Thursday, September 27, 2012

My Plans and God's Plans: The Call (Part 1)

[Note: Hello! I know you're shocked, but I'm not dead. Despite my last post on Inspiration, push came to shove with work hours and college and I lost all writing for over a month. I'm working at being more responsible with my time so I can stay emotionally stable--which means writing.

I've actually delayed starting this series because I didn't know if it was appropriate for the focus of my blog. It doesn't deal with writing a ton, at least not how I'm looking at it right now. But I feel like I *am* supposed to post it, so here it goes.

Also, hello to a few new followers I gained in my almost 2-month absence! I'm usually better at this. Really. Anyway, enough encroaching on my real post's room...]


The Empire State Building from my hotel room.
My current college situation confuses people. I’m doing college, yet I’m not in New York. Yet I’m not at home, either? What is this wizardry?

It’s not wizardry. It’s God’s plan turning out better than mine (imagine!).

Let me back up a bit.

I fell in love with a crazy Christian school less than a year ago. Beginning of December, 2011. It’s called The King’s College and it is located in New York City. Yes, Christian. Yes, New York City.

In the days leading up to my initial visit, nerves and stress kind of ruled my life. Part of it was a bunch of application stuff coming due, because I (naturally) applied to 8 colleges (don’t try this at home, or anywhere, kids). Part of it was because I expected to fall in love, and that was scary. It was way out of my price range and in New York City. Plus, if I fell in love…how could I possibly go anywhere else and not be miserable? At least right now my options were open.

Funny, how that fear contradicted my constant prayer for God to just, please, make it obvious.

I felt stuck. I didn’t want to go to a secular school because they didn’t have truth as a basis and therefore could get nowhere. My brief contacts with the secular learning environment—at a prestigious writing camp and a college visit to a Great Books school—both left me in tears.

But what was the other option? Hide in the woods with Bibles?

Apparently, the other option was King’s. Based on truth, and very much not in the woods.

I did fall in love. It freaked me out like I had anticipated. I spent several sobbing hours telling God that no, I didn’t *want* to go to New York City. It was ugly, it was concrete, why oh why did he have to put my dream school there?

I finally ended that tantrum with this: “God, if you can pay for this, I’ll go.”

I think God likes those challenges

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The [Un] Importance of Inspiration

My laptop's not turning on.

Unfortunately, it's not turning off either.

I have fifty minutes left to write, and my ancient machine is having a crisis of identity. Should I be a laptop? Should I be a large black rectangle rock-thing?

In the meantime, it's whirring and crackling, showing a light blue screen, and ignoring my desperate punches at its power button.

Rather like me, lately.

On July 11th (the day after my last post), I flew halfway across the country. I went from my new home to my old home. I went from my family to my friends. Oh, and a job.

Perhaps that's some explanation for my sudden and of yet unrecovered loss of a coherent schedule. My school's fallen, my blog's fallen, my writing's fallen.

The longer I don't edit, the harder it is to see where my novel needs to go. The longer I don't blog, the harder it is to think of anything to blog about. The longer I have a messed-up sleeping schedule, the longer I go without accomplishing what I would like to accomplish every day.

This has put me into a horrible cycle I'm already way to familiar with. Don't accomplish things, so I get depressed, so I don't accomplish things, so I get depressed, so I don't accomplish things...

I have stuff to do. Big stuff; important stuff. Changing the world. Living for Christ. Loving. Writing. But I get so bogged down by failures that I just fail more. It is very illogical. Which irks me.

What does any of this have to do with inspiration?

Well, I like the jolts of brilliance as much as the next writer. The beautiful sentences that just pop into your head and roll out across the paper...the wonderful scenes...the fascinating character...the sense of I can do anything!!!

But writers cannot live on inspiration alone. And actually, if they try to, the inspiration will eventually run out.

Why do I say such horrible depressing things?

Most of us know of sayings like this:

But what people normally don't tell you is that that work--that perspiration--actually creates the inspiration in most, if not all, circumstances.

Remember those cycles above? I don't blog, so I don't know what to blog. I don't edit, so I don't know how to edit. I don't get up early, so I don't go to bed in time. The cycles of defeat.

But if you work on your novel, or your blog, and you push through when it isn't fun, you are going to get a bit of help from inspiration. The inspiration isn't the important part: the work that leads to it is. You can get into the good cycle of working on your novel, so get inspiration for your novel, so work on your novel...

Of course, it's not exactly that simple. Sometimes you'll still get burned out and run out of ideas and need breaks and new books and rants to friends. And it's harder to stay in the good cycle than it is to fall into the bad cycle.

But think about it. Inspiration is always, always worth the perspiration.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Rise of the Female Robin Hood

I’ve noticed a trend in Robin Hood literature lately. I first noticed it on Figment, when, out of curiosity, I searched for “Robin Hood.” Basically the results could be divided into two categories: 1) BBC fanfiction and 2) girl Robin Hoods.

One in particular struck me: it was about a girl (assumedly Marian) who has taken on the name of her friend, runs a band, and wears a hood to disguise her gender. The book started out with her finding him in the forest.

This isn’t an isolated case. One of the reasons I dislike Hawksmaid is that it makes Marian the mastermind of plans. Rowan Hood has a version of Robin that I very much like, but apparently the reason his disguises always worked before was because Rowan’s mother protected him. So Rowan has to rescue him. At the end of the first book, Rowan establishes her own band. Even BBC Robin Hood, which I like, has a Marian who dresses up and plays a Robin Hood-like role.

It wasn’t until I saw this picture of my childhood Maid Marian turned into a wanted outlaw that I fully realized this trend. My first reaction was: “cool!”

Then I enlarged it, and it began to disturb me. She looks ferocious. She isn’t with Robin--she is him.

Like that story on Figment, she has usurped his place, and what is he going to do now that she’s controlling everything?

Before I go on, I’d like to address something I imagine those who know what I write are thinking: “Woah, wait, Nai. You wrote a Maid Marian book.”

This is true. I think Marian does need updating. In older stories, she’s often just a bit of a cutesy addition, a typical damsel in distress. Or, if not always a damsel in distress, then she’s underdeveloped (Vivian and Green are good examples of likable but vague Marians).

