Friday, December 26, 2014

The Joy of Christmas: A Christmas Short Story

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Merry Christmas, my dear readers!  I know it's a day late, but since yesterday I was so sick that I spent most of the day sleeping, I thought now was as good a time as ever to wish you happy holidays.  

A few years ago, I wrote this short story to post on a forum.  Now I thought I'd bring it out again to share it with you this Christmas.  Enjoy!

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The Joy of Christmas

A small fire flickered weakly, doing its best to spread its feeble warmth to the three poor soldiers who huddled near it. The sandbag walls did little to shelter them from the bitter cold snow-flurries that blasted over the hills.
Shivering, a soldier pulled his blanket tighter around his shoulders and held his fingers closer to the flames. The holes in his worn, shabby mittens revealed pale, chapped fingertips, eager for a bit of warmth.
Jimmy, mate, it's freezing! I don't know if I can stand it any longer.” He complained, his voice quivering.
Across the fire, Jimmy smirked. “You always did have a profound knack for stating the obvious, Sam.” He said sarcastically.
Oh, come on, Jimmy, I'm just trying to make some conversation!” Sam protested.
Well, save your breath, you'll need it to keep warm!” Jimmy replied.
Alright, fellas, break it up. It wont' do us any good to argue. We're supposed to be on watch.” Said the third soldier.
Good old Tru, always level-headed.” Jimmy sighed. “Are you really still thinking about duty? We're freezing our fingers off, and your mind is on duty?
Tru shrugged. “I don't claim to be any less upset than you are, I just know it won't do for us to argue.”
The three fell silent for a time. After a while, Sam spoke up again. “I keep trying to think of something on the bright side... say, fellas, do you know what day it is?”
When the others failed to answer, Sam tried again. “I said, do you know what day it is? Tru, I know you've been keeping a calendar...”
It's Christmas Eve.” Jimmy stated, staring into the fire. Sam looked down.
Yeah.. and we're stuck out here in the middle of nowhere. I hate this war. I wish I'd never signed on! I'd give anything right now to be home with my family.” Sam laughed a little, shaking his head at the memories.
Ma will be baking the apple pie- her own recipe! Pa will be bringing in some firewood, making sure the house is nice and toasty. And my little sisters, Jane and Anna, will be running around the Christmas tree, trying to guess what's in their presents.
Tim, good little lad, he'll be reading a book by the fireplace. And maybe Gramma and Grampa have arrived with Aunt Rudy and Uncle Jack. They always bring the best meat loaf. And cakes. And these special little cookies with frosting!”
Smiling, Sam looked up, wishing with all his heart he could somehow magically get back home; maybe in time for dinner. Dinner would be nice right about now.

Well, what about you? What do your families do at Christmas?” Sam asked, trying to keep the conversation going. “If we can't celebrate with our families, we can at least tell each other about what it's like.”
Alright, Sam.” Jimmy said, “If you really want to... I suppose I can humor you tonight.”
Jimmy scooted closer to the fire and began. “I don't usually celebrate Christmas with my family anymore... I guess you could say I'm a bit of a black sheep. But my sister, Jenny, still asks me every year. She and her husband, John, have four kids. Kyle, Jacob, Maria, and Katy.”
Jimmy, in spite of himself, began smiling. “Katy's just little. She and Maria are really sweet.” He laughed. “You know, it's funny how they take to me. Whenever I come to visit, they just run right up to me and jump in my arms. Especially Katy. She calls me Unkoo Dimmy. She and Maria will sit on my lap for hours and tell me about all the games that they like to play.
Kyle and Jacob are a little older. And they're practically inseparable. Jacob follows Kyle everywhere. Every time I come, Kyle will come up to me and tell me that he's getting to be a man, and ask if he can see how tall he is compared to me.”
Sam smiled. “They sound like great kids. Do you give a lot of presents at your house? That was always my favorite part when I was little.”
Jimmy shrugged. “Yeah, I guess so. But Jenny always scolds me a little for spoiling the children with too many presents. She doesn't really mean it, especially when I give her her own present- usually some kind of cooking spice. She loves those.”
Jimmy fell silent suddenly. Talking about Christmas was reminding him how much he really missed his family, even though he didn't like to admit it. He wondered if they missed him as much as he missed them.

