Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Tag Archives: C. J. Cherryh

More on Reading for Healing

The Lord of the Rings I did a post on Reading for Healing back on the 21st of January—in that post, I also linked to other posts that alerted readers to my radically sudden backing away from my normal schedule on this blog…

I’m still reading for healing though I’ve moved on from reading and re-reading 7 of C. J. Cherryh’s works to re-reading The Lord of the Rings <— that link leads to the 50th Anniversary Edition, which is the most faithful reproduction of the author’s intentions…

To see why I mentioned the author’s intentions, check out my past post, The Publishing (And Editorial) History of Some Extremely Famous Fiction

I spoke about healing, specifically with 5 of the 7 Cherryh books, in the January 21st post…

My reasons for healing with The Lord of the Rings is a bit more complex…

I should first mention that both Cherryh’s and Tolkien’s books are re-reads after many years—I feel the number of years between re-readings could be a gauge of the “value” of the 2nd (or, 3rd or more) reading; especially if the re-reads are years apart—you are older, your mind and heart have (hopefully) expanded—other books have amplified the Reading Space—it feels “comfortable” yet is still a “fresh” read…


So, reading for healing…


Cherryh’s Fortress Series (the 5 books in the January 21st post) are books of High Fantasy…

Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings has been called Epic High Fantasy…

To me, the difference is that Cherryh shook my mind and heart in ways that opened improperly sealed doors and chased the spooks away, relieving heart and soul…

However, Tolkien, who I’m still reading, is going deeper—not just opening doors but helping me re-shape whole Habitations in my mind and heart—not just relieving but reconstituting heart and soul…

I feel the difference is that Cherryh can tap into the Personal Unconscious treasuries of meaning but, due to the extremely “ancient” feel of the Rings story, Tolkien can tap into the Collective Unconscious

So, I’m still healing… And, I should mention that I firmly believe that both Cherryh and Tolkien were aided in their writing by a Higher Power


Still Healing

But, I’m nearly ready to begin a regular schedule of blogging again…

Monday and Wednesday will be original blog posts, Fridays will be Story Bazaar Tales, and the rest of the week will be valuable re-blogs…

However, there will only be 19 more Tales in the Friday Story Bazaar—have any idea what I should do differently on Fridays…?

This resumption of my normal routine will begin February 9th…

In closing, I’ll share a hearty recommendation that you consider re-reading some of your former favorite books—some will be like visiting an old friend, some will have not remained favorites, some will seem comfortable as well as completely new, since you have attained new vistas of personal growth………
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Reading for Healing

Fortress Series - C. J. Cherryh Being a writer usually means being an avid reader—actually, I can’t imagine a writer who doesn’t and hasn’t read widely…


One of the many perks of the writing life is being able to do something you love—reading—and, call it research; and, sometimes, also call it Healing

Earlier this month I had a “breakdown”—not psychotic but deeply psychological—not life threatening but emotionally deadly—not cosmic but concerning things not of this earth…

I have two very short posts that speak to it—here and here—and the intro to a re-blog—as well as a partial post that said a bit about a point of stability when I began to aim at returning to normal blogging and story-telling; though, I’m not quite there, yet…

Reading for Healing (while also doing writerly research…)…

There was a book by my favorite novelist, C. J. Cherryh, that I’d read many years ago; though, she’d gone on to write four more in what’s called the “Fortress Series“…

So, I’d fallen into my “dislocation” and needed some deep and high fantasy to live in, to “get away from things”, to ponder in another world…

I’m sure some of you select books to read somewhat intuitively; though I know there are folks who only ask friends and browse online book retailers…

I’ve almost always selected my reading intuitively and rarely has that process failed me; and, even when I ended up reading a book that “went against” my intuitive needs, it still could serve well for my writerly research activities…


As soon as I got into the first book of the Fortress Series, I realized (after I’d gotten about 100 pages in) that I’d remembered very little detail; and, that I was aware the whole series must be read to help me Heal………

It worked, better than I thought it would.

I’m sitting here writing a blog post where, before the books, I could barely get a re-blog out.

Cherryh isn’t for every reader—even her die-hard fans admit it takes work and commitment to appreciate her writing; but, if you can give yourself up to the way she uses words, you can Become her stories—I have no other way to explain the effect on me of her writing…

I have enough years and study to not take Cherryh’s fantasy literally; yet, there are those who would, she’s such a good writer; still, there is much Truth in the books—figurative facts that opened psychological truth, psychological facts opening up literal truths…

If you ever need to heal, to Become a different you, to go away and come back better able to handle this world, read the Fortress Series


Stay tuned for another original Tale in the Story Bazaar on February 9th—with some excellent re-blogs until then…
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Ever Read a 4-Novel-Series 5 Times?

The year was 1976…

The young woman in the image was 34 and had her first novel published—Gate of Ivrel

She followed that, in 1978, with the second in the series, Well of Shiuan

The third book, Fires of Azeroth, was published in 1979

And that was the “complete” story of Morgaine and Vanye

—until 1988 when Exile’s Gate was published.

