The World’s First Commercial Airliner

Today is an auspicious day in aviation history. One hundred and six years ago, the world’s first commercial air flight took place by the world’s first commercial aircraft. The LZ-7 Deutschland took off from Dusseldorf, Germany with 24 passengers on board. She was owned by the world’s first airline company — the DELAG (German Airship Transportation Corporation).

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The LZ-7 Deutschland in flight

The Deutschland was, at the time, the largest aircraft that had ever been built. She was 486 feet long and 46 feet in diameter. Her gas cells were inflated with 683,000 cubic feet of hydrogen and she had a useful lift of 11,000 pounds. The airship had a crew of 8 or 9 men and had room for two dozen passengers in addition to some cargo capacity.

The passenger cabin was enclosed and had windows for viewing, was paneled in mahogany, and inlaid with mother-of-pearl.

early-zeppelin-cabin

The Passenger Cabin of the Deutschland

The zeppelin was powered by three 125 horsepower Daimler engines. Her top speed was just over 37 miles per hour and her cruising speed was 33 miles per hour.

By contrast, the world’s first mass produced airplane, the Wright Model B, could carry, aside from the pilot, one passenger or a small cargo — and nothing was enclosed. The plane was completely open. The Model B flew at an average speed of 44 miles per hour.

Atwood_in_Model_B

Wright Model B Biplane

“A Three Hour Tour”

On that beautiful Tuesday morning, 106 years ago, the LZ-7 Deutschland rose into the sky. Twenty-three journalists were on board, along with DELAG director Alfred Colsman. The passengers enjoyed a light breakfast of champagne and caviar shortly after take off. What a delightful way to start off a  three hour sightseeing tour.

Note: Breakfast was not served on the Wright Model B.

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Interior of the Deutschland’s Passenger Cabin

“The Weather Started Getting Rough”

Captain Kahlenberg, formerly of the Prussian Airship Battalion, was relatively inexperienced and committed several judgement errors. Most airship crashes were due to such errors of judgment. For his, Kahlenberg was sacked and the Zeppelin company began emphasizing safety first.

Kahlenberg’s first mistake was his failure to get a weather report before take off. His second was to fly before the wind towards more picturesque scenery. When he suddenly found the wind had dramatically increased, he also discovered he couldn’t fly his underpowered airship into the wind and return to base. And it was a situation made worse by the failure of one of the engines. Kahlenberg found himself, his passengers, and crew pushed along by the wind and he was unable to do anything about it.

Having no radio on board, Captain Kahlenberg frantically dropped notes to the ground asking local Army garrisons for assistance in landing the giant ship. And all the while, the wind pushed the Deutschland towards the towering thunderheads over Teutoberger Forest.

“The Giant Ship Was Tossed”

By late afternoon, the airship was being driven rapidly along towards its rendezvous with destiny. The crew was helpless to stop the relentless drive towards the oncoming thunderstorm. And when the zeppelin at last collided with the storm front, the updrafts caused her to shoot up to 3,600 feet. During her rapid and wild ascent, hydrogen was automatically valved from the swollen gas cells. Finally, heavy with rain and with insufficient lift gas, the airship plunged to earth and crashed into the forest pines.

Unlike the Minnow of Gilligan’s Island, in spite of the crew’s best efforts, the Deutschland was lost. The nine hour ordeal was over. However, unlike a modern airliner crash, there were no fatalities and the only injury occurred to a crewman who jumped from the airship and broke his leg.

Safety First

Certainly not the way an airline company would choose to start out operations. Count Zeppelin, though, made changes, lots of changes, changes that resulted in German airships having the best safety record the world has ever seen.

The DELAG, in its four years of operations before World War I, carried over 34,000 passengers on over 1500 flights without a single injury.

