Monthly Archives: April 2012
It isn’t difficult to describe what something looks or sounds like, but often it’s hard to write about all five senses. Perhaps we leave out taste, touch and smell a bit too often in our narratives. Let’s not do that anymore, shall we?
This week I’m going to blog about writing about the senses. I’ll start with the most underused, but possibly the most important sense: the sense of smell.
However, I’m not actually going to WRITE about any of these smells. I’m merely going to picture the olfactory objects here, and invite ALL OF YOU to pick one or more and write about it in a reply back to me.
Here we go. I only wish your computer came with a smell-o-matic app – or a scratch-n-sniff screen.
1. Honeysuckle: (I started with that since I’m smelling it right now to the left of my porch)
2. Baking Bread
3. Wood Smoke
5. Freshly-mowed Lawn (one of my favorites, actually)
6: Ocean Surf
8. Old Spice Aftershave (Original)
10: Asphalt in the Rain
Have fun! Happy smelling!
Speaking of falling in love with fictional characters . . . next on my list is Mr. Darcy, I mean Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen. I wrote a fantastic paper my junior year of college on how (in the novel, though not the films) Elizabeth Bennett didn’t really fall in love with Mr. Darcy until she saw Pemberly. But then, who wouldn’t fall in love with Pemberly?
I remember back in 1997, I heard about this children’s book author whose first book was starting to climb the charts over in the UK and was making its way over to the US. At the time, I thought, hmm, that sounds like a pretty cool idea. I may have to pick that up. I did. I am forever indebted to J.K. Rowling for attracting a whole new generation of young people to books. Now my daughter has read them all, as well. Expecto Patronum!
I have fond memories of my mother-in-law, Lynn, who sadly passed away while I was expecting her second grandchild. I used to call her at least once a week, more often while she was sick and going through chemo. One of the things we always talked about were books. She asked me if I had read The Da Vinci Code and what I had thought about it. I went right out and purchased it and was hooked. Sensationalistic or not, Dan Brown’s writing is gripping, adventurous, and laced with detail. I especially liked how well he described Paris and London. My mind’s eye revisited every location and raced alongside Sophie and Robert on their modern-day quest.
And now for my further homage to popular young adult literature:
I already told you how much I loved Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone, but what profoundly affected me was how much J.K. Rowling matured her characters from book to book, as if they were real people growing up. The Order of the Phoenix absolutely and profoundly affected me at the end, when Harry and Dumbledore have their coming-of-age discussion. It was hard to read the words through my tears. The same is true of the end of The Half Blood Prince and the last couple of chapters of The Deathly Hallows. Amazing.
Before Twilight and The Hunger Games became the huge entities that they are, I picked both of these series up and swallowed them whole, and then shared them with my husband, who also devoured them. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, both Stephenie Meyer and Suzanne Collins have, like J.K. Rowling, done a great job pushing past the barriers of young adult fiction and garnered an impressive adult audience.
Please don’t punish me for lumping these two series together. I know that they are far different creatures from each other. However, they both hold similar places in my heart . . . and apparently in the young adult book & movie market.
Before there was True Blood on HBO, there were Charlaine Harris’ adroitly written Southern supernatural Sookie Stackhouse series. As much as I love True Blood, I gotta say, the books are far better. They may not have quite as much language and sex, but they have their share. More importantly, though, they have heart. Quite a bit of it, actually. And they’re funny in all the right places. I think Ms. Harris sets the gold standard for “rural” fantasy; I can’t really call it “urban” fantasy since most of the stories take place in sleepy little Bon Temps.
Now, if you actually want URBAN fantasy, there is none better than Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. These books made me fall in love with Chicago (somehow) and wish that there really were passageways to the nevernever, and a certain “other wizard named Harry” in the Chicago area phone book who also works as a P.I. Hard boiled and fun, gritty and dangerous: Harry Dresden and friends – and enemies, for that matter – NEVER disappoint!
I flat-out never liked romances, especially historical romances, until something compelled me to pick up Madeline Hunter’s The Saint. Since then, I’ve read ALL (every last one) of her books. Ms. Hunter can write the romance and the passion with the best of them, but her more important gifts are two-fold: her devastating attention to historical period detail, and the characterization of her male heroes. They are men of their times, and demonstrate the values and mores of their times, while still granting readers the tall, dark and handsome flawed beauty they crave.
My mother also recommended an incredible book to me, actually a book series. For those of you who like historical mysteries, this is a special treat. It is feminist in its leanings, though not doggedly-so. Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs’ series pairs investigation with psychology and adds in quite a bit of intuition. This series reads like a tragedy in a lot of ways, as well, since all of the characters, including Maisie herself, have been shell-shocked by World War I. As the series progresses, Maisie sees the climate shift as her beloved Britain heads its way, no turning back, into World War II. And between these two cataclysms, Maisie must find her way, on extremely uneven footing, as the brilliant daughter of a green grocer, a downstairs servant, who has, inexplicably, risen to the upstairs world.
