Writing from the Oral Tradition: Guest Post with Clayton Callahan

There’s something special about seeing another writer hit his stride with a really great book. A couple weeks ago I finished The Spirit of Cahir Mullach by Clayton Callahan.  I loved the “voice” of this book and though I rarely (never) read books aloud, I couldn’t resist the occasional urge to don my improbable Irish accent and enjoy the sound of this tale.

Why did I “hear” this tale in my head…?

Clayton is a natural storyteller from the oral tradition. I’ll let him tell you about the inspiration for his book:

I have always had a deep fascination with history, culture, and people in general. It was that interest that led me to join a peculiar organization called the Society for Creative Anachronism when I was but a lad of seventeen. While other high school guys were perfecting their mullet (it was the 80’s), I was finishing work on my leather and chainmail armor for the upcoming tournament.

The SCA was a medieval extravaganza, complete with dancing, sword fighting, food, brews, music, and storytelling. Truth be told…I wasn’t too good at the dancing or the sword fighting. However, at storytelling, I can boast some talent. I’d pour through the public library for folk tales, mythology, and legends suitable for a fireside performance and worked hard to bring them to life before an audience of inebriated Vikings/college students.

One of the marvelous tales I discovered was The Great Mr. Berry of Cahir Tyrone. The traditional folktale is much the same as the book. However, since it blatantly takes place after the Middle Ages ended, I never was able to use it in the SCA.

Fortunately, a good tale is never forgotten, and now twenty-odd years later, I’ve given it another crack.

The Story:

The story starts in the Irish town of Baile with a fireside recounting of the time Lord Oisin defended the village against Viking raiders who attempted to abscond with his cows. As the legend goes, Oisin’s spirit still dwells within the ruins of his great castle, Cahir Mullach.

It’s now the end of the Revolutionary War in America, and thousands of redcoats return to Ireland in defeat, Michael Snodgrass among them. He marches across Ireland, a trek that takes him through Baile, where Mr. Terry plans to sell his cows, evict his tenants, and raise sheep.

Mr. Terry’s also the billetmaster, and he sends poor Michael to be quartered in the ruins of Cahir Mullach. The king’s law is clear that any subject must make welcome a soldier who holds an official billet in hand… and that includes a subject now eight hundred years dead.

My Review:

I thoroughly enjoyed this book for a whole bunch of reasons. Despite being a work of fiction, it’s well-researched and sprinkled with details that bring authenticity to both of the book’s settings – America at the end of the Revolutionary War and the rural Irish village of Baile.

The point of view is shared by a number of wonderfully rounded characters with distinct voices and personalities. Relationships feel genuine and are recognizable to anyone living in a small community where differences are dealt with peaceably and according to custom. The story has a load of warm humor amongst some darker moments. Beyond the tragedy of war, there’s minimal violence, just ordinary villagers going about their day and experiencing extraordinary events.

The main character Michael Snodgrass carries most of the story. It was interesting reading about the Revolutionary War from the point of view of an Irish redcoat who had no stake in the conflict other than to stay alive. Michael has a true heart and guileless nature that’s endearing.

What I loved best about the story, and where Callahan truly shines, is in the authentic voices of the narration and characters. I read many parts of this story aloud just to bask in the lilt of the language.

The souls of his shoes were so worn that every chunk of gravel in the road seemed to take time out of its busy day to introduce itself personally to the feet of one Corporal Snodgrass.

Granny Collins had been laying out gifts of buttered leeks, biscuits, and milk by a hole in the old castle wall for the “good folk” of the hill. And kind as the father was, she’d no intention of abusing his good graces with her less than Catholic ways. But Christian or no, it was always best to be on the good side of fairies, lest children start coming up missing in the town.

The first chapter of the book is a long one and recounts the tale of Cahir Mullach in a more stylized voice. After that, the book transitions to the “modern” 18th century and the pace picks up. The book suffered from poor editing, but that appears to have been corrected by the author.

A delightful read that I recommend to all ages, and particularly to those who love myths, legends, and tales full of personality.

