Concert TONIGHT in Allentown!

Dear friends in Pennsylvania! Please attend this event tomorrow with my sister Eve Droma and her husband Ciprian!

Tuesday, November 15th
7pm at Living Hope Church
330 Schantz Road, Allentown

Concert and Hymn Sing
Ciprian Droma is a professional opera singer and professor of music. He will be singing some opera selections, leading the singing of some beloved hymns, teaching some Kurdish music, and ending with a few Christmas carols. Please come and enjoy his music!

NaNoWriMo the Signum way!

nanoDear creative writers:

Remember that awesome flash-fiction contest Signum University hosted last year? Well, this year we’re doing something different. November is National Novel-Writing Month; check out nanowrimo.org. And Signum University, with NaNo’s blessing, is hosting its own NaNo-within-NaNo, right signumLogo_100here: http://forums.signumuniversity.org/index.php?forums/nanowrimo-2016.48/. So if you’re writing a novel this month, especially one with a science fiction or fantasy slant, and you want to join a creative community to discuss your project, please join Signum’s NaNo forum! You are very welcome there.

News Flash: Signum Classes and a Book!

The Oddest Inkling

signumLogo_100The great and glorious Signum University, where I serve as Chair of the Lang & Lit Dept and sometimes teach cool classes, has taken a big step forward! We have grown our M.A. Program: now you can choose to concentrate in Tolkien Studies, Germanic Philology, Imaginative Lit (such as F/SF), or Classical/Medieval/Renaissance Literature! And we have just opened the fall classes for registration. You know you want to take one, or two, or all of them! You can enroll for credit, audit, or audit with a discussion option. Some classes are live; some are on a flex schedule. Check them out:
falk* Folkloric Transformations, taught by Dr. Dimitra Fimi, is about vampires, werewolves, ghosts and fairies!
* Beowulf in Old English, taught by Nelson Goering & Dr. Karl Persson, is a translation seminar in which you work through the Anglo-Saxon epic in small, interactive student groups.

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A Call for Literary Patrons

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A Pilgrim in Narnia

I still have not found the words—or the time to search very hard—to describe the sublime experience of my research and conference trip to the Midwest these past couple of weeks. I spent nearly five days in archival and secondary research at the Marion E. Wade Center in Wheaton, IL. Cutting this research in two was my second trip to the 10th Frances White Ewbank Colloquium on C.S. Lewis & Friends at Taylor University in Upland, IN. I will to try to wrestle into place some of my thoughts about what made the Taylor conference so exceptionally good; for now, see Laura’s post here. Together, the conference and the research filled my heart with much needed refreshment.

During this exhausting and beautiful 10 days many of my digital friendships found their way into real life. I got to meet for the first time, or see once again after a…

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Report on The Last Ekphrasis

IMG_3748Last night we enjoyed one another’s company for the last time — at least, it was the last time that Ekphrasis will gather under my auspices with its regular purpose of sharing and critique, since I’m moving to Texas to start my PhD at Baylor. It was a magnificent meeting! There were food and flowers, hilarity and drama, literature and art. In attendance were myself, Sharon G, Devon W, Eric M, Richard B, Curt D, Laura W, Andrew S MacD, Betsy G, Jeff H, Amanda L, and two newcomers, Thaina D and Diante R.

Even though it was a sort of a going-away shindig, it was really just an ordinary hard-working meeting. Lots of people shared excellent work.

IMG_3744(1)At the beginning of the meeting, Thaina and Devon shared the hot-off-the-press Spring 2016 issue of Xanadu, Lehigh Carbon Community College’s literary magazine. Thaina and Devon, along with Diante, are student editors of the magazine this semester, and I’ve been a faculty adviser to it for six years. This semester’s may have been the most professional issue of the magazine we’ve ever produced: the design is streamlined and debonair. Diante has a poem published in it; Thaina has a few poems and several pieces of prose.

indexThen Sharon G read another chapter of her Robin Hood novel adaptation, Mercy and Justice. This chapter included a sad story of a poor, cast-off, single, expectant mother, helped by Marian and Robin, which was a good way of revealing their compassionate character. Sharon has completed about half of this novel and hopes to draft the rest of it this fall, after finishing her current novel-in-progress, Chrysalis!

