ORIGINAL BOOK REVIEW: “The Winds of Malibu: An Unexplainable Memoir” by Jeff Lucas

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OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

All he wanted was another 1920s Hollywood Utopia!

The Winds of Malibu is the true story of a boy whose father (a computer engineer with a grudge against Hollywood) has held on to a house in the movie colony of Malibu, California, after a bitter divorce. At the age of eleven, Lucas is fiercely bitten by the Acting Bug and does anything to act. What ensues is a war between him and his controlling father as to his Hollywood aspirations, amid crippling anxiety attacks. The story of an outrageous upbringing, where friends are preferable to parents and Lucas relies on his diary to guide him. Lucas’s peers at school will become Hollywood’s top actors in the coming decade. The ultra-quirky, stormy, funny account of an extraordinary boy’s struggle to hang onto his dream.

REVIEW:

It is perhaps unavoidably funny that I must now, as a reviewer, attempt to explain The Winds of Malibu: An Unexplainable Memoir to you, but this is precisely the kind of humor that author Jeff Lucas would find amusing himself. After all, what is a memoir but a sustained attempt to translate personal experience into a form that is understandable by others? In the book’s subtitle lives its first hints of dark and sideways humor, the kind of humor that may take you into the trash heaps of Malibu and shadowy memories of childhood fears but which also sees the virtue in getting bit in the buttocks by a neighbor’s dog.

I must admit I didn’t grow up in Malibu during the 1970s, but Lucas does a great job in summoning the place for me, especially its ragtag bands of roving, under-supervised and extremely hormonal children who found that their best entertainment came from shoplifting the candy aisle at Trances Market and one-upmanship in sowing their earliest wild oats. This is not the Malibu of today, or at least not quite, with horseback riding the unwashed hills still a normal family outing. Upon returning to this Malibu after several years away, Lucas must figure out exactly who he wants to be.

“What kind of juvenile delinquent are you?

“A different kind, I suppose.”

Meanwhile, the conflict with his father is built up from the barest hints of foreshadowing (“My dad never had a true, trusted friend in his life. I hiked along and swigged water out of a shared thermos and thought about that.”) until the tension in their relationship reaches a fever pitch (“It was beautiful not to see my father’s face.”). All the while, Lucas lays out his days at school in Malibu, growing up and performing on the school stage alongside Emilio Esteves and others. (Ironically I had just watched Esteves’s movie The Public shortly before picking up this book. Sometimes the universe just lines things up like that.) Lucas manages to sketch the many joys and impossibilities and trials of youth through the inclusion of selections from his diaries and other ephemera, and the alternation between these sections and more traditional prose forces the reader to slow down and engage with each moment as it takes place on the page.

Although I grew up worlds away from Jeff Lucas, The Winds of Malibu: An Unexplainable Memoir did a fantastic job of acquainting me with the time and place. There’s an artfulness to the simplicity of his sentences and to the dialogue that reflects, in many ways, how young people see the world: deceptively simple on the surface, but roiling with emotion and nuance underneath. But far and away the most compelling part of the book to me was the through-line of Lucas’ struggles with anxiety. His world was full of constant change despite his story repeatedly returning to his father’s house in Malibu, and his mental health struggles make perfect sense in that context—although not the kind of sense that makes anxiety any easier to live through. His struggles feel very real and also very much a part of the larger architecture of this memoir, which chronicles not just a time and place and the boy who grew up within it, but also the sense of something lost that can never quite be found.

A quick reader’s advisory note: This book does deal with a good amount of “adult content,” which makes sense given the time and place (1970s Malibu and Hollywood), so be aware of that.

IN SUMMARY:

A deeply personal and yet humorous account of one boy’s coming of age in Malibu, The Winds of Malibu: An Unexplainable Memoir is rich with juicy tidbits about Hollywood’s new elite, and gathers further interest as it explores the conflict between father and son as the author battles to join his schoolmates’ names on the big screen.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find The Winds of Malibu: An Unexplainable Memoir wherever good books are sold. including Amazon, Barnes and Nobleand on Audible as an audiobook. You can also find out more about Jeff Lucas’ work on the book’s Goodreads page.

