Me and Uhtred

June 23, 2017 at 3:46 am (AJ and Ivy's Bookshop Hotel, In So Many Words, Uncategorized)

I’ve been away from the blogosphere for awhile. I went back to working in the bookstore full time and between homeschooling my kiddo and working 40 hours a week, even though the reading didn’t stop, my reviewing slowed greatly.

However, last spring I was head over heels into the Saxon Tales by Bernard Cornwell.

It was a time of hope for me.  I had finally moved out of my mother-in-law’s house and into a rent house. We lost our home in 2014 and a year and a half of paying off debt and trying to start over at my in-law’s, my husband and I were on our own again at last. The previous five years had been beyond rocky. My husband was struggling, I struggled to deal with his struggling, my daughter was becoming more aware of the situation; but finally, there was light at the end of the tunnel. My husband was on probation for his second DUI, but there was nowhere to go but up, right? We’d all hit rock bottom together and it was time to grow.

I binge read the Saxon Tales (I’m still reading them, but I read the first four or five all in a row that season), and while smitten with the character and the author, and the entire idea of the era (we homeschool chronologically through history and were studying a lot that coincided with the books), I found the energy to write a novelette.

The novelette is called Nancy & Uhtred, and it’s about one of my favorite characters from my imaginary small town, Lily Hollow, falling in love with the Saxon Tales.  It’s hopeful and funny. It’s evidence that, though I don’t write autobiographical fiction by a long shot, elements of my mood can be found in my writing. It’s my shortest published work in the series, but possibly my best. I love it, I love the time period it represents in my life… before everything finally came crashing down once and for all.

The other shoe dropped – again. The proverbial rug got ripped out from underneath me.

My husband was out of work, drunk while on probation for another DUI, screaming at us, and as my daughter barricaded the door – again – I thought, “This won’t end.” My hope and my funny left me.

So I kicked him out, obtained a restraining order, begged him to get help, and  waited.

Seven months later, we are not legally divorced, but he has public online dating profile, attempting to woo women with what a great guy he is.  I’ve loved him for more than half my life.  I’m devastated.  I am grieving.  I don’t know what the future holds. But whatever it is, it’s in God’s hands.

All this to say, Nancy & Uhtred is published, and reminds me of what I can accomplish when I am focusing on God, focusing on hope, digging deep and taking inventory of my life and who I am, and making an effort to be the best version of myself I can be.  It is my best writing and I hope to write more like it in the future.  Nancy speaks to the me I used to know and encourages me to wake up, pray hard, and try new things without abandoning the old things that I’ve always loved.  I hope others find something good in it, too.

Currently, back in my parent’s home, I am catching up on all the reviews I meant to do in what I thought would be our glorious recovery and reconciliation phase that has not happened.  He’s apparently sober now, thank God, but has no interest in being my husband.  I pray for him daily and hope my readers who pray will too.

So as well as an awkward announcement of my latest book release, this is also a shout out to the many patient indie authors awaiting reviews for copies they sent me. We are almost finished reading Jorie and the Magic Stones, I’ve been reading it aloud to the kiddo and we’re having so much fun with it. I’m also slowly plucking through High Flier by Susan Kotch, but I admit I’m having a hard time caring about teen romance when the man I’ve loved since I was fourteen is discarding the promises we made to each other.  This is not Kotch’s fault, it’s a good book, like the first in her series, I’m just not interested in romantic love in the slightest right now. The very thought of it starts to nauseate me.

I’ve been Anakalian Whims for a long, long time, and though my posts have been rapid at times and nonexistent at others, I will continue to write. I will continue to process my life through the pursuit of God, and the reading of more and more books.

I am not looking for sympathy, I do not need comments or messages, please if you read this and feel anything at all, just take a moment to pray.  Goodnight, world.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Relax and Unwind with A. K. Klemm’s Lily Hollow Novellas

December 14, 2016 at 7:37 pm (Uncategorized)

I love hearing from fans and fellow bibliophiles about The Bookshop Hotel series!

