Thanks to Cassia in my newest novel, What’s Left, I’ve been reworking many of my earlier novels, deepening and renaming many of their characters, sharpening the plots, and changing both their titles and covers.
Check out what’s happening. Here’s to adventurous pleasure.
Freakin’ Free Spirits
These form more a cycle than a series. You can jump in with any of the four books, since each one stands on its own. But the characters and events interlock into a bigger, more expansive whole when taken together.
At their heart stands acerbic Cassia, who attempts to discover all she can about her father’s life before his disappearance in an avalanche in the Himalayas when she’s only 11. Her long process of recovery eventually leads her to seeing herself and her world through his eyes, too. And then there’s all that she learns about his turbulent and sometimes reckless past before she even comes into the picture. How can she not be both amazed and aghast?
What’s Left traces Cassia’s struggle from age 11 into her mid-30s as she sees the wider impact of her mother’s extended Greek-American family and its landmark restaurant. No wonder her father was drawn into its orb. More important, she realizes her own destiny in its survival and her personal fulfillment.
Daffodil Uprising delves into her father’s decision to attend college in Cassia’s hometown. He’s a young hotshot photographer who settles into an unconventional dormitory as the hippie movement gains momentum in the 1960s. Welcome to protests, the Pill, and pot as well as the mounting struggles of the Revolution of Peace & Love as it hits rural Indiana.
Pit-a-Pat High Jinks continues with his heading for the hills after graduation. Brokenhearted after his first lover deserts him, he settles in with a band renting a dilapidated farm in the foothills somewhere north of Gotham. In the full flowering of the hippie outburst of the early ’70s, he’s surrounded by colorful free spirits and a sequence of lovers, each adding to his understanding and appreciation of life. A gentle nudge from a guardian angel gets him hooked on Tibetan Buddhism, and more than prayer wheels start spinning in the right direction.
While living on the farm in the hills, his brutal work schedule in the town down in the valley does allow him a three-day weekend once a month. He uses the opportunity for jaunts into Gotham, where he’s soon studying with a Tibetan lama based in the Lower East Side. His adventures in the Big Apple are an eye-opening urban parallel to his rural life to the north, but they take on an increasingly surreal tone on each visit. Welcome to Subway Visions and his ultimate hitchhiking trip … the one that leads directly to Cassia’s future.
Look for these at Smashwords.com and its affiliated ebook retailers.
From the industrial heartland
Hometown News leaps into the newspaper world I inhabited for most of my professional career. In its newly revised edition, the novel can be seen as a report from Trump country — from one of the small industrial cities that have been crushed by multinational capitalism.
As author Nancy Crowe says, this novel “captures the small Midwestern newspaper experience so well it’s a little scary.”
What others have said about the earlier versions
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 … 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.”
“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.”
As a footnote
It’s been a long time since I first drafted Subway Hitchhikers in the apartment shown below. I had just left the yoga ashram and was editing a small-town daily newspaper in my native Ohio.