WHAT NEXT?

I’m really excited to dig into the next book on my list, a collection of essays by Ellie Bushweller titled The Realistic Optimist. I love essays but haven’t read a great many of them since my years in graduate school, so this will be a lovely chance to weasel my way back into the genre. And it has the best cover! You can catch my thoughts on Bushweller’s book in two weeks here on Self Publishing Advisor.

 

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

* Courtesy of Amazon book listing.


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ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, as well as extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve most to be heard.

Self-Publishing News: 3.3.2020

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And now for the news.

Highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing:

Medium has become a welcome home for many excellent long-form articles unaffiliated with major news companies in recent years, and this article from Sumbo Bello of EDGY Labs–a “trend forecaster and SEO incubator providing guidance and end-to-end Enterprise level SEO solutions for Fortune 500 brands” according to its ‘about’ page–is representative of the kind of exciting material you can now find on Medium and other long-form-friendly web platforms. Where better to find a quality article describing some of the best content-creation tools out there for writers than a web platform that is itself a content-creation tool? Meta. “The best writing apps are those that help content creators attain a crucial goal, and that’s efficient writing,” Bello writes in the opening line of this piece, citing deadlines both internal and external as one of the main drivers behind the decision of which tool to use. Bello also notes that “Arguably, some of the most efficient writing tools are those that help optimize language mechanics and still cover SEO components like keyword density and relevancy.” (emphasis his) We were delighted to find this summary description list of platforms including the usual heavyweights of Google Docs, Apple Pages, and Microsoft Word–as well as several we are less familiar with, including FocusWriter, Scriviner, Final Draft, and Vellum (but his list goes on). We should note that we do not advocate for any one specific tool among these, especially given that many are paid services, but the information Bello includes is detailed and rich enough to hopefully help you make a decision if you are yourself on the hunt for a new tool, paid or free.

Once again we return to one of our all-time favorite topics in the news section of Self Publishing Advisor: the Zine! This early but time-honored form of self-publishing was absolutely critical to the development of interest in as well as tools to produce later self-publishing options such as on-demand print capabilities and responsive, timely turnaround from writing to publication. Zines were mostly locally distributed (but with some key exceptions) and were mostly individual projects (ditto) and focused around some niche or highly specific area of interest (ditto) … but they have proved an enduring form of what can only be described as a hybrid of art and print publication. Which is why we are so excited to see this article by Jeff Oloizia in Encore celebrating a recent zine exhibition at UNCW. “The best zines,” writes Oloizia, “are transgressive in their activism, born of any number of underground subcultures, and fly in the face of mainstream art and publishing norms.” They’re also, as the exhibition demands audiences to consider, a form of public artistry and worth enjoying and respecting as such. The exhibit described here by Oloiza will remain on display until April 3rd, but zines, as always, will live on indefinitely.


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As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

 

 

Self-Publishing News: 2.25.2020

February concept. stationery and notebook, business background

And now for the news.

Highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing:

We love these monthly lists from Publishers Weekly! Not only do they serve as a critical discovery tool for those of us who read self-published books regularly, but they also help authors and the industry, too, by raising awareness of new titles and subjects of interest percolating through the wider cultural consciousness. Those behind the monthly lists make a real effort to represent the fantastic work being done across genres from romance to thriller to nonfiction and poetry, and this same even-handedness is shown in representing titles from big-name self-publishing companies to those offering full-service options like Outskirts Press (this month it’s Asking the Moon to Leave by Johnny Randolph Hunt) to those books which are published under only their authors’ names. As Publishers Weekly puts it,

Booksellers, publishers, librarians, and agents are encouraged to look at the 54 self-published titles below. Each appears with a list of retailers that are selling the book and a description provided by its author. Some of these writers are waiting to be discovered; others have track records and followings and are doing it on their own. If you are a self-published author interested in listing titles in this section, please visit publishersweekly.com/pw-select for more information.

