“But, reader, he did live…”

My first book review! I’ve decided to go with something I grew up with. I picked a book that not only did I love as a kid, but now that I’m older, I begin to see more writing styles and effects I didn’t see before. Selection? Ladies and gents, from the author of Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tiger Rising comes…

The Tale of Despereaux

The Tale of Despereaux! “Being the story,” says Miss DiCamillo, “…of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread.”

Now, more than likely, you have all heard of the book. And, chances are, you’ve read it as well. So I won’t go into detail about the storyline, as most people already know what it is. It takes place in a castle and begins with the birth of a mouse. Basically, little Despeaux is a mouse that loves humans and falls in love with the princess of the castle. No mouse is ever supposed to do that! They’re mice, for pete sake. But oh, Despereaux’s dream is to protect the princess like a knight in shining armor! He doesn’t care if he’s different–he is on a quest!

Oh, and it’s about a rat named Roscuro, who loves light (unlike any other rat).  He is tired of living in the dungeon of the castle and always in the dark. His dream is to see and live …upstairs!–in the light! He doesn’t care if he’s different–he wants to go upstairs and take revenge on the humans that threw them down in the depths of the dungeon. That’s what this story is about.

Wait, no. Nevermind. It’s about the kitchen maid of the castle. Migory Sow. She’s fat, ugly, and no one is ever nice to her. She can’t talk normally and she can hear about as good as a cottonball can. But she wants to be a princess! That’s her dream! So what if she’s different? She wants to wear a crown.

Wait, so this book has three storylines? Well…yes and no. That’s why I chose this book rather than…say…Green Eggs and Ham.

When I was little, sure I liked the characters, and the funny lines, and the antagonists and swordfights. (Spoiler Alert: They all die. KIDDING.)

But there was something about it that I loved that I couldn’t put my finger on. The more I think about it, the more my theory grows: I like it because everything fits together swimmingly.

The story of Despereaux includes his love for the princess and his ability to read, and he is led into the dungeon by his own brother because he is too different from the rest of them. He is led to the dungeon, then Miss DiCamillo rewinds a little to start the story of Roscuro, the rat Despereaux will meet in the dungeon. Then as they escape together, DiCamillo halts the story once more to recount the background of Migory Sow, the kitchen maid. In the ending parts of the book, we see it is Roscuro and Migory vs. Desperaux and the princess.

And we all know why. Why? Because now, we know everyone’s stories.

That’s what I love about the book: the three parts are combined in the fourth to where everything makes sense. “Oh THAT’S why he did that!”, “Ohhhhhh I didn’t notice that!”, “That makes sense because he did that earlier!”

Personally, I love when little stories fit together to make something bigger. It makes it more fun to read, and it means more to the reader. The Tale of Despereaux is a perfect example of this. It’s difficult to write, given that you’re afraid your reader won’t understand anything while reading. But, if done well, it can lead to a meaningful work.

Plus, Despereaux is just plain awesome. That’s another reason you should like the book.

I’ve done a little of this in my fantasy series. (They aren’t posted on the blog, but I just thought I’d throw that out there). I have to admit, once its written and while you edit it, it’s pretty cool to see how it all fits. It makes you feel accomplished.

So try it: little stories that come together in the end to make a big story. It’s really, really neat. Tell me your thoughts!

“But, reader, he did live. Despereaux Tilling lived.”

~J.L. Cordova

Star Wars

Who on earth doesn’t have a favorite character in…

starwars

I mean, come on, BOYS. We all know you had a childhood.

Not exactly everyone I know loves Star Wars. But for those that do, have you ever done that “What’s Your Star Wars Name?” survey? There’s about a million out there, and (not surprisingly) they each have a different method. Some come out to be pretty long and complicated. My favorite one was this: Use the first 3 letters of your last name, and the first 2 letters of your first name. Then there’s that whole thing about creating a Star Wars last name with names of towns and maiden names. And then that 20-step way of making a more complex name. I won’t get into that. I enjoy simple things.

