Paper Is Heavy

I have a little over a month before I head off to Scotland until December, and I face that fact with a mingled sense of excitement and panic.  Travel problem du jour is: are my husband and I up to date on our vaccinations?  Tomorrow there will be a new travel problem.

I have started several well-meaning lists of books I want to take along with me.  I can barely go to the grocery store without a book, let alone a new country (well, actually, it's a very old country, but you know what I mean).  Space and weight will be limited, but not my frantic desire to scoop all of my books into my arms and toddle through the airport with them.  Bah.
practical religion - j.c. ryle
georgette heyer novels
a severe mercy - sheldon vanauken
sin and salvation - lesslie newbigin
the mind of the maker - dorothy sayers
moonblood - anne elisabeth stengl
These are the current runners-up in the list of books to be taken.  The Mind of the Maker is a reread and may or may not make it into the suitcase.  I might take it along and read it aloud to my husband: we'll see.  I'm currently reading Practical Religion, but it is massive and I doubt I will finish it in the month of August.  We will see about that also.

I just blazed through The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer and loved it!  Abigail heard about it from someone, and I noticed Anne Elisabeth Stengl was in the habit of enjoying Heyer's works, so I borrowed Abigail's copy of The Grand Sophy and shot through it in under a week.  Stitches! hilarity!  I loved it!  I'm almost ashamed to say I enjoyed it more than Jane Austen, in a way...  So I put in an order for a few more and hopefully I will have the sense and will-power to not devour all of them in August.

Rachel Heffington keeps pestering me (politely) to read A Severe Mercy, and I'm looking forward to packing it up with me to take to Scotland.  I have enjoyed Lesslie Newbigin's writing, and my copy of Sin and Salvation is hardback and looks sturdy: just the sort of little book to take along on a trip.
I'll have to tell you in September what I really wind up taking.
having said all this, I will now flee from procrastination and the wrath to come, and continue working on gingerune

Like a Thousand Secrets She Would Never Know

Actually Finishing Something July
Week Four

How goes progress?

Like a veritable milieu of high language.  I have no very clear idea how the next scene in Gingerune is going to unfold, and it doesn't feel like the sort of scene I can just walk into and hope it will come out all right in the end.  And inspiration has been a little lax lately.  It doesn't help that some of my other Muses have been dragging me off by my hair.  But the 500 plunk has seen me through some bad times; I hope to slip into the next scene gingerly (ah ha) within the next day or so and hopefully something will come of it.  "So say we all."


I haven't been able to do snippets in a while.  The question allowed for two, but I think I will share a little more as a kind of peace offering to you.  Enjoy!

You were under the bull’s hooves that time, she thought to herself. Slowly, achingly, she made her flogged body relax. You’ve come out again. Oh God of Mazelin, how many times am I going to be thrown under them?

No fish came, hard as she tried to conjure. Lying on her side, strangely comforted by the street-talk with which Roxane peppered her Earth-Master, Ginger began the long climb back to sanity. She knew it would take a long time: last time she had nearly been crushed by a bull it had taken her over a month to make herself look at a bullock without trembling all over. She knew it would take a long time, but Mazelin did not have a long time. He could not hold her and the world together if he was falling to pieces himself.

With the air of a queen Roxane sprang up into the bed of the car, clutching the high scalloped side with her head turned away from her driver. Teeth set in a silent laugh, Athanassoulis climbed up after her, wrapped the reins around his wrists, and leaned back casually, waiting as Mazelin lifting Ginger into their chariot and got a feel for his team.

Her daughter’s voice turned hard. “If anyone or anything comes, I will rip off their heads with my teeth.”

I think we got much the same impression at the same time: a heap of golden curls, a foreign-style gown heavily embroidered with silver crystals and gold thread, two laughing blue eyes and a prim, mocking mouth smiling at us out of a flawless face. I suppressed the instinct to whistle and glanced at [my master], expecting him to be waving me back. Instead I found a man I had not known before. Always polite, ever the well-bred gentleman’s son, I found [his] heritage of blue blood and feudal supremacy had awoken with a vengeance. The young man stared down at the lady with the flush of possessiveness in his face. 

