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Posts Tagged ‘CS Lewis’

Happy Star Wars Day and May the Fourth be with you! Here’s a link for a brief history of how this holiday began.

May is a special month in the Star Wars world – not only was George Lucas born in May, but most of the live-action Star Wars movies debuted in May, including Episode IV – the movie that began not only the Star Wars franchise, but was a major leap in film and special effects. And I think my birthday being in May is no coincidence!

Star Wars had a profound effect on my creative life. Since childhood, I’d been a watcher of Star Trek and other science fiction (and fantasy) television shows. When I got the chance to go to the movie theater, I usually chose to see speculative films. Many of the books I borrowed from the library or had on my bookshelves were adventure tales, fantasy, and science fiction. But I hadn’t yet embraced sf/f/h as my creative niche.

After Star Wars, I realized I belonged as an artist and writer in the fantastical worlds of fantasy and science fiction. I wanted to write about heroes (both male and female), sidekicks, magical creatures, faraway galaxies, and strange worlds. I wanted to paint the landscape and inhabitants of those imagined lands (or seas or starships or mysterious places).

When asked to list my creative influences, JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, and Arthur Rackham always make the cut – but in truth, George Lucas should be mentioned, too!

Here’s NASA’s May 4th greeting for your viewing pleasure.

Here’s a short video with a May 4th wish delivered by R2D2.

And finally, a link to a fun and geeky Star Wars website. Enjoy!

(And by the way, my new book, Owl Light, has several science fiction stories in it for SF readers.)

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On Easter, most readers are thinking of Beatrix Potter’s rabbits, Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, Peter, and their cousin Benjamin Bunny. Instead, I thought of CS Lewis today. Why? For starters, a writer friend sent me a video featuring a pair of beavers repairing their home during a warm spell.

It is still winter, and ice remains. A warm wind has caused a bit of a thaw, so the beavers are out and about. They ignore the photographer, and go about their beaver business. Which would be interesting enough, but about 2 minutes into the video – one of the beavers stands on his hind feet and carries a load of sticks.

This wild beaver suddenly reminded me of Mr. Beaver and his wife from CS Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Many of you will recall the first encounter with Mr. Beaver from the movie – how he startles Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy by speaking, and seeming quite comfortable standing on 2 legs.

In the book, after staying at Mr. and Mrs. Beaver’s home for a bit, the three children and the Beavers rush into the night and try to keep ahead of the White Queen and her forces who are in pursuit. As they trudge through the winter woods, Lucy becomes tired.

CS Lewis writes: “And she stopped looking at the dazzling brightness of the frozen river with all its waterfalls of ice and at the white masses of the tree-tops and the great glaring moon and the countless stars and could only watch the little short legs of Mr. Beaver going pad-pad-pad-pad through the snow in front of her as if they were never going to stop. Then the moon disappeared and the snow began to fall once more…”

But CS Lewis fans know that spring and Aslan are on their way. Most CS Lewis fans also know Aslan will sacrifice himself for Edmund’s bad behavior, be killed by the witch and her followers, then, be reborn.

And so, Easter is indeed a perfect time to not only think of  Beatrix Potter and her Tale of Peter Rabbit, but also to think of CS Lewis and his Chronicles of Narnia.

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I was invited to participate in Darkover this past Thanksgiving weekend in Timonium, Maryland. Wow! What a wonderful con. I was part of several panels including substituting at the last moment on the “Animal Sidekicks” panel for a couple of writers who had planes/rides to catch.

I love adding animal sidekicks in my stories. Per the advice of Dr. John Flynn, who taught “Writing Science Fiction” as part of my Masters in Professional Writing Degree Program & served as my advisor for 2 Independent Studies on writing science fiction & fantasy prose, I try my hardest to avoid cats, dogs, and horses. Now, it’s not because I don’t love cats, dogs, and horses — but rather because they’re the most common animals used.

 So what critters have I used as sidekicks or important characters in my stories? In “Assassins,” I use a singing opossum – it’s genetically altered, hence the singing and glow-in-the-dark eyes. In “Birdling,” a robin is an important character. I must admit to using a one-eyed dog and three-legged cat in “Appleheads,” but they’re really a goblin and bogle, so I’m not sure if that counts. In “Toad,” I use a toad. (That was hard to guess, I know!) In “Henkie’s Fiddle,” a calf-shaped buggane is a sidekick. In “Weathermaker,” a Chinese dragon has a starring role. In a novel I’m pecking away at, I use rats and pigeons as sidekicks. I’m also currently at work on several stories where owls are either a sidekick or necessary character. Then, there’s this tale where telepathic beetles bond with the protagonist…

The advice I gave on the Darkover panel (with a nod to Dr. Flynn) is still good — “Think outside the box.” Cats, dogs, and horses make fabulous sidekicks and characters, but so do spiders (EB White’s “Charlotte’s Web”), cockroaches (Suzanne Collins’ “The Underland Chronicles”), beavers (CS Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia”), polar bears (Philip Pullman’s “The Golden Compass”), snakes (JK Rowling’s “Harry Potter”), and even trees (JRR Tolkien’s Treebeard in “Lord of the Rings”).

