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LindaHilton

Linda Hilton

Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic

Currently reading

Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America
Nancy MacLean
Progress: 134/574 pages
Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy
Christopher L. Hayes
Progress: 17/304 pages
The Secular Scripture: A Study of the Structure of Romance
Northrop Frye
Progress: 43/200 pages
Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right
Arlie Russell Hochschild
Progress: 96/454 pages
Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
Ibram X. Kendi
Progress: 22/750 pages
All the President's Men
Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward
Progress: 73/383 pages
Women's Gothic and Romantic Fiction: A Reference Guide (American Popular Culture)
Kay Mussell
Progress: 17/157 pages
The Looking-Glass Portrait
Linda Hilton
Really Neat Rocks: A casual introduction to the rocks & gems of Arizona and the lapidary arts
Linda Hilton
Progress: 61/61 pages
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith
Jon Krakauer

Reading progress update: I've read 74%.

The Well At The World's End: Volume II - Lin Carter, William Morris

Prior updates:

 

http://lindahilton.booklikes.com/post/1761247/reading-progress-update-i-ve-read-61

http://lindahilton.booklikes.com/post/1760982/reading-progress-update-i-ve-read-48

http://lindahilton.booklikes.com/post/1735429/reading-progress-update-i-ve-read-40

http://lindahilton.booklikes.com/post/1698883/reading-progress-update-i-ve-read-25

http://lindahilton.booklikes.com/post/1675308/reading-progress-update-i-ve-read-20

 

From the actual beginning of the Quest as such, with Ralph and Ursula and so on, to the ending of the Quest, is but 13% of the total of the book.

(show spoiler)

 

This is probably my last interim update.  I have a few specific observations to make when the book is over.

NON-BOOK Stuff for Murder by Death

These are beach stones from New Jersey. 

 

 

 

 

 

#2 so you can see that these are semi-flat.

 

 

#3 to get some idea of the sizes. 

 

I literally just grabbed a handful of the larger, flatter ones, but there are plenty more.  It's a large bag!  All are quartz varieties, so they won't dissolve or leach anything into the water.

 

Reading progress update: I've read 61%.

The Well At The World's End: Volume II - Lin Carter, William Morris

Prior updates:

http://lindahilton.booklikes.com/post/1760982/reading-progress-update-i-ve-read-48

http://lindahilton.booklikes.com/post/1735429/reading-progress-update-i-ve-read-40

http://lindahilton.booklikes.com/post/1698883/reading-progress-update-i-ve-read-25

http://lindahilton.booklikes.com/post/1675308/reading-progress-update-i-ve-read-20

 

The story of Ralph's quest for the Well at the World's End actually begins at the 60% mark.

 

This would never fly in the market today.

 

And yet I'm still keeping this book in my personal canon.

 

 

 

 

At this point, Ralph meets again the girl from Bourton Abbas, an encounter that lasted a few pages way way back in the story.  He never knew her name, but he has fond memories of her as a friend.  Okay, fine.  But in the meantime, he met the unnamed Lady of Abundance, he had a significant sexual liaison with her, and then she was killed by her husband.

 

After her death, Ralph sets off a little more determined to find the Well, which the Lady of Abundance had been to and to which she intended to guide him.  But Ralph proves over and over again to be a bit of a naif, being duped by numerous folk, male and female, who promise to help him and do anything but.  Eventually he ends up enslaved by the evil Lord of Utterbol -- he doesn't have a name either -- who apparently plans to provide Ralph as boy-toy to his wife the Queen -- nope, she doesn't have a name -- so that he, the Lord of Utterbol, can cavort with another slave, who is presumed to be the girl from Bourton Abbas.

 

Got that? 

 

Ralph is really not much of a hero, but he is . . . perfect.  Every woman who sees him falls in love with him.  He turns out to be a champion jouster and a superb archer.  But he also trusts everyone who comes to him with any kind of promise, and he always gets betrayed.

 

But finally he meets up again with the girl from Bourton Abbas, about whom he had dreamed.  In that dream, he learned that her name was Dorothea.  But when he meets her, he asks if her name is Dorothy . . . but she says no, her name is Ursula!

