Book Bargains, Having Fun

Quiz Time: Are You a Well-Read Book Nerd?

Hello My Lovely Little Book Nerds!

Do you love a quiz? Do you love books? Well, then today is your lucky day!

This week over on The Book Club Mom’s blog, Book Club mom herself shared a quiz that tests just how well-read a book nerd you really are. It was a fun time waster and I encourage you to take it if you’re in the mood for some bookish procrastination.

Of course, this is only one person’s interpretation of what it means to be well-read. After all, some books of the books in the quiz aren’t exactly high-quality literature (50 Shades of Grey? Twilight? Really?).

I also found strikingly few examples of non-fiction and genre fiction…after all, being well-read doesn’t have to mean reading gobs of classic lit and literary fiction.

And as someone who reads across all genres (except westerns and romance) and who reads at least a book a week, I was surprised to only score 22%.

Still, like I said, it’s a fun quiz and a nice diversion. If you’re ready to beat my score, you can find the quiz at List Challenges (https://www.listchallenges.com/if-youve-read-10-of-these-books-youre-very)

And, if you’re keen to expand your reading choices, please be sure to check out the five fabulous book collections below that have been put together by some equally fabulous indie authors. You’ll find at least one of my books in each bundle.

A Note About These Bundles…

These promos are put together by indie authors like me. They are a key part in being able to share my stories with the world in an affordable manner.

However, to continue to participate in these collaborations, I have to maintain a good reputation…which basically means, I need folks like YOU to wander over and have a gander at the books on offer.

You don’t need to buy a thing, simply browsing the deals is a HUGE help, both for me and for all the authors trying to keep the world entertained with our words.

Thank you so much for supporting indie authors!!!

Okay, let’s get some books into your book-loving hands!

Bundle #1

This bundle was put together by sci-fi/fantasy author Dean Wilson. Every book listed is free. Some do require signing up for the author’s mailing list.

In this giveaway you’ll find both of my free series starters: The Trials of Hercules: Book One of the Osteria Chronicles and Domna: Part One, The Sun God’s Daughter. No sign-up required.

Bundle #2

This second bundle was put together by author Laura Greenwood, who has assembled some stellar bundles over the past year. If you resolved to be more efficient with your time this year, this one is for you.

See, this bundle is all about box sets. Which means once you get through book one, you won’t have to go looking around for the next book because they’re all in one handy box set! So efficient!!

Among the deals you’ll find my historical fantasy novel DomnaThe Complete Set (January special $4.99), and the first box set of The Osteria Chronicles (Books 1 – 3) which is on sale all month for a mere 99c!!

Click me to check out the box sets.

Bundle #3

This collection was cobbled together by author Larnce Hicks. There was no price cap for this promo, but I’d bet most titles can be grabbed at a fairly decent discount.

If you’re looking for books with fast-paced adventure and some swashbuckling action scenes, this bundle is exactly where you should be headed.

Again, in this bundle you’ll find The Osteria Chronicles Box Set (Books 1 – 3) for the irresistible price of 99c.

Adventure seekers should click this one.

Bundle #4

This bundle was put together by author Jay A. Toney and features (as you can see in the graphic), over 80 sci-fi and fantasy books…all of which should be priced under $5. For those of you who resolved to tame your book budget this year, this is the promo for you!

Among the deals you’ll find my short stories Testing the Waters (99c), Space Walk (99c), my historical fantasy novel DomnaThe Complete Set (January special $4.99), and the first box set of The Osteria Chronicles (Books 1 – 3) which is on sale all month for a mere 99c!!

Click me to browse Bundle #4

Bundle #5

This last-but-not-least collection of over fifty books was cobbled together by the book fiends over at Readsy Deals. There was no price cap for this promo, but I’d bet most titles can be grabbed at a fairly decent discount.

Again, in this bundle you’ll find Domna: The Complete Set for $4.99 and The Osteria Chronicles Box Set (Books 1 – 3) for the unbeatable price of 99c.

Click me to browse Bundle #5

 

Episodes, Having Fun

19. The Tiptop Books of 2020

One of the taglines for The Book Owl Podcast is, “Everything Books, Minus the Reviews,” but as this wacky year is winding down, I thought I’d make an exception and share with you my absolute top book picks I found during the extra reading time 2020 has provided.

Links Mentioned in This Episode

Like what you hear?

