When the Muse Strikes and A-Cappella Hijacked the Next Novel

What does it mean to be first and last at the same time?

The four books I’ve published so far were not published in the order they were written. My first published novel was “My Splendid Concubine,” and about 100,000 readers have read this book since January 2008 when the first copy sold, but this book was not my first novel. The concubine was the last one I wrote. I started researching and writing this one in 1999.

“Running with the Enemy” and “The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova” were both written and finished out of UCLA’s extension writing program back in the 1980s, and “Running” started out as a memoir with a working title that I can’t remember. The professor convinced me to turn “Running” into fiction and ditch the memoir idea, and for two of the seven years I was in her workshop, I wrote and repeatedly revised that book.

The professor’s name at UCLA was Marjorie Miller. She’s gone now. Cancer got her. When any of the writers in her workshop was ready, according to Marjorie, she found agents for them, and she found one for “Running”.  That agent managed to get the interest of a senior editor at Random House who eventually rejected the novel but said he’d enjoyed reading it.  The reason for the rejection was readers were not buying books about the Vietnam War and the market was glutted with titles that were not selling.

That manuscript ended up on a shelf in my garage, and I went on to write the next one that turned out to be “The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova”. That novel also started out with a different title, one that Marjorie and the rest of the writers in that workshop didn’t like.

The teacher’s memoir I wrote, “Crazy is Normal, a classroom expose,” started life in the 1995 – 96 school year as a daily journal that turned into a book almost two decades later. The journal was not the memoir. It was the source of the memoir that I wrote after I published “Concubine”.

I see it as ironic that one Amazon reviewer accused me of being too “Rambo-ish” in “Running with the Enemy” and rated the book with a 2-star review. Rich T. wrote, “It started out OK, then became a bit to much unbelievable. The hero is to (Rambo-ish). Nothing can stop him. Jumping out of a plane at night with a bum leg. Sorry … Not my cup of tea.”


“It’s what Recon is all about – Pain! … Semper Fi, Do or Die!

Jumping out of a plane with a bum leg is not Rambo-ish. This is what Marines do if the situation called for it. I should know, I am a former Marine.

When I was still in boot camp at MCRD, voices and a clattering noise woke me once at three in the morning. I left my bunk and looked outside the Quonset hut to discover a squad of Marines with white-plaster casts on arms and legs. Those Marines were playing football on a rack of pipes about twelve feet off the ground.  As I recall, each pipe looked like it had a four-inch diameter. The polls that held them up were thicker.

I found out later that those crazy Marines were all from Force Recon and were back from Vietnam recuperating at the base hospital before they returned to combat. They weren’t supposed to be out of their beds. They weren’t supposed to be playing football twelve feet off the ground balanced precariously on a set of pipes.

A few weeks later, when my right leg was broken during hand-to-hand combat practice, I was offered the choice to heal at the base hospital when I’d be allowed to join another platoon to finish boot camp.

The DI made it clear that if I stayed with the platoon, I had to do almost everything the rest of the recruits were doing in training, and I did. The bone had a vertical fracture running its length and a cast wouldn’t help it heal or protect it. The doctor’s advice was to stay off the leg as much as possible. I didn’t. The pain was intense but I hid the pain out of fear that I might end up in that hospital bed. I wanted to graduate from boot camp with my platoon. That was 1965; I was 20.

I turned 21 in Vietnam where I’d hold a grenade with the pin pulled to make sure if I fell asleep while on watch, the blast would wake the others. The idea of me falling asleep and the Vietcong getting into the bunker and killing my fellow Marines wasn’t something I was willing to risk. Whenever I was that tired, I’d slip out of the bunker to a nearby foxhole and then pull the pin on that grenade that was meant to become an alarm clock if I fell asleep and my hand relaxed. I kept the pin in a top pocket so I could reinsert it at the end of my watch.

The first Rambo film came out in 1982 and was set in the United States after Vietnam Vet John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) returned to the states. Rambo was having a difficult time adjusting to civilian life. The first film in the series did not take place in Vietnam or Southeast Asia.

Rambo: First Blood Part II came out in 1985. By then I’d finished writing the novel that was alleged to be too “Rambo-ish”.  The 3rd Rambo film was released in 1988, and the 4th film came out in 2008. The plot of the novel that I published decades after I wrote it wasn’t changed from the original.

My next novel is one I’ve been thinking about since I was in grade school.

