Monday, September 26, 2011

Author Interview, Rod Pennington

I am pleased to do this interview with Rod Pennington. He has just released the second book in The Fourth Awakening Series, written by Rod Pennington and Jeffery A. Martin, Ph.D. The first book, The Fourth Awakening, has done quite well, often topping Amazon sales lists in the U.S. and in the U.K.

This is the Amazon Kindle Description for The Fourth Awakening:

“A group of top scientists, lead by a legendary Nobel Prize winning physicist, has made a discovery so startling and with such deep religious implications that it sends shockwaves through the corridors of power around the world. As the federal government moves to suppress the research, all of those involved vanish without a trace.

“A mysterious call from the editor of The Washington Post starts Penelope Drayton Spence off in search of the missing scientists. After she crosses paths with enigmatic industrialist Michael Walker, Penelope becomes a fugitive in a wild, hold on tight to the edge of your seat race to expose the truth about the Hermes Project before the government can cover it up.

“While a work of fiction, The Fourth Awakening is grounded in cutting edge science and an emerging new spiritual reality. It offers readers a glimpse of their future.”
The spiritual quest continues in the second book of The Fourth Awakening Series., The Gathering Darkness.
"Be careful what you wish for. A year earlier, with the help of enigmatic industrialist Michael Walker, all of Penelope Drayton Spence’s dreams had come true. Now, as one of the country’s top journalists, she has discovered what she thought would make her happy was only making her busy. After months of avoiding her, Michael Walker burst back into her life with an outlandish plan to launch his controversial “Hermes” satellite into space. But she soon learns someone just as resourceful and well-financed is willing to go to any lengths to stop the launch. After the Hermes Project’s facility in Jackson Hole is attacked, Penelope gets a ringside seat as two of the world’s most powerful men go toe-to-toe in a battle of wills that could change the course of humanity. "
Rod, I’m pleased do this interview with you. On my bookshelf containing autographed books is a copy of your novel, Devon’s Way, The Quicksilver Solution, which you autographed a number of years ago to my husband, Don Pendleton.

Rod: I remember sending it to Don. I actually did a work-for-hire a few years later and wrote two novels based on characters Don had created for Harlequin: Lethal Trade and Death Hunt.
Linda: When did you become interested in writing? Did you write as a kid? I don’t mean for school but for yourself? Do you recall the first story you ever wrote? If so, do you want to share what it was about?

Rod: I started writing in high school. I helped write two produced school plays and I was one of the editors of our weekly newspaper. My first major sale was when I was the tender age of 18. I did an interview with one of my college professors who was on the last plane out of Prague in 1968 when the Soviet tanks rolled in. It was picked up by the AP and made the wire services.

Linda: Was your Devon’s Way novels your first books? Do you plan on making them available again through Kindle?

Rod: The Devon’s Way series were my first three novels but I had done a ton of freelance and ghostwriting prior to that. I would love to release them on Kindle but while I hold the copyright I’m not sure where I would stand legally. The original publisher went bankrupt owing me money in 1989. The contracts I signed hit the landfill years ago so it is a gray area.

Linda: Who or what has influenced your writing and in what way?

Rod: The two most important nuts and bolts people are Joseph Campbell and Syd Field. To me they are the master storytellers. If you want to understand story and character development read the famous Chris Vogler's coverage of Joseph Campbell The Hero with a Thousand Faces that changed Hollywood forever. Bill Moyers did a 6 hour documentary on PBS about this. If you have Netflix it is available for instant download. If you want to understand cinematic pacing, then Syd Field is the best I’ve ever seen.

In terms of writers, I’m a huge Rex Stout fan. I like his books because he created a pair of truly original characters in Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. Beyond that, there are 50 to 100 great writers whose work I appreciate.

Linda: I love Joseph Campbell. Bill Moyers' interviews with Campbell (Power of Myth) are priceless. And of course, Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces is an excellent look at the mythical hero. I’ve not read Chris Vogler’s work on it, though.

Rod: I’ll put a
link to it on my webpage. It is possibly the best thing ever written about how to craft a story.

