Conversations With Characters

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Recently, 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. I would love to have conversations with so many different characters.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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

 

 

Quotations on Courage

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“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

                                                                                         Nelson Mandela

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“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face. . . we must do that which we think we cannot.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

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!

Welcome Alexis Cunningham to the U. L. S. The Underground Library Society

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I want to welcome the newest member of the U. L. S. — the Underground Library Society — Alexis Cunningham!

The U. L. S. is an unofficial organization dedicated to preserving books and to opposing censorship.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge called poetry “the best words in the best order” or so the blurb on the inner cover of Best Words poetry anthology tells me. Issued to my English literature class as we prepared for our G.C.S.E exams (the equivalent to High School leavers exams) many years ago, I could not have imagined how big an impact one single poem inside could have on me.

Thing is, I’m not generally a fan of poetry. I’m staunchly a prose kind of girl. I think it. I write it. I want to expound at length, not distil language into something symbolic, or constrain it with iambic pentameter, or any of those other fiercely rigid structures that transform the written word into a composition and not an essay.

But when I thought about what book I’d want to become for the Underground Library Society my mind went blank…until they came. Snatches of words, rising from the conquered regions of my mind.

“Belfast. Beirut. Phnom Penh. All flesh is grass.”

These words form the final line of the first stanza of Carol Ann Duffy’s poem the War Photographer, a work of literature I’ve never been able to forget.

When I was sixteen I didn’t know where Beirut was. I’d never heard of Phnom Penh. Yet it didn’t matter. The specific conflicts didn’t matter –I understood. In war, all flesh is grass.

In four unpretentious stanzas, Duffy asks her reader to consider not just war, and the privilege of peace, but also the culpability of a world where the safe can witness horrors from a TV or PC screen, a smartphone video, or, as she puts it “the Sunday supplement” where “reader’s eyeballs prick with tears between the bath and pre-lunch beers.”

This was heavy stuff for a sixteen year old who could barely stay awake when asked to wander lonely as a cloud, or compare thee to a summer’s day, and it’s heavy stuff now –and I suppose I must like that, because poor old Keats and Browning, Byron and Billy Shakespeare have never done a thing for me.

Like the eponymous war photography himself, who “stares impassively at where he earns his living and they do not care” reading the War Photography left me feeling bereft and guilty, shaken out of my complacency and introduced to a new world of vivid imagery that made me look at the everyday through a different lens.

There is one place that links me, Duffy and her War Photography. England. The place I call home and Duffy describes as a land of “ordinary pain which simple weather can dispel”.

Yet England is irrevocably connected to foreign fields that explode “beneath the feet of running children in a nightmare heat,” through the War Photography himself. Forever jaded by all he has seen, he brings the war home to sleepy England with its baths and Sunday luncheons.

That juxtaposition of ordinary pain and nightmare heat, and of grass and flesh, is one that has captivated my imagination ever since.

It’s no real surprise that in my first published work, The Innocent Have Nothing to Fear, I chose to write ten short stories of an England where monsters roam in plain clothes and innocents live with their eyes wide-shut, creating a suburban world where horror lives hand-in-hand with absurdity.

Sometimes, we don’t choose to become our words, they choose us, and there are ideas that are much bigger than the pages that contain them.

About me: I am a fantasy fiction writer and life-long n00b working on a book series –The Seraphim Chronicles–focused on a group of dysfunction gods and their human avatars, set in the world of Aldlis where souls fuel magic and the dead can’t pass on.  I am also learning to run my blog Aldlis Chronicles, while knowing nothing and doing it all backwards. It’s going great!

My first published work, The Innocent Have Nothing to Fear and Other Stories of Chilling Modern Horror Fantasy is available on Amazon and a follow up, The Innocent Need Not Apply is in development.

Links to me:

Book:
The Innocent Have Nothing to Fear: and Other Stories of Chilling
Modern Horror Fantasy eBook: Cunningham, Alexis: Available: Amazon
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Once again, thanks to Alexis Cunningham for joining the U. L. S.!

