Fame is Fugacious

Literature, Writing | Posted by Shannon
Sep 26 2016

Not long ago, I took a vocabulary quiz. In the process of it, I learned two new words, avulse and fugaciousfugacious. It struck me as unfortunate that I would have to look long and hard for an opportunity to use avulse, and I would probably never get a chance to use fugacious at all. They’re just too obscure.

We stand heir to a vast accumulated vocabulary, with words that range from everyday to rarefied to absolutely arcane. This has spawned one of those perpetual debates among writers and editors and agents, and in which readers have their own well-deserved opinions. The never-resolved question is: What words should writers use? What words are too old, too different, too long?

At the heart of the debate is a tension between two competing, legitimate principles. The first principle is that the ultimate aim of writing is to be understood. Far more than self-expression (because then why not just keep it to yourself?), writing is communication. You are not communicating if people cannot understand you.

The second principle is that writing cannot be reduced to the lowest common denominator. Some words are more apt than others, and sometimes the long word or the old word is the one that sings. Although writers should not, on the risk of being obnoxious, consider it their duty to expand their readers’ vocabularies, neither have they failed if they send their readers to the Dictionary.

The tension between these two principles is worked out book by book, sentence by sentence, word by word. There is no universal rule to lay down. I think it worth stating, however, that the thing really to be avoided is not the unknown word but the odd-duck word. These are the words that sound awkward or weird or (perhaps worst of all) funny. These are the words that jolt readers out of a text, and that is something all writers strive devoutly never to do.

Words often drop out of use because language evolves and culture changes, and they don’t fit anymore. Consider the wordoxblood,” a shade of red that is not actually what you would imagine ox blood to be. Ox blood was once used as a pigment in creating dyes and paints. This would explain why oxblood is a dark color, and not the bright red we normally associate with blood: It was originally associated with ox blood that had dried or been mixed with other ingredients or soaked into materials such as wood or leather.

In our own day, when these associations have been lost, oxblood has lost much of its power. Even people who can define the word do not possess the images that first inspired it. Writers develop literary crushes on words, but it is good to consider whether those words, transplanted from the soil where they first grew, will truly thrive.

With most obscure words, the trouble is not dead cultural associations but simply the sound. Some are so unusual, so odd, that your eyes trip over the syllables. Others don’t sound like what they mean. This is the trouble with fugacious. It means fleeting, but to modern ears it only sounds silly, and I would sound silly, too, if I tried to used it (“Fame is fugacious”). Possibly, though, I could play it for humor: “My lunch hour was fugacious.”

By contrast, I have more hope for avulse (“to pull off or tear away forcibly“) because similar, well-known words like repulse and convulse also have vaguely violent meanings. Encountering an unknown word does not, in itself, jar readers out of a book. But the unknown word must flow, must give an impression in tune with its actual meaning. This is why you will not go wrong with words like invidious and deleterious: They sound as bad as they are.

There is a time, Solomon wrote, for everything, and probably a place for every word. No word should be summarily rejected, or uncritically accepted. In a living language, words fade away and sometimes ought to, but it takes a long time for a word to fade beyond all use.

Never Forget

Culture, History | Posted by Shannon
Sep 11 2016

(Excerpts from President Bush’s address at the National Cathedral on September 14, 2001.)

 

 

We are here in the middle hour of our grief. So many have suffered so great a loss, and today we express our nation’s sorrow. We come before God to pray for the missing and the dead, and for those who loved them. On Tuesday, our country was attacked with deliberate and massive cruelty. We have seen the images of fire and ashes and bent steel.

Now come the names, the list of casualties we are only beginning to read:

They are the names of men and women who began their day at a desk or in an airport, busy with life.

They are the names of people who faced death and in their last moments called home to say, be brave and I love you.

They are the names of passengers who defied their murderers and prevented the murder of others on the ground.

They are the names of men and women who wore the uniform of the United States and died at their posts.

They are the names of rescuers — the ones whom death found running up the stairs and into the fires to help others.

We will read all these names. We will linger over them and learn their stories, and many Americans will weep. …

War has been waged against us by stealth and deceit and murder. This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger. This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others; it will end in a way and at an hour of our choosing. Our purpose as a nation is firm, yet our wounds as a people are recent and unhealed and lead us to pray. In many of our prayers this week, there’s a searching and an honesty. At St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, on Tuesday, a woman said, “I pray to God to give us a sign that He’s still here.”

Others have prayed for the same, searching hospital to hospital, carrying pictures of those still missing. God’s signs are not always the ones we look for. We learn in tragedy that His purposes are not always our own, yet the prayers of private suffering, whether in our homes or in this great cathedral are known and heard and understood. There are prayers that help us last through the day or endure the night. There are prayers of friends and strangers that give us strength for the journey, and there are prayers that yield our will to a Will greater than our own.

This world He created is of moral design. Grief and tragedy and hatred are only for a time. Goodness, remembrance and love have no end, and the Lord of life holds all who die and all who mourn.

