Dining With Characters! Part I

Standard

toast-153723_640

https://pixabay.com/

The other day I was thinking about which 2 or 3 fictional characters I would like to sit down with over coffee, tea, or beer and with whom I would like to have a conversation.  When I first thought about it, I believed it would be an easy choice to make, but then I realized that there were so many that I would have to do this in parts.

coffee-843278_640https://pixabay.com/

teapot-484792_640

https://pixabay.com/

beer-846047_640

https://pixabay.com/

For the initial meeting, I thought I would extend an invitation to Merlin from Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur, Gandalf from J.R.R.Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, (not from The Hobbit), and Dumbledore from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series to join me over beer, mead, or even butterbeer, if that were preferable at a nice Public House.  I chose  these characters because they are central figures in three works that are deeply important to me, not only from the perspective of study but also from the enormous pleasure I have had from reading these works. I have taught all of them in different classes, and I love to reread these writings over the years.

bar-209148_640

https://pixabay.com/

I am fascinated by the connection among the three of them, all wizards in tales of British mythology. Among the questions I would want to ask would be: Do you see a connection among yourselves? Do you approve of your portrayals in the writings? and Are you descended from the Druids?

stonehenge-256060_640

I think this would be a lively and enjoyable conversation, although if too much was drunk, I wonder what inebriated and arguing wizards would be like.

trees-358418_640

https://pixabay.com/

Who would you choose to invite to such an event?  I would love to hear your choices.

Once More Unto the Breach, Dear Friends, Once More!

Standard

henryv

http://www.movieclips.com/

Or should I say at least once more? (with thanks to William Shakespeare Henry V 3.1.1.)

moon-330068_640

I have not posted for a while about the progress of my horror novel Evil Lives After, and I thought I should give a report on what was happening with it. I am receiving excellent editing and feedback on my previous draft, which I deeply appreciate.  After having spent several months in primarily working on a first draft on another novel and on revisions of my second novel, I realized I needed to get back to Evil Lives After.  I am, therefore, now actively, cutting, adding, and revising to create the 8th draft.  I think this will be a much tighter, more compelling, and more frightening book than before.

ghost-town-551136_640

https://pixabay.com

I suspect that completing the revisions of this draft will need a three to four month time frame.  I am sure that the book will be greatly improved after this process.  I will keep you updated on the progress.  For now, to revising I go!

typewriter-159878_640

https://pixabay.com/

Favorite TV Shows: the 1950s: The Twilight Zone

Standard

tv-2213140_960_720

(https://pixabay.com)

I had engaged recently in a conversation in which TV shows were discussed. Afterwards, I was thinking that I consider the 1950s and the 1960s to have been the era which produced the best television shows.

feedback-2044702_960_720

(https://pixabay.com)

 

I am not claiming that the special effects were good or that the shows were slick in any way.  In some cases that I will mention, the acting was not the finest, but, and this is my point, the writing was extraordinary.

alphabets-2365812_960_720

(https://pixabay.com)

I will mention one show per post and will cover more in the not too distant future.  In all cases, I am referring primarily to the writing, the story-telling, and the themes of the shows. First is The Twilight Zone, which ran from 1959-1964 and dealt with the moral, ethical, and social problems of the time.  Certainly, this show is memorable for the famous actors who appeared at different times, but it is still the writing with which I am the most interested.

Thetwilightzone-logo.svg

(https://commons.wikimedia.org)

The one episode, in particular, that I argue is among the best writing of all time for TV is “Death’s-Head Revisited.”  In this episode, a former concentration camp captain visits Dachau after the war.  There the ghosts of his victims take vengeance on him.  Serling wrote a riveting epilogue in which he says, “All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwalds, the Auschwitzes – all of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the Earth into a graveyard. Into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all, their conscience. And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance, then we become the gravediggers. Something to dwell on and to remember, not only in the Twilight Zone but wherever men walk God’s Earth” (The Twilight Zone.) This is one of Serling’s best moments in writing.

