What I’m Reading

pendragon book I

Pendragon  Book One: The Merchant of Death

by D.J. MacHale, Simon & Schuster, 2002.

In preparation for the sci-fi/fantasy workshop* I’m co-teaching this summer, I’ve been reading middle grade books in those genres.  From the first page of MacHale’s series, I knew what was coming:

…two things happened yesterday that changed my life forever.  The first was that I finally kissed Courtney Chetwynde…

The second thing was that I was launched through a wormhole called a “flume” and got jacked across the universe to a medieval planet called “Denduron” that’s in the middle of a violent civil war.

Reading this book as a writer, I was impressed with how much information MacHale packed into half a page.  We get the voice of the narrator, Bobby Pendragon, his approximate age, and the problem he’s going to face.  From the first page to the end, it’s one close call after another.

MacHale’s used an interesting plot device by alternating a third-person narrator recounting the events that Bobby’s two friends experience with Bobby’s first-person account in his journal.

For me, The Merchant of Death wasn’t a “can’t put it down” read, but it was good enough to keep me going to the end.

Warriors 4th Apprentice

Omen of the Stars   Warriors: The Fourth Apprentice

by Erin Hunter, Harper, 2009

By contrast, I ditched the Warrior cats book during the first chapter.  Maybe I’m suffering from an aging memory, and that’s the reason I gave up on this book.  Author Hunter threw so many new names at me that I became irritated.  Perhaps she was assuming that the reader (me) had read the previous series.  I hadn’t.  As a writer of a fantasy series, I’ve thought about this, and, in my case, I don’t expect the reader to know what came before.  A couple of sentences of backstory are helpful, and don’t slow things down too much.

Hunter has written several of these Warrior Cat series.  I don’t know how she keeps all the cats straight in her mind.  Admittedly, in the beginning pages, she provides a list of all the clan members and a description of each.  Even so, it would strain my reader brain to remember the differences among Briarpaw, Blossompaw, and Bumblepaw.

I did like that she included two maps.  For my own Karakesh Chronicles, I found that a map was necessary to gauge distances and directions.

Sometime this spring, the third book of the Karakesh Chronicles, Awakening Magic, will be published.  It’s my favorite of the five and will be available online at Amazon.com and Handersen Publishing.

 

*Hudson Valley Writing Project, SUNY New Paltz, Youth Writing Camp

https://www.newpaltz.edu/hvwp/summercamps/

 

 

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Rosy Sky

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This morning I watched the sky blush at sunrise.  Buddha wore a cloak of snow and a jaunty hat.  The deer we saw the first week we moved in seem to have retreated to the woods on the other side of the complex.  I saw one lone bird–a nuthatch perhaps–on a distant tree trunk.  Otherwise, it was all stillness.

 

 

 

 

The Closet Door

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The couple who bought our house doesn’t have kids.  Maybe that’s why they chose to paint the closet door, our family growth chart that spanned twenty-five years.  To their credit, the Mrs. sent a message through our realtor: Did I want to take a photo of the door before she painted?

I already had. Nevertheless, it was a thoughtful gesture.

But I still felt sad.  Sad that the record of the kids would be erased.  Just last summer, I had added our two granddaughters and their cousin, marking their heights with pencil as they stood as tall as possible.

If I had bought a house with a marked up closet door, would I have done the same?  Or would I have studied the names, and mused over them.  Those faint pencil scratches represent noisy, busy kids, who crashed down the stairs, slid on the bamboo floors.  Argued, laughed a lot, left wet towels on the wooden chairs, claimed the last piece of leftover pizza.  One slept on the floor with his head in the closet.  One wrapped twinkle lights in her iron bedstead.

I think I would have left it untouched.

Wondrous Wicked Winter

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Last night I slipped on the ice.  The sidewalk in front of the library parking lot was unnavigable, so we walked in the street.  Neither of us was wearing white.  The cars’ headlights reflected off the patches of ice, showing us where it was unsafe to step.

