Books & Beginnings II

At age eight, books turned from escape to pure magic. I would read them out loud to anyone or anything that cared to listen from the perch in a tree house my friends and I had constructed in the little stretch of woods that ran behind our houses and the neighborhood next to the lake.

img_1095In Books & Beginnings I my mother brought me A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine D’Engle.  At the time, the book had been out for more than ten years but to me it was fresh and new. This was one of my earliest influences apart from the obvious. These great books will continue in the general order I discovered them.

img_1097I read madly. It was late in my 8th year or early in my 9th year, I became enamored of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.  Those I would read every year through my university studies. And then there was C.S. Lewis – it started with The Chronicles of Narnia. These were the obvious influences on the writer I grew into. I found great truths in these volumes that many cast aside as trite fantasy.

I discovered Agatha Christie and her mysteries in the shelves of my mother’s family beach house along with a constant deluge of mysteries and thrillers that my parents called “beach cozies”. I read them all.

As my eighth year ended, my grandmother on my father’s side, began my instruction in two areas I loved, history and theater. We began to attend plays together and she instructed me on European history going back to.before the Romans began their conquest.

It was these stories that influenced the next great beginnings. It was near my ninth birthday when my mother dug deeper into her bookshelves and came out with a thin book of poetry, the most gorgeous verse I had ever imagined, and a thick paperback that encased a story based on that verse.

TreehouseUp to my treehouse I went. The birds, squirrels, snakes, my English Springer, Winston, standing guard below,  and myriad of insects, and the neighbor’s fat orange hunting cat joined me on an adventure that changed the way I thought of story.  I read every word out loud, staying until the light was too dim for me to read another word. It made me often late for dinner.

By the time I received this amazing book, the pages were browned with age, making the story all the more authentic to me. I loved the scent and feel of old books on my fingers. The opening of this volume suggested a routine life familiar to my own. One that sparked into adventure … and great tragedy. I never gave this book back to my mother. It became one of my treasures.  Can you guess the title?

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays it was Court Hand and Summulae Logicales, while the rest of the week it was Organon, Repetition, and Astrology. The governess was always getting muddled with her astrolabe, and when she got specially muddled she would take it out of the Wart by rapping his knuckles.

Quote of the Day – Mark Twain

“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them”

Mark Twain 1835-1910

TomSawyerMy dad loved quoting both Mark Twain and Winston Churchill when I was growing up. My first dog was a Springer Spaniel named Winston Churchill so for the longest time I thought dad was quoting our dog. Winston was, after all, the best bird dog in the whole neighborhood.   I understood about Mark Twain. He wrote Tom Sawyer who gave me some excellent ideas on how to get out of unwanted chores.

I read all the time. I can’t fall asleep at night without reading as that has been my habit since I was three. So one day, in my early adolescence when the guitar took up a great deal of my time,  I was trying to explain a reference to Tom Sawyer in a Rush song to one of my buddies – as those who know me, I have always looked at certain song-writers as poets.  My buddy only cared about the cool factor of Rush and did not care why the song, “Tom Sawyer” was so brilliant for that time.

He did not get it because he never read anything. If it was not made into a movie, he reasoned, it could not be any good. There were movies on Tom Sawyer, I told him, but he had this idea that he must deny all childhood things to be a man, and asserted that he did not watch “kiddie” films. I was frustrated by it and suddenly there was one more quote by Mark Twain that also proved to be a truth.  A lot of his little gems proved true over the years, even without broader context.

Quote of the Day – John Milton, Paradise Lost

“Long is the way and hard, that out of Hell leads up to light”

John Milton
Paradise Lost


ParadiseLostJohn Milton and Dante Alighieri were the bane of my existence in my early life.  In my parent’s bookshelves, I was fascinated by the tales that Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Inferno revealedand the insight they gave to this Hell where I was told I would definitely be heading. You see, I was sent to Catholic school from first to fifth grade, and not being the most agreeable of children, was threatened with certain damnation for all my vile imagination (boy, I could lie in a way that would put Lucifer to shame) and my refusal to conform (I was not a proper little girl).

My early writings sought to cope with my pending damnation. How might I get out of Hell? What could I do to fool Lucifer? The character I met inside Milton’s pages was not the lovable rube of Neil Gaiman and friends after all. He had once been glorious and then what? He found fault in boundless creation? Unlikely. I do not believe it. Perhaps, he was never part of Heaven. Perhaps, Lucifer simply lacked imagination.  Or perhaps, the only way to Heaven is through Hell or so this quote always made me believe. Even Christ stopped by Hell on his journey to eternity.  Contemplate if you like.  I must get back to figuring out how to get out of the Hell that is writing a query for my WIP. That is my only way out of damnation at the moment.