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Copyright Ghosts of 1923 Come Alive Tomorrow!

(I originally posted this on Teleread in 2007. The horrifying decision to freeze the public domain for 20 extra years has increased costs to libraries, schools, students and scholars. The works below would have gone into the public domain in 1999; instead, they will go into the public domain tomorrow! The openculture blog has more).

“You are all a lost generation”
Gertrude Stein, quoted in preface to Hemingway’s Sun Also Rises (1926)

See also: Welcome to 1922! (Introduction)Ghosts of 1924. For Texas readers, see my tirade about why Dorothy Scarborough’s The Wind isn’t in the public domain.

All the works listed below were scheduled to go into the U.S. public domain in 1999–except that a 1998 law mandated a 20 year delay–causing higher prices for students, teachers and libraries. Instead of 1999, these works will become part of the U.S. public domain only in 2019.

Caveat: This is a work in progress. It may not be accurate. However, it will be updated over time (and hopefully made more accurate). Some of the works listed below might be very well be in the public domain or special arrangements might have been made to make them available in digitalized form. Always google to be sure. If you have edits/additions, send them to me here: idiotprogrammer at fastmailbox.net .

How I Compiled This List

First, let me explain how I located works specific to each year. I’m no expert on that decade, and frankly I did nothing that no other savvy Net Surfer could do using google and well-known resources.

  1. Wikipedia uses year pages as a central reference point to events, people and creative works particular to the time period. If you go to Wikipedia’s entry to 1923, you will find links to Literature and Film. I’ve found a lot of discrepancies about dates on wikipedia, so you shouldn’t take for granted that dates are absolutely correct (you should probably verify these dates elsewhere). However, they are usually in the ballpark. One of the problems with this dating system on Wikipedia is that it based on self-reporting by wikipedia posters; many well-known works probably haven’t been listed yet. Still, it’s enough to get a person started.
  2. University of Pennsylvania has a great listing of prize winners by year. Obviously not all great works were prize winners, but this helps you to be sure you haven’t overlooked any prize-winning works. This site links to digital copies when available. Sometimes it happens that post-1922 works have made it in the public domain for one reason or another. Also, because copyright law in Australia is Death + 50 Years, Project Gutenberg in Australia, they are sometimes able to carry certain works not yet available in the U.S. (Suddenly my heart is surging with a feeling of Australian nationalism).
  3. For general reference information about copyright, check University of Pennsylvania’s listing of copyright laws by country and Cornell U.’s reference guide to U.S. copyright law.
  4. Google Book Search tends to be pretty conservative about which books it allows full text for, but on the other hand, the best two things about it are 1)easy access to the copyright page to verify date (regardless of whether it’s in public domain) and 2)google-produced PDFs which are just a collection of screenshots of scans. I haven’t tried it, but now Project Gutenberg’s Distributed Proofreader’s Project is using these PDF’s to OCR these works, saving individuals and libraries a lot of time and effort (horray Google!) .
  5. Here’s a list of copyright renewals by year. For example in 1923, works needed to be renewed in 1950, 1951 or 1952. This table provides a gigantic page of 1923 works which were not renewedand a list of works which were renewed (zip). I can’t really say how accurate or complete this information is (and by the way, I generally did not consult it when listing works below).
  6. The Internet Speculative Fiction Database is the only literary source that lets you narrow by year. Its purpose seems to be sci fi/fantasy, but for now the database lists lots of general works as well. It also lists short stories and essays printed in a particular year–particularly useful. This website is still buggy and lists incomplete/unedited information. Also, the dates may contain second editions, so some might already be in the public domain. Still a good resource, and likely to improve with time.
  7. Project Gutenberg lists a lot of works that are post-1922 but are not put in the public domain by virtue of publication date. Maybe they have made alternate arrangements. The PG Clearance team is pretty sharp; I seriously doubt they would make a mistake.
  8. The Golden Age of Detection wiki lists detective novels from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, period between the 1920s and 1930s in England and (to a limited extent) the U.S. There are many ways to find detective novels in a certain time period. The most direct seems to be to enter “1923” as a search term in its search box.
  9. The IMDB database offers lots of ways to browse films by date. The problem is that even in 1923 there were 2099 listings. This is a cumbersome way to search. However, links on the left side allow you to list by total votes and by average vote. These two links have further links to the 100 top links in that category. However, I’ve observed discrepancies in dates. Also, many of these films are foreign, and you can’t tell the release date of these films in the US. I’m limiting myself to American releases (generally). Don’t forget to click on the Review link for individual films. BTW, make sure to check whether the film has a link to an External Review; some of the notable ones do.
  10. In archive.org you can do search by Date Ranges. You have to use Advanced Search, and it’s a bit cumbersome, but it works; . Also Openflix is distributing early public domain works. You can’t neatly search by year, but often entering the year into the Search box produces tidy search results. They used to provide p2p links, but now they provide links to streaming videos and cheap editions you can find on amazon.
  11. See also the National Registry of Films list. You can list films by date, and pretty much see which films that historians and archivists deemed notable/significant for a particular year.
  12. Other Categories: I am generally not listing literary works originally other than English here. For English-speaking audiences, we care about the copyright date of translations (although it is true that a person living today could write their own free translation from the original and post it online). Also, I haven’t listed much in the way of history/nonfiction/essays simply because I have no way of finding out what’s out there.

The Ghosts of 1923–A Synopsis

1923 was a great year. The country was suffering under an incompetent U.S. president, and in midyear another took office to fix the mess he’d created. William Butler Yeatswon the Nobel prize. Both Robert Frost and E.E. Cummings produced their first major collections of poetry (so did Wallace Stevens, but luckily it contained previously published works now in the public domain). W.C. Williams wrote two volumes of poetry; curiously even his pre-1923 works haven’t made it onto Gutenberg. A female sci fi writer named Gertrude Atherton published a sensational, semi-autobiographical novel Black Oxen, about a middle-aged woman who miraculously becomes young again after glandular therapy. It was made into a well-received film a year later. Harlem Renaissance writer Jean Toomer created Cane, a series of poems and short stories considered to be an important work of high modernism. English writer (and friend of Rosetti) Hall Caine wrote an anti-war novel of a romance between a German POW and an English girl; it was made into a film in 1927. Feminist dramatist/fiction writer Zona Gale wrote another love story that satirized life in a small town. Edwin Lefèvre wrote a classic novel describing the life of a professional stock-trader on Wall Street (akin to a 1920’s Bonfire of the Vanities). Elmer Rice wrote Adding Machine, widely considered an early expressionist classic of American theater. P.G. Wodehouse had another Jeeves book out; G.B. Shaw had another play; Willa Cather had two novels; H.G. Wells had one, and adventure writer H. Rider Haggard had one too. Arnold Bennett had his last great masterpiece Riceyman Steps (now on Gutenberg).

IMDB shows a mere 2099 movies produced in 1923 (a good percentage, we may assume are not American). Everything is still silent (obviously), but still there’s a wide variety of productions. Laurel and Hardy released 19 new films; Buster Keatonproduced three; Hal Roach’s Our Gang comedies started appearing with 19 in 1923; so did the classic Harold Lloyd‘s Safety Last (where he hangs off a clock on a building). Cecil de Mille produced two more epics. We also see an early work of Fay Wray (who starred in King Kong 10 years later). Alla Nazimova produced the controversial and lavish avante-garde Salome version of Oscar Wilde’s play, replete with “bare-chested boys, blond Nubian slaves, metallic potted palms, art nouveau floral patterns, and birdcage dungeons (wrote a Village Voice critic recently). There was Covered Wagon, a Western with a giant budget and other films with various plots about orphans, Irish immigrants, woman heading off to Hollywood to be a star (Hollywood was big even then).

Of course, I have only scratched the surface. Obviously there are many more books, plays and movies and paintings I haven’t had time to describe here. Now, thanks to 1998 legislation passed by your congressmen, these and other works will have to wait an extra 20 years for Americans to have easy access to them. You have 12 years of waiting to go.

Literary Works of 1923–Poems/Drama

  • E. E. Cummings – Tulips & Chimneys
  • Robert Frost – New Hampshire (won Pulitzer)
  • William Carlos Williams: Go Go, Spring and All
  • Elmer Rice – The Adding Machine
  • George Bernard Shaw – Saint Joan
  • John Masefield — Dauber And the Daffodil Fields
  • Wallace Stevens – Harmonium
  • Owen Davis, Icebound (won Pulitzer for drama)

Literary Works of 1923–Fiction

  • Gertrude Atherton – Black Oxen (racy sci fi later made into 1924 film). Update: Expired copyright.
  • Sherwood Anderson – Many Marriages
  • Max Brand – Seven Trails (writer of Westerns/pulps)
  • Hall Caine – The Woman of Knockaloe
  • Willa Cather – A Lost Lady; One of Ours
  • Marie Corelli – Love and the Philosopher
  • Zona Gale – Faint Perfume
  • Georgette Heyer – The Great Roxhythe (Heyer wrote historical romances/detective novels)
  • Dark Frigate by Charles Boardman Hawes (Children, Newberry)
  • A. A. Milne – The House at Pooh Corner
  • Jules Romains – Knock
  • Felix Salten – Bambi, A Life in the Woods
  • Dorothy L. Sayers – Whose Body? (expired copyright)
  • James Stephens – Deirdre
  • Jean Toomer – Cane
  • H. G. Wells – Men Like Gods
  • Margaret Wilson -The Able McLaughlins (Pulitzer) . Wully McLaughlin, a member of a Scots community in frontier Iowa, is alarmed by the behavior of his sweetheart when he returns from battle in the Civil War.
  • Edwin Lefèvre – Reminiscences of a Stock Operator (free on the net)
  • H. Rider Haggard – Wisdom’s Daughter
  • Arnold Bennett – Riceyman Steps (now at PG)
  • Weeds by Edith Summers Kelley, First published in 1923, Weeds is set amid the tobacco tenant farms of rural Kentucky. This pioneering naturalist novel tells the story of a hard-working, spirited young woman who finds herself in a soul-destroying battle with the imprisoning duties of motherhood and of managing an impoverished household. The novel is particularly noteworthy for its heartbreaking depiction of a woman who suffers not from a lack of love, but from an unrequited longing for self-expression and freedom
  • Novels by Anzia Yezierska : Salome of the Tenements and Children of Loneliness

Films of 1923

  • Gasoline Love (early film with Fay Wray)
  • Burning Brazier (surreal French/Russian detective ) Ivan Mozzhukhin
  • Little Old New York, comedy of Irish female immigrant who comes to USA starring Marion Davies), dir. Sidney Olcott
  • Zaza, story of French music star battling with her rival
  • The Extra Girl, actress wins a contest to become a star
  • Our Hospitality & Balloonatic, Three Ages, Love Nest (1923) Buster Keaton classic
  • Covered Wagon, Western with giant budget
  • The Daring Years, starring Mildred Harris, Charles Emmett Mack and Clara Bow
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame, starring Lon Chaney
  • The Purple Highway, starring Madge Kennedy, Monte Blue, Vincent Coleman and Pedro de Cordoba
  • Safety Last!, starring Harold Lloyd. In one scene, Lloyd is seen climbing around and hanging off the side of a tall building, including a very famous scene where he hangs off a clock. Lloyd did all of his own stunts, and worked without a safety net. Also in the same year, Why Worry?, silent comedy about hypochondriac millionaire
  • Salomé, starring Alla Nazimova; directed by Charles Bryant, stylized avante-garde version of Oscar Wilde’s play (deemed a “culturally significant film by the National Film Registry).
  • Souls for Sale, starring Richard Dix and Eleanor Boardman; look at gliterati of Hollywood
  • A Woman of Paris & Pilgrim , starring Edna Purviance; directed by Charles Chaplin
  • It’s a Gift & 18 other Our Gang films (written by Hal Roach )
  • White Rose, D.W. Griffith tale of an orphan girl who goes out into the world.
  • Bright Shawl, adventure/political/spy thriller Edward G. Robinson, Mary Astor, William Powell
  • Adam’s Rib & 10 Commandments Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
  • Laurel & Hardy: 19 videos (!!!)

