Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Bookshelf Tag

Hello, fellow bibliophiles! Today I participated in The Bookshelf Tag! Thanks to Suzannah Rowntree for inviting me. My answers are in the vlog below. (And special thanks to my mom for filming it for me!)



The rules for the tag are to answer the ten questions and tag five bloggers.

Here are the questions:

1) Is there a book that you really want to read but haven’t because you know that it’ll make you cry?

2) Pick one book that helped introduce you to a new genre.

3) Find a book that you want to reread. 

4) Is there a book series you read but wish that you hadn’t?

5) If your house were burning down and all of your family and pets were safe, which book would you go back inside to save?

6) Is there one book on your bookshelf that brings back fond memories?

7) Find a book that has inspired you the most. 

8) Do you have any autographed books?

9) Find the book that you have owned the longest.

10) Is there a book by an author that you never imagined you would read or enjoy?

And here are the bloggers I tag!

Facing the Waves--Kaleigh S.
Fantasies and Fountain Pens--Andrea Nan

Friday, September 26, 2014

For All Authors in Need of a Laugh

Hello, friends and fellow bibliophiles! After a couple of weeks' hiatus, in which my blog has been beautifully taken care of by Elisabeth and Junior B (many thanks, ladies!) I am back again with another book review. :)

Two weeks ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a writers' conference. Lots of laughter, lots of stories, lots of prayer and wonderful inspiration and hope for the novel I'm working on. I'm hoping to share more about this novel, War of Loyalties, in the months to come. But today, I'd like to share a book review of a title that I heard about at the conference.

This book is for you writers. Especially you fiction writers. It will give you a glimpse into the life of a fictional author, and a breath of fresh air if you're starting down the hair-raising process of querying agents.

It's called Mr. Nary: The Story of How Grady Thoms Got Published, by Roo Carmichael.  Told entirely through email narrative, this book is a piece of brilliance.

The Book
Grady Thoms is inspired by Bill Carmichael's novel, The Missionary, and wants to write a book just like it. So he emails Bill, who happens to be a publisher, and pitches his novel idea to him. Mr. Nary is the book's working title.
Private investigator Chuck Nary is asked to investigate the mysterious kidnapping of a couple on a cruise ship docked in Bolivia. Chuck agrees and flies to Bolivia, only to find out that Bolivia is a landlocked country and he's been set up. Grady tells Bill there will be excitement in all forms, including llama chases, poison, drug dealers, and a mute orphan.
Bill tries again and again to get rid of the guy, but Grady keeps emailing, and in desperation Bill turns him over to his young female assistant, Mair. Grady mixes a hilarious combination of novel writing, formatting questions, research gaffes, and dating advice into their correspondence.

It's sure to engage any author. And it's a splendid little piece of inspiration.

My Thoughts
Actually, though this book is fiction, it started out in reality. Roo Carmichael (I'm assuming his first name isn't Roo) emailed fake emails to his father, Bill, as a practical joke, pretending to be an enthusiastic unpublished author with a wacky suspense novel in the works. Though it isn't conventional that editors help unpublished authors complete their first draft, Roo persisted under the fake name of Grady Thoms, and his dad, though he had a pretty shrewd idea it was his son, played along. The end result is a charming little satire on writing that I read all in one day. You will laugh; you will nod in agreement--and I think you'll take heart. If your writing isn't as bad as Grady Thom's, you have a pretty decent chance at publication. And even if it is, there's still a chance.

Seriously, he's incredibly naive. Soybeans, he finds, are a major cash crop in Bolivia, so Grady assures Mair he'll work that into his novel. He gets most of his writing advice from his redneck cousins, Chet and Jesse, and has an up-and-down relationship with Jenny, the morbid poet who lives in his apartment building. Trying to make a living on the side selling camping equipment, Grady dreams of the day that his book will be more successful than Bill's The Missionary, and has a happy ignorance of such concepts as 'editing' 'payment' and 'first draft'.

Mr. Nary, like most comedies, does contain some objectionable content. I've chosen to feature the book because it's so mild compared to others I've read that I think it's worth wading through; but you are forewarned. Since this book is in email format, I wrote down the subject lines of the emails with swearing and/or some mild sexual innuendo.
January--discussion of nude scene in two emails with subject line "Nude Scene". Needless to say, Grady Thoms was advised not to put it in. I just skipped this part.
February--
"Curse Words"--lists curse words. Enough said. One email.
"Writer's Group Recap"--hapless Grady brings his book to an erotic science fiction writers' critique group. Mild inappropriate content. One email.
April--"A Drink with Jenny"--one inappropriate comment about ladies' wear. One email.
May--"THE Battle" and "THE Battle Conclusion"--three emails. Reference to Victoria's El Secreto, and etc.
Also, there are a couple of mild swear words scattered throughout this book, but barring the "Swear Words" email, maybe only three or four. It really takes longer to tell about these things than it does to skip over them.

You can check out the sample excerpt on Amazon. I read this book through the Kindle Unlimited program, and though I'll have to give it back when my free trial is over, it's a great way to sample new books.