After the war, the safety record continued with flights by the Bodensee, Graf Zeppelin, and Hindenburg. And as spectacular a disaster as was the tragic burning of the Hindenburg in 1937, the loss of life was relatively small. Twenty-six percent of the passengers and crew died. Compare that with 100% loss of life from the increasing numbers of jet airliner crashes today.

Perspective

Passenger air travel became a reality 106 years ago today. And while the first flight ended in the destruction of the airship, no lives were lost.

The Graf Zeppelin flew over a million miles without a single casualty and many of those miles were as a passenger aircraft.

The next time you board a jetliner and squeeze yourself into your seat and have a complimentary drink, think of the flight of the Deutschland. They had room to walk around and enjoyed a breakfast of champagne and caviar.

The LZ-7 Deutschland

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Where Has All the Money Gone?

One advantage of being older is that we oldsters have a perspective not available to youngsters. Now I’m not ancient. I’m “only” 63. However, my interest in writing and being a published author goes back as long as I can remember. It’s an interest and a desire that’s always been with me. I’ve actively followed the publishing scene for fifty years or more. I’ve ingested so many how-to books and articles I will never hunger for several lifetimes.

And I’m here to say, for all the change in the publishing world, nothing much has changed.

My friends Sarah and Alice commented on my last post and I couldn’t help but feel a certain sense of loss as to how to proceed in what is perceived as a publishing maelstrom.

I want to repeat: nothing much has changed in 50 years.

Sure we have the internet. And I’m glad. But let’s take a little techno history ride. A ride that shows why I’m so enthusiastic about the present and the future. A ride that hopefully will give some perspective.

When I was in school during the ‘50s and ‘60s there were mimeograph machines. You typed a stencil, put it on the drum of the machine, filled the machine with fluid (always blue), and produced your printed document. Freshly printed paper was best because you got to smell the mimeo ink. Yes, we sniffed our test questions!

Then photocopiers appeared on the scene. Yippee! No stencils! No mimeo fluid! And you could even get color on some machines. Photocopiers were faster and cleaner and spawned a fanzine revolution. The editor only had to get the cover printed at the print shop. A new age was dawning!

I remember many fanzines from back in the last few decades of the 20th century and even slim books produced on the photocopier. It was certainly the best of times.

Then along came desktop publishing. Oh my! That took indie publishing to a whole new level. The things we could now do on a computer that had been impossible on a typewriter. Desktop publishing was almost as revolutionary as the printing press itself.

Then print on demand technology became practical in the first few years of the 21st century. Writers had now reached the gates of paradise. No longer did we only have the dreaded vanity presses. We could actually produce our own paperback books. We indie authors were able to go to a whole new level. But we hadn’t seen nothin’ yet.

On November 19, 2007, Amazon introduced the Kindle. It sold for $399 and the initial lot sold out in 5 1/2 hours. Restocks weren’t available for five months. Author/publishers had achieved Nirvana.

What the future has in store, who knows? But over the past 50 years, I’ve seen nothing but better opportunity upon better opportunity. I’ll take my stories on epub and mobi any day over those old, faded mimeograph pages.

From my perspective, as a writer/publisher, I’ll take the plethora of options available to me in 2016 over the dearth of options that were available in 1965. For in 1965, I could only run the gauntlet of traditional publishing if I wanted the chance to have an audience greater than a few hundred people – at best – self-publishing. And have a quality product. Of course, there was always the dreaded vanity press. Back then. Today the vanity press is passé.

Another thing to consider. Back then, because the fiction magazine market had virtually dried up to nothing, novels were the only way to go if one hoped to make money. Novels are still the fiction writers best chance at the big bucks. But, due to epublishing, novellas and short stories are making a big come back. And I, for one, am very pleased. I love the short story.

However, with ease, comes the tsunami of fortune seekers. The get rich quick mentality. Not unlike the California Gold Rush. The first ones in, got the easy stuff. Those after, only made the middleman rich.

