A Hobbit-y Holiday

Today is a special day. Yes, it is the first calendar day of autumn (best season of the year, if you ask me), but did you know that today, September 22, is also Hobbit Day? ‘Best day ever!’ Tolkein fans may say. But what, exactly, is Hobbit Day?

I’m glad you asked.

Hobbit Day is an holiday of inestimable import celebrated on the mutual birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, our two small but courageous heroes from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Tolkein has translated the day of that ‘Long Awaited Party’ in the text as September 22nd, and it may very well be the oldest festival observance in association with Tolkein fandom, celebrated since 1973. It was officially designated in 1978 and has gained a rather impressive amount of legal dignity due to the elected officials who have supported it through a variety of proclamations, declarations, tributes, and similar governmental documents. Hobbit Day has also attracted bipartisan support from the U.S. County Courthouse, the White House, and the U.S. Capitol.

Imagine that!

So, how do you go about celebrating this prodigious day? Well, you party like an hobbit. Observances include going barefoot all day (my personal favorite. So much so that I observe it every day), costume events, games, feasting (or be like a true hobbit and eat seven meals. First and second breakfasts, anyone?), and fireworks. Or gather amongst fellow enthusiasts and marathon the movies. With the three The Hobbit films out to add to the original LOTR trilogy, that’ll prove to be one extensive event. (I’m down. Who’s with me?)

Whether you’re a die-hard fan or simply enjoy any excuse to celebrate, Hobbit Day is the perfect holiday to break out your festive best and make merry like they do in the Shire.

How are you celebrating?

Reynwood’s Reviews: Tarzan of the Apes

Hello, everyone, and happy middle of September! The weather this past week has really turned around from what we were anticipating — it’s gorgeous up here, like summer is giving us its last ‘hurrah’ before forfeiting his place to autumn’s graces. There’s only one week left before the calendar autumn commences (the 22nd), and school has already begun (this is week two for us, I believe). But instead of pining over that finished season and mourning the coming cold, why not remember with fondness all the great memories this summer has held for us? What people did you see and spend time with? What projects did you undertake and accomplish? Any milestones reached? What good books have you put under your belt while basking in the sunshine or taking refuge in the shade, hunkering down next to the livingroom lamp on balmy, black nights just to find out what happens next?

For myself, the latest one was Tarzan of the Apes, a classic story from the early 20th century (first appearance, 1912), and it truly was a great read.


20308032Title: Tarzan of the Apes (#1)

Series: Tarzan

Author: Edgar Rice Burroughs

My rating: 5 of 5


In 1888 Lord and Lady Clayton sail from England but to West Africa and perish on a remote island. When their infant son is adopted by fanged, great anthropoid apes, he is Tarzan of the Apes. His intelligence and caring mother raise him to be king. Self-educated by his parents’ library, Tarzan rescues genteel Jane Porter from the perils of his jungle.

My Thoughts:

As I’ve mentioned before in a previous review on one of these stories, I LOVE Tarzan. My first exposure to this fantastic tale was Disney’s cartoon adaption, which we all know tends to vastly rewrite the original. I fell in love with that story and, years later, fell in love with the original, too. But they are very, very different in many respects.

In this story we get to know Tarzan’s human parents far more before they perish, making sure we understand Tarzan’s exceptional breeding as an English lordling. However, it isn’t at the hands of a leopard that they die, but by the hands of Kerchak the King of Apes. Yes, apes. Not gorillas. I’ll admit, I was a little sad to note this, plus the fact that the creatures were represented far more like animals in their natural light than Disney’s tendency to humanize them, but Kala was still a devoted mother. She was the only one in all the tribe ─ largely the entire jungle ─ whom Tarzan actually loved, and you felt for him when she was killed by the newly arrived human natives.

