Let's Talk About Books

9개월 전

A Quick Look Back

For almost a year, we at Steemhouse have talked about a rejuvenated community, one that utilizes the blockchain as well as tools like Discord, one that doesn’t overwork members or invite exploitation by freeloaders looking to avoid the hard work of self-editing, and one that is just plain fun to be part of. We learned much in our early days as “The Writers’ Block” and hope we can bring that to bear in the coming months.

Focusing on the Future

Now, in September of 2019, we have a working front end that is still under development but much further along than any iteration we’ve seen of it so far. It’s not ready for release as of today, but we are already interacting with it and getting a glimpse of how useful it will be for our long-term goals. In the meanwhile, we’re going to experiment with different community activities to learn which ones generate the most interest and which ones need improvement.

Our Steemhouse Discord still exists but is not very active. Members are welcome to chat and socialize and we encourage this. Bring us news about your writing endeavors or pet photos or make us laugh with something funny, but right now we don’t offer any resources such as critique or workshops. We made an executive decision early this year to focus on the publishing arm of our enterprise and work backward into a community from there. This is the first outward-facing step we’ve taken in that direction.

Baby Steps

Anyone with a Steem account is welcome to participate, but we are not yet at the stage of onboarding new users or organizing any kind of structured heirarchy. Our Steemhouse executives will be present in public discussions as well as a few others we’ve reached out to whose interests parallel ours. We are testing our ideas on the blockchain right now with limited expectations. There’s no real marketing component or advantage to writers for participating other than the pure enjoyment of discussing published work and watching our system develop.

Eventually, short-form fiction published on our blockchain literary journal will be the fodder for public conversations and reviews. We have many ideas about implementing this strategy for promotion and cross-promotion to benefit Steemhouse authors, but that’s still a ways down the road. For now, we’re going to use a work of fiction for which we own all the rights and can therefore control distribution of free copies to participants. High Kill is not only a Steemhouse publication but the author herself is available to grant necessary permissions. It makes sense to use this source at this time as beta material for our project.

At no time will any author’s work be reprinted or republished on the blockchain outside its original instance. However, we are likely to display up to one hundred words of a work according to fair use laws, which encompass reviews and bookclub-like public discussions. In this case, we’ll be using High Kill, a novel published on a Steemhouse imprint earlier this year. It’s available on Amazon here. This book can also be found through various retailers using ISBN 9781733604024. Invited participants of High Kill discussions all own copies of the novel or have been given a free copy for discussion purposes. PDF copies can be distributed to others who express interest in joining our regular conversation, but participation will be expected.

HIGH KILL

Taylor Beckett is no stranger to corruption. She has studied it, reported it, lost parts of her soul to it. But she has never seen it destroy an entire culture—

Until now.

Three young men are dead, stuffed in blue poly drums and dumped like trash in the Appalachian wilderness. The real story is buried far deeper than the bodies. It’s Taylor’s job to dig for it, but her inquiry into the case takes a dark turn when a local defies the community’s code of silence and becomes collateral damage at the hands of the Mountain Mafia.

The criminal dynamic of Southwest Virginia is unlike anything she’s seen in her career. But Taylor has a history she doesn’t share with anyone. Degrees of overlap between past and present give her unique insight. Do answers lie in the memory she fights so hard to repress? Most importantly, can Taylor face her own tragic secrets long enough to hold the guilty accountable?

Conversation Starters

  1. In Chapter One, we see two examples of interaction between adult male authority figures and their younger charges--Eric with his Grandpap, and Junior Rasnick with his son Josh. Is the personality and conduct of the elder man reflected in behavior of the younger, and how?
  2. What assumptions might be made about Taylor Beckett from Chapter Two’s introduction of her character?
  3. Chapter Three gives us our first glimpse at Randall County. Do you think Taylor’s impressions of it are influenced by her general attitude?
  4. In Chapter Four, we get our first inkling that the song lyrics might play a definitive role in the novel. Have you paid much attention to them before this point?

