Weather: It's Fickle, and So Are You

I'm sure we've all made this mistake before, but it doesn't make it any less embarrassing when we're called out on it. One minute our characters are strolling down a lane of glorious golden twilight toward the setting sun, and the next moment ominous clouds are pressing their weighty bulk upon the characters' heads.


What? It was sunny just a minute ago.


Right. My bad.

I distinctly remember having my characters sitting down under the shade of a tree on a completely overcast day. I am sure the problem is linked directly to Disney movies: we like to unconsciously assume that the weather is linked to the moods of the characters or the various levels of urgency developing in the plot. But we simply can't do that. The weather is a character all its own, and you have to not only let it do its own thing, but you have to keep track of it too. Of course, you're perfectly allowed to make the weather do what you want to further the plot of your story. Would she have ever run into that cave and found the magic crystal if a thunderstorm had not broken right over the forest just then? Would he have thought to look in that high cupboard if a shaft of light had not come through the window and shone like the finger of an angel at it? But be careful you don't overdo it. It can't always rain when your character is gloomy, it can't always be gloriously bright when your character is merry. Bilbo himself pointed out that it isn't all hay-rides in May sunshine. Weather happens.

Know your weather patterns. What time of the year is it? What sort of climate is your story set in? You don't need to go as far as mapping out air currents if you would really rather not. I know I wouldn't. But make sure you are clear on seasons, weather-patterns, and temperatures. You can't have your characters suddenly beating against a drenching gale in the middle of a long dry summer, or seeing wildflowers in a field in the middle of December. And believe me, I've done this before. If you happen to enjoy writing British-type climates, the way I do, has an excellent and amusing page here on the weather throughout the year on the island. This will give you a narrower field on what to expect during any given month.

If you don't like Britain, you're on your own.

As far as any given day is concerned, you need to not only know the overarching patterns of weather throughout the year, as you write you need to keep track of what the weather is currently. In Between Earth and Sky I have a slight reprieve because the tribe in which Rede lives is coastal, and coastal weather is notoriously willful. If I want a sunny morning, I can get one - for about two hours - and then I can roll in a nice dense cloud-cover if I like. But regardless, I can't have Rede driving a chariot through sunny glades of blooming cherry and a page later be descending a hillside in which the heather is all blurred to lavender-grey by the shadows of the thick clouds. Pay attention to your weather. Realistically, weather happens totally regardless of the little petty joys and toils of mankind. We all understand this. Make sure your story understands it too.

That's all for today, folks. Happy scribbles!

Christmas Books

I had a most delightful Christmas, I am very glad to say. All the book signings leading up to Christmas went marvelously, my Christmas shopping and preparations went smoothly, and the holiday itself was wonderful. We had a white Christmas! It is my understanding that that hasn't happened in nearly a generation here. South Carolina snows, in my neck of the woods, rarely last beyond twenty-four hours, but we still have some pretty patches of snow clinging on with valiant swan-white hearts. Lovely presents were exchanged among the family, though my niece and nephew, who are both on the young side of youthful, got a bit overwhelmed with all the "Come here and open this. Go there and open that."

But that's all boring stuff that no one wants to hear about from me. "Where's the writing? Where's the news on these books your post title seems so keen about? Get on with it, Jenny. Are you having us on?" All right, all right, here I get. You know how much I love talking about books. Here is what I got (or what my husband Tim got, which is more or less the same thing).

My dear friend Anna sent me a lovely Puritan Paperback copy of Richard Sibbes' Glorious Freedom. We both have fond memories of this book, though mine are by proxy at the moment since I haven't read it yet. Over the summer she spent time with her grandmother, and she would often spend the hour sitting on the porch with one of my letters and Mr Sibbes, hours of bliss and sunshine. So though this isn't the exact book, its pages are infused with the memories of letters and sunshine and maybe even whiffs of tea. She wrote as much (and more, but such things are too precious to tell to all) in the inside flap of my book so that, years from now when I have passed on and my book has not, someone will pick it up and read it and wonder "Who were these young women, and what did they mean, and what were these glimpses of heaven that they caught between the lines of each other's letters?" Such is the power of the written word.

Another lovely vintage book I received was this, The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady. It may be recalled that I have been researching British plants through the help of W. Keble Martin's The Concise British Flora in Colour. Well! Given even a passing knowledge of the expansive and wild glory of a British landscape, even the most forbidding, it is hardly surprising that a young lady such as Edith Holden could contrive to put such lovely observations and illustrations on paper. She filled this book up on observations throughout the year, jotting down what was blooming when, where, giving charming paintings to aid the words in bringing the Edwardian countryside to life. She wrote down many poems which suited the occasion, and even included many local observations on the months, such as their more ancient origin of name and various local festivities. For a girl of my interests, it was just the thing. Also, the book is elderly and smells of deliciousness.

I am sure it has come up that I am reading Charles Spurgeon's Morning by Morning. For Christmas, I got a gorgeous little black leather bound copy of both Morning by Morning and Evening by Evening. I am still only reading the morning bit, because I read my Bible in the evening before bed and by the time I being my landing cycle, it's already late. I will most likely switch once I have finished the morning readings. All the same, I had been wanting Evening by Evening, and now I've got both - all the more felicitous because my copy of Morning by Morning is my mother's, not mine. I am not usually one for 'devotions', as it were, for they so easily become a sort of rite for the soul. But Spurgeon, at least, has designs to focus the wayward soul upon the Constant of Christ, so that when we rise up and when we lie down we will be fixed on him always, and keep his words in our hearts. My thanks go to my in-laws and to Mr Spurgeon himself.

A lot of people are put off by the little word 'logic.' Why? Because it hurts, that's why. When we think of logic, we think of painfully intricate syllogisms and Augustine's The Immortality of the Soul and lengthy treatises on mental constructs that no one can understand. But what people often fail to realize is that logic is universal and universally applied. But it isn't universally applied correctly, and that's the problem. Anyone will have heard someone say, "You're being illogical!" and that's because we all fundamentally have an understanding of what logic is, and recognize it when it's being used incorrectly - or even not at all. But Mr Clark, thank goodness, brings the whole thing to the surface so we can look at it properly and have a conscious idea of proper logic. This is one of my husband's Christmas presents, but I wanted it just as much as he. Who knows? When I'm done reading The Hobbit aloud, we may do something unutterably boring like read aloud Logic. Welcome to the Freitag household.

Because yours truly just isn't weird enough! Introducing a gift from my husband, The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures: just about every mythically creepy-crawly you can imagine is indexed in these pages, cross-referenced, bagged and tagged and scribbled down. I'm not sure I want to be known as the people who spent the time tracking all this down, but as a writer I am certainly indebted to the authors. Not only does the book include a cover-to-cover index on mythical creatures, the authors also put in excerpts on the more prominent instances in which these creatures cropped up in history, as well as excerpts on human interaction, or worship, or whatever. Though I doubt I will read it cover to cover myself, it will be an excellent reference book for future knowledge and future stories. Thank you, Tim!

No, this is not the exact replica of the copy I possess, but it sure looks nice. I think this is probably the first bit of Eastern epic poetry I've got (I haven't even got the Epic of Gilgamesh - bad Jenny!) so this is new for me. Thankfully we covered Eastern philosophies in philosophy class, so I have at least an idea of what fundamental ideas I will be coming across. As far as the poetry itself is concerned, Edward FitzGerald did a lovely job translating.
Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan's Turret in a Noose of Light.

What lovely opening lines! Abigail, who gave it to me, was cheeky enough to scribble on the inside flap "To Jenny - I'm sure you can make sense of it!"

Please excuse the crookidariness of this photo. Barnes and Noble doesn't understand how do to mugshots. Anyway, for long and long I've had the entire boxed set of The Chronicles of Narnia, very well used and being to come woefully apart. Now, there is something very endearing about a falling-apart book. It shows that it was loved, that it was well-read, that people really cared about its story. But after a while, like the Velveteen Rabbit, it just gets too impractical to try reading out of such torn volumes. I still have the boxed set, and I hope to always have the boxed set, but goodness knows it is a relief to have something I know won't fall to tinder in my hands. Not only that, this copy is simply gorgeous, rife with Pauline Baynes' illustrations, some of which did not make it into my boxed set.

