Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Would Shunning Stop Monsters?

I'm making a really radical change from my normal format here.  Rather than write about books at this particular time, I had an idea about the monsters we have in society.  I'm not talking about sparkling vampires this time.  I'm talking about the kind of people who take the lives of innocents.  Whether it's in a movie theater or in a school.  No matter the location, these people are monsters and should be dealt with and then FORGOTTEN.

That's what I said... we forget the monsters.  We don't use their name in the newspaper or the blogs or on television.  Give them a number and deal with them.  Take them to court or bury them if they take themselves out.  Does that sound harsh?  Oh my god.  Let's be a little bit harsh.

Think of it as Shunning.  We don't have to be familiar with Amish or Mennonite societies to know what Shunning is and what it does as a psychological device.  Forget them.  Turn your back on their name, strike it from all public records.  Why should we have a historical account of every mass murderer, kidnapper or sniper rather than a record and monument to the victims?

You want to write a book about a serial killer?  Fine.  But that's not what I'm talking about. 

Journalists and reporters could think about this, they are the ones on the front lines of the media hype.  This is therefor a war... an info war... if you will, but why make it seem glamorous?  It's not glamorous, it's tragic.  Focus on the victims, raise up the families, support the efforts to prevent this type of criminal act.

Shunning might work to lessen the attractiveness of being a killer.  If you know your name is going to be deleted, if your history is erased, what do you leave behind?  Why not leave a testament of good works?  Help your neighbor.  Help build a playground and make it safe.  Why plan any of the cruelties that rev up the twisted psyche?  Plan something nice... be remembered for that.

It occurred to me that professional, televised, baseball games avoid showing the streakers and loony fans who run onto the field and disrupt life... and the game.  Of course then everyone with a cell phone records it and passes it around the web making them famous, after all.  But what if we considered the monster we're creating with that type of hype?  What if we cease and desist?  What if we were mature, adult, reasonably intelligent, at least, about these things? 

We often complain that news reporting is all about sensationalism, wow, there's news.  What if we shunned the reports that only hyped the killers?  What if we listened to the helpful things being done?  What about making a case for good news?

I know that nothing will stop bad people from doing bad things except their own consciences.  But if we found a tool to turn the initial impetus of those thoughts from wreaking havoc, wouldn't that be worthy of everyone's consideration and support.  If something like Shunning, or some other psyche tool, was used with responsible reporting of news events and it avoided even one more massacre, isn't that worthwhile?

Maybe you have a better idea.  Maybe you have something to say that could turn people from taking their first giant evil step.  I submit that erasing their names would deter those whose only motivation is their ego.  It certainly can't hurt.

Monsters should be kept in books, where they belong.  We enjoy a good fright, a good crime story and horror stories... but to take them out into public and let them loose... forget it.

I hope the few people who look at this are giving a prayer for those hurt by the shooting and every other tragedy that this country and the world deal with every day. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving... and The Hobbit

The thing about my blog is that I'm so random it's not funny.  I won't get into my personal life, since it's not interesting… to anyone… except to say that you need to watch your books.  That's right.  Watch your books.  I'm doing some house excavating since I'm trying to sell the old place and I've found books that I thought were perfectly fine, except for a little age smell to them.  Well, a word to the wise here, a book that smells aged is only so much paper getting set to be recycled.  Anything with mold or mildew won't make it in a throwaway world. 

We're not talking about classics, just some children's books that sat too long in occasional humidity and sunlight.  How was I supposed to know that was a… okay, really, I didn't know they were just sitting there like that, anyway.  Most of the books put away were in boxes and they were just fine… I think.  So… where I was going with this is, when you store books away use dry containers, dry locations, maybe - I'm going to experiment with a bacterial type of spray when I have to box most of mine up… since I imagine they'll sit for a time before going on shelves.  I'll likely use plastic tubs rather than cardboard, or plastic bag liners… I'll have to find the best storage method before I do.  I already have books that are in cautious condition but only for their age, nothing to do with mold or mildew.

So, let's get to the real reason for this blog… books that have inspired me in the past.

And this is a great time to bring up a book I've avoided because no one has ever forgotten it.  The Hobbit.  Yes, it's a classic and most people have read it a few times and seen versions of it animated, but it is now coming to the big screen from the man who brought The Lord of the Rings trilogy to life, Peter Jackson.

The Hobbit.  It's the story of young Bilbo Baggins and his adventure with the dwarves.  The wizard Gandalf includes him as a final lucky number to their group.  We all know how the story goes… if any of you don't I suggest reading the book.  It is fun.

