January 10, 2011

Jan 10 - First 10 Books on the Indie 500 Booklist

OK, folks. This was an interesting project to get started on. "Needle in a haystack" doesn't begin to cover it. It's more like tossing a fishing line into the Pacific Ocean and hoping a few good paramecia will bite.

But I dropped the line over and over during the past week and managed to find 10 self-published novels that got me excited. Here's a reminder of my criteria for the Indie 500 Book List:

1 - A fiction title that has been self-published as of 2007 or later
2 - 4 stars or better on Amazon by 10 or more reviewers
3 - Reviews sound independent
4 - Story concept sounds intriguing and original
5 - Writing is strong (where I can read pages)

Also, I picked titles that, as said above, got me excited. Ones in genres or covering topics that interest me: historical fiction, thrillers, women's fiction, crime, mysteries, satires, and stories that involve journeys and cultures different from mine (U.S.). Then there were just some that looked too interesting to pass up, even if they weren't my usual book fare. As much as I could, I also Googled the book and author to check for reviews and general buzz, awards, or reviews about the book, if there is any. I've noted where I found it. So if you're vaguely interested in reading a self-published work, hopefully this list does some of the weeding out for you.

Here are this week's 10 self-published novels worth looking at. I have not read these in entirety, and the Indie 500 is not a review, it's just a list. Ten new titles will be posted every Monday this year, and the cumulative list will be accessible via a link on the top right sidebar of this blog.

1 - Deserts and Mountains: A Novel by Yilmaz Alimoglu
From the back cover: "Reminiscent of Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist with a hint of Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, Alimoglu's Deserts and Mountains follows the inner and outer journey of expatriate Turk and Sufi, Ali Dogan."

2- River Bones by Mary Deal
Back cover: "A mystery surrounds the lush orchards and farmlands of California's Sacramento River Delta. As Sara Mason returns to her hometown in order to start a new life, she learns that a serial killer is terrorizing its residents."

3 - The Misadventures of Sister Mary Olga Fortitude by Davis Aujourd 'hui
Back cover: "...a satire with a spiritual message..."

4 - Voices Under Berlin: The Tale of A Monterey Mary by T.H.E. Hill
Back cover, review from author Tim Bazzett: "Hill's book is a like a jar of Prego... 'it's all in there'." ** Multiple Award Winner **

5 - Follow the Money by Ross Cavins
My take: From reading the first four pages, this feels a little 'Coen brothers' (which I like).

6 - The Shopkeeper by James D. Best
This is a Western. Strong writing, but not overdone. From the first page: "Richard's three of hearts was in mid-flight when a distant gunshot froze everything but the floating card."

7 - Under the Wolf Moon: A Novel by Barbara Townsend
Historical fiction set in the 1850s Potomac Highlands.

8 - Mercury Falls by Robert Kroese
My take: I'm intrigued by the protagonist, a struggling journalist named Christine, who crosses paths with a ping-pong-playing angel named Mercury. An absurdist poo-pooing of Armageddon, which feels like it would be sweetly reassuring, doesn't it?

9 - Tennis Dates by Colette Friedman and Hillary Leigh Gross
My take: One of the great things about self-publishing is that novellas can find a market. This book is only 144 pages and is a story about two women trying to find Mr. Right. Who can't relate to that, ladies?

10 - The Misplaced Horse by Constance Downes
My take: Ever since reading The Black Stallion as a kid, I'm a sucker for a good horse story. This had 5 stars from 13 reviewers, who sounded 'real.'

The next 10 books for the Indie 500 Booklist post here on Monday, January 17!


  1. Thanks for this -- I suspect we are in the midst of a huge paradigm shift in publishing and I'm curious to check out some self-published authors. Thanks for doing the legwork!

  2. Lady you are a saint to cull through all the schtuff that's out there. *fires up the kindle*

  3. I am pleased that you included my first novel (Voices Under Berlin) in the first 10 books on the Indie 500 Booklist. My second novel (The Day Before the Berlin Wall) has not been out long enough to meet you criteria, but I invite you to keep an eye on it. I hope that it will get enough reviews for inclusion in the Indie 500 booklist before the year is out. I was just about to issue a press release, but I've rewritten it to include the Indie 500 Booklist. It is scheduled for release on Thrusday, the 13th.

    I must agree with Kristi that the Publishing Industry is in the midst of a great paradigm shift. I think that an indication of that is that the Borders bookstore in my hometown just closed. I can remember when it forced my favorite local bookstore out of business. Now Borders has fallen to book sales via the Internet. It's been ten years at least since I bought a book in a brick-and-mortar store. That trend is what helps make self-publishing viable. I think that your list can have a real impact on what is going on. I will bookmark your blog so that I can follow the development of the Indie 500.

    We lived in Warsaw from 1984 to 1986.

