Friday, August 31, 2007

Playing God

I don’t know why, but some folks seem to be fascinated by the idea that a human can play God, or be mistaken for some deity or other. Recently, I reread one such book, Accidental Goddess by Linnea Sinclair. This science fiction romance was originally published by the now defunct LTD books using the pen name, Megan Sybil Baker, but it has been re-released in mass market paperback by Bantam. The story begins in a traditional science fiction manner, using the time travel theme. Readers will enjoy her winning characterizations and sufficient intrigue to keep the pages turning. Fans of fantasy will really enjoy the last half of the book, as Gillie has to reveal her powers, layer by layer, to save the Fifth Fleet, her new found love, and be true to her mission and herself. This novel has much to like, including an examination of what folks worship and why. Since the deity involved isn’t really a deity at all, it is just an accident in time and space, this exploration of humanity’s need for a god-figure shouldn’t offend anyone. Instead, it added a thoughtful aspect to a book which might otherwise be just another romantic comedy.

Author P.C. Cast takes a similar premise, but puts a classical spin on it in her debut novel, Goddess by Mistake. I understand that she rewrote this yarn for mass market publication, including a new title, but I read it in the original small press edition. Cast, an English teacher by trade, now has several books out with one of the larger publishers. I also read her novel, Goddess of the Sea, but I enjoyed the quirky and often quite humorous small press book more. For some readers, saying a book different isn’t a compliment, but for me it is, and Goddess by Mistake is quite different. As an English teacher who’d like to have a publishing career, I see Cast as having accomplished the goals I once set before myself, so bravo Ms. Cast!

Sarah Zettel is writing fantasy romance for the Luna line of books these days, no doubt due to a desire to get paid more for her writing, but her she began her career producing harder sci fi. Indeed, her third novel, Playing God, is infused with strong writing, terrific world-building, complex characterizations, and unique aliens. Zettel has a technical writing background, which lends authenticity to her science fiction. Her sophomore novel, Fool’s War, also examines religious concepts, and I liked it more than Playing God. The main premise of Fool’s War has more to do with Artificial Intelligence than being deified, but Zettel is a remarkable writer who makes me think, and I enjoy that.

Some video games are called “God Games” since the player gets to control just about everything. My hubby is inordinately fond of such games. His all time favorite is "Civilization." I am not sure what he does while playing it, but the game seems addictive. Daughter prefers to rule the lives of some artificial people known as the “Sims,” but being all powerful can keep her entertained for hours on end.

Of course, being a deity has been played for laughs on the big screen more than once. Remember George Burns in “Oh, God”? More recently, my children and I also enjoyed “Bruce Almighty” wherein one of the downsides of being deified is having to either grant or not grant all those prayer requests. I really can’t imagine having all that pouring in, which is why I never want to play God.

Reading about it is rather fun and sometimes even thought provoking, however....

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Friday, August 24, 2007

I’m so lonely I could cry...

If you are old enough, you might remember that line from an Elvis song. Fortunately, I seldom feel that particular pain. Hubby, kidlets, other relatives, church folks and my work-out buds are enough companionship for me. Too much, sometimes.

But there is a new kind of lonely out there, and you’ll find these folks online, parked in front of a television with no “off” switch, or both. They’re the ones who sign up for emailed political newsletters, shopping newsletters, dating services, the latest releases from their favorite publisher of erotic romances, and even “breaking news from” Yes, the king has been dead for thirty years, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some sort of news that the lonely can enjoy. The lonely can also tell you what’s going on with Paris and Britney and Branjolina, but they aren’t gonna volunteer at the clothing closet or sign up for Ladies’ Night Out at church. They’re too “busy” or too “tired.” When trouble comes their way, they consult Dr. Phil online or email their prayer request(s) to strangers, since there is no one else to ask.