Time to Ramble On

andiA. K. Klemm’s Bookshop Hotel series will make you nostalgic for small-town America where everyone knows everyone’s business and nothing ever changes. This pair of novellas takes us to Lily Hollow, where our protagonist, AJ, opens up a bookstore that doubles as a hotel. Quirky townfolk invade the narrative, and AJ is always up to her short chin in local drama.

Both books reminded me of shows like Doc Martin or Northern Exposure, where friendly, colorful locals flood each scene with their idiosyncrasies. There’s a cranky woman running a book club who becomes obsessed with hats. An out-of-place teenager who hangs out with old people. Couples finding love well into their golden years. All of it wrapped up in charming dialog, similar to something out of Jojo Moyes.

While the setting is warm and wistful, the stories don’t lack for drama and conflict. What do you do when an…

View original post 100 more words

Permalink Leave a Comment

Addleton Heights and GWP

December 12, 2016 at 6:52 am (Interviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

15319117_1073863462722883_5887181406873428498_nI had the honor of reading an advance reader’s copy of Addleton Heights by author George Wright Padgett. In addition to that honor, I got to interview him for the release celebration!

AddeltonHeights-Book.pngWho did the cover art? How did you find them?

God bless the internet. I discovered a fantastic Italian artist by the name of Michele Giorgi (http://michelegiorgiillustrator.com). I have a commercial graphic art degree and have done my covers in the past, but Addleton Heights was different. This novel is solidly situated in the steampunk genre, so I wanted a classic romantic image with all the flourishes. While I do plenty of layout and design, I’m no illustrator; it’s an entirely different discipline, so I sought out someone with those skills.

I came across Michele’s art on the internet when I was a third of the way through the first draft and fell in love with his style. He hadn’t had any book cover commissions at that point, but I took a chance and contacted him in the hopes that he’d try something different. I emailed him with highlighted samples of his work which struck the tone I was looking for.

Many of the Steampunk images I’d come across to that point were often dark and grimy. I love those murky atmospheres, but wanted to go a completely different direction in an effort to make the book stand out. The end result is an image of bright sunshiny day in January with the snow gently falling to the ground. It’s wonderful contrast to many scenes contained within.

Is there any possibility of a graphic novel using the same illustrator in our future?

That would be amazing! I’d love to see that happen someday. Michele, if you’re reading this, I’m 100% up for it.

How much research was involved with writing a Steampunk novel set in the turn of the century (1901)?

Believe or not, I found myself doing as much research on this novel as I did for the space clone mining novel Spindown (www.georgewpadgett.com/spindown)

I tend to get caught into these perfectionist cycles where I compulsively need to know everything about the subject before putting anything on the page. The idea being that the more that I can understand the world that the characters exist in, the easier it is for me to immerse the reader into the scene. The end result is great because I get to transport the audience into the center of wherever I’m taking them; the downside is it’s a slower process. For instance, because I tend to go overboard, I now know all about the migratory birds of the Nantucket/Martha’s Vineyard area though there’s only two or three mentions of birds in the entire novel.

I’m not complaining; I love learning so the research was fun. A huge component steampunk stories is their connection to history/alternate history, so I spent time studying about the area’s whaling oil industry losing out to Pennsylvania coal as a source of energy, the use of immigrants for the transcontinental railroad, Queen Victoria’s death later in the month the story takes place, the Boxer Revolution in China, etc. Weapons play an important part of the story, so I spent time with weapons expert Drew Heyen to make sure everything was authentic. Hopefully there’s enough history in the book to satisfy the cravings of those that are looking for it, but not too much as to bog down the story for those that have come to it looking for a mystery-action experience.

How was writing Addleton Heights different than writing your other books?

First of all, it’s the first full-length work that I’ve written entirely in first person narration, meaning we only see what our detective hero, Kip sees and thinks. He tells us everything we need to know. He has this delicious deadpan sense of humor mixed with a bitter melancholy. Life has been hard on him and he’s developed all of these colloquial sayings that he spouts out when describing things. These ‘Kipisms’ (as I came to call them) were a blast to write.