People use words incorrectly all the time. I do it, you do it; Ambrose Bierce himself assures us that he is not exempt either. But in Write it Right, he takes it upon himself to at least put forward the best foot on a correct use of English words. Appraised and checked against our changing society, the readers gets a look at his grammatical peeves as well as true grievances against the English language. This makes a great companion for Strunk and White's Elements of Style. But even if you get it wrong, don't fret. Bierce, Strunk, and White are out there to help us, and as the writer of Sheldon Comics said, English is a language carefully cobbled together by three blind dudes and a German dictionary.

"History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it." This was very clever of Churchill; and really, isn't that what historians have always done? I challenge you to introduce me to a wholly unbiased historian. But Churchill, with his pointed wit, admitted to his amusing crime; and, indeed, history has been kind to him. My parents gave Tim a nice old copy of The New World for Christmas with lovely large print (I hate reading small print); it's beautifully hard-bound with Churchill's signature scrawled in gold on the front. I wonder if they had me in mind too, for this volume covers the English Civil War, an era I was most interested in when I was, oh, twelvishly-thirteen. I still am, but I try not to be quite so outwardly obsessed because then people laugh at me.

So nine lovely books, all just waiting for me to read them. Unfortunately, I have several I am already reading, and several I had planned to read after I was done with those. Aaah, the list just keeps on growing! Maybe I'll ditch all and make a post later on what I'm writing. Except that my brain decided to take a sabbatical and I'm not writing anything at the moment. Bad, naughty Jenny. Scribbles! Scribbles and inkstains!

Another Day In the Life of a New Author

As Abigail said over on Scribbles and Ink Stains, yesterday evening was a success. Not only did we each sell a sizable number of books ourselves, Barnes and Noble was kind enough to have us sign the books that were left, and the store bought them. Thank you, Barnes and Noble! Thank you, numerous people who came by and picked up our books! The evening was long but definitely worth it, and I hope you all enjoy the books your bought. Merry Christmas!

This evening is an hour-long launch party and book signing at our local Spill the Beans downtown. (If you live in Greenville and don't know where it is exactly, it's on South Main squdged up against the Falls Park patio - really cute set up and very cosy). Buy a book, and you get a free coffee! If you don't like coffee, Bi-Lo sells some nice Twinings tea which is equally as good combined with a novel in some warm corner of your home. (I love you, Twinings...!)

So drop on by! Falls Park is gorgeous in the evening, regardless of the cold, and Main Street all lit up during the holiday season is enough to warm Scrooge's heart. Come warm your hands around a free cup of coffee and chit-chat with two young authors. Merry, merry Christmas!


I'm learning more and more about it lately as it works in my life.

But first, an update. I finished NaNo with flying colours, coming out just a little above 50,000 words. Yay me! But I can't boast too much, even though this was my first time through, because the writing was easy, and I know others fought their stories more than I fought mine. But I'm pleased with myself, and I hope to get another crazy month's worth of frantic typing in come February with a few other friends so I can push even farther along in my novel.

In the publishing world, my sister and I just had a TV interview on Your Carolina, a local television station based out of the Michelin building in downtown Greenville. They were some really lovely people, and I had a good time, even though I had the serious jitters being on television for the first time. You can see the video up on their webside if you care to watch it. (Note: Jenny's voice was surgically removed and replaced with the voice of Minnie Mouse.)

And this evening, regardless of how tired I am after the interview, I've got a book signing at the Barnes and Noble in the Shops at Greenridge on Woodruff in my area. (Not to be confused with the town of Woodruff.) So if you happen to live in the area, stop on by! I'll be the gal in a suit of black armour with silver apple-leaf patterns. That's from 7:00-9:00.

Saturday evening and Monday evening (18th and 20th) will be busy with a book launch and another book signing respectively, one at the South Main Spill the Beans (free coffee if you buy a book!) and the Laurens Road Books-A-Million. (5:00-6:00, and 6:00-8:00).

So yes, I'm a busy girl. I still have Christmas shopping to do, and then wrapping all the presents I hope to buy. But if there is one thing I am learning, it is that, so long as you are not totally foolish with yourself and your time (and sometimes even then) God's providence is mightily good. My people are hacking time out of their busy schedules to stand by my sister and me, and even my publisher and his wife are dancing out of their routines to come join us. God has been very good to me, no matter how weary I feel.

And now this little unicorn needs to go crawl into her armour and get ready for the evening. Merry Christmas!