Well, what about you, Tru?” Jimmy asked irritably. “Sam and I have talked about our Christmases, it's your turn now!”
Tru breathed on his hands, which were covered only by tattered, fingerless gloves, and nodded his head. “Alright, be patient.” He sighed. “Oh... where to begin?”
Jimmy and Sam waited expectantly.
Back home, my family likes to work. A lot. So every Christmas, the men- that's my father, my four uncles, my three cousins, and I, all go out into the forest to cut a tree. Meanwhile, my sisters and my mother stay home with my aunts and my Gramma to get supper ready.
We have lots of treats- everything from cookies to candy, cakes to pies, scones to muffins. My Aunt Bridget makes Bacon-Watercress rolls.” Tru closed his eyes. “Those are my favorite. Anyway, by the time they've set the table and laid the food out, the men and I have usually found a tree, and we're dragging it in.
After that, we all sit down and have our meal, and by the time we're done, every one of us is stuffed full. Then we set up the Christmas tree and let the children decorate it. There's a lot of noise because everyone wants to visit with everyone else at the same time.
After that, my grandfather reads the Christmas story from the Bible.  Then we sing songs for a while. My uncles all play the guitar, and the kids sing as loud as they can. My mother, aunts, and Gramma all sing in harmony together. I just try to carry the melody without having my voice break. They always play the songs too high.”
Smiling, Tru continued. “After that we open presents- and let me tell you, there's a lot of presents. The children go wild and start dancing around for joy at their new gifts. Someone always gives me a sweater. My uncle Tim gave me a jack knife last year, and I've still got it, tucked away in my boot.”

Sam grinned. “Sounds like a good Christmas to me!”
Jimmy spoke up. “Sam, I'm not going to lie, but I agree with you. I wish I was at home now. Even if the rest of my family doesn't really want me there, I'd give an arm and a leg just to see their faces again.”
The others nodded in agreement. “Well,” Sam said at last, “I don't know about you, but I don't want to spend this Christmas griping in the cold. Just because we're on our own out in the middle of nowhere doesn't mean we can't have a good Christmas. We've got each other, right?”
Tru and Jimmy didn't answer right away, but at last, Tru put his hand on Sam's shoulder. “You've got me.”
Smirking at himself, Jimmy had to agree. “Alright, fine. You've got me too. We're all together in this war, even if we don't have our families.”
Then what are we waiting for?” Sam asked. “It's Christmas Eve! This is a time to celebrate the Savior's birth!”
Lifting his voice, Sam began a song.

Silent night...Holy night...”

Tru and Jimmy joined in, each picking out different parts- Jimmy on the tenor, and Tru on the base.

"All is calm, all is bright...
round yon virgin, mother and Child
Holy Infant, so tender and mild...
Sleep in Heavenly peace,
Sleep in Heavenly peace.”

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Best Blogging Buddies Award

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I've been given the Best Blogging Buddies Award by Sarah of Dreams and Dragons!  :D  To do this tag, I must:

- Post to show the award on my main blog
- tag the person who nominated me in my post
- tag all of my best buddies, and those who I want to become my best buddies with, who, to your knowledge, have not been nominated for this award
- ask your buddies at least fifteen questions in the post
- answer all the questions your buddies ask you in your post.

So, here we go!  Thanks, Sarah!  ^_^

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Her Questions

It seems to be tradition, so... what's your favorite part of blogging?

I would say my favorite part is sharing my thoughts/writings, and getting feedback from my readers.  Seriously, after I post, I'll check back on every hours to see if anyone has left a comment.  

Is there a song stuck in your head right now?  What is it?

White Winter Hymnal, the Pentatonix cover.  Kind of an odd song lyric-wise, but it's got a cool melody and awesome harmonies.  And the hand percussion they do is pretty great.

What's your favorite Bible verse?

"Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous!  Do not be terrified.  Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  -  Joshua 1:9

"For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, able to pierce both bone and marrow, to the dividing of the soul and spirit, and able to discern the thoughts and intentions of man."  - Hebrews 12

If you could trade lives with a fictional character for a day, who would you trade with?  And at what point in his/her life?

I'd trade with Bilbo Baggins, when he arrived in Rivendel with the dwarves.  I would love so much to see the elves and spend a day with them.  That would be awesome.  

What's your favorite Christmas song?

I'm not sure.   I like O Holy Night, and What Child is This.  Don Oiche ud i mBeithil is a beautiful Celtic Christmas tune.  

What's your least favorite Christmas song?

Hmm... I don't really care for Baby, It's Cold Outside, because it gets stuck in my head, and I don't know all the words, and I don't understand why she doesn't just go??

What's the next book you'r hoping/planning to read?  (For fun, not for school)

"Dune", by Frank Herbert.  Unfortunately, someone keeps taking it from the Library before I get it.  

Which book/movie villain would you want to show up on your front doorstep?

This reminds me of that Villain Tag I started a while back!  :D  
As for what villain... hmmm. I have a lo of favorite villains.  Loki, Khan, Amon, Darth Vader, Feanor (more of an anti-hero)...  But which one would I most want to show up on my doorstep?
After quite a bit of thought, I have decided that I would choose General Woundwort, from Watership Down.  He's an imposing antagonist, strong, intelligent, insanely determined, and incredibly brave, especially for a villain.  The upside:  he's a bunny!  Now, I don't care how crazy Woundwort was (he wasn't even afraid to fight a fully grown dog!), but I know that I can take a bunny.  ;)

If  said villain showed up, what would your reaction be?

"EEEPS!  Look at that hideous bunny!   Wait, what's it- what's it doing?  It's getting me--- IT'S GETTING ME!!"


"Penny!  Penny,  come here puppy!  Kill the wabbit!"

If You could have any superpower, what would you pick?

I'm torn between telekinesis and flight.  Practically, telekinesis would win.  To be able to pick things up and move them without touching them would be awesome!  
But... to be honest, I've always wanted to fly.  To soar through the clouds and feel the wind in my hair... that would be the most wonderful thing ever!  So for enjoyment, I would choose flight.  :)

What's your favorite place to read/write?

Any place where I can feel inspired without feeling distracted.  Most of the time I write in my bedroom or at the kitchen table, when the house is quiet.  Sometimes during the summer or fall I'll go out into the woods, where we have a little gazebo, and I'll sit there while I write.  

Are your bookshelves organized?  If so, how?

Right now my books are organized according to size.  And, since I have a lot of books and very little space in my tiny room, I keep them organized according to those books I read most often.  The ones I only read every once in a while are kept under my bed.

What's one odd quirk of yours?

In my everyday life, both private and public, I try to be refined and elegant.  The way that I dress and carry myself, the way I sit and stand; straight, tall, and proper.  However, when I sit down for long periods of time, I cannot hold my legs or feet still.  My upper body can be still as a statue, but my legs will be bouncing up and down twice every second.  Medically, I think they call that RLS, or 'restless leg syndrom', but I don't think it's enough of a problem to medicate.  Just one of those quirks...

What's one recently written book your grandchildren will be assigned to read in high school?  (Or to put it another way, which recently written book do you think will become a major classic?)

"Howl's Moving Castle" isn't exactly recent, but it certainly isn't old.  I think that it has the makings of a classic, though perhaps not for high-school level readers.  The "Harry Potter Series" will likely be a classic for young children.  
But for older people, that's a harder question.  I have read many good books, but I don't know how many of them will be considered classics.  
I'm going to take a guess and say "The Hunger Games".  I haven't read them, but from what I understand they are respected by older circles right now because it portrays war in a realistic way- horrible and haunting.  The characters end up with lasting scars, physically, emotionally, and psychologically.  No character is immortal. Everyone can die, and many do.  The whole series is apparently a sort of study in the way young people think when under stress, and the way that war and death affects different people.  That seems like the sort of story a high school literature class might assign.  