 

Now, remember that Ralph had this relationship with the Lady of Abundance, and he knows Ursula was taken as a slave of the evil Lord of Utterbol.  So the first thing he needs to know about her is how she was treated during her enslavement.

 

Then Ralph looked sore troubled, and he said: "Dear friend, this is the thing hard for me to say. In what wise did they use thee at Utterbol? Did they deal with thee shamefully?" She answered him quietly: "Nay," she said, "fear not! no shame befell me, save that I was a thrall and not free to depart. Forsooth," she said, smiling, "I fled away timely before the tormentors should be ready . . .

Morris, William. The Well at the World's End: a tale (p. 201).  . Kindle Edition.

 

So, whew! Ursula is still a virgin, even if Ralph is obviously not.

 

 

(show spoiler)

 

And now, back to reading.  This is the part that goes a lot quicker because, hello, this is where the real story is!

R.I.P. Philip Roth

Author of Portnoy's Complaint dies at age 85.

Reading progress update: I've read 48%.

The Well At The World's End: Volume II - Lin Carter, William Morris

Prior updates:

http://lindahilton.booklikes.com/post/1735429/reading-progress-update-i-ve-read-40

http://lindahilton.booklikes.com/post/1698883/reading-progress-update-i-ve-read-25

http://lindahilton.booklikes.com/post/1675308/reading-progress-update-i-ve-read-20

 

I'm finally able to read for more than a few minutes at a time, though the back spasms are not completely gone.  I had to run out to the grocery store, but I bought only what was absolutely necessary.  Now I've turned on the heating pad once again, probably for the rest of the afternoon.  Yesterday I was about 57% back to normal, but today I only feel about 50%.  We'll see how the day goes.

 

As for The Well at the World's End, it plods along.  Our hero Ralph is finally getting some information about the route to take for his quest, but it's pretty ridiculous that half the book is either background or narrative of a "this happened, then this happened, then this happened" style.  Ralph proceeds along the road to wherever he's going, and that's about it.

 

Morris does, however, maintain his voice and style, and it's going to be interesting to me to see how this, one of his last works, holds up against some of the earlier ones, which I have not yet read.

 

 

How to block spam followers . . . or anyone else

 There are several updates -- read through the whole thing for additions at the end!

 

 

Start at the Menu bar on upper left and go to "Friends" page.  (See addition below for more information.)

 

 

 

Click on "Followers" to get all the people who follow you.

 

 

In the upper right corner of each listing is a square symbol made of two arrows.

 

 

 

When your cursor is within the listing/profile space, another symbol -- a circle -- will appear to the left of the arrow-square.  If you move the cursor out of the listing/profile space, the circle disappears.

 

 

 

Click on the circle to block that follower.  You'll get a message to confirm.

 

If you discover you've blocked someone you want to UNblock, go to the list of Blocked accounts (see first picture)  and do the same thing to unblock them.

 

NOTE:  Per Themis-Athena's Garden of Books


Note: If you block and then unblock someone, they will only be taken off your "blocked" list, they will *not* be re-added to your list of followers.

So on the one hand, that is a way to get rid of followers you just don't want, without actually feeling the need to block them. OTOH, if blocking them was an honest mistake and you don't mind to have them among your followers, you may want to PM them to let them know that they need to re-follow you.

 

 

I don't know why the block button only shows when you're in the space.  It should just be there like the other symbol.  But I don't know why BookLikes does a lot of things the way they do.

 

** The two buttons do not show up if you click on "Followers" from your blog page. 

 

 

The profile/listings that come up when you click on "Followers" from a blog post have no buttons at all.  You have to go through the main menu and "Friends" button.

 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 40%.

The Well At The World's End: Volume II - Lin Carter, William Morris

Prior updates:

http://lindahilton.booklikes.com/post/1698883/reading-progress-update-i-ve-read-25

http://lindahilton.booklikes.com/post/1675308/reading-progress-update-i-ve-read-20

 

 

Remember the old writers' adage?  Write Chapter One.  Write Chapter Two.  Throw away Chapter One.  It's meant to keep writers from pouring all the background material, especially the characters' history, into a grand opening info dump.  Apparently it's not as old an adage as we might think, because Morris clearly didn't follow it with this book!

