Monthly Archives: March 2015

Leipzig Book Fair – 4 days of madness

If you ever come to Germany, try to do it while the Leipzig Book Fair is on and visit it. It always runs from a Thursday to a Sunday in March. I went a few years back and again this year. Either time, it was a whirl of impressions, people, and facts. I’ve never seen that many people in one place.

Leipzig Book Fair is the second big book fair in Germany, the biggest is in Frankfurt in autumn. This year 251,000 people visited the grounds, more than ever before. In contrast to Frankfurt which is mostly a fair for publishing insiders (authors, publishing houses, journalists, etc), Leipzig book fair is a place to meet readers (many of those book bloggers). My head is still swirling with faces and names.

CosplayerThe fair’s ground in Leipzig is quite interesting. The main hall looks like a giant greenhouse. It always houses the main bookshop, several catering services, and the entrances. With glass tunnels, it connects with 5 halls; Halls one, three, and five on the right hand side and halls two and four on the left. There’s also the congress center which can be reached through hall two. Also, the halls on either side are connected too. Naturally, the tunnels and connecting corridors are chokepoints when so many people try to walk from one hall to the next.

What I found most interesting was the sheer number of Cosplayers. Hall two, dedicated to comics, graphic novels, and merchandising, sees an ever growing influx of them every year. A lot of the really cool costumes are self made, and every year the best costume gets a price. It’s an amazing sight to see people of all ages (although mostly younger ones) walking or sitting around, posing to every camera in sight. I loved some of the costumes.

Walking through the halls to take in everything was possible on Thursday  and Friday, although Friday was already fuller than the day before. On Saturday, the halls and corridors were so packed, everyone moved at a snails pace. Sunday was slightly better. When I returned home on Sunday evening, I was bone tired. My feet hurt from walking and standing, my throat was sore from talking so much, and I felt parched despite drinking a lot of water. But as I soon found out, it had been worth it. My sales increased almost immediately. I am already thinking about going again next year. Maybe I’ll see you there. 😉

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Classics You’ve Never Read: Inside Story

It’s been awhile and I’m ashamed to say, my obligations to the Alleged Real World impelled me to return to this series. But any shot that goes in, as my basketball coach used to say. Especially when I took a shot that went in. Return with me now to take a closer look at a tale that you immediately know, but in all likelihood never turned a page of. What can we see as authors to help us in our craft?

Which tale? Of course it’s the classic that takes you deep inside, RL Stevenson’s seminal Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Why not before now? Because I have always felt such a deep reluctance around this tale. I know, in the end, it’s about all of us. It’s about me.

Sizing a Monster

LoES-J-H

Jason Flemyng, in both roles

Let me back up and start with the way the tale is usually portrayed nowadays in remakes. Mr. Hyde, most say, is the side of us we feel tempted to cut loose; and if even Dr. Jekyll couldn’t resist, we can’t expect better of Hollywood. So of course the result of drinking Jekyll’s potion is a misshapen, enormous leviathan, and it doesn’t get much bigger than the big-screen’s most recent version in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It’s enormous fun in the most literal sense. We’ll come back to the movie but note for now the first, most important missed turning the remakes commit. They create a Hyde who’s bigger than Jekyll. In the story, RLS makes it quite clear that Hyde is smaller: wizened and a bit hunching, yes, but nothing near the upright, straight-backed good doctor he seems to have his hooks into. It’s a Christian point, if I may say so- the evil part that comes out of us is not only wicked, it’s puny. Lethal, yes, especially to our souls, but we shouldn’t indulge our ego to believe that it’s large in the scheme of things. We should simply be ashamed.

