Wednesday, December 3, 2014

O, Holy Night

It's one of the most familiar Christmas songs to us, but where did it come from?

Bethlehem, images | Star of Bethlehem was bright star that showed Magi the way to Baby ...

The version we often hear today is a rendering by John Sullivan Dwight, but the original version was called Cantique de Noël.  It was written by a Frenchman named Placide Cappeau, and the original music, which we still use today, was written by another Frenchman named Adolphe Adam.  Neither of them were truly Christians; in fact, Cappeau was an artist and journalist who wrote the song at the request of a parish priest.  Adam wrote many operas and ballets.  Still, God used them to write one of our greatest Christmas carols about Christ's birth and the redemption and hope it provides to men.

O Holy Night

O holy night!  The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

How's the Christmas season progressing for you?  Don't forget to enter the giveaway for A Christmas Carol.  Speaking of that, I'm going to see a musical version of The Christmas Carol live this Friday.  I can't wait!  Are you doing anything special this week to celebrate Christmas?

Thanks for reading, God bless, and Merry Christmas,

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Christmas Giveaway!

Hey, guys!  Welcome back to Hidden Orchards for our second day of festivities.  Today, as those of you who already read yesterday's post know, we're having a giveaway.  And what, pray tell, am I giving away?

Well, everyone knows that Christmas movies are a fun tradition in most families, so I decided to give away a Christmas movie.  To be specific, I'm giving away one copy of my favorite version of A Christmas Carol.

Yes, that's right, folks.  You could snuggle up with your family and a few Christmas cookies and watch this wonderful movie with great delight.

Are you as excited as I am about Christmas?  Last night, my grandpa and one of my brothers and I went and saw an amazing Christmas light display in this park.  We drove through and just admired thousands upon thousands of lights.  It was really pretty amazing and put me even more in the Christmas spirit than I already was.

Well, I'm going to go bake something Christmas-y, so I'll leave you with a Christmas song.  Here's the suite from The Polar Express.

Thanks for reading, God bless, and Merry Christmas,

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Big Christmas Bash - Day 1

Merry Christmas, Bloglings!

Oops! I Craft My Pants: Christmas iPhone Wallpaper

The day I've been waiting for has finally arrived.  The Big Christmas Bash, hosted by Hidden Orchards, is finally here.

Honestly, I've felt like a time-bomb, just waiting until it was socially acceptable to begin open Christmas festivities.  There are so many mini-Scrooges who think that anything that has to do with Christmas before Thanksgiving is a capital crime and call it commercialism.

I like to imagine them boiled in pudding and buried with a stake of holly through their hearts.*  It helps heighten my Christmas spirit, doncha know.

And, for all those who are wondering, no, I am not Black Friday shopping.  I hate shopping at the best of times; why would I want to risk my life amongst mobs of people?

Instead, I am writing this splendid blog post and welcoming you to Hidden Orchards for a delightful Christmas celebration.  Since Christmas comes only once a year, I like to keep it up as long as possible.

By the way, keep your eyes open for a series of giveaways between now and Christmas.  Our first giveaway will start tomorrow.

Now, to bring out the Christmas cheer, I'm going to open this party with a link-up!

Hidden Orchards' Christmas Favorites Link-Up

Feel free to answer the questions on your own blog and link back here when you're finished.  Just comment with a link to your blog post.  I can't wait to see what everyone does at Christmastime.

1.  What's your favorite part about Christmas?

Baking Christmas Cookies2.  Does your family have any special Christmas traditions?  If so, which is your favorite?

3.  Everyone knows that music is best part of Christmas.  What's your favorite Christmas carol?

4.  What's your favorite Christmas song (i.e. non-sacred carol).

5.  What's your favorite Christmas story or novel?

6.  What's your favorite Christmas cookie?

7.  Do you shop at Christmastime?  Where's your favorite place to do Christmas shopping?

8.  What's your favorite Christmas treat?

9.  Do you watch Christmas movies?  What's your favorite one?

10.  We all know how much fun setting up the Christmas tree can be.  Of course, there are always those ornaments that you made in first grade that you would rather forget but they go on the tree anyway.  Do you have a favorite ornament?  What's the story behind it?

Thanks so much to all those who answer these questions.  And now, here's one of my favorite Christmas songs, from the Disney version of A Christmas Carol.

Thanks for reading, God bless, and Merry Christmas,

* This is based on a quote from A Christmas Carol, just so you know.  If you haven't read it or watched it yet, you really should.  It's one of my favorite things about Christmas.  And now I feel good about myself for citing my sources.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I Love to Laugh (and more about Christmas)

Hello, everyone.  Today I'm going to go on a rant about fiction, so beware.  To make up for said rant, I will talk about Christmas-y things at the end, because everyone knows how much fun Christmas is.

The Rant

I am past starting to get annoyed with the fact that I most of the books published in my time are unreadable if I want to (a) stick to godly, Christian standards and (b) not have to keep my brains from running away because of the way I've abused them.  Oddly enough, though, that's not exactly what I'm going to rant about.  It sort of stems off of that.  You see, so many people go around bemoaning the sad state of modern fiction when they are writers who can help fix the state of modern fiction by writing decent literature.
Ha Ha Ha Ha!
No, I'm sad and a little mad that people who do write decent literature always seem to think that a sense of humor enters the story as an afterthought.  Gone are the days of Mary Roberts Rinehart and A. A. Milne, and even Wilkie Collins, but why?  Why has the literate world suddenly plunged into this state of darkness and gloom and epic fantasy that has the whole world at stake?  Why is it that the funny character is always the sidekick?

There is very little light-hearted fiction being written nowadays, and that makes me sad.  The entertaining reading that is being put out nowadays is dark and heavy.  That's not to say that it doesn't have a great message, but why must we always dwell on grandiose battles and the hero saving an entire world?  Or, worse, why must we dwell on romance?  I shan't even take my mind there right now, because then I would be writing an even longer and duller post.

Am I saying that there's something wrong with fantasy or adventure books?  Of course not!  I even enjoy them.  What I am saying is that we are losing the art of humorous writing styles when we stick to such themes, and when we lose humor, we become dry.

Why does no one satirize society anymore?  I can think of a good many things about society that I could make ridiculous through humor.  Good authors seem to shy away from that, though.  

As for situational comedy, there seems to be very little of that being published any more.  Does no one see that it doesn't have to be fluff?  Some of the best messages can be relayed through humor.

I am of the firm belief that people who laugh at wholesome humor are the better for it.  The only problem is, how are we supposed to laugh at what doesn't exist.

Now, I shall follow my own example after I give a few more details about my big Christmas bash.

 Christmas-y Things

St. Patrick's in NYC at Christmas timeAh, we can talk about fun things now.  Don't forget, I'm having a Christmas party here on Hidden Orchards starting the week after Thanksgiving (for those of you who absolutely can't stand the sight of anything that has to do with Christmas before Thanksgiving).  

You can be involved.  In fact, I want you to be involved.  I've already had a few girls respond to being interviewed here on Hidden Orchards, but I'd love to have more.  If you want to talk about Christmas and Christmas books here, then please feel free to leave a comment below, and I'll contact you later.

Also, I'm going to have some fun giveaways.  Also, I'm going to have some tags.  Also, Christmas at the Tittletons is on sale now for Christmas.  It would make a great gift for someone who loves to read.

Lastly, I've been toying with the idea of making a vlog post during the Christmas party.  What do you think?  Let me know if you would enjoy hearing the melodious strains of my voice.

Now, feel free to spread the word about this most glorious event.  I would be most grateful.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mrs. Mabel Flavingswell and Co.

As most of you know (I suddenly realized that I start a good deal of blog posts with that statement.  Good heavens, I need to give you some new information!), The Replacement Relatives is set at the Christmas after the World War I Armistice.  Soldiers are coming home, and Mrs. Flavingswell, our capricious, inconsistent, and eccentric leading lady, is in denial that her son, Edward, is not going to be coming back with the others.

Mrs. Mabel Flavingswell, the heroine of our story
Mrs. Mabel Flavingswell
Mrs. Flavingswell is a pretty fun person to be around when she's in a good mood.  She's a soft heart, really, but she's not afraid to say exactly what she thinks when she gets angry, which is basically any time Mrs. Sylvia Flavingswell, First-Cousin-Once-Removed Bruce's wife, is in the close vicinity.  Mrs. Sylvia is both similar to and different from Mrs. Mabel.  Their chief difference lies in the fact that Mrs. Mabel has a sense of humor and Mrs. Sylvia doesn't.  Other than that, though, they're both capricious, strong-minded women who have pretty deep-running feelings.

One of my chief points in the story is the introduction of Hamilton Claymore, a recently discharged soldier.  I initially debated actually putting him into the story, because there is something kind of trite about the "mysterious stranger showing up on Christmas Eve" that I want to avoid.  Claymore, for your information, shows up on Christmas Eve Eve, but he could still seem . . . same-y.  In order to avoid that, I let Bruce Flavingswell suspect him of being a con artist.  That put in a lot of extra conflict that I wasn't going to have originally, as the entire household tries to keep him away from Mrs. Flavingswell so that he can't con her out of her money.  Claymore actually came for the express purpose of giving Mrs. Flavingswell a private message from her son, so naturally he's trying to get her alone while everyone else is trying to keep him from getting her alone.  In this way I try to keep Claymore from becoming that character.  Who wants to read about a character that is exactly like fifty-seven other characters that he has already read?

Claymore is going to be bothersome.  I can already see that.  First of all, he's a young, unmarried man, which I didn't have before.  I originally added him into the mix to heighten the situational comedy that I was going for anyway.  Now it looks like he could be the one and only love interest to our clumsy oaf of Mrs. Flavingswell's companion, Bianca Quettle.  Poor Bianca has had a difficult life, and she gets saddled with the undesirable task of keeping four snow-bound children out of trouble, making her life even more difficult.

I need some help for Bianca.  Would you personally rather read this story if she and Claymore fell in love or if they stayed sane and healthy?  What would be better for the comedy?  Feel free to express your opinions with gusto in the comments below.
Snow, snow, snow!
Snow for Christmas
As for the children, I've been working on their relationships to the grown-ups.  Bianca gets stuck with them, and she definitely has a favorite in Solomon Spencer, the shy middle child of the Spencer siblings.  Her least favorite is Edgar Flavingswell, a brat plain and simple.  Anne and Carl Spencer, the eldest and youngest of the Spencer children, take it upon themselves to make Edgar's life miserable.  Bianca, of course, has to keep the parents from finding out, because she's afraid they'll blame her for everything that goes wrong.  In Mrs. Sylvia's case she's completely right.

Mrs. Flavingswell feels a sentimental, benevolent sort of tie to the children.  She's happy to have them in the house at Christmastime, because it takes her back to the years when her own son was young and there were many children in the house all the time.  She has all sorts of things for them to do, from making fudge to singing for her.  Both of those activities go terribly awry, but Mrs. Flavingswell turns a blind eye to the children's faults, partly because she is so taken up with the adults' faults.

I don't go much into the parent-children relationships.  The parents mostly leave their children alone, trusting to Bianca as a sort of nurse-maid while they enjoy themselves.  This is partly because I don't want to make things too complicated and partly because I want Bianca to have a lot of troubles with the children.

As for Claymore, he actually attracts the children.  I'm sort of basing this on my oldest younger brother, who happens to love little kids and always hits it off well with them.  Bianca is frustrated, because she doesn't trust Claymore, thinking him to be a con man, but she wants to keep the children placated so that she doesn't get into trouble.

So, this sounds like a lot of fluff, you say.  Don't worry!  There is a theme underneath this comedy as Mrs. Flavingswell starts to realize that the replacements she's brought in for her relatives are really not so very different from the relatives themselves.  Her problem is not with her relatives, but in the way she views people in general.  Also, she has to learn to let go of the past and learn to enjoy the present, which is pretty hard to do when you have four mischievous kids trying to amuse themselves while snowed into your house that seems to grow smaller by the minute.

Yes, I'm only slightly obsessed with this at the moment.  Hopefully I'll be posting some snippets soon, although as my choir has a concert next week and tour starting the week after that, I'm sure that my posting will be sporadic, at best.

Don't forget that Christmas at the Tittletons is on sale here right now.  You should go check it out, because it will make a good Christmas gift for any of your friends and family who love to read.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Replacement Relatives

Welcome back, dearies!  As promised, here is a bit about my annual Christmas story.  This year it's called The Replacement Relatives.

When Mrs. Mabel Flavingswell decides that her relatives are too annoying to endure for an entire Christmas holiday, she invites a different set of people: middle-aged twins Marshall and Martha, who haven't spoken to each other for fourteen years, and Martha's husband and three children.  Unfortunately, just as Mrs. Flavingswell is settling back to enjoy the highly interesting clashes between the formerly estranged siblings, disgruntled First-Cousin-Once-Removed Bruce Flavingswell arrives at the Flavingswell homestead with his persnickety wife and bratty son.  With a beastly blizzard in the mix and a strange, recently discharged Lieutenant showing up on Christmas Eve, nothing could possibly be worse.

That is, nothing will get worse unless hired girl Bianca Quettle decides to improve her shy nature around all these confusing people.

Set in New England during the Christmas of 1918, The Replacement Relatives may or may not make you groan with sympathy for poor, misunderstood Mrs. Flavingswell.  Just please don't root for Edgar.  He's pretty bad.

Edgar Flavingswell, the terror of everyone who knows him
Edgar Flavingswell

So, yes, this is my Christmas story.

Now, I've basically given the cast in the summary, but here's a list of some of the delightful (and otherwise) characters.

  • Mrs. Mabel Flavingswell ~ The lady of the house is a bit annoying, especially at first, but she really does have a soft heart . . . once you get to know her.
  • Bianca Quettle ~ Poor girl, she's the one who has to deal with all the cranky people and bratty children.  Of course, with her sense of humor, I think she can manage it.
  • Elkanah Bimms ~ He's the hired man of Flavingswell homestead.  He's the sort who comes out with one-liners and does all the handy things about the place.
  • Mrs. Bimms ~ Elkanah's wife, of course, is the cook, and she makes no bones about what she thinks of children messing up her kitchen.
These four live on the homestead, and they're pretty nice most of the time.  It's only the thought of having to spend Christmas with Edgar Flavingswell that makes their skin curl in disgust.

And now for some snippets:

It was at that precise moment that Bianca Quettle came stumbling into the parlor.  Bianca always stumbled, poor girl.  She stumbled, dropped things, and looked generally unhappy whenever she was about people.  Now she came in, balancing the tea tray on her hands in a way that made Mrs. Mabel Flavingswell shudder with fear and horror.  Bianca was a nice young lady, but she was so dreadfully awkward.  Mrs. Mabel Flavingswell, admittedly, kept her around simply for the excitement.  There was nothing dull about Bianca.
Mrs. Sylvia Flavingswell, the annoying wife of First-Cousin-Once-Removed Bruce
Mrs. Sylvia Flavingswell
~ The Replacement Relatives

