Tag Archives: author

What a good novel should have …

Of course, this is only my opinion but for a good novel must have the following attributes …

  • Fully 3D characters
  • Excellent description of places, so you feel you are there
  • Complexity – nothing is simply black or white
  • Heroes who get it wrong some of the time
  • Bad guys who get it right some of the time
  • Events and characters that explode cliches
  • The ability to make you think, turn your values upside-down, if only a little
  • The story should grow you, your attitudes, as it does those of the protagonist

Novels that have all this do not grow on trees :-).

I’m currently re-reading Frank Herbert’s “Whipping Star”, it has all of these qualities and is still brilliantly thought provoking after 38 years.

What do you think? What makes a good novel for you?

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Phil Rickman

I’ve mentioned Phil Rickman in a couple of blogs now, because he’s an author I enjoy and admire. However, he’s not yet anything like as famous as he should be, so it occurred to me that I should devote a blog to saying a bit more about who he is, what he does, and why he has a significant pagan following.

 I first encountered Phil Rickman some years ago when he was interviewed by Pagan Dawn magazine. In that piece he talked about his interest in the occult, and his not being a pagan. Even though I’d never heard of him before, it was a sufficiently interesting article that I still remember it, many years later.

I used to review fiction for White Dragon – a pagan magazine based in the UK. Rowan, the editor, offered me a Phil Rickman novel, so I said yes. It was ‘The Fabric of Sin’ and brought me in a fair distance into his Merrily Watkins series. It stood alone perfectly well. I sometimes had the sense that there currents in the background and developments that might seem more important were I following the entire series, but the story itself made sense. I was impressed. A while later I picked up two stories from earlier in the series – “Midwinter of the Soul” and “A Crown of Lights” these too stood alone, and I filled in more character detail. I eventually got round to the first one – “The Wine of Angels” and now some of the larger story arcs make more sense.

The Merrily Watkins series follow the adventures of said character. She’s a widow, and single parent to a teenage girl, Jane. Merrily is a vicar, starting out when female vicars in the UK were unfamiliar and radical. Then she gets into exorcism – Deliverance Ministry, which puts her in an odd place in relation to the Anglican church. Her daughter dabbles in paganism. The stories are mysteries, although murder is not always the focal point – one centred around a suicide. The first one is heavy on the body count, but I suspect the author of not imagining he’d get to do a whole series. Rickman has an engaging writing style, good plots, interesting twists and a large cast of very strong and compelling characters, many of whom appear in more than one story.

His appeal to pagan readers stems partly from the character of Jane – he’s very much captured the teenage girl drawn to witchcraft, with all the challenges, pitfalls, mistakes and wonders that journey can involve. As a female vicar working with the supernatural, Merrily is easy to empathise with. I can’t help but feel she’d make a very good druid, in other circumstances. Frequently the occult elements of the story provide the tension and the bodies. Satanists feature as bad guys, but so do church figures, media folk, farmers, landed gentry… Rickman will keep you guessing. Witchy types are just as likely to be the good guys as the villains. So he’s very even handed in portraying occultism, and this is very appealing.

Rickman has done his homework. He knows his history, folklore, superstition, and plenty about occult practice, and natural magic. He might not be claiming to be pagan himself, but he has a great deal of insight into what might have been, and into what contemporary paganism is like. He reflects modern paganism (warts and all) in a way that is entirely recognisable, without relying on stereotypes, clichés, or too much melodrama. Reading his work as a pagan, I tend to feel that I am reading about people I recognise, lifestyles I know, and that’s rather pleasing.

The other great source of appeal to pagans is the degree to which his stories are rooted in landscape. Places, and their history, buildings and their connection to human activity, the wonder and danger of the wild, the magic in the apple tree… these things Rickman understands. Set along the Herefordshire border with Wales – an area rich in history, the Merrily Watkins stories have roots, and bring the landscape vividly to life. The sense of place, of season, of land and living close to it permeates his writing, and this will speak to any pagan soul.

His homepage is here – http://www.philrickman.co.uk/pages/Home.html and I heartily recommend checking him out.

An introduction to a new columnist…

Hello and welcome to my new column!

Before I post my first article, I thought I would do as other new writers to The Pagan and the Pen have done, and take a few minutes to introduce myself.

My name is Edain Duguay, I was born and raised in the East Midlands of England and I have loved writing from an early age. Indeed, I wrote my first book at the age of nine and hand bound it. Admittedly, it was a class project but an enjoyable one and became bitten by the writing bug. During my teens I wrote several fictional stories, some got finished and some, sadly, did not.

Life then intervened. I got married to my first husband, had a daughter and began an interesting career in local government. During my career, I also studied at university part-time until I gained qualifications in computer studies (various) and in Local History, as you can imagine it was a very busy time for me.

