Your Favorite Stories Outside Your Favorite Genre

I’m sorry I missed last Monday’s prompt. We had a death in our family.

Bu I’m back this week with a prompt that, instead of inspiring stories, will inspire a discussion about the joy of reading. What are your favorite stories outside your favorite genre?

If you’ve read my blog for very long, you know mystery is my favorite genre. Like any mystery fan, I can place my favorite stories in their subgenres, such cozy, YA, historical, classic whodunit, and so on.

But some of the my favorite stories are outside my favorite genre. Watership Down by Richard Adams and The Time Machine by H.G. Wells are two of my all-time favorite novels, and they are speculative fiction. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, Endurance by Caroline Alexander, and Dove by Robin Lee Graham are nonfiction books I love. Click on the titles to read my reviews.

Now it’s your turn. What are some of your favorites?

Children’s Books I Still Love

The problem with pursuing writing as a profession is that I’ve just about ruined pleasure reading for myself. I’m so well-trained to analyze the writing (Wow! That was a great metaphor. How’d she come up with that? That’s a really effective plot twist. How did he lay the groundwork for it?) that I can rarely sit down with a book as simply a reader. So this month, my theme is the joy of reading, all about books we love. To kick things off for the month, I’m writing a bout children’s books I still love after all these years.

The McBroom Saga

The McBroom books were a series of longer picture books written by Sid Fleischman. The narrator of the stories is always Josh McBroom, the father of the McBroom clan, which consists of his “dear wife” Melissa and eleven redheaded children. They live on a “wonderful one-acre farm” with soil so rich that they can grow a whole corn crop in a matter of days. The farm is so unusual that many of the plots concern the underhanded tactics the family’s neighbor Heck Jones deploys to steal their farm.

I still love these books for the same reasons I did as a kid. First, Mr. Fleischman wrote them in dialect.

Beasts and birds? Oh, I’ve heard some whoppers about the strange critters out here on the prairie. Why, just the other day a fellow told me he’d once owned a talking rattlesnake. It didn’t talk excactly. He said it shook its rattles in Morse code.

Well, there’s not an ounce of fact in that. Gracious, no! That fellow had no regard for the truth. Everyone knows that a snake can’t spell.

McBroom’s Zoo by Sid Fleischman

The dialect reminds me of how my grandparents talked. Small rant here: for some reason I can’t figure out, publishers hate it when authors write in dialect. I understand that we can overdo it and make the dialogue almost gibberish. But when done well, it makes characters stand out. My oldest is a huge fan of the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. Certain tribes of animals talk with specific dialects. My oldest was eleven when he started the series and had no trouble understanding what the characters were saying. So why can’t authors include dialect in YA and adult books? It’s one of life’s unsolved mysteries. Okay. Rant over.

The second thing I loved about this series was the big family. When Josh McBroom wants all his children to gather round, he calls “Willjillhesterchesterpeterpollytimtommarylarryandlittleclarinda!” I thought it would be fun to grow up with so many brothers and sisters.

The Three Investigators

The Three Investigators was a mystery series begun in the 1960’s by Robert Arthur. Three fourteen-year-old boys run a detective business in California and sometimes get work with the help of their friend, Alfred Hitchcock. These books are a step up from the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. The three boys, Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw, and Bob Andrews, have more distinct personalities than the Hardy Boys, especially Jupiter. The brains of the business, he lives with his aunt and uncle in a salvage yard where the boys have converted an old trailer into their office, hiding it amid all the junk. He’s always described as “stocky”, he’s relentlessly logical, and the few illustrations included in the books always show him wearing Hawaiian shirts.

The mysteries are more complicated. In The Mystery of the Scar-Faced Beggar, the boys thwart a gunrunning operation with international repercussions. I had a lot of fun last summer introducing my youngest to these, and he fell in love with them, using them for a book report.

What children’s books do you still love?

