Sunday, May 25, 2014

On #MemorialDay, 2014, Books Are More Important Than Ever,

Why Books Are More Important Than Ever 

We live in a day and age where the evolution of language and words is driven more by #SocialMedia than books and novels. As both a #Tweeter and a lover of literature old and new, I have mixed feelings about this trend. There is something about the speed of #SocialMedia which alarms me. Consider this: Edgar Poe, who created the thriller, died broke and without any acclaim, and yet his works are now considered to be masterpieces. Contrast this to the blitzkrieg world of #SocialMedia where someone who uploads a cat video can become an icon in a single day--or less.

Good or bad? Probably both, but allow me to point out the latter. Poe had substance. Sometimes it takes time for substance to be appreciated. In Poe's case, a hundred years. It takes deep substance to endure a 100 years. Do you think a glitzy cat video has that kind of staying power? Or do you--like me--think it will be forgotten in ten minutes, to be replaced by a meme featuring an aardvark?

The point I am trying to make is that there is a danger here: A very real danger. Please don't get the idea that I am one of those people, you know the kind that think #Facebook and #Twitter are the ruination of the world. Because I am not, and I believe that #Facebook, #Twitter, and #SocialMedia have many upsides and are, in general, wonderful tools of expression, language, and connectivity. But--like most things--#SocialMedia has had some unforseen side effects, side effects which are changing the way we think, the way we speak, and the way we act. 

There is a stress to Social Media, an urgency, that seeps into the language. I mean, when you are racing to be the first person to post or tweet something, you keep it short and simple. And because ur doing this again and again, you start using the same abbreviations again and again and eventually u use the abbreviation all the time and evolution has occurred. But worse than the shortened words, it's the shortened writing structure and thought process that worry me the most, the idea that if it can't be said in 140 characters it isn't worth saying.

As I have stated before, the 140 character limit teaches us to be concise and to the point (and man did I need the help) but there is still plenty of occasion: to be detailed; to expound; to have layers of meaning; to be rich and complex. And that, my friends, is why we need books and novels more than ever. #SocialMedia is not going away--nor should it--but it needs a counterbalance. #Twitter is fast and immediate; the novel is slow and inexorable. (Can you hear Liz, my literary agent yelling; Not that slow, Peter! Speed it up, Peter!) #Twitter is trendy; the novel goes against the grain. #Twitter is the preferred medium of the conformist; the contrarian favors the novel.  

As a case in point, think about the reaction to the publishing of my favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird, in Monroeville, Alabama, in 1961. Do you think #ToKillaMockingbird was #trending? How many Retweets and Favorites do you think Harper Lee would have scored? But more to the point I am making, do you think she would have cared?

I know what you are thinking; clearly, I have forgotten about the crucial role #SocialMedia played in the Arab Spring uprisings of 2010. Isn't this the same kind of social change that To Kill a Mockingbird created in the United States? But the answer to that question is more chum in the shark-infested waters of #SocialMedia (Liz would derive great pleasure from deleting that sentence if she were editing this post! But she's not, so it stays.) Yes, #Twitter in particular and #SocialMedia in general were the catalysts of the Arab Spring, but where is the Arab Spring now???? It goes back to the staying power I alluded to earlier with Poe. #Twitter helped ignite the unrest that had been building for years throughout the Arab world, but it happened too quick, before any kind of lasting democratic infrastructure could be thought of, much less built. And so a chill settled over the Arab Spring, a chill that has lasted much longer than the brief warm spell which preceded it.

Let's go back to 1966, and the reaction to #ToKillaMockingbird in Virginia.  "Believing its contents to be "immoral," the Hanover County School Board in Virginia decided to remove all copies of Harper Lee's classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, from the county's school libraries." I picked this one example--of many--because it makes several points for me (and isn't that why everybody loves quotes?) For one, five years after To Kill a Mockingbird was published, people were not only still talking about the novel they were filing law suits to remove it from libraries. The depth and complexity of novels lends them to slow and thoughtful digest, which in turn leads to lasting and meaningful change. Like #Twitter and the Arab Spring, To Kill a Mockingbird was a catalyst for change in the Deep South, but in this case the change--though slower in coming--was enduring. The novel, at it's best, is timeless and enduring--and we need more of that in this age of transience.

