The Catcher in the Rye and Coffee

pile of books

As I drove to Barnes and Noble, I knew I had to have a plan and I went in with determination and a plan. I was getting a copy of Catcher in the Rye, a coffee, and leaving. No browsing, no other books.

I needed a classic book written in first person for ideas on sentence structure for the memoir I am working on along with the two others I have in progress.

The scent of books and coffee assailed me as I passed through the doors. I could easily spend hours here, drinking in coffee and words. But I have my plan Catcher in the Rye and coffee. Focus.

I stopped at the biographies, looking at covers, font choices, and title length. Before I knew it, I was flipping books over to read the back and perusing snippets from chapters. I totted a couple books around to the next shelf and noticed a book, I knew was at home yet to be read. Hmmmm.

Focus, damn it, Catcher in the Rye and coffee!

I hung my head in shame and placed the two books back on the shelf, caressing the cover and whispering next time and a long sigh escaped my lips.

I took the long way around the store to the fiction and literature section. Dangerous I know. I ran my fingers over some covers, stopped at the new release table, and flipped to the back cover to read a bit. Nothing really sang to my soul, so I gently placed them back with their brothers and sisters. I breathed in the aroma of the coffee and glanced at all the free souls sitting at tables sipping and turning pages.

I found Catcher in the Rye and was heading toward the coffee counter, but to get there I had to go through the fantasy and sci-fi section. Like a drug addict, I had to walk the isles. I smiled at the new book covers on Terry Brooks, Sword of Shannara. I loved those books. I looked over the new books in the Dragonlance Sagas.

Books appeared in my hand and I was obligated to read their covers and flip through sampling their words. Reluctantly, I returned them to the shelf and committed their titles to memory for further exploration later. The cover art on fantasy novels usual depicts the protagonist in an epic battle against some beast or the antagonist. Some of them are taking a more cartoonish or animated look, which I don’t especially like. George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series does not do this. The cover is very simple the hilt of a sword, a crown, or a goblet. It is not flashy but catches your eye because it is different among the color of the other covers.

I look down, more books are in my hand. How did that happen? Hmmm. The pile of books to be read in my bedroom is rather higher than I would like, if you add in the ones on my kindle, it really is a sad state of affairs, which I must address before purchasing more.

I get in line for coffee and continue my mantra Catcher in the Rye and Coffee. As I left the bookstore, there was an emptiness inside. Maybe I should find a book anonymous support group…

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Are all stories horror stories?

fear one

The themes of our stories tackle tough issues. More often than not, they deal with conquering fears: Fear of the unknown, fear of others, and fear of ourselves.  The novel may be packaged as a romance, mystery, fantasy, or adventure story, but at its very core it’s about facing the things that make us tremble, sweat, and run the other way.

Few writers start with a theme when they begin a story. Usually, one of the voices in our heads (AKA characters) demands that we tell their story. Their story is, of course, intricately and impossibly entwined with our own.

The theme is discovered along the journey to the climax of the book. It is woven in your character’s arc and the challenges faced throughout the book by any character. The various decisions that are made about each challenge shows a different facet of the theme. The character’s turn it every which way as the plod along trying to figure out what it is, and how to ultimately deal with it.

Someone famous once said, a writer only writes one story. The characters, setting, and plot all change, but the theme is the same. The theme of a story is what resonates with readers. It draws them in because they see themselves in the characters or they see their life in the challenges and decisions made.

I don’t have a degree in literary arts, but my guess is that if you look at a group of books written in any particular generation or era you would find similar themes running through all of them. The challenges and achievements of a culture or particular people.

Books create a safe space. A place where writers can express their darkest rational or irrational fear and readers can feel validation and companionship in their suffering and pain. How often do we come across a line in a book or just a few words and say to ourselves, “Yes, I know that feeling. It is an old friend of mine.”

fear three

I look at my own writing and reading, and I see patterns that match with the patterns and journey of my life. Overcoming adversity, conquering what appears to be overwhelming odds, an indomitable spirit, issues surrounding trust, and discovering who we are as individuals and within the world as a whole.

Within my stories, I am safe to relive the lessons again and again until I finally figure it out.

What are the themes of your life?

fear two

In fiction, we find ourselvs.

child reading

Writing for me is a release. I often wonder how I ever got along in life without it, but then I realize it’s always been there in one form, or another. As a teen, I kept a journal and wrote poetry trying to express those overwhelming emotional upheavals that seemed to continually crash upon me like tidal waves over the sandy coast. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve also kept a journal and written stories on and off.

I write to share my experiences and my perspective on the world and life. I don’t believe my perspective is better or worse than anyone else’s, but it is uniquely mine. I do believe that trying to understand other’s experience is one of the greatest gifts we can give to another human being.

Knowing that others out there who have dealt with the same thoughts and circumstances gives us a sense of not being alone in this unforgiving and harsh world. Knowing that someone is willing to take the time to at least try to understand lets us know that we have value and worth even if we don’t’ see it at the time.

Both fiction and non-fiction writing allows readers into the author’s world. Even in academic writing, the author cannot help infusing the writing with a piece of their soul through the words that they choose. They breathe life into the pages with the rhythm and cadence of the words.

I enjoy writing non-fiction, but for me there is a limit to what I can write about as a non-fiction writer. As a fiction writer, there are no limits. The world is mine for the making.

Non-fiction’s value and place in the world is clear and easy for anyone to see. Sharing knowledge and experience has immeasurable value to us all. Fiction’s value is equally precious, even if there are some who do not recognize or appreciate it.

Fiction allows the reader to pursue dreams and goals they never thought possible. It allows the reader to see through another set of eyes. It gives expression to the pieces of our souls we hide and protect from the rest of the world. Fiction allows readers to maintain a firm grip on wonder and hope within the real world.

When I get lost in the pages of a book, I’ve become a part of the story. I’ve identified completely with a character. We are one. Together we face challenges and fail. Together we face challenges and conquer. We never really part ways, even when I’ve set the book on my nightstand or slipped it into my bag. Sure, I know I’m not in never never land any longer, but I will always have a sense of strength, courage, and hope to draw upon in my own life.

What about dark stories that plunge the reader into the depths of hell and never fully brings them back? I love these stories most of all. How in the world does a reader draw a sense of wonder and hope from that, you ask.

It makes them feel less alone in the world. The darkness in the book resonates with an equally dark piece of their experience.  It also makes the real world appear so much brighter and radiant once you’ve looked hell in the eyes.