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Meet the author Monday:Patricia Wrede September 27, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Author Interview.
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Hello dedicated readers! Is it cold outside? I hope everyone can sit down with a warm blanket, a cup of something hot and comforting, and enjoy the rest of your holiday. Today’s interview is with Patricia Wrede, author of 4 fantasy series and over 19 books. She’s well known for her middle grade and young adult writing, and in 1994 she was a finalist for the Mythopoetic children’s fiction award along with such young adult classics as The Mystery of the Cupboard and The Giver. Her website doesn’t have a picture, alas, however you can read her interview here.

Lives:  Minnesota.
Webpage:
Patricia Wrede
Books
: Enchanted Forest Series, Lyra Set: Shadows over Lyra (Collection), Caught in Crystal, The Raven RingShadow MagicDaughter of WitchesThe Harp of Imach Thyssel, Mairelon Series: Magic and Malice (Collection), Mairelon the Magician , The Magician’s Ward, Sorcery and Cecelia series: Sorcery and Cecelia, The Grand TourThe Mislaid Magician or Ten Years AfterThe Seven Towers, Snow White and Rose Red
Genres
: Fantasy (Rewritten Fairy Tales, Regency, Young Adult), Science Fiction (Star Wars)

From the mouth of the author:

1.      What is the fantasy cliché that most bothers you, or what is your book pet-peeve?

Idiot plots. That’s the sort of plot where everyone has to be an idiot in order to get it to work. Where nobody ever says “You know, walking through a dark alley in the worst part of town at midnight is probably not a terribly good idea; why don’t we just call a cab?” because then the characters wouldn’t get mugged and set the plot going, or “Hold off an army of orcs all by myself? Are you nuts?” or “Now, why would I believe for half a minute that marrying a king who is known to be a vicious, manipulative liar will bring permanent peace to our warring countries? Especially since he’s already broken our last three treaties and murdered my parents and siblings into the bargain?” I really, really dislike characters who are supposed to be intelligent but who keep making stupid mistakes. (Characters who are supposed to be stupid are a different matter; they’re tricky to pull off, though.)

A related problem, especially with fantasy, is the idiot background. By that I mean the setting or history that just doesn’t hang together if you stop and look at it straight on, because the author hasn’t thought through all the implications. Like all the pre-industrial fantasy societies that have modern 21st century attitudes toward sex…with no reliable birth control anywhere in sight. And none of the female characters ever get pregnant, and none of the male characters who’ve been tomcatting around are ever presented with children. Or the stories in which there are no schools to speak of and the nobles all have private tutors, yet all the peasants and guards seem to be literate. Or the ones in which everyone uses swords and rides horses and all the technology seems to be at about that same level, except for the inexplicable presence of indoor plumbing, complete with hot showers. If you’ve got indoor hot showers, you’ve got boilers and metal-working technology for pipe-making and ceramic or glassworking technology and something to pump the water from the heater to the shower and valve technology for turning the water on and off…and all of that should be applied to a whole heck of a lot of other things besides just plumbing. Not to mention the side effects of having indoor plumbing even without the hot showers – you just know that all those anachronistic toilets are not dumping their waste into a period open sewer in the middle of the street.

2.       What is your favorite fantasy critter or fairy tale character and why?  No, it doesn’t have to be one you write about.

I’m very fond of spunky princesses like the Paper Bag Princess, who don’t sit around waiting for other people to fix things and who are perfectly willing to call the stuck-up prince on his bad manners if that becomes necessary. I doubt that this will come as a big surprise to anyone who’s read my books, though.

3.       We all know it’s easy to get distracted when a project is taking its own sweet time to bubble.  What is your Achilles heel when it comes to getting distracted from writing?

I have to pick just one? OK, I suppose computer games. The Civilization series and the Elder Scrolls series are currently top of the list for that. I can waste weeks if  I’m not careful.

4.       With the holidays coming up what is your favorite winter activity?

Curling up by the fireplace with a good book comes instantly to mind.

5.       I’ve heard of inspirational eating, so when you’re settled in to get things done is there a particular food that you just have to have on hand?

When I’m seriously working, I tend to get hyperfocused, and will not even notice a plate of chocolate chip cookies even if someone shoves them under my nose. When I’m merely thinking about working, or worse yet, avoiding working, anything remotely edible is fair game.

6.       What does it take to write a really good villain?  Do you ever find yourself in a mental space that scares you or makes you wonder if that really came out of YOUR head?

Define “really good villain.” For some people, that means a realistic, complex character doing things for believable reasons; for others, it means someone or something so truly evil that they’re completely unsympathetic, so that the reader can enjoy watching the villain get shredded and feel that he’s go tten his just deserts. Me, I’d say that what you need for a really good villain is one that suits the story you are telling. A realistic, complex, multifaceted person who’s doing the wrong things for the right reasons would not have been the right choice for Sauron in “The Lord of the Rings;” or even Sauruman. Either the story would have fallen apart, or it would have turned into a completely different story. A simple, purely evil character would be totally wrong for George R.R. Martin’s “A Clash of Kings” – again, either the book falls apart, or it has to morph into a totally different story.

So I guess I’d say that to do a really good villain, you have to be willing to let the villain be what the story needs him/her to be, rather than any one fixed type.

I don’t think I’ve ever used one of my villains as a viewpoint character, which I think is what it would take to come up with something nasty enough to scare me in the way you’re asking about. I’ve read enough history to know that whatever atrocities I can dream up are paltry, compared to what’s actually happened.

7. Which of your characters gave you the most trouble and was the hardest to write for?

As a character, probably the one I’m working on now, Eff Rothmer. Most of my main characters have needed to get things done, but Eff needs to do a lot of growing into herself as well. She doesn’t start out with as much self-confidence as most of my heroines have, and I’ve had some trouble keeping the balance right. Plus, I find her universe utterly fascinating—she lives in a world where the New World is full of magical and post-Ice-Age creatures, which is making the settlement of the Western U.S. go a bit differently from the way it went in our world, and I keep getting sidetracked into backstory and alternate history and ecology.

8.       We all have darling lines or paragraphs in our stories.  Stephen King even says we should kill them.  What is your most favorite murdered darling from any of your books?

I don’t tend to remember things for very long once I’ve cut them, because the reason I cut them is that they don’t belong in the book. I’ve always been focused more on story than on style, which means I seldom have the sort of “murdered darlings” that most people think of when they hear this line (the quote “murder your darlings” is originally from Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, and pre-dates Stephen King by quite a lot of decades, by the way. It’s been re-quoted so often by so many people that it’s frequently mis-attributed).