When I fell, I banged a knee, and caught myself on my palm.  The sore knee didn’t last for long.  I was lucky.  This is the weather of broken bones.

That’s the wicked part.

Wondrous is the excuse to stay indoors.  Prevented from going anywhere by ice, snow, and single-digit temperatures, I’m allowed to slow down, to write a bit, quilt those pillow covers, and even do nothing much.

Meals tend toward comfort foods, root soups, polenta.  Why not oatmeal for dinner?  Hot applesauce.  And many cups of chai.

Wondrous, wicked, and waiting for spring.

 

What I’m Reading

Eleanor and Park

                                          eleanor and park

by Rainbow Rowell

St. Martin’s Griffin, NY 2013

2014 Michael L. Printz Honor Book

What a poignant, sweet love story between two high school students.  Eleanor considers herself a misfit: she’s too fat and she has curly, red hair.  She wears the clothes she and her mother scrounge from thrift shops, and her real father’s left-overs.  She lives with her mother, step-father, and her younger siblings.  Money is scarce and step-father Richie is scary.

Park’s mother is Korean.  His father is a white American veteran. Park seems to be a misfit in his own family. When, on the first day of school, Park reluctantly offers Eleanor a seat on the bus, a seed is planted.  The two bond over Park’s comic books, and music.  Their relationship blossoms.  Eleanor tries to conceal her home life from Park.  Eventually, though…I won’t tell you more.

In searching for a copy of the book’s cover, I discovered a wealth of images and fan art.  Apparently Eleanor and Park is a popular novel, as well as a prizewinner.  Rainbow Rowell also writes The Runaways comic books for Marvel.

Read this one, if you haven’t already.  It’s really good.

 

Saying Farewell

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Bye-bye chairs…

A local family came to get our living room chairs.  As I watched the truck pull out of the driveway, I reflected on how such objects, generally considered inanimate, can have an energy and feel of their own.  Is it we humans who anthropomorphize these possessions, or do they really acquire a personality? As someone who writes novels about faeries and talking beasts, I tend to believe the latter.

One of those chairs served as my meditation chair for a few years.  According to some spiritual traditions, the seat on which one meditates absorbs the “chi” or “shakti,” the spiritual energy of a the meditator.  I wonder if the next owners might unconsciously, or even consciously, be aware of the “vibe.”

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Yesterday, a really nice guy, who is also a vintage Thunderbird freak, bought the last of the T-bird parts Pat had been hoarding to rebuild his 1955 Thunderbird.  There passed on the final remnants of a long-held dream, another difficult thing to let go.

Such is the realization of aging: that there are certain skills, dreams, and plans that won’t be accomplished in this lifetime.  I’ve let go of instruments I will not learn to play, instruction manuals I will not study, journals I’ve written but won’t read again.

The Habitat for Humanity Restore, and the Recycling Center in New Paltz, accepted big and small donations, from our motley collection of garden tools, to our comfy leather sofa that won’t fit in the new home.

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And I said a heartache filled farewell to the glider chair where my daughter and I rocked the baby girls.

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But—since we’ve got a third grandbaby coming soon, I’ve promised myself another rocker.

So it continues, letting go, lightening up, and moving on.

 

 

Angel Helpers

Moving, Part II

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I’m facing scenes like the above every day.  And you’re looking at stuff that isn’t coming to the new place.

At times, I drift around the house, scanning shelves and closets, wondering how to make less, and where it’s going to go.  It’s an overwhelming task.

But angels have appeared.

There’s the couple, handyman extraordinaire and his landscaper wife, who have painted and repaired and planted.

There’s the good-natured man who came to pick up scrap metal, and has been back to take loads to the dump, and drive heavy machinery to the storage unit.

There are the T-bird aficionados in North Carolina, who delight in relieving us of car and car parts.

And the friends who shlep bins to the storage unit, and others who offer to pack us up for moving day.

And of course, husband Pat, who lifts and carries and solves problems.

So even though the children are far away, three in Australia, and four in Vienna this Thanksgiving, I find much to be thankful for.

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Anybody need some gardening tools?