This list comes out each month in both print and digital versions of the magazine, and we can’t recommend it highly enough!

We couldn’t resist talking about this article by Erin Grace of the Omaha World-Herald chronicling the further adventures of the inimitable Robin Reed-Poindexter, an Omaha native whose years fighting fire in California in part fuel her work as a writer. Reed-Poindexter has published two semi-autobiographical children’s books based on her experiences, as well as a lengthy 660 page (!) memoir titled Now I See Clearly. Having made history as the first black woman hired onto the Richmond Fire Department in 1987, Reed-Poindexter “scrapped her way” (Grace’s good word choice there) through some tough times and retired in 2019. Writes Grace, “Robin said she wants the stories to remind students who get in trouble that they should never write themselves off. While grateful for the support she said her North Omaha network of friends, family and educators gave her, ultimately she had to prove her worth on her own.” Her children’s books set out to render this ethos accessible to kids. In a year that has already seen much conversation about fire and the power of civic engagement, we can’t think of a better self-publishing story to feature here on our blog today.


spa-news

As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

 

In Your Corner: The Busy Season

Conceptual office table top still life.

It feels like forever since I last posted! And truthfully, since the last of my posts my life has gone through some serious gymnastics. No matter who you are and what you do for work and how you relate to the events in your life, it can be easy to slip into a funk. It’s even possible, when things are really bad, to feel like the victim of circumstances rather than an empowered human being with agency of your own.

Or is that just me?

Let’s just say that the last few weeks have been difficult ones, full and busy and also strangely rewarding in the ways they have forced me to reckon with my own approach to things such as work and play.

Here’s what I have learned, especially as pertains to work.

It’s okay to take a step back sometimes. 

To be perfectly honest, some of us could do with a stern glance or a word of kindly suggestion along these lines, and I was (and still am) one of them. It is so, so very easy to conflate performance–whether at work or elsewhere, but especially at work–with personal value and self-estimation. But life doesn’t always set you up to succeed, and while I’m not going to nudge you along the path to the aforementioned victim-of-circumstance place, I do think that sometimes we need to recognize this fact (that life doesn’t always set us up to succeed) and give ourselves the room to slow down and step back a little bit from the pressures of performance. Self-worth shouldn’t reside in how many spreadsheets you churn out or how many customers you manage to sell on a product; self-worth ought to reside in your love and respect for self, which goes way beyond what happens between 8 am and 6 pm–or whatever hours you keep as a writer and otherwise.

Giving yourself a bit of distance, emotionally or practically by taking a break, can help you refocus and re-envision your relationship to your work. Does your work give you a sense of purpose and value? Great! Does it cross the line into being your primary or only source of self-worth? Break time!

You’ve got to stand up for what you believe in.

Part of the beauty of the business we’re in is that we have the opportunity to tell stories and give voice to those outside of the mainstream publishing market. In a sense, everyone who gets into self-publishing is already doing a bit of standing up and speaking out, just by daring to put words out there in the world, so it seems like a natural fit for those of involved in indie publishing to take it just one or two steps further. Whatever feels comfortable. Or uncomfortable, as the case may sometimes be.

The ethics I have learned on the job over the last few years have set me up really well to question the way things are when those ways and things do not line up with what is good and right. I wouldn’t be who I am today without the power that self-publishing has lent my voice, and the encouragement of some amazing friends and coworkers to make sure that what I want and need isn’t lost in the shuffle. Whether you’re pursuing the publication of a new book or seeking to put some of the distracting white noise of a drama-filled personal environment aside so that you can focus on writing and on self-care, don’t forget that you are worth standing up for, and sometimes the best person to stand up for you is … you. 

