Tetherbird by Emily McDaid FREE for Memorial Day


Fellow novelist and friend of the blog Emily McDaid has launched her new novel with a generous e-book giveaway to honor this important holiday.  LINK: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00D0GI7VA

From the description:

A Duke squares off with a damaged, dangerous war veteran in TETHERBIRD, a novel called “amazingly powerful and beautifully written.”

Former sniper Benjamin Cane’s life is ripped apart after his version of the Bin Laden assassination is disavowed by the Marines, written off as a conspiracy theory. Displaying symptoms that could be PTSD, the man who returns from war is an entity his wife Mackey struggles to comprehend. Following an accident with his twin boys that never should have happened, Benjamin leaves the service, his life in a tailspin.

A Duke in the stately Gloucestershire countryside offers Benjamin a job in security. Surrounded by characters as eccentric as they are paranoid, Benjamin tries to navigate an environment rife with guns and outdated class structures, feeling like flotsam as a new civilian without his family.

Grisly and emotional twists surprise in this poignant tale narrated by cynical war crimes journalist Stanley Tern, who enters Benjamin’s life to offer redemption and to pursue his own hidden agenda. Through layered, textured prose, TETHERBIRD asks whether our modern-day, gun-toting homelands may be more treacherous than any battlefield.

Clotho’s Loom Full Review on Veronica’s Garden

Rachel Creager Ireland, author of Post Rock Limestone Caryatids (soon to be reviewed in this space) has written an in-depth evaluation of the novel Clotho’s Loom.


ImageImageWhile you’re over there, check out Rachel’s own novel: “Part dystopian sci-fi, part women’s lit, with a touch of romance and a generous helping of nature writing, Post Rock Limestone Caryatids might be the book Marge Piercy and Willa Cather would co-author if they met on a natural parenting forum.”

FINALISTS for Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013! Cast Your Vote!



LINK: http://www.amazon.com/b?node=332264011

You can have a say in who takes home all the marbles!  Download an excerpt and vote (Note that this requires an Amazon.com Customer account to participate.)  Heartfelt congrats to Ken Moraff for It Happened in Wisconsin, Jo Chumas for The Hidden, Evelyn Pryce for A Man Above Reproach, J. Lincoln Fenn for Poe, and Rysa Walker for TimeBound.

My personal pat on the back to Ken, who defeated me (and 1998 others) in the General Fiction category!  Go Ken!



The “D”[iCaprio] Really Should Be Silent: Jackson’s Invisibility in Django


By Shawn StJean

When, in 1950, Ralph Ellison entitled his great novel Invisible Man, he wasn’t simply riffing off H.G. Wells. He had identified a specific racial issue that predates slavery in America: the double edged sword of existing as a black among whites. Black-ness both allows a sort of cloak of protection, and paints a target upon one’s back–oft-times, literally. The assumption behind the entire, stupid slurring of a race–epitomized by what we disingenuously call today the “N—–” word–is African racial inferiority, whether by genetic disadvantage, as Thomas Jefferson claimed in Notes on Virginia, or by culture and conditioning (as in barring from literacy, such an important trope in Frederick Douglass’ autobiography/slave narrative.) And one often ignores one’s “inferiors.”

Twenty years ago, before DVDs existed and before films were released on video just months following their theatrical premiers, I went back and forth to the cinema half-a-dozen times with my pen and notebook, to gather accurate notes on Pulp Fiction, publishing in 1996 one of the first peer-reviewed articles on Tarantino’s masterwork. In it, I specifically challenged the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences for nominating Samuel L. Jackson in the “Best Supporting Actor” category, while John Travolta was nominated for “Best Actor.” Any careful analysis of the film will reveal that both actors share about equal stage time. Furthermore, Jackson’s character is more central to Tarantino’s thematic concerns, and he gives the superior performance. His effective erasure was disgraceful, then.

Skip to today, and history repeats the same injustice with Django Unchained. This time, however, the white actors siphoning attention are Christoph Waltz (as Dr. King Schultz) and Scorsese-darling Leonardo DiCaprio (as Calvin Candie). At least Schultz deserves such credit (his association with Q.T. has now garnered him two best supporting actor Oscars), as sharing the good-guy spotlight with title character Django (Jamie Foxx) is no easy task (though only MTV has so far remarked on Foxx’s effort by awarding him a statue). But as DiCaprio once more screams and grins through his Gen-Y-two-note-melodramatic range, and Candie is purposely written by Tarantino as ineffectual and somewhat dim, Jackson makes the picture as its real villain, in a multi-layered performance as “house nigger” Stephen. With all the “Yassuh”s, clownishness, and Uncle-Tom parroting expected of him, behind the scenes, he’s really running the plantation/Mandingo farm with a gaze more demonic than that of any overseer.

But where’s the recognition? Foxx and Jackson are the narrative’s major antagonists, after all.

It’s not like the Academy doesn’t consider villains for that award. Hell, Heath Ledger won it posthumously for his portrayal of old Pasty-Face (coincidence?) in 2009’s The Dark Knight.

The irony is at least triple-layered, however, as Jackson is flying under the radar of not only the other characters, but awards-bodies* as well as audiences, just as Stephen made a 75-year career of serving three generations of Candie patriarchs, while evading fates like being torn apart by dogs. “You wouldn’t pay no never-mind to no $300,” is how Stephen has to break down Django and Schultz’s grift for the clueless Calvin. “But that twelve thousand. . .that may you real friendly now, didn’t it?”

The writer/director wants us to see all this, of course–how many white filmmakers are bothering to center 100-million-dollar productions around African American issues and actors nowadays, anyway?–and I can only imagine his dismay when we don’t. Even the movie poster gives Jackson 5th billing–and his character does not appear on it. Perhaps there just wasn’t room? Or maybe he’s just blending quietly into the background. . .

*Jackson has not gone totally without accolades, garnering Black Reel and Image awards for Best Supporting Actor.

Self-Publishing and the Tides: Guest Post by Shawn StJean



Fellow writer and blogger Emily McDaid (author of suspense novels The Boiler Plot and the forthcoming Tetherbird) is hosting a 4-part series on the future of publishing, and Your Truly has snagged the first slot!  While you’re there check out her own stuff.  It’s my honor to  echo her very recent release of the new book’s cover:


Looks smashing!

Finally, Clotho’s Loom (the blog) is one year old today!  Yeah!

Only a Few Days Left to Win a PAPERBACK Copy of Clotho’s Loom on Goodreads!

By Shawn StJean

Over 300 folks have already put this 540-page tome on their “To Read” Shelves!

The giveaway link is in the left hand column of the blog, toward the bottom, or here: http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/44808-clotho-s-loom-a-novel-of-literary-romance-and-realism, or search for “Clotho’s Loom” on Goodreads!


“Static”: Synthesizing Bad Reviews


By Shawn StJean

Another one star review on Amazon, bringing the reviews of Clotho’s Loom there in, as the novel approaches a year since publication, exactly split down the middle (ignoring the five-star reviews that were taken down). Seven positive, and seven negative. I doubt you’ll find a more even spread, anywhere. And enough of a sample to signal a love-hate trend that may always continue.

So based on this uncanny balance, I’m awarding myself an official Most Controversial Novel of 2012 title. No, there is not a lot of sex. There is, rather, a lightning rod that brings together diverging assumptions over what good writing is in our culture, and is not.

Rather than present both sides–lest this be seen as a promotional piece–I’d like to re-consider here only the negative comments. As always, I’d prefer anyone contemplating buying the book to read the sample first. Positive reviews can be as equally misleading as negative ones. Though bad reviews tend to be shorter, and not particularly informative–often due to the fact that the reviewer has neither bothered to finish the book, nor bothered to say so. However, there are a few recognizable trends, and a gap between what I expected and what I’ve gotten (SPOILER-FREE):

I expected folks to have a bit of sympathy for a veteran who learned to hate war, yet got sucked in to fighting another one and endured a brutal moral crisis over it. I had in mind the entire generation of Vietnam vets that history has tried to forget ever since they returned home, not in a wave or to a mass welcome, but individually and isolated, and to mistrust and apathy.

By contrast, several readers have found Will Wyrd cowardly–though they haven’t said that directly. “Spineless” and “without a backbone” seem to be the preferred expressions for a sniper who eventually discovers he can’t follow orders, and (unlike most Hollywood heroes,) is not vindicated by unqualified success.

I expected readers would enjoy reading about a strong woman (co)protagonist who is neither a vampire succubus, werewolf, or derivative, but rather, a career woman facing more lifelike challenges at home and work–though I have rendered them in as dramatic a fashion as realism allows.

Instead, she’s barely been mentioned in the bad reviews. Perhaps I should have expected this, given the gender biases of our culture, and shortened her skirts/augmented her breasts. But this overlooking her to focus nearly every remark on the male really is shocking to me, given that 90% of the book-buying public are women.

I expected people to have trouble accepting the ending, knowing that Americans prefer closure, and hearts-and-flowers affirmation.

What I didn’t expect was pretty clear evidence that half the readers aren’t making it to the ending at all, but many that do are resentful when they fail to understand it. Comments like “What was the point?,” “doom,” and “no resolution” leave little room for doubt there.

I expected quality of prose to matter; another mistaken assumption–perhaps my biggest.

But even for the “baddest” reviewers, one can sense the spectacularity of Clotho’s Loom’s failure for them: “Reads like complex history and literature,” “sensory overload,” and “it wanted to be mythology.” These are indeed some of the very qualities that other readers enjoy.

Oh, one final note: if your novel is long, that will only amplify people’s love or hate of it.

So based on my own, admittedly limited experience as a writer and educator for about 20 years, I’m concluding that we truly have reached the point at which some authors–me–will need to choose between what they expect from readers, and what the buying public expect of a novel. If you are, like me, one for whom those two sets of expectations stand on either side of a very wide chasm, you’ll need to either adjust your sights in toward conservative, commercial viability, or stick to your guns as currently zeroed.

Will my next book be different? Possibly. But as for my first novel, for better or worse, I wrote the book I always wanted to read. I wouldn’t change a word.