I have nothing against the Lord of the Rings movies, I love them, I'm actually watching it(read - have it on in the background) as I'm writing this.  Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, have just entered the underground passage to meet the ghosts… 

I used to read the four books… I include The Hobbit as a prequel and a part of the set… every year.  As my library expanded I read them less often.  As my writing increased I barely read them at all.  And then the movies came out and I have all three in extended versions and I watch them again and again, more often than I read the books.  Of course that  made me lazy about the books and I tended to enjoy the movies.

Then, one day, when I had a job where I drove to work, I listened to the undiluted CDs of The Lord of the Rings.  It was interesting to hear the difference.  There were parts where I wouldn't have recognized the movie was based on the book at all.  Even with an extended version of the movie, Peter Jackson had to pare down the story… shorten it.  Then, since he wasn't making a literary work, he had to add extra moments of drama and - what was missing from the books - romance.

What?  Didn't the books have romance, you say.  Well, not exactly.  Mr. Tolkien was a British gentleman, but, while I do believe there was romance of a type in his mind, he was all about the fellowship of the men.  His experience in life, with war and with teaching, was one of fellowship… look at the Inklings… though they had females among them, it was a fellowship of writers.  Fellowships aren't about romance, except in a pure sense, at least there was no sex but a platonic relationship between fellows. 

Obviously, by the title of the first book, we should realize the direction Mr. Tolkien is going.  Also, keep in mind that a British idea of fellowship can be a bit different than an American (United States) version of fellowship, in a general way.  His story is about a group of men who come together for a specific purpose, the disposition of a Ring, and grow close through trials and tribulations.  Even the four hobbits grow through it all.  There is a great deal more depth in the books than in the movie, but a great deal less romance.  The elven princess does not find the hapless ranger nurturing a wounded Frodo and make a heroic stand at the river against the black riders.  One version stands as a book and the other as a movie.  However, a princess of the Rohirrim does take a hobbit into battle under her cloak.  Mr. Tolkien was not against females, but his story dealt with war and death and dying and I believe he wished to keep most women free of that, at least in an idealized way.

Why have I written a (tiny) critique of The Lord of the Rings movie vs. books?  Well, it's because The Hobbit is a similar story.  There are no female dwarves in the party.  There is no romantic lead in the book.  Again, it's a story of a fellowship, and it brings about the growth and education of one hobbit… after all, he's the star of the show.

What Mr. Jackson and his team do with the story is yet to be seen, but I anticipate the viewing of it.  I'm certain, simply from trailers and his previous work that it will be enjoyable.  I will wait to get all three extended versions… I must.

Oh, right, yes, The Hobbit inspired me in both my reading and writing.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Trying Hard not to Slack

It's been some time since I wrote my last entry and the way things are going I have no idea of when another will be posted.  I can only hope that things are going to fall into a pattern soon.
I noticed that my last blog only mentioned three of the books I've published on Smashwords.com but at this point I have six books available there… all of  The Merged Worlds series (not the end of the series, yet).  I'll list them at the end of this entry, along with addresses and a 50% off code for the first two.
So, to business…
No.  One more thing before I knuckle down to a blog (probably why I haven't made an entry - I get distracted).  I joined up with the Year Of The Book at my library.  There I was, using one of their computers to go online (oh, another thing, my keypad on my laptop… it got ruined… the connection to the motherboard.  So, my laptop is no longer portable or, if so, is a kind of ghetto thing with a keyboard wider than the computer).  Anyway, I was minding my own business… and this really nice lady comes and twists my arm, threatening me with friendliness, telling me I need to join and write a book in a year.  There was a meeting the same day, a few hours hence, and they'd all started on Labor Day... I had to read...
So, now I'm writing a book… in a year.  I can do that.  No problem.
Business… this is a blog of books past.  Books that inspired me or simply carried me away to a world I'd never heard of before.  (Yes, the premise of this blog is evolving)
One of my favorite authors -  Tara K. Harper.  WOLFWALKER.  1990
A Del Rey book under Ballantine Publishers.
Talk about getting carried away in the first page… geez…
Ember Dione maMarin - Wolfwalker and healer.  She has a psychic connection to a wolf, Gray Hishn.
If you like action, adventure, and a world created with greater depth than the one you live in, this is the book and series for you.  Ms. Harper bio-engineered an entire world and culture that will fascinate you and keep you guessing and wanting to know more.  And that's only the background.  The characters are strong and moving and their growth through the perils that they face makes you want to know them… or help them.
It's a straight enough story (every story is) but the complications of the world and politics makes it all the more gripping.
I could say that Ember sets out with her twin brother, Rhom, on a journey that is like a coming of age challenge for Rhom.  Destiny casts a vote and Ember must go with him. Then… things get crazy from there… (remember, I don't like giving things away)
There's a parallel story line initially when Aranur Bentar neDannon, weaponsmaster, goes in pursuit of his sister, when she's captured by slavers…
Yes, it's one of those books.  A great one…
It's a thrill ride… the thrills are all in the adventure and the discoveries that you make as a reader (so I shan't tell you of any). 
In the tradition of Andre Norton and Anne McCaffrey, Ms. Harper spins a tale that grabs you and shows you things you never expected to find.
I have ten of Ms. Harper's books in front of me.  I'm not sure if she has more.  Seven of them, I think, are of the Wolfwalker series.  Two are great cats and the other looks like science fiction from the cover.  That's called LIGHTWINGS and while I know I read it, I'm waiting for an opportune moment to open the pages and test myself.
For once, I checked out her bio site, finding it a little less than current, and Tara sounds like a great person, with energy and imagination. 
Where am I going to find time to read all ten books, though? 

