Meet the Books! ~ Jennifer & Fred

Once upon a time not so very long ago, I told y’all about this story I was working on, ANNA. And how it was my precious child and I loved it. And how I was rewriting part one before moving on to part two and how I would literally die for half of my characters…and so on…

And anyway, I did so under the aegis of Belle Anne’s fabulous Meet the Books! linkup, which she has done again. And because I am actually working on two projects at once (ANNA in a more editorial vein, this one in the mad bloody chaotic rush of first-drafting), I am going to do it again too. I am going to tell you allll about my current project, Jennifer & Fred. Many thanks to Belle Anne for creating this linkup, and many thanks to anyone who wants to stick around and read my blabbering. If you don’t, no hard feelings. Have some cookies anyway.

What is the title?

Why, didn’t you read the title of this post? “Jennifer & Fred” is the title, and a perfectly scrumptious one if I do say so myself.

I’ve also considered titling it “Jennifer & Fred & Baseball & Potlucks & Simon&Garfunkel.” It has a nice ring, but it’s rather long.

What is the genre? Time period?

Historical fiction. Late 1960’s. I think my parents have objected to this and said that you can’t possibly call something historical fiction if they remember it, but whatever. It’s historical fiction. (Though I am curious when exactly the cutoff would occur. We live in a totally different time than the ’90’s, and yet calling that historical fiction just seems wrong.)

How is it written (POV, main character, etc.)?

First person. (It’s my favorite, what can I say?) It’s told by my main character Jennifer, whose narration is liberally peppered with literary references. Which, you know, is fun to write. If also exhausting when I can’t think what Greek myth she’s trying to draw a simile from here.

What is the setting?

A fictional small town in Arkansas, based on the one my mom lived in as a small child.

Who are the characters?

Jennifer – main character, age nineteen, orphan, amateur artist, avid reader. Does church work but isn’t as into it as her cousins. Has quite a talent for sarcasm but filters. Possesses what Frances calls “an unfortunate regard for the truth.” Likes Bach and Mendelssohn.

Frances – Jennifer’s twenty-year-old cousin, also an orphan, flaming redhead with a flaming temper. Flamboyant. A little self-centered but goodhearted. Hates sewing. Loves painting. Also has a talent for sarcasm and sees no need to filter. Likes Beethoven and Liszt.

Cora – Jennifer’s twenty-two-year-old cousin, also an orphan. Excellent cook. Kind to a degree that is probably not possible in one with a talent for sarcasm. Has asthma. Has a secret passion for Saint Bernards. Likes all music but her favorite is probably Vivaldi.

Aunt Mary Jamesina – The cousins’ great-aunt, in whose rambling old-fashioned house they all live and have grown up. A small, white-haired invalid. Reads Dickens aloud to everybody. Is as kind as Cora, but unlike Cora can also understand the baser passions that sometimes afflict Jennifer (like the desire to push Aaron over a cliff).

Aaron – The ten-year-old cousin, also an orphan, who has recently come to live with the girls permanently, although before he only came once a year to afflict them at Christmastide. Cheerful, destructive, loves people, loves baseball. Has no proper respect for the dignity of a cat. Adores Jennifer. Is mildly resentful of Frances.

Fred – The saturnine nephew of a couple at church, visiting from Little Rock. Meets Jennifer at the after-service potluck and is struck not so much by her beauty as by the curious mingling of vinegar and courtesy in her conversation. Just got back from Vietnam and doesn’t have anything to tie him to Little Rock anyway. Yields to his aunt’s urging to prolong his visit. In pursuing Jennifer’s acquaintance, ends up falling in love with her whole family.

The baseball kids – Some of their personalities are still emerging, but I’ve grown very interested in Max, the quiet fifteen-year-old kid with a rotten home life and real pitching talent; Nick, Aaron’s buddy, eternally cheerful in affliction, and not a bad fielder either; and Vernon, Aaron’s tall-tale-telling best friend with a very dignified name that he does not live up to at all. Which is why he goes by Hank (his middle name is Henry) instead.

What does the plot consist of?

Good question. And I’m sure that somewhere in the middle of Jennifer and Fred coaching Aaron’s ragtag baseball team, Aaron and Frances learning to get along, Fred introducing Jennifer to the wonders of 1960’s folk rock, and Jennifer trying to help Max, a plot is hiding. It’s just hiding rather well.

What gave you the idea?

Fair warning: this is kind of a long story.

It begins in November of 2015, when my father had an Idea. Said Idea was that over the month of December, we should all write a story, and we’d read them aloud to each other on Christmas Eve. The story had to be a Christmas story in one way or another, and, just for an extra touch of unity, it had to include a ten-year-old boy named Aaron. For this occasion, I wrote “Of Colored Pencils and Christmas Lights,” in which Aaron spent December with his cousins, many catastrophes occurred, and Jennifer had an epiphany. It was long for a short story, and apparently it was also boring. By the end, only two listeners were still awake, and they only by a great effort of will and eyelids.

Anyway, despite the dismal failure of “Of Colored Pencils and Christmas Lights,” the idea overall was a success. We’ve done it every year since, excepting 2016. And despite the dismal failure of “Of Colored Pencils and Christmas Lights,” I remained rather fond of it.

One day, quite out of the blue – I think I was thinking what an unromantic name Fred would be for the hero of a romance – a character named Fred appeared in my head. Now, I’d always thought I’d like to expand on “Of Colored Pencils and Christmas Lights,” maybe have Aaron come to live with them year-round, but that wasn’t a novel plot on its own. But with a romantic lead named Fred – well!

Well, that wasn’t a novel plot on its own either, it turned out, though it was getting there.

One day when my family was in Arkansas, my mom showed us the town where she’d lived when she was a little girl. Barely changed, she said. She recognized her old house, her friends’ houses, the house of that horrid boy who liked to chase her. The Baptist church, the post office, the great field behind the house where they played – there seemed to be blackberries growing along it, and behind it rose…well, I know they call them mountains in the Ozarks, but my idea of a mountain has a bit more height to it; but to call it a hill doesn’t have enough height. Anyway, it rose behind the field, tree-covered, thoroughly shielding it.

Anyway, very picturesque scene, very pleasant sleepy little town. Jennifer’s story had always been set somewhere in the South, but if I was going to turn it into a novel I needed an actual setting, and this was perfect. It was perfect that it was Arkansas too. Arkansas is Southern, but not quite the same as the rest of the South; maybe it’s too far west for that. Anyway that’s how I wanted the story to be too: Southern but not just absolutely drenched in Southernness.

So I had a setting, but still no story. Somehow I had to get the kids of the town into it. Aaron’s friends? Jennifer volunteers somewhere? Fred…?

This summer, however, thanks to Megan I had an epiphany. Baseball. It would be a baseball story. I’ve always meant to write a baseball story. And so now I am.

Who are the favorite characters so far?

Max and Nick, I think. My poor boys. They don’t have the best time of it, but they’re so good about it all and I love them very much.

(Fred is also fun, of course, all sarcastic and cynical and secretly a starry-eyed idealist who could ask no more of life than to turn some eager uncoordinated kids into a real baseball team.)

What is the favorite scene so far?

I haven’t written many actually good scenes yet, but I do like the one at the church potluck where Jennifer and Fred strike up a friendship over being uncomfortable in crowds, she takes offense to his assumptions about her, and they proceed to have a heated conversation about Great Expectations.

Any drawings?

If Jennifer and Frances were real, there’d be an abundance of them. They are not real, so there is a sad dearth of them.

Any themes of music for the work?

Oh, yes, indeed! Every Simon & Garfunkel song ever, really, although I guess to make it easy the most appropriate ones are Mrs. Robinson (because Joe DiMaggio=baseball, plus disillusionment with the older generation is Fred all over), Why Don’t You Write Me? (I don’t know why particularly, it just fits), and Bridge Over Troubled Water (mostly for Jennifer’s relationship with Aaron and subsequently Max). Technically only Mrs. Robinson would’ve been released at the time the story takes place – in fact, I think it might’ve been released right in the middle of the story? But whatever. I said every Simon & Garfunkel song ever. Go look up, I don’t know, The Sound of Silence and I Am a Rock and April Come She Will if you want to be historically accurate. I mean, they’re good songs too.

Oh, and the Kinks’ The Village Green Preservation Society. Mustn’t forget that one. It’s practically the theme song of Jennifer’s family – or at the very least it’s what Fred thinks their theme song is. And he himself is more in sympathy with it than he supposes.

Any snippets?

Fine, I will share one (1):


“I hope you brought fruit salad,” said Mr. Busse anxiously.

“I’m afraid not this time,” I replied. “But Cora’s potato salad will be making an appearance, so do not despair.”


Strong point in story?

Uh…hopefully it’s funny? I’m not sure that it is, but oh well. What are revisions for, I guess. And if it was funny, that’d be the strong point.

Weak point in story?

That aforementioned absence of plot? Yes. That.

What are your plans for it?

To work on it at my own leisure and hopefully have a working first draft by the time I’m done rewriting ANNA. Whether that will happen or not remains to be seen.

Any particular writing habits for it?

Lately, that would be not writing it.

If it were made into a movie, what would be your ideal cast for it?

I feel like this would be fun to come up with, but also I don’t know very many actors and don’t have the energy. So…I have no idea. My ideal cast would have subtle charisma across the board, but none, except Frances’s actress, would be too terribly beautiful.


And that’s the project I’m working on. Or at least ought to be working on. Who should I cast for the movie version? What have y’all been writing? Where do you think something ceases to be contemporary and becomes historical? What one band would you introduce your true love to?

Meet the Books! ~ ANNA

It’s always fun to start new writing projects – or to come back to beloved old ones. Now that I’ve tucked The Dream Peddler out of sight (and hopefully out of mind) for a while, I’ve been able to get back to my very favorite child, ANNA. Never mind that I keep getting distracted by shiny short story ideas or tapped on the shoulder by Jennifer&Fred&Co – my Main Project is ANNA.

Specifically, a rewrite of part one. Parts of which have not been touched since I was fifteen.

Nothing against fifteen-year-old me, but some revisions are definitely in order before I get on with part two.

I’ve mentioned ANNA before, I think, but never given very many details. Thanks to Belle Anne’s lovely Meet the Books! linkup, however, details are exactly what I shall now proceed to get into. More details than you ever wanted to hear, probably. I don’t know. I could talk about this book all day. It’s my baby.

What is the title?

Oh, titles! I’ve only been working on this project since I was fourteen, and I for one don’t believe in rushing things. It hasn’t got such a thing as a title yet.

What is the genre? Time period?

Fantasy! Epic fantasy, I think. You know, magic and made-up worlds and politics and wars and sarcastic princes and The Sea?

Time period, hmm. A bit of a mish-mash of different elements from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Europe and the U.S., I guess. Dueling pistols, spectacles, watches, the occasional representative government. Helpful inventions, but no factories. It’s been six hundred to a thousand years (timeline is still a work in progress) since a big ol’ war that destroyed almost all records, technology, and cities. It’s far enough in the past now, though, that that doesn’t visibly affect the present.

How is it written (POV, main character, etc)?

From the point of view of an eight-year-old in part one; from the point of view of that same eight-year-old, only she’s now seventeen, in part two. Except I don’t think she stays seventeen. I don’t know. I haven’t got to the end of part two yet.

What is the setting?

There are several. We have the wintry forests (at least, they’re wintry in the winter) of The Forest and Arda.

We have Dofhren, the Rangers’ Forest, which is a very hilly forest full of nomads. It borders the ocean on the west.

And we have Elinisra, a large land with varying togography. Most of the action takes place in the hills that aren’t plains because they’re hills, but they don’t grow trees either – they’re sort of like the Flint Hills in Kansas? (Those do have some trees, but…the parts without the trees.) Elinisra has a relatively young central government and some very very old cities run by lords of very very ancient and noble lineage (but they still copy Odhori fashions) and a nice little capitol city called Noddin and a whole lot of farmers.

Whole lot of farmers.

They also have a resident wizard, partly because copying Odhor is the fashion, partly because he is useful. He may or may not be up to no good.

Who are the characters?

Anna, the main character, is a stubborn eight-year-old who, like most eight-year-olds, asks a lot of questions. Practical. Intelligent. Not very tidy. Surprisingly really fun to write, though I can’t be as flowery as I might wish.

Etan is an ordinary kid in a Forest village who helps Anna. Being fond of adventure, the thorn in his happy existence is that he’s never had a real one. Helping a random girl escape in the middle of the night from vague but sufficiently sinister villains is, I imagine, the high point of his existence.

Jem is just your regular woodsman, out in the forest on his way to visit his sister, who had to go and marry someone from Arda. Being the father of two, he adroitly handles a chance meeting with a little girl who seems to have fallen upon peculiarly terrible circumstances. He doesn’t talk much (you don’t need to when you can shoot as well as Jem) but is nice to have around if you need a friend, protector, uncle, or brother. Competent, reserved, kind.

Dom is Jem’s obnoxious nephew. #Domisthebomb is a thing and I really don’t know why.

Uls and Liska are a teenage brother-sister pair in the Ardan town of Innscarn who have differing views on whether betrayal of innocents is an acceptable way to earn your living. Liska is beautiful. Uls never stands up straight.

Finn is the nineteen-year-old daughter of Jem’s old friend Cormic. Brave, redhead, could maybe dial down the bitterness a notch or ten, really really really good with her knives.

Narril lives all by himself in Dofhren, hoping his former compatriots don’t think he’s important enough to hunt down. Which, so far, they haven’t. He grew up in a big Odhori city, liked gardening and hero legends, wanted to be Grand and Important, and dropped out of university when he got involved with some very bad people. Has a very, very, very low opinion of himself. Is very, very, very fond of Anna. Would murder people to protect her. (Does, in fact, murder people to protect her.) Considers cooking, history, extensive knowledge of poisons, archery, and cleaning up after yourself you impossible child the essentials of a young girl’s education.

Danel, also known as Dan, is a Ranger lad who wants to kill a bear. It’s hard being the son of a woman who’s famous for killing a bear with nothing but her knife (thus saving her future husband’s life), okay? It’s a lot to live up to. Maybe he’d live up to it better if he spent less time running wild in the woods with Sal (his cousin) and Anna (his best friend). I don’t know. He’s pretty chill. Not really the bear-killing type.

Dan’s grandfather is a fortune-teller. (A type of magic that you’re either born with or without. An inordinate number of Rangers are born with it; it’s speculated that this is because they live so close to The Sea.)

Minna is a nice, old Ranger lady and the only person Narril trusts. A notable seamstress. Lives at Cafh Tul (one of the Rangers’ few permanent settlements) year-round.

The tall man is a somewhat pathetic bad guy who wants to take Anna to his boss, for reasons.

The unflickering-eyes man is the other bad guy who thinks the tall man is an idiot and wants to just kill Anna here and now. He was blinded in his youth and later healed – but not quite all the way – and that, if you were wondering, is what’s up with his eyes. He’s probably the only person in the world Anna is really scared of. She’s a feisty little thing.

Thus the important characters for part one. In part two, we add Aidi (a lonely teenage prince), Mistress Ryeira (a kindhearted innkeeper who likes country dancing and wasn’t born yesterday), Misherel (Aidi’s grouchy guardian), Gerodh (the ailing king), Ilirai (Elinisra’s dubious court wizard), the cart driver (bad dude, stay away from him), Adrin (soldier who’s never actually been in a war, his cynicism is part of his charm in the ladies’ eyes), Emli (farm boy turned soldier), Tyn (the king’s official messenger, takes her job very seriously, almost as seriously as her clothes), Derin (Aidi’s cousin and best friend who has been missing for years now), and probably some other people too. Like I said, I haven’t finished part two yet.

What does the plot consist of?

Heh.

Okay. I’ll give this a shot.

Eight-year-old Anna wakes up one morning to find her parents gone. They’ve left only a note that warns her to leave and tell no one her true name. Pursued by men who want to kill her, helped by the kindness of some, betrayed by the avarice of others, she flees to Dofhren, the land where the Rangers live beside the sea. But the man she meets there isn’t a Ranger; he used to be one of the ones hunting her. Can she trust him, or will old temptations prove too strong? And if he can redeem himself, what will it cost? More than Anna’s life is at stake: her home, her friends, and the world built out of the ashes of a long-ago war are once more imperiled by an ambition as hungry as the sea…and not nearly so forgiving.

I wrote that off the top of my head and I’m not going to revise it at all, because then when it was still horrible I wouldn’t have the excuse that I wrote it off the top of my head. Also, it’s better than most things I write off the top of my head. It even sort of tells you what it’s about.

On a less official note, I’d say the plot consists of: people going to extreme lengths to protect the people they love, redemption arcs, playing around with the Chosen One trope, going-off-to-seek-your-fortune, fantasy roadtrips (a trope I…actually kind of love), girls in disguise, war.

What gave you the idea?

Funny thing, I have two sisters who are both talented artists. Guess somebody mailed my share of the artistic ability to the wrong sister’s address. Twice.

Other funny thing, I still haven’t written this scene.

Who are the favorite characters so far?

Narril is several people’s favorite. My mom and sister, in particular, have strong opinions about what should happen to him – opinions that I do not share, and that they are somewhat wrathful with me for not sharing.

Aidi is well-beloved by my sisters and I, as is Jem (I love Jem), and of course my one sister is devoted to Etan and the other one is devoted to Dan. And we all adore Adrin, if only because he’s funny.

My favorite, though, is Anna. I love how quiet, yet sassy, yet polite, yet obstinate she is. She’s realistic almost to the point of pessimism, while the best word to sum up her attitude has to be “cheerful.” And that’s after some of the awful things that have happened to her. I would like to be friends with her, if only she were real.

It strikes me, I confess, that it is conceited to be so delighted by my own creation – but she doesn’t feel like my own creation? I mean, I know she is. I’m not crazy or anything. (Not that crazy.) But she feels real.

Maybe that’s just what happens when you spend so much time creating and thinking about a character.

She’s the real reason this book is my favorite child, anyway. I like the world and the scope of the plot and the general aesthetic, but I care about Anna slightly more than is probably sane. If I could only ever write one story, I’d write Anna’s. And of course it would matter, because there are other stories I want to write, but it also wouldn’t matter. Because hers is the story I want to write. If that makes sense.

What is the favorite scene so far?

Aw, gee, I don’t know. I’ve written a lot of scenes.

I do really like Jem Whacks the Bad Guys, as well as Anna Makes a Heroic Offer and Anna Definitely Doesn’t Cry. I’m also fond of Etan Aids and Abets Horse Thievery.

Any drawings?

I have several drawings of Anna and one of Dom. They’re all super cute, but they’re by friends and sisters and I don’t want to plaster them up on the Internet without asking if it’s okay first, which I am currently feeling too lazy to do. However, I did in my own person and drawing upon my own ability concoct a map years ago. I’m not an artist (see three questions back), and it’s not one hundred percent accurate anymore (I guess I should draw a new one), but here it is:

Green is farmland, orange forest, blue hills, red mountains, purple plains, brown uninhabitable desert. The spots that look like melty M&Ms sat on them for too long don’t mean anything other than that melty M&Ms sat on them for too long.

Any themes of music for this work?

Actually, yes! This is fun because usually the answer would be no, but if you play a twenty one pilots song, there’s a 50/50 chance it’ll make me think of Adrin. “Fix You” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” are exceedingly appropriate for Dan, and I cannot hear “The Preacher and the Bear” (great song) without thinking of him. Select folk songs are very Elinisran, as Renaissance polyphony is Odhori. The Rangers would be fond of Aaron Copland. And this song makes me think so much of Narril:

And for…not really the work, more the world, the official theme song is Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair/Canticle.” Which fits so well, although I can’t explain why, because of spoilers and because part of it is just the Feel Of The Thing.

Isn’t it a beautiful song, though? Isn’t it just…something else? The instrumentation and the layering of the Canticle in with the old English folk song and the strangely perfect harmonies? Not even my favorite Simon & Garfunkel song, but wow.

Any snippets?

I guess I can pluck up a few from the smoking, cratered wilderness of the rewrite.

A page from the aforementioned rewrite

The next evening I read Mother’s letter again. I was supposed to go to Noeran, whoever she was. Probably she was one of Mother’s sewing ladies. I scowled. I didn’t like any of them very much. They tittered and pinched my cheeks and said wasn’t I a pretty little thing (which I wasn’t) and then ignored me the rest of the time.

I’d have to go, of course. But not yet.

“Not yet,” I explained to the cows with their accusing eyes. “Because Mother and Father just took longer than they thought they would, maybe, and it wouldn’t be good if they came back and found me gone. Would it?” I crossed my arms, dangling the bucket. “No, it wouldn’t. So not yet.”


I was all by myself in the darkness. Just like the stars, I thought. Far away from everyone else. And if the unflickering-eyes man came to get them, nobody would even know; they would just be gone, forever.


I yawned before I took another bite of eggs. Jem’s sister looked at me, and then she lifted her eyebrows at Jem. “I told you it was too early for her.”

Jem looked at me. “Is it too early for you, kid?”

“No, sir,” I said, but then I thought maybe that was contradicting Jem’s sister, which wasn’t polite, so I added, “I mean, I don’t mind.” Then I yawned again and put another bite in my mouth.

Jem’s sister’s lips tightened like she wanted to smile.

Jem said, “This way we’ll be gone before anyone is awake. No one will know where we went, and we won’t have to endure Dom’s emotional farewell.”

I raised my eyebrows at my food, but I didn’t say anything.

Jem’s sister smiled at me. “Jem doesn’t always mean what he says, dear.”

I regarded her. “You mean Dom wouldn’t have an emotional farewell?”


Angst and people who like each other being mildly confused by each other. All in all, a pretty accurate summation of my writing.

Strong point in story?

Judging empirically, the characters. One is the subject of a hashtag and at least two have occasioned threats against the author lest she (I) disregard their well-being. Not to mention I have grown fond enough of a few of them myself to occasion doubts of my sanity.

But I personally think the strong point is the dialogue. Which flows out of character, I guess. I like writing dialogue, and I’m usually pleased with how it turns out

Weak point in story?

Well, this is how I write action:

He punched the other guy. “Ow!” said the other guy. He punched the other guy again. They fought some more. Eventually, one of them won.

You can see how that might be considered not the strongest point of the story.

(Not an actual quote, by the way. I could furnish you with an actual quote, but you’ll just have to trust me that it’s as bad as I say. My sister read a tense and exciting scene over my shoulder once, which was very rude of her, and had the audacity to laugh…then to groan…then to say, “Man, you’re bad at writing action. Like really bad.”)

And the plot….

I have great hopes for the plot. Hopes that it will straighten itself out, stop following rabbit trails all the time, and eventually maybe even look handsome and alluring and mysterious. Right now in my hoping I feel a great kinship with the mother of a ten-year-old boy who she hopes will grow up to be a successful young man but whom she has just caught sneaking in through his bedroom window, his best trousers ripped and his person smeared with mud. He stole a cherry pie earlier in the week and cannot remember his Sunday School lesson.

Also, I’m not sure if it’s a weak point or not, but writing from an eight-year-old’s perspective, while fun, is hard sometimes. Like, how much is too much, you know? Is this what an authentic eight-year-old would say, or is it just dumb?

What are your plans for it?

I mean, finishing would be nice.

Any particular writing habits for it?

No-o, but I’ve discovered that chickens make wonderful Muses! Cats do not.

If it were made into a movie, what would be your ideal cast for it?

I don’t know enough actors to answer this properly, but I do think the actress who plays Kate in Lost (Evangeline Lilly?) would make a good Anna. Not that Anna’s anything like Kate, but she has the right look.

I also think a young Henry Fonda would make a grand Jem. Tom Hiddleston would be perfect for Narril, except he has the wrong skin tone. But I feel like he’d act him well. Jimmy Stewart (quiet, steady goodness) and Vivien Leigh (bright, vivacious beauty) as Dugo and Arenedha (Anna’s parents), respectively, would be great, although, again, Jimmy Stewart has the wrong skin tone. The Odhori are much darker than Emraeins and Elinisrans and Rangers.

Oh, and the kid who plays Mordred in Merlin? He’d be a great Dan. Little Mordred would be a great Little Dan too.


That is that; ANNA‘s official debut into Polite Society. I still feel like y’all know nothing about her, though. The story is so complicated. Hard for me to explain. I really enjoyed writing this post, though, and thanks again to Belle Anne for creating such a fun linkup! What writing projects are you guys working on? How are they faring? Do you pick favorites among your characters?

The April-May Story Report: Editing, Westerns, and a Whole Lot of Fluff

“Ah, summer,” says Russell Baker, “what power you have to make us suffer and like it.”

Russell Baker is a man of uncanny prescience, because he said that a long time ago, and yet here I am, in the Present Day and Age, positively rejoicing that summer’s here.

Well…almost here. It’s going to be hot this week, supposedly. It’s been hot the past two days. But I know the weather’s going to have some more random mood swings (and so much rain) before we really hit summer proper. My sister and I have improved upon the old saw, “April showers bring May flowers,” with the following more accurate modification: “April showers bring May showers bring June showers bring July Oven Days.” (July Oven Days, if you didn’t know, are when you whip up some batter indoors, set it outside in the sun a while, and when you retrieve it, voila! All baked for you.)

So, we’ve not yet got to the Oven Days, but I suspect someone’s been messing with the preheat button.

ANYWAY. I debated not even writing this post yet, because half a dozen books is significantly less than my usual two-month diet of late. And I didn’t even read (well, finish – I’m actually currently reading several absolutely wonderful books, just taking them slow) any really stand-out books to rave extensively about, so it’s not like this post will be up to my usual gargantuan standard?

But that, I realized, is okay. It’ll give me a chance to include things besides books that I want to talk about, like stories in other mediums and my own writing. Thank goodness, I do believe this post will be gargantuan after all.

Also, I really need to write it because as you may or may not have noticed (quite possibly I’m the only one who’s noticed this), I have not posted recently. I’ve had about as much time and motivation for blogging as for reading, which is to say not much. But that’s something I’d like to change.

Anyway. On to the books.

books

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The Blue Castle

Lucy Maud Montgomery

I still don’t know what I think of this book.

Considering I read it a second time for the express purpose of deciding that, this is rather depressing.

[Although I did have one new thought, which is that Valancy reminds me of Sophie, from Howl’s Moving Castle. In personality and circumstance, and change of personality through unfortunate circumstance (minus a bit of the rage). To a degree that I find rather amusing.]

Anyway, ’tis the tale of one Valancy Stirling, who has existed for twenty-nine years and hasn’t lived a day of it. When she realizes she has a heart condition that means she has only a year left to live, she decides to do something about this.

So she shocks her family (who don’t know about the whole she’ll-be-dead-in-a-year thing), takes care of a dying, friendless old schoolfellow, and goes about keeping house for the town drunk and marrying the town blackguard.

The descriptions of woodland Canada are some of the most beautiful, enchanting things I’ve read in my life. The bits where we cut to Valancy’s family gasping in shock at her latest mad freak are highly entertaining. “So there you were” is now a phrase that automatically makes me giggle.

I’m in love with the book for the first, oh, seven-eighths at least. And then I abruptly fall out of love. (I don’t know how you’d fix it, either? It’s a light story that doesn’t need some dark depressing ending…but I don’t like this way of getting round a dark depressing ending.)

Also, Barney Snaith doesn’t feel much like a real man to me. Not that I’m an expert on such things. But I can’t help suspecting he’s just L. M. Montgomery’s ideal of a man – which is, moreover, a rather different ideal from mine. (If I have one. I’m not sure I have one.  But if I do, it’s not Barney. Fife or Snaith.)

(…Can you imagine Barney Fife being someone’s ideal man?)

The Borrowers Afield

Mary Norton

I know why I reread this one the least as a child. The ending is kind of sad and awful for poor Arrietty, and thank goodness for sequels. But it’s really a lovely one overall – matter-of-fact descriptions of the glories of nature from six inches high, adventures in survival, Spiller.

Spiller is wonderful. Kate says that, and it’s true. Spiller is a half-wild Borrower boy who doesn’t like to be asked too many questions, although Arrietty sometimes asks them anyway.

I have a new appreciation for Pod (the father) too, now I am older. Pod is a darling.

This book is a darling. Also, incidentally, a very springtimey read, though it’s pure accident I read it in spring.

The High Valley

Jessica North

I say chalk up a moderate success to the Read a Random Book in Your House experiment. Despite some shortcomings, I enjoyed this one. Allison, a young American, goes to live in the High Valley (a ranch in Mexico) as a teacher for the recently blinded mother of the two brothers who own it. One is harsh and suspicious. The other is suave and mysterious. Which one is good? Which one is bad?? Which one will win Allison’s heart???? (And who is this mysterious Veronica she apparently resembles?)

After reading this, I really want to start learning Spanish again and also I will probably have nightmares about horrible old ladies.

The Collected Father Brown Stories

G. K. Chesterton

An accomplishment years in the making (but accelerated in 2020), I can now say I’ve read every last one of the Father Brown stories.

Which is fun.

Also kind of sad. I’ll never get to read them for the first time again.

But as I discovered with The Resurrection of Father Brown, at least some of them only improve upon reread.

Father Brown is a comforting, delightful creature, who always elevates a story when he appears (which is sometimes not for a while). Sometimes he takes long enough to appear that he’s a breath of fresh air when he does. I love his good sense and his unassuming kindness and the massive flurry everyone gets into trying to figure things out, while Father Brown adds to the confusion by saying things that make no sense whatsoever. Until hindsight comes along, that is.

Flambeau too is amazing. I’m bitter that he got left out of all the later stories (save one). And I’m bitter that the mention of Flambeau at the beginning of The Secret of Father Brown got my hopes up, only for the stories to not include him at all. Really, Chesterton.

Flambeau or no Flambeau, though, The Resurrection of Father Brown is fantastic and I just love it and that one American character and the fun Chesterton has with the tropes of detective literature and the way he describes people and just ACKKKKK. So good.

Also, I’ve gotten to wondering what people’s real opinions regarding stories drawing moral conclusions are? People tend to say they don’t like being preached at, but I think maybe they just don’t like to be preached at poorly. Because I dislike stories that strike me as “preachy,” but I’ve realized that Chesterton has no qualms drawing moral conclusions with his mysteries, and I think it actually makes them better stories. Even when I don’t agree with them. Even when I get really, really disgruntled about The Chief Mourner of Marne and how it’s kind of…not fair to Protestants.

But anyway.

Father Brown is great.

Prelude to Terror

Helen MacInnes

It will be a sad day indeed when I run out of Helen MacInnes novels to read. Of course, I can always reread – maybe make it my goal to reread every one of her books as much as I’ve read Assignment in Brittany; that’ll keep me busy for a while – but there’s nothing quite like not knowing what’s going to happen to this grumpy art critic who’s been sucked into international Cold War intrigue against his will and whose life, it turns out, is very, very in danger. This novel is not MacInnes’s best character work in my opinion, but the suspense nearly killed me.

And also Frank was pretty great. I mean, generally people who have intelligence but not tact, and competence but not gentleness, are some of my least favorite ever. Somehow, though, I loved Frank.

And…Avril might’ve been flat, but her knowing so many languages was the coolest thing ever, to me. Can I be Avril? (Or…not. Come to think of it, considering the events of the book, I’d really rather not be Avril.)

And even if it took me a while to warm up to him, I felt awfully sorry for Grant. He’s no Hearne – he’s no Myles, even – but I wanted him to be okay. Poor guy.

Hogfather

Terry Pratchett

I wanted so badly to love this.

I mean, it’s hilarious, for one. Also, the premise is that there is an attempt to assassinate the Hogfather (the Discworld’s version of Santa Claus), and Death and his spunky granddaughter have to prevent it. Also, Death.

If The Book Thief and this book have taught me anything, it’s that Death as a character, a character who’s naively puzzled by humans but interested in them all the same, is the best character ever and I love him with all my heart and soul.

But much like The Book Thief, even Death can’t quite save Hogfather for me.

It’s hilarious, yes. I laughed, yes. But I didn’t always like that I laughed. Sometimes I was genuinely disturbed to discover that…I find this funny? I’m actually laughing at this? I know some people would disapprove of me for some of the more morbid or irreverent things I find humorous, but this is different; I disapprove of myself.

Also, author’s intent or not, books that devalue human life really bother me. The other Pratchett book I’ve read, Going Postal, does it too. Don’t ask me what I mean, because I can’t point to anything specific. It’s just…there. Or I feel it there anyway, this thread of – I don’t know, disregard for, or denial of the dignity of (or something), life. And I hate it.

Also, the only thing that annoys me more than the “children are little angels in disguise” trope is the “children are fiends incarnate” trope. Guess which one this book suffered from.

ALSO. I know Death was arguing from within the materialistic/naturalistic worldview to another person with the same worldview, not trying to convince someone who didn’t hold that worldview of the truth of it, but what’s with this whole grind up the universe and you won’t find one atom of justice or one molecule of mercy nonsense? There may or may not be a moral order to the universe, and there may or may not be deity that has its being outside the belief of human beings, but just because you can’t grind up the universe into its respective atoms and find them doesn’t mean they’re not there. Why would you expect justice to be measured in atoms? Grind up light into its constituent photons, and are you going to find a single wave? No, you’re not, because you’re not measuring with a measurement that detects waves! It’s on a whole different scale. Justice can’t be weighed with materialistic measurements, but how do we know the materialistic scale of measurement is the only one there is?

And…the whole idea that gods or ideals or whatever only exist because people believe in them bothers me too. It turns into this weird worship of humanity. And humanity, let me tell you, isn’t worth worshiping.

I mean really. We’re not. We’re awful.

Anyway. That’s all. I didn’t like Hogfather – I begin to suspect Terry Pratchett isn’t for me – but Death is precious.

other story things

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Guess what? I’ve fallen in love. I have all the symptoms – staying up all night to think about him, sighing happily whenever he crosses my mind (which is frequently), trying to talk about him all the time to my family members who could not care less. My wonderful friend Megan introduced us. His name is Lepanto, and he’s a poem by G. K. Chesterton about the Battle of Lepanto and Don Juan. And guys. The IMAGERY. The RHYTHM. The GORGEOUSNESS. Here’s a link if you want to read it, because if you like poetry at all you will probably love it.

One of my characters decided Spiderman was her favorite superhero, and she further decided that MARVEL’s Spiderman: Homecoming was her favorite movie. Naturally I had to watch it, because how are you supposed to write about a slightly obsessed character if you don’t even know anything about the thing she’s obsessed with? I wasn’t too averse, because I liked Spidey from Civil War.

But…I’ve said before that superheroes aren’t my thing, and I stand by that. They’re just not. There were fun things about the movie, but beyond the unnecessary cussing (like, seriously, it was just frequent enough to be distracting and not-quite-family-friendly, which was annoying), there was just something about it that wasn’t for me. And I say that realizing that objectively it was a well-written, well-acted, really good movie. (That climax!) Just not a movie I liked, you know?

(Also, Tony Stark is such a jerk. Wow.)

There’s this show my sister used to watch all the time, and I’d come in and be like “whatcha watching?” and she’d be like, “Laramie,” and I’d be like, “oh, is it good?” and she’d be like, “well, yeah, but it’s kinda…dramatic,” and so I’d be like, “cool,” and not watch it.

One day I realized my sister hadn’t watched Laramie in a long time, so I asked her why and she said it was because she was tired of Slim being boring in episodes by himself and of Jess falling in love with some girl every other episode, but she should really try it again. So we did. I’ve only seen a handful of episodes so far, but it’s pretty great. I’ve quite enjoyed all but one of them. It’s dramatic all right, but it’s very Western, and Slim and Jess have such a fun relationship, and Jess Harper.

And also besides being extremely handsome, Robert Fuller has an amazing voice. Almost as good as Ryker’s from The Virginian. I wish he’d read audiobooks or something, but I guess I’ll settle for him being a slightly broody former-outlaw former-Confederate-soldier ranch hand with a quick temper and a quicker draw. And the most attractive face I’ve ever seen. Like…yeah. I’m really glad Jess is such a great character, because it’d be awful to have to dislike someone with that face.

I’m just saying.

My sister and I have also started rewatching Alias Smith and Jones! We’re watching it in order this time, pilot episode to whichever season 2 ep it is when it stops being worth watching. Which is fun, because when we first discovered it I was a little taken aback at some season 1 episodes, having first watched a few episodes from near the end of season 2. Because, see, even though this show was made in the 1970’s, character development occurs. Very slow and subtle character development, but so good.

I honestly think this is my favorite show ever. It’s just kind of perfect. You have lovely Western scenery, good writing, former outlaws trying to go straight, and hilariously clever dialogue. I laugh so much, but I also feel, like, emotions? And a depth of emotion that’s honestly kind of shocking, considering how silly it all is?

The heart of the show, of course, is the relationship between Heyes and Curry (alias Smith and Jones), which my sister and I find especially funny because it’s so similar to our own relationship (I’m Heyes, she’s Curry), but it’s never dwelt on. Like, I don’t think either of them ever says anything to each other along the lines of, “Man, I sure am fond of you, coz,” but their relationship really is what carries it. And there are a few moments where, even though nobody says how much he cares about his cousin, you see it demonstrated. It’s a beautiful example of subtlety.

The whole show is beautiful. Seriously. Do yourself a favor and watch it (up till whatever season 2 episode that is, that is). Not everyone will like it, I suppose, but unlike Laramie, which I probably wouldn’t recommend to someone who didn’t like Westerns, I think Alias might very well be enjoyed even by someone who normally isn’t a fan of the genre.

my writing

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I have been editing like crazy, because I am a fool. Like a fool, I made a bargain with my dad and sister that they could read The Dream-Peddler on June 11, no matter what state it was in. June 11 is getting uncomfortably close, and so many scenes still need to be rewritten to be even minimally readable. Why did I agree to this? Why am I such a fool?

It probably doesn’t help that half the time I sit down to edit The Dream-Peddler, I start scribbling scenes of Jennifer&Fred instead. Ever since I realized baseball is the missing ingredient in that story, I cannot stop writing it. I just can’t be restrained. Most of the scenes I’m writing don’t even involve baseball! But I can’t be stopped. I do love this story, and it’s kind of tailor-made for my siblings and I: a small romance for my littlest sister, baseball for my other sister, and Simon & Garfunkel for me. So that’s very cool. But I wish the baseball epiphany could’ve waited till after June 11.

Those are all the writerly pursuits I’ve been knee-deep in; what about y’all? What have you been writing? Have you been busy this spring? What have you read and watched, and what are your opinions thereon? And how much of a strain is it upon your imagination to picture Barney Fife as someone’s ideal man?

The Get-to-Know-Me Tag (Writer’s Edition)

Recently, I was tagged.

Not for the Get-to-Know-Me Tag. No, that would be too obvious.  For a different tag.

But it brought tags to the forefront of my mind. For, many moons ago – or I think it was many moons ago; I’m not sure precisely what a moon is, but I always supposed it was roughly equivalent to a month – I was tagged for the Get-to-Know-Me Tag. (Many thanks to Blue for this great honor, and to Savannah for creating this lovely tag.)

I don’t know what about me you don’t know after over a year now of blogging (goodness, this little place is getting old!), but perhaps some of this will be new info? I don’t know. I like answering questions about myself too much not to do it, regardless.

(At least, I like answering questions about myself if I have plenty of time to think about the answers and am not made to feel that my answers are insufficient by the puzzled stares of the asker. So I don’t really like answering them in person.  But that is the beauty of blog posts.)

~The Get-to-Know-Me Tag (Writer’s Edition)~

get to know me graphic

VITAL STATS AND APPEARANCE

name: Sarah Seele (like y’all didn’t know :P)

nickname: Princess (plus a bunch of weird shortenings of my name, courtesy of sisters)

birthday: Many years ago.

hair color/length: Blonde. Very much so. Although a friend did once try to convince me that I’m brunette? A group of us were telling blonde jokes (I was just standing there, appreciating), and she suddenly realized I was the only blonde. The lack of sensitivity displayed by the topic of conversation distressed her, so she tried to play it off by explaining how I wasn’t really blonde…while everyone stared at her like she was crazy.  Because I am definitely blonde.

As for length, it is just below my shoulder blades at the moment.  My mom has long had a burning desire to chop some of it off, so I finally let her; last week it was past my waist.

eye color: Blue. With hints of grey and hazel tendencies.

braces/piercings/tattoos: None. Unlike my unfortunate sisters, I’ve always had straight teeth.  And piercings of any sort (including ears) kind of freak me out, to be honest.

right or lefty: I’m right-handed. Although for some reason, I kick better with my left foot?

ethnicity: I think I have a bit of Scots and English from one grandmother, but what I know for sure is:

German. My grandfather was 100% German (my last name is German, but the only person who’s ever realized it was a person from Germany), though he himself was born in Ohio.  I have a lot of German from my other grandfather too.

Irish. My great-grandfather’s first name was Patrick, his last name started with “Mc,” and he had red hair and a temper to match.

Cherokee. From two different great-great grandmothers. I always wonder what they were like.  One had four sons who lived outside a little Arkansas town; whenever unsavory characters appeared there, the townspeople sent for “those Indian boys” to come throw them out.  Also, both were from Oklahoma, and I very much wonder if they knew each other.  And I wonder about the Trail of Tears. Is that part of my family’s history?

(Family history is a fascinating subject.  Some people are descended from Charlemagne, Daniel Boone, and Tecumseh, which just, whoa.  I’ll probably never know those kinds of things, but I do wish I knew more about my family.)

 

FIRSTS

novel written: It wasn’t actually long enough to be a novel, but it was a “chapter book,” so I’m counting it: The Fairy White Girl and the Princess, when I was five.  I believe my mother wrote it out for me, and I illustrated it and presented it to my parents.  The main character, the princess, was always being kidnapped or attacked by wild Indians.  The fairy white girl (who always wore a shimmering white dress, hence the name) was always rushing to rescue her.  I was equally fascinated by fairy-tale whimsy and Westerns from the very beginning, it appears.

novel completed: I’m gonna say this question is asking for my first novel completed that was actually a novel, in the sense that it was over 50k words.  And this, my friends, would be Fire and Roses, when I was thirteen. Elizabeth, a young English orphan, went to live with her distant cousins the Longsteins in the Ohio Territory, about eight years after the American Revolution.  There wasn’t much of a plot.  The best character was Jeremiah, whose two main pastimes were teasing Elizabeth and getting into fights on her behalf (such is the form taken by adopted-brotherly affection). Also, the ending was really, really sad and I wrote an alternate one to make myself feel better about it.

award for writing: Well, for school one year I did the One Year Adventure Novel curriculum, and I entered the Student Contest with my novel, and it was a finalist? The first and only sort of award I have won to date.

first publication:  Being neither a prophet nor the daughter of a prophet, I cannot say.

conference: I went to the One Year Adventure Novel 2016 Summer Workshop, does that count? It was lovely.

query/pitch: None yet, my lads. I’ve a wee smidge of editing yet to do.

 

FAVORITES

novel (that you wrote): The Dream-Peddler, I suppose. Heh.

genre: To read or write?  To write, historical fiction (though I love certain types of fantasy and lowkey want to write a history book or two someday). To read, I don’t know, historical fiction or fantasy?  Or the kind of thing E. B. White and James Herriot and Ralph Moody write?  Or science-explained-for-the-layman type stuff? DON’T MAKE ME CHOOSE.

author(s): I have previously answered this with A. A. Milne, and I’m just going to stick with that, because it ignores so many other authors I love and yet it is the only way to stem a veritable flood of names. I don’t really have a favorite author, but if I did it’d be A. A. Milne.

writing music: Writing and listening to music are, for me, mutually exclusive activities.

time to write: Like Blue, either early morning (when I have stuff to get out of the way first) or late at night (when I need to go to bed).

writing snack/drink: Usually nothing, because eating and writing are also kind of mutually exclusive activities for me, unfortunately…. Although I always have my water bottle by me.  And sometimes I drink peppermint tea and nibble on 85% cacao.

movie: Tangled and The Magnificent Seven jointly occupy the top spot. (Close behind are The Big Sleep and The Perfect Game.)

writing memory: Staying up till one a.m. finishing my novel. My dad staying up with me, doing paperwork he could just as well have done the next day.  Me and him going out for ice cream (to celebrate) and driving round the city seeing the darkness and the distant lights while we ate it.

childhood book: For top, top spot, nothing beats The Chronicles of Narnia. Very cliche answer and all that, but seriously, the amount of times I reread them and the extent to which they informed my imagination are probably incalculable.

 

CURRENTLY

writing: ANNA! You have no idea how good it feels to say that. Now that I’ve finished The Dream-Peddler, I can get back to my favorite child.

listening to: My mom frying eggs while my sister hums the fragments of a new song she wrote.

watching: The dog’s tail wagging. (The rest of her is invisible beneath the table.)

learning: How to find the Jacobian and change variables to evaluate integrals, how the heck spherical coordinates work, and various things about triple integrals. (My brain is dead.)

 

FUTURE

want to be published: That is indeed the hope.

traditional or indie: Traditional.

wildest goal: I have a lot of pretty out-there goals, but they’re all kind of personal and not something I feel comfortable sharing.  But…I really, really want to see and spend some time in the Yukon someday. So that’s a thing.

~

It’s been so long I don’t know who all has done this tag, so I will just tag Becky and Project Pursue Wisdom and hope for the best.

Meanwhile, what was the first novel you wrote? Do you listen to music while writing? Do you have a favorite writing snack? Do you love some of your story children more than others?

~

I Appear to Have Actually Finished Something? (ft: Dream-Peddler snippets)

I finished a book! I have 47,000 words of it typed, which is…more than half? But I’m not sure how much more than half.  And I do actually rather like it, despite its problems.

A book.  I appear to have actually finished a book.

Well, a first draft of one, anyway.

In celebration of that fact, a post.  A post which makes no promises to be either professional or coherent, because…

I FINISHED THE DREAM-PEDDLER!  I FINISHED THE DREAM-PEDDLER!!!! FINALLY! I DID IT! JUBILATION AND REJOICING!!!!

star girl (2)
Image from Pinterest. Isn’t it pretty? It is my official Picture of Inspiration, Aesthetic, and General Dream-Peddler Vibes for the story.

