Passing Though: Narnia and Every Heart A Doorway

Here is a post I wrote about a year or so ago for a different blog, but it was on my mind today so I figured I’d repost it.

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I’ve told people this before. But I’ll say again and I’ll put it here in writing so that it’ll live on after me.  If I manage to find a secret door to someplace fantastic or happen to walk into 1920’s Paris randomly after midnight, I won’t be coming back.  I know somewhere it says that the true mark of the hero’s journey is that he/they return to tell people about it and the wisdom that they learned…and that not doing so is sometimes seen as cowardice or a failed hero etc…

I’m okay with that actually.

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It always bothered me when people got to be kings and queens and then tripped over something and got shoved back home, back to the bodies they’d had at the beginning of the story before their Adventures.  Because that just wasn’t fair at all.  They lived those years, they earned those wrinkles and scars and it was in essence being stolen from them in the worst kind of way.   Where they retained the minds and the memories, but not the physical trappings that went with those changes.  Because it’s cheating and it’s not right.   Narnia is the biggest example of this and probably one of the most used examples, I’d wager, because of Susan.

Susan is seen as falling away from the elite number of Earthbound Narnians. That she tells them it’s all in their heads and the silly fantasies and games that they used to play as children etc.   This is seen as a Bad Thing and not to emulated and as a little kid, I couldn’t wrap my brain around why she would do that.  It wasn’t until I got older that I started to understand it more and more.   The cruelest thing in the world is to have your heart’s desire and then have it taken away and  you never being able to get it back.   Queen Susan the Gentle was the most beautiful Daughter of Eve in all of Narnia and a good many of the surrounding lands.  To have grown up there with that kind of stature and influence and then be shoved straight back into your preteen/teen body that you’d started in back in the place you’d been shoved because you couldn’t stay with your parents because there was a war and London was constantly being bombed.  To have healed from a lot of that and then get rudely shoved back, and yet not returned to the same exact mindset.   The Pevensies retained all their memories of their time in Narnia.   To go from being a woman grown and in control and used to having that power and influence to the awkward preteen/teen years where you are no one special and no one has to give you the time of day, much less anything more than that.

It’s one hell of an adjustment.

Then it gets worse. They’re able to go back.  Except it’s not the same Narnia as the one they left.   It hasn’t been that long in Earth time but it’s been hundreds of years in Narnia.  The time differential there is extreme.   Still.  They’re able to go back and it’s glorious until it isn’t.   Until they go through all the trials and troubles of this new adventure and then the worst news of all happens.   This will be the last time Susan and Peter can come to Narnia and they’re not allowed to stay behind and just not leave.

Again she has to go back.  Again she has to adjust.  There’s a whole mess of gender issues here with these adjustments, because where being older than your years, clever, ambitious, and forthright is becoming in men, the same cannot be said of girls.  Peter and Edward will go farther than their peers might because of some of this.  Any of those qualities in women are frowned upon. Susan held the title of Gentle and beautiful, but those hands were not milk-soft. She had archer’s hands and was never one to suffer fools gladly.

She had a much much harder climb back to “normal”  than her siblings did.  Lucy had some of it but she was younger and flights of fantasy are acceptable in younger girls and not as acceptable when you are approaching womanhood.  There was an age gap there between the two female siblings that probably seemed like a huge gulf at times.  Because context, as women know and know well, context is everything.    So yes, the fact that “Susan fell away”  is completely understandable once you see the context of the time she lived in, the stark realities of what was done to her, not once but twice, and you have some basic concept of trauma recovery.

Bear with me, there’s a reason why this came up.

So I finished Every Heart A Doorway.   And it’s the sort of book that is amazing and grand and painful like glass shards in your heart.  Where you are grateful for the bleeding wounds because it tells you you are still alive. Cause I’m 30 and I’ve been reading for 27 years and this is the first book where someone like me was prominently featured and they used our terms and our language and it was just nice to see that.  But I’m also the kid who has never ever stopped opening every single wardrobe and linen closet and cupboard in the hopes of eventually finding a door to somewhere else. To this day, I still do that and that was a thing that made this book simultaneously grand and also like mirror shards in my heart.

This book has a prominent character who is asexual. Who uses that term specifically and it isn’t played for laughs or shock value.  It’s there and it’s normalized.  It’s not something to be fixed, Nancy’s not considered broken because she doesn’t want sex.    Words cannot describe how much just that alone meant to me.

And then there’s the  setting.  A home, a therapy home for kids who fell through cupboards and wardrobes to wondrous, terrifying, amazing places and then came back to Earth.   Got shoved back to Earth and just like Susan, either cannot go back at all or just haven’t found the door back yet.  A home where it’s okay to be as you are,  it’s okay to have feelings about your Adventure, a place where you won’t be called liar for telling your story, where you went, who you saw.    It’s incredible and breathtaking and so bittersweet, like sampling good gourmet semi-dark chocolate where it takes you a long moment to sort through all the flavors blended into it.

This story is real in ways that a lot of books aren’t, it has a truth behind it and it doesn’t shirk away from difficult subjects.  It calls to mind  what Sherman Alexie said, about how the best kids’ books are written in blood.  This book is something I wish I had had twenty years ago.   Ten year old me would have benefited a lot from this book, maybe the years after wouldn’t have been quite so rocky and fraught,  maybe it would have just been rocky and fraught in different ways.  No way of knowing now.  Unless you have a time machine, and really if you do, we have MUCH bigger issues to solve than my weird sort of traumatic upbringing.     Having this now gives me a little balm, a little hope, relief that someone understands.  This book is proof that someone else understands what it’s like.

As it comforts me in some ways, it makes me bleed in others.  The line about the Door that was still waiting in the corner of a bedroom that would eventually fade away because its’ human had died…I had to stop there for a moment and remind myself that people need to breathe.    And my roomie was a little startled at my “Oh no, it’s [x]”  well before we ever find out who actually “dun” it.

Oh and Kade’s story shatters me because I hadn’t thought of it like that,  that the Faeries might not want a prince when they’d snatched a princess.  I am surprised that they didn’t murder him because Fae historically have very bad reactions to being “cheated” and this is the sort of thing that they would classify as that.

Weirdly, also the cocoa scene was harder on me than some of the others.

But I’d love to talk about this, hear what ya’ll who’ve read it have thought of it. Who you love and why?  What was hard and why if you feel like sharing.

Wednesday’s Child Is Full of Woe

In between work, health issues, and running around everywhere, I’ve been reading.

I’ve finished Unstoppable- the Joe Ledger Anthology and then also the latest Joe Ledger book, Dogs of War.

I’ve started The King in Yellow and Old Man’s War and I’ve finished a re-read of Kushiel’s Dart and A Wrinkle In Time, both of which were comfort reads during some of the more interesting days lately.

It’s always fun when you are perpetually dealing with the effects of a chronic illness. Though that’s a blog post for another day.

I’ve also started reading more of the Ursula K. Le Guin I own and I plan to buy what I don’t. So reading and re-reading those and plotting out how to acquire the rest. I am terribly sad that I won’t ever get to meet her now, on this side of the beyond. I came to her works later on, they weren’t part of my childhood mythologies and histories. I was introduced to them by a very dear friend of mine in my late teens-early twenties and it was a revelation.

She was everything that I had been looking for and never known what to ask for, and I’m unendingly grateful to my friend who gave me one of her books and said “read this.” Said friend of mine has done this for me a number of times, introduced me to authors and artists and films that always blow open my mind and horizons and make me think. Everyone should have a friend like this.

I’m still working through what it means to be in a world without the Great Lady who has inspired so many of us. Who was a shining beacon to so many of us.

So that’s where my brain is at the moment. Hopefully, your worlds and lives are well.

Book Reviews: Joe Ledger: Unstoppable, An Anthology

First, I should say, I have had the very great pleasure of meeting and talking with a few of the authors in this anthology in real live person.  Some of them are very dear friends.   I have also been reading the Joe Ledger series since the first book came out (and there’s a story behind how I got introduced to the series that will be its own post later on) and the idea of an anthology in the canon with the characters I love so much made me ecstatic.

Unstoppable cover (taken from Indiebound.org)

Now, if you have no idea who Joe Ledger is and you like weird thrillers with extremely plausible science (the type of ”no wait, that’s a real thing that is plausible and could happen…oh crap”)  then hie thee to a library or to your favorite bookseller.   They start off with a bang and just get better and better from there.   I’ve heard them  described as “comic books in novel form” and there’s some truth to that.   Jonathan Maberry is amazing at what he does and how he structures his books and it’s the best kind of thing to pick up one of these books and go for a ride down a fantastic, all too plausible rabbit hole.  He’s written an introduction to Joe and his world in the beginning of the anthology in case you want to pick up the anthology first for a taste of what the Ledger books are all about.

The anthology itself spans over the entire timeline of the canon novels and even includes a couple of crossovers with other book series, a thing that has added a few new books to the list of to be acquired.     These stories made me laugh, cheer, and in a couple places, cry (Three Times, by Jennifer Campbell-Hicks). All of the short stories in this anthology are amazing, but I wanted to focus on two of the stories that stayed with me the most.   The first being Mira Grant’s  Red Dirt, which is a short that takes place after the events of the second book in the series, The Dragon Factory, and if you know Mira’s writing…it’s flawless in how the prose grabs you and sucks you into the story she’s weaving.  You don’t read this short, you experience it.   Her sense of place is magnificent.   You can feel the despair and the heartache and the way that red dirt sticks to everything it touches.   It’s gloriously executed and a perfect coda to the second book.  It also made me sniffle for the remembering of certain events.

The second is actually my favorite out of all of them and it’s written by Keith DeCandidoGanbatte, features a member of Joe’s team, Lydia Ruiz who is one of the first members of an all-female SEAL fire team.   She is easily one of the most badass characters in the series and this story gives us a snippet into how she got to be a member of Echo Team.   Lydia is a hell of a martial artist and Keith’s own expertise in that field shows in this story.    It also touches on a sensitive topic around one of the people in Lydia’s life and while the situation is an all too real one, the outcome was one that I appreciated the hell out of as much as I simultaneously wished that situations like that would really end that way in actual life.    Just like with Mira’s story, you don’t read this one so much as you experience it.   You feel the wind in your hair, that smell you only get when driving on the overseas highway.  It’s easy to get into Lydia’s head, to see what she sees.   Ganbatte deepens your understanding of Lydia Ruiz as a character and a person.

So all in all, this anthology was exactly I wanted and hoped for.  Some of my favorite authors writing in one of my favorite series.   Definitely a book worth picking up if you haven’t already.  Get it here from your favorite indie bookstore!

An Update: Let The Water Flow

New Year,  new goals, fresh start to everything…it’s supposed to be an energizing part of the year right?    Sadly, I’ve spent whatever time I haven’t been at work or feeding the cats/myself pretty much sleeping or driving.    The reason for that goes back to Christmas really.    The holidays were great, my little brother flew in from Brasil just as The Lovely Housemate flew out to spend sometime with her family.    Christmas was really lovely and spread out over the weekend since we did Christmas with Housemate first and then normal Christmas Eve and Christmas with the parents, brother, and his Wonderful Girlfriend.

After Christmas was when it got interesting.   My day job is a payroll/garnishment specialist and while my job is amazing and I honestly love what I do…to work in payroll during the holidays is never a cake walk.  There are three months out of the year where it kind of sucks to be a payroll specialist, for the pure and simple fact that everything is super crazy and super high stress due to a couple of factors beyond anyone’s actual control (December, January, and April, in case you were wondering).    So with it being Year-End and having a couple of people out, the last week of December was more brutal than most.    Add to that, the fact that the temperatures in Tennessee started dipping down into the single digits and it was pretty hard just making it through for someone who doesn’t have pressure/weather-sensitive chronic pain.

And then it got interesting.   My parents’ are moving because the renovation of their upstairs is starting this next week AND they had to deal with an unexpected massive water leak as well as their furnace being broken.   My father was also gone for a week to visit his family and help his sister out for a short while.   So it was Mom, my brother, the Wonderful Girlfriend, and I working to get as much as we could moved downstairs or packed up and shoved to the upstairs balcony so that when Dad got back, there wasn’t that much left to do.   Got the vast majority of stuff moved downstairs/packed up and Mom got the leak handled.

However since the furnace still hadn’t been fixed yet ( the parts were wrong several times in a row), they had space heaters and the wood burning stove going constantly so that they didn’t have any of their pipes freeze in our almost subzero temperatures.   Which means that one person needs to be in the house at all times to make sure that the fire doesn’t die down too much and that the four-five space heaters don’t spontaneously spark and start fires.

