Using Books to Escape a Horrid Summer

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Tent blowing away in a summer storm.  Image Source: Yoga Mobility

Apologies for not posting as the past few days were the perfect end to an absolutely horrid summer for me (and by perfect, I mean utterly devastating for me as a human being and as a person).  Rather than coming online to vent my spleen (to use an old outdated expression of anger), I decided just take a couple of “mental health” days and refrain from posting for a couple of days (would that online Trolls would do the same thing and internet trolling would be a thing of the past).  I won’t go into details, but just reread my post on Sometimes the Bear Gets You and multiply it by a factor of 50 and then you’ll have some idea on why it was probably a good idea to step away for a couple of days.

Anyway, moving on, my library books happened to be due this week, so I stopped by and saw all of the changes that have occurred in the 4 years since I became a teacher and a PhD student.  It really is incredible!  One of the librarians, when I told her about my horrid summer, said to just put it out of my mind and to focus on my upcoming tasks, so I decided to take her advice.

To that end, I’ve checked out two books: The Green Rider by Kristen Britain and J.R.R. Tolkien, A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter.   Now I’ve checked out these books before but there is a story behind each of them.

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Book Cover: Young Lady on a Horse.  Image Source: Goodreads

I tried to read The Green Rider by Kristen Britain before when it was first released, but abandoned it shortly after I started reading.  I think it was because she does a lot of POV switching early in the book (I can’t remember if this is her first novel or not–I’ll have to research it), but at the time, I was a beginning writer and the advice to stay in one POV was ringing in my head and it drove me nuts that an author could get her book published while ignoring this “basic” rule (of course, I could be misremembering and this might not be the reason at all–hey, cut me some slack, it’s been a LONG time, but my best recollection is this is the reason why I stopped reading).  As both my school’s starting time and my library’s loan period is about the same time (3 weeks) I’m going to (in the short period before school resumes) try to read it again and see if I can stick with it long enough to finish it.  I’ll report back on my progress here.

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Book Cover: Tolkien seated beside a tree.  Image Source: Amazon

The second book I picked up is a biography on J.R.R. Tolkien that I’ve read before.  Last summer, when I started the PhD program we had to pick an author and do an in-depth study on him/her.  I wanted to pick Tolkien, but I was talked out of it by well-meaning (but ultimately flawed) advice: i.e., even though he’s deceased, the amount of editions in print and the amount of scholarship would be overwhelming.  So I picked Langston Hughes, an author who I’ve done a little bit research on and who seemed to fit the bill for the class (I wanted to do David Eddings as a 2nd choice, but there was almost NO research on him at all, which would have made finding 50 critical articles a near impossibility).  However, here’s what I (re)learned from that experience–I have to follow my OWN heart, otherwise it all goes wrong.  Langston was manageable, but uninteresting.  I struggled to complete the assignments because I wasn’t invested in Langston’s life and works as I had been as an undergraduate.  I had moved on as a person/scholar and I didn’t really have the zeal to do a critical study of him.  This is the “kiss of death” for a scholar.  If you’re going to spend all that time working on a project, you’d better make doggone sure that you’re interested in it.  I’d learned this lesson before by taking a graduate Shakespeare class at UTC.  The class wasn’t the one I had planned on taking that year, but a friend told me to take it and it (much like this summer) didn’t go nearly as well as I had hoped.  I learned then to trust my own judgement and not the judgement of others, a lesson which I forgot, (and had to re-learn) from my disinterest in Langston’s life and works at MTSU.  So, in honor of such a crappy summer, I’m going to reread Tolkien’s biography to hopefully remind myself that it is MY opinion that matters in deciding matters about MY life.

 

 

Currently (Re) Reading: The Malloreon by David Eddings

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I’m currently re-reading the Malloreon by David Eddings.  I prefer the Belgariad by him, but I read that last semester.  I really enjoy this series–I think it is because of the banter between the characters.

My family had banter (although not to this degree) when I was growing up–and devices like puns, quoting from movies,  etc., was highly prized and rewarded.  Being able to be mentally adroit and using advanced wordplay to cause laughter and humor was something that our family did really well.  This is the closest book in the fantasy genre that seems to truly encapsulate the “Star Wars” (original trilogy) for me as a reader.  It seems as though I’m chuckling at a clever turn of a phrase or the many uses of sarcasm and irony (including dramatic irony) on every other page.

I reread all of my favorite novels (even more so since rise of the “Grim Dark” writers of fantasy like George RR Martin–don’t get me wrong–not hating on the author, just the whole nasty people doing nasty things to one another doesn’t appeal to me NO MATTER the genre).  This series is one that I have pulled out and reread yearly for the past 5 years straight.   I sometimes reread the TAMULI series (also by Eddings), but mostly its the BELGARIAD and MALLOREON.  I wish more authors would write in this mode, but I guess it is passe’ now.

I can’t WAIT for the whole “Grim Dark” trend to go away so that more books like this can be published.

Sigh.  I really could use some more banter (read: laughter) in my life right now.

Why I Write Fantasy . . .

So the trailer that I’m posting is for Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls Online game.  It is long–it clocks in over 23 minutes, but if you have the time, it is well worth the investment as it helps to illustrate the reasons that I write Fantasy stories.  Go ahead, take a moment to watch it, I’ll wait . . .

