Thursday, December 30, 2010

Blog Purpose

First: Hi! I'm back, from Disney and the land of the sick, which we plunged into after returning from our really car trip. Yeah, that wasn't fun. Oh well. Disney was. One day, but we hardly stood in line at all and it was otherwise great.

Okay, so now sort of about my title...I read Rachelle Gardner's blog (she's a Christian Literary Agent--her blog is wonderful, by the way), and I was reading about how your blog should have a specific and unique focus and you should stick to that. It was after that that my little "blurb" at the top of my blog page changed. But the truth is, even as that is, it's still rather broad, and as there seem to be a lot of writer's blogs out there, not entirely unique, especially when one looks at the breadth of things I choose to discuss under the banner of writing and Robin Hood. In some respects, I think "eh, what could it matter--I'm young and not really trying to build a platform or audience yet." Then I think about how it takes years for people to garner about a blog audience, and if I ever do want to get published, there's no reason not to start now. Besides I am trying to get some audience for my books--I'd be lying if I said I wasn't. No, this blog is not a marketing tool as of yet. But I do link the books and I do like it when they get read. And I also post my fiction writing.

So long story short, I'm wondering if I should get back to the harder posts of reviews and Robin Hood discussions instead of the easy ones of whatever-comes-into-my-head and writerly complaints. I haven't yet decided. If any of you readers have opinions, please post. I am wondering if I should be more professional about this whole thing. I love to write and would love to do it for a living, so maybe some restraint on my part is called for.

Anyhow, whatever I decide, I got to watched 1938 Robin Hood and a episode of the BBC Robin Hood while I was sick. I also started Robin and the 7 Hoods but I was bored and irritable about 20 minutes in and switched it off (as I said, I was sick). I also received Howard Pyle's Robin Hood as a present--yay! My collection sports 8 versions now, if you count my own. I hope to get to read Pyle's again even though my Christmas vacation is almost over. I remember liking it quite a bit. It's also a bit of a classic as far as Robin Hood goes. It's not THE first Robin Hood, but it's about the oldest one you can easily get a hold of, which is nice.

Still praying about Gervais and company, but I haven't gotten anywhere that I can really tell about yet, so you'll have to stick around for updates about that.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Homework Take III

So, yesterday I copied and pasted the OYAN Map questions from their mother document and placed them in yet another one. The title?

Gervais_Homework III

Why, you may ask?

Well, after several times where I have deleted things and then intensely regretted it later (I seemed to love being the historian of my own stories and looking back at early versions), I label and keep almost every writing endeavor. Me being the writer I am (Tolkien, remember?), I often have several documents with very similar names: Robin Hood, Robin Hood II, and Robin Hood III, for example. (Topped off by Robin Hood IV_Homework, which is accompanied by the several dozen Forest of Lies documents.)

Gervais is Homework III, because this shall be my third attempt to pull together what has been The Bow and Etched in Black. For now, this new version is simply Gervais. We'll see where it goes.

I am hopeful, though. Betsy Flowain went through five--yes, five--Runaway Castle documents before it turned into Betsy Flowain, the fifth and final Runaway Castle. Robin Hood, as stated before, went through four transformations, finally coming to Forest of Lies.

This is now The Bow/Etched in Black/Gervais's third attempt. I have put more words (over 100,000) into this book than any of the others, I think, and have gotten almost nowhere. Maybe, finally, I have come to rest where the book really belongs. If not, the trial and error continues.

I seem to have more ideas for this than for the screenplay I was so certain about a week ago...pray that whichever project I am supposed to do becomes very evident quite soon. Also, I'm fighting constant reminders of the contest and trying to remember what's really important.

So, Gervais. Let's see what you can do, eh?


Monday, December 6, 2010


As some of my friends and readers know, I recently went live with a FAQ and Directory for a board on the OYAN forum, "Ask the Teacher." I am still sorting out all the FAQ topics for posting on that site. I won't go into the details, but I wanted to share a question that I've run into several times:

"How do I find the perfect story?"

Also comes in the guise of "how do I find the right story," "how do I know if I have the right story," and "is this one better than that one?"

It's a more serious question than one would think. How do you find the right story? I would say at first that you don't. Every once in awhile, you're lucky enough to stumble into one. You'll find a book that seem so right that you can't imagine not writing it right now. You may even tell yourself "it would be better if I waited for a few years, and wrote it when I had more experience..." but you can't. You just know it's The Story. Your story. The one that if you had to leave it for a moment, you'd explode. Sometimes, there is no doubt.

But most of the time, there is. It feels like you're wondering around in the dark, grasping at characters and themes, trying desperately to bring them together into some kind of manageable format that resembles a story in some manner. You fill discontent and uncertain, unsure if any of it is even going to be worth the trouble you put into it.

Yes, I'm describing myself. I think I'm describing others, too, others in this small and misunderstood group of people known as writers. There are flashes of brilliance, but they come through hours of hard and uncertain work. We don't know if the lightbulb's going to work. We just know that we want to build a lightbulb. And, sometimes, we find 1,000 ways NOT to do it first.

I think some of this process I'm describing helps explain where I am now. I had a flash of brilliance--brilliance I can't even claim as my own--in 2009, and I've been longing to get back there ever since that journey ended, or seemed to end, in August of 2009. Sometimes I think that perhaps my journey isn't really over with that story. Sometimes I think I'm supposed to be seeking for something new.

Currently, I'm on the latter again. If my posts haven't made this evident, I have been sawing back and forth a lot during these last few weeks, and I even thought I had some nudging from God. I'm not sure again. So I'm still searching.

The story may not be perfect when I find it, but I know it'll be right. Because it's not really stumbling in the dark. It's being led through the dark, working in the dark, until some light enters that darkness. Sometimes it's just for the author, for their own search towards greater light and beauty. Sometimes it becomes a beacon for others.

But whatever the case, it's right. Every story is worth something.


P.S. I'm not likely to be on for several weeks...if I don't get back by Christmas, then Merry Christmas right now! May the day and the season be blessed. Remember what we're really celebrating.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

John 15: 1-17

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.

9 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other."

(New Living Translation)


I'm not usually much for just posting Bible verses, but I liked this whole passage when I read it today. The part in bold is both what I've considered "Robin's verse" for a long while and what I now realize can also be my verse. I am again in doubt about what I should be writing; the most important thing to remember, though, is that if I am not in Him and Him and me, I can do nothing. None of it will be right.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010


One hundred and fifteen. CXV. 115.

I remember when there were seven of us, shivering in an old strip mall, unwilling to take off our coats, learning that, when writing at least, murder was good.

I remember when there were five of us, the entries, the suspense, the morning I realized I wrote a book.

I remember when the forum consisted of 5 members - Mr.S., Mrs.S., me, and two dummy accounts controlled by Mr.S.

I remember when we hid behind plastic bushes when we realized there were new people on the forum, where before our seven voices had echoed in the vast auditorium.

1,172. One thousand one hundred and seventy-two.MCLXXII.

I could go on. But there's really something I want to address.

There were 115 entries to the third annual OYAN Contest, approximately 30 semi-finalists, 8 finalists, 3 top prizes, and 1 one winner.

Of course, all due congratulations to those who finalized (go Grace!) and placed. But this is for the others.

Because, placement or not, you're awesome.

The truth is, you'd be awesome even if you hadn't written a novel. As far as I know, you're all God's children--and even if you aren't, He's still chasing you.

But let's focus on the novel. Lots of you write for His glory. Lots of you write to change a world, to rescue a dying people. All of you choose to do something hard, something not very many people do, because you thought it was worth it.

It is worth it.

I've brought it up on this blog before, I think, but let me be blatantly honest: the 2009 contest devastated me. After all the hype, the best I could do was finalize. It's taken me solid months to recover. I'm glad it happened, though, even though I felt again the pangs of why couldn't I win? last night. Before, I'd said that I'd write for the glory of God alone. 2009 put that to the test. I realized that's not really why I wrote. It was part of the reason, sure, but it wasn't the only reason. I had other motives, or at the very least, other wishes.

Writing is a lonely occupation. Most of the time, you're left with you, story issues, and the uncaring and always completely unhelpful computer screen. This loneliness is why I think the writing forum has been so good for me, and countless others. It says you're not alone. We're in this together. We're going to change the world.

Writing is also hard to stamp as "good." When do you know that you've done it? When your writing is worth something? How do you know? Publication? Sells? Reviews in newspapers? Bestseller lists?

Student contests?

When I went into 2009, I was hoping for some kind of confirmation that I was doing the right thing. If I'd won, I'd probably gone: "yes! This means I'm a writer."

It's harder, though, when you don't get confirmation. You only keep going because you think that that's where God has lead you. You have to learn to say: "okay, no one may ever notice it, but it's worth it because You told me to do it."

It may sound insane, but it's taken me almost a year (in some ways, more) to come to the point where I say: "okay, God, this is in your hands. Show me what to do. Help me not need worldly confirmation."

Don't get me wrong, this lesson isn't fully learned. I think I'm being directed towards writing a screenplay at the moment. Last night, though, I could help wondering, thinking...God, could I write another novel? Please? Can I have another go at it?

Because I still want that confirmation. I'm a perfectionist. I want the top spot. I want to know that I really know what I'm doing, because hey, I placed first.

