Sunday, October 28, 2007

Five-Year-Old Author Draws Shrieks (of Delight)

Who has come to thrill a Dallas school's 2nd graders: A Vampire? A Scary Spider? A Mummy? Or maybe a different kind of little monster: Alberto Fernandez, a bilingual published author, who also happens to be in the 1st grade.

After reading "A Halloween Story" the children of KB Polk Vanguard Elementary were so inspired, they wanted to meet its young author. This week in a first-of-its-kind video conference, they will get the chance, not only to interview Fernandez, but also the artist Pilar de la Fuente, who created the quirky black and white illustrations for the story.

How did this 5-year-old capture the spirit of a holiday in a story, with structure, plot, and suspense, in 60 words or less? And in another language? A new children's book publisher, Maroma Books, asks more importantly, "how many 5-year-olds have you asked to try?"

That is the purpose of the video conferences and the "Your Turn" pages story-starters at the end of the book; to fire up other young creative writers and storytellers to try it themselves.

The reaction at Alberto's own school, the American School Foundation of Monterrey: "If Alberto can do this, and in his 2nd language, I know I can create something just as wonderful," said ASFM Kindergarten teacher Monica Reyes of students' reaction.

"A Halloween Story" is Maroma Books' first title. Alberto, who was born and lives in Monterrey, Mexico, wrote the story in his English class as part of a project last Halloween. Just learning how to write, and just learning English, his first version was with phonetic spelling and accompanied by his own drawings. His teachers, surprised by its remarkable structure, and how the story captures its audience, shared it with Alberto's parents.

Alberto's father, Alberto Fernandez, Sr., moved by his son's story, saw the book as the start of something big. He launched Maroma Books, a children's book publishing company which provides a venue for talented young Mexican authors and artists, while improving education (profits earmarked to improve education in Mexico's most impoverished areas) and also for enhancing multi-cultural & multi-lingual understanding (each of the books is available at the publisher's website in various languages, easy and free to print out for children to practice and compare with their copy; see the "BookPocklet" section of the website

Thus, Maroma Books was born, settling on a playful name with an international twist; "Maroma" is Spanish for "summersault."

In Dallas, a nonprofit reading program Earning by Learning that services over 60 Dallas ISD elementary schools bought 25 copies of "A Halloween Story" for libraries within the Dallas ISD district. Maroma Books donated 12 additional copies for the same purpose.

"Alberto truly exemplifies the transformation that happens when we allow children to feel and experience the power of words," said Earning by Learning's founding Director Thelma Morris-Lindsey.

Alberto had a more basic outcome in mind for the readers of "A Halloween Story": "That people ask, ‘WHO is it?' "I want people to get a scared face, with their mouths formed like an ‘O!'" said the little author — "and then their mouths change from an ‘O!' into a smile."

"A Halloween Story," a "frightfully delightful tale, by a 5-year-old, for other little monsters everywhere," is available at select bookstores, at (hardcover version recommended; a high-quality keeper), and from Maroma Books, ISBN: 978-0-9796465-1-5.

Mark Twain Finally Gets Published (Again)

Mark Twain, the father of America Literature, has been published (again), but this time his classic stories about Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are available from the newest type of publishing system.

Although Twain is a notable exception, many older books and classics do not generate the enthusiasm of a new release from an established author. Once the "buzz" has subsided, these books fall out of print and become unavailable at your local book store., a new online publishing solution from Peleman Industries, N.V., aims to solve this problem by giving on-demand access to any book loaded onto its system at any time, anywhere in the world.

"What sets WWAOW apart from other on-demand publishing systems is the fact that books are instantly available world-wide," said Luc Augustinus, Vice President Sales B2C. "Traditional publishing companies cannot publish all over the world because of the contracts they have with distribution companies. Existing on-demand printing solutions do not have the network of production facilities that WWAOW has."

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are now available from , along with a growing number of other Literary, Business, and Government publications from all over the world. is a self-publishing system that is open to anyone with a book to publish. WWAOW is popular with new authors who are interested in publishing their own books, as well as more established authors and publishing companies who are interested in keeping older books available to the public.


New Southern Literature Collection

From classic southern literature titles remindful of the movie "Song of the South" you may have heard of, such as Joel Chandler Harris' "Tales from Uncle Remus," to many titles that have been lost in history, such as William Gilmore Simms "The Golden Christmas," Dixieland Classics is saving a long-lost archive of early American literature.