In Memoriam

At a writing conference I attended a few years ago, James L. Rubart mentioned that one of his characters was based on a real person he knew. He took that real person, and without any changes, plopped him into his novel as a character. I don’t have the courage to do that to anyone I know. I figure I’ll make them mad somehow. But since it’s Memorial Day in America, this prompt is in memoriam for two people who had a huge influence on my writing, although I didn’t realize how much until recently.

Back in the Mists of Time

My maternal grandparents lived in Fairmont, West Virginia when I was born but moved to a small house out in the country near my hometown in Ohio when I was four. Their house saw some of my most treasured childhood memories: eating a pizza supper on Sunday nights and watching The Wonderful World of Disney, stopping by on a Sunday afternoon and settling down to watch a Tarzan movie with Grandpa, helping in their vegetable garden and orchard, holiday dinners, served buffet style, in the basement and the family gathering around a long plank table while a wood-burning stove provided cozy warmth. To this day, I can’t smell a pine fire without drifting back to Grandpa’s and Grandma’s basement. The smell of cooking onions does the same thing. Grandma was a wonderful cook and baker, and she always had onions cooking in some dish for a meal.

All those memories influenced my YA mystery novel. My main character Rae lost her mother and has just learned who her father is and is getting to know him and the rest of her relatives. Rae’s father, her half-brothers, and grandmother live out in the country. As I shaped their farmhouse, I knew I wanted it to be the haven I’d found at my grandparents’ house. The grandmother isn’t like mine, but she is a fantastic cook and baker. Most of the house’s features were pulled purely from my imagination, but the basement is very close to the one where we had our holiday dinners. It’s also a walkout basement with steps that lead up to a breezeway and detached garage, like at my grandparent’s place. On the family’s property are a garden and orchard.

But more important than the physical similarities, I want to convey to my readers the peace and joy we grandkids found when we visited my grandparents. They were always happy to see us. Always. This isn’t an exaggeration. We could drop by any time unannounced, and not once did they act like they had something better to do than to spend time with us.

After my sister and I were grown, my mom mentioned to her mom how much we enjoyed coming to their house, no matter what we did. Grandma was floored. She thought she was just fixing meals and we were just watching TV or helping around the house. So thank you, Grandpa and Grandma. The love you gave to us lives on. And I have a feeling when I get to Heaven, I’m going to bang in the back door, and you’ll both be there, Grandma cooking and Grandpa giving me a tight hug around my head.

If there’s someone you would to like write about in memoriam, please mention them in the comments below.

Who Are These Characters?

I think it’s hard for adults to write from a child’s perspective. But that’s the challenge of today’s prompt. Who are these characters? My point of view character is the little boy.

“Give me big smiles.”

Sarah is really nice. Just as nice as Daddy said she was. I grin big as me and Tina sit on the front steps. But Tina doesn’t smile.

“Sarah said to give her big smiles,” I tell her.

Tina doesn’t listen. She just keeps staring at Daddy’s girlfriend. Tina isn’t friendly. I don’t know why.

Sarah puts down her camera and searches for something in her backpack. “I left my best lens in my car. Tina, here are my car keys. Would you get it for me? It’s in another backpack that looks almost like this one. “

Tina doesn’t move. She just stares. Then she turns around and runs into our house.

Sarah makes a funny noise and looks like she’s gonna cry.

I jump off the step and pat her hand. “Tina doesn’t like people. She likes cats, thought. She’d like you better if you were a cat.”

For more character prompts, click here.

Thumbnail Sketch for a Mythical Character

A thumbnail sketch for a mythical character presents so many possibilities. Is it a sentient being from a civilization? Or an animal? Does it live in our world or a fantasy world?

If the character is an animal, my sketch is:

Loyal, protective guardian

If the character is an intelligent being, my sketch is:

No-nonsense, determined ruler or soldier

What sketch can you come up with for this mythical character?

For more fantasy prompts, click here.

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