Friday, June 30, 2017

Featured Book: Great Objectives by Robert Finch









In his book Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill refers to the great objects of human life. We may assume that that what Mill calls an object is the same as an objective in modern parlance. The examples of great objectives that Mill cites include power, fame, and money. One wonders how seriously Mill was actually endorsing such aims to be the overarching objectives of living or whether he was simply expressing his finding that many people actually do take such aims as these for life. The contention is that Mill was indeed recognizing that people do choose such goals in life. After all, happiness has been recognized as an objective of life at least since the time of Aristotle, and virtue has a similarly ancient pedigree. It is quite common for ordinary people to adopt such mottos as “Healthy, wealthy, and wise” as aims for life. But we know that having more than one such value can lead to conflicts. This had been a concern to Sidgwick as well as other nineteenth-century moralists. A resolution to the problem was found by the time of the twentieth century, when it was realized that we should not try to achieve definite objectives, but instead look to some other procedure, such as a variety of evolution, to shape our objectives. In that case, we make plans and evaluate them, as we proceed. We should use our values, as Dewey recommended, for guideposts. The book discusses the methods of arriving at such plans and weighs some of the ethical and moral problems an individual or a society might face at the present time.



Robert Finch is the author of five collections of essays and co-editor of The Norton Book of Nature Writing. He broadcasts a weekly commentary on NPR and serves on the faculty of the MFA in Writing Program at Spalding University in Louisville, KY. He lives in Wellfleet, MA.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Straight from the Mouth of Darden North, Author of 'The Five Manners of Death'

Darden North’s mystery and thriller novels have been awarded nationally, most notably an IPPY in Southern Fiction for Points of Origin.  His newest thriller, The Five Manners of Death, also follows Wiggle Room, Fresh Frozen, and House Call. Darden North has served on author panels at writing conferences including Killer Nashville, Murder on the Menu, SIBA Thriller Author Panel, and Murder in the Magic City. To book Darden for a book club, book signing, or presentation contact: Darden@DardenNorth.com. A board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist practicing at Jackson Healthcare for Women in Flowood, Mississippi, Darden North is Chairman of the Board of the Mississippi Public Broadcasting Foundation and a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of the Mississippi Medical Association. He lives in Jackson with his wife Sally and enjoys family, travel, and, outdoor activities. The Norths have two adult children, who also work in the medical field. Author website: www.dardennorth.com 

Purchase links for The Five Manners of Death:

• Barnes & Noble: https://goo.gl/1Lg5HM
• Smashwords: https://goo.gl/jRjXoQ
• Square Books: https://goo.gl/wUk4hi
• Lemuria Books: https://goo.gl/McpYiU


Questionnaire:

Thanks for letting us interrogate you!  Can you give us a go-for-the-gut answer as to why you wanted to be an author?
    
     I wanted to be more famous than I already am.

Tell us (we won’t tell promise!) is it all it’s cracked up to be?  I mean what are the perks and what are the demands?
    
     The main perk of being a published author is getting to meet a whole bunch of interesting folks. Writing novels and promoting them propels you out of your comfort zone, exposing you to new ideas and people—and maybe some different places—that would have been off the radar in your “other” profession. The demands of writing successfully lie in crafting unique stories about characters mixed-up in troubling situations and in the challenge of getting those novels published.

Which route did you take – traditional or self-published – and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what’s that like?
    
    
My first three novels were self-published; the next two (including my newest) were not. Having someone else in charge of book design, layout, and the process required to make the book available to stores and electronic devices is a relief. However, authors these days have to do a lot of their own promotion regardless of the publishing route.

Tell us for real what your family feels about you spending so much time getting your book written, polished, edited, formatted, published, what have you?
    
    Sometimes they think I’m crazy. (My other job as a full-time ob/gyn physician keeps me busy enough!)

Do your pets actually get their food on time or do they have to wait until you type just one more word?

     My wife and I have two small dogs, each about 10 years old, a Chihuahua (Valerie) and a Pomeranian-rat terrier mix (Foxy). Yes, Foxy really does resemble a fox. Valerie and Foxy love me best because I feed them on a regular basis and pay them the most attention. They are devoted to me, particularly Foxy. After endless time glued to my laptop during a writing session, Foxy will give up and sit at my feet, while Valerie will stand a few yards away and let out a piercing, ear drum-splitting bark to announce that I’ve been at it long enough. Valerie also tries to find her way onto my desk somehow to check for any candy or gum I might be hiding there.

Are your plants actually still alive?

     I love plants too. Fortunately, my lawn sprinkling system remains operational, and I can still afford the water bill—and the potted plants are just outside the exits to our house, so it’s difficult to ignore them. My wife is not a plant lover.

In writing your book, how did you deal with the phone ringing, your family needing dinner or your boss calling you saying you’re late?

    It’s OK for the phone to ring because it might be Hollywood calling. As for my boss, I do try to balance my time with wife and family. (Personally, I think I do a good job with that. Maybe you should ask them.) I do not cook, and when my family needs dinner, I just hand them the credit card for take-out.

What was the craziest or most insane thing that happened to you in the book publishing process?

     One weekend after a book festival in Memphis, my wife backed over my laptop with our car. She still swears it was an accident.

How about the social networks?  Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid?
    
     Opinions certainly vary here, but I have found Facebook useful in spreading the word about a new book release or related event. My author page on Facebook is: https://www.facebook.com/DardenNorthAuthor and it’s kept up-to-date. With sharing and boosting post options, I have noticed that book sales do respond to online messages and posts. I’m also on Instagram: @dardennorth.

Book sales.  Don’t you just love them (or lack of?)?  How are you making the sales happen for you?

      For my newly released novel, The Five Manners of Death, my publisher WordCrafts Press made pre-release orders available online to get a jumpstart on sales. In addition, my publicist arranged the blog tour for me upon release of the novel, and I have scheduled book signings in bricks-and-mortar book stores.

What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?
    
     What author doesn’t want to hit The New York Times Bestseller List? A movie or TV series deal based on one or more of my novels would be even better.

Okay, too much sugar for you today!  Here’s a nice cup of Chamomile tea and come on over and sit under the cabana and watch the waves roll in.  Now…can you tell us what you love about being a published author and how all those things above doesn’t matter because it’s all part of the whole scheme of things and you wouldn’t have it any other way?

     What I love about being a published author is the privilege of sharing my stories with others via the printed page, whether on paper or per electronic device. Of course, it’s great to have a couple of my novels, Points of Origin and Fresh Frozen, published on digital audio as well. Being able to piece sentences into paragraphs and then into pages to complete a novel may indeed be an art—or maybe it is a gift. However, I do strive to capture the minds of readers and make my fiction seem real.

—Darden North





Monday, June 26, 2017

Straight From the Mouth of Daniel A. Blum, Author of The Feet Say Run



Daniel A. Blum grew up in New York, attended Brandeis University and currently lives outside of Boston with his family. His first novel Lisa33 was published by Viking in 2003. He has been featured in Poets and Writers magazine, Publisher’s Weekly and most recently, interviewed in Psychology Today.

Daniel writes a humor blog, The Rotting Post, that has developed a loyal following.

His latest release is the literary novel, The Feet Say Run.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK



About the Book:

At the age of eighty-five, Hans Jaeger finds himself a castaway among a group of survivors on a deserted island.  What is my particular crime?  he asks.   Why have I been chosen  for this fate?  And so he begins his extraordinary chronicle. 

It would be an understatement to say he has lived a full life.  He has grown up in Nazi Germany and falls in love with Jewish girl.  He fights for the Germans on two continents, watches the Reich collapse spectacularly into occupation and starvation, and marries his former governess.  After the war he goes on wildflower expeditions in the Alps, finds solace among prostitutes while his wife lay in a coma, and marries a Brazilian chambermaid in order to receive a kidney from her. 

By turns sardonic and tragic and surreal, Hans’s story is the story of all of the insanity, irony and horror of the modern world itself.  

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble



Thanks for letting us interrogate you!  Can you give us a go-for-the-gut answer as to why you wanted to be an author?

I truly love the writing itself.  It is the most intriguing puzzle, the best brainteaser and the most intricate, joyous daydream, all rolled into one. 


Tell us (we won’t tell promise!) is it all it’s cracked up to be?  I mean what are the perks and what are the demands?

If it is cracked up to be lots of fascinating repartee with the intelligentsia, scandalous gossip at The Algonquin Club, not to mention several James Bond girls hanging on your every word, then no, it is not all it is cracked up to be.  Even with the success I have had, there have been plenty of frustrations – a glutted market, challenges of getting read and noticed, and dreaded time spent promoting oneself.  I truly weary of all of those, “Look what so-and-so said about how wonderful my book is” Facebook posts. 

On the other hand, the writing itself is a great pleasure, and producing  something that truly moves people, that makes them think, that people connect with – that is extremely satisfying. 


Which route did you take – traditional or self-published – and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what’s that like?

My first novel, Lisa33, was with Viking, a very prestigious name in the industry.  And it was an awful experience, to be perfectly frank - a dream that gradually morphed into a nightmare.  This one, The Feet Say Run, is with a small press, Gabriel’s Horn. 


What’s the snarkiest thing you can say about the publishing industry (e.g. rejections, the long wait, etc.)

Yikes.  How much time do we have, and how many glasses of wine have I had?  For one, I truly don’t understand the judgments of the Ruling Class of opinion-makers.  I read lots of celebrated, literary fiction, lauded by critics, and so much of it is just plain tedious. Can’t anybody just say, “Nothing happened in this book!  Where was the story?”  Sometimes I feel editors and critics are just so many sheep.  One praises an author, anoints him or her as “the chosen one”, and everyone else, feeling secretly insecure in their own judgments, just falls in line.  

The Feet Say Run is mostly quite serious, but I also write a humor blog.  I grew so frustrated at bad writing by celebrated authors that I wrote pieces in the blog about the Worst Sentences in Modern Novels and the Worst Sex Scenes.  They were two of my most popular pieces.  Of course, they’re meant to be fun but there is a serious element to it:  if we are unable to critize and demand the most from ourselves, from one another, then literature is in trouble. 


Tell us for real what your family feels about you spending so much time getting your book written, polished, edited, formatted, published, what have you?

I would say they’re all supportive.  My wife is my toughest critic, but it has made me a better writer.  When she was really enthusiastic about The Feet Say Run it was definitely a good sign. 


What was the craziest or insane thing that happened to you in the book publishing process?

That would be with my first novel, Lisa33.  My agent, Bill Clegg, managed to get a bidding war going for it, and I got a very big advance from Viking.  After years of rejections, this was all completely surreal to me.  “You’re going to be famous,” Bill assured me.  Yet after that, everything went wrong.  I won’t go into all the details, but it was ultimately deep-sixed.  Buried by the publisher, not promoted at all.  And Bill himself mysteriously disappeared just when the book was coming out.  

All things must pass, and that definitely includes my advance, which I spent through in the next year.  So I found myself back at my day-job.  One day I was sitting in a cubicle, reading the New York Times, and there was my old agent, Bill Clegg, on the front page.  He had just published his own memoir.  He’d descended, evidently, into cocaine addiction, had left his authors stranded and bad left the literary world entirely.  And now he had returned - this agent who had assured me I would be famous – and was himself basking in fame and success.  In his memoir he actually wrote about how he’d left his writers stranded.  And there I was, one of his writers, feeling very stranded indeed, reading about his book, his redemption and glory, from my anonymous cubicle. 

To be honest, I stopped writing and even reading fiction for a couple of years after that.  But of course, life must go on. 


How about the social networks?  Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid?

I suppose Facebook is the behemoth, and it is definitely useful.  But I am very ambivalent about it.  I started my blog to promote my fiction, and then got on facebook to post links to the blog, and then got on twitter to tweet about my facebook posts.  Its an infinite loop, a whirlpool, and feels like art and beauty are getting sucked right into its vortex. 


Book sales.  Don’t you just love them (or lack of?)?  How are you making the sales happen for you?

I have absolutely refused to look.  I don’t want to know.  I’m enjoying that so many friends and book group readers have loved the book.  I’m sure if it really starts to take off I’ll know.  Thankfully, this time around, my expectations are a good deal more grounded.  Eventually, I’ll get a royalty statement from my publisher, so I’ll deal with it then. 


What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?

Hmm…it might be to complain about, “The Dying Animal,” by Philip Roth.  This novel is a perfect example of mindless critics raving about a truly horrible book. And it is also an example of a writer suffering from way too much praise, believing that whatever he writes must be a work of genius by definiton.  Roth has written some fine books and some awful ones.  This was definitely in the latter camp.  Or maybe if you have a breast fetish, it’s a work of ineffable genius.  Who knows?    


Okay, too much sugar for you today!  Here’s a nice cup of Chamomile tea and come on over and sit under the cabana and watch the waves roll in.  Now…can you tell us what you love about being a published author and how all those things above doesn’t matter because it’s all part of the whole scheme of things and you wouldn’t have it any other way?

Haha.  I think I would need something stronger than tea to believe that I “wouldn’t have it any other way”.  We all have our regrets, after all.  But I will say this:  I still truly love writing and reading - in spite of how I may sound.  I just read, My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante and it is everything a novel should be.  I can’t say enough good things about it.  What’s more, I truly enjoy talking about books – whether seriously or snarkily.  Most importantly, I’m really proud of The Feet Say Run.  I want to write a literary novel with passion and suspense and a real, compelling plot - in short, to write the book I would most want to read.  So many people tell me the book is really hard to put down, which makes me feel that on some level at least, I have succeeded.  And that is incredibly gratifying.  


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Straight from the Mouth of Children's Author Anne K. Edwards

Anne K. Edwards’ two new children’s books were just published on Amazon Kindle. They are titled Dominick and the Dragon which is the first of a series and Changing Places is based on actual characters. The books are self-published and available only on Amazon Kindle or PDF from the author.

Questionnaire:

Q.  Thanks for letting us interrogate you!  Can you give us a go-for-the-gut answer as to why you wanted to be an author?

A.  Reading from very early childhood fed a hunger based in loneliness. It made me want to write like the authors I admired. My first efforts came about in the third grade. At that time I was reading books ahead of my age and the horse stories by Walter Farley and books like My Friend Flicka started it all. 

I was in love with horses and wanted one. That was something that wasn’t going to happen so I gathered a herd of my own.  Of course, they were all sticks and each had a name. I had four stallions and four mares, two of each color. Black stallions and mares were my favorites due to the excitement found in Mr. Farley’s Black Stallion series.  My horses were all wild and I was the only one who could ride them. The sad part of my story about this lovely band was that some days I’d come home from school and find my largest horse standing on his head much reduced in status. My mother liked to cull my herd of eight, claiming one to become her new clothesline prop whenever an old one broke from being out in the weather and could no long bear the load of a full line. So I would replace it (usually my favorite black stallion) with another and go on as before.  I rode the stick horses until I finally outgrew living my adventures with my little brother. But, oh, what lovely times we had until then.



It was during this period that I began to live my adventures in my imagination and this led me to putting them down on paper, too. When my herd had moved on to greener pastures and my mother became the happy owner of a new clothes dryer, she lost her status as a horse thief. I can still remember those times and can relive them if I just close my eyes and let time flow backward. 

Of course, internalizing my adventures brought change with it, especially the urge to write and by age eleven I was trying my hand at short horse stories and sending them off to the important magazines of the day. And, no, you’d never have seen my name published in those days, but I loved the dream and hope that came with it. Every budding author should know that feeling. It feeds our souls. 

Q.  Tell us (we won’t tell promise!) is it all it’s cracked up to be?  I mean what are the perks and what are the demands? 

A.  Absolutely, learning to write and the search for publication is all it’s cracked up to be, both the hard times and good times. It is an adventure in itself. The need for self-expression can strike at any age and demands some sort of satisfaction. Writing books in any genre grants me that.

I don’t know if there are really any perks for the average writer of today unless it is that we are forced to learn by doing. We must do most or all of our own promotion, try to fit the writing in with family, the house and other demands we have gladly added to our lives. That said, if you like hard work and the great pleasure of sending something you’ve written to a publisher or doing the publishing yourself, then you have the best job in the world and little compares to that perk. There is no other feeling in the world like the one we experience when our work comes to fruition.



The demands of being an author are usually the same for every writer. We must become almost hermit-like when writing, a life dedicated to solitude and full focus on our work.  If we allow distractions of any sort while we struggle to write, we become part-time writers or hobbyists. This means we must make choices and perhaps divide our time into chunks, one for each part of our life. Added to that is much of our time is spent fruitlessly in chasing our dream. We must discipline ourselves to accept that fact and realize it is part of our education as a writer. We must study and read, seek out like-minded people and learn from their experiences. The biggest demand, and it is the one that hurts the most, is when something we’ve put our heart and soul into is rejected over and over, and we finally come to understand that what we’ve produced just doesn’t work as an article or story. We may have rewritten it ten times or more and still find it is flawed in some way, lacking something we just can’t see. Thus, we must humble our pride of having written and learn acceptance.  That is a huge part of a writer’s education. A writer must be prepared to keep learning as long as they write. 

Q.  Which route did you take –- traditional or self-published -– and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what’s that like?

A.  I have taken both routes and find I really prefer the traditional-—that means having the security of a publisher to guide your work through the publishing process into ebook or print. Self-publishing is something I still think has a ways to go before I can find true success in it so I self-publish only that of my work that I know doesn’t fit publishers’ guidelines for the genre or an agent’s preference. Too often, I have submitted after receiving an email saying they’d be glad to read my book only to learn I’ve wasted my time. The favorite reason for rejection in those instances, I’ve found is, it doesn’t fit their guidelines, a statement that covers everything.

My two children’s books are self-published because they are too short for the standard children’s book and are basically meant to show children after a certain age can think for themselves in many situations and, hopefully, the stories also entertain. Knowing this, I don’t waste any time seeking a publisher because their guidelines don’t fit my story.

I learned the hard way anyone seeking publication of their work must be prepared to waste time. It can be that an author will be told by an agent to rewrite their work and resubmit. If the author takes the time to do this before they have a contract, they will find to their dismay that many times that agent has already left her job for parts unknown and no other agent working with her will add them to their own workload.  Or the same agent may decide that the rewrite isn’t what they want after all and drop the project.  So one must consider well the use of time spent in having an agent while said writer is new to the writing game.  Trying to gain acceptance by established agents usually comes to naught for various reasons and going to an agent no one has heard of, but who advertises widely for new clients, will prove a waste of time when one learns that same agent is only building a list of names of wannabe writers whose work they rarely put time into promoting.  The disappointments these agents cause writers are that most of the time they don’t tell you, you are just one of too many, they don’t inform their clients when they move on, or they never show the clients’ work to a publisher. Those same agents often say don’t call and remain incommunicado to authors and/or they may take as long as six months or more to look at the author’s work, if they do. They don’t like to waste their own time but have no compunction about wasting that of a writer. They can actually discourage a budding author by this treatment.

There are some fine agents but the writer must be very lucky to get an appointment with them or a recommendation by one of their clients. They are an overworked bunch when one considers the number of them to the multitude of us who want to be writers. The lesson I learned here was to ignore the disappointment and keep on writing.  Luckily, I found I didn’t need an agent as the Internet made it possible to find a publisher and I have been very satisfied there.  There are some parts of chasing success that can devour one’s whole life so a writer must decide how much time they want to devote to searching for an agent and success with a print publisher or saving that time to contact the small presses and find an opportunity for publication.  Once published that way, many authors go on to realize their dream of acceptance by a large press.  We must ask ourselves if the Internet is a step to the latter goal or will we be happy with it as our resting place. 

Q.  Tell us for real what your family feels about you spending so much time getting your book written, polished, edited, formatted, published, what have you?

A.  My husband doesn’t mind my filling my time with writing as he considers it a productive hobby, but my furry children (no, not werewolves) known as cats show me as strongly as they can that they object. They sleep on the keyboard to show me it’s in use. They delete or add letters to a manuscript at the same time. Many times I’ve found added or deleted pages. They feel they have to teach me how to do things right also. If I get up from the typing table and take a break, one cat will hit the ‘off’ button.  So I have learned to save my work. They think writing takes my attention from them, something they dislike intensely and I think they blame the machine. Sleeping on the keyboard, using it a scratching post, knocking the router and mouse about are some of their steps to revenge. 

Q.  This is for pet lovers.  If you don’t own a pet, skip this question, but do your pets actually get their food on time or do they have to wait until you type just one more word?

A.  I have several pets and they do not wait for me to stop and tend their wants.  To get my attention, they start fights, pick on the littler ones, yowl for no reason, claw my clothes, jump in my lap and make sure one foot comes down on the keyboard. And that is only some of their tricks.  It is better to feed them and then continue.  It is also a useful survival technique. 

Q.  In writing your book, how did you deal with the phone ringing, your family needing dinner or your boss calling you saying you’re late?

A.  This is an easy one to answer.  I keep the phone turned off. My family members are adults who eat at different times and we make our own meals.  I am retired and the cats are my bosses as I said in the previous answer.

Q.  What was the craziest or insane thing that happened to you in the book publishing process?

A.  The US Mail losing two manuscripts in a month is about as close as I can come to an answer here.  This was in the days when things were typed on a manual or electric typewriter and lost manuscripts had to be retyped if lost.  You could not send carbon copies to an agent or a publisher. I usually produce a book of about 300 pages so one might say they helped fill my time and kept me from doing anything new.  When the email was made available, I was only too happy to sign on to use it.  Of course, there were the times when our server would cut off in the middle of sending and it had to be resent, but that is only a few minutes lost at most. This is one of the things that will drive a writer over the wall so it only proves one has to be slightly crazy anyhow to be a writer. 

Q.  How about the social networks?  Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid?

A.  To be honest, I find the social networks are not much use.  I’ve tried several of them and was left wondering why I bothered. I didn’t try to sell books on those I did sign onto, but I got a huge increase in junk email and now have to spend too much time deleting. 


Q.  Book sales.  Don’t you just love them (or lack of?)?  How are you making the sales happen for you?

A.  Book sales and book fairs are a mixed bag. They charge fees for a spot at one of their tables which one might consider fair. However, often they have well known authors in attendance who they put at the front tables, and the lesser or unknowns in the rear and the tables are often set up so the visitors can’t reach them. I came to the conclusion this was a way to funnel visitors where they’d spend the most money and less time. Some events call themselves book sales and invite all authors to be part of it. But their purpose is to sell used books from libraries or other such sources and the authors are merely an additional draw to get a larger turnout. Here too, visitors are funneled in specific directions and the visiting authors are ignored.  I’ve been fortunate to be invited to meet readers at some Brick and Mortar stores and found them to be the most productive. The best one I attended was where I sold several copies of a book and spoke to a group in a mix of questions and answers. This gave me the chance to as questions as well as provide answers to others.  Readers can teach an author. Out in the world there must be other types of book sales, and someday I hope to find them. Face-to-face meetings with the readers are a lot of fun if you can talk.  One other comment, I’ve found the giveaways like bookmarks, information sheets about books are mostly thrown away or ignored.  Since most of us are not wealthy, we must decide with care to spend our promotion funds.  

Q.  What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?

A.  Joy in the adventure of becoming a writer. I’ve been learning for decades and find there is always something new coming my way. I often need to push myself to do that learning, but if it is necessary, I will eventually get to it.  It’s a wonderful way to stay in touch with one’s inner person.  And I love to tell silly tales about my muse.  Evreybody should have one, writer or not.  Those stories provide me a way to laugh at my writing problems.  So give your muse a pat for me and keep it busy. Never know what ideas they will come up with.  

Q.  Okay, too much sugar for you today!  Here’s a nice cup of Chamomile tea and come on over and sit under the cabana and watch the waves roll in.  Now…can you tell us what you love about being a published author and how all those things above doesn’t matter because it’s all part of the whole scheme of things and you wouldn’t have it any other way?


A.  I think I’ve said it all above.  Personal satisfaction. There are so many people I meet who have no hobby or interest after retirement.  I think this is what makes them age mentally which is too sad for words.  Writing keeps me interested in the world, its problems, talking and listening to new acquaintances, and what goes on around me. I can turn things I think were fun or silly incidents into a book. And creating new worlds in words is a wonderful way to keep depression at bay. It is to laugh.