"You Want Me To Put the Hammer Down?"

I am simply beside myself with glee to inform you that I got to do an interview with Mirriam Neal of Thoughts of a Shield-Maiden.  (Oh yes, it was like pulling teeth to get in.  Mirriam didn't want to do an interview...)  She and I had a blast.  She came up with some fantastic questions for me to answer about myself and The Shadow Things.  I'm going to give you a peek, but go see the rest for yourself!  Thank you again, Mirriam!  You are simply too much fun.

sneak-peek question

Who was your favourite character to write?

Honestly, Indi was. Since day one, page one, with the pending storm and Thern and the beetle, I enjoyed writing Indi. Even in his worst, confused moments he was a familiar, safe sort of person to be around and work with. And I learned a lot from him, too. You can’t go through a story like that and watch a fellow hold up in the name of God and for the love of God under such provocations without all the doctrines and principles you hold becoming something more than just words to you.

(Be sure to pick up an extra packet of enthusiasm at the door!  I took three.)

A Return To Splendour

At some point in your life, no matter what you are doing, you are bound to ask yourself, "Why am I doing this?"  You may ask yourself that because you realize you genuinely don't want to be doing what you do anymore; you may ask yourself that because you genuinely want to know why you do what you do.  I fall into the latter circumstance.

Up until very recently I was content to write for several reasons: I have an avid imagination and writing is a way of venting that, writing is my way of communicating, writing is my familiar battle-ground, and I seem to be fairly good at the sport.  These are all passing good reasons to do what I do, but they were always reasons to me, not purposes.  I could tell myself that I mean to take a stand for what is right (and I do) and put some truth back into the world for all the truth that is quashed out of it.  I could tell myself that is my purpose, and God willing it is my purpose - and the purpose of each child he leaves on this growing-less-silent planet.  But it's a bit of a broad purpose, and there are many who do the job far better than I.  I'm not a man, I'm not a preacher, I'm not an evangelist, nor am I keen on usurping their position.  So what do I do? I wondered.  Why do I do what I do and what is the point of it?

Suffering from acute weariness and not wanting to pitch out of my chair in a fit of unconsciousness in the middle of the sermon, I sat out the second hour of Sunday morning worship in my father's office at church in the company of two books.  The first was Charles Spurgeon's Flowers from a Puritan's Garden and the second was A.W. Tozer's The Divine Conquest.  The apologies, the defences of both men for their books, struck a chord in me and seemed to sum up what I had been trying to think but had not yet been able to put into words.

"...I might claim for myself the testimony of Elihu...'For I am full of matter, the spirit within me constraineth me.'  And his fear that if he did not speak he must as a new bottle 'burst asunder' is well understood by me.  The sight of the languishing church around me and the operations of a new spiritual power within me have set up a pressure impossible to resist.  Whether or not the book [The Divine Conquest] ever reaches a wide public, still it has to be written if for no other reason than to relieve an unbearable burden on my heart.
"...The pressure of which I speak may be nothing more than the squeeze and stress which result from the effort to be good in a bad world and to honor God in the midst of a generation of Christians which seems bent upon giving glory to everyone else but Him."
A.W. Tozer, The Divine Conquest 

"Time is short, and it behooves each one to be working for his Lord, that when he is called home he may leave behind him something for the generations following.  Highly shall we be favored if the gracious Master shall accept our service now, and grant us the consciousness of that acceptance; happier still if we may hope to hear him say, 'Well done.' "
Charles Spurgeon, Flowers from a Puritan's Garden

I don't write theologies or commentaries on the Scriptures or the state of the Church.  I write fiction: a little historical, a lot fantastical, with characters as large (or larger) than life, with the colours of jewels and danger and triumph and high sentiment and all that sort of stuff that seems totally out of this world.  This world keeps dreaming of gods and heroes and Golden Ages, and I want to tell it why.  I may not always write a story to redemption, but I hope I will always write a story of redemption.  That's why I write - that's why I must write.  I must tell the world that the looking-glass it is peering into that turns the heartscape into sharper, more colourful images is a window, not a reflection.  I write to pull back, a little, the veil of shadow things that comes between us and the world to which we truly belong.  I write to bring about a return to splendour.  God forbid I should ever write idly: I mean the words and word-pictures that I write.  I mean for you to believe me when I write things "larger than life;" I mean for you to believe

there's a loyalty that's deeper than mere sentiment
and a music higher than the songs that I can sing
(stuff of earth competes for the allegiance
I owe only to the giver of all good things)

So that is my purpose: I write to bring about a return to splendour and to make us feel, a little, a very little, that the weight of glory is weighty indeed.

