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Interview with Mercedes Rochelle about her novel Godwine Kingmaker

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Mercedes Rochelle has written a fascinating novel about Earl Godwine whose son, Harold Godwineson, became the last Anglo-Saxon King of England.  I recently interviewed her about the novel.  In the interview, she tells about her interest in real people who lived in the past and the challenges of writing about events that took place a 1000 years ago.

Mercede’s Tapest

Q: You write historical fiction. What about this genre attracts you?

It’s ironic to me that I fell in love with historical fiction without really understanding that it was a genre! All the way through my college days, I gobbled up all the Sir Walter Scott and Alexandre Dumas novels I could get my hands on. Then one day, as I was reading “The White Company” by Arthur Conan Doyle, I realized that I was trusting them to give me a history lesson the easy way (I thought I didn’t like history until I was well into my college years). When I started writing, I decided to carry on the tradition. Then I discovered the concept of genre.

Q: If you were to describe your writing to someone who hasn’t read anything by you before, what would you say?

I aspire to the sub-genre of Historical Fiction that we call Historical Faction. I like to write about real people and real happenings; my style is to put flesh on the bones of the events we read about in history books. What motivated these people? How do we get from point A to point B? History often tells us what happened; I like to write about where, when, how, and why.

 

Q: What is Godwine Kingmaker about?

Earl Godwine was a self-made man who came to power in the reign of Canute the Great. He became the most powerful earl in England, and more importantly, the father of Harold Godwineson, the last Anglo-Saxon king. Without Godwine there never would have been a Harold II, for they were commoners and came to power strictly on the basis of merit. But Harold was the second son, and Godwine wasted a lot of effort on his eldest son Swegn, whose misdeeds derailed his best efforts and brought shame on the whole family. Godwine loved Canute, but when the Danish king died unexpectedly, his life was never the same. Along with his power came a struggle to keep his enemies at bay, and eventually his disappointments took their toll, leaving his legacy to Harold.

Q: At what point in writing the book did you come up with its title?

I came upon the moniker Kingmaker early in my research. I doubt he was called that in his lifetime, but some historians were happy to call him that and I think it stuck. Because he was the Earl of Wessex, his support was critical to Canute’s successors and especially to Edward the Confessor, who was a stranger to England and needed guidance.

Q: Where is it set and how did you decide on the setting?

In eleventh-century England, I had to get used to the idea that there were very few stone buildings; that came later, with the Normans. Hence, not many residences survived. Also, I had to figure out where Godwine lived. Wealthy noblemen owned hundreds of manors all over the country. I’m sure I’ve “missed the boat” locating local references to Godwine, since I don’t live in the UK. As it turned out, finding Bosham (in West Sussex) turned out to be surprisingly easy, because this is the spot Harold departed from on his ill-fated visit to Normandy in 1064, It is actually depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry. Local legend suggests that Canute also built a residence in Bosham, possibly on the foundations of a palace used by Vespasian (future emperor of Rome).

London was a lot tougher for me. Westminster Abbey wasn’t built until Edward the Confessor came along, so that location was still known at Thoney Island (sounds attractive, doesn’t it?). I had to stay inside the old Roman Walls, and discovered that Canute probably used the old palace between St. Paul’s and the Thames, built on the same spot as the later Baynard’s Castle. It might have been easier to place my scenes in a generic building, but finding real references—even if they are gone—adds legitimacy to the story. Of course, it’s not always possible.

Q: Tell us a little about your research.

Finding historical sources for events 1000 years ago is challenging, to say the least. For instance, there are no first-hand accounts of the Battle of Hastings. This is why so many people use the Bayeux Tapestry as a source, stylized though it is; at least the seamstresses were probably around when William invaded. For the rest, we are reliant on chronicles written by monks—many of whom were given second-hand information. And of course, some of them were biased—especially against men who offended their religious sensibilities. So the “source material” we must use—with the exception of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle—was written at best a couple of hundred years later. And the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’s entries are maddeningly brief. We have Norman sources that contradict English sources. In fact, most of our sources contradict each other, depending on their agenda. A good “modern” historian, especially my favorite, Edward A. Freeman (OK, he was a Victorian), will document all the different angles. The novelist (me) gets to pick the version I like best.

 

Q: Can you give us an example?