Maybe I don't really know what I'm doing. Maybe I'm still hoping for too much glory for myself. I don't know. But, last I heard, God said screenplay. I need to stick it out. Maybe it'll change the world. Maybe it'll change my heart. Maybe I'll just learn. But whatever the future is, it's good, because it's God's plan.

So, to the 107 who didn't place: you're awesome and amazing. You wrote, you struggled, you edited, you almost went insane. You're God's, and, whatever the world says, what you wrote is of immense value. Whether he has the life of a writer planned out for you or not, this last year wasn't wasted. You did terrific. You finished. You learned. You entered. He loves you.

And, though this may sound extremely superficial, I love you. When I was driving to orchestra last night, an hour and a half before the webinar, God filled me with love for all of you--even though I've never met most of you. He has a plan, and it's beautiful. Learn, love, discover.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

You want me to do what?

Last night, my family and I broke in a new sound system (which, I think, still isn't entirely working) by watching some of the wonderful show that is Doctor Who. The second episode we watched was Midnight. I could talk about the suspense and acting, but that's not really what often strikes me about my favorite Doctor Who episodes. They make me think.

I won't go into a whole lot of detail (for one thing, it'd ruin the episode!) but there were a couple of things I particularly liked. The first was how they drew out some of the main character's--the Doctor's--faults. As all Whovians know, the Doctor is an amazing person that we all love. He does, however, has his faults. The other thing was how it was a very potent commentary on fear and what it does to people--the irrationality, even the stupidity, that it can bring on.

So, I'm seeing already it's going to take me awhile to get to my point. Hang in there, please. I talked about this sporadically with my mom as we got ready for bed last night. Mixed in there was some discussion about good writers...and I brought up the fact that Davies, the writer of that particular episode, says he doesn't believe in God, yet his writing (all of Doctor Who) is often contradicting that view. Mom pointed out that that was probably because he's reaching for something. He wants there to be more meaning in the world than he allows for.

I don't remember how exactly it came up, but Mom also mentioned something about me writing something. Mixed in with good writers and all that. I said I might like it/be good at it, because I've been told over and over again that my dialogue is good, yet I know my prose doesn't really stand up that well. Well, perfect solution: take away the prose!

Then I had a flash. When I finished Forest of Lies, there was a bit of time where I messed with the idea of turning it into a screenplay. I had ideas for how to transfer the plot, how to tweak it to match the visual medium. I lost interest, didn't have enough time, moved on to editing, etc. Last night, I remembered that dream. The idea of seeing the story on a screen.

Like it or not, movies are big part of our lives, at least American lives, these days. There are frightening statistics about the number of adults that have read a novel since graduating from high school or college, yet the movies rake in heaps of cash. Even in the recession, people are still laying down the dollars for movies--3D movies, even.

I think there's currently a stirring in the arts, Christians--especially homeschoolers--interested in getting into the secular gripped worlds of novels, art, movies...entering that culture of death and changing it from the inside out.

I've always considered myself a plain ol' real BOOK writer. And maybe I am. But last night, after that flash in my head and as I thought over it both that night and this morning...I almost think I'm supposed to attempt to turn Forest of Lies into a screenplay. I feel rather like Gideon, though...I've prayed for clarity, but I only saw two options: edit Forest of Lies, write Etched in Black. I'm looking at them, God! Just point at one. Please. Seems like he said to me, "no, you're looking in the wrong place all together. I want you over there."

Are you sure? I don't know what I'm doing. I already did Forest of Lies--what is doing it again going to help? How will it even affect anyone? To get that out, I need more than an edited manuscript. I need a screen. A camera. Actors. Money. What in the world? I'm 17. It's not going to reach anyone else, and you already taught me what I needed to learn from it, didn't you? Why go over the story again? Is there something I missed? If I do that, I can't enter novel contests with won't be a book! What about next year? Because surely this isn't for someone else...could you please make the ground sopping wet and the fleece dry? I'm not sure that was really you...

There, I think that's enough of a running commentary on Nai's head at the moment. Since last night, I've had several more nudges, in words of songs that I've taken as a battle cry..."sing until the whole world hears"...and I've come to a realization. Awhile back, I said, "okay, God, if the only person this book ever really affects is me, that's okay. I can deal with that." But that's a safe thought now. I am cool with that. Trying to do something that I have no idea where it's going to end, and how it will affect people? That's scarier. I could mess it up. I could get it wrong.

The truth is, it could be that this is still just a journey for me--me and my Daddy. Forest of Lies as a screenplay may open my eyes more to truth and love--because really, there's a lot more I could learn. But maybe it'll be something more, too. Someday. I've realized I didn't really want to give up writing Etched in Black, even though I said that I could if He made it all clear. The silly truth is that I still want another go at the OYAN novel contest. Plain and simple. I've finalized twice, and I really want to try again. But I think God's made it pretty evident that Etched isn't right for now. Maybe I'm hearing wrong and Forest of Lies isn't either. I'll take my chance, though. It's just like God to be unexpected and make sense at the same time, to push me out of the realm of the comfortable, to make my heart follow through with what my head said. (I really need to stop saying: "do this and I'll do that" because by goodness, He goes and does it and I have to follow through!)

So, that's a really long post. "Sing until the whole world hears what we're crying out" have something that isn't just brilliant and makes you think, like Doctor Who, but is absolutely grounded in truth. That has something. That says: "this could be yours."


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Torn in Two

Yes, for the people who love Lord of the Rings, that is a Lord of the Rings reference.

I've been mulling over, or complaining about, what I'm supposed to be writing for a long time. My blog readers have become aware of my dilemma and the strong emotions that are attached to it. I stopped NaNoWriMo because I didn't think it was helping me make Etched in Black the way it should be, though the truth is it still hasn't changed that much since I stopped. Lately, I've been thinking about Forest of Lies more than ever. I miss my characters. I miss the story. I miss the passion.

Of course, you'll probably put a hand up and say: "woah there, Nai, you're doing a complete circle now. Remember that post about how it was all over, yada yada?"

I know. That's part of the reason of my confusion. I don't know where the truth ends and the laziness starts. I don't know where I belong, what I'm supposed to be doing. I don't know if I just haven't put enough into Etched in Black yet, or if it is simply the wrong story. But is Forest of Lies the right one? Or is it just the easier one? The one I understand?

As should be obvious by now, I can't tell. At all. I've been doing both, I've been swinging to one or the other only, I've been back to both, I've been questioning my reasoning and trying to evaluate whether it's just Eddie being lazy. I need help. I can't tell.

Please pray that God just makes it clear. I want to write what I need to: I just don't know what I need to. Do I go on the journey of worth and justice, or do I return to truth and love?


Sunday, November 21, 2010


I think my blog readers are aware of my Hamlet nuttiness. So, when a book called Ophelia was suggested several times in a row to me, I thought: "well, who knows! I just might like it."

After all, I'm also a Robin Hood nut, and Robin Hood lives on retelling. The truth was, though, that I ended up having to put it down. It wasn't the retelling--it sounded like a really cool idea (Ophelia survives? Sweetness...) and I wanted to see how that worked out. There was something I didn't like, though.

For a long time, the only romance I've really liked was that of people already married. I know, I'm a weird teen. I just think that married couples, especially those in their 50s and beyond, are adorable. Maybe it's just me. But that shows me that they've loved each other enough to stick together for years, decades. It's amazing to me.

I think my first grasping of what love actually is came to me from Lord of the Rings. I remember one night thinking: "I know what love is! It's absolute sacrifice." Frodo loves the Shire; he practically dies for it. Sam loves Frodo; he gives him everything. I easily translated this over to Christ; He died for us. Everyone one of us. Even those of us who reject Him.

I didn't realize it when I started, but Forest of Lies was a journey for me. It was a journey into the deepness of what love is; I had it in my head, Forest of Lies came and taught me from my heart. It came at me from many different angles; there was the love of friends, the love of a man and a woman, and the love of the Creator and His creation. All of them revolved on what God ultimately showed us with the cross. One character died for his friend. Another one endured extreme emotional and physical pain for someone determined to hate him: because he thought it was what God had called him to do. One girl realized what Truth was, realized that she didn't have to earn love from one person; He loved her already, unconditionally. Actually, there were two girls involved. A character, and her author. Robin, Much, and Forest of Lies showed us both.

God is Love. He is also Truth. It wasn't the forest of lies that man claimed; it was full of its faults, both in the humans in it and the story that was told, but there was truth, love, and beauty in there.

No wonder I keep wanting to return to it. God, show me where to go. Is York my next place of Truth? Or should I stay in Sherwood? Or somewhere else entirely? Show me what I need to learn...

I put down Ophelia because I didn't believe it. I don't believe love at first sight. Love takes work, love takes sacrifice. I didn't see any of that. I saw the young emotions. It's not the same thing. I want real. No imitations. This is probably why there are precious few romances I'll tolerate; the world of stories, and therefore love stories, is currently controlled by the world. But after Forest of Lies, do you think I'm going to fall for that?


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Joan of Leeds

Harsh rapping on the door cut Gervais’s sentence about meeting Yvette in half. Joan jumped up, her gaze leaping around the room. She pulled Gervais’s to his feet and shoved him in the direction of the fireplace, flinging her damp cloak into his arms.
“Lay down!” she hissed. “And don’t speak!”
Gervais did as he was told.
The knocking continued. Joan rung out her hair and threw a shawl over it, clutching the ends at her chest. She lumbered towards the door.
“Coming, coming!” she croaked, throwing open the door.
Apparently, it smashed into someone’s face. Cursing came from behind it, and then it wrenched away, towering over Joan.
“Filth, are you hiding or abetting horse thieves?”
“Eh?” Joan asked.
The man shouted it again, grabbing one of her shoulders. He pulled it away. “You’re wet,” he said, his voice sly.
“Me stupid boy decided to run off in this ‘ere rainstorm, ‘e did,” Joan said, gesturing towards him.
The man squinted his way, and Gervais closed his eyes.
“Get up, boy!” Joan shouted at him. “He can’t see ya there.”
Gervais stood, conscious all of a sudden of his height. The man stared at him, face unreadable in the dim light.
“Closer, idiot,” Joan said, and Gervais crept closer like he was afraid of her. As soon as he was close enough, she whirled around and gave him another stinging slap across the face, and he fell groveling.
“Now,” she said, turning back to the man.
Gervais let out a pitiful moan. She turned back around and kicked him in the side.
Gritting his teeth, he moaned louder. She lifted her foot high and back, almost into the man’s stomach, and ploughed it into his stomach.
Gervais decided, show or no show, to stop groaning.
Again, she turned back to the man. “What did you say about house-thieves? Who’d steal houses? How’d they steal ‘em?”
The man growled and slammed the door in her face.
Gervais heard his feet slapping against the mud, growing further and further away.
Joan lit the candle again, looking down where he still lay on the floor. “Hurt much, boy?” she said in the same crazy-lady accent.
Laughing and wincing, Gervais stood. “Not much.”
Joan flashed him a smile. “All right then. Let’s go find your friends, eh?”

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Things They Say

“Now,” Edwin said. “Who are you?”
“I told you already,” Yvette said.
“You lied already, you mean,” Edwin said. “You said you were a poor forester’s girl, yet you fight like a wildcat.”
“So does your sister,” Yvette said. “Or at very least, a wild-kitten.”

~Chapter 5

The end of the road?

"I don't know about this story [Forest of Lies]. It feels different than all the others - it feels...this will probably sounds silly, but it feels like one I MUST tell. One that will become truly mine."

I was pleading with my teacher. Please, my email said, please, understand. There's something different. I don't know what to do. Help me.

It was a different question then I'd ever asked him before, and I had peppered him with plenty, about technical things, about emotional things, about getting stuck, getting bored, and those darn adverbs. This was different. I had a story I didn't know what to do with, one that would simply not leave me alone.

"I think it's different this year. It's a story, not random scenes. At times it IS hard to write and plan - I've never had so many extreme ups and downs on a story before. I think it's different, special. I'm a little scared of the fact that it might not be, but I do want to try it. I actually chose not to write it this year, because I wanted to write it "when I was better, because I like it so much." You know, older. Better at writing than I am. But it seems I can't wait on this one."

This was my main concern. I had chosen not to do it because I didn't feel ready for it. And, after my tiring experience with Betsy Flowain the year before, I had decided that it would probably be better to begin a story from scratch than to use one I had been messing with for two years. My mentor's response to these fears made me sob.

"I understand why you would want to write Robin Hood later, when you are better as a writer, but you will actually become better as a writer by putting all of yourself into everything you write. So, if Robin Hood is where your passion lies, then go for it. It may not be the story that it could be in a few years, but it might be even better...

I wrote a novel for my Masters thesis that was completely against the grain...I still love the novel I wrote then, though when I look at it now I see how full of problems and mistakes it is. I also see how I should have written it, and sometimes I think about going back and rewriting it. But - and here is the point - I can't go back and write it now because I don't have the same passion for the story that I had then. I was better off writing the story with less skill because I had more passion. If I had waited a few years until I grew as a writer, I wouldn't have written the story at all, and I may not have grown as a writer. The story helped me."

As I compile and re-read this now, I'm crying again...ever since last year, I've been trying to edit Forest of Lies...I still love it with everything in me...but my repeated attempts and failure to change it make me wonder, now. Anytime I look back on things Mr.Schwabauer has told me, I realize how much the same is true for me. As I've been editing, I've been afraid of messing up Marian's voice. In fact, my fourth draft of Chapter 1 is polished, but her voice is changed. I thought it might be good, but now I wonder...

I love Forest of Lies; I wanted it to be perfect. Maybe, though, it is. I still get PMs from people telling me how they loved the story, how it touched them. I've been thinking: with all those faults? How does that work? I didn't express myself or my story as well as I COULD have!

But I wrote with everything in me. And it changed me. I don't know where I'd be now without Forest of Lies. It was such a wonderful, beautiful experience, I've been trying to get back in on, to polish it to a high sheen. Maybe, though, it's not meant to be polished. Maybe sometimes raw and bleeding is more important than perfection.

As I started to write this this morning, I was going to qualify my sentiments with "maybe I'm just lazy...maybe I just need to get into it..." but I remember when I dived into second and third drafts with extreme passion in April of 2009. I stayed up until two in the morning. It was still alive then, my heart still beating in it. It was a flower I coaxed to maturity.

Now I'm trying crystallize that flower, make it shine with my new skill.

I haven't wanted to let it go. I still don't. Maybe, though, it's time now that I did. If I revise it with the plans I have, it won't be the same. It can't. I'll give thoughts to word choices, to details, to rounding the story around Marian and Robin, when Marian and Robin are the real focus. When Marian's change is all that mattered, all that ever will matter.

Thank you, God, for a story so beautiful, an experience so wonderful, that I'm crying at the thought of letting it rest a year and a half later. I know you have new stories to tell me, and each is "more beautiful than the last."

Whatever I decide, I love you, Forest of Lies. I love you with all my heart. I won't forget.

I can't.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


So, this is a character that was supposed to be very minor, maybe a couple of scenes, who I came to adore. For awhile, he was the only thing keeping me liking Etched in Black. Anyway, he turns out to be Yvette's mentor, never mind that he's only 14. He's the most emotionally and spiritually stable of the bunch (granted, the first part is probably helped by the fact that he's a guy). He was very close to Robin and the whole Hood family, who took him in as an orphan when he was 7. This is his intro scene, which I actually wrote last spring.

Gervais took a running start and bounded over the small stone wall. His foot clipped it on his way over, but he made it, and even landed on his feet.
Well, it seems those few inches did do me some good...
He straightened, looking around. Not a sign of life. The manor itself looked crumpled, tossed and kicked by the world.
Gervais strode forward, shoving aside the fear that came from looking at that silent house. The sun set behind him, but no candles shone in any of the windows.
Where are they?
He averted his path and moved towards the stables, picking up his pace and in the end, running. He slowed down when he got near the building; it seemed crouched and submissive as well. One door stood straight, blocking his way. The other hung to the side, threatening to tumble to the ground. Gervais slipped inside.
It smelled of rotting hay and horse waste inside; the smell of actual horses was either gone or covered up. The darkness fell in behind Gervais as he walked by the empty stalls. One of them moved back and forth, as if twiddled with by a ghost, the hinges squeaking with every movement. Gervais reached out a hand and steadied it.
A draft a wind got in through the hanging open door and swept down the empty hall, shuffling the hay that lay scattered across the ground. Then the door banged shut, leaving the darkness to do what it would.
A horse whinny startled Gervais out of his stillness, frightened the darkness that attempted to press close.
He felt his way forward, wrinkling his nose at the smell.
Another whinny: sounds of muffled hooves. Gervais stopped still. He couldn’t see a thing. At last, a horse nose butted him under the chin, making him take steps backward to avoid falling over.
He reached up a hand, letting the horse investigate his fingers, and then rubbed its forehead.
“How did you stay alive here, may I ask?” he said. The horse only let out a rumbling nicker.
“Dark in here, isn’t it?”
Gervais felt along the horse’s cheekbone, and to his surprise found a bridle with dangling reins. He scooped them up, and led the way out of the stable, pushing aside the door that had closed. Barely was he out when the top half crashed to the ground.
“I thought as much,” he said, turning to the horse. He did a double-take.
“A saddle?”
The fancy saddle had slid halfway around the horse’s midsection, and the stirrups dangled in a dangerous-looking way. Gervais moved beside the horse and uncinched the saddle, pulling it off. Having nowhere to put it, he dumped it on the ground and ran his hand over the horse’s back, scratching it.
“Who on earth are you?” he muttered. He looked at the saddle on the ground, looking rather like a dog on its back with his feet in the air.
“If I am caught like this, I’ll be hanged for horse stealing,” he said. “Hmm. Not like your master, eh?”
The horse, of course, said nothing.
Gervais leapt up, taking the reins, and turned the horse towards the manor. She didn’t act like a wild animal who would toss off her rider and race for the stables of Locksley.
That was another thing. Why Locksley? Gervais had never seen her before.
Gervais let her amble over to the servant’s door, slid back off, and tied her reins to a ring in the manor’s side. He walked up to the door and knocked. The horse watched him.
“Pretty dumb, I know,” Gervais said. He pushed open the door and stepped inside.
He stopped dead.
“Lord have mercy...” he whispered, fighting the urge to cross himself.
Ash lay scattered across the wood boards in the room Gervais had used to take his meals. The table lay flat on its back, looking much like the saddle Gervais had left in the lawn, but now with a grimmer meaning. The legs had been hacked at, showing old wounds of an ax--or sword.
He moved over to the basin that had always held water that seemed just a tad too cold in the early mornings. Nothing. Dark stains, like fingers, slid to meet a dark puddle in the center.
Gervais backed up. He could feel the emptiness of the house. No one was here. At all. And it didn’t seem like there had been anyone for a long time. It almost felt as if the manor had been empty of life for five years, never mind the five months he’d been gone.
He forced himself to go forward, to peak into the hall. Some animal scuttled away from the door as it creaked open. His footsteps seemed to threaten to bring the roof down about his ears. He resisted the urge to call out.
Nobody is here.
But where are they? What happened?
His hand rested on a door. Are they dead?
A more chilling thought followed that one. Are they dead here?
Gervais couldn’t open the door. He felt like a child, but fear and the darkness finally took him, co-captors in a plot he didn’t understand.
“I have many enemies, Gervais. Lately, they have been growing more bold, more malicious. More determined. If I were you, Gervais, I would leave.”
“But where would I go? I have nobody but you...”
The conversation hung in the threatening darkness around him. And yet I went. Months later, yes, but I went. I left.
And now this...
“Do you know what your God has promised you, Gervais? ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you...’”
He squared his shoulders and pushed open the door, threatening the empty house to do its worst.
It did.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Well, in responding to a comment on my last post, I unburied again the desire I have for two more novels in the Forest of Lies strain/series/whatever. When I wrote Forest I expected it to stand on its own. But, apparently, the characters aren't really through with me, because I got a bunch of ideas for sequels (and a prequel) upon finishing the first one.

So, for kicks, here's a brief description of what I'd imagine my other two main ideas (Etched in Black being the big one right now, of course) to tackle whenever my heart's ready for them. I know that they'll change a lot if and when I do get to writing them, because my books always do. Number one is, like I said, I have to have a heart for the story that I think I'll be telling. Then, as I work on it, it turns deeper into my heart and pulls out what I'm struggling with or thinking about. Then it comes out on paper. There's a quote by somebody that says "I write to discover what I think." This is very true for me. God, help me think and learn from each story I write, and let me write it for You!

Main character: Much
Time: 1189

I used to have a signature on the OYAN forum where I tried to explain the theme of each of my planned books in one word. Stained's? "Redemption." This book would go back to the bitter past of a character that is deeply loved and hardly seen by all of my readers of Forest of Lies. It would also delve a little deeper into Robin's past, and the relationship between the two young men.

Being the second son in his family, he isn't much valued by his father, who puts all of his hopes for the continuation of the family business into Much's stronger and seemingly more capable brother. Much eventually runs away and joins up with an outlaw band, where he participates in robberies that always end in the slaughter of the prisoners. Much, who was originally appalled by the outlaw leader's bloodthirstiness, slowly hardens to it. Then the band stumbles across a childhood friend of his: Robin of Locksley. A rift has opened between the two, and though Much, when hearing of his leader's plans to kill him, helps him to escape, they part on no friendly terms.

A few months past. Robin returns, completely changed, to the point that he baffles and angers Much. But what he is saying is making sense. Much finds himself caught between Robin's hope and his leader's despair; but mostly in the fear that there is no way to forgiveness.

(Obviously, the latter half of this book needs some work (as in, there isn't much I have planned for it right now, and it sounds too similar to some of my other books)...though maybe it would work best as a novella. Most of my interest in this book stems from a desire to know Much better then I do..)

Main character: Robin
Time: 1199

This is a book that still scares me, for a couple of reasons. 1) I'd have to write Robin. He's so complex (and a guy. >.>) that I don't feel like I'm ready for it. 2) He's also 26, married, and has kids. Obviously, I have never been 26, a husband, or a father. That said, this one really pulls at me at times, and I hope someday I have the courage and strength to write it, if God wants me to.

Though this one has the least actual story development in my mind, I know the range of emotions. Robin is struggling with depression: his body is failing him, his friend is gone, he can't support his family. In the end, I think he just leaves. He goes to his mentor, Anselm, who tells him to snap out of it. He might meet up with his father, who he thought long dead (similar to my short Locksley, but that piece would not be in the book). While he's gone (it might be several weeks or months) his family is attacked.

Overall, feelings and emotional wounds that he just pushed to the side, refused to face fully, eventually overwhelm him and drag him into the dirt. This story is about faith in God with all things, and about how even with all our imperfections, we are still precious to our Creator.


I think I'll stop trying to explain that now. Not very adventure-novelly, are they? Well, we'll see if they get written. If not, I bet I'll be writing something even better--tailor-made for my spiritual growth.

Soli Deo Gloria.


P.S. We had to reset my blogger account because of some stuff google's been doing with gmail and things, which is why it now says I've only been on blogger since October and I no longer have an About Me page. There may be other anomalies as well. I'll try to get it all fixed back up soon!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

NaNoWriMo & Etched in Black

I've heard about NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) forever. Being obviously a writer from a very young age, it's been suggested countless times to me. I never liked the sound of it: I wanted to write good books, not bad books quickly.

So, I am first an OYANer. But after finding out through OYAN and my writing mentor that no matter how much planning and care goes into a novel, the first draft is going to be rough no matter what. I still remember the day he told us: "Give yourself permission to write badly."

NaNo does exactly that. It gives thousands of people permission to write badly and do something they've always wanted to do. I've realized just how valuable it is to so many people over the last year or so, and I've become much less snobby over the whole thing. After all, I chose to do the challenge to grind out some of my OYAN-ish novel, then called The Bow, now called Etched in Black. Though all that draft did was inform me that Gervais was awesome and that Yvette, not Rosamond, was the heroine, I'm very glad I did it last year.

This year, I've decided to give it another go, because of what it did last year: by that kind of goal, it made me re-establish my writing habit that had become lost in school. It reminded me of who I was and what I cared about so much. It was a very good thing for me.

Also, I have high hopes to have this novel finished by April or May in time for the online OYAN Summer Workshops--the 12-week editing program (or programme, which I seriously considered writing). I'm guessing that if I hit NaNo's requirement of 50,000 words, I will be about halfway through.

Yes, half. I do not decide to write 100,000 word novels on purpose.

Though I just realized today that I've already written about that on various versions of this novel already.

So I should be set, right?

Ha. Ha. Ha. [/end sarcastic laughter]

Well, I'm in it. Let's write!


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Life of a Historical Fiction Writer

1) Begin making notes on a book you have inter-library loaned from California.

2) Decide you're going to copy the map of different kinds of stones in Nottinghamshire in case you need to know what they're like for details when your character is walking around.

3) Flip out because you realize there's a map of medieval Nottingham town.

4) After writing half a page of notes think "dang, if it wasn't illegal, I'd just scan this entire book."

5) Mark several other maps you are in fact going to scan, because Google has utterly failed you when it comes to medieval maps of Nottinghamshire. Become relatively giddy.

6) Make more notes, including weird things like the number of villiens and houses.

7) Almost die because you see the name of one of your characters, which you were hoping was legit when you found it on an obscure website, as being, well, legit.

8) Have trouble returning to notes.

9) Run down stairs to try and see if you can find book on amazon, ebay,

10) Find out that the amazon listing is strange, and that almost all copies are in the UK.

11) Head back up stairs.

12) Make some more notes rather giddily.

13) Come downstairs again and began scanning maps.

14) Decide to scan bibliography as well.

15) Tell mother about maps.

16) Act really giddy and happy until it's time to head for orchestra.

17)Drag book along with you to orchestra in hopes that you'll have a spare moment to look at it.

18) Return home, cut and paperclip maps and bibliography into story notebook.

19) Tell father about maps.

20) Spend another 30-45 minutes studying book, then go to bed at 11.

Yep. That was me, yesterday, from about 4:45 to 11 at night. Thank goodness for David Kaye.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Soli Deo Gloria

I’m in for it now.

My hands shook. Paper rustled. I tried not to look at my fellow students as they pulled out their copies of my second chapter. My face heated.

Page 31. Oh, God... 

After ten days of stories telling me that all that human life amounted to was sex, Vodka, and death, I brought page 31.

On page 31 my character said the opposite. Not preachy, not obvious, not a sledgehammer to death and darkness.

Only a plea from the heart.

“...the only reason I have gone this far in the first place is because I believe my God--” he stopped, looking away from me. To my astonishment, he sank to his knees, hiding his face. “Father God, help me.”

That lurked on page 31.

And they, writers of revelries, of drunkenness, of abortion, of homosexuality...they had read it.
Forest of Lies stood on its own in the real world. And I, its quivering and unconfident author, stood behind it.


November 21st, 2004
I just thought of something [to say]!...I am a writer! I love writing. I am writing a story called Runaway Castle...

For years, mentions like this peppered my sporadic diary entries. I wrote, rewrote, and never finished Runaway Castle. In 2007, my mother found a novel writing class. Shivering in the drafty room with only six other students, I learned the principles of good story telling: of structure, characterization, and meaning. I finished my book. I cried. I signed up for a second class, planning to venture into the shadow-wrapped mysteries of a completely new novel. My imagination had other ideas.

