#4 On self publishing The Big Picture and becoming an indie author

Layout 1The Big Picture – A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic, was the first novel I knew I would publish independently.

I wanted to explore a number issues and without the constrains of genre I had no idea where they would take me. I was excited.

I wanted to examine the creative process – and how the art and the artist are influenced by the marketplace.

I wanted to delve into the intensity of family dynamics – how wonderful it is when it works and how damaging it can be when it doesn’t.

I wanted complex characters and authentic relationships.

As a journalist, I’d covered stories that couldn’t be reported. I knew what was going on but I couldn’t get someone to go on (or off) the record to admit it. It was frustrating, but what could you do?

Well, you could use it in fiction. The plot of The Big Picture is comprised of some of those unsubstantiated stories and also my investigation into the influence of drug money on our lives .

To get at my protagonist’s inner journey I went deep inside myself, rooted around, and came forth with not so much the truth about a life I’ve experienced, but one I’d hoped (still hope) to live.

Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe said, “One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised.” I wanted Freyja, my heroine, to be that person. I wanted to see where her blunt refusal to compromise and her intolerant attitude toward those who did would lead her.

Here’s what I came up with:

Young, talented, ambitious, Freyja Brynjarrson’s a photographer struggling to crash the art establishment, the challenges presented by her family, and still keep true to her uncompromising ethic.

Fate places her on the front line of a political demonstration where soldiers open fire on civilians. She photographs death for the first time and likes it.

Because of the sensitive nature of her pictures the current government, facing an imminent election, tries to suppress them. But someone far more unscrupulous than government spin-doctors also wants those images destroyed.

Gunnar Brynjarrson, Freyja’s eldest brother is the head of an illegal narcotics empire. He’s concerned about the opposition party’s platform to decriminalize drugs. His sister’s photographs could influence the outcome of a close election and put his business in jeopardy.

As events unfold, Freyja slowly becomes aware of the far-reaching impact the billions of narco dollars have on the government, the economy, friends, family and even herself. Something insidious has infected society and like a super bug it’s resilient, opportunistic and appears as a mutation in the most unexpected places.

Freyja refuses to compromise and is intolerant and unforgiving of those who succumb to this evil or are complicit in their acceptance of it. If she stays at home she’s afraid she’ll be infected and never attain success on her own terms.

She takes an assignment with an international agency photographing the chaos and casualties of Mexico’s drug war. Freyja soon discovers she’s shot only one frame of ‘the big picture’.

The Big Picture focuses on dramatic action, zooms in on political intrigue, and takes a candid snap shot of modern romance. The plot also reveals how narco dollars, overtly and covertly, influence every level of our lives; the wars we fight, the governments we elect, the impact on healthcare, and most importantly and tragically, our personal relationships.

When The Big Picture was finished I set about self-publishing it. I used Kindle Direct for the e-book and Createspace for the paperback, both Amazon platforms.

I know a little about publishing having been (and still am) a community newspaper publisher for nearly four decades. Mind you, with the speed technology is evolving past experience doesn’t count for much, if anything. In any case, I didn’t find the process that difficult. The most difficult part was, and still is, making sure my original manuscript is error free.

I loved this book. I did everything I could to promote it – used social media, sent out advance copies, ran giveaways, sent forth positive thoughts.

I allowed myself to hope. It was a mistake. The Big Picture was self-published without acclaim, reviews or sales. I was disappointed. I felt bad, not so much for myself as for the book. I felt I had let everyone down – meaning my characters.

I regrouped and focused on why I write – because I love to, to learn new things, and to pass my view of the world on to others. Two out of three – not too bad.

Upon reflection I realized The Big Picture had done no worse than the first three books I had published with a publisher. I enjoyed the independence of self-publishing – and the responsibility. So when it became time to renew the contracts with my publisher I said I would if they would publish all the books as paperbacks. We compromised – they published Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients and I yanked the other two books, Spirit Bear and Eagleridge Bluffs.

I subsequently self-published and released Spirit Bear as Saving Spirit Bear – What Price Success, and Eagleridge Bluffs as Loving the Terrorists – Beyond Eagleridge Bluffs. My re-released books have fared no worse than the one remaining on the publisher’s list, all have done terrible.

Next month I’ll retain the rights of my last book under contract and plan to re-release it as a self-published book as well.

The next novel I wrote, Forest – Love, Loss, Legend came out of the residuals of the previous one – war, drugs, and murder combined with my love of the wilderness – it’s splendor and it’s mystery.


For more information on all my books and plays visit my Amazon Author Page at





To fail alone or succeed with collaboration?


I use to want to be a playwright.

I took a program at Playwrights Theatre Centre in Vancouver and with the help of professional dramaturg’s and the other members of the group developed Harry’s Truth, A Play in One Act.

“Harry” even had a “reading” – professional actors read the play aloud. I was blown away and, believe it or not, so were they.

The next step was to take it to production, maybe in conjunction with a couple of other one act plays by other playwrights – make an evening of it.

Whether that would have happened or not I’ll never know. You see, I’m not much of a collaborator and theatre is all about collaboration. By the time Harry’s Truth was ready for production I’d about had it with the affected (def.: artificial, pretentious, and designed to impress) people I’d been working with, and believe me the definition fits when it comes to theatre people.

If you come right down to it I’d rather go it alone and fail than have to work with someone and succeed, which is probably one of the reasons I’m where I am at this point in my career, alone and a failure. Hmm.

Recently I came across Harry’s Truth when I was searching the hard drive of my old laptop. I clicked and remarkably it opened. Nine years had passed and as I read it I thought this isn’t half bad.

The play asks the question, “are there cosmic truths?” Harry thinks there are and he’s discovered one which will make life easier, simpler and more fulfilling. He wants to share this epiphany with those he loves but not only do they not want to share in his enlightenment, they feel threatened by what he has to tell them. Much is at stake – careers, lifestyles, power – if Harry pursues his truth.

Seven scenes, forty-four pages and eleven and a half thousand words later Harry has his answer – the truth doesn’t necessarily set you free, but it can sure make you unpopular.

Harry’s Truth is now available as an e-book (should that be e-script?) at Smashwords. Until July 31st you can download it free as part of Smashwords SummerWinter Sale. Go to https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/649522

Actually, five of my novels are also available free at Smashwords during the same promotion. You can go to my website http://rodraglin.com for direct links.

In a week or so it will be available on Amazon as an e-book and eventually a paperback at http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs.




Read my books, Spirit Bear, Eagleridge Bluffs and Not Wonder More, free

EagleridgeBluffs CoverRead my books, Not Wonder More, Eagleridge Bluffs and Spirit Bear for free!

For a limited time you can download and read any one, or all three of my novels in the ECO-WARRIOR SERIES free. They include Spirit Bear, Eagleridge Bluffs and Not Wonder More-Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients.

All you need to do is go to storycartel.com and register. Books are free in exchange for your honest review (see my previous blog for more information). This offer is available for about a month.

If you follow this blog here’s your chance to see if I can actually write or are my rants just sour grapes. Am I a cynical, bitter, nasty, no-talent guy with a giant chip on his shoulder taking cheap shots, or am I an undiscovered literary genius?

It’s likely somewhere in between, well maybe more of the former, but hey, you can decide for yourself, and for free.

Maybe I trashed your book in a review. Here’s your chance to get back at me. Read my books and if you honestly think they’re crap, don’t hold back. A bad review is better than no review (hmm…I’ll get back to you on that).

As you read this, Spirit Bear, Eagleridge Bluffs and Not Wonder More are available now and can be downloaded free.

You have my word the reader reviews you see for my books on Amazon, Goodreads and Barnes and Noble will not be manipulated, paid for, or fraudulent in any way. Frankly, it’s just too much effort for too little gain, and besides what would be the point? You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but how long can you go on fooling yourself?

Have I been fooling myself?

You tell me.


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I’m not a very friendly person.

If we attended the same party you’d see standing alone at the edge of an animated group, not contributing. If you thought I looked like I wished I could be someplace else, you’d probably be right.

But being a misanthrope doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate and value comments and criticisms of my work. Insightful comments from strangers have taught me more about writing and photography than anything else.

So please comment and criticize if you wish.

Just don’t expect it to be the beginning of an online relationship.




Visit my publisher’s website for excerpts from, and buy links to, my three novels, Spirit Bear, Eagleridge Bluffs, and Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients.



Read my current work(s) in progress at



Read ”Bubble” excerpts of my novels at



More of my original photographs can be viewed, purchased, and shipped to you as GREETING CARDS; matted, laminated, mounted, framed, or canvas PRINTS; and POSTERS. Go to: http://www.redbubble.com/people/rodraglin


View my flickr photostream at https://www.flickr.com/photos/78791029@N04/

Or, if you prefer photo videos accompanied by classical music

Flowers with Attitude at http://youtu.be/ICrt4eY-rx8

Pacific Coast Sunsets at http://youtu.be/BxSTGuNh_gY








The Half-Known World – a review

BuddhaSnowdrops55 copyRobert Boswell’s, The Half-Known World – On Writing Fiction, is yet another book written by an instructor of a Creative Writing Program likely under the threat of publish or perish.

Boswell’s got some interesting concepts and he delivers them in a self-deprecating voice which is refreshing coming from an academic. One gets the impression that writing likely saved Boswell, who unabashedly admits he failed at just about everything else he tried.

Two things were gleaned from this thin book. One was the use of “narrative spandrels” in fiction.
A spandrel is a byproduct of the evolution of some other characteristic, rather than a direct result of it. Boswell suggests we be on the lookout for these opportunities to help mutate our stories into something better. These devices, perhaps a physical object, or maybe an idiosyncrasy, can be an at-the–moment event, but then go on to service the larger function of the story.

They can be an effective “ticking symbol” but he warns they must be spontaneous, even unconscious and not obvious “plants”.

In my latest novel, The Big Picture, my protagonist wears a cheap watch with a dead battery. Every time she looks at it, forgetting that it doesn’t work, it symbolizes how broke she is, how reluctant she is to be ruled be the clock, and how insignificant these types of personal belongings are to her. When it appeared on her arm I had no idea the significant role it would play.

The other advice that was worthwhile was Boswell’s conviction that if you’re going to write politics into your fiction you must do it from the point of view of the antagonist, the aggressor. This way you can fully explore both sides of the argument and, if you insist on the truth, avoid the work becoming clichéd propaganda in favor of the victim – your protagonist.

Boswell suggests that exploring political issues is important work for writers. “Writers cannot pretend to be helpless,” he says.

Helpless, no. Impotent, probably.


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Visit my publisher’s website for excerpts from, and buy links to, my three novels, Spirit Bear, Eagleridge Bluffs, and Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients.



I blog at



Read my current work(s) in progress at



More of my original photographs can be viewed, purchased, and shipped to you as GREETING CARDS; matted, laminated, mounted, framed, or canvas PRINTS; and POSTERS. Go to: http://www.redbubble.com/people/rodraglin