“No Bruce, no Sylvia, no Nephew Osborne, no Luke, no Sarabelle, and no Edgar.  I feel that this Christmas will be quite pleasant.”  Mrs. Flavingswell nodded serenely.  “Did you know that Sarabelle actually had the audacity to tell me that my dining room set was outdated?”
            Bianca did know that.  She had been there when Sarabelle had somehow screwed up the courage to tell her elder cousin what she thought of the dining room table.  Mrs. Flavingswell had returned a comment concerned with what she thought of Sarabelle.  Although that made things awkward for most of the family, Bianca had been rather entertained.  Sarabelle had a face that looked like a plump boiled potato, and it always reddened whenever she was angry.  Bianca had been hard put to keep from laughing at that most solemn moment.
~ The Replacement Relatives

She was greeted with a blast of snow and a tip of a very snowy hat.  “Afternoon, Miss.”
            “Good afternoon,” said Bianca.  “Do come in.”
            “Thanks much, Miss,” said the man to whom the snowy hat belonged.  “Mr. Marshall Lamb, at your service.”
            “I’m Miss Bianca Quettle,” said Bianca.  “Everyone just calls me Bianca or Miss Bianca.”  She slammed the door shut as soon as Mr. Lamb was all the way in the house.  “Welcome!”
            “Thanks, Miss,” he said as he began to divest himself of his outdoor wrappings.  He certainly had a lot of them, but when they were off of him and in Bianca’s arms, she could see why.  He must have been the thinnest man that Bianca had ever seen.  There was no mistaking him for anyone but Mrs. Martha Spencer’s brother.  His waist was smaller than Bianca’s; on that she would have staked her own life.  He had a thin mouth and a thin amount of sandy hair on his thinnish looking head.  His arms looked like little pine branches, and his fingers looked like very delicate twigs.  His trousers might have been made for a boy, so scrawny were they.
~ The Replacement Relatives

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Never Too Early

Ah, my lovely people, welcome to October.  Hereafter shall be the best part of the year, because for the me the official Christmas season starts in October.

1918, the first Christmas after WWIIn case you are wondering, yes, I'm already listening to Christmas music and dreaming about going home for Christmas and thinking about Christmas dinner and imagining what I'll be getting other people for Christmas.  I've already been doing that (since summer), but now it's official.

For all of you people who have this oddity of waiting until after Thanksgiving to begin your official Christmas festivities, I am truly sorry for you.  If you think I'm overly obsessing about Christmas and cheapening the holiday or making it less special because it's happening for a longer amount of time, well or (saints preserve us!) "commercializing" Christmas, well, think again.  I have my reasons.

Most of you know that I'm in college, and I hardly see my family (specifically my parents and younger brothers) at all anymore.  I worked on over the summer, and I was at home for about a week and a half in January and three days in June this year.  In other words, I have chronic homesickness, and the next time I'm going home is at Christmastime.  I can't wait!

Spread the joy!  Buy it here: course, I like Christmas for its own sake, and also because it lends itself so well to story plots.  Just look at my Pinterest account if you don't think that I'm serious enough about Christmas.

Oh, and I have exciting news, which is kind of what I was leading up to with all the rest of this post. That is, I'm having a Christmas sale for Christmas at the Tittletons starting in October.  You can find it here, yes, right here!!! 

The reduced price is $7.45, and this is a great Christmas present for anyone who likes to read.  It's also fun to read aloud, just saying.

Why are you putting CatT on sale right now, you ask?  Well, I'm doing this for those people like my mother who love to get their Christmas shopping done a few months early.  Don't worry, though.  This sale is going on throughout Christmas Day.

For all those people who hate celebrating Christmas before Thanksgiving, don't worry.  I'm going to have a big Hidden Orchards Christmas party, but not until after Thanksgiving.  Then I'll have a selection of tags, giveaways, and some Christmas-y interviews.  If you want to participate in any of the interviews, please feel free to leave a comment below with your email so that I can contact you.  I moderate all the comments, so your email won't show up.

Also, I'll be posting soon on a new Christmas novel that I'm working on, which is called The Replacement Relatives.  You'll hear more about that later.

