Friday, December 13, 2013
Colin Wilson died last week. He was one of the great influences on my intellectual life. I have 14 books by him with THE OUTSIDERS and THE OCCULT heavily annotated. I especially remember his references to the whiskey priest being led out to a firing squad in Graham Greene’s novel, THE POWER and THE GLORY. As he is about to die, the priest realizes he could have chosen to be a saint instead of an alcoholic and cowardly failure. I went to see Colin Wilson speak about writing sometime in the 1990s in Manhattan. A few weeks later I met at a walk-up apartment in Hell’s Kitchen with a group of writers, who had attended the Wilson lecture, to discuss our lives and works. I have never forgotten the remarks of our hostess, who said she decided to move from Washington, D.C. to New York after everything in her life had gone wrong: “My career, my marriage, my affair.” We never got together again, much to my regret.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Joni Rodgers put me into the suffering of folks in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in a way that none of the news stories or documentaries had. She is a writer with a command of place and personality. I was quickly drawn through THE HURRICANE LOVER. The ending was logical yet I had a fear that the author might be setting up a sequel. I hope I was wrong. I prefer stand-alone novels. I enjoyed THE HURRICANE LOVER and encourage others who want a good read with substance to download this book. A suggestion for a free download of a literary fantasy/science fiction novel worth reading: OOOEELIE.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
I read “Outerbridge Reach” by Robert Stone in 1999. The following are the thoughts I wrote at the time: Stone is a good writer, who draws you along, especially as he is building the story in the beginning about a disappeared financier and three Annapolis graduates whose careers have taken different paths. But then what appears to be a thriller/adventure story turns out to be very much a psychological examination of a couple with a marvelous life style, who don't appreciate what they have--neither of them--and in the search for something exciting and fulfilling, in the search for a grail, their world is destroyed. The hero Owen Browne goes on a round-the-world, solo sailor yachting race. Neither he nor his boat is equipped for the storms ahead. The boat is poorly made and almost breaks apart on him. He comes apart too. He decides to cheat by creating a false log that will lead the world to think he won the race. In the final analysis, he is too honorable to be a cheat and he commits suicide. But in committing suicide, he isn't facing his life; he is avoiding it. His teenage daughter early in the book is distant from him, and ends up recognizing him as a liar and holding him in contempt. His wife, Anne, is a drunk. While Owen Browne is wrestling with cheating, Anne does cheat. She goes to bed and falls in love with a scurrilous documentary film maker, a man without compassion or roots or any sense of honor. The book ends with Brown's deception being covered up--although eventually the story will come out--and with the film maker punished the best way possible--with the underlying material for his film destroyed. He is passionately in love with Anne who comes to realize what a scumbag he is and how continuing with him would drag her into his gutter world from her middle class, comfortable life. The book ends with Anne continuing the search for the grail. She sets out on a solo sail around the world. I had the sense the writer intended to develop the story around the three Annapolis classmates, then pulled back. He tells of one's alcoholism in passing later in the book. And he uses another's time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam to illustrate that he had the right stuff to survive a prolonged solo crisis that he didn't cheat by betraying his country. Meanwhile at home, the prison of war's wife almost lands in bed with Owen Brown, but both were too honorable, although sorely tempted, to cheat in those circumstances. That wife grows older, of course, and fatter, and years later in meeting Owen again is reminded of her temptation. I have to assume that the prisoner of war character was used to illustrate that men can stand up to tests, and that his wife was used to show that she stayed true in trying circumstances too. The underlying theme is cheating and the inability to face life as it is. In an afterthought, I realized that Owen Brown's character that shown through in the end--being unable to cheat--was illustrated early on when he was tempted to adulterate his friend's wife, but couldn't bring himself to do it. It would have violated his code of life.
Sunday, September 15, 2013
On the eve of my fifth anniversary of contracting shingles, I woke yesterday morning with the most intense ache around my left eye in months along with a headache. I swung into my current solution: I put drops in the eye, took a Motrin, and applied an ice pack for five minutes. In about half an hour, the serious ache reduced to my normal unpleasant sensation around the eye and the headache was gone. At one point in my journey with postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), the medical term for the aftermath of shingles, I applied heat, but I have determined that ice packs work better. I have been taking Nutrigold Turmeric twice a day for the past four months with no discernible impact on my postherpetic neuralgia. I have gotten a pleasant side effect from the Turmeric: an ache in the back of my right thigh that had tortured me for at least a decade each night as I tried to go to sleep disappeared. As a result, I am going to continue taking this Indian spice, Turmeric, in pill form for the foreseeable future in hopes of a cure or at least an easing of my aches and itches. Turmeric has a reputation for reducing pain and inflammations along with easing the loss of memory that afflicts the old.
