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Robert's Roundup #13 (Dec 2019 Supersized Edition)

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Preface

(Sorry for the long delay from last column; I’ll be posting somewhat more frequently from now on. See my previous post about why I no longer link to Amazon ebooks. I still link to author websites and Smashwords ebook links. For acronyms, KU means Kindle Unlimited, LE means that lending of this Kindle title is allowed, and APUB means it was published under an Amazon imprint. )

Indie Author Spotlight

In the last Roundup, I chose Pakistani-American author Harvey Havel for my first Indie Author Spotlight. Since making that pick, I posted this book review of Wild Gypsy of Arbor Hill (SUMMARY: realistic and unsentimental tale about love, longing and loss. It’s also an investigation into how financial insecurity can lead human relationships astray). I’ll be publishing an interview with Havel later (stay tuned).

Ken Kuhlken (author website) is a prolific author who has published many stories in mainstream mags, won a fellowship and wrote some acclaimed novels. I am happy to report that almost all his books are affordable on SW and that his lauded fiction debut Midheaven is selling for 1.99 — half its Amazon price. Actually the omnibus volume Hickey and McGee is 2.50 (half its Amazon price) and contains 3 novels: Midheaven, the Very Least, and the Answer to Everything. There’s an amazing blurb by Raymond Carver about his fiction: “Ken Kuhlken writes about characters most authors wouldn’t touch.” Also from Ann Tyler: “The pace, clarity and assurance of Midheaven make it a pleasure to read.” His website lists the time period in which each novel takes place. But Alas, he recently published some new novels of the For America series. which includes Supermen, This Rough Beast, Gas Crisis, War and Holy Grail. (this is the sequence that the author recommends you read these books, btw). All cost 99 cents, and the last two can be ordered to arrive in early 2020.

Sales on Smashwords

This Roundup was posted during Smashwords’ End of 2019 sale. All Book links and prices should be valid during this time. (See my previous Roundups about Smashwords authors here, here , here and here). Also, titles from my Personville Press are all discounted on SW this week. Quick tip: Authors earn more money off each sale if you buy multiple items in a single order (instead of buying one or two items at a time).

Probably the 3 best publishers of literary fiction and poetry on Smashwords are Fomite and Unsolicited Press and Whitepoint Press. During this week Fomite/Unsolicited titles are discounted 50% which usually translates to 2.00 to 2.50 . Whitepoint Press titles are discounted more severely to 1-2$. (Important note: You don’t see these discounted prices on the Publisher page but you must click to the book page to see the sale price). Some notes: In addition to publishing fiction and poetry, Fomite publishes a lot of short political “pamphlets.” Second, I noticed Unsolicited Press is available at KU, LE on Amazon and indeed, they intermittently discount a sliver of their Kindle ebooks to 1.50 and below. (Here’s the magical Amazon search query to track that). Strangely, both presses publish high-priced print versions of each title even though ebooks are much much cheaper. Here are the Unsolicited Press Home Page and the Fomite Press home page. Notable titles: Here is Ware and  None of the Above   by Michael Cocchairale (website).  Rising Tide Of People Swept Away by Scott Archer Jones (website). Kafka’s Roach: Life and Tims of Gregor Samsa by Marc Estrin.  From the more heavily discounted Whitepoint Press titles are: Off Somewhere by Z.Z. Boone (website), Things we Do for Women by Seth Johnson. Lighting the Word by Merle Drown (website – what a name!). Whitepoint also has some interesting poetry I’ve sampled: Treasures that Prevail  (climate change poetry) by Jen Karetnick (website) and Imperfect Tense By Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor (linguistics. poetry based on her experiences teaching English to nonnative speakers). (Here’s a video of her reading).

Finally, during the last SW sale, I never got around to buying any of the 3 Whitepoint titles by the WP editor Lisa De Niscia. To the Left of the Microwave (short stories), Momentary Mother, and My Valley is Icky Too. Also, noticed that Annotated Nose by Fomite editor Marc Estrin is now free on Smashwords for this week.

Aha, I had written about Don Q. Public by John Opsand Sutherland. (Imagine Don Quixote lived in Toledo, Ohio). It’s free — horray!

