Thursday, October 24, 2013

Special Guest Blogger, J. Aleksandr Wootton

In Defense of Escape
by J. Aleksandr Wootton

There are still people who criticize the fantasy genre for being “escapist.” They are not wrong; they are missing the point.

Readers, fans, lovers of fantasy do not return to the same shelves at the library only because we want a temporary respite from our own lives, although fantasy does offer such respites.

We do not pre-order our favorite authors’ forthcoming books while browsing fanfic blogs merely because the successes of heroes whose adventures we eagerly follow inspire our own deeds, both great and small – although the heroes of fantasy’s countless elsewheres do provide such inspiration.

We do not dress in costume for midnight movie premieres to demonstrate our disillusionment with the modern world (even if we are disillusioned). We do not cosplay at conventions because fantastic characters and settings have somehow become more “real” to us than our everyday experiences (well, not to most of us anyway – I do have my doubts about some).

The truth is that everyone needs escape, but we find it in different forms. Any engagement with fiction, any exercise of the imagination, is escape – just as the solitude of a painter or poet, working to complete a jigsaw puzzle, keeping a sabbath, or even cleaning the garage, is escape. Everyone loses themselves in some kind of habitual activity which, though doing nothing directly to solve their problems, refreshes them for the return to life’s task at hand.

Escape is a kind of mirror. In losing ourselves we find ourselves; a step taken into another world is a step taken back from our own lives, a chance to re-examine where we are and what we are doing. Time and again the winding path through familiar yet ever-changing woods, the twisted intersections of a car’s mechanical bowels, the road going “ever on, down from the door where it began”, there and back again, all turn out to be disguises for a map depicting the places we have come from and are going to.

In the foreword to her collection Tales from Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin has rightly written that “people turn to the realms of fantasy for stability, ancient truth, immutable simplicities.” We are all born with the need for escape; for some, studying the reflection of an alien landscape makes it easier to see the common wisdom linking our heroes’ lives with our own. Familiar lessons stand out against an unfamiliar backdrop.

And if we take solace along the way in the arms of a dream that seems fairer, at least for the moment, than our own prospects, which of you – boomers, hipsters, yuppies – will blame us? Which of us has not, when faced with a problem that seems insoluble (however temporarily), wished ourselves into a different sort of arena – and a champion’s laurel? Who among us has not spent part of his our her life seeking out lesser challenges as an excuse to put off a dubious attempt at something greater? He who is without dreams among you, let him cast the first stone.

Fantasy does indeed offer escape, and it is a noble offer. No chance to better understand our own existences should be lightly put aside, and sometimes the translation of the familiar into the foreign and back again results in surprising clarity, fresh perspectives on subjects and people we look past every day but have long ceased to notice. A good fantasy is useful as well as enjoyable, instructive rather than obstructive: distraction with application.

Tolkien was on to something when he said, in his Andrew Lang Lecture On Fairy-Stories, that we create because we ourselves are made in the image of a great Creator. Regardless of what you believe about how we all got here, it’s difficult to deny that the sum of all of our creativity and scientific inquiry is engaged in a vast effort to make sense of it – to understand what and where exactly ‘here’ is, and why we are at it.

When we depart for a time to explore realms of fantasy, we return in the knowledge – not always admitted aloud – that the wonders we have seen are only shadows of the forms of this world (just as this world may be nothing more than shadows of a world of true forms, as Plato suggested). The imagination can conjure no deeper magic than sunlight in oak leaves; it can sculpt no elf-maiden tall, lithe, mysterious, to compare to the beauty of a young mother laughing in a rainstorm; it can summon no demons more horrible than those that haunt and damn us every day in our homes, on our streets, at our jobs.

The funny thing about escape and escapist literature is that escapes are temporary, and for that we should be grateful. We cannot spend forever reading about the passion and the pain and the joy of love, watching other peoples’ happily-ever-afters on the silver screen, or cheering on sports teams, racers, politicians, or prize-fighters whose victories will never get us anywhere; and ice cream and popcorn make lonely company after awhile.