Hyde also appears to be younger than Jekyll, whereas in most of the remakes I’ve seen age is a non-factor. He’s got a spring in his step, you could say, a sign of the freedom he feels. Jekyll theorizes that since Hyde’s been so little used he hasn’t aged as far. It’s a window on the Victorian society where this tale is set and about which Stevenson was no doubt commenting. After all Jekyll feels The-Strange-Case-of-Dr-Jekyll-Mr-Hyde-image-682x1024buttoned-up and straitjacketed by his position and obligations to society. Contrary to the movies, he’s not originally trying to resolve the question of evil in man, or attempting to rid himself of it. He wants to sever his halves, enjoy two unimpeded lives; the sin is original to him. I can’t force my fingers to type much more down this line, I feel the cut too keenly. I’ll say this- every once in a while my lovely wife and I play the Powerball lottery (the prize is always scores of millions of dollars) and I love to dream of all the wonderful, charitable things I’d do with the money. Like I’d be the same person. Like I could be trusted.

But I think I know, there’s a reason I don’t get to win it.

It’s the Thought That Counts

While lots of features impressed me about the original story– no female characters, lots of news-by-letter and an interesting feature that the tale ends with a written flashback– I must say the thing that really jumped out was the simple, almost pristine horror Stevenson managed to conjure in the opening act J-H_coverof Hyde’s evil. The narrator, Jekyll’s good friend and lawyer Utterson, is apprised by a mutual acquaintance of this ugly fellow’s first outrage and begins to investigate. Can you guess what the crime must have been? Murder surely, that was my thought before I first read the book. In movies and television, Hyde is usually a city-wrecker, committing loud and brazen assaults, destroying stone cornices with his bare hands and strewing a wrack of police and prostitutes in his wake.

In the story itself? He’s trampled a little girl.

It took a moment for the image to settle in on me. Imagine being out for a walk (it was ALWAYS a foggy night, this is Victorian London after all). Hyde was seen by multiple witnesses, as a little girl runs from a side-street into his path. And. He. Just. Keeps. Walking. You show me any scene with guns or knives, and the opponent a grown-up however helpless, and I won’t flinch. But think– a child runs in your path a moment, and you don’t have the one drop of human sympathy required to turn, or even pause. You don’t shout or rebuke the child or her mother– those things would show you care. Hyde just stomps her underfoot like a weed, same pace, same stride, a machine. And when Utterson’s friend runs him down and the gathered folk scream their outrage, Hyde is slightly amused, as if puzzled what the fuss is all about.

You’d never do it. You’d rather lick a car battery than feel the body of a girl writhing under your shoes. From the story itself, Hyde seemed genuinely unaware of what had happened. Pay a hundred pounds to the girl’s family? Fine, no matter to me, let me get my checkbook… well, actually it’s my friend’s book. That single act has never ceased to haunt me. Can you imagine what strangulation of every good instinct would have to happen before you would act that way? Give me a Hyderampaging, angry, lustful beast– far better than this unruffled, self-interested golem. I think I hit on it when I realized,

Hyde is comfortable with himself.

And he’s the same man as the good doctor. Rather, he’s a smaller part of him.

Who Writes This Stuff?

Stevenson composed this tale in a fit of inspiration– the idea came to him in a nightmare, and he dashed out the first draft in just a few days, then burned his manuscript in a passion, and redrafted it in only three weeks. Perhaps you’ve had such an experience. For me, the aftermath is marked by a kind of delight that I usually feel when reading someone else’s work, liking it and wishing I had been

the author. Except that I am the author! Don’t shrink into false modesty on me, fellow writer, I wager you know this feeling. You wrote it so quickly, and it seems to need little polish. It just… came out of you when you weren’t there. So with Stevenson and Jekyll and Hyde.

“Louis came downstairs in a fever; read nearly half the book aloud; and then, while we were still gasping, he was away again, and busy writing. I doubt if the first draft took so long as three days.”
-Lloyd Osbourne, family friend

 Yet it’s the things he refuses to describe that get you about this tale. Hyde is ugly, but no one can say how. People want him dead, but can’t explain why. And folks who have long kept their noses out of other people’s business, given every chance to keep doing so, can’t stay away. Utterson HAS to investigate– the signature of his good friend on Hyde’s cheque, the will naming this monster Dr. Jekyll’s heir, hearsay and conjecture whose only virtue is how perfectly it aligns with his intuition. Step by tiny step, Utterson is drawn in– and we only see the horror second-hand, in letters and accounts, like a glance at the mirrored Medusa. Dr. Lanyon once saw Mr. Hyde transform, and is already dead when we read his letter– struck down by a sight not yet ours.

