Friday, June 30, 2017

Background on the Novel, Universal Man: II. The Leadbetter Estate

When I was a sophomore in high school back in 1970 or so, I had often heard of the Leadbetter Estate, a large tract of wooded land with derelict buildings on the south side of LaCamas Lake.  Part of the legend was the caretaker who would shoot at trespassers with a shotgun loaded with rock salt.  It was a place that adventuresome, party-minded high schoolers would sneak into on a Friday night.  

One such night I was part of such a group.  Maybe it was after a football game and a dance.  It could have been a dozen people.  I only remember one thing: climbing the stairs of an abandoned, three story log mansion in the dark without flashlights and grabbing the foot of one of the most beautiful girls in the school.  She was on the steps directly above me and I reached up though the gaps between the treads.  She screamed.  We never saw a caretaker.  The girl became a girlfriend for a while later on.

That was the first time I visited the Leadbetter Estate.  There were numerous subsequent times.  Usually I would ride my bike to the property with a girlfriend (not the one on the steps).  Once or twice we would row a canoe across the lake, land at the dock, and walk up the trail.  Once I slept overnight in a field, waking up in the morning to see the unconcerned caretaker mowing the grass.  A few times I’d sit for hours on a sunny balcony and read.  Not all of the buildings were abandoned.  Once a friend and I crawled through an unlocked window into a long, one story cabin and rummaged through the drawers to find some letters, which told about the owners, people who traveled the world and owned orange plantations in Florida.  The story about those people was that they would land their plane on LaCamas Lake and spend weekends there,

All the buildings of the Leadbetter Estate are gone now.  All the giant Douglas Fir trees are gone.  In their place are hundreds of what surely are million dollar homes, belonging to what surely are people who commute to Portland.  I’ve driven through the neighborhood of all those houses.  I think my parents once said an NBA Trailblazer player owned a house there.  One of the important supporting characters in the novel lives there.  (I won’t say who in this blog. You’ll have to read the book.)  The only remaining vestige of the old Estate, if it is related to the Estate at all, is a house on Leadbetter Road on the opposite side of the lake, a house that somewhat resembles the Pittock Mansion in Portland, though much smaller.

Another vestige, a fictional one, is that I re-created the entire Estate in the novel, gave the place a new, yet historically significant name, and located it somewhere else.  I’ve even included a photo of the log mansion in my book.  My photo above is of a walkway on the Estate. I’ll say more about all this in a later post.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Background on the Novel, Universal Man: I. Visits with the Hutterites

In Charles Frazier’s “award winning” Civil War novel, Cold Mountain, the main character, Inman, walks from a field hospital in Raleigh to Waynesville in an arching route that takes him near Boone. Along the way he encounters a variety of people, both evil and noble.  It’s been a long time since I read the book, but I remember he spent time with an elderly goat herder lady where he was able to rest and recover from his wound.

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This fictional, modestly-epic journey was an influence on my novel, Universal Man.  I won’t say what parts, or characters in the novel, but I’d like to tell you something of the novel’s background--personal experiences that I used as resources.

The Hutterites are spiritual and historical cousins to the Amish.  Both groups grew out of the Anabaptist movement of the Protestant Reformation.  Both are somewhat insular and “non-resistant” that is they keep separate from the larger culture and they are pacifistic, and generally not involved in political matters.  Hutterites differ from Amish in that, not believing in holding private property, they live in small “colonies” on large farms, they are located primarily in the western states and provinces, and they use modern farming practices.  They understand their communal lifestyle as imitating the early Christians.

I have visited Hutterite colonies on a few occasions, the first time when I was an Agriculture Education student at Washington State University in Pullman. I had heard there was a colony near Spokane and I asked around campus and found a professor that knew approximately where they were.  One Saturday I found it and spent the day there.  I used the visit to fulfill an Educational Psychology assignment.

A couple years later, for our wedding trip, Edie and I spent a few days on a colony of the Hutterian Society of Brothers (the Woodcrest Bruderhof) near Rifton, New York.  The Bruderhof (I call them the Arnoldleut), whose origin was the during the 1930s in Germany, has had a rocky off-and-on-again relationship with the Old Hutterites, as I call them, but they both are communal and they both look to the same historical antecedents. 

Last then, on a trip to the West Coast and back in our green 12-passenger van pulling a small cargo trailer, we with our six children stopped at two Hutterite colonies in Canada, one in the Schmiedeleut branch and the other a Dariusleut, I believe.* The first was welcoming and gave us a tour.  They seemed enchanted with our singing of rounds, because they never used harmony in their music, which was vocal only.  The second colony was in the middle of a vast, open prairie.   The minister, the colony leader, was standoffish, though to give him excuse, we did drop in on a Sunday, their rest day.  As we were leaving, we found some children outdoors visiting with an older brother, a young man who had come for the afternoon. He apparently had left the colony to live a more independent life and he was happy to talk with us. 

All this experience is background for my novel.  I’ll reveal only that Hutterites occupy several chapters.  I wish I could have included photographs of them in the book, but since Hutterites prefer in principle not to have their pictures taken, I don’t have any of my own at all.  In my library, however, is the stunning book of photographs (and informative, sympathetic text), The Hutterites of Montana, by Laura Wilson.

Post Script: I must say as an afterthought that I hated the book Cold Mountain.  The movie was even worse, having been filmed in Romania and not here in Western NC.  I do love the real Cold Mountain, itself, having spent a lot of time exploring in the Shining Rock Wilderness.

*The fourth branch is the Lehrerleut.  The “leut’s or “peoples” are named for their founders.  Hutterites who emigrated to North America and did not resume the communal lifestyle are called Praireleut.

Monday, June 26, 2017

14% Book Discounts Available

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Books are expensive, which is why whenever possible, I buy them at the local used book store, Mr. Ks.  Or, I buy used books on Amazon.  Some Amazon re-sellers offer my new books lower than retail, and some, amazingly, offer them higher. The other day I saw When Earth Whispers for sale for $42 Australian! (But shipping is free.)  

If you buy any of the three Universal Man volumes, or When Earth Whispers,at the Create Space store, I have a 14%-off-retail discount code available. If you buy the books at the regular Amazon site, you get the Kindle e-versions free.  They have most of the photographs in color.

Speaking of photographs, this one I took last Saturday is of a Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth (hemaris diffinis) on Rose Milkweed (asclepias incarnta).  Here's another article on the moth.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The World Magazine "Missing Elements" Ad

As I began typing the first letters of this blog post, I was thinking about monarch butterflies, and I glanced up to see how many chrysalises I have on our bay window and saw a 5th instar larva that had been hanging in the J-form overnight had just split its skin and was transforming.  Now it is an elongated jade-green teardrop twisting and shrinking toward the compact gold-flecked pupa it will be for the next 10 days or so.

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The Missing Elements ad with a monarch butterfly on a zinnia flower is enigmatic, I think.  When writing fiction it’s usually more elegant to avoid hitting the plot points too much “on the nose” as some critiquers say.  How can I interest readers about a mystery, or a twist in the story ahead of time without revealing those things?

In the early months of 1976, I was working on the green chain of a lumber mill along the Columbia River.  The green chain was in a long shed open on the north side, toward the yard, but closed on the riverside, so I couldn’t see Mt. Hood towering in the east.  Pulling lumber, some of it 12”x 12” by 10 feet long was an eight-hour weight lifting marathon every day, so by evening I was exhausted.  I’d fall asleep in an easy chair while listening to classical music on the radio.  But one night on the news, I heard about flooding in Bangladesh and how people were starving, and I decided to go there and help.  I then studied Agriculture in college.

In short I never went to Bangladesh, but I ended up working in an area where the people are as needy, and maybe more so.  My idea was to go where the human need is greatest and the people trying to meet that need were the fewest.  Thirty years ago that place was in the realm of abortion, and it is now, I believe.  

My stories often follow the same principle that guided my life work.  You might say my stories, most of them, are agenda driven.  They begin with an idea.  But the story must be a story, that is, to appear as much as possible to represent real life, and not be a tract.  A breeze in the face, and not a hammer to the thumb.  Maybe even a stiff gust of wind that throws you off balance for a moment, or possibly changes the course of your life.

I’ll give one example of a buried agenda.  “The Tragedy of Bernie the Homeless” is not about animals or beekeepers.  I’m sure you wouldn’t have guessed that if you just read the story.  I’m sure that the UK based, post-environmentalist Dark Mountain Project wouldn’t have published the story if they knew what my agenda was.  They certainly noted the agenda that I presented, one with which I am sympathetic.  The story works in many ways, I hope.  But it should raise the question, “If maleness and femaleness, which exists in every single cell of every single person, is fluid, then isn’t species also fluid?”

Some of my stories are breezy and fun, I hope.  One or two are horrific.  I’m tempted to tell you which is what so that you’ll want to read them, but I’ve said enough for now.  Except… “Spark” explores the idea of a finite universe.  It’s tale of scale.  A short, short, short story—even the title is short—about next-to-the-hugest concept we can imagine.

Go HERE to read brief blubs of the stories in When Earth Whispers & Other Mostly Speculative Tales.  You may find in one of these stories and elsewhere in my writing that monarch butterflies are an argument against abortion.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Welcome World Readers!

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[UPDATE 7/11/17: Check out my Creator Page at PATREON]

“Chaotic terrain” is an astrogeologic term to describe a jumbled landscape on a planet, such as Mars.  It’s a type of landscape not really seen on Earth, but I think it's appropriate for our world on spiritual, cultural, and political levels.  At the same time, there’s incredible beauty everywhere.  I write stories that attempt to capture both the chaos and the beauty of life by embodying ideas that are often neglected or missing in literature—what I call, the missing elements.

