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.!

Why Do Writers Write?

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Why do I write?

I was asked this question several times over the last couple of years, often at writing conferences or by other writers online or by those who have read my books. I was thinking about it, and my answer is deceptively simple: I write because I have stories to tell, characters to give life to, and because I love books.

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I believe in the power of words to communicate between the author and the readers as I believe in the connection of human beings. All stories, no matter the genre, speak to that connection. I remain an eternal optimist and see writing as an expression of that hope. I see the journey into the imagination as creating not only places of wonder but possibilities for the growth of empathy and compassion. I see writing as a way to question society as well as to show its strengths. Mostly though, I am able to tell the stories I have within me.
 

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So here is my question to anyone who might wish to answer: why do you write?

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Available on Amazon

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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.

 

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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

A New Review of Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society, Book 1

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Maledicus

A Fresh Look At The Good Vs. Evil Story

There will never be a shortage of horror novels, both good and bad. Author Charles F. French enters the fray with his premiere offering, Maledicus, that thankfully falls into the former category. French has concocted a clever and intriguing tale of a very old evil spirit, who once lived life in Ancient Rome as Lucius Antony Caius (aka Maledicus). In present day, a trio of retired friends who have also lost loved ones, have formed a group called the Investigative Paranormal Society (IPS) partly as a way to cope with their grief, and also to stave off the boredom of retirement. Their leader is Roosevelt Franklin, the widower in the group, and as staunchly sound and American as his name implies. While these men investigate paranormal activities as a sort of hobby, their paths inevitably cross with that of the titular Roman spirit in a classic battle of good vs. evil. While this tale has been told innumerable times, French brings some fresh perspective to the subject. One can also see the influence of the master of this genre, Stephen King, but, fortunately, French manages to find his own voice in a straightforward style of the writing that fully engages the reader. He cleverly uses a back-and-forth structure in the chapters as the two adversaries work toward their anticipated confrontation. As a first effort, French has delivered a first-rate thriller, and established himself in the horror genre as a genuinely original storyteller with an excellent command of plotting and narrative. There are two more volumes in the IPS series, and I look forward to reading them both.

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

U.L.S. Post from TA Sullivan: Bag of Bones by Stephen King

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I want to thank TA Sullivan for becoming a member of the U. L. S. The Underground Library Society! TA Sullivan is an author of fiction and nonfiction; TA’s excellent website can be found here: TAS Through the Looking Glass. Please be sure to visit this wonderful site!

TA Sullivan’s post:

If I were to choose a book to memorize, I believe it would be Bag of Bones by Stephen King.

While this book is categorized as horror, to me it is first and foremost a book about relationships and loss. The protagonist is a young author, Mike Noonan, whose wife unexpectedly dies. With no close family, we struggle along with Mr. Noonan as his despair and depression result in his inability to write.

At first, he moves through his days following a sort of hazy routine, but eventually, he recognizes what he’s doing, and he strives to find more purpose to his life that no longer contains the love of his life or his life’s work (writing).

The insight and care with which Mr. King has approached this subject of loss is so complete that you can’t but help hurt along with Mr. Noonan as he works his way through this story of love, loss, and the idea that you never really know anyone, not even the person you’re married to.

It’s this book and Mr. King’s insights that helped me understand just what my father was going through when my mother died. I saw him try to follow the same routines that he and my mom had forged during their long years of being together. But I also saw how hollow those motions were because my mother was no longer there to share the routines with him. Because of Mr. King’s book, I was able to help my father move away from those shared routines and find a new purpose to his life.

It wasn’t easy for my father, but then losing someone you love and have lived with for over 50 years never is. However, letting go of those old patterns of behavior can sometimes make it a little easier, and that’s what Mr. King’s story showed me. Therefore, if I were to choose a book to memorize, it would be Bag of Bones, so that others could also benefit from Mr. King’s insights while enjoying a good spooky story in the bargain.

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Once again, thank you to TA Sullivan for joining this little society!

A Request!

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Hello to everyone!

This may sound odd, but I am putting out a request for reviews of my books on Amazon. I have 89 for Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book 1, and I would really like to get to 100. I will soon have my author website up, and that would be a great detail to feature. So, if this sounds a bit like a writer begging, then I will show that I have no shame!

I also wouldn’t mind reviews of my other books also!

To everyone–thank you for listening to this unusual request.

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

Another U.L.S. entry by Roberta Eaton Cheadle–All Quiet On The Western Front

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Roberta Eaton Cheadle, or Robbie, is an esteemed member of the U. L. S. — the Underground Library Society — and she is offering her thoughts on another book! Robbie, thank you so much!