Since 2006, I had lived and breathed the Robin Hood legend. I relished the words “aye” and “knave,” spent worn dollars to secure my favorite books, pounced on new ones, and worked on writing my own. In 2008, my book blossomed and ripened, overtaking my thoughts and my intentions. The day before 2009 dawned, I wrote to my writing mentor, Mr.S., and explained my dilemma; I had been submitting work for another novel, but now I wanted to do Robin Hood. At the end of my question I said: “[this story] feels like one I MUST tell. One that will become truly mine.”
He gave me the go-ahead.

Forest of Lies poured through my fingers over the next three months, a journey in darkness and light. The leaves of Sherwood rustled around me wherever I went; Robin and Marian seemed to stand beside me; I could hear Much’s jokes and feel his fear. I loved them. I lived with them. I ached for them.

In late January of 2009, I wrote the climax of my novel. It took me three hours to get out less than 2,000 words. This wasn’t normal for me. I was in tears and an emotional wreck at the end of it. The experience seemed to have drained my heart. It was all on paper, hurt and fear, darkness and light, truth and lies. I shook. I laughed. I sobbed.

This was true writing. It was so beautiful, so painful: a brilliant white light. It was my writing lifeblood poured, somehow, onto a dozen printed pages. I’m a writer. I love this. I don’t want anything else. It hurts awfully, but it’s so marvelous! That day, Forest of Lies became my soul as the written word. But there was more to come.

Up to this point, I had typical young author goals: brilliant books, publishing, checks for thousands. I loved writing just for writing’s sake, but when I thought in terms of goals I thought of glossy hardbacks and shimmering movie posters; when I fantasized, it was about fans running up to me, books in hand. I always said that I wrote for the glory of God, on writing forums, in emails. I meant it, in my head. It also was just a way of sounding noble and like I had a high calling. “Soli Deo Gloria!” I proclaimed: but I proclaimed without true meaning.

My nearest guess for my true change is April of 2009. I sat on my bed, reading Forest of Lies before I began revision. Again, the climax brought tears; I stopped reading. I slid off my bed and kneeled on the peach-colored carpet. God, this isn’t me. I couldn’t write something this beautiful. Who am I fooling? This isn’t my story; it’s yours. It has always been your story; your story through my fingers. I held the manuscript in my hand, the product of years of work even before Robin Hood entered my thoughts. I had been guided, shown along a path, led by someone that I wasn’t even acknowledging.

God, I give this to you. I say I belong to you, but I don’t. My heart I kept to myself. I now am as close to holding my heart in my hand as I ever will be. Take Forest of Lies. It’s always been yours; now I give it to you. Show me what to do, Lord. I write for you.

I meant those words. I worked hard to live by them. I didn’t know what it might cost me; I didn’t know that when you give God your soul, you have to learn to trust Him. I didn’t trust Him yet.


I entered my third draft of Forest of Lies in the One Year Adventure Novel contest. I told myself I didn’t care if I won; the experience of writing had been enough. Other people, however, constantly told me that I would win. I rebuffed this, trying to remember that there were other young authors, just as good as I was, even better.

On a stormy October night, I received the world’s verdict.

One of the seven finalists.

Not first. Not second. Not third. Just a finalist. My friend, Lydia, began talking to me over chat.

me: Do you think I can write something else good?
me: but FoL...
Lydia: What about it? You poured you heart into it, and everyone could tell!
It was fantastic!
your characters are amazingly developed
your writing is fantastic
me: it wasn't enough!

It wasn’t enough. My friend talked sense to me that night, but the words echoed in my mind for months, even after I thought I was over the whole thing. It came back in waves, crushing my imagination, drowning my will to write.

If that was the best I had, why should I keep writing? I didn’t have passion for anything else. Passion made it great. But not great enough.

I retreated from the battle, afraid to keep fighting. I’d been wounded, and I couldn’t trust God. I’d always been a writer. Then I had become a Writer for God. Now I was a writer in the shadows, hiding my light under the bushel, scribbling a few words in the dust. I spent too much time on the internet, doing writing that was uncommitted, and safe. The world needed me, but I was afraid of the world.

So I hid.


I couldn’t hide at the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio. I had tested Forest of Lies in the welcoming community of Christian writers with the OYAN contest. Now I sat in a boat surrounded by roiling darkness and choppy waters; I had entered the real forest of lies. I saw firsthand why the world needed my small light.

My novel was the same as it had been those few months ago.

I was different. I was scared and uncertain. Forest of Lies had failed in the contest, its pilot voyage; how would it survive the real thing?

I submitted my writing anyway. Chapter 1 had been received well.

Chapter 2 had page 31.

I don’t remember much of what they said, but I do remember one student saying:

“I liked the part where he’s getting mad, and then he starts, like, praying...”

The others began flipping, looking for it. She shuffled her copy.

“It’s on page 31--I just really liked it. Strong emotion.”

My classmates nodded. I took a deep breath. After class, several people expressed interest in reading more.

Forest of Lies, which I thought had failed the trial, now stood strong in the real world. It was enough, because God was enough. My book wasn’t strong enough, good enough, on its own, just like I am not strong enough or good enough on my own. But I have the ultimate Author, and he guides my path.

I have begun to build my next boat of light. It is called Etched in Black.

I am no longer just a writer. I am a writer with purpose, a writer for my Father.

I write for His lost children. Not for their approval, but for His. Because He loves them as much as He loves me.

And He loves me so much.


This is an essay I wrote for my AP English Language course. I think it is appropriate. Soli Deo Gloria!


Saturday, October 2, 2010


Well, now I’ve treated you to/tortured you with two of my spin-off writings that stem from Forest of Lies. I think only if you were very unobservant you wouldn’t have noticed that both of them dealt very closely with Robin Hood. He’s MY Robin Hood, whom I more often call Robin.

Who is he?

He’s a character that the more I learn about him, the more I find there is to learn. The more questions I answer, the more pop up. He’s never boring, and he’s never fully understood.

Part of that is just the nature of his personality. Even when he talks a lot (and he can get going), he keeps a lot back. He’s willing to trust people with his life even when he knows they’re not trustworthy, but he’s not willing to trust people with his heart and soul even when he knows they are. Having grown up in an emotionally abusive home and then moved on to a situation that tore at him both emotionally and physically, he’s not willing to give people what he can keep from them. He reached the point where almost everything was pulled into the light with to be played with like a toy, and he guards against that ever happening again even in casual conversation.

One would think that I, as the author, would easily be able to dive inside his mind and figure everything out and put it in order, or perhaps even change his personality to make him easier to understand, but that simply isn’t the case. I’m not sure why that is, though I think it has something to do with the belief I hold in general about Forest of Lies--it’s not really from me, because I couldn’t write something that beautiful. I don’t think Robin’s really from me either, not at the source. I truly believe God put him in my story to show me truth about the world, Him, and myself, because he has.

That’s a little off topic, but probably good for you to know as I attempt to describe this character. Another, less important reason why I don’t just jump in and put things in nice little boxes, I think, is because that sort of violates a character. Let me explain. If I jump inside his head and begin making up things and putting them in boxes, making it all make sense, I’m not going to end up with a character who is a three-dimensional person; I’m going to have a three-dimensional robot. I think this is part of the reason so many writers talk about character that came in and “took over” the story. You have to respect your characters if they’re going to do that. Only if you treat them as real people will they (eventually) respond as real people. Sure, you’re still in charge, and in a way it’s just different parts of your imagination reacting with itself, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valid. The imagination is a wonderful, God-given thing, and it working like it does doesn’t mean you’re all mystic or something, which I hope I don’t end up sounding like.

So. Back to Robin. I figure this is the best place to mention what I rarely remember to mention when describing a character (I am actually backing up and adding it in). He has light blond hair, intense blue eyes, and is 5’4,” which, considering Medieval height standards, isn’t really that awful, though it’s fun to tease him about. He often seems a shade pale because of health issues, and has a long scar on his right cheek. When he’s feeling well, he can be quite active and really does love archery.

He’s reserved, soft-spoken, and trustful or distrustful depending on what you’re talking about. He’s also intense. This might not seem to match, and I certainly don’t mean he’s intense like another character of mine, Yvette, who is pretty much a walking bomb who explodes every five minutes (sorry, Yvette). Instead, he’s intense like some kind of fire: maybe smoldering. He gets focused on things, or decides about things, and then throws himself forward continuously. Often, he’s trying to hard, or maybe is a little off in what he thinks he should be doing. It takes a bit of a mental smack to get him to stop if he’s going the wrong way, and superhuman strength to stop his going to hard.

Connected that, he can be intensely stubborn...gently. Which, I admit, can be confusing. He doesn’t usually get all flared up and mad because you’re trying to get his mind to change, he’ll just keep plugging away.

Like any human being, he has a great desire to be loved, especially considering how starved he was of even just plain kindness in his early years. At the same time, he isn’t good at expressing love, because of the exposure that causes. Put it simply, he’s afraid. He’d rather bear the hurt of not ever knowing if the other person cares for him (either in friendship, or another kind of way) and not ever expressing what he feels then dare to step out and say it. It’s a miracle he ever approached his wife...

