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My Best Reads of 2017

I just looked over my Goodreads books of the past year and quickly identified the ones I found most memorable. This doesn’t necessarily mean flawlessly written or expertly edited. It means books with interesting premises, characters, or writing styles. Some are by indie authors, others trad pubbed. Some are print, some “e.” A few were free (take note, those who say no one ever reads, much less likes, free ebooks).

Sorry, no cover images or links. This is just a list, in order of date I finished reading.

Hunter’s Daughter by Nowick Gray. A gritty novel of culture conflict and change in Canada’s Arctic.

The Egyptian Book of the Dead compiled and translated by E. A. Wallis Budge. A fascinating classic, full of remarkable words and images.

The Girl and the Crocodile (Crocodile Spirit Dreaming #1-5) by Graham Wilson. A long, complicated, rather messy but compelling saga of adventure, sex, murder and love, set mostly in Australia’s Northern Territory.

Shadow Unit 1 by Emma Bull et al. A TV series in ebook form. Binge read it!

Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell. True tales of old New York. Almost as good as time travel.

In No Particular Order by Kevin Brennan. A beautifully written “memoir-in-vignettes” by a fellow WordPress blogger (What The Hell).

The Man Who Found Birds Among the Stars by Lorinda J. Taylor. Science fiction and a compelling future biography in three parts. I’m happily reading Part 3 right now.

Baiting & Fishing by Meredith Rae Morgan. Mystery, romance, deception and lots of fishing.

Dreaming In a Digital World by Blanche Howard. Weird but strangely interesting tale of business and romance at the dawn of the computer age.

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle. Start with mysterious footage on VHS cassettes. Follow the hints and clues over decades in the Iowa countryside. Ask questions. Be disturbed and enlightened.

The Crown Crescent Chronicles by Guy Bullock. Goofy goings-on among the residents of an unnamed community. Domestic ructions, feuding business partners, small-time criminals, monkeys, bananas. You get the picture.

Tallis Steelyard, Shower Me With Gold and Other Stories by Jim Webster. This collection of short tales and poems “by” the estimable Tallis Steelyard is one of many books about life in Port Naain and environs. The jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard may be found on the WordPress blog of that title, along with lovely and aptly chosen illustrations for each tale.

Of Patchwork Warriors (Being Vol. 1 of the Precipice Dominions) by R.  J. Llewellyn. An engaging, action-packed, and yet thoughtful fantasy adventure, featuring three really strong female characters. The author is also a WordPress blogger (heroicallybadwriter).

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley. A delightful confection of steampunk and clockwork, history, romance and mystery set in Victorian London with side trips to Japan.

Transhumance by Andrew Shilcock. “A short collection of some even shorter stories where the familiar meets the unfamiliar for a half hearted wrestle.” That is an accurate description of this book of speculative fiction that will make you think and wonder.

That’s it for ’17! Happy reading in 2018, everyone!

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open books, grass

Summer Reading Roundup

I’ve been catching up on a virtual TBR pile of ebooks I acquired in the past couple of years — most (but not all) from Smashwords, and mainly during Read An Ebook Week and Summer/Winter Sale events. Many of them were free.

Free ebooks are considered problematic by many. Rumor has it they are picked up by persons deficient in morals whose purpose is simply to amass hundreds of ebooks — electronic hoarders, in effect. And, rumor adds, these books are never read. Indie authors are advised never to give away their books for free (except as part of KDP Select’s five free days, of course. Oh, and Goodreads giveaways, in which case you give someone a free print copy, and often pay for shipping it to them).

End of digression. Now, where was I? Oh yes — free ebooks. I have deliberately acquired quite a few, mainly from Smashwords. And I have read most of them. One thing I’ve found, though — it’s really easy to forget ebooks, free or otherwise. Unless I download and start reading an ebook right after I buy it, it disappears into the universe of electronic blips that live in my computer. Unlike physical books that accumulate to form tottering piles on the bedside table (or the floor), ebooks easily vanish from sight. And you know what happens then.

Anticipating summer reading time, I had a look through a file called My Digital Editions. I was happily shocked to find half a dozen titles I had completely forgotten about, sitting there unread. I copied them to my e-reader (yes, I still have one of those) and proceeded to read.

Here are my impressions of some of those ebooks. These aren’t in-depth reviews, just superficial observations. The titles are listed in the order I began reading.

 

The Crime Cafe 9 Book Set. A boxed set of nine stories by crime fiction writers featured on the Crime Cafe podcast with bonus interviews!

