In A Single Bound

"Pretty girl thinks she can leap tall buildings in a single bound, carries the weight of the world on her shoulders, yet still manages to laugh at some of my jokes."
Richard Castle

Don't panic, it's not November yet.  I think a horrible death-knell goes off on the first of November, like a depth-charge blown in the ocean: you can feel it in your soul.  But that hasn't happened yet.  However, since I want to dedicate much of The Penslayer's time in November to The Shadow Things' birthday party (hoo rah! hoo rah!), and because I am of a whimsical disposition with a tacit disregard for rules, I'm doing snippets early.  Strangely melancholy moment: I look back at my last snippets post and I see how far I have come since then, how much has happened (it's been a whirlwind and a half); something goes slack in my heart as if I have just done some horrible, wonderful piece of magic and can't quite believe it.  But we're not done crafting this spell: no sense in getting too emotional before the bolt is out of the bow!

cheatin' - november snip-whippets

Margaret obediently took his arm—a lean, hard-corded thing that was like holding warm amber—and soon found herself taken to a little shuttered sitting room that was full of the warm yellow light of a huge fire.

I am not in the mood for dragon-riddles.”

Oh, don’t stir out of your toast,” she implored him before he could put the napkin down.

"I am sorry you could not have met her. She was as fair to mock the fairness of Romage of Orzelon-gang, who is accounted the most beautiful woman in the Honours. By some.”

They say time heals wounds, but I have never believed them.”
“Nor I.”

She saw half-formed memories which did not belong to her against the pearl-pink wash of firelight, images of honour and betrayal and a crescent moon adrift in a gold cloud-spun sky.
There was a rushing noise and a bang among the logs; sparks swirled around him like fireflies on a rich summer night. Margaret’s heart caught, but he seemed unperturbed. Throwing the poker into its bin, he waved the errant flames back into the fireplace—was it her imagination, or did they seem attracted to him, and reluctant to be shut back inside the grate? 
I’ll give you no quarter,” warned Skander.

Odd, thought Margaret, that people were willing to die for what they considered worth living for. How curious a creature man was! how full of light and darkness and paradox, the heart as of a devil and the power in his crafting hands of some sort of god. Level westward sunlight sparked on the gemmed headstall of [her companion's] mount and flung out notes of light on the dun-coloured air. How odd…

I am not used to employing condescending tones to my people so I’ll tell you frankly: I am surprised you dare come here and I give bare a fig for what you have to say to me. You come bold-facedly, wench, and give little deference to a lady and no honour at all to your betters!”
Tell him we expect him for tea under the first Hare gibbous moon. I would say there’s a good girl—” he released her somewhat violently “—but then I would be lying.” 
At the same instant a light sprang up high from a candle which, in the dark, Margaret had not been able to see. It had been sitting before a mirror, and the reflection-candle flung back the light with more potency than the real thing. “Moreover these whom he predestined, them he also glorified. This is a cosy little setting,” he added, looking around.

Mine own familiar Rhea,” [he] purred. He put forward a foot alongside hers so that he was forcing her back at a precarious angle. “Would that you could dance with me, Rhea. I would put you through your steps quick enough. I heard tell once of a queen, a wicked witch, who was given shoes of red-hot iron and made to dance and dance until she fell down dead.” His lips pulled away from his dog-teeth: Margaret wondered if Death’s smile looked so hungry and charming at once. “Would that I were hot iron shoes. Would that you could dance.”

His words were like rods of iron heated in the furnace: hard and glowing they barred across Margaret’s heart, and though they shut out the flashing, feathered world, she felt safe behind them. “Half of us is legend,” she said, “and the rest is pain.”

G - Ghiraranna

"We'll stow yer bobbins aft."

It will be difficult to tell you about the schooner the Ghiraranna without telling too much about her skipper, but I'll do my best.  (I wonder if anyone will be as interested in her as Abigail, but again, I'll do my best.)

