December 17, 2013

The Books of 2013

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The dreamy comfort of the books and tea and sofa-ness in this photo has essentially not been my life for the past five months.  Early this year I purposed not to move through books at such a whirlwind pace, feeling that, while I did manage to read quite a bit during 2012, the list was oddly unsatisfying.  It was all very nice to have found five five-star books in a  year, but by December 2012 I felt out of breath and annoyed, and decided I would go into 2013 with a little more vision and purpose and All That.

Well, I don't suppose I really needed to purpose any such thing: college pretty much took care of the problem.  Oh, I toddled along well enough up until July - but after that the newness of the first semester at college swooped down on me and my fun-reading suffered accordingly.  However, I read what I read and that is better than nothing.

Goodreads says I've read thirty-seven books this year, but that doesn't count a few I was dragged through for the sake of a good grade.  Don't get me started on Writing Women's Worlds, for instance, which begins with terrible alliteration and goes on down from there.  However, I did find The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down a tolerable venture into the world of biomedical culture.  It is, in essence, the story of a Hmong refugee family, their epileptic daughter, and the clash between their culture and that of the California medical community - not a light bouncy sort of read, but somewhat like a medical thriller all the same.  (I sold it back to the bookstore all the same.)

History, as I mentioned in an earlier post, has had me racing between eras and nations and topics and not properly finishing much of anything.  Four chapters in Nicole Howard's The Book, a brief overview of book-making technology; five or so in The Ottoman Age of Exploration, an interesting look at the Ottomans' Indian Ocean venture of the 16th Century (if somewhat burdened by the author's propensity for qualifying all his remarks); bits and pieces of The St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, a collection of primary sources; and C.V. Wedgwood's A Coffin for King Charles/A King Condemned/The Trial and Execution of King Charles I - the only one I have actually been able to FINISH, and a pretty fair sketch of events (for a Royalist).  Possibly something else, too, but my head is so full of studying-for-the-exam that I can no longer think straight enough to be sure.

I have been able to relax with a few histories not directly related to the early modern period.  My first book of the year was Ben Macintyre's Operation Mincemeat, the fuller, more accurate history of the espionage venture from the film "The Man Who Never Was" - which is splendid because of its creepiness and because it has Stephen Boyd as an Irish agent.  Barbara Tuchman's The First Salute was another far-flung, not very well reasoned foray on my part; I remember little of its main point, and looking at my review, I find I wasn't actually sure of its main point when I finished reading it.  Oh well, Tuchman and all...

After that I confess I indulged my interest in Richard III for a while, picking up The Wars of the Roses, The Last Plantagenets, Historic Doubts on the Life and Reign of King Richard III (fun stuff, that), and, less historically, The Daughter of Time.  The latter was a kind of history lesson wrapped up in a pseudo-mystery, very influential in both genres and, I thought, not very enjoyable as a book.  The writing style was too insistent, the author too bent on bludgeoning.  I like Richard as much as the next sentimental gal, but goodness! no need to tie yourself in knots over it!

I was more successful with a few other mysteries.  I finally sat down and read The Woman in White: rather melodramatic, but oddly enjoyable in its melodrama.  I especially liked the rotation of narrators and the way it is set up like a court case, with each witness delivering his or her testimony in turn.  And then, similar only in being a classic mystery and full of Gothic flavor, there was Rebecca.  Disturbing, emotional, dark and incomplete - and fantastic.  Oh, I guessed the Big Plot Twist, but I don't mind that - it wasn't the point.  Rebecca was brilliant in its breathless, intimate, closed stream-of-consciousness style (and in having a completely nameless protagonist).  It turns mystery tropes on their heads and made me lose sleep.  I cannot for the life of me understand why writers are attempting to reinvent it or "pay homage" to it, for it isn't the sort of book that can very well be improved.

Death Comes to Pemberley was somewhat less rewarding, but that's partially my fault: I should have known better than to relax my strict views on classic adaptations.  However, I knew that P.D. James is an acknowledged mystery writer with a great deal of experience - not some young twerp with an over-inflated ego.  So I gave it a shot.  And, well, it was nothing to write to Longbourn about.  The thing about books that borrow characters is that no one will ever write those characters as well as the original author.

Over in the realm of classics, I feel I made some worthwhile progress.  I ventured into the world of Mr. Bertram Wooster and his man Jeeves, finally read To Kill a Mockingbird (and liked it), finished off the Bounty trilogy with Pitcairn's Island, and crawled through The Arabian Nights.  I don't think that was meant to be read in one chunk.  I did a little more work with Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Taming of the Shrew (!), The Comedy of Errors, and Henry VIII Which Was Long And Tedious.  I read The Black Arrow, which, alas, is not my favorite Stevenson, and which could really be classed with my Richard III binge.  Also, I finally read David Copperfield!  Hurrah hurrah!  Steerforth is no Carton, but I'll admit to getting a little sniffily over that part.

Encouraged in no uncertain terms by Mirriam, Jenny and I picked up The Grand Sophy over the summer and were soon in stitches.  I recently read Heyer's Why Shoot a Butler?, too, but I suspect I'm going to be fonder of her romances than of her mysteries.  We'll see after They Found Him Dead.  I'd like to get one of Heyer's historical novels and give it a whirl - sample some of each, as it were.

I didn't find many five-star books this year, but one I did "discover" was J.I. Packer's Knowing God.  Yes, I know, I should have read it before, and I intend to read it again.  Packer combines a no-nonsense air - typical, I think, of British practical theologians - with compassion for those struggling with realities of sin and justification and assurance.  His emphasis on the role of adoption in the life of the believer helped give me a new perspective on it, and renewed appreciation for the work of the Holy Spirit.  Rather harder to read but even more provocative was Lesslie Newbigin's Signs Amid the Rubble, a collection of lectures on the Kingdom of God and God's purposes playing out in human history.  What was it I said?  "I said something rather brilliant this morning before tea."
Sometimes I wondered if he wasn't pushing the edges of orthodoxy, and certainly I wouldn't recommend this book for a new believer; but taken as a whole, and not in fragments, I found him thoroughly solid. Besides, it is good to read writers who jar you and push at your foundations and pull you outside of your box and comfort zone. Newbigin was such a man, and his "Signs Amid the Rubble" is a book worth returning to. 

what made it into your "read" pile this year?


December 5, 2013

Betwixt and Between

I did not post in the whole month of November. I had good intentions, but of course we all know where they lead, so that doesn't count for much.  However, I seem to have just spent the last year on a plane, on a bus, on a train, in some rambling old place or in among gorse-covered crags.  Motion, motion, motion!  I practically need a vacation to recover from my vacation.  That said -

folks, I went to SCOTLAND.

Little-bitty me, who has never been anywhere much, has sat on a plane (six, actually) and crossed the Pond and trekked around in a foreign country for ten days.  It is not, admittedly, comparable to Jenny's three months, but it is still a world beyond anything I have ever done before and it was absolutely fantastic.  Except the bit where I caught a cold.  But never mind about that.

