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text 2018-04-21 05:04
Eco-Fi: Writing as a moral act

"True art is moral. We recognize true art by its' careful, thoroughly honest search for an analysis of values. It is not didactic because, instead of teaching by authority and force, it explores, open-mindedly, to learn what it should teach. It clarifies like an experiment in a chemistry lab, and confirms."

- John Gardner, On Moral Fiction, 1978

 

Okay, so this is a bit high-minded, but still it's something I aspire to in my writing.

 

I've tried to write strictly commercial fiction, but my characters and plots won't let me. At some point they tell me, "Hey, I'm not that shallow, superficial person and I won't let you portray me as such." At this point the vapid story I've been writing takes an unexpected direction and everything gets out of control and I'm back dealing with three dimensional characters in complicated situations that test their integrity.

 

Or at least I'm trying to.

 

How then does a writer, if so inclined, build their fiction on strong, ethical ground?

 

I subscribe to the method suggested by Carol Bly, Author of The Passionate, Accurate Story: Making Your Heart’s Truth into Literature. She suggests that even before beginning to write a story, consider composing a “Values Listing,” a written record of the things that are most important to you.

 

Then, throughout the writing process ensure these values continue to be identified in your work. That means these values are present in the issues and conflicts your characters confront and that they themselves are grounded in or address these same principles.

 

Here's the Value's Listing Questions. My answers are in capitals

 

VALUE’S LISTING:

 

1. Two goals or values which make life good or bearable or would if they were in operation. PRESERVING ENVIRONMENT/ ENCOURAGING THE HUMAN SPIRIT

 

2. Two goals or values which cause injustice and suffering or lessening of joy. WEALTH/MATERIALISM and the NEED TO CONTROL

 

3. Two missing goals or behaviors. As a child, you thought grown-up life would have these. Now that you are an adult you don’t see them around. HONESTY/INTEGRITY and RESPONSIBILITY/CREDIBILITY

 

4. Two injustices you see about you and should keep an eye on, even on your wedding day. RACISM/DISCRIMINATION and DESTRUCTION OF WILDERNESS

 

Considering my the list of my values, it's not surprising four of my novels could be categorized as Environmental Fiction, interpreted as a story of any genre; romance, mystery, literary, etc., with a subplot that addresses an important environmental issue.

 

In writing ECO-FI my hope is readers will be entertained by all the elements of a good story and will also come away a little more wiser about the environmental issues important to me and that effect us all.

 

ECO-FI TITLES:

SAVING SPIRIT BEAR - What Price Success?

LOVING THE TERRORIST - Risking it All

MAD MAGGIE - And the Wisdom of the Ancients

FOREST - Love, Loss, Legend

 

This stand-alone series will be part of my back-list promotion throughout 2018 and 2019 that will include upcoming FREE book days on Amazon. To be included in free offers of my existing books or the opportunity to receive Advance Reading Copies on new work, consider joining my ADVANCE READING TEAM at http://eepurl.com/cj5wjj

 

Buy links for these books include:

Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

Smashwords - http://www.smashwords.com

Draft2Digital - https://www.draft2digital.com

 

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review 2017-10-24 18:23
The Crows of Beara
The Crows of Beara - Julie Christine Johnson

One more for Halloween Bingo...Magical Realism!

 

Annie Crowe is a recovering alcoholic and though it seems like her life should be coming together, it is falling apart at the seams. Annie's marriage has ended due to her actions while being an addict and now her prestigious job at a PR firm is at risk. In order to simultaneously escape her failed marriage and try to get her career on track, Annie takes a high-risk assignment in Ireland. On the shores of Ireland, in the remote Beara Peninsula, Annie is supposed to get the townspeople to agree that a copper mine in Ballycarog Cove would be the best choice for the economy and people there. However, once she arrives in Ireland and is given a tour by hiking guide Daniel Savage of the land that the mining would destroy and the bird that would be displaced, Annie seems starts to think that she might be on the wrong side. Daniel Savage is also haunted by his past mistakes and has closed himself off to getting close to anyone else, but when Annie Crowe arrives for his hiking tour, he feels a connection; and on the wind they both hear the disembodied call of Mise Éire calling them.

Before I was swept into Annie and Daniel's stories, I was entranced by the opening, the Hag of Beara in her glory, looking out over her beautiful land. I had to know more about this legend and how she would effect the story. Written in changing points of view between Annie and Daniel, I was thrown into their lives. Both characters are broken, recovering alcoholics. Annie wants to escape her past and start over. Daniel would rather wallow in his guilt, believing this is what he deserves. Through the writing and the voice on the wind, I was able to feel their immediate connection. The internal struggles in both Annie and Daniel were mirrored in the external struggles of the mining company and the environment. In addition to these strongly developed characters, I felt fully immersed in the beauty of Ireland and Ballycarog Cove. The red-billed chough also caught my attention, I too would surely be rooting to save the unique habitat of this special bird. The rise of fall of tension between Annie and Daniel kept me absorbed within the story and I almost forgot about the trouble of the mine and the birds. Overall, a charming story with a mix of redemption, love, folklore and environmental themes.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

 

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review 2017-07-26 17:09
Tales From the Warming
Tales from The Warming - Lorin R. Robinson

Tales from the Warming presents a series of ten short stories set in the near future that tells about the impact of global warming on human life.  All of these stories exhibit in a very realistic fashion what will happen to people from all around the Earth if we do not try to stop or at least slow or global Carbon Dioxide emissions.  Beginning with the very near future in 2022, we follow a weather reported to the top of Kilimanjaro where the last of the snow is melting.  This event in itself is not all that dramatic, but it is just the tip of the iceberg.  The emotion in the writing that is conveyed through this one event is what carried me through the rest of the stories in the book.  As the years pass, the effects of climate change spread and take route in humans lives, causing the characters to adapt and change their way of life as the new climate takes hold.  

