Think Like A Fiction Reader

think-like-a-freak“Think Like A Freak” by Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner: Loved the stats. Loved the examples. Loved the entertaining writing. The book just sped by.

What it’s about: Most humans make decisions without using much original thought. We’re hardwired to think a certain way, and because of it, our thinking is predictable and we have common blind spots. The authors give a few ideas of things to do to start thinking like a freak, things like saying “I don’t know” when we actually don’t know (which is the only freaky thinking thing I’m good at), ignore the supposed limits, think like a child, give incentives to others, getting “your garden to weed itself”, and finally, the benefits of coin flipping in place of decision making.

What I thought while reading this book: I’m very typically human. I have the usual patterns and blind spots – and so I was very appreciative of the things I learned while reading this book.

And considering the usefulness of “Think Like A Freak” to me, where I went mentally after reading is a weird leap: Though I learned what “Think Like A Freak” actually outright taught me, I didn’t learn more, because of the nature of non-fiction, or at least the nature of “teaching” non-fiction (as opposed to “real life experience” non-fiction).

Don’t get me wrong. I love non-fiction and I read a lot of it. I’ve learned a huge number of extremely valuable things from non-fiction – but I believe even more strongly now that non-fiction is limited. Why? Because by leading me along a focused track, the non-fiction writer doesn’t give me the mental freedom for diverse thoughts before I’m once again being hustled along by more focused facts, proofs, and logical reasonings.

When it comes to the deeper stuff of life, I find fiction the better teacher. If I head out on a mind tangent in a story, there’s not the same pressure to get back to the proper lesson at hand. Theme can whisper, tempting me off or on various paths, but I don’t have to listen. Even more, characters’ personalities, thoughts, and actions can be profound lessons. For example, I just finished a book by Louise Penny (my next review) that blew me away on the immense value of playing the long game with patience and kindness, and how those qualities might look in a person.

No non-fiction book has ever given me as much value as some fiction. Maybe I’m a freak for being this way, but honestly, since I’m such a typically thinking human, I believe I’m probably in the middle of a vast herd – and I admit, I hope that’s the case. To have fiction deeply inspiring so many people in their lives? To me, that’s a beautiful thing.

So Many Supers!

whisperI picked up Whisper, by Phoebe Kitanidis, from my daughter’s shelf. She is fifteen, so as you might guess, Whisper is a Young Adult novel. The story was entertaining, fast moving, had a nice mix of action and drama, plus family and friend relationships, and even a budding romance. My daughter loved it and I was entertained by it, so it was a win!

What I thought while reading: Like most YA novels these days (including some of my own books: the Whinnies on the Wind series, the Horse Guardian series, and more), Whisper featured a teen who has an extraordinary ability – and I couldn’t help but wonder yet again, why do such a high percentage of YA movies and books feature superhuman teens?

One can say that all demographics enjoy this genre, and that’s true – but the genres available to older readers are far more diverse. We have plenty of non-super protagonists to read about. In YA, the majority of novels include teens with an unusual ability of some sort.

My first thought: having super powers puts protagonists in previously unheard of situations, and therefore may create story interest out of novelty. But then I wonder, after a while wouldn’t reading about a non-super teen become new and fresh? Also, wouldn’t a “normal” character be more relatable?

Maybe the attraction to the super teen is an indicator of how some teens feel powerless in their lives. In the pages of a book, a reader usually feels as powerful as the protagonist, so that very well might be the draw. But do that many teenagers feel powerless? I hope not.

Another option: the super teen phenomena could simply be boredom with the world as it is. Yikes, and almost as sad as the feeling powerless theory. Especially since there is plenty to see in the world when one takes the time to really look.

Maybe it’s because teens are in the process of finding and realizing their own abilities, including those things they’re gifted at. In that case, reading about superhuman teens would be research. And as an aside, it is possible to have a super power. Here’s a list of 50 real-life superhumans.

Then I moved on to the other side of the computer, so to speak. Why do writers write about teens with super gifts?

I can’t speak for other writers of course, but I have tried to infuse my teens’ superpowers with a deeper message. In the case of Evy in the Whinnies on the Wind series, that truth was that we, as the dominant species, need to have compassion for all living creatures and treat them kindly. If, by reading my books, one person does something kind for an animal that they might not otherwise do, then Evy’s superpower has served its purpose.

