My Life’s Tower of Fantasy

Here at the end of all things, Samwise Gamgee the end of the second Silmarillion Awards, wherein we celebrate all things fantasy, Tolkien, and favorite characters, I have a bit to say about these things and their importance to me in my life so far.

So today, the 63rd birthday of The Fellowship of the Ring’s publication, seemed a good time to do so.

*distant cries of “Happy birthday!” and Bilbo saying (un?)complimentary things concerning knowing people half as well as he should like etc.*

*also birthday cake for one and all*

*and 63 still-burning candles to feed to your dragon*

(You’re welcome. I hope he likes wax.)

Warning:

The following is a somewhat lengthy post that is more of an essay than many posts I’ve written (don’t worry, it’s broken into segments with handy headers, so you might survive), and contains such things as Middle-earth, Diana Wynne Jones, Prydain, Stephen Lawhead, epic heroines, tower metaphors, nostalgia of some books/series that have shaped me, and how wonderful and life-changing Fantasy can be.

If this does not sound like your cup of tea, turn around and flee — for here in the realm of Faerie and Fantasy, truths are hidden behind every tree, characters are noble as can be, fancy runs free, and here . . . there be dragons.

On The Silmarillion

This month, using the Silmarillion Awards as a much-needed excuse, as I was re-reading The Silmarillion for the first time in many years, it startled me how much it felt like coming home. I used to read that book (as well as The Lord of the Rings, etc.) a lot when I was younger and just discovering the amazing worlds of Middle-earth. I lived in Middle-earth and The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but I lived in Beleriand in The Silmarillion too, and in a sense that was more “mine” since fewer people were into it than LOTR. The Silmarillion and surrounding mythology was like my special world that I went to live in, learning to write the Tengwar Elvish alphabet in calligraphy, studying maps, creating family trees of all the characters I knew by name…

It’s been a lovely journey, returning there and meeting these long-lost friends in this place I’ve been absent from far too long. I’m also bringing more to it now at a slightly older age, which has been fascinating. I’m aware The Silmarillion might not be for everyone, but it’s extremely special to me. I met it at a younger age and was so immersed in it that I knew all the names so well that returning was like going home and meeting old friends.

On The Tower of Fantasy

I’ve been thinking about the impact Tolkien’s works and other beloved works of fantasy have had on my life. Looking back, I can trace a few books and series that stand out as those important, life-changing, core-of-your-being books that I believe everyone (or all bookworms, at least) have. Those ones that are so much a part of you that, consciously or unconsciously, you are changed by them and they inform much of who you are and what your life is, your tastes in fiction (and in writing, if you’re a writer like me), and form a core part of your heart. They are different through the years, and that’s how I measure parts of my life (about three or four of them so far, I think) — by what was the most ME books I was reading or loving or living at the time.

Imagine your life is a tower that you are slowly building as the years go on. I see those books as the building blocks of the tower of my own life, the stones of my foundations (or at least, for the purposes of this post, the foundation for my love of fantasy in both reading and writing, which is what I’m here to talk about) that come and go in a way as I gain new interests, so that sometimes it feels like betrayal . . . How could you move on? But I can always go back down the winding stairs of the tower and visit them again, and they’ll always be a part of me. They all inform who I am, and what my reading taste is, and how I think, and what I want to be and do, and most especially (for this writer) what I write as well.

I can see blocks of time in this Fantasy Tower of my life.

Level One: Prydain and MacDonald

It started with George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin, and Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles. I don’t know which were first, I only know, looking back, that they were very early and, I believe, introduced me to Fantasy. Those are at the base of the tower; they were the first, and I read them and was enchanted. I LIVED in those worlds, and I loved those stories and characters so much. I still do, as with all of these. I’m afraid some of my earliest writings bore an uncanny resemblance to both those works, but we all start somewhere, yes? ๐Ÿ˜‰

So, first was my beginning years of loving fantasy, with MacDonald and Prydain. (I believe Narnia came in somewhere around there a little after, and other works of Fantasy, though I don’t know how extreme their influence was.) That’s the first layer of stones at the base of the tower of Fantasy. They’re awhile ago from when I was younger and wasn’t aware of my tower, so it’s a little jumbled and vague, hidden in mists near the ground, and more instinctive than my deeper understanding of the later portions as I grew older, as I look back and remember better.