It is said that adversity introduces us to ourselves. This is true of a nation as well. In this trial, we have been reminded and the world has seen that our fellow Americans are generous and kind, resourceful and brave. …

America is a nation full of good fortune, with so much to be grateful for, but we are not spared from suffering. In every generation, the world has produced enemies of human freedom. They have attacked America because we are freedom’s home and defender, and the commitment of our Fathers is now the calling of our time.

 

On this national day of prayer and remembrance, we ask Almighty God to watch over our nation and grant us patience and resolve in all that is to come. We pray that He will comfort and console those who now walk in sorrow. We thank Him for each life we now must mourn, and the promise of a life to come.

As we’ve been assured, neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities, nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor height nor depth can separate us from God’s love. May He bless the souls of the departed. May He comfort our own. And may He always guide our country.

God bless America.

Movie Review: Pete’s Dragon (2016)

Culture | Posted by Shannon
Aug 30 2016

Despite the old and no doubt wise saying, Disney canon clearly holds that being raised by wolves is not injuriouspetes-dragon to childhood development. This is one of the lessons of The Jungle Book, another being that if a ferocious man-hating tiger gets your calling card, you cannot lose if you arm yourself with a blazing torch. In the remade Pete’s Dragon, released close on the heels of the remade Jungle Book, we find that it is even better to be raised by dragons.

But still, inevitably, tragic to need such raising. And children grow up only to leave, don’t they?

Pete’s Dragon is a unique movie, at least in today’s world. The opening sequence sets the pattern. It is the slowest opening I have seen in a long, long while, taking its time to the disaster you can feel is coming. A lone car on an isolated highway, the land gorgeously forested around it … a young, pretty mother, a quietly strong father, an adorable little boy … the well-loved book, haltingly read by the little boy with his mother’s patient help, about a dog that gets lost and adventures and being brave …

And then the car crash, because Disney does love to warm your heart just before ripping it out. The crash itself, far from being violent or graphic, is dreamy, fragmented, to some extent detached. And it feels oddly realistic – not that this is the way a thing like that would happen, but it is the way it might be remembered, especially by a child.

If the movie shies away from the violence of the car accident, it still evokes – quietly but effectively – the horror of it, as the little boy wanders away alone from the wreck. The sequence where he encounters the dragon tastes strongly of a fairy tale, from the old, green, untouched forest, to the inhuman menace of the wolves, to the powerful, initially ambiguous appearance of the dragon. (I feel that this is what it would be like to enter Faerie: the beauty and fear and the unknown.)

The rest of the movie is crafted in a similar way. This is a film that lingers – on its characters, on its world, on its pivotal moments. It means to bring out all these things richly, and it will pause to do so. There is action in Pete’s Dragon, but it is not a fast-paced movie.

Neither is there exactly a villain in this movie. The one character who comes close is certainly reckless and somewhat selfish, but in the end even he is not so bad. The movie also rejects the cynical and sarcastic humor so much in vogue today. All of these elements add up to a gentle movie, an unusual movie in today’s theater. Even Disney and Pixar’s animated offerings are a tougher breed.

Pete’s Dragon does a fine job handling Pete’s reintroduction to human society, giving him much the reaction of a wild animal. Perhaps the most notable flaw is that Pete possesses language skills difficult to believe in a child who has lived in the wilderness for six years, with no interaction with other humans since he was five. I do not, however, complain of it. But not because I think it’s ironic or unfair to bring such a complaint against a movie that has a dragon; it may have a dragon but it has normal humans, too, and this is not realistic for humans, y’know. I give the movie a pass because to be realistic, in this respect, would have been more trouble than it’s worth.

The movie is, to the end, ambiguous on Pete’s dragon. The dragon is always central but also always silent, and it is impossible to tell whether he is a highly intelligent animal or in possession of a real, childlike sentience. The adults speak of him as an animal but only Pete could know the answer, and he would not ask the question.

Pete’s Dragon is a gentle, thoughtful film skillfully shot with beauty and a sense of wonder. It may not be the best kind of movie, but it’s the best movie of its kind.

Review: The Story of the Irish Race: A Popular History

Book Reviews, History | Posted by Shannon
Aug 15 2016

There are many stereotypes of the Irish, and no doubt most of have some antecedent in reality: the policeman with a brogue, the corrupt politician of Tammany Hall, the talker, the fighter, the drunk, the priest. Behind all these figures, familiar and sometimes even comic, shimmers a history of tragedy and of glory. Often this history is neglected. To remedy this neglect, Seumas MacManus wrote The Story of the Irish Race: A Popular History (first published in 1921, with later editions covering until the end of the 1930s).

On the first page of this book, the author calls it a “crude compendium” and “a rough and ready sketch.” Perhaps so, but at 725 pages and a historical span of nearly three thousand years, it is quite a sketch.

To his credit, the author makes no pretensions to neutrality. He declares on the first page that the purpose of this rough and ready sketch is to provide a history of Ireland for her people and exiles (and descendants of those exiles – of whom I am one). This is a book of the Irish, by the Irish, and for the Irish.

