Category Archives: Books I Love

Why Aren’t You Walkin’ the Walk?

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

It’s been almost a month since Dylann Roof shot nine churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina. And wow. Folks far and wide have been acting like Chicken Little over the Confederate Battle flag and what really caused the Civil War.

But I’ve heard a common statement that I agree with, especially when it comes to the Battle Flag. We need to change our hearts and minds if we are to end racism. 

Yes. Good! Let’s do it!

So when my local Barnes & Noble organized a reading of To Kill a Mockingbird, I signed up as volunteer reader. Yesterday’s event was to promote the release of Harper Lee’s new novel, Go Set a Watchman.

What better way to promote the change of hearts and minds than with a reading of a beloved piece of literature which illustrates the evils of racism?

I probably should have promoted the event. But I get nervous when I speak in front of crowds, so I figured I’d let B&N do the promoting. They are better at it than me anyway.

I also figured, hey, everyone says they want to change hearts and minds, so there should be plenty of people there supporting such a book, right?

Right.

I had signed up for the evening read slot because my five- and seven-year-old boys probably wouldn’t sit for a reading with the lure of the Thomas the Train table calling to them from the children’s section. So they stayed home with Daddy while I went by myself.

And then I sat…by myself.

B&N had a great set up with a banner and a large circle of chairs with several copies of To Kill a Mockingbird for people who wanted to follow along with the reading. But like Kathleen Kelly, I was a lone reed.

Where were all the people who wanted to change hearts and minds? Huh? Everyone was talkin’ the talk. So why was I the only one walkin’ the walk?

Apparently, there were people there reading earlier yesterday. Kudos to them for walkin’. It was an all day event and folks still have things to do. Like me. I wouldn’t expect them to stay for the whole day.

But after hearing all the talkin’, I expected to see SOME people there for all parts of the reading. I wonder how many people would be there if it had been a reading of Grey?

While reading comments whenever the news outlets publish an article about the Battle flag, I find the reactions dismaying. What I see as the problem has less to do with North vs. South and more to do with a breakdown of comprehension and communication. Everyone is talking history but hardly anyone is citing sources. When did everyone become a credible historian?

And then there are the ones who go completely off topic:

Original Commenter: “The Civil War was about slavery, not States Rights. “

Replier: “You ain’t taking my flag away. It’s my First Amendment right!!!”

That “argument” might as well go:

Original Commenter: “French Fries are made from potatoes, not cauliflower.”

Replier: “You ain’t gonna eat all the pepperonis off of my pizza!!!”

As a fellow writer friend pointed out, “When two people are shouting no one is listening.”

Pretty much.

The thing is, I’ve illustrated what I would hope would happen among arguing people within The Stone of Kings. This scene calls to me over and over because I wish there were a way to get more people to see it and use it to bring about peace.

If you’ll indulge me, here it is. Ireland has had their own North vs. South problem. In my book, Ciaran has tried to pull a Dylann Roof (remember, I published this almost a YEAR ago) by murdering innocent people in Northern Ireland. Thomas is tasked with talking sense into him. I liken him to the beautiful families of the nine victims who forgave Roof.

Ciaran fired back his answer. “Because he wants to be a Brit! He wants to defile his Irish blood by subjecting himself to the British crown. On our own Irish land, no less! It’s an abomination. The Brits must either clear out or die!”

“What have they done to you that you feel this way?” Thomas lowered his voice again, displaying an image of calm intelligence.

“They have seized the North of our country. The whole of Ireland must be free!”

“That is not what I asked. Did Robert, or any o’ the British, take your home, your land, your language? Are you prevented from representing yourself in a political assembly? Have they taken your livelihood, murdered your family?”

“Well…no. But they’ve maintained their grip on the North of our country.”

“Do you want to live there?”

“No.”

“Then why should you care?”

“Because they’re dirty Brits!”

“I see. And you are a true Irishman to the core?”

“Absolutely.”

“And no one from the British island deserves to live here in any part of Ireland?”

“Not even their dogs.”

“So how do you feel about Saint Patrick?”

“Huh?” Ciaran blinked and stared at Thomas, obviously unprepared for this turn in their conversation.

