Monday, June 10, 2013

The Tiger Rally

What will a US Open Win Mean For The Markets?

Much has been written about the correlation between the stock market and the performance of the professional golfer, Tiger Woods. Seriously, if you don’t believe me, check it out on the net.

The fact is some fairly serious analysts have been tracking this trend since the hard swinging phenomenon first teed it up on the PGA Tour in 1997 – carefully noting the ups and downs that have followed the trials of golf’s most notorious superstar.

I’m not exactly sure why, but I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately as I launch my newest novel … a golf-related story entitled HANGING LIES. Perhaps it’s because, on some level, my book also explores the dark sides of human behavior.

The Tiger Effect?  As the golfer-for-all-time fares on the links, so follow our personal financial fortunes. Its as simple as that … and so much more.

To compulsive chart watchers the parallels are uncanny – for the sixteen years of his professional career Tiger’s rise and fall has been a tellingly accurate barometer of what has been happening in the wider world of finance.

Perhaps you’ve heard theories of irrational correlation before. Playful post-analyses of historic stock market performance are full of them. Some hold up for a year or two. Others track nicely if you are willing to soften the curve to allow for anomalies.

The Super Bowl Effect?  The width of men’s ties? Hemlines? All of them, at one time or another have been used to try and predict the movement of the major market indices. And to some extent some have proved remarkably congruent.

I would submit, however, that no chart has been more accurate in mirroring the market over the past five years than the fortunes of one Eldrick Tont Woods, or the golfer known to most of us mortals as simply … Tiger.

The performance graphs that emulate the ebb and flow of his fortunes are not just about noting corresponding patterns in stock market volatility.  Instead, the Tiger chart seems to track much more than money – its peaks and troughs matching with eerie similarity the arc of his golf, his personal life, the failings of the financial industry, and to some extent, the entire economy itself.

(My tongue is pressed very firmly in cheek if it isn’t obvious, by the way).

I suspect if I had the right tools from Scottrade and cared to delve more deeply into the trove of statistical data collected by the Professional Golf Association, I could probably construct several remarkable overlapping charts.

T. Woods’ world ranking and the overall direction of the market before and after the financial crisis? T. Woods’ tour earnings and the movements of the S&P 500? The decline of Tiger’s personal net worth (divorce settlement included) and the corresponding increase in the national deficit? They all seem to fit neatly onto the recent five-year trend line identified.

And while no one has ever pretended that such unrelated coefficients are an accurate predictor of future market performance, it does make for some seriously fun speculation. Or, at the very least, the basis of a conspiracy theory.

Indeed, what makes the Tiger charts so compelling are not just how closely the lines rise and fall based on his accomplishments on the golf course. But rather, how closely his personal backstory corresponds with the market that he mirrors.

This notion first occurred to me as I watched my investments languish in the period of uncertainty that followed the financial crisis. Much the way Simon & Garfunkel once pined for the reappearance of Joe DiMaggio, I had a similar longing for the return of my favorite golfer.

But the true importance of Tiger’s return was brought home when I received my March, 2012 Schwab statement shortly after his first win on the comeback trail. Arnold’s tournament at Bay Hill (DJIA 12,118) yielded a nice lift.  So did his win at the Memorial a couple of months later (DJIA 12,880).

In between? Tiger’s flame out on the back nine of the 2012 Masters cost the market nearly 400 points the week after it happened. Some experts wanted to blame Spain for that pullback. But you and I know better. I’ve got the data to prove it. The rest, as they say, is history.

• 2013 Farmer’s Insurance Open (DJIA 13,895)
• 2013 WGC Cadillac (DJIA 14,397)
• 2013 Arnold Palmer Invitational (DJIA 14,512)
• 2013 Players Championship (DJIA 15,118)

Do you notice a pattern here? One that coincides nicely with Tiger’s re-ascendance to World #1?

Remarkably, these days a Tiger win can sometimes propel the market upwards by hundreds of points. Similarly, an ordinary performance can send it spiraling downwards. When he takes a couple of weeks off between events? The market flattens in anticipation of his next outing.

And what makes the phenomenon even more fascinating still are the parallels that can also be drawn between the well-documented and publicized moral failings of America’s most iconic sports figure and the past ethical lapses of the market makers themselves.

As one reflects on the events of the past five years, and the market meltdown of 2008 in particular, is the corresponding decline and resurrection of the reputation of the celebrity golfer in question and the fortunes of Wall Street’s biggest players merely coincidence?

Need I remind you of the Dow Industrial Average ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday in 2008 (DJIA 8479)? That was the fateful occasion on which Tiger crashed his Escalade outside his home in Isleworth, Florida and his wife ‘rescued’ him with a nine-iron.

Need I point out the depths that the same index plumbed in March, 2009 (DJIA 6,547) as Tiger’s reputation bottomed amid allegations of illicit relations with at least 19 women other than Elin. Can you say Perkins Family Restaurant?