Transcript (or Roughly So)

Hey everyone, this is Tammie Painter and you’re listening to the Book Owl Podcast, the podcast where I entertain your inner book nerd with tales of quirky books and literary lore.

Introduction

As I mentioned last time when we were chatting about the history of cookbooks, this episode is going to be a little different. When coming up with the concept of this podcast I wanted to steer clear of turning it into a review show because there’s already a gob of those types of podcasts being created by people far cleverer than me.

But since it’s nearing time to wrap up the year, I figured why not share with you my favorite books I read this year. Plus, I’d already written this as a post for my main blog over at Tammie Painter.com, so recycling that content is saving me a little work during this crazy busy time of year.

Saying Thanks

Before we jump into things, I just want to shout out a ginormous, triple dose of thanks first to Jonny Pongratz of the Jaunts and Haunts blog for not only leaving some terrific comments on The Book Owl blog, but also for sharing Episode 17 on his blog AND for helping support the show by purchasing several of my stories from my Payhip Bookstore after listening to the Bram Stoker episode, which I think was episode 16.

Jonny is also a writer and he’s proving himself quite talented so I encourage you to check out his story Conscience if you like sci-fi, or his book Reaper if you’re a horror fan.

The second round of thanks goes to Anne Lawson for sharing the podcast in her newsletter. Anne’s an Australian artist who has been doing some amazing stuff lately with watercolor collages that are just stunningly eye-catching, so be sure to check her stuff out using the link in the show notes.

And as ever, thank you to Tierney of TierneyCreates for her profusion of kind comments about the show. Tierney, sometimes I swear your words are what keeps me producing this show on the days I dread doing so.

Let’s Get On With It

Alright enough gushy good feelings, let’s get on with the show.

So, I think we can agree 2020 has been a pretty crap year. But as far as reading goes, it hasn’t been all that awful. And for me at least, the extra book time has meant the discovery of some amazing tomes. 

When the pandemic first seemed utterly overwhelming and super duper scary (now it’s just normal scary), I needed something to lighten the mood. So I rushed to my library’s ebook lending app, went immediately to the humor fiction category, and added tons of titles to my to-read list. I even managed to read several of them, and some of those happily became some of my favorite books of 2020.

As the year progressed, I moved back into more of my favorite genres of mystery, paranormal fantasy, and historical fiction. Really, I’ll read just about anything and can’t fathom how people only read a single genre. Anyway, all that is to say, I spent a lot of time reading this year.

And yes, that extra reading (and listening since I love my audiobooks) has introduced me to some horrible pieces of “literature” but since there’s already been enough negativity this year I won’t torment you with those. I did however make a promise to myself this year to review every book I read, so if you scroll through my Goodreads or Bookbub reviews, you’ll find those lumps of literary coal. 

But let’s end 2020 on a bright note as I share with you the absolute best books I read during this wacky year. And just to be clear, while some of these books were published in 2020, many of them aren’t necessarily new, they were just new to me. 

And of course, I want to know if you’ve read any of these or if you have any top picks for 2020, so be sure to use the link in the show notes to either contact me or to leave a note on the blog post that goes along with this episode.

Okay Onto the Best Books of 2020

So, yeah picking this this was a challenge because, looking over my review tally, it looks like I read over 100 books this year.

Now before you think I lounge around with a book in my hands all day, at least half of that 100 were audiobooks which I gobble up while poking around in the garden, running, and doing exciting things like cleaning the cat box.

Still, I thought it would help things and help organize my if I break the list down a bit into novels, series, etc. And then I’ll wrap up with my absolute top pick of 2020. Ooh, suspense!!!

Alrighty then, so under each category, I’m listing the books in order of favorite-ness. And yes, that’s a word now.

Favorite Novels….

Note: Because of the rules regarding the use of affiliate links, if you’d like to discover my list of favorite books for 2020, please continue reading at https://thebookowlpodcast.com/the-tiptop-books-of-2020/

Update Time

So just some quick updates

The podcast will be back in 2021. As ever, I have gobs of ideas, but if there’s a book- library- or author-related topic that you want me to explore, please drop me a line and let me know. 

As for writing, this has been a tough month. I’ve hit a wall of absolute doubt about my writing, about my sales, about my ability to get the word out about my books, and I’ve been kind of wondering what’s the point.

I’m still working on the Cassie Black books because that’s the kind of see-a-project-through person I am, but I’m feeling really uncertain about publishing the books because after sending a pretty big sample to my newsletter folks, it just doesn’t seem anyone is interested in it. And that’s worrying because my newsletter readers should be the people most interested in reading my work.