Several years later, I was able to find some time to return to my love of writing and, in 2006, I created Wyrdwood Publications (although it was known by another name at that time) and our first online publication was The Pagan Activist. The Pagan Activist was a free online Pagan newspaper with columnists and articles from around the globe. It ran solely on donations from the general public and was read in sixty-four countries, until it’s closure in 2009.

My first eBook, ‘Pagan Poetry for the Seasons and Festivals’, debuted in 2008. It was published by Wyrdwood Publications and since it’s release has remained as Wyrdwood Publications #3 Best Seller. In 2009, I released my next eBook: ‘Pagans on the Wildside: Campfire Cooking’. This eBook was an instant success and has remained as Wyrdwood Publications #1 Best Seller since it’s release.

During 2010, I will continue to work on my children’s Pagan eBook series: ‘The Witchlets of Witches Brew’. There are two, of the eight titles, released so far; Holly the Hasty Witch and Ash the Solitary Witch. Two more eBooks in this series are scheduled to be released in 2010, while the last four will be released in 2011.

Finally, I’m in the process of editing my first print book (or pBook): Chameleon. It’s the first part of the paranormal/fantasy series, The Chameleon Sagas. I have also begun writing the second book in this series: Castrum Lucis.

My other interests include watching movies, sewing and reading copious amounts of books. I am also interested in a more self-sufficient lifestyle and on my blogs, I post about homesteading, writing and my Pagan life here in Canada, with my Canadian husband.

Now, with this background, you may be wondering what I’ll be writing about on The Pagan and the Pen. I have been fortunate enough to be a founding member of an ADF Grove and an Asatru Kindred and for several years I have walked the path of a Pagan/Heathen. With this in mind, I shall be posting on various aspects of Heathenism, giving Pagans some basic information about a Heathen belief system and how some of this information can be included in the everyday life of Pagans. Also, I will be comparing various aspects of Asatru and ADF Druidry along with a couple of interviews with Heathen authors who publish through Wyrdwood Publications.

Hopefully, you will find my posts interesting, informative and thought-provoking. I look forward to writing for The Pagan and the Pen  on the 17th of every month and reading your comments.

Thank you for taking the time to read my introduction and my first column will be posted shortly.  🙂

Blessings to your Hearth,

Edain
Edain Duguay.com
Paranormal/Fantasy Novelist, eBook Author and Blog Writer

Author of the blogs:
English, Pagan and in Canada
Worlds Of My Own Making
Gramarye, The Magical Homestead

Contact Edain @ FacebookTwitterYoutubeBlogger

Being a writer

I’ve been watching an interesting debate unfold on an egroup, about whether role play gaming is a productive thing for an author to do. Some folks, myself included, think yes. Others feel it wastes time, and distracts from the important business of Being A Writer.

As bardcraft is an important part of the Druid tradition, I’ve spent a fair while talking with other folks about what a bard needs to do, in order to truly walk that path. Creative expression is a big part of it, of course. However, there was agreement that it takes more than making things, to be a bard. I think it also calls for more than spending time writing to be a good author. You have to live, experience and explore in order to have stories to tell.

For a bard, listening is a vital skill. We listen to the music, songs, poetry and stories of fellow bards, and we learn from them. We listen to the words of the people around us, and the truths that come from their hearts, even if they aren’t beautifully presented. We listen to the wind, the songs of birds, the whispers of the ancestors and the cries of the future being born.

 We listen to the silence.

To my mind, writing (and any other creative expression) should not be about separating yourself from the world. Paganism is all about embracing life, in all its richness, and any practise that isolates us, is at odds with that spiritual dimension. Writing should be an act of engagement.

Therefore, I must argue, any kind of experience or pursuit is a valid one, for the bard and author both. Not just valid, but necessary. We need to be out in the world, listening, experiencing, feeling and thinking. And no one should spend their days sat at a computer, tapping out words to the exclusion of all else. That isn’t living, it isn’t honouring nature within us.

If you want to be an author, take some time to live, in the manner of your choosing. There is far more to being an author than that part of the process involving crafting things out of words.

Holiday Memories.

‘Tis the season… for thinking back to those exciting days of yesteryear.  It’s funny as I get older (heading inevitably towards both my dotage and grumpy-old-man syndrome) I think back upon childhood.  Christmas, with all its frantic and heart-pounding anticipation is often brought to mind.

I am wierd, no seriously.  I never get excited about something like Christmas until the day before and then it’s multiplied by 1,000,000.  I would be the first one up waiting the “go” signal. 

