The Staff / Finalist in the 2019 International Book Awards


The Staff, a novel by author Ron Samul, is now an Award-Winning Finalist in the General Fiction Category of the 2019 International Book Awards. Jeffrey Keen, President and CEO of American Book Fest, said this year's contest yielded over 2,000 entries from authors and publishers around the world, which were then narrowed to the final results. Awards were presented for titles published in 2017, 2018, 2019. 

Ron Samul is a writer and works at Mitchell College in New London. He is also a Writing Mentor in the Western Connecticut State University Creative and Professional Masters in Fine Arts. A native New Londoner, Samul said this novel is based on living in a small community where everyone knows about each other. Some of those interactions are for the better and some for the worse. Samul enjoys talking about the book with writers and book clubs, and said, “Talking to people, I always find new ways to look at the novel. Books don’t work unless the writer and reader are working together to make it a shared experience. And to hear what people think of the novel, in their own terms, it is just as exciting as writing it.”
Samul’s work has appeared in Liturgical Credo, Outstide In Magazine, SNReview, Inquiring News, Library Journal, and other online media. He has presented his work at the Associated Writers Program Conference, The Northeast Popular Culture Association, and the Hollihock Writers Conference in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

In 2017, The Staff was short-listed for the Del Sol Press First Novel Prize. Don Snyder, author of Fallen Angel and Of Time and Memory explains, "Samul tells this story with such luminous prose and immense imagination that the reader is transported to a place beyond the borders of the known world where new meaning attends our longings and our fears, and where we discover a deeper understanding of ourselves. I believe this is the requirement of literary fiction." The book is currently on Amazon for purchase in print and e-book.



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Diving Essay Series Available on Channillo

Like most writers, writing comes in fits and starts. I've been inspired to collect and continue writing based on my interactions with the ocean. This series includes my time as a technical diver, visions of ecology, exploring life in and around the water. This series includes understanding fear, diving in an underwater storm, and celebrating the guy who swam in the suit as the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

I've chosen Channillo to create this writing. It can be accessed via a free trial and subscription. It is an interesting model of reading and exploring. The goal is to develop this collection and eventually move to a collection worthy of formal publication.

I've been scuba diving for more than twenty-five years and I've spend most of that time in the waters of New England. While I've been on adventures in the Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, and Florida. While a lot of my diving in the Northeast has been working on a dive boat and diving with technical divers on shipwrecks, it is time to shift my perspective and find a more meaningful interaction with the ocean. Part of the essay series is based on finding out why divers (particularly technical divers) are interested in extreme diving and what that means to them. Sometimes, that is part of who they are. For others it is a list to check off. But in the end, technical diving is based on desire, focus, and often money. Like hiking, we can all go for a walk in the woods, and aspire to climb Everest, but somewhere along the way, it changes who we are. We may not make it to the deepest dive or the highest mountain, but what drives back to the ocean for more.

If you are interested in reading more, check out the link below. If you have some ocean experience and want to contribute, reach out to the email below and we can connect.

Link to Series 

ronsamulwriter@gmail.com
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The Staff Now On Sale / Amazon / Paperback & E-book


PRINT BOOK AVAILABLE NOW  through Amazon.com
In a remote fishing village, a well-known member of the village is murdered, and the suspect is caught and beaten. When he wakes up he can’t recall who he is or what he has done. The village council decides to invoke an age-old ritual that condemns the killer and a villager together for life. Taska Valimar is selected to be the warden to the killer in this draconian social contract. Scorned by her life of servitude, Taska begins to unravel the secrets of her missing family. What she finds begins a spiral of deceit and revenge. In the midst of the darkest hours, Taska searches for friendship, hope, and a way out. The Staff is a timeless tale of lies, treachery, and hope.

“In the tradition of Orwell and Huxley and Dostoevsky, Ron Samul has imagined a world in stunning detail where justice and human dignity are casualties of the fears that inhabit us. It is a terrifying world that exists beyond our reference points and yet it feels oddly familiar because the people we come to meet there, though strangers to us, give us an unexpected glimpse of ourselves.” - Don J. Snyder author of Of Time and Memory and Fallen Angel.

"A novel with the rarefied atmosphere of ancestral myth, The Staff unfolds in a time and place that feels ancient and simultaneously apart from history: a northern seaside village where the air holds the electric charge of prophetic meaning. Samul has written a dark, tension-filled allegory of crime, punishment, and transcendence that will appeal to fans of Hawthorne, Kafka, and Shirley Jackson." - Tim Weed author of Will Poole’s Island and A Field Guide to Murder and Fly Fishing.

“An intriguing, skillfully constructed plot about the darker side of human nature.” The Book Life Prize.
Available through Amazon.com




Ron Samul is a writer and college educator at Mitchell College. He is a writing mentor in the Western Connecticut State University Masters in Creative and Professional Writing program. He has worked as a journalist, literary magazine editor and publisher, and book reviewer. His articles and stories have appeared in the SN ReviewLibrary Journal, Liturgical Credo, Inside Out Magazine, Inquiring News Hartford, and on other print/electronic media. He is the winner of the Connecticut AWP Fiction Award in 2005 for his short story Paper ThinThe Staff was shortlisted for the 2017 Del Sol Press Friest Novel Prize. Print and Kindle copies of the book release through Amazon.com on March 15, 2017. 
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And now you have to reconcile it, too.


