Archives for the month of: September, 2016

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Next Question: Did your third novel Not Wonder More, Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients resolve the issue of whether to write genre or literary fiction? And what about your publisher?

 

I had a list of topics I wanted to research for my next novel including mental illness, magic, natural healing, global warming and old growth forests as well as naked ambition, Nietzsche’s philosophy of “the Will to Power” and principle of cause and effect.

One of the reasons I write is to learn new things. I task my characters with personality traits, careers and philosophies I want to learn more about. How was I to achieve this in the context of my third and final romance novel, the last in the Eco-Warrior series?

How about having two people from very disparate backgrounds, with conflicting personalities, on the opposite sides of a seemingly irreconcilable issue fall in love?

Not too original, you say? Anyhow, here’s a snapshot of the story behind Not Wonder More, Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients.

Magic, mystery and madness versus logic, cause and effect. Can love find a middle ground?

Maggie talks to trees. Dieter talks to corporations.
Maggie embraces mystery and flirts with magic. Dieter adheres to logic and the doctrine of Nietzsche.
Dieter’s client wants to destroy the trees. The trees want Maggie to protect them.
Dieter has terminal cancer. Maggie is schizophrenic.
Maggie says she can save him, if he’ll save the trees. Dieter thinks she’s crazy, but what choice does he have?
A week together alone on Deadman’s Island changes everything for both of them.
Is it madness? Is it magic? Or is it love?

This novel was an adventure. Almost immediately the characters took on lives of their own. As a conduit I was channeled in the quest to learn more about schizophrenia and the stigma of mental illness, the logic behind Nietzsche’s doctrine of the Will to Power – the main driving force in humans – achievement, ambition, and the striving to reach the highest possible position in life. There was also an exploration of natural healing remedies and medicinal plants and the ecology of ancient forests.

As my characters developed so did their bond to one another – tentatively, intuitively and finally passionately.

But these characters were flawed. There is no cure for Maggie’s schizophrenia. Happily Ever After wasn’t possible. The best that can be hoped for was an uneasy truce with the illness.

Did I care? Not one bit.

I’d been taken on an adventure without maps with no clear destination and accompanying me were these fascinating characters. It truly was a life within a life. If you’ve had this experience you know what I mean. If you haven’t I sincerely hope you do.

My entire perspective changed. I no longer was frustrated by my lack of success. It seemed almost irrelevant. I shutdown my Facebook page and quit my time consuming, unproductive writer chat/critique groups. The key to this other world was to become a better writer. I wanted go there and bring others with me.

To think that I could set parameters for my writing now seemed ridiculous. I would simply go where it took me or as Norman Mailer put it, “Until you see where your ideas lead to, you know nothing.”

My next book was already taking shape in my mind and it wouldn’t be a romance, more likely it would fall into the category of literary/commercial. That made it unlikely my publisher would want to take it on.

I didn’t care.

What had my publisher given me so far – slick, cheesy covers that didn’t represent the story, no editing, no proof reading (readers said they liked the stories but not the typos) and they were reluctant to publish them in paperback which Amazon would do for free.

It wasn’t like they’d mislead me or provided more or better services for other authors, but my books deserved better than what they were getting.

I resolved to do two things – not renew my publishing contracts and self-publish my next book.

Besides, it now seemed untenable to abandon the fate of my books to someone else. I wanted to control their destiny – to set their prices or for that matter to give them away, to promote or not without restriction.

I understood self-publishing would mean doing my own promotionl. I began researching book marketing techniques and was astounded and disturbed. Most “marketing experts” encouraged you to pander to friends, family – anyone and everyone to get them to post flattering reviews and ratings. There were sites that would write positive reviews for money and authors who would “swap” positive reviews.

It was then I decided to make writing my one true thing. If I was going to fail I’d at least do it with my integrity intact. It wasn’t that I’d lived an immoral life up until then, but I’d cut a few corners.

