S. D. Nicholson has kindly agreed to give away a paperback copy of this excellent book to one lucky Examining the Odd reader! Simply click here to enter. Good luck! Please note that this giveaway is only available to residents of the US and Canada.
S. D. NICHOLSON is an emerging author with a focused genre of adventure and fantasy. Growing up as a child, he exercised his vivid imagination, creating adventure games for his friends and family. Sam went back to these roots in his first novel, Mischief and Mayhem, the first book in the The Faerlands Chronicles series. Nicholson graduated from Florida State University in 2017 and moved to Virginia Beach, where his imagination took hold once more and led him to pursue turning an idea into his first book.
Mischief and Mayhem is available on Amazon and in select brick-and-mortar retailers now.
In my opinion, writing is the foundation of human culture. As one of the earliest means human beings created to launch their thoughts into the future, there would be no cultures on this planet today without writing. However, writing is no longer the sole means of spreading stories and knowledge. With the 20th century advent of film and television, the idea of telling stories through writing is perhaps even the most archaic form of writing today. However, there’s a magic that still exists, for me at least, in a written story. I remember as a younger man thinking that I wanted to develop a form of writing that couldn’t translate to film, that had to be read to be understood. I wanted to expose what language alone is capable of being. It’s an internal experience rather than an external experience. That’s what I want to capitalize on in the stories I tell: the fact that they exist solely in the space between my mind and the reader’s. And therein, for me, lies the current cultural value of writing—that space between the writer’s mind and the reader’s and how it allows one person to comprehend another’s unmediated, unadulterated thoughts. There’s no actor to interpret. There’s no vision to see. There’s only one mind reaching out to another.
Well said, Israfel. I love a good film, but nothing beats the connection we get to a book and its author.
The hardest part of writing my books has always been getting the words to form themselves right on the paper. Stories come to me quite often and quite easily and relatively fully-formed. The act of sitting down to write is something I enjoy. I often put on music to keep myself still and simply stare at a blank computer screen or piece of paper until the words come out. However, getting those words shaped into the vision I want others to see, that’s a painstaking process. As I wrote many years ago in my poem “Break Through” published in my collection At the Side of the Road—“Words come too hard to mean nothing.”
Quite. I get a little put off when I read that an author has released seven books in a year. I want to read a craft, not a formula.
What inspires you?
My greatest inspiration over the years has always been my own memories. My muse is an internal one. I look back over my life and wonder if all the twists and turns really lead back to here, to this theme that recurs, that creeps into my head, that plays its twisted chords of gunfights and shootouts, of falling, laughing back into bed with someone I love tight in my arms. That’s from a poem of mine as well, “Saint Annie” in The Tree Outside My Window. I never thought of it as being a simple synopsis of what inspires me, but as I contemplate this question, I’m coming to believe it is.
How do you feel about ebooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
I prefer reading physical books. They’re comforting. They remind me of childhood and running away from my daily cares, hiding in my bedroom from the rain outside. For me, ebooks don’t carry that nostalgia, but I believe they very well could for future generations. I also prefer my books to be read in print form for two reasons. First, I love the new covers coming out for the second editions of my works (and future first editions)—I only have three second editions currently available: The Tree Outside My Window, Indigo Glow and The Adversary’s Good News. I want these books to exist physically for people to hold and see. Second, a physical copy of my book is launched into the world. Who knows where it will land. Who knows who will discover it. As far as alternative vs. conventional publishing. I’ve never gone the conventional route. I’ve always enjoyed the control I exert over my product as a self-publisher. Friends of mine who have entered the traditional publishing world have rapidly lost control of their words. I’m very afraid of that. However, I’m also aware certain avenues are closed to me for marketing as a result. Personally, I feel it’s the writer’s choice how she wishes to proceed. Neither seems to me to be inherently superior to the other.
I agree, Israfel. I think it’s the author’s choice to publish in their preferred format(s). But, I love that I can lend a finished paperback to someone. I can read it in the bath without fear of the financial consequences. I can donate it to a charity shop and wonder where it will end up and who it will influence.