Also, I wanted to be true to the genre while offering something enjoyable to those uninitiated to steampunk stories. While the steampunk genre doesn’t officially have any set rules, there are elements that help to frame the story. As the story developed, I sent chapter sections to a group of beta readers for feedback. Doing it while the novel was written, allowed for me to tweak it as I went to ensure everything was ‘firing on all cylinders’. As a bonus, one of beta readers, a fellow writer, Christian Roule was well versed in the genre. More than once, he’d respond to what I’d submitted to him by saying, ‘It needs to be steampunk-ier here’. He and others helped me balance the story and not overwhelm it until it became a gadgets manual.

cruel-devices-signingI love that you cross genres and have not pidgeon-holed yourself as a storyteller.  When did you first meet the world of Steampunk? Did you find the genre or did the genre find you? (Did you read something Steampunk that inspired Addleton or did Addleton birth itself in your brilliant brain that resulted in needing the Steampunk label post development?)

Years ago I was signing books at a science fiction convention with some other authors. We were sitting across from a friendly booth of steampunk ‘makers’. They were selling all of these fantastic clothes and enhancement components (cogs, gears, and whatnot). I asked fellow author, Leo King (www.foreverwhere.com) who was next to me ‘What this steampunk thing was all about?’ He proceeded to educate me in the ways of alternate Victorian history. It was such a fresh concept to me, and I’ve been a fan ever since.

As for the story of Addleton Heights? The concept that serves as the core mystery (finding the Jason character) was an idea that I when I was seventeen. I’ve carried the idea around with me all of that time until it found a home in this novel.

You write every sub-genre of the science fiction realm… are there dragons in our future? (I, for one, would love to see what you came up with involving dragons…)

Dragons, huh? Currently I’m hard at work on a kind of time travel hide and seek adventure called Drift Pattern, but I do have a rough draft for a story which involves dragons and people using them for transportation. The working title of this fantasy-ish tale is ‘Kern’. Maybe we’ll see that in a few years.

As a woman, I adore reading Janae. She’s bold and fierce, but not without flaws.  She is not flat, but dynamic. She’s not all wonderful, nor is she a ninny. Tell me about her and your experience writing her.

I’m fortunate to have a number of strong women whom I admire in my life. I wanted to pay homage to these ladies by avoiding writing some messed up ‘damsel in distress’ trope.

Enter: Janae Nelson.  She is a force of nature! She’s my favorite character that I’ve ever written. I spent a lot of time to achieve a balance within her of being strong without forfeiting her femininity. I was careful to make sure that no man ever rescues her in the story; that she would save herself. I attempted to turn the stereotype on its head by having the damsel do some saving of her own when the male lead gets tied to the metaphorical train tracks.

If Addleton Heights were to become a major motion picture tomorrow, who would your ideal cast be?

Oh this is a tricky one… When I write I do ‘cast’ the characters with actors from movie roles and people that I know (I even print out photos for reference as I’m writing about them).

The problem with sharing this type of thing with a reader is that it’s unlikely that we visualize the same exact ‘players’. If I envision a grisly Kurt Russell for an old sea captain character, but you imagine an unshaven Dustin Hoffman for the same part, then I reveal who I’ve chosen in the role, does it reduce or nullify your experience? As with painting, what’s on the canvas is a conversation between the artist and the person witnessing it. The viewer’s interpretation is neither ‘right’ nor ‘wrong’, but in the same vein, the creator of the art shouldn’t have exclusive say once the paint has dried. In that same spirit, I humbly must decline to answer here and leave that to the reader’s imagination.

ah-mapYou’re typically a one book storyteller, completing a story in its entirety at the first go.  But I’m dying for more Addleton Heights  – is there a continuing series in our futures?

Detective stories are typically based on a single event; if it’s a who-done-it the question is who the murderer is and possibly the ‘why’ of the mystery. One thing that’s nice about these types of novels is that once the case is solved there can be another one right behind it. So we may see Kipsey again someday.

How can readers order posters and prints of the book cover and map to go with their copies of the book?

By contacting my publisher, Grey Gecko Press (www.greygeckopress.com) or by visiting www.georgewpadgett.com

Warmest thanks for your interest and support of Addleton Heights.
GWP

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

15369097_1075265435916019_4509919269481640153_o

George’s steampunk detective masterpiece releases 12/13/16. Order your copy online from www.amazon.com , www.barnesandnoble.com , www.greygeckopress.com, and everywhere else that sells quality books.

