A Quivering of Invisible Heat

We are made to feel as if we had seen a heap of common materials so completely burnt up that there remains neither ash nor smoke nor even flame, only a quivering of invisible heat.
The Discarded Image, C.S. Lewis

I suppose one shouldn't feel sorry about 2012.  It's still there, it's just that we're not there ourselves anymore...  Still, it did seem to go by rather fast.  It will be this time next year all over again before we know it.  Why does life hurtle us to the end of itself so quickly?  Why are we all rushing inexorably toward the last question mark on the very last page?  Are we all really that anxious to get to the sequel?  A part of me is.  A larger, treacherous part of me is frightened by the terrific speed at which we are all approaching the end of the book.  I can almost sympathize with Screwtape.  I would despise me too if I were to look at the brief puff of coloured smoke which is my life, if that were all I am.  It rather looks that way sometimes.  Of course it isn't, but sometimes, when the lines I am reading go by so fast that I barely retain them and I forget to look between the lines (or flip ahead to the back of the book and read the teaser for the sequel) it looks like this whirlwind life which gives you hardly enough time to do anything worth being proud of, hardly anything to leave for the sake of posterity, it looks meaningless, and that question mark at the end is so huge...

...What I was going to say was that it is the end of 2012 and I have a list of books I have read this year to share with you.  That was what I meant to say.  I almost started out that way, but my digressive soul went off on a tangent which seemed, to me, pertinent.  I've come back now.  Goodreads said I only read eighteen books this year, but of course that's rubbish because I keep my own notebook of titles I have read and that tells me I have read thirty-three.  But of course that is rubbish too because I only write down new titles and I went through one or two rereads as well.  (Mara, Daughter of the Nile and The Golden Goblet, possibly The Witch of Blackbird Pond, but if there are others I've forgotten them.)  So, just like me, the gist of it is that I don't really know how many books I read this year.  But surely you've come to expect this sort of behaviour from me.  I also am not sure how to organize all these (I used up all my organizational skills on my library post) so bear with me.

I read my first H.G. Wells book The Island of Dr. Moreau two weeks ago.  A very interesting read: good writing, as writing goes, always engaging, and also marrow-chilling in its description of the animals that are "half-human," shuffling about with a weird new law forcibly imposed upon brains that do not know and had no need for morality.  What Wells meant by his book I either discovered and then promptly forgot (having a memory not unlike a sieve) or I never discover it at all; for being an atheist and evolutionist, he does not make a great case in favour of men evolving out of a rank animal ether.  Either that, or he meant to strike a blow at the roots of that tenacious concept of morality, socially acceptable behaviour, and the like.  If he meant to do that, he did it rather poorly in my opinion - but then, I am already strongly biased in favour of morality...

I read a bit of Chesterton and Sayers this year.  The Everlasting Man (good book, but it seemed to wander a little from its original point) and The Ballad of the White Horse (which exhibits that deceptive ease in poetry which makes you think you, too, can turn a beautiful phrase until you try it and learn how deucedly hard it really is) were my Chesterton reads; I had read many of my Chesterton titles before 2012 and I've only recently picked up a few new ones.  Sayers gets the lion's share of attention.  Clouds of Witness, Gaudy Night, Murder Must Advertise (all Lord Peter mysteries) and The Mind of the Maker (one of my favourite titles this year) belong to her.  Out of Lewis I unearthed The Four Loves, Surprised By Joy, and The Discarded Image, the former at the beginning of the year and the latter two just now finished in December.

Courtesy of Abigail I was introduced to Robert Louis Stevenson in the form of Kidnapped and its sequel David BalfourKidnapped has a faster pace (and considerably more Alan Breck Stewart!) but David Balfour will drive you to baldness from tearing your hair out.  I enjoyed them both, but I was a mess over the sequel.  Another 1800s author Theodore Roosevelt gave me the biography Oliver Cromwell, which I tore through in the space of three days and loved.  He deals very fairly with the contentious topic of old Ironsides; his strong appreciation for the man as well as his willingness to admit the man's faults was a breath of fresh air in that long, on-going debate.

I actually read a few "contemporary" books this year.  Ravi Zacharias counts, of course: Can Man Live Without God? and Jesus Among Other Gods.  I still have Deliver Us From Evil to read, which is the only Zacharias book I actually own, but I'll get to that eventually.  The very first book of 2012 was The Kirkbride Conversations by Harry Blamires - a little novel-style book which gives back a bit of dignity to the Anglican clergy.  Diana Wynne-Jones used to be contemporary, until she went and died.  I read Howl's Moving Castle last year and followed it up this year with the two sequels Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways.  Both fun books, though not (in my opinion) as good as the first book.  There is not enough Howl.  I read A Break With Charity, which is technically a reread but it had been so long that I couldn't actually remember the book so I counted it as a new read.

I'm not sure The Art of Medieval Hunting counts as an older book or a contemporary one.  The title seems self-explanatory.  Good book!  It may sound dull, but I enjoyed it.  The Agricola and The Germania by Tacitus definitely count as old books.  These two were my first forays into Tacitus' style and I found him very readable, vivid, and engaging.  (The Agricola actually made me cry.)  Fantasies I read include Starflower (but you already knew that) and the fantastic Riddle-Master series by Patrica A. McKillip.  Many thanks for those go to Mirriam, who introduced me to them.  The Witch's Brat by Rosemary Sutcliff joins Stevenson (and possibly Tacitus) among the historical fiction read this year.  A Girl of the Limberlost sort of floats out there by itself in no real orbit of note.  Strictly Christian books include The Faith of the Modern Christian by James Orr, The Church and the Kingdom by James Denney, The Divine Conquest by A.W. Tozer, The Tome of St. Leo, and Signs Amid the Rubble by Lesslie Newbigin - which was amazing.

If you asked me which were my favourite titles this year, the list would look something like this
The Ballad of the White Horse
The Mind of the Maker
Signs Amid the Rubble
The Discarded Image
in no order whatsoever; they were all influential, well written - my mind was not the same after reading them, nor my outlook on life.

I don't know what all I will read this upcoming year, but I did make a little list of titles I am absolutely going to get through unless they prove (against my expectations) to be complete rubbish.
The Black Arrow - Robert Louis Stevenson
When Christ and His Saints Slept - Sharon Kay Penman
Moonblood - Anne Elisabeth Stengl
The Confession of St. Augustine
On Christian Truth - Harry Blamires
On the Incarnation - Athanasius
Count Zinzendorf - John Weinlick
Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan - James Todd
Mystery and Manners - Flannery O'Connor
Gods and Fighting Men - Lady Gregory
Sohrab and Rustum - Matthew Arnold
The Song of Roland

Which all should keep me busy!  I have, of course, hexed myself by telling you all this, but what can you do...?

Each Separate Dying Ember

And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Edgar Allan Poe

I am encased in an enormous tortoiseshell scarf with a cup of tea on one of those sunny, bitingly cold winter days, I have spent much of the morning reading what you might call "intellectual" literature, and I am about to do some thing which you may consider extremely tedious.  If you are not one for long lists you may skip over this post entirely.

I am of the opinion that you can learn a lot about a person by the books they read; I am also of the opinion that learning what books my friends read is very entertaining busybodiness.  That is my indulgent side talking.  The other side of me would like to strike a blow in favour of non-fiction (fiction seems to do all right on its own), and assure my friends who yet have a wariness of non-fiction that it is not only educational (an odious, painful word) but it can be highly entertaining.  I don't read it just for the research value (which is a great way to ruin a book which would otherwise happily be your friend) but for the simple fact that I enjoy it.  It is true that non-fiction is sometimes harder for an imaginative mind to get in to, but I don't think we should let laziness inhibit us from exercising our minds on a material which doesn't immediately offer up grand images without our having to stir out of our lethargic stupour.  And the more you work at it, the easier it becomes for non-fiction to excite your own genius.  So, in case you haven't guessed, I am about to give you my library in toto.  Again, if you are not one for long lists, don't be bothered.  If you are interested in seeing what I read (and perhaps catching a new author or two) please stay! I've made rough categories for my books, but please know that some genres must necessarily overlap.  I've done my best to choose the greater of shared genres in which to place any one book.  (Titles with links lead to my Goodreads reviews.)


The Princess and The Goblin, The Princess and Curdie, The Wise Woman and Other Stories, The Gray Wolf and Other Stories, At the Back of the North Wind, Phantastes by George MacDonald; The Chronicles of Narnia, The Space Trilogy, Till We Have Faces, The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis; The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper; The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, The Children of Hurin, The Shaping of Middle Earth, The Book of Lost Tales (volumes One and Two), Unfinished Tales, Roverandom by J.R.R. Tolkien; A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, Tehanu, Tales From Earthsea, The Other Wind by Ursula K. Le Guin; Tales of Goldstone Wood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl; The Riddle-Master of Hed, Heir of Sea and Fire, Harpist in the Wind by Patricia A. McKillip; A Wrinkle in Time, Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, An Acceptable Time by Madeleine L'Engle; The Mark of the Star by Liz Patterson; King Arthur and His Knights by Molly Perham; Martin the Warrior, Redwall, Loamhedge by Brian Jacques; Legends of the Guardian-King Series by Karen Hancock; The Sword in the Stone, The Once and Future King by T.H. White; The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison; The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells; The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills by Mary Stewart; The Brothers Grimm; The Devil's Hunting Grounds, Cold War in Hell, Highway to Heaven by Harry Blamires; Pilgrim's Progress, The Holy War by John Bunyan; Rewards and Fairies by Rudyard Kipling; Dracula by Bram Stoker

Historical Fiction

A Pillar of Iron by Taylor Caldwell; Kidnapped by Robert Louis Steveson; The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy; Beric the Briton, The Dragon and the Raven by G.A. Henty; Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace; Tristan and Iseult, Flame-Coloured Taffeta, Warrior Scarlet, Outcast, The Eagle of the Ninth, The Silver Branch, The Lantern Bearers, The Shining Company, Sword Song, Frontier Wolf, The Shield Ring, The Capricorn Bracelet, Heather-Oak-and-Olive, Sun Horse-Moon Horse, Dawn Wind, Sword at Sunset, The Witch's Brat, Simon, The Flowers of Adonis, The Mark of the Horse Lord, Knight's Fee, Blood Feud, Bonnie Dundee by Rosemary Sutcliff; Watch Fires to the North, The Long Pilgrimage by George Finkel; Sir Gibbie by George MacDonald; The Soldier's Cross by Abigail Hartman; The Wrestler of Philippi by Fannie Newberry; The Spanish Brothers by Deborah Alcock; The Cross Triumphant by Florence Kinglsey; Resolute by Robert Pollok; The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper; Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott; Roanoke Hundred by Inglis Fletcher; Time and Chance, When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman; Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz; The Golden Warrior by Hope Muntz; Bloodline by Katy Moran; The Silver Chalice, The Darkness and the Dawn by Thomas B. Costain; Master Skylark by John Bennett; All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriott


To Rule the Waves by Auther Herman; Annals of Imperial Rome, The Agricola, The Germania by Tacitus; History of the English Church and People by Bede; Everyday Life in Prehistoric Times, Everyday Life in Roman and Anglo-Saxon Times by C.H. B. and M. Quennell; Europe in the Middle Ages by Warren O. Ault; Albion by Peter Ackroyd; Dew on the Grass by Eliuned Lewis; The Auxilia of the Roman Imperial Army by G.L. Cheeseman; Roman Life by Mary Johnston; Roman Britain by H.H. Sculland; The Book of the Ancient Romans by Dorothy Mills; Plutarch's Lives; The Republic by Plato; The Roman Way by Edith Hamilton; Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome by Adkins; The Roman Mind at Work, The Greek Stones Speak, the Mute Stones Speak by Paul MacKendrick; The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius; Selected Works by Cicero; Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius by Samuel Dills; Greece and Rome by National Geographic; Mary Queen of Scots by Antonia Frasier; The English Revolution: 1600-1660 by E.W. Ives; The Struggle for the Constitution by G.E. Alymer; The Protector by J.H. Merle D'Aubigne; Oliver Cromwell by Theodore Roosevelt; Prince Rupert by Charles Spencer; Bonnie Prince Charlie by Moray McLaren; A Bully Father by Joan Paterson Kerr; When Trumpets Call by Patricia O'Toole; Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris; The World of the Celts by Simon James; The Master of Game by Edward of Norwich; Roman Britain and Early England by Peter Hunter Blair; 1759, 1066 by Frank McLynn; Endurance by F.A. Worsley; Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan by James Todd; A History of the English Speaking People by Winston Churchill; Arbella by Sarah Gristwood; Illustrated English Social History by G.M. Trevelyan; The Normans by R. Allen Brown; Letters of Marque by Rudyard Kipling; The Art of Medieval Hunting by John Cummins; The History of the Britons by Nennius; Not a Tame Lion by Terry W. Glaspey; Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria by George Dennis; Daily Life in Ancient Rome by Jerome Carcopino; A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken; Dame Margaret by Earl Lloyd George; The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir; The Age of King Arthur by John Morris; The River of Doubt by Candice Millard; The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom; The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton; Tarquinia and Etruscan Origins by Hugh Hencken; The Reformation, The Age of Faith by Will Durant; The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, The Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden

Christianity / Philosophy (often, though not always, coextensive in my library)

The Life of God in the Soul of Man by Henry Scougal; The Kirkbride Conversations, The Christian Mind by Harry Blamires; The Weight of Glory, A Mind Awake, A Grief Observed, Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The World's Last Night and Other Essays, Present Concerns, The Four Loves, The Problem of Pain, The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis; The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy by Bassham and Walls; Centuries by Thomas Traherne; Human Nature in its Fourfold State by Thomas Boston; The Confessions, The City of God, Concerning the Teacher, On the Immortality of the Soul by St. Augustine; The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis; On the Incarnation by Athanasius; The Tome of St. Leo; The Improvement of the Mind by Isaac Watts; Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss; The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel; Glorious Freedom by Richard Sibbes; Morning by Morning and Evening by Evening by Charles Spurgeon; Is God Really in Control? by Jerry Bridges; Basic Writings by Anselm; The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs; The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer; To the Rising Generation by Jonathan Edwards; The Fundamentals by Torrey; Philosophy and the Christian Faith by Colin Brown; Philosophy: Who Needs It? by Ayn Rand; Essays and the New Atlantis by Francis Bacon; The Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus; God the Center of Value by C. David Grant; Orthodoxy, Tremendous Trifles, Manalive, The Napoleon of Notting Hill by G.K. Chesterton; This Momentary Marriage, God's Passion for His Glory by John Piper; The Whimsical Christian, The Mind of the Maker, Letters to a Diminished Church by Dorothy Sayers; Meditations by Marcus Aurelius; The Prince by Machiavelli; The Way of Life by Lao Tzu; Logic by Gordon H. Clark; Signs Amid the Rubble by Lesslie Newbigin; Deliver Us From Evil by Ravi Zacharias

Poetry / Mythology (often, though not always, coextensive in anybody's library)

Beowulf; The Ballad of the White Horse by G.K. Chesterton; The Complete Works of William Shakespeare; A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt; Paradise Lost, Complete Poems by John Milton; Idylls of the King by Tennyson; The Lays of Ancient Rome by Thomas Babington Macaulay; Sohrab and Rustum by Matthew Arnold; The Song of Roland; Poems by William Cullen Bryant; Gilgamesh; The Divine Comedy by Dante; India's Love Lyrics by Laurence Hope; The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam; Prince of Annwn, The Children of Llyr, The Song of Rhiannon, The Island of the Mighty by Evangeline Walton; The Book of Conquests by Jim FitzPatrick; The Mabinogion; Mythology by Edith Hamilton; The Viking Gods from Snori Sturluson's Edda; The Prose Edda by Snori Sturluson; The Babylonian Genesis by Alexander Heidel; Gods and Fighting Men by Lady Gregory; The Tain; Poems by C.S. Lewis; The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun by J.R.R Tolkien; Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; Le Morte D'Arthur by Malory; The Iliad, The Odyssey by Homer; The Serpent's Teeth by Ovid; Antigone, Oedipus Rex by Sophocles; The Aeneid by Virgil; A Selection of His Stories and Poems, Departmental Ditties and Barrack-Room Ballads, A Choice of Kipling's Verse by Rudyard Kipling; The Book of Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker


Lord Peter Short Stories, Whose Body?, Murder Must Advertise, Strong Poison, Gaudy Night, In the Teeth of the Evidence, The Five Red Herrings by Dorothy Sayers; Father Brown Stories, The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton; The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens; The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle


A Break With Charity by Ann Rinaldi; My Side of the Mountain by Jean George; Children of the River by Linda Crew; The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig; The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare; The Dog of Bondi Castle by Lynn Hall; Mara Daughter of the Nile, The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw; The Fiddler's Gun by A.S. Peterson; Carry On Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham; The Story of Sir Launcelot and His Companions by Howard Pyle; The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen; The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett; Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes; A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter; Not Regina by Christmas Carol Kauffman; Augustus Caesar's World by Genevieve Foster; City: a Story of Roman Planning and Construction by David Macaulay; The Crimson Fairy Book, The Yellow Fairy Book, the Green Fairy Book, The Orange Fairy Book by Andrew Lang; Enemy Brothers by Constance Savery; Captains Courageous, The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling; Flame Over Tara by Madeleine Pollard; Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen; Irish Folk Tales by Henry Glassie; The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame; Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott; The Little Lame Prince by Dinah Maria Mulock; The Fairy Caravan, Jemima Puddle-Duck by Beatrix Potter; Chucaro: Pony of the Pampas by Francis Kalnay; Justin Morgan Had a Horse, King of the Wind, Sea Star by Marguerite Henry; The Great and Terrible Quest by Margaret Lovett; Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin; Hittie Warrior by Joanne Williamson; Flash of Phantom Canyon by Agnes V. Ranney; The Wild Mustang by Joanna Campbell; Nabob and the Geranium by Judith Miller; English Fables and Fairy Stories by James Reeves; Sam Pig and the Dragon by Alison Uttley; A Gathering of Days by Joan W. Blos; Archimedes and the Door of Science by Jeanne Bendick; Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo; The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly; Guardians of Ga'Hoole: the Journey by Kathryn Lasky; Skald of the Vikings by Louise E. Schaff; The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli; The Ides of April by Mary Ray; Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll; The Lamplighter by Maria S. Cummins; Sir Knight of the Splendid Way by W.E. Cule; Fables by Aesop; The Gammage Cup by Carol Kendall

Literary Fiction

Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion by Jane Austen; Watership Down by Richard Adams; The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte Yonge; Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte; Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens; Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

On Literature

First Principles of Verse by Robert Hillyer; Anatomy by Henry Gray; The Concise British Flora in Colour by W. Keble Martin; Elements of Style by Strunk and White; The Element Encyclopedia of of Magical Creatures by John and Caitlin Matthews; Character Naming Sourcebook by The Writer's Digest; The Discarded Image by C.S. Lewis


The Help by Kathryn Stockett; Mystery and Manners, The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor

"It Is Not Your Raging Silence Anymore"

In my latest A-Z post for Adamantine I mentioned my use of silent dialogue and I realized (too late) that I could be misconstrued in my meaning.  How amusing that that should happen to me while I'm talking about dialogue and communication...  It's possible that you thought I meant internalizing, thoughts, that sort of thing.  The dry, ironic part of me which is more like Rhodri digs me in the ribs on this point because I consider myself really bad at writing down people's thoughts in books, and yet Margaret, unlike Adamant, never talks to herself so that all of her thoughts must, necessarily, be done in that awkward, odious manner of italics, accurately disjointed (as thoughts often are) and yet logical enough to keep the reader.  I have painted myself into the proverbial corner and there is nothing I can do but slog it out and hope it gets a little easier as I know Margaret a little better. 

A little late for you to come into an inheritance of caution! she thought angrily.

But that is not what I mean.  Both Margaret and Adamant (I have not yet delved deep enough into the characters of Gingerune to determine their relationships) are closely linked to one other character in their stories.  I'll readily admit that these two circumstances probably stem from my own extremely interconnected friendship or soul-link with my husband, and perhaps admitting that right off the bat will help you understand what I mean by silent dialogue.  Maybe not.  Between these four characters there is such an easy, unquestioning link that they need not speak to each other to know what the other is thinking.

If you have ever experienced this level of connection, you know that's all very well for you, but the potential difficulty lies in communicating this voiceless communication to the reader and that is why I am concerned that, being too ready to indulge in this kind of conversation (there is less room for flippancy in it and more chance for warmth and camaraderie), editors and readers might look at me askance.  Happily I'm skilled in the abstract (as skilled as a blind drunk man is skilled with the quarterstaff) and silent dialogue is very abstract, and somehow (unlike Lewis I have not yet the knack for watching my own abstract step out of its spectral shape into something you can poke and bleed) by some magical art of wordcrafting, I have thus far managed to communicate the movement, the energy, of two minds in union.
[He] got up, his fists clenched, a ring of blackened gold around the crest of him; taking her eyes off the wreck of Bazel Púka, Margaret saw, for a moment, a kinship between him and [Rupert] which had never been before, which would never be again.
A look in the eye, a turn of the head, a change in the atmosphere.  I'm dealing with things the characters do not speak, but feel, and I must make it visual in such a way that it translates to your emotions, so that you feel it as well.  How I do it, I am never sure.  I almost never think, "Here I go, I am writing now," when I am writing (it is more like an enchantment than anything else) and there is no formula for the art - no formula for souls of potent mixtures in thin skins.  So when you asked me what I meant by silent dialogue, I thought, "Ah ha, I will tell you!  ...No, I can't."  But you're smart cookies.  I've watched you react to my writing and I am sure you get it now that I have haphazardly explained.

I dare swear, the hardest part of being an author is being asked how I do what I do.

I - Interlocutors

“Because I belong to neither world,” she replied icily. “Because I am neither fairy nor Catti and am caught between the two worlds, having no particular world of my own and therefore I am the bridge between both sides.” She jerked her arm toward the door. “Now let you leave me alone before I say something I regret.”

Conversation!  Dialogue!  Very difficult when two of your characters are laconic and the third is shy.  I don't consider myself a bad hand at dialogue - I think I'm equal parts strong in narrative and dialogue - but from day one Adamant and I were stuck (both of us of shy turns of nature) between two people who would as lief kill each other as talk to each other, and would, childishly, bait each other into tempers.  And I wasn't always equal parts strong in narrative and dialogue; in the course of my many run-throughs of Adamantine's manuscript, I had some pretty awful dialogue to chop out and spruce up.  Take for instance the occasional but inevitable verbal jabs from one character to the other.  I'm sure you know how easy it is to nitpick and carry on really in the most childish, inane manner.  Both my characters are grown men fueled by racial and personal prejudice; I had to avoid nitpicking and make sure what dialogue there would be was as sensible as two people under such conditions could make.  Of course I didn't always avoid it.  Sometimes I stuck my foot right in it.  But hey, I learned, and after awhile the dialogue began to develop a ring to it.  The ring of weapons against each other, but a decent ring nonetheless.
“Would you two be quiet?” growled Eikin sluggishly.
Rhodri flung his arms suddenly around the back of the couch in a rakish gesture. “Why?” he roared out of some hidden depth of his chest. “Was someone drinking last night?"  His voice twisted in scorn.  "Drinking his heart out, perhaps?"
The framea sliced the horsehair backing on the couch less than an inch from Rhodri’s side. Adamant let out a horrified cry and nearly dropped the cup she was holding.
Coming back to Adamant herself.  She has had it rough, bickered about, disliked, judged, and pestered on all sides.  Thankfully her childhood - which is not so very far behind her - was pleasant and stable, which gave her an underlying strength beneath the worried tempest of her heart.  When Imraldera of Starflower chucked the snarling cat Eanrin at Glomar's face in a fit of exasperation over their bickering, I could laugh and truly appreciate it (no, really, I was in the middle of college presentations and I nearly shrieked out loud).  Unfortunately for Adamant, Eanrin and Glomar were probably only going to pull out some fur: her own companions are primed and ready to kill at a moment's provocation and while there is no time to weigh words, she, caught in between, has to be doubly sure what she says is the right thing to put out any impending volcanic explosions.  Despite being naive, I found her to be pretty sensible, all told.  She often had a high, almost impossible ideal and she was often affronted when people did not match up to it, but she could also be very no-nonsense (the only thing that keeps an idealist from being a fruitcake) and while it took some time for me to develop a good handle on dealing with the interactions between the three of them, that particular trait stood her in good stead.

But it wasn't always difficult.  There were times when the dialogue was really rewarding, almost surprising, when one soul and another actually came together in companionship.
Eikin spun the shaft in his paw and lowered it again. “What do you think about so quietly?” he asked.
Adamant looked round at him. “Things,” she replied vaguely. “And you?”
“The same.”
But then, the warmer the companionship, the easier it is for me to slip into silence. I rather think I am too good at silent dialogue; I don't know if it's entirely looked upon with favour among the reading populace or literary agents or editors.  I get the feeling they all want things done by the book, as it were, and actual dialogue is one of those things.  But then, I had mastered silent dialogue before I hammered out decent conversations, so my perception is skewed and my strengths unbalanced.  I suppose that is fitting, considering my character...
“How did you get away?” The question tumbled out of her mouth at Rhodri, and she was unaware of how woollen it sounded in her tired mouth. If it were not for the yellowness of the fire, he might have looked pale as a ghost, and he was wet and ragged and worn out; she was still not sure he was really there. “I thought I would never see you again.”
Easing forward, he picked up a larger branch and placed it crosswise on the fire. The buds at the ends glowed scarlet and burst into flame. “Would you have minded if you hadn’t?"
Very difficult when two of your characters are laconic and the third is shy.  It makes jokes sparse - save for a sense of dramatic irony on the part of the reader, I suppose - and conversations are often left hanging (as in the case of the above) really as if they have been suddenly dropped at the end of a rope and had their neck snapped.  Plenilune is not this way (and is even more full of silent dialogue than Adamantine) but the characters are all different and drive each a different kind of conversation which has been both entertaining, enlightening, and nerve-wracking to create.  To take those odd shapeless creatures of metaphysics and spirituality (which word has had its spine cut out, I fear, but what can you do?) and crush them into words and feed them through the mind of the main character Adamant so that the reader hears the whole conversation going on around her and with her throughout the book has been a huge challenge.

Thankfully the challenge was divided over, I don't know, five years or some such, so I'm not actually dead or insane and I can still accomplish the words-putting-into-sentence doing myself...

I Bleed In the Same Vein As Lewis & Chesterton

I changed my mind and have decided to embark upon as succinct a riposte as I can manage to the question about magic and romance in fantasy. I have already given a broadbrush view of my take on romance in Between the Music and the Lyrics and Oh, Darling, Let's Run Wild Together.  In brief, some who haven't experienced a romantic relationship either try to argue it away (which is silly, because there's nothing the whole world over like it to which one can compare it) or are too shy to tackle it.  The latter is less egregious a mistake than the first in that it recognizes an honest lack of skill set and one doesn't want to proceed if one doesn't know what one's doing.  On the other side of the spectrum, people assume that once you have waded into a relationship (what a dull, insipid, shallow word for such a plunge of two souls into each other!) an author is bound to embark upon what folk call "adult novels."  I know Anne Elisabeth Stengl was asked if she was going to do this, and she said "No!"  I think if anyone asked me I might have an epithet before the negative...  But what I think both of us would admit to is that our subsequent writing of romance has improved.  What people mean by "adult novels" is vulgarity.  What my fellow readers and writers need to consciously realize (you realize it deep down, but let's bring it to the surface) is that there are acres upon acres of romantic landscape in a "relationship" which are unbounded to the imagination.  Too many of us try to package romance into such a straight-laced box that, far from shaving off all the sins (sins have a way of getting in, no matter how you try to keep them out), you end up divesting your characters of all the blood and fire and sensation that make them so gloriously human.  (Reference Abigail's post Burning the Straw Men.)  There is far more to human interaction, romance and the construction of romance included, which is lawful than you might be willing to admit.  I don't blame you; we live in a time which is heir to the slow, inexorable destruction of meaning and absolutes: what are men? what are women? we believe they are more than intelligent animals, more than creatures driven by finely honed survival instinct - yet, to keep them from descending into animal behaviour, we put them in cages.  Like a zoo.

“I know the high arts and the Golden Tongue which men of old spoke to shape the world, but I use them but rarely since men now are often low and mealy, and it is not sporting fair to come among them as a god come among worms."

Which segues into my view of "magic."  Because of God's decree against witches (which we are all familiar with), anything extraordinary or supernatural in fiction is liable to frighten us and drive us away.  But let me respectfully break down the dividing walls which our culture has, probably inadvertently, placed in our minds separating the biblical narrative from anything historical, futuristic, and real.  There was a man in an ancient garden who walked as a king of the earth beneath his feet, who ruled land and sea and sky and everything in them, a man with power who knew the secret names of things.  It is no legend; he actually lived, and he lived long and, with some struggle, prospered; and fathered nations of great, inventive men who grasped the earth between their hands and bent it to their will.  These antediluvian monarchs of the earth lived for unimaginable years and their stories, passed down - awful and powerful and etched in a cruel, bloody calligraphy - slowly devolved into the little petty stories of the gods we know today.  Once they were human, enormous, powerful, giants in the land, still clinging to some glory of mastery of the world.  If we were to meet them today we would be astonished.  It would be fantastic.  It would be like magic. 