(Do you know why it’s called “in the mists of time”? Because YOU CAN’T SEE VERY WELL INTO IT. Ahem. Foggy memories… *shakes head*)

Level Two: Tolkien

The next really big thing, which is the largest on the fantasy tower so far, was Tolkien.

I read The Hobbit at one point, and then I later read The Lord of the Rings for the first time when I was ten or so, I believe. Some writers (and readers) come to Tolkien first, as their big fantasy introduction, but for me I already had the groundwork of fantasy laid; Tolkien served to strengthen it and built the next part of the tower, and was a focus of mine for many years, my absolute favorite. As I mentioned, I was enchanted and fell in love with these books, and went on to read The Silmarillion (several times), as well as reading any other works, finished or unfinished, by Tolkien that I could get my hands on. But not only were these stories, this world, these characters and languages, epic and beautiful and beloved and some of my favorites of all time, but the author himself simply seemed . . . right.

Tolkien was a kindred soul, and I know that sounds pompous to say, but when I read his letters and thoughts, I find myself agreeing with him and thinking “Oh! Yes! I’m just like that!” on so many levels. He and I just agree so well and have such similar temperaments. I’m not saying I’m anywhere near his level of talent or genius etc., I’m merely saying that he and I click, in a way that no other author that I can currently think of who I’ve run across does.

Tolkien’s works remain the next solid layer of my Fantasy tower, a very large portion of it, and still inform so much of my life and core personality and interests today.

Level Three: Diana Wynne Jones

(also concerning strawberry icecream)

Then, in 2012, I read Howl’s Moving Castle on a highly-trusted recommendation, and discovered Diana Wynne Jones. This is the third layer of my Fantasy tower. As some who read my blogs might have noticed, I’ve been very big on DWJ for awhile now. XD I’m captivated by and addicted to her books, particularly certain ones which have just stuck with me really well. I love her writing style and the humor she always had in her books, and her quirky but charming and lovable characters, and the absolute originality of her fantasy, mashed together with other genres to make her books unpigeonholeable (not a word, but should be), as well as how I always learn things about life and the world and people when I read her works. I’ve seen a bit of an influence on my writing as well, wanting to write more whimsical and amusing things.

It’s funny: when I decided Howl’s Moving Castle shared my top-favorite spot with The Lord of the Rings, and have been very DWJ focused, I didn’t realize (until recently) this thing about the Tower of Fantasy, how I can have different stages and favorites; and because I had just come from the Tolkien stage, I felt disloyal to Middle-earth, as if loving something else as well meant that I was betraying it by not loving ONLY it.

But I’ve realized that we have different stages in our lives, and that’s okay — it doesn’t make the previous stages any LESS important or less a part of you, you’re just on a different part of your journey so different things are more important right now. It’s not a betrayal. It’s growth and continuing and layers over the core.

I’ve always thought of myself as the girl who loves Middle-earth and the color green and Celtic music and chocolate and writes medieval fantasy. That’s still at my core and I will always be that person. But lately, if I’ve been a DWJ person who loves the color blue and dabbles in Christian rock or pop and loves strawberry ice cream and writes contemporary fantasy . . . that doesn’t mean I’m not STILL that same person as before too.

Because I can love both, I can have different layers of favorites, different layers of interests, and it doesn’t mean that blue or green or chocolate or strawberry are better than each other, or that in trying other kinds of books, music, and genres, that I’m abandoning the ones I used to have. I can do all of it, and it can all be me.

This is a slight tangent, but I feel like I need to address it while on the subject of moving through different books that are your favorites at the time. It’s okay to have different favorites at different times in your life, and it’s not being disloyal. I’m saying this partly to remind myself (especially when I feel bad about not having re-read some of these favorites in several years; I still plan to sometime), and partly in case anyone is having problems with it like I have. XD

I still interchange LOTR and Howl’s Moving Castle as my “favorite” books (and let’s be honest, sometimes I put Paper Crowns by Mirriam Neal up there because I love it and it’s amazing) but hey, I can have more than one top-favorite, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Level Four? (Bright Empires)

It’s always hard to know, while you’re currently on a part of the tower, if something you’re reading is going to be the next part or if it’s just another great fantasy work but not quite a core one. But I think and suspect that, perhaps (time will tell), my latest addition to the Fantasy Tower of my life are Stephen R. Lawhead’s works. I just read his Bright Empires series, and while (like I said) I can’t be sure whether or not they’re the next ring of building blocks for my tower, at the very least, it’s the best series I’ve read in a long time.

