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Writing Bliss

"If they do not write the kind of books we want to read, we shall have to write them ourselves." -C.S. Lewis

Month

June 2016

Visual Writing

A few years ago, I started doing “visual exercises” where I took an image and created a scene with it.  I want to get back into doing that for two reasons:

  1. The last time I did these, one post inspired me to write my first fantasy novel, which I’m trying to finish this year.  Maybe doing some more will inspire me further.
  2. It serves as writing prompts, which keeps my creative juices flowing.

I love the image I’m going to use today.  The town reminds me of Bree from Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings films, but the hanging man reminds me of something you’d find in a Game of Thrones episode.  Let’s see where this image takes me today.

The Cursed Land

hangingman

Grayson did not want to be here.  This place was cursed, for sure.  Perhaps at one point in history this place was a thriving street market, complete with food carts and wagons from the outlying farms.  Today it was a ghost town; a dark, wet, depressing ghost town.  Every step he took led his boots through a sloshing mud puddle.  He looked up toward the castle on the sharp, jagged rocks staring down on the village.  The look of it made him shiver as he pulled his black cloak hood over his head.  He stepped out of the shadows and rounded the corner to be faced with a grim sight.  Straight ahead hanging high above the street was the body of a man, flayed, beaten, and already torn apart by the crows, and his arms and neck were wrapped in chains.  Grayson stopped dead in his tracks, stunned by the image.  He had never seen a dead man before.

“Oiright, lad!” A booming voice greeted him from the doorway of one of the village shops. “Lost your way, have you?”

Grayson pulled his collar up around his neck to hide the colors of his garments and pulled tighter on the hood.  Though no one would recognize his face here, he could not risk that they would guess he was from another kingdom.  He walked away quickly before the man could shout at him again, the hanging man swinging in his chains and the crows shouting at one another above.

As he ducked into another alley, he almost tripped over a rat scurrying away from the street.  No matter how hard he tried, he could not get the image of the hanging man out of his head.  The vivid sight, he was sure of it, would haunt his dreams for at least a few nights.  This was a much more dreary place than he originally thought.  The king more devious and dangerous.  Perhaps this meant the king was loosing his head and making rash decisions, like flaying his people and hanging them in the street.  Perhaps this was what he had wanted to do all along in Grayson’s kingdom, but was never given the opportunity.

Whatever the reason, Lord Grayson of Brendt House was here on a mission, and he could not cause himself to lose sight of that mission.  He was on a mission for his Queen, and she would have the answers she required of him, no matter what the cost.

Book Review: Greenglass House by Kate Milford

greenglasshouse

This book made it onto the Battle of the Books list for 2016-2017 in North Carolina and I absolutely loved the cover. Yes, I judged a book by its cover. This book was adorable and I loved it. The main character is an adopted boy and of course, I took a liking to him straight away for that. Milo is Chinese so every time people look at him with his family, they already know he’s different. I never had to deal with that, but I can certainly see how that could be conflicting for a young child. He is a relatively boring child, if I’m not being too harsh, but that all changes when he meets Meddy, the cook’s daughter, at the beginning of what he’s hoping will be an uneventful Christmas break. A bunch of random, mysterious guests arrive who all have connections to the inn that Milo’s parents run at Greenglass House. Meddy is an adventurous child and forces Milo to use his imagination in order to play with her. Together they discover secrets of the house and its guests, and they also put their nose to the ground to try and recover lost items that go missing from the guests. From the very beginning this book hooked me into the plot. It was almost like a kid’s version of Clue, trying to figure out who is who in the house, how they’re connected to it, who stole what from whom, and how to catch them.

The message in this story was very heart-warming as well. Adopted kids, even kids like me and Milo who were adopted as infants and never met their birth families, are always going to be curious about their biological families. But family is not defined by DNA. It is defined by love and that is the lesson that Milo learns. This book is on the middle school list but I recommend it to anyone who loves an adventure and imagination.

A Themed Book Club

coffeeandbooks

Have you ever been a part of a book club? Typically, everyone in the group reads the same book and then get together to discuss it. I find this boring. I mean, if I was a part of a group where every member enjoyed the same types of books as me, then I guess it would be that bad. Read The Hobbit this month, read Harry Potter the next month, then let’s read Game of Thrones. I could get used to that. Not only is that type of group incredibly hard to find, it is also very limiting. You’re limited to what interests you. That sounds strange coming from a person who insists that teachers should let students choose what they want to read and they might like reading better, but hear me out. You can choose to read what you like even in a genre that you would normally not read.

At the Iredell County Public Library this past January I started a new type of book club with a co-worker of mine and I AM LOVING IT! The College, Career, and Coffee Book Club is geared toward the younger generation of up and coming college students, career driven young adults, busy middle-aged working class, and of course, the coffee addicted. This isn’t your mom’s book club where you are forced to read “To Kill A Mockingbird” for the hundredth time (though you are not barred from reading it). Here, we choose a theme each month and you can read whatever you like pertaining to that theme.

