Awesome book cover Friday: The Artemis Effect

I’m SUPER excited for my fellow blogger Kasia James, whose sci-fi book The Artemis Effect is now on Amazon for $2.99!

I love her blog, so I know I’ll love her book, too. Needless to say, I’m bumping this to the top of my reading list. :) Big congrats, Kasia!

The Artemis Effect by Kasia James

Here’s the description:

Three comfortable lives are shattered when a wave of inexplicable events exposes the fragility of human society. With an unprecedented celestial phenomenon, devastating high tides, a breakdown in global communication networks, and the sudden appearance of violent ring-gangs swarming through cities and towns, Kimberley, Scott and Bryn struggle to understand the vast events unfolding around them. Will they survive the Artemis Effect? Will they discover the truth behind the collapse of society before it’s too late?

In a recent post, she talks about the 9-year journey to write and publish her book — it’s very inspiring, especially to someone like me, who understands how life takes hold even though you have this unstoppable need to write a book.

Kasia actually turned to self-publishing after numerous attempts to interest a traditional publishing house as an unknown. I’m glad she did — that means I get to read her book! — and she’s brave for doing it. That method isn’t any less easy; in some ways, it’s even more challenging and a lot more work.

Huffington Post has a great article about how even in the year 2012, we still have trouble discovering talented new writers. Why? Publishing houses take safer bets on people who come with advantages — and bypass those who don’t. They have to balance reputation and profit, but with self-publishing, opportunity is unlimited.

The article mentions Writer’s Bloq as a safe haven from that — and the ironic requirement that a book “conform” to what’s hot or standard in the present industry. I’m glad I’m not the only one who finds that ridiculous.

Anyway — congratulations again to Kasia. :) This is great news.

The war against sock puppet reviews and two new books for Halloween

The_Lurking_Sock_Puppet by ursulav

A number of writers have banded together against “sock puppet reviews,” or those fabricated by authors and their family and friends to praise their books and attack others, thinning the competition. If it wasn’t already hard enough to pick out the good e-books from the bad, now people are permanently smudging the reputation of public reviews on sites like Amazon.

(Reddit user “Onewatt” even thinks he’s cracked the code for identifying suspicious ratings. Beware the C-curve.)

In other words, the next time you’re browsing for books, those glowing recommendations and positive scores might not accurately reflect the novel’s merit — leading you to spend money on a falsely advertised product.

The group against sock puppet reviews includes Linwood Barclay, Tom Bale, Mark Billingham, Ramsey Campbell, and David Hewson, among others:

But the only lasting solution is for readers to take possession of the process. The internet belongs to us all. Your honest and heartfelt reviews, good or bad, enthusiastic or disapproving,­ can drown out the phoney voices, and the underhanded tactics will be marginalized to the point of irrelevance. No single author, ­ however devious, ­ can compete with the whole community. Will you use your voice to help us clean up this mess?

Do you consider it an ethical breach for authors to resort to fake or even paid reviews? As I reviewer myself, I certainly can’t imagine this passing as acceptable behavior: Just because you have a creative license to make stuff up for money doesn’t mean you can get away with telling lies in real life. But this practice is catching on. British author Stephen Leather and New York Times best-selling author John Locke are just two who have admitted to either constructing false identities or paying for reviews, respectively.

The Hollow Man by Oliver HarrisIn other news, HarperCollins Publishers has announced a new line of mystery books under its existing imprint, Bourbon Street Books.

Blood Line by Lynda La PlanteThe launch this fall will premiere two new books: The Hollow Man by debut author Oliver Harris and Blood Line, the seventh book in the Anna Travis series by Lynda La Plante. Both will release on October 23.

Bourbon Street Books also plans to reprint several Dorothy L. Sayers titles: Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, Busman’s Honeymoon, and Gaudy Night

Hopefully, none of these show up with sock puppet reviews. :P

What books will you read this Halloween season? Last year I picked up The Book of the Living Dead by editor John Richard Stephens. It collects works from a lot of the big guys (and girls) of horror: Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, and more.

Awesome book cover Friday: Drive Back the Darkness

Today’s pick is a shout-out to my fellow blogger Amy, whose first book, Drive Back the Darkness, debuts on September 14. You know I’ll be buying a copy, Amy! Congrats! Beautiful cover, too.

Drive Back the Darkness by Amy M. Newman

Here’s an official summary:

On her sixteenth birthday, Ellie Lyons discovers her entire life has been a lie. She’s kidnapped from her home and left in Alladon, a kingdom controlled by an evil man named Morfan, a kingdom that she was born to rule.

Ellie reluctantly faces the impossible tasks confronting her; like learning to control the magic that now roars through her and burns everything she touches, training to become a lethal warrior, or dealing with the fact that Devin, the guy she is irresistibly attracted to, is actually one of the assassins sent by Morfan to kill her.

