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!"

21 comments:

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    1. I'm not sure how Bosworth would end up in The Hollow Crown, but that's interesting. I didn't know it was noted for anything other than the battle, which was after the Hollow Crown period. (I have no doubt that if we do go, we'll only find a bare stretch of land with perhaps a placard or two!)

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    2. Eh! I knew after I posted it, I would be wrong. I guess it must have been the english documentary I was watching. sorry!

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    3. But I did recognize that name...

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    4. Oh, that's fine. There's no reason why it couldn't have shown up in some other context in The Hollow Crown - it was a place then, after all! I can't always remember where I heard or read about something. If I'm reading too many books at one time, I have to stop and think, "Wait... Did I read that there? Or - somewhere else? Or did I MAKE IT UP. O.O!"

      Tangentially, what documentary were you watching?

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  2. "RRRRRRRROOT...VEGETABLES!"

    I am so glad to hear you're doing well, though I expected you'd navigate all the collegiate hoops swimmingly; you are one of the capablest people I know. All the same, I worry about you - as I worry about Dani - striking covert battle with the Great Institution and all that. If I may affect a slightly knowing air, I found sticking with my own reading list to be a lifesaver, though my line of study did not afford such varied literature as yours does. Still, it is a tremendous boost to one's sanity to pick up a book and enjoy it properly (and completely! what do they teach in schools these days?) without the tediousness of a multiple choice test or a five-paragraph essay at the end.

    I love you. ^.^

    (I owe you a letter, and - good gracious! - another five in interest.)

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    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who was in agonies over the younger sibling venturing into college. I don't think I said anything, but there it is. (And if I did say I was worried then Abigail would have worried more and it would have been a big ol' worry-fest and no one would have been happy.)

      I need to figure out how to ship my read Heyer books home, old bean. I have The Black Moth and Bath Tangle ready to go. I can probably just pop down to the post office and ask them to box and mail it... I'll have to look into that. But at least that would give you some light fiction to read, when you have a chance.

      ("Good night, FINK NOTTLE.")

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    2. If Heyer accidentally ships to my address (because the two states are just so easily confused!), I shan't complain. - and no, I don't really mean that, not when I can always borrow them from my Other-Heyer-Loving-Friend, or nab them from the hole-in-the-girly-mall used bookstore.

      (Somehow I always manage to find one other close acquaintance who has one mildly obscure literary-delight in accord with Jenny, and they are always redheads. Life is grand, sure!)

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    3. I was supposed to be a redhead, you see.

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    4. Something got mixed up at her birth. (Though it's not as if I was around then to know...)

      Well, if it's any consolation, I was suitably freaked out about it on my own. Probably more freaked out than anyone else could be. But I seem to get on pretty well, and that's good. I do wish I had more free time - not really free time, but mental space - for my own reading and writing, but I know that for the moment I have to give just about all my attention to the college-hoop-navigation. It's like driving. Eventually I'll be able to turn on the music and do it by rote, but for the moment it's a constant stream of "AAAAAAEEEAAAEEAAAUUUGH...!"

      I'd love some Heyer, and Dragonwitch too when you can spare it - I should be done with Knights soon. I just put a couple of Heyer's mysteries in the Alibris cart: Why Shoot a Butler? and They Found Him Dead. Also Preble's Boys, but I'm pretty sure nobody cares.

      Anna, where has Dani decided to go? I know we talked about online colleges when you were here, but I can't remember if she had a fixed choice in mind. You can append it to that letter you owe me, if you like. ^.^ Know that there will be Dancing and Glee in this quarter when you get time to send one!

      ("And every UNpolished society. Every savage can dance.")

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  3. Oh, college. I groan whenever I see that word, as there's a fifty percent chance I'll be attending myself in two years, and for the same reasons: historical studies, research, and all that. "It will improve your writing!" they say. "But must I write all the essays?" I retort.

    The Grand Sophy and 1776, the latter of which I'd been working on for an abominable amount of time, are the last books I finished. The Count is a steady sort of chap; I pick him up and pass the time of day, then lay him aside in favor of other, lighter tomes. I got The Eagle of the Ninth out of the library over the weekend, and if the first five pages are any hint, it looks to prove an excellent one! The premise alone is enough to grab my interest.

    I wish our Southern autumns were closer to their Northern counterparts. I've worn jeans and sweaters for the past month, as if in an effort to coach the weather into falling to cooler temperatures, but to no avail. It's still stubbornly in the eighties, with an occasional 70-degree day just to taunt us.

    "Oh, autumn weather, you take great delight in vexing me! You have no respect for my poor nerves!"

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    1. Well, it looks like maybe Fall is here to stay now. This week at least promises real weather. Boots and sweaters - hurrah!

      I've not read 1776, although I have read McCullough's John Adams and Mornings on Horseback (which has nothing to do with the Revolution). Isn't he a good writer? I like nonfiction, but I like narrative nonfiction - which really means I likes nonfiction that reads like fiction, which, put that way, makes me feel a little guilty.

      What do you think of The Count? I had a hard time deciding how exactly I felt about it when I finally reached the end. There's no arguing that Dumas' plot and execution were fantastic (although I'm sure it reads even better in the original French; I remember there was one line where a character says, "I will tell you in a word," and the subsequent comment was at least three words). The theology, on the other hand, was so profoundly bizarre that it was almost laughable! Oh well, that's what you get with most classics...

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  4. I've been feeling much the same where blogging is concerned - one does want to keep up with her readers, but not at the price of unnecessary words!
    College, college, college...it seems to come up in too many conversations these days. I guess its a part of the later years of high school, and having a sister in the thick of SAT's, ACT's and all that nonsense. I've still got time to decide, so of course this isn't final, but I'm not sure that I will go to college after all. A part of me wants to see what the books have to say about graphic design (all my knowledge has been a result of trial and error, and a little googling) and it would be interesting to take some more history classes. I've also heard of a college that has a good dance program, but I don't even know if I want to go into dance...so I keep coming back to the stay-at-home-and-write-your-books plan that's been bonking about in my head. It seems very pleasant to me, so long as I can keep dancing and sketching now and then (who says you can't do those things at home?) and maybe start a little family. ^_^
    School has a wretched way of squelching free-reading right out of my schedule too. But the books we've been reading are good ones (The Iliad, Oedipus Rex, and now Sir Gawain and The Green Knight, translated by Tolkien) and I have managed to read The Great Gatsby and am working hard on The Fellowship of The Ring. I hope to finish the latter these next two days, as I've only 100 pages left.
    I wish you all success in your Tempus Regina querying! I can't wait to read that one in particular. :)
    Autumn came for maybe two days last week and then walked right out again. 80 degrees is the norm, even though it's October, and even though I'm used to it I still wish the weather was cooler. Elizabeth and I have scampered up to Starbucks a couple Tuesdays in a row to read Fly Away Home over Pumpkin Spice Lattes, and that felt like fall, however. I'm also wearing jeans regularly despite the temperatures because I'm a girl and that is excuse enough. ;)

    Blast, I've left you a ridiculously long comment! I'll just leave now...;)
    -Bree

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    1. Pooh. All real knowledge is acquired through trial-and-error. The rest is just book-learning.

      "Sing, O muse, the wrath of Achilles, son of Peleus..." Hurrah for The Iliad! I've always been rather fond of Achilles, even if he was a bit of a sulky baby about the whole thing. (Well really, what do you expect when you steal a man's girl?) Hector was a good egg, though. And don't you just love the way every time someone vaunts, he gets speared in the back? My family has taken that as a moral, and whenever one of us starts to crow, someone else says, "Don't vaunt!"

      Fly Away Home over Pumpkin Lattes sounds glorious and totally fitting. I went to the campus Starbucks the other day and proved to myself that I don't get out enough: I knew I wanted a hot pumpkin spice coffee, but didn't know whether that meant latte or frappuccino and besides pumpkin spice wasn't on the menu. In fact it was off to the side, but I didn't see it. I ended up with a caramel-something frappuccino. >.> However, the second time I was prepared!

      It baffles me how girls on campus run around in sports shorts and baggy sweatshirts. 'Nough said.

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  5. That must be one of the inescapable things about blogging—enjoying other people's updates, but fearing you'll bore other people with your own. At any rate, I always fear that mine are boring but I'm always happy to see them from you!

    So you're given required reading...but not required to finish the book? Or do you just have to read them all at once? That happens to me occasionally when library deadlines become pressing. :) My reading has been kind of all over the place this fall—from Guys and Dolls to The Scarlet Pimpernel. Right now I'm enjoying City Editor, a fascinating 1934 book on the newspaper business. This is an instance of the fun part of research.

    Autumn seems to be late in coming everywhere this year—I've often determinedly started out the day in long sleeves, only to give in to short ones by afternoon! Oh, and don't feel bad about that query rejection—I once got a short story rejection from a magazine nine months after submitting (and many months after forgetting I'd submitted it).

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    1. Indeed! I always like reading other people's updates; I actually don't like it when there aren't any, because then the blog begins to seem impersonal. But when it comes time to write one for myself, I tend to waffle. I'm glad you enjoy them, though! (The waffles or the posts, I'm not sure which.)

      Well, we read them in succession, but so far we haven't finished any one book before moving on to the next in line. I think we'll be returning to some of them, though. I hope so, because I was getting along splendidly with the Ottomans! City Editor sounds intriguing, and of course who doesn't like a good dose of Sir Percy Blakeney?

      Late rejections: Reminding you you're a failure, just in case you'd forgotten. :p

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  6. Abigail, I definitely sympathize with the whole college endeavors. Four years isn't as long as it sounds. At least, that's what I keep telling myself. I'm into my second year now and I already feel like the time is eluding me, that I can't possibly acquire all these credit hours and graduate within the next two years. When I think about it, it's quite insane how much information, experience, and skill they intend on cramming into your brains before you leave. I'm glad you're enjoying yourself for the most part!

    Keep on with the reading and writing! And don't get too overwhelmed with studies. :)

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  7. I just have to say.
    I came back to re-read this and last time I hadn't seen the BRRRRIITISH...BICYCLES! and now I just have to let you know I appreciate your Spode quotation. XD

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    1. We shall build a GIANT, COLLAPsible BRRRRRIDGE to first lure our enemies out, then PLUNGE them into the Channel! (Rah! rah! rah!...)

      Spode. Excelling at politics since whenever Wodehouse made him up.

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  8. I have read most of them and got a lot from them. To me, you are doing the great work. Carry on this.

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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.
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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.
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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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