Addiction is a term applied to folks who over indulge when using drugs, alcohol, or even food, but it really should be applied to those who have decided to deal with loneliness via an over indulgence in media. Sociologists are warning that despite the increased means of instant communication that people are becoming increasingly disconnected from their immediate world. Yes, we’ve heard about the dude in China who fell over dead, after non-stop gaming at an internet café so long that he starved or something. Most people’s problem isn’t that blatant, but parents can’t be parents if they’re too busy watching the screen to watch the kids.

How about you? If you’ve got hundreds of emails each week in your Yahoo account, but you don’t actually know these folks, if you buy your clothing and jewelry from QVC, if your lover exists only in the pages of a romance novel or in an email from, and if you know more about Nicole Richie than your neighbor, you may be suffering from this post-modern phenomenon.

And the worst of it is, you are so lonely....

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Yard Sale Prices

I don’t know how much you readers pay for books, or if you pay for them at all. I was a library lover as a teenager, because my parents were not able to buy many books. Now, I’m much older, with more cash, so I tend to be a purchaser. Still, I like a good deal.

Despite the title of this entry, I don’t buy books at yard sales. Actually, I don’t visit yard sales, because I don’t like standing in the heat looking for treasures. Instead, I sometimes buy at a used bookstore which is in a neighboring town. The selection and quality varies, of course, but I seldom visit The Corner Bookstore without finding a new contribution to my ever growing book collection.

Another way I save money and space (more the latter than the former) is through buying eBooks. Those require no disposal whatsoever, and if I choose to keep them, having a few more files on my Mac just isn’t a big deal. Many of the eBook authors I enjoy are so obscure that readers won’t find their titles at any bricks and mortar store.

Finally, I do use online bookstores quite a bit. My favorite, for price and selection, is Amazon, but sometimes other stores are better for certain items; therefore, I do shop around. At Amazon, I sometimes use the “other buying options” to get a used book at a better price than a new one. Shipping adds quite a bit to used pricing, so I always do a quick calculation to see where the best deal might be found. Buying used doesn’t contribute to the author’s income, of course, but I am not overly concerned about Stephen King’s welfare. He no doubt has enough to retire whenever he desires, and folks like Clancy and Grisham are also well-fixed.

When anyone asks, I tell them that publishing has not been profitable for me. That’s why I took my part-time teaching gig. Not that it matters to my pocketbook, but I’ve noticed a downward bidding war for used copies of The Gift Horse. The last time I looked, the low price on Amazon was $11.78 used, plus $3.99 shipping, which yields a “drive out price” of $15.77, a small savings over the new price. As more people decide that my first novel, signed or not, is not really collectible, those prices will continue to fall. As yet, Trinity on Tylos is not widely available used, but more copies will end up in the “pitch it pile” and the price will drop. In time, you can join in the hunt and get both of Pam’s books at yard sale prices. Until then, there is always the public library, a great place to find books and booklovers.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Goin’ on a Book Safari

There are many topics I could have written about this week, except I have pledged to keep most of my personal life, good and bad, out of this blog. So I am not going to write about my frustration with a student who seems to blame me for her academic woes; I am not going to write about how much my son is loving JROTC, and I am not going to write about how hot it is in northeastern Georgia, but the triple digits keep appearing on the outside thermometer.

Instead, I’ll point internet readers to a fun resource: Shelfari, which is a word coined from "shelf" and "safari." There are other book info sharing sites, such as LibraryThing, which I did join, but I have spent little time there. That site is more like the law library at UGA; it has a lot of stuff, but it is boring. On the other hand, Shelfari has a visually appealing interface, easy to use tools for rating, reviewing, or just commenting on books. Like "my space," it has a friend feature, wherein you can invite like minded readers to be listed on your site. You can leave notes on other members’ shelves, and you can browse their shelves to find new reads on the shelves of folks whose taste is somewhat similar to yours.

I shared this site with my teen-aged daughter, who just loved it. She is now my friend, and she invited one of her book loving friends to join. If you want to see my shelf and read the comments I’ve posted, here is the link to my shelf at Shelfari.