 

Four chapters or so -- maybe more, maybe less -- are given over to the history of the Lady of Abundance, who by the way has no name.  Talk about telling and not showing?  The whole thing is done in her narration to Ralph, and I have to say it's pretty damn boring.

 

This interlude, however, serves to set up Ralph's decision to actively seek the Well at the World's End, which had only been a kind of thought in the back of his head prior to her tale.

 

The Lady of Abundance (also known as the Lady of the Dry Tree) isn't the only character without a name.  We have various Knights of the Dry Tree, the Sorceress, the Knight of the Sun, and so on, which makes it difficult to tell who is who.  The girl from Bourton Abbas, a place Ralph stopped at along the way, is now coming back into the story, but she was so unremarkable at her introduction that I don't remember anything about her.  Now she's being brought back into the story as Dorothea.  I may have to go back to the pages in Bourton Abbas to refresh my memory as to who she is.

 

Another difficulty in reading this book is that people and places change sides frequently.  So Ralph meets people along the way who claim the village of Hampton under Scaur is a place of evil, but other people he meets say it is a haven for travelers.  Some encourage him to seek refuge in Hampton, while others urge him to avoid it head instead for the Burg of the Four Friths. It's very confusing.

 

Like places, the people are confusing.  Is Walter the Black a good guy or not?  What about the Knight of the Sun?  And who was the guy Ralph kept encountering with ominous comments like, "The first time"?

 

Also, a map would be helpful.

 

Brief update on me:  I spent most of Friday and all of Saturday in bed, in excruciating pain with the back spasms.  Big doses of ibruprofen helped only a little.  Last night (Saturday) I was i such extreme pain that against my better judgment I broke out a 2013 prescription of Flexeril that I had got another time I had bad spasms.  Though it didn't work at all that time, it worked last night and allowed me to sleep.  I took another around 2:00 a.m. and slept off and on until 9:30.  I'm laying off the Flexeril for now, and am still in pain but not quite so much.

 

The one thing I managed to get done this morning was change out all four tumbler barrels.  One small batch of stones is now done -- there wasn't anything spectacular in that barrel -- and the other three are progressing.  I would have liked to fill that fourth barrel with new stones, but the back just wouldn't let me. 

 

BF is on his way home from umpiring another softball tournament and then I think we're going to the Asian buffet . . . if I can stay awake that long!  I think I'm having a Flexeril flashback. . . . . . .

I knew this would happen

I did my best to avoid it, but  . . . .

 

Putting three bags of water softener salt into a grocery cart, then taking them out of the cart to put them in the car, then taking them from the car to the patio.

 

Carrying a 35 pound bag of dog food from the car to the kitchen.

 

Bringing a case of bottled water from the car to the studio.

 

I woke up this morning with back spasms.  Had difficulty getting out of bed.  Hot shower helped, but not much.

 

I would still be in bed, flat on my back, but supplier of Moby's anti-inflammatory meds screwed up the refill order and I had to get on the computer to dig up the original order and communications re the prescription.

 

All I want to do right now is lie down and for the pain to stop.  I know it will eventually, but right now it's pretty terrible. And I can't go to bed until I get this mess cleared up with Moby's meds.

 

Oh, and the toilet leak started up again.  It needs a new valve, which I bought yesterday but am not even going to try to install until I can move without screaming.  At least the leak is way, way, way diminished from what it was, and even at its worst it wasn't terrible.  It's more an annoyance than anything else.

 

 

Lost some sleep, found some rocks

The new water heater and the new water softener have been hooked up and appear to be operating properly.  Due to a couple of really bizarre problems with the water heater, BF negotiated a significant discount on that purchase, which eased the financial impact, but the total remained extremely painful.

 

Needless to say, I did not sleep well last night.  I got in some substantial reading time that helped me fall asleep at a decent hour, but slight noises woke me well before 3:00 a.m.  I read, I journaled, I let the dogs out, but I couldn't get back to sleep, so finally got up a little before 7:00 to run a bunch of errands.

