Unfinished Stories

This past weekend I made chutney, a spicy Indian relish you can make by chopping stuff up and pureeing it in a blender. Mint-cilantro chutney is my favorite, and homemade is oh so yummy. But that got me thinking about the word, chutney, and how once upon a time I started writing a story that included a town called Chutney.

Whatever happened to that story? It was exciting, epic, and intriguing. Truth is, I just got tired of it and totally ran into a wall with the plot, the myriad characters seemed neverending, as did problem of sticking to the point of the story: A point-less quest. The idea for the story came about after thinking about Lord of the Rings and how it was a worthy quest to take a ring that brought out the evil in people to a place where it could be destroyed. What would be an unworthy quest? How would that story play out?

What I came up with was a convoluted tale of a people enslaved, a long-lost princess, and a quest to save a despicable master and mistress. It was a long tale with some parts that were really good and others that, well, didn’t make sense. To this day it sits collecting dust in a binder in my office desk and will probably remain there until I finally decide to dump it.

One might think that a writer or author is defined by the stories they publish, but that isn’t the whole truth. What’s published is the proverbial top of the iceberg. The other ninety percent are all those stories and ideas either waiting to be finished or even destined never to be completed. Those incomplete stories tell of wishes, hopes, and dreams, plots and characters the author has visions for, but finds that either lack of will or ability defeats them. Some stories are simply bad ideas, but writers can’t let them go because something in the story touches their inner heart and soul. I have many such stories, and think about them from time to time, retelling them to myself in my head. No one will ever read them but me and God, and sometimes that seems a shame, but for a lot of artists, their art is mostly for themselves anyway, and wouldn’t mean as much to a larger audience. Much like diary entries, these stories or pieces of them remind us who we once were, how far we’ve come, and where we want to be in the future.

Then there’s those stories, unfinished at present, but ones we are planning on completing once we have more time to devote to them, time for more research, care, and attention. These are the jewels in a writer’s satchel–the possibilities of greatness that will someday be. Even with the will to complete them, time curtails a lot of these stories. An author’s life is cut short, emergencies and duties overwhelm the energy and resources they have to give to the budding tales, and other events and people demand the author’s time elsewhere. Life just gets in the way and sometimes manuscripts or poems or other works are found completed or nearly-so, unpublished and waiting away in dusty drawers or an old hard drive until someone should come across them. Most simply vanish with the passing of lives and history. Once in awhile, though, authors take the time to share these stories, ideas, and characters. They may share them with strangers on a sudden impulse, or with someone they love, telling the story out when they can’t yet write it.

I find it fascinating how my unfinished stories have changed over the years, how often the endings have played out in so many different ways depending on my mood, with new ideas popping up the older I get and the more I learn. How surprising, too, to remember a story I once was excited about, but for some reason forgot. Mostly, the forgetting part had to do with growing up. The unfinished ones I continue to hold onto are those that have stood the test of time in my mind. Those characters, storylines, and themes are crucial elements I someday want to share with the world, but I want to share them at their best, when I’m able to devote the most time and energy to them. Which ones will remain unfinished and which ones will be completed? Even more, what future stories do I have yet to envision?

Unfinished is exciting in some ways. Things are still in play, there’s still a “game” going on even if it’s under the surface. Life is not done being lived and adventures are still to be had, if only for a time. An artist is really only as good as the next thing they are working on, and we can never complete anything to perfection, so we’re always writing and creating more to try and try again. We continue on in imperfection. Never will we have our seventh day of rest because we know that even what we’ve already written or published still isn’t “good” enough. Unfinished stories, unfinished life. Exciting and tiring at the same time.

The Lady Vanishes: Thrilling

Growing up, and having a love of mysteries, the story of The Lady Vanishes was always somewhere in the corner of my mind as something I wanted to watch. A few years ago I was thrilled to find the Alfred Hitchcock version on Netflix, but as there was no proper context to what was going on and the heroine seemed situated at the hotel for a very, very long time, I gave up on it, certain there was a thrilling tale in there somewhere but that I just didn’t have the patience to watch it through.