A brief but crucial character in Adamantine, the Ghiraranna is a Faerie ship, a big, three-masted schooner, privately owned and used in the family business of merchant trade.  Most of the time she runs legal trips, but it has to be admitted that, when the pay is good or the skipper's heart is in the business, she has done smuggling-runs under the noses of the fairy war-ships.  Though she is a three-masted ship she is still quick on her keel, keeps a low profile, and can easily trounce anything but the naval post ships (which aren't usually heavily stocked with soldiers) in terms of speed.  Her hunting grounds tend to be in the south and southeastern waters of Faerie; she will carry just about anything, too - pearls and gems, raw materials and foodstuffs (which tend to pay better than prefabricated products) spices, post, passengers, stone, coarse timber and coarse metal, light livestock (goats and sheep, not cattle or horses)...if you can load it into the schooner the skipper will take it.  Two things he does not ship out on are tourist runs and slave shipping - which is to cut two lucrative trades out of the deal but one has to keep some morals, even in the smuggling business...

The Ghiraranna is a pretty creature, deep-draughted for sea-going travel but light-looking enough from the surface, especially when the bulk of her sails are reefed.  With a fresh coat of black paint on her sides and the gold trim touched up, saucy skipper at her helm, she is a beautiful and familiar sight sliding in between the Beacons of Faerie Harbour, blue pennants waving her hello.  She outfits with fifteen fairies, not counting skipper and second mate; they come from all over the Empire: her skipper is native to the capital area and claims his family, seafairies for long ages past, have salt water in their veins; some come from the north country where the seas are rough and breed rough folk, some come from the green southern islands, displaced by tourism, volcanic activity, and heavy tropic storm; if you have a chance to walk the Ghiraranna's deck you will have the opportunity to hear the thick, warm midland brogue of her second mate - the only fairy who was not born with his toes in the ocean, and the only fairy, next to the skipper, so capable of taking the Ghiraranna through her tricks.

The helmsman turned the whole length of the vessel rather sharply and a column of water shot glistening into the air off the starboard side of the prow; someone crowed gustily aft. The list of the ship sent the bell clanging erratically. [The skipper's] voice called out reprovingly.

Between the Music and the Lyrics

And then my soul saw you and it kind of went, 
"Oh, there you are.  I've been looking for you."

Another confluence of ideas, and I find myself putting together some of my spare thoughts on romance as a child seriously plays at putting together blocks.  In Anne-girl's blog conference I was asked by Rachel this simple, buckshot-loaded question:

How do you deal with physical attraction between two characters when writing romance?

Shoo wow, thanks, Rachel.  I had only a paragraph or two in which to tackle her query, but in essence I said I keep it honest: don't dumb-down a fellow's intense desire for his lady, nor divest the girl of her jealous desire to be in her lord's presence.  As with anyone, give them their privacy, but don't "romanticize" them or dilute the lovers' power by which the very worlds turn.  If you do, no one will thank you for it - least of all the lovers.

And then Mirriam wrote It Takes Two To Tango, And All That, a good, down-to-earth post on how every couple, either in fiction or real life, is different.  Not always wildly different, but different because they are all composed to separate people with separate personalities.  And again, the two individuals that make up a couple will be different.  As in tune as my husband and I are (no, seriously, it's quite uncanny and the cause of much fun), we are very different people.  I am a firecracker, set off by the simplest nuisance, and a good-sized trouble in my life will hurl me into a sickness of despair, whereas Tim is a steady, amiable personality, a place where the Tenth Doctor and Skander Rime meet in the middle, full of fun and steadiness and vision and practicality.  We're very different: but oh my word our souls are literally knit into this strange and single thing to the point that we need not even say a word to the other to know what the other is thinking: sometimes we know it, not by a look on the other's face, not even by a gesture, we just know because something in our own soul has moved.  I don't spin this to make us sound fantastic: it is, as the saying goes, the gospel truth.

