An Honest Palette O' Paint

Who is the girl behind The Penslayer? Through the passive-aggressive prompts of at least three people (Rachel and Bree) included, I asked you to ask me what you wanted to know: who am I really? But I decided to shake things up, because if I answered the questions, invariably you would still be getting the part of me which I place in front of the internet.  So I elected to have the one person in the universe who really knows me answer your questions.
my husband
1. Would you call Jenny reserved or outgoing? Is she talkative when out in company or does she keep quiet? That would depend on the company. When she is around family and people she knows, she has a tendency to be talkative. But her natural shyness makes her reserved around strangers.

2. Does Jenny have any hobbies? Arts and crafts and such? Strictly speaking, no; but she does draw on occasion. I wouldn’t call it a hobby because it happens so infrequently.

3. Does she like old movies? Ye-es… The trick with Jenny is that she doesn’t categorically accept anything. Everything is taken on an individual, case-by-case basis.

4. Does she like classical music? If so, what composers/eras? She really only likes classical music if it is vibrant and bouncy and exciting. And we’re really neither of us well-versed enough in composers to know who might be our favourites.

5. I know you've been "abroad," but has Jenny travelled much within the U.S.? Not really. She has been to Pennsylvania—because of family—and she has been to Tennessee—also because of family—beyond that she has been to New York, Boston, and Austin, because of my college requirements. But it must be said that she enjoyed New York a great deal, much more than anyone anticipated that she would.

6. Can Jenny sing or play any musical instruments? Jenny can sing (perhaps not on the register that one would call profession, but she is definitely given to singing). She used to dabble in piano but has probably forgotten more than she learned.

7. Does she enjoy cooking? She enjoys the theory of cooking, but in practice she doesn’t enjoy cooking all that much, possibly because the lay-out of her kitchen is not the best. She never really paid attention to it growing up, so she never really learned. She knows how to cook, but she doesn’t really enjoy it.

8. What are some of her favourite Disney movies? “Mulan,” “Tangled,” “Aladdin,” “Hercules,” “Robin Hood;” she remembers liking “Sleepy Beauty,” but it has been a long time since she’s seen it. I think that generally she likes a good swaggering hero.

9. Does she like period dramas? Again, it depends on the drama. Sometimes they’re dull, but occasionally she likes things like good adaptations of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, or everybody’s favourite, “North and South”. It should be noted that if Jenny does not think she will like something, she is not inclined to go try it.

10. What is her favourite movie? If you asked me ten years ago, it would have been “Cromwell;” if you asked me four years ago it would have been “Gladiator.” She doesn’t really have a favourite anymore; front-runners might be 1995 “Pride and Prejudice” and the Romola Garai “Emma.” She is also a big fan of Hayao Miyazaki’s films.

11. Has Jenny read many biographies about the modern persecuted church and Christians in restricted nations? No; her exposure to current events and modernity are limited, by her own admission.

12. How did she start blogging? When she published her novel The Shadow Things blogging was a logical place to begin, but it has definitely expanded to include more theo-philosophical aspects of writing, which is one of her few passions.

13. I get the inference that Gingerune has been put on hold. Do you have any idea when she will bring it back out again? What made her 'stop' writing it? A confluence of events led to her putting Gingerune on hold, specifically going to Scotland, which caused a great deal of stress and required her brain for other things. Having got to Glasgow, Ethandune well and truly took the reins and got writ instead. Now there are some satellite stories of Plenilune which are more in her purview, since the research and inspiration is already flowing there.

14. Does she like being an early bird, or a night owl? Mornings are EVIL. Jenny is definitely more of a night-owl, for whatever reason, and not a fan of mornings—or of anything much that happens before eleven-thirty a.m.... We usually end up going to bed closer to midnight than not. Of course, I have to get up and go to work at nine…

15. Favourite YouTube channels? Blimey Cow.

16. What does she do for daily Bible reading? Which is her favourite Bible translation? She reads a chapter from whatever book of the Bible she happens to be in at the moment, whenever she happens to remember or whenever it springs to her mind. There isn’t a lot of stress about following routines or “reading through the Bible in a year.” Her favourite translation would be the New American Standard just because that is what she owns, but she likes translations which respect the scriptures as the Word of God and literature, and don’t try to “modernize” it. “The Voice” is STRAIGHT out.

17. If she had the chance to teleport herself into one of her stories, which one would she pick? She would be torn between Cruxgang and Maresgate, given that they happen more or less simultaneously, and she is attached to the characters in both.

18. Is she claustrophobic or does she have a fear of heights? You can only get one or the other? She is claustrophobic in extreme circumstances (but then, who isn’t?) and she has an hereditary fear of heights. She can make herself handle heights; mostly she suffers from vertigo.

19. What are Jenny’s favourite colours and colour combinations? She quite likes turquoise. Mostly she likes colours so long as they are well-pleasing together.

20. Is she left-handed or right-handed? She is right-handed. But she plays sports with her left hand. I say “play” sports…

21. What are her music standards? She has very high music standards; first off, there can be no obscenities and the lyrics need to be philosophically sound—she’s not one to put up with inanities. After that, as far as the rest of us can tell, there is some kind of capricious whim that allows her to accept a song. I do know that if she hears a song because it is in a Youtube video that accompanies characters or sentimental themes to which she is attached, she is considerably more inclined to accept a song she might otherwise have disliked. As far as artists go, she accepts them on a case-by-case basis, with the exception of Rich Mullins and Andrew Peterson.

22. Which is her favourite Rosemary Sutcliff novel? The Eagle of the Ninth/The Silver Branch. They’re companions, so it’s not really cheating.

23. Does Jenny have a distinct time-frame memory of her spiritual conversion, or was it more of a gradual 'coming to the faith' and understanding of God's grace and salvation in scripture from a young age, like Titus? Yes. The answer is yes. A bit like Titus, having exposure to and knowledge of the scriptures from a young age, but also the death of one of her grandparents when she was young caused her to inquire into the life to come and the means by which one could be saved.

24. Did you watch “The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug,” and if so, how did Jenny enjoy it? Yes, we watched “The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug;” it was a very good Smaug. The Peter Jackson additions to the storyline weren’t terribly welcome considering Jenny’s literary respect for Tolkien, but it was very fun to see The Hobbit on the big screen!

