Home

Page the Second

Deus volt; Deus mittit me.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Reeling

I went to do battle with a history teacher of my son's last night at high school open house. I got my power suit on and slicked back my hair, knowing that this woman had no respect for what she perceived as a scatterbrained (yes, she actually called me that) stay-at-home mom. I left that interview feeling like I needed a shower and a dry cleaner.

The woman felt she was on the trenchant edge, instilling in my son a will to tow the mark and succeed. The reality is that she is bullying my son and apparently many others in her class for perceived faults because she believes she can get away with being a schoolroom despot.

I am the product of teachers and have been one myself. I graduated with high honors in a double major from college. So I don't advocate sloughing off in school. Just the opposite. I want my children to succeed and even pass me. I would no sooner champion them for being lazy and ignorant than roll around in a cow pie.

I found when I went, however, that my son's so-called 'daydreaming' and inability to get papers correctly signed by their parent was in actuality not the main problem. The teacher in question wants to show my son R-rated movies (especially Shindler's List).

On the surface an R-rated movie might not look like such a bad thing. There have been movies with that rating that I felt could have shucked a few unnecessary scenes and been a decent movie. Some of those I really wanted to watch (Braveheart, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven to name a few).

Sure it's just one little scene. There are just a couple of decapitations. They only use the F-bomb three times. You only glimpse the man's rear end for a few seconds. You can't really see them having sex. The excuses go on and on.

Those are entertainment movies written and filmed to titillate and engross us. Dirt sells, you know. Everybody is watching it. It got an Emmy and three Golden Globes. It must be fine.

I think I need to head outside and find the shovel.

What the teacher wanted to do was let a movie babysit my child while she relaxed in the back. She wanted to really bash them in the face with the proceedings of the Holocaust (her words). She felt that THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK and THE HIDING PLACE by Corrie Ten Boom (my suggested replacements) were both substandard movies because they were childish and written for the eighth grade level.  

What?

Has she watched those movies or even read those books?

She said they didn't pack enough punch.

Well I don't know about you but I don't want any teacher punching my children in the mind. I purposefully try to keep evil away from them. I don't need to wallow in manure to know that I don't want any on me. I am perfectly fine with seeing it come out of the cow and smelling the result to know that I'd rather stay away, thank you. She wants to throw it at her students and rub their faces in it.
Excuse me, lady. This is MY SON we're talking about, NOT YOURS.

These people think that parents are brainless puddles of TV-sucking slime good for nothing but birthing people for the state, apparently. And perhaps some parents are. But not all. Some of us want our children to learn the truth. We don't want them filled up with propaganda sensationalized and dressed up as "history".

I find it interesting how one person's viewpoint can so widely differ from another's without even a movie perspective's aid.
Once I was visiting a friend. As I was getting out of my car, I looked down the street. I saw a young man get bitten by a dog. I rushed up to the scene and gave my name and number as a witness. When it came time for the court appearance, I sat behind the boy's family. Up to that point, I had been solidly in the kid's court. 
But then I found out several things: 1. The chubby little recalcitrant creep's parents were egging him on to get as much money as possible by faking an injury. I heard them tell him things to say. 2. A closer observer who had been watching from earlier, witnessed the boy teasing the dog with a stick. Apparently it was an on-going problem. The boy often walked past while running a stick over the fence, which aggravated the dog on several witnessed occasions. 3. The owners had tied the dog in such a way as to render the dog harmless and unable to bite the boy unless the kid was trespassing on the owners' property.
By the time I found out these truths, however, I had already given my statement. I am happy to say that the owners were not forced to put the dog down. They were, however, fined and ordered to keep the dog inside the house. 

Do you see how I changed your view of the boy with three well-placed words? And I'm not even lying. The boy, from his actions in court, demonstrated his personality enough to him to earn the moniker of 'creep'.

There are examples of what lies, "spin", half-truths, and illusions can do to a society all around us. Unless we continue to search diligently for the truth we can be gulled just as are the majority of the lazier, more careless masses. Hence the advent of Snopes. I see people all the time checking with Snopes to divine whether an article is factual or not. Unfortunately there are times when Snopes has been known to be wrong. Apparently the people down there have a price just like many others do.

I personally want my children to know the difference between perceiving evil and in wallowing in it. I want my children to stand up against it and not allow evil to flourish. I personally told them how it felt to be around viciousness such that it made me want to vomit until my stomach was empty.

I've been to East Germany before the Wall came down, with its machine gun-toting guards. I was followed everywhere by those guards. My friend was deported for taking pictures. All of the students with us at that time agreed that they have never felt so completely oppressed as they had at that time and in that place. I could have cut the palpable and very potent feeling of super-condensed evil with a machete. When we got out of the country, every single one of us rejoiced verbally at leaving those feelings behind us.

