Queen of the Court $.99

book_cover_V4Get Queen of the Court for just $.99 for Kindle September 14-18.

If you enjoy social satire, you’ll love this tale of an ex-stripper, Shana Lee Jones, who bails out a bankrupt country club and, to the horror of members, makes it the stage for her own reality show. You won’t find another novel featuring outlaw bikers, Wiccans, socialites, country club tennis, Ponzi schemes, politics, the paranormal and even, possibly, murder. It’s the perfect way to stretch summer beach reading into fall. Give yourself a reason to laugh this September.


The Great Amazon Debate

My co-author, Andrea, and I had decided to sit out the great Amazon vs. Hachette debate. Then, last month, a local bookstore declined to carry Queen of the Court because it was (in their view) published “by the Amazon Empire”, which (in their view) is cheating authors and squeezing out independent booksellers.

For those of you who are Amish or members of an Amazon (no relation) tribe with no access to technology, Amazon and publisher Hachette have been warring over ebook prices. Amazon says lowering them would drive up demand, and also wants a bigger cut of ebook sales. Hachette claims this is unfair to authors. Amazon has delayed shipping and pre-orders of some Hachette authors to pressure the publisher into agreeing. Both parties are actively asking writers – and readers – to take sides and vote with their book-buying dollars. Hachette is a huge multinational company, although not the behemoth that is Amazon. Hachette is presenting itself as the defender of writers, Amazon as the champion of readers. I think we all know that Hachette and Amazon are really fighting over profit share, which is totally appropriate for corporate entities. However, positioning it as anything else is ridiculous.

So our local bookstore enthusiastically entered the fray on the anti-Amazon side by banning Queen of the Court and any other indie book published by Amazon  its shelves. We were rejected despite the fact that we own our own ISBNs and imprint, so therefore are not technically published by Amazon or its Createspace subsidiary. (The only service we purchased from Createspace was an interior design template for around $250.) Amazon does receive a portion of our profits.

I have absolutely no problem with an independent retailer taking this stand, but last time I checked, this store was selling books by Hillary Clinton and other big name authors who market through Amazon pages, ship through Amazon and fuel the Amazon Empire’s profits. Call me crazy, but I’m willing to bet Amazon makes more from Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch than  from our book, otherwise the online retailer would not have named it book of the year. So, in other words, this bookstore is supporting the Amazon boycott by freezing out only those authors who are not likely to make them much money. Way to stand up for the little guy, folks!

I empathize with any author who believes his or her literary work is being devalued and whose livelihood is threatened. I know authors signed with major publishing houses don’t like Amazon’s stranglehold on book sales, but neither do independent authors like the stranglehold  publishing houses have on which works make it to the marketplace and which don’t. The same is true of bookstores. I love and support independent booksellers, and my co-author’s mother owned a bookstore for many years. But most independent bookstores show little encouragement for independent authors. Yet despite all this, we’re being asked to abandon Amazon and market through less viable channels to support Hachette’s case. Throughout history, folks with nothing have been asked to throw themselves on their swords for one glorious cause or another. Usually this involves saving the kingdom for a guy who has a whole lot more at stake than they do, and who isn’t going to invite them to the palace for drinks once the war is over. I don’t think it’s any different this time.

So I’m going to say thanks but no thanks to the boycott. I respect the position of all my friends with conventionally published works who have decided to take a stand against Amazon. I hope they’ll respect and understand my position as well. Right now, Amazon has provided and continues to provide support and market access for my book. So far, publishers and retailers on the other side are doing the opposite. And to my local retailer I would also add: if you expect me to give up Amazon, why don’t you lead the charge? Refuse to sell the work of any author with an Amazon page, and maybe I’ll take your boycott seriously.


how I gave up the idea of the great American novel and finally wrote a book

how I gave up the idea of the great American novel and finally wrote a book



I always knew I would write a book. I just didn’t know it would take me so long to get around to it. Some of that is of course my own doing. (Move to Paris to write a novel, drink lots of red wine, smoke Dunhills, fill notebooks with meaningful and important notes, lose them while drunk on the Metro. Move to New York to write a novel, go to lots of cool clubs, work in PR, never even buy a notebook. Move to Washington to get married. Have kids. Buy notebooks for kids. Read novels in between carpooling to kids’ sporting events.) However, I place some of the blame for my late blooming on the Great American Novel, or at the very least, the Important American Novel. (The Literary British Novel as well. Perhaps more so – I mean they didn’t even let Americans compete for the Mann Booker Prize until this year. That’s another whole level of novelistic hubris.) These are the books that get golden seals, statuettes, silver pens and, if not immortality, at least more than thirty days on the front shelves at Barnes & Noble before being moved into the Bargain section. These are the books that Michiko Kakutani reviews, passing judgment in lyrical prose. (For those who are not review obsessed, New York Times book reviewer who is the literary equivalent of the U.S. Supreme Court. Her word is law.) When you’re armed with a degree in English or Comparative literature, as my co-author Andrea Leidolf and I are, you feel that if you’re going to write something, it had better be something Important. Something that changes or advances the course of literature. Yeah, well, try sitting down at a typewriter/computer/laptop with that monkey on your back. You end up fleeing to Facebook or typing meaningless crap that makes Jack Nicholson’s novel in The Shining look comprehensible. That’s because not everyone was meant to write Infinite Jest or The Corrections, in part because most readers cannot live on elite literature alone. It’s like subsisting on a diet of raw sea urchin. It’s great and all that, but every now and then you want a hamburger. That’s where writers like us come in. Let’s get one thing straight: we are not defending bad writing. We just believe fervently that good writing can be found in a plain old good book as well as a literary marvel (and a whole lot of bad writing can be found in wannabe literary marvels). Lately, there’s been a bit of a war, with lots of Twitter sniping, between Important Novelists, like Franzen, and “regular” authors, like Jennifer Weiner (Good In Bed and other witty, wonderful books for women). Unnecessary, much like the “book or Kindle” debate. Why can’t you have it all? Cuddle up with iQ84 one night and Bridget Jones’ Diary the next. Who is stopping you? Hell, throw in a classic Woman in White as well, and some great true crime. Reread your favorite Nancy Drews. There is no shame in wanting to read a good book driven by great characters and a definable beginning, middle and end. And as for Michiko Kakutani – if she ever feels like sitting down to the literary equivalent of a really great hamburger and fries, we have the book for her.

Melanie Howard is co-author, with Andrea Leidolf, of Queen of the Court (link follows). Her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, SELF, Glamour and other major magazines.