Permalink 1 Comment

Addleton Heights

October 9, 2016 at 7:31 pm (Events, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

31180231.jpgGeorge Wright Padgett has done it again – blown my mind with an awesome and fun reading experience.

Addleton Heights will be his third published work, but it’s an epic debut into the Steampunk genre and the world he has built and the characters he created have me smitten.

Just like everything George tackles, he writes his detective story with artistic spunk. Flare abounds from start to finish.

I believe so much in this book, the story, and the time period, I’m obsessed with the idea of launching the book release at the Cabinet of Curiosities at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Of course, this launch is expensive (mainly because booking the museum after hours costs a pretty penny), but would be worth it.

So, Grey Gecko Press and I have set up a Kickstarter page. Please, please, if you appreciate my reviews, value my bookish opinions, and/or love supporting indie authors and publishing houses, check this out:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/greygeckopress/addleton-heights-steampunk-launch-party-at-hmns

Permalink Leave a Comment

The Borrowers Series

October 9, 2016 at 2:55 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

The Borrowers

This was one of my favorites as a child and as I read it out loud to my own kiddo this week, I remembered why.  The Borrowers is simply magical and a tale every kid can get enchanted by.  The pages I read from were wrinkled with love, where I had toted it to school, to the mountain for camping, and every other place. I read it over and over again, and I’m hoping that my own kiddo will find the joy of reading this herself as she gets older.  But for now, I’m happy to read it aloud, and even happier to discover what other adventures are in store for Pod, Homily, and Arriety – as we’re about to begin reading The Borrowers Afield, which I never knew existed until I worked in a bookstore as an adult.

The Borrowers Afield

I read this aloud to my five year old today.  Not all in one sitting, but all in one day.  It was quite the affair, filled with many tea, coffee, sandwich, and taco breaks.  My voice is tired, but both our minds – despite the late hour – are alive with visions of dandelions as large as ourselves, bees to be pet like cats, and cats as large as an elephant.  I long to be Spiller, dashing around a field, “borrowing” from gypsies, sailing downstream in a soap tin.  I adored The Borrowers as a child, and just discovered its sequels recently; and despite having read The Borrowers Afield for the first time as an adult today, I think I might like it more.  I’m enchanted, and have enjoyed all my daughter’s renderings of tiny houses with oversized flowers and butterflies, on her drawing pad today, while I read on and on.  We look forward to the next book, The Borrowers Afloat.

The Borrowers Afloat and The Borrowers Aloft

The Borrowers Afloat took off just after Afield and left the Clock family living in less than desirable quarters along with the Hendrearys. It took far to long for them to actually make it down the drain the pipe and back into the out of doors, and this book along with the one after it – The Borrowers Aloft – were my least favorite. Mostly because the dangers became more and more stressful and the lives of the Clocks simultaneously more convenient but less cozy. I did very much enjoy the introduction of Miss Menzies, and so did the kiddo. We delighted in her as much as Arrietty. I still adore the entire series and these books deserve every star available to them.

The Borrowers Avenged

Finally the story of the Clocks is all wrapped up. But is it?! We lamented the ending and long to know what became of Arrietty’s whole life. Did she marry Spiller as she speculated? Or did Peagreen capture her heart as he did her mind?

It’s a shame there are no more. I’d keep reading them one right after another for years if I could.   The kiddo tried to tell me, “It’s ok mama, you’ll find that she’s written a second series about them some day.” I had to tell her “the author is dead, there’s no more.” “Sure there is, you just haven’t found them yet.” I didn’t have the heart to argue further. And who knows, maybe she knows something about Mary Norton the rest of us don’t…

Now we are off into another series of books for more adventures of a different nature.

 

Permalink 3 Comments

Twilight Books…

September 28, 2016 at 5:38 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

And no, I’m not talking about the twilight saga.  I’m talking about those books you pick up to read as the sun is setting – at the end of your day – and binge read until complete. I’m talking about all those glorious read in one sitting books. The kind that result in a little less sleep than you should have gotten the next day, but are worth it because you feel so much more refreshed than if you had actually slept.