Definitely favorites, the Bright Empires books have expanded my mind so much, broadened my horizons, were thoroughly epic, mind-boggling, and fun, with beloved characters, and introduced me to the first heroine in a very long time who I want so hard to be, namely Mina. She inspires me so much. Plus, the books are simply masterpieces. I think very differently after reading these books, I clicked so well with them, and they were absolutely amazing.

Speaking of Mina, let’s talk about heroines for a minute, since the award I hosted was Most Epic Heroine.

Of Heroines

Heroines are hard to write, my friends. One strange thing about my personality is that I rarely come across a favorite female character. I think it’s because I’m a girl and I find that it’s harder for an author to write a girl character that I actually like, because I am one and we’re complicated, and the fictional girls often end up either too tough or too wimpy, neither of which I like. I more often am interested in the male characters, who are generally cooler and doing more interesting things. I do run up against female characters that I like sometimes, and that’s often a sign that the author is a good one.

But there have only been a handful that have stood out as my favorites, the ones who at some level I feel like are ME, and at another level I feel like are what I want to be, what I want to become, what I want to take and emulate because they are noble and good and show some part of humanity that I want to BE. They make me want to be a better person, while I also feel like I am them.

And those are basically:

  • Princess Irene from The Princess and the Goblin
  • Princess Eilonwy from the Chronicles of Prydain
  • Eowyn from The Lord of the Rings
  • Luthien Tinuviel from The Silmarillion
  • Wilhelmina “Mina” Klug from the Bright Empires series.

(I think on some level, I was Lucy from Narnia when I was younger, and many of Diana Wynne Jones’ characters have been instant connections for me, like Sophie and others, as well, though I haven’t thought as much about those for this post; likely because they’re more recent for me but not as mind-blowing as Mina was — who was the character that got me started thinking about all of this — so I haven’t thought them out as much.)

(Also, I find this a good time to mention the dedication in The High King by Lloyd Alexander, which I never understood until now: “For the boys who might have been Taran and the girls who will always be Eilonwy.“)

Of Heroism/Nobility versus Mediocrity/”Realism”

And I think it’s important to have favorite characters one can look up to, have as role models, but still feel you are like them. There’s a sort of connection there that is marvelous. Heroes tend to be more favorites of mine than heroines, and I can learn things from them as well, of course, and they’re simply awesome sometimes, so there’s that; but I can’t exactly BE them, quite the way I can be a heroine like Eilonwy or Mina.

I think these heroines stand out to me partly because it is so rare for me to find a timeless one like that. There are many other noble and wonderful heroines I’ve liked over time, don’t get me wrong! Some even other favorites. But these are my FAVORITE favorites, the ones I want to be like. ๐Ÿ™‚

And that’s part of why I’m tired of this “make them relatable and ‘realistic’ by giving them flaws and making them fallen and ordinary” trend in modern writing.

No.

I don’t want mediocre Main Characters. I want Epic Heroines.

If your favorite characters are mediocre, you’ll only want to be mediocre, you’ll only believe that’s how far you can go.

If, on the other hand, your favorite characters are noble and epic and extraordinary, then you’ll want to rise above your ordinary and mediocre, fallen and flawed life, and try to emulate them, to BE them; and these fictional characters who aren’t “real” can change your life and make you a better person. All by being fantastic characters. What’s not to love?

Things These Core Books Have In Common

What do all these books and series have in common? They are Fantasy, yes. But they each hold things that truly resonated with me — not just one thing but all the elements and the whole.

I love the stories. I love the worlds. I love the characters — not only the heroes, not only the heroines, but both, as well as the entire cast of characters, really. They have favorite heroes. I want to be the heroines. I want to live in the books.

“The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.'”

(from The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis)

I also “click” with the authors — when I read things that these authors like Alexander, Tolkien, Jones, and Lawhead say (in fiction and nonfiction) I’ve had these wonderful “me too!” moments, those times when, like in the C.S. Lewis quote above, you form a friendship from a shared thought or feeling. We share the same truth. I feel like they’re kindred souls, and suspect that’s one of the reasons I love their fiction so much. (It’s interesting: when I love an author’s fiction work enough to try out their nonfiction, that’s when I discover my favorite works of nonfiction, essays, etc. It’s happened so many times with these and a couple other authors.)