Guest Interview - J. Grace Pennington

J. Grace Pennington (of the blog that shares her name) has just recently launched her debut science-fiction novel Firmament: Radialloy, and has invited me to participate in her book tour.  I got to interview her about her new book, and here's what I found out.

from the back

The year is 2320. Andi Lloyd is content with her life as the assistant to her adoptive father, a starship doctor, but her secure world turns upside down when she begins uncovering secrets from her past. When her father mysteriously starts losing his mind, she finds that she can no longer count on him to guide or help her. With mutiny breaking out on the ship, and two factions desperate for a valuable secret she holds, she must race to help her father and herself before time runs out.

 from the horse's mouth

1.         Other than C.S. Lewis’ The Space Trilogy, I haven’t read a lot of “science-fiction.”  In light of that, can you bring me briefly up to speed on your book?

Firmament: Radialloy is a Christian young-adult sci-fi book, the first in a series.  It introduces us to Andi Lloyd, a young girl who works with her father, who is a doctor.  That doesn’t sound very sci-fi, until you realize that her father works on the starship Surveyor, which has been their home for many years.  But in the course of the book, mysteries from her past are revealed, the doctor starts mysteriously going insane, and various factions determine to gain a valuable secret her body holds.

2.         Did you consciously choose to write a science-fiction novel or did the genre choose itself?  Is science-fiction a genre that you read a lot of?

I don’t read much science-fiction at all, though I hope to read more soon.  I do, however, watch a fair amount of science-fiction, and I love it.  Since the novel was somewhat inspired by Star Trek, I guess you could say the genre chose itself.  I had, however, been interested in writing science-fiction for awhile before I wrote the novel, and had long been convinced that it was an important genre for Christians to be involved in.  So I wasn’t adverse to the choice.

3.         Tell us about your main character.  Is she a lot like you, or is she pretty much her own person?

Andi is a lot like me in many ways.  She has some of the same strengths and weaknesses, but she also has some strengths that I lack and wish I had.  For instance she’s very affectionate and sometimes sarcastic, with a good dose of doubt and impatience, like me, but she has a certain confidence and assurance in herself that I don’t have.  So she’s a bit like a dramatized version of me, in some ways.

4.         Would you mind giving us tasty excerpt from Radialloy to give readers a sense of your style and the book’s content?

(I struggled with what sort of excerpt to share--an actiony one?  A tragic one?  A fun one?  I finally settled on one of my favorite light-hearted bits, near the beginning, which gives you a taste of some of the relationships.)

      Positioned near the window was the small table, where the Captain and one or both of his close friends often shared a drink. I approached the Doctor and stood behind him, laying a hand on his shoulder.
     “Are you all right?”
     He shrugged, and I let my hand fall away. “I’m just so tired. Maybe I’m getting too old for this job.”
     “Oh, nonsense, Gerry.” The Captain finished the dregs of his drink and pushed his cup away. “You do a fine job. You’re just a little run down. Maybe I’ll hire a nurse sometime, let you take a vacation. It’s been too long since your last shore leave.”
     I hated when the talk of nurses came up, and I cut him off as soon as I could without being disrespectful. “Did you get any rest earlier?”
     The Doctor shook his head. “I tried, but couldn’t sleep.”
     “Go rest, Gerard,” Guilders suggested, pushing his drink aside and moving a checker.
     The Doctor shook his head. “I’ll go in a minute. What did you need, Andi?”
     “Nothing, I just...”
     “Would you do me a favor, then?” the Captain asked.
     “Yes sir.” I straightened up, prepared to take orders.
     “It’s just that Crewman Baker always forgets to dust my books. I would do it myself, but Guilders wants me to play...”
     By Guilders’ quiet scoff, I gathered that it was more the other way around, but I smiled. “Of course.”
     “Cloths are in the cabinet. Thanks, Andi!” The Captain moved his piece.
     The Doctor grunted. “Trent, you’re a big boy. Can’t you keep your room clean yet?”
     “Never learned,” the Captain said, studying the board.

5.         What books or movies or people helped inspire Radialloy that were not science-fiction?

Laurie R. King’s book The Beekeeper’s Apprentice was something of an inspiration.  I liked the central relationship between Russell and Holmes, and how strong and deep yet bantery and realistic it was, and I wanted the same general feel for the relationship between Andi and the Doctor.  Honestly though, most of the influences were science-fiction, other than general writing influences.

6.         Who would you say this novel is written for?

The target audience is Christian young-adults, so it’s geared for ages 13-21 or so.  However, I intentionally made it very clean as far as content, so I hope that younger kids can enjoy it, and I hope that older readers will be able to enjoy the story as well.  But the theme, the content, the tone, and the style was all written with teens and early twenties in mind.

7.         I understand Radialloy is part of a series.  What are the other upcoming books that readers can look forward to?

The series is intended to be eighteen books long, and the other books are In His Image, Machiavellian, Reversal Zone, Gestern, No Man, Eleftheria, Humanoid, Intoxication, Till Death Shall Part, Timestream, Wandering Jew, Hypochondriac, Programming, Pandemonium, Phagocardiosis, Myopia, and Stars (titles subject to change).  In His Image is written and awaiting revision, and Machiavellian is in the drafting stage.  I’ve also written bits and pieces of scenes from Gestern, Till Death Shall Part, Programming, Phagocardiosis and Stars.  I don’t like to lose good scene ideas, so I jot them down as they come to me.

