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A Kind Word for Social Media

Nancy Niblack Baxter, Senior Editor, Hawthorne Publishing

Media critics are descrying it for ruining teenaged girls’ self-esteem, parents are trying fruitlessly to get cellphones out of the hands of their daughters and sons for at least an hour at dinner, Congress is studying restrictive laws to curb the power—Social Media. They dominate our society, Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Tic Tok, Snapchat,—-. Their controversial and threatening power to politicize, to control any cause they disagree with by shutting down sites or contributors is undisputed. Their subscribers are in the billions. The Powers-that-be are determined to legislate to control them more specifically. But I, for one, have seen advantages in human relating as a result of the new electronic media that I wasn’t expecting at all twenty years ago.

I communicate with our grown children almost every day through electronic means. They are spread around the country, from New Hampshire to Michigan and they have their own children—and some grandchildren. The first steps of these grand little darlings, the castle that one built, the family dinner at holidays, all are shared. Of course we wish they were with us in person, but they can’t be here every birthday, every Mother’s Day, every Thanksgiving. This lets us experience their families first hand so we are familiar day-to-day with their activities when they do visit. And they communicate as a sibling group discussing family events.


Linotype machine

At Hawthorne Publishing, we keep in contact with our authors sometimes daily and definitely weekly and monthly via email. Daily concerns, ideas for events and book production—all can be quickly resolved with a speedy message. And dealing with the printer is a matter of one rapidly advancing technology after another. It is difficult to remember times in our publishing company’s history when electronic production wasn’t an everyday occurrence. But it is true there was an era when we did not create Word files to put out a book. In 1987, when Guild Press, the predecessor of our present Hawthorne Publishing, began publishing books, Alexander Graphics downtown in Indianapolis did the production files from typewriter pages we supplied. They were just beginning to use early computers, rare in individual hands. In the lobby of the company a huge linotype machine sat, only recently retired in a printing firm that had produced books and most forms of documents since the 1930s. I myself had been trained at the offices of the Butler University Collegian to set type by hand, creating headlines from a type chest with two cases, upper and lower.

Times from the late 1980s on changed rapidly, every few months bringing new means of book publishing. We entered our own first book into an electronic file, the young people’s Hoosier Farmboy in Lincoln’s Army: The Civil War Letters of John McClure in 1993. From then on it was constant upgrading with electronic means through Microsoft Word and then InDesign, which we use in updated versions today.

Most impressive is a consulting book we are in process with today: a collection of the sermons of David Owen, the well known Indiana Methodist preacher. The collection of his sermons needed to be compiled from parishioners who had saved typescripts through many decades. No electronic file existed. So the pre-press firm in Ohio took what they call “legacy documents” and utilized OCR (optical character recognition) to scan them into, eventually, workable Word documents. Much correcting had to happen on the earliest documents; the OCR process couldn’t recognize the odd old type.

I’m glad for the progress. I don’t understand it very well, but I welcome the benefits. I never did like to set that type in those little hand-held troughs with two cases! There had to be something better. And I’m glad there is

When You Don’t Know the Length of the Race: Sermons on Christian Quandaries and How to Move Beyond Them by David Owen is set for release in early April.

Nancy Niblack Baxter, Senior Editor Hawthorne Publishing.

Posted in Book Publishing |

What is the Own-Your-Own Product book publishing market?

Although Hawthorne Publishing is a traditional regional publisher producing and selling books through time-honored book markets, bookstores, catalogues and through author promotion for such events as library book groups and appearances, we have begun to take note of “Indie” or Independent book publishers and to encourage would-be authors to join the “Indie” ranks, using Hawthorne as a steering agent.

Basically, about 36% of books sold in America today are owned and handled by their own authors. It is a growing avenue for authors who want to have control over the products of their own writing.

The Alliance of Independent Authors website has information that is interesting. Early in the last decade, only a small percentage of books were put out independently. Authors spent time seeking agents so their books could come out with big publishers like Simon and Schuster. A certain cloud hung over independent, author-owned publishing, with some calling it by the old name of “Vanity Press.” Out of this budding movement, the term Self Publishing evolved.  

But the new author publishing on Create Space by Amazon, through LuLu or more interestingly, through putting out their own books, has grown in both numbers and respectability. What are the advantages of having your own small company to research the book market, hire a designer and printer, establish a website and promote your own book?

First of all, these authors can take advantage of internet marketing. Clever people, especially perhaps young authors, are able to generate entrepreneurial success on the part of all sorts of new businesses. Why shouldn’t a creatively developed book be a new business, advertised through a website that beautifully presents the book, displays reviews and praise and hooks up to Amazon or other sites through Paypal? 

Hawthorne has recently developed a service to aid these authors who wish Indie publishing.

Through our Crabapple Lane authors can have advice, services like editing, contact with respected sourcing for services to produce a book, and aid in planning sales and promotion for the book market. Start to delivery, books can be put out in a first-class way through modern planning and technology.