No matter what challenges you face this week, I hope you know that …

You are not alone. ♣︎

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, and I’ll make sure to feature your thoughts and respond to them in my next post!

Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

Self-Publishing News: 2.18.2020

February concept. stationery and notebook, business background

And now for the news.

Highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing:

This thoughtful piece by Emily Larson of The Clipper focuses on a subject of great interest and importance to many students (of all walks of life) in our world today: the cost and accessibility of textbooks. Students, writes Larson, have already expressed their concern over the rising cost of these all-important resources to school administrators. “However, teachers are aware of this situation. Some are already working on changing it,” Larson continues. Many instructors and professors are already pursuing more cost-effective routes, such as employing “non-traditional” textbooks that cost far less or nothing at all, depending on the source. Many are turning to something called Open Educational Resources, a loose online collection of free textbooks and other educational materials. One of the instructors Larson interviewed for the article, Nevins, “encourages students to speak up about self-publishing laws and to support their teachers. ‘The student senate could possibly set up a grant fund to support faculty in creating these textbooks,’ he suggests.” And here’s where the article touches on our field of interest: With a bit of time and elbow grease, educators can create their own custom content using any of a number of self-publishing platforms and offer educational resources for a much more affordable rate than the going cost of textbooks. This is a win for both educators and students, assuming that the educators involved have the time and elbow grease (and sometimes money) to spare. It might prove useful to educational institutions like Larson’s to optimize their professional development opportunities in order to empower their teaching staff to create these kinds of resources with adequate support.

This week, in a segment we like to think of as “self-publishing authors up to cool things,” we find Buzzfeed reporter Tanya Chen interviewing self-publishing Instagram phenom Caroline Calloway as a part of Chen’s ongoing newsletter series, which captures some of the Internet’s “top things” and Chen’s current obsessions. Calloway, whose new self-published book Scammer will release in April (or thereabouts), was the center of an Internet controversy when the Instagram star’s complicated past was written up into an article by a friend and caption co-writer. Rather than running from that experience, as many would have, Calloway took the infamy and reshaped into something true to form and brand: a book riffing on the big reveal. While Calloway still has at least one traditionally published book deal to satisfy, her self-published book Scammer promises to be much more quick to market. Says Calloway, “I think as the media landscape and freelance journalism changes, savvy businesspeople and ambitious writers will see that there is so much potential in self-publishing.” We’re already seeing the change mid-motion, with the Instagram star joining a host of other working professionals–doctors and physicians, educators, activists, and more–joining the movement to self-publish. We wish Calloway all the best as she steps into self-publishing!


spa-news

As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

 

Self-Publishing News: 2.11.2020

February concept. stationery and notebook, business background

And now for the news.

Highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing:

The big news of the year is, of course, the rise and fall of one specific title–the much-lauded American Dirt. This book first made headlines after a fierce bidding war propelled it to the top of the list of sought-after books by traditional publishing houses like Hachette and Penguin Random House before landing with Macmillan. Its sympathetic portrayal of cross-border migrants meant that it appealed to the kind of reader who utilizes social media and other platforms for social activism; it came as a surprise to many (but certainly not all) that the book would eventually become something of a hot potato, with Latinx authors, readers, and academics panning its use of stereotypes even while attempting to do good. In a situation that seems like the perfect and utter reverse of the publishing stories of such blockbuster hits as Becoming by Michelle Obama and Educated by Tara Westover, American Dirt has become representative of deeper structural problems pervasive in the self-publishing industry. In this thought-provoking article on Latino USA (a branch of NPR), Christine Larson of UC Boulder attempts to detangle just why traditional publishing has become so difficult to navigate. As you might expect, self-publishing features–although in a nice twist, Larson doesn’t demonize those who seek an alternate path to publishing but rather lays out the facts:

My research has found that romance writers doubled their median income from 2009 to 2014, largely due to self-publishing. Romance authors of color, in particular, found new outlets for books excluded by white publishers. Back in 2009, before self-publishing took off, the Book Industry Study Group identified just six categories of romance novels; by 2015, it tracked 33 categories, largely driven by self-publishing. New categories included African American, multicultural, interracial and LGBT.

