A New Addition To The U.L.S., The Underground Library Society: Ashley Clayton and her book of choice, Jane Eyre

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I want to welcome Ashley Clayton as the newest member of the U. L. S., The Underground Library Society. This is an unofficial organization dedicated to the preservation of books, and it was created in one of my First Year College Composition Classes at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA.  It is based on the Book People from Ray Bradbury’s classic novel Fahrentheit 451.  To join, a writer creates a post about a book he/she would become if they needed to in order to save it. They do not actually have to memorize it though.

When I first watched Jane Eyre[1] by Charlotte Brontë several years ago, I felt I had stumbled upon a pearl necklace left on a tree branch. I had never heard of the novel before, surprisingly—and I still wonder why it wasn’t included on my school reading lists, alongside The Scarlet Letter and Crime and Punishment. Jane is a protagonist I closely relate to, while still finding her differences complex and intriguing. We’re both introverts and artists, we tend to observe humans from afar and would prefer our own company over most people. Jane is also compassionate and does not let her circumstances overcome her fortitude—qualities I greatly admire in other people.

Jane is orphaned as an infant and grows up in an emotionally (and sometimes physically) abusive home. Her Aunt Reed is jealous of the girl and tends to overlook her plights while doting on her three spoiled and vindictive children. After Jane is struck by her older cousin John and she defends herself, she is sent to the red-room in the mansion—a scene which introduces the supernatural theme found throughout the novel. This is the room reportedly haunted by Jane’s dead uncle, and she begs to be released. Abandoned and injured, she falls ill and faints from her panic.

An apothecary is called to the home to see to Jane. Actual physicians, you see, were reserved only for the immediate family—Jane and the servants only saw the apothecary. The man recommends Mrs. Reed to send Jane away to Lowood Institute—an act disguised as charity while tidily securing the girl’s education and ongoing care, and thus eventual livelihood. This is the turning point of Jane’s young life.

Lowood was a harsh and cold place, the food poor and scant, but here Jane is given a chance to learn and develop her talents and abilities. Jane would adapt well and excel in her studies, while learning to survive within the austere school. Jane was already a resilient child from living with her aunt and cousins, and this trait became sharper at Lowood. After her classmate (and only friend) Helen dies, Jane is left alone to navigate the rest of her years at the school.

After Jane finishes her education and teaches at Lowood, she advertises for outside employment and is accepted to work at Thornfield Hall as a governess— “a fine old hall, rather neglected of late years perhaps” as Jane is told. Here she meets the estate’s proprietor, her master—a Mr. Edward Rochester. His life parallels in some ways to Jane’s: he lost a parent (his mother) early in life, his now deceased father was distant and neglectful, and he only inherited the estate after his elder brother’s untimely death. He is also the ward of a Ms. Adèle, a young French child who becomes Jane’s pupil—the third central orphan of the story.[2]

Jane Eyre is a story of injustices, sorrows and resiliency—a story filled with complex moral decisions and vulnerabilities. It is a story of characters struggling along in unfortunate circumstances, trying to find an existence where some sliver of hope and light might be found. Mr. Rochester and Jane find this hope in each other, but only after fire, tragic death and mutual forgiveness. The ending of Jane Eyre is not perfect—the author does not allow for a perfect ending. But the reader is left with a glimpse of a hopeful future and a sense of redemption for mostly everyone involved. And Jane considers herself “supremely blest” at the close of her story.

Jane Eyre is often categorized as a romance novel. While romance is a central theme of the story, I do not believe that is all Jane Eyre should be considered as. And perhaps that is why the novel was not included on my school reading lists. No, Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece is, I believe, one story about what it means to be human and to find yourself in imprisoning circumstances, and ultimately how to live through continued suffering, albeit imperfectly. Charlotte knew these things well herself—her mother, too, died when she was a child and two of her elder sisters died from tuberculosis contracted at school, just as Helen did at Lowood. Jane Eyre is a story of one woman’s strength as she discovers what love, grace and forgiveness truly entail. It is a novel I want alongside me in my life, preserved always for future generations. It is, by no exaggeration, one of the greatest works of literature ever written, and greatly appreciated by myself.

Thank you for reading.

[1] Specifically, the 2006 BBC miniseries starring Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens.

[2] It is unclear who Adèle’s father is and whether he may still be alive. Her father may be Mr. Rochester, or more likely, another man who Adèle’s mother was involved with during (or shortly after) she was Mr. Rochester’s mistress. Either way, I still consider Adèle an orphan, if not legally, then spiritually.