My point is this: make your escapes, and make them good. Use them well and wisely, and come back to us with whatever little thing you have gained. It is just possible that the wisdom we gather from reading fairytales could help us make real-world fairytale-endings a little less rare.

J. Aleksandr Wootton is the author of the Fayborn novels, available in paperback and digital formats from your favorite online bookseller.
His website is

Friday, September 27, 2013

Brains vs. Brawn, but who is the stronger?

Love by the letter was one of the more well written novellas I've read. Our hero has long been in love with the 'smart girl' in town. She's pretty, she's brainy, and he figures he doesn't stand a chance! Why? Because he can't spell worth beans and his reading is worse! How can he possibly expect the smartest girl in town to marry him and head out west to settle in Kansas? Meanwhile our delightful bookworm has spent her life secretly pining after our hero who in her eyes, won't give her the time of day! Every time she's ever tried to get his attention he runs the other way! What's a girl with an IQ to do but listen to her mother and go to college and get even smarter! It's brains meets brawn in this tale of misperceived intentions! Truly a delight! I'll be watching this author.  At the time of this writing, the book is FREE!

Find it on amazon

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Marcia Lynn McClure, A True Delight!

Meet the McCalls!

I must say, I was delighted when I stumbled across Marica Lynn McClure's The McCall Trilogy!  I do love a good series and wish Marcia had more books about the McCalls, but I suppose reading stories from three different generations of McCalls will have to suffice.

We begin with the charming Jackson McCall who finds a woman out in the middle of nowhere and takes her home to be nursed back to health by his mother Maggie.  Originally titled The Foundling and later changed to Desert Fire, I agree with the author who felt The Foundling was a much better description of the story.  Sold as a single title this story is under the afore mentioned Desert Fire.  The story however does remind one of a foundling.  Our heroine has no memory of who she is and only gets bits and pieces here and there throughout the story.  Add in a nasty villain hunting our heroine down, and Jackson McCall's charming yet tough as rawhide demeanor and you have a winning combination.

In our second story, To Echo the Past, we meet Michael McCall, son of Jackson McCall and who is just as charming and tough as nails as his father ever was.  He's also quite popular among the townsfolk and has definitely caught the eye of the new girl in town.  But our heroine has a little unwanted competition in the local 'self proclaimed belle of the ball' who has just returned from finishing school and who also has not only her eye on Michael, but tries her best to sink her claws into him as well!  Nothing like competition!  And always fun to read!  Just who will win the affection of our charming Michael McCall?

The third installment of our trilogy, An Old-Fashioned Romance, jumps forward a few generations to find Breck McCall working for a private investigation company and privately wishing she could date her handsome boss!  Little does she know she's not the only one!  And little does she know she's already caught the bosses eye!  With a little help from her friends she begins to see there's more to her boss than first meets the eye.  Breck also finds she's been hungering for more than love in this wonderful contemporary romance!

Enjoy all three stories in this delightful new trilogy!  I've found myself a new author to follow!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Short and Sweet But Also ... 

 I'm going to give the author five stars, (I don't give five stars very readily) and a note: Oh if only it was a little longer to really flesh everything out, but I understand if there was a word limit from Highland Press. And advice. Yes it's a short, sweet read. And for me, was a bit like reading a story synopsis for a movie script. Which, I think our dear author should think about. I believe I read something else by this same author as I've read a few anthology collections from Highland Press. But this story stood out as a great story line for a script. (Seriously, Ms. H. Think about it!). For the rest of you, read this touching little story and see if you don't agree. This read is short enough I'm going to give the reader's digest version. Nursing home aide Tess Murphy inherits old Victorian house from loving resident Emmeline who tells her of her parents first meeting and subsequent brief yet mysterious romance, marriage, and her own joyous birth shrouded in both love and tragedy. It's a movie, even if just for DVD. Jump on it Ms. Hatton, before someone else does.