My hero, Earl Godwine, had many admirers and just as many detractors. There was a terrible event that nearly destroyed his reputation, and to this day no one agrees on what happened. After Canute died he was succeeded by his eldest son Harold Harefoot. Queen Emma’s sons Edward and Alfred (sons of Aethelred the Unready) were exiles in Normandy, and decided to test the waters, so to speak. Alfred landed in Wessex with a small following, only to be apprehended by Godwine. While still in Godwine’s custody, Alfred was arrested on order of the king, his companions were killed or enslaved, and Alfred was taken to Ely and blinded. He soon died of his wounds and Godwine was blamed for the heinous deed. Some said Godwine did it himself, some said he did it under orders; others said Godwine willingly turned Alfred over to the king’s men and had nothing to do with the murder. Some said Harold’s men forcibly removed Alfred from Godwine’s custody. Edward (later the king) blamed Godwine; that much is certain. As you might expect I selected the last interpretation; I can’t see any motivation for Godwine to do such an explosive deed, which would certainly not enhance his prestige.

 

Q: Which scene did you find the most challenging to write and why?

It seems to be a maxim that every novel must have some kind of romance, and any romance must start out as some kind of conflict. Actually, Godwine and his wife Gytha seem to have had a good marriage considering how many children they produced. On the other hand, Gytha was a noblewoman and Godwine was a commoner. Why would she be willing to marry under her station? This really bothered me, until I saw the opportunity to explain why things went so wrong with their eldest son Swegn, who was really a black sheep. If Gytha was forced into marriage with Godwine, she could very well resent her first born and reject him. I had a hard time putting this together and I guess I did it too well, judging from the hostile comments toward her in my reviews!

 

Q: Regardless of genre, what elements do you think make a great novel? Do you consciously ensure all of these are in place?

What I look for in a novel is movement, flow, and imparting details in a way what flows into the narrative. I want a page-turner. I don’t want to spend a lot of time reading background information. There’s a way to spoon-feed attributes or imagery without slowing down the pace, and I try to concentrate on sneaking it in. I like pithy dialogue that makes me think. I also like shorter paragraphs than some authors tend to use; it can be exhausting reading too many long paragraphs in a row. I try to mix long and short sentences, which I think looks better on the page. I have my own personal judgment as to whether I like a novel or not. If I can read it on the treadmill and forget about the time, the book is a winner!

Q: John Irving says you can’t teach writing. You can only recognize what’s good and say ‘keep doing that.’ Do you think that’s true?

Only after you’ve been practicing for a while. I’m a firm believer that the more you read, the better you’ll be able to write. I get my best inspiration about “flow” from reading the old masters. It’s not easy to go back and read stuff I devoured in my formative years, but when I do, I recognize the greatness of these classic authors. Some, like Dickens, seem old-fashioned now, but I recognize the power of his third-person omniscient point of view (which I’m agonizing over during my current work-in-progress). Or Dumas, whose characters leap off the page with their remarkable characterizations. How can you not love d’Artagnan—that artless, clever, flighty, honorable, attractive bundle of contradictions? I think without those old mentors I never would have absorbed the complexities of the historical novel.

Below is a trailer of Godwine kingMaker:

Trailer: https://youtu.be/tbaEcHQP4nA

Merecedes’ Website: http://www.MercedesRochelle.com

Godwine Kingmaker is on sale on Amazon in October for $0.99, so if this interview peaked your interest, grab a copy.

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Godwine-Kingmaker-Great-Saxon-Earls-ebook/dp/B00UMARTCU

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Check out this new release: You Can Never Go Wrong By Being Kind

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You Can Never Go Wrong By Being Kind: 101 Inspirational Stories of Kindness & Generosity

By Zeal Okogeri

Exceptionally positive and encouraging, this book contains compelling true stories by 67 authors from around the globe, and from all walks of life, who have united to share their personal experiences with the transformative potential of kindness.
Within each story is a gift for you. As you are transported around the world by these extraordinary stories, you’ll be gifted with wisdom, love, compassion, forgiveness, hope, laughter, gratitude, acceptance, and the awareness that life is not possible without kindness. As you read these stories, you will learn how to:

• Be happier and live a fuller and more satisfying life by practicing kindness
• Recognize opportunities for giving and receiving kindness wherever you are
• Transform your life through relentless acts of kindness
• Get unstuck and transcend your creative block through acts of kindness
• Trust more and count your blessings
• Set yourself free through forgiveness
• Develop a kind heart through meditation and spirituality
• Recognize the role of animals in teaching us how to love unconditionally
• Improve your health through spontaneous acts of kindness and compassion
• Multiply your favors through gratitude
• Be kind to yourself
• Cultivate the courage to follow your heart and intuition
• Find more reasons to continue having faith in humanity

Dr. Zeal Okogeri is an inspirational speaker, author, coach, and storyteller. A progeny of generations of African indigenous healers, Zeal leads meditation retreats to Tibet, Nepal, and India. He also travels around the United States and other countries sharing Kindness and Wisdom stories and teaching the Light and Sound Current meditation. Through his writings and lectures, Zeal inspires people to seek the highest and best for themselves. His philosophy is simple, and can be summarized in his celebrated quote: You can never go wrong by being kind.

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Five qualities of a good novel as shown in the book Shane

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Shane

I just finished reading the classic western Shane by Jack Schaefer, which was published in 1949 and made into a movie in 1953.  The novel set me to reflecting on what made it a best-seller that is still read in schools and has stayed popular for so many years.  As the St. George Daily Spectum wrote: “Shane is a work of literature first and a Western second.”  What qualities does it have that make it a work of literature?

Interestingly, the novel opens at a slow pace.  Today’s writers are taught to open with action or grab the reader’s attention in some way.  However, in this book the author takes his time introducing the characters and setting. The result is very effective.

Here is the opening paragraph: “He rode into our valley in the summer of ’89.  I was a kid then, barely topping the backboard of father’s old chuckwagon.  I was on the upper rail of our small corral, soaking in the late afternoon sun, when I saw him far down the road where it swung into the valley from the open plain beyond.” (p. 1)

For the next eight paragraphs, the boy continues to describe the horseman as he rides closer and closer, then finally into the farmstead where the boy observes him.

This slow pace allows the reader to see the stranger and enter into the world the boy, Bob, lives in.  It is told from the intimate first-person point of view.  We see the horseman, the small town, the river and the fork in the road as the rider draws closer and finally into view.  Bob tells us the stranger’s clothes are different from the local people.  He wears tall boots and a belt, both made of a soft black leather tooled in intricate design and a “finespun” linen shirt.

A child’s viewpoint is an interesting way to tell the story because Bob is a keen observer of life, yet he is young and doesn’t understand everything that’s going on.  We, as the reader, left to our own interpretation of people and events, have deeper insights into what is going on.

The plot is fairly straight-forward.  Bob and his parents live on a farm and a mysterious stranger rides onto their land and asks for a drink of water.  The father, Joe, soon recognizes that Shane is the kind of man whom nobody will push around and asks him to stay as a farmhand.

Shane hires on and is loyal to the family, so when a powerful rancher tries to drive out the local farmers, Shane is pulled into the deadly conflict.

The story focuses more on character development than action and the topics of courage, honor, love and heroes are explored.

The book is relatively short, yet it will draw you in from the beginning and keep you reading to the end, leaving you to ponder its depth and layers of meaning.

The reader never does find out about Shane’s background and what it is he’s trying to escape.  He finds serenity and inner peace on the farm, but this is broken by the tension in town between the farmers and the large rancher.

So what makes this a good novel?

  1. It has well-developed characters with heroic qualities that we care about.
  2. It has an interesting plot with high stakes, both in terms of how the outcome will affect the character’s lives and how it will force them to grow and change.
  3. It has great descriptions and metaphors. Here is the boy’s description of a stump. “It was big enough, I used to think, so that if it was smooth on top you could have served supper to a good-sized family.” (p. 18)
  4. The author, Jack Schaefer, shows the reader what’s going on instead of telling him, leaving the reader to interpret the situation.
  5. The story has good pacing that gradually builds to the climatic ending.

In conclusion, Shane is a great read for anyone who enjoys a good western.  For writers, it’s an interesting study in what makes a good novel.  As you read the book, look for the five qualities listed above and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What draws the reader into a story and keeps them there?
  2. What universal values and ideas make the story worth telling?

