Monthly Archives: November 2013

Book Review: Flowers in the Attic by V. C. Andrews

books

I’ll be the first one to tell you that I love scary things. Whether it be books, movies, or video games, I love any story that gives me the creeps. Blame my weird fascination with horror on R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps series and the television show Are You Afraid of the Dark?. Whatever the cause, I love anything that frightens me. And Flowers in the Attic is no exception. Note: this review contains some spoilers.

I feel like I’m the last person in the world to have heard about this book. V. C. Andrews wrote it in 1979, so it has certainly been around for a while. The book achieved widespread popularity after its release, selling over forty million copies worldwide. In 1987, it was adapted into a movie. Somehow, though, I still hadn’t encountered it until discovering it on a list of contemporary classics. I’m so happy that I found it.

The narrator of the novel is Catherine Dollanganger, a young girl who wants to grow up to become a ballerina. After Catherine’s father dies in an automobile accident, Catherine’s family loses all of their money and possessions. Corinne, Catherine’s mother, moves her four children (Christopher, Catherine, Cory, and Carrie) out of their family home and into the house where she’d lived as a child. Corinne’s wealthy parents have written her out of their will, and she hopes to win back her father’s approval and secure a stable future for herself and for her children.

Upon arriving at Foxworth Hall, the house of Corinne’s parents, the children discover that the grandfather has no idea that they exist. Apparently, he and the grandmother would view them as an abomination because they are the product of incest. Corinne goes along with the grandmother’s plan to hide her children in the attic. The mother assures the children that they will only have to stay in the attic for one night. The next morning, she says, they can come out into the open.

Needless to say, the children spend a great deal more time in the attic than they anticipate. Without giving too much away, days turn into weeks and months and even years. As the children grow older, they also grow weaker. Could it be that their mother has no intention of ever letting them out of the attic?

Flowers in the Attic is a chilling story that reveals the dark side of human nature and the capacity for imagination and innovation in children. This book is certainly not a light read, but it’s hard to put down. If you’re looking for something haunting, psychological, and intense, be sure to pick up V. C. Andrews’ bestselling novel.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

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The Session: An Excerpt

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Author’s Note: This is an excerpt from the short story I read for my senior capstone presentation. If you’re interested in reading more of my work, feel free to contact me.

The therapist’s office was a stuffy, wood-paneled room with beige carpet, tall windows, and mahogany furniture. There were golden curtains on the windows. The room was furnished with four chairs, a desk, a bookcase, and a potted plant. The room reminded Sheila of her gynecologist’s office, though she wasn’t sure why.

“I’ve heard of you two,” said the therapist, a blonde woman who could’ve been a model were it not for her height. “Then again, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t. I’m surprised you’re just now seeking therapy for what you both went through.”

Sheila twisted the white gold band on her left ring finger. Although Dirk had taken his ring off, she wanted to keep hers on. She felt naked without it. She’d grown accustomed to its weight. “This isn’t about the island. It’s about an affair.”

Dirk scratched his red stubble. “It’s about our whole marriage.”

“I see,” said the therapist. She scribbled something on her yellow legal pad and tapped her pen against her nose. She could be pretty, Sheila thought, if only she did something about her weight and her nose.

“A week ago I found him having sex with someone else.” Sheila pulled her hair into a ponytail. She had to keep her hands busy so she wouldn’t bite her cuticles. She’d made them bleed that morning. Her fingertips were covered with polka-dot Band-Aids. “We’ve only been back for two months. How could this have happened so quickly?”

“Did you ask him about it?” the therapist asked.

Sheila felt like smacking her. “Of course I asked him about it. He’s my husband, isn’t he? Why wouldn’t I have asked him?”

“Hey,” said Dirk, bumping Sheila’s knee with his, “do you need to get some air?”

Sheila realized that her nails were digging into her thighs. She stood and smoothed her skirt. “I’d like a drink of water.”

While she watched the therapist pour her a glass from the pitcher, Sheila thought about water. She remembered how much they’d come to value water on the island. She remembered the first few days, lying spread-eagle on the sand with the sun beating down, begging for Dirk to kill her, please, so she wouldn’t die of thirst. She remembered him asking her when. He’d wanted her to be certain when she wanted to go.

In the present, the therapist handed Sheila the glass of water. Sheila sat back down. She chugged the water without stopping and drained the entire glass. Dirk took the empty cup from her and set it on the table in front of them. Sheila wondered if he remembered the water. She wondered if he remembered how it felt to be so thirsty, so bone-dry-as-the-desert inside of his cells.

“Sheila,” said the therapist, “when did you notice that something was amiss?”

Amiss, she said, like their marriage was a painting hanging crooked on the wall. Sheila stared at the glass on the table. She’d always known that she and Dirk were destined for divorce. As high school sweethearts, their chances of growing old together were slim. Both of them had known that going into the marriage. Still, they’d decided to make it work. If Sheila closed her eyes, she could still feel the way her wedding dress hugged her. She remembered the first affair. She remembered the second. Back in the present, her stomach lurched.

“We were doing all right until I cheated,” said Dirk. There was no need for him to elaborate. The therapist had their file. She knew about the affairs. What she didn’t know, thought Sheila, was how their time on the island had almost repaired them. She didn’t know that the day they’d found water had been the first time they’d made love in months. She had no idea that Sheila was pregnant again. She didn’t know that, and she most likely never would.

“Sheila,” said Dirk, “are you sure you’re all right?”

That concludes the excerpt. What did you think?

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NaNoWriMo Tips

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Recently I’ve had a lot of people asking me questions about National Novel Writing Month. While most of the information about this month can be obtained via the official website, I’m writing this post to give you some tips and pointers based on personal experience.

First of all, participate in word sprints. Most of these can be found on Twitter. Word sprints are timed writing sessions, usually of fifteen minutes or more. You group up with a bunch of people and compete to get the highest word count. While I don’t like to participate in word sprints all the time, they’re great for pushing yourself to finish word count.

Next, when you’re writing, describe everything in as much detail as possible. This is not only a good writing strategy, but it also will help you jack up your word count. And that’s what NaNoWriMo is all about (kidding). You can describe setting, people, clothing, and even the weather. Let loose with the description. You can always cut back during the editing process.

That brings me to my next point: don’t edit as you go. First drafts are supposed to be messy. Dump everything out on the page without thinking about it. Yes, it will suck. Yes, it might embarrass you. But if you try to edit as you write, you’ll get so bogged down with the changes you need to make that you might get discouraged and stop putting fresh words down.  There will be plenty of time for editing later.

Hang out on the NaNoWriMo website. There are word count widgets, forums, and pep talks to keep you motivated all month long. Seriously, it’s amazing. There’s nothing more motivating than seeing that word count steadily climb. The forums are great, too because they allow you to get in touch with other wrimos. There are threads for prompts, characters, plot development, music, and more. Check it out here.

Also, if you’re on Pinterest (follow me!), you might want to make a board or two for your novel and its characters. Pinterest can be a great source for inspiration. I always have one board for the novel overall and one for each character as well. On each board, I repin quotes, people, clothing, and other items relating to the novel. It helps more than you think.

So there are just a couple of tips to help you with NaNoWriMo. What tips or advice do you have? What are you writing about this month?

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