Corja. That’s mine. It looks cool, sounds star-warsy, and I like it. Brilliant thing about doing this survey, is that the person usually fits the name. I don’t know how that works, but somehow it does. Because I love fantasy, I’ve done several of my friends’ names too: Adael, Talje, Harna…oh. And Clakn. Sound it out aloud. It’s so much fun to say.

I don’t know why I like it. It’s just cool. If I had more time on my hands, I’d probably tackle that 20-step name game.

WHY, Jael, are you telling me this? Who cares? …I do!

Actually, the real reason I’m posting about that is because I have a book coming…see? I have purpose behind everything.

It’s my novel–my sci-fi novel. It’s the longest book I have ever written. 46 chapters. And I would rate it PG-13. I’m still thinking about how much I want to post here on my blog, so this is just a sneak peak. No, its not like Star Wars. But it does have to do with space and galaxies and technology beyond anyone’s dreams. Sorry, Mr. Stark.

Tony Stark

I don’t know exactly WHEN I’m posting it, but it’ll be sometime soon. I also have a couple book reviews coming. I need subscribers, so tell your fellow publishing friends and such.

Cordially,

~Corja McCbry (J.L. Cordova)

“Three of Us” Chapter Seven

Zach amazes me sometimes. Alex is impressed to, but she fails to show it because it’s her motherly duty not to praise “wrongdoing”, whatever she means by that. We’ve gotten out of several close calls because of him. And he knows we appreciate it. That’s why he keeps doing it.

Today, however, he amazed me in a different way. It takes the cake. He sold the dog.

“YOU LOVED THAT DOG!” I yelled. I forgot my voice echoed through the store. Covering my mouth, I let Alex continue for me.

“You were the one that wanted to keep it!” she cried in annoyance. “You were the one that wanted to take care of it! You were—”

“Yeah, and I’m the one who sold him. So what’s the big deal?” Zach interjected. “I knew you guys wouldn’t care. You didn’t wanna keep him.”

“Why’d you get rid of him?” I asked.

He beamed, looked down, and started looking around.

“You got money for it, I assume,” I said again.

“Zach?” Alex prompted.

It was a while before he said, “The guy had this big shiny coin.”

We stared. “What?” we asked together.

“I had never seen one before and…it looked like it was worth a lot.” He stopped and then added quickly, “It was really big and shiny!”

We waited for him to show it. Pulling something out of his pocket, we saw a big round silver dollar in the palm of his hand.

“You’ve never seen a silver dollar?” I asked.

He stopped and his face fell. “A what?”

“A silver dollar,” I repeated.

“IT’S ONLY WORTH A DOLLAR????” he yelled. His face was hysterical.

He was muttering to himself the rest of the day.

“Hey do you remember when that police gal said something about runaways?” I asked later. We were in the storeroom. Alex and I were eating our McDonald’s meals on the floor. Zach was still sitting criss-cross on his boxes, muttering and staring at the silver dollar.

“Yeah,” Alex replied, her mouth full. “What about it?”

“Who do you think the runaway was?”

“Probably no one we know,” Alex said. “There are loads of kids that try and ditch school.”

“Well yeah…” I admitted. “But I’ve never seen another kid alone around here. That Crocker can’t patrol the whole county. She’s around here all the time.”

“Who said it was around here?” Alex asked curiously.

I shrugged. “I guess you’re right.” I stared up at Zach.

“Staring at it isn’t gonna get you more money, dude,” I said.

I think his eyes watered.

~J.L. Cordova

“Three of Us” Chapter Six

We ran into that ugly police gal again today. I think she had a makeover or something, because she looks uglier.

Anyway, today we were browsing the DVDs in the electronic section. Zach left Shaggy out on a rope by the lake. Shows how much he’s involved. But the dog seems to like it. No one is supposed to have dogs in Wal-Mart anyway, so we had to do something.

I don’t really know how Shaggy is taking the whole storeroom idea of a house. He has this nasty habit of thinking anyone can be a pillow, though. Technically, Alex is supposed to be allergic to dog hair. She ignores though, like a trooper. But man did she sneeze up a storm last night. She didn’t speak for a while after she realized her bed was covered with his fur in the morning.

