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Julie’s Quick Picks

A Winter Journey by Billy Young

It’s amazing how little a good writer needs to create an interesting story. With a cast of colorful characters, We are led on this snowy journey to a surprising end.

A recommended read for those that like to hide under the duvet.


Teddy The Bear by Billy Young

Good, easy to follow children’s story with bright colorful artwork. Yuck…don’t like the look of that monster! Sort of thing my children would have loved when they were young.

New Lulu Studio Cover Wizard Launches

I received an email today announcing Lulu’s new Studio Cover Wizard.  Not bad, and I’ve had loads of fun playing with it today.  It sure beats those drab cover templates they offered forever, and may still.

Truly Self-Publishing by Dan Marvin

So, you’ve got a book on Lulu and you’re ready to go. You’re just about to sign up for their distribution package, have them assign an ISBN number and get your book on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You’re almost an author, right? But wait… there’s a catch.

If Lulu publishes your book, they have the rights to your book. For most people this isn’t a big deal, but for a growing minority of us we still prefer to have our fate in our own hands. Yes, my book is fully available on Lulu as a download and as a book, but I’ve also gone the extra step of buying my own ISBN numbers and putting my book on Amazon myself.

In going through the exercise, I can tell you a few of the things to watch for and might be able to ease the process for you. I call this option “Truly Self- Publishing” because my book is published under my imprint, Marvcorp Publishing.

The advantages are, I control how my book is handled on Amazon and with other retailers. I can allow for returns, for instance which Lulu does not. This is more attractive to brick and mortar retailers who have to buy books to have them in stock. Lulu will let older titles go out of stock on Amazon and there isn’t much you can do about it. I also found a cheaper way of printing my books that got the unit cost down to $3 each instead of $7.

First, a word about ISBN numbers. Every book that is sold commercially needs one of these numbers, they tell the world who published the book and what its number is. Unfortunately, they’re kind of annoying to get. I did a lot of research and didn’t find a good way to buy just one, they usually come bundled as a 10-pack. By buying ten, I’m pretty much covered until I’m 90 at my current pace of book production, but I may decide to publish a few books for friends, you never know. You can’t sell them, once they’re yours you are the publisher for any book that uses that number. 10 ISBN numbers cost about $250 and are available in the US through Bowker (www.bowker.com)

To get set up on Bowker, you need to decide what you want to call your new publishing business and give them an idea of how many and what kind of books you are planning to publish. Then, you need to give them your money and wait about 10 days, it’s not instant (although they did send me mine in about 3 days by email.) Be careful to print out and record everything you get from Bowker, if you need them to send it again it costs more money. Also, have Bowker add your books to Bowkerlink, a free service that lets distributors search for your book. Bowker also provides other fairly costly services like giving you your ISBN in a barcode (other software does this cheaper including Lulu that does it for free) and a SAN number which some retailers require (but I haven’t had any ask me for yet.) One ISBN number is available for $99, but I went ahead and got 10 because it dropped the cost per number by 75% and I had multiple books already that I wanted to publish.

OK, so now you have your 10 ISBN numbers, have set your new book up on Bowker link and figure Amazon will soon be knocking, right? Unfortunately, no. Amazon does want to carry your book, but Bowker doesn’t do that for you, as the publisher you have to do that yourself. I’ll tell you how I did it, and then tell you how I re-did it and you can pick for yourself.

The first option on Amazon is setting up for an Amazon Advantage account. (http://advantage.amazon.com) and set yourself up as a publisher. You will have to fill out a lot of information about your address, contact information, and bank accounts so they can pay you. Then, you have to tell them about your book, the price (be prepared to be disappointed with either your slice or theirs, or both) add some marketing text, some reviews if you have them, and submit the whole thing. Check back often because soon you will have a purchase order from Amazon requesting your book. The Purchase Order will include a shipping label and a piece of paper to include with the book.

