Friday, August 25, 2017

Guest Post: Politics, Philosophy, and the Art of the Novel By John Corry

(EDITOR'S NOTE: I asked John Corry to send me an author bio, and I think maybe he accidentally forwarded his dating profile instead. Anyway, this is what he sent.)
6'1"; 27 years old; Cannibal Corpse, Taylor Swift, Eminem enthusiast; Philly; Single
John is the author of The Zombie Ritual: A Second Coming (A Narrative Intro to Plato's Forms)
When a zombie outbreak puts a teenage dance party to a violent end, lovestruck metalhead Chuck Zelmer finds himself in a bloody, graphic and academically philosophic chase through the halls of the Bed and Breakfast where the party took place.

In 380 BC, the ancient Greek philosopher Plato (no, not the children’s plaything (in a manner of speaking)) wrote his classic Republic.
You’d have to have been living under a rock in the western world to at least not have heard of Plato, and, likely, his ‘masterwork’, Republic (rock? Or a shadow of one?...). In it, Plato lays out the foundations for much of what has become ‘Western Civilization’ in the centuries since it was written; the ideas of democracy, oligarchy, and tyranny were all laid out in writing for the first time in Republic, and its idea of ‘the philosopher ruler’ (or: ‘king’, depending on your translation) is likely the cornerstone from which much political thought has grown into action (the idea of ‘the philosopher ruler’: that progressing mankind is not rested on ‘philosopher rulers’ or ‘kings’ ruling over the rest of mankind as some sort of birth-righted divine being sent only from God, but that ‘philosophers’ are the ones who should be ‘ruling’, if ruling is necessary, because being a ‘philosopher’ is knowing that ‘being a philosopher’ is not exactly all pats on the back and yacht parties).
Among many achievements, many credit Plato with creating what is now the modern novel, and it is not ironic that the claim comes as an ode to a ‘philosopher’ such as that guy (Plato). Plato wrote primarily in dialogues, with settings and characters, albeit not developed in any narrative way (nor too often applicable to the ideas discussed in the dialogues), talking about the meaning of life, death, and why so many people seem to love hurting so much. What is a novel if not a discussion of those things, or a representation of them? And what does ‘the meaning of life, death, and why so many people seem to love hurting so much’ have to do with seeing the world objectively? How does one do that?
Being a writer in any time of political intrigue is to play quite a role, and consciously. No writer goes about writing thinking: ‘this has nothing to do with the world around me.’ It’s a given. You are a product of your environment, just as your decisions, as everyone else’s, affect what that environment is. Writing anything, but especially novels given their ability to cross over emotional and political lines if written well enough, is particularly guilty of this, as, further, recording anything puts a bit more of a lasting immediacy to it. Being a writer in times such as these (‘times such as these’? 2017: the age of confusion, fake news #AllHandsMatter , immaturity, HATE) also brings with it something else of quite the dissociational article: writers are affected by these things, by current events, facts and other people. You wanna call it emotionally, intellectually, scientifically, I-don’t-care, if you’re a halfway decent writer, part of your job is to see and understand the world in a deeper and more relatable way, through one aspect to most effectively convey both emotions and understandings to other people, and through another because you, yourself, simply can’t stop doing it (seeing and understanding the world in a deeper and more relatable way), for whatever (natural?) reason (no, no; ‘egotistical’ is way more likely).
I don’t mean to say that writers are any more prone to emotion than anyone else, or that they have any more of a ‘right’ to be, or a ‘job’ to be, but that they are likely expected to attempt to understand them little better, at least subjectively, and, more so, that we all have the capacity to be ‘writers’, in that we all are trying to make sense of the world around us and do so through the veil of facts, knowledge and emotion. At a time when political upheaval, and public interest in it, is more abundant than bad pop music, this ability is more important, and observable, than ever (this, of course, assuming that most people do want to grow as humans, and not just indulge in one of those three ‘veils’ just mentioned (facts, knowledge, and emotion)).