So basically I’m left feeling like I’ve written something that no one will give a rat’s behind about. I just honestly don’t know what to do to regain confidence in my writing because that’s one thing I’ve always had, but as I read over my work lately, it just sounds like utter non-sensical crap. 

Anyway, sorry for the Debbie Downer after such a fun episode, but hey it wouldn’t be 2020 without a little sense of doom, right?

Okay my book loving friends, that is it for this episode. If you enjoyed the show, I’d love it if you shared it with just one other person. Have a great couple weeks, and I will hoot at you next time.

The Book Owl Podcast is a production of Daisy Dog Media, copyright 2020, all rights reserved. The theme music was composed by Kevin Macleod. Audio processing by Auphonic.com

Book History, Episodes

18. Have Book, Will Time Travel

 

Tuesday, the 8th of December, was Pretend to be a Time Traveller Day. Don’t ask me what in the world that is supposed to mean or what kind of presents it involves, but so far, science has let us down with its inability to come up with a time machine. Which means the best we can do is to open the pages of a book and journey along through time with the author’s imagination.

Please note: There is a little jumble in the info at the start. I talk about several stories that send the hero into the future, then I talk about a story that sends the hero into the past, then I say something like  “it seems authors were focussed only on sending people into the future.” Sigh, what can I say, it’s been a long year. So, apologies for any confusion.  

Links Mentioned in this Episode….

Like what you hear?

 

Have Book, Will Time Travel (Rough Transcript)

Introduction

Hey everyone, this is Tammie Painter and you’re listening to the Book Owl Podcast, the podcast where I entertain your inner book nerd with tales of quirky books and literary lore.

And this time we’re getting in our way back machines. Or maybe our way forward machines? Either way we’re traveling through time because Tuesday, the 8th of December, was Pretend to be a Time Traveller Day.

Don’t ask me what in the world that is supposed to mean or what kind of presents it involves, but I’m sure Doc Brown and Marty McFly could clue you in.

The Icky Part I Have to Do…

Before we start, just a reminder that this show is supported by you. Of course, since we’re speaking about time travel, you could use the fast forward feature on your podcast app to time travel past this part, but I’ll try to make this quick.

There are a ton of ways you can support the show and most are super inexpensive, including, as I mentioned last time, just doing your normal Amazon shopping through the Amazon affiliate link you’ll find on TheBookOwlPodcast.com/support. You don’t get charged any extra but every time you shop, I get an itty bitty commission that helps contribute to the time I spend bringing you these tidbits of entertainment.

And since it’s gift-giving season, also on that page you’ll find some snazzy Book Owl merchandise. I’ll admit some of these items are quite costly and I don’t earn much commission from them, but if you’re looking for something unique to treat yourself this holiday season, there’s notebooks, stickers, and t-shirts.

Intro Part Two Because Once Isn’t Enough

Okay, enough of that, let’s get time traveling. Or more accurately, let’s look at time travel in fiction throughout the ages. See, it’s sort of time traveling.

I think we’d all agree if we’d known what 2020 was going to involve a time travel machine would have been a well appreciated 2019 Christmas present so we could just skip over the year.

But so far, science has let us down with its inability to come up with a time machine. Which means the best we can do is to open the pages of a book and journey along through time with the author’s imagination.

Mythology Meets Physics

It turns out the concept of time travel stories aren’t anything new. Hindu mythology includes what might be recognized as the oldest time travel tale. In this story  the king travels to meet the creator god Brahma for I don’t know, maybe a nice chat and a cup of chai? Whatever his reason for going, when the king returns he finds out decades have whizzed by in his absence.

Which, if you know anything about physics, isn’t too far off the mark. Assuming Brahma lived in the sky or on top of a very high mountain, science does show that time moves more slowly for people who are under less gravity. So someone up in a spaceship actually ages less than someone on Earth. It’s a fascinating discovery, albeit an absolutely creepy one, and it has been proven using really accurate timepieces.

But this isn’t the Physics Owl Podcast, so let’s get back to the fictional side of time travel.

Japanese Sea Monkeys?

Moving up the ages and shifting over a few thousand miles to the east, we get a collection of fairy tales from Japan that dates to around 750 CE. One of these bedtime stories tells of a fisherman who decides catching fish isn’t how he wants to spend his weekend, so he heads underwater to hang out in a sea palace. And yes, this had me picturing a scene from a Sea Monkeys ad.