Finished?

I hoped you liked it as much as I did.  But in case you didn’t, here are my reasons that I found it inspired:

  1. Larger than Life Characters – There were 3 main characters.  I don’t know their backstories, don’t know their histories, don’t know much about their motivations (other than they seem to want the city/citadel for conquest).  However, you do learn a lot about their personalities through this trailer.  You get a sense that guy with the beard is a “rough and ready” sort of person, the kind of person you’d go drinking with, but definitely not the type person you’d invite to tea with the Queen. There is a gruff, down and dirty feel to him that is emphasized by his headbutting, spitting, and all around mean/callous disposition.  The Ranger of the group seems to have a nobility about him.  He kills with precision, but is never cruel about it in the same way the bearded warrior is and that makes his “corruption” all the more tragic.  His most poignant moment comes when we see him holding the cloth of a presumed paramour as his eyes implore the female elf to end his suffering.  And speaking of the woman elf, she is no damsel in distress.  She is more than capable of holding her own and giving just as well as she gets.  In fact, I would argue she’s the main hero of the trailer in that it is her actions that ultimately save the group from outright death at the hands of the “evil” forces.  Without her quick thinking, the entire group would have mostly likely died on the field of battle.  No, they do not have the emotional depth and growth of characters in War and Peace, but even from this short vignette, we can get a clears sense of who these characters are and what makes them tick.
  2. Stunning Visuals – Computer graphics and imagery are wonderful.  Having grown up in an era of practical effects and now watch CGI, I can see how far the effects industry has come.  However, I would argue that NO visual effect can match the mind’s eye.  Being able to describe on paper all of those cool things that were in that trailer is both my challenge and my reward.  I SEE the stories in my head just like I see these trailers–as movies.  They progress and then they finish just as the trailer did.  My challenge is to find a way to replicate what I see in my Mind’s Eye into words on the page.  Rarely, I get it right the very first time.  More often than not, I get only bits and pieces right while others don’t come out correctly–as that image was “fuzzy” when I was trying to replicate it on the page.  I sometimes have to do 2 or more drafts for the story to come out like I wanted.
  3. Insane World-Building – So what’s on the other side of that Rift that held the anchors?  Why do they want the city/Citadel so badly?  What is the Elf “King” hiding in that city?  Just where did the bearded guy end up at the end of the trailer?  There are so many avenues of exploration for world-building here that one spin stories out for a long time.  That’s what good characters and good world-building gives you, a way to tell stories.  Now, because it is Bethesda’s property, there is already a history and backstory to this world.  If you’re at all interested, check out the YouTube video below (clocks in @11:00 mins).  But just imagine that YOU were the writer of this vignette and the Possibilities that could come from fleshing out this world.  Awesome!
  4. Dramatic Action – This is my final reason and is also my most personal.  For me, History is not a dry thing learned from textbooks and recited from rote memory, but rather a living breathing thing.  It is alive and active.  It moves, it adapts, and it is something that requires action.  Right now, we live in a world of drama (and I mean that in both its formal and slang definitions).  Readers and writers today seem to want to see things that are dramatic, but not necessarily filled with action.  For instance, I find myself rereading an older Fantasy series called the Belgariad and the Mallorean by David Eddings or newer series such as The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson because they are trying to save their worlds from destruction using the tools that they have available.  I personally cannot read popular works such as Game of Thrones because it is “Mean People doing Mean Things to each other and Mean Things to Non-Mean People.”  I tried to read The Game of Thrones but couldn’t get past the first few chapters–not because of the writing, but because they weren’t doing anything but being mean to one another just because they could.  I want to see/write action, where the goals can be large or small (but are usually large) where they struggle and strive rather than bicker, wench, and murder just for the sake of it.  Now, I realize this is probably just me, but to me, action defines a story, not limits it.  Just because there are beautifully choreographed fight sequences, doesn’t make it resonant any less than a story that lacks those same scenes (and the inverse is true as well–a story that lacks action is not inherently more of a story).
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Well, that’s all I have for today.  My next post will *probably* be a post on why I like Science Fiction.  If not, it will come later on this year.  Now to the Weekly Updates:

APPLE ROUTER WEEKLY UPDATE

Soooo, I thought I was over/past the hump on this problem, but it seems not.  On Tuesday, wi-fi began to work properly without me doing anything.  It stayed up through Friday, so I thought everything was fine.  Yet, when I just started to write this blog, Wi-Fi went down and would not let me connect to my laptop.  I had to plug in my ethernet cable and restart in order to write this blog post.  Uggghhh!  So frustrating.

WEEKLY WRITING UPDATE

Soooo, I made a mistake.  As a teacher, I find my body HATES Mondays., trying to get back into the school schedule really does a number on me.  I usually crash 1-2 hours earlier than I do for the rest of the week.  So I don’t even try to write on Mondays.  I start writing on Tuesdays.  Since school started on Tuesday, I  did not write on Monday, but tried to keep to my normal schedule, but found that I couldn’t keep my eyes open.  I did manage 4-5 strong paragraphs on HawkeMoon, but was not able to complete the section, so I’m going to say .5.  Did not get to work on any other projects this week. 😦

  • HawkeMoon (.5 of Section 2 = Total Progress on Story – 1.5 sections done of 4 total sections)