A Progressive Novel

I turned forty-one last year.  I am fairly certain, in biological terms, I’m on the downhill slope of life.  But I still feel magic in the world.

As I get older, I’ve come to understand that magic is different for all people.  We all have to find our own sources.  You know it when you see it come into your life.  It is the moment you spend totally immersed in nature.  Or perhaps, when you saw the one you love stand somewhere up the aisle.  Saw your child born.  The sources are different and many.  You know them.  You have felt them.

I have been a writer since I was a young lad.  It was always a source of magic for me.  I did not realize what it meant to be a writer for many, many years.  Did not know I even belonged to that particular limb on the evolutionary tree.  But from earliest memory, it has given me joy to put thoughts on paper (or now, as the world has turned – to transmit thoughts to the realm of electronic data).  I published hand-drawn newspapers.  Wrote silly stories.  Dealt with life through poetry.  Was a second-rate journalist for short periods of time.  Found the joy of writing for political blogs.  And finally came to write a novel.

This week is a magical one for me.  My second novel has been published.  It is quite a feeling, to hold the product of your labor, as many of you know.  And I want to share it with as many human beings as possible.  I started blogging at Daily Kos, and from there drifted to the Booman Tribune, and My Left Wing, and Political Fleshfeast.  As I look at all the sites now, I’m kind of sad to see that the blogging left is sort of splintered out.  But I’m setting out to share this book with every person I can.  So I come here.  I’ve been meaning to come anyway.  So many old familiar faces.  And I feel the blogs of the left are a good place to share this piece of my work.  I hope you don’t mind.

I heard a commentator on the radio (I honestly forget the source) a few months ago, speaking of a decline in American literature, of the willingness or ability of authors to write novels with a political message.  There was mention of The Grapes of Wrath and To Kill a Mockingbird.  Perhaps a mention of The Jungle.  How novelists used to be able to take on weighty subjects.  To write with a perspective on the world.  But how things have been twisted in the modern world of American literature, so that if you write about political topics today, and your work has a distinct point of view on the topic, your writing is considered “preachy.”  It is frowned-upon.  Authors must cover-up their politics with story.  With metaphor.  With allegory.  Because if you allow your politics to bleed too clearly through, you are risking commercial disaster.

Well, I’ve got nothing to fear from commercial disaster.  I have started pretty far down the wrung as an author.  Skinny Berry is just another step up the ladder.  But it is definitely written with a viewpoint.  A viewpoint that many in the progressive blogosphere have been brave enough to embrace.  I’m proud to share the book with the world.  With you.

I’ll be writing a weekly e-Newsletter to publicize the book.  I’ll share it with you below.

Cool regards,


My Second Novel is Born

If you are getting this e-mail, then you are fortunate enough (or perhaps unfortunate enough) to be on my ever growing list of e-mail contacts.

I’m writing with news that I have recently given birth to my second novel, “Skinny Berry.”  It was born into this world officially on April 7, 2008 (though, as I will explain below, some scheming corporation actually leaked my humble novel early), and weighed in at a 1 pound and 1 ounce.  No.  It was not premature – that’s what novels weigh – and its gestation period lasted about three years, if you must know.  And I did the birth all natural, without narcotics or other pain inhibiting medications – with the exception of a few beers along the way.  Yes.  Drinking responsibly is okay when birthing a novel.  And the novel – she is beautiful.  Author and novel have been resting comfortably on the couch.

I’m not complaining, but birthing a novel is hard.  And still, the hardest part is yet to come.  We all want our novels to grow up to be on the New York Times’ Bestseller List.  Or to be an Oprah’s Book Club selection.  Or snapped up by Universal and made into a big-budget movie.  Pulitzer?  Oh – even I cannot think this.  It’s a legal-thriller.  Grisham-esque.  Maybe a twist of Crichton.  No Pulitzer.  But the point is – as the novel and I relax for our first weekend home together – we dream of greatness.  And for a novel, that means getting out into the hands of readers.

So this is my e-newsletter.  Week One.  I’m going to try to do this weekly.  Keep you posted on the behind the scenes story of “Skinny Berry.”  Let you watch the novel grow.  I’m just a proud parent really.

So here are the baby pictures:

The trade paperback direct from my publisher (they are wonderful people so I definitely encourage your patronage to them).

Here’s a cute one (an e-download for the techie in your life – and well suited to the reader on a tight budget).

Here’s one where the book is being held by a rich uncle.

And here is one with the book in the clutches of the evil empire (more later).

And who can forget Powell’s.

All right.  On to the newsy stuff.  And general BS.