“Since only true Irishmen deserve our country, we ought to find a different patron saint. Better still, we shall leave off Christianity altogether since ‘twas Patrick who brought it to us. And we all know how villainous those Brits are.”

Thomas paused a moment to let his words stew. Ciaran opened his mouth, closed it, and frowned. He opened it again but could not seem to find the right word to say.

Finally, he said, “But that was different. That was Saint Patrick…”

“I wonder if Patrick would approve o’ you murdering your cousin and all those strangers in the pub. If he lived in your time, would you kill him simply because he was a Brit living in your country?”

I would love NEED to hear from you!

Do you think anyone will ever be able to “argue” as effectively as Thomas? Have you read To Kill a Mockingbird? Do you cite your sources when discussing history? Are we EVER going to live up to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream? Please! Please, tell me there is hope. I’m so disappointed about all this bickering!

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Who Else Thought the Orc Read Shakespeare?

Orc blog pic

Original image of Uruk-hai_statue.jpg by Hermann Kaser from Derby, United Kingdom via Wikimedia Commons.

In Harp Lessons, Sarah’s Mom and her friend, Mary, tease each other about “leading the pigeons to the flag,” something that Mary garbled from the Pledge of Allegiance when they were kids. Originally, I wanted to use garbled lyrics from my grandmother’s cousin, Flossie, but it would have meant trying to obtain permission to mention copyrighted material, and my deadline wouldn’t allow it.

I always found her garbled lyrics hilarious. They had listened to “Catch Us If You Can” by Dave Clark Five. When the song was over, Flossie asked, “What’s a ‘sifyoucan?'”

Maybe it’s related to a snipe? 😉

The first several times I watched The Two Towers, there was a scene that just baffled me. Merry and Pippin are captured by the Uruk-hai and are on their way to Saruman. The night when the Uruk-hai insist on a break from their endless run, some of them suggest eating the hobbits.

One of the orcs (several of them voiced by the ultra-talented Andy Serkis), says a line. I hear:

“Just a mouthful. A pound of flesh.”

*giggle* I just can’t see that dirty orc sitting down with his copy of the Merchant of Venice and attempting to analyze the motivation behind Shylock’s blood thirst. And I don’t think that Tolkien would have agreed with that portrayal either.

Time to turn on the subtitles.

Oh! It’s “a bit off the flank.” Hahaha! That makes more sense.

I’d Love To Hear From You!

Did you hear what I did in that Uruk-hai scene? Do you know what a “sifyoucan” is? What are some funny ways you’ve misheard lines or lyrics?

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The Words of Wilder and Austen

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

William and I have been reading The Little House series together at bedtime. We’re halfway through Farmer Boy. He’s enjoys it, but I know when he still hasn’t wound down enough to listen.

So I wait…

…and open up my trusty Kindle.

I’m currently re-reading Pride and Prejudice. I absolutely LOVE this story. Oh poor, misunderstood Mr. Darcy! But guess who took an interest in what I’m reading?

William. Wait, what?

Weird.

Okay, enough alliteration. I was totally shocked that my six-year-old son wants me to read Jane Austen to him, but I’ll go for it. So I actually read passages like this to him:

“To Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner he was scarcely a less interesting personage than to herself. They had long wished to see him. The whole party before them, indeed, excited a lively attention. The suspicions which had just arisen, of Mr. Darcy and their niece, directed their observation towards each with an earnest, though guarded, enquiry; and they soon drew from those enquiries the full conviction that one of them at least knew what it was to love. Of the lady’s sensations they remained a little in doubt; but that the gentleman was overflowing with admiration was evident enough.”

I have no idea how much of that he takes in. Every once in a while, he’ll stop me to ask what a certain word means, but he seems to like the flow of the language. He’s asked for me to read it for the last several nights.

And I do a little happy dance inside. 😉

The thing is, I haven’t read the classics for a while. For the sake of my writing, I needed to read modern books. My first draft of Harp Lessons tried to emulate some of Austen’s flowery style and my editors had to chisel away at the manuscript to make it more stylistically pleasing for today’s audience.

I am nowhere near having the command of the English language that Austen did. But when I tried to pretend that I did?

Call the bomb squad!