What if The Staff isn’t what you expect? What if it fits the definition of historical fiction but doesn't do what historical fiction does? It isn’t what you think it is. That sounds like a strange riddle. But that is what The Staff feels like - a novel that takes places in unknown history. It isn’t a novel in time, but a novel untimely and unplaced. And that is the whole idea of creating a novel based on an idea.

There is a concept called “the novel of ideas” - stories based on visionary times and seeing more than just our own superficial visions of the world, but seeing an idea, a social value, and seeing it subverted. It is a concept that is apparent in speculative fiction, like Fahrenheit 451, where firemen start fires and don’t put them out. Even in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, we see cathartic and tragic things happening to a man who is alienated. He actually turns into a bug and is completely isolated from his family. The sleight of hand is watching his sister Gerta, draw out of the shadows and become a woman capable of feeling the sun on her face and destroying the evil that is killing her family. Ideas in a novel are imperative. It is more than a theme, but a vision of craft.

The Staff functions as a riddle without a punchline. And the very thing you think you will be reading is intentionally withheld. Not because I am a jerk or just couldn’t come up with a solution. It is because the solution, the answers you want is detached from a genre - this isn't a whodunit - that isn’t the idea at all. You may not like this book because it isn't the genre you prefer. Has genre killed your sense of wonder? Do you need to know how the murder happened? Do you need to be the detective? Do you need a red herring? I’ve given you all the things you desire if you were reading and murder mystery, at least at the start. But the novel is not about conforming to the expectations of a genre. It is about what happens when you are put off by it.

There is a portion in this novel that directly pays reverence to Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. And the purpose of that is because it is the ultimate tale of what you think a lottery should be - and what it becomes (a stoning in the town square), is exactly what this novel is. I am not asking you to like it. I am not asking you to be happy or even satisfied with the ending. I am just asking you to live with the idea built in this novel and find your own moments as the scenes pass by. This is not a philosophical novel that stops to contemplate long-winded ideas. It is just an idea, set into motion. And every single character has to reconcile it. And now you have to reconcile it, too.


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The Hawkman - A Fairy Tale of the Great War


Jane Rosenberg LaForge
AmberJack Pub.
ISBN: 978-1944995676 (paperback)
280p
Released: June 5, 2018

The Hawkman: A Fairy Tale of the Great War by Jane Rosenberg LaForge is a re-telling of several Grimm’s fairy tales against the backdrop of World War I.  As a fan of World War I literature, this captures the desperation of trench warfare, the aftermath of war, and what it means to live with those nightmares. But it is this reality, this darkness, this desperation that pushes up against how and why people tell stories. This is not merely a war novel, but the war is what triggers much of the action and ideas around this novel. Miss Eva Williams is an American school teacher that comes to a small English school to teach and hide from the world. Among the small and bucolic setting, everyone has been touched by the Great War. And among the edges is a man so damaged and lost that the villagers are afraid of who he is and what he may do. Miss Williams doesn’t commiserate with the villagers and the leaders, she takes him into her life. These two lost souls begin to rebuild a life together.

This novel weaves stories. It is the function of the book, the story, the plot… everything. It is worth mentioning that LaForge brings about a compelling and often beautiful style of storytelling to the page. Her stylistic voice here is what makes this novel so compelling and profound. The style reaches beyond the well-crafted characters, the woven stories, and the stunning pace of this novel. It makes sense that a poet is a better weaver for so many intangible parts and pieces. In Kate Berhnheimer’s introduction to Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall: Women Writers Explore Their Favorite Fairy Tales, she discusses how “fairy tales offer both wildly familiar and familiar wild terrain.” But more importantly, she considers the significance of how these fairy tales reflect back something of ourselves. “It is to look at the act of looking at ourselves inside stories, to regard the tradition and the stereotype of female reflection on self. In this, there is a power for all sorts of readers.” In many ways, LaForge is doing this within the nested stories and concepts of The Hawkman. She is restoring story, frame, morals, and piecing together the shattered ideas that are missing. That is where the innovative, creative, and visionary style does so much of the work. Miss Williams becomes the one who creates change, shifts perceptions of the world, and grounds all the fragments that seem to swirl around this novel. She isn’t the Scheherazade (the teller of the stories), but she is the force that makes all these stories possible. She is the curator of all things possible and impossible in this world.

A possible function of writing a novel is to explain how we might save ourselves with a story. In The Hawkman: A Fairy Tale of the Great War by Jane Rosenberg LaForge, it is clear that these forces of reality, tales, and visionary things are not just important for the art of fiction, but crafted with haunting and beautiful effect. But it takes more than a fabulist, it takes more than a novelist. It takes a poet. The Hawkman is a stunning vision of the blurred lines between the darkest realities and the most beautiful stories, all spinning in a whirlwind of narrative, hope, and loss.

