March 24, 2011

Accents

My latest completed novel (read, not written) is Richard D. Blackmore's Lorna Doone, a romance set in Exmoor, England, during the late 1600's. I have long been aware of the variety of accents contained in Britain - think Henry Higgins - but I don't believe I have ever read a novel with such untranslatable written accents as Lorna Doone. Fortunately the main characters are not given accents, but for the lesser characters, Blackmore renders their ways of speaking phonetically; and when one of the good men of Exmoor relates a fairly important (and fairly lengthy) story about highwayman Tom Faggus, I could not understand one fourth of what he was saying.

But for all that, I found it to Blackmore's credit that he went to all that trouble to accurately portray the speech of country folk in the regions covered in Lorna Doone. While many people think that a British accent means dropping one's h's in Cockney style, in reality the whole of Britain is covered by different "dialects," which can vary even between two towns in the same county. Some are less noticeable than others, but the interesting thing about watching an excessive amount of British television is that, after awhile, you begin to notice different accents among the actors. These are often masked by voice training; for example, Colin Morgan, who plays Merlin in the BBC series 'Merlin', is Irish, but hides his accent in the series so that it only slips out on rare occasions.

Another book that uses British dialects, but less overwhelmingly, is Burnett's The Secret Garden. Taking place in Yorkshire, Burnett brings in the Broad Yorkshire speech of the working class, which has the two-pronged effect of grounding the reader in the location and portraying the different levels of society. These are even more clearly shown in the 2004 British TV serial "North & South," based on Elizabeth Gaskell's novel North and South. Whether it was intentional or not, I found it interesting that the change from the rural, slow-moving, peaceful South to the fast and industrial North is reflected in the different ways of speaking between the Hales (who have moved up from the South) and the Thorntons (a very Northern family). Daniela Denby-Ashe, who plays main character Margaret Hale, has a very soft and "round" voice, whereas Richard Armitage, who plays Mr. Thornton, speaks through his nose and with his jaw set, giving him a harsh tone. The series also differentiates between the workers and the masters of the cotton mills, for among the workers, the dialect of the region is much more pronounced than among the higher-class "masters."

Accents must be used with more caution in writing than in film, since phonetically-rendered speech can be cluttered and confusing, rendering the dialogue unintelligible. However, they are exceedingly useful and interesting when done well and deserve at least a passing acquaintance, as some knowledge of the dialects of different regions, whether British or not, bring depth and accuracy to writing.

March 23, 2011

Interview with Tessa from Christ is Write

Today Tessa from the blog Christ is Write is hosting an interview with myself and my sister, Jennifer Freitag, about our recent publications, what it's like to be teen authors, our works in progress, and more.

Sneak Peek:

What's it like being a teenage author, which is very unlikely, but also having a teen sister doing the same thing?

Jenny: Frankly, it feels kind of surreal. I have to stop and tell myself “You are a published author,” and even then, I feel as if I am talking about someone else, not myself. Having Abigail published along with me is a comfort because it’s a whole new, strange world, and it makes it easier to learn by trial and error with someone else in the comedy of errors with me.

Abigail: My experience is much the same as Jenny’s. We’ve both been writing for so long that being published was just the next step of that—something that we are very thankful for, but that hasn’t really changed much for us. It has been a blessing that both of us were published at the same time, not just in that we’re both venturing out together, but because neither one of us was first in this. There’s no room for any rivalry.

To see the whole interview, go to Christ is Write.

March 16, 2011

The Small Things

Yesterday I finished rereading one of my sister's favourite novels, The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff. I read it years ago, but I had forgotten how much I liked it until I bought it (she carried off all our Sutcliff books when she married, and now I'm having to build up my own stash) and started it. I had forgotten how Sutcliff sweeps you away to another place; I had forgotten how beautiful her writing is. There were a dozen things I loved about the book - the main characters (Esca!), the minor characters (Uncle Aquila!), the descriptions (Etruria!) - but one of the things that stood out to me most was Sutcliff's ability to evoke emotion through small things. She could make an inanimate object or an animate being symbolic of so much, and I loved the way she employed this here and there throughout the novel.