Essays/History/Autobiography/Nonfiction

  • Studies in Classic American Literature, by DH Lawrence; famous litcrit.
  • Robert Henri – The Art Spirit (essays and conversations about art by artist/teacher who led Ashcan Art movement of realistic American art).

Detective Fiction

(I haven’t verified these titles, but a commenter to the original article referred me to the Golden Age of Detection Fiction  )

  • Baroque (1923)
  • Behind Locked Doors (1923)
  • Black, White and Brindled (1923) by Eden Phillpotts
  • Bones of the River (1923) by Edgar Wallace
  • Captains of Souls (1923) by Edgar Wallace
  • Cheri-bibi and Cecily aka Missing Men (1923) by Gaston Leroux
  • Chick (1923) by Edgar Wallace
  • Children of the Wind (1923) by MP Shiel
  • Cole, GDH & M – The Brooklyn Murders – (1923)
  • Contact and Other Stories (1923) by Frances Noyes Hart
  • Craig Kennedy Listens In (1923) by Arthur Reeve
  • Days to Remember (1923) by John Buchan
  • Dorothée, danseuse de corde (1923)
  • Dr Thorndyke’s Casebook aka The Blue Scarab (1923)
  • Feathers Left Around (1923)
  • Hounded Down (1923) by Roy Vickers
  • Impromptu (1923) by Elliot Paul
  • Jim Hanvey, Detective (1923) by Octavus Roy Cohen
  • Jim Maitland (1923)
  • John Dighton, Mystery Millionaire (1923)
  • Klondyke Kit’s Revenge (1923) by George Goodchild
  • La poupée sanglante & La machine à assassiner (1923)
  • Many Engagements {short stories} (1923) by JS Fletcher
  • Michael’s Evil Deeds (1923) by E Phillips Oppenheim
  • Midwinter (1923) by John Buchan
  • Monsieur Jonquelle (1923) by Melville Davisson Post
  • More Lives Than One (1923)
  • Mr Fortune’s Practice (1923) by HC Bailey
  • Once In A Red Moon (1923) by Joel Townsley Rogers
  • Secret Service Smith (1923)
  • Spooky Hollow (1923)
  • That Fellow Macarthur (1923) by Selwyn Jepson
  • The Affair at Flower Acres (1923)
  • The Ambitious Lady (1923) by JS Fletcher
  • The Astonishing Adventure of Jane Smith (1923) by Patricia Wentworth
  • The Big Heart (1923)
  • The Blackguard (1923)
  • The Books of Bart (1923) by Edgar Wallace
  • The Brooklyn Murders (1923); by GDH Cole
  • The Call Box Mystery (1923) by John Ironside
  • The Cartwright Gardens Murder (1923) by JS Fletcher
  • The Cat’s Eye (1923) by R Austin Freeman
  • The Charing Cross Mystery (1923) by JS Fletcher
  • The Clue of the New Pin (1923) by Edgar Wallace
  • The Copper Box (1923) by JS Fletcher
  • The Eyes of Max Carrados (1923) by Ernest Bramah
  • The Flaming Spectre of Cloome (1923)
  • The Four Stragglers (1923)
  • The Green Archer (1923) by Edgar Wallace
  • The Green Eyes (1923)
  • The Groote Park Murder (1923) by Freeman Wills Crofts
  • The House at Waterloo (1923)
  • The Inevitable Millionaires (1923) by E Phillips Oppenheim
  • The King’s Red-Haired Girl (1923) by Selwyn Jepson
  • The Last Secrets {essays and articles} (1923) by John Buchan
  • The Lone Wolf Returns (1923) by Louis Joseph Vance
  • The Mazaroff Murder {aka The Mazaroff Mystery} (1923) by JS Fletcher
  • The Million-Dollar Diamond (1923) by JS Fletcher
  • The Missing Million (1923) by Edgar Wallace
  • The Moth-Woman (1923) by Fergus Hume
  • The Murder on the Links (1923) by Agatha Christie
  • The Mysterious Chinaman (1923) {aka The Rippling Ruby}
  • The Mysterious Mr Garland (1923) by Wyndham Martin
  • The Mystery of Glyn Castle (1923)
  • The Mystery Road (1923) by E Phillips Oppenheim
  • The Nature of a Crime (1923), with Ford Madox Ford by Joseph Conrad
  • The Orange Divan (1923) by Valentine Williams
  • The Other Story, and Other Stories, (1923) by Henry Kitchell Webster
  • The Red Redmaynes (1923) by Eden Phillpotts
  • The Return of Anthony Trent (1923) by Wyndham Martin
  • The Rover (1923) by Joseph Conrad
  • The Secret of the Sandhills (1923) by Arthur Gask
  • The Secret of Thurlestone Towers (1923)
  • The Seven Conundrums (1923) by E Phillips Oppenheim
  • The Sinister Mark (1923)
  • The Step on the Stair (1923) by Anna Katherine Green
  • The Thing at Their Heels (1923) by Eden Phillpotts
  • The Valley of Lies (1923) by George Goodchild
  • The Veiled Prisoner (1923) by Gaston Leroux
  • The Vengeance of Henry Jarroman (1923) by Roy Vickers
  • The Whipping Girl (1923) by Ralph Rodd
  • The Wild Bird (1923) by Hulbert Footner
  • The Woman Accused (1923) by Roy Vickers
  • The Yard (1923) by Horace Annesley Vachell
  • Tut Tut Mr Tutt (1923) by Arthur Train
  • Wheels Within Wheels (1923)
  • Whose Body? (1923) by Dorothy L Sayers
  • Why They Married (1923) by Mrs Belloc Lowndes
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View the weekly Robert’s Roundups  || Read how I compile this list. || How to Submit Smashword deals || How to Submit your own Ebook Deals in the Comment Section || Commercial Disclosures

Preface

(View last week’s ebook roundup and next week’s roundup.Also, see the 70+ academic titles from Cornell U. Press now discounted to free on Amazon US store.

In the interest of covering this sale quickly (before it ends), my descriptions will be skimpier than usual though this time I’ll include more hyperlinks.

Before diving in, I want to mention a Robert’s Roundup (Smashwords edition) from last week has several titles which is still on sale.

This is a work in progress. I’m posting this on Thursday Dec 27, but all these free/discounted prices last until 11:59 Dec 31. I’ll be adding more over the next few days. I realize that some freebie hunters may not be interested in spending a lot of money, but just before publishing, I stumbled upon the 50+ discounted literary titles by Fomite press. All of these titles look attractive — and after you click to the book page, you will generally see coupon codes which discount the title to $1.25-$1.50. Don’t miss out!

Favorite SW Ebooks of the Month 

  • Germanicus by N.P. van Wyk Louw. Translated, with introduction by Joe-Marie Claasen. FREE! Classics scholar Joe-Marie Claasen translates a 1956 play by Afrikaans poet N.P. Van Wyk Louw. The subject matter comes from the Annales of Tacitus, and Louw gives it a contemporary relevance; the play has been acclaimed in Africa. Claasan wrote a penetrating introduction (She’s published academic studies of Ovid and Cicero). I would expect the translation to be equally enthralling. Here’s an interview with the translator.
  • FREE! All Literary Works of philosophical Bulgarian author Danilo Peshikan, a writer and computer programmer who lived in a variety of countries (France, Zimbabwe and finally Australia, where he died in 2014 at the age of 60). His last controversial work Filiad is about a strange relationship between a middle-aged academic who hates children and his 11 year old daughter (it was finished shortly before he died). The author described it as a “Sisyphean attempt at love confession that cannot be, a linguistic impossibility that corresponds with the two protagonists’ living a classical paradox: “because he [she] is mine he [she] is not mine” (apud Ovidium hoc legimus). This is a story of lust, jealousy, premonition of loss, loathing and what Rimbaud calls a “systematic derangement” of all the senses, piled on top of one another and masquerading as a novel, transcendent passion.”  Peshikan has published two story collections: Shadows of Invisible Dogs and Stranger . Peshikan’s native language was Bulgarian, but he was fluent also in English; according to the author’s website,  one reviewer said of Peshikan, “As a writer, he had an extraordinary artistic personality revealed in his text; as a programmer, he was a part of the science and technology intelligentsia, which until recently had at least remained a virtually independent group, least prone to compromises… In his works, we see Danilo Peshikan as a citizen of the world; we see him projected in his wandering across parallels and meridians, free of the mental traumas and complexity of his life here. He does not delve into the melancholic tangle of homesickness but engages directly into cosmopolitan spiritual communication with enviable self-esteem.”

Giveaways /Free Promotions

Paul Hina: In my first SW roundup I raved about the prose and poetry of this Ohio author. For the holiday season all of his ebooks are priced at FREE — which is great. Grab them while you can! Also, from my first roundup, New Old World by C. D. Stowell is free again (normally 4.99). I called it a “200,000 word semi-autographical novel about a 39 year Oregon photographer reflecting on her life as she travels to various places (and continents)”. 

Trouble Found Me: Eleven Tales of Life by Christopher Sewell.

Brief History of Pink Floyd by Andrew Means.

Sex, Lies and Crazy People by John Hickman. FREE! Memoir about his family’s involvement with a hotel — like a true version of Fawlty Towers. His two other volumes are continuations of these comic memoirs and Reluctant Hero is a humorous,poignant memory about Hickman’s father’s experience as a pilot during WW2. All FREE!

Barry Rachin: Several volumes of short stories (all free normally). Vol 1, Vol 2, Vol 3, Vol 4 and Vol 5

Sabina Quartet: Stories from Italy By G. D. Spilsbury. She co-founded Bergamot Books.

Jessica Barksdale Inclán‘s. All her titles are priced FREE! for this special. (Author website). Inclan lives in California and writes lots of stuff (be sure to check the stuff on Amazon which didn’t make it to SW). I’ve noticed that a number of her titles go free on Amazon as well.

Don Q. Public by John Opsand Sutherland (FREE!) has a great lead: “If Don Quixote lived in modern America (in Toledo, Ohio, instead of Toledo, Spain), it would not be chivalry novels sending him out to be a questing knight. Today’s Don Q. would grow his garden of delusions out of superhero comic books. ” We need more books like this around! (Author’s website)

Gregory M. Fox has written two volumes of flash fiction which are FREE!: Breath of Fiction and Watch.He writes one 200 word story every week which he posts on his blog. The volumes gather these stories. (Author website).

Charles Rocha — is a US born ESL teacher in Ukraine who has published a a lot. Free stuff includes Skinny One (experimental poetry), A Very Long Night and Very Long Nights are collections of surreal short stories and litcrit. Some nonfree stuff also available.

War in a Beautiful Country by Patricia Ryan. FREE! Contemplative mystery novel by poet/playwright/author.

Drums by Brad Henderson is FREE ebook version of a light-hearted 90s novel about a drummer who decides to play with a garage rock band instead of going to college. The author teaches technical writing at a university in California, but also has published several other volumes (not on SW). Here’s his author website.

Jaleta Clegg writes strange/fantasy stories and one sci fi series (Author Website). Newly discounted titles include: Llama tell you a story, Brain Candy, Soul Windows, Dark Dancer Currently her Fall of the Altairan Empire series is completely free.