 
As I read through each story and the years pass, the climate slowly worsens for the human way of life. People are beginning to die, and those that have survived are finding more radical ways to live.  What impressed me the most is that nothing unrealistic or from science-fiction was brought into any of the stories.  Many of the events that so drastically changed the lives of the characters are events that are happening now: air pollution so terrible that it is killing people, earthquakes resulting from fracking and changes in growing seasons and locations. Overall, a very thought provoking and practical look into our most likely future if we do not begin to change our habits. 
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 
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review 2017-04-24 02:02
The Promise of Pierson Orchard
The Promise of Pierson Orchard - Kate Brandes
Jack's family life began crumbling early in his childhood.  When Jack and his brother Wade were four and five years old, Jack's mother walked out on the family due to severe depression.  Later in his youth, their father died in a hunting accident.  Not long after that, Wade disappears. Jack is left to run their apple orchard by himself.  Jack marries a neighbor, LeeAnn and after eight years of infertility, their marriage falls apart.  Then, Wade returns along with his new job at Green Energy with hopes to reconcile his past and help out the town.  Wade is selling land leases for Green Energy to frack for natural gas in the abundant shale deposits of his hometown of Minden, Pennsylvania.  The quick money is a big draw for many of the families and businesses who have seen their town dwindle since the coal companies left.  However, Jack is worried about the effects of fracking on the land, his orchard and LeeAnn's organic apple trees.  He makes the decision to call in his mother, Stella, now an acclaimed environmental lawyer to get some perspective on the issue.  With Wade, Jack and Stella all back together there will be more be more explosions than just the hydraulic fracturing.
 
As an environmental scientist, I appreciate pertinent environmental issues featured in contemporary fiction. The Promise of Pierson Orchard expertly incorporates the slowly leaking and infiltrating toxins of the hydraulic fracturing with the disassembling relationships within Jack's family.  The characters are definitely the focus of the story.  The writing switching between the point-of-view of Jack, Wade, LeeAnn and Stella giving an intimate look into each character's back story and reasoning, making it easy to see everyone's beliefs and why they were convinced they were doing the right thing.  The shorter chapters also made for quick reading and a build of suspense as secrets were revealed.  I was most impressed with the author's ability to come up with a compromise solution for the town and the hydraulic fracturing.  While the dangers of fracking and its many consequences are highlighted, Stella's character is able to come up with a solution that includes fracking done a better way in order to help the community and family that she left behind.  With a heart-pounding and surprising ending, The Promise of Pierson Orchard provides an engaging and thoughtful read.
 
This book was provided for free in return for an honest review. 

 

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review 2017-03-11 21:40
Hell Holes: What Lurks Below
Hell Holes: What Lurks Below - Donald G. Firesmith

Dr. Jack Oswald is a geologist at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.  Just before classes are ready to begin for the semester, Jack receives an urgent call from Kevin Kowalski who works for ExxonMobil drilling oil.  There have been a series of mysterious holes opening up around the drilling fields that are affecting operations.  The holes are deep and perfectly cylindrical and just plain strange.  Jack has been hired to investigate; he assembles his team consisting of his wife, Dr. Angela Menendez, a climatologist, two of his grad students Mark and Jill Starr, a wildlife biologist Bill Henderson and is cajoled into taking along AIleen O'Shannon, a photojournalist.  When the team arrives in Deadhorse, they immediately get to work exploring the holes.  However, upon closer examination of the holes, no explanation for the holes can be found.  Then, disaster strikes and all hell is literally unleashed.  Now, the research team turns instead to survival and perhaps sending the demons back to where they belong. 

 
This was a fast-paced and short read that managed to combine climate science and supernatural horror in an effective way.  The book is written from Jack's point of view as a memoir of a survivor the attacks.  The first part of the story is a bit of an info dump as Jack's explains what he does, describes the fieldwork and his team's hypotheses about the holes. As a scientist myself, I enjoyed reading about permafrost and pingos and liked that climate science is featured in a book.  The story quickly picks up as hell breaks out on Earth.  One character has a large surprise up their sleeve that may help the team out of the mess if they can accept their new reality.  The different demons were all very interesting and I wish Bill could have continued his post mortem of the Hellhound.  Since this is a memoir of events, there is not much characterization, but more focus on events.  The story ends on quite a cliffhanger and with a sneak peek of book two at the end, I will definitely want to read on. 
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 
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