Golden Graduates of Winchester High School

Golden Graduates of Winchester High School

Here’s an example. We helped the alumni association of Winchester, Indiana put out a book four years ago of famous alums from the high school of this small town. Their achieving alums have outstanding records in the arts, drama, government and business—nationally known people. The question implicit in the publication of the book is “How did such a small Hoosier town manage to produce such famous achievers?”

They took up the job of writing and received editing help from us, worked with us to publish the book, then took up the beautiful book that was a product of their process and funded important scholarships for grads of the high school in the future with sales of Golden Grads.

Now they are completing a sequel with more Winchester achievers. For this they will handle the book completely themselves with our “shepherding,” as the process is called in the printing industry. They will be the publishers in their own right.

They are part of a new wave of authors or groups who know the book they want and take up the work to own their product themselves. It’s part of American ingenuity.

 Nancy Baxter is the Senior Editor of Hawthorne Publishing

Posted in Book Publishing, Indiana History, Self Publishing |

The Willing Suspension of Disbelief: A Literary Analysis from the Senior Editor

Suspending our disbelief—that’s what Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge said we have to be willing to do when we read fiction. Nowhere is that more clearly demonstrated than in British detective TV shows.

We stream and love them all: “Morse” “Lewis,” Inspector Lynley,” “Tennison,” “Prime Suspect,” and what is probably the best and not actually British, “Bosch.”

But at face value the settings are preposterous in terms of realism. The “Morse” series is set in Oxford in Britain. Here, as in all of the detective thrillers, a murder occurs every week or so.

It is dangerous to walk the towpath by the river in Oxford; fiends lurk in the bushes and there’s murder on their minds no matter what season of the year. Another towpath murder? Just can’t keep track.

Broken Mysteries – Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Shepherd

And nobody seems to say in “Inspector Lynley,” “Why is it there are so many murders in this area?” “Why is it wherever you go, even on vacation, there’s a killing happening?”

No, we suppress our rational self, subordinate it to the joys of following the interesting plot and gazing at the beautiful scenery of the British countryside, admiring the lovely country homes from the Edwardian period and getting engaged in the tangled and well-thought-out story-telling which often has disaffected employees, spouses, work associates you never dreamed with hurt a flea hiding their crimes and needing to be exposed to justice with only five minutes left in the show to wrap everything up.

The road to addiction with these detective stories has led us recently on Amazon Prime to Brokenwood Mysteries, a series set in a medium-sized country town in New Zealand about the size of Terre Haute twenty years ago.

It’s a laugh realistically. In the first place, why is any town called Brokenwood? How odd.

Brokenwood Mysteries – Detective Kristin Sims

Perhaps because it was a “break” in the woodlands of this part of New Zealand? And that flash shot of the town set in the hills by a river—there can’t be more than 1,000 homes and offices shown. How can such a small town generate so darn many murders—let alone all the fascinating (and I mean it) avocations and situations these people live in. Here in Brokenwood we have the following settings for the murders (which are usually not gruesome). A deer hunting club, drama group, a duck hunting club, a golf course, a tour based on Lords of the Rings sites, an Edwardian reenactment society, a carnival which winters over there, a gourmet cheese factory, a duck egg farm, a woman’s prison–and lots more. And why do the same people show up at every murder scene, participate in every interesting activity shown? The stock characters: the older lady who bakes things and takes them to every event, where she can background the detectives on the private life of the suspects—the little guy named Frodo who seems to have his food truck parked at every murder, the slick handsome suitor, the Maui vintner.

If these blatantly implausible things lurk around the edges of this series of mysteries, why is we are watching, avidly? Here’s why: because one gets the flavor of the countryside of New Zealand watching this series. We can search the horizon for maples and oaks. Not a one. Instead, Google tells us, those towering, scraggly looking evergreens and branchy, Halloween-looking soft or hardwoods, are called Kohai, Puriri, Cabbage Tree, Rimu and Kowri. Interesting!

And, more importantly, the characters are absolutely charming and compel repeated scrutinizing. Mike Shepherd, the lead detective with four ex-wives, Detective Sam Breen, the red-haired inspector whose clever, smarty repartee keeps everybody hopping and best of all, the female detective inspector Detective Kristin Sims, played by Fern Sutherland, one of New Zealand’s most talented actresses. Minor characters like Mrs. Marlowe, whom we mentioned before, turn up at every corner of the town with inside information that’s believable from her long career of town snooping and the town minister, who is a man of many talents and whose life is a mess.

Brokenwood Mysteries – Detective Constable Sam Breen

Following their private lives, sensing the inner dynamics, enjoying clever and intellectually stimulating plotting—all make for a drama worth seeing, streaming, and sitting enthralled to find out “Who Dunnit,” We are hooked and so, apparently, were the world-wide audience who watched 7 seasons of the small town with the many murders, set among those scraggly-looking trees of New Zealand.

