I Declare After All

...there is no enjoyment like reading...
Jane Austen

For a while among my blogging circle I seemed unique in that I had no desire or, seemingly, capacity to compose a list of books I would really like to have read by the time A.D. 2012 has lost itself among the backward annals of time. It seems that, unlike most of you, I don't possess the iron will required to really plough through a book I don't particularly like. I just flung down one this afternoon in a height of dudgeon, completely apathetic toward finishing it. Unlike most of you, I don't ever seem to get the chance to say, "I read The Thing of Such-and-Such by Mr. Whatever. I didn't really like it, but I finished it, and that's that." Additionally, I never really plan what I am going to read. When I feel it is 'time,' or when a book catches my fancy, I read it.

So the list I am about to compile is subject to change, and you should probably only call is a 'list' advisedly. "You can carve it in stone," said Barnaby. "I'll still deny it." But here, at least, is what I would like to read this year, not because this year or these books put together make anything particularly special, but because my temporal frame travels through time rather linearly and because this upcoming year seems, therefore, unavoidable, and because (most importantly) I want to read these books.

The Art of Medieval Hunting: the Hound and the Hawk - John Cummins (in progress)
David Copperfield - Charles Dickens (in progress)
The Kirkbride Conversations - Harry Blamires
The Everlasting Man - G.K. Chesterton
Beowulf - Mr. Whatever (again!)
The Golden Warrior - Hope Muntz
Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis
The Discarded Image: an Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature - C.S. Lewis
Moonblood - Anne Elisabeth Stengl (when it comes out in April)
When Christ and His Saints Slept - Sharon Kay Penman
The Four Loves - C.S. Lewis
The Darkness and the Dawn - Thomas B. Costain
The Conquering Family - Thomas B. Costain
The Improvement of the Mind - Isaac Watts
Sword Song - Rosemary Sutcliff

If I put in much more I will be overreaching myself. When Christ and His Saints Slept looks daunting enough; coupled with The Improvement of the Mind (whose font is minuscule) I feel positively drowned in verbiage. If you calculate in a peppering of rereads (some bizarre and irrational part of me wants to reread The Lord of the Rings), it may be a busy year.

Speaking of bizarre, I have not yet got used to seeing my name - my name - turn up in a "my favourite authors" list, sandwiched between C.S. Lewis and Charlotte Bronte. I tell you, it's a mad, mad world.

New Year Writing Contest

It's a new year (very nearly) and it's time for something new at The Penslayer and Scribbles and Inkstains. In honour of the writers who so faithfully follow these blogs of ours, who have expressed such encouragement and interest in our work, Abigail and I have put together a writing contest for the month of January (2012). Here are the details of the campaign:

wordcount

Each entry must be 200 words or less. This may not seem like much (and it isn't) but don't panic. We don't expect you to condense a full story into so few words.

subject

The theme will be first impressions. This can be a character's first impression of another character, of a thing, of an animal... Think of it as you introducing a new subject, whether animate or inanimate, to the reader. (200 words doesn't seem like much now, does it?)

quality

You are all so vastly different in your styles, so don't try to fit your entry into a specific style or genre. We would like to see prose, but if you are better at poetry, or poetry just "comes," use that instead. Be sure to note your spelling and grammar as we try to be very particular about excellent English. Write your very best, we dare you!

rules and regulations

Entries will be limited to two per person. (Note: two entries is an option, not a requirement.) Obviously, keep it clean; we'll be posting the winning entries (as long as the authors don't object), so they have to be ones that we're comfortable putting up.

prizes!

After the contest closes, Abigail and I will choose first place and second place winners. First place winner will receive one copy of each of our novels, The Shadow Things and The Soldier's Cross, as well as a critique of the first chapter of his or her novel. Second place winner will receive a critique of the first chapter of his or her novel.

Please email your entries to sprigofbroom293@gmail.com and jeanne@squeakycleanreviews.com.

If you have any questions, be sure to ask. And if not - start writing!

To the End of the Way of the Wandering Star

A child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost - how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky's dome.
G.K. Chesterton

I was perched in a low-slung camp chair made of wood and cloth, not unlike the sort my ancient friends are accustomed to using, somewhat cold for the basement is chilly (particularly this time of year) content to be quiet and to read. I had finished my scribbles and had moved on to some rather complicated notions by an old author about Kruger beards, and while I was trying to get a handle on this I was deftly ignoring my own notion that I ought to go work on the bike and get some exercise in. There is nothing like reading to displace physical labour. But in the middle of this, quite suddenly and without the least flicker of warning, out of the damp grey woody quiet of the winter's visage through the window came the long, loud, throaty roar of a train's horn. Like a hound which hears the mote I raised my head at once and stared out the window (you could see nothing through it, save bare tree branches and sorry wet sky); on the horn went, thrilling, roaring, blazing like some kind of golden fire through the colourless atmosphere around me. I did not move and I did not speak, but a lot moved in my soul and my soul said a great deal in that long timeless moment that the train went on, calling out its obligatory warning.

I have always considered trains to be a timeless sort of thing. Maybe it is the result of romantic notions passed on subliminally into my mind. Whatever it is, I have always considered them timeless, more than half sentient, running on their iron veins, hidden, through the fabric of society. Society, like tops, whirling in circles and getting nowhere much, goes on, while the trains rush through it all with a kind of terrible, iron purpose, touching nothing, nothing touching them. And as I have been thinking for some months past about the nature of the Kingdom, with that one train that I heard this afternoon (I do not know its name, where it came from or where it is going, I only heard the sound of it), it was a very simple thing for me to see, not the black-sided figure of a Norfolk Southern engine shrilling out through intersections of rail and road, but a blazing, white-hot-iron creature screaming intently through time and space, hurtling toward its goal, itself timeless and its passengers too, hurtling faster and building light as it went - and wherever the slog of time-bound traffic and the cruel blank blackness of asphalt fell across its path it sounded its horn (rally or mort I do not dare to say, perhaps both at once) as a kind of exultant warning to the whirling people around it.

I saw that half-sentient, immortal thing and its comet-streak of light with my mind's eye for a moment (a moment which left, I am sure, a tell-tale burn-mark somewhere on my soul, probably where my spirit and my heart touch) but I got to see that kind of light with my mortal eyes later when I was driving home. The sun had come out and a high, strong wind was up, roaring like the world's last ocean in the world's last autumn leaves. Clouds were tearing at break-neck speed across the sky and I stopped to look up for the note (of rally or mort I do not know) was still in the air, if only the echo of it, and I felt it rather than heard it. So I had to look up. At first I saw that the clouds were across the sun, and then I thought I was wrong and that the sun, become far more huge for closeness, had come down out of its plane and hung in middle earth's atmosphere, enormous, horribly bright, making arms of light for itself out of the racing, shredding clouds so that I could barely look for long. But I did look. I remember that the stars once spoke of high deeds around the years of Jesus's birth and the magi, intent upon such celestial languages, caught the writing in the heavens. Now it seemed, to me, that our own star was saying something about high deeds as well and a high kind of man to do them. Like Simeon I lifted up my eyes and saw the Consolation of Israel and the Light to the Gentiles coming through the clouds, burning like the sun in splendour, and all the windy blue of heaven the high laughter of all the angels.

it's a window in the world, a little glimpse of all the goodness getting through

I have come inside now out of the cold. The late light is lying coppery and gold on the grass and appears quite warm seen from the comfortable environment of my heated room. But I can see by the whirl of the branches that the wind is still roaring strongly, and where it comes from and where it is going I don't know. But somehow I imagine that great, solid, diffusing sun knows, and it knows where that blazing train hails from, too, and where its station lies. I look at the setting sun and I know I am looking west, but from the windows of the train I am not certain what I see, save that I know the light is growing both in the train and from whatever horizon it hurtles toward. What are east and west? what are north and south in a place beyond all compass points, in a place that is the centre of the compass itself? That is where the station is, that is where the light comes from.

I hear the hunting cry of the train again, ethereal, coming from a place where there is no time and space, to me in time and space, and something in me breaks under the realness of its weight.

"A Triumph, My Dear, Another Triumph!"

Okay, so, I lied. I did manage to finish The Reformers and Their Stepchildren, rather to my surprise, so I have read thirty books this year (2011). That's a rather nice feeling, having read a pretty round number of books. Not a very large round number, but it's respectable. Numbers ought to be respectable, and I think thirty is. None of these errant variables larking about. Good, sound, whole, round numbers like thirty. Good note to end a year on.

I haven't been pushing myself too hard on Plenilune lately, since it is the holidays and my energies are needed elsewhere. It's rather odd: at a time when everyone is getting off something to have their holidays, I feel as if my holidays are being put on the shelf and the busy times are rolling out. I always was a bit backwards... But here are some snippets and cut-outs of what I have been scribbling for Plenilune. Enjoy, and happy plum-pudding! (Feel free to offer thoughts on the snippets, but please just eat the pudding.)

excerpts from Plenilune

Her cheeks cooled, still in her soul, Margaret turned at last from the window and sat on the edge of the bed to undress. She could still see a little of the landscape through the window: a pale, ghostly thumbnail of a picture, a gash of far upland cut level and coloured like the impassive face of a diamond. The wind moaned desolately, and seemed to get in through the chinks in her skin and blow about desolately in her soul as well. Down in the dale an owl hooted which, as her fingers fumbled in the weak light of her lamp with her dress, reminded her of the hunt, of the fox, of the fox in Rupert’s cellar. He would be sitting in a light much like this one, alone much like she was, looking out a dark like herself. Was the little red-coated coward thinking of her as she thought of him?

As Margaret stepped into the courtyard and to one side Skander’s courser, a big-boned blue dun with a mind of its own, was being brought out of its stall and was making a fuss about its handler and the presence of a lean yellow dog that had somehow got in. The dog began to bark, the blue dun went up in a twisting rear on its hindquarters—nearly wrenching free of the stableboy’s hand—and there was an enormous flutter of bodies as people ran to put out the fire that was about to blaze up between the horse, the dog, and the boy.

The singsong dog-snarl of the lord’s red clothing trembled through the garden as he came through the lower gateway and passed at a collected trot up the path. She could not get a clear sight of his face for the tree-branches until he was nearly beneath her—his horse seemed to hang a moment in hesitation at the upper gateway—and then she could see as clearly as if they were on level ground face to face what sort of face he had. It was a fleeting moment, one in which he was not on guard for her since he did not see her, and she saw him very nearly perfectly as he was. His hair was thin and pale grey, cropped close, his brows thick but pale grey too; his features were all heavily hung, and yet strangely empty, as if they had been big and full once, but time had sucked the life from them and left them cobweb-bare. Scarred, grey, wrinkled and haggard, but with a cold and ruthless spark in his eyes that would make Rupert look warm and rustic, Margaret thought that if Julius Caesar had lived a long life, he would have looked like this.

The evening was overcast, a delicate plum-colour, open in the west where the sunset made everything orange. Above the west the clouds were pierced, here and there and raggedly, as with a spear, and the sky in the gaps was, not blue, but a purest, brilliant moony-gold as though the Church had left the door to the Kingdom ajar and Heaven's light was flooding through.

Ready To Give A Defence

In my post Are You A Teacher In Israel, And Do Not Know These Things? I dealt with the lack of religion in stories. As I put myself mildly succinctly in the post and feel as if I said pretty much what I meant I'll refrain from summing it up here, as I doubt I could do the summary justice. In the comments on the post Gwyn lamented the difficulty of portraying our faith in her own literature. Her exact words were, "I desperately want to portray the Faith in my novels, but I struggle to balance that thread with the other story lines {i.e. the actual adventure}. It either takes over the whole novel making it into 'just another Christian fiction' with foreseeable outcomes, or it's just a shallow undercurrent that doesn't feel necessary. There has got to be middle ground... somewhere."

I know Gwyn is not alone in this (I struggle at times with this myself), and since the answer is much too big for a simple reply in a comment box, I am making an answer here. Rest assured that I do not flatter myself into thinking my answer will be by any means exhaustive. It won't be. Dear goodness, no, it won't be. But I do hope it will set any of you with this difficulty on the right track.

I find that difficulties and errors in Christian literature usually reflect a deficiency in the collective Christian mind. I will therefore answer this question, not directly, but firstly by addressing the nature of our Faith. We believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, whose perfect life was accredited to us at the canceling of our debts by his perfect sacrifice so that now not only are we called to be holy, we might be holy. I think I can be pretty confident that we hold that this holiness applies not merely to Sunday worship, but to every day of the week, to every detail of our lives, that we should "do all to the glory of God." We believe the life and righteousness of Jesus, credited to us, permeates every aspect of our very being - our existence - that when we live and move and have our being in him, he is the medium in which we live, like fish in the water.

If I have not painted a broad enough picture with this then I failed. I think you can see, our Faith covers everything. I think you can see, our Faith sinks deep. It is the air our spirits breathe. It is the light that lights our way. It is our compass, it is our walking-stick, it is our hope of home and belonging. I realize that this seems to play into the (perhaps) extreme of weighing a story down with "too much" religion. So we come to the second point.

There is a notion about these days that says the Church's primary purpose is to evangelize. That's what Jesus said, isn't it? "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you..." What people fail to realize is that their notion is blown to pretty bits by this very passage. Yes, of course, evangelism is a vital aspect of the Church. "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent?" But what is woefully missing is the training, the discipleship. The Gospel is hurled broad-cast at any ground that falls under the preacher's eye, regardless of whether it is ready for seed or hard as rock. The important, the vital task of entrenching oneself in the midst of a professing people and helping through long years to cultivate good and sound faith, faith that will withstand temptation, tribulation, hardship, and (most fatal) prosperity is not being done enough.

The Church, therefore, is looked at (if it is looked at at all) upside-down. When you go to put your faith in a novel, or when your faith inevitably bleeds through every pore of that novel, you mustn't think that you are immediately required to deliver the Gospel. Not only are not all of us given to be pastors and teachers, but we should (by virtue of common sense) have a care where we place the precious pearls of our Truth, and how we place them. It is not a necessary reflex action to have a redemption scene in every "Christian" work.

What about the danger of the flip-side, the "shallow undercurrent that doesn't feel necessary"? I know Abigail has complained to me about novels she has read that, though they somehow get themselves under the heading of "Christian," only mention God once or twice, and have otherwise no foundation in Christ's righteousness. This is, of course, a bit far. I would call that shallow without even an undercurrent. I would call that a dry gully. Don't worry, Gwyn - I don't believe this is what you are up against. But having wrestled with this trouble myself, I know what you mean. I think this can best be answered by moving from the negative (an erroneous view of the Church) to the positive, which links us back to some of my first comments.

In Peter's first epistle, from which my post title derives, the reader will be impressed with an overall image of courage, stalwart spirit, confidence, meekness, a constancy that this pale reality seems to break up on and fade away from. "...sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always ready to make a defence to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence..." The follower of God, far from holding the name of God at arm's length and never mentioning it, far from flailing about with it, striking everyone in range, stands firmly, confidently, assured of the truth of his soul. From the very passage it is clear that people see this behaviour and seek to understand it: the image itself, unmoved and steadfast, speaks volumes alone. And when they ask, the man is ready to give an account of his Faith.

The extremes are flailing and being shy. The "middle ground" is being certain of our own Faith; our characters, too, being certain of their Faith, and living it as a living man might breathe air. The dead, who do not breathe, take note of a man whose lungs are working. It is quite possible that your plot will dictate how heavily the Gospel is laid on the shoulders of the reader, or how distant it may seem from the foreground. If your story is such that your faith is intertwined with it be sure that there is no doubt left in the reader's mind as to your stand. This is not at all to say that the reader will, by all the words you write, be able to understand you fully, and get a full comprehension of God's redemptive work - but he should at least be left with the unshakable impression that you have hope, that you know there is truth in the world, that God is sovereign. He may not believe you, and you may not save him (can we save any man's soul?), but he will know that you believe, of that he will have no doubt.

They said the king’s particular friends were all a bit strange, standing a bit uneasily on the normal turf of the world
as if they didn’t quite belong there.
The Duke

Are You A Teacher In Israel, and Do Not Know These Things?

...the greatest part
Of mankind they corrupted to forsake
God their Creator, and the invisible
Glory of Him that made them to transform
Oft to the image of a brute, adorned
With gay religions full of pomp and gold,
And devils to adore for deities.

Paradise Lost, John Milton

This is a subject I have thought about nonchalantly for some time, taking it almost for granted with my own writing, until I was jostled by a little lack of information into considering it more seriously in general. Can I get any more vague than that...? The subject is that of religion in literature. I don't mean strictly fantasy, I mean historical fiction too (I consider science fiction to be a fantasy of a sort). The problem, I realized some time ago, is that you very rarely come across any signs, any gestures, any notion of religion in the pages of a book.

You might argue at first that this is because religion as a whole isn't usually the point of a story, and you don't want to muddy the waters, and you don't want to offend people, etc. I would like to respectfully blow both of those notions back where they came from. If you take a good look at human history in an over-arching sense, the way an eagle might look at a landscape, you will discover a wildly colourful but always persistent drive toward worship. Mankind has an inherent need to worship, an almost frantic need to worship. You will find that in every society you study, in every age you choose. Man will build a pantheon before he builds a code of law. It is so basic to his nature, so deeply woven into his psyche, so human that I find the lack of it in literature to be startlingly unrealistic.

So does every story have to be about gods and men, appeasement and atonement? Not always directly, of course not. But when you have a driving way of life, a paradigm that lies closer about a man than his own clothing, don't you think it a bit odd that it so rarely surfaces in stories about mankind? When I read I find two common default religions in stories: in the fantasy the religion of the character is his quest and his devotion to accomplishing it; in historical fiction (rather more accurately) the religion is that of self. But I have to read that back into the text because I'm looking for it. The author probably doesn't realize it at all. So acknowledge it! In The Eagle of the Ninth, which is one of my favourite novels, there is a scene in which Marcus desperately, ardently beseeches his god Mithras to clear the skies so that the smoke-signal can get through. It is pure paganism, and of course I don't agree a whit with the man, but I agree with the author for putting it in there. It would have been ludicrous for Sutcliff to have portrayed her soldier any differently. He was a centurion of the Roman army, a follower of the Persian god Mithras (who had become a favourite among Roman soldiers). It was not only accurate to history, it was accurate to man.

How do you show religion? There was a time not very long ago when religion was the cadence of life. You could not go a week without the community partaking in the heartbeat of it. Longer ago than that, before truth sorted out the muddle of religion, you had sacrifices and feast-days, a regularity and an importance of regularity that bound not only the people to their gods but the people to each other. That is a hard thing to miss and it is not hard to show. In historical fiction it might be as simple as noting the Sabbath hush that falls over a village, in fantasy it can be as subtle as a charm over a door to ward off evil. It need not be right (though I hope you know what right is) but it ought to be accurate, which is a truth itself; and it ought to be there, if only to add another dimension to the story.

My novel The Shadow Things, rather less than subtle, took this bull by the horns. It takes place in a time when religion oppressed, when gods were to be appeased, not loved, and atonement was a word whose definition was not understood; it's grim, it's dark, but it's true. And in retrospect, looking back from the high vantage point of years in a culture levened by Christianity, I as the author and hopefully you as the reader can appreciate what kind of "religious" world the truth was going out into, and working against, and transforming. I might have made the gates of hell a little less grim, a little less resisting, but that would have been untrue. Yes, they gave way in The Shadow Things, but it was a hard and gruesome fight all the same.

However you do it, whether blatantly or subtly, don't forget this important aspect of humanity: he must worship something, and that need is too obvious to ignore even in literature.

“Oh—something!” he ejaculated, too flustered to know exactly what to swear by.

Vintage of Ink: a Good Year

"A man of ability, for the chief of his reading, should select such works as he feels beyond his own power to have produced."
William G.T. Shedd

It's December, the last month, the twilight of the year (how does that sound to you, Wagner?) - almost a whole year has gone by! I am convinced that time moves faster the older you get. Years did not seem to whirl by so quickly when I was a child. Not that I mind. That's the beauty of being a time-traveller, I suppose...

I've read a lot of books this year: twenty-nine. I should really like to be able to make that an even thirty, but I'm in the middle of The Reformers and Their Stepchildren, which requires pondering, and David Copperfield, which is enormous, so I don't think I will be able to add another book to my list until January. (Goodreads is well enough, I suppose, but if you want something done right you have to do it yourself, so I keep my own list.) I was introduced to Dorothy Sayers and read three of her works, I read The Scarlet Pimpernel twice (only counted it once), I read three new Rosemary Sutcliff books (new to me, anyway: The Shield Ring, Flame-Coloured Taffeta, Knight's Fee), charming new-comers to the book market Heartless and Veiled Rose by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, I read Emma, my second Jane Austen novel (I'm so behind-hand on these things), and a number of essay collections by C.S. Lewis as well as J.R.R. Tolkien's delightful Roverandom. I read some romanish things like The Lays of Ancient Rome (which post of mine seems to have got an enormous number of page-views from Eastern Europe - I'm not sure what is up with that), Everyday Life in Roman and Anglo-Saxon Times, and The Roman Way - stodgy old stuff like that that I enjoy. I read Howl's Moving Castle, which was a hoot and a half, and Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday and Manalive, which boggled me immensely.

Lots of oddments of stories, I dare say. But this year was a good year as far as reading and writing went. Many of the books I read, fiction and non-fiction alike, lifted me and challenged me and taught me something new, or inspired something old, kindled or re-kindled thoughts in me all through the year. One of my biggest writing accomplishments was finishing the second draft of my novel Adamantine; another is the beginning of its companion novel Plenilune - and I could not have started it without many of the books I began and finished this year. I have already said before, the need for Plenilune has long been there, but I didn't reach what I call critical mass until this year in September when I finished the novel The Worm Ouroboros. (That book alone could have a whole post to itself.) Then after that came novels I had finished before it, The Shield Ring and Roverandom, Simon, Shakespeare's The Tempest, Perelandra, flocking around me and chittering excitedly like little Pixar minions with Adamantine looming sceptically in the background and Knight's Fee, one of my more recent conquests, proudly aloft over the others, "fair to see and slender as a racehorse." All of them went into the melting pot of my fevered imagination, heated and smelted and boiled down to the mere soupy brightness of the metal that I wanted and - tally ho! - I began writing Plenilune.

If you can find what in the world (take your pick which one) these novels have in common, you are doing better than I. Funny odd thing, isn't it, what all converges to inspire us? For me it has been a good year for convergence.

* * * * *

The fox seemed to deliberate for a few moments, looking away with the lamplight glassy in his eyes, as if to find the right words. His countenance was unusually doleful. "The Overlord," he began at last, slowly, consideringly, "is more than just a man with a title. He is more than a mere strategist or a high judge presiding over quarrels." He looked round at her, light breaking up against and throwing itself off the quicksilver mirror of his eyes. His voice was low and urgent, with a shiningness about it that made Margaret's heart quicken.

"The Overlord is Plenilune itself. He is its heart, he is its soul; he is the dark lodestone that lies at the core of everything."

"A dark lodestone indeed," said Margaret after a brief, heavy quiet, "would Rupert be."

The fox grinned up at her, all his little white teeth showing. "A dark lodestone indeed, which cannot find true north. It is a good joke," he added, his body jigging a little to the quickness of his foxy breathing, "don't you think?"

Plenilune

Joys That Sting

"This is a certain maxim, that the more we are governed by wisdom, the less we shall be inflamed by passion."
The Religious Tradesman, Richard Steele

Anyone who knows me knows that I am an emotional person. I am rather thin where my skin touches spirit: as a result I feel things rather keenly, often extremely and violently. And, I suppose, that for a writer this is a good thing. In some cases this is not always a good trait, not always giving me a natural bent toward sensibleness, but as a writer it is a useful thing to be: emotional. It is so human of us to feel, to know that we are feeling, even to differentiate between our feelings. Rachel pointed this out, that as writers we have to be acquainted with an enormous spectrum of emotions, and to be proficient in writing them, or else our stories, our characters, fall flat - there is no life in them. As an owner of two cats, having grown up with cats almost my whole life, I know that even animals have range of emotion, if not the self-awareness to know they emote; if I fail to weave emotion into the heart-strings of my characters, they are even less believable than my kitty.

I like writing emotion, myself. Rachel quoted the line "I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions," and I love that, because that is exactly what I feel. Words: the audible, visible manifestations of the language of our souls. I find it a heady business, writing emotion, and feeling all those emotions themselves as I filter my characters out of my finger-tips. And Rachel in her post (do read it!) challenged her readers to write emotion, to not forget that, like any other person, characters exhibit emotion and that a reader will expect to find it. My current novel Plenilune is very emotional, but I thought that, given her challenge, I might pick out emotions and show you what I have done in various and sundry stories to display those feelings. I hope you are much amused, greatly diverted, possibly enlightened, maybe even inspired.

sullen

They did not mean to forget her, she told herself with a tell-tale viciousness. She pulled her knees up and gripped the hard thing that hung at her chest, hoping to find comfort in the good horse-magic. But there was a wind blowing wolf-wise, howling-wise, through the open doorway beyond which all was shifting darkness, and there was no warmth to be had even in the good horse-magic.
The Guttersnipe

anger

Oh!” cried Margaret, bursting into heedless, furious tears. “Oh, you worthless, p-pitiless, filthy creature! I despise you! I d-d-despise you! I despise you!” Her raging words fell out into sobbing—furious, terrified sobbing. She crumpled into the bed-sheets and sobbed mingled tears and blood; with every hysterical gasp she smelled her own blood, tasted it, felt the cut agony of her own broken lip.
Plenilune

happiness

For a moment purely childish expressions ran across Miss Morgan’s face as she stared at him and his hand, taking in his meaning. He hoped that James was not wrong, and that she did know how to dance after all. But then she seemed to compose herself and, with the perfect demure nod, she placed her hand in his. “I can think of nothing I would enjoy more, Mr. Godshall,” she murmured.
Not Raymond

terror

Like a child in a nightmare, wanting someone to wake him. Paralyzed with fear and pain, Tamsin lay in his bed, covered in sweat, dragging in breath after ragged breath. He still hurt. His limbs were locked, his body did not answer him... Slowly, agonizingly, inch by inch the flesh responded to the will, tingling as if the valves were reopened and he were flushing blood back into the dead extremities. He clawed upward, dragging himself out of the horror of sleep. He sat upright, holding the moonlight in a pool in his lap. He stared at it, trying to sort reality from nightmare; and then an unreasoning fury rose up in him, against the house, against the painted barbarian, against the book and the captain and everything that was not Nim.
my 'Boxen'

sorrow

But she knew, as one might know a thing in a dream, that there would be no going home to his hall now. The grey, heavy face darkened with smoke and blood seemed to draw away from her; a whole world seemed to come between them, as though already he was in the halls of his fathers, sleeping, sleeping until the angels sounded the trumpets from the blue ramparts of heaven. She clenched her eyes shut and let the tears roll down her face onto his, streaking in the grime.
Adamantine

morose

That was the most difficult part. By nature he was of a quiet disposition, but he could not allow the captain to have the floor for long or else the man would have no time to drink. Entering the room, he glanced from the man’s bulk to his sideboard, and winced. That was good brandy: he hated to waste it.
my 'Boxen' again

discomfort

Aidan checked, turning his hawk-nosed face over his shoulder, full in the firelight with a little sharing smile on his face, as if he thought the jest were funny too. But Tate was sure everyone in the hall knew that the jest was not funny to Aidan, and she felt the soft ripple of awkwardness run among them, as a little wind will run among the grasses of the downs.
I'm not sure what this story's name is.

mockery

But as he passed me, he stopped, and I knew then that he had never forgot I was standing there. His gaze met mine, lifted a little for I’m a big fairy, narrowed against the blowing rain. There was that laughter, flaming white, laughing at me out of his eyes.
The Duke

contentment

The fire was going down into a fitful heart of reddish gold, like a ruby caught in a candle. They all took the night in very deeply on their uninhabited rock on the edge of the empire; to Adamant, if felt as though she were lingering in that nowhere-place, that between-time: that place that was like the marshland, like the horizon where earth and sky touched, like the twilights of a day. She was cupped—they were all cupped—in a place that was on the brink of all places, in a time which was no time at all and was the central point upon the face of a clock itself.
Adamantine

fury

Master Lucius' pen stilled a moment. The moment lingered, hanging in the balance, the looks between the Lords of Eryri and Arfon and the young man tangible as the heat of the fire beside him. The hate was throat-catching. Young Epona's nostrils flared and the shadows flickered across her brow as her eyes widened a fraction. The hand on the sword-pommel slowly curled in on itself. Only Ambrosius did not change in his appearance. Master Lucius thought perhaps the stormy grey of his eyes grew faintly white, like the sea, but he could not be sure.
The Guttersnipe

annoyance

I swear,” he said to anyone who would listen, “that man cannot be got drunk. He’s off already."
more of my 'Boxen'

joy

There is nothing, I thought to myself, so glorious as a high vision of the ocean as the world is descending into twilight. The many facets of amethyst colours, the sound of the wind, the silver, the singing, and the gold all burst upon us as a war-horse going into its last battle, trumpeting scarlet, furious and exultant. I drew in a breath to burst my lungs.
Blue Martlet


I seem proficient in sad or sad-seeming emotions. I'm friendly and bright by nature when you converse with me, but rather the opposite in writing - the emotions in writing can go so deep that, down there (or up there), joys really do sting.

"I love old things. They make me feel sad."
"What's good about sad?"
"It's
happy for deep people."

"How Poorly You Have Sketched My Nature!"

I've been tagged! I didn't realize it at the time. I had to be told. I didn't feel anything. But apparently I have been really, truly tagged, and I'm really, truly flattered. Rachel, from The Inkpen Authoress, realizing the difficulty of engaging lookers-on when writing a story, got it into her head to put together a list of questions for any current works in progress that will help both lookers-on and writers to better be acquainted with their novels. She tagged me, and if I could just warm my fingers enough so I don't fear snapping them off while I type, I'll try to answer these questions. In case there was any confusion, I am doing

Plenilune

“You might call it that,” Rupert said.

1. Who are the main characters?

Main characters, ah, gee… Of course you will have met Margaret Coventry. You haven’t? She’s my main character, a stiff, proper, if feisty young English lady of 1844. Other main characters include Rupert de la Mare, the suitor she does not want and cannot escape; Dammerung, a legendary war-lord who seems to have gone and got himself killed; Skander Rime, a cousin and neighbour; and a cheeky fox. I might add in old Hobden, but he wavers between the lines of first and secondary characters.

2. How did you get the idea for this story?

Get. Get? This one forced its existence upon me and then left me to yank some kind of shape for it out of my mind. As I finished up Adamantine I realized Adamant Firethorne’s cousin needed a story too. I had practically wedged myself into a corner with the need to write the story, only I didn’t have one. I had to make it. As my stories usually come to me in their own spates of inspiration, I’m rather proud at what my genius managed to create on the spur of an hour-long moment. And, too, I had always wanted to write this kind of story but up until that moment I had not found the proper plot in which to put my place. Now I have.

3. What genre is this story?

This is most definitely fantasy. It would be nothing short of fantastic, quite literally, if such events could occur. Alas, these spirits live only in cloven pines—er, books.

4. Describe your book in three thoughts:

Margaret trying to get home and realizing she does not know what or where home is anymore. A duel between two men that becomes a chess game on a living scale. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

5. The bit that describes an obscure piece of real life best:

Everything seemed impossibly long and far away, as though the House, like a dog in its sleep, stretched out in the night and was twice as big again as it ought to be.

6. The funniest line said by a side-character thus far:

“I am heartily sorry to meet you, Miss Coventry.” The fox gave a little sniff and held out a paw, which Margaret came forward and took, feeling very surreal as she did so.

7. Your favourite piece of description:

Overhead was the bulk of earth, dark in its massiveness, the crest of it ablaze with blue light like some enormous frightened cat on All Hallows’ Eve stiffened and hackled in the heavens. And beyond earth’s arched figure, beyond the long rays of light that broke off its back, stair-stepped the stars of heaven: upward and deeper, so that to Margaret, who had not bothered before to look beyond the inner ring of earth, it was like looking into a pool, a deep pool, a high pool, that went on infinitely until the end of time where eternity hung its veil so that little people like herself might not look in and die.

8. Your biggest fear in the writing of this story:

My biggest fear is probably that I won’t be able to capture my main characters to my satisfaction. They are so big and so bold and so important that I feel rather small in their shadows.

9. Last full sentence you wrote:

“In spring, when the Murklestrath is in full spate and the nomadic blood of the Carmarthen is too, then perhaps I go with my lord when my lord goes out to defend our borders.”

10. Favourite character thus far:

Thus far. I like that caveat. Thus far. My favourite character thus far… No, I don’t like this caveat any more. It’s a jostle between the fox, Skander Rime, and—of all people—the secondary figure of Skander’s manservant.

11. What books have been written or have you read that are similar in style and flavour to your novel?

I would like to meet someone who has read a book that hasn’t been written… I don’t read a lot of fantasy, and consequently my fantasies are rather straight-forward save that points here and there and usually their basic premises are impossible. The only books I can think of which I have read that bear similarities in any way to Plenilune are Rosemary Sutcliff’s Knight’s Fee and E. R. Eddison’s The Worm Ouroboros; but even those don’t help much, as they were only the critical mass which helped me launch into writing Plenilune. Hmph. Inspiration. What a tricky business.

12. If it was destined to become a book on tape, who would you wish to read it?

Oh, boy, this question has never occurred to me before. Possibly Elisabeth Sladen, but since she is dead now I may have to leave this question blank.


It is my understanding that one, once tagged, must tag others. So I had better do that, hadn't I?

Skander pulled on the front of his tunic. “A pretty trick,” he sniffed wryly.

Lies of Poets, Child, Lies of Poets

I like fairy tales. I like hero stories. I like them because, as G.K. Chesterton points out, they teach us something about reality. It teaches us that good and evil exist, really and truly, and that good can conquer evil, really and truly. Fairy tales are a tell-tale hymn of hope back of all our imaginations. We believe in the hero at high noon, we believe in the champion standing in the gap. We believe in dark nights giving way to bright dawns because everywhere we look the blueprint of such a story is staring us in the face.

I like fairy tales and hero stories, but when I write them I learn something. It's hard to write the hero. It's hard to write the fairy. I know. My hero, my fairy, they have to be looked at from the outside because what goes on inside them is so inscrutable. But is it? Is it really impossible for us to look inside?

I hear boys talk of the army and war like it's a grand thing. I hear people talk of police work like it's glory. And something inside of me aches when I hear their words because I know the hero, I know the fairy. I've written them. I've walked with them. I've stared in their eyes and seen the haunted looks, the half-conscious bitterness about their smiles. It isn't glory. It isn't grand. It's hard. Everything depends on the hero, the fate of the day hangs in the hands of the fairy, and that weighs. It isn't all backlight and modeling snapshots. It's hard. It's real.

From a distance we see them uplifted like some kind of pantheon, perfect, capable of taking anything on and winning the day. They always look strong. They never cry. We're not even sure if they can bleed. They seem to pass through the midst of this world without anything seeming to brush them. But if you get close, if you look into their eyes, you realize that isn't true. We write about the glory of a hero's victory and the courage of the fairy, but do we ever write about the pain? Do we ever write about the weight of responsibility, of the fear, of the heartache? Do we write those moments when despair gets its claws into the hero's heart and presses on his lungs like Apollyon's knee? Do we ever write about those moments when it is almost all the hero can do not to run and hide and cry like a child because everything depends on him, and because everything seems so impossible?

It's hard to write that kind of thing. It's almost indecent to bare someone's heart like that, even though it is just a character. But sometimes we need to know. Sometimes we need to hear that a hero believes, only he needs help in his unbelief. Sometimes we need to know that Jesus wept. Sometimes we need to know that life hurts the heroes too. We need to know that victory comes at a cost, and that cost leaves scars. Sometimes the struggle isn't for a world, or a people; sometimes it is for a family, for a single day, for the day after that, and the day after that. I know heroes, heroes that aren't made of ink but of flesh and blood, and they do bleed, and they do cry, and they hide it all away behind their faces that seem to be untouched by the winds of this world. But I know. I know they have heartache. I know they break and tear and unravel in their insides while they try to hold their world together around them. I know my heroes hurt, and somehow...somehow that makes them better heroes than before.

Do we know that? Being a hero isn't glory, it's guts. Being a hero isn't triumph, it's toil. Being a hero is hurting, being a hero is dying. It's written in the blueprint of the fairy tale, of the hero story, if only we look deep enough to see it. And after that we can remember that it is glory and triumph and healing and living, because that is written in the blueprint too.

truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone
but if it dies, it bears much fruit

Salt and Pepper Words: Scribble Samples

I'm a little dazed. We had our annual Thanksgiving dinner with the church family yesterday, and my husband and I signed up to tackle a turkey. Which means we didn't get any rest on Sunday. So I'm a little dazed. Today is technically laundry day, which means doing laundry, but so far I have managed only to wrap some Christmas presents and read in The Reformers and Their Stepchildren. Add a nap to that, and I have not had a very productive Monday, but since I missed Sunday's rest and I have elbow-room to take Monday off(ish), I'm going to think nothing of it.

So I'm going to take this opportunity to give you a peppering dosage of what I have been up to and what I have been writing, and what I have written. As Katie said about her own dosage (and she my inspiration), "they're Something, at least - and that is a good sight better than nothing."

scribbles at a glance

The second in command stiffened by his commanding officer. The wind kicked the commander's plume to one side, streaming it out like the tail of a horse in full gallop. Rhodri was silent. A sound, an irregular clink and rattle, drew Adamant's gaze upward. Over the central building flew the flag of Faerie: a great red banner, tattered at the edges, but still blood-red, with a black, hollow-eyed raven rampant on the crimson. The metal weight of its sheet was swaying in the wind and banging an uneven tattoo against its pole. They must listen, she thought. Then, I am so hungry.
Adamantine

He shook his head, and her words seemed to have only driven him farther away than ever. "It is uncommon grace that Eikin needs, and God has not given me any sort."
Adamantine

Rupert’s image was all sleepy power and there was a light laugh in his voice when he replied. “I know full well where I stand in your heart, Skander. Did you not throw down this obstacle of a wife in front of me because of it? But though you may dislike me, take me not for a blackguard.”

“I’ll take you as you are,” said Skander coldly.
Plenilune

Behind them on the sidewise-blowing wind came the sound of Skander’s hunter and the two dogs coming back to them; with them on the wind came the thin, high scent of late-blooming heather. Down there in that garth that two years ago and for three years had been Rupert de la Mare’s Manor, thought Margaret with a sudden and inexplicable touch of sadness, they would be making perry out of the little brown half-rotten pears of the little brown half-wild pear trees.
Plenilune

How poorly you have sketched my nature!” she said with a flippant and caustic tone. “I have no objection to balls and parties. What is the point of shining if there is no sky to shine in?”
Plenilune

He appeared that morning, not in grim costume to reflect the fate of Plenilune laid out on the blade of a sword, but in a jacket of sparkling white, pristine, supple, comfortable, and stitched with bravado.
Plenilune

and lastly, a quote which is not mine

Christians are not distinct from the rest of men in country or language or customs. For neither do they dwell anywhere in special cities of their own nor do they use a different language, nor practice a conspicuous manner of life. . . But dwelling as they do in Hellenic and in barbaric cities, as each man's lot is, and following the customs of the country in dress and food and the rest of life, the manner of conduct which they display is wonderful and confessedly beyond belief. They inhabit their own fatherland, but as sojourners; they participate in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign country is to them a fatherland and every fatherland is foreign.
The Epistle to Diognetus

Like a Merchant Seeking Pearls

Noble and well-educated souls have no such high opinion of riches, beauty, strength, and other such like advantages, as to value themselves for them, or despise those that want them: and as for inward worth and real goodness, the sense they have of the divine perfections makes them think very meanly of any thing they have hitherto attained, and be still endeavouring to surmount themselves, and make nearer approaches to those infinite excellencies which they admire.
The Life of God in the Soul of Man,
Henry Scougal

I came to this particular passage rather providentially in my reading of The Life of God in the Soul of Man. Henry Scougal puts it as eloquently as Paul puts it bluntly: that all our temporal achievements, whether physical or intellectual, are passing, shallow, thin, and unworthy of praise when compared to the solid perfection of God. I think any one of us would readily, and heartily, admit to that, and I think any one of us would also admit to the infrequency with which we acknowledge the inferiority of our conquests.

Because I am published, and plan to be published again, I will occasionally look around publishing house websites to get an idea of who the authors are out there, what is going in the market, etc. Not that I have been much in the habit of catering to crowds, but I like to know, you know. But as I was perusing a site the other day, a site geared exclusively to publishing works under the heading of "Christian," I discovered something rather appalling and sadly common. As I read the author biography blurbs, who they are, where they came from, what they do, I realized that only one mentioned God. Only one mentioned God in a capacity of singular devotion. Only one author's blurb addressed his purpose as unveiling the Word of God. All the others were full of credentials (he studied here, he has preached to so many people, she runs this organization, she is a founder of this group). Each one so full of man-oriented, inferior conquests.

I could understand, and I would readily forgive, this if it were found on a secular website, or a publishing house that went both ways, "secular" as well as "Christian." But for a site that so ardently sketches itself out as catering to the Christian public, my poor little gullible mind could scarcely believe it. The characters on the screen spelled out the marketing mantras of this world. The credentials of these authors were all about their worldly aspirations and achievements.

Let's not down-play the good of some of these achievements. It's a good thing to have gone through the structure of seminary training, or to have the rigors of fostering a congregation under one's belt. But when it comes to speaking and writing the truth (which is, I assume, what writers who adhere to Christ mean to do) do these credentials hold a candle to a knowledge of the inward worth and real goodness of the divine perfections? Tell me, what really matters in the Kingdom of Heaven? Wealth? Eloquence? The best training seminaries have to offer? When you are called to give an account for the deeds done in the flesh, will you find that you hung out your shingle on the basis of your worldly triumphs ("Lord! Lord! we did all these things in your name!"), or will you find that your credentials were in accordance with the pursuit of holiness?

My father tells the story of his sojourn, like Dante in The Inferno, into a Christian bookstore. In his perusal of the shelves he heard two gentlemen speaking behind him. The first asked how he would know a good book, and the second replied, "Look for this symbol." As my father tells the story he says, "Of course at that point I had to turn around." It was the colophon of the publishing house Banner of Truth, an image of the preacher George Whitfield. In such a simple image, stalwart and be-robed, the publishing house conveys a grim, joyful adherence not to large congregations or stellar education, but to men through the ages who have clung to the truth of God's word above all else. Those are their credentials. That is their eloquence. That is their wealth. Not any station this world has to offer, but the lasting knowledge and growth in knowledge of a truth which outlasts all.

When I am asked "What makes you think that you can write?" I hope my credentials are simply that:

"I know what is valuable in the Kingdom of Heaven."

Completely Mental

For Anna - because, well, she can dance.

The music was Mozart and, though instrumental, was far too fast. I resisted the urge to get up and pace, an urge I have found to plague me strongly in the past few hours. It was really pathetic, I told myself, how worked up I was getting about something so simple. It wasn't as if there was anyone about to laugh at me. The things one does, I told myself, for research!

"Ahem."

My heart froze in my chest. Irreproachably dressed, as if this were serious, he stood in the doorway, leaning a little on the frame to get the most of his weight off his legs. Good-naturedly he had protested the endeavour at first - the advancing cold made him ache - but I had been stupidly persistent and in the end he had given in. I wished now I had not been so forward.

I frowned. "You didn't tell me you were getting all dressed up for this," I said with a touch of irritation in my tone. "I can't possibly stand up in my jeans with you."

"I reserve my views on jeans," he said ominously. Then, with a little sideways twist of the shoulders, he added, "Your hair went up so nicely this morning, I thought it a shame to have you wrestle into your gown. I know you get so very mithered about that. Now, are you serious or aren't you?"

"I - hmm," I said intelligently, and kept my seat.

He held out his left hand imperiously. "Come along, Half-pint."

He had the way about him. I found it impossible to refuse. With a prodigious sigh I rose, my heart still uncomfortably where my throat should be; in three steps I was across the room. A moment later, with my eyes shut as though I were expecting it to sting a little - maybe I did - I put my hand in his. When he made no move, I cracked one eye open. That light, mocking smile of his that had more to do with his eyes than his mouth was flashing at me. "Honestly."

I pulled myself together. "Should I put on shoes for this?"

"I will try not to step on your toes."

Hand in hand, he led me into the next room where there was more area to move about. Pathetically I was shaking a little, from embarrassment and excitement. In reflection, I thought it perfect. She would be feeling much the same feelings herself, under her own circumstances. Thus far, research was going well.

If only I had thought to put on a gown.

My companion took his position and wrestled me gently into my own. The music from the other room was faint now; I only heard little snatches of it. For a moment the sheer, stark reality of the room jostled with my imagination: sofas refused to give way to polished mahogany tables and a piano; the carpet refused to give way to a polished ballroom floor. With grim determination I took a heavy intake of breath and conjured them up for all I was worth, afraid all the while that even the slightest movement of mine would shatter them.

My companion maneuvered my hand onto his arm and took a firm but gentle hold of me. We were ready. I felt him pause, as if listening to the beat in his own head. I kept my eyes fixed on his as if I were grasping a life-line. He counted silently, then suddenly broke off with a splutter, which was very unlike him.

"You look like a cornered rabbit. Relax. I can't dance across from a face like that. Just relax. Think of your feet making patterns in ink, the way your fingers do. With me, now."

And suddenly we were moving. I was half a heartbeat behind him, which made for an awkward beginning. He stepped forward - which foot was mine? - and I stepped backward just as he was gliding to the side. Hurriedly I caught up with him, still as stiff as a poker, my eyes instantly glued on our feet. I began to worry now that he would step on my feet. Unexpectedly he pulled me forward, to the side again, and even turned about in step. I always seemed that half-heartbeat behind; my stomach was beginning to knot.

"Look at me," he said. With a painful hesitation I tore my eyes from our feet. My gaze trembled on his own. "Look at me. Dancing to ink, Half-pint. This is what you do every day. It's just like that. Look at me. Let me guide you."

He was wearing his gloves, his black doeskin gloves, and for that I was thankful; my hands were growing rather sweaty with all this strain. But I cared. Hadn't I told Uncle Raymond that once? If I cared, I stuck to it. For all I felt like an idiot, I was going to stick to it. Obediently I kept my eyes on his, moved when he moved, stiffly, stupidly, my heart in my throat...and then I felt it. It was beginning to flow. Over and over, backward and forward, gliding and turning, backward and forward, gliding and turning. Like Ben-Hur and his horses, altogether one with the lives of themselves flowing in the reins, he and I somehow managed to grasp the genius of the dance. A smile cracked my pensive lips. Dancing to ink, he had said: patterns of ink. Oh, the sofas were gone. The carpet vanished. I was in a Lookinglass ballroom, in a gorgeous red gown, and everywhere there were lights and laughter and the clinking of glass on glass - and perhaps even, if I listened hard (though I did not have much leisure to), the accompaniment of music. I knew, in that annoying back part of my mind which had a way of hem-hemming reality at my elbow, that I was dancing truly horribly in a rather small enclosure, but somehow that did not matter at all. I had ink in my veins. I could feel it rushing through with the beat of my heart.

Dancing to ink. Patterns in ink.

Just at the right moment he stopped, giving me one last turn while the realness of the carpet flashed hot-red into my bare feet, and we stood apart, panting a little. The tables and glass and music were gone. It was just the living room now, oddly bleak after the colour of my imagination. But even now that did not matter either.

My companion gave a little philosophical sniff and pulled at the hem of his coat, adjusting it back into position. "Well, amphibious girl," he asked, "was the research satisfactory?"

"Yes," I gasped, hands on knees. "I think I have the pattern for the scene now. What I do for my stories! I'm completely mental."

"Don't flatter yourself." He wilted gracefully into a chair and leaned his head back against the wall. "We knew that already."

"Ppthbt," I said childishly.

Spacers Between Kingdom Tiles

A little over a week ago Megan, on a Sunday's whim, scribbled down a few of the small, fleeting things that are the delicate pattern of beauty in her life. Little things: little things that somehow matter. Indi, the main character of my published work The Shadow Things, reflects on the problem of the little things:

"Surely there is something that brings the rain and the dry," he said to a little ant toiling by his foot. "Look, even you find food to eat. Who watches over you? Surely not the gods. They are almost too busy and unfeeling to care for us, and when they touch us, it is to kill us."

Who cares about the little things? Who makes the little things that are the exquisite backdrop of our lives? God does, whose power keeps the paradox of the atom from flying all to pieces, whose finger inscribes the invisible lines between the stars. God does, and Megan took the time on a Sunday's whim to chart out some of the little things in her life. It was a treat to read, as I am sure it was a treat to write; she invited others to scribble down a list of their own little things as well. I thought...well, perhaps I might.

