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

pinterest: tempus regina
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

pinterest: tempus regina
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.
 
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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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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