You may order Nancy Baxter’s books by clicking back to the website or purchase her own “thriller” Charmed Circle, Indianapolis 1995 on Amazon.

Posted in Review, TV |

An interview with Sandra Hurt, author of our Priestess of Pompeii: The Initiate’s Journey.

Sandy’s book was released last fall and is featured in the “Winds of Change” division of Hawthorne Publishing. It is the result of twenty-five years of Sandy’s intensive research into learning about ancient Pompeii and the writing of a story of an historical figure there, a priestess who occupied the Villa of the Mysteries.

Q. You’re at work on the second book in this historical novel series. How was the first book received?

Sandy: I was surprised and overwhelmed at the initial deluge of orders from Amazon. We hadn’t been able because of Covid to have the opening at Eiteljorg Museum in Downtown Indianapolis where we’d planned to celebrate the book. But publicity, news, got around and there were many initial orders.

Q. What kind of publicity? Have there been reviews?

Sandy: I was pleased with the review in Italian media, the April “Primo Magazine” as one example. The reviewer said “Priestess of Pompeii is that rare novel, both entertaining and educational. A Page turner to be relished.” I should show a little modesty—you can see others on the webpage “Sandra Hurt author of Priestess of Pompeii.”

Q. So now you are several chapters into Volume II, the continuing story of Ariana Estacidia, a strong but vulnerable woman with a disability (epilepsy ) who aspires to, and becomes, a revered priestess of Dionysius.

Sandy: I thought the book would be one volume—then realized that the full story must be told in two books.

Q. What’s different about writing the sequel?

Sandy:  It’s in some ways easier. I know the full story, the steps she must take along the way, the outcome. But there are other things to worry about: giving the Book I reader memory jogs about characters and happenings,  and bringing the new reader up to date, feeding pieces of information he/she needs to know from Book I.  I always think “the muse is already ahead of me.” And telling the story becomes relentless. I was in bed the other night and a new plot line began to come to me. Eventually I had to get up and write it out, put it into the book.

Q. How did the real happenings in Pompeii in Julius Caesar’s time, that’s before the famous eruption of Mount Vesuvius, affect you, or complicate the writing?

Sandy:  It happened a lot. I always had to see if Ariana was doing something, eating some food, she couldn’t have eaten at that time. For instance, I wanted her to read the poet Vergil, to put that into the narrative, but he was too young for this time-period. He wouldn’t have had his career flourishing yet.

Q. And of course it is too early in this book for the infamous volcanic destruction of this major city of Roman life and commerce.

Sandy: Yes, Ariana would have been gone by the time the eruption occurred, 44 A.D.

But there are small references in the book to the looming Mount Vesuvius beyond the city for Pompeii lore enthusiasts, and to the earthquakes which shake the ground in Ariana’s time.

Q. Faulkner had a clothesline strung in his dining room, on which he placed little pieces of paper which were his consecutive chapters, noting the plots in each chapter. How are you structuring the outline of the book into progressive chapters in the sequel?

Sandy: Really the situation I’d set up in the first book, which is an initiate’s journey, determine the plot’s progress. Research showed the development of young girls and boys and households, the structure of the male business society which dominated Rome and Pompeii at the time and to which the Estacidia family belonged, so those were wayposts for my chapters and story.

Q. The story is well known of the conceiving of the story of this book: visiting Pompeii you went off the tour route and discovered the Villa of the Mysteries, excavated decades ago. You saw on the wall a mosaic of a beautiful woman, a priestess, who seemed to call to you and take you back in time. You determined to recreate her life, about which nothing was known except her name. But how then, after research, put all of the many hundreds of possible steps in this woman’s life into a readable book, with chapters moving a story ahead?

Sandy: There was so much information. I couldn’t quite structure what I’d learned and imagined about Ariana’s probable life into a straight-forward story. Finally a friend sat me down and said, “Tell me about her life.” Make it simple. Then I could structure a story.

Q. We have read the poignant story in Book I of the death of Ariana’s betrothed, the young man she dearly loved, Titus. How did that narrative event come to you, and how important was it for the plot?

Sandy:  He drowns—a terribly upsetting incident in the young woman’s life.  It changes everything for her. Now instead of being the wife and head of a wealthy Roman’s household and mother of children, she is freed to follow her destiny, an unusual one in Roman society. Titus’s death deepened her life. She is a voracious learner and now must improve her education, expand her potential if she wishes to be a priestess. It is a key event in this story.

Q. When do you expect to complete Book II?

I’m progressing, taking the book through peer input at the Indiana Writers Center as I did for Book I, but basically being guided now by my own insights and what the characters are doing and telling me. It’s a two-year process.

You can buy Priestess of Pompeii by clicking back to our website.

Posted in Book Publishing, Winds of Change |