Robbie has excellent blogs: Robbie Cheadle books/poems/reviews and   Robbie’s inspiration. Both are wonderful; please be sure to visit them.

Thoughts about All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Overview

This book is a first-hand account of the life of Paul Bäumer, who belongs to a squad of German soldiers on the  Western Front during World War I. Paul and his classmates enlisted in the army at the end of their high school career as a result of the impassioned patriotism and relentless coaxing of their teacher, Kantorek. 

All Quiet on the Western Front tells the story of Paul and his friends experiences in the trenches. There is a lot of fighting, death, and destruction in this book, but there are also scenes of comradery, friendship, and bravery that break up the ‘heaviness’ of this read and give the reader some short periods of lighter relief.

Among these lighter scenes is one when Paul and his friend ‘Kat’ decide to poach a goose from a local farm. They roast the bird and enjoy a midnight feast, even venturing to share some of their spoil with friends who are in prison for insubordination towards a senior officer.

There are also some interesting insights into life for the French civilians trying to survive amid the disruption and decimation of the war. Russian prisoners of war also feature in this story and their pitiful plight is almost too much to bear.

My thoughts

Why do young men volunteer for war?

I look at my two sons, and I wonder why young men hurl themselves into the teeth of the storm through voluntary subscription to the army. I read about this in The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, and I read about it again in this great, but disturbing, novel, All Quiet on the Western Front.

I have decided there are a few reasons that lead to this rash action. The first, is the expectation of parents and other older members of society that their sons throw down the gauntlet and risk all for “king and country”. Secondly, I believe there has historically been a terrible ignorance about the reality of war. War is glamourized and young men enter the fray with no concept of its harsh conditions or the horror of death.

I wonder if the young men of today would be as eager to take up the role of ‘cannon fodder’ with their greater knowledge of the world through internet access and better educational opportunities.

Leaders and war mongers pray on the passionate fervor of the young to achieve their ill-gotten ends when it comes to war. Wars are all fought either for purposes of greed and power or over religion. More recently, greed and power have trumped the possibly purer intentions of religion. Have recently explored in great depth the reasons behind the Anglo Zulu War and both Anglo Boer Wars in South Africa, as well as the First and Second World War, power and the gain of wealth have been the overarching reasons for placing young men in the line of fire and, often, ending their lives before they have even started.

All Quiet on the Western Front is a book that is written in a war setting and exposes with a sharp and unerringly accurate pen, the absolute horror of the First World War. The book is not, however, about the war, but rather about the loss of innocence the young soldiers experience and their inability to ever adapt back to civilian life afterwards. This is quite clear by the manner in which the story is told. Battles are not named and have so little relevance to the story that whether they are won or lost is not even revealed. Battles feature as a regular feature of the lives of Paul and his comrades; one during which death is a high possibility and survival is the only goal.

The obvious themes of war and patriotism that present in this novel are not the ones that resonated with me.

Given my status as the mother of two teenage boys, not much younger than the boys featured in this novel, it is understandable that the following themes are the ones that have stayed in my mind. I am sharing select quotations that explain these themes as they do so far better than I could.

Loss of innocence

“While they went on writing and making speeches, we saw field hospitals and men dying: while they preached the service of the state as the greatest thing, we already knew that the fear of death is even greater. This didn’t make us into rebels or deserters, or turn us into cowards – and they were more than ready to use all of these words – because we loved our country just as much as they did, and so we went bravely into every attack. But now we were able to distinguish things clearly, all at once our eyes had been opened. And we saw that there was nothing left of their world. Suddenly we found ourselves horrible alone – and we had to come to terms with it alone as well.”

Loss of individuality

“I can still remember how embarrassed we were at the beginning, when we were recruits in the barracks and had to use the communal latrines. There are no doors, so that twenty men had to sit side by side as if they were on a train. That way they could all be seen at a glance – soldiers, of course, have to be under supervision at all times.

Since then we’ve learnt more than just how to cope with a bit of embarrassment. As time went by, our habits changed quite a bit.,

Out here in the open air the whole business is a real pleasure.”

Home

“It gets dark. Kemmerich’s face gets paler, it stands out against his pillow and is so white that it looks luminous. He makes a small movement with his mouth. I get closer to him. He whispers, ‘If you find my watch, send it home.’

I don’t argue. There is no point any more. He is beyond convincing. I’m sick with helplessness. That forehead, sunk in at the temples, that mount, which is all teeth now, that thin, sharp nose. And the fat, tearful woman at home that I shall have to write to – I wish I had that job behind me already.”

