Saturday, August 04, 2012

Indie Reads

One of my first indie author purchases for my new Nook was Free Fall by Carolyn Jewel, a novella set in her My Immortal series. I chose a novella because I wanted something shorter than a novel to test for my initial reading experience. I also happen to like the author's voice and the unusual characters in this series. The story was appropriate for a novella-length tale, and while it was a bit light on the plot side (one of the normal downsides of novellas) the characters were absorbing enough to keep me reading. I've heard the frequent gripes about how indie authors skimp on length, but at 240 pages (and there are an additional 62 pages of excerpts from some of her other works at the end) it's a solid read and to me definitely worth the $2.99 cover price.

It did take me a couple of days to read the novella; I'm still fiddling with the screen resolution and brightness, and until I find the right combination for the most comfortable reading experience I'll be reading on the Nook in short doses. Also, once you do have an e-reader I think you can go a little crazy buying e-books (after years of not being able to read so many books, it's pretty hard for me to resist a spending spree.) To keep my spending in check I decided only to buy something new once I'd finished the last e-book I bought for the Nook. This way I won't hoard stories or create a towering e-TBR.

After I finished Carolyn's novella I purchased The Sleeping Night by Barbara Samuel; mainly because I read on her blog her post on how long she struggled to get it published. Interracial romance is always a tough sell, but this one is an especially great read, and I applaud her for choosing to self-publish it. I think more readers would probably invest in it if it were a bit cheaper (I paid $10.15 for my e-copy) but I don't mind spending a little extra on an author I know for a fact is a very talented storyteller. Far as I'm concerned it's an investment in my future reading pleasure.

This novel particularly resonated with me because my first love in middle school was an island boy. Kevin and I were part of the first generation to be subjected to public school desegregation, however, and as a result our fearful parents put a swift end to that fledgling relationship. We certainly weren't together as long as the protagonists in this book, nor were we treated as badly, but even forty years after the fact I can still relate to their wretched situation.

Ten years ago Barbara's novel likely would never have been released; the author probably would have shelved the manuscript and moved on to write something she could sell to New York. Now that she has more options, she's exercising them to gain more creative control of her work while making more of it available to her readers. That she can do that while also paying her bills and making a living at writing simply provides extra insurance that she will keep writing; something we all want to see happen, yes?

I may be regarded as a traditionally-published writer, but people often forget that I started self-publishing my fiction online back in 2001. While I've always done it for purposes of promotion versus profit, I know exactly how tough it is to fly solo with the work. I've never cared about the hoopla surrounding self- versus tradish-publishing, or e- versus print-releases, which always seem to me to be fueled mainly by some personal agenda or poorly-disguised marketing campaign. None of that matters to me as a writer or a reader. As storytellers we have to make tons of choices regarding the work; how we publish is just another item on a very long list. As readers we all want great stories, and whether they're released by a publishing house or the author really doesn't factor in for most of us.

My largest problem with reading self-pubbed works has always been that 99% of them aren't released in print or aren't print-enabled. Until last month I've only read print or printed-out books for pleasure because I have to stare at a computer screen all day. Thanks to my family's birthday gift of a Nook that's now a non-issue (I also solved my inability to use a touch-screen by purchasing a Nook Stylus. Now if they'd just invent a wireless keyboard for the Nook I'd be very happy.) Having access to all those books I've not been able before to read means I'll probably be posting more about great indie reads here on the blog.

Now I'm curious -- which indie authors have you been investing in lately? Got any titles you'd recommend as great reads? Let us know in comments.


  1. So far I've been buying indie books of friends who wrote something that didn't sell, a new genre, etc. Some terrific reads. I do love the alternative to trunking a book nobody wanted to take a chance on, from the reader and the writer perspective.

  2. Let me be the first to wish you good luck on the "read book before ordering another" plan. I have the tee shirt.

    I've noticed lately that books I could only order for my Kindle are now in print. With enough reader interest, and a great story, e-pub books can also become print editions.

    I've just discovered Silver James. Blood Moon is the first in her Moonstruck series.

  3. I would highly recommend:

    Mike Reeves-McMillan's City of Masks. It's a Shakespearean inspired Fantasy, told in journal entries, about an envoy to a city where all citizens must wear masks that dictate their social roles. It's both a murder mystery and a fascinating commentary on identity, and written beautifully.

    I also enjoyed Lindsay Buroker's The Emperor's Edge. It's high fantasy/steampunk with a strong female character in Amaranthe Lokdon, a rare female enforcer struggling to succeed in the Empire. Also well written and a fun romp. The first title (this one) in the series was free and I enjoyed it so much, I bought the next.

    The Grave Artist by Paula Lynn Johnson is a YA paranormal about a troubled young woman who fears she's going crazy when she can't stop drawing a stylized skull with wings that she's never seen in real life. It is a design on a grave and she is drawn into solving the mystery of an historical death in order to loosen its hold on her.It's written in first person, present, which isn't my favorite thing in books, and I found the adult characters to be a little 'thin' as is the case in many YA first person narratives, but the story was compelling, especially the spooling out of the historical mystery.

    Chris Howard has had several books published by Juno Press (The Seaborn trilogy) and self published several more. He writes lush, complex fantasy stories that cross multiple genres, and what links them all is his incredible gift for description, where the setting becomes, in effect, a character. This isn't surprising, given that Chris is also an accomplished artist who had done all his own bookcovers. I really enjoyed his YA books: Teller and Nanowhere. But I would highly recommend anything he's written.
    (Full disclosure--Chris is a crit buddy and friend and has done cover art for me.)

  4. The first book I bought for my e-reader was the anthology, Entangled. The proceeds go to breast cancer research and I discovered a couple of new authors.

    I've also been borrowing books from the library with my e-reader. It's a great way to try new authors and genres.

  5. I love Jordan Castillo Price's m/m paranormal books. They're well-written and very suspenseful. They were my first indie purchase--a friend recommended them, and she was soooo right!

    I also just bought Cat Bordhi's Sweet Tomato Heels ebook. Any of you knitters out there, especially sock knitters? Cat has moved to ebooks instead of print. I loved her book on revolutionary sock construction, and this new one looks to be just as wonderful. It's definitely a niche market, but it's amazingly constructed, with Cat's usual excellent photos, careful diagrams, illustrations, side-notes, etc.

  6. Thank you, Lisa Cohen, for your untiring advocacy!

    I'll second Lindsay Buroker. I'll add (if you like steampunk at all, and by steampunk I don't mean Indiana Jones in a bad Jules Verne costume, but really good spec-fic with a Victorian feel) Heather Albano's Timepiece. Her second book is due out soon.

    Also, Debora Geary's Witch books. (Yes, it's Debora, no H.) They're heartwarming and moving rather than action-packed, but certainly none the worse for that.


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