25. I know she isn’t interested in college, but if Jenny were to study at college, what would her choice of degree be: English Literature, History, or Creative Writing? (or something completely different!) Probably history. Jenny is not just Not Interested in college—college and Jenny do not coexist harmoniously. If Jenny were to go to college, one or the other would probably end up in ruins. But, if she had to pick one, she would go for history, because a) if she did anything English/creative writing-based, the instructors would all die horrible deaths, and b) history she could probably get through without murdering anyone—although she would be certain to disagree with some of her professors, perhaps even violently. If you ever want to see Jenny really, really riled up, try challenging her ideology.

26. Do your cats keep to themselves, each other, or you? What? They’re cats. They have a tendency to be very snugly (especially when it’s cold) and they do pal around with each other, but they’re cats, so they do their own thing.

27. What colour palette looks best on Jenny? I have to pick one? How very limiting. I would say that pink, white, and black all look very well on her. She’s not given to yellows.

28. Would she know what to do with a Hawaiian vacation? Hawaii doesn’t strike me as being a very challenging vacation, so yes, she would know what to do. She has most of the wardrobe for it, and would enjoy relaxing on the beach or seeing the islands and the culture. It might not directly inform her writing as Scotland did, but as far as a vacation goes, I think she would enjoy it.

29. WWI or WWII history? World War I would interest her more because of the remnants of the Edwardian era preceding the Twenties, which are of some interest to her; as far as actual war history, World War II is the more interesting and the more justifiable conflict. World War I only happened because some guy called Archie Duke shot an ostrich ‘cause he was hungry…

30. Churchill's insults or Shakespeare's? Shakespeare. She appreciates the merits of both—but Shakespeare.

31. What was her favourite movie of 2013? "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." Let it be said, we didn’t watch a lot of 2013 releases.

32. About how long is Jenny’s hair? It’s long; it reaches below her shoulder-blades. It’s…brown. Seriously, I’m not a writer. It’s sort of a brownish colour. A very nice brunette with some coppery touches when the light hits it, with a very alluring waviness to it.

33. What does a normal day look like for Jenny? On her at-home days she sleeps in; when she gets up, she puts in her contacts, then she gets dressed, does her make-up, checks the computer, and makes her tea all jumbled together in no real pattern. Then she’ll alternate between reading and writing, because she cannot sit still for any extended period of time—anything much beyond fifteen minutes. If she has a letter to reply to, she’ll do that. As a last resort she will do housework. She starts supper sometime around five, when I get home; we’ll eat and watch an episode of some show, or part of a movie, then we go back to doing our work until it’s time for Jenny to get her shower, then she drags her heels like someone being dragged off to damnation until we finally go to bed around 11:45.

34. What is something she is looking forward to this year? Among other things, she hopes to publish another novel. She’s always looking forward to her birthday, and there is a possibility of a family trip to the beach in October.

35. Does she listen to music when she exercises (I'm assuming she exercises), and if so, what sort? Yes, she listens to music when she exercises; it’s usually a mix of Owl City, My Little Pony remixes, and OC Supertones—really bouncy, upbeat, happy stuff.

36. How does Jenny like her tea? Hot and British. No really, anything black that reminds her of the Silk Road and the spice trade.  No milk, just a touch of sugar.

37. What would her dream formal dress look like if a designer designed one for a super special occasion? Is this a PG-13 interview…? Her dream gown would be this number.

38. Describe her personality in one word. (Try.) Complicated.

tim // linlithgow

Who Will Rid Me of This Turbulent List? & Other Questions

tom hiddleston as henry v plantagenet, in "the hollow crown"
This is the part where you ask questions.
My husband has been wanting me to throw out the opportunity for people to send in questions about me for some time now. Thanks to Rachel (and then Bree) now seems like a good time. Everyone has a persona, usually subconscious, that one brings to the internet. Who is the Penslayer behind the Penslayer? If you want to know, feel free to ask in the comments below!
This is the part where I tell you about all the books I plan to not read this year.  
I call this "the year of finishing books I started."  I have a few new books on my list, but several of my intended are books I began and put down for sundry and thin reasons, and while I liked them well enough, I didn't finish them.  And then of course there are some new books I want to read.  Shall we...?

The Christian Mind by Harry Blamires.  For whatever reason, when I tried reading this book years ago, I was never able to push all the way through.  Possibly it was the length of the chapters: by the time I was halfway through a section I had forgot what the topic was meant to be.  I have now got a number of Blamires' books under my belt, one of my favourites being On Christian Truth.

Practical Religion by J.C. Ryle.  I have absolutely no problem with this book, it's just quite lengthy.  I've been steadily chipping away at the brilliant pages and loving it immensely.  As I only have nine chapters to go, I think I can finish it in the span of 2014.

The Golden Warrior by Hope Muntz.  I love this book; it's a great piece of historical fiction covering the people and the events surrounding the Norman invasion.  But I know how it ends, so I stopped midway to save myself the grief.  That's sporting of me.

The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte Yonge.  My clearest memory of reading this book is sitting on the metal railing on St. James Road, Glasgow, waiting for the bus.  I don't know why that should be so clear to me.  I think I must have been particularly incensed at Philip at that juncture.  Anyway, I simply haven't finished the book and I intend to.

A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken.  Rachel recommended this autobiography to me and I have simply not yet begun to read it.

The Song of Roland by God Alone Knows Who.  I'm in the midst of Charles Scott Moncrieff's translation (there's a Scottish name for you, if ever there was one), but I also intend to read at least the introduction of Dorothy Sayers' work, possibly even her own translation as well, which I did not purchase until after I had begun to read Moncrieff's book.

These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer.  Because ever since finishing The Black Moth I have been anxious to know what became of Tracy Belmanoir.  I swear he showed up in one of my dreams in a very unflattering light.  I think he was going to kidnap me.  I feel bad about how my dream depicted him.  Sorry.

The Conquering Family // The Magnificent Century // The Three Edwards // The Last Plantagenet by Thomas Costain.  I am reading The Conquering Family at present; the lion in winter is king, and trying to make tidy the wreckage of England which Stephen and Maud left behind them in their gingham dog-calico cat war. 
That's the bulk of what I have on my list.  
How about you?  Do you have any books you intend to read in 2014?

"Sir, Did You Not Sow Good Seed In Your Field?"