 

It's all little stuff.  Pay some bills, buy a few groceries and dog food. Pick up stuff at the hardware store to repair a leaky toilet and some other minor household things.  But it ate up one hour, two hours, three hours, four hours.

 

A trip to the workshop to put some things away resulted in the re-discovery of some rocks I'd forgotten about.  This happens all too often.

 

However, I received information about a potential new art show in the fall, a show that could almost have been designed with me in mind.  So I got my application in right away.  No guarantee that I'll get in, but at least I tried.

 

I have to find a way to get rid of these damn rocks!!!!

 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 25%.

The Well At The World's End: Volume II - Lin Carter, William Morris

Previous update here

http://lindahilton.booklikes.com/post/1675308/reading-progress-update-i-ve-read-20

 

I'm now into a part of the plot that I don't remember clearly from previous reads.  Some details come back to me as I read, but other parts are just totally forgotten and therefore new.

 

SEMI-SORT-OF SPOILERS AHEAD

 

Young Ralph -- he's been described as being 21 years old -- has arrived at the castle of the Lady of Abundance.  It's a kind of mysterious place, gothicky but not dark and dangerous.  The only person in it is an elderly woman who provides him food and some information about the Lady.  Ralph falls in love with the Lady based on portraits of her woven in tapestries and on illustrations in a book that gives some of her history, including the fact that apparently she has been to the Well at the World's end.  Drinking the water thereof has made her immortal.  Ralph intends to take her with him to the Well, where he will drink of the water and become immortal like her.

 

I hate to say it, but I'm pretty much rolling my eyes at Ralph's adolescent behavior.  At one point he has been away from the castle for a few hours and returns to shout at the old woman, "Has the Lady returned?  Is she here yet?" and I nearly laughed aloud. (Lord Johnnie would never have been so silly.)

 

But if I've forgotten how their relationship began, I remember quite clearly how it ends. So I'll keep reading.

Reading progress update: I've read 20%.

The Well At The World's End: Volume II - Lin Carter, William Morris

This is a reread, and it's of the Kindle edition, not the paperback, so my status is in percent read.  I do happen to own this paperback version -- both Volume I and II -- but it's buried on a shelf.

 

Anyway, I haven't read this in at least 15 years, so in many respects the material is almost new to me. The basics of the story are familiar, but I've forgotten a lot of details.

 

This is not a book I would recommend to just anyone.  Morris's archaic, faux medieval English takes a bit of getting used to, for one thing.  Also, The Well at the World's End has much less in common with The Lord of the Rings than the casual observer might think.  Though Morris's writings had enormous influence on Tolkien, they aren't the same.

 

The Well takes place in a fanciful version of medieval England, where the little kingdom of Upmeads is one of several pseudo-countries in the geography.  Ralph is the youngest of the four sons of King Peter of Upmeads.  After his three older brothers set forth on adventures, Ralph is left home to tend the manor and take care of his parents.  He decides that's not good enough and so runs away to have his own adventures.

 

At the time he runs away, he knows nothing of the Well.  Nothing has forced him to leave Upmeads, and at least as far as I've read -- 20% -- there's nothing stopping him from going back. 

 

In most novels in all genres, Something Happens outside the main character's control that sets events in motion.  Whether it's the arrival of aliens from another planet, the death of a parent, the loss of a fortune, or whatever, the protagonist is thrust into circumstances he or she never anticipated and isn't prepared for.

 

I found the fact that Ralph just decides to set out on his own was a bit uncomfortable in terms of story construction, because I never established a bond with him.  His predicaments are essentially of his own making, and it's difficult to have sympathy for a person, even a fictional one, who makes his own problems.  So far, however, he hasn't really had any problems!  This means there has been virtually no drama, no emotion, and very little action.

 

But I'm not sure that's the reason to read Morris: the importance of his writing is the style and the imagination he brought into it, the creation of an alternate reality in which some things are familiar -- horses and castles and churches and monks and saints -- and other things are not.  This was one of Morris's last works, and the only one I've read beginning to end, so I'm looking forward to finishing this re-read and then gong on to the others.

Ah, yes. Smiles

The Well At The World's End: Volume I - William Morris, Lin Carter

The afternoon's schedule got turned all upside down.