In Whisper, it is possible that Phoebe Kitanidis also intended to show a deeper truth. Her protagonist’s superpower – to hear others’ thoughts as whispers – gave encouragement to the reader to be authentic to themselves.

Isn’t that something that we all want to hear – or dare I say even need to hear? I believe that on some level, we all know that honoring our most authentic self is how we reach our greatest potential. To me, to be personally authentic is a true super power – and I believe it is to young readers too.

What’s Wrong With A Bit of Fun?

godiva-nicole-gallandGodiva, by Nicole Galland

The awesome cover drew my eye and I snatched it off the New Books shelf at the library last week. I started reading eagerly – and kept reading because of this blog commitment.

Note to self: Think twice about following a profound book with one that is light and fun.

However, about an hour into the book, I started questioning my first impression. The character of Godiva had a lot of energy, and I actually started enjoying her outrageous manoeuvrings – which lead me to think: What’s wrong with a bit of fun? What’s wrong with a bit of flirtatious manipulation and intrigue, especially when all characters are aware it’s happening?

What the heck is wrong with a playful heroine?

Nothing. That’s what.

What I learned by reading this book: The timing was great for the elections down in the US, and the depression that came over me with all the pain and anger people are feeling down there. Godiva gave me the opportunity to lighten up and stop taking everything so bloody seriously.

The things that are important in this world, as was reaffirmed to Godiva by the end of the book, are loyalty to those you love and who love you, and keeping your sense of personal integrity. She let her sense of right and wrong guide her in a difficult political and personal situation – one of her own making of course.

She decided she would help her friend protest an unfair tax, but her methods rankled the King who set out to destroy her. Godiva remained true to herself and her loved ones, and let the chips fall where they may. Unfortunately, they didn’t fall well, and she had to be rescued by her friend – but isn’t that the way life works? It’s those who love us who pick us up, and when they’re down, we return the service.

I did find that the book was missing a few things, at least for me. I would have liked to have seen more detail of the time. Godiva lived in the 11th century, before the Norman invasion, and because much of the population still secretly followed pagan beliefs, women had a lot more power than they did during the later centuries. Nicole Galland touches on these things, but seems to focus more on the sassy conversations.

Another thing I would’ve liked is more description on setting. I couldn’t visualize what was around Lady Godiva most of the time, and sometimes inserted scenes from movies that were probably far from the correct period.

To me, these two things created a lack of depth in the story itself. And yet, it was the perfect book for me to read last week.

What’s wrong with a bit of fun? I’m going to ask myself that the next time I’m feeling down.

And then I’ll answer: Nothing. Nothing at all.

Racism, Residential Schools, and Hockey

indian-horse-coverIndian Horse, by Richard Wagamese

First thing I want to say: Richard Wagamese is an amazing writer. This book is so well written that I didn’t want it to end, despite the tough subject matter.

Second, this isn’t a book about a horse. It’s a book about racism, residential schools, and hockey. The residential school parts were as difficult as I expected, and then got a bit worse. The racism parts were just as tough to read, and as senseless and cruel as racism is today. The hockey part was pretty cool, even though I’m not a hockey fan. Yes, I’m Canadian. I also don’t drink much Tim Horton’s coffee. I’m sorry.

Though I don’t watch hockey and I thankfully have no experience of residential schools, I could still relate to the character in this book. This is because, at it’s root, Indian Horse is a book about connection. It’s my opinion that we are all born wanting to belong, to feel connected, and we actively seek it. The character, Saul Indian Horse, finds that connection with nature as a boy. Though he doesn’t feel it with his parents as much, because of their brokenness, he is strongly connected to his grandmother. Later, in the residential school, he finds connection with the game of hockey, and the priest that enables him to play – and he longs for connection so strongly that he blocks out the abuse inflicted by that priest until much later in his life. As an older man, after a heart-searing journey through an uncaring social landscape, Saul is finally able to return to the one healthy community he has a connection to, and rebuild his life among those he can trust.