I notice that volume 1 of the Simon Adventure series by Austin author Scott Semegran is free. (I’m running an ad for the full boxed set priced at $4.99). One critic describes it as “a  funny picaresque novel features the insight-challenged Simon Burchwood, off on a quest for fame and fortune as a great writer, making his journey from Texas to a reading of his début novel at the flagship Barnes and Noble store in New York City by way of Montgomery AL, where his boyhood friend Jason signs on as his Sancho Panza. ”

Word of Shawn by Jordan M. Ehrlich is a novel about a lonely kid who develops a computer game that becomes more immersive than he could have imagined.

Mary Poser by Angel A. (cross-cultural romance).

Jon Chaisson has been publishing a book a year recently. (here’s his music/writing blog). Several titles are FREE! Meet the Lidwells! is about a musical family who hits the big time. The other 3 titles take place in a fantasy universe called Mendaihu Universe.

Patrick Whittakker is a British fantasy writer and filmmaker who has published a variety of free and low cost titles (including a FREE! translation of Alfred Jarry’s King Ubu). Many of his writings have sci fi/horror elements like the FREE Sybernetika. See also his FREE! story collection Dead Astronauts. He has published several low-cost titles worth exploring (here’s the author’s website).

John Francis Kinsella is a UK prolific novelist who has lived in France since the 1970s. (Author’s blog). Over the decades he has published 12 novels and anthology of Chinese literature. Most of the novels touch upon political, business and social themes and involve different country settings ranging from UK to Middle East to Borneo. The Turning Point is book 1 of a trilogy, so is probably a good place to start.

Ernest Slyman. Bristol Stories. and Sweetheart.

Discounted Titles

Delivering Virtue: A Dark Comedy Adventure of the West, Didier Rain Epic Book 1 By Brian Kindall $1.25 Also Pearl for 1.00 (I loved the sample I read on Amazon and am delighted to see it discounted for the SW sale). This was the first title I snatched!

I have noticed that Fomite has a lot of literary titles & poetry which when discounted are about $1.25 or $1.50. (Click here to read the reviews on Amazon — notice that all the titles are priced on Amazon at $4-5). Note: For almost all these titles, there are only epub versions of these files available.

Free political essays from Fomite. I’m going to suspend my rule about overlooking shorter ebooks to mention that Fomite offers about a dozen FREE 1-essay-per-ebook “political pamphlets” on controversial subjects: Marx, Trump, masculinity, death penalty, waste, reality simulations, that sort of thing. Eventually these things will be compiled somewhere, but they might be worth grabbing if you’re interested.

Chalk Pits & Cherry Stones by Jean Hendy-Harris. See Part 2 and Part 3Note: these are a dollar each.

Jazz Room & Other Stories by Dimitris Aspergis. Also Gerard & the Father: a novel.  and At the Whiskey County: Novel. All 3 are 1.50, which is half the normal price on SW and Amazon. (Update: I ended up skipping this purchase, but the Gerard & the Father did seem worth buying!).

Louis Greenberg is a S. African author who has published two novels discounted to $1.50: Beggars’ Signwriters and Dark Windows.Both novels have gotten around: respectable reviews and Beggars’ was shortlisted for two prizes.

Also from my original roundup, I noticed three excellent works of literary fiction being discounted for this promotion (some with ads on my sidebar: Eye of a Needle: And Other Stories By Cornelia Flick (half-priced, now $1.75),  Fine Print and Other Yarns by Dinesh Verma (half-priced, now $1.50) and White Mythology by W.D. Greene (75% off, now only $1). Also from a previous roundup, Hauling Checks is on sale for $1.24.

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!) , You can download these files directly without having to register: EpubMobi.

Finally …

If you know of any Smashwords deals you’d like to share, drop me a line. I know I have missed a ton of stuff. I generally try to do one roundup column — and one Smashwords roundup a month…. I must say, I’ll be taking a reading vacation — I have a lot of books to catch up with!

S. African play by well-known 20th century poet and dramatist
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We interrupt this program….

Today, Cornell University Press is pricing their older academic titles to free. It’s unclear how long that will last! (Amazon US store only). I grabbed 75 titles. Cornell U. Press is one of the major academic presses. Some of these titles have been free before, but I haven’t seen many of them before. Cornell usually publishes some first rate titles in comparative literature.

A while back, the head of Cornell U. Press sent out a strange offer to sell out-of-print titles to the best bidder. I ended up poring over the catalog for a few hours and finding some wonderful things: I sent them a list of 100s of titles I wanted, adding that I would pay $10 for 4 titles (which I thought was reasonable). As it turns out, this was a kind of bait-and-switch thing (which was not really a surprise). Apparently Cornell is trying to sell a new ebook portal service for scholars and institutions. (which is what I expected). Anyway, I ended up getting nothing, though I had a perfectly good time browsing titles and discovering to my delight that my local libraries have a fair number of Cornell titles which I wanted to read.

It’s easy to make fun of literary academic types and their crazy topics, and in a way academic presses serve an important function of providing an outlet for tenure-hungry professors seeking publications. At the same time, academic publishing has always been crazy — mostly grant-supported, ridiculous prices (especially for people not affiliated with institutions) and unmarketable by definition. Many of these books are financed not by author advances, but academic grants and sabbaticals.

If you compare them with mainstream publishers (like for example, Simon & Schuster), books in academic presses don’t talk down to readers; they don’t try to popularize a subject or pick a juicy tidbit from a discipline that anyone would find irresistible. Often these books are more methodical than interesting. But that’s ok too. Sometimes when uncovering new writings on a subject, it’s more important to be thorough and accurate than revolutionary.

Probably the one exception to the rule are biographies — which are expected to be well-researched and fun to read. Occasionally they are affordably-priced too. I have purchased several biographies by academics …most recently Vol 1 of a biography of Stalin by Stephen Kotkin. I don’t know enough about the biography genre to know what makes a good biography (though ironically, I am gearing up to write one myself about Jack Matthews). In the last 5 years I’ve read a number of biographies, all of which I’ve enjoyed — though in a way you have to implicitly trust the author’s researching skills. Anway, Cornell U. has a biography of Machaut which I’ve been salivating over (and luckily my local library seems to have a copy of).

Not all comparative literature titles are great to read, but many are. If you think about it, comp lit is about making connections across cultures, languages and disciplines. I was once reading Allegoresis : reading canonical literature East and West by Zhang Longxi and found just the East/West comparisons lovely.

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View the post series | Read how I compile this list. || How to Submit Smashword deals || How to Submit your own Ebook Deals in the Comment Section || Commercial Disclosures

See previous Robert’s Roundup.   and the next roundup (Special Smashwords-holiday edition).   

Preface

Avalanche! I’ve been telling people that on average I pick up about 5 cool ebooks a day. In the last 2 days I’ve picked up about 10 high quality ebooks for free! Listing my recent acquisitions is a constant game of catchup. I had to skip last week for various reasons, so I have to make up for lost time.

This will be my last Amazon post for the month, but after posting today I will continue adding 99 cent deals until Dec 31. Also, it looks like Dec 28 Amazon will do some sitewide promotion so maybe I’ll add an appendix. Stay tuned.

This may be an obvious point, but if I spend so much time researching/acquiring low cost ebooks, doesn’t it prevent me from actually reading them? Let’s just say that I have a significant number of ebooks I can’t wait to get to. Some will disappoint, but frankly, I am easily pleased by semi-competent ebooks as long as the story is interesting. I confess that I grow bored with thrillers/sci fi/chicklit/etc, but once I start reading them, I can enjoy them for what they were.

I need to set reasonable limits — to permit more time for reading and reviewing books. Future roundups will be a lot more superficial than this one.

Around Thanksgiving I took advantage of a 3 month trial subscription to Kindle Unlimited for 99 cents. That hasn’t changed my buying or reading habits at all; I’ve been using it mainly to have access to the full ebook so I can more thoroughly review it before deciding whether to buy. I did notice something very significant though: when you subscribe, apparently all titles with KU will hide their prices! I guess it makes sense; it conveys the sense that you don’t need to buy any of these ebooks; but you are paying for these ebooks — normally about $10 per month!

The biggest disappointment since my last Robert’s Roundup (non-Smashwords edition) is missing the opportunity to buy Steven Novella’s Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe. I adore books about cognitive psychology and how to improve your thinking skills. (I am currently reading a fantastic one called Mindware by Richard E. Nisbett, which will never be discounted). Novella’s title is “hot” and I knew the price drop would be short-lived. Luckily, my library’s overdrive has one copy, with a 6 week waiting period. I am keeping finger’s crossed that it will go on sale again.

Blue Moon Deals

Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich. 2.99 This was my consolation prize for missing out the Nisbett’s book. Alexievich writes these beautiful mosaics containing hundreds of ordinary Russians. I checked this out 4 times without reading. Now I don’t need to worry!

What if? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe. 2.99. Amazingly this prize seems to have stuck for several weeks. Although it’s a swell book by the acclaimed creator of Xkcd, after looking at it, I decided that the book is not as essential a book as I thought (though it was a lot of fun). The Strogatz title below is better.

Joy of X by Steven Strogatz. 2.99 (still on sale!) Popular math book (a genre I love). I almost missed this one, and I’ll probably try to take his other books when they go on sale. (One reason not to is that all of Strogatz’s books are easily available at the library).

Lord of the Rings (one volume) by Tolkien. $2.99 (expired, but it lasted several days). Don’t worry. This deal will be back. The only thing that might give reason to pause is that 1)the file size is somewhat big, and the maps are not high resolution. But the rest of the book is great! (Plus, there are good introductions!)

Sex and Rage by Eve Babitz. 1.99. I did NOT buy this title despite my friend and critic Michael Barrett raving about it. He said on Facebook:

Eve Babitz is so good I want to puke, but let’s think of something better to say. Although their territory and style are completely unlike, she reminds me of the equally brilliant Lucia Berlin in that they’re not really writing fiction, hardly, just jotting notes on how they’ve lived, so that it feels like you’re not reading, hardly, but just having this experience injected through the retina, which is proof of how they write everyone into the ground. Moving on from last year’s reading of SLOW DAYS FAST COMPANY: THE WORLD, THE FLESH AND L.A., we have: Her “novel” SEX AND RAGE is her bildungsroman and, with the refreshingly air-dappled, dew-spangled and alcohol-spritzed elan that is her seemingly invisible style of self-conciousness, her anti-Daisy Miller. Jacaranda is a California girl who surfs, has minor boyfriends and incidental fame and luck and talent as a writer that hijacks her unawares, and hangs herself out to dry for years over the one she can never have. The alcoholism and cure are direct and unfussy, the frivolities serious and delightful, the sense of women’s friendships real and invigorating. She gives a sly cameo to herself: the nude woman playing chess with Duchamp in a photograph, found hanging on a wall. (RJN: That really happened!)

Despite the low cost and high interest (and the easy availability through my library), this purchase will have to wait.

Under the Radar

Wow, today (Friday) almost all the works of Jonathan Finch are free on Amazon US. I raved before about Love and Other Afflictions. See also: Great Tits I’ve Known and After Dawn and Poems People Liked.

Various 99 cent ebooks by James Hanna: A Second, Less Capable, Head and other rogue storiesCall Me Pomeroy: A Novel of Satire and Political Dissent and the Siege. I’ve read one story from Second Less Capable Head and enjoyed it a lot. These books stay cheap all the time.

Is That The Shirt You’re Wearing?: a memoir in essays by Kristen Hansen Brakeman

Treblinka Survivor: Life and Death of Hershl Sperling. 99 cents. I follow history books about the Holocaust, and I knew that there were a handful of survivors from Treblinka — one of whom wrote a memoir (which I read). Imagine my amazement to learn that another survivor had written an unpublished memoir about his survivor guilt (the man later committed suicide, and journalist Mark S. Smith, edited it and wrote about Sperling’s problems adapting to modern life.