We fear "magic" because we are rational now, sceptical, living in a world of atoms and chemical construction and mute though beautiful biology.  We fear "magic" because we instinctively ascribe all that is supernatural to either demons or the Son of God (but we still divide them from the world of atoms and chemical construction, of course).  We fear "magic" because we have no idea what it is or what we really mean by it; we watch the ancients cower under a sky rent by a thunderbolt and call it superstition because our time can explain the sky exploding into light. 
Just because we know how it works does not mean it isn't magic.
Wherein is the mastery of the human soul?  Wherein is the god-like regency of a race populating a world full of wonder and colour and expression?  We pity and abhor the small, petty witches who play with dark powers too much for them and fill their minds with lies.  There, we know instinctively, is a "magic" to be rigorously avoided.  It is unwholesome.  It is unholy.  But every now and then (less now than when the world was young and the sun brighter than it is now) we get a man of power, a man of vision, and he has half a right by virtue of his strength to stand in the great shadow cast by the mighty men of old.  We try to explain away his greatness - the fault of his education, the circumstance of his home life - but the truth of it stands: the man was great.

Don't tinker with a fear of "magic," don't tinker with an understanding of mankind.  No mother today stands her boy up and straightens his tie, polishes his shoe, and tells him he comes from a people who were once noble and terrible and ruled the earth.  But it would be true.  And the fact of the matter is: it will be true again.  Man is not done being majestic.  Man is not done being the "stones of a crown."  Men like Tolkien and Lewis, and Chesterton before them, wrote the way they did because they were not deceived into believing that the shabby, tattered fabric of the world now is all that there will be, is the only reality, the end-all, the holy backdrop against which men shuffle in their dance like circus monkeys.  We are in the middle to latter half of the story: the glory is diminished, but not put out; the gods are buried, but not dead; the magic of a purer air seeps through a heavenly casement and, out of place in a world that hardly knows them now, a world they hardly know, men are learning the mastery again. 

What else do you call the Kingdom?  What else do you call the promise that Jesus will make all things new?  It is not some detached, airy-fairy notion for which we have no real mental image.  But the problem is, what sketches we are given in Scripture - and in the oldest of the old stories - are as boldly thrown upon the canvas in a blood-red ink as the stories of man's tyranny.  It is frightening.  We played with ideas of ghouls and spells and witches and called them evil - because they are - and said it was magic, and divorced outright all stamp of power completely, little realizing what legacy runs in our own veins, what treasure the hinged bone of our skulls hide, or the charter of creation which was given to us at the very beginning.  We are being made men again, made, not only in the imago Dei, but once more in the imago Christi.  By love and thunder, what a story it makes, too!  And man's realm then (as it was in the past) will be a fitting setting for such a race of monarchs. 

"The great colossus: Man," I called him once.  I still call him that.  Jesus, in some and very important ways unique, is in other ways (for us very important) only the first fruits.  Our heritage is one of power and authority, mercy and love.  I have said it before, I will say it again.  My take on magic in fantasy - my own fantasy - is that: that it paints bold and red and beautiful the humility and the mastery of man.  Too long we have forgotten the rock from whence we were hewn, too long we have ignored what we are becoming.  We read Lewis and Tolkien and think what nice stories, and so well written, so full of virtue, and the blow between the eyes somehow misses us that the crowning jewel of God's creation was a fine creature and a damned fine creature, and is now a bloody redeemed fine creature, and magic - for now perhaps a mere child's drawing of what is really meant by a halo and what is really meant by holiness - is skirted in haste.

So Heavenly Love Shall Outdo Hellish Hate

Farewell, happy fields,
Where joy forever dwells!  Hail, horrors! Hail,
Infernal world!  And thou, profoundest hell,
Receive thy new possessor.
paradise lost, john milton

Which quote is, perhaps, more appropriate (or inappropriate? how does one define these things?) for Dragonwitch, but as Dragonwitch has not come out yet, who but the author is to say?  We carry on; the men of the East may spell the stars, and times and triumphs mark, but the men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.

I notice that, at the end of book reviews on blogs, people tend to say something like, "I was sent a free copy of this book via its publishing house for in order to review, my thoughts are mine and no soul's else - take it or leave it, so there!"  And so, take it or leave it, I was sent a copy of Starflower, fourth book of the Tales of Goldstone Wood series, to review under no sense of obligation but mine own: it's a free book from a beautiful series by a fantastic author so the sense of obligation on my side was about as high and as self-centred as that of the cat-poet in this book.  I say free: it's more of a bartering system: they give me a free book, I give them a free review.

The review.  I wrote what I lie to myself by calling more professional reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, but here on The Penslayer things are less formal so here I simply want to talk about what I thought and why I liked this book. Where to begin...?  By telling people that there may be spoilers, I suppose.  There may be spoilers.  

I love that, though Starflower happens some sixteen hundred years before Heartless (the technical beginning of Tales of Goldstone Wood) the reader is not jarred by a sense of disconnect.  I suppose the Faerie realm helps that: where is the disconnect when the people who populate the background of Heartless and Veiled Rose are immortal and have lived through that span of time?  I love also that, though Starflower is history compared to the previous three books, there is history beating under the bones of Starflower too - who are the Brothers Ashiun, and what terrible thing did they do that carved their names so deeply into Faerie lore?  I love history.  I love it when novels have history.  I admire the delicate way Stengl weaves well-known fairytale principles into the story (okay, the frogs were a little less delicate, but what can you do?) such as the girl and the wolf and a very faint reminiscence (which could possibly be only my imagination) of Snow White.  I love Starflower's own history which explains why she is so different from all the other women of her people: not a forced history, not a sudden alakazam, deus ex machina, she's a strong-spirited girl unlike everyone else.  Her own life, so different from those of other women, reasonably shaped her into herself.  If I were wearing my cap I would take it off to Stengl over that point.

And then there is the Hound.  As I have attempted to do with Beowulf and Adamantine, Stengl as done with Starflower and the famous, beautiful, heart-wrenching poem by Francis Thompson: The Hound of Heaven.  I did not realize until I was nearly done with the book that Stengl had placed the first stanza of the poem in the back of the book for the reader's enjoyment and education.  I had already been introduced to the poem and had read it in full online, so the unabashed, unapologetic arrival of the Hound upon the scene took me less by surprise and more by a sense of terrific wonder.  If you have not read the poem, Stengl and I both urge you - implore you - to go do so.  Look, I've even left a handy-dandy link so you don't have to go through any trouble: The Hound of Heaven.  It's longish, but gorgeous, and tears down the stuff of dreams and thin sky-castles and the weakness of human flesh and the angry self-sufficiency of the human soul and leaves nothing but him.  And when there is, at the core of all things, himself, all things array themselves aright and the world - even the wretchedness of it - aligns to perfection.  Read it.  Read them both.  I dare you.

that is why I love starflower

Not Without Honour

The thing about Character Letters is that I don't usually intend to do them.  Ordinarily, my characters are all close and tight-knit, and they don't usually have occasion to write each other letters - why would you, when you can just jog on down to the breakfast table, or throw aside a partitioning curtain, or raise your voice a fraction, to be heard by your closest friend?  And yet I keep doing Character Letters.  It must be an obsession.  I trust they are not superfluous, however; many of these Character Letters (well, what few I have so far) really do happen.  The problem with Character Letters - or letters of any sort - is that they reveal the heart and the day-to-day work of the writer, which is in a fair way to being a spoiler of novels that have not been published yet.

