Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Beautiful People--Cap

'Tis the very end of August, and I had given up hope of ever getting around to doing Beautiful People this month...BUT! Along comes a writing session during which I suddenly realize I have been away from my characters waaay to long and need to get to know them again. So. Here I am, answering this month's ten questions about my character Cap.

A little background: Cap is about thirteen years old and lives in a poor fishing village in the futuristic world of Erdania. He kinda takes my protagonist under his wing after said protagonist undergoes an unpleasant ordeal involving an exploding submarine. Cap also shows up in the two sequels as a grown-up revolutionist leader, and just in case you were wondering he is nothing like Captain America.

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What is he addicted to/can’t live without? 

Cap doesn't have much in the way of material possessions or comforts, but he loves it when people (his sister, his father, the boys in the village) treat him with respect. He's seen as a natural leader, and you might say he can't get along without the recognition he gets from people because of that.

Name 3 positive and 3 negative qualities about your character.

Positive: he has a strong sense of justice, he isn't afraid of pain, and he'll do anything to build a better world for the people he loves.

Negative: his sense of justice has a tendency to corrupt into hate; he can be a little callous; and when I say he'll do anything for the people he loves, I mean literally anything. He believes in the maxim "the ends justify the means."

Is he holding onto something he should get rid of?

Eventually he's going to be clinging to his grief over a lost family member or three.

If 10 is completely organized and 1 is completely messy, where does he fall on the scale?

The shack where Cap lives is so totally bereft of possessions that it's hard to say. There's just nothing to be messy with. But considering the fact that he grows up to be a revolutionist leader, I'd say he has a pretty good head for organization. Let's say an 8.

What most frustrates him about the world he lives in?

Everything.

I'm serious. Well, almost serious. Most of all I guess he's frustrated that in his village, people drop like flies to everything from starvation to childbirth and no one makes a fuss. The people who could do something about it don't care, and the people who care can't do anything about it.

How would he dress for a night out? How would he dress for a night in?

Cap's lucky to have a shirt on his back. His plans for the night make no difference--you'll always find him in the same tattered tan shirt with ripped-up pants to match.

How many shoes does he own, and what kind?

Zero. Unless you count the calluses on the soles of his feet. Those work pretty well. 

Does he have any pets? What pet does he WISH he had?

No pets. I don't think  he wants one or ever considered having one. There'd be no way to feed it, and the last thing he wants is to love another living thing. Living things die. 

Is there something or someone that he resents? Why and what happened?

Does the whole rest of the world count? But then, I guess it's not the entire rest of the world. Mainly the aristocracy. Because they have everything (as far as he can see), and he has lost the only things he ever cared about due to their negligence. 

What’s usually in his fridge or pantry?

Maybe you can guess by now? :) There's no fridge, and never much in the pantry. Most of the people in the fishing village live on an unappealing gruel which is thin, murky, oily, and tastes like fish.

So there's Cap! I hope you enjoyed meeting him. Did you do Beautiful People this month? If so, I'd love to see your posts!

(And oh dear the registration for BP this month has expired. Oh well.)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Versatile Blogger Award

I've been nominated for  The Versatile Blogger Award, by Hope @ The Reader Addict! Thanks so much, Hope! This is going to be fun!

THE RULES

1. Thank the person who nominated you.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself.
3. Nominate 10 other bloggers of your choice.
4. Link your nominees and let them know of your nomination.

Seven facts about myself. Oh dear, how boring. Well. Let's give this a shot.

All the images are from Pinterest.

1. I held a baby wallaby once. (An adorable experience. If you ever get a chance, snatch it up.)
Kangaroo secret:

2. When it comes to chocolate chip cookies, I'm strange in that I prefer ones with fewer chocolate chips.
The BEST Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies - no overnight chilling, no strange ingredients, just a simple recipe for ultra SOFT, THICK chocolate chip cookies!  ♡ pinchofyum.com

3. My 4H chickens were recently killed by some mysterious predator. Pity me. But don't pity me too much, because I just got too old for 4H anyway.
silver duckwing old english game bantam rooster
My rooster looked like this! Rest in peace, Alexander.

4. After resisting the Marvel movies for a ridiculously long time, I finally saw Captain America: The First Avenger the other day. And...let's just say I loved it.
one of my favs. has anyone ever thought that the reason shield was named shield because since captian was the 1st avenger and his weapon thing was a shield that was the reason they called it shield?