All right, well, that's all folks.  Merry Pre-Christmas.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

About "The Musketeer Murder"

Being murdered isn't very much fun, if you're the one who get's shot, that is.  Naturally, the person who did it feels a certain amount of relief afterwards, but there's still that tenseness that he may be caught, and that might just give him away.

I'm working on a short story right now that uses this concept, the concept of the murderer giving himself away directly after the committing of the crime.  The only problem is that the people around him have to pick up on his slip-ups.

One twist that I'm putting in (you'll know this almost from the beginning, so I'm not giving out any spoilers) is that all the characters, with the exception of the victim, are involved in the murder more or less.  They've all made plans to kill the victim at one point, or at least have someone else kill the victim.

This is very much an experimental story.  It's also set in modern times, so don't let the title fool you.  I allude to the novel by Dumas quite a bit in the story, and I've taken an important theme from The Three Musketeers--"One for All, and All for One"--as a theme for my story.

So, maybe you're wondering why I'm making such a big deal about this right now.  ("Aren't you supposed to be in college?")  Actually, it's just something that I've been thinking about a good deal lately.  You probably know, if you've been around here for very long, that I'm a huge Agatha Christie fan.  I love murder mysteries of all types, and I've really begun branching out with my mystery reading.  It's such an interesting genre, and I love the reader interaction in the story that doesn't always happen in other genres.  I suppose it's only inevitable, then, that I should dedicate a good chunk of my writing time to churning out murder mysteries.

Which leads me to another problem.  There are only six characters in my story, including the victim, and none of them, including the victim, are good.  It's quite an interesting experience, actually, writing a story with only villains.  For instance, what does one do with the ending.  They can't win, but then, does no one win?

I'm finding myself influenced by Crime and Punishment here.  That's an amazing book, by the way, and if you've never read it you really should.

My other big problem is motive.  Do you realize how horrible a person you would have to be to have five whole people actively trying to kill you?  Yes, hers was not an easy life.

By her, I mean Connie, the victim, of course.  Connie's a nasty little piece of work, involved in blackmail and threats and possibly theft.  Not that any of the others are better, either.

There's Ren, also called "Dad" by the others because he's serious and bookish.  We also have Ollie, the oldest of the group, who's in his late twenties but has the tendency to brood in a Hamlet-esque manner.  Char is a wild young woman who doesn't lead quite as ugly of a life as she tries to make everyone believe she does.  Isaac is a body-builder type of guy, Ren's best friend and smart despite the fact that he always seems to look as though someone just punched him upside the head.  Annie, the last of our gruesome band, is an unnatural redhead who acts like a blonde but has the presence of mind to ask others to do her dirty work for her.

With all the thought I've had to put into this story so far, I'm still not certain of what I'll do with it when I'm finished.  One doesn't exactly publish a single short story.  Still, I'm enjoying the writing of it!

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

You Had No Right to be Born, for You Make No Use of Life.

Thank you for that apt reminder, Charlotte Brönte.  Charlotte is on my top list of authors right now, because of Shirley.  Why do we never hear about that book?  It's so much funnier than Jane Eyre, not to mention the story is deeper and WAY more interesting.  It smacks of an earlier version of North and South because we have a harsh mill owner and disgruntled workers, although the story contains a good deal more than that.  You need to read it.

Ahem.  I shall now get down to the nitty-gritty.

This is a post in which I shall preach to myself.

I hate editing.  Big surprise, right?  Why can't I just write a paper and have it turn out perfectly right away?  Instead, I sit staring into nothingness and growing more and more frustrated with myself because I can't think of how I should make my manuscript better.  Then I end up with an explosion and go off to read some Agatha Christie because murder always makes me feel better after editing, or trying to edit.

Rage gifs.  When words fail. I have longed to do this to my computer lol

Naturally I know that all of you love EDITING!  Oh, how fun!  Oh, how many exclamation marks I'm using in this paragraph!