I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments section.  What do you think makes a good novel?  What qualities do you look for in a book?

If you’ve read Shane, I’d also like to hear your thoughts on the characters and story.

 

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Review of Louis L’Amour’s The Walking Drum

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If you’re looking for a good book to read this summer, pick up The Walking Drum by Louis L’Amour.  A friend recommended this book and I’m glad he did because it was an exciting and educational read.

L’Amour published his first novel in 1953 and every one of his over 120 books are still in print.  There are 300 million copies of his books worldwide.  He is one of the bestselling authors of modern times.  Forty-five of his novels have been made into films.

He is best known for capturing the spirit of the American West.  This novel, written in his later years, is a departure from those books. It takes place in the 12th century, starting out in France, crossing medieval Europe and the Russian steppes, and finally ending in Constantinople.

Young Mathurin Kerbouchard of Brittany is thrust into a violent, dangerous world when he returns from a fishing expedition and finds his mother murdered and his home burned to the ground.  He barely escapes with his life only to be captured and forced to be a galley slave.

In L’Amour’s usual style, Kerbouchard goes from one adventure to another as he sets off on a quest to find his father (who is reported to be killed at sea or sold into slavery) and revenge his mother. Kerbouchard is bold to a fault, trained by the Druids to have an amazing memory, a seeker of knowledge who can speak and write many languages, an unusual talent for the times.  He is skilled with a sword, but also relies on his wit as he works toward achieving his nearly impossible goals.

The book is broad in scoop and covers several years as Kerbouchard grows into manhood.  He faces life with courage and honor, making friends and enemies along the way.  He is a unique character whom the reader will remember long after they finish the book.  We see the 12th century world through Kerbouchard’s active, intelligent mind.  He travels from the dark, dirty cities in France where the Christian church forbids new ideas and books are rare, to the Moslem cities of Spain where books are plentiful and scholars are valued.

The book reads quickly, especially the first half, which is filled with one hair-raising adventure after another.  But it slows down in places where Kerbouchard, a brilliant scholar interested in different ideas and places, tells us the history of the city he’s traveled to and shares his philosophy of life with other scholars.

In his Author’s Notes section, L’ Amour said he was fascinated by this period of history.  He feels that our schools ignore two thirds of world.  “Of China, India and the Muslim world almost nothing is said, yet their contribution to our civilization was enormous, and they are now powers with which we must deal both today and tomorrow, and which it would be well for us to understand.

“One of the best means of introduction to any history is the historical novel.” p. 462

L’Amour planned to write two more books about Kerbouchard’s adventures; regrettably, he died before he completed them.

I was partly intrigued by the book because I also researched this area of the world for my book Annoure and the Dragon Ships.  My historical saga is set almost 400 hundred years earlier and takes the reader from Saxon England, to Viking Norway, to the Russian steppes.  It was interesting to see how the world had changed over those four centuries.

If you’re in the mood for a fascinating, exciting adventure filled with treachery, violence, passion, love and friendship, check out The Walking Drum by best-selling author Louis L’Amour.

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Book review of Exit Five From Charing Cross by Valerie Keogh

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Book review of Exit Five From Charing Cross by Valerie Keogh

 

Exit Five From Charing Cross by Valerie Keogh is told in first person. Jake Mitchell begins his story by talking about missed opportunities and wonderful lives almost lived. “A life like mine.” We find out he’s at work at his dream job where he’s worked eight years. He set out to be rich and achieved his goal. “money was God.” But now business has dried up and he’s struggling to hold on. He leaves work to meet his best friend Adam at a café at Charing Cross. Sitting outside the café, is a woman he’s instantly attracted to and hopes to see again.

 

After this initial opening Jake goes back in time and tells us how he met Adam, and then about his family. Over the course of the book we learn of the lies he told and how, once they were told, he had to keep lying to keep his secrets. One poor decision led to another as Jake set out to build a “wonderful life”. At the end of chapter four he says, “Didn’t know then, in my enthusiastic youth, that every little action, choice and deed had a consequence.”

 

What makes this book interesting is how we see the world through Jake’s eyes and hear his inner thoughts. We learn why he lied and what led to the destructive decisions he made.

 

The book was an enjoyable, quick read with a haunting quality to it. The story twists and turns in interesting ways and has a surprise ending. I reminded of the recent movie Gone Girl in that things are always what they appear.