As I was certain the newer, 2013 version by the BBC would be faster paced, I decided to give it a try, and watched it twice because it was so enjoyable. Now I’m plowing through the book by Ethel Lina White and loving that even more! Want to read all her stuff now.

The BBC’s The Lady Vanishes stars Tuppence Middleton as Iris Carr, a young, wealthy orphan who spends her days partying and traveling with her friends. In this version, too, there is time at the hotel before the mystery on the train ride home begins, and it is so because that’s how White wrote it. The group is vacationing somewhere in Eastern Europe and happen to upset a couple of spinster sisters and a Reverend and his wife that are also from England. As someone who has lived and traveled abroad, it is somewhat disconcerting to find either yourself or your countrymen behaving badly elsewhere. We like to think we can be taken as individuals, but all too often our behavior is lumped in with all Americans, or wherever you come from, even if it’s just big city vs. little city. At any rate, Iris soon tires of her friends, sends them off ahead of her, and that is where the real story begins.

Although the movie was very exciting, there wasn’t as much background for some of the minor characters that I would have like to see and I’m happy to report that the book has a lot more on them, including explaining some actions that can’t be fully grasped by watching the movie. I say this in especial consideration of the two spinster sisters. After hearing their side in full, I am very sympathetic to their point of view not to interfere, wrong as it may have been.

Middleton did a great job playing Iris and was Iris rather than having to stretch to act as her at all. Too, Tom Hughes was very suited to play Max Hare, Iris’s helper and romantic interest, and Alex Jennings made a great professor, though the movie never really gets into his fear of hysterical females, which is quite amusing in the book. One wants to know just what he’s experienced with his students at Cambridge. The only false step in casting was perhaps making the possible villains too obvious, but then the book makes them rather obvious as well, though from Iris’s standpoint.

As to the vanishing lady, the story is simply better if you know nothing about the mystery or where it’s going, at least the first time watching. I found the film riveting a second time as I like train settings as well as movies set in the 30s and 40s, and really even if you know the truth you do wonder if Iris is really going mad. It’s fun to imagine what one would do in such a situation, how you would convince doubters to your point of view and all that. It’s funny also to think that often we don’t care about helping strangers until suddenly we do and find we will move heaven and earth if necessary. Sometimes we do act as God’s hands in saving others, even if the rest of the time we’re rather selfish.

High recommendations on both the film and the book (originally called The Wheel Spins), but I haven’t yet read the ending of the book and am curious to see if the film changed the ending. Sometimes screenwriters change the ending for no apparent reason and it irks me to no end.

Hotel stories

I’m working on a couple of different stories these days, a sort-of medical thriller, and an intriguing idea for a Korean drama involving a hotel. Thus I have on my list to watch the new series Hotel de Luna starring IU, and a couple of older series about hotels: My Secret Hotel and Hotel King, respectively starring Yoo In Na and Lee Dong Wook. Probably should add Lie to Me to the list as it also involves a large hotel. As skeptical as I am about being able to do the Korean rom-com genre justice, it’s just too intriguing of an idea to let go of, kind of like Trolls for Dust was.

Speaking of Trolls for Dust, everything is looking well for focusing on book three in the series this fall. I’m excited to see if I actually will have enough material for book four or if I will choose to end it as a trilogy. I signed up to be in a couple of book fairs in Minnesota this fall, so will have more news up about that as we get closer to the dates. My plans to do more with the trollsfordust blog haven’t exactly materialized, but it’s on my list as a way to help brainstorm and get back into the series.

As for other dramas, I am finishing up Goblin for the second time and find it to be just as good, if not better than the first time, though a little slow in parts. Also, the soundtrack really makes the show even more magical, enhancing the writing and giving extra life to the various plot lines, my favorite of which is the romance between the grim reaper and the Olive Chicken BB.Q owner. I’d also forgotten how funny a lot of the scenes were and how they take the time to really show the “goblin’s bride” growing up, bit by bit.

