How to Stop Time: Love

A couple of housekeeping things to get out of the way, and then I’ll dive into the book review.

Things I’m grateful for: Friends and family I love to spend time with. Fall in Minnesota even if’s it’s cold and rainy one day and blazing hot the next. My apartment complex finally turned on the heat, a big reason I have come to love October when it rolls around. Crazy, brilliant dreams. This time of year I have these weird complex dreams I half remember in the morning. Some good story ideas in there.

The Smile Has Left Your Eyes: It’s not often that I watch Korean dramas as they are being aired each week, but I make exceptions for either stories or actors that I really like. Viki.com has gotten the license for The Smile Has Left Your Eyes (or Hundred Million Stars from the Sky). Hopefully, I will get my review of each episode out early in the week, but it just depends when the English subtitles are added. Amazingly enough, even though I’ve watched a ton of Korean TV, I am not yet fluent in Korean. The Smile is a creepy murder mystery starring my current favorite actor Seo In Guk. He finally has his dream of playing a villain. Also starring the delightful Jung So Min from Playful Kiss and D-Day. This is a remake of a Japanese show that was pretty popular awhile ago.

Book review: How to Stop Time by Matt Haig isn’t so much an instruction manual as a thinking manual. Sometimes it’s fun to dream about living forever or near-forever and just having so much time to do whatever. The story is narrated by Tom Hazard, a man who has loads of time and opportunities, but just can’t get out of his old man head.

Like Tom, I am now in my forties, and it’s true the older you get, sometimes the memories from the past just come flooding in, clearer than you would have thought possible, and if your mind dwells there, you can miss the very real and awesome present. At first Tom seems only old and jaded. He has a rare medical condition in which he ages slower than the rest of humanity, so at forty, in regular years he’s hundreds of years old. As we get more into his thoughts, though, we realize–and so does he–that he’s just stuck dwelling on time instead of enjoying it.

The book also involves a bit of intrigue. There’s a shadowy society protecting others who have this condition–think passing reference to X-Men–and a couple of tight moments that get resolved a little too easily, but the book isn’t so much about the plot as about Tom finally changing his thinking.

Imagine yourself now having whatever time you think you have left, and being afraid to ask that person out or jump into a relationship or really get to know your kids, grandparents, friends, etc., because there just isn’t enough time. Or you’re afraid you’ll spend too much time with them, get attached, and fall to pieces if you ever lose anyone of them. Now magnify that fear across hundreds of years. How do people ever overcome this fear? Using the only way they can overcome it, like the way Tom overcomes it: Love. He falls in love, he finds someone who loves him back. It’s really not that complicated, but people live their whole lives standing on the brink of happiness and never, ever jumping. They have not learned how to trust the power of love.

Aside from the musings on life, time, love, etc., as an avid English reader and writer, I love the nods to Shakespeare, Fitzgerald, and the like. It makes me feel proud to be a part of this heritage, this heritage of speaking, reading, and writing English. I can speak a smattering of words and phrases in other languages, but even if I was fluent in them, they wouldn’t be my heritage.

Okay, back to love. How, you are asking me. How exactly does this stop time, Pixie? Think of the best times of your lives. You’re at your brother’s wedding, you’re hanging out with your friends, you’re babysitting your grandkids and laughing up a storm with them. You’re at a funeral, but there’s so many friends and family to see and talk to and catch up with. You’re staring into your darling’s sparkling eyes. At those times, in those moments, is it not as if TIME itself does not exist? God is LOVE and love is outside of time.

In How to Stop Time, Tom learns to enjoy the present of his days and to stop worrying over the past and the future. He learns to to put the guilt aside and marvel in the moment. He learns that the risk is worth it and he can finally let go of the albatross hanging around his neck that is telling him that falling in love is a waste of time. I felt bad for him. The guy was essentially stuck in a Groundhog Day (and if you don’t know what that is, I suggest you watch the movie, starring Bill Murray, immediately.)

In reading the book, it’s impossible not to start thinking about time and how we spend our time. Most of my best times are spent with my family, friends, and fellow Christians, and I know that people are really the only things we can take with us to heaven, and that God has put us all together on this rock to be blessings for each other and to love each other. Everything else becomes so unimportant in comparison.

At the beginning of time, humans did live for hundreds of years and they probably got as downhearted and depressed as Tom did, but unlike Tom, they had a Creator and Savior who loves them to look to for comfort and strength. And I think that’s why some leap so easily into love instead of dithering on the precipice. They know that even if their fellow humans fail them, God never will. Some days I think my faith is that strong, other days not so much. Sometimes I think about what it would be like to live forever and with a start have to remember I will live forever, just in a new heaven and a new earth. Jesus’s love made it possible. Anyway, I don’t want to get too religious about it, but that’s what I thought of at the end. I will live forever in love and with those that I love. It’s pretty amazing. It’s like having a secret super power.