My life is shaken to its roots; sleep has left me; the deadliest terror sits by me at all hours of the day and night; and I feel that my days are numbered, and that I must die; and yet I shall die incredulous.

So, What’s In It, For Me?

As short as it is, the story spends its final third in post-mortem. Much like Invisible Man, the narrator spends a lot longer than you do trying to figure out what happened. Give that a shot with your current tale if you’re feeling brave!

But it fits uniquely well in this case, because when Utterson the dependable,

Careful how you look at yourself!

Careful how you look at yourself!

sane, reserved lawyer doesn’t want to look, you know the reader feels the same way. Not about Hyde, we can’t wait to watch this happen to somebody else. But sooner or later it comes back to that mirror. I think Perseus, when he dared to use it once at an angle, saw a part of himself.

Who is that, in there inside ourselves? Is it simply  “evil”? Is it the animal side, or anger and rage like you see with The Hulk? You can’t have more fun than to curl up with an hour of William Shatner gloriously over-acting as two sides of himself in “The Enemy Within”: here’s four quick minutes capturing all the epic-ness.

The writers of ST took a view of active/impulsive versus contemplative/rational. The good-guy Kirk is just the one that can get along– he won’t attack Yeoman Rand, he can hear you without getting angry, but he can’t decide what to do. The other guy is a beast, but he can make decisions– keeps outwitting the crew, covers his scars. He starts the fights, but only his calmer twin shows courage.

Anger-Danger

Remember? “Anger-Danger”. A show’s plot with one added letter. Genius

What if it’s like that? Is this a better deal than what Stevenson proposed? I always loved Bill Bixby’s version of The Incredible Hulk– he NEVER let go on purpose, spent his last ounce of energy trying to avoid all trouble while seeking his cure. And whenever “the beast within him” got out, he always seemed pointed in the direction of the bad guys. Was that just luck? I thought it was kind of karmic– David Banner reaped a small reward for so resolutely trying to avoid temptation, and I found it very uplifting.

Maybe an echo of this, in the cool turn of events from that FX-romp mentioned above, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. When Hyde is first captured by Quartermain and the gang, he’s classic evil/animal/ “id” and Jekyll is barely containing his desires (for women, mostly). In the movie, you can see Hyde in any mirror Jekyll passes. But when the Nautilus nearly sinks, it is Hyde who not only saves them all, but urges Jekyll to trust him with the attempt. I loved it, a real step toward superhero-dom for a truly interesting character. “Bravo, Edward”

Go As Far In as You Like, or Dare

You can maybe write autobiography and talk only about yourself; there might not be any more consequence and interest than the words themselves and the one person they tell the reader about. But in genre fiction, we can’t stop there. When we explore character, and inner conflict, we innately put on display our own philosophy of what people are like. We can use omniscient third person, or flashbacks, or magic spells or potions to peel back the layers, but we can’t try to pretend this is an exception. Our world, our rules, our consequences. Because if this isn’t about everyone, then who cares?

Bixby-HulkDo we believe there’s inner evil? Is life a long struggle spent holding back this animal side? Are heroes just furiously trying to distract everyone including themselves from lust, or greed, or the will to harm others? Did the villains ever really have a chance to be good; could one selfish choice have doomed them for all time? What do we as writers really believe about the human being?

In Jekyll’s posthumous confession, he cries foul on his own world as I think Stevenson did. Jekyll claims his worst fault was just “a certain gaity of disposition”, which his education and high position forbade him to indulge.

