August 15, 2011

Day Three {First Time}

Today is the third day of Lerowen's writing challenge (for me), but it is also the end of the giveaway for The Soldier's Cross. Using the highly sophisticated Random Number Generator, the winners are...

Eyebright (of Defective Compositions) and Katy (of Inlets and Harbors). If you two could scoot your addresses into my inbox (jeanne [at] squeakycleanreviews [dot] com), I will get your copies of The Soldier's Cross shipped out very soon. If you enjoy the book, I would love to read your thoughts in an Amazon review. Congratulations!

day three: first attempt at writing

My very first attempt at writing was little more than a kind of fanfiction of one of Jenny's early works. It stemmed from the fact that she killed off my favourite character - that happens to me a lot - and would not repent and bring him back to life though I wept piteously. Really, I was broken up. The sun was dark in my eyes. So naturally I took her story and created my own character, who just so happened to be a rather flimsy reconstruction of the character she had killed. The story was ridiculous and riddled with Mary Sues and Gary Stus; it has since been fully deleted.

But that was years ago, and we prefer not to dwell on that. Then there was another story, a kind of mystery, that flowed out of the fanfiction attempt. I suppose it was a little better, but that has also been deleted and I really don't want to compare the two. They were both early attempts. That is to say, they were both silly.

But then there was Stonehenge. Stonehenge predates The Soldier's Cross by a while, but it came trickling into my head at a time when I greatly needed it. It was something original. It was something not entirely rubbish. It was just something different from the ridiculous stories I had hitherto been trying to beat into shape - which was a bit like trying to construct something with jelly. Stonehenge did not exactly have a cohesive plot, but it was set just as the Romans were overrunning Britain and dealt with a man, a somewhat Saint Patrick-like character, who had come to bring the young Christian faith to the remote land. The main character was a young woman of one of the tribes who met the man of God and who was the only one to listen to his words. To her the stranger had no name but "the man of God"; he was an enigma, appearing at times when he was most needed and seeming more otherworldly than human.

Stonehenge is an aching kind of story, which is perhaps why I have not pursued it further. But it convinced me that I could write after all, and that if I persevered, I might be able to write something good. It was a milestone, so I doubt I will ever delete it.

Standing Stones

“A dark time is coming to this land.”

His words sounded strange, coming on such a beautiful day. The sky was clear and blue as a precious stone, the moors grey and purple with heather, the birds chirruping in the thicket. The broad-bladed grass stirred lazily in the breeze, showing silver underbellies and deep green backs as they moved; like a chieftain’s golden torc, the sun hung low in the vastness, reaching down toward the west. I thought it odd, for I had just been thinking how a day like this brought one in sight—almost in reach—of the Paradise of yore, with the gem-bright colours and the shivering expectancy that I felt pulsing in the earth beneath me. But I had learned to heed the man of God’s words, and I turned my head on the grass and looked up at him with a frown on my forehead.

He was not looking at me; as he did so often, he was staring before him intently. He held a piece of reed between his fingers and he played with it, stretching it taut and then strumming it to produce a hollow sound. Then he began to roll it, still not even affording it a glance, until he held a tapering kind of tube; at first I thought he was not even paying attention to what his hands were doing, but presently he raised one end to his lips and I saw his chest expand and heard the breath moving out from his mouth, and a deep, quivering noise, rich and wild like a voice, came from the little instrument. I lay as though paralyzed, listening to the notes falling until I recognized the melody of a psalm he liked to sing. I should have liked to pick up the words, but I did not know them well enough.

Suddenly he stopped. He looked long and hard at the reed, then laid it away and rested his arms on his knees, meshing his fingers together. “A dark time,” he continued as though there had been no pause. “The Red Crests are hungry for power, and soon they will march on Britannia. Blood will be spilled; the land will be darkened; Albion has had her time for laughter and mirth: she faces sorrow and destruction now.”

I sat up, looking about me at the warm, living stones that encircled us. “Is it because we do not worship the One true God?” I asked tentatively.

He jerked his head briefly. “It is not for me to say. Perhaps: perhaps not. I do not know the mind of God—who does?—and it is not my duty to pass judgment on this land. I only know that the dark is coming, but not why.”