In reality, some people like editing even more than the initial writing process.  Some people also like physics and chemistry, but we try not to talk to them too much.  And to all my writing brothers and sisters who think that the epitome of writing happiness is sitting down to tear up a beloved manuscript, TELL ME YOUR SECRET.

I'm in a short story writing class right now, and I'm enjoying every minute of it.  I am also learning all that editing implies.  This class is one of the higher-level CW classes at my university, and I've only taken basic CW so far.  (I'm not a CW major, so these classes actually count as electives for me, and I don't have to take them in order.  I am so powerful.)  I feel majorly underprepaired even though I'm enjoying the class so much.  For instance, every time my professor starts going on about publishers and such I start feeling like Calvin.

Disclaimer: I write all my own assignments.  It is, however, astonishing how often I can relate to Calvin in other areas.  Do I need mental help?

Editing for a class is so much more than editing for yourself.  I'm going to hand in my brain-child to a cold-hearted professor who will scribble all over it and make comments that make me feel like a toddler who randomly scratched out gibberish all over a page and called it writing.  Hence, I must edit away all possibility of this ever happening.  The stress is very real.

When I actually hunker down to editing, though, I can hardly bear to change what I've written.  I know it's bad, but it's mine.  I sit before my computer, impatiently waiting for the editing muse to come along and give me some ideas.

Greatest GIF compiliation on writing EVER. || The Publishing Process in GIF Form | Nathan Bransford, Author

I'm pretty sure that editing doesn't have a muse.  That's something you have to do all by yourself.  I edited my first manuscript for SSW class last week, and it was some of the hardest editing I've ever done.  Know what?  The assignment was under 200 words.  I had 257.  When you have to tell a story, however simple, in 200 or fewer words, you have a problem.  Each word counts, and has to mean a whole lot.  My 257 words meant a lot; I had already stripped the story, or anecdote, down to bare bones.  What more could I do?

That's when I found out that editing means pushing yourself to the limit, ruthlessly cutting what you thought was the good stuff.  It wasn't.  You can make it better.  Rather, I can make it better.  (I'm preaching to myself.  You guys already know all this stuff.)

Honestly, I've read about editing before, and I've found it to be dull reading.  Is it because of the way I've approached editing before?  I'm not merely butchering my darling, I'm creating a rigid monster.  That's how I've always looked at it, but I think I've been taking the wrong approach.  What I discovered after I was forced to edit down those words is that the limitations made me do it.  What I had when I was finished editing was so much better than the rough draft.  It wasn't a rigid monster, it was a good paper.

My professor, one of the harder graders in the department, so I've been told, told me that I had a good story when he gave it back to me today.  Editing works, guys.  

Honestly, though, I found out something important from all that editing.

I've got to have restrictions and rules.  In this case I had a deadline and a tiny word count.  The rules were pretty rigid, and it made my writing much better than it would normally be.

How I love Calvin and Hobbs! Sums up the response from the High School students I teach!

That's so hard to replicate in real life when you're editing a novel.  You don't necessarily have a deadline or a minimal word count. You don't have a professor breathing down your neck (figuratively, of course) as you frantically cut out whole paragraphs and reconsider word choice.  The self-control needed is fantastic.

Oh, and I'm not giving you any specific suggestions for editing, other than saying that restricting yourself is important.  Why?  If you've been here for any length of time, you know that my pet peeve is lists that tell you exactly how to write your story.  I am very much a theorist when it comes to writing, because I believe that each writer must discover how best he works.

All I'm saying is that we (that is, I) need to be strict, strict, strict when it comes to tearing up a ms.  I've decided to set personal deadlines for myself because otherwise I'll never get anything done.

But isn't that what everyone's already been telling us all along.  I guess we all need to have our own epiphany over the exact same thing.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,


Friday, September 5, 2014

Beautiful People (Villain Edition) - Heliopolite Tajisscra

Hi, everyone!  I'm here to link up with The Notebook Sisters for the September edition of Beautiful People.  This month it's villains!  Yay!  And, of course, I have to do my favorite villain (who is also recurring), Heliopolite Tajisscra, or just Tajisscra.  He's got his reasons, but he's still black-hearted.  You'll find him in Alicia, Lonish the Swordmaster, and various short stories set in the world of Rindavae.  I also have plans for some of his family members to show up in other novels.