With purchase order in hand, you have to mail your book to Amazon’s Kentucky distribution center. I live here and I couldn’t just drop it off, you have to mail it. The day I sent mine in, it cost $2.20 by media mail which is a pretty big hit on your profit margin. In a few days, your book listing will go from “out of stock” to “in stock” and there, NOW you are on Amazon. One thing I didn’t realize I needed to do was to add the cover picture so it would appear on the page. Hunt around for awhile, there’s a link for adding the cover picture through your advantage account, it’s just hard to find.

Barnes and Noble had a 10 page application which I downloaded but have not yet submitted because I decided to go in a different (and I think, easier) direction. In addition to publishing on Lulu, I now have my books set up on LightningSource. This is basically like taking out the middle-man, the same book costs $3 instead of $7. There are others out there, but the nice thing about LightningSource (www.lightningsource.com) is that they also can act as the distributor through Ingram (for an additional $12 per year), one of the biggest book distributors. This is a huge advantage when you are trying to get in your local bookstore or any chain. They also will automatically set your book up on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and 8 other places.

As of this writing, I’m still waiting for my book to show up there, but the wheels are turning. The down side to LightningSource is more cost, to get a book set up there cost me $105. Still, if I factor this into the per book cost of the first 50 books I ordered, it still was cheaper than ordering 50 books from Lulu. Also, LightningSource is a little fussier about file formats than Lulu and any changes you make there cost $40 so you have to make sure everything is perfect. Lulu was handy for this, I could make the 17 revisions to get it how I wanted it without paying $40 17 times. Once I got the cover and the inside how I wanted it, uploading it to LightningSource was easy.

So, my advice is this. Definitely still use Lulu for their online bookstore and ebook feature and to refine your book. If you want to get onto the online book sale sites and make more than a few pennies per book, set up your own publishing company. Buy 10 ISBN numbers from Bowker for $250. Use one of them for your new book and publish and distribute it through LightningSource for around $150. Good luck!

Dan Marvin is a writer and reviewer living in Kentucky.  He is the author of two books, Briefs for the Reading Room and Thomas Granger, both available on Lulu.  He also writes for Bluegrass Dog Magazine and for the LLBR.

Review 74: Elysian Fields

Elysian Fields
Andy Bryenton
Copyright ©2008
$24.00 paperback
456 pages
ISBN 978-1-4092-4145-4

Do you know the picture of the little fish about to get eaten by the bigger fish, himself about to become dinner for a larger fish, and so on? Turn the fish into a variety of mutants and aliens held together by nanobots, and you have a pretty good starting point for reading Elysian Fields. Typically I try to give you a plot summary, a few quotes, and an idea of what you’re getting yourself into by reading the book I am reviewing. In this case I’m going to have to send you in without the wisdom of my council because there’s just way too much for me to try to make it make sense to you.

Consider this some appetizers then. The book is set in the post-apocalyptic future. You’re somewhere on earth at the bottom of a dried ocean blasted away by the nuclear bombs. Remnants of our earth make the occasional appearance, but any semblance to the actual earth of today is purely coincidental. The last city on earth is Elysium, and it’s a bit like Las Vegas without the subtlety. There is a huge cast of characters that tend to fight a lot for a variety of reasons.

It’s hard to really identify a hero here, there aren’t a lot of sympathetic characters. Some of my favorites include the army of dead ‘peace officers’ who have been kept on the force by having gadgets and gizmos attached to their bodies making them walk and talk and, of course, shoot. There are bluebloods who fight a never-ending death match with regenerated bodies in an effort to become Emperor. And of course, Pope Joan III who runs the Vatican level where the best nightclubs can be found.

Running through the narrative is a subtle humor, a bit like “Hitchhiker’s Guide” on testosterone. The background is invariably gloomy and dank as in this description:

He reached his homeblock as the rain began to fall, a half-hearted acid drizzle painting everything pastel and grey. His hands seemed too huge and clumsy to work the security keypad, but some antediluvian part of his brain got the job done on automatic. The door clicked open, hissing something cheerful from a busted grille, and he was home sweet somewhere.