 

BF has been having problems with his knee.  For years.  Many years.  Has an MRI scheduled for tomorrow, 5:00 a.m.  So he says around 2:00 this afternoon that he will treat for dinner early, in order to get home early and to bed at a decent hour.  He further says he wants to give the knee a rest after manhandling the water heater yesterday.  Since he has MRI and another doctor appt in the morning and umpiring in the evening, the water softener can wait until Wednesday.  I don't argue.  I'm numb at this point.

 

We leave the house about 3:15 and go to a restaurant on the periphery of the mall where Sears is located, source of the water softener.  After we finish, he says well, maybe we should get the water softener while we're right here.  I agree, because I've just finished eating and I tend to be slightly lethargic after eating, especially if early in the afternoon.

 

Because I almost never go to the mall -- probably haven't been there in three years or more -- I have no idea which entrance we need.  He finds a parking place a substantial distance from the door and we walk up.  It's warmish -- lower 90s -- and I'm full and lethargic.  And I'm not looking forward to shelling out another $450.

 

We walk in, and it's the correct entrance by tools and hardware.  There are no customers in sight.  Not a single one. Not one.  Four or five salesmen, however, are lounging around a central service booth directly in our path toward the appliances.  One of the salesmen smiles and greets BF, who has enough salesman experience and background that he greets the guy right back.  BF is like that.  Very outgoing.  Very personable.  Very engaging.

 

Makes me wanna puke.

 

Anyway, he's five or six feet ahead of me simply because he's taller and has longer legs.  The salesman then greets me . . . . .

 

AND DEMANDS THAT I SMILE.

 

Three times he asks me to smile, and after the third time, when I'm already well past him, I call over my shoulder, "If you ask me to smile one more time, I'm going to come back there and hit you."

 

The purchase of the water softener was quick and easy, and it was actually on sale from what I'd seen online.  I paid, got the receipt, and we headed back out to drive to Merchandise Pick-up.  That meant walking past the guys lounging in tools and hardware.

 

And the salesman made some comment under his breath.  I very nearly went back to loose a tirade on him about how he wouldn't DARE demand that a man smile at him, but he seemed to think a woman he's never seen before in his fucking life owes him a fucking smile!

 

But I didn't.

 

I did, however, explain to BF why I said what I did, about going back and hitting the guy if he asked me again.

 

"He thinks it's okay to demand a woman smile at him.  He doesn't know what she's going through in her life or how she feels or anything else, but she OWES him a smile, and he has a RIGHT to demand it.  If no one ever tells him otherwise, he'll continue to think he has the right to do it again and again and again and again.  I don't really think my comment will make him stop, but at least I didn't encourage him or let him think he could get away with it with me."

 

We got home with the water softener, and he's complaining about his knee, so I told him to leave the softener alone until Wednesday.  I think he's actually going to listen to me.

 

In the meantime, I'm going to start a long overdue re-read of William Morris.  I loaded it on the Kindle a few days ago but never queued it up to read.  Tonight is a good night to take it easy.

Well, there is that, after all: A definition of "romance novel"

Dear BookLikes Friends and Followers:

 

An odd, brief conversation last night at least took my mind off the worries brought on by the new water heater and spurred some examination of reference materials I've already assembled.  When another odd, brief conversation early this morning further goaded my curiosity, I began putting some of my thoughts onto paper, literally, with a few thoughts scribbled in pencil on notebook paper.

 

Nothing would probably have come of it if yet a third odd, brief conversation later this morning hadn't led to the terrifying decision to replace the water softener this afternoon.  This was originally a purchase intended to be put off for a few weeks or more, but it has now become urgent.  Schedules and finances being what they are, this is neither convenient nor comfortable.

 

Sometime today, probably after we get back from buying the water softener, I'm going to start a Ko-fi.com page.  My brain is too befuddled right now to deal with Patreon, and I'm not sure I can keep to a regular schedule, much as I need to.  But we will see.  We will see.

 

Your comments as always are very much appreciated.

 

Thus, I began:

 

 

 

Chapter One: What is a "romance novel"?