Take heart, authors. There's a whole team of experts out there ready to help us get our books to the store shelves. And if you're in the throes of wrestling through editing, maybe check out this book for a laugh along the way? :) Let me know how you like it; I'd love to discuss it with you.

Blessings,
Lady Bibliophile




Monday, September 22, 2014

Happy 20th Birthday, Lady Bibliophile!

Greetings, friends and fellow members of My Lady Bibliophile!

Today is a very special day. Because today is the only day of the year that I post a blog post unannounced and out of the blue. And that, my friends, is worth celebrating.

Actually, today is special for a different reason (although it’s fun to come on unannounced). Schuyler turns 20 today and I figured that I simply must come on and share the joy with you all. :)

We all gobbled up that lovely post about her novel earlier this year, and I have to let you know that she is still working hard at it. She’s just finished another edit of about a 1/3 of it, and I’m really enjoying the newer version so far. And now would be a good time to tell her that all her characters wish her a very happy birthday-from enigmatic Irishmen to disreputable Teddy Bears to reserved Americans. They told me that they hoped you would enjoy your day. :)

                Lady Bibliophile read us Martin Chuzzelwit this summer so that she could share her love of Dicken’s works with us. It was one of those great big doorstoppers which takes all summer to get through, and we really enjoyed it. If you read those, you get a taste of what Schuyler likes. Webs of treachery and heights of epicness with a little bit of drama to tie it all in. Speaking of what Schuyler likes, I thought it would be fun to list 5 of her favorite things that say Lady Bibliophile all over them.

1.       Her fuzzy red sweater—She just got a dark red sweater recently that is just perfect for curling up with a book.

2.       Irish Breakfast Tea—My sister gets transported into the rolling hills of Ireland when she drinks this. To be enjoyed with cream and sugar.

3.       Her laptop—This little workhorse has served her well over the past 2 ½ years and she enjoys browsing Pinterest and editing her novel and listening to Irish music on it.

4.       Her bed—A funny thing to put on a list, I know. But she does a lot of stuff on her bed; it’s like her office. And it has a fuzzy blue quillow on it that is perfect to snuggle under. (A quillow is a quilt that you can fold up into a pillow.)

5.       Her sunglasses—I was just trying to think of what the 5th item would be on this list, and suddenly a picture came to mind of Lady B.’s sunglasses. Lady B. is naturally introverted and when she wears her sunglasses you can tell she’s guarding deep, dark secrets about her stories behind them. Some of which I have never cracked…

 

 
 
                I love you so much, Girlie, and I hope that you have a really good day. I can’t wait to celebrate this day with you and I hope your 20th year is full of blessing and promise. You are an important person in my life, and I’m thankful I have you as a sister.  I can’t wait for our next year together and all the little conspiracies that take place. ;) Thank-you for your love for big doorstoppers-you inspire us all. And I hope someday that we’ll see a picture of you and your published novel here on the blog. :)
 
Love,
Junior Bibliophile

“May God give you...
For every storm, a rainbow,
For every tear, a smile,
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life sends,
A faithful friend to share,
For every sigh, a sweet song,
And an answer for each prayer.”

~An Irish Prayer
 
 
 
 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Guest Series--Part Three--The Doctrine of Fantasy

This week, I'm pleased to feature here on the blog a dear friend, whose recent series of articles on Tolkien's fantasy world struck me deeply. Even if you do not normally read fantasy, I highly recommend pondering these articles. They're thought-provoking, grounded in biblical worldview, and explain the value of the fantasy genre for Christians.

Check out Part One and Part Two if you need to catch up! Today's Part Three is the conclusion of this series. Please drop a line and let Elisabeth know if this has blessed you!

Ossiriand--copyright by Jenny Dolfen

The Doctrine of Fantasy

"Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build
Gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sowed the seed of dragons—'twas our right
(used or misused). That right has not decayed:
we make still by the law in which we're made."
~J.R.R. Tolkien, from Mythopoeia

                Fantasy has become overwhelmingly popular as a literary genre in our generation. For some time this disturbed me (and in some ways it still does). The fact that people would rather read magic and dragons than biography or realistic fiction appeared to indicate an unhealthy desire to escape reality, and the obsession I saw in many of my peers—consuming as it was—seemed shallow. Upon reading The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit myself I was intrigued, even enchanted, but still wary. I did not want to embrace anything blindly.

                So I set off prayerfully on a journey to find out. I read and read and read—I read books by Tolkien, about Tolkien, for Tolkien, against Tolkien—I read about fantasy and myth and Christianity and Paganism, about literature and legend and the history of languages. I found contradictory answers, sometimes, or shaky answers with threads of logic left hanging out at all the edges. I suspect many readers of Tolkien's works have asked questions similar to mine: why do these books have such emotional impact? What is it in them that sets the imaginations of millions afire? Is all Fantasy a waste of time? Is it healthy food for the mind? The heart? The soul? What is Fantasy's place in a Biblical worldview?