We also get the requisite asides, small quotations from now defunct publications that explain some of the background we need to know or, as in this case, explaining something we know all too well to future generations:

Shopping Mall: A temple to the Pre-Apocalyptic God of Economics, the Shopping Mall was a form of ritualized, sanitized bazaar or marketplace, replicated across the world from glorious multi-storey edifices to so-called ‘Dirt Malls’ and ‘Mini Malls’ of lesser provenance and stature. Artificial plants, synthesized ‘muzak’ and false bonhomie were the trappings of these mighty temples of yore, where thousands of
pilgrims came to make cash offerings daily. - Professor Hiram Quigley Fosse ‘Malls of the Ancients – The Old God’

You can either read Elysian Fields or drop some acid, turn up Disturbed to 10 and watch The Matrix trilogy on fast forward. The net effect is about the same. This book is non-stop sci-fi action from the minute you get past the unnecessary prologue. Someone is constantly getting blown up, shot, incinerated, or otherwise gorily dispatched. I ended up enjoying the book because it doesn’t pretend to be anything but what it is, a sci-fi comic book that just happens to be 450+ pages long. You get your USRDA of made-up techno words, a full helping of creepy aliens, and a suitably terrifying extrapolation of where humanity will end up if we stay on our current course.

It’s not for the faint of heart, but Elysian Fields does what good Sci-Fi should, keeps you baffled but entertained from the minute you start reading until it spits you out many hours later, slightly dazed and overwhelmed. My only gripe was the ending, which seemed to be more Andy Bryenton needing to get to bed because he’d stayed up all month writing than a satisfying wrap-up to the roller coaster ride. I leave it up to you to decide if the ending is acceptable because you have to read this book, even if just to say you survived.

Review 73: Scary Mary by S.A. Hunter

Scary Mary
by S. A. Hunter
Copyright © 2008
$ 10.96 Paperback
Available as an online novel (free)
144 pages
ISBN: 9781847289247

Reviewed by LK Gardner-Griffie, Author of Misfit McCabe

I fell in love with Mary Hellick on page one and nothing through the course of the book caused me to change my mind. Mary is a prickly teenager who is an outcast at her school. Shunned by most of the students who taunt her and generally make life hell for her, Mary tries to keep to herself and not draw any attention to herself, but sometimes strikes back. This means that Mary has regular sessions with the guidance counselor, Mr. Landa. Mary is your typical awkward, rebellious teenager, with one exception. Mary is also clairaudient, which means that she can hear the dead, and that tends to complicate her life.

We meet Mary on the first day of Mary’s junior year in high school on her way to Mr. Landa’s office.

Mr. Landa greeted her with an already weary smile. “Welcome back, Mary.”
Mary put her fist on her hip. “Who gets called to the guidance office on the first day of freaking school?”

I love a character with attitude and Mary has it in spades. Orphaned, Mary lives with her maternal grandmother who is a fortune teller/psychic. Mary fiercely loves her grandmother and looks to her as the only person in her life who understands Mary’s abilities. Her grandmother is teaching her to live with the abilities that she would rather not have, as well as teaching her the responsibility that comes along with such a gift. Mary deals with prejudice against her on a daily basis because she is different.

S. A. Hunter brilliantly takes us into Mary’s mind. We see things from her unique perspective throughout the book. I found myself chuckling over some of Mary’s thoughts. Hunter has truly captured the teenage mind and how it reacts when not believed by adults.

She clenched her fists to keep herself in check. It wouldn’t do to get emotional. He would only make a note in her file. “It did happen. Just like everything else I’ve ever told you.”–Except for the cavorting with demons, the abduction by little green men, and the Elvis sighting. Mary told Mr. Landa outrageous things because he insisted she tell him something. She’d tried to tell him the truth at first, but like now, he always refused to believe her. She wished she hadn’t tried to tell him something truthful now.

On the first day of school, Mary meets new student, Cyrus Asher, who is someone that Mary dismisses as being a “Shiny” person. Someone who will be in the in-crowd, who will hang out with only the best people in school. To her surprise, Cyrus seems to seek her out and want to hang out with her, even though the queen of the campus, Vicky wants to get her hooks into him. Mary tries rebuffing him at first, figuring that once he hears the stories about her, that he will soon leave her alone. But, the stories don’t seem to bother him and he genuinely enjoys her company. She finds that she enjoys his company as well, because he has a quick wit and can poke fun at all of the people who try to belittle Mary.