Lovely Olivia is both rather vague and damsel-in-distressy.
Further, though, I would argue that though Marian controls the POV of my story and is thus the main character, she is not quite the hero. She goes through a character change--one could even say she becomes softer, more feminine. Because of Robin Hood. She wouldn’t have gotten involved in his life if he hadn’t brought her in. He knew from early on what her motives were, and he let her stay anyway. He let her hurt him. I think my readers would agree that Robin is the true hero of Forest of Lies.

My Marian has fire and strength, but she doesn’t attempt to be Robin Hood. Women can be strong without becoming men.

And in this roundabout way, I’ve gotten to the heart of the issue.

Marian has usurped Robin because that is the age we live in. There seem to be two extremes: the raging feminists who want to be treated as men, and the most conservative of homeschoolers who believe girls need to own dolls and play harps. As a girl who likes both cross-stitch and stabbing people (fencing), I don’t think these extremes are necessary.

This isn’t just important in our world, but in our stories, as we build heroic men and women.

Just as Robin doesn’t have to be clonking everyone on the head with quarterstaffs to be a man, Marian doesn’t have to steal his name to be worth something. At the same time, she doesn’t have to always be weaving tapestries to be a woman.

They can be partners. Partners in love, partners in adventure. Equal and different.

Man and woman.

Robin and Marian.
H. G. Theaker

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tribute to OYAN Summer Workshop 2012

2 hours, 59 minutes. Name tags. MNU. Nervous laughter. Apprehension. Bell. Enthusiastic welcomes. Tables. Name tags, name tags. Narwhals stolen. Red fedora. Twisted strings. Rolling tables. No room keys. Familiar faces. Unfamiliar hair. Platypi as bush babies. Laughter. Nerves. Joy. Sian. Sandy. Jonny. Braden, Blaine. Kyle. Isaac. On and on. Music, dancing. T-shirts for sale! Room key mess. Survive. Line, line, endless line. 174. Is this 174? Pizza. Time-travel. Brain dead. Hello to strangers. Real names, fake names. Not strangers. Friends. Surprise. Sheepish. Chocolate. Cards. Love. Foot circle. Spider-man and friends. Introduce yourself. Tianna. Hug. Hug forever, please. Just the beginning; not even the beginning. Bed. Sleep.

Dress. Sleeves. TARDIS. Seats. So many. Oh, so many. PenKnights in fedoras. He has the clicker. Mr. S. Every book is a TARDIS. Every writer is the Doctor. Every reader is a companion. It’s here. I can’t believe it’s here. Life. Precious. Important. Shipwreck. Value. On stage. 12th century. Belong. “Food.” Sleeve adventures. Nerves. Owls. Kalina, Lindsay, Miles, Justin, Sandy, Sierra, Brian. Bjorn. Where is Bjorn? Bjorn is late. Uncomfortable. Awkward. Read. Critique. It’s okay. Sporks. Afternoon blur. Skype Er. Hug Tianna, I’m sure. Platypi supper. Laughter. Memories. Stuffed platypi! Gross greasy grouse. Man vs. Cafeteria. Laughter. Pictures. Video. Mark Twain in TARDIS. Golden arm. Amazing. First fifty pages. Cheers. Drink. Cheers. Drink. Cheers. Question and answer. Good stuff. Grassy Knoll. Search for Blaine. OYANers go poof. Curfew. Die. Not really. (Love you, Mr. S.)

Mrs. S. is a pirate. Celtic day. Hug Tianna. Gaelic Gangsters. Dancing Texans don’t dance. Bolts of lightening. No useless knowledge. Leaf. Niggle. Knight of Elyon. Write, always write. Of course. Write. Never stop. Write. Description. Pain in head. Description inhales air quickly. I will learn. Lunch. Light saber fights. Costumes. Costumes. Costumes. Critique group. Bjorn late again. More comfortable. Lone Wolf, Chelsea Smile, Third Time, Forest of Lies...Sporks again. Hug Tianna. Celtic singing. Trash can? Drum. Kilt. Scarborough Fair. Amazing Grace. Food and laughs. Silent football. Mister Gamemaster, sir. Platypi row. Christian Speculative Fiction. Largest group in nation. Too many good books. World details. Long list. I am sunk. I can still learn, right? Music, music, music. Mr. S. is Scottish. Hug. Sing. Dance. Laugh. So many groups. Fiddler on the Roof. Shared cookie. Halfway. How can we be halfway. How?

Pony coloring book. Robin Hood in afro. Or William Tell? Pen mightier than arrow...Publishing houses and proposals. Good with me. Panel. Critique groups. I am late. Mentoring session. Exciting. Editor. New York City. Return. Pepperoni animals. Parliament of Pepperoni Animals Eating Owls with Sporks? Maybe. Just maybe. Whovians. So many. Everything grows. Awful lot of running. Dinner. Ice cream sticks. Laughter. Sides hurt. Contest videos. Braden sings. Crush on characters? Yeeeeep. Adventure box, God box. Same box. <3 C. S. Lewis. Improv. More laughter. Book quotes. Wal-mart. 95% of the Earth. Rebellion! D.y.i.n.g. Posing with TARDIS. Improv team becomes cooler. Kor’Vare is mature. Tired. Sprinklers. Refuse depression.

Prey on the weak that you might be strong. Wow, Sarumon. IRS agent. Accents, accents, more accents. On stage. God through me. Blab. Hope they get it. Think they get it. Jesus won. They must get it. Laughing Lothlorien Ladies. Dudney and Jonny. Mr. S. and Mr. Oswald. Changing world. Exciting. Platypi lunch. Signing t-shirts. Mocking signing t-shirts. Laughter. So much laughter. Late to critiques again. Denouement is working. Hurrah! Important things: signing, signing, signing. Music and tumblr. Disney face swap. Braden. Taped. Execution. Out with the...cameras. Photo shoot of Addison’s face. Mini-Ten and my hat at supper. Calleigh’s swords. Poking. Ice cream contest. It’s almost over. How did this happen. Enjoy it. Enjoy it now. Eat sugar for supper. Real food is bleh. CELERY. CoatRack. Singing. Marxist turtles. Quilt. War of Two Trees. Life and Death. Tears. Thunderous applause. We’re bigger on the inside. Testimonies. So many. More tears. Good tears. That’s love. Love hurts. Beauty hurts. Extended curfew. Still too short. Last hug. She’s gone. Winding down. Prayer. Talking. Ninja. Goodbye, Elizabeth x 6. Cry. Countdown. Love. Tears. Laughter. So. Much. Love. Heaven. Hugs & Tears. Flying man-hugs. Inside jokes. Change the world. O.Y.A.N. Life is good. Very good. Beautiful.

