A compact, engrossing little mystery with just enough social commentary to feel realistic for 1951. I was surprised it’s so hard to find– our SF Bay library system only has 1 falling-apart copy, published in 1984 by “Ian Henry Publications” (not recognized on Open Library / Internet Archive), which looks pirated, like a bad photocopy someone glued together in the basement. I’d rank it with some of Agatha Christie’s mid-level short novels — tight plotting, memorable characters, strong descriptions, and a satisfyingly unpredictable ending.
“Readers of Carolyn Keene’s version of my life’s events may be surprised to learn that Ned Nickerson was not the love of my life.” That opening sentence epitomizes this book: Not only is fictional titian-haired teenage sleuth Nancy Drew a real person, but so are her equally fictional biographer and boyfriend. This parody of the youth-sleuth series churned out by a syndicate under the pen name Carolyn Keene mimics not only the novels’ comic-book plots but their somewhat plodding style. And, as a parody should, this one digs up our memories and then flips them upside down. Housekeeper Hannah Gruen is younger than we thought. Ned is needier. Nancy — who ages chapter by chapter, marries, has a child, but never gives up sleuthing — is a bit pompous, really.
I had the same reaction as several other reviewers: this book was such an inspired idea, I hoped it would be funnier. It’s even more lightweight than the original series, although author Chelsea Cain stirs things up by tossing Nancy into some political ferment in each era: “The Clue in the Nazi Nutcracker, 1942.” “The Mystery of the Congolese Puppet, 1959.” “The Haight-Ashbury Mystery, 1967.” Other highlights include cameo appearances by the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy’s feud with Cherry Ames, Student Nurse, her ambivalence about Ned, and her comical blindness to what any of us could guess about her chums Bess and (especially) George.
If you were a Nancy Drew fan growing up, you’ll get a kick out of this book.
This multilayered New Orleans mystery weaves together suspense, romance, and superstition in a colorful setting filled with diverse characters, including a possible ghost. When Claire Marshall buys a bargain house to restore, she doesn’t know what a Pandora’s Box she’s opening. Embarking on a practical project, she finds herself responsible for decisions that will change the people around her, as well as her own future. I enjoyed every twist in both the action and the love story, and was happily surprised that all my guesses turned out wrong. A House of Her Own is a book worth reading not just for the fast-paced plot, but for its insights into the powerful struggle that each of us confronts over trust vs. betrayal. The evil here doesn’t come from villains, just ordinary people whose bad experiences and fears scare them into deadly choices.
Digital Book World (an indispensable resource for 21st-century publishers) posted this succinct advice in April 2014. Still valuable today.
From Digital Book World: A summary of a Jan. 2017 agents’ panel at DBW’s recent New York conference confirms several points made by a Dec. 2016 indie authors’ panel at San Francisco’s Mechanics’ Institute Library:
- We don’t call them “literary” agents anymore. That went out with the 20th century. The 21st century is about business > literature.
- The role of agents has changed along with the publishing industry. Agencies are merging, reorganizing, seeking new strategies, and generally battling (like and with their authors) for discoverability, the sine qua non of success.
- While debate continues as to what (if any) value an agent can add to an author’s career, plenty of authors still desperately want one. “The issue for agents is finding the authors who have potential for big careers. One agent offered an interesting analogy. If you go out to sing karaoke, she said, you may hear a lot of beautiful voices. But it’s not enough to have a beautiful voice. Agents are looking for big, professional voices who can sing at the Met.”
From Boom-Books romance author Charisse Howard: The publishing python chokes another indie. From the now-defunct website of ARe in Safety Harbor, Florida:
It is with a great sadness that we announce the closing of All Romance eBooks, LLC. For the first year since opening in 2006, we will be posting a loss. Despite efforts to maintain and grow our market share, sales and profits have declined. The financial forecast for 2017 isn’t hopeful. We’ve accepted that there is not a viable path forward.
All Romance has always been a labor of love. Over the years we’ve developed wonderful relationships with the vendors we’ve worked with, the publishers whose content it’s been our pleasure to sell, the authors who supported us, and the customers who it’s been our honor to serve. On midnight, December 31  our sites will go dark.
From Boom-Books mystery, biography, & international literature author CJ Verburg:
I’ve been trolled!