Full disclosure seemed the best way to do this. I began to write my blog, “Writing – the experience” https://rodraglin.wordpress.com/ , chronicling my progress, or lack of it, and sharing what I discovered along the way and how I felt about it in regards to writing, publishing and marketing.

I felt relieved and renewed. I was not going to be a best selling author. The pressure was off.

 

Question #4: So how did your new direction – writing and self-publishing literary commercial fiction, work for you?

 

 

 

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I once had a friend (yes, I did) who was just recovering from his second divorce. Given the emotional (two kids with each wife) and financial (dividing of community assets) devastation I asked him what he would do differently in a new relationship?

My understanding is if we do everything the same how can we expect a different result?

I ask myself this question as I’m in the process of launching my seventh novel.

You could say, start by writing a better book (ouch) and you’d be right. But that’s kind of like my friend saying he’d find a better partner, which he actually said and did – though I’m not sure if she’s better.

My novels are far from being perfect, but – and I hope I don’t sound too delusional, egotistical or like everyone else who has written back-to-back-to-back flops – they’re at least as good as some books that have had way, way more success (sales) than mine.

And my books aren’t alone. In my reviewing the books of new self-published authors (Not Your Family, Not Your Friend Book Reviews https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH45n8K4BVmT248LBTpfARQ) I find about twenty percent have written remarkable books and yet they have zero success.

So enough talk about failure (and justifying it), the question is what to do different with the launch of The Local Rag, so it has more success than the others have achieved so far?

At the time of writing this I have 394 followers on BookLikes, 39 on Twitter, 13 on Goodreads and 61 subscribers to my blog. Some are actually people. I’ve been told by the experts if I want your support I need to interact with you, build a relationship, give if I want to get.

Okay. This is tough for someone as misanthropic as I am, but here’s what I’ll do. If you comment on something I’ve posted I’ll respond. Will I “like”, “friend” or “follow” you? Let’s go slow, one step at a time, this is, after all, a new relationship.

I’ve listened in on some webinar’s on marketing and have tweaked my social media sites adding my Amazon Author Page link to my profile and a list of my books and plays on my Twitter header photo (like this will make a difference).

The most interesting thing I learned was from Chris Syme of Smart Marketing for Authors https://cksyme.com/ when she presented a graph showing the Funnel Influence By Network broken down into which social media sites performed best when it came to Introduction, Awareness, Purchase Point Conversion and One Touch Purchase.

Of course, she could have just told the listeners which sites sell more books but apparently obfuscation is the key when it comes to good marketing or at least the presentation of if.

Anyhow, according to this graph you’re just not happening unless you have a Facebook presence.

I stopped using Facebook about seven years ago when my wife asked me if I was interested in any of the people I had “friended”. I said no. She said, “Then why do you think they’re interested in you?”

Most recently a young acquaintance with over five hundred “Facebook friends” invited them all to her birthday party. The only people who came were a few of her immediate family.

Despite my moral misgivings and uncertainty about the effectiveness and authenticity of this social media site, I revisited it.

What I found is that I can link my Twitter feed to my Facebook page so I won’t have to double post (probably I’m the only one who didn’t know this). That was encouraging.

So here’s what I’ve resolved. I now have a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100013287676486 where you can view all my tweets and some more stuff on writing, community development and the environment. I’m not “friending” anyone because I think it’s dishonest to pretend to be interested in someone when you’re not. However, you can still “follow” me and get some good information from my timeline.

My problem is I have this integrity thing – it’s a proving to be a real liability. Writing is my one true thing and I won’t sully it with chicanery and deceit.

So all this time (and words) you’ve been wondering about my twice divorced friend, did he do anything different?

No, but here’s the thing – even though his third wife (unbelievable, I know) is very similar to his previous two, his circumstances have changed and so their relationship appears successful (so far).

Does that just negate everything I said?

What do you think?