"These are wonderful stories of life in a different time, written by truly amazing authors who painted mesmerizing pictures of plantation life in the south," said Dixieland Classics’ founder and president Patrick Fields.

While companies such as Disney shy away from releasing anything to do with pre-Civil War times, such as their legendary movie "Song of the South," Fields insists this collection of southern literature is nothing controversial and offers a chance for all Americans to see into a long-lost period through the eyes of great storytellers.

"The times were filled with love, joy and hope," Fields said. "In addition, themes such as a society under siege and a specter of war and secession are common in these tales. There is nothing offensive about them. Just like the movie "Song of the South," these tales show a glimpse into what many would consider overall happier, simpler times in early American history."

Dixieland Classics, aware of the obstacles that would be faced in retail outlets due to a lack of understanding of the stories and authors themselves, has a unique sales strategy for the company catalog which currently contains more than 30 titles.

Each title is rare, properly coded to prevent piracy, and retails for an average of $35 for a four-disk set. Affiliates will be rewarded cash commissions for each sale through their Web site, church, club and other organization where they may find interested listeners.

Product and affiliate program information is available online at According to the company’s founders, Dixieland Classics is the only producer of this unabridged and uncensored collection of southern literature--a selection that draws comparison to the movie "Song of the South."

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Don't Judge This Book By Its Cover

"It has to be one of the ugliest covers released all summer," admits Amanda Hamm, author of the recently published Dear Jane Letters. She goes on to explain that she was working on the cover with software that existed on her pc only as a free trial. "I was on the verge of chucking the design and starting over when the software expired. I went ahead and submitted it so I could go back to writing. Now I hate looking at it."

While the author's excuse is nearly as poor as the cover, those who get past it will find a true gem in Women's Fiction. Dear Jane Letters is a debut novel told with a fresh voice. Readers of all ages will enjoy the laugh out loud moments as well as some of the more subtle witticisms, clearly inspired by Jane Austen herself. The book is heavy on dialog so you feel you are watching things unfold rather than being told the story later, and it even comes complete with a Hollywood-style happy ending.

The author resides in Cary, NC and insists her next book will be something "completely different." One can only hope this means someone else will be designing the cover.

Website: Dear Jane Letters

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Shelfari Unveils Bookshelf for Bloggers

Shelfari, the Web's most popular social media site for readers, today introduced a major upgrade to the Shelfari widget that lets bloggers share their bookshelf with friends and site visitors, with an unparalleled level of style, customization, and ease. The free Shelfari widget is a JavaScript plug-in that makes it simple for bloggers to update their book lists and widget design without having to make any direct changes to their blog. To learn more about the Shelfari widget and how to add it to a blog, go to:

The Shelfari widget is designed to be as rich or as minimalist as desired, giving bloggers more options to integrate reading lists on their blog or website. The Shelfari widget is compatible with the major blog services Blogger and TypePad, and with most blogging software, including Movable Type, Wordpress, and Textpattern. In addition, bloggers who have affiliate IDs can make money by simply adding their affiliate ID into the widget.

Popular Novelist Finds Romance in Text to Speech

California native Carolyn Jewel is the successful author of such historical and paranormal romance titles as SHARDS OF CRIMSON, A DARKER CRIMSON, THE SPARE, LORD RUIN, and MAGELLAN'S WITCH (upcoming in 2008 from Grand Central Publishing). She is also a fan of Text to Speech, and chooses the TextAloud program near the end of the writing process as one of her most important proofing tools. Easy, affordable, and a breeze to use, TextAloud is a Text to Speech program from NextUp Technologies ( that converts text into spoken audio files for listening on a PC (or a wide variety of popular portable devices).

"At various times during the process of writing a novel, I use TextAloud to read my chapters to me," she comments. "This allows me to catch typos my eye has missed, or to find places where I need to tighten or clarify the language and dialogue." As she's listening, Carolyn keeps her chapter open in her word processing program at the same time, so that she can pause TextAloud's read-through in order to make instant edits. It's now become an essential part of her process for finishing each one of her books.