 

I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy psychological thrillers. It’s well written with a strong plot and well developed characters.

 

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Book review of The Immortal Life of Piu Piu: A Magical Journey Exploring the Mystery of Life after Death (Dance Between Worlds Book 1)

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African author Bianca Gubalke has written an uplifting visionary fiction novel about the journey of soul. It started out in the first chapter with Anata, a soul in the inner realms, talking to an elder about her next life. She’s picked a hard life for her spiritual advancement in a small village in Western Cape coast of South Africa. A place that is beautiful with numerous plant species, animals, mountains, and ocean.

 

The elder warned Anata that her memory of who she really is as soul will disappear so she can create a new life. She won’t remember her true home but will search for it.

In the second chapter, we met a little girl named Pippa and MadMax (a delightful talking cat). They heard a peep and find a little gosling on the ground. Pippa brought it into the house, determined to take care of the small, helpless creature. Thus begins the tale of Pippa, MadMax and her goose Piu Piu.

The story explored the loving relationship between humans and animals and included many beautiful photographs of plants and animals.

The novel had a powerful message because it delved into the spiritual realms and the longing of soul to return home in a time when many baby boomers are wondering what happens after they die.

In places, the story of Piu Piu, the goose, reminded me of Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Both birds long for freedom.

The book also reminded me of Oversoul Seven by Jean Roberts, which is about Oversoul Seven who runs three bodies at once in different times and places as part of his education.

I had been exposed to the idea that soul takes part in choosing their next life in Dr. Michael Newton’s work Journey of Souls and Life Between Lives. Dr. Newton hypnotized people to take them back to their childhood so they could heal. Once when he hypnotized someone they ended up in the inner realm where soul goes between lives. After that Dr. Newton took many people back to their life between lives on earth and asked soul about their experience there.

In the Immortal Life of Piu Piu I was fascinated to see how Bianca was able to weave together the idea of soul living more than one life and choosing that life based on what that soul needed to learn for its spiritual growth. I especially enjoyed the action-filled second half of the book that shares the backstory of Pippa’s parents during a raging forest fire.

The end of the book was a treat for it nicely tied up the whole book and brought clarity to the story.

I highly recommend this story for those who enjoy visionary fiction. You might find yourself wondering if this is simply a magical world where animals talk, have human emotions and past life memories or if there is a golden thread of truth that can help us in our own journey home.

Do you believe in reincarnation?  Do you have any memories of a past life?  Do you think we decide what our next life will be?

Here is a wonderful book trailer of the novel.

 

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Book Review of The Passion of Marie Romanov by Laura Rose

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The Passion of Marie Romanov by Laura Rose is written as a diary and has the intimacy of Ann Frank’s diary in the book Diary of Ann Frank. Both novels are about young women in dire circumstances during a time of war. Laura Rose used Marie’s actual diaries to give the reader insights into her character and life. The story opens at the point where Marie’s father, Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia, is forced to abdicate.

The story moves between Marie’s current life of hardships and her memories of her former life of privilege as she recalls all the wonderful times her family had together.

In the beginning of the story Marie draws you into her world as she describes in detail the beauty of the palace and her love for her four siblings who are all seriously ill with measles. She is devoted to her mother as together they nurse her siblings. Marie and her mother wonder why the tsar hasn’t returned home or at least contacted his family. It’s winter and Marie lives in increasing fear of the large mobs that could attack the palace, of her siblings dying, and of her father being executed.

Then Marie falls ill with the measles and her own suffering seems to reflect the suffering of the Russian people. Millions were wounded, captured or died in WW 1 and citizens at home suffered from poverty and starvation.

The former Tsar is finally allowed to return to the palace where his family now is being held under house arrest. During their imprisonment, they are moved to Siberia and then to a house in the Ural Mountains.

By the spring of 1918 Russia is in the midst of a civil war. Imprisoned inside the house, Marie longs for a love like her parents have and for freedom for herself and her family.

Instead, in July of 1918 the family is brutally killed. The author chose to describe their murders and the disposals of the bodies in vivid detail through the eyewitness account of a young soldier. The descriptions are as chilling as a horror novel. The gruesome ending seemed unnecessary and some readers may choose to not read that section.