We made our headquarters in Glasgow for this trip: a big city, by my reckoning, which is not much of a reckoning at all.  From here we took various modes of transportation to a smattering of sites, or just rambled through Glasgow itself when we wanted a more leisurely day.  We didn't get to see everything we had planned, of course, but our handpicked few were topnotch: Stirling Castle first, then Edinburgh Castle and Arthur's Seat, then Linlithgow Palace.  




It was almost unfortunate that we went to Stirling first: it spoiled us for the rest of the trip.  The castle seems to rise naturally out of the old volcanic rock, and perches splendidly over the town that lies in the valley below.  The day we went was cold, and foggy at first, so that when we stood on the wall in Queen Anne's Garden, we were looking out over a white sea that stretched all the way to the hills on the horizon; William Wallace's monument rose up out of it like an island.  Later on, though, the sun came up and the fog burned off, and then everything was frosty and glorious.  

The castle itself was amazing.  It has been mostly left alone, which is the way my family likes things.  There were very few roped-off places, only a few careless signs informing us that there were "sheer drop offs" ahead and depicting stick people falling off them.  For the Scots, I guess not killing yourself through stupidity is a matter of common sense.  Anyhow, while some of the interior was a bit made-up and stilted, the ramparts and grounds were raw and old.

After Stirling, Edinburgh Castle was a bit of a let-down.  It has been far more commercialized, being in the capital city as it is; there were also a lot more screaming children whose interest was, I suspect, extremely small.  More areas were roped off and the setting itself was less magnificent; tellingly, I was looking for a photo to post and found none of particular interest from the Castle.  We did get to see the Honours of Scotland and the Stone of Scone (we then went home and watched "Stone of Destiny" to get the highly accurate and not at all embellished story of its recovery), but they draw and quarter you if you bring a camera in.

We then scootched four miles or so through the city in a roundabout manner to reach Holyrood Park.  This was the spectacular part of the Edinburgh excursion: the Salisbury Crags and Arthur's Seat. 


The daylight was fading - it gets dark around 3:30 at this time of year - and we aren't athletic, so we didn't make it to the top.  The view we had, though, was spectacular.



That night I dreamed about hiding in the gorse.  Combination of Arthur's Seat and Kidnapped, I daresay.


Linlithgow was a world apart from both Stirling and Edinburgh, partially because it was built as a palace and not so much as a fortress, partially because it was pretty thoroughly burned after The Forty-Five.  The floors and the roof are gone, though you can still climb the spiral staircases in the corner towers and walk through the chapel and the royal apartments. 



There seemed to be little of the palace worth seeing when we first entered the courtyard: a fountain, four burnt walls, four burnt towers.  As we moved further in, though, the rooms began to unfold.  Every time we started up a new tower, we had no idea where it would take us; I got completely turned around, and it was dizzying to suddenly find that I had come back down another staircase and was reentering the courtyard from some new angle.  As to that, the staircases themselves were dizzying.  I don't have a very good head for heights (I found that out with greater clarity on this trip), and as all but perhaps two stairways lacked handrails, I practically crawled up with my hand on the outer wall at all times.  I didn't make it to the top; I left it to others to get photos.



See the greenish-blue figure on the bench toward the right?  That's yours truly.  ("I'd stay on firm ground and let them dare away!")

They say the palace is haunted by the ghost of Mary of Guise.  Well, I don't know about that, but if it isn't haunted, then it ought to be.  A ghost would find a very pleasant, if somewhat noisy, home in Linlithgow.

Of course there is more to the trip than these four places.  We did a deal of walking through Glasgow itself, shopping or visiting the Necropolis, and we also ate extremely well.  (If you ever get the chance to go, I strongly advise you to visit Burger Meats Bun: best. hamburgers. ever.)  We packed the vacation full, since ten days is really not long at all when you factor in twenty-four hours for travel to and from, but they were also oddly leisurely.  We saw the sites and still had time for a round game of whist come evening.  Hearts, Mr. Collins - hearts.

I must admit one complaint, however.  We saw a great deal of history and a great deal of scenery, but though I looked, I never did see Alan Breck. 

Well, phooey.

October 14, 2013

The Old College Try

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I know I've been doing an absolutely despicable job at this whole blogging thing.  I don't think it's all college: I could probably eke out time to write if I applied enough willpower to it, and actually had things to write about.  But you see, I haven't been writing much, so there isn't anything to say about that; I don't want to turn the blog over to "the college experience"; and I'm always afraid I'm going to bore people if I simply post updates.  But the latter is what this post, at least, is going to be.  As for future posts - you tell me!  What would you like to read about?  I can't promise I'll be able to comply, but it's good to have ideas and parameters.

In the meantime, since today and tomorrow are my Fall Break, I figured I should put in an appearance in between paragraphs of a response paper on the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre.

university

I know some of you are more interested in this college business than others.  I also realized the other day that I have never actually said why I'm going to college at all.  Those of you who know my sister, Jenny, know that she opted out: my family doesn't put an overwhelming emphasis on college.  College is a means to an end.  If you have certain goals in mind, it is necessary to jump through the academic hoops; if you have other goals in mind, college is more of a hindrance than a help (and an expensive hindrance, at that!). 

For myself, I'd like a good foundation in history and especially in historical research.  I don't know at this point whether I will turn that toward nonfiction some day, but whether I do or not, the processes are things I feel I need to learn as I progress with my writing.  Of course there are less enjoyable aspects of college to endure, but fortunately I tend toward an academic, nuts-and-bolts sort of mind that can, I think, crank along despite that.  It's overwhelming when I stop and think that I've got four years of this, so I try not to think about it. I've got through the first part of the first semester, at any rate!

reading

"I never let my schooling interfere with my education."  Unfortunately I've got to say that it has a little: my pleasure reading has dropped off sadly.  The last book I finished was The Hounds of the Morrigan, which, although a rather fat fantasy, probably oughtn't to have taken me an entire month (in a perfect world).  But oh well: it was a relaxing, fairly mindless read, most remarkable for its original, often highly absurd cast.  Any author who can make a troop of earwigs or a family of spiders sound cute should get points, I say.

There has been quite a range of required reading in my classes, and some particularly interesting ones in the history course.  Unfortunately the dictates of time and the syllabus make it necessary to move on to the next book before finishing the last one; so, for instance, I've read four-and-a-half chapters out of six in a history of book-making technology, about five chapters in The Ottoman Age of Exploration, and most of The Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre.  The movement is necessary, but does rather give me mental whiplash and makes my reading in general seem fractured.  I don't like not finishing booksEven if I don't like the book, I like finishing the book.

