Friday, November 28, 2014

C.S. Lewis on Teaching

The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts. --C.S. Lewis

I think there's a lot of truth to this.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Holiday Bazaar Tomorrow at Upper Valley Career Center

A quick reminder that tomorrow I'll be participating in the Holiday Bazaar along with over two dozen other vendors (foods, jewelry, knitted and sewn gifts, cooking ware and more). For those who know them, the Domestic Divas as well as author Stephen Hines will be in attendance.

I'll have copies of all my novels and short story collection, ready to sign for readers and for gifts to readers!

It runs from 3:00 pm until 6:00 pm, although I have to leave at 5:00 pm to attend a tri-county planning commission meeting in Bellefountaine as part of my responsibility as a councilman for the Village of St. Paris.

Upper Valley Career Center is located at:

8811 Career Drive
Piqua, Ohio  45356

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Some Teachers have Super Powers

Joanne Detter at her desk
A co-worker of mine relayed a classroom incident that I found both amusing and interesting, although not surprising.

Mrs. Detter forgot to turn off her cell phone after her planning period. As class was staring it chimed, indicating a text. She apologized to the students, silenced her cell and placed it face down on her desk (to make a point), telling them she'd check it at lunch.

Her students were both surprised and perplexed. She informed them that she would check the text when lunch arrived. They couldn't believe she wouldn't immediately check it, and had the ability to ignore who'd sent her a text and what it said. They were more anxious and nervous than she would ever be--on her behalf. How could anyone have that sort of self-control? Mrs. Detter has super powers.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Interview with Fantasy Author Alexandra Butcher

Welcome to Up Around the Corner, Alexandra. Could you tell us a little about yourself and your writing?

Hi and thanks for having me.. I’m a Brit, living in the South West. I like to read, watch movies, and I love natural history, history and science. I’m currently studying an online course about Roman History and thoroughly enjoying it. I hate clowns, dolls and enclosed spaces.

My writing is mainly fantasy and fantasy romance but I also write poetry, occasional horror, short stories and erotica. As of October 2014 I have two self-published novels in the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles Fantasy series. These are set in the mythical world of Erana; it is a dark and dangerous world, at least for some. Magic is illegal – punishable by imprisonment or death and elves are forced to live as slaves. The books follow the adventures of an elven sorceress and a human (ish) mage as they seek to rescue a kidnapped child, and for Book II - The Shining Citadel they seek out a long lost elven city, hoping it will bring answers but what they find is a dangerous truth. Tales of Erana is a collection of short stories set in the same world, told as mythic accounts or fairytales. That one is also available in audio.

I also have various short fantasy stories and poems in a number of anthologies.

I imagine you incorporate knowledge through your interest in natural history, history and science into your writing. Can you explain where this has come to pass in one or more of your works?

I researched quite a bit of herb-lore and flora and fauna for The Shining Citadel. As some of the book takes place in swampland and some in forest it helps to know what is likely to be found there. What plants or creatures can be eaten? What do they look like? What kind of terrain do they inhabit? Of course it doesn’t have to mirror Earth but it helps to have a basis. History is helpful – especially weapons/armours and warfare, medieval buildings, and transport, knowledge. Period technology is important too, what can and can’t be done – even with magic.

What would you list as a few of your favorite movies and/or novels? What do you enjoy about them, and have they influenced the type of stories you write?

Movies: Lord of the Rings, Schindler’s List, Dead Poet’s Society, Star Wars IV-VI, High Plains Drifter, Willow, Dune, Jabberwocky, Phantom of the Opera, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Bourne Trilogy, Monty Python, Reign of Fire, Day After Tomorrow, Terminator(s), Silent Running, Lost Boys, Guardians of the Galaxy, X-men, 300, Wall-E – as you can see it is quite a mix. I like movies with a good plot, excitement, perhaps humour and fun characters. I like fantasy films BUT there are a lot of really rubbish fantasy and sci-fi ones. I tend to find fantasy and sci-fi movies which are bad are BAD. More so than other genres. Having fancy special effects does not excuse a crap plot.  

Books: Hmm where to start…. Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, I, the Sun, the Sacred Band, Wuthering Heights, Dracula, Lord of the Rings, most of the Discworld books, War of the Worlds, Reader of Acheron, Frankenstein, Mystery of the Yellow Room, Beyond Sanctuary, Schindler’s List, Dragon Fate, Dragon Blade. Honestly there are too many to mention.

The books certainly have influenced me. Good writing does that. Some of these are written by the masters and mistresses of their craft, and a good teaching tool. I write fantasy because I enjoy it. I am not technical enough for sci-fi and, although I like to read horror, and occasionally write it, I prefer fantasy. Fantasy is a very wide field and anything is possible. Also, many of these books have memorable and complicated characters. I hate shallow characters, and enjoy an anti-hero.

Do any of your stories feature an anti-hero?