What Indian Horse expressed so well to me is that longing we all have for home – and by home, I don’t mean a physical place. We long to be seen for who we are. We want that which is good and pure and unique within us, to be both recognized and valued by those around us. And sadly, the book showed how if we aren’t valued, for whatever reason, whether it be racism, sexism, ageism, religious intolerance (beliefism?), or any other ism out there, we tend to fall into shame and self blaming. We’ve all seen it happen, and, to varying degrees, we all know how it feels to be rejected and harmed by people who say they’re on our side.

But there is hope, as Saul Indian Horse discovered. When we confront our pain, we mature and grow wiser, and realize that maybe the society or group that rejects us isn’t where we belong – and then we go looking for that place where we are truly accepted. And in that way, this book is about courage too, because I don’t think anyone who hasn’t been decimated as a child can understand how much courage it takes to trust a safe place as an adult when you didn’t have a safe place as a child. Indian Horse gives us a view of that in one boy, then in one man, who had the courage.

To sum up, I found Indian Horse to be an amazing book. Very well written, wise, and compassionate. It was difficult to read in places, but worthwhile, even in the tough parts. In hindsight, maybe especially in the tough parts. A soulful book.

Indian Horse, by Richard Wagamese: highly recommended.

42 Books

booksMy newest venture: 42 books in 52 weeks!

Why 42?

Because, “the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything is 42” – at least according to Douglas Adams who wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Also, it gives me 10 weeks to fiddle around and procrastinate. ?

But why do it at all?

First, I’m great at buying and downloading books and starting to read them, but not so good at finishing them – so this project is selfishly meant to motivate me.

Second, I am inspired by many of the books I read, and yet I don’t have a satisfactory outlet for the thoughts they encourage. So I’m creating that outlet, in the form of blog posts. Some will be reviews, some will be random thoughts inspired as I read that book, but every book will get a blog post. Promise.

I know I’m the big winner here, but I hope you get some value out of my new commitment too. Books and links added here, as soon as I start. I’d love to get your feedback on the books too.

Cheers!

Change is Afoot…

Change is afoot with the issue at hand – and so I am turning my hand to Women’s Fiction, writing the first in what I hope becomes a beloved series to many amazing readers.

If you aren’t already signed up for my blog posts and you want the occasional update, sign up HERE, and receive not only my random thoughts in your inbox (lucky you – lol!) but also updates on my new literary venture.

The information you will receive (eventually):

–          The name of the book (believe it or not, I don’t know what it is yet)

–          The name of the series (I don’t know that either yet)

–          When the first book is available (er, sorry!)

–          What happens (okay, so I do know that, and it certainly won’t be in a blog post)

–          And much, much more (including freebies – and BTW, two of my juvenile ebooks are free right now: Winter of the Crystal Dances and Dark Fire)

What I can share now about the story:

–          It’s fun to write (and hopefully will be fun to read)

–          I love my characters (and I hope you will too)

–          I already have a publisher (yes, really!)

Check out Winding Path Books. I’ll be the second author they take on, with the first being the talented and delightful Ev Bishop! Great company to be in.

windingpathbooks_website_banner1

The Foundation of Success

I had a new blog post all written and ready to post, and then I came across this video. It’s only 10 minutes long, and I recommend it to anyone who wants success for themselves or their children. Yes, it’s that important!

Enjoy!

To My Brilliant Subscribers

Any QuestionsYes, I have questions – for you!

What is your biggest challenge, in relation to what I can give to you in this blog?

What do you want to see here? Do you want to learn writing/publishing stuff, dream about travel adventures, recieve food for thought from my random insights, or be entertained by my misadventures (and I have lots of misadventures; the latest, a brush with death, aka: the Black Widow!).

Or is there something completely different that you would like to see here?

Who are you – a writer, a reader, a seeker, a creative? One of my supportive family members?