13184680_1014038361966917_2053915199_oRichard B and Eric M each showed pieces of their artwork. Richard is writing and illustrating a comic book starring his Jack Windsword character. Eric is working on drawings he’ll bring to the Baltimore Comic Con. Their work is somewhat similar–both depict heroes, villians, mythic, archetypal characters with bold lines and swift action–but their techniques are quite different. The black-and-white image to the right is from Richard’s book. The colored images below from Star Wars and Star Trek are some of Eric’s works of art.

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Then we moved into a sort of stage-like area we had set up, in order to watch several theatrical scenes.

First up was a stage adaptation of a bit from a Brandon Sanderson novel, by Betsy G. It was a scene packed with secondary-world-building, lots of neologisms and names and cultural references. In it, an experienced con artist is teaching her apprentice how to fool her potential victims by posing as a foreign princess. The prize? Her dupe’s boots. 13184742_935769666536853_1112604979_o

Next up was a selection from Jeff H’s recent full-length adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows, which was recently produced by Players of the Stage. This scene was Toad on trial for causing a motor car accident–which is really just a cover for his enemies to lock him up and take his ancestral mansion.

Then came my short play, Galatea Awakes, which I wrote for my creative writing class at LCCC, and from which I previously posted a selection. It’s a retelling of the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea, and I’m exploring themes of the artist’s isolation and relationships, the idea of the art as a child, issues of voyeurism and objectification, questions about the nature of beauty, etc. It was admirably performed by Richard, Andrew, and Sharon, and much hilarity ensued–sometimes when it wasn’t in the script, such as when Pygmalion whispers to his animated statue to “scroll down, scroll down” for him so he can read his script!

We got to see another play from my creative writing class, too: this one by Thaina. It is a side-splittingly funny drama entitled Why Deals With the Devil Never Work (And You Should Always Read the Fine Print). I’ll give you just a tiny snippet here to give you an idea of how funny it is:

ASH: Look man, I just really want my soul back. Please? Pretty please? Have a heart.
SATAN: What part of Lucifer, Demon, King of Hell, do you not understand?
ASH: I know you’re Satan and all, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk!
SATAN: Do you listen to yourself when you speak?
ASH: Hm? Of course I do! My soul is gone, not my hearing!

Yup, it’s all like that. With a great twist at the end.

And we were treated to a performance of a powerful slam poem by Diante, a tale of troubles and salvation. It is meant to become his final project for Creative Writing class.

Finally, Laura W ended our evening with a mind-boggling 2-min mystery: a piece of flash fiction in 500 words. Since Laura won most of the weeks of Signum University’s “Almost an Inkling” flash fiction contest, you won’t be surprised to hear that it was magnificent!

There were some amazing conversations, too, about the “Artist-as-inspired-romantic-genius” myth, about the use of profanity and taking the Lord’s name in writing and drama, about anachronism and style and craft. These are the talks on which my soul feeds.

So, yes: a fitting ending for, what, eight years, I think, of Ekphrasis meetings. I’ll miss you guys, and I hope you carry on!

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In celebration of Orthodox Easter, by Laura Wolfe

In celebration of Orthodox Easter, I’d like to share a small portion of a work-in-progress, “Overtaken By Night.”  Comments are welcome!

Christos Anesti!  Khristos Voskrese!  Al-Masih Qam!  Hristos a inviat!  Christ is Risen!

***

Shadow-man_(1)There— in front of the door to his parents’ room.  It was the size of a bathtub now, and it wasn’t just moving, it was growing towards him.  Remy locked it in his gaze and backed towards the light coming in the windows at the front door.

His foot found the empty space beyond the top stair, and he did a double take.  When he looked back, the shadow had climbed the walls of the hallway and swallowed the doors.  It was inches from his foot.

Remy choked back a scream and pressed his back against the wall that was lit by moonlight.  He sidled very slowly down the stairs, keeping an eye on the creeping dark, not letting even the tip of his shoe touch it.  Socrates pressed up against his legs, nearly tripping him with every step.  After what seemed like forever, they made it to the foyer by the front door.

Remy paused for a moment, wondering how much trouble he was going to be in for leaving the house after his parents were sleeping.

“Not as much trouble as we’ll be in if we stay with the shadows.  Right, girl?”

Socrates scratched at the door.

That was all it took; the boy and the dog slipped out of the front door and took off down the street.  One look back revealed the entire house swathed in pulsing darkness.

