Band of Brothers

It saddens me to share that Don Malarkey has passed away. This temporary, earthly life loses another hero.

Currahee!

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Thanksgiving (Day 18)

I’m thankful today for something that is very earthy and ordinary and temporary. I’m thankful for the TV Show Band of Brothers (my favorite only after Firefly). 

I’m so thankful for this weekend when I get to share it with a dear friend. This show resparked my love of WW2 history and reinforced my love of the brotherhood of warriors.

And now, I get to share it with someone else!!!! I swear I will try to keep random Band of Brothers facts to myself. 

Let the viewing begin. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

There is Beauty Even Here: All the Light We Cannot See and Hamburger Hill

 

It seems odd to connect the book All the Light We Cannot See with the violent war movie Hamburger Hill. One is filled with elegant and gripping prose. The other reeks of dirt, blood, gore, language, and nudity. And yet, a beauty resonated within them both.

All the Light We Cannot See is the story of a blind young girl, and a smart, small boy caught up in WW2. Werner is a German and Marie is French. Their lives touch for the briefest of poignant moments. Instead of getting down in the muck of war, Doerr captures haunting horrors in words of longing, and broken grace. You know all that is happening is gross, mean, and destructive, yet you are removed from all that by a prose that takes you higher. And somehow this lofty view makes it all the more terrible. It paints death with beauty which only makes the death more jolting, more revolting. Your heart weeps at the loss of innocence, family, goodness. You see souls torn more deeply by the careful choice of each perfect word.

Hamburger Hill is as opposite as you can get. There are no majestic shots, no moving music, and no quotable dialogue. All there is is a handful of very young men cussing, fighting, and lusting. They are covered in dirt, sweating, and unattractive in every way. But, as the movie culminates, beauty blazes through. It is seen in the worst guy who hasn’t said one pure thing about a woman, hugging the other guy who’s girl just dumped him. It’s seen when a Lieutenant weeps as his men are mowed down by friendly fire, when a sergeant explains why he came back to Vietnam, when race is sponged away between white boys and black boys cause they’re all dying, when a private wipes his sergeant’s face, and when a man holds so gently his dying buddy. Great tenderness blooms between these men as they attempt to fight their way up a hill for ten days.

Beauty is found even here.

Two stories of war, as different as can be, and yet both show a light burning bright in the darkness.

Reading/watching these back to back was emotionally taxing, and yet it reminded me of why I’m drawn back to war stories over and over. I love seeing the light in the darkest moment. I love the beauty that blooms in battle. I love brotherhoods. There is something magical about men who have fought together that we’re losing in our feministic culture. I plan to go down kicking and screaming. I will be a woman who honors warriors without demanding to be one.

I love these stories because they capture the reality of my existence. I am not what I seem on some level. It’s true, I am a middle class, white, suburban housewife. But, I’m also a saved sinner, a healed monster, and a warrior in the battle against sin. War movies are my unseen reality and my church family is my band of brothers. I may not want women to be forced into the bond of battle formed between men, but I can also be part of that great friendship in the spiritual army of the Lord. When I see them fighting down in the dirt, when I see two children suffering all that war brings, I look with my Christian-colored-glasses and see the spiritual battle I engage in every day.

Life is more than it seems, both uglier and more beautiful.

Sometimes as a writer, I lose my way. I forget what story I’m telling when I’m in the middle of plot lines, time lines, and commas, but movies and stories like this help re-align me. They help me keep fighting. They help me to pray for my family. They remind me to hug and hold cause I don’t know the battle my fellow soldier may have engaged in this week.

There is beauty even here.

