Thursday, July 2, 2009

haunted castles.

Currently listening to: Dustland Fairytale by The Killers
Best lines I read this week: see below :)

Happy [day after] Canada day Canadian readers! :) I heart Canada. My fam went to Prince Edward Island a few years ago (well ... more like seven years ago ...) and it was gorgeous. The sky was a perfect blue. It wasn't hot and hazy like it here either; just clear and perfect. The people were cool (once they crowded around the window at a Drive Thru and asked us to talk. The twang is intense ... ;). We all ate our weight in Tim Horton's doughnuts and raved about how pretty the sunsets were. When I was in middle school, I used to celebrate summer by starting the Anne of Green Gables series on the first day of summer vacation. Then I would watch all the movies (then repeat the process). I never thought I would actually get to see Prince Edward Island, but I did, and it was even better than I thought it would be. It was a big dream come true (Thank you, Mom and Dad!). I can't wait to go back someday. Way to keep it swanky, Canadians! :) Question: If you are Canadian* how do you celebrate Canada Day? Do you guys have fireworks and food and what not? Or is it more like Groundhog's Day, a day which should be height of celebration, but is oft overlooked?

Three things to discuss with you:

Thing the First: A Book Thing
I'm in crazy-psycho-writer mode for the next week. Because *drum roll* I finished The It**! Confetti! But, as you probably know (because so many of you are writers or artists of some sort), "finished" is never really finished. Even though this is not a first draft, it is still a draft. At present, The It still has plot holes big enough to drive a golf cart through. I'll be working on fixing that this week. And working on some of the more crummy bits of writing that sounded way better when I wrote them than they do now.

I'm not sure if It is good enough to stand on his own wobbly legs or if I'll just incorporate some of the better parts into something down the road. This writing adventure has been way different than any other. I tried to forget about it and walk away from it. But I finished, thanks in part to sweet friends and their creative threats. And thanks to a story I kinda love; a story that wouldn't let me go even when I wanted to drop-kick every messed up chapter. I started The It last summer and now: one year, 90,000 words, and many drafts*** later, it is (kinda) complete. Now I get to go back and fix all the doofy**** parts, make it sound pretty, and delete some of my favorite parts because they mess with the flow.

(But the kissing parts are staying, even if they mess with the flow.)

(Tangent for a movie quote: "Is this a kissing book?")

For the next week, other than watching Harry Potter with my dad (getting him ready for Order of the Phoenix!), I'll be writing. I'll be meandering into the Tortured Artist Zone; a place overflowing with Diet Coke and Fruit Loops, where Death Cab for Cutie is always playing in the background. I will be finishing It and passing It off to my eager fans/friends (all three of them) and then I'll get to work on something new. Something that is actually coherent. :) Thanks for letting me ramble about The It on here for so long. You make the swamp so fun and encouraging :) [Blog the Monster envelopes you in a big, stinky hug.]

Thing the second: A Secret Passageway Thing
I'm reading a book called 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson. So far, the book is enchanting. 100 Cupboards follows the story of a boy named Henry, who moves to the small town of Henry, Kansas to live with his aunt and uncle. Henry wakes up one morning with plaster dust all over his bed. He investigates the mess and finds a cabinet hidden behind layers of paint. Then he starts plucking at the rest of the plaster with his pocket knife. Turns out there are 100 Cupboards hidden in Henry's walls; all different sizes and different colors. All leading somewhere fantastic ... :)

Every now and then, I find a book that is magical from the start. Something about it, something I can't even pinpoint, captivates me. That's what's happening with 100 Cupboards. My only regret is that it wasn't out when I was 11 or 12. Back then, I would have been transfixed. I would have been picking away at the walls in my room looking for cupboards too. Regardless, I knew within the first few pages of this book I would be smitten.