Stay clam, be brave, watch for the signs

 

Facebook link https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100013287676486

Not Your Family, Not Your Friend Books Reviews link

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH45n8K4BVmT248LBTpfARQ

Amazon Author Page link http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 

 

 

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QUESTION: Did you find the plot and the characters in your second novel, Loving the Terrorist, restricted by the confines of this genre?

 

Despite the lack of success of my first novel, Saving Spirit Bear, my publisher was still keen on publishing two more novels as part of the Eco-Fi series, Eco-Warriors, and I was still keen on writing them. The plan (remember the plan?) appeared flawed, but perhaps not fatally.

As a journalist I’d been following and commenting on a local protest where residents and hardcore environmentalists had joined forces to boycott the development of a highway bypass that would destroy Eagleridge Bluffs, a very rare  eco-system, home to migratory birds and at least one endangered species.

Despite a number of other viable options the government was intransigent. In frustration the protestors set up a blockade and eventually were arrested and literally dragged off to jail.

I’ve spent the best part of my life climbing and hiking in the local mountains. I’ve seen some awe-inspiring scenery, moments when I truly felt if I died in the presence of such magnificence, well, that would be just fine.

But Eagleridge Bluffs was the best. These ancient rock faces, carved by eons of Pacific storms roaring down Georgia Strait, and decorated by gnarled Arbutus Trees emanated benign energy that soothed and uplifted the human spirit – no kidding.

When they dynamited The Bluffs they destroyed something very special and to this day I feel guilty. I should have done more to save this wonderful wild place that I loved.

But what could I have done? Loving the Terrorist – Risking it All, is that story.

Miriam is forty and frustrated. In an attempt to enhance her living-just-to-breathe life she joins some neighbours protesting a highway bypass that will destroy Eagleridge Bluffs.  Not only are the Bluffs her special sanctuary, they’re also the beautiful home of rare and endangered plants and animals.

The protest gains the support of environmental organizations including the attention of a group of eco-radicals lead by an enigmatic younger man named Zaahir.

Miriam is mesmerized by this charismatic leader and sees him as someone that can save her as well as the Bluffs. But is Zaahir just using Miriam to help him further his radical political agenda?

As legal channels fail and civil disobedience falters, Miriam is seduced into the murky world of eco-terrorism.

The plot of this story follows the actual events that took place over three months that summer – up to a point. I literally lifted dialogue for my characters from news clips and stories. Then I took it further.

I wanted to explore the theme – is violence justified if the cause is just? Furthermore, is violence effective?

I wanted a sympathetic villain because as an author if you have a political agenda (and boy, did I) the only way to keep from sounding didactic is to also present it from the point of view of the antagonist – and do it fairly. I gleaned this from Robert Boswell’s book,  Not only does this approach work, it was a good idea since I wasn’t quite sure where I stood on this issue myself.

I took the criticism of my first novel to heart and “sexed up” this one.

This presented a challenge and I wondered how I could write explicitly about sex without it being gratuitous? I decided to make Miriam a virgin, her lover fifteen years younger than her, and she white and him brown. My idea was to let my readers discover sex along with my heroine.

I hit most of the points including a “Happy Ever After” ending but even as I was writing the novel I could tell I was straying beyond the confines of the romance genre. Despite the ending, this wasn’t a happy story, how could it be – innocent creatures were wiped out, a beautiful, spiritual place was destroyed, and for no good reason (as if there ever is one).

I couldn’t help it, I couldn’t change it. It bombed, but I felt better.

By the time Loving the Terrorist was published I was well into the third novel for the Eco-Warriors series. I’d learned quite a bit about writing and about publishing and even more about myself. This would be my last romance. I knew I was leaving genre even as I was writing Not Wonder More, Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients. I was also becoming increasingly dissatisfied with my publisher (and no doubt, she with me)  and had begun exploring other options.

Next Question: Did your third novel Not Wonder More, Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients resolve the issue of whether to write genre or literary fiction? And what about your publisher?

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