"....How then does it have tares?"
Matthew 13:27

This is to be a piece to be taken in conjunction with Bree's post "The Impossible Male Character."  Seeing as the thoughts of my mind are only confusing always, I hope rather than believe I can make myself make sense.  You have stood with me thus far: I think we can make shift of it.

the greater the virtue, the greater the vice

I had begun to notice this in my characters, doubly so when Bree sent her post live on the impossible male character.  I manage not to fall into that trap of having characters be too good, or of having characters be too bad.  The trick I have discovered is in taking a virtue (love is the most profound among these) and twisting it so that it becomes a vice.  The stronger the virtue, the greater the vice it becomes.  My characters tend to be big, bold, larger-than-life kinds of people: their virtues and their vices tend to be large also.  But the interesting part, for myself as the writer, lies in the subtle line that distinguishes virtue from vice.  One character of mine loves a lady - he genuinely loves her, and I think that became most clear to me when someone mentioned a dangerous activity and he caught himself making a very slight but very telltale gesture as if to protect her.  Beneath a weight of ambition, hatred, pride, and self-worth, he loves her.  But even "the ploughing of the wicked" is a sin, and his charity is not redeemed by being, in its way, sincere.  Therein lies the subtlety.

that line is very thin

You are probably acquainted with Rich Mullins' song "We're Not As Strong As We Think We Are."  It is a very profound song and paints man as he stands, at the cusp of dust and heaven, wrenched by his mingled nature and his fallen estate.

we are frail
we are fearfully and wonderfully made
forged in the fires of human passion
choking on the fumes of selfish rage
and with these our hells and our heavens
so few inches apart
we must be awfully small
and not as strong as we think we are 

Perhaps the bigger the character, the easier it is to see this.  I can think of a strength for each of my characters which, in a moment, can become their downfall.  Dignity becomes pride, justice lacks mercy, forbearance becomes sullen.  And on the flip-side of these degradations of virtues, you have the rough and the ready and the sons of thunder whom you might look at and think, "You lack such charity, such grace of presentment - how can you be redeemed?" when often they are the ones closest to the kingdom of heaven.  On the one hand you have a man like Uzzah, an historical figure, whose quickness to steady the ark of the covenant looked like care, but was actually irreverence; on the other you have a man like Samson, who was full of the boastful pride of life, but whom God heard and answered at the last when his blind eyes had come to see the nature of his God more clearly.

the kingdom of heaven is like...

Bree was right when she said you cannot make characters too perfect or too imperfect.  You cannot simply load down a character with faults and flaws to escape the danger of making him too good for this earth.  We are each a universe of lawful and lawless factions constantly at war, which are not always wearing the colours we expect them too.  Great grace can easily be misused, small faith can move great mountains.  When you go to write your characters, and you take care not to make them too perfect and to mix their flaws with sense, keep in mind this also: even the most temperate and steady-going virtues can turn in a moment into sin, and that the smallest, the basest, the lowliest spirits will one day inherit the kingdom of heaven.

The Bones of the Heroes Do Not Break

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 
persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed...

I have just finished reading two remarkable pieces of literature, the first being a collection of three essays by William Hendriksen called Lectures on the Last Things, and (with the kind of providential timing that feels like being stabbed), Tales of the New Creation, an essay by Pete Peterson. With my head buzzing with all these thoughts, and with the timeline of my novels which I am working on even until now, I naturally produced a blog post.
[T.S. Eliot] says that “no poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone.” He argues that art is, by necessity “traditional,” that new works are predicated upon the old, each new poet standing upon the bones of the dead.
The dead are not lost to us.   The Scriptures are full of this thought: a great cloud of witnesses observe our time, the pre-incarnation saints await the gathering in of the elect of the current age, the righteous continually proclaim God's glory before his throne, and the Church Militant has behind it the steady account of the faithful saints who have lived and hoped and died in Christ.  In our place, we live and hope and will die in Christ also, leaving behind a testament to our children that the God of our fathers remains God With Us in every age.  This is a truth which should be woven into the fabric of our beings, for it is part of the fabric which weaves us all together. 

"Modern" philosophy has tried hard to divorce the individual (and has made great strides toward divorcing the individual) from all that gives him definition.  We are a recent series of generations defined by having been broken adrift.  There is no up, there is no down, there are no sins of our fathers, no righteous steps in which to follow.  Chesterton rightly pointed out that the man who has no boundaries is the man truly imprisoned: he has no frame of reference, no universe in which to hang the sphere of his mind.  But we of all people, a people composed across the span of time, have most cause to look out upon the universe with a sense of familiarity and ownership.  Numerous generations of men have gone before us in whom was shaped the mind of Christ, and through their eyes, their words, their creative spirits, we also can see further into the scope of God's self-revelation.
The world needs to know that the road is taking us somewhere. Pain and loneliness and suffering and hatred will not have the last word. What is the Cross if not a signpost on which is written “Come this way. Come over this hill?”
Reality is best understood, in my opinion, as an actual story being written (or that has been written) to disclose to the characters the person of their author - and no better story has ever been constructed, all other stories being horribly shabby but heartfelt offerings in mimic tribute to it.  But it is the fact that we continue to make those tributes that amazes me.  In the face of the enormous scope of God's progressive revelation, with that drive which perhaps prompted (if I may put it that way) God himself to make this Story, we must write our imitation of it.  We must steal the voices of our fathers, we must paint with the blood of our Hero, we must plot as he plotted, reveal as he revealed, painting pictures as we do so of some aspect of God's nature.  We are all possessed of multifaceted minds, no one man quite seeing the same aspect the same way: and with the cumulative conversation of the millions of minds which have come before us, we add our own words and, in doing so, add a little to the picture of our God for our children to see.  Our fathers are not dead.  Our children wait for our direction.  Cain once asked of God if he was supposed to be his dead brother's keeper: in the rest of time God has taken his time to assure him that he is.  Our fathers have left behind great grace; we are the keepers of that grace, and we pass it on to our descendants.

Like my fathers I am looking for a home 
Looking for a home beyond the sea 
So be my God and guide me 
Till I lie beneath these hills 
Then let the great God of my fathers 
Be the great God of my children still

We are not alone.  Not only is God continually with us, we have an honorable lineage to harken back to, a divine pedigree, and a hope of a life to come.  Who would not be charged with this magnificent truth at all times?  When Christian came upon Simple, Sloth, and Presumption with their ankles fettered, sleeping without seemingly a care in the world, he cried out to them to take thought for their souls and to seek relief.  Our ankles have been sprung, our eyes opened, our hearts set free.  We look forward and back upon numerous years of God's faithfulness, upon men who have feared the wrath of God and made provision for the well-being of their souls.  We must do likewise, and leave behind us such exhortations as Christian himself found on the King's Highway, warning travelers of danger, and building up their spirits with courage.