Devin has a troubled past; he has spent the last five years tracking the person who murdered his family. He is dark, dangerous, and deadly serious, but Ellie can see the core of kindness shining deep within him, as well as the fear of getting hurt again that makes him push people away. Though Ellie knows her life might be at stake, she can’t seem to stay away from him, even as her feelings become strong enough that they begin to scare her.

Vance, the second assassin and Devin’s best friend, is the opposite of Devin; blonde, charming, seductive. But his heart holds a kernel of darkness, one that makes him dangerously unstable, especially after he realizes that he has feelings for Ellie, feelings he knows Ellie doesn’t share.

Ellie can’t let her emotions for the two men cloud her focus, her quest to remove Morfan from power. When Ellie discovers that the children of Alladon have been imprisoned in a secret factory, Ellie knows she can’t fight her destiny any longer. She must claim her rightful place as princess and fight Morfan, or surrender and be slaughtered. Will she be able to survive long enough to save her people from the Darkness?

Print book collections are a statement about you and your life

Coffee table books

Digital might be the future, but a love of print books seems to go deeper than nostalgia. A personal library can say more about you than a hundred e-files can.

“When you have people over, you don’t show off your iPad library,” Josh Baker, the art director of Taschen Books, told The Independent. “There’s something about physical books that allows owners to make a statement about themselves and life.”

The quote comes from an article about the prevalence of coffee table books (including cookbooks) despite the digital revolution that’s crushing many print releases.

“Illustrated books and art books have withstood the digital decline that the rest of the industry is facing,” said Tom Tivnan, the features editor of The Bookseller. “The ‘beautiful’ books are the print books that will survive in the digital age. The latest Bookscan figures suggest, for example, that sales of individual monograph art books were up 70 per cent last year.”

Do you think coffee table books are “physical publishing’s last, best hope,” as it says in the article?

I do think home collections are a great way to show others the kind of person you are — and what you believe in. Someone who owns a lot of cooking and home-decorating books, for example, would likely be domestic at heart and value family and closeness.

$1000 writing competition at PUBSLUSH Press

PUBSLUSH Press is calling all manuscripts for a writing competition that will award $1000, “the chance to be published” (in other words, it’s not a sure thing), and a featured spotlight on their website. The submission period is open from now until March 31, so finish those manuscripts and good luck! The winner will be contacted by email in April.

Manuscripts will be judged on “style, content, and commercial viability” and include but are not limited to the following genres: “Biography, Chick Lit, Children’s, Comedy, Fantasy, History, Horror, Mystery and Crime, Poetry (compilations only), Politics, Religion, Romance, Sci-Fi, Self-help, Teen, and Thriller.”

This is a great opportunity for aspiring novelists and poets to market their book, even if actual publication doesn’t happen. Remember, word of mouth goes a lot way, and so does an extra thousand bucks in your pocket. If PUBSLUSH doesn’t pick up your book, someone else might take notice.

PUBSLUSH sounds like a good publisher to be involved with, too: According to their About blurb, they let readers decide what books get published and donate a book to a child for every book sold. That’s something worth more than seeing your book in print.

My novel’s stuck in Revision Hell, so I doubt it would be ready by the competition deadline. I’ll give it my best shot, though! I’m trying out Scrivener (on Windows since 2011 and Mac since 2007) thanks to blogger Aly Hughes, who convinced me to finally give the trial a download, and revision is already more appealing. Juggling Word documents was becoming a job in itself, and I was torn between typing in my preferred composition style (my desired font, etc.) and a traditional manuscript presentation (I’d just have to do the work later). Scrivener leaves the compiling and formatting as a final step, so you can type the way you want without worrying about the dirty details. Plus, the program gives users a generous amount of options for putting together and organizing ideas via outline or visual flowchart (aka the Corkboard, which is one of my favorite features). It’s great for getting a better handle on your structure and concept and exposing weaknesses in your plot.

The written tutorial was lengthy but very useful and informative, so if you give the trial a chance (no personal info needed), definitely take the time to familiarize yourself with all the available features.

My only problem initially was the Scrivener wants you to type your manuscript without indenting paragraphs and without skipping a line between them; otherwise it messes up the standard manuscript look, and this is the only thing that can’t be easily changed in the compiling process. I’m fine with not indenting, but not having spaces between paragraphs was throwing me off—all the text looks packed together. My solution? Go to Format –> Text –> Spacing, and set the spacing “Before” and “After” to at least 5 pts each. This doesn’t actually double space, but it does make your paragraphs a little roomier.

Are you a Scrivener wizard? Feel free to share your expert tips with me.