The fisherman hangs out with the Sea Monkeys for a few days, but when he returns to the surface, after he takes a big gulp of fresh air, he finds out he’s been transported 300 years in the future. And I hope he enjoyed his time in the sea palace because obviously by this time no one knows who he is, he’s lost his boat, and all of his family have died. Which does make this a pretty miserable fairy tale, so maybe we should move on.

Sleepy Head Time Travel

So while the idea of playing loose with time isn’t anything new, it does take a while for technology to catch up with time travel. Even though machines were already making their way into our lives and changing them sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, these machines take a long time to work their way into fiction.

And rather than jumping into a machine, we find a lot of earlier time wandering tales involves someone falling asleep and waking up in the future. Which makes me wonder if you force yourself to stay awake will you go back in time? Think about it.

Anyway some of these sleepy stories include Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving from 1819 , Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy from 1888, and The Sleeper Awakes by H.G. Wells who we’ll be returning to soon enough.

Ow, My Head!

Similar to the sleepy head version of time travel, is the conked on the head method of time travel. And probably one of the most humorous and famliar examples of this in Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

There’s a lot going on in this simple tale, but the title pretty much sums it up. A man from Connecticut, Hank Morgan, gets hit on the head and this sends him back in time to King Arthur. Hank gets captured by one of Arthur’s knights, then uses his knowledge of the high tech world of 1889 to convince everyone he’s a magician and that it would be a really bad idea to kill him.

Hank tries to make things better for King Arthur and even tries to prevent Arthur from being killed, but no luck. And while this story was well-received in the US, in England they saw it as an attack on the institution of the monarchy.

Take Me Back

So, from these examples it would kind of seem that most writers were obsessed with getting a glimpse into the future, but a few, and some of the earliest time travel stories in English have our travelers going back in time.

These include the short story Missing One’s Coach: An Anachronism, and this was written anonymously in 1838 for the Dublin Literary Magazine. In it our hero waits under a tree for a coach to show up and falls asleep. When he wakes find himself roaming around in the 9th century. He tries to tell people about the future and a few believe him, but most thinks he’s a bit doodalalee.

Another early example of backward time travel comes from Paris avant les hommes (Paris before Men) written in 1861 by the French botanist and geologist Pierre Boitard, although it wasn’t published until after his death which is too bad for him because it turned out to be a pretty popular story. In this story, we finally see someone time traveling without falling asleep or receiving a head injury. Instead a magic demon sends the main character  into prehistoric times where he hangs out with dinosaurs. Maybe the precursor to Jurassic Park.

Twenty years later we get “Hands Off by Edward Everett Hale in which the main character goes back to Ancient Egypt and tries to change Biblical history by keeping Joseph from being enslaved by the pharaoh. And while this is one of a few stories of someone going back rather than forward in time, it’s also quite likely the first time travel book where the character’s interference alters history.  

A Little Back and Forth

But why stick with the past or the future? Can’t we have both? Yep, and Charles Dickens was ready to deliver this…well, sort of. His A Christmas Carol published in 1843, does take old Ebenezer back in time, but it’s not as if he can do anything while he’s there. It’s merely a memory the ghost of Xmas past is forcing him to remember.

And if memory is time traveling, I guess I’ll time travel back to a really tasty sandwich I had in Strasbourg last fall. But Ebenezer does the travel to the future. Or at least a potential future and it’s this potential future that is one of the key themes of time travel fiction.

As Scrooge says after seeing the dismal fate the ghost of Xmas yet to come has shown him “Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me….Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life!”

And yay, Tiny Tim lives happily ever after. Oh, I hope that wasn’t a spoiler for anyone.

The Rise of the Machines

But most of us, when we think of time travel probably aren’t thinking of naps, blows to the head, or creepy ghosts hanging out in our bedrooms. We have an image in mind of a machine like some strange chamber or a souped up Delorean, that moves our hero through time.

And while HG Wells’s Time Machine probably is the first thing that springs to mind, he wasn’t the first to come up with the idea of a manmade object making a mess of the world’s timeline.

In fact, we start out not with a large machine you step into, but with The Clock That Went Backward a story from 1881 by Edward Page Mitchell. Moving the hands of the clock shifted time. But unless you can open up the grandfather cook and step inside, it’s still not what we think of as a time machine, is it?

