Influential Book Challenge

I was challenged by my sister-in-law to do a list of 10 books that have impacted my life in some way. I went with nine fiction books that I’ve spent tremendous time thinking about after I read them and one poetry book which helped shape my love of poetry and here they are:

1. Wren to the Rescue (Really all three books from Wren’s War series) – Sherwood Smith – One of the books from my early life that taught me that girls can be powerful, save themselves, and don’t always need a prince or someone else to rescue them. I still find myself thinking about the characters from this series and wondering what happened to them after the series ended…

  1. The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern – Captivating story and first book I read both before and after writing my first novel. I’d been worried about how the process of novel writing from an author’s perspective would change my perspective while reading, but it has enhanced my reading experiences. I notice things like point of view, where chapter breaks happen, etc. and how they affect the story and appreciate them even more than I did if/when I noticed them before.
  2. Arrows of the Queen (Really all three books of the Queens Own series) – Mercedes Lackey – I reread this book (and sometimes the other two as well) at least once every year (sometimes more often), especially if I want inspiration to keep moving forward through tough times.
  3. Lirael (Really all three books of the Abhorsen series) – Garth Nix – One of the first books that showed libraries the way I always imagined they could be- fierce, powerful, and full of magic! I adore this series!
  4. Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame – Charles Bukowski – First and favorite book I’ve read by Bukowski. He helped me find my poetic voice and hammered home numerous important and influential qualities such as: a) Great poetry can come from modern times b) Poetry doesn’t have to rhyme c) Poetry can be about everyday subjects d) It’s all about the endings
  5. Dragons of Autumn Twilight (Really all three of the Dragonlance Chronicles series) – Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman – Longtime favorite series of mine… They were a gateway into the huge collection of Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms novels which I devoured and reread throughout my formative teen and early twenties years.
  6. The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien – This is my favorite Tolkein story and was my introduction to Middle Earth, where I have often dwelled and left the cares of this world behind. (For the record: the new Hobbit films are Peter Jackson Fanfiction about the Hobbit, not a cinematic version of the Hobbit story.)
  7. Night Watch – Sir Terry Pratchett – First book I ready by Sir Terry Pratchett and was a wonderful introduction to Discworld. Discworld is full of humor and intelligence and has helped me through some of the toughest times in my life and kept me laughing during some of the best times in my life.
  8. The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch – One of the most interesting books I’ve read with one of the trickiest main characters… I can’t wait to see where this story goes…
  9. A Wise Man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss – Complex characters, massively detailed world, and a storyline that sucks you in and keeps you hungering for more… I loved Name of the Wind and it was one of the most original books I’d read in a while at the time when I found it… but then I read A Wise Man’s Fear and it blew my mind because I loved it even more than the Name of the Wind and I hadn’t thought that would be possible… I NEED to know what happens with these characters…

(I was going to put the Harry Potter series (because I have loved this series as a dear part of my childhood and adulthood and I’ve been to every midnight release for all the books that had one and all the movies) and A Song of Ice and Fire series (because my husband introduced me to this series before we even started dating and most of our road trips turn into discussions about who will win the game of thrones and why and how) but although these series deserve shout outs I decided against including them because to me they’re a series and you can’t really separate one book from the others.)

Gorilla Adventures in Cubicle-Land

So the highlight of my month so far happened this past week:

The girl next to me and one of the guys were talking about being tan and he said he was more tan then she was.

She said, “no, you just have darker arm hair that’s not the same thing.”

A girl was walking by at the same time and overheard and said, “did you hear that?  She just said you were hairy!”

And he was like “Hairy?”

And the girl walking by was like, “yeah! Hairy like a gorilla!”

And the first girl goes “a gorilla! I never said that!”

and the hairy guy goes “gorilla!” and then does a gorilla impression by hunching over and hoping down the row of cubes with his arms up like a gorilla!

And another guy walks over because us girls are laughing so hard and asks “what’s so funny.”

So we tell him “that hairy guy just did a gorilla impression!”

And the new guy goes “oh? Like this?” and hunches over so his knuckles drag on the ground and slinks down the row of cubes grunting!

And we all laugh a lot and are like “no it was different”

and the hairy guy comes back and says “yeah like this!” and does his impression again but with more sound effects and then scratches his chest like a gorilla.

The other guy goes “no gorillas are like this” and proceeds to do his impression again.

So they are both doing gorilla impressions and I started laughing so hard I ended up wheezing and clapping like a retarded seal while the girl next to me laughs so hard she starts crying and has to pull out her inhaler.

And that is a true story and the highlight of my month!

The Case for Reading Bad Books

Go check out the following article:

The Case for Reading Bad Books by @rebeccaschinsky

 

This article was a good one that articulates an argument for finishing “bad” books even if you are normally a person who tends to not finish them.  I have only not finished maybe 10 books, ever.  If I pick something up and start to read it then I’ve already bought into it.

With the activity of my imagination I have to finish bad books because then I can let them go.  I can let the characters slip away into the humiliated dark shadows of regret.  I can let the setting fade away into a cliche fog.  If I don’t finish a book then it will keep cropping up like an unwanted Facebook status update from that whiny friend who complains every day.  If I don’t finish a book then I wonder about what happens next in the storyline.  Those poor characters… even the ones I didn’t like… did the author ever get their shit together and give them a real chance at an interesting story/developed plot/happy ending?  Ugh!

No it is better by far for me to plow through a bad book while railing against the injustice of books like these getting published while talented authors with more put together stories/more interesting characters/a good conflict all languish in the realm of unpublished and unfinished imaginationland.   I will finish a bad book in one sitting (if I can stomach it) and then reward myself with a rereading of one of my favorite books as a salve to my imagination.  It’s like here imagination… this is how the book should have gone down.  I’m sorry I put us through that… here’s some deliciously distracting Terry Pratchett as a pallet cleanser.

Neil Gaiman

Just met Neil Gaiman at a book signing!  When asked about his next medium he announced it to be interpretive dance! LoL He later said he was kidding but it was still amazing to hear him speak and read from his #1 Best Selling book The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

When we arrived to the school where the event was held we ran right into a giant crowd… we were not sure if it was the line or a mob… even in the midst of the line-mob it was unclear.  The line was like a study in human chaos theory.  I announced that the line was likely a trick played on the fans by Neil himself where the line circled in and around itself and through trees and over sidewalks with no clear beginning or ending and in fact was one continuous circular loop that represented the real world and the people who noticed and got out of line and went inside were the ones who had discovered the NeverWhere.

This announcement earned me dark looks, laughs, and three new friends and we exchanged contact information as a result of our nerdy fandom! 🙂

When I finally met Neil I didn’t even Fangirl-Fail!  I didn’t cry or squeak or say anything stupid.  I just beamed a smile at him and thanked him for his writing and for having the tour somewhere I could get to!  It was an event worth traveling to and I’m thrilled I got to meet him!  He even smiled at me!  I almost fell off the stairs right after we got our books signed because I was recounting the events of the previous minute wherein I had a book signed and was also smiled at by one of my favorite authors on his last ever book tour to Husband (who also happened to have been a part of that last minute…) luckily I recovered and made it down the stairs without mishap.

Neil Gaiman

Book Signing for the #1 Best Seller

Now I am off to read!

“When” We Children, Not “If” We Will Have Children

I don’t like going to the doctor.  In fact, I’m pretty terrified of going to the doctor.  I hate needles and hospitals and doctor offices.  Since I hardly ever go to the doctor, when I do go it’s because I’m really sick.  Consequently, the doctor always tells me I’m really sick.  So then I don’t like going to the doctor because they always tell me I’m sick… I’m terrified that I am going to get cancer because my mom had cancer and I’ve just always thought that I would get it too. I do not have the most healthy way of looking at doctors or getting sick but it is something I have been working on improving.  My husband knew about my loathing of all things medical before we got married.  After we tied the knot we sat down and I really explained to him that I was terrified of getting cancer, rational or not it has been a fear that has governed every medical interaction I have had since I was 16 at least…  He pointed out that not all cancer is hereditary and that I have lived a very different lifestyle then my mom.  Also, no one else in my family has cancer so the situation might not have the odds I’ve always feared.  After that talk I realized that whether I end up getting cancer or not is actually not the main issue.  The main issue is whether I am going to take care of myself or not.  I want to be a strong, healthy partner just as I expect my husband to be a strong, healthy partner.  That means we both needed to reevaluate our feelings about doctors.

I started with the dentist.  I’ve had a cracked tooth (rear molar) for a couple of years and have never gone to the dentist to get it fixed.  I’ve literally just chewed on the other side of my mouth.  For years.  So I scheduled myself a dentist appointment and even showed up.  I found the dentist by doing lots of online research.  I found a place that specializes in “gentle dentistry” aka people with dental phobias or who have really sensitive teeth.  After finding that place I compared online reviews with lots of other places who specialized in the same thing.  I found the one that was ranked the highest and made an appointment.  It ended up being really great!  The dentist and dental assistants, even the lady at the front desk, all listened to me and explained things when I told them if I knew what was coming I wouldn’t jump.  It was a really positive experience.  That turned out to be good because I’ve seen a lot of them since then and I will continue to do so.  When you don’t go to the dentist for 5 years or so except for that one root canal you couldn’t avoid… your teeth will probably need some work.  My cracked tooth needed a root canal.  I knew that going in.  Turns out the tooth cracked because of the way my teeth connect and I also need another root canal on the same tooth on the other side of my mouth!  That one doesn’t look cracked but actually is down between the teeth.  Oh good… I finally decide to take care of business and now I need $4400 dollars in dental work.  My husband still says it was the right choice.  I’m not so sure.  Meanwhile, I’ve completed the one root canal on the cracked tooth.  It was my third and it was the best root canal I’ve experienced! When my husband gets a job I will schedule the other one.  Right now we just can’t afford it.

So I dealt with my teeth.  The next step is going to a regular physical check up.  I don’t feel quite up for that so I scheduled a lady doctor appointment.  I was only marginally less terrified of this doctor visit then of a normal physical.  I have only seen an OBGYN once and that was eight years ago.  I conducted research to find the best doctor covered by my insurance.  Then I needed to decide if I wanted a doctor that was just a GYN or one that was also an OB.  I decided on the OB because if we decide to have kids and I like the doctor then I don’t want to have to get a new one.  So, I went to that appointment today.  It was not nearly as awful as I was afraid.  I cried twice when I asked the Big Questions that have scared me for years:

1) Do I have the breast cancer gene?

2) Can I have children?

These questions have plagued me for years and I have been too scared of the answers to ever ask them.  The good news is that I can have children! The other good news is that it seems unlikely that I have the breast cancer gene because of our family history.  The bad news is that to really be sure I will need to ask my mom to get a genetic screening and then get a screening myself for comparison.  That doesn’t seem likely because of her own relationship with doctors.  The other questions I had the doctor answered as well.  In fact she took the time to go through each question on my list I brought and patiently answered everything.  In my experience doctors seem more apt to prescribe a pill, let the pharmacist go over it with you, and move on then they are to sit down and talk with you about what’s going on and what to expect.  Key take away from my visit:

Condoms are only 85% effective!

WTF?!?!?!?!  I told the doctor that I thought they were 99% effective and she smiled and asked if I liked the show Friends and learned that from Ross and Rachel’s experience.  (I DID! AND I NEVER KNEW THAT FRIENDS WAS WHERE I HAD GOTTEN MY CERTAINTY THAT CONDOMS WERE 99% EFFECTIVE!!!!) So, turns out we’re REALLY lucky that we haven’t had a pregnancy “scare” because, you know, we use condoms.  Speaking of babies…

My husband almost caused me to crash my car when we were driving back from our honeymoon last November because he said he could picture us having kids “next year.”  For the record, that “next year” is five months away!  With that comment he had moved from how we had been talking about kids: “someday, maybe if we have kids” to the concrete near future certainty about kids: “I can see us making a baby at this time next year.” That was a big startling revelation in our relationship and we have been having an ongoing conversation about kids since then.  It’s like suddenly with that one conversation he gave me Baby Fever!  I had never been partial to babies, not that interested, babies were still hypothetical in my future.  Suddenly I see babies and I’m like “AAAAAWWWWWWWWWW! LOOK AT THE WIDDLE TOES!” It’s been a struggle to keep my anxiety and fear at bay because they are so wrapped up in my thoughts about having kids.

Since I’ve always believed I would get cancer, I haven’t wanted to have any children because I don’t want to put them through what I had to go through and I don’t want to put my husband through what my dad had to go through.  Also I’m terrified about how the world is a dark and scary place and how can I bring an innocent child into that?  And what about if the child has a birth defect or a disability or grows up to become a serial killer?!?!?!  And what if I go crazy and then everyone has to deal with crazy me?  And what if something bad happens?  Or what if the baby gets cancer?

I’ve been carrying around all these worries and what ifs for years and I’ve never let myself really consider having a child because all these dark thought were between me and the thought of me having kids being possible.  My husband has dutifully talked through all these fears and more with me and even brought up some of his own… what if our parents try to move in with us to “help,” what if our puppy doesn’t like the baby, what if we lose our jobs and have a baby, what if we want to travel or move across the country?  So we talked about those things as well… and we’ve been talking about these things for the past 7 months.  Finally today I let all the fear and anxiety out at the doctor’s office and shared them with the doctor.  She explained what she could and then patted my hand and told me “you can’t live in the world of what if.  You can’t live in a world governed by fear.  You’ve had some bad things happen in your life.  Some really sad things you’ve had to deal with.  You could use some joy in your life.  Babies bring lots of joy.  It’s ok.  You are a healthy, young, responsible adult in a healthy relationship: go make babies.” And then we smiled at each other.  And I felt this dark creeping cloud that’s been hovering for years just raise up off me while I can still feel it hovering, waiting for me to descend into the dark pit of worries and what ifs, for the rest of today I’ve just been smiling.  I was waiting to make a decision about “the whole baby thing” until I had a sign from the universe.  I don’t know how much more clear the universe can be then having a doctor tell me to “walk thirty minutes a day, take a multivitamin, and make babies.”

I talked with my husband as soon as I got home and told him everything.  We both just smiled at each other and decided: it’s time to invite more joy into our lives and stop letting worries and fear make our decisions for us.  We’ve decided we are going to have a child and now it’s a matter of when, not if.