Reading

SHE books info

Smorgasbord Book Reviews -#Action #Supernatural #AncientEgypt She who comes forth by Audrey Driscoll

Here is a splendid review for She Who Comes Forth by the redoubtable Sally Cronin.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Today I am reviewing She who comes forth by Audrey Driscoll…an intriguing action adventure set in the land of the Pharoahs.

About the book

Recently turned 21, France Leighton travels to Luxor, Egypt, taking with her two legacies—an antique cello and an emerald ring. Instead of the archaeological adventure she expects, she gets a lecherous dig director, hidden agendas, a risky balloon ride, and an enigmatic nuclear physicist. In the mysteries of the ancient tombs, France realizes she and her gifts may imperil the world—or save it.

More Details:
October 1962. The developing nuclear missile crisis in Cuba is of no concern to Francesca “France” Leighton. Recently turned 21, France travels from her home in Providence to a job at an archaeological dig in Luxor, Egypt. She takes with her two legacies—an emerald ring from the grandfather she never knew, and an antique cello from his friend, a man…

View original post 698 more words

She Who Returns ~ Audrey Driscoll ~ #Travel Adventure Fiction ~ #Sequel ~#Review

I was thrilled to wake up to this review of She Who Returns, from Jaye Marie.

Words on Paper

Every decision has consequences, and logic gets you every time.

France Leighton is studying Egyptology at Miskatonic University, hoping to return to Egypt via a field school offered by that institution. But France has a talent for rash decisions, and things are complicated by the arrival of her twin half-brothers from England. Edward and Peter are contrasts—one a rational scientist, the other a dabbler in the occult—but they are equally capable of persuading France to help them with dubious schemes.

France does return to Egypt, if not quite the way she intended. She encounters old friends and new enemies, and challenges rooted in her previous adventures and her family’s complicated history. Accusations of antiquities theft drive France and her companions into hiding in the Theban Hills west of Luxor. An attack from the unknown turns an adventure into a desperate predicament. On the brink of yet another failure, France must…

View original post 356 more words

SHE books info

Smorgasbord Bookshelf 2022- Share an Extract from your latest book – #Action #Adventure SHE Who Returns by Audrey Driscoll.

I’m over at Sally Cronin’s bounteous blog today, with an excerpt from She Who Returns, which will launch on May 1st.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

In this series you are invited to share an extract of 500 words from your most recent book published within the last 12 months. Details at the end of the post.

The aim of the series

  1. To showcase your latest book and sell some more copies.
  2. Gain more reviews for the book.
  3. Promote a selection of your other books that are available.

Today an extract from the adventure SHE who returnsby Audrey Driscoll, on pre-order until May 1st. The book is the sequel to SHE who comes forth and both books are on offer during the pre-order period.

About the book

Every decision has consequences, and logic gets you every time.

France Leighton is studying Egyptology at Miskatonic University, hoping to return to Egypt via a field school offered by that institution. But France has a talent for rash decisions, and things are complicated by the arrival of her…

View original post 1,534 more words

CMOS, root saw, and Kindle e-reader

The Right Tools for the Job

I’m not much of a consumer, but in the past couple of months, I’ve acquired three items I consider to be tools for specific purposes: a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style (17th edition), a Silky Gomtaro 240 mm root saw, and a Kindle e-reader.

Chicago Manual of Style
Self-publisher’s tool.

As someone who edits her own writing, I finally decided I need a definitive authority on matters of grammar, punctuation, and usage. Working through beta readers’ comments on my WIP, or trawling through the manuscript before moving on to the publishing stage, I kept encountering questions I couldn’t answer. Should “the” in the name of a pub or bar that begins with that word (as in “The Blue Poppy Pub”) be capitalized when it occurs in the middle of a sentence? What is the correct order of punctuation marks when a word is quoted in dialogue just before a question mark? Example: “What do you mean by ‘a problem’?” I asked.

Trying to find answers on the internet yielded a lot of irrelevant stuff (depending on how I worded the search) as well as contradictory answers. It wasn’t usually obvious how authoritative any specific answer was, either. So I shelled out the nearly $100 (in Canadian dollars, and including shipping) for a copy of CMOS.