Add into the story, Rachel, a best friend who thinks Mary’s quirks are cool and thrives on being an outcast. Everything is going along better than Mary expected for the school year until Cyrus asks her to come over to his house. She suffered the usual angst of not knowing whether this was an actual date or not, and when she arrives, she finds out that his parents aren’t home. But, things still were going along pretty well until Ricky, the ghost haunting Cyrus’s house shows up and starts talking to Mary. It is an understatement to say that Ricky is not a benevolent ghost. Things go from ok, to bad to worse, and continue to spiral out of control until Mary determines that she will need to rid Cyrus’s house of Ricky, and this might be a little difficult since Cyrus was mad at her and no longer her friend. Mary had scared him, and thought that she had done it on purpose.

In Scary Mary, S. A. Hunter’s characters jump off the page and into life. You are pulled into the story from page one, much like Ricky trying to pull Mary through the basement window (you’ll just have to read the book to find out why). With each turn of the page, the situation escalates through the exciting conclusion. I am very glad to see that S. A. Hunter is working on another book with Mary Hellick, called Stalking Shadows, and can’t wait until she has completed it. After reading Scary Mary, I can add S. A. Hunter to my list of favorite young adult authors.

Celebrating Teen Lit Day

YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Assocation) which is the fastest growing division of the ALA (American Library Association) decided in 2007 to create a Support Teen Literature Day in conjunction with ALA’s National Library Week, which occurs during the month of April. This concept has really covered some ground in the past two years, and we are quickly approaching the 3rd annual Support Teen Literature Day on April 16th. Support Teen Literature Day occurs each year on the Thursday of National Library Week. One of the determining factors in the development of Support Teen Literature Day was a realization on the part of the ALA that 25% of library users are teens. The purpose of this celebration is to raise awareness among the general public that young adult literature is a vibrant, growing genre with much to offer today’s teens. Support Teen Literature Day is also the official launch of the ALA’s Teen Read Week initiative which occurs in the month of October.

YALSA believes strongly that teens deserve the best, yet many libraries have inadequate numbers of trained staff and resources to address the needs of teens. According to information from the U.S. Census Bureau, there will be more than 42 million teens by the year 2008 (Projections of the Total Resident Population by 5-Year Age Groups and Sex with Special Age Categories: Middle Series: 2001-2005. Population Projection Program, Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau, 2000). Furthermore, studies indicate that teens are reading less often and fewer of them are obtaining critical literacy skills. More than 60 studies have been done since the 1970s that link increased student achievement with access to well-stocked and professionally staffed school library programs.

To address these issues, YALSA’s mission is to advocate, promote and strengthen library service to teens, ages 12 through 18, as part of the continuum of total library services, and to support those who provide library service to this population.

One group which has taken the Teen Lit Day to heart is readergirlz who have developed Operation Teen Book Drop in conjunction with YALSA, and in 2008 coordinated efforts of twenty publishers who donated 10,000 books which YALSA distributed to 12 children’s hospitals nationwide and in Canada so recuperating teens had something great to read during their hospital stay. Readergirlz is making this an annual event, so check out the Operation TBD video or visit their site for more details.

If you’re looking for suggestions on how to celebrate Support Teen Literature Day, then visit the ALA wiki which at current count has 37 suggestions. Here at the Lulu Book Review, we are celebrating by helping to highlight young adult/teen fiction books. Double Life, which was our most recently reviewed book, is actually written by a teen, Dawson Vosburg. Please check back and read the next review on, Scary Mary, by S. A. Hunter, definitely a book worth your while. Other teen books which have been highlighted on the Lulu Book Review are:

  1. The Time Cavern by Todd Fonseca (Review 12)
  2. Chappaqua by Robert D. Toonkel (Review 30)
  3. Misfit McCabe by LK Gardner-Griffie (Review 32)
  4. Mortal Ghost by L. Lee Lowe (Review 38)
  5. Knowing Jack by Julie Elizabeth Powell (Review 64)

One additional book, which has not yet been reviewed by the Lulu Book Review, but does warrant a special shout out, is Space Dog and the Solar Stone Code by Saul Marquez. Saul is also a teen author and has recently had some success with his Space Dog book, which is the first of a trilogy, in visiting local schools and speaking to children about writing.