                First of all, Fantasy is Story. Story is a form of communication (and an art) common to all mankind. It is part of our inheritance as creatures made in the likeness of God: God is a maker of stories, so we are makers of stories. Of course, since Adam's Fall, the likeness of God has been marred in us. We reflect His image brokenly, and our stories have followed suit, reflecting His perfect story imperfectly. Yet we cannot say that they do not reflect His story at all.

                Across nations, languages, and millennia, the mythologies of the world carry foreshadowings of the Gospel. Creation myths very often involve the triune effort of three gods or spirits. Countless ancient cultures have a flood story in which all but a few of the world's inhabitants are destroyed, and often the names of the first couple uncannily resemble Adam and Eve. Everywhere there are dragons and serpents enslaving the world; everywhere there are gods dying and resurrecting. Norse mythology has the chief of the gods sacrificing himself, hanging speared upon a tree to gain priceless knowledge for the helpless people of earth (Middle-earth, as they call it), as well as sacrificing his most beloved son, with the result that when the world is destroyed, his son is beyond the power of death and may rise up to rule the new and perfect world. Great themes and small details alike bear striking similarity to the story of the Bible, from creation to the cross to the end of the world in Revelation—and this usually from cultures that could never have known or heard of the Jewish or Christian Scriptures.

                Tolkien calls Man the "Sub-creator", making worlds through word and story in imitation of his Father, the first creator. “Fantasy can, of course, be carried to excess,” he writes. “It can be ill done. It can be put to evil uses. It may even delude the minds out of which it came. But of what human thing in this fallen world is that not true? Men have conceived not only of elves, but they have imagined gods, and worshipped them, even worshipped those most deformed by their authors’ own evil." Fantasy is not more evil than other human endeavors that have been spoiled by sin; it is no more inherently evil than, say, music, or mathematics. Tolkien points out that men have made "false gods" out of countless other things: "their notions, their banners, their monies; even their sciences and their social and economic theories have demanded human sacrifice. Abusus non tollit usum. Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker.”

                Paganism, as Tolkien viewed it from his studies, was an ugly and detestable thing. He did not consider it (as some do today) "natural", or intrinsically beautiful. His study of pagan writings and pagan historical sites did not leave him enamored, but grieved by the human sacrifice and other horrors. Yet he saw, even in their sin, that mankind was not utterly ignorant of the truth.
 
The heart of man is not compound of lies,
but draws some wisdom from the only Wise,
and still recalls Him. Though now long estranged,
Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not de-throned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned...

                 Thus run a few of the lines from Tolkien's poem Mythopoeia, written for a skeptic named C.S. Lewis who claimed that myths are lies, though breathed through silver. (Lewis did, by the way, change his mind about myths—as well as about Jesus Christ—in response to a long talk with Tolkien.) Tolkien believed that though mankind has fallen into helpless wickedness, we still bear the image of God, and our myths still contain glimmers of the truth. In the afterword to Ragnarok: The End of the Gods, A.S. Byatt writes, "Myths are often unsatisfactory, even tormenting. They puzzle and haunt the mind that encounters them. They shape different parts of the world inside our heads, and they shape them not as pleasures, but as encounters with the inapprehensible...." In myth, Man dared to ask the questions for which he had no answer.

                The study of stories reveals mankind's search for truth. In myth and fantasy there is a constant reaching to understand the world, to understand the past, to understand the future. There is a continual grasping after the elusive "otherworld" which some (as we learned a few articles ago) have called Faërie. "Fantasy," says Tolkien, "the making or glimpsing of Other-worlds, was the heart of the desire of Faërie." While discussing the topic of myth in a recent letter to a friend, I wrote, "Some...myths are bizarre imagination run amok. Some are evil delusion, Fantasy twisted by the devil in his dark mockery of the True Story. Yet some bring a tingling awe and a breathlessness, for they run very near the edge of Truth: they are grasping, searching in the dark, and coming up with handful after handful of earth-soil, but even so there are gleams of gold to be seen here and there in the dust."

                As a man widely read in the writings of pagan cultures, Tolkien recognized the Gospel as something different. It had, to him, "the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation." All other myths were sub-creation, Man's imitation of the great story our Father has written. We do not have the power to make our stories come true, but He does. That is why Christ is different from every other dying and resurrecting god—he entered into human history and did it for real.

                We often forget just how stunning—how fantasy-like—that is. Historical documentation tells us that a man born in first-century Palestine claimed to be God in human form—claimed to be YHWH Adonai, the sovereign creator of the universe. Historical documentation tells us that he was crucified under the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, and that he was seen alive again by hundreds of witnesses, some of whom were willing to die for their claims. By this resurrection, we believe that our God has broken the curse which doomed us to be forever separated from him in death. The ageless story of the dying god, the king in disguise coming to save his people, is the story by which God chose to rescue his people. The story of Christ, Tolkien writes, "is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord, of angels, and of men—and of elves. Legend and History have met and fused." All the unanswerable, haunting questions raised by Man's myth find their answer in Christ.

