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Following the King

Becoming a writer isn’t easy. SURPRISE!!! I know you’re stunned. I was!

Reading is so simple, so wonderful, so engrossing, that I thought writing should be exactly the same. I should be able to lose myself in the world I created just as easily as I do those of my favorite authors. BUT, it doesn’t work that way. Writing isn’t just fun. It’s honest-to-god, back breaking, agonizing, sweat inducing WORK.

Finding the perfect words are hard. Creating the right characters is tough. Building a story is like building a multi-trillion dollar skyscraper–screw up your inner structure, and it’s going to come tumbling down like Jenga blocks.

When it comes to who my writing idols are, I wish I could make it look as easy as they do.

Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Catherine Coulter, Susan Donovan, all these women create stories that read so easily! They’re my favorite books to read, they’re fun, full of love, life and laughter.

But my all-time idol, the man who has inspired me over and over again since I was just a teenager, is the master of horror himself.

Stephen King got me interested in books other than my usual fare. Someone gave my grandmother a big box of books, and she gave them to me one day when I was staying with her for the weekend. There were lots of different genres in there–thrillers, contemporary novels, love stories. But the book that kept sticking out to me was DOLORES CLAIBORNE.

I read the first page countless times. The whole story was narrated! It was in first person! The story was told so deeply from her point of view, because she was telling the story as she remembered it. It was odd. Frightening at first, a little off-putting. But eventually, I got it. I realized how I was supposed to read it. And since that day, I’ve read that book a billion times. I worked my way through some of his other classics. CARRIE, PET SEMATARY, THE GREEN MILE, and MISERY, to name a few. God, I loved MISERY.

 

His book ON WRITING: A MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT inspired me to write my first mainstream novel (as Gina Lamm). And since then, his advice to write what you love, not what you know, has permeated my books, making them (I hope) much more driven and appealing.

So yeah. Stephen King is my writing idol. He writes 2,000 words a day, every day, no matter what. I need that kind of drive, that kind of persistence. And I know I can do it. He’s my inspiration.

Who’s yours?

My favorite books from childhood

So I’m going to skew the subject a bit. Instead of my favorite literary classics, I’m going to show you my favorite books from when I was a kid. This is a very visual post, ya’ll. I’m not so much with the words today.

Okay, apparently I had a thing for animal books. 🙂

Sassenachs and Ruddadills

Yummy KiltFor all my MANhandlers, today’s picture is a .gif taken from Google images. Given my penchant for men in kilts, particularly with Doc Marten’s (or, in this case, work boots), I thought this was totally appropriate. I want under his man-skirt in a bad way. LOL

Today’s blog topic is about favorite literary classics, past or present. I have to admit that my mind immediately went to Diana Gabaldon. There is no other book that moves me quite like Outlander. That this is the novel’s 20th anniversary only makes this blog post sweeter from me. I love all of the books that follow Outlander, provided they have Jamie Fraser in them, though Outlander will always be the first thing to cross my mind when someone asks me to name my favorite book. It was like losing my literary virginity in so many ways — thrilling, poignant, slightly painful, something worth doing sober and definitely worth the wait.

Diana’s tale covers Claire Randall, a Sassenach (foreigner) and nurse who served in World War II, who has just reunited with her husband in Scotland after (essentially) a seven year separation. Through an innocent turn of events, she passes through Craigh na Dun, a small standing stone circle and ends up in 1743. She’s subjected to a series of events that result in her marrying Jamie Fraser out of necessity despite the fact she’s still married to Frank Randall in 1947. She struggles with the morality of it, but she and Jamie ultimately fall in love. Real love. That kind of love that transcends time, space, distance, separation and the worst mankind can do to one another. Their love is rich and bitter and sweet, so real that I still get swept up in the tale every time I read it.

What is it about Diana Gabaldon that makes her writing so off-the-chain crazy good? It’s her ability to deal in human emotions, wrapping the story with actual significant historical events (i.e. the Scottish Uprising with the Bonnie Prince Charlie). There’s intrigue, family dynamics, politics, murder and more. I’m getting pulled into the memory of the story just writing this. I can see a re-read coming on. They’re going to make a mini-series out of the novel. The cable channel, Starz, has purchased the rights. I hope like mad they don’t screw it up. I haven’t decided if I’ll watch it or not. I don’t want it to ruin the images I have in my head of what the characters look like, Jamie Fraser in particular. Sometimes the classics should just be left alone.

My other favorite story is Watership Down. I first read this story in 5th grade. Yes, 5th grade. I had an amazingly gifted English teacher. While I didn’t understand the political position of the novel for years, this novel cemented my desire to write, particularly in worlds that parallel our own. The story covers a warren of rabbits who are driven from their home and forced to relocate to a safer place. There are dangers at every turn. “Ruddadills” (sp?) were cars. I remember the terror of having to cross the highway with the rabbits. I remember the emotions evoked in this tale of resettlement and the struggle to survive. That such a novel would stick with me for thirty years, that it would be one I can re-read even now and pick up new nuances, still amazes me. Ironically, this novel was made into a movie. It can’t hold a candle to the book.

