My Life Through Books

(This does not, by the way, include all of the fan fiction I’ve read. While some of the fandoms I’ve read are extremely large and popular, I’m going to use the rules of paranoia and not mention any of them.)

I’ve read a lot. My mother taught me so that I was reading before I entered kindergarten. She was very proud of this. And I was an odd child. I liked Dr. Seuss, Ramona Quimby, Amelia Bedelia and the Bernstein Bears. My horse phase meant I wanted to read every Black Stallion novel there was and I loved Black Beauty. (Did you know there was a television series?) I know I had all of the Anne of Green Gables books at one point and time. But between the super short books and those meant for high school level readers, the books meant for middle readers, I sort of skipped them. Books about the length of Goosebumps weren’t worth my time and mostly didn’t interest me. (I preferred Ghostwriter on PBS.) Of books that length, I mostly stuck with the Chronicles of Narnia. (I think mother read them to me first then I reread them on my own.) I loved the Chronicles of Narnia (barring book 7 which still doesn’t make sense to me.) Some of my favorite movies were the BBC television series of the first four books. To be fair, in the places where I got my books, mostly the church library, there wasn’t much in between the children’s books and the adult historical fiction novels for choice.

Perhaps, the fact I wasn’t exactly interested in books shorter than 300 pages could be laid at the feet of my third grade teacher, Mr. Filmore. Mr. Filmore was one of the best teacher’s I ever had and the one I remember most fondly. He gifted me with a love of art, history, research and reading. He taught 3rd and 4th grade at a small private Lutheran school. He didn’t simply teach us what was in the books provided. He took that step beyond. He had us writing down reports and putting together binders with pictures about the Revolutionary War and later the Civil War. He also had us put a binder together about local history. Mr. Filmore wanted to be an artist before he went to seminary and ended up teaching. He shared his love of art with us at an age appropriate level. He did art projects with us all year long from hand print turkeys and Christmas wreathes to the students making a town of their “dream houses” out of Kleenex boxes, construction and tissue paper. We got to bring in our toy cars (I was almost the only girl who had those) and drive them on the roads he put between the houses. (We even made blueprints of our houses.) He’d written a humor filled nativity play and wanted to act it out. (It never happened, sadly. We were all so excited too.) And every day during lunch, he read to us. He read books that were perhaps too long to hold the attention of third and fourth graders unless they were broken up into bits. Books like the Olde Curiosity Shop (Charles Dickens), Seasons of the Heart (Janette Oke), The Silver Chalice (Thomas Costain), and the last two which sent me off to the shelves to find others, the Hobbit (Tolkien) and Mossflower (Brian Jacques.)

Wanting to read more of these adventures might have had me digging in shelves that were technically beyond my years. Long bus rides to and from school gave me plenty of time to read. That and my parents also didn’t like television and we stopped having television in the house about this age. So, instead of watching television, I tended to read a lot of books, sometimes multiple times. Off the church shelves I pulled historical Christian romance books by Gilbert Morris, Lori Wick, Jane Peart, and Janette Oke. I read Christy by Catherine Marshall. (I think I read Julie too.) As I grew older, I read some Frank Perreti, Roger Elwood other “Christian horror thrillers.” (Yes, these exist.) And before my senior year I’d read on my own the Lord of the Rings trilogy twice. (During senior year, we read in it in our English Class together and discussed it. Thank you, Mr. Foster.) I’d read Little Women and Wuthering Heights and didn’t expressly find them my cup of tea. Nor did I enjoy Jane Austen. I enjoyed Uncle Tom’s Cabin due to a mixture of a fascination with the Civil War and the musical “The King and I.”

About 7th grade, I started also reading more secular fiction. This demanded trips to the local library. I read Anne McCaffery and Mercedes Lackey. I picked up Terry Brooks. I also read some Anne Rice just to see what the fuss was about. (That’s it, really?) George Lucas wrote a trilogy based after his Willow movies with Chris Claremont. A friend introduced me to the Star Wars trilogy and I spent the next six or so years spending all my allowance on the Expanded Universe. An interest in science fiction led to me to read Isaac Asimov, Orson Scott Card, Robert Heinlein and Frank Herbert. Much to my father’s horror, I read Jack Chalker. I also read Honor Harrington by David Weber. I poked about in westerns reading a few Louis L’Amour and poked about in Mysteries with Clive Cussler. My favorite mysteries were the “Cat Who” series by Lilian Jackson Braun. She had vivid characters and there was always something new to learn in each book. (Though they were short.) One of my favorite book series I picked up at this time as “the Carnivores of Light and Darkness” by Alan Dean Foster. I also delved more into science fiction and fantasy parody style books with Robert Asprin. My mother and I fought over who got to read the Harry Potter books first.

College had me poking about bookstores again looking for new things to read. Star Wars Expanded Universe had hit a point where not only was it a tangled mess, I just didn’t like where it was going. Anne McCaffery had passed away around this time and left her son in charge of writing new books. Mercedes Lackey thankfully still remained a consistent writer. I started to poke back into the more ‘horror’ aspect of the science fiction and fantasy section, picking up this newer genre of ‘urban fantasy.’ If you read urban fantasy it is almost required that you pick up Laurell K. Hamilton. With her Anita Blake series, I lasted until Obsidian Butterfly. I liked her Merry Gentry series better. I had better luck with Anne Bishop, Patricia Briggs, Kim Harrison, Kelley Armstrong and Jim Butcher.

Since college, I’ve tried to find new authors, picking out ones that the premise interests me. I find that there are a lot of great concepts out there. Most the times, I find the execution is lacking or the books are executed in such a way that it doesn’t fit the concept at all. Or they throw something in to shock the reader that’s jarring and mildly obscene. It’s mildly frustrating. I try to give each series/author at least 3 books. There is at least one or two authors I’ve gritted my teeth to the end of the series just to see how it ended. So, I often stray back to my old favorites like a comfortable blanket and cup of hot cocoa after a stressful day. I think partially my tastes have changed enough that I know what I want in a story. What I want in a story versus what is on the shelves might not exist, which is no one’s fault. In some cases it might be easier to find what I want on the shelves of paranormal romance (at least partially.)

I will keep plugging away at trying to find new interesting stories to read.

Then again, I’ll also keep plugging away at my own stories in hopes that someone else might find them interesting to read too.

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