 

Favorite Books

A friend of mine, Bethany Jennings, posed the question of favorite books on Facebook the other day. While I have a running list in my head of favorite movies, I was stumped to think of my favorite books. This bothered me since I consider myself a reader. After much thought I came up with this list:

  • Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
  • Harry Potter by JK Rowling
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams
  • The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell
  • Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
  • Mindhunter by John Douglas
  • The Count of Monte Christo by Alexander Dumas
  • The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
  • Fiddler’s Green by A.S. Peterson
  • Sunshine by Robin McKinley
  • Life Expectancy by Dean Koontz
  • All Band of Brothers Books but especially: Easy Company Soldier: The Legendary Battles of a Sergeant from World War II’s “Band of Brothers” by Don Malarkey, Biggest Brother: The life of Major Dick Winters, the Man Who led the Band of Brothers by Larry Alexander, Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends: Two WWII Paratroopers from the Original Band of Bothers Tell Their Story by William Guarnere
  • The Lost: The Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelssohn
  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
  • 3000 Degrees: The True Story of a Deadly Fire and the Men who Fought it by Sean Flynn
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • Les Miserable by Victor Hugo
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  • With the Old Breed by Eugene B. Sledge
  • The Killing Zone: My life in the Vietnam War by Frederick Downs
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Most books by Diana Wynne Jones
  • The Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
  • The Redwall Series by Brian Jacques
  • The Railway Children and Five Children and It by E. Nesbit
  • Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders
  • The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
  • The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  • The Hardy Boys by Franklin W. Dixon

These are books I have either read several times, quoted from, was strongly influenced by, stuck with me, or I learned from. The longer I think about it the more books I want to add. This list is not static, but growing all the time.

And, due to popular demand, some of my favorite books are also:

  • When Skies are Gray by Abby Jones
  • Never Know, Dear by Abby Jones
  • Don’t take my Sun by Abby Jones (Unfinished)
  • Happy Thought by Abby Jones
  • Hero’s Story by Abby Jones
  • Hope’s Journey by Abby Jones (Unfinished)
  • The Cost of Two Hands by Abby Jones
  • The Sparrow and the Star by Abby Jones (Unfinished)
  • The Seventh Son of the Seventh Son by Abby Jones (Unfinished)
  • The Playground Children by Abby Jones (Unfinished)
  • The Texas Cousins Adventure Stories by Abby Jones

 

Happy Memorial Day

 

To the Heroes who Never Came Home.

To the Heroes who Never Came Home.

Carwood Lipton, Don Malarkey, Dick Winters at the grave of Skip Muck.

Carwood Lipton, Don Malarkey, Dick Winters at the grave of Skip Muck.

Happy Memorial Day!

In honor of those who have fallen, who gave their all in defense of this country, who never came home, we set aside this day. May we never forget the cost of freedom, the cost of defending our country. May we never forget these real heroes.

These images show heroes that are close to my heart, but there are not enough minutes in the day to honor all who paid the ultimate price.

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December Books and Movies

Here are some of the books and movies I’ve enjoyed over the last month. I’m leaving out Platoon and Good Morning Vietnam because I want to do an article sometime early next year covering all the classic Vietnam movies. I also watched Band of Brothers for the fourth time and won’t write a new review for it.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1451638590/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1451638590&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=3BBVO3XUMK7NQ5OF

Spellbound (Grimnoir Chronicles #2) by Larry Correia

The second book in this series is just as good as the first. Rewriting history to include magical Actives and using them to explain events like WWI, the dustbowl of the Midwest, and the growth of government power under FDR is so much fun. Due to his first hand knowledge of guns, Correia is exact with his weapons. If you’re a gun nut, you’ll enjoy these books. Correia is also very conservative. It’s nice to read a book you don’t argue with the entire time. He never gets preachy—his books are, after all, action flicks—but he does make a jab here and there at FDR. They are fairly clean with limited language and over the top violence. These books aren’t without heart. I did tear up a few times as the Grimnoir struggled to keep their friends and family safe while battling enemies on every front. Correia’s good like that. This is a book I have on Audible and I highly recommend it because Corriea got the perfect reader for his book. If you’re looking for a good weekend read, check out the Grimnoirs.

Rated: PG-13 (Language and Violence)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/143919260X/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=143919260X&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=KHYW2Q4M6P2DF3V6

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

King offers up four unique, creepy, and down to earth stories in this book. They feature normal people in bad situations usually making them worse, though two of them aren’t without a semi-happy ending. The last one was my favorite. Based on the BTK killer, King explores what it would be like to find out after 30 years of marriage that you’re husband’s a serial killer. (Queue extra creepy music.) Thankfully, this was one of the stories with a happy ending, or at least as happy as King can get. Because he capture the simple habits of a long marriage so perfectly, the little things you know so well about each other, the special quirks, the chilling horror level ratcheted up quickly. If you like King you will enjoy this collection.

