February 29, 2012

Great and Small

It's no secret that I love cats, and if ever it was, my Favorite Things post dispelled it. Cats have been a part of my life for almost as long as I can remember, excluding a brief period after one of ours ran away and before we got our current ones, Buster and Esther. When I was little, the neighbors had a massive amount of cats (all one family, I believe) that Jenny and I were allowed to play with, and when they moved, they left one cat with us. At the same time we had Ashes, a big black devil-cat who used to lie in wait and pounce on me when I came around corners. My contact with cats, you see, has not been wholly positive.

But despite that emotional scarring at such a tender age, I grew up loving cats - and of all adorable and sweet cats, I consider my Buster to be the best. I've had him now for about eight years; he sleeps on my bed at night, gives me "kitty hugs," plays peek-a-boo with me, gets blue (so I am told) when I go away. Those who know more about dogs than I do say Buster is one, only in cat form. That may be true; I couldn't say. All I know is that he is one special cat.

I suppose, then, that he forms a large part of the inspiration for Sunshine and Gossamer. I have not "properly" begun this story, "properly" entailing research and Word Documents, but I keep a special notebook for it and write sections when the mood strikes. Right now it is merely the tale of a girl and her cat come to live on a Welsh farm for the duration of World War II - a coming-of-age story, of sorts. Mostly, however, it has shaped itself into a tribute to my love of cats in general and Buster in particular. I'm just finishing up a James Herriot novel, so what comes to mind is the song which inspired his titles:

all things bright and beautiful
all creatures great and small
all things wise and wonderful
the Lord God made them all.

Not deep or profound, but for some reason it makes me smile. And now, in the spirit of Sunshine and Gossamer, here is a snatch of the story for you.

Dear Father,

Today, in a sweeping naval battle that will go down in the history of Farrowdale, the Great Gossamer Armada was defeated by the Sunshine Fleet. The struggle raged for hours with great loss of twigs on both sides; the Sunshine Fleet (two noble bogwood corsairs and six bark galleons) was outnumbered by the Gossamer Armada (five corsairs, four galleons and a dinghy), but superior seamanship was shown by the Sunshine Fleet. Oh, the suspense was terrible! It looked as though the Armada would prevail, having sunk two of my galleons, but a stroke of genius saved the Fleet: I converted a corsair into a fire ship, and that was that.

Of the Gossamer Armada, only the dinghy sailed away. The Sunshine Fleet returned to harbor with a corsair and four galleons only slightly crisped, but the fire-corsair went to the bottom of the pond. Ho hum. The Navy Department will build another one.

With love,

Sunshine and Gossamer

February 23, 2012

Beautiful People - Charlie Bent

Guess who! Yes, the Beautiful People questions are back for February. I debated whether to do this round, but then Jenny went and posted hers and declared that I was soon to post mine, so here I am. Last month I did Tip; this month I am returning to Charlie. As The White Sail's Shaking draws toward a close, Charlie is more and more involved in each chapter and thus has been occupying the greater portion of my brain. I hope, therefore, that you won't mind seeing him again.

charlie bent, midshipman


1. If your character could be played by an actor, who would it be?

Jeremy Sumpter, if he would go to Neverland himself and stop growing up. I fixed on him after seeing "Peter Pan" (2003), but of course that movie was made nine years ago and Sumpter is now in his twenties. However, he still has a young-looking face and I believe he might be able to pull it off.

2. Does your character have a specific theme song?

There are a number of songs that remind me of Charlie, some more directly than others. I remember I picked Owl City's "To the Sky" and Andrew Peterson's "After the Last Tear Falls" some time ago. "Streets of London" by Blackmore's Night also brings Charlie to mind, although he has never been to London.

3. What's his worst childhood memory?

"I...had a fever. Walked a long way."

4. If your character had a superpower, what would it be?

Perhaps the ability to turn anything he touched into ice, ala Frozone. I never saw much use for the power, myself, but it is the only one I can see Charlie having.

5. If your character [wrecked] on an island with a bunch of other people, how could your character help the group survive?

A second question arises from this one, and that is whether or not he would want to help them survive. As to that, I suppose that, in a detached way, he probably would. However, Charlie has a great deal of the aristocrat in him and is not one to throw himself into any kind of brute labor. I could see him spending the entire time working out the island's exact location and its physical properties. It wouldn't help his companions, but if ever they were rescued it would be interesting information to have.

6. Is he married? If not, does he someday wish to be?

Charlie is fifteen, and he has no thoughts of matrimony at the present.