As is a usual assumption in Robin Hood, he also has a heart for the poor and oppressed. The main difference probably is that instead of moving in and out of their lives leaving food and money (though he does that too) he also chooses to struggle along with them, plowing fields, making food, chopping wood, playing with kids.

As is probably obvious, I can continue describing almost indifferently. A few more things, and I’ll let you go. The next bit may seem like some kind of paradox or oxymoron: he’s humble to the extreme, even boardering on some kind of arrogance. He doesn’t see himself as worth much, but he doesn’t just serve others; he insists on bashing himself all. the. time. He has confused ideas on self-worth. He understands that without God he’s nothing, but he doesn’t understand that God also thinks he’s precious. Because of guilt of his own sin and his abused past, in his darker moods he can’t grasp or be fully sure that God really loves him for being who he is. Having this unresolved for several years helps lead to the breakdown that my sequel Unbroken deals with.

So. There’s a tad of who Robin is, not to mention lots of his past and what he went through behind the scenes of Forest of Lies.

I love you, Robin.


Friday, October 1, 2010


Ralph saw the boy almost upon entering William’s Great Hall. He couldn’t have been more then eight years old. He stared straight in front of him, his small body rigid. Something about him required a second look; there was more to his servant-stare, something that Ralph could not quite identify. His bright blue eyes glittered beneath the messy mop of flaxen blond hair. His fists were clenched.
Then William had welcomed him, and the boy had passed--almost--out of his thoughts. In the middle of a conversation concerning the wheat crop, however, William called for wine.
“Sir?” The voice was brittle, strained. A young voice. Ralph looked up. The boy again, in fancier dress, holding the pitcher towards Sir William. It trembled in his hand.
William, his dull eyes altering a bit, reached up and touched it, stopping the shaking.
“Something the matter, Robert?”
The boy said nothing. Ralph saw his jaw working. Something inside his darkening soul reached out, in a strange way he could not understand, in a way he didn’t know how to respond to.
“Good,” William said, the slight disapproval leaving his eyes. He turned back to Ralph and began talking again, in his throaty, aging voice. Ralph didn’t hear him.
The boy was struggling with the pitcher, trying to pour the wine without spilling it all over the table. He still trembled; his eyes were moist.
Rage, Ralph thought suddenly. He’s angry.
At last he got the cup half-filled, turned abruptly, and marched out of view.
“--and so, in consequence, I was considering--”
“William,” Ralph broke in.
William’s gray eyebrows shot up at the interruption. He was, after all, the High Sheriff.
“That boy,” Ralph said, fingers playing with the cool surface of his goblet.
“Which boy?” William asked.
“Blond, blue eyes--”
A blank look.
“The one who poured your wine,” Ralph fumbled.
William promptly turned to it. He gave a snort of disgust. “Well, what of it? Awful servant, isn’t he? Well...slave, rather.”
“Who is he?”
William gave him an odd look. “A nobody.”
“Well, who was he?”
“Oh, the son of Sir Robert of Locksley, who’s off somewhere involved in those struggles of our Higher Ups,” William said, blinking. He moved the grapes on his trencher around in circles.
“So he’s also a Robert of Locksley,” Ralph said.
“Eh?” William said, preoccupied. “Ah--yes,” he said, before Ralph could reintroduce the subject. “Lady Rosamund of Locksley died a little over two months ago, and he couldn’t afford the taxes--there was hardly anything on that wimpy estate. If he behaves well, he has about five years to pay off that debt.”
“Quite, yes--look, Ralph, about what I was saying--”
“Does he need to work it off here, or might he do it elsewhere?”
“Oh, confound it, Ralph!” William said, more than a little annoyed. “Since when did you have such high interest in servant boys?”
“I’ve a mind to buy him--at least for the five years you spoke of...”
William snorted. “Him? He’s a wagonload of trouble, those haughty Saxon airs, and grave disobedience.”
“Still,” Ralph said, “I have a mind to buy him.”
“You can have him, a gift from me to you, if you’ll just let him drop and listen to what I have to say!”
“Agreed,” Ralph said, tearing his mind from this Robert of Locksley to whatever mindless chatter William intended for him to endure.
Whenever this Robert (Robin, thought Ralph, I wonder if he answers to Robin.) came back into the Great Hall, Ralph watched him, in all his grief-filled anger.
Maybe I can make it right, Ralph thought, maybe I can make it all right. For him and--for me.

* * *

“Lad, I mean to be kind to you. You and I--we’ve had it rough.”
The boy stared at the floor.
“My--my father--”
The boy lifted his intense gaze for a moment and then looked back at the floor. Ralph stopped short.
“Can you understand what I’m saying, lad?”
The boy said nothing.
The servant who had brought the boy from Nottingham stepped forward and stuck him across the face, babbling in a tongue Ralph did not understand. The boy still said nothing, didn’t even move to touch his reddening cheek. A drop of blood trickled out of the corner of his mouth.
Again, Ralph Murdoc of Ashby-de-la-Zouch felt the lurch within his soul, and almost without thinking about it, he stepped forward, swept the servant out of his way, and took the boy’s shoulders, looking into his face.
There were tears. Two bright, shimmering tears threatened to fall out of his blue eyes and tumble down his pale face.
“Lad,” Ralph said, pain filling him.
“I--am not--an animal!” The boy said, the words explosive. He spoke Norman surprisingly well. “Not a monkey, not a workhorse--”
He struggled in Ralph’s grip. Ralph held tighter, loathe to let him go. The boy threw off the man’s hands and took a step backwards, the tears in his eyes freezing to hard ice that not even the hot rage behind them could melt.
“Robin--” Ralph felt the word come, from some aching place in his heart. Robin, help me. Please, I need you.
“No!” the boy screamed. “No, no, no! I am not Robin! Not to you!”
He turned and ran out of the room, whirling around the corner, heading down the corridor. Ralph took a step forward, arm outstretched. A drop of blood lay on his hand.
The flying footsteps, echoing down the hall, growing further away...he had to catch him...
He turned to the servants, dumb and dazed. He gave some order, pointing, and they ran after the boy. He floated to his room and locked himself in.
Several hours later, thinking had returned to him, and anger. How dare the boy...he had only wanted to help...he had just lost his mother...just been converted to a servant...but he had no right...Ralph had hurt the same as dare he...
At last the wondering thoughts led to Ralph’s ringing for a servant. He did not want the dinner that the servant was eager to bring him, but the new boy. The servant sighed and exited the chamber.
Ten minutes later, he was dragged in. Ralph had the servants leave and closed the door.
“One--more chance,” he said haltingly, avoiding the boy’s hard eyes. “Do you want my friendship?”
“I want nothing from you,” the boy said.
“Oh, you’re going to get--” Ralph stopped himself. “I want to help you.”
“And I--do not want your help,” the boy said.
“But I must!” Ralph leapt at the boy, shaking his shoulders. “I must help someone! I must do something right in my life!”
The boy said nothing, did not retreat, did not change his gaze.
Ralph was panting. “You will--”
The brilliant eyes lifted, looking deep into Ralph’s own. They seemed to pierce through him, leaving him defenseless, unable to do anything, awaiting the boy’s verdict.
“I will not.”
The words were quiet, but they released him, tearing away a piece of his heart.
He lifted his hand.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Robert flung open the door, scanning the room with his blade poised.
A young man looked up from the table, papers in his hand. He wore a dark green tunic and trousers—peasant’s garb.
“Ah-ha!” Robert said, his voice coming across more cracked then he had intended.
The young man didn’t move. His gaze was frozen on to Robert’s face. Something tickled the back of Robert’s memory…those eyes, resting on him…He pushed it away.
“What do you think you’re doing, scoundrel?” Robert asked, striding in.
The other seemed stricken. The papers he held fluttered to the ground. He made no move to grab the longbow resting against the wall, giving Robert plenty of time to step between him and it.
“What are you stealing, eh? What are you doing here?”
“I thought you were dead.”
The quiet words rang in the room. They made Robert feel queer. He moved closer to the still intruder. He was older than he looked, he realized, and a strange thing made him look young—he was wasting, seeming to shrink out of the limbs he must’ve grown into not many years before. A scar marred his pale face, starting beneath his ear and running to his chin.
Even as he took this in, Robert couldn’t help laughing. “Thought I was dead—?”
He made the mistake of looking the other in the eye. Another flash of memory spasmed through his mind. He took several steps backwards. The peasant flew into motion, ducking past the wavering blade and grabbing his bow. Robert stiffened, looking wildly for a chance of escape. The other stood between him and the door.
“Yes,” he said. “I thought you were dead.”
“Guards!” Robert bellowed.
“You might’ve come,” the other said. “It was over a year that she was sick, after the baby died. Did you care nothing about her?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
The blue eyes flashed. “My mother.”
It wasn’t the words, but the flash in the eye that made Robert feel sick. He fought it off desperately.
“I—I can’t be bothered with peasant matters,” he said.
Deep anger sparked in those blue eyes: anger and grief. At last, Robert’s soldiers burst into the room.
“You really don’t understand?” the man asked, dropping his bow. It rattled against the floor like a bone. Robert’s soldiers forced the intruder easily to the ground. His breath rattled in his throat.
“Don’t you see?” he gasped, looking into Robert’s face. “I’m Robin. You left me behind.”