8.         Can you tell me what inspired these unique names?

I’m going to do a whole post on titles later, but the short of it is that each title is based either on the theme or the premise of its corresponding story.  Some of them are rather obvious, some of them are made-up words, some of them are cryptic and mysterious.  As for Radialloy, that is a made-up word that is the name for the central object of the book.

9.         Is the novel “overtly Christian,” or is it simply written on Christian principles?

 This particular novel is overtly Christian.  Andi and her father are Christians, and there is occasional praying, Bible quotations, and the topic of God and Christianity frequently comes up.  Not all my writing is overtly Christian in nature, but all the books in the Firmament series are.

10.       I understand you have a busy year charted out with lots of writing projects in the wings.  Roughly speaking, can you tell me how long it took you to write Radialloy itself?

Yes, it’s going to be a very busy writing year!  Radialloy took exactly sixty-six days to write, and two months is a pretty standard time for my novel writing.  The revision stage was much longer, with at least ten revisions spread out over two years.  But it was my first revision, and I had a lot to learn, so I’m hoping future revisions won’t be quite as hard.

Thank you for having me on your blog, Jenny!

You're very welcome, Grace!  As for the rest of you, Firmament:Radioalloy can be purchased on Amazon in either paperback or Kindle edition.  To keep abreast of J. Grace Pennington's work be sure to check out her website and blog, or follow her on Twitter (@jgracetheauthor).  There are more books to come.  Check it out!

I Took The Man Literally

"To hold a pen is to be at war."

I do.  I do take the man literally.  Having watched thousands of years' worth of men picking up pens and overthrowing and building up worlds with them, I do take Voltaire literally on this score, and I have to draw my quill from its sheath for a moment.

I read a single line on a social media network which made me pause.  The line was, simply, "Tolerance takes the place of convictions."  It rang odd in my mind but it sounded more plausible than not and, as my mind was occupied with other things at the moment, I let it slide.  But now that I think about it, the line is too simple - and, at the same time, the line is too dangerous.  I found I largely disagreed with it.  Allow me to explain my reasoning.

I believe the idea behind the saying is that, if we "tolerate" a position or paradigm we know to be wrong, though we don't actually say anything we will be tacitly understood as approving of that position.  And of course we don't want to be misunderstood.  We hold fast to our convictions.  As Christians, we don't want there to be any mistaking what line we hold and we want everyone to go away from us assured that we are in hard pursuit of holiness.  Let me be the first to say that such a conviction is admirable to the highest degree.  However, it is perfectly in our capacity to make our own position clear without being intolerant of the positions of others.  Believe me when I say I have watched the affects of "intolerance" on a human being: more often than not it only drives the offending party deeper and deeper into his paradigm, not out of it.

I have recently studied in brief a juxtaposition of the religious tolerance of England in the 1600s and the United States of the late 1800s to early 1900s.  The juxtaposition was very brief but very remarkable.  The tolerance of the 1600s (characteristic of the tolerance in the preceding centuries and many after it) was fairly nonexistent.  No matter the sect, no matter the denomination, when it made an outcry for freedom and tolerance, it could not bring itself to extend the same freedom and tolerance to anyone who chose to think differently.  The results stand out: the Spanish Inquisition, the Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day Eve, the Bishops' Wars, the Kappel War, to name only a very few.  In those days, differing opinions could not be tolerated.  Religious or civil (religious and civil, as in the case of, say, the Anabaptists), deviation from the official view was rigorously stamped out.  The history of Europe is a great study in how to be intolerant.  I do not believe this is a Christ-like mindset.

So what do I believe?  I believe that "tolerance" and "compromise" are not the same thing.  For the sake of civil peace and for the peace of men's souls I will, in most cases, advocate tolerance - but greatly for the sake of men's souls I will not advocate compromise.  On matters of our faith, "who are you to judge the servant of another?  To his own master he stands or falls; and stand. he. will. for the Lord is able to make him stand...  Every man must be convinced in his own mind."  Furthermore, I believe in the power of the work of the Holy Spirit, who works in us the righteousness of Christ and reveals to us in his own time in each of our cases his person and his will.  Thomas a Kempis most excellently said, "If one who is once or twice warned will not stay, contend not with him but commit all to God, that His will may be done and He, who well knows how to turn evil into good, may be honoured in all His servants."

What of the defects of those outside the believing body?  Well, do we live in a theocratic state, or are we citizens of the incoming Kingdom of Heaven living as aliens in a foreign country?  Those outside the Kingdom are yet operating under the old law, the law of sin, and cannot do otherwise.  If we were to be intolerant of them the death camps would pale in comparison.  For ourselves, we see as our example in Jesus a most excellent charity, never of compromise, but in as far as possible living at peace with all men, "encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near." 