What I do have are plans for the plot that don’t come off. Probably the most spectacular of those was when I was writing “The Raven Ring.” My heroine and two companions were supposed to be leaving town for a long, adventurous trip home, and on the way out, they were supposed to be attacked by the bad guys. So that happened, they beat off the attack, and then the one character says, “Let’s get out of here.” And the young nobleman who’s the other companion stares blankly and says, “Why?” And by the time they got that sorted out, the cops had shown up and I had to spend four unanticipated chapters dealing with them. Once I finally did, the head guard said basically, “OK, you’re free to head home now.” And my heroine looked at h im and said, in essence, “Do you think I’m crazy? That attack was planned. I’m in a city with a nice, competent police force that knows me and knows somebody is out to get me, and you expect me to leave? Not til we catch those creeps, or at least find out a lot more about what they’re up to!” Which pretty much shot the entire plan for the rest of the book. I finally got her heading for the city gates at last…on the last page of the novel. Not at all what I’d expected.

It’s not exactly a “murdered darling” because none of it ever got written, so it didn’t actually have to be cut/murdered. But it feels the same. And I do kind of regret missing out on the camping scene I had in mind, where they all argue about cooking. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have had the fortune-telling scene with the picture cards (that world’s version of the Tarot) if things had gone the way I planned. It evens out.

9.       What is your worst writing habit, the thing which you keep telling yourself you’re going to change and you do it anyway?

Procrastinating. But I really will get around to stopping it. One of these days.

10.   If you were going to interview another author, whose brain would you want to pick?

Megan Whelan Turner. I want to know how she does that thing in “The King of Attolia” where she leaves out all these scenes and all this information that you’d swear was critical to the plot or the characterization or both, and it works anyway. And it makes you feel smart because you got it without her telling you outright. (It’s the third book in a sequence, and I highly recommend it, but if you don’t want serious spoilers, you need to read the first two first. They’re both good, but the third one is brilliant. I think, anyway.)

From the mouth of Amberglas, from The Seven Towers (which will be back in print from Firebird Books soon—Spring 2009).
1.   What is the best piece of advice you’d give to other Fantasy characters on how to survive troubles and tribulations?

Well, that would depend on the character, wouldn’t it? And on the troubles and tribulations. So many things that one person thinks are troublesome aren’t any trouble at all for someone else. Breaking into the king’s treasury, for instance, which is a great deal of trouble for the king and his guards, and quite a bit of trouble for the person who’s breaking in, but no trouble at all for the shoemaker down the street. Unless of course the king has the shoemaker locked in the treasury vault for some reason. Some kings do things like that. And then there are things that nearly everyone finds troublesome, like having an army invade, or being turned into a loathly worm, or washing socks. Advising people to use warm water so they won’t shrink is quite the best thing for washing socks, but not at all useful for invading armies or loathly worms, or even invading armies of loathly worms. Under most circumstances, anyway. I believe one of the Imperial Wizards tried to shrink an invading army with hot water once, but I’m afraid it didn’t work very well , which just shows you.

2.    How do you feel about magic powers? Indispensable? Only for the Lazy Hero/Heroine? You wish your author gave you more?

Which sort of magic powers? I believe I could dispense quite well with Black Sorcery, though of course if I happened to be a Black Sorcerer, which I am not, I would almost certainly feel very differently. And there are so many different ways to do things, though some of them are really more trouble than they’re worth. One could chop down a tree with a nail file, but an ax is so much more convenient. That is, if one happens to have an ax; if the only thing handy is a nail file, one does what one can. Spells and magic are exactly the same. Only different.

3.       What’s the best way to vanquish mad witches, evil dragons… orcs, ogres?

Not underestimating them, which is quite easy to do, even though people are warned about it all the time. Listening seems to be so very difficult for such a lot of peop le, even when it’s an important warning that they ought to be listening to, except of course just when you’d prefer they didn’t, such as when you’re planning a surprise birthday party, or plotting an assassination, or talking to your houseplants. At least, a good many people seem to find it embarrassing to be caught talking to their houseplants, though I’ve never really understood why. Mine are quite sensible conversationalists, much better than most of the kings and princes I’ve met. And there are always shoelaces. Tying someone’s shoelaces together frequently works very well, though of course very few dragons actually wear shoes.

4.       Is there a happily ever after on your horizon, or is true love only for those sappy romance books?

Ever after is such a long time, except when it isn’t. Such as when one gets run over by a delivery wagon unexpectedly—not that one ever really expects to be run over by a delivery wagon, but it’s the principle of the thing. And you know, one never actually gets to the horizon. At least, by the time one does, it’s somewhere else. So I’m afraid I don’t pay very much attention to either one. Being happy right now is quite enough work for any sensible person, especially since now is never the same, either, and so difficult to get to come out the way one would like, what with wizard-kings interfering, and ancient sorceries getting in the way, and the weather always being quite wrong. Snow when one wants to have a picnic, and rain when it’s been flooding, and wind when one has just that minute finished dusting.

5.   Magic artifacts? (You know what I mean, enchanted swords, books of spells…) Useful, indispensable, more trouble than they’re worth…

Definitely more trouble than they’re worth, if you’re on the receiving end. Assuming, of course, that the wizard who made whatever-it-is did a reasonably competent job—so many of them want to make a sort of magical Swiss Army Knife, and end up with a magic staff that shoots lightning bolts , makes the wielder invulnerable, and does dishes, but only shoots the lightning at turnips, makes the wielder invulnerable to straw arrows, and does only the very best Dangil china dishes, which is quite useless, really, because if you are wealthy enough to own the very best Dangil china dishes, you generally pay to have someone else wash them for you. And then they’re horribly disappointed and go around blowing up turnips just for spite, even though if you think about it, a magic staff that does any sort of dishes is really quite an unusual accomplishment and something one ought to be proud of.

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Reflections on the news… September 21, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Uncategorized.
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I like to listen to NPR on my morning drive to work, both for the interesting stories on music and literature and for the national and international news featured on the radio show. I remember when one of my students joked to another that something was as outdated as getting all your news on the radio, to which I pointed out that I do get most of my news on the radio. In the world of very biased news reports, and ratings deciding what is news worthy, (which means the most sensational or gory stories, many times) I prefer the simple human interest stories that the news radio seems to feature.

What I also like is the relatively unbiased reports on what’s going on in national and local politics. Today, however, two stories struck me as stunning that they’re still a Hot Bed Issue.