The signposts have been left to us.  Acquaint yourself with them; acquaint your children with them.  This life is one of a number of things for all people: a cup of wrath filled up to drink, a cup of grace with which to be anointed, a daily journey into the nature of God, or a determined rebellion of man against his maker.  In the economy of the Kingdom, we do our dealings in grace: take care that you use wisely what grace is given in the signposts, and, rather than burying that grace for fear of losing it ("...because you are an exacting man..."), invest it in further grace and further signposts for those to come.  The righteous dead will be rewarded and their deeds do not go unmarked by God.
we are all of us in a race and a war. I write these things to you so that you may not stumble.

Fly Away Home Cover Reveal

It is my pleasure to present to you the cover of Rachel Heffington's debut novel Fly Away Home.
Fly Away Home 
1952 New York City

Callie Harper is a woman set to make it big in the world of journalism. Liberated from all but her buried and troubled past, Callie craves glamour and the satisfaction she knows it will bring. When one of America's most celebrated journalists, Wade Barnett, calls on Callie to help him with a revolutionary project, Callie finds herself co-pilot to a Christian man whose life and ideas of true greatness run noisily counter to hers on every point. But when the secrets of Callie's past are hung over her head as a threat, there is space for only one love, one answer: betray Wade Barnett to save her reputation, or sacrifice everything for the sake of the man she loved and the God she fled. The consequences of either decision will define the rest of her life.
Self-preservation has never looked more tempting.

Let us take a moment to appreciate the beauty, the perfection, of this cover. I have had the privilege of watching Fly Away Home grow from an idea to a novel on the brink of "coming out," and this cover is, to me, a perfect encapsulation of the pathos of the story: cold New York at night, lit up with that old but flimsy promise of starting a new life among the rush of independence and capitalism.  It's a beautiful, beautiful cover - stay tuned for the story!
Fly Away Home Releases February 14th, Valentine's Day!
Rachel Heffington is a Christian, a novelist, and a people-lover. Encouraged by her mother to treasure books, Rachel's favorite pastime was (and still is) reading. When her own library and her cousin's ran out of interesting novels, twelve-year old Rachel decided she would write her own; thus began a love-affair with word-crafting that has carried her past her teen years and into adulthood. Outside of the realm of words, Rachel enjoys the Arts, traveling, mucking about in the kitchen, listening for accents, and making people laugh. She dwells in rural Virginia with her boisterous family and her black cat, Cricket. Visit Rachel online at

The Tigery Horseman

It is time for another Chatterbox from Rachel Heffington - but before we go into that, I want to give you all a head's up regarding her big cover reveal for her debut novel Fly Away Home.  Check in here at The Penslayer on January 15th to see the (gorgeous) cover of her novel!
This month's Chatterbox subject is food.  I cheated a little less this time, darlings: you can be proud of me.  By way of prefatory note, I should point out that the Raymond in this piece is not Raymond St. Jermaine of Talldogs.  I do not want you to be confused.  I apologize that they share that name.  S'a good name!
The Tigery Horseman

