I hesitated in writing a tribute to my grandmother when we lost her two summers ago because I wasn’t ready to talk about how much she meant to me. For anyone who knows me, they know I am not the sort of person to vocalize my feelings to just anyone. I tend to channel my feelings into my books, wrapping thoughts and ideas up in fiction to process them rather than dealing in reality. Everyone deals with grief differently, and it’s just easier for me that way.
The loss of my grandma, my mother’s mom was a loss I felt more deeply than I ever felt before, and although it took me some time to work up the courage to talk about her, I’m ready now.
Barbara Ann Felske was many things too many people, friend, wife, and mother, but to me, she was a grandmother, and friend. She lives in my memory and in my heart wearing bright lipstick, her hair perfectly styled and her clothing impeccably pressed. My grandma had style and charm, and people liked her. She never stepped out of the house without her jewelry perfectly coordinated with her outfits a trait I always admired in her. My gram was a lady, and one of the finest ladies I have ever known.
I’d like to say I was the only one of her grandchildren that shared a special bond with her, but the truth is, she made us all feel so special. She made us feel loved. She cooked for her family and welcomed us with a hug into her home. She picked out the perfect gift for us for our birthdays, and on Christmas. And, I always knew she was happy to see me, that I mattered to her. And I know everyone else in the family knew it too.
I will remember her with her ready smile, her unrelenting sense of humor ever present as she joked and teased me. I will remember how she liked to listen to what I wrote when I came over; I brought her small stories, poems, even papers I’d written for college, and wrote her letters she returned with ones of her own. I missed her when I was away. And I will remember her face when I read her excerpts from the first book I published, recalling that Mona Lisa smile of hers and the twinkle in her eyes when I finished, expression hopeful as she said simply, “It’s good. I’m so proud of you.”
My grandma wanted me to have an old typewriter that was her grandparents, an Underwood No. 5 machine I discovered was over a hundred years old. Her family used it in their home when she was young and it was passed around until it came to be in her possession. It’s missing keys, and not in working order, but it will be if I have anything to say about it. It came with a stand her grandpa built. The family stood at it to compose letters, or so I was told, something I find deliciously charming when I imagine it back in its glory days.
I spent weeks restoring the old typewriter cabinet that belonged to her family with my dad’s help. It smelled of her dank basement and looked derelict, covered in cob webs and cat hair, and I wasn’t certain we could get the stench out. But, my dad and I managed, and it has a new home. I plan to have someone restore the old machine they used, I think my gram would have loved that. I’m honored she wanted me to have it. It meant something to her, and now it means something to me and my husband.
So, gram, when I think of you, I want to say thank you. I will smile when I recall the person you were to me, and I will always remember the good things you did for me, the talks we had, and how much I loved you.
There are some books you read that truly strike a chord with you. Some books that settle right into your heart and make you glad to be a reader. And if it’s a really well done book, it makes you come back to it, and read it again and again. For me, this was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.
I was in a bookclub many years ago that gradually fell apart. I think it was because we had a knack for picking books none of us liked. I don’t know what it was, but these books were the sort you pick up and either finish and say, eh, or, god, that was awful. We picked Guernsey because it was recommended by my mom. Her bookclub read it and loved it, as in, all of them loved it. I took that as a good sign, and figured, what the heck?
Guernsey is an epistolary novel, meaning it is a literary work told in a series of letters. I’d never read a book like this before and quickly found I adored the style. The correspondence between these rich, meaty characters is lively and funny. I found myself laughing, crying, even cringing as I encountered every twist and turn, connecting with the quirky practices and personalities of these characters. Without giving away the ending, I got all the feels at the end of this book. All of them!
In fact, I liked this book so much; I passed it on to my mother-in-law, who loved it too. There’s just something about it I found so human, so deeply endearing, it makes me come back to it often to visit my Guernsey friends over and over.
And in another fantastic turn of events, Netflix made a movie about it. (Insert me smiling, swooning, and giggling happily when I found out the news as I danced about in my pajamas, cheering happily!)