So that meant instead of us hosting New Years Gaming, we packed everything up and put on a couple of extra layers and went up there for gaming fun.   Not a big deal, though I did make the Lovely Housemate drive (since I’d made four-five round trips up and back in addition to four trips to the airport and a full week’s worth of driving for work – I was a little tired).   Then came Tuesday and the realization that one of the three times we’d lost power on Tuesday had shorted out the power strip that the heat tape and heat lamp were plugged into for our water softening system and the pipes were frozen.

This is the first time since we’d owned our house that it had a) been THIS cold and b) we’d had any serious plumbing issues other than some flooding in a few places.

So begins the week of literally trying everything we can think of to thaw the pipes including calling the plumbers twice and yet all they could tell us was that we’d have to stick it out and wait until the ground warmed up.  We were doing all the right things, the pipes were just frozen.

We hit up the store for jugs of purified water for hair washing and bottled water for drinking for both us and the cats and made do as best we could.   It’s been an adventure.

Yesterday (Saturday)  we gathered up laundry piles and shower gear and headed up to the parents’ place to shower and do laundry since their water was still nice and hot and they’re always happy to have kids drop in.   Hung out, watched some movies and shows in between actual showers and laundry being done.

Today, their furnace got fixed and then we got some water flowing back into the house.  So progress right?

Until the pipe burst.  Luckily, it’s a small pipe attached to the water softener and not one of the ones in the ground and the plumber has been called again and we’re on the list of stops he’ll make.  We haven’t been the only ones dealing with frozen or burst pipes in the last week or so.   So that’s been one of the things eating up all the spare time in between work, food, and transit times.

Hopefully, your New Years have started much less eventfully than mine has. Anyways, normal blogging should get back on track this week, providing the stars and my energy levels comply.    I’m currently in the middle of reading some of the Christmas books I got this year as well as a reread of Kushiel’s Dart because weirdly, that’s one of my comfort books.

I have several More Joy posts that will be appearing and some articles about various research type things I’ve been doing.

New Patreon Post Up!

The December Patreon story is up!  It’s a fun little portal fantasyish story set during Solstice.  If you’d like to check it out,  1$ gets you access to all the short stories.   The link is below.

https://www.patreon.com/DJGray

In other news, Happy New Year everyone!    There will be a more in depth 2017 recap post later but for now I leave you all with this picture of Laurens!Cat.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

So in the wake of some truly terrible things going on in both the world and the country I live in, I am going to talk about some things that bring me joy.

Tonight I am going to talk about Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and why I love it so much. I’ve always loved Douglas Adams a lot ever since I picked up the Hitchhiker’s five book trilogy. However, it’s hard to translate that brilliance and that weirdness to screen.

This TV show is exactly what I would expect from Douglas Adams and it’s glorious. It’s absolutely glorious. The cast is amazing and diverse. It’s inclusive and it will make you feel the most wonderful joy and the fiercest anger (look I still have feelings about the cliffhanger ending of the first season that involved me Twitter yelling at the writer/producers who promptly liked all of those angry tweets and tweeted back appropriate gifs).   The most badass people are women.  One of them, the queen of kickassery is a woman of color, played by the unstoppable Jade Eshete.    In season two, we get disabled characters who become superheroes in their own right WITHOUT magically curing them of their disabilities.  I literally could not tell you another show that did something like that.  I cannot even put into words how much that meant to me.

Amanda with Wapti Wanasi

It captures the wonder and mystery and sheer undiluted or disguised glee that I can only compare to the feelings I had when I first discovered fandom online in the beginnings of the Harry Potter heyday.   Before the wank started or the shipping wars got serious, there was just this sheer awesome feedback loop of so many excited nerds all nerding out about the same thing.  All of that collected joy and excitement overflowing everywhere as the fandom kept growing.

That’s Dirk Gently.   That’s the show in a nutshell.  That’s the collected fandom in a nutshell.   We’re all wonderful hilarious nerds gathered together (because everything is connected) to love on this show.  The showrunners, cast, crew also know that and are more than willing to engage with the fans in increasingly fun and hilarious ways.

Dirk Gently s2 partial cast picture. Feat: Rowdy 3 (five members), a holistic detective and his assistant, a good prince and his sworn sword, and the evil power mad queen.