For lighter reading, I've been picking out Sherlock Holmes short stories and applying myself with greatest earnestness to Knights of the Sea, an account of the battle between the HMS Boxer and the USS Enterprise (hey! that's my ship!) during the War of 1812.  It is interesting, although I wish the author wouldn't define words in the footnotes.  I understand some people don't know what, say, "broadside" means, but I do feel a glossary works better; it feels less as though the author is imparting some great knowledge to a less educated audience.  But again, it's the "lucky little Enterprise"!  I feel a certain pride when I glance through the pages and see all the fights it won, or when I see a portrait and think, "Ah ha!  I know you!"

writing

Well, not writing exactly, but literary efforts in general.  I have been sending out a few queries here and there for Tempus Regina - even gotten a few rejections, hurrah hurrah.  (Also got a rejection on query for The White Sail's Shaking that I submitted five months ago.  Um...thanks?)  As I was telling someone recently, it is a little bit difficult to convey all the disparate elements in a cohesive, if not necessarily sane, way.  So often time-travel is used simply as a ploy, and somehow I have to show that no, wait, I really do know what I'm doing!

At the moment, I am working more on lowering wordcount.  It helps to have several different files, each of a separate draft, so that I know whatever I take out is still there: I can, if need be, add it in again.  In essence, it allows me to feel that the parts I've cut really are there in the overarching story; they just haven't been revealed to the reader.  Like colleges cutting costs (I'm sorry - everything does come back to college in the end, doesn't it?), I'm trying to avoid "sticker shock" by pitching a too-large novel.  Somehow agents don't seem impressed when I protest that for goodness sake, it's not as if it's War and Peace!

the miscellaneous

I want you all to know that I got that word right on only the second try.  That's pretty good for me.  I think to my dying day I will be unable to spell it properly the first time.  That and "mischievous" (took me about three tries).

Fall is just about here, I think.  We're planning on apple-picking today, which is one sure sign; and I got a pumpkin latte from Starbuck's last week, and that's another.  Even on the warmer days, I break out the long sleeves in a kind of defiant protest.  I will enjoy autumn weather, confound it, even if the autumn weather isn't here to enjoy!

My family and I are working slowly toward getting our passports together for a trip to Glasgow over Thanksgiving next month.  Two out of three have arrived, and we are hopeful that, Lord willing, come late-November we'll be standing on Scottish soil and preparing to do some trekking (via car and train: my father raised his eyebrows in true Mr. Bennet fashion at the suggestion of cycling). I am absolutely terrified of the idea of flying, but am very excited at the idea of getting over to Scotland and maybe getting to scoot all the way down to York.  Perhaps see Bosworth Field. Good nerdy stuff like that.

"BRRRRITISH...BICYCLES!"

September 23, 2013

Goddess Tithe Cover Reveal

Hullo-allo-allo, something new for you today!  Some of you - the ones who have read a few or all of Anne Elisabeth Stengl's Tales of Goldstone Wood - have been waiting to learn more about her newest project. The cover of Shadow Hand was shown several months ago, and since it isn't scheduled to release until February 2014, I rather thought that would have to be it for the time being.  But then Anne Elisabeth announced a new project, the very first novella in the Tales of Goldstone Wood.  



The Vengeful Goddess 
Demands Her Tithe 

When a stowaway is discovered aboard the merchant ship Kulap Kanya, Munny, a cabin boy on his first voyage, knows what must be done. All stowaways are sacrificed to Risafeth, the evil goddess of the sea. Such is her right, and the Kulap Kanya's only hope to return safely home. 

Yet, to the horror of his crew, Captain Sunan vows to protect the stowaway, a foreigner in clown's garb. A curse falls upon the ship and all who sail with her, for Risafeth will stop at nothing to claim her tithe. 

Will Munny find the courage to trust his captain and to protect the strange clown who has become his friend? 

Besides being the first novella in the series, Goddess Tithe differs from the usual Goldstone Wood fare by being illustrated.  Anne Elisabeth included eight full-page drawings (done by herself, of course, because she's awesome like that) throughout the story, and is letting us have a sneak-peek at one of them.

Anne Elisabeth writes, "This is the first [illustration] in the book. I decided to share it with all of you since it depicts my young hero, Munny the cabin boy, under the watchful eye of his mentor, the old sailor Tu Pich. Munny is on his first voyage, and he is determined to learn all there is to know about a life at sea as quickly as possible. Thus we see him utterly intent upon the knot he is learning to tie.

Tu Pich is old enough to know that no sailor will ever learn all there is to know about the sea. Thus he looks on, grave, caring, and perhaps a little sad. He might be looking upon his own younger self of many years ago, fumbling through the hundreds of difficult knots his fingers must learn to tie with unconscious ease.

I enjoyed creating all the illustrations for Goddess Tithe, but this one was my favorite. I love the contrasts of light and dark, the contrasts of young and old . . . youthful intensity versus the perspective of age."

 

 According to the official author bio...

Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a kindle of kitties, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and practices piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University.

She is the author of the Tales of Goldstone Wood, including Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, Starflower, and Dragonwitch. Heartless and Veiled Rose have each been honored with a Christy Award, and Starflower was voted winner of the 2013 Clive Staples Award.

According to me...

She can also be found over at Tales of Goldstone Wood, where she blogs about writing, cats, and fantasy in general.  (Psst! Her Friday Tidbits series has some great tips.  And her cats are adorable.  So everyone should head to the blog.)

A number of bloggers are participating in Goddess Tithe's reveal today, some of whom will be featuring an excerpt and, I believe, some background on how Anne Elisabeth designed the cover.  The novella releases November 12, soon enough to tide readers over until Shadow Hand's February appearance.  Keep an eye out!  And in the meantime, be sure to enter the giveaway below: you might just win a copy.

September 20, 2013

Putting on Labels

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Well, I think you guys have been guessing for a sufficiently long time.  I hadn't meant to leave you dangling more than a week, but the days went and got busy again.  Phooey on them.

All in all, I think everyone did pretty well with the guesswork.  A few of you need to study some more,* but others were very nearly spot on.  A few, I admit, were harder than others; one snippet in particular you all got consistently wrong.  So consistently wrong that I almost feel compelled to move it to the story everyone insisted it was from.  Almost.  But, you know, it isn't going to happen.  No one was altogether right, though several of you did have some very good streaks in there: it was just those tricky ones that threw you off.

snippet #1

This one almost everyone got right: it's from The Running Tide.  If it's from a fellow's point-of-view and he's got blood on his hands, you're pretty safe if you bet on Tip Brighton.  As a point of interest, though, in this case it wasn't from punching anybody.

snippet #2

Another fairly straightforward one here, as the nurse rather gives the setting away.  Wordcrafter.  But I figured that since Tempus Regina is partially set in Victorian times, there was a slight chance you might go for that: I wasn't expecting any of the guesses for the Sea Fever books!

snippet #3

This bit was tricky, I'll admit, but it is in fact from The White Sail's Shaking.  It was Tip talking to Marta, even though looking at it now, I can see how you might think it was the Assassin talking to Regina.  The slight hesitation, however, is telling.  For me.  You know, being the writer and all.

snippet #4

Tempus Regina!  Very squarely Tempus Regina, and your first glimpse of the Fisherman.  

snippet #5

Only Writer got this one: it is also from Tempus Regina.  Nearly everybody guessed the Sea Fever books, which made me rather sorry to disappoint...

snippet #6

I'm sorry: I didn't give you much to go on, did I?  This is from Wordcrafter, though admittedly it could have gone many different ways.

snippet #7

Yes, I tossed you an easy one: Tempus Regina again.  You did ask for snippets from it...

snippet #8

I can't decide if it was the fact that this began with "wordlessly" or the bit about the desk, but nearly everyone went for Wordcrafter when it is actually The Running Tide.  Reading over it, I can see how you would think Justin King, but I'd still like to know if perspective was skewed due to the desk...

snippet #9

And possibly the hardest one, that only Joy got.  It's Tempus Regina once again - the only bit of the novel written from a male point-of-view.  Yes, I did do it to be mean.  I'm mildly apologetic.  I think personally I would have guessed Wordcrafter.