Anyway, at the top, I said I'd list my books and here they are. 

Too Much Magic -   50% discount code is DA93E  valid thru 1/30/13
Vampire's Magic -  50% discount code is DF36Z valid thru 1/30/13
Pepper's Magic -
Artificial Magic -
Unexpected Magic -
Hunter's Magic -
coming soon:
Timely Magic

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Young Adult books Come and Go

Okay, you know the problem I have with young adult books?
Neither do I, except there are so many and I no longer have a young adult around reading such books.  That means I have to go into the library and get my own.
I mean, I don't pretend I'm checking them out for my kids.  YA books have great stories.
Right, that's today and this is all about books past and so I have to go back to when my daughter got me into reading young adult fantasy.  (Okay, we're pretending here that I stopped reading it on my own)(At least she introduced me to some new things)(Alright, alright, I have no excuses)
It didn't last long, don't worry. 
I mean… it didn't last long for her, she was soon into John Grisham, leaving me to fend for myself.
Which books were they, you ask?
Yes, teen twin witches.
A really great young adult series.
A really, really, really great series, great storytelling, great characters.
And do you want to know what the problem with the series was?
Disney made it into a movie.
They  trashed the whole series. 
Made me physically sick.
Every time I look at the books (yes, they are on my shelves) I get a flashback sick feeling.
At least I got the rant out of the way in the beginning of the blog this time.

T'Witches. Bk 1 - The Power of Two. 2001 by H.B.Gilmour & Randi Reisfeld, published by Scholastic
Think Parent Trap for witches but with a hundred more things going on… kind of without the parents. (and without Disney)
A young teenage soccer player from a nice eastcoast school hears voices and has visions, Camryn Barnes, with mojo.  Great parents, great house, great friends, everything is nice in her life.  Although sometimes she thinks she's going crazy.
Then there's Alexandra Nicole Fielding living in a rusting trailer on poverty's edge, with her mom, and dreaming about getting a real life out in the world.  She works in a cowboy theme park… things tend to fly when she's upset.
Of course you see where this is going.
Girl meets girl and things go sideways.
They're only fourteen years old so there are no hunky werewolves coming onto the scene or vampires for that matter.  This is all about witches and their secret society.  They live in the human world and separate.
Later in the series there may be a hunky witch boy or two so don't worry, if you get into it…
This isn't only about sisters finding they've been separated just after birth (although obviously that's a huge part of it).  It's about power and politics and trust and betrayal, love and faith, the kind of things that teens are learning about in real life.  It's about family and friends and looking for answers and making mistakes… then learning how to deal with them.
It's a ten book series… I think only ten books… sorry, uncertainty rules here.  But it's a cohesive story with a delightful set of characters.
Smuggled away from their home after they were born they were separated to keep them safe from an evil uncle.  Talismans of power, gifts of their father, stayed with them and later take an active part of their lives.  Left alone for the sake of security the twins are watched over by good witches and hunted for by the bad.
Cam and Alex need to uncover the secrets of their past and do so… in that gradual way that makes for a certain level of suspense.
If I remember correctly the authors did a good job of creating those you don't want to open that door type of moments.  Or don't trust him, Cam, don't listen, Alex.
There was plenty of depth to the story and I was kept interested.
I just reread the entire series about three years ago so my recommendation stands.
I still have this problem about giving things away in the stories I'm talking about… I want you to read them and find the little hidden things.
Of course that means…
Never mind.