The only question that remains is how are you going to Support Teen Literature?

Article written by LK Gardner-Griffie, Author of YA novel, Misfit McCabe

How Not To Reply To A Rejection Letter

We here at LLBR unfortunately have to send out rejection letters each month for books our review team pass on.  It’s not an easy thing to do.  If all four of us had the time and were being paid for our efforts, I’m sure there would be less rejections sent.  While we do pass on reviewing books from time to time due to bad formatting or too many spelling and grammatical errors, the majority of our rejections come down to a book just not being something any of us is interested in reading.  Face it, you don’t pick up and read every book in the bookstore you see, do you?

Authors should know that 99% of the business is rejection.  Just ask any literary agent how many emails are in their in-box, and how many blanket rejection letters they send each day with no explanation besides “not interested.”  As an author, it’s best just to take the rejection for what it’s worth and move on.  And certainly don’t give up! Authors should also remember that reviews are opinions and readers are certainly entitled to them.  It has always been our policy here at LLBR that if we were to rate a book anything less than 3 out of 5 stars, we would not post a review of it because bad reviews do NOT help self-published authors.

From time to time, many Lulu authors who we reject feel the need to reply to us.  The replies are often understanding or may ask for tips on how to improve their work.  If we have time, one of us will reply to their requests.  Lots of times we get a reply telling us that it’s “our loss” and it just might be.  What follows is a detailed reply to one of our rejections which I feel is a perfect example of how NOT to reply to a rejection if you want to be taken seriously as a writer (names and titles have been removed, of course, but misspellings and grammatical errors have been left intact). One can only wonder what would have happened had this author sent this letter to a traditional publishing house or literary agent seeking representation…

Please forgive me, but what am I supposed to make of that kind of ridiculous reaction? How can you even pass on such a childish, uninformed and irresponsible comment from one of your Reviewers?

You must understand how hard it is for an author to comprehend the logic behind what on the surface comes across as a childish reaction. No insult intended, but from that reasoning, what can I possible respect about your service and the infantile attitude of that would-be reviewer?

Questions arise from the inane comments you shared with me: Is this person an adult? Are they serious about providing intelligent and reflective objective reviews? Do they ONLY ready happy, silly little stories? It is obvious from what you wrote to me that this is not a responsible attitude nor is the Lulu Book Review in any way a “serious” operation.

What a remarkable disappointment, not that I really care that your reviewer didn’t review it, but because of the ridiculous reasoning she provided. I can honestly say that I am actually relieved that such a frivolous person did NOT try to comprehend my book. It is obvious she read only a tiny portion of the story and completely missed the entire point of the book, which other more serious reviewers have described as a “very hopeful story of faith, perseverance and love.” Your reviewer obviously missed the big picture, and I’m insulted by such an irresponsible attitude. It is insulting to me.

Would this same reviewer have refused to review War and Peace or Schindler’s List, because they were “a bit sad and depressing”? Obviously, you are not a respectable organization, or else you wouldn’t have people like that working on reviews. It should also tell you something that the reviews I have been receiving are all far more perceptive and intelligent than you may realize. You can be sure that I’ll save this little quote: “our reviewer found ________ to be a bit sad and depressing” and will share the laughable attitude with many friends, colleagues and fellow authors, so that they get a clear understanding of how unprofessional Lulu Book Review actually is. What a shame and an embarassment, that you would even pass along such a ridiculous comment. But, I can only surmise that you did so because you share that type of arrogance.

Good luck in the future. I will not allow your organization to come anywhere near my next book, due out later this year.

Marketing Tip Madness!

Here’s the list I think everyone has been waiting for!  And special thanks to all of those authors out there who contributed.

