"Your Hands Are Bigger Than Mine," He Said Lightly: "Consider the Glove Taken"

My little cup of coffee is still making its way through my veins, and I was not fully through my breakfast (of everything barring the kitchen sink fried in bacon grease) before my eyelid started twitching, so this may not be one of the most coherent posts The Penslayer has ever produced.  I expect you have come to anticipate that from me.  I will attempt to not write in the same broken, repetitive fashion in which I am dictating these words aloud. 

Rachel - Rachel - has tagged me in a long sequence of book-related tags which I have been watching make its slow progress through the blogs of my acquaintance.  Without further ado - because I am far too tired to prevaricate - One More Book-Related Tag.

Is there a book you really want to read, but haven't, because you know it will make you cry?  You are asking the girl whose go-to author of choice in her childhood was Rosemary Sutcliff.  I cannot at present think of any book I am actively avoiding because it will make me cry.  I don't mind crying: generally that means the author has done his job well.  If the sad aspect of the book is badly done, I just get angry and I read something else.  After I have fixated moodily on the annoyance for awhile.  In a healthy fashion.  Because obviously the author did it just to irritate me.

Pick one book that helped introduce you to a new genre.  Flannery O'Connor's Mystery and Manners.  It wasn't the nature of essays which I was introduced to (I've been reading those sorts of things for years), but the whole culture of Southern literature.  I'm a native to the South, but my parents are from the North, and looking along the line of my bookshelves, I see British - British - British - British - British - oh my lands, British.  The most American my library gets is Lew Wallace and Ben-Hur.  Even the copy of To Kill a Mockingbird (which I just finished and enjoyed) belongs to my sister.  It was Flannery O'Connor who introduced me to the fact that not all Southern literature is cast adrift in an esoteric milieu of Reconstructionist poverty, but may actually offer some precious gems through the unique lens of Southern experience. 

Find a book you want to reread.  Given the desperate, haphazard nature of my library, squeezed onto my meagre shelving like a Christmas jellyroll into a whalebone bodice, "find" is the appropriate word.  ...Just at this present moment, it would make for a toss-up between Beowulf and Watership Down.  Because those two are so markedly similar.  I don't currently have time to read either, but both are so rich and enjoyable, I could stand to read them again.
darlings, i think the coffee is finally catching up
Is there a book series you read, but wish you hadn't?  Yes, Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness.  At the time I read them, they were fun and exciting, but after awhile I realized they were totally unbiblical, took more liberties than made me comfortable, and in general the writing is shallow.  It makes me sad.  Once upon a time we produced Ben-Hur, and now we get books like This Present Darkness.

If your house was burning down, and all your family and pets were safe, which book would you go back inside to save?  Well, assuming for the moment that my library had been previously divested of all titles which do not actually belong to me, I would be torn between my copies of The Divine Comedy (with its engravings by Gustave DorĂ©), Augustine's Confessions, and my copy of Simon by Rosemary Sutcliff.  All other books can be replaced (if I actually remember what all I have in my library), but those particular copies are beautiful and/or expensive, and replacing them would be costly for me.

Is there one book on your bookshelf that brings back fond memories?  With all respect due to the ease and portability of the e-reader, I must maintain that a physical book wraps itself in so many layers of glamour, a marker both for the story within its cover and for the time of life and spacial situation in which it was read, which e-readers do not grasp.  A few of my books elicit unpleasant memories - the bitter taste of regretful circumstances in which they were read - but many of them are the happy milestones of a casually scholarly life.  With Ben-Hur, I am slung in a chair in a local airport, waiting for my flight on a clear day.  With The Eagle of the Ninth, I remember the era of spontaneous and extreme nosebleeds which would attack my sister, leaving behind a telltale mark on the front cover which I have never bothered to wipe off for the sheer humour of it.  The Scarlet Pimpernel - curled up on the couch at my old house, reading through the dark of an evening without any intention of stopping.  I am seated tailor-fashion on the sidewalk before my old mailbox garden, reading aloud while my husband works, when I turn over the binding of The Discarded Image, and when I pick up The Grand Sophy, I am curled up at my husband's feet while he reads aloud to me.

Find a book that inspired you most.  The Worm Ouroboros - "Dost think we are here in dreamland?"

Do you have any autographed books?  Yes, my copy of Fly Away Home was autographed and addressed to me!

Find the book that you have owned the longest.  My coffee is not working that well.  I cannot tell you which book I have owned the longest, but my earliest memory of receiving a book is my gorgeous hardback copy of Black Beauty, given to me by my parents on the Christmas of '99.  I would defy Gustave DorĂ© to compose better line-art for the interior, and any of the Glasgow Boys to paint a better portrait for the cover.  A fitting casement for a story which, in my opinion, is as enduring, steady, and foundational as our own Ben-Hur.

