Friday, April 16, 2021

M is for Mark and Jeff and Darren

Those three names go together in that order, with that number of ands between them. Mark and Jeff and Darren. Any other combo would not mean the same people.

It all begins with a high school guidance counsellor, a beleaguered drama director, and a little class called Theater Design. My high school didn't have study halls, so in the absence of any other classes, my guidance counsellor suggested that Kara and I would love theater design.

Theater Design was held in the auditorium, and our purpose was to design the sets for the plays the drama department put on. The curriculum was sporadic at best. The class was filled with a group of people who actually enjoyed set building and it was also filled with a bunch of basketball and baseball players. And Kara and me.

Mark and Jeff and Darren were baseball players, and they hadn't earned their name placement yet. At this point they were still just part of the larger group. We spent most of our time in the front of the back section of theater seats. Occasionally we were given jobs painting and drilling things on the stage, but that was just a distraction from the more important work of chatting. 

Kara was a huge believer in keeping busy, so she and I spent out of school time either walking or attending all these boys' games. When colleges were picked, Kara, Mark, Jeff and Darren all picked a tiny little school I'd never heard of called Snow College. My dream of attending BYU suddenly seemed like a lonely one, so I followed them. 

Mark and Jeff were in line to be valedictorians of our high school, at least until an A- in theater design crushed that dream. I was indignant on Mark's behalf (he was ahead of Jeff GPA wise), but he didn't seem too bothered. 

I don't have a lot of fully formed memories of high school (except for the day my science teacher forgot to throw away the dissected frogs over a five day weekend. That next day is seared into my memory), but I remember so many things about Theater Design--Collin hitting a golf ball that was being used as a prop up into the lights; Jeff singing Penny Lane while he and I straightened the large dressing room; me awkwardly trying to join in a discussion of football that I didn't belong in; some guy whose name I don't recall at the moment hitting another girl with a 2x4 when she wanted to join our group and thought the best way to do it was to pretend to hit Kara with a 2x4; having to decide if I was going to go along with the crowd at ignoring that girl for the rest of the year... fun times. 

But there was one life-changing moment that happened to me in Theater Design. I was a pretty classic underachiever, and we were all sitting around, talking about our ACT scores, and I had done really well. My math score was significantly lower than my other scores, and I hadn't realized that it was still a decent score, until rather late in the conversation. The way I remember it, Jeff turned to me and said, "You make me so mad." Honestly, I was stunned that I was important enough in his life to even cause an emotion, so I thought he was kidding at first. But he meant it. He said, "I work so hard to get good grades. You're so smart and you could do so many things, and you are just wasting it. You're better than this, Melanie. Do something with your brain." I believe Mark might have joined into the conversation and agreed with Jeff, but it's honestly a bit of a blur after that. It took a while before that conversation bore fruit, but it did. 

Perhaps these three will turn up in later stories, because it wasn't the last time Jeff said things that changed the course of my life. You'll have to come back to find out.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

K is for Kara

 If I'd started writing stories of my life with J, I would have been hard-pressed to choose. So many important people in my life have a first name that starts with J, including my first best friend, Janna. I think we became best friends in 4th grade, and it continued through middle school. But by high school, our friendship had kind of faded. I don't know why. I guess friendships do that sometimes. We've recently gotten back in touch with each other and now belong to the same book club. It's very nice.

I didn't really hang out with anybody my freshman year of high school, and I remember my mom telling me that she was praying that I would find a friend. So I think my mom prayed Kara into my life. She moved to Utah from Colorado, and she went to my high school and to my church, and she only lived a couple of streets from me. We met at church, and I hoped we would be friends, but I wasn't sure it was going to happen yet. 

My dad had season passes to BYU football, and he suggested I invite Kara to a game. I wanted to. I really did. But I had a HORROR about rejection--I have stories about the lengths I took to avoid it, but I did NOT want to call and invite Kara to that football game. My parents put their collective foot down. (My dad's a large man, and maybe that's why he did better at putting his foot down then I've ever done as a parent myself). I cried, and I raged, and I had a full-blown anxiety attack, but eventually I called and asked Kara to go to a football game with me and my dad.