5. The copy of Jane Eyre which I am currently reading (or currently not reading may be more accurate) was printed in 1847, as far as I can tell. It amazes me that the library lends out these antique books like that. Just think! The book I'm holding now was in all likelihood held and read by some long-dead person who lived through the Civil War era! It's a fascinating thing to think about. Books...the physical copies of the books, not just the stories that are their souls...are such cool links to the past.
“Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilised by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.”  ― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

6. Although I share a room with my two sisters, our walls are pretty much covered in my stuff. Stuff like drawings of Robin and Underdog, who are supposedly my heroes. (In case you're wondering, the Robin thing is a family joke. But I'm serious about Underdog.)
Underdog he was my hero as a small child .. And when I married I found out.. He was my husband's hero too! <3 We were both under the U ..

7. I'm an introvert. In the blogging world as well as in real life. Therefore #3 in the rules above is well-nigh impossible for me to obey.

So! Rather than obeying and leaving links, I'm just going to tag anyone who's reading this and thinks this tag looks fun. :)

Now that I've talked about myself, it's your turn! Do you like wallabies or roosters better? (I won't be offended either way. Wallabies are awful cute, after all.) I won't even ask if you've seen Captain America, but have you read Jane Eyre? (If so, advise me as to whether I should give up now or slog through the rest of it. I'm sure it has value and all, I just...don't tend to like stories that begin with children being mistreated...) And how do you feel about Robin and Underdog as superheroes? (Them? Superheroes? I have a feeling my definition of that word is going to undergo a drastic change if I continue watching Marvel movies. Not that I don't like Underdog still!)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

To Be a Saint!

The other day my little brother came up to me with a picture book in his hands and asked, "Why are those boys throwing rocks at him?"

I glanced at the picture--an illustration of an incident in the life of St. Dominic Savio--and explained that the boys weren't throwing rocks at Dominic, they were throwing rocks at each other, and Dominic had stepped between them with a crucifix to make them realize they were hurting Jesus. Then I went back to sweeping the kitchen.

My brother must have been stewing over the story, however, because a few minutes later he said, "If I was a saint--"

"You can be," I interrupted.

"I can?"

"Yes. We all can be. We were all made to be saints."

He was surprised by that. And when I thought about it, so was I.

It's the very simple thoughts that are the most flabbergasting.

We're all made to be saints. Like Dominic. That's the very reason we were made.

“If I do not become a saint, I am doing nothing.”    St Dominic Savio (Memorial 9 March)
From Pinterest.

It sounds daunting, doesn't it? And yet--how hard is it really?

Very hard, from a human standpoint. Impossible, in fact. Jesus' statement about the camel going through the eye of a needle comes to mind.

But so does another Bible verse: "All things are possible with God."

If we surrender ourselves to God, won't He give us the grace to be a saint? All of the grace we need to be a saint?

In my younger days, my sisters and I were part of a Little Flowers girls' group dedicated--well, quite simply, dedicated to making little saints. At the beginning of every meeting we sang a song, the refrain of which went:

My only desire: to be a saint!
I'll only aspire to be a saint!
Never to tired to be a saint!
Just reach one step higher and be a saint!

As I thought about it while sweeping the kitchen that afternoon, that one line "Just reach one step higher and be a saint" really jumped out at me. Because reaching "just one step higher" makes it so simple. It means little things, like speaking kindly to someone when it would be easier to snap, or taking an extra minute to do a household chore well. St. Therese's famous "Little Way" is really a great secret to sanctity.

St. Dominic Savio, pray for us. #catholic
From Pinterest.

I was reminded of a line in Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory, taken from a scene in which one of the characters is awaiting execution:

"It seemed to him, at that moment, that it would have been quite easy to have been a saint. It would only have needed a little self-restraint and a little courage. He felt like someone who has missed happiness by seconds at an appointed place. He knew now that at the end there was only one thing that counted--to be a saint."

"A little self-restraint and a little courage." A little charity, a little piety, a little selflessness.

We just need to surrender a little more to God with each passing moment. And He will show us the way to perfection.

With God's help, it's possible, because anything is possible.

Let's give ourselves to our Heavenly Father--and begin.

"Ask Jesus to make you a saint. After all, only He can do that. " Saint Dominic Savio
From Pinterest.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Books of June and July

Hullo, everybody! Are you having a wonderful summer? Isn't it going far too fast?

I said I might post occasionally during my hiatus, so here are the books I've been wrapped up in all summer so far.

June

An Old-Fashioned Girl, by Louisa May Alcott
Oh, Louisa May Alcott books are the best! I loved Polly and Tom, and all the rest, too. Finished in June; favorite character, Tom (or Polly).