Hence it came about that I concealed my pleasures; and that when I reached years of reflection… I stood already committed to a profound duplicity of me… It was thus rather the exacting nature of my aspirations than any particular degradation in my faults, that made me what I was, and, with even a deeper trench than in the majority of men, severed in me those provinces of good and ill which divide and compound man’s dual nature.

Wait. He means, his good side was responsible for making him evil? We must be in Victorian times. But do the times make enough of a difference to excuse us? These are the questions we must answer. And it makes me pause a bit before I do, because while I’m busy dissecting the lives and habits of the heroes of the Lands StarTrek-Enemy-Withinof Hope, I can’t shake the notion that the speck in their eyes doesn’t quite measure up to the plank in mine. I wonder if it would even take the Powerball jackpot to let the ugly loose in me. Remember, the day before the evil queen ordered the huntsman to cut out Snow White’s heart, her mirror had told her she was the fairest in the land.

Of course, the young ladies I courted in my youth seemed to think my ugly was already loose. Maybe I could just blame them! Or maybe I’ll hold it together another few decades, see if I can work out some accommodation with that part of me that is willful and selfish, intemperate and mean. If you really want the Evil-Queen-mirrorcraziness, I’ll give it. I believe that writing about the Lands of Hope, of heroism and evil in that incredible world, is my version of polishing a mirror. I know somewhat of what’s inside me: I pray it’s still smaller and younger, and if I time my glances just right, I’ll learn how to behead the thing and bring it under my control. There are times you need it– strong, almost angry willpower to persevere, to resist criticism, to stay on track in your story or your life. By herself and still free, the Medusa would never have slain the Kraken. Jekyll never learned to let the goddess of wisdom keep it for him.

In Stevenson’s tale, the narrator Utterson kept away as far and as long as he could. Maybe I’ve already said too much on the subject.

“I am ashamed of my long tongue. Let us make a bargain never to refer to this again.” “With all my heart,” said the lawyer. “I shake hands on that”

For us writers, that won’t do. I have faith that God will help me to train this inner fire, so I can forge interesting tales and keep learning about the Lands, and myself. There’s something inside your heroes and your villains– inside you. Writing about it will bring it closer to the surface, where it’s dangerous (and also useful). You can’t let it out to run the show, because then it becomes what evil really is in the end. A habit.

But you can’t do nothing, and you can’t wait forever.

So take a shot. It might go in.

 

The Disciple Series is Complete

Disciple Part VILast year, on this very website, Will Hahn did an interview with Louise Blankenship on the release of the fifth book in her Disciple series. I am lucky enough to have chatted with Louise recently and pleased to announce the sixth and final book in this wonderful series.

Louise was gracious enough to provide a quick overview of the book, links to help you find the series, and an excerpt from the first book in the series, Part I. She is even offering a free copy of Part I to visitors of the Independent Bookworm. Check it out and the other books in the series.

Disciple Part VI

War is coming. Kate Carpenter is only a peasant girl, but she’s determined to help defend the kingdom and its bound saints against the invading empire. Her healing magic earned her a coveted apprenticeship with the master healer; now she must prove herself ready to stand in the front lines and save lives.

She’s not ready for the attentions of a ne’er-do-well knight and the kingdom’s only prince, though. This is no time to be distracted by romance — the empire’s monstrous army will tear through anyone standing between them and the kingdom’s magical founts. All disciples must put aside their tangled feelings and stand in the homeland’s defense.

Disciple

the six-part gritty fantasy romance series is now complete!
Disciple, Part VI on sale at AmazonAllRomanceMore retailers

Blakninship - Disciple

Download Disciple, Part I for free!

AmazonB&NMore retailers

Email me if you can’t get it for free: blankenship.louise at gmail

 Excerpt from Part I

“You couldn’t sleep either?”

At the whisper, I looked up from struggling to lace my boots with trembling hands. My master stepped into my dormitory room, adding his lamp’s light to my candle.