100 Cupboards is fantasy but it's grounded in the reality enough to appeal to non-fantasy fans. Even though it's middle grade (I think), Mom and I both give it five sparkly stars. If you're a fan of The Chronicles of Narnia, Spiderwick Chronicles, Bridge to Terebithia, Five Children and It (if you're into E. Nesbit, you'll be all over N.D. Wilson!), you need to run down to the library and nab a copy (or, just walk. And take water. It's hot outside.). I think Harry Potter fans will enjoy the story too (think more in the vein of the first three Potter books). Mugglenet raved about 100 Cupboards. Not that I, uh, read a Harry Potter fansite. I don't, of course. *laughs nervously*

*Clears throat*

Not only do I like the story, but the way ND Wilson writes is sensational. Behold:

Henry had never heard of such a thing as a forgotten door. Back at school, he never would have believed such things existed. But here was different. There was something strange about here. He felt just like he had when he'd found out that kids his age don't ride in car seats and that boys pee standing up. He remembered unpacking his bags at boarding school while his roommate watched. His roommate had asked him what the helmet was for, and Henry had suddenly had the suspicious sensation that he had been kept in the dark, that the world was off behaving one way while he, Henry, wore a helmet. He had barely prevented himself from answering his roommate honestly. The words "It's a helmet my mom bought me to wear in PE" were replaced with "It's for racing. I don't think I'll need it here."

Whatever was going on inside the wall in his room was much bigger than finding out that other boys didn't have to wear helmets. If there really were forgotten doors and secret cities, and maps and books to tell you how to find them, then he needed to know. He looked around at the tall, dew-chilly grass and for a moment didn't see grass. Instead, he saw millions of slender blades made of sunlight and air, thick on the ground and gently blowing, tickling his now-damp feet, and all the while silently pulling life up out of the earth. Each was another kid without a helmet, a kid who knew things were actually done ...

[He goes back inside determined to see what else is hidden on his wall...]

The wind scratched its back along the side of the barn. The stars swung slowly across the roof of this world, and the grass swayed and grew, content to be the world's carpet but still desiring to be taller. Henry knelt on his bed upstairs and pried plaster off the wall with his knife. His thumb ached.

[from Chapter 3 of 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson, Random House, 2007]

And you don't even know what is behind all those doors yet! The entire book is full of passages like that.

If you don't have the esteemed privilege of living in a small town where summer nights are full of stardust, and secret doors, and brave kids, check out 100 Cupboards. :)

Thing the third: Scarythings
I think Steven King is an incredible writer. I don't read his novels because they terrify me. I've seen some of his movies and had sleepless weeks as a result (Stand by Me is an exception. Really like that one.) Regardless, I think he's a good writer and I think he has a knack for writing stories that are unputdownable. He also does a column in Entertainment Weekly. Apparently, King collaborated with Michael Jackson for a music video called Ghosts (warning: if you YouTube the thing, prepare for some creepy). He wrote about the experience in his column and I thought this part, in particular, was great:

[Ghosts] contains some of the best, most inspired dancing of Jackson’s career. If you look at it, I think you’ll see why Fred Astaire called Jackson ‘a helluva mover.’ You’ll also see Jackson’s sadness and almost painful desire to please. Yes, I am strange, his eyes say, but I am doing the best I can, and I want to make you happy. Is that so bad? This is a sadness that’s all too common in people who possess talent in amounts so great it has become a burden instead of a blessing. Despite being extraordinarily beautiful (although he had probably already begun the elective surgeries that would ruin those amazing looks), Jackson was painfully shy, and difficult (sometimes impossible) to talk to, but watching that old video still makes me happy…and no, that’s not bad.

... In the court of public opinion, however, [MJ] was found guilty of Weirdness in the First Degree, and ended up secluded in one haunted castle after another. Finally, he died in one. Strange man. Lost man. And not unique in his passing. Like James Dean, Elvis Presley, Kurt Cobain, Heath Ledger, and a dozen others we could name, he just left the building far too soon. Because, man oh man, that guy could dance.”

[from the print edition of this month's EW]

In a semi-related note, I heard an interesting interview the other day. I was listening to several women discuss a book on a radio show. They were talking about the difference between cherishing someone vs. co-dependency. They kept calling co-dependency "relational idolatry" and said that, in their opinion, most every woman has, or will, struggle with this to some degree. One of the ladies was a psychologist who said (and I don't know where this stat comes from) that men who commit suicide are usually doing so as a result of some loss of status. Women who commit suicide usually do so as a result of a failed relationship and/or isolation. I realize the whole MJ thing wasn't a suicide, but the isolation bit made me think of it. It's always surprising to read about people who felt lonely and unwanted when they seemed to be so adored. Everybody just wants to be loved.