Who doesn’t love Sherlock Holmes? Who doesn’t wish that he could have found a life-mate, other than Watson, who could match him, wit for wit? It may seem incredible, but Laurie R. King did this when she created Holmes’ protegee, Mary Russell. These books are delicious, and, like Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs’ series, have a feminist slant. Ms. Russell is not afraid to wear the pants, do the hard work, and even cut her long blond locks, should the case warrant it. With the added flavors of religion, languages and exotic locales, these new Holmes mysteries, took my breath away. I put away my constant yen for science fiction because of these mysteries. Now the first area of the bookstore I head for is the mystery section.
But I owe my love of a good and solid female protagonist, always and forever, to Marion Zimmer Bradley, whose classic The Mists of Avalon, I discovered while I was in graduate school. I have always loved the Arthurian legends, but this re imagining of Morgaine, not as the vixen villain, but as the lonely and misunderstood heroine, made me yearn for still more novels that allowed women to leave their pedestals, leave their second-class status, and take a more active role in the world, in history, in magic, and in life.
Yes, there have been many, many more books that have shaped me in some way over the years, but these are the ones I call to mind the most often. Thank you, authors, for providing me with such a range of intellectual growth and emotion. I can only repay you by doing my best to write novels that affect someone else in the way you’ve affected me.
How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book. ~Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Can you date new eras in your life based on pivotal books? I can. In fact, I could go on and on, so I’ll break this into two posts. One today and one tomorrow.
Here is elementary to senior year of high school . . . If you don’t want to read my explanations, that’s fine, but enjoy the covers. I tried to find the ones that I owned/borrowed/read wherever possible. There are links to more information about the books themselves, in case you are interested in any of them!
Kipling’s Just So Stories: I used to be put to bed at 8:00 every night, without fail – regardless of the time of year. This annoyed me – especially in the summertime. I began reading to myself at this point by the waning light of the sun streaming into my window from the West. I remember one of the first books I enjoyed during this time was Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. I was around 7 or 8.
Keene’s Nancy Drew & The Triple Hoax: I read all of the Nancy Drew paperbacks from #57-#83, until I grew out of them. It crushed me a little later in life to realize that “Caroline Keene” didn’t really exist, that “she” wasn’t a she – or not a single female author, anyway, but a series of men and women ghostwriters. But I got over it, and I’ve loved mysteries ever since. I was between 8 and 11 while reading these.
Murdock’s Web of the Romulans: My brothers knew I was a Star Trek addict, despite having only watched these shows in re-run (I was too young, of course, to catch them during their original airings.) One Christmas, one of my brothers gave me a Star Trek novel. I had NO IDEA that there were such things! Thus began my intense love of reading science fiction. This was also my first “adult” book – meaning, not a children’s or young adult book. I was probably around 11 when I read it.
L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time: To be honest, I can’t recall when I first read this extremely pivotal book, but, since I’ve read it probably twenty times since, it scarcely matters. This book is amazing in every possible way. I recommend it to all – young and old. My senior high school English teacher told me that she read it first when she was thirty years old, and she read it again each year afterwards, and found something new in it each time. I couldn’t agree more.
Shakespeare’s Hamlet: Prince of Denmark: Hands down my favorite Shakespeare play. Why? Probably because when I first read it back in high school, I could somehow relate to the prince’s angst and tendency to over think things to the point of inaction. I’ve since changed. Now I tend to act before I think. Whoops.
Stoppard’s Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead: High school, senior year – a companion piece of Hamlet, of course. Once my novel, The Time Minders, makes it big, you will appreciate two of my villains of the book, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who are equal parts the R & G of Shakespeare & Stoppard, with Agent Smith of The Matrix thrown in for good measure. But R & G are Dead introduced me to farcical literature, and it’s one of the best in that sub-genre.
Herbert’s Dune: Again, this is one of those books that I’ve reread so many times, I no longer recall exactly when I read it the first time. High school, but not sure when. I reread it once a year. It is the gold-standard for sci-fi world-building. My favorite scene in it is when Paul runs into Gurney again after years of being presumed dead. Beautiful.
Hambly’s Those Who Hunt the Night: If you haven’t read this vampire novel, do it. It is intelligent, historically-informative, and not at all oversexed or glittery. (I do like me some glittery vampires, but I fell in love with Don Simon Ysidro before I ever met Edward Cullen.)
Golding’s Lord of the Flies: If you think The Hunger Games is harsh, you haven’t read anything yet! Check out this classic; it’ll chill you to the bone. And, you won’t turn your back on a group of manic teenagers ever again, that’s for sure. Read this one senior year: what a send-off, I’ll tell you.