Thank you to Ashley Clayton for joining the U. L. S.

Please be sure to visit her website A. R. Clayton.

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Another Entry Into The U. L. S. , The Underground Library Society from Robbie Cheadle: A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

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Thank you so much to Roberta Eaton Cheadle for creating another entry into the U. L. S., the Underground Library Society! The U. L. S. is an unofficial group of people who are dedicated to the preservation of books and in complete opposition to censorship. The idea is based on the Book People from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

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Copy of Roberta Writes - independent pub 2 theme.

A Farewell to Arms  

A Farewell to Arms, written by Ernest Hemingway, is a love story set during the Italian campaign of World War 1.  

The story is narrated by the main character, Fredric Henry, an American medic, who joined the Italian Army at the commencement of war in the capacity of a lieutenant in the ambulance corp. The book details the romance between Fredric and an English nurse, Catherine Barkley, but it is equally a story of Fredric’s personal growth from a young man with foolish notions about the purpose and glory of war, misguided notions about manhood, and shallow views on love and romance to a mature man who sees the horror and waste of human life brought about by the war and the value of his relationship with Catherine.  

When we first meet Fredric, he is heavily influenced by the Italian military personnel he is associating with, including his roommate, lieutenant Rinaldi. Many of them spend their free time drinking and visiting brothels and they have a bad reputation among the English nursing fraternity who regard them as womanisers. This is indicated when the head nurse tells Fredric he may visit Catherine after her work shift but not to bring any Italians with him.  

Fredric goes along with the views and attitudes of his peers, in particular, Rinaldi. They are an irreverent crew who mock and ease the Catholic priest who serves with them. Fredric’s better nature is demonstrated early in the book when he is kind and friendly towards the priest and he experiences feelings of guilt for not visiting the priest’s hometown during his leave. Instead, he had spent his time visiting bars and brothels. The reader sees in Fredric the potential for him to develop into a better man.  

Fredric meets Catherine through his friend, Rinaldi, and is attracted to her. Initially, she is a game to him, but as time passes and he gets to know her better, he is influenced by her more mature attitudes and starts becoming steadier and more reliable. When he is seriously injured and is transferred to a hospital in Milan for surgery and treatment, he asks for Catherine to nurse him.  

This is the beginning of the great romance that develops between the two and changes the course of both of their lives. Fredric’s injury and the loss of some of his men during the attack matures him and makes him more aware of the fragility of life and love.  

Themes in A Farewell to Arms  

A Farewell to Arms has a number of themes which I have set out below with an appropriate quote form the book.  

War  

“War is not won by victory. What if we take San Gabriele? What if we take the Carso and Monfalcone and Trieste? Where are we then? Did you see all the far mountains today? Do you think we could take all them too? Only if the Austrians stop fighting. One side must stop fighting. Why don’t we stop fighting? If they come down into Italy they will get tired and go away. They have their own country. But no, instead there is a war.”  

Reality versus Fantasy  

“… I remember having a silly idea he might come to the hospital where I was. With a sabre cut, I suppose, and a bandage around his head. Or shot through the shoulder. Something picturesque.”  

“This is the picturesque front,” I said.  

“Yes,” she said. “People can’t realise what France is like. If they did, it couldn’t all go away. He didn’t have a sabre cut. They blew him all to bits.”  

Love and Loss  

“I’m afraid we have to start to go.”  

“All right, darling.”  

“I hate to leave our fine house.”  

“So do I.”  

“But we have to go.”  

“All right. But we’re never settled in our home very long.”  

“We will be.”  

“I’ll have a fine home for you when you come back.”  

Self versus Duty  

“You saw emptily, lying on your stomach, having been present when one army moved back and another came forward. You had lost your cars and your men as a floorwalker loses the stock of his department in a fire. There was, however, no insurance. You were out of it now. You had no more obligation. If they shot floorwalkers after a fire the in the department store because they spoke with an accent they had always had, then certainly the floorwalkers would not be expected to return when the store opened again for business.”  

Manhood  

“The Italians didn’t want women so near the front. So we’re all on very special behaviour. We don’t go out.”  

And  

“I can’t stand him,” Ferguson said. “He’s done nothing but ruin you with his sneaking Italian tricks. Americans are worse than Italians.”  

Religion  

“The saint hung down on the outside of my uniform and I undid the throat of my tunic, unbuttoned the shirt collar and dropped him in under the shirt.”  