Well, that wasn't too bad!  I'd say you all got seventies or eighties at least.  Were there any you were particularly confident on, and have I now thrown you into confusion? 

*I'm sorry, but exams are coming up this week and I just can't help it.

September 10, 2013

What's It From?

pinterest: sea fever
I was thinking the other day that I haven't had any snippets to share with Scribbles' readers in a long time, which is a bummer - especially when people like Jenny and Mirriam are offering theirs up with pretty fair regularity.  (Never let it be said that writers aren't a petty lot!)  I think a few of you asked several months back if I would be able to show you anything from Tempus Regina. Unfortunately, as a story progresses I find myself with less and less I can share without spilling a whole lot of beans, and by the time I've reached the end of a novel I can't seem to dig up any bits at all.  This has been particularly true of Tempus Regina, as even characters' names are in many instances being kept under wraps.

So - no real snippets post.  However, after beating my brain around a little bit, I thought it might be fun to give you a sort of challenge.  Most of you have, from previous snippets and general information, at least a hazy idea of the plot and voice of each of my novels.  What I want to see is whether or not you have a good enough idea to be able to match any snippet I share with its novel.  It's something of an academic exercise for me: I want to know how much light I've shed on these books and how different the style is from one to another, or, conversely, how constant my voice is. But, too, you wanted snippets.  So I shall give you snippets.

They will be from my major novels: Wordcrafter, The White Sail's Shaking and The Running Tide (these are essentially one book, so if you want you can say Sea Fever; kudos if you can guess which!), and Tempus Regina.  I won't list any from The Soldier's Cross, partially because I believe most of you have read it, partially because I wrote it four years ago and I'm pretty sure the stylistic difference would be too obvious.  I'm not sharing one each, so there will be some overlap, but I also won't throw in anything random just to confuse you.  It's a straight matching game.

snippet #1

Instinctively [he] looked down, uncurling both fists to show the bloody palms underneath; he had been too numb since the beginning of the engagement to notice that he had ground the blunt stubs of his fingernails through the surface. He covered them again. “I’m alright,” he said, and the words came out in a dry rasp.

snippet #2

Squinting up into the face of the nurse, who had fallen from chatter into nondescript humming, [he] parted his lips and said, “I’m mad, aren’t I?”

The nurse started, and then considered him a long moment with a furrow between her freckled brows. She took him in, and weighed him, and then seemed to have a good long think before pronouncing judgment. “No,” she said simply, “I don’t think so. They would have told me if you were."

snippet #3

“Well,” he said, not very graciously, “I suppose we’ll have to keep you. But I wish—I wish you hadn’t gotten yourself into this mess.”

snippet #4

“You came in haste,” he went on, eyeing her sidelong, working back and forth, and back and forth, the great silver ring on his left hand. The fire made its inset stone shine out ragingly blue—made the flaw in it stark, and cast up a reflection on the man’s jaw. “You came in haste and now you hesitate, and so I suppose it is bad news. Eh?”

snippet #5

He lifted his narrow shoulders helplessly. “I did not mean to provoke you. Only, it struck me that you looked lonely. You looked as though you wanted company. You looked,” he added, having to raise his voice against the roar of an explosion down below, “the way I felt myself.”

“Did I?” she hummed, sidestepping. “I had no notion of that.”

snippet #6

“[He] was asking for you, you know. I think he was afraid you might come back, and what a pity! here you are.”

snippet #7

She released him, drawing herself rigid to avoid a fall. Her legs were going…going… She made it as far as the chair, sat down, had time enough to thank God it had a back, and then felt the whole of the room slide into darkness.

snippet #8

Wordlessly he crossed the room and hauled himself up on the corner of the desk, not quite able to hold back the shivering sigh that hissed out at the relief of letting his bad leg dangle, of feeling his bones ease with the creaking of an old man’s limbs.

snippet #9

But the men, the guard with the nose-ring and another [he] knew only vaguely, did not summon him. They stood a while, shoulder to shoulder, watching [him] while he put his back up against a wall and watched them in return; then they came down from the threshold together, the first man spun his javelin, and the second drove the door back into its socket. The light was cut short; the half-dark returned, warm now with the presence of two new bodies, glittering as the spear-heads turned.

“What’s this?” [he] breathed. “What are the two of you about?”

September 3, 2013

Bits and Pieces

pinterest: wordcrafter
College began last week.  There was the usual (at least I presume it's usual: it's all new to me) bustle and flurry and headache trying to get classes sorted out, dropping and adding and arranging.  At first I had no early classes, but the way things have since worked out, I now have one at 8:30.  Oh well, it's not so very bad.  There are assignments due already, which does seem just a little cruel, but as I slide now into the second week I feel I have a better handle on my schedule.

(But that may be denial.)

Inspiration for blog posts remains low.  Have I talked myself out?  It's quite possible; but then, it is also possible that I am merely in that annoying in between stage of not properly writing a novel, and so can't seem to dredge up Things to Write About.  I may have mentioned before, but my brain has three gears: editing; brain-storming; and writing.  They don't seem to mix. 

However, even without anything really serious to talk about, there are little things to share.  Today the mad dash of school and anxiety has slowed and the brain is not quite so feverish.  With homework for tomorrow finished, I have enough of a breathing space to sit down and write something to give you a glimpse of what is going on behind the scenes of Scribbles

kitten-sitting

I am sitting in the bonus room of my home, watching Jenny's two kittens mill about the place and begin to get their bearings - we're keeping the little stinkers for the next three months, while Jenny is off in Scotland, and are trying to ease them gently into the routine of the place.  I'm afraid they might have heart-attacks when they do finally come face to face with our own three cats, who look like creatures from Where the Wild Things Are compared to Minnow and Aquila.  

At the moment they are being kept in isolation, and they seem to be adjusting.   Minnow is "playing the cello"; Aquila heard the vacuum cleaner running downstairs and has slunk under the bed.  It's quiet for the moment, since every time I turn on Loreena McKennitt the kittens go bug-eyed and run around as if we're being invaded by purple elephants in pink tutus.  I don't see what they can possibly have against "Caravanserai."

reading

I think I've got about a hundred books to read for classes this semester, though fortunately not all at once.  (You do, however, have to buy them all at once.  I can just hear the booksellers going "ka-ching! ka-ching!" as classes start.)  Textbooks and supplemental reading, and one very interesting little thing for history class about the development of the book itself as technology.  