On Fortune’s Wheel: book review

This was one of my favorite love stories to read in my teens and early twenties. Maybe like the heroine, Birle, I just have a thing for men with blue eyes and lordly airs, but upon reading it again, I find the draw of the story has always been how both Birle and Orien adapt to each new circumstance as it comes. They adapt for different reasons at different times, sometimes for mere survival, other times because they have their lover’s safety and good in mind, as when Orien puts on a facade, belittling Birle before men who would harm her in order to divert their interests from her.

Cynthia Voigt’s books set in the medieval world of The Kingdom are set apart from other YA fiction both by how well she writes determined young people, their thoughts, feelings, and emotions, all hidden underneath a stoicism alien to many teens today, and by her choice to narrate in the third person. I’ve no objection to first person narrative, but too often it is used in young adult fiction as an “easy” way of connecting with how teens think, and often the efforts are cringeworthy and end up rapidly dating the books. Voigt’s Kingdom books were largely written in the 80s and early 90s, a time when there was a remoteness to youth that is nonexistent today in our culture of social media. In On Fortune’s Wheel, the characters have no one to share their thoughts with except themselves, and occasionally with each other. There’s an almost magical quality to this now, though it used to be how things ordinarily were.

As bewitched as fourteen-year-old Birle is by the older Orien, he is just as enchanted by her, eagerly discussing their different backgrounds and speculating on life with her as if she were his equal right from the start. Third person allows for subtlety that only works well in first person if the first person is an unreliable narrator. Voigt somehow accomplishes the feat of telling how Birle is falling in love with Orien, yet showing how he’s falling for her. It is only Birle who at the end of story is surprised to find that Orien has loved her all along. How easily even women in love doubt their men, but I suppose this is why the men always have to continually work at winning and keeping their women. Just a dynamic of the sexes.

Two other things I took from this reading of the story: People often see themselves in a far different light than they actually are. Both Orien and Birle consider their own faults heavily, but easily bear up under almost every new circumstance thrown their way. They are matched in their readiness to adapt to what must be done to survive, all the time considering themselves too idle, or too gentle towards others, and sometimes even too kind. Both characters continually sell themselves short, but by the end of the tale it is clear that those around them do not, and hold them in high esteem.

The other idea that struck me on this second reading was that people largely remain the same at their core, no matter what they go through. This is especially evident in Birle, who whether starving, a slave, or a rich lady, is not happy doing nothing, striving not to be a burden to those around her, but especially those she loves. In On Fortune’s Wheel she simply grows up into what she at fourteen already was, a independent and spirited young woman to wants to live life on her own terms. Orien, too, wished to live on his own terms, and their life together will be one of continually adapting to each other because that’s what they are choosing to do. It’s romantic in a way that is far deeper than flowers, chocolates, or even kisses ever could be.

Final decision: This book is a keeper and I will surely read it again and save it for my nieces when they are old enough to read it. Don’t even talk to me about how they changed the title. I can’t stand it, but I’m happy if teens are still reading the story.

Reading This Week

What am I reading this week? Q and Neon Revolt. Flynn, Planned Parenthood, Epstein: It’s all going down as Q says we are now moving things at 10x speed as the Mueller report is out of the way. Interestingly enough, Mueller will testify before the House on the seventeenth. 17=Q. Coincidence? Maybe.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I highly, highly encourage you to read up on Q aka Qanon. The mainstream media dismisses it as a “conspiracy theory.” Oh, those scary words meant to shame anyone looking for the actual truth. Truth is, there are conspiracies, many bad, some good, and it’s better to know about them than not. Q has a lot of followers, many called “anons,” and Neon Revolt is one of those. He’s got a great introduction to Q on his website neonrevolt.com as well as a number of articles detailing the research that comes from what the Q team shares. Q is ultimately about research, the research the MSM will never do as they have given up on anything resembling journalism.