And  

“You understand, but you do not love God.”  

“No.”  

“You do not love Him at all?” he asked.  

“I am afraid of Him in the night sometimes.”  

“You should love Him.”  

“I do not love much.”  

Why should A Farewell to Arms be preserved?  

Hemingway’s purpose with this book was to demonstrate the despite the glamour of war and the perceived honour of dying for your country, war is not a worthwhile undertaking. The war setting with its horror, death, and destruction is a contrasted with the wonder of love.  

There are some flaws with this book. I found Catherine to be a bit unrealistic with some of her comments and behaviour, but Hemingway’s amazing writing still pulled me in, and I loved this story. I dwelled on the ending for a long time after reading the last page.  

robbie

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Please be sure to visit Robbie at her wonderful blogs:

Robbie Cheadle Books/Poems/Reviews

Robbie’s inspriation

Thank you again to Robbie Cheadle for this post!

Update On Writing Progress

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Hello to everyone!

My writing schedule for the year is a bit off track so far. I had hoped to be further along with the first draft of the Historical Romance I am writing, which is a bit different from what I have been writing–mainly horror. If you have read my Investigative Paranormal Society series though, you can see that love is a theme that runs through these novels. My writing schedule was interrupted by life–I was ill with a stomach virus for about 10 days, not covid, and one of my closest friends just died.

While I am a bit behind on my plan, I did reach 20,000 words on the 1st draft today. At this present rate, I should have the first draft complete sometime in April.

Additionally, I want to put what I hope are the finishing edits on two other books–Book 1 of a YA environmental post-apocalypse series and Book 1 of a horror series.

My question to all of the writers out there who read this: how is your writing progressing?

Available on Amazon

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Get The Draft Done! is available here: Amazon.com

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Gallows Hill can be found here in ebook.

Gallows Hill in paperback can be found here.

An interview about Gallows Hill can be found here.

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

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Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

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French On English

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The Stone Arch Secret by K.D. Dowdall: A Five Star Book!

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This fine novel by K.D. Dowdall is a wonderful crossing of the genres of mystery and romance. Mixing genres has potential difficulties, but none of those exist in this sophisticated and engaging book. Rather than getting confused about where to take the tale, K.D. Dowdall skillfully infuses elements of both genres and effectively creates her own new genre: mystery-romance!

From the moment I began reading, I was pulled into the story in this book. The narrative moves between the contemporary mystery and the backstory with Lilly, Noah, and Dax. The tone of Karen’s story is subtle and complex, in which she weaves together a love story, grief for the death of a friend, mystery in an old town, and the threat of a well-drawn, compelling, and threatening villain.

One of the themes of the novel is the potential for corruption in religion and the consequences that can emerge from the combination of political power and, what is essentially a cult, in small town New England. K.D. Dowdall’s rendering of this political/religious threat is powerful and frightening.

K.D. Dowdall shows a mastery of history as well as using convincing dialogue with a welcomed restraint in her description of violence and threat. In all parts of this book, it is well-drawn and carefully crafted.

I will not give any spoilers in this review, but I will say that I recommend this book completely and give it a five star review. If you are a fan of books with a subtle and sophisticated writing style, a fan of mysteries, or a fan of romance, then you will enjoy this wonderful tale.

Please do yourselves a favor, and buy and read this novel!

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INTERVIEW (PART 2) WITH K.D. DOWDALL, AUTHOR OF THE STONE ARCH SECRET

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It is my honor to interview K. D. Dowdall, the author of the new romance mystery novel The Stone Arch Secret. This post is part 2 of my interview with this talented writer. The Stone Arch Secret is as an excellent book, which demonstrates K. D. Dowdall’s skills with character, setting, and plot. As mentioned in part one of this interview, I will soon post my review of her novel, but I can say that I give it 5 out of 5 stars!

Again, I thank K. D. Dowdall for agreeing to the interview. So, let us continue:

 

What books are you looking forward to reading?

Oh gosh, too many to count, but, The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels, A Treasury of Irish Myth, Legend, and Folklore by W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory, and IPagan, edited by Trevor Greenfield.

 

Religion and its corruption are a major theme in your novel. What brought you to deal with that idea?

The occupation is not significant in-itself. Rather, it is those that use their corrupted, inhuman nature to gain power over others by using religion, or other forms of power, as a weapon to control others with fear, sexual manipulation, and even murder, to fulfill their deviant ambitions to their own evil ends.  