The result was that my words were fit for weapons of mass destruction rather than to delight a mass of readers. I’m relieved to have had patient editors when I first learned the ropes. They were fabulous people to subject themselves to my pretentious words.

I am reminded of the journal I kept of my trip to England back in 2005.

Hee hee.

While describing the places I went, I was so wrapped up in the experience, I couldn’t resist using the word… wait for it… “alighted.”

Fortunately, I’m the only one who ever goes back and reads that journal. But maybe William will one day read it and forgive my attempt to emulate a favorite author. 😉

I’d love to hear from you!

Have you ever tried, crashed, and burned while imitating the writings of your favorite authors? Did it actually turn out pretty good? Do your kids like to read the classics? Do they “get” it?

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Introducing…The Stone of Kings!

TheStoneofKings_500X750

It’s been live on Amazon since the wee hours of the morning, but I was waiting for it to roll over to Barnes & Noble and Smashwords before writing this post. So, without further ado…

If you love a good Irish adventure as much as I do, you’ll enjoy The Stone of Kings. I wrote this book for those who, like myself, have enjoyed the Harry Potter series and The Alchemyst series, with a touch of By the Light of the Moon and The Chronicles of Narnia. In other words, these are some of my favorite books, so that is the kind of book I wrote. I sincerely hope you enjoy! 😀

Here are the links where you can find it:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords

 

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5 Quick Tips About Irish Faeries

That hat is red. Trust me.

I’ve been so busy learning about screenplays this past week, that I almost forgot to write today’s post!

With all due respect to the movie The Labyrinth, which I grew up watching over and over… and over, I’ve learned that faeries command more respect than from a fear of being bitten by them as if they were nothing more than beautiful bugs. 😉 My Grandma Caroline didn’t talk about the faeries often. But when she did, she spoke about them as if they were real. She gave me W. B. Yeats book on Irish Myth, Legend, and Folklore, and on page one I saw why she might have been so silent on them – “Beings so quickly offended that you must not speak much about them at all,…”

Huh, but we lived in America at the time. I guess old habits die hard.

But silence on the subject puts a damper in my story, so I did take a few liberties. I hope The Good People can forgive me. Which leads me to my first tip (many of these come from Yeats, some come from The Stone of Kings):

  1. “…never call them anything but the “gentry,” or else daoine maithe, which in English means good people,…” I’d much rather refer to them as Good People than Bad People anyway. 😉
  2. They are “…so easily pleased, they will do their best to keep misfortune away from you,…” I think I’d want these guys on my side…
  3. Don’t mess with the rath! – A rath is the faery’s fort. This can be a simple mound of earth. My mom says that the Irish even build some of their roads in such a way to avoid destroying a rath. And yet – we come to a bit of inspiration for my book – Yeats says, “Carolan,…slept on a rath, and ever after the fairy tunes ran in his head and made him the great man he was.” This leads us to…
  4. They love good music! My account of how O’ Carolan acquired his abilities is not completely accurate (you’ll just have to wait for my book to come out 😉 ). But I believe that it encompasses the ideas of how the faeries are easily offended yet appreciate a good tune. For more on this, read the story of Lusmore and the Fairies.
  5. If you want them to visit your garden, plant red foxglove. I believe this is something I borrowed from the story of The Priest’s Supper, found in Yeats’ book. When the priest comes along, “…away every one of the fairies scampered off as hard as they could, concealing themselves under the green leaves of the lusmore, where, if their little red caps should happen to peep out, they would only look like its crimson bells;…” In my book, anyone associated with fairies has red foxglove (lusmore) in their garden so the faeries have a place to hide. 😀

What are some tips you’ve picked up Irish faeries? Have you ever had a run in with them? Share your story! 😀

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How Not To Be Below Average

Don’t get stomped on by making yourself less than average. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Do you remember the Monty Python sketch, “How Not To Be Seen?” I recently received a request on my blog that made me think of this. Here is the request that I didn’t actually approve because I don’t want to embarrass the person who made this comment on my Beowulf/Bilbo post and instead allow them to stay anonymous:

“What does Beowulf and Bilbo have in common in both stories? I need help for my English response… Can someone help me pleaaseee ?”

