Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Author Appreciation Day.

Well, I already did a Reader Appreciation Day so it was about time I talked about a few of my favorite authors. I have five all-time favorites, several of different genres. I’m not picky when it comes to reading. If it’s a good book, I’ll read it whether it is romance, mystery, or science fiction. I do have a list under my profile, but I wanted to expand on how I got interested in these authors and a fascinating fact concerning my own writing.
First up: Stephen King

I got into his stories from the movies. In fact, the very first movie I remember seeing at the theaters was Stephen King’s “The Shining.” I’m not talking about the newer version that came out more than ten years ago. The original Steven Spielberg version back in the 1980s with Jack Nicholson and the axe hacking at the bathroom door and his famous one-liner, “Here’s Johnny!” Yup. I saw that movie when it first came out.

I was seven-years-old.

Sufficed to say, I had nightmares about it. It annoyed my father and we stopped going to the theaters after that. But my mother had all the books: Carrie, Pet Cemetery, Christine, Cujo, Salem’s Lot, and so on and blah . . . blah . . . blah.

When I became older, around 11, I began reading the stories. At this time, my father was renting them on VHS tapes. It was quite an interesting scenario to see him watching the movie, “Pet Cemetery,” while I was sitting on the couch reading the novel. I discovered that no amount of acting and directing can beat the written word on those pages.
Next up: Terry Brooks

When older, I started to explore other genres. I became a big fantasy reader during my teen years. Yes, I did read J. R. R. Tolkien’s, “Lord of the Rings.” But my very first taste of fantasy was Terry Brooks’, “The Sword of Shannara.” This was 700+ pages of adventure with druids and magical swords and dwarves. He hooked me in to the point where I had to start buying the hardcover copy of his stories because I was tearing the paperback novels apart at the number of times I read them.

You know that a kid is hooked into books when during Christmas they open a large cardboard box and find more than 25 fantasy novels inside. And the kid cheers in happiness. Yes, I CHEERED ABOUT IT AND I AM DAMN PROUD TO ADMIT IT!
Next person, and a strange person indeed: Neil Gaiman

I’m still learning things about him, even visiting his website through the URL on my sidebar. My older sister’s ex-husband introduced me to Mr. Gaiman’s writing during my adult years. Well, they were still married at the time (not my sister and Mr. Gaiman - the other dude) and he was a comic book junkie.

Sidebar: My family was comic book junkies too. My mother had a subscription through Marvel Comics and Dark Horse to receive several comics through the mail every two months. You can imagine the excitement my brother and I had when those came in wrapped in the brown paper. “Thor” was my absolute favorite.

Anyway, the ex had tons of graphic novels, and several of them were Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman.” They are incredible depictions of the anthropomorphic personifications of Death, Dream, Destiny, Despair, Desire (you’re seeing a pattern here - aren’t you), and Delirium. I don’t think I can put into words Mr. Gaiman’s creative talents. He just makes you think about the world around us and that there is more out there than what we can see and touch.
Fourth person, and because I need a lady in here somewhere: Octavia Butler

She was a rarity among rarities: an African American science fiction writer. My sister introduced me to Ms. Butler’s work, “The Parable of the Sower,” while I was still reading Neil Gaiman’s graphic novels. Unlike the other stories of adventure, fantasy, and suspense where you feel as if you are standing in the room watching the characters, she made the reader BECOME the character. I felt the happiness, pain, and sorrow. I walked in their footsteps. And when I lifted my head away from the pages, I had to take a moment to remember who I was.

There is a difference between a good writer who puts you into the scene and a great writer who will make you live every moment of it. Octavia Butler was a great writer.
And last (but certainly not least), my all-time favorite author who is the bread to my butter, the peanut butter to my jam, and the sensei to this humble grasshopper as she hopes to one day snatch the pebble from his proverbial hand - which I would have to do it figuratively since he died in 1849 . . .

- the man whom I wish to someday become without going through the cosmetic surgery and cross-dressing . . .

- the man whose short stories and poems are known worldwide. And if you don’t know any than poo-poo on you and tsk-tsk at such laxity . . .

- do I want to become his literary sex slave? Well, that would be a little freaky since he is still sort of, um, dead . . .

- the true master of the macabre who surpasses everyone else who would falsely wear such a stolen crown . . .

Drum roll, maestro!


Edgar Allen Poe

I am a Poe girl. I knew of EAP (see, I am so familiar with him that I can just use his initials) before I even heard of Stephen King. While young, I shared my bedroom with my older sister. So I received many hand-me-downs, including her books. One of these books was a collection of short stories from various authors. I think the book was titled, “Ghost Stories.” Inside the cover was EAP’s most famous short story, and I do mean short: 5 pages long. “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

This story of psychological torment and relentless guilt fascinated me more than scared me. How could a person’s eye cause their death by their loyal manservant? It was the only Poe story I had in my possession until high school, where I befriended a girl who had a book with some more of EAP’s works. My next taste of him involved the story and poem, “The Pit and the Pendulum” and “The Raven.” Then during my adult years, I was at a book fair held inside the local mall. I happened upon the novel featured in the above picture. SCORE! So many stories lurked inside . . . see how many you recognize.