And those two example questions? According to CMOS 8.45 “An initial the as part of a name is lowercased in running text, except in the rare case of an initial The in the name of a city.” So it’s “I’ll see you at the Blue Poppy.” And the matter of punctuation after a quoted word within a spoken sentence? It’s explained thus in CMOS 13.30: “Exclamation points, like question marks, are placed just within the set of quotation marks ending the element to which such terminal punctuation belongs.” To be honest, that sentence is pretty murky, but the examples had ‘?” rather than ?'”

Silky Gomtaro Root Saw
Cutting tool. Suckers, look out!
Root saw label

I’ve complained before about shrubs that spread by underground suckers. Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) is one of the worst. The little saw intended for cutting sheetrock (gyprock) I’ve been using to cut suckers isn’t up to the job. So I tracked down a saw made for cutting roots. Strangely, Amazon was unable to supply it, but I was able to order one from a farm and garden supplies store in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I still use tools I bought there when I lived in that city more than 30 years ago. I suspect they happened to have one hanging around in old stock, whereas the ‘Zon was affected by “supply chain issues.” I intend to tackle the Oregon grape later this spring, using the new saw judiciously. (It wasn’t cheap, also almost $100 with shipping).

Kindle e-reader
Reading tool.

I’ve resisted for years buying one of these. Until now, I’ve read Kindle ebooks on my tablet, with the Kindle Reader app. But the tablet is fairly heavy and needs frequent recharging. It’s fine for scanning blog posts first thing in the morning, but for reading books, I much prefer my ancient Sony e-reader. It’s light and runs forever on a single charge. But of course it can’t be used for Kindle books. When I realized I was avoiding Kindle books written by fellow indies because my reading instrument was awkward, I caved in and bought a Kindle reader. An hour after it arrived I had activated wi-fi, linked it to my Amazon account, and was reading a book I bought months ago. (But I’m still a bit disturbed by the extent to which Amazon intrudes into my online life. Plus it doesn’t feel as though I own Kindle books the way I own the epubs I buy from the Smashwords store and read on the old Sony reader.)

The right tools for the job do make a difference.

ouroboros dragon black and white

Reading Jung on Alchemy

At some point while I was writing The Friendship of Mortals, the first book of the Herbert West Series, I realized that alchemy had intruded into the story. It must have originated with the book’s narrator, librarian Charles Milburn. His job requires him to catalogue books about alchemy, and eventually he decides his friend Herbert’s experiences are analogous to a transformation from a base metal into gold.

So I (the writer) had to learn more about alchemy. I was slightly familiar with it from library research for a term paper in my undergrad years, specifically writings of the Romanian historian and philosopher Mircea Eliade. Alchemy had lodged in my mind as “one of those interesting things.” When I decided to read up on alchemy while writing TFoM, I discovered that Carl Gustav Jung had read and written a great deal about it.

I don’t remember buying Alchemical Studies, which is Volume 13 of The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, but there it was among my books. I decided to read it, even though I had finished writing the Herbert West books long before, and didn’t intend to change them. It took me a couple of months to work my way through it. I read for about 30 minutes to an hour a day. Skimming was definitely out; if I was going to do that, I might as well not have bothered. Every page bristles with footnotes. Some text is in Greek or Latin (always with English translations, fortunately).

So what did I learn, apart from the fact that I’m pretty much ignorant when it comes to psychology? Jung thought the alchemists (those who wrote down their ideas, anyway) experienced the same psychological events as people of his own time, but described them using symbols from religion and mythology. The alchemical process, he said, paralleled what he called the process of individuation, or the fulfillment of one’s potential. This accounts for the multiplicity of alchemical ideas and the apparent contradictions among them. Alchemy wasn’t a secret known to a select company of initiates, but a psychological process.

Jung sums it up thus at the end of the final essay in this volume:

double quotation mark open

Alchemy lost its vital substance when some of the alchemists abandoned the laboratorium for the oratorium, there to befuddle themselves with an ever more nebulous mysticism, while others converted the oratorium into a laboratorium and discovered chemistry. We feel sorry for the former and admire the latter, but no one asks about the fate of the psyche, which thereafter vanished from sight for several hundred years.