I've been to Dachau. I've walked the pathways between the barracks foundations. I've seen the piles of shoes. I've seen the pictures of the poor starving scarecrows who survived. I've talked to people who bear the tattooed number on their arms. I do not want my children ever to shut their eyes and allow something like that to take root.

But I also know that a sensationalist movie made to titillate and deaden the senses doesn't work, and especially not at the age of my son. I recently read an article (which was actually first a speech) by Meghan Cox Gurdon, who has been a reviewer for children's books for the Wall Street Journal since 2005. She said:

"Books show us the world, and in a sense, too many books for adolescents act like fun house mirrors, reflecting hideously distorted portrayals of life. Those of us who have grown up understand that the teen years can be fraught and turbulent--and for some kids, very unhappy--but at the same time we know that in the arc of human life, these years are brief. Today, too many novels for teenagers are long on the turbulence and short on a sense of perspective."
And again:
"The trouble is that the first person present tense also erects a kind of verbal prison, keeping young readers in the turmoil of the moment just as their hormones tend to do. This narrative style reinforces the blinkers teenagers often seem to be wearing, rather than drawing them out and into the open."
And:
"Books for children and teenagers are written, packaged, and sold by adults. It follows from this that the emotional depictions they contain come to young people with a kind of adult imprimatur. As a school librarian in Idaho wrote to her colleagues in my defense: 'You are naive if you think young people can read a dark and violent book that sits on the library shelves and not believe that that behavior must be condoned by the adults in their school lives.' "

Books can be intense. How much more potent are movies? The human brain, and especially the teen-aged human brain, tends to believe much of what it sees, at least to a point. Psychological studies on Change Blindness or Flicker Paradigm, have been done in which a person is confronted with the image of a person, which is subsequently obscured by a large mirror or other obstruction. When the obstruction clears, there is a completely different person in similar clothing. The difference is often not perceived by the observer.

The brain tends to continue to perceive the information it was initially given. This phenomenon feeds into the movie business quite nicely. How many of us were afraid of all sharks for years after we saw JAWS for the first time? I was. I have subsequently been swimming with a couple of fifteen-foot long sharks and lived to tell the tale. The movies would have it that all sharks are hideous man-eating menaces, when in fact only a fraction of them are dangerous to humankind.

I don't want my children inured to the fact that evil is very real, very present, and very dangerous. I don't want them to blow it off as a fairytale or an alarmist piece of fiction. The danger is immediate and palpable in some cases. There are very real, very evil people who want to harm us--who are bent on the destruction of mankind. They aren't necessarily clothed in spikes and leather. They probably shoot better than any movie villain. Some of them prance around in regular jeans and t-shirts or power suits. I want my children to know the difference. I want them to know the truth.

So, no. I don't want my children to learn their history from an R-rated movie. Do some actual work and find the truth. Then I'll respect you as a teacher and let you teach my children. Otherwise, the second they get home, I'm going to tell them how it really was, according to my research.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Presenting A CHANGE OF PLANS! Audio Book Giveaway


Donna K. Weaver wrote a smashing book called A CHANGE OF PLANS, which I reviewed on the sixteenth. Today I'm offering a chance to receive a free audio book of A CHANGE OF PLANS.

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

AUDIOBOOK SAMPLE


 
BOOK BLURB

When Lyn sets off on her supposedly uncomplicated and unromantic cruise, she never dreams it will include pirates. All the 25-year-old, Colorado high school teacher wants to do is forget that her dead fiancé was a cheating scumbag. Lyn plans a vacation diversion; fate provides Braedon, an intriguing surgeon. She finds herself drawn to him: his gentle humor, his love of music, and even his willingness to let her take him down during morning karate practices. Against the backdrop of the ship's make-believe world and temporary friendships, her emotions come alive.
However, fear is an emotion, too. Unaware of the sensitive waters he's navigating, Braedon moves to take their relationship beyond friendship--on the very anniversary Lyn is on the cruise to forget. Lyn's painful memories are too powerful, and she runs from Braedon and what he has to offer.

It’s hard to avoid someone when stuck on the same ship, and the pair finds themselves on one of the cruise's snorkeling excursions in American Samoa. Paradise turns to piracy when their party is kidnapped and Lyn's fear of a fairytale turns grim. Now she must fight alongside the man she rejected, first for their freedom and then against storms, sharks, and shipwreck.

BOOK LINKS

Barnes and Noble 

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

What impelled you into the writing world?

I wanted to learn how to write so I could write my personal history. Right now, I'm totally stuck on fiction. lol

How do you find time to write between taking care of a large-ish family and a busy work schedule?

I have a very supportive husband. He's retired and is able to pick up the slack.

How was the seed of A CHANGE OF PLANS planted?