Tarzan proves rather indifferent when it comes to killing and a bit devilish when tormenting his mother’s killers, and yet we see that he can be noble and very loyal. He is clever and ingenious with a mind that learns like a sponge. He likes to spend as much time as possible in the cabin on the beach built by his human father (John Clayton, Lord Greystoke) whom he never knew, playing with all the curiosities of human civilization stowed there, but mostly the books. Now, Burroughs has Tarzan learn how to read and write English through these books, and while I could condone perhaps some basics with word/picture association, I found it odd that he could grasp the language to the extent that he did without any teaching. But that was my biggest issue. He understands that he isn’t an ape after all, but a Man, and so when a party of his paler complexioned people arrive on shore he is very curious and hopeful of meeting them ─ but shy ─ and he can’t understand a lick of spoken English in which to readily communicate with them. These people include, of course, Jane and her father, but no gorilla hunting madmen. This is when the story really veers from the more familiar Disney version, involving treasure hunts and kidnappings and rescues and a wee bit of romance. Tarzan loves Jane on first sight, and when he rescues her from a bull ape she loves him, too.

Happy ending, right? Nay!

Tarzan’s nobility and love are both tested when he must safeguard an injured French officer in the jungle instead of returning immediately from the rescue to the beach and his beloved. (He befriends the officer who teaches him to speak French). Then, by the time they get back to the cabin, it’s deserted! Tarzan has to travel up the coast of Africa to civilization and on for his love, but not to England. To America. Tarzan finds Jane in the foreign land of Wisconsin, rescuing her from a forest fire.

Happy ending now, right? Nay!

Tarzan is not the only one vying for dear Jane’s love, but so, too, is William Clayton (evidently Tarzan’s cousin) and a certain Mr. Canler, who is of a rather unsavory character, but is prevailing due to financial stresses on the part of the Porters. I could hardly bear to see how this was all going to go down, seeing as this original story is so different from the one I’ve been so familiar with, but then the story ends with a cryptic message and never says just who Jane is going to marry.

I just might have thrown the book were it mine and not already falling apart with age. Is Tarzan going to keep quiet about his newfound identity as the true Lord Greystoke and defer to his cousin or is he going to claim his title and his woman? I am sincerely hoping that the next volume will tell me, otherwise I might turn inside out.

The characters were awesome and the frank humor was great. I can certainly see how Burroughs became so popular a writer in his day, for his narrative and storytelling are engaging. I haven’t finished a book in so short a period of time in a good, long while and this one is definitely going on my list of absolute favorites.

Reynwood’s Reviews: The Prince and the Pauper

Title: The Prince and the Pauper

Author: Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain)

My Rating: 4 of 5


This treasured historical satire, played out in two very different socioeconomic worlds of 16th-century England, centers around the lives of two boys born in London on the same day: Edward, Prince of Wales and Tom Canty, a street beggar. During a chance encounter, the two realize they are identical and, as a lark, decide to exchange clothes and roles–a situation that briefly, but drastically, alters the lives of both youngsters. The Prince, dressed in rags, wanders about the city’s boisterous neighborhoods among the lower classes and endures a series of hardships; meanwhile, poor Tom, now living with the royals, is constantly filled with the dread of being discovered for who and what he really is.


My Thoughts:

I have heard of this story and seen variations of it done for years, but I’m the kind of person who likes to find the original of a classic in as unadulterated a form as possible (outside of original foreign languages, that is). So when I found this copy, copyrighted in ’69 and published by Grosset and Dunlap (who, as it happened, also did my copy of Jungle Tales of Tarzan) I knew I had to have it and find out the ‘true’ story of the Prince and the Pauper.

I loved it. Set in medieval England just before the reign of King Edward the VI, it follows the misadventure of a certain poor boy by the name of Tom Canty and a certain Edward VI, Prince of Wales, who, had they been born identical twins could not have looked more similar. A seemingly chance encounter wildly reverses their positions, and we get to follow along and see how each copes with their drastically foreign environments, learning valuable lessons along the way.

The image of sixteenth century London is vivid, picturing both the opulence of the royal world and the dire straits of the plebian community, who suffer perpetually under the unjust English law ─ which is ragged on often enough. The hardships young Edward endures, and the troubles suffered by those who endear themselves to him along the way, reveal to him the truth of wonton tyrannical rule. Meanwhile, the lavishness of royal life nearly blinds Tom Canty of his good heart, but in the end realizes all the posh and pomp is meaningless and empty.