So much to come. Separated. Strong.

OYAN Workshop 2012.

My image.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Let's Make this Official, Shall We?

I am out of town. I have been since June 5th. I will be until the beginning of July. I was originally optimistic about getting some blogging done, but the truth is I'm busy and distracted and it probably won't happen, especially with the fantabulous One Year Adventure Novel Summer Workshop next week.

So, unless I get a stroke of brilliance AND time at the same moment, I will be gone until July.

See you then and God bless.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Reality of Writing for God

My image.
I’ve semi-recently made a huge mess of my Forest of Lies rewriting. The chapters that I expected to be a breeze I’ve accidentally destroyed and I’m left scrambling trying to put them back together.

Recently, I whined about this to my good (poor) friend Penny. In the course of the conversation, I said this:

"It is very much a huge mess.

I've been praying about it a lot.

It's still a huge mess."

Penny said: "Praying doesn't necessarily make the mess go away, just makes you more able to handle the mess. :P"

I replied “yeah, I know,” but what I had said and what she said stuck in my mind. And it’s made me think.

I still remember the events that made me give, give, and re-give my writing to God with something like awe. It really is an amazing thing, especially my first realization of: “I couldn’t have written that on my own.”

As I often say, “I couldn’t write something that beautiful, because I’m not that beautiful.” The idea is a freeing one, at first. You think of phrases like God’s words through my fingertips and if this only makes You happy, it’s still worth it. The real-life application of the latter of those phrases took me a long time to learn.

But there’s another component.

As I’ve worked on this draft of Forest of Lies, I have felt especially blessed in finally being allowed to work on it. I tried unsuccessfully for two and a half years, and I wonder if during those years God purposefully held me back, letting me grow as a person and as a Christian before I tackled the final story edit.

But as I work on it, I feel a huge responsibility. God has show me time and time again how Draft III has glorified Him in spite of its faults. As I work on correcting those faults, I’m terrified of somehow snuffing out the heart of this story, that somehow it won’t touch people like it has anymore.

As I also wrestle more thoroughly with its tangled and messy themes of Truth, Love, true Christianity, and awe-inspiring Forgiveness, I am more worried about getting something wrong. This has been especially evident as I struggle with two crucial scenes: the showdown and the denouement. They bring these themes voice in a way that has to carry the weight of the entire story. I want these scenes to have no unnecessary elements, no preachy lines--all realness and rawness of the human condition and sacrificial Love.

Because of that, I have been writing in my prayer journal over and over again: “God, I give this to You. This is Yours.”

And it is His.

But He’s not necessarily going to come down, point a finger at my screen, and write it for me. I got a snippet of who He is when writing Forest of Lies’s showdown--one snippet out of 45,000 words.

My point?

I need to write. Without fear.

I will pray, and I will search, and I will try to make this story as true as it can possibly be in a fallen world coming from a fallen but redeemed human. But writing for God doesn’t mean plot problems with supernaturally unsnarl or I will always know where to go with the themes He puts in my heart.

Mostly, it means that whatever good comes out of my fumbling attempts--I give the glory to Him.

Does anyone else struggled with real-life application of Soli Deo Gloria?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Good Dialogue: What Characters Say...and What They Don't

Dialogue is the easiest part of writing for me. People have often complimented me on my dialogue, so I have in general toted it as my strength (with detail being my definite weakness).

Working through my fourth draft of Forest of Lies, however, I have been deleting or revising a lot of my dialogue. Most of it has to do with weakness in the dialogue itself. I would place my deletions in three categories:

1. My characters over-address each other. Apparently I like their names so much I had them say each others' names a ton.

2. My characters talk too much--sometimes for four hundred uninterrupted words. Perhaps this is a negative effect from my love of Shakespeare.

3. My characters say too much. I’ve heard, probably from Mr. S., that good dialogue can rely as much on what characters don’t say as what they do say. I’ve learned how true that is from working on Robin’s dialogue (I have changed some of Marian and Much’s dialogue for the same reason, but it’s most striking with Robin).

Robin is a fascinating, complex character that is amazing to work with. However, some of his dialogue still clinging around in draft III, or even written for draft III, is dialogue of discovery. Discovery for me, the author. Basically everything he says is true...either about himself, or his past, or his beliefs. I just now know that he wouldn’t say these things.

Robin’s a very close, private person. He’d rather risk bodily harm than really open up his heart to others. He’s been through a lot of emotional abuse, so he just keeps it locked away. This actually becomes an issue for him later in life. Point being, though, Robin wouldn’t really say this (chapter 7):
   “Oh Marian!” he sobbed, “I never told her. I never told her that it was I who murdered her husband, started all her troubles. She told me once that she had forgiven whoever did it, but she would never forget. He--I--laughed to her face when I had finished, and ran off. I never can tell her now, Marian. And I don’t know if I can ever tell her son. The longer I keep it wrapped up inside me, the harder it gets, the more it weighs me down. And yet the harder it becomes to let it out. I never can tell her, now. Never kill someone, Marian,” he looked up, into my face, his eyes brimming with tears again. “Not only does it shove aside one of our Lord’s commandments, it haunts you for the rest of your life. At times, I still see the blood on my hands.”
Now, as I said, this is all true. It’s what he really feels. When I wrote it, it helped me in developing his back story. But he wouldn’t really say it. In draft IV, this is how I currently have the same section:
   “I never told her,” he said, looking up at me, eyes like deep wounds of brimming blue blood, “I never told her and--now--Timothy...Timothy...”
    His eyes shone with a strange light, and he looked at his hands, grasping and grasping and grasping at the ground before his knees. When he spoke again, his voice was surprisingly clear. Low and clear, but tinged with violent madness.
   “Never kill someone, Marian. Never kill someone. Not only does it shove aside one of our Lord’s commandments, it haunts you for the rest of your life.” He turned one of his hands over, touched it with one finger. “At times...” He shook his head.
Not only is the entire section shorter (152 to 111 words), but the dialogue shrinks from 138 words to 40 words.

