Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My Head, My Head!

II Kings 4:19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have just the screenshot for this situation.

jeeves and wooster. oh how I love these two!

And there you have it.

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

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

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

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Monday, July 28, 2014

Chat with the Characters ~ Thinking Folks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs. Breman: What a mouthful that is!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not necessarily.  Think about it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andre: Make him think interesting thoughts.

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

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

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

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

Jane: Well put, I say.

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

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

That is easier said than done.

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

You are in essence giving Andre's advice.

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

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

Jane: I'm not terribly fond of parties.

Mrs. Breman: Well, I want to go.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Friday, July 25, 2014

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

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

Come to my Party!

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

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

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

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

Jessica's Summer

inspired by Kendra E. Ardnek

written by Joan Bassington-French

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

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

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

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

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

"YOU scared her."  Black Shirt punched back.

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

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

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

I backed away.  "What do you want?"

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

"No, should I?" I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Poetry?" I said.

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

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

"We're your brothers, you know."

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

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

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

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

"I am not a dolt!" protested Veshna.

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

"You're crazy," I said.

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

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

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

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

"Do you believe us now?" asked Zima.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"With pleasure," said Veshna.

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

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

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

"Where are we going?" I shouted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Who are Father and Mother?" I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You're my father?" I said.

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


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

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bucket List Tag

Hello, Bloglings.

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

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

I shall call this list . . .

Twenty-Five Things to Do in My Lifetime

1. Write a murder mystery series

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

2.  Win a big writing contest

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

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

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

4.  Learn to speak fluent German

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

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


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

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

7.  Teach a Sunday School class

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

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

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

9.  Work with ESL students

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

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

11.  Learn to read music

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

12.  Spend Christmas in Germany

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

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

All fellow readers will understand my plight.

14.  Meet a famous author

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

15.  Go whitewater rafting on the Snake River in Wyoming

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

Whitewater Rafting in the Snake River near Jackson Hole, WY

16.  Watch the LOTR extended editions

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

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

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

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

It would be neat.  It just would.

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

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

20.  See the Northern Lights

These have always fascinated me.

Aurora Borealis by mericsso, via Flickr

21.  Visit the HofbrÀuhaus

Such history!  I must see it someday.

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

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

23.  Ride the Orient Express

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

24.  Get a driver's license

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

25.  Be that person who does random acts of kindness

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

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

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

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Jane Austen Book Giveaway!

Dear People,

If you like Jane Austen, then you should head over to Old Fashioned Charm right away, because Miss Laurie is hosting a giveaway of five different Jane Austen realated books on her blog.  You don't want to miss out on this!

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Monday, July 14, 2014

Me and my Addled Brain

"She is too fond of books, and it has addled her brain."  ~ Louisa May Alcott

This is basically me.  I'm reading about eight different books right now, which is great except that when you are following that many stories you sort of walk around in a daze all day unless you are reading.  

Funny Calvin and Hobbes
This is what happens when you read two murder mysteries in close succession while simultaneously going through a Charlotte Bronte novel and a history of the Third Reich, not to mention a few other lesser books in the mix.

Hence, do not expect any great intellectual revelations from me today.  Don't ask if I got any writing done during the weekend.


That's a funny joke.  My weekend was spent go-carting with my college and career Sunday school class.  I don't get out much, so this was a different sort of experience for me.  Most of my Saturdays are spent huddled up in my room listening to music and reading or writing.  I don't get a lot of human interaction.  This Saturday was chock full of human interaction at a so-called fun park.

The problem with me and go-carts is that I keep my foot all the way down on the gas pedal the whole time.  That's hard on the arms, because you have to make such quick movements with the steering mechanism.  I don't call it a wheel, because it was shaped like a square.  I felt like Cruella De Vil, screeching my wheels around all the turns.
Cruella de Vil (101 Dalmatians).
Me in a go-cart
Actually, go-carts are quite thrilling, and I would do them again if I wasn't worried about the permanent muscular damage I might inflict upon my arms.

My plans for this week are nil as of right now.  I just hope to finish at least three of the books I'm currently in so as to lower the intensity at which my brain is working.  Of course, I am hoping to make some progress on The Cat of Lake Gellara, too.  I'm currently in the middle of introducing some shepherds into the story.  I finally got Owen out of the woods where he had been stuck for some time.  Poor fellow.

I've done so much brainstorming for this story.  Writing a fairy tale like The White Cat, which basically runs on magic, without magic is a challenge extraordinaire.  I'm realizing that I have to explain everything that happens in the story without magic.  It's hard, but it gets me to thinking, and it is fun in the long run.  I'm just wondering how I can explain the dragon in the story.  That's one little detail I haven't worked out yet.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Friday, July 11, 2014

Congratulations to Kiri Liz

I just wanted to let everyone who does not already know know that Kiri Liz over at Lianne Taimenlore is now an author on Goodreads.  You must check it out!

You should add her absoballylutely amazing book to your shelves on Goodreads.  Just saying.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Nerdy People

Hello, folks.

Last night I had an interesting discussion with a fellow creative writer.  We talked about nerds.

It's always fun to talk about your own kind, right?  We humans are a self-centered race, are we not?

Questions, questions.

We agreed in the end that everyone is a nerd about something, because everyone gets excited about something.  Face it, there are even nail polish nerds, even though I don't pretend to understand why.

I, of course, am a book nerd.
I did this before lol. Only book nerds will understand
This is moi.
Not only am I a book nerd, I am a specific type of book nerd.  As my friend put it last night, I am up on pop culture from about two hundred years ago.  For example, I am currently reading Shirley by Charlotte Bronte and immensely enjoying it as I zip through it.  This is easy reading to me.  I know I'm not alone here.

But then there are book nerds who read more modern stuff, like I don't even know what.  Is Hunger Games even modern any more?  Clearly I am not well-informed about these things, even though several people are trying to bring me slightly up to date.  (This happened after I asked who Chuck Norris was, only to receive stares of amused incredulity from the people around the lunch table at where I sat.)  Now I have someone who is trying to get me into comics.

Good *luck* with that.

The lines blur between these people and the TV show nerds, better known as fangirls.  How quaint.

fangirling so hard about bones season 7 right now

Wow.  I simply sit in awe of these people, because how they do it is beyond me.  While I involve myself in a story, I'm usually more interested in the characterization and the writing style and the plot development.  It takes a FANTASTIC book to get me to forget that it's a story.  I fangirl over writing styles.  What can I say?  And I'll still analyze everything after I read it.  Silly me.

Then there are those miscellaneous nerds, like computer nerds, etc.  I still maintain, though, that everyone is a nerd about SOMETHING.

So tell me, folks.  What sort of nerd are you?

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Chat with the Characters: Realistic vs. Relatable

King Calius, Alicia's younger brother, young and inexperienced.
King Calius
Blogglings, I have a lovely treat for you today.  Hidden Orchards is having a series of Chat with the characters posts.  During these posts three characters will join me, including two of my own and one guest.  Today's topic is Realistic vs. Relatable.  What should we look for in a character?  Let me introduce you to today's three lovely people:

Judith Tittleton
Judith Tittleton
Calius Chale, the king of Valewin, is from Alicia, the younger brother of the protagonist.  He's a quiet person most of the time, a good hunter, but doesn't like ruling very much.

Judith Tittleton, the eldest child of Sir John and Lady Tittleton, is an upper-middle-class young woman living in London in the 1850s.  You might know her from Christmas at the Tittletons.  She is outgoing and doesn't like being cooped up or following societal traditions, but she has a solid, thoughtful brain under all of her sprightly sarcasm.

The MIF production of "Macbeth" is the most amazing anything you will see anywhere ever. Get to a screening. I don't care how far you have to drive. Go.
Our guest is MacBeth.  We all know him pretty well, I think, but in case you've never had the pleasure of meeting him, he's a thane in ancient Scotland, intent on becoming king.

And now, I believe we have an chat to conduct.