The bill to repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell” didn’t make it to vote. The fact that in the economy that we’re facing and with the needs of the military, we want to worry about someone’s sexual orientation just stuns me. We let dogs and cats “serve” in the military, we’ve let horses “serve” in the military… and we want to have a fit about able bodied men and women who want to serve, often have very key and needed skills, but who happen to have a different sexual orientation.   I for one have no desire to serve in the military, I have enough trouble “serving” in an office environment. So more power to anyone who does want to serve! I don’t understand at all why this is such an issue that upsets people.

The second issue that irritates me is the claim that “Illegal Immigrants will take our jobs”. My family were likely Italian and Irish illegal immigrants, who suffered through this same “they’re going to take our jobs” nonsense. The minute the statistics show that Americans with a Bachelors in Liberal Arts/Math/etc is turned down for a job picking raspberries, or washing cars, then I’ll agree with you. Those are the so-called “jobs” your average migrant worker or “illegal” is going to take. The average American, however, isn’t going to take that sort of very necessary job. We’ll hurt our own economy by chasing off the people willing to do the work that puts the canned/packaged/frozen/easy-to-cook food on our tables.

The argument is also that “illegal immigrants are largely uneducated”, well folks… once again, they’re coming to take work that most Americans do not want to do, and doing it to support their families. I can’t think of anything more “American” than hard work, a desire for a better education and a better life for one’s family.

It makes me sad every time I see the statue of liberty… to think just how far our country strays from the poem by Emma Lazarus, and just how many of us have the exact same origins (albeit from a different nation or continent), that the maligned “Illegal Immigrant” has today.

“The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles.
From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“”Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!”” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Meet the author Monday: Chad Corrie September 20, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Author Interview, Historical.
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Welcome to our next interview. <<Snipped, out of date>>

~K

Vital Status:

Lives:  Minnsota.
Webpage: ChadCorrie
Books: Divine Gambit Trilogy, Tales of Tralodren, The Adventures of Corwyn
Genres: Fantasy

From the mouth of the author:

1.      What is the fantasy cliché that most bothers you, or what is your book pet-peeve?

You now, I don’t know if there really is a fantasy cliché that bothers me too much.  I tend to subscribe to the notion that “there isn’t anything new under the sun” when it comes to stories.  It’s really just how they are packaged and dressed up a bit that is the difference.  You can’t really get away from all of the clichés even if you wanted to.

The thing that does tend to make me chuckle when I see it is the authors who jump on the bandwagon of a trend and try to grab ahold of its coat tails.  I don’t blame them for wanting to try and work the system to their advantage, but if you’re just writing a book to try and get into a lucriative niche rather than trying to tell a good story then you might be missing the mark when it comes to being an author… at least how I see it.

Then again, if you do get a ton of cash for crafting a tale in the same vein/flavor of what’s hot right now you might not see the down side to what I just said.

And this isn’t to say that what is produced in these trend niches is entirely bad either.  As any author will tell you how their work is perceived is a relative thing when it comes to the reader’s eyes.  If enough people thing your work is great and are willing to pay you to keep coming up with more than I guess you’re doing well.  Even if I get a kick out of the mentality to “hurry up and jump on this trend” in many niches that, in my mind, are getting a bit too glutted now and need a bit of refining, there is still money to made and people who, more often than not, will purchase and enjoy the published work.

2.       What is your favorite fantasy critter or fairy tale character and why?  No, it doesn’t have to be one you write about.

I’ve always liked dragons, but then again, who hasn’t in this line of literature.  I also like griffins and many of the creatures found in classical mythology.  But if I had to pick a favorite type of fantasy character I think it would be the fractured hero.

When I started writing my first book, Seer’s Quest, I decided that I wanted to do something with the heroes to make them more clay-footed than some I’d read up to that point in my life.  I was coming out of the Conan and D&D type of novels and mindset where the heroes were brave and bold and often one or two-dimensional and just did things because they had to – as if they had a requirement in their contract that forced them to do these heroic deeds.

Now while these are all well and good in their own right for the stories in which they occur, I didn’t want to do the same for my work.  There was a chain of thought going around at the time as well that went something like “DC Comics characters are just plain old heroes-guys who get a power and then slap on tights and start fighting crime just cause they are heroes.  Marvel characters are clay-footed and are more ‘human’ in their motives-more complicated.”

Well, that saying has been reversed from time to time as the companies have both worked to redefine their worlds and characters but I took that thought to my own heroes and made them more complicated-more complex on the simple to even the most detailed of matters related to them.  This, I believe, has helped make some interesting characters and stories.  And this is why I tend to think of them as my favorite type of fantasy critter/character

3.  We all know it’s easy to get distracted when a project is taking its own sweet time to bubble.  What is your Achilles heel when it comes to getting distracted from writing?

When I write it’s not really a challenge to get the idea or to put it down but to keep a disciplined practice of getting it put down on the computer instead.  I tend to leave my email on while I work and every once in a while an email will pop up and then I check it out and get distracted at times by that.  And then there is the internet which I sometimes used for a little reference work or research for one item and I tend to get and go a little farther than I should and find I spent more time than I should on that.  Then you have the phone and other odds and ends that tend to crop up and pop up every so often too.

So that is what gets me for right now when and if I let it. But if keep myself focused I can keep myself chugging away until I complete what I have to do for that day writing wise.  It’s just a matter of focus.

4.  With the holidays coming up what is your favorite winter activity?

You’re talking to a guy who lives in Minnesota, the land of snow and fun.  We’re the folks who like to go taking dips in frozen lakes for some odd reason and find all sorts of odd excuses to get out in below zero weather for some sort of fun.

That being said, I don’t know if I have any real favorite activity for the season.  When it gets cold and snows I tend to not want to go out all that often to do a whole lot of anything other than shovel.

5.  I’ve heard of inspirational eating, so when you’re settled in to get things done is there a particular food that you just have to have on hand?

Nope.

I just have my mug of water and that’s it.  I try not to spend all day at my computer.  I try to keep set hours for my computer use and stick to them as best I am able. I think it’s important to get away from the computer and let my mind and eyes rest and actually get some exersice that doesn’t just benefit my fingers.

6. What does it take to write a really good villain?  Do you ever find yourself in a mental space that scares you or makes you wonder if that really came out of YOUR head?

I’ll tell you want amazes me most is when I go back and read what I wrote and wonder if that came from the same person.  For me there is a sort of odd disconnect as an author.  You know you wrote it when you are writing it but once it is done you go back and it somehow feels different, like it was written by someone else and you’re looking at it from a different place.  Maybe that’s just me and my possible oddity in relating to my work.