I think readers like to read about cats, dogs, and horses — but they probably would like a pinch of emu, lizard, and lion, too.

Till next I blog: Happy reading! Happy writing! And thanks so much to the folks at Darkover for inviting me.

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Bonshaw Tower & Estate

Several people have asked me of late  why I chose The Greener Forest as the title of my first book of fantasy short stories. The title actually comes from a trip I took to Scotland with my mom, 3 sisters, and a bus full of distant cousins in 2009. These cousins are all associated with the Scottish Clan Irwin Association — and yes, if you go back a few generations, one of my ancestors was the American Revolutionary War hero, General William Irvine.

Drum Castle

The trip included visits to numerous historical and cultural locations: Edinburgh, Isle of Iona, Culloden, Fort George, Aboyne Highland Games, Urquhart Castle along Loch Ness, Glencoe, Aberdeen City Hall, Stirling Castle, Wallace Monument…

One of the most unique things about this trip was a tour of Bonshaw Tower & Estate in the border area led by present laird, Christopher Irving, and a tea hosted by his lovely wife, Claire. The second very special part of the trip was a tour of Drum Castle & Gardens given by David Irvine, 26th Baron of Drum and Chief of the Name and Lady Carolyn.

Drum Castle Greener Trees

It was while visiting Drum Castle, that I wandered into the woods near the small stone Drum Chapel. This little bit of Irvine woods seemed greener and more steeped in myth & Faerie than almost anywhere else I’d ever been. I was quite certain that if no one else was about, a hobbit or elf or other shy Tolkien creature might pop his head around the side of a tree and motion for me to follow them into the even greener depths of the forest. Or I’d stroll between an arch of branches and find myself in Narnia chatting with a faun.

More Drum Castle trees

And that’s when I decided the book of fantasy stories I wanted to put together should be titled: The Greener Forest.

My stories are certainly not equal to those of JRR Tolkien or CS Lewis, but I nevertheless try to put a little of the same magic into them. Readers, if you like fantasy, I hope you’ll give The Greener Forest a look. Writers, if you have the good fortune to travel — keep your ears and eyes open. You never know when inspiration will be standing in front of you. 

 And writers, remember Cold Moon Press: http://coldmoonpress.com  is actively looking for new authors. What do they want? Buy my book and you’ll see!

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 All 3 of my eShort stories: Assassins, Sideshow by the Sea, and Bells, are YA/Cross-Overs. YA (young adult) books are written for the teenage reader. But some books that feature older teen and young adult characters, like Stephenie Meyer’s vampire-werewolf “Twilight” series, cross-over and become bestsellers in the adult book market.

Adults of all ages can enjoy a Cross-Over book’s plot twists, varied characters, and carefully constructed world. One of the earliest Cross-Overs I purchased for my bookshelf was JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Though Bilbo Baggins is middle-aged in human years, in hobbit years he is a young adult. Tolkien meticulously built a complex world with its own races, geography, history, creatures, rules of war, clothing, and magic.

The book was a precursor to The Lord of the Rings trilogy which also features a young hobbit, Frodo, as the protagonist. Adding to the YA feel of The LOTR trilogy is the boyish friendship of Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin. But the tangle of plots, subplots, themes, and characters that weave their way through The Lord of the Rings are rich enough to snag countless adult readers.

C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and the rest of his Chronicles of Narnia are also YA/Cross-Over books. Written for the teen (and preteen) reader, the series continues to be read by adults young and old.

Another Cross-Over series I’ve filled my book shelves with is Terry Brooks’ The Sword of Shannara, The Elfstones of Shannara, The Wishsong of Shannara, etc. These aren’t really YA books, you might say. But I submit to you that indeed they began as a coming of age story of 2 young men, Shea and Flick, in a carefully crafted world. And then, the Shannara books topped the New York Times bestseller list and became one of the favorite fantasy series of many adult readers.

The last cross-over series I’ll mention is J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter. Harry, Ron, and Hermoine, the three main characters in Rowlings’ classic coming of age tales, begin their literary journey as 12-year-olds. And as such, attracted a faithful readership of preteens and teens. But it’s the cross-over into the adult market that has help make the books one of the most successful fantasy series ever published.

 I’m not the only one to notice and celebrate the increase in both the numbers and quality of YA/Cross-Over books. The Baltimore Sun, March 14, 2010, p.4, A&E section featured an article by Susan Carpenter in which she quotes Lizzie Skurnick, author of a collection of essays about YA literature: “I think part of the reason we’re seeing adults reading YA is that often there’s no bones made about the fact that a YA book is explicitly intended to entertain…YA authors are able to take themselves less seriously. They’re able to have a little more fun…”

 And that’s why YA/Cross-Over books Rock!

They’re entertaining, enlightening, and thought-provoking – but most of all – they’re fun! So why not check-out my YA/Cross-Over story, For the Good of the Settlement And soon, you’ll be able to read some of my other YA/Cross-Overs: The Return of Gunnar Kettilson in Cemetary Moon and Gifts in the Dark in Dia de los Muertos.

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