But, as I said, what makes the story so compelling is how Tiger’s chart so accurately tracks our regard for Wall Street and its morally bankrupt inhabitants.

One doesn’t have to use much imagination to paint similarities between Tiger fueling up the G5 or his yacht, Privacy, and setting course for some ill-advised misadventure and comparable pursuits by some of Wall Street’s erstwhile masters of the universe.

You don’t have to think too hard to link the corruption that came from all that easy money and what it did to the man with the swoosh and the derivatives traders. Certainly, these resemblances are obvious. So, of course, are the easy parables that their recklessness inspires.

The only question seems to be chicken or egg? Was Tiger’s fall a heroic failure or a self-inflicted wound? Was he led astray by the low hanging fruit afforded by his success or was this a sought after reward for his professional accomplishments? 

Did the subprime lenders and re-packagers of the toxic assets at the root of the market collapse simply lose their way at a time when no one, it appeared, could possibly lose? Or were their intentions more fundamentally rotten?

Much has been written about the motivations of both … psychological and otherwise. Still, in the giddy excesses of the market run up in the middle portion of the first decade of the new millennium, I can’t help but wonder if many of the same suspect underpinnings weren’t there from the beginning.

Human nature being what it is, I’m inclined to believe some people just more easily succumb to the temptations of avarice and greed. Mr. Woods among them? Perhaps. The Wall Streeters? Most certainly.

So, of course, it was inevitable that they both should meet a similar fate when the walls of their lies and deception collapsed under the weight of their unsustainability.

The point of this is not to try and bring shame on arguably the greatest golfer of all time. Honestly, I love what the man does with a club in his hands. For this devoted fan, he has been a source of great guilty pleasure throughout all of his travails.

Just ask my wife. I can assure you that you most definitely don’t want to be in our house during Masters’ weekend when the rooting for and against Tiger and Phil reaches the proportions of the battle between Jehovah and Beelzebub.

But alas, I am dwelling on the negative. This story has a happy ending – or at least a happy middle -- since our hero has plenty of golf and unrealized goals still in front of him.  As with all market cycles, this story contains an inevitable bounce and a generous lift.

You need only open the sports and financial pages to witness it.

In the same way that Tiger has worked tirelessly to remake his game and his reputation, so too has the financial services community struggled mightily to get their house in order. (I won’t bother to explore Tiger’s treatment for sexual addiction and the need for Dodd Frank). But suffice to say, there are similarities.

In any case, it has not been an easy reconstruction … and not without a few untimely setbacks. But as surely as you cannot keep a prodigious talent like Tiger’s in check forever, similarly, our newly lean and mean U.S. corporations armed with especially robust earnings reports, cannot be held down in perpetuity.

Should it come as any surprise that the Dow is back (nudging all time highs at this writing)? That the S&P has piled on a gaudy 17% gain in 2013? That the NASDAQ is rolling? It almost makes me want to track Tiger’s FedEx Points standings, as well.

Personally, I’m cheering for the man. What he does on course is a feast for the eyes and a lift for the spirit (especially if you’re a long suffering TV sponsor). He might, singlehandedly, be a living breathing metaphor for the markets finally managing to get their Mojo back. Hell, maybe not just the markets -- maybe the entire economy.

Four wins before the end of May? Unprecedented. Those parallel Dow and S&P gains? Right there, of course. Tiger’s unfortunate break at the Masters? Look at the market chop and flat spot during the second week of April. Need I say more?

There was even a dip on the morning after the Memorial while the experts debated whether Mr. Woods’ poor showing would have implications in the Open two weeks hence. Investors held their breath. Fortunately, the pundits decided his 44 on Saturday was an aberration and, after a weak opening, the market surged ahead for the day.

What Tiger Woods has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt is that he is resilient … that strong underlying fundamentals cannot be suppressed indefinitely. Make no mistake. Tiger is back … and so is America.

I’m not saying that the man is admirable (though his unshakable faith in himself is quite impressive). But his example provides a fascinating illustration of the notions of descent and deliverance … of sin and redemption … the likes of which many great religions have been founded upon.

No, Tiger and Nike, winning does not take care of everything. But at least your resurrection provides proof that most Americans are good people who are willing to forgive and move on. You’re not the first celebrity to experience this. But we forget at our own peril.

I tend to think that what we have witnessed over the past five years is a learning opportunity for us all … a succession of teachable moments with the principal actor in this little morality play donning a vivid red and black costume every Sunday afternoon to remind us of our humanness.

What I pray is that Tiger has taken his experience to heart and has resolved to make himself a better man. What I hope all of us who’ve witnessed his behavior have learned or re-learned are fundamental rules about honesty, integrity and character.

And as for the Tiger Rally?

If there was ever a time in the nation’s history to come off the sidelines and join enthusiastically in the rebuilding of the American brand, it is now. It’s time to get bullish on our nation’s future, again.

And you know who to put your money on next week at Merion. Dow 17,000 or bust!