Well, I don’t know about that. My own idea (and I’m certainly nowhere near as learned as Jung) is that alchemy was rooted in metalworking, which must have been viewed in prehistory as a near-magical ability overseen by divine forces. The practical process was adopted by thinkers as a metaphor and used to express their ideas about the inner workings of the human mind and spirit. In medieval times, some alchemists worked with metals and other substances, heating and dissolving, combining and distilling. I’m sure many were affected in various physical ways. Mercury, lead, and acids can be toxic. Explosions and fires probably happened regularly in the “laboratorium.” Other alchemists confined themselves to the “oratorium,” and spent their time thinking and writing. But when alchemy fizzled out in the 17th century, psychological ideas certainly didn’t vanish. They found expression in literature, art, and poetry. What about Shakespeare and William Blake? Jung himself says that Goethe’s tragedy Faust (early 1800s) is full of alchemical ideas.

My takeaways from each of the five essays:

  • Commentary on “The Secret of the Golden Flower.” I have to admit, I found this somewhat incomprehensible because of my deficient knowledge of psychology and its terms. The only points I grasped were that a superficial adoption of yoga practices by Europeans was not the correct approach to the wisdom of the east. I kept reminding myself that this essay was written in the 1930s, and wondering exactly what “yoga practices” Jung was referring to.
  • The Visions of Zosimos. Describing the writings of a 3rd-4th century Graeco-Egyptian alchemist and Gnostic mystic, this essay impressed upon me the fact that alchemy in some form or other was written about for nearly two thousand years. Many of the basic concepts and symbols are described here in vivid and dramatic detail. Jung’s interpretations point out similarities among many mythologies and religions, concluding that “although chemistry has nothing to learn from the vision of Zosimos, it is a mine of discovery for modern psychology.”
  • Paracelsus as a Spiritual Phenomenon. Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, known as Paracelsus, was a 16th century Swiss physician, alchemist, and philosopher. Reading this essay, I detected a measure of respect and admiration by Jung for a fellow countryman and also one for whom “the art of healing” was of great importance. In performing this role, Paracelsus had to reconcile his Christian faith with natural religion, and in this conflict, Jung says, he began groping toward psychology and psychoanalysis.
  • The Spirit Mercurius. Of the five essays, this one impressed me the most. Jung shows the similarities among Mercury/Hermes, Wotan, the devil, Lucifer, and a Christ-analogue, a figure he calls “this many-hued and wily god.” I think that figure was lurking in the background when I wrote the Herbert West books, which is why I found this the most readable of the essays.
  • The Philosophical Tree. The final essay begins with descriptions of tree-like forms in paintings and other artworks created by some of Jung’s patients. I found them fascinating, but admit that I rather lost my way in the subsequent discussions of tree-symbols, snakes, Gnosticism, and the lapis. Jung takes the reader through a bewildering array of writings, symbols, and myths, to conclude with the human need to confront the unconscious and integrate it into the personality.

I suspect some of this book’s substance failed to register in my understanding, but in any case, reading it certainly exposed me to ideas and images I would not have encountered otherwise. The bizarre visions or dreams of Zosimos of Panopolis, for example, in which the dreamer is pierced with a sword and dismembered “in accordance with the rule of harmony.” Or the multiple manifestations and meanings of the Spirit Mercurius. Or Gnosticism (Just say “know”). And a whole list of new-to-me words: antinomian, ithyphallic, hylic, quaternity, ogdoad, chthonic, pleroma, mythologem, nominalism… to name a few.

Even though I don’t intend to learn much more about psychology, I identified a few terms I wished I had understood before I started reading. The idea of “projection,” for example, or “individuation,” or “participation mystique.” Wikipedia rabbit holes beckon!

Given all the above, how worthwhile was my reading of Jung’s essays on alchemy? At the very least, it did not lead me to conclude that I was irresponsible or frivolous in the way I incorporated alchemical ideas and symbols into my fiction. (Of course, it’s pretty hard to tell, given the self-contradicting and incredibly varied ways to describe the process and the ideas behind it, accumulated over a couple of millennia.) I approached alchemy as a process of transformation, whether material, spiritual, or psychological, and I don’t think I went wrong with that.