“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

 


    The opening line of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice has long served as a template for the traditional romance novel: male hero of independent financial means should have a wife, who is the heroine of the story.  The irony, of course, is that the progress of this particular story – which also serves as a template -- reverses the obvious.  If the man wants a wife, the woman needs the man.  Though the two words may have similar meanings, they are not identical.  In the business of writing, precise meanings of words do matter.
    While Austen's statement appears to be typical patriarchal, heterosexist propaganda, the template easily expands to comfortably cover a wide range of relationships.  One person (male, female, shifter, demon, vampire, angel, etc.) has something of value (skill, position, money, strength, power, talisman) that is also valued by another person  (male, female, shifter, demon, vampire, angel, etc.) and they need/want both the valued thing and each other to be complete (happy, alive, productive, reproductive, etc.)
    A romance story, then, always has at least two main characters whose interpersonal relationship stands at the center of the action.  If the story does not end with the successful establishment of their relationship in a more or less permanent manner and the resolution of any obstacles preventing it, then it is not a romance novel.
    Period.
    "And they all lived happily ever after – together" is therefore absolutely essential for a novel to be considered a romance novel.
    Other book-length stories can be romantic.  They can even be romances by the classical definition distinguishing realism from romance.  But a romance novel per se and for the purposes of this analysis must have an HEA – Happily Ever After – or at the very least an HFN – Happy For Now – ending.
    Period.
    Erich Segal's Love Story is not a romance novel.  Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind is not a romance novel.  Scarlett and Rhett are not happily together at the end of the book. Scarlett and Ashley aren't, Melanie and Ashley aren't.  It's not a romance novel.  Bridges of Madison County isn't a romance novel.  Lord of the Rings is not a romance novel, though it contains the romance stories of Arwen and Aragorn, Eowyn and Faramir.  Those relationships are not at the core of the narrative, and resolution of the relationships is not the ending of the tale.  William Morris's The Well at the World's End comes closer to a romance novel than LOTR because Ralph and Ursula's relationship is more woven throughout the adventure, but it is not the central quest.
    Ralph's quest is to find the Well, just as Frodo's quest was to destroy the Ring.  There was no romantic relationship for Frodo to resolve; Ralph and Ursula's relationship was complicated by his search for the Well, but their relationship did not depend on the outcome, nor was his quest an obstacle to their relationship.
    In a romance novel, the relationship is more important than anything else, even though it is not the only element.
    If the film You've Got Mail were a novel, it would fit the definition of romance novel, even though there are many who find the ending problematic.  The ending illustrates, however, that the relationship is more important than the external conflicts around it.  Endings do not have to be satisfactory for the reader (or viewer), but they must be successful for the characters.  Successful, going back to the Austen template, means a committed (at least "for now" if not "ever after") romantic relationship.
    If Pride and Prejudice serves as the palimpsest for romance novels of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, it must also be examined against its own historical underpinnings.
   

 

 

There were three cute doggies at Home Depot

The new water heater ended up costing $528.00.  I was up until 1:00 a.m. worrying about it last night -- I'm sure I'll be up late again tonight worrying even more.

 

The local Home Depot apparently has quite an open policy on dogs, as there were three in the store this afternoon.  I got to pet two of them, but the third was shy.  I dislike people on general principles, but dogs are cool.

 

Then had to go to Harbor Freight because BF wanted to buy a new hand cart.  On the way to the car, we stopped in the parking lot to wave on a vehicle that was turning into the same lane we were going to walk down.  Instead of just easing in past us, the butthole driver sped up and turned into the handicapped parking space barely a foot in front of us.  He then had the nerve to yell at us for not getting more out of his way!

 

He did not signal that he was going into the parking space, and since BF had looked right at him and waved him on, the driver could just as easily have waved us out of his way.  He was, in fact, already stopped and could have waited another five or six seconds.  But no, he had to make it worse by getting out of his vehicle and yelling at us!  BF, of course, started yelling right back.

 

When we got back to our car, I just told BF, "I hate people.  I really hate people."

 

I'm not sure what he's doing right now, other than messing around outside with the old water heater.  I'm wishing I could take a nap.

