Farewell J.P. Donleavy: God have mercy on the wild Ginger Man

The great J.P. Donleavy has died at the ripe old age of 91. I’ve been a Donleavy fan since my senior year in college when I discovered his work while studying in Ireland. Donleavy is the King of The Tragicomedy. “The Ginger Man,” in particular, his first novel exemplifies that concept and the main character, Sebastian Dangerfield, weaves his way through life in a forays of mischief, alcohol, mastery of a silver tongue and general shenanigans. Though Dangerfield is not a gent to be sure – an understatement many would say –  his wit and charm win over the reader.

Dangerfield defines many of Donleavy’s characters who are far from moral heroes, but likeable and enjoyable to read because of Donleavy’s grand writing style.

In, “The Ginger Man,” Donleavy weaves together a stream-of-conciousness narrative that alternates between first and third person – somewhat Joycean –  but with stronger word choice. He also ends every chapter with a poem, generally three of four lines and rarely rhyming, but a gorgeous literary device that works to sum up the state of mind in the character’s life quite well at the point. Here is an example:

All I want
Is one break
Which is not
My neck.

God knows, I’ve uttered that phrase many times on this orb.

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To say I’ve been influenced by Donleavy would be an understatement. I haven’t totally immersed myself in his writing style, but do use his techniques of shifting between third and first person, though on a much smaller and tamed basis. I also find his use of humor and wit unrivalled in many aspects.

While I find certain parts of “The Ginger Man” a bit uncomfortable reading it many years after I first read it, I still do praise Donleavy’s style of writing. Perhaps, most of all,  I believe that perhaps alongside Pat Conroy, he is the greatest describer of nature I have read, particularly in “The Destinies of Darcy Dancer, Gentleman.” And I believe that gift of his is greatly overlooked. For example, take this passage from one of his books.

“The sun of Sunday morning up out of the sleepless sea from black Liverpool. Sitting on the rocks over the water with a jug of coffee. Down there along the harbor pier, trippers in bright colors. Sails moving out to sea. Young couples climbing the Balscaddoon Road to the top of Kilrock to search out grass and lie between the furze. A cold green sea breaking whitely along the granite coast. A day on which all things are born, like uncovered stars.”

And this:

“Come here till I tell you. Where is the sea high and the winds soft and moist and warm, sometimes stained with sun, with peace so wild for wishing where all is told and telling.”

Simply gorgeous.

Godspeed to Donleavy. I end this with the great last line from ‘The Ginger Man” which serves as a fitting eulogy.

“On a winter night I heard horses on a country road, beating sparks out of the stones. I knew they were running away and would be crossing the fields where the pounding would come up into my ears. And I said they are running out to death which is with some soul and their eyes are mad and teeth out.

God’s mercy
On the wild
Ginger Man.”

A wee bit of Hobbit, a dash of Elf and now a smidgen of Fairy…

Today, I became an official Book Fairy.  I don’t think the honor will land on my resume – then again who knows – but, the work these fellow fairies do hiding books for readers to find across the globe is commendable. Also, for someone who loves a good riddle, symbol and clue, it is right up my alley. I’ve always considered myself an oversized Hobbit – likes nature, good food, laughter and beer, hates machinery – but also with a dash of Elf. However, now in my genetic disposition, I will need to add Fairy. Here is the link to check out what they do if you want to get involved.

You ain’t Spota be doin’ that! What’s in a character’s name?

Spota.

This is a picture of the man who inspired the character in Alexandria Reborn.

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What an interesting name? How did he get this name? Who is this guy and why is he in your novel? Who is the real Spota then?

No spoilers here, but in the scene where he introduces himself to Rand, it reads as such:

“By the way, my name is Rand,” a handshake extended and met.

“Nice to meet you, Rand. You can just call me Spota.”

“Spota?”

“Yeah, as in you ain’t spota be doin’ that. You ain’t spota say that. You ain’t spota blow that shit up like that. You know? I have many other names. Some good, some bad. Some people call me the man because I am basically the best at what I do. Some call me Clooney because I am so handsome, but most people here just call me Spota.”

Rand laughed. Needed it. Spota’s levity was instantly contagious.

“Spota it is then.”

“Good, now let’s get out of this heat.”