This is Robin at his most vulnerable. After this section, Marian sees the “walls in his eyes” go up again. This is her most successful breaching of those walls--and he still doesn’t give her even a quarter of what I used to have him give. A huge chunk of 250 words comes right before the 152 words I shared here, and I cut them all. I’ve shared the most intact part of this section from draft III to draft IV.

People don’t always say what they mean. They don’t say everything they think and feel. Even those that seem like they do (Marian) hold things back. The job of the author is to know both what they say--and what they don’t say.

What’s the hardest part of dialogue for you?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Stories are Complicated

I do counted cross-stitch.

No, I’m not some big expert--so far, I’ve done three Dimension kits, which means you get the fabric, needle, thread, and pattern all in one package. Two of my previous projects are about 5” by 7” and one is 16” by 7” (though not even all of those squares are stitched).

For some crazy reason (read: I really like Robin Hood), I decided that my next one would just be a pattern, finished project 20” by 15”, completely stitched, for which I would have to buy all of my own supplies.

This decision has left me thinking several times: “why the heck did I decide to tackle this thing?!”

Strangely, that’s a very similar thought to what I had last week while working on editing my novel, Forest of Lies. Maybe this is a sign that Robin Hood is bad for my nerves.

Let me back up.

When a normal person thinks of a story, they probably think of a single line:

If you’re a bit more educated in how a story works, maybe your single line looks more like this:

If you’re an OYAN student, it looks both like that AND this:

My point here, though, is that on every single one of those graphs, the story is represented by ONE LINE.

Back to cross stitch.

When doing a cross stitch pattern, you buy a long piece of thread called floss. The floss is very easily separated into six strands, or ply. Usually you don’t use all six when stitching--most of the time I use two, sometimes using just one and sometimes three.

My problems with Forest of Lies currently have to do with threads of story. I have the main, simple, plotted outline of events. But inside this simple line, I have so many different things going that it’s overwhelming. I have:

-Marian’s progression on her own, as a character.
-The progression of Robin & Marian’s relationship
-Robin’s own progression
-Much’s progression
-Much/Robin relationship
-Much & Marian’s relationship progression

Inside these, I have even more threads. Mixed between the Robin/Marian relationship, Marian’s own journey, and some of Robin’s is:
-The faith/heresy discussion
-The attraction
-Both of them trying to ignore said attraction for different reasons
-The politics of medieval England and the state of the peasants
-Robin’s past and health
-Marian trying to make a choice

It's not one stinkin' line. It's a thousand different lines, none of them taking the shortest route between two points.

Even these do not stand on their own, but are all mixed up together. I feel betrayed by my book last week (and am still wary of it today, I admit). It clipped along so merrily until chapter 9, and then suddenly I’m drowning in mixed-up, tangled-up story, character, and relationship lines, trying to figure out which of them to use and how and I thought: “hey, this is like cross stitch floss!”

Except it’s not. A thread of floss is only six strands, and those strands can maybe be split into two smaller ones. So, twelve.

Unfortunately, my story is not so uniform. It’s not all one color, one theme, or one relationship. It’s not nicely packaged for me. In fact, it’s more like the monstrously huge project itself--147 different colors, all with six strands, needing to be woven onto 18 count aida cloth that is 20” by 15”. And someone’s gone and pulled all the labels off my floss and tossed them all together.

People are complicated.

Emotions are complicated.

Motivations are complicated.

Relationships are complicated.


Stories are complicated, just like real life.

Anyone who tells you otherwise hasn't written one.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Through Fire Comes Gold

Today has been rough.

Scratch that, this week has been rough.

After some rough months.

I mean this all in the completely first-world sense, mind. Emotionally rough would be a better description, considering I'm not scrambling for food to eat or clothes to wear or shelter to live under.

There's just College and Jobs and Money and Scholarships and Somehow Finish High School and Things I Want and Things I Need and what if the two can't both happen?

In times like this, when I'm crying over songs that remind me of the college I love and can't afford or over pictures of people I love in a place far away and things I'm missing...

I just want to go to that Technicolor world...

Robin Hood & Marian Fitzwalter in the 1938 Robin Hood
That world of wit and danger, romance and justice, beautiful dresses, leather jerkins, jaunty hats, and yes, even maybe those ridiculous lovable Sherwood.

It's not just the trappings of it, what makes it a fun flight of fancy, but it's the virtues at the core, where you are just courageous and good-hearted and know how to laugh at yourself. It is carefree, but it's not fluffy. It's a good, solid, strong world of bright color: the Robin Hood legend.

But then I think.

I looked at and fell in love with this wonderful world, but then I wrote about this boy:
He lost everything when he was 8 years old. A man claimed him, body and soul, and tortured him for eight years. He escaped a broken young man who in the end wanted death. An elderly monk snatched him from the jaws of self-hatred and despair and taught him about the One who died for him. Because He loved this boy. This boy, sixteen years old, began to learn to live again. A year later, he met a girl. He met a girl who was as lost and starved for love as he had been, but didn't realize it. Feeling the call of his God, he made up his mind to try to help her, heal her, love her. In the end, he loved her more than he had ever intended.

And she rejected him. Betrayed him.

He let her. He went back to the man who broke him. He lost someone he loved. He thought he would die. He thought he had failed her.

But in the end, he showed her what what Love was--who Love was. She saw the Truth and she finally accepted it.

Their story didn't end there, of course--his story didn't end. More trials came, but through more trials, more beauty.

There's nothing wrong with the legend of Robin Hood how it is--it is inspiring, and I still love it dearly. But writing and discovering my Robin's life (for he is the boy) I've discovered more beauty then I ever encountered in the stories I love.