                Tolkien believed that the mythlike nature of mankind's redemption has not nullified man-made legends, but "hallowed" them. "Redeemed Man is still man," he says. "Story, fantasy, still go on, and should go on. ...The Christian has still to work, with mind as well as body, to suffer, hope, and die; but he may now perceive that all his bents and faculties have a purpose, which can be redeemed."

                The act of creating Fantasy, then, is (according to Tolkien) a sacred calling, more meaningful for the Christian than for any other person on earth. We do not create our legends and tell our tales out of a mysterious, intrinsic need to create, but in the knowledge that we are doing as our Father does; and we do not make Fantasy merely to satisfy our need for other worlds, but to testify to the wondrous Fantasy of God by which we have been saved.

 
SOURCES:

J.R.R. Tolkien, by Humphrey Carpenter
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, compiled by Humphrey Carpenter
Loki's Role in the Northern Religion, by Dr. Stephan Scott Grundy (Kveldulf Gundarsson)
Myth and Fact, by C.S. Lewis
The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays, by J.R.R. Tolkien, ed. Christopher Tolkien
Ragnarok: The End of the Gods, by A.S. Byatt
The Road to Middle-earth, by Tom Shippey

About the Author

Elisabeth H. (a.k.a. the Philologist) is a born-again, homesick Christian who happens also to be a music teacher and an avid student of history. Research and poetry are her cup of tea, and she has a special place in her heart for old languages, bittersweet endings, and John of Bedford. She does her writing from a humble homestead surrounded by beloved family, somewhat less-beloved chickens, and more than ten thousand books. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Guest Series--Part Two--War of Words

This week, I'm pleased to feature here on the blog a dear friend, whose recent series of articles on Tolkien's fantasy world struck me deeply. With her permission, I'm sharing them here today. Even if you do not normally read fantasy, I highly recommend pondering these articles. They're thought-provoking, grounded in biblical worldview, and explain the value of the fantasy genre for Christians.

Check out Part One here.

Oath of Feanor--copyright by Jenny Dolfen

War of Words

 "I have exposed my heart to be shot at."

~J.R.R. Tolkien, in a letter to C.S. Lewis on the publication of The Lord of the Rings

 
             When J.R.R. Tolkien was a boy, he loved to crouch in the grass at the top of a hill and watch the road below. He was not waiting for his father to come home from work, or scheming to toss pebbles down on unsuspecting travelers—he was waiting to look at the long Welsh names on the sides of coal-trucks as they rumbled by. These names, baffling to most people, charmed him.

His first lessons in language were from his mother, who taught him the rudiments of Latin. When he was eleven she passed away, and the memory of her lessons became a hallowed thing. It sharpened his natural bent and helped to make his study of languages not only a hobby but a passion.

As a schoolboy he devoured literature so fast that his teachers were at a loss to come up with new material for him. He tossed aside the French and Spanish grammars that his schoolmates toiled over to plumb the depths of Wright’s Primer of the Gothic Language. He worked at inventing languages, too: with his cousin Mary he developed a detailed dialect called Nevbosh, "New Nonsense", in which they could speak, write, and make poetry.

During his teen years, Tolkien began to create his languages using various phonologies and grammars. His idea of an enjoyable afternoon was hours bent over a book, creating a new alphabet or expanding an invented vocabulary. He also spent hours inventing words to fill in the gaps of ancient languages which have only come down to us in fragments. “Strange as it may seem,” C.S. Lewis wrote about his friend, “it was undoubtedly the source of that unparalleled richness and concreteness which later distinguished him from all other philologists. He had been inside language.”

Tolkien once wrote that as soon as he set eyes on West-Midland Middle English, the language his ancestors had spoken over seven centuries before, he “took to [it] as to a known tongue….” He had extraordinary powers of deduction where words were concerned, and his knack for detecting almost invisible patterns left other philologists shaking their heads. Yet he did not work on instinct alone; he was technically irreproachable, ruthlessly strict with his work. His fellow scholars were often astonished by his sweeping or outlandish assertions, but they knew that his every statement rested on scrupulous research.

When it came to the emotional power of language, Tolkien's intuition was rare—perhaps unsurpassed in his profession. He would fall in love with a word for its sound, not its meaning. “Most English-speaking people, for instance,” he explained once, “will admit that cellar door is ‘beautiful’, especially if dissociated from its sense (and its spelling).  More beautiful than, say, sky, and far more beautiful than beautiful.” He loved listening to languages—Finnish, Greek, Welsh—as many listen to music. “Philology: ‘the love of words’…that was what motivated him,” wrote his biographer, Humphrey Carpenter. “It was not an arid interest in the scientific principles of language; it was deep love for the look and the sound of words….”

Unfortunately philology was not loved in academia. In fact, it was almost universally despised. The department of Literature and the department of Language (nicknamed "Lit. and Lang." by those in Tolkien's circles) were continually at war with one another during Tolkien's years at Oxford University. This battle caused him much grief, but it was good for us, as it led, ultimately, to Middle-earth as we know it.

