Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Books are more than just the words on the page.

I’ve been thinking a lot about books as physical objects lately.

One thing I’ve been thinking about is how they have been used in ways they were not intended. 

In the English class I’m taking right now we are learning about the Exeter Book, which is an anthology of Anglo-Saxon literature made from vellum that is around a thousand years old. Researchers have performed analysis on the book itself and found traces of beer on it and particles in grooves on the book that suggest it was used as a board for cutting cheese at one point.

The office I’m editing this post in had a book propping up the leg of a wiggly table for several years before it was removed.

Even when books are used the way they were intended, there’s a lot to consider and appreciate about their form.

It’s funny. I’ve been a big reader my whole life, and, on the whole prefer print books to ebooks, but up until recently I hadn’t put much thought into the act of making the book itself.

Sure, I knew that most of the time books are released in hardcover first, followed by a paperback run, and I knew artist must put a lot of thought and effort into the cover design or image. It never occurred to me that there would be other designers working behind the scenes to make a book what it is when you see it in the bookstore.

I attended a publishing program in New York this summer and it was an amazingly in-depth overview of the publishing industry and what it entails. I already knew what people like editors, publicists, and literary agents were and did (though I learned an incredible amount of new things about those professions too) but one day we had a presentation on book production and it was so surprising to me because I’d never heard of it before.

Book production is essentially the creation of the book that you see in bookstores. The dimensions of a book, paper used for printing, whether or not the outsides of the pages are smooth or ridged or colored – all of this is the job of the book producer. And yes, the cover designer lays out the look of the book. But if the cover is embossed or has a cut out or the paper has a textured or holographic element to it? That’s the realm of the book production department.

Another thing we learned in that program is that around five to ten years ago, publishers were very worried that the physical book would soon become obsolete, replaced by the ebook. If you look at the charts, there was a boom in ebook sales and a decline in print sales for a while, but eventually the levels plateaued and, actually, ebook sales are declining somewhat.

I’m sure there are multiple factors for this, but I think a big part of it is that people do really appreciate books as physical objects, not just words on a page, and have for thousands of years. Hopefully, people appreciate the physicality more for its beauty of design like the book of Kells or some tome one might see photographed for the #bookstagram tag and not its utility as a cheese cutting board like the Exeter book or a block for propping up a wobbly table leg.

Either way, books have an inherent value as objects that cannot be replicated in digital form, though perhaps one gains the convenience of being able to read on their phone.

The next time you take out a book, I encourage you to really look at it. Look at the things that you might normally overlook like the type of paper it’s printed on, the textures on its cover, whether the pages lie flat or have ridges, how the spine is bound – and know that a team of people spent hours weighing options and looking at price points to bring you the final product that rests in your hands. How does the book itself help tell the story in its pages?

Friday, September 14, 2018

Spotlight: The Legend of Sassafras House

About the Book:
Twelve-year-old Kale Flores knows life is not fair. He needs a friend, but more than that, he needs money. When he learns there could be a fortune hidden in the Sassafras house, he thinks his luck may have changed. Never mind the house is supposed to be haunted. When Jasmine Palmer revealed the legend of Sassafras house to Kale, she never thought it could lead to so much trouble. She says it's a place someone could go into and never come out. Is she right? The only thing Kale is sure of is that his problems will be solved if he finds the money. He doesn't know the deserted house holds secrets from the past, secrets that are waiting to tangle him in a dangerous web.

About the Author:
Anita Stafford makes her home in the peaceful hills of northern Arkansas. She grew up on a dairy farm surrounded by a large, loving, and always entertaining extended family. She is a wife and the mother of a son and two daughters. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and has worked in public school as a teacher and a counselor.

Books by Anita Stafford:
The Legend of Sassafras HouseA Vegetable Garden is Not for Cows (coming soon)

Also find Anita at:
Author website

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases. 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Guest Post: Jeffrey Bardwell

Many sources swirl together within an author's head to shape the overarching theme in a long form narrative and The Knight's Secret is no exception. Theme isn't usually conscious at first: it arises from the depths of your mind like Excalibur, guided by the wet, icy hand of your muse in lieu of The Lady of the Lakes. Now, many reading this will understand that allusion because we share a common history. I was inspired by that history and a nasty recurring pattern I saw there. Now, I don't claim my book will break the pattern or even warp it a little. Time is a wagon wheel, and we're all tied to the damn thing as it goes round and round again. However, the crushing cyclical nature of history does not magically rob those living through it of their free will.