*sigh*

I have had to rewrite and edit today’s post more than usual to keep it from sounding condescending and mean-spirited. It was a challenge because the request posed was kind of over-the-top. A bit like Monty Python. 😉

I wrote a post last year about my thoughts on the Hobbit versus Beowulf and while I’m happy that it tends to be my most viewed post, I’ve often been worried that lazy students might use my words for their assignments. Indeed, all this anonymous person had to do was to actually read my post, and they would have found what they needed. But now I figure, that if they plagiarise me and don’t get caught, then their teacher needs to do a bit more legwork. I did when I taught.

The sad thing is, that those students who don’t get caught, begin to think that they will never get caught. And when their chance to learn, grow, and be great passes, they become just like Mrs B.J. Smegma of 13, The Crescent, Belmont who didn’t have the sense to learn from the mistakes of the guy ahead of her.

Kaplooey.

Okay, so maybe they won’t get blown up or shot, but eventually they will get caught. If not for plagiarism, then for some other shady deal they’ve gotten themselves into. Plagiarism IS stealing.

Notice how I’ve titled today’s post. I didn’t say, “How not to be average.” Average is fine. Average can be hard work that you can be proud of because you did it yourself. But keeping yourself below average, when you are fully capable of doing the work… well, you’ve just set yourself up for failure in life.

Those who don’t learn to become independent will forever continue trying to live off others. This doesn’t fly in the real world. No one is going to earn your living for you, no matter how nice your pleaaseee is. Oh, you may get away with it a few times, but eventually, your luck will run out.

So instead, to this person, I’ll give you a gift. Pride. The feeling you get when you work really hard on something and get a good score and the score  belongs to YOU. It’s YOURS. Not the person who secretly did the work for you. If you have enough gumption to have something to actually turn in to your teacher then you can push yourself to do your own work. Just imagine Jillian Michaels hovering over you – “Come on! You CAN do it!” – as you plow through the material. 😀

I’m allowing this person to remain in anonymity in hopes that they’ll read this post instead and understand why I did not respond with “write this verbatim for your assignment…” Though somehow, I doubt that will happen :/ but at least I’ve had my say.

I won’t do your work for you. It’s YOUR responsibility. OWN it. Or you will never own anything.

Have you ever been mooched from? How did you handle it? Did you try to teach a life skill instead?

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#21 Number of Books on Your Bookshelf

Image attributed to Elliott Brown from Birmingham, United Kingdom via Wikimedia Commons.

Hee hee. This topic is how I got my first e-reader. Before I was married, I use to haunt used bookstores for hardbound versions of classic books that I hadn’t read yet. I think I still have a copy of The Mill on the Floss that I was afraid to read because the pages seemed so brittle. But it looked so awesome on my shelf!

My favorite bookstore used to be Trans Allegheny Books in Parkersburg, West Virginia. The building was built in 1905 as a Carnegie Library. Yes, that Carnegie. It had stained glass, a wrought iron spiral staircase, and the floors creaked just the way I like. 😀 I would have loved to wear one of my period dresses, which I had from playing harp, and wandered around the shelves, pretending I lived in a time before I was born.

I don’t think I ever really grew out of the dress-up phase.

Anyway, I was drawn to used book stores like a moth to flame, and at one point I counted over 300 books. I would categorize them by author. When I lived with my parents, my bedroom was a converted attic with sloped ceilings, so I used wooden crates stacked on their sides for my bookshelves. When I got married, we got a traditional bookshelf. And no matter how many times I organized and re-organized my books alphabetically by author, hubby always went through them at some point, and messed it all up somehow.

I never understood why, because he doesn’t read fiction.

Hubby is a very practical minimalist. My books were sitting on my shelf doing nothing “useful.” So I did a purge of many of the paperbacks that I’d already read. I got an e-reader by convincing him that I would purge more of them (which I did). Fortunately, most of the digital copies of my favorite classics are free, so I didn’t pay to have the books again. Now, I’ve added about 90 Astraea Press books to my Kindle and them some. So I’d say I have upwards of about 400 books. 😀

[This post was written as a part of the NaNoWriMo Pre-game Kick Off over at Jessica Schmeidler’s blog.]

NaNo word count: 19,425. I miss the Y. I haven’t been able to go as much as I thought I would. 😦

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