Thursday, August 21, 2014

Go Hence, to Have More Talk of These Sad Things

In which I talk about Shakespeare's Immortal Classic, Romeo and Juliet.

I just finished reading it, and I decided that I had to talk about it a bit, because everyone seems to have a love-hate relationship with it.  I mean, I've heard a lot of people bashing the play before, which might be why I came to it with a good deal of apprehension.

And of course, there are all the people out there who are clutching at their foreheads in awe, wondering how I got through high school and two years of college as an English major without reading this.  Well, it was never in my required reading.

Wow, that is a terrible excuse.  King Lear was never in my required reading in high school but I devoured that in one day, and I read Merchant of Venice to take a break from Les Miserables, unabridged.  I've also read other works of Shakespeare on my own and had some assigned reading of Shakespeare, but I'd never read this one.

This may be because I've never really been into romances, and so naturally I shied away from what has been marketed as one of the greatest love stories of all time.  I mean, who cares when there's Agatha Christie to be had?

But then I suddenly realized that I had never actually read it.

So True!

I think this pin on Pinterest awakened me to that rather glaring fact.  How could I call myself a respectable English major when I hadn't even read Romeo and Juliet?  Fie and for shame!  I had to find out about those six people who died.

Admittedly, though, I started this with mounds of skepticism.  And here's what I discovered.

There's a reason this play has been so popular for so many years.  Reading this kind of reminded me of reading The Tale of Two Cities for the first time, because I had also picked that book up with apprehension, and now it is my favorite novel.  I'm not saying that R&J has taken a place in top ten list, but I certainly enjoyed reading it.

First of all, it's so much more than just a love story.  Cue the witty quotes:

"Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?"  (I must forever use this quote.)

"Nay, gentle Romeo, we must have you dance."  (Considering that it was Mercutio who said this, I'm guessing Romeo is not the greatest dancer in the world.)

Bevolio: By my head, here come the Capulets.
Mercutio: By my heel, I care not.

(Mercutio to Romeo) "And, to sink in it, should you burden love; too great oppression for a tender thing." (Ouch, Mercutio.  Did you just call Romeo a sissy?)

Nurse: My fan, Peter
Mercutio: Good Peter, to hide her face; for her fan's the fairer face. (Tut, tut, Mercutio!)

"I will bite thee by the ear for that jest." (Guess who said it!)

In case you couldn't guess Mercutio was my favorite character.  He provided a lot of wit and humor.  When he was one of the six ill-fated ones, I was pretty cut up about it.  (And no, that was not meant to be a pun.  I just now realized that it could be construed as one, but that's just how it came out.)

Yes, R&J is a good deal more than just romance.  There's plenty of swordfighting, too.  In fact, you practically can't even walk down the street in Verona without getting entangled in some random clash of blades.  Even though there's an official rule that says the Montagues and the Capulets have to play nicely with each other, they basically all just ignore the rule and carve each other up with their swords.  The prince must be too scared of them, because he doesn't call out the guards or do anything proactive to stop them.  I suppose he figures that in time they'll just kill each other off and there will be peace again in Verona.

Yes, that is a picture of Verona.  It has now made my ever-growing list of places that I want to visit someday.  Many of said places are settings for books I have read before.  And the reason it's so nice is because the Montagues and Capulets are all dead and not messing up the sidewalks with their battles anymore.

Now, what did I think about the actual Romeo and Juliet part of the story?  All right, it could have been worse.  I'm not sure what I was expecting, but since they had to gush over each other, at least they did it in beautiful poetic language and iambic pentameter.  I have a great love and respect for iambic pentameter.  Naturally I understand that not everyone in Shakespeare's day went around talking like that, but I like to imagine that they did, because it certainly would have sounded swell.

Oh, and let me just take a moment to answer the people who get all heated up about Romeo and Juliet being teenagers.  I don't think it's right to class this with lame teen romances for several reasons.  One, Shakespeare did not write lame teen romances.  Two, in his day people matured a lot more quickly than they do nowadays.  Life-spans were shorter, so people got married earlier.  Juliet's mother even mentions that she was married by the time she was Juliet's age, and both of her parents are urging her towards the altar through the whole play.  So I think the argument that they were too young is pointless.

However, I do believe that their romance happened too fast.  I mean, who marries a man they just met?

This is why I love Disney. Oh your names Giselle? We shall be married in the morning!!!

Um, moving on.  But seriously, that's basically what happened.  That's a little lame.

Now, I was a little easier on Juliet than on Romeo.  After all, Romeo had been swooning over Rosaline up until he met Juliet.  Really, Romeo?

Also, I do believe in love at first sight (my own parents are living proof), but there's got to be some, er, actual conversation and discovering of the moral character and annoying habits and likes and dislikes and hobbies and, well, you should sort of KNOW the person you're going to marry before you just up and marry him.

Putting that unimportant quibble aside,though, I will just gush over the beautiful language and the iambic pentameter in my mind.  Come on, guys.  Even if you absolutely hate the story, the actual words are so lovely.

As for the death at the end, I guess I was sort of caught up in the story, because even though I knew that those two end up killing each other, I was sort of hoping that it would all work out in the end and that they would ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after.  HA!  When Romeo pries open the grave and sees Juliet there, I think I sort of just set my teeth because I knew what was coming next.

And then Romeo drank the poison and I did an Elsa facepalm.

Ch. 7 "'don't you cry, now, Scout...don't cry now, don't you worry-'" (Lee 83).  This is both Justice vs Injustice and Loss of Innocence because Jem is telling Scout not to cry because of the tree, but really he is the one that is more upset.

Really?  Did you just drink that poison, you cowardly fool?  SHE'S NOT REALLY DEAD.

Oh, wait, now she is.  Yep, she just stabbed herself, even though Friar Lawrence told her she could become a nun.  I'm sorry, Lawrence, old buddy, but you should not go around telling young women, who incidentally just realized that their husbands killed themselves, to become nuns.  I think that's what pushed her over the edge.  She probably realized that Friar Lawrence was right.  Her parents would probably make her go into a convent, and she would have to live for the rest of her life with all that regret.  I felt sorry enough for her that I could sort of understand why she stabbed herself.  I'm not saying that I would do the same in her position, but then, it's highly unlikely that I will ever find myself in Juliet's position in any way, shape, or form.

And then, I almost felt like laughing when the watchmen stumbled across the scene and the head watchmen said, "Oh, go get the Montagues and the Capulets." (To paraphrase)  Yes, surely bringing the two heads of the leading feuding families of Verona and showing them their children lying dead is going to solve everything.

One last thing that I must mention is what I realized as I was reading this.  There are a few lines like, "Wisely and slow, they stumble that run fast,"  "These violent delights have violent ends," and "Love moderately. Long love doth so.  Too swift arrives too tardy as too slow," that made me realize that Shakespeare is not advocating Romeo and Juliet's actions.  He even makes Romeo a rather unlikable character.  We're not supposed to follow the example.  This play is a cautionary tale, a "look and see what happens when you try to do this foolish stuff" story.

I would say that it's a love story, but, like so many other famous love stories, it ends tragically because the characters chiefly concerned end up doing selfish things.  If Romeo had waited just a little bit, the tragic ending would have been quite different.

Juliet lying drugged in the crypt did remind me of Valentine in The Count of Monte Cristo.  Just saying.  I bet Alexandre Dumas read this story and enjoyed it so much that he alluded to it just for fun.  Wouldn't that be kind of neat?

All right, I'll stop now.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

On Taste and Opinion

An Essay in Verse by Joan Bassington-French

Lovingly dedicated to everyone who has ever said to me, "Wow, I'm really surprised that you like ---."

Do you prefer a tragedy,
Or is comedy your thing?
Are you entranced with the blood-enhanced,
Or does your heart lie with lighter art?
Does your head refuse to bring
The feels required for copious sobs,
Instead preferring the lovely whirring
Of brainy gears beyond your years,
Though such a view innately robs
The raw emotion of gulping sighs?
And even though the way to go
Might seem so deep that thoughts might sleep
In abject boredom of the wise,
(For don't the brainy folks sit back
And think dull thoughts while drinking shots
Of over-priced and over-iced
Espresso drinks of deepest black?)
We also know the simple truth:
Yes, we believe that all must cleave
To one fixed taste, leaving the waste
Of double-minded youth.
Do you like a classic book,
Or would you rather read the blather
Called Young Adult? We are at fault,
Because if you will closely look
Into your ever-dancing brain
You'll have to see and then agree
More dreams than one have often run
Through there, and some hold reign,
But in that everlasting jumble
Please seek one view, for more won't do!
How can you talk of liking Bach
But then in lower voices mumble
That you don't mind Broadway much.
I comprehend the final end
Of Holmes the Great, but can't get straight--
Is Hamlet mad or crazed or such?
Two ideas at once confuse,
But naturally my head can see
If just a single fact won't mingle
With my highly organized muse.
In short remember one small thought
Is in the end your greater friend.
Don't think too hard; do not discard
This good advice--it's cheaply bought.
But one opinion, that's the key!
Pick humor OR a tragedy.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Beautiful People ~ Jeremy Marchmont

Once again I'm linking up with The Notebook Sisters for this month's Beautiful People post.  And the beautiful person about whom I shall be posting is the Honorable Jeremy Marchmont, or the Hon. Jeremy, as Jessamine calls him.

Poor Jeremy has a tough time of it.  His mother and Jessamine's are absolutely convinced that he and Jessamine ought to make a match of it, combining title and money.  Neither he nor the other party most concerned want to get married, but that does not stop their mothers from dreaming up all sorts of ways to bring them together.

