Archive for the ‘Fiction–Adventure’ Category

A dark medeival forest.  An entourage of battle hardened knights surrounding a caravan of ox carts filled with the king’s gold.  The woods are filled with the sounds of forest creatures and the babble of a nearby brook.  Suddenly, a gut wrenching, otherworldly scream pierces the night.  The men are suddenly trapped by fallen oaks at their front and more blocking their escape.  They stand on guard, swords in hand, ready to face whatever man or beast would prevent them from their most urgent errand.  But as they peer into the gloaming, they see a hideous sight.  A creature, with the legs of a man, but with the wings of a raven and a long dark beak lets out another blood-curling scream, calling forth fire and a chaos which neither man nor beast can stand against.  No, this isn’t an 11th century tail of Batman, rather it is a retelling of the Robin Hood legend like you’ve never heard it before.  Stephen Lawhead’s Hood (the first book in the King Raven Series) takes the famous hero out of the English forests, out of the realm of King Richard and Prince John, and into the heart of Wales amidst the political intrigue and the fierce fighting of the Norman conquest of Britain.  Why he did this, is explained in detail, and I must add very convincingly, at the end of the novel.  The legend, says Lawhead, reaches much further back in time than we have been led to believe, thanks to movies with Errol Flynn, and who could forget, “Men in Tights”.  The actual ballads have a much older history, and the history of Wales and the fierce guerilla tactics and prowess with longbow of the Welsh people provide a more likely backdrop for the “true” story.  Whether there is any truth to the tale or no, Lawhead gives us a glimpse into the history of 11th century Britain, as well as Celtic mythology and superstition which was intermingled with the Christian faith during this time.  Although there is no mention of Robin Hood’s name, Bran ap Brychan is our hero, old favorites have not been left out.  Friar Tuck and Little John play important roles, and Merian (the paramour) is of course brought into the story.  The second book, which I have just begun, adds Will Scarlett to the band of thieves.  Notice I did not say merry men, because they are angry outlaws fighting for survival, for their homeland, for their people, and their very lives.  Part history and part fantasy, this book left me with a desire to read more.  If you like adventure, intrigue, with old world history and mythology thrown in, you will love King Raven.


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At 14, a visit to my grandparent’s meant lying in the guest bedroom, enjoying the sound of an LP featuring old-time radio favorites.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with an LP, that is not blogging lingo for “lollipops”; it stands for “long-playing” record–a vinyl disc with grooves in it which would produce sounds recorded in studios.  Think CD, only bigger and more archaic.  Anyway, I loved to be transported back to a time when comedy didn’t have to be bleeped out, but was simply hilarious:  Fred Allen, Jack Benny, Burns and Allen; and the drama, though devoid of any blood and gore was still suspensful and had you on edge.  I still remember the dark, foreboding voice:  “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?  The Shadow knows. Ha ha ha ha….” The Shadow was an elusive crime fighter that lurked in the shadows. With the ability to levitate, knowledge of any language, and invisibility, he was the 1930’s equivalent of Batman without all of the fancy contraptions.

Though necessary for a crime fighter, I personally don’t want to know “what evil lurks in men’s hearts”. It is enough for me to guard against the blatant visible evil, then to contemplate or want to know the sordid thought life of someone else.

This is what left me cold while reading Charles Frazier’s Civil War drama Cold Mountain. Frazier’s descriptions of a place of raw beauty, a place his protagonist, Inman, can’t wait to get back to, seemed to me to be a stark contrast to the ugliness in men’s hearts. From the mountain people he met along his road home, to the infamous Home Guard itself, you can’t get away from the vile and revolting sentiments of the time. There is, however, love and survival; and this makes for a great story no matter how you spin it. The characters of Ada and Ruby trying to make a working farm out of one that is near ruin, Inman trying to get home on foot, injured, and evading the Home Guard, and Frazier’s descriptions of the beautiful Smoky Mountains almost had me fully embracing this book. As I read, I found myself cheering for Inman to get home safely, and that would still have been my hope, except for the thought, “Wait a minute. He’s a deserter.” He’s just abandoned the men he signed up with and promised to fight beside. Who cares if he has a “love” at home that he feels stronger about then he does about this war. Who cares if he thinks that his Commander and Chief made a mistake or that it is an “immoral war” (now where have we heard that before); he could have stayed home in the first place or fought for the other side. The justification for his desertion fell a little flat for me. Still, I thought Frazier did an outstanding job developing this story, and that from a true story about the thoughtless killing of some Scottish immigrants by the controversial Confederate Home Guard. If you don’t already know that “war is hell” then read this book and it will help you in your assessment. For those of us who already know that what goes on in men’s hearts is better left there, then best leave Cold Mountain and pickup your warm and fuzzy’s like Little Women and The Secret Garden. I might need a dose of those before I trek back up the mountain.

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My excuse for not blogging lately mainly stems from those “happy” first trimester ills that one goes through during pregnancy.  Nausea is very distracting.  It is hard to read or even be on the computer when one’s stomach is constantly vying for attention.  Unfortunately, I have been watching much more television, because it requires so much less of my brain power and energy than a good book.  One night, I was watching the History Channel with DD1 as they were in search of the truth about King Arthur and the location of the Holy Grail.  We watched intently as the camera panned the gorgeous Cornish shoreline and visited the ruins of Tintagel Castle (supposedly where the real Arthur held court).  Then they posed the question, “Could the Grail be hidden somewhere here?”  The show continued to hold our interest by taking us to Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland and telling us about the secrets it may or may not hold.  At one point, the investigators were visiting a “secret” location of a cup purported to have miraculous healing powers when DD1 looked over at me and said, “Do they really believe this stuff, Mommy?”  I almost laughed.  “Well, some people really do, but how can anybody know for sure whether this is the actual cup of the Last Supper?  Nobody can know but God.  Anyway, sometimes it’s fun to think about the possibilities.” 