I think of this, and then I think of that good, brightly-colored world of the original legend and I remember how his--Robin Hood, man of legend--story ends. He's murdered. If he had done less, said less, been less, his story wouldn't have ended like that. But the way it ended was worth it because of the things he did.

Just as my Robin's life was worth it because it made him who he is.

Just as my relatively small troubles are worth it because they're preparing me for who I am to become--and what I am to write.

Because if I lived in the world of The Adventures of Robin Hood, I don't think I would have ever told my Robin's story.

And I wouldn't give up that experience for the world.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Joys of Writing Historical Fiction

I recently mentioned on a Christian fantasy blog I read that I never really intend to write fantasy again.

Sienna, author of the blog, responded:

"...who knows, you may end up writing fantasy again! I'm sure if you do you'll find it a refreshing break from all the meticulous research."

I do not quote her because I want tear this apart. I quote it because I want to explain something.

I get this reaction from fantasy and science fiction writers a lot. They, in general, see research as fetters. Chains and limitations on the imagination. So of course, I must be some super-writer to endure these miles of research on clothing, Medieval religion, peasant buildings, government structure, kings, nobles, rebellions...

Originally, the phrases “historical accuracy” and “research” were somewhat synonymous with “choke chain” in my mind, I admit. The reason I went with a pseudo-medieval human fantasy in the first place was because I didn’t want to research. One of the many things that book taught me, however, was I can’t really do fantasy, or at very least do it well.

“Why?!” gasp the fantasy adherents. “There is such freedom!”

Well, true. There is freedom. There’s too much, for me. The canvas is too wide-open, stretching for miles. I, quite simply, am not that good with just making up cultures. They remind me too much of real cultures and end up looking fairly alike.

So, deadly research is the only other way. I’m doomed. No, actually, not really.

Think about it this way.

The fantasy writer embraces the open canvases, painting deep, rich cultures, creatures, histories, and place their epic tales in this canvas. It’s amazing, really.

But don’t see musty books when you think of the historical fiction writer researching. Imagine instead a canvas already full of rich cultures and people, who have thousands of years of history, and just as many thousand stories begging to be told. Research is the discovery. The fantasy writer creates a wild jungle down to the tiniest detail: foliage, bugs, ferocious creatures, and the tribes that live there. The historical fiction writer helicopters in and discovers the foliage, bugs, ferocious creatures, and the tribes that live there.

Add to this the fact that this jungle actually exists or actually existed. You’re walking among the tales of humanity, God’s ultimate creation. There’s something awe-inspiring about that, something magical in recreating the ordinary life of 800 years ago. The circumstances are vastly different, but they are still people, human beings capable of so much good and so much evil.

One of the greatest joys I experienced in the switch from fantasy to historical fiction was the realm of the real, living God. I didn’t have to attempt to allegorize Him or decide if I can fit Him in my world. I am in His world, discovering His world and His creations with characters who can really know Him, not an attempted copy of who He is. It brings it all that much closer to my heart.

Fantasy (and science fiction) writers dream of a world that never will be. Historical fiction writers dream of the world that was. Both see how these worlds relate to the one we actually live in. Both have their challenges and rewards. Both are beautiful.

But I am a historical fiction writer, through and through.

Don’t imagine me in fetters.

I’m free: discoverer and explorer of God’s beautiful earth and his breathtaking story--History.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Beautiful People: One Year Edition

Beautiful People is turning one! This special edition has two sets of questions and focuses on two characters and their relationship to each other. Probably not surprisingly, I'm going with Robin and Marian, since I've been dealing with that relationship a lot lately...some of them I'll answer, some of them they will. And some of them I'll answer in context of them being in the middle of the book, others at the end. :P (read: some of them they'll like each other, others they won't.)

Part 1: Answer these questions for both characters.

1. Do they believe in anything that most people think is impossible?
Robin: A beautiful God who loves us? I'm not sure if "most" people think it is impossible...
Marian: Well, sometimes I have trouble believing it and yet I know it's true and have seen it played out multiple times.
Robin: True.

2. Are they strong, or the "damsel/knight in distress" sort?
As far as mentally/spiritually, they're both pretty strong. Robin would argue otherwise about himself, but I hope by now you know you don't listen to Robin when he talks about himself. Physically, Marian's about as strong as your typical girl. Robin struggles with good reason. Robin's also the more emotionally battered, and makes poor choices sometimes because of that, but still plugs onward.

3. Do they have a special place? (e.g. a corner in his/her bedroom, under a tree...)
Robin: My bow and something to shoot at.
Marian: SOMETHING...
Robin: Non-human...:P
Marian: Mm-hm.
Robin: Anyway, if that counts. I like the forest quite a lot, too.
Marian: Which is a very good thing, considering question 4.
Robin: Exactly.
Marian: As to THIS question, I actually like the forest a lot, too...

4. What occupation do they have, or plan on having?
Robin: I have an unstable position in the social sphere.
Marian: *snort* He's an outlaw and proclaimed heretic, and I'm estranged for a number of reasons...we're both social crusaders of the common good.
Robin: ...

5. Describe their current place of residence.
Lots of trees. They live in Sherwood Forest.

6. Explain their last crisis. How had they changed when they came out of it?
You could basically call all of Forest of Lies a crisis, and as such it would spoil the book to explain it all. Suffice it to say they both went through a lot, made good and bad decisions, and learned a lot about themselves and God. They both came out of it more scarred, but also stronger and wiser.

7. If they could drive any kind of car they wanted, what would it be?
Robin: I wouldn't drive a car to save my life. Mostly because driving a car would probably not save my life...
Marian: Something fast. :P
Robin: You would.
Marian: You know it.

8. How do they deal with change?
Marian tends to have a "oh what the heck? *dives in*" attitude. Robin's a lot more reserved, to say the least. He doesn't like change, but usually does face it head-on.

