How Could I Have Forgotten the Forgotten Door?

Vintage reads

What if people were always kind, not selfish? What if they were generous, never greedy? What if animals could sense the goodness in those people? Having no fear, they would approach the humans and enjoy their company. Even better, what if the animals and the people could communicate by signaling and receiving each other’s thoughts? All these what-ifs are the basis of the children’s science fiction novel, The Forgotten Door.

Forgotten Door

Written by Alexander Key and published in 1965, the United States and the Soviet Union stood nose to nose in the Cold War while every other nation held its collective breath waiting to see if we teetered into a full-fledged World War III. Man’s inhumanity to man had become all too obvious after two global wars in less than thirty years. Key uses this as background undergirding the immediate setting.

The Forgotten Door. I remember the title. I’m sure I read it at a young age, so it must have been shortly after its debut. Pieces of memory flash excitement; this was a good book. And my only other association with the familiar title was a sense of wistfulness…if only…

So I reread all 140 pages of it last week. How could I have forgotten The Forgotten Door? A boy who is stargazing in his world takes a step back, falls through a hidden door long forgotten by his people, and lands in our world.

starry night-sky-1469156_640Suffering from bruises and a concussion, Jon finds himself on a mountainside on Earth. A doe and her fawn lead him to a nearby road. He doesn’t understand the ugly attitudes in most of the humans he meets. His intelligence is light years above ours. He hears people’s thoughts and can communicate with animals. With help from one kind family and a ferocious dog, he tries to figure out how to get home. Except, as events progress, the family will need his help in order to survive. The story is filled with what-ifs, conflicts, and a happy ending—everything any fiction reader would desire.

Perhaps best known for Escape to Witch Mountain, Alexander Key (1904-1979) touches the core of the human heart. Most of Key’s books follow a similar format: the world may be evil, but there are good people who will help those in need. The grandson of a Methodist minister, Alexander Key apparently did not have a Christian faith. Others who write about him believe he was part of the Freethinker movement, a philosophy based on human reason and kindness. Yet he hints at a world created by intelligent design.

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Since I’m a devout Christian, why would I recommend a book written by a freethinker? Because of Romans 1:20. All humans recognize good and evil. God put that knowledge in them whether they acknowledge Him or not. The Forgotten Door and Key’s other books show the triumph of good over evil, which is enough of a start for me to share an excellent story with my grandchildren.

Now, I’m on the hunt for the rest of Key’s children’s novels still in print. Are any one of them your favorites?

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Confessions of a Social Addict

 

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“… It is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others” Tenzin Gyatso (14th Dalai Lama)

I feel like I’m raising my hand in front of people, having to admit I am addicted to being social. And that is a problem when my job, whether it be writing or illustrating, requires me to be completely solitary for at least 5 hours a day. I’m sure, back when I was a young mom, the very thought of being by myself for long periods of time someday would have been second only to heaven. However, I realize as a social creature my mind goes stir-crazy without the constant interaction. (Think Tom Hanks in Castaway – “Wilson!!!”)

A friend of mine recently just returned from her winter away in southern climates. The weather was, as you would expect, gorgeous, and sunny. Palm trees and beaches galore. But she told me about having to wrestle with depression from being away from her normal friends. I can totally relate!

A few weeks back, I was sitting with my 97-year-old mom watching one of BBC’s nature series. A clan of chimpanzees was being spotlighted, and it showed how complicated their social system is, with it’s hierarchy and security in packs. It was entertaining, but startling at how similar we are in so many ways: the same need for friendship and acceptance, the same resourcefulness to gain the latter, and the same desperation when separated or rejected from their clan.

So much of our daily routines involve others, whether it is from direct interaction or contact on a myriad of social networks. That is why the social networks have literally taken hold of us; it is just another way of being with friends. Indeed, we are addicted to them, and most quite simply can’t be without their phones, or their computers. A lot could be said about being addicted to screens, however that is another blog post. 🙂

I find reality shows on tv are another example of how we need to watch others in various ‘real’ situations, so we can get close to their plight and empathize with them. It isn’t enough that we have many around us to watch and get involved with, we need more!