It’s as W. Somerset Maugham said, “To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.”

So when I am at my most miserable, I set in place the habit of reading cozy “twilight” books. I create down time where there is none, to devour what will rest my brain from my own crap long enough to kick start my next day.

51BbTTPu1kL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgOn Sunday, it was The Azalea Assault by Alyse Carlson. I saw the Victorian mansion surrounded by gardens and trees and grabbed it instantly. The watering can, the tagline “Murder is bad for publicity…” What’s not to love?  I can’t get enough of these cozy mysteries and this one is on the list of one of the better of them. It’s definitely an all in one sitting book and it inspired me to take a closer look at the weed situation in my garden this week. Which was lucky all in all because I found jalapeños and bell peppers for the kitchen.

Last night, however, it was The Twilight Wife by A. J. Banner. I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy for an honest review – and full disclosure, she’s my cousin’s wife. But I can say without hesitation that I was pleased.  And I read it all at once.

the-twilight-wife-9781501152115_hr.jpg

Available Now for Pre-Order, Release Date December 27, 2016

I enjoyed her previous book, her debut into the psychological thriller genre, The Good Neighbor but I also recognized why so many found faults with the plot that were pointed out in other reviews.  Banner definitely stepped up her game and took previous criticisms to heart for The Twilight Wife and it is leaps and bounds better in content and quality. Still brain candy, the twists not as surprising as a typical reader of the genre might like – but perfect for snuggling up with for a few hours when your own life is not something you want to think about anymore.

Also, and I said this about The Good Neighbor as well, Banner’s book screams to be made into a movie. Sleeping With the Enemy, The Net, and a number of other 90’s classics we could not do without would love to share shelf space with a film version of The Twilight Wife.  These are the stories we wear pajamas, drink a lot of wine, and eat the greasiest pizza while reading and watching.

So next time you find yourself out of sorts, too tired to look at your calendar to figure out when the next paycheck arrives and how soon it will be for you to make your next grocery trip… when you’re cranky about work, too exhausted to sleep, and definitely leaving those dishes in the sink overnight… download a copy of a twilight book… a cozy mystery, or a bit of women’s fiction like Azalea Assault and The Twilight Wife. Once you’ve read those, holler, I have an endless list to share.

If you have a Goodreads account – come find me, I share book lists and reviews there as well (Goodreads Author A.K. Klemm). Also, remember that I am an Amazon Affiliate and greatly appreciate you clicking through my blog to make your Amazon orders. It helps pave the way for me to continue reading, writing, and sharing my love for books with you (http://amzn.to/2d7edMl).

Permalink 2 Comments

Meet Felix Gomez…

September 19, 2016 at 2:47 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

1150191._UY200_.jpgTitle: Nymphos of Rocky Flats

Author: Mario Acevdeo

Genre: Urban Fantasy/ Mystery

Meet Felix Gomez, Iraqi-vet Vampire P.I. who has been called to Denver to investigate an outbreak of Nymphomania.  It sounds silly because it is. But it’s equally adventurous and well written.  It’s a slightly older title, but the series is still fresh with a current addition that came out in April (Rescue from Planet Pleasure).

IMG_1311.JPG

Mario and Me at Dragon Con 2016

At Dragon Con people would walk up to the WordFire Press booth and ask, “Do they come with pictures?” To which Acevedo would, without skipping a beat, reply, “No, only scratch and sniff.”

I laughed every time.  It just didn’t stop being funny to me.

I think that’s how Felix Gomez will be as I continue to read the series.  I’ve never been so amused as while reading Nymphos of Rocky Flats.  It has all the excitement of the X-Files with the plot development silliness of Eureka.  Just as I had settled into the pace of the book and thought, “Ok, I’m ready for all this to wrap itself up,” he’d toss something else at me and I’d giggle, “Maybe not…”

I enjoyed having a vampire story-line with a more realistic life story being dropped into an absurd universe (Iraqi War Vet meets Vampirism, Werevolvishness, and Aliens) – as opposed to the typical unrealistic life stories being dropped into a more familiar world (Two-hundred year old man falls in love with high school teen in the mundane school cafeteria; I’ll take aliens over high school again).