What is your role in the writing community?
That’s an interesting question. As a young man, I would have said my role was to be the greatest writer in the English language of this day and age (laughs). However, today, I believe my role in the writing community is simply to expand genres, to push others to see that there is more we can do as authors. We don’t have to follow existing conventions. We can create new ones, new stories, new languages. To quote myself yet again, from the story “Catatonia” in Psychedelicizations, I want to write stories that a giant can fit in, to challenge artistic barriers and reveal how they can be overcome.
I’m surprised by this answer! I know that Israfel is active in the poetry community and works hard to promote/work with others, so I thought this would be his answer. I’m inspired by his big dreams though.
What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?
I think the most interesting book I’ve ever read is Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. It tells a powerful story in a fascinating manner. It’s thoroughly intriguing to me. I don’t understand it, and I don’t want to. I simply want to experience it again and again. I love the ideas of this book, the tone of this book and the language of this book.
The easiest place to learn more about me is by reading the books I’ve written. It’s the only place I’m truly comfortable revealing myself. And in reality, my books reveal more about me than I ever intended.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
The shortest amount of time I’ve ever worked on a book was a year. The longest was ten years. I don’t know if there’s an average amount of time. Different projects require different investments.
I think this comes across in the author‘s writing. It’s honed, it’s considered. It changes as a person changes over a period of years.
If you didn’t like writing books, what would you do for a living?
Well, since I’ve never made a living as an author, I’ve done a number of things to make money, everything from construction to copywriting. I think if I could choose any one thing to do for a living other than writing, it would be teaching philosophy, which I was setting myself up to do at one point in time. However, life didn’t unfold in that direction for me.
I hope that life allows Israfel to dedicate more time to his writing. The world needs authors like this!
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
On the journey home from a science fiction convention in London, Ontario, Fritz Leiber collapsed. He died a few weeks later from a brain disease. It’s nice to know that he was living the sci-fi dream until the end.
2. E. T. A. Hoffman.
Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann was a Prussian Romantic author of fantasy and Gothic horror, a jurist, composer, music critic, draftsman and caricaturist. – Wikipedia
Compositions: Der Trank der Unsterblichkeit, Undine
Hoffman suffered as a result of syphilis and alcohol abuse until his death caused by the former in 1822. His headstone (found in Berlin-Kreuzberg) reads: E. T. W. Hoffmann, born on 24 January 1776, in Königsberg, died on 25 June 1822, in Berlin, Councillor of the Court of Justice, excellent in his office, as a poet, as a musician, as a painter, dedicated by his friends.
3. Edward Lucas White was an American writer.
Born in the USA in Bergen, New Jersey, he attended Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he lived for the rest of his life. – Wikipedia
Born: 11 May 1866, Bergen County, New Jersey, United States
Died: 30 March 1934, Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Education: Johns Hopkins University
Edward Lucas White is well remembered for his short story collections Stuff of Dreams and Song of the Sirens, as well as for numerous other works.
White died by his own hand in 1934, a week after the death of his wife, by gassing himself in his bathroom. – Book Depository
4. Horacio Quiroga. Horacio Quiroga is remembered for his bizarre jungle-themed stories depicting the struggles of men and animals. He was born in Uruguay in 1878 died in Argentina in 1937. Following family problems, Horacio Quiroga’s wife and children left him alone and ill in the jungle. He had prostate hypertrophy and managed to travel to Buenos Aires for treatment. Whilst in the hospital, Quiroga learned that a patient with severe deformities was locked in the basement. His name was Vincent Batistessa and Quiroga asked for him to be moved in to his own room. The pair became friends and Batistessa was by Quiroga’s side when the latter took his own life by drinking cyanide, no longer able to cope with the pain of his illness and the knowledge of his imminent death.
5. Sax Rohmer. Sax Rohmer was a successful English novelist. He was born in 1883 in Birmingham, England and died in London in 1959. His writing was made in to numerous films, including Daughter of the Dragon (1931, starring Anna May Wong), Slave of Crime (1987, starring Marco Moriarty) and The Blood of Fu Manchu (1968, starring Christopher Lee). Some of his most well-known books include Brood of the Witch-Queen, The Devil Doctor and The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu. Sax Rohmer died of ‘Asian Flu’ in 1959.