“Why must I dress as a boy?” I whispered back. Perhaps I was not so buxom, but I doubted I’d fool anyone. “This makes little sense.”

“Patience.” Master Parselev placed his lamp on my writing-table and checked my packed bags. “They’re gathering at the chapel already. None of us got much sleep, it seems.”

The straw mattress creaked when I stood, boots laced and the woolen hose sagging between my thighs. I ran my fingers around my waist, under my layered cotes, to check the drawstring. “Are these right, Master?” I’d strung the hose and braies together as best I could guess and as memory was my Blessing I had no excuse for failing. Men’s underthings weren’t much concern to me — if I saw such, or more, it was while the man lay bleeding on the surgery table.

“If they stay up, it’s right. Good. This too.” He slung a heavy felt cloak across my shoulders and pinned it on. The hood buried my face in shadows; my blonde braid, even wrapped around my head, would give me away.

I asked, “Master, this journey will be long, won’t it?” Parselev had given me more clothes than I’d ever owned to pack in those bags. All heavy winter woolens, too. “Shouldn’t you go, then?”

He looked down at me, mouth quirking to one side. Master was a greybeard, said to be over a hundred years old, but his kir kept his eyes bright and his face lightly creased. I had only been his apprentice two years. Surely I could not be ready for this.

“It must be you, Kate,” was all he said.

Disciple Omnibus
collecting all six books
on sale March 15, 2015!
get a reminder by joining L’s mailing list

I want to thank Louise for using the Independent Bookworm to announce the completion of her amazing series and providing an opportunity to our readers to experience the Disciple for free.

One Click, Three Minutes, Everyone Wins

The Tale of Hope Three Minutes to Midnight is now FREE in the Kindle Unlimited Library!

{And darn cheap otherwise}

I offer this simple, standing challenge to one and all. If you’ve never read a Tale of Created with Nokia RefocusHope, make this one your first. This novelette is under 15 thousand words, in which a Stealthic sets out to do the impossible, then doubles down on danger half-way through.

Here’s the really cool part- if you are a member of Kindle Unlimited, you pay a set price each month for unrestricted access to books in the Kindle library. Read as many as you like. And here’s a secret:

:: looks both ways, whispers ::

If you read just 10 percent of a book you’re looking at, the author still gets paid!

Ten percent of TMM is FIVE PAGE-TURNS! And it costs you nothing once you’re a member. You could finish that on your commute, even if you worked in the kitchen.

I did the calculation- any way you slice it, by the time you’ve reached these words:

“The beast stayed at striking distance the entire time, which made the back of Trekelny’s legs tingle with peril.”

Three Minutes to Midnight (Kindle Locations 76-77). Wm. L. Hahn.

… You’ve made it, ten percent read. Good deed done, starving author (well, hungry) supported.

And I dare you to stop reading then anyway!

Indie authors are always trying new ways to get folks quickly and easily interested in their work. But how can you do better than 10 percent of a short FREE book?

So KU members, take my challenge. Read slightly more than the number of words

{From Assassins Creed, but looks startlingly like Trekelny's ascent!}

{From Assassins Creed, but looks startlingly like Trekelny’s ascent!}

in the Declaration of Independence (about 1,450), and who knows what Liberty and Life you may discover (while painlessly helping me earn a little more property). It would be unAmerican not to.

And if you’ve decided not to try KU yet, Three Minutes to Midnight is a spanking fun sword-and-sorcery cliffhanger for just 99 cents. You can read the whole thing if you like, and with half the words of Romeo and Juliet you get just as many deaths, more daring escapes, and I guarantee a hotter love story. Trust me, when Trekelny climbs to the balcony of the High Priestess of Khoirah, he’s going to give her the kiss of a lifetime.

 

LoH_logoTell your friends, share this post and spread the word– anyone you meet who mentions Kindle Unlimited, or e-books, or who says they’re in a hurry, just lean in and whisper “Three Minutes to Midnight”. No matter the rush, you’ve got time for that.

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