1. What is their motive?

Well, Tajisscra and his people, the Estackam, have a huge chip on their shoulders because they feel that they are not as favored as the Cheol Ruvin, the people chosen to keep the records of Rindavae by the Good Master, the Maker of Rindavae.  They feel that the choice was unfair, and so they've basically been feuding with the Cheol Ruvin ever since.  Tajisscra simply has greater drive than the others of his people.  He wants respect from all of Rindavae, but not necessarily for the Estackam.  He wants to be respected personally.  Also, he sees Mortals as puny invaders who have no sense of the reality of things.  When he meets intelligent and brave Mortals such as Lonish and Alicia, he tries to use them for his own ends.

2. What do they want, and what are they prepared to do to get it?

Tajisscra wants power and respect.  He's willing to do anything (short of hurting his sister) to achieve those goals.

3.  How do they deal with conflict?

Tajisscra is an Estackam.  He's usually in a position to blast anyone who opposes him with his Wand.  Unfortunately, when he runs into real conflict he tends to talk his way out of things rather than staying and fighting.  He can shed real blood if it comes down to that, though.

4.  Describe their current place of residence.

Well, Estackam tend to congregate near rivers, so I like to think that Tajisscra, when he's not terrorizing Alicia and trying to recruit Lonish, lives in a cheerful little cottage by the riverside, enjoying his garden and fishing as he plots up evil schemes whereby he will gain control of Mount Lucor and make all of Rindavae bend to his will.

5.  If they were writing their story, how would it end?

Tajisscra has a thing about tenacity.  While I have chronicled some of his greatest escapades into ponderous volumes, he would say that his story is not yet over, that he will rise again, and all that.  I think if he searched deep down he would realize that a true happy ending would be living with his sister in a cottage by the river, not trying to make all of Rindavae respect and love him or get vengeance on the Cheol Ruvin.  Still, Elori Tajisscra is just as twisted as her brother, and I think both of them would agree that the only happy ending lies in taking Mount Lucor.

6.  What habits, speech patterns, etc. are unique to them.

Oh, this one's actually easy because I describe the way Tajisscra talks in Alicia.  He has a strong, outwardly calm and even kind voice, but there are undertones of emptiness and darkness underneath.  You can never really pinpoint his tone because he hides behind all the vocal tones (rather than making his voice flat to hide his purpose).  As for habits, he has the extremely bad habit of trying to make a hybrid "superwarrior" in order to take over the world.  On a smaller scale, he fiddles with the carvings on his staff when he grows bored.

7.  How do they show love?  What do they like to do for/with the people they love?

Tajisscra does not truly love anyone, although he might be able to love Elori, his sister, sometime in the future if he gets his act together.  He believes that the language of love is shown through physical contact, such as a hug or kiss, but he's definitely not a touchy-feely person.  When he tries to win over his niece, the half-Mortal, half-Estackam Marie the Clever, he has a difficult time because he really does not know how to show affection but tries to do it anyway.  He claims that he would do anything for Elori, but sometimes I think that's just a lot of hot air.

8.  Do they have any pets?

Nope.  Tajisscra is a loner.

9.  Where would they go to relax/think?

Tajisscra can relax anywhere where there is no other living creature.  He prefers riversides, though, because the sound of the running water is very calming on the nerves.

10.  What is their weapon of choice?

Tajisscra wants to use a sword.  As an Estackam, he has the power of a Wand, but he also has a boyish fascination with sharp blades.  He thinks that swinging them around and actually feeling the sword slice into the person you're slaying must be high fun.  Unfortunately, you lose all that with a Wand.  It's a dream, you know.  Maybe someday he'll find a sword of his own.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,


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,