With a cool purr of humour Pan Aeneas put out her hand, sliding her dolphinskin book onto the narrow tabletop between us, and withdrew her arms again, pulling the lips of her lion-mantle closer about her body.  “To whom will I apply for spear-bearer, Raymond?” she asked.  “Philip is too busy, and no one else is man enough to match me.”
With a little meaningful widening of his eyes, nostrils expanding upon the scent of his own exasperation, my friend replied smartly, “If you would remember to draw upon the rein, and think a little to the value of your own hide, you might not outstrip the rest of us in the chase.  You know how simply Father would peel the skin off my hide if anything became of your neck.”
“Yes!”  Her eyes flashed with sadistic charm.  “Fie but I would not be there to see him do it!”
Perceiving that her glass was empty I leaned forward in the worn leather seat, whose twin Pan Aeneas occupied, and tipped the vessel of wine forward over the lip of her cup.  It was a rich yellow wine, like the rim of the world at sunrise, and slid the back of its smooth lady’s hand down one’s palette like a lover’s caress.  When the curl of liquid had ceased to roil I set back the vessel and pressed two fingers against the base of the glass, pushing it closer to my lady’s chair.
“The truth, my lady,” I said with the mockery that comes of long acquaintance, “is that you will not let a man come headstall to headstall with you for pride.”
Two long fingers turned over from among the lionskin and slipped around the stem of the glass.  “Cans’t blame me, my lord?” she inquired, green eyes gone sleepy.  She raised the glass to her red lips and let the soft yellow liquid play against her mouth. 
“Not at all.”  I sat back heavily into the armchair.  “It is also in my mind that you anticipate to find your quarry at the end of the chase, and not beside you.  Some phantom well in the wood, no doubt, will conjure up a man for you.”
Her eyes were on her glass, her brow played over with the sun’s reflection off the wine, and I perceived in her face that I had hit upon something: some slight pain, the briefest, the most momentary flinch as from an unwelcome yet persistent thought.  Her hard, vixenish face, framed in her auburn coils, bore of a sudden the look of a setter which hears the halloo far off and entertains for one weighty moment the fear of never following it.
Raymond said levelly, “Splendour of God, Pan—I am not asking you to catch a mate.  I am asking you to find an escort.  You are as good with a whip as any I know, and you have an unrivalled eye with the bow—no doubt,” he added, flinging an angry rhetorical eye at the smoky rafters, “you can turn a knife in the dark if you must—but it would put several minds at ease if you had a guardsman beside you.”
I kept still, set back in the chair with my arms upon its own, my chin bent toward my chest so that I looked out from under my own brows like a stallion which is deciding to be difficult.  On Pan Aeneas’ face I saw the pain was still lingering, but also that she was coming out of it.  She set back the glass, imprinted with her lips, and smiled gently up at her brother. 
“Would it set to rest the mind of Philip Cheval also?” she murmured.
Raymond opened his mouth to answer sharply, then seemed to see, as I did, the picture this little question sketched, for he thrust himself back a step, perplexed.  It had been some time coming, this slow metamorphosis of our threesome friendship, so long a tangled skein of puppy-limbs rolling out of our childhood, running into our youth.  Now we were full-grown, with the weight of our lands upon our shoulders, and Raymond was just now seeing the new shape our friendship was taking.
I had seen it coming a long time now.
Before he could find the words to say, Pan Aeneas jerked her head to the side, glancing over my shoulder with the half-angry interest of the proud; I also came forward, twisting round to see the thing which was happening behind us.
At the same instant she turned her head a gentleman of the way-house was calling out, “No, get ye gone!  Off my doorstep!  I’ll not have thy trade beneath my beams!”
It was a woman who stood in the entryway, backlit by the harsh summer morning, her body lymer-thin and gathered about in a heavy red mantle and a brood of shabbily-clad children.  Out from a mass of black hair she gazed at the way-house owner, who was coming meaningfully across the oaken floor toward her.
“I am come for food for my children,” she told him.  Her body clenched and arched like a cat which is pressed too close for comfort.  I could not blame her: the proprietor was a goodly-sized man, and she could not have been a hedge high, and was skin and bones.  The children crushed around her; the eldest of her brood, a boy of about seven, even took a step forward as if to close off the man’s path to his mother.
“I am come,” the woman repeated with a quiet desperation, “for food for my children.”
“And I am telling thee,” the man returned doggishly, “that there be no room in here for gypsies and harlots.  I run a respectable establishment.  Now take thy whelps, and take thee off!”
The woman’s harsh black eyes cut swiftly round the room.  She seemed to see all, and was yet unaware of the stillness which had fallen over the long low room: every body in the place was poised to watch, listening to the mounting irritation of the way-house keeper and the harp-string hum of desperation in the woman.  “The crumbs which fall from thy table,” she remarked softly: “be they not for the children of Heaven?”
My hands clenched on the arms of my chair, my mind sent a shock of imperative through my body—but suddenly Raymond was holding me down with one hand: I flung up a searching look toward him, but he nodded once, wordless, and I saw another bystander was already coming forward.  He had been there since before we had come, quietly seated at a trestle-table eating his meal and painstakingly scanning the thick pressed pages of a book.  At the time I had spared him no more than a glance: now, as he slid his legs over the bench and rose, coming to a breath-taking height, I ran a more critical eye over his length.  He walked like a cat, very softly and soundlessly, and wore the simple tunic and sword of a horseman who is off-duty. 
As he came one hand, in a manner so smooth it was almost absentminded, took up the complimentary bowl of breads and cheeses which had sat on his table and bore them past the way-house keeper.  The man stared at him in a kind of shocked stupor, the woman’s eyes kindled with a rage of hope, and the rest of us watched the drama with a thrill of anticipation.
The horseman held out the bowl toward the woman, every movement fluid and deliberate.  By the twelve houses! I swore in my wrathful love of him, to see him break a horse would be a marvel!
“Take thee the breadstuffs, mother,” he bade her.  His voice was like that of a tiger humming in its contentment.  “Take thee the bread and the cheese for thy little ones, and go thy way in peace.”
One thin birdlike hand, encircled by a dozen bronze bangles, lifted from the shoulders of the eldest boy, stretching out for the bowl.  But the way-house keeper suddenly snatched the vessel from the horseman, demanding, “Hast paid for that, that thou mayest squander it at will?  I will thank thee not to dispose of property which is not thy own!”
The woman started back from the quarrel.  The horseman, however, flung up one hand in a silent imperative, biding the woman stand still.  Then, with his other hand, one eye all the while on the way-house keeper, he fished down inside the fawnskin pouch tied at his belt against his left flank and drew out between two fingers one coin of copper and another of half-silver.  With a small, silent flourish he produced them between himself and the way-house keeper. He spoke no word, but he dropped his chin a little as if to say, “Now give me the bowl.”
But the way-house keeper coloured up and flung up his own hand in refusal of the money.  “It is a matter of principle!  I do not service these women, nor will I ever.  Take thy money and keep it—and you—” he swung round on the woman and her children.
A laugh kicked in my gut.  The horseman, with a movement so swift it was over almost before I had seen it, stepped between and struck the soft of the man’s wrist with two outstretched fingers.  There was a cry, a recoiling of body, and the bowl was in the air, swiftly falling toward the oakwood.  It would break—but the horseman, still in the gap, caught it on the saddle of his boot and spun with it, sliding it off between the feet of the seven-year-old street-whelp.  The boy dropped down on the balls of his feet and snatched up the bowl—his mother offered no scruple—and leapt back out of range before the way-house man could recover from the stinging nerves which the horseman had dealt to him.
“Oh, hoc habet!” hissed Pan Aeneas, thrust forward shoulder to shoulder with me as we watched.
“You—!” spluttered the proprietor, effusing rage.  His huge shoulders hulked forward, hands clenching into fists that would have dropped a horse.
“Yea, and there is hell to pay, an’ sure,” purred the horseman.  He put out an arm’s length and pressed his palm and the two coins against the man’s chest.  “Take the money, and in good grace.”
For a moment the man did not know what to do, he was so choked with the audacity of the horseman and with his own wrath.  Between them, silhouetted in grey and harsh black in the door, the woman paused in the act of slipping from the place, her arms full of children and food.  All eyes were on the horseman and the way-house keeper: I think I alone saw the look of uplifted gratitude in the woman’s meagre features, and the hero-light which shone, to her eyes, around the half-breed features of the tigery horseman.
Then she was gone, in a flutter of ragged scarlet and bronze light, and the storm which was brewing between the horseman and the way-house keeper had only just begun.
For a long time neither gentleman spoke a word.  The room was oppressed in silence, laced through with dozens of wills straining at the traces for an outcome.  I could not see the way-house keeper’s face, though I could see his fists: the horseman stood turned upon the proprietor, his face turned toward me and downward bent, a feather of a smile playing in his eyes.  He, too, was waiting for the outcome, wondering with a lordly patience if the way-house keeper was going to make much ado of the matter.
Lifting his head a little, the horseman said presently, “Wilt take the money, sir?”
Stung by his enchanting voice, the way-house keeper backstepped out from the horseman’s hand.  The money fell in sparking shards to the floor.  Like a cat the horseman started a little, brows askance as he watched the coins rebound their several ways across the oak.  I watched the fight flood through his limbs and he was moving before he was looking, sweeping up his forearm to block the way-house keeper’s bullish blow.  The next instant he had followed it up with a sharp right, taking the man beneath the breastbone.  As the man staggered back, eyes popping in surprise, the room erupted into a ragged cheer of approval and blood-lust.  Two boys sprang over the counter to come to the owner’s aid, gentlemen hauled back their benches to make room, and all in a moment the thing had turned into a kind of cock-fight, the horseman in the middle of the pack, indisposed to taking to his heels, his heels singing with the morning light off a pair of razor-sharp sun-disk spurs.