"Courteous Words Or Else Hard Knocks..."

"...are [a warrior's] only language."
The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis

I told Mirriam I would do a quotes post for Adamantine as I did for Plenilune.  It has been a while since I thought actively about Adamantine, since I only have a little more editing to do and really no serious constructive work.  I've been focusing the brunt of my energy on Plenilune.  Additionally, it has been what amounts to years since I first began Adamantine.  That is a lot of ground to go back over, a lot of muddled thought to sort out.  This could be some kind of interesting.

* * * * *

And then when Beowulf needed him most Wiglaf showed his courage, his strength and skill, and the boldness he was born with.

"...we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out."
Hugh Latimer

"Of this be sure, to do ought good never will be our task, but only ever ill our sole delight."
Paradise Lost, John Milton

"For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds..."
II Corinthians 10:4

I am a question to the world,
Not an answer to be heard,
Or a moment that's held in your arms.
And what do you think you'd understand?
I'm a boy - no, I'm a man.
You can't take me
And throw me away.
from "I'm Still Here" in "Treasure Planet"

"You're the last of our far-flung family.  Fate has swept our race away, taken warriors in their strength and led them to the death that was waiting.  And now I follow them."

Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
from "Amazing Grace" by John Newton

They spent five days on the farm, and it was during those five days that Justin first really discovered Britain.  The bare winter woods dappled like a partridge's breast, the slow, broad voices of the farm-hands, the lapwings on the winter ploughland; the low, long house itself, built onto by succeeding generations but holding still at its heart the smoke-blackened atrium, used as a storeroom now, that had been the original houseplace, built by another Marcus Flavius Aquila making a home for himself and his British wife and the children that came after - those were all Britain to Justin.
The Silver Branch, Rosemary Sutcliff

...half-sunk, a shattered visage lies...
from "Ozymandius," Percy Bysshe Shelley

"Look here," said Ransom, "one has to be careful about this sort of thing.  There are spirits and there are spirits, you know."
Perelandra, C.S. Lewis

I know there's hope in anger
And tenderness in shame;
Sometimes I find You
On the other pain.
But sometimes in the heat of day
When I close my eyes to pray
It seems like You are far from me:
My prayers are all in vain.
In my hour of hopelessness,
In my deep despair,
The noonday devil whispers in my ear.
from "Noonday Devil," Fernando Ortega

"...if I cannot move Heaven, I will raise Hell."
Aeneid, Virgil

There's a loyalty that's deeper than mere sentiment,
And a music higher than the songs that I can sing;
Stuff of earth competes for the allegiance
I owe only to the giver of all good things.
from "If I Stand," Rich Mullins

"He has inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters at the boundary of light and darkness."
Job 26:10

We wonder, and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro' the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragments huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.
from "Ozymandius," Horace Smith

The young Centurion, who had been completely still throughout, said very softly, as though to himself, "Greater love hath no man - " and Justin thought it sounded as though he were quoting someone else.
The Silver Branch, Rosemary Sutcliff

In Others' Words

Look unto the rock whence ye were hewn.
Isaiah 51:1

Originally this was a lighthearted thought, then I began to listen to Audrey Assad's "Show Me" (again) because it pertained to this post (again); and it's extraordinary how solemn I become when listening to those words...  But I'll try to be lighthearted, for all our sakes.

I really enjoy doing the monthly "Snippets" posts, I really do.  There is a powerful strain of the child in me that delights in pulling out my word-paintings and showing them off and putting them up on the fridge and all that.  But I'm not all Snippets, I'm not even all novel.  Just the other day an aunt and uncle came to visit, and my uncle expressed his perplexity in sorting out the origins of his own thoughts because, as he said, he has read so widely and deeply and imbibed the thoughts of so many others that it is now impossible to determine if a doctrine or idea that he holds was conjured first by him or was planted by someone else.

I was cheered to hear this because I am just that way myself.  Everything begins to blend together into a contiguous whole in my mind and I can't always remember who thought what.  So in honour of all those others, whoever and wherever and whenever they may be, I want to take a minute to jot down some of the quotes that are not mine, but inspire me when I write Plenilune.

* * * * *
"Love is a force to be reckoned with."
Abigail Hartman

"Not a whit.  We defy augury."
Hamlet, William Shakespeare

For one thing, they were all as fair-skinned as himself, and most of them had fair hair...  Most of them had legs bare to the knee.  Their tunics were of fine, bright, hardy colours - woodland green, or gay yellow, or fresh blue.  Instead of turbans they wore steel or silver caps, some of them set with jewels, and one with little wings on each side of it.  A few were bare-headed.  The swords at their sides were long and straight, not curved like Calormene scimitars.  And instead of being grave and mysterious like most Calormenes, they walked with a swing and let their arms and shoulders go free, and chatted and laughed.  One was whistling.  You could see that they were ready to be friends with anyone who was friendly, and didn't give a fig for anyone who wasn't.  Shasta thought he had never seen anything so lovely in his life.
The Horse and His Boy, C.S. Lewis

"Hell is empty and all the devils are here."
The Tempest, William Shakespeare

"Good wombs have borne bad sons."
The Tempest, William Shakespeare

"We deal not in the menace of shadows."
(I have since forgot.)

"Whatsoever troubles beset a king, he would care only to rule over a free people."
King Alfred

"Whosoever is overcome of desire and turns his gaze upon the darkness, he shall look on hell and lose the thing he loves."
from The Golden Warrior

By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon named Night
On a black throne reigns upright;
I have reached these lands but newly
From an ultimate dim Thule -
From a wild clime that lieth, sublime,
Out of Space - out of Time.
Dreamland, E.A. Poe

"Pray that thy last days, and last works, may be the best; and that when thou comest to die, thou mayest have nothing else to do but die."
Vavasor Powell

The whole world is a theatre for the glory of God.
Richard Sibbes

You could raise me like a banner in a battle
Put victory like a fire behind my shining eyes
I would drift like falling snow over the embers
But for now just let me lie
"Show Me," Audrey Assad

This world is as wild as an old wife's tale,
And strange the plain things are;
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.
from Christmas Poem, G.K. Chesterton

Aikin's How still looks down on Keskadale and the low ground toward Derwentwater, marking the place where Aikin the Beloved was laid, with his great sword Wave-flame in his hand and his hound Garm at his feet, after the last battle of all.
The Shield Ring, Rosemary Sutcliff

"To hold a pen is to be at war."

Lord Brandoch Daha sat still in his golden chair, scarce changing his pose of easeful grace.  But all his frame seemed alight with action near to birth, as the active principle of light pulses and grows in the sky at sunrise.  He looked at the Queen, his eyes filled with a wild surmise."
The Worm Ouroboros, E.R. Eddison

"Don't!" said he.  "Oh, Lewis, you don't understand.  Take me back to Malacandra?  If only he would!  I'd give anything I possess..."
Perelandra, C.S. Lewis

Thank Heaven! at last the trumpets peal
Before our strength gives way.
For King or for the Commonweal -
No matter which they say,
The first dry rattle of new-drawn steel
Changes the world today!
from Edgehill Fight, Rudyard Kipling

I sing of warfare and a man at war.
Aeneid, Virgil

Your grace rings out so deep,
It makes my resistance seem so small.
"Hold Me, Jesus," Rich Mullins

 With all simplicity, with the gracefulness and graciousness which singleness of eye bestows, move freely amongst the elements of time with a heart full of eternity.
Robert Candlish 

"It is a new beginning - a new beginning, Esca."
The Eagle of the Ninth, Rosemary Sutcliff

Take My Hand and Run Fast

Some of you may know there have been some media developments in my life.  I've had this blog for several years now and it's been a great way to share what I have been working on and spill my thoughts and generally interact with other writers around the globe.  It's perfect for someone with long-winded thoughts like myself.  But recently I realized that I need a media that caters to the staccato-beat, so, with significant trepidation, I got a Facebook account and a Twitter account.  If you happen to be on either of those, you will now be privy to all the little, significant things that happen in my life -

Like the fact that The Shadow Things and The Soldier's Cross Kindle editions are on a June-long sale on Amazon for $0.99!

And that Apple has a free Kindle app for your iPad so, if you don't have an actual Kindle, you can still download ebooks.  (You're welcome, Apple.)

Book Signing!

This news is a bit bigger.  Our publisher, Ambassador-Emerald Intl., is hosting an on-site book-signing and we would love to see you there!  If any of you regulars can make it that would be fantastic: it would be great to meet you in person and chat about books.  And even if you can't, it would be great if you could spread the word.

What:  Book signing for The Soldier's Cross and The Shadow Things
Where: Ambassador-Emerald Intl.
427 Wade Hampton Blvd.
Greenville, SC 29609
When: June 15, 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm / June 16, 10:00 am to noon

(Not to put them on the spot, but Ambassador-Emerald is a branch-out from the original house in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  And the proprietors are Irish.  Which is pretty cool.  Come and see!) 

Beautiful People - Ella FitzDraco

"Oh, I don't mind two, not when they're little ones," said Fledge.  "But I hope the Elephant 
doesn't want to come as well."
The Magician's Nephew, C.S. Lewis

They just keep coming.  Every way I turn someone new is springing out of my plot.  Due to the nature of the story and the social strata in which my characters are moving, the children of Plenilune don't often make appearances, but this one, at least, seems to have made it in.  Now, I'm actually pretty bad at coming up with names.  They don't usually just - poof - come to me; I usually have to think hard before anything good comes to mind.  In this girl's case I was drawing a complete blank so I put the matter to my husband.  He took one look at her and said, "Ella."  I took another look at her and said, "Ella!"  And that was that.


1.  What is her full name?

Ella Désirée FitzDraco.

2.  What is her favourite book?

As a very young child her favourite book was a picture-book full of bright pastoral images; she still likes it, but she is now too old for such books.  Her favourite book now is a novel her father gifted her with called The Gates of Ivory: a byzantine, fantastic novel of gods and dreams and conspiracies that I wish I could get my hands on. 

3.  How old is she?

Ella is nine years old. She is a bit sheltered, so in a sense she is younger than that, but she has her father’s vast library at her disposal and, in that sense, she is much older than her physical age.

4.  What does she do with her spare time?

Ella is a My Side of the Mountain sort of child.  Now that she is nine years old and mostly responsible, she is allowed the whole run of Gemeren and, unless it is raining or an afternoon in summer (when the light comes perfectly into the library) you will find her somewhere outside, probably out of shouting distance, and probably rather dirty.  She likes to play at Jason and the Argonauts (of course she is Jason), so she often winds up wet as well as dirty.  She is very wood-wise for a nine-year-old, she would not be caught dead forgetting to shut a farm gate, and she once went a round with Peppin’s goose and got the better of it.

5.  What is her favourite animal?

Excepting Peppin’s goose, she is fond of just about every animal. 

6.  Does she have any pets?

As she lives on a large working farm, Ella doesn’t have any pets, not strictly speaking.  She wants to be friends with Cat, but her love is unrequited; otherwise she is friends with all the animals but, as they all have a purpose (to do or die) they are really more acquaintances and creatures that have to be fed every morning than pets.

7.  Does she have any siblings?

Not yet, at any rate.  There were two children who died in infancy and a miscarriage before her.  Having children is a chancy business where Ella comes from.

8.  Who is her best friend?

Though she would not call him a pet, and she rather lives in awe of him, Ella’s best friend is her father’s half-wolf war-dog Snati.  Even though she is a tall nine-year-old he still stands a little over her and, when she was younger, he was known to give her some meaningful knocks to keep her out of trouble when he was left to babysit her.  But whenever FitzDraco can spare him he can often be found tagging solemnly after Ella through wood and water and wagon-lane: they are an odd pair, but really the best of friends.

9.  What is her family like?

Ella’s family consists of the whole farm of Gemeren.  They are all good, free folk and Ella has known them since she was a baby.  Her immediate family is only her mother and father; as her family is very close to the royal family of Orzelon-gang she often calls Mark Roy and Romage “uncle” and “aunt,” and their children her cousins.  Her family is quiet and comfortable, if a little grim.

10.  Right handed, or left?

Ella is right-handed.

11.  Is she naturally curious?

Ella is the sort of person who is curious before she thinks.  By some great grace of Providence this has never got her into serious trouble, but she does have a tendency to run her head into a situation before she has thought if it is a good idea or not.  She has the makings of a bizarre natural philosopher.  However, where her world and her father’s world overlap she has learned to keep quiet and to watch, partly out of respect for her father, partly because it is very difficult to understand even a little how her father rules her world.

12.  What colour are her eyes and hair?

Ella shares her mother’s fairness: she has stark blue eyes and pale, honey-coloured hair.  Except for her frown she does not have much physical resemblance to her father.

13.  What do other characters have to say about her?

[He] sat down in one of the armchairs and pulled Ella up onto his lap.  He swore he had never met her before but they seemed to take to each other almost instantly.  With his arms around her, knee jigging her slightly, he told her that she had a bit of the mischief-maker about her and had Mercury’s laugh, and FitzDraco had better keep an eye on this one.  She told him he smelled like horses and that she liked that about him.  He laughed and kissed her on the forehead.

14.  What does she like to wear?
Ella has three cotton frocks that she wears in succession: a white one (very quickly dirtied) a grey one (dirtied with only a little less speed) and a brown one (which she could conceivably get away with wearing two days in a row).  She has a whole wardrobe at her disposal, but her day-time work-a-day frocks are most comfortable and get the most wear.

15.  How does she feel about people in general?

When it comes to strangers Ella is wary, but curious, and unless she has something otherwise very important going on she will usually drop what she is doing and hang about to listen.  She goes by looks a great deal: if a man looks a little like her father she is inclined to be friendly; if a lady looks a little like her mother she is inclined to at least be polite.  As a rule, however, Ella doesn’t think about the subject of people.  People are things that happen, and sometimes it is pleasant and sometimes it is not. 
* * * * *

“Hold hard, daughter!”
Ella turned at the familiar sound of his voice, eyes glancing across the confusion until she saw him.  He ran to her, dropped on one knee with his left shoulder forward, and took her in the stomach.  She gave a sharp cry as the wind was knocked from her—judging from her face Margaret guessed it hurt a little—but a second later he was up again without check, the girl slung over his shoulder, making for the place where her father and Aikin Ironside were winning back the courtyard doors.

Jesus, Justice, and Justification

"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver; 
"don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you?  
 Who said anything about safe?  'Course he isn't safe.  But he's good.
  He's the King, I tell you." 

