Tristan & Iseult

October 14, 2019 at 3:14 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Tristan and Iseult, Tristan and Isolde, Drustan and Yseult… the variations of spellings are endless, but the way the names – and the story – roll of the tongue, largely stay the same.

I didn’t read the story growing up, but I gathered the main plot points throughout other literary references my whole life. The story was built slowly, for me, an allusion here, a quip there, until when I watched Legends of the Fall for the first time in college, I thought I understood the the gist of the movie’s genius: naming the wild heart that could not be tamed “Tristan” and subtly throwing in that his wife’s name was Isabel.

The movie is based on a book by Jim Harrison, that I later read and was not so smitten by, I even wrote a less than glowing review here. But in finally reading Tristan & Iseult both to myself and aloud to my daughter, I’m finding the desire to re-read Jim Harrison’s novella swelling in my literary soul.

The part that never sunk in through other literature, or the heavily influenced King Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot love-triangle–the part that left me briefly chuckling in a “Oh I see what they did there” –was that there are TWO Iseults. (And *spoiler* Tristan’s wife in Legends of the Fall is known as Isabel Two.) The story of Tristan and Iseult follows the tale of Tristan falling in love with Iseult the Fair, Queen of Cornwall, but marrying another Iseult, called Iseult of Whitehands. If you wanted to twist literature and try to be one of those people who got extra creative, telling authors what they were really trying to say and all that, you could say the wild-hearted Tristan had mommy issues and was Oedipally in love with the first Isabel. But that’s just too much…

The point is that literature is pervasive, ancient poems permeating society for generations; legends evolving and growing, but also maintaining. The stories of Tristan & Iseult, in all their incarnations, heavily influenced the King Arthur tales, the theme or forbidden love–no matter how ridiculous–ending in passionate death (Romeo and Juliet, anyone), continue for centuries. Bits and pieces dribbled in to make each new story more rich with nuance and the truths behind the human condition.

John William Waterhouse painting of Tristan & Isolde drinking poison.

So, I found the most “original” version I could find (and still read in English) for myself, and the most kid friendly version for me to read out loud for my eight year old. Rosemary Sutcliff is my go-to when it comes to ancient or medieval tales brought to life for a young audience. Much to my pleasure, she had a Tristan & Iseult published in 1991. Kiddo gave the story 4 stars on Goodreads, “It was really amazing, but also dramatic, and all the love stuff isn’t what would really happen.”

We had many discussions on the difference between love and passion. “Love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, love is not rude or self seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrong. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth…” A man who loves you will never encourage adultery. A woman who loves a man will not participate in adultery. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. Cheating isn’t love, it is passion. Some romance can be romanticized too much. It’s not that the “love stuff isn’t what would really happen,” it’s that it would happen, it does happen, and that’s not love, that’s agonizing obsession.

I enjoy working through literature with her. When she’s in college, I’ll be interested to see what her much more informed reaction will be to Legends of the Fall. As soon as my library is out of storage, I plan to re-read a few things, and see if my own mind has been changed by the experience of reading the literature that came before.

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Summer, September, Circe, and Sea Monsters

September 29, 2019 at 3:41 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Title: Circe

Author: Madeline Miller

We spent a good chunk of our summer reading ancient history and mythology. The summer months of sunshine and blistering heat seem to be the best months for mentally spending time in the mediterranean, Egypt, and all the other places we think of when we imagine gods and goddesses.

I read Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan out loud to my nearly nine year old. Last time I’d done that she was maybe two or three. I picked up history books on Athens and Amazons faster than I could read them; I’m still finishing some of them up now. We recently started Sea of Monsters, the second in the Percy Jackson series, my daughter is smitten, I’m gloriously amused.

One historical novel that did stand out, though, was Circe by Madeline Miller. It started out sounding forcefully archaic, cold, like someone trying to hard to tap into a world of Homeric myth; but as I kept reading I found myself smitten by the sea-witch nymph–just as I believe Miller intended us to be. She starts out cold and heartless and grows warm with each mortal interaction.

It’s interesting to me how pervasive witches, goddesses, and nymphs are in modern day culture, despite having been born of myth thousands of years ago. We are enthralled with books like Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy, captivated by the Percy Jackson series, completely taken in by anything resembling immortality.

Is it our hearts longing for Heaven as Richardson says in Eternity in Our Hearts? So we invent ways that might allow us to stay? Or create reasons why it is better that we don’t? I know I find these stories most intriguing as I watch everything around us die for the oncoming winter.