The game was fun. We became best friends. We spent all our free time together. We went to college together, and then worked at Bryce Canyon together, and then went to ANOTHER college together. She came and lived with me while I worked on my master's degree. We lived together for six years, and then she got married, and our friendship faded. I don't know why. I guess friendships do that sometimes. It still makes me sad sometimes. 

L is for Loyalty

 I'm switching it up...I might be a writer, but I'm a terrible storyteller when it comes to true stories. One of my goals this year is to try to learn to tell stories from my life, so the rest of the A-Z challenge will do just that.

When I was in college, I was a deep-in-the-dark closet commitment-phobe. I was so deep in the dark that I didn't know it about myself until years later. As a result I tended to like men who were also commitment-shy. Before the time of this story, loyalty was pretty scarce on the ground. Even at the time this story begins, I was only kinda-sorta dating, while simultaneously never going on a date with, a guy who had a girl back home. Chad is a good guy, and this girl and I both knew about each other. It was as close to a real relationship as I knew how to get. 

I was a sophomore at Southern Utah University, and I lived on-campus at Manzanita Hall, top floor on the farthest building to the right. I'd met Chad playing pool at the student center. He lived at .... oh geez, I just had it a minute ago... anyway, my dorms had kitchens, but he lived at the other place, the one
where you eat on campus... and his Hall had a hot tub. One evening I was in the hot tub with Chad and several of his friends. I was the only girl in the hot tub, so of course a lot of people were paying attention to me, because I was the best looking girl in the hot tub.

I'm a Lydia Bennett sort of girl, so I was having a good time. At the other end of the hot tub was a good-looking guy I'd never seen before, talking with his friends. He kept looking over at me approvingly, and it was pleasantly flustering. If you are wondering how to get men interested in you, here's the trick: I don't know how to get the first one interested, but once you've got one, it's like a snowball rolling downhill, and pretty soon you've got more than you know what to do with. (at least 1990s men, perhaps men today are different). 

We made small talk, and it was strange, having Chad there, definitely acting boyfriend-like, but apparently not enough that anyone but me noticed, and to have this other guy's group merge in with our group for the sole purpose of flirting with me, and yet I was the only one who noticed. 

After I'd gotten out of the hot tub and geez, I don't remember for sure, but I'd like to think that I'd gotten some sort of covering on, I remember one of Chad's friends sweeping me off my feet like the finale of a dance number. Cameras may have been involved. That stands out in my memory, because this guy was large, and had never acted like that before, and because this other guy was still looking on approvingly. 

That night, I was sitting at the kitchen table telling this story to my roommates when the phone rang. It was hot tub guy, and he'd been interested enough to find out my name (we hadn't exchanged names) and my phone number. He asked me out on a date!

His name was Joe, and if I remember correctly, one of my roommates had once been interested in him, and he was not just good-looking, he was also extremely nice. Toward the end of the night we ended up on campus. I rode piggyback on his back and laughed as he ran down a grassy hill through some trees to a fountain...(this fountain seems to only exist in this one memory, which leads me to wonder if I've somehow made it up, but oh well, that's how the memory goes). Eventually we tumbled to the ground and rolled, until he could look down at me. He stopped laughing, and moved his face toward mine...

and I turned away, and persisted in turning away long enough to tell him I liked Chad, and even though we weren't exclusive, it felt like maybe we should be. And he stood up, brushed off his clothes, and marched me back home. I tried to say that maybe if we got to know each other better I would feel differently, but nope. That was the end. It had seemed too good to be true because it was. 

I was no stranger to people who were only interested in short term romance, but I'd finally met the Wickham to my Lydia, and it hurt, because it was staged to seem so perfect. I don't regret it though. It was my first foray into Loyalty; my first step toward being an adult that could sustain a forever marriage. I still had a long way to go, but I was on my way. 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

J is for Jane Austen

Of course.

In Winter 2020 I started a Facebook group called Winter of Austen. We read all of Jane Austen from January through March, and until the pandemic hit those of us who lived close enough to each other got together to watch the movies. Going with them to see the 2020 Emma was one of the last things I did before we all started staying indoors. It was a happy time. 

In 2021 the Winter of Austen group decided to have the Winter of Brontë, but it didn't go as well. I made it through Jane Eyre and Villette before needing to take a break that is still on-going. I found myself so depressed while reading Charlotte Brontë. It was a slog for me. I know many people love her, but I'll stick with my Jane.

Jane Austen quotes:

“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope...I have loved none but you.” (Persuasion)

Alright, I guess just one Jane Austen quote. I suddenly realize I've got a movie to watch...

I is for The Inheritance Games

I read The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes in 2020. That makes it one of the more recently read books on this list. I read The Fixer and enjoyed it so much I quickly devoured The Long Game and then saw this one at Barnes and Noble and had to get it. I like the tropes in The Fixer series better, but this I enjoyed this one too, and it is more popular. She ended up not finishing The Fixer series because it didn't get enough readers, but the next book in this series comes out in 2021.

Quote: (the first paragraph)

"When I was a kid, my mom constantly invented games. The Quiet Game. The Who Can Make Their Cookie Last Longer? Game. A perennial favorite. The Marshmallow Game involved eating marshmallows while wearing puffy Goodwill jackets indoors, to avoid turning on the heat. The Flashlight Game was the game we played when the electricity went out. We never walked anywhere--we raced. The floor was nearly always lava. The primary purpose of pillows was building forts."


H is for Howl's Moving Castle

I had such a hard time finding something for D. Now I'm shaking my head, because Howl's Moving Castle is by Diana Wynne-Jones. On the other hand, it is certainly making today easy, because Howl's Moving Castle is one of my top 10 favorite books.

Howl is one of my favorite characters ever created. I don't think I would want to date him or, I think I would very much enjoy BEING him. I think the thing I love the most about him is the way he notices and admires the immenseness of Sophie's personality way before she knows it about herself. He teases her about it so much she is bound to see it in herself eventually.

Top 5 Howl quotes:

1. “I make that four horses and ten men just to get rid of one old woman. What did you do to the King?”

2. “Howl backed into the door to shut it and leaned there in a tragic attitude. "Look at you all!" he said. "Ruin stares me in the face. I slave all day for you. And not one of you, even Calcifer, can spare time to say hello!"

Calcifer said, "I never do say hello."

"Is something wrong?" asked Sophie.

"That's better," Howl said. "Some of you are pretending to notice me at last. Yes, something is wrong.”

3. “You are a terror, aren't you? Leave this yard alone. I know just where everything is in it, and I won't be able to find the things I need for my transport spells if you tidy them up.'
So there was probably a bundle of souls or a box of chewed hearts somewhere out here, Sophie thought. She felt really thwarted. ‘Tidying up is what I’m here for!’ she shouted at Howl.
‘Then you must think of a new meaning for your life,’ Howl said.”
4.  “Really, these wizards! You'd think no one had ever had a cold before! 
Well, what is it?" she asked, hobbling through the bedroom door onto the filthy carpet. 
"I'm dying of boredom," Howl said pathetically. "Or maybe just dying.”

5. “More about Howl? Sophie thought desperately. I have to blacken his name! Her mind was such a blank that for a second it actually seemed to her that Howl had no faults at all. How stupid! 'Well, he's fickle, careless, selfish, and hysterical,' she said. 'Half the time I think he doesn't care what happens to anyone as long as he's alright--but then I find out how awfully kind he's been to someone. Then I think he's kind just when it suits him--only then I find out he undercharges poor people. I don't know, Your Majesty. He's a mess.”

Friday, April 9, 2021

G is for Goose Girl and Girl of Fire and Thorns

 ...and Grave Mercy. A lot of great G books. 

But mostly Goose Girl. It's the kind of book that makes you smile the whole time you're searching for quotes, even while a tear drips down your cheek.

Goose Girl

Because of romance:

“Geric," she called.
He turned back around.
"What kind of flowers were they?"
"I don't rightly know," he said. He made faltering gestures with his hands, forming their size and shape from the air. "They were yellow, and smallish, and had lots of petals."
"Thank you," she said. "They were beautiful.”

 And friendship: 

"When you get tired of worrying and mourning your horse and trying not to be afraid, tell me and I'll do it for you a while so you can shut your eyes and sleep peaceful.”

Girl of Fire and Thorns

“I knew someday you would realize your worth. Your worthiness.'
I shake my head. 'Oh Ximena, he was right to choose me but not becuase of my worth...You, Cosme, Hector...were already willing to be heroes. But I would have done nothing, become nothing, were it not for this thing inside me. So you see, God picked me becuase I was unworthy.”

Grave Mercy

“It is this kindness of his that unsettles me most. I can dodge a blow or block a knife. I am impervious to poison and know a dozen ways to escape a chokehold or garrote wire. But kindness? I do not know how to defend against that.”

G is also for "Gee, this is hard!" I am really struggling to get all the letters finished, and I've never had such a hard time with visiting other people's blogs on this challenge. One problem I'm finding, that I've never noticed before, is that I've gone to several blogs on the master list, only to find that they are not actually doing the A-Z challenge, at least not that I can see. It's really made it hard for me to visit as many blogs as I've wanted to. See you tomorrow! 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

F is for John Flanagan


F is for John Flanagan, who wrote The Ranger's Apprentice series and a couple of spin-off series, including The Brotherband Chronicles, and this gem of a book, here. I LOVE a book about a community of people taking care of each other, and that is the entire premise of The Outcasts. I love these boys, who are joined by one adult (and eventually by one girl). 

I mentioned a few posts back how much I love a good swashbuckler. There is something about a book set on a ship...

Here is a quote from The Outcasts: 

"The sun was shining. The sea was calm. There was a steady wind,  and Ulf and Wulf were bickering. All in all, you couldn't ask for much more." 

D and E

 I spent so long trying to come up with a book/author for D that here we are on F...

So if you have a book you think I ought to read that is tangentially related to the letter D, let me know in the comments. 

Letter E is one of my more controversial books, and I don't know if I have time to do it justice right now. It is Ender's Game--a book that is woven through the tapestry of my life, until it met up with Harry Potter, and they wound their way together. And now, both Orson Scott Card and JK Rowling are in the news for saying things that have been called hateful. 

I've avoided reading what they've said, exactly. It's strange, because I grew up as an incredibly sheltered child of the 80s, and Orson Scott Card was the first writer who ever brought LBGQ people out of the shadows and into the light for me. I'm so sorry if he's said anything that has hurt you. It is also true that when I look back at my growth as a person, he is one of those signposts way back in the beginning that showed me how to be an ally. JK Rowling too. 

This is not meant to be a defense of either author. It is just meant to explain that I have not given up on them yet. Here's my quote from Ender's Game: 

“I think it's impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves.”

"Remember, the enemies' gate is down."


Saturday, April 3, 2021

B is for Sheena Boekweg

 I met Sheena a long time ago, in the Hatrack community of writers. Such happy memories, and so many friends were made in that online community. One day, Sheena, Sabrina West and I decided to write a book together. It was so much fun. We each created one character--I created Ana, Sheena created Sam, and Sabrina created Juliet. We did some initial world-building, and then one of us...was it me? I feel like it was me, but I don't remember!...wrote chapter one. Then I mailed it (!) to Sabrina, and she wrote chapter 2, and then mailed both my chapter and her chapter to Sheena, who wrote chapter 3 and then mailed chapters 2 and 3 back to me. We wrote the whole book that way, and then had a ridiculous amount of editing to do. For book 2, we moved to google docs, and got tangled in a lot of OPINIONS, but I am super proud of the way both of those books turned out. You can find them on amazon.

Alchemy is free on kindle, btw.

Oh wow. Prophecy of the Six is too! No wonder we haven't been making much money on them lately...

Sheena went on to become a published writer. She wrote
Glitch Kingdom,
a book about a videogame gone awry, and her newest book, A Sisterhood of Secret Ambitions will be released on June 1. I got to be one of the beta readers, and let me tell you, it is amazing! It's the story of a secret society of women who both protect the weak and decide the fate of the United States of America. It's set in an alternate 1920s, and it follows a girl whose job it is to marry the man the secret society has chosen to become president of the United States. It is a sweet feminist marvel.

As for the quotes...I don't have a copy of the book yet, so I will give you the first line from Alchemy, which, as it happens, was written by Sheena (this means I DID NOT write the first chapter. Perhaps I did in the first draft, or perhaps my memory is completely failing me).

Sam's first line in Alchemy: "I always told everyone I wanted to be a mage when I grew up. Which is, apparently, how irony looks when it wears my clothes...I didn't think it would hurt to get infected with magic. I didn't think of the consequences...All I could see was the power. I never saw the fear." 

C is for City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

 I had SUCH a hard time finding a book for B, but dozens of choices for C. I'm not sure if City of Bones won out because of the alliteration of City and Cassandra Clare, or if it really is the best of the pack. 

I could just sit and quote for hours at a time? For me Ghostbusters is that movie, Psych is that TV show and City of Bones is that book. 

I could just make this blog post ridiculously long and quote them all, but I'm afraid at some point copyright would come into here are my top 10 favorite quotes:

1.“Clary grinned. "A picnic? It's a little late for Central Park, don't you think? It's full of-"

He waved a hand. "Faeries. I know."
"I was going to say muggers," said Clary. "Though I pity the mugger who goes after you."
"That is a wise attitude, and I commend you for it," said Jace, looking gratified.”

2. “It means 'Shadowhunters: Looking Better in Black Than the Widows of our Enemies Since 1234'.”

3. “Can I help you with something?"
Clary turned instant traitor against her gender. "Those girls on the other side of the car are staring at you."
Jace assumed an air of mellow gratification. "Of course they are," he said, "I am stunningly attractive.”

4. “It wouldn't be my move," Jace agreed. "First the candy and flowers, then the apology letters, then the ravenous demon hordes. In that order.”

5.  “Magnus, standing by the door, snapped his fingers impatiently. "Move it along, teenagers. The only person who gets to canoodle in my bedroom is my magnificent self."
"Canoodle?" repeated Clary, never having heard the word before.
"Magnificent?" repeated Jace, who was just being nasty. Magnus growled. The growl sounded like "Get out.”

6. “I have a high pain threshold. In fact, it's more of a large and tastefully decorated foyer than a threshold. But I do get easily bored.”

7. "Oh, it's big enough," he said patronizingly, "but somehow I was expecting something… you know." He gestured with his hands, indicating something roughly the size of a house cat.
"It's the Mortal Cup, Jace, not the Mortal Toilet Bowl," said Isabelle.”

8. “Sorry, are you telling me that your demon-slaying buddies need to be driven to their next assignment with the forces of darkness by my mom?”

9. “It's a coffee cup."
She could hear the irritation in her own voice. "I know it's a coffee cup."
"I can't wait till you draw something really complicated, like the Brooklyn Bridge or a lobster. You'll probably send me a singing telegram.”

10. “This is bad," said Jace.
"You said that before."
"It seemed worth repeating.”

I could have done that all day... Enjoy! 

Thursday, April 1, 2021

A is for Avi

 A-Z Challenge 2021

I haven't even signed up for this challenge yet, but I think I'm going to go for it.

My theme is Favorite Lines in Books...I was going to have it be Famous First Lines, but I don't think I want to tie myself down to just the first line.

April 1: A is for Avi

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, to be specific. Before there was Pirates of the Caribbean, there was this book. I've always loved books set on the ocean, and Charlotte Doyle is the ultimate power woman.

It starts like this, "Not every thirteen-year old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial, and found guilty. But I was just such a girl, and my story is worth relating..."

Articulate, ageless, and amazing, am I right? Possibly even addicting. This is a YA book, which is my favorite kind.