Finally in 1887 we get Enrique Gaspar y Rimbau’s El Anacronópete which is touted at the first story to have a true machine purpose built for time travel. It’s a huge iron box that’s like something straight out a steampunk novel with pneumatic tubes that are driven by electricity.

And weirdly enough, inside the machine are brooms that sweep themselves. Oh wait! Isn’t that a roomba! Anyway, all is going well as the voyagers visit various eras in the past, until it self destructs when they try to go to the day of creation.

Finally We Get to THE Time Machine

But of course, although there were predecessors the book that really stirred up the popularity of the time machine was HG Wells’s The Time Machine. This wasn’t Wells only foray into wandering around in time. Before this he’d written “The Chronic Argonauts” in 1888. Wells had thought of turning this story into something else, but wasn’t quite sure what exactly.

Then his publisher asked to see a serial novel based on time travel. Wells didn’t hesitate a moment to jump on the idea. The fact that the publisher was offering him the equivalent of 12K pounds in today’s money probably didn’t make the decision too tough to make.

In The Time Machine, the narrator is relating lectures about a man who traveled to the future and discovered a race of people who seemed happy and living the good life without having to work very hard, but then realizes it’s because another race of people have been forced to toil underground to keep everything running smoothly.

And much of the inspiration came from Wells own childhood where he and his family and the people they knew worked their fingers to the bone below stairs or literally underground in mines.

Time Travel Travel

But egad, that’s a bit depressing isn’t it? So let’s wrap up time travel on a happier note and that’s a subgenre of the time travel concept…Time tourism. Think about it. How many of us would love to take a time tour anywhere that isn’t 2020?

In 1948 American authors Catherine L. Moore and Henry Kuttner wrote the novella Vintage Season in which visitors from the future vacation at a rental home just when the owner wants to sell. The visitors like his place so much they tell heirs friends all about the quaint little place.

Then there’s Ray Bradbury’s 1952 Season of Thunder (season being a popular title, I guess) in which big game hunters get bored with killing off rhinos, lions, and elephants, and decide to time travel to the age of dinosaurs. I mean, go big or go home right?

Time Goes On

Anyway, the time travel genre started strong and continues to thrive today in books like Stephen King’s 11/22/63 when a man has to decide whether stopping the assassination of JFK is worth losing the love of his life.

There’s Diane Galbaldon’s Outlander series with men in kilts. Lots of kilts. And a woman who never seems for a moment phased by the fact she’s gone back a couple hundred years in time.

Michael Crichton brought the past to life with Jurassic Park, but he also took us back in time using some really amazing science research in his book Timeline.

And of course, we can’t leave off without Douglas Adams’ Hithchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series where the most sought after dining establishment is The Restaurant at the End of the Universe which is called Millways. Milliways is the nearest restaurant in space but not time, and is a five star restaurant situated at the end of time and matter.

As with anything in the Hitchhiker’s series it’s a hilarious concept, especially how you make reservations and raise the money to pay for a meal there, but if you do as describe you can watch the universe end night after night while enjoying your Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster.

Update Time

And that is it for time travel so that must mean it’s time for your favorite…updates! The podcast is still plugging along. Another big thanks goes out to Tierney of TierneyCreates.com for including The Book Owl’s history of cookbook episode as part of her Thanksgiving celebrations.

Other than that, my next episode will be a little bit different. One tagline for this podcast is everything books minus the reviews, but just to wrap up the year I’m going o share with you my favorite books of 2020, a year when many of us got more than our fair share of reading in.

As for writing, as I mentioned last time, I put in the order for my proof copies of the first two books of my Cassie Black trilogy. Well, they showed up the day after Thanksgiving and they came out pretty darn good. There’s still a little tweaking to do on the covers, but the interior looks great. This month, I’ll give the first book yet another read through while also doing a full rewrite on book three.

And just in case you like to do a little shopping for yourself, all three books are currently on pre-order on most retailers. Unfortunately, you can’t pre-order the paperbacks, but I usually release those just a few days ahead of the ebook release date just to make sure everything goes through on time. I’ll keep you posted on when those are live on the stores.

Signing Off

Okay my time traveling buddies, that is it for this episode. Have a great couple weeks, and I will hoot at you next time.   

The Book Owl Podcast is a production of Daisy Dog Media, Copyright 2020, All rights reserved. Theme Music “Monkeys Spinning Monkeys” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com). Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License Audio processing by Auphonic.com

Book Bargains, libraries

Book Clean Up on Aisle Four

Hey Book Nerds!