Raymond said in my ear beneath the roar of the gathering, “Wilt have the guard upon him shortly, and a flogging soon after, if he is not quieted presently.”
I smiled and held up my hand, willing to watch the horseman a little longer.  I had rightly judged him: his movements were all of precision, gracefully mingling a foreign style of boxing with our own, and though he was angry—deeply, ragingly angry with the way-house keeper in whose face he landed some half-dozen blows—I could see he was enjoying himself. 
Cloth tore.  The man wrenched free of a miscreant’s hand, baring his back beneath the cavalry tunic to display the flesh picked out in scarlet lines, sketching a magnificent dragon.  The northern style, my brows flickered with interest: half-lion, half-reptile.  A picture of the man began to form in my head, and I liked the image which I saw.
With his long arms he held the way-house keeper at bay, digging his heels into the floorboards, and his tremendous laugh thundered over the noise of the place as the proprietor swung fruitlessly at his ribs. 
“Insolent Carmarthen cur!” roared the way-house keeper. 
The horseman’s laugh was cut short by a blow from one of the yard boys: he caught the man hard in the kidney, and the man gave a little short gasp, trying to laugh, but I saw a momentary pain flash across his face.  It gave the boys enough time to loop their arms around his neck and pull him down.  The ring imploded.  I could no longer see the horseman, and knew only where he must be for the way-house keeper was ramming his boot into that place.
A bull-horn roared in from the yard.  The next instant the doorway was darkened by five or six figures in scarlet and leather harness, the plumes of their helms flashing white in the drift of motes and sun.  They crowded into the little space left to them and the foremost man among them stood a moment looking down at the hearty sprawl in the floor.  Disgust swept his face and he flung up his left hand; behind him, his second lifted the horn and blew another blast: the glasses in the cupboard rattled.
“Away!” cried the Captain, letting loose his whip and cracking it around the ears of the way-house keeper.  Away!  Look, man, he’s had it!”
The way-house keeper stopped kicking in the ribs of the horseman and the boys reluctantly slunk off the carcase.  I got a glimpse of the man kneeling hands and knees upon the floor, spitting up blood, his shoulders still shaking with an irrepressible humour and a fighting spirit.  He had not had it—I think the Captain saw that also—but he had sense enough to draw himself quietly back and get his feet beneath him.  His only piece of insolence was, in his languid, graceful way, to hold out his hand again to the way-house keeper, the two coins between his fingers.  His face was torn, bleeding freely, his dog-teeth glinted like the happy hunting cat, and he laughed, silently, hugely.  Whatever became of him and of the way-house keeper, I felt the two of them would go away forever knowing who had bested who.
“Dog!” snapped the way-house keeper, and struck the coins from the man’s hand.
“That is enough,” said the Captain.  He planted his hand firmly on the horseman’s shoulder.  With a jerk of his fiery head—for he alone of his men went bare-headed—he added crushingly, “I have not had to patrol the yard-stoop of this place since you hung out your shingle.  What are you about, brawling in this uncivilized manner?”
The way-house keeper nursed a busted knuckle to his lips.  “Nay, nor would ye!  This bantling would go against me, and throw good foodstuffs to the riffraff—when I expressly forbade it, moreover!”
“Feeding the widow and the orphan!” exclaimed the Captain with vicious humour.  “Fie upon it!”
Perceiving that the officer was not impressed with him, the owner was sullenly quiet.
The Captain thrust out his coiled whip, taking in the chaos.  “Lock up your postern and clean up your mess.  I will let you go this one time—but mark me: if you let another brawl like this happen I will be posting a guard at your door.”
The man opened his mouth.
“And—moreover—if you want to press your charges, you must needs come up to the garrison to do it.  But I find it unlikely your claim will swing much weight.  Sha!” said the Captain irritably, herding his men back from a fight which was beneath his station to attend to.  To the horseman, whom he had kept within his grasp, he said, “You, also, will come with me.  If you cannot keep yourself under rein in the off hours you will also feel the sting of the spur in your flank.”
With his gauntlet digging down deep into the horseman’s shoulder the Captain hauled him round.  At that moment I put out my hand for Pan Aeneas; she glanced at me with the green, dark laughter of the phantom-well and let me lift her to her feet.  Then we stepped forward, the scabbard-chapes of two of us clicking sharply against the table as we came, and broke in upon the ring of the party.
The Captain spun round at our advance, ready to drive us off, when recognition spread over his face.  “My Lord Raymond!  Philip Cheval!  I had not known you were on the premises.”
“Yea,” said Raymond with latent humour, “we have been sitting quietly by this while.”
I watched this information pass swiftly into the Captain’s mind, but he was already turning to Pan Aeneas.  He let go the horseman, who had also turned and was sweeping us with a supercilious look worthy of a war-lord.  Our eyes met: I smiled my salute.  He frowned.
“My Lady.”
Pan Aeneas lifted her chin, acknowledging the Captain’s smart bow.  “You have come and spoiled our sport, Ireton.  I had my money on my dog getting up again in a moment or two.”
Ireton laughed huskily.  “No doubt.  But the dog is going back in the kennel, I fear.  My lords…”
I held up my hand.  “Stay only a moment, Ireton.”
Ireton, with chagrined complaisance, retracted his step and waited as the horseman and I continued to sum each other up.  I had already seen all I needed to see of him, but he had not yet got my scent, and it was needful that he should know me as I had come to know him.  In contrast to his half-naked figure, brutally beautiful and covered over in sweat and sun and bruises, I was clad from neck to heel in soft linen and buckskin doublet, as light and airy as a fawn’s flanks.  He was still breathing quickly: it was the only sound in the room.
Two dark amber eyes left my face and ran the length of me, critically, before returning.  The lids closed languidly and reopened.  “I perceive you are a gentleman.”
His voice had lost the vulgar cant upon his perception, and he spoke to me as fluently in a gentleman’s speech as Raymond or myself.  Here is a diamond in the rough.  Verily have lowly loins born a great man!  My eyes, also, dropped a fraction, and saw the little hand-span of steel tucked inside the horseman’s belt.
“I perceive you carry a knife with you,” I replied, coming to his face again; “also, that you have not used it.”
Ireton pulled away his elbow to get a look at the knife, but left it be.
Suffering the Captain’s handling, the horseman nodded with sullen pride.  “Yea, I carry the knife.  I always carry the knife.  I do not always use it.”
I probed a little deeper.  “A gift, I think, among the northern tribes, to their boys when they come of age.”
And for a moment the cock-fight had begun again, with myself and the horseman at the centre of it.  We were suddenly not two proud gentlemen testing each other’s mettle, but Honourman and Carmarthen, and somewhere in our heart of hearts we were enemies.  I stood perfectly still, waiting to see if he would try to draw my blood, waiting to see if the hand hanging at his side would lift toward the knife.  It trembled; blood spattered off the broken knuckles.
Then the lips smiled straightly, softly, digging two lines back into the cheeks.  “Even as your fathers give the spurs and sword to their sons.  And see,” he added lightly, twisting one heel: “I have learned the trick of that as well.”
I flicked a finger at the proffered spurs.  “They are splendid spurs indeed.  Some of Godolphin’s, by the look of them.”
He waved one hand dismissively, for much as it was a great thing to own a pair of Godolphin’s spurs, it was a small thing for me to recognize them, and he knew it.  Just in that way, with so simple a gesture, the liking sprang up between us, swift and fierce.
I turned to the Captain.  “The kennel lies bare tonight, Ireton.  I will take the dog home with me.”
Ireton turned an askance brow on the horseman.  “You will want your horse?”
The horseman spared a soft smile on the way-house keeper—which must have cut up the way-house keeper’s pride like the knife he had not used.  “I will want my horse.  You know the one?” he inquired, purring down a little, for he was taller than the Captain.  “The long-boned dun.  Mind that he does not take the bit between his teeth, for he will do so if you let him.”
“Indeed?  And wherein did he learn the trick of that?”
Raymond flicked out a palm toward the doorway.  “It is close and a little mussed in here,” he remarked coolly.  “Monsieur Le Reynard, if you slip on the halter, we will go up to the Eyre together.”
I laughed my swift and soundless laugh and we went, walking in no particular manner for we never fell into any order when we would go out.  Light broke up around us in a swell, driving hot summer air into our nostrils.  Pan Aeneas’ skirts rushed around her tall, slim frame as she stepped down into the street, a whirling palette of ivy-green and auburn; I let her take my hand, though she hardly needed the help on the single step, and our eyes met a moment over her wrist.  Several understandings passed between us in that heartbeat—among them the understanding concerning the horseman with the dragon on his back.
Raymond slipped loose the numerous buttons on his doublet and slung it underhanded at the man.  “An’ here,” he recommended.  “It will just fit you, for we are of a size, you and I.”
With accustomed dexterity the doublet was put on and done back up, and we trained our steps up the cobbled roadway toward the rocky outcropping and the severe brow of Raymond’s house.  “You are very kind, my lords,” mused the half-breed.  He glanced over his shoulder and ran a quick eye over my lady, saluting her also with a gesture of one hand.  Then, meeting my eye, he added, “It is true that I own the honour of having the Lord Marius’ son and the fabled Philip Cheval as my saviours?”
“And Pan Aeneas,” said her brother off-handedly, “who would have put a thumbs-up for you into that man’s nostrils if she needed to.”
The lady added softly, walking with her hand inside my arm, “A noble thing you did, sir, to remember the condition of your mother in a foreign land.”
The horseman’s movements, swinging and easy, checked for half a heartbeat.  I felt the surge of temper in him come and go at once as he realized that we all knew he was a bastard of the north country, and realized also that we did not care. 
Lightly, I asked, “Whom do we have the honour of rescuing from Ireton’s watch?—although, I confess, Ireton liked you rather warmly and would not have done you harm.”
With a guttural purr of comfort the horseman put out his hand: I felt the long hard fingers close over mine, felt the rich energy pulse in the wrist.  This man had power in him, power and tempest and a genius banded in light like gold.  My skin thrilled. 