And I learned things from these favorite, core books. Yes, shocking as it may sound to some, these fiction books, these works of *gasp* fantasy, have taught me so many things that, as I think about it, my mind boggles and I can’t even begin to explain all the things I’ve learned from these wonderful works of literature and art. (I did do a post about a few of those things, awhile back, but that was only scratching the surface.)

Because fantasy is true. These things may not have happened in our world, but they have Truth, and I learn things far better when they’re woven into a tale (a parable, perhaps?) than I can reading some boring textbook.ย I can see the things unfolding and understand things about the characters and wonder about things and want to learn about them. Fantasy may not always teach “facts” like how big the sun is or how many threes make a dozen (though they might teach that too), but they teach me real things about life and about love and about how people work and how to surmount obstacles and to try to be a better person like my heroes (and heroines).

I don’t know if these fantasy authors try to put these things in their works (I know I certainly don’t, but sometimes things creep in somehow), or if they simply are trying to tell a good story and their worldviews are shining through the particular leaf of the Tree of Tales that they are telling and coming out as good wholesome lessons from the Writer of all Lives, but regardless, I’ve found so much Truth in these and other works of fantasy.

And all of that as a bonus to reading simply amazing fantastical stories about fabulous characters in imaginative worlds. What is not to love? Who would have thought it, but Fantasy is fantastic in all meanings of that word, and that is why I love it as I do.

Plus, I mean, Fantasy has dragons. And there’s the icing on the cake.

*passes around the last of the LOTR birthday celebration cake and breaks out Gandalf’s fireworks to celebrate Middle-earth and Fantasy with a literal bang*

(P.S.: If you have a Fantasy/LOTR themed post this week, feel free to share the link in the linky over on Jenelle’s post!)

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The Diana Wynne Jones Experience

Last week I posted the first in this two-post series on How to Read a Diana Wynne Jones Book and What Your Fantastic Journey Along the Way May Look Like, in honor of March Magics (celebrating Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett).

Last week’s was the how, and I now invite you to examine the what.

Part the Second:

What Your Fantastic Journey Along the Way May Look Like

Please note that word: “may.”

May is a word which can mean either (a) one of the 12 months of the year, i.e. as it appears in “May Day” which is May 1st and happens to be the birthday of Michael Fisher from Howl’s Moving Castle, for instance, or (b) “might possibly, perhaps, at certain times or for certain people, or, you know, just generally maybe; so don’t quote me on this because it might be different, dontcha know”. I’m referring, in case there was any doubt, to the latter.

In other words, everyone’s Diana Wynne Jones Experience will vary, naturally, as will the individual journeys of each reader consuming each of her books, which is how it should be.

That being said, here are some basic guidelines of some things you may (there’s that word again…) be likely to find or feel in the course of reading a DWJ book.

a map of Fantasyland from DWJ’s “Tough Guide to Fantasyland” seemed appropriate to put here

A book like you’ve never read before

No matter what you think of the story, or which one it is that you read (despite them all being different than each other) this one’s pretty much a guarantee.

All the humor

These books are funny, I tell you. DWJ has a unique brand of humor in her books which I’m unable to describe, but I absolutely love it, whatever it is.

Mind-bending plot twists

Plot twists, surprises, and reveals, that are entirely mind-boggling and CHANGE EVERYTHING. This often results in the need to immediately re-read the book when you finish. (This isย  good sign. It means you’re reading it right.)

Things/animals/items which are not what they seem (and might even be people)

This is a big one. Almost nothing in these books are what they appear to be. Cats and dogs? Eh, they might not be what they seem… A piece of furniture? It could be something else. A character you just met? They could turn out to be totally the opposite of what you thought they were. And that’s one of the most fun things about these books! Possibilities are absolutely endless and keep you on your toes.

Genre? What genre?

Most of these books are hard to pinpoint exactly where they fall in the genre pigeonholes. “Fantasy” is generally the broadest one they fit, but after that… well, you’re on your own. There will be dashes of sci-fi, contemporary, historical/time-travel… and they’re all done in a new way and defy categorization. She has, in effect, created her own genre, which is “Diana Wynne Jones”. (I think we writers could learn from this.)

Multi-worlds, magic, and fantasy like no other

These are self-explanatory. The multi-worlds aren’t always present, but multiple words do feature in more than a few of the books, and are always fascinating. Magic and various fantasy elements usually play key roles in the story and are very original and SO interesting.

Chaos

Nobody does chaos quite like Diana Wynne Jones. She’s excellent at it. Magical chaos, family chaos, just general chaotic explosions of THINGS happening all at once and confusingly and hilariously.