The issue was never really the number of students enrolling in one program or another; it was a matter of philosophy. A study of the development of languages shows that they do not evolve randomly, as one might expect, but according to identifiable laws. This means that philologists can recreate lost languages of the past using clues gathered from the languages we know. By piecing together the history of the world's languages, philology has uncovered parts of history that were hitherto unknown. It was natural to Tolkien, after years of work, to understand the world as he understood language: as a grand, majestic puzzle; sometimes inexplicable, but always intelligent; not a cacophony of chance occurrences, but a rich creation to be delighted in, wondered at, and discovered. He believed that "Lit. and Lang." went hand-in-hand—that students of literature should understand and appreciate language, and vice versa. He insisted that the texts his students studied were worth studying not merely for their technical aspects, but for their content and their artistic beauty. The literature professors, on the other hand, believed in keeping the two fields as separate as possible. The last thing they wanted their students doing was accepting ancient works on their own merit. In their minds, the literature of the past was meant to be examined and criticized, not embraced.

Since the era known as the Enlightenment, scholars have been in love with the idea of intellectual progress. In their quest for higher knowledge they often cut ties with the "unenlightened" past, believing that men of bygone days should not be admitted as our equals in their understanding of the world, and certainly not as our superiors. If an ancient view of life differs from ours, the ancient is assumed to be wrong—an illogical assumption, for ideas should be weighed on their own merit, not automatically accepted or rejected because of their source. At Oxford the Literature camp, eager to set themselves apart intellectually, lashed out at the Language camp, criticizing their dreadful tendency to enjoy the skill and beauty of old literature.

Throughout his career Tolkien faced violent criticism for his attempts at reuniting the two sides. He upset the school bullies (yes, grownups have them, too) by being conventional while the rest of the intellectual world was busy making themselves unconventional. Tolkien was talented, and he was at the forefront of his chosen field, but his colleagues scoffed at him. After all, how could an intelligent man believe that Anglo-Saxon poetry might be relevant in the modern world?

Tolkien saw the reasons for his antagonists’ fury more clearly than most of them did themselves, and he felt their attacks on his work keenly, for philology was not merely a career to him, a job to pay the bills. It was a thing bound up in the very fibers of his being. In his Essays, he admitted to feeling “a grievance that certain professional persons should suppose their dullness and ignorance to be a human norm, the measure of what is good; and anger when they have sought to impose the limitations of their minds upon younger minds, dissuading those with philological curiosity from their bent, encouraging those without this interest to believe that their lack marked them as minds of a superior order.” His efforts at the university to bring Lit. and Lang. to reconciliation were valiant but largely unsuccessful.

Yet his fiction had the power to do what his scholarly work could not.

More than once Tolkien claimed that his languages were not made for his stories, but his stories for his languages. “The invention of languages is the foundation”, he said. The "invention"—or, as its Latin root invenire suggests, the discovery of languages—is also the foundation of philology. This was Tolkien's quiet way of telling the world that philology itself, and what he had learned from it, was at the heart of his extraordinary work. After explaining how writing “grows like a seed…out of the leaf-mould of the mind”, Tolkien went on to say, “No doubt there is much selection, as with a gardener: what one throws on one’s personal compost-heap; and my mould is evidently made largely of linguistic matter."

The influence of philology on Tolkien's fiction is usually underestimated because its influence on Tolkien himself is underestimated. Most remarks by critics on this subject fall neatly into two categories: firstly, those who say (usually tartly) that because Tolkien's works are founded in philology, they have no significance for the rest of life—they are merely the byproduct of an eccentric professor’s hobby; and secondly, those who claim (kindly but wrongly) that his fiction could not be rooted in something so shallow and dry as philology because it is obviously rich, full of imagination and feeling and wisdom. This view, taken by even some of his most well-meaning critics, must have distressed Tolkien, for it showed yet again that the field he loved was an utter mystery to most of society—and not only that, but a supremely dull mystery not worth looking into. One Tolkien critic declared confidently that no one ever exposed the deepest core of their being for the sake of philology: it would be both needless and insane. Yet we have evidence to the contrary.

J.R.R. Tolkien may have failed to make his Oxford colleagues see the joy in philology, or to gain anything more than a temporary ceasefire between Lit. and Lang., but through his books he brought the beauty of words back to the tongue and ear of the common man. According to Professor Corey Olsen, "The works of Tolkien are by far, absolutely without exception, the best introduction to Medieval literature that exists." And one might easily expand that category beyond Medieval literature. Because of Tolkien's writings, the poems and stories of our ancestors no longer knock dully on the outside of our hearts, but ring true, like an echo of something we have known and loved well.

SOURCES:

J.R.R. Tolkien, by Humphrey Carpenter
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, compiled by Humphrey Carpenter
The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays, by J.R.R. Tolkien, ed. Christopher Tolkien
The Road to Middle-earth, by Tom Shippey
The Tolkien Professor, www.tolkienprofessor.com

About the Author
Elisabeth H. (a.k.a. the Philologist) is a born-again, homesick Christian who happens also to be a music teacher and an avid student of history. Research and poetry are her cup of tea, and she has a special place in her heart for old languages, bittersweet endings, and John of Bedford. She does her writing from a humble homestead surrounded by beloved family, somewhat less-beloved chickens, and more than ten thousand books. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Anon, Sir, Anon, by Rachel Heffington--COVER REVEAL!