So what do I do when I’m trying to get through the solitary hours? I need to take a break, physically, mentally and socially. I will check on my FB friends, so a couple of texts, exercise, and give my eyes and mind a rest from the concentration. My social break is just as important as my physical and mental breaks.

And I need many different groups of friends. Other than my immediate family, I have walking buddies, coffee buddies, internet contacts, writing and illustrating colleagues and past school friends that I can’t do without. Now, looking at that list, you might think that I’m meeting them all the time. Not at all, certainly not as much as I’d like. But we all support and need each other at some point.

So I’m quite happy to admit to being a social addict. That’s the way God made me, and most days I start with meeting Him, then get to my day.

I will leave you with another quote…

“There are two questions that we have to ask ourselves. The first is ‘where am I going?’ and the second is ‘Who will go with me?’” Howard Thurman.

(Thanks Scriblerians for your support and friendship!!)

So I have a couple of questions:

  • Is there such a thing as too much social interaction?
  • What are your social vices?
  • Do you have a basketball named Wilson that you are particularly fond of?

 

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PLEASE!! Give Me Characters Who Yearn!

Picture this… You entered a fancy bakery and restaurant with the intention of ordering their best apple pie. But you noticed upon going to the washroom past the chef’s window that they were emptying cans of premade apple pie filling into the pastry. Would you quickly exit? (After first using their washroom of course…)

This disappointment would have been the same feeling I’d just experienced after investing money and time into a book with lame characters. A friend, who’d loved the novel, had suggested it. Yet after about two chapters, (I really gave it a try, since I’d spent over $14 on it) the characters’ lack of  basic yearnings in life distanced me from caring about them. Now, I’m not talking about the desire to stay alive after the murderer is on the loose. I’m talking about inner yearnings before the plot even shifts into first gear: something that we as readers can identify with, and causes us to route immediately for that character.

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The above apple pie was started with a canned, uninteresting product, so no matter what spices and other ingredients were added, the foundation was only going to be barely acceptable. (This B.C. girl is a connoisseur of apple pies) The same goes for the bland foundationless characters in the above-mentioned book who were merely reacting to events around them.* Snore * 

An excellent book for writing fiction is A Writer’s Guide To Fiction by Elizabeth Lyon. She points out that plot alone sustains few stories. Our protagonists need a universal human need such as self-respect, identity, family unity, survival or belonging. Connect your characters to the past where that need was denied or made impossible and you’ve got someone we can care about. During the story’s plot this need should be fulfilled.

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In The Hunger Games series, the Harry Potter series and of course my all-time favorite, Star Wars movies, the protagonists started off with definite yearnings that we could all identify with.

Robert Olen Butler, a Pulitzer Prize winner for A Good Scent From A Strange Mountain discusses yearning:

 

“Yearning seems to be at the heart of what fiction as an art form is all about. It’s based on the fact that fiction is a temporal art form—it exists in time—and it’s also an art form about human beings and their feelings. Any Buddhist will tell you that as a human being on this planet, you can’t exist for even thirty seconds without desiring something. My favorite word is yearning because it suggests the deepest level of desire. My approach [to teaching writing] tries to get at essential qualities of process for the aspiring artist beyond what is inherent in the study of craft and technique. This notion of yearning has its reflection in one of the most fundamental craft points in fiction: plot. Because plot is simply yearning challenged and thwarted.”

 I LOVE his last comment! I’ll be quoting that a few more times, I’m sure…

So, I need first and foremost good characters who yearn for something, to pull me into a book.

What pulls you into stories the MOST? Plot? Characters? Setting? Perhaps a mixture of all three? (oh, and do you also like apple pie?)