A more rigorous book might have been written, as the author acknowledges at the outset. The opening chapters consist greatly of speculation about the historical basis of Irish legends, especially those of the Tuatha De Danann. The later chapters are strong and unequivocal in their anti-British viewpoint. They are not, however, hateful. (And reading the accounts of Britain’s conquest and keeping of Ireland – including atrocities of murder, rape, and torture – and the ruthless self-interest with which Great Britain ruled the Irish, and the oppressive laws with which it sought to disenfranchise and degrade an entire people … well, I could see why many of the Irish have hated the English. I felt I could come to hate them myself.*)

The book’s clear Irish viewpoint, once recognized, is valuable in understanding the Irish viewpoint. There is also a kind of richness that flows from this viewpoint, from reading of Ireland from someone who loves Ireland. The author’s pleasure in the lore and songs and poetry of Ireland, his love of it through every defeat and misfortune, his delight in its glories – all of this shines through the pages.

The author may well be biased (and his expressed opinions are, of course, not infallible). Yet this is not propaganda. The author means to provide history. He recounts events that reflect poorly on the Irish and provides support for anti-English or pro-Irish statements from sources that have no bias in favor of Ireland (and perhaps some in favor of England).

This book is flavored with deep emotion, sharpened with strong opinions. It is also filled with apt quotations, powerful details, and colorful sketches of great characters. The author shows great skill in what he chooses to relate and how, and wholly avoids the dryness that comes of too much attention to statistics and too little attention to the individual stories that make up the great arc of history.

The Story of the Irish Race is not a definitive history of Ireland, but probably no single book could be. Whatever its limits, it is written with respect for the truth and love for Ireland. It reprises Irish history too little known in America and reflects the Irish spirit that has so doggedly resisted domination down through the centuries.

And it quotes poetry in the footnotes and sometimes in the text itself. What more could you want?

 

*In case the tone of this statement is misunderstood, let me clarify: I don’t hate the English.

Prism Tours: Dark Minds

Literature | Posted by Shannon
Jul 26 2016

On Tour with Prism Book Tours.

Welcome to the Release Celebration for

Dark Minds

By Michelle Diener

 

Dark Minds is book three in the Class 5 Series. Michelle is sharing about the Class 5 world today. If you missed Michelle’s release-day message, go read it HERE, if you missed about the rise of the genre, go check that out HERE, and don’t forget to check out the entire series and enter the giveaway below…

Dark Deeds
(Class 5 #3)
by Michelle Diener
Adult Sci-Fi
ebook, 331 Pages
July 22nd 2016

 

The mind is the most powerful weapon of all . . .

 

Imogen Peters knows she’s a pawn. She’s been abducted from Earth, held prisoner, and abducted again. So when she gets a chance at freedom, she takes it with both hands, not realizing that doing so will turn her from pawn to kingmaker.

 

Captain Camlar Kalor expected to meet an Earth woman on his current mission, he just thought he’d be meeting her on Larga Ways, under the protection of his Battle Center colleague. Instead, he and Imogen are thrown together as prisoners in the hold of a Class 5 battleship. When he works out she’s not the woman who sparked his mission, but another abductee, Cam realizes his investigation just got a lot more complicated, and the nations of the United Council just took a step closer to war.

 

Imogen’s out of her depth in this crazy mind game playing out all around her, and she begins to understand her actions will have a massive impact on all the players. But she’s good at mind games. She’s been playing them since she was abducted. Guess they should have left her minding her own business back on Earth…

GoodreadsAmazon

Creating the World of the Class 5 Series

 

A few days ago, DARK MINDS, the third and final book in my Class 5 series was released. I have had a lot of readers express disappointment that this is the final book. They love the world and they want to keep exploring it.

 

Nothing is sweeter to me than hearing that the world I’ve created in my head is a place people want to linger. I am working on a new series, though, and hope everyone loves the new one just as much.

 

When I started the Class 5 series, it wasn’t really with a series in mind. The main character in DARK HORSE, the first book in the series, Rose, came to me so strongly, with such a compelling story, I set aside the historical I was working on and jumped right in to write it. It was only near the end of DARK HORSE that I realized there was still a lot of the story left to tell, and the Class 5 series was born.

 

I know the fact that Rose and the world she found herself in was so clear in my head and so vivid in my imagination helped me create such a strong world for the series as a whole. I had invented way more in my head than ended up on the page in DARK HORSE, and that gave me scope to include the greater world of the Class 5 series or explore things I only touched on in DARK HORSE in the other two novels.

 

The part of the universe where my heroines Rose, Fiona and Imogen find themselves is run by a coalition of five races. I only go into detail about the culture of the Grih, the race my human heroines have the most affinity for, but I do lightly touch on aspects of the other four’s cultures. It was fun creating the worlds and customs, the look and feel of the places my heroines are forced to go, and I like to think that while they’re there unwillingly at first, I’ve made the places interesting enough, sometimes even magical, so that they can see good in their new part of the universe, as well as bad.

 

If you are already a fan of the world of the Class 5 series, I hope you love DARK MINDS, and if you haven’t tried the series yet, I hope you’ll consider giving it a go. If action, adventure, and romance appeal, you won’t be sorry you did.