We asked for your best (and most bizarre) tips, and we got them.  It’s a nice mix of internet based and in-person tips.  From the most obvious like joining MySpace to a website to personalize Mardi Gras beads…there’s definitely something here for everyone.

So without further delay, and in no particular order, here’s 50 marketing tips for authors - some free, some cheap, and some even not so cheap.

Market away…

  1. Make tee shirts with your book cover, website, or just your ISBN on them.  Cafepress is an inexpensive and user friendly site to customize tees and more.  Wear the shirt everywhere you go.  Make all your friends wear the ISBN shirt and  go browse your local bookstore.  All the booksellers will definitely be taking down your number.
  2. Bookmarks and Postcards.  We’ve covered this necessity in previous posts.  The bookmark is the writer’s business card.
  3. Send press releases or a copy of your book to local newspapers.
  4. Donate a copy of your book to your local library.
  5. If you wrote a children’s book, volunteer to read aloud at a storytime at your local bookstore or library.
  6. Send a press release to a regional or literary magazine.
  7. Contact or email local radio stations who do author interviews.  Don’t forget internet radio stations!
  8. Customize plastic cups with your book cover or website on them.  Pass out the cups at a parade.
  9. Custom Mardi Gras Beads.  Donate the beads (or plastic cups in #8) to one of the parade floats to toss to the crowd.  “Throw me something, mister!”  Perfect calling card if you went to the Saints & Sinners Lit Fest!
  10. Wrote a cookbook? Ask a local grocery or restaurant to feature it.  Book signing opp!  Pass out edible samples!
  11. Email campaign - create an address book of friends and families, another for bookstores, another for magazines, newspapers, and radio stations.
  12. Snail Mail Campaign - mail postcards to bookstores - indie stores and chains!
  13. More snail mail campains - put together a marketing kit (copy of your book, author bio, tear sheet, bookmarks, freebies, etc.) and ship to bookstores or other businesses of interest.
  14. Wrote a book about animals?  Ask a local vet or pet store to feature it.  Book signing opp!
  15. Wrote a regional interest book?  Ask a local hotel, bed & breakfast, or community center to feature it.  Book signing opp!
  16. Were you inspired by a musician or particular artist?  Send them a signed copy of your book with a note letting them know.
  17. Wrote a travel book?  Ask a local travel agent to feature it.  Book signing opp!
  18. Leave a copy of your book in a obscure place - cafe, train station, back of a cab…you never know who will pick it up.
  19. Traveling Book Campain!  Check out Where in the World is Misfit McCabe for a perfect example!
  20. Before publication, offer a free sneak peak online or a free Ebook version to readers.
  21. Free MP3 of your book!  Check out Seth Harwood’s site for a perfect example!
  22. Visit a bookfair or conference.  Pass out bookmarks or copies of your book.
  23. Get reviewed! Search out and submit to book review blogs or email Amazon.com Top Reviewers.
  24. Don’t forget print advertising if you can afford it!  Posters, 8 x 10s, author bios…
  25. Free stuff at book signings!  Don’t just let readers walk away with a book.  Invest in key chains, sticky note pads, ball caps, or ink pens with your name, book, and ISBN imprinted on them. Search the web for suppliers or try Vista Print.
  26. Speaking of  book signings, they aren’t just for book stores.  Contact community centers, libraries, book clubs, coffee shops or churches or any place where people gather and might take interest in your book.
  27. Search the web and join groups!  Yahoo Groups is a great place to start to find book lovers of all genres.
  28. Make a book trailer and post it on YouTube.
  29. Start a blog!
  30. Hold a contest on your blog to get readers involved.  Give away a copy of your book!
  31. Join Facebook.  Create a page just for your book.
  32. Join MySpace. Create a page just for your book.
  33. If your book is available on Amazon.com, get an Amazon Connect author blog.  Blog posts will appear right on your book’s page.
  34. Submit your book to Tag My Book on Amazon.
  35. Claim your author page at FiledBy.
  36. Don’t forget E-customers.  Load your book to Ebook sites like Smashwords.
  37. Promote yourself in Customer Communities on Amazon or start a discussion about your book.
  38. Hold a viral video contest!
  39. Tweet about it!  Learn how to use Twitter to your advantage.
  40. Wrote a book of poetry?  Attend poetry readings and open mic nights in coffee shops. Read right from your book.
  41. Virtual Book Tour!
  42. Donate free copies of your books to waiting rooms - doctor’s offices, hospitals, dentists, law offices, or other places of interest.
  43. Contact local schools or universities about readings, lectures, or book signings.  Don’t forget their student run newspapers or mags.
  44. Invest in a good book about book promotion!  We suggest The Frugal Book Promoter!
  45. Invest in Google Adwords so your book will come up first in keyword searches.
  46. Join the Author Program at GoodReads.
  47. Make your book available on the Amazon Kindle.
  48. Devote a blog to one of your book’s characters.  Blog in character!
  49. Sell signed copies on your website or blog.  Set up a merchant Internet account through your bank or accept payment through Paypal.
  50. Promote your book on Flickr. Upload pics from book signings and author appearances.  Take random and creative pictures of people reading your book.