David Belisle is a prolific comedy writer and screenwriter who has a lot of comedy “pieces” in prose form. Typical objects of satire are baseball, Trump, pizza, Canadian politics, cowboys. Worth mentioning is that Berlisle has been writing an ongoing series, Trumpassic Period, consisting of one volume for each year Trump has been in office. He writes and produces the T-Rump Dig Podcast on a weekly basis where he dramatizes the mess that is Trump. I listened to two podcast episodes, and they were fun and silly. I suspect the transcripts of these episodes is nowhere near as entertaining as the podcasts. About half his pieces are on Smashwords and half the pieces are exclusively on Amazon (KU) (author website)

Free again is C.D. Stowell‘s, New Old World, memoir about life as an itinerant photojournalist is now free again. When I mentioned it in a previous column, I read a few chapters, thought it was great!

Author Glenn Lazar Roberts is an international lawyer with a background in Russian and Arabic. He also runs Equus Publishing and once upon a time wrote reviews for Siriusreviews.com He’s also written several satirical novels Cross-Dressers From Pluto and Judge Crater Takes a Powder. Yes, the titles sound crazy, and the book description sounds even more so. Apparently Roberts grew up in Houston and attended UT-Austin and his novel Frenzy starts with a hurricane party (inspired partly by Hurricane Allison) where some biological phenomena is released from the medical center as a result of a hurricane . Here’s a radio interview with Roberts about this book and others.

All the fiction titles of Robert Scott Leyse are also free this week. Most are about turbulent Here’s his author website with fuller description of his ebooks — plus reviews.

I just noticed that the books by Edward Drobinski are all free. His stuff might be good, might suck — who knows? (Will report back for next time).

Paul Hina writes beautiful poetry and love stories. (Indeed, I reviewed one of of them) Amazingly, he lives in Athens, Ohio, which is where my mentor Jack Matthews used to live in teach. This week, all of his titles are free on Smashwords. Here’s his home page.

Melinda Jasmine Crouchley (author website) Metal Heart (.99) is by the author’s own words — science fiction dystopian thriller filled with advanced technology, a mysterious disease, and artificial intelligence. Tin Road is the sequel which “focuses on Scarlett Buford and Rabbit Santiago as they escape from the Fort Columbia base and travel to Mexico City, carrying with them a cure for the nanovirus. ” Interestingly Crouchley — who has a master’s in writing works as an editor (among other things) and writes screenplays — is not currently selling her titles on Amazon — though I suspect it is only a temporary thing.

David Campbell (author website) writes plot-oriented twisted reality novels which usually involve people getting revenge (Background Extra) or getting caught up in illicit activities (A small college town). He has 3 novels on SW — mostly free or pay what you want.

Joseph Sutton (author website) is a retired author & teacher who has lived all over the US. By some random luck, I had picked up a used copy of a 2011 story collection of his, Immortal Mouth — but never read it! In his SW interview, Sutton says he admires Henry Miller, Kerouac and especially Saroyan. “All three wrote from their experience, like I do, and all three left their heart and soul on the page.” Subjects for his books are all over the map: a writing guide, a “fan’s journal” of the San Francisco Giants, a father/son memoir, a car-buying guide. Generally Sutton writes short stories, and the first place to start is In the Time of My Life: Selected Writings. It features a significant number of stories from all 3 of his collections, plus excerpts from his other nonfiction works (total 122,000 words — costing 3.99 on Amazon but 2.99 on Smashwords. That makes it a Must Buy for me.

Kenneth C. Crowe is a retired journalist turned author who writes political novels. All his novels are free or very cheap. If you find them from Smashwords, they are all free! Here’s his author website and a poetry blog (which he seems to be updating fairly often).

Paperangel Press has a low-cost fiction anthology Corporate Catharsis (.99) consisting of many authors they have published. Described as the “anthology we all need — one that can help us survive our corporate servitude with our hearts and souls intact.” If you look at the press website, you see that they do a lot of fantasy, sci fi and historical fiction. Most of it seems to be 50% off the normal Amazon price.

