Category Archives: Dark Heroes

Indie Books: A Tsunami of…?

You hear a lot of talk in the publishing world these days about indie published ebooks.  Some think they’re nothing short of the salvation of western civilization because they allow authors to connect directly to readers.  Others, to a large extent publishers, editors, and agents, insist that indie publishing will bury us all under a tsunami of crap.  And of course you every possible position in between those two extremes.

A couple of days ago, Passive Guy at The Passive Voice, posted something about a publisher reporting ebook sales.  In the comments section, Mick Griggs included a link to this essay.  (Thanks, PG and Mick.)

Mark Williams, the author of that essay insists, quite convincingly, that instead of  a tsunami of crap, we’re starting to see a tsunami of excellence.  If you have an ereader, are thinking about buying an ereader, or even interested in what effect ereaders and epublishing will have on your future book buying, you should check that essay out.

I decided to do a little commentary myself, based on some things I’ve posted lately.

I’ve looked at four indie ebooks in the last month.  Those books were Tisarian’s Treasure, Age of Giants:  Awakening, Dark Heroes, and Stones.  The links in the previous sentence are to the reviews.

Now, this analysis is completely unscientific; statistically speaking, my sample size is too small to be significant.

Still, as a snapshot, it is an informative look at what’s going on in the adventure and fantasy fields.  Two of the books, Tisarian’s Treasure and Dark Heroes, are available in print editions as well as electronic formats.  The question is, are these publications crap?

When dealing with electronic publishing, crap can be defined two ways.  One is the quality of the writing itself.  The other is the formatting.  I’ll address the latter first, since formatting is something that can be changed fairly easily after publication compared to print books.  With the partial exception of Dark Heroes, with which I had some issues in regard to no table of contents, all the books listed above were well formatted, had decent to great cover art that reflected the content, and were well laid out and organized.

The quality of the works varied a little, because Dark Heroes was an anthology and some of the stories didn’t resonate with me as well as others, but all were at the worst well written and highly readable.  The better written stories flowed, grabbed me, and made me want to read more.  Given that these books started at $0.99, and most major publishers’ electronic books start at $6.99 or $7.99, I’d say any one of the four I’ve looked at are a better buy than almost anything coming out of major New York houses. 

Like I said, I realize my sample size isn’t a representative cross-section of what’s out there.  But I want to argue that it doesn’t have to be.  I’m old enough to know what I like.  I’m going to pick up books that I think will appeal to my tastes and preferences.  That doesn’t mean everything I read will, but I load the odds in my favor.  I also like a lot of variety and am not afraid to try something new from time to time.  Indie publishing provides that at affordable prices.

When was the last time you saw something really new come out of New York publishing?  The majority of books from major publishers look fairly interchangeable to me.

Is there crap in the world of indie publishing?  Yes.  Sturgeon’s Law, remember?  But clearly there’s excellence out there, too.  New York publishing has gotten so afraid of taking risks that we’re being given a steady diet of the same old thing.  Indie writers are finding an audience that they haven’t been able to find through major houses.  More power to them.

Oh, and that tsunami of crap that New York publishers, editors, and agents say we’ll be drowning in?  I agree, we are drowning in a tsunami of crap.  I just don’t think it’s coming from indie publishing.

Heroes Dark and Dangerous

Dark Heroes
Jessy Marie Roberts, ed.
Pill Hill Press
Paper $15.99, ebook $0.99

This anthology has an interesting premise.  The creatures we think of as monsters play the role of hero. 

Most of the authors in this anthology were not familiar to me, although a couple of them were.  I’ve always found anthologies in which I don’t know the work or at least the reputation of the contributors to be something of a crap-shoot.  Fortunately, the dice roll came up predominantly in my favor.

Here’s what the book contains:

J. Leigh Bailey draws on Mesopotamian mythology in “The Twelfth Monster of Chaos” in one of the more original takes on a dark hero.  The vampire Phil Wolters describes is “Just Waiting for the Sun to Set” but what comes out in the dark is something even he has trouble defeating.  Samhain fights for right in “Cat Got Your Tongue?” by Gary Buettner.  Scott M. Sandridge has the first of several werewolf/shafeshifter stories, but it’s “Nothing Personal”, in which a madame hunts down the murderer of one of her girls.  Jennifer L. Barnes continues werewolf theme in “It’s Medicine; Not Magic”.  Mel Obedoza turns the tables on convention with her “Monster Hunter.”  In “The Ease of Evil”, Aaron Renfroe gives us a tale from the point of view of a monster who doesn’t realize he’s a monster.

Anita Siraki doesn’t deal with a werewolf per se, but in the bleakest tale in the book, “La Bete”, her heroine experiences life as a wolf and discovers that revenge has a high price.  Those who deal with the undead, even those who hunt them down, take on their characteristics, something Christopher Heath demonstrates quite effectively in “Azieran:  The Crypt of Shaddis’zzam”.  His Azieran is always a fun place to visit.  Gorgon sisters battle in “Their Last Escape” by Alexis A. Hunter.  Revenge comes from beyond the grave in Chloe Stowe’s “The Widow and the Scythes”.  On the “Solstice”, Darin Kennedy’s heroine April Sullivan makes a return appearance to try to prevent another necromancer from raising Arlington National Cemetery.  J. M. Martin turns in the best were-animal story, and certainly the most emotionally complex one, in “Eaters of Meat and Hunters”.  Kat Hekenbach shows us that werewolves are just “Ordinary Folk”.  A half demon aids his former lover, now a nun, in protecting a young girl from “The Dream Easter”.

This isn’t the strongest anthology I’ve read from a small press this year, but then it’s been an exceptionally strong year for small press anthologies, as I’ve stated elsewhere. This is still a better anthology than most of those published by a certain New York imprint known for its anthologies.  I suspect many of these people will be well known in the field if they keep writing.  The stories are at a professional level, although some are stronger than others.  I guess that reaction on my part is to be expected with so many dealing with were-creatures.  That’s probably the one gripe I have about the stories as a whole.  I was expecting more variety; in fact, I’m somewhat surprised there weren’t more vampires, since they seem to be everywhere these days.  At least the vampire herein didn’t glitter but was properly loathsome (Thank you, Mr. Wolters).

If it seems I’m damning with faint praise, I don’t intend to.  I quite enjoyed the anthology.  It’s just that I enjoyed some stories more than others.  With the exception of J. M. Martin’s werewolf story (set in the same world as Tisarian’s Treasure, reviewed here), the stories I found the most interesting were the ones that stayed away from the tried and true and focused on monsters/creatures/beings that haven’t gotten as much exposure.  I also found that the stories in which the narrator had a distinguishable voice tended to stand out.  Overall, the contents were worth the investment.

What did annoy me, and I mean really annoy me, was the ebook version, at least the one for the Nook.  There was no table of contents, not even a listing, never mind anything interactive, and when I tried to use the Go To function, nothing came up on the Chapter option.  I had to put bookmarks in as I came to new stories.  As I’m not in the habit of having to to that, it was a little bit of a hassle.  I would have preferred to keep reading without having to stop and place a bookmark.  (I know it only took a couple of seconds; it was still a nuisance.)  Pill Hill Press has an extensive list of anthologies on their website, and not all of them are available in electronic formats, so my complaints may just be a function of where they are on the epublishing learning curve.

Regardless which version you prefer, print or electronic, check this one out.  There’s some good writing here, and I’d like to see some of these characters again.