By 2018, at least 1.6 million books across all genres had been self-published. Nonetheless, though choice is expanding, readership has stayed flat since 2011. With more books but no more readers, it’s harder than ever to get the attention of potential buyers.

But self-publishing is just one of many factors, writes Larson, in the tangled web of publishing troubles. And when it comes to amplifying the voices of marginalized peoples, social media has become a powerful tool by “offer[ing] a powerful outlet for marginalized voices to hold the publishing industry accountable.” Larson’s entire article is well worth a read.

In this Businesswire article reporting on the findings of a recent Technavio report, things are looking rosy for those of us in the self-publishing industry over the next four years (this will come as an encouragement to those who found the American Dirt story, above, deeply saddening). The report’s findings indicate that while “The emergence of smart devices, e-books, and online subscription models has transformed both the publishing landscape as well as the reading behavior of readers,” and even medical publishing companies have gotten on board, ebooks remain a primary driver in the directions both traditional publishing and self-publishing industries will go in the years to come. A sample of the report is available at the link, and it provides more detail and analysis of both the present and the future.


spa-news

As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

 

Self-Published Book Review: “My Dog is More Enlightened Than I Am”

Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to gain exposure. After all, how can someone buy your book if he or she doesn’t know it exists? Paired with other elements of your book promotion strategy, requesting reviews is a great way to get people talking about what you’ve written.
When we read good reviews, we definitely like to share them. It gives the author a few (permanent) moments of fame and allows us to let the community know about a great book. Here’s this month’s featured book review:
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My Dog is More Enlightened Than I Am

by Maureen Scanlon

ISBN: 9781977210531

 

AWARDS and HONORS
* Spirited Woman Top 12 Pick List
* 2019 Author Shout Recommended Read

Synopsis*:

Follow the ways of our furry friends and learn to focus on positive thoughts and change habits!

Maureen Scanlon is a certified life and spiritual coach and relationship expert with training in cognitive behavioral therapy and NLP techniques. In her book My Dog Is More Enlightened Than I Am, Scanlon offers tips on how to take inspiration from animals to make the most of your life and nurture your relationships. Take time for yourself and find peace. Understand others’ beliefs and perspectives to learn compassion. Find the joy and happiness we all seek. All with the help of the animals in your life.

 * courtesy of Amazon.com

Reviews

My Dog is More Enlightened Than I Am by Maureen Scanlon is a self-help book which, as the title suggests, takes its inspiration from man’s best friend. Relax Whenever You Can, Be Spontaneous, Appreciate Our Differences, Take Care of Each Other, Self Care, No Regrets, and Be Curious are especially true and, I presume, all dog owners and lovers will be reminded of their canine friends and can easily relate to these first six chapters. The rest of the topics take their cue from the law of attraction with the writer sharing some of her experiences, both painful and joyous.

Maureen Scanlon is a certified life and spiritual coach and her book exhorts readers to emulate these loyal and carefree creatures that have been important parts of many people’s lives in more ways than one. One of the things that make this book intriguing is that we don’t only get to know her dogs Jade and Brodie but the feeling that they are hugely instrumental in the production of this inspirational work, thus they are co-authors of this book. All of us would like to make the most out of our lives and may look everywhere for inspiration, not realizing that the animals around us can help us find the peace and happiness we seek. My Dog is More Enlightened than I Am opens our eyes to the fact that there are a lot of things we can learn from animals, especially from these loyal furry creatures that will always be there for us.

Author Interview:

 

 


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Thanks for reading!  Keep up with the latest in the world of indie and self-published books by watching this space!

Self Publishing Advisor

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