Rather than list all of the books I’ve read and enjoyed (a Herculean task!) I have listed two or three titles by favorite authors. I’ve been making an effort to share my love of eBooks as well, so I have a higher percentage of those on my shelf than I might otherwise.

Of course, I listed my own books, with brief comments, but I didn’t copy reviews to expand the listings. Admittedly I joined after being prompted by a fellow WCP author, but I have enjoyed my visits to this site.

Some time when you’d like to browse for new books or old favorites, go on a Shelfari from the comfort of your home, and you’ll no doubt find it entertaining. I certainly have enjoyed it, and I have put some more titles in my shopping cart at Fictionwise based on the comments and reviews I’ve read via Shelfari. Now, if I could just get FW to have another store-wide 20% off sale!

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Where are they now?

Recently, I looked back a couple of years to the Yahoo Group messages of the publisher of my science fiction story, Trinity on Tylos. My contract has seven more months, but I’ve been considering the feasibility of trying to resell it to another publisher. One of my author friends recently pulled two titles which she had with WCP and placed them with other publishers very quickly, so I decided to see where the WCP authors of 2005 have gone. I chose that year, because the standard contract with this publisher is two years, which means that all of those folks now have the option of going elsewhere. Some of them are still at WCP, of course, but many have moved on. I listed the first 20 authors who posted information about their books or publishing activities during the early months of 2005. Three of the twenty have several current titles with WCP, and one author has a single title plus an anthology title. Six of the twenty no longer have any titles with WCP. Many of these authors seem to be in transition. Three writers who had only one title with WCP have moved that title to other publishers. Mardi Gras Press, Black Velvet Seductions, and Vintage Press picked up these former WCP titles.

Writer “A” had several titles with WCP, but she recently pulled all her titles with the publisher; however, this prolific author has 2 older self-published books still available, and has a recent title with Liquid Silver Books as well as two with newcomer Mardi Gras Press.

Writer “B” has two eBooks with WCP, but her newer print title is with LBF books. Writer “C” had multiple titles at WCP, but only one is still for sale; she does have 14 titles with Midnight Showcase. Writer “D” has no current titles with WCP but now has two with Samhain. Writer “E” still has three titles with WCP, but her newer works are one title each with Liquid Silver Books, Phaze, Loose ID, and two with Samhain. Writers “F” and “G” each have a single title with WCP, but other books which are self-published. Author “H” has three current titles with Amber Quill Publishing and a couple with 5-Star, but no current WCP titles.

Author “I” is really prolific, having a “debut” novel with Zebra this year, a novel with Medallion this year, and five eBooks with Double Dragon. That ePub lets authors get a paperback version at, which seems to be a far better plan than the Pawprints option that we have with WCP.

Writer “J” has one title with WCP, but her new title is with Wings, which is a very similar company, using the same printer. Author “K” rounds out the survey of twenty authors. She has a one current title with WCP, one forthcoming from WCP, and another forthcoming at Wings and four others which seem to be self-published.

Some of you are saying, Pam should have created a chart. If I knew how to do that for a blog, I would have. I did notice that Samhain and Mardi Gras either picked up old titles or got newer titles by former WCP writers. Also, as I checked publishers and availability, I noted that Samhain and Mardi Gras titles are around ten dollars, which is more in line with real world pricing, and the authors didn’t have to pony up a fee to get into print either. Perhaps the authors who moved in their direction are seeking a more author friendly contract. Unfortunately, both of these publishers are closed to submissions except by invitation, which basically means you need an “in” to get consideration.

One reason to consider WCP may be that they are open to a variety of genres and they have not closed submissions, even briefly, as yet. Having to pay a fee for very limited paperback distribution and ultra high pricing continues to be a thorn in the side for WCP authors. If you can get a referral, the best bets seem to be Amber Quill, Samhain, or Mardi Gras [Update: Mardi Gras Publishing closed this week, reportedly filing for bankruptcy protection]. Science Fiction and Fantasy authors who are willing to do ePublishing might also consider Double Dragon, which is apparently taking submissions for 2009.

In case you are wondering, I haven’t decided what to do!

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