Dear Bethany,

(I do apologize for the length of time it has taken me to post this.  I wanted to be sure I had put my thoughts down coherently, which took some doing, and additionally I was in New York, which took some surviving.)

I am now going to embark on the (perhaps) last installment of my answer to your questions regarding my view of Dante's Inferno.  I would like to say at the outset of this post that I am now about to deal with issues that have troubled the minds of the saints for ages past and I do not pretend to be able to give more than a cursory defense of the belief of Hell.  Additionally, I want to lay down the fundamental groundwork that I, one: believe in the immutable and infinite goodness of God; and two: I hold to the authority of Scripture as the inspired word of God.  I hope that, as was the case of the Bereans, you will seek out the Scriptures to see if what I say is true.

I hope that in my post The Knowledge of the Holy I made it plain that a comprehension and appreciation of God is a necessary and possible thing.  I hope that I made plain in that post and in the tangential post "I Call All Times Soon" that not only is a comprehension and appreciation of God necessary and possible, but that mankind was made to fit cheek by jowl with God's nature.

I want to start with a mundane example which, as a general rule, all men recognize almost intuitively.  It is an example by law: id est, that when you make an infraction, the greater the personage the greater the crime.  I will be less penalized if I execute vehicular manslaughter on a random passer-by than if I try to overrun the President.  The crime, on the face of it, is the same: but because I am jeopardizing the life of a high official the second offense, made with malice aforethought, is of a greater degree of evil.  Neither offense is any less wrong: they are both wrong; but "the punishment must fit the crime" is a very biblical notion and takes into account not only the nature of the offense but the nature of the offended.

Let us say that there was a military coup orchestrated by a consul against his overlord.  Let us also say that the overlord possessed not only all virtue (wisdom, prudence, etc.) but also lawfully possessed the right to supreme power and, by extension, the right to be obeyed.  The infraction is of the greatest magnitude.  It outstrips the normal example of one man rising up against another because in this case the overlord's possession of lawfulness and virtue commands an even deeper response of respect.  Mankind was made with the necessity of taking pleasure in goodness, in recognizing it and emulating it.  All virtue is held in fief to the virtuous overlord.  Infraction is not a mere case of denying sovereignty (I say mere): it is a break with holiness itself.  It is a most awful, cowardly, mealy, despicable action, the greatest insult against the greatest good.  It is (and this is the really clever part) the most unmanly action a man has ever done.

It must follow logically that the infraction is seen in the light of the object insulted: if the object is of an infinite goodness, requiring infinite respect, then the offense if of an infinite quality as well.  If the overlord cannot but execute holy justice (which he cannot: there is no other justice that he can show), the punishment meted out on the offender will be equal to the crime, to the offended party, and will (and must) satisfy the overlord's virtue of justice.  It would be wrong in him (mark the preposition!) to do otherwise.  And the overlord cannot do otherwise.  He cannot turn a blind eye; he cannot say "there, there, let's be friends again: pax."  As a quality of holiness justice must be done.

I hope it follows then that punishment of rebellious men is not a bad thing.  If you allow the notion that punishment of evil is in itself evil you let in the notion that God is evil.  If you let in that notion, there is no goodness in all the earth, in all of heaven, in all of time: there is no hope, there is no light: all is arbitrary and mere whim on the part of a deity we should rather fear than love.  If justice is a virtue and rebellion is evil, punishment of rebellion must be good.

I do not say that it is pleasant.  This is the great struggle of the saints.  It is awful to think of a human being suffering infinitely the infinite punishment of his infinite infraction against someone infinitely sovereign and infinitely holy.  It is that awful thought which urges those who proclaim the gospel to "Repent and believe!" for the kingdom of God is at hand.  The hour to repent our rebellion is now for the time is imminent in which we must pay back the infinite debt we owe.  It is no light matter.  But if we give ground concerning the lawful necessity of justice we rip out a major bulwark of reality.  (The more I study him, the more I find that if you deny any one virtue in God you deny it just as much in man and moral foundations begin to crumble: if you pluck a single thread in a whole stocking, the whole stocking unravels.)

As far as damnation itself goes, I will not deny that it is a terrible thing.  The wrath of God is just and awful.  But it is never excessive, and by it two attributes of God's virtue are brought to light to be experienced and appreciated by men: his justice, but also his mercy.  The wicked and unrepentant pay the penalty for their rebellion to the exact measure and honour (without wanting to do so) God's justice.  The repentant and the righteous, having thrown themselves upon the merit of someone else's payment, become living images of God's mercy.  God does not stop with merely exhibiting his justice: he has other virtues to show and teach us.