A brief retelling of this book doesn’t shed light on the beauty and the scope of this novel. It is something that you have to accumulate as a reader. The nested stories, the characters, the function of the novel itself, all serve to restore the belief that we are narrative, we need a beginning, a middle, and an end. LaForge does this through poetry, stories, and her lyrical style. Miss Williams in the novel says, “Stories should not have to be cruel.” They can be sad, they can be devastating, and they can be beautiful, but they don’t “have to be cruel.” This novel brings narrative together with a lyrical style to rebuild the lives of people who are separately and desperately fragmented. The result is this beautiful novel that is built on the tradition of fairy tales but refined in poetry and prose in a way that is vivid, inspiring, and human. Excellent, poetic, and literary in story, style, and vision. 


Cited in Review
Bernheimer, Kate, ed. Mirror, mirror on the wall: Women writers explore their favorite fairy tales. Anchor, 1998.


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Book Review: Paris in the Present Tense

Mark Helprin
Overlook Press / 2017
  • ISBN: 978-1468314762
400 Pages

It has been awhile since a novel has changed the way I think about the novel. But Paris in the Present Tense is a lyrical novel that has empowered my faith in the contemporary novel. Let's face it, it has been awhile since A Winter's Tale, when we first fell into the world of Helprin's prose and imagination, and while this book isn't as mystical, it is formidable in his prose and his storytelling.

This novel follows the life an aged cello player named Jules Lacour a cellist and teacher who is facing the end of his days and his life in Paris. And while there is intrigue, mystery, and all the plot points that have grown tired in contemporary fiction, this novel rises above all those expectations. Part of it is the nature of this older, wise protagonist and his vision of the world. But it also sits in the root of Helprin's prose and his ability to position you in the most complex moments of life and find more than just plot point, but more.

Jules is an older protagonist who is eccentric in some ways and contemporary in others. He is suspiciously healthy and can still run, swim, and row. His routines are simple, but his life complex and fraught with pitfalls. He lives as a renter on an estate, and he has a life that has shaped his romantic and often practical vision of the world. His life proves that things like love can still fill our lives through intimacy, music, longing, and fate. It is modern in terms of the world that Jules lives in, but it is also worldly in the connections to the past - through music, personal history, and dynamics of all those relationships accumulated over the years. There were times when the use of more flashbacks may have focused a few more things, but that isn't the point of this book. What we missed is left for the reader to contemplate.

In terms of the prose writing, it is exceptional. Helprin's writing is vivid and so well balanced. As I mentioned, this book is about a lot of plot points that (if I wrote them here) sound trite and typical of a thriller novel. But this novel doesn't run on the answers to plotted questions. This novel is threaded with an emotional quality that comes from Helprin's prose.

And sometimes, the phrasing of his writing just stops you. He writes "That kept me alive. For you, they would say it was trauma, but I wouldn't. I'd say it was simpler, that like everyone else you have a paradise you long to restore, but your paradise is also hell. Although getting back is dark and dangerous, you won't be deterred. Love draws you back. You can't escape." The push and pull of ideas and words is a constant tension. Helprin is constantly playing with opposites - or in this book lyrical dynamics. Paradise is compared with hell. Trauma isn't real unless there is something to lose. And it becomes this kind of vision of pushing and pulling words apart that makes this book feel less a plotted thriller and more like an epic love story.

During a war flashback, Helprin used his descriptive art to describe the sounds of troops moving. This is relevant because music, sounds, and shaping music is thematic to the novel. "The sounds of arrival and departure were always the same: straps slapping against metal, engines starting, tripods folding, the slides and bolts of weapons exercised after oiling, commands shouted, and upon leaving, the blast of a whistle followed by the revving of engines as the vehicles rolled off." One of the hardest parts of writing about music is that the novel lacks the ability to hear music directly. And writers then have to spend time describing the nature of the music without hearing it. While this novel deals with the essence of music, it doesn't stumble with long expositions about music, in fact - like his description, he turns troop movements, thunderstorms, and cafes into music that inspires the sounds of the music.

This novel is based on the later years of an older man - a many with years of experience and vision. When his daughter thinks he is getting senile because he can't remember the name of a film, he argues, "You learn to see with your emotions and feel with your reason. If at its end the life you're living takes on the attributes of art, it doesn't matter if you've forgotten where you put your reading glasses."

This novel is a very human, a very stunning testament to the complexities of living a full and meaningful life. Even with the best intentions, the world has different plans. This novel is about hope, love, and value in our personal history. It is a rare idea so elegantly placed in a contemporary novel.
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The Hollihock Writers Conference / August 25-27

The Hollihock Writers Conference will be held on August 25-27. It is a three-day immersive event meant to write, inspire, educate, and network with the writers, educators, publishers, and other writing community. This event is for all kinds of writers from new writers to published professionals looking to network. This year's keynote speakers will be Jabari Asim and Ken Liu.

This year I will be presenting on Experimental Novel on Sunday. This is a great opportunity that won't break the bank. All weekend tickets are only $69 -- which doesn't include lodging. Hotels and accommodations nearby make this a great space for new writers to meet and connect with a writing community. Check out their website and make plans.  




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