This is just a quick between-episodes post because I couldn’t resist sharing a book-related tidbit with you.

It’s a library. In a grocery store.

Wait, no, that’s not quite right. It’s a grocery store that is now a library.

I haven’t succumbed to any panic buying during the pandemic, but I could see myself raiding the shelves at this grocery store!

So this particular library is the Carmel Clay Public Library in Carmel, Indiana, and they’ve turned a former grocery store into a library. Instead of canned food, they have Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, instead of dried beans they have Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Tree. Looking for the candy aisle, you’ll find Laura Esquival’s Like Water for Chocolate.

And while I think stocking the shelves of a store with books instead of junk food, is a brilliant idea, unfortunately, this is only temporary while the Carmel Clay Library waits for a the construction of brand new building.

Seriously, though, you can’t beat finding books like Winter’s Bone, The Winter’s Tale, The Snowman, and The Ice House in the freezer department.

Image from the ALA

If you want to see the full article about the library from the American Library Association, you can find it at Books Fill the Aisles at This Supermarket.

But before you go…I also want to share a couple new book promotions you might be interested in. The first features books with a historical setting where the ladies take the lead. And the other is full of free tomes ranging from horror to sci-fi to fantasy. Just scroll down tad bit to see the deals.

Have fun browsing, and as a bit of fun, let me know a title of a book and where you’d shelve it in your grocery library!

 ***

The Latest Book Deals – Historical Ladies & Free Fantasy

(Be sure to also check out more November book bargains and freebies in the sidebar of this blog) 

Authors, Episodes

16. Biting Into Bram Stoker

 

The Book Owl is still in the Halloween spirit, and that means from the huge number of authors who are having a birthday this month (or would have been if they were still alive), I’ve chosen Bram Stoker as the Book Owl birthday boy. In this episode we dive into his troubled personal life and the reality behind his most famous tale.

Links Mentioned in this Episode….

Like what you hear?

*Note: I mention Dublin’s St. Michan’s Church in this episode. If you’d like to read about my own odd visit to their creepy crypts, please visit my blog post Finn McSpool Cries Out for His Mummy.

Biting Into Bram Stoker (Rough Transcript)

Introduction: 

Hey everyone, this is Tammie Painter and you’re listening to the Book Owl Podcast, the podcast where I entertain your inner book nerd with tales of quirky books and literary lore. Where I am just trying to get through this day after election day. And I am recording this on 4 November, making kind of a struggle to sound chipper but I’ll do my best.

Behind the Scenes (aka “Intro Part 2”):

A few episodes ago we celebrated Agatha Christie’s birthday, and I think it was episode 12 if you want to go back and give it a listen, and I figured it was time for another birthday party on the podcast. The problem is that November is apparently a good time for birthing an author because there are a huge number of writers that were born this month. 

So, the trouble wasn’t finding a topic, it was deciding which author is getting a birthday bash on the show. And, because I’m recording this not long after Halloween, and maybe I’m still a little bit in the Halloween spirit, I’ve chosen Bram Stoker as the Book Owl birthday boy. 

Big Thank You to a Loyal Listener:

But before we jump into the show, and while I give you time to scramble to come up with a present for Bram, I just want to give a huge thanks to Tierney for not only leaving some lovely comments on the Book Owl Podcast blog, but also for leaving some kind words along with a five-star review on Apple Podcasts. Hoorah!! And just so you know, leaving reviews, or even simply a five-star rating, does give the algorithms a little tickle, so if you have a few seconds and have been enjoying the show, please pop into whatever podcast app you’re listening in right now and rate or review the show. 

Setting the Mood:

Okay, so put on your cloaks and hop into your horse-drawn coach because we’re going to Whitby, England. It’s the 1890s and the ship Dmitri which has sailed from Varna on the Black Sea is trying to pull into Whitby’s harbor. There’s a storm kicking up, and more than one vessel has already been lost to sea, but it seems the Dmitri is going to make it into port. Before nightfall, a great cheer goes up at her sliding into the safety of the harbor. 

But during the night a gale picks up, the seas rise and the ship runs aground. The force is so strong, the masts collapse, crashing onto the deck. Observers report seeing a black dog fleeing from the ship and charging up the slope to a nearby abbey. When the ruined ship can finally be inspected it’s discovered of the already small crew only a handful have survived. And when questions are raised about the cargo of the ship, they find only a strange sandy dirt in the hold.