Do you like even or odd numbers better?

I like even numbers best.  They divide easiest.  :)

What's your favorite kind of chocolate?

Milk chocolate.  Though I've never tried many different kinds.  I'm sure there are many delicious specialty chocolates, I just don't have enough money to buy them.  

What are you going to do after you finish this tag?

I'm going to write another post, if I can.  I have a lot of posts planned, and I'd like to get them done soon.  Either that, or I'll work on writing one of my books.

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1.  What is your favorite part about blogging?

2.  What is your favorite genre of music?

3.  If you had to choose another time period to live in, which era would you choose?

4.  If you could go back in time to meet any historical figure, who would you want to meet?

5.  If I said the word "faerie", what would be the first thing to come to your mind?

6.  Are mermaids charming, friendly creatures who rescue you from shipwrecks and fall in love with the prince-  Or are they dangerous predators who cause the shipwrecks? What is your opinion?

7.  If you were a color, what would you be?

8.  What are your thoughts on foreshadowing in fiction?  Do you like it, or does it just distract you?

9.  If you discovered you had superpowers, what would you do?  

10.  Moving on from that question, if you found out there were others like you, what would you do then?

11.  If you were given the opportunity to travel into space for one week, would you do it?  You're allowed to take two people with you. (All-expense-paid trip, of course!)

12.  Picture this:  You're lost in a magical wood, when you are suddenly attacked by a band of shadowy creatures.  You flee, but you cannot run fast enough and they soon overtake you.  Just as you think you are finished, two figures come to your rescue out of nowhere.  One is an elf ranger with white-blond hair and forest-colored garb.  The other is tall and imposing, wearing long black robes.  His hair is wild and dark, his face is horribly scarred, and his eyes glow red.    After dispensing with the shadow-creatures, the elf urges you to come with him, saying that you are in great danger and they've been waiting for you for a long time.  The red-eyed man warns you that the elf is a liar who is trying to kill you.  Red Eyes tell you that you should go with him instead, because he's your only way out of the forest alive.  Elf Ranger places himself protectively between you and Red Eyes.  They're ready to fight each other- probably to the death.  It's clear that you'll have to be the one to make the choice.  
Who do you trust?

13.  Wow, that last one was a long question.  Sorry about that!  Here's an easy one.  What is your favorite day of the week?

14.  If you could be in one of the new Star Wars movies, who would you want to be?

15.  If you could go inside any book/movie and save one character, who would you want to save?  (This doesn't necessarily mean their life.  It could mean their loyalty, their innocence, freedom, or even soul!)

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Now I nominate:

Thanks once again to Sarah for nominating me for this award!  :D  I always enjoy doing these tags.  

Until next time,

-Rayne Speryl

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(DISCLAIMER:  I own none of the images within this post.  All credit goes to the proper owners.)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Top 5 Worst Movies I've Ever Seen

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I love stories.  Whether I'm reading a book, watching a play or musical, or a TV show or movie.  But sometimes, those stories don't turn out the way you want them to, and for one reason or another end up being total wastes of time.
This is a list of those movies- the ones I wish I'd never seen, the wasted hours of my life I will never get back.  I give you....


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(CAUTION:  Spoilers Abound!)


This movie is actually a condensation of a TV miniseries.  Lost in Austen tells the story of Amanda Price, a woman living in New York who has always loved the works of Jane Austen.  She often reads them to escape her own very unromantic life.  
One night, after rejecting the proposal of her drunkard boyfriend, Amanda discovers a secret passage in her bathroom that leads into the world of Pride and Prejudice, her favorite book of all.  To her surprise, Lizzie Bennet comes through the passage, thrilled to have finally managed to get through the door.  She explains to Amanda that she has always wondered what lay  behind the secret door in her attic, and she never dreamed that there was a whole other world locked inside.  
Amanda unintentionally changes places with Lizzie when she goes to explore her world.  Lizzie is only too happy to stay in modern-day New York, as she enjoys the freedom there.  So Amanda is left to take Lizzie's role in the book, starting on the first morning the Bennets find out that Mr. Bingley has moved into Netherfield.  