Rated: R (Language, Violence, Adult Situations, Rape, Serial Killers)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1416955070/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1416955070&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=HUD4XBTTOL2VJW33

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B009AMAKWM/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B009AMAKWM&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=TOMI323XEBTTNZLD

The City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1) by Cassandra Clare (Book and Movie)

Since I have switched to writing YA fantasy some of my YA friends have given me a few books to read in that genre. This might be a bad thing because neither the book, The City of Bones, nor the movie impressed me. When my husband and I finished the movie neither of us understood the overall plot. What was really going on? What world events swept this girl up? (I had this problem with Divergent for the first 2/3 of the movie, too.) At first, I enjoyed the book more than the movie because I felt like I had a better sense of what was going on. Then, I got bored and realized the movie was mashing things together because they were cutting out the long and pointless teen drama moments. The movie tried to fix the book. Sigh.

The writing style of the book was sub-par. Clare threw in large and odd words here and there like she closed her eyes and pointed at that section of the thesaurus with no sense of what worked in the voice of the story. Every time she did this, I got pulled out of the book. A reader should be able to tell by the context what the word means. In Clare’s case, I could not.

Ultimately, I only cared about one character in the whole book and found the story to be mostly uninteresting.

My main problems with this style of writing—normal human female drawn into supernatural world of hot men where she realizes she is beautiful and must beat said men away with a stick, oh and some plot going on over there, and of course the jerk is the guy who gets the girl—are I always feel on the outside of the world, and appealed to on my most basest level.

It wasn’t until the very end of the book, like the last chapter that I even felt connected to the world. Through this big thick volume, I felt like I had my nose pressed to a window and only got a truncated view of Clare’s fantasy world. When I read Harry Potter, Harry’s world was more real than mine. When you read Lord of the Rings, you are in Middle Earth. E. Nesbit, Neil Gaiman, Robin McKinley, Suzanne Collins, Larry Correia, Scott Lynch and so many other good fantasy writers want you in their world. That’s why you’re reading it. You’re not reading it to stand on the outside observing.

Driving the reader based solely on who is going to end up with who does not a good page turner make. I hate it when I realize the only reason I’m interested in a story is to see if these two people hook up. And even that wasn’t done well. I never really felt a strong connection between Clary and Jase. Their romance wasn’t memorable. Plus, it’s not that important to have a boyfriend when you’re 15. Clary had a tiny bit more personality than Belle in Twilight, but I never cared about her. I never cared about anyone other than Luke. (Side note, including a homosexual character made all the relationships questionable. Whenever two male characters were good friends, I never knew if they were friends or lovers. I enjoy some blurring of moral lines because life can have some very gray moments, but not smudging like this.)

Rated: PG-13 (Mostly because the worldview is one that needs lots of guiding. There are some YA sexual jokes, violence, and language. The love relationship is unrealistic and unhealthy. The lead male is a jerk through the entire story, yet she still falls for him. If you want to see magic, read Harry Potter. If you want confused brother/sister relationships watch the original Star Wars.)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/147671746X/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=147671746X&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=GSJ5VNRKFZASEWHQ

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

One would believe that this is a unique romantic comedy about a zombie who falls in love with a human girl based upon the preview for the movie. It’s not. I don’t even know if this is Young Adult. This book is beautifully written and filled with interesting tidbits to digest. It is a thinking book. Is it a commentary on a mid-life crises? Is it a rewrite of Romeo and Juliet? Is it a commentary on the pointless void the next generation faces due to their entitlement status? On this basis, I would say that this could be a great book to read with your Junior or Senior kids. It would need to be read and savored for its beauty and then picked apart for its philosophy. The joy of a well-written book is that you can do both. There were some moments I lost interest in the story and felt it dragged a bit. But since I read it at the same time I read City of Bones, it’s beauty was provided a stark contrast, so I never just gave up on it. Again, I was drawn right into the world, not forced to stand on the outside. While there was an important romantic relationship, the story was more than that. Their romance was the catalyst for the story not the only point.

Rated PG-13 (Violence, Language, Sexual Content: this book makes the common error of assuming Hate and Greed are sins but lust is not.)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0425224368/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0425224368&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=7GT7HYFQIMT4WCZ2

Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends by William Guarnere, Edward Heffron, Robyn Post

I stumbled on this little treasure at Half-Price Bookstore and read it on Black Friday instead of going shopping. Anytime I watch Band of Brothers I tend to get a little obsessed. This is the third book I’ve read about Easy Company. There are also some interviews on YouTube that I’m working through. This book focuses on only two members of Easy Company: Wild Bill and Babe. They grew up only blocks from each other without ever meeting and served together in Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge where Wild Bill lost his leg. After the war was over Babe looked Wild Bill up and they’ve been best pals ever since, dying only months apart.

Because you get to see their lives from the beginning, you get a sense of why their generation was able to do what they did. They grew up hard and fast, but with strong families and close friends. Then they joined the unique training experiment of the 101st Airborne and . . . the rest is history.

Rated PG-13 (Young men at war, war)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1599253453/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1599253453&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=MVJCUPHHDW2XTJQN

Holding Communion Together by Tom Chantry and David Dykstra

After all the controversy, I was eager to read this book and see what all the hoopla was about. I came away from this book sad because sin tears us apart. As Chantry and Dykstra take us through the growth of Reformed Baptists in America in the last century, they also take us through the problems plaguing us even to this day. It is always helpful to get a historical perspective. It’s just not often that when I’m getting that perspective I know the people being talked about. That was just a bit surreal. So, my first reaction was sadness, sadness over the friendships destroyed, the churches torn apart, and the splits that fractured so many people. Continuing in the story, I was made aware of the need to pray for our leaders, pray they will be kept from the lies of the evil one, that they will stand under the pressures of other churches to bend and compromise, and pray that they will stand for truth. On a very personal level, I enjoyed reading about David Straub. He was very dear to me and I miss him even to today, though I was only a little girl when I knew him. God is good and I’m thankful for the work these men did. May it encourage us all in prayer and steadfastness.

Rated PG (Sinful men in a sinful world and church fracturing)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001HN694K/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B001HN694K&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=I5RZQREN3DKAVWJ5

Alice in Wonderland

This movie is odd. In true Alice fashion, it’s odd. It would have helped if I had picked up earlier on that Alice was returning to Wonderland. For some reason I didn’t get that this was the continuing of the story not a remake of the story. There were several points where I just couldn’t follow what everyone was saying. But, the fight against the Queen of Hearts, the costuming, and setting were well done. Then the end just jumped on the feminist bandwagon and that was that. Of course, a woman who saves a kingdom would never settle for being a mother. What a waste of her life. She must go adventuring. Sigh. So overall, I’m glad that I watched it. The hatter was fun and so were the White Queen and all the little animals. It felt less frustrating than the original story, but I didn’t love it.

Rated: PG (Dragon fights, intense themes)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00K7IPFSM/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00K7IPFSM&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=FM2RQA76N5RJLL7I

X-men: Days of Future Past

I’m not a big comic book fan. I enjoyed Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy a lot, but most of the rest of them seem to lack heart. I just never really connect with the characters. Their struggles never seem real. I did love the first X-men movie where I did connect with Rouge and Wolverine as the outcasts in this world welcomed into Xavier’s school. But, I haven’t kept up with the franchise. Recently, I watched Days of Future Past. Surprise! I was on the edge of my seat! I think most of this is due to the acting chops of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, and Jennifer Lawrence. They bring the heart and soul to the story. I was also pleasantly surprised by the plot twist brought by Magneto. I kept thinking everything was going just too smoothly for Wolverine. Well played. I don’t think I’ll buy this movie, but I’ll borrow it again from my sister. Also, for any of you comic book geeks, based on how this movie ends does Wolverine not have titanium on his skeleton now?

Rated PG-13 (Mystique has blue skin, not clothes. Brief Nudity, action, violence, some Mutants get torn apart, adult themes.)

Merry Christmas!

I’ll let everyone know what movies and books grace my stocking this year!