***

A final note: Clayton has written across several genres. Though he writes primarily space opera, he also has a historical spy novel and non-fiction book: Armed Professions: A Writer’s Guide that I’ve referred to many times.

Colleen’s Book Reviews – “Catling’s Bane”

Catling’s Bane is FREE today and tomorrow on Amazon.
If you have a hankering for a little fantasy, it’s a great time to tuck a copy away.

It’s been a wonderful week for this book, and the timing of Colleen Chesebro’s kind review couldn’t have been better. Colleen is the author of The Heart Stone Chronicles, a YA paranormal fantasy series. I encourage readers to browse her site and check out her books.  I send her hugs and smiles through the airways for taking the time to read, review, and share Catling’s Bane on her blog. Doing a happy dance.

Here’s Colleen’s review:

It is the darkest night, and the city of Mur-Vallis is shrouded in fog. Raker, the slant-eyed, three-fingered half-fen, half-human loiters near the dock as if possibly summoned there by the mysterious luminescence that flows through the rivers and streams of the planet. Before this night is done, Raker will save the young child, Catling, whose future will be intertwined with his own in ways neither he nor she ever imagined.

The mystical Farlanders, the original inhabitants of the planet before the Ellegeans, came across to me as the natives, in tune with the natural rhythms of the planet. For me, these beings were reminiscent of the creatures in the movie, Avatar. They lived off the land and followed their nature-based customs believing in the kari, the natural spirits of the planet. However, the Farlanders and their magic posed a threat to the Ellegeans, and when they took power, these folk were tortured and slaughtered as spectacles of entertainment for the people.

The Ellegeans establish an order where the lowliest are born in the bottoms, and where those with the most power abide in the highest levels of the cities. The Influencers’ Guild, a secretive, closed society within Ellegean, holds control over the tiers by flexing their power to manipulate emotions. The Guild’s influence is so subtle that the people have no idea they are controlled from the lowliest to the top, including the King.

Except for Catling, who possesses a rose-colored birthmark encircling her eye which allows her to block the “influence” from affecting the people. This magical ability allows her to see the threads of influence that binds the people. Catling’s ability is a bane to power as well as a boon. The Guild wants her dead, and Catling becomes a pawn in the hands of those wielding power because Catling will never be free of who she is.

Catling’s Bane qualifies as epic fantasy meeting the three qualifications: It is a trilogy or longer, it encompasses many years, and it includes a universe filled with backstory where the saga takes place. This book was my first introduction to D. Wallace Peach’s writing, and I must say I feel like a gushing fan. The writing is superb with descriptions that fly from the page plunking the reader into the midst of this mysterious world. Seldom have I found writing this engaging.

Fantasy and science fiction lovers will applaud the detail in the world of Ellegean. I took my time reading, relishing the characters and the magic that breathed from the author’s written words. I encountered two issues – I couldn’t put the book down, and I dreamed of this far away world every night. I loved the story so much; I’ve already bought the second novel in the series.

If you love epic fantasy/science fiction…

Continue reading: Colleen’s #Book #Reviews – “Catling’s Bane”

Writers and their Characters by Pam Wight: Guest Post

I’m slowly whittling away at my TBR pile, and recently finished Pamela Wight’s book The Right Wrong Man, a 5-star read. My review is below, but before we head there I thought it would be fun to pick Pam’s brain about her main character: Meredith.

Meredith is bright, sarcastic, and strong-willed. She’s also confused about relationships, recklessly brave, and tender-hearted. She was so authentic to me that I got thinking: Where did this character come from? Is she pure imagination? Is she a version of the author? What was it like to write such a dynamic personality? I posed these questions to Pam, and here’s her reply:

***

Where did Meredith come from? Is she me? Oh, how I wish that was the case. But I’m a quiet introverted writer – except when I’m dancing in the middle of the grocery checkout lane or chortling when I beat my grandson in a 3-hour game of Monopoly.

Well, except I haven’t beaten him yet. But if I ever do, I’ll chortle, for sure.

