ABNA 2012 General Fiction Reviews

The six finalists for the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award have been chosen. Interesting. There are only two categories, general fiction and young adult fiction. The general fiction finalists are all men, and the young adult fiction finalists are all women.

What does that say? Probably nothing.

I read the excerpts of the general fiction entries and they were all good, and all had a hook and all made me wonder what would happen next. But since I don’t have access to the entire manuscripts, I am basing my reviews on the first few chapters of each one.

Then I’m going to predict the winner, based on which I liked best, which is going to be difficult because I liked all three, but didn’t love any of them.

The Beautiful Land by Alan Averill. This starts out with a great first line hook.

Tak can’t answer the phone because the noose is too tight.

Great, I like that. The deal is, Tak has decided to do himself in and has set up this elaborate suicide event, but the ringing phone distracts him. It turns out to be a strange call, but so interesting that Tak decides to put his suicide plans on hold. Next chapter we meet, Samira who is suffering from PTSD and tells her therapist that Tak was her friend from high school, but that he killed himself four years earlier. But wait, he didn’t kill himself, so what’s going on? That’s another hook. That, of course, is the end of the excerpt. It’s interesting that many authors are using present tense, which never used to be done much. I like it. I believe this book is going to veer off into a nearly sci-fi genre, including time travel and alternate realities so I don’t think it will be something I would ultimately be too interested in. And I found a really bad metaphor.

A clock ticks softly from Carrington’s desk, muffled under a pile of paperwork like the beating heart of a boarder in a Poe story.

Do you hate that as much as I do? Classic case of TTH. (Trying Too Hard).

Grace Humiston and the Vanishing by Charles Kelly. This one is a historical mystery which takes place in 1917. It is fiction, but based on the true story of Mary Grace Winterton Humiston.

I like the voice of this author, told in the first person (but not present tense this time) by the sidekick of Grace, who idolizes her investigative methods (not to mention her physical attributes and accoutrements) from afar – he being a bit of an unseemly sort which he readily admits – and Grace being a very much the lady, well-educated, and married. It promises to be a good story, the case of a missing girl known as the White Slave Case. The excerpt ended with Grace being asked by the narrator if she will find the missing girl, to which she replies “Yes. But, I fear, not alive.”

I am curious to know why she felt that way. I believe I would enjoy this book, and I found no distasteful metaphors in the excerpt.

A Chant of Love and Lamentation by Brian Reeves. This had a good opening line too, similar to the first entry.

These are the last minutes of Charlie Kalenhano’s life.

Charlie is on some terrorist mission, perhaps suicide bomber in Hawaii, as part of a plot to regain Hawaiian independence. The excerpt doesn’t explain it. That must come later. It’s well written and I was mildly curious to know if the bomb went off or not, since Charlie had a few problems on his way to detonate the device, which is in the trunk of his cab. Bad weather, a fender bender accident, locking himself out of the car, late to arrive, etc. The excerpt, while good enough, didn’t grab me sufficiently to get me excited about reading the book when it is finally published.

Actually I liked the entries last year better than these, but my pick is Grace Humiston. We’ll see.

Perigee Moon Available on Amazon!

This past week was spent in the final editing of my third book Perigee Moon, and formatting of both the print version and the Kindle version, which went relatively smoothly. The Kindle Direct Publishing Nice People have now provided us with basic instructions on how to do it, and it is easier than it used to be.

You can get the print version of Perigee Moon here.

I learned that making use of the Styles in Word can make ebook formatting a whole lot easier, so I did that. I fixed my styles and created a Table of Contents and had relatively little trouble getting it published. You can get the ebook version for Kindle here for a mere $2.99.

I can’t decide which I prefer. I still like to read a “real” book once in a while and I go back and forth, between the Kindle and printed books, Amazon and the Public Library.

Once I got the Kindle version published and it looked very good to me, I decided to do the same with my other two books, which had a couple of formatting issues, due to my relative inexperience back then. Well wouldn’t you just know, wouldn’t it figure, that sometimes it works one way and sometimes it works another. I blame Word for this, there is so much crap under the surface of Word, so many options and it seems needlessly complex to me.

