Thursday, June 26, 2014

Of Cats and other Dreadful Things

Of the eight PB's I wrote for this month's challenge, I would say that I have two, possibly three, favorites.  The dystopian plot, simply by virtue of the fact that it has so many books in it, easily made it to the mental list of favorites.  Then I would have to say that The Road to Baltimore is a favorite because it combines mystery with one of my favorite periods of history, the War of 1812.  How can you go wrong there?

The White CatThe plot that I have decided to work on, though, is the last one.  As of right now, its working title is The Cat of Lake Gellara.  I wrote over 3,000 words on it yesterday, and I'm going to introduce the main character right now.

His name is Prince Owen Nientr, and he hates cats.  Why?  Here's a little snippet from yesterday that explains things.

Should anyone have previously doubted the fact that Prince Owen hated cats, they would have been completely assured in their minds of his position on the subject on the fine spring morning of his father’s fifteenth year anniversary of ruling the nation of Sevyim.  His Highness stood in a clump of his mother’s favorite lilac bushes and held a stray cat by the tail.  This said cat had been unfortunate enough to wander into the summer palace grounds the evening before, and Owen, always an early riser, had seen him first thing that morning.
            The prince was not particularly scrupulous about his dealings with any animals except for cats.  When he was five, he had been terribly scratched on the arms and neck by a black cat which had been frightened as a result of having had some stones thrown at it by Owen’s older brothers, Wallace and Damien.  The ensuing trauma of having a black ball of living and clawing fur flying at one with a screech of terror had forever after sealed the young prince as one of the decided brotherhood of cat-haters.
            Now Owen had a personal rule.  Every time he saw a cat he would take out his terrible vengeance upon it.  He was really quite ingenious about coming up with different ways to make cats miserable.  With him it was almost a science.

~ The Cat of Lake Gellara

Lake GellaraThus Owen hates cats.  That gets a bit awkward when Owen meets White Cat, a lady who takes him in when he falls sick in a foreign country.

But what is Owen like personality-wise?

He wants to live a simple life.  Does that sound overused?  Maybe a little, but Owen really does like the country, although he's more into growing things than animals.  He does not like formal situations at all, unlike Damien, the middle prince, who actually enjoys them.  He likes fishing a lot.  Thankfully the king believes that boys should have a chance to run around outside and do boyish things, so Owen does not feel totally stifled by being a prince.  He gets a bit nipped in the bud by his oldest brother, Wallace, but Damien usually takes his side, so he gets along splendidly until his father's announcement, which kind of turns his world upside down.

Owen is a tall young man, blond-haired and blue-eyed like his brothers.  He gets his looks from his mother.  In fact, none of the boys look like the king, which the king thinks is just as well, because he's not considered handsome in the least.  Not that the king minds much about things like that, but he does like his boys to look nice.  Owen is the shortest of his brothers, even later, when they are grown up.  Damien turns out to be the tallest once he hits his growth spurt, but at first Wallace has the upper hand (and upper height), and he pushes his younger brothers around all the time because of it.

Unfortunately, I do not yet have any good pictures of Owen to show you, so we will just have to wait for those.  Meanwhile, I hope you all have a lovely day.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Final Plot Bunny Challenge

This is it.  It's almost sad, because I've really enjoyed this challenge.  Thank you, Anne-girl, for a wonderful June Crusade.

Now, for those of you who haven't been around, I do like a good fantasy.  As a younger girl I read Andrew Lang, the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and any other fairy tales I could get my hands on.  And, as most of you know, my very dear friend Kiri Liz has been re-writing fairy tales without magic.  Her first completed one is The Secret of the Hazel Tree, which is a Cinderella retelling, and it is so absoballylutely incredible that I can't even begin to explain how wonderful and amazingiferously splendid this book is.  She's also working on some other stories, but I'm telling you, she'll be hard-pressed to come up with anything much better than TSotHT.  When it comes out, you WILL want it.

Okay, enough with the testimonial.

"If homeless cats could talk, they would probably say, give me shelter, food, companionship, and love, and I'll be yours for life." --Susan EasterlyAlso, Kiri's been pointing out how I have been using her ideas (gazes around innocently) during this challenge before she gets a chance to.  For instance, my second PB was a dystopian Christian plot, which premise she used for her sixth PB.  Sorry about that, Kiri.

My last PB is going to be a fairy tale retelling.  I have a few favorites among the fairy tales, such as Rumpelstiltskin, Diamonds and Toads, and St. George and the Dragon.  Although, I'm not exactly certain that the last one qualifies as a fairy tale.  Oh, well.  Anywho, one of my favorite fairy tales is The White Cat.  Now, I really hate cats in real life, but I've always liked this story.  It's almost like Beauty and the Beast the other way around with a few twists in it.  You should all read the original story, because it's quite interesting.

Larlem Nientr, King of Sevyim, was universally declared to be eccentric.  He had always treated his three sons exactly the same, instead of preparing the eldest specially to take his place.  Now, he knows that he's growing old, but instead of giving his eldest son the crown, he decides to give all three a sporting chance at ruling, and devises a test to tell which of the three will be the best king for Sevyim.

Tower on Lake Vyrnwy (Llyn Efyrnwy) near to Llanwddyn, Powys, Great Britain. View of the eerie gothic "straining tower" from Lake Vyrnwy Hotel high up on the hillside of the Berwyn Mountains. It is essentially a filter station for the water before it is piped off to LiverpoolPrince Owen Nientr might be the youngest of the three sons, but he is certain that he will make a good king.  All he has to do is find a small and beautiful dog from another land and train it to be a cunning acrobat without any help from anyone in Sevyim.  How that will qualify him to be king, Owen has no idea, but he also doesn't think that such a child's task could be that difficult.  With high spirits, he sets off to fulfill his mission in one year.

But Prince Owen soon finds himself alone in the foreign land of Sastik and realizes that he needs all of his training to help him with his task.  Even that is not enough, he soon discovers, when he becomes terribly ill.

Taken out of kindness into a small Sastikian castle, Owen enters a life of mystery and seclusion.  The lady of the castle calls herself the White Cat, and all the servants are forced to wear heavy veils so that their faces are completely hidden.  True, the White Cat may be intelligent beyond anything young Prince Owen has ever imagined, but that doesn't hide the fact that she knows a good deal too much about both Owen and the kingdom of Sevyim for someone in her position.

Worst of all, the White Cat is never seen without the mask of a cat covering her face.  And Prince Owen Nientr, despite his fondness for dogs, hates cats with an undying passion.

Trapped in a castle with no place to go, Owen must learn how to use his wits for the first time in his life, all the while deciding whether he should trust the White Cat, who promises she can help him, or try to escape while he still can.

"Get in here, your Highness!"

If there was one man in all of Sevyim who would dare to shout at Prince Owen, it was Master Vlemins, the mathematics instructor.  Other instructors might have meekly let Prince Owen get away with skipping class, but Master Vlemins was not about to tolerate any laxness on the part of King Larlem's youngest son.

Master Vlemins stuck his head out of the window and shouted again.  "Prince Owen Nientr, do you want me to tell your father about this?"  Master Vlemins glared down at the derelict prince, who was disporting himself among his mother's favorite lilac bushes like a little lad of five instead of a young man of fourteen.

Prince Wallce, the oldest of the three sons of King Larlem of Sevyim, looked up from the table where he was dutifully working at his advanced trigonometry.  No doubt about it, Wallace was the most studious of the three sons of Larlem.  "He'll never settle down," said Wallace.  "Why do you even bother?"

Master Vlemins turned on the luckless Wallace.  "Because, your Highness, the king has given me the responsibility of training you princes up for the position of ruling, whether it be of a kingdom or of your own selves.  King Larlem has been farsighted enough to realize that to care for the eldest and neglect the younger would be a terrible mistake, although it is such a common practice.  He does not want to give either one of you an excuse for not being the best man you can be, and I am going to take that responsibility seriously, even if you or Prince Owen will not."

Damien, the middle son, grinned as he contemplated his geometry.  "Listen to Master Vlemins, Wallace."

"You and Owen couldn't possibly think that you actually have a chance for the throne," said Wallace sourly.

Damien raised his eyebrows.  "Maybe not Owen, not if he keeps acting up the way he always is.  But the way Father wants all of us trained makes me think that maybe, just maybe, he might name his successor."

"Impossible!  That is never done!" said Wallace.

"Your father is not in the habit of doing things the way they are always done," said Master Vlemins.  "Now, go out and fetch Prince Owen, if you please, your Highness."

Wallace glared at Master Vlemins' back as he went to do the man's bidding.  He was a bit more respectful of the mathematics instructor than Owen, although he did not like him one little bit.  He had always suspected that Master Vlemins held him in light contempt, and Prince Wallace was not used to being held in contempt by anyone at all.

"Hello, brother dear," said Owen, looking up from his work, which happened to be carving a whistle out of a lilac branch.

"If Mother knew, she would be furious," said Wallace, pointing to the branch.

"Mother wouldn't be furious at all," said Owen.  True, Owen was her favorite son.  "Is the old windbag very angry?"

"Master Vlemins is properly annoyed, if that's what you mean," said Wallace.

"He's a tyrant," said Owen.  "It's cruel to keep me up there with algebra on such a beautiful day."

"You should be thankful that you get any good training at all," said Wallace.  "Father is being terribly generous to you and Damien by allowing you to school with me."

"Oh, don't be so important," said Owen.  "Just because you're the oldest doesn't mean that you would make such a great king."

"Since when did you become an expert on being a king?" asked Wallace.

"Well, Father is a good king, and you aren't very much like him," said Owen.  "Father likes to talk to people and find out how things are going all over Sevyim, but you only ever care about doing things for yourself, and making people happy that can help you out.  Don't think I don't notice these things."

Wallace reached out and grabbed Owen by the collar.  "How dare you say that to me, you little brat?"  He punched Owen in the ear until Owen sobbed with the ringing.  "Now come on up to the schoolroo, or I'll bet Master Vlemins will give you more of the same."

Ridiculous, thought Owen.  Master Vlemins never so much as lifted a hand against one of the princes, although he clearly had no compunctions about lifting his voice.

Owen jerked away from his brother and walked behind him back to the gloomy room where Master Vlemins was waiting in grim silence.

"Your Highness," he said to Wallace, "I do believe that princes who physically attack their younger and smaller brothers are cowards, and I should like a ten page paper with your thoughts on the subject, if you please.  I shall expect it tomorrow."

Wallace kicked Owen in retaliation as they sat down.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Monday, June 23, 2014

Plot Bunny Challenge #7

Hello, again, m'dears.  For my second to last PB of the month, I am thinking of more music.  After spending a good portion of the weekend listening to old Disney songs while playing ping-pong with friends, I can't help but feel very musical.  Yes, I know it's an odd combination, but there you have it.

Walter and Emmeline Fairbourne are the epitome of a quiet middle-class London brother and sister.  They enjoy their tea and reading in the evenings, and both of them are quite musically inclined.  Walter plays the violin and Emmeline plays the flute, and they both do it so beautifully.  Besides all of that, they own a lovely little house and have plenty of other quiet middle-class London friends with whom to converse and socialize.

Then an excitement takes London.  They say that gold has been discovered in America, and everyone is talking about it.  Suddenly tired of their simple life, the Fairbournes decide to try their fortunes in California.  But a plain London life is no good training for life in the Wild West.

Meeting up with the eccentric and enormous Jenkins family (fourteen children!), the brother and sister begin their dangerous journey across the continent of North America.  But the many people they meet on the way are suspicious of the foreigners, and it's not long before the bland and quiet Fairbournes have become the most mysterious 49-ers ever.

I am certain that most of you cannot have failed to hear of the Fairbourne siblings, Walter and Emmiline.  They were the nicest children you could have ever known, and I do not know how they grew up to be so odd and eccentric.  My Confidential Friend, who also knew them personally, is positive that it was the music.

You see, they loved music so much.  They practically lived for music, although in the early days they managed to be decorous about it.  In the early days they played respectable music, too, and in the quiet confines of their home.  In the evenings, which they liked to spend in their small yet comfortable front parlor, not to be confused with their larger and less comfortable back parlor, they would play light, sophisticated tunes from Mozart, Vivaldi, Bach, and Beethoven.  Every once in a while they played a simple Irish air, which ought to have been a warning sign as to what was coming, but no one heard them, so no one thought of it.

Before the days of their tragedy came upon them, they were the most lovely, decorous people you could ever meet.  Walter stood tall and trim in a fine brown coat and plain gold watchchain, and Emmeline was shorter but still lovely in her dark blue dresses and starched lace collars.  When I think of how they look now, I could almost cry.  My Confidential Friend is certain that no one could ever look more eccentric than the Fairbournes do today.

It was all the fault of that dreadful newspaper.  They were having a perfectly lovely evening in their front parlor.  They had taken turns playing and singing, and then they were just sitting down to tea and their reading, when Walter noticed the dreadful, dreadful news.

"Emma, look!" he said.  Such innocent, ominous words!

"What is it, Brother?" asked Emmeline in her voice which then was the sweetest, most kind voice one could ever hope to hear.  How they have fallen!

"Gold has been discovered in California," said Walter.  Then he did not have that excited note in his voice that never seemed to be absent later.  Then he was merely reading the news of minor interest.

"Gold?" said Emmeline.  "How nice for the people in California.  That seems rather far away, though.  Does it not?"

"All the way on the other side of North America," said Walter.  "It is indeed a pretty distance.  I think there must be many dangers and hardships on the way."

"Yes, it must be quite an adventure," said Emmeline.  Her voice lingered on that last word, as if she was awakening to the beautiful and deadly taste of it.  Her eyes began to close as if she were falling under the wonderful and fatal spell of it.

"Yes, it must be an awfully long journey," said Walter.  He smiled at the tantalizing and terrifying thought.  He quivered with the exciting and tragic words.

Yes, I am quite certain, and my Confidential Friend agrees with me, that it was the music that made them so susceptible to the spell of the West.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Friday, June 20, 2014

Plot Bunny Challenge #6

Hello, again, lovely bloglings.  For my sixth plot bunny I wanted to do something quirky and fun, which basically means something with children and nonsense and plenty of food and singing and what-have-you.  This idea that I am using is actually not a completely new one; it has been floating in my head for years.  I have never done a solitary thing with it until now, but I think that this challenge is a good time to bring it out and see what happens.

I don't have a title yet, so here's the blurb:

Dr. Blackbucket is an evil genius, or at least that's how he likes to think of himself.  Unfortunately, all the mothers in his quiet suburban neighborhood are certain that he's a sweet old man, and he is always the first one they ask when they need a babysitter.  And Dr. Blackbucket hates children with a passion that burns deeply in his dark heart.

Then Mrs. Ligglesbarn asks Dr. Blackbucket to babysit her two little darlings (monsters is how Dr. Blackbucket sees it) while she is at the grocery store.  Dr. Blackbucket, scared to death of Mrs. Ligglesbarn, does it.  Convinced that the children mean trouble, he tries to get rid of them via his latest invention--a time machine.  His plan backfires, however, when he is caught in his own invention with the very monsters he is trying to avoid.

Trapped in ancient Rome with the Ligglesbarn brats, Dr. Blackbucket must maneuver his way around angry centurions, confused gladiators, bombastic senators, and one terribly annoyed street merchant, and somehow keep his young charges out of trouble long enough to loose them somewhere so that he can get back home.

Oops.  One of the little darlings just broke the time machine.

And here's the first scene:

Dr. Blackbucket was not in the habit of speaking to anyone if he could possibly help it.  Oh, he spoke, or rather muttered evilly under his breath.  That's how he would have said it.  He always tried to make everything sound as epic as possible.  He narrated his own life in his head all day long, and it brought him exceeding pleasure if he could come up with a new turn of phrase that would sound better than the last turn of phrase he had come up with.

The evil genius padded softly down the long and winding staircase to the kitchen where he fried himself two eggs for breakfast, laughing maniacally as he imagined their coming demise.

Dr. Blackbucket muttered this to himself as he fixed his breakfast.  In reality his staircase was straight and no longer than a normal staircase, but it did sound so much better to make it long and winding.  Also he pronounced "maniacally" wrong, never having actually heard the word spoken before, although he had read it somewhere.

"I wonder how children would taste with these eggs," the brilliant scientist wondered as he expertly flipped the eggs onto his plate and began eating them with cruel gusto.

Dr. Blackbucket attempted to flip the eggs onto his plate but broke both of the yolks dropped the whole kit and kaboodle, pan and all, onto his big toe.  It is never dignified for an evil genius to yell in pain, but Dr. Blackbucket did something very close to that.  He glared at the eggs splattered over the floor.

Clearly the work of his powerful arch-enemy.  The evil genius would have to be careful.  He leaned over the mess, carefully inspecting them to make sure that they wouldn't explode in his face and leave him maimed and disfigured for life.

Tap, tap, tap.

Dr. Blackbucket jumped up and whirled around.  Someone was knocking on the kitchen door.  He almost got back on the floor again when he saw who it was: Mrs. Ligglesbarn.

Not Mrs. Ligglesbarn!  She was worse than all the arch-enemies in the world put together.

"Yoo-hoo!  Mr. Blackbucket!"  Mrs. Ligglesbarn was putting her face up against the window of the door, trying to peek in.  That busybody!

"My name is Dr. Blackbucket," the illustrious villain snarled darkly as he scowled at the monster-lady's shadow creeping into his kitchen.

"Yes, Mrs. Ligglesbarn?" he said aloud, although not too loudly.  He was too frightened of her not to answer her, but he certainly didn't want to attract her attention.  Unfortunately, Mrs. Ligglesbarn had the ears of a highly advanced technological hearing device, and she picked up Dr. Blackbucket's quavering answer with no trouble at all.

"Oh, good, I was thinking you were at home," Mrs. Ligglesbarn called out.  "Where are you?"

Dr. Blackbucket stood up.  "Right here, Mrs. Ligglesbarn."

"Well, do you want to make me stand out here all day, you silly man?" asked Mrs. Ligglesbarn.

Dr. Blackbucket decided not to answer that truthfully and merely shuffled as one defeated over to the door and let in Mrs. Ligglesbarn.

"Good morning, Mr. Blackbucket," said Mrs. Ligglesbarn.

"Dr. Blackbucket," mumbled Dr. Blackbucket.  "I have a degree.  Several, in fact."

"Yes, yes, of course.  My, my, have you been trying to cook all by yourself.  How cute!  You poor thing, you simply mustn't try to clean that mess up by yourself."

Before Dr. Blackbucket could say another word, Mrs. Ligglesbarn was whisking herself all over the kitchen, cleaning up the destruction of the evil genius' breakfast.  Dr. Blackbucket could do no more than stare at her with widened eyes and a palpitating heart.  What if she discovered . . .

"What is this?"  Mrs. Ligglesbarn was halfway into the cupboard underneath the sink, looking for cleaning supplies.  Her legs stuck out behind her like two logs wearing pointy high heels.  She emerged holding a bottle labeled POISON with a skull and crossbones beneath.

"Don't you know?" asked Dr. Blackbucket.  Perhaps if she didn't know he could get her to drink it, and that would solve all of his immediate problems.

"It says 'Poison,'" said Mrs. Ligglesbarn.

"R-r-rat poison," stuttered the poor scientific prodigy.  So much for that idea.

"Oh, of course," laughed Mrs. Ligglesbarn.  "Well, I'm sure you know why I'm here."

Dr. Blackbucket was pretty sure that he knew, but he was hoping against hope that perhaps this would be a mere painful social visit.

"I am going to the grocery store, and I was hoping that you would watch my two darling little children for two hours or so while I'm gone," said Mrs. Ligglesbarn.

Of course she did.  All the neighborhood mothers asked Dr. Blackbucket if he would watch their children while they went to the grocery store.  Mrs. Ligglesbarn had the worst children in the neighborhood, though.

"Certainly, Mrs. Ligglesbarn," moaned Dr. Blackbucket.  "I would be glad to watch Johnny and Susie."

"Tyler and Jessica," Mrs. Ligglesbarn corrected Dr. Blackbucket.

"Whatever you say, Mrs. Ligglesbarn," gulped the nefarious brute.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

#5 Plot Bunny Plot Blurb

SOOOO!  I got a little feedback last night from my opening scene yesterday, and apparently we need some answers.  Well, I should hope that you would have plenty of questions after the first chapter.

I'm calling this story, as of right now, The Old Angel.  So, for all of you who like history/Christmas/music/war, this might be a book for you.

The world of Kaspar the orphan has been within the confines of a small German hamlet ever since the organist of the church took him in one Christmas night many years ago.  Now he's been drafted into the army and shipped over to a foreign land to fight for a country he's not even a part of.  Despite the fact that these people are his enemies, Kaspar finds a friend in the person of a young boy much like himself.

As a harsh American winter sets in, the Hessian hireling soldiers prepare for a Christmas celebration, confidant that nothing will happen on this holiday evening.  But Kaspar has made a promise to the old organist, and nothing can stop him, even if he has to sneak away from the celebration.

A Christmas night, a heart full of bitterness, and two very different friendships combine to teach Kaspar forgiveness and gratitude.  But in the end it is the organist and his gift to Kaspar that saves Kaspar's life.

And there you have it.  I don't want to be too vague, but I also don't want to be too explicit.  Questions?  Please feel free to ask.  I'm still working out so much about this plot that I don't feel this blurb is adequate for the story.  Silly me.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Plot Bunny Challenge #5

The light filtered through the leaves and pine needles above as if through lace, the ground spotted in shadow. ~John Green~❤️Guys, I know that most of you know that I am *slightly* obsessed with Christmas.  It's right up there with British novels, murder mysteries, breathing, and things like that.  So, how could I let this month slip by without at least one Christmas plot?  Besides, this time two years ago I was writing my first draft of the novel form of Christmas at the Tittletons.  So, in honor of CatT, here is a Christmas story for all of you lovely people.

First scene only.  I'm still working out the plot.

East Prussia, 1774

Up and down.  Up and down.  Kaspar felt the air resist the smooth, wooden boards of the organ-pump.  They were beautiful, those boards, carved on the borders with tiny birds, harps, flowers, stars, and angels.  All of them were different, and all of them were caught in a twining, leafy vine.  Kaspar knew the carvings on the boards as if they were his friends.

They were his friends, in a way.  He hadn't very many friends, but there was old Ingel Artmann, the organist.  Old Ingel had made a place for Kaspar in his cramped little house on the edge of the tiny hamlet that he called home.  Kaspar wanted to call it home, but he was always too frightened.  Even now, when he must have been nearly fourteen, he was frightened.  Seven long years he had pumped the organ for old Ingel, ever since he had wandered into the town on that frigid Christmas night.