Both books are classics, though very different. It strikes me now, as I write, that both deal in love and loss and political unrest. Strange that they both appeal to me so much and for such disparate and similar reasons. I’m off to ponder this, take a deeper look at meanings and messages and such.

Drop me a line and let me know what your favorite novel(s) is/are. I’m always on the lookout to find “new” classics. And what better place to get a recommended read than from a reader?

If on a winter’s night, a traveler passes through a wrinkle in time to where the wild things are, can she ever leave?

Today’s topic is favorite literary classics. I can’t pick just one so I opted for books that I return to again and again because they continue to speak to the parts of me that need to listen and be heard. Like me, the choices are eclectic.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

Meg Murray, the heroine, made alienation cool. An outsider in her family and at school,  she was my geek heroine before the word geek hit mainstream.  Not only did the story itself peak my interest, but for the first time, I felt that I was not alone.  I may follow my own drummer, but I needed to know that there was a whole band out there I might be able to join at some point.  I still read it when I feel the need to hear that other band playing.  I bought my daughter a copy when she was born.  I hope it gives her the same sense of belonging if and when she needs it.

If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino

When a writer like Calvino, who ripped convention into shreds and pushed the boundaries of creativity, penned a homage to readers, it is a tale like no other.  In a feast of changing styles and narrative forms,  Calvino memorialized the relationship between writer and reader in a book that had me turning pages, giggling and thinking non-stop. It is the  book I have gifted the most to others over the course of my life.

No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre

The play that brought us the line “hell is other people.”  I come back to it again and again as a reminder that our own choices and our willingness to change ultimately determines the degree of happiness we allow in our lives. Heavy? Yes, very but life can be.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

So not to end this on a down note, my last selection is a children’s book, that I adore to this day. In few words and elegant drawings, Sendak shined a star on rebellion as a font of creativity, unconditional love as our source of strength and the need of the explorer to have a home to return to.  Not to mention the importance of having fun.

What’s a classic to you–a book that makes you cry, smile, scream? Why do certain books deserve immortality while others collect dust in the basement or on the cloud? I love to hear from you.

Sabrina Garie is on a journey to create the most kick-ass heroine in romance fiction. You can meet the first heroine in Fires of Justice at Elloras Cave, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

The Human Condition

I love to read and most of the time, I stick with what I adore the most: romance. However, when I was thirteen, I decided to turn my attention to classic literature. From 9th grade to graduation from high school, I devoured every book my sister and brother-in-law (both at least 8 years older than me) had been forced to read for English.

As a result, I read Tess of the d’Ubervilles, To Kill A Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, and a cold war novel I can’t recall at the moment. And really, To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my all-time favorite works of literature. I guess because I saw myself a little as Scout with a younger brother, but that isn’t what book I’ve chosen to talk about today. No, there was one other book I read as a teenager that had a huge impact on me and still does.

I first read Lord of the Flies for my senior English class. I had a well-developed love for the written word by then and enjoyed reading. Unfortunately, our teachers were so focused on making us read that they spent little time on making us write, but in this one instance, the class was required to write an essay based on Lord of the Flies. Talk about intimidating! I would be attending college in less than five months and I was writing my first essay now? Thanks a lot. And to toss a book at me as well? Sheesh.

But the minute I cracked the spine on my tattered copy of Lord of the Flies, inherited from my older sister, I was caught. The story of Ralph, Jack and Piggy captured my imagination. I suppose all “natural born” writers are people watchers. We can’t help ourselves. By the way, that’s probably a great way to tag a writer. If they spend more time just sitting back and watching the world around them with a thoughtful expression, they’re either plotting a story or trying to figure out what that person is doing and why. Oh, why, why, why? Why do we do what we do? Why is that person walking with a limp? The list goes on and on and that’s why writers are people watchers.

Lord of the Flies dumps the reader right into chaos where the rules of society, the great unspoken things we know are taboo and try to avoid are thrown out the window. Rules don’t matter when you’re stranded, do they? Who’s going to enforce them? When you strip down the civilized human to animal instinct, it’s amazing what comes out. At least that’s what my seventeen-year-old mind was fascinated by. Were humans really so close to their animal sides? Was it just the powers that be keeping us from becoming uncivilized beasts satisfying our id?

This book inspired me to want to become a psychologist, to study the human brain even more.

Yeah, that didn’t happen, by the way. As with the human condition, put a sheltered teenager in a college setting, give them the legal right to drink and they turn into a party animal. So yeah, I guess our animals are closer to the surface than we as a civilization would like to think. However, I did get a degree in History, which is another type of study of the human condition, isn’t it? I’m still fascinated by the way people think and react and try to incorporate the lessons learned from reading books like Lord of the Flies into my work. Not in the same way, but as a way to demonstrate why people do the crazy things they do.

It also didn’t hurt that I’d watched the movie a few years before and had a horrible crush on Balthazar Getty. Rar. And no, it wasn’t disgusting because he’s actually a year older than I am 😛 And he grew up real nice.

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