I know some people have trouble "showing" romance.  But take it from a girl who knows: it's not all in the showing.  It's not always in the conscious knowing.  There is a language for which signs and words are poor tools, colours with which souls paint that are beyond the visible spectrum.  There is a great concern for "writing love right," but what soul on this planet really knows what love is?  Love is a spiritual counterpart to the idea of energy: it has no body, yet it moves and bends and binds and gives off light.  You cannot put your finger on it: it is the force that moves your finger.

A marriage, where either partner cannot love or respect the other, that cannot be agreeable, to either party.

Take it from a girl who knows.  A man and a woman may be "romantically" attached, but moreover they must be friends.  You may say equals, and that would be true, but on the flopping tail-end of the long feminism debate you will not be understood when you say "equals."  My "romantic pair" are not equals in that way, not in terms of upbringing, not always in terms of psychology, not always in terms of sheer intelligence.  But they are friends.  Back to back, shoulder to shoulder, soul to soul, by no spoken agreement that the naked ear could discern.  Whatever of teasing, of tenderness, of desperation or anger that may pass between them, that curious energy - too bright and too fast for the eye to see - holds their souls together as God's hand holds the atom.  Love is not a force you can always see, nor a force you can always feel, but even though we look up from our astronomy books and don't see the little dotted lines between the stars on the sky as we see them on the page, we're not disappointed: we know they are there.

Let the lovers be themselves, and do not shrink from their honesty.  I won't say do not be afraid, for I have seen what the reckless, raging fury of love is wont to do.  We call them mad, and perhaps they are - I dare swear God is mad, by some great sane madness. Perhaps we but think his madness after him, to reverently twist the quote of another astronomer...

F - Fashion


It may come as a surprise, but I'm not usually very clear on what clothing in my novels looks like.  Everyone comes dressed (this goes without saying) but I'm dashed if I can yank a good image of typical clothing out of my head with anything less than strenuous effort.  But I've got 221,230 words through Adamantine, through an entire plot and several cultures, and I think by now I can see their clothing clear enough (though seamstresses all must pardon my technical ignorance) to give you a sketch of what clothing in Catti and Faerie is like.


The Catti folk, living a rough, uncultured life, are in the habit of wearing tough tunics and trousers of homespun.  Though they are naturally clad with fur, in the harsh weather of the north they may layer on the skins of dumb animals cut into vests, jackets, cloaks, and chaps; in fine weather they may go about in little, whatever is decent yet light and durable.  Shoes are uncommon; they may occasionally wear boots in really bad weather when the water freezes between their pads, but in rain they can leave shoes as well as take them, and in fine weather it is preferable to let toes go naked. 

But for all the Catti, in either tunic or dress, sew up their clothing simply, they are very fond of shiny adornment.  A well-to-do Catti might be seen with a great, violently-coloured scarf of foreign silk (possibly bought, probably nicked), the women are wont to wear heavy jewellery of gems and amber-stones, and every Catti boy, on becoming a man, wears a single ring of gold in one ear.  They are a rough, durable lot, but the Catti men and women alike crave gem-fire and metal-gleam as jealously as any fairy girl would. 


Menswear among the fairies is about as straightforward as our own: a stout pair of trousers, varying in weight depending on the season (I know a fellow partial to corduroy), a shirt of linen or cotton, often a vest (also varying in type of cloth depending on its usage), and either a jacket or a coat depending on the occasion.  Because of the obvious presence of wings (these are fairies, you know) every article of clothing meant for the upper body has two slits in the back on either side of the spine, left open when the shirt is being put on so that the wings can slide through to freedom, and buttoned up again to the wing-base after dressing.

Dresses, like our own, vary almost beyond reason, but they do sometimes share the same construction in the back as their male counterparts.  Often, however, dresses are cut with low backs so that women don't have to bother at all with excess buttoning.  Styles tend to be long sheath with plenty of give in the skirt for leg movement.  Prints are used sparingly, usually coyly peeking out from amid a plain coloured overlay, though the "tabby" pattern is very popular among the fairies.  Any colour, be it vibrant or muted, is welcome; tastes in these vary from year to year even as they do among ourselves. Unlike the Catti, the fairies consider it uncouth to wear a lot of jewellery, and they can be rather snooty about precious as opposed to semi-precious stones.  Silver is valued above gold in clothing, not because it is more rare than gold, but because it usually looks nicer against the varied colours that fairies can come in.