The author is C. J. Cherryh—born Carolyn Janice Cherry—multiple Hugo Award winner—produced over 60 books—even has an asteroid named after her (77185 Cherryh).

I just finished reading those books for the 5th time yesterday

I wouldn’t recommend them to everyone

First, because they don’t easily fall into the genre-rut (though plenty of people have tried to ram them into various categories…).

Yes, there are lords and swords, horses and bandits, undying love and treachery, alien technology and whisperings of witchcraft

Still, these books are, to me, not “Science Fiction” nor “Fantasy” nor “Science Fantasy” nor “Sword-and-sorcery meets hard sci-fi”.

The acclaimed author, Andre Norton, wrote an introduction for the first edition of the first book and said:

“Never since reading ‘The Lord of the Rings’ have I been so caught up in any tale as I have been in ‘Gate of Ivrel’.”

I also can’t cram Lord of the Rings into a genre.

I’m not sure when I first read them

Yet, each reading revealed more—each reading gave vast impetus to my own writing—each reading spurred me toward deep self-examination.

That last could be my second reason for not recommending them to everyone—so many folk are desperate to avoid self-examination

The third reason I don’t say everyone should read them is that the main characters reverse nearly every standard of “normal” relationships:

Morgaine, woman, leader of men, world-saver, often autocratic, feared by most, skilled in war.

Vanye, man, outcast warrior, claimed in servitude to Morgaine, in doubt about his courage, often alarmingly emotional, superstitious.

Cherryh in an interview:

“It was a set of characters I’d invented when I was, oh, about thirteen. So it was an old favorite of my untold stories…”

I do wish everyone who likes to read would read these books.

Perhaps more of us could work through the perilous patterns of relationship

Perhaps more of us could face our inner demons

Perhaps more of us could see hope where the world only shows decay and riot

Perhaps more of us could face each other with utter loyalty and trust

If I meet people who want to read something full of spirit but I know they abhor religion, I recommend these books

There is an amazing element of these stories that most articles shove in your face.

I’m going to let you discover it for yourself :-)

It’s being rumored there will be The Gates of Morgaine movies

Here are a few more quotes from the Andre Norton introduction:

“…there are indeed no supermen or superwomen—rather there are very human beings, torn by many doubts and fears, who are driven by a sense of duty to march ahead into a dark they are sure holds death. Ancient evils hang like noisome cobwebs, the stubbornness of unbelievers wrecks again and again their quest. Wounded, nearly at the edge of their strength, shamefully forsworn in the eyes of all they could once call kin, they continue to push on to the last test of all.”

“Few books have produced such characters as to draw a reader with them, completely out of this mundane world…one accepts it all without any longer remembering that this is a creation of an imagination. It might be actual history—from another plane.”

And, a final quote from Norton that I can actually feel like I wrote:

“Books flow in and out of our lives in an unending stream. Some we remember briefly, others bring us sitting upright, tense with suspense, our attention enthralled until the last word on the last page is digested. Then we step regretfully from the world that author has created, and we know that volume will be chosen to stand on already too tightly packed shelves to be read again and again.”

There is now a one-volume edition called, The Complete Morgaine (that last link is for the paperback and e-book on Amazon—go here for free world-wide delivery of the paperback)
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Why Is Some #Poetry So Hard to Understand?

Emily Dickinson

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson

I have two Most Favorite (“secular”) authors.

One writes fiction, the other wrote poetry.

Some might say the poet wrote fiction

C. J. Cherryh is my Most Favorite fiction author—and, she can be very hard for some folks to understand

Emily Dickinson is my Most Favorite poet—and, she can be very hard for some folks to understand

I find her much harder to understand than Cherryh—yet, I read her, over and over

If you should try to read her poetry, do, if at all possible, get The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson as it’s the most comprehensive and authoritative one out there.

I should add that many fans of Cherryh and Dickinson love them in spite of all the effort it can take to understand them

But, this post is more about Ms. Dickinson so I’ll give you my short-form reasons for why poetry (and, hers in particular) can be hard to understand.

First, here’s an example poem:

You cannot put a Fire out —
A Thing that can ignite
Can go, itself, without a Fan —
Upon the slowest Night —

You cannot fold a Flood —
And put it in a Drawer —
Because the Winds would find it out —
And tell your Cedar Floor —

It may appear simplistic to you…

It may seem nonsensical…

If you read it more than once, it may strike you as deeper than you first thought…

One hint at deeper meaning is that certain things are given qualities they don’t have in a mundane world.

Wind talking to the floor, for instance

When things like this happen in poetry, you can tell that the poet isn’t just talking mundanely—they’re using words in unique ways—they’re making words do two or three things at once

So, finally, my short-form reasons for why poetry can be hard to understand:

Poetry (the “best” poetry) is meant to be more than it seems.

Words are used in ways that defy strict rationality.