Anyway to close out this blog today I wanted to say I just published the Smashwords edition of book three of my - The Merged Worlds series - Pepper's Magic.
I don't know if I ever said I published the first two with smashwords, but, I did.

I hope you'll check them out.  They may not have twins but they do have witches, vampires, werewolves, ghosts and more…

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Problem With Reading

Okay, as far as past books go I haven't quite left the stories of the Diadem by Jo Clayton.
I read Star Hunters and The Nowhere Hunt and it shows a swerve in the path of the stories, when Aleytys, the star of the series, joins an organization that's kind of a detective agency, repo team and protection service.  She does it because one of their agents helped her out and she thinks it sounds like a good use of her skills and it pays well.  She's still on a quest to find her mother and her people but it's no rush. 
A lot of interesting twists and turns go on amidst the straight plot of her mission.
What Ms. Clayton does especially well is create an alien culture in which Aleytys must work.  In The Nowhere Hunt, almost half or more of the story is told by the natives of the planet where Aleytys must go.  An entire culture is created as the background of the story, except it's not really the background but a major player in the story.
The same is true for Star Hunters, of course.  It's a mission where Aleytys was requested by those of the planet to help.  That part of the story turns out to be something twisted and interesting.  But the majority of the story is about the natives and what they go through.  At one point it seems to be the coming of age of one of the characters.  It's also a nice story of female empowerment, women's rights in a very repressive society.
I don't know that Ms. Clayton deliberately wrote allegories of the world she lived in and the changes that were necessary but most writers who use reality as a basis for character development wind up doing it.  Like poems, a good story reveals a lot about the character of the author rather than only about the character of the characters.
Previously I suggested that Ms. Clayton may have had some hippy in her, maybe she did, maybe not but the creation of a strong female character like Aleytys gave her ample room to display the dysfunction of society.  She points out stereotypes and the dangers of assuming people are automatically like us just because we manage to communicate.  Several situations display the difficulties that women have in breaking from traditional standards. 
It isn't just that she points them out and creates changes she shows the power and hope that such change could inspire.  Unfortunately, like the hippy movement, only those already predisposed to change will actually change.  When dealing with the peer pressure of an entire society (including politics, economics, prejudices, isolationism and the continual degradation of the supporting infrastructure) most wind up a part of the situation or living in a commune or a hermitage. 
While very few people read this I'm still making a point, the point on one hand is that while few read this, even fewer will think it credible or of any value.  The idea that Ms. Clayton may have introduced changes to the world culture through her science fiction is no less credible than any other author touching those of the world.  Those who read her books were moved or entertained.  She did make an impact and it showed her heart.  I recommend looking up her website, put together as a memorial to her.  It will show how many people she touched.
Fear No Art.
We all hear of that saying but how many people care what it means or why it's necessary.
Artists of all media reflect the world around them, showing what we love, hate or hope for.  Many artists merely reflect the works of artists they seek to emulate.  The reason we should not Fear Art is that it also points to freedom… or I should say FREEDOM.
Every artist is pointing at beauty, love or another of the great motivating ideals that rule all cultures.  We know that even in the most repressed culture there is a seed germinating and seeking sunlight, the seed is hope.  Everyone everywhere seeks a breath of fresh air or a drink of pure water… it is human nature.
So why am I going off on a rant? 
Eh, don't bother asking.
If you need to ask, you don't know enough.  Since you don't know enough, think about the ignition temperature of paper.  Or why soylent green is not a color.  I'm writing this on the Fourth of July.  A day of celebration for something long past.
I write a lot, especially when the muse grabs me.  The thing I have often wondered about my stories, as they go past a hundred thousand words, is why those in the story are somehow trying to save the world?  I've created a line of good seers fighting a line of wicked for control of the future.  I've created a kidnapped and imprisoned woman who guides an ancient House into a saving role in their future.  Another is a tale wherein a woman is the pet of two immortal aliens who need a plan to change the future of mankind, to save the world and all free humans.
The same type of thing evolves in the books I have epublished and will soon put out as Smashwords editions.
So, dropping the rant, I go back to Jo Clayton and the next book Ghosthunt.
Unfortunately I can't read someone else's book and write my own so I go back and forth, a lot.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

