The Frog Who Could Not Jump

Once, there was a frog living with his large family of frogs nearby a small pond. Every day all the frogs would jump out of the water, only to jump right back in to the water again. All frogs, except one. He would simply sit by the pond and look as all the rest of the frogs with a sad expression upon his green face. When his father and brothers invited him to the play of jumping in and out of the pond he would croak very quietly that he did not feel like it. His father and brothers did not pester him about it more pressingly, though they kept asking him every morning if he wanted to come with them, and every morning the frog told them no.

None in his family knew his secret. Every night he would sneak out of his little frog bed, creep along the side bank of the pond to the clearing on the other side. Here he would practice. For this particular frog could not jump. He dared not tell this secret to anyone, for fear of being laughed at. So, in order to prevent this, he sneaked out each night to practice his feeble jump. But no matter how much he stretched and stretched before attempting to jump across the clearing, his legs would not bend correctly and lift him of the ground as all the other frogs did. Despite many years of training he had still not mastered the art of jumping, and you would think it would come natural to him, being a frog and all.

So, again that night he would return to bed with a sad heart. Sure enough, his father and brother asked him to jump with them the following day too. But instead of sitting by the pond and looking enviously as the other frogs, he crept away deeper into the forest. Here he found a small boulder, on to which he climbed, for of course he could not jump on to it. And here he began to cry. He wept and wept till he felt empty of tears. By then, a young girl had sneaked up behind the crying frog and she felt sorry for the tiny creature.

“Why do you cry little fellow?” She asked and the sound of her voice made the frog start and almost fall of the boulder. He clambered back on to the boulder and told the girl why he was crying.

“Well, maybe I can help you.” Said the girl and she scooped up the tiny frog. With the frog in one hand she went to another pond deep in the forest. She put the frog in the water and told him to use his legs as if he were on land and tried to jump. This made the frog scoot through the water, back and forth, faster and faster. The girl then picked the frog out of the water and told him to do the same on land as he had done in water.

But sadly it did not prove to work. The frog began to weep again. The girl picked him up and bade him not to cry. But the frog could not stop. He told the young girl how he was the only frog by the pond that could not jump. The girl told the frog not to fret; she would return the next day and try to help him again. That night, for the first time in a long time, the frog did not sneak out to practice his jump. The girl kept her promise and returned the next day with two small balls made of rubber. She tied these to the frog’s legs and asked him to try again. The frog had never been happier than he was now. He bounced and bounced higher and higher in the air. As high as the girl was tall. He thanked the girl a plenty and jumped back to his family by the pond. There he showed off his new ability to jump as high as he might. But sadly the strings tying the balls to his feet came apart and the frog fell to the ground with a loud plop. Just as he had feared, all the other frogs laughed at him. With tears streaming he ran to the other pond. The girl found him there. In an attempt to comfort the little frog she bent down and kissed his head. By a stroke of magic or pure luck, the frog turned into a young prince.

“That is why you could not jump. You are a prince!” Exclaimed the girl in a voice of surprise. The young prince thanked the girl heartedly and kissed both her cheeks, which in turn flushed scarlet red. The minute the frog had turned prince, the memory of his frog family had left him and he remembered his real family, who must have missed him in the years he had been a frog. He asked the girl for one more favor, to help him find his family and she obliged him in much eagerness.

In return, the prince took the friendly girl to be his bride in a matter of few years. For who could object to a girl willing to help a frog who could not jump?

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Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth

When I read Nicole’s piece Inadvertent Nostalgia, the part where she reflects on her previous brutal treatment of her characters struck me because those words resembled something I’d been thinking (obsessing) about for the past few days. I’m a bit unsure of my protagonist’s behavior lately. To be perfectly honest, I don’t really like her much of the time. She’s selfish, insecure, occasionally needy and she’s questioning everything. For crying out loud, I’m trying to write a book here and she keeps whining about what I put her through.

I love to read about heroes and heroines who knows how to handle whatever crap the writer decides to fling their way, and I want my heroine to do the same, but oh no. She’s been busy complaining about the loss of her husband to be of much use to me. So I thought to myself, fine if that’s how you want to play it, bring it on. Two can play that game. I figured if she was going to be this much trouble I might as well milk it. I wanted my story to take a turn for the worse. I wanted my wannabe heroine to explore the darkest parts of herself, but the moment that decision had been made, she just wouldn’t do it.