Gail L. Winfree is a Tennessee-born nonfiction author who lived most of his adult life in Germany. Today all 3 of his ebooks are free. They all sound interesting — especially Reality of Being Lovers.

Zaremba, or Love and the Rule of Law by Michelle Granas. Granas titles pop up on various deal newsletters with the same low price of 99 cents. Every time I see it, I resolve to buy her titles, but then put it off because I know I will definitely buy and read her titles someday. Well, even though all her titles are now on KU, I decided to buy one anyway — just for the hell of it. Character-driven continental fiction; I’m guessing like Mavis Gallant. Should be a winner!

Last Klick by Robert Flynn. 99 cents. Flynn is a terrific Texas author who also happens to be my college prof. I’ve reviewed a lot of his books and haven’t read this one, but I heard him read a chapter at a bookstore. Former vet Flynn tells a Vietnam story here; the main character is a Texas journalist who is war correspondent who is appalled by the war and its lies. Robert Flynn has written about small town life in Texas, but also some westerns. (I recommend the Jade: Outlaw series). Probably the most interesting thing about Flynn is that after he retired from teaching, I finally realized what a liberal peacenik he really is (when I attended Trinity and even a few years afterwards, I had no clue).

Speaking of college profs, one of my fave college profs John Stoessinger (now deceased) taught international politics and also is a great writer! His Holocaust to Harvard book should be fantastic and has been discounted on occasion to $2.99 (not now). Stoessinger personally saw Hitler, witnessed the rise of Nazism, escaped through USSR to live in China 2 years before the Chinese Revolution, then emigrated to USA where he was Kissinger’s roommate at Harvard and did all sorts of international politics stuff afterwards. His textbooks were great popular history. Here’s one of his lectures which will knock your socks off. (it starts at the 10 minute mark, and don’t watch the Q&A) Don’t worry, this sale will come again.

Face the winter naked: A depression novel by Bonnie Turner. 99 cents. This is a very well-regarded novel about a man who leaves his wife during the Great Depression and leaves her. Turner writes mainly for kids and YA, but this novel seems to have adult and historical themes.

Edward C. Patterson has written 30+ novels on historical themes. Because he’s gay and has a background in Chinese history, these things appear in his novels. Because he has a lot of books, there usually is at least one book on sale at any given moment. (Here’s an interview he did recently). Oops, I realize I already blurbed about him last time.. Sorry!

Speaking of prolific, I learned about Ben Stephens a super-prolific author of Japanese detective stories. Apparently he publishes a ton of story collections (called the Ennin Mysteries) . He publishes some stories individually, and then sometimes he publishes omnibuses (i.e., Collected Stories 36-45). I guess these are more like Ellery Queen stories than Sherlock Holmes, but I’m determined to read a few to see what they’re about. A certain portion of his stories are always free, and everything is at KU, but if you buy, be careful to buy the omnibus editions rather than individual stories.

FUN FACT: Last Roundup I mentioned Panayotis Cacoyannis who has published some fine literary stories. After I signed up for his mailing list, I had a brief correspondence with him. Turns out he is related to the legendary Greek director Michael Cacoyannis (who directed Zorba the Greek, Iphigenia, Electra, etc). Another reason to check him out. (He assured me that his books are going to be discounted again, and they were, and I forgot to mention it. Well, I’m mentioning it now! (Here’s his Amazon author page). 

Blink-and-it’s-gone Sales

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid was 1.99 for a week. Now it’s back at 12.99, though the publisher will probably bring it back again.

Seed to Harvest: Complete Patternist Series by Octavia Butler. 3.24 I bought one Butler series last month (that’s my second Butler series bought at bargain prices!); Don’t worry, this omnibus editions will come again soon.

Tales from a Greek Island by Roger Jinkinson. Come and gone.

One of my outstanding finds this go around were by Bruce Hartman. Philosophical Detective is a Borgesian detective story (literally, the protagonist is Borges’ driver). Also, I am not a robot! and Rules of Dreaming (which amazingly enough I obtained in 2013). The sales ended, but they will come back, and at that time, be sure to grab them.

More than Human by Theodore Sturgeon. 2.99 Open Road Media is discounting Sturgeon books one at a time. This is supposed to be his best work. Really, a lot of sci fi authors rave about this guy!

Stalin: Paradoxes of Power 1878-1928 by Stephen Kotkin. vol 1 of a 3 volume series. I heard a really entertaining lecture by this biographer on commonwealth club podcast.

Deals on ebooks published by Amazon

(These 99 cent books expire at the end of November — sorry for waiting so long to decide!) I should explain that I make my purchase decisions usually by reading only the first chapter and skimming the book description.

  • Unravelling Anne by Laurel Saville. US Writer tells the protracted struggles of her mother who was murdered.
  • Gray House by Mariam Petrosyan is a prize-winning Russian postmodern fantasy novel. It was free during Amazon’s Read the World week but still worth reading for 99 cents.
  • Mother of Invention by Caeli Wolfson Widger. Well-regarded novel about the journey to motherhood.
  • Lost Tribe of Coney Island by Claire Prentice. Strange historical account of a showman who brought a group of “headhunting, dog eating tribespeople from the Phillipines to Coney Island, where they performed dances and rituals before the Coney Island crowd.
  • Kaunteyas by Madhavi S. Mahdevan. Modern retelling of a Mahabharata story in novel form.
  • Calculated Life by Anne Charnock. British sci fi writer (also journalist).
  • Seasons of the Moon by Julien Aranda. First novel by French author about boyhood during WW2
  • Paris Still Life by Rosalind Brackenbury. Mysterious novel about a woman who sees visions of her deceased art dealer father on the streets of Paris. Brackenbury writes a lot of novels with literary/historical themes. So far, I have passed, but I’m going to look for her titles in the future.
  • Interrogating Ellie by Julian Gray. Fascinating premise of a clueless English woman who falls in love with a German man before WW2 and emigrates to Germany with him before the war begins. Great premise and historical milieu; it remains to be seen if the book will amount to more than the premise.
  • Emotion in Life & Music: A New Science by M. Zachary Johnson. Book on aesthetics, art and music (PS, might not last until the end of the month).
  • Burnt House by Lowell Mick White. Gothic tale of W. Virginia told by a Texas author (who teaches at Texas A&M).
  • (More to be added over the next week).

Creative Commons/Public Domain Titles

I’m getting excited about the public domain finally opening in the USA again. 11 years ago I made a list of literary titles from 1923 which will go into the public domain next year. Lots of good stuff!

Smashwords Titles

Stay tuned for the big SW sale next week– I’ll have a post on Dec 27.

I just want to mention that my indie press is giving away a FREE title, Interview with the Sphinx by Jack Matthews for the rest of the month.

Non-Amazon & Non-Smashwords titles

None this time. 

Interesting Reviews Elsewhere

This is the season of besticles: Here’s the 2019 PEN long list, a BBC List, Laura Miller’s besticle, and some marketing advice to authors wishing to pen the next bestseller.

Miscellaneous (Used books, library titles, book-related articles, etc)

To my dismay I purchased the wrong used book for someone. In a previous post I was raving about the Paris Review interviews with playwrights (perfect gift for an acting friend); apparently I had bought the wrong title and just got one volume of the PR interviews. The author list is not bad (and I’ll probably read it cover to cover), but now I have one less present to give for Christmas!

I bought 2 wonderful books at my branch library: Obasan by Joy Kowaga (award-winning Canadian novel about Japanese man who emigrated to Canada after WW2 — not available in ebook form unfortunately). Also: German Boy: A Child in War (Memoir) by Wolfgang W.E. Samuel. Steve Ambrose and NYTBR rave about this memoir of a German boy’s experience during WW2 (He later emigrated to USA and wrote the book in English). Available as kindle but expensive.

Checked out some wonderful things: Michelle Huneven’s Off Course (about a doctoral candidate who lives in her parents’ cabin in the country to write her dissertation). Also: Time Regulation Institute by Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar, a well-regarded Turkish NYROB from the 20th century. Both are ebooks and too expensive for consideration here.

Review Copies Received

To be added later.

Closing Thoughts 

As I mentioned, I’ll be adding to this list for the rest of the month because next week’s column (on December 27) will be specific to Smashwords.

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View the weekly Robert’s Roundups  || Read how I compile this list. || How to Submit Smashword deals || How to Submit your own Ebook Deals in the Comment Section || Commercial Disclosures

Preface

(View last week’s ebook roundup and next week’s roundup.)

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! 

Discounted Titles 

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.

Finally…..

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

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Housekeeping Notes

Ok, running a little late on my roundups.   I’ve busy doing other book-related stuff. Some other thoughts.

Smashwords Roundup will definitely be tomorrow (it was practically ready last week).  Before I thought I could do 4 Amazon roundups and 1 SW roundup a month. That’s not realistic. 1  SW roundup and 3 Amazon roundups seems like a better pace.  That gives time to work on other things.  

I’m toying with the idea of starting a week with an empty Amazon roundup and adding to it over the rest of the week. I just pick up so many titles each week! 

I was thinking that I could do one review a month. I think I’m going to try to do one full review and one capsule review a month. Actually I sort of already wrote my one capsule review already.  Oh, here’s an idea. Maybe I should link to my favorite review of the month (not written by me of course!). 

One may ask: how do I keep up with all my purchases/freebies/review copies/etc? The answer: I don’t!  I mean, I really try. I’m gotten diligent about collections on my kindle (If an ebook doesn’t belong in one of my collections, it essentially does not exist!)

Finally, any creative person starts to ask himself: is this project worth my time? I’ve decided that devoting 10 hours a week to doing roundup and litblog stuff is a worthy investment, but I can’t spend too much time or else it would take away time from writing and publishing (and reading!).  For about 10 years I was perfectly happy NOT writing book reviews. And frankly, I am happy enough doing the bloggy thing slowly and  haphazardly. 

Can’t talk any more. Have to  clean house, send off some job applications and drop the books at the library! 

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View the post series | Read how I compile this list. || How to Submit Smashword deals || How to Submit your own Ebook Deals in the Comment Section || Commercial Disclosures

See previous Robert’s Roundup.   and the next Robert’s Roundup (Smashwords edition)

Preface 

First, I noticed that Amazon offered me a 3 month trial to Kindle Unlimited for 99 cents (After that, it’s 9.99 a month).  I totally don’t want to pay 10 dollars a month for this, but it’s a great way to do try-before-you-buy for many indie titles. 

Second,  though I typically avoid sci fi fiction, this seems to be the month where I stock up on the genre.  

Third, my monthly Smashwords roundup is running late  (It should appear in the next 2 days).  Smashwords will be offering a sitewide sale on titles during the last week of December. My plan is to report on the great buys ASAP — (probably Dec 27), so be sure to save some funds for that  post-Christmas splurge. 

Blue Moon Deals 

Collected Stories by Frank O’Connor. $2.50 . 750 pages. Wow, what a deal! (Let’s see how long it lasts!– Update: One day!)

Lilith’s Brood (Xenogenesis Trilogy) by Octavia Butler  3.99. About two months ago I was bowled over by the  Bloodchild Story collection (a sort of fantastic tale about the interactions between humans and another superior alien race). As luck would have it, Google’s algorithms gave me a $3 store credit, so I bought this trilogy for only a dollar! Significantly, I never saw this sale price on Amazon….

Three Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past Book 1) by Cixin Liu. 2.99  This very famous prize-winning sci fi novel has gone on sale once or twice a  year for a day or so — only to return to the regular expensive price.  I have checked this book out several times without making much progress on it yet! 

Collected Stories of William Humphrey. 1.99 This collection contains stories from two early volumes. (Humphrey wrote mainly novels, but he did write a well-reviewed September Song in his later years). He is a Texan author best known for writing about family life in small towns. (He is best known for Home from the Hill — which I read too quickly — I confess I wasn’t ready for it…

Under the Radar

Joseph MacKinnon is a Toronto-based author who writes sci fi thrillers with a political edge. His Guy Faux Books press publishes his titles — including two acclaimed cyberpunk titles (Cypulchre, and Archetypal).  Newsreal,  (FREE!  on AMZN during Thanksgiving), cowritten by Carlo Schefter, is a “dark comedy, which explores today’s political carnival and tackles the soft divisions in American society concretized by and after the 2016 presidential election.”

Evil Men: Short Stories by Erik Wennermark (Free on Thanksgiving weekend) is, according to Michael Martone, “an ambitious collection completely realized and expertly crafted. [Wennermark] renders in this Poe-ian, shaped-charged fiction a startling catalogue of very visceral and deeply disturbing tales. He is very perceptive to this world of his characters and also to the world around them and how they and their environment interact with the reality of our own reality. He is especially sensitive to the variety and complexity of the human psyche.” PS, Martone is one of my fave authors. This title was free a weeks ago, and then again this weekend.  Here is Wennermark’s personal website. 

Wrestling with Angels: New and Collected  Stories by John J. Clayton (author page). 1.99 This low-cost edition contains stories from 3 previously published books. (Note: the price has been 1.99 for almost the entire year, so the price probably won’t go up anytime soon). Clayton has won multiple story awards and writes about urban living from the perspective of a New England Jew. Several of his books haven’t been digitalized, but I notice that a more recent story collection (Minyan) and a novel (Kuperman’s Fire) are available. 

Siege of Walter Parks by Colin Robertson (99 cents)  is a nice Office Space type satire  that takes place during a financial recession. He has written a series about hackers or zombies or something like that. 

Panayotis Cacoyannis. Over the last year or so I’ve noticed several titles being promoted by this Greek/Cyprus  author living in UK. (Here’s his Amazon author page).  Reviews of his books usually mention the satirical element, the psychological complexity, the insights into love and human relationships.  

Gary Reilly. Last month I mentioned Reilly’s prodigious output after his death. Very rarely have his titles gone free, but today his Volume 7 of his Asphalt Warrior series is  free. 

Them Bones by Howard Waldrop. (STILL 99 CENTS). 1980s  time-travel novel about a 21st century man who travels through a time portal to prevent WW3 and lands in the wrong time period. Austin-based author. 

Poetry Collections: Magic with Skin On by Morgan Nikola-Wren (FREE!)

Squish the Fish: A Tale of Dating and Debauchery by Dave Lundy, Mariah Sinclair, Ro O’Connor. Hedonistic novel revolving around  a football game. (The book is divided into corresponding quarters of the game). Eye-grabbing cover too. 

Various historical fiction  titles by Edward C. Patterson.  (author website) Patterson is a prolific author with an interesting background in Chinese history. IIRC, some of his titles have slight gay themes and storylines, but more often historical themes (and not just about Asia). So far I’ve captured a few  free titles, but he’s the perfect kind of author to do an author alert on ereaderiq.  Aha, I see that Patterson used to be on Smashwords, but then moved all his titles to exclusivity deals with Amazon. I’ll be writing about this Hobson’s choice later. 

Nigel Bird is a prolific Scottish author and poet whose biggest venture seems to be in crime fiction (author website). I’ve grabbed his Dirty Old Town (short stories, 100 pages) which is at the affordable 99 cents.  He has about 1/4 of his stuff on Smashwords (try here and here), and I’ll be monitoring those prices. 

33 Days in the Hole: Chicago Experiment by Rob Kern. (FREE!)  Longish essay (not really book-length) about a rock critic who forces himself to listen to nothing but Chicago music group for 33 days. 

Blink-and-it’s-gone Sales

God, so many of the EarlyBirdBooks have come and gone. I already binged on EBB titles last Spring, so most of the authors and titles are already familiar to me. (Indeed, all of the EBB names were big in literary circles at one point).  I didn’t buy much this time, but the EBB spot sales reappear frequently. As an aside, EBB and Bookbub have basically gotten consumers used to paying 2-4$ in ebooks. I don’t think there’s any turning back. (thank god!)

Deals on ebooks published by Amazon 

(These 99 cent books expire at the end of November — sorry for waiting so long to decide!) I should explain that I make my purchase decisions usually by reading only the first chapter and skimming the book description. Still all these sound like winners at 99 cents (and Amazon gave me a $3 ebook credit for buying so many of these monthly deals).  I think a few deals carry over into future months, so stay tuned. When the December 99 cent deals come rolling around, I’ll try to tackle them and report on them more quickly!

  • Too Good to be True: A Memoir by Benjamin Anastas. Daily struggles of a younger middle-aged author who has become a father. 
  • Stage Four: A Novel by Sander Kollaard. Very well-received angst-ridden tale of a European couple who take a trip after the wife receives a diagnosis of cancer.  Enjoy the references to Lagerlof  and Soderberg, which I guess is not unusual for a Danish author. 
  • Gods who walk among us by Max Eastern. Nice humorous first person tale of a NYC paparazzi who gets mixed up in the lives of people he photographs.  Really enjoy this character so far. 
  • A Scattered Life by Karen McQuestion. Nice domestic dramedy about a woman’s life in a Wisconsin suburb. Feels like Anne Tyler.  
  • Evelyn, After: A Novel by Victoria Helen Stone. The first chapter details a woman’s attempt to investigate details of the life of the woman who slept with her husband. Book description implies that the book will soon veer into a different direction, but I’m liking what I’m reading so far! 
  • Damocles by S.G. Redling. Sci fi novel about explorers trying to find a habitable planet for humans to live in. A really well-written first chapter, and Redling has written novels about a variety of subjects (not just sci fi). 
  • Kelpie Dreams by Steve Vernon.  Comic fantasy romp about — well, I’m not sure based on the first chapter, but I think a fantasy creature is involved. Never expected to get into this one, but it had a great first chapter. 
  • Moonlit Garden by Corina Bomann. Story about secret pasts — with some connection to a violin from a faraway land. Bomann is a German author of historical novels. 
  • Second First Time by Elisa Lorello.  Quirky relationship story happening after the death of one person’s father. 
  • Picks from Previous Roundup: Edible: An Adventure into the World of Eating Insects and the Last Great Hope to Save the Planet by Daniella Martin, Alfred Hitchcock: The Man Who Knew Too Much (Icons) by Michael Wood, The Art of Youth: Crane, Carrington, Gershwin, and the Nature of First Acts by Nicholas Delbanco, and Five Night Stand: A Novel by Richard J. Alley.

Creative Commons/Public Domain titles

You may already know that after 20 years of no titles falling into the public domain, 2019 will resume the normal release of titles from 1923. Apparently Project Gutenberg will start digitalizing 1923 works next year, and I nominated these titles for digitalization:  

  • Weeds by Edith Summers Kelley, First published in 1923, Weeds is set amid the tobacco tenant farms of rural Kentucky. This pioneering naturalist novel tells the story of a hard-working, spirited young woman who finds herself in a soul-destroying battle with the imprisoning duties of motherhood and of managing an impoverished household. The novel is particularly noteworthy for its heartbreaking depiction of a woman who suffers not from a lack of love, but from an unrequited longing for self-expression and freedom.
  • If you can stand reading PDFs, I highly recommend: New Plato : or, Socrates redivivus by Thomas Lansing Masson, Thomas Lansing (published in 1908). Socrates steps out of the pages of Plato into Mr. Masson’s humorous colloquies as easily as he quits the steerage of the Lusitania and takes up his headquarters at the Mills hotel. He acquaints himself with New Yorkers, visits their homes, and discusses with true modern insight such subjects as The married life, The gambler, The bridge player, Socialism, Learning, Surgeons, Philosophy, The missionary, and The nature of happiness.

I occasionally do volunteer editing for Distributed Proofreaders (the group who produce all the Gutenberg titles). Through this work I have learned about the wonderful  Book Review Digest  (a series which started to be published in 1904 on a yearly basis).  So far, only 2 volumes are on Gutenberg,  but I think every volume between 1905 and 1922 is being worked on, and in a year or two you will be able to flip through them at your leisure. I particularly recommend the 1917 volume . Two things are clear after flipping through this volume: 1)the state of book reviewing was very advanced in the early part of 20th century and 2)despite the sense that Project Gutenberg has so many titles available, only a fraction of titles mentioned in the Book Review Digests have ever been digitalized. (Sure, some are on archive.org or google, but these are just cumbersome facsimiles).  

Smashwords Titles 

I’m about to publish my Smashwords roundup, but I just wanted to say that White Mythology: Two Novellas for 99 cents is a great deal (I read the book too). 

Non-Amazon & Non-Smashwords Titles

None this time..

Miscellaneous (Used books, library titles, book-related articles, etc)

  • Solitary Twin by Harry Matthews
  • Why I read: Serious Pleasure of Books by Wendy Lesser (Lesser’s essays all are a joy to read, and they are starting to appear in the Early Bird Books deal newsletters). 
  • Click Here to Kill Everybody by Bruce Schnier
  • Podcast: Montaigne and the Art of Conversation. Timothy Hampton is a Berkley comp lit prof who gives a great talk about Montaigne. Here’s his blog, some of his Montaguish thoughts and even a nice commencement address.  Oddly  a few months ago I had stumbled upon some of his writings while perusing the Cornell U press catalog. 

Review Copies Received 

(I have a backlog of review copies to write about.  Here are some recent review copies I snagged:)

Closing Thoughts 

First, if anyone outside the USA is reading this, I’d like to hear what kind of freebie ebook options that non-US readers have access to. I confess to being totally in the dark about which stores are offering (non-infringing) freebies to readers in Canada, UK, Australia, India, etc. Or are shoppers at the US Amazon store just lucky? (I should note that Smashwords offers a lot of freebies to readers around the globe — and without DRM too). 

Let’s not write  pissy reviews! I’m all in favor of free speech, but I can’t tell you how often I come across superficial 2 sentence pissy and incoherent reviews on Amazon book pages.  (I wrote a response to one recently).  Once in a while a remark is pithy and damning, but for the most part  these types of comments are substance free and call attention to the commenter’s lack of effort to say anything meaningful. Ok, we get it, the book didn’t grab you, but shouldn’t you be open to the idea that people have different literary tastes? 

Wow, a month after I signed up to be listed on the IndieView’s list of book reviewers willing to review indie titles, they unceremoniously de-listed my name without bothering to tell me why.  This both irks and amuses me. Do they actually think that the number of people  willing to review indie titles is so great that they have to set ultra-strict criteria to filter them out?  Though I have specific criteria for what books I’d be willing to review, I’ve really made it a point to avoid the usual places to pick up Advance Review Copies (ARCs) like Netgalley, Amazon Vine, etc.  IndieView is still an excellent source of information for both readers and indie authors. But this action perplexes me. 

