Robert’s Roundup #9 (March Smashwords Read-an-ebook Week Edition)

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[This sale ended on March 9 Saturday 11:59 PM, so now lots of things are more expensive. A good number of things were permafree, so it’s still worth perusing. Also I’m posting some Amazon monthly deals near the bottom).


This post is mainly about the incredible deals from this year’s Read an Ebook sale on Smashwords. I try to list the free stuff near the top of each category if possible — though I rarely list any titles costing more than $2. For this particular column, I listed a lot of high quality poetry ebooks, which made me realize that I need to have a multimedia section containing audio/video of some of the authors (that’s on the bottom). BTW, the letter “e” on my keyboard is failing, and it is a struggle to correct myself each time it fails. March 7 Update: I’ve been adding stuff, plus I’ve noticed that some of the ads I’ve been running are now free (Filiad, Don Q Public, Woodland Poems, Other Shore, etc). Get them while you can!

Titles from Smashwords & other places

First, you should check out the previous Robert’s Roundup columns on Smashwords deals. Here, here, here and here.

101 Tips on How to be A Bouncer by Darren Lee. (Set your own price). Such an odd topic, but it’s very well-written. The author is a lawyer who used to be a security professional at nightclub and events for several years.

Yas Niger is a prolific Nigerian author (website) who is a trained activist. teacher and commentator. Lots are free on Smashwords, but the rest are discounted to free as well.

Irrevocable Acts by Jonnie Hyde (website) is a tale of a New Mexico grandmother, a landscaper and a professor are thrown together to become environmental activists. FREE!

Where the What If Romans and the Moon is Louis Armstrong by Esther Krivda (website) is a FREE! gigantic fairy tale type novel with a girl named Sophia Oomla who lives in a magical world where she is speechless during the day and can communicate only after midnight with fairies and other kinds of creatures. It sounds like a children’s book written for adults.

Tamara Merrill (website) has written a trilogy (all free!) of the Agustus Family Trilogy starting with Family Lies, In her interview, she mentions writing a lot of stuff early in her career, then getting sidetracked. (Hey, know the feeling!) . Each of the 3 books covers a different time period starting pre-World War 2 with the last one Family Myths coming in the 1960s.

Fiction and Poetry by Paul Hina (website). I raved about one of Hina’s novellas earlier this year, and I notice that all of his titles are now free during this week. Grab them while you can!

Terrance Bramblett (website) is a prolific Georgia author of stories, essays and memoirs with a quirky, humorous touch. He has published lots of mini-ebooks. He’s a late addition to this column, so I wasn’t able to buy his ebooks, but I downloaded about 5 free mini-ebooks in the 10,000-30,000 word range which are free this week. After listing some of his favorite books (Joseph Heller, Hunter Thompson, Mark Twain, etc), he notes, ” All these have one thing in common: a zany, twisted slant on life and the events that happen to people as they go through it. These authors write the way I wish I could.” Among his works is a two volume historical novel, Rebel Gold (1.25 for each volume) about Lucas Stone who after the Civil War, seeks adventure with the Confederate gold he stole.

Non-Sense Boy and his somewhat unusual sister by Saul Marmot (FREE!) is a British sci fi comedy. It’s a far-fetched tale about a scientist who stumbles upon an invention that could save the world! This feels like Arthur Dent/Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fun.

Two FREE! books by Laura Rae Amos (website) : Exactly where they’d fall and the Fish and the Bird. Both are “serious” books about relationships, somewhat from a female perspective. The first is about how three people handle a romantic liaison from long ago. Actually the second book is a similar subject (kind of).

Last December I was raving about the offerings from Fomite Press. All titles were in the 1.25-1.50 range — you can see what I bought lost time — look under the Discounted titles section). All the titles I bought were terrific-looking, and in fact, my only regret is not buying more. Here are some more Fomite gems I missed last time:

  • Kafka’s Roach: Life and Tims of Gregor Samsa by Marc Estrin. Estrin is a founder of Fomite Press, frequent author of political tracts on Smashwords (most free). But he also wrote the acclaimed Insect Dreams which I already had a copy of, thanks to Mary Whipple’s recommendation. Update: Wow, apparently there are 3 books based on the 900 page novel Estrin submitted in 2000. I missed it the first time, definitely grabbed it this go around.
  • Here is Ware by Michael Cocchairale (website). Short story collection set in Ohio, Pennsylvania, NY which features characters baffled where they are in their lives. From this interview, Cocchairale described the relationship between the title novella and the other stories: ” (It) started out as a single flash fiction. However, it wasn’t long before I wanted to find out more about Samantha Wayne and her dysfunctional family. I wanted to see her grow up—to see how, through both luck and savvy, she was able to avoid the pitfalls that claimed other family members. Then I became keen on exploring the tensions that arose when she moved away from her hometown.”  published another book this month None of the Above with the also excellent Unsolicited Press.
  • Rising Tide Of People Swept Away by Scott Archer Jones (website). (both titles are 1.25) Jones is a New Mexico novelist who has two novels with Fomite. This title is about a boy who flees a toxic family and lives with various drinkers and losers. (Here’s an audio interview). Just a few days ago Fomite released And Throw Away the Skins about a broke breast cancer survivor named Bec who lives in a rundown cabin in northern New Mexico.

David Vernon is the founder and editor of the Australian publisher, Stringybark which publishes various books (fiction and nonfiction). It is particularly known for hosting story competitions 2x a year on certain topics. Several are on erotic themes, but most are on more conventional topics. Most are discounted from $4 to $2 (boo!) but about 1/3 are at $1. It’s all mystery meat to me (especially since the ebooks don’t appear on Amazon), but the story collections have good previews, plus the publisher has motivated some insightful reviews on the Smashwords book pages. I grabbed Cocktails (erotica -0.99) Between the Sheets (erotica.99), Valentine’s Day and Very End of the Affair (humor — .99)

From the above publisher here’s Reflections in a Hubcap ($1) by Steve Atkinson. Atkinson is a retired London reporter who dabbles in fiction. Some of the tales are described as ” whimsically autobiographical while others visit the dark and murky places of the human mind.” 

Albert Low is a Canadian Zen master and writer who passed away a few years ago. (For a while he wrote a blog). His titles (mostly 1.25 each, but some freebies) synthesize Western and Eastern. Judging by word length and topic, I ended up purchasing Zen and the Sutras, Iron Cow of Zen, Creating Consciousness and Zen: Talks, Stories and Commentaries.

What Confucius Really Said: Complete Analects in Skopos-Centric Translation by Chris Wen-chao Li. (99 cents) This is a well-researched translation that attempts to translate both the text and the cultural references so that they refer to English idioms and aspects of American culture. It’s disconcerting and even comic to read, but it’s a very sophisticated and clever translation…. There’s a lot of footnotes with bad formatting, but what you get is a still very interesting 120 page text — recommended! FYI, last year I bought David Hinton’s translation of the Four Chinese classics for $2 (probably the best translation out there) and a literary biography of Confucius by Annping Chin for 99 cents. (I know, I got both at ultralow prices, but I predict that the Hinton book will be discounted again eventually).

Avenging Cartography by Ken Poyner (website). 1.50. Poyner is a highly regarded author and storyteller who publishes tales of the fantastic — which might also be classified as science fiction. fairy tales, whatever. The book descriptions and titles are hilarious. One unnamed reader (the author himself?) described his stories as ”  unruly and: quirky, witty, slightly askew, off-kilter. . . . Also, they’re short, you can pop them in your mouth and gobble them up in small bites. Poyner’s work is the weird marriage of science fiction to speculative with a soupçon of magical realism thrown in. A little bit raunchy, a little bit R rated, these are not tales for the timid. Sharp political satire, these curious fables of lust and greed are perfect for our own age of avarice. ” All the books are $1.50, and I went with this one and his latest, Revenge of the House Hurlers. I am prepared to be disappointed; on the other hand, if the books are half as wild as the descriptions, I’m going to like them a lot!

I couldn’t afford it during this purchasing expedition, but Read by Strangers: Stories by Phillip Dean Walker (website) (1.75) sounds interesting. According to the description, it is ” sixteen queer stories exploring the complexities of the human experience. From weary men seeking a ride back from a club but find themselves trapped to a woman addicted to a virtual reality game who is neglecting her child to a man whose fantasies about of his neighbor’s wife have begun to take over his life. “

Erotic Stories on Smashwords. From time to time I like to explore unfamiliar categories to see what they’re like. This column’s unfamiliar category is Erotica — unfortunately many of these titles are overpriced — even during Smashwords sales. I’m going to take a stab at a few. I don’t have the time or desire to explore them all, but I wanted to point out the one which seem like deals or well put together.

Speaking of erotica, Bradley Stoke (website) writes a variety of novellas and stories with an erotic theme — though they are more plotted than the typical stroke stories. Everything is FREE! There’s an erotically-charged sci fi series Anomaly trilogy, Alif (sexual utopia at a brothel), as well as short story collections: Cyberwhore (sci fi), No Future a dystopian futuristic novel about UK, Crystal Passion (adventures of a a lesbian British rock band). Reviews are mixed/nonexistent, but I get the impression from the descriptions that while sexual elements are an important part of these stories, there are social, cultural and political themes as well. Among non-erotica there’s Omega, a tale about childhood imagination with fantastic, improbably things, a kind of refuge from adult concerns and a journey to truth. The description is really vague (the author compares it to a Johnathan Swift thought-piece), Also, there’s the long Glade and Ivory about shamans in prehistoric times.

Gail Pool(website) is a distinguished book critic and author who wrote a respected book, Faint Praise: Plight of Book Reviewing in America. (2.00 with discount). She also wrote Lost Among the Baining: Adventure, Marriage and other Fieldwork, (99 cents) a nice memoir of doing anthropology fieldwork in Papau New Guinea. Also, she has a wonderful Travelit blog which reviews all kinds of travel books.

Whitepoint Press (website) is another small indie press publishing on Smashwords (and discounting for Read an Ebook week). Founded by Lisa De Niscia. Generally with this week’s discount, fiction is $2 and poetry is $1.50.

  • How they Spend their Sundays by Courtney McDermott (website). 2.00 Stories about Lesotho and South Africa by a former Peace Corps volunteer (Hey, I am a PCV myself — Albania, 1995-7).
  • Off Somewhere by Z.Z. Boone (website). This short story collection is $2 this week. Fun fact: Boone has written 20 plays under the name Bill Bozzone.
  • Things we Do for Women by Seth Johnson. $2. Linked stories taking place in Kentucky. From a blogpost: “I began writing stories about a gunman or a potential gunman. Many of these stories are in The Things We Do for Women. As the characters began to move and live, I realized that for the work to project the angst and uncertainty, the ilk of disconnection perhaps felt by a gunman, I needed to write anti-stories—that is, stories with no definitive resolutions, no way out, no money shots. Most of the stories written in the main protagonist’s POV are anti-stories. The intent is to leave the reader mired in the character’s emotion, yet unsettled.Publishers’ Weekly give a lukewarm review, but clearly they don’t get what Johnson is doing.
  • Lighting the Word by Merle Drown (website – what a name!) is a family drama about a high school student who decides to run away from his mother and entrusts this secret. Sale $2. One reviewer writes, “Merle Drown provides unique insight into a small-town tragedy. His storytelling never asks the reader to sympathize with or forgive Wade, although at times they may feel compelled to do so. “

Bad Faith by Jesse Tandler (FREE!) is a tale of twenty-something grad students dealing with life’s realities. In reviewing the novel, Paul Samael wrote that the novel is “about this problematic obsession with authenticity – but it’s more concerned with its impact in the domestic sphere than the political arena…. this is not just a good story – it also made me think quite hard about the slipperiness of “authenticity” as a guiding principle for what we value in life. “

Inelegant Universe by Charles Hibbard (Free!) is a story collection much admired by Paul Samael, saying that he” particularly liked the way that many of the stories manage to combine fairly everyday incidents (e.g. dinner parties, two friends on a hike, visiting an elderly parent in a nursing home) with larger, more abstract ideas – ranging from string theory through to evolution and the conflict between order and chaos.” Samael also enjoyed the free Garrison Keillorish Burned-Over District and Retirement Projects.

Paul Samael  is In the future this will not be Necessary. Also, 99 cents on Amazon. “A thought-provoking novel about a technology-obsessed cult and the disillusioned narrator’s obsession with the cult leader’s wife. “Fluent [and] witty”, “Well written and teeming with interesting ideas”… Samael has reviewed lots of titles on his blog — including a number on Smashwords. (go to the bottom of the page). I look forward to reading his reviews and discovering all the titles that Samael already did.

Julie Russell Pedalling Backwards  (FREE!) Here’s a review by Samael.