I mean, it’s not without its problems.  It’s a first draft; most first drafts have problems.

The action scenes, for instance.  I can’t write action.  I keep trying (because that’s the only way to acquire new skills), but progress is really distressingly slow.  At least most of the dragon-fighting and such in this story seems to have moved past the lame, thump-thump, he-did-this.-he-did-that. stage.  Onward to the molassesy dreamlike stage, which is also probably way over-described.

Actually, the whole book is probably way over-described.  I kind of let myself go with the prose – let myself write whatever odd, quirky, flowery thing I wanted.  I’m not sorry; there are some descriptions in there I’m perfectly delighted with. Also, one can always trim.

First up on the list of trimmables are the copious uses of “white” and “shining.”  I’m not sure I’d have believed, before writing this, just how often you can squeeze those two adjectives into a paragraph. They’re the primary visual characteristics of the moon, okay? It’s hard.

And then of course there are the characters.

*long sigh*

Usually characters are my strong point.  The plot may be an all-over-the-place mess, rife with inconsistencies and outright holes, but the characters are full of personality and when they bump into each other it fizzes over in dizzily brilliant dialogue and they are Real People. (Or at least that’s how I feel before my creative fervor cools.  Later, reality comes knocking.)

But in this story, the plot is, I think, pretty solid (I’ll have to rework some scenes, but I don’t think the structure has any major problems?), while the characters are…stuck in their own heads.  Really, really stuck in their own heads.  Pages and pages of inner monologue flow easily from my pen, but I seem to have no grasp of what my kids are like outside their own heads.  Their interaction is stiff.  It’s painful to write.

The only scene that wasn’t painful to write was the one when Daniel and Sarah were bonding over teasing Lucy.  One scene.  Out of, I don’t know, a hundred.

*long, long sigh*

Lucy
Image from Pinterest. This is sort of how I imagine Lucy?  Less intense. But the hair is right (although she’d wear it braided), and so is the face if you dial down the intensity a few notches.

But enough negativity! I finished a book! I have 47,000 words of it typed, which is…more than half? But I’m not sure how much more than half.  And I do actually rather like it, despite its problems.  Shall we do one of those acknowledgement sections? I think we shall.

Ladies and gentleman, I would now like to thank Teddy, of Emily Climbs, for setting me down this path of whimsy and plagiarism to begin with, that night of the storm when he first introduced to my mind the idea and the image of a dream-peddler…

No less gratitude do I owe to Tolkien, whose Roverandom has ensured the moon a place in many of the childhood daydreams that found their way into this book.  Or to Kipling and his crab who played with the sea: I should certainly never have thought of a Rat or a Fisherman on my own.

And without Howard Pyle, how should I ever have gotten across the void to that strange and colorless land? (I think the moon-path is actually one idea I can claim credit for coming up with on my own, though? I have a poem somewhere, about following the moon-path, the writing of which I believe predates my reading The Garden Behind the Moon.  Still, The Garden Behind the Moon was certainly an influence.)

But most of all I wish to thank my sisters, without whose ceaseless encouragement (“ugh, you’re still writing The Dream-Peddler? Hurry up and finish it so you can work on ANNA again! or better yet, forget about The Dream-Peddler and just write ANNA!”) I might never have finished at all.  And whose jubilation at my success (“yeah, yeah, that’s great, you finished a sto – WAIT. DOES THIS MEAN YOU’RE GOING TO START WORKING ON ANNA AGAIN?? YES!!!!!”) was only matched by my own.

Sarah Cross
Image from Pinterest.  This is almost exactly how I imagine Sarah…except younger.

Putting acknowledgements behind us, I have so far danced around the issue, but it is really the crucial issue: what is The Dream-Peddler about?

Yes. Well.  That’s the question, isn’t it?

I realized it was the question some time ago.  I realized that what this book needed was a synopsis.  The attempt to produce one resulted in this:

 Three children, three dreams, and an old man who sells dreams but doesn’t believe in them anymore.
And also the moon.

*coughs*

Realizing later that it needed a better synopsis, I scraped up this:

Three children and an old man peddling otherworldly wares team up to save the world’s dreams from the Rat who lives in the moon.

*coughing intensifies*

Yes. Well. It still needs a better synopsis. I am horrible at the things, what can I say.

Now is the time, I suppose, to do what I’ve wanted to do all along and share some snippets.  Nothing like a taste of the thing itself to get a taste for what the thing tastes like, what?

giphy

Anyway, some out-of-context snippets:

Mother would wonder if they should let me go. Father would say I was just a child. Yes, but I was growing up. Yes, but I wasn’t grown up yet. Yes, but perhaps this was a good place to start.

Father said forcibly that Aunt Josephine was a holy terror, that’s what she was. He didn’t seem to think holy terrors were a good place to start.

Mother didn’t argue that point, but she disapproved of talking that way about people, especially your own aunt. So after that the conversation was about Father’s manners and Great-Aunt Josephine’s character, and it never got back around to letting me go. Father won by default.

That was how it had always been, till this year. This year, I’d turned thirteen in August. This year, I’d raised my own calf. I’d taken it to the fair and won a prize, which had the double benefit of making Father swell with pride and convincing him that liking to write poetry didn’t of necessity make you entirely useless. He’d always been doubtful before.

I don’t think Father really ever thought his daughter was useless. His daughter is just insecure.

The sun broke over the trees in the east and came finally flooding full down the cobblestones between Daniel and the man. A robin trilled with delight.

The man smiled for a moment, perhaps on hearing it. “But ye haven’t the look of a lad with no memory of his dreams. Ye look to me the bairn which goes haunted every step, and remembers his dream even in the noon sun.”

I could never find a picture I liked for Daniel. Maybe this is why. “The bairn which goes haunted every step, and remembers his dream even in the noon sun” is rather a tall order.

“Well!” said Great-Aunt Josephine when I smiled at her. “You look all right. You didn’t get that smile from your father—must be your mother’s!”

This was hardly an original observation. I had been informed of it at every family gathering since I was old enough to be addressed condescendingly by waistcoated uncles from Glasgow who couldn’t think of anything else to say to their young niece. But at least Great-Aunt Josephine didn’t seem impressed with her own immeasurable perspicacity in having noticed it. “Yes, ma’am,” I said.

“Not your father’s manners, either, I’m glad to see. Care for some lunch?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said. Perhaps Father would consider it being bullied not to defend him—his manners weren’t objectionable until he lost his temper, which he was unfortunately rather prone to do—but I considered it more in the light of picking my battles. Though I wasn’t altogether sure I liked Great-Aunt Josephine, it would scarcely be wise to squander my advantages.

“Come on, then,” she said. “Let’s get acquainted over ham sandwiches.”

I don’t know why everyone picks on Sarah’s dad. He’s quite a nice man, really.

“The dreams I sell,” said the peddler, “fall to me from the moon. Most of them fall in the sea, and I gather them from the beaches where the waves wash them up. I spin them free of their salt cocoons, and I sell them. All the dreams in the world, caught by boys in midnight fields, picked up by girls in dusty corners of attics, run into by young fathers on long walks home from the factory, fall to it from the moon. Should the moon ever go its own way, we would have no more dreams.”

Long exposition is fine if you’re poetical about it? Maybe?

Suddenly the wind stopped. Lucy stilled. In the sudden dusk, Daniel looked up.

The creature was curled above him, a charcoal blot of wings against still-bright sky. Silent.

Then it plunged downward, lizard-head stretched forward, wings filling the world with darkness and wind. It had diamond eyes, and a factory-fire billowed in its throat.

It is surprisingly hard to write fantasy without dragons sticking their noses in, some way or another.

The peddler was being unhelpful, and the girls were being unhelpful (gawping at each other like scared fishes; what good was that going to do?), and Daniel knew the scaled creature’s bright otherworldly eyes were watching him, though they didn’t seem to be focused in his direction.

He glowered at it. He wasn’t scared of its riddle. (He was actually very much scared of its riddle, but he did not, at the time or ever afterwards, admit this.) He was going to get his mother back. Alone, if he had to. (Though he hoped it wouldn’t come to that.)

Ah, yes. I forgot to mention this book features The Death of the Parenthesis From Overwork.

He stood very rigid in her arms, and for a moment Lucy did not realise that he was crying. She didn’t say anything then; she let thrust-down anger (at being shoved, at being saved, at seeing her best friend fall like a dead leaf from the sky because he never listened to her) melt away against his tears, as his tears melted away against her hand.

Also angst. So much angst.

Lucy dreamed again, that night, of the peddler. He said to her, as he stood with his back to the dark, starred sky, “You are kind, but are you kind enough?”

“I…I hope so,” she said.

“Between your friends and your dreams, what would you choose?”

“My friends,” Lucy answered steadily. That was not so hard a question. It was not easy, either, but she knew her answer was true.

“But what,” asked the peddler sadly, “would they choose?”

Friendship.  And angst about friendship.  I don’t know why there’s so much angst in this book.

He looked over at me. His blue eyes, usually dimmed by weariness, sparkled with a smile. “You’re a rare creature, Miss Sarah.”
Though it wasn’t the first time I’d been called something similar, this was the first time it had been a compliment. “Thank you, sir,” I said shyly.

Nine snippets. Quite enough, I dare say. If you read all of this, you’re a doll. I wish you all a blessed Easter, and much luck in your writing endeavors. And I shall close this post with a final valedictory: I FINISHED A BOOK!!!!! I FINISHED A BOOK!!!!

The Writer’s OTP Challenge (in which there is romance, death, and some rather embarrassing information about old stories)

Okay. So.

I saw Arielle had made this blog tag for, if you’re a writer, romances you’ve written, and so then I wondered, have I even written fourteen whole romantic relationships? Ever?

And that turned into quite a fun jaunt down memory lane, and then I just had to write this post because it was too fun not to. Even though half my answers aren’t even valid.

And even though it’s probably confusing, because I am just now realizing that I have multiple characters named Jennifer, Lucy, and Anna. Why on earth did I do that? How did I not notice?

But anyway, it doesn’t matter.  I discovered I have actually written a couple relationships I like, and it was fun.

So. I hope it’s fun to someone else too.

kissy couple

 one: first otp you wrote

……I’m trying to remember if the princess from The Fairy White Girl and the Princess had a love interest. Since I don’t think she did, I guess this would be…Sean and Anne? I’m pretty sure I wrote that they liked each other…

Sean and Anne hail from the thrilling epic Escape From the Castle, wherein ponies and kittens facilitate magnificent rescues, people with names like Ahpienboltec (no, I am not kidding) kidnap children for no reason whatsoever, and people randomly speak French for also no reason whatsoever. That story was…something. And I loved it very much.

The main characters were actually Sean and Lucy, but I didn’t couple them up because…well, I was an unromantic ten-year-old, and I wanted them to be best friends forever and ever. I don’t think coupling them up crossed my mind.

But Anne, the side character who could randomly speak French, was pretty. Ergo, Sean liked her.

two: cliché otp from an early work you still love

I don’t know about still loving them, but Jib (from my first Real Novel, a story that centers on the terrible crime of strawberry thievery) totally had unrequited feelings for Jennifer, who, like the most cliché of heroines, thought boys were all the worst and Jib especially the worst because of all those stupid, contrived misunderstandings I threw in their path and who then, after Jib heroically saved her life, realized that maybe he wasn’t so bad after all.

This relationship cracks me up whenever I think about it, actually. I daren’t reread this story for fear I’ll die of mortification, but I remember how hard Jib tried to impress her. And how his brother and all his friends would tease him about it. And how he saved her life and Jennifer was like, “oh! He sAVeD my lIFE! And HURT HIS FEET ON THE ROCKS!! FOR MY SAKE!!! I HAVE MISJUDGED HIM!!!!”