There Really is Nothing New - Just New Ways of Telling the Tale

Previously I mentioned the relatively new book by Stephenie Meyer - The Host and then an older book called Needle by Hal Clement.  Both deal with the presence of symbiotic alien life forms.  Of course there are other books that dealt with the same invasion.  I was thinking of Robert Heinlein's book - The Puppet Masters. (unfortunately, it's another of those books that is MIA from my shelves)  The alien invaders in his story were a bit more obvious by showing as slugs on the back of their hosts.  It was published in 1951.  An interesting aspect is that his 'future' was the year 2007.  By then we were supposed to have flying cars and phones planted in our heads.  I do believe we went down an alternate timeline, though.  Obviously the story is a little dated but still a good adventure.
The movie Puppet Masters was based on that book.
Another book, originally titled The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney was rumored to be a rip-off of Heinlein's work (don't know - doesn't matter) it came out shortly after Heinlein's.  After the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers was a hit, the title of the book was changed to reflect that title.
Okay, just to face facts… I made the mistake of checking out a few details in The Host, so I had the book in my hand and kind of read a couple of pages where the book kind of fell open.  Soooo, I started reading it again.  Well, see, I had a stiff neck and wasn't much good at writing or typing that day… I finished reading it as well. 
Then, of course, I had to read Diadem from the Stars for my last blog and I ran into this other little problem.  It is something I deal with when I read other great serials… I have to read the next book.  Unfortunately that leads to the next book and so on…
You get the idea.
The second book of the series, Lamarchos picks up Aleytys' as she and the crook pay a debt to the captain of the ship that got them and her baby off her homeworld.  The payoff of the debt turns out to be a robbery.  Of course nothing is simple for Aleytys and her role in this scheme involves being a local priestess type with mystic powers… it's the cover story to get them into a fortified company town where the vault is.
The first complication is that Aleytys' cover story turns out to be true and the spirits of the planet insist she perform 4 tasks so that they in turn help her.  Besides the continuing complications we learn a bit more about the diadem and the secrets it holds, I won't give that away but it increases both Aleytys' abilities and the depth of her character.  There are a lot of nice twists and turns to the plot as they work toward the burglary they must do to for their ride and get off the planet again.
Betrayals happen from all sides.  And then there are the guys from whom the thief stole the diadem, they are on her trail… spiders.
A key element in these stories is the portrayal of alienness.  Aleytys constantly falls into the trap of thinking that those around her are just like her, just the same as the people she grew up with.  Even when an alien has a different form she ascribes her own morality to them, often mistakenly.  There are enough similarities that it is hard for her to hold onto the fact that they are alien from her… although in truth she must learn and remember that she is the alien in their midst.  It is she who hops from one planet and culture to the next. 
Perhaps this trait is also one of the facets of her character that we cling to, as she does, a mark of her superior humanity, optimism and hope.  We, or at least I, see her acceptance of others, other cultures, other people as commendable and she helps even those who are her enemies, as a healer.
Reading these books you get the sense that Ms. Clayton had a streak of the 60's hippy in her, or at least understood the version of Peace and Love that was the motto of that era.  It is what we all hope for.  I've mentioned previously that as a reader I was only interested in the stories, the sequels and finding the next book my favorite author published.  Now, maybe as a writer, but still as a reader, I've looked into more of the Author's lives that I've been writing about.  It's easy now with the internet to find out information about people, and authors now have websites, they're encouraged to, and can relate to their readers. 
Some things I find are sad, like the fact that Ms. Clayton died in 1998.
I'm glad that she did so much in her life and from what I've learned I understand that those who knew her were blessed by her heart.  Her works continue.
Book 3 - Irsud, starts out with betrayal… the wicked ship captain of the previous book steals Aleytys' son and sells Aleytys into slavery.  Using her Power Aleytys compels the crook she'd been traveling with to get her son to his father back on her homeworld.
She is sold to an alien race, some other planet somewhere for a unique purpose.  Okay, SPOILER ALERT -- she's to be used as a host body for an old queen's egg.  It'll grow inside of her, absorbing her strengths, gaining them, then eat her from the inside before emerging -- SPOILER COMPLETE.
When taken for a slave they planted a psi-blocker in her so she couldn't use any of her abilities… it would make her confused every time she tried.  Of course, she still had the diadem and the help it could give her, just not so much. (the diadem won't come off unless she's dead and her bones are dust).
Aleytys' mission is to escape slavery and get off that planet to find her son.
Except she can't use her psi-powers.  She can use her personality and does, becoming friends with one of the old queen's lovers.  I don't want to give too much away, but then I can't say much, either.  There is more of politics and schemes in this tale, where Aleytys learns of various tribes of the people and the group owning her is at the top of the hill.  Hatred and fear rule, but those owning her deal with the star powers (companies who find profit on various worlds) who trade weapons and technology.  In order for her to escape this world she must aid the rebels against those who hold her.
Aleytys can use the power hidden within the diadem but she manages to get the psi-blocker out eventually and she's able to do more to help the cause.
It's nowhere near easy and some tragic events unfold before she's able to escape that planet with a smuggler crew.  She rides with them as far as she can go in the direction of her home planet.
Aleytys lands, eventually, on Maeve, the planet and the title of the 4th book of the Diadem Series.
Okay, maybe you see the problem.
I started to give info on the first book of the series of the Diadem… since it inspired me.  So, I read it.  And then the next and the next and…
Obviously, I believe these books are excellent and worth the read.  If there are not enough books coming out for you to find something fun and exciting and engrossing, look into the past and find these books by Jo Clayton.  I don't know if they've been released as ebooks (a lot of older books are coming out in that format) but you can still find them in old bookstores and online.  I recommend Bilio.com as a good source since they link into many independent bookstores around the world and I've found their books to be reasonably priced.  You can usually find a book and get it shipped for less than the cost of a new paperback. 

