Monday, July 25, 2016

When the head rules the heart.

Sorry I'm late this week -- the weekend got away from me. I even forgot to mention to anybody that I published a new book. Back Home Again: The Five59 Stories, plus a few is the anthology I spoke about, not long ago. Most of the stories have been published previously by Five59 Publishing, either in an anthology or on their website. But a couple of them are entries from an Indies Unlimited flash fiction contest; one was published in a different anthology; and one has only been available on Wattpad until now. Doing this collection gave me an opportunity to gather them together in one place, and maybe even gain a wider audience for them.

Plus some people prefer reading short stories. And some folks don't want to commit to a novel by an author whose work they're unfamiliar with; this is an opportunity to entice those readers into the fold, so to speak.

Anyway, the book is available only for the Kindle right now. And I'm pretty pumped: I just checked the stats, and Back Home Again is #14 on the Hot New Releases list for horror anthologies. Whoo hoo!

The paperback version should be ready by next weekend. I'll let y'all know when it's up.

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This has been an interesting political year, and not just in the U.S. (No, I'm not going to talk about the candidates -- I've said over and over that I'm not going to make this a political blog, and it's still not happening. But we're in the middle of presidential campaign season here, and so it's on my mind.)

One of the interesting things about political persuasion -- about persuasion in general, really -- is to watch how much of it is really an emotional appeal gussied up as logical thought. Granted, some candidates make speeches that are full of nothing but dog-whistle appeals to their base of supporters -- but at least they're transparent about it. Others talk in a kind of code, aiming to sound sober and thoughtful, but underlying their rhetoric are stands on the issues that are just as much a play for certain voters as the dog-whistle candidates.

And yet, among the most disparaging things a critic can say about a candidate is that he or she doesn't have a viable platform, that someone or other has run the numbers on their proposals and they just don't check out. Never mind the fact that the details -- even if they're fully-formed legislative proposals -- will have to be hammered out among the White House and the two houses of Congress. No President in recent memory has walked into the White House on Day One with an agenda that subsequently became law with no changes whatsoever. Doesn't happen. At best, political platforms are suggestions -- a way to gauge how the wind would blow, if a particular slate of candidates were to be elected. Every last one of them is an emotional appeal.

I have to tell you that as an author, I know a thing or two about making emotional appeals. Those of us who write fiction use emotion in our work all the time. And I'm not just talking about romance writers; authors of thrillers need to keep their readers anxious so they'll keep turning the pages to the end. Same with horror writers, although the emotion they're going for is fear, terror, and sometimes outright disgust. Sci-fi and fantasy hope to awaken a sense of wonder in their readers. Even authors who work in "serious" genres like literary fiction are working to strike an emotional chord in their readers -- recognition of, and empathy for, the human condition. And so on. Our characters may or may not be serious, rational-minded individuals, but if they can't make some kind of an emotional connection with readers, the story will fail.

So what purpose does a rational review of an emotional appeal have? Clearly it's important to get the details right, particularly when you're getting ready to implement a Big Idea. And it's often unhealthy to decide on a course of action by relying only on emotion, without thinking through the consequences.

But I would suggest that a total reliance on logic, cutting emotion out of the equation entirely, is just as unhealthy. Big Ideas don't come from rational thought processes; they come from aha! moments. They come from people who are fired up. Sober reflection can be a good thing, but it can also be a buzzkill. And "let's think this through" too often becomes an excuse for inaction. Fear of doing the wrong thing can lead to doing nothing. And as I hope we all know, doing nothing is also a choice.

So don't denigrate the people with the Big Ideas. They're the ones who will move us forward.

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These moments of buzzkill-free blogginess were brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.
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