A perfect accompaniment for a long flight, bus ride, or any situation that may involve lengthy waits. These books were originally published some years ago, but are still worthy of attention. Hard boiled to cozy mystery, novel to novella-length crime fiction by nine different authors. Quality ranges from okay to excellent.

In No Particular Order: a memoir / by Kevin Brennan. It’s true that life is linear, but the living of it is all over the map. In this memoir-in-vignettes, novelist Kevin Brennan (Parts Unknown, Yesterday Road) examines his life the way memories occur in the wild: in no particular order. Whether it’s recalling high school humiliations, ups and downs in love and romance, or unique interactions with the human race at home and abroad, Brennan both entertains and moves the reader with moments of unexpected poignancy and full-tilt humor. In No Particular Order is a deconstructed memoir, like no other because it looks at life as it really is — a kaleidoscope of individual moments.

Plucked from Kevin Brennan’s blog, this bouquet of vignettes and anecdotes presents a poignant picture of growing up and coming of age in the America of the 1960s through to the new millennium. These are thin but tasty slices of life to be savoured anytime. After reading, I find myself thinking, “Yeah!” or, “Oh!” or, “Hmm.”

The Man Who Found Birds Among the Stars, Part One: Eagle Ascendant / by Lorinda J. Taylor. Robbin Haysus Nikalishin was born on 31 October 2729 and became the first starship Captain to make contact with extraterrestrials. This book recounts the early life of this man who became one of Earth’s greatest heroes. All heroes are human beings and all human beings are flawed, and the man the Earth will come to know as “Capt. Robbie” was a very human man.

Combining hard SF with a coming-of-age story, this is an engrossing read. The future society in which the book is set is methodically constructed and fascinating. The fictional science sounded plausible to me. Step by step, the story builds to a gripping climax, ending with an irresistible situation that compels one to read Part Two.

The Man Who Found Birds Among the Stars, Part Two: Wounded Eagle / by Lorinda J. Taylor. In this second part of Capt. Robbin Nikalishin’s biography, the responsibility for the space disaster in Part One is determined and Prf. Eiginsh’s mystifying behavior is explained, while the Captain attempts to recover from the devastating aftereffects of the disaster. The resolution is bittersweet; will the Captain ever become capable of coping fully with the damage that was done to him? 

Exploring the causes and consequences of the catastrophe that ends Part One, this book is slower but equally interesting. Less technology and more psychology than the first volume.

Awful, Ohio / by Sirloin Furr. Troy Slushy’s exposure to his life-decimating job, depressed wife, and crumbling home encourage his desire for a life in perpetual darkness. It becomes his objective to destroy the bright, menacing beast that removes him from the ecstasy of his dreams, only to expose him to all of these worthless possessions. Troy Slushy declares that his mission is to destroy the sun.

A modern allegory? Experimental fiction? The author has forged a unique monstrosity, beating words into new shapes and meanings. I had to take a break at the halfway point to reset my brain.

A Long Night in Hell / by Jack Stornoway. The ride down the elevator to Agni Mining Station was like a ride into Hell itself. On a planet where you could never quite get warm enough, it quickly became uncomfortably warm, then uncomfortably hot. G. Drew Akers had been in deep mines before, he’d worked in one for two years in Hussy Crater in his early twenties.

This 10K-word story is categorized as science fiction, but the main character is a detective investigating a murder in a mining colony deep below the surface of Mars. Sadly, the tale does not live up to its intriguing setting.

Out of Focus / by Susan Egner. Morgan Grey photographs a prowler at her home 24 hours after her airline pilot-husband’s death. Picking up the pieces of her life, she debuts her photographic talents and features the unusual eyes of the prowler, setting off unforeseen events exposing her husband’s double life. The illusion of a perfect life gives way to the reality of a gifted artist’s celebrity—a life no longer out of focus.

A thriller of the “woman discovers her husband’s secrets after his death” type. Strangely, the reader is informed of the secrets early in the book, so the main question for the reader is when and how Morgan will discover them. Details about flying commercial airplanes, shooting photographs and processing film are interesting, and there are some suspenseful episodes, but the ending is rushed and unsatisfying. Includes a collection of metaphors and similes used to describe Morgan’s green eyes.

Baiting & Fishing / by Meredith Rae Morgan. A newspaper reporter investigates the circumstances of a corporate scandal, and finds the woman of his dreams. Is she his perfect match or a murderess? Is he a heel or a hero?

Middle-aged reporter Ray Bailey is easy to like and sympathize with, as what starts out a potential big story turns into a charming romance. The vanishing lifestyle of Gulf Coast Florida is a big feature of this book — especially fishing, eating fish, and more fishing. Turns out Ray’s mystery woman is a whiz at fishing, and really rich, and great-looking. And a bunch of other things as well, some of them not so good. Kept me reading, and wondering.