Hello, everyone.  Thanks for joining me today.  Have a seat and some chocolate and tea.

Judith: Thank you, Miss Bassington-French.  Quite a lovely blog you have here.

MacBeth: Chocolate?  An interesting food.  Thank you, Bassington-French.

Calius:  Thank you.

Now that we're all settled here, let me tell you some details about this chat.  Our discussion is based on the question: Should a character be realistic or relatable?  MacBeth, as our guest, I'm wondering what you think about this.  What sort of a character do you think you are, and what would you say is the difference between realistic and relatable?

MacBeth: How can one relate to me?  I am based upon a man in history, or at least in legend, hence, I am realistic, inasmuch as there are people like me.  How many have slain for a crown?  But to be relatable, that is a different song.  Few people find themselves in my position, for how many talk to witches and know their future?

Agreed.  But don't you have characteristics that others can relate to?

MacBeth: I am ambitious, and that is relatable characteristic.  Are not many folk ambitious, eager for the chance to rise higher?  No wonder I am so well-known today.  Many people see their worst selves reflected in me.  They call me a villain, but they admire me all the same.

Judith: But Thane MacBeth, would you not say that to be relatable you must also be realistic?  Are these two characteristics so very different?

MacBeth: Two different words are they, and two different definitions they must have.  It seems they must be different, or we would not be discussing them so.

True.  That's why I called this discussion.  What do you think is the difference between the two words, Judith?  Use that intelligent head of yours.

Judith: Realistic means true-to-life.  A realistic character is just like a person that could walk around and talk to you.  He jumps off the page.

Does he?  I wonder.  Think about real people, Judith.  When you pass a real person walking about on your foggy London streets, do you feel that he jumps out at you?  What makes him interesting?  Even your own family you don't quite look at as terribly exciting, no matter how much you love them.

Judith: Well, I do love my family, and they are different, at least, slightly eccentric compared to other people I know.  I don't know if they would be terribly memorable if someone met them on the street, though.

Calius: Isn't realistic depressing, though?  Who wants to read about the "real world?"

MacBeth: To read of the real world is, yes, depressing, but so many people would say that I and my story are depressing.

Think about relatable, though.  I know that at least two of you are readers.  What characters do you relate to?

Calius: I relate to Loren D'Nore of the old legends.  Even though we're so different, I know how scared she must have felt becoming a ruler so young.

But she was a girl, and she lived in a land far different from yours, and in all honesty, she is really nothing like you except that she likes to read and had no experience in ruling.

Calius: But she was manipulated by the powerful people around her.  I like how she stood up to them, and sometimes it makes me feel like I can stand up to Alicia.

MacBeth: Are there no characters of fiction to which you relate, Bassington-French?

Oh, yes.  I relate to Sydney Carton in Tale of Two Cities.  Maybe that's why I like that book so much.

Judith: What?  But he's not anything like you.  That is, you aren't a drunkard, thank goodness, and you don't have unrequited love or get your head chopped off, at least not yet.

And that is a blessing.  I think what I relate to most with Carton is his love of solitude.  I understand that, not to mention his desire to do what is right even though he's messed up so badly before.

MacBeth: The knave is hardly realistic though.  I wouldn't call any of Master Dickens' characters realistic.

Calius: Since when do you know about Dickens?

MacBeth: I've been around for quite a while, lad.

All right, guys.  I will say, though, that you're right, MacBeth.  Sydney Carton isn't a very realistic person, especially not in today's terms.  The thing about him that is relatable is the fact that, while he is in many respects an ideological character, he reflects many traits of real people.  I don't think that Sydney Carton could possibly exist as a real person, simply because he's too flat.  His character is well-rounded as characters go, and he's terribly complex in the fictional world, but fictional characters entering the real world can't seem realistic because they are parts of the author's imagination.

Calius: Are you saying that it's impossible to make a totally realistic character?

Basically, yes.  The best an author can hope for is a relatable character.

Judith: What about characters like me, who are based off of real people?

MacBeth: Actually, woman, I think you illustrate the author's point precisely.  You were based off of a real person, but you only embody some of this person's most memorable traits.  Compared to the real person, you are flat and fictional, no matter how sprightly you may seem on the page.

Calius:  Miss Tittleton's traits are simple reflections of a real person's mannerisms and personality.

Judith: That sounds horrid, yet I must agree.  Still, I know that people have enjoyed me as a character, just as Thane MacBeth has been enjoyed for ages.

Calius: No offense to the Thane, but I don't think that anyone would wish to be like you.

No, he's a magnification of real traits.  That's what's so great about him.

Judith: Are you saying that characters in fiction are merely like insects laid under the magnification scope?

Yes, in a way.  A good book is like a magnifying glass, and the characters are representations of real traits embodied in pseudo-people.  That's why we recognize them.

MacBeth: Thus each fictional character is more of a caricature.  Everyone recognizes a caricature, while a real face is easily lost in a crowd of others.  Put on a clownish mask, though, and presto, everyone finds you!

Calius: What about me?  Am I a caricature of anyone?

In a way, you are.  I wrote you to be a typical younger brother at first glance, easily bullied by your older sister.

Calius: Yet I was from the older sister's perspective on both counts, seeing as you were writing from Alicia's eyes and you are an oldest sister yourself.  Does that not make me less relatable, since I'm being viewed as a caricature through the eyes of a caricature?

Judith: You grow, your Majesty, and quite a bit.  Your sister was sympathetic toward you, and thus wrote you less as a caricature and more as her own brother.  You were real to her in her writing, even if you are only the shadow of any younger brother in real life.

MacBeth: What have we decided, then?  The realistic is impossible; the relatable is possible.

Judith: Personally, I feel that the realistic is undesirable as well.  I already have to live my life, and I don't want to have to read about it as well.  Something relatable, though, is different because it makes me feel as though there are people like me in the world.

That's the sort of difference a reader knows by instinct, I think.  Realism in a book is so annoying, but if an author can achieve relatability, that's good writing.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Beautiful People - Damien Nientr

Hi, folks!  I hope that you had a wonderful Independence Day weekend.  I personally had a lovely time in Charleston, or Chaston, as my southern friend calls it.

Today I am linking up with The Notebook Sisters for their Beautiful People post.  Yay! *throws leftover firecrackers*

And the beautiful person about which I will be speaking (Don't you just love that sentence structure?) is Damien Nientr.  The prince is from Sevyim and is one of my MCs older brothers.  He's also one of my favorite characters so far.

Prince Damien Nientr

1. What's their favorite food? (Bonus: favorite flavor of chocolate!)
Damien likes fish, partly because his mother believes it is unhealthful.  He is also partial to muffins for breakfast.  He likes his chocolate dark and with raspberries.  Simply lovely!

2. What do they absolutely hate?
Damien hates bullies with a passion, perhaps because he and Owen have suffered under the bullying of Wallace for so long.  Damien does not take his hatred out on his older brother, but he does not stand for any bullying from anyone else.

3.  What do they enjoy learning about?
Teeheehee!  Damien happens to be the most scholarly of the three brothers.  He loves learning just about anything.  His favorite academic subject to study was geography, because he has always longed to travel.

4.  Who is the most influential person in their life?
Damien would probably say that his mother has been the greatest influence in his life.  He has a difficult time understanding his father, because even though the king loves his sons, he is so busy running Sevyim that he has little time to spend with his family.

5.  What is their childhood fear?
Damien is afraid of being alone.  He likes being around others, and he really dislikes being in a group where he is unknown.  That, to him, is the worst kind of loneliness.

6.  What is something they have always dreamed of doing, but secretly thought impossible.
Damien has always wanted to be king.  He knows he could be a good king, but because he is the second son he has never had much hope for the throne.

7.  What is something he is impractically afraid of?
My, the questions this month are dark!  Damien is impractically afraid of being struck by lightning, due to a story of the queen's.

8.  Are they a night owl or a morning person?
Damien is one of those odd morning people who actually enjoy rising early and accomplishing things before breakfast.  He usually nods off sometime around 9:30 every evening.  Disgusting.

9.  Do they say everything that pops into their head, or do they leave a lot unsaid?
Hmmmmmmmmm.  That depends on the situation.  Damien has trouble keeping his thoughts in, and his mouth houses a sarcastic tongue.  He can keep his thoughts to himself in a truly serious situation, though.

10.  What are their nervous habits?
That's a difficult question, because Damien does not strike me as a person who gets very nervous.  Of course, after this probing questionnaire, Damien seems like a wimp who's scared of everything, but he's really a brave person in real life.  It's hard to imagine him being very nervous in any situation.  He does have the habit of tipping his bowl to get the last bit of soup, which always annoys the queen.

Thank you for reading, and God bless,

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Introducing Saffi, the White Cat

Hello, people.  I hope everyone is having a lovely week.  Am I the only one who is excited that Independence Day is in two days?  I doubt it.  I enjoy being patriotic, and this is one of those days where everyone else is patriotic too.  Also I get to go to Charleston tomorrow, which is terribly exciting.

So far we've met Owen and his brothers.  I must say, as of right now I am still waiting for Owen to wake up and take his place among the living characters.  I feel like I am writing a piece of cardboard.  I like Damien much better.  Owen's name means 'young fighter,' but he has shown little spirit as of yet.  We need to connect.  I think we'll be spending some disciplinary time together.

Damien (meaning - tame) is definitely my favorite of the three princes.  Wallace (meaning - stranger) is my least favorite.  I feel a bit of apathy toward Owen so far.  He needs to straighten up.  I don't know how to wake him up!

Frustration reigns.

Instead, I will talk about Saffi, the heroine-ish person in the story.  Everyone calls her White Cat, which is not exactly a term of endearment.  Of course, Owen, who hates cats, can't stand to call her that, so he makes her tell him her real name.  Her real name is Sofia, but he calls her Saffi for short.  Innocent little Saffi (meaning - wise) does not quite *get* Owen.

Emily's veil will be as thick as they come. She was a very private person!
"The human face is a hideous thing, a figment of terror to haunt your worst, your darkest nights.  To lay eyes upon it is to go mad.  To wear it is to be a monster.  It is the epitome of every evil demon and shade rolled into a mask of darkness and fury.  You must never even think to look upon it, or it will ruin your mind forever."  ~ Marra Bevrigal
For instance, Saffi's aunts, the three sisters that raised her, have never allowed her to look on a person's face.  She's never actually seen what someone looks like before, because all the servants must wear heavy veils around her, and even she has to wear the White Cat mask all the time.  There are no mirrors in Castle Gellara, and Saffi has only ever seen her mask reflected in spoons or bowls.  Since she always wears her mask, the servants speculate about her true looks to Owen when he shows up.  Popular gossip has it that the sisters (two of which are dead at the time Owen arrives) keep her face covered because it is so beautiful that any man who sees it will instantly fall in love.  This is completely false.  The old women have an entirely different reason, which I obviously can't divulge for spoiler reasons.

In fact, the old women have told Saffi that the human face is a disgustingly ugly thing that she must never try to see or she will have terrible nightmares.  You might think that this is silly, but Saffi has been fed this lie ever since she was a baby, so she really believes it.  When Owen first arrives at the castle, he is wearing a helmet with a visor.  When he tries to take it off, she screams and makes him keep it on.  Thus Saffi begins by thinking that Owen is actually a villain, because who else would try to give a poor girl nightmares?  Poor Owen has to walk around with his heavy helmet and hot visor on all the time, though.  That's not fun.

Showtime, Gelding - German Horse Center
Sabine, Owen's horse
I like Saffi.  She's definitely the fair-damsel-in-distress type of person as opposed to the go-getter lady warrior or even the fun-loving-and-still-strong-minded-but-not-really-into-swords type of girl.  After all, it would be difficult to be strong-minded and fun-loving if you have been repressed, secluded, and lied to for your entire life.  Saffi, even though I'm not writing from her viewpoint, is more real to me now than Owen.

He really needs to get his act together.  His horse has a better personality than he does.  That's not neat.  Horses should not be more fun to write than main characters.  That goes against my brain on so many levels.

Aside from that, I am really enjoying this story.  I am now drawing close to 14,000 words.  Time to get back to writing now!

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

More about the Evils of Cats

Perhaps I should have thought this through, this retelling of White Cat.  After all, how can I be unbiased towards cats?  Let's face it, I hate 'em.  They're evil creatures, and I'm positive that they're in league trying to take over the world and make us all their underpaid minions.  Either that or they're in cahoots with the Spickens. (Long story)

I must admit, much of my hatred of cats stems from an evil experience I had a few years ago when I was taking care of our neighbor's cat while they were on vacation for a few weeks around Christmastime.  Every morning I would trudge through the snow and go feed that thankless beast and clean out its litter box or whatever it decided to use as its litter box.  It wasn't exactly picky about things like that.  The cat hated me, and I was happy to make the feeling mutual.  I think the animal was mad because its owners were not around, but that didn't make what it did any better.

And here I am, writing a novel about a girl who wears a cat mask and calls herself White Cat.  And the title of the story even has the word "cat" in it.

My friend Em and I had a major brainstorming session last night, and I came up with a much more solid plot than I had before, so that's good.  I was able to fill out some holes and iron out some problems, and I've spent a good chunk of the morning working on it.  In fact, I'm well over 10,000 words now.

By the way, the more I write Prince Damien, the more I like him.  He's the middle brother, and he's definitely my favorite.  He kind of steals the show, which is not good, since Owen is the protagonist.  I really want Damien to win the crown, and it breaks my heart that he won't be in more of the story.  I need to figure out how to weave him in a little more, although that is going to be a difficult undertaking.  I think Owen is going to have to grow on me a little before I really like him.  We haven't quite clicked yet.

The queen and I have definitely clicked.  Here's a little snippet for you featuring her Majesty, Queen Nathilde.

“Good morning, boys,” said Queen Nathilde.  She sat straight and tall in her chair, her violet-colored morning dress falling in delicate folds over her shoulders and perfectly complimenting her still-golden hair.  It was easy to see where her sons had obtained their good looks.  “Thank you for fetching my wayward sons, Master Vlemins,” she added.
            “Indeed, your Majesty,” said Master Vlemins.  He bowed and backed out of the room.
            “Now, you boys have certainly been up early this morning,” said the queen in her perfectly modulated tones.
            “Yes, mother,” said Owen.  “We were working on our fishing poles.”
            “How lovely,” said the queen.  “I do hope that when you finish you limit your fishing to the lake and do not try to take any of the fish out of the garden pond.”
            “We won’t, Mother,” said Damien.  “We want to catch the fish to eat, anyhow, and I don’t think that the ones in the pond are big enough.”
            The queen raised one perfectly formed eyebrow.  “To eat?  I think you had better not try to cook anything yourself.  I heard once of a man who ate a fish not properly cooked and was poisoned from it.”
            “Poisoned?” said Owen.
            “Indeed,” said the queen, lowering her voice.  “I understand that he was sick for two agonizing days before he finally succumbed.  He left a devastated family.”

~ The Cat of Lake Gellara

Yep.  That's the queen.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Thanks, Anne-girl!

Hello, everyone.  I just wanted to say thank you to the lovely Anne-girl for her fun and inspiring challenge. I can't believe the month of June is over already, but I know that July is going to wonderful on the writing side of things.

I don't normally set writing goals for myself, which is horrid, I know, but for the month of July I am going to try to get through the second part of The Cat of Lake Gellara.  There will be either four or five parts, but I haven't quite worked that out yet.  Like I previously mentioned, I am not much of a planner.

I'm drawing close to 9,000 words, which is exciting.  I'll see you lovelies later!

Thanks for reading, and God bless,