The Rose Bush When Marcus takes command of the cohort at Isca Dumnoniorum, he notices a rose bush, just beginning to bloom, that was planted years ago by some predecessor. The pot-bound plant reminds him of his family's farm in Etruria, which was sold after his father's and mother's deaths, and also links him to the past and the Romans who came before him in the frontier fort. Through the months he commands Isca Dumnoniorum he watches the rose bloom; but after the native British uprising, when Marcus is told that, due to a bad wound to his leg, he is being discharged from the Legions, winter is coming on. As Marcus watches his career - and the only life he ever expected to follow - slip away, the rose loses its last petal.
"Now that he could sit up, he could look out into the courtyard, and see the rose-bush in its wine-jar, just outside his window. There was still one crimson rose among the dark leaves, but even as he watched, a petal fell from it like a great slow drop of blood. Soon the rest would follow. He had held his first and only command for just as long as the rose-bush had been in flower..."
Cub Cub, the wolf pup that Esca brings home to Marcus after a hunt, does not at first glance seem to come into the story much; he is left at home when Marcus and Esca set out to find the lost Eagle, after all. But Sutcliff draws parallel between the collared wolf-cub and Esca the slave, the Briton of the tribe of the Brigantes who was taken captive and made into a gladiator. The time comes when Marcus has to take Cub's collar off and give him the chance to return to the wild; and the time also comes when he has to give Esca his freedom, and allow him the chance to return to his own people.
"And watching him, Marcus remembered suddenly and piercingly the moment that afternoon when he had taken off Cub's collar. Cub had come back to him; but Esca?"
The Signet Ring Marcus' clearest memory of his father is of him standing in the courtyard of the farm in Etruria, the sunlight glinting on the flawed emerald and dolphin of his great signet ring, the ring that links many of Sutcliff's novels together over generations. Like the Eagle itself, it is a bond between Marcus and his father, a bond of family and honour, of strength and loyalty.
"Looking back across the years, Marcus remembered that his father's eyes had been very bright, like the eyes of a man going into action; and the light had caught suddenly in the great flawed emerald of the signet-ring he always wore, striking from it a spark of clear green fire. Strange how one remembered things like that: little things that somehow mattered."
The Olive-Wood Bird On the farm in Etruria there was an olive tree with a gall, which Marcus, as a child, cut off and carved into a bird and has carried with him for years as a reminder of that beautiful place. It is his last physical tie to the farm, which he had hoped to buy back after he earned enough in the army, and in the long days and nights where Britain feels cold and foreign to him, the olive-wood bird is a sign of home. When Marcus burns it as an offering during the hunt for the Eagle, his old life seems to be burning away as well.

"But a new life, a new beginning, had warmed out of the grey ash, for himself, and Esca, and Cottia; perhaps for other people, too; even for an unknown downland valley that would one day be a farm."

March 8, 2011

Dramatis Personae - The White Sail's Shaking

Having had such fun doing this the first time with Wordcrafter, I decided to waste time and do it again with The White Sail's Shaking. Fortunately this one was, generally speaking, not so difficult. Again, I do not own these photos (and so on and so forth).

Tip Brighton

The youngest of four sons in a New England family, Tip Brighton had several great misfortunes at birth, the two greatest being that his older brothers obtained all the superlatives - the most genial, the most brilliant, the most dutiful - before he came around, and that he managed to be given the name "Edward." Only his parents, however, call him that, and he goes by Tip with all his acquaintances. The only thing that he has ever really excelled in is the use of his fists, but he is not a bully, for he would lose all self-respect if ever he fought anyone smaller than himself (except Charlie Bent). But even this useful knowledge is not enough to ensure his survival in the strange, brutal world of the Navy, especially with the fellows he finds himself among on the Enterprize. He has a great deal to learn, and that has never been something he does particularly well.

Marta Rais

Marta's father was a British officer and her mother was a Syracusan actress; the two married while he was stationed in the Mediterranean, but they were apart for most of their marriage and Marta rarely saw her father. She lived with her mother in Syracuse, Sicily, for the first sixteen years of her life, and when her mother dies, Marta expects to be taken back to England with her father. He, however, is killed in action and she is left friendless in Sicily, so she means to make it to England in search of relations.

In Gibraltar her life takes a turn after she witnesses a murder and accidentally stows away on the American brig Enterprize - the murderer being one of the Americans. Tip discovers her and, with no chance of getting her back to land and the prospect of battles to come, agrees to help her pose as a British deserter; but between maintaining this fake identity and trying to keep the murderer from discovering what she knows, she is quite out of her depth.

Charlie Bent

Charlie, a fellow midshipman on the Argus and then the Enterprize with Tip, is the youngest of the officers at the age of fourteen; he joined the Navy when he was ten. He hails from South Carolina and, at least in Tip's opinion, is the epitome of Southern culture. He is something of a dandy, extremely arrogant, and quick to snap if you rub him the wrong way, but he also has another side - a boyish, insecure side - and he carries a secret that he would rather not be let out. He and Tip, coming from completely different paradigms, clash on their first meeting, but trouble on the Enterprize throws them into a tenuous alliance.


Joseph Darkwood

Darkwood, who has a heavy strain of Native American blood in his veins, is the oldest of the midshipmen and by rights should be a lieutenant, but for his own reasons has never taken a promotion. He does, however, have something of a "right of seniority" among the four midshipmen on the Enterprize, which comes as much from his quiet, feline nature and reputation of being a crack shot as from his greater experience. He is not quick to like anyone and keeps his own council, but Tip respects him all the same. Despite his formidable character, he is so withdrawn as to prompt the belief that he would have been more at home in the clergy than at sea.