After being a social activist since 1988 or so and writing countless letters to the editor and guest commentaries, in year 2000, I decided to write a novel.  It took a long time to rewrite and revise.  I didn’t finalize the current covers until a month ago.  And early this year I hired a recent seminary graduate to proofread the book again. The title is Universal Man, which is a turn on the concept of the holy, catholic (universal) church we ascribe to in the creeds.  Do I give away too much by saying that the main character, Stanley Timmons, represents the visible Church?  At least he does in my mind.  It was my intention to give him that role, though I hope I’ve made him to be a true-to-life person and not anything like an archetype. The primary characters, including Timmons, take their beliefs to the logical, often disturbing conclusions.

The book is in three volumes. An early reader called it a contemplative thriller.

My dear wife told me once that publishing short stories would bring attention to my novel.  That never came true.  Not yet anyway.  After the novel was more or less complete, I wrote about 30 short stories and got a number of them published in small places here and there.  But I got tired of rejection letters.  At about 250 rejections, I quit “submitting” stories, deciding rather to “dominate” them, hence my book When Earth Whispers & Other Mostly Speculative Tales, speculative meaning not strictly real-world, and that would include horror, contemporary fantasy, and science-fiction.  You can buy the book at Amazon, but since you probably don’t know me, I suggest you first read a couple stories here on my blog.  All of them are published or linked here and you can read them totally for free.  For this purpose I recommend one of the flash stories—complete stories in 1000 words or less.  Maybe try “Deprescience”.  A now retired editor at God’s World Publications said about it in the comments section at Every Day Fiction:

“This story is filled with surprises, the main surprise being its consistent and profound surprises themselves from beginning to end. Very well written, bolstered by obvious wisdom and literary panache. I was captivated by the scope of this quite brief masterpiece.”

So, you can find story titles and links on the blog column on the right.

If you like it, or are at least intrigued by “Deprescience”, try “Genius” or “Not the Wrong Planet”.  My almost shortest story is “Spark” at 544 words.  Then if you wish, try something longer, and when you’re ready, tackle the novel.  Or start with the novel.   After all, I wrote it first.  It is filled with surprises, too.  One interesting thing is that the novel contains numerous photographs of the real locations in the story, or locations that served as models for writing the scenes.  For ordering books, go to my “official website” It’s far more straightforward than this messy blog.

By the way, the monarch butterfly in the photograph is a male I raised in my house, and it’s perched on a milkweed plant (asclepias tuberosa) I grew from seed.  I had just released the butterfly and it had not yet taken its first flight.  But then it did and flew up into the wide world, perhaps to travel a thousand miles. Of course I hope that’s a metaphor for my stories, all of them and the novel, homegrown.

            -Meredith Eugene (Mickey) Hunt

(Not to distract you, but if you are fascinated by insects, watch my HD close-up video of a monarch butterfly emerging from its chryrsalis shell.)


ON THE BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY, 2014.  click to enlarge
Husband of one wife and father of six children, Hunt has been an attempted but failed social reformer for 30 years. He lives in western North Carolina.

Works in progress include the science-fiction novel, Clouds Fall to Earth, which is about a people who have lived in dirigibles for a thousand years, and a unique non-fiction guide about Monarch Butterflies.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Final Cover of UM 3/ Then a Soldier

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The text on the back cover is the "All the World's a Stage" speech from the play "As You Like It" by William Shakespeare.  I may not have mentioned it elsewhere, but the monarch butterfly in the "logo" of Chaotic Terrain Press is feeding on zinnias in our garden, our vegetable garden of the fall of 2016. I grow three types of milkweed on our modest gentleman's farm we call Windfall, and raise monarchs in our house. The photo captures the butterfly in motion.

The Cover of UM 2/ The Chinook Assembly

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The final version of the cover, in black and white. There's a lot of meaning to this cover image. You'll have to read the book and study the interior photographs to discover what and why.  All the photos in the novel are actual location shots, or at least of places that served as models for the writing. Those are real places, transposed into the story's geography.

The Cover of UM1/ Graceful Runner

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This is the final cover of Universal Man 1/Graceful Runner.  For a long time I had it in color and then later it just seemed to create a better mood and unify the three volumes in my black & white experiments.  Note how the background image shows through on the back cover, and there it is still in color.  I thought this a nice touch.

Monday, June 12, 2017

I'm Not Homeless & I'm Not Poor

A couple weeks ago I tried a sales/marketing experiment using my sign-making and sidewalk-wise communication skills.  I stood out near our local Ingles with the above sign.  In sum, in two hours I gave out five of my short story books and collected $35 in cash and about $15 worth of edible food.  Not terribly profitable, but I’d like to try it downtown Asheville.  I plan to add “I am NOT homeless.” to the sign because a couple people, including a middle school age boy, offered me zip lock bags containing personal hygine supplies, like wipes, a comb, toothbrush etc.  That was embarrassing.  I told them, “Thank you for your kindness, but I'm not homeless and I’m not poor. I’m trying a creative approach to selling my books.”  It's literary busking.