Yes, I’d say both Olek and Archos are anti-heroes. Certainly Olek, he is a good deal more than he seems at first. He is introduced as an elven manservant to Lord Archos but it soon becomes clear he has an unusual skillset for a servant. He’s a thief, an assassin and important in the Erana underworld. Archos too has many secrets – for a start he is a mage living in a world where magic is punishable by death. Both of them use their skills to help those who cannot help themselves and defy the established order. Archos is not a man who refuses to get his hands dirty, he deals with one of the Witch-Hunters and the main bad guy in very nasty ways, and yes he enjoys doing it. He is often kind, generous and loyal but he is also willing to kill for his own purposes, and to deal with the dark and deadly. 

Also one of my recent short stories features a vampire anti-hero named Wolfgang, who is, I have to say, a bit nasty. J

Would any of your former teachers be surprised that you write novels and short stories? What about your family and friends? What do they think of your being a writer and have they read any of your works?

I doubt they would be surprised, at least not my English teachers. My dad hasn’t read the books, he is quite disabled these days and he doesn’t read much due to his bad eyesight. He isn’t keen on fantasy anyway. My mother died a couple of years ago, from cancer, but she saw the first edition of the paperback. My sisters have both read the books. As one is an English teacher and the other loves fantasy they were delighted. The only other person in the family who was a writer was my grandmother, who wrote local history non-fiction.

Here’s a question that’s a little off the current track: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people (language not being a barrier), who would they be, where would you dine, and what would you hope to discuss?

Oh gosh. That is a tricky one. Sir David Attenborough, the naturalist, for one. I love natural history and he has done more to bring nature into our homes than anyone else. For more than sixty years he has presented programs about everything which flies, swims, walks and crawls. I think I’d ask him his opinion on global warming and the impact human beings have had on our planet.

Second, probably Homer. I’d ask him to discuss the Odyssey, his thoughts on the war of Troy and the nature of heroism. What makes a man or woman a hero?

Thirdly, Sir Ernest Shackleton, the explorer. Again probably the nature of courage, and survival. He was a leader and when his ship was trapped in the Antarctic ice he and some of his crew walked to freedom through an icy hell. How does one man convince his fellows to follow him, to trust their lives to him? So a discussion on leadership.

Where would we eat? I love Italian food so a great Italian restaurant.

Interesting choices.

Could you share with us what you’re working on now and what readers might expect from you in the next year or two?

The Stolen Tower – The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles Book III is due early next year, which follows some characters from book II as they embark on a mercy mission.

I’m hoping to release another volume of Tales of Erana – probably a heroes and monsters edition. There will be a few more stories in anthologies too, although exactly what and when is not yet decided.

I’m currently revising book III drafts, and short story writing for anthologies. I’m beginning work too on an associated gaming system for the world of my novels – realistically that won’t appear for a good while but next year will see the basics begin to appear. Planning is in process for Book IV of the Chronicles and presently I’m studying an online history course which may lead to some historical fiction further down the line.

Sounds like you’re going to be busy.

As we’re closing in on the end of the interview, is there anything else you’d like to share or add?
I’d just like to reiterate the power and importance of storytelling. So much pleasure can be found in the pages of a book. A person can escape, find new worlds, meet wild and wonderful people and experience things most people never can. A book can make you cry, bring joy, bring learning and widen the mind. I truly believe books make people civilized, free and human. No other creatures have written language, to our knowledge, and for thousands if not tens of thousands of years storytelling has been the way of imparting knowledge, experience and excitement. 

Spend time with a book, spend time reading to your kids, or encouraging them to read for themselves. Don’t limit what they read – even if you don’t like it, they might. Let the story free!

Good advice, Alexandra. Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.


A. L. Butcher is the British author of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles and several short stories in the fantasy and fantasy romance genre. She is an avid reader and creator of worlds, a poet and a dreamer. When she is grounded in the real world she likes science, natural history, history and monkeys. Her work has been described as ‘dark and gritty’.

Amazon Page:

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Quote on Saying Farewell

This quote is from Hammered by Kevin Hearne, where Atticus O'Sullivan is saying goodbye to his friend, the widow MacDonagh:

“For me, the times I always regret are missed opportunities to say farewell to good people, to wish them long life and say to them in all sincerity, "You build and do not destroy; you sow goodwill and reap it; smiles bloom in the wake of your passing, and I will keep your kindness in trust and share it as occasion arises, so that your life will be a quenching draught of calm in a land of drought and stress." Too often I never get to say that when it should be said. Instead, I leave them with the equivalent of a "Later, dude!" only to discover there would be no later for us.” --Kevin Hearne (Hammered)

This quote is one that stuck with me, not only because it's eloquent, but because there is truth to it. So often we miss the opportunity to say so many things to those close to us, thinking that there will always be a next time, a tomorrow. Sadly, sometimes there isn't.