7. What is a cause he would die for?

Perhaps as telling a question would be, what is a cause he would kill for. But at any rate, I think one answer - there could be several - is that Charlie would die for honor. It would be stupid and he would know it was stupid, but he would do it, all the same.

8. Would he rather die fighting valiantly, or quietly at home?

Fighting. Or at least, he would like to think he would rather die fighting.

9. If a stranger walked up to him and told him he is the child of the prophesy, would he believe them?

If it happened in Boston, ten to one this stranger is going to smell heavily of alcohol. In that case, Charlie would remove them from his way with a wary smile, brush off his gloves carefully, and go on with whatever he was doing. Were the stranger of the darkly-cloaked, mysterious-Druid sort, straight out of legend and not to be denied, I imagine they would still find Charlie a difficult case. He would not like to be a child of the prophesy, and what he does not like he does not accept with good grace.

10. Do they prefer the country, or the city?

The city, if it comes down to a choice between those two alone. Charlie had enough of plantation-life when he was growing up and prefers the bustle and hustle of a place like Boston, although ships and the sea are his first love.

February 20, 2012

Favorite Things

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens? Well, I am fond of whiskers, or rather the kittens (hopefully) attached to them, but otherwise Maria's song holds little interest for me: I haven't had a schnitzel in my life, and my packages don't come in brown paper tied up with string. Our kettle isn't bright copper, either.

I have, however, been thinking about a few of my own favorite things. It has been a lovely day, sunny and blue and a tad chilly, but mild enough to open the windows; perhaps that is why my thoughts have been rambling down happy trails. At any rate, raindrops on roses aside, here are some comfortable things that brighten my life.

family & friends // my church // old, cloth-bound books that smell of dust and bookshops // my cat // cool, sunny days // blankets and comfy armchairs // writing // tea and tea cups // chocolate (!) // trains at night // jane austen // book-hunting // notebooks // letters // owl city // my characters actually behaving // merlin // my bookshelves // sailing ships // imagining // pocket watches // stephen decatur // history // things that glitter and sparkle // autumn // stars // charlie bent // passages in scripture that just stand out // scribblin' by hand // "you too?" moments // purrs & whiskers // saturday evenings // packages in the mail.

The list could go on. There are little things everywhere that cheer me, little things that may be insignificant when one looks at the whole picture, but which are no less important for that. They say the Devil's in the details and in the context I suppose They are right; but when I look around, I see God's hand in the details.

February 14, 2012

Logos

I want much more than this provincial life!
I want adventure in the great wide somewhere
I want it more than I can tell...

- beauty and the beast


I am not an adventurous individual. I get nervous about car rides and the idea of being on an airplane makes me shudder. Snowboarding? Tubing? Riding a bike down a really steep hill? They all make me want to slink away to my comfy chair in the living room and settle down with a book. Real-world adventure and I don't get along.

Adventure in the realm of ink and paper, however, is quite a different matter. That I couldn't do without. Whether it be an adventure of the past, as in a biography, or one like Treasure Island, where the action is nearly fantastical, there is something thrilling about it. Through the story we see a wholly separate world; through the characters we are allowed to live the adventure. In a way, it takes us out of ourselves.

I suppose this is a large part of the charm of reading. There is only one Emily Dickinson poem that I have read and enjoyed (although I will admit to not being well-versed in her works), and it is probably also her most famous.

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!

Perhaps this is a little embellished, as poetry usually is. Yet it hints at the beauty and power of the written word, its seemingly unlimited capabilities. There are few things that so set Man and his soul apart from the animal realm as his rationality and capacity of both thinking and communicating; last month I wrote a short post on the Imago Dei, and this aspect of Man vividly portrays that God's image in him has not been lost. Jesus Christ is called the Logos, the Word, the thought of the Father communicated, and as humans we are privileged to bear that image through language.

It is impossible to explain the impact of words, yet it is equally impossible to deny that they do indeed have an impact. We joke about the saying that the pen is mightier than the sword and envision a battle between a writer and a soldier, but cliche though the saying may be, it remains true: we would no longer know of the great warriors of history had some writer not chronicled their lives. Words have the ability to transport the reader "lands away," to conjure up another world in his mind, to communicate in a manner that is almost magical. Like so many elements of the human psyche, this is something that, while tangible, is also indefinable.