I’d given her permission, a sort of get out of jail free card if you will, to really go to town with her less than perfect personality. I figured I would go by the old proverb “if you can’t beat them, join them”, and allow my protagonist to throw ethics and moral along with caution to the wind. But the moment I did, what did she do? Instead of corrupting my story, she suddenly developed a backbone. Suddenly, she wasn’t a sniveling, selfish bitch or a neurotic wreck on crack. She started to take responsibility and behave more like the woman I wanted her to be. My gosh, maybe there is something to this reversed psychology stuff after all.

My story started to pick up speed and I was pretty darn pleased with myself, but I should’ve remembered that pride stands before a fall. Re-reading what I’d written in the harsh criticizing light of day, a nagging voice inside of me asked me (in a deceptively silky voice) if maybe I was skirting the uncomfortable truth, which is that when I created my main character, integrity was in short supply. This brings me to my point with all of this, namely the question about telling the truth when you write.

Stephen King says that you should always write the truth no matter how terrible, brutal and plain offensive the truth is. And I agree, but like Nicole, I don’t think it’s necessary to kill all of your characters in gruesome ways in order to prove to yourself that you don’t give a damn about what any prudes out there might think. That would be, in social worker terms, what we like to call “an illusion of work”. (If you’re wondering, yes, I got plenty more annoying terms where that one came from.)

In the case of my willful “heroine” I’ve realized that she’s not such an awful person as I’ve been thinking, she’s simply a very ordinary, human woman with very ordinary, human reactions. Like any ordinary human she screws up, repeatedly, but when push comes to shove, her heart is in the right place. Perhaps I’m channeling all of my own faults into this one and that’s why I’m having such a hard time accepting the stupid things she does.But psychoanalysis aside, my protagonist is (whether Stephen King would approve or not) finally stepping up to the plate, and that is the truth. In a way, maybe that is an offensive truth to make such an unlikeable character likeable.

So people, the lesson amidst all of this rambling is: Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but don’t write only for what Nicole calls the shock value, simply to raise a few eyebrows. Sometimes the truth isn’t such a terrible, brutal and offensive thing after all.

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Inadvertent Nostalgia

This morning, while enjoying a breakfast of Blueberry Muffin Frosted Mini-Wheats and a banana, I made an initially horrific discovery.  A discovery that, even with the sheer amount of homework I had, drove me to our lovely blog and demanded that I write about it.  It was quite persistent.

That, of course, and the fact that I’m procrastinating. Senioritis has struck me hard and at the worst possible time, but anyway. Back to Nicole Story Time.

To put this all into context, I’d been reading a few blogs this morning, minding my own business and generally still a bit sleepy, when I stumbled upon an article about internet identity.  The blogger had Googled her own name on a whim and realized that the first search hit was her Xanga account from when she was 14 — obviously, this was quite alarming, considering she’s now graduating from college and applying for jobs, and she doesn’t want her emoticons and early high-school boy crushes to cost her employment.  Reading this article sent a little frisson of terror down my spine.  Like many other young adults, I spent a good portion of my adolescence online, and I’d written a lot of things (both fiction and journaling — why anyone thought LiveJournal was good for society, I’ll never know) that I’d rather never see the light of day.

When I was younger, I was a bit paranoid about internet security.  My parents refused to buy things online for fear of identity theft (which at the time was annoying when I wanted to get in on the eBay craze, but in hindsight was a smart move).  For some reason, I was terrified that someone would take something I had written (copied and pasted from my online journal, I feared), and claim it as his/her own.  In terms of irrational fears, I obviously favored the more mundane.  But, as a result, things I wrote were always hidden behind “friends only” locks or tagged with little copyright bubbles with an internet penname.  Even years later, I’m meticulous about my Facebook settings and other social media outlets I use on a regular basis.   So naturally, because of my past caution, I figured that searching my own name would probably not come up with anything of any great importance.  I’m applying to graduate schools, and it wouldn’t be terribly uncommon if they were to do a cursory search.