Coffee Grounds

The race is on. And I'm the only one in it. I have to finish Regency Buck by tonight because Abigail wants it, and if I'm not done she threatens to illicitly make off with it. I only have sixty-one pages to go, which should be manageable if it were not for the chunk of time already claimed for other things in my day. When I said, "I'll finish it by the next time I see you" I was thinking "Saturday morning" not "tomorrow evening"...
percolating snippets
"To be courteous to all and to work hard with your hands is a chain of office no man may be ashamed to bear. For the preservation of your own soul, make sure you are such a man as can ascend the hill of God."

Sit down, Tamn!” Raymond barked. With his ears full of the drumming of his heels on the woodwork and the roaring of his own blood, he crossed the room and slammed the undersides of his hands into the lip of the table, sending it shocking back into Dryden’s gut. “Sit down! I’m going to speak with you—and know that I have a remarkable aim,” he added with a growl reverberating in his throat, “and I am not afraid to use it, even on you.”

[He] stopped in the entryway and turned back, eyebrows rampant. "At your feet? What will you have done to deserve that? No, [he] will lay his head at my feet, and over his ears I will cross my spurs." He put his hand out and pushed aside the hanging. "If you want your enemies to eat out of your hand, be greater than they."

"I will not fight providence."

...I saw a soft smile steal into the crevice of it before the man was then looking at me, all movements slow and deliberate: the smile was gone when I looked down into his face, and half his face was plunged into shadow so that only one amber-shard was visible staring back up at me, its pupil shrunk down until it was almost nothing.

Very well. She dropped her visor so that the metal rang like her rage. I will kill her, and he will have no recourse but to face me.

"Shellah elain; falla farique?"

He recalled that day across leagues of days, a day of rage and inexpressible grief. It had been the day they placed his mother in the ground. He remembered that fight, hot-blooded and sweet in the brain of a boy to whom the world had turned dark and meaningless. He had cared for Skander’s honour, but he had needed also a thing to hurt which was not his own tortured soul, and that miscreant, slip-mouthed boy had been excuse enough. It was not a good memory to him.

For most of us we desire you to die,” he growled. “Nor do many of us wish to pass words between you and ourselves. To us you are a traitor. Who were you, Auxoris, whelp of the steppe country, born out of lowly loins, that you should raise yourself up above us and then set your heel upon our necks? ...Thou ungrateful half-breed bastard, whose first loyalty should have been to the mother who suckled him! When you were of bow-bending age you left us, your own people, to join the ranks of the pale southern charlatans! The tents of your folk you forgot, your blood you let stagnate in the cloying walls of stone. You learned the talk of the southerner, you learned the war-craft of the fells. You left your people, to whom you might have done much good, and for what?” he demanded viciously. “To become the bitch of the Honours!”

The thing came close, never fully in the candlelight, but as it stood by its master’s chair with its head bent a little, nostrils working at my scent, I saw its eye flick upward and chance down again, and was privy to a view of fierce, falcon-coloured iris and lids thickly swept with kohl.

Art sure it is a hound-on-blue for your house, or is it some other beast of heraldry? Juno, wilt curb your brute—or are you also set high against the bit?”
His smile, he felt, became unpleasant. “Do not appeal to me,” purred his cat with negligent amusement. “I am angry enough to kick out the traces.”
His cousin threw up one hand in despair and the admittance of a touch.