To answer your question, however, I don’t know that I’ve been scared by a villain that finds his or her or its way into the story.  From my standpoint I’m in the director’s chair of the tale and sort of know where most of the tale is going to fall before I get started. I see the end of the tale from the beginning and know this and that about the story and don’t really get frightened by what crops up in the process.  I guess it also has to do with the fact that I understand what I’m doing isn’t real and that all these “acts of evil” and so and so forth aren’t real either.  Now if I read something not written by me with a nice baddie in it that could be a different story.

What does it take to make a great villain?  Motivation is a key issue.  Why are they doing what they are doing?  Now in fantasy you can sometimes get away with the classic “I’m just evil and I do evil things because I live for it” type of mindset.  If used in the right way it can work pretty well even in the world of gray people like to live in now days.  There is still a market for the classic “good vs. evil” story.  However, it has to be done in the right way or you lose the full impact of such a mindset.  Imagine it.  The villain knows he is evil and just likes to do evil things.  There are some serial murders like that, who have said, “I’m evil and I know it and just want to kill people.”  So there is a villain out there like that and it can work, but again if used in the right way and in the right story.

Motivation, however, is key for villains favored by most of today’s readers.  In a world where everyone now has some sort of “victim mentality” with which they have to contend we have villains who have “abandonment issues” or this mental disorder or that.  They are painted as sympathetic characters who can’t help themselves and might even be able to be turned to do good if someone just “helped them through their pain/challenge”.  If only someone would understand them.  I’m not a big fan of this in my own writing, as I tend to shy away from what I think of as “whiny characters”.  Though again, if used in the right context it could work very well and I have read books there that is the case.

The best villains, ideally, are ones who really push a button with you.  They are not victims of something that warps them for life (though that can help add some resonance at times if done right) but rather are people who think they are doing the right thing but don’t see it is the wrong thing.  In their own mind they are the good guys and everyone else is on the wrong side.  These, to me, are the best villains because you can relate to them on a more practical level and see the reasoning behind their logic (and might even agree with it) but you don’t like the means by which they try to justify their end.

Again, this is an interesting and nebulous topic in this graying world we live in as we see more and more villains becoming anti-heroes and the line between hero and villain getting more and more blurred.  And then there is the reader’s disposition and how they see the story from their own unique moral worldview…. but I digress.

7.       Which of your characters gave you the most trouble and was the hardest to write for?

In this current book, The Adventures of Corwyn, there weren’t any hard characters to write.  Now in some of my other novels and graphic novels I’ve had to wrestle around a bit with things but for The Adventures of Corwyn it was pretty easy going.  Given that there weren’t that many characters in this short story collection other than Corwyn (who I got along with very well) it probably made things easier as well.

8.       We all have darling lines or paragraphs in our stories.  Stephen King even says we should kill them.  What is your most favorite murdered darling from any of your books?

Stephen King advising us to kill something?  I can’t imagine that.  When I write now I’ve learned to look at it is a crafting a sculpture.  You have to clear away the excess to get to the image beneath.  So there is going to be some things that get cleared away and should be.  Often times this is done by the aid of an editor who can see things from a more objective viewpoint and help make your work all the better for it.

That being said, I don’t really honestly recall what has gone by the way side in the process of completing my works any more so than the artist would consider the bits of saw dust or marble chunks chipped off from the final image hidden beneath the now fallen debris.

9.  What is your worst writing habit, the thing which you keep telling yourself you’re going to change and you do it anyway?

Besides checking my email or answering the phone?

I think many authors struggle with coming to a point of knowing when it’s time to let the book go.  I used to keep wanting to go back and tweak and twist and polish and so on but in the end you can’t do that forever.  There has to come a point where you say “this is it” and then let it go.  I’ve gotten much better at that but sometimes I’ll be tempted to give it “just one more look over” before turning it off to the publisher for the final layout.

10.   If you were going to interview another author, whose brain would you want to pick?

You know, that’s an interesting question.  I don’t really know if there is a certain author I’d like to chat with.  However, I do think talking with other authors in general is very insightful as there can often be a nugget you can pull out of the conversation that will benefit you later on.

From the mouth of Corwyn Danther (The Adventures of Corwyn):

1.   What is the best piece of advice you’d give to other Fantasy characters on how to survive troubles and tribulations?

You tend to get what you expect; look for the best in all things and you will tend to get it.  You might not be able to get out of the situation, but you should he able to weather it better than most if you keep your wits about you and your expectation of a good outcome close to the forefront of your mind.

2.    How do you feel about magic powers? Indispensable? Only for the Lazy Hero/Heroine? You wish your author gave you more?

Magic can be a boon, I suppose, but when is there a wizard around with you might need one, eh?  Making someone lazy?  Well there was that whole mess with Wizard Kings a few centuries ago… if anything magic can make one more arrogant than lazy… though that is often a symptom which follows as well.

As far as me wanting any magical spells or powers or trinkets I’d have to decline.  As I’ve said already, such things tend to be more trouble than they are worth. A recent encounter with two Sellswords and their circlet comes to mind to help make my point… but that’s another story.

3.  What’s the best way to vanquish mad witches, evil dragons… orcs, ogres?

Outsmart them.

If you have to face them, and thankfully I haven’t had to deal with so great a list as what you posted above as opponents myself, then you’d best find a way to use what you have against them.  Often times you’ll find such creatures give you a way to either defeat them or flee.  Sometimes its smarter to just leave while you can as well, and often will save more lives than pressing in for a hard fight ever will.

4.  Is there a happily ever after on your horizon, or is true love only for those sappy romance books?

I’d like to think there is, either in this life or the next.  Causilla is the goddess of love after all, and I’m a faithful follower.  I’d like to think my future wife is out there somewhere and if she is we’ll find each other eventually.

Now wouldn’t that be a tale?

5.   Magic artifacts? (You know what I mean, enchanted swords, books of spells…) Useful, indispensable, more trouble than they’re worth…

Magic artifacts?  Hmm.  Well you probably don’t want to mention that to Fred, he’s still upset about those ruins we found a while back… and those two sellswords I mentioned earlier come to mind again…

Magical trinkets and artifacts tend to be confusing if you ask me.  People are often searching for things that they have no idea what they do or even if they are real in the first place.  In most causes things often tend to go down a bad road and take those who seek after them with them.

Friday Flashback: Human Nature September 17, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Friday Flashback.
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Flashback from May 2, 2008

As a writer I spend a lot of time people watching.  There are multiple reasons for this.  First of all when they’re not bugging me people are just so darn amusing and secondly people are what I write about.  Even if they’re fangy people, or shifty people, or…you get the idea.  No matter what you’re writing about, at least in fiction non-fic can be about carburetors, there is still some innate human aspect that helps to drive the story and provokes an emotional response in the reader.  Soo…I study people and the things they do.

