Thursday, September 30, 2010

Locksley

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?”
“Alone.”
“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.
“Oh?”
“Yes.”
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.
“Father…?”
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.”
“GO!”
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, school...it 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 Betsy...it 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?

~Nai

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
Reminiscin',
This-'n'-thattin'
Havin' such a good time
Oo-de-lally,
Oo-de-lally
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 balloons...you 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.

~Nai

Image is the theatrical release poster, from Wikipedia article.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A New Adventure

Approximately 19 months ago is when I first began messing with the idea that would grow into Etched in Black.

About 11 months ago I signed up for the 2009 NaNoWriMo.

10 months ago I completed my 50,060 manuscript, which went to about chapter 4 or 5 by OYAN standards. I realized that I had the wrong heroine.

5 or 6 months ago, I wrote 30,000 words on a third person version of the book over spring break, which was about 4 days long.

2 or 3 months ago, I decided that it would be best if I began reading and watching the OYAN curriculum again, completely filling out the Map this time, because my manuscript refused to budge beyond 45,000 words.

41 days ago, I began doing exactly that.

And now here I am. The third and perhaps largest story mountain is in front of me. It's daunting. It's scary. It's exhilarating.

I can't wait.

~Nai

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fear

When I typed the title to this post, I thought this doesn't really fit my happy-go-lucky approach to this blog. What kind of excuse should I make to my readers? I've decided to make no excuse at all, especially considering I’ve realized how closely the subject can relate to Robin Hood. Not only can, but does.

So. Fear. It may be argued that there are many different types of fear, and in some cases this can be so. There can be nervousness, stark terror, and other “levels” of fear, as well as differences brought about by whatever it is you’re afraid of.

Everyone has fear. We’re almost constantly worried about what we’re doing (is it right, will I mess it up), what others think of us (I shouldn’t have said that, that sounded dumb, that sounded arrogant, what if they don’t understand what I mean, what if they don’t like me), and what might happen in the future (finances, tests, tomorrow).

Joshua 1:9 says “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (NIV). Some versions use “afraid” for “terrified,” which I actually find more convicting. “Terrified” assumes that there is something to be extremely scared of. To simply be afraid is a different matter.

We live in a culture of fear. On the very basic level is the “what will they think of me?” that guides almost every action in public. Yet we, as Christians, are commanded to be strong and courageous. We’re not supposed to buy into the “what will they think of me” mindset. I’ve read before that being strong and courageous doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have fear--but it would seem that we’re commanded not even to HAVE fear. Of course, as with the many commands of the Bible, this would seem impossible. There’s a promise, though. “the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” I ran across one version that said (paraphrasing): “the LORD your God IS with you wherever you go.” We shouldn’t have to be afraid. Our Father is with is us always, and doesn’t care what they think.

Why am I bringing this up? As my friends have heard, I’ve recently become afraid of my novel Etched in Black. Why? I’m not quite sure. It’s longer and quite different from anything else I’ve done, which probably has a part--fear of the unknown. I almost have it outlined and I’m sometimes scared silly at the thought of trying to jump into the rough draft. I’m afraid of messing up. Of looking stupid. Of getting it wrong--all 100,000 words of it. Of writing badly. Sound familiar?

I remember when my writing teacher told us to give ourselves the permission to write badly. HE didn’t give us the permission to, we had to let up on ourselves. Writing a book is hard and scary. This time, I not only need to give myself permission to mess it up and let God deal with it, but I should be strong and courageous, too. Permission to write badly doesn’t mean you don’t try. If you look at it from the perspective of Joshua 1:9, it means you just refuse to be afraid of messing it up, and still give it the best you can.

And Robin Hood? Yes, it’s getting long here. But I thought I’d mention him. Something to be admired about good ol’ Robin is his apparent lack of fear. Yes, it gets him in trouble, and yes, it often gets his friends into trouble too. And also yes, he has some arrogance issues. But why do his men (dozens of them) follow him? I think it is to some extent because he refuses to be afraid. “Yes, there are soldiers, foresters, a Sheriff, Sir Guy, and sometimes a Prince out to kill me and you all along with me. So what? We’re right and they’re wrong.” (Plus he’s gonna win that arrow, by golly!)

Robin has right on his side. We’ve have God on ours. What do we have to fear?

~Nai

Friday, September 17, 2010

I Once Had a Thing Called "a blog"

I used to write in every other day,

Sharing woes and joys,

Whether my readers would hear them or no,

And then would go to school,

Most satisfied.