Perhaps I might. I felt uneasy, as though I were borrowing her thunder. But I kept thinking about it, dutiful, ever anxious to enjoy myself since I thought this would be an enjoyable exercise of the mind. And then a strange revelation broke slowly over me. Do you remember, as a child, how large everything seemed to you? A single turkey seemed to me a positive ostrich, towering and grotesque, intent on running me off the dirty tract of farm and pecking my hair out. Dogs were like ponies. Ponies were like elephants (I remember the horrified twist in my gut when I was made to trot in my first horse-back riding lesson). When you are a child, everything breaks on your vision as enormous.

And it still does that to me.

I almost hate to do this exercise because it will peel back all my cool, demure layers (which really are a part of me) and get down to that inner core where, let's face it, I'm still just a child. Andrew Peterson sings about the window in the world: have you ever wondered what the window itself feels? Maybe like being run through, run through and broken up on and rattled and overwhelmed and at the same time trying to channel all that goodness... I look at autumn like a man newly stepped onto an undiscovered planet. Every autumn. Every autumn a new planet. Nothing is little. Every cup of tea is a fresh cup of amber. Everything is like living stained glass through which the genius of Christ's light is shining around me. Nothing is little. So how do I remember the little things? Every sharp detail, every piece of mosaic, every thread I can pinch between my fingers that is woven into my life, is enormous. I'm such a child. Here are some of my enormous little things.

  • catching a fresh breeze in my face
  • the Kingdom
  • seeing the sunset rays streaming over the clouds
  • my sister telling me "I love you" when I am upset
  • the hello-goodbye kisses from my mother and father
  • my husband kissing my hand, or ruffling my hair
  • writing a passage so that it rings true
  • discovering the narratives of the Scriptures coming to life before my mind's eye
  • my father's teaching
  • holding a conversation in quotes from books and movies with my family
  • my mother's cooking
  • my sister-in-law's desserts
  • wearing my husband's sweaters
  • finding letters in the mailbox from my friends
  • Uncle Raymond laughing at me
  • the worlds inside my head - fells and dales, downs, river valleys, seashores, farms and quiet streets...
  • Rhodri
  • candle-flame
  • the colour of a blue jay's coat
  • the autumn cry of Canadian geese
  • the little red light that lives far down in a glass of wine
  • the surf-sound of the wind in the trees
  • the giddiness and sudden seriousness of the Tenth Doctor
  • the sound of waves falling, lulling me to sleep
  • Sunday
  • going to cut down and put up my parents' Christmas tree
  • apple-picking
  • when only my husband 'gets' what I mean (fiery horses)
  • the pile of coats on my parent's coat-rack Saturday evenings when we all visit
  • feeling the living throb of my church through my spirit
  • opening Christmas presents with my throwing-knife
  • lying awake Christmas morning, as much a child as ever with excitement
  • seeing a constellation I know
  • smelling woodsmoke
  • Wednesday afternoon walks
  • my morning cup of tea

These are the colours and brush-strokes that make up my world.

Dramatis Personae - Plenilune

Dear jolly goodness, it's been awhile since I've done anything like this. I'm not sure what prompted me to resurrect this little exercise of madness, save that I have been having trouble "seeing" one of my characters. The wretched bloke is positively slippery - like a fish. I say I only want to dissect his character and get a better look at him, but he remains unconvinced, and squirts out of my grasp almost before I have closed it on him. Honestly. It's as bad as Peter Pan and his shadow.

All right, all right. I don't own any of these pictures except - nope, I don't own any of these pictures, but I do own the characters. Very wibbly wobbly. Anyway, enjoy the creative endeavours of a girl overdosed on sea-salt and cracked-pepper chips. Cheers!

Avaunt, sire, avaunt!


Margaret Coventry

The main character of Plenilune. English, twenty, too reserved to be pretty and too pretty to be left alone, Margaret steps onto the scene as the dutiful if unwilling victim of her mother's insistent attempts to make her marry and marry well. She has very little faith in her skills at procuring a husband, she has every intention, all the same, of doing so - partly to spite her own mother. What she had not expected was that a suitor has already had his eye on her for some time and, under the very nose of a rainstorm, without family or friends ever knowing, whisks Margaret clean away to woo her with an iron hand occasionally hid inside a velvet glove. Stubborn, English, proud to her core, Margaret resists with all the will she has and seeks to return home. Even less expectant is the discovery that she has no real home at all.



Rupert de la Mare

Every inch and more a match for Margaret's demure stubbornness, Rupert meets her with chilly gallantry, chipping away at her defenses by the sheer impact of his presence, sudden kindness, and equally as sudden ferocity. He has no little plans for the future of his Honor; his temperament and station allow him ample ambition. Unfortunately his temperament is one that rubs people's fur all wrong, and his cousin, in a desperate bid to stop his head-long career for power, lays him a wager which, if he cannot win, he cannot hold power. Smarting from the insolence, and remembering with a grudge his cousin's move, Rupert nevertheless undertakes to win the wager.









Skander Rime

Skander is a sharp if rather young lord, holding the Honour of Capys from his seat in Lookinglass. His ready wit and gentle, amiable demeanour belie a taste for hunting and war. Though friendly he is not particularly sociable, and after his first distrustful encounter with Margaret he finds a kindred sort of spirit in her coy but stalwart personality. Though he is not sure she feels any sort of friendship in return, he feels sorry for her and sticks his neck out for her, trying to dissuade Rupert from his course - earning him only a deeper enmity with the young lord of Marenové. With the future of Plenilune appearing more and more uncertain on the horizon, Skander feels caught in the middle, concerned for Margaret's welfare and at the same time loathe to spark strife with so powerful an Honour as Marenové.





Dammerung

He was nicknamed War-wolf at a young age for his natural skill in war, his flippant, almost thoughtless ability to see and deliver a crushing martial blow, and his propensity for stalking, with a mirthless sort of cheer, through the ranks of everyone and everything as if only he were material, and everything else but mist. Though counted by age among the young bucks of Plenilune he stands by his own consent and the common consent of the other lords at the head of them all, a living sort of legend-figure with the shadow of death following after him.







The Fox

The fox is a diminutive character, but armed with immense cheek and irreverence. He styles himself as Rupert's ex-jester, though, contrarily, he makes more fun of himself than of his grim master. Being a creature as much chained as she, among all Margaret's acquaintances the fox understands her best and makes himself her closest friend. He is twice as protective of Margaret as Skander Rime, but significantly less capable of doing anything about it, which irritates him extremely. Cheeky, irreverent, dashing (and knowing that he is dashing) he does his best to keep up Margaret's spirits until such time as they can find a way to save her.

* * * * *

This is, of course, not an exhaustive list, but here are the pivotal characters, at the very least, with all their thinly-sketched portraits of personality and two-dimensional analysis covered in little crumbs of chips and tasting unusually strongly of salt. I am proud to say I did not waste time at this exercise, as my novel boasts of an additional near-two-thousand words, which is all I meant to write today. I even got a nap in. Not bad.

Le douce, mon amy, le douce.