Dunbar’s Number and Spam

For those of you who have had the fortune (or misfortune) of listening to me blather on for a while over a beer, you have probably heard me talk about “Dunbar’s Number.”  It is one of those concepts that has lodged firmly in my brain, mostly because it is a good excuse for me to cover my own failing memory.  Dunbar’s Number is a theoretical number (about 150) suggested by a British anthropologist which represents the upper limit on the number of inter-personal relationships a human creature can effectively maintain.  The basic idea is that we evolved as tribal-social animals capable of sustaining close relationships within a relatively small group of people.  So, in theory, trying to maintain close inter-personal relationships above the Dunbar Number is like swimming upstream.

I’m way over 150 people with the e-mail list I have these days.  The wonders of technology.  So I’m definitely in violation of Dunbar’s Number, when I try to write you a personal note about my book.  But this is not SPAM.  This is an actual e-newsletter.  I am a real person telling you real (or in some cases heavily exaggerated) anecdotes about producing and selling my novel.  I had more fun writing the e-newsletter for my first novel than about anything I did  –  and I absolutely loved hearing from you all.  So don’t hesitate to write back, if you have a mind to.  This is interactive.  Art is interactive.  I’m convinced.

Still, should you want to get off this e-mail list, by all means, just drop me a note and I will take you off.  On the other hand, if you want to share this with people on your own e-mail lists, please do so.  I mean, it’s not a Nigerian inheritance letter, and it won’t enhance your sex life in any way (if it does – you should seek professional help immediately), but I think it may still have some merit – if we are thinking of Karma and such things.  So pass it along.

e-Newsletter Contest

For those of you who were loyal readers of the “Direct Actions” e-newsletter, you will recall periodic contest giveaways.  The response was actually quite good.  And very entertaining.  So the “Official ‘Skinny Berry’ e-Newsletter Contest” will be a recurring event.

The first contest will encourage fast readers.  To enter, you need to send me an e-mail with 1) enough information to indicate you have read the book, and 2) detailing your favorite character and why you loved (or hated) them.  The first entry I receive for each character will win.  One entry per person.  Please put “Week One Contest” as the subject of your e-mail.  This contest may take a few weeks, as the book isn’t even in stores, so order up and send in your entries.  Those who have read advanced copies are, obviously, not eligible.

With this first contest, I’d like to offer a special prize.  Winners will receive one free copy of “Skinny Berry,” signed and dedicated however you want, and a photocopy of my rendition of how your favorite character looks (yes – I’m that demented – I actually know what most of the main characters look like in great detail).

Evil Corporations: GenAgra and Amazon

You will have to read the book to understand the particular evil of GenAgra.  But it’s not only fictional corporations that are greedy bastards – apparently.

The publishing industry has undergone some pretty dramatic changes in the past decade – from what I can understand, as someone starting at the very bottom, looking-up.  Like the changes in the music industry, technology has opened up impressive new ways for individuals and small companies to create and distribute the products of their artistic expression.  Little people can gain access to a global audience.  It is amazing.  Last year, for example, I was contacted by a friend (a Korean national) whom I had not seen for more than twenty years, to tell me he had come across “Direct Actions” while he was perusing the Internet at his bank job in Mumbai.

This model of distribution was not quick to gain acceptance from the more traditional mode of book distribution.  I had to fight like heck to get my first novel accepted into brick and mortar stores.  But just let something have a little success, and watch the corporate folks come running.

Amazon.com is a corporate giant.  Close to $15 Billion in revenue in 2007.  In March of this year, Amazon’s BookSurge (a print-on-demand division within Amazon) started contacting other print-on-demand publisher’s listing on Amazon and demanding that they sign contracts to start using BookSurge, or lose the ability to sell with Amazon.  Imagine your grocery store telling food manufacturers that they had to package their products with the grocer’s new packaging division, or their products could no longer be sold in the store.  It sounds kind of anti-trust-ish to me.  I’m sure better lawyers than I will be looking at that.  But Amazon is so big, they may get away with it.

Bottom line.  I’m encouraging people to buy from other sources.  Until the issue is resolved, or the Internet implodes or is replaced by an intricate system of carrier pigeons exchanging messages for us all.

And despite all this.  My book is still available at Amazon (at least for the time being).  And they actually released it a number of days before my publisher released the book (go figure).  Some of you who bought “Direct Actions” from Amazon even got notice of the new book before I knew it was out, as they directly marketed to you.  Big Brother.  I’m telling you.

Marketing Skinny Berry

This is going to be a long, slow road.  At least that is what I’m thinking.  The day job has been busy.  That is good fodder for future legal-thrillers.  But it means selling “Skinny Berry” will be all the harder.  Still, together with a number of you who have already shared wonderful ideas, I’ve got a few cool things that are in the planning stages.  I’m not ready to spill details at this point.  But I’ll keep you posted.

I hope to have a few events scheduled shortly – so that I can get a chance to see some of you again in person.  Ideally, we’ll get a copy of “Skinny Berry” into the hands of a thousand or so people by the summer reading season.  Perhaps you will see a fellow fan with a copy of the happy yellow novel at the beach.  And you can tell them you are an insider.  A reader of the Official “Skinny Berry” e-Newsletter.  Ah, the dreams we authors have for our newly birthed novels.

You Die-Hard Fans

If you’ve made it this far, there is no other explanation.  You are a die-hard fan.  And I’m grateful.  Thanks.  If you’d like to help out in trying to get “Skinny Berry” to the widest possible audience, I’m going to list a few suggestions.  You can undertake some, all or none of these suggestions.  Any little bit you do is appreciated.  And please tell me about your efforts via e-mail so I can thank you in future editions of the Official “Skinny Berry” e-Newsletter.

1.  Forward the e-newsletter to anyone who you think might be interested.  Drop your personal note to friends and family at the top and spread the word.  E-mail is incredible.  I actually helped that guy in Nigeria get his inheritance.  I kid you not.

2.  Write a review at Barnes and Noble and Amazon and wherever else you find the book.

3.  If you are a blogger, write a review, or post, or whatever.  I’m willing to send review copies to anyone with a decent readership – to get the word out.  I’ll be blogging about the book where I can.

4.  Media contacts – if you have any – I’m certainly open to give them access.  From one major radio appearance on a morning drive show in Saginaw, Michigan, I still get strangers two years later who mention they heard about me and my first book.  It is amazing.  I’ll follow up on any potential contacts you have.  Shoot me an e-mail.

5.  Word of mouth.  Obviously, it’s a good thing.  Maybe the best thing for a book like this.  So, if you like “Skinny Berry” (and “Direct Actions” for that matter), tell other people about it.  If you find new readers who are interested, get their e-mail and we’ll get them on the Official “Skinny Berry” e-Newsletter list.

6.  Spread the book around.  Sales are appreciated, naturally.  But if you can’t afford to buy your buddy a copy for his birthday, even lending your copy out isn’t a bad thing.  The more people who read it, the more chance it may break through to a wider audience.

7.  I’m happy to sign copies and dedications.  I’m quite sure we’ll have a number of signing events throughout Michigan.  But for those of you who are more remote, I’ll be happy to personalize a copy for the cost of postage.  (Heck for most of you who are friends – I may even cover postage one way).

8.  If you are outside Michigan, but interested in setting up an event, contact me.  If we can find a suitable location and ensure a fair turnout, I’ll probably make myself available.  Again, let me know your thoughts, and we’ll talk.

9.  The Faberge Shampoo Marketing technique.  Never fails.  You remember the commercial?  Right?  “So I told friends, and they told two friends, and so on and so on and so on.”  God I’m getting old.

10.  Your own idea here.  If you have a creative way to help this novel get read, let me know.  I’ll share it with others in the next episode of the Official “Skinny Berry” e-Newsletter.

Thanks for reading.  We’ll see you soon (I hope).

And remember.  In selling books, it is all about the cookies.  For those of you who do not understand “the cookies” because you missed out on the Official “Direct Actions” e-Newsletter – we’ll fill you in as time goes on.


Terry Olson


“Skinny Berry”

tjayolson (at) hotmail.com


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  1. A fan of karma.  And have long been thinking of scouting out this site — having seen word of it as a refuge for many old, familiar names.

    This seemed like a good enough excuse to write something.

    Hello Docudharma.

  2. Boston Joe visits Docucharma and publishes a new book!!!

    Welcome, its so good to see you. And please excuse me if I say that you belong here. Hope to see you hanging out more.  

    • RiaD on April 15, 2008 at 01:22

    Very happy to have you here!

    Hope you’ll find it a perfect fit & that you’ll hang out more & more & leave those other blogs eventually.

    I will look into getting your book & urge my local library to get it also!

  3. Welcome to docuDharma.

    Your book will get promoted and sold if you make sure you mention it when the weekly book essays are up.  Folks here will actually buy your book if you mention it (they bought my book, they’ll buy yours).

    The hippies didn’t lose the dKos wars.  No.  We got in our cyber VW vans, lit a beautiful doobie, and rolled on down the road to docuD, where we still live happily ever after.  Really.

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