I look forward to reading The Song of Achilles.

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Interview with Author and Editor Adam D. Jones

September 27, 2019 at 8:31 pm (Interviews) (, , , , , , , , )

Adam D. Jones is a high fantasy author and editor recently responsible for publishing The Lost Legends anthology. Longtime writer, historian, and musician, Lost Legends is his first book.

Who did the cover art? How did you find them?
The very talented Ryan Swindoll handled that. You can reach him at ryan.t.swindoll@gmail.com if you ever need a cover designed. He also took care of designing the insides, the font, the cool little decals, and everything makes it fun to hold a book. Talented guy. Having a great cover is half of the work.

As a writer, what made you decide to pursue editing an anthology for your publishing debut?
At various conferences and writing groups I’ve met talented fantasy writers and always thought it was a shame they weren’t published. I also needed a project to learn how self-publishing works before launching my own novels. It turned out to be a good move. I’ve learned the ropes, but also got some really good stories into the hands of readers.


You have two short stories included in Lost Legends, do you find short stories to be easier or more difficult to write than longer fictions?
Are you kidding? I spent more than years working on Idna’s Journals and it’s only three pages! I completed two novels in that time.

Lost Legends is a fantasy anthology, what draws you to read and write fantasy? What is your favorite aspect of the genre?
It’s fun. I could go on about the mythopoetic origins of the grown-up fairy tale, the foundational works like Phantasties, and how fantasy helps us understand the abstract truths by taking place in another world, but the best part is that it’s just more fun than any other genre. I want to read about monsters and magic. Who doesn’t?

Did you always love fantasy? What were your favorite books as a child?
The Gunslinger by Stephen King is incredible, and I read it every year. I read all of the books every year until the last one finally came out, and I was up until 4 a.m. finishing that one. I read these books when I was…a little too young for them.
I also devoured the Dragonlance stories and always wanted to write something as big and exciting as those.

Stephen King wrote in On Writing that writers should read a lot to keep their technical and creative tool box full. What are your favorite “tool box” books?
Stephen King’s The Wastelands is a perfect study in “how to write a fantasy book with multiple characters.” Rachel Neumieier’s The Floating Islands has great descriptions throughout, and I often open it to the beginning where she explains scenery and somehow it makes for an incredible opening. And many scenes in David Coe’s Children of Amarid are dogeared so I can remember his neat tricks for making things work.

You’re in a writing group. What does that look like? (What do your meetings consist of?) How has this helped you as a writer?
The Milford Method, a critique approach pioneered by Virgina Kidd, is used every meeting. I can’t recommend it enough.

It’s helpful that the group includes science writers, fiction writers, and songwriters, so we all learn a lot from each other.

Of your stories in the anthology, are there any you anticipate seeing spin off into other work?
I’ve been asked to write more about Idna’s Journals, but I prefer to keep it self-contained, leaving the audience to wonder. When I write short works, I try very hard to avoid the temptation of sequels and spurring on further works, because that often leads writers toward bad work. If you’ve only got a few pages, there’s no room for breadcrumbs and easter eggs that lead to the next story.

But there is a place for that sort of thing. Sarah Bale’s evocative story, Thundermoon Bride, will tie into other works she has coming, and I think that’s a good example of using a short story to hint at something bigger.

If The Lost Legends were to become a Netflix Original or Amazon Prime series, who would your ideal cast be for The Candlemaker?
Interesting story. The protagonist was female in the first draft of The Candlemaker. A real dainty woman who looked as threatening as a sofa cushion, making it easier for people to underestimate her. I pictured someone like Emilie de Ravin’s role in Once Upon a Time. I switched the character to a man because my other story in this collection already had a female protagonist, and it was more fun to write about an awkward guy trying to be cool around a woman who obviously knows more than him. Grant Gustin could pull it off.

Jones has another book coming out in November 2019, called Marshall Law, the first in a fantasy/steampunk series, where the discovery of old magic empowers a few survivors to take on the wicked machines of their oppressors. This new voice in fantasy is here to stay.

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Diffuse And Read – September

September 24, 2019 at 3:32 pm (Diffuse And Read) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

2 drops nutmeg
1 drop rosemary
4 drops citrus fresh
2 drops myrtle
1 drop clove

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Sandra Smith Returns

September 18, 2019 at 10:54 pm (Interviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Sandra Smith grew up on a farm with a tremendously large garden. She maintains that if you can’t taste the soil on a carrot, it’s not fresh enough. Although she now lives with her husband, cats, and three chickens in the city, she still manages to grow fruits and vegetables in their backyard garden. 