So, why am I reading a lot of Q and Neon this week? Well, Q is back to posting regularly, which is exciting, and the fact that Jeffrey Epstein has been arrested again brings the hope that Q’s vow to bring bad actors to justice might actually become reality. Epstein is the lynchpin, and Neon’s recent article explains why: As if being a pedophile with a creepy island sporting a weird temple isn’t enough, Epstein is likely a spy for a government agency acting in very bad faith. His job is to capture people of power, especially government power, in compromising circumstances, saving video documentation of their bad deeds so these people can be blackmailed, forcing them to act against the best interests of the countries in which they are elected or in which they have power. What government, what country would do this? How exactly did Epstein get all that money? I leave that for you to speculate on. Or you can just read Neon’s article.

If this all does go down and Epstein is looking at actual punishment for his crimes, he will likely sing like bird and start naming names, perhaps all of the names, including the names of his handlers and the country they work for. As for the Planned Parenthood stuff, it’s only a matter of time before they lose their government funding and are raked across the coals. The pendulum of public sentiment is swinging back to children and family being positive states, not burdens, and such a public display of baby killing and selling off their body parts to the highest bidder may soon no longer be tolerated. Interestingly enough, one of the biggest aspects of Trump’s Presidency has been the take down of human and child traffickers all around the world including his executive order allowing the assets of anyone connected with trafficking to be seized. That’s big right there, because trafficking is where the big money comes from, money stolen from tax payers through fraud and lies. Taking down the shady characters who hurt children will be Trump’s legacy. As for General Flynn, many think he’s in on the Q team and was involved or is still involved in a gamble of a sting operation. It’s possible, just like it’s possible that when Q+ posts it’s actually 4, 10, 20, or Donald J. Trump.

Q is fun and interesting, more interesting than most of the other news out there. It seems that by now (Q has been posting since fall of 2017) that if Q was not somehow connected to the White House, that Trump would have said so. For some reason the journalists who are so against him haven’t asked him about it. Are they scared it’s real? Well, the information the anons or researchers have found is certainly real, and that’s the part that really matters, that actual real news and truth be out there for people to find. For once, in for what’s been a very long time, the hold of power that certain groups have on our world is beginning to falter. Many can feel it, and many around the world are starting to question many of the big lies they’ve been fed. As the bad actors lose their power, they will try and force the world into a one world government, globalism instead of nationalism, and like the people who built the Tower of Babel before them, they are doomed to fail. There is only one God, and He made the nations with all of their lovely and strange varieties. It’s interesting isn’t it, that for all the calls for “diversity” today what the powers that be really want is for everyone to be the same, to believe the same things, to think the same things, and to do the same things. These bad actors really think that the differences in the nations run only skin deep. As Q says: These people are stupid.

You can find Q posts at qmap.pub and other sites.

The Young Clementina/Emma – book reviews

Emma

This book was such a joy to read again. It’s been several years since I’ve read it and I understand why some call it Jane Austen’s “masterpiece.” It’s a bit longer than her other works, and is more about growing up than romance. It also has some great lines, like, “men of sense don’t want silly wives.”

Emma Woodhouse is about 21 and lives with her father. They are a family of means and live a life of leisure. Emma has never known hardship and her father has been permanently scarred by it, afraid of anything and everything that might cause harm to a loved one or himself. Emma’s main job is caring for her father, though she doesn’t find it a burden. She also helps the poor and is generally charming. She’s isn’t as likable as some of Austen’s other heroines, however, as she’s very spoiled and meddles where she shouldn’t.