Happy Birthday to William Shakespeare!

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Happy birthday to William Shakespeare!

In honor of his birthday, I am reposting this piece from a few years ago.

Yesterday, at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, The English Department Creative Writing Program along with The Friends of the Lehigh Univeristy Libraries sponsored an event called Sonnet Slam!  This event featured readings of poetry, a celebration of the student literary magazine Amaranth, and the 400th year of Shakesepeare’s life and showcased a display of extraordinary importance for lovers of Shakespeare.

The event was held in the Bayer Galleria, a beautiful room, filled with special holdings in its bookshelves, an old fireplace, plenty of seating, and a very important display. Lehigh University has an extraordinary collection of early Shakespeare texts: in the case were the First Folio, the Second Folio, the Third Folio, and the Fourth Folio.

Shakespeare is one of my main areas of study, and as a Shakespearean, viewing these rare and important volumes was nearly a sacred experience.  I have loved Shakespeare since I was a teenager; I have studied his work, loved reading the plays and poetry, acted in some plays, directed a play, and taught his work.  Having been intricately connected with Shakespeare, being able to see these early texts was a moving and deeply powerful experience.

When the event began, I read two sonnets and had fun with that.  When I was younger, I had a goal to memorize all of them, but let’s say that was not entirely successful!  Then undergraduate students, a graduate student who is the advisor for the literary magazine and an excellent poet, and a professor read.  At that point, I had to leave to prepare to teach my upcoming class, but it was a wonderful and moving experience.

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Open a new door: a collection of poems by Kim Blades and Robbie Cheadle–A Review

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Open a New Door

I am delighted to offer a review of this excellent book of poetry!

This book is a lovely collection of poetry from two talented writers-Kim Blades and Robbie Cheadle! Their poetry is interwoven, as they explore important thematic issues in life in South Africa. The structure of the book is extremely effective: the poets use this format–“The Good”, “The Bad”, and “The Ugly” as they explore various aspects of life in their land: “God bless Africa”, “God bless my family and friends”, “God bless me”, and “God bless corporates and work.”

Both poets use a variety of poetic forms and show great observations about their world, their people, and themselves. This is a deeply compelling collection of poems.

While both poets offer a large variety of excellent pieces, I will highlight two that particularly stood out to me: “The boys under the bridge” by Robbie Cheadle, in which the poet’s concern for others and her deeply felt humanity is clear, and “Lessons learned in a rural African village” by Kim Blades, in which the poet speaks of the love of nature and humanity that she learned from her mother and her world.

If you love poetry, then please buy and read this book!

I give this wonderful collection of poetry 5 stars!

You can find the book here: Amazon 

Robbie Cheadle Books/poems/Reviews

Robbie’s inspiration

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Please be sure to visit their sites!

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The Continuing Call To Join The U.L.S. — The Underground Library Society

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I am again asking for those who would like to join the U.L.S., the Underground Library Society, to join and write a guest post. I put this request out several times over the course of a year, because I hope to have more people join in the cause.

In an earlier First Year Class at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, The U.L.S. — The Underground Library Society — was created. It is in the spirit of the Book People from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. In that novel, all books have been banned, and a few people “become” books by memorizing them, in the hope that, one day, books will be permitted to exist again.

In that spirit, I am putting out the call once more for like-minded people to join The U.L.S. All that is needed is to choose a book you would memorize if the need ever arose. The type or genre of the chosen piece does not matter.  There is no restriction on what you would become. You do not, however, actually have to memorize  the book now. If you wish to join, simply write a guest post in which you say what book you would “become” and why.

I have had several other bloggers join the U. L. S. Join the movement!

I hope many of you choose to join.

If you are a member and wish to add another book that you might become, you are welcome to do another post!

In the past, I have mentioned that I would become one of the following books: The Lord Of The Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien, Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, or Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

If you do wish to do a post, please email me at frenchc1955@yahoo.com  and write a guest post as a Word doc. Thank you.