The Imp of the Perverse
The Tell-Tale Heart
A Descent into the Maelstrom
The Cask of Amontillado
The Premature Burial
The Assignation
King Pest
The Pit and the Pendulum
The Masque of the Red Death
The Man of the Crowd
The Fall of the House of Usher
The Oval Portrait
The Gold Bug
Ms. Found in a Bottle
William Wilson
The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar
The Murders in the Rue Morgue
The Mystery of Marie Roget
The Purloined Letter
Okay. There was one other thing I wanted to mention: the fascinating fact concerning my writing. When going through the list of my favorite authors and then looking at my own manuscripts, I have discovered that I am trying to emulate all of them all at once. I am combining all these authors’ characteristics to create my own special voice and writing style. It’s almost as if I took all of their stories, diced them up, baked them into an apple pancake souffle topped with powdered sugar, and gorged on it. And now, through my typing fingers, I am regurgitating the lessons I have learned from them.

Ew! A bad example. I think I’ll end the post now.


  1. Stephen King is the master at character development (one of the compliments i received was when my CD was compared to him, although i don't write horror)....

    So, I hope one day you'll be adding my name to that list - HAW!!! *GRIN*

  2. Huge EAP fan here too!! His personal story is almost as fascinating and surreal as some of his characters'.

  3. We have Poe and King in common... more so Poe than King. I "discovered" Poe in grade school and became hooked. He is arguably the greatest American writer, ever. If you snatch that pebble your success is ASSURED, Michelle.

  4. I like Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe, but I am not familiar with the rest of the authors.;)
    As for the fact that they are your "idols", it is not strange that your writing is influenced by them. I am sure, that they, in turn, were influenced by others that came before them.;))

  5. What? I'm not one of your five favorites? You bitch!

    Oh, wait a minute! I'm not published. Now I understand, and I forgive you.

    I assume you've read "It"? My fave by King. Superb book, of which the TV version was a pale and weak imitation.

  6. Edgar Allen Poe! I havn't read a lot of his work, but what I have read is incredible! Wish I could find more of his boks.. oh well, I'll have to keep looking.
    And you are just as great a writer than any of them, Michelle!

  7. EAP! Glad to know you're from the Poe side of town. ;)

  8. super stuff michelle, but where is howard phillips lovecraft? :(

  9. Non-fiction here almost exclusively. Real life is almost always more interesting than anything I could dream up. Remember a redneck stick in the mud here.
    See ya,

  10. Kathryn: I could only list five before the post became too long. Guess who was number 6?

    Angie: That's why I think he really hooks people in. There is nothing dull about EAP.

    Buck: Books... hockey... is there anything we don't have in common?

    Protege: True. There is always someone influencing a writer, whether it is another writer or someone else. A little help goes a long way through the generations.

    Suldog: Oh... Mr. Jim you are pushing my buttons to do something naughty to you in revenge.

    Actually, I never got through It. Doesn't that one involve killer clowns? If I had to pick a fave of King, I would pick "Skeleton Crew," which are numerous short stories. Or the Bachman books. Or Needful Things. Or...

    Skyeblu: True. For some reason I find it hard to locate his books. Of course that was before the advent of online shopping. I never tried doing a search on Amazon. Maybe I will someday, just to see what comes up.

    Hilary: Like I said, I am a Poe girl.

    Laughingwolf: Lovecraft? Never read him. Was he a steward on the "Love Boat?" ;P

  11. Oren: Whether fiction or nonfiction, as long as people fill their lives with books then their lives are filled with happiness.

  12. I don't know that they'd make my top five, but I loved three of yours - The Sword of Shannara, I remember reading and liking an awful lot in my teen years... fantasy was one of my favorite genres then (I still like it, but my reading's more eclectic now so it has to share space with a bunch of other stuff). Other books I adored (can't think of the authors for all of them but I can check if you like) The Pendragon Cycle - A Trilogy on Arthurian Legend. The Darksword Series, Through the Eyes of the Dragon - That one's by King. The Mists of Avalon

    I love King, mostly his older stuff, like Carrie, and Firestarter.

    Now, Poe and I have a looooong history. Annabelle Lee was the first poem I ever memorized... I was six. Kind of flipped out my First Grade teacher.

    My mom loved his works and instead of reading me children's fables, she read me poetry because she could enjoy it, too... I loved The Raven, Annabelle Lee is still my favorite... and I think I probably read at least ninety percent of his fiction... Me loves him.

    They recently auctioned off a letter from Poe to a publisher. It was hysterical. He's basically apologizing to the guy for being so drunk and obnoxious the last time they met, and blaming it on another writer who kept feeding him drinks... and he went on to ask if the publisher would pay for his latest short story because he was kind of low on funds.

    Gotta love Poe - brass balls and brilliance.

  13. I suddenly feel uncouth and uneducated. I've never read any of those authors.

    On a side night, my kids think that The Shining is one of the cheesiest movies they've ever seen, and that it does no justice to the book.

  14. Merry: I like King's older stuff too. Now, I've heard of The Pendragon Cycle - A Trilogy on Arthurian Legend. The Mists of Avalon, although I can't remember the names of the authors either.

    I've never read Poe's, "Annabelle Lee." hanging my head in shame I would have loved to read that letter. It sounds hilarious!

    Buckskins: What? Pick up a book and read, man! You won't regret it.

    Your kids are right about the movie, The Shining. Even Stephen King didn't like the orginal and he came up with a made for tv version of the book.

  15. Michelle,

    I'm a voracious reader. There is always a book on my nightstand, and I make it a point to, at a minimum, read before going to sleep.

    I've just never read any of your chosen favorites.

  16. Buckskins: OHH! By your previous comment, I thought you meant you weren't a book fan. Sorry. :)

  17. Yummy, apple pancake souffle.

    Made me think of this, which I find beautiful, music of the Alan Parsons Project, from the album Tales of Mystery and Imagination. Maybe you know it:



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