Life-Changing Fiction

Hi All –

With the upheaval of trying to sell our house and get ready to move, I’m falling behind on Book 12.  To carve out a bit more time for writing, I’m going to be absent from the Virtual Backyard Book Club for a few weeks.  I’ll post the next new topic around the middle of November.

Meanwhile, feel free to talk among yourselves about anything that strikes your fancy!

Some suggestions:

Have you ever read a work of fiction that fundamentally changed your worldview?  What was the book?  What was the revelation?

Do you “do” Halloween?  What are your favourite autumn activities?

Good pumpkin recipes?

Anything else you want to discuss?

Take it away…

39 thoughts on “Life-Changing Fiction

  1. Fiction that’s changed my life? Yep.

    Robert Heinlein’s Stranger In A Strange Land. Make me question everything I thought I believed in. I was in the Army at the time, went home on leave, got to spend a couple of evenings ‘kroozin’ main’ with some younger buddies who were still in high school. They ALL had just finished Stranger and were going berserk over it. Read it as soon after that as I could and was blown completely away.

    I wouldn’t say that it became the yardstick that I measured my life by, but it did cause me to rethink and reconsider pretty much every facet of how I lived.

    Took a long time to get all that done. After the smoke cleared, I was still pretty much the same person. The process didn’t change me very much, but I had a lot better understanding of WHY I am who I am. That was huge.

    The other major benefit of the book was that it introduced me to Heinlein’s work. He was still very much alive then and still writing as much as his (failing, though I didn’t know it at the time) health would allow.

    Since then, I’ve read every word he’s ever published, essays, everything I can find. Sitting down with a Heinlein book is always time well spent. Always.

    Gad, I miss him.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I’ve thought many times how glorious that would be after a long day of pounding concrete to come home, kick the shoes and socks off and just wiggle and squiggle my poor, aching feet in a perfectly-trimmed, thick, cool bed of real grass in my living room.

        But I’ve thought a lot more about having a cluster of lovely ladies who would bounce over to see what I wanted whenever I yelled, “FRONT!”

        But then reality kicks in again, and I just pick up another hand full of fiction and dive in somewhere else. 🙂


        1. I just remembered another Heinlein book that came out after he passed. It’s called Grumblings From The Grave. His cancer was no longer responding to chemo, so with the time he had left, he began his last book to tell anecdotes and personal history and such. His fan base was vast and eclectic and seriously international, and above all, they (we) were intensely loyal. So much so that he never really got used to it. He certainly never took it for granted. So he worked as quickly as he could. He had extensive notes and wrote from those, but, alas, he didn’t get to finish it.

          So after Ginny, his beloved wife (another redhead, coincidentally) had time to mourn and recover and heal up and all, she took on the task of finishing the work for him and getting it published. Probably as much to help her process it all as anything else, really. Well, that and she had promised him she would.

          I’ve only read it once, and that was decades ago. I was a wreck afterward. And I’ve just thought briefly about reading it again, and I’m almost a wreck again. Clearly, I’ll have to wait a few more decades before I consider it.

          Like I said, I still miss him.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. You won’t regret it. From the juvenile SF he started with to the edgier stuff he finished with, I like it all. One of those ‘right place/right time’ things. All the things I learned from him were like the advice I got from my dad. Yeah, that much.


  2. I also was impressed by Stranger in a Strange Land, but it was so long ago I have forgotten most of it, except that I liked it a lot and caused me to think a lot. I need to read it again.

    I read Kurt Vonnegut’s first collection of short stories and many captured my imagination. I keep telling a woman I’ve known for thirty years, who is a generation older than I, that she just needs a nice new body as in Unready To Wear. It’s not because she longs to be more beautiful, but more for just functionality and no pain. She endures her failing body with great humor and perseverance. Maybe we can evolve to no longer needing to schlepp our wasteful human carcasses around. Sounds like heaven to me. I’ve read everything Vonnegut’s written, I think. My favorite book was Cat’s Cradle which comforted me in my inability to share my family’s religious faith. What a mind he had! He graded himself with an A for it. I agree.

    There are other authors whose books I have read repeatedly, for various reasons but attitude or life changing author? Vonnegut’s my guy.

    Funniest book I ever read? Our Hearts Were Young and Gay, by Cornelia Ottis Skinner and Emily Kimbrough, an autobiographical tale of the ocean voyage and travels of two innocent young ladies in Europe for their first time during the roaring 20s.