* * * * *

Robert had to constantly remind himself that he did not hate his son.
He did not even hate the look of his son—the flaxen hair, scrawny arms, unwavering blue eyes. What reason was there to hate that look? He was the very image of his mother, and Robert loved her—of course he did.
It’s the bow, he told himself, if he would only give up the bow.
He could never be sure, but he felt almost certain that Rosamund had encouraged it. From the time the boy could walk, almost, there seemed to always be a yew bow clenched in his little fist. He even acquired a great amount of skill at his young age, sending servants running from the little pricks that were his arrows.
All the same, you would expect a little boy—a baby, practically—to grow out of his little baby tricks, and Robin didn’t. Nor ever would, it seemed.

“A word, Rosamund,” Robert said.
His wife looked up from her sampler, pale eyebrows raised. “Yes, my lord?”
“I see.”
Lady Rosamund put aside her sampler and motioned to her serving maids. They gathered up their things and left. She stood in the center of the room, hands clasped in front of her, over the slight bulge of her midsection. She was still so beautiful.
“My lord?” she asked.
Robert moved across the room to her. She stepped back. Hurt, he stopped and looked at her, awkwardly. Rosamund lowered her eyes.
“It’s about—Robert,” he said.
More awkwardness. When had they grown so far apart? They had never been close, thrust together by parents as they were, but she seemed so cold.
“I want you to call him by his proper name.”
He saw her stiffen. Still she didn’t look into his face. He didn’t expect her to argue, just to nod and curtsy and be on her way, like she’d been doing for years. Like she’d done when her tow-headed child was given a Norman name. But this time, she said something.
“Is there something wrong with Robin?”
“I named him Robert!” he exploded after a few seconds of silence.
Rosamund winced.
“You’ve never forgiven me, have you?” Robert stormed. He stood almost on top of her.
She made no reply.
“Answer me.”
Her breathing escalated. He grabbed her chin, forced her to look him in the face. Her blue eyes darted for a moment in her pretty face: still so young. So few lines on it. She steadied.
“I don’t know,” she said. “But he’ll always be Robin to me.”
Her whole body posture, face, tone of voice, spoke of submission and calm. He almost felt he could, with a twist of his hand, meld her into any shape he pleased.
Her eyes gave her away. Blue, swirling, fierce, loving, intelligent, firm—defiant.
He flung her from him and stalked to the window.
He shouldn’t have.
After only a few moments of looking out on his land, his hands gripped the sill, harder and harder, until they shook with the strain.
He turned again, saw his wife standing where he left her, looking at her hands. He walked past her and out of the room.
“Bring me that boy!”

* * * * *

“Do you know who he is?” Robert asked, toying with the hilt of his sword.
“Why should I know, milord?”
“Oh—I just thought—never mind.”
The soldier shifted in his armor, gazing around the near-empty room.
“You may go,” Robert said, and he did. Robert walked over to the canopied bed. The canopies hung in rags; the mattress sagged and stank of sour straw and mouse droppings.
Though the various High Sheriffs had had the cheek to use his land, it seemed that none of them had dared sleep in Locksley Manor. That said, a good amount of furniture had been carried off—either by bandits or the Sheriffs themselves. The latest High Sheriff, William Brewer, had seemed embarrassed by the whole thing. It seems that they, too, had considered him dead.
When he had reclaimed his lands, he had not thought to ask of his son. His wife had died, the manor was in disrepair—surely some child illness or another had claimed him? He had never been a strong boy. In all truth, Robert had expected his death when he left.
But now there was a young man, tied up and unconscious in his cellar, who had claimed to be that son. He seemed to be the right age. In the deepest corner of his mind, Robert knew he was—those eyes…
But what had he been doing all these years? Why had he not kept up the land? Why was there no talk of Robert of Locksley?
And why did he still have the audacity to call himself Robin?

* * * * *

“Did I not tell you to put a sword in his fist?”
“Well—y-yes, my lord, but—” the servant stammered.
“But what, you idiot?”
“Master Robin did so well at the swordplay that the Lady Rosamund did say he—”
“My son’s name is Robert,” Robert said through clenched teeth.
“B-but of course, my lord,” the servant said.
“It would serve you well to call him such.”
“Yes, milord—Master Robert he is—”
“You say his mother—?” Robert pressed.
“He performed marvelously, and the Lady Rosamund did say he had done enough for the day, and should get to play—”
“And he chose archery,” Robert said, teeth clenched.
“I—suppose he—” the older man said.
“I am the lord of this manor and everything in it. I will decide how my son”—he spat the word—“spends his days. My wife has no say.”
The servant nodded and bowed a bit too much, casting strange glances past his master.
“Father?” a young voice ventured.
Robert turned slowly.
His son stood in the doorway, holding his little bow, with his quiver at his side. He wore a deep blue tunic, which complimented his features and complexion like little else did. It wasn’t exactly that he was an ugly child, he just happened to already look like he had to grow into parts of his body. For one thing, his eyes seemed too large for his face, not to mention that they often had a look of deep pondering unusual enough in a full-grown man, not to mention a child of six.
Those eyes were searching his now, pinning him where he stood. Robert realized that maybe it wasn’t only the bow he hated—it was those eyes, as well.
“Robert—” he began, trying to stop the scrutiny. The eyes stopped searching, but they were still watching.
“You sent for me?” the little boy offered.
“Yes…” Robert said, feeling big and blundering as he walked towards his son.
He took a step backward, reminiscent of his mother. Robert realized his arm was already outstretched, ready to rip the arc of wood from his son’s hand.
And Robin had seen it coming.
“Give me the bow, Robert.”
A delay of several seconds ensued. At last the little boy relinquished his hold on the stick of yew, slipping off his quiver as well. Robert clenched them tight in his left hand.
“I need to speak with you.”
The eyes were frightened now.

* * * * *

A knock. Robert took a deep breath. “Come in.”
The door opened and two soldiers half-carried in their prisoner. When they released him, he crumpled. Robert nodded to them, and they left. He watched the prisoner with curiosity.
His arms were shaking, and it sounded like he had trouble breathing. It didn’t seem to be from fear, but from some kind of fatigue or sickness. At last the blond head came up and Robert again said the blue eyes and the scar. He realized, looking at that face, that the hair had become darker. The eyes looked almost the same as ever, but it seemed that sorrow and pain had been etched into the young man’s face as strongly as whatever blade had cut it.
“Father?” he said, wearily.
It was strange to hear that word again.
“Stand up,” Robert said.
With much difficulty, he did. He swayed on his feet.
“Are you ill?” Robert snapped.
The head nodded slowly. “Aye, I am—”
He fell again, harder. He winced.
“What’s the matter with you?” Robert asked, anger mounting. This wasn’t the way this was supposed to go. How could he question or chastise someone who kept falling over?
“Many things,” the younger man said. “I have a hard time not blaming you for them.”
Robert was taken aback. “Blaming me?”
“You left me.”
“With your mother!”
“You left her, too,” he said. “And when she died, who was there to stand up for me? I was only a child.”

* * * * *

Holding Robin’s hand like a dead fish, Robert re-entered the room where he had had the disastrous conversation with his wife. Lady Rosamund sat now, and only looked up when they entered, and then glanced away. Robin wriggled out of his father’s grasp and ran for her.
“Robert!” his father challenged, stopping him in his tracks. He turned back around reluctantly.
“Yes, Father?”
“I have something very important to tell you.”
Rosamund reached for her son’s hand, avoiding Robert’s face: she knew catching his eye would be deadly. Their fingers curled about each other, and she drew her to him. Robert couldn’t think of something to say that wouldn’t sound ridiculous, so he strode over to them both.
“Two very important things, as a matter of fact. One, is that I no longer want to see you entertaining yourself with the practice of archery. The bow is a yeoman’s plaything.”
“Mother says it is the English defense against Norman oppression,” Robin said. Rosamund closed her eyes.
“Does she indeed?” Robert said. “Well, she should be pleased to note that the invasion happened a hundred years ago, and oppression is almost non-existent.”
“That is,” Rosamund said, “if you choose to cease being English and become French.”
Accusations glistened in her eyes. Robert fought the crazy desire to strangle the two of them then and there, mixing their blond hair with crimson blood. Instead, he yanked Robin away from his mother.
“Archery will cease,” he said, glaring down at the boy.
“You’re hurting me,” Robin gasped.
Robert relaxed his hold. “The second is that forthwith no one in this household shall call you by this child pet-name of Robin. You are Robert.”
Robin looked to his mother, who had tears on her cheeks, and then back at his father. He pulled again from his grasp, backing away from both of them.
“My name is Robin,” he said, childish voice earnest and unmistakable.
Robert felt a flash of something that could have been pride, but it turned quickly to anger. So long he had wanted the gentle boy to show some spirit, but the only time he did, it was in utter defiance.
So like his mother.
“Can I have my bow back?” His blue eyes flashed.
He’s pushing me, Robert thought, amazed, he’s seeing how far he can go. How unlike him…
“No!” Robert advanced. Rosamund let out a little gasp. Robin stood his ground.
“I’ll make another,” he said, looking hopeful.
“You will not!”
Robert realized the little bow was raised above his head. Robin’s face faltered, fear showing in his eyes.
In the background, he could hear the boy’s mother pleading with him. He could feel her pulling at his arm.
“What is your name?” he said, almost whispered.
“Robin,” the little boy said, just as hushed.
What are you going to do, Father? the eyes asked, innocent and yet so old-looking in expression.
He shook free of his wife and struck out, almost without thinking.
Robin fell, his cheek reddening where the wood had come in contact with his skin. Blood swelled on his lips. His eyes were wide, hurt, lost. His lips moved.
Rosamund was screaming at him, gathering the little boy to her, her hair in her face, her eyes like bright, sharp stones.
He dropped the bow and quiver and turned his back on both of them.
The next day, he rode for London.