During the tour of Rosslyn, the reporter informed us that many secret societies hold meetings in the chambers underneath the chapel.  He also mentioned that these groups were aware of hiding places that were not known to even the guides at Rosslyn.  This reminded me of a great series of books by Stephen Lawhead, a brilliant historical novelist.  Lawhead did a trilogy called the Celtic Crusades which dealt with this very subject.  In the books, a secret society who has been entrusted with those most sacred relics from Christendom, continues to protect these holy items through the 21st century.  Lawhead zigzags through time from the origins of this “holy order” and how they obtained their prizes to the present, where their secret must be kept till the end of the age.  Though the society itself is fictionalized, the story of the crusades and all its gore, vanity, and waste is not.  Lawhead pulls no punches in his descriptions of violent, glory seeking crusaders who waste no time in killing men, women, and children whether Muslim, Jew, or Christian and a corrupt Papal system that produces war-mongering and licentious priests and monks promising everything from wealth to free trips to heaven to those who do the Pope’s bidding.  Lawhead is quick to point out that there was a rift in Christendom between those who actually wanted to serve God by loving and serving others, and those who would serve themselves and the Pope at all costs.  The books:  The Iron Lance, The Black Rood, and the Mystic Rose are about those holy objects (the spear that pierced Christ’s side, the cross itself, and the chalice) and how they are won and losts throughout this travesty of the church; but the stories are also about a family who gives their lives to a true purpose that transcends relics and indulgences and makes themselves the enemies of Rome, enemies of the Templars, and in fact the enemies of anyone who would seek their own glory. 

After my virtual tour of Rosslyn, Lawhead had me wondering, “Does he know something we don’t know or did he think the rumors surrounding Rosslyn would make one fantastic story?”  If so, I would have to agree.

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This is a True Story


Reggie was good looking, about 6 ft., rough-skinned with coal black eyes. He was the best swimmer you’ve ever seen and he had a fetish for marshmallows. He was a little on the green side, which comes from eating one too many marshmallows. After knowing Reggie, I can definately understand why Steve Irwin loved his “crocs” so much. Would I swim with Reggie? Not on your life! I had a healthy respect for the alligator he was, and though just a baby, I knew he wouldn’t think twice about tearing into me, marshmallows or no. Let me clarify something here: I actually never fed Reggie a marshmallow. Not to mention the fact that it is illegal to feed alligators, I kept envisioning a 12 ft. adult Reggie swimming over to a group of kids and getting really angry when there were no marshamallows thrown to him; or worse yet, Reggie will have developed a taste for other things and have no fear of humans. I, nonetheless, would sit on the dock and watch my co-worker whistle for this reptile, when along would come Reggie from across the bayou. He would get about 25 yards or so from the dock and dutifully park himself to wait for a tasty morsel to be thrown to him. If you look closely at the picture above, you can see a marshmallow going into his mouth. This was the water I worked in everyday, but Reggie was the least of my worries. I can recall a particular morning when I was going about my routine. I had picked up gas and ferried the tanks over to the barge I would be working on for the day. I filled up the compressor and the dredge pump and tested everything to make sure they were in working order. I made sure all of the equipment we needed for the day was on board and ready to go. Then, thankful that no one else was in sight and I had some time to sit and read, I pulled out my copy of The Lord of the Rings (the particular chapter escapes me now), plopped myself down in the rowboat and began to read. I absolutely love to be in the sun, and I love to read, so I was definately in my happy place. All of a sudden, I noticed some movement out of the corner of my eyes. I looked up to see a body slithering through the water just in front of my boat. The head and upper part of the body were up out of the water, while the latter part zig zagged and propelled the creature along at an amazing pace. I knew instantly that it was a Water Moccasin, a very deadly and aggressive snake. Moccasins have actually been known to “slide” into boats and strike people on board. I sat there and quietly watched this snake go straight toward the barge where I would be working and disappear underneath it. After processing this interesting turn of events, I immediately turned my attention back to the book. I mean, what’s a mere Moccasin compare to 9 (count them) Ring Wraiths. What Frodo was facing at that moment was much more horrific than some measily little snake, and I wasn’t about to tear myself away from the book for another nanosecond. This is why I love Tolkien so. The world he created is so amazing, so real, you can’t help but be drawn into it. Many people have tried to allegorize his writings; but I have it on the authority of a friend of mine who did her Master’s Thesis on him that he, in fact, hated allegory. What you have in The Lord of the Rings is actually a Mythology for England. England didn’t have a mythology, so J. R. R. Tolkien wrote one. He developed, not just characters, but races of beings, whole histories of creatures, languages–more than was ever included in the trilogy itself. In acting you hear alot about subtext, well Tolkien’s books have subtext. When he wrote his drama, he knew the background, even if you didn’t; so that when it was read, it would envoke in the reader a desire to know more. Tolkien gives us more in The Silmarillion. This is the abbreviated background of Middle Earth. If you want to know where the Elves came from, or what a Balrog really is, who that spider was that attacked Frodo, or where the Elves were going when they sailed into the West, whether Elrond was a full-blooded elf, or who Mithrandir is, then you must read The Silmarillion.  If you are the type of person who doesn’t get into reading the history of a place that is entirely make-believe, then this is not for you.  I never saw the Moccasin again, and I did eventually have to put my book down and work, glancing down every few minutes to make sure something wasn’t coming up over the side.  I think the sound of the pumps probably scared him off.  For Frodo, it wasn’t so easy.

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