Discovering New Folk Tales and New Writers

I don’t think any writer of any worth can do good work without reading. Books give us inspiration. More than that, they give us language, and at the heart of writing is the play of language, the joy of language, and of the language of stories.

Carefully choosing whom to read for content, style, or for effect is important. For instance, I enjoy reading adventure stories with mysteries in them, especially when I’m working on writing fiction. But I try to find tales that go beyond simple pot boilers or who done its. I read such well known authors as Jacquelyn Carey, Lois McMaster Bujold, Alan Furst, Jim Butcher, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Alan Furst, Guy Gavriel Kay Oliver Pötzsch, Jack McDevitt, Alastair Reynolds, James S. A. Corey.

I read those authors because they give more than just a potboiler of a story. Their characters live with me long after I’ve read the book. They make me think.

Recently I read a lovely book by A. M. Rycroft, The Joy Thief. I’ll confess that I’m one of this author’s beta readers, contributing bits of critique, suggesting ways to strengthen a bit of narrative here and there before the book is published. It’s a volunteer thing I do for a few writers. I don’t have time to beta read for just anyone, but I’m glad to do so for Rycroft. She’s a writer with a future. Her stories not only entertain me, but bring me into the minds of her characters. She also uses folk tales within her writing, especially in The Joy Thief in a way that makes me think she is inventing new folk tales.

If you enjoy sword and sorcery, fantasy with heroes of both gender, without a lot of sex, or four letter words, I highly recommend her work. Mycroft’s characters make you want to care about them, especially Aeryn and Theo in Into the Darkness, and in The Joy Thief .


A Review of Hoffman’s Army

I’ve been active in a group of civil war enthusiasts on FB. and recently offered a free copy of my history of the 31st Virginia Infantry CSA to someone in exchange for an honest review of the book. When one is a self-published author, it is achingly difficult to get reviews. I’m pleased that Chuck Pribbernow found my book worthwhile.

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Drunk men with guns

Good luck to all in Cleveland this week at the Republican National Convention. I hope cooler heads will prevail, and peace is not destroyed by the extremists of any belief.
As I saw this week in online posts, there are people claiming to travel to Cleveland for the convention with their guns, intent on stopping at breweries and distilleries along the way to stock up on alcohol, so they can “stand up” to Black Lives Matter, and anyone else who disagrees with them.
     That is exactly the kinds of sentiments and intentions that started the Civil War in 1861. Drunk men with guns who wanted to suppress blacks, perpetuate slavery, and tell the country how to govern itself was a losing proposition in that year, and it is a losing proposition in 2016.
     Drunk men with guns is a bad prescription for peaceful democratic process. Guns are not the right objects to bring to political conventions, unless one is supporting violence.
     Bring brains and logic, understanding and ethics, and yes morality that is based on helping others to your political convention. You want to make America great again? Bring back the middle class way of life. Bring back jobs for Americans. Bring back the dollars earned in the US that have been hidden oversees in banks to keep from having to pay taxes. Bring back the ethics and morality of freedom for all, and justice for all, not just for the wealthy, the whites, and the politically connected. That is what should be brought to this important American political gathering, and yet I understand it is probably not going to happen.
     The party of Lincoln that freed the slaves by winning the Civil War is today intent on building walls, violating freedom of religion, and suppressing dissent. It seems intent on disenfranchising as many non-Republicans as possible through gerrymandering, restricting and unconstitutional voting laws. And the reason?
     Drunk men with guns is my only explanation for this danger to the United States. Certainly, they could not hold those un-American values if they were sober.
– David W. Wooddell

Nom de Pen contest

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B&O RR Museum 052715

I write serious history books as my main occupation, though it pays little, so I could probably say it is an avocation. And I publish them under my own name, David W. Wooddell.

But my dirty little secret – well, one of them I’m willing to admit to here – is that I write fiction, too.

That’s right. Factually incorrect narratives, with wildly imaginative “facts” that are improbable, but plausible if you squint, and drink enough caffeine, and are excited by space travel, aliens, and new interpretations of physics and biology. And occasional sex. Because sex sells, and it is hilarious to write. Especially when combined with the new interpretations of biology, in which… oh, never mind for now. Just take my word for it.