January we started New Year New You. I encouraged people to read something that they normally would not read. I chose a biography of Anne Perry, the mystery writer and subject of the Peter Jackson film Heavenly Creatures, on a friend’s recommendation. I’ve never read Anne Perry before, nor have I seen the film. I picked up the book and read it anyways, and I found it very intriguing. Someone else read “Pretty Girls” by Karin Slaughter on my recommendation even though the person usually does not read suspense/thrillers. February was Love At First Bite month and we read vampire books. March was Page to Screen in honor of the Oscars, where we were also challenged to watch the film of the book we read and compare the two. In April we read Civil War books in honor of Confederate History Month and we discussed many controversial topics in addition to the books we read. For National Pet Month in May we read pet stories which is always a favorite. For this year’s Summer Reading theme of sports and healthy living, we are reading fitness, exercise, sport-related books for the month of June.

The CCC Book Club is something different and I welcome that! Libraries are constantly having to adapt to technology, changing trends, and evolving young generations. This has been a great way to bridge the gap between age groups and come up with something fun for adults. The best part is that by reading different books, there is no end to recommendations from people in the group. Everyone is reading something different! If you don’t already have a program like this at your local library, I highly recommend that you suggest it. This is one of the most fun groups I’ve been a part of and I’m so proud to say I helped create it.

Shifting Alliances in Reading

[WARNING: Game of Thrones SPOILERS are in this post, so only continue reading if you are caught up in the books and the show.]

This is a post relating specifically to Game of Thrones, but generally to any story long enough to expose its readers to multiple characters in various different lights. I have been thinking a great deal, in light of the unfolding of Season 6 of the HBO show and my re-reading of the first book, that my alliance as a reader has shifted a great many times. Obviously, there are two reasons for this:

  1. The story is long enough, presumably a series, that readers are exposed to several perspectives and a series of events that have changed their opinions of certain characters and
  2. The author is a good enough writer that readers are compelled to follow their lead from one opinion to the other.

Take for example, Jaime and Cersei Lannister (the former more so than the latter). Fans of the books and show will see this image

Jaime-Lannister-first-season

and cringe with fear and writhe with anger because you know this is the scene that Jaime Lannister shoves his dagger through Jory Cassel’s eye, eliminating Ned Stark’s Captain of the Guard. This is after he pushes Bran Stark, a mere boy of 7, out of a window for discovering his secret affair with his twin sister, paralyzing the boy. Suffice it say, at this point in the show, you are NOT a fan of Jaime Lannister. If he met some ill fate worse than Jory’s, you would only welcome it. I know I said as much. In fact, come Season 2, this scene

jaimeseason2

is incredibly uplifting. He’s a prisoner! Of Robb Stark’s! This story is going exactly how I wanted it to! It gets only better when he loses a hand in subsequent episodes from some outlaws. From your perspective as a reader and a viewer, things are going swimmingly and you are happy with where Jaime ends up at the end of Season 2.

Now think of this. If you’re watching Season 6, this sight

jaimeseason6

is glorious! Jaime riding to the defense of Queen Margery. If nothing else, he is standing against religious radicalism and a government ruled by a nut-job who doesn’t wear shoes and thinks justice is stripping people naked and parading them through the street like cattle to be spit upon and have feces flung at them.

Wait. What just happened? We were just talking about how happy we were to see Jaime in chains and without a hand and now we are applauding his triumphant entry on the screen? We’re treating him as a hero?? This is where perspective comes in.

Just for fun, and a less dramatic example, let’s look at Cersei. Here she is in Season 1,

cerseiseason1

insisting that a direwolf pay for the “suffering” of her son. Nevermind that the wolf who ends up headless had NOTHING to do with the incident in question. As an animal lover, I wanted to chop HER head off. Following this, and other unfortunate incidents involving this sour queen, I welcomed this scene,

cersei-purple-wedding

especially after the Red Wedding. Joffrey dying at his own wedding with Cersei there to cradle him in his final moments…just beautiful. Best part of the show up to that point. I’m serious, the emotions that George R.R. Martin is able to invoke in this series is striking. So much hate, FOR FICTIONAL CHARACTERS! Anyway, by the time we get to this scene,

cerseiWalkOfAtonement

I’ve softened toward her a bit. A BIT! Calm down, I didn’t say I liked her. Cersei’s transformation is not nearly as clean as Jaime’s, and even his is still shaky at times. But let’s face it, this scene

cerseimyrcella

is slightly pitiful. A fallen queen with no power who has just been humiliated in front of the whole city is now barred from attending her own daughter’s funeral, the second child she has had to bury?? Come on, we’re not that heartless. On some level we feel for her. Yes her children were the bastards of incest, but Myrcella was an innocent victim in the game of thrones.

The point of this long post is to say that as we progress through this series, our opinions and emotions change. In the books, it may be in part due to the fact that Jaime and Cersei begin receiving their own POV chapters starting in books three and four, respectively. POV has a lot to do with how we view a character. The narrator is that character and you are inside their mind, not simply seeing events unfold through someone else’s eyes. Granted, if Bran’s fall had been told through the perspective of either twin, I still think we’d want them dead, but wouldn’t we see the scene differently? We’d see a different motive.

As a writer, I am challenged by this. Even if I don’t write a chapter from the perspective of all my characters, I am at least interested in writing a backstory or maybe even a chapter for my own benefit. Slip into the mind of all your characters, so that when they are featured in your book, you understand them, even if your audience does not. It’s up to you whether or not you reveal those perspectives, but it seems to have worked for George R.R. Martin. I look forward to seeing what else this series had in store…..Well, maybe not…

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