I had the pleasure of watching this movie and I liked it nearly as much as I liked the book (the book is always better, for those of you who don’t know. I have a t-shirt that says so!). If you’re looking for something sweet and heartfelt, I highly recommend picking this book up, then checking out the fantastic job Netflix did with this adaptation.
What are some of your favorite books you go back to over and over? Let me know in the comments!
I was a teenager before I discovered the mystery genre. Up to that point, my childish heart beat giddily for romantic stories. The more sweeping and dramatic they were, the more I adored them. I thought men rode up on white horses and forcefully declared their love for a woman. There was no awkwardness, just bold, aggressive, sexual declarations of desire and want for another person who ended in the happily ever after made popular by Walt Disney cartoons.
I later discovered, those flawless happy endings are what made them fiction.
I uncovered that brutal reality in the seventh grade when I asked a crush, a golden-haired eighth grader with a divine smile, out on a date. He said no. I had envisioned many scenarios in my head, but a hard, unfeeling solidly stated ‘no way’ hurt. It cut me deep, and it soured me on the romance novel for quite some time after that failed social experiment.
Disheartened, I turned to my Aunt Debbie for literary suggestions on what to read. She and I are similar creatures. We both love books, read daily before bed, and we like to follow the rules. In my aunt, I find a kindred spirit, someone like me in so many ways. We see the world the same way, and I adore her more than I’m sure even she realizes. For me, there is a deep comfort and understanding between the two of us, an unspoken bond I have felt since I was a little girl, and I invited her to my kindergarten ‘special persons’ day. I value her advice, most especially about books, more than any others.
After the day I asked out that jerk-off who said no to a date, I told her I was sick of reading romantic stories, and asked her to recommend a different story genre to me. An avid reader, she leant me a small stack from her own library, starting with, but not limited to Mary Higgins Clark.
I don’t recall how many books written by Higgins Clark she gave me, just that there were several. My favorite was Loves Music, Loves To Dance. This book scared the sh** out of me. It was about a woman who answered personal ads because her friend, a reporter, was doing it for a story for a newspaper she works at, when she vanishes. For you youngsters, this was online dating, back when it involved a newspaper, and speaking to people on a phone, no texting involved.
I don’t want to give the plot away, but the main characters friend is missing, there’s a serial killer involved, and I had nightmares about this book for a week after I read it.
Man, I loved it!
My Aunt Debbie’s next author recommendation was Sydney Sheldon. Oh, my goodness, this man can write! I love his stories. They had a rawness to them, a very character driven darkness I found I liked. My favorite book by him, is If Tomorrow Comes. Its sort of caper meets a mystery. The main character, Tracy Whitney is a poor idealist when she enters a life of revenge, and oh, my goodness! I could not put this fun little story down!
Janet Evonovitch is a delightful writer. She makes me laugh out loud, and if you have not read the Stephanie Plum series, I highly recommend that you do. I think the best part about this book series is the characters. They are all quirky and unique and funny. Stephanie Plum is a bail bonds woman, and not an exceptionally good one. She tries to track down people who owe her cousin money, falling ass backwards into the capture as things blow up and she uses her poor detective skills to solve mysteries.
Her family is insane.
Her love life is a mess.
And Stephanie Plum is absolutely wonderful.
Lastly, Aunt Debbie recommendedAgatha Christie. This woman is the queen of mystery. Her books have only been out sold by the bible and Shakespeare. Yes, you read that correctly, the bible and Shakespeare. She was born in 1890, and her stories reflect the richness and decadence growing up in that era reflects. She has so many wonderful characters; Tommy and Tuppence and Miss Marple, but my most favorite, is Hercule Poirot.
How I love this character!
“My name is Hercule Poirot and I am probably the greatest detective in the world.” — Hercule Poitot, The Mystery Of The Blue Train
That pretty much sums up the detective with the egg-shaped head with impeccable grooming habits who uses ‘the little gray cells’ to solve his cries, traveling exotic locales, helping the local police.
There are many other books I love, and I’ll get to them all, eventually. I plan to share some of my more modern favorites eventually, but I'm having so much fun looking back on my old favorites. I’d love to hear some your top pics! Who do you enjoy reading? Let me know in the comments! Happy reading!
My mother read to my siblings and I nearly every night when I was a child. I vividly remember crawling into her lap after we all took our baths and setting in for story time. Her skin felt warm, and smelled of Jergens lotion or Calgon or Caress Body wash, depending on which of the many bath products she used that night. (A habit I developed as a direct result, I adore bath products and bubbles. I have a problem, thanks a lot, mom.)
My mom smelled so wonderful as we snuggled under an afghan made by my Grandma Felske on the love seat in the corner of the living room, tucked between two end tables and my dad’s recliner. That spot was the story spot.
The best time for reading was in the fall or the winter when my dad made a warm fire that crackled and heated the space with an orangish hue that cast shadows on the walls, sparking my imagination and the fire in the hearth.
As a little girl that spot was perfection.
I still sit there when I go home that’s my spot.
I rested my cheek on my mother's arm, inhaling her fragrant skin, and I felt loved during story time. I felt happy and safe, and excited for what was about to happen because I knew once the cover opened, I was going to a magical place I could never visit without her taking me there.
My mom let us each pick what we wanted to hear, and I don’t recall every book she read to us, only that I’m grateful she did. My brothers liked adventure stories and things about trucks and crude humor. My little sister tended towards Big Bird, Sesame Street, and stories about animals. And me, I loved them all. I can’t recall a favorite, only that I smiled the whole time.
It is because of my mother I read today. It is because of my mom; I love books and getting lost in the pages of stories as I so often do. That early reading is one of the many reasons I became a writer.
I don’t have the books she read me as a child, many of them no longer exist. The pages fell out, and I gave away, or maybe they ended up in the garbage. But, I have many of the old books I read on my own as a girl, and today I will tell you about my favorites.
My Aunt Leann and Uncle Rich bought me Shel Silverstein’s Where The Sidewalk Ends, and A Light In The Attic. I have no idea which birthday I got them on, except that I loved these poems, and I can still recite many of them today. I’m doing it now. I loved Lazy Jane and Boa Constrictor most of all. The pencil drawings in this book delighted me as did the words. These are my originals, and the inside of them are covered in duct tape where the dust jacket came apart. I don’t have an inkling as to why I used duct tape, except that we most likely ran out of scotch tape.
This is the Anne of Green Gables Series by L.M. Montgomery my grandma and grandpa Hedke got for me for my birthday one year. The first book, Anne of Green Gables is falling apart. My dad caught me taping the pages back in, crying because the book fell apart, and took me to buy another copy of the first book. I have that too. But this set is my favorite. Both my grandparents are gone now, but I remember them with a warm happiness in my heart every time I reread these books.
From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Kongsberg was a gift from my Aunt Debbie, a fellow lover of books. I read this book so fast, and I adored it. It’s about two kids who run away from home to live in an art museum and discover a mystery about a statue. I read it in a day- and then read it again the following day. Thanks Aunt Debbie!
The Dollhouse Caper by Jean O'Connell came to me via the Scholastic Book Fair at my school. I picked it out because the cover looked funny, there was a doll with a head in a toilet in the dollhouse on the cover, and I was glad I did. I laughed till my sides hurt, and did a book report for it in my fifth grade class, laughing so hard I could hardly explain to anyone what it was about.
Oh, The Fabulous Five by Betsy Haynes! The drama, the fighting, the boys, I loved it all. It was like a middle school soap opera and it gave me a very skewed idea of what to expect in middle school, but I adored it just the same. I had more of these at one point, the whole series. I used to scrounge together nickels and dimes from a brown ceramic dish my parents kept on the windowsill in the kitchen; they were $2.95 with tax from the monthly book order at school.
The Babysitters Club by Ann M. Martin was a lot like the Fabulous Five, except they watched kids and it was less catty. I loved this series, and this is the only one I have left. At one point, I had up to book thirty or something insane like that; I got these from the monthly book order as well, and I kept reading this series until I was in the tenth grade, not caring a bit that I was getting too old for them. I had my sister order them for me, or my little brother from their book order forms.
In middle school, I was devastated to find out that there were no more monthly book orders. What the heck kind of stupid practice is that? I felt it should go on into adulthood. You like books? Here! Get these amazing titles at a discount! But, all good things come to an end, I suppose. In middle school, I was assigned to read The Westing Game, a Puzzle Mystery, by Ellen Raskin. I have no idea the teacher or if it was seventh or eighth grade, except that we read it, and I couldn’t put it down. It was my first who done it, a gateway to Agatha Christie and the dozens of other authors I love today.
So there they are! Some of my favorite childhood books. I’ll be doing a few more of these blog's about children’s books I read today, and good old fiction as well. Thanks for taking a walk down my literary lifetime journey with me!
I entered a contest a few months ago on twitter for Carina Press, an online publishing company that specializes in romance novels. To enter, you had to pitch a story idea in a maximum of two Twitter feeds. Since I have a stockpile of short stories, books, and basic nonsense stored up on my computer, I figured I had a good shot at it.
I sat down with paper and pen, stitching together Twitter pitches for three of my finished books. On impulse, I pitched the idea for one of the first books I ever wrote, figuring it wouldn’t be the one they picked if I did in fact get chosen. It had been sitting in my computer innards for thirteen long years, untouched for at least ten.
Guess which one they went with? (See photo of Twitter Pitch Above)
I wrote the Conjurer, the first book in a six-part series in two years time. It was a dark time in my life when I had my first panic attack and I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety. It was a very unhappy time in which I felt as if I were drowning. As if I were swimming nonstop to stay afloat, my head dipping beneath the murky surface of waves over and over a the waves crashed in, offering no relief as I gasped for air in a seemingly unending quest to feel happy again.
I forced myself into therapy, knowing I didn’t want to be the person who gave up when I needed to get help most. Writing (and daily fitness) became a kind of practice for me to handle this darker side of myself. It was an escape, a way to cope with what was happening under the guise of fantasy, my own works of fiction becoming an escape from the difficult reality I was living in.
I hammered out a story about a depressing heroine who could barely tie her shoes, let alone cast a good spell; that was me in many ways. It was a young writers story, a prelude to my dark self-healing in six tomes. My main character was alone in the world, desperate for friends, family, and a home. Anything that could happen to her did, and she let it, feeling out of control and powerless.
I felt this book was pure genius, and I adored my heroine. I didn’t know how depressing that first book was when I pitched the idea. I was just busting with excitement and possibility. Here I was with an opportunity to get feedback on one of my books from an editor, they guaranteed it as part of the contest entry. If they picked you, and submitted your book within the five-week time limit following #CarinaPitch day, it guaranteed feedback!
Hot diggity dog!
Two editors selected my pitch! Two!
So, I got to work, reading a story that made me groan and smack myself in the head as I moved between boredom, and that’s not so bad. It needed a major overhaul, and I was sure I didn’t have the time to give it one. But, I sat down, wrote a new outline, picked what was worth saving, and rewrote huge sections. I knew in preparing it; I was most likely NOT going to be picked for publication. But, I worked on it anyway, knowing the idea for the book was solid enough that two editors liked it, and that it’s the journey a writer takes in sending their work out.
I worked my tail off, cutting and trimming things that didn’t work, putting in twelve to fourteen-hour days, asking for guidance from my good friends, Karen and Whittney to help me edit and bulk up what I knew deep down was a story in need of a major overhaul I couldn’t devote to it. I sent it out my flawed story, happy and proud that I did what I could in the time I had to make it better.
And, when the rejection came, I knew I had given it my all. The feedback I got was positive, with only one negative point. I thought there would be more negatives, but maybe that is the harsh critic in me with my work.
I’ve gotten hand-written notes from publishers before from books I’ve sent out. I send out my work all the time, and I know that the average writer works ten to twenty years before they ever get published, and I get closer with every rejection, every note, every criticism.
Do I take it to heart?
I do. My work is deeply personal. I spend hours a day finding the right word, the perfect word in my stories. I agonize over developing character profiles and characters with heart and mind, imagining them with all their tiny flaws and imperfections. I love crafting words and stories, and each time I finish a piece of work, it's better than the last. It’s a process. It’s a journey.
I want to be published the old-fashioned way, and this is how it happens. So I’ll take apart the conjurer again, and again, and again, until I get it right.
For all my fellow writers out there, keep at it. Take your opportunities even if you know you may fail. Finish your work and keep the faith. Don’t give up. Grow. Get better, evolve. And most of all, hang in there. And, if you are a budding Romance writer, check out the #Carinapitch on Twitter!
I want desperately to be a poet. I love poetry! It’s beautiful, concise, and clever when it's done well. I particularly admire the Haiku Poem. I admire the works of Matsuo Bashō, who I learned about in college.
Matsuo Bashō was one of the most famous poets during the Edo period in Japan. They recognize him as one of the early masters, and in my creative writing class in college, we studied his work.
Here is a beautiful example of what he can do:
a worm digs silently
into the chestnut.
So much conveyed in a few short words. I wanted to be the next Matsuo Bashō so badly! I thought to myself, how hard can it be! A five, seven, five formula, usually directed at nature theme.
I ran into some trouble for two reasons:
One, I hate nature. I do not enjoy bugs, animals, dirt or sweating. I can see why others like going into natural bodies of water, they look exquisite. But, the thought of camping, of sleeping in a tent in particular, is the equivalent of setting yourself willingly on fire.
The second problem for me with the Haiku is the being brief part. I couldn’t seem to do it, no matter how hard I tried! I am a novelist, a long-term writer who plans out books from start to finish before sitting down. I map out future books in my series and see five steps ahead because I have to.
I am long winded.
So, I went to my professor at the time and explained all this. I asked to be switched to the other side of the class that got a long poem, not the standard haiku like me and he smiled at me.
As long as I live, I will never forget his words, “Charlotte, you have style. You have sass and panache, a flair for the dramatic I get a kick out of. You are a storyteller. I love your work. Don’t write about nature! Write about what interests you and surprise me. But write three haiku’s and have them on my desk tomorrow.”
To which I replied, “Crap. Ok.”
I was completly flattered of course, so, I went home and wracked my brain, thinking about things I loved most and here is the best I came up with:
On Jurassic Park.
Dinos born again
Hammond is a foolish man
Run, T-Rex needs food
Who you gonna call?
Egon, Venkaman, Stanz, experts
Proton pack, catch ghosts
On What about Bob?
Bob Wiley is nuts
Leo Marvin is his doc
Reverse roles, the end.
Yep. I wrote about some of my favorite movies. It was literally all I could seem to come up with under pressure, and you know what? I earned a 3.5 on this crappy Haiku! My professor found it so funny, he read them to the class and everyone was cracking up! Moral of the story: even if you stink, sometimes people enjoy your effort.
And to true masters of the Haiku, I take my hat off to you.
I remember my life in a vivid technicolor, a spiraling kaleidoscope of flipping images that make me smile, or cry, or sometimes laugh. I remember it all, and wonder where the time went as years seem to thunder forward so quickly I blink, and they’re gone.
I remember ten.
I remember ten when my legs refused to walk because walking was far too slow and running was exhilarating. I laughed till my sides hurt with my brothers and sister. I look back and see a funny little girl who loved Barbie dolls and playing jump rope with my friends. A girl who wanted to do her hair and nails as much as she wanted to keep up with her brothers, collect comic books, and play video games.
Yes, I remember ten.
I remember sixteen.
At sixteen, I hid in books, struggling with a depression that would be a lifetime battle. I buried my face deep in the pages of as many tomes as I could find, my friends conjured from paper and ink spoke with more understanding and acceptance than anyone in the real world. I felt more at home in the quiet of my imagination, dancing through imaginary worlds created for me by clever authors than in real life. The notion I could write books happened at sixteen. Most of my real life friends drifted in, and drifted out of my story, chapters of the past I look back on with fondness, often wondering what their lives are like.
Yes, I remember sixteen.
I remember eighteen.
At eighteen, I left for college. The call of new places and making new friends was a powerful draw and getting away from my parents seemed a necessity. I found the woman I would become in college. I accepted who I was, but; I was unsure of what that meant. Oh, the fun we had! I remember wild parties and trying new things, but mostly, I remember my friends. These amazing men and women who taught me to be brave, to be bold. I remember laughing till my sides hurt and learning new things. I remember late night talks and giggles at a never ending sleepover with some of the most wonderful people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. It was over in an instant. And even though life took us different places; I remember them.
Yes, I remember eighteen.
I remember twenty-four.
I met my husband at twenty-four. I fell in love for the first time. I fell in real love. It wasn’t like in the books I so adored, sweeping, dramatic, epic. No hero on a white horse, my great love was far more human, and beautifully flawed. And, my feelings for him were steady and real and deeper than anything I ever imagined when I dreamt about falling in love. He mattered more than anything, he still does. He made me laugh, and showed off, bragging about himself with an arrogant confidence and an ease with the man he is I envied. He told me he loved me, and it scared me half to death, but in the best way. I was home with him.
I am always home with him.
Yes, I remember twenty-four.
I remember thirty.
I remember feeling old for the first time. Thirty! Wrinkles around my eyes, and the pounds that fell off in college creeping back on, despite my best efforts. So I’m plump! I am not a size two. I never will be, and I honestly do not care, so long as I am healthy. Thirty makes me kinder to myself. In my thirties, I learn the lessons about life, and what my lessons mean for me. And I have the man I love. He still makes me happy, he still makes me laugh, and somehow, I love him more than the day I met him. Life isn’t perfect, it gives things; and, it takes things from us. But, I have him, and he has me. And it matters that we have one another. We matter.
Yes, I remember thirty.
I am forty.
And those memories keep me warm at night when life gets cold, and hard. And my words, how they matter to me these days! I write every day, because my words, although only seen by dozens, those are the words that stitch me back together when I fall apart. They band my soul with iron each time my finger tips strike my keyboard. I keep going after my lifelong dream, better than I was at ten, sixteen, eighteen, twenty-four, and thirty. I know not to measure success in copies sold, or dollars made, but in how I see myself. I find joy in my family, in the friends that stuck by me when life got hard, and I know my life matters to them.
I am forty, and I love it.
I wonder about the future, what it holds, and how it will change me. I smile. It doesn’t scare me anymore. Because I know my words will carry me through as they always do, and that I am not alone.
I talk to my dog as if he’s a human being. Our conversations span a wide variety of ideas, thoughts, and shared opinions. He and I are simpatico.
I know he has no idea what I’m saying, but the adorable tilt of his head from one side to the other tells me he’s trying to understand what I say, and that’s enough for me.
Here are a few of the things I’ve said to him lately:
“Indy, don’t lick your ding-dong on the sofa man. Let’s keep it classy, get on the floor to do that.”
“Now, you said you had to go to the bathroom! Don’t make me walk outside for nothing! They lied about it being Spring in Michigan. It’s freezing out here, and spring is never coming.”
“Indiana! You don’t like celery! We’ve been over this. The stringiness bothers you, same as it does me, even though the crunch is nice. Just spit that out and I’ll get you some peanut butter.”
“No! No, I do not think we need to try and kill that bird. I know he hates us, all birds hate us, but they don’t deserve to die for it. If you have to kill something, do it when your dad is around, ok? I don’t want to clean that up.”
“Indy, do you think the neighbor hates us? Yeah. Me too.”
The hubs speaks to the dog as well, but their conversations are more of a practical nature. Ben uses his time with the dog as a teaching moment to correct mischievous behavior. Behavior I find uproariously funny most of the time.
Ben does not share my opinion on the rearing of our four legged friend, or my lackadaisical approach to discipline, that mostly consists of laughing at the dogs antics and kissing his head when he steals my shoes or when Indy makes me hold him as if he’s a lap dog, instead of a 90 pound behemoth.
Ben is the disciplinarian in our house and anyone who knows me well, knows I am not the strict type.
Here are a few nuggets of wisdom from Ben has passed on to Indy recently:
“Let’s go outside to poop. Come on! You’ll go because I said so, dog.” -Ben at 11 o’clock at night when he’d had enough Indy and dog time.
“Indiana, come on! No, no, you do not want to chase that bird, you’ll never catch it, you’re a little wall-eyed. I don’t think you see very well.” -Ben, while walking the dog
“You’re annoying the crap out of me, dog. Go find something constructive to do, like taking a nap.” -Ben, while trying to watch watching Nascar.
“Indiana. You will sit!” -Ben, stern voice, pointing finger. (Charlotte laughing like crazy, and acquiring dirty looks from hubs), “Charlotte, you are not helping. You just encourage him when you laugh.”
“Look how stinking cute he is! I love that face! I can’t help if I laugh!” -Charlotte
(Ben, considering a second, followed by dimpled smile) “He is pretty cute. Here’s a treat, Indy.”
So, we’re both pushovers. Who Cares?
We are dog lovers, and I wouldn’t trade my dog for anything. Even if he is a colossal pain, and Ben and I have a habit of acquiring high maintenance, very large animals. Dogs are the best, and we’re lucky to have our Indy. I’m sure you feel the same way about your four legged friends.
I love the X-files. I wasn’t a fan of the show when it was on. I’m kind of a chicken, and I had watched a few episodes that spooked me. I never tuned in again, even though this show was huge in the 90’s, and everyone I knew was watching it. I came to enjoy the X-files many years later.
I discovered it between jobs fourteen years ago. I was floundering on my life path before I realized I wanted to write books. I freely admit to that. Up to then, I dabbled with the idea, and I had written three books for children that, to be candid, were not so swift. As in, so bad, I have no idea how I could fix them, and they are still safely stowed in the bowels of my computer, possibly forever, unless I can make them suck less somehow.
Anyway, not wanting to spend another single agonizing second worrying about my life path, I was in search of something that would rot my mind when I bought season one of the X-Flies at Sam’s club with my hubs, Ben. I didn’t expect to love it, I just figured it would be something I could check out. It wasn’t on Netflix, so I figured, what the heck?
I got sucked in after two episodes.
I was completely and utterly enamored of Fox Mulder (David Duchovny), the brooding FBI man who wanted to believe. I adored Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and her pragmatic, scientific approach to the things they saw. It was an adorable contrast to Fox Mulder’s ability to believe in almost anything and their obvious attraction? Well, I’m a girl, and even us nerdy ones love that stuff. In all honesty, their relationship reminded me a bit of my husband Ben and I. I am the dreamer, he is the realist who reigns me in when I get carried away. Ben is my Agent Scully, look at me, being all romantic.
I finished season one in a week or so. Naturally, I ran back to Sam’s club to buy all the seasons because I binge on books and shows, it’s sorta my thing. I had to know what was going to happen with the aliens, mythological creatures, conspiracy theories, government coverups, action, romance, and edge-of-your-seat excitement. Would Mulder and Scully ever admit their love for one another? Would they find proof of aliens?
I wanted to believe.
When the series was over, I was hard core heart broken. Done. Over in nine short seasons, and two motion pictures. Imagine my disappointment, until, hurray! Fox brought it back for two more seasons!
But, enough about that! I’m here to discuss books. Well, the audio books, to be more specific.
Ben and I take long drives to visit his family. His kinfolk are spread out from Ohio, to Wisconsin, to Tennessee, and the long car rides can get so dull I get goofy towards the end, giggling like a lunatic while I smash my face against the glass of the window to make faces at the cars we pass.
So, Ben and I started listening to audio books to pass the time. I prefer reading my books, smelling the paper and ink, but, I get car sick if I read too long, and this was the perfect solution, because Ben is an audiobook guy. He reads news stories, and such, but other than my books, he doesn’t much enjoy sitting down to read, unless it’s the news or a quick article on the internet. He listens to audiobooks on his commute to and from work, that counts if you ask me.
We bought The X-Files: Cold Cases, which are basically short stories read by David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson that sound like an old timey radio show. They were put out by Audible, and called an Audible Original. The audio books have the special effect noises and the X-Files theme song between chapters. You hear doors open and close, the click of the phone being lifted, even the sound of the breeze on the wind. The voices of the other characters are done with a full cast as well, even minor ones.
How cool is that?