So, I typed my name in and hit search.  The first page of Google results was acceptable.  Nothing interesting was revealed except for a few hits on my friends-only Facebook page, along with the realization that nearly 150 women with my same name live in the USA.  However, disaster struck when smack dab on the second page was the full text of a story that I had written junior year of high school.  I hadn’t put it online — I had entered a writing contest in high school, and the link was to an official university webpage.  I must have given them permission some time nearly five years ago to publish it, and there it was, sitting on the internet, free for all to read and judge.

Now, at this point, I’m not concerned that it’s going to be stolen.  Heck, if someone wants to use it and make it the next blockbuster (or horror film, or flip book plot, ballet choreography, etc.), I’ll be as shocked as the next chick on the street.  Instead, I was more surprised by the way my writing has changed, and in my estimation, for the better.  In high school (and earlier) I wrote a lot more angrily, using violence to supplement character development.  I loved words like “weeping,” “tears,” and “blood.”  My sentences were confusing and convoluted, and if this story was anything to judge by, I thought I understood how neuroscience worked.  I wrote a lot for shock value, and scanning the words I couldn’t believe that my teachers and peers had read this piece.

Looking back now, I’m deeply grateful for the improvement that I’ve managed to achieve in the years that followed this particular piece; taking classes at my university has definitely allowed me to better hone my craft, and I’m a much happier person.  University has been kind to me (oh, the irony of saying that now while I’m eyeball-deep in stress) and I love the world of academia.  I can still tap into the dark imagery I used then, but I don’t rely on it.  Which is good, because you can only kill so many characters.  It makes me sad.

So, in conclusion, I don’t know if anyone else will stumble on the piece or what they’ll think.  Seeing that the page is dated and it’s obvious that it was put up in 2006, I don’t have any real cause for alarm.  Well, other than a slight wince of embarrassment when I think about it.

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Christmas

Do they know it’s Christmas? I am willing to bet countless of things that coming December first not one person can say they do not know it’s Christmas. By then, they will have had at least one or two weeks to prepare with countless of premature Christmas decorations all over the city and shops.

For days on end we walk around in a pre-Christmas haze with no real inkling of what to do for Christmas, other than to buy the innumerable number of presents for every member and non-member of the family. I wonder though, have we forgotten what Christmas is all about, or have we simply distorted it to fit our own modernized needs?

We jolly up and down the street browsing at all the windows looking for the perfect present all the while trying to figure out a perfect budget for the month. But we have forgotten the reason behind finding these presents for each other. Suddenly Santa Clause is coming to town here and there. He’s in every department store greeting every little child and giving them hopes of a jolly Christmas where the parents won’t fight over the overcooked turkey or the spilled gravy, all because we can say thank God it’s Christmas.

Because Christmas is also a time for families to gather and come together, it’s the time of the year where I’m able to say I’ll be home for Christmas. Because there’s nothing else for me to do except be with my family and enjoy the day with the company, for one single day of the year. Starting around noon with coffee and cake, followed with a beautiful sight we’re having tonight, walking in a winter wonderland. We take this one day out of the year to just be happy together and not really think about the hectic workday (which we have to return to once the weekend is over).

But every year I bet every person will agree everything has been worth it and are already looking forward to next year. And this in spite of all the jokes about not doing Christmas next year because of all the hard work it takes and all the money that goes into it. But every year we do it again.

Not so much because of the presents, they are just a perk, but because of the feeling of Christmas that’s only there that one time of year.

It’s the one time a year we get to say; Have yourself a merry little Christmas.

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Th Experiment

This story came from a dream I had some days ago and I felt I had to put it in writing to savour it.

***

 

>>We’ve been friends for how long now?<< Marie asked as she unlocked her front door.

>>I don’t know, a couple of years I suppose.<< James answered and followed her inside. She took of her jacket but told him to keep his on.

>>There’s no point in you staying if this doesn’t work.<< She told him and wasn’t surprised at his bewildered expression.

>>I’ve been thinking about doing something for a while now. So bear with me now.<< He shrugged in agreement as she tool a calming breath for herself. Then she moved closer, took his hands and she could see it was starting to dawn on him what she was about to do. She kissed his cheeks first, left then the right one very softly. And then she found his lips and kissed him. It was an innocent kiss, there was no tongue and it only lasted some seconds. After that she left go of his hands, which he let fall down his sides and stepped back.

>>How did you like my experiment?<< She said in a soft whisper. He had to clear his throat before he could answer.