There has never been a better vehicle for the contrarian than the novel. Without doubt, the contrarian can #tweet, but what traction can be gained from a media that is based on trends and popularity? And we need the contrarian, now, more than ever. Don't think so? What about Global Warning, the rise of Jihadism, a resurgent and cantankerous Russia, our failing public schools, the healthcare crisis? (I could go on but the soapbox I am standing on is on the verge of toppling over, and I really (translate, REALLY) want you to check out the new multi-author blog that launched this week. So, to finish this post--and check out the new blog that features a new post every day written by a team of 23 authors, editors, publishers, and literary agents--please click on the following link:
Why Books Are More Important Than Ever. 

Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include 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 or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Introducing The Prose Cons, aka The Gang of Twenty-One.

It has been quiet here at PeterHogenkampWrites, <but I can explain, honest> Because I didn't have enough to do, I have started a multi-author blog written exclusively by purveyors of the written word. The whole idea was to get a bunch of like-minded people together and create a team, with the idea that the whole will be much greater than the sum of the parts. It's called Prose&Cons--and no, we are not Cons (that you can prove anyway, as they assured me those records had been expunged.) Please take a look at the first post of the blog, and come follow us at Prose&Cons.


 Welcome to  Prose&Cons, Edition#1, written by the Prose Cons, aka The Gang of Twenty-One. Prose&Cons will officially launch May22, but for those of you chomping at the bit (my mother and several of her Canasta group) I thought I would write an introductory blog explaining who we are and what we hope to accomplish. And when I say We, I mean we: Prose&Cons is a team blog, written by the The Gang of Twenty-One.

Who is The Gang of Twenty-One? If you guessed a foursome of Chinese Revolutionaries multiplied by factor of 5.2, not quite, but I like the effort. An eightsome of United States Senators added to the cast of Oceans13? Sorry, no again. If, however, you guessed we are a collective (hint: Chinese Communist theme) of authors, literary agents, book reviewers, editors and publishers banded together for a common purpose, then you hit the nail on the head. The common purpose? I could just tell you, but it would make for a really short inaugural post--and besides, we're supposed to Show, Not Tell. So, by way of showing you who we are and what we are about, here are some of the other blog names we bandied about and voted on, because I think they are tell-ing.

The Book Starts Here  My personal favorite, although it finished a distant fourth in the voting. But it says who we are and what we do: We are authors, literary agents, publishers, book reviewers and editors--books start with us. We read them, write them, edit them, print and promulgate them, and review them. And we blog about them, on Prose&Cons. I am confident you will find the variety of perspectives interesting and informative.

Dog-Eared A long shot at post-time, Dog-Eared rallied furiously to place second. It's a reference to the folded down corner of a book, which looks like a dog ear. I liked it because The Prose Cons are readers, and Prose&Cons is a blog written by readers, for readers, the kind that fold down the corner of a book.

The Write Stuff A last minute addition to the final vote, The Write Stuff finished third based on a play on one of my favorite movies, as well as a reference to what we do. We are writers--and we want to write for you. But Prose&Cons is not a glorified advertisement for our books, novels and magazines. We're here to Show, Not Tell. Prose&Cons was created with the idea that the best way to make our voices heard was to make our voices heard. As I told my fellow prose cons when I recruited them to the team blog: a well-written blog post showing off your voice and and writing style is the best way to gain fans. (Please don't make a liar out of me.)

 WordNerds I love words. I always have, and I always will. I learned this from my father who would pace back and forth looking for the right word to communicate what he wanted to say. I can still see the satisfied smile on his face when he found it--the perfect word. I remember my brother trying to get him to use a lesser word on one occasion--I think he wanted my father to take him golfing--a word that got his point across despite not being the word. "Who cares?" my brother asked. (My brother is not a WordNerd). "I care," my father replied. Like my father, the Prose Cons are the kind of people that strive for that perfect word, who derive pleasure from the cadence of a well-written sentence. If you are that kind of person (Come on, you know you are!) Prose&Cons is the blog for you.

So, without further ado, here is the Gang of Twenty-One:

Peter Hogenkamp lives in beautiful central Vermont with his wife and four (no, that's not a misprint) children. Peter is a full-time family physician and author of The Jesuit thriller series. He is represented by the talented Liz Kracht of Kimberley Cameron & Associates. Liz is also a member of the Gang of Twenty-One, as well as the mahatma and guru for her list if writers.

Lily Gardner lives in Portland with her husband, two corgis and several thousand books. Her novel, A Bitch Called Hope, is a noir mystery set on the rainy streets of Portland. Her second Cooper noir: Betting Blind  will be published by Diversion Books in early 2015. 