This is one of the most powerful moments ever shown on Television, and it is one of the most extraordinary statements on the worst evil ever committed by human beings to other human beings.  We must never forget  the horror of the Holocaust.

dachau-1875393_960_720

(https://pixabay.com)

Citations:

Serling, Rod. The Twilight Zone. “Death’s-Head Revisited” 1961.

Going to a Conference!

Standard

New-York-City-Skyline-Wallpapers

New York City Skyline Wallpapers

I am going to the Writers Digest Conference in New York City this weekend, and I am very excited about it. This is one of the largest writers’ conferences in North America, and it will be the second time I have attended.

writing-clip-art-Writing2

http://www.clipartpanda.com

When I went last year, I had no real idea of what to expect. Of course, I had done research, but a writers’ conference, especially one this large, is significantly different from academic conferences I had attended.

meeting

http://www.murkworks.net/

This year I will be there with my pitch for my horror novel Evil Lives After prepared, and with specific expectations of what I will try to gain and learn. One specific quality of this event that I realized last year is that every session is valuable. I intend to gather as much information as possible about writing and publishing as I can.

elevator-pitch1

Home

The main focus for me, as I am sure it will be with many other writers, is the agent pitch slam, a kind of speed dating or elevator pitch session with agents, in which each writer has a 3 minute time span to greet the agent, pitch the novel, and answer questions. I have done my research and planning and know which agents I will try to pitch first. I will let you know how that turns out.

Staten-Island-Ferry--New-York-City_web

I have to mention that I am staying with my wonderful and gracious in-laws, whom I love as my own parents. A big thank you to them!  They have a house on Staten Island, and I will make the commute on the ferry—and I love riding the ferry!—and then take the subway to Grand Central Terminal, which is only a couple of blocks from my destination.

GrandCentralterminalexterior

pinterest.com

Helen Murray’s Peanut Butter Cookies

Standard

kitchen-scale-532651_960_720

(https://pixabay.com)

I have shared some recipes from the three gentlemen who make up the ghost hunting group in my horror novel Maledicus: Investigative Paranormal Society Book I. These are the main characters in my novel, but there are other very important people also, and they will also share recipes with you.   Today, I wanted to offer a baking recipe from Helen Murray.

Helen Murray, one of the main secondary characters, is a high school history teacher and the guardian of her niece Helena who was named for her.  Helen became the child’s guardian when her sister and brother-in-law were killed by a drunk driver.  The child was an infant when this tragedy occurred, so she has grown to the age of 5 thinking of Helen as her mother.  One of the tasks involved with caring for the little girl that Helen embraced was baking.  Previously, she had done very little of it, but after gaining the responsibility for taking care of this little girl, whom she loved, she found a passion for baking.

book-1292854_960_720

(https://pixabay.com)

One of her simple recipes is also one of Helena’s favorite treats: Helen’s peanut butter cookies.

1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy)

1/2 cup butter–softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla (or 1 vanilla bean if adventurous)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1&1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Put peanut butter and butter into mixing bowl. Use medium speed, and beat until the mixture is smooth (about 1-2 minutes). Add sugar, egg and vanilla.  Use medium speed, and beat about another minute.  Scrape bowl and combine together.

Add all the other ingredients for about 1 more minute of beating.  Roll the dough into one inch balls.  Press flat with a fork into a criss-cross pattern.

Bake at 375 degrees until golden brown.  In Helen’s oven, that takes about 10 minutes.  It could vary by a few minutes.  Remove from baking sheets and let cool. This recipe will make about 33-37 cookies.

peanut-butter-1164861_960_720

(https://pixabay.com)

As an extra treat, Helen sometimes will dip half the cookie in melted chocolate and add rainbow sprinkles and let them cool.

Helena always loves these!

More recipes from characters to come in the future.

A Little About Helen Murray

Standard

back-to-school-913072_960_720

(https://pixabay.com)

I have been giving tidbits of backstory about the three retired gentlemen who are the focus of my horror novel Maledicus: Investigative Paranormal Society Book I. In the next few posts about characters in the novel, I will write a little about a few of the secondary, but important characters, of the book.