A licensed ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher, Ms. Smith has enjoyed teaching students from around the world. She began writing her Seed Savers novels while teaching middle school, and the diversity of her students are well-represented in her stories.

Smith is a member of IBPA, the Independent Book Publishers Association and is an 2012 OSU Master Gardener graduate. She gardens and writes at her home in the beautiful and green Pacific Northwest. Smith is the author of the  award-winning Seed Savers series, an MG/YA series set in a future where gardening is illegal.

Recently, after the publication of the last in the Seed Savers series and the republication of her earlier works, she has agreed to do her third interview with Anakalian Whims.

  1. Recently your books got new covers, who did the new art and how did you find them?
    The cover designer is Shannon Bodie of BookWise Design. She helped me find an illustrator through Illustration, Inc., a company she likes to work with. We both liked the work of Alan Baker, so he was hired as the illustrator.
  2. Early in your writing career your books were all published simply under S. Smith, what inspired the change to Sandra Smith?
    When I went with the new publishing company, Flying Books House, I worked with a marketing person and she really wanted me to change to Sandra Smith, so I did. It’s just hard when you have such a common name, which is why I had chosen S. Smith when I first began. Plus, I was already used to signing the double S on bathroom passes as a teacher. 🙂
  3. Now that the series is complete, what do you think has been your greatest lesson? Your greatest reward?
    That’s a tough one. I guess I wish I would have been able to have great covers from the beginning. You know, do everything right. But sometimes the money just isn’t there. Greatest reward? It’s really rewarding to look at the five finished books and think, “I did that. I wrote not one novel, but an entire series. It’s finished.”
  4. I’d like to say I’m one of your biggest fans; aside from myself, who are some of your greatest fans over the years who have really spurred you on while writing?
    You are one of my biggest fans, and definitely my earliest fan outside of family!
    My nieces and nephews were the ones who spurred me on. They were the ones that would ask, “How’s your book coming? Is the next one done yet?” You really need someone to do that. I procrastinated book 5 for a long time. It was such a task to think about how to end things and how to bring all the storylines and characters together. I wrote an entire fantasy novel in between book 4 and 5! That’s how much I put it off.
  5. Stephen King wrote in On Writing that writers should read a lot to keep their technical and creative tool box full. What are your favorite “tool box” books?
    I love On Writing by Stephen King! I try to read current popular middle grade books to know what’s trending. I also like to read just very well-written books that aren’t necessarily middle grade. It helps me see such a variety of writing styles and to know that I don’t have to worry so much about every little thing.
  6. You’ve interviewed with AnaklianWhims before (https://anakalianwhims.com/2014/05/06/texas-tour-interview-with-s-smith/) regarding the book signing tour you did in Texas. What have been the most memorable events you’ve participated in as an author since then?
    School and club visits are always fun. I also really enjoy vending at the National Heirloom Expo or Master Gardener conferences. Places where I get to meet people and tell them about the Seed Savers series. I also spoke at the National Children & Youth Garden Symposium a couple of years ago, and that was a great experience. Oh, and this past April I went to Chicago where I attended an awards banquet and Seed Savers-Treasure won a silver award. That was very exciting!
  7. Prior to that tour of Texas, you also did a general interview and we talked of politics and your intentions for the series (https://anakalianwhims.com/2012/06/15/interview-with-s-smith/). It referred back to one of your own blog posts regarding a seed cleaner eventually losing his job. Do you feel the same way about the direction of society and the purposes of your story? Did you accomplish your goals?
    Yes, I do feel the same way. I still have some goals to meet in terms of the books becoming more widely read, but I’m happy with the finished product.
    People have gotten away from the land. I know not everyone has even a house on a lot, but if a person has even a fairly good-sized pot and some soil and seeds, they can grow something! My husband and I buy no vegetables at all during the summer just because I made part of our lawn a garden space. But that’s a little beside the point. I think eating fresh food is important for good health, and knowing at least where your food comes from and what’s in it, how to prepare it, that’s important. Food rights is (are?) important.
    I like to say there are a lot of nonfiction gardening books out there, “how to” books; Seed Savers are “what if” books. That’s the power of fiction. To immerse yourself in a world that hasn’t yet happened and make you realize you can make a difference.
  8. Now that the series is done, what’s next?
    I need to spend a good amount of time marketing the series now that so much has been invested in it. But I have another book already written and several others started. I’d really like to start something new as well, because editing and rewrites aren’t the same as that first initial draft. I’ve also started writing poetry again, because my soul was really missing that.
  9. Last, but not least, what do you have growing in your garden right now?
    Fall came really abruptly this year. I had a feeling it was going to. So the garden is dwindling. There’s a little corn, beans, tomatoes, sweet peppers, chard, a little broccoli, one kale plant, poor showing of carrots, cabbage, herbs. The usual suspects.
    Thank you for the interview!