Not unlike the Kindle revolution. Those in first got the easy money. By 2014, the easy money was gone. Now, like those old Smith Barney commercials from the ‘60s, if we want money — we have to earn it.

Today, in 2016, the middleman is alive and well just waiting to part the wannabe author from his or her money. And the desperate are easily parted from their cash.

But there is no need to be among the desperate. The Golden Age may have passed, but we are surely in the glorious Silver Age — and silver spends as well as gold.

What can we author/publishers do in 2016 to make a living from our writing? I’ve been asking myself that question for the past 20 months. I’ve read the blogs and books, I’ve observed what others are doing who have been in longer than I and who are making a living. I think there are lots of things we can do and the first is to have patience. The easy money maybe gone, but the money is still there if we’re willing to do a little spadework. Here are some further thoughts.

  1. Write well. This always has and always will be number one. The ebook revolution hasn’t changed the fact that while sloppy books will get published, the well-written ones will have a better chance at survival. Learn grammar. Learn how to spell (spell checker is fallible). Learn how to tell a story. Good grammar, good spelling, good storytelling are always in demand.
  2. Write every day. Treat your writing as though it were a job. If you aren’t writing every day, you aren’t serious about your writing. It’s just a hobby. Hobbies are okay, but not if you want to make a living.
  3. The indie formula is still alive and well. Namely, write lots, publish frequently, publish series, and write in a genre. Unfortunately, literary fiction, the stand alone novel, and fuzzy genre books don’t do that well in the indie market. If that is what you want to write, go ahead. Just realize you are setting yourself a higher hurdle to jump.
  4. Learn marketing. Whether you go indie or traditional, knowing how to sell your books is what will make you money in the end. Unless your name is Patterson, Michener, Dan Brown, Sandra Brown, or Sue Grafton, the publishing house isn’t going to spend advertising dollars on you. You are unknown. The money is spent where the publisher knows they’ll get many dollars in return for each ad buck spent. What’s more publishers never did spend advertising on new authors. For some reason there is a myth that is very popular about the supportive publishing house. They are in it for the money. If the writer can’t make them money, he or she will be kicked to the curb — because there is always the next one in line to take their place. So learn marketing.
  5. Be willing to spend some money to make some money. You don’t have to spend a lot, but you will probably have to spend some. Advertising isn’t free for the most part, although some is.
  6. Build your mailing list. This is the one thing I’ve learned recently that makes me wish I’d started two or three years ago laying the foundation for my writing career. Better late, though, than never. A mailing list is indispensable for indies. And also traditionally published folk. Don’t be dependent on anyone but you. Not Random House, MacMillan, Amazon, FaceBook, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords — not anyone. When you have your own mailing list of fans, then you can direct market to them, mobilize them, get them to work for you. It takes time and money, but no one seems to regret building a strong mailing list.
  7. Social media doesn’t sell books. Not directly anyway. Tweeting “Buy My Book” 20 times a day is going to get you ignored or muted. I’ve never bought a book from one of those tweets or from one of those companies that will do it for you. However, I have purchased books from people I’ve gotten to know on Twitter.
  8. Spending time on social media is largely a waste of time. It’s time you could be using to write your book or your next book. I’m not saying one shouldn’t be social or connect with people. One should. But spending hours tweeting drivel or playing games or what all, is time stolen from writing your book. Books will make you money. Twitter games won’t. Mainly because people buy books. They don’t buy Twitter game tweets.
  9. For indies, don’t bother about advertising your book until you have at least 4 of them. Indie readers like series, tend to be high volume genre readers, and don’t want to wait for the next book.
  10. For traditionally published folk, it’s the reverse. Advertise that book as if it will save your soul, because if you don’t earn back your advance — the publisher will kick you to the curb and take the next writer in line.
  11. Publish widely. And use Amazon. Yeah, I hate Amazon too. A giant monopolistic behemoth. But before you get on your high horse, remember 80% of ebooks are sold through Amazon. If you aren’t on Amazon, 80 buyers out of a 100 won’t see you. Can you really afford to give up that large of an audience? In addition, Amazon controls 2/3 of the print market. If you aren’t on Amazon, you basically don’t exist. And, yeah, I hate Amazon. They are like any other big company — they exist to make money. Period. But reality is reality. Publish widely and play with the 800 pound gorilla on the block.
  12. Draw up a business plan. Plan your work and work your plan. You are an author/publisher. You are your own publisher. If you don’t want the hassle of publishing, then try to run the traditional gauntlet. You’ll only get 10% and still have to do all the work as if you were an indie. This is reality. Magic doesn’t work in the real world. You need to plan for success.
  13. Don’t give up and don’t despair. Be thankful you don’t have to choose between Random House, the vanity press, or the mimeograph machine. There are over 4 million books on Amazon’s Kindle store. And yours are unique. Your readers are out there and want to be found. Learn marketing so you can find them. Be proactive. Don’t rely on magic. It doesn’t work.

