Although this is a weekly column, once every month or so I’ll be doing a separate roundup about Smashwords (SW) titles. Last spring I put together a list of SW ebook gems and enjoyed it so much that I want to do it regularly. In 2 or 3 days I will post another Roundup about ebook deals on Amazon, and on Thursday December 27, I will post another SW deal roundup to mention notable ebook bargains for the end of the year SW deals.
One interesting thing about today’s SW roundup is that a significant number of these authors do not publish on Amazon for one reason or other; often it has to do with the author’s country of origin or how niche or unmarketable an ebook is.
Favorite SW Ebook of the Month
- White Mythology by W.D. Clarke. Silly me, I was going to write a review of this wonderful book, but got sidetracked! I’ll link to the review later here in a few days. ($4, priced at $1 until Dec 31).
- (Also, my previous fave: Cats on Film by Anne Billson. In my review of this photo-packed cinematic reference, I said it “gives a delightful and irreverent tour through world cinema from the standpoint of the cats who appear in it. … the book has unexpected bonuses. For the movie ALIEN she does a brilliant interior monologue of the same story from the cat’s point of view. (You remembered that there was a cat in that movie, right?)…. The book is a celebration of cats for what they naturally are in mainstream movies; At the same time, there’s more than enough obscure Japanese, European, animation and old genre movies described here to make the ardent film buff happy.”
Giveaways /Free Promotions
David Antonelli is a filmmaker and novelist who has lived in Chicago/Canada/UK. From his interview it’s clear that he is strongly influenced by Continental authors (Dostoevsky, Handke, Flaubert) and world cinema masters (Bergman and Truffaut). None of his 9 books are on Amazon.com, but I am happy to report that they are all free on Smashwords. Glancing over the titles, they seem to be psychological thrillers; Antonelli said, “Many of my novels rotate around a crime as a means of exploring a psychological, spiritual, or moral issue.” I’ll try to do a review of one of these titles eventually.
Short Stories Volume IV by Edward McWhinney. (FREE!) Short stories by an Irish author, and all of his stories are set in the Cork region. I can’t find vols 1-3, but Contrarymagazine has a nice index and longish interview with him. Happy to report as best as I can tell that the online stories don’t overlap at all with the SW volume.
Darth Vader: The Good Guy Who Lost by MS Lawson is a tongue-in-cheek fake biography of Darth Vader as a historical figure. According to the book description, “Darth Vader, has been grossly misrepresented by historians. In fact he is a Richard III-like character given gross deformities and credited with all sorts of evil deeds to make the story of a supposedly fun rebellion against allegedly harsh overlords seem better.” Lawson has another free ebook, A Planet for Emily , an adventure in space about a captain who goes searching for her lost sister on a new home planet. Worth noting is that neither ebook is on Amazon, and 2 other ebooks are available from an ebook subscription service. See also his online collection of essays on Good Guys are Lost. This reminds me of a brilliant essay by Gary Kamiya, “All Hail Pottersville” about how the nightmare scenario imagined in the film, “It’s a Wonderful Life” wasn’t as bad as people made it.
Newtonberg Stories by David Emprimo collects 3 volumes of short stories into a single volume. Normally priced at 3.99, but it’s free until Dec 31. (Author Website). This collection contains humorous stories taking place in a small Texas town in decades past, sometimes with religious undertones (overtones?) There’s some Woebegoney elements here (how could you avoid it?), but based on the first three stories I read, the stories are a little more like gentle character sketches and less like satire. Everything is very easy-to-read, written in plain language, and some of the same characters reappear throughout the volumes. (The other volumes on SW are also free, but this omnibus ebook is really all you need).