Sue Coletta is a crime writer.  She has written two novels, TIMBER POINT (edge-of-your-seat thriller) and A STRANGLED ROSE  (suspense/mystery), and is currently working on the sequel to TIMBER POINT, entitled DANCING IN THE DARK, and book three in the series, entitled MAD RUSH. 

Holly West is a crime fiction writer based in Los Angeles, California. She's the author of Mistress of Fortune, a historical mystery set in late 17th century London, and the forthcoming Mistress of Lies.

Joe Clifford is editor for Gutter Books, and the author of three books: Choice Cuts, Wake the Undertaker, and Junkie Love. His latest mystery, LAMENTATION, is out October, 2014. 

Tom Pitts received his education on the streets of San Francisco. He remains there, working, writing, and trying to survive. His new novel, Hustle, and his novella, Piggyback, are available from Snubnose Press.

Mia Thompson is the author of an internationally bestselling New Adult Thriller series.  Her first two novels, STALKING SAPPHIRE and SILENCING SAPPHIRE, were published by Diversion Books in 2013.

Leigh Anne Jasheway has written humor books for the past twenty years, although she still claims to be 27. She has 21 published books, has had columns published in over two dozen anthologies, and has been a regular humor columnist for publications such as the LA Times, Funny Times, Family Circle, and the Register-Guard.

Garrett Calcaterra is the author of Dreamwielder, The Roads to Baldairn Motte, and Umbral Visions, as well as numerous spec-fiction short stories. When not writing, he enjoys hiking with his two dogs and quaffing craft beer.

Jim Satterfield was born in Oklahoma, grew up in Colorado, and currently works for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.  He has published two novels, The River's Song and Saving Laura.

Tj Turner has been writing since he was eight, although just last year he reluctantly traded in his crayons for a keyboard. His first novel, Lincoln’s Bodyguard, is due out in April 2015 from Oceanview Publishing.

Susan Clayton-Goldner is a southern Oregon writer and a graduate of the University of Arizona's Creative Writing Program. In addition to three published novels, her works has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies including Animals As Teachers and Healers, published by Ballantine Books, Our Mothers/Ourselves, published by the Greenwoood Publishing Group, The Hawaii Pacific Review--Best of a Decade, and New Millennium Writings. 

Art Kerns lives in Arizona after spending most of his intelligence community career in the Washington, DC area. His debut espionage thriller THE RIVIERA CONTRACT was published In March 2013 and the first sequel, THE AFRICAN CONTRACT, in May 2014.

Dr. Suzana E. Flores is a clinical psychologist and author of an upcoming book, Facehooked - due out later this summer through Reputation Books. In her book, Dr. Flores addresses how Facebook, and other social media, affects on our identity, emotions, relationships and our lives.

Jan Moran is an author for St. Martin’s Press (Scent of Triumph, 2015), and co-founded, a site for authors and entrepreneurs. In a past life, she founded Scentsa, sold it to Sephora, and wrote a series of bestselling guides to perfume, Fabulous Fragrances. 

Myra Nour is a romance author and founder of BTS Book Reviews (formally BTSeMag), which offers affordable promotional opportunities for authors, book reviews, as well as wonderful columns and articles for authors and readers alike in our monthly magazine. 

Helen Hanson is a geeky thriller author, former corporate droness, Redwood Curtain exile, red-wine sipper, hacky sack duffer, unrepentant misfit, & seed patron to avian traveler.

Conrad Tuerk is an English teacher, novelist and poet living in Rutland, VT.

You can find out more about any of us by clicking on the links to our websites and personal blogs which are all listed in the right-hand column. Look below for a link to a slideshow of our headshots, including a headshot of Hermione Jean Granger Hogenkamp, our official mascot and a member of the Gang of Twenty-one.

Why should you follow the Prose Cons? Well, not following us may result in a year's imprisonment in a gulag in Mongolia. Aside from that, it's the writing, plain and simple. On a daily basis you will see the well-written word in many forms: essays, short stories, memoirs, book reviews, humorous anecdotes, and serialized fiction. Even the occasional poem, as two of our members are poets as well. If it can be written, it will be featured on Prose&Cons at some point.

Thank you for viewing; we hope to see you back on May 22, 2014, and daily after that. And don't be shy about telling your friends or sharing the link on Twitter, Reddit, FaceBook, StumbleUpon or your favorite SocialMedia.

Cheers, Peter 

Again the link to Prose&Cons and follow us on Twitter at @theprosecons. Looking forward to seeing you on May 22nd.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Brief Guest Blog

Dad, the guest blog tool works. I will now return to studying, for fear of invoking mother's wrath. 

You're Welcome,