Update: Patreon Shenanigans

So in an update to this post, I am deliriously happy to report that Patreon has acknowledged that they done screwed up and that they are not actually rolling out the updates to their fee structure that they had announced.   So I am thrilled they are being not evil in this particular way.  However,  they have burned a lot of trust and I will be continuing to watch and research other alternatives in case something like this goes down again.

You can read their apology post here.

So currently on Patreon is the story of why my mother has a Russian Motherhood Medal and then the December short story will be posted soon.

Any Patreon alternatives you want to drop in the comments, I’d be appreciative.

In Response to the recent Patreon News

After being notified of the changes that Patreon is making to their fee structures and seeing the responses from all of my fellow creators about this  –   I’ve come to a couple of conclusions.

I’ll be pulling stuff off my Patreon probably before the end of the month, to spare my patrons those fees unless they change their tune before it’s effective.  I will, however, leave it up until I make the switch to another site.  I am still researching options,  my dear friend and fellow creator, Kitty Chandler has a breakdown of different options other than Patreon here.

There’s been a lot of buzz about this lately.  From the way this was handled to the way they are responding or not responding to the criticisms.  My opinion on it is that it is absolutely crap timing, that I will be emailing all of my patrons personally to explain a little more about my rationale, where I’ll be heading and where they can find me.    It sucks.   It sucks and it’s not fair to my patrons and I hate being pinned between a rock and a hard place.

There will be a longer post later when I have a moment to really stop and compose my thoughts further and when I’m not be-bopping between places like a mad thing because December and because real life is crazy busy this month, even without bringing the holiday into it.

Wednesday Reads (On Thursday)

Because I like to be a rebel and Wednesday was  full of preparations for this early Thursday morning and also troubleshooting cable issues ( apparently all the channels decided to change and that disrupted a lot of things).

So what am I reading, what have I currently read, and what’s still upcoming from the To Read Pile?

Well, glad you asked.

What I’m Reading:

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – which has been recommended to me by many places and people and I am happy to report that they were all correct. This book is fascinating for many reasons. It will draw you in with the dialogue and ease of reading and keep you by the narration of the life and viewpoint of a very well known man in one of British history’s most well known periods. The prose is captivating and Hilary Mantel weaves the historical details into a narrative that is easily understood. I haven’t yet seen the PBS Masterpiece Special they’ve based on this, but if they’re true to the book, then it will be fantastic I’m sure.

Fading Suns: RPG book – because this will factor into Christmas gifts and I am making sure that I am familiar with the system and requirements so that modules can be built.   I’m dipping more into GMing which will be fun.

What I’ve Finished:

The second Mitch Rapp book, (chronologically) Kill Shot by Vince Flynn was a hell of a sequel to American Assassin. Mitch gets himself into and out of trouble with a little bit of help from Irene and Thomas and we see Stan Hurley and our good old friend Victor again. It was overall a fairly satisfying read and I’ll be fascinated to see if this is the next Flynn novel to get movie treatment.  I have a lot more feelings about this book, but they are all massively spoileriffic so if you’ve read it,  poke me in the comments and we can flail over it together.

Church Refugees by Ashleigh Hope and Josh Packard

This was an interesting book that I was reading, partly for research and partly for personal reasons.  It’s amazing and also painful.   It talks about the Dones, people who are followers of a certain religious path that are for one reason or another, done with the Church as the institution we are familiar with, but not done with their faith. It takes a sociological look at this phenomenon  and though both contributors are themselves believers in this religion, they try and minimize their internal bias to only focus on the data gathered.  Their academic and scientific standards have been top notch and I want to throw this book at every pastor and missionary I know.   Because I believe it will be that helpful, because I think it will be able to express things in a way that will make sense and be better able to communicate why precisely there are a lot of people leaving the church in order to serve God more.

Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie’s amazing novel about a murder on a train and the detective who has to solve the mystery while the train is stuck in the snow. One of the more interesting character novels, as it provides a great insight into Hercule Poirot’s mindset and personal set of ethics.

What’s Next:

Old Man’s War – my first Scalzi novel! I’m excited to read this.

The King in Yellow – Robert Chambers – this one is for research purposes, but I am so curious about it.  I’ve heard so much about it here and there.

What are you reading?   Share in the comments!