Thinking herself a great matchmaker, as she correctly saw that her sister and the younger Mr. Knightley were falling in love, much of the book’s comedy rests on her various schemes and assumptions about other people. It is only her lifelong friend, the older Mr. Knightley, who checks her behavior. I’m not sure I find Mr. Knightley particularly swoonworthy–he often seems like a school lecturer and is at least as opinionated as Emma, but has sense and logic on his side. Their banter is pretty fun, and it’s easy to forget about the 16 year age gap. By the end of the book, it is clear he is the only one who could marry Emma, having both completely understood her and loved her, and also having understood Emma’s father and her family’s somewhat eccentric ways.

The most hard-hitting scene, most people will recognize, that in which Emma on her worst behavior teases and insults a spinster names Miss Bates. Miss Bates talks too much, and this irritates Emma immensely, and she makes a joke at the older woman’s expense. Mr. Knightley tells her this was, “badly done,” which Emma knows, but still needs to be told, because her redemption in the final chapters of the book only comes with her feelings of remorse and repentance. She realizes what an awful thing it is to meddle with peoples lives–especially not knowing all of the facts–and that although old friends may sometimes be ridiculous, we should still treat them with gentleness and respect. Even being in the right, Mr. Knightley doesn’t think himself immune to criticism as well, even saying of Emma that she’s borne his corrections as no other women would.

Mr. Knightley is just as quick with his praise as his chastisement of her. He tells Emma that she chose better for the vicar Mr. Elton than he ended up choosing for himself. Mr. Knightley learned that although Emma was fanciful, her dreams, too, were based on some truth. And he himself is also susceptible to matchmaking, which I found amusing. Isn’t it true that if we’re not involved in our own love stories, we’re often imagining them for those around us, both the men and the women? This kind of drama in some sense appeals to both sexes, because everyone likes to be in the know and likes to think they are smart enough to observe a love story unfolding in front of them even if the two supposed lovers don’t even know it yet.

I like Emma and Knightley a bit more than I do Elizabeth and especially Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. Despite being rich, they seem to be more in tune with real people, and although they still do judge prematurely, it is more on the positive side of doing it, than the negative. Emma often talks about not being able to associate with people of lower class, but it’s clear from her behavior that it’s not really that big of a deal to her–she’d rather be at the party with her friends than home alone. It’s much hinted in the book that this is a time in England when class distinctions are starting to become hazy around the edges. Mr. Knightley reinforces this attitude, by paying special attentions to Jane Fairfax, who is a poor orphan, sticking up for Miss Bates, who despite her faults is a kind lady and someone who as she ages will sink ever lower into poverty as well, and by taking the time to get to know Harriett Smith, also an orphan and lower in class. Knightley is also a champion for Robert Martin, a farmer who works for him, as being a great match for Harriet to Emma’s higher class minister, Mr. Elton. By the end of the story, we see that Emma and Mr. Knightley are very well matched as they can easily speak plainly to each other and also have the ability to anticipate and care for the needs of their friends and family.

How important a quality is this? Well, many relationships fail because of communication, so I’d say it’s a true blessing to have that in common. They also both generally have sunny outlooks, perhaps due to being wealthy, but also due to a lifelong friendship in which this has constantly been enforced between them. As for their caring natures, they aren’t going to give away their money willy nilly, but generally they pay respect to those around them and care deeply for those in their direct spheres. In marriage, and working together as a team, the good they could do would be doubled, making their marriage a blessing beyond themselves.

It’s funny to me that even though Mr. Knightley knows Emma so well and doesn’t lean as much towards imaginations not based in reality, he’s still not sure of himself in winning her. She, too, is certain he must love someone else, not her. Austen often shows us that both people who have everything to lose and nothing to lose still struggle when it comes to declaring their love and being certain of it being accepted. We, no matter our station, find ourselves unworthy of love to some degree, always “half agony, half hope,” as she says in, I think, Persuasion.

I highly recommend again the Masterpiece Theatre miniseries of Emma starring Romola Garai and Johnny Lee Miller. It is a faithful adaptation of the book and both leads capture their characters perfectly and have genuine chemistry of deep friendship about them. They seem so much already in a relationship that the romantic declarations at the end are rather meh compared to Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam in the Emma movie, but it works well as, like I said, I find the story to be more about growing up than falling in love.

The Young Clementina

This is another novel by D.E. Stevenson of the very funny Miss Buncle’s Book. The Young Clementina is about surviving difficult circumstances, but there are comedic moments within it. It’s perhaps comical just how much liars lie, how they upset everything, throwing it into turmoil just because they can. It’s both sad and funny how much people fall for lies. One would presume any observant, common sense person, can see the truth, but that’s often not the case. We often give liars too much benefit of the doubt, while scorning others in the process. Humans are prone, too prone, to getting things wrong.

I’m not quite finished with the book yet, but it’s a story about a woman whose sister turns her life upside down, how she recovers from that, and how she helps her niece recover from it as well. I think it will have a happy ending, but not an ecstatic one. Compared to Miss Buncle, it’s fairly low-key. I have to admit I struggle with the title name, thinking of it as Clementine in my head, having never heard of the name Clementina before. Also, it took awhile for me to see where the story is going, but now I have an inkling that more lies are to be revealed.

Kdramas

Haven’t finished any new Kdramas as I’m taking a detour and rewatching Goblin or The Guardian starring Gong Yoo (Train to Busan) again. It’s one of the best dramas out there, though at times I’m not sure the fantasy plot makes sense. Goblin is a perfect combination of great acting, direction, soundtrack, and story, and one I will probably rewatch periodically as now that it’s available on viki.com!

A Drop of Night: Book Review

I have a new favorite writer. Ok, ok, disclosure: I am a bit biased as I know relatives of his, but I really love the way that Stefan Bachmann writes. His writing is so alive, and he sucks you right in.

The first book I read of his was The Peculiar, and at first I wasn’t sure I was going to like, though I enjoyed his style. I am a little tired of the standard fairy lore, especially having read much of it in Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell. Somehow, though Bachmann managed to make fairies seem fresh. Maybe it was the added benefit of being set in a Victorian steampunk era. At any rate, before long, he had me hooked and I’m excited to read the sequel.

A Drop of Night is for slightly older readers–I say teens and up–for it has some gore and a lot of scary situations. This one is written in the first person and despite Anouk’s narration almost almost being purple, I l.o.v.e.d. it. Her way of describing people and situations is firecracker fresh, and one finds her immediately both likable and annoying. Bachmann balances her account with that of a French girl living at the time of the Revolution, and if there are slight similarities in their turn of phrase, by the end of the story, there’s a reason for it.

(Spoilers). Although I don’t want to give away too much of the plot of the story, A Drop of Night reminded me greatly of the movie The Cube that came out a few years ago. Both stories involve a group of people trying to figure a way out of a human-made prison involving series of connected rooms, booby traps, and constantly changing circumstances. If Hollywood is looking for an idea for a teen horror flick, this would be it, but they would probably ruin it.

By the end of the book, I, too, felt trapped in 18th Century France, and smothered by the smells, the flowers, and the neverending silks and fabrics on everything! I half-expected the clockwork puppets and dolls from Doctor Who‘s “The Girl in the Fireplace” to show up along with the multiple villains and traps. It also made me want to read Daphne Du Maurier’s sumptuous Frenchman’s Creek again. The location and environment ended up being the overpowering main character, and even after finishing the story, I still can’t shake off the oppressive nature of the place. I can imagine if any of the teenagers survived (and I’m not telling that) that they would be haunted for years to come.

Action aside, A Drop of Night is really that. We are shown a brief time in these teenagers’ lives and learn some heartbreaking things that they have to deal with. Drops of darkness in otherwise pleasant looking lives. For the villains, we can see that one drop of darkness became two, and so on and so forth, until there wasn’t anything but darkness for them. Bachmann’s writes gripping, fantastical tales that also have a heart and soul. Alive is his writing voice. I can’t think of any other way to describe it. He’s definitely a writer to watch.