A Goodreads member who disagreed with me about one of the company’s policies searched my books that are listed on Goodreads, including two out-of-print textbooks, and gave each one the lowest possible rating (one star) as payback.
Although it’s also Goodreads policy that reviewers aren’t supposed to torpedo any book’s ranking and reputation over a perceived grievance — especially a book they haven’t read — the company takes no responsibility for enforcing this. My complaint to Goodreads drew the response that they had “reached out” to the troll, but it’s up to her if she wants to make any changes.
This is another reason to spend the 30 seconds it takes to rate and/or review books you love. An author’s viability depends heavily on what readers post on Amazon, Goodreads, et al. A book is much, much easier to kill than it is to write!
Small presses are diverse, innovative, and plentiful in the San Francisco Bay Area. One of our favorites is Berrett-Koehler in Oakland. Besides publishing fascinating books, BK offers a newsletter which always lights up some unexpected nook of human thought, language, and/or endeavor.
Imagine stepping through the frame into a sepia-tinted haze, where you could sit on the side of the road and watch the locals passing by. Who lived and died before any of us arrived here, who sleep in some of the same houses we do, who look up at the same moon, who breathe the same air, feel the same blood in their veins—and live in a completely different world.”
At the other end of the alphabetical spectrum is
“Zoilist (noun): A person who thoroughly enjoys finding fault with others or in things around him or her.
Say the word out loud to yourself now that you know the meaning and see how many people immediately come to mind (except yourself, of course). That’s the really interesting part about it: no true zoilist ever considers him or herself to be one.”
Are you thoroughly depressed yet? Take heart! Here are two books from BK to recharge your batteries:
And a topical tidbit: “Famed indie bookstore Powell’s sent ten books each to Obama and Trump. Curious as to which books were sent?”
There’s also a 48-hour e-book giveaway you may find irresistible.
Check out all this and more at https://www.bkconnection.com/
One of the best resources for indie authors and publishers is Joel Friedlander, AKA The Book Designer. Whether you’re looking for a quick, easy, professional design for your work-in-progress, or advice on just about any publishing topic, Joel’s website and blog are likely to have answers. His guest post today, by literary fiction author Florence Osmund, links back to an older one: Eleven Ways to Get Better Book Reviews. It’s full of useful information, including links to Osmund’s own website and newsletter. Here’s an excerpt on book reviews:
There are a number of ways to get reviews. The most obvious way is to ask for them. If someone tells you that they read your book and enjoyed it, ask them if they would please take a few minutes to write a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. I include this request in the back of each of my books.
Thank you for taking time to read [title]. If you enjoyed it, please consider telling your friends and posting a short review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Word-of-mouth referrals are an author’s best friend and much appreciated.
I request a review in advance of someone reading my books in the e-mails I send to my fan base when introducing a new release. And on my website, I include a blurb on the importance of reviews to authors.
You can request a review from any number of professional reviewers who will then post them on their websites, Amazon, and Goodreads. Here are some of my favorites.
- Awesome Indies http://awesomeindies.net
- Big Al’s Books and Pals http://booksandpals.blogspot.com
- Indie Book of the Day http://indiebookoftheday.com
- Midwest Book Review http://midwestbookreview.com
- San Francisco Book Review http://www.sanfranciscobookreview.com
- Windy City Reviews http://windycityreviews.org
- Christy’s Cozy Corners http://christyscozycorners.com
You will find a comprehensive list of professional reviewers and what genres they accept at http://theindieview.com/indie-reviewers/.
A positive review from a top reviewer is a great promotional tool. The top five national reviewers are Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and Midwest Book Review. Some charge for their services. Others do not. For a list of Amazon’s top reviewers, go to http://www.amazon.com/review/top-reviewers.
Book bloggers—book lovers who like to talk about books with their followers—are another way to get reviews. Click this link for a list of bloggers by genre http://bookbloggerlist.com/.
The most important thing you can do when seeking a book reviewer is to pick the right one by finding out what kind of books the reviewer likes to review. There is no point in sending your YA fantasy to a reviewer who is primarily interested in historical fiction. The second most important thing to do is carefully follow the reviewer’s submission guidelines.