Visit the author’s website: https://authorssmith.com

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From a Book Lover

September 15, 2019 at 2:49 pm (Education, Guest Blogger, Reviews) (, , , , )

An unnamed Guest Blogger allowed me to share this…

I have always been a fan of EB White’s children’s books. This is a great biography of him and is beautifully illustrated, too. EB White truly respected children as persons. Here is one of my favorite passages from the book:

“Much of what he wrote was not for children, yet many consider Charlotte’s Web not only White’s magnum opus but one of the best children’s books ever written. Did EB White ever wish he’d written a masterpiece for adults? His stepson Roger Angell said that the thought would not have occurred to him. Andy (EB White) once said, “Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down. Children are demanding. They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth….. Children are game for anything. I throw them hard words and they backhand them over the net.”

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Little Bookshop Books

September 14, 2019 at 1:49 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

If there’s any one particular genre I am more drawn to than another, it is the sub-genre of both fiction and non-fiction that is specifically for bibliophiles: books on books, books about libraries, bookstores, and authors. It’s no wonder that my entire adult life has been dedicated to book blogging and book selling, and as an author, it is what I write about as well.

Imagine my excitement when I saw The Little Paris Bookshop arrive at the used bookstore where I work.

It took me a few months before I broke down and bought it. I kept thinking what I think for most contemporary fiction, there will be dozens of these for a dollar in no time. I wasn’t wrong, there are dozens of them floating around for next to nothing in many places, but I was in a hurry and eager to read something I just knew I would love.

It has taken me a few months to write this review, however, now that I have read it. I had to stew. I had to think. Mainly, because I didn’t love it. Not only did I not love it, there were many parts of the book I was on the verge of strongly disliking it. The disappointment was great, but as a writer of the genre, it’s difficult for me to be critical when the idea is so gorgeous but the execution so awful. It’s style and preference and world view affecting my ability to connect with the story. I know that is true of other people with my own stories, but it never makes it any less unpleasant to hear. And this woman has an international book deal, so what do I know?

Technically, Nina George is far more talented than I am, I’m sure. Yet, I floundered and forced myself to read this. I adore the shop itself — Mr. Perdu’s Literary Apothecary is on a barge no less! The opening chapters are beautifully done, introducing our book expert and his customers. It was Manon, the adultery, the awkward sex scenes, and pretty much every other part of the story that kept me dropping the book in my lap, tilting my head back into the sun, and saying out loud, “Really?”

I nearly didn’t finish it. I was tempted to throw it away.

Now, in September (having read it in July), I’m determined to keep it, but only so I may learn from it. I have placed it on a Goodreads shelf I’m building that I’ve labeled toolbox books, things I either purposefully read to utilize for the honing of my craft or am only keeping so I may reference its strengths and weaknesses later while dissecting my own work.

On the flip side, a few years ago, while I was not blogging regularly, I read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Despite it’s obvious title and glow in the dark cover, I was completely surprised by the content of the story –Yet I loved it! Every second of it was a delight. The same year, I believe, I read and reviewed Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. I cried and cried, it was so beautiful. I could go on listing my favorites: Helene Hanff’s non-fiction collection of real letters 84, Charing Cross Road; award winning Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop; Diane Setterfield’s mysterious The Thirteenth Tale; Christopher Morley’s Parnassus series.

What is your favorite sub-genre? What books have you been disappointed by from this corner of the publishing world? What books moved you to tears?

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A Writing Circle Book Club

September 4, 2019 at 4:56 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

Years ago, I read a book about a writer’s circle. I was intrigued by it and I wrote a review: https://anakalianwhims.wordpress.com/2015/12/11/the-writing-circle/. I believe at the time I joined a Facebook group of writers I knew and we cheered each other on with word count posts and other such encouragements from the depths of cyberspace. I thanked them in the acknowledgements of one of my novels. They were great, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate their friendship and efforts — but it wasn’t a true writer’s group. Or at least not the one I imagine in my head.

I have never sat in a group with prepared writing and exchanged critiques that wasn’t an awkward pairing off in an English course over the literary merits of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Until this month.