 

Your characters are very strong and well-rounded. Do you have a particular approach in creating characters?

To write believable characters, I believe, a writer must be an observer of human nature, engaging all his or her senses, by watching facial expressions, a turn of a phrase, tone of voice, body mechanics of movement, and listen carefully to their life stories, what they believe, how they treat other people, what their dreams are.  Did you see them kick a dog, spank a child, throwaway the garbage in the morning and never look up to the sky or help someone cross a busy street? Observations of human behavior are key to personality traits and strong authentic characters. 

 

What are some of your future writing plans?

I am currently writing a paranormal series with a witch, a ghost, a dark alchemist, and time travel. It is a love story, it is comical, and deadly serious.

 

Do you have advice you would like to give to beginning writers?

Read lots of well-written books in a genre you love to read. Be who you are when you write, be authentic and honest in your writing. Also, write what you know by choosing something that matters to you.

 

How do you approach the often difficult task of revision?

Have a good editor, do at least one more draft, several Beta readers and read each word   you have written aloud. Put your completed novel away for a week or two and then comeback and reread every word and revise again if necessary.

 

Do you have any questions that I have not asked that you would like to pose for yourself to answer?

Don’t be afraid of writer’s block, use that time to think about your characters, who they are and what they represent, sometimes that clears the path and you are writing again. Also, never give up, complete whatever story you are writing, it is always better than you think it is.

Once again, I want to thank K. D. Dowdall for agreeing to this interview.

You can find more information about Karen’s writing at these sites, and please treat yourself by getting a copy of her novel, The Stone Arch Secret. If you know anyone who loves mysteries and romance, this book would make an excellent present!

The Stone Arch Secret is available on Amazon

https://karendowdall.com/

https://www.facebook.com/karenddowdall

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Interview (part 1) with K.D. Dowdall, author of The Stone Arch Secret

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It is my honor to interview K. D. Dowdall, the author of the new romance mystery novel The Stone Arch Secret. This is a wonderful book, and I will soon post my review of her novel, but I can say that I give it 5 out of 5 stars!

First, I want to thank K. D. Dowdall for agreeing to the interview. So, let us begin.

Some writers have very particular schedules and places for their writing. Do you have a particular approach?

I have a writing/library room where I read, takes notes, develop ideas for writing the next novel and then I write.  I usually have most of the story, the beginning and the end in my mind before writing, very much like a synopsis and then the characters take over. 

 

When you think of your readers, what do you hope they get from your novel?

A book that is well-written, interesting, authentic, heart-felt, and honest. And, maybe come away with a new perspective of the world around them.

 

How would you describe your writing style?

I write with a poetic touch, generally, inasmuch, as I love to write very descriptive scenes  for emotional responses to different backgrounds, whether it is a church, a country road, a forest,  or a river running swiftly under a bridge. Often, I do this so that the reader can visualize a past memory or experience about what they are reading in my story.

 

Do you have a particular genre that you enjoy reading?

I like most genres, but I suppose I favor Historical Fiction.

 

Who are some of your favorite writers?

Some of my favorites are: Stephen King, Umberto Eco, James Joyce, Jack London, Joseph Conrad, Harper Lee, Charles Dickens, Hans Christian Anderson, Libby Hawker.

 

What books are you currently reading?

I am currently reading, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Flight of the Sparrow by Amy Belding Brown, and Catling’s Bane by D. Wallace Peach.

 

What books and/or writers have inspired you?

On Writing by Stephen King, The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, Dubliners by James Joyce, The Call of the Wild and White Fang by Jack London, To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee, Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, Tidewater by Libby Hawker, Far From the Maddening Crowd, by Thomas Hardy, The Wolf and The Dove by Kathleen Woodiwiss, and poets like John Keats, E. E. Cummings, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Sara Teasdale, and of course, William Shakespeare.

Once again, I want to thank K. D. Dowdall for agreeing to this interview. Part 2 will be posted soon.

You can find more information about Karen’s writing at these sites, and please treat yourself by getting a copy of her novel, The Stone Arch Secret.

The Stone Arch Secret is available on Amazon

https://karendowdall.com/

https://www.facebook.com/karenddowdall

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Writing Quotations

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Here are a few of my favorite writing quotations:

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“You put one word after another until you are done.”

                                                                                   Neil Gaiman

 

 

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“If you write books, you go one page at a time.”

                                                                                   Stephen King

 

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“I don’t fiddle or edit or change while I’m going through that first draft.”

                                                                                   Nora Roberts