Linda: I know of Syd Field and his expertise in screenwriting. I’ve adapted several screenplays myself, and written an original one. Maybe one day I will do more screenwriting, as I did enjoy it. It is a tough market to break into.

I discovered not long ago while doing family genealogy that I am related to Rex Stout. Our connection goes back to the early 1600s to Richard and Penelope Stout, my 9th great-grandparents, his 6th great-grandparents.

Rod: Penelope? Now that’s a great name for a character!

Linda: I understand you are not only a novelist, but also a screenwriter. Would you tell us a little about your screenwriting and what led to that?

Rod: I had just been orphaned by my second publisher in less than three years when the phone rang. A guy introduced himself and said he had seen my novels and wanted to know if I had ever written a screenplay. I told him not only had I never written one, I had never even seen one. He said he would send me a script then we’d check back to see if I had any interest in working with him. The next day, overnight mail was a much bigger deal in those days, a package arrived. It was the script for a recently released summer blockbuster movie. I read it and he called me back. I had just seen the movie and it was slightly different than the script he had sent me. I asked about it and he said the author of the book it was based on didn’t like this version so they hired other writers. I asked what they had paid for the script they didn’t use and he casually answered $500,000. This was 1990. He had my undivided attention for the next 4 years. I didn’t find out until years later that it was unusual to have the VP of Creative Affairs of a major studio track down a writer in Ohio and offer them work.

Linda: Oh, boy. What a lucky break that was!

Rod: Indeed. It was one of those moments that changed my life.

Linda: As most writers, I have read a number of books on creative writing and techniques of novel writing. What books on writing have you found to be of value early on in your career, and why? And I understand you now teach writing yourself, is that right?

Rod: I used to teach writing. I was an instructor in the Writers’ Digest Novel Writing Workshop and the Advanced Novel Writing workshop. I’ve also taught some Adult Ed classes and occasionally speak at writers’ conference. My biggest influences were Joseph Campbell and the skills I picked up in Hollywood. My novels, because of screenwriting, are long on dialogue and short on narrative. The plots move right along and I try to leave a gasp at the end of each chapter. The Amazon reviews I cherish are the ones who say they lost a night’s sleep because they couldn’t put my book down.

I’m currently writing a brief little eBook for a nice group of people who are trying to encourage first time writers entitled Writing the Spiritual Novel. It’s only about 15,000 words but it goes over Joseph Campbell and how I craft a story.

Linda: Thanks for sharing the draft of Writing the Spiritual Novel with me. It’s going to be a help to new authors, Rod. It’s very good.

Rod: Thanks. Mostly it’s just a cut and paste of my classroom notes, the Vogler memo and a few other nuggets I’ve picked up over the years. If any of your readers would like the draft copy send me an email to

Linda: I find it fascinating that you moved from writing action/adventure into writing New Age Thought with The Fourth Awakening Series. (I know someone else who did that—Don Pendleton). What brought you and Dr. Jeffery Martin together? I see Dr. Martin is a Harvard- educated social scientist and researcher of human potential—and his concept of non-symbolic consciousness. How easy was it for the two of you to blend the metaphysical concepts into a suspense novel?

Rod: Jeffery and I have been friends and business partners for nearly two decades. He’s currently spending a year in Hong Kong as a guest professor. We are basically fire and ice when it comes to novel writing. I’ve had 8 novels published and he has written all or part of over 2 dozen non-fiction books. He doesn’t read fiction and I don’t read non-fiction and I particularly avoid the academic gobbledygook that tends to make his heart go pitty-pat. Here’s a hilarious story about The Fourth Awakening. There is scene where Penelope wants to talk about Michael Walker but had been warned not to mention his name in public. Penelope called him, “He who must not be named.” Jeffery didn’t get it because he didn’t have any idea who Lord Voldemort was.

We’ve had some Titanic battles over these novels; in fact we thought The Gathering Darkness would have been out over a year ago. But we hit a loggerhead and it sat for 8 months with neither of us working on it. Still, because we have great respect for each other, we got past it.