A Rose by Any Other Name: A Rant on Titles

It’s like people are determined to ruin my childhood or something. Okay, okay, drama aside, let me explain. The books, the books that defined my teenage years for me were, okay, yes, the Anne of Green Gables series, and, yes, Little House on the Prairie, and various teen romance series that were probably too steamy for me to be reading, and Robin Cook thrillers, and Isaac Asimov sci-fi extravaganzas… but I digress. Where was I? The series that I loved, one of those that almost clammer for a screen adaptation, but resolve themselves to staying literature only, was The Kingdom series by Cynthia Voigt.

What I loved about the series was mostly the second book, On Fortune’s Wheel, which is terribly romantic, but the third book, The Wings of a Falcon ended up ultimately being my favorite as I got older. Something about two friends making it through everything…it just sticks with me to this day. The first book is Jackaroo, the plot of which at first seems like a knockoff of Robin Hood. And it is, sort of, but the world of The Kingdom, quiet, contemplative, and somewhat melancholy, draws you in. The series just has this rare quality of making the reader feel like you are there. You are going through this, too. This quality is likely why Voigt is such a successful writer of young adult stories.

Anyway, I learned today, just in looking up the series to see if I wanted to buy newer copies, that um, they’ve changed the titles. All of them. Well, the fourth book, Elske, is now The Tale of Elske, and it’s my least favorite of the series, so that one didn’t disappoint me too much.  But the others! I just can’t believe it! Jackaroo, On Fortune’s Wheel, and The Wings of a Falcon have all been changed to The Tale of Gwyn, The Tale of Birle, and The Tale of Oriel. Three wonderful, intriguing titles exchanged for stupidly bland titles that fail to reflect the fact that The Kingdom books, although set in the same world, aren’t sequels, aren’t part of a large, overarching quest or plot, and are each really their own stories almost entirely. It’s almost as stupid as changing D.M. Cornish’s awesome series title Monster Blood Tattoo into Tales from the Half-Continent.

Why do publishers or authors or whoever do this? Blander titles are supposed to sell more books? Really? It would be like me changing my series, Trolls for Dust, to Vale Studios. Boring! Now, if they’d changed them to more interesting titles, I would maybe be on board, but this… Well, my childhood is long over, anyway, and one can’t go back, not really. My memories of those happy reading days will have to suffice. I will treasure my dog-eared original titles and refuse to replace them unless they become absolutely unreadable due to wear and tear.

This winter I want to read the entire series again and go through for you what I love about it and why you or your teenagers might like it too. They will be the same stories, despite the names being changed, but I disagree with Juliet. Names of things matter. Names show identity, they show who you belong to, who loves you, sometimes who hates you. Names can be blessings or curses, beatifying or insulting, and changing a book’s title is no small thing, just like changing one’s own name is no small thing. It is a transformation no matter how one looks at it. The object or person is simply different after. Most of the time, I hope, for the better, but this required a rant because the original titles are infinitely more suitable for the series, and the new titles woefully inadequate. And don’t even get me started on the new covers.

The Kingdom

The covers and titles I grew up with.

We Die Alone: Book Review

Cold is something one doesn’t forget. Cold burns with slow patience, settling into your bones quietly, but persistently. The coldest I’ve ever been was living in a huge house in Shorewood, WI, a few blocks up from Lake Michigan. For a few months I lived there with a group of eccentric college classmates who had passions for pizza, cooking, and saving money. It was a snowy winter that year and although the old house would have still been drafty had the heat been turned on full blast, the temp was kept at arctic temperatures–as least, that’s what it felt like to me. At work and out and about I seemed like a normal person dressed in winter wear. In the house, I became an abominable snowman. Never ever ever, do I want to be that cold again.

Since that time, I have found it fun to occasionally read about the trials and adventures of those others who must venture into cold temperatures. Once such book that riveted me was Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. It is about a climb of Mt. Everest that ended in disaster for many of the climbers. Another great one is In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides that tells the tragic story of the Jeannette expedition to the Arctic.

This past month I have read another great story to add to the ice-encrusted list: We Die Alone by David Howarth. Not only is it an amazing tale of survival under the coldest of circumstances, but is a another of the great stories coming out of the WW2 era. During the war, a group of Norwegians based in the Shetland islands were commissioned to go help with the Norwegian resistance against the Nazis occupying Norway. A fated voyage, the trip was not a success, save as an amazing story of one man surviving against incredible odds with the aid of hardy, dedicated locals.

Set in the world of fjords in winter, this story had me hooked right away. I am half Norwegian (5th generation immigrants to America), but don’t have a lot of connection with that heritage, except through religion. My family are diehard Lutherans and probably consider ourselves more Minnesotans than Norwegians most of the time, so it’s fun to delve into Norwegian history and culture sometimes. Stories like this help explain part of that stoic, unemotional Scandinavian spirit. Living in that area of the world (at least at that time), if you dissolved into tears and despair, you would die. You had to keep your wits about you and possess bottomless persistence to beat all of that cold and climbing and avalanches, and who knows what else.