He’s really soft though, and very lovable. Like any innocent dog would be, he considers it an honor, not a right, to be pet by a human. Zach loves him, I think. I can never be sure with Zach and his emotions. He can fake things pretty well. He played Frisbee with him in the park this morning before he tied him up. Who knows?

Anyway, back to Snow White’s stepmother. The police girl came up to us while we were looking at the DVDs. I could tell Zach was really bothered by it—he thought we were rid of her.

Why did she come up to us? I don’t know. And frankly, I don’t care.

“Aren’t you kids supposed to be in school?” she snapped.

We froze. It was Monday. We forgot.

“But…uh…hey—isn’t it a bank holiday today?” Zach asked. When Zach starts making things up, me an Alex usually nod and stay out of it. It’s mainly because we got involved once, and we barely made it out alive. We didn’t know exactly where Zach was going with his story, and it got all mixed up. He got onto us about it afterwards. And believe me: you don’t want to go near Zach if he’s mad.

So we just shut up and let the Red Queen glare down at Pinocchio.

Bank holiday?” she shrieked.

“Well yeah,” Zach replied casually. “Actually it’s Christmas.”

“Don’t sass me, young man!” she cried, outraged. “It’s the middle of May! I can take all three of you back and drag you into that classroom if I have to!”

“It is Christmas though,” Zach persisted, “in Australia.”

She stopped.

“Well yeah you know Australia is on the other side of the world so when its winter here, its summer there. Its spring here now…so Australia’s Christmas Eve is today.”

She still glared.

“Not all schools are closing today,” Zach explained. “But our principal is originally from Australia, so he and his family are celebrating it today.”

She didn’t say anything for quite a while. Zach’s face was straight, mine was decently solemn, and poor Alex (who grew up learning it’s wrong to lie—how fun) was trying not to look at her. The police gal seemed to buy it…but it never hurts to let the predator stare you down to make sure.

I managed to glance at her nametag though. I guess police have nametags along with their badges? I don’t know.

Edna Crocker

Yeah. She was ugly before. She’s hideous now.

She abruptly pointed a long, gangly finger at Zach, who did not wince at all.

“I don’t believe you,” she snarled. “But I have nothing to prove you are wrong, so I will not turn you in. There’s already been one affair with runaways hiding from the law. But nothing slips my eyes. I will be watching you.”

Now that I knew her name, I found what she said even creepier.

~J.L. Cordova

“Three of Us” Chapter Five

This was actually the perfect time to turn this into a journal. Something interesting actually happened.

Alex and I were talking and chilling in the storage room for most of the day. Zach had gone out that morning and we didn’t expect him back ‘till after lunch. Anyway he came back with a dog. I know.

“What the heck did you bring a dog in here for?” I almost yelled. Alex and I had both jumped up in shock.

It was one of those really shaggy dogs with long white fur, covering its paws and eyes. Its tail was huge. It was like a baseball bat or a huge fan every time he wagged it around. Its enormous pink tongue was out as it panted in excitement. He was pretty big. Up to my waist at least.

“How’d you even get him in here?” I persisted.

Zach shrugged. “No one saw him. He was out front. No leash or collar or anything. He followed me, Chris!”

“With help?”

“Huh?”

I pointed to the rope he had tied around his neck. Zach looked down for a while and then back up.

“I helped him follow me. Fine. But he would have followed me anyway.”

“Of course.”

“Zach we can’t keep a dog!” Alex finally spoke. “We can barely keep quiet down here. We don’t need a barking dog!”

“He’s not that loud!” Zach said defensively. He turned to the dog. “Speak.”

“Zach no!” Alex cried.

The bark was loud. That’s all I have to say. I thought my ears were going to bust.

“He’s trained, obvioiusly. He obeyed you. We can’t keep it,” I said, after the bark and echo in the storeroom had died away.

“But we have to!” Zach said.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because—I…well…we’ve never gotten a dog!”

“That’s because we live in a grocery store,” Alex remarked.

But I knew what Zach meant. He had never had a dog before. Alex and her grandma were cat lovers. And my brother and I had a dog and a couple birds. Zach, though, has always lived on his own. Granted, he’s taken care of a couple mutts here and there. But he’s never kept an actual pet before.