    The best explanation of the importance of novels and where creativity comes from- Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salmon Rushdie. It was written while he was in hiding to explain to his son, “What is the use of stories when they aren’t even true?” In so few words, Rushdie spins a tale of such beauty, truth, and complexity to entertain and educate young children and the adults who read to children. I have been unable to make my way through other books by Rushdie, but I think this one is a masterpiece.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Just remembered a Far Side cartoon: A fish is sitting in a wing-back chair wearing reading glasses with a pen held in his fin. He’s at a desk with a thick writing pad. The caption:

      The Atlantic Verses, by Salmon Rushdie.

      Cracked me up.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve not read Stranger in a Strange Land, but now will!!!
    A book series for me was David Eddings “Belgariad” Series. It opened my eyes to the world of fantasy and I’ve been hooked ever since.
    On the opposite side of that, I remember way back when I decided to try the Oprah Book Club. The first book I got from her list was “When Rabbit Howls”…can’t remember the author. I never finished the book….it was way too depressing and too disturbing to me. It was an autobiography about a woman with multiple personalities and what happened to her to shatter her soul into all of her personalities. (I think she had/has 24)…..that’s when I decided I would only read fiction….the news is sometimes bad enough, I don’t have to go pay to read more misery and negativity!!!!! 😦

    Liked by 2 people

    1. If you liked Belgariad, then you’ll love Elenium and Tamuli. If you haven’t read these, you’ve missed something. My older son loaned me his set, and I burned through them. Twice. And more times since then. I’ve read some of his other series, but these two are my favorites. Tamuli takes up right where Elenium ends; same characters, same world, etc.

      It was these series from Eddings that got me interested in fantasy.

      There’s more to Sparhawk than meets the eye. Just so you know. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I might add this here: I read somewhere a few years ago that the estates of David and Leigh Eddings, upon their passing, left the tidy sum of EIGHTEEN MILLION DOLLARS to their alma mater. After their fairly modest beginnings financially, that represents quite a lot of pretty good fantasy, I’d say.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Okay, it’s Wednesday again, so how about this one?

    Do we ‘do’ Halloween?

    No. Thought it through years ago, and we decided that such things were not what we really wanted to celebrate. We have neighbors up and down our street who just get crazy with every holiday, regardless, but we pretty much just celebrate Christmas these days.

    Favorite fall activities? For us, the biggie is NOT SWEATING OUR BRAINS OUT BECAUSE IT’S NOT SUMMER ANYMORE!!

    I’m no fan of raking leaves, and I hate to see all the grass turn brown. I guess if I had to, I’d confess that fall is my least favorite season. Watching the world turn brown always kind of bums me out. Early spring is okay, cuz the cold backs off and green starts appearing again, but then the wind starts in these parts. Brown, lumpy air that eats paint and blurs windshields? Nope, not my favorite, either.

    Winter’s okay. They’re pretty mild here. We get ice much more often than we get snow, but even with that, it rarely gets bad. Winter here is doable, really. The only downside for me is the absence of green.

    Late spring is my favorite, if I had to pick one. Lots of green, heat isn’t crazy yet, and school is nearly out. What’s not to like? 🙂

    Okay, who’s next?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. As a kid I liked Halloween- the costumes you had to rummage around for amongst the odds and ends in the house, because there was no way my folks were purchasing junky costumes at the local Five an Dime for all seven of us kids. Cross dressing was good for a laugh and it wasn’t hard to become a bum or a bag lady. We weren’t allowed to cut eye holes in a perfectly good white sheet or destroy clothes that were still wearable by over-enthusiastic modifications. We also couldn’t purchase makeup to finish out the look, we had to use whatever was in the house or burn cork in a teetotaler household. No help from Mom or Dad. It was our holiday so we were on our own. Luckily there were clothes in the house from around the world and vintage stuff from the 30’s forward. It was a very creative enterprise to come up with a good costume and to help the younger sibs with their costumes.

      The schools killed the joy by sending us out with collection tins to force us into collecting change for UNICEF. Hardly anyone in the neighborhood were prepared to contribute coins in addition to candy.

      I was always freaked out at the homes where the adults wore costumes or who turned their interiors into haunted houses.

