Daily Deals: Ernie’s Ark and Red Wrecker

Ernie's ArkToday Amazon offers a fiction book Ernie’s Ark by Monica Wood contains 9 stories for $0.99 instead of $9.99 usual price.

Ernie Whitten is out of work. He’s a pipe fitter at the local paper mill, and the union there has gone on strike. Three more weeks and he’d be retired, but now he might not make it. The mill has hired replacement workers – scabs – and Ernie may be out of a job.

But that’s not the worst of it. Ernie’s wife, Marie, is dying of cancer. Angry? You bet he’s angry. So what does he do? He builds an ark in his yard. This is the idea that fuels “Ernie’s Ark,” Monica Wood’s new collection of related stories set int he fictional town of Abbott Falls, Maine, which feels an awful lot like Jay, Maine, a town that was nearly destroyed by a prolonged strike at a paper mill in the 1980s. Wood is keenly interested in how people deal with anger and how they try to relate to one another. The loving character portraits that form her stories help us understand not only the people of Maine (yes, she lives there) but also the human condition.

The ark, for example. What is it? Is it Ernie’s final gift to his wife? Is it an outlet for his anger? Is it an offer to God, a plea for him to spare Marie’s life? Is it a symbolic attempt to help Marie and himself escape their problems?

Is it a lonely response to a situation beyond his control? Is it art?

To some extent, we supply these answers ourselves, which is a credit to Wood’s storytelling style. There’s a two-degrees-of-separation aspect to these tales, underscoring the notion that the people who inhabit this small town are seeking – often awkwardly, often in vain – some sort of connection. As the focus moves from person to person, the veiwpoint shifts as well. Some stories are told in the first person; some have angrier voices than others.

What doesn’t change is the subtly disguised ideas that anger, loss, and desperation are related and must be confronted. Not even the young man who abruptly abandons his plan to attend Harvard so he can live alone in the woods, a la Thoreau, can escape. “He would return to the enraged town where he did not fit in, and leave again when it was time,” Wood writes.

In the book’s second story, the CEO of Ernie’s employer takes an impromptu road trip from his NEw YOrk office with his estranged daughter and they attmept to sort out their problems on their way to the mill in Abbott Falls, only to encounter more anger. In another story, an intruder startles Marie, who is alone at the family’s summer camp. (Why is she alone? Ah, that’s another story.) Years later, the intruder seeks forgiveness. But is it too late? Do anger and loss trump compassion?

Loss and anger – especially restrained anger – take on a life of their own, almost becoming characters themselves, right from the book’s opening lines: “Ernie was an angry man. He felt his anger as something apart from him, like an urn of water balanced on his head, a precarious weight that affected his gait…his willingness to move through a crowd.”

The character-study aspect of “Ernie’s Ark” is its strong suit. Though Wood admires the people with whom she shares Maine, she neighter patronizes nor reveres them. There are no good guys and no bad guys. The officer who harasses Ernie in the first story has his own story ot tell, and he’s not the guy you thought he was. The Mercedes-driving CEO doesn’t care about people, right? Then why is his most important mission to reconnect with his daughter? “I shepherd her into the motel lobby,” he tells us, “thinking to keep my hand on her shoulder, the way I imagine a father would.” You feel for the guy despite his smugness.

People lie in Abbott Falls. They deceive one another. They misjudge. They succumb to impulses better ignored. But they regret, they love, they rally around one another, and they hope. It’s not such a bad place to live. — Boston Globe


Red Wrecker

Amazon also gives you a chance to get a game for your Kindle Fire for free today only. It’s name is Red Wrecker.

Exterminate the Red Shapes

The object of the brain-busting game of Red Wrecker seems simple enough: knock the red shapes off the screen, but keep the green shapes in the game. As you dive deeper into this game, though, you’ll have to take cold, hard logic and relentless physics into account as you rid the screen of those pesky red shapes.

Inspired by the classic game Red Remover, Red Wrecker challenges your brain and tests your reflexes. On each level, you’re presented with a haphazardly stacked set of red, green, and blue shapes. You tap the blue shapes to make them drop from their position. The blue shapes can either make the red shapes drop from the screen or prevent the green shapes from dropping away.

Test Your Brain and Fingers

The first few levels of Red Wrecker are pretty easy. That’s because those opening levels are merely a tutorial to get you used to the game’s premise and physics. Once you’re on your own, you’ll face increasingly more fiendish puzzlers that will test your logic skills and hand-eye coordination.

Get Wrecking

Enjoy and be infuriated by the fun and challenging levels. New levels are added all the time. The high-resolution graphics are specially designed for tablet devices. Red Wrecker is integrated with OpenFeint, so you can earn achievements and post your wrecking skills on the global leaderboards.

Kindle Owners’ Lending Library Hits 100K Milestone; Can It Continue?

Amazon’s controversial Kindle Owners’ Lending Library has proven to be a hit among readers and an appealing option for many self-publishers, but there still remains some question as to how successful it can hope to be as an ongoing project.  The basic organization is simple.  Authors who are willing to make their work available exclusively through the Kindle Store will find themselves with the option to allow lending through the library.  When included, they get a certain share of the money pool being filled in each month by Amazon to keep the service going.  The more popular a book is among borrowers, the larger the share of that pool that goes to the contributing author.  For many self publishers who find they make the majority of their income through the Kindle anyway, going exclusive is not really a big deal in terms of income alteration.  The worst that can happen is that nobody borrows the book, and even then it doesn’t cost anything significant.

Leaving aside the philosophical issues in choosing to contribute to Amazon’s ever-growing list of exclusive content, which is an interesting and complex subject for debate that will probably come up again at greater length in its own post to better do it justice, as the number of participating authors grows we may see a drop in interest among new potential contributors.  The restrictions regarding access to the library play a fairly large part in this.  Each borrower must own a Kindle eReader or Kindle Fire, be an active Amazon Prime member, and remember to make use of their one monthly rental each time around if an author is to get anything.

This is a very specific audience to be targeting with your marketing and may prove to be somewhat hard to pin down.  Add into this the fact that, while the number of Kindle Editions now available through the library has grown past 100,000 titles, the amount of money being competed over has not been increased in any ongoing way and you have a complicated decision presented to self publishers.  A highly limited number of readers needs to be enticed to choose your book from an increasingly large pool of options in an environment where the reward for each individual choice is likely to count for less due to the pre-determined maximum award size and ever-increasing number of Kindle owners.

Can Amazon hope to keep the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library growing at a decent pace?  Chances are good that they can.  Will it continue to be a persuasive reason for new authors to agree to exclusivity?  That might be harder to keep up.  As numbers come out and we learn at least enough about the big success stories to determine how little of the cash pool was available for other authors to divvy up, we should be able to get a clearer picture of how well somebody can expect to do through this program,  After all, even if you were only making $1 per book sold on each of your hypothetical 30 annual sales through Barnes & Noble, that’s better than getting nothing at all from a lending library for Kindle owners.  A clearer picture should emerge as more time passes, but without a new source of big name titles or an increase in funding, Amazon’s Kindle Edition lending effort seems like it might have a limited shelf life.