Novels

From the Daily Grind

Hometown News leaps into the newspaper world I inhabited for most of my professional career and reconsiders the dynamics of communities across America that are usually outside the big media focus.

Although the local newspaper has long been central to the identity and life of American cities large and small, few readers know what goes on inside its executive offices or newsroom. Hometown News takes you behind the scenes to revisit the potential and conflicts at the heyday of the daily journalism industry and the communities it served. In this tale, a new generation takes command and brings vision to a mid-American industrial city. For all of their idealism, though, its young journalists soon find themselves embroiled in the growing pressures and frustrations of the changing corporate workplace itself and globalized economy. More and more, as the bottom line battles the deadline , their lives and those of the public around them become increasingly surreal. Who pays the price in the end?

As author Nancy Crowe says, this novel “captures the small Midwestern newspaper experience so well it’s a little scary.”

Hometown_NewsTo sample or order, click here.

~*~

 Landing in the Pacific Northwest

She may be a promising young professional from the East Coast, but when Jaya arrives in Prairie Depot to jump start her career, her best intentions quickly become entangled. Yes, she winds up teaching yoga classes in her spare time, but that’s not all – especially once she’s caught the eye of a young waiter at the corner restaurant.

PromiseWhen their dream of resettling in the Pacific Northwest finally becomes a reality, she and Erik find little resembles what they’d anticipated, even before the volcano erupts.

My novel Promise arises in the dimensions of their potential, expectations, unspoken definitions and their differing interpretations, as well as the vows they exchange. In the end, as they demonstrate, the state of matrimony can be a place in a particular landscape as well as a covenant or a contract to fulfill.

To sample or order, click here.

~*~

Jaya’s influence extends through her yoga student Kate and a colleague, known simply as Yogi, especially once they marry and rejoin Erik and her in the desert country of the Pacific Northwest.

Told from Kate’s perspective, Peel (as in apple), pares away the karma her husband seems fated to continue as she, too, struggles for her own footing in an unfamiliar terrain far from her native Prairie Depot. As she finds, there’s no turning back, especially in the realm of passion.

Peel 2For your own free copy, click here.

~*~

For Lucy and her husband, Todd, the connection builds on a different dimension. As neighbors in the Ozarks in the interim between Jaya and Erik’s move from Prairie Depot to the apple orchards in the Pacific Northwest, the two couples develop a close relationship.

Now, as Todd follows his career as a geologist, the two couples reunite. And the volcano isn’t the only thing that blows up with St. Helens in the Mix.

St Helens 1For your own free copy, click here.

~*~

When Kokopelli, the mythological hunchbacked piper of the American Southwest, flees the furor he’s aroused in one Native village, he meanders to the lush orchards far to the north. There, he meets up with an Irish fiddler, and soon they’re swapping tales and music in rounds of weddings and feasts, dancing with many spirits along the way.  Sometimes they’re even welcomed.

As Kokopelli’s Hornpipe plays, the harsh land and its peoples respond. Along with laughter and healing.

Take your own look at the score by clicking here for a free copy.

Kokopelli 1~*~

Along my Hippie Trails

Here I take a look at the late ’60s and early ’70s without many of the typical stereotypes. What emerges is, I hope, a much gentler and more whimsical view of a time and movement that challenged and continues to transform America. As I contend, hippies came — and still come — in all varieties, and nobody ever met 100 percent of the ever so vague definition. Not all the guys had beards, for one thing, nor did all the girls have long straight hair. As for drugs, anti-war protests, and free love? Take a look. There are many strands to the legacy.

The adventures of my Hippie Trails series open with Daffodil Sunrise. Here the Revolution of Peace and Love rocks a once-tranquil university in the rolling hills of Indiana when a young scholar heads east for enlightenment. He has no clue that his aging dorm obstructs the university administration’s ambitions, but as he and his neighbors resist the old-boy network’s machinations to raze his residence for their own clandestine profits, their sophomoric assumptions and pranks lead into high-stakes confrontations, even before antiwar protests, illicit drugs, and free love enter the picture. It’s enough to turn any straight into a hippie, as the evolution of Dorn Lucas into DL demonstrates. And enough to rattle both the town of Daffodil and the state of Indiana.

Daffodil-jnanaTo sample or order, click here.

~*~

The story moves on after college, when he hits the road with his thumb outstretched and lands on a semi-communal farm in the back porch of New England.  Sometimes a story can be told from several perspectives, and that’s the case with my parallel presentations of his quest for renewed love.

HippieLoveIn Hippie Love, a single look or word opens doors to delight that would otherwise elude him. In the course of not just one but two Summers of Love, he discovers how different each partner can be in his drive for satisfaction. Along the way, as many of his wildest fantasies are fulfilled, he gains mastery in more than technique. But it’s not without confusion, dark streaks, and dead ends.

My relationship-focused Hippie Love is a humorous and erotic tale. To sample or order, click here.