The dialogue is chocked full of ‘thee’s and ‘thou’s and ‘for sooth’s and whatnot (like I said, unabridged), but the writing is clever and speckled with rather frank humor. The characters are well portrayed, insomuch that I felt frustrated for both Tom and Edward when they insisted on their reversed identities and everyone around them persisted in assuming they were mad. Suddenly and inexplicably so. For the length of it, Edward expressed resentment toward Tom and what he must be doing, usurping the throne, and throughout all the story I felt fear for what might befall the pauper boy.

And then there’s Miles Hendon. Dear, dear Miles Hendon. An escaped POW, he comes into town in time to save the mistaken Edward from Tom’s abusive father and proceeds to take the lad under his wing. He is an extraordinarily kindhearted and noble soul who gets abused both physically and emotionally, but he takes it like a man with endearing stoicism for Edward’s sake and you can’t not love him for that.

This story is yet another example that goes to show that just because it’s old, doesn’t mean it can’t keep up with the bullet train of this present era.

On Writing: Tension

Hello, everyone ─ and happy last day of August! September’s just around the bend, and I don’t know about any of you, but once those ’ember’s come along I get this cozy feeling inside with images of bread baking, chai, PUMPKINS . . . I could really go on and on. If cooler days are coming, and since it’s inevitable, we might as well focus on the delightful parts, no?

Today I’m going to share a bit about something I recently read in one of my writing books (yes, after seven volumes I’m finally actively studying how to write a novel the ‘right way’). Now, this book I’m reading is called Writing Lessons from the Front by Dr. Angela Hunt, a successful author of over 130 works. She also teaches writing (hence this book), and so far I have found great advice and some real brain exercises. Lots of things to keep in mind that I’ve never thought of before.

So apparently, in writing, there is a method to the madness.

The bit I’m going to share with you today is on ‘tension’, and the concept is that tension must exist on every page in order to keep readers reading. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that every page needs to be packed with drama or thrills. The simple concept is ‘unanswered questions’. No, they aren’t supposed to remain unanswered, but stretching out the time between when the question is asked and when it is answered is the tension. It’s like a sandwich:

Question asked  >  time of tension/waiting  > question answered

Say Peter, James, and Martha are hanging out at the top of a cliff (a very precarious venue, by the way) and Peter falls off the edge into the ocean thirty feet below, to the abject horror of his compatriots. IS HE STILL ALIVE? (question asked). James and Martha can’t see him so they race to the shore at the bottom of the cliff (waiting), where they find Peter in the surf.

Let’s stop there for a moment and talk more about the waiting period. Sure, it’s fine enough to say that they ‘raced to the shore at the bottom of the cliff’, but that in and of itself is not a very tense moment. So what do we do? Trip them up! Place obstacles in front of James and Martha to slow them down, frustrate them as they try desperately to get the shore in time ─ if it’s not already too late, of course. After all, hitting the water from a thirty foot drop is perilous. Not to mention that Peter can’t swim, as Martha hysterically informs James while they dash forth. (There could be several reasons why James was never in the know about Peter’s inability to tread water, but that’s not where we’re going at the moment).

We have our first ‘obstacle:

  • Peter can’t swim

Let’s add some more trouble:

  • The vegetation at the back of the cliff is thick ad tangly, slowing their descent.
  • Maybe they find a sudden drop in the slop and they have to decide whether to risk jumping or backtrack to find a different route.
  • One of them slips on a randomly discarded banana peel and takes a tumble (earning some scrapes and bruises, of course).

That is some ordeal! Who would be so rude as to throw away their banana peel like that? (Maybe Peter tossed it after they ate their lunch?) Battered and breathless, James and Martha break through the mini crucible to the beach, struggling to run through the shifting sand, and finally make it to the water. James spots the orange shirt first, bobbing in the foamy brine, and hastens to pull his friend out. Behind him, Martha is close to tears. Battered by the waves, James can’t determine Peter’s condition, so the two of them haul his limp form to the shore. He’s cold to the touch, but couldn’t that be just from the water? Martha can’t find a pulse, but she’s shaking too much to rightly tell. James pumps on Peter’s chest and slaps his face.