The book could have benefitted from more details about the history of the time to give the reader insights as to why Nicholas II had to abdicate and what led to the family being killed. Marie was nineteen by the end of the story and should have had some awareness of the plight of the Russian people.

Overall the book was worth reading to learn more about the fall of the Russian Empire in a very personal way.

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Book Review of The Bears and I by Robert Franklin Leslie

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The Bears and I

The Bears and I

A friend gave my husband The Bears and I.  I picked it up to see what it was about and once I started reading I couldn’t put it down until I finished it.

The story is set in the wilderness of British Columbia where Bob, the author, is panning for gold for the summer when an old sow bear leaves him with triplet orphaned black bear cubs.  Bob’s heart goes out to the small creatures that he describes as the size of teddy bears and he decides to raise them until they are old enough to survive on their own.  The cubs end up sharing his cabin. They even sleep with him in his sleeping bag.

What makes this story remarkable is the amazing bond of love that develops between Bob and these three bear cubs and the insights we gain into bears.  After reading this book I don’t think I’ll ever look at them the same.  The bear cubs each had a distinct personality and enjoyed playing tricks on each other. They also had a wonderful spirit of fun and adventure.

As the cubs grew older they also learned to hunt together and to protect each other. They were highly intelligent creatures and soon learned their names and to respond to simple voice commands and gestures.  Like when there was danger Bob would say tree and point to the tree and they would run up it.

The book is also an exciting adventure story especially in the first half as Bob tries to keep these three cubs alive against all the dangers of the wilderness including predators that eat bear cubs.  There is also a devastating fire that sweeps across the forest they live in and a harrowing journey by canoe deeper into the wilderness with a winter’s worth of supplies.

The author vividly describes nature with its plants, flowers, birds, animals and changes in season in such detail that I felt I was right there with him every step of the way.

It helped that I’ve had enough of my own experience in the wilderness to relate to his.  I’ve been backpacking in the Bitterroot and Rocky Mountains in the United States and in the Canadian Rockies. I’ve also been canoeing in the Boundary waters wilderness of the US and Canada.  I’ve experienced having a bear come to my campsite at night and breaking the branch of a tree where we’d carefully tied up our food bag ten feet above the ground.  I’ve also paddled a canoe across rough lakes in the rain with high winds and chopping waves.

I could also relate to Bob’s winter experiences with deep snow and long months of cold weather as I live just across the Canadian border in Minnesota.

Moreover, the book is enjoyable because the writing is excellent with detailed descriptions, original metaphors and good insights into life.  Bob wrestles with questions like how much of the wilderness should be a game refuge or park and how to do we protect wild animals.  Bob also ponders the questions of why animals live by killing one another and why there are forest fires, which wipe out so many of the creatures that live there.

Here is a link to the movie trailer:

http://video.disney.com/watch/the-bears-and-i-trailer-4beae8d9badd4dc60c94e3f9

Here is a link to John Denver singing a song he wrote for the movie.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4aVEbHR8UE

 

 

 

 

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The Long-Shining Waters by Danielle Sosin

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The Long-shining Water

The Long-shining Water

My sister gave me The Long-Shining Waters as a holiday gift. She attended a book event hosted by the author and snagged me a signed copy.

The book takes place on Lake Superior. Since my family has a vacation home there, I was especially interested in reading the book. My sister thought of me because one character in the book is a Native American woman who has powerful dreams. I’m interested in both Native Americans and dreams and even wrote a novel about a Native American woman called Red Willow’s Quest.

Photo of Lake Superior near our house

Photo of Lake Superior near our house

The book explores the lives of three women who lived on Lake Superior in three different time periods. Grey Rabbit is an Ojibwe woman who lives with her husband, two sons and mother-in-law in 1622. She has a series of frightening dreams that cause her to fear for her sons during winter when food is scarce.

Berit lives in 1902 with her Norwegian husband who is a fisherman. Their home is isolated, leaving Berit with no friends. She faces a terrible loss and struggles to survive.

Nora is a modern woman in 2000 who owns a bar. Her life comes undone and she’s faced with a damaged relationship with her adult daughter and makes a journey around Lake Superior.

A fourth character is Lake Superior with its storms, waves and moods.