For one trying to make sense of all this, it can be a little disheartening. I mean, damn, dude, have you looked around lately? Canada now has laws enabling the government to forcibly take your child away if they deem your parenting skills not ‘progressive’ enough, The U.S. is almost literally tearing itself apart (again), Bangledesh is practically under water, and, meanwhile, nobody is really talking about these things–they’re screaming about them. ‘My experience doesn’t care about your facts!’, ‘facts don’t care about your feelings!’, ‘your feelings, facts, or knowledge is WRONG and, therefore, you are not a human being!’ Maybe there is something the anti Bill C-16 people (a controversial Canadian bill that ‘adds gender identify or expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian human rights act’) are missing? Maybe the situation in North Korea is as complicated as it seems? Maybe ‘people’ never change? Maybe democracy is fundamentally flawed? These are questions that need to be debated dialectically and that simply does not happen by yelling and screaming and ignoring the existence of other people, no matter how ‘evil’.
Grappling with these questions in any sort of personally constructive manner (‘writing’ (see: psychologist Carl Jung’s ‘experiments’ regarding patients and art)) can of course become difficult when the world seems to beat you mercilessly at your own game at every turn, which I, personally, like to think that I can attest to rather well: Pussygate?! Colin Kaepernick? Trudaeu’s abs?! PIZZAGATE?!?!?! How could anybody ever come up with this stuff, fiction writer, journalist, plumber or whoever?! It’s like ‘Survivor’ got stacked with the characters from ‘Jersey Shore’ who then all got thrown into a Dostoevsky novel whose main theme was: ‘what do you think of InfoWars’ Alex Jones’! The word count alone would be insane!!! You add in the character that is Vladimir Putin, the ridiculousness of the situation in Asia, and the potency of the one in the Middle East, and you got a novel more gripping, emotionally vast, and as psychologically on-point than any Plato, Stephen King, Jung, or Dostoevsky could ever even dream of!
Not in a million years would anyone believe that the things happening in the political spectrum right now actually happened if it weren’t for the fact that it is all actively being recorded in real time, as it happens. Perhaps this renders the writer’s ability to merely represent it obsolete #PostmodernismIsARealTHing,ButItIsNotAnAbsolute ? Representations are always needed, so long as they are bringing into focus something that is not obvious in the original thing which it is representing. May there be ways to ‘represent’ something that are not found in traditional textbooks or even the all-wise passed-down spoken word?
If politics has any relation to the idea of ‘power’, or, more importantly for my point here, Nietzsche’s ‘will to power’, it is that politics is essentially a focus of power, or are Nietzsche’s will to power in-action. If any ‘political power’ wanted to expand itself, as any primitive entity does (remember: in relation to how long homo-sapiens have been a species (roughly 200,000 years), the time between Plato (380 BC (ish)) and now is but a blip on the map; and the concepts of economics and psychology, both so important, complicated, and implicative of ‘the meaning of life’, and how a species may go about that question, were both just created within the past 250 years), all it would have to do is blur the ability of ‘the writer’ to make sense of the world around her. If a political power, or: a group of Individuals, wanted absolute power, all they would have to do is hinder the capabilities of its potential subordinates to ‘think’ or ‘will’ ‘sense’.
The ‘writer’/‘philosopher’ conveys personal emotions (and ‘thought’) through the cover of a quasi-reality, or at least a reality meant to represent itself as such, in the mind, in that bridge where the conscious meets the unconscious (Jung). This ability can be psychologically taken away by any number of factors–through stopping the writer from making sense of her feelings, or from feeling anything in the first place (L), or through hindering her ability to create realistic worlds, the list could be quite large–but once it is, people no longer have a guide through which Understanding is presented as not only possible, but also preferable. ‘Power’ is the antithesis to ‘Understanding’; one is based in a primal survival instinct, the other in an intellectual one.
I’ve been working on a satirical crime noir examining the questions of police brutality, political correctness, and gang culture through the eyes of a group of college kids too stupid to know that alcohol consumption impairs judgment. I could get depressed at how difficult it can be given what’s been going on politically lately (as I certainly at times have), or I can use that to make it better. Every time I look at the news, and realize that reality has beaten me to the punch on one of my points, it forces me to reexamine my stance and, far more importantly, the way I’m going about showing it through my ‘fictional’ characters, plot turns and overall story. There’s not much difference between doing that and growing as a human being, novels just tend to take fewer hours to get through than lifetimes (hopefully).
The art of the novel, and its importance, has never been more apparent. The ancient version of ‘why?’ is today ‘how?’ (terminologically speaking). Let ‘them’ show us what the difference is; we’ll show ‘them’ that it’s not about ‘the difference’.