Mother's Day, a tale

I'm not crazy about Mother's Day.  I've had some good ones and I've had some not-so-good ones.

 

My relationship with my mother has always been problematic, and I'm well aware of the reasons and the specific events, some of them going back as far as age five or six, and others well into my adulthood.  Sadly, as I look back on some of those incidents, I realize that they prompted specific reactions from me that were not constructive.  In other words, in trying to please my mother and live up to her expectations of me, I held myself back.

 

There's nothing that can be done now.

 

With one exception.

 

When I was about eleven or twelve years old, my dad acquired an ancient manual Remington typewriter.  It was so big and so heavy that I could hardly carry it up from the basement to my room or back downstairs again when he needed to use it.  Somewhere along in that time, my grandfather gave me an equally ancient metal typewriter table, the kind with folding side panels.  I rigged up some kind of "office" in my bedroom so I could sit on the end of my bed and type.

 

My brother was born when I was twelve, and I wasn't allowed to use the typewriter or play records when he was napping.  This wasn't too much of a problem, because I didn't really start writing seriously until a couple years later.  But then my sister was born when I was fifteen, and the typewriter became a real issue.

 

I was, at that time, writing a novel.  A serious novel.  I had determined that there was nothing I wanted more in life than to be a writer.  And I believed this novel was my key to success.  I still had the old Remington and the old typing table.  I didn't have a job and my allowance was almost an insult, so even keeping a stock of typing paper required careful budgeting.  Ribbons were used way beyond just using up the ink on them; they had to practically be falling apart before I rode my bike up to Mueller's, the stationery store, to buy a new one.

 

My mother's pregnancy had been difficult, and as an almost-adult I was pressed into baby-sitting for my brother whether I wanted to or not.  When my sister was finally born, she was cranky and didn't sleep well, so restrictions on my typing became tighter.  Of course school and homework took a lot of my time, leaving precious little for my novel, but even that little bit was limited.

 

There was never a single word of encouragement.

 

That's what I remember most.  The Remington was a noisy old workhorse, and even putting a folded-up towel under it didn't completely muffle the metallic rattle of the old typing table.  The constant admonishment was to quit typing and making so much noise because it was keeping my sister awake; there was never anything else.

 

I kept the Remington working through various breakdowns until eventually it was just shot.  Not that it really mattered by then; I moved out of the house in 1968, got married in 1969, and I don't actually know what happened to it after that.  My writing limped by on borrowed typewriters until 1974 when I finally had the money -- maybe it was credit -- to buy my own, a little Smith Corona portable electric model.

 

That little portable typed a lot of words, more than it was probably ever designed to type.  I had it repaired many times.  Typefaces had to be soldered back on after they broke off.  I think it even had a motor replaced.  I know I learned how to fix the escapement when the space bar wouldn't work.  But I typed all 888 pages of the first draft of Legacy of Honor on it, and the 808 pages of a revised second draft.

 

By then, it just wouldn't hold up.  My budget was incredibly tight and my job didn't pay very well, so I agreed to my boss's request that I take on an extra shift for a couple of weeks, to pay for a new typewriter.  It meant working ten hours a day, seven days a week.  I had two grade school kids at home, too.  And it was winter, in Indiana.

 

But the new typewriter was an encouragement in itself, so I sat down and produced a nice, clean, pretty outline-and-sample-chapters of Legacy of Honor and sent it off to Leisure Books.

 

Five days later, the editor sent me a note that she wanted the whole manuscript.

 

I don't honestly know how I did it.  Not just the typing -- with old-fashioned carbon copies, too -- but fitting it in with a job that was physically exhausting and taking care of the kids and everything else.  But I sat at that typewriter every single second I could and I pounded out what came to 850 pages in less than two weeks.

 

At least no one told me to be quiet.

 

I was thinking about all of that today.  My mom is almost 90 and dealing with Alzheimer's, which never gets any better.  But I was able to talk to her this morning and commiserated about the new water heater I need to buy probably today or very, very soon.  She's going to spend the day with my sister, and well, that stirred memories, too.

 

The computers are quiet now, and there are no babies that need to sleep anyway.  But I still wish there had been more encouragement.  Just a little more.