9. If they had to amputate one body part, which one would they choose?
Marian: O.o
Robin: A foot? NOT my hands.
Marian: I'd say NOT my feet or legs. So I guess that means a hand...
Robin: I'd go insane if I couldn't do archery.
Marian: Well I'd go insane if I couldn't run.
Robin: There we go then. Robin Hood the footless and Maid Marian the handless.
Marian: What I do, steal something?
Robin:...that's not funny.
Marian: Sorry.

10. What would their favorite be at the local coffee shop?
Robin would probably just take something dark. I imagine Marian would put all kinds of stuff in hers, and possibly experiment every time she went. Considering I don't know much about coffee, I'll just leave it at that.

Part 2: Here are 5 more questions. These ones are focused more on that relationship we mentioned above. The goal is to become more familiar with the way your two characters relate with one another.

1. How did they meet?
The soldiers threw someone forward, to the ground. His hands scrambled on the floor. I couldn’t see his face; dark blood matted his hair. The shreds of his tunic clung to his torn back.
A soldier stepped forward. “My Lord--”
“I am having a meeting with Sir Guy and his daughter. I said there were to be no interruptions.”
He halted and I came up beside him. Adelaide grabbed my elbow. I attempted to jab her in the ribs again, but she dodged.
“But my Lord Sheriff...” the soldier protested.
“I meant it! Do you wish--?”
“My Lord Sheriff,” a new voice said, a teasing accent on the Norman words. The Sheriff’s dark dog growled as the young man on the ground rose. “I believe you know me?”

Marian had just met the man she hoped to marry, and Robin believed he was about to come back under the power of the man who broke him.

Was it the same man? Well...

2. How do these two deal with conflict?
They can actually both be good at escalating conflict, which is why they have so many arguments in Forest of Lies. Robin is more likely to want to avert conflict, but doesn't when something he believes in deeply is attacked--which is basically what Marian attacks, unless she's attacking him personally (no, they aren't quite the normal Robin Hood couple...). He doesn't usually initiate arguments with her, but he stands his ground when she attacks him.

This isn't really to say Marian is petty, because she either believes or thinks she believes what she says and believes Robin deserves what she deals him. As far as character goes, she generally deals with conflict better. Robin doesn't deal with it as well emotionally. If Robin said the things to her that she said to him, she'd just go: "jerk" and brush it off. Robin can't forget.

Then of course, there's this other, weird side of him that makes him stand in the middle of the road and tell-off powerful church men...

3. Do they have a special song, phrase, item, or place?
Robin & Marian: *look at each other*
Robin: We ought to. We'll get back to you on that...
Marian: There is always Sherwood.
Robin: That's basically what we answer to everything, isn't it?
Marian: Aye...

4. What kind of things do they like to do together?
Okay, once they like each other they do like to do archery together, visit and help peasants, and of course [spoiler]. They don't really need to be doing anything particular. They're both very intelligent and like talking. They continue to argue even after they decide the like each other, though in a playful vein (most of the time). Also, as established, walking in the forest together.

5. Describe their relationship as a whole in 3 words, or less.
In Forest of Lies: Tension. Attraction. Misunderstanding.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

To Turn Back Time

Hey all!

I have something a bit different today.

I have a good friend (and fellow OYANer) who is a filmmaker. Actually, I have several friends who are filmmakers (woot, Christian filmmakers!) but I'm only talking about one of them here.

This is his next project:

“To Turn Back Time” is the story of John, who has just graduated college, when he wakes up one morning to discover that his long deceased father is alive. After getting to know his father—something he’s longed for his entire life—he discovers his dad’s presence isn’t the only thing that’s different. The rest of his family has changed too, along with his own ability to help his girlfriend Alyssa through the death of her mother. In the end, he’s faced with a terrible choice: to stay in the world where his father lives and lose the man he’s become, or give it up for the sake of the love of those around him.

Here's a video with some of the cast and crew talking about this film:

Why am I posting about it?

Well, besides the fact that I think it looks amazing, they need funding to be able to make this film. From the website:
The story of “To Turn Back Time” is intensely personal to writer / director, Keifer Lucchi, who lived through the death of his father at the age of seven. As memories and buried emotions started to resurface, Lucchi allowed himself to deal with what had happened for the first time in his life, and the story for “To Turn Back Time” was born.

Lucchi has felt a call to make the movie since its inception, as a memorial to Michael Lucchi, the father he never got to know. Lucchi also wishes to create an emotional offering to all those who have lost loved ones, and who may still find hope even in the pain and death, while creating a story that will allow others to stand by and support those who’ve gone through something similar.

But he’s already not the only member of the cast and crew to share a personal affinity to the story.

Christina Espiritu, the actress slated to play the part of John’s girlfriend, Alyssa, witnessed the death of her own mother, Melissa Espiritu, to cancer just over two years before principle photography. Christina’s experiences were eerily similar to what Alyssa experiences in the film, which is dedicated to her mother as well. It’s our honor to have such an actress on-board to bring life to a character that represents so many who have lost loved ones in a similar way.

By the grace of God, so much has already come together toward this film. During the pre-production process we’ve already been blessed in so many ways! However: the time has come for the final pull before production can begin, and to really get the ball rolling we need $10,000.

We need money to rent and purchase top-of-the-line film equipment to make this idea a reality. We need your help and support to make this possible.

Please help us share this story with the world, and, in doing so, provide some measure of hope, peace and closure for those who have lost someone dear to them. Donations to our kickstarter campaign can be made here, both on behalf of those who were lost and those who watched them go.

- The Cast and Crew of “To Turn Back Time
As a friend of Keifer's, I can further vouch for his desire to glorify God through Film and Story--and the way he strives for the quality in his work that will make the stories that much more powerful.

I don't want to be an arm-twister, so I'm not going to beg and plead at this moment but just ask you to pray about backing this project--and as he's said, even $5 donations will add up! If you further feel like spreading the word about this, that would also help immensely. The website is here and you can donate here. If the project doesn't get fully funded in 20 days, you don't pay anything.

Thank you for reading and God bless!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Perpetually Nineteen: Much of Nottingham

Much's non-historically accurate (that is, never used in the book) catchphrase.
I've been thinking about Much (ally in Forest of Lies) a lot. I wrote a post for him, I shared his song...and today is his birthday! He's either 840 or 19 (as always) today. Originally I had the one-year anniversary edition of Beautiful People going up today with a P.S. at the end, but he's obviously more important than a P.S. (Much: *obviously*.)

