Interview on KOPN!

Sunday, 30 November 2014 at 1 pm Missouri time, I’ll be interviewed on KOPN radio.  89.5 FM in Columbia, Missouri.

Columbia is next door to Rocheport and Rocheport is where Bill Arthur, in The Morning Star (The Rocheport Saga, Book 1),  decides to call home and rebuild civilization after the apocalypse.

Tune in, if you can, or check out live streaming.

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Introducing Gwen Poisson

One of the joys of writing is being able to create people you’d love to meet or who espouse causes near and dear to your heart. Such a character is Gwen Poisson.  She’s a minor character in Festival of Death, the first novel in the Justinia Wright, P.I. series.

Harry Wright, the narrator in Festival of Death, says of her:

Gwen is forty.  She stands five-four, with an average frame, and wears her dark chocolate hair in a pixie cut.  She worked ten years out in Silicon Valley, another three as a professional hacker, before becoming a PI.

He could have added, she is warm, friendly, and faithful, Tina Wright feels a special kinship with her, she’s a vegan, and her favorite drink is cucumber-infused water.

Gwen does wage a quiet and continual campaign to convince Tina and Harry of the efficacy of veganism.  She states the issue quite clearly in this comment to Tina  over a pizza supper.

“We have to stop eating our fellow creatures,” Gwen said. “We are wiping out wild stocks; we are engaging in massive pollution of groundwater due to animal waste from feed lots; and excreted hormones, drugs, and antibiotics are wreaking havoc on wild animals — both on land and in the sea.”

Harry is quite sympathetic to Gwen’s position.  In the forthcoming novella, “Love Out of Death”, we learn that Harry is cooking up quite a bit of a vegetarian storm because it’s best if one doesn’t eat something that has the 3 Bs:  breath, blood, and brains.  Tina, as with most of us, isn’t convinced.

While I must confess I’m still an ovo-lacto-carno vegetarian, Gwen espouses a dietary and lifestyle choice I admire and would like to make my own.  I’ll admit meat can be pretty tasty.  But vegetables and grains, fruits and nuts are pretty doggone tasty, as well.

But there is more to the issue than taste.  There are the issues of pollution, extinction, cruelty, and negative energy.

As in the quote above from Gwen, the production of meat is the cause of mass pollution.  Waste (i.e., excrement) pollutes our land and our water.  Corporate farms and massive feedlots generate more waste than a farmer can use.  It is pumped into holding tanks and often enough, the tanks leak.  Not good for us or the environment.

Over fishing is destroying sea creatures in such alarming numbers it is quite possible our seas may be mostly barren in a few short years.  Just as hunting wiped out the passenger pigeon, the dodo, and nearly wiped out the bison, over fishing is wiping out wild stocks of the ocean’s inhabitants.  Fish farming is a possible solution, but it has it’s own issues and negative effects on wild inhabitants of the sea.

Living in a feedlot can’t be a pleasant experience.  I’d hate to try it for even an hour.  Yet we force animals against their nature to spend their lives in such caustic environments.

And this leads to my last issue, which is negative energy.  When treated harshly, the animal holds within itself negative energy.  Animals are not “dumb beasts”.  They are surprisingly intelligent creatures.  Pigs are smarter than dogs.  Cows have a language of vocal sounds and body movements.  Animals feel pain.  They can get angry.  They know who likes them and who doesn’t.  They also know fear.  Especially the fear of death, they smell at the slaughter house.  Honestly, do you or I want to eat the hormones generated from the fear and anger of mistreated animals?  Do I want that negative energy inside me?

Please don’t take this as a diatribe against farmers.  Because that is not what I intend.  Having lived amongst farmers, I know they struggle to make ends meet.  They struggle to make a living.  Often having to hold down another job in order to make the farm profitable.  So, no, I’m not criticizing farmers. If anything, I’m blaming an economic system which doesn’t give the farmer a fair shake.

I think people are ultimately to blame.  As Gwen points out in “Love out of Death”, there are simply too many people.  Too many people on the planet means we can no longer humanely raise animals for meat to feed the burgeoning population.  Our only alternative to effective feed the planet is to go vegetarian or vegan.

In addition, we in the West live in luxury.  Even our poor are better off than most of the other inhabitants on this planet.  I think the day has come where we need to start viewing meat as a luxury we can no longer afford.

Through Gwen Poisson, I have the opportunity to quietly present a position I think is beneficial to all humanity.  We all want to eat.  The amount of grain given to cows to fatten them up will feed a whole lot more people than that cow will.

Vegetarianism takes a bit to get used to simply because it is different, but it’s not impossible to do so.  Hindus don’t eat meat and Indian cuisine is quite delectable.  So it can be done.  And done in style.

One of these days, I’m going to drop that carno.  Stop eating things with the 3 Bs.

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Making Money Writing

I have to admit, I’m not much into marketing at this point in my writing career.  Mostly because I’m too busy trying to get books written.  But Lindsay Buroker’s latest post on her first month’s earnings from her pen name project, made me stop and give this subject some further thought.  Mostly because what I’m currently [not] doing might be costing me some big money.

To pull in a little over $3000 as an unknown author in her first month, I’d say is pretty awesome.  Doggone phenomenal.  Nine days after releasing my first 4 novels I have a mere 14 sales.  Not even $35.  I’m not complaining, mind you.  I’m simply saying maybe I’m missing out on a bit more cash that I could be making if I did a few things differently.