Despite the rigid "Pax Romana" held in place by the Faerie military, a gentleman is wise to go about with a bit of steel on his person.  You are unlikely to find the long cavalry sword among civilians, unless it is an antique and an heirloom; the every-day sort of blades will be rapiers and dirks, light and easy to handle, not hard to learn how to use, and can be made to look quite ornamental under a fairy's purled coat and fold of wing.  Ladies might carry daggers usually no more than a hand-span in length, sometimes even smaller (you only need about two inches in the right place to kill your man).  Archery is a fabulous sport among fairies, both on and off the battlefield, indulged in by both soldier and civilian alike. 

Though Catti have been taught to use fairy arms (which has in times past been a cause of desperate trouble for the army), the Catti naturally prefer heavier weapons such as the battle-axe, and their swords, forged of several intertwined and hammered rods of iron, are more bludgeon than blade.  They have never taken to the bow and have never learned how to fashion their own; for long-distance they favour the spear and the throwing-knife.  But being less expedient in war tactics than the fairies, their bloody temper prefers to see the light go out of your eyes at close range than to kill you at a distance.  It is not as safe for them, but what can you do...?

Jubilee South

"Did you do anything special on your vacation?"

I was asked this upon returning home by a woman in our church whose family also vacations at our favourite beach.  Somewhat taken aback by this notion, I said, "No!" in a laughing kind of way, and was quickly saved by my brother who was one row of chairs behind me and had overheard the question.  "No!" he said. "We just sat around and ate!"

Between high school, college, managing households, and running a business, my family works like a dog year round.  That brief week in October that is "fall break" for most people is our seven-day Sabbath.  Throughout the year we work six days and pitch down on the seventh, but for a week in October we are at liberty to do absolutely nothing but rest on the seaside, kicked back in beach chairs with books on our laps, developing odd tans with sharp outlines because of how our books lie on our knees...  With the ten people in my family, plus the welcome addition of Anna, within a very short time of arriving at the beach our house was covered in A. boxes of food and B. piles of books.  With the few anomalies of poking into a few tourist stores, hitting golf balls off a driving range, and shrieking in the cold ocean water, we sat around eating and reading.  And oh, it was glorious.

I took a number of books with me, only one of which I managed to finish (unless you count Amos, Obadiah, and Jonah).  I was well into A Girl of the Limberlost, and completed that a few days into our vacation.  I had also taken C.S. Lewis' The Problem of Pain (which I am not enjoying as much as I had hoped I would) and I am still in the midst of that.  I began Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind (pretty good stuff for a debut novel!), and now I have bookmarks in Freckles by Gene Stratton-Porter and Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson (Kidnapped is a hoot - you should definitely read it).  I checked an odd contemporary biography out of the library on a strange twist of fancy (Traveling With Pomegranates), Daddy gave me my very own copy of Lesslie Newbign's Signs Amid the Rubble: the Purposes of God in Human History, I'm still in the middle of The Golden Warrior and reconciling myself to the dismal ending that I know is coming, I'll probably read Kidnapped's sequel David Balfour, and The Darkness and the Dawn by Thomas B. Costain has been waiting some time for me to get to it.

All this upon the eve of November, which promises to be chock full of Not Reading.  But as I become loathfully depressed when short of reading material  I cannot say I am sorry I have so much weighing on me; this should carry me well into December and most likely into the new year.  By the twelve houses, the new year is so close...