I'll report back next week when I'm emerging from phase one of the editing haze. Be safe this weekend if you're out traveling! And do NOT launch fireworks while holding them in your hand (I'm talking to you, Chase.).

Happy Fourth of July!

* If you aren't Canadian, but you celebrate Canada Day, please also feel free to chime in. ;)
** The It is not the actual name of this project.
*** Drafts like unedited manuscripts, not like beer. I'm not that far gone. Not yet ...
****Doofy = goofy + dufus. This is why I hate Scrabble. People consider it "cheating" when I make up my own words.


  1. I, as well, think that they should make Groundhog Day a special "everyone gets off for work and school" day! :)

    Goodrich (fill in the blank with your favorite next phrase, Nat)
    Love ya!

  2. awesome on the IT...

    I read The Iron Giant (finally, right?). You'd enjoy it... super quick read.

    I also read Fortress of Solitude. Not sure if it's your kinda book, but really good.

  3. Canada Day is fraught with crowded streets, red and white flags and fireworks all through the night (or it felt that way when I was trying to get to sleep.) I think it's a lot like the Fourth of July, only slightly smaller.

    I hadn't heard of 100 Cupboards but it sounds like a great read.

    And congrats on completing The It! I would still buy a book with that name especially if it had people that launched fireworks in their hands;)

  4. I totally didn't catch on that you used the non-word "doofy." One night my friend called her boyfriend a "goofnut" (goofball + nut).

    100 Cupboards sounds like it is a room filled with 100 wardrobes! :)

  5. Cait, you have succeeded in making me laugh. I need to go pick up the rest of those CD's and hand them out as gifts. That would make me the best friend ever :) Miss you much! Hug my brother for me. (Or just call him names.)

    J, I'm pretty sure you commented on the post where I talked about reading The Iron Giant ... unless I wasn't reading the right book? Highly possible :) Question: Was he married to Sylvia Plath (Ted not the giant)? I'm actually really interested in reading FOS. I read an article about the literary scene in Brooklyn, which cited Letham (of course :) and included a snippet of his work. My ONLY reservation is that I see him compared to Faulkner in reviews and I had a hard time reading Faulkner. He was a great writer, just more dense than I like (I'm not a stickler for commas but when I read his work, it's like my brain can't breathe :). I had to be in the right frame of mind. Is that who you would compare Letham to? Or not so much?

    Sarah, Canada Day sounds fun! :) I bet it's not fun when you're trying to sleep though ;) Let me know if you read 100 Cupboards. I'm not finished with it, but so far, I'm pretty sure I'll be trying to run down the sequel sometime next week. And, per your request, someday I will incorporate a guy shooting fireworks out of his hand into an It. I saw a guy shoot fireworks out of a beanie weenie can once too. That is definitely going in a book someday ... :)

    Jessica, I like goofnut! I need to try and use that one :) Cupboards definitely has a Narnia vibe! If Narnia had more contemporary verbiage, I bet they would sound quite similar.

  6. I just (very happily) stumbled across your blog today. I used to read your column in Brio (once upon a time...), which I loved, so I was kinda excited to find that you have a blog...haha.

    Congrats on the book!! Also, I haven't ever heard of 100 Cupboards before, but it sounds like something I'd enjoy...I might have to check it out. :)

  7. Congrats on finishing It. And even though you don't read Stephen King, you paid him homage with your nontitle! Seriously, finishing is a huge, gigantic accomplishment. CELEBRATE!!!!

    Will check out that YA novel. Sounds enchanting and,like you said, something that would've absolutely have captivated me and swept me in at a younger age.

  8. Anon, I'm so glad you made your way here! :) Let me know what you think of 100 Cupboards if you get a chance to read it.

    Jenny, celebrate, I shall :) (Even though I still have a lot of work to do...). I really wish I could find one book that could make me feel the way I felt as a 12 year old reader. Books like this come close. I think its because they don't ignore bad stuff and scary monsters but they're still very innocent.

  9. I'm proud that 'It' is finished! It sounded like it would be good, so I'm ready to read it for you when you want. Of course, I couldn't be a true literary critic. But I like to read, so I could at least let you know what I think of it. :) I'm proud of you, Nat. Now check your mail on facebook because you've got some from your bff.