There are numerous parallels between our mundane world and my dark little fantasy realm. Oppression comes round time and time again like a wheel rolling through different versions of the same putrid puddle of muck. You may have been reminded of stories of the parading auto da fe, the nightmare of the Holocaust, the cruel political machinations of McCarthyism, or the recent draconian changes to American immigration policy. Whenever those in power encourage bigotry and oppression, using a minority demographic as a scapegoat to distract the populace from the regime's own glaring flaws, we the people have three options within the confines of society and law: wink at the regime, turn a blind eye, or let the rage bleed from our eye sockets.

I bleed from my fingertips instead. We all fight oppression in our own way. Some wave placards. Some give speeches. I write books. I would be lying if I said that was the sole source of my inspiration for this series, but it played a large role, and writing these words has been very cathartic. I won't waste time repeating that old saw about those who ignore history and history repeating itself. History will repeat itself century by century on a scale of civilizations whether we acknowledge it or not.

The smaller scale of day to day human lives is more malleable, but I do not wish to dictate how you live your life. I only ask that you ponder what you've read. I seek to pose questions. The most relevant question is this: What will you do with your turn of the wheel when it splashes through the filth?

About the Book:
A terrible secret. A vengeful empress. An unstable empire.

When Sir Corbin, retired Hero of Jerkum Pass, dies on the eve of an urgent mission, his granddaughter Kelsa dons his armor and wrinkles. She ventures to the capital of the Iron Empire. The city is in an uproar. The emperor has been slain by rogue mages. The new empress is livid. Every mage is suspect, including Kelsa's mother.

Hidden behind a magic ring, Kelsa infiltrates her grandfather's old regiment. As the mission leads her down a path of dark suspicions and lurid adventures, Kelsa struggles to live up to her grandfather's legacy. Yet the more she examines it, the more holes she discovers, until Sir Corbin's secret past threatens to expose her.

Unravel The Knight’s Secret, the first fantasy adventure of The Mage Conspiracy series. Discover a world of romantic entanglements and political intrigue where lies cut deeper than any sword.

About the Author:
Jeffrey Bardwell writes epic fantasy with elements of darkness, steampunk, and romance set in the Metal vs. Magic Universe. His character-driven books are guaranteed to include gritty realism, political intrigue, lurid entanglements, dry wit, and dragons in differing proportions.


Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Author Interview: Sarah Kay Moll

Today I'd like to welcome Sarah Kay Moll, author of the LGBT+ crime thriller Dark City (I can't wait to read it!) She was kind enough to answer some of my questions.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
As a kid, I wanted to be everything from an actress to an astronaut. It wasn't until I got to college and started writing seriously that I thought of it as a possible career option, but even then I was more interested in becoming a clinical psychologist or a librarian. When I came up with the idea for Dark City, though, then I knew I had found
something that was worth devoting my time to, and I wanted to be the author that would create this book. 

What was your inspiration for Dark City?
My inspiration for Dark City is all over the place. I love all sorts of books, from literary fiction to comic books, and have eclectic taste in movies and video games as well. A lot of the inspiration for Dark City did come from Batman, and the city is very similar to Gotham, particularly as it's portrayed in the Christopher Nolan movies. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, my absolute favorite book, was also a huge source of inspiration, though there aren't a lot of obvious similarities between her work and mine. 

If you could jump into the world of any book, which would it be and why?
There are a lot of books I absolutely love but wouldn't want to jump into the world of--Game of Thrones springs to mind! But there are some I'd love to visit. If I could, I would jump into the world of the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. I would love to just sit in a tavern and hear Kvothe play and tell some stories. 

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Most writing advice is really just personal preference. The beauty of writing is that you can do just about anything, in just about any way you want to, as long as you do it well and with enough confidence. The only two rules a writer must follow are that you must write and that you must read. If you don't read, your stories and your prose will become stale. 

What is your favorite and least favorite thing about being a writer?
My favorite thing by far is that feeling I get when I'm writing. When the words are flowing and the story is shining, it's so intoxicating it's almost like being high. I chase that feeling every day when I sit down to write. My least favorite thing has got to be the marketing. It's really, really hard to sell a book. I understand this because as a reader I'm pretty skeptical when I go to buy, but as an author it's very difficult to get your work out there and find an audience, particularly when you write in an ill-defined genre like I do. 