[His father] smiled. “Yes. When we fall for our women, we fall for them hard. Rather fantastic, I take it, is the Lady Jennalaide?”

There was a sound of footsteps behind us. Flinging a desperate glance over his shoulder, [my master] said, “I’ll do my best to keep the tigers at bay. Go on!” And he grabbed her by the shoulders, spun her about—one got a glimpse of a magnificent hour-glass in warm alabaster—and shoved her back into her room. 

"I'm not shape-shifting into a woman! There are some things a man draws the line at!"

Do you have a Pinterest inspiration board? Share a few images with us!

ethandune: pinterest

ethandune: pinterest

gingerune: pinterest

gingerune: pinterest

How would the main character of your story react if she were introduced to you?

That is really hard to say.  I don't know how I appear to other people so I couldn't tell you accurately what Ginger might think of me.  My initial impression is that she would not think much of me, really.  She might come to appreciate my brain, maybe, if she were excessively charitable...  But in general I don't believe I am much to crow about and I doubt anyone, much less someone as frank and disobliging toward women in general as Ginger, would care a penny for me.  My only comfort is that I don't believe she would out-and-out despise me.

Introduce us to one or two of the secondary characters in your story.

I'll give you Lysane: typical dark Grecian beauty, locally celebrated flower seller with a promising match with an iron-worker.  She is kind, just a little soft in the brain, imminently respectable - everything Ginger is not. 

If one of your characters were allowed to choose a super-power, what would it be?

Nothing so easy!  Ginger would possess the ability to go from place to place without crossing the distance in between.  Where I come from, we call it "world-bending."

We're nearing the end of this summer challenge!  Is the completion of your goal in sight?

If I can get through this next scene by the end of July, I will be momentarily satisfied.  It shouldn't be too hard; my scenes aren't usually that long.  But what with the trip to Scotland happening around the end of August, beginning of September, I may be down-shifting so that I don't stress myself out too much between packing, planning, and plotting.  But I think I will manage to make this July a success.

Too bad, you're late for Actually Finishing Something July, but you can still visit it here!  That's the nice thing about the internet.

O For A Muse of Fire

What do you use to get your creativity flowing again?

GIMP, apparently.  But no, really, what do I use to get my creative juices flowing again when I have neglectfully let them stagnate?  In a perfect world I would not be allowed to let them coagulate, but here we are and there it is, you know, and so the question stands.
500 plunk
Thanks to Kendra, I now have a title for this exercise - this exercise which I did not myself invent.  If you don't need anything more than a kick in the pants, this is a great way to make yourself buckle down and work a little harder, darling.   In short, sit down and make yourself write 500 words before you are allowed to get back up.  There are no other rules.  The words don't have to be the best.  You should certainly try to do your best, but don't sweat the small stuff, as Applejack says.  This is a case of pushing yourself more than it is of pushing your characters.  Just move the plot along 500 more words and find where that puts you.  I usually find it has got me into the swing of things and I'm willing to push beyond 500 after that.

the shadow things
read well and rightly
You will always hear me say you must read, because it will always be true.  But in this case, make sure you are reading the right books.  I have finally reached a place in Gingerune at which I can go read about the Norman invasion of England if I like (which I do want to read that book at some point) and not have it unduly affect my writing, but I don't think it would be wise for me to make a reread of, say, Jane Austen because her dialogue would probably undermine my own.  I could probably get away with a reread of Knight's Fee, though.  Keep in mind where you are in the writing process:

do you need research material?
do you need prose inspiration?
do you need help defining your characters?

While you never want to steal from other people, half the art of writing is learning how to take other people's work, break it down into its essential components, and refashion it to help create the story you have in your own head. (WRITING IS ALCHEMY.)  You cannot create ex nihilo: there is no shame in admitting this fact of nature and getting help.

poetry and music
I know this is kind of an odd thing to throw out there, but poetry and music (which is poetry set to harmonious noise) are very important to people and have been throughout human history.  They are important for you, they are important for your characters.  Writing a fairy-tale?  Dig around online or at the library for Tennyson or Spencer.  For music, I've been putting on Loreena McKennitt's hour-and-a-half-long performance at the Alhambra, which has lots of eastern-style music thrown in.  It is very inspirational and mood-setting. 
talk at people
We're assuming here that you have a general idea of what your story is going to be, but you're stuck and you don't know where to go.  Think-vomit at people.  Spill what you have, what you think you might have, what your problems are.  Sometimes, getting everything out helps shake answers loose that you did not know you had already.  And if you don't manage to shake anything loose yourself, your friend may have some excellent points with which to aid you.  If nothing else, at least they will be able to share your pain when you are done talking.

There are days when I have to go trawl my own Pinterest boards to restore the visual images I had of my story-worlds.  And then there are days when I get it into my head that I am artistic and I make collages, as you see...  These activities are mind-numbing in a way, and if they don't help me get a good visual image back, they do at least make me fed up with GIMP and the internet so that I want to do nothing but make pretty words in my document just to restore some sanity to the world.

This is less a case of things I use and more things that I do.  
But I hope that helps the inquirer and anyone else who was looking for some assistance.  

Flames and Fairy-Tales

Actually Finishing Something [in] July
Week Three Questions

Were you able to meet (or exceed!) your goal this week?

I know I said I was going to push through the next scene of Gingerune, but last Tuesday I was emailing back and forth with Anne Elisabeth Stengl and we fell to talking about her book Five Glass Slippers which is due to come out June 2014.  The book is part of a contest she is holding and is going to be a collection of five Cinderella retellings.

1.  Your story must be based on the fairy tale “Cinderella.” While you are at liberty to retell the story in all sorts of exciting and original ways, the core of the tale must be recognizable. Include as many of the classic themes as you can, though you may feel free to switch them up and surprise us!

2. Your story must be between 5,000 and 20,000 words long.

The deadline isn't until December 31st, but the upshot of the deal was that by the end of the email, after a gentle prodding from Anne Elisabeth, I was crushed under a story idea and have spent the last five days writing and editing the first draft of my submission.   Keeping it under 20,000 words was stressful, exciting, and rather easier than I was anticipating.  The manuscript is now making the familial rounds and I hope to get the outside-eyeball edits in by Wednesday.

As for Gingerune...  I got through that scene this morning.  I'm on the ragged end of it, but the bulk of the thing is finished.  In her blog-hop for Dragonwitch, Anne Elisabeth mentioned her newly released novel was one of the hardest she had written so far, and eventually she took to the habit of making herself sit down and write 500 words.  She was not allowed to get up until she had written those 500 words, and then she could go do something else - clean, cook, pet a cat - and then she would sit back down and write another 500 words.  Having more trouble with Gingerune than I had with Plenilune, I plunked myself down this morning and made myself write 500 words before I got back up.  In light manner I have written over 1,000 words and got a remarkable amount of housework done...  It works!

Where did you get the bulk of your writing accomplished?  In the quiet of your room, outside on the patio, on the bus...?

Mostly the spare room at home, where I have my desktop, but I also scribbled at my parents' house Wednesday and Saturday afternoon. 

Share a couple of your favourite snippets.

There, alone on a bit of turf which faced south and was warm, she sat quietly and worked at weaving the rushes into baskets. From time to time the hours were marked off by the sweet, sharp song of the treble bell overhead; absentmindedly, Ella nodded to herself, counting off the thin seconds as the silence trembled overhead as the bell was canted back and laid its blows behind, hovered, then was brought back round again. There were only two bells—she stopped her work once and peered upward through the alder at the squat stone tower—the ordinary sweet-voiced one which had been cast in the town and which sang out over the countryside every day, and then the great ominous tailor-bell which had been carted up from Aachen. She did not like to hear that one tolling.
the stolen child

Have a care!” said Odele sharply. “Do not fling them all over the floor, which is dusty! We just bought them!”
She said it, thought Ella, as though that made them more valuable than if they had simply been stolen.
the stolen child

She had several nasty, formless dreams which she could not remember clearly afterward, but the last dream came upon her with a clarity that stung. A voice was calling, “Way! way! way! Way for the Queen of Thera!” She was in a press of people in a sun-bleached street. Everything was sharply divided in white light and black shadow. Her skin prickled. With the rest of the crowd she turned and leaned into the street, trying to get a glimpse of the royal person bearing down upon them. There was a horse with a dog’s head and tail, a fanning cloak that snapped like a flame, and then Ginger’s heart wrenched in her chest as the face of the person looked down into her own.
It was herself.