This is the best of times and this is the best of times. Life is always easier for the other guy. You and me? We have to work. So let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work. No silver spoon was in my mouth when I was born and none appeared when I started self-publishing. And the real kick in the butt? Oprah had retired.

So I’m learning how to market what I write. There are a lot of resources out there. I found one I think makes sense and am going to give it a try.

Believe in yourself. Treat the days of no sales as a challenge to build your fan base — because they are out there looking for you. Don’t let them down.

Circling back around to the title of this post, where has all the money gone? Nowhere. It’s right there. Ready to be traded for quality entertainment.

Comments are always welcome. Until next time, happy reading!

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Being Indie

In 2014 I made the decision to become an independent writer/publisher, or indie for short. Two factors weighed heavily in my decision. One was the difficulty of going the traditional route. The other being freedom.

I don’t write much on the writing life, because I don’t have much, if anything, to add to the veritable mountain of information that’s out already. Nor is my personal journey all that unique. I’ve made plenty of mistakes and I am slowly correcting them. I’ve also done a few things right.

Today, I’d like to put out into the aether a few thoughts about being an author/publisher. These are my own reflections. For the writers in my audience, I hope you find something of use or encouragement. For the non-writers, hopefully you’ll find applications to your own lives.

Traditional Publishing

Sometime in the middle 1960s I got my first copies of The Writer and Writer’s Digest. Let me be frank here, nothing much has changed in the traditional publishing world during these past 50 years. The most noticeable differences between then and now are these:

  • There are fewer publishers
  • An agent is virtually mandatory
  • The wannabe author has to secure his/her own editorial services
  • There is the internet

Everything else is the same. The same advice on how to write. The same adulation of critics, pundits, and publishers. The same narrow gate whereby only the few may enter. And once within the hallowed walls of authordom, the same lousy contracts and all the same self-marketing if you want to sell books.

My late friend and author, John J. Koblas, used to have his van filled with boxes of his books to sell at every speaking engagement and signing event. And to whoever might happen by. He made an okay living—but had to hustle to do it.

In truth, very little has changed in 50 years. For all of the perceived change, so much has stayed the same.

Freedom

I value freedom. Robert E. Howard, in a letter to H. P. Lovecraft, confessed the reason he wanted to be a writer was because of the freedom it gave a person. I couldn’t agree more.

A writer is a self-employed artist. A creator and a business person all rolled into one. Unfortunately, the business piece of the partnership usually gets forgotten. The writer leaves that to the agent; or, if self published, too often to magic. When Weird Tales had trouble paying Howard for his stories, Howard followed the money and moved on to the western and fight magazines. He was a businessman as well as an artist.

Any writer can tell you, if he or she is actually writing stories and books, the act of writing is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. It’s work. It might be fun work, but it’s work nonetheless.

