Tag Archives: Writing

In Defence of Uncomfortable Subject Matter

 

 in [Genre] Fiction

Is it ever justified to write about uncomfortable matter in fiction? Whether genre or not? –

Tom Hawking wrote a piece on   august 18, 2015 in http://flavorwire.com/ commenting on a New Stateman’s blog by  Liz Lutgendorff, who has read, she claims every book on a tp 100 of sci-fi list and finds them shockingly full of pervasive sexism. She especially considers rape scenes as being a bad example of this sexism. However, she does not consider, it would seem the necessity to write about very uncomfortable matter in order to being to the readers’ notice the very existence of these happenings and their outcomes.

I am not sure that genre fiction is particularly bad at this, and have read the Thomas Covenant novels she cites and enjoyed them. I was especially impressed that it highlighted the issues of leprosy which is far more of a subject matter that we do not like to think about as it makes us very uncomfortable indeed. Are response has generally been to hide sufferers away from our sight.

I think that it is indeed literature’s role to look at these subjects that make us uncomfortable and even to demonstrate what sexism looks like and indeed rape, incest, or mothers suffering from post-partum depression killing babies or thinking about it. I think we do need to look at these very difficult incidents and occurrences from both the sides – we need to try and understand why they happen as well as the outcomes and his will enable to us understand better how to prevent them and how to help any who have been impacted by these events.

I don’t think that just because we feel things like sexism are wrong that we should prevent them being written about and I do personally feel that some feminists go too far with this – art must imitate life and also expand on life and imagine this life under many and different situations. Artists have imaginations for the rest of us and just reading soft or cosy matter that does not stretch the mind – happy books are a drug that it is nice to have at times, but our emotions are far more involved in darker and more desperate stories. The ones that make us cry!

So let’s cheer for those who write about the subjects that we wish weren’t there and read their books and blog about them and share our thoughts with others. We need this writing as much as we need chick literature and happy historical romances!

The Widow’s son: More to know and reveal

The sins of the father will be/should be cast upon their descendants until the nth generation – or until no more shall live. This is the motto of the characters bent on revenge or vengeance for the killing of their cult’s founders. So the hero’s job is to stop the latest killings – by whatever means  he can. On the whole this is a traditional cowboys and bad guys story, with a goodly dash of old Testament fervour.

Of course this book is part of the Rare Books series and so the bookseller hero and rare books are involved, as well as some rather special skills that most rare book sellers don’t usually have. I found this better than the first book in the series that I have also read.

Title: The Widow’s Son

Author: Thomas Shawver

Genre: Mystery / Thriller

Thomas Shawver, author of The Dirty Book Murder and Left Turn at Paradise, returns to the surprisingly lethal world of rare books with a third enthralling novel featuring a most unlikely hero — antiquarian bookseller Michael Bevan.

A furious man from nearby Independence, Kansas demands that Michael Bevan return a rare first edition of the Book of Mormon, claiming that it was mistakenly sold by a disgruntled descendant of A.J. Stout. Contained on the frontispiece are a list of Ford names dating from 1845 to the present. Beside each name, save the last two, is a check mark – but what could the checks signify? With this discovery, Michael Bevan stumbles onto a trail of hatred and murder stretching back to 1844.

The Widow's Son_Shawver

Author Bio

Thomas Shawver is a former marine officer, lawyer, and journalist with American City Business Journals. An avid rugby player and international traveler, Shawver owned Bloomsday Books, an antiquarian bookstore in Kansas Cit

Website: http://bloomsdaybooks.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ThomasShawverAuthor

Goodreads: Goodreads

Links

Penguin Random House: Penguin Random House

Amazon: Amazon

Barnes and Noble: B&N

iBooks: iBooks

Google play: Google Play

Books a Million: Books a Million

Kobo: Kobo

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 “The Widows Son”: Excerpt

“Who was the deceased?” the investigator from the coroner’s office asked as the Fire Department EMTs packed up their respirator. “And why is he dressed in that getup?”

Rolls of flab stuck out between the corpse’s deerskin shirt and breeches. The long scarlet wig had slipped off the bald pate; a cheap replica of a torque hung just under the double chin. On a nearby chair, someone had set a pair of leather dancing pumps and a plastic shield. A long spear, its rubber tip bent at a forty-five-degree angle, leaned against the makeshift stage.

Neither I nor anyone in the small crowd of mostly mothers and their preteen daughters responded to the question. They were still recovering from the shock of witnessing a fifty-year-old man, who, half an hour earlier, had—with left leg extended horizontally before him, right foot tucked neatly under his bum, and back straight as the letter L—elevated twenty inches above the deck before crashing to earth in a lifeless heap.