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
My novel, BEN CONNOLLY in the PARIS COMMUNE, will be available for free downloads from Kindle for five Thursdays in a row: Sept. 12, Sept. 19, Sept. 26, Oct. 3, and Oct. 10, 2013. The book has had only one review, a four-star one, from a reader in the UK. He gave it the highest praise a novel can get: “Unputdownable.” The full review by S. Graham, which appeared on amazon.co.uk: “Beats Les Miserables into a cocked hat. “Based on the true account of a news reporter sent to cover the Paris Commune. Unputdownable. Sorry when it finished and am keeping it to reread another day.” Read it for free and please review it, whether you like it or not.
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
The first review of my novel, BEN CONNOLLY in the PARIS COMMUNE, has appeared on amazon.uk under the headline: Beats Les Miserables into a cocked hat. S. Graham wrote in the four-star review: “Ben Connolly in the Paris Commune (Kindle Edition) Based on the true account of a news reporter sent to cover the Paris Commune. Unputdownable. Sorry when it finished and am keeping it to reread another day.” I am overjoyed when any of my books get a positive review, but S. Graham appraisal was particularly appreciated since it is the first review of BEN CONNOLLY in the PARIS COMMUNE. Up until this point, I wasn’t certain whether readers were enjoying the book. Now I know that at least one did.
Thursday, July 18, 2013
I began taking Nutrigold Turmeric twice a day on May 24, 2013 in my search for a solution to the never-ending aches, itches and swelling around my left eye because of postherpetic neuralgia (the aftermath of shingles). The postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) continues to afflict me, but interestingly, I recently realized that the constant ache I have gotten in the back of my right thigh in bed every night for more than a decade had stopped. Perhaps not by coincidence, I now get an ache in the back of my left thigh in bed at night. I am trying the Turmeric pills because this Indian spice seems to harbor almost magical powers to reduce pain, decrease inflammations, and even help ease the loss of memory that comes with aging. In September, I will have had PHN for five years. If the Turmeric helps me, I will let the world know through this blog.
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
After two years, I am tearing up the price tag on my novel, THE TRUCKERS, to make the book free on various sites including Kindle, Smashwords, and Apple i-Tunes. For the more than a million Teamsters who haven’t read the novel, I invite them to download THE TRUCKERS onto their e-book reading devices. Briefly, the novel’s two protagonists, Tommy Kerrigan and Helmut Knall are uneasy allies dedicated to transforming the nation’s largest union, the Truckers International Union (obviously a name inspired by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters), into a progressive force capable of dragging the American labor movement out of the quagmire that has been sucking it under for the past 40 years. Tommy K emerges as a legendary hero experiencing great triumphs and tragedy. Nothing down, nothing to pay, just download THE TRUCKERS and read away.
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
My historical novel, BEN CONNOLLY in the PARIS COMMUNE, will be available as a free download from Kindle for five Wednesdays beginning June 12, 2013, the 169th anniversary of the birth of Januarius A. MacGahan. The free downloads will continue on June 19 and 26 and July 3 and 10. BEN CONNOLLY was inspired by MacGahan’s exploits and reporting during the Paris Commune of 1871. The two-month-long struggle between the Paris working class, led by leftist revolutionaries, and the French central government was MacGahan’s first major assignment as a war correspondent for the New York Herald. MacGahan emerged as one of the foremost war correspondents of the 19th Century and his stories are credited with freeing Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire. This weekend, June 7 and 8, The MacGahan American-Bulgarian Festival will be in New Lexington, Ohio. This will be the 35th year that admirers will celebrate MacGahan’s achievements.
Saturday, May 25, 2013
It has been a while since I’ve found a great writer--and John A. A. Logan is certainly one. If there were a genre called “unsparing,” that is where I would list Logan’s novel, THE SURVIVAL OF THOMAS FORD. He grips the reader in the opening chapter by portraying a universal symbol of modern times, an aggressive driver whose irresponsibility wreaks havoc in other people’s lives. The protagonist in question appears different from you and I—and he is. The characters Logan creates in this story of a fatal traffic accident, spiced by cowardice, are universally selfish with some being essentially cruel. Unexpectedly, one character emerges who refuses to cross the line into evil. Logan provides a supernatural touch to THE SURVIVAL OF THOMAS FORD through the presence of white butterflies, feral cats, and mysterious gases rising from the earth. In Celtic lore, butterflies are symbols of souls separated from the body. In Logan’s novel, they obviously are the unresting murdered. Logan is a literary writer; THE SURVIVAL OF THOMAS FORD is for readers who hunger for substance in a novel.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
My free e-novel, THE HERO, realized 25,198 downloads last month. Originally, I intended to list it in my stats as a best seller, but of course that is an old fashioned traditional publishers term and it is not for sale. So in search of another designation, I arrived at “outstanding download status.” THE HERO is available on Kindle, Barnes and Noble, Apple and Sony. I compare a free e-book download to someone taking a novel from a library shelf. The borrower might read it or return it to the library unopened or having decided it is not worth reading. So I am not under the illusion that every download means a book read.