Two shining examples, both taking place at the same well known shopping outlet.

Just for the sake of being chronological:

My first visit to said shopping outlet happened a couple of days ago.  I needed some last minute bits and pieces, a five minute trip.  As I moved through the check out line I spotted inexpensive reusable shopping bags.  My sons have been on my case about thinking more green – and apparently driving my car is tantamount to stabbing a polar bear, but I digress – so I grabbed a bag and added it to my check out stack.  The nice young man that is cashiering my order picks up the bag first of all, which I approve up.  Ring up the bag and put the other groceries in it.  Unfortunately that’s not what this young man had in mind.  Instead he rang up the bag, put it in a nice plastic grocery bag and put it in my cart to go home with the other groceries.  Yep…that’s me.  Saving the environment one car stabbed polar bear at a time.

The second example happened today during lunch.  I went to said shopping outlet to buy Garden Top Soil.  The soil in my back garden is a nasty clay with tendencies toward being weedy and over grown.  So I needed additional soil to work in with the hopes of a tomato crop this year.  On my way into the establishment I stopped by the large pile of green bags marked:  Garden Top Soil.  I wrote down the bag letters and price per bag and then trundled around the store and fetched the few other items I needed.  Making my way back to the garden center I approached the nice cashier, a woman in her late fifties and handed her the items to ring up, then requested 5 bags of Garden Top Soil, bag A1.  She looked at her screen and said:  “We don’t have any.”  I figured she must have mistyped something as I had just walked past the large pile of bags and asked her to try again.  She looked a second time.  “I’m sorry.  We don’t have any Garden Top Soil.”  So I walked to the door and pointed to the large stack.  “Those ones.”  She returned a third time to her computer.  “We don’t have any Garden Top Soil.”  Despite the fact Garden Top Soil was where she could see it, maybe 30 feet away she was convinced that the computer knew better and there was no Garden Top Soil.  I admitted defeat, conceeding that maybe the Garden Top Soil was a figment of my imagination…

It was a very vivid figment…

I still need Garden Top Soil.

I’ll be buying it elsewhere cause the shopping outlet.  They’re out.  Just ask the computer.

~J

Wednesday Book Review: Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs September 15, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Uncategorized.
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Genre: Urban Fantasy

Age: Teen/Adult

Content: Violence

Overall: 5/5  paws

Jana reviewed Moon Called previously and I’m ashamed to admit I’m a late comer to the Mercy Thompson series, but I wish I had been reading it all along! I’m picky on my U.F. and I haven’t found a female protagonist I’ve found charming, engaging and likeable in a long time. My favorite UF, thus far, have male protagonists. The females always seem to have more mouth than brains which really bothers me. Mercy has a mouth on her, but she uses it only when it’s needed or logical instead of antagonizing her enemies when she’s down and out. She’s kindhearted, hard working, intelligent and just a little innocent. That is the draw of her series, she is the kind of person you’d rely on and invite to an all girls night out to boot.

Blood Bound has an engaging and fast paced plot, it’s well thought out without many plot holes. It’s easy to follow and you don’t find yourself shouting at the protagonist too often. I actually had to turn on all the lights at my apartment and sleep away from a window after reading the scene where the Sorcerer comes looking for Mercy! That is one terrifying scene, kudos Patricia Briggs! My only complaints are that Mercy hems and haws too much about her fear of Adam, that seems… contrived and a bit overblown. I also don’t much like the love rectangle. What is a love rectangle? It’s one woman, 3 men. I don’t know why U.F. has to go for this dilemma between alpha males cliche, it’s getting old. I particularly like Briggs world building, the vampires are rephrehensible and scary, while still maintaining that humanity which makes them most chilling, the werewolves are truly man and monster, and the skinwalkers is an interesting take on the legend. I’m looking forwards to the next one.

Meet the author Monday: Peter V. Brett September 13, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Author Interview, Fantasy.
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Greetings from the frozen mountains of the Rockies.  It’s snowing hard outside and I’m trying to make it all the way through the work day with the hope of getting home without dying on icy roads!  However, I’m happy to have a White Christmas, so I can’t complain too much.

Santa has been good to us here at Reality By Pass and we have more Author Interviews than we do remaining Fridays!  To this end there will be at least two author interviews a week for the rest of December.  Remember that there will be a drawing for books at the end of the month.  Ask a question, comment on the state of the weather…just let us know you’re out there to win!

Nooow…onto today’s interview with Petter V Brett.

Vital Status:

Lives:  Somewhere in the US.
WebpagePeter V Brett
Books: The Warded Man (March 2009)
Genres: Fantasy

From the mouth of the author:

What is the fantasy cliché that most bothers you, or what is your book pet-peeve?

Oh, there are so many. I guess the standard fantasy story arc/climax gets to me the most. Basically, this is where the main character discovers they are the heir to a magic they did nothing to earn, don’t understand, and are afraid/unable to use. They muddle through the book with no control over this special power until the last possible minute when all seems lost, at which point,  for no real reason other than plot resolution, they manage to bend the magic to their will just long enough to defeat the villain, who is usually a  life-long master of the same magic, because “good” magic, as everybody knows, is stronger than “bad” magic, and the hero always has the strongest magic of all. Of course, when the sequel rolls around, they are back to not understanding their power. Lather, rinse, repeat.

A lot of amazing fantasy authors, including many bestsellers, have used this story skeleton through the years, some to great effect, but it’s begun to stick in my craw because I think that with a very few exceptions, it makes for an unsatisfying climax. The author builds enormous tension getting the protagonist into an inescapable fix, and then  kind of cheats to get them out. Victories in real life don’t happen that way, and I am a big believer that even fantasy fiction should mirror reality as much as possible, so that readers can relate to it.

What is your favorite fantasy critter or fairy tale character and why?  No, it doesn’t have to be one you write about.

Unicorns. Totally.

Okay, I’m lying. Screw unicorns. Actually, my favorite fantasy critters are the ones I write about. Demons.

I always loved demons, even back when I was a little kid playing Dungeons and Dragons. I memorized all the demon types in the Monster Manual and Fiend Folio, and looked for any excuse to use them in a game. Did you know the Balrog in The Fellowship of the Ring was a Type VI demon called a Balor? Those things are no joke. Makes you really respect Gandalf. The real D&D demon you didn’t want to fuck with, though, was the Demogorgon. That thing was a two-headed psionic supra-genius with a -8 armor class and 200 hit points. D&D also made a point of distinguishing demons from devils, which I think is important.