Squared circle, alchemical symbol
Image source unknown

Featured image from Pixabay

SHE books info

She Is Back! Cover Reveal and Publication Date

France Leighton is the protagonist of my 2018 novel, She Who Comes Forth, and also of its sequel, She Who Returns, which will be published on May 1st, 2022, and is now available to pre-order.

She Who Returns ebook cover image

AMAZON: US UK CA AU

Every decision has consequences, and logic gets you every time.
France Leighton is studying Egyptology at Miskatonic University, hoping to return to Egypt via a field school offered by that institution. But France has a talent for rash decisions, and things are complicated by the arrival of her twin half-brothers from England. Edward and Peter are contrasts—one a rational scientist, the other a dabbler in the occult—but they are equally capable of persuading France to help them with dubious schemes.
France does return to Egypt, if not quite the way she intended. She encounters old friends and new enemies, and challenges rooted in her previous adventures and her family’s complicated history. Accusations of antiquities theft drive France and her companions into hiding in the Theban Hills west of Luxor. An attack from the unknown turns an adventure into a desperate predicament. On the brink of yet another failure, France must make hard choices that may demand the ultimate sacrifice.

The pre-order price is $0.99. And because I recommend reading She Who Comes Forth first, its price is reduced on Amazon to $0.99 until May 1st.

The paperback version will also be available in May, if the print formatting imps cooperate. I am thinking up ways to propitiate them, and minding my italicized f’s and j’s.

Herbert West Series Science or Magic

How (Not) to Write a Series

The Herbert West Series began with an obsession-driven novel, The Friendship of Mortals. When that was finished, I didn’t want to say goodbye to the main character so wrote another really long book set in an entirely different location with different supporting characters. I decided that book was too long (230K words, as I recall), so chopped it in two, making an instant trilogy. But the story kept going in my mind, so I whisked the title character to yet another location and reunited him with two characters from the first book. Fine, except now it was no longer a trilogy. I thought “tetralogy” sounded lumpy and angular, and “quartet” was too musical, so I settled on “series.”

Except that suggests a procession of books with no intended conclusion, and my story has a definite conclusion at the end of the fourth book. True series have more uniformity: same genre, same point of view, similar challenges for the main character. Whereas mine started as a kind of horror story and evolved (some would say devolved) into a mere adventure with supernatural and symbolic overtones. And while the pov is always first person, there are 5 (or maybe 6) different narrators. Each one delivers their own experiences with the main character. His name changes at the end of the first book, but references to the previous name are frequent enough (I hope) that the series title isn’t confusing.

Then there’s the numbering. Books 2 and 3 of the series are also Volumes 1 and 2 of what was a single book (Islands of the Gulf) until the big chop.

Are you confused yet?

If not, consider also that the series has a two-book sequel of sorts (well, it will be two books once I publish the second one). And there’s a short story collection, half of which is “spin-off” stories from the series.

The about-to-be-published book (She Who Returns) will be the finale of this saga. Although it takes place half a century after the first book (The Friendship of Mortals), it revisits some of the places, characters, and situations of that book, as a kind of farewell gesture.

In retrospect, I should probably not have called the four books a “series.” Maybe something like “A Herbert West Book” applied to each one would have been enough. And I should have rigorously reduced the middle book and preserved the trilogy.

“Shoulda, woulda, coulda.” Too late now. The books–all 6 and soon to be 7–are what they are.

#bookreview – Tales from the Annexe

I’m chuffed by this lovely review and interview on Liz Gauffreau’s blog.

Elizabeth Gauffreau

Amazon: US UK CA UKAU DE

My Review

As its subtitle indicates, Tales from the Annex is a collection of seven stories based on H.P. Lovecraft’s Herbert West character, followed by seven other tales. 

I went into the collection not having read Driscoll’s Herbert West novels or anything by H.P. Lovecraft. I was very curious to see whether these tales could stand on their own, as well as to gain insight into why this character would inspire a contemporary writer to reanimate him in her own fiction. 