“We can’t keep it, Zach!” Alex persisted.

“We’ve got to, though!” Zach said. “He’s never had a home. He’s out on his own. And that’s not the most comforting feeling—you know that!”

Alex and I fell silent. Neither of us was going to argue with that. And that’s a fact.

He?” Alex finally asked.

“Shaggy,” Zach replied, looking down at the dog. Wagging its tail, his tongue was still out of his mouth.

“You’ve already named him?” I couldn’t help but smile.

“Well…yeah,” Zach stammered. “He looked nameless.”

I rolled my eyes.

“Zach we can hardly keep this place a secret with just the three of us,” Alex reminded him. His face fell as she spoke. “And we can only go out and in certain times during the day! Taking on a pet would take away our ability to work out different schedules!”

“Plus, we’d have to haul a lot of dog food and treats and stuff down here,” I added. “And we have enough people looking at us weird when we get our own food.”

“And a dog like that needs exercise,” Alex continued. “We’re in a storeroom.”

“I could take care of that!” Zach exclaimed. “The lake is right across the street! And I’ll be in charge of him. I’ll get the food he needs and the exercise he needs…”

“What about taking him outside?” Alex said in disbelief. “It’s not like you can put a newspaper down or anything.”

“So he’ll come out with me in the morning and afternoon…and maybe at night.”

“You’re gonna be responsible for all of that?” I asked, smiling. I couldn’t help it. “You sure you can remember that?”

“Yes.”

His reply was so blunt, I shut up immediately. That was that, I guess.

~J.L. Cordova

“Three of Us” Chapter Four

Dinner that night was just sandwiches. Cheese, turkey, tomato, mayonnaise. Except Alex. She likes mustard. Weirdo.

Zach also brought down some chocolate chip cookies for desert. We have this big stash of Oreos and Nutter Butters in one of the boxes, so I don’t understand why we need more junk. But I’m not complaining. If he hears me complain, he might stop getting stuff.

Wal-Mart brand cookies in a box are okay. Their store-bought, so what do you expect? I remember my grandma’s cookies were the best. Seriously. We’d eat about 20 at a time. Unfortunately for you health freaks out there, I’m not exaggerating. The funny thing is was that it was a secret recipe, and Grandma had never told anybody the secret ingredients or anything. When she was really sick in her bed before she died, Mom held her hand with teary eyes.  Asking her for the cookie recipe was the last thing she ever said to her. And Grandma muttered the cook book and her own secret ingredient. And she died.

Well I mean at least we got the recipe.

The single light bulb on the ceiling always makes the room look dimmer.

“It’s getting cold,” Alex remarked.

“Turn the air on then,” Zach replied, tilting his head towards the thermostat. “But the alarm’s right there so be careful.”

The alarm. It’s not active, but sometimes it’ll start beeping randomly. It isn’t loud, but pretty annoying after a while. We don’t know if it reaches the other alarm systems, so we try not to mess with it for our own use. And we just shut it off when it starts going off. Ironically, it’s always when we’re just chilling on our boxes. No one wants to get up and go turn it off. So we’ll just sit there until one of us gets so tired of hearing the constant beeping sound and gets their lazy self up to turn it off. I never do. It’s usually Alex, and Zach and I usually watch her get up and do it. Poor chick—she was raised in a family of girls.

Now that I think about it. This isn’t really a book. It’s more like a journal. I’m turning into Alex. Serves me right for thinking she’s weird I guess.

~J.L. Cordova

“Three of Us” Chapter Three

I woke up this morning from the smell of something hot, warm, and sticky. Opening my eyes, I saw Zach coming in with those doughnuts in the bakery display rack.

“They’re real?” I asked, throwing off the covers in delight. “I thought they were just for show!”

“Think again,” Zach smiled.

Alex awoke too, her face brightening as soon as she saw the box. Alex was never one for stealing (if you want to call it that). But I think the gooey chocolate glaze shining through the box made her forget about it. Zach had also brought napkins and a couple of those small Borden’s milk bottles. Alex went to dry some glasses she had washed in the sink in the back of the storeroom.

“How’d you get out this morning?” I asked, taking a bite of the first one. It was SO good.

“Walking,” Zach replied.

“No,” I said with a mouthful. “I mean, was nobody out today?”

“In the Refrigerator Room? Nope. Completely empty. Plus the bakery was really crowded. I got out and nobody noticed.”

“Typical Saturday,” I remarked. I stopped there, though, ‘cause Zach and I started to stare at Alex, who was stuffing her face. She looked up, smiled, and continued. Then she started her second one.

Alex loves doughnuts. It’s an obsession, really. When Alex’s grandmother took her to a doughnut shop, they sat right next to the see-through window, where you could see the doughnuts being made. I guess her grandma really didn’t know how doughnuts were made. Maybe it was before her time. Anyways, she saw how they go through the hot oil and all the glaze and icing and stuff. Now that I think about it, maybe seeing how something is made isn’t the best advertisement.

She started freaking out. She didn’t let Alex have doughnuts after that.

“She was one of those women with nutrition obsession,” Alex had told me. “She made me eggs and oatmeal every morning instead.”

Oatmeal. Yeah. Don’t take it personally, but…hot, brown, sloppy goop for breakfast? Let’s bring in chicken feed while we’re at it.

We watched Alex while finishing up our own doughnuts. My fingers were sticky but delicious. We had eaten them all. Two chocolates, a lemon, two jelly-filled, and a glazed. The chocolates were the best. But chocolate’s always the best. Who can go wrong with chocolate, seriously?

Zach, afterwards, took up his wallet (there’s nothing in it, but he finds change on the streets occasionally), and picked up the box. It was too nice outside to be cooped up in a storeroom all day. Alex grabbed her journal and gel pen, and also a book of quotes by famous men. You know, like Ben Franklin, Albert Einstein, and Napoleon and stuff? Alex will quote it sometimes and then watch to see if we smile or even acknowledge that it’s from her book. We never do. Poor chick.

Oh, I guess I do have a hobby I forgot to mention. I like drawing a lot. But I don’t do people. I like doing scenery. I don’t know. It’s something I’ve always liked doing. I don’t like to call it a hobby, though, ‘cause I don’t do it all the time. But…I guess you could count it. I’m pretty good, at least Alex says so. Zach likes my stuff too, but I can never tell if he’s just being nice. That’s what I grabbed before I left the storeroom: my bag, with my notebook, pencils and erasers. My notebook is filling up. I’m going to have to get some colored pencils soon. All my pictures need color.

There’s a maze of halls and a few steps here and there on our way to the Refrigerator Room. Zach came in front, and he slowly cracked the heavy metal door. It was empty. The cold air instantly ran through my body. It always aggravates me when I feel the cold of milk. It just doesn’t feel right. I’d never work at a grocery store.

Dodging crates and carts, we reached the door that will enter into the store. The bright yellow-tinted light blinded us for a moment. There were few shoppers around, which was good. As inconspicuously as possible, we reached the front of the store without much delay. The problem with the milk section is that it’s in the way back of the store. So we have to pass all of the isles of bread, canned stuff, and everything else on the left. Plus all the clothes and other things are on the right. And that’s just on one side of the building. Then all the cash registers are in front, passed the bakery and produce isles. McDonald’s is right in front by the doors. Yeah, a frappe sounded pretty good. But we had to get outside before being asked why we were in Wal-Mart at nine in the morning.

Can you tell we’ve lived here for a while?

It was so nice outside today. We passed the parking lot to go out to the park. Central Lake is not far from the Wal-Mart. Down one of those nicely-paved cement roads, with the nice street lamps, there’s a grassy green hill leading down to the boardwalk. All the mallards are down there. And there are a couple geese that nest near the bridge, which is further down. People come down here all the time. They run with iPods in their ears, walk with strollers or fiancées.

Alex, Zach, and I find a bench by the grass overlooking the lake.  We’re talking the entire way there. And sitting on the bench doesn’t prevent us continuing. Alex and I sit on the bench, while Zach spreads out on the grass, his hands beneath his head, looking up at the sky.

“Hey! You three!”

