Monday, May 30, 2016

Isn’t Every Book About Writing?

Soon after graduating high school, I started writing my first novel, ready to take the literary world by storm; I don’t even remember a thing about that novel today—not the story or characters or even what made me think I could write a novel at 18. To fuel my resolve, I landed a job at a local bookstore—a B.Dalton, for those of you who remember chain bookstores. I assumed that being surrounded by books and readers would whip me into a inspirational frenzy, or at least inculcate me with some award-winning ideas simply by stacking the shelves. Surprisingly, few people came into the store looking for books, exactly: most wanted magazines, or crossword books, or calendars. Others wanted “that one the one know, who was on that one show a few years ago... you know!”

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Building the Bildungsroman

In a sense, every novel is a “coming-of-age” novel: a hero or heroine emerges from youth, or humble beginnings, or sheltered wealth to glimpse a new world of frightening possibilities. The journey that follows always changes the protagonist, introducing him or her to people on different stages of their own journeys, some already beaten-down, warning the protagonist to turn back while he/she still has a chance. Others point the way forward, offering time-honored wisdom which bears fruit in subsequent chapters, and might eventually save the character’s life. We love to watch fictional characters grow up, since they can test the waters and make mistakes (in fact, conflict consists of repeated mistakes). And when they succeed, we can imagine ourselves reaping the benefits—we just have to follow in their wake. They make it look so easy, after all! 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

College Satire: Student Discovers Semi-Colon

LexingtonKY--Jessica McClure, freshman General Business major, stumbled upon a secret previously known only to the inner circle of the grammar elite: the mysterious semicolon.  Once believed to simply make a smiley face wink, a select few realize that it also combines two independent clauses together when a period seems too abrupt.  However, Jessica’s knowledge of the semi-colon bypassed the usual protocols from the Elders of Composition; instead, she merely noticed in on her keyboard one day and, as she likes to say, “starting using the shit out of it.”

Monday, May 9, 2016

Is Fantasy Color Blind?

Racy Shakespeare

As late as the 1980’s, performances of Shakespeare featured white actors in every role, even roles where racial difference was clearly marked in the script: Othello, Shylock, Cleopatra, even Aaron the Moore (a rather sadistic character in Titus Andronicus). Blackface itself persisted well into the 20th century, tragically captured on screen in Laurence Olivier’s 1965 performance of Othello—complete with eye-rolling and other ‘racial’ histrionics. Only recently has it become common to find biracial casts of Shakespeare’s plays, and not just Antony and Cleopatra and Othello, but even relatively “white” plays such as As You Like It and Romeo and Juliet. Traditionalists bristle at these changes, since a black Romeo would never woo a white Juliet in Renaissance Verona...though the case could equally be made that the originals would be far more swarthy than your typical Anglo-Saxon! 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Download a New Fantasy Novel: Shakebags & Co.

Read Shakebags & Co. here:*Version*=1&*entries*=0

About ten years ago I wrote my first novel as a way of relieving stress from writing my PhD dissertation. Honestly, I wrote a few pages of one and then wrote a few pages of the other. Needless to say, some of my dissertation--on 18th c. travel writing and piracy--wound up in the novel, and a little of the storytelling aspect wound up in the dissertation. When my mentor asked me during my dissertation defense what aspect of the work I was most proud of, I said, "I liked being able to tell the story of the people and the literature they created." Her response: "that was the least successful part of your dissertation." Ouch. Nevertheless, I still defended successfully, though I hope that the novel is by far the better work, since I've spent the last few years writing and re-writing it, trying to get it to sound less 'academic' and more entertaining. 

Once I obtained my first academic job, I submitted the novel to more publishers and agents than I thought humanly possible. All of them passed on it, most of them not even bothering to respond to my query (typical). My initial response was to destroy it as a youthful transgression, but since I was 30 at the time I wrote it, that doesn't hold much water. So I put it aside, wrote other works, and gradually forgot all about it. But last year, bolstered by the modest success of my other works, I decided to dust it off and read it from beginning to end. I was not happy with the work as it stood, so I re-wrote large chunks of it, made the characters a bit more interesting and distinct, and slightly changed the ending. I think it holds up as a fun, quick read with a few ideas to chew on. I had no plan to publish it, however; I instead submitted it to a few more agents and entered it into two novel-writing contests. Though I got some genuine interest among readers on Inkitt, the contests rejected it and the agents ignore me once more. 

So now I offer it for 99 cents on Amazon as a Kindle download. If you like the exploits of thieves in a quasi-18th century setting, wizards, intrigue, cabals, and mystery, I know you'll like at least some of this work. And if you read all or part of the work, please give it a review, since that's the only coin that has any value in the indie publishing world.

You can sample 15 chapters from the novel on Inkitt for free here:

Or, you can download it for 99 cents here:*Version*=1&*entries*=0