Without the prince’s manservant at his shoulder, Mazelin lost his composure. “Oh, Ginger,” he said, and his voice broke in spider-thin lines across his words. “Oh, Ginger, I’m so sorry. Oh, baby—” He set the flats of his hands against her flanks and murmured broken equations in a blind attempt to put her back together. Roxane’s hands tightened and Ginger’s chest, feeling the two of them falling apart around her, contracted as well. “I’m sorry. I’m so—I’m so—I’m so sorry. I did not think. I did not think…”

List the favourite foods of your main characters.

This is a curious question.   For The Stolen Child, I would say cranberries and roast pheasant.  For Gingerune, I think Ginger's and Roxane's favourite food would probably be fresh bread in olive oil and herbs (the olive oil, consequently, does not last very long), and Mazelin's is a hearty beef stew: big chunks of beef and copious amounts of heartiness.

Introduce us to the antagonist(s) in your story.  Does he or she prefer crunchy or creamy peanut butter?

We don't have peanut butter yet, Mr. George Washington Carver.

The Stolen Child is recognizably a Cinderella retelling: the antagonist remains the same.  In Gingerune the antagonist goes by the appellation of "Dream."  You will meet him from time to time in the other novels: he has a habit of turning up, like a bad penny.  But he gets his limelight in Gingerune.  He is an interesting study in villainy because he is not human: being human, or not, makes a difference, I am finding.

For a second or two his figure shook—there was a sense of crackling thunder—and as his mouth opened to answer she thought she saw great teeth and a furnace-colour of heat shimmering around his face. “When you close your eyes and sleep,” he said, “you see visions of your fears.” He turned back toward her: his eyes had taken on a fulgurant aspect. “When we shut ours, we see nightmares too.”

Check out the rest of the Actually Finishing Something [in] July gig at whisperings of the pen!

All Quiet On the Lunar Front

Amendment note on Margaret: Eva Green would be better.

Actually Finishing Something [in] July 
Week Two Questions
(It takes a long time to go from week one to week two.)

How time flies! (What.)  Did you reach your weekly goal?

Well, actually, I did.  I did, and I exceeded my goal!  I have rewritten Adamantine's first chapter and edited the scene in Plenilune which needed clarification. I was not expecting to get that Plenilune scene done last week: I was anticipating starting in on it yesterday and wrapping it up by the end of this week. 

Is this challenge pushing you and encouraging you to write more often?

I don't want this to be taken in a party-pooperish spirit, because I love Actually Finishing Something July, but the gig does throw me off balance a little since this time I am working on edits and rewrites, not ploughing through a single scene, the latter of which allows me to move forward with momentum and the historical context of what I have just written to guide me.  I feel disconnected and disoriented when dashing about from plot point to plot point like this, which often causes me to shut down.  But - it is making me get those edits and rewrites done, regardless of the fact that I sometimes feel I am blundering about in the dark.  And I'm grateful for that.  The getting things done, I mean, not the blundering...

Did you accomplish most of your writing in the morning, afternoon, evening, or at random intervals during your busy day?

I don't - hmm...  I seem to recall doing some writing last Monday morning before work, and then more after work in the evening.  I think I must have done some writing at Abigail's house in the afternoon and afterswimming of Wednesday.  I finished the chapter rewrite on Thursday - I remember that because I told my father I had done so that evening when we were sacked out on my brother's couches trying to fit dessert in alongside burgers and potato salad.  And then I worked more or less diligently on the Plenilune scene because I knew it was going to be difficult and I wanted to get the dashed thing over with.  Getting the dashed thing over with is always good incentive.

Any particular music tracks inspiring your prose?

I wouldn't say "inspiring," but I have been listening to Frightened Rabbit's "The Woodpile," and odds and ends of Two Steps From Hell: Infinite Legends, Archangel, Protectors of the Earth, Spirit of Champions, Strength of a Thousand Men, To Glory, United We Stand / Divided We Fall...mostly because that is what my husband has on his playlist and after I switch it on for my exercises I will sometimes just let it play on after I have finished and moved on to the rest of my day.  None of these have anything to do with my novels.

Share a snippet (or two) from your writing!

In the teeth of a mountain storm [he] and the other rough-hearted, half-piratical fairies had clung to shattered old roadways and scaled cliff-faces that only the wild black goats inhabited. Born and raised in the south country where weather was more wet than wild, [he] had borne the precipitous drops in temperatures hardly, but there was a persistent fear which he did not like to admit to which kept him going. His companions did not have that, and for two weeks, one by one, they had slipped on the broken roads and gone over into the abyss, or curled up to sleep at night and not got up in the morning. Only a few hours ago, in the molten gold of a distant dawn, [he] had rolled out of his fur-lined sleeping bag and shoved hard at Emer’s shoulder to rouse him, only to have the fairy’s vermilion wing crack off in a spurt of sluggish, blackened blood. For one horrible moment he had stood over the body of his last companion, guts crawling up on themselves as it was borne in on him that he was now completely alone.

[He] put up one heel on the rung of his chair and draped his forearm across his knee. For now Margaret chose not too look at the prisoner’s face, but watched [the other's] from a high angle—and saw...the wolfishness of him staring out from under the sharp-edged, dark brows of the de la Mare face as a wolf peers out from under its native bush. She saw the lips part a little and reveal the hungry dog-teeth. He leaned a little forward to meet the motion of his leg, chin upthrust to look into the prisoner’s face.
What must it be like for the prisoner, she wondered with a shudder, to have to stare back into that violent disapproval?

Share three of your favourite bits of dialogue.

The man got up. Under his feet the heavy shards of the box cracked, shivered on the wind, and became dust. “Are you going to become difficult?” he asked.

What—still have a little fight left in you? The dragon reared up its head. No matter. You are easily crushed.

Nay, sirrah,” she spoke lowly, huskily. “Do not look to us for mercy. Our hearts are iron-clad.”

How are you going to move forward in this challenge?  Are you changing your word-count goal, or other such battle-plans this week?

Rewriting the first chapter of Adamantine bore in on me the realization that there are several subsequent points in the novel which need attending to.  I have another section which needs rewriting in light of the first chapter.  I may tackle that next week, but at present I think I will squirt back to Gingerune.  I am standing between a particularly happy, emotional scene and a particularly horrific, emotional scene, and I don't want to make that step from happy to horrified.  Pfft.  I guess I'll have to do it anyway.  But I think that, for now, Plenilune is safe. 

Check out the rest of the Actually Finishing Something [in] July gig at Whisperings of the Pen!

Slips and Suitcoats

"What fun it will be," responded Tuppence.  "Marriage is called all sorts of things, a haven, and a refuge, and a crowning glory, and a state of bondage, and lots more.  But do you know what I think it is?"
"A sport!"
"And a damned good sport too," said Tommy.

What with one thing and another, marriage has rather been on the brain lately.  One doesn't usually think of it from day to day, one just gets on merrily side by side in a pleasant battle against the world, tied together by the heartstrings.  But lately it's been right up front and centre and I've noticed something which has been (probably) unconscious in the writing world which I thought I might drag into the light and address for my fellow writers.  It's all positive, don't worry.  I'm not shaking my finger at anyone today.  It's a mere case of thinking about why one writes the way one does.  The examined life and all that.  Of course, ever since the turn of the century (by which I mean the turn into the twentieth century) this topic has become squiffy, but I think you're all pretty sound of brain so I won't go into feminism and all that if I don't have to.  Of course (of course, of course) "anyone setting out to dispute anything ought always to begin by saying what he does not dispute," and it is my hope that in the course (of course, of course) of laying out these thoughts I will simultaneously deliver my views on equality of the sexes and all that.

the old set-up

I've begun to notice in my own writing, and in most novels, and certainly in 99% of the films one watches, that there is a man and a woman. The setting becomes jaded after awhile, I find: from the outset you know the only reason the man or the woman is coming alongside the woman or the man is because somewhere in the movie they have to get a bed-scene in.  You know it's coming and your soul groans with a badly-concocted sham of longsufferingness.  One goes into brand new novels with a wary brow lifted as the Significant Other makes his or her first appearance on the scene.  Even I looked round at The Shadow Things and Adamantine, Plenilune and Gingerune (Between Earth and Sky?) with a bit of surprise and plenty of worry to find the old tag-team pulling merrily away as they have from the beginning of time.

