Thursday, May 04, 2006

In Praise of Midlist

You can be an excellent writer and be stuck somewhere in Midlist land* either due to circumstance, lack of hype, or a bad alignment of the stars. It’s not a bad place to be—sure, you’re not making the NYT Bestsellers list, but you’re not broke either—but it can be a hard place to break free.

Sometimes you need a little help from your friends.

So today’s the day we celebrate midlist authors we love, ones who don’t get enough attention, recognition, or money. Do your part as a reader to get their name out there, and provide some free marketing for the author that gave you a welcomed read.

For my part I’m going with the two books I’m reading at the moment:

Crunch Time, by Mariah Fredericks, a novel of high school and the SATs (YA). Four unique characters tell the tale of the SATs, studying, high school and cheating in this fun, engaging read.

Her Scandalous Marriage, by Leslie LaFoy, the tale of the bastard daughter of the former Duke of Ryland. LaFoy a favorite of mine because she takes romance conventions and twists them. This is no naïve girl and her hero is equally complex as they negotiate the Victorian time period trying to find their places.

Now it’s your turn. Pick your favorite midlisters, or just people who have given you a good read lately that don’t get enough credit. Post their names, titles and why they rock in the comments section and we’ll compile a list. I’ll draw a name from everyone who posts and that person can pick which of the available (I’m not searching for out of print books) books they would like to read and thus also helping out the midlister chosen.

We cool?

Good. Make with the recommendations.



*A place where titles like “Blank on the NYT bestseller list” or “blank on the USA Today bestseller list” fear to tread.

45 comments:

Jane said...

Jayne and I were actually talking about this after we ran the ebook contest. Who is considered midlist and how do we find out about them?I guess my midlist recommendation would be Marianna Jameson's My Hero and Deidre Martin's Fair Play and Penalty Box. They both write smart, modern romances with an emphasis on the romance and nothing else.

Robin Brande said...

Poison Study, by Maria V. Snyder. It's the first in a fantasy/romance trilogy about a woman who is the food taster (poison detector) for a king. The author is a martial artist who also happens to be married to a guy who creates new chocolate flavors for a living, so the book is filled with great food and kick-ass fight scenes. Plus, there's magic, romance--everything you want from a woman's adventure story. The second in the series comes out this fall. Addictive!

Lesa said...

I'm going to recommend Forcing Amaryllis by Louise Ure. It's a mystery with a fascinating character, a jury consultant who discovers the current case is too close to home, it reminds her of her sister's rape. The cover of the book is beautiful. It debuted in hardcover, but the paperback just came out as well.

I have a number of midlist titles on my book blog at www.nikkishome.blogspot.com

Bethany K. Warner said...

Oh hmmm... how to pick. Can I nominate two?

1. The Weather Warden series by Rachel Caine. Caine's heroine is kick-butt with a plot that matches. Each book builds the plot farther and farther and the characters are changing to adapt with it.



2. Murder in the Bastille by Cara Black.
The latest in the Aimee Leduc mystery series. Set in Paris, Aimee tries to be a good samaritan and return a woman's cell phone. Instead, she gets knocked out in an alley. The injury leaves her blind but she's not going to let that stop her from investigating. Great obstacle to give a character, great description of Paris.

Susan Adrian said...

Oh, I have such a good midlist rec.

Kathleen Eschenburg wrote two Civil War romances, both excellent:

The Nightingale's Song

Seen by Moonlight

Both apparently available on Amazon now for a penny each. {sigh}

Susan

lady t said...

It's so hard to pick from the many great midlisters out there but let me give it a whirl:

Suzanne Strempek Shea:Not only does she write wonderful novels such as Hoopi Shoopi Donna(about the starting of an all girl polka band) and Finding Finola(American woman goes to Ireland and takes on another person's identity)but she also works in a bookstore and wrote an enchanting memoir about it called Shelf Life.

Another favorite of mine is Judith Ryan Hendricks;I loved her first book,Bread Alone but Isabel's Daughter was one of those absorbing gotta-read-a few-more-pages-before-I-sleep/eat/do anything else books. I'm so looking forward to Baker's Apprentice which is the follow-up to BA(and on my fabulous BooksFree list!)and should be just as great.

Eileen said...

I have fallen in love with Ayelet Waldman. She doesn't know how I hanker for her. I just finished Love and Other Impossible Pursuits. Here is the blurb:

For Emilia Greenleaf, life is by turns a comedy of errors and an emotional minefield. Yes, she's a Harvard Law grad who married her soul mate. Yes, they live in elegant comfort on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. But with her one-and-only, Jack, came a stepson-- a know-it-all preschooler named William who has become her number one responsibility every Wednesday afternoon. With William, Emilia encounters a number of impossible pursuits-such as the pursuit of cab drivers who speed away when they see William's industrial-strength car seat and the pursuit of lactose-free, strawberry-flavored, patisserie-quality cupcakes, despite the fact that William's allergy is a figment of his over-protective mother's imagination.

As much as Emilia wants to find common ground with William, she becomes completely preoccupied when she loses her newborn daughter. After this, the sight of any child brings her to tears, and Wednesdays with William are almost impossible. When his unceasing questions turn to the baby's death, Emilia is at a total loss. Doesn't anyone understand that self-pity is a full-time job? Ironically, it is only through her blundering attempts to bond with William that she finally heals herself and learns what family really means.

Penny L. Richards said...

Recent kinda random midlisty books I read and enjoyed (I think they were both first novels):

Jean Hegland, _Into the Forest_--two teenaged sisters surviving in an isolated cabin in the redwoods of post-massive-social-breakdown Northern California--smart and lyrical, with moments of terror

Jennifer Vanderbes, _Easter Island_ --a woman in 1913, and a woman in the early 1970s, both go to Easter Island for research and escape--we cut between their two stories, which sorta-kinda intersect (I'm a sucker for that, everytime)

Penny L. Richards said...

Oooh, one more--genre mystery, but so well done--_Haunted Ground_ by Erin Hart--a murder mystery with archaeologists as the main characters, set in rural Ireland; by the end of the first chapter a woman's head has been discovered preserved in a bog. Loved the talk about bookbinding and maps and place names, too.

lady t said...

Oops-I meant Becoming Finola,not Finding! Darn alliteration buzzing in my head!

Kate R said...

rrrrrrromance writers
Pamela Britton
Diane Farr
me
Teresa Bodwell
Nancy Butler

I'm re-reading EF Benson but I don't know if it counts if the writer's been dead for decades?

Book Nerd said...

My favorite personal midlist writer is Christopher Bram -- he was a regular customer at the first bookstore where I worked. He wrote the book FATHER OF FRANKENSTEIN, the basis for the movie GODS AND MONSTERS (a phrase he says will probably be etched on his tombstone, since it's how he's always introduced.) I read his most recent book, LIVES OF THE CIRCUS ANIMALS, about a bunch of New York theater people (actors, critics, etc., both gay and straight) whose lives intersect in various ways (romantic and otherwise), and I LOVED it -- it's like a great play, with brilliantly delineated scenes and a three-act arc, but always remains novelistic.

I always think of Chris when I hear the word "midlist," probably because he's the working writer I got to know the best -- he and his partner were making a living off of his fiction writing, but just barely. He deserves a much wider readership -- check him out!

KimBerlitz said...

Monkey Love by Brenda Scott Royce is laugh-your-a**-off funny. It looks like another pink-covered chick lit novel, but rose far, far above the expectations usually inspired by that genre. (I'm not knocking chick lit, I just think it's stick-a-fork-in-it time for a lot of the sex-in-the-city clones.) For fans of screwball comedy films, this is that kind of madcap laugh riot. Then, just when you let your guard down, the characters tug at your heart and I found myself welling up with tears a few times.

When I read this post about mid-list, I immediately thought of this book because I'm so amazed nobody has heard of this author. Definitely worth checking out.

jmc said...

Carla Kelly: Here's to the Ladies (American western short stories); With This Ring (trad); One Good Turn (trad). CK has also written several other trad regencies, and an historical set in the 1600s in what is now New Mexico. Her characters are human, more human to me than a lot of romance novel characters. They aren't perfectly heroic...or perfect in anyway, but they still charm the reader. IMO, CK has a gift for conveying a great deal of information in her prose. She shows rather than tells, and there is no excess information to distract the reader.

Elsandra said...

I agree with Penny Richards about Erin Hart. I read her first book and just loved it. I have her second book, Lake of Sorrows, in my TBR pile and am saving it for a time when I can take my time and savor it. Ms. Hart is also a very nice lady, met her at a luncheon at my local independant bookstore.

