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.!

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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(https://pixabay.com)

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

Torn Between Worlds by Nancy Blodgett Klein: A Guest Post

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This post by Nancy Blodgett Klein is the first of the guest posts on my blog by authors promoting their books.

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My book is called Torn Between Worlds: An illegal immigrant’s journey to find herself.

This is the story of Isabel, a 12-year-old Mexican girl who comes to the United States illegally in search of a better life with her father. A story common to many Mexicans. She has to leave her mother behind and this makes her sad. People demand she speak English, a language she doesn’t know well. She doesn’t feel welcome living with her uncle and his family and is very lonely. How will she cope?

Her kind sixth-grade teacher suggests Isabel keep a journal, where she can pour out the feelings she used to share with her mother. She encourages her to take home the newspaper to read to improve her English and learn about world events and politics. Isabel is horrified by the events that take place on September 11, 2001 in the US, witnesses a political demonstration in Oaxaca, Mexico where people are killed, and is forced to flee to Madrid, Spain to keep her and her mother safe from harm. Will all this chaos prevent Isabel from finding a way to feel connected to the world around her?

This coming-of-age story is written in journal format, spanning three years and three countries. Follow Isabel as she grows from innocent child into confident young woman through turbulent times.

I used to be a bilingual teacher to many Mexican students, including some immigrants who had crossed the border illegally with one or both parents. When I was a teacher, I noticed there were very few books that told the story of these students so I felt compelled to write this novel for them. It is geared towards young adults between the ages of 12 to 18. However, adults have read this book and  enjoyed it. Published in February, the book currently has five reviews on Goodreads and all of them are five stars! https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/56912602-torn-between-worlds

Here are three of them.

  1. I love reading stories written in journal format as you really get to know the main character. Young people especially are very honest about their feelings and thoughts when writing in their journal. The author has done a great job of writing from the point of view of a young illegal immigrant girl sharing her innermost thoughts as she deals with trying to fit in, a new language and frightening current events. Isabel is living in the United States at the time of the 911 attacks. A scary time for all young people but even more so for immigrant children. She documents her fears, joys, ideas and hopes as she moves between Mexico, the US, and Spain. We learn about her friends, her first kiss and how she deals with her parents failing marriage. Growing up is never easy, but for Isabelle, it’s especially difficult. I highly recommend this book.
  • Torn Between Worlds tells the story of a Mexican girl who leaves her homeland to live in the United States and Spain. Told in journal entries, the girl’s story pivots around the economic and political realities that necessitate her moves. She must adapt to different lifestyles and languages as she grows into young womanhood. Her strength and insightfulness make her a heroine girls can look up to.
  • I loved this very unusual story. Spanning three countries, very informative. I most enjoyed the latter part, where there was so much history of Spain and its heritage.

It can be ordered on Amazon.com by clicking this link. Available in paperback and as an e-book. https://www.amazon.com/Torn-Between-Worlds-illegal-immigrants-ebook/dp/B08QZRTRSS.

About the Author

Nancy Blodgett

Nancy Blodgett Klein worked as a journalist as well as a magazine editor in the Chicagoland area for much of her career after receiving a Master’s degree in Journalism from Boston University. Later on, she went back to college and earned a Master’s degree from Roosevelt University in Education. Then she worked as a public school teacher for 12 years. This included eight years as a bilingual teacher to mostly Mexican students. In 2016, she retired to Spain with her husband Rick Klein. They are the proud parents of two adult sons named Alex and Andy. While living in Spain, Nancy keeps busy with yoga, singing in a choir, volunteering in a charity shop for hospice patients’ care and participating in a writers’ group and three book groups. She also writes a blog covering a wide variety of topics called spainwriter.home.blog.

Promote Your Books On My Blog!

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I usually do a once a month post in which I ask authors to promote their books along with everyone else who joins the party. I will continue to do that, but I also want to open my blog up to authors to do posts in which they can promote their book(s). Here, they can write a post to help spread the word about their writing; it could be a piece about the book, an interview with a character, or an author interview. The possibilities are wide.

This option will not exist only for this month. I want authors to know that they are free to submit a guest post about their book(s) whenever they wish. I ask that it be sent to be as a Word.doc to frenchc1955@yahoo.com.

Be sure to include photos of the book, banners, and links to where your work can be purchased if you have these.

Then I ask anyone who reads these posts to reblog them, post them to Twitter, and other social media so we can get the word about these books to as many people as possible.

To all the authors reading this: Promote Yourself!

A Reminder–A Call For Help For My Pitch at #PitMad

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Hello everyone! This may sound like an odd request, but today I am participating in #PitMad on Twitter, a day long event in which authors tweet a pitch for a book to agents.

If any of you have Twitter, please consider retweeting my pinned tweet, which I will have put up.

My Twitter handle is @French_C1955

This is also important–do not like the pitch–that is for agents to let writers know they are interested in your work.

The tweet will be for my horror novel and look like this: It x Stranger Things #PitMad #H #A 1957 South Dakota 13-year-olds, Dancer, Micah, and James band together to fight an ancient creature threatening their beloved teacher. To save him and survive, they face murderous bullies and supernatural threats, all controlled by the creature.  I will have the tweet up at 8 A. M. EST.

Again, thank you to all!

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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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Maledicus

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

Reviews of Get The Draft Done! Helping Writers Finish Their First Draft by Charles F. French

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Must Read for Writers!

“As a writer, I have always found writing the first draft of my novel to be a daunting process. I had the novel idea, had some idea of how I wanted it to start, and how I wanted it to end. But after reading this book, I now feel I have the tools and confidence I need to get my first draft done without any obstacles!

I definitely consider this book a must-read for any writer who is struggling with their first draft! And if you’re looking for a good recipe for an omelette, this book has that as well.”

Do you write? Then you have to do drafts and need this book

“Ah, the draft!! Any writer knows good work takes many drafts and edits. This book will help you get it done and done correctly.”

The book is a treasure.

“For five long years, I could not finish the first draft. After reading this book, I finished in three weeks. Great read!”

 Available on Amazon