The Eternal Librarian / by Meyari McFarland. When humanity went to the stars they took many things with them. Brencis ensured that they took the books. Unfortunately, humanity also took along their greed, their blindness and their short-sighted focus on all the wrong things. The Eternal Librarian is a touching exploration of human nature, determination and the love of learning that is dedicated to librarians and book lovers everywhere.

Well, the description pretty much sums it up. A short story with a sincere message.

 

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

 

 

Read an E-book Week (2)

Read an Ebook Week continues at Smashwords through Saturday. Here Edeana Malcolm tells Kindle owners how to load Smashwords books. Don’t miss out on all the great books available (including Edeana’s and mine).

My Writing Eden

How to download a Smashwords book to a Kindle reader

Don’t be held captive by Amazon. Sure it’s more convenient to buy e-books direct from Amazon, but this week you can get some really good book deals at Smashwords. For some reason, Amazon won’t take books from Smashwords. They prefer exclusivity, so writers have to publish directly.

Don’t worry. You can still benefit from the Smashwords promotion. As I promised yesterday, here are the instructions on how to download a Smashwords book to your Kindle or Kindle Fire.

First find the book you want at Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com

How do I download books to my Kindle or Kindle Fire?
You’ll find links to all your purchased books in your Smashwords Library. There are two options for loading Smashwords ebook content to your Kindle or Kindle Fire:

1.  USB Connection.  Plug your Kindle into the USB slot (small rectangular slot)…

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The Small Stuff

Proof that the left and right sides of the brain don’t always communicate…

A few weeks ago I published three Supplements to the Herbert West Series. I added information about, and a link to said series at the end of each one.

A week or so later, I decided finally to change the url to the HW Series page on my blog. It used to be audreydriscoll.com/the-herbert-west-trilogy, because in the dim past, there were only three books. Thinking the middle one, Islands of the Gulf, was too long, I clove it in two and published it accordingly, thus turning the trilogy into a… tetralogy? Ugh. Quartet? Too pretentious. I settled for the rather mundane term “series.” But I didn’t think to change the term in the url linking to the page that has all the information about the series and where to aquire it. No one ever really looks at urls, do they? In blog posts I attach the link to text; someone clicking on that would never see the actual url.

Recently, though, it occurred to me that it was dumb to have misleading information floating around. It’s not a trilogy, so why suggest it is, even in an obscure bit of text such as a url? I changed it to: audreydriscoll.com/the-herbert-west-series. Self-congratulations all around. I even went back to old blog posts linked to that page and updated the link there. Take note: when you change the url for a page, WordPress doesn’t propagate the change through all the posts linked to that page.

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But, of course, I had just invalidated the link I had added to my three new ebooks (the Supplements). To make matters worse, I didn’t pick up on this until after a considerable number of those ebooks had been downloaded by potential readers during a free promotion. Aaaaargh! Now I’m imagining annoyed readers clicking on the bad link, saying “Nuts to that!” when they get an error message, and thus missing out on the delights of reading the main series. All because I (the author and publisher) didn’t bother to change the url as soon as the trilogy became a series, or at least think to upload corrected versions of the ebooks before the free promo days.

I shall refrain from pointing out the obvious.

Well, no I won’t. Because maybe it isn’t all that obvious: Sweat the small stuff.

Like these two guys.

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Images courtesy of Pixabay.

 

All in One, All at Once

So many books…

You know how it is — you read an ebook, think it’s pretty good, wonder if there’s a sequel. In a day or two, other books and life in general overlay the memory. Weeks later, something reminds you of that book. Now, what was the title? The author? You try to find it in your e-reader and your computer. So many books… You pick one that looks interesting and start reading, the book you were looking for forgotten.

This shouldn’t happen to readers of the Herbert West Series, because now they have the option to acquire all four novels at once — the complete series.

I started writing the first book on November 7th, 2000. November 7th, 2016 is Herbert West’s 130th birthday. In honour of the occasion, I have published a “box set” of all four novels, with a bonus — Chapter 1 of the as yet untitled sequel to the series.

It’s in the works at Amazon and Smashwords, and will be widely available soon.

Complete information and links may be found here.

From ancient Arkham to the agony of the Great War, from Acadie to the islands of the West Coast, a brilliant but amoral physician is subjected to travails and entanglements, to become a source of healing — and of peril.

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Why a “Box Set?”

“Box set.” An unwieldy term, by any standard — two nouns that jostle along together without anything to link them into a meaningful concept. But, for some reason, that’s the term used to describe a set of books or music recordings with something in common (author, composer, performer, theme) issued together as a special edition.