Jeremy Marchmont, all the brother Jessamine ever had

Jeremy appears in Jessamine's mystery series which I have not yet appropriately named.

And now for the questions.

1. What does your character regret the most in their life?

Jeremy most regrets the time he encouraged Jessamine to go around solving the mystery in Scotland.  He feels that if he had not done so, Jessamine would not have almost gotten herself killed.  He feels that he too often helps her get into trouble, but he's not exactly certain how to stay out of trouble himself.

2. What is your character's happiest memory?  Most sorrowful memory?

Jeremy's happiest memory is the time he and his sister Julia spent a summer at the seashore when he was about ten.  His most sorrowful memory is when his father died a few years later.

3.  What majorly gets on your character's nerves?

Jeremy grows terribly annoyed when people do not shut things properly.  Leaving a door ajar makes him twitchy.  On a larger scale, he hates having his mother try to plan out every detail of his life.

4.  Do they act differently around people as opposed to being alone?  If so, how?

Yes, he does act differently.  When he's around a lot of people, he becomes awkward and nervous, but when he's only around a few people that he knows well he becomes a lot more comfortable and even breaks out his sense of humor.  When he's by himself he likes to draw, but he never lets anyone know about that.

St Paul's Cathedral, London - one of my favorite cathedrals
St. Paul's Cathedral
5.  What are their beliefs and superstitions (Examples: their religion or lack of one, conspiracy theories, throwing salt, fear of black cats)?

Jeremy is a Christian, and, like the rest of his family, is a member of the Church of England.  He doesn't have any particular superstitions, although at one time he was disposed to believe in ghosts.  Under the circumstances, though, you could hardly blame him.

6.  What are their catchphrases, or things they say frequently?

"But, Mother . . . !"  "Dash it all!"

7.  Would they be more prone to facing fears or running from them?

It depends on the fear.  Jeremy showed exemplary courage in the face of danger when he and Jessamine were in Scotland, but that was because he was fighting a man who was threatening both him and Jessamine.  He's not quite as brave when it comes to standing up to his mother.

8.  Do they have a good self image?

I assume that this means does Jeremy think well of himself.  No, he does not.  He always feels too pressed down, and he's certain that everything he does disappoints his mother.  Aside from that, Jeremy is a fairly humble person and would never think better of himself than he deserved.

9.  Do they turn to people when they're upset, or do they isolate themselves?

Jeremy tends to retreat into himself whenever he's upset.  He does not often show his feelings to others, possibly because no one ever wanted him to open up to them as a child.  He's always been pushed around and ordered about and never given much consideration, so he tends to be quiet about his feelings.

10.  If they were standing next to you would that make you laugh or cry?

I would probably laugh.  I like poor Jeremy, and he really can be funny.  Besides, Jeremy's not the sort of person before whom you would want to dissolve in tears.  He would be terribly awkward about it.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My Head, My Head!

II Kings 4:19

And he said unto his father, My head, my head.  And he said to a lad, Carry him to his mother.

I sympathize deeply with the little boy in this Bible story.  I wish someone would carry me to my mother.  I miss my family a lot right now.

However, I will think of the happiness that will be mine next month when I see, not only my family, but also my beloved CBCs.  *insert Hallelujah chorus here*

The main reason my head is feeling so pushed around right now is because so much is going on inside of it.  I have been trying to juggle about four different big story ideas at once, not to mention writing a few short stories and essays for more practical reasons.  I am happy to announce that I had a sort of breakthrough for my Jessamine Warbling series.  Actually, I had two or three big ideas for that, one of which was generously supplied by Kiri.  I think she only did it because the story puts Judith in the spotlight, but we won't delve too deeply into the motives here.

And then, I have been reading so many different books lately, including Shirley by Charlotte Bronte.  Let me just say that Charlotte Bronte's books, aside from Jane Eyre, are seriously underrated.  Why do we not have BBC adaptions of Shirley and Villette, both of which I enjoyed more than JE.  Our movie industry is seriously lax in these matters.

I must insist that you all rush out and read both of these woefully neglected books right away.  First of all, the men in these books have infinitely better morals than Mr. R, which makes me happier to cheer them on.  And in Shirley we have a large and generous dose of Victorian feminism, which made me laugh a little.  Plus, Shirley is a funny character, and she has a high sense of humor that does not often occur in young ladies in Victorian fiction.

Also, I have been on a P.G. Wodehouse reading binge.  Here is an appropriate place for putting a Jeeves and Wooster screen shot.
Jeeves and Wooster
I think I shall adopt this saying for my own personal use.