R. Bruce Walker has just released his third novel entitled HANGING LIES. It is an unabashed homage to author’s love of the game of golf and a stylish satire of the gilded lives of the country club set. It is available now in trade paper and e-book formats from all major on-line booksellers.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Un Coventional Energy

Gratefully it appears that, based on their convention speeches at least, neither of the presidential candidates is going to diminish the relevance or importance of my new novel, THE LAST CANARY.

Indeed, a survey of the contrasting platforms presented by both parties over the past two weeks is greatly reassuring – especially if one’s strategy relies on the prolongation of the current stalemate on domestic energy development in order to sell books.

I have to confess, when I sat down to write THE LAST CANARY, my motives were fairly transparent. I was going to pen a topical story that played into the ferocious debate that the candidates for the presidency would, no doubt, be having about this critical policy issue in their pitch to win the highest office in the land.

As I went to press my biggest fear was that the candidates’ informed positions would render my thoughtful exploration of the implications of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and the potential for energy self-sufficiency irrelevant -- their well-considered positions making further discussion unnecessary.

All I can think of now is, “What was I smokin’?”

Somewhere between Todd Akin's puzzling remarks thrusting abortion rights to center stage and the absurd distraction of Paul Ryan’s personal best marathon times, the matter of the country’s strategy for addressing our future energy requirements remains woefully under served.

I guess I can heave a huge (and very sarcastic) sigh of relief.  At least for the time being, the controversial thesis of my novel – that we need to articulate a coherent energy policy that includes the thoughtful use of unconventional oil and gas recovery techniques -- is still very much intact. Both sides, it would appear, are as dug in as ever.

I relaxed when I watched candidate Romney declare that we can be ‘energy independent’ by 2020 -- seven short years from now if he manages to fit it onto his crowded Day One agenda (immediately after repealing Obamacare and just ahead of solving the Iranian nuclear threat). But when he failed to meaningfully mention alternative fuels or conservation, I knew he wasn’t really serious about solving the problem.

The President? Five million green jobs promised last time around became 600,000 brown ones in the natural gas industry this time out. You’d expect that I would welcome this announcement, however it appears that expedience has trumped long-term thinking. You see fracking is not a destination unto itself. It is simply a bridge to the widely sustainable future he advocated previously.

I also can’t help but wonder how both candidates seemed to have missed the impact and importance of shale gas development in the critical swing state of Ohio. I would have thought it was worth a shout out, at least. But at least both parties seem to agree that Jerusalem is the ‘capital’ of Israel.

The sum of these developments? I’ve still got a lot of books to sell without the built-in ‘platform’ that most of us authors rely on to move product in the literary market place. Clearly, counting on our leaders to make energy policy a serious discussion point ahead of November was sheer folly on my part.

So much for any illusions of grandeur or the chance, on my part, to participate in the great debate that I imagined would be so central to this election cycle. Obviously, it was a mistake to bet on this, forgive the pun, fractious issue to earn writing fame and fortune.

Though THE LAST CANARY is only a novel, it attempts to explore many sides of the fracking debate while begging a single question – are we better off with or without the newly acquirable oil and natural gas that this important technological breakthrough makes possible?

What does my story conclude? Well, apparently that, too, depends on your political stripe (see party platforms above). If you lean right and listen carefully to Mitt’s energy policy you will find yourself straining to hear mention of anything but hydrocarbon-based solutions.

Similarly, if you support Mr. Obama, you will undoubtedly hear about the need for thoughtful progress and balancing our energy needs against their potential environmental impacts – with a broad wink towards those who would retard the development of new discoveries.

Guess what? Not surprisingly, the correct answer lies somewhere in the middle. But, of course, the middle is a very unpopular place to meet in this mean election season. So what if the way forward for our country lies in our ability to strike compromise and to accommodate multiple views of our  future.

Like so many things these days, the hard stuff can’t be discussed rationally – political badges apparently trumping commonsense. Potato, potato … tomato, tomato. I’m surprised we haven’t, in our collective populist wisdom, decided to call the whole thing off.

If you’re like me, you’re wearying of circling debates that take facts and science off the table.  It is a mug’s game is how a dear Irish friend would describe it. However, all I know is that C02 emissions have always caused and will continue create a host of undesirable environmental consequences.

Whether climate change is or isn’t one of them (really?), there is still absolutely no denying that ocean acidification is a direct and harmful bi-product of carbon fueled industrial activity that threatens the world’s most important food supply.  Go ahead. Look it up.

Similarly, the gases that are emitted from our factories and vehicles are causing unprecedented levels of damaging respiratory and other related ailments. For these reasons alone, it is time to honestly come to terms with the impact of hydrocarbons as our primary fuel source.

Oh, and there is also no such thing as clean coal. The fact that it has to be washed, scrubbed, precipitated, denoxified and gasified are pretty good clues about the perils implicit in its use. Promoting it only serves to prolong our reliance on a toxic resource.