There were also these evil demons called the N’gari that fought the X-men in the early 80’s. There was a special Christmas issue of the X-men (Uncanny #143, I think) where a demon chases Kitty Pryde all over the X-mansion. That comic scared the crap out of me when I was a kid; I must have read it a thousand times. From there I went on to read lots of demon-centric fantasy novels like Terry Brooks’ Elfstones of Shannara, Lyndon Hardy’s Master of the Five Magics, and… heck, just about any of the many works of RA Salvatore or CS Friedman.

You get my point. I was always hunting demon stories, and it was great to finally take a crack at writing them myself.

We all know it’s easy to get distracted when a project is taking its own sweet time to bubble.  What is your Achilles heel when it comes to getting distracted from writing?

Same as everyone these days, I reckon. The internet. It’s probably why I usually get more writing done on my smartphone riding the subway for an hour than I can all day on my home computer with its seductive high-speed web connection. That said, it’s just as easy for me to get distracted by sorting my socks.

Distraction is a real problem for me, and I think for anyone who wants to be a writer. Stephen Pressfield calls it “Resistance” in his book The War of Art. The fact is, unless you have the muse sitting right on your shoulder (which is a rare and undependable thing), writing, at least, writing well, is a lot harder than it looks. It can be such a trial sometimes that to a struggling author, the thought of climbing an icy ladder to clear leaves from the roof rain gutter starts to sound more enticing that sitting by the computer with a hot cuppa. I truly believe that training yourself to focus and produce work consistently when you’re blocked or tired or not in the mood is what separates pro writers, even hackish ones, from talented amateurs.

I wish I was better at it, myself.

With the holidays coming up what is your favorite winter activity?

My family used to have a ski house at Hunter Mountain in New York, and we would go skiing a few times every winter. Sometimes my dad would even pull us out of school on a Friday to take advantage of a day without weekend crowds. Those were the days!

Now that I live in Brooklyn and am married to a non-skier, I don’t get to go as often as I used to, but my father and sister and I still try to go once every winter if we can.

I’ve heard of inspirational eating, so when you’re settled in to get things done is there a particular food that you just have to have on hand?

Ugh. Prepare to be sickened. I like to eat Nerds Rope, which is this Willy Wonka candy where they essentially take a long Gummi Worm and stick Nerds candies to it. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, be thankful. It is somehow several times as sugary as pure sugar.

I also mix iced coffee with Diet Coke when I am working late and want a caffeine boost. Don’t knock it until you’ve let it keep you up till 4am. Red Bull is for sissies.

What does it take to write a really good villain?  Do you ever find yourself in a mental space that scares you or makes you wonder if that really came out of YOUR head?

I don’t really write about villains, because I’m not convinced they exist in the classical sense. No one sees themselves as a villain, that is just a label from the person on the other side of the conflict. In real life, people find all sorts of ways to justify the evil things they do. I try to be impartial as an author, and just describe conflict and motive and let the reader decide who’s right and who’s wrong.

That said, there are several characters I’ve written that scare the crap out of me, especially Jardir’s wife, Inevera, who makes her first appearance in my nearly-completed sequel to The Warded Man, titled The Desert Spear. I have nightmares about her.

Which of your characters gave you the most trouble and was the hardest to write for?

Probably the Warded Man. My main protagonists, Arlen, Leesha, and Rojer, all have clear voices in my head, but the Warded Man is an entity unto himself, and a being of constant internal conflict. It’s a difficult head to get into sometimes.

We all have darling lines or paragraphs in our stories.  Stephen King even says we should kill them.  What is your most favorite murdered darling from any of your books?

I have many murdered darlings. The version of The Warded Man I originally sold to Del Rey books was 182,000 words. The final draft I released to print was a sleek 158,000. I had reasons for everything I cut, usually pacing or redundancy, and the end-product was better for it, but some really great (in my opinion, anyway) material was lost in the process. So much, in fact, that I am planning to add a “deleted scenes” blog to my website to reveal some of those delicious tibbits to anyone interested in the writing process, or who just wants a little fix before the sequel comes out.

What is your worst writing habit, the thing which you keep telling yourself you’re going to change and you do it anyway?

Overwriting. I always write more than I need to. Like this answer. I could have just said “Overwriting” and been done with it, but was that good enough for me? Noooooo.

If you were going to interview another author, whose brain would you want to pick?

CS Friedman or George RR Martin. Both have an amazing ability to keep an incredibly complex set of POV characters and story arcs straight and still tell a cohesive story.

From the mouth of the Warded Man:

What is the best piece of advice you’d give to other characters on how to survive troubles and tribulations?

Stop being afraid to stand up for yourself. You can’t count on someone else coming along to do it for you.

How do you feel about magic powers? Indispensable? Only for the Lazy Hero/Heroine? You wish your author gave you more?

No one gave me my magic. I earned it, paid for in blood and scars, and now I walk free in the night when others cower behind their wards. But magic’s nothing compared to the will to stand up and defend what’s yours when the demons come to take it.

What’s the best way to vanquish mad witches, evil dragons… orcs, ogres?

Ent no such thing.

Is there a happily ever after on your horizon, or is true love only for those sappy romance books?

Gave up my chances for happiness long ago. I spend more time amongst demons than I do men now. I’ve eaten their flesh and stolen their magic. No woman in her right mind would want me, or the spawn of my tainted blood.

Magic artifacts? (You know what I mean, enchanted swords, books of spells…) Useful, indispensable, more trouble than they’re worth…

Weapons can be lost. They can be broken. They can be stolen. Make your own body a weapon, though, and nothing can take it from you, or catch you unarmed.

Friday Flashback: Books in series September 10, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Book Series.
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Flashback from April 28, 2008

I am a big fan of Jim Butcher.  I’ll just state that and get it out of the way now.  In particular I adore his Dresden files series.  This has been a matter of great amusement for several folks that know me.  In one conversation it came up that I was reading, Small Favor, number ten in Butcher’s series.  The friend I was talking to is a Robert Jordan fan and found it odd that I refused to read all 13 volumes of the Wheel of Time series, but yet I’d devoured ten Dresden books and have plans to accquire any others.  (The latest news I read on Butcher’s site (www.jim-butcher.com) was that he was signed through book fourteen.)  This set me to pondering why I was looking forward to more books in one series and running screaming from more in another.

The first difference that comes to mind is genre.  WoT is High Fantasy and Dresden is Urban Fantasy.  UF has a tendency to be a bit lighter in tone and a faster read, so I believe that contributes to my enjoyment of the set.