Writing Journal: Introducing Sisterhood

492599If you follow me around in real life, on FaceBook, and or read my Blog, you will quickly realize that one of my favorite concepts in stories—right after the idea of the Undeserved Rescue—is Brotherhood. I love action flicks with a core group that would kill for each other. I love stories about enemies becoming inseparable friends. I love stories about cops and their partners. I love war stories because of the brotherhood concept. Band of Brothers is one of my favorite TV shows of all time, but I feel like you see this same idea play out, to lesser degrees, in StarTrek: NG, Firefly, Sherlock, and Chuck. It’s all about the person next to you. It’s all about the guy willing to spill blood to defend you, even his own. It’s what I love about Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell. It is what I love about Lord of the Rings.

With all that said, it’s not surprising that my Fairytale has at least two brotherhoods forming in Book 1. I’m diligently working on a brotherhood within the antagonist’s army and a brotherhood centered around my protagonists. Since brotherhoods tend to form in the middle of intense situations like combat, and since I’m a bit conservative and think combat should be left to men, and since it typically has been left to men so men are the ones forming these brotherhoods, my protagonist is a male. In fact, most of the books I’ve written have a male protagonist.

Why?

Most of the books I enjoy reading have male protagonist. It’s not that there aren’t books with lead females out there. It’s not that women don’t have adventures. It’s just that I never find books and stories with lead females as interesting or as fun as I do the ones with lead males. This started back when I had a choice between the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. Can you guess which one I picked? (If you guess Nancy Drew you need to start this article over and try again. 🙂 )

Why is this?

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I’ll be honest, and a bit hard on my own sex, I find stories with lead females a bit annoying. Either the woman is doing something completely ridiculous in some vain attempt to prove that she’s just as big and bad as the guys are, or she’s standing in a corner screaming with a phaser not three inches from her hand while her man gets beat to death, or she’s eye candy. There are very few stories where the woman is a woman. And the ones where she is being a woman can be a bit harder to make interesting because they can end up catty, manipulative, and self focused. I just don’t think they’re as fun as male driven stories. (And yes, if you’re wondering, I was a Tomboy growing up.) What it really came down to was boys had adventures and girls had boyfriends. I would rather have an adventure.

Me and my Bestie!

Me and my Bestie!

Then, a dear friend laid down a challenge. She pointed out the many wonderful relationships I have with other women. I’ve been blessed with a wise mother and extra mother, grandmothers, sisters, sisters-in-Christ, wise older women, and a very dear best friend, and many nieces. I have more dear women than I can possibly name in my life right now. I have women who are going before me into old age and widowhood, I have young women coming up behind me into marriage, life, and adulthood. I wouldn’t trade these women for the world. I love each and every one of them. My dear friend, who is a woman, asked me why I don’t have more of those types of female relationships in my books? They are some of the best friendships I’ve had, why don’t I mirror the brotherhood concept with a sisterhood concept? If I hated women being written just to have boyfriends, why was I doing the same thing. (Don’t read this the wrong way, I think loving a man and being loved by him, being married, is one of the most wonderful and rewarding relationships you can have.)

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I was floored. I couldn’t believe how long I’d missed the opportunity to share something that has always been a part of my life. Facepalm.

Again, I find myself beholden to a woman while I write about a man. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be: Women supporting women who are helping men? So now I’m weaving women together. I have a mother and now I have a GateKeeper and a few elements who are women, plus some other girls. I’m shooting for a story that has brotherhoods, sisterhoods, and also some marriages.

I hope to show the positive sides of women and sisterhoods without reducing them down to catty relationships. One of the things I hated most about the Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan was his sisterhoods. Every woman in the book constantly manipulated the men around them for their own ends. It grew very frustrating. It was like watching all that is the worst part of you instead of being encouraged to be better. I want to have a story more like Lord of the Rings that makes you want to be a better person when you finish reading it.

With this challenge accepted, I will be working on my female characters. I will be exploring what makes women and men different and how those things compliment each other. I have some good books to read, good movies to watch, and of course some interesting personal experiences to draw from. Plus, I have a whole host of Godly women ready to help me! I’m gearing up and ready to go!