampire brother, race across the Barents Sea, fighting off polar bears, giants and magical attacks. Leaving the curse behind, she discovers her magical affinity with animals. She must use her newfound skill to confront the evil shaman and stop him from destroying her home and family. . .never mind burning her at the stake.

[paragraph boasting of my many writing credits]


Thursday, April 17, 2008

IAG Featured Writer: Dianne Salerni

High Spirits: A Tale of Ghostly Rapping and Romance
by Dianne K. Salerni
Buy it at

or Barnes and Noble

ISBN-10: 0595423507
ISBN-13: 978-0595423507

In mid-nineteenth century America, spirits knock and tables tip for Maggie and Kate Fox, two teenage sisters who convince people they can talk to the dead with their mysterious rapping noises. Before long, neighbors are begging Maggie and Katie for the chance to receive messages from dead relatives and older sister Leah realizes that their "prank" has real money-making potential.

Soon, the sisters hit the road to bamboozle newspaper editors, politicians, and the public at large and start a national craze for spirits and ghosts. Their fame grows--but could their powers actually be real? See the good and the bad that can happen when three sisters land in the limelight and come to their own conclusions about what’s true, what’s right and what’s important.

The neat thing about this book is that it's based on the true story of the Fox sisters, who more or less started the entire Spiritualist craze in the 1850s. But more than just showing this thin slice of the times, the book is a fully realized description of pre-Civil War life on the east coast of the US. This isn't a period heavily covered in fiction. The focus on mid-nineteenth century America is mostly toward the Civil War and the antebellum South.

In the first few chapters, I was worried. They seemed kind of repetitive, going through all of the Fox sisters various rapping techniques, but then Ms. Salerni gets rolling and turns the book into a can't-put-it-down page turner. High praise for High Spirits? Yes, but I'm praising it in the context of what it is: a personal story of a young woman caught up in a lie that lasts for years, a lie she can't get out of even if it means losing the love of her life.

We want to yell at Maggie to grab her guy and head off to the arctic with him, but that "just was not done." We learn of the social mores that require Maggie to defer virtually every decision about her life to her overbearing older sister, Leah.

Her younger sister, Kate, isn't any help since she not only enjoys the deceptions the girls put over on a naive public, but begins to believe that the rapping she performs by cracking the joints of her toes is actually a message from the spirits.

Ms. Salerni is a teacher in "real life" so I'm not surprised the book ends with a page or two of discussion questions. Interestingly, this list made me think a little harder about the book. Darn, I hate when a book does that! Seriously, the book is educational in a highly entertaining way. Ms. Salerni asks: "How did the common view of females in the nineteenth century work in the favor of the Fox sisters?" and "Is it possible that good can be accomplished through deception?" and "How was it that people could be so easily fooled by what, in hindsight, seems an obvious fraud?" Yes, indeed, the subject matter of the book is a perfect vehicle for making kids think about such weighty matters. . .and have fun doing it.

My overall assessment of "High Spirits" is that it's certainly worth reading. Unfortunately, it is a POD, which makes it a pricey paperback. I hope Ms. Salerni tries for an agent and commercial publisher. It seems to me this book should be a good seller for a wide variety of readers. Those that like historicals will find plenty of good detail to keep them interested, romance readers will shed a tear over poor Maggie's lovelife, folks interested in spiritualism will find a fascinating history of a pair of the original spirit rappers.

I certainly recommend the book to anybody who is interested in the subject matter, but also to the general reader looking for a darn good tale.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Time To... Volume 2 Review

Kindle Version Now Available at
Buy A Time To... Volume 2 on the Wolfsinger Storefront

From Fiction Factor Reviews:

Carol Hightshoe continues to amaze me with the quality of stories she chooses for her e-zines (The Sorcerous Signal and The Lorelei Signal). She's brought another delightful collection together to commemorate the second year of publication. In "A Time To… Volume 2" the stories are well-written, thought provoking and moving. While many of the authors are new, their style and delivery is rich and strong.

Growing up with fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm and written by Hans Christian Anderson, I have a special place in my heart for "The WITCH'S REVENGE" by Barbara Davies. She captures the feel and atmosphere of Anderson's work in this sequel to "The Tinderbox". One of my favorite tales, she turns it on it's ear and tells it from the witch's point of view. Justin Stanchfield's "PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST IN MANGANESE AND COPPER OXIDE" is the story of the relationship between a mother and daughter and he brings it to fruition when the daughter finally understands her mother's need to create.

"HARLEYS IN DRIFTWOOD" is a story I read when it was first printed in the Lorelei Signal and I was struck by how it reminded me of some of the early fantasy stories I'd read as a young teen. It left me imagining so much more than C.A. Casey had written and I remembered why I fell in love with the genre.

