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The Three Necessary Societies

I just digested a rather dense essay that speaks to some of the themes running through my forthcoming book, Displaced: A Darkening Path. In this essay, Russell Hittinger, who holds the Warren Chair of Catholic Studies and is Research Professor of Law at the University of Tulsa, traces Catholic teachings on how people live in the contexts of family, polity, and Church, and how these teachings have responded to competing ideologies. You can find it here.

Hittinger explains that the Church has long held that a person must live justly within the domestic, political, and ecclesial societies to achieve human happiness. He then traces the threats posed to family, political life, and religious institutions by the French Revolution and – in our times – by both the cultural revolution of the 1960s and what Pope Francis has called the techno-economic revolution of the global economy and global communications.

The former revolution shook the ground under the three necessary societies, upending political forms, subverting the Church’s authority and slackening familial ties with measures like no-fault divorce (yes, Napoleon started that).

The revolutions of the last 50 years have made out these necessary societies to be all but optional. Marriage and children, political action and affiliation, and religious devotion are now seen as mere lifestyle choices rather than frameworks within which a person may discover and then become what he was made to be.

Throughout these events, the Church has sought to teach “in light of a non-negotiable principle . . .  that we are domestic, political, and ecclesial animals who achieve perfections by rightly dwelling in the perennial societies.”

“But,” Hittinger concludes, “sowing and harvesting the daily bread of this social principle remains a ­difficult labor.”

Difficult indeed.

For Frank Smith, the protagonist of the Displaced series, these ties are at best duties he begrudgingly fulfills. At his worst, he disregards or wantonly violates them.

And that’s only before his world falls apart.

 

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Cover Reveal

It’s official! Volume I is headed to the presses.

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Point of Escape Update

Wow!  What a launch day!

After spending the day posting to dozens of sites, sending dozens of messages on Goodreads and Twitter (and getting politely asked to stop by the former and suspended by the latter!), and clicking on the “Refresh” buttons on the Kindle Direct Publishing sales report and the Amazon book page, I called it quits around 6:30 pm.  I was happy with the results.  Sales stood at 125, breaking the triple-digit goal I’d set.  Comfortable in that this metric had been met, I headed out for a local concert with some friends.

A good time was had by all.

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By the time I got home and checked One Last Time, though, sales were over 200!  That’s twice the goal I’d set.  And, the book stood at #25 in the General Humor category for free Kindle books, just under 2,000 overall.  Not too shabby for first novel.

And then, this morning, this greeted me:

Amazon KDP Sales Sceenshot for POE - 140801 0645

That’s right.  Almost 300 downloads, three times my goal.  Whoot!

Curious, I headed over to the book’s Amazon page and saw this:

Amazon Sceenshot for POE - 140801 0644

#13?!  That’s above the fold.  And teetering on the top 900 overall!  [And the news is even better.  In the time it’s taken me to compose this post, the book has climbed to #12 in General Humor and #863 overall.]

I share all this with you, well, because I’m so excited.  But more so to say thank you to all those who lent their support and spread the word.  Writing the book is only part of the process, and I owe a debt of gratitude to all those who have helped make this launch a success.

And the launch goes on.  Today is The Point of Escape‘s second “promo” day (i.e. it’s free!), so keep spreading the good word, and I’ll keep you posted on how things shake out.

LAUNCH DAY IS HERE!!!

FREE ON AMAZON JULY 31 – AUGUST 1.

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What is Suburban Fiction?

Any author worth his salt writes with a genre in mind.  I’ll make no claims about my saltiness either way, but The Point of Escape was written with a couple genres in mind, one of which I’ll discuss today: suburban fiction.

Google “suburban fiction” and you’ll get articles about angst, adultery and ennui.  A 2004 New York Times article that reviews some contemporary works includes this useful description of the genre.

NYT Suburban Fiction Screen Shot

Conversely, the Goodreads shelf for the genre that pops up as the third link in our Google search includes a majority of young adult lit.  OK, teen girls’ lit.  Judy Bloom and the like.  Angst, adultery and ennui writ young.  Not exactly what I’m going for here.

“So,” you ask, “just what are you about?”

Glad you asked.  There are actually several flavors of suburban lit, all of which – unsurprisingly – draw thematic elements from those ubiquitous sprawling subdivisions and side streets.  As you can tell from the brief descriptions above, this can be a fairly dark mode of writing, inevitably contrasting with the cheery stereotype of white picket fences and 2.5 kids.  The darkness can become pervasive, as in subgenres like suburban gothic – which introduces elements of the supernatural and science fiction – or suburban noir – which slides into psychosis and horror.

My current project (yes, I’m writing The Next One even as I steer This One toward launch day) edges into these subgenres.  It’s a three-part series that takes a rather dark look at what the world of cookie-cutter houses and conspicuous consumption can do to your soul.  I hope to have the first installment in beta form by the fall, and to market before Christmas.  Weary food for cheery souls.  Ho.  Ho.  Ho.

Not so much The Point of Escape.  I wrote it with beach reading in mind, and so – though not uncritical of suburban life – its themes are far more uplifting, its trajectory more hopeful.  Jerrod Beams experiences all the aimless ennui of any suburban fiction hero.  But although the ‘burbs in some ways embody the Faustian bargain he has struck with the Federal Mephistopheles – they and the life they promise are the false fruits of his soul-crushing labor – Jerrod is largely happy with what he has provided for his family.  Just not how he has provided it.  That’s what he hopes to change.

The great source of that hope – the ability to take stock and the courage to change – was inspired by a non-fiction work, and places the novel itself into a new genre, something I call entrepreneurial fiction.  Defining this new genre will be the focus of my next post.