In between those, I have managed to squeeze in some pleasure reading.  I picked up Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca - yes, the one it seems everybody has already read - last week and have been greedily devouring it.  Except that I got to the Big Reveal last night before bed, and had a bit of trouble getting to sleep.  I saw the twist coming, either because I am clever or because I had already read about it in someone's review.  For those of you who have read it, though, don't give any spoilers because I'm not done yet.

For lighter reading, I'm rambling along through The Hounds of the Morrigan - because sometimes a good fat fantasy is just the sort of thing one needs.  It's a bit crazy and absurd, and I haven't gotten to the overarching point yet, but the characters of Pidge and Brigit are good enough for me.  Brigit reminds me of Luna Lovegood, she's so utterly random.

"You know what it's like when you're waiting for something."
"Yes.  It's like being kept in a bag and hung up on a nail."
Pidge thought he knew what Brigit meant but he wasn't sure.

writing

Other than the assignments which are already flooding in, I've not been doing a terrific amount of writing: a little here and there in my writing notebook, a short companion piece to Tempus Regina.  The next project is being cranky, but I can't very well complain, since there would hardly be time for me to give it the attention it needed even if it weren't.  Though I don't like not writing, in this case it is probably a good thing that I have to be patient.  In the meantime, I scribble a little and work on other things.
 

August 20, 2013

The Glorification of Death

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With the first round of edits complete and the novel sent out to readers, I've moved on to the process of query-writing.  Not that any queries will actually be going out for some time yet, but it seemed like a good idea to buckle down and begin the work.  I think the current version is #3.  Getting there, getting there...

The process of researching and noting agencies is, as always, enjoyably frustrating: enjoyable because hey, books! and people to query! and frustrating because there are just so many pages to trawl through.  I am, however, beginning to memorize the agents of such bestselling novelists as Suzanne Collins, Cassandra Clare, Scott Westerfeld, and Stephenie Meyer.  And then there are the ones whose works are represented by more than one agency, and that just gets confusing.

Poking through lists of recent fantasy novels, I've also begun to notice trends.  One is that most of these books get some pretty awesome covers, and could I have a cover like that?  Why, yes, thank you, I will take the cover of Wither!  The second, though, is that dark seems to be incredibly in at the moment.  Everywhere I turn I see yet another book about the undead; about vampire-slaying; about the end of the world; about romance between a human and a devil or an angel and a devil or a SOMETHING and a devil.  Vampires are going out of vogue (Twilight is so 2005) and dystopian is in, but even in young adult novels technically labelled "fantasy," horror seems to be the overriding element. 

This is not to say that all of these are badly written.  I'm sure some of them are; I suppose some of them may very well not be.  Nor do I have what you would call an iron stomach, so perhaps I'm not qualified to judge the creepiness level of any book.  However, seeing all these books lined up in virtual rows and reading all these queries of books that sold has made me wonder where exactly the obsession with death came from.  Death is something alien to the way things ought to be and there is, or used to be, a healthy dread of it.  Now it seems to be embraced. 

I don't believe Christians ought to shy away from addressing the hard, dirty problems of the world: on the contrary, I think the attitude of treading on eggshells that believing writers adopt is part of the reason our literature is so terribly insipid.  Death is a hard, dirty problem that must be faced.  What I wonder in looking over recent publications is whether they are no longer treating it as a problem, or whether the authors are attempting to confront the problem and failing.  And I wonder, too, whether readers are not being inoculated to the issue by the prevalence of horror and skewed spiritual ideas.  If the trend continues, will it not become harder and harder to battle a problem that readers no longer imagine to be a problem?

What think you?

August 13, 2013

Who Will Deliver Me?

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Updates!  First of all, if you haven't scooted over to the Notebook Sisters and joined in the festivities, I think you'd better had.  They've interviewed a number of authors and are giving away bucket-loads of literary Stuff, including two physical copies each of The Soldier's Cross and The Shadow Things.  And if you already have them, there are plenty of other novels you can enter to win!

Looking over the August to-do list (we're nearly halfway through the month!), I believe I've made significant progress on almost all the items.  Anything dealing with college is on hold until the week of Fall Orientation, and since the weather remains obstinately hot and muggy, long-sleeves are not possible.  But driving continues; one pair of shoes has been bought; Plenilune moves on apace; the brain is suitably stormy; and the first round of Tempus Regina edits is complete.  At the moment I am sending this second draft to only two beta readers, but perhaps at the next turnpike I'll expand the readership.  I can't send it to everyone but don't wish to disappoint anyone, which puts me in a very sticky situation.  We'll see how things pan out.

In the meantime, I will try to get on with the questions asked two months ago.  There was one from Joy and one from Sarah Ellen that unintentionally dovetailed, and I think it would be helpful if I tackled them in one post instead of taking them on separately.  Both are intimately bound up in the life of Tempus Regina and thus are difficult to spell out in so many words: as with all these questions, only the novel itself can provide anything like adequate answers.  However, I hope this post will provide a little clarification, especially to Sarah Ellen's question - which is one I'm sure others have been mentally asking as well and which may make some readers uneasy.

I am curious to know if...Christianity is an obvious and uncloaked element in your characters' faith. What is the religious-system of Tempus Regina's world?
[joy]

This is a huge question to approach, which is part of the reason why I've taken so long about getting to it.  It's dashed difficult!  First off, the phrasing presupposes that Tempus Regina is set in some fantasy world, which was hopefully cleared up in my post As Dreams Are Made On.  As an historical fantasy, it takes place firmly between the bookends of the real world, and that includes the faith of the characters.


Regina's faith is the product of a Victorian upbringing, a little battered and corroded by the constant necessity of fighting to maintain herself: when you are forced to rub shoulders and knock elbows with the world, a good deal of the prettiness gets chipped off.  In the ages to which she travels, however, there is much more of a religious mix.  These are the times of early Christianity, when biblical doctrines were often combined with paganism to create a drink more palatable to the heathens.  Some continued to hold to the array of Norse or Roman or even Persian gods; others accepted a version of Christianity; others, like the Assassin, took a little of everything but were really agnostics at heart.

This variety obviously jars someone like Regina, and since she finds herself thrown into a bargain with the Assassin, her faith - weak as it is - does collide with his worldview.  The antagonism, in fact, does much to reawaken the rudiments of Regina's faith.  It brings her face to face with what I mentioned concerning the story's theme: "the law at work in her members" and the war between Spirit and flesh.  However, this is much, much less central to the plot than it was to The Soldier's Cross.  Or at least, I will say that it is neither so obvious nor resolved so neatly. 

On a scale of clear spiritual overtones, my novels would probably be listed as The Soldier's Cross ("What must I do to be saved?"), then Tempus Regina ("Who will deliver me from this body of death?"), then Wordcrafter ("Greater love hath no man than this..."), and then The White Sail's Shaking & The Running Tide ("Am I my brother's keeper?").  

I've seen pins on your board about elements and wardings and such. Do you include some sort of magic in this book? 
[sarah ellen]

The simple answer is yes, this book does include a much greater magical aspect than any previous work of mine.  Tempus Regina is, again, a somewhat dualistic novel and I am constantly working to balance the elements of history and the elements of fantasy.  It is not historical fantasy in the way a book like Black Horses for the King is historical fantasy, simply by virtue of its placement in a time period about which we know next to nothing: there are definite fantastical components.  This does include some ambiguous sorcery on the part of certain characters. 

Magic as "magic" is not a great part of the story.  On the other hand, alchemy is, and it branches into intuitive alchemy versus the hard-learned, scientific alchemy of the ancient Greek philosophers.  The elemental power that some characters possess, and the burden of mastering something as immense as time itself, introduces a tension that I hope to explore in the future.  Suffice it to say for the moment that for the most part, the pins from the Tempus Regina board fit into the realm of scientific alchemy, which forms most of Regina's experience in this novel.  It's the Assassin's specialty.

August 5, 2013

Things to Do, Places to Go

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Blog posts have been very scarce around here, I know: five days into August and this is my first one.  For that I apologize.  The brain has been running full steam on Tempus Regina edits, and the idea of then turning my attention to Blogger merely to write something else about Tempus Regina is uninspiring, to say the least.  Don't worry: everyone's questions are safely stored and ready to be hauled out and answered soon.  You've not been forgotten!

In the interim, I thought I would hop onto Mirriam's coattails and chart out my current plans for August.  It looks as though it intends to be an alarming month and I do think it just a little bit cruel of her to so casually fling out there that it is the last month of summer.  I don't like summer for summer's sake: I'll be glad when it shuffles by and I can haul out my fall clothing again.  (Apparently tromping about in boots in July is frowned upon by fashion experts.)  However, in this case I could stand for it to slow down and give me more breathing room.

The motive behind this post is mostly selfish, I admit.  I am going to set out the goals and requirements of August in the hope that, if blog posts are not forthcoming in the following weeks, you will allow me some grace.  For this month, Lord willing I'll...

find out what my fall courses will be

begin my freshman year at college

finish this round of Tempus Regina edits

continue brainstorming for the next project

get Tempus Regina packaged for my beta readers

soldier on with these "driving" shenanigans

determine how soon I can reasonably start wearing long sleeves

begin the business of query-writing

participate in an interview'n'stuff with the notebook sisters

finish reading Plenilune

buy shoes!
 

July 25, 2013

The Summer Not-List

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I like lists.  I like the orderliness of them and the fun of crossing the items off.  They make one feel accomplished.  ("...that I might not be so uneducated in comparison to Jane Fairfax.")

However, when it comes to book lists, I am a little like Emma Woodhouse.  I can have every intention of reading all the ones I've written down, but somehow as soon as I bind myself to do it I have absolutely no interest in following through.  They are suddenly dull and uninteresting, or just not suited to my mood.  Since this has happened a number of times, I tend not to make them anymore; I don't even use the "to-read" function of Goodreads, which I think for most people is just a glorified way of taking a book under advisement so as to forget it faster. 

On the other hand, I don't like footling about.  I like structure and planning, because otherwise when I finish one book I can't decide what sort I want to read next, and so I pick up something I think will suit.  And then I am self-obliged to finish it, even if I get a quarter of the way in and realize it isn't what I wanted to read and why on earth did I pick it up when there are a score of others I actually do want to read?  I suppose that is a hazard that comes with an excessive amount of books (is there such a thing?) in one house: you can't see the forest of literature for the bookish trees. 

Last month, then, I decided I would go ahead and make a list.  Not a list of books I am going to read in a set amount of months, or anything like that: just the ones I most want or need to read, to keep me (hopefully) from being distracted by others.  It seems to have gone well enough so far.  We'll see if it keeps up.

a few of the unconquered tomes

Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
 Washington - Ron Chernow
Dragonwitch - Anne Elisabeth Stengl
The Conquering Family - Thomas Costain
Under Enemy Colours - S. Thomas Russell
The Mark of the Horselord - Rosemary Sutcliff
The King of Attolia - Megan Whalen Turner
God in the Dock - C.S. Lewis
The Winter Prince - Elizabeth Wein

the conquered ones

The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
Right Ho, Jeeves - P.G. Wodehouse
The Last Plantagenets - Thomas Costain

Wodehouse hardly constitutes a grueling read, but I was careful to speckle the list with lighter works as well as ones with which you could knock a man senseless, such as Washington, or which take some trudging, like Arthur Custance's series.

the ongoing sieges

The Seed of Abraham - Albertus Pieters
Echoes of the Ancient Skies - E.C. Krupp
The Black Arrow - R.L. Stevenson
Plenilune - Jennifer Freitag

The annoying thing about reading a book that isn't yet published is, you can't boast about it on Goodreads.  What is the good of reading at all if you can't boast on Goodreads, I'd like to know?

July 17, 2013

The Evolution of a Story

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Most of you are already aware, which makes this post slightly anticlimactic, but...

The first draft of Tempus Regina is now officially, unofficially, and every other type of finished. 

I have been writing this novel for about nine months, not taking into account the 14,000 words written before I began NaNo last year.  Nine months.  It seems like a week compared to the laborious year and a half spent on the two novels of the Sea Fever series.  Joy commented on Facebook that it feels like I only announced the story's beginning yesterday - which for Scribbles' readers is more nearly true, since I was late in mentioning it.  It appears that since then I've talked about and around it a good deal, but not having posted many snippets, it feels somehow more private than The White Sail's Shaking.  That may, however, just be Me.

At any rate, as I contemplated which question from the Curiosity series to answer this week, I thought I would go ahead and do Joy's on Christianity in Tempus Regina.  But that demands a great deal of organization and care and thinking, and at any rate, it didn't seem to be an appropriate way of announcing the first draft's completion.  Instead, I decided to take up Bree's questions and trace Tempus Regina's evolution from that date in - what was it?  September? - when I put down the first words of the first chapter, to this past Saturday when I put down the last words of the last chapter.

what originally inspired Tempus Regina? 
is the current TR anything like what the original was to be? 
was it one of those books that other younger works...sort of worked up to, or does it stand on its own?
 [bree h.]

What inspired Tempus Regina?  Well!  That is the question, and I'm not positive of the answer.  I've mentioned before that Jenny began a story many years ago about lost kingdoms that sparked my imagination - and annoyance, because she never did finish it.  I don't think that consciously affected me, but I'm sure it did underneath the surface.  As far as a clear knowledge of Tempus Regina's origins goes, I am fairly certain that the title came to me first of all, and then maybe pocket watches, and after that I had to fit together many disjointed pieces like a jigsaw puzzle.  

Like The White Sail's Shaking, Tempus Regina is very much its own story.  I can't remember writing even a slightly similar idea years ago; I typically don't write anything down unless I am set on spinning it into a proper novel.  Wordcrafter is the only one, as far as I can recall, that departed from this norm (which it seems to have done a great deal): Justin and Ethan were characters whose origins go back long before the day I jotted down a scene for Wordcrafter on a church bulletin.  Regina and the Assassin, the White Demon and the Fisherman and Morgaine, were much more spontaneous, as it were.  Only the Time King might have ties to a character from a story that never got off the ground, but even then, I'm not sure how conscious I was of the relationship.

In point of fact, so much of this story developed during the actual writing process that it is difficult now to remember what I had in mind at the start; that is probably a common feeling.  However, I do know that the finished draft has a more marked similarity to the original than the Sea Fever books did when I put the last touches on them.  Certain parts of the book were very clear in my mind: the very first chapter (despite beginnings being absolutely loathsome); the end; and elements of the climax. For the most part, though, a mere comparison of the excerpt posted way back when and this draft's version will show the evolution this novel has undergone.  

"Evolution" is, actually, perhaps the best term for it.  It has gotten bigger and bigger, and complicated and more complicated, until I feel as though I can hardly keep the threads from flying out of my hands and the whole tapestry from going kaput on the floor.  Beginning early on in the writing there have been occasional flashes of despairing horror at the size of this thing.  Not that the book itself is terrifically huge: a mere 177,000 words, sure to be trimmed in the editing.  But, confound it, time travel is complex!  

do you set daily writing goals for yourself, or do you just write, write, write, until you feel sufficiently expended?
[bree h.]

I have this vague idea that I used to write a lot more in a sitting than I do now.  I'm pretty sure 2,000 was once a good day for me.  Now 1,000 is a splendid day, and 2,000 is out of this world.  I am, comparatively speaking, a slow writer, and since I get headaches and achy wrists if I push myself too hard, I don't tend to set hard and fast goals.  Except during NaNo.  But that's another beast entirely.  

Nowadays, I tend to shoot for a page or so when I sit down to write.  The way my documents are formatted, two pages is roughly 1,000 words - and getting there can take an entire (interrupted) morning.  I do this only rarely, but I can sit down for an hour or so nearly every day and write, which is much more than many people manage in their busy schedules.  Also, since I write each chapter individually (unless they go together so intimately that splitting them into separate documents breaks my train of thought), I have a half-formed goal of finishing one every week - or every other week.  

So you see, my goals aren't terribly coherent.  But one way or another, I do seem to get the thing done! 

July 11, 2013

An Inglorious Burden

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After this week's semi-random detour into the realm of climactic scenes and the ideal story, I am returning to the Tempus Regina Curiosity series.  The story's first draft is nearly finished - the process took much less time, all in all, than I was anticipating.  I have only a few pages left to wrap up, a couple of threads to tie into proper bows and perhaps some polka-dotted paper to put on the package, and then I'll type THE END.

Except that I never do type THE END.  Somehow it seems very silly and redundant.  "Well, I can see that it's the end, you idiot.  And if you feel it necessary to inform me, you had much better go back and try again."

At any rate, on to today's question, which was asked outright by Sarah Ellen and Joy and was rather implied by Writer's question as well.

what is the theme you want to convey in your book?
[sarah ellen]

what is the greatest theme or purpose that so far prevails in tempus regina?
[joy]

where does the story begin and how will the character's, well, character, change over the course of the story?
[writer4christ]

I don't believe I have ever started out a novel knowing, from page one or sometimes even from page one hundred and three, what the final driving theme was going to be.  I know some people do, and I confess it baffles me.  I think if I were to try it I would tend toward heavy-handedness, since the framework of the story would have to be fit within the confines of the writer's overarching purpose, rather than the purpose growing out organically from the framework.  This, then, to say that as I write I do not have a single primary theme which I want to convey - a single primary theme I feel readers must get, and without which the book will have failed.  I'm just, well, writing a book!

However, if the book is good, themes will inevitably show.  They're what make the story cohesive and what give it emotive power, and without them your plot lacks spirit.  Throughout the writing process of Tempus Regina, as was the case with The White Sail's Shaking -  No, I take back my previous statement: I think the theme of Wordcrafter might have been present from day one.  But it has always been a different kind of story, so it doesn't count.  At any rate, throughout the process of writing my other novels, I've been able to watch the themes develop almost on their own.  Certain ones are recurring, and they include themes Sarah mentioned in her comment: good versus evil (perhaps the most fundamental of all); love; friendship; sacrifice. 

All of these are present in Tempus Regina, but others have revealed themselves.  This novel deals with good and evil, but more particularly with the inner struggle of "the Spirit against the flesh," of the new man versus the old.  It deals with the desperate wickedness of the heart, and the sin that remains post-regeneration.  All of which, I might add, is significantly messier than dealing with any given villain.  The protagonist and antagonist in a single body is a troublesome dichotomy, and coming face to face with it in the character of Regina has been difficult.

There is another theme as well, though, which is perhaps even less pleasant, and that is the theme of duty.  We are not, I think, particularly fond of either the word or the concept.  It gets a very bum rap.  As soon as the subject is broached, out come the verses about God loving a cheerful giver and the joy of the Lord and a thankful spirit and all those very true, very good things.  All that we do should indeed be done out of love to God and to our neighbor - but I don't think we're foolish enough to make out that it is.  And that is when duty enters the equation: those times when it seems as though our whole soul is opposed to what we know to be right and we've got to force ourselves into it anyhow, praying (hopefully) that God would be gracious enough to grant us the proper love, making our sacrifice acceptable to Himself.

This latter theme is the one that most directly affects Regina, the one in which she is most challenged, and for myself it has been the greatest one of Tempus Regina.  Perhaps, however, different perspectives will mine different themes.  I hope so.  I am not a terribly subjective, "whatever it means to you" person, but there are really so many facets of the story that in this case it is very nearly true.

When you read the book, you will have to tell me.

July 8, 2013

Out of the Ashes

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In the Sunday evening service at our church, one of the elders has been preaching (is it preaching if it isn't on Sunday mornings? I never can get the different words right) a series on Christ.  Christ in his different roles - Prophet, Priest, and King.  Christ as he is portrayed via word pictures - the Lamb, the Lion of Judah, and, I'm sure, many more to come in the next several weeks.  Each evening we start with a different jumping-off verse; last week's was Revelation 5, and the week before that was Colossians 2.

And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
[colossians 2:13-15]

It was that last phrase that, in the context of the sermon, grabbed my attention most.  Sentences of Scripture will do that in those moments when you sort through the grammar (Paul's especially was awful) and find something of its meaning.  It can be a meaning you already "know," but I think we have all had times when something we "knew" actually came home to us as a thing of beauty and with maybe a little more clarity than it had before.  The whole series has been that way, more or less, but again, this section stood out particularly.

christ triumphant

We have a habit, I believe, of making Jesus Christ too tame in our conception of Him.  Even if we don't agree with making statues and painting pictures and portraying Him on screen, the images from our Sunday School days still haunt us: the gentle rabbi with long brown hair and a saintly expression on his often-beardless face (honestly, where did the beardlessness come from?).  Crucifixes and screencaps from "The Passion of the Christ" bombard us with the message of a Christ still on the cross.  And while it is certainly true that Christ dealt gently with some, it is equally true that He pronounced woes upon others, rebuked them, called them whitewashed sepulchers.  

And while it is also wonderfully true that He humbled Himself, suffered one of the worst deaths the human mind has managed to invent, and was forsaken by His Father and God, it is also magnificently true that in that death, He was triumphant.

The word picture Paul paints here in Colossians is one of a conquering Roman general in triumph through the streets of Rome.  All his enemies would be paraded behind him and made to literally eat the general's dust; his loot from Gaul, Hispania, Persia would be flaunted to all the people, a visible testament to his prowess on the field and the blessing of the gods.  This, Paul says with, as it were, a flourish of his pen - this is what our Lord and Savior has done.  He has made a show of Satan, death, Hell, the grave.  He has borne the curse and trampled on it; He has taken upon Himself all our sins, all our debts, all of the "ordinances against us," and also obliterated them.  

But the fantastic bit - the thrilling plot twist in God's redemptive story - is that all this was done through and in the single most potent symbol of disgrace and failure and humiliation: the cross.  "Cursed is every man who hangs on a tree."  "The Serpent shall bruise His heel."  Christ's heel was cruelly bruised, bruised to the death.  We can only imagine what must have been in Satan's mind that day, when he gained the death of the One Who was God Himself and Who was promised as the redemption of the people Satan had stolen.  He must have thought he had won, and that all the purposes of God had been brought to naught.  Perhaps in that moment he really thought that he had attained his goal: "I will be like the Most High."

He hadn't, though, because God has chosen the cross to be the vehicle for Christ's triumph.  That's the potent part: the part where you think, and the enemy thinks, that evil has won out and everything good has died forever.  And then you find out that it hasn't.  That God's wisdom was at play the whole time, and He has always had the upper hand.

the ideal and the parallel

Have any of you watched the Disney Hercules?  Do you remember the climactic scene where Hercules goes down to bargain with Hades to save Meg?  Perhaps it is a trite parallel (what isn't a trite parallel where something this wonderful is concerned?), but during the sermon I kept thinking of that scene: how Hades thought he had won, and then Hercules comes up over the edge of the cliff carrying Meg and he's shining and if you're a sucker like me you want to bawl.  It's an animated children's film, and still the thought of it makes me tear up as only a few movies can - the post-crucifixion scene in "Ben-Hur" is another.

The imagery is not limited to "Hercules," though, nor to a mere smattering of stories.  It is in fact a concept firmly engrained in the art of writing, and we have probably all heard of it in another, stiffer guise, that of "widening the odds," "upping the ante," and making it appear in the climactic scene as though the protagonist isn't going to win after all.  When you reach that climax, it seems as though all the cards are in the antagonist's hands.  He has his foot on the protagonist's neck; the protagonist has given it all he had, and now comes the end.

But then, of course, there is the twist.  It can often seem cliche, and we always have to fight to make sure it isn't; but it seems to me that the only reason it appears cliche is that it is so fundamental to the Ideal Story.  (I do believe in an ideal story.  I believe God wrote it.)  The tale of the Phoenix, rising again from its own ashes.  The image of the Greek hero getting off the ground when you thought all hope was lost, and going into battle for the final round.  The word-picture of  Christ breaking down the doors of Hell and triumphing through Death itself.  That, I think, is an ideal worth writing for.

July 1, 2013

The Man Like Atlas

You asked, and so I've decided to fling orderliness to the wind and write my post on the Assassin.  I'm afraid I will have to ignore a few of the questions, but I'll try to give answers to as many as I can, as clearly as I can.

...who exactly is the Assassin, who is he working for, and what is his goal? ...is he [Regina's] love interest?
[kelsey]

&

where is [the Assassin] from, what time period, what is his occupation, does he have a love interest, etc.?
[joy]

Well, that's certainly all-encompassing!  For a general introduction, the best place to go is his Beautiful People post; I wrote it five or six months ago, but reading over it now, I think it's still pretty accurate.  Not that he hasn't developed and changed since that point in the story itself, but his personality - likes and dislikes, looks and habits - remains the same.  The very old excerpt, on the other hand, has been completely overhauled and no longer provides an accurate picture of either the Assassin or Regina.  I'm considering posting the revised version (though I'm sure it will change again in the drafts to come).

So then, who is the Assassin?  He's a big, cheerful, often childish fellow who has traveled the Western and Eastern Empires and somehow ended up in Britain, possibly because it was the only place in the known world he hadn't visited before.  Throughout the story he is known by a variety of names, including "the blond man," "the man like Atlas," and, yes, his real name.  He has a generally sunny outlook on life, in contrast with Regina's pessimism; and aside from his hazy background, there is nothing about him that would bring his occupation to one's mind.  His path crosses with Regina's by chance, as far as she knows, and he promises to serve her and get her back to her own time - in exchange for a promise that, once he does, she will give him the pocket watch.  On the surface that is his goal, but what he really wants is always a variable. 

At the time when "Regina's personal continuity intersects with his personal continuity," the Assassin does not appear to be working for anyone.  If he had been, however, his employer would have found himself dumped in a heartbeat, for the Assassin is first and foremost...something other than an assassin.  Killing or quack-salving pays the bills, as it were, but they are not the love of his life.  If he suddenly inherited a fortune from all those relatives he doesn't have, he would probably give up at least one of the two vocations.  I'll leave it to you to decide which one.

Love interests!  I see you are trying to sneak in the back door and eliminate the possibilities one by one.  You will next be asking whether the Time King has any love interests, or whether Regina's could possibly be the White Demon, or whether the Fisherman...!  They are all, I think, better bets, for the Assassin is not your typical love interest material.  He is frequently so childish, so lost in his own happy world of diagrams and theories, that whether or not he recognizes Regina as a woman is a debatable point.  Remember that he was partially inspired by Sherlock Holmes, and then don't get your hopes up too high.

Does the Assassin regret any of his kills? 
(To avoid spoilerisms, you can limit this to kills before the story starts.) (But because time-travel, before is problematic, so, to kills before the intersection of his own personal continuity with the personal continuity of Regina, or, in the event, the personal continuities of any other important characters with which his own personal continuity has intersected or will intersect in any sort of way, timey-wimey or otherwise.)
[chewie]

No, the Assassin doesn't regret any of his kills.  That is, he doesn't until he travels back in time with Regina and his personal continuity intersects with those of the people he will eventually kill.  Then he gets to know them and is very cut up in the knowledge that he's going to sneak up behind them on a future dark night and stab their future selves.

But don't worry, he's comforted in the knowledge that once he does, his future self won't regret it.
 
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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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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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