Alright, if that sounds at all familiar, it’s because it is one of the true stories that inspired Bram Stoker’s most famous of his fifteen novels, Dracula. Which it turns out has more than one rather strange and mysterious event surrounding it.

Bram’s Early Days:

But let’s start with Bram, or rather Abraham Stoker. He was born on the 8th of November, 1847, in Dublin, Ireland. His dad, Abraham, was also from Dublin where he worked as a civil servant. His mom, Charlotte, was from County Sligo on the western side of the island.

Bram wasn’t the healthiest of kids at the start and was actually bed ridden pretty much until the age of seven. And I don’t know why, but no one is really sure what was wrong with him, which seems a little strange given it wasn’t all that long ago. But as he lay in bed, his mom would tell him stories that might not have been completely age appropriate for their scare levels.

But somehow, Bram makes a full recovery and even ends up being quite the athlete when, from 1864 to 1870, he attends Trinity College, which reminds me that I need to cover that library on the podcast very soon. He graduated, then went on to earn a Masters degree in 1875.

Bram Stoker, Theater Critic?:

Bram, while it’s not clear exactly what he studied, loved the theater, but he also knew he needed to earn a living, so ike dear old dad, he got a job in the civil service and worked in Dublin Castle. But while he was there, he also worked for free as a theater critic and wrote pieces for the Dublin Evening Mail. 

And now, these days, theater critics are kind of respected and maybe even treated a bit loftily. That was not the case back then when theater critics were thought of as the lowest form of journalists. But Bram showed the snobby people a thing or two, because he wrote such eloquent and well thought out pieces that readers ended up really admiring his work and even improved the notion of what a theater critic could be.

As if holding down two jobs wasn’t enough, Bram was also writing short stories that got published and he also published the god awfully boring sounding non-fiction tome The Duties of Clerks in Petty Sessions in Ireland. Despite the dull name, the book was lauded by, well, by the type of people who would bother to read something like that.

Florence vs. Henry:

Now due to his work at the theater, Bram was meeting all kinds of characters including Henry Irving, who comes to play a larger role in a bit, and Oscar Wilde. At the time, I guess Oscar was trying to keep things under wraps because he, Oscar, was wooing a young woman by the name of Florence Balcomb. Well, Bram came along, and stole her right from under Oscar’s nose and the two — that would be Bram and Florence, not Bram and Oscar — got married in 1878. But because I’m guessing that Oscar wasn’t terribly upset by losing Florence, the three maintained their friendship.

Unfortunately, although Bram did seem gaga for Florence at first, within a year of their being married, he ditched her for Henry Irving who wanted Bram to come to London to manage his theater, the Lyceum. And let’s just say that Bram idolized Henry and the two became so close that almost anywhere Henry went in the world, so did Bram.

Building the Bones of Dracula:

During this time, Bram is also continuing to write, and by this mid-1890s he’s already published four novels. It’s also in this time and during his travels with Henry that he meets a Hungarian traveler and writer who tells Bram tales of the Carpathian Mountains, and told Bram, who showed a huge interest in the topic, that he should go to Whitby, England to continue looking into the Carpathian’s strange history and legends.

Bram gets to Whitby, heads to the library, and asks to see a book called The Accounts of Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia. This was rare book, so rare that the library didn’t even let people know they had it, but Bram’s Hungarian friend had told him about it and exactly what pages to look at. The librarian hands over the book, and as the librarian maintains a close watch over Bram, he doesn’t idly thumb through the book. Instead he goes immediately to a specific section and begins making notes about the name Dracula, which in Moldavian means devil and was given as a surname to anyone known for exceptional cruelty. And I like how they specify exceptional cruelty, Like your everyday run of the mill cruelty was okay.

Anyway, Bram finishes his notes and heads over to the Whitby Museum to look at their collection of maps. It’s here he gets the exact longitude and latitude for the village that will house Dracula’s Castle. From the museum, Bram makes his way to the harbor, where he hears first hand accounts of the demise of the ship Dmitri.

Darker Inspiration:

As Bram is on his research trip to Whitby, Oscar Wilde is being tried for and convicted of lewd acts…which is a euphemism for being homosexual. The courts portrayed Oscar as a monster, as the most vile and draining pestilence on society. It’s this vile portrayal of his close friend that inspires Bram’s most famous character. He begins writing Dracula only months after Oscar’s conviction.