Fascinating character-growth and insight into human nature

Often, these books will feature a young hero or heroine who is being used by some unpleasant acquaintance or relative, for some purpose they don’t understand, and they don’t realize because they’re used to it; they find it out in the course of the story and become their own person, and end up doing the right thing in the end. But the way all of these characters are . . . these books SHOW me things about people, and it’s fascinating and so informative.

The best way to learn things about this confusing thing we call life, is accidentally through awesome fiction. โค

Families (see Chaos)

You don’t see entire families of characters involved in books much these days, which is a shame. DWJ books often involve not only a hero or heroine but often their entire family… and sometime extended family too. This is not only fun but can be amusing as well, and the dynamics are fabulous.

It may make you want to eat sandwiches

I’ve no idea why, but when the characters eat sandwiches or crumpets or something, it makes me WANT TO EAT SOMETHING LIKE THAT RIGHT AWAY. I have been known to spontaneously make cucumber sandwiches or stop reading just to bake shortbread cookies in the middle of the book. (Note: I don’t cook. Ever. [Well. Hardly ever.] So this is extreme.)

How you feel…

At the beginning:

Well. What a fascinating/unique opening. WHAT am I reading?

In the first third or so:

This book is so… strange… and seemingly random… But I’m hooked anyway! So much strange… This is funny. ๐Ÿ˜€ What is going on? I’ve never read a book like this; my brain cannot compute, but I’m too busy laughing or wondering where this is headed to notice.

Halfway through:

You may realize at this point that as strange as the beginning started out, you suddenly realize you’re UTTERLY CAPTURED by this book and that everything feels perfectly normal to you and makes perfect sense. And also that you’re entirely attached to the characters and story and don’t want it to end.

During the climactic ending parts:

  • EVERYTHING IS HAPPENING. WHAT.
  • HOW ON EARTH (OR QUITE LIKELY OFF OF IT) IS DIANA WYNNE JONES GOING TO WRAP ALL THESE MESSES UP IN THE LAST TINY FEW PAGES??
  • DON’T END, BOOK, I WANT TO READ YOU FOREVER.
  • PLEASE END BECAUSE I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENNNNS!
  • WUT. PLOT TWIST. O_O

How you feel when it’s over:

  • ALSKJDFLKDJ!!! โค Wait… what about…?? WHAT HAPPENED THERE? *mind readjusts* *works out twists* Oh. O_O EEE!! ^_^ But wait… Let me go back…
  • A feeling of joy or elation and a general feeling of extreme well-being toward the book, mixed possibly with confusion on some little point or a feeling that it ended a little two quickly, which instead of causing outright discontent, has a tendency to make you think about the book for hours (and sometimes days) after finishing.
  • I LOVED IT. I need to read it again. NOW. THIS INSTANT.

On that note…

Regarding Re-Reading

Please note that DWJ books are always even better on the second round. You will never catch everything the first time because there are so many layers and twists. The second time will be even richer, since now you know all the plot twists and what everything actually MEANS. It will, of course, lack the wonder of first-time-discovery* but will be full of delightful details and a better understanding/appreciation of it.

*Not always; I’ve sometimes re-read only to discover that I forgot almost entirely about some aspect, and got to re-experience it a second time almost like the first!

So what are you waiting for?

If you’ve never read a book by Diana Wynne Jones, you’d best get started at once so that you can get to that re-reading… (Since one can presumably only re-read a book after one has read it the first time… unless there’s time travel or some sort of magical confusion involved, of course. With DWJ, either option is quite likely.)

With this handy guide to How to Read a Diana Wynne Jones Book at hand, I wish you joy in discovering or re-discovering her works.

(If you need some ideas of where to start, I suggest Howl’s Moving Castle, or glancing at this list of many DWJ books that I’ve read, with some thoughts on each. I’ve also started a DWJ Project page on my book blog which I plan to add to at some point.)

You know what I think we should do now?

I know exactly what we should do.

In the words of a certain charming wizard (in more ways than one) from Howl’s Moving Castle:

“I think we ought to live happily ever after”

So let’s do that, you and I, with our Diana Wynne Jones books. ๐Ÿ™‚

As said wizard added, “It should be hair-raising.”

Won’t it just.

I can’t wait. ^_^ I hope you can’t either.