By the age of 10, I was an avid reader obsessed with the King Arthur Merlin myth. I read science fiction and fantasy novels sometimes two a day. I’d daydream stories of who Merlin was. Almost sixty years later, I started writing “Becoming Merlin”, and the paperback ARC copies are with my BETA readers now.

The real Merlin from the myth was a sorcerer; an immortal shapeshifter and no one knew where he came from or where he went after Arthur died.  In the ancient myths, Arthur lived around the 6th century, and at the end of the TV series Merlin broadcast by the BBC starting in 2009, in the last scene for the last season, we see Merlin walking beside a highway about fourteen hundred years later in the United States with his thumb out hitchhiking long after Arthur’s time.

My Merlin has little to nothing in common with the Merlin of the myth or the BBC TV series, but I wonder if some reviewer that doesn’t like the story I wrote will find a way to make a connection.

The Merlin in my novel is an alien and he has been around for a long time. He is lonely and wants someone to love. His only friend has been his artificially intelligent spaceship that he calls A-Cappella, and they are hiding on an Earth threatened by climate change. My Merlin has the magical powers of a god, but he can’t use most of those powers because he’s being hunted by a brutal team of AI killing machines. Using his powers to heal Earth might reveal where he is hiding and end up causing the total destruction of Earth and all life on the planet.

Here’s the first paragraph to “Becoming Merlin”, my next novel.

Chapter One

I regretted my part in one of the greatest tragic love stories in human history. It was that look in her eyes that did it, and I felt no guilt when I let myself be seduced by my friend’s future wife. She was fourteen the day Artur and I first saw her. That is when I knew that Guinevere was going to be trouble.  She had enchanting eyes, and men of all ages fell under their spell. She hypnotized me too, and I’m not even human.

###

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Are you self-published? I am!

Most people I meet don’t ask me anything, because they are often too busy talking about their world, but if they do ask what I do, I tell them I’m an author and a retired teacher. I might also talk about serving in the U.S. Marines and fighting in the Vietnam War, an experience that’s embedded forever inside my head.

Once I mention I’m an author that sometimes leads to other questions. Then there are the few who ask the question that’s the title of this post.  Recently I stopped by a coffee house and had a conversation with an attractive young lady. You might not consider her young. She was 58, but I’m 71 and to me, she’s young.

By the way, I can start a conversation with anyone or anything if the mood’s there.  I can even talk to my computer screen, car or me, and sometimes I answer me. If you spend as much time as I do alone in front of my desktop computer writing like I’m doing now, it makes sense.

The lovely young 58 year old asked me if I was self-published.  When I told her yes, she changed the conversation and talked about her passion for acting and that she had an agent but never earned enough from acting to support her and her children, so she waited tables, and with a master’s degree eventually went into teaching the same subject I taught for several decades.  Teachers are underpaid, but they are paid better than waiting tables. I know because I’ve had jobs in restaurants, and I was also a public school teacher for thirty years.

I woke up the next morning after that conversation wondering what others might think success means for a self-published indie author compared to traditional authors, and I ended up writing this post.

The Guardian in Stop the press: half of self-published authors earn less than $500 reported “It shouldn’t have surprised me that 75% of the royalty pie is going to 10% of authors: that’s life in many industries”

In fact, according to How Much Do Writers Earn/ Less Than You Think from Publishing Perspective.com, 20 percent of self-published authors earn nothing, zero, zilch, and the next 60 percent earn less than $1,000. Traditional published authors do a little better but not enough to be impressive. About 18 percent earn nothing and another 35 percent earn less than $1,000 annually.

Study the chart following this paragraph and you’ll discover that not too many authors (1 to 3 percent) earn more than $100,000 annually, and it doesn’t matter if they’re an indie or traditional author.

annual-writing-income-by-author-type

There are also terms that rank authors. For instance, there are midlist authors and bestselling authors.  My former wife of 15 years is a bestselling author with 8 books published in more than thirty languages, and her work has sold more than a million copies in English alone. While we were married, I edited many of those books before they went to her publisher.

However, the vast majority of titles published are midlist books, and by definition, I’m a midlist author. My  books have sold more than 22,000 copies earning me about $40k since January 2008, and more than 43,000 have been downloaded  during free giveaways I paid hundreds of dollars to advertise though BookBub and eReader News Today.

