Thursday, 20 February 2014

Spotlight: 'Paradigm Shift' by Bill Ellis

Today I am spotlighting Bill Ellis' novel Paradigm Shift, published by Booktrope. Set in southern Virginia in the '70's, Paradigm Shift is a rich blend of social history, drama, love, passion and determination. Ellis delivers a powerful page-turner about the struggles and perseverance to overcome all odds. 
Dogwood Springs is a typical Southern town nestled in a valley alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway in southwest Virginia. Life had been good for its 5,000 residents, especially after the Bobcats won the state high school football championship in 1973 behind its “famous five” all-state players. But like many towns that depended on a textile mill and furniture factory for employment, life takes a downturn in the last quarter of the twentieth century as mills and factories are closed and jobs are shipped off to the “deep South” and Southeast Asia. 
Workers can no longer meet mortgage payments and foreclosures plunge Dogwood Springs into
a deep depression. The homeless population spikes upward and a tent city emerges in the heart of downtown. Greed, political corruption, and a growing drug culture combine to wreck a once-proud and bucolic setting. 
Yet, the famous five men return for their class reunion with the skills and abilities to change thinking and create a paradigm shift that will rejuvenate their community. In a rich blend of social history, drama, love, passion and determination, Ellis delivers a powerful page-turner about the struggles and perseverance to overcome all odds.
About Bill Ellis:

Bill Ellis calls Martinsville, Virginia -- formerly the “Sweatshirt capital of the world” - his hometown. He is the author of five novels and is a frequent contributor of social and political commentary on the Longmont Colorado Daily Times-Call Opinion page. He is a past president of the Longmont Writers Club and was editor of the club’s second anthology Collected Works of the Longmont Writers Club. The Longmont Council for the Arts awarded him grants in 2007 & 2008 to be the writer-in-residence at Sunset Middle School directing eighth graders in the writing, editing, and publishing of an online magazine. Bill has spoken to over 1,200 students in local schools over the last six years promoting the importance of writing. 

Follow him at

Praise for Paradigm Shift:

"What a great book! I mean a spirit lifting, healing great read. Bill Ellis is one great writer! Paradigm Shift is a must read!"

"One of the appealing things about the book is that ANY adult reader would/could enjoy reading it because Bill makes it so easy to relate to the story and characters." 

"Bill Ellis stirred up some uncomfortable racial memories of my own from Lynchburg and Tazewell, Virginia, and Charleston, South Carolina in the early 60’s. Thank you, Bill, for having such a well-considered alternative path to old hatred – your transformed community of cooperation called Dogwood Springs."

Does this look like the book for you? Not sure yet? Here's an excerpt from the beginning of the book to tempt you!

Virginia Woods, 1955
THE SOLITARY BLACK MAN slouched against an ancient oak tree as if he’d found his best friend. The chilling November wind sank into his bones and he dreamed of a cozy fire. His three hunting partners had dispersed: Charles Hanson, who owned these woods and five thousand acres surrounding them, was off to the north a few hundred yards; Judge Hamilton was a ways to the west just over a hillock; and Rip Morgan, the dumbest white man Thomas had ever known, was south another few hundred, also over the hillock. 
His job, Thomas’s, was mostly to haul the carcass back to Hanson’s barn where it would be his duty to skin and dress the critter, dividing it into quarters for the four of them. It was what some white folks termed his natural inclination to be subservient: to go out and hunt, yes, but when it came time to clean up the mess, Thomas did it. Alone. And in some ways, this chore connected him to West Africa where his ancestors had been stolen; from there they had been brought to Charleston, South Carolina and sold as slaves over three hundred years past.
Thomas took a big gulp of his flask of sour mash, one side benefit from Mr. Charles around Thanksgiving, and grinned as the bootleg liquor fired down his gullet, watering his eyes. Hell, white folks could hunt all day far as he was concerned. Just give him a flask to sip on; a good excuse to stay warm, he’d confess to Maggie later, that is, if he hadn’t passed out before she came home.  
Thomas shook his head to change subjects. But negativity ate at him. Ever since Mr. Charles had taken over the knitting mill, his life had changed. New work rules captured poor black and white folks alike. Low wages, unhealthy and unsafe working conditions, plus daily threats to work twice as hard as the standard piece rate or get fired. But it was work, and the only kind you could get without an education, without opportunity. And there was always the “Watch Man”—the cost engineer who followed you around all day timing every step, putting the fear of God in you to work harder. And to whom Thomas always responded with “yes sir, boss.” He complied with a smile because that’s what was expected from an African. 
It was cruel to see, yet everyone succumbed to the pressure. Thomas sure did. His sweat stunk more from fear than from perspiring in the mill’s brick building—built after the war that freed his relatives nearly a century ago. The mill lacked air conditioning. Lacked any modern technology was more like it. Thomas lifted big rolls of fabric by himself and toted that material from work station to work station, then finally loaded boxes of sweatshirts, the final product, onto his wood-framed push truck to store them in the 120-degree, suffocating attic. There was no thought of a conveyor belt because that was his job. And it was making him an old man way before his time.
The afternoon drifted away with little sun, the dim light of near winter leaving Thomas near drunk still leaning against the oak. Smells from decaying leaves underfoot and the remains of a recent night hunter’s kill floated around him. The chilling wind coming through the valley was constant, drowning his soul with despair, taking away hope and dreams, and filling Thomas with dread, with the unknown, with no clear path out of his condition. Still he sipped some more, knowing the mash was clouding his eyesight such that any deer in the vicinity could walk right up to him and not get shot. 

Sounds good, no?

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