“How is it that you know?”

He turned his head toward me, tipping a smile and unlacing his fingers to lay a hand against my face. “I have not always been here,” he reminded me. “Those distant lands have been my home for long years, and I have seen the ever-growing power of the Empire. God has chosen to grant her dominion for a time; many tears and much blood will be brought because of the Red Crests, but His word will also spread, and that is a far greater thing.

“As for how I know that the time will be soon,” he continued, drawing away again, “traders have passed through here, and I have spoken with them. They tell me of a new emperor—a new king—who looks to expand the borders of the Empire yet further, and they say his troops are moving across Gaul.”

“But we have always stood against the Red Crests,” I objected. “Why should now be any different?”

“Their armies are stronger now, and Britannia is weaker. Their legions have doubled; you have no battalions. No, the Red Crests will swarm over Albion like ants over their hill, and no one will be able to fruitfully stand against them.”

I was quiet. I wondered just how much would be destroyed when they came marching across the chalk: would this place, my sweetest refuge, be destroyed? Would the farm be burned? Would my father and mother and the people of the village all be killed? The day did not seem so bright anymore, and I could not hear the birds singing. “Why do you tell me of all this?” I asked quietly.

“I would have you be warned,” he returned. “I would not have you be taken off your guard. And there is always prayer.”

“Prayer for what? War seems inevitable.”

He shook his head. “None of the shadows we glimpse in the future are inevitable, bairn. What God wills, He will do, but He has in the past willed miracles. Pray for grace and strength and the courage to stand by your faith.” He paused a moment, and then added in a softer voice, “You are still very young: I would not see you uprooted.”

I stared out across the downs, but my eyes were blind to the beauty now and I saw only scarlet plumes and sandaled feet and bright, gleaming metal in the sunlight. I shuddered and realized with a pang that, whatever I had thought before, I was not brave, and the future loomed before me like a veiled monster waiting to devour me. From the merchants that passed through I had heard tales of the Red Crests’ cruelties, and as I looked down at my own slight body I wondered how I could stand them. As the fear rose to an overwhelming pitch, I did something that I had never done before: I reached across the distance between us and slipped my hand into the man of God’s. “I am afraid,” I whispered.

He tightened his grip on my hand. “I know. But courage: there is hope.”

I shook my head, hunkering down into a little miserable ball. “I cannot see any.”

“While God lives,” he said firmly, shifting his cloak over my shoulders, “there is hope. Courage.”


  1. Hooray for Eyebright and Katy!!

  2. Oh, Stonehenge! I loved that story. I still love it. It is aching--aching and dusky and windswept--and even more beautiful than I remember.

    You would have only two rubbish attempts to your name before something as lovely as "Stonehenge"--just like your unfairness! :P And that's going by your definition of rubbish; they were probably much better than mine.

    (Also, congratulations to Eyebright and Katy! The Soldier's Cross is a prize worth winning.)

  3. Aching and dusky and windswept is the best way of putting it, but with the light playing in it, like the upside-down world of twilight in a rain puddle when the sky is breaking up and the setting sun comes through.

  4. Megan - Maybe it is unfair that I have only two rubbish attempts, but I truly believe that the rubbishyness of them makes up the difference. Your attempts at least sound original and have a gleam of promise in them. My own were truly much more awful than I said here, because I didn't feel like dwelling on them in too much detail!

  5. This is beautiful, Abigail! It makes me scratch my head and wonder if my poor Puddleby Lane is rubbish...I don't think I could write such painfully beautiful words! If this still is not one of your best works, I'd love to someday read what your best is, because it must be something amazing! :) Congratulations to Eyebright and Katy!! ~Rachel, The Inkpen Authoress

  6. Aw, thank you, Rachel! But as for Puddleby Lane, the parts I have read on your blog are very good, and I especially like Ann Company. It sounds to me like a cozy kind of story. And it takes place on the seaside! That alone makes me happy.

    Thanks for commenting!

  7. That is beautiful. Now I want more than ever to read one of your books... I shall have to start saving pennies to someday buy The Soldier's Cross. :)
    I love seeing excerpts of your writing!



meet the authoress
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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