Monthly Archives: January 2015

Book Review: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Know before you read this that I am a big Gaiman fan but was disappointed with this work.
This was clearly not up to Gaiman’s usual ability. The first 100 pages were filled with so much that should have been trimmed, it was frustrating. After that, the story picked up well enough. I still wasn’t impressed with how he handled the otherworld elements but it was a nice enough read to fill the time.
2.9 stars.

2014 Book Publishing Up Thanks to YA

2014 was a strong year for publishing. The industry is up 4.9%, and for the first time in a while, print books are regaining their position over ebooks.
Trade sales are up 2.8% due mostly to a 22.4% increase in the children’s/YA category. I’ve been posting about the gangbuster sales YA and other juvenile titles have been seeing in recent years, rarely moreso than in 2014, so this comes as no surprise. But its impact has lifted the industry as a whole because adult fiction and nonfiction are down 3.8%. So not only did J/YA rise on its own, it also made up for real declines in other areas.
Currently 47 titles I’ve helped write, edit and pitch to publishers and agents are under contract. A significant portion are in the C/YA category. If you need help with your project, send me an email or call today.

Time and Space to Write: Writing Residency Programs

Here’s a blog post that originally published yesterday to Scarlett Van Dyk’s blog:
How would you like to travel to a new place and discover that your room is actually a cottage in the woods or even a furnished apartment in a century-old stone building? What if that cozy living space came complete with hot meals and interactions with other writers?
Welcome to the world of writing residencies.
First, know that there are two broad types of residencies. The first are called residencies but are technically writing retreats. These intensive workshops, often about a week long, are led by a famous (or semi-famous) author or editor. They always cost a ton of money, they always schedule every minute of your day, and they don’t always include a place to stay. As for meals? Um…rubber chicken, anyone?
The other type—the kind we’ll be looking at here—embody the original concept of residencies. These programs are hosted by organizations looking to bring authors and artists into their communities. Although you can find residencies that are only a week or two long, most span 4 weeks. A good portion offer 8 or even 12-week residencies, while a few extend as long as a year.
Writing residencies are everything you’ve dreamed of. They offer long stretches of time uninterrupted by the usual demands of work, family and home. Since the hosts understand that art is created in settings that stimulate the creative mind, often your rooms will be decorated with original art and beautifully furnished. Even in rustic dwellings, though, the most inspirational part is the setting.
Residency programs can be found in major cities, small towns, and national parks. Among urban offerings, authors might be housed on a university campus, in the heart of downtown, or within walking distance of the historic district. Rural residencies can land you in a log cabin on a mountain, a tiny house in the midst of working farmland, or perched atop a promontory overlooking a lake. Interweave your writing time with plenty of walks, and you have the perfect setup for success.
Before you consider residency programs, though, be aware of a few expectations. You might be asked to provide something for the local community like a public reading or a short workshop. Although most programs provide you with kitchen facilities, you might be housed in a building with other artists. Many residencies do not allow overnight guests, even spouses or life partners, so be prepared to go without your main squeeze for a time. Although most locations now have wireless, take your laptop and be prepared for abysmal internet speed and potentially frequent outages.
So, considering all you give up, what do you get back? Thirty blissful days where your only decision is whether to have breakfast before or after writing your first pages. Mornings that streak by because you’re not being pulled in eighteen different directions. Afternoons that glide seamlessly into evenings where you can engage with other authors and artists. Connections with other dedicated authors. And, of course, the validation of adding a residency program to your artistic bio.
The Anderson Center, Red Wing, Minnesota
Ucross Foundation, set on a 20K-acre working cattle ranch in Wyoming
Residencies available inside national parks
Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, on 400 acres of the Blue Ridge Mountains
Writing Between the Vines, residencies at vineyards!
The Rensing Center, an environmentally forward-thinking program on 20 acres of farmland in South Carolina
About Laine Cunningham:
Laine Cunningham is the author of two paranormal thrillers. The first, Message Stick, takes place in Australia’s outback. The novel won two national awards and was created during two month-long arts residency programs. Her second, He Drinks Poison, was shortlisted for national fiction awards and was supported by two additional writing residencies. Both are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Google Play. Laine is also the owner of Writer’s Resource, and helps authors enhance their work, pitch manuscripts to publishers worldwide, and sell their published and self-published books with Amazon bestseller marketing plans. Currently 47 titles are under contract with agents or publishers.
Laine’s book website:
Writer’s Resource:
Publishing and book review blog:
Personal blog with book reviews:

Book Review: The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

I read this after reading other works by the same author. I was impressed by his other novels moreso than this one.
I will say, however, that this is a very old book. It is usual to feel like you’re reading things you’ve read before when reaching back in time for classics, and I believe that was a lot of what made me enjoy this book less. Likely at the time it was groundbreaking but now it feels shopworn.
Overall, a good read in terms of looking back at where our dystopian and sci-fi ideas were born. Worth the time.
3 stars.

Celebrity Memoirs Tank…Good for Non-Celeb Authors

Celbrity author memoirs are tanking. Last year, books that were expected to move some 200K copies were selling an anemic 17K or 20K total.
Part of the drop is due to the fact that celebs are producing more than one memoir. People are interested…but just not that much.
An impact that hasn’t been discussed yet is the availiability of so much other writing due to indie efforts. Why read about a celebrity whose high-flying life has little to do with the average person when someone else’s tale of triumph resonates much more clearly because the author was also an average person?
The memoir market fell only 4% last year. Fewer celebrity memoirs sold as expected, and could themselves be responsible for most of this dip. That indicates that everyday folks who produced memoirs were being read instead.
Good news for all of us with an important message that needs to be heard.

Book Review: Sleep Donation by Karen Russell

I picked up this book after seeing a New York Times review that was positive. I’m working on a project where a worldwide pandemic (of a very different sort) sweeps the country, and so am interested in how other authors handle the same situation.
Generally I saw flaws in the work that I noted in her earlier Swamplandia! Generally she isn’t going deeply enough with the language or her style. The most critical flaw was that she switches between two very different styles in the same book, as she did in Swamplandia! At times she’s reaching for higher level narrative writing, then she returns fully to a commercial tone. It’s jarring for readers, and it put me off quite a bit.
This is a better book overall than Swamplandia! though. I also found her treatment of the topic interesting; it’s really just a way to look at one woman’s grief over the death of a sister. The novella form might have been well suited for this but it doesn’t feel like it. There feels like a lack of detail in both the epidemic and the woman’s development.
So, a fun enough read but not one I’d want to repeat.
2 stars.

Book Review: The Calypsis Project by Brittany M. Willows

I’m an old-school sci-fi gal…I grew up reading Asmov and other authors who really created this category. One of the things that really stands out for me with those first pioneers is how they focused on characters as much as any of the science they invented in their worlds.
The Calypsis Project was therefore a true delight. This story has equal parts character and science-based plot elements. Set far in the future, it follows one primary alien character and one important human character as they form an alliance across war lines to save the galaxy from a hideous conspiracy. Their individual motivations are provided in a clear way, and are not lumped into a single segment but are drawn out across the book. This kind of feeding smaller bits to readers really enhances the reading experience.
And the science is also well developed without bogging down in a slew of details that provide too much information, as some other sci-fi writers might do. This author really has a hand in this category, and interweaves character and plot very well.
The only exception I found was that the use of modern slang terms and references to today’s cultural elements felt inaccurate to this world. It was difficult to believe that so far in the future certain slang terms would still be used, so that was a touch distracting. But the other strengths shown by this author will very likely eliminate those kinds of tiny errors with her next book, so I’m looking forward to reading other novels from her.
Overall, this was a great read and one worth the time. Clips along very nicely and provides a lot to think about along the way.
4 stars!

Interview: Alexander Tomov Jr.

Love the comments on inspiration from this author. And he wants to live a Lord Byron life…what a blast!


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Interview with Alexander Tomov Jr (author) by Jaideep Khanduja

Alexander Tomov

Alexander Tomov Jr. was born on June 3, 1982 in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. He is freelance writer and film director who is looking for realization abroad. His work consists of short stories and short films. The author creates non standard points of view toward the world and the human existence. Some of his stories are hypotheses for the development of society and civilization and for the evolution of human nature in far future. His dream is to change the face of world literature with his strange stories.

Your real name and pen name?

Real name – Alexandar Tomov, Pen name – Alexandar Tomov – junior or Tomovjunior

Please share some of the best memories of your childhood

They are many. I had a good childhood and good parents. 

