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I’m guesting today at The Bluestocking Guide:

Come on up and see me sometime! My favorite book is THREE MEN IN A BOAT: TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG by Jerome K. Jerome. If you’ve read it, come see if I love it the way you do. If you haven’t read it, come see why this Victorian travelogue inspires such silly grins on the faces of those who love it. Come see why the word, “pineapple” causes prolonged outright laughter.

The book I’m giving away is SWORD & SORCERESS XXIII, an anthology continuing the late Marion Zimmer Bradley’s anthology series. My story, “Undivided”, is about a female warrior who is “rewarded” by being given a settled position and the responsibilities that go with it, responsibilities which she takes more seriously than some people expect.

In other news, my British son-in-law tells me that “mushy peas” does NOT mean “peas mushed up”.  It’s a way of preparing marrowfat peas, which are dried, rehydrated, overcooked and then…mushed up. So now we know.


writing prompt: What’s your character’s favorite book?

I just finished Martin Bartloff’s mainstream YA novel, TORN FROM NORMAL. I give it two thumbs up.

The book has a couple of minor drawbacks, neither of which could be helped. The first is multiple point-of-view characters, two main and another minor. The reason this HAD to be the case is one of the book’s strengths; the reason it’s a drawback is that Bartloff’s characters are so real and reader identification with them is so strong, readers won’t want to leave one to go to another. The other drawback is that the book could have used some detailed line editing, but that’s my own fault, since Martin asked me if I’d look it over and I was too swamped. The oopsies are so rare and so minor I don’t think they would even register on most readers’ radar; since I’m used to working in a critique group and since my #4 daughter is an editor, I’m probably more sensitive to the occasional misplaced apostrophe.

But that’s all small stuff.

TORN FROM NORMAL is the story of a young man whose life disintegrates through no fault of his own, and the story of another young man who could easily be in the same position, if circumstances were slightly different. It’s important that we view the story through both young men’s eyes and, briefly, through the eyes of a young woman. Bartloff captures perfectly what it feels like to be on the edge of adulthood, how quickly and wildly a young person can veer from one maturity level to another, one emotion to another, one view of a situation to another. He puts his finger surely on the wrenching psychological position of feeling powerless and guilty in the same situation. No, it doesn’t make sense to feel incapable of doing anything AND to feel like you’ve caused the events that are sweeping your life away, but it’s a real sensation. Bartloff makes the reader not only understand it, but share it.

Andy, the boy whose story the book tells, suffers most from this bind. Although he’s never diagnosed, it’s pretty clear he’s dropped into clinical depression. Bartloff was wise not to raise this diagnosis, since most people who haven’t suffered from it don’t understand how someone can be clinically depressed and still laugh and tell jokes and show enthusiasm about things like cars–another thing Bartloff knows about but doesn’t overdo. Bartloff doesn’t make the mistake of explaining anything–he merely shows Andy’s behavior from the outside, through the eyes of Danny, and from the inside.

Danny is “normal”, which means he’s pretty conflicted, too, as one would expect a human being to be. Unlike Andy, though, Danny is blessed with a more analytical nature. He’s been able to observe the people around him and separate what they do and why they do it from how it affects himself. This reader has the feeling that, even if Danny’s life disintegrated as Andy’s has, he would make better choices and move fairly seamlessly into the necessary maturity. Part of this is because of their different childhoods, but part of it is the luck of the draw, and that’s part of the invisible message of this book.

I recommend this book for young people and adults who want to understand them.


writing prompt: What was your main character like when he/she was young? If he/she is a teen, what was he/she like as a child?

Katya (The Good One)

Katya (The Good One)

Al (The Bad One)

Al (The Bad One)

I was on my way out of the house when I caught one of the cats peeing in the front closet. This cleared up a point of contention between my husband and me, as he’s been accusing MY cat of being the Secret Pisser. So Katya has been VINDICATED and CLEARED OF ALL CHARGES.

After I cleaned up the mess and freshened the air, I left. Came back because I forgot my keys and left. Came back because I forgot the book I wanted to give Butchie and left. Stopped off to visit with Mom and have a cup of her good coffee and pick up some letters she wanted mailed and left.

I went to the Cafe on the Square and got a little writing done but Charlene Burke, the new friend I met yesterday, turns out to be an art-quality beader, and I had to go to her blog and then to her flickr sets to look at her beading creations. Drooling on the keyboard….

Gave Butchie his copy of GHOSTS… ON THE SQUARE… AND ELSEWHERE.

Then I met Joy and T and Joanna of Southern Indiana Writers for lunch at Magdalena’s and arranged for a signing there from 9-noon on November 28, the day after Thanksgiving. Pray for us. The others had to move on, but I came to the library and arranged for us to do a signing here on Saturday, December 13 from 1-4 pm.

SWORD AND SORCERESS XXIII is out and available!! I should have some copies at the library signing. Wheeee! Here is a review that I think I may frame! The author of it, by the way, is no relation to me, despite the same last name.

And now my time at the library is over and I must go home, having written a mere 712 words so far today on my NaNoWriMo book. I am, however, up to 29,000 words, so I’m fairly well on track.


Writing prompt: A person or animal accused of doing something wrong is vindicated. A simple plot, but a good, tried-and-true one.