It was very romantic.

three: hate-to-love otp

Once upon a time, in a moderately frequented lane in Victorian London, there stood a wax museum. Within this wax museum stood a young lady named Edith, impersonating a waxwork of a housewife about to box a sleepy, cake-burning King Alfred’s ears, and a young man named Julian impersonating the waxwork of the aforementioned unfortunately circumstanced king.

They were the chief players in a ridiculous story involving houses full of clocks, eventful afternoons at Ascot Races, a trip to India, and far too many Bleak House references.  They were also the chief reason I have written so many random scenes of this silly story, almost all of which feature their scathing verbal fencing matches.

There is also, however, another scene that has been written, in which their clever dialogue is not quite so scathing. It even borders on the lovey-dovey, I am afraid.

two hearts

four: otp with the craziest relationship

The relationship of Jon and Anna (by the way, this Anna is from a fairy tale I wrote for my little sister once and is a completely different character from the Anna in ANNA-the-novel) isn’t itself all that crazy – picnics on the edge of cliffs and griffin-riding are pretty normal ways for couples to spend quality time together, right?

But the preservation of this perfectly nice relationship certainly requires some unusual feats. Bargains with fay-folk and the like. Fights with goblins. Brief stints in lion form. Close encounters with the sun.

And marriage is a whole other problem for my fairy-tale couple, for Anna has, Atalanta-like, sworn to wed none but the man who can beat her in a race. Which is most inconvenient, considering she’s the daughter of the North Wind and no one can beat her in a race unless he’s wearing a certain pair of magical sandals.

How, you ask, shall they ever overcome this insurmountable obstacle?

Easy! Jon wistfully asks if he’d better take off the magical sandals he just so happens to own, Anna says don’t be silly, and everyone lives happily ever after.

five: best dressed otp

Ooh, Melia has beautiful clothes. Think toned-down Georgian styles bought by someone who has all the money in the world and whose primary hobby is fashion.

And think hair fixed by Raen, who is an artist, but a magical one who can create shining nets of flower and raindrop and evening light illusion over it. (I want to hire Raen to do my hair for me.)

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned Matthew, because it doesn’t really matter what he’s wearing.  Melia is the sum of this relationship. (Which, on account of its exceeding one-sidedness, probably doesn’t deserve to be called a relationship at all. But then, most of the relationships in this post don’t.)

six: star-crossed (forbidden love otp)

Aunt Louisa and Marty (was his name Marty? I think his name was Marty) are in love. Alas, Aunt Louisa’s guardians are rich and snooty and will not allow her to marry a poor nobody who cannot support her.

Marty, nothing daunted, goes west to make his fortune.

Marty, some years later and slightly daunted, discovers that making his fortune is, well, difficult.  So he turns to a business that, while of dubious legality, at least yields high profits. And in the process makes Elizabeth, the heroine of the tale, very mad.

Aunt Louisa then comes west to tell him he can leave off making his fortune, as her snooty rich guardians have died and she has all the money they need.

But alas! Helped along by Elizabeth, guilt has now blossomed in Marty’s heart. He is a horrible man and can never marry a wonderful woman like Aunt Louisa.  Even if she is willing to forgive him.  She deserves better than a rotten snake like him.

So he leaves her life forever. She is very sad. Elizabeth is very sad to have made her beloved aunt so sad.  It is all very sad, and the narrative positively weeps with the overwhelming knowledge of its own pathos.

(Ah, doomed, forbidden love – what melodramatic small writer has not heard and hearkened to your siren song?)

seven: funniest OTP

Probably Edith and Julian, but for the sake of an original answer I shall say Jennifer and Fred.

This Jennifer is not the same one Jib was trying to impress earlier.  This Jennifer is from a short Christmas story that I’ve always wanted to expand.  And while daydreaming of expanding it, I thought of Fred.

The original purpose of Fred was, to be frank, mostly to get Simon and Garfunkel into the story. Because it takes place in the late 1960’s, and to have lived in the late 1960’s and never gone to a Simon and Garfunkel concert is a tragedy on a scale almost too great for comprehension.

But Jennifer and her cousins and her great-aunt are all so very sheltered and old-fashioned. They cook and draw and paint and sew and read authors like Dickens and Swift and listen to classical music. What would Jennifer know of the likes of Simon and Garfunkel?

Enter Fred, that most moody, worldly, and handsome of young men. With whom Jennifer might, possibly, reluctantly, be rather smitten.

He makes her listen to Simon and Garfunkel. She makes him listen to Mendelssohn.

He takes her dancing, and she shows him how to really have a good time (nothing beats a couple hours spent in a field sketching butterflies).

He pointedly quotes “She Walks in Beauty.”  She says, “Lord Byron didn’t think such a girl actually existed, you know.”  He says, “No, poor Lord Byron, deprived of your acquaintance,” and they’re just very ridiculous, and I have only written a few snippets of them; but I find them so fun, somehow.

eight: otp with the healthiest relationship

Mr. and Mrs. Longstein, despite being in the same story as Aunt Louisa and Marty, have exactly zero drama in their relationship.  This is because they are The Parents.

(I mean, Mr. Longstein did die and all.  But besides that, no drama.)

roses
nine: sweetest, most adorable otp

Eden is a foster kid with a gift for words and for finding hidden doors, who accidentally finds Faërie.

“The boy,” who I think has a name although I’ve forgotten what it is, is a cheerful soul who accidentally finds our world.  When he finds his way back to Faërie, he is sad because the friend who helped him find it didn’t come with him.  Eden is sad because she too left a friend behind.

Understanding each other’s sadnesses is a good way to begin being friends, I think. And, over years and journeys, more than friends.

ten: otp who snuck up on you, the one you didn’t expect to love

I didn’t expect Uncle Wilbur and Aunt Gertrude to be as major characters as they have ended up being in The Fairy Ring. So I have only recently come to realize how nice they are.

Uncle Wilbur lacks the skills that make for easy intercourse with people.  This is why he and Peter get along so well.

Aunt Gertrude doesn’t have any such lack, but she understands people who do. This is why she stops always going, “What your uncle means, Peter, is…” and talks about chickens instead.

With Uncle Wilbur it is not chickens, but things like cows and hay-bales and daughters.

They actually remind me of that poem where Wordsworth is complaining that instead of a merry stream, his girlfriend’s love has now become (horror of horrors) a well. Aunt Gertrude and Uncle Wilbur have that well kind of relationship. Their love is quiet but lasting, which in my opinion beats some noisy stream (that’s forever in danger of drying up) hollow.

Silly Wordsworth.

 

eleven: moodiest otp

Once upon a time, in a novel that shall not be named, two characters called Brian and Caisida were lifelong best friends. My little sister insisted they were on the verge of becoming lifelong something more.

Too bad I killed Brian in the first chapter.

twelve: class-crossed otp

The fact that Princess Ethel Bagwater was, as her title implies, a princess, while Rupert was but a simple farmer’s son, might have presented a problem if not for Albert’s ingenuity.  But in the service of getting his cave all to himself again, Albert is a dragon of inexhaustible ingenuity.

princess shutterstock (2)
thirteen: otp most people don’t ship

My sister ships Anna with Dan.

My other sister ships her with Etan.

My friend ships her with Dom.

They’re all wrong, because if Anna is going to end up with anyone (which is doubtful), it should be Aidi.

fourteen: very favorite otp you’ll love for the rest of your days

The one romance I’ve ever written that I actually, actually ship, in which I am invested and about which I occasionally experience small emotions, is one that I have not, in fact, written.

This is because the characters are, once again, The Parents. And in this particular story (because I’m original), The Parents are gone/dead.

(We are not at liberty to disclose which, because that is a spoiler.  I may have spoiled a bunch of my other stories in this post, but I am not going to spoil this one.)

These characters only show up in the main character’s memories.

Despite that, they have a long and detailed backstory, of which I have devotedly crafted every detail.  It’s most affecting.  There are brothers sworn to protect their sister, conspiracy theorists who take their theories a little too far, and sheep that unwittingly save people’s lives. And at the heart of the story there is Dugo, a sheep-farmer’s son who one day fell unexpectedly in love with the blue-eyed genius girl from the woods.

The girl was Arenedha, and she fell in love back.

They were Anna’s parents.

And I love them very, very much.

The Most Interesting and Highly Democratic VOTED MOST LIKELY Tag

It’s been a while since I rambled about my characters.

It’s been a while since I rambled about my characters. It’s also been a while since I was tagged by Belle Anne for the Voted Most Likely tag, yet still no “Voted Most Likely Tag” post have I seen roundabout here.

Today I propose to remedy both evils by doing the tag, wherein one places an original character of one’s own into each of the given categories. With presumably some explanation. I don’t know. I could just write “[character’s name]” and nothing more under each one, but I can’t help feeling that would be somewhat unsatisfactory.

(Also, some of the scenes these questions called up in my mind made me long to illustrate them. But alas, I am no artist.)

Thanks awfully for the tag, Belle Anne! And shoutout to Phoebe, who created it here: https://phoebeamorryce.wordpress.com/2018/10/15/voted-most-likely/

Also, for my own peace of mind I have color-coded my answers according to which novel the character under discussion is from, so here, if you want it, is the code:

ANNA

The Dream-Peddler

The Fairy Ring

Stars in the Streets (more commonly referred to as “TERESA”)

The NOVEL THAT SHALL NOT BE NAMED BECAUSE IT WAS TERRIBLE AND THE ONLY GOOD CHARACTERS WERE CATHAN AND CEDRIC. MOSTLY CEDRIC.

The (unwritten) one commonly referred to as “my Harvey/Smith of Wootton Major story”

And now the questions:

Most likely to be a poet

Ha. Narril. He acts all tough and disillusioned, but he’s got a secret soft spot for both beauty and literature, which makes him the perfect candidate, seeing as how poetry is kind of like the marrying of the two – the raw essence of the one composed within the framework of the other for comprehension.

Most likely to dance in the rain

Rose. She pretty much goes through life dancing in the rain, figuratively and literally, and has no qualms about enacting the literal side of it even at school, if a sufficiently inviting rainstorm blesses lunch hour. Much to Peter’s embarrassment.

Most likely to look good in a kilt

Adrin would look good in anything. Also, he’d wear the kilt with dignity and, while his fellow soldiers were snickering behind their hands, give a stirring speech about how it’s the attire of his ancestors (even though it’s…not. I mean, I guess originally Elinisrans and Emraeins were the same group of people, and ancient Emraeins might very well have worn kilts – in fact, I bet redneck Emraeins wear them to this day – but I don’t know. And if I don’t know, Adrin certainly doesn’t). Certain ladies would be swooning, and certain others (like Brynn and Anna) would be rolling their eyes.

Most likely to get punched in the face

I’d say Misherel, only no one would dare punch her in the face, no matter how much they might want to.

So how about Dom, Jem’s obnoxious little nephew? I’m sure he’s been punched in the face many a time. (Telling girls they have too many freckles and ask too many questions is not how you get them to like you, buddy.)

Most likely to drop everything and become a sheep-herder

This is difficult, ’cause I have a number of characters (not even all from the same story) who did drop everything. Everything being sheep-herding. So it doesn’t make any sense to use one of them, even though they’re the ones who, I think, have the temperament.

Honestly, more than anyone, I see myself in this role. Under the right circumstances, I would totally drop everything and become a sheep-herder.

But I can’t answer this question with myself, because I am not (so far as I know?) a fictional character. So…

Wait, no, I’ve got it! Jimmy-Stewart-but-not-Jimmy-Stewart’s invisible friend from Faerie. He’s very chill and seems like the sheep-herding type to me. I see it.

