One of the worst obstacles self-published authors face is snobbery. I've encountered this in the promotion of my novel, INTO THE SUNSET, as well as my short story collection, STORIES FROM SUNSET HILL. The stigma of self-publishing is that the work must suck, otherwise why did it have to be self-published?
Well, one reason I self-pubbed my collection is because the short story collection may very well be the hardest thing to sell to the traditional houses (well, maybe poets have it worse). So I didn't even attempt to sell the collection; I just figured I'd publish it myself. Of the 17 stories included in my book, 7 had been published elsewhere, in lit mags and e-zines.
I am proud of STORIES FROM SUNSET HILL. It showcases some of my best work. In fact, a Writer's Digest contest judge had this to say about the book:
"The author writes with a creative and lively style. The gritty, raw voice of the character Chuck in the first story pulled me in right away, and I couldn't stop reading.
"The author has an uncanny ability to create insightful characters, who are wiser to the world and its ways than they are to themselves. This is a winsome combination, a likeable quality, that pulls the reader into the fictive dream."
Unfortunately, I've most recently encountered this stereotype from Tania Hershman, the editor of The Short Review. Her web site is dedicated to the short story, with the tagline "where short story collections step into the spotlight." It's a great idea to spotlight short story collections, especially nowadays when more and more people have less and less time to read novels. So I was excited when Tania said she'd review my collection. I hoped she would like it, and a good review would have really helped give my work much-needed exposure.
It was not to be. I guess she didn't realize the book was self-published when she agreed to review it. Someone must have tipped her off, and she pulled out of the review. I wish her well with the web site, but all I ask is that my work speak for itself, and not be pre-judged. Read it, then judge it.
I realize it's still hard to get a self-pubbed book reviewed because, frankly, reviewers don't want to wade through the crap to find the jewels (which is still the prevailing stereotype for self-pubbed books). But a lot of it isn't crap. I'm trying to fight this stereotype in my own small way, but there are some days when I feel it is a losing battle. But there is hope that the climate will change, with contests like the Writer's Digest International Self-Published Book Awards and the Indie Book Awards bringing attention to the best of self-publishing.
Stories From Sunset Hill
Read a review of Stories From Sunset Hill
Monday, February 11, 2008
I stumbled across This Is a Bust, by Ed Lin, in my local library by accident—because the cool, funky cover art (pictured above) grabbed my attention. The interior of the book also had a somewhat funky design. There are no first line paragraph indents; instead, everything is flush left with an extra return between each paragraph. This was all very appealing to me as a book designer (yes, I do judge a book by its cover). OK, enough on the design.
The novel also appealed to me as a writer. The back cover text states "This Is a Bust explores the unexotic and very real complexities of New York City's Chinatown, circa 1976, through the eyes of a Chinese American cop. This Is a Bust is at once a murder mystery, a noir homage and a devastating, uniquely nuanced portrait of a neighborhood in flux, stuck between old rivalries and youthful idealism."
This is a good description, but it was the character of Robert Chow, the cop, who intrigued me more than the solution to the murder mystery itself. In fact, the mystery really isn't the focus of this book. The characterization of Chinatown as a whole, its culture (which was unknown to me), and all the individual characters who populate Lin's novel are the real story. There is Chow's former partner Vandyne, an African-American, who is on the fast track to making detective; the Midget, who hangs out in Columbus park and beats all opponents in every board game imaginable; Paul, a young, brilliant tough; Lonnie, a college student and bakery worker who has eyes for Chow; Barbara, an old love interest of Chow's who made it out of Chinatown, only to return; and Yip, an elderly man who may or may not have killed his wife.
All of this is set against the background of a 1976 Chinatown, an era before the internet, before cell phones, and before the U.S. opened up relations with communist China (but is putting out feelers). Policeman Chow wonders at one point why he fought against communism in Vietnam. Though only 25, he feels old, having seen both the big world (Vietnam), and the small world (Chinatown), and how it can wear a man down. He's lost, and alcoholic, and knows he is just a token in the police department, and will never be given the investigations he desires to become a detective.