I have to get back to my typing…

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A book to read for fun and adventure

Why did I spend so much time reading?  Why did I/ do I love fantastic stories?
Who knows...  It's not something to worry about.
March 1977.
Do you remember where you were then?
Neither do I.
I do remember that I started on a rather enjoyable voyage to the stars with Aleytys.
The book is Diadem from the Stars, the author is Jo Clayton.
It's a great story, of course, starting out with a robbery of the hi-tech futuristic variety that maybe gets you thinking the entire story is going one way but then the story really starts when you meet the heroine, Aleytys.  Then, as we learn about her life, her world, it's something more of a fantasy... except of course it's not, or it is as all of these stories are always fantasy... but this is science fiction.  Of the best kind.
If you're looking for a heroine with heart, compassion and a growing fear that she's a walking curse then this book is where you need to look.
Unfortunately I can't say anything about what I really like about the book, except it has heart.  The pacing is great, the twists and turns are really good.  The depth of characters is decent.  I mean, Aleytys is the most developed character of the story, of course, but the supporting characters are introduced quickly and are more important to Aleytys than they were to me.  Only a few had the kind of depth that Ms. Clayton developed in her later writing.  But the story moves so fast that you barely notice that aspect, except that each of these characters, especially Daimon, add more and more to Aleytys.
Okay, I checked out the blurb on the back cover and figure I can give that much away.
Aleytys' mother was not of that world.  Yeah, I know.  From the introductory hints and by paying attention you get to know that this woman has to get to the stars, too.
We don't really know how old she is since the planet has a double sun, so how long could the years be if it orbits at a distance to allow life.  I don't know, it didn't matter and that kind of calculation wasn't so important in the 70's in science fiction of this type, if it ever needs to be.
So the thief steals the diadem from some miserly aliens who then go on hunt for him, cause him to crash on her planet... and somehow she winds up with the diadem.  That's obvious from the outside, but the development of the character of Aleytys... before she gets the diadem... is most of the book and as I said, it's a great book.  After she gets the diadem some things change but we're running out of pages.  I already know about the sequelsssssss and they only get better.
I can only imagine how I felt when the book ended... I wanted more, more, more... I always do when a good book ends.  Fortunately, Ms. Clayton delivers... again and again.
I don't know if this is the first book of Ms. Clayton's that I read, I do know that when I went into bookstores (they did have bookstores in the 70's, moreso than now, I think, sometimes two or three in a mall) I would look in the science fiction/fantasy shelves and the yellow DAW book spines and search for her name. (Yes, they did alphabetize the shelves but I would look at all the books).
One of the things that struck me as I read this book again (today) is that she used a lot of creative language (not cussing) there were new and strange words to create the impression of an alien planet, alien language, customs that require formal words of this language as well as strange names.  I'm perfectly fine with this setup.  I roll with it as I read, building up a vocabulary as I build up an understanding of this strange world.  Two or three different languages pop up in the story - what's wrong with that?
Except that you don't see that style much in current books, unless I'm missing a few.
The Lord of the Rings held several created languages, for elves and dwarves and even for various tribes of those, I believe.  Of course J.R.R.Tolkien spent a lifetime on his work.
I wonder if Diadem from the Stars would get published today with all the strangeness in it, the strange languages and customs, if offered by some unknown writer.  I certainly hope so but... writers must keep things simple and quick and filled with easily recognized icons so readers can relate quickly and appropriately.  We can't confuse anyone with a strange word or thirty, that wouldn't be good.
 When I read Diadem from the Stars and the sequels I had fun... it was an adventure... each one.
If you haven't read Jo Clayton's early works, I recommend this one.