If you’ve enjoyed this excerpt, you can read Osmund’s entire post — and find links to more discoveries she’s made as a successful author — at https://www.thebookdesigner.com/
In our six years as an indie publisher, Boom-Books has experimented with a variety of ways to create and distribute e-books.
Whether you love or hate Amazon, we all know it dominates 21st-century book publishing. Amazon created Kindle, the top vehicle for buying, reading, and publishing e-books. Most e-publishers start there, and many end there, too. Boom-Books currently distributes Charisse Howard’s spicy “Regency Rakes & Rebels” romances only through KDP Select, which offers them free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers and for $2.99 on Amazon.
In contrast, Boom-Books author C J Verburg’s mystery novels and theater memoir originally were published on Kindle, Nook (Barnes & Noble), Kobo, iTunes, Google Play, and the diverse smaller outlets available through Smashwords. Smashwords is a both a distributor (selling e-books from its own website) and an aggregator (distributing e-books to other sellers). It’s less aggressively commercial than Amazon, but it too can be a one-stop shop for an indie publisher. You upload your book files, Smashwords runs them through its Meatgrinder, and out pops an e-book, which the publisher can choose to sell through any or all distributors from Amazon to Apple.
The up side of one-stop publishing with Smashwords is not having to set up and monitor each individual book with each individual distributor. The down side is that Smashwords’ Meatgrinder treats all books alike. We found that if a book wasn’t formatted very simply, or if it failed to follow Smashwords’ long instructions exactly, it might come out looking different on different sites and devices (for instance, on Nook vs. iTunes), or develop a weird glitch, such as random indents on Kindle. Although Smashwords has continually improved its manufacturing and distribution, we concluded over time that it works better for some genres than others, and wasn’t a go-to site for most of our mystery or memoir customers.
So we were intrigued to discover Pronoun, an e-publisher and aggregator launched in 2015. We’d investigated its innovative parents: Vook, a digital book publisher that combined text, video, and links to the internet and social media, and Byliner (now an imprint of Pronoun), home of yellow-covered “long-form journalism for a short-form world.” They developed such impressive analytics — which they plowed into Pronoun — that the new company was immediately acquired by Macmillan.
This was the e-publisher we chose for Zapped, C J Verburg’s second Edgar Rowdey Cape Cod mystery. Here’s the book’s Pronoun page:
Publishing on Pronoun is free, as it is on most reputable sites. Books are sold through the five major e-retailers: Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and Kobo. Unlike most aggregators, Pronoun pays the author 100% of royalties after the retailer’s cut.
In the 21st-century spirit, Pronoun’s website encourages potential users to sign up first and ask questions later. The tone is on the twee side: customer service comes from an Author Happiness Advocate. Instead of a Smashwords Meatgrinder turning diverse manuscript formats into one, Pronoun offers its authors six format templates: Shelley, Didion, Austen, Lamott, Rowling, and Sandberg. During the upload process, it provides useful data feedback on the popularity of sales categories and keyword options. We were particularly pleased to be e-mailed a link upon publication for free review copies — not available from Amazon, where even the author has to pay for the book.
Another Pronoun feature is its often helpful blog, The Verbs:
Sales since Zapped‘s November 29 e-launch have been modest, but we’re cautiously optimistic. If you’ve tried Pronoun, we’d love to hear about your experience.
by Romalyn Schmaltz
This Facebook post by San Francisco artist and writer Romalyn Schmaltz is reprinted by permission. Respectful sharing is welcome.
I grew up among the Sioux.***
The largest city in South Dakota is called Sioux Falls. In its second-largest town, my hometown of Rapid City, we have Sioux Park, the Sioux Sanatorium hospital, and countless other appropriations of the name that originated as an insult (see footnote below). Even the great life-sized concrete apatosaurus that overlooks the western slice of the city is nicknamed Siouxsie.
I write this having just learned, with very cautious enthusiasm, that the Army Corps of Engineers has denied the easement that the Dakota Access Pipeline expected to be granted tomorrow against the will of the Standing Rock water protectors there. It would appear that the human shield created this weekend by thousands of veterans may have played a critical political role in this decision. While I’m grateful for this news, and want badly to cry in joy, I can’t do that just yet, because the United States government is infamous for its retreat from its treaties with the great First Nations. I grew up with more examples of this plain fact than I could possibly recount. Every day of the 18 years I spent in western South Dakota were reminders that the U.S. government—and even more so the South Dakota state government—views Native Americans and their traditions as antique and marketable to tourists at best (get your dreamcatcher at the roadside Shell station!), and as funny, backward, and an impediment to progress at worst.
A few days ago, a friend told me he’d heard that white North and South Dakotans largely resented Native Americans, and that a certain air of schadenfreude was coming out of Bismarck and beyond—a kind of hope that the A.C.E. would hand them their asses, and that the militarized and largely illegal mercenary police forces would begin to mow them down on December 5th, as Dakota Access projected. That the North Dakota white man couldn’t wait to see the red woman’s ass handed to her in a Hollywood-worthy showdown. He asked whether I, as a white born-and-raised South Dakotan, could verify that claim.
I grew up in a subdivision of a tiny town about seven miles northwest of Rapid City called Black Hawk. It was largely a trailer park community, with tracts of housing nestled higher up in the hills where my parents bought a house in 1978. Tourism was the keystone industry there, and still is, mostly due to one thing: Mount Rushmore.
The “Shrine of Democracy,” as it’s often called by tourism boards and chambers of commerce, was a sacred Native mountain known in Lakota as “The Six Grandfathers.” Its designer (some say ‘sculptor,’ but ‘designer’ is a better word, since hundreds of men were paid very little—some dying—to actually ‘sculpt’ the mountain), Gutzon Borglum, was a member of the KKK.† Despite outcry from the Native community who by the 1920s had already been persecuted and devastated by imperialists for hundreds of years, Borglum emblazoned the sacred mountain with white men: a couple of slave owners (Washington and Jefferson) and a flamboyant war monger (Roosevelt) among them. Gold having dried up and farmers struggling in the economic wasteland of the 1970s and 80s, this unimaginable eyesore was the lifeline for the economy I grew up in. Most of the people I knew were supported, however indirectly, by the tourism created not by the sylvan beauty the Black Hills is known for, but by the ultimate and permanent homage to Manifest Destiny as imagined by a white supremacist in a county named after Mr. Manifest Destiny Incarnate, genocidal maniac General George Armstrong Custer. To many of us white Dakotans of conscience, you may as well name a territory ‘Hitler County.’
The first memory I have of noticing local treatment of the Natives came about, of course, at school. I was fortunate to come from a family that treated all people equally, so I didn’t understand the concept of race until I began the process of institutionalization, and my introduction came on September 7, 1981—my first day of Catholic school. By the end of that first day of kindergarten, I noticed that one of the boys in my class was being ignored by most of the others. Recalling my mom’s instructions not to bother with the people who already had a lot of friends in favor of those who seemed lonely, I went over, introduced myself, and asked him why he wasn’t playing with the others. He told me it was because he was an Indian.
I can safely say that in the ensuing thirteen years, not a day passed where I didn’t see at least one example of anti-Native rhetoric—be it perpetrated by the white folk or internalized by the Native herself, as was the case with my classmate. Mostly, they were encouraged to stick together, and the segregation was really visible. Moving into junior high and high school, well-meaning teachers (and not all of them were well-meaning) were helpless to silence the epithets and threats foisted upon Natives by whites. I recall cringing as end-of-day announcements were read over the loudspeaker asking students to come down to the office for messages before leaving (long before parents could contact their kids directly via cell phones). Every time a Native’s name was read in translation, giggling and even outbursts of laughter rose out of many classrooms. Lori Afraid of Lightning and Harold Dismounts Thrice didn’t stand a chance against the Johannsens and Knutsons and Grundstroms.
For Pete’s sake, my high schools mascot was The Stevens High School Raiders. A wild-eyed white gizzard in a ten-gallon cowboy hat is mounted on what appears to be a rabid donkey, sword in hand and charging an enemy I find it all too easy to picture. A friend of mine from back then recently commented that with a mascot like that, it’s a wonder they didn’t hand out ‘free smallpox stadium blankets’ at football games.