My first roundup mentioned British author Kate Rigby when she offered some interesting freebies. Here’s her author website. I had silently vowed to pick up some of her other titles on SW, and now’s the perfect time. In a bio Rigby says, “My novels tend to be character-driven and a bit quirky or gritty – whether contemporary or retro – and deal with issues of today: drugs abuse, homelessness and neighbourhood conflicts, and a common theme is about the experience of being an outsider in society. “ I noticed that one recent work Other Side Of Carrie Cornish: A story of neighbour wars in Austerity Britain (KU, LE) is available only at Amazon for 99 cents. Through the diary of a woman who is fuming about her neighbors, we learn about her motives and how it affects her relationship with her partner. It is written under the psuedonym Kate Jay-R. Also on AZN I noticed that her noted early 1990 coming-of-age novella Fall Of The Flamingo Circus: Diary Of A Punk is 99 cents on Azn (KU, LE) but it’s still 2.99 on SW.

Silly me. I forgot to mention the Rigby titles on SW which were deals. Fruit Woman is a thriller about a mysterious woman who appears at important times in a 27 year old woman’s life. .

Akedah: the Binding by Conrad Bishop and Elizabeth Fuller is temporarily a FREE download (it’s in presale). Bishop and Fuller are longtime theatre people who have collaboratively written and directed several plays for radio and regional theatre. They have 5 titles on SW; this one is about a chance meeting of two people at a bar and a long roadtrip. Description is intentionally vague, but it involves some kind of father-son conflict as well. The tagline of their arts website is Dramatic journeys of change: funny, unsettling, inspiring, mundane & mythic. Their blog contains some story excerpts as well as the random essay.

Rose Maru is a prolific author who fuses autobiographic confession with fiction on erotic themes. (Here’s an interview) Her self-conscious writing is kind of therapeutic because she writes with candor about her sex life and hypoactive sexual desire disorder. She creates her own cover art and reveals a lot about herself in her books. Just guessing, I’d say that about 15-20% of the word count comes from introductions, explanations and commentary. The author graciously provided some exclusive coupon codes (which should expire on Dec 31).

  • Dare to Bare (Short Stories) 99 cents now, but 100% off with Coupon: AE84G.
  • Chains (Novel) 2.99 now with 50% off until 1/31/2020 with this code RN52G.
  • Climbing Rose (Short Stories) 2.99 now with 50% off until 1/31/2020 with this code AM52V

In addition to these, I ended up purchasing Cocktails with Rose (short stories by men), an erotic anthology from the male perspective (though curated by Rose).

Deals published by Amazon Imprints

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. Follow this link to see which titles are 99 cents for the month. I’ve already bought a ton of these titles in previous months (check previous columns here and here), so maybe my recs will be sparser than usual. All are KU APUB, (but not lendable!).

  • Alien Rock: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Extraterrestrial Connection by Michael Luckman (a fun account of UFO themes in pop music in 1970s music — Robert Recommends).
  • Happy Dreams by Jia Pingwa. Rowdy award-winning novel about a rural laborer in China. Feels more picaresque and light-hearted, but I expect it will have dramatic moments. Reminds me of Yu Hua‘s Brothers: A Novel (also a raucous-tragic novel).
  • Soy Sauce for Beginners by Kristin Chen. San Francisco leaves her marriage and then has to return to Singapore to help her father’s soy business and deal with her mother’s alcoholism.
  • New Requiem by B. Lance Jenkins
  • Disenchanted Widow by Christine McKenna. riveting account of a new widow and her 9-year-old son fleeing the IRA in 1980s Belfast.
  • Blue Hole Back Home by Joy Jordan-Lake. Southern high school girl has her life turned upside down by her friendship with a Sri Lankan immmigrant who apparently is not accepted by prejudiced classmates.

Under the Radar

(i.e, titles by unknowns that stay pretty cheap and sometimes are even free on Amazon)

James Edmonds (KU) is an author of several novellas, a critical study of Gore Vidal and nonfiction about Saudi Arabia. I don’t know what perspective these Arabic studies are (who paid for them?! ), but the author has included several Oriental themes in his fiction.

