My immediate reaction: she was a bigoted fool. But my previous roundups consisted of only male authors. And, years after meeting that shopper, I find that I'm reading mostly male authors. It's time to change. To stretch. To grow. To this end, a first foray into the ranks of female Indie Big Dogs.
1) Amanda Hocking. Hollowland, (The Gollows #1). A zombie novel by a young Minnesota woman (in her early twenties, maybe her teens, when she wrote it) didn't exactly cry out to be read. Still, Hocking's achievement inspires real awe: scorned by trad pubbing, she published a dozen-odd ebooks that earned her well over a million--then signed a 2-million dollar deal in 2011 with St. Martins. Clearly, she'd done something right and I wanted to know what. That special something lay not in the prose (far better than expected, though cluttered with occasional howlers: she ran her fingers threw her hair...she dreamed of Nazi's marching)...nor in a new zombie vision (nothing here that can't be found in George Romero or Danny Boyle). Keep reading, though. Keep reading. That special something seems to lie in the volcanic energy of the action sequences and little grace notes that remind us that his young woman knew her audience: the two-fisted but sexually shy heroine scorns bu.5.5t loves a rocker whose wild heart she's tamed. She crosses her breasts when he looks at the sheer nightie she's wearing. And on the run, she pauses to lift up the hem of the nightie. I give the book itself 3.5 stars. But five stars for Hocking's ambition, drive and refusal to accept the trad pub verdict of her work. Now she'll have the best editing money can buy. I'm glad for that and yet I hope she doesn't lose the precious spark that earned her that first million. Combined review total: 4.5 stars. (MacRathMath.)
2) Melissa Foster. Chasing Amanda. Melissa Foster is an ebook success story that's equally inspiring. The bestselling author of three novels, one now in film production, Foster is revered as the founder of the World Literary Cafe: the life support system where new and established indie writers bond and ReTweet each other's promotional Tweets. Okay, okay. But can she write? Affirmative--and she writes with enormous grace and power. Three books since July 2009. A rarity in EbookLand. Chasing Amanda concerns the frantic hunt by a Molly, a clairvoyant, to find a kidnapped child. This child's name is Tracey. But Molly is both haunted and guided by her memories of Amanda, another victim whom she'd failed to help. The setting is perfectly rendered: small-town Boyds, where Molly fled, a haven filled with dark secrets. The increasingly strained relationship between Molly and her skeptical husband is poignantly played out. And mystery lovers will enjoy the cat and mouse game Foster plays with their expectations. But the author has far more in mind than a quick page-flipping read. Paragraphs are long and dense, some running for two or three pages, drawing us into the tangles of relationships and themes. But whatever's lost in reading speed is made up for in reading involvement. Drawn in as we are, we savor every twist and turn of this dark and moving tale. 5 stars.
3) Barbara Freethy. Taken. Talk about ebook success: as of March this year, Barbara Freethy had sold 2 million ebooks. She began writing romance titles for Silhouette, under the name Kristina Logan, then moved on to Avon, NAL and Pocket Books. So far she's written about thirty books: women's fiction, romance and romantic suspense. These include standalone ebooks, the Wish and Angel's Bay series, plus 'connected duos'. Taken is one of the duo's, with its sequel entitled Played. The book starts off on a high note, so swiftly and so assured that I thought of Lawrence Sanders and began telling everyone I'd finally met a new master: Kate Sheridan's abandoned on her honeymoon night by Nick Granville, the dashing man she'd known only a couple of weeks. Shock. Despair. Desolation. I'm hooked. Turn the page and it gets better: We now meet the real Nick Granville, who's as shocked as Kate is when she shows on his San Francisco doorstep wondering who the hell he is. We're off and running now on what we're sure will be a classic tale of identity theft, mismatched partners on the trail of a charming sociopath--mismatched but sure to fall in love. But at some point another author seems to have taken over and the book begins to read like an extended outline with a tell to show proportion that seemed a little too high. Still, the San Francisco settings are gorgeous and the Alcatraz connection was nicely done. Overall book rating: 3.5 stars. Beginning of the book: 5 stars. Combined total: 4.5 stars.