* * * * *

Robert remembered this, and so much more, looking into the accusing eyes of the sick young man on the floor before him. It had been this room, he realized. The last time he’d seen his wife, his son.
He felt dizzy.
“What happened?” he asked, thickly.
“Mother died soon after I reached eight years of age,” Robin said, looking away, “the High Sheriff took over the manor and said that he needed five years of slave labor to pay off the taxes. He then gave me as a gift to the man who would become the next High Sheriff—Ralph Murdoc. I lived in hell for the next seven years.” He glanced up. “You can see why I thought you dead. If you were alive, why would you leave me in such a place?”
Robert turned from those searching eyes. “You were—a slave?”
He’d had such high hopes for his son, from the very moment he made it into the world, pink and squalling.
“Aye,” Robin said.
The word stung. Not only in its meaning, but its usage. How had his son—the son of a noble—become such a commoner?
“What then?”
“Many things you would disapprove of, I’m sure,” Robin said. “I ran away. Became outlawed. There’s one bright side. I married a Norman girl.”
“You did what?”
Slight amusement hung around Robin’s tired face. “What I said.”
“This—outlawry. What did you go by?”
The amusement vanished. They both knew what was coming. “Robin Hood.”
Robert felt deflated. “You have disgraced me.”
“I assumed as much.”
“Be silent!”
Robin looked at the floor, then pushed himself back to his feet. He stood straight. “You disgraced me as well,” he said, softly, “if that were possible in the codes of honor.”
“Get out of my sight,” Robert said, hand shaking on his sword hilt.
“King Richard pardoned me.”
Robin shrugged and turned, heading for the door. He turned, touching his scarred cheek. “Do you remember that last day?” he asked. “When you hit me? I thought of you. When Murdoc cut me.”
He shut the door.
A childish voice echoed in Robert’s head as he turned to the longbow on the table.
I’ll make another.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Writing is a Journey

I'm taking an AP English Language course this year, and our first major assignment has been to write a "literacy narrative" describing a important event in your reading or writing history. The funny thing is, when I first began considering the assignment, I thought it would be easy--I had a lot of ideas. Then I began researching.

How do you research something like that? I began to read my pathetically sporadic diary entries, more abundant emails, and dates written in word documents.

It really made me realize how long I've been on this journey (for real--in my heart, not just my head), and how involved God has been in growing me as a writer and a person. We live in a culture very focused on the here and now, with little time spent on the past. I've already decided that studying history is very important to me--little did I know how much studying my own history would move and enlighten me.

I began to see how things were connected. In real life, too, I like to look at things in a "connected" way, how everything affects everything else. Economy, politics, art, all touches. So many things touch in my own history as well.

I set out to explain my Forest of Lies journey. I soon found it had too many facets to explain clearly. I'm not sure if I took the right path or not, but I chose to follow strictly my writing, and that for years was centered on my other novel Runaway Castle, now called Betsy Flowain. I traced its history up to OYAN, and how it gave me the tools for getting to Forest of Lies.

But there are yet more facets. Why was I writing a Robin Hood anyway? By the time I fixed and finished Betsy Flowain, I had already been working on a "Robin Hood story" for almost two years. I had already been preparing for my next journey while still working on my first, and I hadn't even known.

I've explained what Forest of Lies is to me over and over again, but it's amazing to see how Forest of Lies came in to being. The puppet show. The books. The false starts. A book going through OYAN that had been in my life for five years already.

Everything that had to fall in to place - Robin Hood - OYAN - novel experience through baffles me to even try to explain how many factors led up to where I am today. Would I have gone to the OYAN class if I hadn't been working on Betsy for five years? Would I have written Forest of Lies if I hadn't taken OYAN? Would I if we hadn't done that puppet show that led me back into the love of all things Robin Hood? Would I have written Forest of Lies if I hadn't been attempting it for two years when I finished Betsy?

It is simply marvelous. One can look at many things, in science, in history, in math, in astronomy, in nature, in biology, in all things great and grand and see God...but one can also look at the history of one facet of one person's life and still be amazed by His purpose and glory.

Who is like our God?


Friday, September 24, 2010

Robin Hood (1973)

Robin Hood and Little John
Walkin' through the forest
Laughin' back and forth
At what the other'ne has to say
Havin' such a good time
Golly, what a day.

Made by Disney, 1973
83 minutes, color

Plot * *
Like most Robin Hood books and movies, this one is very episodic. It’s not bad, however, and very easy to follow. Prince John lays trap; Robin responds. There are the cute and amusing subplots involving the rabbits (Skippy and company, Robin Hood’s first fans) and Maid Marian. There is a satisfyingly big showdown with some good storytelling techniques; namely, things don’t go as planned and our hero isn’t let off easy. He may be fighting idiots, but sometimes idiots have good luck.

Characters * * *
The characters are fairly stock-like normal Robin Hood characters, amusingly displayed as various wild animals. They’re fun to watch, especially when they interact.
The best thing to say about the baddies is that they’re just that: bad. No nonsense there. Prince John is (as usual) a spoiled brat who loves money. The Sheriff is a willing henchman who enjoys collecting money but will also sing songs against his monarch. Sir Hiss (Sir Guy) is Prince John’s nervous advisor.
Lady Kluck is an amusing take on the “Maid Marian’s nurse” character. For once, she can stand on her own and fight with the best of them. Ridiculous, of course, but a riot to watch, especially considering she’s a chicken (literally).
Little John comes across as big and easy going, who is content to follow Robin’s whims, after first pointing out their likeliness to fail. After he has pointed it out and been rebuffed, he resigns to his fate with a (to quote him) “here we go again” attitude.
One also mustn’t forget the most useful occupation of Alan-a-Dale that I have seen: he’s the story’s narrator.
As mentioned before, the subplot with Skippy the bunny is very cute and also gives a very subtle why to the dramatic excursions for money, and some more depth to the title character. Robin takes time from his gallivanting to visit a young “boy” for his birthday. He then later gets in trouble rescuing Skippy’s younger sister, all without being cheesy. I hadn’t noticed it before my latest viewing, and I really like this touch.

Golden Arrow * * * * *
As I have probably mentioned somewhere (perhaps the Forest of Lies page?) this is the Robin Hood I grew up on. As I watched it last week, I realized it isn’t really a bad one to grow up on. It has a very good Robin Hood feel; it may have been what tempered some of my liking for that feel. It’s a lark, no one really gets hurt permanently, and good wins out over bad, despite the fact that bad is almost literally in charge. Also, it gets major bonus points (an extra star, actually) for being the only film or TV Robin Hood I have ever seen that shows Robin Hood as a true master of disguise. This is an element very important in the books. The movies? Jonas Armstrong and Errol Flynn both do a terrible job of wearing disguises. Russell Crowe never wore one that I can remember, and I haven’t heard anything of Kevin Costner either (though I haven’t seen that one). Over the course of this 83 minute film, Robin wears disguises five times, and they aren’t half bad: he dresses as a blind beggar twice, a gypsy (woman--hee), a stork, and Nutsy (a vulture/guard). Of all of them, Nutsy is probably his weakest, and in all of them he adopts different accents and mannerisms. He’s brilliant, as he should be. Thank you, Disney, for getting it right.

“Fluently!” * * *
I leave this category at three stars, because I’m not sure how much of my grinning during my latest viewing was nostalgia-inspired rather than wit-inspired. The dialogue, however, is quite good, and quotable, which is always a bonus. (“Oh he’s sooo handsome--just like his reward posters.”) Prince John cracks me up. Scratch that, almost all of them crack me up, even the sweet Marian.
“Marian, my love, will you marry me?”
“I thought you’d never ask--” *as Robin fights off several soldiers* “--but you could’ve chosen a more romantic setting.”

Others * * * *
Warning: not to watch for sticklers over historical accuracy. To be perfectly honest, not many Robin Hood’s are historically accurate, but considering this one’s archery tournament has helium get the picture.
Another slight thing is in Robin dressing as a gypsy--there is a fortune-telling sequence of several minutes. It is very obviously fake and is humorous, but it’s still there.
Overall all though, it’s wonderful good fun, and even a slight more besides. It doesn’t have all the trappings of a usual Robin Hood (it doesn’t have the time), but it does have the whole feel and the fun of one. It has some catchy music, too.
Also, keep your eye out for the humorous twist on the Robin Hood meets Little John story.

Robin Hood and Little John
Runnin' through the forest
Jumpin' fences,
Dodgin' trees,
An' tryin' to get away
Contemplatin' nothin'
But escape an' fin'lly makin' it
Oo-de-lally, Oo-de-lally
Golly, what a day.

Oo-de-lally, Oo-de-lally
Golly, what a day.


Image is the theatrical release poster, from Wikipedia article.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...