William L. Alton has written several books, but Girls (KU, LE ) is a series of flash fiction about various female characters and messy relationships. I read the first few stories and liked it. (One reviewer said that it “feels like Carver, but reeks of Bukowski.” He has a remarkable history. He started writing in the 80s while incarcerated in a psychiatric prison, then he obtained a BA and MFA in creative writing in Oregon. Although he has published 4 other titles (which haven’t yet been digitalized), he has Girls (for 99 cents on Amazon) Here’s some online articles he wrote (mainly on personal and psychological topics). He works with mentally ill teenagers and released his $$$ novel Tragedy of Being Happy about mental illness and teenagers. (Note: This latter ebook title doesn’t appear on his Amazon author page because the author’s name is William Alton.

J. John le Grange is a South African author based in Cape Town (author website). His fiction speaks of hardship and survival of ordinary people. Wolseley (KU, LE) is about a white family struggling and facing homelessness. Tales for the Train (KU, LE) is a novella consisting of 9 tales centered around mysterious photographs. He has received several international writing commendations. Both ebooks are pricey but discounted often.

A New Requiem by B. Lance Jenkins. 99 cents. When a 17 year old boy is murdered, the community wrongly blames the gay choir director. Many readers were moved by the story, and the first chapter successfully drew me in. From the author’s blog you can read the real life person who inspired the novel.

Nick Lenoir (KU)

John Isaac Jones (KU)

Jessica Levine has two novels: Nothing Forgotten (99 cents) and Geometry of Love (1.99– and suprisingly an academic book about Henry James and Edith Wharton. That academic book is incredibly expensive, but it should give a clue about her approach to storytelling: psychological, character studies, carefully written.

Ulrich von Hassell Diaries: The Story of the Forces Against Hitler Inside Germany by Von Hassell. Discounted temporarily to 1.99 (it’s normally $10) , this important historical document about a German diplomat who was resisting Hitler from within (and unfortunately was killed as a resistor). These diaries have been around for a while without much critical attention. (I also recommend Traudl Junge’s Until the Final Hour which provided the source material for the German movie “Downfall”).

Genes vs. Cultures vs. Consciousness by Andres Campero

Tom Milton (KU) is a prolific and talented author who comes from a background in international journalism. All his novels are 2.99 and on KU and at least one of his titles will go free every few days. Here’s his author page on Amazon and the author website which summarizes all the novels. On that page, he writes, I write novels not only to entertain but to bring a deeper understanding of how the major events of our time challenge our values. In their pursuit of lofty goals, my protagonists encounter situations that expose their inner conflicts and test their commitments.

Vaughn Ashby (KU)

T. R. Pearson (KU) is the author of a dozen novels (and several Nick Reid novels under the pseudonym Rick Gavin). Here’s his wiki page , which says his novels are set in the south in an imaginary town, near Winston-Salem North Carolina. A Short History of a Small PlaceOff for the Sweet HereafterThe Last of How It WasCry Me a RiverPolar and Blue Ridge were NYT Notable books which once wrote that he was “one of the modern South’s shrewdest satirists. “

C.R. Bishop (aka Chris Bishop) has written two satirical novels that I got for free on Amazon. The book descriptions sound over the top in a sophomoric Douglas Adams way, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. The worry (KU, LE) is about an ex-rocket scientist who wins a warehouse fall of traffic cones in a bet and discovers that they have a strange properties. Why? (KU, LE) is a comic tale  of a group of adventurers, travelling the English countryside in search of a clue to save the world from its own burgeoning scientific development.

Stanley Laine (KU) (author website)

Jason Dias (KU) (author website + author interview). See also his post about why won’t the zombie trope die?

Brendan Gisby (KU) is a prolific Scottish author who runs McStorytellers storytelling site. (author website).

Lobster’s State of Mind by Hovav Heth (KU, LE) Heth is an Israeli businessman who’s taken the plunge into writing short stories. (author website)

Tales of the Frontier (KU, LE) by Bonnie S. Johnson is 3 historical tales about the Virginia frontier during the French-Indian war. (Here’s the author site).