(Thank you for reading. <3)

How to Read a Diana Wynne Jones Book

In honor of March Magics*, I present you with the first in a set of two posts on The Diana Wynne Jones Experience, otherwise entitled: How to Read a Diana Wynne Jones Book and What Your Fantastic Journey Along the Way May Look Like.

*Previously known as Diana Wynne Jones March, March Magics is held each… March (who knew?) by Kristen @ We Be Reading, celebrating the works of Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett.


Part The First:

How To Read a Diana Wynne Jones Book


Step 1:

Find a book by Diana Wynne Jones.

This is, naturally, the only required step. And if you haven’t, you should do so at once.

Options include: finding it

  • at a library
  • at a bookshop
  • at a library sale
  • online
  • borrowing one from a friend

You should exercise discernment if you do the last one, for, depending on the friend, they may (a) be thrilled to lend you the book, since “EVERYONE IN THE WORLD MUST READ THIS BOOK OH MY WORD READ IIIIT!” or (b) it may be their Precious, a hard-won copy wrested from a dragon’s lair, and “NO ONE CAN TOUCH THIS BOOK IT IS THE PRECIOUS DON’T YOU DARE” or (c) a mix of both (which is obviously the most dangerous of all).

In the case of b or c, if you do manage to borrow it, you should be extremely grateful** cautious and return it to them promptly upon reading it, utterly undamaged, or your welfare may be threatened. Dragons hath no fury like a bookworm with damaged lent book that they value above all else, especially by this particular author…

Please also note that most fans of this author are FIERCELY LOYAL. I’ll just… you know… leave that note there in case you don’t “get” the books, to suggest caution in your dealings with said fans, especially if they lent you it. It’s basically the equivalent of lending someone your heart, so do be considerate.

If at this point I have left you with a vague and uneasy impression that DWJ fans are like rather cantankerous dragons who might spout fire at you if you look at them (or their books) the wrong way, then let me direct you toward the book “Dark Lord of Derkholm” which contains a strong-willed and rather grouchy but firm dragon known as Scales, and you will see that we have nothing on him, and therefore you are clearly quite safe.

**I won’t force the “grateful” on you, since I’ve read DWJ’s Eight Days of Luke and therefore know better. (The hero of that book was constantly being told by his nasty relatives that he should be grateful for them “looking after” him. Um… yeah, no.)

Step 2: (optional)

Look at the cover.

At this point, you will probably go: “Erm… that’s an… odd… cover… >.>” and be highly tempted to return the book and/or not get it and/or hide it among your stacks of books so no one can see that you have such a dubious-looking book.

Above all else, DO NOT YIELD TO THIS TEMPTATION.

I REPEAT: DO. NOT.

Do not be fooled. Cover artists notoriously have no clue how to illustrate real works of Fantasy Genius, especially when said books are by Diana Wynne Jones.

Press bravely on to what lies between the pages and your fortitude will be rewarded.

Note: This step is not always there. That is, you may look at the cover and be surprised to find it is an okay and/or beautiful one. This, however, is not as common as I would like, and you must count yourself a fortunate soul if it is the case for you.

DWJ tower

Step 3:

Read the book!***

Preferably in a single day.

(You complete this step, naturally, by opening to page one and reading the first sentence, followed by the next, etc., etc.)

Be warned, reader traveler! Once you embark upon this journey, you may not emerge until the final page falls . . . so see to it that you absolutely do NOT start reading it late/after dinner, especially if it’s one of the lengthier specimens, or you may be liable to be up in the wee hours of the night, not caring a smidgen if you have to get up in a few hours, because you simply must finish, at once!

Also, DO NOT STOP READING IN THE MIDDLE IF IT DOESN’T CATCH YOU RIGHT AWAY. These books can at times be a slow-burn type of adventure, which gets going a little slowly through the middle, and you think a lot of it isn’t related, until suddenly in the last third or so, everything starts coming together at once and HAPPENING. So. Press on! Give it a chance even if you feel like it’s not your thing. By the end, it will likely capture you.

***So, I lied; this is the other required step after Step 1.

This third step, the reading, is the most important, and consequently will be the longest step on this journey.

Which brings us to the second part of this two-post series, namely Part the Second: What Your Fantastic Journey Along the Way May Look Like. (Or, as I’m going to call it, The Diana Wynne Jones Experience, because title length, you know. *nods*)

I’ll be posting that next Monday, so stay tuned!

Feel free to wait on the edge of your seat if you like.