We turned. Approaching us with a scowl was a short woman with extremely fat hips and bust, but a skinny middle. She had red frizzy hair, and a horrible pimple in a noticeable place on her cheek. She stomped forward as we stared, secretly panicking. She had uniform on.

That’s right. I remembered. The area around the Wal-Mart is currently having police secure the area. I think there were some break-ins or something like that, so police are everywhere, like little annoying flies.

“What are you three doing out of school?” she demanded.

Pause.

“It’s Saturday,” I said.

“Does that mean you don’t have homework?” she still persisted.

“Does that mean we can’t go outside?” Zach asked sarcastically. She glared at him. At first I really thought she was going to eat him.

“Look,” Zach gestured around. “There’re parents with their kids all over the place. Why don’t you go pick on them too?”

“You three look suspicious to me,” she snarled.

We paused. I decided to let Zach do the talking, since he always has the best lines up his sleeves. And Alex wouldn’t talk back to a police officer if her life depended on it. So I just shut my mouth.

“We’re not doing anything!” Zach said. “How can we look suspicious?”

The policeman…woman, sorry…just glared at him.

“I’m watching you,” she growled.  And she was off.

It was weird, I won’t lie about it. Not only was she the ugliest woman I had ever seen, she was the meanest too. Come on, we’re twelve! We can’t be out by the lake on a Saturday?

It was a long time before conversation started up again. Alex started writing in her journal, and I start outlining the edge of the lake on my notepad. There’s no telling how many times I’ve drawn the lake, but I always seem to find something new about it each time.

The ducks quacked loudly below us.

“Did you bring bread?” Alex asked Zach. He shrugged.

“Nobody asked me to.”

Pause.

“Did you bring an iPod or something?” he asked.

“Oh please,” Alex retorted. “You’re so social—sticking head phones in your ears when we’re both right here.”

“Well you aren’t talking!” Zach said. “Besides, you guys have stuff to do.”

“It’s your fault for not bringing anything,” Alex remarked. Zach smirked.

“Go swim or something,” I suggested.

“Nah,” he said. “Don’t feel like it.”

Pause.

“This is pretty relaxing, though,” he remarked, stretching again. Letting out a breath, he finished, “not that bad.”

“Well it’s not going to last all day,” Alex said. “I think you should find something useful to do.”

“Thank you, Mother Killjoy.”

“Well you should.”

“Why?” Zach asked. “This is productive. My insides are calling out. Hear ‘em?” He contorted his mouth, making his voice sound high pitched and small: “We love sun. We like chill-axation. Keep doing nothing. Keep doing nothing…”

Alex rolled her eyes. I was just capturing the arch of the bridge on my paper as we all lapsed into silence again. As I studied the boardwalk for its beginning, I saw men with briefcases, groups of women running together. I saw a street clean-up girl and a couple employees from the pizza place down the road having lunch by the goose nest.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” I asked suddenly. Zach glanced at me as if to say, ‘Where did that come from?’

“An author,” Alex replied promptly, without looking up. “I’ve come up with several story ideas. And if I worked hard enough I could probably turn it into poetry. I’m still working out the climax on one. It isn’t strong enough. It needs more meaning.”

“Make two guys fight over a girl,” Zach said impassively. “That always makes things interesting.” Alex ignored him.

Zach writes. But not very often. His stories are short and depressing. They usually end in decapitations and incinerations.

“Journalism would be interesting,” Alex continued, still writing, “and so would screenplay writing.”

“That’s gotta be easier than newspaper writing,” Zach remarked.

“Not really,” Alex mused. “It’s harder to know what looks good on a movie.”

Zach shrugged. Alex and I both know what he wants to do: video games. It’s the one thing he likes especially and the one thing he’d like as a job. He’s not getting very far though—he’s not in school. He says he’ll get a job at a video game store and start from there. But what he doesn’t realize is that he needs qualifications. I don’t think he thinks much of the future.

“What do you wanna do, Chrissy?” Alex inquired.

Finally, I tore myself from my paper. What did I want to do? The first thing that always came to mind was an artist, since drawing had always appealed to me. But now I thought of the future differently.

“I don’t know,” I said. But I turned quickly before Alex had time to scold me. “Not a police officer.” We laughed.

~J.L. Cordova