One thing Lindsay mentions and maybe the most important thing, is her use of KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited.  Certainly Amazon stacks the deck in favor of those who go exclusive with them.  As an author I don’t like it.  I cry, “Foul!”  “Unfair!”  Yet if I was Amazon, it is exactly what I’d do.  It’s what traditional publishing has done for over a century.  Lock in a stable of money-making authors and — make money!

Right now, authors can make money right along with Amazon.  In the future, who knows?

The other thing that stuck out was advertising didn’t seem to do much.  I haven’t planned on paying for advertising.  From Lindsay’s experience, I don’t think doing so is worth the money at this point.

A great post by Ms Buroker.  Informative.

For now, though, I think I’ll continue along with Hugh Howie’s approach and just write.

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Being Discovered

I just read a wonderful article on writers becoming “discovered” over on Hugh Howey’s blog. Hugh gives advice to budding authors on what they should be doing to get discovered.  It was a solid dish of meat and potatoes.

What I took away from my initial read (and I will be reading it again) is a writer needs to write and he or she needs to write books.  It’s the backlist, the quantity of titles that is paramount in getting “discovered”.  Because once you are discovered, the reader will want to read more than that one book that is out there.  I know it works for me that way.  When I discovered the Nero Wolfe mysteries, I was like a wild man — I had to read them all.  Then I had to buy them all.

The other thing I took away was to write in a popular genre, if you want to ease the way to being discovered.

So I am going to continue trying to figure out the social media game (I’m that guy at the party standing by the wall, near the punch bowl).  But the bulk of my time is going to be spent on writing all those great novels I’ve wanted to write for the past 50 years.

Check out Hugh’s post and let me know what you think.

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Where would we be without dreams?  I’m not talking about the kind that wake us up at two in the morning after eating pepperoni pizza.  No, I’m talking about the dreams that embody our desires, our aspirations, our hopes.

Well, today I realized one of mine.  By 8.30 this morning I had received notification four of my books were now live on Amazon.  I can now say I’m a published poet and novelist.  For over fifty years I dreamed of writing novels and of getting them published.  That dream is now a reality.

The, for me, difficult part lies ahead — the marketing!  And that task will be tackled as all the others:  one day at a time.

We live in a truly amazing era.  Just ten years ago the current infrastructure for independent artists was largely non-existent.  The iPad was first released a mere four years ago.  The first iPhone, seven.  And the first Kindle, also only seven years ago.  Those devices and others like them have revolutionized our access to and consumption of art and entertainment.  The current indie movement, in my opinion, couldn’t exist without them.

But also of immense help to the indie artist is the proliferation of WYSIWYG blogging platforms and website builders.  And where would we be without social media, which provides the ability to network on a scale unimagined in the history of humankind and provides us with the opportunity to connect with those who want what we have to offer?

Today is the day you and I no longer have to simply dream dreams and wish.  Today, we can make those dreams real.

Feel free to share a dream or two you’ve realized.  Today is a great day to be alive.

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The Plotless Novel

Ever since I can remember, my one dream was to be a published author.  However, I quickly learned plotting and I don’t get along.  I don’t know if it was a bad experience with diagramming in Mrs. Bloom’s Fifth Grade grammar class or the gene I was apparently born with which shuts my brain down when I see the word “outline”.  Whatever it is, I just can’t plot out a story, poem, novel, series, or even structure the grocery list.

For many years I despaired of ever becoming a writer.  I had moderate success with poetry and I like poetry, but poems aren’t novels.  I wanted to write novels and everywhere I turned, folks talked and wrote about the need to plot.  I was in the Slough of Despond.

Then one of those serendipitous events occurred in the form of the movie “The Remains of the Day”, based on the book of the same title.  I liked the movie and it appeared to have not much, if any, plot.  And what I especially liked was that it seemed to largely be a character study.  For me, when I read, it’s all about the characters.  I don’t care how intricate the plot, if I don’t like the characters the book is set aside.  The lightbulb went off over my head.

I Googled “plotless novels” and to my delight found dozens upon dozens of novels with little plot and dozens upon dozens of authors who write them.  I also found plotless films, especially those of the late Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu.  He was a master at creating intense feelings with a minimum of story.  His characters carried the day.

Suddenly the sun broke through the clouds.  I read Kazuo Ishiguro’s novels “The Remains of the Day” (even better than the movie) and “An Artist of the Floating World” and loved them.  I watched Ozu’s films and was moved deeply.  I also discovered an entire form — the picaresque novel — which is nothing more than a series of vignettes.  The movie “Little Big Man” is a film version of the picaresque novel.

The dam broke and I started writing.  I learned (thanks to my sister) I was a pantser.  And I was okay with flying by the seat of my pants.  Being a pantser has its own unique set of issues.  The main one being not having a clue what is coming next.  But then you just trust your characters to tell their story.

Some will argue there is no such thing as a plotless novel or story.  To make sense, a story has to have a plot.  If there was no plot, the story wouldn’t make any sense.  Even if all the characters do is to go from point A to point B, one has a plot.

I won’t quibble over semantics.  If one looks at “Little Big Man” or “The Remains of the Day”, there is movement.  The progressive story of a man’s life or the taking of a vacation.  But those events aren’t what make the story.  It is the development of Jack Crabb and his life experiences which make the story.  What life has taught him is what is important.  Or that Stevens must come to grips with a changing world and to survive he must change along with it.  His vacation, at the end of the day, is simply a vehicle for him to come to grips with himself.

Perhaps the Plotless Novel should be called the Character Novel, because that is what is important.  It is the character him or herself that is important and constitutes the story.

Whatever we call it, the Plotless Novel has been a godsend for me.  I wouldn’t be writing today without its discovery.

What are your thoughts on reading or writing the plotless novel?



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