 You see our Christmas tree was downstairs in the rec room, not upstairs.  We, the Newman children, were forbidden to go downstairs until our parents got up.  My father, the eternal jokester would have to have his coffee and cigarette before we could plunge into the ripping, tearing and shrieking of joy.   So like runners awaiting the starting gun, we were perched upon the top of the stairs with trembling nerves and quivering legs.  There was a lot to plan, for that mad dash.  Our steps lead down to the front door, curved around a foyer and went back down to the basement.  Then there was the narrow hallway that lead into the rec room.  You had to watch cutting the corner of the foyer lest you slam into the banister on the right or make your turn too wide and smack into the banister on the left.  Aside from all that you were in slippers, an aptly named set of footwear, which made rounding a bend as dangerous as telling Donald Trump his hairstyle sucks.  Once onto the carpeted second set of stairs the basement floor had a door on the left (to the garage) and then two more in the hall facing one another (the laundry room and the closet).  Doorknobs are useful things.  But slamming into one with an unprotected elbow or hip wasn’t pleasant.  Plus it would put you in last place in the Christmas Race.  Also you had to prepare for the basement floor’s icy linoleum, treacherous and slick.  Once into the rec room the frenzy could take place in earnest.

But back to my Father.  Smirking and sitting in the kitchen, puffing slowly on a cigarette and sipping daintily on his coffee we would glance over our shoulders at him in desperate anticipation.  He would chuckle and tell us to be patient, he was almost done.  Then he’d go back to smirking, smoking and sipping.  I swear he could make those two things last all day!  They were the slowest, most leisurely cup of coffee and nicotine stick of the ENTIRE year.  Often I would accuse him of lighting a second one or refilling his mug—he didn’t it just FELT that way!  Then he’d crush out the cigarette, down the last dregs of his java and say….”Go ahead”.  The race was on!

My poor sister, the youngest and smallest of us would be buffeted by her two older brothers as we leaped into action!  Being the eldest (and for the longest time the biggest) I would easily shove past my brother and take the lead.  It didn’t last since he was faster than me and due to my clumsiness I always managed to bash my arms, hips and elbows into the banister and doorknobs slowing my frantic progress.  In the end somebody always fell on the foyer or the basement floor but all pain and agony was forgotten when we burst into the rec room to find Santa’s booty (presents that is, get your mind out of the gutter this is a Christmas or if you like Yule story). 

To this day when I see a staircase I wonder how to best dash down it and beat all comers to the ground floor…

Ciao!

Chris

Sparkling vampires?

Okay I’m going to go out on a limb here and discuss why in the wide, wide world of sports it means that Stephanie Meyer’s vampires “sparkle”?  I looked it up and found out that Bella is taken into a field in broad daylight and Edward “sparkles”.  So instead of him bursting into flames and igniting this mealy mouth heroine he sparkles?  Geez, what a convenient plot device to allow Bella and Edward to “walk amongst the daisies and frolic”.  Pardon me my gorge is rising…

…okay much better now. 

Before I get 1,000,000 emails of hate-spewing people who want to defend this I’d like to start by saying this.  I do not begrudge Ms. (or Mrs.) Meyers her millions of fans or commercial success.  Good for her.  However I really do miss the good old days when vampires were bad, women were terrified and heroes climbed out of the woodwork to defend them.  Now it’s all mixed up. 

Let’s take a moment and ponder this much, what is the ecology of a vampire?  Everything on this planet (as Wiccans all know) has a purpose.  Lycanthropy is a curse, zombies are the result of bad science, and Nancy Pelosi is obviously allergic to Botox.    Let us use the one animal that consists entirely on a blood diet…desmondus rotundus or the common vampire bat.

Average weight: 30-40 oz/ blood intake half their body weight ever 3-4 days/nocturnal hunters/bad eyesight/excellent hearing/thermal sensors in their nose/interior of their mouths lined with teeth (to shave away fur)/must urinate half their intake before being able to fly (it’s funny how nobody talks about how much vampires must have to go to the bathroom with that liquid diet and all). 

Their job?  Thin the herds of over populated wildlife. Side effects–very susceptible to blood borne pathogens and diseases.

Let’s do the math.

I weight 165 pounds.   This means I’d have to take in almost 82.5 pounds of blood during 3-4 days and the average human has over a gallon.  That means I’d have to kill (drain fully) almost 7 people in a feeding frenzy.  Although an average of nearly 1 million people go unexplainably missing every year it boils down to a vampire problem of there  being about 125,000 vampires in the United States (minus the occasional serial killer body count or extremely obese bloodsuckers okay).  Can you imagine Ralphie May or as a vampire?  I shudder to think of the carnage.  Either way it’s food for thought, isn’t it? 

The problem is I can’t find anything in nature that “sparkles” in the daytime or that sweats something to coat themselves from sunlight.  Most nocturnal animals just sleep during the day–it’s easier than evolving some sort of diamond-dust skin.  Ooh!  I just had a thought!  Is this how come vampires are rich?  They sell off their flaked skin at the jewelers?

