T is for These Happy Golden Years

Unknown-7These Happy Golden Years, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, is the 6th of the 8 books in the Little House on the Prairie series.  I read them all as a child, and then again a few years ago, but These Happy Golden Years is the one that stuck with me.  I re-read it every year or two, and my copy is so well-loved that I have book tape keeping it together.

I went through a time in my later teenage years/ young adult years where I couldn’t get enough romance novels.  Most romance novels these days rely on explicit sex scenes to keep the tension high.  Part of that is that there’s more sex in dating than there was in the 1870s.  Part of it, I think, is that people have forgotten that romance should be… romantic.

This book isn’t a romance novel.  It’s about 15-17 year old Laura, who starts teaching school.  She’s growing up, and part of that is that the older Almanzo Wilder is wooing her. He starts driving her home from the school where she lives on weekends, driving hours through blizzards without asking more than her company.

This contrast with other books I was reading really struck me.  It didn’t rely on words to show affection; it relied on action.  At one point, Laura tells him straight out that she’s not interested in him, and he still continues to be nice to her.

I thought that there had to be sex in romance novels, and maybe that’s what romance readers expect.  But this book helped me realize that I can write a book with romance without getting into all the mechanics of it.  I don’t object to sex scenes, but I think that paying attention to other, more subtle kinds of romance, can have a much larger payoff.

The books are written in a straightforward manner, with simple language and phrases.  It doesn’t rely on flowery words or imagery.  The books just tell the story, and allow the reader to enjoy it.  I love relaxing with these books like I’m relaxing with an old friend.

It took me years to realize that I was also learning some history along with the books.

If I had to read historical fiction in high school instead of that dry history, I would have retained more.

Just sayin’.

Anyway, it’s my favorite book in the series.

Did you read these books?  Do you have a favorite?


Little House on the Prairie- book review

Sorry for the couple of days of not posting.  I had some computer issues and felt too lazy to try to post from my iPad.

I’ve been reading the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I started at the first one, and am up to the fourth in the series.  I remember reading and loving these stories as a kid, and it’s no different now.  One of the things I like about the books is that they detail how to do things that must have been standard back then, like making head cheese or building a log cabin.  I’m not a history fan per se, but I do enjoy history in this context.

It makes me think about how I’ve read writing advice that warns writers not to make their books “dated.”  Being “dated” is one of the reasons I like these books.  Before I go off on a tangent, I highly recommend them. Yes, they’re appropriate for children, but they’re also interesting for adults.

Back to the whole “being dated” thing.  Events don’t occur in a vacuum.  Speech, slang, customs, food, hairstyles, and clothing change over time, and all these things put a story in context.  I can guarantee that the Little House on the Prairie books would be different if the family was used to eating McDonalds and couldn’t get it, as opposed to hunting and growing their own food.  “Drat” was practically cursing back then.

My point is that if a book is going to stand the test of time, it’s probably going to be at least in part because of the context of the book, not in spite of it.  If Huckleberry Finn weren’t tied to a particular time period, would it still be as good?  I understand why the caution not to use slang, but let’s face it… a reader can figure out slang in context.  In the TV series Battlestar Galactica, they changed the primary expletive to the more TV friendly “frak.”  We all knew what that replaced.

So, what do you think about slang and “dating” modern fiction?  Yay or nay?

Friday Writing Prompt- Nostalgia

My pretty garden. 🙂

Nostalgia is a funny thing.  It makes us look at some point in the past through mostly rose colored glasses.  It’s a bit like “the grass is greener,” but refers to actual past events rather than wishful thinking in the present.  I always wonder why people crave something different than what they have, and I suppose it’s human nature.  I don’t generally suffer from “grass is greener” syndrome, but I am a frequent victim of nostalgia.  I crave a time when things were simpler and people were more in touch with the environment, living off the land.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m a techno-junky.  I just wish that it was easier to spend more time outside.  In the case of children, I’m sad that today’s children don’t get to roam and explore the way I did when I was little.

I’ve been reading the Little House on the Prairie series,and I’ve got to say, some things about living in the late 1800’s/ early 1900’s sounds pretty great.  People lived off the land and were grateful for what they had.  I realize that this isn’t everybody, and people were people back then.  Can you imagine the Facebook statuses that would have come out of that time?  Yes, it was really hard work and the life expectancy was way shorter.  I’m not saying that if I had a choice that I would live in that time instead of the present… But I would certainly think about it.

So, on to today’s writing prompt… What are you (or your character) nostalgic for?  Is it a time from your own life (or your character’s), or perhaps a time that you never lived in but sounds pretty great?  If you don’t have any nostalgia yourself, what about “grass is greener” syndrome?

Foods of the Future

Yes, that’s rattlesnake meat. It wasn’t bad.

I recently started re-reading the Little House on the Prairie books.  I probably haven’t read them since I was little, and I’m not sure I read them all back then.  One of the parts of the book I find intriguing is Laura’s descriptions of the food they ate and how it was prepared.  I’ve heard of head cheese before, but didn’t actually know what it was.  Ew.  They ate beef back then, but do you think any of them could have dreamed up a hamburger?

I read an interesting article predicting food trends of the future.  This is actually something I’m curious about, both as a writer and as someone who takes environmental issues seriously.  Will people start eating less meat in the future?  Or will people find a way to continue their current diets?  Will certain foods we consider staples go up in price?  Will we be eating any unfamiliar foods in 50 years?

This article only talks about five predicted food trends, but I learned something.  For instance, did you know they can grow meat in a laboratory now?  I’m not talking about the whole animal… just the meat.  Ew.  But it’s definitely worth reading.