Emotional intelligence and fiction

May 25th, 2015 by Goose | Permalink

download A download (1) ALots can be said about emotional intelligence (EI), both good and bad. Saturday’s work shop (May 23, 2015) for members of Twin Cities Sisters in Crime covered the high points on the positive side of the topic, particularly as they apply to writing.

Authors Lyn Cowan and Christina Glendenning did a fine job of explaining how emotion relates to fiction since, according to Albert Camus, “fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.” And if truth-telling is the business of writing stories, authors must “get it right” because “readers expect an emotional experience from fiction.” Story-telling has been a feature of human experience for thousands of years, and the transfer of human emotions through myths not only gives life to these stories but also enables us to share the experiences of thoughts according to Wordsworth, “that lie too deep for tears.”

As depth psychologists, Cowan and Glendenning take a qualitative, Jungian approach to the study of human psyche which in Greek means both soul and butterfly. The imprecise nature of the concept reflects how  the soul is not a thing so much as a perspective on human experience that has both conscious and unconscious aspects. For writers it means that the emotional lives of the characters in their novels must reflect that same diversity and depth of feeling as readers experience in their daily lives.

Such shared emotions enable all of us to understand and empathize with the experiences of others no matter different their gender, race, or culture might be. It also facilitates an appreciation of behaviors that may be initially unpleasant or distasteful through the realization that they are not aberrant or stereotypical but common to all of us. As the manipulators of words, the duty of writers is to express these subjective emotions through metaphor and myth.

Some professional psychologists might criticize EI for being more of a skill than a measure of intelligence. Others might balk at emotions being any component of the mind or consciousness at all. But their relationship to myth make them an important ingredient in any story a writer might tell. Through an unfortunate consequence of time we writers were unable to instill the concept through the exercises Cowan and Glendenning had planned. With a little pruning and better time management, future work shops promise complete success in showing how to incorporate emotions into fiction writing.



Discovering cunning folk

December 6th, 2014 by Goose | Permalink

Year51JvlAscCPL._AA160_As ago a contemporary of the Wisconsin State Journal‘s Roundy Coughlin wrote an occasional column about things he’d discovered on the way to other things. By the same route, my researches uncovered a group of healers that receive little attention in the reference books: cunning folk.

My forthcoming novel, The New Immortals, contains a number of familiar animals or spirit guides which British historian and folk expert Emma Wilby says “were supernatural entities believed to assist witches and cunning folk in their practice of magic” during Medieval and early modern times. Her book on the topic, Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits: Shamanistic Vicsionary Traditions in Early Modern Bristish Witchcraft and Magic, has been extolled by fellow historian, Marion Gibson, for making “a strong case for a British shamanic tradition.”

Given thee subtitle of Wilby’s book and her background, the book also presents a strong case in behalf of shamanism in the Western European cultural and healing traditions. The cunning folk of Sweden, Germany, Italy, and200px-Cunning_Woman A Wales along with their familiars resemble in many ways the shamans of Siberia, India, and South America with their reliance upon power animals to interact with the spirit world and channel those energies into the material world. My novel takes this one step farther by having a psychologist combine the practices of his profession with the shamanic traditions of  the native South American Quechuas to combat the followers of the ancient Zoroastrian god Ahura Mazda. If Furst fails in his quest, he stands to lose not only his wife and family, but his very soul to the race of psychic parasites called the Anausaveds by the ancient Persians which translates as the New Immortals.

Many indigenous cultures disparage Western practitioners of shamanism as “plastic shamans” for misappropriating their ancient traditions. Due to a felicitous bit of research, it appears that Western culture has a strong, healthy shamanic tradition of its own in the guise of the cunning folk of western and central Europe. The realms of the human spirit and the unconscious would seem broad enough to encompass healers from all cultures regardless of origin.Бэликто A

My C3 Panel Assignments

September 24th, 2014 by Goose | Permalink

Here are the two panels (Date, time, participants & subject matter included) with which I’ve been assigned:

On Friday, October 10:

3:00-3:45 Creating magical realism in fiction
Bill Fietzer, Karen Taylor
• Juli Monroe (Moderator)

On Saturday, October 11:

1:00-1:45 Researching vs. making up your locales
• Rebecca York, Steven Van Patten, Bill Fietzer
• Ann Arbaugh (Moderator

armor_shield2-300x295The link to the entire conference schedule is given below:


These should be fun, informative, maybe even provocative panels. If you’re in the area, stop by and check them out. Better yet, attend the conference.

C3 Anthology

September 5th, 2014 by Goose | Permalink

armor_shield2-300x295Received official confirmation from Denise Camacho, President of Intrigue Publishing, that my short story, “Blessings for the Living,” will be included in the 2014 anthology of stories written by authors appearing at the “Creatures, Crime, and Creativity” conference. Held again at the Hunt Valley Inn in Baltimore, Maryland, this second installment of C3 runs from Friday afternoon, October 10, through Sunday morning, October 12, 2014. Guest speakers include keynote speakers, Rebecca York and John Gilstrap, and guest interviews with authors Brad Park and C. J. Ellisson.

Based upon a real life incident at the prison farm outside my hometown in Waupun, Wisconsin, my short story centers around a boyhood experience of Victor Furst, the shaman/psychologist protagonist of my forthcoming novel, “The New Immortals.” On Halloween night, Victor discovers all of the spooky, malevolent things occurring on the farm, including the killing of his dog, Monte, may not have been committed by one of the prisoners who has befriended him.

Building Effective Online Author Plaforms

March 31st, 2014 by Goose | Permalink

George_Burns_2_Allan_Warren ADoesn’t every author have an online platform? Seems a silly question with all the books being published and their related promotions on Twitter and Facebook. Yet, many of the web sites associated with these writers are unfocused and ineffective according to Michael Kelberer who conducted the local SinC presentation on the topic, March 29, 2014. These web sites promote their books but not their brand, i.e., the potential reader has little or no idea who this author is or what his or her books are about.

Though authors as a group are used to researching the backgrounds for their novels and stories, they aren’t as comfortable researching strategies and techniques for marketing their writing. Urging us to “look at other people doing what I want to do,” Kelberer supplied tips to maximize traffic to an author’s web site, identified online resources to find and retain readers, and surveyed the web sites of a half dozen successful authors.

Though this information was extremely helpful and in many cases, eye-opening in its scope, the most important points he made during his two plus hours boiled down to two, one practical and one philosophic. The practical one was to use your research, visits, travel, and other information related to your books as subject matter for your blog. To keep readers informed and interested in your work, sharing the research and discoveries made along the way helps make authors real people to their readers.

The philosophical point dovetails with the practical: Be consistently true to yourself in your web site and social media presentations. If an author’s goal is to share his or her writing with readers, the web site should reflect the writer’s interest and personality. More than that, doing so forms a bond, a sort of online handshake that this writer is authentic, i.e. that the site reflects his or her writing and world view and are worth a perusal.

Comedian George Burns once said, “Sincerity – if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” While authors are in the business of spinning yarns and telling lies, if they wish their writing to be read and expect people to pay for the privilege, their presentations of themselves must be sincere and genuine. Their author platforms are the most important part of establishing their online contract with their readers.

A Lesson Repeated at the Creatures, Crimes, and Creativity Conference

October 27th, 2013 by Goose | Permalink

One thing the keynote speakers at this conference did that speakers at many other conferences don’t do is discuss the amount of labor involved. When writers discuss the “iceberg approach” to their writing, they could as easily refer to the amount of person hours involved as the technique that implies something deep lies beneath the surface of their narratives.

Jeffrey Deaver was quite upfront about the work aspect during his Saturday night keynote address when he pronounced writing “is a business.” When he started out he was like most novices “who like and write books as we all do.” But as he became more proficient at his craft, he realized that even though he enjoyed being “paid to make up things,” he also found particular aspects of his profession that he detested, particularly what he calls the “dreaded explanatory” chapter in which the author has to wrap up the loose threads and make sense of them for the reader. More and more he found himself “to hate, hate, HATE writing those chapters” and putting off the chore until he absolutely had to.

Allison Leotta equated her work day to that of juggler’s who wonders “which balls will be dropped.” This “female John Grisham,” as one reviewer called her, realized after publishing her first book that she needed to spend two hours a day just for marketing to “build an author platform.” And if she were to meet her ambition and reverse the simile, i.e., for Grisham to become regarded as the “male Allison Leottta,” she would need to work doubly hard and “really have to hone my talents.”

All too often, novice writers (me included), regard writing as a matter of a seamless process of inspiration, perspiration, production, and adulation. After a book or two, they figure they have reached the starry firmament where they can rely on the strength of their reputation to communicate with their readers. Celebrity authors aside, few professional writers have such luxury. Each novel builds upon the ones that precede it which ups the ante on the reception the current publication receives. For that novel or short story to be a success with the public and for the author, a writer must conclude sooner rather than later as Ms. Leotta and the attendees at this conference have, that the writing life is all “about working your ass off all the time.”

To view my photos of the C3 conference, check out my Facebook page at:


Gloria Steinem redux

April 7th, 2013 by Goose | Permalink

IMG_1932 AGloria Steinem

An interesting comment occurred after Gloria Steinem‘s Koryne Horbal lecture when a female student in the audience asked Steinem how she could answer her friends who start their conversations with “I’m not a feminist, but ….” Though she responded with the flippant comment that “sometimes sending them to the dictionary works,” Steinem did not offer this young woman (who could have been her granddaughter) a practical answer.

Ms. Steinem has been on the world stage for over 40 years and for many people serves as the figurehead for feminism in this country. Yet, much like her response to this student’s query, she has not defined what feminism is or what it is supposed to accomplish. Such a laissez-faire stance may well be in keeping with her educational philosophy of tailoring the form of the pedagogy to the talents of the student, but it also serves as a clever way to evade responsibility for making the decision of defining what or who one is. One defining characteristic of leadership is making tough decisions and accepting responsibility for the outcome(s). If an individual cannot honestly define what he or she stands for, that person does his or her cause an injustice, even if that cause is freedom, the ostensible topic of her speech.

She alluded to this issue earlier in her speech in her dismissive mention of reporters asking her what a feminist society would look like. If such a society would tear down the remaining vestiges of the patriarchy as “an experiment that failed,” a fair question to ask would seem to be the nature of the society that would replace it. Though she identified three freedoms such a society would have–freedom to be connected, freedom to be unique, and freedom to be educated according to one’s interests, the power to accomplish such a transformation could never occur “until we solve the masculinization of wealth.”

This statement reflects a criticism leveled at the feminist movement since its inception–that its goals reflect the ambitions of the members of the social class that founded it. Many women and many men who support them emotionally and/or financially do not aspire to membership in the corporate boardroom and question how equal female representation in such institutions would improve the welfare of the general populace. Some would point to the corrupting influence of the corporation itself as the proper target for replacement or removal.

Almost all women and many men have neither the wealth, the influence, nor the aspiration to succeed to the boardroom, but they do seek the same freedoms Ms. Steinem identified in her speech. If she had been able to define feminism with a vision that reflected true equality of the sexes rather than replacing the tyranny of one gender with that of another, she could have alleviated the reservations of her student questioner and of the many who share a similar vision for American society.

Author Blog

November 14th, 2012 by Goose | Permalink

Compose, design, advocate: Comments on an IAS roundtable discussion

April 1st, 2012 by Goose | Permalink

Writing is writing–except when performed on a Web editor such as this one and displayed on countless types of browsers and tablets with different settings, screen widths, and a host of variables that include video and audio. Then the process of assembling words in understandable order becomes the art of  “communication” in all its myriad forms.

That was the message that emerged from the roundtable discussion with Professors Dennis Lynch and Anne Wysocki at the University of Minnesota’s Nolte Center on Wednesday afternoon. The bulk of the discussion as led by Prof.  Wysocki focused upon the notion that the advent of social media has changed how people communicate and their conceptions of literacy. No longer the mere interpretation of words, reading “differs through all our basic technologies.” Where reading and writing once were the basic skills that determined literacy, Wysocki’s search in an ERIC database revealed 84 different versions of the term including computer, emotional, and sexual literacy.

With reading and writing no longer the “be all and end all” of literacy, the people in attendance, mostly writing instructors, addressed the dual challenges of how this expansion of the definition of literacy shapes a writer’s audience and how it can be used to encourage students to take chances as producers of text. Some in the audience sought to expand the definition even further by not limiting literacy to words alone but to the interpretation of all oral and visual texts. A writer’s “performance” in the print medium incorporates multi-modalities that bring his or her body into the foreground of composing a text.

No doubt expanding the definition of writing to include variant forms of graphic design does encourage students to have fun creating their texts and try alternative technologies to reach different audiences.  But despite the literacy displayed by both parties in crafting and reading a message such as “My ♥ bleeds 4 u,” how effective can such communication be if the writer fails to supply the Web editor with properly written instructions to mount it? In their efforts to instill the “physical pleasure” of creating texts in their students, instructors overlook the fact that their students must be conversant in the basics of English syntax to appreciate the ironic subtext of such a deviant message. Sometimes, a clearly written set of instructions is worth a dozen wordless diagrams. Anyone who tackles assembling a piece of  furniture created from IKEA’s interior designers can attest to the truth of that observation.

Glad to be Back!

October 26th, 2011 by Goose | Permalink

Welcome to the first blog post of my resurrected Web site. More to follow, but let me say that it’s great to be back!