Barbara G. Tarn has written several sci fi/fantasy series that build an elaborate story universe and then populate it with characters and stories. (Author site). Prices hover in the $3-5 range for individual titles and $6-8 range for omnibus editions containing multiple volumes. I’ve been previewing two works in the Star Minds series which imagine Earth in the near future after it has joined some interplanetary alliance with several different species, including a telepathic race or two. (Humorously, the humans seem to have adapted just fine to these events and go about their usual lives). The complete trilogy is here for $7 (same as Amazon), and there are tons of books not-in-the-trilogy-but-part-of-the-same-universe. I’ve been reading Adventurer (about a telepathic female from a destroyed planet who is hired to assassinate a corrupt Earth ambassador) and Chasing Stardom (about the Sturm and Drang behind an interplanetary pop music group). Based on the very small amount I sampled, the writing is casual and fun to read and full of adventure. (Also, the cover illustrations are fun and out of the ordinary). This just scratches the surface of Tarn’s series. Silvery Earth is described as “unconventional fantasy set on the world of Silvery Earth. Inspired by our planet’s cultures but not exactly our planet. QUILTBAG friendly.” (Book descriptions suggest a kind of Earthsea vibe). Her current series, Future Earth Chronicles describes what happens after “Planet Earth got rid of us pesky humans and has moved on.” Several titles will be forthcoming in 2019, but book 1 Brainwaves starts with a woman named Bel watching movies inside a post-Apocalyptic settlement before she decides to venture outside). Hey, I guess if I had Netflix and Kanopy with Internet, I could survive an apocalypse too!
I am happy to report that Tarn has given me some free codes for one of her Silvery Earth titles. (First come, first served!): Angelica, Scholar (Silvery Earth Heroines) by Barbara G.Tarn (novel). Secondary world fantasy with the history of the world. 6.99$ Coupon: HD67X. 100% off. (Valid for 5 uses)
(By the way, two months ago Tarn blogged about some of her favorite literary discoveries in the last year. Check it out!)
SF/Fantasy author Kevin Williams publishes a lot of stuff that are hard to describe, but generally full of fun and adventure. (author site). He produces two series (Teddyhunter and Aaron+Henna) consisting of 5 books (with the first book of the series being free and the remaining volumes costing $2 each). Aaron+Henna is a more conventional sword and sorcery tale about a wizard’s apprentice who has various adventures; it is light-hearted and easy to get into. Teddyhunter explores the nooks and crannies of a futuristic world populated by cyborgs, robots, mutants and (I assume) humans; the protagonist is a “Teddyhunter Tracker,” some kind of bounty hunter who performs various shady missions under the direction of various people (to kill rogue bots, I’m guessing). At first, it’s kind of overwhelming; the world feels quite alien (is it earth?) and the characters speak in jargon which can seem cryptic at times. But as you get used to it, you begin to perceive what’s going on (it feels a little like Bladerunner or Wall-E or William Gibson’s cyberpunk worlds). If you’re in it for the long haul and longing for some hard SF and don’t mind inhabiting a world populated by bots, mutants and cyborgs, this is it. (Williams publishes some story collections and some peculiar stick-figure comics ebooks as well, but I’d start with the book 1 of either series before you go exploring the other minor stuff).
Fifty Egg Timer Stories by Richard Bunning. 99 cents! Bunning is a prolific UK author of fairy-tale speculative fiction. (Here’s his author page). He has written two volumes of “egg timer stories” and has edited several short fiction anthologies and written some novels such as the reasonably-priced $3 Another Space in Time.
Clive Gilson is a UK novelist who recently has been publishing a series of folk tales in a series called Tales from the World’s Firesides. (Here’s his personal blog). As best as I can tell, he compiles tales from separate sources and adapts them for a more modern audience. Two of the books (Insomniac’s Booth and Mechanic’s Curse seem to be modern retelling of fairy tales — i.e., the characters are political lobbyists or use mobile phones or microwaves or visit supermarkets. Some are explicit homages to HC Andersen (one of my favorite authors as well). Additionally, Gilson has written cyberfiction a la Philip K. Dick and a crime thriller. Gilson has published almost a dozen works on Smashwords for FREE! to my knowledge, nothing is for sale or on Amazon. These look really promising!
Robert W. Fuller is a physicist, philosopher and longtime educator. He was once president of Oberlin College. He has published several books (including one novel and children’s book) for free both on SW and Amazon (although Amazon has several additional ebooks that actually cost money). His novel Rowan Tree received over 300 reviews on Amazon; some reviews were positive, but a surprising number found fault with the story (about a college president who has an affair with an African American student) and thought it resembled a political diatribe. Theory of Everybody is a bunch of essays about various scientific topics.
Strangely, none of the intellectual humor books of Nobody! have been reviewed on Amazon or Smashwords even though the ebooks are easily found (and a FREE download!). Despite the loose sloppy form and the sophomoric/subversive presentation, these books are quite brilliant, and I definitely will be writing a review of them soon. You can check the equally cryptic Goldman’s Bulldog publisher page for clues about who produced these books or why (trust me, I’ve looked over them and found no useful clues).