Blurring the line between dream and reality can be fatal. Sleepwalking through a decade of soulless jobs, Arnold Brinckman is still reeling from his girlfriend’s suicide. When he is convinced all hope is lost, the beautiful and exotic Anastasia appears in his dreams, teaching him to live and love again.
If you need a book that covers multiple genres and moods, The Woman of My Dreams is for you. It’s somewhere in the realms of paranormal, suspense and romance, the latter two genres not being something I usually go for. The Woman of My Dreams starts off funny and light, grows into intelligent fun, and then dives into sensitive, well-crafted depression for the end.
I’ve said this about books before, but the title and cover wouldn’t attract me to giving this book a go. It looks and sounds maybe a bit too girly for my tastes. This is one of the greatest perks to having a blog – I get approached about books that I wouldn’t usually try, I give them a go and I love them!
I really like Arnold, the main character of the book – he’s the kind of character that I think a lot of people can relate to. He made me laugh and I understood the choices he made throughout the story, even when he was being an idiot.
The story reminded me of one of my favourite films, Drop Dead Fred, with the writing style of Stephen Fry (when he’s writing novels) and George R. R. Martin (think The Armageddon Rag, notGame of Thrones). For those of you that don’t know Drop Dead Fred, the story is about a woman whose childhood imaginary friend returns to her when her life takes a turn for the worse… but the imaginary friend is real, existing in their own right. The Woman of My Dreams is very similar, but with the protagonist seeing a dead woman in his dreams instead. I refer to Stephen Fry as he manages to write excellent, relatable young male characters which are funny (laugh out loud funny at times) and honest.
Above: Cover of The Woman of My Dreams. Owned by Glenn Fain. Image sent with review request.
This is a quick book to read at just 220 pages and a good pace, with chapters ending in such a way that you really need to read just one more… I find that a lot of self-published genre books at the moment have too much padding and waffle, but I can definitely say that this isn’t the case for The Woman of My Dreams.
The only issue that I had with this book is that I think it needs a final proof-read from an outside professional – but please don’t let that put you off as it really is an excellent read. I’m definitely interested in reading Glenn Fain’s other books in the future. This is his third, the first two being The Angel Experiment and Tease. They both have great reviews, as does The Woman of My Dreams.
Above: Portrait of author Glenn Fain. Owned by Glenn Fain. Image sent with review request.
The Woman of My Dreams is available on Kindles and in paperback through Amazon. The kindle copy is pretty cheap, so you should definitely grab it.
Disclosure: The author sent me a free ebook in return for an honest review. This did not in any way influence my review. I am regularly sent books and artwork that I would not be comfortable endorsing through Examining the Odd. Please be assured that if I have featured a book and spoken positively about it, this is truly how I personally feel about that book.
Yesterday I posted my review of Leonora Meriel’s wonderful book The Woman Behind the Waterfall. Today we have a guest post from Leonora herself and a giveaway of 5 signed copies of the book! Details of the giveaway can be seen at the end of this post.
Heartbreak and redemption in the beauty of a Ukrainian village
For seven-year old Angela, happiness is exploring the lush countryside around her home in western Ukraine. Her wild imagination takes her into birds and flowers, and into the waters of the river. All that changes when, one morning, she sees her mother crying. As she tries to find out why, she is drawn on an extraordinary journey into the secrets of her family, and her mother’s fateful choices.
Can Angela lead her mother back to happiness before her innocence is destroyed by the shadows of a dark past?
Beautiful, poetic and richly sensory, this is a tale that will haunt and lift its readers.
Some of it is right in front of our noses – out there in the street; in the park; in the passers-by; in a gesture; a cloud; a falling leaf.
Some of it is right here inside our heads – those worlds churning in our minds that lead us to write, to paint, to play games, to dance.
And some of it is in our dreams – the flying, the dark magic of nightmares, the child’s viewpoint, the unnamable joy.