Spota is one of the new characters in the Alexandria Rising Chronicles and is inspired by a longtime friend Adam Kijanksi who – when I met him at Berry College 25 years ago or so – was nicknamed Spota because he wasn’t spota be doin’ that or spota be sayin’ that. The demolition stuff? No, entirely made up for the book. Adam is actually an outstanding citizen, husband and father whose work with veterans and mental health is commendable (and no, he is called Adam these days, though I am sure he wouldn’t mind a Spota reference now and then).

So how did I come about to use Spota in Alexandria Reborn? What about the other names? Are some of them real people?

Well, one of the best aspects about writing fiction is creating new characters. You can take a piece from one person you know, a little from yourself, a bit from someone else and then blend it up, toss in some imagination, a random trait, symbolism and see where it leads you. Some – like the villain of the first book Kent St. James – are just bloody fun to write because he is so evil and condescending. Others – like Michael Casey the cabdriver – are just an impression of, yes, a cab driver I met while traveling in Ireland 20 or so years ago. By myself. Like Rand. Riding in the front seat. Like Rand. And the man did have a bushel of nose hair.

One of the things I wanted to do in the sequel was to further world creation. Rand is somewhat limited in his scope of The Organization’s reach in the first novel. In Alexandria Reborn, I wanted to show the other sides and, along the way, introduce new characters. While Rand is a smart aleck at times, I wanted some true levity and mano y mano bonding and brotherhood. No yuk-yuk banal humor, but true wit, word play, authenticity of character and scenes of brotherhood and bonding.

Adam was kind enough to let me use the Spota name in this book. I think you’ll enjoy getting to know this new character as you read the book. He does add some levity, is great with wordplay and dialogue, and, much like the man who inspired the character – is authentic, true and a brother in arms along the journey.

 

Flet, Levitious, Coolth. Coin a word? Puncture punctuation? Don’t mind if I do

joyce

Flet? Levitious? Coolth? Descension?

Sound familiar? No, probably not.

These are just a few of the words I coined in my new novel, “Alexandria Reborn.” (Definitions of each word is at the bottom)

Sometimes, coining a word just makes sense. I honesty did not – Seamus Heaney, Tolkien or Shakespeare like – sit down and invent words or extract ancient words from the past. Many of them just came to me. They made more sense than having to spell it out and, as with punctuation, when one is writing a novel, one can do what one wishes to fit the flow of the chapter or the pacing – aren’t commas great for pacing? – or just how the author wants it. Thankfully, authors are not bound by the general rules of MLA, AP or Chicago style. Nor, are we bound by other rules of narration, punctuation or mixing first and third persons (see Faulkner). And I am far from the first to break these rules. Shakespeare coined a ton of words, many of which we still use today. Roddy Doyle uses dashes instead of quotation marks.  James Joyce wrote Finnegan’s Wake, which includes such sentences as:

“We pass through grass behush the bush to. Whish! A gull. Gulls. Far calls. Coming, far! End here. Us then. Finn, again! Take. Bussoftlhee, mememormee! Till thousendsthee. Lps. “

Then you have chaps like Cormac McCarthy who refuse to use semi-colons (I might agree with him there).

Of course, let’s not even delve into poetry where William Carlos Williams wielded puncutaiton and captilization to his own means and created an entire glorious non sensical, yet sensical, universe or the esteemed T.S. Eliot who wrote some of the most significant passages of Western Civilization and still dropped lines like this:

Le Prince d’Aquitaine à la tour abolie

These fragments I have shored against my ruins

Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo’s mad againe.

Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.

Shantih     shantih     shantih

Yes, there is a method to each of these writer’s madness (and I know that Eliot was using symbolism), but the point I am making is how fun it is – dare I use that word again? Fun? –  to write and read freely and creatively. To engage without bounds. Perhaps an action-adventure novel was not the place for me to introduce a few new words to the English lexicon. Then again, why not? It is my book after all. I am finally free of two decades of editors and 20 years before that of the brutal black and white world of English teachers.

The good news is if new words and odd punctuation and spellings (yes, I still prefer grey) bother you, they are used enough in context so you can catch the drift. If these literary devices do not bother you and you like them, rejoice! My next novel is filled with many. And after that, I might go full Joyce-ian and dance wylde-like undereth the blueth sky with full experiment house like sodium drenched φ exhaltation.

Per prior above see:

Flet: A combination of Fled and Flit. Generally used in an internal form such as, ‘thoughts flet through his mind’ I can provide more details as to philology and etymology if you wish, but this is the basic idea.

Levitious: Having or, and, or pertaining to levity.

Coolth: Use this one whenever possible. Borrowed it from said Heaney.

Descension: The act to descend – actually a Middle English term that went out of vogue.

Book signing with ‘Rand O’Neal approved coffee!’

gremlin growlers flyer

 

Well, the tour for Alexandria Reborn and the Alexandria Chronicles kicks off with a book signing at Gremlin Growlers Saturday, August 19 from 1 to 4 p.m. in Fayetteville, Georgia. I’m delighted to participate with the folks at Gremlin Growlers for many reasons including they have the best coffee and craft beer selection in Fayette, they love the book and on the Facebook invite they posted:

“Enjoy a Rand O’Neal approved amount of caffeine or indulge in a frothy pint of the dark stuff to help you settle in and begin an adventure you’ll not soon forget! Gremlin Growlers is beyond excited to host this amazing author in an environment practically torn from the pages of his mind making the characters feel right at home.”

Reading a good review is always a boost, (and yes, kind readers, please do not shy away from posting reviews in this new market where reader reviews influence more than critics’ words), but this description in relation to the book, characters and, of course, the caffeine and the frothy stuff really made my day as it captured some strong descriptions in the book.

As authors, we generally work alone and in our heads. It is a solitary art in many aspects so when someone mentions a character, enjoys a scene or even appreciates how much of the black elixir a character enjoys, it is a joy to hear. And, as I’ve said many a time, never ask an author too much about their book, especially if they have had the frothy stuff, you might be in for a long night.

PS: If you can’t make it to the event with Gremlin Growlers, I am lining up several more events throughout metro Atlanta for the fall and the books are on a digital blog tour as well. And you can always ping me at markwallacemaguire@gmail.com

 

Alexandria Reborn: Your prep kit.

Alexandria Reborn, the sequel to Alexandria Rising and Book 2 in The Alexandria Rising Chronicles, is now available in paperback and kindle. So, what do you need to know? I mean, a sequel is a sequel, right?

Yes.

Yet….

A couple of items worth noting.

The book picks up immediately after the last chapter in Alexandria Rising. There is no preamble, recap, Star Wars like crawl or ‘six months later.’ I mention that because some of the early readers of the sequel have mentioned that they had to re-read the last few chapters of first book to remember where things left off. The first chapter of the sequel is essentially Chapter 74 of The Alexandria Rising Chronicles. I intentionally wanted to keep the pacing steady with the series.

It might also be worth to skim The Appendices of Alexandria Rising. And, if you haven’t watched any of Thomas J. Callahan’s videos or read his research, it might be insightful i.e. it is not necessary, but I do enjoy adding clues, easter eggs, allusions and such in various forms of multi-media.

Finally, get prepared. Get relaxed. Turn off your phone and grab a drink, whether that is a cup of tea, coffee or, something stronger from the bar of, say, Kent St. James. As one of my favorite reviewers on Goodreads wrote after reading Alexandria Rising, “it was so good you had to grab hold of your own bottom to hang in there. I loved not being able to figure out what was going to happen next!”

I hope I achieve that level of excitement with this tome.

Many people lent their time, insight and help with the sequel and while they are thanked in the author’s note in the book, I want to give them a shout out here: Adam Miller, Bob Wallace, Bruce Wallace, Beth Poirier, Whitney Betts and, last but not least, my wife, Jami.

Thank you all for being part of the journey. Hope you enjoy the adventure.

 

What is the symbol on the front of the book?

Since “Alexandria Rising,” published last October, I have been asked on one than more occasion:

“What is the symbol on the front of the book?” 

or

“I’m sorry, I don’t speak that language?” (always the smart aleck in a group, right?) 

or

“So, are you ever going to let us know what this is about or do you just make up crazy letters for your books?” 

Well, here is your answer:

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The symbol is The Slendoc Meridian. It is on the map that Henry O’Neal left to to Rand. It is present on the Atlantean stones that Rand sees in The Cavern. And it is present here in one of the early trailers.

It is part of the Atlantean alphabet you might say. Though I am not an expert philologist, I have been piecing this together along with the aid of the insightful Thomas J. Callahan, keeper of the Appendices for The Alexandria Rising Chronicles.

As we obtain more information, it will be released.

 

The thirst for escapism and the need for fantasy

 

“You should really work on publishing that semi-autobiographical book you wrote, “The Preacher’s Son.” There is a lot of good stuff in there on religion, race, Southern culture, fractured father-son relationships, real good dark stuff that could sell.”

I’ve heard that sentiment echoed the last several months. I did write said book, “The Preacher’s Son,” several years ago. And while it does have some strong story points, I am happy to leave it in my drawer. Dust laden and undistributed for a long time, perhaps, forever, its 120,000 words quietly collecting dust. Why? A few reasons.

First of all, It was great therapy to write that book. I needed it. But, it was also painful and now that it has been exhumed from my system, I have no desire to revisit it. Even attempting to re-edit it has proved to an exercise in dark exertion.

Secondly, after having a close-enough-to-death experience in a cycling accident a few years ago, I decided that life was too short to do something one did not like i.e. if I was going to write another book, I wanted it be fun.

Fun to write.

Fun to read.

The type of book I like to read.

  • Ludlum-laced tension. 
  • Tolkien-striving world creation. 
  • Dan Brown pacing. 
  • T.S. Eliot and Dante inspired symbolism. 
  • Mysteries. Clues. Hints. Loss of truth. 
  • Cold-blooded villains. Broken heroes. Mysterious maps.

I suppose it was that amalgamation in my conscious and subconscious of those elements that birthed, “The Alexandria Rising Chronicles.” It is a series I enjoy writing and as I have told people again and again, “I hope that shines through.”

(By the way, writing is fun, editing and proofing and researching are work)

Through many, many years of writing in many forms, I have discovered that reading to escape, to create and to – yes, it is very low brow to state – have fun is key to a pleasant existence.

And I say this, not as a naïve dreamer, but as a hardened English major who survived Victorian literature – if you ever have a chance to read, ‘Dombey and Son’ by Charles Dickens, don’t – and as someone who has worked in journalism for almost two decades.

So, like those who read to escape.

I write to escape.

You see, it is much more fun and healthier to slay a villain after verbally annihilating him, than it is to do so to a colleague or someone who cuts you off in traffic.

There is also the fact that sometimes we all need to escape. This world is not perfect, we’re all fighting some type of battle. Those we love die. Those we expect so much from, let us down. We let others down. Bills pile up. The car breaks down. Injustice and hypocrisy is everywhere.

So, again, back to the point.

Writing and reading to escape.

I often like to refer to J.R.R. Tolkien when I talk about this type of borderline apologetics for writing escapism. Tolkien went to World War I along with 17 of his classmates at Oxford.

Only two returned.

Two.

After surviving the gore of the Somme, he was quoted as saying:

“I have been a lover of fairy-stories since I learned to read,” he later wrote in an essay in which he passionately defended fantasy and “escapist” fiction: “Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?”

Here, here.

And as a side note, “The Alexandria Rising Chronicles” has just been the start of this new chapter – pun intended – in my creative life. I’ve also recently begun two young adult novels which take place on other planets. I suppose if one is to go all out, well, let’s go all the way.

Atlantean translations unveiled

Author’s Note: This is a guest post by Thomas J. Callahan, author of the Appendices in the Alexandria Rising Chronicles and curator of ‘The Lost Letters of Henry O’Neal.’ 

It has been a rather lengthy process the last many years working on translating the symbols associated with Alexandria Rising and its other works. The main symbol, or prime mover as you might dub it, appears on the jacket of Alexandria Rising. That symbol is one of the most sacred and fearful of all: The Slendoc Meridian. You might have also seen that symbol, along with others, on one of the scrolls or maps in the book trailers – image below.

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These symbols have been identified as Old Atlantean. In the book, Rand sees them first on the map his grandfather left him and later on the standing stones in The Cavern at The Castle in Austria. As Kent St. James alluded to, it has taken years with some of the finest linguists and philologists in the land to decipher these. They have little foothold in traditional Indo-European language or Celtic, Sanskrit, Chinese, etc., but, instead, is a language inclusive to itself.

I myself cannot take full credit for these translations below. I must, unfortunately admit, that some of it was liberated during a 1970 expedition near Fiji and other work I heavily borrowed on those who had set out on this path before me. That said, here are the first few symbols with their translations. I do hope to have more in the next year, but, as you can imagine, it is very challenging and taxing.

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