Participants: please post your reponses to these questions and other thoughts about this novel in the comment section below. You are welcome to add your own questions for reaction and response as well. Readers are invited to publish a review of this novel from their own Steem accounts. A fantastic example of this can be found here.

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I'd love to see more discussion around fiction on the blockchain, and renewed life encouraging more people to contribute. Keep doing what you do!

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We're definitely hopeful that some consistent, focused discussion directly on the blockchain and not in a side community will bring some fresh life to the platform.

Well, I guess I'll get it started. Here's my take on question 1:

I don’t see any of Grandpap in Eric. Eric is, from the moment we are introduced to him, his own man. A man in flux: tentative and disillusioned with his station in life, granted----but clearly emergent as a sentient and tender-hearted man.

Compare/contrast the two men? Sure, why not? Eric’s heart is open to life and sensitive. Grandpap’s heart is jaded and hardened from a lifetime of toeing a hard line of mountain masculinity, secret-keeping and conformity.

I get the sense that it’s all over but the burying for Grandpap, but Eric is showing a reverence for life that will burst into full bloom later in the book, when a far more personal crucible must be navigated in his own life.

Josh is non-descript in my perception: a mere mirror of his father. He seems so one-dimensional that his only purpose is for incidental dramatic effect.

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You nailed it. While Junior's son Josh is a chip off the old block, Eric is like New Blood - an enlightened one - like WHERE does this come from? In a community where DNA or indoctrination keep perpetuating barbarism, animal cruelty, the mentality that we should put up and shut up rather than challenge evil or stand up for the vulnerable, and turn a blind eye... somehow, Eric emerges from his horrible childhood with a conscience, a sense of compassion. I don't doubt this. I just keep wondering how the Erics of the world somehow rise above their origins and become better than what tradition would have them be.

Even when his peers mock him, he doesn't bend. He just doesn't reveal his true feelings.

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Ok, here's my take on Taylor Beckett.

In paragraph 3 of Chapter Two, the first thing we are told about Taylor is that she is ethical. It remains for the reader to discover just how much that schemata directs her throughout the novel, however; I’m not spilling the beans (no spoiler here!)

Paragraph 5 gives us our first foreshadow of the novel: we catch the allusion that in her past, she’s been in the news. And we can safely infer it was not something she enjoyed nor endured willingly.

The rest of the chapter sketches a news-professional who’s no novice but is perhaps in a quasi-catatonic career-rut. She has a potty-mouth and an impetuous personality---but she has a colleague who can roll with her punches, and who just revealed himself as an advocate and a mentor. . . and maybe more later.

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Well said! Love it!
-- we catch the allusion that in her past, she’s been in the news...not something she enjoyed nor endured willingly.
I especially love this (Charles! Charles!):
-- she has a colleague who can roll with her punches, and who just revealed himself as an advocate and a mentor. . . and maybe more....

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Josh is non-descript in my perception: a mere mirror of his father. He seems so one-dimensional that his only purpose is for incidental dramatic effect.

What's so sad is that while this is true to a word in a literary sense, it's also true in a real sense. His character is based on real people I've encountered, people who seem just as one-dimensional in real life because they only present one side of themselves for the world, and it's seldom a flattering one. Does anyone else know people like that?

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I certainly do, and wouldn't it be nice if they only existed for incidental dramatic effect in real life? Some people are purely a product of their environment...no independent thinking, no desire to veer off the course set by genetics or the bubble they grew up in. No desire for change. No need to better themselves. They don't see an issue with how they think (or don't), or what their circumstance is, whether it's good or bad. They're content to be whatever generations past dictate they are. I feel this is exactly who and what Josh represents.

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This post has been included in the latest edition of The Steem News - a compilation of the key news stories on the Steem blockchain.

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Wow. An auspicious start, Rhonda.