 

— Michelle Diener

 

Other Books in the Series

Dark Deeds (Class 5, #2)Dark Deeds
(Class 5 #2)
by Michelle Diener
Adult Sci-Fi
ebook, 340 Pages
January 4th 2016

 

Far from home . . .

 

Fiona Russell has been snatched from Earth, imprisoned and used as slave labor, but nothing about her abduction makes sense. When she’s rescued by the Grih, she realizes there’s a much bigger game in play than she could ever have imagined, and she’s right in the middle of it.

 

Far from safe . . .

 

Battleship captain Hal Vakeri is chasing down pirates when he stumbles across a woman abducted from Earth. She’s the second one the Grih have found in two months, and her presence is potentially explosive in the Grih’s ongoing negotiations with their enemies, the Tecran. The Tecran and the Grih are on the cusp of war, and Fiona might just tip the balance.

 

Far from done . . .

 

Fiona has had to bide her time while she’s been a prisoner, pretending to be less than she is, but when the chance comes for her to forge her own destiny in this new world she grabs it with both hands. After all, actions speak louder than words.

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Dark HorseDark Horse
(Class 5 #1)
by Michelle Diener
Adult Sci-Fi
ebook, 381 Pages
June 15th 2015

 

Some secrets carry the weight of the world.

Rose McKenzie may be far from Earth with no way back, but she’s made a powerful ally–a fellow prisoner with whom she’s formed a strong bond. Sazo’s an artificial intelligence. He’s saved her from captivity and torture, but he’s also put her in the middle of a conflict, leaving Rose with her loyalties divided.

Captain Dav Jallan doesn’t know why he and his crew have stumbled across an almost legendary Class 5 battleship, but he’s not going to complain. The only problem is, all its crew are dead, all except for one strange, new alien being.

She calls herself Rose. She seems small and harmless, but less and less about her story is adding up, and Dav has a bad feeling his crew, and maybe even the four planets, are in jeopardy. The Class 5’s owners, the Tecran, look set to start a war to get it back and Dav suspects Rose isn’t the only alien being who survived what happened on the Class 5. And whatever else is out there is playing its own games.

In this race for the truth, he’s going to have to go against his leaders and trust the dark horse.

Michelle Diener writes historical fiction, fantasy and science fiction. Having worked in publishing and IT, she’s now very happy crafting new worlds and interesting characters and wondering which part of the world she can travel to next.

 

Michelle was born in London, grew up in South Africa and currently lives in Australia with her husband and two children.

When she’s not writing, or driving her kids from activity to activity, you can find her blogging at Magical Musings. or online at Twitter, at Google+ and Facebook.

Release Celebration Giveaway

$25 Amazon eGift Card
Four ebook sets of Dark Horse, Dark Deeds, and Dark Minds
Open internationally
Ends July 31st

If I Were a Starfleet Captain

Culture | Posted by Shannon
Jul 18 2016

If I were a Starfleet captain, I would employ a strict policy of avoiding all unusual and/or unexplained phenomena. Temporal rifts, subspace distortions, collapsing stars, expanding black holes, folds in space, a stitch in time – whenever one of these appears, I will order my crew to point the ship 180 degrees away from it and depart at a brisk speed of Warp 5. Due to forward-thinking actions such as this, I anticipate a longer, happier life for myself and all my crew.

If I were a Starfleet captain, I would listen very carefully to any advice my first officer has to give. If I am ever wrong, he will be the one to tell me so.

If I were a Starfleet captain, I would turn the lights in Ten Forward all the way up. I would also replace unnaturally-colored drinks that appear to be foreign substances with ice cream sundaes. This would help to lift the gloomy atmosphere that too often pervades Ten Forward.

If I were a Starfleet captain, I would permanently shut down the holodeck. As I would explain to the crew, the holodeck encourages unhealthy inclinations, anti-social tendencies, denial, and extended unnecessary, pretentious scenes. Additionally, the holodeck will invariably go wrong, not to mention weird, and further encourage disconnection from reality. For the crew’s mental and physical well-being, the holodeck will be replaced by a gym, library, coffee shop, and chapel.

If I were a Starfleet captain, I would disassemble the self-destruct mechanism. There is no point.

If I were a Starfleet captain, I would not assure obviously hostile persons that I mean them no harm. For one thing, the fact that they are firing on my ship, menacing my officers with a weapon, or commandeering the ship’s computer indicates that they do not care. For another thing, if they do not very shortly cease to fire, menace, or commandeer, I will mean them harm.

If I were a Starfleet captain, I would install seat belts at every station on the bridge. I would also install seats for those officers who, for reasons undisclosed, always have to stand up. Their jobs are perfectly sedentary in nature and will, from a sitting position, be performed with equal efficiency, greater happiness, and (due to the new seat belts) increased safety.

If I were a Starfleet captain, I would launch an inquiry into what, exactly, replicator food is and where it comes from. Nothing just appears out of nowhere.

If I were a Starfleet captain, and my ship unexpectedly crossed paths with eccentric scientists, superficially harmless wanderers, or mysterious aliens traveling alone, I would immediately order them clapped into the brig and their crafts impounded. They get you every time.