The organ in the back balcony at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, Germany.  Heard an organ concert my first night in Leipzig.  Made my chest vibrate.Old Ingel called him Kaspar, after one of the three Kings, because it was only fitting that a child who came on Christmas be named something Christmas-sounding.  Some people in the town, who liked to find fault with everything that others did, said that Kaspar should have been named something else because, after all, Epiphany, or Dreikonigsfest, was not until January 6, and it was disrespectful to take up a name like that.  They didn't say much, though, because no one else took in the boy, so they soon forgot him unless he was directly under their noses.

They didn't mean to be cruel, these good village people.  They had their own lives to live.  They couldn't be expected to bother with a half-frozen, nameless orphan boy who had the misfortune to be wandering around their town on Christmas night.

So, the old Ingel-man took him in.  He was so very, incredibly old that people (the same ones who gossiped about Kaspar's name, of course), always said, if they ever saw him, that he looked about to die.  Certainly now, as he bent over the organ keys, he did not look anything but frail.  His hair, long and white, fell like snowy feathers in wisps to his shoulders.  His hands seemed like translucent parchment, pale yellow with gnarly bones and long, slender fingers with discolored nails and knobby knuckles.  His frame, once tall, was bent over, hunched like a slender bow from long years at the church organ.  His face was pale and old, but instead of being terribly wrinkled it merely looked thin, as though a tiny scratch of the fingernail would tear a hole in that tissue-paper skin.  His eyes gazed out from deep sockets, their blueness intense with age.  His smile was wide, whenever he did smile, a cracking of his dry, thread-thin lips that revealed his uneven teeth, most of them black, all of them broken.

"Tonight," he said to Kaspar, "Tonight they will sing for us.  Eh, my boy?"

Kaspar nodded, his eyes shining with excitement.  Christmas Eve was the best of all the nights in the year.  The organ played more beautifully then than on any other night.  Ingel was ready.  He ran his fingers lovingly over the keys, worn down from his many years of playing.  Kaspar had once asked him how many years he had played, and Ingel had only said that he wasn't sure.  More than sixty, that he knew.

Frau Hertzel was in the church, putting up greenery in anticipation of the special service in the evening.  She looked up into the organ loft and hailed the old organist.

"Old Ingel!  A good Christmastide to you!"

"Thank you, Frau Hertzel," said Ingel.  "It looks lovely."

Frau Hertzel smiled broadly.  Her thick shoulders hunched and she looked down, quite pleased.  "Oh, it's nothing.  A little greenery and a few wooden angels.  Anyone could do as much."

"But you have done it," said Ingel.  "Thank you."  His voice cracked a little and he looked past her as Pastor Brechmann and his son, Josef, entered the church.

"Ah, Ingel, I see you have arrived early.  So much the better," said Pastor Brechmann.  "Our services will be wonderful tonight."

"They are always wonderful, Pastor," said Ingel.

But no one said anything to Kaspar.  He sat in his little niche, which was growing much too small for his lanky fourteen-year-old body.  The niche was behind the carven railing,and no one saw him.  They knew he was there, of course, else Ingel would never have been able to play his organ.  But he was only a part of the rest of the church, and not worth speaking to at all.

They did their preparations, and then they left, but Ingel lingered at the organ, playing a few bars of his song.

"Old Ingel," said Kaspar, looking up suddenly from his carvings.

"Yes, lad?" said Ingel.

"Would you please teach me how to play the organ?" asked the boy.

Ingel smiled that broken-toothed smile of his.  There was goodwill in that smile, and humor and light and many other things that were all joyful and right.  No one else ever had such a smile, but the townspeople didn't know much about it, because so few of them ever bothered with the organist.  "I thought you would never ask me," he said.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Book Review ~ The Word Changers

Many thanks to Ashlee Willis of Finding the True Fairy Tale for the preview of her book, The Word Changers.  In exchange for the preview, I will review the book.


Her parents’ marriage is falling apart. Fifteen-year-old Posy feels her life is falling apart with it. Retreating to an old library down the street, she selects a mysterious book in a secluded corner and is magically drawn into its story...

Posy finds herself in a kingdom ruled by a cruel and manipulative king and queen who have attempted to usurp the role that belongs only to the Author of their story. The princess has fled and the kingdom is teetering toward rebellion. Posy is joined by the Prince Kyran as they fight with the characters of the story against their slavery to the Plot.

Posy and the prince search beyond the borders of the story for the runaway princess. They visit mysterious places, face horrifying monsters, and fight fierce battles. They make both friends and enemies as their journey leads them into many dangers. But some of the worst dangers, Posy soon finds, lie deep within her own heart. 

Now Posy must find the courage and forgiveness needed to save the story and, most important, heal the heartache she knew in her own world.

About the Author

Ashlee WillisAshlee Willis is the author of fantasy for young adults. She lives in the heart of Missouri with her husband and young son. While most of her days are balanced between writing, reading and homeschooling, she also finds time to enjoy tea with friends, forest walks, photography, and piano playing.

My Review

I had read the blurb before I started, so I should have known what I was getting myself into.  But nope!  In some ways this book was better than I expected it to be.

First of all, it had a distinct Narnia feel to it.  Anyone who has read the Narnia books before is sure to pick up on it.  And to all who like allegorical stories, this is DEFINITELY for you.

The first thing that impressed me about this book was that we jumped into the story breathtakingly quickly.  Sometimes that is too much, but in this case it worked well.  As the story progressed, we learned more about the background of Posy, our main character, but at first I was just trying to stop my head from whirling because everything was happening so quickly.  This was good, I realize now, because that's exactly how Posy was feeling.

She starts out by falling into a book, people.  Now, I know that every avid reader has at some time wished that he could fall into a book and live in his favorite story.  So, that captivated me.  Only, this wasn't a familiar story to Posy.  She had never read it before, and she had no idea of what was going on.

Then we learned that Posy was taking the place of a disappeared Princess, but that everyone knew she most definitely was NOT the princess.  Ooooh, mystery!  That's always something I like!

Then came the exciting parts, where Posy and the princesses' older brother go out on a quest to find the princess.  We have evil owls, a cranky king, forgotten centaurs, sinister mermaids, and an enchanted land called the Glooming.

The fantasy got fairly dark in the middle, when Prince Kyran and Posy were in the Glooming.  Um, yes, rather.

I really liked the way the Plot worked.  I mean, the Kingdom is where the Plot took place, and the Wild Lands are where one left the Plot and was on one's own.  That was a stroke of intense cleverness, I think.

Now, what did I think of the characters?

Posy was nice.  She did a lot of crying in the story, but she could also be strong.  She did not strike me as a complete go-getter but as a hurting girl who had a lot of growing to do.  I liked that.

Kyran?  He was a rather generic character, I thought.  He was the handsome prince who shows up in so many stories.  I felt as though I had read his character before, quite a few times in fact.  He was one of those guys who is determined, and you can always tell from the flash of his dark eyes and the set of his jaw.

The king and queen were interesting.  I can't tell you exactly what I thought of both of them because of spoilers, but I will say that I liked their characters.  I mean, come on!  Any parents who try to kill their own son must be evil, right?  Maybe . . .

The Author!  THE AUTHOR!  He was my favorite.  He wasn't in the story very much, but, oh goodness!  He was amazing.  Thank you, Ashlee!  He made the story for me.  An author who enters his own story?  He was clearly meant to represent God in the allegory.  Some of the characters believed in the Author, and others did not.  He did not tell people the whole story, and he wanted his characters to believe in him because they wanted to, and not because he told them to.  Very clever, indeed.  The Author was the best part of this story for me.  Just saying.

Then there were the centaurs and merpeople.  They were banished from the Plot of the story at the king's command.  And the owls, the evil owls, were exciting.  That was what first made me think of Narnia, although these owls were smaller than the Narnian ones.  The scene where they take Posy out of her bedroom at night made me smile.

There was romance, people.  I know you know that I don't care much for romance in a story, especially when it does not seem relevant to the plot.  That's how I felt about this story.  The romance was not exactly necessary to the plot.  It seemed contrived, as if was there for its own sake.  And there was too much kissing for my taste.

But that might just be me being anti-mushy.  If you like romance mixed with fantasy, then this is probably a good book for you.  If you like Narnia, then this is most certainly a good book for you.

Aside from the romance, I really did enjoy this book.  The writing style was easy to read but not one of those ultra-modern every-other-sentence-is-a-fragment type of styles.

My Rating:  Three out of five stars

Thanks once again, Ashlee!

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Plot Bunny Challenge #4

Aaaand, here's my fourth installment for Anne-girl's Plot Bunny Challenge.

My brain is starting to feel the strain of being terribly clever for a sustained amount of time.  I'm starting to worry that my plots might feel watered down towards the end.  That would be a tragedy.

Oh, and speaking of tragedies, I've never written one before.  NOT that I'm planning to start now, mind you.

Today's plot bunny is set in Michigan, because Michigan is amazing.  No debate there.  Also, this is the first true children's book plot that I've put forth for this challenge, which makes it doubly exciting.  I'm calling it The Cousins, and I shall try not to burst into tears of homesick longing as I write this.

"Oswegatchi" Built in the late 1880's, D H Day called his farm "Oswegatchi" after the New York community his father had lived. This farm house and it's massive barns are located just south of Glen Haven.- Mark Lindsay PhotoEvie Delmeyer has been lonely for her whole life.  The oldest of five siblings, she's never connected with the younger members of her family, maybe because the second child was born six years after her.  Evie finds her friends to be books and writing, but that doesn't help her social life very much.

Then a family moves into the farmhouse down the road, and it's not just any family.  It's her dad's older brother, and he's got children that are just perfect for Evie.  The two groups of children get to go on all sorts of adventures, and life seems perfect.

But a secret lies within the old farmhouse, and stories of an old curse seem to be true.  The cousins bind together in a new way in order to discover the secret of a "haunted" farmhouse, but they have plenty of lessons of their own to learn on the way.

"Duke, what's this?"

His real name, of course, wasn't Duke, but that's what everyone called him for some unknown reason.  He looked up at his older sister with squinted eyes and tried to grab his Lego invention out of her hands.

"It's a starship!" he said.  His short, dark waves of hair stood up messily.  Evie frowned.

"Don't you need to comb your hair?" she said.  "It's so messy."  Her own hair was not exactly a paragon of spectacular neatness, when you came around to it.  She was always forgetting to do something with it, which led Martin, the boy directly under her in age, to call her Medusa on every possible occasion.

"Yes, Mother," said Duke.  "Gimme my starship!"

"What was it doing on my bed?" asked Evie.

"I don't know.  Maybe Benji put it there," said Duke.  Benji was the youngest.  At four, he made every possible attempt to get himself noticed.

"Well, here it is," said Evie.  "Get it out of here."

"I'm going, Mother," said Duke, taking the Lego contraption, whatever it might have been, out of Evie's room.  It certainly didn't look like a starship.  For that matter, it didn't look like much of anything except for a pile of Legos put together.

Michigan Apple Trees/BlossomsEvie stretched herself out on her Lego-free bed and pulled a book out from under her pillow.  It was a glorious early afternoon in mid-April, and the sun streamed through her windows in warming slants.  Carol, the sister, must have opened the windows, because sweet air, weighty with the musk of apple blossoms, swished into the room on light, easy gusts of air.  To anyone else the spring day would have been terribly inviting, but Evie never willingly chose to go outside.

Her dark blonde Medusa-hair fell into her face, but she pushed it away as she opened the book to the dog-eared page.  Dog-earing a page, she knew, was damaging and a serious offense to most people, but when she read late into the night she hated to get out of bed and find a bookmark.

She had only been reading for five minutes when Mama called out, "Evie, come fold the laundry!"

Evie reluctantly left the book on her bed and ran downstairs, thinking more about the story than the load of clean clothes that she had to switch.  She banged her shin into the stair railing on the way and nearly tripped over Benji, who was playing with the squishy basketball that Papa and Grandma had given him.

"Whoops!  Careful, Benji," she murmured absently as she made her way to the dryer.

Mama was in the kitchen, getting ready to mop the floor.  She had to do it so often now that her three middle children spent so much of their time outside.

"Daddy got a call today from Uncle Verne, by the way," Mama called out to Evie as she passed.

"Oh?  Are we going to see them soon?" asked Evie.

"Better than that," said Mama.  "They're coming to live!  I guess they've had enough of the thick southern air and need some fresh Michigan farmland.  Something like that.  Anyway, they'll be out here, and of course they'll help with the orchards."

Evie grinned to herself as she tumbled the clothes from the dryer into the laundry basket.  Uncle Verne and Auntie and the cousins, coming here?  That was amazing news for sure.  Six cousins, six wonderful cousins, with three of them actually close to her in age!

She brought the laundry into the living room and began folding it in her quick, almost slapdash manner.  She never did manage to make the clothing look as crisp and neat as Mama did when she folded the laundry.

She heard the kitchen door burst open and her three middle siblings ran into the house.

"Mama, Mama!" shouted Martin.  "We found a mole in the backyard.  I'm making him a house . . ."

"And we found some worms to feed him!" chimed in Carol.
Scalopus aquaticus - Eastern Mole -- Sighted: Huguenot, NY
"He's so cute, Mama," added Duke.  "His fur is . . ."

"He's named Pudge after . . ."

"I thought of a new . . ."

"Maybe we could . . ."

"Where is he?" asked Mama.  "I'd like to go see him."

"He has a habitat," said Martin.  "I'm making a house for him out of an old plastic bin I found in the garage."

"Which bin?"  Mama's voice was sharp with suspicion.  "I hope it's not one of those gray bins that Daddy just picked up from Lowes."

"No, it's an old black one with handles that have cracked through."  Martin's voice faded as they almost dragged Mama out of the house to see their new pet.  Benji lost interest in his basketball and ran after the others to find out what was going on.

Evie was left alone.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Plot Bunny Meme

So, Anne-girl made a questionnaire on her blog for the June Crusade, and it looks interesting.  I will use yesterday's PB, The Road to Baltimore to answer the questions.

Soundtrack Cover: Alexandre Desplat - Rise of the Guardians
1. Pick a villain song for this plot bunny {i.e. Gaston, Falcon in the Dive}
- Does it have to have words?  "Nightmares Attack" from the Rise of the Guardians soundtrack.

2. Take the first character you created for this bunny.  What is his or her worst fear?
- Hester Tardenwell Dane's worst fear, at least before her adventures begin, is Corinda the cow.

3. What does your protagonist do on Wednesdays?  Antagonist?
- Like any good American farmer's wife, Hester follows the old jingle, "Wash on Monday; Iron on Tuesday," etc.  That means that Wednesdays are housecleaning days.
Chic & Antique Album 1 « Gallery 2 « » Galerija-  Bribbs, the bad guy, does not have a weekly schedule.  He spends a lot of his time farm-handing or working at the docks to pick up extra cash.  Otherwise he's plotting his evil deeds like a proper villain.

4. If your protagonist could steal something, what would it be?
- Theft!  The very idea makes Hester recoil in terror.  Although, now that you mention it, she always has admired the insufferable Mrs. Danson's silver coffee service.  NOT that she would ever entertain the idea of stealing it for one tiny instant!

Connecticut woods late fall!5. Give two of your characters a special thing that they do {like a special handshake, an inside joke, a tradition together}
- Cris and Hester take walks down by the woods every Sunday afternoon.  They wouldn't miss their walks for the world.

6. Pick the epicest person in your book and describe them.  Preferably give them an actor as well.
- The epicest (is that even a proper word?) person would have to be Uncle Johnny Tardenwell, Mother's younger brother.  He got the fair Tardenwell looks, which means big blue eyes and pale hair.  But he's a big man with powerful muscles and he carries a gun in a belt holster when he walks around.  He fought in Texas and he doesn't like living in Baltimore but does so because someone has to look after Grandfather and Grandmother.  But if anyone tries to cross him, then they'll have him and his six-gun to face.  Sorry, but I don't have an actor for Uncle Johnny.  He's too epic, I guess.

felicity jones as catherine morland in northanger abbey7. Which Jane Austen character does your protagonist most resemble?
- Well, Hester is kind of a combination of Eleanor Dashwood and Catherine Morland, if that is even possible.  On the one hand she is a sensible New England farmer's wife (who doesn't like cows at all), but on the other hand she has a dash of the dreamer and a wild imagination.
Emma Thompson, Elinor Dashwood - Sense and Sensibility (1995) #janeausten #anglee
8. How would your character react to an airplane ride?
- Considering that Hester is living in 1850's Connecticut, I think she would have a major shock if she were to experience an airplane ride.  (I can't even get over it, and I live in the twenty-first century!)  She would probably enjoy it, though, because it would be quite an adventure.