The movie itself started on an interesting concept, but as I watched it, it was like seeing a completely genre-insensitive brat butcher one of my favorite stories.  Amanda was scandalously anachronistic, and made no attempt to fit into her new world.  Her presence completely destroyed the events of the original book, and ruined many characters.  It made the whole story seem dirty, due to the modern slurrs she brought with her.  Thankfully, we had the good sense to stop watching before the movie was through.  It was too much bad taste for us to handle.   


Mill on the Floss claims to be about a young woman, the daughter of a distinguished miller in a relatively small town, who falls in love with a lawyer's son whose family has long feuded with her own.  But it's really about a young girl who repeatedly sacrifices everything she ever wanted for the sake of her selfish, dominating, and controlling brother who does nothing but wound her emotionally and deny her any pleasure in life.  
Maggie Tulliver always had a very close relationship with her brother, Tom.  But from the beginning of the movie it was shown that his love for her was conditional.  If she makes a mistake that angers him, he tells her he hates her and never wants to see her again, until she comes and apologizes and makes him laugh, at which point they're best friends once again.
This continues throughout her whole life.  Poor Maggie had so many dreams, and one by one she gave them up for the sake of her brother.  The lawyer's son, who she's supposed to fall in love with, actually isn't her true love.  Yes, he's her first love, but it was mostly just a childhood crush.  When Maggie has grown, she actually falls in love with a different man (who's a jerk) and she gives him up too!  
The movie ends with Maggie having lost every friendship she ever had, and living alone in a cottage.  Out of nowhere, a flood comes and the waters rise so high that she actually has to use a rowboat to get out of her house.  Having safely escaped her cottage, she paddles down the street- er, canal- to rescue her brother from the mill.  Of course, now that she's coming to rescue him, he immediately forgives her for whatever he was angry about, and comes down to meet her.  However, as he attempts to use a rope to climb out of a window and into her boat, the knot comes loose and he plummets into the water.  Becoming entangled in the rope, Tom begins to drown, so Maggie jumps in to help him.  Unfortunately, she is unable to pull him up, and instead chooses to drown with him.  The movie literally ends with their lifeless bodies floating in the water.  
Deus ex machina.  
The terrible kind.


I don't have a cover for this one.  It's not a very well-known movie.  It came in a multi-pack of adventure DVD's.  
Anyway, The Journey tells the story of two young girls, a rich one and her servant.  The servant girl has always been a little jealous of the rich girl, who is a bit spoiled.  The servant girl has apparently been raised by the cook, a horrible witch (the literal kind) with a vendetta against the master of the house.  One day, the witch arranges for the rich man's death by causing a snake to make his horse throw him off.  As the father lies dying, he tells his spoiled young daughter that she is the heir to his fortune and that when he is dead she must take the servant girl and find it in the woods.  He gives her a map to the treasure.  
Meanwhile, the witch, having overheard the rich man's speech, hypnotizes the servant girl into becoming her slave.  She convinces the entranced servant that she actually hates Rich Girl, and that as soon as they are in the woods, she is to attack Rich Girl, take her clothes and the map, and find the treasure herself.  Then she is to bring the riches back to her mistress, the witch.  
After this, the movie grows terribly disjointed.  Hypnotized Servant Girl follows through with the witch's instructions, leaving Rich Girl thoroughly humbled.  Rich Girl joins up with a seemingly friendly photographer and manages to track down Servant Girl and breaks the spell.  The girls then become friends and realize that Mr. Photographer is actually a criminal who has almost nothing to do with the story, except that he wants the treasure too.  Then they find out that years ago, Rich-Dad-Who's-Dead-Now used to be kind of a jerk.  When he acquired the gold, he was told by some magic-dude that if he didn't marry the first woman he saw after getting the gold, then she would become a witch who would hate him for the rest of her life, through no fault of her own.    That woman is the same witch who raised Servant Girl.  I think she's also behind the death of Rich Girl's mother, but I can't remember.  
Anyway, after an overly long and confusing plot, the girls make it to the cave where the treasure is hidden, where they find it isn't actually gold at all, but a cradle with a letter explaining that they are really sisters, and that the witch stole Servant Girl when she was just a baby.  As soon as they find the cradle, the witch has some kind of a flaming-magic-attack and dies.  The two girls become best of friends and decide that what they found is indeed the best treasure of all.  
The movie's affects were terrible and...  I hate to criticize actors, but the acting was really bad.  The whole movie was painful to watch.