But that's the thing.  They have been going side by side since the beginning of time.  Other than "in the beginning God," man and woman were the first significant creatures on this terrestrial ball, and the old pattern, when stripped of ungrounded passion and bawdy comedic streamers, rings as true now as it did then.  It sounds like a cop-out to say "that's the way of things," but it is.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with a female character accompanying the male character of life or novel simply because God himself looked round on his plot and decided man wasn't quite himself without the woman.

the god

I've had my dizzying turn on the grumpy-go-round of the definitions of biblical "masculinity" and "femininity."  For heaven's sake I'm not going to get on that beastly contraption now.  But if there is one thing I have picked up from all the sane men of God writing, probably without realizing they were painting a picture of him, it is a rather unorthodox and alarming view of Man.  I say sane: I'm put in mind of Michael Card's song "God's Own Fool."

seems I've imagined him all of my life // as the wisest of all of mankind
but if God's holy wisdom is foolish to man // he must have seemed out of his mind
even his family said he was mad // and the priests said a demon's to blame
God in the form of this angry young man // could not have seemed perfectly sane

One gets images of men in armour thrusting their way into the Kingdom by violence.  One gets pictures by turns of courteous words and hard knocks.  One gets faces of flint and hearts of purity.  One gets kings out of servants and lords out of the lowly.  One gets an unexpected mastery over sin and Pan.  One gets an impression that man is like Vesuvius, sleeping quietly in splendour until something causes him to erupt.  One is made to take a good hard look at something one thought was perfectly ordinary and is surprised to find it unfamiliar.  We tend to look at man as the antagonist of Gingerune does, "sacks of fluids bolstered by a framework of bone, led about by various divided passions," and that view is often accurate.  But we run the risk of mistaking the "accident" for the "essential."  Man, essentially, is a splendid creation put in a position of mind-boggling power over a world of mind-boggling proportions and possibilities.

the goddess

I'm going to gamble on a pretty good mare and bet we have all read Proverbs 31 about the virtuous woman.  We are all made to study her, feeling a bit guilty and wondering how we are supposed to live up to that standard.  (I can't sew: does that make me a bad wife?)  But I do have to say that, regardless of the patriarchal setting of the Middle East and the debate which rages among Western church philosophy about whether that model still holds, and the fact that women don't get a lot of stage time in the biblical narrative, when they do, they often come in crowned in light and laurels.  One has Rahab and Ruth, Anna daughter of Phanuel, the woman at the well, the women who sat at Jesus' feet.  One has the Song of Songs and the murex-red goddess of Proverbs 31.

all her household is clothed with scarlet // her clothing is fine linen and purple
her husband is known in the gates // when he sits among the elders of the land

Despite the Rachels, the wives of Potiphar (though I understood he only had one and that was probably more than enough), the Jezebels, the wives of Herod (can't comment on how many he had), one comes away with an impression that God has a high regard for woman and that woman can bear herself with a head held high. The only extra-biblical depictions which come close are those of the better medieval romances in which the women came down to their knights at the day's end looking like the sky and the earth at once, serenity coolly floating over a passion hammered out of sterner stuff than metal.

the lord and lady

In all of this, one doesn't get the impression that women are supposed to "submit" (as most people interpret "submit" as the bowing down of one's head so that someone else can place his heel on one's neck), nor that man is obligated to abdicate his position of first creation and God-given lordship to pamper the weakness and gentleness of woman.  One gets the impression of two Titans side by side, countenances shining, and a laughter that could crush you.  One gets a king and his queen, in each a special splendour made perfect by the accompaniment of the other.  Beneath the piles of laundry, the bills, the dishwasher that needs running, the nine-to-five job, one gets a glimpse of the god and the goddess that careened about a garden in ages too long past, tripping over strange roots they had to stop to name and flinging themselves upon lawns to stare at a sky full of stars they had to make familiar to their eyes. 