I got Whatever Happened to Lily formatted just fine, and is available here in it’s new format, but when I did Second Stories the exact same way, it didn’t quite work. Well, it worked okay, but put an extra space between the paragraphs which I didn’t want. I still haven’t figured it out. It looks okay, but not perfect, so I haven’t uploaded anything for the Kindle for that book yet.

Maddening, that’s what it is.

I check and compare and look at the HTML and can’t find out why it would do that. There are other ways to do it, through other software but the instructions supplied by KDP seemed so straightforward that I had hoped my ebook formatting issues were behind me. Ack! Not so.

Another surprise was in store for me. It takes a few days for a new print book to be listed on the Amazon site so I kept checking each day to see if it had appeared, and guess what I found? Another book called Perigee Moon. This I would have to describe as seriously suckage because I had specifically searched for books with that title when I selected it.

Perigee Moon by Tara Fuller. After a horrific fire claims the life of her mother, seventeen year old Rowan Bliss finds herself in the miniscule town of Ipswich, Massachusetts. It’s here that she meets Alex, a deliciously mysterious boy who holds the key to unlocking her family’s dark secret. As Rowan falls helplessly over the edge for Alex, the secrets that he insists on keeping refuse to be contained. The truth that she uncovers challenges everything she has ever believed. Alex is a witch. And now he’s awakened something within her she never even knew existed. But out of all of this, the one thing Rowan won’t accept is the fact that Alex is destined to die. Rowan must unearth the buried power she harbors within to escape a deadly prophecy, defy the very laws of time, and prevent the hands of fate from taking yet another person she loves.

We’ll call it “The Other Perigee Moon” but I think I will plug it anyway. You can get that book here.

It’s about witches so I guess we won’t be in direct competition but still, it is disappointing.

In other news, next week (Tuesday, May 22) the six finalists for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2012 will be announced. I like to read the excerpts from the books chosen and last year I blogged my reviews of each and tried to predict the winner. I wasn’t too successful. Maybe this year will be better.

Baby Boomer Women Are Shibui!

Shibusa (shibui) is a Japanese concept, with no real translation into English (Shibui is the adjective, shibusa the noun.) The people of Japan think of beauty in levels – from blatant, harsh and bold to the ideal beauty of shibusa, which is the type of beauty that involves complexity, the imperfections and patina that only time can bring. A mature beauty, like a vintage wine, a history that is conveyed by the artifact. Understated quiet sophistication.

I can’t think of a word in English that comes close. Elegant? Tasteful? Refined? Dignified? These words all describe aspects of shibusa but don’t really define it. It’s the idea that things get better with age, and that perfection is not as well tolerated as shibusa.

Shibusa is simplicity, implicitness, modesty, silence, naturalness, everydayness and imperfection.

  • An old rocking chair is shibui.
  • A “real leather” lazy boy recliner is not shibui.
  • An old baggy cashmere sweater is shibui.
  • A 100% polyester “fleece” is not shibui.
  • Old English aged cheddar is shibui.
  • Cheez whiz is not shibui.

You get the idea here.

I had the insane notion that us boomer women need to throw off fifty or sixty plus years of age discrimination and embrace the idea of shibusa. Why not? We’ve been calling the shots as to what’s cool for decades, so why should we stop now, just because we’re getting old, and challenged in any number of ways?

Let’s throw away the anti-aging creams, the hair coloring, the gold jewelry, the fake nails, the spikey shoes, the clothes that (let’s face it here) aren’t meant to adorn bodies that have been around almost as long as Cheerios.

At some point we’re going to have to resort to plastic surgery if we want to keep up the charade. You can only hide behind dark glasses, botox injections, turtle necks and big hair for a limited amount of time. After that, it’s the old nip ‘n tuck.