Just as certainly, there is no wind or solar bound solution that will scale sufficiently to meet our present term energy requirements. It can’t be done. Anyone who claims otherwise is in strenuous denial of reality and the essential role that carbon based energy sources must play for the foreseeable future.

In case you hadn’t noticed, there are nearly a quarter billion cars and trucks in America alone. No alternative energy source is going to be available any time soon to replace the fuels that these vehicles require. Nor is there an economic case that would make conversion viable.

And I don’t even want to factor in the demand for hydrocarbons in industrial applications or our need for heating fuels (in those months when we are not being globally warmed) into this debate.

As a result, the sudden unanticipated availability of more abundant natural gas and oil, now accessible via the controversial recovery technique known as fracking is a game changer. Sensible, responsible extraction is key to a truly sustainable future in which economic and environmental necessities can co-exist.

And ‘no’ this message is not being brought to you by one of the many lobbying interests currently shaping the agenda in favor of development. It’s simply time for all parties (and Parties) to acknowledge this reality and begin to move towards the positive solution that this unanticipated windfall makes possible.

It is time to weigh the environmental impacts fairly. It is essential to evaluate the true consequences objectively. And it is critical to proceed with the developing the technological and infrastructural solutions that will make the exploitation of this resource not only safe, but also sustainable in every sense of the word.

In that spirit I would like to invite you to read THE LAST CANARY. Not because it offers some kind of healing epiphany, but because it tries to explain the issues that confront us in a way that makes them easier to appreciate – in human terms.

You may not like some of my portrayals or conclusions. You’ll probably despise my broad humor and my fairly harsh regard for many of the affected parties (in the pejorative sense of the word). It is meant as entertainment, after all.

But what I sincerely hope that you will not dispute is the importance of natural gas development to our country for the promise that it holds – whether it gets short shrift in this most political of seasons ... or not.

Monday, July 2, 2012


What a wild ride. It really was exhilarating to go from nowhere to the Top 100 on the Amazon Kindle bestseller list – even if it was just for a moment in time.

To those of you who have been following the trials and triumphs of R. Bruce Walker a.k.a. Author Boy since I began my indie writer odyssey last summer, obviously this past week has been a high point.

What happened? I signed up for the Kindle Direct Publishing Select Program to promote The Last Canary and found a valuable new channel to distribute my work.

The result? Overnight I jumped nearly half a million places up Amazon’s ersatz leader board to enjoy a cameo near the top of the heap (#92 in fact). And I mean it … literally overnight.

Imagine going to bed on a Wednesday night and waking up to find that the book that you were hoping might eventually be discovered actually had been.

All it took was to offer Jesters’ Dance FREE for two days.

Now I know some of you are going to say that I’m getting a little soft headed with regard to giving my hard work away for nothing.

In quoting Samuel Johnson during my promo i.e. ‘Only a blockhead would write, except for money,’ obviously I chose to flout conventional publishing wisdom.

But lets be clear, Sir Samuel penned his famous words in the middle of the eighteenth century. There’s been a lot of water and virtual ink pass beneath the proverbial bridge since then.

Besides, remuneration isn’t what my writing journey has been about. For me, it has been all about self-expression and needing to capture some of my life’s experiences before a faltering memory relegates them to the land of the long forgotten.

And to occasionally shake an angry author’s fist at the behaviors of an increasingly confused and troubled world.

Certainly, the best way to fulfill this latter goal is by cultivating an audience. If you’re reading this, I believe you’re a part of mine.

Whether you’re sincerely interested in my stories … or just watching much like the many who view NASCAR … with the nascent desire to see a horrific crash … thank you, just the same.

Audiences are why elephants dance for peanuts; tigers jump through flaming hoops; and late middle-aged men taking up writing fiction instead of playing golf.

An audience is what I appear to have acquired this week. Beyond, of course, the loyal support and interest you have given to my venture to date. And that is what is truly exciting about what has occurred.

Oh, I know I have ‘rented’ my popularity this time. But I am hopeful that once readers have a chance to familiarize themselves with my writing style and my approach, I might be able to induce them to sample my new novel, The Last Canary.

After all, it is not as though the risk is high. $2.99 for my e-books? Some of you have already chastised that I am giving my work away.

Don’t fret. This is a conscious marketing decision on my part. It allows me to earn almost as much per book sold (e-book or print) as most other bestselling authors get once everyone’s been through their pockets.

More importantly, it gives me a chance to impress some new readers … and garner some potentially new and loyal fans.

I’m not sure where this desperate desire to please ever came from. You’d imagine if this whorish desire to pleasure others were part of my DNA, I would’ve stayed in the ad game. Or become a masseuse.

It is, I have to say, nonetheless, quite thrilling to get a taste of what it might be like to actually pen a best seller.

After all, isn’t the dream of bestsellerdom the ubiquitous goal of every author? I believe I have confessed to as much in my very first blog on this subject.

Where do we go from here? Good question. I know that I am greedy for even more success. Hopefully, it will be earned with my writing and the satisfaction of my readers after you have labored your way through my latest.

Until then, I am content to be exhausted – both by the excitement of the last forty-eight hours … and the potential for further success.

Thank you to all of you who bounced an e-mail, tweeted, or posted a message on Facebook in support of my latest promotion.

I think I really do owe this success to you.

My next goal? That’s really quite simple … #91 or bust … of course.

THE LAST CANARY is author R. Bruce Walker's second novel. It was published in June, 2012. It follows the release of his debut novel JESTERS' DANCE last year. Both works are available in e-book or trade paperback format at and other leading on-line booksellers.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Samuel Johnson once said, "No man but a blockhead would write, except for money." I'm about to flout that wisdom with a FREE book offer.

Clearly, Mr. Johnson would not approve of my FREE e-book promotion for JESTERS' DANCE available at


But here’s the deal. Just under a year ago I published my very entertaining, albeit black-humored novel about the advertising business.

While not exactly a roman à clef, it captured the soullessness of my nearly 25 years experience as a copywriter, creative director and senior executive with several leading agencies.

It is fiction of course. Names changed to protect the few innocents that I have encountered in the business -- a remarkably short list, I might add.

Imagine three agencies locked in mortal combat to win a coveted pharma account with the client who has organized the review teetering on the very edge of sanity.

Okay, so not much imagination is required. Still, it’s a rollicking tale with plenty of twists and turns, and a couple of nice little surprises at the end.

Big Celebrity Endorsements

Ken Roman, the former Chairman & CEO of Ogilvy likened it to “ … the gin and vermouth of an adman’s martini …  its wit served up dry.”

Former McCann Worldwide Chief Creative Officer, Sean Fitzpatrick, offered his own generous praise. “Finally, an advertising novel that’s actually about advertising. I’m jealous.”

Arlene Dickinson, President of one of Canada’s hottest independent shops was even more encouraging. “If you like Mad Men, you’re going to love JESTERS’ DANCE.”

The result of all this adulation? Not much. I’ve sold a thousand books or so, impressed family and friends, and managed the kind of catharsis that few admen ever survive long enough to achieve.

But you know what? I’m not at all satisfied with my market penetration. Not by a long shot.

The Death of a Dream?

I penned my little labor of love … all 440 pages of it … with big dreams of launching a second career as a novelist. Grand dreams, in fact. The kind I used to reserve for the night before awards shows.

And while I stopped short of purchasing a villa in Provence ala Peter Mayle, I just assumed that it was only a matter of time before I would be the newest old darling of the e-publishing world.

But sadly, it hasn’t happened … yet.

And that’s where you all come in. Apparently, the key to success in the brave new world of electronic publishing and book selling is social networking; the digital dance; the old binary two-step, as it were.

And, in that regard, I have come up woefully short. But all of that is about to change … with your kind assistance.

I am hoping you might help me get the book in the hands of everyone you know who truly loves or is curious about the business.

And I’m hoping to make it very easy to do this.

Jesters’ Dance Available FREE for Two Days only.

That’s right, I’m giving away my e-book absolutely free -- Mr. Johnson’s observation about blockheadedness notwithstanding.

The weary instructor who taught me copywriting way back when once said that FREE was the most powerful word in advertising. I might have even repeated this tired old trope a few times myself.

But June 27th and June 28th, I intend to test whether this trusted adage remains true. You see I intend to give away JESTERS’ DANCE away FREE to anybody who is willing to go to and download it.

Just scroll to the JESTERS’ DANCE cover. Make sure that the Kindle price is showing as $0.00 and order the e-book. It is downloadable to any Kindle-enabled e-reader, computer, tablet or smart phone.

I want to give away FREE books until the server at is giving off steam. Or smelling vaguely of a potential electrical fire.

Please Let Me Give You My Book

Why would I do this? Let’s just call it my gift to you. And, to some extent, that’s truly what it is … an early Independence Day present with absolutely no strings attached.

The benefit to me? Perhaps it will earn me a brief turn on the Amazon Indie bestseller list … plus the satisfaction of knowing that there might be a platform for my future work.

Go ahead click on this link: It will take you directly to Amazon where there might even be a handsome, very author-like looking photo of me.

Better still, if you could text … tweet … re-tweet … or otherwise launch this link into your universe, I would be forever in your debt.

Who knows? It might even make for a fairly interesting case study on the power of social marketing in the early portion of the second post-millennial decade.

And seriously, I really do hope you'll enjoy the read. That’s the discussion that I would like to start with this group.

Has anyone else out there attempted to capture the full horror and majesty of the business in a novel lately?

R. Bruce Walker

R. Bruce Walker is a former Senior Vice President with Ogilvy & Mather West and was Executive Creative Director at Venture Communications. He has been a copywriter and group head, respectively, with two BBDO-owned agencies. He is the author of two novels -- JESTERS’ DANCE and the recently released eco-thriller, THE LAST CANARY. You can read more about his work at  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Fracked or Fiction?

Who would've thought that my second foray into commercial fiction would find me writing about fracking? Not only is it an ugly word, but it is an equally ugly industrial process.