If I were a Starfleet captain, I would memorize the Prime Directive so that I can quote it just before disregarding it.

If I were a Starfleet captain, I would memorize the following words and phrases: “Red alert;” “Divert power to the shields;” “Compensate;” “Evasive maneuvers pattern [random letter of the Greek alphabet];” “Damage report;” “Launch the torpedoes;” “Fire;” and “Retreat.” This would prepare me to meet any battle situation.

If I were a Starfleet captain, I would ban the color red from all uniforms save those worn by the most senior officers. In a related initiative, I would make it a policy to send only prominent deck officers into dangerous or mysterious off-ship situations. They always come back.

If I were a Starfleet captain, and any member of my crew began to exhibit classic and incontrovertible signs of insanity, I would immediately consider that he is suffering some disease unknown to medical science, that he is being tampered with by an alien, that he is an alien, that he recently arrived from another time-space continuum. I will continue to consider all these things even in the face of a total lack of physical, statistical, and anecdotal evidence. Finally, I will even consider that he is actually insane, just in case they try to trick us.

If I were a Starfleet captain, I would lead the safest, happiest, most well-adjusted crew in Starfleet.

Movie Review: Treasure Planet

Culture | Posted by Shannon
Jul 11 2016

If there is one thing we can all dream about, it’s finding buried treasure. We could all use the money, of course, and this way it comes with mystery and romance and adventure. What more could we ask for?

Pirates. That would add danger, ratchet the adventure up to a new level, and give us desert islands and the high seas. It would also add a touch of nobility, exalt us beyond mere fortune-seekers to the brave fighters of vicious cutthroats. We are the heroes of our story.

This is the enduring charm of Treasure Island. We all want to have the treasure, and the adventure, and come triumphantly home at the end. Treasure Island has been remembered and retold, made and remade in film after film. When Disney set out to create an animated version of Treasure Island, some fifty years after its live-action version, it needed a twist. It settled on: outer space.

And so Disney gave the world Treasure Planet. The movie may be labeled science fiction, but it can even more accurately be labeled science fantasy. The creators merge Stevenson’s nineteenth-century milieu with sci-fi, and this is most clearly seen in the ship that carries our heroes to the treasure planet. Although it is, in a highly technical sense, a spaceship, it looks like a nineteenth-century wooden ship. It even flies like the old ships sailed, to some degree: Its sails are not decorative but entirely functional.

A curiosity about this movie: In outer space, there is no gravity but there is, apparently, atmosphere. After watching the movie, I read a bit about it online, and evidently the characters’ ability to breathe in space is explained by “etherium.” I believe etherium was mentioned in the film, but I did not know what it meant. The sort of viewers who must have breathable-space justified to them may find this film jarring or inconsistent in its science-fantasy elements. But if you’re game for the ride, it will go smoothly enough.

The makers don’t merely choose a sci-fi setting; they go for broke. Jim Hawkins, his parents, and Long John Silver are the only humans in the film – and Long John Silver is a cyborg, nearly half machinery. The aliens that fill the background, and sometimes stand prominently in the foreground, are inventive but, with scant exceptions, unattractive. Disney transposes its mandatory Animal Sidekick to sci-fi with tremendous success: Long John’s parrot is, in this telling, Morph – a small, playful glob of a pet whose shapeshifting and good-hearted mischief make it second only to Tangled‘s Maximus in Disney’s pantheon of sidekicks. 

Treasure Planet tinkers with the original novel to produce a solid, workmanlike plot. The movie shines far more in characterization. Jim begins the movie as what they call a troubled (read: delinquent) youth. This is not, of course, original, but what matters is that it is convincingly played and gradually becomes important to the story and, finally, meaningful. For this is the heart of his relationship with Long John Silver. Jim began that relationship distrustful, and Silver began it, at best, utilitarian; how quietly it became real, and how much it came to affect them, is a lasting credit to the film. Despite all his original intentions, Long John Silver becomes the father-figure Jim needs, giving him both discipline and encouragement.

Treasure Planet is not in Disney’s Top Ten; if you’ve never heard of it, or never seen it, there is a reason why. But it is a creative sci-fi romp, with heart and with humor, and some lovely animation. Recommended.

Extraordinary Men (An Independence Day Reflection)

History | Posted by Shannon
Jul 04 2016

One of the most striking aspects of America’s founding is how many men of such great quality joined in the enterprise. They were men of different talents, different temperaments, different classes, different places. And thus they fitted together almost perfectly, certainly better than some of them knew.

In Boston – then, believe it or not, the hotbed of radical, revolutionary zeal – they made the first stand against Great Britain. For more than a decade they forded the turmoil of a rebellious colony and a grasping empire, stood in one challenge after another against King and Parliament. Samuel Adams was one of their leaders, preaching natural rights while rallying his fellow politicians to oppose Britain. Paul Revere was there, too; his Midnight Ride was the apotheosis of his work as a courier for the seditious patriots of Boston.