--

Yeeeah, I don't do poetry. Sorry, you'll have to live with it. This hasn't been the greatest week of my life, on top of it being really busy like all my weeks now. For one thing, I had my first bout of stomach flu in who knows how long, so I was pretty miserable for the first half of the day and then stayed in bed for most of the rest of it. Obviously, I'm up and kicking again today!

I'm also working on compiling my "resource" list of books and websites I've found helpful in my historical fiction writing journey. I'll include overall medieval/12-13th century material, as well as the specifics I've had to hunt down (like things about Nottingham, Sherwood, York, etc.). So in the end it'll be composed of three parts: Historical Fiction, Robin Hood Fiction, My Fiction. I'll also try to update it fairly frequently as I find more helpful things! I did recently find a good book on Nottinghamshire, thank goodness!

I've also nearly met my three-weeks-ago goal of finishing editing chapter 1 (heh). I've got high hopes that the second chapter will go better, considering I've already overhauled it majorly from where it was when I entered the contest. Still flying ahead of Etched in Black's goals right now! My new-but-unproclaimed goal? Be done outlining by November, so I can get the first 50,000 words thrown down with the extra motivation of NaNoWriMo!

So that's where I am and what I'm up to...now to remember all the posts ideas that I thought would be cool to do before I got swallowed by school! (And speaking of school...archery has improved considerably, and fencing is still amazing. I'm considering buying myself a foil...)

Until next time!
~Nai

P.S. My brother recently checked out Disney's 1973 version of Robin Hood (yes, the one with the fox, don't diss it, 'cause I grew up with it) and as you can imagine, I've GOT to see it before it goes back. Probably this Saturday. Afterwhich I will (hopefully) post a review.

P.P.S. You've probably noticed my blog layout has changed. I've both trimmed down my sidebar stuff, as well as moving my pages over there, because when I added the Etched in Black one, it started doing goofy things where it was. I'm somewhat sad, but "as the grass grows..." wait, that hasn't ANY relevance to what I'm saying...the weirdest quotes pop into my head, sometimes.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Concerning 13th Century Research

The nice and controlled tone of my title is an attempt to begin and continue my post in a nice and controlled manner, with as little ranting and whining as possible. We shall see how that flies.

Also, a disclaimer: I am sure that all centuries and decades of historical fiction writing have their own downsides and frustration. However, as I am a Medieval historical fiction writer, I am, by unhappy chance, more aware of the issues involved therein. And now I’m talking way too fancy, thanks to my so controlled title. Just so you know that I’m aware that other historical fiction writing is probably just as hard or even harder when it comes to research than mine is, but I’m here to complain--er, explain--mine.

I find my first reason for ever dropping a book in my novel-writing “career” is, in some sick way, ironic. My first attempt at a book was called Lost in the Jungle, and I probably got about 1,000 to 2,000 words in before I realized all the research I would have to do to bring the story together. I was only 7 or 8 at the time. I found one book on our shelves and flipped through it some, trying to find a reason for my heroine being near a jungle/rainforest, and which one, and what it would be like, and what she could eat, and--

I decided to write fantasy instead.

Woe to me, however: fantasy doth not love me. I managed to grind out Betsy Flowain over the course of 7 years and with OYAN’s help, but one thing became quite clear to me: I can’t do fantasy. At least, not good fantasy. I’m not a world-builder. I’m a people-builder.

So I went back to the more research-oriented thing. Except, it got even better. I wasn’t just researching a forest, I was researching a while time--centuries away from the time I live in.

Do you know what happens when one goes back in time? Details tend to get scanter and scanter. Not many people are interested in writing books on a castle that was demolished in the Renaissance and got a new castle built on top of it (Nottingham Castle). Thank goodness, I did find one book on that. Also, dear readers, have you ever tried to study King Richard the Lionheart or King John Lackland? The main things you end up with? Humongous biographies (that’s King Richard) or lots of articles talking about the Third Crusade. Hair-loss generator, that. And King John is even worse. Magna Carta this, Magna Carta that. And no biographies.

Okay, so, scratch the kings. Seems like they would be easiest, don’t it? And in way, those headaches are. We just don’t know much about 1191 or 1208. Googling brings up sketchy sites that you’re not sure you can trust and don’t give a whole lot of information anyway. Besides that, it takes hours longer than it seems like it should. Library search (even in our wonderful system) yields almost nothing. Interlibrary loans? More to wade through, and just as tricky. There’s a lot of trial-and-error when you request from the library, and very often the success rate is limited. Especially if you try to place a hold on hundred-year-old books that are in a library in...Britain. (Whoops.)