Most likely to be found in the library

Sarah. That girl’s best friends are books. (In fact, her only friends are books…which is slightly worrying.)

Most likely to sleep through an earthquake

Mr. Connelly. At least if the earthquake didn’t happen on a Sunday.

Most likely to steal food from other people’s plates

Bjorn. That dog is about as well trained as mine. Which is to say, not trained at all.

Most likely to cheat on a test

Jimmy (Bobby? Names in this story are a work in progress), my precious skeptical little Cockney son. Without a second thought. The kid’s whole philosophy in life is, “Cheat the other fellow before he can cheat you.”

Most likely to say “Oops” after setting something on fire

Oh, this is so Cathan. I can see him doing it. Casually setting fire to Eima’s belongings before Afton and Caisida realise what he’s doing (because Eima’s annoying, and also Cathan doesn’t need things spelled out for him to have a pretty fair idea where Caisida acquired certain bruises, and nobody hurts Cathan’s friends and gets away with it), then grinning cheekily over at them. “Oops.”

Most likely to open an orphanage

(Ironically, Suora Netta, although she works in an orphanage, does not strike me as the opening-an-orphanage type.)

I think if Miss Ryeira was rich, opening an orphanage is exactly what she’d do. Her inn is basically an orphanage for adult orphans, like eccentric artists who have to be reminded to eat and what day of the week it is, and lonely foreign boys who are clearly hiding something and to whom she can teach all her favorite Elinisran country dances.

Most likely to run off with the circus

I think Teresa, though she’s not in the least athletic, would do this for a lark. (And to spite Suora Netta.) And she’d run right home again at her first taste of the high wire.

Most likely to survive the zombie apocalypse

Jem Macneil, hands down. Keeping yourself and a small child safe from a dozen trained Ansar men for at least a month is not easy, but he did it. Plus, he’s an expert at surviving alone in the woods. Plus, sick archery skills. If anyone has the levelheadedness and skillset to outlast the zombies, my money’s on Jem.

(Gosh, I love Jem.)

Most likely to fake their own death

Ha! I have a character (Dugo, Anna’s father) who actually did this, and it’s the most uncharacteristic thing ever, but yeah, he did it. As for why he did it, when it’s so out of character, he and I must plead extenuating circumstances. (Very extenuating.)

Most likely to die and haunt their friends

The unflickering-eyes man. Definitely the unflickering-eyes man.

For my requisite five people, I tag:

1. Anyone who proudly wore that “I voted today” sticker as a child (even though it was actually your parent who voted so like ???)

2. Anyone who’s ever held elected office (be it even President of the Sisters’ Society for Procuring a Gift for Dad)

3. Anyone with a story set in a democracy (there are strangely few of these, I’ve noticed)

4. Anyone who shops at Aldi (they have that “voted best value” or something plastered up everywhere, right?)

5. Everyone whose blog I read who hasn’t done it already, because I WANT TO SEE YOUR ANSWERS (please)

The Great and Glorious STAR WARS CHARACTER TAG

Look, guys, a tag!  And not only that, a Star Wars tag.  This, I think, will be fun.

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Kenzie tagged me for this.  So THANK YOU SO MUCH, KENZIE. THIS WAS A TON OF FUN. (It was also really, really hard. By the way.)

First, the rules.

~Rules of the Star Wars Character Tag~

  1. THERE ARE NO RULES. [In which case, I fail to see what we’re doing here.]
  1. Refer to number 1. [It’s kind of good there are no rules, because if there were, one of them might be “You must have seen all the Star Wars movies to participate in this great and glorious tag.” Which I have not. I’ve only seen the original trilogy.  Meaning some of my answers might be iffy.  But since there are no rules, we’re all good.  Huzzah!]
  1. There is one absolute rule [Oh dear. Also, whatever became of consistency?] : you MUST use your own characters (OC’s) for this tag. (brownie points if you add pictures of your characters) [Well…no brownies for me today, unfortunately.  Look, y’all, I can’t draw, and random Internet people never look anything like my characters.]
  1. The Sorta Rule: scream a huge thank you to whoever tagged you for this whilst treating them to a pizza dinner at your favorite pizza chain. [Hope you like Dominoes, Kenzie. Also, thanks and all that.  And this is only a Sorta Rule, so I’m only Sorta Screaming.  Actually I’m not screaming at all. But I AM thankful.]
  1. The Kinda Rule: include this link in the post so that The Penny can read everyone’s answers to this smol strange tag: https://asouthernbellewithstoriestotell.wordpress.com/2019/02/18/the-star-wars-character-tag-i-made-my-own-tag-halp/
  1. The Rule That’s Not Really a Rule But It Would Be Great: include the graphic, and tag at least three Jedi or Sith Lords.

star wars

~The Actual Official Great and Glorious Star Wars Character Tag~

ONE…Who’s your Obi Wan Kenobi? (sassy, a great mentor, but can be a bit strict)

Oh, this one’s easy!  Definitely Narril (from ANNA*).  He was Anna’s sole authority figure for nine years, meaning he had to be quite strict or his strong-willed adopted daughter would have grown up much more spoiled than she did.

As far as being a great mentor goes, he would be shocked to hear the term applied to himself, but he wouldn’t be able to deny that during those nine years he taught Anna cooking, herb-craft, poison-brewing, archery, and judging people (not that she needed help with that one).  Moreover, he encouraged her to teach herself horse-whispering and harp-playing skills, supplied her with plenty of books (her mother had already taught her how to read them and passed on her voracious desire to do so), and did his best (although to small avail) to instill tidy habits.

So yeah, I’d say he’s a pretty great mentor. Wouldn’t object to having one like him myself, at least.

And even the sassy requirement he fills to admiration: Narril is oh-so-snarky at the world, and even more at himself.

Not to Anna, though.  He is surprisingly gentle with Anna.

(Surprisingly to an outsider, that is.  I suppose if you really think about his backstory, and the circumstances under which he acquired an eight-year-old, and the core of who he is, it’s not in the least surprising.)

(And, lest there be a mistake about the matter, gentle does not, of course, mean he doesn’t tease her all the time.  He definitely does that.)

*ANNA refers to my Nameless Epic Fantasy and is distinguishable from Anna, its main character of the same name, by its all-caps-ness.

TWO…Who’s your Leia Organa? (feisty, incredible comebacks, does her own thing)

Rose, from The Fairy Ring. Rose is eleven years old and not afraid of anything.  Besides that maybe fairies don’t exist, and she might fail at being a good friend to Peter.  (She’s never encountered someone like Peter before, and he can be…difficult.)  She’s got that same balance of kindness, nothing’s-gonna-stand-in-her-way, and loveable sassiness that makes Leia stand out among her fellow fictional characters.

THREE…Who’s your Finn? (overeager, adorable, a cinnamon roll)

Melia, from RAEN.*  Not that I know what’s Finn’s like beyond these three adjectives, but overeager, adorable, and a cinnamon roll all describe Melia to a T.  She is compared, at one point, to a puppy.  It is not an inaccurate comparison.

She’s not the most intelligent girl, but what she lacks in mental prowess, she makes up for in just being a kind, beautiful soul.  People tend to underestimate her, and it can take them a while to realize their mistake.  But she’s lovely.  My favorite character in this book.

*So…I have another nameless epic fantasy besides ANNA.  And its main character’s name is Raen.  And you see where this is going, don’t you?

FOUR…Who’s your Padmé? (kind, loving, but also kick-butt)

Again, not sure what Padmé’s like, exactly.  I’d say, though, that she sounds a bit like Finn.

Finn is one of the many interesting people Anna meets on an unexpected but rather urgent cross-country trip.  Finn is interesting in a good way, meaning she tries to protect, rather than betray, Anna.  She’s also interesting in that she’s heard of Anna’s mother and is very courteous and courageous.

Also, absolutely terrifyingly good with her knives.  Even Jem is impressed.  (Jem, you see, is hard to impress.)

FIVE…Who’s your Count Dooku? (deliciously evil, extra, sick burns)

Uh…I have no clue who this guy is.  But my version of him might be Richard?  Or maybe the as-yet-unnamed halhata-király? (Both from RAEN.)

I don’t know, man.  None of my villains are very extra.

Some of them are very, very evil, though.  Richard, for instance, in his quest for eternal life, makes nothing of using and exploiting anyone he can, torturing a boy, and, in the end, dooming himself and all his family in his desperation to get what he’s after.

But also…the király, though.  That guy’s scary.

SIX…Who’s your BB-8? (too cute, everyone loves them, can do no wrong)

Luisa!  Luisa is from Stars in the Streets, my historical novel set in eighteenth-century Venice (specifically, and mostly, the Ospedale della Pietá), and she is the younger sister of Teresa, my protagonist.  She is a dear.  I sort of may have based her off my littlest sister, just a little.  She’s shy and quiet and has a beautiful singing voice, and everyone does love her.  Including Teresa, for whom caring about someone else’s happiness more than her own is a new experience.  Excluding Rosa and Velia, who are jealous little brats.

SEVEN…Who’s your Yoda? (underestimated, extra, wise)

Y’know…I do believe this is Vivaldi.

He’s certainly underestimated.  It’s crazy to think that the directors of the Ospedale della Pietá fired him.  More than once.

People don’t appreciate Vivaldi enough even today, in fact.  There are few people, whether or not they like classical music, who don’t recognize the names Bach or Beethoven.  And sure, sure!  Bach and Beethoven were geniuses!  Of course everyone recognizes their names! All I’m saying is, Vivaldi was a genius too.  Besides operas and his Gloria (which is nothing short of sublime) and other things, he wrote like five hundred* concertos.  Which is impressive just as a number of concertos to have written, but also they’re absolutely beautiful.  And yet there are a significant number of people who’ve never heard of Vivaldi.

It’s a tragedy, I tell you!

But, back to our Yoda-Vivaldi comparison.  It’s weird but surprisingly rich in parallels.

In my story, Vivaldi is the wise person who knows everything about music and life-in-general.  (Like how Yoda knows everything about the Force and life-in-general.)  Of course, he doesn’t really, but that is how Teresa perceives him for a significant portion of the book.

I also think the real-life Vivaldi was kind of extra—running outside in the middle of mass to write down the line of music you just thought of is not a thing normal people do, especially not priests.  Vivaldi in my book is less extra, but he’s older, and I tend to think age mellowed him a bit.  He’s still something shy of normal, and he sees things differently from many people.  He also (like Yoda) sees things in people that others often don’t.

Wow.  I never realized how many similarities waited to be drawn between a redheaded Baroque musician and a little green alien.  That’s awesome.

*I think this is the correct estimation-number.  But I’m not a music historian!  I can’t be held responsible for the veracity of the numbers I fling about in my zeal to make a point!  Can’t be bothered to look up the actual number, either, mostly because I don’t know how to find it and be sure of its accuracy.  But five hundred is what my violin teacher (a fairly reliable source) told me, I think.

EIGHT…Who’s your Anakin Skywalker? (bratty, rebellious, whiny)

This would be Teresa.

Poor Teresa, I’m not very nice to her.  But she is bratty and rebellious.  Especially the rebellious part.

I mean, I get it.  I wouldn’t want to stay cooped up in an orphanage (however nice, and however musical) all my life either.  Teresa is just a bit more vocal about it than I would be.

Doesn’t change the fact that she unnecessarily takes every opportunity offered to do precisely what the authority figures in her life wish she wouldn’t, though.  (Just wait, Teresa.  You won’t have to stay in the Ospedale all your life.  Suora Netta will joyfully marry you off to the first man she can bring up to scratch.)