Virginia Woolf claims that “Every secret of a writers’ soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.” Yes, I totally agree. Our “insides” come outside to play when we write. That doesn’t make us our character, but it certainly helps us create our character.

In The Right Wrong Man, Meredith is a medical editor for a Boston publishing company.

I was once a medical editor.

Meredith runs on the paths of a magnificent wildlife refuge in New England.

I walk that same path, marveling at the flying geese, the honking frogs, the slivering eels as they escape into the murky marsh.

Meredith struggles with motion sickness on a rollicking yacht as she works with an arrogant, brilliant author.

Yes, I once met an author on her yacht off of St. Thomas, losing the battle against motion sickness in a most humiliating manner.

But am I Meredith?

Not in a million years.

Characters come from some deep well of understanding within us, a well that perhaps is born from our own experiences, from our secret soul, but each character is his or her own being.

I’ve never met Meredith “in the flesh.” She’s no one I know in this world: not a friend, or a relative, not even an acquaintance from work, or the bank, or the yoga studio. Meredith arrived, whole and feisty and fun, entirely on her own, with a little help from my writing pen and my ability to let go and let her show me the way.

This is why I find writing so mystical. Magical, if you will. Meredith’s humor and cheekiness made me laugh out loud at times as my pen flowed; I could never be that brave or funny. I clenched my teeth as Meredith flirted with Carlos. She was playing with fire, so to speak, and could get seriously burned. Stop!

But Meredith didn’t listen to me. I was only the conduit for her story. She played me as well as she played Parker, even turning her back on me at times if I tried to tell her what to do.

So I let her have control, and I just came along for the ride.

That’s what imagination does for us. If we allow it to roam and float and fly freely, imagination offers characters who write the stories for us.

In this case, Meredith took me on a twisty curvy ride that was the journey of a lifetime.

Diana’s 5-Star Review:

This is one great read, that I had a hard time putting it down. I even took it jogging, if you can picture that. The story is brimming with action as Meredith Powers, a 32-year old woman with a demanding job and quirky family, gets caught up in a good-guy/bad-guy mess where it’s hard to tell who’s on what side. The mess is related to her ex-boyfriend Parker and his job, which required frequent mysterious disappearances. Theirs was a doomed relationship that she’d successfully put out of her mind… until he shows up out of the blue and everything goes haywire.

The rip-roaring plot, full of twists and turns and lots of guessing on this reader’s part, was highly entertaining. But what I enjoyed most was Meredith as a character. She’s bright, sarcastic, outspoken, and strong-willed. She’s also confused, recklessly brave, and tender-hearted. If she was a real person, I’d be torn between bopping her on the head and hugging her. The story is told in first-person from Meredith’s point of view. This allows for some fabulous commentary as part of her inner dialog. Her voice is strong, consistent, and thoroughly engaging.

Parker is an interesting character even though he’s actually absent from most of the book. The reader learns about him through Meredith, and the mystery surrounding his character is immensely appealing. All of the characters, even those with bit parts, are distinct with their own voices and personalities.

The pace is speedy, and the story is superbly edited. In my opinion, The Right Wrong Man will appeal to a broad audience with a little of something for everyone – action, mystery, suspense, and a pinch of romance. I want a sequel!

An additional note: Yes! I got the scoop…
a sequel is in the works!

Interested in sharing Meredith’s adventure? Here’s a global link to
The Right Wrong Man.

Link to Pam’s lovely blog: Roughwighting.

The Sorcerer’s Garden by D. Wallace Peach

This fantasy tale hasn’t received a lot of press lately, so when a review showed up on fantasy author K. D. Dowdall’s site, I was more than delighted. Many thanks to Karen for her thoughtful comments. If you head over to read, take a gander at her books, and I hope you enjoy her review!

❤  ❤  ❤

In the story of The Sorcerer’s Garden by D. Wallace Peach, we see the overall story as fascinating and rich in details that excite our need for fantasy and storytelling.  At first glimpse, it is a story about dragons, courage, adventure, war, soul-thieves, and the good versus the bad in people.