The kids had thought it was part of the act and laughed. Now they whimpered in the arms of their horrified parents. Each of the girls but one was dressed in a sequined dance costume costing upward of a thousand dollars. The outfits had nothing Irish about them except for elaborately embroidered Celtic designs.

The fashion exception was an adolescent girl. She wore soft-toed shoes like the other dancers, but the plaid skirt and light blue blouse were her Catholic school uniform. Perfectly straight hair, pale as an August moon, hung below her shoulders. Colorless, too, was her skin, so much so that I might have mistaken her for an albino had it not been for the orange-brown eyes that gazed straight ahead as if in a trance. She clutched a small comb in her right hand.

“This is no time for shyness,” urged the investigator, whose name was Buford Higgins. “Who’s the unfortunate fella?”

Natalie Phelan, she of the fiery gait and flashing temper who ran the Kansas City Celtic Heritage Center, piped up with equal bits sorrow and wonder as if the body belonged to the Savior himself. “That’s Liam O’Halloran, Mr. Higgins. How could you not know?”

“Eh? Not the O’Halloran of Bog Swirl fame?”

“The very same. A few years past his prime, of course.”

“More like an eternity.”

Pushing aside the EMTs who had rolled a stretcher next to the stage, Higgins knelt beside the corpse to better study the face.

When he spoke again his voice was reverent.

“So it is, Mrs. Phelan. Sure, and he’s a long way from Carnegie Hall.”

During O’Halloran’s salad days he and the supporting cast of Bog Swirl had indeed performed the Cattle Raid of Cooley in that prestigious New York City venue. The Raid was O’Halloran’s signature epic, played hundreds of times before thousands of enraptured fans wherever in the world the Irish Diaspora planted its tricolor flag. Millions more became acquainted through his performances on Public Television so that almost overnight three quarters of the English-speaking world claimed to have a touch of the green in their genes.

O’Halloran, whose real name was Augustus “Augie” Tatem of Ottumwa, Iowa, rode the wave for nearly a decade, culminating in command performances for the Taoiseach in Dublin and the Prince of Wales at Royal Albert Hall. Tens of thousands of people who wouldn’t be caught dead attending a ballet had been thrilled to watch the long-haired dancer, shillelagh in one hand and pagan maiden in the other, kick, leap, and prance across an enormous stage to the sounds of thundering drums and trilling  pipes.

But it couldn’t last. The end of Bog Swirl came when O’Halloran broke his leg doing one too many signature backflips at a national Knights of Columbus convention in Allentown, Pennsylvania. After the last of the pipers was lured away by the siren call of a Carnival Cruise gig, O’Halloran fell to drink and dissipation.

It was Natalie’s plan to bring him out of retirement in Omaha to reminisce for a few minutes about the good old days then take a seat to watch the youngsters from the Doolan Academy perform.

Liam O’Halloran’s name still carried sufficient star power to entice women of a certain age who remembered his vulpine looks and the scandalous way he winked at the audience before leaping to save sacrificial Druid virgins. And, despite their initial shock at seeing what the years and drink had done, most felt his mere presence justified the fifteen-dollar entrance fee.

Clothed in his Hound of Ulster costume, he’d talked for over an hour in a soft lilt that none of the actual immigrant Irish in the audience could quite place—Dan Regan, the Kerryman, thought it was from Connaught; the Dubliner Bannon guessed Mayo; and Mrs. Hurley, always the cynic, suggested somewhere south of Pittsburgh—but his stirring rendition of The Hunt of Sliabh Truim proved that, no matter his origins, O’Halloran was a great Gael.

Many hundreds were in pursuit of the deer

Around us on the southern hill,

The battalions were on the watch for them—

Fierce was the onset!

The only boy in the Doolan Dance Academy stood off to the side of the stage. A ginger-haired kid, he was dressed in a canary yellow suit that made him look like a cross between Elton John and a doorman at the Hilton.

“It was Claire’s fault,” he said to Higgins, pointing a finger that nearly brushed the girl’s cheek.

“Here now, Rory,” his mother scolded. “There will be none of that.”

“But it started with her, like it did with Gramma.”

True or not, something strange certainly had occurred at the Center. Beautiful in one sense, horrific in hindsight. O’Halloran had finished his talk and started to climb off the low stage to polite applause when suddenly the pale girl began to sing, locking her eyes with his in a mystical embrace.

Her velvety voice was shimmering and clear and she sang in a language that might have been Gaelic, but possibly something else; something that came before that ancient tongue. Neither child nor adult moved as the mesmerizing notes wove sinuously through the room.