Evidently, to be a successful fiction author, I need a nom de pen (or should that be nom de word processor?) I’m currently writing a series of science fiction novels. And those will be followed with a series of speculative historical adventure novels with some traces of steam punk levity.

Any suggestion would be gratefully received. I won’t guarantee I’ll use the suggestion. But I do think it would be fun to see what people suggest, and there is always a chance I might like one enough to use it on my books.

If I end up using one of the suggestions, I will award the person an autographed copy of my first science fiction novel, The Invisibles, after it is published later this year.

Who’s in? Make a comment below, or send one to me, here or on FB at my writer page.

  • David W. Wooddell

How do you stop racism?

How do you help fix the problem of racism? I’ve been speaking up about it since I was a teenager. It maybe has pressed some of my family and friends to question their overt racism, but I don’t know that I’ve been able to change them. Over time, they have learned that if they speak racist stuff, I will challenge them, and I will ostracize them if they continue. I will not be in the same room with them. I will not take part in what they take part in. And I will let them know why.

And yet, some of them choose to continue in their racist beliefs. And they get butthurt because I call them on it.

I feel it is important to speak out about it in social media. I feel it is important to write to politicians, chiefs of police in my area, to attend occasional public meetings and speak out and be seen as a white person who is against the police profiling, and acting on their racist attitudes. The stories of what those police do are terrible.

When I adopted my son from Korea, the agency we worked with told us to introduce son to the police, and “let them see you with him often, so that they will know he is protected by a white person.” I did so, but I’ve always known that the rest of the blacks, Hispanics, and Asians in the US don’t have the advantage of a white person protecting them.

But I have to ask – why should that be necessary? Why, in the 21st century, are some people, including some police still acting as thought the Civil War was about to start? Why have we allowed racists to hold office, and to be in position of authority, such as serve in the police?

The police are not all law abiding. I know this from my own family’s experiences. We had a crooked cop in the family, and we all suffered from it in one way or another. We also had a lot of cops in the family who were not crooked, who acted in an ethical and legal manner all their careers. So I know the difference, and I know that not all cops are law abiding  because I read the news and see reports of policemen arrested for every kind of crime imaginable. And yes, those are the exceptions. But too often the reaction within police forces is to look the other way and allow it. Just as security guards often turn out to be the inside man in robberies and theft, some police create problems instead of stopping problems. They have joined for the power, and because they can get away with abuse of the power. That includes racism and the ability to persecute those they perceive as weak. They perceive blacks and hispanics as weak because their own leaders and fellow police let them get away with racial profiling, with violence against them, and with outright illegal behavior. It is the power and ability to exercise power against someone who can’t lash out at them in return.

If you want to help end this continuation of racism, and persecution of blacks by police, speak out. Stand up. Let it be known that you won’t support police who break the law. Let your local and national politicians know you will not stand for it, and you will campaign against them if they support that kind of behavior.

This is not blacks against the police. It is some police acting against blacks, and that puts us all in danger, it demeans all of us because it fractures our society, it breaks the law, and as with all criminals, it creates fear. It is time to stop the violence. It is time to stop racism.

Books Feed Your Brain

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Books: If you want to be a thinker, and know stuff, you have to feed your brain. If you want to convey information that will last, books are the time-tested method.
By comparison, information seen on video is ephemeral, lasting only long enough for the image to resolve and then the camera lens usually passes along to another image, another bit of information, but again it is there and gone. It is more temporary in nature.
Digital information can be solid only temporarily for a matter of years; and is not archival. It has to be refreshed every five to ten years, and then it degrades. It is not a permanent archive such as words printed on paper, which remain the only enduring, and permanent record of whatever information was conveyed on the page. Imagine if all the books at the Library of Congress had to be copied over or reprinted every five to ten years in order for them to be read fifty years from now. 
As a adjunct: Photographs printed on high quality photo paper are the best means of preserving photographic images, especially now that we no longer have the negative film with which to make a new print.
Books. Write one, read one, shelve one, or buy one. Visit them at the library. See them in a book store. See them on a friend’s shelf and ask to look, or borrow, and read.
Your brain will thank you; your culture will thank you; and your life will be richer.
A recent New Yorker article on bibliotherapy speaks to the latter part of why we read books. Can Reading Make You Happier? It’s worth a try.
– David W. Wooddell