Linda: Do you have plans for several books in The Fourth Awakening Series?

Rod: This was intended as a trilogy but the characters have developed a nice following so they may live on. We’ll see. The third book will be much darker than the first two. We plan to explore the dark side of enlightenment. This may completely turn off our core audience because this is a subject many of them ignore. By the time Return to the Light has been around for a few weeks the desire for more of Penelope and Walker could be over.

Linda: What is your usual writing routine, Rod? I know readers often want to know how many hours a day do we spend at our computers? Do we outline? How long does it take to complete a book? Where do we get our ideas?—our inspiration?

Rod: I’m an early riser and most of my creative stuff is written early in the day. I’ve found if I try to be creative for more than 5-6 hours in a day and push myself, the next day the tank will be empty. As for how long it takes to write a book it depends. I wrote The Linz Trust in six weeks. The novel adaption of a screenplay I sold is still unfinished after 20 years. Everything else falls somewhere in between.

Linda: Of the elements that go into a novel such as characterizations, dialogue, action scenes, plotting, sex scenes, and setting, among other things, which do you find easiest for you personally in your art of writing? In other words, what do you consider your strength to be?

Rod: That’s easy. Dialogue. I love to let two characters with opposing viewpoint go at each other. I think this is why I caught the eye of the folks in LaLaLand. Movies and television are almost all dialogue.

While I’m uncomfortable writing sex scenes, I do think I may have written the best non-graphic one of all time in The Gathering Darkness. Not to spoil it, but it is the first 40 words of Chapter Thirty-Two.

Linda: What is your favorite quote?

Rod: I’ll give you two. "Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It's already tomorrow in Australia." Charles Schultz.

“I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much.” Mother Theresa

Linda: Great quotes! Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Rod: This is the new Golden Age of writing. We’re entering an era similar to the 1930s up until the 1960s. Cheap pulp fiction was everywhere. From Louis L’ Amour westerns, to fantastic mystery and detective yarns to incredible science fiction, you could get anything you wanted for .35 cents at the local drug store. As the cost of printing and distribution began to rise fifty years ago these “pulp” books and magazines couldn’t compete with “free” TV so it dried up. I see a new renaissance on the horizon.

Thanks to places like Kindle, even if you hire a professional editor and cover design person, you can have your book online for less than a $1,000. After that if you’re selling your book on Amazon for 99 cents, if you can get only one tenth of one percent of the American population to buy your book you’ll make over $100,000 dollars. That’s .001.

Go out and write what you would like to read. But remember this. In rock music, the bands that come up with a new sound that resonates, play to packed venues every night. Good cover bands are working the lounge at the airport Holiday Inn.

Thanks to eBooks we’re going to be seeing a lot of cover bands. Tell good stories and create fresh original characters and the universe will find you. Don’t try to repackage stuff that has already been written. Derivative characters and tired plots lines are a dime a dozen.

Find your voice and use it.

Also, read an article that was in the Wall Street Journal back in March. “
Cheapest E-Books Upend the Charts”. This was the article that motivated me to get back into the novel writing business.

Linda: Great advice, Rod. I was visiting your website the other day and found your article, “
What’s In a Name” quite interesting. I have always thought you had the perfect name for an author. :-)

Rod: LOL! I had never really thought about that.

Linda: Tell us more about The Fourth Awakening, if you’d like, and tell us about your new action/adventure novel, A Family Reunion (The First Charon Family Adventure).

Rod: The Fourth Awakening was an attempt to wrap some cutting edge science in a fast paced suspense novel. We also wanted to present the history of mankind in a way most people had never considered. The second book, The Gathering Darkness, is a much more personal story. I throw everything at poor Penelope. The last book in the trilogy will explore the dark side of enlightenment. This one will be a stunner.

I wrote A Family Reunion to blow off some steam after the Fourth Awakening books. You have no idea how hard it is to keep the tension level up when there is no violence. No sex. No foul language and one of your lead characters is devoid of emotion. There’s a reason most murder mysteries, thrillers and action stories have a dead body in the first chapter.