Creative Commons/Free/Academic/Public Domain titles

Petrarch’s Letters to Classical Authors. To my astonishment I realized that I downloaded a 1910 Gutenberg text which was translated with commentary by Mario Emilio Cosenza. Even though the translation is somewhat out of date, this edition was beautifully done — with ample footnotes and explanations. It contains imaginary letters written to Virgil, Cicero and others. What a great idea — I’m inspired. By the way, if you’re interested in reading Petrarch’s magnum opus Canzoniere, you absolutely need to check out Mark Musa’s great translation and edition. I recommend the print edition though I’m surprised that the ebook is available for $8.


Smashwords is actually a good source for competent and low-priced poetry. One reason is that SW has a higher percent of indie presses; also it’s possible to discount titles below 2.99 and not forfeit all your profits to the Amazon megamonster. Also, look in the multimedia section because I’ll usually try to find an audio/video link to a recitation of the poems.

Douglas Thornton (website) has two poetry titles free this week. Woodland Poems is a collection of poems inspired by Native American themes Seasons of Mind is a collection of observations about the mind and nature. (Audio links of his poems are in the Multimedia section). A book review of it admires Thornton’s attention to classical forms (and indeed, Thornton has published some translations of Catullus).

Beyond the Gray Leaf: Life and Poems of J.P. Irvine by Dustin Renwick wrote a (FREE!) biography of the Civil War era poet with a sampler of his poetry included. I am happy to report that Renwick has also released a FREE sampler Pens, Plows, & Gunpowder: The Collected Works of J.P. Irvine. It’s neither here nor there, but a while back I prepared a kickass annotated bibliography of Civil War fiction. I distinctly remember loving the poetry anthology Words for the Hour: a New Anthology of American Civil War Poetry, 2005 edited by Faith Barrett and Cristanne Miller.

Treasures that Prevail by Jen Karetnick (website) $1.50 Karetnick is an acclaimed poem now living in Miami; the subject of these poems is the effect of climate change on Miami. Let me say at the onset that I am an absolute sucker about climate change. (I’ve written widely about it, but check my piece here).

Various ecopoems by Scott T. Starbuck (website) Starbuck has published several poetry volumes about ecological subjects. Among them, Carbonfish Blues stands out because it is beautifully illustrated by Guy Denning. (Watch out — the ebook file is huge!). Other ecopoem titles include Hawk on a Wire , and Industrial Oz (here’s a review of it)

Among the Lost (1.25) by Seth Steinzor (website). Steinzor is a distinguished poet who wrote a two volume modern verse retelling of Dante’s Inferno I bought volume one last Christmas, and this is part 2.

Lessons of the Dead: Poems. ($1.50) by Brett Ortler (website). This new release consists of several poems, whose titles start with “What the Dead Tell Us about….” and then use a variety of phrases to finish it with (War, Magic, Cupid in Old Age, etc.). Surprisingly, Ortler has written a lot of frivolous-sounding nonfiction about mosquitos, fireflies and Minnesota. Hey, if it pays the bills!

Imperfect Tense By Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor. $1.50 Cahnmann-Taylor is a TESOL teacher, poet and linguist. Her poems are about her profession as a linguist and teacher (see audio in the multimedia section)

Texas Titles

Dreams of Desire by Vala Kaye (personal website). 2.99 (not on sale, but I got it when it was on sale previously). Kaye writes fantasies for adults (paranormal romance). This Faustian tale is about a a frustrated writer who meets a beautiful and mysterious female Satan worshipper who offers Zach the creativity he longs for in exchange for …..? It’s marked as “for mature readers only.” I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m guessing there will be sex… Kaye lives in North Houston — so conceivably our paths could cross..

To Squeeze a Prairie Dogby Scott Semegran. Regular 2.99, discounted today to 99 cents. I have an ad for this book on the sidebar to buy on Smashwords…. I’ve read the first chapter. A strong work…

Under the Radar /Blink and it’s Gone Sales

This post is mainly about Smashwords deals, not so much other authors on Amazon. I’ll add a few of the Amazon deals here if I find any.

Half-Angel by Raphael Sanzio. Very informal poetry about commuting to work in NYC. Intermittently free.

Quartet in Love by Judy Stanigan. (FREE!) A humorous and satirical take on the pitfalls of romance….

Beyond Biocentrism: Rethinking Time, Space, Consciousness, and the Illusion of Death. By Robert Lanza 99 cents. Lanza is a doctor, medical researcher and well-known scientist who has written several general science books such as this one.