The story is really two stories, that in the end, become one where fantasy and reality merge.  The main characters, Madlyn, Cody, Dustin, and Lillian, each have different world views that conflict with each other, but all are necessary for everyone to cope with the approaching sense of loss that is meaningful to each one, a natural human response to things out of our control…

via The Sorcerer’s Garden by D. Wallace Peach

Guest Post: Andrew Joyce and his Stories

Click on Any Cover for Amazon Link

If you haven’t run across Andrew Joyce in your blog travels, he’s a prolific writer of short stories and novels. He’s here at the Mirror to share a bit of his writing journey, and if can entice you, sell a book or two. His latest book, a collection of short stories, is on sale today for $.99. Take it away, Andrew:

Hello, my name is Andrew Joyce.

I have a new book out entitled Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups. It is a collection of short stories I’ve written over the years. Inside Bedtime Stories you’ll find tales of fiction and nonfiction. There are all sorts of genres within its pages, from westerns to detective stories to love stories and just about anything else that you can imagine. Some of the stories are dark and some are lighthearted, but I hope you’ll find them all captivating.

Okay, now that I’ve got the commercial out of the way, I can get down to something Diana and I thought I should talk about. Namely, my experience writing short stories versus novels, and why I chose some of the stories included in the book.

First, a brief history of the modern short story:

Magazines had been around for a while, but were never widely distributed until the early 1900s. That’s when future novelists such as Jack London, Ernest Hemingway, Louis L’Amour, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Raymond Chandler, to mention just a few, honed their writing skills by writing short stories for monthly publications. They all thought the stories would be a one-time shot and that would be the end of them.

Long after they and their novels became celebrated, their short stories were collected into anthologies and published. I’ve read every one of those collections. My point is, they all wanted to write novels, but while they were writing their first novel, or in between their first and second, they wrote and sold short stories as a way to keep the wolf from the door.

Not that I’m putting myself in their class—no friggin’ way! I’m just saying that I, too, started out writing short stories, but they were not for publication. I wrote them because I like to tell stories. My earliest short stories were just emails to friends, telling them of my youthful adventures. They were all true, but because I led a somewhat colorful life way back then, the emails read like fiction stories. When I ran out of stories about myself, I started in on writing fiction.

Just for the hell of it, I threw one of my early nonfiction stories up on a writing forum on the internet, and it was granted the honor of being included in a print anthology entitled The Best of 2011. I even got paid for it.

That prompted me to try my hand at writing a novel. I had read an article about the Great Sioux Uprising of 1862 and it outraged me. I had never heard of it before, so I started doing research and that research led to a 164,000 word novel (eventually edited down to 139,000 words). It took about two years to research and write. To entertain myself when not working on the novel, I would write short stories, but I never did anything with them. They just sat in a file folder.

So anyway, I set out to get an agent to help me publish my recently completed novel. I sent out about a million query letters. But in the publishing world, anything over 80,000 words for a first-time author is heresy. Or so I was told time and time again when I approached an agent for representation. After two years of research and writing—and a year of trying to secure the services of an agent—I got angry. To be told that my efforts were meaningless was somewhat demoralizing, to say the least. I mean, those rejections were coming from people who had never even read my book.

So you want an 80,000-word novel?” I said to no one in particular, unless you count my dog, because he was the only one around at the time. Consequently, I decided to show them City Slickers that I could write an 80,000-word novel!

I had just finished reading Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn for the third time, and I started thinking about what ever happened to those boys, Tom and Huck. They must have grown up, but then what? So I sat down at my computer, banged out REDEMPTION: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer in two months, then sent out query letters to agents.

Less than a month later, the chairman of one of the biggest agencies in New York City emailed me that he loved the story. We signed a contract and it was off to the races, or so I thought. But then the real fun began: the serious editing. Seven months later, I gave birth to Huck and Tom as adults in the Old West. And just for the record, the final word count is 79,914. The book went on to reach #1 status in its category on Amazon—twice—and it won the Editors’ Choice Award for Best Western of 2013.