the avatar in fiction

Like any good homily, having got to the end, I am coming back around to the beginning.  In my writing specifically I find once again the primeval god and goddess, veiled a little by the homeliness of ordinary life, but there nonetheless.  Here is where I plunge into dangerous waters.  It is easy to accept the fact that the man and the woman have always been there, but another fact is that they need each other.  Not being a man, I am not sure what spiritual bolstering I give my husband save that 1) I know that I do, and 2) it's a devil of a lot of fun to see the envious, puzzled looks on other college fellows' faces when he introduces me as "his wife."  I am well aware of what material good I do.  I have got over the guilt and have moved smoothly into a warm appreciation of the woman of Proverbs 31.

As for the position of the man, he is the head of the woman, and even Paul calls all this a mystery so don't look too closely at me for an answer.  But this little aspect of the duo, this mystery, is probably one of the clearest parts of male-female relationships among my characters, if you know what to look for.  The man - be he husband, fiance, or friend - slips wordlessly into the position of the woman's covering without me asking him to.  It is generally unspoken (such as Adamant's companion), though in The Shadow Things, when everything is up for Indi, he tells his friend to take care of Sillvia; and he doesn't mean, "Make sure she's got food and clothing and a roof over her head" - he means, "I want you to take her as your wife."  Since pretty recently, it was understood that a woman alone in the world was up for grabs, and if she wanted to be that was indecent, and if she didn't want to be that was a dreadful misfortune.  Regardless of what his purpose in the plot of the story may be, I've always found the man's role toward the woman was to be her provider, her protection, her owner not in the sense that she was a thing to be owned but that no one else could take her and misuse her.  She was safe.  She could shake her head at life and laugh because she did not have to grind her teeth in fear.  No restrictions, no oppression, only a thick-walled castle that no one can breach and a great warm fire within.

the truth of tradition

I'm not peeved now, nor worried, when I find the opposite sex edging into my novel alongside my main character.  I am not burdened by a sense of having to do it, otherwise the readership will be disappointed.  Usually, something deep within my subconscious knows what the plot and the characters need, and things are sorted out without my having to give them much attention.   If the woman comes, the woman comes; if the man comes, the man comes; and they all find their proper places within their lives and the life of the story as they always have since time immemorial because they understand tradition.

One has typically two views of tradition.  The first is that it is oppressive rubbish that ought to be completely done away with, the other is that it is infallible and ought never to be questioned.  A third and better tack is to discover whether or not the tradition is in fact a truth that has been enacted time out of mind, needs no discarding, and does the human spirit good in its continuation.  I believe this male-female companionship to be just such a truth, passed down from generation to generation, and when I find this companionship springing up in my novels I am perforce less likely to be concerned  that I am forcing a form upon my story and much more likely to be pleased that such a beautiful order has seen fit to blaze across the sky of my novel and crash to earth, disrupting and reorganizing the lives of all other things around it.

"Thus ends, in unavoidable inadequacy, the attempt to utter the unutterable things."

"You Know My Methods"

It's July again, and Katiebug has brought back the popular sport of Actually Finishing Something.  This time last year I was ploughing my way through a hunting scene.  It feels so good to be done with the first draft of Plenilune.  But one goes on, and one needs more motivation, and once again I'm hurling myself into the game of Actually Finishing Something.

week one

What is your writing goal?

I have several odds and ends that need clearing away: Adamantine needs its first chapter rewritten, and there is a scene which needs clarification in Plenilune.  These jobs will not take me until the end of July to complete, but I have been putting them off until now.  I will have to come up with a goal for Gingerune too...  Possibly hash out that nasty plot twist that was thrown at me, which I mentioned abstrusely in my video.

Give us a short synopsis of your goal.  What makes it unique? 

Well, the one is going to be difficult because it is supposed to be the "hook," and I have never been good with hooks.  I suppose that is what makes that part of my project unique.  My second task is going to require me executing invasive surgery on a scene that is already stitched up and tied off.  Gingerune is going to be difficult, as it has got into the habit of being difficult, because I'm going to have to brainstorm, and follow plot-lines to see how long until they pitch off the cliff, and generally determine which course of action is the best for everyone, myself and my sanity included.

How long have you been working on this project?

Seeing as I am working on Adamantine, Plenilune, and Gingerune, it accumulates to roughly six or seven years.  I feel as though I've covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time.  I remember starting The Starling, my massive break into fantasy literature, in January of 2005 - I know because I had just got word that my sister-in-law was expecting and my main character was having a baby girl as well...  But that tome was massive, took me seemingly ages to write, and yet I had finished that, polished and published The Shadow Things, written Adamantine (spanning some time before and after my marriage), Plenilune, and now I am thigh-deep in Gingerune, and in approximately eight years.  The word count and the year count doesn't seem to add up.

How often do you intend to write in order to reach your goal by August 1st?

I should have the chapter rewrite done by the end of this week, hopefully before.  The editing of the Plenilune scene should take a single sitting.  Pushing into the opening moves of the Gingerune plot twist (a plot twist which was foisted upon me against my will by my characters) so that I can determine where I am going will take I have no idea how long, and therefore I will be writing hard to reach that goal.

Introduce us to three of your favourite characters in this project.

Well, seeing as two-thirds of this is editing, you have surely already met Rhodri of Adamantine and quite a handful of characters from Plenilune, such as Skander Rime and Lord FitzDraco (who were in that other scene I was working on a year ago).  Personally, I think my favourite character of the Plenilune scene is Huw Daggerman, who, if you will remember, shouldered his way into the plot without my permission.  He doesn't have much to do with the scene I am touching up, but he is there.  Like Steve McQueen in "The Magnificent Seven," he is always trying to steal the limelight a little if he can, the brute, and that makes me laugh. 

Go to page 16 (or 6 or 26 or 66!) of your writing project.  Share your favourite line or snippet on that page.

Six or sixteen, twenty-six or sixty-six?  My plots are just gathering a good head of steam by that point!  Oh well...

The thin sunshine warmed her brow and the wind, cool and autumnal, was not able to get through any chinks in the rough-woven cloak of wadmal which Imogin had given her. The road continued to ascend very gently toward the southern hills; in places, the wild had swept back in like a green wave over the scar of trackway, a tabby sort of green: with darker waves where the juniper stretched, and lighter, furrier green where the tottergrasses grew. There was plenty of thyme, but by now it had all flowered and gone to seed. Ling was growing everywhere, the primary garment of the vast landscape, and clothed the grey earth with purple, red, and sagey dust. The tang of the plant filled the air. An abundance of shepherd’s purse with its eternal clustering of little pale spark-flowers, gorse, and red bryony had overgrown part of the ditch that ran alongside the road; Andor often got his collar caught on the gorse in his hunt for rabbits, but in time he learned to steer clear.

The staring contest broken, she looked round to find the monster from her dream in the doorway, dressed rather differently now in rich black tunic and trousers, as though Hamlet had somehow stepped off his stage into her life. He carried a pair of hawking gloves in one hand.  
“Be a gentleman,” said Margaret shakily, “and go away.”

Still.” Akmennades’ head turned back. “I think it is ill-omened. There has not been a man or a woman of the White Cyclamen these twenty years.”
 In the silence the wind pattered against the curtains. Ginger could feel, like electricity along a cat’s back, the soft, slow rise of Mazelin’s temper. “Verily?” His voice was careful. “I have been gone from Thera a long time but when I left my side of the royal family was strong. How did this come to be?” 

Tea or coffee?

Tea.  "Always." - Snape

And now I'm going to ignore everything, and go read Chesterton.

"This Video Thing"

Rather than make another blog post, I chose to put together a little video for some of the questions I was asked about Gingerune in A Literary Enlightenment.  One starts out by making a blushing apology: I have only an iPhone with which to make any recordings, and we know how well those turn out; also I jiggle a bit.  I hope you won't get motion sickness.  But so long as you are assured that I don't imagine this offering to be the cat's meow, I hope you won't mind its lack of quality too much.