Jan Baalsrud is one of those men I’m not even sure they make anymore. How he went from one calamity to the next, cheerfully and determinedly, I don’t know if I’ll ever understand. If the environment wasn’t to do him in, the Nazis certainly would have, had he been caught. The same risks were taken by all of those who helped him, especially Marius from Lyngenfjord and those from Mandal.

There’s really only one woman of note in the story, and I can only wish I had her strength and stamina to withstand the cold and climbing up a thousand feet to be moral support for Marius, the man she loved. People have a different perspective and different abilities, too, growing up skiing on snow and ice. In Minnesota, though we have the cold, our skiing is mostly on the water in the summer, and though we are all hardy in our way due to the crazy winters we often have, these people were and likely still are in a league of their own.

The best parts of We Die Alone are the bits just talking about the culture, the culture of northern Norway and Scandinavia, the culture of the war and occupation, the environment and climate of the place–all of these things add depth to an already heart-stopping tale. The best part is that the story is true and a testament that life continues on even after the toughest of experiences.

This book made me cold just reading it, so I recommend a warm fire and a cup of hot cocoa if possible while devouring the tale.

The Stolen Necklace, Card #10

It’s all done, and somehow it’s nice to finish a story. As for the end product, I’ll probably gift it to someone for their birthday or something. How interesting and fun would it be to have a whole room of letters and packages all written together in a grand story! Sort of like playing Escape Room, but having a Story Room instead. Maybe someday.  Happy Reading!

Edwinaimg_0108.jpgimg_0109.jpg

A World in Shadows

Maybe it’s all the rain we had today, or the fact that I saw a–double rainbow!!–but I am feeling like writing a poem, only I haven’t written a poem in years. A bulb is out in my favorite lamp that I got from a dear friend and the shadows it casts on the ceiling are perfect for writing a poem, probably what should an epic one, but I can’t seem to find the right words.

lamp shadows

Galaxies, creation, the dance of the stars, the dance of romance.  It’s all in there.  Casablanca and great old movies are in there, as well as The Great Gatsby, Orson Welles, and drops of Jupiter.  I am writing a non-poem, poem here.  Darkness and light.  Dripping candles. Greek columns of tragedy, and just the sense of a world apart from our present one. What stories lie in shadows on the wall!  I could stare at it forever and never figure out the tale, because the tale is in my heart tucked away somewhere for safekeeping.

Last notecard for “The Stolen Necklace” tomorrow. I’m sad to see the story end. The desire was very strong to just end it with one word from Lord Dovecoat, and I could have, but I thought it best to end how it began, with Lady Tolliver.  She is a bit silly, but really not a bad sort after all.

–P. Beldona

The Legend of Cambria: Ad Review

Sometimes one surfs the internet and just comes across something so random yet so amazing that one has to share. I live in Minnesota and we have a great company here called Cambria that makes kitchen countertops and the like. I’ve never visited one of their stores, but their buildings are always impressive and the main campus off of Hwy 169 in LeSueur always has impressive Christmas lights.

Please note that although I think Cambria is an awesome company, this is not an ad for them and I am not affiliated with them, nor have I had the opportunity to work with them. One kind of needs a house or office in which to purchase and install countertops.

Anyway, I was looking at their website today, which is cambriausa.com. On it, they have this movie called The Legend of Cambria and I thought, oh it’s a fun little ad based on medieval legends or something, and then I started to watch it and realized, A) it’s actually about 40+ minutes long, and B) is amazing in its production quality. I literally could not keep my mouth from hanging open. The scenery itself just makes one want to jump into the screen. It is the fantasy lover’s fantasy world.

The story is told in voiceover and has a Lord of the Rings appeal to it. There was a lot of magical elements thrown in that I didn’t really get, but they looked cool, and I’m thinking the plot’s based off of a Welsh legend of some kind, but will have to do more research to find that out for sure.

The Legend of Cambria is advertising, really long advertising that goes beyond being just an ad. It talks heavily about the fight of good versus evil, in a more pagan sort of way, but it makes one think: What’s really important? Just the thought of how much money and work went into producing it is mind boggling. Since I don’t really watch the Oscars anymore, I didn’t know they actually played this at the Oscars and Colin Farrell is the narrator.

I’m just still reeling and thinking, “It’s just a commercial, an ad.” Also, in considering my book series, a stunt like this is something that Sandra Vale of Vale Studios in Trolls for Dust would try to pull off. In thinking of future advertising endeavors for my series, The Legend of Cambria will definitely stick in my mind. You can also watch it on YouTube, and you’ll notice in the comments that people are thinking this is an actual series. Now that’s a compliment of the highest order. That’s my ultimate goal for Trolls for Dust, that it be so good that people would wish it was an actual TV show.

Alright, back to my whittling away at my next fairy tale story and TfD Season 3. Plan to have notecard #9 out for “The Stolen Necklace” tomorrow, but the ideas have to simmer a bit tonight. Happy Friday!