      I was humiliated because of the cheap junk candy my mom bought to give out carefully one per child. Then she also would hand out horrid religious tracts she got by the gross lots at church that were so out of date that the kids had never heard of the “heros” featured on them. Ugh.

      As an adult I don’t quite understand why other adults are still fascinated with costumes until I went to some great costume parties. People put a ton of work into creating their own costumes that spoke to current events or were visual puns. Nobody rented stuff. I wasn’t wanting to deal with the whole thing, so a friend gave me a bunch of cast off bits and pieces of black lace, dark green velvet and greenish black and purple taffeta and satin from her custom bridal party scrap box and I made myself a Disneyesque Evil Godmother ball gown costume. I made a lace crown based on something I saw Merly Streep wear in Out of Africa. Mine was made from wire hangers bent into a frame, black lace, and lots of green, purple and black sequins to hide the wire structure. I put a temporary rinse in my hair to make it black, curled it into hundreds of tight ringlets with rags, sprayed it with touches of silver and piled most of it inside my black lace crown. I added a theatrical putty nose and lengthened my chin added some hairy warts and added clawlike fingernails. I was spectacular and freaked out all the little kids I saw. I was amazed that people still recognized me immediately despite the dramatic makeup and very different hair and elaborate gown. I had to cut off most of my hair after Halloween because the temporary rinse had dyed my blond streaks green long before it was remotely fashionable.

      I know a family who completely turns their house into a house of horrors every year and has a big party for the adults. I don’t get why they do it, but I trotted out my evil godmother costume once more. It was an okay time. That family goes nuts at Christmas too-every door knob, every dish, everything in within view is Christmassy. Yikes! Better them than me.

      The first year I moved to the ‘hood I bought candy and eagerly awaited the costumed kids. Other than one kid in a pathetic junky store bought costume, only one or two kids smeared some lipstick streaks on their cheeks and forehead and otherwise wore their regular clothes, or else they made no effort whatsoever to change their appearance. Although I live in a densely populated area, I had only a dozen kids come to my door that year, and fewer the next. Almost no one bothered with costumes. I ended up just buying a large chocolate bar for each of the kids in the other half of the house. Bah humbug, now that I no longer know any kids who celebrate Halloween. Now I grab something to read and turn out the rest of the lights and go bed early.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You nailed it about UNICEF. I’ve wondered many times about how much good all that coin-gathering did. When I was a kid, the big thing was C.A.R.E. Even now, I still hear people talking about sending some one a ‘care’ package, even though they’re not nearly old enough to know what they really were. At the time, everyone thought it was the end-all/be-all charity for helping ‘those poor, unfortunate people overseas.’ Then the big scandal blew up about how the percentage of funds that actually made it to where all the contributors thought they were going had dropped almost to nothing. The big bucks all stuck at the top, of course. Monster salaries, lavish lifestyles, greed, avarice, the whole ugly mess.

        Dunno how much real good UNICEF did for anyone else, but it pretty much took the rest of the little dab of fun out of Halloween that we were able to manage.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I love Halloween, never really did anything growing up but in the last decade I have dressed up and done parties. I’m a big kid really.

    I have loads of Halloween themed things in my house but I always was a bit Goth.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ok um …..

      Bit random, it’s bonfire night tomorrow, Friday in the UK, we celebrate someone trying to blow up parliament many years ago, or was it the plot being stopped.

      Anyway do you have any odd holidays

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Okay, Karen, so did Guy Fawkes get burned to smitheroonies again last night? (Smitheroonies are like smithereens, except they’re smaller and harder to sweep up. FYI. And Thuh Missus is gonna be outta town this evening, so it’s me in front of the toob to watch V For Vendetta again. Popcorn, the works.)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I never did understand groundhog day. I do admit America has some strange holidays, most seem odd but fun

    Ok I thought of a proper topic.

    Do you have a favourite Hellhound moment?!

    I loved him from his first introduction, a big guy in full biker gear. I laughed til I cried when he was the annoying Texan (no offence to Texans). I couldn’t put the book down when he was caught by fuzzy bunny and Aydan found him in a similar with broken finger’s, I loved the way she managed to convince him it wasn’t real, his leap of faith to trust her.

    Do you have a favourite Hellhound moment? Or is there another character you think has better moments?

    Liked by 2 people

  7. If I remember correctly, didn’t Arnie take a guy down in a park parking lot with a trank pistol from some hundreds of yards away? I’ll burn through the series again soon and bookmark the place, but I think every time I read that, “Now, THAT’S a SHOOTER! Way to go, Hellhound!”