It would be hard to choose a favorite in this well-crafted collection, but "KASERIE'S CHOICE" is certainly in the top three. Linda Epstein does a wonderful job of world building in a short story format. Never an easy task with so few words, but I was immediately transported to the world she had created and enthralled by the growth of the main character, Kaserie. "MENTOR FOR HIRE" was another favorite and Gloria Oliver had me feeling Rees's frustration, delight and consternation in turn. The tale left me hoping and believing that Rees would find a way to turn this half victory into a full one.

Too often I hear people say that they can't relate to science fiction or fantasy because it has nothing to do with the real world, but Marva Dasef showcases how socially oriented fantasy can be with her story "THE DELEGATE." Even androids can have "a dream" of being human and their struggles can mirror our own world.

Well worth the time and money, A Time To… Volume 2 is a must read for the science fiction and fantasy lover. I'm looking forward to the next anthology...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Amazon Sales Rank

You may or may not know that the Amazon sales ranking is formulated from various arcane number, positions, sales, competition in similar categories, and examining the entrails of small sacrificial animals.

There's another number plastered on an author's book. I'm not sure at what point it appears. Maybe when a search by category puts the book on the first page of the results list. Anyway, I posted a while back when I toyed with the search categories to find combination which made my book #1. I was just joking around about that.

However, today I got an actual, real, genuine number. My book "Tales of a Texas Boy - Large Print" was ranked #6 in the category Books/Large Print/Fiction and Literature.

My book right up there under John Grisham's in a very big grouping. Wow! I'm impressing even myself.

Of course, it will drop rapidly, but it was nice to have a little spurt of sales that legitimately put me on a best seller list.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

IAG Featured Writer

Barry Yelton Of Scarecrows and Scots

Paperback: 218 pages
Publisher: iUniverse, Inc. (September 26, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0595401856
ISBN-13: 978-0595401857

Buy it at

Barry Yelton’s story, Scarecrow in Gray, is a fictionalized account of his own great-grandfather’s service in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. We first meet Francis Yelton as he’s plowing his fields and thinking what a lucky guy he is: farm, good wife, two beautiful daughters. He knows the war is going on, but hasn’t felt any urge to join up. He’s not a slaveholder and doesn’t particularly agree with slavery, but he just wants to continue with the bucolic life he’s living.

However, war does impinge on his life. Local men have taken on the task of conscripting (drafting) any male of more or less the right age and physical condition. Francis doesn’t want to be thought a shirker, so he decides to enlist rather than be conscripted.

Francis goes off to sign up with his neighbor Whit. They end up spending their entire service together for the last few months of the war. By this time, the Confederate Army is almost a shambles, still fighting only through the stubbornness of the Generals. Robert E. Lee is worshipped by his men, but I have a very difficult time sympathizing with the leaders on either side of this war. Lee continued the war well past any decency, all for some mystical "honor." What is honorable about sending wounded and starving men against the well-fed and well-equipped Federals?

But this isn’t really a story about war, but about one man’s experience of it. Francis is an honorable man; that’s why he continues the fight. He feels regret at the killing and sympathy for even the dying Union man from whom he asks forgiveness. Francis knows full well that the scenes of war and his role in it will haunt him the rest of his life.

Mr. Yelton clearly wants to paint a sympathetic portrait of his great-grandfather. We can only hope that his positive portrayal of Francis was close to the truth. The fact that Francis did not join the Confederacy until late in the war shows he was a reluctant soldier. Mr. Yelton describes many incidents of Francis showing humanity and sympathy for both his fellow soldiers and even the blacks he’s fighting to keep enslaved. He shares food with a black man and is beaten up by some of his fellow soldiers for doing so. He asks a dying Union soldier to forgive him. It’s clear that Francis does not relish war or killing.

"Band of Brothers" is an apt description of the real reason why men fight in wars. Do they ever fight for their country? They might say so, but men go to war for very personal reasons. The man fighting next to them, their mothers and fathers back at home, their wives and children.

This is what Francis Yelton did and we can sympathize with him, no matter what we feel about a war waged to enslave another people.

Now, to the mechanics. Is the book well-written? Yes. I was very pleased with Mr. Yelton’s writing ability. He’s darned good. I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in Civil War lore. I’ll warn that some of the fighting scenes and the aftermath are fairly graphic, but no more than you might see in PG-13 movies. Descriptions are vivid and on-point. Just a note here about what that means. I’ve found more than one book that takes an extended break from anything having to do with the characters and storyline. This annoys me. I don’t want a multi-page gap in the story describing mountains or flowers. Stick to the point and you’ll keep me reading. Mr. Yelton puts in just the right amount of descriptive information to keep you in the scene.

Very well done. I'm glad I had a chance to read it.