 

Happy Mother's Day.

 

 

 

 

 

SPOILER ALERT!

It began with fluff . . . . . . and ended with fluff

Witch Is When It All Began - Adele Abbott

Disclosure:  I obtained the Kindle edition of this book on 8 September 2017 when it was offered free on Amazon.  I do not know the author nor have I ever had any communication with her regarding this book or any other matter.  I am an author of historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.

 

The production of this book is clean.  I think I found one or maybe two typos, but they weren't important enough to note.  There are some grammatical errors, such as using "me" when "I" would have been correct, but again, they weren't numerous enough to affect the actual reading unless you're a grammar dragon like me.

 

There's just no substance to the story.  If you're looking for light entertainment with nothing that will make you really think, then maybe you'll like this.  It's not a bad book, and it's not badly written. 

 

So why two stars instead of at least three?  Well, a lot of reasons.  Spoilers ahead.  Sort of.

 

Jill Gooder is the private investigator in question.  She has inherited her agency from her father; both of her parents are deceased.  She has a married older sister, but Jill herself is adopted.  She tried to find her birth parents, but her birth mother refused any contact.  Jill retains some bitterness about this.

 

Her sole employee at the agency is Mrs. V, the secretary/receptionist.  She is an older woman who knits scarves all day. It's revealed later in the book that she works for no pay.  Jill apparently doesn't make enough money to pay her.  This was never explained and seemed more than just a little odd, since there is no real relationship between Jill and Mrs. V.

 

Jill also has a cat, one-eyed Winky.

 

Jill's sister Kathy has two young children.  Jill is obsessively - OCD - neat; Kathy and her kids are not.  This drives Jill bonkers. Jill can't stand to have two types of biscuits (a.k.a. cookies, as the book is set in England) in the same Tupperware container and literally will not eat them if they've been mixed.  Kathy's daughter Lizzie loves Lego.

 

All very cute and fluffy, as are the later depictions of Jill's birth mother, the witch who comes back as a ghost; Jill's Aunt Lucy, also a witch; Jill's grandmother witch who looks like a classic Hallowe'en witch; and her two witchy cousins who are giggling idiots.

 

Jill gets a case involving a murder, her first ever murder case.  The police are working it, too, but the victim's fiancé hires Jill anyway.

 

She barely gets started on the case when she gets word that her birth mother is dying and wants to see Jill right away.  Jill races to the nursing home, and her mother's last words are "You're a witch."  Jill is horrified, insulted, and devastated.

 

Most of the rest of the book involves Jill's coming to terms with the reality not only of what her mother meant but of what it means to be a witch.  And this is where the rating of the story really dropped.

 

The murder mystery was completely shoved to the background while Jill learned to be a witch.  That consisted mostly of learning how to cast spells, and of course the spells were extremely useful to solving the murder, sort of.  Like making herself invisible for exactly ten minutes so she could sneak into the police station and get confidential information.  The problem was that Jill's original trauma at meeting and then losing her mother within the space of an hour or less, then being told the truth about her being a witch, the denying all of it and being insulted, and finally accepting and enjoying it was just too pat.

 

Oh, there's some resistance on her part, but overall she gave in so quickly and became so good at spell casting that I just rolled my eyes.

 

But I think that's what the author intended.  This was no The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane or A Discovery of Witches, in which the angst of being a witch is a central part of the characterization.  This book is more a background/backstory of "How I Became A Witch Private Investigator" prior to the whole mystery solving thing.

 

The actual solving of the murder mystery was facile and, frankly, not believable at all.  No real clues were presented that would have led Jill to identify the murder and not the police.  That was another reason for knocking the rating down.  If the mystery was that simple, the police would have taken care of it in a few minutes.

 

Another weak point was the characterization.  None of the players had any depth at all, despite the fact that author Abbott included a lot of detail about them.  Jill is OCD, Kathy's a slob, and everyone loves custard creams.  To be honest, I think most Nancy Drew stories had more depth of character than this book.

 

Again, it's not a bad book, but I just didn't like it all that much.  Your mileage may vary, and if so, terrific!