Social Consciousness

There’s been quite a bit of talk in the mystery writing community lately about issue-oriented and socially conscious plotting.  During a panel at Killer Nashville (a recent convention for mystery writers and fans) discussing this topic, Betty Webb (the Lena Jones series) was mentioned as the top example.  Grave issues we face today become the story and in some cases (Webb’s for sure) real change occurs as the result of a work of fiction! A novel can move the world?  YES!

Many authors, including myself, address social issues in their stories, though almost always to a much milder degree than Betty Webb accomplishes.  Our stories, for example, do not bring us the death threats she has faced.

Those who join the writing community today learn there’s much more to a writing career than simply writing “The End” on a sharply done manuscript.  Social consciousness can be one aspect of this.  Writing something we can happily promote is another aspect. A  second career, promotion of our work, is essential if we want anyone beyond family to buy our books.  In fact, I read advice recently suggesting those who don’t feel they can become hard-working advocates and promoters of their writing ought not to consider a writing career at all!

From experience over twenty-five years I can affirm the truth of that.  We  no longer lounge in the glow of being published while someone else sees that people learn about our writing and rush to buy and read it.  Those days are gone.

The days of the traditional book always being printed on paper between two covers are also gone.  Books on tape, (or CD), books read on screens, books downloaded on a multitude of technological wonders, are rushing into our lives.

The times they are a-changing.

Okay, let’s go a bit further.

How about bringing social consciousness into the book publishing business itself?  E-books of all kinds are environmentally sound.  They don’t require cutting a forest to make paper that is then bleached with chlorine.  They don’t use oil-based inks sheltering several volatile organic compounds to make words on that paper.

So far, so good.  But alas, what are the “I love the feel, smell, and eye attention gained from a real book” people to do if they care (as people increasingly do these days) about a “real” book’s impact on the environment?

The answer is staring us in the face and I use Wolfmont Press as my example.  Recently Wolfmont published a delightful little book called THE WRITERS’ JOURNEY JOURNAL.  Beyond being stuffed full of thoughts, entertaining insights, and good advice from sixty authors in the book’s essays and snippets of wisdom, this book was printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper not bleached with chlorine and produced in a mill powered with electricity generated by wind turbines.  Low or no VOC inks were used. Books are Print on Demand, in other words, no stacks of warehoused books, perhaps trucked long distances in gas-eating vehicles.  Just books made as needed.

In fact, all of Wolfmont’s books are created POD.  They cost a bit more to produce than thousands done at once by offset, but, by gosh, it’s “waste not, want not” and other old-timey values re-created in today’s world.

I love it.

My attention was first drawn to Wolfmont when I was invited to submit a story to their yearly holiday short story anthology, published to earn money for The United States’ Marine  Corps Reserves’ annual Toys for Tots campaign.  Neither publisher, editor Tony Burton, nor any author earns money for their work on these anthologies.  Promotion expenses  (and there is a lot of promotion, willingly done) are covered by the authors and Wolfmont.

As I grew to know more about this small but out-of-size valuable and moral company I dared to dream of working for them.  Now, more than a year later, I am grateful and proud to say that the small,  royalty-paying publisher Wolfmont will present the next novel in my “To Die For” mystery series in the spring of 2010.

A publisher can help move the world?  Yes, maybe it can!

See and page 61 in THE WRITERS’ JOURNEY JOURNAL, available through your favorite bookseller or



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5 Responses to “Social Consciousness”

  1. Sylvia Says:

    I agree, Radine. Authors, publishers and readers–all of us can help make the world a more decent place to live.

  2. Pat Brown Says:

    I love POD too, until it turns out I can’t get recognized by such organizations as MWA, RWA or ITW and my books relegated to the same status as self published in terms of the recognition that can be gained by being nominated or winning major awards.

    Put pressure on them to stop this nonsense that a book has to have a thousand or more copies printed and warehoused before they call us real writers and I’ll stop pursuing a publisher who can get me those things.

  3. Tony Burton Says:


    I understand and appreciate what you are saying. Even though the protagonist in my two novels is a Protestant minister, I try to portray him as I hope all Christians would be: tolerant and not full of hate toward other religious beliefs. Why? Because I’d like to see all Christians act that way… for that matter, all Muslims, Jews, etc.

    But to delve into the second part of your post, there too you and I see eye-to-eye. I can’t see the point in publishing books in a way that is ultimately destructive to the environment when there are other choices. Moral high ground? Maybe. I think it’s just common sense.

    And I am very, VERY proud to be the publisher of your next novel!

    Tony Burton

  4. Marilyn Meredith Says:

    I am tickled that you found a new home for your books and it sounds like the perfect spot for you. I’ll be looking forward to your next one and seeing you at one of the conferences. We do plan to go to Mayhem again. Passing on Bouchercon, have something else that same weekend where I always sell lots of books.

    So enjoyed spending time with you and John last May, hope to do it again soon.

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