#Review: Meghan Maslow’s “By Fairy Means or Foul” #fantasy #lgbt #amreading

#Review: Meghan Maslow’s “By Fairy Means or Foul” #fantasy #lgbt #amreading

“By Fairy Means or Foul: A Starfig Investigations Novel” or why I’m still not into fantasy

My first fantasy novel, ever. Yeah, I admit, I haven’t even read LOTR, the language had me asleep before I got to chapter two in The Hobbit. So why on earth would I want to read a novel about fairies which the title not so subtly alludes to? One reason really: the author. Meghan Maslow is a friend, albeit a rairly recent one, but a good friend nonetheless, and I always read what my friends write, no matter how bad or “out there” their writing seems to be. Meghan sort of attached herself to me and a friend at the San Diego version of GRL, the annual reader-writer convention of people who love gay romance literature, and where I, for some odd reason, have found a home, even though I don’t belong there, since, yeah, I don’t write romance. Meghan is witty, she’s smart, and she’s one hell of a writer, or so I discovered after having read her first foray into what some people refer to as “m/m” (you know how much I despise that word).

The cover of "By Fairy Means Or Foul" by Meghan Maslow

The cover of By Fairy Means Or Foul by Meghan Maslow

Ergo me reading By Fairy Means or Foul, a novel with more innuendo than anything I’ve read for a long time. Let me get this out of the way right now, before Meghan, who I’m sure will be reading this, gets her dreads in a twist. And just to say this again, just because I’m friends with Meghan, this is an honest to the bone review, as you’ll see shortly. Here it goes: Meghan is an insanely talented writer, and you can tell by all the subtleties that she’s also well educated and knows her genre, probably a gazillion times better than I do (since, yeah, my first, remember?)

Here’s the blurb, to save me summarizing it:

“The last thing half-dragon, half-fairy private investigator Twig Starfig wants to do is retrieve a stolen enchanted horn from a treacherous fae, but there’s no denying the dazzlingly gorgeous unicorn who asks Twig to do just that. Literally, no denying, because compelling the reluctant detective is all part of a unicorn’s seductive magic.

To add to his woes, Twig is saddled with the unicorn’s cheeky indentured servant, Quinn Broomsparkle. Dragons are supposed to want to eat humans, but Twig’s half-dragon side only wants to gobble up Quinn in a more . . . personal way. Making matters worse, it’s obvious the smokin’ hot but untrustworthy sidekick is hiding something. Something big. And not what’s in his trousers. In the PI business, that means trouble with a capital Q.

Throw in gads of zombies, a creepy ghost pirate ship, a malfunctioning magic carpet, and Twig’s overbearing fairy father’s demands to live up to the illustrious Starfig name. Naturally, an old but abiding enemy chooses this time to resurface, too. Those inconveniences Twig can handle. The realization he’s falling for a human who isn’t free to return his affections and whose life may hang on the success of his latest case?

Not so much.”

I’d hate to give things away, right? Reading a book about fairies and dragons and men in slavery just never really made it to my remotest level of interest, but oddly, I found this an amusing read. I chuckled a lot, shook my head in disbelief even more often, whether it was about the powers of dragons or witches or unicorns, and how they “really” are in terms fo strength of character (or lack thereof) is quite amusing. And the story flows freely and is well paced. No boring spots here. I absolutely enjoyed the plays on the genre “rules” that I think Meghan bends, and warps, but without turning hard-core fans off (I hope). Sadly, I can’t be sure, since I don’t read the genre, but yeah, I get the impression that she gets away with her plays… Don’t believe me? Read the reviews online…

Meghan Maslow's pirate escorted Her Majesty to the party in San Diego. I guess that costume explains a thing or two about the expanse, right?

Meghan Maslow’s pirate escorted Her Majesty to the party in San Diego. I guess that costume explains a thing or two about the expanse, right?

Now, to the parts that didn’t please me quite that much, and they’re part of the genre “gay fantasy” or – shudders – “m/m fantasy”, the way the human always has to be succumbing to the beast (whether a werewolf, a werecat or a dragon). Meghan has an interesting twist on that (no spoilers), but I’m deeply troubled by the whole notion of “active – passive”, “top – bottom” and their portrayal in gay romance, and how it’s really just a prolongation of “saving the damsel in distress”. I’ll grant you, I skipped the sex scenes because it’s even worse to read it than seeing it on screen, so I can’t say if the dragon ever bottomed, but it would somehow defy the genre expectations, wouldn’t it? This is a series, and – Meghan, if you read this – there’s hope… I certainly know Meghan’s heart and mind are in the right place in what we call “IRL”.

What I did like was the “of course” attitude of the fantasy society to gay love or relationships/mating. It was refreshing to read that, but it also reminds us just how “fantasy” fantasy really is, or is it vice versa? I can never get that right. The other aspect I didn’t enjoy was some of the predictability associated with the romance genre, like the misunderstandings in all the right places, the sex scenes, again, and again, and again, like the pistons in an engine, but even here, Meghan manages to surprise us one more time with a [no spoiler].

Conclusions? This is a brilliantly written novel (phew, that makes seeing Meghan again in two days so much simpler), playing the genre like a virtuoso (I think), with really well fleshed-out characters, a fun and action-packed story and the promise of more of the same as the series continues. If you love your boys hot, your stories “out there” in the paranormal fantasy realm, then you absolutely MUST read this book. By Fairy Means or Foul is available on Amazon right now. I give it four stars there, the fifth star withheld not because it isn’t a brilliant book but because I just don’t enjoy this sort of stuff. It’s amazing that Meghan wrote a story I read to the end without suffering too badly.

If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a great week. This Friday, I’ll be posting from Denver, and this year’s GRL.

Hans

Sometimes, life makes you choose between two evils…  #amreading #asmsg #family

Sometimes, life makes you choose between two evils… #amreading #asmsg #family

When my mother in law had a heart attack, we were facing impossible life-altering choices

When this post goes live, I’ll be in Switzerland, buying sweets and chocolates for my trip to the U.S. next week. I’ll be enjoying the company of family and relatives, amazing food and hopefully glorious fall weather. St. Gallen, my home town, can be glorious this time of year. However, this year our trip is overshadowed by my mother in law’s health. After suffering a heart attack, she was rushed to the hospital where the professionals quickly surmised that she needed major open heart surgery to replace a heart valve and to undergo a triple bypass. Yeah, imagine. Life…

Disease isn't 'really' about Alzheimer's, it's a story about celebrating life, creating memories that outlive our physical existence.

Disease, my highly praised coming novel, isn’t ‘really’ about Alzheimer’s, it’s a story about celebrating life, creating memories that outlive our physical existence. You can pre-order it here.

Open heart surgery is never easy. Recovery times are three months for healthy people. Well, healthy for someone who needs that sort of major op. But for someone who’d suffered a major stroke, whose general health is on a slow downward slope? Yeah. Luckily, we didn’t have to make the choice between surgery and no-surgery. In Sweden, when someone isn’t of sound mind, that decision lies with the healthcare professionals.

Today the hospital informed us that they wouldn’t perform any surgery on my husband’s mom. I should say I’m relieved, but on the other hand I also know that this means that she could suffer another heart attack at pretty much any given time. Tomorrow. Or a year from now. But like Hunter in my coming novel, a best before date has been place on my MIL’s life, and unlike the date we all have to face at some point, it’s not in the too distant future.

The death of Casper is the start of the story, not the end. A story of life and one hell of a relationship.

Luckily for her, she’s not aware of all this, never will be. Not consciously. But we, her kids, and her grandchildren, are. And we have to deal with it, somehow. Carpe diem comes to mind, and we’ve already decided to travel the three and a half hours north to see her more regularly. Quality of life. And if seeing her grandson and her two “boys” (as she refers to us) gives her joy then so be it. Least we can do. Meanwhile we get to form some final and lasting memories of our mother, mother-in-law and grandma.

Needless to say it’s hardest on my husband. He lost his dad twelve years ago, and is now facing the harsh reality of losing his second parent any day. For me, it’s going to be rough. I’ll be reminded of my own mother’s passing, I’ll think of the day when my dad joins her and that I, too, will be all alone. No more calling “home” for advice or that friendly, non-judgemental ear. You know? That unconditional love? For our son, he’s only four and a half years old, it’s difficult to say how he’ll react. He was only nine months old when his Nona passed. Nothing to remember. But he knows his grandma, and he even left her one of his plush animals at the hospital so she wouldn’t be alone. It’s hard to tell whether he loves her and how that manifests in terms of loss. We’ll see. Maybe, just maybe we’ll get to practice this with our oldest feline family member first. He’s been getting weaker and weaker and at almost nineteen, he’s way past his prime. But yeah, loss we’ll experience. Part of life, the ultimate consequence of it, actually.

Alex (my husband) lamented the other day that being middle-aged meant having more and more death around you. Hopefully we’re better equipped to handle it than when we were kids. But I understand how he feels. Pretty soon, our generation will be the “oldest” one, the one at the frontier so to speak, the next one in line to… kick the bucket? Pick out the good suit? People sometimes ask me why I chose to write two books in a row about death, first Nilas’s story, the loss of Casper, and now Hunter’s, and Ethan’s coping with that. Sometimes I think people misunderstand. Neither of those books are about death, or dying. They’re about living, Nilas’s is about the memories he holds of Casper and their life together and how he can best celebrate that memory by living his life to the fullest. For Hunter it’s all about maximizing the quality of life, rather than the quantity, to bestow as many good memories on his little daughter Amy as humanly possible. Quality over quantity.

So if you pick up any of those two books, by all means, shed tears, but make sure they are cathartic, because those stories celebrate life, and for as long as we have memories of our loved ones, they live on, forever, through us.

Have a wonderful weekend,

Hans

PS: If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

PS2: I was recently invited to a great podcast called The Wrote Podcast. Click here to listen to the episode.

Getting ready for  a convention and a book release… #Amwriting #amreading #ASMSG

Getting ready for a convention and a book release… #Amwriting #amreading #ASMSG

One word could summarize how I feel: AAAAAAAAAARGH!

Time, whatever happened to time. That’s certainly true when you prepare for a large convention where you have a major investment while also being eighteen days away from a major book release. Now to be fair, I am doing okay. Maybe it’s reading all those posts in the GRL Facebook group form all those people with (admitted) OCD who have already packed their bags (that’s on my mental – mind you – to do list for next Tuesday, the day I fly out), people who are already on their way to the airport and what not, worrying about spending money, taxi fares or high altitude sickness. I’m not even close, and life just handed our family a major curve ball last week that threw our planning about as out of whack as only life can do.

A trip to my native Switzerland and St. Gallen with its beautiful hinterland beckons this week. Nothing like coming home…

Oh, did I mention that we have another trip planned between now and next week? Yeah! GRL is the last convention of the season for me and as it is the largest one, I’m always looking forward to it. New city, old friends, new acquaintances, and you always have to come up with new ways to please readers, not just with better books, but more exciting swag, crazier costumes and funny or tear-inducing readings.

I DO have a bit of a reputation in a couple of departments. My planning for GRL starts early, along with everyone else, as we sit down on a Saturday evening (my time) and engage in a crazy game of “fastest clicker”… I won again this year and as a sponsor of the event, my nerves were not as tested as some of my friends’. After that, there are discussions with the organizers of what to do with my investment as sponsor, and then spring and early summer settle into a calm rhythm of monthly payments, and waiting. Waiting for the theme of the costume party to be announced, waiting for the Facebook groups to open, waiting for program advertizing, waiting, waiting…

Meanwhile, I was working on my fall release, Disease, to be finished, and this year, my publisher and I are doing a special, to sell Disease exclusively at GRL, a full week before it releases to the public. We’ll see how that works. That also meant that we had to finish the galleys earlier than usual, to make sure the print copies made it to Denver in time. As I am writing this, my publisher just sent me the tracking number for my four parcels on their supposed way to Denver. Given that the hotel threatens to charge $20/day if they packages arrive more than three days before the guest, we’re playing a weird game of target practice with a moving target, as postal services and deadlines are notoriously unreliable, no matter what country you’re talking about. Oddly, my pre-order of ten copies for myself and family has already been delivered to the hotel we’re going to this week, four days ago. Color me puzzled.

There will be no appearance of Her Majesty, the Queen of Unconventional Happy Endings or me this year at GRLs costume party. Photo: Christy Duke

This week on Thursday, we fly to Switzerland, for our annual visit of the St. Gallen agricultural state fair, OLMA. It’s an old family tradition and my son loves the rides as much as the animals on display, and we enjoy the culinary delights and seeing relatives and spending time together. Plus, I’ll be stocking up on chocolates for friends stateside and for my surprise cornucopia giveaway for people who sign up for my newsletter. It will be filled with an Amazon gift card as well as Swedish candy and Swiss chocolate. Hopefully it’ll prove to be irresistible to readers attending GRL. We return on Sunday afternoon to do laundry and grocery shopping (you know those pesky weekly tasks of survival in your average family) and next Monday I’ll get my GRL haircut, I’ll write my final pre-GRL blog post and then on Tuesday, I’ll pack my bag(s). I’ll hopefully have bought all the stuff that I need for Denver, but Monday-Tuesday are sort of my final days to sort out any last minute glitches and “shit, I forgot to…” Knowing me, there will be more than one of those.

Tuesday night, my family will drop me off at the airport and I’ll fly to Munich, where I’ll have to spend the night at an airport hotel, as I would not be able to catch the early morning flight on Wednesday, seeing as my first ferry in the morning reaches port fifty minutes before the morning flight leaves… Unless you travel faster than the speed of light, a no can do. Wednesday morning, I’ll take it easy and board my flight to Denver just before lunch, arriving there at two pm. I’ll have my bags with me (hard to get lost on a direct flight), I’ll hopefully be able to breeze through immigration, I have my sales permits in order, I (will have) all my ducks lined up in a row and I’ll be ready. I usually use the flight to prepare for my readings (two this year, allowing me to read slightly longer passages from my two most recent novels) which is great. And I’ll spend some quality days with my tribe of friends, unless life decides to throw us another curve ball…

Yeah, life. It has a tendency to foul most plans and because shit happens, shit tends to happen when you least expect it (or need it). Last week, my mother in law was admitted to the hospital for difficulties breathing, in the middle of the night. Now here comes the odd part: turns out she needs major open heart surgery, and as relatives we obviously wonder how doctors could have missed that, given that she’s been in and out of hospitals on four occasions in the past twelve months. I’ve had more doctors listen to my heart in the two visits I’ve had in this time than she did. I had two, she had one. I’m fine. She’s not. Needless to say, that this is really throwing our lives out of sync, not to mention that my MIL is suffering. My husband is a mess, it’s the second time he has to deal with this, and with a family trip and my GRL-trip ahead, we struggle to make this manageable. Somehow. Coping. Breathing. Speaking of moving targets… This is a developing situation and we don’t really know what is when and how or even if.

Makes no sense? Welcome to mi vida!

This has ben a great way for me to be seen by readers, meet new ones, and just talk. Goes far beyond just selling books. I’ll once again have a table to sell books in Denver. Just two more than last year, plus the beckoning cornucopia as a prize for signing up to my newsletter.

So, GRL. I’m nervous. Nervous, because my new book is miles apart from what the vast majority of the other authors are there with. So much more than any of my previous releases. I’m a gymnast among swimmers, a dodo among flamingos. This is gayROMANCElit after all, not gayFICTIONlit. I feel at home, don’t get me wrong, but Disease is a very different beast. And I’m nervous about the week as such. I fly in late (for different reasons, but maybe it was foresight?), I only stay Wed-Sun before I fly on to Tucson to see family, and I just couldn’t come up with a decent costume idea this year, so rather than failing expectations this year, I decided to skip that night and “Do Denver” on Saturday night.

I mean really, “Wild Wild West” (the second wild added late in the season, once again throwing me a curve ball, alluring to a crap Hollywood movie), just as last year’s “under the rainbow” was suddenly changed to “The Wizard of Oz” making my gay roman emperor look weirdly out of place among emerald cities, tornadoes and munchkins. How can you make a costume pop out among cowboy hats? How could I possible top Her Majesty? It’s all either cowboys or inappropriate “Indians”. Unless you show up as a wagon, full with four drawing horses… I just couldn’t come up with any fun ideas, maybe I was too preoccupied with writing Disease at the time, maybe you’re only afforded one good costume idea in a lifetime… So no costume, no party this year, but maybe pleasures of a different kind? I can be as wild in the wild west as the next person…

This week will also include some minor GRL and book launch activities, mainly blog posts for the time while I’m gone, release interviews etc., but also some time allocated to look after my mother in law. She lives three and a half hours away from us, and we just visited her yesterday. This week we’ll be dealing with doctors and planning for the next steps in her care. As her guardian (after her stroke last year), the buck stops with me. I’l have to make the final decision on a surgery, which – trust me – is not a situation I ever envisaged myself (or hoped) to be in. But with my husband and my sister-in-law, I’m sure we’ll find a way forward that we feel is in her best interest. Ultimately, this proves once again that we may feel that we are in control of our lives, our fate. We may write long to do lists, set goals for this and that, but ultimately, life always sits on the biggest trump card, and we just have to learn to deal with that, as best we can. Maybe something to keep in mind…

If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. I hope your week turns out to be calmer than mine, and peaceful, and may Prozac and Valium guide the world away from the precipice of another global conflict…

Hans M Hirschi

#Review: “In his Eyes” by wordsmith Larry Benjamin #amreading #LGBT

#Review: “In his Eyes” by wordsmith Larry Benjamin #amreading #LGBT

In his Eyes is so beautifully crafted, it feels almost too fragile to read

Larry Benjamin’s What Binds Us, his award-winning time piece once inspired one of my novels. I was curious to read In his Eyes, particularly as I’d seen some reviews online which were puzzling. Larry calls himself a wordsmith, and I have no reason to doubt his assessment. Yet somehow, I wonder if the word is accurate. When I picture a -smith of anything, I see fire, I see an anvil, hammers and coarse tools. Larry’s tools most certainly include the fire of this passion for writing, but his writing reminds me more of calligraphy than forging a tool. Not sure that makes sense.

In your Eyes cover

The cover of Larry Benjamin’s In your Eyes.

A puzzle

In his Eyes is the story of four young men who meet in college many years ago. I tried early to set the stage in terms of timing and I guess it begins in the seventies and ends in 2005. Four men who meet, form two couples, break up, meet others, yet through the years, their lives’ paths keep crossing, again and again. No spoilers. The way the novel is constructed is like a collage of little vignettes, small portraits, glimpses into the lives of the four protagonists and the people they meet. We have a narrator, but we also often get to see things from the individual points of view. In a way, the novel feels like a puzzle, where you as reader are challenged to add the various pieces to each other, to get to the final end result. What that result turns out as, I believe, is entirely up to each and everyone of us.

Fragile

It’s taken me days to read this story. Larry’s writing is carefully crafted, and not as fluent as someone who writes more subconsciously. Which makes reading an effort, and in order to really enjoy and enjoy it, one needs to pace oneself. You need to take it slow, be shielded from outside interruptions or disruptions. I tried to read on my way to town or as my family was watching TV, but failed. Finally, last night, with my husband focused on his work, I was able to read in peace and quiet. It’s like listening to a piece of classical music. You have to focus, but you’ll be rewarded for your attention.

Yesterday’s storyteller

author Larry Benjamin

Our word smith, or calligrapher, Larry Benjamin

I can’t say I “liked” the plot of the story, because it is dark and belongs to a time I hope remains in the past, most certainly for us in the West. I know that for large parts of the world, this may still look like a bright future… It highlights not only the plight of black gay men in the United States, interracial relationships and their challenges, re “snow queen”, but also the darkness of our existence in a society from pre-AIDS where being gay was still largely frowned upon. Larry is the storyteller of that era, and he does it amazing justice. I usually try to avoid those times, because they are, by and large, quite depressing for our people, with so much misery and sadness. Larry showcases not only that misery, that loneliness, even when in company with others, society’s brutal judgement, but also the small progress, intimacy and how love can take so many different shapes. In Larry, that time is brought to light, and even though I hope we may never have to see such days again, it is still valuable to have that time period accurately reflected and brought to light, as undoubtedly many of our young who grow up under more hopeful circumstances may not even be aware of our recent history. For those of us who witnessed it, it’s slightly different, painful reminders of a recent past, of things we have lived through and endured ourselves.

In his Eyes is a beautiful story. Not an easy read, but a true work of art. If you like to read meticulously crafted books, and you have the time to really let go and focus on a slow read, I highly recommend you to take a journey into the past and re-live (or experience for the first time) what things were like for gay men in the past four or five decades. Well done, Larry, very well done.

In his Eyes is published by Beaten Track Publishing and is available on Amazon and other fine online retailers as e-book and as paperback. You can learn more about Larry and his craft on his website.

If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a wonderful weekend.

Hans M Hirschi

 

#MondayBlogs: How to deal with success as an author? #amwriting #asmsg

#MondayBlogs: How to deal with success as an author? #amwriting #asmsg

Success, how to recognize it? How to make the most of it?

A caveat first. MondayBlogs, the hashtag I regularly blog under on Mondays has a couple of inofficial rules, one of them being that we don’t write about ourselves or market ourselves. It’s not to be a megaphone to get people to spread the word about ourselves. Not an easy thing when you blog, as much of what we do as bloggers is based on our own experiences. So please bear with me for a moment as I try to explain the background of today’s post: success. Why am I suddenly interested in this topic? I’m hardly successful as author, plagued by constant imposter syndrome and spending more money on getting my books out to people than I’ll probably ever make. So how does one define success?

What is success? Are we simply chasing a phantom? An unatainable phantasy?

Success. It sounds so appealing. We all have our dreams of being successful, having successful relationships, marriages, we want our kids to be successful in life, we dream of successful careers, but what does it really matter when push comes to shove? What is success? Here’s the take of Merriam-Webster, on the definition of success, taken from their website:

2a :degree or measure of succeeding
b :favorable or desired outcome; also :the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence

So, since they link to succeeding as a “degree or measure of”, here’s what they have to say about that:

a :to come next after another in office or position or in possession of an estate; especially:to inherit sovereignty, rank, or title
b :to follow after another in order
2a :to turn out well

b :to attain a desired object or end

  • students who succeed in college

While this helps us a little, it still doesn’t define what a “good turn-out” is or what it is we desire. Because let’s face it, that is highly individual, far beyond that what society may think is a measure of success, i.e. inherit a sovereignty, rank or title, wealth, favor or eminence.

Hence, we all have to individually figure out what success means to us. I can only speak to myself, being the author of several successful books. Imho, success is to touch people, to have written a book that appeals to people beyond mere entertainment or enlightenment, a story that touches people deeply, moves them, gets them to think and maybe, just maybe, even act upon that which they have learned.

 

Is there no in-between? Is this the only choice we have? How do you know which way to go?

For my coming novel, and this is mere background info, I have tried a somewhat different approach in my marketing, soliciting the help of my readership to get as many early reviews as I possibly could. A good fifty people have volunteered and we’re well underway to gather their reviews, a month before the book is released. And suddenly something happens, something I have never seen before. I get feedback above and beyond anything I would’ve ever imagined, and suddenly I get this impression that I might be onto something, something that is bigger, larger, better than what I’ve seen before.

 

And it leaves me stupefied because I don’t really know how to deal with it, or what to do with it. Hence my question: how do you deal with success? Yes, I’m immensely proud (I’m not a complete basket case), but do I just wait and see how this plays out? Do I try to get more people to read it in advance? Do I… So here’s my question to you, dear fellow authors, and readers alike: how do you deal with success? How do you humbly accept that you’ve done well and make the most of it? We’ve all seen the movies of the actor getting a break, of a sportsperson doing well and then some, all having agents and people representing them to maximise on that success, monetizing it even. As an author I’m far away from that. Because my success is a universe away from a Stephen King or a Jackie Collins. A half-decent book doesn’t constitute wealth or fortune, nor is it (maybe my imposter syndrome speaking) a sign of things to come, not to mention the burden of following up on a good book with a better book.

Needless to say, we all want to improve and become better at our writing. Anyway, this is what’s on my mind right now. I see this sapling in front of me, this sprout, this bud of what could be very important for my career. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m delusional (imposter syndrome?), maybe… This is a call for help, for advice. How have you, more successful than I, dealt with this? For me, this isn’t primarily about money, as nice as it may be to finally be able to pay some bills with my art. I also don’t want this to get to my head, because I fear the fall…

Anyway, let me know your thoughts on this, whether you’re a reader or a writer… And as I look out into the first real fall storm unleashing its rain and winds upon my island, I want to thank you for coming back to this site once or twice every week to read my posts. Thank you. If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans M Hirschi

#MondayBlogs: Why I can’t wait for my son to be reading books #amreading #amwriting

#MondayBlogs: Why I can’t wait for my son to be reading books #amreading #amwriting

I still remember my childhood, reading books

I face fierce competition in my strive to get my son to start reading books. Since the age of nine months, the iPad has been the most popular toy in our house. He’s not unlike other boys though, toys with sirens (particularly fire trucks) are always cool, and I don’t recall how many times we’ve driven by our local fire station just to make him smile. Spiderman is his (and many of his friends in school’s) favorite superhero, and there’s always a train track covering the floor of his bedroom. Plus Lego etc.

At some point we had to limit his iPad consumption, and mind you it’s not violent slasher videos he watches, but Peppa Pig (which Daddy despises with a vengeance), Ben & Holly, the Cat in the hat etc. Good kids entertainment. And for us parents, the iPad is a blessing. He gets up on a Saturday morning, grabs his iPad and crawls back under his covers to watch his cartoons without waking us. Needless to say, Pappa and Daddy are happy for the extra hours of sleep. During meals, between ten am and noon and from one-thirty to four pm, and always after seven pm, the iPad is disabled thanks to an app we have installed. And the great thing is, we can increase that time on the fly, or decrease if needed (long car drives, plane rides etc.)

Remember this? I doubt that very many millennials have seen one of these in real life. I believe this was the most popular program on our channels…

When I was a child, we had a handful of TV channels, and more often then not, in the afternoon or mornings, you’d see the “test screen” on your TV. There was simply no programming. Today, all channels broadcast 24×7 and there are more channels out there than you could ever wish for. At some point, my dad (he’s got a satellite receiver) had over 400 channels in his TV, making it virtually impossible to find anything valuable to watch. We’ve completely abandoned old-TV style watching, unless we want to watch NPR-news when something’s happened. Otherwise, we use our old DVD to watch one of our many hundred discs lying around the house, or it’s Netflix or something directly from Apple on our Apple TV. Books compete with a lot more media today than when I grew up.

But it’s not just more competition for books, it’s also (or so it seems to me) less time. When I was my son’s age, my mom was at home. A home maker she raised us until we “had to” go to pre-school at the age of six. My son began pre-school at the age of one due to both parents working. He’s already in his fourth “academic” year and he’s only four and a half years old. He has long days, starting at 6:30 am and he won’t be home until 4:00 pm today, often later. My school days began later, were shorter, which left me more time to play.

When I was able to read, I also began to read (and write). And while I can’t remember what books I read at what age, I recall the emotional impact of diving into different worlds, whether it was science-fiction with aliens and rockets and star ships, or to be transported across time and space to the old west and Karl May’s many books about cowboys and indians, with the Winnetou trilogy my childhood favorite, along with many others. It was that feeling of instantly being transported to a different place, imagining that place, the characters, living their adventures, following along on whatever track they were pursuing. It was so riveting, so fulfilling.

Reading books is still one of my favorite past times, even though I have less time for it now than ever before. But unlike TV or the big screen, where we get to watch one person’s imagination of whatever it is we’re watching, reading books allows us to fill the blanks ourselves. We get to design costumes, build sets, choose the actors to play the roles, we determine if the sun’s out or not in various scenes, and we get to hop from character to character and live vicariously through them.

My son's library. (Picture) books from several cultures, some new, some classics. My own childhood books are stored elsewhere.

My son’s library. (Picture) books from several cultures, some new, some classics. My own childhood books are stored elsewhere. We also read a book a week from my son’s school library.

I really want my son to experience that. I really do. And whenever we read a book together, usually before bedtime, it’s one of our best times together, as we both dive into a story, and you can tell which books excel at enabling children at this journey, and which don’t. My son goes to an amazing school, and every Friday, he brings back a new book from their library to read over the weekend. An amazing program for sure, and we usually send the book back Tuesday or Wednesday. We want to make sure he gets to read it at least twice and our weekends are often bookless, as he gets to stay up late because we’re out or watching a family movie together. But to read with Sascha, kid in my lap, even if we’ve read the same book one hundred times already, is always something special. And he already has a fair collection of books in six different languages: English, Swedish, German, Alemannic, Hindi & Raeto-Romansh.

Children have an almost limitless imagination. Once they reach scholastic age, that imagination is slowly but surely driven from them, until they are mostly grown-up automatons. As an artist, I managed to keep some of that imagination, that ability that allows me to think outside the box (to speak corporate for a second), to challenge status quos, see new ways to do things. I want my son to retain that ability, too, because it’s such a priceless gift. Just as he picks up a stick in the forest to be used as sword or magic wand, he can read books to transport him to strange new worlds or quaint places instantly, to learn and grow as a human being, to walk a mile in the shoes of those less fortunate, those utterly unlike him. And when he’s old enough, I hope he’ll read my books, too, including the one written specifically for him, because I have a hunch that his opinion is one I’ll cherish more than that of a Nobel Prize critic…

How did you get your kids to read? Do you find it hard to compete with TVs, phones and pads? Share your best tips here… If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a great week.

Thanks,

Hans

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