About half-way through the Herbert West section of Tales from the Annex, I sought out and read Lovecraft’s original story: “Herbert West: Reanimator.”  I had my answer: Herbert West is in the literary tradition of the prideful scientist who seeks to conquer death by bringing the dead back to life. Endlessly fascinating! 

After reading the seven Herbert West stories, I was…

View original post 1,134 more words

Blue rose

Compellingly Re-readable: Peter Straub’s “Blue Rose” Books

Not long ago, I unintentionally re-read Peter Straub’s book Koko yet again. It was published in 1988, followed in 1990 by Mystery and in 1993 by The Throat. The three are known collectively as the “Blue Rose Series.”

What is it about these books that has led me to re-read them?

They’re called a series, but they don’t quite line up. Two characters appear in two of the books, but not in all three. Primary characters in one of the books don’t exist at all in the others, or maybe they do, but with different names and personalities. One of the main characters is a writer, and the final book suggests the other two were written by him. Things like this make the reader say, “WTF?” and go looking for details they half-remember. And that’s often a reason to start reading the whole set all over again.

They’re all rooted in Straub’s childhood in Milwaukee. The tropical island in Mystery is called “Mill Walk.” Three characters in Koko go to a wintry Milwaukee and finally figure out who the killer is. And the main character of The Throat grows up in a city called Millhaven, and has a life-changing experience as a kid that’s pretty much the same as that of the main character of Mystery AND of a young Peter Straub in the real, actual Milwaukee.

This paragraph from near the beginning of The Throat describes that incident:

At that moment I died–the boy named Timothy Underhill, the seven-year-old me, died of shock and injury. He had a fractured skull, his pelvis and his right leg were shattered, and he died. Such a moment is not visible from a sidewalk. I have the memory of sensation, of being torn from my body by a giant, irresistible force and being accelerated into another, utterly different dimension. Of blazing light. What remains is the sense of leaving the self behind, all personality and character, everything merely personal. All of that was gone, and something else was left. I want to think that I was aware of April [his sister, who was killed] far ahead of me, sailing like a leaf through some vast dark cloudgate. There was an enormous, annihilating light, a bliss, an ecstasy you have to die to earn. Unreasoning terror surrounds it and engulfs this memory, if that’s what it is. I dream about it two or three times a week, a little more frequently than I dream about the man I killed face-to-face. The experience was entirely nonverbal and, in some basic way, profoundly inhuman. One of my clearest and strongest impressions is that living people are not supposed to know.

Even though I’ve read this many times, it still gives me shivers.

“Twisty” is an inadequate word to describe these books. They are long, six or seven hundred pages, and all three feature some pretty dark stuff, such as serial murders and vivid scenes from the Vietnam War. The violent and grisly elements aren’t ends in themselves; they’re more like intensifiers for the theme of how evil manifests in human beings.

Mystery (novel by Peter Straub) cover image

There are multiple villains in these books, and some are more villainous than others. Straub suggests that some people do horrible things for reasons beyond their control. They are victims as much as villains. Others choose to indulge their inner darkness, even when it’s within their capabilities to do otherwise. These are the real villains. In all three books, a complex and labyrinthine fictional trail brings the reader face to face with a truly evil human being. These books aren’t horror, but their effect is the same.

Then there’s Straub’s prose. Many scenes are set in unbeautiful or even terrible places, but his descriptions are vivid and detailed, like this one from Koko:

Far beneath in a wide valley, smokestacks pushed out grey clouds like wings that froze and hung in the black air. Small red fires burned and danced at the tops of columns, and red lights shone far down at the heads of trains that clanked slowly forward, showering sparks.

Another aspect of Straub’s Blue Rose books is that they shoulder aside many rules of writing. They’re full of scenes that really don’t contribute to the plot, and extra stuff about jazz music, sex tourism in Bangkok, the Gospel of Thomas, and other tangential topics. The names of two main characters differ by only one letter (and they are three-letter names). There are plenty of words that end in “-ly.” But these books are absorbing. I soaked right into them, and was happy to spend time there.

Do I recommend these books? Yes, but only to readers who like dark, slow burns with occasional violent jolts.

To quote a line from Mystery:

The world is half night–that was what he knew.