    I’ve always considered myself to be a better than average shot with anything I’ve ever picked up, but that sort of shooting…I gotta hand it to Arnie. That’s some shootin’, as we say here.

    I agree with your choices, too, Karen, just so you know. Those are great Arnie moments. And I always like the way he calms Aydan and looks after her when she’s upset.


    1. One of my favourite Aydan moments is her and smith in the pottery shop when she lets loose with a full clip., Couldn’t have happened to a better person.

      Like you I’m looking forward to re-reading them shortly. The audible book really got me in the mood to start at the beginning again, just have to finish the two books I have on the go already

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Concur. And a side effect of her spray-painting a localized area of the floor with the back of Smith’s head was that Stemp let her get by with it. The only sort of reprimand he gave her was the barest admonition that he would’ve liked to interrogate Smith first. Which I took to indicate that Smith still would have met with the same–or similar–fate.

        And from Stemp, that wasn’t even the tiniest slap on the wrist, so to speak.

        Another favorite Hellhound moment: When Stem asks him were he got the gun, I had to laugh at the cock-and-bull story that Arnie, er, extemporized. “Found it.” Then turned it into a ‘good Samaritan’ thing by implying that by doing so he was keeping someone else from getting into serious trouble with it. Gad, that who thing was beautifully done. And pure Hellhound, at that. Perfect.

        I cannot for the life of me figure out why some influential Hollywood type isn’t throwing truckloads of money at Diane to turn this into a movie franchise.

        Look. I mean, seriously here. If someone can turn the Jack Reacher books into a movie franchise starring Tom Cruise–WHO IS A WHOLE FOOT SHORTER THAN THE CHARACTER HE PLAYS IN THE BOOKS, well, it looks to me like ANYTHING AT ALL is possible.

        And the truly amazing thing is this: IT WORKS! I’ve seen both Reacher movies, and, despite my early skepticism, I liked both of them. A lot. The second even more than the first, which, for me, is REALLY rare. And I’m pretty anxious to see a third one. And a fourth. And as many more as possible.

        I like the Reacher books. Some more than others, granted, but I do like them all. And now I find that I like the movies, Tom Cruise included, just as well.

        And I’d like the NSS movie franchise even better. It just needs doing. It really does need doing.

        With all the money I’ll get when my magnum opus is published, maybe I can bankroll the operation myself. Or if I can’t swing it alone, Karen, we can team up after your book hits the best-seller list. Hey, it could happen! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I would imagine that your book is more likely to be finished than mine, life takes over and I don’t get time to actually write, mind I have to admit I had two days off this week and neither was spent at the laptop, I had a spa day out with my mum on Friday and yesterday was spent watching DVDs before having an evening with friends. But I think I’m going to try and have at least an hour or so each day not so much typing but trying plan out stuff. When we in the spa i have to say apart from a couple of women who didn’t seem to stay long we weren’t disturbed at all would be a perfect setting for a murder. No staff came into the area the whole time we were there.

          I think there should be a film of the books but part of me wonders if any of would agree as go the actors as we all see then differently in our minds eyes. But I could deffo offer support for a film.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. You both have mentioned great Hellhound moments. My favorites are always whenever he has serious talks with Aydan. Then again, I loved the fishbowl moment at the hospital when they were gonna get married on the 30th or 31st of February.

          I am also sorry to say I missed the Reacher books and probably the movies. Sounds like I have some catching up to do.

          I also think filmmakers should have a look at Diane Henders’s books. However, I’m sure they’d cast people with far too good looks in the roles. Even Diane’s own suggested casting is far too glamorous to fit her description of Hellhound’s battered face and a possible bit of residual Molson Muscle. (See the Extra tab on the website.) I like Diane’s looks, therefore I like Aydan’s looks, especially the new covers. I know that Diane probably is more carefully groomed for those cover shoots than for any other event to date, but she still looks like someone you’d see in your normal travels, doing normal things like everyone else. Hollywood would find the most gorgeous redhead they could find and try to put her in crisp new jeans and nail color and lipstick and tons of makeup and a carefully curled and teased hairdo to work on her vehicles or to do renovations on the house. There would be no muffin top, no 5 or 10 extra pounds, no jiggly bits etc. to be found on any character to laugh about before evicting Hooker from the bedroom. I love that in these books the most attractive people have the most minor roles to play-so far. Carl, Jack, and Ms Francis come to mind. Exactly opposite the way TV and movies cast their characters.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Yeah, casting is always a risky proposition. Loved Tom Clancy’s book, “The Hunt For Red October.” Wasn’t impressed by the movie very much. Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan? Nope. The new shadow-ops take-off on Clancy’s work starring Chris Pine? VERY nice! I like that one a lot. Harrison Ford was a good Jack Ryan, too, back in the day, but he took the part in sort of a different direction than I’d always pictured it.