Part of Bram’s writing of Dracula took place in Scotland’s Cruden Bay where he was a regular when he wanted to get away from it all. Nearby the town, stood Slains Castle, which provided a visual cue for Dracula’s Castle and many features of the real castle can be seen in the novel such as an octagonal room. 

Another thing that inspired Bram’s tale was a visit to St. Michan’s Church in Dublin Ireland, where they have in the crypt some very lifelike corpses that would have been there for about a couple hundred years when Bram would have visited, And I have seen those bodies and been in those crypts and I will tell you they are a bit unsettling…then again, so is the tour guide who takes you down there but that’s another tale altogether.

Editorial Grumblings:

So if you’ve ever read Dracula, which is a pretty dense book, but also really good, you’ll know it’s written in the form of letters. And it’s here you can really see Bram’s previous work in journalism because he’s spot on with noting realistic details, ships’ logs, and the diary entries are just like people reporting on their daily — albeit very strange — lives.

So Bram writes his book and sends it to his editor for publication. In the original version, Bram claims that all the events are real, that Jonathon and Mina Harker are his close friends who brought him their diaries and newspaper clippings from the time period around the events. 

The editor did not like the idea of presenting the book as fact and rejected it, telling Bran to change it so it’s more fictional. And to be fair, this was the late 1890s and London had just endured the Jack the Ripper mayhem, and the killer was still running loose. People might have been up for a scary story, but they didn’t want that story to be anything but fiction and the editor worried the book might cause a panic. 

The editor also decided the book was way too long, so in addition to changing many aspects of the text, Bram had to remove the first 101 pages of his book. And let me tell you, Dracula is already a long book, so the idea of getting through another 100 pages? Not sure if I could manage. 

Dracula Sees the Light of Day: 

Anyway, finally the book was released in May of 1897 and ended up being very well received. And although somewhat popular, the book wouldn’t gain a rabid readership until 1922 when the film Nosferatu came out. The film took the story line from Dracula without permission and the legal fight that ensued ended up gaining the book so much notice, it started selling like mad. And in the bonus feature in this episode’s newsletter, I’ll cover that fight a little bit more.

Troubled Times and a Troubled End:

Bram, in addition to managing Henry Irving’s theater and writing for newspapers, would go on to write another 8 novels, loads of short stories, and four more non-fiction books. As some of the homo-erotic scenes in Dracula and his other books, and his own devotion to Henry Irving show, Bram did have a strong adoration of other men, but he repressed it heavily and even went so far in 1912 to demand all gay authors in Britain be put in prison.

His overworking, the stress of his repression, and possibly a form of syphllis, led to aseries of strokes in that same year. Bram died in London on the 20th of April, 1912.

Dracula Lives On:

As for Dracula, the most famous of the undead and dozens of characters inspired by him continues to live on. But the actual manuscript of Dracula also can’t be kept down. In the 1980s, the original manuscript was discovered in Pennsylvania. Why there? I could not find out, but it does begin on page 102 with Jonathan Harker heading off on his ill-fated train journey. Which does make it strange to think Bram, with four novels already under his belt and plenty of writing experience didn’t actually start the true action of his story until 100 pages into his book. But what was in those first pages? Supposedly you can garner clues from his notes and journals, but you’ll have to get to the Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia to see for yourself.

So that’s it for Bram. He seems to have had a successful life, but also a troubled one, and I do wonder what he would make of sparkly vampires.

Update Time:

As for updates, regarding the podcast, I’m not entirely sure if I’ll do a second episode this month. The week I would be researching, writing, and recording I’ve got a lot of “life” stuff going on, so I’m not sure if I’ll have time to get an episode together, but we’ll see.

As for writing, I do have my own little vampire story called the Drive Thru Window. It’s not gory, and it’s got a fair bit of dark humor, so if you want to check it out on my Payhip Store, it’s only 99c. And other than that, I finished the first draft of book three of my Cassie Black trilogy. I’m reading over all three books this week to see how they flow together and to make sure I don’t have any major inconsistencies. Which is a lot of reading in only a few days, but it’s a bit icky out this week, so it’s good rainy day chore.

Signing Off:

Alright my friends, that’s it for this week. If you’d like to help keep the show running, please visit the book owl podcast dot com slash support to see the very inexpensive options for keeping the microphone charged, and I will hoot at you next time.

The Book Owl Podcast is a production of Daisy Dog Media, Copyright 2020, All rights reserved. Theme Music “Monkeys Spinning Monkeys” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com). Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License Audio processing by Auphonic.com