Dennis Duane (author site)

Aleks Matza (KU) is a Chicago-based author (author website)

Robert Payne (KU) is a biographer, historian and novelist who wrote over 100 books. (Author’s website). Educated in UK, South Africa, France, he traveled all around the world (including China) during the 1940s. He has written biographies of Shakespeare, Hitler, Stalin, Trotsky, Ivan the Terrible, Gershwin, Caravaggio, Gandhi, Leonardo. In other words, he took well-known figures and wrote bios as a generalist. About 10-15 books have been digitalized and are available exclusively on Amazon . I suspect these biographies were replaced in the canon with deeper books written by specialists, but I’m interested in Eyewitness: A Personal Account of a Tumultuous Decade 1937-1946 and Chinese Diaries: 1941-1946.

Emancipating Alice: A Novel by Ada Winder (KU, LE) (Goodreads blog and personal website). Debut novel about a woman haunted by her dead husband.

Kay L Lawrence (author website) writes short stories on her Quirky Tales website and then publishes them as books titled QT Anthology. (KU, LE) I’m guessing most of these stories are found on the Stories section of her website) . I also noticed that her novel Lucky Dip (KU, LE) is listed for free on the day I checked. She has also posted a 3 volume children’s fantasy series, Boldre Wood Trilogy. Her long abandoned Quirky Tales blog is here).

Tucker Lieberman writes in a lot of different genres, but my attention was caught by one title: Painting Dragons: What Storytellers Need to know about writing eunuch villians (KU, LE) (author website).

White Rabbit (KU, LE) by Carlos Hughes (Goodreads author page) is a debut comic misadventure novel about an unemployed sociology grad who gets the idea to teach English in South Korea. (FYI, I taught overseas in Eastern Europe — here’s one essay I wrote about the experience ). Turns out that (big surprise!) the author has a master’s in linguistics and taught in China, South Korea and Saudi Arabia.

Henry Simpson (Author Goodreads page) writes a lot of crime and mysteries. All are KU, LE I bought My Brilliant Career for .99.

How to sew pieces of cloud together: a dark comedy. by Mary Papstavrou (KU) is a cerebral novel described by one reviewer as “five very intelligent convicts are gathered in what is, in fact, a prison. There are no guards, just a supervising psychoanalyst by the name of James Hoffman. No-one tries to escape; they will soon be released – and in any case, they are microchipped and if they try to leave, they’ll trigger an electronic tripwire around the grounds.” Actually all the reviews are glowing; the review is a Greek living in London with a background in film.

Choose Your Own Romance by Katherine Pierce Chinelli (KU, LE). Chinelli also writes YA fiction, but I’d thought I’d sample this two volume series.

Syntell Smith (author FB) wrote Call Numbers. (Normal 2.99, but I snagged it for 99 cents). Here’s his twitter and a collection of book reviews about the ebook. He’s publishing a sequel in late summer 2020.

O, Africa: A novel by Andrew Lewis Conn who wrote this brilliant essay about Scorcese’s Life Lessons. This novel tries to imagine the African travels of the Grand Brothers (who took a lot of nature and jungle film footage for future Hollywood movies). Lots of nice reviews, but still too expensive.

Life You can Save: How to do your part by Peter Singer (10th anniversary edition). 99 cents.

Good Intentions (KU) by Dan Saber (author site). Saber works as a data scientist (he even has tutorials on his site). This debut work is about a well-intentioned bureaucrat from heaven who is supposed to inspire people. Hard to tell exactly what it’s about, but it feels like Vonnegut satire with a touch of the “Good Place.” Sounds promising.

Blink and it’s Gone Sales

(usually pricey, by major houses, but they have 1-2 day spot sales where titles are discounted to 1.99 or 2.99. I track these spot sales with ereaderiq (which tracks only Amazon prices, but generally these prices are reduced on all booksellers at about the same time)

How Music Works by David Byrne. I am a huge fan of this philosophical sociological analysis of music and performance by David Byrne. Although I bought the title on a spot sale for 1.99, there’s much to recommend to buying the hardback version because it contains so many illustrations and photos. (It’s an 83 MB ebook file).

Valerie Trueblood is an accomplished short story author (probably one of my favorite authors in that genre that I’ve come across over the past decade). I picked up her Terrarium story collection (which is a Greatest Hits of her previous volumes). Unfortunately that ebook never gets discounted, but I was delighted to notice that her other collections (from Counterpoint) are being discounted to the 2-3 dollar range. I grabbed her latest Criminals: Love Stories and plan to find more. Stay tuned for a book review. I also highly recommend Marry or Burn (the title story is a wonderful sketch of a mother of a bride at a wedding she feels ambivalent about).

Nothing remains the same: Rereading and Remembering by Wendy Lesser. Lesser is a wonderful Threepenny Review editor and literary critic. It’s always a pleasure to read her stuff. This title is regularly discounted, and the subject (about how rereading fiction changes your perspective on it) is a timeless one. I highly recommend this one.

Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular (LE) by Rust Hills. Insightful guide to writing by a longtime fiction editor. Indeed, it’s one of the smartest and best written I’ve come across. Expensive, but gets discounted often.

Jane Vandenburgh is a California author of several book. I read and enjoyed the never-discounted Physics of Sunset, read half of Pocket History of Sex in the 20th century (which is actually more about learning about her dad being gay than anything else). Also bought for 2.99 the Architecture of the Novel: A writer’s handbook (as I told you, I am a sucker for writing guides).

Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China. Translated by David Hinton who had also translated 4 Chinese classics. Ancient poetry depends a lot on the translator to capture the spirit, and both are great editions.

Creative Commons – Academic — Public Domain

Adventures in the Unknown Interior of America by Cabeza la Vaca. This recent 1963 translation is FREE on Amazon and includes a nice preface. CLV traveled around southern parts of the United States in the mid 16th century — and even came close to Houston.

Once in a Lifetime Deals

This probably shouldn’t count, but I recently learned about the 19th century Indo-Persian classic novel, Adventures of Amir Hamza. Although there is an abridged version available for 2.99, you really want the unabridged version: 974 pages for 7.99. As it happens, I had a $5 deal on my first kobo purchase. so I used it to buy it on my Kobo app for $2.99.

Poetry

I found lots of great poetry titles from Unsolicited Press (see above).

Tolu Akinyemi (KU) is a Nigerian poet living in London who writes humorous observational poetry. I was lucky enough to catch Your Father Walks like a Crab (Poetry for People who hate Poetry) for free. The later collection, I laugh at these skinny girls: Poetry for People who Hate Poetry (KU) sounds intriguing as well. Here’s his blog. On his page titled Why I write how I write, he writes, “These people (who ‘hate’ poetry) desire to appreciate and enjoy poetry but on their own terms. They want it to be readily relatable, to speak to them directly, simply, yet profoundly; not through an interpreter or critic, nor through navigating a tedious byzantine literary maze. These are the ones I write for.

Texas

Migratory Animals by Mary Helen Specht. This novel about a young scientist who returns from a research project in Nigeria only to discover her sister has a genetic disease which killed her mother. This debut novel won a major Texas literary prize and received lots of praise from Texas publications.

On the Smashwords section above, I reported on author Glenn Lazar Roberts who turns out to be based in Houston (he wrote a sci fi story based on a hurricane party during Hurricane Allison.

Kaye Hushour has written 3 mysteries with a Texas theme. All are KU, LE.

Plainview Lottery by Markas Dvaras (KU, LE) is a kind of satirical economic fairy tale to illustrate economic principles and to have a good laugh besides. Some strangers visit a small town and start a lottery; the novel is how it affects the town as a hole.

Nine Years Among the Indians, 1870-1879: The Story of the Captivity and Life of a Texan Among the Indians by Herman Lehman

Sale on Verso ebooks

Verso publishes a lot of nonfiction titles with a progressive or even socialist bent. Mostly political theory and social science, but also a fair amount of arts criticism and philosophy. Just learned that Verso is discounting all their titles to 2-3 dollars until Jan 1 11:59 PM. See my Verso recommendations in a previous column.

Review Copies Received

d

Rant

My Personville Press will release an overlooked classic from the 1940s in a few months. (Next column will include a free download link, I promise!)

Personville Press Giveaways and Deals

I run Personville Press, a small literary book press where all the ebooks cost less than $4. All the titles are discounted on Smashwords for less that price — and usually under $1.50. 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.

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