9. What demographic could this bunny be for?
Uncle Tom's Cabin    By: Harriet Beecher Stowe  Lost References:        Seen on a bookshelf in Benjamin Linus' house. ("Dead Is Dead")- ????  I assume you mean characteristics of the plot, in other words, genre.  I think this would be considered a mixture between historical fiction and suspense.

10. Describe your inciting event.
- The inciting event occurs when Cris brings Hester a letter from her grandfather in Baltimore.  Hester has never met her mother's parents, but she and Cris decide to answer the summons to her grandmother's deathbed by travelling to Maryland, despite the fact that Cris is uneasy about being a Yankee in a slave state after reading the newly published Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Monday, June 16, 2014

Plot Bunny Challenge #3

Once more I link up with Anne-girl for her June Challenge.

For my third of eight plots, I find myself a little stunned.  I'm still mulling over my second plot, and I can't seem to get rid of it.  It's hanging on tenaciously, demanding to be written.  I know you all can understand me when I say that the characters, especially Sandy, have become so real that they clamor at my brain, beseeching me to let them out onto paper.

Hence this challenge may be more difficult than previously anticipated.  Hopefully my third plot will still be interesting, though.

I think I will have a difficult time ignoring my favorite period of American history during this challenge, which is why the third plot is focused on the War of 1812.  I'm calling it The Road to Baltimore.

Hester Tardenwell Dane has heard countless stories from her mother, uncles, and grandparents about the Battle of Fort McHenry, an event that took place over fifteen years before she was born.  Now, as a married lady of twenty-three, she and her husband, Crispus Dane, are returning to Baltimore, the city of her mother's childhood, and it's not for pleasant reasons.  Grandmother Tardenwell is dying, and she has specifically asked for Hester.

But somebody doesn't want Grandmother Tardenwell to speak to Hester.  The road from the Dane's home in the New England countryside to the city of Baltimore has become fraught with dangers.  Why do people keep bringing up that brand-new controversial book of Miss Stowe's?  Why does she keep meeting slaves who seem to know all about her?  And why does everyone keep asking her about the dead Francis Scott Key?

Hester tries to sort out these questions, but she knows she has to hurry.  Grandmother Tardenwell's time is ticking away, and so, it would appear, is Hester Tardenwell Dane's.

Connecticut, 1852

interesting sheer pelerine
Hester Tardenwell Dane
The problem with cows is that they are so large.  Horses are large, too, of course, but cows simply have bulk in places that makes them seem larger than horses.  After three years of living on the Connecticut farm, Hester was still unable to recover from the slight shock of having to milk a cow every morning.  Of all the chores she had, that was the worst.  She knew that Cris had chores far worse, but that never made her feel happy about the cows.

"You, Corinda, are going to behave," she said, staring straight into the big, dewy eyes of the monster.  She held the milk bucket slung over one arm, .  "I won't have any kickings over of the bucket.  Once a day is enough, thank you very much.

Corinda turned her massive head away and pulled some hay out of the manger.

"Ignoring me, are you?  I think not!"  Hester sniffed and stalked up to the cow.  "You are evil, you beast."  She leaned as close to the horrifying thing's ears as she dared and hissed out the words.  "If you kick over the bucket one more time, I will make sure you kick the bucket."

A Miniature Jersey Cow- I WILL have one oneday... SO CUTE
Corinda the Terrible

Cris stood in the doorway with his hat shoved back on his head and a concerned look flitting through his eyes.

"Oh, it's this cow.  She kicked over the bucket this morning, and she hates me.  I'm quite sure of it.  Our last cow was bad enough, but this fiend is positively the worst cow to walk the earth.  I am quite fed up with her shenanigans.  If she spoils the evening milking, I'll have her head.  Boiled up as it should be."  Hester cast a dark look in Corinda's direction.

"I'm sorry," said Cris.  "If you like, I could milk the cow and you could dig the potatoes."  His eyes sparkles merrily.

Hester laughed.  "I'd almost rather do that.  At least potatoes don't talk back."

"Corinda does?" said Cris.

"She would if she could," said Hester.

Cris smiled indulgently.  After all, Hester hadn't grown up on a farm.  "Oh, that reminds me!" he said suddenly.  "I came out here to give you this letter."

"A letter!" cried Hester.  "I didn't even know I could get letters."

Cris raised his eyebrows.  "Well, this one is addressed to Mrs. Crispus Dane, and that's you."  He handed Hester the letter.

She took it and ripped it open.  "Why, it's from my grandfather in Baltimore!  I've never even met him, you know."

"That's on your mother's side, right?" said Cris.

"Yes, but they weren't too happy about her marrying a New Englander like Father.  I think that's why we never saw them.  They were pretty high and mighty people back when Mother was younger.  I think they still are, in a way."

"Well, what does he say?" asked Cris.

Hester quickly skimmed the letter.  "Oh," she said flatly.  "He says that my grandmother is dying and that she is asking for me.  He wants me to come to Baltimore."

"I thought she didn't know you," said Cris.

Historic Baltimore row houses.

"She doesn't," said Hester.  "I've never met my grandmother before in my life."

Cris frowned.  "I don't like it.  What business do they have with us?"  He absently took the bucket and began milking the docile Corinda.

Hester pulled her thick shawl tightly about her shoulders against the October chill.

"Don't they own slaves in Maryland?  What do they want with us Yankees?" said Cris.

"I don't know," said Hester.  "Mother always spoke of Sedge and Lucy, the slaves they had in Baltimore, but I don't know if they still have slaves."

Cris finished the milking in silence.  Hester knew that he wasn't a rabid abolitionist, but in his quiet way he still thought that slavery was immoral.  What if he wouldn't let her go to Baltimore?  Suddenly Hester realized that she had a burning curiosity to see her mother's parents, no matter what they had done or thought about the Connecticut Yankees of which she was definitely a part.

Thanks for reading and God bless,