For me – all this magic comes from one place – the universal mind; and no one has expressed it better for me than C.J. Jung with his “collective unconscious”. In my imagination, I picture it as a great, chaotic sea, with archetypes, dreams, memories, all of the emotions and feelings and experiences of the world poured into it. And from this great churning sea, we build our individual worlds: the society we choose as our social architecture; the belief systems we practice; the relationship models we create and re-create over the generations.
But all these models – all these choices – are just one variation. And in my imagination, the variety is endless. Worlds, belief systems, societies, usage of that legendary 95% brain power. Everything could be different! And art is the place where we explore that – the alternative worlds, the alternative expressions of this world, the subconscious manifested into our lives, the dreams become real.
To me, as I step out of the house each day, I see the pavement, the houses, the sky, the trees in season, the cars, the relationships and their dramas. And yet, I feel so aware that this is just a fraction of what is happening. My very perception is limited by what I expect to see. Someone expecting to see all bad things would see the darkness in the street. A resilient optimist would see the flickers of smiles and touched hands; colours, nature – this is all conditioned from our expectations.
And so, when I write fiction, I try to present a wider world, with a little of that brimming magic which, to me, is always there. I try to express the subconscious spilling out the way it does; the dreams mixing with the waking days; the heartbreak which resounds back through generations of archetypal heartbreaks in the universal mind.
In “The Woman Behind the Waterfall” I contrast two different worlds. Lyuda, a young, depressed mother, lives in her own darkness – she sees the world around her and she remembers her mistakes and she can’t see any happiness at all. She drinks Ukrainian homebrew – samohon – to dull the pain.
Her seven year old daughter, Angela, is on the border where her child’s imagination is about to move into a singular understanding of the world. But for the time in the book, she exists in a place where everything flows into everything else – all creation is one – and she is a natural part of it. Angela sees a bird and feels its spirit, and then she is flying in the bird:
Sometimes I prefer to sit in the tree above. A bird. A leaf. A single star from a cluster of lilac. I catch a thread of song across the garden and release myself into it, shift the girl into a quiet background and enter the breath of music which carries me into the bird.
And for a moment I am that music, shimmering against the air, and then I am creating the music. It is I who am singing. I am within the spirit of the bird. And I look around me at the springtime garden and I know why I am singing. The insistent green that is everywhere! The birds that are returning to familiar gardens! The flowers exploding into bloom with every new instant of sunshine!
Angela is also in tune with her subconscious. She is open to the archetypes and to the whispers of the women who make up her generations. Her soul and her imagination are open to guidance:
“I lie on the bottom of the river, which is clear like a sheet of glass. Below me, pale spirits from that other river—the river below this river—rise up and bring me flowers. Women in ragged white with long trailing hair made from the riverbed strands. I hold out my hands.
Take them, my Nightspirit says.
I take the flowers and the women sink back into the depths.
The riverbed clouds over into silt and weeds and stones.
I rise to the surface.”
The symbolism of the river and the water represents the flow of time, and the continuation of the experience of life. All our experiences – through each of our lifetimes and bodies – represent another drop in the eternal flow of life; just as all living things are connected to the flow of everything else – a wonderful concept from the ancient spiritual texts, now proven by the quantum scientists (yes – I read several quantum physics books as research for “The Woman Behind the Waterfall”).
Angela expresses her natural, childlike curiosity when she enters the spirits of different living things: birds, flowers, the river, the air. However, towards the end of the book, she uses it to also express her powerful emotions. When she believes that her mother is going to kill herself, Angela transforms into a storm, and lashes rain over the village, destroying, screaming, furious and wild:
“I draw the clouds to me, seeking the water from the sky and keeping it close; gathering the thoughts into form, one after another, cloud upon cloud, closer and closer into the darkest place. And I call to the sky that there is no need here for light, and the sky closes as I cover it with my anger, and when at last everything is dark and everything is brought into a tight, furious centre, then I whisper to the clouds around me, “It is time,” and I release a scream into the universe and the clouds let out a deafening roll of thunder that goes on and on and on, and lightning flashes down repeatedly onto the garden and the village and the river and over everything that I know, and when the thunder and my scream are finished, then I pull my arms from around my chest and I hold them out and I let the rains pour down onto the earth.”