Is there a book by an author you never thought you would read or enjoy?  "I was surprised by our conversation.  She has some first-rate qualities."  Honestly, I was not at all sure I would enjoy Nine Coaches Waiting.  I have a memory of toying feebly with the opening pages of Mary Stewart's The Crystal Cave (Mary Stewart - an ill-fated kind of name), and I remember my sister being handed a floral copy of some romance-type novel by Stewart, which, let's face it, put me off merely by the cover.  I admit that the copy of Nine Coaches Waiting which I read was not the most promising either, and I can't really tell you how I managed to get sucked into those first few pages - perched in a chair with my heels kicked up on the hood of the Audi, I think, while my husband worked in the garage...  At any rate, there I went, and I didn't look back.  Nine Coaches Waiting remains a favourite of the year.
undoubtedly, books are odd creatures

There Isn't a Moral At the End of This

via moi
I have now been at Clickitting for a week (give or take a few hours).  I'm not going to lie, moving at six-and-a-half months pregnant is a wearying, emotional experience, but some people have put up with worse.  After only seven days, a few of which were interrupted by workers at the house and the general unboxing late into the night, I have not cobbled together any semblance of a routine.  Poor Talldogs, which had really begun to roll during my last days staying at my parents' house, is once more sullenly waiting for me to cease feeling like an ant whose anthill has been kicked over.  Clickitting is very long: I spend a lot of time walking, walking and complaining that my back aches.  And when I do sit down at the computer, I have a roomful of unpacked boxes behind me, silently judging my immobility.  It puts a damper on creativity.
They gave me this huge kitchen, which is awesome, but I'm the member of the family which is all, "IS FLOUR THE STUFF THAT EXPLODES I CAN'T REMEMBER."
Constructively, I have been answering some very lovely questions by a handful of bloggers, which will be posted along with their participating posts in Plenilune's cover reveal (October 6th), and I have been throwing pertinent information (including my edited manuscript) at my formatters.  I've been monitoring readers' progress on Goodreads, and I must say, the enthusiasm is wonderful!  October 20th will be here before we know it!


The Writer Is a Social Construct

first of all, we don't all get pretty desks like this
Rachel covered some of the typical author stereotypes and how she thoroughly fails to conform to them, which was all very relieving and hilarious.  Since I am continually baffled by the elusive creature Pinterest purports the writer to be (a writer which seems to have little time between one bout of brooding and the next to get any writing done), I have yoinked Rachel's blog post and will address these stereotypes as I, also, fail to conform without really trying...

writers never sleep

This one is hilarious.  Sure, my husband and I tend to stay up late.  For now.  But we like our sleep, and while I have the luxury of sleeping in of a morning (for now), we like to be together in bed at night.  Only rarely does a literary whimsy carry me past bedtime.  When I do come up with a pithy one-liner or a sparkling scene while I am awake in bed at night, as one is wont to do, I lie to myself, as one is wont to do: "That was awesome.  I will remember it.  It is too awesome to forget.  I don't need to get up.  Bed is so comfortable.  I will remember it in the morning."  And I never do.

writers are exotic creatures

I don't know about you, but when I'm in a social setting (already awkward, especially if I don't know the people present), one of the last things that will make me relax at once is to parade me around as a "writer," a curio of tea-temples and castles in the sky.  Being treated as a wild animal from another planet is just the sort of reception a shy personality wishes to receive.

Actually, writers are typically pretty normal.  I may get odd looks (these are generally due to my literary and historical references, not in reference to my writing), but I am in desperate demand of the comforts of life: security, love, acceptance, warm food, hot showers, caffeine in the morning, an opening in traffic so I can make the damned left turn.  All in all, I'm pretty normal.

writing is depressing, grueling work, full of angst and inner turmoil and an imbalance of the humours and an overabundance of alcoholic beverages

Contrary to what people may think of writers, I am not constantly on the edge of losing my sanity.  I am definitely an emotional, sensitive personality, but honestly, I am most sane and stable when I am comfortably following the plot of a novel.  Contrary to what people may think, writing a novel can be no more difficult than any other form of work.  I certainly find the maplessness of it trying, and I have plenty of fears and concerns, but I'm not a blithering alcoholic with a jaded view of the world, stared out at from beneath the shabby remains of a half-burnt writing-desk.  I like writing.  Writing is awesome.
(I'm also pregnant, so I avoid alcohol for the sake of la petite renarde.)

writers are obsessed with death and pain and killing characters

Thanks, G.R.R. Martin.  Thanks for perpetuating this twisted view of ordinary, sane, well-adjusted writers.  We all appreciate that. 