NINE…Who’s your C3-PO? (always worrying, gives depressing information, constantly wailing)

Ha!  This is totally Misherel (from ANNA).  Misherel is always worrying about her charge, the prince (albeit with good reason; he’s not terribly security-conscious).  And, being a bitter human, she’s chock full of depressing information (though this tends to be less statistics and more cynical-but-true observations about the people in the prince’s life).

And she enjoys feeling sorry for herself. Though she’d deny it and probably smack whoever said it.  (She’s an old lady who was the best friend of the king’s deceased wife, so she can get away with stuff like that.)

TEN…Who’s your Luke Skywalker? (hero, has been through a lot, has their share of flaws)

Raen.  It’s a rather good comparison, actually.  Both Luke’s and Raen’s journeys involve a lot of sacrifice.  And both of them make choices that make them, beyond a shadow of a doubt, very good people.  But Raen, like Luke, is not without flaws.  And his flaws are not without consequences.  He’s a very interesting character and I like him a lot.

BONUS…Who’s your Han Solo? (I had to add this one because it just fit perfectly AND Han is my favorite character in Star Wars AND I wanted an excuse to talk about Adrin.  Kenzie told me to, though, so blame her!)

My Han Solo is Adrin.  Adrin, soldier (of fortune, sort of, not really), unappreciative son of a rich and titled landowner, possessor of an impressive last name that I have yet to come up with.

I like Adrin a lot, because, like Han, he’s full of clever one-liners and apparent selfishness.  He exudes easy, insolent charm, and he’s lonely but he’d never, never admit it.  A skeptic and a thoroughly self-centered cynic—without even the saving grace of a tragic backstory to excuse him.  (Not that it would excuse him, but it’d be something.)

Why do I like him, then?  I don’t know.  I pity him. His parents were never unkind to him, and their lives would have remained perfectly happy if he’d disappeared from them entirely.  And, at some point, being rather too smart for his own good, he realized that.

I like to think that like Han, though, he’s solid on the inside.  It’s just a little hard to see in there.

(But, also, the clever one-liners.  Maybe I just like him for those.)

~The Aftermath of the Tag~

Thanks again, Kenzie!  I loved rambling about my characters and, in a display of the most outrageous cheek, comparing them to icons.  And now, to fulfill my last obligation, I tag (only if they want to do it, of course; there are, after all, no rules that say you must):

Megan

Blue

Becky

(Two Jedis and one Sith.  Nice and inclusive of me, wasn’t it?)

Spring Cleaning Tag

Hurrah for spring!  And hurrah for being tagged for the altogether delightful Spring Cleaning Tag by the altogether delightful…

I don’t know her name?  To be a Shennachie is her blog’s name; I assume her name is not Tobeashennachie any more than mine is Sixtysomethingtrees. (And…I assume she’s female?  Oh my goodness, I know nothing.) I’m almost positive I’ve seen her name before, but I cannot at the moment find it anywhere.  Anyway, she’s lovely, and she’s tagged me.

spring cleaning tag graphic

Rules: link back to the person who tagged you, include the graphic, answer the questions, and tag three other people.

Duly noted, and now, on to the questions:

 

Dust Bunnies and Plot Bunnies: Reorganize Your Writing Goals (Or Make New Ones)

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I love this question because I desperately need to do this.  So.

I’d say there are two components to my writing: blogging and stories.

In a nutshell, my blogging goals are threefold:

  1. Post regularly. (As all semester long I’ve been pegging away at enough homework to drown a paper-shredder, this may be difficult. But I’m going to give it my best shot.)
  2. Figure out all the kinds of things I want to do with the blog. This requires a bit of explanation. Basically, I’m still trying to figure out what sorts of things I’d like to blog about.  Writing and books, for sure. Thoughts on prose, theme, and character (and plot too, I guess; it just seems so much less interesting than the other parts), as well as on the philosophy of art and Christians creating it in general.  But then there’s the question of my own writing.  Do I want to blog about that? On the one hand I’m doing it in this post, and it does seem fun to ramble about my stories and characters, and I really like when other bloggers talk about their writing. But on the other hand, sharing my own stories is, to say the least, a bit intimidating.  And I don’t know how.  And even though I realize no one is obliged to listen, part of me is saying, What a terrible idea.  Rambling about your stories that no one else has ever read and doesn’t care about in the slightest? My dear girl.  Don’t be a fool.  Don’t be a bore.  Don’t do it. (The aforementioned part of me isn’t very nice and probably not terribly reliable either.) And then there’s the other thing I rather want to do: what I call Life-and-Stuff Things. (I devoted a lot of thought to that term, and I’m very proud of how professional-sounding it came out.) What I mean is, I’m rather an admirer of E. B. White, and I love his One Man’s Meat and his little essay-stories in general. The ones that are stories and the ones that are just him thinking of something and reflecting on it in depth.  And I love Phoebe’s blog, where she sometimes does sort of the same thing.  And I love Megan’s, where she also sometimes does the same thing (more on the philosophy than the story side).  And, well, you know how if you admire or enjoy something, you tend to want to take a whack at it yourself? Yes.  Well.  I want to write some of those sorts of things. So, basically, step 2 is: figure out which things I’m actually going to do.
  3. Upon accomplishment of step 2, do them.

And then, for stories:

  1. Finish The Dream-Peddler (a children’s fantasy set a little in early nineteenth century Scotland but mostly on the moon, on which I’m currently working) by the time finals come around—or at least before my summer classes start. So end of May at the latest.
  2. Finish The Fairy Ring, a children’s fantasy set in rural 1960s America (featuring cousins and fairies and magical pine forests), over the summer
  3. In the fall, pick back up my epic fantasy, which is definitely my favorite child. (And no, it doesn’t have a title.  And if you’re wondering, no, it’s not an isolated incident.  The Dream-Peddler only has a name because I stole it from the Emily books.  Not that I feel bad, because Emily burned that manuscript and if you burn books you don’t get to say things about who takes your titles.)  Complete the timeline, finish rewriting Part One (with Jem, Dan, and Narril in their proper places), and rewrite Part Two up to where my heroine finds that, alas, the annoying people who kept trying to kill her when she was eight are still at it.

 

Which Stage Are You At?  Expound!

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With The Dream-Peddler, I am in the midst of a first draft.  Experimenting, no less.  I have three (more or less) POV characters and an omniscient narrator, and I’m trying out making the omniscient narrator one of the three children, but as an old lady telling the story years later.  Which means the parts from her POV are in first person and the other two are in third, which is…weird.  It’s fun, though, because her very literal secretary makes footnotes, sometimes being helpful, sometimes because he entirely failed to see that his employer was slyly joking.  However, I might decide in the end to just have three third-person POVs and an omniscient narrator who is not a character.  We’ll see.  There is much research on random details of early nineteenth-century Scottish life to be done.  I have twenty-something thousand words written so far and we have not got to the moon yet. We’re almost there, though.

The Fairy Ring is also a first draft, which I am stuck in the middle of. Hurrah for being stuck.

My epic fantasy is in the stage of I have been working on this for five years and I am NEVER EVER going to finish it and also of I love this story more than any other story ever and will work on it till I die if that’s what it takes. It’s a very confusing stage.

But I love the characters.  I love the theme.  I love the world.  I love the history, which stretches a thousand years into the past (and thousands beyond that, only all the records were destroyed) and matters very, very much even in the story’s present.  I haven’t finished a first draft, but I have extensively rewritten large portions, and so it’s sort of a first-second-third draft all rolled into one? Basically, it’s a mess.

It’s also a goal of mine to not be sidetracked by shiny other projects: no editing my historical Ospedale novel, no starting my Children’s Crusade/medieval Genoa one, no starting my Harvey/Smith of Wootton Major/post-WW2 England one, no working on my nineteenth-century-Hungary-inspired fantasy one.  NO.  DON’T DO IT.

 

Treasure From the Back of the Closet (Share one to three snippets you love)

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The problem with this part is that as soon as I admit I love the snippet, well, then I have no disclaimers like “of course it isn’t much good” to buffer the blow of others not loving it equally.  However, it’s spring and we’re all turning over new leaves and being filled with the false courage engendered by sunlight and temperate climes, so here’s a bit from Anna’s story (the epic fantasy) I wrote recently and rather like, because Aidi and Anna are dears (or at least, I think they are):

He nodded, looking down at the shadowed floor.  I studied his face.  It was thin and pale, only his eyes dark.  “Guess I owe you,” he said, lifting his gaze.

            “No,” I said.  “We’re even.”

            Aidi wrinkled his nose.  “We’re pretty good at saving each other’s lives by blind luck.”

            He started up the stairs, and I followed him.  We went slowly, till finally we were at the top.  We stood there looking at each other.  My eyes ached in the light.  “The bet Adrin and I made?” I said.

            Aidi cocked his head.

            “What he actually said was that he’d double the odds you wouldn’t last the night.  So…it wasn’t luck.  He knew, somehow.”

            Aidi nodded, and then said, “How’d you know I was on the balcony?”

            “Because I was watching you.”  I stared at the floor.  I was too tired to care what he thought of that.

            “Why—”

            “Because of what Adrin said.”

            “So…you were watching the whole—”

            “Yeah.”  I glanced at him without moving my head.  “She seemed charmed.”

            “Right up until she tried to kill me.”

            I looked down again, trying not to smile.  “You’re taking it pretty well.”

 

And here’s one from The Dream-Peddler (wherein I write out half of Mr. Connelly’s accent but not the other half because that’s a lot of unconventional spelling, and yeah I don’t know what I’m doing with it yet):

 

I leaned forward, clasping my hands over my knees.  “Don’t you like to just sit and think?”

His eyebrows rose a little. When they weren’t shadowed by his hat, his eyes were watery blue, like windows coated in rain.  “And what’s a man drink for, if not to avoid that very thing?”

“But why?” I pressed.  “Why do you want to avoid it?”

He squinted, then leaned back on the stable wall.  “Ye’ll never have had yer heart broken?”

I shook my head.

“Nor I,” he said.  “A man gets lonely, Miss Sarah, sittin’ thinkin’ of how his heart’s never been broken.”

I was laughing.  “But that’s nonsense!”

“Not a bit of it.”  He scratched his chin, where a beard was beginning (as it always did when Sunday had retreated sufficiently far into the past).  “They’ll tell ye not to be foolish, and ye’ll fancy yerself wise and listen to ’em.  And ye’ll never break yer heart and ye’ll never fail in tryin’ a grand thing, and ye’ll never go anywhere at all.  And then ye’ll just sit and wonder why ye didn’t, and ye’ll do anything to stop the wonderin’.”

To that, I didn’t know what to say.  I supposed you would.

 

Bonus:  Do Some Actual Spring Cleaning of Your Writer Self! (and share a picture!)

I do not have pictures, but I did a bit, although living in a dorm one doesn’t have to do much spring cleaning (especially if one keeps one’s stuff tidy, which I do).  However, nature is currently getting quite into the washing-and-scrubbing spirit, with lots and lots and lots of rain. It’s very nice, at least if you have no objections to showing up to calc class looking like a drowned rat.

cof

~~~

Thanks for the tag, LovelypersonwhosenameIdon’tknowwhoblogsatTobeaShennachieI shall tag Megan and Kenzie. (No pressure, either of y’all, but…it’s fun?  And I love hearing about y’all’s writing.) That is not three people, but whatever.  I’m small and shy and don’t know very many people, and especially don’t know very many people well enough to feel comfortable tagging them. (Maybe not even Megan and Kenzie.  But at least they are Very Nice, so I feel Mostly Comfortable.  Which is as good, I think, as it’s going to get.) So, uh, two out of three.  I still win.  If this was a competition.  Which it’s not.

Also, happy spring, everyone.