Monthly Archives: May 2018

In Memoriam

Memorial Day......
This cemetary has been in use for perhaps generations.  Photo by Astrid Photography. on Foter.com / CC BY-NC

One of my earliest reminisces of this May holiday, before I even understood its real meaning, is of riding in the back of a pickup truck with my family down winding country roads to reach the old family cemeteries.   Once there, we would disembark and make our way up a hilly path, to a fenced-in area of carefully tended lawn bordered by shady trees.  Laden with plastic tulips and daisies, we would seek the markers for ancestors whose names I only recognized from stories, and place our bounty in careful clusters and rows.

This is one way my family honored those who had gone before, ancestors whose faces were etched in the memories of the older generation, and introduced to the children by way of books and boxes of old sepia-toned photos.  My parents had relatives who had never come home from war, and others who didn’t survive childhood.  There were aunts, uncles, siblings, and generations of grandparents, grouped in couples and families; bound forever to memory by icons of marble and metal, of small flags and larger angels, of loving epitaphs and last words.

Of course, there are plenty of other ways to honor the dead.  Each culture across the globe has developed its own customs of remembrance; for instance, the Day of the Dead celebrated by families of Mexico and the southwestern part of the United States, and All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day, Catholic holidays celebrated in many countries.

There are books and television channels devoted to history and software that traces genealogies as far back as written records exist.  What all of these have in common is that they are a way to remember our roots, and those who have given their lives for us, that we may continue to live and hopefully honor them in the paths we choose.

Memorial Day
Today is a day to honor our veterans, and all those who have gone before.  Photo by CraigInDaVille on Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Today is the official Memorial Day celebrated in the United States.  Today, especially, we celebrate the lives of our family members who are no longer with us, and the veterans who gave their lives in service to our nation.  Today we honor their sacrifices, their accomplishments, and their legacy.  However and whenever you choose to honor, celebrate, and mourn lost family and our national heroes, let today be a day of commemoration, and celebration.

Happy Memorial Day!

Amy

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My Favorite Female Villains

Those readers who’ve followed this blog for some time know that I occasionally write a piece about strong female characters, the kind that star in action movies or solve crimes or just go toe-to-toe with their male counterparts.  Today, I decided to take a look at the other side of things, those strong female anti-heroes.  These ladies definitely stand their ground; they just do so for their own gain, or on the side of evil.  In no particular order:

The Borg Queen, Star Trek: First Contact.  This ruler of a cyborg race threatening the galaxy with “assimilation” routinely gives orders that overrun planets and turns sentient beings into mindless drones, but she still understands emotions well enough to sway both Captain Picard and Data with her feminine wiles, pitting them against each other in a deadly conflict that could mean the end of the Enterprise and its crew.

http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Bellatrix_Lestrange

Bellatrix Lestrange, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, et al.  One of Lord Voldemort’s most sadistic followers, Bellatrix is an evil unto herself.  She tortured Neville Longbottom’s parents into insanity, a fact she can’t help rub in his face, and tried to kill Harry before sending her own cousin into the Veil of Death.  She has no scruples, and even a stay in the worst prison of the wizard world can’t dim her thirst for mayhem.

There have numerous retellings of Snow White, but no Queen is more evil than the version portrayed by Charlize Theron in Snow White and the Huntsman.  Queen Ravenna, in true fairy-tale fashion, drains the youth from young women in her kingdom to maintain her own youth and beauty.  She murders the king on their wedding night, and imprisons his daughter in a tower.  She then lures the huntsman into doing her bidding with promises to raise the dead, and aspires to eat Snow White’s heart to become immortal.

Harley Quinn, Suicide Squad. This completely certifiable femme fatale is the Bonnie to The Joker’s Clyde.  A former psychiatrist, she gives up sanity and morality for the sake of the man she calls “puddin.”  She is the ultimate crime moll whose weapon of choice is a baseball bat, and has no qualms about using it on anyone who gets in her way.  She is violent, dangerous, and perfectly capable of smiling at someone while she kills them where they stand.  Don’t get in her way.

Dolores Umbridge wallpaper possibly with a pullover titled Umbridge
http://www.fanpop.com

Delores Umbridge, a politician who makes her debut in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  This witch, who dresses in all pink and decorates her office with plates covered with cute kittens, has an evil smile and a giggle that would not be out of place from a villain in a horror movie.  She pretends to be a friendly, mild-mannered government servant until someone disagrees with her, or her beloved minister, then anything goes, from illegal artifacts to outright torture and attempted murder.

http://marvelcinematicuniverse.wikia.com/wiki/Hela

Hela, Thor: Ragnarock.  The god of thunder’s long-lost sister wants revenge for her imprisonment, and to take her father’s throne.  When Thor and the citizens of Asgard disagree, she starts killing off the population, and resurrects the dead warriors of Asgard.  She puts her little brother in his place by destroying Thor’s hammer and putting out his eye.   Why? Because she carries a grudge against their deceased father and she has to show little brother that she is more powerful and deserves the crown more than he.

What all these women have in common is that they have chosen to a life filled with violence, with evil, with violence.  They may be lacking in morals and even humanity, but they prove that they are just as capable and strong as their male counterparts.

Who is your favorite female villain?

 

 

 

Does Reading Make You A Better Writer?

Mike Jackson from Stories in Your Pocket wrote this post encouraging everyone to turn off the TV and pick up a good book tonight.