Just recently I reviewed an up-and-coming mystery novel, Rachel Heffington's Anon, Sir, Anon. I highly enjoyed the story, and am excited to help Rachel spread the news by sharing the cover reveal and release details with all of you!
 
The Release Date:
 

 
The Back-Cover Blurb:
 
The 12:55 out of Darlington brought more than Orville Farnham's niece; murder was passenger.
In coming to Whistlecreig, Genevieve Langley expected to find an ailing uncle in need of gentle care. In reality, her charge is a cantankerous Shakespearean actor with a penchant for fencing and an affinity for placing impossible bets.
When a body shows up in a field near Whistlecreig Manor and Vivi is the only one to recognize the victim, she is unceremoniously baptized into the art of crime-solving: a field in which first impressions are seldom lasting and personal interest knocks at the front door.
Set against the russet backdrop of a Northamptonshire fog, Anon, Sir, Anon cuts a cozy path to a chilling crime.
 
(be sure to add it to your to-read shelves if you haven't already! :)
 
And finally, what you've all been waiting for...
 
The Cover
 
 
 
It looks like a lovely British mystery cover--just the sort of thing you'd see on a library shelf, a real classic. I love the little bicycle and the rowan berries. :)
 
Mark your calendars for this special upcoming release!
 
Blessings,
Lady Bibliophile

Friday, September 12, 2014

Guest Series--Part One--The World of Faerie

Today and next week, I'm pleased to feature a dear friend here on the blog, whose recent series of articles on Tolkien's fantasy world struck me deeply. I was moved, delighted, and challenged in my Christian faith. Even if you do not normally read fantasy, I highly recommend pondering these articles. They're thought-provoking, grounded in biblical worldview, and explain the value of the fantasy genre for Christians. This series will be three parts long.

So without further ado...

Sons of Rohan--copyright Jenny Dolfen

The World of Faërie

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales.
If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales."

~Albert Einstein                    

            J.R.R. Tolkien was a great believer in fairy-tales. When he spoke solemnly about them, often enough the critics laughed in his face. Ordinary readers laughed too, and have continued to laugh on after his death; but they laugh because they do not understand what he meant.

It was a common problem for Tolkien, being misunderstood. Because of his work with old languages and old literature, he knew what it was to breathe the air of a different age than his own, and this had a strong effect on his writing. “One writes...” he once said when discussing The Lord of the Rings, “not out of the leaves of trees still to be observed, nor by means of botany and soil-science...but...out of the leaf-mould of the mind: out of all that has been seen or thought or read, that has long ago been forgotten, descending into the deeps.” His personal "leaf-mould" was rich with things brave and terrible, bright and  lovely, dark and wondrous—the compost of a lifetime spent studying the world's greatest words and stories. To a society dominated by science, progress, and the extermination of the supernatural, it proved a heady draught, inducing nausea in some and giddy joy in others. The critics at large either abhor or adore his books. When asked about the extreme reaction of young America toward The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien said, "Art moves them and they don't know what they've been moved by and they get quite drunk on it." The thing on which his readers became "drunk" was, to Tolkien, simply art: art like all the other beautiful pieces of art that he knew and loved, of which most people knew nothing. He had merely presented to a new generation one leaf from the great Tree of Tales.

Tolkien was equipped to work this cultural and artistic miracle because he had been drinking in otherworldly air from stories since childhood, while people around him were starved for it. In talking about fairy-tales (or fantasy, or mythology, or philology), he was trying to explain why his writing had the power it did—it was not his own skill or imagination, he was convinced, but the power of that otherworldly air. Yet academia scoffed at his ideas (though the evidence lay stark before them in a whole generation of American college students run mad). Apparently when an Oxford professor speaks on a scholarly subject he has the ear of the high and mighty, but when he speaks of fairies, the world stops listening.

Tolkien believed that fairy tales are not just for children. The banishing of “fairy” to the nursery, he contended, has been bad for both adults and children, for when the sole aim of anything is the amusement of children, it is robbed of greatness. He believed that children are benefited by hearing deeper, more earnest, and more mature things than the watered-down stories that most adults deem appropriate for a child's age and understanding. "Children are meant to grow up," he wrote, "and not to become Peter Pans...it is one of the lessons of fairy-stories...that on callow, lumpish, and selfish youth peril, sorrow, and the shadow of death can bestow dignity, and even sometimes wisdom." He went on to say, "If fairy-story as a kind is worth reading at all it is worthy to be written for and read by adults. They will, of course, put more in and get more out than children can. Then, as a branch of a genuine art, children may hope to get fairy-stories fit for them to read and yet within their measure….”

But what is a "fairy-story fit for them to read"? Tolkien implies that the things we think of as fairy-stories are only silly, childish remnants of "a genuine art". If the essence of a fairy-tale is not to be found in the princess stories served up by Walt Disney, then where are we to look for it?