What I didn’t expect were the author’s deep thoughts on life to make subtle waves in some of his writing. Hints at politics and undertones on what might be Acevedo’s worldview were made but never formulated completely.  Having met the man, I know he is intelligent, well-read, and has a lot of wisdom regarding the world. As much as I enjoy his humorous banter, in both real life and his books, I’m interested to hear or read what his deep thoughts on life are.

Aside from deep thoughts, this book is all guy all the time but one girls can enjoy too.  It sells in mass market paperback form at the bookstore to middle-aged men like hotcakes all the time, but I plan to start pushing it toward more ladies.  The trade paperbacks have a longer shelf life, but honestly, I think it’s just because of where they are located. I’m already mentally planning a place to feature them for Halloween as I type.

A previous reviewer referred to the Felix Gomez series as Dude-lit. “When Girls Go Wild… Call in the Undead” the tagline of the book says.  If this doesn’t place it in that fabulous sub-genre of Dude-lit, I don’t know what would.  The fact that the book is the first vampire novel ever to be declassified by the U.S. government is another tell-tale sign.

Ironically, scantily clad women in hooker boots is not sub-genre specific, merely a hint that it’s urban fiction as it’s something that women expect to see on their chick-lit as well.  It is a consumer behavior impulse I will never quite understand – like how magazines for men and women alike feature half naked women on the fronts…  And despite the book being classic dude-lit, I’m a chick and I loved it. Then again, as a character in Rocky Flats points out: “Earth women are surprisingly complicated…”

Felix Gomez 1 - 4.jpg

 

Side Note on Content & Ratings: I was pleasantly pleased that with all the hinting and perverted jokes, the book isn’t actually raunchy.  The movie version would probably still be rated R for nudity, but there’s a reason the books are not classified as erotica, and for that I was grateful. If it had been, I’m not sure I could look the author in the eye again – and I really like him, he’s fun.  There’s more porn in the Outlander series than in Rocky Flats.

Permalink 3 Comments

My Trip to Atlanta – Part Two

September 13, 2016 at 4:23 pm (Travel) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Centennial Olympic Park

Maybe it’s because this was an Olympic year and I just introduced my daughter to the joys of binge watching the best gymnasts in the world blow everyone’s minds.  Maybe it’s because it was the twenty year anniversary of the night Keri Strug wowed us all with her stellar commitment to herself and her team.  Maybe it’s just because I like parks…

IMG_1242.JPGMy favorite part of Atlanta – the city, not the trip – was Centennial Olympic Park.  I had to walk through it every day to get to the Vendor’s Hall for Dragon Con; and I am so glad I did.

Atlanta as a whole had a wild, unkempt feel to me, sporadically blasted with moments of finely controlled beauty.  I’d walk from Joseph E. Boone, where the grass I think, had never been cut, to stepping into the symbol of perfection itself: Centennial Olympic Park.

img_1238Honestly, I enjoyed the contrast.  As an environmentally friendly foraging hippie, I loved that the lawns were more like meadows.  I found joy in poking along overgrown sidewalks with the opportunity to inspect local wildflowers.  I even found a luna moth one morning, something I had never seen in person before.

But as a lover of community parks, I also found myself drawn to the twenty-eight million dollar completed project. City cleaners sweep, scrub, and constantly pick up trash, keeping the park immaculate. The statues seem to gleam, both from their artistic beauty and the city’s over all effort to maintain “curb appeal.”  I found myself wondering what was there before 1996 and learned that it was a city block of old industrial buildings, some abandoned.  The difference to Atlanta citizens when the park was first erected must have been startling.

img_1245I stopped to take pictures of some of the statues when I was there. I got some curious looks before people started stopping and taking pictures too. “Sheep” my friend called them, but I think it just takes someone noticing something beautiful before others stop and look up. And the monuments there are very beautiful.