Helen Murray was a high school history teacher, the kind of teacher who caught her students’ attention and engaged them in the lessons. She understood that for many teenagers, history began the day there were born, and that it required a great effort to engage her charges’ minds.

history-998337_960_720

(https://pixabay.com)

She would often wear clothing or costumes of the time period when teaching about the Civil War or the Victorian era for example. Many of her fellow teachers looked at her as an eccentric, but she didn’t care, because her pupils had learned to be interested in history. Reaching her students, and instilling in them an interest in history was far more important to her than what others thought about her.

Her life had been an ordered one, but that changed with a series of terrible incidents, including the deaths of her sister and brother-in-law. As a result of a terrible car crash, Helen became the guardian of her very young niece, Helena, who was named for her.

I don’t want to reveal too much about the plot of the book, but I will say that Helen showed herself to have the heart of a tiger and to be a warrior.

amazon-1300350_960_720

(https://pixabay.com)

Roosevelt Theodore Franklin’s Humanism

Standard

art-school-of-athens-1143741_960_720

(https://pixabay.com)

( by Raphael ~1510)

“Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.”

John Donne from Meditation 17 (1624)

Roosevelt Theodore Franklin, the protagonist of my supernatural thriller and horror novel Maledicus: Investigative Paranormal Society Book I, is a retired history professor whose main area of study was the occult during the Renaissance. He paid special attention to Marsilio Ficino, Giovani Pico della Mirandola, John Dee, and Giordano Bruno. The work he holds in the most regard is Pico’s “Oration on the Dignity of Man,” a piece often considered to be the Humanist Manifesto, and one in which Pico asserts that human beings have the capacity to rise like eagles or sink into the muck like insects.

For Roosevelt, the Renaissance represents a time with an explosion of new ideas, confronting the status quo and forcing the exploration of new forms of knowledge. In many ways, he believes it was similar to the 20th century.

Pico1

(https://es.wikipedia.org)

Perhaps the most crucial and important element from this period for Roosevelt was the creation of Humanism, a philosophy that he considered to be central to his way of life and consideration of the world. He rejects post-modernism and its denial of truth; he sees the existence of truth, but that it is a search one must continue throughout the entirety of life. He denies the idea that humans are disconnected; he perceives the connection among people of which Donne spoke in the Meditation 17. If he is confronted by other academics about his ideas which are often considered out of fashion or outdated, he replies that he is not a slave to fads and that he is proud to be a humanist.

Roosevelt holds that despite our many and varied differences, we are all ultimately connected as human beings.

human-1375479_960_720

(https://pixabay.com)

The Importance of Revision in Writing

Standard

ernest-hemingway-401493_960_720

(https://pixabay.com)

“Interviewer: How much rewriting do you do?
Hemingway: It depends. I rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, 39 times before I was satisfied.
Interviewer: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?
Hemingway: Getting the words right.”

(Ernest Hemingway, “The Art of Fiction,” The Paris Review Interview, 1956) 1

paper-3033204__340

(https://pixabay.com)

The act of revision is an absolutely necessary part of writing, no matter what kind. Essays, stories, novels, books all require that the author not be satisfied with initial drafts. “Re-vision” means to re-see, or to look at the work from another perspective. This idea is something I try to teach my students in College First Year Writing classes, and it is crucial that I apply the ideas myself to my own work.

When I look back over my writing of the last few years, I can see that I employ this practice. I wrote at five-seven drafts of the chapters of my dissertation for my Ph.D. in English, and I continue to revise with the novels I am currently writing. I wrote 13 drafts of my horror novel Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society, Book 1; I did six drafts of my second novel, a young adult speculative work.  The second book in my supernatural series is almost ready to be released at 6 drafts–Gallow Hill: The Investigative Paranormal Society, Book 2. I have learned to be more focused in my revisions, so I have been able to cut down the numbers a bit.

Of course, the writer can revise in several ways. Do we do a complete rewriting of the draft trying to deal with everything, or do we focus on a particular aspect of the novel, for example structure or characterization? I do not pretend to know what each writer should do. I suspect that it varies according to project and writer.

What I am certain of is that we must continue to work on the writing, trying to see it in new ways and looking for various problems to fix.

notebook-1886731_960_720

(https://pixabay.com)

 

The most important point is for writers to keep writing and revising!

1. From http://grammar.about.com/od/advicefromthepros/a/rewritequotes.htm 3/28/2015.

Roosevelt Franklin’s Guilty Pleasures

Standard

20160603_184437

Roosevelt Franklin, the protagonist in my horror novel Maledicus: Investigative Paranormal Society Book I, is a man who does not allow himself many indulgences. Despite being able to afford almost any whim he might desire, he does not grant himself many. He does, however, have two guilty pleasures that he loves to enjoy: fine cigars and good whisk(e)y. The spelling depends on if the alcohol is American, with an “e” or Irish or Scotch without the “e”.

Even though he has a heart condition and is 68 years old, he refuses to give up smoking one cigar and drinking a couple of fingers of whisky each day. He knows that he is on the downslide of life, but he does not intend to give up these enjoyments.

Roosevelt prefers strong cigars. He is a lover of strong flavors, from coffee to whisky and cigars. His favorite is a CAO Brazilia Churchill length. This cigar is intended for experienced smokers, with a deep, rich flavor and powerful smoke. Roosevelt chooses the Churchill length because he likes to make the experience last, usually at night and paired with a good whiskey.

Roosevelt enjoys good American bourbon and Irish and Scotch single malt whiskys. His favorite bourbon is Maker’s Mark, a standard of excellence. It is rich with a strong flavor, but it is also very smooth. His preferred Irish whisky is John Powers, a very smooth drink. His favorite single malt Scotch whisky is the 18 year old Macallan, as Roosevelt calls it—the finest whisky in the world. It is smooth, rich, and strong, with no bite. It is a perfect dram of whisky.

At the moment, Roosevelt is drinking a rare single malt Scotch whisky–the 15 year old Macallan, which is very smooth and has extremely deep and complex flavors.

Roosevelt certainly understands that not everyone will agree with his opinions on these cigars and alcohol, and he respects others’ views, but he holds firm on his sentiments.

20160603_184651

(images from personal photographs)

Roosevelt Franklin, Book Lover

Standard

books2

(https://pixabay.com)

This entry is one of several posts I will write about some of the characters in my first novel. I hope you enjoy it.

The protagonist of my supernatural horror thriller Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I is a retired History professor, living in Bethberg, a small town in northeastern Pennsylvania. He is a deeply complex man, influenced by, among other things, his service in the Vietnam War and the profound and loving marriage with his now deceased wife.

Roosevelt has several deep enjoyments in life—eating, drinking good whisky, especially single malt Scotch, and smoking high level cigars, but his primary passion in life is books. A visitor to his home would notice, more than anything else, the enormous number of bookcases lining many of the walls in his house. Roosevelt’s home is an old Victorian home that he and his wife Sarah had purchased and renovated shortly after their marriage.

While she did have a large room dedicated to being her art studio, an avocation she loved, even while being a surgeon, and Roosevelt had a large room that was his studio, smoking room and library, other rooms also were filled with books of many kinds and conditions. Roosevelt, although a man of financial means, is not a book collector. He believes that books should be read and not simply owned to be put on display. He thinks that the words in a piece are what make the book important, not a fine leather cover or being a first edition. He places worth on the ideas, the stories, the tales, the histories, and the communications in books and not their potential monetary value.

books-1655783_960_720

(https://pixabay.com)

At one point, he tried to make a calculated estimate of how many books he owned, but he decided it was an almost impossible task, so he stopped the tally when he reached 4000. And no matter how many books he owns, he seems to always find more to buy. Again, he is not a snob when it comes to the owning of books. His snobbery emerges when it comes to whiskey and cigars.

More on that later.

Book-iPad-wallpaper-Library

(https://pixabay.com)

wp-1476386546701-maledicus

 

Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview