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  • Heather McVea

Memories… They Light the Corners of My Mind

From time-to-time I have readers ask me which of my books is my favorite, and for the longest time I would – after some cajoling – admit that Becoming Forever, the third book in the Waking series, was my favorite. After all, it was the second full-length novel I had written, the idea to pair a homicide detective and medical examiner in an unlikely relationship was inspired by one of my favorite television shows, and the overall story arc and pacing of the book sat well with me.

Or, so I thought…

In preparation for a current writing project, I went back and read Becoming for the first time in a couple years, and though I still enjoyed the ebb and flow of the story, and the two main protagonists’ chemistry together, I found myself critiquing the book in ways I never had before.

Specifically, I was comparing it to later Waking books, and more often, to my later novels in the Fallen Elements series. In short, Becoming is a great and fun read, but I’ve gotten better as a writer and story teller since its publication.

Needless to say, this came as both a surprise and relief to me. A surprise because I truly remembered the book differently, and a relief because at least I was making positive progress in the development of my craft. This also got me to thinking about my other books, along with the books I have read and movies I have enjoyed over the years. Would they hold up?

The more I considered the question, the more I realized it was the wrong one to ask.

I mean, think about it. Do you have a favorite book or movie? Your knee-jerk response may be yes, but I challenge you to think about that for a minute.

I imagine it’s a question akin to what’s your favorite song. The answer may change depending on your mood, your relationship status, or your age. No, the more I thought about it, I realized I don’t have a favorite book or a favorite movie, I have several (I know that means it’s not truly a favorite… when everything's super, nothing is).

Or do I? Maybe my favorites don’t hold up? Like Becoming, perhaps I am mis-remembering them, or remembering them through the lens of youth, or a particularly irritable mood.

I’m reminded of the vampire film Salem’s Lot, and how much I had enjoyed the movie/mini-series as a child. Hey, don’t judge me or my parents for what might be considered an inappropriate film for a ten-year-old. My formative years are riddled with questionable viewing and reading choices, and I turned out just fine… yes, just fine.

Anyway, a few months ago, I was thrilled to see Salem’s Lot had finally made its way to Amazon streaming. So, I eagerly bought it, settled in with an Izzy Clementine soda, and some fresh popped popcorn.

Then – wait for it – tragedy. I mean a real #firstworldproblem tragedy.

It was not the film of my youth. No, it was rubbish. Tiresome, lackluster rubbish.

With disappointment biting at the back of my throat like a bitter, bitter pill, I decided to revisit some of my favorite books and movies in a desperate attempt to shore up their relevance in my life.

Either that, or just to see how horrific my taste in entertainment might have been.

Misery (film)

Some of you may wonder why I’m not talking about the Stephen King book. I did read it ages ago, and I remember liking it just fine. But, as some of you may recall, I wrote a post last month about how all movies based on books don’t suck.

Well, Misery is a prime example of a movie that takes from its source material all the best parts, and when you combine that with one of Kathy Bates’ best performances, you get an earth shattering kaboom of a movie.

Speaking of shattering… I vividly remember seeing this movie in the theatre with my best friend. I had accidently broken her wrist during a soccer scrimmage (awkward), and at one of the tenser moments in the film, my friend screamed and threw her arms in the air. Her plaster cast laden arm.

Needless to say, she nearly knocked me unconscious, but damn that was… and is, a great film.

Youthful Heather’s Score: 5/5

Less Youthful Heather’s Score: 5/5

Annie on My Mind (book)

I first came across this book in 2007. I had just started reading lesbian fiction (judge me with your inside voice, please), and Annie had been recommended by a co-worker. Now, bear with me, but I remembered that I wrote a review of the book on Amazon.

Here is what a thirty-year-old Heather had to say:

I was hesitant at first to read what is essentially a young adult book, but the story told in Annie on My Mind captivated me. Nancy Garden tells the story of Annie and Liza, two seniors in high school, from different worlds and different socio-economic backgrounds.

The two girls meet by chance and develop a friendship that evolves into something more intense and intimate. They fall in love with each other.

What Garden does in this book, and more successfully in her follow-up Good Moon Rising, is she allows the story to be about two people meeting, getting to know each other and having that first experience with love. Though at times, the novel addresses the challenges of lesbian love, and coming out, Garden manages to keep the story on track as a story of first love.

I imagine Annie and Liza could be any two teenagers, trying to find their way in the world and finding each other in the process.

Well, holy shit… a lesbian book that isn’t about women being lesbians. For those of you who read my books, you know this is something I strive for. I prefer stories about mystery, suspense, love, life, and all that business. I don’t care for books that are about will she, is she, will they, etc. Clearly Annie had some sway with me… and still does!

Thirty-Something Heather’s Score: 4/5 (I don’t know why I gave the book a four-star review on Amazon… clearly, I was an asshole.)

Forty-Something Heather’s Score: 5/5 (What do you know? You can edit an Amazon review ten years after the fact.)

Transformers (film)

Picture a ten-year-old, green eyed, freckled, curly red hair, chubby girl. Got that? Okay, that’s me in 1986 when this national treasure of a movie was released. God love my mother, she took me to the theatre to see it. And why wouldn’t she? I had every Transformer toy you could imagine. They complimented and comingled with my G.I. Joe and He-Man toys (I’ve always believed in diversity, damnit).

I was literally on the edge of my seat the entire ninety minutes Galvatron gave the Autobots their comeuppance. My mother gasped when Ultra Magnus said “open, damnit”. Because evidently that was too much on top of Salem’s Lot. But I digress…

I bought this movie on DVD in the early two-thousands, and it wasn’t all I remember it being. Don’t get me wrong, it pressed all the right nostalgia buttons, but it wasn’t all that a bag of chips. Maybe it was Orson Welles sounding as if he might stroke out as he gurgled and belched his way through his lines as Unicron (god, I hope Mr. Welles didn’t die of a stroke).

Little Orphan Annie Lookalike Heather: 5/5

Can’t Tap Dance or Sing Heather: 2/5

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (book)

This classic and I have a bit of a sordid history. You see, there used to be these magical places called bookstores. Yes, you actually had to put on a bra, brush your teeth, and leave your house to buy books. One day, a sixteen-year-old Heather went to one of these magical places, and she bought a paperback copy of C.S. Lewis’ quintessential fantasy novel.

If memory serves, it was around $5.00. I wrote a check (that’s a form of tender rarely used today, but if you are still writing checks, please – for the love of heaven – start filling it out while the cashier is ringing you up).

You should know, I don’t do math. It’s just not my thing, and I don’t want to talk about it anymore.

Alas, maintaining a bank account with a positive balance involves several key elements, not the least of which is a spot of math and understanding that having checks in the checkbook does not – I repeat for all those young folks out there – does not equate to having money in the account.

I’m sure you can see where this is going. I bounced the check, and by the time I paid for the privilege, I ended up paying over thirty dollars for that paperback book.

All of that silliness aside, I loved the book. Reading it as an adult has not diminished its appeal. Though, now I can more clearly see the Christ allegory, and a slew of other religious imagery. This only adds layers to an already delightful read.

Hot-Check Writing Heather: 4/5

I Pay My Bills Heather: 5/5

As I recounted these books and movies to you, I realized the when, how, where, and with who I experienced them with matters almost as much as the stories themselves.

They may not always engage me like they once did, but they are more than the tales they tell.

So, think about some of your favorites.

Don’t just think about the stories, think about who you shared them with, and the memories you made.

And I would love to hear about your favorites – past or present – in the comments! Don’t be shy.

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