Friday, February 12, 2010

Guest Post by N.D. Wilson

I am happy to be a part of N.D. Wilson's blog tour celebrating the release of The Chestnut King, the third book in the 100 Cupboards series. Please also visit these tour stops Eva's Book Addiction and Fireside Musings.

My mother was (and occasionally is) an English teacher. This story starts with her enthusiasm.

She was making (forcing? obligating? mandating?) us to watch a little documentary called The Story of English. (When I say us, I mean my two sisters and my own self.) All good and noble. Huzzah for English. Huzzah for its story.

But I wasn’t interested. Which is why I was grateful when the house burned down.

If I recall, the key moment in the film came when an old man was wheedling around on his bicycle (carrying baguettes in a basket I believe). Nothing against him or his white beard or his cap or his bicycle wheedling. Good on him. Well wheedled. Well Englished and well storied. But I yawned on.

Until the lights in the kitchen flicked off.

Being eternally helpful, I hopped up to see what had happened. (I think my mom even paused the film so I wouldn’t miss anything.)

Once in the kitchen, I looked around. Yep. The lights were indeed off. I looked up at the beamed cedar ceiling. I cocked an ear. And at that moment, our little movie afternoon became interesting. The ceiling was crackling and popping like a campfire.

“Mom,” I said, and I’m sure that I was smiling. “The house is on fire.”

There was a great deal of “What?” and sisterly excitement and yelling for my dad and running into the kitchen and everybody trying to be quiet to hear the alleged crackling.

Vindicated. We were definitely on fire.

Mom practically threw us out of the house. And our phone line was dead, so she continued her running right over to the neighbors’ house. Dad fired up the garden hose, climbed a ladder, and tried to spritz the thing dead through the attic vent.

My sisters and I, well, I don’t really remember whether or not there was any negative emotion going on with them, but we pretty much kept ourselves busy dancing on the lawn until the firemen arrived.

Men scrambled onto our roof with axes. Holes were chopped. As evening fell, towers of flame suddenly roared free of the attic, converting our little house into heat energy, and releasing it generously into the atmosphere.

Okay, so the house didn’t burn down. It would be more accurate to say that the roof burned off. We didn’t lose everything (like many others have). But we did have to move out.

First, some friends (who were house-sitting themselves) offered us their lower floor. The backyard was a pond. Literally. The patio ended in an iron rail. On the other side of the rail, there was a long expanse of water. Tied to the rail, there was a row-boat.

How could I have regretted that fire? An ancient willow tree wept over that black water, enclosing a secret portion of pond and bank to itself—giving me my own willow world, and material for Leepike Ridge. Mud hens hollered to each other. Cat-tails browned and rattled in the summer wind. Red-wing blackbirds monitored me in my little boat.

Many, many turtles were captured. (Tip: when dealing with a large turtle population and a strict catch and release policy, labeling is helpful. Pink fingernail polish is ideal as it glows well even when the turtle is fully camouflaged against a muddy bottom. A particularly close family friend was always easy for us to spot—the words THIS IS TIM would suddenly appear and ghost past.)

Our time in the pond house expired with the summer. Our house was repaired, and then sold. But we had no place to go. At least no place with a house. My father bought raw land from a farmer, and we dreamed of building. His parents threw open their doors.

For one entire school year, I lived in my grandparents’ attic. The ceiling was baggy. The walls were coved. The pine floorboards squealed like pinched kittens. My younger sister and I shared the attic with piles of the mysterious and archaic. A WWII Navy recruitment poster winked at us. A brick chimney loomed. A swamp cooler throbbed in the window, trying to keep is from stifling. Along the walls, just beneath the cove, there were (and are) small doors, that led into tight crawl spaces, that led to . . .

We explored, my two sisters and I. (Penelope, Henrietta, Anastasia, Henry, and I.) We slid around in the dust, down the ceilings above stairwells, and behind built-in bookshelves. We sneezed. We splintered. We bled.

How could I have known that I was researching, or how much that house fire—that defunct, sparking doorbell wire—would give me?

And I never even had to finish watching the movie.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


keo 11:39 AM  

I remember the guy on the bike; he was a Breton speaker if I recall.

That PBS special is pretty interesting, actually. But probably much more so when getting to watch it in a college course, rather than when it cuts into Lego time.

Spencers 9:28 AM  

And boy howdy did that black water under that willow tree smell. Cool memories.

Post a Comment

I'm always happy to hear from you! To help fight spam, comment moderation has been set up for posts older than two days. Feel free to ask me questions or ask for recommendations!

Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

Unique Visitors and Google PR Rank

Free PageRank Checker

2018 Kitty Lit Challenge

2018 Kitty Lit Challenge
Link to sign-up page

Join the Victorian Reading Challenge

Join the Victorian Reading Challenge
Linked to sign up page

Family Tree Reading Challenge

Family Tree Reading Challenge
Link to sign-up page

2018 Share-a-Tea Challenge

2018 Share-a-Tea Challenge
Linked To Sign Up Page

2018 Charity Challenge (Sign Up)

2018 Good Rule Reading Challenge

2018 Good Rule Reading Challenge
Link to sign up page

2018 Picture Book Challenge

2018 Picture Book Challenge
Link to sign-up page

Join the 2018 Middle Grade Reading Challenge

Join the 2018 Middle Grade Reading Challenge
click image to go to sign up post

Good Rules Cheat List

Board books and picture books = new is anything published after 2013
Early readers and chapter books = new is anything published after 2013
Contemporary (general/realistic) = new is anything published after 2007
Speculative fiction (sci-fi/fantasy = new is anything published after 2007
Classics = anything published before 1968
Historical fiction = new is anything published after 2007
Mysteries = new is anything published after 1988
Nonfiction = new is anything published after 2007
Christian books = new is anything published after 2000
Bibles = new is anything published after 1989

My Blog List

(Old) Challenge Participants

Becky's Hosting These Challenges

100 Books Project: Fill in the Gaps

Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

  © Blogger template Newspaper III by 2008

Back to TOP