So why do so many writers—myself included—simply toss their books onto Amazon and then conduct tweet barrages to try to sell them? Or think blogging will get them noticed? Or hope that those 10,000 downloads of their free book will automatically turn into book buying fans? Because we want to believe in magic.

After being in indie author for over a year and a half, I’m here to tell you magic doesn’t work.

The freedom of being an independent author/publisher comes with a boatload of responsibility. The responsibility of being your own business person. Of being the one who directs your career, not some money-grubbing middleman (aka publisher) directing it for you.

The Black Hole

I read somewhere 3,000 books a day are published. I don’t know if that is true or not. But I’d hazard a guess it’s at least close to the truth.

Recently I went through a free course on book marketing with Nick Stephenson. Several times he mentioned writing into the black hole. In other words if you’re unknown, just writing books won’t bring you fame. They’re going into the black hole. Because no one knows you exist.

Marketing on social media is kind of doing the same thing. So is offering your book for free. There are lots of people out there who will grab anything for free and that includes books. They may never read those free books. Which means downloads of free books don’t necessarily mean readers, much less fans.

Dumping into the black hole isn’t going to do much to get you noticed. Remember, 3,000 books a day are being published.

Becoming a name, a recognizable name, is the struggle every author has had since authors first stepped onto the career playing field. And we are talking millennia here, folks. Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides weren’t always famous. How many more classical Greek playwrights never became famous? We don’t know. Their names are dust. Anthony Trollope got the attention of a few critics with his fourth novel. He made some money and got a name with his fifth. It was Hugh Howey’s eighth book, Wool, that gave readers cause to sit up and take notice. Very few authors ever hit the big time coming out of the gate.

When I look at Twitter or Facebook or Google Plus or Goodreads, I see writers grouping together primarily with other writers. And that is not all bad. But it won’t necessarily get you out of the black hole. Why? Because we writers want readers to buy our books. There are more readers out there than writers. Somewhere along the line I think we forget that. Although, I do keep hoping Marcia Muller or S J Rozan will discover and plug my Justinia Wright mystery series and I will rake in the dough on the Oprah Effect. I do keep hoping. Magic is alive and well.

The sad fact of the matter is most of us will be swallowed up by the black hole. Why? Because name recognition is much more difficult to obtain then writing a book—and writing a book is difficult enough.

Marketing

To climb out of the black hole, we need to be business people. We need to plan our work and work our plan. We need to become proficient at marketing and self-promotion. And because many of us are introverts and shy, we see self-promotion as something akin to torture. And who wants to willingly lie on the rack or step into the Iron Maiden?

Nevertheless, we need to learn how to sell our books and ourselves—if we want to make a career of writing.

For myself, I’m 63 and retired. I don’t need to replace the dreaded day job. But I would like to supplement my income and get that Rolls Royce I’ve always wanted.

So how does one learn marketing? There are lots of ways:

  • Business courses at college
  • Observation of successful indies
  • Getting personal advice from successful indies
  • Reading marketing blogs
  • Reading books on marketing
  • Taking courses offered by indie writers who are successful or marketers who cater to indie authors
  • Trial and error
  • Paying a marketing firm (making sure you observe what they do so you don’t have to hire them ongoing)

I’ve observed successful indies, read a few of the marketing blogs, read a few books on marketing, have tried and erred, and am now taking a course.

