New interview

My grateful thanks to author/editor/creator Kayla King for a new interview to promote Silver Sparks! Find it here:

Kayla King is the founder, editor-in-chief, and publisher for the outstanding anthology Pages Penned in Pandemic, among other notable accomplishments. She took me by surprise with some intriguing questions, and this is probably my favorite interview I’ve ever done.

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WASH AWAY free promotion

Ahead of the September 8 release of Silver Sparks, I’m offering a surprise free promotion for my first novel, Wash Away.

The Wash Away ebook will be available free August 30 through September 1. Grab your free copy! and thank you to Free Kindle Books and Tips ( for promoting this offer!

And I’m announcing today that the Silver Sparks ebook will be free during its launch period, September 10 through September 12. Watch for more information!

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Silver Sparks cover reveal

Once again, my gorgeous cover design is by Tudor Popa, who also designed Wash Away.

Silver Sparks is now available for Kindle pre-order!

Would you like to join the launch team for Silver Sparks and receive a free copy of the ebook? Sign up here!

Release date: September 8.

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Silver Sparks

Kaneia’s got to save the swamp dragons.

A multi-national pharmaceutical company is brutally harvesting red dragon salamanders at Trevian Bay, and barefoot 16-year-old Kaneia will go to drastic ends to stop it. Starting point: wake her marshwalking friend Jasper from the trance she laid on him ten years ago.

Kaneia and Jasper learn to communicate with the strange Silver Spark moths that glow in the dark but are invisible by daylight. But soon the moths are in the drug company’s gunsights as well. When they start dusting the bay with toxic chemicals, Jasper gives chase on a human-powered flying bicycle.

The corporate execs double down against this resistance. But the bay itself might have the final say about this drug project.

Silver Sparks is an upbeat, offbeat eco-adventure with a dash of first love and magic. If you liked Princess Mononoke or the Earthsea series, prepare to be delighted. J.S. Bowers’s second novel is a seaside roller coaster.

How do I join Kaneia and Jasper in their struggle to save the bay?

Silver Sparks will be available September 8!

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The uses of fiction

Book review: Everything and Less: The Novel in the Age of Amazon, by Mark McGurl.

I thought maybe other independent/self-published authors would have picked up on this book, since it’s all about the ways has influenced literature, writers, and readers since its launch in 1994. But with just two current reviews online, though, I see that Mark McGurl’s book doesn’t have the “social proof,” as they say. Compare against Gundi Gabrielle or Chandler Bolt, with reviews rocketing past 1,000 and increasing daily.

But this isn’t that kind of book, of course. It’s not a how-to for quick-release strategies or writing to genre or launch-team timetables. It’s academic, and it’s not light on jargon, including way more than I was expecting of economic theory. If you’re interested in literary movements and the future of literature, and willing to be patient with the plentiful Marxist references, it might appeal to you. If you’re an indie author and you hope to get some insights about how to game the amazon algorithm, you won’t, but you still might learn something useful.

I think many indie authors have absorbed that if you are self-publishing, your book is a product and you want to make it as appealing as possible. McGurl turns this screw a quarter-turn further to consider the novel as a service being provided to customers. Throughout the book, there’s a return to the theme question of “What are the uses of literature?” One of the uses is that literature is a way a reader chooses to spend their leisure time. “Opportunity cost” is an interesting factor here, one that resonated with me. Every book a reader chooses has an opportunity cost in the time it will take to read the book. If I read Mark McGurl’s book, it means I have that much less time in my lifetime to spend reading other books. I know! When I moved from Kentucky to New York in 2019, I made a concerted effort to weed my books and to only move the ones I hadn’t read. Three years later, I still haven’t read a single one of them. There’s too much new and tempting content coming along every day!

A central tenet for McGurl is that the amazon marketplace favors genre writers: especially romance, but the whole Kindle category system gives advantage to books that can be categorized in a very specific genre. In this world, “literary fiction” is not the top of the heap anymore, but just another genre that might or might not be the choice of any given reader. Any Kindle Direct Publishing author comes to realize very quickly that they’ll make more money if they write books in a series, if the series books are as similar as possible to each other, and that they had better release new books several times a year or their audience will lose interest. Readers want more of whatever they’ve found that gives them enjoyment and fulfillment, and McGurl points out that this means authors have a caregiving role; in an essential way, in our writing, we are providing care to our readers (or else we’re not successful).

Exploring the uses of literature, I’m grateful that it was near the end of the book when McGurl gets around to considering literature as a waste of the writer’s time. In the amazon world where the average number of books sold by self-published authors is under a hundred copies, there’s no escaping an upsetting conclusion like this. If the book is only going to be read by friends and family and is never going to gather an audience, that is not the goal of most independent authors. in 2022, there is a huge amount of “surplus fiction,” and more washing up on the shore every day.

I give Everything And Less five stars, for helping me understand how the fiction market has changed over my lifetime. I wonder: if genre-busting novelists like Kurt Vonnegut or Ursula K. LeGuin came along today as independent self-published authors, would they have even a shot of making a career?

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All Made Equal

In February 2021 my songwriting collaborator (and great friend) CP Butchvarov sent me some mp3 files that he had newly mixed from original recordings going back a lot of years. Among them was a song called “Pastry Blues” that I had completely forgotten about, until I heard it again. “Pastry Blues” is both hilarious and horribly tragic, with a gut-punch final line and an astonishing vocal performance by CP’s one-time musical partner Jo Flagg. It probably dates back to 1979, and I’m not boasting when I rave about it, because I had nothing to do with writing it.

Simply hearing a really good song is sometimes all it takes to kick my songwriting spirit into gear. I get a feeling reminding me that this is so rewarding, and so much fun! I’ve written before in this blog about my songwriting collaboration history with CP, so I won’t get into the weeds on that again.

There was an instrumental among these new mp3 files, and I thought I might try to write lyrics for it. I took the title, altered it slightly, and came up with maybe the most ethereal, wispy set of lines I’ve ever written. There might have been twenty syllables total in this all-but-vacant draft. They matched the music, and I could clearly hear them in my mind. But CP could not figure out how these lines in my head were intended to be sung against this guitar backdrop. There’s one of the major difficulties with long-distance songwriting collaboration.

I dashed off a couple of other proposed lyrics around the same time, and sent them to CP. One was a rant about technology surveillance, a pet topic of mine, obviously a major theme of my novel Wash Away. The song lyrics were heavily influenced by the schizo-cyber noir FX series “Mr. Robot,” in which most of the world’s financial data has been wiped away in a hack gone way haywire.

CP took two sketchy verses of these lyrics, originally called “All Will Be Made New,” and whipped up an arrangement with organ, bass, drum sequence and snaky electric guitar. As always, CP took ample liberties with the words as written. He changed them to fit into a rhythmic pattern, he jerked rhymes from place to place, and he found phrases that he thought were worth repeating. He also had the brilliance to change the word “destroyed” to “deleted.” Occasionally CP’s wholesale cosmetic gutting of my lyrics irritates me, but it’s better when I adopt the attitude that the first set I write is just a starting point.

I wrote four more verses once I understood the pattern of the lines CP had in mind. About half of those ended up in the song as CP developed it.

I believe that CP intended to re-record this song with a live drummer, but it didn’t come about, and he sent me this final mix the other day. He also suggested to me that “you might care to put the song on your website, perhaps with a discussion of how you and I manage to create such masterpieces.” All I can contribute to a discussion like that is what we did, as related above; “how” we manage to do it is, and always has been, a great and ravishing mystery to me.

Listen now: “All Made Equal.” All vocals and instruments by CP Butchvarov. Music by CP Butchvarov. Lyrics by JS Bowers. Copyright 2022, all rights reserved.

All Made Equal

Your own self-image is nothing but crude

Surveillance reveals the digital you

Firm data points replace memory scan

The last generation of unenhanced man

Synthesized music to match your taste

Selling your eyes, your attention, your face

When only machines discern what’s real

Algorithm understands how you feel

Bulletproof code of false review

Upcoming wipe where all’s made new

All made equal, all deleted,

All made equal, all made new

Manipulated pixels will make you feel better

Generated thoughts agree to the letter

Comparing results of a trillion samples

Outlying results negated and canceled

Minutes and hours of stuporous murmurs

Transferred to bits on distributed servers

When only machines reveal what’s real

Algorithm understands how you feel

Bulletproof code of false review

Upcoming wipe where all’s made new

All made equal, all deleted,

All made equal, all made new

Street cams recognize you by your walk

Find your crouch from the sentient flock

Head bowed, phone cupped in your hands

The last generation of unenhanced man

Compliance rejected, objection abandoned

Scatter point plots paired against the random

Throw your body on the gears of the wheel

The algorithm understands how you feel

Bulletproof code of false review

Upcoming wipe where all’s made new

All made equal, all deleted,

All made equal, all made new

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Now available!

Wash Away is now available in Kindle and paperback on

Wash Away is a science fantasy satire about chemistry, music, climate change, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, surveillance, corporate ethics, and entrancement — as well as mermaids and robots.

I’m grateful to all my beta readers and writing groups for advice, guidance, and support!

Later this month I will be running a free Kindle promotion. If you’d like to be part of the launch team and get a free Kindle copy, please sign up here and I’ll send you the details.

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