Hopelessness

“But our mates are dead, and we can’t help them. They are at peace – who knows what we might still have to face? We want to chuck ourselves down and sleep, or stuff as much food into our bellies as we can, and booze and smoke, so that the passing hours aren’t so empty. Life is short.”

Primitiveness

“It’s a nuisance trying to kill every single louse when you’ve got hundreds of them. The beasts are hard, and it gets to be a bore when you are forever pinching them between your nails. So Tjaden has rigged up a boot-polish lid hanging on a piece of wire over a burning candle-end. You just have toss the lice into this little frying-pan – there is a sharp crack, and that’s it.”

Conclusion

All Quiet on the Western Front is a book we should never allow to be burned or removed from its place as a historical classic. Its primary role in literature, in my opinion, is that it illustrates the pointlessness of war which descends into a series of actions and day-to-day survival with no real meaning or even importance to those involved in the fighting. This sentiment is generally presented through the character of Albert Kropp, one of Paul’s previous school friends.

This book also highlights the destruction of young men’s innocence and their inability to ever reconnect with ordinary civilian life. It doesn’t mention post-traumatic stress syndrome specifically, but this is alluded to throughout the book.

All in, this is one of the most emotional and memorable books I have ever read.

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Again, thank you to Roberta Eaton Cheadle for this U. L. S. post!

Copy of Roberta Writes - independent pub 2 theme.

Robbie

Another Review of Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society, Book 1 by Charles F. French

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There Is, Indeed, Magic In Stories

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Power of Words

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There is magic in stories. This is an important idea that I blog out every now and then, and today seems like a good day to recover this point.

Magic is the transmutation of objects or the manipulation of the world in ways that move outside the realm of science. Whether or not magic is real in the sense of the here and now world is not the point; magic is a metaphor for fiction. Stephen King says, “books are a uniquely portable magic” (104). This magic is in the words, in their transmitting from the writer to the reader other worlds and ideas. In writing fiction, writers create a world that was not there; even so-called realistic, literary writers create an alternate world that readers inhabit when they read the book. The writers and the readers, in a mystical incantation, create another reality, one that can be so strong sometimes that readers can be moved to tears or laughter or sadness or joy or grief or sorrow or despair or hope. Readers come to care about the characters and feel empathy as if they were real.

That is a kind of magic.

Neil Gaiman, in his introduction to Ray Bradbury’s  60th Anniversary Edition Fahrenheit 451, speaks to the power of the written word and stories: “Ideas—written ideas—are special. They are the way we our stories and our thoughts from one generation to the next. If we lose them, we lose our shared history. We lose much of what makes us human. And fiction gives us empathy: it puts us inside the minds of other people, gives us the gift of seeing the world through their eyes. Fiction is a lie that tells us true things, over and over” (xvi). It is through the creation of artificial worlds, no matter how speculative or fantastic, that we experience our world in more intensity and with deeper clarity.

This act of magic is what we share as writers and readers. I am honored to be a mere apprentice in the magic of writing novels.

Works Cited

Gaiman, Neil. “Introduction.” Ray Bradbury. 60th Anniversary Edition Fahrenheit 451. New

York: Simon & Schuster, 2013.

King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. New York: Scribner, 2000.

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Thank you to all writers!

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To all the writers out there who are working hard, who are drafting and revising, submitting and self-publishing, thank you! You are the conscience of society, the teller of tales, and the creators of myth. So, from one writer to other writers: thanks!

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Please continue to write. Do not pay attention to any negative people, any nay-sayers. Be proud of what you are doing, and say to yourself and the world–I am a writer!

Beginning of 2021 Self-Promotion Party!

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Maledicus

I thought it would be interesting to do a book promotion party by giving not only the name of your book and what it is about but also the opening paragraph.

I offer the following from Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book 1 by Charles F. French:

“Lucius Antony Caius exalted in his good fortune. He was in complete control of his destiny, of his place in the world. Not for him was the belief in the three sisters of fate–they would not measure and cut his string of life. Caius, also known as Maledicus, as he was called because of his odd lisping voice coupled with the grating sound of sandpaper grinding on coarse wood and with his personality, believed he controlled the world. And his evil persona caused others to fear him. He didn’t look like the image of a strong Roman–he was short and fat, with little hair, but he was as dangerous as the most powerful general.”

So, if you would like to join the party and promote your book, please offer a quotation!

Have fun, promote your book, and please share this post.

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