It’s about ‘this’.

Twitter: @RevolutionizedW 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Author Interview: Ted Galdi: Author of An American Cage

Ted Galdi is the author of the bestselling novel Elixir. The book is a winner of a Reader Views Reviewers Choice Award and a Silver Medal in the Readers' Favorite Book Awards. Ted is a graduate of Duke University and lives in Los Angeles. He has been featured by ABC and FOX television, iHeartRadio, Examiner, and many other media outlets. His second novel, An American Cage, is set for release Fall 2017.

An American Cage
 Three inmates break out of a maximum-security prison in Texas, one of them Danny Marsh, a suburban kid in his twenties who landed in jail because of a crime he never intended to commit. An American Cage follows Danny and his two escape partners over a twenty-four-hour period as they struggle to cross Texas to freedom in Mexico. On this dangerous journey, Danny has to evade the rabid Texas authorities, and even worse, the schemes of one of his closest allies, who isn't who he seems. 

Who are your influences?
My favorite author is John Updike. Unlike me, he wasn't a thriller writer. But the best elements of his work transcend genre. I think any fiction writer would benefit from reading him. His plots aren't necessarily "exciting" per the mainstream definition of the word. They mainly feature everyday people in everyday settings. This, however, leaves him nothing to hide behind, and makes you realize how good of a writer he was. Often, car chases and explosions can divert a reader's attention from bland writing. When reading Updike, something as simple as a man going for a jog can be captivating. The descriptions, constant psychological probing, and subtle tie-ins of common suburban situations to profound philosophical movements make for a unique reading experience.    

When did you begin writing?
"Professionally," with the publication of my first novel, Elixir, in 2014. However, it all started when I was a kid. I wrote a whole bunch of stuff along the way, from short stories to comedy skits to screenplays. I tried selling a few scripts to Hollywood when I was younger. No sales. However, the experience was great. It taught me a lot about "feature length" storytelling and how to structure a longer story through multiple acts, which of course is an essential part of novel writing.  

How do you come up with your stories, characters, character names, POV, etc?
The stories themselves always start with a message. A simple, one-sentence pronouncement of what I want the story to "say." The characters and plot become an extension of that. Like most other writers I assume, I begin my character work with a protagonist. I'll ask myself, "Who's the best person to deliver my message?" Supporting characters often act as weights and counterweights that pull the protagonist in different directions concerning the message. They should serve to show the various sides of the "argument" underpinning the theme. They naturally evolve in my mind once I have an image of the main character fleshed out.
As for names, the most important thing is for them to be a demographic fit with the character, or else they'll seem forced. Culture, geography, age, and socioeconomic status all contribute to a name. It's sometimes interesting to concoct a name as a reference. For instance, if a character is a symbol of something, you can allude to that via the character's name. However, this only works if the name sounds authentic. 
POV choices are important. I try to make them in the broader context of the story, in addition to the "here and now" of a scene. The POV structure of my first book, Elixir, is very different than that of my second, An American CageElixir is a seven-year saga following the protagonist, Sean Malone, all across the globe. He is the central part of the vast majority of scenes and the only character whose internal thoughts are described. An American Cage, on the other hand, takes place over a twenty-four-hour period. I use a variety of POVs in addition to protagonist Danny Marsh's, which I feel adds depth to the pacing of the one-day story.     

Do you work from an outline?
Yes, but not a very detailed one. Outlines are important, but jumping into the story and getting a feel for the characters as they talk and think is also important. A character you initially envisioned one way may change as you get to know her better. It's obviously impossible to anticipate these changes in a pre-draft outline, so investing a lot of time into one can be a waste. At least for me.

Can you tell us a little about your writing philosophy? 
I try to write things that are heart-pumping and thought-provoking at the same time. I see a lot of writing that's one or the other, but very rarely something that's both. Who knows if I'm actually pulling it off. But I'm at least trying.

Have you ever tried writing in any other genres?
When I was a teenager I used to love writing comedy. I'd write up sketches that my friends and I would videotape. Humor is important. Though An American Cage is very much so a serious thriller, I put a few things in there that will hopefully make people laugh. A touch of humor helps balance out the intensity of drama. 

Do you have any interesting writing-related anecdotes to share?
I sometimes get asked why I don't use my full name as my author name, i.e., why I go by "Ted" versus whatever Ted is short for. Well, it's not short for anything. My real first name is simply Ted. Not Edward. Not Theodore. Not Thaddeus. Three letters, one syllable. I guess my parents were "into the whole brevity thing."

Book Trailer and First Chapter Preview
Author Facebook Page
Author Instagram Page

Friday, August 11, 2017

Renée's August 2017 FREE eBooks Promo

This weekend, August 12 and 13, is Renée Pawlish's monthly promo, and this time 'round it's FREE eBooks in the mystery and thriller genres. There are 20 titles to choose from, but why choose? Go for it! Download all 20.

You can find all 20 titles at

Sunday, August 6, 2017

First Draft, Campnanowrimo, and My Cocktails

For those who aren't familiar with NaNoWriMo, November is designated as National Novel Writing Month. There is a website dedicated to this tradition in which authors post their project goals, and keep track of their progress, and offer one another support. I have used the site to complete three novels in the past.

In July, the site also runs a kind of camp for other kinds of writing such as scripts and books of poetry. I used the site last month to keep me on track to complete a first draft of a prequel to the Bartering Angel series. That first draft came in at just over 30 k words, but I am still polishing it and adding to it a little. I had initially been shooting for 50,000. Then I reduced the goal to 40,000, but 30,000 turned out to be the entire story in first draft form.

During the month, I also posted my word-count tally and my nightly cocktail on Twitter. I was able to actually come up with 31 distinct cocktails, a different one for each evening. Here are a few of my favorites. They can all be seen on my twitter feed @gamutman