What I’ve Learned

What have I learned over the past 20 months of being an indie author that I can pass on to you? Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Write. For indie authors, less is not more. More is more. Readers of indie authors expect a lot of product. All of the experienced indie authors agree on this.
  2. Write in series. Readers of indie works expect a series or at the very least related books in a universe or series characters. All of the experienced indie authors agree on this.
  3. Have at least 3 books written before you start seriously thinking of marketing.
  4. Write in an identifiable genre. This makes it easy for indie readers to identify you. The genre doesn’t have to be large. It could be, for example, romantic space opera. While small, that subgenre is identifiable. Once again, all of the experienced indie authors agree on this.
  5. Write well/Edit well. This should go without saying. Unfortunately it can’t. Pay someone to help you if you have to. Investing in yourself is always worth the money.
  6. Use social media to make connections with your peers. Don’t use it to sell. It’s a poor sales channel—unless you are paying for ads on the channel.
  7. Learn marketing. If you’re going to be an author/publisher, then you’re going to have to know marketing if you want to sell books. I wish someone had told me this 2 or 3 years before I started. This is critical. Marketing sells books. Wishful thinking and magic do not.
  8. Live by Heinlein’s Five Rules. If you are a writer, then you write. You don’t do anything else. Unless you’re an author/publisher and then you are going to have to also do the business end of things, like marketing, as well. But first and foremost, you write. Robert J Sawyer sums up the Five Rules very well. Do read them. Do follow them.

I hope this has been of value. Comments are welcome. Until next time, happy reading!

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Cozy Catastrophe Review: Deluge

 

 

deluge

In some ways, Noah’s flood could qualify as a cozy catastrophe — made all the more cozy by divine revelation informing Noah of the impending disaster and telling him how best to survive it. However, I don’t know anyone who classifies the story as one.

On the other hand, God deigned not to intervene in S. Fowler Wright’s 1928 novel Deluge and it is an excellent example of the cozy catastrophe.

We’ve already observed that the cozy is not a recent phenomenon as some would suggest. It goes as far back as 1885 with Richard Jefferies’ After London; or, Wild England. And perhaps further. Especially if we include Noah.

Wright is a new author to me. He was very popular in his day. Unfortunately, he is faded into oblivion. There is a website dedicated to him — www.sfw.org — which includes nearly all of his works.

I was very impressed with Deluge and am currently reading the sequel, Dawn. The characters are well-drawn and believable, at least believable given the standards of 1928. Which means there is a definite class structure as well as a definite sexual divide between men and women, something some modern readers might have trouble with. However, Wright includes strong leaders among the lower class and includes two very strong female leads, which shows Wright to have been an author ahead of his time.

The novel is a wonderful blend of survival, love triangle, and nascent future building. Wright knew how to keep the tension mounting. His hero and heroines don’t have an easy time of it.

If the novel has any flaws it is that Wright tells the story in the third person omniscient. We learn everything about everything, which at times I felt bogged down the story with information I didn’t think necessary or that could have been given to me through some other form, such as conversation.

Engaging in descriptions of sex was taboo back then and I found amusing some of Wright’s circumlocutions to get around the subject and say what couldn’t be said. One involves one of the character’s claim she could be pregnant. Having only been with the man for five days and not intimate for most of those days makes pregnancy unlikely. However, Wright couldn’t come right out with the couple engaging in sex. So he uses the euphemism of pregnancy to tell the reader they were indeed getting it on!

Aside from the third person omniscient point of view and subject taboos we might find resulting in odd circumlocutions and euphemisms, the book is eminently readable.

The story tells us first of Martin and Helen, husband and wife, who get separated by the overnight catastrophe, and of Martin’s subsequent attempts to survive. The story then shifts to Claire, her survival, and her eventual meeting up with Martin. And because writers must make their characters suffer… Well, Gentle Reader, I’ll leave it there. You will need to read this tale to find out how it ends. The ending, I will say, is a satisfying surprise.

The cozy catastrophe is alive and well. There are many wonderful examples out there waiting to be discovered. Examples of human courage, hope, and ingenuity. For me, that is what makes the cozy catastrophe so enjoyable. It gives me hope the good within us all will win out over the evil.

Comments are always welcome. Until next time, happy reading!

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Cozy Catastrophe Review: The Rocheport Saga

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The Rocheport Saga is my contribution to the cozy catastrophe subgenre. Freedom’s Freehold, the sixth book in the series, is available for pre-order, and the entire series is on sale for 99¢ per book until the 13th of June. Do get your copies now, if you haven’t already. They are available at the retailer of your choice.