Although now mostly forgotten, James Otis – a lawyer, author, and legislator – played a powerful role in those early years. John Adams (a man by no means easy to impress) called him “a flame of fire”, and testified: “I have been young and now I am old, and I solemnly say I have never known a man whose love of country was more ardent or sincere, never one who suffered so much, never one whose service for any 10 years of his life were so important and essential to the cause of his country as those of Mr. Otis from 1760 to 1770.”

John Adams himself, so inspired by James Otis’ oration against Britain’s writs of assistance, would pour years of determination, and energy, and vigorous intellect into the making of America – a writer of pamphlets, a delegate to both Continental Congresses, an ambassador to France, Holland, and Britain, the author of Massachusetts’ constitution, vice-president, president.

Virginia supplied its own share of heroes. Patrick Henry – “a son of Thunder”, as one admirer called him – made common cause with the common people, challenged the powers-that-were in Virginia, and in word and deed stirred the fire that would blaze to independence.

Thomas Jefferson gave the gift of an immortal Declaration of Independence; James Madison helped to write the seminal Federalist Papers and in the Philadelphia Convention – creating the Virginia Plan, tirelessly and masterfully advocating for the new government – he earned the title of the Father of the Constitution.

Among Madison’s strokes for the Constitution was persuading George Washington to attend the Philadelphia Convention. Washington’s preeminence among the Founders is deserved, but also curious; he lacked the scholarly background so many of them possessed, and put to such remarkable use. His intellect did not burn with the brilliance of Hamilton’s or Madison’s, but they needed him. He was steady and wise, and the sheer respect he commanded could keep people united – and the cause in motion.

Alexander Hamilton came out of the West Indies, born out of wedlock and later orphaned. The primary author of the Federalist Papers, the first Secretary of the Treasury, chief military aide to George Washington during four years of the Revolutionary War, and close advisor while he was president – Hamilton was a man of great capability, and great accomplishment.

In history, as in the human heart, good and evil entwine, and nothing is quite pure. These men had enemies among each other as well as among the British, and they committed an ample share of mistakes and sins. Some kept mistresses; some kept slaves. They were all flawed men. But they were extraordinary men. They were extraordinary in their abilities, they were extraordinary in what they dared and what they achieved.

They were extraordinary in how they arose, at the right time and in the right places, and joined together to create a nation. I would call it serendipitous, except that I don’t believe in fate.

Neither, for that matter, did many of them. Shortly after the Declaration of Independence was published, before anyone knew whether it would end in freedom or disaster, John Page wrote to Thomas Jefferson, “We know the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong. Do you not think an angel rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm?”

Happy Independence Day.

Movie Review: Tarzan

Culture | Posted by Shannon
Jun 28 2016

The foundling raised by animals in the wilderness is an immemorial idea. A couple weeks ago I reviewed a movie about one of the most famous of these foundlings: Mowgli, raised by wolves in the jungle. Today I will review another movie, this one about another foundling of almost equal fame: Tarzan.

Disney released its animated version of Tarzan in 1999, on the dying wave of the Disney Renaissance. After the wave crashed, Disney languished in cheap, lusterless sequels for a decade; as it crested, it released celebrated films such as Aladdin and The Lion King. In between, Disney released more experimental, and now largely forgotten, films – Atlantis, Treasure Planet, and, of course, Tarzan.

Tarzan is the least experimental of the three. It’s a departure from classic fairy tales, but still fantasy, unlike the sci-fi incursions Atlantis and Treasure Planet. The Disney formula of orphaned hero, boy-meets-girl, and animal sidekicks is intact. Variations are evident, however. Tarzan is an unlikely hero, his character made up of two divergent halves – one the epitome of physical strength and skill, the other naive and imitative in the most childlike way. The lively Jane, with her scientific interest and artistic bent, is an unusual heroine, neither too timid to slap Tarzan nor too proud to demand his help.

The music follows a similar pattern. Tarzan features the classic Disney spate of songs, hurrying the story along and encapsulating character motivations. Phil Collins, writing the songs, provides a departure of style. The lyrics are written from the viewpoint of various characters but sung by one outside singer – a technique curiously reminiscent of the songs in Toy Story. The music may well be the highest-quality element in the movie, although the stellar animation of Tarzan’s physical agility and ape-like mannerisms comes close.

Tarzan is strongest in its lighthearted moments; when the movie wants to be entertaining, it is. It stumbles when it tries to be dramatic. Tarzan’s adoption by the gorillas, and Clayton’s trickery, are competent and more. But outside of these and a few other moments, the drama fails to be convincing.

A great deal of this failure springs from Clayton, who manages to be, as the story’s villain, both over-the-top and underachieving. He is so obviously bad you wonder how Jane and her father ever got mixed up with him in the first place. On the other hand, his ambitions aren’t scary, or even particularly impressive. He wants to capture some gorillas alive! Only two of whom we have, as the audience, any reason to care about anyway! Remember when Disney villains plotted spectacular revenge and to take over kingdoms and control powerful magic and fun things like that?

The film is also unconvincing in answering the question it sets itself regarding Tarzan’s nature and place in the world. It comes too quickly, with too little reflection and reckoning. This disappoints me because the question was so interesting. It is, however, the movie’s lesser failure.