Chow is drawn to the murder mystery, though, because he understands the Chinatown culture, more so than his friend Vandyne, who is leading the investigation. He wants to prove to himself and his boss that he is more than just a patrolman walking a beat, more than just a token face for photo ops. He's warned off the case by his boss, but it nags at him, and clues occasionally fall into his lap whether he wants them to or not. As Chow puts the pieces of the mystery together, he also sorts out his own personal life.
This Is a Bust is anything but a bust. It's first-rate. Check it out.
Saturday, February 09, 2008
So yesterday, my boss told me about a documentary film that was made called Andrew Jenks, Room 335. It's about a 19-year-old film student who moves into an assisted-living retirement home for a month, and documents the whole experience. I had never heard of the film before.
Uh oh, I thought. That sounds very similar to the plot of my novel, Into the Sunset. In my book, a 30-year-old bachelor moves into an assisted living community—except he is disguised as an old gent. But my book is fictional and a comedy, so the book and the film are different. Still, I had that little queasy feeling in my gut that someone else had already come up with a similar idea and gotten it out to the world before I did. Thankfully, though, my novel has already been published, and is receiving good reviews, so I don't feel as if I had been scooped.
Back to the film. Turns out there was a free screening of the film tonight, and my friend Joe and I went to check it out. The director, film student Andrew Jenks (who coincidentally is also from Westchester County like me), spent a month living in Harbor Place, a senior residence in Florida. He brought along two buddies who helped film the whole experience.
Jenks is a smart filmmaker. The story isn't about him living in Harbor Place, it's about the elderly residents who do. He lets them take center stage, as we get to meet these wonderful people. People like fiesty 96 year-old Tammy, and Bill, who wears a different Hawaiian shirt every day. And Dotty, and Libby, and Josie.
Andrews Jenks, Room 335 has been called funny, sad, and heartwarming, and I totally agree with this description. Do yourself a favor and see this film.
And by the way—now that I've seen the film, I don't have that queasy feeling anymore. The film and my novel are similar in plot, and even in theme—of how the elderly are viewed in our society—but the two pieces of art handle the story differently (plus mine is fiction), and there is room for both. Seeing the documentary also made me feel good about my own work, in that—though I never lived in a senior community—I feel that I got much of it right. I don't mean just the details, but the human element. The funny parts and the sad parts, too.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
No, I don't normally wear glasses like in the photo above. I had them on because I went to see U23D last night. This is a concert film like you've never seen before! Shot during U2's Vertigo tour in an outdoor show of a scale the U.S. didn't see, it is the next best thing to being at a real U2 show. Better, in some ways. Or should I say, Even Better Than The Real Thing? Because you're not just stuck in your seat, static. No, you move around the crowd—up close, far away, in the middle. Then you're on the stage with the boys, you're behind Larry Mullen's drumkit, you're above the drumkit, you're standing next to Bono, the Edge and Adam Clayton. Seriously. You feel like you can reach out and touch them. When a song ended, I had to remind myself not to cheer, that I wasn't at a real concert. Though the hands that were being raised seemingly right in front of me kept fooling me into believing that I was. And the music, of course, was great.
My question is, Why isn't every movie made in 3D? This new technology is amazing. I don't want to watch flat, boring 2D movies anymore. Can you imagine the next Scorsese film in 3D? Being right there with the characters? Bring it on Hollywood!
Friday, February 01, 2008
Donna George Storey, author of Amorous Woman, has reviewed my novel, Into the Sunset.
"Don Capone’s Into the Sunset is entertaining comedy at its best. Even the madcap premise makes you laugh."
"Reading as a writer—and I always do—I admired Capone’s plot, which is Chekhovian in its design. Each puzzle piece fits together perfectly by the novel’s end."
Read the full review here:
Donna George Storey
Into the Sunset can be purchased at: