Jennifer Freitag's Blog

July 11, 2014

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"the modern novel"
Joy Chalaby of Fullness of Joy has been running a party celebrating the birthday of her blog, and I thought I would answer a series of questions she posed on the blogger's opinion of the "modern" novel.

1.  Who are your most well-loved authors of the mid to late twentieth century (1930-1960)?
I want to say C.S. Lewis, because Lewis was an amazing writer and I really enjoy his Chronicles of Narnia, The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, Out of the Silent Planet, and Perelandra.  But when it comes to some of his other fictions, and when it comes to his writing in general, I realize that I am handling excellent literature for which I am simply not equipped with the basic tools to understand.  Even his non-fiction The Discarded Image was a stretch at times - although a step which I could take.  But sometimes I have to admit that Lewis simply knew and utilized more knowledge than I have access to or can currently command.

So I'm going to have to go with Rosemary Sutcliff.  Again.  Honestly, I have kind of out-grown my tutor now, and not all of her books exhibit the cutting edge of finesse which I demand in literature; but she is still magical - totally magical historical fiction - and she taught me a great deal of what I know.  I know she was not a Christian and her literature was not Christian, but honestly that doesn't bother me.  Christian fiction is generally sub-par and I don't have patience for that.  The curious light-handedness (which I actually kind of wish Georgette Heyer employed as opposed to her stuffing every historical reference in possible) which she used when it comes to writing historical fiction was delicious and inspirational to me.  Also she knew how to bring her writing and her time periods alive and place the reader's finger on the pulse to share the magic, and I will never, ever be able to express ingratitude for that training.

2.  Who are your favourite authors of the twenty-first century?
I don't have any.  We're only fourteen years into this century.  Give it a little time.

3.  Which genres do you tend to read the most and enjoy from more modern fiction?
I'm going to say that "modern" refers to "within living memory," because I am not sure I own many - if any - living authors in my library.  So it may come down to a toss-up between Rosemary Sutcliff's historical fiction and Georgette Heyer's historical romance, because I seem to have the most of those and they are simply fun to read.  

4.  Are you more willing to invest yourself in a fictional trilogy/series or do you prefer the stand-alone novel better?
I have nothing against the series (gosh darn it, I'm writing one myself), but experientially  the series is generally badly done (Emma - badly done indeed) so I usually prefer the stand-alone novel.

5.  While it is generally agreed that nothing beats classic fiction, there is much gold in the new too!  What are the positive qualities and styles of modern fiction?
I must protest that I fail to see the rage about classic fiction.  As nearly as I understand it, a "classic" is just a book which has survived fame for more than one generation, and honestly if sparkly vampires outlast a generation and continue going strong, they will become classical.  And personally, I have no patience for fangirling, period drama fanaticism, et al, and since I tend to take any and all books and/or authors on a strictly individual basis of merit, I don't like any one genre, classics included.

In terms of "modern" fiction, it tends to be cinematic - which is fascinating seeing one new method of media and storytelling so vitally impacting an old method.  Also "modern" fiction tends to engage the emotions of the reader more than older fiction; even I share this view: that the reader is a "ghost" character, almost as much a part of the story one is telling as the characters one has made up and is writing.  In older writing one often merely watches the emotions and reactions of the characters, whereas in "modern" fiction the reader's heart is intricately linked with that of the character.

6.  What is your greatest hope for modern fiction?
I'm cynical and jaded.  I don't put any trust in anybody's writing but my own.  You will hear audiobooks and rumours of audiobooks, and many dystopian novels will arise, but honestly writing is pretty much the same as it has ever been: the market is full of good and bad, fads come and go and books from either camp remain.  Of the writing of books there is no end, and lo the ink stains will be with you always, even to the end of the hand-soap dispenser. 

7.  List five books by modern authors you have read which you either hope or predict will become "classics" in years to come.
A Wrinkle In Time, The Grand Sophy, The Eagle of the Ninth, Mara: Daughter of the Nile, The Screwtape Letters.  Challenge me.

8.  In reading modern books, do you predominately read from the secular or Christian market?
Of the seven fictions I have read so far this year, the only overtly Christian novel among them was Rachel Heffington's Fly Away Home, and I was quite pleased with that novel.  Most of the time Christian fiction is shallow, unrealistic, uninformed, and uninspiring.  My two favourite novels of 2014's first six months are Mary Stewart's Nine Coaches Waiting (superb prose, excellent plot - if a "Christian" writer were to touch it, it would taste like fifteen cubes of sugar in a three ounce cup of tea) and Georgette Heyer's These Old Shades, which sports a deliciously cold-blooded revenge plot.  So yes, I tend to read secular fiction.  When the Christian authors can gird up their loins adequately (and talk of loins without colouring up and lowering their voices) I'll probably be perfectly happy to read them too.

9.  List three of your favourite novels written in this century.
...Plenilune.
 
Again, this century is only fourteen years old.  I'm not in a hurry.  I can wait to see how books weather.

10.  Of various as-of-yet unpublished books that you know about, what are five that you most wish to read one day?
Lamblight, Maresgate, Cruxgang, Drakeshelm, Ampersand.  I am rather a chap of one idea, and I don't do things by halves either.  You'll thank me later.
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Published on July 11, 2014 07:15 • 10 views

July 8, 2014

I want to thank you all for your prayers regarding my father.  We take it one day at a time - some good, some bad - and it is too early to tell what the progress will be.  I think he will be able to pull through, and now my biggest concern is that he not get pneumonia on top of all this.  Your prayers for fellow saints, as always, do not go unappreciated.
snippets
It was Mermorine, the youngest of Morterick’s daughters, who met them as they walked in. She was elbow-deep in a massive vase of white and blue faience-work, a bundle of yellow iris and foamy chervil rustling to her movements as she ordered them in the jar. She looked round instinctively and caught Raymond’s eye: the colour mounted instantaneously in her cheek.talldogs
God bless the waters of Lethe...talldogs
Avery slipped past her and flung back over his shoulder, “Raymond, have you got a pack? I’ll play you in some rough and honours.”talldogs
He thumbed the gold thread—and beneath his breastbone an answering colour glowed, hot-gold, small and spark-like and steady. The St. Jermaine spirit.talldogs
[She] looked down at him from the back of her pitch-brown hunter, her feuillemort hair tossed up and pinned in a raging crown about her head. Her pale pink mouth, carved on severe and artful lines, smiled cruelly.talldogs
“French and Latin better,” his lordship protested lazily; “and a little Carmarthen—but I am not bad with Greek.”talldogs
“We owe each other no favours,” she said, reaching up with her spare hand to brush a few loose tendrils from her eyes. “I am glad of that.”talldogs
"I know that when I find I can pray no more than the merest cries for help, I am glad of the saints who have wrestled with God on the borders of living and have won their way into the land of blessing."talldogs
He almost did not see the rider for the ridden. Amid the mud-speckled, heavily-haunched beasts that strode rank on rank through the gateway stepped a blistering goddess of a mare, so obviously Carmarthen-bred that it was almost an insult to the eyes. It wore travel tack, but its buckles and metal-pieces splintered with shards of rayed silver in the light, and the torches seemed to lose their illumination as the mare eclipsed them, her coat shiny-glowing and pale gold as the colour of lightning. All her lines were long and fine, her ears delicately curled inward toward each other, her reflective blue eyes overcast by a fringe of white lashes. She was a bizarre, gorgeous creature, with the most beautiful step and shift of muscles, and judging from the lightness of the rider’s hands upon the reins, she had a superb mouth. Himself no horseman, Alwin nevertheless gestured to the cream champagne and murmured, “Damn!”His orderly nodded appreciatively. drakeshelm
"The consul? I don't know. I don't think so. And you could not pay me," the orderly added, "to be the man who breaks her in.""That is good to know," said the honey of the golden demon in the doorway. "Your pay is in arrears as it is."drakeshelm
"I only use strong language when I have the moral high ground."drakeshelm
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Published on July 08, 2014 07:12 • 3 views

July 5, 2014

you can see the roads that we all traveled just to get herea million miniscule decisions in the linewhy they brought us to this moment isn't clear but that's all rightwe've got all nightmany roads // andrew peterson

“We’re calling EMS.  We’re calling EMS!”“I’m on my way!”“Your brother just texted.  They’re taking your father to the hospital.”Wednesday morning, beautifully sunny and lazy, the dog-day middle of the week: I had set out my little glass bowl and my teaspoon and my bag of pink French clay to make a mask for myself, knowing that if I set it up the night before I might not be hindered by the notion that I was too tired to set the articles out in the morning.  My husband would coddle me and kiss me good-bye, leaving for the office, leaving me to roll back over with my baby so that the two of us could doze through the morning.Wednesday morning shattered like a gunshot.  I got out of bed, forcing my heart not to race like a rabbit which has lost its warren.  Would he make tea for me, please?  I could get ready in under an hour with the pedal pushed all the way to the floor.  Nothing fancy, only something presentable: I stood in front of the mirror sick and praying, going through the familiar motions of tight-lining and blending neutral eyeshadows.  The sunlight was beautiful, perfect for make-up work.  I stared at myself as my hands brought out the best in my features.  My stomach was sick: my reflection tensed: I did not have time to be sick—no time for that!  I yanked the brush through my short waves.  Above my stomach, my heart felt stoned: terror had hit it like a peregrine in mid-dive.The power cut off just as we were getting ready to leave.  Dear God, I begged lamely, dragging my broken wings after me as I stepped out the door: don’t let it be one of those days.We got in the car and it leapt away with us, snarling unpleasantly as its fourteen years complained at the treatment while the turbo-charged horses flung their shoulders into the collars.  I sat numbly in my seat, clutching my mug of tea, praying and being sick, being sick and wishing I could pray with better alacrity.  We swung into town, following the phone’s instructions through the underbelly of the old milling district as we attempted the shortest way to the brick-worked Catholic hospital.  Somehow we did not get too lost.  Somehow we made it without spilling tea or the damp fragments of a breakfast neither of us wanted.  The long blue Audi yanked into the parking lot, snaked among the resident cars until it found a stall, and fell into place, its parking brake screaming as my husband nearly tore it up from the console.The emergency entrance was low-browed, brick, and uninviting.  As we strode up the steep driveway toward the awning I could see my brother waiting for us, stolid, grim, his sunglasses looped round the back of his collared shirt: the call must have whipped him off a job site God and my brother alone knew how far away from this place.  God and my brother alone knew how he had flogged his horses to get here.  The police had not stopped him.  Without a word he turned and led us through the emergency room lobby.  “Two more family,” he told the receptionist, and she unlocked the massive door for us, letting us through into the labyrinth.  With his usual broad-shouldered determination my brother led us down the narrow passages and finally we turned, the hallway opening out into a long, straight shot with the image of my sister in tousled hair and navy-stripes leaping familiarly out of the background of beige walls and blood-curdling medical equipment.  No tears.  I noticed that first.  The almond colour of her skin was not warped with scarlet.  No tears.We were not let in, my husband and I.  We stood with my sister in the hallway, trying not to be underfoot, while all that we could see of the little waiting chamber was a curtain, my mother’s little heeled sandals, and the badger-clawed feet of a hospital bed.  I could hear their voices.  I stood feeling pale as a ghost while my husband held me, and I listened to the tell-tale Godfather hoarseness of my father’s voice.  I wanted to see him.  My heart beat once, writhed with the agony of it, and lay still.  I wanted to see him.  They took us out of the hallway.  I do not know how long we waited, seated, standing, leaning grimly against the walls while the nurses surged back and forth and my mother’s little heeled sandals moved about beneath the edge of the curtain.  Finally a nurse came breezing by—everything of unimportance cleared like chickens from her path—and stopped, whipping round on us.  “Are you all together?” she asked.  “Only two at a time in the hallway, please.  The rest will have to wait in the ER lobby.”Only two at a time.  Of course that meant my husband and I would go: my brother, who was the competent one, and looked like Uncle Exeter’s mace, would stay to help rule; and my sister, who despite her pale face and clear eyes could not bear to be taken from a stone’s toss of my father, would stay too.  As one unit my husband and I wove our way back to the lobby and waited, trying to buoy hopes that were insulted and spat upon by the drivel of the television playing overhead.We waited.  I opened up The Tulip, glad for its large print and brightly panelled illustrations, and tried to read a few lines.  I knew enough about emergency rooms to know with some certainty—it was the only certainty I had—that we would be waiting all day.  My sister came eventually to join us, and our spirits lifted a little from sheer human nature.  Time crawled.  No news came like a spirit sent back to moisten the lips of the damned.  It was like hell, that eternal monotony.  The voice of the receptionist called across the lobby to us.  “Would you and your sister like to go back to see your dad?”  Lord love her!  My heart bolted from cover: how I had forgot the singsong drawl of the South in which I lived.  It seemed to nest in this place.  Yes.  Yes, of course.  We knew our way: she opened the door for us.I was able to see him.  He was resting, flat on his back covered in something printed: I will never clearly remember what it was.  His baby brown eyes, which I shared, were closed; his olive skin was ashen pale.  A very indistinct voice, like the shapeless form of my subconscious, warned me that I knew this image: it was the image of a corpse.I turned at once and stood my turn for my mother’s arms.  She had greeted my sister, who was already buckling under the strain.  Pain was stabbing at the backs of my eyes and my throat felt unsteady, but somehow I spoke: small things, unimportant things that I would never clearly remember afterward.  I would not let him be woken.  Even though the formlessness of my subconscious sketched an apparition on the wall of my mind: What if he never wakes and he will never say good-bye?—I could not bear to have his tenuous rest snapped.  “The nurse says he is holding steady.  They will be able to do the CT scan soon.”Holding steady.  I understood those words.  I did not know what a CT scan was, only that it would show the medical practitioners the magic pictures of their art and—God willing—help them divine the problem.  Then we could find a cure.  For now, he was holding steady.  I took those words like a torch and carried them back with me to the lobby and my husband.The waiting went on.  We read, he and I, and stole bleak glances at the television screen which was an idol I despised in those hours.  Finally—my brother came around the corner, his arm on my sister’s shoulder as he led her.  My heart stopped.She had her hands over her face, desperately trying to crush back the tears.  My brother’s face was grim and heavy, as it had been through the morning hours.  “His appendix ruptured,” he said, with mingled tenderness and the bluntness of a hammer.  “He is septic.”My hand came up over my mouth before I knew I had moved.  Those, too, were words I knew.  I hoped that God knew the airless spasming of a soul to be a desperate cry for help.  I was so terrified that I was conscious of no pain: I wondered, much later, if I experienced a shock.There was my sister to take care of.  She sat down and crumpled forward, sobbing and trying not to sob.  I plunged my hand mechanically into the pocket of my bag and handed her my handkerchief: she took it without question, not caring at this point whether I had ever used it before.  Somehow, mostly, with only a few smarting tears, I held myself together.  Thinking back on imaginations of times like this one, spiralling into uncertainty and terror, I thought my body would be torn to shreds by grief and anxiety.  Now I only sat numbly, one hand on my sister’s shoulder, the other hand clasped within my husband’s grip, and my limp, dazed mind stretched feebly after heaven.Presently a woman approached us tentatively from the direction of the receptionist’s desk.  I recognized her: small, black, one of the staff of the place, with that odd gentleness about her that so infrequently ran in white veins.  She looked sombre.  My heart could not take much more of this.This is it.  It’s over.“Excuse me,” she said softly.  “Forgive me for intruding—but I couldn’t help but notice you were so upset.  Is there anything I can get you?  Some water, perhaps?”Dear God in heaven!  Not that!  I sat stunned, my mouth forming the smile which some form of good breeding and social gentleness flogged out of me by sheer habit.  I felt my throat tear and betray me.  Not that!  Not kindness.  If only you would be rude and discourteous, I could hate you and the anger would steady me.  I cannot stand kindness just now.  Courage cannot defend against it.We thanked her, God knows how, with broken voices and tears that we were desperately trying to stave off.Time does not cure wounds, but somehow it enables us to live with them.  The sobbing stopped; the navy-striped figure uncurled.  She had her little pocket scriptures jammed into her elegant tote, and she removed it wordlessly.  It sprang out at me like a light in a dark place, a solid object in a hades of ghosts.“May we share?” I asked.  My voice was raw, barring back tears.She said something, a question of some kind: I will never afterward remember clearly what it was.  All I know is that we sat side by side in the sunlit lobby, soaking in the glow of Davidic psalms.  Terror, uncertainty, grief, anxiety, the physical manifestations of inner turmoil, were nowhere near to diminishing.  I could not know what the future held.  But something gilt in the words overlaid the world and I lifted my head, swallowing, feeling something more solid than desperation barring across my soul to brace it against the impact.  Who knew what peace really was?  Whatever this was, I would take it.  News came in unbroken starts, kicking at traces which were not ready to be laid on.  They would be rushing him to surgery.  Young and inexperienced, I thought this meant it would happen soon.  Soon!  Over and over in my head I saw a girl in a science fiction show—pure fantasy, all acted, all safe—lying against a metal bulwark with a gunshot wound in her stomach and the doctor demanding if the captain knew the effects of stomach wounds.“I surely do,” the captain replied, a wicked edge in his calm tone.Over and over I heard that voice while time dragged on and nothing happened.At last my brother came for us, rounding us up with the news that they would finally be taking my father into what they called “pre-op,” and that we were to move further into the sanctum of the hospital.  We moved, an exodus of silent, desperate mendicants: myself, my husband, my sister, my sister-in-law, now my father-in-law as well.  We spoke to the angel at the entrance of a new waiting area and she told us to find seats and that news—when there was news—would be brought.God save us all from suffering alone.  Somehow the increase in our numbers had bolstered my spirits.   The others—they were hard to read.  My brother went on, stalwart and grim as usual, with occasion flashes of humour when our spirits sparked and lit.  My sister went on, studiously reading the Scriptures or jotting down tiny script on the back of a church bulletin: now and then I saw her face fall, the overwhelming uncertainty cloud her features, and I wondered if the nightmare had struck at her again.  There was nothing I could do.  I sat in my horrible numbness and prayed.At last—God remembers the hour—my mother emerged from the hallway.  Our bruised souls soared at her like doves from a dovecot.  At that moment, she was the most beautiful thing in the world to me.  I had agonized for her, alone wherever she was in the hospital, standing by my father as his life was falling into eternity.  I wanted to be there and did not know where she was.  At last she had come back to us, and at one glance I knew she was tired but steady, and she had left my father in capable, human hands.I wanted to take her weariness from her.  I wanted to soothe her troubles.  I wanted—of all small, prosaic things—a portable stick of mascara and a hair brush just so that she could have the comfort of putting herself together.  There was nothing lacking in her appearance to me, but I wanted to give her these little things.  And I did not have them to give.She sat down and told us he would be going into surgery soon.  Soon!  That word again: a part of me still believed its pretty lie.  The preliminary examinations, which was the best I understood “pre-op” to be, was blunt and honest: the appendix had ruptured and the infection would have spread.  They would do all they could, but…I could not understand the words she used, only that there might be subsequent surgeries, that there was risk of set-back.  I understood that my father was going under the knife to have a terrible infection scrubbed out and that it would be hard to do, even in this day of modern medicine.Sitting back into the lobby armchair, I knew I would loathe anyone who ever said in my hearing that they wished that had lived a hundred, two hundred years ago.  They were fools.The first hour crawled by and a member of the staff—rank and serial number wholly unknown to me, though I pray God will bless her—came punctually to tell us that my father had not yet gone into surgery.  The medical jugging act was still being performed, but soon—soon!—they would have him fitted into his slot and the anaesthetist’s mask fitted over his face.We ate a form of lunch.  I had to say that Macdonalds had stepped up their game since I had last wedged their burgers over my jaw.  My gut took the food and did not object.  I saw that my mother had orange juice, and ate even though she had no appetite.  I could not blame her, but four months of pregnancy had made me impatient of the excuse: the body needed food, and the body was going to get it.  With a punctuality I had never known in a corporation before, the staff member returned every hour to inform us of progress: my father was in surgery, a surgery which lasted over three hours, and we writhed through those hours wishing we could sleep or stretch or gain relief.  But we waited, mournful dogs with our jaws on outstretched limbs, waiting for our master to come home.At last the ordeal of swallowing razors was over.  An Italian-looking gentleman in scrubs came up behind my mother and touched her on the shoulder, breaking off an anecdote I will never remember at all, and she whipped round with recognition on her face.  I sat across from them, while the whole of our gathering leaned in on every side to hear his words.  Odd, how one does not always remember the words, only the shape of them.  His looked like relief.  He was kind and serious, but I would remember that the surgery had gone well.  I would remember that he described the nearly fatal event as a kind of hand-grenade exploding, with a lot of pus and infection and a number of abscesses, and outposts of further damage somewhere in the inscrutable tangle of the human gut.  The tissue in which the stitches had been made was badly corrupted, and he was concerned that the stitches would not hold, but out of the horrific nightmare picture he thought he had got the worst of it away, and while the professional in him warned us that there was risk of further infection, he was, on the whole, quite pleased.It was good.  I wanted that captain in the science fiction show to reach up and take down the receiver, announcing through the ship in his warm, velveteen tone that we were finally out of the woods, but that voice did not come.  Still, the crew around me relaxed a little, ragged and worn, but relieved.  If I remembered to pray, I did not remember the moment afterward.  I hoped God knew.  We began to disperse at last.  My niece and my nephew would have to be collected.  All during the day contractors and foremen had assured my brother they would put their backs into the day’s work and to tell us all, too, that they were praying for our father.  Did God hear the prayers of the wicked on behalf of the just?  I thought perhaps he might.  I did not know, but perhaps he might.  But now those jobs needed my brother to inspect them and shut them up for the night, and the long charcoal beast of my brother’s truck would go roaring through the dusk at speeds which did not abide contemplating.  My father-in-law would go home, bearing gladder tidings with him.  My sister would hitch a ride with my sister-in-law, aimed for her house, two bags of clothes, and the household cats which would need their insulin shots administered.The waiting settled in again, my mother and my husband and myself bunked in a new waiting room while my father recovered from surgery.  Arrangements for the following day—days—jerked their creases out beneath our ironing.  The end of this day was in sight, and I thought that was a relief to us all.  A telephone rattled from the wall of the labyrinth waiting area.  We started, but ignored it: our cell phones were within arm’s reach, and had been all day.  The next thing we knew, we were once more startled out of our flogged daze by the sound of my maiden name being called.  My mother took the phone from the nurse: with some confused idea of supporting her, and an even vaguer notion of being part of the news, I drifted after her.  Her answers to the still small voice on the other end were short and worried me, until at the last moment her tone went up with relief and appreciation, and I knew all was well.They would be moving him up to his room now.Even after all these hours, I failed to realize what ‘now’ meant.  My mother and my husband and I went directly abovestairs, riding the elevator which shook my battered equilibrium almost more than I could handle.  I still had another two hallways to walk down, and room numbers to read.  We found my father’s room and swung round the doorway.  To my disappointment, the bed was made up and empty.“They said we would most likely get here before him,” my mother assured me.  It sounded as though he would be just behind us.It was over an hour before he arrived.My sister and sister-in-law had returned before he made his appearance.  Over-night bags were bestowed on the window-seat, and once more we fell to waiting.  It almost felt cruel, by this point, to be so close and still to have to wait.  I sat on the hard window seat, cold in my skirt, my toes jammed into the ends of my heeled shoes, tired and aching and wishing I could lie down and cry like a child.  Soon, I kept telling myself, looking at the clock which had once been my friend and had forever betrayed me.  Soon.  It will be soon.  Any minute now.The moments which clustered around the beginning of the end may come back to me in the distant future, when the early days of my life are made clear by distance.  I do not remember them now.  “There he is!” someone said—my sister-in-law, perhaps.  The voice was steady: it could not have been my sister.  I remember that my body was on the inner side of the little hospital room, and somehow I was one of the first through the doorway, out into the bright yellow lights and the long hollow hallway, and there he was, wheeled by a cheerful black nurse—would no one teach me how they are so cheerful?—strolling him down the hallway toward us on his gurney.  He was sitting up, his eyes were open—dazed eyes, but lovely—and he was humming a weak, dramatic theme as he was wheeled into the doorway.  After all this time of listening to his agonized wheezing from behind a curtain, and then losing him to the silence of the hospital and the care of total strangers, to hear his thin but lucid humour was a relief I could never quantify.Almost at once we lost contact with him again.  We crowded round him as his gurney was coaxed alongside the hospital bed, gripping his hands, kissing his forehead, gritting our horse-teeth against tears we had promised ourselves we would not cry.  But then the prosaic mechanics of the hospital kicked into gear, kindly but inexorable, and we were thrust from the room for the sake of space while he was lifted from the gurney onto his bed.We formed our cluster just outside his door, parting only when nurses came wheeling the metal icons of their religion up and down the hall to mystical purposes known only to themselves.  We talked—about waking up from anaesthetic, about dreams, about babies and their care and the fears that attended their care-takers: small things which seemed important and warmed our hands as we held the topics close.  We did not hear the sound barrier break when the long charcoal truck brought my brother back.  My sister said, “There he is!”—a singsong chant I was coming to know well—and that stolid figure was once more striding toward us, rejoining the group.  I wrapped my arms around my husband and my toes cried pitifully in my heels while we told my brother that we had witnessed our father’s coming, that we would be let in to see him again soon.At last the impossibly cheerful nurses which swooped around my father began to disperse, and the many life-giving, blood-chilling tubes which must be set up and checked and turned on were all in place, and the small mob of which I was a part was let in through the door.  Somehow we all got ourselves round the bed, shaken and relieved…and it was strange to me that we had to tell the patient what had happened.  On the other side of his sleep, he remembered agony; on this side he had to be informed of the doctor’s assessment.  That nasty gap in which he had been in the doctor’s and God’s hands, and might have been taken from our own, would thankfully never surface in his memory.“It was the strangest thing,” said the Godfather voice.  His hand moved to his forehead in a mimicry of an old habitual gesture.  It cut at me to see the listlessness of the motion: was he still in pain?  “It was not twenty minutes before we were going to go to the doctor’s appointment when the pain became unbearable.  We were all ready to go.  I thought—I really thought—I might actually die.”He almost died—and he was still in the balance.  We were all thinking it, tasting terror and knowing this was no hyperbolic joke: the pale, ashen patriarch lying between us had knelt sweating on the brink of death and we had almost not pulled him back in time.  I bit my lip: Whatever happens, Father in heaven—“When I was waiting for them to run the scan,” he said presently, “I prayed Paul’s prayer.”  His eyes passed softly round the group of us.  “That I thought it would be better that I should remain.”We lingered, knowing that we should go and let him rest—already the meagre strength, which he rallied with a force of will which amazed me, was visibly diminishing.  But we wanted to be with him as long as we could.  Eventually my brother and my sister-in-law departed, and my father said—I do not remember when—that he thought my brother was very shaken.  He would not show it, but the young lion had been shaken.It was time for us to take my sister away with us and to let my mother and father rest.  My sister gripped my father’s hand and leaned in, looking suddenly tiny and fragile next to the heavy hospital bed, and kissed his brow as best she could.  He held her hand tightly and she stayed close, frozen with the horror of a small animal.“I gave you a scare, didn’t I,” he said quietly.Her lips made a movement, crushing up on themselves as she tried to swallow back the tears that were sprinting from her eyes.  Behind me, I heard my husband slip tissues from the dispenser on the wall.My father whispered, “I’m sorry.”I took the tissues—I was also in need of them, as the rawness of my throat and the picture of my sister breaking down again in the solitude of the room overwhelmed me.  I gave one to her, offering it and making sure it focused amidst the tear-blindness which had come over her.  I clutched my tissue hard and approached my father’s side among the desert of tubes and machines.He took my hand and I kissed his brow.  “We’ll go now and let you rest,” I said practically, although the voice which was speaking did not sound like my own.  “We love you.”“I—love you, too.”  The big hand shook mine reassuringly…Looking down at him, so thin and pale and still in danger, I, too, felt the scent of terror welling up in my nostrils and I shoved practicality aside.  “You have to get better.  You have to—you have to see my baby.”  My voice broke completely.The strength snapped back into his eyes.  “Oh, I will.  I intend to see them all.  I will do everything the doctor says.  I will be the model patient.”Tears curled and burned over my cheekbones, but I smiled weakly.  Practicality was coming back and for the sake of his own indomitable will power I would pull myself together.  “I will go now and break down some more in the car,” I said, equal parts candid and pathetic.  “We will see you.”None of us spoke aloud on the ride home.  I think we were all speaking to God.  What we said, and what we meant by what we said, only the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost know.
july the second, the year of our lord two thousand fourteen
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Published on July 05, 2014 09:21 • 4 views

June 29, 2014

a video blog - about plenilune, no less!

Comment below or email me if you want to participate in the release-date announcement and/or the blog tour I will be putting together for Plenilune!
Have questions you want me to answer about Plenilune & Co.? Add them to the comments as well for future vlog fodder!
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Published on June 29, 2014 17:55 • 3 views

June 26, 2014

pinterest"Whom not who, your Highness," said Doctor Cornelius.  "Perhaps it is time to turn from History to Grammar."
You have all heard, no doubt, that you need to learn the rules before you can break them.  In large measure that is true.  In my case, I simply buried the rules so deep inside my subconscious that I can no longer access them, and I went on my merry way.  If I happen to come across a particularly egregious piece of writing, I'll recognize that it is badly done up and I'll probably tell my husband and my cats how it ought to be done, because I have the rules deep down inside me; but on a day-to-day basis, if you made diagramming a sentence a matter of life or death, I would die.

"It is high time we turned to Grammar now," said Doctor Cornelius in a loud voice.  "Will your Royal Highness be pleased to open Pulverulentus Siccus at the fourth page of his Grammatical garden or the Arbour of Accidence pleasantlie open'd to Tender Wits?"

I was taught grammar.  And taught it and taught it and taught it.  I did not enjoy it, nor was I any good at it.  For some reason I have always been very behindhand in learning the mechanics of any language, including my own.  It is simply not in my nature to pick up on the concrete rules applied to the most mongrel of languages, English - and put that way, can one blame me...?  But I was taught it, and presumably something went in because people tell me that I speak more clearly than others (when I can adequately compose my thoughts), and that I am not a bad writer.  The foundation stones, although now invisible, were properly laid by my varying tutors in my youth, and they stand me in good stead today.

The face of the strange boy was very grubby.  It could hardly have been grubbier if he had first rubbed his hands in the earth, and then had a good cry, and then dried his face with his hands.  As a matter of fact, this was very nearly what he had been doing.

One advantage to the English language is that it is horrendously mongrel, and once you have got a basic handle on the few laws that seem to apply more often than not, your own voice and imagination may proceed to bend the rest of the pliable English tongue to your will.  And the deliciously vindictive part of it all is that English is so bent and twisted and mongrel and plays so readily with one's wits that anyone trying to squeeze you into a dubious parameter of grammar is likely to find you arguing your way out of the henhouse.  In fact, the better you are at the rules, the better you can argue your way out of them.

Take C.S. Lewis, for example.  The above quote, from The Magician's Nephew, was read aloud to me by my husband the other evening, as he had picked up the story again and was working through it.  I instantly pounced on those few sentences.  How many editors today would not be all over that passage ripping it to shreds?  Show, don't tell!  Why on earth are you posing a possible scenario and then in the next instant telling us that is very nearly what did happen?  Absolutely rubbish.  Terrible construction.  Off with its head.  But Lewis was an excellent grammarian, and knew exactly what he was doing.  That passage perfectly suits the tongue-in-cheek style of his Narnian fictions (in which he himself interjects on numerous occasions), and the reader finds it absolutely delightful.  It is good storytelling.  The grammar itself is perfectly sound, and in the context it actually transitions the reader's attention from the girl Polly to the boy Digory.  In breaking the rules (or at least bending them) Lewis contrives to build an even stronger narrative.
you can do anything, provided you do it well
The longer I live (and I'm only twenty-three and a half years old), the more this seems true.  I have not read any of The Hunger Games novels, but I understand them to be written in the first person present, which is unusual.  But I also understand it to work magnificently for the delivery of the plot: both Katniss and the reader have absolutely no idea what is coming, and the impact of the plot is doubled by that "living in the moment" feeling provided by writing in the first person present tense.  Now, I know this style has since become popular, but whenever I see it I often feel it is just a copycat trend.  It was necessary for The Hunger Games, but usually falls flat and hollow wherever else I meet it, because many other plots do not have the natural momentum of something like The Hunger Games to give it strength and dimension, the kind of strength and dimension silently provided by the past tense in most literature.  

But you can do just about anything, provided you know how to do it.  If you can make it work - and make it work magnificently - who is going to argue? 
master the English language, don't let it master you 
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Published on June 26, 2014 10:54 • 1 view

June 24, 2014

My husband and I were talking last night about a list he had read of books which have been written in and heavily influenced the Western world, and which the list-maker suggested every man ought to have in his personal library.
The writer also suggested that every man have a personal library, which threw me wildly for I took it for granted that everyone would have a home library.
A few of the books mentioned, we have here at home (Plato's Republic, The Divine Comedy), and a few of the books I proposed to be on the list turned out to be there (Augustine, Summa Theologica) which of course plumped my feathers. 

Naturally it got us thinking about "books that are worth reading," and while I probably could put together a list of a hundred and one titles of books that I would like to read, and feel are really worth reading, I thought I could speak better to the books I have already read - and I don't know that I could form a list of a hundred and one titles that I have read that I feel are really worth reading.  They span from childhood to adulthood, but these are the ones I feel are really worth the time spent reading them and give a return for time invested.
"Let us be exclusive," said Charles Wallace.   "That's my new word for the day."
1.  Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
2.  The Inferno by Dante Alighieri
3.  The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
4.  John Ploughman's Talk by C.H. Spurgeon
5.  Horatius by T.B. Macaulay
6.  The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy Sayers
7.  The Ballad of the White Horse by G.K. Chesterton
8.  Letters of Marque by Rudyard Kipling
9.  The Discarded Image by C.S. Lewis
10.  Oliver Cromwell by Theodore Roosevelt
11.  Cur Deus Homo (Why [Did] God [Become a] Man) by Anselm
12.  Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
13.  The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
14.  The Immortality of the Soul by Augustine
15.  Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace
16.  On Christian Truth by Harry Blamires

It is a subjective list in some ways, because some of these books have simply impacted me greatly, and I have a notion that they would impact others as well.  It is also a mixed list: I have various kinds of poetry alongside children's historical fiction, travel, anthropology, biography, and theology.  But I think these sorts of things ought to be mixed.  It is also a very short list, because I was being ruthless: there are many books in my library which I have read and loved and have shaped me (Puck of Pook's Hill, Simon, The Worm Ouroboros), but even those I felt might be too subjective, and I wanted this list to be as universally edifying as possible.
How about you?  Have you read any of these books, and do you have a list of titles which you have read, which you feel are really worth the time you spent reading them?  Do tell!
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Published on June 24, 2014 08:55 • 2 views

June 17, 2014

pinterestI was asked to be part of a writing-blog tour, but when I was asked (no fault of the inquirer) I was right smack in the middle of my first trimester and hardly capable of sitting upright, let alone answering questions.  "What am I working on?  Nothing.  How does my work differ from others?  It isn't being worked on."

I had to decline officially entering the blog tour, but it occurred to me a few days ago that there was nothing stopping me from casually answering the general questions asked of the writers.  (And the irony in this is that, while I am often very sleepy in the morning, this morning I got up in time to take a very long nap, and now I am due for my second cup of tea.)  

What are you working on at present?
Talldogs.  I am slowly chipping into the plot of Talldogs.  It is slow going simply because I am abnormally weary, and focusing is difficult.  But I have finally - finally! - got to the part in the narrative in which the character realizes what is going on (at least partly), and we who were in darkness have seen a great light...  As of this moment, the manuscript is 80,050 words long.

Plenilune.  I'm sure you are all full of anxious beans waiting to hear about this development.  Among a few unfinished businesses, I have had a cover made (and purchased it - you'll die when you see it, believe me), and I have been drumming up some advance readers.  I have other irons in the fire as regards this novel's development, but they are not so hot yet that I can lay them on the anvil and hammer them, so I won't tell you about that yet.

Thunderstruck .  I don't usually tell people what I am reading because I really like to play my cards close to the chest, and whenever I am reading for resource, I tend not to give my resources away: like the wells of the Middle East, ownership of these resources is a means of power...  But this particular book, by Erik Larson, has begun to grip me, and I'm not really reading it with an eye toward research.  Murder and Marconi and the Turn of the Century.  Science was still almost alchemical in those days, and the proposition - the discovery - that you might not have to use a wire to conduct energy was literally electrifying.  I remember an edgy, creepy-crawly feeling in my skin when I first learned about the invisible electromagnetic fields that surround objects.  That fascination has not diminished.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?
In terms of "planetary fantasy," I have some spectacular lights as companions.  But my writing is me.  I'm writing from a desk in the twenty-first century, not the nineteenth or the twentieth, and while my stories fall more on the medieval side than, say, the science-fiction side (such as the Space Trilogy), I can't possibly escape the fact that I am a product of my era.  And also, while my stories are planetary fantasy, I am remarkably down-to-earth about it.  Talldogs, for example, was warmly summed up as a kind of ulcer-inducing British family drama.  You cannot get much more prosaic than that...

Why do you write what you write?
Well, I started writing at first just because I enjoyed doing it.  I still write because I enjoy doing it, but now I write, also, because I'm good at it, and I can get better at it, and because I write stories and characters and worlds that both I and others love to be involved with.  You know the old view of humours in the body?  True beans.  I would get nasty septic humours if I didn't vent my literary spleen.
and also because i can't physically control the elements and i would be an unholy terror if i could, so i have to do something
How does your writing process work?
This is assuming I have a process.  Generally I have a main idea - say, Talldogs - with vague shapes in the plot's future to which I'll tend as I write.  (The nice thing about Talldogs is that it already has some boundaries set by Plenilune and Ethandune before it.)  I'll start at the beginning, because I don't have so much trouble writing beginnings (although they tend to need polishing) as I know happens to some writers, and then I just keep going.  I'll get other ideas for scenes along the way, and I'll often scrawl them down so I don't forget them, but in general I write the story chronologically. 

You all have seen snippets on here from stories other than Talldogs.  If I get a scene for another of my novels which I am not currently working on, I will write it down - because if I do not write it down, I will lose it.
and that is pretty much my writing process
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Published on June 17, 2014 09:44 • 3 views

June 11, 2014

pinterestA blogger that I follow posted an open query on her site to anyone she knew that was traditionally published, and since The Shadow Things was traditionally published and so I have had that experience, I picked up her list in the hopes that I could shed a little light on her questions.

If you are also a traditionally published author, and you have answers to these questions, please throw in your two cents!

Dear Published Authors,
What can you tell me about your publisher? I don't have a manuscript quite ready yet, but I am starting to research publishers. At this point, I haven't decided between self-publishing and traditional publishing so I am wide open to any words of wisdom you may have to offer.

Also, what questions should I ask of a publisher? I would hate to agree to a publishing contract only to find out that I agreed to something that I wish I hadn't. I am a person who likes to know what I am getting into and to be prepared. Below are some questions I have been asking. What else do I need to know?

1. What do I need to submit? Manuscript (in what format), synopsis, monies, bio, etc.
What you need to submit will vary from publishing house to publishing house.  They will (or should!) have their requirements posted on their website.  These requirements are not always clear.  I am sorry, but sometimes they can be mind-boggling.  Rule Number One: there are very few hard-and-fast rules.  You have to roll with their punches.

2. Is the acceptance of my manuscript guaranteed (such as in some self-publishing venues...you pay money and they print whatever you like) or is it dependent on their review (traditional publishers and some hybrid publishers use this route)?
The acceptance of your manuscript is subject to the whims of the publishing house.  It may not suit them (in which case you probably should have researched their corpus of literature better), it may be that they already have a lot of books coming out in that genre, it may be that they are swamped.  When rejected, you may feel that it is because your manuscript is not good enough.  This is not always the case.  Oftentimes, it just wasn't their cup of tea.

3. Are there restrictions on the length of the book? (For example, it must be at least 48 pages to be printed in paperback and at least 108 pages to be considered for hardcover). (Or, for example, no one wants the next unabridged Count of Monte Cristo).
Traditional publishing houses often state the word limits they require on both ends (no less than so many words and no more than another number).   These restrictions will vary from house to house.

Hardcover books tend to be costlier than paperbacks.  The anticipated popularity of the book will often dictate whether it is published in hardcover or not, I believe, not the size of the wordcount. 

4. Who owns my manuscript? Do I maintain ownership or do I sign it over to the publisher?
If I understand this correctly, whoever holds the copyright, owns the manuscript (makes sense!).  In my research I came across this article on copyrights and copyright transfers.  This is something you will need to keep an eye on and look for in the list of papers you may sign with a publishing house.

5. Would this be a non-exclusive contract (in other words, do they have restrictions on my ability to submit my story elsewhere)?
Before your manuscript has been accepted, you may send your queries and proposals to as many houses as you wish.  (You may or may not be asked if you are submitting to multiple houses simultaneously.)  Once your story has been accepted, its freedom to be published in other venues is probably dependent upon the contract's limitations, which may vary.

6. Are there time limits on the publisher's services? Will my book ever go out of print?
An article defining out-of-print may be found here.   Your book can, and may, go out of print, and the contract can make allowance for the rejuvenation of the printing (e.g. if my publisher fails to bring out a new printing of my novel within six months of my having sent in a written request to renew it, all rights to my novel will revert back to me). 

7. In addition to the initial fee (if there is one), are there times during this submitting/editing/publishing/marketing process when the author is expected to provide funds?
This is probably dependent upon the publishing house.  And this is the part where I mention that the entire traditional publishing industry is doing itself no favours in short-changing the author so vigorously in terms of royalties and returns.  As I have entered the publishing world, I have watched more and more authors move away from traditional publishing, not because self-publishing is easier (please don't make me laugh), but because we would far rather haul our own carts and urge ourselves at our own hectic pace than be overridden by corporations who intend to work the life out of us and give us very little in return.  They are not all evil conglomerates, but the system is not designed to help the author, and the authors have become increasingly aware of that as the internet network has made self-help more and more feasible.

8. Does the publisher provide the editors and cover design artists?
In general, yes, I believe so; and occasionally you even have the opportunity of interfacing with your cover artist and offering suggestions (or making demands).  Back-pocket editors and design artists are part of the traditional publishing package.

9. Does the publisher print both hardcover and paperbacks? How do they decide whether to do one or the other or both? (Perhaps by how much money you pay? Or by the length of the book?)
I think I inadvertently answered this question above.  Insofar as I understand it, whether or not a book is printed in hardback or paper depends upon its popularity (and therefore the assurance of reaping a return on the money invested in a more expensive type of cover).  I have been watching Andrew Peterson's publication of his (I believe) last Wingfeather Saga novel, The Warden and the Wolf King, and in an Instagram photograph I noticed that the first two books were paperback; the last two, once the series had grown in popularity, were in hardback.  It all depends upon the economic assurance that you will not be throwing money away by creating a more expensive product that people don't want.

10. Do the publisher obtain or help me get the ISBN assignment, Library of Congress Control Number, and U.S. Copyright Registration for my book?
The publisher is responsible for creating the official numbers associated with the literary work.  (In my long list of Things to Do to Self-Publish Plenilune, obtaining these numbers myself is there.)

11. Does the publisher only print black and white books, or would they also print color books? Do they ever print books with interior pictures? What are the requirements for those?
Colour will probably also be dependent on the economic feasibility of the project.  The printing of black and white images in books is common: that's part of your book, and while there may be some wrangling, that will also probably be accommodated according to your needs and the publisher's. 

12. How does the publisher print the books? Is it done on-demand or are large orders printed at a time?
A publishing house will order a run to be printed (this quantity to be determined by the publisher).  Subsequent runs can be ordered as well.

13. Do they offer marketing/networking and help me attain endorsements and reviews? If so, what does that look like and what role do I play in that? (I'd hate to sign a contract with them and then find out unexpectedly that I am required to tour the country for a booksigning during my busiest months here at home).
Publishing houses do offer varying degrees of publicity and author-readership interaction, but whether you publishing traditionally or by yourself, it is increasingly more imperative that the bulk of the responsibility rests on the author's shoulders for marketing and networking.  You absolutely cannot depend upon the publishing house to do this for you, even if they offer some of these services.  It's up to you, because that's the way the book market works these days.

14. In what markets will my book be carried? Is there a time limit on how long a book would be carried by them?
This depends on the distributors that any individual publishing house has in its back pocket, and the duration of the shelf-life of your book will be dependent on a time agreed upon by the distributor and the publisher: if that time has expired and a portion of your books has not sold, the books will be bought back by the publisher.  (This should not effect your royalties, but unfortunately sometimes it does.)

15. Is it likely that my book would be carried in a physical store? (Or is it only offered online?)
As of now, traditional publishing is still heavily invested in the physical book.  Your book will be printed and distributed to physical locations, although it will probably come in ebook format as well.

16. If I wished to purchase some of my books for my family or if I wished to carry my books to an event to sell them, how would I obtain copies? Is there a reduced cost for the author to buy books? Is there a specific quantity that must be purchased at a time?
This will probably be dependent on the contract.  I know it is listed in my contract as allowing me to purchase my books at a reduced price, but this may vary from contract to contract.
These are some questions answered.  If you have more questions, a good resource to explore is the website Go Teen Writers, which is extremely helpful and a lot of fun to peruse.  I hope this helped!
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Published on June 11, 2014 06:52 • 9 views

June 3, 2014

pinterestRachel chose June's Chatterbox topic as
boats and boating
with the deliberate purpose, I think, of watching me writhe.  She said she wanted to see me step out of it like a disgruntled cat which has just trod in a puddle, and shake off my paws.  Which I did.  I am not sure this relationship is a healthy one, but we seem to get on without any intention of disjoining. 
the jerusalem tree


In the dun-dusky evening the road diverged, curling like the sweep of a hurley-stick through the red pillars of the cedar trees, and the Black Prince put down the last two fingers of either hand upon the reins, drawing upon the mouth of his agouti.  A little bewildered, the horse paused, churning fruitlessly at the air.  “Hush, hush, cousin,” crooned the prince absentmindedly.  The horse mouthed the bit and fell silent.Before him the track wound up through the old cedar wood from the depression of the river; over the coppered tops of the trees he could see the gilt towers of the University etched against a sky of new faience-colour and old bronze.  And farther away, making mockery of the lifted land, the froth of cyclamen clouds with their strings of golden pearls and their trains of gossamer-stuff rolled slowly across that kiln-heated heaven.  How beautiful it was!  A small, hurt smile tugged at the corner of his mouth.  The evening air and the evening light seeped into his bones and flooded through his veins.  How beautiful…  Once—what was time?—it had been a frightening place to a boy naturally disposed to be quiet and reclusive; once it had been a labyrinth of nightmare and heartache.  But those days were lost behind him; and though he wore their scars, he need not remember: at the foot of this scarleted and golden hill, it was easy to forget.  He glanced toward the junction.  It curved into the wood and followed the base of the hill, and it did not look, to an alien eye, as if it led to anything or as if it were wise to traverse.  But its ruddy shadows, he knew, would open out into the long greensward beneath the walls of Marsdon Tower—whose walls could not be seen from this vantage—and out of the lawn and the swans and the river at the foot of the green emerged memories that the prince did not need to turn away from.He turned his horse’s head into the junction and spurred the shadows of the cedars over his shoulders.  The soft triple spluttering of hooves and the sepia-purr of moving tack were the only sounds in the wood as he cantered down the lane, bending with the movement of the track, hitching up slightly as his gold-touched bay curled its body over the gnarled figure of a fallen beech-limb.  The others would not mind, he considered, that he would be a little late.  They would understand.  In their way, they would understand…The cedars gave way to oak and elm, the wood began to open up and turn from the hill, and presently the cinnabar light became once more diffused with gold spice and amber, and through no conscious guidance of his own, his horse dropped to a collected trot and then a slow, scrutinizing walk as they left the woodshore behind them and came out upon the green.  To his right, the old blasted stonework of Marsdon Tower heaved out of the hillside, broken and burnt without windowpane or wooden floor, and its gateway, once barred with the oak which surrounded the hill, stood gaping to the elements and breathed unhappy memories into the minds of all who passed beneath its shadow.  The road snaked up toward it, but before it lifted from the green it darted away again in the dusty beaten way of used tracks: only a faint green line in the turf marked where the road had once shot precipitously up the hillside into the stone bowels of the Tower.  Away.  The prince looked away, out across the wide sward that was like the curve of bronze buckler verdigris’d with age.  The Lamb lay out beyond the bank, watered like etched steel, slowly carving its banks through the valley and through time, and nearer to the bank than it lay to its castle he looked for the massive walnut tree, older by generations than the building, under which he had sat as a boy new and green upon this hill.The sward stood empty.He must have kicked a little in shock for the horse shivered beneath him, and complained at the sudden jerking of the bit.  But the blow—his eyes swept the green as if by some magic the thing had moved and was still there, yet all the while he knew it could not have moved, not by faith large or small, and he knew the thing was gone.  All things must die one day, said reason, clearly and gently in the back of his mind.  Even the walnut tree.Like one coming up through the dry-leaf steps of a mausoleum, he urged his bay across the lawn, a little lost without the towering compass-point which the massive tree had always been.  The green seemed naked without it.  And more than that, it was not merely a tree.  It had stood before the Tower was built, it had been mature when the cedar and the oak and the elm had encroached as new forest upon the hill.  Its limbs had twisted massive and breath-taking upward and outward, casting shade like the words of an oracle across the grass, and beneath its springy froth had yelped laverock and fox—even the fate of his own family had been tied to its gnarled shadow.  And now it was gone, as all the great ones must go one day, fallen like Ozymandius and leaving behind it only the hollowness of its passing.He stopped his horse upon the brink of the grassy depression wherein its root-system had sunk and stared fixedly at visions which were not very clear to him.  How it had shone!  With the winds and the sunlight in its boughs, tossing it gently against the virgin sky, every leaf flashing and every flash like a name of those who had stood long ago below it.  How it had prospered!  Like the rich soil beneath it, and the men and women who toiled in that land—the prince gazed upward reflexively, squinting into the late sunlight, as if he might see the tangle-work of its boughs again making a golden byzantine tapestry with which to gild his face and the sky.  It had been like rocks and wells and mountains smoking under the word of God.  It had been a promise to the land, an end of bloodshed, a bond, a symbol of peace.  And now it was gone.He slipped his feet from the stirrups and dropped noiselessly to the grass, instinctively catching at his sword-hilt lest it make a rattle.  The horse began to graze, and he stepped from its side to skirt the depression, eyes ever a little ahead of his feet until, by sweeping through the clover and using an old stone pier on the near bank as a kind of reference, he came to the broken slab of granite, pock-marked with lichen, next which he had sat for hours on end and which for leagues of years had lain a quiet memorial to what stood, arguably, as the single most important event in the history of his people.He turned his back to the light and stood over the stone, one hand still upon the sword’s haft, head canted a little as one might look down on a dog one was fond of.  The words were old—very old—but he knew them by heart, and in his mind they still seemed very clear.
THE JERUSALEM WALNUT BENEATH THIS TREE, AFTER MUCH TURMOYL AMONGST THE SONS AND DAHTERS OF THE HONOUR-LANDS, AND MUCH SORIE BLOODSHED, A COVENANT WAS FORMED UPON THAT DAY WHICH HATH BEEN THEREAFTER MARKED AS THE FIRST BETWEEN THE FIVE HONOURS, THAT EACH SHOULD BE TO EACH A BROTHER AND AN ALLY, AND NEVER AGEN MAKE WAR UPON THE OTHER, THAT UNBROKE UNITY AND PEACE WIL REMAYNE IN PLACE OF AGGRESHUN, GREED, AND MURTHER.  YE GOD OF PEACE MEND AL.
And a little more beneath, in only slightly younger lettering:
BENEATH THIS TREE LY THE MORT REMAYNES OF PHILIP CHEVAL, FIRST LORD OF THIS COVENANT, WHOSE VERY HAND ALSO SYNED THE CONTRACT, AND HIS WIFE PAN AENEAS. UNTIL THE LORD COMETH.
The prince crouched down—he did not know why—and touched the cold, crumbled edge of the stone with one outstretched hand.  His shadow arched across the stone and for a moment, coupled with the heaviness of loss, he felt the weightiness of fate impress hard upon his shoulders.“It was that great storm last summer.”He lifted his head, unaware that it had fallen forward.  It took him only a moment to place that peaceable voice, always a little shy and at the same time always sure of itself.  Respectfully he rocked back onto his heels and rose, turning to the Mayor of the University.  How long had he stood here, that the man had come up across the lawn so quietly to join him, and had gone unnoticed until now?  The pale lilac eyes were on the stone between them, and that shy little smile with which the prince was personally acquainted touched at the pale lips.  “The stone is still here.”“Yes.”  The prince turned back on the stone.  It was perhaps a sorry trade, in light of all the storms that walnut tree had weathered, but the stone was still here.  Hewas still here—a testament in the flesh to the carved words in that stone.The Mayor was saying gently, “It was hard to see it go.  It means much to us—more to me, and still more to you.  But the etchings of it are many in the books, the accounts of it numerous, and the rock of remembrance is still here.”  He nodded to it, the wind feathering his white hair.  The prince said, “It came down in the storm?”The colourless face lifted to his, eyes unfocusing a little, as if seeing through to the pain and the past.  “Yes.  Sooth, it had been dead for some time, and the drainage has not been managed properly so that its roots had lost their strength.  It was a great storm, and the tree made no sound as it lay down upon the green.  When we came to it, it was like an old warhorse which has gone back to the fields of its triumph to die.  Very quiet and peaceful.”“Its roots had lost its strength!” mused the prince, quietly and vehemently beneath his breath.  “What ill omen lies within that picture.”The Mayor looked at him steadfastly and said nothing.But already the practical side of him was slipping loose the catgut of the aching wound and he was saying in a moment, into what seemed to him a very hollow, living quiet, “We must needs fill in the hole.  It is within my power to procure engineers to survey and drain this place.  We will have another tree planted.”“That will be good,” said the Mayor.Again he stared at the stone and the hole and the dead legacy.  The wound began to hurt again, more fiercely this time.  “What was done with it?” he asked.With fingertips hardly touching his shoulder, the Mayor moved forward and lifted his arm toward the bank.  The prince, raising his hand to shield his gaze from the sun, looked out along the line of his pointing and saw what the lift of the green had before hidden from his view.  A new bridge, of timber corduroys and stone piers, arched across the blue Lamb from bank to bank, and along its sides like some breed of limbed dragon stepped stairs and walk-planks against which whispered the sides of the long leaf-shaped river-boats as they lifted and dropped to the surge of the current.  “Perhaps it may no longer be the memorial it once was,” observed the Mayor, “but it manages, by some strange providence, to be a kind of way to us even still.”The prince said, “It is a beautiful bridge.”  But in his mind the glittering thing with the sun upon its timbers so that it looked like gold and not wood, looked like a bow, a bow drawn at a venture, and he felt more kin to the early hours of that covenant and the new life of the walnut tree than ever before.  The tree and the covenant had prospered long and sturdily—not always happily, but strong, and though the ache was fresh and the blood seemed to well out from beneath his fingers even as he tried to press the wound shut, there was no anger in the pain.  He looked down again at the stone.God mend all.  Turning in alongside the Mayor and fetching up the reins of his horse, he began the walk across the green with many things lying at his back—and the wind, at his back, rushed with a sudden power upon him, fanning out the dolphinskin of his cloak, and in its plunging he heard the sounds carried across the years of the fox and the laverock and the talk of men and horses, and that peace which was as painful as it was indescribable dropped upon him out of the naked sky.
He fell not by an enemy’s blow,Nor by the treachery of his own followers.But he died peacefully,Happy in his joy,Without pain,His people safe.Who can call this death,When none considers that it demands vengeance?
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Published on June 03, 2014 13:27 • 3 views

June 2, 2014

pinterestI haven't really lacked for ideas recently, just the energy to write them down. It is really quite mentally taxing, and emotionally like a roller-coaster. I think I must have got going rather quickly once I reached the climax of a scene, for my husband, who had been dutifully ignoring me and working on his own projects, suddenly looked up in startlement and asked what I was writing. I have some notion that I was also making faces at the computer, so I am also embarrassed...
snippets
There was something momentary and odd on the steward’s face—as if several thoughts, unpleasant in their juxtaposition, had occurred to him all at once—and then they were gone again and the man was straight and obedient and subdued as a piece of sword-steel that one has been accustomed to using for a very long time.talldogs
Raymond regarded his whiskey and his options.talldogs
The pungent scent of fresh loaves threw him for a moment back into the narrow, cobble-stepped roadway of Tamberlane, yellow and dusky with its bricked walls and overshadowing elms. Was it his imagination, or did that long hallowed lane hold in memory the colouring of a rose, even as this little square of sidewalk did beneath the red-lined awning which was as old as his memory…?talldogs
...he glanced up to find [she] had come in her rummaging through the chests upon a hand-written notebook of Sebius’ Mathematics, and was casually fanning through the pages. It was a fat, torn, tattered thing, much referenced and subsequently much abused, but he noted that she treated the thing with surprising care within her long, fine hands, and the thrashing, reckless spirit with which she was accustomed to favouring most things seemed to have completely dropped away from her. She held the thing like a fledgling bird.“Hmm!” she said, ruefully; her cheeks creased back in a deprecating smile. “Trigonométrie.”drakeshelm
His throat was ragged. His fingers flexed at the thought, but did not lift off the hardwoods. It was sore and ragged as if someone had been trying to crush his windpipe. Somehow he managed to crack his eyelids open: he saw the human figures of the dog and the cat and the badger grouped about him, but he did not connect with them. There was an upended chair near the badger, as if someone had kicked it over. There was a frayed coil of rope at the dog’s feet, with a loop and a knot in one end…lamblight
She was beautiful. He sat back and gazed down with gently hooded eyes: something bird-like fluttered warmly in his chest. It was pure and lovely and true, and he thought, I would lay my head at her feet.—Then the ugly thing came darting back into his mind and the corners of his eyes and mouth hardened, his hand tightened on the pen.lamblight
"Like a hammer I will smash you, as God smashed the tribes of Israel with the hammer of the Assyrians. I will crush you and disperse you, and you will become a byword among men."cruxgang
“Overlord!” he cried—and in that sudden silence his gasping voice rang out against the stones. “Overlord! Mercy! Sanctuary!cruxgang
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Published on June 02, 2014 10:18 • 3 views