I like vampires

Hook the reader from the start.

That’s what my writing mentors have taught me. So, yeah, I have a thing for vampires right now. I’m a little late. Dystopian survivalists seem to be the “thing” now, but I’ve been carrying around Twilight for months. I want to read it. I want to learn from it. I want to discover the secrets of how it became an icon in popular culture.

Oh, yeah. I also think Johnny Depp and Dark Shadows revamped my interest in the vampire culture. Pardon the pun. My mom and I used to watch the show together when I was a little girl. The movie brings back fond memories.

I’ve been working with a group of very talented writers in my creative writing class. Each of them has his or her own blog, and we have a group blog page called the Bluelight Lounge. You can find it at this address:  bluelightlounge.wordpress.com . There is a link to all the writers’ blogs on the page for easy access to their work.

Our assignment this week was to write a blog about reading, so I figured I should follow my own rules and write about reading too.

When I was growing up, my family didn’t have a lot of money, and I was an only child. I spent a lot of time alone. Fortunately, my mom let me get my very own library card, and I was off on new adventures at the public library. Most people in my town won’t remember this, but the public library used to be on the square in an old building. I still remember the smell of the books. I still remember carrying out every dog book I could find. I loved dogs, and I read everything I could about them, including fictions stories—all the Lassie stories and the books about Ginger Pie. And horses. I read everything I could about horses, but I found most of those books in my school library.

I wasn’t a good reader. I was a bad reader, bad in that I wanted to read what I wanted to read, not necessarily what my teacher assigned to me. So, yes, kiddos, I get it when you sneak a book in your lap and turn the pages when you are supposed to be listening to me teach. Sometimes a good book is just too difficult to put down.

The Outsiders remains my all-time favorite, but I like mysterious stories with a twist of the supernatural. I think that’s why Frank Peretti’s book This Present Darkness changed my life. It opened my eyes to another world beyond the veil. Right now I’m hooked on the Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz. Odd is a twenty-year-old fry cook who sees dark shapes that show up at places of mass destruction. Are they demons or omens of death? We don’t know. Odd’s visions are a gift—or a curse. Whatever the case, he deals with it with his ever so funny, dry sense of humor. Oh, yeah, he also sees ghosts. Elvis shows up every now and then. And who can resist Elvis?

When I went to the ACFW conference, I naturally had to visit the Revell table at the bookstore. (Hint, hint. I would be ecstatic to see one of my novels with a Revell logo on it.) This year I didn’t have much cash to spend on books, but I could not resist picking up a couple of Revell novels by Mike Duran: The Resurrection and The Telling.

The back cover blurbs hooked me. “When Ruby Case raises a boy from the dead, she creates an uproar in the quiet coastal town of Stonetree. Some brand her a witch; others a godsend.” I can’t wait to open the first page of The Resurrection. So what’s the answer? What is Ruby?

The Telling is Duran’s second novel, and the back blurb is equally compelling: “Zeph is also blessed with a gift—an uncanny ability to forsee the future, to know peoples’ deepest sins and secrets. He calls it The Telling.” Wow. Zeph sounds like someone I know. I can already imagine the movie playing out in my head.

But right now my two favorite books are The Edge and Crossroads, my manuscripts in what I hope will be a series.

I was talking to a friend of mine about how our children were growing up. We’ve devoted our lives to helping their dreams come true. Now she and I, both writers, want to complete our lives—to find and develop our calling. And I believe the answer lies within books—God’s book, the Bible, of course, and the stories He has given us to enjoy our own creativity and to create books to inspire other people.

CONTEST! 

What’s your calling? What are you reading? How has reading changed your life? Please offer some feedback. I will randomly choose from the comments and send the speaker a book from my library. But if you are chosen, you must send me a private email with your contact information so that I can get it to you.

Happy reading!  You have until Saturday, October 13, to join in the conversation. Please let me know what you think. Your words, your writings, truly encourage me, and, hopefully, I, in turn, can encourage you.

Vicarious

When I was a little kid, I believed I could do anything.

I wanted a pony, and I didn’t depend on Santa to bring it. I devised a plan myself. I saved my pennies in a glass jar. I listened to the Swap and Shop program on WMSR radio, and when a farmer advertised his pony for sale, I called him.

I interrogated him over the phone. I decided he had what I wanted, and I asked him to deliver it to my grandparents’ house. And that he did in a old pick-up truck. I paid him the $25 I had saved, and I had my pony. I think I was in second grade.

What I didn’t realize is how much that pony would cost. My dad traded his shotgun for a new saddle, and they paid my grandparent’s neighbor for boarding. I also didn’t figure on old Jerry, my pony’s name, to be a mean son of gun. The first day I got him I sat proudly on his back while he was tethered in my grandparents’ front yard.

My silly uncle teased me by neighing like a horse, and for no good reason at all Jerry bucked me off in front of my entire family, aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents. I was humiliated. But my grandfather talked me into getting back on again, and I wasn’t afraid anymore.

Jerry didn’t stay around too long, but my little pony experience taught me never to stop believing dreams can true.

I miss being a little kid. When we’re little kids, time has no meaning. Life seems to go on forever, and the only thing about time we dreaded was bedtime. But the next day provided another opportunity for adventure.

When you’re a little kid, you can play and pretend and be anything you want to be. When you fall down, scrape your knee, or getting thrown by a horse, there’s usually someone there to pick you up again.

But when we grow up, recess goes away. There’s no time to pretend. No time to play. No time to think our own thoughts. Everyone says, “No you can’t,” and we stop believing we can.

Last night I saw a beautiful sight. My twelve year old was sprawled on my bed reading The Hunger Games. I didn’t force him to read. He asked me to buy the book. I didn’t beg him to read. He sneaked away by himself and took the initiative.

I’m a teacher. I don’t see many young kids, especially boys, who volunteer to read anything.

I get excited when I see young people read because reading gives them a chance to be anything, do anything they want, even if they have to live vicariously through characters in the book.

I wouldn’t discourage any type of reading as long as it wasn’t moral pollution. Comic books, graphic novels, sports magazines, romance novels, etc. I like to read interviews and biographies. Why? Because I can live vicariously through the writers who interviewed the people. In addition to being a novelist in training, I’m a freelance music journalist, and I love writing about artists and their music.

When I read biographies and music magazines, I always imagine myself having a candid one on one chat with the person the story is about.

Some readers like fantasies with dragons, fairies, and all sorts of mythological creatures. Whe readers open the page, they can be on another planet, in another dimension, or in a different era. Reading takes away the “can’t” factor.

I love to read, but I really LOVE to write because I still like to believe all things are possible. I live vicariously through my characters—and so far my books and articles always have a happy ending because I CAN make it happen.

In schools across the state, children of all ages have an “I CAN” mantra. They work from bell to bell, learning one state standard after another. We push, push, push them. And that’s great. We want them to learn.

But I wish they a little more time to pretend again, to play, to imagine, to read for pleasure, to live vicariously through the characters, to believe they CAN do what everyone else says is impossible.

If my dreams do come true, I want to reach the kids who don’t believe they can any more. I want them to take a recess, open their imaginations, dream a dream and believe it CAN come true.

I may have unrealistic expectations, but I still believe in happy endings.