Without even knowing what a cozy catastrophe was, I wrote about Bill Arthur’s attempt to preserve the accumulated knowledge of the human race in the wake of an overnight virtual annihilation of humanity. Taking as a general guide Stewart’s Earth Abides. And so it was quite by accident I incorporated all the features that make a cozy a cozy.

The Rocheport Saga is a sprawling work. It covers one man’s lifetime: from his late 50s to his death at 103. It is the second “novel” I wrote and the first after I came to the realization I was a pantser who had a liking for the “plotless” novel. By which I mean to say, The Rocheport Saga is very much like most of our lives: we have story arcs, picaresque adventures, but very little in the way of plot. Most of us, myself included, live from day to day. We don’t plot out our lives. Sure we have our plans. Most of those end up as merely wishes.

Kazuo Ishiguro, in his novel An Artist of the Floating World, summed it up quite well, I think. Most of us, at the end of the day, find ourselves to be, for all our dreams and efforts, ordinary people in extraordinary times. We give it our best to be great and usually fall far short.

That is why virtual life is so popular. Whether that virtual life be novels, games, TV, movies, social media, or a façade carefully maintained as though we were actors and actresses on a stage. Virtual life allows us to be great. It gives us the chance to be winners.

All literature, in my opinion, is ultimately fantasy. It is wish fulfillment. We want to be the hero who succeeds at the quest. Or to be the man or woman who finds true love. Or perhaps that one person to succeed where others can’t and thereby receive the recognition and adulation we know we are all entitled to.

The Rocheport Saga is no different. It is fantasy masquerading as science fiction. Because, let’s face it, what are the odds of a Bill Arthur surviving such a cataclysm and being able to guide and hold together such a rag tag group as that in Rocheport? Probably nil. And yet, we all would like to be Bill Arthur. I know I would.

Why? Because he is not like us. He is underneath it all an extraordinary man who gets to live in extraordinary times. He is the quintessential nobody who rises to the occasion when the occasion presents itself. Which is a key feature of the cozy catastrophe. He and he alone is capable of leading the people of Rocheport and ultimately of Missouri. The stuff of which dreams are made.

In The Morning Star, we meet Bill Arthur. He is searching for a home. The urban areas are too dangerous for his liking. Along the way, he meets Mert, Mel, and Sally. They are the beginning of his blended family through which his dream eventually comes to fruition.

Book 2, The Shining City, finds the inhabitants of Rocheport doing what it seems people do best: fighting. There is war and Bill’s group eventually wins, but not without loss. For war only comes with loss.

The losers of the civil war in Rocheport are very poor sports and in the next two books, Love is Little and The Troubled City, our hero has no end of grief in his attempt to ensure the group’s survival and accomplish his dream of a return to high technology and for everyone to live by the Golden Rule.

By Leaps and Bounds, Book 5, sees a turn. On his way to a libertarian republic and living by the Golden Rule, Bill disbands Rocheport’s communal way of life and makes everyone responsible for his or her success or failure.

In Book 6, Freedom’s Freehold, Bill, in the face of dangerous external and internal forces, as well as personal crises, continues his technological advance and his desire to implement a libertarian republic — that best form of government which governs not at all, as Thoreau wrote.

Just as Europe emerged from the Dark Ages to realize the world was a very large place, so too does Rocheport emerge from its isolation to find there are many little communities like itself.

Bill embarks on building a telegraph network to link together likeminded cities. He builds steam-powered cars and trucks for travel and trade. And for long distance exploration and trade, he builds a steam-powered airship.

The forthcoming books will chronicle the ever growing world in which Rocheport finds itself. The question always being will Bill and his dream remain in the center of that world and will Rocheport truly become the shining city set upon the hill.

The Rocheport Saga is the cozy catastrophe on a grand scale. I hope you enjoy it.

Comments are welcome, as always. Until next time, happy reading!

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