So much for a reading update!  I know I like to hear what other people are reading; here's hoping you like to get a peek at what I'm planning (so much for good intentions) to read.  I am continuing to work on topical posts for the November blog party for The Shadow Things and answering questions that the readership is sending in.  Keep them coming, folks!  To tide you over, check out Anne-girl's blog Scribblings of My Pen and Tappings of My Keyboard: she is hosting a blog conference as I type and had asked me to write up several posts and engage in a question-and-answer session of her own.  I chose the topics World Building and Verbal Sparring, and found the questions very intriguing.  I get the feeling that none of my answers were strictly orthodox; be sure to check them out! 

I Hid My Heart In Fire

“No, no, please—” she stammered, drawing back. “Please—!”
But he was too fast for her, and she had nowhere to run. “Please, what?” he growled through clenched teeth. With a single swift dart he had her hand in his, crushing it most cruelly. “Please, what, mewling human worm?"

My time recently has been divided between a number of different things: working on posts for the blog party (which has been lots of fun, let me tell you!), writing Plenilune (which is going well, hurrah! hurrah!), reading The Mind of the Maker, The Problem of Pain and, somewhat incongruously, A Girl of the Limberlost.  I may steal Freckles from Abigail before we go to the beach and take that with me, but goodness knows I don't read fast and I might not finish A Girl of the Limberlost before I get back...  (Speaking of which, I will be away to the beach on the 12th and won't be back until the 19th, but I'll probably take my laptop with me and do an A-Z post for Adamantine, or some such, so I won't be totally disconnected from my work.  It does pile up so if you ignore it.

Well, my attention took a little turn today, having already spent the morning in the Plenilune 'verse, to the sphere of Gingerune.  I've been doing little more than poking at the idea of it from time to time, as I'm not nearly ready to devote a lot of serious attention to what I mean by it, but when I poked this afternoon the following passage is what came back out at me.

from the nebulous dream that is gingerune 

 The world was sky-fire, like a cloudless day at the height of summer when all is metallic sunlight and there is a despair of life and a sweetness in the thought of death.  I felt numb to fear—beyond it in some quiet, desperate, determined place that reckoned neither of victory or loss.  The beautiful, terrible fire—more like to pure light than fire could ever be—prickled over my skin and burned along the billowing strands of my hair…and calmly, not thinking very clearly about what I did, I began to gather the fire into my hands.
It burned at first, and then grew cool, coloured like white iron and saffron and flecked as with cyclamen petals.  I condensed it between my hands: as it grew denser the saffron colour grew darker and the faint pink veining that was like cyclamen flushed an angry red.  And when the whole thing, brazen and bloody, was as small as my face and as bright as honour, I pressed it into my eyes.
I do not know how long that light was all I could see.  Somewhere beyond the light I heard a scream, but that did not seem to have anything to do with me.  The light flooded my mind.  I felt—I did not see—someone else’s sense of rage: a huge rage; someone else’s sense of blindness: a bottomless, disoriented blindness.  I followed them and understood them, and stripped them away from the light.  And at the end of them, when the light and its rich power were all that was left and had probed and shot all through me like bars of light around a swimmer in clear water, I saw a glimpse of something wholly other: a clear, pastoral image that called to me in a voice of light and beauty and anguish, and my heart longed suddenly, twisting powerfully within me, to step into the wave of light and break into that scene.
A tear tracked down my face.
I came back slowly.  Reluctantly I put the scene away and looked out of my own eyes again with his own light howling in them, and I saw him at last as he was: still magnificent, knit out of pure power, bloodless, veined with light, winged and scarred and stripped for war, and smelling overwhelmingly with the stench of murder.