Well, it’s just two of us. And we’ve only met once. It’s almost a bit more like a book club of people who write, maybe. But it spurred me on creatively and I’m very excited about it.

For our first meeting, we read Lost Among the Living as homework. The idea is to implement the concept Stephen King talks about in On Writing about having tools in your tool box. I write The Bookshop Hotel series, small town cozy with occasional mysterious interludes (also occasional funny and possibly more than occasional angst). My friend wants to write thrillers. Simone St. James writes somewhere in between, and creatively speaking, she added a few more tools to both our boxes.

Simone St. James nails plot points and pacing, something I tend to grasp and flail at. I typically tell people my books naturally flow like a French film where nothing much happens until my editors say, “Hey, you need a plot point here.” Even my grandmother keeps telling me to put a rat in the store or kill someone off. I have obediently placed “easter egg” mice throughout the story. I enjoyed Lost Among the Living more than I expected to, having chosen in for the purpose of reading it with others and gotten it for next to nothing, rather than for myself alone. It’s not something I would have picked up full price at Barnes & Noble prior to reading one of her titles. As soon as I was through, however, I ordered another of her books on Amazon to be delivered to my kindle. I plan to read it as soon as a cool front comes in. I think her books may best be devoured in front of the fire place.

In the meantime, I am halfway through writing the next two books in my series. If all goes well, I will be sending an anthology of shorts and a full length novel to my publisher in the next three months. I look forward to more “writing circle” meetings and what I can learn and share in them.

If you are a writer, what have been your favorite “tool box” books? (Top of my list is Madeleine L’engle’s Crosswick Journals.)

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The Most Biased Book Review Ever

August 27, 2019 at 2:16 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Title: The Lost Legends

Editor: Adam D. Jones

Today is the day you can buy a physical copy of a book (to be two-day delivered via Amazon to your home) in which the woman I call “the other half of my brain” has written a short-story.

Once upon a time, in college, I had a roommate. I actually had several roommates over the years, but this one is THE Roommate. We shared a dorm. We co-existed. We got a townhouse together, and co-existed some more. We co-existed so well, that fifteen years later, married and with children living in separate cities, we still call each other for morning coffee almost every day. We homeschool our children “together,” planning out the best curriculums and deciphering educational theory by phone. We manage a homeschool Facebook page together, previously referred to as Klemm University, but renamed for our mutual interests as Lovelace Classical Academy (if Facebook will ever allow us to update it, that would be wonderful). But I digress… the point is: She is the other half of my brain. And since we first met, we both knew we wanted to be writers. More than that, we both knew we were writers who simply hadn’t been published yet.

She has lamented and rejoiced with me through every major life event… and now, it’s my turn:

E. S. MURILLO IS A PUBLISHED AUTHOR!

as a contributor to The Lost Legends anthology, edited by Adam D. Jones and Renea McKenzie (more college friends of mine).

This anthology is fun for any fantasy reader, I honestly believe that. The stories are well crafted, edited properly (a huge feat in the indie-publishing world for debut work), and fun. Obviously, An Inconsequential Miscalculation is my favorite, as – by sharing a brain – I was able to see the story as it was meant to be told from its very first incarnation and have had the pleasure of reading it in most of its versions. Reading it in its completed form brings me sheer joy.

Mostly high fantasy, there are a few writers in the mix who are downright funny, the future Terry Pratchetts to the future J.R.R. Tolkiens (My favorite stories are the funny ones)… the anthology has a wide variety of tales, but flows seamlessly as an anthology, which is generally hard to do.

I am exceptionally proud of my friends and would love if all of my fantasy reading followers checked this book out for themselves – you will not be disappointed in it.

Click to order:

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Avoiding Blunders in Book Scouting

August 23, 2019 at 6:49 pm (Uncategorized)

Old Scrolls Blog

People frequently bring books to offer for sale to us at Old Scrolls Book Shop, or e-mail us about books they would like to sell.  Some people have inherited these books, others are downsizing or cleaning out their attic, and some have scoured book sales, flea markets, book stores and antique shops searching for books they can resell at a profit.   We have a few regulars who are quite good at book scouting, but this is a talent that takes time and effort to develop, and some of the instinct for it, I believe, is inborn.  The best book scouts tend to be those who have been serious readers all of their lives, who then have been diligent in acquiring and applying knowledge regarding identifying books of value.

One of the most common mistakes for beginners, perhaps, is picking up common old reprints of famous books.   Important titles seem to…

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