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Yes, Pennsif is freakin' awesome. :-)

Chapter 3 - we keep hoping Taylor's disdain for the region will be proven untenable, but, alas, there is only one good thing in all of Appalachia (or the part of it she sees) - Eric. Maybe (big maybe) the sheriff will prove to be all right. But everything else is toxic. It's a pretty place, yes, beyond the litter... don't these home owners care enough to properly dispose of trash...? But the really telling detail is the way people stare at the newcomer, the outsider. That was CREEPY. The kind of thing that makes people hate small towns and Bible Belt people. I love-love-love the way Charles challenges Taylor to find something positive about the place.

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This raises another question for discussion: is there a point when searching to find one elusive positive thing about a region or a person can prove more detrimental than just declaring it(them) toxic and moving on?

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Well, THAT is a question, all right.
An author I know will never go NEAR her childhood home town, ever, due to PTSD from the horrible abuse she suffered there. I'm pretty sure she could think of at least one positive thing about the town, the school, the region, but I have not asked her or challenged her to do so. How can it be detrimental to search for at least one positive in a place? Ah, ****rather than just move on****, there's the rub. "This place is toxic. Don't go there." vs "I will go back in search of at least one positive." And then... more toxicity. Now I'm wondering how many people live in places where NOTHING good can be found.
"Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life," the Psalmist said, and the region Taylor Beckett maligns in "High Kill" is one where the vast majority of its inhabitants live by that Bible. Or pretend to. Or they imagine they're living by it, but they've made a sacrilege of it, using the Bible to judge, condemen, justify bigotry... where is God with the hurricane to wipe out these places? Lot's wife turned into a pillar of salt because she looked back at the burning city. Apparently we are to believe that God sent Jonah to Ninevah to warn the people to reform or get wiped out by some "natural disaster" aka the wrath of God. We are told that our silence condones evil - if we see evil and fail to oppose it - so how does the lame-@ss "Free Will" premise get God off the hook for no longer sending locust plagues and waves of punishments (See: Moses in Egypt).......????????
Jesus had to shake the dust of his hometown from his proverbial boot soles (sandals).
When animals are tortured and killed, routinely, for sport, and the Bible-thumping animal abusers live long and prosper, for generations, what does this tell us about Justice, karma, and the life of the world to come........
I think I'll go read a fairy tale now, where ogres die and dragons are slain.

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Back pedaling here:
There is some good to be found, if we look.
The question is whether there is enough good to counteract the evil.... right?

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Ooooooh, well said, Carol. Well said. This comment may eventually get printed and framed.

Regarding the first question: it can be noted that Eric has a higher level of sensitivity compared to Josh in their tolerance of violence and morbidity: "Josh was using the coon carcass as a tug toy, locked in a battle with the pup" versus "One glimpse of fluffy ringed tail and bloody, popped eyeballs was enough. Eric focused his attention ahead, on Junior and Rosie." We can guess that Josh developed learned behaviors from Junior, his father, who displays an indifference to the killing of animals, both wild and domestic, as shown by his intention to kill the pup Rosie because she abandoned the hunt and was therefore regarded by Junior as a "worthless piece of shit." Whereas at this same occasion, we see Grandpap showing a level of consideration for Eric's feelings by refusing to let the pup be killed in front of Eric, knowing he would be traumatized by such an event.

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As an author, I don't engineer scenes based on principles of psychology. I write them as they unfold in my head with characters who are fleshed out in my imagination with backstories and baggage that never make it to the page. It is very rewarding for me to see the things I write hold up under scrutiny and analysis of human nature in general. Like any reader, I can also go back to these scenes and take them apart instance by instance, and feel very gratified when my character motivations bear out.

I did, however, write part about Grandpap protecting Eric from witnessing the brutal murder of an animal as a very deliberate plot device. As the story unfolds, we see ugliness in the Blevins household that makes it necessary to establish a sympathetic element in Grandpap or the reader will never understand why Eric is so loyal to him for so long. I am very, very grateful to you, Michel, for bringing this into the forefront of discussion.

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Good point Michel -"we see Grandpap showing a level of consideration for Eric's feelings by refusing to let the pup be killed in front of Eric" even though he also says "Let it be" when Rosie is abused and dumped, i.e., don't even try to save her, Eric; that would be meddling. Good point too, Rhonda, that even the meanest SOBs must have a few redeeming virtues. :) If we could just keep Grandpap from getting drunk....

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Yep, if we could just keep half of Appalachia from getting drunk, high, whatever....

Chapter 4?

Hell yes!

Eric's song lyrics

stand out, and we may wonder why they're there, but anyone who fails to notice them might need to read fewer thrillers and give "literary" a chance.

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Oops. ERIK's song lyrics.
And the descriptions of him with his red guitar.
All that backstory unfolds with startling clarity. The old Taylor was lucid and likable. The post-Erik Taylor is a sharp-tongued, hard-edged woman who slams the door shut when old memories resurface. We know she's been through some kind of hell. Finding out what, and why this Erik guy is not part of her present, keeps us turning pages to find out why...

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You definitely got the nuances!

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Yeah, the Taylor of the flashbacks is so wholesome, so NOT fashion-conscious, so real and unpretentious. The Taylor of the present is at home with the guys, firing comebacks to their crudest comments while on a road trip. She's tough, she's capable, cynical, and no push-over. Charles keeps challenging her. She always keeps him at bay. They've known each other a long time, it seems. He is so patient. Nothing is lost upon him; he is so AWARE of Taylor, and we know a smart, tech-savvy researcher like him has to know waaay more than he's letting on. Again, this keeps the reader turning pages.
----What, you need exploding helicopters and screaming heroines running from knife-wielding assassins to keep you turning pages? Go, you're in the wrong place! :)

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"Exploding helicopters." Haaah! That is one joke that is never going to die. I laugh every single time.

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When the question was asked "did you pay much attention to the song lyrics before this chapter?" my answer is: No I haven’t. But since I know the author and her songwriting skills I found myself wondering what the deal with the lyrics was, what was its connection is to the novel, while seeing the author herself in the lyrics…

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The song lyrics are a third POV. ;-)

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They are indeed!
They're provocative and mysterious, and very Erik.
I'm just amazed and envious that this Muse came to you with those lyrics, while I stand on the side of the road, waving, saying Me! Me! Me! I'll take some o' that inspiration!

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I remember dreading a certain part of the story, because I knew that once it was written, the lyrics would stop. And they did. I grieved.

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Ohhhhh yes.
The sudden silence.

Profound Silence

If anyone says not enough action is in this book, they just don't get how much can go on in the space of fifteen minutes of silence. For action to CEASE is in itself a notable action.
Alas. I find myself very alone, as a reader, and wishing for people to talk books with. The way we'd talk about our cousins, our co-workers, our sisters, our neighbors. Because that what fictional characters are - our neighbors, in the guise of fiction!
(Well, Charles may be a fairy tale, but that is NOT a complaint.) :)

thanks for Sharing this on #pypt @pypt Rhonda!
It's exciting to see and hear what is in store for Steemhouse, in the Future!

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Thanks for sharing and engaging with Pimp Your Post Thursday.
You’ve earned SHADE tokens

Hello @steemhousepub, thank you for sharing this creative work! We just stopped by to say that you've been upvoted by the @creativecrypto magazine. The Creative Crypto is all about art on the blockchain and learning from creatives like you. Looking forward to crossing paths again soon. Steem on!

Before I joined STEEM i used to write a lot on wattpad which was an app for writing stories and interacting with other aspiring writers. It was a great way for people to write a book chapter by chapter with constant feedback from the community. I always wanted to take the best content and start a publishing company from it as it attracted millions of users and authors with an app for reading their work. You could build a following and a portfolio.

My vision was to contact the best authors and offer them a publishing contract with a small cut of any profit that i could make them from the book. That would be great to see on the STEEM blockchain. Or something similar.

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Niallon11, Steemhouse is a blockchain based publishing company. Our principle is similar to what you've described, except that we don't encourage publishing anything chapter by chapter. That's best done in closed critique groups, but we have that resource to offer as well.

Hi @steemhousepub!

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