Then there were the pirates. Back in 2008, I was told that my first title, “My Splendid Concubine”, was the #1 downloaded pirated book of the month or year. I have no idea how many of the pirated versions were downloaded, and it doesn’t bother me because I don’t think most readers that download pirated books to save a few dollars would spend money to buy books anyway, but maybe if the pirate liked the book, they’d tell a friend who actually buys books instead of stealing them.

In addition, according to Janet Reid, Literary Agent, you have to sell more than 20,000 copies to be noticed, and The Guardian reported that the median earnings of professional authors fall below the minimum wage. I’ve sold more than 20,000 copies, but no one seems to have noticed me yet. Does that man Janet Reid is wrong?

For the last seven years, I’ve earned an average of about $5,500 annually from my writing, and that’s about half of poverty wages if you have no other income. I have several other sources of income, because I worked for 45 years, fought for my country, invested, saved, and planned. Even though I’ve been writing books and learning the craft of writing since 1968, I didn’t hold my breath waiting for fame and fortune to walk in the door.

If you go back to the chart above, you’ll discover that even those poverty wages as an author put me in the top 10 percent of indie self-published authors and the 75 – 80 percent bracket for traditionally published authors. That means my work has sold more copies and earned more money than 75 percent of traditional published authors, but there are still critics out there that consider self-published indie authors losers and posers. I think the lovely young 58 year old I had a conversation with in that coffee house was one of them. She might have asked me other questions, but I don’t remember if she did.

What about all those indie and traditional authors that don’t sell well? How do we judge the quality of their writing when we don’t have the time to read that many books? After all, it takes time and effort to write a book. You don’t do it in the time it takes to stick a piece of gum in your mouth. It can take weeks, months, and years. It took me almost 10 years to write my first published novel, the one that’s earning me most of my money as an author.

Another way to judge the quality of an author’s work is reputable literary contests. Most charge an entry and/or reading fee, but that doesn’t guarantee an author’s work will pick up an award,

Predators and Editors strongly advise writers to enter only those contests without a fee. What do authors do when there are literally hundreds of writing contests but most of them charge reading and/or entry fees? I wrote about that in: Is it wrong to pay an entry fee to a literary contest?  Over the years, my work has picked up a number of awards from literary contests that charged fees where about 95 percent of the authors that submitted work and paid the same fees didn’t earn any mention of their books.

Then there are reader reviews. For instance, Amazon. The 3rd edition of my 1st book has a 4.2 average with 292 customer reviews. My second title has 3.9 with 19 reviews; the third title is a memoir and it has 29 reviews with a 4.4 average, and my last title only has 5 reviews with a 4.0 average. No matter how hard I try, it hasn’t been easy finding readers for my last novel. It doesn’t help that every time I write a book it’s in another genre. That means I have to hunt for another audience of readers that might want to read it. I’ve also written about Authors Finding Readers where I explain why it isn’t easy to find readers.

But last Friday when I was asked if I was a self-published author by that attractive young 58 year old, and I said yes, there was no follow up questions so I didn’t bother to tell her my work had sold more than 22,000 copies, more than most authors, indie or traditional, will ever sell.

How should authors be judged – by the quality of their work or the number of sales or maybe a mixture of both? What do you think?

___________________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

A1 on August 26 - 2016 Cover Image with BLurbs to promote novel_edited-1

Where to Buy

His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy followed by his award winning memoir Crazy is Normal. His 4th novel is the award winning The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

 

What reading level should you write for?

When I was earning my BA in journalism back in the 1970s, we were told to write at a 5th grade vocabulary/literacy level.

You might ask why? Well, if you write for PhD’s, how much of an audience will you reach? The answer is about 2.5 million Americans have a PhD, and that’s less than one percent of all Americans.

In addition, The Institute of Education Sciences reported in 2008 that roughly 15% of the population reads at a university undergraduate level, but the average American reads at a 7th or 8th grade level according to the Clear Language Group.com.

Because most fiction (I’m not talking about literature) is written for the most people, the average reader is not exposed to higher literacy level writing, and they do not improve beyond the level they are reading.

It has been estimated that there are more than 62.4 million avid readers in the U.S., according to Book Business Magazine, and 63 percent are women. I think it’s safe to say that PhD’s are a minority among avid readers, and discovering what women read is more important than using multi-syllable words to impress an insignificant number of over-educated people.