What a wonderful writer Louisa May Alcott is! I tend to forget how much I love her until I pick a volume of hers up, and then I'm swept away for a day or two until I've finished it. Her old-fashioned prose is delicious, her characters endearing, and her stories just the sweetest things. This one is about the country girl Polly Milton and her city friends the Shaws. Visiting them one winter, Polly feels out of place, for the Shaws seem to have everything except for the firm family life that makes Polly's own poor home so warm and bright. Of course, Polly's cheery and selfless ways soon have a favorable effect on the entire Shaw family--from elegant Fan to mischievous Tom. (Tom, incidentally, was one of my favorite characters.)

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, by Roger Lancelyn Green
Oh, I love the King Arthur legends so much! Someday I'd like to rewrite them as a series of middle grade novels. Finished in June; favorite character...oh, I think I like Gareth best, but there were lots of ones I like. Why does the ending have to be so sad??? I mean, it's perfect, but...Lancelot and Guinevere ruin everything!

Do you enjoy the chivalrous and romantic tales of medieval heroes? Then--well, you've probably already read the King Arthur stories. But if you haven't, be advised that Roger Lancelyn Green's retelling is quite satisfying, handling the legends with simplicity and grace.

I certainly enjoyed this read! It put me in the mood to write an entire series of children's books (or possibly books for older readers) based on the King Arthur legends. But oh, why must it end so sadly??? Dash it all, Lancelot and Guinevere! Why'd you have to go and ruin everything?

The Scarecrow of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
I finally read the last few chapters which have been waiting for years! Finished in June; favorite character...well, I remember feeling sorry for Pon if that was his name, and of course I've always liked the Scarecrow.

I'll be honest: I only read the last few chapters of this after (for some inexplicable reason) putting it down years ago. But! L. Frank Baum's fairy tales are very cute and whimsical (if to such extent that there aren't high enough stakes to keep a reader invested), and I wouldn't mind reading more of the Oz series sometime.

Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury 
This time opening it, I found it lovely and finished the whole thing in a few days. Finished in June; favorite character...Tom or Doug I suppose, but what I really liked was the prose and the setting and the themes of memory and life and death.

I'd tried this one several times before and always been discouraged by the slow pace of the story. This time around I embraced the slowness of it and therefore enjoyed it much more. :) It's almost as though this book isn't meant to be a story--at first glance it doesn't seem to have a plot at all, and the cast of characters is filled in with dozens of figures who are featured heavily for a chapter or two and then disappear practically forever. What really let me enjoy this book was the lovely prose and the thought-provoking themes of life and death.

Favorite book of June: probably An Old-Fashioned Girl.


July

The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin
This was such fun to read! Wonderfully drawn, quirky characters and a bunch of great twists--I don't know if you can ask for much more from a mystery story. Finished in July; favorite character...golly. Maybe Turtle? Or Angela? I liked a lot of them.

If you're looking for an engaging mystery with plenty of twists and lots of quirky characters, you want to check out The Westing Game. The plot revolves around the will of the eccentric millionaire Sam Westing, which has summoned sixteen unlikely "heirs" to solve the mystery of his death in a limited amount of time and thus vie for the reward of his inheritance. Every bit as delightful as the mystery itself (which I, at least, found full of surprises) were the characters--homely little Turtle who kicks those she doesn't like, her uppity mother Grace Windsor Wexler, the friendly old doorman Sandy, and a dozen others. 

G. K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense, by Dale Ahlquist 
Chesterton!!! My favorite writer, definitely.

Here's a good one for anyone interested in getting into Chesterton! It was written as an introduction to the man Dale Ahlquist claims to be the best writer of the 20th century. First it gives a brief overview of his life and character, then it goes into a short explanation or introduction to some of his most important works. Especially interesting to me were the chapters on eugenics (I hadn't realized Margaret Sanger was so closely linked to the Nazis) and economics (I hadn't known there was an alternative system to socialism and capitalism). I already knew I loved Chesterton; this book cemented him as my definite favorite writer.

Johnny Tremain, by Esther Forbes
I'd liked the movie, but the book was even better. (And much different.) I especially appreciated the representation of war as ugly and the British as human. Finished in July; favorite character, Rab. Definitely Rab.

Oh, my heart! This was probably the "feelsiest" book of July. Only because of the ending, which I shan't spoil for you. (Funny. Until the climax I'd really enjoyed the book, but hadn't gotten too emotional about it.)

Anyway. It's a really good historical novel about a 14-year-old Boston apprentice who burns his hand so badly he can't hope to be a silversmith anymore, and then gets swept up in the events leading to the Revolutionary War.