My goal here is create something of value with my blog, as much as I am able. To do that, the first step is to discover what you would find valuable. Feel free to send your response to angela@aydorsey.com if you want it to be private.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Star Trek and the Ego

kirk and spockI’ve been thinking a lot about ego lately, and just recently came to some intriguing thoughts. I think ego has been getting a bad rap in some ways. Let me explain:

Ego has an important and even life saving job: to protect us in a sometimes cruel world. In childhood the ego works overtime to build these protections around us, keeping our tender, beautiful selves safe from the harm that a sometimes unkind world may inflict. It does this with little direction from the interior self – because most of us are weak as children, whether that weakness is based on having no cultural power or being in an abusive situation or simply due to our own naiveté in a confusing world. To use a metaphor, the ego builds a structure around us to shelter us, a fortress, a house, or for those who grow up in a kinder environment, maybe a cottage.

Then, when we enter on a spiritual path, whatever that path may be, the ego – which has been doing the best it can to protect us – is suddenly the bad guy. We want to get rid of it, disenfranchise it, diminish it to the level of a barely tolerated pet, if we want it to continue existing at all. We tear down the structures it built around us as fast as we can (though it can take years or even decades), and think of the ego as opposed to soul.

I honestly think that for a while, ego might be opposed to soul. I mean, how would you feel if your lifetime’s work was being torn down by a boss who hasn’t been much of a boss until now. It would suck.

But I believe there comes a time when soul and ego can pretty much look at each other and realize they are stronger together. The ego’s job is to protect, and it can only do that job well under direction of the soul, the higher self, the spark or fire or blazing inferno within.

And where does Star Trek come into it?

Captain Picard and Riker. Captain Janeway and Tuvok. Captain Kirk and Spock.

The Captain and their Number One.

The ego is Riker, or Tuvok, or Spock. The Number One is the one who makes things happen in this world. Without it, the Captain is handicapped. The Captain is the one with the wisdom and vision. Without the Captain’s guidance, the Number One does things that are detrimental in the long, and sometimes short run. They need each other to be the strongest they can both be.

Just a weird thought that I thought I’d share. I’d love to hear what you think of the relationship between Soul and Ego – or whatever labels you use. I’ll use your labels too, if you tell me what they are. 🙂

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I am living this year with the view that ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE. What this year may include: adventures in travel, career, personal growth, and more. If you are interested in following my haphazard posts, sign up here. Thank you!

Magic Realism Realized

I knew Gabriel Garcia Marquez was from Colombia, but until I went there, I didn’t realize how his homeland must have influenced his work. They call Colombia the land of magic realism, and it’s very fitting. Colombia is very REAL, and by capitalizing it, I mean more expressive, more colourful, bigger, and louder than the understated colours and culture I’m accustomed to. But it also has an otherworldly magic to it, a surreal energy that is entirely it’s own and very hard to describe – so I’ll describe it with an event.

On the jungle hike, we had a half day to do whatever we wanted. Instead of swimming or accompanying Brad on adventures, I wandered down the Buritaca River and found a big boulder that had been sculpted and smoothed by centuries of river currents. I meditated for a while, then lay back, fitting my body into the boulder’s gentle curves, shut my eyes, and allowed the rush and tumble of the river to carry my thoughts away.

I’m not yellow butterflysure what made me look up but minutes later, I did, just in time to see a flash of butterscotch yellow. A butterfly.

A moment later, a second butterfly, this one creamy yellow. Then another, again yellow, but brighter.

I sat up. Facing upstream, I saw them coming. Not in hordes or flocks or whatever you call masses of butterflies, but one by one, like sparkling yellow jewels, each one precious, each unique, each incredibly luminous in the sunlight as they flew toward me.

Brad’s morning wanderings eventually carried him downstream as well, and we sat on the boulder that was as much art as rock – and we watched dozens, then hundreds of yellow butterflies pass by, letting the updraft from the rushing water carry them along. A butterfly highway.

To this day, when I think back to that morning, the entire world seems just a bit more lovely, a touch more wondrous – but there’s more to the experience than remembering the beauty. When I’m feeling down or going through a difficult situation, and I remember that in the jungle, glowing yellow butterflies fly en mass along a rushing river, it is as if each butterfly picks up a bit of my sadness and stress, and flutters away with it.

Magic realism? Residual magic? I don’t know. But it is REAL, at least to me. And I am infinitely grateful for that experience.

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I am living this year with the view that ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE. What this year may include: adventures in travel, career, personal growth, and more. If you are interested in following my haphazard posts, sign up here. Thank you!