"Lots of writers recommend literally reading one's work aloud because it's a great way to catch clunky phrases and repetitive bits," says Carolyn. "I tried that once, but it's pretty hard on the voice, and it still doesn't solve the issue of your eyes and brain conspiring to 'fix' typos for you." She adds, "What I really wanted was for someone else to do all that reading! So, I tried out three or four text readers, and TextAloud proved to be the easiest to use, not to mention the most stable."

Text to Speech can be a surprisingly strong tool for writers like Jewel, and even more so for writers working with unusual words and character names. "Several of my titles included some characters with unusual names (my hero in A DARKER CRIMSON was a vampire named Tiberiu Korzha, for example) so I used the voice editor to tweak the pronunciation of his name as well as some others," comments Carolyn. "That way, the names fit with how I imagined they'd be spoken." She adds, "The most important thing is that TextAloud reads exactly what I wrote, mistakes and all, and that I can pause the reading to insert missing words or to fix typos. Hearing the work read aloud keeps me from supplying meaning that isn't really there."

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Tamora Pierce Audiobook Original Makes Publishing History

York Times best-selling author Tamora Pierce has teamed with Full Cast Audio to create a publishing first. Her new novel, "Melting Stones," will be released as an audiobook original one full year ahead of its print publication by Scholastic.

According to the Audio Publisher's Association, this is the first manuscript specifically tailored for audio with a guaranteed print release to follow. Full Cast Audio founder Bruce Coville adds: "To have an author of Tammy's stature, someone who has sold millions of books around the world, create a complete novel with the intent that it appear first as an audiobook, is unprecedented. It confirms the growing importance and mainstream acceptance of audiobooks."

"Melting Stones," by Pierce will debut on audio in October, produced by Full Cast Audio and distributed by Harcourt Trade Publishers.

The audiobook market continues to soar, reaching $871 million in sales in 2005, an increase of 4.7 percent from the previous year. Full Cast Audio, a small company in Syracuse, NY, is riding that wave and will produce four audio originals by Pierce, whose young-adult fantasy books featuring strong female characters have a loyal fan following.

Six of Pierce's books have landed on the New York Times Children's Chapter Books Best-Seller's list, with two, "Trickster's Queen" and "Lady Knight" reaching No. 1. Her books have also graced best-seller's lists in USA Today, Publisher's Weekly, and most notably, the Wall Street Journal's Fiction Best-Seller's list, which does not track children's books separately. Her books have garnered dozens of awards.

"People tend to be amazed that someone of Tammy's stature is willing to have her newest novel go to audio before the print version," Coville says. "They also tend to think it's really exciting."

"Melting Stones" is the eighth book Pierce has recorded with Full Cast Audio, a company unique in its format of using a full cast of actors for its unabridged recordings. Pierce, who wrote for radio theater in the 1980s, loves the full-cast format and pitched the idea for an audio original to Coville in 2003.

"I like creating a tapestry of voices," says Pierce, who also directed "Melting Stones." "It is a pleasure to hear those cascades of emotion, those cascades of sound, that orchestration of tension and feeling that a good audio company can give you. The voices, the sound drive what you see and shape it."

Those same voices also drove how Pierce wrote the novel. Pierce had been struggling to write "Melting Stones" in 2005, when she lugged her typewriter with her (she didn't use a laptop then) on a trip to Syracuse for a recording session for her novel "Street Magic." Then, she heard the voice of a young actress named Grace Kelly playing the role of Evvy in "Street Magic." Pierce fell in love with Kelly's voice, as well as the freshness and sassiness she brought to Evvy, slated to be the main character in "Melting Stones." Suddenly, everything about "Melting Stones" changed.

Pierce re-wrote "Melting Stones" from page one, re-casting the story from third person to first person, and tailoring Evvy expressly for Kelly's voice.

"It was like Grace was standing right by me talking into my ear and I just ripped right on through," she says. "She just crackles on the microphone. She owned Evvy."

Adds Coville: "Grace creates and embodies the character of Evvy. But again, it's a circular process, since Tammy actually wrote the text with Grace's voice in mind. She crafted it for Grace and Grace rose to the occasion."

Pierce constructed every sentence -- even down to single words -- with the voice actors in mind, editing and revising the book right through the final recording session. Any time an actor stumbled over a word, she changed it. The audio and print versions of the book will differ only in attributions such as "she said" and "he said" since those are omitted in the audio version. Coville, also a children' served as Pierce's editor.

"This is a terrific text, with great characters, a compelling situation and some of the most incredibly imaginative scenes Tammy has ever created," Coville says.

"Melting Stones" runs 8 hours, 30 minutes and retail editions will sell for $39.95 at bookstores, online retailers and wherever audiobooks are sold.

Rare Harry Potter Books to be Auctioned by Jay Leno for National Braille Press

The National Braille Press has stored a valuable set of original Harry Potter books signed by author J.K. Rowling in a vault at Sovereign Bank in Boston. Rowling has personally donated the series that includes her distinctive signature on each copy, the only such series available in the U.S. Rowling recently donated a signed set in the U.K. to benefit a local charity, which auctioned them off for almost $40,000. On October 26, Rowling is being honored by the National Braille Press and her priceless books will be auctioned off to benefit the non profit organization that produces the Harry Potter books in braille.

Interested buyers may also bid online prior to the event at , and then bidding will continue live at the fundraising gala "Hands On! Books for Blind Children - A Million Laughs for Literacy" hosted by the Tonight Show's Jay Leno. It will be held at the Intercontinental Hotel in Boston.

Event Co-chair Joe Campanelli, President and CEO of Sovereign Bank, offered to keep the books under lock and key in the bank vault until the event. National Braille Press President Bill Raeder handed off the books to Campanelli for safekeeping today.

In addition to the Harry Potter books, the event's live auction will also feature a visit to the Tonight Show, a trip to the 2008 Super Bowl, tickets and other VIP treatment from the Red Sox, Boston Celtics, and New England Revolution. Plus, Jay Leno personally secured the donation of a Cadillac CTS that will be presented to the lucky winner of a limited raffle.

More information on the event at

All New Harlequin Titles Available as eBooks

Harlequin Enterprises Limited, one of the world's leading publishers of women's fiction, have become the first major publisher to make their complete front-list catalog available in the eBook format. Harlequin releases more 120 titles per month, and their complete list can be found at

Harlequin entered the eBook marketplace in October 2005 and has experienced unqualified success since that time. Romance novels have proven to be one of the most popular categories of digital publishing, and Harlequin titles regularly top eBook bestseller lists.

Harlequin has further embraced the digital revolution by expanding its catalog to include original editorial by New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling authors offered exclusively in the eBook format -- Harlequin Mini and Spice Briefs eBooks -- as well as releasing digital eBook bundles not available in print.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

HarperCollins Publishers Expands Author Services With Author Assistant

HarperCollins Publishers has launched a new content-rich author Web site network at The sites are powered by AuthorAssistant,, a new proprietary online application that enables authors to create and post information, images and links quickly and easily. This new author network is a central destination where fans can find exclusive, comprehensive, and authoritative information on their favorite authors.

Forty authors from HarperCollins' Avon imprint are participating in the pilot program with the mission of "Helping Authors Create and Connect." This utilization of online technology to support authors on the Web marks the latest development in HarperCollins' industry-leading digital and direct-to-consumer marketing efforts.

Upon visiting the site, consumers will find personalized content created and uploaded by authors, including new:

* Comprehensive biographical information, including author timelines
* What authors are working on now
* An author selected list of press and articles
* Links to author blogs and favorite online destinations
* Photo albums, news, essays, and more

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Marketing Professionals around the World Collaborate on Lulu of a Book

100 voices, one conversation -- this is media today. From the explosion of the blogosphere to the introduction of social networking sites, the masses are chiming in on issues that matter to them and the professional world is taking note. Marketers used to speaking to their audience are now speaking with their audience. It only took one challenge issued by Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton to others in their field to demonstrate the power of this new media.

The Age of Conversation, available at Lulu (, is a collaboration of 103 authors from 10 different countries writing on how marketing has shifted from a monologue to a dialogue. This unusual compilation began with a single blog post ( which challenged other bloggers to contribute 400 words on the topic of "conversation" and resulted in a published work three months later.

"We were previously planning on only releasing it as an eBook," said editor Gavin Heaton. "Thanks to, we were able to create a printed product -- both paperback and hardback versions of our book -- really quickly and without incurring up front charges. The integrated store front and delivery system is great."

With contributions from around the world, The Age of Conversation gives a global perspective on the changing brand and marketing landscape that is being driven by social, community and new media. All creator revenue from this project goes to Variety- The Children's Charity. They have recently surpassed their fundraising goals and are in the process of setting a new one to continue their philanthropy.