Despite the film’s stumbles, Tarzan is a fun romp with two or three musical numbers that are good almost to the point of being addictive. Unlike Tangled and Beauty and the Beast, it may not stand up to a thousand viewings, but it is certainly worth at least one.

 

Postscript: About that music … It’s been in my head.

Now it can be in yours.

 

Prism Tours: The Bridal Bouquet

Misc. | Posted by Shannon
Jun 20 2016

On Tour with Prism Book Tours.

Book Tour Grand Finale for
The Bridal Bouquet
By Tara Randel

We hope you enjoyed getting to know more about flower shop owner Kady and undercover DEA agent Dylan as they face someone who threatens Kady’s life and the possibility of finding love. If you missed any of the stops, go back and check them out now…

Launch – Author Interview

What do you hope readers take with them after they’ve read it?

I love to read and any book that makes me sigh at the end is a keeper. As an author, I want to sweep readers away to a world they can lost in. With The Bridal Bouquet, I wanted to write a story that makes readers laugh, sigh and worry about the welfare of my characters. This book delivers all.

Rockin’ Book Reviews – Author Interview & Review

4. You are the author of ten novels, correct? Which novel did you find the most enjoyable to write? In what ways?

 

Twelve, actually. It sounds so weird to say that. I’ve enjoyed writing the Heartwarming books, mostly because I love romance and weddings, so it’s a good mix. Honestly, The Bridal Bouquet was probably my favorite. I loved the premise from the beginning, which gave me lots of ways to go in the story. I also loved the suspense element. This added layer gave me areas to explore that I had so much fun with. I also write mysteries, so the more I work on these types of books, the more fun I have.

 

Also, I had a blast creating the hero’s brothers. The family dynamics took off out of the blue and I gladly went for the ride. I never expected the boys to take over. Maybe they’ll have their own stories in the future…

 

“This was a delightfully, refreshingly, “clean” story about a woman obsessed about winning a floral convention entry. It wasn’t just vanity, she had a lot depending on it. It would affect the rest of her life! . . . I totally loved it!”

underneath the covers – The Language of Flowers

Because of her love for flowers, Kady is convinced that discovering the personalities of her bride and groom is the important first step. Some brides know right away what their floral theme will be, but for others, Kady quizzes the couple to help with the final decision. What is their outlook on love, romance and marriage? Do certain colors have an emotional response for the couple? Upon gathering all the information, Kady then picks the perfect flowers to personalize the special day.

Mel’s Shelves – Creating the Perfect Wedding…from the Florists Point of View

In The Bridal Bouquet, Kady’s dream is to take the family floral shop into the world of weddings. Love and romance may not be on the table for Kady at the beginning of the story, but her love for flowers remains steady throughout, a plus when coming up with fresh ideas for her clients.

Becky on Books – Author Interview & Review

Where did the inspiration for this book come from?

 

This is the fourth book in The Business of Weddings series. My editor and I discussed coming up with three wedding professionals for this book contract and the first one was a florist. I knew I wanted to have suspense elements in this story, so I plotted with this in mind. I love hunky, Alpha males and the DEA hero in this book fits the bill! Also, researching flowers was lovely. The history behind bouquets is quite interesting.

 

“A sweet romance with a touch of romantic suspense–a fun read!”

JoJo’s Corner – Review

“I absolutely LOVE wedding stories and Tara Randel’s The Business of Weddings series is one of my favorites! . . . This novel is full of humor, memorable characters and romance combined with elements of suspense. I give The Bridal Bouquet 5 long stemmed roses out of 5!”

Bookworm Lisa – Review

“As a reader, you know most of the things going on behind the scenes, just waiting for the characters to discover them. For me, it helped to cheer them on and hope that everyone is happy when it all comes out in the open. I really can’t say a lot more, because I like this book and am giving it a high recommendation.”

EskieMama Reads – The History of Flowers and Weddings

Today, weddings are as different and special as a bride’s vision. There are so many reasons a bride picks certain flowers; personal taste, sentiment, elegance, romance, to name a few. From full-blown, colorful bouquets to brides carrying a single stemmed rose to make a statement, the choice of flower for all wedding related events are vast. But where did the tradition of wedding flowers originate?

deal sharing aunt – Excerpt

Blowing out a relieved breath, she looked over her shoulder, glimpsing the most unusual pair of blue eyes she’d ever seen. Actually, blue wasn’t entirely correct. A hint of silver turned them an unusual shade of metallic gray. The man’s somber expression matched the concern she read there and his very handsome face garnered all her attention.

“Steady there.” His husky voice spoke close to her ear, sending a waterfall of shivers over her skin.

“I loved The Bridal Bouquet! Kady and Dylan are so much fun. I love the banter between them. There is also another romance that develops in the book, but I won’t spoil it for you. The plot is both romantic and suspenseful. If you are a fan of clean romance novels, you will surely love The Bridal Bouquet.”

Harlie’s Books – Review

“Oh my, a sweet contemporary that I read twice. Yes, twice. I loved, just loved this book. I’m a sucker for flowers so this book was right up my alley. . . . In the end, I loved the sweet romance of Kady and Dylan. It wasn’t rushed and had a few twists in it that I LOVED. Plus, the suspense element is on point for these characters.”

