Today, we’re glad to have the opportunity to chat with author Norma T. Rudolph, whose new Fantasy/YA novel, The Gift of Lies is about to be released. Her cover artwork was just revealed yesterday (scroll down…) Shaping new worlds and exciting adventures while keeping the main characters compelling but believable isn’t an easy job, and Ms. Rudolph has crafted an amazing, parallel world set near her roots in the Badlands.
The Wyoming locals call the place Jake’s Hell. It’s a badlands of rock-rugged cliffs and sharp pinnacles that no sane person would attempt to enter and Summer McCalister’s uncle has seen some pretty crazy things there. But the Atomalians who live there call it Daneye. An alien city of unequaled beauty masked behind illusions to keep it secret. Atomalians have been taught that natives of Earth must never know about them and their powers of the mind or it would interfere with native progression and it would destroy the Atomalians’ peaceful lives. When Summer is drawn out of bed and pulled to Jake’s Hell by an urge she can’t control, she fears she is crazier than her uncle.
Norma, you’ve chosen to write your debut novel in a pretty exciting cross-genre right now, Fantasy/YA. Did the story lead you to the reader or was there another motivation that pushed your muse in this direction?
The Gift of Lies is available now for pre-order in Kindle eBook format, just in time for the perfect Holiday gift giving. For more information on Norma’s writing and her process of forging words, visit her blog at http://normasnovels.blogspot.com/
Pre-Order at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00QP5CF16
Back in February of 2007, Sir Richard Branson famously announced in London that he would contribute a prize of $25 Million to the first person to come up with a way to scrub greenhouse gases from our atmosphere. He said, “Unless we can devise a way of removing CO2 from the earth’s atmosphere we will lose half of all species on earth, all the coral reefs, 100 million people will be displaced, farmlands will become deserts and rain forests wastelands.” Pretty grim stuff, but at least he was willing to put his money behind the shout.
More than seven years later, this prize remains unclaimed, and the corporate-fueled skeptic community continues to rail against sustainability as a deeply flawed concept whose time has passed. In 2010, the New York Times columnist James Kanter discussed the unclaimed prize. Still there are believers out there in business land, such as Apple’s Tim Cook who earlier this year suggested that skeptics should “get out of our stock”. Sir Richard, ever the cheerleader for the cause announced, “More businesses should be following Apple’s stance in encouraging more investment in sustainability,” adding, “While Tim told sustainability skeptics to ‘get out of our stock’, I would urge climate change deniers to get out of our way.” Ref: The Daily Caller
While the battle rages on, I’d like to suggest that this fix isn’t so much a case of technology yet to be discovered, as it is a case of a simple solution not being painted shiny enough to attract serious investment. Money is the grease that our civilization and our advancements slide on. In order to stave off the imminent climate changes that threaten us and many other species, we need to apply the grease where it can do some good.
Besides, the technology to achieve this worthy goal is as old as trees. That’s because a working solution is very simple: trees. The average forest tree can process and remove tons of CO2 from the atmosphere every year, while adding Oxygen. I’m sure that it is within the scope of possible science to construct a machine that does this, but why bother when the best idea is already working demonstrably?
The reason is money. Planting forests isn’t seen as a viable solution for serious investment, but why is that? Is it because the Return on Investment takes time? Still, according to many environmental scientists, time is something we have little of, so in my mind, implementing what we have now is an important step towards achieving balance in our atmosphere. We need to roll up our sleeves, and begin to put shiny paint all over the idea of reforestation and forest maintenance. Make those Smokey the Bear hats something to yearn for. Singer Pharrel has already done his part.
The diverse arboreal forest that used to stretch completely around the planet at temperate latitudes, was the machine that aided the evolution of all living things. It’s not that hard to figure out that even returning a reasonable percentage of it to land scoured by failed agriculture and clear cutting would be a big help. To make it shiny, it needs to be attractive as an investment.
As the Developed World’s bankers and governments argue in expensive annual conferences over how to implement carbon credits into a universally accepted monetary form, why not simply update the way tree planting and forest management is paid. If the developed world began to make these occupations attractive alternatives, as they should be, considering the benefit to the planet, then landowners would see that reforesting their land with native acclimated trees rather than corn or rice or beans might be more profitable, even in the short run. Agribusiness could dedicate a percentage of their holdings to forest and still show good ROI. Carbon credits are one thing, but foirest credits should be the top denomination.
Better education of the actual measurable benefits of reforestation will help shift the focus away from mechanized solutions and pipe-dream thinking as the sole possibility. The idea isn’t crackpot, out-on-a-limb stuff. It’s solid, proven science with a relatively low-tech application process. Once planted and established, these forests would be relatively self-sustaining as well, so they would prove beneficial on into the future. I believe this is a concept that needs more vocal support to be given more than just smiling, condescending approbation. If done properly, it may be enough to save us. At least it’s something that works, that exists now, when we need it.
Your comments are appreciated…
I have a number of friends who, like me have learned some important lessons over the course of publishing a book. Publishing a book for the consumer market can easily get the best of anyone. Writers who tackle this job often find themselves reduced to coffee, No-Doze, prayer and supplication to complete even a small part of the process. There are so many variables and details that the writer find fall outside their normal range of skills it can be disconcerting.
But, don’t beat yourself up about it. It can be disconcerting to even industry professionals with years of experience and brilliant portfolios. Many things in both the marketing sphere and in the graphics world are still shifting very quickly. Sometimes these variables change while the ball is still in play. As both consumer acceptance and technology itself remain in constant flux, hitting a target moving in several dimensions at once is not for the faint of heart. However, there are many things that the writer can nail down before they need to find outside services to complete the project. One of the most important of these is your mental “set” as to how you are approaching the design and marketing of this “product”.
One of the most important lessons I learned in many years of advertising and design trench warfare is that timing is a front line player, not an also-ran to be considered “eventually”. You need to address the timing issues at the very beginning of your formulation of a marketing plan. It is equally as important as how narrow your market target has been honed, particularly as it can affect your pocket book directly.
To that end, I am providing my simple project checklist. It works in every single case, as I discovered through missing the mark quite often until I began taking it to heart.
Apply this simple filter at the beginning of each marketing and design project and you won’t just eliminate a lot of disappointment. This will get your thinking rebooted to a point where you realize you are dealing with significant, nuts and bolts stuff, not just the often ethereal ideas of making a pitch effective, a synopsis do some real selling, how to attract word of mouth to keep the ball rolling, etc.
Putting a book out requires lots of different sets of skills. Whether you do it with your own hands, or hire more skilled ones, it all comes down to getting a solid handle on exactly what it is you’re trying to achieve. My little checklist has helped me and my guess is that it will help you, too.
Look around you, wherever you happen to be, and I can bet that you’ll see things, people or animals that make you smile. Probably a few that make you cringe, fume, curse and scream as well, but more on those, later. Everything that brings you pleasure in a single moment, like that raindrop on the window last week that sparkled like a prism when the sun light hit it; the way your cat curls around himself upside down with a big grin; the color of the fall leaves against the barn, and so forth. Every time I try to make an inventory of the momentary pleasures that life brings me, I run out of room on the page. The list is endless.
I’ve gotten to the point where every single day I’m alive feels like a gift. It took a while to get to this point. I remember dreading the alarm clock, but that was a long, long time ago. I made choices that led me away from that and had the incredible good fortune to team up with a beautiful wife and family that wanted that kind of life, too. Sometimes, we know there are tasks waiting. Sometimes the tasks are unpleasant or difficult or frustrating. Sometimes we are unable to finish them properly. Sometimes thinking about them keeps us awake at night. But here’s the thing. Even worrying over these annoyances is really only a distraction form the real business at hand: enjoying the gift of living. The alternative is not an attractive option for me to ponder. I know none of us gets out of here alive, but in the mean time, I don’t want to use up too much of today with yesterdays problems or frustrations. There will always be time enough to take on the jobs as they come up. Some will turn out the way I want them to, and some won’t. Perfection in anything we attempt is not on our job description as human animals.
Which brings me back to those small and larger pleasures. When I was young, they rushed past me and I barely gave them any attention. Now, I really try to pay attention to the world around me, the other living things in it, the beauty in creation, the intricacy in the way the world is constantly interacting with itself and those things I can do to contribute my part in it all. All of these things bring pleasure if you take the time to notice.
Since our time here is indeed limited, then we need to teach ourselves to wring every single bit of joy from each moment that we’re able. Even when it appears to be a dark, unpleasant moment. If they were all brightly lit, we wouldn’t know the difference, would we? How to achieve this? It’s not that difficult, but it requires practice. By practice, I mean repetition until you get the hang of it. At the simplest, it means saying a silent thank you every time you find yourself smiling or when a spark goes off announcing a new understanding or when meeting a new friend, completing a task, or anything you do that has engaged your attention. After a while, it will become natural and the biggest benefit is that you’ll discover, as I have, that being alive is one gift after another.
So, sit down with a smile at your Thanksgiving table. I know there are one or more folks sitting nearby who will probably say something or do something that will annoy you. Thing is, family or not, they’re trying to find their own way through, just like you are. Say a small thank you inside that you’re there, available to be annoyed. It’s still better than not being anywhere, isn’t it? Lots better!
Enchanted Circle Scenic Drive, Taos, New Mexico From late September through early October, north-central New Mexico’s Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway is a best-of-fall highlight reel. For those beginning and ending the drive in Taos (basically circling…
I recently found myself listening to a friend as she espoused a rather dire view of humanity, God, and our purpose on earth. I understood how she came to embrace the philosophical conclusions she had. In fact, her thought processes seemed logical…
Every single time I see a man or woman in military uniform, or a disabled veteran or a family gathered in an airport to meet a returning warrior, I remember that it was We, The People, who sent them into harm’s way. We are responsible for the lives and safety of every person who is in military service and it is our mission to make absolutely sure we are not risking their lives and health for the wrong reasons. Every time we send them out, we must make sure there was no other choice. I believe that is the best expression of our gratitude for their service.
Since I write, I try to keep track of all kinds of events the best I’m able. Once in a while, things come together in such a way that a hunch or guess about a looming moment is reflected in reality. My impression, turning on the TV this morning, was that the election results bore out the way I’d been feeling about politics for a while now. I’m no political analyst, but it felt like the Republicans didn’t so much win as the Democrats lost.
What does that mean? Of course they won. They control the Senate for the first time in eight years, and added seats to the House as well. Speaking for myself, a center-left lifelong Democrat, I missed hearing any real message of change normally associated with a decisive win. What I got instead, was a monotonous drumroll of the discontent of most voters.
I lay the blame for this directly upon the feet of the administration and party leadership. I have never felt less connected with the White House since Reagan’s time. For the past two years especially, I felt like I had to really dig through headlines and articles to find out what the administration was actively doing, besides reacting to a stream of crises then delivering lackluster explanatory speeches after the fact. It left me losing the feeling I had that what happened in DC actually mattered to me personally. It felt like watching an endless info-mercial trying to sell me something I had already purchased.
Not that the DCC didn’t “reach out”. No, my email inbox saw as many as thirty messages a day. But here’s the problem. All their creative thinking was focused upon clever subject lines, not on keeping their core in the loop. Instead, every single message was a thinly veiled, or completely bold-faced attempt to get me to part with yet one more $5 bill. There was almost no policy discussion, and certainly no asking me how I felt about anything.
For the DCC’s communications to sink to strictly fund-raising efforts gave me the distinct feeling that the coming elections were strictly about who got to stay in power, not about any actual issues or legislation that the party wanted to champion. Their communication was reduced to the steady patter of a sideshow ticket hawker trying to fill seats in a tent.
The first Obama administration felt so full of promise and joy that I felt carried along, buoyed by the current of a new day coming. Since re-election however, I’ve felt mired in the growing distrust of the entire political process as obstructionism gained the day and the retention of a power base became more important that even attempting to fix the serious problems, including widespread corruption, that seethes below the surface in American life. It began to feel more like A Game of Thrones than anything else. At least in George R. R. Martin’s carefully constructed world, we all are brought to understand no one can be trusted completely.
Of course, despite my own disillusionment, I voted yesterday. The polls seemed almost deserted. I followed the party line with only a couple of exceptions in cases where I knew the incumbent. In those cases, if they were not Democrats, but had proved their concern and commitment to regular folks, they got my vote. But I cast my ballot with no fire in my belly. No feeling of empowerment, no real sense of mission.
So, what lies ahead? A singular lack of discussing the issues during the campaigns, leads me to believe that we will see more of the same-old, same-old. Immigration reform? Election reform? Infrastructure repair? Nope. The only change that I am convinced of is the change to the color balance of those political state maps on TV News programs.
And here’s the thing. I’m finally giving in to my suspicion that it no longer even matters which color predominates. The same corporate interests will continue to control legislation and influence our lives the way they have increasingly done over the past twenty years. We will be a nation run by money alone, without any real sense of purpose other than to make more money for those on top of the heap and force those working to feed their families, to pay.
Leadership? Democrats and Republicans both long ago, seem to have given up and joined the ranks of the well-paid corporate sycophants. If they haven’t, they haven’t told us. I’m not sure I would believe it if I heard that someone had broken free and made the conscious decision to begin doing the People’s work in Washington. It sounds too much like a sound-byte or a talking point. No, I’m just going to do what most of the Nation has already. I’m going to pull my blankets over my head and try to get back to sleep. Election Results? What do you mean results?
This has been reposted from Vox. Matthew Iglesias takes a well-balanced, reality based look at all the red-flag waving against Amazon. I’ve followed the silly Hachette-Amazon bout with some interest for it’s entertainment value. Yesterday, seeing that S&S and Amazon came to pricing terms easily before their contract expired brought me to the realization that it’s all been just business as usual. The hysterics were mostly prompted by Hachette’s refusal to see the facts on the ground for what they are… and also a general belief that their old, tired alurels mean they have a lot more power in the marketplace than they actually do. Anyway, I cede the floor to Matt Iglesias and his well-considered arguments…
Here’s a little real talk about the book publishing industry — it adds almost no value, it is going to be wiped off the face of the earth soon, and writers and readers will be better off for it.
The fundamental uselessness of book publishers is why I thought it was dumb of the Department of Justice to even bother prosecuting them for their flagrantly illegal cartel behavior a couple of years back, and it’s why I’m deaf to the argument that Amazon’s ongoing efforts to crush Hachette are evidence of a public policy problem that needs remedy. Franklin Foer’s recent efforts to label Amazon a monopolist are unconvincing, and Paul Krugman’s narrower argument that they have some form of monopsony power in the book industry is equally wrongheaded.
Books are published by giant conglomerates
Wisdom on this subject begins with the observation that the book publishing industry is not a cuddly craft affair. It’s dominated by a Big Four of publishers, who are themselves subsidiaries of much larger conglomerates. Simon & Schuster is owned by CBS, HarperCollins is owned by NewsCorp, Penguin and RandomHouse are jointly owned by Pearson and Bertelsmann, and Hachette is part of an enormous French company called Lagadère.
These are not tiny, helpless enterprises. Were their owners interested in the future of books and publishing, they could invest the money necessary to make their own e-reading apps and e-book store and render Amazon entirely superfluous. But the managers of these conglomerates don’t really care. If they can get famous authors to lobby the government to stop Amazon from killing them for free, then they’re happy to take the free labor.
But they don’t want to invest actual money and energy in competing with Amazon, they’d rather wring whatever remaining profit there is out of book publishing and dedicate the money to dividends or other industries they’re also involved in.
Amazon faces lots of competition
It is undeniably true that Amazon has a very large share of the market for e-books. What is not true is that Amazon faces a lack of competition in the digital book market. Barnes & Noble — a company that knows something about books — sells e-books, and does so in partnership with a small outfit called Microsoft. Apple sells e-books and so does Google.
These are not obscure companies. It is not inconvenient for customers to access their products. And since these are companies that are actually much bigger and more profitable than Amazon, there is absolutely no way Jeff Bezos can drive them out of business with predatory pricing.
Amazon’s e-book product is much more popular than its rivals because Amazon got there first, and the competition has not succeeded in producing anything better. But consumers who prefer to buy a digital book from a non-Amazon outlet have several easy options available, and thus a book publisher who chooses to eschew Amazon will not actually be unable to reach customers.
Publishers are superfluous
In the traditional book purchasing paradigm, when a reader bought a book at the store there were two separate layers of middlemen taking a cut of the cash before money reached the author: a retailer and a publisher. The publisher, in this paradigm, was doing very real work as part of the value-chain. A typed and printed book manuscript looks nothing like a book. Transforming the manuscript into a book and then arranging for it to be shipped in appropriate quantities to physical stores around the country is a non-trivial task. What’s more, neither bookstore owners nor authors have any expertise in this field.
Digital publishing is not like that. Transforming a writer’s words into a readable e-book product can be done with a combination of software and a minimal amount of training. Book publishers do not have any substantial expertise in software development, but Amazon and its key competitors (Apple, Google, and the B&B/Microsoft partnership) do.
Publishers would like writers to believe that the pressure they are feeling from Amazon will trickle down and hurt authors as well. But there is a big difference. Even in the brave new world of e-publishing, authors are still making a crucial contribution to the industry by writing the books. Publishers are getting squeezed out because they don’t contribute anything of value.