This post inspires me to make a scanty list of what I have found to be helpful and fairly trustworthy. I have three more waiting on library shelves at this moment to try out. I have one book coming in that the other library will only loan us if I read it at MY library (I can’t take it home). I cross my fingers every time I try to request something that only has 64 copies worldwide. The librarians at my library must wonder what in the world is wrong with me, but hey. Maybe I’ll strike gold.

So this turned into a personal story and rant instead of some facts about stuff that’s been difficult for me to find over the years I’ve been working on my books. That’s okay, though. Probably more interesting that way. I just warn you: further back you go, the less there is to go on. There’s almost as much world building to be done in historical fiction as fantasy, only in historical fiction you’re always in terror of getting something wrong. Seems like it would be easier to make up my own world, but I’ve found that to be a no-go. Guess I’ll stick to the hair loss.

~Nai

P.S. Concerning My Schedule: It is a work in progress. I shall try to update this blog at least once or twice a week, however sporadically.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Finished "Story Building"!

September 2, 2010
Etched in Black: 2 hours, 15 minutes
Forest of Lies: 35 minutes

Just days before Etched in Black's official start date, I've finished the first section of OYAN! I've gotten quite far in those few days. Just a few things that have finally fallen into place over the last couple of weeks are...

-Gervais's background and reason for being in Lincoln for five months
-The reason for Ives's abduction
-The ensuing reason for Yvette's being baited in the way she is.
-Tied to all that, the villain's motivation for most things.
-I FINALLY understand momentary conflict and hopefully how to apply it!!! YAY!
-The themes and overall "point" of Etched in Black.
-More of the awesomeness of Gervais.
-The thinking and reasons behind Yvette's strange personality.
-My heart behind this story.

Just to name a few, the most of which you probably don't understand. That's okay, though. It'll be released eventually! I also discovered yesterday that I probably will get to use a good bit of the material I wrote last spring. That's encouraging.

On to the story skeleton!

~Nai

P.S. I'm very excited for Labor Day! I'll be doing a LotR marathon with some family friends and their friends. Do any of you have plans?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

It's a Robin Hood Retelling

August 31-September 1, 2010
Outlining: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Editing: 30 minutes

I have found that I have an easy answer to the immortal and terrifying question of: “so what’s your book about?”

“It’s a Robin Hood retelling” is pretty much all I need to say, and people nod, get it (or seem to), and move on. I’ve gotten to the point where I wish they’d pester me a little more. After all, novelists do sort of like that torturous question of “what’s your book at” more than we let on. I’ve poured a hundreds of hours into Forest of Lies, and a lot of my heart too. I can’t be sure what people think when I say that, but I can’t help wondering if they think: “oh, easy. You’re telling an old story. Cool. I get it. Rob from the rich, give to the poor, etc.” (Hopefully they don’t think: “SOCIALIST!” because I don’t think Robin was. I’ll explain some other time.)

So I’ve got some pride, I guess. I’m not just rehashing the entire Robin Hood story, I really have rewritten it. I’m not only going from Marian’s point of view, I’m changing her view of Robin, I’m changing almost the entire setting, purpose, and what happens in Sherwood Forest. I’ve changed a lot. I’ve worked a lot. It’s not JUST a Robin Hood retelling. (Though at the same time, it is.)

Also, I don’t believe a well-done (which I’m striving to make mine) or original (mine already is) rewriting of Robin Hood deserves the label of “fanfiction” that some people might give it. (I have met those people.) Or, to look at it another way, Robin Hood, like King Arthur, is an ultimate fanfiction that dozens of authors have wanted in on. That works for me too. To write a Robin Hood is to join a long line of tradition. Even in an original story that is very obviously yours you’re still in the tradition. Even if you choose not to call him “Robin” and instead go with “Robert” or “Fynn” those years of minstrels singing Robin Hood, plays showing Robin Hood, and novels depicting Robin Hood are still behind you.

I suppose another reason for the quick acceptance of that one sentence to encompass my entire writing life of four years is also in the “well, what do I ask now? That sums it up, doesn’t it?” Or maybe they go: “okay, this person is weird...writing Robin Hood...that’s old-fashioned...” I also believe that sometimes when people ask ANY author that, they don’t really want to know. It’s a polite thing to do, but not many understand what writing a novel is like. Answering as simply as I do gives them a good way out, so maybe I shouldn’t enact my evil plans of describing plot when they’re really not interested. Among writers, though, I may begin more like this: “It’s a Robin Hood retelling where Marian wants to marry the Sheriff, Robin’s outlawed partially because of heresy, and the last thing Marian wants to do is stay with him in Sherwood Forest.”

I think that’d get a few ears pricked.

~Nai
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