When I decided to learn about writing, I thought I might also see if I could write a full-length novel. I'd had a dream about a man and a woman who were stranded on an island with this huge old tree and a tree house. I needed to figure out how to get them there. Also, in the dream, they didn't now each other, but when I started writing the book I realized I wanted there to be some history between them.

What future plans are there for sequels?

My publisher has the first of three companion novels. It's called Torn Canvas, and the main character is Jori Virtanen, a secondary character in A Change of Plans. For NaNo this year, I plan to write another companion novel that will have Lyn's younger brother Marc as the main character. It will be set about three years after the end of Torn  Canvas. The final book will star Braedon's niece, Kate.
Do you listen to music while you write? 

I do. Music is a big deal to me, and I love to have my music match the mood or character tastes when I'm writing. I have added a page here http://weavingataleortwo.blogspot.com/p/a-change-of-plans.html to my blog with some videos of the music I had in mind when I wrote certain scenes in  A Change of Plans.

Did your son write the music score for the book?

He did. Adam is an amazing guitarist and really into music. He and his brother Paul started a band symphonic Metal band, with Adam being the power behind the music and Paul doing the lyrics. When I heard the song I used in the trailer, I knew that was just what I was looking for. I even snuck their band name and the title of that song into the book
Any certain comfort food you like to munch when the muse hits you?

Not really. I tend to sip on water. I use Dragon software for new words, so it's best to keep my mouth clear when I'm actively writing.
Do you have other writing projects in the works?

Besides the A Change of Plans companion novels, I'm working on a short story with Lyn's friend Elle as the main character. I have written a YA but soon to be NA fantasy duology that I will be editing soon and then a SciFi trilogy that's got about a third of the outline (read that as first draft) done.
Thank you for a lovely interview, Donna. I'm looking forward to reading what you have to offer in the future. Congratulations on a fantastic book.
 

AUTHOR BIO

Donna K. Weaver has always loved reading and creating stories and has been ever entertained. A Navy brat. A U.S. Army veteran. An avid cruiser, she’s sailed the Pacific four times. A Shorei Kempo Karate black belt, she lives in Utah with her husband. They have six children, eight grandchildren.

AUTHOR LINKS

Monday, August 19, 2013

DREAMSPELL Review


I just finished DREAMSPELL by Tamara Leigh...dang it. The ride is over. I immediately looked for another of Tamara's books to start, not wanting to fall clear off the horse and hit the ground.

This book wove a deep spell around me. I've often pondered what it would be like to go back into medieval times like this. My husband turned over in bed this morning and groaned because I was already reading this book. I read it walking, I took it to a meeting I had to be at. Couldn't put it down.

This is a premise I've loved since I first saw SOMEWHERE IN TIME starring Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour. What would it be like to be able to dream yourself into medieval times? How would it be to change the past and right a horrible wrong? When I first read about Britain's two little princes who disappeared without a trace, this is what I wanted to do. Why not have someone from our time rescue them?

Basically this was the idea of DREAMSPELL, though with two other little boys. I loved it. I loved that Kennedy got her second chance at crashing through the cancer barrier, even while her life was slipping away. I wanted to scream, "Hold on! It'll work out!"

It will work out, won't it?

I was glad that Fulke wasn't a Fabio-lookalike. I liked him rugged and scarred from a life of battle. If he's any good, he's got scars. I've been in many medieval-like battles. Even the fake battles are difficult to emerge from completely intact. I certainly could never keep my hair curled or smell nice through it all. I think it's ridiculous when writers portray knights without some hefty scars, because the reality was that being a knight often hurt like heck, even if the guy was an extremely good fighter.

The pacing was fast. The storyline was tight. I enjoyed watching Kennedy trying to fit her twenty-first century head into a medieval body. I think she did admirably at it. There were just the right amount of calls for burning the witch, garderobe references, and dastardly henchmen. I liked the confusion about what was going on. They couldn't, after all, pick up their cell phone and call.

There were about two quarts of blood and hacked limbs, zero sex, a thousand or so hours of sleep deprivation (and that doesn't include my own sleeplessness), no scurvy language, and scriptorium-loads of great research. I laughed, I squirmed, I hated Kennedy's self-made underwear along with her. Too bad she couldn't take some back with her, along with toothpaste, comfy shoes, feminine products, shampoo, a library of how-to books, and an extensive first aid kit.

If you liked the book TIME MACHINE by H.G.Wells or the movie SOMEWHERE IN TIME, you'll love this book. Now to hunt down Tamara Leigh's other books.

Friday, August 16, 2013

A CHANGE OF PLANS Review


I recently took a cruise through a rollicking book by Donna K. Weaver called A CHANGE OF PLANS.