a character letter from gingerune

My dear cousin,

            By the time you read this I will be gone—and you will not miss me!  Not until the day that I return, reckoning and to reckon, and you will rue those years that are gone, gone forever, those years in which I was silent and gone away from your midst.  So for a space, my dear, you have a little reprieve from the hammer of my prophetic anger.  I have no doubt in my mind that you will ill-use my silence has you have ill-used my cry.  Do not pity me, should familial ties stir you to a sense of pity: I have cried for years in the wilderness, so that the wilderness to which I go is not unfamiliar to me.  I go out now to overturn the ancient stones and to find the book which writes itself.  Oh yes, my dear—did you shiver?  I will come.  Of that have no doubt.  I will go and uproot what you sought to bury and find what we all had lost.  Heaven and Earth are set against you, my dear, and for that I am almost sorry.  Almost—but I find we buried my own pity more deeply than the earth-secrets, you and I.  My only regret now is that you do not know what you have brought down upon your own head and you have not sense to fear—to fear me and your own fiery god against whom I go out to war as our grandsires did in the Old Days.  But you will not fear, nor will you miss me! for, can anything good come out of the White Cyclamen? 
            That is for me to prove, and you to rue when I come.

H - Horseshoe Place

The last A-Z post I did for Adamantine was all the way back in October, concerning the Ghiraranna.  I'm currently in the midst of tinkering with a few edits for Adamantine, recovering from the month-long dash to reach another 50,000 words on Plenilune, and quietly brainstorming for Gingerune.  So I have all three novels on the brain (which is not very surprising, I know - what else occupies my imagination?), so the topic for today's A-Z post in refreshing.

I suppose it’s not really my business,” the lad broke into her thoughts, “but is it a nice sort of love you’re in?”
She shook her head to clear it. “I’m not—in love,” she said, blushing.  “I was just thinking how nice your farm is. It is a very lovely piece of land.”
The lad nodded, shoving his hands into his work-clothes in a careless gesture. For a moment he regarded Andor askance, who sat patiently gazing up at him, hoping for a pat. “Aye. It is a good sort of love, then. An’ it is a good place,” he agreed: “an horseshoe place.”
Her mouth twitched. “Yes.” 

Here's another theme that runs not only through all three novels (in varying degrees) but also through my life: the sense of belonging: the sense of a place reaching out and pulling you in and loving you as fiercely as you love it.   There are a lot of novels written about people trying to find their place in the world (whatever world that may be, this one or the next one, or one completely imagination), and we're all acquainted with that painful story of rebirth as a character grows into himself.  What we don't often see is the world growing into the character, of the world finding a weak point in the character's armour, of flying through the chink and stabbing him through the heart and never leaving off that acute and loving pain of ownership.  A world like that of Faerie, weird and wild and totally foreign to our determined but naive heroine, while trodding on her skirts and catching her up with danger at every turn on the one hand, on the other steals over her heart with a sense of the anguished slavery of love.  Her tenderhearted nature answers to the land with a sense of belonging and being owned and the whole land takes on for her - as it has taken on for me - an image of grace.  A living genius.  A canny place.

a horseshoe place

Giveaway Winners Announced

As promised, today is the day to announce the winners of the November Blog Party Giveaway.  To reiterate:

There will be TWO winners
Each winner will receive a copy of BOTH The Shadow Things and The Soldier's Cross.

Cool deal?  Abigail and I drew lots, I got thrown overboard and was swallowed by a big fish, and the winners of our giveaway are

Lynette and Elizabeth Rose!

Congratulations, girls!  I'll be emailing Elizabeth Rose (since I can't remember your address and I think I deleted that email) and Abigail will in some way (possibly by carrier pigeon) be getting a hold of Lynette, so that we can get your addresses and ship your autographed books your way!  Thanks for participating, everyone!  Deo volente, we'll be doing more giveaways in the future. 

The Fool Among the Gold

"And so you came, as you are always wont to come, when you are most needed."

Due to my overachieving speed with which I tore through NaNoWriMo, right about the beginning of the second week of November I had it in my mind that November was over and it was surely now December; by the middle of week two I was thinking seriously about Christmas.  Writing will really mess with your perception of time.

But it is December now and our month-long blog party with all you cheeky folk and our novels has come to an end.  It was a lot of fun, judging from your comments you all enjoyed it, and I do want to thank all of you who shouted it out and also hosted both Abigail and me on your blogs.  Your support means a lot!  Abigail and I should have the winners of the giveaway up no later than Wednesday, December 5th, so keep an eye out!

And now, out of the enormous chaos of literature I have slashed and punched and shattered off the annoyingly immovable bulk of my stubborn and embittered genius, I give you snippets.  Gee golly, I've earned a snippets post.

NaNoWriMo Snip-Whippets

"I could take his head between my hands and crush his skull."

Everyone’s head was up and all eyes were on Skander and poor Periot, save Rupert’s—he lounged panther-like on his log, staring into the heart of the fire: a smile slunk across his face. She did not know why she did it—the blood rang so loudly in her ears that she could barely hear herself and she had the feeling of being disconnected from herself by a sharp blade of terror.

He pulled off his cloak and took his things into the adjoining bedroom to unpack. “Spencer!” he called back. “Would you bring a light? It is black as pitch in here.”
Hesitating in the dark doorway of her own little room, Margaret looked back: in the shadows of the other room she could see [him] moving about—a great distance off, it seemed just then—and suddenly she hurt for him and could not move, for to move would make the pain only worse.

"It is God's own ink the devil writes."

Honesty is the greatest of our misfortunes, and caring second greatest.” 

Rupert’s face turned white and Margaret felt the air grow thin. Had he been any other man, he might have brushed the mockery off—had it been any other mockery, he would have. But one thing that Margaret could say for Rupert was that he took his love and hatred seriously and did not cover them in laughter. She could almost hear the sheath of his patience clatter to the floor as he removed it.
“By his Infernal Majesty and my Lord Adam,” he breathed—the glass pane behind him splintered with a hundred spider-fine cracks— “take back your words, or I’ll put them back.”

What did she want? she asked herself with a sudden unkind fierceness. To tidy the place like a nursery, free of any sharp objects that might hurt someone, to be sure of a happy outcome like a little girl reading a fairytale? But that was not what had at first repulsed her from these people, and what had eventually drawn her. With their thin skins, quick to take offence and to defend their bantam plumage, these were men who lived among danger and swords and blood and put a great price on honour. They had not turned their world into a nursery. They loved their world fiercely and their world loved them still more fiercely back—the high winds of the fells rushed at that moment around Lookinglass, thrumming ominously in the walls. 

"I'm afraid this is a problem that will not go away with the shooing of it." 

He got up; he was taller even than she; she had the impression of some Egyptian obelisk—a totem of a death religion—being raised in her face, its cold cultic shadow making her pupils jump wide open in her eyes. 

After a pause, Rupert reached up and jerked the chin-strap free on his helm and slung it off to rest it on his knee; his face, now bared, was at once grim and handsome; his brow was silvered and sanguine where the rim of his helm had left a weal and the sweat had pooled in the depression. 

He shows signs of pride even now.”
“A congenital trait of humanity,” said Margaret, goaded by a spasm of philosophy. 

Do we lie when we are only human, and not gods, and bear ourselves up on a thrill of greatness? And what are humans, after all? Should we consider ourselves thoroughly cheated if we happen to find a little of the fool among the gold?”

But Margaret was left standing, stunned, in the middle of the floor; in that unguarded remark she found herself facing the vivid scene of her last night in Marenové with its whirl of lanternlight and Rupert’s face, forever fixed before her in a kind of wretched, golden horror, looking back at her with the expression of one riven to the heart.

"Best not kick over this bee-skep, sirrah." 

Pertinent Questions With Impertinent Answers

"Is everything a joke to you?"
"Uh, only the funny things."
The Avengers

The following are the questions which Bree (of Tea and Bree) sent in for the party and the benefit of you all.  They were very good questions, but I never promised an absence of drollery. 

1. What inspired you to write The Shadow Things?
I was partially inspired by the little novel Sun Horse, Moon Horse, a heart-wrenching and beautiful story, but also by an annoyance with people who, having become Christians, are prickly and discontented with their lot.  We all know that story.  Many of us live that story.  So what does it look like to have a person contented and growing in righteousness despite all circumstances attempting to invoke the opposite?  What do fortitude and patience, faith and peace look like?  In The Shadow Things I attempted to sketch a picture of those virtues in the lives of a few otherwise insignificant people whose “footsteps yet remaining do testify that they were indeed holy men who, fighting so valiantly, trod the world under their feet.”

2. What was the first feeling you felt when you found out The Shadow Things was accepted, and going to be published?
I was so floored that for a time I refused everything but food and drink.

3. How much time daily do you spend writing?
I don’t write every day (though a day doesn’t pass when I’m not thinking about one or several of my novels) but when I do I spend four hours, twenty-two minutes, and five seconds writing…

4. How long did it take you to write The Shadow Things?                                
I tend to say it took around two years.  It is not a big book (it surprises me how quickly people tear through it), but then it was my first serious novel; though I had learned how to write before that, I had yet to learn on The Shadow Things how to scrub off a novel and make it thoroughly presentable, and of course that takes a little time.  I’m told I was made to rewrite quite a bit of it at one point, and the person who claims to have told me to do so keeps apologizing to me for it, but I don’t actually remember any of that happening so I suppose I have forgiven her…

5. Could you be persuaded to share a snippet of one of your first written works of literature, unedited?
Let me think…  No.


A Question For Each Freckle

 I was tagged by two separate people to receive the Liebster Blog Award, once by Rebelise of Rebecca's Pen, and once by Katiebug.  I am not going to follow the normal rules (I'm really quite dreadful when it comes to that sort of thing) but I am going to answer their questions for you as they fit so nicely into the vein of my blog party!  All of my stories, including The Shadow Things, managed to worm their way into these answers.  They have a way of doing that.

Rebelise's Questions

1. L.M. Montgomery or Louisa May Alcott? 
Ooh, aah… Gee, I feel like a minority under the acute blaze of this question. To be honest, neither. Montgomery’s Anne Shirley stories were certainly amusing at times (I would sometimes catch snippets while my sister-in-law read them aloud to Abigail in some years past) but I only read Anne of Green Gables and I was never much motivated to read anything else. The same goes for Alcott, except that I didn’t like the one book I read (Little Women) and I did enjoy Anne of Green Gables. In the defence of Little Women, I have to say that I did read it for school and, in the defence of Little Women, looking at my bookshelf, I see I do not often read books with women as the main characters…

2. Do you listen to music while writing? If so, how important is music to your writing process? Do you do anything special to integrate music into your story-writing? 
Usually I do. Depending on how diligent I feel (or how focused) music may or may not be superfluous to keep me on track; sometimes sifting through my brain and hunting down songs on YouTube proves very distracting and I will often fix upon a single song and hit “repeat” all day long while I work. The type of music is not always important; whatever it is, its basic function is to create a sound barrier between myself and the rest of the world so that I stay cocooned inside my task. You can see I have thought about this.

3. If you could have one of your original characters meet a character from your favorite book, which would these characters be? 
Ooh, now, there’s an interesting question… I have got to the point at which I no longer have favourite books. There are too many good books—I can no longer call one my favourite. But…that’s dashed hard! Perhaps Rhodri from my book Adamantine and Simon from the novel of the same name. They may be quiet and grey-coloured enough not to spook each other out of a conversation.

4. What is your biggest crush on a fictional character, if you ever had one? 
I’ve never had crushes, but I have always had a deep attachment to Justin of The Silver Branch, for he is such a sweet, intuitive fellow. I have a great admiration for a dozen other characters, but Justin has always been sweet and kindly, a little stubborn, good-hearted, and loyal, and I put a high price on those qualities.

5. If you were writing a historical fiction novel, what time period would you choose for the setting? Why would you choose that time period? 
Well, I did. I chose insular, post-Roman Britain. I say post-Roman; it was still rather Roman, for it clung to its Roman roots as long as the spark glowed, but the Western Empire had effectively crumbled and Rome had made it quite clear that Britain’s petitions for aid could no longer be answered. Why I chose that time period, especially since these great facts of history are essentially unimportant to the story, I cannot tell you. It was the time period that the story chose, and I wrote it that way.

6. Would you want your story illustrated? If so, what kind of artistic style would you prefer? (manga, traditional, cartoonish, sketchy . . .?) 
No, I don’t think so. I think it would be neat to have a cover by Sakimichan, whose art is very vibrant (though I cannot, in good conscience, say I like all the pieces), and as I get the impression from other people’s impressions that my writing is also vibrant, those seem to work well together.

7. What is the biggest distraction for you while writing? 
Myself. Once I get going I am usually a good little engine, but buckling down and overcoming the inertia is often difficult, and as I am the Engineer-in-Chief who oversaw the laying of the Path of Least Resistance, I will often amuse myself in other ways before I finally get down to business. To defeat the Huns.

I had to say it.

8. If you have done or are currently doing NaNoWriMo, how do you set aside the entire month of November for writing? 
I am, and I don’t. NaNo isn’t so much about shunting work out of the way to tackle writing as it is learning a precise balance so that everything, including your writing, is accomplished. My sister does this best—she also has a fuller plate than I do and a disposition naturally attuned to balance—but I have a home with cleaning, laundry, and meals to attend to, without which life will suffer greatly, so I have to learn balance. It really is not that hard, you just have to remain diligent.

9. What are your thoughts on college as a writer? Do you view college positively, or as a hindrance to a writer? 
For myself, I could not qualify how bad college would be for my writing. I think it might be akin to Mr. Murdstone putting Clara in a cage and breaking her spirit. That sort of thing. Or Ginger—poor Ginger!—of Black Beauty. I need vent for fire and spice and “scope for the imagination.” I am acquainted with how little scope college wants to allow you.

10. If you had to choose, would you emulate from Charles Dickens’ writing style, or from George Eliot’s? Explain your choice. 
Neither. And I will direct you to this post to read my explanation.

11. What do people in your life think of you writing? Do they approve, or do they think you’re strange? 
A good bit of both, I imagine. Everyone has read The Shadow Things and most have read my latest manuscript of AdamantinePlenilune is not fit for anyone’s eyes yet—so they have a good idea of my style and what I am capable of (digging people’s hearts out with spoons) and they seem to enjoy it. I think it would be naïve to say someone with as many characters, plots, landscapes and emotions embroiled in a constant war in the brain could be anything but a little strange.

Katiebug's Questions 

1. Do you outline before starting a novel? If so, how extensive an outline do you create? 
I don’t. I did outline for The Shadow Things, which did help, but I found it left me with a bare-bones story and I had to go back in and flesh it out anyway. I tend to have a general idea of where I am going, but my writing is very organic and grows and develops in itself as I go, which a rigid adherence to an outline would not allow.

2. Do you profile your characters to flesh them out and make them as realistic as possible? If so, would you share the template or basic outline you use? 
Actually, I don’t. (My word, I'm so negative!)  Again, like my plots, my characters tend to be organic and often very Athenian. I may use Beautiful People to explore them, but the characters themselves usually drop like a thunderbolt out of the air, fully formed and complete with their own personalities. It is no more different, really, than meeting a person on the street—except that you know more about the character before the first meeting than you do about the stranger on the sidewalk.

3. Do you force yourself to finish a writing project before starting on a new one? 
In a broad sense, yes. I haven’t seriously begun Gingerune yet because I am still thigh-deep in the bloody muck of Plenilune—like Christian in the slough, the more I struggle for the shore, the more Plenilune sucks me in. And anyway, I wouldn’t be able to do either plot justice if I tried to focus on both seriously at a time. As ideas come to me, I will write them down, but for now it is just Plenilune.

 I don’t have many of them! Honestly, I don’t. I may have little one-shots that I will scribble when I ought to be scribbling something else, but at present I have an orderly bunch: Adamantine, finished and pacing in the paddock, Plenilune, which I am still trying to get the mastery of and which seems to be getting the mastery of me, Gingerune, rather more spirit at present than anything with a body I can put a bridle on, and Between Earth and Sky, which has been let out to grass for so long it has become placid and fat and will gladly wait a little longer even though I love the beastie and am anxious to get back to it. But they are all pretty polite fellows and wait their turn; it helps that I usually get so deeply entrenched in a single story that to work on it is enough to satisfy my creative genius.

5. Once in a while, we all write characters that scare us for one reason or other. How do you deal with these characters and the emotions they evoke in you? 
So far my only difficulty with being “afraid” of a character is being afraid I will not write him properly. They come to me to be written, I don’t usually go to write them, and some of them are so awful or so splendid that I wonder, “Can I possibly capture the soul of this character and do it justice?” It can be frightening, but so far, somehow, I have managed it, so I try to trust to my own skills and run forward helter-skelter, hoping I won’t fall on my face. As for the truly frightening characters, I always feel a sense of dark success when I write them, for to get the ring of evil as truly as the ring of goodness is equally important for a storyteller; I am never afraid of them, but once in a while, when one of them—the pooka, perhaps, or Rupert de la Mare—cut cleanly with the grain of evil, I sit back and revel a little in my vessel of dishonour which I have made.

6. Bronte sisters or Jane Austen? 
I can’t fairly answer this, Katiebug! I haven’t read any of the Brontes yet, though I have read Austen.

7. Peeta or Gale? (This has everything to do with everything.) 
Does it? I am sure they are both very nice people in their own way—(“Yes, but what kind of people…?”)—though I couldn’t say as I have met neither of them. (Run—run away from this question!)

8. Do you people-watch? Do you find this inspires you to create more relatable, three-dimensional characters based on your observations? 
I don’t. I know Rachel does it, and does it well, but I don’t really like watching people—they can be very scary—and I’m a bit daft when it comes to picking up on mannerisms and suchlike. I’m an intuitive learner: much of what I get goes into my subconscious to be sifted out later and probably at the most inconvenient time.

9. Do you write best when warm and cosy indoors, or outdoors with the sun in your face and the wind in your hair? 
Oh, I like the wind and the suchlike, but there is too much scope for the imagination out-of-doors. You try rounding up your mind when it has so much wideopeneness to run away in. There is absolutely no barrier between myself and everything else outside. I need to be put in my little corner with my scores of sticky-note notations, a cup of tea and a strain of music, and then—and often only then—can I go into that odd trance which is writing.

Here There Be Humans

Merlin: "Great legends were made here."
Arthur: "With you as the hero?"
Merlin: "Of course."
The Last Legion

Arthur and his knights are referred to as the Matter of Britain, and Charlemagne, with his men and their stories, is called the Matter of France.  What they have in common are that they are populated with heroic men (grown into something like gods with the passage and distance of great time), and that they are beautifully limned illustrations in the long and on-going epic tale which is the Matter of Earth.

...whatever the size or anthropomorphisms of the dragon, it is not the dragon - never the dragon - that fascinates. The dragon draws the edge of the shadow of truth the tale tells, but it is the man who is most fantastical.

When we read Chesterton's account of King Alfred (standing here in stead of Arthur) in The Ballad of the White Horse, or of Charlemagne and Roland, we are not so fixated on the overwhelming Saxons or the invading, seemingly unstoppable Muslim armies as we are on the staunch demeanour of the heroes - afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.  When something so obviously fantastical as Bard the Guardsman stands forth in the midst of rack and ruin and fires off one arrow of faith we are struck, not by the thundering pressure of air and the sparks floating on the wind with the imminence of the dragon, but by the sudden shining beauty of the simple Man.

This is the Matter of Earth: the story of man's war to win himself back from beneath the dragon's foot and to set his foot on the neck of the dragon.  We have all read the story of our Champion, our Arthur, our Charlemagne, our Christ.  We aren't struck so much by the conspiring groups of men and angels gathering about our Lord throughout the story, searching, waiting for an opportune time at which point they would strike him down.  Our attention is held by the Man Himself, a Man acquainted with grief, a Man of passion, a Man of tenderness, a Man in whose hands was healing and in whose tongue was a biting sword.  We are astonished, not by the supernatural characters, not by the odds, not by the circumstances that surround him - we are astonished, among all this, to find, very simply, a Man.

When I read Anna's post on uninteresting things and uninterested people I told her at once that I must write a companion post to it.  Over a month later, I am doing so now.  I want to bring it home to you, with as smart and clear a ring as I can strike with my own martel, that all you find fantastic in the genre fantasy is but the setting and the backdrop, the stage design, for the really fantastic figure: man.  What is more astonishing in Chesterton's story of Alfred than the stinging rebuke: "But upon you is fallen the shadow - and not upon the Name; for though we scatter and though we fly, and you hang over us like the sky, you are more tired of victory than we are tired of shame"?  What is more astonishing in the story of the man and the dragon than that the man puts his heel on the neck of the dragon and cracks it?  We read a story in which a man is overcome by death - that most inexorable of enemies - and death itself is overcome by him, and we are not surprised on death's part, but on the part of the man.

Anna is right: the genre of fantasy lacks much of its power because it often leans on the broken reed of imaginary creatures, forgetting that the real spotlight is on the unimaginably fantastic figure of man.  That mind so quick and cunning, that psyche so capable of both power and compassion, a will of dominion and tenderness, a creative spirit like that of our God, quickly outshines the wit of the brightest Sphinx, outstrips the splendour of the fairest Bird of Paradise.  The gleam was in the feat of Hercules, not in the golden skin of the apples.

Which is why Plenilune, as I half-lamented, half-crowed, is so full of show-stealers.  The point is not so much the fantastic backdrop of its world (nor the world of Adamantine, nor that of Gingerune), but the feet of the humans in those stories, beautiful feet upon the mountains, coming down with a blow to rock the worlds to their cores.  The point is not to throw some relatable characters in amongst a strange, alien world, but to bring the surprisingly alien spirit of man out in stark relief and to show you that this is where the real fantasy lies, this is the true source of life's wonderment, this is the Matter of Earth.

do you remember when we went
under a dragon moon,
and 'mid volcanic tints of night
walked where they fought the unknown fight
and saw black trees on the battle-height,
black thorn on Ethandune?