Susan Skylark is a prolific fantasy author who writes extended stories with an almost mythical quality (author blog). Lots of her titles are currently free on SW; many are available as individual books but also as a collection. A good place to start would be The Foibles: A Collection (Free on SW!) which consists of mythical beings humorously showing up in contemporary settings (i.e., a woman goes to a job interview, and the HR manager turns out to be a real-live dragon). The other novels/stories/series seem to take place in the mystical land of fairy tales and are definitely more serious and dramatic. After skimming her ebooks, I have noticed that the last 20-25% will sometimes consist of samples from other ebooks.
John Joseph Adams is a publisher of sci fi titles and magazines and various other stuff. (Website here) Not only does he run a sci fi imprint at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, he also edits several noted anthologies and sci fi journals. SW has some FREE samplers from Lightspeed SF mag and also notably the brand spanking new Futures & Fantasies which contains a large number of stories originally published in Lightspeed magazine. (I notice that the same anthology sells on Kindle for 99 cents too. Sci fi really isn’t my main thing (although I always enjoy reading it!) but the upcoming titles from his HMH imprint sound compelling — also, those covers are fantastic!
Although Anne Billson titles are generally not discounted (they all hover in the $5 range), she has been compiling her film reviews into yearly volumes costing 99 cents each (see here and here and here and here). One of the volumes is actually FREE! The Billson Film Database (actually 450+ pages of capsule reviews over 4 decades, $4.99) is a delight to browse through and lower-priced than comparable volumes by other critics. There probably is overlap between the two, but the annual compilations have longer articles that cover more than one film and focus on more general topics.
SPECIAL PRICE WITH COUPON:Hauling Checks by Alex Stone (Humorous Fiction; Aviation) A screwball comedy about a cargo airline. (Author Site). $4.95 Coupon: YY86H for .99 cents or 80% off. (Valid until Dec 31, 2018)
Delicate Passionate World of Gregory Morgan and Vivien Prevette. is a 5 volume series by Slovak-born author Mia Marko (her website). Classified as a “fairy tale for thoughtful, sensitive adults loosely based on the tale of Psyche and Eros… exploring desire and love’s milestones from this gentle and elevated point of view is intended to take the reader toward the Big Questions of life.” Book 1 (now at 99 cents). The successive volumes are more expensive (5-10$). All 5 volumes were published both on Amazon and SW in the last month, so nothing has been reviewed yet, and book descriptions are vague, but I’ve flipped through the ebooks; it seems to be about a grand passion with a mysterious man starting in the early 20th century. By the way, I love the Psyche/Eros story — I once wrote a novella on the same theme. I have no idea whether Marko’s story will justify the extended treatment, but the narrative seems ambitious, philosophical and setting us up for some long old-fashioned tale.
Personville Press Giveaways & Deals
I run a small literary book press called Personville Press where most ebooks sell for under $4. For each SW Roundup column, I’ll include a few 100% giveaways and coupon codes. Generally the 100% giveaways coupons will be very limited in number (rarely more than 5), but the 99 cent discount giveaways will be unlimited. Up until 2018, all Personville titles are by author Jack Matthews, but 2019 should see some different authors as well.
- Interview with the Sphinx. By Jack Matthews. (FREE until 1/16/2019, no coupon code required) Hyperintellectual Tom Stoppard-like play which reads like a novel about a strange interview with the ancient Sphinx character. Freud and Florence Nightingale show up too. I loved this play and even produced an audio version of it (3.99 on cdbaby and itunes), but the script reads well too.
- Soldier Boys: Tales of the Civil War by Jack Matthews. Philosophical Stories Taking place during the US Civil War. (FREE coupon — use code: KD45Y. maximum: 2 uses). Use CN39R Coupon to buy for $0.99 (expires Jan 16 2019)
- Abruptions: 3 Minute Stories to Awaken the Mind by Jack Matthews. Flash Fiction. (FREE coupon — use code: LQ42XK. maximum: 2 uses). Use KL39SC Coupon to buy for $0.99 (expires Jan 16 2019)
- Three Times Time Story Sampler by Jack Matthews (Always Free!) US Amazon customers can sometimes get it for free, but to make things easier, you can down these files directly without having to register: Epub, Mobi.
If you know of any Smashwords deals you’d like to share, drop me a line by Christmas! Next Robert’s Roundup will be in 2-3 days (I have a gigantic backlog), and the next SW Roundup will be Thursday Dec 27.