Deals on stuff published by

Generally these are titles published by the Amazon imprints. I frankly ignore most of the genre stuff and focus on the international authors and biographies. these remain 99 cents or 1.99 until the end of the month. Everything below is 99 cents unless otherwise stated.

  • Listen to Me by Shashi Deshpande. Writer’s memoir by prolific English language author from India. I’m doing doing alerts on her fiction alerts, so hopefully I’ll announce them in future columns. This is a great buy!
  • Edward Adrift by Craig Lancaster. (website) 2nd of series about a 42 year old autistic man growing up in Montana . From his author page: “”It’s all too easy to turn people into caricatures, but the truth is, we humans are pretty damned fascinating,” Lancaster says. “For me, fiction is a way at getting at truth. I use it to examine the world around me, the things that disturb me, the questions I have about life–whether my own or someone else’s. My hope is that someone reading my work will have their own emotional experience and bring their own thoughts to what they read on the page.”
  • Sky Below by Scott Parazynski (astronaut memoir and adventure story). Man, Amazon is going out to promote this one!
  • Hannah Arendt: Life in Dark Times (Icons). by Anne C. Heller. I’ve been enjoying these micro-biographies, even though they aren’t full treatments of the subject. (Every month, another in the series is discounted).


KCRW Bookworm Interview with Marc Estrin (audio).

Poet Scott T. Starbuck (mentioned above) gives a 20 minutes reading and presentation about his Ecopoems.

Short Audio excerpts of the poetry books by Douglas Thornton can be heard on Soundcloud. More like poetic meditations than poetry.

Here’s Misha Cahnmann-Taylor at a poetry reading (video- 12 minutes). Also, here’s a 26 minute video from a 2018 reading.

(Here’s an audio interview with novelist Scott Archer Jones ).

I have several audio interviews I made with authors which I’ll be publishing here soon!

Personville Press Giveaways and Deals

I run Personville Press, a small literary book press where all the ebooks cost less than $4. [Update: Oh, what the heck, for this week only I discounted all my titles to $1 and left Interview with the Sphinx at free until next week. Enjoy!]You can buy these titles at the main ebook stores (Amazon, Kobo, BN, Apple, etc.), but I regularly run promotions on Smashwords, so the same titles usually sell on Smashwords for half the price that you see them on Amazon. Pay attention to any 100% coupon codes which I occasionally list below — they can be redeemed only a small number of times, so first come, first serve. Smashwords only sells epub versions of these titles, but you can easily convert them to Amazon’s mobi format by using Kindle Previewer or Calibre.

  • Interview with the Sphinx. By Jack Matthews.  ($1.10 until 5/18/2019). 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 cdbabyand itunes), but the script  reads well too.
  • A Worker’s Writebook by Jack Matthews . $1.00. Matthews distributed a photocopied version of this writing guide to his Ohio U. creative writing students over the decades.
  • Soldier Boys: Tales of the Civil War by Jack Matthews. $1.00 Philosophical Stories Taking place during the US Civil War.  (FREE coupon — use code: KD45Y.  maximum: 2 uses).   
  • Abruptions: 3 Minute Stories to Awaken the Mind by Jack Matthews. Flash Fiction. $1.00  (FREE coupon — use code: LQ42XK.  maximum: 2 uses). 
  • Hanger Stout, Awake (50th Anniversary Edition). by Jack Matthews. Coming of age novel. $1.00
  • 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: EpubMobi.

Literary Trends Spotted

This is not so much a trend as it is a recent penchant for stories from states and regions unfamiliar to me. I am so much a sucker for books from distant lands. Even in the USA, I know there are fascinating books coming from West Virginia, South Carolina, Utah, Oregon, Idaho and Wyoming and probably other places as well. That’s just the USA. I must admit I get excited when I discover an author comes from a land I don’t know really well. I remember my recent excitement at discovering that Donald Harington came from Arkansas or that Ron Rash came from South Carolina or that (in today’s post) we have Scott Archer Jones from New Mexico or Seth Johnson is from Kentucky. About Texas, well, don’t get me started!

Miscellaneous (Used Books. Library Titles, Book-related Articles)

to fill in later.

Interesting Reviews Everywhere

None this time!

Review Copies Received

to fill in later.

Closing Thoughts

Egad I must have over 200 browser tabs open. Now that I’ve published, I’m going to shut my browser down (temporarily). A long post. I’m taking next week off, to give me time to recover! The deals never stop coming!



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