And yet fracking likely holds the key to America's energy future by potentially liberating us from our reliance on foreign fuel sources. And that is precisely what my new novel, THE LAST CANARY, is all about.

The Marcellus Shale has been called the energy play of the century – five hundred trillion cubic feet of natural gas trapped within sixty million invisible acres from upstate New York to West Virginia -- fifty trillion of which is likely recoverable.

But the only way to get it out of the ground is via a controversial recovery technique that involves horizontal drilling and pumping millions of gallons of toxic chemicals into the earth called hydraulic fracturing or fracking.

Initially, I vowed that I would avoid all of the tempting puns set up by this unusual word and its more vulgar heteronym. But somewhere along the line, while preparing this blog, my resolve obviously weakened. What the frack?

It’s not that I have developed an aversion to fracking while writing THE LAST CANARY. Indeed, quite the opposite might be true.

The more I’ve researched and written on the topic, the more I’ve become convinced that this unconventional recovery method is an essential part of any long term national energy strategy.

While I am by no means expert, I tend to want to believe that fracking can be used safely and responsibly to exploit the shale gas windfall that has arrived at such a pivotal moment in our nation's history.

Similarly, I wouldn't be entirely honest if I didn't say that the more I've learned, the more I have developed some serious concerns about the practice's potentially adverse environmental consequences.

To be clear, my purpose in writing THE LAST CANARY was to create a piece of entertaining and compelling fiction. But there is no question that the underlying narrative of my story is intended inspire a broader dialogue about this important issue.

From the many people I have spoken to, there appears to be a significant paucity of knowledge about what is going on in this area. Perhaps some of you who are viewing this blog are reading about fracking for the first time.

In that respect, maybe my modest bit of fiction will help to better inform and educate. And that's always a good thing. You can check it out right now by going to:

It is my belief that the decisions being made about this controversial subject need to be fully transparent and that a more fulsome debate be conducted in the public square. With so much at stake, we all need to have a vote in deciding the path forward.

At its essence, THE LAST CANARY is a story about the social, economic and environmental impact of the current natural gas boom on the citizens of a small, fictitious town in western Pennsylvania. Let's call it The Deer Hunter revisited.

But, more importantly, it is a parable that is relevant to everyone who has a stake in the energy game -- the twenty states across the country where horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing will likely be employed to exploit a trove of heretofore inaccessible oil and gas deposits.

(In case you were unaware, there have been nearly 5,000 natural gas wells permitted and drilled in the largely rural counties of western Pennsylvania atop the Marcellus Shale in the past five years. As many as 50,000 more are being contemplated over the next two decades.)

As you can imagine from such staggering numbers, the potential for conflict is significant as the forces of American progress collide with the potential for adverse environmental and human health consequences -- some of which have already been documented.

And that is what made the topic so ripe for exploration in fiction. The practice of fracking is an ideal metaphor for the forces currently at work in our country in that this recent godsend has become yet another political push-me-pull-me that threatens to fracture the very foundation of the nation.

As I wrote, I deliberately spared you a predictable green epiphany. Similarly, I also avoided concluding that all of our nation’s energy problems can be solved with the drill bit. The answer, as with most things, lies in the middle. What I do know is that a new dialogue and smart decisions are required -- now.

As the President and federal bodies introduce new energy policies; as state houses move to legislate and regulate while figuring out how to best profit from this unanticipated bonanza; and as local governments deal with the fallout of decisions from above, it is important to remember that fracking affects real people.

As we pursue this opportunity, we will have profound impacts on lives, livelihoods and relationships. Allow yourself to imagine for a moment that someone wanted to drill a gas well on your property. Inevitably, the most common reaction is not in my backyard.

That’s what’s going on right now in Pennsylvania and is coming soon to communities all across the country.

Invariably, the motivation for most fracking proponents is strictly monetary. There are fortunes to be made on the trading floors far away from where drill stems churn and the ugliest consequences of this particularly messy form of resource exploitation exist in plain view.

Conversely, there is an instinctive belief on the part of fracking's opponents that Mother Earth is fast approaching some sort of critical tipping point. And this could well be the final straw. For them, the possibility of compromise seems equally untenable.

Indeed, that is the underlying theme of THE LAST CANARY – that in our quest for riches and the necessity to wean ourselves from our dependence on foreign energy sources, we are irreparably fracturing the very things that bind us together as a nation.

Not unexpectedly, the arguments for and against fracking tend to follow the same ideological rift lines that now pervade virtually every aspect of American social and political discourse -- with corresponding hostility and divisiveness.

That is the challenge I would issue to you if you choose to read THE LAST CANARY. As you become more informed and aware, and as you encounter the word fracking near daily in the media, ask yourself a simple question.

Is the cost of development worth the price that it will exact? Somewhere in the writing and the events of this novel, I have formed my own conclusion. But I would be every bit as delighted to entertain and understand yours.