We should go back to philology, where Tolkien seems to think he found it—where he at the very least found the portal to a land from which he brought back tales so marvelous that they have captured the hearts of millions.

To begin with, fairy is a stolen word. Until recently it did not belong to the pixies—the folk, brownies, and flittermice. The little rascals have stolen it by degrees, through misinterpretations, mistranslations, and some help from old French words like fée (pronounced "fay"). If you go back far enough, "fairy" was not a creature; it was a place.

The realm of Fairy (sometimes spelled Faery or Faërie) was the setting for accounts of marvel and the miraculous. It could be a place of beauty, enchantment, or strong joy; it was a land where enemies, though supernaturally mighty, were always vanquished in the end. In the old days, if a man was said to have an air of Faërie about him, he had an air of something high and elusive, almost as though he were born into the wrong age of the wrong earth. "Faery" is the name Tolkien originally gave to the Elvenhome of his stories—a distant place of power and inimitable beauty—but the word hardly carries those connotations for the modern reader. He was finally able to use the name in the last story he ever wrote, Smith of Wooton Major, which contains a fierce reproach against any who would make light of the name, or the realm, of Faery.

A fairy-story, Tolkien claims, does not depend on "fairies" in any form, but on "the nature of Faërie: the Perilous Realm itself, and the air that blows in that country. I will not attempt to define that, nor to describe it directly. It cannot be done. Faërie cannot be caught in a net of words; for it is one of its qualities to be indescribable, though not imperceptible.”

The land of Faërie gained a reputation for trickery, related to a second meaning of the word: "enchantment". Myth and folklore have produced a plethora of stories about hapless men or maids who are enticed into the "fairy-mound" to be feasted in beauty and glory inexpressible, but are inevitably thrust back out into the cold, hard world of humanity. Often the victim is unable to enjoy life ever after, talking incessantly of the fairy-world until their dying day, and forever longing to get back to it. Faërie is the memory of another world.

That is what Tolkien means by fairy-tale: a tale that evokes the remnant idea of another world, another tongue, another place whose very air is painfully sweet—sweet because it is a realm infinitely more desirable than ours, but painful because it is forever barred from us, lingering just out of reach in the dim past, or in the reaches of unreality. There is an uncrossable line which separates earth from sky, mortal from immortal, solid feet-on-the-ground common sense from those far-off, thin, piercing wishes for someplace else. We cannot put a finger on it, maybe, yet the longing is undeniable. Just so would we feel if we had once had perfect happiness in our grasp, and then lost it, and had afterward forgotten quite what it was we had lost.

In our world of cold, hard facts, men deny the spiritual, claiming that mankind is nothing more than the product of random chemical processes in the vast, uninhabited reaches of space. If so, storytelling means nothing; relationships between human beings mean nothing; life and death mean nothing. If there is no spiritual reality, no other world, Faërie is a delusion, and we who seek after it are no better off than any other unfortunate mortal "lured into the mound."

But there is another world. There was an Eden in the past, and there is a Jerusalem in the future; and Faërie is no illusion, but the call of our hearts for our home beyond the world. We remember what was, and we long for what shall be, and we cry for release from the broken state in which we live. As C.S. Lewis said, "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."

Tolkien believed in fairy-tales. And so do I.

 
SOURCES AND RECOMMENDED READING:

J.R.R. Tolkien, by Humphrey Carpenter
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, compiled by Humphrey Carpenter
On Fairy-Stories, by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Road to Middle-earth, by Tom Shippey
Smith of Wooton Major, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis

About the Author:
Elisabeth H. (a.k.a. the Philologist) is a born-again, homesick Christian who happens also to be a music teacher and an avid student of history. Research and poetry are her cup of tea, and she has a special place in her heart for old languages, bittersweet endings, and John of Bedford. She does her writing from a humble homestead surrounded by beloved family, somewhat less-beloved chickens, and more than ten thousand books. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Behold the Dawn, by K.M. Weiland


The Book
From Amazon's description:

The vengeance of a monk.

The love of a countess.

The secrets of a knight.

Marcus Annan, a knight famed for his prowess in the deadly tourney competitions, thought he could keep the bloody secrets of his past buried forever. But when a mysterious crippled monk demands Annan help him wreak vengeance on a corrupt bishop, Annan is forced to leave the tourneys and join the Third Crusade in the Holy Land.

Wounded in battle and hunted on every side, he agrees to marry—in name only—the traumatized widow of an old friend, in order to protect her from the obsessive pursuit of a mutual enemy. Together, they escape an infidel prison camp and flee the Holy Land. But, try as he might, he cannot elude the past—or his growing feelings for the Lady Mairead. Amidst the pain and grief of a war he doesn’t even believe in, he is forced at last to face long-hidden secrets and sins and to bare his soul to the mercy of a God he thought he had abandoned years ago.

