Brown River Queen cover art

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Review for "The Broken Bell"

There's a deep and therapeutic sense of release on the day and in the hour that a new book is released into the world.  The author can finally sigh in relief.  The writing is done.  The editing is done.  There are no more decisions to be made, no more words to scrutinize, no more nuances to ponder and weigh.  The manuscript has become a book, and readers will either love it or hate it or, worst of all, pass it by without a second glance.  But its fate is out of the author's hands.

That deep relief I just described lasts maybe an hour.

Because right after you wave farewell to your manuscript and comment on what a grown-up book it has become, with that shiny new cover and that freshly-minted ISBN number, you as a writer know what lies ahead.

Book reviews.

That's right.  Book reviews.  Someone with no predisposition to love your hard-born literary offspring is, maybe, picking it up, frowning at the back cover copy, skipping the dedication and starting with Chapter One.

What if -- gasp -- they don't like it?

What if -- moan -- they read that first sentence, that first sentence that you spent three weeks agonizing over, that first sentence that you were sure an hour ago represented the apex of your wit, wisdom, and talent, and they read it and hate it?

What if -- shudder -- you've been fooling yourself all along and you have the writing skills of a freshly-stunned blowfish, and that cold cruel inescapable fact is about to be broadcast to he world at large?

What if?

Now do you see why writers are so fond of strong drink?

So yeah, about an hour after a release I get fidgety.  I set a Google alert for my title.  I start doing sporadic searches on it just in case a review so bad pops up Google doesn't have the heart to show it to me.

And I wait.  Wait for that first review.

Well, boys and girls, the wait is over.

The first official review for The Broken Bell is in.

Before I post the link, let me 'splain about the reviewer and why her opinion matters so much to me.

First of all, Ann Somerville is both reader and writer.  Go ahead, click her name -- she's got literally pages of books on Amazon.  Good books, too.  And not just good in the enjoyable to read sense, either -- I mean she can write. With complexity, nuance, and insight. She doesn't flinch. She doesn't stutter.  Her fictional worlds live and breathe, and they'll take your breath away.

You should stop right now and grab one of her ebooks.  The first book of hers I read was Interstitial, which she published with Samhain.  There's a razor-sharp mind behind that book.  On my best day, I'm more of a blunt instrument mind.

Ann and I have never met.   We're net buddies, sure, but if I wrote a stinker of a book, Ann would say so, because she's honest.  And I'd have nothing but the utmost respect for her evaluation, because I know she knows good writing when she sees it, and when she doesn't.

All of which is a very roundabout way of explaining why this review of The Broken Bell is so significant to me.  It's validation by peril, if that makes sense.

So now I can breathe that sigh of relief.  If Ann Somerville gives Broken Bell that many stars, I've done something right!

Oh, and one more thing.  Too often everyone, me included, forgets that a lot of people worked on The Broken Bell. Believe me when I say that the manuscript I submitted and the book you buy are two very different reading experiences!  So thank my editor, Bethany Morgan.  She's every bit as responsible as I am for bringing The Broken Bell to market!

Please click the link and read Ann's review here.

Finally, my late mother also contributed to The Broken Bell.  The original ending was a cliffhanger, and she read the book -- no easy feat, when you're in the last stages of ALS and you can move two fingers and nothing else -- and when she was done, she said I really needed to wrap things up.  Said it forcefully.  I believe her exact words, typed out one agonizing letter at a time, were "Boy you are in big trouble with this ending."

So I added another thousand words, and I'm glad I did.

Thanks, Mom.  I'm going to miss having you read the next one.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Back to Basics

It's a dreary nasty day here in the glorious wonderland that is north Mississippi.  It's neither cool enough for jackets and heaters, or warm enough for short sleeves and sitting on the patio.  In fact, today is suitable for only one thing, and that thing is a pounding headache, which I have.  Thanks, Nature.  And no, all those beautiful pristine tropical waterfalls and so forth do not make up for today.

Even my dogs are listless and mildly annoyed.  Thor just looked out the window and growled at the sky.  Lou Ann hasn't budged from her (my) chair.  Max and Fletcher are parked on the couch, unconscious and determined to stay that way.

I'm trying to write, but not having much luck. Something about the sullen, lead-grey sky just squashes the words before I can get them typed.  Which is another strike against Nature, and one which only strengthens my resolve to one day build a windowless writing room far beneath the surface, a room reachable only by elevator and pizza delivery man.  I don't need the sky messing with my head.  I've got plenty of things inside my head messing with me already.

I have done a couple of marketing type things lately.  All the Paths of Shadow now has its own Facebook page.  Meralda and Mug are frequent posters there, so if you're interested in interacting with them, hit the Paths of Shadow Facebook page by clicking here.  And yes, that really is Mug, and that really is Meralda, so hit the page and say hi!

In completely unrelated news, I'm adding a new component to the Temple of Boom, which is my nickname for my stereo.  I've come full circle, gentle readers -- I listened to vinyl as a kid, then eagerly took up CDs when they premiered.  When iTunes came along, I embraced that too.

And now I'm turning full circle.  CD production is down.  Most music is sold in digital format, as a download.

But I'm heading back to vinyl.

There are a lot of reasons for my change.  And I'm not abandoning digital music.  I'll still listen to my iPod  and my PC.  Heck, I'm listening now -- Alan Parson, 'Turn it Up,' from the 'Try Anything Once' album.

But a while back I came across an old Crutchfield catalog and I remembered how much fun I used to have messing about with my sound gear.  It was a serious hobby, or at least as serious as it could be on my tiny budget.  But I knew receivers and speakers inside and out.  The specs meant something, and getting the most accurate sound for your money was a blast.

I was all about listening to the music back then.  Really listening.  Starting at Track 1 and going all the way through the album, just as the band intended.

I realized something, thumbing through that 1989 Crutchfield stereo catalog. Somewhere along the way between CDs and iTunes, I stopped listening to music.

Oh, it's always playing nearby.  I put iTunes on shuffle and let it go.  And I'm listening, sort of.

But I've heard these songs a million times.  They've become background noise.

So I'm turning back the clock.  No, I'm not going to buy my entire collection on vinyl all over again.  With a few rare exceptions, everything I get on vinyl is going to be new.

And I'm going to sit down and start with Track 1 and listen to the whole album, song by song.  No pause.  No shuffle.  No fast-forward.

Old school, baby.

My new turntable is a Audi-Technica AT-LP60.  Nothing fancy.  It doesn't convert vinyl tracks to MP3s, it doesn't let you choose track order, it doesn't do anything but play records.

And I'm buying my new music from Fat Possum Records, which shares my home in Oxford, Mississippi.  I like supporting locals.  And they offer a good mix of rock and blues.

My first album is Believers, by AA Bondy.  I haven't heard it yet.  The album is here, but not the turntable.

I'll let you guys know how it all goes.  I can't wait to cue the record up and let the stylus drop for the very first time, all over again.

Stay groovy, kids.  Hit the Paths of Shadow Facebook page!