At the same time, while as a nation we continue to struggle to articulate a coherent energy policy, I would love you to give serious thought to some of the issues contained within my story. What are our options?

In my mind, the questions at the heart of THE LAST CANARY are just too important to get lost in the clamor of blind partisanship or intransigence. I can't wait for you to read it, so that you, too, can join in the debate.

THE LAST CANARY is author R. Bruce Walker's second novel. It was released on June 1, 2012. It follows the release of his debut novel JESTERS' DANCE last year. Both works are available in e-book or trade paperback format at and other leading on-line booksellers.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Long Live Gerard Jones

God bless you, Gerard Jones, wherever you are! And I mean that both figuratively and literally. For ten long years you have been a muse and an inspiration to aspiring novelists everywhere.

You’ve fought the good fight. No, you continue to fight the good fight. You’ve won and lost. But you’ve always come back swinging -- picking yourself up off the canvas of rejection and jabbing another stick in the eye of those who would deny you.

I love an insurrectionist … and a true original. I believe the angry author, Gerard Jones, is both of these things and I would like to thank him here, unabashedly, for all that he has done for us.

To those of you who don’t know, or who have never had to worry about such things, Gerard Jones is an angry man of mythic proportions who has rattled the cage of literary agents and publishers with a website entitled: Everyone Who’s Anyone in Publishing (

It is a blog, a rant, an encyclopedia and a directory all rolled into one. It’s also hilarious -- both intentionally and unintentionally so. But more importantly, it is a site that dares to rebel against those that man the palisades of traditional publishing.

To those of us banging on the doors of the literary establishment. Or frankly, simply seeking someone to read our latest dawn-stalking vampire thriller, Gerard Jones’ site is a beacon of hope. Or better, it is a safe port, where we can seek refuge upon inevitable rejection.

Oh, some say he is fueled simply by a revenge motive. But that would understate the incredible value he has delivered back to the community of independent and unpublished authors everywhere.

Not only does he spare us from the for profit catalogue publishers who’ve decided their path to fame and fortune is to peddle Frommer’s-like guides to the vagaries of publishing much like the flock that follows elephants.

Instead, he provides us with a universally accessible free list. Not a hodge podge of author-to-author jibber jabber, but an actual list of real people who might help us and then delivers a glimpse into their dark, uncaring souls.

Gerard knows that there is power in information. By rooting about for current
e-mail addresses, and by relentlessly tracking the progress of agents from firm to firm, he’s spared us the necessity of rewarding the compilationists with another $29.95 for this year’s publishing bible.

He’s also figured out that by publishing, verbatim, many of the unfair or cynical criticisms and rejections that he has received, he might spare us some of that same stinging hurt.

I suspect the motivation is more than a little martyr-like -- sacrificing his soul in the hope that we might be a little more discriminating about whom we attempt to share our literary marvels with. Taking a nail in the palm for the team, as it were.

Gerard became a blogger long before the name had even been invented. And he seemed to do it for the sheer anarchy of it rather than the opportunity for monetary gain. Of all the writing resources begging to be monetized, his is the first I’d support.

Sure, from time to time there are requests to contribute a little something to support his IP costs. Who could grudge him that? But of course, what starving writer can afford to do so? Nonetheless, he soldiers on. I believe Part Ten is now live.

I’ve never been much for writing fan mail. Hero worship, for me at least, has always seemed somewhat self-diminishing.

But in Gerard’s case I’m willing to make an exception. After all, his was the one voice that sustained me through my own nearly decade-long voyage of rejection – with appropriate due, of course, to the much loved but since departed Ms. Snark.

It is his unfailing stream of clever taunts and invective, directed at the very same real life targets that I’ve lacked the courage to confront, that has allowed me to imagine it truly is them and not me.

Despite their professions of compassion, I do not believe the agenting community has any appreciation of  the eviscerating effects of their insensitivity. Or perhaps they do. Which just makes them seem even crueler still.

While I’ve yet to take Gerard up on his FREE AUDIO BOOK offer, I’ve thought long and hard about it. Call me unnecessarily paranoid when it comes to downloads myself (has he invented the mother of all viruses?), but I suspect it is brilliant.

More importantly, I sleep better at night knowing that Gerard is still out there yelling and shaking an angry fist at the world ... all the while singing the praises of GINNY GOOD at the top of his lungs.

With another fat stack of rejections for my latest novel, THE LAST CANARY, in hand, I once again find myself seeking solace in his words and comfort in his Promethean sufferance.

If you’re a new writer, struggling to get beyond the obstacle littered field that stands between you and your dream, you’ve got a friend out there … and his name is Gerard Jones. (

Monday, October 31, 2011

Your Author, Humbled

I believe the time has arrived to express my heartfelt thanks and deep appreciation to all of you for your generous encouragement and support of JESTERS’ DANCE.

And if you are reading this blog, then I remain even further in your debt … this time for your continued curiosity.

When I published my cathartic advertising opus, a couple of months ago, I had no idea what to expect and what putting it out there might bring.