About your education

I studied a long…

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Facebook’s Book Club

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has started a reading club. In two days, he’d gathered together 81,000 readers. His first pick has sold out on various platforms, and the ones still carrying The End of Power are those with copies at higher price points.
This could be an excellent opportunity for authors who need better coverage. If he’s able to maintain the interest that appears to have started in just these first few days, authors could finally have a new champion for their books.

Book Review: Secrets of the Realm by Bev Stout

What a delightful read this is! Young adults, preteens and adults will find this novel a must-read.
The story follows a girl who needs to escape an abusive situation. She does so by dressing as a boy so that she can safely move about in society. She ends up being hired as a cabin boy on a ship.
What follows are adventures on the ship as she learns about her duties and a few adventures on land in different ports where they stop. Along the way, she finds friends in the most unlikely places, and some of those friendships promise to last her entire life.
There is also an element of mystery about some of her fellow mates. The secrets and questions keep readers in suspense in a more subtle way than the other, more physical adventures. So this book reads well on the action level as well as the psychological level.
I especially enjoyed the longer ending. Other authors who aren’t as adept might have ended the book when she returns to a life on dry land. Stout, however, goes a step further and follows her new life just enough so readers can see the main character taking another step toward maturity. This along with the strong writing and fresh story proves this author to be very well suited to her career.
Clearly this is a book that will be enjoyed by readers at many stages in their lives. A great story you can’t miss!
5 stars!

World’s Largest Publishers

If you’re working on academic or professional projects for adults or academic projects for juvenile readers, you’ll want to keep an eye on the top publishers. As of mid-2014, they were:
Reed Elsevier
Wolters Kluwer
Pearson posted $9.33 billion in revenue for 2013. All four held the same positions for 2012.
The largest trade publisher was Random House, with revenues of $3.66 billion in 2013.
McGraw-Hill, which includes McGraw-Hill Global Education Holdings (higher education, professional, and international operations) and McGraw-Hill School Education Holdings (elhi and testing) had revenue of $1.99 billion that year.
Along with Cengage Learning, these publishers accounted for 54% of total revenues generated by the top 50 publishers worldwide.

Book Review: The Scent of Lemon Leaves by Clara Sanchez

Brilliant book. This was a surprise. When I began reading, I thought it would be just another book about Nazi hunters and justice. It turned out to be so much more.
Like the best novels, this one is about the primary characters and how they change in the course of their quest. A woman who accidentally gets wrapped up with an enclave of Nazis in hiding eventually finds a better focus for her life by becoming more mature. A man who survived the camps is given the opportunity to finally triumph in a life filled with failures…failures to bring Nazis to justice, and a deep and abiding failure to live his life for its own value rather than living always in the past pain.
A very subtle yet highly suspenseful read. I couldn’t put this one down. Well worth the time, and I will look for more by this author.
5 stars!
Want to read another novel that focuses on the impact of events on characters and their lives? Try He Drinks Poison, a deeply moving journey with a woman who, as the child of rape, brings the men who perpetuate violence against women to justice.

Book Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

A very strong finish to the series. I really was gripped and couldn’t wait to get back to reading this every evening. The action was fab, as always, and the character stayed strong, which is very enjoyable with a female lead.
One complaint was that the author sent her to sleep far too often with morphling. This can be used once or perhaps twice in a book but here, the author just seemed to drug Katniss whenever things got too tough. It would have been much better to allow her character to deal with the psychological issues by keeping her awake and allowing her to feel the pain of different events.
The other complaint here was that Katniss’ guilt started to feel overdone. It has been a thread through all three books, but by the third book, her observance of all the people who are dying because of her just felt overused. There wasn’t any real emotion to it, and it would have been better, especially in this third book, to have her really work through that or break down because of it. Instead, we get thoughts that seem blah in their impact and morphling.
I do recommend that you overlook these two flaws and read the book anyway. It’s a lot of fun, and Katniss still exhibits strong traits that make her appealing.
5 stars!

Book Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

As with Collins’ first book, I found this one much more enjoyable than the movie. You get to see the inner journey of Katniss, and understand her feelings and confusion along the way. It was a great read, clips along well, yet stays rooted in how she feels and how she’s growing. A strong follow-up to the first book.
4 stars!
Come back tomorrow for a review of the third book in this series.