I was going to have it all one post, but I couldn’t help myself running away with this delightfully fun topic — surprise! — so I chopped it in half to spare you readers. ๐Ÿ˜‰

(It’s going to be great fun, believe me. >:D)

Part 2: The Diana Wynne Jones Experience

Life Lessons Learned From Fantasy Tag

february-fantasy-month-banner-1024x263

Tag time! And Fantasy time! At the same time — which makes it doubly exciting!

February is Fantasy Month (hosted by Jenelle Schmidt — go check out the linkup and short story challenge for more fantasy fun) and since Jenelle tagged me for this neat Fantasy tag, I thought I’d jump in and do it! ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks, Jenelle!

Rules

1. Link back to Jenelle’s blog
2. Use the image above
3. Tell us 5-10 lessons youโ€™ve learned from reading a fantasy book (or watching a fantasy movie) โ€“ lessons can come from multiple sources, as well, of course
4. Tag 2-4 other bloggers to keep the game going

Lessons I’ve learned from reading fantasy? It might be easier to ask what lessons I’ve NOT learned from fantasy… which may be why at first I was having a difficult time with this! (Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration. But still.)

Here are just a few of the books and series that have helped show or further illustrate important things for me and are helping to shape me into a hopefully better person.

List (Because Lists)

1. Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles, and George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin, started it all and introduced me to the wonderful world of Fantasy — at least some of my earlier memories of it — thereby widening my horizons and showing me heroism first off.

2. J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit taught me (and continues to teach me) that it’s okay to be both adventurous and a homebody, introverted and extroverted, bookish and active, Tookish and Baggins-ish — there’s a place for each of these things, I don’t have to be just one or the other; that if I switch back and forth between them, that’s all right; and the place to be is probably somewhere in the middle… which I can therefore strive toward.

3. The Lord of the Rings taught me so many things that I don’t even know where to start–including nobility, selflessness, and pressing on when things seem darkest. Such a rich well from which so many things can be drawn out.

4. C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia books showed me so much through Aslan, and continues to do so.

5. Patrick Carman’s Land of Elyon series (affectionately called “The Alexa Books”) helped show some things through allegory like about the Creator/heaven/happy endings and so on (also due to Narnia as well).

6. The Bright Empires series by Stephen R. Lawhead is teaching me a lot about life at the moment, particularly Wilhelmina Klug, “Mina”, showing me the kind of woman I would like to be (role-models exist in fiction for a reason, people). Also that nothing is a coincidence. About friendship, love, and loyalty, hospitality and kindness, and loving our enemies. The difference one person can make. That there is a bigger Plan in the universe which can make one feel so much less small and alone. And so many other things.

7. Diana Wynne Jones’ Chrestomanci series illustrates so well things about people and the choices we make, shying from wrong and choosing the right one — I’ve just been noticing the things in this series on my second read and it’s amazing.

8. Speaking of Diana Wynne Jones, Howl’s Moving Castle showed me a way to deal with things when I’m a coward about something (i.e. procrastinating) — that I can “Howl myself into it” as I call it… trick myself into doing things I need to that daunt me. In Howl’s words: “Not likely! I’m a coward. Only way I can do something this frightening is to tell myself I’m not doing it!”

Something as seemingly small as that can change a person for the better, and there are a million little things one can, and does, and will continue to, learn from Fantasy.

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When life seems insurmountable, it’s only natural to compare it to the problems faced in beloved tales of Fantasy — if I’m daunted by an event, I say I’m feeling Baggins-ish and want to stay home, and only need to try to be more Tookish to survive. If something sounds impossible, I can’t even count the times I’ve said, “Well, if Frodo can get the Ring to Mount Doom, I can do this…”

Fantasy in general shows me life in a new light, a new angle, so that it’s fresh and can be seen clearer than through the usual dusty glass of normalcy.

Fantasy taught me that happy endings are possible, that light is stronger than darkness, that love is the greatest thing we can give. It teaches me all the time through truths which are easier to see in other worlds than in our own, and through characters who face it all and yet still stand noble and true. It’s something to look at and think, “I want to be that way.”

Fantasy is such an entwined part of my life that I don’t always think of it as such — it’s as natural as breathing and makes just as much sense. It’s a part of me and I know I would not be who I am today without it.

I Tag…

Christine @ Musings of an Elf | Sarah @ Dreams and Dragons | Claire @ The Overactive Imagination | Tracey @ Adventure Awaits | You, fellow lover of Fantasy who is reading this, if you want to!