Prose poetry is interspersed between the chapters, setting a feeling and mood with detailed descriptions of nature. In the beginning is an Ojibwe hunting song:

 

The eagle, the eagle

Patient like him

From the rocks on high

You will perceive a lake. . .

 

The narrative rotates between these three women’s lives with each chapter changing from one woman to another. The writer has a background in short stories and the book felt like three separate short stories mixed together with little connecting them but Lake Superior. I got caught up in Berit’s story and skipped that chapters the pertained to Grey Rabbit and Nora then went back and read them.

The story is well-researched and the author was funded by two Arrowhead Regional Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowships Grants and by the McKnight Foundation. The author was also the recipient of the Loft Mentor Series Award. The book won the Milkweed National Fiction Prize.

The descriptions in this book are exquisite. Here is an example from the opening. “The cold wind off the lake sets the pines in motion, sets their needled tops drawing circles in the sky. It cuts through boughs and they rise and fall, dropping snow that pits the white surface below. The hardened leaves rattle and sail, and the limbs of the paper birch sway, holding the sky in heavy wedges.” p. 1.

The book examines the three women’s desire for meaning in life when faced with challenges and tragedy. If you’re looking for a book with rich, detailed prose that explores human emotions and universal needs, check out Sosin’s The Long-Shining Waters.

Lake Superior near our house

Lake Superior near our house

How important do you think the power of place is to most stories? In the book and recent movie The Martian, place was central to the story.   Gone with the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird had to take place in the southern United States. What other stories can you think of where place is important to the story? If you’re a writer, have you ever thought of location being a voice or character?

 

 

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Those Who Love by Irving Stone

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Those Who Love

Those Who Love

After a pipe burst in the basement, I started sorting through things in storage to see what could be salvaged. I came across boxes of books I’d read and loved, wanted to read, or those that merely accumulated over the years. I started leafing through them to see what I wanted to keep or give away.

It was a dangerous task. When determining if I want to give away a book, I read some of the beginning and sometimes found myself sucked into the story. Those Who Love by Irving Stone was one of those books.

I’ve read other books by Irving Stone: The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo; Lust for Life (a fictionalized biography of Vincent Van Gogh); and Love Is Eternal about Mary and Abraham Lincoln. I always found the books well-researched and told in a way that brought insight about the personal lives and personalities of the characters.

Those Who Love: A Biographical Novel of Abigail and John Adams is written in much the same tone as those other wonderful books. It’s told through Abigail’s experiences. It begins when Abigail and Adams first became involved and ends many years later after Adams finishes his term as the second president of the United States of America.

The novel is a love story about two people who had the same goals during an important time in history. It also tells of the great sacrifices they made for this nation.

I found the book fascinating because John and Abigail were at the heart of all the events that led up to the Revolution and setting up a republic. They had a house in Boston and a farm close by. Boston is where many famous events took place, such as the Boston Tea Party, and where the Revolution began. The Adams also knew many of the important people that were part of history, such as Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.

Through John and Abigail’s story, Stone explains all the events that led up to the American colonies rebelling against England. Taxation was one big reason. England wanted the American colonies to pay for the French and Indian War and decided to tax them without representation. People in the colonies wanted the same rights as people in England. Step-by-step the colonies came closer

John Adams was a lawyer who studied the history of government and republics. He was instrumental to the Americans gaining freedom through his writings. During the war, he was an ambassador in France working with Benjamin Franklin. Adams helped inspire Congress to form a republic with a balance of power between the Senate, House of Representatives and the President of the United States.

He was vice president during George Washington’s eight years as president and worked closely with him. When Washington’s term was over, Adams was elected as the second President of the United States.

Abigail supported John in all he did. She ran the farm and raised their children alone while Adams was in Congress during the colonial days and when he was abroad as an ambassador during the Revolution.

She joined him at formal functions with the King and Queen of England after the war when John was an ambassador there. She also entertained politically with him in Philadelphia when he was vice president and president.

In the book we learn about the Adams’ puritan values, their siblings, cousins and friends and how they supported each other sometimes and disagreed about important issues at other times.

For an intimate view into one of the most important eras in American history through the eyes of two famous people, I highly recommend this epic novel.

What people throughout history have you enjoyed reading about and why? Who are your favorite authors in this writing genre? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

 

 

 

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