The term ‘drunk Indian’ was synonymous with the homeless and downtrodden souls who congregated around parks and ravines on the city’s poorer north and eastern sides. I recall, in the 8th grade, my English teacher having to rebuke a student for calling a rusted-out Fiero a ‘Pine Ridge Porsche.’ Pine Ridge is the reservation nearest Rapid City, and with a poverty rate of at least 50%, is often cited as the poorest county in the nation. Very few white Rapid Citizens have ever even been on a reservation, where alcoholism has been institutionalized by the United States government as the easiest means of controlling them. To many of the white folk I knew, people from ‘The Rez’ were pariahs not just to be ignored, but to be ridiculed. This was not just adolescent sport—the racist kids I grew up with all derived their world views from their racist parents, and it was quietly encouraged by our very conservative, very white, very culturally isolated social order, and from what I’ve seen on visits back, it still is to some extent very much business as usual.
North Dakota governor hack Jack Dalrymple has shown zero empathy for the historically unprecedented gathering of these tribes. Not only did he order them to evacuate the camps last week, he authorized such use of force that resulted in dog attacks, rubber bullet arsenals leading to what might be the loss of one activist’s arm, and the spraying of the crowds in freezing temperatures with water cannons, causing dozens of hypothermia cases. He has also shown complete disregard for the First Amendment (but in unsurprising cherry-picking, is an avid defender of the Second). Like almost all of North and South Dakota’s heads of state, he is pro-business and disinterested in ecological realities, to say nothing of honoring treaties. Like many of the kids I grew up with, his actions announce that he does not see Native Americans as Americans, nor as North Dakotans, nor as fully human. They are vermin in the way, the law be damned. And when I heard that the same white Bismarck residents who refused to allow the pipeline to pass by Bismarck were demonstrating in support of the illegal militia attacking the protectors at Standing Rock, I realized that these are probably those racist kids like I grew up with, middle-aged now and filled with fear that a Native win at Standing Rock and in Cannonball will snowball into more Native wins, and they can’t have that. They can’t have the ‘injuns’ taking back what’s theirs. I’ll bet this was the first time most of those hypocritical pieces of shit ever demonstrated for anything in their lives, and it was to foist upon Native ground what they refused to allow on their own (stolen) property.
So my answer is yes—as someone who grew up with white people in the region of the great Lakota nation, I fully believe that racism remains rampant in the Heartland, and that the resentment will continue to build with each Native victory, however bloodily won. I believe, moreover, that this hatred will become far worse as Trump ascends to the presidency he did not win, and I expect to see atrocities never yet fully articulated in my time as a South Dakotan. So it is with a very cautious enthusiasm that I share the news that the A.C.E. has declared that the Dakota Access Pipeline will not cross the Missouri River. Our nation’s only precedent in these matters is of deceit and revocation, and until it proves me otherwise, it can never even aspire to be healed, let alone be ‘great.’
I grew up among the Sioux. It wasn’t even until I left South Dakota to go to college that I learned that this was not their name. And I look forward to learning about—and fighting for—their great nation as much as I can. Mitakuye Oyasin.
*** “Sioux” comes from two words.”Nadowessi” from the Chippewa and “Oux” from the French [combined into] “Nadowessioux.” Sioux has no meaning in either the Chippewa or French language. [It] does not come from the Lakota, Dakota or Nakota. Oglala Lakota Oyate is a proper name, not Oglala Sioux Tribe. Tatanka Oyate (Buffalo Nation) or Oceti Sakowin (Seven council fires) is our proper name not Sioux Nation. http://www.lakotacountrytimes.com/…/2009-03-…/guest/021.html
Have you discovered the Mechanics’ Institute? Along with a fabulous library, this SF landmark is a long-time active supporter of writers as well as readers. Their Indie Publishers’ Working Group launched in January 2011 to explore the brave new world of print-on-demand publishing. Their Writers’ Lunch is a monthly noontime forum for insights about the art and craft of creating books.
At noon on Friday, December 16, Boom-Books author C J Verburg and 3 other panelists will talk about “Indie or Traditional Publishing: Six Things You Need to Know Before 2017.”
If you’re a writer struggling to adapt to the constantly shifting landscape of publishing, or a reader frustrated by the challenge of sifting through an endless influx of new books in search of a great story, these four authors with diverse expertise may be able to help. Come listen, munch, mingle, and ask questions!