Blogging A to Z Day 23: Tolkien

J. R. R. Tolkien was born in South Africa in 1892 and lived part of his childhood in India. He served as an infantry officer during World War I and went on to become one of the leading philologists of his time. He held professorships at Pembroke and Merton Colleges, Oxford. He died in 1973.tolkien2

Tolkien is far and away my favorite author, and I doubt I’ll ever let an April go by without writing at least one post about him. This year I did three – I also wrote about The Lord of the Rings for L and the One Ring for O. I read The Hobbit, LOTR, and The Silmarillion at least every three years. I blog about Tolkien’s work often at Part Time Monster, and my ongoing series for that blog is so long I have it collected on a page for easy reference.

If my mother hadn’t read me The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings when I was a child, I might still have become a writer. But I doubt I would have developed a passion for fantasy fiction nor become a world-builder. I enjoy Peter Jackson’s adaptations of Tolkien almost as much as I enjoy the books themselves, and I’m glad the adaptations weren’t made until the special effects were good enough to make Middle Earth live and breathe.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of talking to a professor who actually met Tolkien on a trip to England. He said Tolkien had the manuscripts and notes for The Lord of the Rings in his office, and it was several six-foot-high stacks of paper. How cool would it be to have actually seen those manuscripts and talked to the man himself?

I recommend giving Tolkien a try if you’ve never read him. He’s equally good at humor and tradgedy.  He is Victorian and Modern at the same time, somehow. His descriptions and characterizations are excellent, and he has much to say about the nature of evil as well as the nature of good.

If you’re on the hunt for great Tolkien-related internet content, you might want to check out Sweating to Mordor, A Tolkienist’s Perspective, The Leather Library, and Middle Earth News. I follow them all and check in with them as often as I can.

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Blogging A to Z Day 6: Elmore Leonard

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Even if you’ve never heard of Elmore Leonard, you’ve probably seen a movie or TV show inspired by his work. His short story “Fire in the Hole” inspired the tv show with the best theme music ever. (One of the reasons I picked Elmore for E was so I could work this video into one more post before Justified ends.)

Also written by Leonard and adapted for the screen: 3:10 to Yuma, Last Stand at Saber River, Valdez is Coming, Jackie Brown, and Get Shorty, to name but few. He was born in New Orleans in 1925 and his family moved to Detroit in 1934. He started writing pulp westerns in the 1950s and moved into crime fiction in the late 60s.

His writing is distinctive for its minimalist style, realism laced with dark humor, and sparkling dialogue. He’s one of the few writers I’ve ever encountered who could give me 160 pages and convince me by the end that I’d just read a novel. He died in 2013, having written 47 novels.

I find him inspiring because he started his career in the 50s and didn’t really break out until 1985. That’s a lot of persistence right there, though he did have some early successes to keep him going. Also inspiring: he believed in helping other writers along. Here are his ten rules of writing, from a book with the same title he published in 2007.

Leonard originally published these rules July 16, 2001, in the Arts section of the New York Times. You can read the original article, with his discussion of each of the rules, here.

  1. Never open a book with weather.
  2. Avoid prologues.
  3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue
  4. Keep your exclamation points under control.
  5. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
  6. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  7. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  8. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
  9. Try and leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

The most important rule, that sums them up: “If it sounds like writing, rewrite it.”

For more book blogging, see our Books and Lists categories. Or you could take your chances with a random post from our extremely diverse archives. For an awesome writing blog, try Write On! Sisters. They are also doing the A to Z thing.

We’re Pleased to Welcome Natacha Guyot!

A few weeks ago, the fabulous Natacha Guyot offered to guest post here and I, of course, said yes. 🙂 We haven’t worked out a date for her first post to run yet, but when we do, you can be sure I will announce it ahead of time, it will be Star Wars-related, and you won’t want to miss it.natacha

Natacha is a French independent researcher, writer and public speaker. She works on Science Fiction, transmedia, gender studies, and fan communities and practices. She is also a vidder, bookworm, fangirl and feminist. She will be writing here about Science Fiction and female characters.

You can find more about her projects, including her upcoming books Women in Science Fiction Television (Scarecrow Press, 2015) and A Galaxy of Possibilities: Representation and Storytelling in Star Wars (Self-Published, 2015) at natachaguyot.org.

Natacha and I have been chatting on the Internet for almost a year, and she hosted not just one, but two of the Feminist Friday discussions last year. She’s actually the first person I met through WordPress who offered to guest post here, but we decided to run her Feminist Friday posts at Science Fiction, Transmedia, and Fandom instead.

SF, TM, FDNatacha has a standing invitation to guest blog, so you never know when you might see a post from her here  😉

You can Tweet with Natacha @natachaguyot. If you want to know even more about her, check out this Q&A she did with @RonovanWrites for LitWorldInterviews in November.

Give a Warm Welcome to Rebecca Bradley!

Crime author Rebecca Bradley has signed on to do monthly book reviews here beginning rbradleythis month. I’m ecstatic that Rebecca has agreed blog here, and I don’t know exactly what she has in store for us, so you’ll just have to tune in and check it out. 😉

Our plan is to run her first review on January 19 (you might want to mark that one on your calendar 🙂 ) and on the third Monday of every month thereafter for as long as we’re all having fun.

You will find tons of good stuff about books and writing at Rebecca’s blog, like this post about the #BoutOfBooks read-a-thon, for example. She has a concise, easy style that I enjoy, and she has as almost as many Internet projects as I do.

shallow_Waters_coverIf you want to know what Rebecca is up to this year, just go and read this. She has a crime book club, and recently released a book of her own, Shallow Waters.

Rebecca and I have been chatting off-and-on for awhile. When she answered the call for contributors back in October, I just couldn’t believe our good luck.

You can find The Crime Book Club on Facebook, and Rebecca herself on Twitter @RebeccaJBradley.