The main theme of “The Woman Behind the Waterfall” is the search for happiness, and the mother, Lyuda’s, path from her closed, three-dimensional world, out into Angela’s wonderful, magical, natural, joyful multidimensional world. Angela fights hard to show her mother how to enter this place:
I hear the birds singing in the lilac tree nearby and I close my eyes on this late spring morning and my hand is in Mama’s hand and I feel something light flowing from her hand to mine and I think, what if she could?
I whisper to her to close her eyes and I know when she has closed them because I feel another rush of lightness from her hand to mine and I whisper again—“Mama, fly!”—and suddenly Mama and I are great white storks flying through the clear blue air and the wind is rushing cold and bright against us and against our feathers, and we are pushing the air down with powerful wide strokes and Mama’s wide, strong wings are beating next to mine and my smaller wings are beating down, down beside her and I feel her powerful love protecting me with each beat, beat, beat. We are flying over the rooftops of our village—some thatched, some red-tiled—with the long strips of gardens trailing out from tiny houses and the spring-lit trees below us and I can feel Mama’s joy absorbing the completeness of every movement, every barb of every feather creating each stroke of her wings and carrying her beside me through this bright, rushing air. The lightness, the power, the wind. We fly and fly towards a huge nest at the top of a tree and I feel a pull towards it and Mama comes to land in a cave of twigs and I land behind her and she turns and wraps her wide wings around me, little bird disappearing into softness.
It is only as Lyuda accepts the magic around her into her life, that she begins to feel the possibility of happiness.
The difference between the closed, physical world that Lyuda inhabits, and the open, magical world that Angela does, is stark in “The Woman Behind the Waterfall.” But this is how most people live. They believe in one version of the world, and close out the brimming creative magic which is all around. The world of dreams. The world of the subconscious. The world of the 95% brain. The world that every other person perceives. The unlimited possibilities.
It is the job of writers and artists and musicians and the creative industries to bring these other worlds to those ready to hear them. Music that takes you on an ethereal journey; paintings by Chagall and Magritte which speak directly to your subconscious and are scooped out of the universal mind. Writings of novelists such as García Márquez and Isabel Allende.
These worlds are all around us. Our only job is to open up to them – and our own magical realities will become so much richer.
Leonora Meriel is the author of “The Woman Behind the Waterfall” (published October 2016, Granite Cloud), called “an intoxicating world” by Kirkus Reviews; “a timeless and universal novel” by Goodreads reviewers, “a strange and beautiful novel” by writer Esther Freud. Her upcoming novel “The Unity Game” will be published in May 2017.
“Readers looking for a classic tale of love and loss will be rewarded with an intoxicating worlds” – Kirkus Reviews
“A strange and beautiful novel” – Esther Freud, author of Hideous Kinky, Peerless Flats, Mr Mac and Me
“A literary work of art” – Fiona Adams, Richmond Magazine
“Timeless and universal novel” – Goodreads & Amazon reviewer
“A beautiful, thought-provoking exploration of family ties” – MP, Amazon reviewer
Follow Leonora on Twitter here and check out her website.
Leonora Meriel has very kindly offered to give away a signed copy of The Woman Behind the Waterfall (usually $11.99-$16.99 unsigned!) to 5 lucky Examining the Odd readers! The winners will be chosen at random and no purchase is required to enter.
The competition will open with the publishing of this post and will be closed to entries at midday GMT on Sunday 19th March 2017. To enter, you simply need to comment on this blog post. For legal reasons, all entrants must be aged 18 or over, and you cannot enter if you live in Canada, sorry.
Once the deadline has passed, I will use random.org to choose the 5 winners. Winners will be notified within three working days of the deadline and will be contacted via whatever means possible based on their comment/profile. Their details will then be passed on to Leonora who will personally send the books to each winner. Good luck!