For whatever God-forsaken reason, humans love scaring each other.
Being scared by a book is a truly terrifying experience. In fact, if you think about it, reading a book itself is a truly terrifying experience. The electricity and chemicals in someone's brain mixed with certain metaphysical forces in order to create an idea for a story. Those ideas got translated into symbols we call letters. Eventually, the reader either picks up a dead piece of tree or a device that harnesses lightning and stares at those symbols.
And then their brain does things. The fact that those symbols can make someone frightened is, in my opinion, really cool.
Anyway, one of the ways in which people on the internet scare themselves is with the concept of "gothic." This means taking something that most people are familiar with and twisting it to make it unsettling, if not downright frightening. I grew up in Illinois, so "Midwest Gothic" struck a chord with me. One of the examples of Midwest Gothic was, "Summer nights are full of bonfires and laughing and even though the fire is blazing, the light of it doesn't reach very far. Shouldn't it reach farther? Shouldn't you be able to see everyone's faces clearly? You haven't had anything to drink. The fire doesn't feel very warm at all." (Thanks, Pinterest, for this quote!)
Anyway, I thought I'd try my hand at some Yarn Gothic. If you engage in yarn crafts of any sort, you'll know what I'm talking about.
Hello, dear readers! As promised (or forewarned, however you want to look at things), here's my final project for one of my college classes. Since these are academic papers, they're a bit boring, and I don't expect you to read them.
Last night at dinner, my sister was reading TikTok comments about the weirdest thing people have hit their siblings with. One poor guy got a microwave thrown at him. Apparently, a friend of ours threw a door at her sister. (I know both of them fairly well, and she probably deserved it.) But anyway, that got me thinking about the weird things my sister and I have done to each other.
Now, Sis and I don't exactly get along. We're getting better. Mom bought one of those boxes that has two dozen single-serving bags of chips in it, and Sis actually left me the Cheetos. I think I made up for it by proofreading her essay late last night. But we've had our fair share of fights in the past. Some of them were playful. Others weren't.
One memory that sticks out to me was the time Sis put a banana peel on my head before spraying me with Lysol. Or the time a friend and I wrapped her in duct tape. And who can forget the day we managed to break one of the spindles that holds up the bannister on our stairs?
Anyway, I have the soul of a sixty-five-year-old pioneer grandmother, and I'm not always the best sport when it comes to play-fighting. Sometimes, Sis will sit on me or act in an otherwise annoying manner, and the conversation will go as follows:
"Sis, get off."
"Sis, I mean it. I have to pee. Let me off the couch."
(She might tickle me at this point.)
"You're gonna get hurt."
(If Dad's sitting next to us, he might reach over and tickle Sis. She still won't listen.)
If I can manage it, I'll stand up. It's not always an easy task, because Sis is way more athletic than I am. She might be shorter than me, but she can give me a piggyback ride way more easily than I can give her one. (I'm built like Hiccup from How to Train Your Dragon while Sis is built more like Snotlout, if that explains anything.) Anyway, if I manage to stand up, Sis might smack her head on the coffee table or something. But I'm not at fault, because I gave her fair warning.
With all this being said, dear readers, I'm giving you some fair warning. Not because I'm fixing to smack your head on a coffee table or anything. I just want to let all of you know that, on Monday, I'll be using my blog for school purposes. Don't be alarmed when you see a bunch of document hyperlinks instead of a poem. You don't even have to read the documents if you don't want to. Just...ignore everything, I guess.
What's your favorite memory with your siblings? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't freak out on Monday!
Out comes the phone, and it's while we're eating dinner
And it starts playing songs, pick a favorite, pick a winner
My sister jumps up, and says "Dance with me, Micalah--"
She plays the Macarena!
Out of my seat, and I'm standing in the kitchen
My mom starts to dance, I'm just watching and I listen
Out go my hands, Mom says "Good job, Micalah--"
I dance the Macarena!
Then, really loud, hear my sister scream in horror
As, with hands on our hips, we just shake our butts before her
She says, "You're not supposed to do that--hey now, stop that, Micalah!"
Typically, an author who writes historical fiction has done a good bit of research about the time period in which their books are set. If you think that a writer of books set in the middle ages ought to read books and stories that were written in the middle ages, you're probably not wrong.
With the exception of the Bible, the oldest book I've willingly read is The Merchant of Venice. Everything else--Oedipus Rex, Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight--have been required reading for classes. The latter two stories I've only read recently for a medieval literature class I'm currently taking.