Monday, May 14, 2012

If I could only write as fast as I think

First, totally different subject… I saw somewhere that the book I mentioned in my last post The Host by Stephenie Meyer is coming out as a movie next year, goody goody, I can hardly wait.  I loved the book and hope the movie won’t disappoint… the premise doesn’t seem the easiest to transition from book to film.  We’ll see…
Anyway, I was thinking about The Host and of course thought about a past book (see themed blog) and realized one of my favorites was Needle by Hal Clement.  So I went to my trusty bookshelf and… well, it wasn’t there… OMG… no, no, this can’t be.  I went to my other bookshelf (I have several but the pseudo-alphabetizing requires movement) and it wasn’t there either.  I could picture the cover, it was paperback and relatively old, a reprint back in the seventies, likely.  I have lost a book.  Perhaps I loaned it out and never received it (if you’re reading this please return it).  Worst case scenario… I sold a few books ages ago and  - sigh- it may be gone forever.
Enough about me missing a book, I still remember the story… okay, a little vague, I don’t remember the hero’s name or the… anyway the reason I bring this up in conjunction with The Host is that it, too, is a story about a (SPOILER ALERT) symbiotic life form living in a human.
Hal Clement copyrighted Needle back in 1949, so that is a past book, for sure.  Hal Clement was born in 1922 and died in 2003 and wrote many books and was active in the writing community.  The book was reprinted several times and may have started out with another title, or temporarily adopted one in the 50’s.
Needle is a fun and well-paced story.  It is not a Total Invasion scenario as The Host is, rather it is a cops and criminal story with an extraterrestrial cop chasing a criminal who got away and has moved into a human host.  The problem was tracking the bad guy… er… bad symbiote… down required the cop, also a symbiote, to work with a human, so he stabs the guy in the foot while he’s swimming and invades his body and then talks with him.  They become partners while on the case…
Okay, so my memory isn’t going to spoil the story for you, I think there’s a hospital scene near the end and…
Find a copy, since I can’t seem to, and read it, especially if you liked The Host.
Hal Clement came out with a sequel called Through the Eye of the Needle (I think) and it had great reviews, alas, I did not read it nor do I have a copy. 
Although Stephenie likely won’t be seeing this it’s a hint that she needs a sequel to The Host, I think Wanderer is an excellent character, and, as I’ve mentioned before, some stories need to continue.
While searching through my shelves for the missing book I noticed a lot of books that also need mentioning and, since I come woefully short on substance for Needle, let me mention Foundation by Isaac Asimov, okay, I know I was only going to mention the books that were less well-known otherwise I would’ve been talking about The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings for a few blogs, especially since the movie for The Hobbit is coming out soon.
So, if you’re really into science fiction and have not read the Foundation series, the first was copyrighted in 1951, you may want to check them out.  It’s a complicated work but it has the kind of world building that was once a popular theme in science fiction.  While I know that I enjoyed the books when I read them the first time, I also know that I didn’t grasp what the books were saying.  It was kind of like listening to a story and not realizing the moral until you let it percolate a few weeks. 
I know that Isaac Asimov created foundational ideas for science fiction, both with world building and with simplifying things, like creating the three laws of robotics, neat.  What impressed me about the Foundation stories, what lingers even to this day, was the idea of creating a social engineering equation (He was a math guy, too).  The several alliances within the story viewed this equation in various ways, good, bad, indifferent, but the equation was running all the while, proving itself.  When I think of the story I have this image of an equation that is visible in three dimensions, a hologram that can be enlarged at any point to show more of itself, the complexities.  What it also points out is that human interactions are standard, they can be measured, actions, reactions, sentiments, sins and all the complex motivations can be analyzed. 
Sure, simple, a single list of motivations but an infinite result in their permutations through interactions. 
The idea was essential in Foundation but it works throughout all stories in every media format.
I also realized (totally different subject) I need more bookshelves and a different approach to alphabetizing.  Like, at first I had my paperbacks in one section.  Then I had to start putting some paperbacks with the hardbacks but I already had A-Z in paperbacks here and A-Z in hardback there.  So then I put A-Z with science fiction and fantasy here and mystery there and non-fiction and inspiration over there.  Then I had to divide the hard backs A-Z science fiction here, then mystery, then fantasy and inspiration and reference.  Then I… well, I’ve kind of given up but for a general stacking of what has been read and what I need to read among what used to be organized.
Yes, I was just looking for another book…

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I should really be blogging more

          One of the reasons I haven’t blogged in a while is that I’ve been writing, obviously not here.  I’ve written two more books in the Merged Worlds series that I’ve mentioned before.  Except I’m not putting them into ebooks just now, they’ll sit on the shelf as I write the three more that wraps up that period of the series.  Meanwhile, I was polishing a book in the new series in that world that picks up ten years after the early series ended.  Sorry, I’m not giving any hints since the couple of people who read them like to be surprised. 