I have lighting in my bathroom that makes me look like I am a decade or two younger. I planned it that way. You know the kind. Like when you go into a really upscale department store and the dressing rooms are all lit softly, dramatically, such that you look really good, instead of those fluorescent abominations in Target. Except for a couple of flaws (which can’t be ignored) the skin tones look perfect; unblemished, smooth and nearly wrinkle-free.

Imagine my surprise when I catch sight of myself in some other venue (even a turned off Smartphone will do the evil deed) and find to my horror that instead of looking like the ageless person I believed myself to be, I do in fact look pretty much like other people my age do.

Never mind photos. I think cameras should be able to calculate the age of the person upon which they are focusing and add the appropriate amount of PhotoShop right there. That way, no embarrassingly awful pictures can be posted on Facebook and to which you have to beg the poster to “please take that down, I hate it!” and to which they reply, “aw, I thought it was cute”. Take the friggin’ thing down before I unfriend you. I don’t care if you’re my daughter or not! Say I.

There’s a 55-year-old woman who is trying out for the Dallas Cowboy’s cheerleading squad. Everyone says, “Imagine that! She’s 55! Doesn’t she look great for 55?” What the hell difference does it make? She’s still 55! She’s got an AARP card! She qualifies for the Bob Evans Senior Meal! She can buy a house in a special gated community because she meets the minimum age requirements!

We baby boomer women need to embrace the concept of shibusa and hopefully convince others to embrace it too. Then our wrinkles and hair of (whatever color it is, I wouldn’t know anymore) and sagging skin would all be shibui, very cool.

So instead of this:

I’m going for this:

35 Aphorisms Written by a Cool French Guy

Recently, I was involved in a discussion about aphorisms, which, simply put, is a saying expressing a belief, usually true. Think, quote of the day.

There are millions of recorded aphorisms, and web sites devoted to them, one in particular I found helpful, in that the aphorisms were categorized based on love, friendship, life, etc. I chose love, thinking, maybe I could blog something about my Perigee Moon character and his rather rocky road to a lasting and fulfilling relationship. I discovered a majority of the aphorisms I particularly liked were authored by a French gent who lived in the sixteen hundreds, so I decided to research him and discuss his aphorisms exclusively.

His name is François de la Rochefoucauld and he was considered the greatest maxim writer of France, a maxim being “a compact expression of a general truth or rule of conduct.”  I believe roughly, maxim = aphorism, or at least they are enough alike that M. de la Rochefoucauld’s maxims appear in nearly every list of popular aphorisms.

Here is a picture of Francois:

Notwithstanding the big hair, he is a comely fellow. Sometimes it’s hard to tell, with the strange getups those dudes used to wear, and the wigs, facial hair, and the rather petulant expressions they all seem to portray which makes me surmise things that aren’t necessarily true.

He had an unremarkable military career of twenty years, and ended up in some court or another, one of those places where they ate, drank and entertained themselves until they were so bored they created some scandal just to relieve the tedium. He was married quite young, to Andree de Vivonne (“who seemed to be an affectionate wife, while not a breath of scandal touched her”) and yet he had relationships with a couple of other ladies as well, so there might have been a bit of dalliance going on there, which was okay for the Ms but not the Mmes. Oh, wasn’t that always the way?

Given the subject of some of his most interesting maxims, I believe it safe to suppose M. de la Rochefoucauld might have been enjoying some strange on the side. But who knows? I could be wrong about it, and thankfully he can’t sue me for slander or defamation of character since he’s been dead for 400 years. Speaking of 400 years, it’s interesting that these aphorisms (or maxims), are as appropriate today as they were then.