Another in the mystery genre I like is William Kent Krueger. His Cork O'Connor series is as well written if not better than John Sanford's early Prey books (not commenting on his latter).Krueger writes small town/rural sheriffs departments/NA reservation so believable that he impresses a cop like me who has lived in rural areas and worked on reservations.

A new author in the mystery genre I was impressed with was Brian Freeman who wrote "Immoral". It was nominated for an Edgar as Best First Novel. He managed to keep me guessing "who dun it" all the way through. The book is also set in the area I live in so I was impressed by how much of the flavor and quirks of the area (Duluth, MN) he put in the book.

One more rather regional mystery writer I like is Mary Logue. Her book Bone Harvest is set in another rural community and sheriff's department in SW Wisconsin (another area I'm familiar with). She writes small town people well without getting into all the cliches.

I must admit some bias in my picks, I've met all the authors at my local independant bookstore through book signings and luncheons. Thanks to the recommendations of the store workers I've come to love quite a few "midlist" authors.

Anonymous said...

Dawn Thompson is a new romance writer for Dorchester -- she writes lush, sexy historical paranormals. Her debut, The Ravencliff Bride, reads like Daphne DuMaurier on a good day...stormy and dark and sexy. Love this Romantic goth stuff!

Anonymous said...

I think she's still midlist (but shouldn't be!): Wen Spencer. She wrote the Ukiah Oregon series (private-eye/science fiction), Alien Taste, Bitter Waters, Tainted Trail, and Dog Warrior; Tinker and Wolf Who Rules (fantasy); and A Brother's Price (Amazon calls it fantasy). All excellent!

Christine Fletcher said...

Karen Karbo. She wrote the novel Motherhood Made a Man Out of Me, which is flat-out hilarious. But my favorite is Stuff of Life, which is her memoir about caring for her father in the Nevada desert during the last year of his life. Funny (who knew this could make for comedy?), poignant, brilliant book.

quiche said...

Stephanie Barron, author of the Jane Austen mystery series. Great historical mysteries and a little romance thrown in but not enough to detract from the story. She tweaks history a bit but shows attention to detail and has a sense of humor.
Also Kate Ross, author of the Julian Kestrel mysteries. Unfortunately only 2 books in the series, "Whom the Gods Love" and "The Devil in Music" are still in print

mslouisebrooks said...

The Smallest Color by Bill Roorbach, published in the U.S. by Counterpoint Press. It was read by a bookseller in Melbourne who passed it on to a sales rep for Allen and Unwin and I saw it in Australia in 2003. Bill is known in literary circles for his short stories but this is his first novel. Possibly my favourite American novel, even more beloved by me than The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster or Underworld by Don DeLillo.

Jane said...

Can I post again? I loved Maria Snyder's Poison Study. In the same Luna line, Laura Resnick wrote an awesome book: Disappearing Nightly.

Ms. Librarian said...

I have to say that Jennifer Crusie is one of my five favorite romance authors. She has the wackiest sense of humor I've ever read! I still laugh when I read the restaurant scene in Strange Bedpersons -- it has to be the funniest sequence I've ever read in a novel. Crusie's latest is Don't Look Down, a story about a female movie director, a retired Green Beret stunt double, and the Russian Mafia. I've just ordered it, and I can't wait until I have it in my hot little hands!

alau said...

I found my way over here via Miss Snark. Great blog!

I would suggest Carrie Asai's Samurai girl series, (YA) starting with The Book of the Sword (Book One). Unfortunately it seems that Simon Pulse only printed to Book 5 (which ends with a cliff hanger) but hands down it's one of the best series, (YA or not) that I've read in the past few years. The series was so good that even my HUSBAND read them (which is pretty damn good for a book aimed at young teenage girls).


Though now that I think about it, I don't know if this counts as midlist or not because the series got canceled...

alau said...

And how could I have possibly forgotten about Guy Gavriel Kay (Fantasy)? I am so enthralled by the Fionovar Tapestry series (far better IMO then Tolkien), but perhaps my absolute favorite is "A Song for Arbonne."

Matt Todd said...

I don't know if this book exists outside of Australia - so if you've never heard of it before, I'm very sorry... Although to be fair, I don't know if many people in Australia have heard of it...