My mother once told me that my writing style is reminiscent of Wodehouse, which made me scratch my head in confusion.  At the time I was unfamiliar with this wonderful author.  Then I started reading him, and now I am eternally grateful to my mother and her excellent taste in literature.  (You can read whatever you want to into that statement.)

I have just the screenshot for this situation.

jeeves and wooster. oh how I love these two!

And there you have it.

I also started rereading LOTR.  After The Hobbit trailer came out three days ago, I was so excited that I had to do something about it, so I started reading The Fellowship of the Ring.  I am currently on The Two Towers.  In case you are thinking that this is abnormally fast, I must remind you that the nature of my job (answering phones and connecting calls) allows me to read for basically eight hours every day.  In between chapters I can check blogger and dash off a post, if the spirit so moves.

So, yes, I have been reading a lot.  Oh, and I am also reading a book called Out of Time by Alton Gansky.  It is a Christian suspense novel.  Usually I am wary of modern Christian fiction, but the blurb looked rather interesting, so I thought I would give it a try.  So far it is exciting, and there isn't any romance yet because it's about a forty-odd former Navy officer and two younger Navy officers taking five troubled teens out on a boat to build their character.  I can see romance on the far horizon, but since the main plot revolves around a lost WWI submarine, I don't think I need to worry about things getting unbearably mushy.

I've also been reading some of Kiri's work, but I shan't elaborate.  I have no doubt that we will all be hearing about this soon.  Right, Kiri?

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Monday, July 28, 2014

Chat with the Characters ~ Thinking Folks

Hello, everyone!  Here's my second installment in my Hidden Orchards blog series, Chat with the Characters.  As before, two of my own characters and I are joining a third guest character for today's topic.

Please say hello to Mrs. Desiree Breman, an American lady with plenty of money, wanderlust, and brains that are just aching to be used.  She may be dripping with money, but she's from a family that no one's ever heard of, and the posh British guests at the Grand Continental-Savoy Hotel in Cairo will never accept her as one of them.  She's a secondary character in Mr. Scroggins' Alibi, a murder mystery that's still a concept as of right now.
Mrs. Desiree Breman - the delightful
Mrs. Desiree Breman
Next we have Sir Andre Carler from a very long backstory to the world of Rindavae.  The novel it most closely corresponds to is The Peasants of Niminwell.  Carler is a the son of a minor noble from the north, and he gained the honorary title of High Knight when his efforts tracked down the murderer of the queen's father.  Carler has plenty of mystery in his background, and he's gained the unfortunate displeasure of Emperor Jadrez for no apparent reason.
Andre Carler
Sir Andre Carler
As for our guest, we are pleased to have Miss Jane Eyre with us today.  For those of you who do not have the pleasure of her acquaintance, Miss Eyre is a pleasant yet quiet governess in a large and distinctly CREEPY house.  Her employer is also a creep (he goes with the house).  She is the title character of Jane Eyre.
Ruth Wilson, Jane Eyre -  Jane Eyre directed by Susanna White (TV Mini-Series, BBC, 2006) #charlottebronte
Miss Jane Eyre
Our topic today is called Thinking Folks.  Specifically, what do you look for in an "intellectual" character?  While action, action, action all the time is exciting, it is mentally dulling rather than mentally stimulating.  A good character has to think through the problems he encounters, but how can a character's mental process still keep a reader hooked?  What do you think, Miss Eyre?

Jane: I do believe that people willing to take the time to think as they read will not mind working with their mental faculties even during a time of pleasure reading.

You've certainly have your share of problems to think through.

Jane: They are difficult, yes, but what else can one do?  We are not called upon to make difficult decisions in times of ease and merriment, are we?

Andre: An excellent point, Miss Eyre.  But during your story, how does one stay engaged while you think these thoughts through?

Mrs. Breman: What a mouthful that is!

Jane: As I was writing my autobiography, I made certain to intersperse the necessary mundane with the more exciting and sensational.  People in general would rather read something that does not make them contemplate their own problems.  That is why so many read; they have problems which they wish to forget.

Mrs. Breman: I wonder if that is really so.  In my experience, people read for many reasons.  I read for many reasons, just as I travel for many reasons.  People are too complex for one assignment of motive.

To that I agree wholeheartedly.  But how can we make a thoughtful character interesting to the readers instead of a brainy annoyance that makes people roll their eyes in disgust?

Andre: Just as there are many motives for reading, so there are many different types of "brainy" characters.  Some we would classify as nerds, some as know-it-alls, and some, I think, as normal people who simply have to think through a thing.  Just because someone is thinking in a book does not make them automatically boring.

Jane: The topic of thoughts must have plenty to do with it.  What if the character is thinking of something interesting, such as how he is plotting to kill his next victim or escape from his employer's insane wife?  The subject instantly provokes interest in the reader.

Mrs. Breman: In fact, in any good story the author should not penetrate the thoughts of a characters unless the thoughts are directly related to the plot.  The reader should experience safety in knowing that although he is forced into the head of a character, what he sees there will be completely relevant to the story.  This holds especially true in mysteries, I should think.

Not necessarily.  Think about it.

Andre: Are you saying that sometimes in mysteries people need to know misleading things?

Mrs. Breman: Ha!  Silly me!  It's called red herring, isn't it?  People need red herrings in murder mysteries.  In fact, red herrings help the reader to think without them even realizing it.

Andre:  Something like sneaking intelligence to the reader without them knowing it?  That sounds . . . unethical.

Mrs. Breman: I hope you're joking, young man.  People who read generally like to be thought intelligent, and they generally get their wish.  Reading is a universal sign of mental activity.

Jane: Is being smart, or at least giving the appearance of being smart, now in vogue?

Mrs. Breman: I do believe you've hit upon it, Miss Eyre.  If people think that they're thinking their own thoughts, then those people must believe themselves to be smart.

Andre: That's what makes murder mysteries so interesting.  People reading them might imagine themselves to be solving the mystery along with the detective, but in reality they're thinking thoughts that the author is giving them.

Mrs. Breman:  Of course, my dear boy, that's not always true.  In a really good mystery you can solve the crime on your own using the clues the author puts forth.

Andre:  But that's only because the author gives you those clues, hoping that the cleverest readers might be able to put them together.

Jane:  It is always that way, but when people do not think as they read, the mystery just becomes like any other story.  Many times it is a thrilling and a wonderful story, but before it was a puzzle and now it is just a novel.

I think we've sort of gotten off track, not that I mind too much.  This is an interesting turn of discussion.  What are some suggestions you have, though, to keep a reader interested while the character is thinking?  Andre?

Andre: Make him think interesting thoughts.

Mrs. Breman: Is that all you have for these lovely readers, Sir Carler?  What sort of a help are you anyway?

Andre: I like to keep things simple.  I'm a soldier, not an author.

Mrs. Breman: I'm not an author either, but we were not invited here because of our authorly abilities.

That's all right, Andre, if that's all the answer you want to give.  Actually, it's the best advice, really.  We can't tell people how to write, because in the end, an author's got to discover his own niche.  No one else can find it for him.  We can inspire, but we can do the work.

Jane: Well put, I say.

Thank you, Miss Eyre.  Now, if we can get back on track, Mrs. Breman.

Mrs. Breman: I do beg your pardon.  If you were to ask me, though, I would say that a good character shows thoughts through actions.

That is easier said than done.

Mrs. Breman: If we absolutely must hear him think, then make his thoughts short and sweet, please.  I hate reading long, philosophical dissertations in the head of a character.  Most people do, I would think.

You are in essence giving Andre's advice.

Mrs. Breman: It is most unintentional, I can assure you.

Well, thanks for joining me today.  I've got to sign off now, but don't forget to go over to Kendra's blog and check out her exciting party today.

Jane: I'm not terribly fond of parties.

Mrs. Breman: Well, I want to go.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Friday, July 25, 2014

Jessica's Summer - For Kendra's 5&3 Week

That's not the official name of the week; I'm just calling that because I like the name of the sound.  Pop over to Kendra's blog, Knitted by God's Plan, for the party.

Come to my Party!

So, Kendra had several fun things that we could do throughout the week, but I especially liked the idea of writing a story that used one of her ideas.  I picked Jessica's Summer.  Here is what she wrote about it:

How would you react if two complete strangers come up to you, announce that they are truly your sisters, and that you are the personification of summer?  Jessica doesn't bite, either.

I don't know.  This prompt just speaks to me.  Of course, I had to pop over to Kendra's Pinterest board and raid it in order to make a cover (which, I believe, is another one of the fun thingies we get to do this week.)  Unfortunately, I couldn't find a perfect picture, so I sort of did my own thing.  I hope it works.

I'm tweaking this story a little, partly because I don't have any sisters.  I'm giving Jessica one sister and two brothers.  I hope it's not too much of a stretch.  I just love brother-sister relationships, dontcha know?

Jessica's Summer

inspired by Kendra E. Ardnek

written by Joan Bassington-French

The problem with living in a large mansion in Florida and never ever seeing anyone is that you don't know a good many of the things that are going on around you.  Of course, there were Mr. Kenton, my guardian, and Mrs. Kenton, my guardian's wife, and Celia Kenton, their nineteen-year-old daughter, and Louis Kenton, their thirteen-year-old living terror of a son.  I lived with them and never thought anything of the fact that while every single year Celia and Louis went on vacations for their birthdays, I never did.  And while Mr. Kenton and Mrs. Kenton were always rushing around to dinner parties and get-togethers and barbecues-on-the-beach, I never went.

In fact, I didn't even know if I had had a birthday.  For all I knew I had been . . . whatever age I was . . . for my whole life.  And that never seemed strange to me.  While I dimly recalled Celia and Louis as being much younger, I never had any memories of childhood.  I was always just a young woman who looked about twenty-five or so, living in a mansion on enclosed grounds with the Kentons.  The only reason it made perfect sense to me was because I never knew anything else.

And then those two young men dropped over the wall right in front of me.

The wall surrounding the Kenton's mansion, I should explain, is a healthy twelve feet tall.  I was surprised to see them, which means that I screamed and leapt so high that I could nearly see the other side of the wall.  The young men looked nothing like the one young man I could remember--Louis.  While he was a weedy sort of boy with acne and a need for a good haircut, these young men looked as though they were around my age.  One of them, dressed in blue jeans and light green sports shirt, with golden hair and the physique of Apollo (I knew about that from a Grecian statue owned by Mr. Kenton which dated back to 300 B.C.--the statue, not Mr. Kenton.), held a stick in his hand that was probably as tall as I was and covered with dead moss and leaves.  The other young man, taller and thinner, but with a pale face and whiter hair than any I had ever seen, was clad in grey jeans and a black t-shirt with some funny white design on it.

"You scared her."  The guy in the green shirt punched the guy in the black shirt in the arm.

"YOU scared her."  Black Shirt punched back.

"Ha!  I'm not scary.  Girls are never scared of me, right, Leto?"

I stared.  "I'm Jessica.  Jessica Anne McConnald.  May I help you?"

"You're Jessica?  No you're not!" Green Shirt stepped forward and held out the stick.

I backed away.  "What do you want?"

"Do you know who we are?" asked Black Shirt.

"No, should I?" I asked.

"What have they done to you, Leto, er, Jessica?" said Green Shirt.  "Don't you know me?  I'm Veshna, and that's Zima, and we have a sister named Osen.  We're your brothers, remember?  What about our parents?  Do you remember them?"

"I don't have any family," I said.  "Well, I have the Kentons, but they're not related to me."

"What have they done to you?" snapped Zima.

"Nothing!  They're very good to me!" I almost whimpered, backing away as quickly as I could.

"That's why her staff wilted," said Veshna, slapping his forehead.  "What idiots we all were."

"What an idiot YOU were," said Zima.  "Look, Le--Jessica, you're our sister, but you're not an ordinary human.  Whatever you've been thinking lately is probably false, and it was put there by the Kentons, or at least by someone who then handed you over to the Kentons for a reason we know not.  You're not human at all, in fact."

"Stop running on," said Veshna.  "Why do you always do that?  It's why everyone hates you."

"Everyone does not hate me," Zima retorted.  "Everyone hates you.  Especially when you first get around and bring mud and slush everywhere."

"I don't bring mud and slush; you leave it.  It's up to responsible me to clean it up.  And everyone loves me.  Everyone writes poetry about me, but the market is pretty shabby when it comes to poetry about you."

"Poetry?" I said.

"Yes, and you even have some pieces dedicated to you, sis," said Veshna.

"Look, who are you two?" I asked.

"We're your brothers, you know."

"But how am I not human?" I asked.

"You're immortal.  You were born after the Days of Water, the fairest of all of us children."  Zima spoke as if he were reciting a book.

"Excuse me.  Everyone knows that I'm the fairest," said Veshna.

"You're conceited," said Zima.  "Our sister Leto is the fairest.  And you, Jessica, are our sister Leto.  You are the person of summer, just as I am the person of winter and our dolt of a brother is the person of spring."

"I am not a dolt!" protested Veshna.

"Yes you are," said Zima.  "The thing is, Jessica, that you disappeared over ten years ago, and Vesh and Osen and Father and Mother and I have been searching for you that whole time.  It's lucky we found you, too, because the summertimes up north have been so cool that crops are being affected and things are starting to mold.  You know how it gets when things can't dry.  The mildew is dreadful.  Of course, I wouldn't mind just taking over the whole operation, but Mother won't let me."

"You're crazy," I said.

At that moment Louis stalked out across the lawn toward us.  "What are you doing, Jessica?  Who are these idiots?  Did you two know that you're trespassing?  Dad will sue you both for everything you own.  Mom wants you in the house, Jessica."

"Do you need proof?"  Veshna grinned at me.  "Watch this."  He snapped his fingers and instantly the ground around Louis' feet began to bubble.  Enormous green sprouts burst from the earth and twined themselves around Louis' legs, growing all the way up to his neck.  Huge white lilies sprung out of the tops of the shoots.  Louis was, for once, quiet.  I was also quiet.  Zima was not quiet.

"You know we're not supposed to do stuff like that," he said.

"If you don't tell Mother, I won't tell Mother," said Veshna.

"Do you believe us now?" asked Zima.

"I believe you, I guess, although I still don't know.  The Kentons aren't bad.  Mrs. Kenton has always been so kind to me."

"Well, naturally they wouldn't want you to stay here.  It was all an act.  Let's go before the kid figures out how to get free," said Veshna.

"Wait," said Zima.  "You're moving too fast for her.  Isnt' he?"

I nodded.  "If I'm summer's person, then I should be able to do something similar to what Veshna did, right?"

Zima nodded and took the stick from Veshna.  "This is your staff, Leto."

"He didn't use a staff," I said.

"Yes, but until you take it you can't very well do anything.  Look at it.  Do you think this is what it's supposed to look like.  You're summer, not a dusty old attic."

"Thank you," I said, reaching out for the staff.

Suddenly the shot of a gun rang out, and the staff flew from Zima's hand, shattering into two separate pieces.  I whirled around to see Mr. Kenton standing on the balcony of the house holding a gun.

"Come on, we've got to get Leto out of here," said Zima.  "Take care of that man, Veshna."

"With pleasure," said Veshna.

At the exact second that the next shot sounded, a sapling sprouted out of the perfect lawn and stopped the bullet.  Zima blew at the wall, and his breath came out blue.  Suddenly a cold wind came up and the entire wall turned to ice just as another bullet whizzed towards Veshna's head.  Veshna ducked, and the bullet slammed into the ice.  The entire wall cracked.  A sapling suddenly burst through the ice, shattering the wall.  The three of us ran through.

I could not recall seeing the outside world before, but I did not have very much time to take it in, because we had to run.

The running was interesting enough.  Veshna and Zima each took one of my hands and we almost flew through the air.  Our legs were moving, but a wind lifted us a few inches from the ground, and everything passed us in a bit of a blur.

"Where are we going?" I shouted.

"We're going north, of course," said Zima.  "Osen is holding down the fort up there."

"Osen being the person of autumn, correct?" I said.

"My, what a genius you are," said Veshna.

"Shut up, brother," said Zima.  "What I want to know is, why did Florida get you?  I mean, they already have nothing but summer.  Why did they get you instead of a place that needs you?"

"I don't know anything," I said.  "By the way, now that the staff's gone, how am I going to remember anything and restore myself?"

"Good question," said Veshna.  "You'll have to ask Father about that.  Oh, look, here we are in Michigan.  Just in time for the big spring thaw.  Oh, wait, that's my job.  One minute, people.  Zima, take her to Osen."

Veshna let go of my hand and suddenly he was gone.  Zima and I kept travelling for a few more minutes until Zima declared that we were in northern Wisconsin.  We were surrounded by woods, bleak and grey with crusted snow that had obviously been around for a while.

"I need to cover this," said Zima.  "It's so ugly.  One moment, sister."

Suddenly it started to snow.  Nothing heavy, of course.  It was late March, after all.

"These people have winter for a while longer," said Zima.  "Now, believe it or not, Osen is somewhere near here."

"Right over here, brother."  A young woman close to my own age stepped through the trees.  Her hair was the color of flame and it fell down to her knees in thick shining waves.  She was not dressed in normal clothing, like the brothers, but in a long gown of orange and brown and red and yellow.  She wore a crown on autumn leaves in her hair.  "I am Osen, Lady of Autumn," she said.  "And there is no doubt that you are Leto."

"Am I?" I said.  "I truly do not remember anything."

"They must have done something to you," said Zima.

"Who?" I asked.  "Who did something to me?"  Then my jaw went slack, for Zima's clothing changed before my very eyes from normal clothing into long robes of white and grey with a black shirt and trousers beneath.  He also wore a crown, but it was of ice and snowflakes.

"We aren't really sure," said Osen, ignoring my face.  "But why did you not give her the staff?"

"It was broken by her captor.  He shot it with a gun," said Zima.

"Did he indeed?"  Osen groaned, and a light wind suddenly whisked around her, whirling around a few red and yellow leaves that I know had been nonexistent before.  "Do you know what that means?"

"Maybe we should have brought her to the staff instead of the staff to her?" said Zima.

"I don't know what will happen when Father and Mother hear about this," said Osen.

"Who are Father and Mother?" I asked.

"I am your Father.  I came as soon as I heard."

The man that stepped through the trees might have been any man in his middle age except that he wore a mottled grey robe and seemed to float along as if on nothing.

"Father, what are we going to do?  Where is Mother?"

"Why is it that children always want their mothers when they're in trouble?  Your mother is busy at the moment.  She's in Japan, trying to keep things warm enough for the rice to grow.  It's not easy, you know.  She knows that Leto is back, though.  I sent a wind to tell her at once."

"Thank you, Father," said Zima.  "I sort of forgot."

"The last thing Japan needs right now is one of your winds messing up their rice crop.  Now, let me see my Leto."  He held his arms out and seemed a little offended when I did not go rushing into them.

"You're my father?" I said.

"Father Time, in the flesh," he said.


OK, so this is turning out to be really long.  I'll have to post more tomorrow.  By the way, if you were wondering about the names, each of the seasons has his corresponding Russian name.  Just so you know.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bucket List Tag

Hello, Bloglings.

I have been tagged by Ashley at A to Z for the now-circulating bucket list tag.  I generally don't write posts every time I'm tagged, but considering the fact that I've never actually written down a bucket list, I thought this would definitely be an interesting exercise.

Uh, so the rules are either vague or nonexistent, so I guess there's no particular length of list.  I've always been terrible at making lists and schedules and such things.  I'm a terrible planner.  Hopefully I don't crash and burn spectacularly.

I shall call this list . . .

Twenty-Five Things to Do in My Lifetime

1. Write a murder mystery series

At least I've started that.  Christmas at the Tittletons, anyone?  (OK, that was shameless advertising.)

2.  Win a big writing contest

Yes.  That would be neat.  I am, of course, referring to the writing contests such as the playwright contest hosted by Yale or one of the more famous short story writing contests.

3.  Live for at least a year in a foreign country

I've read so many books set in other places, so it would be swell to actually live in one of those places. cough*Germany*cough

4.  Learn to speak fluent German

I'm working on that now.  I only need to find people who can actually speak it with me.

5.  Bake my way through the entire Bread Baker's Apprentice book.
Are you familiar with this amazing book?  I want to start at the beginning and go straight through it someday.  (Sometimes I like to just sit there and flip through the pages looking at the pictures because they all look so delectable.)


6.  Sing in a production of Handel's Messiah.

This is actually happening this December!  I've wanted to do this ever since my Dad took me and my brother to see this production at the Hill Auditorium.

7.  Teach a Sunday School class

I don't know how much of a teacher I'd make, but I would love to permanently teach a Sunday School class.  (Fifth grade sounds appealing, somehow.)

8.  Visit historical sites on the East Coast (i.e. Boston, New York City, Ft. McHenry, Plymouth, Jamestown, War for Independence battlefields)

I've been out West a couple of times, but I've never really gotten a chance to see all the sites that played a part in our nation's earlier history.

9.  Work with ESL students

I've already gotten to do this, but I want to continue.  It's both fun and rewarding to help people learn English, and I can definitely sympathize with them since I have so much trouble grasping other languages myself.  People who learn to be bilingual or trilingual have my utmost repsect.

10.  Furnish and fill my own personal library
You knew that one was coming, right?  There's no way I'm not putting THIS on my list of things that I want to do before I "kick the bucket."
I need this in my life.
Yes, yes, the winding staircase will do nicely.

11.  Learn to read music

Shockingly, I can only play the piano and sing by ear.  I could tell you the names of the notes in any random piece of music, but I can't truly read it.

12.  Spend Christmas in Germany

Preferably with my family . . . (CBCs are family.)

13.  Actually learn how to pronounce those words that I know but have never heard spoken

All fellow readers will understand my plight.

14.  Meet a famous author

Being friends or cousins with a future famous author also counts, right?

15.  Go whitewater rafting on the Snake River in Wyoming

I've never felt the urge to go skydiving.  This is probably as dangerous and outdoorsy as I'm going to get.

Whitewater Rafting in the Snake River near Jackson Hole, WY

16.  Watch the LOTR extended editions

I've read the books, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, and even some of the Middle Earth histories, but I've yet to become a true Middle Earth nerd by seeing these versions of the movie.  At least I know all the names of the Dwarves in the company right off the top of my head, right, Kiri?

17.  Read to my children every night before they go to bed

This, of course, is on the condition that I actually have children.  If I don't, I may have to find someone else's children to read to.  That's not odd at all.

18.  See a play that I've written performed on stage

It would be neat.  It just would.

19.  Go on a mission trip to help a foreign missionary family

I have no idea where or when, but wouldn't that be wonderful?

20.  See the Northern Lights

These have always fascinated me.

Aurora Borealis by mericsso, via Flickr

21.  Visit the HofbrÀuhaus

Such history!  I must see it someday.

22.  Set up elaborate (yet still classy) Christmas decorations in my front yard

I love looking at those houses that are decorated with only garland and white lights.  It would be neat to do that some year.

23.  Ride the Orient Express

Yes, I am a murder mystery buff, in case you didn't get it from the first item on my list.

24.  Get a driver's license

With the driving problems I've had in the past, this would be nothing short of a miracle.

25.  Be that person who does random acts of kindness

Somebody's got to do it, right?
Mice give flowers

Thank you all for reading my life plans.  Now if only I can stick to the list.

I'm not going to tag anyone, because I've noticed that so many of these are going up that probably anybody I tagged would already have been tagged before.  If you haven't yet been tagged yet, though, please feel free to do this tag.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,