~*~

In contrast, Hippie Drum is rife with dogs, cats, and chickens — all part of the conflicted ambitions that erupt in the dilapidated farmhouse and grounds he and his housemates share. Here the Revolution of Peace and Love runs smack into the realities of toilet paper shortages, sour milk, well-water outages. And free love, as our hippie boy discovers, often comes at a price.

Hippiedrum-finalTo sample or order, go to Smashwords.

No, that’s not me on the cover, though it does bear an eerie resemblance.

Reader Aggie Snyder-Cousino wrote: “Just wanted you to know that I read and enjoyed Hippie Drum very, very much. I read it over the past weekend on my Nook and I could not put it down! Thank you for making it free, but I would have gladly paid for it. It was eloquently and beautifully written. I enjoyed reading about DL and his quest for love and peace. More hippie stories please!”

An anonymous reader posted at the Barnes & Noble site: “A surprisingly well written novel about one hippie boy’s quest for love while living on a farm with a bunch of colorful, like minded individuals. Told with eloquence and warmth, DL struggles with finding new love as he tries to recover from a broken heart. All the while he is working as a newspaper photographer and hanging with his friends at Ranchos Huevos. … A sweet, nostalgic tale about growing up and finding spirituality while living in troubled times. Hippies or any peace loving dude or dudette should read this.”

Author Penelope Merrill noted at the Smashwords site: “Hodson explores the period of young adulthood to which all of us can draw parallels: the search for someone and the search for meaning. The group at the farm stumbles along, acting and reacting to each other. An enjoyable book by an independent author most likely to be found on a site like Smashwords. I appreciate the author’s offering of a free book. I will be getting another.”

Andy of the blog Law School Is So Over relayed: “Just a note to let you know I’m really enjoying the book. I should be doing other things, but I find myself reaching for it too often! I think you’ve captured the sense of time and feeling well (those came slightly before my time, but persisted in my own network). When I was a kid, I read Divine Right’s Trip in the Whole Earth Catalog, and I hear bits of it echoing through your writing as well. As I said, good reading. It also reminds me of Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me.”

As Lauryn E. Nosek, at Nightmares, Daydreams, and Imagined Conversations, said, the novel “examines one man’s journey to define ‘hippie,’ to find love and community and maybe even himself in those first few difficult years after college. Self-reflective and insightful, the novel feels more like a memoir. … Everything in the novel has an ephemeral feel to it. But that is largely the point. Our experiences and the people we share them with, even who we are or who we feel we are at any given moment are transitory and can never be recaptured. … The characters prove at times to be as elusive for the reader as they are for DL. Like the portraits he infrequently snaps with his camera, the images are there but the fuller sense of self is elusive (often, as DL discovers repeatedly, even to themselves). The parade of near misses with women of drastically different personalities shows how lost DL is in his search, but also the interesting things one discovers while looking for something specific. … The novel’s pacing and rhythm can take some getting used to … a style that is quietly engaging and unavoidably distinctive. Subdued and laid back, imperfect but not trying to be, Jnana Hodson’s Hippie Drum embodies the recurring sentiment of ‘be cool.’”

For the Periodical Gazette, this is “a fantastic ride … fast paced … like reading the script of a television soap opera.”

And the Parasite Guy “liked reading about the commune.”

~*~

As I look back on the hippie movement, I’m still struck by the two opposite directions it appeared to be careening. One retreated back to the earth, whether as a commune or simply as small-time farming. The other zoomed toward a bohemian inner city.

Blending the two tensions, Subway Hitchhikers takes the story that unfolds in my Hippie Trails series from its outbreak in Daffodil Sunrise and on through the circus of Hippie Drum and passions of Hippie Love in a race to its underlying culmination.

Subway_HitchhikersTo sample or order, go to Smashwords.

As my first published novel, Subway Hitchhikers, may be read as an introduction to the bigger story. (Think of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.) But it also brings the story full circle.

It was originally issued in 1990 as a trade paperback from Fithian Press in Santa Barbara, California, and is now available on ebook platforms from Smashwords.com.

As others have said:

“From the myriad of novels that have appeared on the bookshelves in shops and stores across the country in recent years, none is more original – more daring – than Subway Hitchhikers,” wrote Jack Barnes, book critic of the New Hampshire Sunday News and the Maine Sunday Telegram. He continued by hailing its “smoothly polished poetical prose that fits together like … semi-cubistic paintings” and called it “a work which merits being read more than once to be fully savored.”

“Drawing upon the social upheaval of the late 1960s and early ’70s, Subway Hitchhikers takes the underground in all of its forms as its theme, whirling in a Mixmaster of ideas, images, jokes, nonsense, and philosophy in its central characters’ quest for meaningful community,” publisher John Leonard wrote.

“This lively and inventive novel recaptures an interesting era of American culture,” novelist Rob Swigart observed. “Subway Hitchhikers is a delight to read.”