At this point the question of ‘Is Peter still alive?’ remains unanswered. Right about now would be a good time to insert a section break or end the chapter, when the tension is highest ─ just before the question is answered. This would prompt a reader to forge ahead and find out whatever happened to Peter. Were I evil, I could stop here and refrain from telling you until my next post, but I’m not always as heartless as I’ve been accused of being and will answer the question:

James was on the verge of giving up when Peter’s body convulsed. Salt water spewed out of his mouth between gasping breaths and lung-raking coughs. Martha burst into tears, and James felt dizzy with relief. Etc, etc. The point is PETER IS, IN FACT, ALIVE!

In summation, the space between when a question is asked and when that question is answered is the home of ‘tension’, the fishing line that tugs on a reader to keep reading in order to find out what happens.


To learn more about Dr. Angela Hunt and her plethora of books, visit her website  — and add some titles to your reading list on Goodreads!

Reynwood’s Reviews: Jungle Tales of Tarzan

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Title: Jungle Tales of Tarzan

Series: Tarzan, #6

Author: Edgar Rice Burroughs

My rating: 4 0f 5


Glorious tales of Tarzan’s early growth to manhood in the forest…
Tarzan, the heart of primeval Africa, escapes death on the horn of Buto the rhinoceros, saves the life of Tantor the elephant, sends the witchdoctor Bukawai to a terrible death, battle victoriously with his arch-enemy Numa the Lion, and slowly but surely fights his way to a mastery of his savage, unforgiving jungle.


My thoughts:

I fell in love with the story of Tarzan when I saw the Disney movie an age and a half ago, and got very excited when I recently found this book at a thrift store. I didn’t know at the time that this was a small part of a series of stories about Tarzan (and it’s pretty extensive, numbering 27 volumes). I felt the ‘dropped into the middle’ confusion, in having not read the preceding stories to explain current events more clearly, but bits and pieces were filled in as each tale progressed.

As is per usual, the Disney adaption is nothing like the original, but in my opinion neither one is better than the other. Tarzan is more of an incubus in the books, and it’s interesting to see the take on an human’s inquisitive mind when largely isolated from mankind and raised by apes. Not gorillas. Apes. There are native Africans in these tales, too, to which Tarzan is absolutely devilish due to an enmity I will not divulge. You might have a better idea if you’ve seen the most recent Tarzan film, The Legend of Tarzan, I believe it is. 

Each chapter is its own, self-contained story, adventures and exploits of our wild ‘ape-man’, and I found them fun — if not a little far-fetched at times. Nevertheless, I am certainly more than willing to go back and start from the beginning of this series!


Find out more about Edgar Rice Burroughs and his stories (which include the infamous Barsoom tales of John Carter on Mars!) on Goodreads!

A Peek into the ‘Other Life’

Hello, everyone! It’s only been about two weeks since my last post here, but it seems like forever ago! Time moves in mysterious ways. How has your August been, so far? Over here in our little corner of Arcadia it’s rained more days than not — quite a turnaround from last year, I’ll say! I’ve heard it said that the weather is bipolar, and in some respects I think I might have to agree. Nevertheless, though we had a late start on the planting season, things are coming along fairly plentiful. We’ve been drowning in green beans, cucumbers, and zucchini for some weeks — and now the peaches are ready!

With so much going on around here, I thought I’d share a bit of my off-writing life with you, so you know I’m not as one-dimensional as I’ve been making myself out to be. I do more than write!

So, for starters, I live on a wee farm, as many of you may already know and probably could have guessed. This season I learned how to use a pressure caner for the first time and have squirreled away a number of pints of green beans. I’d have done more, but ran out of wide mouth pint jars. Super bummer.

Yesterday I spent the evening hours canning peaches! I love canning things, and it is my firm belief that one of the world’s most beautiful sounds is the popping of a sealed jar.

Are they not gorgeous? I’ve got regular and spiced. Over the past few days of prepping food for processing I’ve acquired a nice pair of sliced thumbs. It is a most worthy sacrifice. Next on my list is spiced peach jam and bread and butter pickles. Mmmm . . .

 

One of our beloved peach trees.