There were several things which intrigued me about the book, but what interested me the most was the character Rab. (Isn't that an excellent name? Rab?) He definitely wasn't the main character--that was, as you might guess from the title, Johnny Tremain--and yet he struck me as the most important character for some reason. He was the one who made the most of an impact on Johnny, I guess. I don't know. I may have to do a separate Rab-inspired blog post one of these days.

Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott
I enjoyed reading this, though it made me feel cheated in some ways. Finished in July; favorite character...mm, I wish Ivanhoe had been in it more. Maybe Rebecca? Oh oh oh! Wamba. Definitely Wamba.

Y'know what, I had mixed feelings on this one. Of course I loved the general setting, premise, and characters--knights in shining armor, damsels in distress, tournaments, despots, King Richard, etc.--and yet, I felt cheated by it in some ways. I think it was the title. I was expecting it to be about Ivanhoe, and it was, except--Ivanhoe doesn't show his face as Ivanhoe until a third of the way into the book, and then *mild spoilers* he's put out of action until about the last third of the book, and--well, I liked Ivanhoe. If it had been entitled "Rebecca" or "Richard's Return" or something I wouldn't have felt cheated like that. But as it was I was hankering for the hero to show up for most of the book and he never really came in as much as I'd wanted him to.

I also suspect Sir Walter Scott's portrayal of the middle ages must be taken with a grain of salt. Not that I disbelieve there was a lot of discrimination against Jews and corruption of the clergy, etc. in the middle ages, but--the picture painted in Ivanhoe just felt a little too black to be taken hook, line, and sinker. (I might be wrong, of course. Just sayin', I have my doubts.)

Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry
One-day read in July, very good. Favorite character, Peter...because I like heroic tragic young men characters...

Ooh, I really liked this one! It's another premise I can't resist--anti-Nazi Underground during WWII. When the Jews of Denmark are put it deadly danger, ten-year-old Annemarie and her family work together to get her friend Ellen to safety. Since this was a children's book it only took me a day to read, but it had a nice emotional impact nonetheless. (Short, powerful books are the best, aren't they?)

And I was really surprised when I realized this was written by the same author who wrote The Giver. (Which I have yet to finish.)

Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton
CHESTERTON. According to Dale Ahlquist you must read Orthodoxy more than once, so I reread it in July. Need I say it was delightful, humorous, and profound all at once, as Chesterton always is?

IT'S A CHESTERTON BOOK!!!

Need I say more? Go read it, dear ones. Go read it right now. :)

Pilgrim's Inn, by Elizabeth Goudge
Found an old copy of this in Grandma's basement, and oh! oh! oh! I want to write books like this. Finished in July (on vacation); favorite character...oh I don't know. Possibly Sally or David. It wasn't really the kind of book where one single character jumped out at me; I was equally interested in all of them, even Scarlett-O'Hara-esque Nadine.

I found the original (1948) edition of this book in my grandma's basement, with her maiden name inscribed in the front. Upon picking it up, I had to smile at the opening scene, because one of the first pieces of writing advice I ever learned is that it's cliché to begin a book with a pretty young heroine waking up in the morning.

But, of course, a cliché opening scene is no reason to give up on a book in my opinion--especially not when you find even the cliché sweet and enjoyable, and when the book is one your grandma read when she was young. And, oh, oh, oh, am I ever glad I read this one through to the end. At one point I groaned in delight to my mom, "I want to write books like this!"

It's a story set in an England recovering from WWII and about a family recovering from what was too close to being an adulterous love affair. Between the love of good-hearted friends and the welcoming shelter of a house that was once a medieval hostelry, wounds are healed and new resolutions made--but is it enough to save a marriage still tottering on the brink of disaster?

After finishing this book and loving it, I was surprised and overjoyed to discover that it's actually Book 2 in a trilogy. So it looks like I haven't seen the last of my beloved Eliot clan!

The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene
Rather too gritty for me to really enjoy, but it was very interesting and the ending was really good. Finished in July; favorite character...eh, one of the minor ones like the little boy (Luis?).

This one, a book about a sinful "whiskey priest" trying to do his duty in the midst of the persecutions in Mexico, was rather too grittily realistic for me to enjoy. Not only were the details about rotting teeth and prison toilets downright gross, but the characters were depressingly flawed human beings. The ending almost made me forget that, though--it's one of those stories where the concluding sentence leaves you quietly pondering.

No doubt about it, Graham Greene's a good writer. (If you have a few minutes, check out his short story "The Hint of an Explanation." It's one of the best short stories I've ever read.)

Favorite book of July: Pilgrim's Inn.

Have you read any of these books? Any summer reads you'd recommend? Has your summer been lovely and full of wonderful words? I certainly hope so!