Each morning I would cut across a paved walkway made of engraved stones to get to John Portman Blvd. During the park’s construction a donation of $35 got you a stone and a message. When I return to Atlanta, because I plan to, I’d like to pay more attention to those engravings. There are stories there, I think.

img_1263The weather was gorgeous. People (Yankees! Haha) kept talking about how hot it was. I was wearing a sweater most days, not the afternoons, but definitely in the mornings.  My morning walks were the most refreshing parts of my day.  I meant to stop and eat breakfast at the Waffle House right outside the park, but never managed to wake up early enough – or if I did, I found myself dawdling in the park instead. So, I spoiled myself and got coffee at the Starbucks in the AmericasMart. I kept looking for a local Non-Starbucks coffeehouse, but didn’t find one; again, next trip.

Permalink 2 Comments

Beowulf

September 13, 2016 at 1:33 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I have a confession: I never read Beowulf in high school.  Or college.  I read Canterbury Tales more times than I can count (yet only remember a handful of the stories).  I read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight ad nauseum – and I like that story.  But no Beowulf.  How did I miss it?

I’ll tell you how, we tried to cram so much into such a short amount of time.  We spent hours and hours in school, but spent very little time actually studying.  Somewhere along the way, Beowulf was lost to me.  I’m not sure if I was ever really exposed to it or not.  It might have been something I breezed through in a Norton Anthology and regurgitated the next day for a pop quiz, only to be quickly forgotten.  I couldn’t tell you.  I only know that I had a vague idea that it was an epic poem involving something named Grendel when I began working at a bookstore as an adult.  Even then, I couldn’t tell you if Grendel was the monster or the man.

unknownAs we began our Middle Ages/ Early Ren. (450 AD to 1600 AD) year while classically homeschooling, it dawned on me that this was the year for Beowulf. I had already read the picture book by Eric A. Kimmel to kiddo when she was a wee one, but I’m sure she was so tiny she had fallen asleep; now was the time to embrace the story.

And we did.  I read her the picture book shortly before my trip to Atlanta. It fit right in with all the Celtic and Norse mythology we’ve been reading to bridge the gap between the ancient times and our exciting year ahead.  “What a guy! He tore off the monster’s arm! I can’t even do that,” she exclaimed. She was very pleased that this particular picture book could give the story in “one-sitting, all today” as opposed to the stories of Odysseus and Troy which all took weeks of chapter by chapter to finish. I foresee reading this again and again over the coming months, she loved the story so much; I have to admit, I did too.

4cf814193a0I liked it even more when I discovered there was a cartoon made in 1998 starring Joseph Fiennes as the voice of Beowulf – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKjcoFZmKuA.  We got to watch that and call it school.  It was a lot of fun.  (There’s one for Don Quixote we’ll be watching next year when we make it into the 1700s.)

Naturally, I was curious as to the accuracy of these versions.  I won’t ever truly know, because everything is a translation, but I thought I’d give an adult version a go.  There’s so many versions out there, I think I’ll just try a different one every Middle Ages cycle.  So I took the Constance B. Hieatt version with me to Atlanta and enjoyed it immensely, especially the little extras at the end.

beowulf-cover-hiea-900

The kiddo, of course, keeps asking me why we are using “fake stories as lesson books, they aren’t real stories mother!” I keep telling her, very ineloquently, that these stories help us understand the people who told them.  Read them to her as bedtime stories and naturally she’s thrilled at the excitement of them.

We’ll collect more versions over the years and by the time she is grown she will know the story well – and remember it.  Next go around we’ll even tackle it in poem form, and eventually we’ll read Gardner’s Grendel.

Do you have any favorite versions of Beowulf?  Or, more importantly, do you know any great stories of the time period that should not be missed?

Permalink 1 Comment

My Trip to Atlanta – Part One

September 11, 2016 at 5:27 pm (Travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

IMG_1269.JPGMy trip to Atlanta was exhilarating. I navigated two airports, a train system, and bus routes – all things I have not done in a long, long time.  I learned about five square miles of a city I’d never been to by walking.  Sometimes on purpose, and sometimes because I was hopelessly lost.  Traveling with a flip phone in a smart phone society is a whole different ball game than traveling an unknown city in the days of payphones and paper maps. People saw me holding a real map and not utilizing GPS and there was much commentary, and confusion by others on how to read it as it doesn’t flip itself around and identify your location for you.  Even now, the word processor is telling me that the word payphone can not be pluralized.  (When did that become a thing?)  But I’m fairly certain there’s no other way to describe more than one.