E - Ecclesiastics

"I always think these traditional stories retain a lot of charm," said another of the rabbits, "especially when they're told in the real, old-fashioned spirit."
"Yes," said Strawberry.  "Conviction, that's what it needs.  You really have to believe in El-arairah and Prince Rainbow, don't you?  Then all the rest follows."
Watership Down, Richard Adams

If you have read my post Are You A Teacher In Israel, And Do Not Know These Things (long title), you will know that I consider at least a recognition of religion in literature to be important: in summation, man is a spiritual being, and without that religious expression, Christian or pagan, he shows up flat and unreal on the page. Adamantine starts you off with moral conundrums from page one.  The lines are cut with a serrated knife between two kingdoms pitted over the universe, a kind of wretched civil war between Heaven and Hell and Earth and for a moment, at the beginning, you get a glimpse into that as one half-witting character puts his foot through where the flooring between this world and that has grown rotten, and falls through where things are awful and stark and take your soul without asking.  For a moment I give you that glimpse - and those figures who contend on that other plane where things are more like living energy and less of animate matter, make reference to what lies on the other side of the shadow things.  But for the purpose of Adamantine those glimpses are just that: glimpses.  As the three stories progress (Adamantine, Plenilune, Gingerune) that veil will get thinner and thinner, but for now Adamantine is in the lowlands of the war, more of flesh and blood: the material things that our spirits hold close about us and are thin but precious to us. 

That is the tone of the arc of the story.  Within the story beliefs break down into a whole myriad of Devil's Mirror splinters.  Historically (in the history of Faerie, that is) there was a long stretch of time in which, like our own world, people wandered in darkness and gave homage to imagined gods of wood and stone.  Some of the gods were really quite stupendous - heroes who had, over time, gathered legend about them like splendour gathering about the sun, and had become the saviour-gods of their peoples, people from the early days when being alive was a powerful, prideful thing, and to set one's hand on the neck of the earth and master it was something worth doing.  Other gods were spun out of those hidden, unforgotten, primal senses: fear of the dark, fear of the grave, a desperate sense of hope in a world that seems to be unraveling at the seams.  Between the instinctive love-fear of the creeping evil of the world, the heroes that had crushed it, for a time, under their heels, and a means simply of satiating that incredible urge to worship, Faerie was practically born with gods. 

And then came Christianity.  It had its heyday for nearly two centuries and then, like the seed among the thorns, got choked out.  For a time it weakened the fairy ideal - a brutal, merciless, practical ideal - and upon the rise of a new Emperor who "knew not Joseph" the worship of the old gods was rigorously renewed, and though Christianity was never abolished or even made illegal, it suffered the profound scorn of the pagan community as a foolish, unpatriotic (among fanatics, treasonous) religion best left to the barbaric Catti in the northern black forests (who, despite their grim, red-blooded temperaments, continued to hold to a simple, faithful breed of Christianity) and placid monks in their mountain enclaves who could really do no harm to anyone and were generally considered good hosts if you needed a place to stop for the night. 

This is the atmosphere of religion into which Adamant stumbles.  From the beings moving, as it were, behind the scenes of her little skirmish in the war, all the way down to people who make mention of the gods but don't really believe in them and consider them nothing more than interesting constructs of primitive creativity, she finds an alarming spectrum of "religion."  Questions of providence, perseverance, shrewdness, charity, forbearance, truth and the lie, throwing down one's life to save it, flood the story even as I step back and look at it from a distance.  Do you think writing religion is boring?

think again

Marked Evermore With White

Let all the people throng,
With chaplets and with offerings,
With music and with song;
And let the doors and windows
Be hung with garlands all,
And let the Knights be summoned
To Mars without the wall:
Thence let them ride in purple
With joyous trumpet-sound,
Each mounted on his war-horse,
And each with olive crowned...
the lays of ancient rome

Mark it as the Romans did with a most auspicious white!  This November will be the second year of The Shadow Things and The Soldier's Cross upon the published scene...and we're going to celebrate!  (For those of you who can't do NaNo this year, we hope this cheers you up!)  Scribbles & Ink Stains, as well as The Penslayer, will be full of posts on our experience as authors, insight into the lessons we learned, what writing our historical novels was like, excerpts and giveaways, and answers to questions our fans send in.  On that last note, heads up!  We want your questions because chances are everyone else wants the answers too!  Through the month of October send your questions in to us at (me) and (Abigail), or post the questions on our blogs! Shout it out, folks!  The more, the merrier! 


Don't Tell Me I Gammon With Anyone's Heart

I find myself in the same position as a character of mine - only, he was talking to a patient and I am talking to you...  In short, there are many and sundry things one can say to people who are about to read another snippets post, and I feel I have said, and you have heard, them all.  It is not me but them you have come to read, and as I am going to go back in among them myself as soon as I finish here giving you a peek at what I have been about, why prevaricate any longer - except to say: have you read The Mind of the Maker yet?  HMM?

October Snip-Whippets

The girl raised her head and looked steadily, wide-eyed, into Margaret’s face. The dark lips were parted a little in surprise; she was seeing, again, the horned creature in the woods, and saw Julianna weighing whether to be spooked or at ease with Margaret’s voice. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Centurion, too, looking across the table at his sister’s face, breath bated, willing her with an almost physical power to calm herself.

...she felt keenly the stinging wet knife of the wind, but over that there grew another feeling, a feeling akin to the marshlight country around her and the shepherd’s panpipe on the fells, something altogether of Plenilune, which sang out of her heart like the hawk let loose on the wing.

Even a Fool,” he said, “who has nothing to do but look and listen, forgets the sheer bull-headedness of a woman in a rage."

Margaret gently drew him back. “It is a harsh portrait you paint. I fear I, like the images of the women of old, have lost the skill of love.”

Why did she feel as if this were their last meeting? All at once she wanted to reach across and touch him, though everything in her recoiled at the thought, just to prove to herself that the nightmarish feeling was a fraud. “Don’t be so serious. If you are serious I cannot bear life. You must laugh, or I have no hope at all.”

Nay, you will not run like a coward! I am sick of your face—here, let me make it better pleasing!”

She wore the chinaberry dress—which was like wearing the very splendour of the sun—and, though she was afraid, the sloe-bitter bite of vengeance made the sight of it taste better in her mouth.

She frowned. “You make so light of it.”
“To laugh,” he replied, “is the blithest weapon of those who live in the dark.”

Odd how he conjured up the old Bible narratives and gave them a flesh they never had before. Laughing softly, self-deprecatingly, more comfortable and at peace and at a loss than ever before, Margaret murmured, “To whom would I go…?” And she fell asleep before there could be any chestnuts at all.

...looking up from her needle-work on her elaborate New Year dress, the longing caught her powerfully by the throat and she wondered why. Why. Why did she so desperately want to sit with the oddest creature in God’s creation who could do her no good, who had a white feather where his heart ought to be?

The wild animal stiffened as if an electric charge had been run through him. Only for an instant, not quite a heartbeat, then he leapt from his chair and slashed his hand to the side. Papers whirled and shredded from the force of the gesture. Margaret felt as if all the air had been ripped from her lungs. 

Then tell him that I commend him for his agrarian concern but that I am unqualified to give him an answer. I came regarding other matters that lie between my lord’s house and his. The pearl of great price in the glens of Ginseio is a jewel I can neither give nor take.” 

Ji Hazel put the flat of his foot on the man’s face and turned it away so that we would not have to look at its gawking death-mask stare. Then he looked at me, his eyes gleaming beryl-coloured in the moonlight. I could see in his face that he was thinking, She saved my life, but he did not say it, for it would have sounded surprised and untrusting if put into words. So he put his hand in the small of my back instead and drew me close, fitting me a little awkwardly against his side for I was the same height as he. His hand was warm and I was cold, and I shivered into the torn fabric of his impractical white tunic.
“I think I had better go back to Ashanti tonight,” he mused grimly. Then, his voice turning a little into my hair, “Spirit?”
I slid my arms around his narrow hips and turned my cheek against his. “You have but to whistle on the winds,” I replied, “and wherever I am, I will come to you.”
His finger touched my bloody rouge. His eyes, downturned, glinted in the moonlight.
“I know.”