(Obviously no pressure to do it; just if you want! ^_^)

What about you, Roadlings mine? Do you love Fantasy (please say yes)? Has it shown you things? And are you going to pop over to Jenelle’s post with a linky and join the Fantasy fun this month? Tell me all in the comments! Thanks for reading, and remember that . . .

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Brief Ishness of December

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Ishnesses, my dear Roadlings!

My December of 2016 was spent…

WRITING

Getting over the last of my end-of-NaNo cold and finishing up last NaNo-and-ML things.

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Writing a thousand words of Tare and the Chess Club only a week after NaNo because I’m insane like that. (I’d missed them. <3)

Getting Scrivener and playing with it to my heart’s content, organizing stories etc. — I adore it.

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Skimming through The Library in the Stars (in order to find snippets to post) and finding that it wasn’t as bad as I thought and that I also love it more than I thought.

Being attacked by plotbunnies — a very vicious pair who are here to stay, happily chewing at my brain and taking over my room and stockpiling word-carrots. (I don’t even know where this sentence came from — apparently they’re taking my sanity too.)

READING

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Frantically reading through Once so that I could review it on time. (I’m sure there’s a great “once upon a time” pun in there somewhere if you’ll just give me and Baz a second.)

Collapsing happily into spontaneously re-reading three of Diana Wynne Jones’ Chrestomanci books aloud. โค

Reading a book about writing which I actually adored. (FYI, this is Very Big News.)

Finishing some daily-readings books I’d been reading all year.

Finally getting to read Eight Days of Luke (because I got it for Christmas) and really enjoying it because Luke and DWJ writing and all the things!

LIFE & CHRISTMAS

Christmas tree and Christmas music — yay!

Spending a warm sunny afternoon writing Christmas cards while sitting on porch steps in the sun in short sleeves (and actually feeling too warm) while ladybugs made occasional visits; and, a little while later the same day, running hectically down the street in a strong cold wind while wearing a winter coat, to catch the post office on time. (Ah yes, a Texan “Blue Norther”. That was such a steep temperature change it was hilarious.)

Flailing over the Jayne from Firefly hat which SarahTPS made me for Christmas WHICH I CANNOT GET OVER AND I LOVE IT SO MUUUUCH! โค

Having a lovely quiet Christmas with my family and getting excited about books which I received.

WATCHING

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(don’t ask what’s with the color-coding all grey-blue-white except for the western, because I have no idea how that happened)

Seeing Star Wars: Rogue One (enjoyed most of the movie — the humor and Cassian, anyway — and loathed the end).

Rewatching some Sherlock because You Know Why. *cue shrieking* (If you don’t know why, it’s because Season 4 is currently starting. o.o I’m currently too terrified to watch it because I value my non-shredded heart. Ahem.)

Rewatching Divergent and Insurgent, and watching Allegiant — kinda fun. ๐Ÿ™‚

Watching The Deputy — buddy show!! I love Clay McCord and Simon Fry so much. โค They’re da best! ^_^

(And I forgot to put it in the picture, but I re-watched A Muppet Christmas Carol for Christmas and I just love that movie. :))

LISTENING

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Listening to the epic music from Ren: The Girl With the Mark, because I got the soundtrack download for Christmas — THIS MUSIC IS EPIC!

(have a taste — listen to part of this gorgeousness)

LINKS YOU MUST READ โค

Reading possibly the best and most beautiful and true post that I have EVER read about Story and life, all wrapped up in Tolkien and Lewis quotes and the story of Christmas. It was by word-wizard DJ Edwardson and I highly recommend hopping over to his site and giving it a read!

Getting excited about the tutorial Cait @ PaperFury posted (which I hope to try out soon) about How to Make Origami Lucky Stars.

BLOGGING

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Posting about my Ishness of NaNoย 2016, reviewing Once (fairytales, yay!), posting snippets of The Library in the Stars (Part 1 and Part 2), and a couple of tags posts, one Wintry one for Christmas, and one on words and quotes.

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On my book blog, The Page Dreamer, also posting a brief review for Ghostly Echoes (Jackaby #3), and some For Your Ishness Reading Randomosities.

That was my December, and finishes up the final Ishness of 2016! On Monday I’ll be posting an update on my writing of the year, so stay tuned! How was your December? ^_^ Happy 2017 to you all!