Dead Europe, by Christos Tsiolkas, is a fantastic novel from a young-ish Australian author that you should read if you ever get the chance

Heather Waters said...

Miracle in the Mist by Elizabeth Sinclair. Sweet and sexy and ends up being a tear jerker. She just won the Romantic Times Reviewers CHoice award and for good reason. I highly recommend you check it out!

Kate R said...

I forgot Paula Reed's Into her Arms and Nobody's Saint
and Flo Fitzpatrick's Hot Stuff.

(Since I nominated myself, can I pick Somebody Wonderful instead of STL??)

How about Mary Roach (non-fiction--Stiff) Is she a best seller?

Kate R said...

If only Judith Merkle Riley would put out a book! Dang it, I'd nominate her in a second.

Jennette said...

I have to add my recommendation to the poster above who mentioned Dawn Thompson. Her April release, The Waterlord, was as wonderful as her first book. Another author I'd recommend is futuristic romance author Susan Kearney. The Challenge, The Dare, The Ultimatum... all fantastic reads.

Christina said...

So, SO sorry for posting this on the wrong entry!!

In any case, I won't copy and paste. I recommend Stephen Baxter, mainly for Manifold Time. I'm sure his others are good too.

Waylander said...

The Aldabreshin Compass series by Juliet McKenna
One of the best fantasy writers currently working for world-building

jarvenpa said...

Must put in a word for the unclassifiable work of Marly Youmans. She's got two of her so called young adult so called fantasy novels coming out in paperback this fall (it was to have been spring): The curse of the Raven Mocker and Ingledove. Also wrote a couple "adult" novels (The Wolfpit is one) and a book of poetry. Her shorter fiction is showing up all over the place in genre mags. Well worth discovering.

Kendall said...

If I have to pick one, I say, read Victoria Strauss. Her latest duology (The Burning Land &The Awakened City) just concluded; the latter came out in hardback in 2006. This pair is a wonderfully written, atypical fantasy with themes of faith, dogmatism, & religion (and not the "gods walk the earth" kind, either!). Her chairacters have depth and she's great at getting you into their heads. I can't recommend this pair of books (or this author) highly enough!

If I can pick another (and if he's midlist; his latest doesn't mention "best-selling" or awards) -- Stephen Woodworth's violet series. 3 books out so far, a fourth coming this fall, about a woman who's part of an elite-but-taken-advantage-of group of people (in a modern society like our own) who can channel the dead like a medium. It's suspense/thriller with a paranormal twist, and while I'm not into suspense/thriller books usually, I love this series.

Remember, buy new to support the author, or check out from a library if you can't afford. Buying used helps your pocket, but does nothing for a midlist author (or, well, any author...). There are ways to shop smart and save money, while still having your sale mean something for the author's sales numbers! :-)

Ally Carter said...

I'd like to add Alison Pace who wrote IF ANDY WARHOL HAD A GIRL FRIEND and her new release, PUG HILL. It's a little bit chick lit, a little bit women's fiction and all-in-all very well written. She's a great talent, and I'm always saddened by how few people have read her.

Erin said...

Try "Cat in a Kiwi Con" or any other book in the Midnight Louie series by Carole Nelson Douglas. Her books are fast and fun with good mysteries, interesting characters, and great story arcs. (http://www.catwriter.com/)

Julie said...

I hope I am understanding the definition correctly. I don't see "NY Times bestselling" or anything like that on her website, although I've been able to find her books at many stores and libraries, but...

Barbara Samuel is one of my favorites, and No Place Like Home was the first book I read by her, and my favorite. It is just real and down-to-earth, as are all of her books, especially for us single mom or former single mom types.

I literally had to hide out in my bathroom one afternoon while I was reading No Place Like Home because she hits emotion on the bulls-eye and I was crying my eyes out. I didn't want my kids to think I was upset about "real life," so I was hiding while I was reading. :) Other scenes made me laugh so hard I cried, too.

I have read and re-read some of her scenes to try to figure out exactly how she does it. I can only hope.

LondonWriting said...

I'd like to second the nomination of Alison Pace.

And I'd like to throw in two more:

Lani Diane Rich, who wrote Time Off For Good Behavior (double RITA award winner, although that probably means nothing outside RWA), Maybe Baby, The Comeback Kiss and Ex and the Single Girl. She makes me laugh out loud in one paragraph, tear up and sniffle in the next. And she coined the phrase Penis Teflon. How can you not support that?