>>Where did that come from?<<

>>It’s something I’ve wanted to do for some time. Should I not have done it?<<

>>No, no I mean…<< He faltered and she could tell she really had stumped him. He literally didn’t have the words. After a long moment of silence he came to hug her and she thought it was his way of letting her down easy, but then she felt his hand move down to her lover back and his cheek against hers. Soon they were forehead to forehead and their warm breaths brushed their faces.

>>Can we try something else then?<< He said hoarsely and before she had even nodded he was kissing her, this time there was definitely tongue. His other hand had moved to her hair and was using it to pull her face close to his. She unzipped his jacket and wrapped her arms around his warm body.

>>I guess I just ruined our friendship.<< She said, emphasizing the friend-part, when they broke apart.

>>I think I’m glad you did.<< They both chuckled.

>>You can take your jacket of now.<<

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A Love Affair To Remember

The other day I had a friend over for dinner (and yes, for those of you who are wondering, I do, on occasion, cook, though I’m certainly no Stepford wife, kinda would have to be married to manage that, but never mind). After dinner, and may I mention, homemade cookies, had been consumed, my friend told me a story I found, as a well known book lover, somewhat grotesque.

It went as follows; a professor at the university my friend attends, had told her that the more popular an author is, the worse his or her books tend to be. Which is a not very subtle way of saying that if you happen to be a bestselling author your books are crap. Wtf?! It is my belief that this professor, whoever he is, has probably spent way too many hours stuck in his dusty little cupboard of an office re-reading an e-mail from an independent publishing house telling him that no, regrettably they won’t be publishing his highly fascinating intellectual sequel on some obscure, deeply philosophical topic seeing that his first book only sold about four copies, sorry about that.

I find it most likely that this professor then spent the remaining hours of his work day fuming over Dan Brown’s unfathomable (to this professor at least) success, and then tearing out the little hair he has left, as the poor (in every meaning if the word) professor contemplated how many gazillion copies Mr. Brown has sold and how his publisher is practically salivating at the prospect of another book involving Professor Robert Langdon. Now that’s a professor who knows how to sell a book!

But let’s get back to the issue at hand here. Not all bestsellers are despaired of or obstinately ignored in higher literary circles. Take Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment or Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar for instance. I’m sure those books must have sold roughly a zillion copies each, yet they’ve never had to suffer condescending looks from long, pointy nosed intellectuals. (I’m generalizing here, I’m sure there are intellectuals with very fine looking noses out there too.) When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out I spent the entire day reading it. I started at breakfast and didn’t put it down until I’d finished gobbling it up at around 10.30 pm. I’d stuck by those characters through sickness and health, for better and for worse for the past eight years, and I would see it through to the very end. And I did, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one either.

Now, how many can honestly, scout’s honor, say that they’ve spent the entire day reading Crime and Punishment, and, most importantly, enjoying it? Hmmm? Exactly. If anyone out there actually has, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but you need to find yourself another therapist, because the one you’re seeing is obviously not working. I’m not saying that Dostoyevsky and Plath didn’t know what they were doing. As writers I mean, not as human beings. As the latter, I strongly suspect they were both a little (a polite way of saying a lot) lost. But Plath certainly was an able writer. She conveyed that cloying sense of claustrophobia and hopelessness so well that by the end of the book, I too felt like sticking my head in the oven and be done with it.

The point I’m trying to make here, somewhat chaotically, is that books, for me at least, are about love. And love means happiness, joy and if you’re very lucky, ecstatic thrills. Great books are for me the ones filled with amazing epic adventures and wonderfully passionate whirlwind romances, the kind of books where I can hardly catch my breath. Besides, apart from the most resent bestsellers such as Twilight and the likes, there are many popular books which in time have become renowned classics. Take Gone with the Wind (I gorged myself sick on that one), or Jane Eyre (ah, Mr. Rochester…) and Wuthering Heights (hello, Heathcliff!). Not to mention Pride and Prejudice, I absolutely love the BBC version. That scene where Mr. Darcy comes up from the water, all dripping wet, white shirt clinging to his well-shaped muscular chest… Ehm, right, well back to the point.