I wrote two more books before I finally got my original novel published. And in all that time, I continued to write short stories. You see, I don’t own a TV. So at night, after working on a novel all day, I’d bang out short stories, mostly for my own entertainment.

That’s why I write novels and that’s why I write short stories. But some of my short stories are not that short. Some are over 20,000 words. Many are in the area of 10,000 words. I do have a few that are no more than 100 words. But I would have to say that the majority of my stories fall into the 2,500 word category.

My current book came about because my editor hounded me for two years to put all my short stories into one collection. Actually, it was supposed to be a two-volume set because there was so much material. I fended her off for as long as possible. I didn’t want to do the work of editing all the stories—there were a lot of them. But she finally wore me down. Instead of two volumes, I put all the stories into a single book because I wanted to get the whole thing over with. I had other books to write.

Bedtime Stories is comprised of 218,000 words. I couldn’t fit another story in if I had to. Yeah, for an eBook I could have, but the print book already had 700 pages and was three inches thick, so I kept a few stories out. And it’s a good thing too. The ones I left out, I didn’t think were up to par. One cannot hit a home run every time one’s at bat.

In the month since I published Bedtime Stories, I’ve written at least ten new short stories. But please don’t tell my editor.

Andrew’s Bio:

Andrew Joyce left high school at seventeen to hitchhike throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. He wouldn’t return from his journey until years later when he decided to become a writer. Joyce has written five books. His first novel, Redemption: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, was awarded the Editors’ Choice Award for Best Western of 2013. A subsequent novel, Yellow Hair, received the Book of the Year award from Just Reviews and Best Historical Fiction of 2016 from Colleen’s Book Reviews.

Joyce now lives aboard a boat in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he is busy working on his next book, tentatively entitled, Mahoney: An American Story.

Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups: 

Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups is a jumble of genres—seven hundred pages of fiction and nonfiction … some stories included against the author’s better judgment. If he had known that one day they’d be published, he might not have been as honest when describing his past. Here is a tome of true stories about the author’s criminal and misspent youth, historical accounts of the United States when She was young, and tales of imagination encompassing every conceivable variety—all presented as though the author is sitting next to you at a bar and you’re buying the drinks as long as he keeps coming up with captivating stories to hold your interest.

Comprised of 218,000 words, you’ll have plenty to read for the foreseeable future. This is a book to have on your night table, to sample a story each night before extinguishing the lights and drifting off to a restful sleep.

Mr. Joyce sincerely hopes that you will enjoy his stories because, as he has stated, “It took a lot of living to come up with the material for some of them.”

The Light and Dark of Sarah Brentyn: Guest Post

Sarah Brentyn swears she’s an introvert on the verge of becoming a recluse, and yet she’s one of the stars of the blogosphere – hilarious, clever and outgoing, commenting, visiting, guest posting, writing, and managing two blogs (in addition to a real life). Her posts are full of the humor and sarcasm of a natural wit, and yet, her book of flash fiction, Hinting at Shadows, is a foray into the darker, deeper emotions and struggles of the human journey. Sarah is a conundrum. Who is this woman? I invited her here to answer that question and tell us about these sides of her writerly self.

Sarah Brentyn: Living in the Light, Writing in the Dark

I’ve been asked how it is (or why it is) that I write a light-hearted, pseudo-humorous blog then turn around and pen some seriously dark fiction. I’m here to answer that question.

I am Dr. Jekyll.

Okay, I’m not. Or I could be. You don’t know.

Buckle your seat belts. We’re in for a bumpy ride. I’ve no idea where I’m going with this.

Here’s the thing about me. I’m a conversational writer. People often say I write in a stream of consciousness narrative. That’s fair. I do. It’s why I like pantsing. (In the writing sense, that is. I’d never pull your trousers down to humiliate you. No, I would not.)

My blog? I freewrite. Jot down whatever comes to mind. My life, writing, the world around me…  Since I simply sit down and write, it’s unfiltered me. Sarcastic and silly and, sometimes, accidently serious. (With tons of alliteration, apparently.) There are ridiculous posts where my inner child is peeking out and there are thought-provoking posts where my philosophical nature is showing. It’s a mish-mash. Or “eclectic”, if you want to be nice. It doesn’t fit into any specific category. I’m okay with that because, if you think on it, people don’t fit neatly into specific categories, either.

