Thursday, December 29, 2011

Guest on Edin Road Radio

If you like books and haven't heard of Edin Road Radio, you should pay a visit. Jesse V. Coffey has a wide range of guest authors who read selections of their work, talk about what they write, and share a half hour on air with her. I had the privilege of being her guest on December 27 and am happy to say she has invited me back when my next novel, Concealed in Ash, is published.

Between readings, we talked about my love of Kentucky history and the great special collections at the University of Kentucky and Transylvania University. I also complimented the wonderful effort of Kentucky and Indiana historians in building the Kentuckiana Digital Library, and put in a good word for the Morris Book Shop here in Lexington. The Shop always has my book in stock.

When you have a half hour to listen, stop by and play one of the shows on Edin Road Radio. Jesse does a great job hosting blog talk radio. Her guests cover a wide spectrum of work, her show is great fun, and I look forward to listening to more of her broadcasts. Closing out the year on Edin Road is poet David Nelson Bradsher on December 29. Her website lists upcoming guests in January and early February.

The list doesn't go far enough to include Sarah E. Glenn, but she will be on the show next year. I'll be blogging more details of that closer to the date of her appearance.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Book Review: Civil War Lexington, Kentucky

The History Press has just released a new book by Joshua and Karen Leet, titled Civil War Lexington, Kentucky: Bluegrass Breeding Ground of Power. In the interest of full disclosure, I was introduced to the Leets by fellow author Stephen Zimmer who invited me to their launch at The Morris Book Shop, here in Lexington, where I am sure you can still get autographed copies.

At first glance, you might think that Lexington is an odd choice for a Civil War book. There were no great battles fought in the city, nor was Lexington a key strategic location. Instead, Lexington contributed her greatest minds, bravest hearts, and most loyal citizens to the war. Civil War Lexington, Kentucky reflects the people, North and South, who loved their home state and fought for what they believed was in her best interests.

Joshua and Karen Leet take a history lovers' look at Lexington's leading families and Lexington's role in shaping United States history, and how Lexingtonian lives were changed by the war that divided the country. There is no deeply footnoted scholarly text to wade through; this is a book that is friendly to the lay reader. It's also the sort of book for history lovers, Civil War buffs, and anyone who loves Kentucky history. Certainly, there is enough meat to the text to be worthy of the researcher's shelf, but it also belongs in the gift shops of state parks and Kentucky historical sites, particularly those in the Bluegrass.

I am very happy to have this slim volume as a new addition to my Kentucky history bookshelf, and will be referring to it often to enrich the background of my novels.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Thursday's Thugs: There's a Little Grinch in All Bad Guys

"The Grinch" is the go-to bad guy of childhood, particularly during the holiday season. Children everywhere Christmas is celebrated have been exposed to Dr. Seuss's Ghinch. He is one of the most memorable bad guys ever created. Love him or hate him, the Grinch is the bad guy who puts the mean in green.

As a writer, I am more impressed with the author than the character. Dr. Seuss has endowed his children's books with complex characters and simple actions that make those characters understandable. Everything from the Cat in the Hat to the Butter Battle teach children to think about the world in new ways. In a world where what we get overshadows why we give, this bad guy reminds us to give of ourselves.

The Grinch is an excellent example of the annoying aspects of holiday excess and exclusion. Who-ville's happy people are a sharp contrast to the bitter, hateful, cold cave of occupied by the Grinch. But even the Grinch has one friend in his dog Max. We are saddened by poor, loyal, Max being forced to pose as a reindeer and help steal Christmas. Max is ashamed of being part of the evil. But without evil we would not feel for Cindy Lou Who and the denizens of Who-ville. But, it is the personal growth of the mean old Grinch's character that gives us the warm fuzzy feeling.

There is a little grinch in all bad guys. A small part of the villain that ma
kes him human. Not all bad guys have hearts that can grow three sizes at the end of the book. Not all stories of the bad guy end with redemption, or even end in the book we are writing. All of them do end with our villain making a choice. We writers have to understand what our bad guy's story is, we have to know the warts and weaknesses that make him the hero of his own story. Only when we have a grasp of how the evil garlic grew in our bad guy's soul can we come up with a hero equipped to pluck it out.