We’re challenged to think beyond the obvious and learn deep Truths about Life…

These reasons are more than likely why poetry never sells as well as genre-fiction—folks don’t seem to want to work hard to find deep Truths

I was prompted to write this post because of a new book about Emily, A Loaded Gun ~ Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century.

And, I found out about the book by reading a post at Longreads,
A Loaded Gun: The Real Emily Dickinson ~ She was less like a recluse, more like a bomb going off.

Just a few excerpts (the Longreads post is actually an excerpt from the new book…):

“…Emily Dickinson was not just ‘one more madwoman in the attic’, but rather a messianic modernist, a performance artist, a seductress, and ‘a woman maddened with rage—against a culture that had no place for a woman with her own fiercely independent mind and will’.”

“’She was the articulate inarticulate’, that lone voice out of the Puritan wilderness….her letters are every bit as bewildering as the poems, perhaps even more so…We soon come to realize that’s she’s wearing an assortment of masks—sometimes she’s Cleopatra and an insignificant mouse in the same letter.”

“The brutality of this belle of Amherst would stop a truck.”

“It’s as if she had a storm inside her head, an illumination, like a wizard or a mathematical genius.”

There is still much conjecture about Emily (and this book certainly raises many speculations).

We may never know the truth about her, except for the Utter Truths she wove into her poetry

A few more excerpts:

“I believe she suffered horrendously as a woman; dream brides drift in and out of her poems like a continual nightmare—yet she did not want to be ‘Bridalled’.”

“I believe that her rebellion against the culture of nineteenth-century Amherst was of another kind. She was promiscuous in her own fashion, deceiving everyone around her with the sly masks she wore. She was faithful to no one but her dog. Her white dress was one more bit of camouflage, to safeguard the witchery of her craft.”

“She wasn’t one more madwoman in the attic. She was the mistress of her own interior time and space…”

And, even though I have my own proof that she was extremely spiritual and even extraordinarily religious (so many folks really don’t know the meanings of spiritual and religious…), I’ll share one more quote that, for me, nails it for who this woman was:

“She met her first real antagonist, Mary Lyon, within the school’s walls. Lyon was a formidable foe. The founder and headmistress of Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, Lyon came from a much humbler background than the poet and believed in educating rich and poor alike as female soldiers in Christ. But no matter how wily she was, the headmistress in the severe white bonnet couldn’t get Dickinson to profess her faith, couldn’t rescue her soul. Emily Dickinson was one of the few ‘unsaved’ seminarians. The battle was less about God and the Devil than about two women with strong wills, one of them a sixteen-year-old girl whose father was almost as tyrannical as Mary Lyon. None of Lyon’s little Christian soldiers could persuade the poet. She learned whatever she wanted to learn, and discarded all the rest.”

If I’ve encouraged just one other person to dive into the Worlds created by Emily Dickinson, my life has more worth………
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Writing Advice Can Often Be Toxic to Writers . . .

I remember when “personal” computers were beginning to appear—when every kid on the block started to become an “expert”—when you could easily trash your shiny, new computer by listening to the wrong people… 

I also remember when publishing books became easier for an individual—when every creative-type started to become a book-guru—when you could easily ruin your tender, longing hopes by listening to the wrong people

Computers have become a bit more robust.

Writing gurus are breeding like rabbits.

I’ve written 57 previous posts that all have something to do with writing advice (if you take that link, you’ll also find this post since I used the same tags…).

Many of those posts caution against certain types of writing advice—some offer what I consider good advice.

I’ll give a few examples of the kind of advice you might want to avoid; then, share a couple links that could, in my opinion, help

There are many ways writing advice can be sincerely given yet still be potentially harmful.

The most common type to avoid (though, I’ve read many and still haven’t been corrupted) are the ones that have a number in the title (apparently, folks who don’t like to work hard to learn something are quite attracted to numbered lists and way too many bloggers share lists in hopes of generating more traffic… [I’ve committed this “sin” myself a few times]).

Here are three examples:

Janet Fitch’s 10 Rules for Writers

22 Rules of Successful Storytelling (infographic)

Improving Your Fiction: 246 Rules from 28 Modern Writers

If you actually read those articles, you may find many tips ( or, “rules” ) that indeed help you in your writing; however

Learning to write by learning lists of “rules” can easily lead to stilted, contrived, or unnatural writing.

You can make a list of things to buy at the grocery store and make the effort to go there and get all the ingredients; but, they need to be combined properly—you must have a “grand plan” for your cooking to produce a great meal

It’s laughingly ironic to me that my all-time favorite writer of novels, C. J. Cherryh, actually produced a list called Writerisms and other Sins.

Yet, the final tip in that list was NO RULE SHOULD BE FOLLOWED OFF A CLIFF.

Perhaps the best advice I could give to writers is, if you feel you must read lists of tips, please do yourself a huge favor and devour a story from an accomplished writer for every single tip you ingest

And, if you just have to read a whole book of writing advice (and, you intend to write a novel), check out this article—Ever Wondered How An Author Actually Writes A Novel?

One last bit of writing advice:

Go read this articleHow To Read Like A Writer.
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