Readers would prefer one of the remaining trade edition copies may contact me. They’re $12 apiece, postage and handling included, within the United States.

100_8863The Fithian edition.

~*~

Many hippies at least sampled yoga or Buddhism — and many went deep into the related practices. Doing so often meant becoming celibate and vegetarian as well as abstaining from pot, acid, and even alcohol, yet they might also report identifying themselves as more fully hippie than ever.

Although DL heads off to a Tibetan monastery, his experience would likely resemble what I relate in my novel, Ashram. Each aspirant faces intense psychological and spiritual battles along the route to self-realization and inner peace. It’s not an easy progression and there are no shortcuts, as the eight students who move to the yoga farm discover. For one thing, they’re riding along with a maverick swami — and her word is law. And then there’s the quest for harmony with each other, in spite of their daily conflicts.

AshramTo sample or copy, click here.

The story draws upon a crucial turning point in my own journey. For two-thirds of my life now, I’ve lived with remarkable memories of dwelling a year-and-a-half in an American ashram. When others have asked me about the experience, I’ve had to admit how difficult it is to explain briefly. Inspiring, perplexing, clashing, life-changing – it’s all of these, as well as being from another era. Just what happened in our daily practice there? You really need a novel to get an idea of its range, even when it’s focused on a single day, as this novel does.

Ashram revisits that original flowering in America, before a wave of scandals and economic hardships devastated many of the early organizations. Here, eight adherents undertake a back-to-the-earth existence on a reclaimed farm in the mountains where they pursue exotic practices and philosophies of human transcendence under the guidance of their guru, an often boisterous woman who’s come far from her native Tennessee. In the process, they find that following an outrageous teacher in her rogue outfit with the secrets for a drugless high can lead to more than anyone bargained for.

The story follows a single mid-spring day from before sunrise until well after midnight. Each of the eight chapters focuses on a different resident – the actions, thoughts, motivations, and interactions of individuals ranging from a registered nurse and a civil engineer, who has put his career on hold, to a high school exchange student and an ex-druggie who arrived through a judge’s order.

In Ashram, I walk a middle path between those works that breathlessly adore the guru, on one hand, and those that revel in blame, on the other. What emerges instead is a series of encounters demonstrating ways monastic life is intensely down-to-earth, mindful to little things, and a celebration of community, rather than an escape.

Set in the period before scandals rocked most of the organizations of Eastern religion in the West, and before yoga became essentially a physical health movement, Ashram probes the excitement, opportunity, idealism, and intense physical and psychological labor that flourished briefly before the followers’ youthful freedom gave way to the demands of professional careers and raising children.

“Wow,” blogger Gwenda Bond remarked, “this sounds like the worst novel ever about yoga.”

Well, I guess it depends on your expectations. Or whether, as we used to say, you’re on a false trip.

Ashram was first published as an ebook by the PulpBits foundation in Vermont in 2005.  It’s now available in a new edition from Smashwords by clicking here.

~*~

Is it fantasy, steampunk, dystopia …
or something else altogether?

In Big Inca Versus a New Pony Express Rider, global intrigue collides in a declining backwater city when a green college graduate is put to work restoring the old mills along the river. In the process, an international conglomerate with money to burn runs up against ancient underground currents, and poor Bill’s caught in the middle.

Inca 1For your own free copy, click here.

~*~

What happens when English Bible translator John Wycliffe and Dutch surrealist painter Hieronymus Bosch show up as refugees centuries later in a small town on the American prairie? They remain creative forces who jolt the world beyond, With a Passing Freight Train of 119 Cars and Twin Cabooses at their service.

Train 1For your own free copy, click here.

~*~

The electrified third rail of a subway track propels the three sections of Third Rail. Are they novellas? Or sets of short stories and microfiction? Does it matter?

The characters and plots – some cast off from earlier projects – run where they will.

Ride along if you dare.

Third Rail 1

For this free Thistle/Flinch PDF edition, click here.

~*~

COMING IN JULY 2017: Returning to abandoned plans for two youthful novels spawns an invitation to imagine ways the stories might still unfold. The outlines and drafts stir memories of connections long lost – friends, interests, places. If anything, the world’s turned even weirder in the interim. The volume opens with a surreal presidential campaign and closes with a deadly dinner. But it could have been the other way around, a deadly presidential campaign and a surreal dinner. Just maybe.

Fiction

Along the Parallel Tracks of Yin and Yang

Enjoy this collection and more at Thistle/Flinch editions.

~*~

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA As a footnote

Even while eschewing commercial genres when it comes to my own fiction, I seem to have created my own in Hippie Lit line and the like. It’s been a zig-zag trip, providing me a wide range of experiences to draw on and to share with readers. I hope you enjoy their unique impressions. Here’s to pleasurable reading.

~*~

As I was at the time of the Hippie Trails events.

As I was at the time of the Hippie Trails events.

Jnana Hodson

And then, four decades later …