“Damn I’m molting again,” Edward says.

“Cool,” Bella replies, “now I can buy that Mercedes-Benz.”

That’s dialogue I’d like to see.   Oh and that reminds me, can you just imagine what a vampire’s breath must smell like?  Have you ever had bloodstained clothing?  Can you picture what your teeth would look like as a vampire?  I think a great marketing concept would be “Twilight Toothpaste”

Cut to a Victorian reading room with Edward sitting in a chair sparkling for the sunlight pouring in from a nearby window.  Turning to the camera he flashes his pearly white fangs and begins to speak.

“After a hard night trying to keep Bella out of trouble,” Edward says, “I find my breath less than fresh.  Thank goodness for Twilight Toothpaste with it’s minty fresh scent and grime and stain removing action.  And for those hard to reach places try Sparkling Vampire Dental Floss.”

He holds up a crimson and white colored tube of toothpaste and a small box of floss–the camera zooms in for a better look.  Then it pans back out where Bella is sitting across his lap with those half-opened eyes and lazy smile.

“So before you go out to find a vapish and morose girlfriend don’t forget to stop by the drugstore and buy some Twilight Toothpaste–you’ll find it next to the feminine hygeine aisle.  Remember Twilight Toothpaste–make your fangs sparkle!”

…let’s not even get into what kissing someone who drinks blood must taste like, and you thought your hubby or girl’s cigarette breath was bad to savor.

Okay we’ve had a little fun with this.  It’s all in good fun.  Let Bella be and Edward sparkle–I don’t care.  I just wonder if we’ll see Werewolf untangling shampoo, Creature from the Black Lagoon Swimsuits, or Zom-Be-Fresh deodorant?

Sparkle on!

Chris

What I am thankful for

On this festive and food oriented holiday I thought I’d drop a note to say what I’m truly thankful for.

I am thankful for the love of a beautiful woman, my soulmate and my life.  Diane who at this time is slaving away in the kitchen to produce another bountiful feast for us to enjoy.  For her courage against all odds, for her perceverence in maintaining her unwavering devotion for me during my first marriage to another and for her ability to make me see the man I want to be I am, indeed, truly thankful.  I would have no books published, no awards won nor would I have so many author friends if not for her gentle guidance and stubborn patience.  I would happily lay down my life for her. 

My step-children, children and grandkids.  These are my future hopes that what I’ve learned in my past will be furthered onward in generations to come.  For the sons who aren’t of my body, but share a kindred soul I thank the Goddess for Matthew and Ben.  For her devotion to family and taking up arms against a sea of troubles that threaten our clan I thank Her for Candace.  Brendan, my youngest who shares my wild imagination and Anthony who tries to hold his own in two households I thank the Goddess for them as well.  Duncan, Sabastian, Keegan, Miguel, Nathan and Sibohan who are not of my blood but are eternally bound to me I humbly take joy in their existence.

For the lousy job I have.  Despite the constant whining and complaining by customers who demand I take charges off their bills (despite the truthfulness to their validity) I thank the Goddess that I’m employed.  This thing called work, which takes me away from hearth and home, provides me with just enough money to chase my dreams with my family by my side.  Although I grouse and grumble, I would be homeless without it.  I try to take as much pleasure from doing a good job as I can.  It also has allowed me to talk to many a kindred soul.  Those who are just happy to be served and ask nothing more than a fairness outweight and outnumber the gripers.

I thank my parents Nancy and Charles, gone many years since who provided me with food, shelter, clothing and love for which there is absolutely no price that can be attached to it.  I only wish I could thank them in person, but having done so in life I am secure in the notion that they watch from on high and, hopefully are proud of their oldest son.

I am thankful for the country inwhich I was born.  For the Red, White and Blue–for the chance to live free and do as I wish without restraints to spirit, education or social status.  I do not believe in Red states or Blue states and I”m hopefully thankful that we still live in a free society.  Only in America can you be anything you want to be.  Soldier, statesmen, banker or baker you can do as you wish here in the good old U.S.A. 

To those who serve in the military, keeping us safe I am truly grateful.  My family has ever been closely associated with those in uniform.  Since my great-great-great grandsire Baron Barton Von Neumann who came here from his native Germany to settle in Ohio to my mother’s side that crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Italy I am thankful for my heritage.  Those who didn’t serve went into factories to make both domestic and military materials during Peace and War.  I would be nothing without my past.  I am proud to say my step-son Matthew and son-in-law Jose both proudly serve in the U.S. Army.  Words cannot express my pride in this.

In closing I would ask you to seek out your loved ones this Thanksgiving and see to it you connect with them on an emotion and spiritual level.  Conversations during dinner, football games or just over coffee will be the ever-burning logs inwhich your memories will glow and warm you. 

Blessed Be!
Chris