Once upon a Sunday, very recently, we were discussing true Christianity and the sad fact that true Christianity and merely outward Christianity often, to the casual observer, look identical.  How does one tell if the mint is true?  One tests it.  And the testing (as James points out) is very rarely pleasant.  It looks like trials and temptations.  It looks like forty years in a wilderness and sounds like God's silence.  It burns like fire.  But at the end, when the foundations are shaken and the chaff is threshed out, the true and the false will be clear.  In my opinion, this is the greater point of trials and temptations in my writing.  Unpleasantness and hard providences are equally reflective of actual human experience, and I do not put any of these things in the way of my characters because I get a sadistic thrill out of it.  All things have their purpose - although the characters, like ourselves, cannot and may not ever know why their author has done these things to them. 

writers spend all their time at Starbucks

How - how - how you can sit in a noisy coffee shop full of people babbling and yelling broken snatches of a foreign, coffee-related language, appended by the names of people who are not actually present, and write anything cohesive, is beyond me.   I need calm, I need pattern.  Inconveniently, I need them badly, which means any upset is liable to make it hard for me to write anything.  

writers obsess over the mechanics of making up character names

Nope.  My characters come quickly with names, and only rarely do I test-run one name only to give it up for another, better one.  Something - my characters or my subconsciousness - usually knows what it is about when it assigns names.  I almost never look names up: I wait until a name comes to me.  And they do just come, like Little Bo Peep's lambs.  Sometimes I don't like them, but they suit.  Trivia: I actually hated the names "Margaret" and "Simon" prior to working with characters by those names, I was indifferent to "Philip," and I had a grudge against "Skander."  True beans.

writers consider their characters to be their babies

As a writer who has made characters whom she loves, and as a human being who is making a baby which she loves, I can tell you this mental mix-up is not appreciated.  There is no comparison between characters and babies.

writers spend all their time on Pinterest

(Okay, that one is true.)

"Watchword & Battle-Cry, They're Both the Same"

did they tell you stories about the saints of old
stories about their faith
they say stories like that make a boy grow bold
stories like that make a man walk straight
rich mullins // boy like me, man like you

Like most novels, Plenilune needed an author biography.  I had been putting off writing it: how am I supposed to distil myself into a few pertinent (or impertinent) lines for the reader?  But I finally got the thing written to my satisfaction, all in one take.  It is equal parts bare fact and myself (I am rarely fact).  It is the effect of cumulative causes arising from my pitched wrestle with Plenilune & Co.

If you are a writer, you know how intricately entwined you can be with your writing.  I have long since got past the self-insert stage of scribbling, thank goodness, but I am the giant, great and still, which sits upon the pillow-hill, and sees before her, dale and plain, that pleasant land of Counterpane.  I am still all over and through my novels like lightning across a summer sky and gold in the rock.  Like any writer, I wonder what my readers will do when they wander through the stories and find me there.  I wonder if they will recognize me.  I wonder if they will hear whatever it is my subconsciousness is saying between the lines.  I wonder if they will wake up.

"You show me how splendid I could be and you awaken my aches."
"Good. I think somewhere beneath all the chaos of creating, that is one thing I wanted to accomplish. I wanted to wake up the kettle-drum sound of blood in your ears and put the sunset in your eyes and teach people how to be brave - or foolish - or faithful. Sometimes those things are all rolled up into one."

I am five feet tall and six months pregnant.  I have a voice which no one can hear because it is so small.  I have big brown doe-eyes and I have to make myself not look away shyly when I am trying to communicate verbally.  When you look at me, you do not see the snippets you read on The Penslayer.  But when you read the snippets - and Plenilune - you will be seeing me.  You will hear crack-backed knuckles and the sizzle and rip-tide of lightning; you might see what it is like to have every nerve traced with fire, or feel with it is like trying to hold an atom together and release it at just the right moment.  You might feel what it is like to breathe stardust and feel like you could pick up a mountain and hurl it end-down into the ocean.  You might feel what it is like to be desolate and brave and lost and triumphant all at once, because when I turn myself into whatever energy the written genius is, that is how I feel.

"The gods and demons in their palaces. Lewis writes that you never meet a mere human, and I know that is true. In light of The Princess and Curdie, one meets monsters and deities. Only, one can't always tell which, and people do not realize how splendid they might be, or should be, and don't wear their heritage like tattered gold cloaks. So I do not see the gods and demons of them, only the shabbiness, and I write the palaces in my novels to console my aches."

They say everything hums with the movement of sheer existence, and if you have the right mechanics, you can hear that music.  Whatever I am composed of, it hums inside me like the throat-snarl of a wildcat.  I want others to hear that hum too.  I want them to wake up and grow spines.  I want to patch together the old Gammage Cup cloaks and polish the light in the old Gammage Cup swords, and make us brave, because life wears us down and looks thin and shabby.  I want to light up the rim of the reader's world with apocalyptic fire and feel what I feel when the words come roaring and the wind picks up, and the deceptive shabbiness of the weary soul is scrubbed off like verdigris off precious metal. 

I want to make us bold and brave and steadfast, and not lie to ourselves and say we are not tremendous even while we are small.  That is why Plenilune catches you in the teeth.  I'm not hitting you with my little five-foot frame at the end of a small fist.  Whatever they mean by the halo in the old iconic paintings, whatever Lionel Royer painted into Julius Caesar's face, whatever the heart means when it is torn to shreds by a vicious joy, that is what I hit you with when I write.
man, walk at large out of thy prison