As I was saying, those books, though immensely popular, have become classics to be brought down from one generation to another. I don’t think popularity for a book means an automatic death sentence for its quality. The notion that if something becomes widely popular you can’t like it anymore, unless you’re a complete idiot, is rubbish in my opinion. Even if that were to be the case, I think I’ll agree with Monty Python; Oh how sweet to be an idiot…

I’ve loved vampire books since before I could read and just because every pimply faced, gangly female teenager on the planet is currently supporting either Team Edward or Team Jacob these days, doesn’t mean that I’ve suddenly gone off vampire books. It might not have become more sociably acceptable to like vampire books (on the contrary I find), but it’s a whole lot easier to get your hands on. Sure you can argue that there might be writers out there who know how to exploit this frenzy, but screw it. If they know what they’re doing, count me in.

It’s not just vampire books, a lot of my other absolute favorite books are bestsellers, like those of Stephen King. I love his books and yet there are those who claim that he could publish his grocery list and it’d still make the New York Times Bestseller list. So what? I still get completely lost in his stories (maybe even a little too lost sometimes). For me it becomes about feeling what the characters feel, seeing what they see and hearing what they hear. It’s about sharing their laughter and sorrow, and if this sounds disturbingly passionate and slightly schizophrenic, then so be it.

To me books are my great passion. Books are my one true love that has always and will always be a part of me. I know that when I’m old and wrinkly, resembling a prune someone left behind in the back of a cupboard, stuck in some forgotten nursing home and all chances of having wonderfully passionate whirlwind romances of my own are long gone, I can still pick up one of my favorite books and find love between those well-thumbed pages.

I won’t argue that some books regarding important and vital matters of either a political, ethical or philosophical nature, even if they only reach a limited audience, can’t make a difference, because they can. But even those bestsellers that aren’t perceived as intellectual can still be smart and clever, warm and witty, fun and charming. Those smart, clever, warm, witty, fun and charming bestsellers do often broach important matters in their own humble way, and it works. If it didn’t they wouldn’t become bestsellers in the first place. Those books speak a language that people can relate to and they touch people’s lives. And no university professor is ever going to convince me of otherwise.

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What I’ve Been Reading….

I recently finished the debut novel ‘The Passage’ by Justin Cronin. (I call it a debut novel, because I’d never really heard of him before I read this, but when I went on-line to do some research I found out he’d written more prior to this one, however it would seem this is the one to make him big among the rest.)

I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and I hardly ever do that, but this is the one time a book caught by simply by its cover. I saw this one a day I came to work and it caught me very fast with its silvery cover and the piercing stare of the girl on the front. I then read the obligatory synopsis on the back of the book and was even more intrigued.

It is a futuristic novel, though not that futuristic. The first elements of the book is set in 2013/14 in a world much as we know it, but then it speeds up to 100 years in the future, that has been much altered to the one we know of today.

As every other thriller novel it has the element of something going wrong, and of course it is the US army and their experiments that go wrong, as they always do and a somewhat fatal virus escapes to take its toll. Now, based on this one would assume that the entire population would be wiped out over a short matter of time, but as per usual there is the element of surprise and human-kind is left with the tiny hope of survival when California dethatches itself from the United States and becomes a independent country, in hopes of survival.

It takes a while for me to find novels I have a hard time putting down, novels I feel like neglecting everything else to read, but this was one of them. Not since reading Harry Potter do I think I’ve stayed up late in the night to finish a novel like I did with this one. Every time I finished a chapter I had the urge to know what would happen next, because of the suspense and excitement of this new world and the adventures the characters go through. And that’s another thing, there is plenty of character to get to know in this one, a thing I sometimes found a bit confusing because there are so many characters it seemed hard to keep track of them all some times. However, the main characters are very well written and you get an excellent insight into their minds and their behaviours.

All in all I’d say Justin Cronin has done en excellent job creating a world of scarily accuracy (because, sadly I fear this could easily happen if we continue to do medical experiments, though this might be an extreme, that might some times be necessary to stress a point). Though there are also elements of fantasy in this novel I feel it is much more a suspense novel than a fantasy or let alone a thriller novel.

As I went on-line to do some research on the writer I discovered that this is the beginning of a trilogy, so there are two more novels to look forward to, the second one to come some time in 2012, which hardly seems fair after you’ve read the ending of this first one. Furthermore, I read that the film-rights have been bought too, so if you feel intimidated by a book more than a 1000 pages long you can always wait for the film.

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