Hardcover Feedback – Review

“I loved reading The Bridal Bouquet! The characters were well written and I liked almost all of them, with the exception of the ones you aren’t supposed to like. . . . The romance between Kady and Dylan was so sweet! I loved watching them getting to know each other and see their feelings for each other grow.”

23 Review Street – Review

“The Bridal Bouquet is a sweet, romantic story that has handsome DEA agents, amazingly strong women and an wonderfully written story that will make you wish it wouldn’t end. I would recommend anyone who loves a unique love story and of course a wedding!”

“I loved Kady. There was something so human about her and her need to find acceptance and support from the people she loves. . . . This book was a clean romance with a touch of suspense and danger. It kept me interested from beginning to end.”

With Love for Books – Tips for Choosing a Florist for Your Wedding & Review

In The Bridal Bouquet, Kady Lawrence, co-owner of the Lavish Lily, works with brides to make the dreams of their big day come true. As any wedding professional, she advises her clients to research, then choose a florist who will carry out the vision. Flowers are an important statement at a wedding, and the bride and groom need to communicate their wishes in order for a florist to carry out the theme.

“The Bridal Bouquet is a quick and easy read and it’s very enjoyable. I think it’s an amazing read with a heartwarming theme.”

“I love a good romance, but when there are other elements involved, it really draws me in. With a mystery and some suspense involved, this story really turns into more than the light, fluffy read, like I was expecting–there’s more meat to the book. . . . This is a great read for those who enjoy a clean, contemporary romance with some suspenseful threads woven in.”

“The book is a clean romance novel and can be read as a stand-alone book as well. The book depicts the usual boy meets a girl and falls in love, the story though is a simple read for anyone who loves romance novels.”

Colorimetry – Top Wedding Flowers

Many types of flowers are popular for weddings. Some brides know the exact flowers they want for their special day, others need a little help deciding. A professional florist, like Kady Lawrence from The Bridal Bouquet, work with brides to make their dreams come true.

“There’s romance, there’s deceit, there’s family drama, there’s criminal activity … what more could we want?”

The Bridal BouquetThe Bridal Bouquet
(The Business of Weddings #3)
Tara Randel
Adult Contemporary Romance
Paperback & ebook, 384 pages
June 1st 2016 by Harlequin Heartwarming

Who will catch a lifetime of love?

Winning the annual wedding bouquet design competition may be the closest Kady Lawrence gets to the altar. She has to come in first or risk losing the shop that’s been in her family for generations. Her main competition is Jasmine Matthews. But it’s Jasmine’s son who’s caught Kady’s attention.

 

Kady has no inkling Dylan’s a DEA agent on a case in Cypress Pointe, and Dylan wants to keep it that way…until Kady’s targeted. Determined to keep her safe, Dylan risks a lot more than blowing his cover…he risks losing Kady forever.

GoodreadsAmazonBarnes & NobleHarlequin

Other Books in the Series

Magnolia BrideMagnolia Bride
(The Business of Weddings #1)
Tara Randel
Adult Contemporary Romance
Paperback & ebook, 209 pages
July 1st 2014 by Harlequin Heartwarming

 

Married for a day, in love for life

 

Nealy Grainger knew that returning to Cypress Pointe meant an inevitable encounter with her teenage crush, and momentary husband, Dane Peterson. She could handle it. She wasn’t the wounded girl who’d left Cypress Pointe years ago, heartbroken and furious when Dane had annulled their marriage the day after they’d eloped.

 

Now one of L.A.’s most in-demand celebrity event planners, Nealy’s only come back for a vacation and to help with her sister’s wedding—not for a reunion with her long-lost love. But the more their paths cross, the more the sparks fly! Maybe their connection isn’t over just yet….,

GoodreadsAmazonBarnes & NobleHarlequin

Honeysuckle Bride

Honeysuckle Bride
(The Business of Weddings #2)
Tara Randel
Adult Contemporary Romance
Paperback & ebook, 201 pages
December 1st 2014 by Harlequin Heartwarming

One part happiness. Two parts love.

Relocating to the coast of Florida after becoming guardian of her best friend’s twin daughters could be the best move LA celebrity chef Jenna Monroe ever made. This is her chance to create a stable, loving home—something she never had. But can she be the mother the girls need?

Wyatt Hamilton thinks she can. The rugged charter boat captain, who came home to Cypress Pointe still grieving the death of his son, has faith in her. But the feelings he awakens in Jenna both exhilarate and frighten her. Because Wyatt no longer believes in forever… Unless she can convince him otherwise.

Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA TODAY bestselling author of eleven novels. She is currently working on new stories for Harlequin Heartwarming, as well as books in a new series, Amish Inn Mysteries. Her next Heartwarming, part of The Business of Weddings series, will be released in June 2016. Visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at Tara Randel Books.

Tour Giveaway

ONE WINNER will receive a tote bag including the first three books in The Business of Weddings series (US only)

ONE WINNER will recieve a $25 Amazon eGift card (open internationally)

Ends June 24th

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