And yet, also like so many other parts of the human mind, this comes with its own dangers. It is easy to fall into escapism - I know I often do. Is it a godly way of living to shut oneself up in the realm of the written word and never come out? I have heard people declare that they live in the wrong era. These are usually readers, individuals who see another period in the (oft-glorified) mirror of books and wish they had been born in that time. It just seems so much better than the humdrum life we have every day. But not only is this an idealized way of looking at history, it also constitutes a slap in the face of Providence. God knows what He is about; He put us in this day and age for a reason. We must not lose sight of that, or we run the risk of getting so caught up in sighing over days gone by that we forget to live as salt and light here and now.

Are books dangerous, then? Should we all burn our adventure stories? Well, to answer the first question, with our sinful nature it is possible to take anything to excess; and to answer the second, if you intend to get rid of them you should send them to me. Books are wonderfully beautiful and helpful things. So much can be gleaned from them. We cannot live in that realm alone, but I do think we should strive to unite it with the world of our daily lives.

February 7, 2012

A Comparison

I am a Jane Austen fan.

I always feel very typical and oh-so girlish when I make that confession; it's like saying that pink is my favorite color or that getting a new pair of shoes is a form of therapy (neither of which is true for me). Every girl seems to like Jane Austen. But I figure that the poor lady couldn't help that, and so, popular or not, I am a Jane Austen fan. Her novels are my comfort books. I read them when I'm feeling blue, and just seeing them on my shelf is cheery. Jane Austen and tea are synonymous for "comfort."

Elizabeth Gaskell, on the other hand, is a different matter. A contemporary of Dickens, writing in the mid-1800s when Britain was in the throes of the Industrial Revolution, Gaskell dealt with much harsher subjects than Austen. She also seemed to have a thing with killing characters; I think it made her happy. So many people died in her novel North and South that I came out on the other side very blue indeed, and even the lighter Wives and Daughters had its share of gloom. Light and comfortable her novels are not, and neither are the movies based on her works, particularly the grand miniseries North & South.

Whence, then, the comparison between the two authoresses? Actually, I don't mean to compare them at all. It would be like comparing tea and black coffee; the differences are so vast, where would you even begin? No, I mean to compare two of their characters who are in some ways remarkably similar. If you know about Gaskell and Austen, you have probably guessed which ones I mean. And you would be right: I am going to be cliche for the second time in one post and compare

fitzwilliam darcy and john thornton

The former is more famous than the latter, as Austen is more famous than Gaskell. Fair enough, I suppose, since Austen proceeded Gaskell by about forty years. Yet their two heroes have similarities that stand out even at a glance: dark and brooding types with the same sort of unwilling attraction to the heroine. Each is his own character, however, and they deserve a good look to see where their comparisons end.

mr. darcy

It is impossible to stay that Mr. Darcy is cliche, because he really began the cliche of darkly handsome heroes who have passionate hearts under their arrogance. In addition to that, he has more depth than such a simple generalization could give him: as he says himself, he was given good principles and then left to follow them in pride and conceit; he is selfish and arrogant at his core, and over the course of the story these things change. Yet even early on, he has his good points. He is an affectionate brother to Georgianna and a good, albeit meddling, friend to Bingley, and I consider it proof of his self-control that he was able to show respect to his extremely annoying aunt. He also has his weaknesses, being in his own eyes "unqualified to recommend himself to strangers." (Apparently Georgianna didn't get all the shyness in the family.)

mr. thornton

John Thornton is a more complex character than Fitzwilliam Darcy. Thornton was practically born into hard circumstances: schooled by a stern mother after his father's suicide, put in the position of "man of the house" at an early age. To me, one of the most significant things about his character was the fact that he worked, not merely to provide for himself and his family, but to pay off his father's debts and start afresh. That right there is a mark of courage.

At a relatively early age, Thornton manages to start his own cotton mill - and with his father's history looming over him, he will fight to keep it running. He is certainly biased against the workers and whatever kindness he shows them is rather self-serving; it takes Margaret to change that, as it took Elizabeth to change Darcy. (That seems to be a necessary component of romance novels.)

Of these two, Mr. Darcy is perhaps the grander. His witty comebacks are a riot, and the way Elizabeth slights him and Wickham drags his name through the mud for half the novel is painful for me to read. Yes, Darcy is certainly a favorite. What would the world be without him and Elizabeth Bennet and Pride and Prejudice?

Yet, all in all, I believe that Mr. Thornton is the better man. Despite his faults, he speaks more to an ideal: he works hard, honors his mother, provides for his family, and in time also learns charity in his dealings with the mill workers. I do not mean to read into the novel more than Gaskell, a Unitarian, meant to be there; but I come away from the story seeing at least these biblical values in Thornton, and they are what make me consider him the better character. In a sense, he is more real than Mr. Darcy.