“Boxed set” actually makes sense, referring to the fact that the separate works are contained in a box or slipcase especially designed for the collected edition. But it looks like “box set” is here to stay, for a number of excellent or dubious reasons.

Another term I’ve seen applied to collected editions is “bundle,” but that sounds blunt and indiscriminate. Does anyone really want books that come in bundles, like lumber? Or “omnibus,” which I’ve seen on single-volume print books containing a number of separate works? That sounds clumsy and menacing.

So box set it is.

The publishing trajectory that culminates in a box set goes like this: an author writes and publishes a novel. Then they write and publish another. And another, forming a trilogy, or even more novels, forming a series. Once the series is complete, the author goes on to create other novels or series. They gather a following (maybe), and eventually it makes sense to make the trilogy or series available as a set — a box set.

The box set may include a bonus of some sort, a story or two not otherwise available, or even the beginning of another novel. This is a good idea, because it may entice purchasers who already own the separately-published books. So might a new, striking cover image for the box set. Readers may not be able to resist the look of a spiffy new package to replace their dog-eared copies, and some new writing from an author they already like would be icing on the literary cake.

Ebooks are often sold as box sets (without an actual box, of course). A new, purpose-designed cover image is essential here. Taking the easy option of pasting reduced versions of the original covers together results in a muddled mess, not an eye-catching novelty.

Box sets may be something besides a collection of works by a single author. Several authors writing in a specific genre may contribute books from their backlists to form a set with a common theme — cozy mysteries or supernatural thrillers, for example. Box sets may also be created to support a charitable cause, in which case all or part of the proceeds go to that cause.

I have to admit, I always thought box sets (the physical kind) were a good idea that didn’t quite work. Anyone who really liked an author’s books would have them all anyway. Buying a box set for a friend would be a risk if they weren’t a fan and superfluous if they were. The only motive to buy a box set would be the spiffiness factor.

But here I am, about to publish a box set of the Herbert West Series. It will include all four novels, along with the first chapter of a new novel intended to be a sequel to the series. “Intended” because so far I’ve written only that first chapter. Putting it out there will give me incentive to write and publish the rest. That’s the idea, anyway.

The Herbert West Series Complete will make its appearance through Smashwords and Amazon, in ebook form only, on November 7th — Herbert West’s 130th birthday.

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Image designed by Audrey Driscoll with Canva

The Supplements Are Live!

The first three Supplements to the Herbert West Series are now available on Amazon.

These short pieces explore side-paths not pursued in the novels, or fill in chronological gaps.

 

The Nexus corrected

Herbert West Series supplement 1

Nearing the end of his long life, Miskatonic University professor Augustus Quarrington retraces the path to his entanglement with one of his most interesting – and dangerous – students: Herbert West.

 

Herbert West Series supplement 2

Herbert West Series supplement 2

Miskatonic University librarian Charles Milburn was Herbert West’s assistant and closest friend. He has already revealed much about their association in The Friendship of Mortals. But not everything. This is the part he left out.

 

Herbert West Series supplement 3

Herbert West Series supplement 3

Reformed necromancer Francis Dexter (formerly known as Herbert West) and his servant Andre Boudreau visit Luxor, Egypt in the year 1935. A climb up el-Qurn, the sacred mountain behind the Valley of the Kings, leads to an encounter with bandits, and with one who “was of the old native blood and looked like a Pharaoh.”

Being My Own Publisher

Here is my current writing-related to-do list:

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Nothing in there about writing anything, or even revising. It’s all publishing, all the time. I suppose this is the best reason for having someone else do the publishing stuff.

I passed a major milestone on December 10th, when Islands of the Gulf Volume 1, The Journey and Islands of the Gulf Volume 2, The Treasure officially became available in print versions, joining The Friendship of Mortals.

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But because I made all kinds of small changes to the texts of those two books before publishing in print, it only makes sense to transmit those changes to the ebook versions as well. Unfortunately, “transmit” means “go through the lists of edits and make them in both the Smashwords and Amazon KDP documents.” Tedious stuff, transmitting.

Then I can get on with the final book of the Herbert West Series — Hunting the Phoenix — correcting errors I have noted in my e-reader, formatting, writing the back cover description, arranging for the full print cover, etc. And finally, uploading the corrected ebook documents. The whole series will then be fully available in both ebook and print versions. Then I can finally get on with something new.

Now I begin to understand why it can take months or even years between signing a contract with a publisher and actually seeing a published book. And as my own publisher, I can’t even blame anyone else for the slowness of the process.