We are well into the month of June, and I was wondering what everyone was reading. Reading is one of the great pleasures in life, one in which I constantly indulge.
The spring semester is over, but the summer sessions of classes have already begun at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA, and I am excited that I am teaching a course called Science Fiction & Fantasy. In that course, we have already covered Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling, and we are now doing American Gods by Neil Gaiman.
In addition to rereading those books, I am also reading Next To last Stand by Craig Johnson, While The Bombs Fell by Robbie Cheadle & Elsie Hancy Eaton, and Celtic Myth and Religion by Sharon Paice MacLeod.
So, I ask everyone out there: what are you reading now?
Hello everyone! This may sound like an odd request, but tomorrow I am participating in #PitMad on Twitter, a day long event in which authors tweet a pitch for a book to agents.
If any of you have Twitter, please consider retweeting my pinned tweet, which I will put up tomorrow morning around 8 a.m. EST.
My Twitter handle is @French_C1955
This is also important– DO NOT LIKE THE PITCH–that is for agents to let writers know they are interested in your work.
The tweet will be for my horror novel The Curse Of The Demon Mine.
It will look something like this:
It x Stranger Things x The Magicians
In 1957 S. Dakota teens Dancer, Micah, and James fight a monster threatening their beloved teacher. To save him, and the magical realm, they must defeat homicidal bullies and supernatural threats, controlled by the creature. #PitMad #YA #DF
Again, thank you to all!
I want to welcome the newest member of the U. L. S. — the Underground Library Society — Alexis Cunningham!
The U. L. S. is an unofficial organization dedicated to preserving books and to opposing censorship.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge called poetry “the best words in the best order” or so the blurb on the inner cover of Best Words poetry anthology tells me. Issued to my English literature class as we prepared for our G.C.S.E exams (the equivalent to High School leavers exams) many years ago, I could not have imagined how big an impact one single poem inside could have on me.
Thing is, I’m not generally a fan of poetry. I’m staunchly a prose kind of girl. I think it. I write it. I want to expound at length, not distil language into something symbolic, or constrain it with iambic pentameter, or any of those other fiercely rigid structures that transform the written word into a composition and not an essay.
But when I thought about what book I’d want to become for the Underground Library Society my mind went blank…until they came. Snatches of words, rising from the conquered regions of my mind.
“Belfast. Beirut. Phnom Penh. All flesh is grass.”
These words form the final line of the first stanza of Carol Ann Duffy’s poem the War Photographer, a work of literature I’ve never been able to forget.
When I was sixteen I didn’t know where Beirut was. I’d never heard of Phnom Penh. Yet it didn’t matter. The specific conflicts didn’t matter –I understood. In war, all flesh is grass.
In four unpretentious stanzas, Duffy asks her reader to consider not just war, and the privilege of peace, but also the culpability of a world where the safe can witness horrors from a TV or PC screen, a smartphone video, or, as she puts it “the Sunday supplement” where “reader’s eyeballs prick with tears between the bath and pre-lunch beers.”
This was heavy stuff for a sixteen year old who could barely stay awake when asked to wander lonely as a cloud, or compare thee to a summer’s day, and it’s heavy stuff now –and I suppose I must like that, because poor old Keats and Browning, Byron and Billy Shakespeare have never done a thing for me.
Like the eponymous war photography himself, who “stares impassively at where he earns his living and they do not care” reading the War Photography left me feeling bereft and guilty, shaken out of my complacency and introduced to a new world of vivid imagery that made me look at the everyday through a different lens.
There is one place that links me, Duffy and her War Photography. England. The place I call home and Duffy describes as a land of “ordinary pain which simple weather can dispel”.
Yet England is irrevocably connected to foreign fields that explode “beneath the feet of running children in a nightmare heat,” through the War Photography himself. Forever jaded by all he has seen, he brings the war home to sleepy England with its baths and Sunday luncheons.
That juxtaposition of ordinary pain and nightmare heat, and of grass and flesh, is one that has captivated my imagination ever since.
It’s no real surprise that in my first published work, The Innocent Have Nothing to Fear, I chose to write ten short stories of an England where monsters roam in plain clothes and innocents live with their eyes wide-shut, creating a suburban world where horror lives hand-in-hand with absurdity.
Sometimes, we don’t choose to become our words, they choose us, and there are ideas that are much bigger than the pages that contain them.
About me: I am a fantasy fiction writer and life-long n00b working on a book series –The Seraphim Chronicles–focused on a group of dysfunction gods and their human avatars, set in the world of Aldlis where souls fuel magic and the dead can’t pass on. I am also learning to run my blog Aldlis Chronicles, while knowing nothing and doing it all backwards. It’s going great!
My first published work, The Innocent Have Nothing to Fear and Other Stories of Chilling Modern Horror Fantasy is available on Amazon and a follow up, The Innocent Need Not Apply is in development.
Links to me:
Once again, thanks to Alexis Cunningham for joining the U. L. S.!
In this third segment of Suggest a Book, I want to offer another favorite of mine–The Lord Of The Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. Yes, I am referring to this as one book, not as a trilogy, which was only published as three separate books on the insistence of his publisher.
I have read this book about once every ten years, and I am due to read it again. I first discovered it as a teenager, and I have enjoyed it ever since.