My Thoughts 
K.M. Weiland, former homeschooler and now respected, award-winning author of several historical fiction novels and how-to writing books, put one of her novels on feature this month for free in exchange for an unbiased review. I've read another of her novels, Dreamlander, and loved the depth and scope; I just bought Structuring Your Novel, and am using it to edit my current WIP. And, I follow her blog and read most of the posts she puts up on Helping Writers Become Authors.

This was a further opportunity to get acquainted with her works that I just couldn't pass up. It was well worth the time.

Very few books have the ability to take me completely by surprise. This one left me gasping in the dust of the climax. I had guesses, yes, but they were wrong, and I was never so thrilled to be wrong in my life. I like it when the author lays out all the cards, and it's a fair and square battle of wits between them and the reader. I like it even better when the author wins. The climax of Behold the Dawn is superb; it's an action story, and it follows through every bit on the promise it gives of being exciting.

K.M. Weiland always comes out strong in both characters and plot, and this book is no exception. Marcus Annan may be a tormented soul, but he's also a tall, broad Scotsman, with the blood of battle in his veins and a mean grip on a sword. Struggling spiritually he may be, but he's no wimp sitting down and crying over his problems. He takes on warriors that put up obstacles in his way, and he kills them.

Mairead--I loved the way Weiland gave each character a special characteristic and them used it to draw their portrait throughout the story. Mairead's characteristic was her long black hair. She's a tenderhearted woman, clinging desperately to the hope that Marcus Annan can protect her from losing her virtue again to the evil Sir Hugh. And when she is in an extremity, with no Marcus to help her, she pulls out a surprising amount of grit, while still keeping her lovable sweetness.

The deformed, tortured Gethin the Baptist was definitely a vivid puzzle. Longing for vengeance on the bishop, yet at the same time preaching a message of Christian reform throughout the land, he's a man of varied depths and many motivations. A worthy addition to the cast and crew.

But the best of the lot was Marcus Annan's apprentice, Peregrine Marek.

Oh, my--Marek gets the Samwise Award for best sidekick and comic relief, and that is the highest praise I can give. Every time he talked, I laughed. He's a brave boy, and was worth his salt in helping Marcus out of tight spots, with a fresh, cheeky tongue to counterbalance Marcus's brooding introversion.

But again [Mairead] surprised him. The smile ripened on her lips. “I’ve heard tell that you have rather more respect for the weaker vessel than you’d like to show.” Her expression was almost teasing, but [Marcus] sensed the hesitation hidden in her gaze. She was testing him, taking a chance, making an effort to reach past the shields they had both erected.
He swallowed and made himself speak softly, almost a whisper, to keep the growl from his voice. “Is that so?”
“Aye.”
“Well—” He glanced over to where Marek was leading his horse into the dell, talking his usual gibberish to the animal. “Marek never did learn mouths were made on hinges so they could be shut every now and then.”
“Did no one ever tell you mouths were made on hinges so they might be opened every now and then?”
“Marek’s mentioned it once or twice.”
--Chapter XI, Behold the Dawn, by K.M. Weiland

The only complaint I had about this book is that the beginning dragged; that's probably just me, and not the fault of the book, for the beginning opened with a high action sequence--Marcus fighting in a tourney and fleeing for his life--but I just couldn't get into the mood of the story right away. Once he and Marek got to Palestine, I was all on board, and I'm so glad I kept reading, for I would have missed a treat otherwise. Weiland's tight plotting is a pleasure--she keeps up the tension all the way through, with just the right amount of suspense. While sometimes I did grow impatient with the point-of-view switches to the bishop and his henchmen, that's the sign of a good story, and well-loved main characters. The villains were bad. I didn't love them. ;)

This story is an adult story; I would recommend it for 17 or 18 and up. Because Mairead is pursued by Hugh, she very nearly gets taken by him twice, and the last time I was rather uncomfortable. While Weiland doesn't say anything inappropriate, and most of it is by inference, Mariead *plot spoiler* several years before the story opened, was violated by Hugh and bore a baby that died, however unwillingly she may had done so. *end of spoiler* However, I think Weiland handled the themes appropriately, giving us just enough information and not too much. For those who wish to avoid such themes, this probably isn't the book for you.

Marcus, however, is a noble man, and treats Mairead with all honor and respect throughout their journey.

Weiland's faith shines through again and again throughout this story. Themes of Christ's salvation, surrender, and redemption are evident throughout, and make for an edifying and uplifting read. If you're looking for specifically Christian fiction with a well-told tale, this is a refreshing offering.

Full of soul-searching, godly romance, and glorious adventure, Behold the Dawn takes all my favorite themes and combines them into a captivating tale. I highly recommend giving it a read.

*This book was given to me for free through Story Cartel in exchange for an unbiased review. While I use Story Cartel for K.M. Weiland's books, it is not a resource that I generally recommend checking out.*

One last announcement: I have an exciting feature that I am thrilled to share with all of you next week! A friend of mine with whom I've had many conversations about literature and our relationships with the Lord, wrote a three part series on the doctrine of fantasy which I asked her if I could feature on the blog. I think you'll be blessed by her wisdom. :) Please come check out the first post on Friday!

Blessings,
Lady Bibliophile

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