My Life and Yours: Music!

I grew up in a home where classical music was highly beloved. My mother’s brother, Wilson Sawyer, was an orchestra conductor and a composer. My mom, a classically trained pianist, became a pro at the young age of 13, when she auditioned for and was chosen to be the pianist for a touring swing and jazz band, so we also heard a lot of those great melodies from the 1940s. Mom was also a piano teacher and a church organist and pianist.

When I was about 8, I realized that music would not be my career choice. I knew I just didn’t LOVE music like other members of my family did. However, music has always been a huge joy in my life, beginning with the piano and then the flute, my two instruments of choice.

The one type of music seldom heard or appreciated in my home was country music and its close relative, blue grass, but I grew up in a country town and I married a guy who played the guitar, and somewhere along the line I realized that country music is fun!

My first stringed instrument, a gift from my husband, was a mandolin. When he gave it to me, I looked at it and made myself smile, but I was thinking, “Whatever am I going to do with this thing?” And, of course, the answer was, learn to play it!

What a joy! That little “mando” was the first of many stringed instruments for me. The instrument I’m learning now is an electric stand up base. It’s called an Omni, because it’s really a cross between a cello and base, just the right size for a short person like me! Now, please don’t get the idea that I’m a virtuoso with any musical instrument. I’m not. What I am is a learner, and that’s a perfect fit for me.

So tell us about you! What’s your favorite kind of music — or several favorites? Do you play some kind of instrument? Do you like to sing?

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Dirt & Bones: Words, Words, Words

My current manuscript (the first book of the BONE FIRE Duet) is set more than 7,000 years ago in the Wallachian Plains of Eastern Europe (now part of Romania). My main male character is Jorn the Word Singer. One of the primary decisions I had to make as I wrote about Jorn involved the words and phrases Jorn would use as his speech patterns and to convey his thoughts and view of the world.

Jorn is not only a “Word Singer” (bard) but also a warrior. He’s tough. He doesn’t hesitate to fight to get what he wants. Most of the time, in the portions of the novel told from Jorn’s point-of-view, I chose to use short phrases and also short words — “run” instead of “scamper”, “spoke” instead of “elaborated.” Of course, the kicker is that Jorn is also a bard. He composes and recites poetry to commemorate important events, to celebrate warriors, and to help his people remember their history, genealogy, and moral codes.

Jorn’s dual status as warrior and Word Singer gave me a “voice” conflict. Jorn speaks in short, tough sentences, but he’s a poet. The good news for me was that Jorn speaks an ancient language that linguists have been able to partially reconstruct — Proto-Indo-European (PIE).

Today, nearly all major European languages, plus some Middle Eastern and some Western Asian languages are descended from PIE. Fifty percent of people alive on earth speak a daughter language of PIE. If you speak English, or almost any other major European language, you’re one of the 50%.

The green book on the left in the photo above — A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-European Languages — has proven to be an invaluable research tool for me. For more than ten years, I’ve studied the contents of that green book, tracing synonyms and PIE root words. Thus, I’ve begun to learn a bit about how Jorn’s people thought. When you write novels set in ancient times, anything that gets you into the heads of the ancient people you write about is an amazing resource.

For example, when I read the many synonyms for the word “dog,” I realized that in almost all the daughter languages, those words are NOT related to one another. So I knew that dogs were named long before the PIE speakers swept through Europe, impacting indigenous cultures with their language and their DNA. That taught me two things 1) dogs had been domesticated for a long time prior to 6,000 B.C. and 2) they were so important to the ancient people of Europe that, when they were conquered and/or intermarried with PIE speakers, they still clung to their old words for that very special companion animal. That’s just one of the many gems I was able to glean from the green book.

Let’s look at the other book in the photo, The Sagas of the Icelanders. The Icelanders are one of the descendant peoples of those ancient Proto-Indo-European speakers, and one of the peoples who speak a descendant language — Icelandic. Their sagas comprise some of the oldest known literature in a PIE-descendant language. As I was developing Jorn’s voice, I read and read and read these translated sagas, which implanted a speech rhythm in my head. I decided to employ one of the Icelandic (and indeed, Scandinavian) literary devises to add word-music to Jorn’s voice.

That device is kenning. Kenning is a type of metaphor in which something is described by calling it something it is not. For example, a lazy boy might be called a coal-biter, because he prefers staying warm by the coals of the hearth rather than going out to fight or fish or hunt.

Also at the end of each Jorn chapter in the novel, I appended a short “poem” comprised of three lines, each line of a prescribed syllabic length: the first line, 2 syllables; the second 4; the third 8.

An example? After Jorn is attacked by a pack of wild dogs, that chapter ends with this paragraph and “word song.”

Jorn fell toward black unknowing sleep. His father called his name, voice broken. Jorn tried to tell him, tried to tell him–

Sing me
Songs of Word Fame.
Let me join the brave ghost warriors.

So there you have a small example of how language studies help a novelist develop a voice for a protagonist!

Which PIE daughter language(s) do you speak? Here are a few to choose from: English, Spanish, Romanian, Swedish, Dutch, German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Flemish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Greek, any of the Gaelic languages… For me — English and a bit of conversational German!

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March 2017 Free Book Winner!!

Congratulations to Emma Kinnison, winner of our March 2017 Free Book, DRAGON SPRINGS ROAD by Janie Chang! In answer to our question about what country she would like to visit, Emma said her choice would be Great Britain because her ancestors were from England and Ireland!

Meanwhile, Emma, while you wait for that bucket list trip, we hope you enjoy a “visit” to China via the magic of words in Janie’s wonderful novel.

Happy Reading,
Sue

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MARCH 2017 FREE BOOK!

I’m so excited to offer my friend Janie Chang’s new novel DRAGON SPRINGS ROAD as our March 2017 FREE BOOK! This is an incredible novel that will transport you to another time and place.

From the back cover copy:
“In 1908, Jialing is only seven years old when she is abandoned in the courtyard of a once-lavish estate near Shanghai. Jialing is. . .Eurasian. . .and faces a lifetime of contempt from both the Chinese and Europeans…. Always hopeful of finding her long-lost mother, Jialing. . .finds herself drawn into a murder at the periphery of political intrigue…”

To qualify for our Wednesday, March 8 drawing, just answer this question! If you could visit any other country in the world (first class, all expenses paid, of course), what would be your choice?

Happy Reading!
Sue

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DIRT & BONES: A Most Precarious Art

Welcome to the launch of my monthly blog post about the research behind my books. Allow me to begin with an apologetic….

The twenty-first century is a precarious time to write novels set in any prehistoric era. The development of archaeogenetics and genetic anthropology has sent many cherished theories to the boneyard. (Pardon the pun, but I absolutely love puns!) Nonetheless, I’m delighted to have this relatively new science available to shed light on our ancient past.

As part of my research for this novel and its sequel, I had my DNA tested, and I also talked my 89-year-old father into having his done.

My DNA test revealed some expected results: Scots/British, Irish, Eastern European, a touch of Native American and European Jewish, but also some unexpected results: Melanesian and Scandinavian. My father’s test showed some DNA from the Caucasus, and that certainly fit in with one of the groups I’m writing about — Proto-Indo-European speakers who, within the timeline of my novel, had just begun their first few forays into Europe from the area of the Caucasus and Black Sea. They brought with them not only their Proto-Indo-European language (the parent language of most European languages) but also their DNA — one of the most common Y-DNA subclades (passed down from father to son) of modern Europeans, R1b.

The photo below is of my family — Mom and Dad and us five kids. I’m at the far left. You can see, like many families today, we are a very genetically diverse group!!

So tell me about your heritage. Have you had your DNA tested? If not, is that on your bucket list? Or is it something you’d prefer not to do?

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My Life: Office Pal

About three years ago, we said a tearful good-bye to our little mini-schnauzer, Wofgang Amadeus. Wof was a protective little guy, sure that the safety of the household rested on his capable shoulders.

My husband Neil and I decided that we wouldn’t adopt another dog. We hoped to do some extensive traveling, and we knew a dog in the mix adds one more complication. A year and half passed, and, because of the care needs of our parents, we didn’t travel as much as we thought we would. Meanwhile, I continued to mourn our dog-less life.

One day I told my husband how much I needed to have a dog. He agreed, and within a few weeks we had found our next schnauzer. (I have asthma, and schnauzers shed very little.) Tiffany Pearl came into our lives last summer, and what a mischievous little delight she is! She is a very good office companion and seems to understand my need for quiet writing times.

I thought you might like to see her picture.

Do you have a pet? Tell us about him/her!

TIffany Pearl Harrison

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December 2016 Free Book Winner!!!

Congratulations to Cindi and Jeff Jenkins! They won a copy of David Kingsley Snell’s great new book, THE BARON AND THE BEAR!! Cindi and Jeff, email me your address and I’ll get the book in the mail ASAP!!

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Happy Reading! And Merry Christmas!

Sue

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December 2016 Free Book!

What a privilege is mine this month to present as our December 2016 Free Book, the newly released  THE BARON AND THE BEAR, Rupp’s Runts, Haskins’s Miners, and the Season That Changed Basketball Forever by our friend David Kingsley Snell.

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THE BARON AND THE BEAR, published by the prestigious University of Nebraska Press, is an incredible true story about the NCAA championship basketball game of 1966. In this championship game, the favored all-white University of Kentucky team was beaten by little known Texas Western College in a game in which TWC fielded only black players. Not only was this game a classic David versus Goliath match, it also broke the unwritten rule that limited the number of black players a college could play on the court at the same time.

Well-told, THE BARON AND THE BEAR is a psychological study of two of the best coaches in NCAA history — Adolph Rupp and Don Haskins — and also a treatise on basketball strategy. Set in the racially tense 1960s, Snell’s book stands as a soaring affirmation of the strength inherent in determination, tough discipline, and team unity.

Author, David Kingsley Snell is no stranger to folks who live in Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula, where he and his wife (Pickford native, Mary Lou Storey) spend their summers. Others may remember him as an on-camera presence for ABC News, especially his work as a on-location correspondent during the Vietnam War.

I can’t think of a better Christmas gift for basketball fans in your life. (I’ve already bought 5 copies for various folks on my Christmas list!)

Our Give-Away edition is a brand-new hardcover. To have your name included in our Wednesday, December 14 drawing, just answer this question. Have you ever played on a basketball team?

Blessings!

Sue

 

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September 2016 FREE BOOK Winner!

Congratulations to Brenda Backus who won our free book this month! Brenda, I’ll be sending you a copy of Ann Chandonnet’s THE PIONEER VILLAGE COOKBOOK next week! Please message me with your address on Facebook or email me at sue@sueharrison.com.

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Brenda’s favorite recipe is Potato Candy, an old-fashioned candy recipe her mother used to make!

Blessings and Happy Cooking, Brenda!

Sue

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September 2016 FREE BOOK!

My friend Ann Chandonnet has written an incredible cookbook, and it’s my joy to give away a copy this month. THE PIONEER VILLAGE COOKBOOK is not only full to bursting with great recipes, it’s also packed with old fashioned remedies and historical information! Our give-away book is a new copy of the paperback edition.

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Apple Stack Cake, Raspberry Shrub, Sour Cream Raisin Pie, Oat Crackers, Red Flannel Hash, Pickled Peaches, and Virginia Cider Baked Ham are only a few recipes that will delight you as you read through and use this unusual cookbook.

To have your name included in our Wednesday, September 28 drawing, tell us the NAME of your favorite recipe. (No need to give us the whole recipe!)

Happy Cooking!

Sue

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