In fact, “We shouldn’t discount simple writing, but instead embrace it. People freak out that teenagers are reading 5th-grade-level books, but it turns out that’s not a bad sign. Of course, we want to teach teens to comprehend higher reading levels than Harry Potter, but just because we can doesn’t mean we should be forced to waste time slogging through Ph.D.-level papers when the Ph.D.’s could write more fluently. …

“The other lesson from this study is that we should aim to reduce complexity in our writing as much as possible. We won’t lose credibility by doing so. Our readers will comprehend and retain our ideas more reliably. And we’ll have a higher likelihood of reaching more people.” – Contently.com

On that note, did you know that Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author Ernest Hemmingway’s The Old Man and the Sea has a 4th grade reading level – think about it?  And Donald Trump talks like a Third-Grader explaining how he won the Republican primary. Trump’s competition scored above the average literacy level.

LR for Cover for Book One on August 12 - 2016_edited-4

If you are a writer (author, journalist, writer, blogger, etc.) and you want to know what literacy level you write at, do what I just did and use Measure Text Readability through Readability Score.com.  For instance, I ran the first chapter – with 1,409 words – of my next novel, “Becoming Human” in the Last Sorcerer Series, and came up with an average reading grade level of 7.0. Not Hemingway, for sure, but also not above the reading level of the average American. Don’t forget, most readers don’t read books they can’t understand.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, with a BA in journalism and an MFA in writing, who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

A1 on August 26 - 2016 Cover Image with BLurbs to promote novel_edited-1

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Downsizing, cows, a one-sided shootout, and The Wedding

I have downsized my lifestyle from a 5 bedroom house with 4 bathrooms on a half-acre of steep hillside to a smaller 3 bedroom 2 bath on about a 7,000 square foot flat piece of property.

I bought a seriously abused house on the mend and spent the last few months getting up most mornings and driving 14 miles one way further east to work on the house to get it livable as I renovate it, and I finally moved in about two weeks ago.  The house is located in the hills and is next to a cattle ranch. I wake up each morning to eat breakfast sitting on a folding chair at a folding table sharing my eating space with too many tools and watch cows grazing in pastures on the other side of the house’s in need of replacement sagging chain link fence.

It feels like living in not only a storage unit with boxes and building supplies pilled everywhere; I’m also in the middle of a construction zone with cows as some of my neighbors.

Last week there was a shooting three houses down — not the ranch house up the hill behind my place — when a father and son got into an argument causing the police to be called to deal with the son waving a pistol around. I was told later that the son with the pistol got shot in the leg by the police, who did all the shooting, and stray rounds from the police also hit the father still inside the house and a younger son in the stomach also still in the house. I can already smell the vultures; I mean the lawyers, gathering and a fat settlement.

I think the local police need to spend a lot more time on the range practicing. They were way too close to the crazy older gun totting son to have missed him that many times.

I heard the shots but didn’t go out to investigate like many of the two legged neighbors did. I didn’t see any of the cows join the human spectators. I think the cows had more common sense. I’m a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam combat vet, and I learned the hard way that you don’t run out to watch a real life shooting in progress. Instead you should stay inside, get behind a big solid piece of furniture, drop to the floor and hug it tight.

After I moved into the smallest bedroom, I started the first stage of installing solid hardwood flooring. Stage one was the living room, master bedroom and the hallway that runs to the master bedroom from the entry of the house. I’ve finished the living room and most of the master bedroom and started on the hallway. Stage one is a little more than 400 square feet of floor. Once done, I’ll be moving out of the smallest bedroom and into the master bedroom and then filling up the smallest bedroom with boxes as I move them out of the living room and family room to make more room for me and future planned renovations.

Stage two for the hardwood floor will be the 200 square foot family room and stage three will be the 2 smaller bedrooms, another 200 square feet of flooring, after they stop being storage units.

But first, before stage 2 and 3 for more hardwood flooring, I have to install shelves and cabinets in the garage. There is also the fence that has to be replaced. Landscaping is last on the list of renovations. Right now I’m mowing the weeds every week to keep them from smothering the house. I had no idea that wild weeds, that don’t seem to need much water to survive and thrive, grew so much faster than thirsty and costly domesticated grass.


This isn’t my house, but you’ll get an idea of what it’s like.

While this has been going on, promoting my books has all but ground painfully to a stop and sales dropped off of a cliff. In fact, my writing has also slowed to the pace of a desperate man in the desert who has gone without food and water for four days and is crawling across the blistering hot sand of Death Valley in the summer toward what looks like a muddy, scummy watering hole surrounded by rattle snakes.

Did I mention the rattle snakes some of my two legged neighbors have warned me about? It seems they show up each summer and find ways to get inside the garage. As evidence that this warning is true, I did find the skeleton of a long dead rattlesnake in the garage while I was cleaning before installing new insulation and drywall.

Anyway, that thirsty, starving, desperate man in the desert that is the metaphor for my writing isn’t moving very fast and sometimes he lays there panting and doesn’t move for hours. Then he reaches out with one hand that looks like a shriveled, blistered, bloody claw and digs in, and gasping for breath, pulls himself forward a few more inches closer to that rattle snake infested water hole before he starts to wheeze and gasp for air and collapses again to gather his strength for the next page of text.

But on a bright note, I was in Berkeley this morning for a scheduled radio interview with the BBC held in the studio for the PBS station located on the Berkeley campus in their journalism/media department at 121 North Gate Hall. The BBC program is called “Our Man in China,” who happens to be the real Robert Hart, the 19th century main character in my first novel “My Splendid Concubine”. I was told that the program will air later this year.

Then there is our Stanford graduate daughter’s wedding. She is getting married and has gone all out to plan a wedding that seems more like a Broadway play in several acts spanning three days with song and dance. Why are today’s young people planning complex, lavish weddings and spending wheelbarrows of cash on those nuptials when half of marriages end in divorce?

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Where to Buy

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy followed by his award winning memoir Crazy is Normal.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

Book Promotion for “The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova” on Sale for $0.99

After years of endless seductions, the 20th century’s Don Juan Casanova has met the one woman he wants to romance for the rest of his life, but his future is threatened when he becomes the prime suspect in the nightclub murders of his grandfather and younger brother.

P Benson, a top 1,000 Amazon Reviewer said, “I loved this book. The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova was a superb, funny mystery.”

A judge for the 23rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards said, “In The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova, we are presented with a contemporary update on an old story told with an interesting spin that gets us to view the original in a new light while helping us to see the world around us in a fresh and interesting way.”

The setting of this novel is based on a night club called the Red Onion in Southern California where the author was the Maître d for several years in the early 1980s. Some of the characters in this novel are based on real people, who were customers or employees of the Red Onion, but their names and descriptions have been changed.

On Sale Jan 29 - Feb 4 2016

The world of nightclubs and bars is a world we don’t read or hear about often, but there are literally thousands across the country, and the Top 100 List for Nightclubs and Bars in 2014 showcased the current economic strength of the industry with more than $1.5 billion in combined total revenue in 2013.

How big is the industry that is the setting for this award winning murder mystery? The U.S. bar and nightclub industry has about 45,000 establishments (single-location companies and branches of multi-location companies) with combined annual revenue of about $20 billion.

Peter Braunstein wrote, “From the juke joint to the dance hall, American clubs in the postwar era have been the center of a cultural struggle pitting the forces of hedonism, revelry, and sexual liberation against those of socio-sexual stability and control.”

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Where to Buy

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy followed by his award winning memoir Crazy is Normal.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

 

Seeing “The Martian” Two Times in Three Days

The title of this post could have been “Self-published author hits it big thanks to Mars.”

I have seen this film twice and plan to see it again soon a third time, and when the DVD comes out, I’ll buy the film and also watch it at home. The first time I saw the film was on Friday, October 2, and the second time was Sunday, October 4, and I enjoyed it even more the second time around.

Next, I plan to buy the book and read it. Hopefully, I’ll find it on CDs and listen to the audio version instead.

This is the first time in my 70 years of life that I’ve seen the same film twice at a theater. I have seen “The Lord of the Rings” three times but only once in a theater. The other two times, I watched it at home. I’ve also watched “Avatar” once in a theater and then again at home after I bought the DVD.

I’m an avid reader, who has read “The Lord of the Rings” three times and the entire Horatio Hornblower Series by C. S. Forester two times, and I am also a film addict who is easily entertained, but this is the first film that I want to watch repeatedly.

“The Martian” started out as a 2011 science fiction novel and the first published novel by American author Andy Weir. It was originally self-published in 2011. In March 2013, Twentieth Century Fox optioned the film rights.

Then in 2014, Crown Publishing purchased the rights to the novel and re-released it the same year. The story follows an American astronaut, Mark Watney, as he becomes stranded alone on Mars and must improvise in order to survive.  The Martian, a film adaptation, was directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain.

Since I’ve seen the film and haven’t read the book—YET—I’m going to copy a few pull quotes from reviews that I agree with.

“A great movie! It’s exciting, emotional, it has great storytelling and most of all, it’s surprising!” –Edgardo Resendiz, Reforma

“This is science fiction for sophisticated audiences and, as such, a fulfilling and satisfying experience.” – James Berardinelli, Reel Views

“What’s so stirring about the film is that, before and after everything else, it truly is about being human” – Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal

“The Martian is fueled by charm, curiosity and the scientific method.” – Chris Vognar, Dallas Morning News

The Martian should do far more than just make Fox a ton of money; it could conceivably rekindle interest in the space program and inspire a new generation of future astronauts.” – Peter Debruge, Variety

“Superior to both Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and (by a smaller margin) Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity,” – Matt Brunson, Creative Loafing

“Easily one of the most engrossing, enthralling and entertaining films of the year … In essence, The Martian is the antithesis of a superhero movie; instead of one man trying to save the world, it’s about the world trying to save one man.” – Jim Schembri, 3AW

I’d share my favorite scenes but there were too many and that would more than double the word count of this post. It is often rare for media critics and the audience to agree on anything, but on Rotten Tomatoes, “The Martian” has an approval rating of 93% for all of the critics and 94% for the audience. Heck, even a New York Times critic liked the film, and that’s a rare event for any film or book.

Manohla Dargis, the NY Times critic, starts out with, “A space western and a blissed-out cosmic high, ‘The Martian’ stars Matt Damon as an American astronaut who, like a latter-day Robinson Crusoe, learns to survive on his own island of despair. At once epic and intimate, it involves a dual journey into outer and inner space, a trip that takes you into that immensity called the universe and deep into the equally vast landscape of a single consciousness.”

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Promotion Graphic OCT 2015

Where to Buy

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy followed by his award winning memoir Crazy is Normal.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

The Complexity of Belief vs the Reality of Racism – a review of “Go Set A Watchman”

Do you know what a devil’s advocate is? If you don’t, here it is: One who argues against a cause or position, not as a committed opponent but simply for the sake of argument or to determine the validity of the cause or position.

That’s what I think Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman” was, a devil’s advocate written to add some reality to the complexity of racism in the United States that has become too much of a black and white issue when in reality there are many shades of color at work.

When the sequel of “To Kill A Mockingbird” came out, the first thing I read was one or more of the politically correct mobs lashing out when they condemned the book because of an early scene in the novel that depicts Atticus Finch as a racist, but I didn’t let that stop me from buying an audio version of the book on six CDs at Costco, and I’m glad I did because the story in this novel offers a brutal reminder that hot-button issues like abortion, school reform and racism can’t be dealt with in a 14-second politically correct sound bite by one side or the other. Reality is more complex then simple and often ignorant thinking.

After listening to the novel, Atticus Finch turns out to be a complex individual and I don’t think he was the kind of racist that fits the stereotype that so many love to hate. He didn’t belong to the KKK. He was not a white supremacist. In fact, Atticus didn’t even own one of those white cloaks with hoods that have holes cut out for the eyes and mouth.

Instead, before the end of the novel, we learn that Atticus might believe in separate but equal, but he would also be the first one to put his body between a fire-breathing racist lynch mob and an African American the mob wants to hang from the nearest tree, because it’s obvious Atticus still believes in justice and equality for every person but maybe not everyone’s definition of what that means. Right or wrong, I don’t think Atticus deserves to be condemned. Reserve that anger for those who bomb black churches, murder minorities for just having a different shade of skin and/or block the right of minorities to vote.

I taught “To Kill a Mockingbird” in high school, and I’ve seen the film a number of times, so I was ready to read about the characters who were 20+ years older, and I was not disappointed. The audio book is read by Reese Witherspoon, and Jean Louise Finch—Scout—reminds us that she was a child once when she takes readers on journeys back in time to when she was a child and then an adolescent becoming a young woman. I think Witherspoon’s voice is exactly what we would want Scout to sound like as a young woman in her twenties.

Instead of jumping blindly on the politically correct bandwagon that defines what racism is, read this book and do what it was designed for: weigh all the factors and think for yourself. Then judge individuals like Atticus on an individual basis and not a blanket indictment written by an often angry and mindless mob.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy followed by his award winning memoir Crazy is Normal . His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards.

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