What I’m Reading and Why, v3

Writers have to read.  It’s not a chore.   Chef’s taste food; athletes watch footage of other athletes; cars get waxed.

The Story of Ireland: A History of the Irish People

by Neil Hegarty

A project I’m working on requires that I become a connoisseur of Irish history and society.  As someone who has always loved the lore and mystical nature of the average stories of Ireland that are tossed around somewhat casually, I am beginning to be in true awe of how for granted the world (and especially the United States) seems to have taken this island of people.

I had always had this idea that Celtic culture and religion had begun there.  In reality the island served as the perfect geographical location to collect all of the good aspects of historic European culture and (mostly) repel all of the negative aspects.  Who can resist the story of how cattle barons got rich and thus became Irish nobility off the backs of traders supplying the Roman army with their tons of leather?  Suffice to say that Vikings and Normans, while certainly ancient invaders, also became settlers and, along with the trend, melding with Irish-ness and further shaping the culture.  Talk about a melting pot!

I’m further enjoying the overlap this book has to the BBC produced, 5 segment special on Irish history hosted by the author.  I can read more of the book and then watch the segment covering those bits on YouTube and viola! it stays in there.

I’m careful about relying on one source for my information.  While this book and the corresponding documentary collection are very comprehensive and informative, I will also seek other sources for my information.  Bottom line here is – if you are Irish American, or even if you are not, there is much to be loved about an island nation that formed from our best qualities as humans and actually SAVED civilization as we know it through it’s academia and careful recording of history while the rest of Europe was burning heretics and killing knowledge.

 

Foundation

by Isaac Asimov

I’m a science fiction fan.  Bradbury and Asimov are not foreign to me.  So how did I miss this?  I came across an estate sale recently where the deceased was obviously more of a sci-fi fan than I.  There were complete series of Orson Scott Card, and alas, all the series of Asimov.  The Robots were all there.  I bought them all.  Even the set of Fantastic Voyage books made an appearance.  I bought them too.  Now, I was aware of the Foundation trilogy, but for whatever reason, had never cracked it open.  What I didn’t realize was that he was enticed to write three additional books in the series later in his life.  So I got to work trying to figure out what order the books were in to make sure I didn’t miss getting one of the pieces.  This is where the trouble started.

foundation bookThere were actually one book to each story present but for the price of 50 cents per paperback, I could get the one book that housed the initial trilogy all-in-one for just that.  Duh.  Except … the cover of this one (unlike the cover graphic I have snagged for this article) listed the trilogy contrary to the order I understood from the other books.  It listed them as:  Foundation, Second Foundation, and Foundation and Empire.  As you can see from the graphic to the right, the actual order is different.  Without internet to research my treasure trove, I scratched my head and made my purchase.

I couldn’t wait and started reading Foundation as soon as I got in the truck.  Thanks my lovely driver!  It wasn’t until I got home and researched that I discovered that he wrote the three follow up books out of order and was floored, once again, by his skill and capacity.  I gave the idea of reading them in actual chronological order a very brief consideration, but decided to stick to the order they were written.

Aside from the sheer enjoyment, I’m reading Foundation because I want to study one of the great masters of world building, to learn how he imagined and threaded together contrived history married with cutting edge science truthes into the magic of science fiction where, indeed, the reader becomes so enmeshed that they could easily live there themselves.

 

 

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What I’m Reading and Why, v2

Writers have to read.  It’s not a chore.   Chef’s taste food; athletes watch footage of other athletes; cars get waxed.

St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell

It occurs to me as a writer with a full time job that short stories may be the way to start.  I was fearful after I read a preface by Stephen King in one of his short story collections (“Until Sunset” I think).  He said short stories are a totally different creature than books and left me with the impression that it would be hard to break out of one mold (that of a short story writer) to become another (author of a novel).  So I delayed, dabbled, delayed some more.  Then I started reading this book.

I didn’t realize it was a collection of short stories when I started.  It may be possible that the stories will overlap somehow as I read more.  I’m less than half way through this book and so thrilled at the way it allows the author to flex more than one writing muscle.  The first story tells of a pair of girls who live in swamp lands and have been left alone for a time.  I could state its storyline follows that of the children of Alligator wrestlers but that wouldn’t even cover it.  Besides, you’d miss out on the sister’s jaw dropping relationship with the ghost/demon, and then might abandon it altogether for fear it’s a paranormal story when, in fact, it is not.  My favorite story tells of a camp for youth who suffer from a myriad of sleep disorders (some that will make you want to google them to see if they are indeed real).  I could state that the campers must band together to solve the mystery of a serial sheep killer, but you’d probably mistake that to mean this is full of cliches and a “cute” story.  It is not on either of those counts.

My point here, and I do have one, is how lovely it feels to dip my feet in, and even at ankle deep, this author has shown me how refreshing it can be to shift gears, change paradigms, and even genres, all within the same book.  My fear erased, I will honor the summer and start writing some shorts!  While I’m at it, I’m definitely adding some of her other books to my reading list: Vampires in the Lemon Grove, Swamplandia, and Sleep Donation.

 

Writing Mysteries

by Sue Grafton (Editor), Michael Connelly, Tess Gerritsen, Tony Hillerman, Sara Paretsky, Fay Kellerman, Ann Rule, Linda Fairstein, Jonathan Kellerman, John Lutz, Nancy Pickard, Jan Burke, Barry Zeman, Lawrence Block, Laurie R. King, Margaret Maron, Loren D. Estleman

WritingMysteriesCoverI know what you’re thinking – “Who are these people and why should I care?”  If you’re a mystery writer and this is, indeed, what you were thinking, you might want to consider writing for dairy ads.

Yes, it’s true!  In just one book you can have the mentoring of all those mystery writers.  Sue Grafton edited it and each chapter speaks to a different aspect of the genre.  I’m reading this book because, to not read it and go on writing mysteries would be like the child who pulls away from his parent and says, “No!  I can cut my own food!” and then progresses to let fly everything on the plate.  My favorite sections so far have been Faye and Jonathan Kellerman’s piece on research and Julie Smith’s on “Background, Location, and Setting.”

I hope you’re listening – mystery writers – this book has it all.  From dialogue and perspectives to short story mysteries and YA, you’ll find some inspiration or new information here.  The only thing better than reading this book would be to sit in my writing tank while listening to this as an audio book being read by each of the contributors.  Wait.  Is that too creepy?  Did I cross a line?  #authorgroupie