What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading three books, which is about normal for me. The first is Metro 2033, which is translated from the original Russian, and is a post-apocalyptic thriller about a world where humanity has been driven underground and struggles to survive in the Moscow Metro. The second is called Sonny Montes and Mexican American Activism in Oregon. It's nonfiction about the Chicano movement as it arose from farmworker communities in western Oregon, right near Portland, where I live. I work for a small nonprofit that serves farmworkers (among others) here in the Portland metro area, so I've found it really interesting. The third book I'm reading is called Amigos, and it's a romance novel and (hopefully) the first "grown-up" book I'll finish reading entirely in Spanish. 

About Dark City:
Jude has a tender heart. Yet he was born into a criminal empire and groomed from childhood to step into his father's violent footsteps. To survive, he created a second personality. Ras is everything Jude isn't--cruel, remorseless, and utterly without fear, as incapable of love as Jude is of malice.
But when Ras meets a ruthless socialite, he begins to feel a strange stirring of emotion, a brush of Jude's passion against his own dark heart. Meanwhile, Jude finds himself with a knife in his hand, the evil in Ras's soul bleeding into his own.
As the walls between them crumble, they could lose everything--their lovers, their family, and their hold on the dark city itself.

Coming together could break them...or make them whole.

About Sarah Kay Moll:
Sarah Kay Moll is a wordsmith and an amateur homemaker. She's good with metaphors and bad with coffee stains, both of which result from a writing habit she hasn't been able to quit. She lives a mostly solitary life, and as a result, might never say the right thing at parties. She's passionate about books, and has about five hundred on her to-read pile. When she does go out, it's probably to the library, the theater, or the non-profit where she works.

Sarah lives in a beautiful corner of western Oregon where the trees are still changing color at the end of November and the mornings are misty and mysterious. She spends her free time playing video games and catering to her cat's every whim.

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Author Interview: Joe Albanese

How did you get the inspiration for Caina?
The relationship between the brothers is based on my relationship with my brother. We’re not twins like the characters, but my brother is barely a year older than me. So growing up I was always kind of his shadow: he was more popular than me, was better looking, even though people said we looked alike. I always had his teachers a year after him, and they’d always call me by his name, so eventually I got tired of correcting them and just went with it. He wasn’t too big of an asshole, but he definitely had some asshole tendencies. We have a good relationship now, but I probably still have some lingering resentment.

What books/authors have had an impact on your writing?
I think there’s probably a good amount of Hunter S. Thompson and Charles Bukowski in my writing, though I can’t say I’m specifically going for something. I always loved the way their personalities came through the page. They were funny, but you could tell they were dicks and unabashedly themselves in their work.

How long have you known you've wanted to be a writer?
I think I originally wanted to be a writer in high school. Back then I was more into journalism. Then I took a journalism class and hated it. I went to school for Criminal Justice and started losing interest in that over the course of four years, but I always enjoyed writing papers that you could put some creativity into. It wasn’t until after college that my friend asked if I wanted to write a screenplay with him. I didn’t take it seriously, it was just something to do while unemployed. It didn’t turn out as planned: we have not gotten our Oscar yet, but I liked creating a story out of nothing. I kept writing by myself—I placed decent in a big screenwriting contest, but it never took off. Eventually I transitioned to poetry and prose and found some success.

What sort of research did you have to do for this book?
I didn’t do a ton. Like I said, I went to school for Criminal Justice, so a lot of what I needed as it related to crime I already knew. I did do some additional research into drug trafficking, which actually is what led me to the drone delivery part of the plot and really broke the story for me and got it rolling.

What surprised you while you were writing this book?
How much of myself I put into it. I already mentioned the relationship is based on me and my brother, but there is a lot of my personality in the main character, more so than any other character or story I’ve written. It didn’t start out that way, but I realized early on in writing it that it would have to be comedic in order to work. So there’s a a lot of my sense of humor in it. Several people have used the word “snarky” to describe the comedy. I guess you could use that to describe me. I’m just now realizing how unfunny I’ve been in this interview, which probably is not good marketing for a crime comedy, but it’s one in the morning here and you should never judge someone by their a.m. jokes anyway.

What do you do when you're not writing?
Nothing too exciting. I don’t currently have a regular job, so I’m one of the many people who use the word writer” as a euphemism for unemployed.” I exercise a good amount and like to watch sports, which is tough in the summer when your baseball team sucks. I have three nephews (twins and a single) who all turned two the past couple months, and I babysit them a lot.