            And who could portray Aydan well enough to ‘sell’ it to US, the loyal readers who already know in our heads exactly what every major character looks like due to our long association with them? ‘Tis a puzzlement, for sure.

            Same with the others, as you’ve said. Who could portray Arnie? Or John? Or Stemp? Any random blonde beauty could be Jack, also as you pointed out. But who could be the beanpole that Spider is and still sell the honest, kind-hearted, geek in there?

            No clue. But I’d sure risk it. 🙂

            Along with all the other things that I like so much about NSS, it’s that the main characters are all real people with real personalities and real baggage that make it all so very good. (And yes, I do remember that they are all fictitious characters in a fictional world. Darn it.)

            Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve never read a jack reacher book, but I’ve heard from people who have that the idea of tom cruise playing the lead was silly but apparently it worked I guess on day I will get round to trying one of the books.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Give ’em a shot. A couple even have part of their settings in your neck of the woods. The author is actually from the U.K., so maybe he got it right. He made a couple of rather glaring mistakes in Texas, but for the rest of what he does I can overlook that. Infrequently. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well it’s Wednesday again.

        I had a thought, with Diane moving across country will our aydan and co move too??? Or will there be a book or two set on new shores as it were.
        I mean there would be interesting ways of switching between the two although it would be Diane’s choice and as readers we would love whatever she did

        Liked by 2 people

        1. We’ve already been introduced to the island via the commune, remember? We all loved Moonbeam Meadow Sky and Orion and Cosmic River Stone etc. We’ve beeen introduced to the neighborhood, already. Diane promised me a return to the rainforest at some point to re-explore the sensual properties of the forest.
          If you want to experience a little of the magic of the temperate rainforest a bit earlier than Diane will bring us back there, read Our Lady of the Forest, a novel by David Guterson.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. But the only real glimpse of Vancouver Island we got was at the commune itself, and that was, er, rural. Lovely, of course, but still rural. I was thinking of something more urban, say Victoria. Or perhaps, Nanaimo.

            Then again, the SD offices could be up the coast a ways in, say, Ladysmith. After all, SD’s headquarters is in the small town of Silverside and not Calgary. And certainly not Ottawa.

            But of course, this discussion never happened… 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

            1. And we aren’t supposed to speculate lest someone manages to suss out a plot point by pure luck and claims authorship.

              We’ve lost a Canadian treasure today in Leonard Cohen. I am grateful for his gift to the world.

              Liked by 1 person

  9. Now that’s a thought! How about it, Diane? Any chance of Aydan getting to work out of the Vancouver office of Sirius Dynamics occasionally?

    And of course SD has an office in Vancouver. But it’s need-to-know, and we didn’t. Yet. Maybe.

    Or one could speculate a bit about such an office being opened in the not-too-distant future if such a place did not already exist. So…if such an office should open, it would need a director, would it not? Which, of course, would provide an opportunity for one of the highly-respected and vastly experienced Silverside agents to be promoted up into administration and out of field work.

    But if a field agent were to be promoted and transferred to such a place, that might cause a major plot element or two to revolve around some sort of family issues (screaming whack-job ex-wife, child he needs to reconnect with, that sort of thing).

    For this newly-promoted director, I’m thinking someone tall, handsome, very fit, deadly with or without weapons, dark hair with a sprinkling of gray at the temples, you know, a total stranger that we’ve never met.

    But since we can’t really speculate about such things and must confine our discussions to existing works, well, just forget I mentioned it.

    Move along, folks. Nothing to see here. Move along… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I like it, I really like it.

      Well I guess you and I are on the naughty step for this, but I couldn’t resist once the thought popped into my head it’s like those pesky murders scenes I keep getting ideas for and have to write down

      Liked by 2 people

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