Let me learn you a thing or two about medieval literature.
There are two types of medieval literature. The first type has been translated from Latin, French, Norse, or Old English (or sometimes a more obscure language like Breton, which is essentially the love-child of French and Gaelic. A lovely example of the language is found in the song "Tri Martrolod," if you're curious). The translators, and probably the original authors as well, were most likely stuffy old men with a disdain for commas and a fetish for long sentences.
The second type of medieval literature was written in the same English as the King James version of the Bible. It's legible, but it makes no effort at being entertaining.
Now, I'm not saying that all medieval literature is boring. Some of the French and Irish poetry is simply haunting. Every once in a while, you'll come across a sentence so beautiful you're instantly transported to a world where dragons exist and the land is greener and the air is quiet except for birdsongs. But those sentences are few and far between, and there aren't nearly enough commas (or periods) separating them.
And if you're expecting tales of war and romance and chivalry and virtue, stick to Arthurian legends. The Canterbury Tales is basically one long dirty joke with a bit of witty social commentary thrown in for good measure, and the religious writings will leave you wondering how pure Christianity survived until the Protestant Reformation. (Not that it's perfect now, but good grief--look up Holy Anorexia and rejoice that we don't encourage people to starve themselves to get closer to God.)
Am I learning a lot? Yes. Do I wish that I'd read some of these works sooner? At times. Will I reread what I'm reading now? Maybe--I've got quite a long list of books from the past century that I need to read first, though. I'm about a third of the way through Life of Pi and I still need to finish C.S. Lewis's God at the Dock.
Also, dear readers, this medieval literature class that I'm taking now is the most intellectually stimulating (i.e., difficult) class I've ever taken. Not only is the work hard, I've also got a ten-page term paper to work on. So if I'm late with a post, blame King Arthur.
What's the oldest book you've ever read, and did you enjoy it? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to review us on Amazon!
The meadow grass is yellow-green,
The flowers reddish-pink;
I set my eyes on azure skies,
I feel but do not think.
I'm drinking in the lovely sight
With pleasant things in hand;
For now, my books I have forsook
As I stare at the land.
The shadows lengthen on the field,
And birds above me fly;
The eve I start with joyous heart
Beneath the azure skies!
I have the privilege of going to a Narnia-themed homeschool prom next week.
Yes, I'm technically too old to go to prom. But since it was cancelled last year and I was supposed to be the guest of my then-high-school-senior friend, I'm going. I'm not really one for frills and makeup and all that frippery, but I'm sure I'll enjoy myself once I get there.
Without even thinking about prom, I decided that I needed to buy the DVD of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I found a good deal on the Walmart website and got a Blu-Ray version (since we somehow, at some point during the past eight years, got a Blu-Ray player. How or why I don't remember). The cool thing about Blu-Rays is that they come with lots of special features, so after watching the blooper reel, I clicked a button that said "Facts about Narnia."
The "Facts" were actually just written commentary about C.S. Lewis, the Narnia books, and World War II. We're saving the movie for tomorrow night, so Mom and I turned the movie off as soon as the Pevensie children arrived at Professor Kirk's manor. But the thing that struck me was that the "Facts" commentary had an introduction that was delivered by none other than Douglas Gresham. Who just so happens to be the stepson of C.S. Lewis.
Naturally, I Googled the man, and I found out that he had a rather tragic upbringing. His father was an actor with PTSD from the first World War, and his brother suffered from schizophrenia. Douglas's mother, Joy Davidman, had cancer. Twice. But apparently, Joy (who was a writer) and "Jack" Lewis operated on the same mental frequency. (When you're a writer and you meet someone who operates on the same mental frequency as you do, you tend to be close friends with them. Or marry them. Either way. But you certainly don't forget them.)
The simple article I read told me more about C.S. Lewis as a person than I've ever learned from his writings (with the possible exception of Surprised by Joy). And fair enough, I suppose--people have gotten a lot less private in the past few decades. I already knew that Lewis went by "Jack," and small blame to a man named Clive Staples. But apparently he also believed that cigarette ash kept moths out of the carpet and lived (at least in his later life) in a rather unkempt manner.
Another story that Douglas told in the article involved his mother's first cancer diagnosis. Even the Wikipedia article detailing Joy and Jack's relationship reads like a sad romance novel: the two were married in a small, non-church ceremony so Joy could stay in England after her Visa expired. She eventually was diagnosed with cancer and was given a small chance of living, so Jack married her in a Christian ceremony while she lay in her hospital bed. She miraculously recovered and lived four years before dying of a cancer relapse.