Lewis:

Tip's first encounter with Lewis was even less promising than his first encounter with Charlie; they crossed paths in Tip's Pennsylvanian hometown, where Tip gave Lewis a thrashing for being a bully. That was when Lewis was only a friend of Tip's older brother, however, and he is none too pleased when he finds that they are to be fellow officers on the Mediterranean cruise - especially since Tip is now on foreign territory, and it is Lewis who has the advantage.

But Tip is not the only one to earn Lewis' ill-will, and Lewis has a fine little plan of retaliation for each one of his messmates.

Stephen Decatur

Decatur is one of the few major players in The White Sail's Shaking to also be historical; most of the historical characters, while they play a part, are kept in the background. He commands the brig Enterprize as a lieutenant, but after the burning of the Philadelphia he is promoted to the rank of captain (bypassing that of "master and commander"). In The White Sail's Shaking he is sly, but good-natured and kind to his officers, including the lowly midshipmen. Like Darkwood, Decatur earns Tip's respect, which only serves to make Tip's life more difficult.


Scipio

Because there always has to be a pet. After this Barbary macaque's mother is shot by one of the American officers, Tip adopts it and is allowed to keep it on the Enterprize so long as it causes no trouble. Charlie, however, is the one who gets to name it, as he has a better knowledge of the history of the Mediterranean than does Tip, and the macaque is thus named after Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus Africanus Numantinus (better known as Scipio Africanus the Younger), the Roman general responsible for defeating and destroying Carthage in the second century B.C. The macaque is extremely attached to Tip, and he insists that its hideous exterior hides a heart of gold.

[Note: All previous warnings apply. In case of forgetfulness, I will reiterate them: I own all of these characters and all things attached to said characters; any use of them is against the law. And remember the "part Sicilian" bit.]

March 3, 2011

Foreshadowing

Foreshadowing is one of the most interesting techniques to use in writing. It lends a story continuity, tying the beginning in with the middle and the end, and also serves to let the reader know that the author is conscious of where he or she is taking the story. In essence, it allows the writer to pull back the veil a little for the reader and give a glimpse of what is to come - even when the reader is unaware that this is being done until the event actually takes place. It can be a foreshadowing of something relatively small, or something grand and momentous; its fulfillment can be fairly obvious and only the circumstances be shrouded in mystery, or the hint may be so slight that the fulfillment comes with a shock. Either way, there is something about it (if well done) that gives a thrill of expectation to the reader.

Foreshadowing is used in many different ways, in many different stories. It is especially obvious in prequels, such as C.S. Lewis' The Magician's Nephew, a backstory for his The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe which tells Professor Kirke's story and that of the birth of Narnia. The whole story could be referred to as a foreshadowing, really, as it sets the stage the arrival of the Pevensies and all that follows thereafter, but there are also specific elements that are more noticeable; for instance, the poignant scene in which Digory Kirke encounters Jadis at the gate of the Garden. On the gate inscribed in silver are the words,

"Come in by the gold gates or not at all,
take of my fruit for others or forbear,
for those who steal or those who climb my wall
shall find their heart's desire and find despair."

Naturally, Jadis climbed the wall and ate one of the apples of youth, establishing herself as a permanent evil in Narnia, and that looks forward to the time when she rules Narnia as the White Witch. Not only does The Magician's Nephew answer questions that arise in the other books of the series, but it adds depth to the world Lewis created and to the events in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. This is the same for any series in which the author ties the books together, especially those where the plots are only loosely bound together, yet have similar threads running through them. In Rosemary Sutcliff's Eagle of the Ninth and its sequels, she links the novels together with the use of a family ring that passes down the generations of the Aquila family. (While this is not strictly foreshadowing, the principle is the same.) On the other hand, a series in which foreshadowing is not used would be Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet, in which the second book makes no mention of the events in the first and thus lacks continuity.

But one problem with this is that writers don't always know where they are heading with a story; after all, Tolkien had only fragments of ideas for The Lord of the Rings when he began The Fellowship of the Ring. When this is the case, it frequently shows in rough drafts as the writer's knowledge of the story increases. Thus comes the need for editing, and it is in this process that foreshadowing can be added as the writer weaves the two halves of the novel more tightly together (something that Jenny wrote an excellent post on a little while ago).

Another use for foreshadowing is to keep readers turning pages. It is not always the best option to drop the reader in the midst of an action scene on page one; sometimes a more "normal" setting is needed to paint a background for the rest of the novel and set up the plot, and so the beginning of a story often has a slower pace than the middle and climax. In such cases, hinting in the first chapters about what is to come later helps keep readers tantalized and waiting for the next twist in the plot.
 
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I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
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published writings






The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
finished writings






Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
currently writing



Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 124,000 words

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