I have the program for the Woman’s Literary Club of Corydon today. Our annual theme this year is Myths, so I picked this:

Ray Bradbury was born in 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois. His family moved back and forth between Tucson, Arizona and Waukegan between 1926 and 1933 and finally to Los Angeles when he was fourteen. His small-town midwest boyhood influenced his writing at least as strongly as did his years in Arizona and California.

According to Ray Bradbury Online, “Ray Bradbury’s work has been included in the Best American Short Story collections (1946, 1948, and 1952). He has been awarded the O. Henry Memorial Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award in 1954, the Aviation-Space Writer’s Association Award for best space article in an American Magazine in 1967, the World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement, and the Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America. His animated film about the history of flight, Icarus Montgolfier Wright, was nominated for an academy award, and his teleplay of The Halloween Tree won an Emmy.

Ray Bradbury’s writing has been honored in many ways, but perhaps the most unusual was when an Apollo astronaut named the Dandelion Crater on the Moon after Bradbury’s novel, Dandelion Wine.”

He also adapted sixty-five of his stories for the television series Ray Bradbury Theater.

Outside of his literary achievements, Ray Bradbury was the idea consultant and wrote the basic scenario for the United States Pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. He conceived the metaphors for Spaceship Earth, EPCOT, Disney World, and he contributed to the conception of the Orbitron space ride at Euro-Disney, France. He was creative consultant for the Jon Jerde Partnership, the architectural firm that blueprinted the Glendale Galleria, The Westside Pavilion in Los Angeles, and Horton Plaza in San Diego.”

He is still alive and still writing.

The Halloween Tree was published as a novel in 1972. It’s a celebration of several of Bradbury’s literary themes: the intertwining of strength and weakness, fear and joy, life and death; the difference between genuine virtue and social correctness; the power of loyalty and self-sacrifice; and the magical quality of boyhood. It’s also an exploration of some of the myths and practices that gave us some of our modern Halloween traditions.

First, Bradbury sets the scene: Eight boys meet to go trick-or-treating. Tom Skelton, the viewpoint character, is dressed, of course, as a skeleton. There are a mummy, a gargoyle, a witch, an apeman, a beggar, a ghost and Death. They don’t know who is who, but they know who’s missing. It’s Pipkin, the boy who is leader of the group because he represents pure Boyhood. They go to Pipkin’s house and find him weak and sick. He tells them to go on and he’ll meet them at the haunted house in the ravine. Next to the haunted house is a huge tree hung all over with 1000 lit jack-o-lanterns. The resident of the house–on this night, at least, is Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud, a tall, thin, magician of a man who represents the wonderfully frightening holiday.

What isn’t wonderful is the sight of Pipkin, coming to join them, swept away by a dark Something as he runs into the ravine. Moundshroud takes the boys on a journey through the history of Halloween, following Pipkin’s spirit through time while his body lies in a hospital bed back in town.

First, they go to Egypt, where they learn that the Ancient Egyptians had a story of the god Osiris, murdered and reborn. They see Egyptian families putting out food for wandering ghosts.

Next, they see cavemen huddled around a fire. Moundshroud tells them that fire gave Man the security and time to think about who he was, where he came from, and where he went when he wasn’t HERE any more.

Moundshroud and the boys are transported to Celtic Britain, where November 1 was New Year’s Day. The end of October was a time of harvest, when people with scythes cut down wheat and animals were slaughtered for winter meat. The night before the birth of the new year was the death of the old year. So death carried a scythe and October 31 was associated with fear and food.

Moundshroud shows them witch-hunts, with frightened people killing the people they’re afraid of, and November 1 now called All Hallows (all saints) Day and the night before it now called All Hallows Evening–Hallowe’en. He shows them the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, with the same frightened people decorating their church with statues of the things they’re afraid of (in the form of gargoyles). He shows them beggars going door-to-door begging for food.

They go to Mexico, where The Day of the Dead is a family festival with picnics in graveyards so deceased family members can come, too. Flowers, candy skulls, candles, fireworks and toy skeletons are all part of the fun. The dead aren’t feared, they’re remembered and celebrated.

The boys have had enough. They’re ready for the night to end. They want to find Pipkin and go home. Moundshroud takes them to an abandoned graveyard and opens the catacombs. He says Pipkin is down there, and there are things with him. This isn’t fun any more, but Tom leads the way and the boys go down again, not into the ravine, but into the ground. Home doesn’t seem so boring, now. In the catacombs are the bodies of people whose families couldn’t pay the rent on their graves, who were dug up and put into the catacombs to dry into mummies. Pipkin is trapped there.

Moundshroud offers the boys a deal. If each of them will give up one year of life, die one year sooner than he would have, Pipkin will live. They accept, and follow Pipkin’s spirit home.

Death, fear, rebirth, nourishment and celebration–all part of the bundle of tradition and myth that make up Halloween.


writing prompt: How do your characters celebrate Halloween, or do they? Whether they do or not, IF THEY DID, what costume would they choose and why?


Here is where I ramble on about whatever happens to fall through my mind. I also have a professional site, where I post about my books, stories, news and appearances. Every month, I post a “Hot Flash” there–a story or prose poem of about 50 words. I hope you enjoy your visit. –Marian Allen

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