To understand justice and justification in an overarching sense one has to go back to Paul.  In Romans 5 (I highly-as-heaven suggest reading the whole letter) he tackles the subject of Eden and Gethsemane and why original sin exists and why any of us can have any hope in Christ.  Not a lot of people like the doctrine of original sin, but the truth of the matter is that, if you axe original sin, you've just axed your own hope of salvation.  The doctrine behind the doctrine is that of federal headship, that when Adam our forefather stood the test in the Garden of Eden we were counted (not magically or whimsically, but by virtue of God's design of reality) in him, so that we stood or fell with him.  He fell, and his sin passed down and down to every generation and we all imitated his sin after him.  In the same way - or in the ultimate way - when Jesus stood the very same test in the Garden of Gethsemane and passed it, and offered his pure life a ransom for the lives of many sinful, all who were subsequently born in him share in his righteousness.  By virtue of his act all men in him are vindicated.  Justice has been met.  It is not a case of a man simply naming the name of Jesus Christ and God, pleased as a parent might be that an infant said "Da-Da," calls off the whole damnation deal.  Legally, justice has been met.  The debt is not merely stricken from the books, it has been paid in full. 

The damnation of the wicked and the death of his son are exhibitions of his justice.  The offering of his son and his righteousness imputed to us are a triumphal parade of his mercy and grace.  In nothing that he does is God ever not good, can he ever not be praised.  I do not say that it will always be pleasant, or that, from a man's view, it may always seem fair, but the more righteousness is worked in us the more we will see what is right and true and what is not.

"I'm longing to see him," said Peter, "even if I do feel frightened when it comes to the point."

"We Defy Augury."

"The readiness is all."

While on my trip I learned a very useful skill: writing on the run.  My five-and-a-half by three-and-a-half inch Moleskin notebook (of a lime green hue) doesn't give me a lot of bulk to counteract any joggling that comes from being on the run, but I despise writing sloppily and I needed to write, so I learned pretty quickly how to filter out the craze of New York and Boston and hone in on Plenilune, and manage such tolerably good handwriting that my notebook was once taken from me and exhibited to several members of the class who (evidently - I wasn't privy to any facts) have large, messy handwriting as an example of what handwriting in notebooks ought to be.  (I might have felt more pleased about this if I hadn't been yanked out of an otherwise fascinating imaginary world into the stark, breathless bustle of Boylston Street.)  So, while I have been gone for almost two weeks, I have been writing.  What is a world without pen and paper?  I submit that it is an unhappy world.

Oh, you’ve done very well with her.”  Skander’s tone was both sincere and bitingly caustic.  “She looked beautiful this evening—charming, assured—in that red gown she looked like a goddess.”

Most of all she hated herself.  She, the victim, had been thrown into this world of crowns as a bone to be squabbled over, a pawn to be moved, a woman to be coddled, a slave to be prodded, a curse to be averted, a fate to thwart.

"Did you think you could play this game with us?  You are no match for my family or the quarrels that may arise among us."

Night had fallen low over the land.  It seemed to have heaped up so heavily in the sky that it was sinking under its own weight, groaning lower and lower over the fells.  She sat wrapped in a fine surcoat of doeskin and ermine, for the summer night was growing chill and the hushing rush of wind in the rowan-wood bore portents of rain, and watched the dark moth-wing dusk gather about them and the firefly-lights spring out of the black.

The old spark flashed into his face.  “You come upon a man in the dead of night like a vision, and expect a cool reply?  You might let a man collect his wits once you have dashed them out of his hands.”

Rupert was looking off another way: his voice came muffledly: “You know Mark Roy.  Those were Aikin Ironside and Brand, his sons.  Aikin is much like Centurion in temperament—I do not trust him, though his blade is quick to bite deep.  Brand—” Rupert looked round and peered, too, into the gloom after them to where they stood in the ring that was forming round the piles of wood.  “Brand has high sentiment and a short temper.  He knows how to be violent.  He may make a good friend.”

Centurion of Darkling-law,” said the blue-jay man, leaning close; “politely behind Bloodburn though he has rights enough to be first.  He is a good man, Centurion, and a seasoned warrior.” 
“Is that the measure of a man?” asked Margaret with a faint edge in her voice.

They opened in a blaze of glory.  There was a crack and a shock and an arch of light—from which, Margaret could not quite tell—and the two were at it with a passion, hurling spells and casting spells aside to left and right, filling the air with windblown sparks...  They were fantastic and terrible, and not altogether safe, to watch.  The elements and the full fire of wrath whirled from their hands at each other with the deftness of a juggler whirling his golden balls, but the backwash could be blinding and sometimes blows were cast wide.

Margaret did not remember getting to her feet.  At one moment she was seated on the edge of the bed, turned sidewise to see Aikaterine’s face, and the next she was standing before the maid, looking just a little downward into the other’s face, with her forefingers resting heavily on the white-clad shoulders.  She could feel the collar bone sharp beneath her fingertips and, at odd, punctuated moments, the soft throb of blood beneath the skin.  But it was the eyes she looked into, the almond-coloured, dark-spangled eyes that looked back demurely into her own.  There was no fear in them, but there was, perhaps, little hope, too. 

 I’m not a man of lies—only passing good looks.”