Both characters fit their stories. Pride and Prejudice is light, whimsical, jaunty, while North and South is more gritty and realistic, and the same goes for their heroes (although I wouldn't exactly call Darcy "jaunty"). Mr. Darcy would no more fit in Milton than Mr. Thornton would fit in Pemberley.

...but that would make for an interesting story.

February 4, 2012

Winners!

The New Year Contest came to a close on Tuesday evening, and Jenny and I spent Thursday reading through the entries. There were quite a number of excellent "first impressions": it was difficult to narrow them down to just two! Here are our choices.

Second Place: Sky-glory (Yaasha)

“What is it?” Aron covered his eyes with both hands. The image of it still burned in his eyelids, shooting pain through his head. It was delicate, like a butterfly’s wings or a column of smoke, yet in the delicacy lay perfect design and order, which indicated a strange resilience. It appeared to be formed of several strands, each with its own quality, each lending its unique radiance to the whole. Like hair, Aron thought.

He dared a glance between his lashes, trembling, and the pain seemed to explode behind his eyes, but he could not look away. In a way, even the pain accentuated its beauty, proving that it was more than a fragile apparition. And its size! It filled his vision, one side licking the dark river that flowed to Aron’s right and the other touching the clear purple mountains in the distance on his left. The entire sky seemed to blaze with its glory and to brush the bottom of the rainclouds with many colors.

“What is it?” Aron asked again, clutching his sister’s hand.

Nura stood, transfixed and breathless for a moment, then whispered reverently, “It is a rainbow.”

Jenny and I were delighted with the way the descriptions and the characters' emotions are woven together here. Everything builds up beautifully to that last sentence.

First Place: Time (Alex)

I know who you are.

It took me a while to figure it out, but now I know. When we first met, you came into our house, to see my father. He was drunk again. You stole his wealth, you stole his reputation, and you stole his kindness, and eventually you stole his life. I didn’t cry, because you had stolen my family’s affection for him, too.

You were a strange looking man, very old and yet very young, dressed in garb from about every era and every culture that there has ever been. I counted at least ten pocket watches and thirteen wrist watches, so I could hear a distinct ticking sound whenever I went near you.

You turned to leave, but you said you would be back one day, and that we’d better be careful about what we allow you to take. I asked what your name was.

“In time, you will come to know it,” you said.

Those words puzzled me at first, but now I know your name was hidden in your words all the while. I know who you are.

You are Time. And I’ll be ready for the next time you come to call.

Dark and fantastic. In just a few words, the author captured the elemental fear that Time can inspire and yet also ended on a challenging note. Marvelous through and through.

Congratulations to both of you! There should be emails waiting in your inboxes to remind you of the prizes. And thank you to everyone who entered; Jenny and I enjoyed reading everyone's "first impressions," and we look forward to doing something like this again.

February 1, 2012

February Snippets

I had intended to do some sort of thought-provoking post, but nights of little sleep and grey days aren't conducive to thoughtfulness. Fortunately, though, Katie S. has begun a monthly "story snippets" roundup over at Whisperings of the Pen, and I decided to join in. These are my

february snippets

Tip did not answer. The bullet was in place, so he took a better handle on the weapon, which was nearly too small for his hand, and turned so that he was looking down the stretch of battered grey stone to the empty rows forming a half-circle about the stage. There would have been people there, centuries ago, Tip mused, and we could have been the actors.

- the white sail's shaking

It was so dilapidated that the cover dangled by a mere thread and its pages were blistered into the humped form of a whale’s back, but Charlie had it cradled in one hand as though it were a lovely thing, his fingers rubbing absently at the binding.

- the white sail's shaking

Suddenly the fire on the Philadelphia reached her powder, and with a shock that tore the air in a brilliant flash of red the frigate exploded. Sparks and fragments flew upward and then showered the harbor and city like falling stars, lovely and dizzying, and though there was no need, Tip recoiled all the same and instinctively put up a hand as if to protect himself. The debris settled, hissing into the harbor; on the surface of the water the remnants of the Philadelphia still burned angrily, long flaming tongues licking the sky.

- the white sail's shaking

Then the tesser came. It screamed down the tunnel, a formless explosion of light and rain, consuming the grey; and when Alex plunged forward, it consumed her, too.

- tesser 004

And yet [Tip] must have found something, for he laughed—and that, too, was a strange sound—and began to shepherd her on to find Mr. Worth. What strange people are thrown together in this little island world, [Marta] thought as she half-skipped to keep up with him. And I have wrecked on it.

- the white sail's shaking
 
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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