Imagination and a Ray Gun Are All We Need

Does imagination save lives? You bet!

Most of the children I know lead secret lives. I certainly did. My imagination was fueled by good books, lots of time to read them and freedom to roam the library stacks at will. Every time I opened the cover of one of those magic kingdoms, I grew.

That is the power of books, and movies and songs for that matter. They allow you to live another life for a brief time. But they also allow you to see your own life differently.

I saw a little boy make a uniquely little boy move in the shopping mall the other day. He lunged forward with an extended arm, his face a focused glare, his mouth making shooting noises. He was lost in a world of his own private story.

As far as I could tell, the little boy in the mall was surrounded by myriads of invisible foes all of whom were obligingly collapsing when he aimed his finger at them. His mother grabbed him by the arm and pulled him away, probably to do some fascinating shopping.

Joking. I hate shopping.

Ambushing aliens from outer space who are hiding behind the sluggish fountain near the food court is far more fulfilling .

As his mother dragged him off, the little boy looked back at his invisible playmates sympathetically, as though they too were being pulled away by their mothers. He didn’t wave but he could have.

I wonder how many mothers realized the people they had brought home from the mall and were feeding a dinner of macaroni and cheese and chicken fingers that evening were actually warriors without whom the entire planet would be lost.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.


Character Depth is an Enviable Trait

If you envy an author’s character development skills, is that a sign of weak character?

I know. I promised something frivolous. And I had every intention of providing it until the main character in All the Time in the World by Caroline Angell grabbed my heart and wouldn’t let go.

I stand in awe of a writer who can begin a story with death and make it work. In the first paragraph, we are told the mother of two small boys will die and that this death will be exquisitely painful to the survivors and even, perhaps, to the reader.

What was to prevent me from slapping the book shut and saying, “I’m sad enough today, thank you very much”? Unless I had a penchant for misery. Or just enjoyed a miserable sort of predictability.

But that paragraph was so crystalline in its language, I couldn’t close the book without reading just a little more until I was thoroughly hooked.

Novels don’t usually begin with a death and there is good reason for that. In the arc of a novel, death is the big fear. A writer doesn’t often squander that dark moment on the first page. But Angell takes the risk.

It’s an interesting choice because the death of a character one cares about has a way of taking up a huge amount of psychic reader-energy. In a sense, by getting it out of the way in the beginning, Angell is leaving room for the surviving characters to act in context of their loss.

The strength of this book is in its brilliant character portrayals.

Charlotte, the boys’ nanny, who narrates the history leading up to the crisis and its aftermath is utterly believable and consistent.

Another reason I kept reading was to see how Angell managed to write children.

I can’t count the number of adult novels I have read with child characters who are saccharine, perhaps disobedient but only in the most charming of ways.

So I was anticipating failure, dreading it actually. But I shouldn’t have worried. Angell’s children are real children, believably irritating as a regular thing with those occasional moments of grace we learn to treasure as parents, teachers and caregivers.

I am trying to master writing and books like All the Time in the World, are the ultimate learning device. If you are trying to do the same, read this book. It’s an excellent lesson.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.