Monday, April 22, 2013
I was waiting for my wife the other day in a hair salon on the West Side of Manhattan when a woman whom I hadn’t seen in 25 years since we both worked together at Newsday, suddenly appeared. She asked the natural question, as so many others have before her, “What are you doing now?” I gave my usual answer: “Writing novels nobody buys.” My wife, Rae/Ginger, said, “That was pretty negative answer.” She was right. The upshot of all this is that I have decided on a new answer to those who ask “what are you doing now?” My answer will be: “I’m exercising my imagination.” Some will let it go at that, others will want to know what I am doing with my imagination. “Writing a novel” will be my response. That is what I have done through most of my adult life, work on a novel. Actually, I have sold thousands of copies of my two traditionally-published nonfiction books and a few hundred of my novels. In search of an audience, I have made four of my seven novels free as ebooks. So far, 60,000 plus readers have downloaded my free novels from Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Apple and Sony. Not very impressive in the context of John le Carré, but I’m happy.
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Two great experiences: Watching the film, THE SEARCHERS with John Wayne as the protagonist, then reading the novel, THE SEARCHERS by Alan Le May. The 1956 film is based on Le May’s novel published two years earlier. In the novel, the Mart Pauley character emerges—after substantial development, as the protagonist. In the film, Mart Pauley is a secondary character who tags along with the dominant Ethan Edwards, played so memorably by John Wayne. Interestingly, in the novel that John Wayne character was named Amos not Ethan. The novel and the film offer similar story lines until the ending when they diverge dramatically. And of course, the film directed by John Ford has some comic touches, while the novel remains fairly serious throughout. The screenplay was by Frank Nugent who wrote the scripts for an incredible number of great films: Last Hurrah; Mr. Roberts, The Quiet Man. She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, Fort Apache—all directed by John Ford. For a clearer understanding of the hatred for Comanches often attributed to Texans in the Nineteenth Century, I would suggest reading “EMPIRE of the SUMMER MOON: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History” by S.C. Gwynne. While I was so much a fan of the movie—watching it many times over the years--it never occurred to me to read the novel until one of my sons sent me the recently released Kindle version as a gift. It was a great gift.
A suggestion: My novel, THE PENCIL ARTIST is available as an e-book on Smashwords, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble; as a paperback on Amazon..
A suggestion: My novel, THE PENCIL ARTIST is available as an e-book on Smashwords, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble; as a paperback on Amazon..
Saturday, March 9, 2013
I’m observing the 142nd anniversary of the Paris Commune by offering my novel, BEN CONNOLLY in the PARIS COMMUNE, as a free download from Kindle from March 18, 2013 to March 22, 2013. My protagonist, Ben Connolly, arrives in Paris in the early hours of March 18, 1871, the day the French Central Government sent troops to seize the cannon collected on the heights of Montmarte by Paris National Guard. That maneuver sparked a bloody rebellion during which the Paris working class seized control of the city for almost two months. BEN CONNOLLY in the PARIS COMMUNE is drawn from the real-life exploits of New York Herald foreign correspondent Januarius A. MacGahan. MacGahan emerged during the Commune as a super reporter who combined talent with luck in his first major assignment for the Herald. I chose to write a fictionalized version of MacGahan since another author had beaten me to the writing of his biography. The novel includes many of the personalities who were involved in the Commune including General Jaroslaw Dombrowski, Louise Michel, Raoul Rigault, Archbishop Georges Darboy, General Gaston Marquis de Gallifet, and Paul Verlaine.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
I guess I am not a good judge of what appeals to readers since the sales of my enovels have been near dismal. I had hoped that BEN CONNOLLY in the PARIS COMMUNE would draw readers and buyers through Google’s Adwords campaign since there is a targeted audience. While the numbers of impressions and clicks far outperformed my campaign for THE TRUCKERS, after four days there have been no sales. I would think that someone clicking might be interested in buying on the spot. Maybe there will be delayed reactions. A real problem is the absence of reviews for BEN CONNOLLY in the PARIS COMMUNE. An explanation: An impression is one of those little ads you seen when scanning websites. Clicking on the impression takes the browser to the object for sale. In my case, BEN CONNOLLY in the PARIS COMMUNE. --To be a profitable or self-sustaining campaign, I must sell a book for every 12 clicks. Should that evolve, I would keep up the campaign indefinitely. Otherwise, I have to decide whether to continue as a form of advertising figuring that spending $100 would get me an estimated 588 clicks with about 75,000 impressions. Spending $250 would get an estimated 1,470 clicks with about 188,000 impressions. As I view these estimates, I come to the conclusion that it would be worth the $100 to $250 to flash my book past the eyes of 75,000 to 188,000 potential readers. Besides, I can’t believe the campaign of that extent, if it happens as projected, won’t produce some buyers and readers and maybe a review or two. And, there is always the potential of some reading the book via Amazon Prime. --Before the Google Adwords campaign began on Feb. 20, 2013, there had been 8 sales of BEN CONNOLLY in the PARIS COMMUNE on Kindle and none on CreateSpace or via Amazon Prime. Those sales give me hope that readers will be drawn to buy the book through the Google Adwords campaign.
Monday, February 18, 2013
Three months ago, I decided I would use my daily breathing meditation to try to impact the aftermath of shingles or technically: Postherpetic Neuralgia (PHN), which has been my constant companion of itching, aching, an unpleasant presence and swelling for more than four years now. I started by focusing on the nerves stretching from my brain to my eye—and discovered the feelings got worse. I switched to a focus on whatever was the plague of the moment, say an itching eyebrow. That targeted itch would stop, moving instead to my forehead or scalp. So the meditation approach is not a magic bullet for an immediate cure or cessation of sensations. What I have discovered is that temporary relief comes from Motrin or applying a hot compress to my left eye.
Saturday, February 9, 2013
I can’t describe just how deeply distasteful it is to get a one-star review of one of my books particularly by someone who hasn’t even read the book. The other day, someone gave my best novel, THE DREAM DANCER, a one-star review on Kindle. This person was simply uninformed. She entitled her review: “Typo in the first sentence.” The problem: There was no typo in the first sentence. She was wrong in saying so; she was wrong in giving a book she had not read a rating at all, no less a purposefully damaging one. She wrote: “I didn't get past page one since the first sentence has "lounge" misspelled. Proofreader needed. Not going to waste my time.” The opening sentence in question: Coop lay back barely awake in the rickety, striped cloth chaise longue at the end of another hot August day, softened by a deliciously cool breeze. I wrote this comment on Kindle in response to the woman’s review: “Good news..., you can continue reading THE DREAM DANCER since chaise longue is correct for the piece of furniture. Please check your dictionary for "chaise longue" not the single word lounge. I was so startled by your criticism that I checked both the internet for "chaise longue" and my Random House Unabridged Dictionary. My use of the name of the furniture was correct. So please continue reading and if you find another typo somewhere within the 91,000 words or so of THE DREAM DANCER forgive me, and try to read on. The novel is well worth the effort.
Friday, January 25, 2013
I found CARRY YOURSELF BACK to ME a slog, but a rich, enjoyable experience. While I didn't fly from chapter to chapter, I never tired of the writing or found myself unwilling to continue. The folk-singer protagonist, Annie Walsh, is a complex character entangled in relationships with two men and a bit of a stressful family mystery—her brother is accused of murder. This is a novel well worth the effort of reading.
Saturday, January 19, 2013
BEN CONNOLLY in the PARIS COMMUNE will be available as a free download on Kindle from Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, through Friday, Jan. 25, 2013. This novel, inspired by the exploits of war correspondent Januarius A. MacGahan, will take you to the bloody days in the spring of 1871 when the café radicals left their absinthe and coffee behind to lead the working class of Paris into an uprising against the French government that ended with the slaughter of an estimated 40,000 men, women and children by the French Army. The protagonist, Ben Connolly, is a Civil War veteran from the slums of New York, with the rather modest aspiration of being hired as a staff reporter for the New York Vision. On the whim of Adrian Metzger, the Vision’s publisher, Ben is dispatched to Paris, where he is almost killed several times, falls in love with an American artist, becomes a fast friend of General Jaroslaw Dombrowski, and writes notable stories. He emerges with an expansive ambition to become a famous writer instead of an obscure journalist. I urge you to download BEN CONNOLLY in the PARIS COMMUNE, to read it, and to review it—whether you like it or not.