So instead, I thought I'd do something I don't do often here, and share the new and already infamous hair-cutting scene that I've been teasing my fans with by mentioning and not sharing. This is "characters [read: Much] taking over a scene and making it better" at its finest. I need to cut it down a bit, but I'm not doing that today.

So, here are the 789 words of Chapter 7, Draft IV, in their unedited glory. I hope you enjoy them. Happy April 1st!
“Robin,” I said.
“What?” he muttered, adjusting his grip on the weapon Much had give him.
“I need to cut my hair.”
His eyebrows jumped higher than I thought I had ever seen them before. “What?”
“I can’t keep control of it,” I said. “I’m going with Much to buy the clothes. And I’m coming with you. To Jacqueline’s wedding.”
“You can’t return to Nottingham like that,” he said.
“Well, isn’t that what you want?” I said, annoyed that he would so quickly decide it couldn’t be allowed.
“I’m not about to cut your hair, Lady Marian.”
“Why not?”
“It’s dishonorable,” he said.
“So is, I’m sure, living with a bunch of outlaws, and yet I’m doing that.”
“Marian...” he said.
“Robin...” I mimicked.
He glared at me, blue eyes flashing. “I’m not going to cut your hair,” he repeated.
“Well I’m doing it,” I said. “It will look terrible, but I’ll do it anyway.”
Much walked by, twirling his sword and humming something. I raised my voice. “Maybe Much will help me.”
“Huh?” he said.
“Robin won’t help me with my hair.”
“What do you need, lady mine?” Much teased.
“She wants it cut,” Robin said.
“Oh,” Much said, eyebrows imitating Robin’s. “Why?”
“You’ve seen the mess and trouble it is,” I said.
“Oh indeed,” Much said, obviously in a good mood. “How cruel not to help her, Robin.”
“You do it, if you think I’m cruel,” Robin muttered.
“I’m sure I’d accidentally cut her neck or something else just as dreadful,” Much said. He mimed fatalities that seemed to mostly consist of me fainting. The he continued in a sappy voice, “Considering your obvious higher skill in archery over swordsmanship, surely you are the better choice--”
“All right!” Robin said, voice rising.
“All right what?” I asked.
“I can’t fight both of you. How short do you want it? Would you prefer to be bald?”
His words seemed to suggest teasing, but there was something else in his voice that disconcerted me.
“Er--around my shoulders, I guess,” I said. “That’s not too long, is it? I mean, for men’s styles?”
“For noblemen,” Much said.
“Well I don’t want it shorter,” I said, tension tightening my shoulders in spite of myself. “I don’t know how long it takes to grow it back.”
Much now mimed mile-long hair. “I imagine awhile, lady dear.”
“I wish I had something to hit you with,” I said.
“Do I just use my dagger?” Robin asked, polite but dead-solemn.
Much fainted.
“Gar!” I said, grabbing Robin’s borrowed sword from the ground and rushing at Much.
He rolled away and stood, dark eyes dancing as he drew his sword.
“Er...” I said, looking down at the weapon I held in two hands and then up to the man high above me. “En garde!”
“You Norman!” Much laughed, banging it easily out of my grasp, and wringing my wrists in the process.
“Ouch,” I said, rubbing them.
Even Robin laughed at that.
“Now,” Much said, taking my hand. “For the butchering of mine maiden’s fair locks.”
“Don’t say it like that,” I said, nervous again. For a moment I was very glad I didn’t have a mother on the earth anymore.
“Doesn’t it cut better when wet?” Robin asked.
“I’ll get some water!” Much volunteered.
Robin rolled his eyes. “With all of his helpfulness,” he remarked, “you’d think he’d just do it himself. I’m sorry in advance for butchering it.”
“So long as you don’t butcher me,” I said, mimicking Much’s fainting throes. Robin didn’t smile.
I faltered.
“Are you angry with me?”
He moved behind me and took some of my hair in hand. His fingers brushed my back.
“My fault,” I said, gathering up the hair myself.
Then the tidal wave hit.
I staggered forward, stunned for a moment by my sudden change in temperature and clothing.
“Much!” Robin hollered.
I spun around. “Much-the-miller’s-son-I-will-kill-you!”
He was long gone, leaving me dripping wet and Robin trying desperately not to laugh.
“Well it’s wet now,” I said.
“That it certainly is.”
I dripped over to him and sat down on the log.
He didn’t say anything, but when he took up my hair again his hands were shaking.
“You can laugh, Robin.”
So he did.
I felt safer after that.
My hair soon lay in frightening sodden heaps, with the fringes brushing my shoulders.
“Now what do we do with it?” Robin asked, scratching the back of his neck.
“Er...” I said, gathering it up. He helped me, solemn as ever, though we had nothing to do with the dripping mess.
“You have a good friend, Robin,” I found myself saying.
He grinned all the way to his eyes.
“I know.”

Monday, March 26, 2012

Writing Vulnerably

Image mine, edited on Picnik
I tell people that sharing your work gets easier. That's partially true. I need to start telling them that it gets easier, but not really. You get used to it, not immune to it. That would be the real truth.

Even with that, though, I was surprised at a nigh-on panic attack I had when about to read something to my very awesome critique group, the Rivendell Platypi (yes, it's a long story).

I've mostly shared Quintessence with the Platypi. Actually, that's where my first scenes aired, before I had even officially started the book I was sharing it with them. It was also with them that I first did the horrifying read-aloud sharing, and, surprisingly, lived to tell about it.

Point being: I love these people. I trust these people. I know these people aren't going to rip me to shreds, though I expect them to give me advice on my work. Not only that, but I have given them my work before and received that advice.

And yet, I was shaking. I had to hold my knees down, one of my legs was doing that weird, very bobbly (that's not a word...hmm...) shaking movement, my heart was thudding, and it took me about thirty seconds before I could make myself start reading it.

One thing I said in those thirty seconds was: "This book is terrible!" which I quickly followed with: "that's not what I mean. It's just, so much about it."