While visiting another book-loving friend, we exchanged titles of books we’d discovered — though we hadn’t actually read most of them   Our tastes are similar enough though my friend  grabs mainly print titles while I do the digital thing. We were marveling at all the great NYROB titles — that acronym stands obviously for New York Review of Books — which republish many outstanding titles from Europe and elsewhere. NYROB titles are great and handsome books as well, but I am flabbergasted at the high prices of the digital editions. Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s Autobiography of a Corpse has an $11 ebook, $11 print book and used copies sell on Amazon for $2. Similarly, another book I have been salivating over has been Elizabeth Hardwick’s Collected Essays (ebook $16, paperback $14, used $9). I’ve ended up checking out both print and ebook editions of both titles from the libraries — multiple times without having finished either one. I guess I can’t complain too much because I have easy access to both titles — and frankly these books aren’t checked out often.  But I can’t help noting that the  NYROB acronym includes the word “ROB” in it, and indeed, I feel I could never afford to buy any NYROB titles without sticking up a Barnes and Noble. I certainly see value in NYROB titles and recognize that the hefty Hardwick essay collection deserves some kind of premium pricing. But these prices are outrageous, especially when we see what Early Bird Books is discounting these days.  I find it hard to believe that it makes business sense to price something which only institutions can afford. 

$1.99
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Holiday lethargy (Smashword edition)

My first installment of Robert’s Roundup Smashwords edition is scheduled for Saturday. Might be a stretch — although I’ll certainly try.  Holiday frivolity is keeping me away from my goal; it might not go live until Sunday.  Stay tuned! 

Monday Update: I feel that I’ll do the weekly roundup on Wednesday (tomorrow) and the Smashwords update on Wednesday/Thursday — stay tuned!

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View the post series |  Read how I compile this list. || How to Submit Smashword deals || How to Submit your own Ebook Deals in the Comment Section || Commercial Disclosures

Preface

(View next week’s roundup.)

Welcome to the first installment of Robert’s Roundup (a collection of ebook deals and discoveries). At least once a week this blog will report about remarkable ebook deals and authors who have discounted their ebooks to free or very cheap. (Read more). Most ebooks listed here were things I acquired for free or a very low price.  If you want to mention an ebook deal, you can do so in the comment section, but first  read the rules.  Once a month I post a Robert’s Roundup about Smashwords ebooks. The first SW roundup will go live here  Saturday November 24. (If you are interested, read how I select titles and what each category means).

Blue Moon Deals 

  • Four Chinese Classics: Tao Te Ching, Analects, Chuang Tzu, Mencius by David Hinton. $1.99  (Recent translations of everything, plus good notes. This sale has lasted for over 2 weeks, so maybe it’s here to stay?)
  • Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley.  1.99 Well-regarded book about mathematical/scientific thinking — quite brilliant actually. This goes on sale 1 or 2x a year. 
  • Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector. 2.99 700 page volume of highly regarded stories by this Brazilian  best love author. (Surprised to see that this sale has gone on for 2 weeks. Get it while you can!) 

Under the Radar

(Set price alerts for these books and authors… When the sale prices return, they are worth seeking!)

  • Charlie Close is a prolific fiction writer who has been discounting his Amazon titles one by one. So far, I’ve ensnared for free  Childish Things: Stories of Growing Up and Before the Ripcord Broke: Stories. (the first can be obtained at any time by signing up for his mailing list). All his other titles are $3.99.  His Amazon bio says, “I believe that ordinary people and situations are interesting and important. That’s where we live every day.”
  • What Remains Unsaid by Audrey Kalman. 99 cents. A son takes his mother hostage so for once she can listen to him. 
  • Not so Complete Birds Afoul of North America by Bill McGill. Hilarious drawings of actual birds, with funny commentary. This is a three part series, and I got this first volume for free on a Kindle promotion. Warning, the file sizes are large and best viewed on a large tablet.
  • Practice what your preach (Edward Vernon’s Practice Series Book 2). 99 cents. Vernon is a UK physician who wrote a 3 volume set of memoirs. I started reading Volume 1 (light-hearted, fun) but waited too long to purchase it. Maybe next time… 
  • One Way Time Traveler by Tom DeMarco. 99 cents. Scifi adventure about a person who travels to the future and discovers a world controlled by women.
  • One Apart: A Novel by Justine Avery. FREE!  Tres is about to be born… with the biggest burden any has ever had to bear. He is beginning again—as an ageless adult trapped in an infant body.
  • Throwing Madonna: Essays on the Brain by William H. Calvin. 99 cents. This wonderful collection of essays about topics in biology and neuroscience was first published in the early 1990s. He’s published more recent (and expensive) titles since then. 
  • Too Good for the Hood by Michael and Danny D’Agostino. FREE! 2 brothers from Chicago write a lot of light-hearted novels about their adventures growing up. Several titles are free on the US Amazon store, including this one. (Lots of other free and low-cost titles)
  • It Happened in Wisconsin by Ken Moraff. FREE!  This recent Breakthrough Novel Award winner is about a talented but ragtag baseball team who set out to change the world during the Great Depression.
  • Ray vs. the Meaning of Life by Michael F. Stewart. FREE! “Booby-trapped with guns, grizzly bears, and homemade fireworks, the cartoonish park setting skillfully gives wheels to a larger, more intriguing philosophical question. … A tale spins its answer to an age-old question into an inclusive, hilarious, and thought-provoking yarn.” (Kirkus). This won a Booklife prize also.  Mainly for younger/YA readers.
  • A Body’s Just as Dead by Cathy Adams. FREE COMIC SOUTHERN NOVEL. FREE!  “A Body’s Just as Dead is hilarious and wrenching, a portrait of a family’s mistaken pride in its own self-deception. You read it in bursts of laughter, followed by sustained sympathy for characters striving to maintain their dignity in a world they don’t understand or control.”
  • Asphalt Warrior (8 book series) by Gary Reilly. Reilly died prematurely before publishing anything major. Since his death,  his unpublished works have been digitalized; each volume of the Asphalt Warrior series (about a likable Denver cabdriver named Murph) sells for $4.  I got Circumstantial Man for Free! and Asphalt Warrior (Book 1) for 99 cents. I started reading Book 1 and enjoyed the humor and atmosphere. Reilly is really a first class writer and you should be on the lookout for specials on his other volumes. 
  • First William Peskett Story Omnibus. 99 cents.  Peskett is a prolific Irish author and poet now living in Thailand. He’s published a lot of single story ebooks and smaller collections, but this one is the biggest (350 pages).  I started reading these stories: interesting, mundane, plot-oriented. 
  • Various ebooks by Jessica Barksdale Inclan. I’ve set an author alert for any price drops and snatched 8 titles so far. Many of her ebooks seemed geared for the YA audience, but I’m seeing a variety of styles and themes. A major talent….Update: about half of her ebooks are  on Smashwords, so I’ll probably cover her in a Smashwords roundup. 
  • Love and Other Afflictions: A collection of literary short stories by Jonathan Finch. I went ahead and paid full price 1.99 for this one. The first 2 stories had fantastic/metaphysical/Kafkesque elements. 
  • Waco Variations by Rhonda Rizzo. Free!   Story about a musician affected by the Branch Davidian fiasco who turns her life around and discovers music. 
  • Odds and Endings: Fiction Short and Otherwise by Joe DeRouen. A collection of tales of ghosts and the macabre….

Blink-and-it’s-gone Sales

Deals on ebooks published by Amazon 

Here’s what sounds buyable on the 99 cent monthly deals. I haven’t finished deciding what to buy (and I’ve only started looking at fiction), so I’ll be adding more titles next Tuesday. 

  • Edible: An Adventure into the World of Eating Insects and the Last Great Hope to Save the Planet by Daniella Martin. Ok, this makes me squeamish, but it sounds useful!
  • Alfred Hitchcock: The Man Who Knew Too Much (Icons) by Michael Wood. (Only a 150 page monograph, not in depth, but Wood is a distinguished film critic. 
  • The Art of Youth: Crane, Carrington, Gershwin, and the Nature of First Acts by Nicholas Delbanco (Sounds thought provoking; first chapter was great!).
  • Five Night Stand: A Novel by Richard J. Alley. “Tells the story of three people whose lives intersect over the course of five nights in New York City—a debut novel set to a pounding jazz beat of triumphs, failings, uncertainties, secret sins, and tragedies.”

Smashwords Titles 

White Mythology: 2 Novellas by W.D. Clarke. I’m reviewing this Smashwords novella  for my upcoming Smashwords roundup.  

Non-Amazon & Non-Smashwords Titles

Tor’s free ebook of the month: Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang (Oopsie, unfree after Nov 16, sorry guys).

Creative Commons/ Public Domain Goodies

Miscellaneous (Used books, library titles, book-related articles, etc)

Fivebooks, a website where famous people and nonfamous people recommend 5 books on a certain topic. Brilliant and useful! 

Bought these paperbook books  for practically for less than a dollar each:

  • Stick Dog by Tom Watson (illustrated chapter book with stick figure drawings — quite funny!)
  • It’s all Right Now by Charles Chadwick. Apparently famous only novel published by 70 year old British civil servant. Diary of a nobody, sort of an homage to Joseph Heller (his favorite author) but one critic notes that the tone sounds like Philip Larkin. 
  • Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke. YA Sci Fi by Austin author
  • What to Read (with 33 Annotated book lists) by Mickey Pearlman. Out of print book of annotated lists of titles by subjects. Examples: Fairy Tales for Grownups, The Impact of Illness, etc.   Intended to be a resource for book clubs, it actually is fun and brilliant! 
  • Out of the Woods by Chris Offutt. Coincidentally, I almost bought other Offutt titles a few months ago. 

Lendle/Libby/Library Titles (i.e., didn’t pay for!). This list is longer than usual because it covers cool stuff I’ve found in the 2 months. 

  • Monarchy of Fear by Martha C. Nussbaum. America’s foremost philosopher explains why fear can be a fair and valid and constructive  response to external circumstances. Some mentioning of the Trump context… 
  • Story Grid by Shawn Coyne (via Lendle). A brilliant but overpriced (8 dollar) ebook by a well-known editor about how to write a commercial fiction title. To Coyne’s credit, a lot of free content is available on his website
  • Bloodchild by Octavia Butler. Mindblowing short stories. Ok, now I understand what all the fuss is about. 
  • Hype by Nina Shapiro MD
  • Playwrights at Work: Interviews with Albee, Beckett, Guare, Hellman, Ionesco, Mamet, Miller, Pinter, Shepard, Simon, Stoppard, Wasserstein, Wilder, Williams, Wilson . (This is an incredible book!)
  • Tales with a Texas Twist: by Donna Ingham. Remarkable live storyteller from Texas whose book of  stories is even more remarkable.
  • Mindware: Tools for smart thinking. richard nisbet Outstanding book on cognitive psychology. 
  • Hans Christian Andersen: Life of a storyteller by Jackie Wullschlager
  • Fantasyland by Kurt Anderson. Fun trek through American history and seeing generation after generation of people who could be duped. I waited on the first ebook deal, then started reading and loving it, but that sale has not returned! 
  • Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

Closing Thoughts

I have been trying to read Celine’s Journey to the End of the Night for a long time. I bought the book out of graduate school and still haven’t read the first chapter. If you have read it and can think of a compelling reason why one should read it, let me know! 

Have comments? You can use the comment section to tell me which deals are expired or to mention your own ebook deals (please read these rules first). (The rules for submitting a Smashwords title are somewhat different).

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How I compile Robert’s Roundups

View the post seriesView the Smashwords deal roundups || Read how I compile this list. || How to Submit Smashword deals || How to Submit your own Ebook Deals in the Comment Section

I  throw  these ebook deal roundups quickly so   often I won’t bother including links — just  names and titles.  Everyone here knows how to look up things on Amazon, right? 

Most of the time I have not read ebooks  mentioned on these roundups.  On a daily basis I take quick looks at dozens (if not hundreds) of new ebooks at a low price and pick the titles that sounds most promising. If you want a clue about my reading preferences/biases,  take a look at   my book review guidelines.  My literary standards are lot more flexible and adventurous about low-cost or free titles. (Just this afternoon I bought an ebook about edible  insects — hey, it was only 99 cents!). 