Charles F. French

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I am looking forward to hearing from new members!

Please, come and join in the fun!

April Self-Promotion Party!

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It’s Spring, and weather has become warmer, plants are beginning to grow, and trees and starting to bud.

This is also a good time to do some unashamed self-promotion!

Tell us about your book(s)!

Leave links and images.

Shout to the world about your work!

You are writers–be proud of what you make.

So as many as possible can see your work, please like, tweet, and reblog this post!

 

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.

32570160

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

coverIPScookbook

Available on Amazon

French On English

Available on Amazon

Absence of Evidence by M. C. Tuggle

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Neurodivergence and Mystery

by M. C. Tuggle

One of the themes I keep returning to in my writing is the disconnect between modern norms and human needs. The resulting clash is hard on everyone, but especially so for autistic individuals. Both work and educational norms require people to sit all day, which is pure agony for someone bursting with energy and curiosity, whose natural instinct is to ramble and explore the world around them.

Similarly, a society that’s scrapped traditional codes of behavior is a nightmare for those who seek the comfort of structure and proper protocol, standards that once guided and sheltered individuals in potentially awkward interactions. this has critically eroded social connections. And that’s a tragedy, because the loss of connections impairs individual development.

That’s the driving theme in my novelette “Absence of Evidence“, now in the latest issue of Mystery Weekly Magazine. The protagonist, Treka Dunn, is a former combat nurse who can fix anything from shrapnel wounds to barracks plumbing. Now the chief medical examiner at the Gilead, Missouri, county morgue, she faces budget cuts, a growing backlog, and family pressures. So when her cursory exam of Davis Washburn’s body reveals no evidence of foul play, she’s ready to move on to her next corpse.

But Ron Washburn, the victim’s son, is convinced his father was poisoned. Ron, who is autistic, struggles to convince Treka and Officer Jerry Simms, who investigated Washburn’s death. Treka agrees to run a toxicology test, which reveals–nothing. When she tries to explain her findings to Ron, he mentions a seemingly insignificant detail that Treka can’t explain – and she realizes a murderer is about to get away with the perfect crime.

My primary motivation in researching and writing this story is that I love offbeat characters, a challenging mystery, and juicy technical details. But another thing that inspired this story is my experience with InReach a service agency that provides assistance to folks with learning disabilities. My wife and I support this organization. InReach’s annual luncheons, which give sponsors the opportunity to meet the people their donations aid, have deeply moved us.

So the character Ron Washburn is based in part on the life experiences of several of the InReach clients we’ve met. I can only hope the character I’ve drawn reflects the dignity, sense of purpose, and pride of those clients. Treka Dunn is the protagonist of “Absence of Evidence,” but Ron Washburn is the driving force behind Treka’s quest for justice.

In fact, “Absence of Evidence” reinforces the theme of social and individual integrity in its interplay of characters and plot. The murderer is a sociopath disconnected from human relationships, while the three main characters reflect the unity of a healthy personality — Treka Dunn is the mind, Officer Jerry Simms the body, and Ron Washburn, the spirit. All three are unique individuals who aid and sustain each other. And that’s the kind of people we all aspire to be.

Mystery Weekly Magazine is a Mystery Writers of America approved publisher, and is available in digital and print formats on Amazon.

M. C. Tuggle lives and writes in Charlotte, North Carolina. His fantasy, science fiction, and mystery short stories have appeared in several publications, including Mystery Weekly, Hexagon, and Metaphorosis. He blogs on all things literary at https://mctuggle.com/

I want to thank M. C. Tuggle for his guest post. Please be sure to go to his excellent site!

Revisiting Characters From My First Novel, Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society, Book 1 by Charles F. French

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

Roosevelt Theodore Franklin, 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.

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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.

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Available on Amazon

GetthedraftdonepossEbookcover!-page-001

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

GallowsHillFinalCoverEbook

 

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.

 

32570160

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

coverIPScookbook

Available on Amazon

French On English

Available on Amazon