This extraordinary book is both the mythology of Britain, and the best, in my opinion, fantasy ever written. Among the various themes are life and death, good and evil, the capacity for people of all kinds to coexist and to become heroes, mysticism, magic, the nature of leadership, and the constant need of good people to oppose tyranny.
If you have never read this book, then I recommend it highly. It is a book you should read at least once!
What is a book you suggest for others to read?
In continuing this series about favorite characters, I wanted to turn to fictional mothers. Obviously mothers are one of the most crucial parts of most families, and that is not different in literature, television, and film.
When thinking about this question, I considered many possible choices, but I decided that my favorite fictional mother is also from a book series that I love — Lily Potter from the Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling.
While we often see or read about Lily Potter in terms of what she did instead of directly, her actions to save the infant Harry Potter from Voldemort’s attacks reaches the level of heroism. She sacrifices her life in order to save her child. This action sets in motion much of the rest of the books in the series.
She is, indeed, a loving, powerful, and heroic mother. Without her actions, Harry Potter would not have lived to become a student at Hogwart’s School Of Witchcraft And Wizardry.
So, I ask all of you: who is your favorite fictional mother?
In continuing my series on favorite fictional characters, I decided to ask today’s question about heroes. This one is very tough for me, because there are so many possibilities from which I can choose. Among the many I have considered are Mina Harker from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Henry V from Shakespeare’s play of the same name, and Captain America from the Marvel Comics. I will, however, use the technique that I recommend for students on tests and quizzes–to go with your first choice when asked a question. Now, that typically refers to memory, but I will still use it.
The one character who came to mind before any other was Aragorn from J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings. He is the leader who does not care about his own safety, who fights in the front lines with the soldiers he leads into combat, and he views the hobbits as his equals.
So, I ask all of you: who is your favorite fictional hero?
Hello to all!
I wanted to let you know that I have finished the 4th draft of my fantasy novel. After getting feedback, I will move on to what will be, I hope, the final draft.
I am currently beginning the first draft of the 3rd installment of The Investigative Paranormal Society, and I will start draft two this week of my political thriller.
Thank you for listening to this small writing update!
Please follow the following links to find my novel:
The book trailer:
My radio interview:
Hello to all. It has been a while since I have reported on the status of my writing projects, so I thought I would now.
I have finished the first draft of my political thriller, and I emphasize the first draft. As I recommend to other writers, I have not done any revision on it, and it needs much, may I say, much work. I will set it aside for a few weeks before attacking draft 2. In that draft, I will focus on getting the plot correct.
I am also working on the 4th draft of my fantasy novel, and I hope that draft is done in, at most, one month. If my goals are met with this book, I will either self-publish or pitch it early next year.
I am continuing to pitch my YA novel to agents. I am giving it until early next spring, and if I have had no success finding an agent or publisher, I will move forward with self-publishing that book.
My book on writing will be out soon I hope. It is in the process of editing and formatting, and I will give more specific information when I have it.
Finally, in about one week, I will begin the first draft of Book 3 of The Investigative Paranormal Society, and my goal is to have that done by the end of the year.
I will give more updates in the future.
Please follow the following links to find my novel:
The book trailer:
My radio interview:
(Just A Girl And Her Camera)
Among the many books that I have enjoyed or have had a large influence on my life are some that I discovered when I was young. One of the most important such works is J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings. This magnificent work, which is one novel, divided into three books: The Fellowship Of The Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return Of The King, is not only the most important work of modern fantasy, but it is also the contemporary work of British mythology. It is, in my not so humble opinion, one of the most important novels of the 20th Century.
Released in 3 parts from 1954 to 1955, this work has not only become an extraordinary bestseller, but also it influenced story-telling, writing, and movie making continually to the present day.
I was a young teenager when I read the book, deep in the heart of the Vietnam War era, in a time when everything was being questioned, and corruption was rampant in our society. Actually, it has not seemed to change all that much, with the exception of the myriad of good and decent people who are trying to make positive contributions to our world. This book captured my heart and mind immediately, and I have reread the entire book about once every ten years or so. I am due for another rereading soon.
Tolkien was a deeply important linguist, and he developed a new language—Elvish, complete with syntax, vocabulary, and an alphabet. This work and his academic work would have made him one of the preeminent thinkers of the 20th Century. His writing of this novel puts him in the upper echelon of writers.
Almost any theme that can be considered is included in this work: life and death, good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, the consequences of the industrial age on an agrarian culture, the place of war, the importance of ordinary people as well as leaders, the hero and the quest, and the workings of the human heart are just a few that could be mentioned. I have been concerned my entire life with the issue of good and evil and when evil must be confronted. Tolkien, who fought in World War I and saw the horror of World War Two, examines this issue in depth. For a world that experienced the twin terrors of those wars, Tolkien’s book becomes a place to examine how such fighting impacts people.
No matter how many times, I read this magnificent work, I never cease to be astounded by it. It is not a book intended for children, as The Hobbit is, as some have mistakenly thought. It is a work for adults and through the lens of fantasy, deals with extremely important human issues.
I am also pleased to say that I will be teaching The Lord Of The Rings in my course: Epics of Humanity at the Wescoe School–the adult evening college– of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA this coming fall semester.
I know I will read The Lord Of The Rings throughout the rest of my life.
In my next installment, I will discuss a particular play that has had huge impact on me.