  4. Hi Melissa,

    Thank you for including my book, Deserts and Mountains, in this week's 10 self-published novels worth looking at... Would be nice to know what would be readers feedback in your circle.
    Here is a link to ForeWord Review of Deserts and Mountains.


  5. DESERT AND MOUNTAINS is one of my favorite book of all time. It is very reassuring to know that the 12th century teachings are alive and well when applied to the profoundly life changing true story of Yilmaz Alimoglu told in the 3rd person by his character Ali Dogan. Yilmaz is on to something deep and crucial for our time. I understand the comparison to the Alchemist etc. But DESERTS AND MOUNTAINS is really much more potent because it is true and some times i feel that PC is fishing around for who to emulate next. Although at least he gives credit to the people whose writing he was 'inspired by'. DESERTS ANDMOUNTAINS "I"S A MUST READ!!!

  6. The loss of Borders is truly a sad thing (never thought I'd lament the demise of a Great Chain, although I did work at Borders #1 years ago). However, as I type this I'm sitting in my local indy bookstore and it's packed to the gills with writerly types, ladies who lunch, businesspeople and little kids. I know great stories and their readers are going to be around forever, in whatever form. And I welcome self-published books, and am grateful for those who take the time to curate lists!

  7. "Deserts and Mountains" is a novel that transformed my thinking on many levels. Alimoglu harmoniously synthesizes language on a literal and figurative level with characters who develop a rich understanding not only of themselves, but who also gain a deeper awareness of surrounding cultures, which have shaped history. The richness of the Greek, African, and Canadian cultures contribute to the protagonist's spiritual inquiry and quest for an idealized world.
    The author captures the essence of life brilliantly when he mentions that "dichotomy and novelty guide us in life." Prior to reading the novel, I was re-reading one of my all-time favorite books, "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand, which is staunchly opposed to the mysticism that Alimoglu's characters embrace and explore; however, the two dichotomous worlds that the authors explore are essential in having a balanced life; therefore, upon completion of this novel, I was able to develop a more profound appreciation of the spiritual world, which I personally struggle every day to come to terms with since I live in an industrialized nation.
    Finally, the power behind the actual title of the book cannot be overlooked: Two dichotomous physical forces in nature happen to be deserts and mountains- the deserts serve as a metaphorical reminder of a spiritual base that is accessible to humans who seek to take a journey through its terrain. A juxtaposition, or dichotomy would be the all-powerful mountains that humans strives to climb, reach, and conquer in life.

  8. FANTASTIC! I am so glad to see one of my most favorite books at the top of the list. DESERTS AND MOUNTAINS is indeed worth all the attention. This book has it all, starting from real life experiences that we can all resonate with, it unveils powerful experiences on the road of a real spiritual seeker. Along the way, you will be amazed by the philosophical discussions, history facts and exquisite writing. It is a fascinating book that will capture you from the first pages. A must read!!!

  9. Hi all - wow, so wonderful to read everyone's passionate reactions to this list. I hope it ends up helping a lot of Indie writers find more readers.
    T.H.E. and Yilmaz - I was glad to find your books and look forward to reading them! Thanks for commenting.
    Kristi - I, too, miss the Barnes & Noble that used to be a few minutes' walk from my house. It closed last year. But storytelling will never die. I think all the changes just mean more people can write and more people can read their stories - all the better!

  10. "Deserts And Mountains", I find it to be a most fascinating voyage that explores the deepest realms of the spirituality of man, where he fluctuates between the winds of his soul that are surrounded by the waves of the desert sands in search of his heart and the arduous paths of the mountain that confront him in the crude reality of life which he must face and endure in order to reach its summit that caresses the giant skies above. Where, at the end of his journey, there lies the home of his spirit and his heart.
    A truly magnificent book,
    Giulio Spolverato

  11. "Deserts and Mountains" is a book about the joy of finding the Road to one's ownself and to God.This is a vivid novel combining within it past and present,Sufism and real life experience-all in the name of Love;showing us how love( divine,human,spiritual) can change our lives.
    The main character Ali (a Canadian with Turkinsh roots) shows us the belief that love is the basic particle of life;love and love only connect people through centuries,cultures and geographical places.
    I re-read the boook because it's also a beautiful teaching about patience-how to understand that advancing and growing up spiritually also requires to be calm and patient,to pass through painful moments-on the Road of self-knowledge and divine wisdom.
    This book is also about something that every mother knows:if there's no pain,the baby's road cannot open for it to be born.The search for God and oneself is based on the same principle: for our spirit to be born,we suffer with patience knowing that all our efforts will finally be rewarded with the bliss of love.All of these beautiful messages are written exquisitely and serve as the perfect balm for our searching souls.

  12. Another good read ....real life stuff suggested by a friend is "A Horse shoe in my hip pocket "