Having been on ships before, (one cruise line and one freighter and a number of tenders and small craft) I know a little of which I speak. This book evokes for me the feel of the salt spray in my hair, the bracing snap of the breeze, the smell of brine and fish, and the roller-coaster action of the waves.

I wish I could say that when I was on that cruise ship I would have welcomed the embraces of a hotty such as Braedon, but I was only four. For me, just keeping dinner down would have been agreeable. But for school teacher, Lyn North, Braedon Randolph would figure large in both her cruise and her life.

Despite her wish to be a social hermit in order to lick wounds her ex left, Braedon is an itch that can't be ignored. I have to hand it to the guy. He's tenacious and dedicated. I can't think of a better guy to have on one's deserted island (unless it's my man).

The whole time I found myself rooting for them to get together and stay alive. This is Jack Sparrow without the rum and the cheesy dreadlocks if he hadn't escaped on turtle-back. (I think Braedon has better teeth, too.)

I definitely enjoyed this, my end-of-summer mental cruise. It was the next best thing to being on an ocean liner headed for adventure and love.

You can dock with this book at:
Donna's Website
Amazon
or
Barnes and Noble

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Gravid With Ideas


crossfitprovidence.com
I once read a story about a woman who felt she had nothing to say. She was like the person clinging to a cliff who was losing purchase and fearing the plunge to the rocks below. She simply couldn't see that there were three hand-holds just an inch to the left, two to the right, and a great ledge for her feet just a half inch below her right foot.

(I'm going to write that story in my own way but the gist will be the same. The original had to do with the stones of her porch and the ants beneath it.)


The woman in question (we'll call her Moira) was complaining to someone who told her to go to her door and look out, then describe what she saw.

So she went to the door and looked out into her yard. "I see my yard."
"Well what's in your yard?"
Moira shrugged. "Grass and a clothesline."
"Describe what's on the clothesline."
So she did. "There's a shirt of my husband's on the line."
Then the person said, "What do you know about that shirt?"
"Well," said Moira, "it's red."
"What kind of red?"
"Uh...cherry red."
"How do you suppose the dyer came up with that red color?"

The questioning went on. After each question, Moira went off to do research. Soon she knew everything about that shirt and the construction processes, the dyeing processes, the manufacture of buttons, the distribution to stores, and a plethora of other interesting facts.

"Now," said the wise person, "what else do you see?"

Suddenly Moira's proscribed little world blasted wide open. She could find interesting things to say (and write about) all around her.

Check these out:
There was a baby in the toilet. Don't you want to know why the baby is in the toilet? It's a horrendous idea, but it grips you like a white-tipped shark and won't let you go.
Blood bloomed in the puddle Mary stepped in on the edge of the road. Why is there blood for crying out loud? Where did it come from? Is it enough blood to indicate that someone is violently dead? Where's the body?
The day June got home from the hospital a man fell from the sky. He landed in her prize geraniums, squishing the whole bed. Why is it raining men? Why was June in the hospital?
The frigate slipped into dock without a sound, its sails tattered and fluttering in the breeze. How is the ship going anywhere with tattered sails? Where is the crew? Why is it docking?

(Dang. Now I have a few more books to start.)

Finding idea fodder is a matter of seeing the world through unglazed eyes and training your brain to actually see what is out there. Or in the case of fiction writers ask yourself, "What if...?" When you don't know something, research it. Ask the difficult questions and don't be lazy about the answers. Fear not about putting those answers out there into the wide world. After all, Wikipedia is written by people like you and I. They go research something and put it up for all to click and read about. With one click hundreds of people a day could be reading something you wrote.

Almost more important than starting the book, is finishing it. If you leave your characters to rot in a literary oubliette, it will be as if you never brought them to life in the first place. Can't you hear their voices at night calling you to get off your fat rear and finish their story? I can. Shudder. Don't let them languish while you putz along polishing incessantly. 

On the other hand, do hone your book into the glittering, sharp sword it has the possibility of becoming. If you put material out that is full of typos and plot holes, your readers will abandon you in disgust. Fill and pave over the plot holes and don't rely solely on spell check. A great editor will save your book.

For some years now, I've been trying to find a good book on how to live with people who have Asperger's Syndrome. As yet I haven't found one I like. I've come to the conclusion I'm going to have to write it myself at some point. But it all hinges on when I figure out how to answer my own questions. It'll take time, dedication, research, and a will to pay it forward. As yet I haven't pushed this project to the front of my huge line of ideas waiting for exposure. 

That's one.

Every time I turn around, there's another book idea pushing at me to make it breathe. There is a Dickensian skeleton awaiting flesh on my operating table as we speak, as well as several needing life blood and the last spark before they spring from the table. I will get around to CPR on Larkin and Charlotte and Luke and the gang at Prima Nochta. 

Soon, my pretties.