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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 2017-09-04 23:04
The right book for today's crazy times
The Forever Letter: Writing What We Believe For Those We Love - Elana Zaiman

I've been so frustrated and feeling powerless with the last election and the state of our country.  I want to do something to bring people together and move forward to solve real problems.  I'm tired of all the blame.  

 

Elana Zaiman's book THE FOREVER LETTER offers a ray of hope with simple steps that I can take to make sure that I don't lose the people in my life who are truly important, no matter their political perspective.

Source: amzn.to/2rGEMw8
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review 2017-02-18 20:43
The Ethical Carnivore: My Year Killing t... The Ethical Carnivore: My Year Killing to Eat - Louise Gray

An interesting and thoughtful look at modern meat production.  Recommended.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-02-03 21:13
Longbourn, by Jo Baker: a Book review
Longbourn - Jo Baker

The story of Pride and Prejudice, but seen through the eyes of the hidden class, the servants in the Bennett household.  If you are a dyed-in-the-wool P&P fanatic, this might just turn you off, because the characters in P&P are mere backstory here.  In addition, it is a somewhat moody novel, even bleak or grim in places, without the cherry-on-top happy ending that we often crave, so bear that in mind.  That said, I liked it a lot (and I am a Jane Austen reader, but not a fanatic)  and am glad to have read it, and would recommend it.

Our hero is the Bennett's downstairs maid, Sarah, an orphan who chafes at her restricted life, and whose concerns are far more pressing than when the next ball might be.  The servants have a whole world of their own "under the stairs".  There is a hierarchy of servants, and they have their own spats, and secrets, as well as kindness and hope, and perhaps a bit of romance as well.  But their days are long, unbearably long, and their labors are far more burdensome than the upper-crust Bennetts might realize.  It was interesting to me, from a historical point of view, to see the amount of dirt and mess and muck and manure (lots of that) they had to deal with, while always appearing pristine, polite, and well-coiffed.  The reader unfamiliar with what it takes to maintain an "aristocratic" home (though the Bennetts barely make the cut, as country gentry) will be surprised by the long and arduous daily tasks the servants must do, and always do invisibly, to keep the household running.  There was a reason maids often died before age 30.

Our main character, Sarah, spends a lot of time complaining about her chilblains (blisters that arise when skin is exposed to extreme cold or heat).  She is in charge of laundry, so her hands are constantly subjected to hot water and cold water, and hot irons and and cold air, and yet she must take care not to get any fluids from her chilblains onto the laundry.  Then there's the wood to cut, the water to boil, the uniforms to starch and iron, the food to store and cook and serve and clean up after... This disconnect between the leisurely life of the Bennett sisters, who chat and read, visit with others,  and play the piano, while changing clothes three or four times a day, and the stupefying struggle of their maids to just get through the workload of another day really highlights the difference in the classes.  In some places I found Sarah to be a bit TOO modern in her thinking.  By that I mean that most house servants in the Regency era knew they were servants and were, quite early on I imagine,  disabused of any ideas of moving up in society.  Sarah has a more modern outlook:  she KNOWS she can be more.  That said, the truth of the matter is, she probably cannot.

The main housekeeper, Mrs. Hill, (I loved this character)  is stern but kind hearted, and (SPOILER ALERT) towards the end when Mr. Hill dies we discover just how kind-hearted she really was. She sees in Sarah the yearnings for a larger world, and tries to help her find some peace with her lot in life, as she herself has done.  But in Sarah's eyes, Mrs. Hill has merely "settled" for less than she could have had, and Sarah refuses to do so.  The reality was, in those Regency days, crossing "up" into higher levels of society was virtually impossible.  Mrs. Hill found her love and her peace where she could.

There's a love interest for Sarah, who seems like a good hearted fellow, but he leaves, and while he is gone, there is an exotic footman she meets as well, who pursue her a bit. So, SORT of a romantic love triangle, but not really, because good guy comes back and footman graciously yields.  (Through the footman's eyes we see how narrow Sarah's life experience really is.) Honestly the romance was far less interesting to me than the feeling of peeking behind the kitchen door to see what was REALLY going on in the gentry homes of that era, all across Europe.

Recommended.  Conservative parents should be aware of the presence in the novel of a brief mention of a loving, committed homosexual relationship, and an out of wedlock pregnancy. Makes for great conversations with your teens!

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text 2015-11-24 08:40
Putting “your heart’s truth” into your stories

Have you ever read a book and wondered why the author wrote it?

 

I’ve just finished reading two books and despite being quite well written I couldn’t understand why the authors put in the time and effort to produce these works.

 

The protagonists were weak, ineffectual and impossible to find sympathetic. It wasn’t that they were poorly drawn characters, this was how the authors chose to convey them.

 

Of course our heroes need to be flawed to be real, but come on, these guys had no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

 

And the stories were like “so what?” Either nothing happened or what did happen was boring.

 

Readers don’t pick up a work of fiction to be reminded of their life. They read to escape their life. Most people’s lives are humdrum. 

 

No?

 

Well mine sure is. There’s not one event in the last few years that’s worthy of eighty thousand words.

 

The solution? Don’t write about your life, at least not literally.

 

If your hero’s life isn’t at risk then at least the world as he knows should be. If neither his life nor his way-of-life are threatened, you’re writing a yawner.

 

While you’re thinking about this consider if you’re going to put immense time and effort into writing a novel why not make it worthwhile in the sense that it imparts something to the reader, something significant.

 

What’s significant? Well, that depends on what’s important to you.

 

Carol Bly, author of The Passionate, Accurate Story: Making Your Heart’s Truth into Literature, suggests you consider your “writing as a moral act ...and build your fiction on strong ethical ground.”

 

Even before beginning to write a story Bly recommends you compose a “Values Listing,” a written record of the things most important to you.

 

Then throughout the writing process; the crafting of the plot, the developing of the characters, the imagining of the setting, return to this list to 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 they themselves are grounded in or address these same principles.

 

Here’s Bly’s four-point values listing. My responses are in italic – if you’re influenced by them, well, that wouldn’t be a bad thing.

 

VALUE’S LISTING:

 

  1. Two goals or values which make life good or bearable or would if they were in operation.

Preserving the Environment/ Encouraging the Human Spirit

 

  1. Two goals or values which cause injustice and suffering or lessening of joy. Wealth-Materialism/The Need to Control

 

  1. 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/Responsibility-Credibility

 

  1. Two injustices you see about you and should keep an eye on, even on your wedding day.

Racism-Discrimination/Destruction of Wild Things and Wild Places.

 

The values you write down aren’t about creating or even directing your story, but since you must imbue your characters with qualities why not make them ones that are important to you? Why can’t their motives be pure or at least well intentioned? Every story must have a conflict so make the fight a good fight, one worthy of a sympathetic hero.

 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if something you wrote made your readers (some of your readers, a reader) enriched, enlightened, maybe even a better person?

 

Anne Lamott in her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, says,

“We all know we're going to die; what's important is the kind of men and women we are in the face of this.”

 

Ask yourself, in the face of death what kind of men and women are the characters you create? Then put “your heart’s truth” into your story.

 

30

 

Loving the Terrorist - Beyond Eagleridge Bluffs

ONLY 99¢

SPECIAL PRE-ORDER PRICE ‘til Dec.6/15

After pre-order date regular price will apply $3.99

To pre-order go to

http://www.amazon.com/Rod-Raglin/e/B003DS6LEU

 

Video book reviews of self-published authors now at

Not Your Family, Not Your Friend Video Book Reviews: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH45n8K4BVmT248LBTpfARQ

 

Cover Art of books by self-published authors at

https://www.pinterest.com/rod_raglin/rod-raglins-reviews-cover-art/

 

My new novels, FOREST – Love, Loss, Legend and The BIG PICTURE – A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic are available on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU and as e-books at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/raglin

 

Visit my publisher’s website for excerpts from, and a buy link to my Eco-Fi series ECO-WARRIORS Book 3, Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients http://www.devinedestinies.com/?route=product%2Fauthor&author_id=92

ECO-WARRIOR Book 1, Saving Spirit Bear – What Price Success? is available at

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

ECO-WARRIOR Book 2, Loving the Terrorist - Beyond Eagleridge Bluffs is now available as in paperback at

http://www.amazon.com/author/rodraglin

 

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, My YouTube channel if you prefer photo videos accompanied by classical music

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsQVBxJZ7eXkvZmxCm2wRYA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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