D - Despair and Dogma

Thou has made me, and shall Thy work decay?
Repair me now, for now mine end doth haste;
I run to death, and death meets me as fast,
And all my pleasures are like yesterday. 
I dare not move my dim eyes any way; 
Despair behind, and death before doth cast 
Such terror, and my feeble flesh doth waste 
By sin in it, which it towards hell doth weigh. 
Only Thou art above, and when towards Thee 
By Thy leave I can look, I rise again; 
But our old subtle foe so tempteth me, 
That not one hour myself I can sustain. 
Thy grace may wing me to prevent his art 
And thou like adamant draw mine iron heart. 
john donne

 This is the third post I have made on this topic, so it seems it must be important to me.  The first post I did on Adamantine and the poor in spirit was Noonday Devil, and back in January I wrote One Thousand Disappointments about what we glean from God when he closes his hand against what we ask for.  It seems like every turn I take in my walk among the saints' and God's minds I run into some new plot twist that takes me by surprise (Rahab? a respectable harlot? only he would think of that story-line) and a recurring theme I am noticing in my writing is that of faith-in-the-dark.  It is a theme I find throughout redemptive history, and as it seems so popular among his story-line, I was pleased to discover its entrenchment in my literature.

There's something a bit happy, and something a bit sad
In the faces of the men that God touched mad.

When it comes to heartache and loss and the-bottom-of-the-barrel, Adamantine is no exception.  The characters come at their harsh life with naivete, bitterness, confusion, and hatred, and an almost blind clutching at a hope of a faith in God.  They have their feet knocked out from under them, their lives and honour and sanity hung in the balance, at times all light cut off from view.  In short, they experience despair.  Where is God in the horrible universe and can he possibly hear, or want to hear, the feeble call of a soul so crushed it does not even know if it wants to call for help?  His saints do not walk on air, surrounded by a safe halo of light: they are thrown headlong into the carnage of war - and sometimes they seem to fight impossible odds alone.  And his silence can be so crushing.

I cannot make a claim to having weathered a cataclysm of life and faith.  I do not know experientially what it is like to "look round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished" and to have to trust blindly in the Lord's track record of faithful dealings with his people.  But I have seen it.  It is all through his self-revelation: that there is a living God, and that my Redeemer does live.  And I have seen that, though some of us know that God is faithful, he sometimes tests that faith so that we, too (and perhaps the invisible hosts watching, as in the case of Job) might know our faith is founded on something lasting.  He took Abraham to the brink and taught that old father of nations that yes, indeed, he did believe God was able to raise up Isaac even from the dead.  The faith which had lain smoldering on the central hearth of Abraham's life was proved to Abraham himself to be a bright and abiding flame.  It was as though God were saying to his servant, "See?  I have brought you thus far, and though you never saw the work I was working in you even until now, you see the work is strong and very good.  It will last.  I have made sure of that."

As an author I know that a novel has to have a compelling plot, something at stake which the reader actually cares about: but as a creator what matters to me is that the characters I have created are tried and tested and move from glory to glory.  And sometimes this means despair.  Sometimes this means clutching your head and a glass of brandy in your hands and staring out at the dark with all your moves played and nothing left to put down, and saying, "I cannot see, so see for me."

The characters do believe, and they do find a way of escape: I notice the ways are almost never orthodox, which amuses me, because God's ways are never what any of us would call orthodox either.   Those moments of utter darkness and loss and despair make their way into my novels because they can't not.  It would be lying to not have them, it would be untrue to God and men and life and the way-of-things.  But Marilla Cuthbert was right when she said that to despair was to turn one's back on God, and of course I cannot stop with the mere story of bringing a character to that nakedness and destitution of spirit.  Our dogma admits poorness of spirit, but it does not stop at that.  Nor does Adamantine.

Though worlds will die and worlds will grow 
Out of death - life 
Out of night - day, glory from sorrow 
Out of grief - joy 
Out of storm, comes strength for tomorrow 
Out of dust - gold 
Out of fire - air, comfort forsaken 
Out of rage - calm 
Out of loss, find glory awaken
wonder, lord of the rings musical