They're so Supportive!

Just for kicks and giggles today, I'm going to post some of my favorite NOT-main characters from some of my favorite books, in no particular order.
  • "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn", Betty Smith- Aunt Sissy. I love Aunt Sissy. She's the one everyone calls "a bad girl", but she has a heart of gold that's overflowing with love. Of course, she's called a bad girl because she is pretty free and open with that love. That doesn't matter to me. I admire her down-to-earth good sense and practical logic. She also has one of the best lines in the book. She and Katie are talking about a woman's special appearance for her husband at those romantic times.... Sissy says, "At night, all cats are gray." How true. How very true.
  • "Lonesome Dove", Larry McMurtry - Deets. (spoiler alert!) What Call carves on his grave marker says it all. "Cheerful in all weathers. Never shirked a task.". Those are two of my favorite qualities in any person. That those qualities belonged to a man who had learned how to be happy in his own life, as disenchanting as that life may be? I love that.
  • "To Kill a Mockingbird", Harper Lee - Calpurnia. That strong and capable woman is the rock of the Finch family. She is The One who was brave enough to go knock on the Radley's door when there was a mad dog coming. She is the one who brought security, manners, penmanship and good cooking to the Finch house. We all need a Calpurnia in our lives, don't we?
  • "Chesapeake", James Michener - Rosalind Steed. Fair Rosalind. I think Rosalind Steed is one of the great female characters of all time. Rosalind Steed is a plain-looking woman whose unprepossessing shell contains a wealth of love, intelligence, passion, compassion, courage, wisdom.... she loves her stepchildren deeply, she fights the pirates, she fights the sexist, unjust city judicial system. She is tenacious. She also does what may be the most difficult thing of all: she knows when to let go. Rosalind Steed is an object lesson for all women, IMHO. She reminds us that our capacity for love is in no way linked to our culture's assessment of beauty. She reminds us that you have to stand up for what's right. She reminds us that a true measure of a human being is their grace under disappointment and courage under fire.
  • "Clan of the Cave Bear", Jean Auel - Brun. Brun is the leader of the clan that picks up this orphaned girl. If ever there was guy who had a cuckoo egg tipped into his sparrow's nest, it's Brun. He has to face more unheard-of situations because of this one skinny, flat-faced girl than all of his ancestors combined ever had. Bless his heart for not throwing her out into the snow right at the beginning. This is a guy who has his own home life disrupted on several levels because of Ayla. She's an anomaly. She's a pain in the ass, even if she doesn't mean to be. She is a complete outsider in his very closed world, and still, he does not cast her out. He learns to apply a new insight to this young woman and grows to respect her. This is a guy who probably had the closest thing there is to a real reason to be racist, but instead, he opened his mind.
  • "Hawaii", James Michener - Malama. OK, she's more of main character than some of the others, but she's still secondary to Abner and Jerusha Hale in the character ranks. Malama is quite a woman, I think. Can you imagine being the alii nui of a village, with a culture that has been thriving for eons, suddenly faced with a whole new kind of person? What do you do when someone comes along bringing a new god, a new world order, new medicine, new ideas and new condemnations? Malama could have kicked them off the island or even had them killed. She had many reasons to not like them. They smelled terrible, for one thing. Our white American missionaries were a pretty smelly lot and quite offensively dirty to the Hawaiians, you know. Abner Hale was a pompous ass who wanted to tell Malama how wrong she was and how right he was. She looked past all that, and looked for the true meaning of the message he brought. She looked at that not only from a religious point of view, but also what all these new stinky whites were going to mean for the future of her people. She was one smart woman.
  • "Gone With the Wind", Margaret Mitchell - Carreen. Poor Carreen. She really got the short shrift. Her big sisters are both selfish and bossy. The love of her life is killed in the war. Her heart is broken irreparably. Through it all, she tries to stay cheerful, works when she feels sick and tries to keep the peace between her two older sisters. Let's be honest now, girls. Would YOU want Scarlett O'Hara as your big sister? Not me. I love to cheer for Scarlett's spunk, but I'd sure hate to be in any way at her mercy! I think sweet Carreen is a dear heart and I so wish that she would have fallen in love with Will Benteen. Of course, the rest of the story would have had to be different if that had happened and I certainly couldn't dare to try to tell Ms. Mitchell to change her story for the likes of me. I just wanted so much for sweet Carreen to be happy.
Those supporting characters in books (and in films) are always so important, but no one ever seems to talk much about them. Without them the depth of the story would fail. One of the best examples I can think of is in Lonesome Dove, both the book and the miniseries. We get a clear view into Call's heart for a moment, when he carves that marker for Deets. We get to see a man who is deeply affected by the loss of his friend. His actions show that, in spite of all the many deaths he as seen in his life, this death HURTS. The words he carves on the marker show us the qualities in that friend that made him so cherished by Call. His steadiness, his alacrity. Deets is gone in the scene, but Call's reaction to losing him shows us a whole new side of Call.

I've always said that you can tell a lot about a person by the friends they choose. You can tell a lot about a character by the supporting cast, and you can tell a lot about the author by qualities they choose to give those characters.

Margaret Mitchell wrote a character who was so tender and sweet, and whose heart was so badly broken, that she wanted to simply retreat from the world. She wanted to take herself away from all the pain and drama of life and never fall in love again. She was a good Catholic girl who could never consider suicide. So she did the next thing to it (in those days). I wonder if Margaret Mitchell didn't maybe, just maybe, feel that same way herself once.