At first, Remy thought it was better outside, but any focus on the shadows revealed the breathing pools of liquid dark that had swallowed his house.  He and Socrates sprinted from streetlight to streetlight, trying to get out of the dimly-lit sleepy suburban district into the town proper.  Gradually the split-levels and Cape Cods gave way to duplexes and row homes, then to shophouses as old as the town itself.

They passed boutiques closed up for the night; the girl in the coffee shop was upending chairs onto tables as she broomed the floor.  He stopped briefly in the warm glow from the window lamps; she looked at him oddly, judging whether he looked small enough to call the local police about.  He didn’t give her a second chance; he dashed across the street to the next streetlamp and ducked into an alley.  Though narrow, pools of light fell from inadequately curtained windows, revealing the raucous fun of a world he was too young to care about.  Somewhere a glass broke and a young man’s voice barked out a yell of surprise.  Remy kept moving.

The block behind the shops and apartments opened up into a series of parking lots and there the shadows waged battle against the lights.  Great waves of darkness roiled with tidal fury, breaking on the macadam and rattling pockets of shattered glass and broken asphalt.  Pools of safety morphed as Remy ran towards them, leaping over dark fingers that reached for him.  He couldn’t look at all of them at once.

Though it had been a warm evening, every pass of the shadows felt like winter all over again.  They were so cold they hurt.  His feet ached, then burned, then went numb.  Picturing the purple blisters on his ankle, Remy kept running.

He was staring down a particularly high shadow wave when he ran right into a car.  Quickly, he flipped with his back to the metal and found himself in a parking lot packed with many cars, but with fewer shadows.  Down at the front was a square building with a bell tower topped with a modest blue turret.  It was speckled with golden stars that caught the streetlights and scattered them across the ground.  A set of stairs led up to a double door under a wooden arch.

Remy ran up the cement steps and pulled open a heavy oak door, slipping into the foyer.  It was dark in here, and very quiet, but even the deepest shadows were a normal plum color and completely still.  Socrates pushed against his legs.

“Stay, girl.  I’m going to go look around.”  Remy gestured to an open coat closet, half-filled with spring jackets and raincoats.  Socrates curled up in a ball under a long black robe and sighed contentedly.  Apparently she felt safe here, too.

Still cautious, Remy crept slowly towards another set of doors.  These were glass, and as he came closer, he could see movement in the room beyond.

A whisper from his right startled him out of his reverie.

“You made it just in time.  Here you go.”  A wizened old man handed him an unlit candle and pulled the door open for him.

It was dark in here, too, and packed with standing people.  No one spoke, but the air was humid with breathed anticipation.  Everyone was waiting for something; the energy in the room was coiled tightly, ready to spring into action.  The scent of lilies and hyacinth filled up the corners.

Remy’s eyes adjusted.  There were a few candles and oil lamps around the edges of the room; enough to outline faces and furniture, but not enough to understand what he was seeing.

There was a rustling near the front, then the sound of a heavy curtain being pulled back.  A pair of ornate wooden doors opened outward, lacy with open scrollwork.  Behind them, a ghostly figure bowed deeply three times, sweeping the floor with its hand.  It took a candle as tall as a child in its hands, and the warm light illumined a man dressed in white satin embroidered with gold.  He stepped through the arch, paused at the top of a small set of stairs, and began to sing:

Candle-300x225“Come, receive ye the light from the Light, that is never overtaken by night.”

His voice was a deep lyrical baritone that Remy felt in his teeth.  The melody was slow and somber, but not sad, and it magnetized the air.  The people began to file forward as the song repeated, each one lighting his own candle from the pillar of the chanting man.  Slowly the space filled with warm light, rising to unveil a jewel-toned firmament.  The air smelled sweetly of honey.

Remy felt himself moving forward, responding to the musical call.  Finally he stood in front of the royally vested figure and his candle touched the paschal flame, its light filling his eyes.  He sighed deeply, and was wrapped in a cocoon of stillness.

When he opened his eyes again, the people around him were moving, following the sound of bells, candles held before faces shining with joy.  Remy waited until everyone had gone first, then as he passed the coat closet, patted his leg for Socrates.

He walked back across the parking lot to the sound of the people outside singing and victory bells ringing, Socrates at his heel.  He moved slowly, his hand cupped around the flame of the candle, and as he passed a small shadow wave, it fizzled into nothing.  He retraced his flight of terror, this time confidently, with a strange weapon held out before him.   The inky pools of malice melted into normal street-lit macadam.

“Now, get out of my house,” he commanded as he mounted his front steps.

***