Gregory is regularly posting with two other environmental mystery writers at Free Range Writers.com.
This will be my last post for awhile. I will be focusing on writing my sequel to The Straw That Broke, which features the return of Susan Brand and Jake Goddard, now both working for Goddard Consultancy Group as private investigators. Jake and Susan are hired to determine who is murdering prominent people and intentionally setting fires around the increasingly drier southwest. Drier due to climate change and beetle kill, I might add (you guessed it—another cli fi thriller). The title is Some Say Fire and I’m approximately twenty percent through the first draft.
I hope to complete Some Say Fire by September, 2015.
Just one teaser—in, if I may say so myself, an interesting twist on the standard car chase, Jake chases a pick-up truck full of bad guys down a mountain road while hauling his Airstream trailer!
My last tour for Straw concluded recently at a Christmas bazaar here in Jackson, Wyoming. I was honored to have my wife, Dimmie on hand do the transactions and Jane Lavino, our cover artist, in our booth selling her notecards and bookmarks. So, since I started with the last event I will continue to work backwards. Before the Jackson Christmas Bazaar I was in Flagstaff for both a store (Mountain Sports) and an outdoor event called Gear Fest. Previous to that I was in bookstores in Santa Fe and Las Vegas, New Mexico and the tour started in Colorado with a bookstore in Fort Collins and a library event in Red Feather. I want to give a shout out to the wonderful folks in Red Feather for their interest (and a great little library run by a great guy named, Creed) and to readers in Ramah, New Mexico who in a serendipitous and truly gratifying manner, expressed interest in both my books.
Finally, book wise, the Airstream factory in Jackson Center, Ohio made this author’s Christmas recently by ordering two dozen copies of Travels With Max to give as Christmas gifts.
Thank for you for caring about books and authors. See you soon.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS! READ ON!
Okay, calling it a “tour” might be a bit of an exaggeration, but my recent week spent at two schools and a college back East were truly gratifying for me and the feedback from both students and faculty was very positive.
My tour started on a beautiful October Monday with a full day at Kiski School (9-12, boys) in Saltsburg Pennsylvania. Kiski had chosen The Straw That Broke for its 2014 all-school book. First, I addressed the entire student body, focusing on the dire situation on the Colorado River. The students had excellent questions and observations during the Q&A. I announced that Sterling Myers was the winner of the Kiski Challenge (see earlier post) and presented Sterling with his reward. I ended my presentation by thanking them all for participating, reminding them that there are no writers without readers and encouraging the boys with the charge, READ ON!
After the assembly, I was a guest at lunch at the head prefect’s table. And after lunch, head librarian Leslie Poston escorted me to the student center where I signed many of the boys’ books. That evolved into an impromptu creative writing class as several students lingered and posed questions about the writing process. That evening, school head Chris Brueningsen hosted a coffee for faculty in my honor and I was, indeed—honored that is—by the whole day.
Washington and Jefferson College
On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of being the guest lecturer in two classes at W&J. The first was a writing class, the second an environmental science class. The students were attentive and tuned in. It was great to be back in front of inquisitive young adults.
That evening I offered a presentation again focussing on the Colorado River. Questions were great—book sales were brisk. Special thanks to professors Scott Frank and Robert East for making my visit a pleasure and a success. After the evening presentation, on my drive back along torn-up I-70 to my friends house where I was staying near Saltsburg, it poured buckets. But I survived to blog about it.
Wakefield Country Day School
On Wednesday, I drove across Pennsylvania and northwestern Virginia—the hills were aflame. It was an absolutely stunning trip through the Appalachian Mountains. On Thursday I was the guest of school head Jessica Lindstrom at Wakefield Country Day (pre-k-12) in Flint Hill, Virginia.
I addressed all the students in grades 10-12 on the subject of Travels With Max and my journey around America retracing Steinbeck’s route. Again, the students questions were insightful. Later I taught two upper level writing classes and that evening offered a public program at the local county library.
Friday I chose another scenic fall route across the Virginias back to Pennsylvania.
I didn’t print a t-shirt (probably should have as Chris Breuningsen suggested) but my “2014 Tour” was a great experience for me at three excellent schools in gorgeous areas of the East. I trust it was a great experience for all.
Program note: Tomorrow I am scheduled to be interviewed by Jill Reynolds for KRFC in Fort Collins, Colorado. Since the show is mostly about animals, the focus will be Charley and Max. Jill’s show will air on Thursday, October 23rd at 6:30 pm on KRFC. It can be streamed at www.krfcfm.org.
Kiski School, an excellent boys’ boarding school in Western Pennsylvania, has honored me by selecting The Straw That Broke as the all-school read for this summer. That means every student and faculty member has been asked to enjoy the novel over the summer in anticipation of my visiting for a day in early October.
Members of the selection committee felt my cli fi (climate fiction) thriller had a unique ability to both entertain and educate the students, and that the environmental message was a good fit for the school’s recently implemented sustainability program.
Now for the challenge. There is a discrepancy between the YouTube interview featured on this website and the novel. School head Chris Brueningsen and I have agreed to challenge the boys to read carefully and watch with scrutiny. The first student to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the correct answer will be awarded a $50.00 gift certificate to iTunes on the day of my visit.
Come on Kiski Cougars! Get reading and watching and win the card!
(You other blog sloggers who endure my occasional posts are welcome to join the challenge, however, I regret I can only offer this valuable prize to the winning Kiski Cougar.)
“You know, scientists and other people are trying to get their message across about various aspects of the climate change issue,” Georgia Institute of Technology professor Judith Curry told NPR. “And it seems like fiction is an untapped way of doing this — a way of smuggling some serious topics into the consciousness of readers who may not be following the science.”
That is a quote from Dan Bloom’s recent OPED (7/11/14) in the Washington Post. I love the thought that I smuggled serious topics into The Straw That Broke. That is a wonderful way of putting it. As you know, if you have read my earlier posts including an interview with Bloom, Dan is the father of the cli fi genre and is working tirelessly to bring works of fiction that reference climate change to the attention of the world media. Dan has informed me his Washington Post piece has now resulted in an invitation to do something similar in the NYT. Keep pushing that rock up the hill, Dan!
Also, yesterday NPR ran several interviews intended to highlight the extreme measures that have been put in place to stop water abusers in California—experiencing the worst drought in twelve centuries. In an earlier post, I mentioned that on a spring 2014 book tour from San Diego to Santa Barbara I had observed little voluntary effort to conform to the state-wide water emergency that Governor Jerry Brown had issued. Apparently studies have now revealed what I anecdotally observed. Those who do not comply are being fined $500.00.
Finally, the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum newsletter for summer 2014 featured in a cover article (A Pulse of Hope in The Colorado River Delta) the life-giving return of water to the Colorado River Delta. I referenced this miraculous event in an earlier post. But I learned a new and gratifying fact from the ASDM article. American Indians have been included in the process of water surges to the delta—which are happening because of the herculean efforts of many organizations including the Sonoran Institute—for the first time in fifty years. This includes representatives from the Tohono O’odham Cultural Center. Considering that the Tohono O’odham reverence for water plays such a key role in The Straw That Broke I found that bit of information affirming and reassuring.
Maybe it is not too late, after all.
I have been hesitant to post recently because older posts have a tendency to get buried on blogs and I wanted my interview with Dan Bloom to take precedence for an appropriate amount of time. I’m still grateful to Dan for sharing his insights with me (and you).
But there is exciting news to report. The revered and venerable King’s English Bookstore in Salt Lake City invited me to do two events. I’m really grateful to Anne Holman, the manager for her support. The first event on June 6th went very well. She also connected me with Cindy Lund of the Insights to Conservation Book Club which is associated with the King’s English (1511 South 1500 East). That meeting will be coming up on July 1, at 6:30 p.m. at the store. Wine, other beverages and snacks will be served while we discuss The Straw That Broke. Cindy has done an excellent job promoting this event. I’m certain it will be fun.
Speaking of a fun event…the Stio store in Jackson (an outdoor clothing company) has been carrying my book since it came out in January and it is selling very well. Stio hosted a signing—well actually—Stio threw a party for the book on June 12th at the store. It was a great event, well attended by locals and tourists alike. As an author, I felt flattered and honored. I want to thank my friend, Noah Waterhouse, and store manager, Liz Eaton for a great evening. I have included a picture from the Stio party below.
I’m pleased and honored that Dan Bloom agreed to do an interview for gzeiglerbooks.com.
Dan is the man—with the passion and the plan—who planted the seed that is blossoming into the Cli Fi meme. Dan was recently quoted in a Time magazine article (May 19 issue, both online and print editions) as the person who coined and popularized the phrase CLI FI. He also suggested to me that my thriller, ”The Straw That Broke” be included on the website clifibooks.com as a new entry in the emerging CLI FI sub-genre.
Dan is an independent climate activist, a longtime journalist and student of the media, and a veritable PR machine for the issues for which he feels great passion. He works out of a cyber cafe in Taiwan. I call Dan the “networking cyclone in the Taiwan cafe.”
Gregory: Dan, you are appearing on my blog at the same time you are being quoted in Time magazine. What does being in Time magazine feel like?
Dan: To be honest, I really feel that this is not about me. I dropped my ego in 1983 after a near fatal plane crash in Alaska…living on borrowed time since then…lucky to be alive! I’m not selling anything so the TIME quote means only one thing to me: it is good for the Cli Fi movement. I want nothing from it, but to see CLI FI take off and touch people via books and movies—my little gift to the future.
Gregory: Dan, you don’t own a computer or have an office. You work in a noisy smoke-filled cyber cafe in a small town in south Taiwan—how on Earth did you manage to pitch your CLI FI story to the world’s major media such as the recent article in Time magazine?
Dan: I first coined the term, Cli Fi in 2008 in a blog post about a screenplay I was informally ”pitching” to some film producers in Los Angeles. Nothing came of our exchange. But once I got the Cli Fi term into my PR head, I started thinking about how it might be useful as a new genre of literature and movies.
I used the term Cli Fi in a few op ed pieces I wrote for newspapers and websites in Asia and Hollywood in 2011. In 2012, I used Cli Fi for a novel I was promoting titled Polar City Red and that was the first time the term appeared in print in newspapers and on real websites. And then in late 2012, a climate scientist in the USA named Judith Curry who runs a climate blog called ”CLIMATE ETC” ran a long blog post titled simply “Cli Fi” in which she enthused about 20 or so Cli Fi novels she had made a list of, one of which was the book I had been promoting, Polar City Red.
And then, out of the blue, NPR in Washington did a big radio story interviewing Dr Curry and cli-fi novelists Barbara Kingsolver and Nathaniel Rich and the NPR story was headlined on the show’s print website as something like “A hot new literary genre takes off — cli fi.”
Like I said, Greg, I had no idea NPR was doing the story and I was surprised and delighted they used my term in their headline and in the story. That radio program went viral in April 2014 and led to all the future coverage later in the Guardian in London, the New Yorker magazine, The New York Times, Dissent magazine, the Huffington Post and three op ed pieces by Margaret Atwood in which she used the Cli Fi term. So NPR really made all this happen.
About a week after the NPR story aired, I went into full speed PR operation and immediately started the 24/7 PR machine that I have been running since May 1, 2013, without missing a day.
I have using my informal, amateur, PR skill to try to popularize Cli Fi as a deep-green climate activist and literary provocateur, to serve as an alarm about the dangers humankind faces in regard to climate change and global warming. So I didn’t create the Cli Fi term as a marketing tool but more as a way to wake up people who are still sleepwalking towards the Climapocalypse.
How did I manage to attract the attention of many of the world’s media outlets—mostly, Lady Luck and a lot of help from friends in the newspaper business in the USA and the UK.
Gregory: Is your PR style traditional press release, or do you use some kind of Guerilla Theater approach?
Dan: My style is email press releases with lots of typos and unformatted line breaks and sent every day for a month until the recipient either replies to me ”yes” or ”no”, or blocks me completely from their accounts. It happens. But I need to get this story out. So I do what I have to do. It works.
Gregory: Considering your success, students of PR could learn much from your methods. What can you share from the past 12 months as you steered your CLI FI project into the global media?
Dan: Just a few words of encouragement: never give up, don’t take no for an answer, be polite, and when you do something wrong always apologize. Don’t think of it as “work.” Think of it as a mission, a battle, a dream that you want to see come true.
Gregory: You are obviously a guy with vision (even through the cafe smoke). What future interviews or initiatives are you anticipating?
Dan: I am seeking more media coverage in the BBC, CNN, AFP, and Associated Press wire service and Reuters, too. My goal is to make Cli Fi such a popular term that everyone on Earth knows it. And this will take at least ten more years of constant PR work.
As for new projects, I am planning to set up an international literary award called the Nevil Shute Climate Novel Award with the first award going to the best current Cli Fi novel in 2020 and then every year thereafter. The prize for “The Nevils” will be one million dollars (US).
Gregory: Wow. That’s ambitious but as I get to know you better, not in the least bit surprising. I’ll start working on my entry today. Anything else you want to add, Dan?
Dan: Yes, Greg, I have a question for you now. The title of your Cli Fi thriller is “The Straw That Broke”. Is the title taken from the old saying that something is “the straw the broke the camel’s back” and can you explain how that title fits the theme of your novel?
Gregory: Ah-ha, it’s the old interview the interviewer technique. The Straw That Broke refers to two things. A straw is a tunnel into a body of water. The straws sucking water out of the Colorado River are a central focus of my thriller. Also, The Straw That Broke refers to the “last straw” environmentally speaking. As in, we either get some of these issues right, soon—such as management of the Colorado River (named America’s most endangered river by the American Rivers Organization)—or it will be too late. The Camel’s back will be broken.
Gregory: Thanks Dan for your time and trouble. You are an inspiration.
I fear for my friends and family who are dealing with high winds, high temperatures, drought and fires in California. My thoughts and best wishes to weather the storms are with them and all their neighbors. Prayers would be appropriate in this time of dire need (or perhaps a rain dance).
Although I was bucking Santa Anna winds (from the Northeast) all the way to Albuquerque, the Bambi Winnie (19′ Airstream) tracked like a dream over the 3-day, 800 plus mile journey.
Lo and behold, I find myself parked right next to my friends’ house and they are the poster kids for xeriscape. Note the gravel and stone surfaces and cistern catching rain water. They also have beautiful raised bed gardens demonstrating the efficient use of mulch and drip irrigation.
The term xeriscape was first used in the mid-80s, but folks we are looking at the future—at least in the drought-stricken southwest.
I heard from an 8th grade reader recently. Robert K. got my email from Travels With Max and contacted me on his own initiative. Robert has decided he wants to read Travels with Charley also. That makes an author’s day. I wanted to share my email exchange with Robert.
Since you put your email in the book how many emails do you get a day? Not as many as I thought I would get after putting it there. I know many people who have told me they enjoyed Max immensely but few have emailed.
And when you got Max what were your feelings? Max was the cutest little puppy you have ever seen. I surprised my wife by giving him to her in a picnic basket. But he was always her dog, never mine—until the trip that is.
If you could go again on that same trip would you? I loved it. I really did. I would do it all over again but only IF my wife, Dimmie would come along for the whole trip.
Ok off topic with the book but have you been to Florida? Yes. Interesting state but not my favorite.
I usually read fiction books and this is probably my 4th nonfiction book I have read and this one I actually like. I’m really pleased you like it, Robert.
Read On, Robert!
Book Note: I’m reading With No One As Witness by Elizabeth George. I think it is my third George murder mystery. Suffice it to say, I would kill to be able to write murder mysteries like Elizabeth George.
This is my Last day in Santa Barbara. Dimmie joined me for a week and we camped on the bluffs above the breakers at El Capitan State Beach north of Goleta. We had an event at the Book Den on Sunday 5/4. We visited Driggs friends, Hunter and Corey, and Jackson friends Max, Maria, three-year-old Joy, and dog Zoe.
Speaking of friends, I feel I’ve added to my cadre of friends—a group I hold almost as dear as family. I met Gail Steinbeck for wine and snacks at Pierre LaFont Wine Bistro in Montecito. She knew everyone in the bar (and heartily greeted them all) and I felt like I had known her forever. We really hit it off. She is a wonderful, high-energy women who as it turns out, is producing films these days. Gail hinted that perhaps we would work together in the future. She also helped me get my books into Chaucer’s bookstore on State Street.
And from from another dear friend. Marty Brisbois had this to say, “Read your blog re: water unawareness in LA. You must remember, most of the residents are transplants to our state. We natives are well aware that we live in a desert. We’ve got to EDUCATE. Start with the kids. Think about that YA version of STRAW. Carl Haisson has done a great job with HOOT and FLUSH.”
Good points all, Marty. And you know I’m a big believer in education. My statement was prompted by my observation that there are no signs anywhere in SoCal that I have observed in three weeks of visiting (and I have been on college campuses, in RV parks, and in State Park—as well as in stores and libraries) that urge volunteer conservation of water. I even witnessed an LA RV Park watering grass at 2 pm on a 92 degree day. MY thought is that if we are going to cope with a drier future, conservation has to become as institutionalized and automatic as our now customary bans on public smoking. I’ve been informed that there is an upscale neighborhood in Santa Barbara County that is about to run out of water yet people continue to water their estates with no concern for the fines. Perhaps consequences have to get tougher.
Living in an Airstream has given me an idea. When Dimmie and I are “primitive” camping (no power or water at the site) we are aware of every drop that goes in (and out of) our trailer. We are physically involved with both ends of the process. When we rely on our solar panel charging our batteries, we are given only so much electricity each day. Charging a device like an iPad in the morning might mean no juice left over for reading by trailer lights at night. This is a form of self-imposed rationing but boy dies it cause us to be conservative in our use. Perhaps there is a real-world application.
On to Albuquerque with a stop in Flagstaff at Mountain Sports where Lisa Lamberson, the General Manager tells me they want to carry Straw.
Gail’s husband, Thomas Steinbeck, and me at Pierre LaFont’s in October, 2009.