The Charon Family Adventures are right in my wheelhouse. Funny, bawdy, fast paced and long on dialogue and short on narrative. To separate them from my more serious work, I’m putting outrageous covers on them. A Family Reunion, has a dark and shadowy Grim Reaper holding a brightly colored picnic basket. The next book in the series Family Business, has the Reaper holding a bunch of bright “Grand Opening” balloons. That’s my fair warning to the reader that they are about to start on a book that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Linda: Thank you, Rod, for taking time to do this interview. I wish you and Dr. Martin the best with The Fourth Awakening Series. It is such an unique concept—really a new genre—New Thought Fiction, and I’m sure the books will continue to do well. And I wish you the best for your other novels, too.

Rod: Thanks!

Rod Pennington’s Website
The Fourth Awakening
The Gathering Darkness (The Fourth Awakening Series)A Family Reunion (The First Charon Family Adventure)

Jeffery Martin’s
Amazon Author Page
Rod Pennington’s Amazon Author Page
The Fourth Awakening FaceBook Page

Saturday, September 10, 2011

In Memory

Angel Copyright by Danny Hahlbohm

In Memory
We will always remember those who lost their lives
and those who so gallantly risked their lives to save others.
May peace and healing come to the families and friends of those lost,
and to the many rescue workers and others who were touched by this tragedy. – Linda

"America, America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!"
Katherine Lee Bates (1859-1929)

"The land of the free and the home of the brave."
–Francis Scott Key (1779–1843)

"I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won.
There have been tyrants and murders, and for a time they seem invincible.
But in the end they always fall. Think of this. Always."
–Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948)

"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear–not absence of fear."
–Mark Twain (1835–1910)

"This land is your land, this land is my land,
from California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me."
–Woody Guthrie (1912–1967)

"There is nothing we cannot live down, rise above, and overcome."
–Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1855–1919)

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear;
but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
–Bible, 2 Timothy 1:7

"Okay, there's a group of us and we're going to do something...
If they're going to drive this plane into the ground we've got to do something."
–Thomas Burnett (1963–2001)
Passenger, Flight 93, Sept. 11, 2001

"We've decided, we're going to do it."
–Jeremy Glick (1970–2001)
Passenger, Flight 93, Sept. 11, 2001

"Are you guys ready? Let's roll!"
–Todd Beamer (1917–2001)
Passenger, Flight 93, Sept. 11, 2001

"Imagine there's no country, it isn't hard to do,
nothing to kill or die for, and no religion, too.
Imagine all the people living life in peace."
–John Lennon (1940–1980)

"Never in this world can hatred be stilled by hatred;
it will be stilled only by non-hatred–that is the law Eternal."
–Buddha (568-488 B.C.)

"If we let things terrify us, life will not be worth living."
–Seneca (c. 4 B.C.–65 A.D.)

"We should always be at war with injustice. Always."
–Maya Angelou (1928–)

"Only the just man enjoys peace of mind."
–Epicurus (371–270 B.C.)

"To correct the evils, great and small, which spring from want of sympathy
and from positive enmity among strangers, as nations and as individuals,
is one of the highest functions of civilization."
–Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865)

"When written in Chinese, the word crisis is composed of two characters.
One represents danger and the other represents opportunity."
–John F. Kennedy (1917–1963)

"The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting."
–Sun Tzu (c. early 4th Century B.C.)

"If you want to heal, give. When you need comfort and strength,
give to others. By helping other people, you can begin to heal."
–Dr. Phil McGraw

"Until you have become really in actual fact a brother of everyone,
brotherhood will not come to pass. Only by brotherhood will liberty be saved."
–Feodor Dostoevski (1821–1881)

"Life has its ups and downs. When you are down,
the angels are waiting to lift you up."
–Linda Pendleton

“We must be willing to get rid of the life we planned,
so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
–Joseph Campbell, (1904-1987)

“I believe that peace becomes possible when we choose to make peace an attitude and a habit.
I believe that the reality of peace begins within each of us….”
~Mattie J. T. Stepanek, (1990-2004) Just Peace, A Message of Hope