          This later series is told with new characters, of course, and a different POV. The first book is wrapped, the second is halfway, as with the first series I’m doing a parallel set of characters in other books.  That second character’s first book is halfway.  I don’t know how other writers do it but the stories have already gone through from cover to cover in my mind.  I just need to get it all down on paper.  Yes, it’s true, I write on paper first.

           Call me old fashioned but it’s also one reason I can write this blog, I have shelves full of real paperback (and hardcover) books, so I can look back to see what influenced me.  [Downside to having a lot of old paperbacks… they grow fragile].  Actually, I do not have a copy of every book I’ve ever read.

          This time it’s… well, see if you can guess it, if you’ve read it.

          ‘It was a dark and stormy night.’ – yes, that’s the first line of the book and, no, the author is not Snoopy.

         Do you remember Charles Wallace?  How about Meg?  Do you recall what a tesseract is?

         Copyright was 1962, my paperback copy is from 4th printing in 1973, and it has been reprinted several times after that.

          I’m wondering if the admonition against starting a book with that sentence is because Madeleine L’Engle did it so well. 

          Yes, A Wrinkle in Time… do you remember when? 

          Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit are such an interesting trio.  And then there’s the Happy Medium.

            A missing scientist, a physicist, and then his really bright children go on an adventure to find him. 

            It’s a fun book, but the interesting thing is that it shows how to mix the elements of science, science fiction and fantasy all together using iconic elements and well drawn characters to come up with a story that really says more than its parts.  Love is the emotion that frees all captives, that’s also part of her story.

          But do you remember IT?  He called himself a happy sadist.

          This is the first of a trilogy that Madeleine wrote and I enjoyed all three of them.   Years later I read more of her books and it seemed that her ability to portray emotions and tell a story improved.  Maybe it was me, but of course we always hope that the authors we love improve as they continue writing.  Those first books were blocky and obvious, using names that told you what was what or who, but that worked exceedingly well for her.  Was it the time of the writing, the period, the 60’s? 

              I was reading a how-to-write book that mentioned the evolution of language as something we need to pay attention to, to be relevant (maybe it was someone’s blog, sorry).  It’s such a truism, though; we need to be relevant when we write.

              Looking back at the books I’ve mentioned so far, most fit in the era they were written but the stories surpass that aspect… as long as we can translate the tenor of the writing.  I’m a sucker for a good story.  If I get grabbed I just go with it.  Suspension of disbelief again, but it’s more that I want to believe in the story; I want to go to the other world, other city, other time or reality.  If the writing doesn’t catch me, the style or voice or whatever, then it’s not going to work, I can rarely force myself to read a book I don’t like.  I don’t finish reading a book just because I started it or bought it or whatever.  My problem, as a result of this, is that I can’t figure what it is that I like about a book.

           Okay, that might sound confusing, but here’s an example…

           The Host, by Stephanie Meyer… I read the Twilight Saga, and enjoyed it (the last book was best) so I thought I’d try this science fiction tale.  I bought a copy but I was busy and let it sit, I was listening to books on disk as I drove to work at the time and listened to The Host… I was like… this is good.

          So, I read it.

           Yeah, it was good.  I was still listening to it, so I read it again.

           I might have read it once more before asking myself what was it that had me reading this book again.

           I decided to read it once more but this time I was going to pay attention to the aspects that grab me, hold me, keep me or… sorry self, by the time I got into it again I was into it and couldn’t think of what parts were doing what to keep me there.  It’s not like I don’t know what held me, it was the relativity of the characters… I related, but why?  I have no idea.  It was just a good read.

          No, I do not read every book four or five times in a row, at the time I was trying to focus my own writing to where I wanted it.  (Usually I read favorite books every couple of years although that practice has fallen off as I write more)   I believe that for all the years I’ve been writing I’ve improved my voice.

         It’s best if I stop here for now… I’m trying to compose a letter in real life.