Apparently, Douglas (who was only fourteen when Joy was originally diagnosed with cancer) had a pretty large role to play in this. He was walking home from the hospital when he stopped by an unlocked church to pray for his mother. He then heard a voice offering to "fix this," and he took the voice up on the offer. His mother, Douglas said, went into remission two days later.
Hearing Douglas's voice on the Narnia Blu-Ray was wild. It reminded me of the time Malachy McCourt narrated "Angela's Christmas," an animated short based off a story that was either written by Malachy McCourt or his brother Frank, who wrote the stunning memoir Angela's Ashes. The short used to be on Netflix; if it's still there, it's worth a watch.
Anyway, have you ever researched something after hearing about it on TV? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and have a wonderful weekend!
I wonder what lies past the hilltops,
I wonder what lies past the stream.
Perhaps we'll find dragons and fairies and trolls,
Or a cottage where we'll stop for tea.
I wonder what lies in the forest,
I wonder what lies in the trees.
Perhaps we'll find treasures of silver and gold,
Or flowers and inchworms and bees.
I wonder what lies past the sunset,
I wonder what lies past the seas.
Perhaps we'll find kingdoms and heroes of old,
Or warm hearths with laughter and ease.
(I've been re-reading The Hobbit, and Tolkien's poetry is quite enjoyable. I hope to write my own High Fantasy novel someday, and I realized that I'll need some walking-songs. What do you think I should put in my High Fantasy novel? Comment your thoughts!)
As a college student, and particularly as an English major, I have become proficient at taking threads of evidence and constructing from them a somewhat solid-sounding argument--even if the threads of evidence seem to not have much to do with each other. In fact, half the time, I don't believe in my own argument. I just throw together a bunch of high-sounding nonsense and pray to God that I get an A.
This practice is quite common among college students. The technical term for it, I believe, is BSing.
Believe it or not, even writers who aren't college students are guilty of this. You'll see this quite a bit in literary criticism, especially when they say that X is clearly a metaphor for Y and that the author uses a teddy bear to symbolize sexism, racism, colonialism, and/or a heteronormative patriarchy. You know. Crap like that. (I'm not saying that the critics are always wrong. But I'm certainly saying that they're not always right.)
More unbelievably, I'm guilty of BSing my way through things that aren't school projects. Where I Stand is, as far as I'm concerned, a decent novel that makes decent sense. But (spoiler alert) did you know that Alva originally tried to poison Rowan instead of Drostan? My sixteen-year-old self decided that it would make for a better story, and I went to great lengths to justify my decision. Saying that Alva's one and only true love had been killed by an Irish blacksmith fifty years ago, and now she was out for revenge.
And you know what's worse? Lukas's name wasn't always Lukas. In fact, his name was something quite different until I sent out the final draft of Where the Clouds Catch Fire to beta readers. It was quite a stupid name, too--just a translation of a Gaelic word. I was thirteen when I came up with it, so I'm trying not to beat myself up too much over it. (And to be fair, Alynn is just a corruption of the Gaelic word alainn, which means "beautiful," because my 9th-grade self thought that beauty was the main mark of a female protagonist.)
Anyway, I changed Lukas's name to Lukas because none of my beta readers could pronounce his old name. I'm exceedingly glad that I changed it, too.
Luckily, I'm able to go through several drafts of my works and get lots of feedback just to make sure that all my BSing makes sense. And now, if you'll excuse me, my parents are watching America's Funniest Home Videos downstairs and it sounds hilarious. I'll see you next week!
Yesterday was Monday
And I had a cold
But it was still a good day.
I had to do schoolwork
And I couldn't focus
But it was still a good day.
I misread a knitting pattern
And unraveled half a dishrag
But it was still a good day.
It was a good day because Mom made lunch.
It reminded me of days long ago
Back when I was in elementary school
Studying at the kitchen table.
I'd study hard from eight to ten
Then run in the backyard for recess
Then study hard from ten-thirty to noon
And then Mom would make me lunch.
Sometimes it was peanut butter and jelly on crackers
Or peas and corn with butter and salt
Or tortilla chips with cheese and refried beans
But it was always delicious when Mom made it.
I might have been having a hard time with fractions
Or itching a mosquito bite
But it was still a good day.
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.