Next is point of view.  Many high fantasy series use an omnicient point of view where the story switches around between characters allowing the reader to see the story from many eyes and see many aspects of what’s going on.  This is interesting because of the complexity offered, but can again make for a slower read.  I find I tend to have favorite characters and I groan when their thread is abandoned for half of a book and I have to wait to pick it up again.  A first person or limited third doesn’t offer as many viewpoints and therefore fewer threads and complexity, but it tends to be easier to sink into the character point of view and follow through.  If you like the main character this will keep you well and truly hooked, and if you don’t…well, you don’t keep buying more books hoping that the threads for the characters you do like will show up in this one.

Another issue that I have is character growth.  I like seeing characters change and grow and remember the mistakes that have shaped them.  In some series the character seems to freeze in time and repeat the same mistakes over and over again, never learning or becoming better people.  It’s fine for characters to make mistakes, it’s actually part of what makes a character well rounded and relatable with, but to make the same mistake ad nauseum? That strikes me as being stupid, not funny and not a good character arc or series plot.

I also prefer series where each book is a contained episode.  They all connect together and things that chronologically happened before will be referred to, or make a difference to what follows, but each book has a starting place a plot arc, climax and closing.  The continual quest that just keeps going and going…I have patience for about 5 books and then I’m generally done.

I can think of other things, but these top my list.   What about you, gentle reader?  What aspects will keep you reading, and what will drive you away?

~J

Meet the author Monday: Juliet Marillier September 6, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Author Interview, Fantasy.
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Welcome to another author interview! Today we’re featuring Juliet Marillier, author of 11 novels currently in print, and hopefully author of 11 or 12… or 50 more! (*nudge nudge*). Juliet’s latest book Heir to Sevenwaters is newly published here in the US and in Australia, and would make a lovely Christmas Present if you’re still looking for gifts. Her novels have a beautifully flowing prose, engaging protagonists, romantic heroes and beautiful imagery. She richly deserves her many awards, most recently the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Young Adult Novels. (Cybele’s Secret).

Don’t forget to post comments! There are prizes to be won.
Enough from me…. on to the interview! (~K)

Lives: Perth, Western Australia
Webpage: Juliet Marillier
Books
: The Sevenwaters Trilogy, The Bridei Chronicals, Wolfskin, Foxmask, Wildwood Dancing, Cybele’s Secret, Heir to Sevenwaters
Genres: Historical Fantasy, Celtic Fantasy

From the mouth of the author:

1. What is the fantasy cliché that most bothers you, or what is your book pet-peeve?

My number one book pet-peeve is head-hopping – constant changes of point of view within one scene. It’s still pretty common in fantasy writing and distances the reader from the main protagonists. My number two pet peeve is writers using ‘lay’ when they mean ‘lie’, and editors who don’t correct it.

2. What is your favorite fantasy critter or fairy tale character and why? No, it doesn’t have to be one you write about.

The non-human characters in my books would be deeply offended if I ever referred to them as critters. They’d prefer to be considered somewhat similar to humans, but superior in all ways that matter. Most of them come from mythology or folklore, but I take quite a few liberties with them. I had a lot of fun with the Irish mythological race of Fomhoire in the Sevenwaters books, especially HEIR TO SEVENWATERS – they have become distinct individuals now with personal quirks. Their strongest skill is being able to blend with the surrounding landscape, whether it be water, stone, foliage or whatever. This has ensured their survival over many generations.

3. We all know it’s easy to get distracted when a project is taking its own sweet time to bubble. What is your Achilles heel when it comes to getting distracted from writing?

My two dogs, a Miniature Pinscher and a Maltese / Bichon cross. They are always up for more cuddles, snacks or walkies, so it’s easy to use that as an excuse to stop work – who could resist a little dog’s softly pleading eyes? I brew and drink a lot of tea and coffee, especially as my current work space is the kitchen table. Using the Internet for non-essential purposes is another great way to waste time. Close to deadlines, I disable the modem so I can’t obsessively check my email or visit favourite sites. I don’t switch off the dogs or the kettle.

4. With the holidays coming up what is your favorite winter activity?

Curling up with the dogs and reading a great book while drinking tea. Or at least, that’s what I’d do if it actually was winter, but I live in Australia, where Christmas coincides with summer. That means the dogs and I are more likely to be paddling in the nearby river or collapsed in a heap under the shade of a big tree. Summers are extremely hot here.

5. I’ve heard of inspirational eating, so when you’re settled in to get things done is there a particular food that you just have to have on hand?

I have a mug of Twinings Earl Grey on hand pretty much all the time. (See above regarding kitchen as workspace.) Food-wise, I graze on whatever is to hand. Sitting at the computer eating and drinking most of the day tends to lead to ‘writer’s bum’ (in American, I guess that would be ‘writer’s butt’) so I also go to the gym three times a week.

6. What does it take to write a really good villain? Do you ever find yourself in a mental space that scares you or makes you wonder if that really came out of YOUR head?

Over the course of twelve books my villains have become a lot better (by ‘better’ I mean subtler and more interesting as characters – they’re no less evil.) In my first book I wrote a cardboard cutout villain. I even included a ‘since you’re about to die, I will now explain in great detail all the evil things I’ve done’ scene. These days, I guess I don’t write ‘villains’ as such. I’m intrigued by characters whose moral codes are a bit askew, or characters lacking the ability to come to terms with certain aspects of their existence. It’s interesting to explore their motivation and to look at how nature and nurture shaped them. Mac Dara, the prince of the Fair Folk from HEIR TO SEVENWATERS, is a complex character, with his own motivations and his own weird logic to back up his decisions. Some of my bad characters, such as the seriously warped Somerled in WOLFSKIN, are extremely popular with readers. A sympathetic baddie is a good baddie. Do I ever shock myself? No, but I don’t enjoy writing the scenes where unspeakable things happen.

7. Which of your characters gave you the most trouble and was the hardest to write for?

Faolan from the Bridei Chronicles gets the prize for being the most trouble AND for being my favourite. Clearly unhappy with his intended bit-part as assassin and spy, he moved himself up to hero’s best friend in THE DARK MIRROR, then insisted on taking the central role in the second and third books in that series. One book to introduce him, one to break his heart, one to let him sort his life out. Hardest to write for has been Anluan, the male protag of the novel I’ve just finished, HEART’S BLOOD. He is such a burdened character, he and I both had to dig deep to find his heroic qualities.

8. We all have darling lines or paragraphs in our stories. Stephen King even says we should kill them. What is your most favorite murdered darling from any of your books?