My main interests are titles under 50,000 words (25,000 words for  poetry), price  under $2, non-series and self-published or indie-published things. No hard and fast rules though. I am generally not going to mention books that are regularly discounted or very familiar to book lovers — unless the deal is exceptional.

Outside the USA?  Most of the discounted titles and URLs in this  roundup  are for the Amazon.com US store. Unfortunately for non-US Amazon customers,  you may not have access to the free or discounted prices.  Sorry! On the bright side,  indie authors usually apply the same discount worldwide so you will probably see the same discount percentages. Also, bigger publishers (the main culprits behind these price disparities) have gotten better and more efficient about uniformly pricing their titles across markets. Unfortunately, the free-on-Amazon ebooks seem to be specific to the Amazon.com US store.

Don’t like Amazon? Lately I’ve noticed that publishers are applying their discounted titles across bookstores. That means that it’s becoming easier to find the same price on Apple, Google, BN, Kobo, etc. Also, I am a big fan of Smashwords too (read why below).

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How to Submit Ebook Deals in the comment section

View the post series | View the Smashwords deal roundups || Read how I compile this list. || How to Submit Smashword deals || How to Submit your own Ebook Deals in the Comment Section

Starting on the week of November 18, 2018, I will be posting regular lists of ebook deals that I have discovered recently.

If you are an author and would like to make  readers of this blog aware of your under $2 ebook titles (or are  just an enthusiastic reader wishing to alert people to a great deal), I welcome your comments below the blog posts about these titles. Here are some guidelines. 

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Now, for Smashwords authors!

In my last post, I alluded to the fact that I’ll be posting more regularly on this blog about ebooks. I recently prepared a longish guide for Smashwords authors about how my blog can help you.  I will be posting a once-a-month roundup of free and low cost Smashwords titles, with the first roundup appearing on Saturday November 24.

I will be posting significantly more often about ebooks, probably 2x a week. Not only about Smashwords titles, but  lots of topics. 

In other news, Mark Coker, the Smashwords founder, has announced a major facelift in the Smashwords bookstore

In other news, while making necessary changes to my blog, I have noticed how much more complicated everything about wordpress (and the Thesis skin) have become… It’s definitely a work in progress…

Font-geeks may have noticed that I changed the default fonts to Merriweather and Merriweather Sans (both Google fonts). 

Finally, I want home page to continue to  feature full posts. (I generally don’t like truncated posts for that reason).  At the same time I want to want book covers on my sidebar, so in the interest of reducing load times, my posts won’t have too many images. I’m happy to report that the Thesis skin I use looks wonderful on both tablets and mobile devices. 

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Ebooks — Changing the Blog’s Focus

Even though this blog has been fairly dormant for the last two years, starting now I’m going to be doing a lot more reviews about ebooks.

Let me explain.

I continue to write fiction and produce ebooks for Personville Press. That keeps me busy. In the past decade or so, I’ve said that I just haven’t had time for book reviews — although I have always kept a detailed list of books I’m reading (here’s the 2018 list and goodreads list of recent reads).

Even though books are the center of my life (and always have been), I haven’t felt particularly inclined to write book reviews. First, although I’m a “good” book critic, I wouldn’t call myself a great one — and more importantly, I am not a particularly fast one. It’s true that in the early 2000s I posted over a 100 reviews on Amazon.com, but a lot of them were IT/technology nonfiction books, and often I needed only to skim them to form an interesting opinion.

Book reviews are so …. forgettable. I’ve published some great book reviews, but I’m too slow and careful; also, my memory for details isn’t that good. I’m no James Wood or Michael Barrett or Daniel Green or Dan Schneider or  Michael Dirda or Steve Moore. At the same time I have been writing a fair number of essays for the Personville titles, and although they are analytical and carefully written, they have an explicitly promotional purpose.

In the early 1990s I used to write reviews for the Houston Post and maybe other small publications, but it was a thankless task. It can take 10 hours just to read the damn book, and 4 hours to write about it; who has that sort of time? My literary/film critic Michael Barrett can dash these things off, but for me, I’m not as glib about it. Also, I can get sidetracked by deeper issues of aesthetics and storytelling. For most of my life, it’s very hard to write a 500 word or even a 1000 word review. I can do it, I can even enjoy doing it, but others can do it much better.

Over the last decade or two, some strange things have happened. Indie publishing and ebooks exploded, and the quality of book reviewers have declined. There are bloggers to take up the slack, but not entirely. For one thing, the “advance review copy” distribution apparatus has been extremely favorable to the NY publishing world. I have nothing against authors like George Saunders or Celeste Ng or Min Jin Lee, but individual books by these author have been reviewed THOUSANDS of times. Frankly, I tire of critics and bloggers who claim to have high literary standards and then review only titles available on Net Galley or Amazon Vine. I used to think NYTBR or Washington Book Review had daring book reviews, but that is not really the case; the reviewers themselves may be distinguished authors, but the books they review are often the same old books from Random House and FSG

A Cost-Conscious Approach to Ebooks 

As a literary cheapskate, I pay a lot more attention to the freebie and 99 cent titles by authors that nobody has ever heard of. This year (and maybe part of last year) I have rediscovered pleasure reading — and to my dismay I am noting the dearth of reviews about high quality indie or self-published titles. I just started reading — for example — a nice story collection by an Irish author living in Thailand and all kinds of special interest books which are lucky to receive more than 5 reviews. Yes, if an indie title has 5 reviews, 2 or 3 are by friends who rave about it, one is a random person eager to dump over a random author, and one is a shallow 2 sentence review by a reader with juvenile standards.

I’m not saying that a book review needs to be long or in-depth. Sometimes just a paragraph is enough to convey the gist, but often we’re not even getting that. In August I was finding remarkable 99 cent titles from Simon & Schuster (i.e., a major publisher), and I was horrified to see how many titles weren’t being reviewed.

One of the problems is related to reduced prices and reduced marketing budgets of indie authors. The bigger problem is the glut of titles and the declining demand for books in general. This may be an oversimplification; casual readers may simply be unaware of how many cheap ebooks are now available, so they end up paying $10 for a title with ample word of mouth. 

Frankly, I am spending a lot of time searching/uncovering and promoting interesting-sounding books which I haven’t yet read. For the Simon & Schuster sale items, I did this because I wanted to let people know about the titles before they returned to their regular prices. But over this year I’ve become extremely comfortable recommending books that I’ve only read a chapter or two from. First, I’ve already researched these titles to know that I would like them and read enough to confirm this suspicion. I’m reasonably confident that my high opinion will be confirmed when I finally read them from start to finish. Consider the titles below:

EXAMPLE:
Nearly complete works of Donald Harington
Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli
Nothing remains the same by Wendy Lesser
Life in the Lion’s Mouth by James Dubbs
Love and Other Afflictions by Jonathan Finch
Catastrophist by Ronan Bennett
Broken Places by Susan Perabo
New and Selected Poems by Charles Simic
Marlene and Sofia by Pedro Barrento
Soil by Jamie Kornegay
Favorites by Mary Yukari Waters
Museum of Abandoned Secrets by Oksana Zabuzhko
My Last Continent by Midge Raymond
South Street by David Bradley
Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
White Tiger on Snow Mountain by David Gordon

Aside from the Simic and Dobelli title, I’ve only read one or two chapters from each title, and yet I’m pretty sure that all of them are going to be terrific! (I obtained almost all of these for 99 cents each!)

About half of these titles (the ones published by Simon and Schuster) are currently priced at $12 or so (ugh!), but if you set up a price alert (on ereaderiq), you can almost certainly buy every title for under $3.

The amazing thing about publishing today is that many high quality ebooks are very cheap. Seriously, if I had enough time, I could  make a list that is 3 times as long.

My methods of finding good cheap ebooks are not esoteric. I subscribe to 20+ ebook deal newsletters (and actually read them every day!)  but really the only ones that matter (from the standpoint of indie publishing) are bookgorilla, bargainbooksy and booksends. For midlist titles from the bigger publishers, earlybirdbooks and bookbub will give you more low-cost ebooks than you know what to do with.

Also: I have included my most useful ebook deal links on my blogroll to the right.

Finally Amazon posts some remarkable deals, and indeed, every month it picks about 100 titles published by its inhouse publishing imprints and discounts them to 99 cents. I am not a fan of Kindle Unlimited/Prime Reading, but an increasing percentage of indie published titles are available to read through that.

As if that weren’t enough, Smashwords publishes a lot of low cost/free titles that for some reason don’t make it to Amazon. Often titles are on both Smashwords and Amazon

Certainly an ebook’s price is not the primary consideration when deciding on an ebook to read or buy. Some library enthusiasts say that the price of an ebook should be irrelevant to the consideration of the book’s value because …. can’t you find it for free from the public library?

This indifference to the price of ebooks can be infuriating.

First, I have library cards with three public libraries (two of which are well-stocked and well-funded). I can safely say that these libraries fail to buy about 80% of the new titles out there, and probably 95-97% of the new indie titles.

Second, although I strongly endorse lending services like Lendle which facilitate the lending of Kindle ebooks, publishers of most commercial titles have turned OFF the lending feature for the Kindle version of their ebooks. (To its credit, lendle has been outstanding for sharing and borrowing titles by indie authors on Amazon).

Third, public library systems have their own priorities about what ebooks they acquire. They remain susceptible to the promotions of the Big 5. Also, they have social and community goals (literacy, inclusiveness, political diversity) that doesn’t always result in the smartest of acquisitions. If you don’t believe me, go to your library’s ebook system and look up how many ebooks the library possesses of these authors: 1)Donald Harington, 2)Jack Matthews, 3)Ronan Bennett and 4)Barry Yourgrau.

Next go to your library ebook’s system and look up books by these authors: 1)Ann Coulter, 2)Bill Oreilly, 3)Suzie Orman and 4)Stephanie Meyer.

After you have recovered, taken a shower and (hopefully) gone to confession, you should understand how public libraries can fall short.

For this reason, I’m going to invest more time in publicizing and talking about overlooked books (even if I haven’t actually read them!)   Usually this will take the form of book reviews, capsule reviews and roundups. For the last year or two I have been posting announcements about ebook sales on reddit, teleread and social media. Now though I’m going to try to put as much original stuff on my blog (and then copy them to other places).

New Focus: Smashwords 

Finally, I am giving special attention to the ebook distributor Smashwords.  I recently posted something about how my blog can help Smashwords authors.

First, I am participating in Smashwords’ affiliate marketing program and would love to find a way to monetize this blog AND help other indie authors. (PS, Amazon’s affiliate marketing officially sucks!)

Second, Smashwords is really the best alternative to Amazon.com at the moment.

Third, Smashwords offers coupon codes and lets you price things temporarily for free. These are things not easily done on the Amazon site.

Fourth, Smashwords offers DRM free ebooks — and EPUBs! Horray for ebook standards!

I don’t want to sound anti-Amazon. Amazon is awesome to authors and publishers and readers. But so is Smashwords, and there is no reason why the quality of Smashwords catalog cannot be as high as or higher than Amazon.

Finally and perhaps least importantly, when talking about ebooks on this blog, I’m not going to include an image of the cover of every ebook I talk about. Sounds easy, but actually it’s a chore to do — especially when you’re book blogging. Also, I like my home page to contain full articles (not just the first paragraph or two).  If I include a ton of ebook covers, that will just cause the website to load more slowly.

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My Policy on Writing Book Reviews

(Occasionally I am contacted about my availability to write book reviews. Here’s something I wrote up to explain my policies and preferences). 

About Me: I (Robert Nagle) have a master’s degree in creative writing, run a small ebook publishing company specializing in literary fiction. I also write fiction in various genres and have published two editions of a technical book.  (Here’s a longer bio).

Note: I only review ebooks!

To contact me: write smash AT fastmailbox.net

Please, do not include an ebook attachment in your initial query, but let me know how you’ll get the ebook to me.  If I would like a review copy, I will reply  within 1 week  about my level of interest. 

I have accounts on Netgalley, Smashwords, Instafreebie,  Tor and Amazon. I especially prefer ebooks on sale  on Smashwords (I explain more   below). I am especially interested in titles which have received fewer  than 10 reviews on Amazon.  Any ebook format is ok. I have an account on Booksprout, but this talk about “Booksprout’s freeloader prevention algorithm” seems offputting. Reviewing is not a volume-based business; it is an occasional labor of love!

Where I post reviews: At minimum, I post reviews on Amazon, BN, goodreads, librarything, my blog and Facebook. (Hmm, possibly Kobo too?)  Occasionally I will post on other ezines, blogs or news website, but that is the exception rather than the rule. (The main reason is that it’s often too much trouble to work with literary ezines – contacting them, submitting it to them, etc),On facebook (and sometimes on my blog) I often give informal recommendations for books.  I wouldn’t exactly call them “reviews” but strong endorsements nonetheless.

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Dear Senator Cornyn,

Friday, you said on the floor of the US Senate: “We will not be bullied by the screams of paid protesters and name-calling by the mob.”

To my knowledge, it is not illegal for people to be paid to protest. I know that lobbyists are paid to make their opinion known to you. I know that political organizations provide grants and scholarships for research and opinion pieces. I also know that the overwhelming majority of people who participate in rallies are doing it not primarily for financial reasons but to express their political values. I’m generally fine with that. I know many people who protest without receiving any form of compensation. I also know that political activism is often organized by political groups, which requires some expenses (for signs, etc.) From my limited experience, I know that large donors have deep pockets, while the smaller organizations they support are often run on very little money. And the volunteers they solicit are certainly not paid at all (except through T-shirts and buttons and that sort of thing).

Referring specifically to the Kavanaugh protests, I suspect that the overwhelming majority of protesters were not paid in any fashion. I have googled around and I have seen no supporting information about this claim (except for a gofundme set up to help defray Ms. Blasey Ford’s expenses — which seems reasonable under the circumstances).

Yet you feel comfortable making this poisonous claim without evidence.

Recently, I saw the above  photo which is hilarious/disturbing on so many levels.

First, the men outnumber the women here! Second, these signs weren’t hand made; somebody paid for the t-shirts, signs and even the bus. Update: The 501(c)(3) “Concerned Women For America” which has a 2 score on Charity Navigator, is funded by the Koch Brothers network including Freedom Partners, the Center To Protect Patient Rights, Tc4 Trust, and DonorsTrust. (Source).

Personally, I’m more bothered by these polite but well-funded activists  funded by fossil fuel billionaires than the rowdy people who probably had minimal access to this kind of funding.

I have never voted for you, but it so happens that you and I both graduated from Trinity University (which I was able to attend only because of an academic scholarship).

In early 2004, after a Republican Administration supported by you launched a needless war in Iraq on the flimsiest of evidence, there was a Trinity alumni event which both you and I attended. It was an event intended to help new alumni to do job networking. Your appearance was added to the agenda at the last minute.

I’m guessing that at least half of the Trinity alumns attending had no idea that you were coming — much less who you were. Yet I certainly looked forward to the opportunity to shake your hand and express in a minute or so my concerns about what the US was doing in Iraq.

As you know, some Trinity alumni are politically-minded, but we are generally middle of the road and follow a certain decorum at alumni functions. It was extremely unlikely for anyone to turn it into a protest or shouting match.

To my dismay, when you showed up at the event (where 100 alumni already were present at), you promptly moved to a part of the house which prevented people from talking to you.  Talking to you was not the MAIN reason I was there, but I kept an eye out for an opportunity to have a minute of your time. This event was for job networking — talking to strangers for 1 or 2 minutes was PRECISELY THE POINT of this event.

As far as I know, during that event, you talked to NOBODY. You didn’t shake  hands with anyone but the event’s organizer; all you did was come up to the front when you were introduced. 

At that point, you talked for 4-5 minutes about returning from a trip you had just made to Iraq and what great things the US government was doing there. You talked about how proud we should be of US soldiers in Iraq. At that point, you left.

Your hasty departure left me speechless. Was the whole point of your visit to lecture Trinity alumni about how great the war effort was?

Perhaps on that particular day you were feeling unwell, or had personal business to attend to. But  I was always struck by your rushed exit.  You didn’t even make a minimal effort to meet with and talk to people who basically had no axe to grind or message to deliver. Trinity alumni are not necessarily representative of   Texas demographics; to be frank, many are affluent and Republican-leaning. Yet I was a loss to understand why you were so unwilling to talk to any of them. Do you treat your constituents merely as people to lecture at rather than to listen to?

Personally I’m outraged about the Kavanaugh hearings for a variety of reasons.

First, on substantive grounds I thought Kavanaugh’s rulings on environmental cases was crazy and dangerous. I was concerned that Kavanaugh was involved in numerous partisan activities that was unbecoming for a judge.

Second, I think the Senate and White House blocked the releases of a lot of records related to Kavanaugh’s past.

Third, I thought Kavanaugh’s testimony about the accusations was belligerent and immoderate; some of his answers bordered on the risible.  This is not the desired temperament for a Supreme Court justice.

Fourth, the way the Senate and White House attacked the accusers was pretty awful. I thought Ms. Swetnick’s claims were very credible. Even if they didn’t implicate Kavanaugh directly, they came from one of many eyewitnesses who say that Mr. Kavanaugh engaged in a considerable amount of drinking and boorish behavior in high school and college. They suggest a pattern of youthful behavior which I found disturbing. I am Kavanaugh’s age and like him attended  an all-boys Jesuit high school  — and yet I never drank. Most of the smart and responsible people I knew at Strake Jesuit in Houston rarely or never drank. As much as I would like to say that people outgrow their excesses of high school and college, I have to wonder whether Mr. Kavanaugh has properly owned up to his past and whether other  judges with less excessive pasts are out there.

Fifth, I was really disturbed by the way  Senate Republicans released sensitive sexual history information of Ms. Swetnick, a witness who made a very serious claim about Kavanaugh’s behavior in high school. The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic violence condemned this practice

We are appalled and outraged that the Senate Judiciary Committee leadership has released a statement about comments of a sexual nature allegedly made by Julie Swetnick. Such a statement is unacceptable in all events, but particularly because it attempts to smear someone who has not had the opportunity to be interviewed by the FBI. The release of this statement violates the intent of the Rape Shield Rule drafted by the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991 and voted into law by Congress in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994. This federal rule is meant to safeguard the victim against the invasion of privacy, potential embarrassment and sexual stereotyping that is associated with public disclosure of intimate sexual details and the infusion of sexual innuendo into the factfinding process. The Senate Judiciary Committee has posted this statement on its website, in violation of the spirit of its own Rule.

In a sworn statement, Ms. Swetnick states she was sexually assaulted. Yet to date, she has not been interviewed by the FBI. Nevertheless, Senate leadership has engaged in a no-holds-barred personal attack on her. It is not unusual for a survivor to describe an experience of sexual violence in ways that do not reveal the full reality of the experience or to try and normalize the experience. However, even aside from these very common reactions, it is unthinkable that the Senate Judiciary Committee would have released this statement publicly and attacked her in this way.

I have written you in the past about climate change and health care and possibly other issues. In general, your position have upheld corporate interests and showed a lack of concern for the underclass.

Perhaps you have been listening to the wrong kinds of people.

Robert Nagle is a Houston writer and blogger who dreams one day of being paid to protest — or  being paid in general.  He runs the ebook press, Personville Press. 

Update 1. Washington Post debunks the nation perpetrated by Trump and others that Soros is bankrolling Kavanaugh protesters

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CATS ON FILM by Anne Billson (BOOK REVIEW)

CATS ON FILM by Anne Billson (2017),  300  pages with illustrations. Author’s Website and Book Blog 

Ebook: Amazon/Smashwords  . Price: $6.99

Print Editions: Used copies are available, but with ebooks so cheap, why bother?

Summary: Critical  look at movies with cats in them. The book is a real hoot to read — great insights and erudite movie  snark.

Recommended if you like:  Quirky film references, anything catty, Disney movies, horror movies.

CATS ON FILM gives a delightful and irreverent tour through world cinema from the standpoint of the cats who appear in it. This book grew out of a blog with the same name and  does not take itself too seriously. The book introduces various cat archetypes: CATAGONIST, HEROPUSS, CAPANION, CATZILLA, PUSILLA, CATRIFICE, CATGUFFIN and many more. To be honest, I am not particularly a cat lover (they’re ok, but…), and I had  hardly given a second thought about cats in film until picking up this book.  Probably the only movie I could think of with a cat theme would be CAT PEOPLE, and this book doesn’t talk about it at all except parenthetically.  What a shock it was to see discussions of so many movies with significant cat cameos.  THIRD MAN, NYMPHOMANIAC (!), Kieslowski’s BLUE, the GODFATHER, the original POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, the original FLY, LA DOLCE VITA, STRAW DOGS,  CLOCKWORK ORANGE (!) 1900, PROOF,  TRUE GRIT, DAY FOR NIGHT, AWFUL TRUTH, GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (!), THE LEOPARD, and many, many more. My first reaction was, wow, there are cats in all these movies? Aside from HARRY AND TONTO, I had hardly noticed them!

This is a logical and well-organized work — you can find a list of film discussed at the logical Table of Contents at the beginning (though it would have been better to have hyperlinks).   It can be fun to stumble upon the unexpected, and the book itself has  glorious color photographs and helpful labels like “Major Cat Movie.” Clearly Ms. Billson writes with an encyclopedic knowledge of cinema (she has also published several movie guides and writes about movies regularly for the “Guardian”). I found new insights about movies I thought I already knew (or at least, I thought I did!) I  now know about a lot of obscure films simply because of the odd fact that it has a cat in it.

Because Billson already is an accomplished novelist (specifically in horror, mystery, vampires and other things), 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? I didn’t!) For the movie INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, the book has a nice extended piece (The Moggyssey) teasing out the Homeric aspects to the plot. (By the way, I totally did not remember the movie having a cat in it!) For STUART LITTLE, she makes a tongue-in-cheek proposal to change the title of the movie to “Snowbell” (because the cat  character is more interesting and complex). Billson writes:

Since Hollywood is largely run by dog people, cats are often relegated to secondary characters with bad attitudes, typified by animated propaganda such as LADY AND THE TRAMP, CINDERELLA, TOM AND JERRY or MERRY MELODIES shorts featuring Tweetie Pie and Sylvester, which try to brainwash children into thinking cats are evil or stupid, while dogs, rodents and birds are virtuous and should be given carte blanche to torment the felines.

These creative takes are fun, clever and interesting.

The book spends a lot of time on cats in genres like horror, James Bond and kid’s movies (which is to be expected). I particularly appreciated Billson’s speculation about the cats themselves as opposed to the role they are expected to play in the movie. She guesses when more than one cat is used for the same cat character in a movie (like THIRD MAN) and provides horrifying backstory about how cats were actually mistreated during the shooting of the film (as in ADVENTURES OF MILO AND OTIS).

This clever book is based on a conceit that cats are more than story props. It’s an intriguing (though now obvious) idea. Fake soliloquys notwithstanding, I don’t get the impression that the book is trying to anthropomorphize the cat characters; it is just suggesting an alternate and yes, a more compassionate way to read movies. 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.

RELATED: I also recommend the illustrated book of fairy tales, A Cat may look at a King

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