Here are 20 of my favorites with snarky comments:

  1. “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” We’re watching you, Kim Jong-um, Mr. Current-Supreme-Leader.
  2. “How can we expect another to keep our secret if we cannot keep it ourselves.” You should have read this, Anthony Weiner, before tweeting those jockey shorts pics.
  3. “We hardly find any persons of good sense save those who agree with us.” Just ask a conservative Republican or a liberal Democrat. It’s the one thing upon which they can both agree.
  4. “A refusal of praise is a desire to be praised twice.”  You’re pretty. My nose is too big. You’re beautiful. My mouth is too small. You’re exquisite. I’m too fat. Okay, you’re right. I guess you’re actually pretty nasty.
  5. “It is the prerogative of great men only to have great defects.” William Jefferson Clinton.
  6. “It is easier to appear worthy of a position one does not hold, than of the office which one fills.” Ohio Governor John Kasich.
  7. “Preserving the health by too strict a regimen is a worrisome malady.” It’s the old joke, where you give up things that are fun to do, and take up things that are not fun to do, and you may not live longer but it will seem like longer. A lot longer.
  8. “Attention to health is life’s greatest hindrance.” Ask any hypochondriac.
  9. “We do not despise all those who have vices, but we despise all those who have not a single virtue.” Rush Limbaugh. Congratulations for having no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
  10. “The greatest miracle of love is the cure of coquetry.” As soon as a couple shares a laundry basket and a bathroom, coquetry is pretty much history, and in its place the willingness to discuss just about anything.
  11. “One may outwit another, but not all the others.” Is this the same as “fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again. “ George W. Bush.
  12. “Some people resemble ballads which are only sung for a certain time.” Remember the Macarena? Think about that, Kim (Kardashian).  
  13. “The world rewards the appearance of merit oftener than merit itself.” Donald Trump comes to mind.
  14. “Those who occupy their minds with small matters, generally become incapable of greatness.” See, Jerry Falwell? Everyone has forgotten about you.
  15. “We all have strength enough to endure the misfortune of others.” We should all think of this one, each time we watch a news report about those affected by natural disasters.
  16. “True love is like ghosts, which everyone talks about but few have seen.” That’s because you can’t find true love on Match.com. The odds are as good as being struck by lightning and winning the lottery – in the same day.
  17. “Those who apply themselves too much to little things often become incapable of great ones.” Any person who participates in any capacity to the production of Dancing With the Stars, and this goes double for you, Bruno.
  18. “There are foolish people who recognize their foolishness and use it skillfully.” Paris Hilton.
  19. “The love of justice is simply in the majority of men the fear of suffering injustice.” The NRA.
  20. “Mediocre minds usually dismiss anything which reaches beyond their own understanding.” Fox News.

My hope is not to offend any readers; I have probably shown my true colors here, which is a shade of blue-purple. I suspect most are left-leaners anyway, or you wouldn’t have been hanging out here for this long. Am I right?

The following of M. de la Rochefoucauld’s maxims are too insightful to deface with jokes, or references to bad people. I like these. They were written 400 years ago and are as true today as they were then.

  1. “It is a kind of happiness to know how unhappy we must be.”
  2. “In their first passion, women love their lovers; in all the others, they love love.”
  3. “In jealousy there is more of self-love than love.”
  4. “One is never so happy or so unhappy as one fancies.”
  5. “Neither the sun nor death can be looked at steadily.”
  6.  “Good advice is something a man gives when he is too old to set a bad example.”
  7. “Everyone blames his memory; no one blames his judgment.”
  8. “There are very few people who are not ashamed of having been in love when they no longer love each other.”
  9. “It is almost always a fault of one who loves not to realize when he ceases to be loved.”
  10. “When a man is in love, he doubts, very often, what he most firmly believes.”
  11. “There is only one kind of love, but there are a thousand imitations.”
  12. “If we resist our passions it is more from their weakness than from our strength.”
  13. “We are more interested in making others believe we are happy than in trying to be happy ourselves.”
  14. “Absence diminishes little passions and increases great ones, as the wind extinguishes candles and fans a fire.”
  15. “When a man must force himself to be faithful in his love, this is hardly better than unfaithfulness.”

There are many more of M. de la Rochfoucauld’s aphorisms (maxims), this is a mere sampling. They aren’t platitudes and they aren’t dark sayings. They are packed full of meaning, no wasted words, yet with no loss of substance. I detect some melancholy poetry as well. He was an experienced writer and a deep thinker with a devotion to the romance of chivalry. Each one could be the subject of an entire essay.