I can tell you now it has been one of the most exciting and gratifying experiences of my personal and professional life. And in the most unexpected way.

It has often been said that for a dedicated author writing is its own reward, and that writers write because they have to – slaves to an unappeasable master.

But I wouldn’t be entirely honest if I didn’t admit, initially at least, that images of bestsellerdom and movie offers regularly danced in my head. And that fantasies of fame, fortune and unabashed adoration lit my dreams.

I mean, why else would you perform a lonely penance before the keyboard each day? Why else would you don the hair shirt that writing so often feels like?

But once the euphoria of seeing my words in print and the joy of staring at the swanky cover of JESTERS’ DANCE subsided (it really does feel pee your pants good), I realized it is you that has made this entire adventure so thoroughly enjoyable.

Seriously. The very best part of this whole e publishing odyssey has been your heartening response to my work and the thoughtful feedback you have been so generous in providing.

Oh, to be sure, there have been a couple of sidelong glances. Family is especially good at this -- brothers and sisters are the very best at inflicting self-doubt.

And I do believe I saw a woman draw her child close at the supermarket the other day. Okay, so the novel has a couple of characters that are especially dark.

I have also recently received ‘the look’ that accompanies minor celebrity. Or notoriety. Or worse. I am especially grateful, here in our small community, that I can’t read minds.

But for the most part, I couldn’t have imagined a more welcoming reception for my first published effort.  For that, I am humbled.

I have received so many kind words and compliments that my head spins. Most are of the variety that make me want to curl up in your lap like a kitten and purr for more.

I have been sought out and found by friends near and dear; and by others from long ago and far away. I have a certain former creative partner’s lovely wife in mind.

The reunions -- by email, LinkedIn and Facebook have been wonderful. Now I’m beginning to understand why these Internet tools are so popular and powerful.

I have received phone calls and messages at odd hours. You know who you are. I suspect this is really a phenomenon of middle-aged sleep habits and the difficult times in which we live.

I have been reviewed on-line … often brilliantly (the reviewers, not the book). Some of you really should be doing this for the Sunday Times … though I am just as indebted for a quick shout out and a couple of stars.

I have received corrections. Sadly, there are too many. But this kind of input is invaluable as well. Certainly, I’ve learned some important lessons for next time.

I have heard from my many special friends in Calgary, where I worked for twenty years, eager to know who is who from real life and if I named any names. It’s a novel not a roman à clef. Though trust me, you’re all in there somewhere.

I had an ingenious former colleague post a terrific review on his Facebook wall … from Singapore. It helped me garner sales in London, Helsinki and Rome. Unbelievable.

From two special people … a very accomplished couple … she gave me the chance to guest blog to her impressive audience, while he had JESTERS’ DANCE catalogued at the library of the prestigious university where he teaches. Priceless.

The former Chairman and CEO of the greatest advertising agency in the world likened JESTERS’ DANCE to “the gin and vermouth of an adman’s martini … its wit served up dry.” How’s that for a compliment?

But perhaps the most gratifying comment is one that I have heard repeatedly, in several different forms. Collectively you’ve told me, “As I was reading it, I forgot it was you.”

I believe that qualifies me as an author or, at the very least, as a successful storyteller. And that, of course, has been my goal all along.

You have all been so very generous. Not only did you buy my book, but also you took the time to read it.

Whether in bits and bites (many of you said it was tough going for the first few chapters) … at the beach … or at bedtime, you gave me ten or fifteen hours of your precious time. That is so gratifying.

And what has all this meant to sales – the barometer against which success is conventionally measured?

I’m presently in the hundreds … very soon the thousands. It ain’t Grisham. But as an independent author, marketing and selling a book is akin to dropping a pebble into a pond.

I now occupy the second or third ring … nicely beyond family, friends and casual acquaintances. The exciting part is that I am beginning to be discovered by the world at large.

And that is where you can truly help me. If you have read and enjoyed JESTERS’ DANCE, would you please post a review on the site where you purchased the book?

This is the social marketing equivalent of you telling two friends, and them telling two friends, and so on, and so on, and so on. Your reviews are invaluable to my ability to break through.

Honestly, those little stars make a huge difference in my search position, my potential audience and, ultimately, my sales ranking -- in other words, the Promised Land of e publishing.

Either that, or simply recommend JESTERS’ DANCE to a fellow reader. I remain hopeful a ripple may yet become a wave.

In the meantime, I am deeply immersed in a new effort. It is a very topical story entitled THE LAST CANARY and it exploits my intimate understanding of the energy business. As you may recall, I’m married to it.

I’m also busily trying to formulate a strategy for the release of my previously completed novel, HANGING LIES. Its fate will be determined soon, to be sure.

Until then, I will continue to be sustained by your kind words and encouragement. Please know that I am eternally grateful.

As always, I would love to hear from you.


R. Bruce Walker is the author of the recently released novel, JESTERS’ DANCE. Visit with him at, or via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.