What are you currently reading?
I’ve been terrible at reading this year. I read so much in 2017 and barely anything in 2018. I just finished Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman which I really liked. I think next on my bookshelf is I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes. 

About Joe Albanese:
Joe Albanese is a writer from South Jersey. He has had short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry published in the United States, Austria, Bangladesh, Canada, England, India, Ireland, Portugal, Scotland, South Africa, and Sweden. Joe is the author of "Smash and Grab" and "Caina."

About Caina:
Twins tend to be closer than typical siblings. They often share a bond that is oftentimes unexplainable.*
For some reason that bond didn't apply to Grant and Lee Tolan. Grant was always the responsible one. Lee, on the other hand, was always in trouble and in jail, self-destructing to the point the twins hadn't seen or spoken in years.
In trouble with the Irish mob who wanted him sleeping with the fishes, finding Grant dead of an apparent suicide, Lee did the only thing that made sense. He switched identities.
Instead of making life easier, Lee is plunged into a world the Irish and Italian crime families, the Mexican cartel and the DEA. Pitting one against the other, Lee enlists the help of friends to save his own life. He will need a miracle.
But Grant's secret is the biggest shock of all for Lee and he must re-evaluate his entire life.
*Maureen Healy, author of Growing Happy Kids.

Check it out on Amazon

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Spotlight: Broken Arrow

About the Book:
An ancient power long kept dormant stirs in the shadows once more as one boy embarks on a quest to earn his freedom and the freedom of his world!

Magic has turned to myth, the Vaelhyreans of old to legend, and the power wielded by the ancients has long been forgotten. However, with Ealdred, a mere half-breed slave boy, myth becomes real, the forgotten remembered, and the power of legend is reborn within him.

Ealdred is merged into a world of mystery, brimming with deceit, where the remaining Vaelhyreans are in a desperate fight for their very survival. When Ealdred is kidnapped by the power-mongering dark lord Zeldek himself, he must make a choice; to commit his newfound magic to Zeldek’s service or die. But when he meets Bellator, clever yet treacherous servant of Zeldek, an alternative is presented to him: to escape from Zeldek’s stronghold and embark on a quest to find a cursed arrow and free the Vaelhyreans from the spell that keeps their powers at bay.

Yet how can he survive in a world where magic is illegal, half-breeds are hated, and the four countries are on the brink of war?

About the Author:
Azaria M.J. Durant is a passionate writer of fantasy with plans to branch out into sci-fi and dystopian. She enjoys writing stories with lots of adventure, unexpected twists, and fleshed out characters that challenge gender roles and expectations. 

Azaria lives in Atlantic Canada with her family, cats, and dogs, and her big dreams to travel the world. In the moments when she isn't writing, she is sketching concept art for her stories, participating in community theatre, or curled up with a good book and a box of mint chocolates. \


Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Spotlight: Entangled Earth

About the Book:
Parallel worlds exist a hair’s breadth from our own. A failed experiment causes one of these worlds to collide with ours. The invisible reality begins to tear our world apart, raining down chaos. Physicist Mia Green finds herself stuck in Paris, in the middle of the unnatural disaster and she’s the only one who knows what needs to be done; Mia must get home to England and stop the experiment that’s ending the world. Reality has crumbled to an ephemeral and unpredictable puzzle, filled with danger and destruction, and amid this chaos, it will take everything that Mia has to fix the splintered worlds. Entangled Earth is a mind-bending science fiction adventure where everyday activities on another invisible world suddenly become a deadly threat to our world. 

What everyone's saying about this ingenious, high concept thriller:
“It's action, chaos and excitement all the way” CBY Book Reviews
“Fast paced and action packed” Geeky Nerfherder
“A visually-engaging adventure fiction” Red Sparrow – Amazon 5 Stars
“Action and suspense flows through every step of the way” Kayak Jay – Amazon 5 Stars
“A twisted labyrinth of sci-fi” Cyana Scriptora – Goodreads
“A nonstop adventure that makes it practically impossible to put the book down until you’ve finished it” Kathy Golden – Goodreads

About the Author:
David Lea was born in Manchester in the United Kingdom in 1977. He grew up in Cheshire, not including a year in Washington DC as an impressionable 7-year-old. In his 20's David moved to London where he spent 10 years as a Forensic Scientist before moving into Business Analysis. He now lives in West Sussex.

David's first novel was Entangled Earth, an apocalyptic thriller, released in mid-2018. His next novel, Under Three Skies, is currently in progress.

Check it out on Amazon

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases.