Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Rant of the Season: Pumpkin belongs in Pie. Period.



Pumpkin belongs in Pie. Period. (And maybe bisque, especially if its finished with sherry.) But there should be no Pumpkin flavoring in bagels, coffee, vodka (really?), tortilla chips and beer. Pumpkin flavored Pringles (no, I do not jest) are an abomination against natural law. Allow me to illustrate what happens when the epidemic of flavoring everything with pumpkin gets out of control:

I was in a hurry, trying to get a cup of coffee at the airport before my flight boarded. The line seemed pretty short at Starbucks, so I decided to brave it. And things started well--although I should have known that the lady in front of me carrying her dog was going to be a problem.

"How are you today?" the dog lady asked.

No answer from the barista, just a harried smirk.

"You got any specials today?"

The barista indicated the chalkboard, where a Pumpkin Spice Latte was featured. 

"Pumpkin Spice, eh? What does it taste like?"

(Editors Note: In the background of the security camera footage, I can be seen stuffing my neck pillow in my mouth.)

"Would you like to try a sample?"

"What do you think, Mary Alice?" This to her traveling companion, who is also carrying a dog in a small crate. "Should we try it?"

"I don't know, Mabel, do you think it's real pumpkin? You know how those imitation flavors don't agree with me?"

"Is it real pumpkin, miss? My sister gets really gassy if she eats anything artificial."

I glanced at my watch: boarding had started (and I am really hoping Mary Alice is going to foul the air on someone else's flight.) I try to sneak a peak at her boarding pass, but the large package of organic dog treats obscures the view.

"No, it's not real pumpkin ma'am. Is there something else you would like to try?"

"Ah, shucks, I kinda had my heart set on Pumpkin Spice."

"Maybe we should try it, Mabel. I brought some air freshener just in case my intestines started acting up."

Mabel turns to face her sister, and the boarding pass swings into my view. To my horror, they are on #369--my flight.

"Ok, what the heck. You only live once. One small pumpkin spice latte."

"Is that hot or iced?"

"Iced? Who in tarnation wants to have iced coffee?"

"Not so fast, Mabel! Maybe iced coffee is easier on the intestines?"

Mary Alice relays this question to the barista, who shrugs. A TSA agent gets into the back of the line, and I am hopeful the twins will be confused for a pair of terrorists. (It's even possible they really are terrorists--how do I know the matching toy poodles aren't filled with Semtex?) 

"Well, Mary Alice? Whadaya think? We can't take all day. I've got to take Peaches to the ladies room before we board."

"Is there a cost difference?"




"They are both 4.25$."

"4.25? For a cup of coffee? Are you out of your mind?"

The barista shook her head; no, she was not out of her mind. (Editor's note: I am now out of my mind, and am doubly glad that TSA regulations prevent the carrying of sharp objects.)

"You got anything cheaper than that?"

"A small cup of coffee is two dollars."

"But there's no pumpkin in it? Right?"

"That's correct. No pumpkin in the regular coffee."



Sadly, I couldn't stay for the ensuing discussion, because Peaches wasn't the only one who needed to go to the bathroom before boarding. There was a line to use the bathroom and I just barely made my flight, ducking inside the gate right behind--you guessed it--Mabel and Mary Alice and Peaches just before the gate was closed.

Out of sheer morbid curiosity, I considered asking them if they had gone with the pumpkin spiced coffee, but I didn't have to bother. Mary Alice had been dead on about the effect of artificial flavors on her intestines, and she evidently didn't have the air freshener handy.




If this true story (Ok, it's embellished, but still true) doesn't make my point, nothing will. I am calling for a ban on all pumpkin spice before Pumpkin Spice toothpaste appears. Ooooppppsss, it's too late:


Rant over. 
Cheers, p 
:)


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and THE INTERN, a novel loosely based on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Consthe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of two tribes on Triberr, The Big Thrill and Fiction Writers. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Summer of Chicken and Biscuits



Like a lot of other things, The Summer of Chicken and Biscuits started innocently enough, on a whim. It was a Wednesday night in June, and, with the sun still high in a cloudless sky, it was a nice night for a drive. We hadn't been to the Wheel Inn in Benson, VT for a spell--where they cook up the best chicken and biscuits in Vermont on Wednesday nights--and so we hopped in the car and set off.

Those of you who have taken an evening drive in these parts about this time of year will know that the peonies are blooming, the tree canopies are swaying with the light spring breeze, and the smell of lilacs perfumes the air. (Those of you who haven't should get around to it pretty darn quick.) What with all the sights and sounds and smells the ride sugared off nice and pleasant--even with my kids in the back seat.

Yessiree, things were good when we pulled into the driveway of the Wheel Inn there on the four-corners of Benson--God's Country. There was even a spot in the parking lot and a table in the dining area. (No waiting for chicken and biscuits? Can you imagine such a thing?) 

Our good fortunes continued: No, they hadn't run out of biscuits (according to Kim, the waitress) and, at least for the time being, the Victory Circle Pie was still in good supply--but no promises, of course. It is, naturally, unthinkable to go to the Wheel Inn and not have pie, not when they bake over a dozen different varieties right there in the kitchen. (I like all of them best.)



Nice thing about chicken and biscuits is the service, of course. It's about all I can do to take a few sips of my Switchback lager (think heaven in a sixteen-oz glass) before the plates slap down on the table, brimming over with baking powder biscuits, chunks of chicken in gravy, and enough mashed potatoes to fortify a barn full of square-dancers. It's the peas I come for, though, a mess of them wedged in between the biscuit and the mound of mashed, soaking in chicken gravy--just the way my doctor recommends them. 



Now, I mentioned this before, but I'm old enough to repeat myself, so I'll say it again: No trip to the Wheel Inn is complete without pie. It's just downright unnatural, like electric cars and left-handed people, not to have pie when you are in Benson. The problem is--in complete contrast to the race for the 2016 Republican Presidential Nomination--there are just too damn many good choices. Unofficially and off the top of the my head, we have Apple, Raspberry, Coconut creme, Chocolate cream, Victory Circle (think Toll House), Peanut Butter, Blueberry, Banana Cream, Blackberry, Walnut, Pecan, Strawberry Rhubarb, and Almond Joy. For those of you <gasp> who don't like pie, there is Grapenut mouse, Three-berry crisp, and their famous Cheesecake.



There are few things I can compare to the feeling of leaving The Wheel Inn after chicken and biscuits, but walking up a steep hill with a refrigerator tied to your back is one of them. Best to bring a leather awl with you to make another notch in your belt, or just wear elastic pants. (No sweatpants please: This isn't Fair Haven!)  

And so began the Summer of Chicken and Biscuits. It's been a great run--no doubt--but I suspect that once the school year begins we'll get busy with soccer, piano lessons, Jazz band, scouts, Key Club and whatever else we fill our time with. It's one of the things I like best about Chicken and Biscuits at the Wheel Inn (besides the pie), it's a throwback to a simpler and less over-scheduled time, when families actually ate meals together. 

But enough of that, it's Wednesday night, time to get on the road to Benson for the the last Chicken and Biscuits of the summer. I can't wait to get to those peas...

cheers, p
:)


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and THE INTERN, a novel loosely based on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Consthe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of two tribes on Triberr, The Big Thrill and Fiction Writers. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter is He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Hiking the Highlands of Tortola: An Essay mostly in pictures



Let me the set the stage for you: it's mid-July and my wife and I have just started a fabulous week at her aunt's villa on a hill high over Long Bay Beach, Tortola, British Virgin Islands, one of the nicest stretches of white sand you are going to find in the world. So, what to do to get our vacation started off on the right foot? Yup, you guessed it: slip on the hiking sandals and trek up and over the ridge of volcanic rock that runs lengthwise over the entire island. The obvious choice, right?

Might I also mention that there is where the store is, and our condo wasn't stocked with coffee. (Please don't ask what happens when there is no coffee.) So, off I went, as my wife settled into the lounge chair by the pool. (She didn't want to come, can you believe it?) 

Anyway, when I got home, drenched in sweat, hot as Cuba (my buddy Bill says that) and really, really thirsty (who hikes in dew points as high as these?) I decided to create this pictorial essay, because I am pretty sure my Muse has sunstroke.

 Bougainvillea, the iconic Caribbean vine. (Think these would grow in Vermont?)

Unfortunately, these Papayas were too high to reach (high-hanging fruit?)

I am not sure what this it, but it looks bad so I am not going to find out.

Did you know that 15 minutes can save you 15%?
The view from the top of the ridge, looking over Soper's Hole. (Not bad, eh?)

  This aloe is going to come in very handy for the massive sunburn I am getting.

Back at the beach for the sunset. All's well that end's well.

Cheers, p
:)



Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller. Peter is currently writing THE INTERN, a novel loosely based on his medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad.  Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Consthe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of two tribes on Triberr, The Big Thrill and Fiction Writers. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


Monday, June 15, 2015

The #MINI Book Review: The Lost Island by Preston&Child


I had high expectations when I settled back into my airline seat and cracked open The Lost Island, Preston&Child's third Gideon Crew novel. I mean, why wouldn't I? I have read--and enjoyed--all of their previous Pendergast novels, and the first two installments of the Gideon Crew series did not disappoint in any way. But high expectations can be a curse: think John Grisham after The Pelican Brief; Zune; Windows Vista; MicroSoft WordPerfect (still having PTSD after buying that); Caddyshack2; Jaws2. Not to worry here, though: when the wheels touched down in Denver I wanted to ask the pilot to park on the tarmac for a while so I could continue reading. 

How is it, you ask, that these guys (Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child) are able to grab hold of the reader and pull him in to the story each and every time? Preston&Child do it by creating--in my opinion--the best plots in thrillerdom: original, well-researched, SF/F type plots that they ground so well in real science that you are sure it could really happen. Take The Lost Island for example. Gideon is asked to steal an ancient text from a museum in NYC, only to discover that the real treasure is a map to a lost island that is etched on the vellum underneath. As the book unfolds, Gideon is tasked by his employer, the brilliant but ruthless and overly-calculating Eli Glinn of Effective Engineering Solutions, to use the map to locate the island and uncover the secret it harbors--a lotus so powerful it has the ability to heal any injury or malady.




But the plotting genius of Preston&Child is not done there; along the way, Amy, the mysterious woman who is paired with Gideon for the trip, discovers that they are on the same search as Odysseus, Homer's classic Hero, whose travels and adventures are written up in The Odyssey, one of the greatest books of all time.

In the interest of not being a spoiler I won't say anymore (and this is the #MINI) but suffice it to say that Preston&Child aren't done yet, and their pacing remains electric throughout. Above all, however, is the research that goes into a P&C offering; as with any other of their 20 novels, The Lost Island  is educational, thought-provoking, and fun--a difficult combination to achieve.

cheers, peter
:)



Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog,PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous), and LinkedIn (Tweets, Novels and Blogs); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.




Friday, May 29, 2015

A Tribute to Edward F Callahan, PhD

It was thirty years ago when I walked into his classroom, and although I have only a scattered recollection of the works we studied, I will never forget Dr. Edward F Callahan, Professor of English at the College of the Holy Cross for over thirty years. He was--and remains--a short, stocky man with a squarish head and thick-rimmed glasses, with a predilection for button-down shirts and cardigan sweaters. Nothing memorable there. But his lack of being memorable ended there, as soon as the door closed and he began consulting the list of students who had signed up for his class. 

"Herr Hogenkampf?"

He pronounced my name with a distinct Bavarian lilt.

I nodded.

He lowered his glasses and peered at me. "What kind of name is that?"

"It's Dutch."

He scratched his forehead. "Sounds German to me."

I shrugged. 

Ed left his glasses low on his nose and looked around the room, filled mostly with female students I didn't know, and squinted at them, as if to say 'can anyone vouch for this guy?'

No one vouched for me, and Ed kept on going down the list. When he finished, he set his clipboard down and leaned back against his desk. "So, Herr Haagandaas, what brings you here?"

The truth was I had wanted to take a course taught by "the best professor at Holy Cross,' but I wasn't about to tell him that. It sounded way too sycophantic and the only thing I knew for sure about Ed was that he despised sycophants. 

"I needed a break from Chemistry."

He looked at me askance. "You're a Chemistry major?"

I nodded again, realizing it was dangerous to open my mouth in this place. 

He looked around the room, and then back at me: "Well, folks, looks like we're in a for a treat this semester. Not only will Herr Hogenkamp be voicing his Teutonic opinions, but giving us his chemical analyses as well. I can hardly wait."

The class laughed nervously and my friend Kathy gave me a sympathetic smile, the kind of smile you give someone when his dog dies. 

Dr. Callahan went on to go over the syllabus, and announce that our first work would be a poem by Yeats, which we would be discussing next class. When the bell rang, I eased out of my seat, trying not to appear too anxious to leave, but not wanting to be left alone on the room with him either. 

Kathy joined me in the hall as we filed out of the building. "He likes you," she said. 

I tried to figure out how she could tell this, when the opposite appeared to be true, but nothing came to mind, and I headed off to the Science Building where I could sit and listen to a lecture in peace.

That night I cracked open the poem, looking for the hidden meaning in the words like a good English major. But I was a Chem major, and I couldn't help but see the letters as numbers and the words as equations. It never occurred to me that there was a library full of texts which could have aided me in my analysis, but, truth be told, the only time I ever went to the library was to look for a date. (I found out after the semester was over that there was an entire section devoted to the criticism of Irish literature, much of which had been written by Ed himself.)

The next class started well, meaning that Ed lectured without asking any questions, and I began to see why the classroom was chock full. It was the 80's and the audio-visual revolution was just getting underway, and as a consequence, all the professors were being encouraged to bulk up their classes with A/V aides--all the professors except for Ed, that is, who didn't need movies or overheads or computer screens to hold the students' attention. Why would you need any of those things when you had intelligence, charm, wit and, most of all, command--and Ed had all of those things in abundance, especially command.  

And so Ed held court, and I fell under his spell. As I listened, the numbers turned back into letters and the equations became words again, and Yeats became comprehensible and--dare I say it--enjoyable instead of dense and dull. But like all good things, his lecturing ended and he began looking around the room, trying to solicit opinions. 

I knew I was in trouble when they came, first one opinion and then the next, all brilliantly formulated and eloquently articulated. I couldn't help but watch Callahan react to them, listening politely and interjecting a thought or two here or there. The third opinion finished--saying pretty much what the first two had already said--and he turned his gaze to me.

"I am sure," he announced to the class, "that you all are most interested in hearing what our German Scholar has to say."

The class all looked in my direction.

"Herr Hogenkaeze, what do you think?"

And so I told him what I thought, straight off the top of my head. The truth of it is that even had I done the research--a scenario which is the very definition of the word hypothetical--I would have given him my own opinion anyway, because we had all heard the real thing three times already, and nobody--least of all Ed-- was in the mood for a fourth. 

"I have been teaching this poem for over thirty years, Herr Hogenkamp, and that is the first time I have ever heard that opinion."

For a moment I wasn't sure if I had lucked into saying something profound: I hadn't. 

"Unfortunately, Herr Hogenkrieg, originality doesn't always imply genius," he commented, and then went on to torpedo every last one of my ideas. I listed in my seat like the Lusitania. 

And that's a microcosm of the entire semester: Ed assigned a work of Irish literature, which Peter read. Ed lectured about said work, rendering the words into an easily-digestible emulsion that actually made sense. Ed called on 2 or 3 students he could count on to articulate a well-researched opinion, and then called on Peter, who gave his totally unresearched, wholly original and barely formulated opinion. Ed explained to the class why Peter is wrong, entertaining and edifying the class in the process. 

Now, I can hear the question forming in your mind: "Just exactly why was this your favorite class?" 

The answer is that I never once, not even for a minute, felt belittled or put down. There is something about Ed that robbed his barbs of all offense, that took the smart out of his jabs. Thirty years have gone by since the end of that semester, and I can only vaguely recall the subject material, but what I still remember is how to think for myself, how to read something and not only comprehend the deeper meaning, but to apply it to the problems that plague our world, because if you can sort your way through the congestion of Irish literature, you can sort your way though any congestion, be it intellectual or spiritual or or whatever kind of congestion that confounds you.

A Survey of Irish Literature remains my favorite course because I learned to think for myself, and to defend my opinions under heavy duress. As you have found out, we live in a chaotic and conflicted world, in which you will find yourself, at various times: the object of derision; the butt of the joke; the scapegoat; on the outs; under fire; pressured. 

I know I have, but Ed Callahan trained me for those circumstances. I can thank Ed who taught me to think for myself and to stick to my guns when others around me didn't share my vision. I can thank Ed for teaching me that an original idea has merit. I can thank Ed who taught me to believe in my ideas and not let others dissuade you from your beliefs. I can thank Ed who taught me to hold on to your dreams, even when everyone else--people close to you, no less, and people whose opinions you trust--tell you to abandon them. As I continue to pursue my dream of being a published author, I rely on these things Ed taught me. When the rejections came, when the whole process took way longer than I wanted it to, when my support wavered, I didn't waver. Thanks, Ed.

I should tell you that my relationship with Ed did not end with the one class I took with him. In many ways, it just began. I am happy to say that he is still a cherished friend of mine, and someone with whom I have shared three decades of travels and adventures in Italy, Austria and back home. But those wonderful days are the subject of an another post. I would add that my family and I took Ed out to dinner last week, and after I exchanged the usual three kisses with him, he said: "OK good, now go away and let me spend some time with your wife."

It seems some things never change.

Cheers.
:)

Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Consthe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of two tribes on Triberr, The Big Thrill and Fiction Writers. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.
  




Sunday, May 17, 2015

Why Writing a Bestseller is like picking a Blockbuster Stock, on the Saturday Evening Blog Post.

 The Saturday Evening Blog Post presents: Why Writing a Bestseller is like Picking a Blockbuster Stock.


We have all heard the adage, buy low, sell high. It is a simple concept to understand, of course, but a difficult one to execute. Oftentimes, the opposite happens: after reading the buzz and the hype about how well Stock A is doing, the average investor buys Stock A only to see its price dwindle. It might make you feel better to know that the exact same thing happens to authors trying to write a bestseller. The author is affected by almost the same buzz and hype as the investor, and similarly wants to get in on the action, only in this case the action is writing a book to take advantage of the trend. Think of all the blockbusters that spawned scores and scores of copycats and lookalikes and me-toos: Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code; JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone; Stieg Larrson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games trilogy; Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Saga.  


There are many more (please leave any notable trendsetters in the comments section) but I think I made my point. By the time the author reads The DaVinci Code, decides she can write something along the same lines, and then writes, edits and submits it to agents and/or publishers, there are thousands of manuscripts with a similar premise. When I was searching for an agent, almost every website I visited said, No More DaVinci Code Spin-Offs, because by this time the market had been saturated with thrillers featuring the discovery of religious artifacts with the potential to change history (and the evil Catholic church trying to keep them hidden forever.)


The way to write a bestseller, then--like the way to finding a stock that will fund that yacht you are jonesing to buy--is to start your own trend. Yup, that's right, be your own trendsetter. It is, of course, easier said then done, which is why so few authors have accomplished it. Making it even harder, is the hard, cold fact that once you have done that (conceived, written, and edited the book that is unique and different) you have to convince an agent and then a publisher that it will sell--not an easy task.

Consider JK Rowling's plight. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was rejected by a dozen publishing houses. You heard me, the best selling book series of all time was passed on by twelve editors before a small publishing house named Bloomsbury took a chance on it. (Do you think any of those dozen editors would like a do-over on that decision?) Rejecting HP is similar to skipping over Tom Brady in the NFL draft (he was ultimately picked in the sixth round, after six other quarterbacks had been chosen.) In the context of the paradigm I have chosen, rejecting HP is like being given a tip to buy Apple stock on 12/1/08, when the closing price was 11.55$ a share. (APL closed at 112.54 on 12/1/14, a ten-fold increase in six years, meaning a 50,000$ investment in '08 would be worth over a half-million dollars six years later.) 



Let's get back to the author's conundrum. Every author wants to write a bestseller; to accomplish that, he or she has to start a trend (or change his or her name to James Patterson or Nora Roberts.) The problem with that--as evidenced by JK Rowling's difficulties--is convincing the right people that you are on to something. JK Rowling was told "not to lose her day job," which is especially humorous when you consider she was unemployed at the time. But I don't mean to pick on editors, who do, in general, an excellent job weeding out the wheat from the chaff. Is is just an extremely difficult undertaking, made even more challenging by the sheer number of people who want to be the next JK Rowling, as well as the significant cost of publishing a book, which makes it difficult for an editor to want to take a chance on a book which is new and different.

Like any other writer, I would love to write a bestselling book. To this end, I have attended numerous conferences and read scores of books on how to do just that. The advice is always the same: the key to writing a bestseller is to bring something new and different to the table. What I have learned from my experience since then is that new and different isn't enough on its own. Your book has to be new and different, yes, but also believable and riveting and fast-paced and full of genuine characters and on and on. You also have to have a bit of luck, and the timing needs to be right. (Picking a blockbuster stock needs timing and luck as well.)


It can be done, however: Gillian Flynn did it with Gone Girl and so did Paula Hawkins with Girl on the Train. (Maybe I should use the word girl in the title of my next book, seems to be a trend. Also, are there any stocks named 'girl?')

Ok, thanks again for tuning in, and don't forget to check out Prose & Cons, the literary blog for readers and writers. 

Cheers.
:)

Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Consthe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of two tribes on Triberr, The Big Thrill and Fiction Writers. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.
  




Monday, May 11, 2015

Three Lessons from my Mother. #MothersDay


My mother is not a perfect person, but she's a happy one. It's #mothersday, and as I got up early to make breakfast for my wife (family tradition) I thought about why my mother has always been able to remain happy in an increasingly distressed and dysthymic world. As I waited for the griddle to achieve the perfect temperature, here's what I came up with:

My mother is a not a great cook (she never waited for the griddle to be thoroughly heated through) but her less than stellar performances in the kitchen never bothered her. The first lesson I learned from my mother: Don't dwell on the negative, emphasize the positive aspects of things. When my brothers and sisters would grouse about the pancakes being burned on the outside and uncooked in the middle, she would respond, "you're not starving are you?" And she was right, she raised four healthy children. The devil's advocate might rebut by saying, "that approach precluded her from learning from her mistakes." And while that is true, I ask you: What's more important, being happy, or cooking the perfect pancake? 


I managed to burn myself on the side of the griddle, reminding me of the time I accidentally tripped my mother while she was carrying bacon grease, resulting in a bad burn. I felt horrible, naturally, but what I remember most about the whole deal was how she never, not even once, complained. She sat quietly as I drove her to the hospital--even though I know from much experience that burns hurt a lot--and just went about her business when we got home. When she had hip surgery a few years ago, she refused all pain meds--even Tylenol. I often tell people that I could walk into her house and find three of her limbs on the ground, and she would say, "I'm fine, don't worry about me." She figured out a long time ago that complaining about things only makes them worse. My mother would tell you that her ability to live life without complaining is that she accepts things for what they are. 




Crap. I forgot to buy the blueberries for the pancakes, but I am going to take my cue from my mother who never sweats the small things. Yes, the blueberry pancakes would have been epic but chocolate chip pancakes are pretty good as well. I can remember my mother making a cake for my birthday, back in the day, and realizing we didn't have enough sugar. It would have been easy enough to go to the store, perhaps, but we had just got 4 feet of snow in the last 48 hours and we were not going anywhere. Not to worry, though, my mother substituted honey or molasses or maple syrup or whatever for the sugar and came up with a cake. So many people allow the small things to upset the whole apple cart. But not my mother, and that was the best birthday present, learning not to get derailed by things that don't really matter. 

(And the cake wasn't that bad either.)

Thanks, Mom.


Cheers.
:)

Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Consthe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of two tribes on Triberr, The Big Thrill and Fiction Writers. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.