The list doesn’t have to stop here!  If you have more tips of your own you’d like to share, add them to the comments section of this post!

Review 72: Double Life by Dawson Vosburg

Double Life
Dawson Vosburg
Copyright: © 2008
$9.95 Paperback
188 Pages
ISBN: 9781435724280

I first came across Dawson Vosburg in the Lulu Forums and, like many, I found it hard to believe that Dawson is only 14 years old because he is so well spoken.    At 14, I was filling up pages of my journal with short stories and poems and dreaming that I might one day be a published author.  Thanks to computers and the self publishing technology of today, Dawson has far surpassed my dreams from way back when.  Lulu helped me to eventually achieve my own dreams, but had I known Dawson back then, I have to admit I would have been totally jealous.

His book, Double Life, tells the story of Josiah Jones who has quite the vivid imagination.  Josiah makes a trip to the mall to buy new clothes and finds a pair of sunglasses on the floor which he picks up and puts on.  Suddenly, Josiah enters the world of his imagination and the conflict that ensues between his real world and the one in his mind behind those shades is quite the ride.  Now, there are lots of books out there about kids and their wild imaginations, but don’t go thinking Dawson’s book is just that predictable.  The premise alone is a fresh new concept which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Dawson wastes no time putting both the reader and Josiah head on into the action (He finds and puts on the sunglasses at the bottom of page 2).  I knew right from the start I was going to like this book because the author moved the story along at a nice fast pace, but I didn’t once feel cheated of any details or descriptions.  The author’s prose are clean and tight, grabbing your attention and not letting go.  Dawson definitely knows his target audience and keeps the story fresh and “unboring” at all times.  Take this tiny bit of intro from Page 1 for instance:

You may have guessed that Josiah is me. This is my story—my life, my journey, and my destiny. Some would call it fate, some would call it coincidence, and some would say it’s an impossible dream that never happened.

Sometimes, I tend to be lenient towards the last one. After all, this did start with my imagination.

And a clothing store.

Josiah enters a world governed by a secret agency known as the BLUE, which is always at conflict with the enemies known as the RED who want to take over the world.  Josiah uses the help of both his real friends and some imaginary ones to join in the war between the opposing forces.  What ensues is a James Bond/Agent Cody Banks-like adventure complete with fast paced action and some high tech gadgitry.

As I said before, Dawson definitely knows his audience.  He doesn’t get caught up in the complexities of government warfare, covert spy operations, or military combat like we’d expect from an author like Tom Clancy.  After all, this book is only 188 pages long which is actually my only complaint.  I felt some scenes could have been played out a bit more and I would have like to have had about thirty more pages to the manuscript.

However, each page captures and holds the interest of his intended audience and doesn’t get caught up in all the mechanical detail.  Keeping the book under 200 pages is probably very appealing to younger readers. Like a child’s imagination, his story transports you to another world where anything and everything could, and should be “out of this world.”  The fun that young Dawson probably had writing this is evident because I had just as much fun reading it.

Hello, Mr. Vosburg, I have Disney on line one for you.