I Just Don't Know

  • Why do I point to things on my computer screen when I'm talking to a client (or tech support) on the phone?
  • Why can't I get that smell out of the garbage disposal? (What ISSSS that???)
  • Why did I buy a box of grits? No one in my house likes grits.
  • Why do I keep eating things that I know are going to hurt me later?
  • Why don't I go to bed earlier when I know I have a tough time getting out of bed in the morning?

Over a Year Later

It's finally out! Watch for it at your favorite online bookseller.

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/134858

Ten Things I Didn't Learn In Kindergarten

I am a kindergarten reject. Yes I am. That was 1969 when the mean lady put a pin to my educational balloon. Even 43 years later, I am still coping with the effects of being a K-ject. It's been a lifelong struggle.
  • I'm lactose intolerant. This is due, I am sure, to the fact that I did not get to have that extra year of a mid-day half-pint of milk. From Sinton's Dairy outside of Colorado Springs. Whole milk, too, because I am a child of the sixties.
  • I don't nap well. I never learned how.
  • I am not good at cutting straight lines with scissors. Ask any client who ever got an auto ID card from me. It's going to be a wavy mess.
  • Having someone looking over my shoulder drives me batty. I attribute this to missing the whole kindergarten model of teachers and aides helping students at their tables. My first grade teacher (Hi, Mrs Vest!) stood at the front of the class. If you had a question on your work, you went to her at her desk, not the other way around. I have only lately come to suspect that may have been because Mrs. Vest was at least 70 years old, and not because of her lofty expectations for first graders.
  • I never really learned the whole group dynamic thing. I can work on a team, but I always do best when left alone.
  • I don't really share very well. Your turn, my turn? Not so much. If you want my crayons, you may have them. I'll just go get some others.
  • Neither do I borrow. Do not like to borrow.
  • I think I missed something important by never having been exposed to much children's literature. My only experience with Dr. Seuss was the annual tv broadcast of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". The first time I read one of his books was when I read them to my own children. Sweet Hubs tells me about Ramona the Pest and other characters, but I've no idea. I also don't know about the Star-Bellied Sneeches. I knew about Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Hobbit... and a wonderful poem called "Pigs is Pigs" but I completely missed out on Dr. Seuss and Curious George. The problem is, I missed it, so I don't know what exactly it is that I missed. What did I miss?
  • The kindergarten in our school had group potty breaks. The whole class lined up and went to the restrooms. First-graders went individually, carrying a garishly painted hall pass made out of a 2X6 and about the size of your Dell keyboard. I still do not have the herd mentality where restrooms are concerned. I notice other ladies often go to the powder room in a group. I'm still the maverick.
  • I missed out on a lot of crafty things by being a K-ject. I don't have very many turkeys made from the outline of my hand, salt-dough Christmas ornaments and construction paper necklaces in my repertoire. The first school project I recall was a Native American inspired thing. We took a piece of heavy brown kraft paper, scrunched it, wadded it and flattened it out repeatedly until it looked nothing at all like a deer hide. Then we painted symbols on it that were supposed to tell our life story. At six or seven years old, we didn't have much to work with for that part. Anyway, it was intended to represent the tradition of pictographs and painted lodge covers. Mostly what I got from it was that I was living a mighty sheltered life and would have to go off to war and count coup or something, before I had anything to paint on my paper hide. My teacher said I was being too literal. It's a trait that troubles me still.
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Snapshot

It appears that Chloe has settled in.
Or else my puppysitter is doing a very poor job.

A Negative Review

I knew it would happen. Anyone who does anything subjective is going to have to face it, sooner or later. The Negative Review.

The kind lady who did not like my book didn't lambaste me. She isn't a hater. She just didn't like my story. I was bracing for this day. Ever since I hit "publish" on my first blog post four years ago, I've been expecting someone to tell me that it's all drivel. Then I put a complete work of fiction out there. A novel that came out of my own head, through my fingertips and onto your ereader. It's been out for over a year now, so I've been waiting with bated breath for that first "don't quit your day job" comment.

I want my readers to devour the story. I want them to laugh and cry, and smile through their tears, just like Dolly Parton's favorite emotion. (Name that movie). I want them to nod their head in recognition at the characters and let their coffee get cold because they're too wrapped up to sip.

It was not to be for one kind reader. She was very nice about it. Apparently, she didn't hate it so much that she wanted to burn me in effigy and then chuck her Kindle into the fire for good measure. She didn't say that I need to get my sorry ass back to kindergarten and start over. That would have been especially hurtful, since (you may recall) I was rejected for kindergarten. It would awful to discover, at this late date, that sharing and napping are not the only things I missed. Maybe that's one reason why this didn't hurt the way I expected it to. I thought I would really struggle with my first negative review (which I knew would show up someday). It didn't work out that way.

Maybe it was how mildly bad the review was. It was a very classy bash with no expletives at all. Maybe it was the realization that unless I get feedback on BOTH what really evoked something in a reader and what left you yawning, I won't know what you're thinking. It could also be I realize that if a shopper only sees good reviews, it starts looking like the only reviews are coming from friends. (As much as I loved the reviews my friends wrote, the ones from strangers sure made me swoon.) Maybe it's because there are a lot of kinds of books I don't like, too.

Or maybe..... I'm growing up.

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