Ivan the Incredible (2012) PosterThis film originated in Denmark.  As with most foreign films (except the ones in England) it is a bit odd.  
Ivan is a sensitive young boy who is socially awkward and physically weak.  Behind closed doors, he is actually fun and creative, but he is dyslexic and thus does poorly in school.  He is teased mercilessly by the children at school, and his miserable father cruel to him and always trying to get him to be "more of a man".  He routinely humiliates Ivan in front of the whole town, and blames his own son for his misfortunes in life.  An example of how he treats Ivan:  the dad works as a personal trainer, and in order to prove to the town that he can make people really strong, he makes Ivan climb a high tree, despite the fact that the poor boy is terrified of heights.    Ivan gets pretty high in the tree before he loses it and begs to come down.  The father is embarrassed, and takes it out on the kid by yelling at him and calling him useless.
Sooner or later in the movie, Ivan finds a magic potion that makes him "incredible" for the day.
Once Ivan takes the potion, he becomes smart and super strong.   Unfortunately, he also becomes a jerk, and treats everyone just like they treated him.  Even the one girl who was nice to him isn't exempt.  He becomes rude and arrogant.  Of course, the moral ends up being that he is unsatisfied with the life of a jerk, and realizes that he likes being himself much more.  So he goes back to being Ivan the Less-than-Impressive, and everyone else goes back to treating him like junk.  Except for that one girl, who liked him as he was in the first place.  

The premise of this movie sounded like it might be nice, but it just lingered too long on the cruelty.  It was depressing.  There were no good spots or redeeming moments.  My six younger siblings were watching with me, and about halfway through, the magic potion still hadn't showed up.  After looking up the plot and finding that it never got any better, we shut it off.  After that, we jokingly suggested that when one of us were bad, we would have to watch Ivan the Incredible as punishment!


Young Pistachio Disguisey has always been an odd boy.  Ever since he was a little kid, he loved dressing up in costumes and acting a different part.
One day, his father is kidnapped by an evil mastermind, and Pistachio discovers that his family is part of a long line of special magicians whose main skill was the art of disguise.  His father and grandfather were both masters, and now his grandfather informs him that if Pistachio wants to rescue his father, he must train to become a Master of Disguise.

The movie's summary sounded great, like a fun children's adventure.  However, when my family and I started watching it, we found it to be dumb beyond belief.  There is no describing how horrible it was.  It was corny, and awkward, and so ridiculous it hurt.
Now, before I complain too much, let me say this:  it did have some genuinely funny moments.  I'm not above quoting one or two of the funny lines, or looking back on a funny scene or two.  However, the majority of the movie was so cheesy I couldn't stand it.
The "Turtle" scene... oh, good heavens, the "Turtle" scene.  Look it up on You Tube some time, see if you can find it.  It's so bad, it's worth a watch.
I will say that the younger kids loved it.  It was mostly anyone above the age of 8 that was just too weirded out. One thing I thought was rather inappropriate was the main character's odd goal of marrying a girl with a big rear end.  It comes up more often than necessary, and is actually one of his weaknesses when fighting the bad guys (or girls, I should say).  

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As you can see, I have not numbered these, as each of these movies was equally horrible in my eyes.  Have you seen any of these movies?  Did you find them as tedious and terrible as I did?  What are some of the worst movies you've ever seen?  Let me know in the comments below- I'd love to gripe about them with you!  ;D

-Rayne Speryll

P.S. - This is my ninety-first post on this blog, and on my one-hundredth post, I intend to make a big announcement.  So stay-tuned for Post 100!