Even better, Assistant Director Skinner (Mitch Pieleggi) reads with them, as well as the Lone Gunman, Melvin Frohike (Tom Braidwood), John Byers (Bruce Harwood), and Richard Langley (Dean Haglund), who are some of my favorite characters from the series. Everything about this audio book was fun, and unexpected. Ben and I felt like we were listening to a movie, and because we’re both fans of the show, it was easy to picture what was happening, and how the characters would look, act, and behave while we listened to it.
If you like the X-Files, you should check out the audio books. We haven’t read the second one, that’s for the next trip we take. But, I do know Duchovny and Anderson read that one as well. I’m hoping the rest of the cast joined them for the other book too. I couldn’t help but wish more shows I love would do this, it was like checking in with your old friends. I liked that part most of all.
I recently discovered Stephen King’s work. I know he’s been around for a long time and his body of work encompasses so many things from books and short stories to films, but I am new to his writing and so far I love it.
I reached for The Dark Tower Series because I had seen the movie, The Dark Tower, staring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey. I know there were a lot of people hating on it, but I enjoyed the film a lot. I would like to stress that the movie inspired me to read the books after I had seen the film. After. I had nothing to base my liking of the film on, and enjoyed it for what it was. I state this to keep from receiving angry opinions on why people didn’t like it. Let me go on. After reading book one, I can see why people were disappointed in the film.
The two are very, very different. Very, very, different.
But, I’m not here to talk about that, I’m here to talk about the book.
After a bit of research, I found out that the first of the Dark Tower book, The Gunslinger is really a collection of five short stories written from 1978-1981 by Stephen King for The Magazine of Fantasy And Science Fiction. I picked up the revised edition of The Gunslinger that contains these stories with added content from King that really cleared up several things for me as I was reading.
So did I like it?
I loved it, once I made it to the end, but, this book confused the hell out of me until I made it there.
It’s wonderfully written. Stephen King is a master of putting together a story. His characters are meaty and raw, as well as delightfully bizarre. His worlds are solidly crafted and I love that in a story. The writing is excellent, what you’d expect from a master storyteller like him. It blends several different genres; Western, Fantasy, Science-Fiction, and Horror, and that’s not an easy task. But it somehow works in this book.
I read the first book in a weekend, unable to put it down, then reread bits and pieces following my book binge. It bares mentioning that I truly believe Stephen King is far smarter than I am. I’m not saying I’m a fool. I consider myself very well read and fairly educated. I read all the time. You can’t write books and not read them. I think that’s an unwritten rule. Stephen King himself said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
I agree with that wholeheartedly.
I also consider myself to have a rather extensive vocabulary because I do so much reading. However, when reading The Gunslinger, I kept a notepad beside the book, jotting down words and their definitions as I battled my way through the story. There were over forty on the list by the time I finished.
I felt like a dunderhead.
When The Gunslinger Concluded, I had to go back and re-read parts to make sure I knew what happened. I had the gist, but even still, it was a lot to take in and I wanted to be set for book two. You see, I bought the whole series at once, that’s just how I roll. Once I had The Gunslinger finished, I was ready to boogie on to the second installment, which I am still working on now.
And, I loved book one, in spite of my struggles with King’s word usage.
I have never read a book quite like this before. It made me think and wonder what was real. I connected with the characters, laughed a few times, and even cried once or twice. I love books that make me feel, they’re the best sort if you ask me, and The Gunslinger did just that. The main character, The Gunslinger, Roland Deschain, is a sensational, deeply driven character, and his advisory, the Man In Black is the bad guy every writer hopes to create. And the ending, well, let’s just say it made me leap into book two the day after I finished book one, my head reeling from the ending King left me with.
Book two is written differently than book one, but it feels the same. I’m less confused, but still keeping a list of words to look up as I go. I’ve never read any books quite like the ones in the Gunslinger series before, and I’m glad about that. Its fun read something that challenges me in new ways, I like that.
So thanks to Stephen King for writing such an amazing set of short stories about Roland, that Gunslinger who’s hard to forget- and many thanks for the books I’ve yet to read. I do love a good series when it’s done well.
Writer, avid reader, collector of comic books, lover of dogs, sandwich enthusiast.