I prune nature descriptions, pagan rituals and angsty internal monologues. I’m getting better at recognising what is slowing the story down. Looking back at some of my earlier books, I can see a couple of passages that cry out for the editorial red pen.

9. What is your worst writing habit, the thing which you keep telling yourself you’re going to change and you do it anyway?

A tendency to wordiness. I’m working on it. Writing two novels for young adults, with a shorter word count, taught me to write more tightly.

10. If you were going to interview another author, whose brain would you want to pick?

I enjoy discussing the craft of writing. The authors I most admire are those who combine excellent technical skills with great storytelling ability. I’ve already interviewed the two fantasy authors I most wanted to talk to, Jacqueline Carey and Joe Abercrombie, for genre writing blog http://www.writerunboxed.com. I’d love to talk about writing technique with Orson Scott Card – I especially admire the earlier books in his Alvin Maker series, in which he makes brilliant use of voice. I’d like to interview Margo Lanagan, whose recent novel, Tender Morsels, is a dark and gritty variation on Snow White and Rose Red.

From the mouth of Clodagh, the narrator of HEIR TO SEVENWATERS:

1. What is the best piece of advice you’d give to other Fantasy characters on how to survive troubles and tribulations?

Recognise your own strengths and trust your own judgment. Who would have thought my sewing ability could have achieved what it did? It helps to have capable friends, too.

2. How do you feel about magic powers? Indispensable? Only for the Lazy Hero/Heroine? You wish your author gave you more?

My author has a theory that ordinary women can be heroes without needing magical powers, so she didn’t give me any except for the ability to mind-talk with my twin sister, and that only got me in more trouble. She didn’t give me any combat skills, either, because she has another theory that her stories need to be plausible within their historical and cultural context. As it happens, I did quite well with just my common sense, courage and readiness to accept outsiders. Oh, I did get one small magical device to use. Judging by what happened, I think I’d have been better off without it.

3. What’s the best way to vanquish mad witches, evil dragons… orcs, ogres?

We don’t have any of those in our stories. What has to be vanquished is fear or prejudice or a crippling memory. We did face a dark prince of the Tuatha de Danann. This time around, we got the better of him by courage and cleverness, and a smidgeon of magical craft. It was a case of out-tricking the trickster. I feel sure there will be a next time; he wasn’t happy.

4. Is there a happily ever after on your horizon, or is true love only for those sappy romance books?

My author believes in true love, but she thinks it’s unrealistic to have everyone live happily ever after. My beloved and I got a ‘happy for the foreseeable future BUT…’ sort of ending. It’s enough to be going on with; I’m a practical person. When you have a powerful enemy, you don’t expect to live the rest of your life in peace.

5. Magic artifacts? (You know what I mean, enchanted swords, books of spells…) Useful, indispensable, more trouble than they’re worth…

In the right hands, this kind of thing can be very useful. In untrained hands (mine, for instance) it’s a really bad idea. In our type of story, it’s not magical trappings that save the day but human virtues such as courage, faith, love and loyalty. In other words, it’s what a person is INSIDE that makes the difference. (Wait – my author just pointed out that her next story contains magical mirrors, grimoires and a spectral horse … Oh, it’s all right, my beloved tells me we’re not in that one.)

Friday Flashback: Read poetry September 3, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Friday Flashback, Life, Poetry.
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Friday Flashback from April 25th, 2008 (Update: I’m almost DONE with my PHD now, I’ll have to update with my new favorite poems next week!)

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I’m planning to get my PHD in Spanish poetry, which always stirs stares of shock, dismay and horror from listeners. Poetry is generally described as “emo depressed people” scribbling down angst in esoteric metaphors that don’t really make sense. Or, I regularly hear the complaint, “The author really didn’t mean all that we read into the poem” or, “Poetry is just so… flowery and unreal. No one really feels like that.” Or my favorite, “I just don’t like poetry.”

¡Au contraire, mes amies! Some of our most oft-quoted phrases come directly from the world’s poets. And frankly, if you like music… you like poetry. I think some of the ‘fear’ of poetry comes from the stereotyped idea that understanding the art is best left for the literature einsteins of the world, or that it’s for those weird artsy freaks and not for the normal person. Only “smart people” get poetry, I’ve heard. That’s such a shame. There’s so much of our daily lives that can be found in poetry, it just takes letting go of the fear you won’t understand and realizing that there isn’t a correct answer to what poetry means. The only answer is “What does it mean to you?”

Here are some of my favorite lines from poems, and I’d love to hear any more y’all can come up with. There’s so many, I just had to pick a few!:

  • Tyger! Tyger! burning bright, in the forests of the night, what immortal hand or eye. could frame thy fearful symmetry (William Blake)
  • Do not go gentle into that good night, old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light. (Dylan Thomas)
  • Their’s not to make reply, Their’s not to reason why, Their’s but to do and die: Into the valley of Death, Rode the six hundred. (Tennyson)
  • A cry of defiance, and not of fear, A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door, And a word that shall echo for evermore! For, borne on the night-wind of the Past, Through all our history, to the last, In the hour of darkness and peril and need, The people will waken and listen to hear, The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed, And the midnight message of Paul Revere. (Longfellow)
  • Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky, With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high! Blood-red were his spurs i’ the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat, When they shot him down on the highway, Down like a dog on the highway, And he lay in his blood on the highway, with a bunch of lace at his throat. (Noyes)
  • Que es mi barco mi tesoro, que es mi dios la libertad,  mi ley, la fuerza y el viento, mi única patria, la mar (Song of the Pirate, Espronceda). (And so my boat is my treasure, my only god liberty, my law, my strength is the wind, and my only allegience the sea)
  • Oh pequeño emperador sin orbe, conquistador sin patria, mínimo tigre de salón, nupcial sultán del cielo  (Neruda, Ode to the cat) (Oh tiny emperor without kingdom, minimal tiger of the parlor, sensual sultan of heaven…)
  • La princesa está triste.. Qué tendrá la princesa? Los suspiros se escapan de su boca de fresa, que ha perdido la risa, que ha perdido el color. La princesa está pálida en su silla de oro; (Dario) (The princess is sad, why is she sad? Her sighs escape from her young lips that have lost their laughter, have lost their color. The princess is pale, sitting on her golden throne)
  • Caronte, yo seré un escándolo en tu barco. Mientras las otras sombras recen, giman, o lloren… yo iré como una alondra cantando por el río (Ibarbourou, Rebel) (Charon, I’d be a scandal on your boat. While the other shades plead, moan or cry, I would go singing like a dove along your river).

~Kris