Following yesterday’s odd stream-of-consciousness post, I thought I’d continue the theme, but make it shorter and more colorful.
So here it is:
My husband travels a lot. He collects toiletries and various sundries from the hotel rooms and suites in which he stays. He’s stayed at suites with kitchenettes quite a bit lately, and brings back his used and unused dish detergents. He lines them up on our kitchen windowsill.
I call this picture “Palmolivia.” It is fascinating because I had no idea that the original formula of Palmolive came in three distinctly different colors. Who knew?
As the Jamaican man walks by the coffee shop, his dreads piled in a huge coil underneath his Rastafarian hat, with his entourage of alternative high school students, I sit here blogging, listening to the discussion of today’s news by the locals. They read the hard copy newspapers. I get my news from Yahoo and Twitter. We are of a vastly different generation.
I am intrigued by the news of the lady who gave a kidney to save her boss and then was fired by that same boss. I tweeted, “No, I don’t want the job, but I’ll take my kidney back” along with the link to that article. Hope it entertains. I’ll tell you what that kind of news story DOES do, it reinforces a rather nasty commentary on humanity, that’s what it does. But I would be the first to admit that I would be vastly amused were this woman to sue to get her kidney back. Now THAT would be a news story. Heck, that would be an awesome story. I think I’ll write it down.
Don’t any of you steal it; I came up with the idea first, okay!
So what else is happening in my sunny corner of the world, here, across the railroad tracks?
As I consider ordering a BLT, because another customer ordered one, and the smell of bacon is like crack to me, I wonder about myself. I wonder what my future has in store. I feel hopeful about things. I feel thankful about much more. I have the American dream, unlike so many people. I thank God for the love and health of my family, as well as the beautiful roof my husband keeps over my head, the yummy food I enjoy, the education I have achieved. I thank God for the opportunity to pursue a writing career at my age. No, I’m not terribly old, but I found it impossible to do while I was working full-time. Now that I’m not, I have the time to write, to volunteer for worthwhile projects at my daughters’ school and at my church. I am lucky, indeed.
I think I probably will get the BLT.
I am going to have to start phase two of my personal betterment project. In addition to writing a lot, volunteering a lot, and beginning to tackle the mountains of laundry that have overtaken my house, the next step in my life is to add to my physical health. I am sedentary and way-too overweight.
Maybe I won’t get the BLT.
Or maybe I’ll get the BLT and take a long walk to work it off.
I tell you what I probably won’t do. I probably won’t give my boss a kidney. That would be problematic, since I work for myself at this juncture .
Have a nice Tuesday, everybody.
Some of you know that I am the Youth Leader for our church’s youth group. We’re going on a mission trip in June, and we need funding. So, our main fundraiser starts tomorrow: a silent auction. We’ve been busy collecting donated items.
Absolutely my FAVORITE ITEM is, hands down, the above “Zombie Apocalypse Survival Kit” shown above. Can’t get any more churchy than that, can ya?
And yes, you can tell I’m all about books, since I based three separate silent auction theme packs around books. We’ve got the zombie one. We’ve got a Titanic 100th themed one, and we’ve got an awesome “beach reads” bag.
It’s gonna be epic, I tell you. Epic!
And, in organizing all of this, I’ve been crazy-busy. But I’ll keep you all updated about how the auction goes. Oh, and, if any of you are interested in bidding, please let me know. I can be your proxy!
My novel, The Time Minders, is (mostly) set in the fictional Midwestern college town of Fontaine, where my young time traveling secret agents go to school. [yep, time traveling secret agents]
Those of you who went to college with me, if you were to read the book, will sense a definite familiarity about the place.
And you will know the town that inspired it . . .
It’s beautiful, isn’t it?
This entertained me so much that I felt the need to share it with you. I will preface it only with a brief political snippet.
On May 8th, in the state of North Carolina, there will be on the ballot a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment that would define marriage in our state as the legal union between one man and one woman. There are signs up all over the place either promoting or denouncing this amendment. In fact, one entire church denomination has taken it upon itself to advertise its merit on every single one of its marquees. (Not my denomination, however.)
Anyhow, a friend of mine posted this on Facebook earlier tonight.
You just can’t make up dialogue this good. I hope you enjoy.
Caller: May I please speak with the Male Head of Household?
My friend: I beg your pardon?
Caller: I am calling from the ______ Research Group…. I need to speak with the male head of household.
My friend: Well, sir, you just called a lesbian household, and the only male here is a cat. I doubt you’ll get many answers from him!
Caller: OH MY – I’m really sorry – I hope I didn’t offend….
My friend: Are you in NC?
My friend: PLEASE VOTE NO TO THE AMENDMENT IN MAY!