Beth Kendrick, whose books are My Favorite Mistake, Exes and Ohs, and Fashionably Late. Yes, they look like the same old, same old chick lit, but Kendrick also has a gift for truly inspired comic word play combined with emotional resonance.

Karen Kahler said...

I recommend COVER THE BUTTER by Carrie Kabak, a wonderful book that was published last year (by Dutton) in hardback, and the paperback is just out this month. It's gorgeously written, darkly funny (the dynamics between Kate and her husband, Rodney, are alone worth the price of admission) and her interactions with her manipulative mother, Biddy, are spot-on.) It's an ultimately redeeming look at the buoyancy of the human spirit—one of those books you can read over and over again and find something new to enjoy each time.

dragonfly said...

I have two author recommendations:

gods in Alabama - Joshilyn Jackson - a wonderful southern fic with the most delightful mix of humor and poignancy. Also - it has perhaps one of the all-time best first sentences I've ever read. Her 2nd novel - Between,Georgia - is out soon.

Enchanted Inc. & Once Upon Stilettos - Shanna Swendson. These are absolutely hilarious, quick and fun reads. It's Bewitched and Buffy, topped with a pinch of Bridget Jones. She's taken the ordinary and made it extraordinary.

Janny said...

If you have not read Shelley Bates' GROUNDS TO BELIEVE and POCKETFUL OF PEARLS, do so. Now. Drop this blog immediately, go to your bookstore, and get these things. They are walk-around-the-house-head-down-and-stir-the-spaghetti-sauce-with-one-hand-because-you-can't-put-it-down good books.

Don't let the fact that they're in the "inspirational" fiction category put you off, either. These books will work for anybody, Christian or not, because they're good, dark, emotional, HUMAN stories.

Buy. Now. Go. Do it. :-)

Janny

Amie Stuart said...

Stephanie Rowe's Date Me Baby One More Time which is hysterical and just flat out well written!
J. Carson Black's Dark Side of the Moon --great suspense and she's got that final unexpected twists down pat!
Lolly Winston's Good Grief because who knew death could be so funny! Even though it's sad at some points, it's wallowy sad, ya know?

web said...

Stephen McCauley is one of my favs. And Elinor Lipman, though she may have achieved bestseller status at this point and no longer count.

Oh, and... um... what was her name... I think her book was blue. ;-) Ah, Sara Lewis. I loved _But I Love You Anyway_ and _The Answer is Yes_.

All of these are in the fiction category.

Anna said...

I need to second the recommendation above for Guy Gavriel Kay.

And then two of my other favorites; both of whom write smart, character-driven Fantasy:

Carol Berg, who has two fantastic series available, but also a great stand-alone called Song of the Beast. It's the tale of Aidan MacAllester, the most talented musician of his generation, who must solve a mystery... why his cousin the king had him imprisoned for seventeen years. For excerpts or more info, check out www.carolberg.com

I love her complex in-progress series, The Wars of Light and Shadow, but probably the best place to start with Janny Wurts is a recent stand-alone; To Ride Hells Chasm. On the surface the plot sounds a little cliche--two warriors tasked with finding the king's daughter, mysteriously vanished just prior to her wedding--but nothing about Wurts' stories is ever simple. I love her work because not only does she make you pay attention to what you're reading in order to pick up subtle clues; she often challenges you to reexamine what you believe. www.paravia.com

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with that on Carol Berg and make another recommendation for her. She is one of the most talented authors out there today. I've read a lot over the years and I find her books the most exciting, filled with adventure, action pact books out there in fantasy. Great characters that draw you in to the story immediately. Carol's Rai-Kirah Series is outstanding as well as her Bridge of D'Arnath series. She's a very intelligent writer that stands out in the crowd. Once you read one of her books, you'll be hooked.

Marie Rodriguez said...

Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana. It's a fantasy novel set in an land very much like an alternate Italy. In the final battle against an invading army, the prince of Tigana slays the head of the invading army, and his father, a sorcerer, wreaks revenge - no one not born there will be able to hear the name of their land; it will be as though it never was. Tigana tells the tale of a handful of descendants trying to restore their homeland. I like all of Kay's work, but Tigana holds a special place in my heart - so much so that I own a lending copy (and am on my 4th...they tend to walk off)