Stories In Your Pocket

Does reading make you a better writer?

Stephen King in his book ‘On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft’ says:

“The real importance of reading is that it creates an ease and intimacy with the process of writing; one comes to the country of the writer with one’s papers and identification pretty much in order. Constant reading will pull you into a place (a mindset, if you like the phrase) where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness. It also offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn’t, what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what just lies there dying (or dead) on the page. The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor.”

Natalie Goldberg who wrote ‘Writing Down the Bones’ says:

“If you read good books, when…

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Amy Caudill’s Reviews > The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures

The World of Lore by Aaron Mahnke
The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures 
by

Aaron Mahnke (Goodreads Author)

50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

May 08, 2018  ·  edit

In his Amazon Prime series, Aaron Mahnke offers an overview of the lore from numerous cultures created by our ancestors in an attempt to explain the unknown workings of the world around them.  For example; how did a deadly disease contribute to a belief in the existence of vampires?  What geological features as said to be the home of fairies?

Now the writer, producer, and narrator of the series Lore has released an anthology titled The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures, which includes some of the most interesting encounters from the popular show as well as a wealth of additional stories and background information about the evolution of the myths, folklore, and campfire tales of “things that go bump in the night.”

The author uses historical accounts and descriptions of known “sites” of supernatural and unexplained phenomena to describe how a lack of scientific knowledge and fear of the unknown culminated in a belief in numerous supernatural creatures and phenomena.  Then he shares examples of the tales of happenings in a “story-telling” manner consistent with the scripts of the television series.

I found the scholarly portion of the book to be very informative but a little dry, despite attempts by Mahnke to inject humor and current events into his explanations of the supernatural.  By comparison, his accounts of the “events” read like very engaging short stories of horror and the paranormal.

After reading a large portion of the book, I decided I needed to watch some of the episodes of the show for comparison purposes.  I found that the podcast featured some of the same stories in the book, heavily dramatized and enacted, but seemed to focus more on one particular example instead of the multiples given in the manuscript.  While both were interesting, the dramatization of the show drew me in much more quickly than the volume, if only because the length of the episode was longer than each encounter narrated in the book.

Still, I found the book interesting enough to give it four stars and would recommend it to anyone who wants not only to get a chill out of a story of the paranormal, but also an understanding of why the story could make the reader feel fear in the first place.

A Recipe for Reunion Success

The promise of warm weather and a break from school is the opportune time for many families to reconnect.  When your family is as scattered as mine, getting together can be a huge and potentially overwhelming undertaking.  To help you prepare your next get-together, I’ve shared some of my best tips for serving up a successful family reunion.

Family Reunion
The entire clan is gathered together for this shot! Photo by artgoeshere on Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Start by Prepping Your Space.

One of the beautiful things about planning a reunion in the spring or summer is the fact you can use the weather to your advantage.  If you have a small space and a large number of relatives, you can always move the bulk of the festivities outdoors.  Picnic tables and benches or camp chairs are wonderful for sharing food, conversation, and keeping an eye on the little ones.

If you live in an apartment and don’t have outdoor space you can reserve or utilize, check out your local parks.  Some take reservations while others have a first-come-first-serve policy, so do your research as soon as possible after the date for the event is set if you choose this option.

Add Plenty of Good Food.

Sharing a meal is usually an integral part of family time, so plan ahead.  Try to over-estimate on the amount of food that you think you’ll need, because the last thing you want to do is send someone away hungry!  Be aware of relatives with special dietary needs, such as for medical conditions and allergies, and make sure there are plenty of options for picky eaters.

Consider having willing family members help in the preparation, or in bringing their own signature dishes from home; everyone wants to feel needed and to be a vital part of the gathering.  Also, don’t forget to have plenty of disposable containers on hand to pack up leftovers.

Blend in Activities.

Be prepared for when the conversation lulls or the kids get bored by planning a number of activities appropriate to the group as a whole and the ages of the family members.  There are any number of games the entire group can enjoy, from three-legged races to water balloon tosses to Pictionary or charades.  These require very little equipment, and can be adapted to suit the size and ages of your group members.  If you have one available, a fire pit can be a wonderful addition to your party, offering a venue for toasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories as the evening winds down.

Prevent or At Least Chill Conflicts.

The last thing you should have to worry about at your family reunion is a major argument between attendees.  There will always be disagreements between family members, but a group party is more than likely not the ideal time to resolve these problems.  If conflict is unavoidable, try to encourage those involved to move to another room or space and calmly, quietly discuss their issues.  Offer impartial intermediation if needed.  Hopefully they can work out their differences or at least agree to a truce.  After all, they may only have the opportunity to see each other and the rest of their relatives once or a few times a year.

 Enhance with an Archivist. 

If your family gatherings are as rare as mine, they feel all the more precious each time you gather.  Children grow up and move away, and older relatives sadly pass, so it’s impossible to predict who will make it to the next reunion.  Consider creating a Facebook event page or similar where photos and memories can be shared and posted.  Put everyone in front of the camera.  Elect one relative to film each attendee as they share personal remembrances, funny stories, or nuggets of wisdom to pass on to other members.

I hope you get to spend time with your extended collection of loved ones soon, and that these tips help you host your ideal event.  Remember: family is special and irreplaceable, whether you have a large clan by blood, or a few you call family by choice.  Either way, they provide us with a sense of belonging and community that fills our hearts and enriches our lives.

Until next time,

Amy