My fiction? I dig deep. Find those roots and rip them out to have a good look. Examine what lies beneath. Get inside people’s heads. Dissect the sticky center. (Okay, that’s gross. It’s more studying inner workings than wielding scalpels.) There are a lot of psychological struggles, tricky emotions, and shadowy memories in there. I’m obsessed with the anatomy of human behavior. And I enjoy exploring it in flashes.

What’s so remarkable about flash fiction is that you can hint at the stuffing inside the teddy bear or you can show readers the rip in the seam. Cotton fiber or bean pellets? What’s inside the story?

I want to make readers wonder what the hell just happened then decide for themselves three hours later because they can’t stop thinking about it. When readers engage, I’ve won. Huge. Like that impossible water gun game at the carnival that’s completely rigged and no one ever really wins. Like that. I got the biggest prize they have and now can’t go on any rides because I’m hauling around a unicorn the size of a VW Bus. But that’s okay. I have cotton candy.

With fiction, I create things I wouldn’t want to experience. Though I do anyway. Vicariously. I’m very close to my characters. They’re like family. (The ones I don’t dread visiting during holidays.) Their stories affect me but I’m not stuck in their reality.

I think it’s safe to say that I live in the light and write in the dark.

My (Diana’s) review of Hinting at Shadows:

A string of story pearls

I just finished Hinting at Shadows and had to rave a little about this book of short fiction. When Brentyn says short, she means short. Most of the stories are about 100 words, what I refer to as flash fiction. I enjoy flash fiction, but wasn’t sure about reading a whole book of it. I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least.

Every story is a pearl. The writing is exquisite and full of pathos with a focus on the poignancy of the human condition. Hinting at Shadows is the perfect title as each story is a tiny hint at a larger human story, one that is characterized by shadows – sometimes secrets, but more often complex feelings of loneliness, regret, longing, disappointment, and hope.

It would be possible to whip through this book in a couple hours, but I think it’s meant to be savored, just as one might read poetry. So that’s what I did. It’s perfect for someone who enjoys filling their free moments with words or someone who just loves beautiful writing.

Author Bio:

Sarah Brentyn is an introvert who believes anything can be made better with soy sauce and wasabi. She loves words and has been writing stories since she was nine years old. She talks to trees and apologizes to inanimate objects when she bumps into them. When she’s not writing, you can find her strolling through cemeteries or searching for fairies. She hopes to build a vacation home in Narnia someday. In the meantime, she lives with her family and a rainbow-colored, wooden cat who is secretly a Guardian.

Book Link: myBook.to/HintingAtShadows

Sarah’s Hang-outs: 
Amazon: Author Page
Blogs: Lemon Shark    and   Lemon Shark Reef
Twitter
Google+

Book Review: Catling’s Bane (The Rose Shield Book 1)

Rob, at IARTICHOKEU Book Reviews was wonderfully kind to read and review Catling’s Bane. With the millions of great books out there, it’s an honor I’m thankful for. Gotta love the book bloggers and share the good news. Thank you, Rob. 😀

iArtichokeu's Book Reviews

61czHDIautLTitle: Catling’s Bane (The Rose Shield Book 1)

Author: D. Wallace Peach

Length310 pages

Amazon

Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy

When I finished this book, instead of instantly knowing what was going to write about in my review, I pretty much turned caveman mode and felt like rushing to all my friends, grabbing them each by the arms and yelling “THIS BOOK. YOU ALL READ. MUST. NOW!”


5starMy Rating: 5 Lit Fireflies

I absolutely LOVED this book! I’ve been pretty busy as of last month, because of some medical healing issues, and was unable to read for long periods of time. I did however read this book every chance I was free, and only this book. In a way I am grateful for the long progress, because I got to savor every beautiful and exciting moment this book had to offer. Instead of binge reading…

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