As for today, it was time to pick more of those cucumbers, zucchini, and green beans.

Cucumbers up the ying-yang. They’re good sliced with a sprinkle of sea salt. Or pickled. Pickled is good.
A basket full of produce. Much more and I’ll become a basket case.
In the process of cleaning more green beans. I think I’ll try roasting them for dinner tonight.

I also made a bundt cake out of one of our zucchini for dessert — can’t not look forward to that!

And there you have it, a glimpse of my ‘other life’, which, as it happens, can some days take up an entire day, whereby I miss writing entirely, but such is life, and I can’t say I don’t love it.

Concluding(ish) Thoughts on TJT and the Infamous ‘What’s Next?’

Hello, everyone! Can you believe it’s the end of July already? We’ve been anticipating this month for a long time, and now it’s over ─ funny, how time works. My brother is married, I have an awesome new sister-in-law, and the finale of The Journey Taken is out in the world, the saga completed.

We all knew this was going to be a big year, and it’s only half over! Who knows what else is in store?

Just a couple of days ago the giveaway for An Odyssey’s End reached its conclusion (congratulations to the winners!) and the books are already off and on their way. For me, that kind of marked the end of the end for this project, and the feeling is rather surreal ─ having the subject that consumed five years of your life finally reach its completion ─ yet at the same time there’s a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, having set a goal and reached it. Anyone who has done similarly, with any objective, knows the feeling. I have become what I’ve wanted to be for a very long time: a published author with a complete series under my belt.

So now what?

Well, the thing about walking is that it’s a series of steps, and when one is taken, the next must follow in order to keep moving. There are many options and opportunities (as well as responsibilities) open to me as both a writer and regular human (the line between which is faded at best and the question of whether a writer even can be considered a ‘regular human’ being highly debatable). Consumed by this project, I have neglected a few normal life things that require taking care of. I had decided that when this series was finished I would focus more thought and effort into those areas, and the prospect is both exciting and nerve-wracking (as is per usual when changing one’s status quo). But in the midst of all that?

Another story, of course. I’d debated putting writing aside for a while to focus on other things (people thought ‘taking a break’, I thought ‘purgatory’). But that thought depressed me too much, and the impulse to write has become reflexive. Stories and ideas come from everywhere and are perpetually bouncing around in my head ─ I cannot stuff them neatly (or otherwise) inside a box and shove it into some cobwebby corner and say ‘someday I’ll work on this again’. Writing is life, and even if I have to supplement it this time around with other, slightly-less-important-but-nonetheless-necessary facts of existing in the ‘real world’, I cannot stop.

And now that that’s settled, I, personally, feel much better.

I’ve also decided to do some learning on creative writing. I hadn’t done much of that at all when I began TJT, and while I’ve learned a truckload since then, I’m going to do more in-depth studying about the art, to develop my skills and make something even better next time. I want to always be improving in my craft, for the Lord and for you, my readers. You both deserve my best, and I want to strive to find my limits and break past them to new heights.

So, now that this new chapter in my life and career has begun, you just might be wondering what writing project I’ve taken up now, or if I’m still mulling over an idea. The only mulling, I assure you, was over which project to undertake, as there are MANY. So. Very. Many. But I have made my selection, and it is one that’s been brewing for a while. I’m super excited to be working on it ─ ecstatic, really. All that I’ll tell you about it right now is that it is not set in the TJT universe (we’re FAR from done there, though, believe me).

I’ve also decided to make this a NaNoWriMo project. For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is an organization centered around the thrilling side of creative writing. The objective for participants is to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November, and the site provides a mountain of resources to help make that happen, along with a vast community of fellow writers to get in touch with and discuss virtually any topic on the forums. You can keep track of your word count and earn badges for participation, writing goals reached, and milestones passed. I’ve heard about it for several years, and I thought that now was a good time to start. (To learn more about NaNoWriMo, visit the website and get involved to help writers make the world a better place!)

In conclusion, I wanted to thank everyone who has come along with me on this journey, who have encouraged me and pushed me to see this through, and it is my hope that you will continue to do so as we step forth to new horizons and what lies beyond the other side of the next hill.