With two fingers [he] brushed the papers off his lap onto the cushion beside him. “I do not kick you about the skull…” His eye lingered on the window of the Fourth House, faded shell-coloured on the ragged sheet, closed in by thick atrament lines. The Fourth House: the House of Hearth and Home. A sudden smile, born out of a sudden humour, flashed up on his face and he tossed up his head, meeting his cousin’s eye with a glint and a growl. “Hast got more of thy mother’s temper than I reckoned!” he remarked.

"Aye, but you are not Father! You cannot play with death and expect to come away unscathed!"

A brief fierceness flickered over Auxoris’ countenance, causing me to wonder if the man had already asked Chatoyant to put out the life of someone in the dark as one presses out a flame on a candle’s wick…but then that soft, spare smile touched the lips, forming two harsh lines in the cheeks, and in answer he raised the hand nearest to Chatoyant. With a little corkscrew twist the man flashed upward, spinning round, and stepped away with the shiningness of a soundless whistle feathering the air around his body.

"Nevertheless, you will trust me."

All the way to Gemeren 
And back again by tea—
A round-trip on a sea-glass
Horse, a horse blue as the sea.
All the way to Gemeren
To go a-hunting deer—
Posting down to Gemeren
With Teddy and Mother-dear.

The Old Year

ne timeas, tempus fugit
Ha ha! to the old year
Good-bye to the cold fear
Gonna cry when I need it, smile when I need it
I'm gonna live like a living soul
Gonna write it on my wretched bones
And stop waiting for happily ever after
eric peters

While I am not much a one for celebrating New Year's day, I did click on the link posted by Andrew Peterson for his friend's song "The Old Year" - and in the course of the song, the line "and stop waiting for happily ever after" jumped out at me.

I see this every day. I see it in people around me, I see it in myself: that frantic desire to reach a better-than-right-now.  Contentment is truly a rare jewel in wisdom's crown, and while I do not fool myself into believing for a moment that I possess it, perhaps in Peters' song I caught a glimpse of it.  What is wrong with Now?  Perhaps Now is full of regret, or sorrow, or guilt.  Who wants to bear that burden?  Who would not want to slough that off as quickly as possible?  Thanks to God, we all have the liberty to take the regret, the sorrow, and the guilt of 2013 to his feet and leave it there.  For us, a new year is opening up ahead, a gift from our Father, in which to further emulate his son.

But then there is that "happily ever after."  How many of us subconsciously entertained the thought that perhaps this year I would get it right - perhaps this year I would accomplish all my goals, I would not fail, I would be holy, and everything would be happy.  How many of us realized how wrong that is?  I didn't, not until I listened to Peters' song.  In Christ, we all have a "happily ever after" ahead of us: we have the blessed assurance of it.  But nowhere are we promised that happily ever after now.  It has its time, and its time is not now.  So why are we stressing about getting it now when it isn't scheduled?  God knows - we don't - when it will happen, and no amount of worrying about it will bring it any closer.  All things happen in their appointed season, including happily ever after.  We are assured peace, joy, long-suffering natures (which, by the way, we don't need in happily ever after) - you are acquainted with the fruits of the Spirit.  We are promised equipment to face a life full of disappointment, heart-ache, the daily killing of our own selfish wills, but we are not promised a premature advent of happily ever after.

Every good and perfect gift comes down from above, from the Father of lights.  I am not saying that shouldering the pain of our lives is easy, but I am saying what the Scriptures have always said, that God is one who delights in mercy, that he is just, and that he knows what he is doing.  Don't worry about happily ever after: happily ever after will come.
You follow Christ.

Write Every Whenever

(it's cold and I want a picture of sunshine)
write without fear
edit without mercy
For all that Pinterest can be full of sappy, feel-good, escapist junk, every once in a while I'll run across a pithy little line that actually helps.  The above is one such: and coming at a time when I was trying to compact a very sizable novel into a brief summary that hit only the pertinent highlights of the plot, it was very helpful. When I wrote the summary, I wrote it.  I got stuck a few times, and frustrated, but mostly I simply put words on the page.  When I was done, I ran through it with a knife.  No word, no paragraph (no set of paragraphs) was safe.  There was an exhilaration both in the bravery of writing and in the ruthlessness of cutting.  There were some words, phrases, and paragraphs that I liked - I thought I had hit a good note - but in the end they were not necessary, and I had to set my sentiments on the back burner and hack them out.  It was a good exercise, and it made the writing process and the refining process so much more enjoyable.  When you write, write with passion, not looking back; and then remember that you are mortal and that to refine your dream, you must often tear it to pieces to make it shine. 
know what you write
They say "write what you know," which I have always considered to be a thin statement: I find it hard to write about what I do not know exists, so why bother stating the obvious?  But if there is anything that speeds the writing process along, it's knowing what you're writing.  Take that summary, for instance: I knew the material - I knew the story frontways and back.  I believed in the story, I loved it, and when it came down to writing the summary, for the most part the words came freely.  It made a huge difference because I almost literally had nothing left to do but sit down and open a vein for the words to flow, because I already had the life-blood of it inside me.  If you want to smooth the writing process, know what you are doing, care about it, believe in it.  It makes all the difference.
the "write every day" guilt
You've heard that line: write a little every day.  It's plastered all over Pinterest and writers' blogs, so that if you don't write something every day, you feel guilty, you feel like you're not a real writer, and you grow discouraged and another day goes by in which you don't write, and another, and at the end of this self-defeating guilt-trip, you're not a writer because you've paralyzed yourself into not writing anything.  The morbid, fearful mind is not one which is conducive to creating strong plot, growing characters, and good prose.  For some people, writing a little every day works.  For some people, it simply doesn't.  I know it doesn't work for me.  Sometimes I just need to take a little time off to percolate.  However your writing process works, don't allow anyone else to make you feel guilty because your process is not the same as theirs.  We are all individual human beings with individual personalities, minds, and habits: there are wrong ways to go about writing, but the right ways are not uniform.  People are sometimes uncomfortable with difference: remember, there is nothing wrong with being different.  If we were not all different, all the books would be the same. 

Darlings, writing can be hard, it can be frustrating, and it can be overwhelming.  But how many people would happily give up their nine-to-five jobs, the corporate stress, the grind of the machine, to bask in the freedom of narrative expression to which writers are the inheritors?  Writing is a privilege.  Wings can be heavy, updrafts can be hard to navigate, but don't lose sight of the miracle of flight in which you are participating.  Don't be chained, bullied, or terrorized, by yourself or by anyone else, into not appreciating the freedom we have in writing, and in loving our writing.