IMG_1298.JPG

My Pet Rock. I patted it every day on my walk to the AmericasMart.

I was pretty excited about the MARTA rail system.  I’ve missed riding the rail since I moved from Dallas. Public transportation, once the stop points are identified and times committed to memory, are so much more relaxing than driving.  I like being able to read on daily commutes, I like the safety of not risking car crashes.  I like knowing that if I begin my journey at such-n-such time I am guaranteed to arrive at my destination at another specific time – down to the minute.  Atlanta excels at this. The bus route, however, is a whole other ballgame that got me pretty flustered.  The buses sort of arrive when they feel like it, the stops are relative, and the entire route based on the driver’s mood.

Everyone is very polite, though, even when they are offering you drugs.  I thought, as a Texan, that I understood southern hospitality.  When it comes to Good Mornings, sweet smiles, and a general attitude of helpfulness – we’ve got nothing on Georgia.  Any half puzzled look on your face will immediately result in someone stopping to help.  Stand at a stop too long and someone will inevitably ask you which bus you’re trying to catch and inform you, “Oh sometimes that driver likes to stop on that side of the street, be sure you check over there too or you might miss it.”  Smiles abound, even in the early morning pre-coffee grog.

I went to Atlanta to work the Wordfire Press booth at DragonCon. Convention people are exactly what I expected, after doing Comicpalooza and OwlCon in Houston, it’s pretty much the same routine, just bigger and takes up the whole downtown area instead of one convention center.  But outside the realm of the Con, everything was incredibly foreign.  I felt like I had stepped into how I imagine the 1950’s in a lot of ways, and once three blocks away from the convention hotels and gathering areas, I’ve never been reminded so often of how white I am. Politely, but with bafflement.

Houston is a melting pot. Our segregation occurs on the socioeconomic level, rather than a race level.  Latinos, Blacks, and Rednecks all live next to each other as long as they belong in the same tax bracket.  I didn’t see a lot of Atlanta, but I got the sense that things aren’t that way there.  So many times I was asked, “What’s a white girl doing on this street? You lost?” Or, the most bizarre, “Why you so comfortable talking to a black man? Is your husband black?”  At that question I retorted, “Should I be scared of you?”  “No, but these other niggers around here are cut-throat. You need to watch yourself.”  I felt like a child being reprimanded for not knowing the rules, especially when literally everyone I talked to was so very kind.  Yet, there I was a block the other side of Five Points, getting questioning glances from people who thought I was too pale to tread on their turf.  “You lost, baby? You don’t belong here.”  Or when I went to The Underground below the wrong CVS: “No, honey, you shouldn’t be down here, go up and get back to Peachtree as quick as you can, that’s where your people are,” before I even mentioned I was trying to meet anyone.

The whole experience was eye-opening and disheartening.  I enjoyed every conversation I had, even the fellow who offered me crack was very polite and concerned, keeping his distance when addressing me.  Is all of Atlanta that way, or just those neighborhoods?  Why was everyone so separate?

In my perfect world, I want to notice how much darker your skin is than mine. I want to acknowledge that freckles on you look entirely different than freckles on me. Deep, dark skin catches my eye, as a prisma color artist I am enthralled by skin tones that involve so many undertones of purple.  I want to listen to deep, milky voices bellow soul music, and that be ok. I don’t mind you calling me “white girl” but if I describe you as a black man or woman, I would like for you to not be offended.  We are different in so many beautiful ways.  To say we don’t see color is a disservice to the amazing people God created, like not noticing the difference between a sapphire and an emerald.  But we are also both human, we have troubles and trials, we have cultures we sometimes share and sometimes don’t.  I’ve never been so grateful to have grown up in Houston, where we all live side by side, work together, grow together, and learn together.  Houston has its own problems for sure, but I think we all have a cohesive love for our city and for Texas that keeps us pretty united.

I hope to visit Atlanta again.  I hope to branch out farther and see what the city as a whole is truly like, as opposed to the downtown areas I was restricted to for the duration of my stay. It has so many lovely parts and many beautiful people.

Permalink 2 Comments

Next page »