Then, in mid-voice, she abruptly stopped, returned to her chair, and slowly ran the comb through her hair as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

 

Burnt Edges blogpost

As I have said in my review (see later post) this is a really tough topic to write about and of course we all wonder how did the author come up with the storyline? Where did she learn all this? Well Dana is very open about this and below she tells us how the story originated with her family.

Writing Through The Pain

When people read my book, Burnt Edges, they have two reactions:

“Whoa, this is tough to read,” or, “How did you write about this without going into a depression?”

Writing about abuse is difficult—whether it is your own or someone else’s. In my case, the story is about my mother and the abuse she suffered as a child from both parents. And it’s the worst kind of abuse you can imagine: incest. Not to say that any other forms of abuse aren’t awful. Abuse is horrific. No matter what form it takes.

To answer the question how did I write about it without letting it drag me under is more difficult than I can articulate. It DID drag me under, and for most of my life. Writing about it was the final act of healing for me. As I wrote the more difficult scenes I had to take breaks. It was important to step away and clear my head. And I’m not done writing about it either. There is another book I’m working on now that follows the story from another perspective.

Since I did not experience the abuse, I had to understand it in order to make it real.

The way I made it authentic was by interviewing my mom. She was very open and willing to talk to me about the details. Because of this, I wasn’t afraid to ask questions that seemed awkward or difficult. The book became a way for me to understand my mother in a deeper way. And I learned a lot.

See, abuse doesn’t just affect the victim. It affects everyone the victim comes into contact for the rest of his or her life. It seeps into the crevices of the victims’ DNA and becomes a part of who they are and who they will be so when that person tries to form relationships, the abuse is there. That is the story I am telling about my mother’s life and my life.

I was lucky that my mom was so open to this process and wasn’t afraid of allowing me to tell her part of the story that inevitably weaved into mine. She still suffers from the effects of the abuse but has come a long way from where she used to be, we both have. I have gone from feeling responsible for saving her to resentful and angry to finally accepting who she is and how she deals with life.

Writing this story is difficult but it is the best thing I’ve ever done to help both me and my mom move on.

Unpacking Baggage

I’ve been hiding behind busy-ness. Do you ever do that? There is something nagging at you that you KNOW you need to address or do but you hide. You hide because you know it’s time to unpack the baggage again and you don’t want to do it.

I need to unpack some heavy baggage. I started to do it but then it got too intense so I stopped. Unpacking my baggage means finishing my second novel which delves deeper into the original story from my first novel Burnt Edges. The first one was hard to write but easier in terms of the baggage because it wasn’t my story. This next novel is my story and it means digging into emotional baggage.

This is going to be a painful process because I’ve stuffed the content way down a dark hole that’s been covered up by the denial of every day life. It’s so much easier to schedule things, check email, clean the house, or look busy. Riffling around the baggage only brings up memories linked to my sense of worth reminding me that I wasn’t enough to make a difference. Memories that remind me I’m a fraud, a fake, a poser. I play the parts that I think people want me to play so I can take the attention off my gaping wounds pulsing, aching to be healed. Yet that initial step of recognizing the wounds is just too intense. I’d rather slap on a plastic bandage and pretend that it will go away. It doesn’t. It just festers until I am forced to face it again.

Because I can’t come right out a say it, I must tell the story. Like Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” The agony has gotten too hard for me to handle any more so I will write it. I will finish it and let the pain wash over me praying for the moment of liberation that comes after the fire.

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So we see how it is Dana’s way of working through her pain that gives her the story to write. Such honesty and truthful writing surely tells in the veracity that it must give to her books. Read and you shall learn.

 

Title: Burnt Edges

Author: Dana Leipold

Publisher: Booktrope

Publication Date: June 2015

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Familiar abuse or an uncertain future? Which would you choose?

This is Laurel Lee Page’s dilemma when she is faced with an unplanned pregnancy at nineteen. Born into a broken family, guilt and shame are all she has ever known. No matter what she does or whom she meets, Laurel appears to be living a condemned life.

However, she is determined to find independence and freedom in spite of her family’s legacy of hatred and self-contempt.

Set in Southern California during the tumultuous 1960’s, Burnt Edges is a contemporary novel based on true events that prove strength can emerge in the most horrific of circumstances.

 

Leipold1AUTHOR BIO:
Dana Leipold is an author and member of the Association of Independent Authors. Her debut novel, Burnt Edges, depicts the unwavering resilience of a young woman in the face of family violence and abuse.
She has self-published two other books: a collection of limericks in Dr. Seuss-style for adults entitled, Stupid Poetry: The Ultimate Collection of Sublime and Ridiculous Poems, and a non-fiction book entitled, The Power of Writing Well: Write Well. Change the World.

Leipold lives with her husband and two children in the San Francisco Bay Area.

 

 

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