My awesome peers assured me that that was exactly what the deal was. (They also then didn't critique hardly anything about the excerpt, so apparently I went through that agony for nothing...)

Not surprisingly, the excerpt was from Forest of Lies.

I had said something the day before on Facebook about trying to pick an excerpt. After some discussion, I said this:

It's not that I was looking for the most polished or worried that it was all bad. You guys have convinced me to go with the more emotionally vulnerable, however. ‎(Like all of FoL isn't emotionally vulnerable. *eye roll*)

Aha! Bingo. There it is. VULNERABLE.

There are few things closer to my heart than Forest of Lies, if ANYTHING is.

I think that is what has made it so resonate with readers. Reading draft III, you see a lot of my heart as a 15 and 16-year-old. Reading draft IV, you're going to see my heart as an eighteen-year-old. Forest of Lies is my heart story.

Awhile back, I posted a link to a blog post called The Honest Stain of Truth. Though in a slightly different vein, it also talks about honest writing--vulnerable writing.

There's a quote by someone (sorry, someone), that goes something like this: "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader."

What am I trying to say with this long and rambling post?

You can write well without bearing your heart. But I think your readers will know. They'll also know when you're being honest with them--and I think those kind of stories are the ones that stay in your heart--because they came from the heart of another.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Writing Romance as a Christian & Teen

From one of my medieval history books. All together now: "ewwwww..."
How did I end up here?

Fact no. 1: A few years ago, I was strongly averse to any kind of romance. I blame BBC Robin Hood for starting my serious breakdown (note: BBC Robin Hood came AFTER I wrote Forest of Lies).

Fact no. 2: I originally didn't want to write Forest of Lies when I brought the idea together (fall 2008) because I knew I was young (15!) and didn't feel I could write it yet. The book wouldn't leave me alone. I voiced those concerns to my writing teacher and he told me to write it anyway. I cried I was so happy. I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER.

Fact no. 3: Forest of Lies isn't a traditional romance by any stretch of the imagination. At least I don't think so. I haven't really read romances.But hey, it's no Romeo & Juliet. Or BBC Robin Hood. Or Rose & Doctor.


Fact no. 5: Christian publishing is basically known/stereotyped for its fluffy romances. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO...

Fact no. 6: Not to mention the (deserved) stereotype of teens writing romance. DOUBLE NO NO NO NO NO NO NO...

Get the picture?

I honestly don't know how I got here.

Or why in the world I'm enjoying it. (OYAN forum status this morning: "Nothing quite like characters who are hopelessly attracted to one another and trying to ignore it." No, no one has responded to that...)

But I figure since I say that God's responsible for this book, I guess He has me writing it for a reason. Romance and all.

In an attempt to make this post somewhat helpful (and not just a "I've gone to the dark side help meeee" rant it really is), my advice for other young writers who have fallen down the slippery hole:

1. Realize how little you know. Don't assume you know anything about romantic love. Because honestly, chances are very high that don't, if you're my age. That's why I didn't want to write this book, and I imagine it saved me from much embarrassment.

2. Then study. I don't mean go out and read as many sappy romances as possible--in fact, I'd say avoid that. Watch married couples. Read the Bible. Try to figure out what love IS. Love is something you probably DO get, even if you don't understand romance. Why? Because love is more universal. You love your friends. God loves you. Figure out what LOVE is--because love is the deep well that romance should grow on if it hopes to last.

3. Avoid the mush. Thankfully, I've never liked mush, so this was easy. Reasons I don't employ it and suggest others don't either: 1) this is likely the part you don't have a chance of understanding, 2) am I the only one who feels extraordinarily silly writing it? yes? okay, moving on...3) sheesh, these characters thought the were alone and now I do that to them? I mean really.

Anyone else experienced the "oh crud, they're falling in love" moment? Have advice to add? Don't like my advice? Thoughts on romance + young'uns + Christians?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Forest of Lies Update!

Forest of Lies: Draft IV: Phase 1: Chapter New 6

I'm currently part way into New Chapter 6--that is, the second half of Chapter 5, which I split because I added a few ginormous scenes to it. Good thing, too, or now chapter 5 would be pushing 9,000 words.

I have further named Phase 1 and Phase 2 of this editing process--Phase 1 is going to consist of going over the story aspect, adding and deleting scenes, changing stuff around, all of that big picture type of thing. Phase 2 is where I'm going to go more into the prose, editing the new scenes I've added (rough draft in the middle of draft IV stuff....ayi), working on continuity, and fixing historical accuracy components.

Because of the split process draft IV is taking, I am currently only releasing bits and pieces of the new draft, and those only to certain people and only because I feel like I might explode with all this new material and the way the story is going. I'm LOVING it.

Some stats (can you tell I like stats?):
Completely New Scenes: 7
Word Count of New Scenes: 5,836 (with around 3,600 of that coming from chapter 5)
Total Word Count of Novel: around 61,000
Net Word Gain: around 5,100

The novel word count and net word gain bounces up and down a lot, because I've also deleted large chunks of text as well as expanded other scenes already in existence. I'm hoping for a final count of around 70,000--we'll see how that goes for me.

So, what is contained within these mysterious new scenes and additions?

-Jacqueline has regained entrance to the novel prior to Old Chapter 6 (now 7), as part of the SAVE ALAN campaign
-Ralph Murdoc is more charming (and young. and handsome.)
-Chapter 4 has managed to become one of my favourite chapters, despite the fact that pre-Old 7 (now 8) chapters usually get slammed by myself.
-Much has yelled. Yes, Much can yell. In anger. Me: O.o
-Will o' th' Green has gained entrance. Robin's band has shrunk and the dynamic has changed. I like it.
-[cheesy advertisement voice] AND MUCH MUCH MORE!

And now, a new sentence or two from each chapter so far: 

Chapter 1: I about made up my mind to like him.

Chapter 2: I looped the fabric of my left sleeve around my left arm and tied it. I had often done that, in secret, after the incident where I’d almost gone up in flames.

Chapter 3: It took me about two and a half heartbeats for me to lift my skirts and tear after him.

Chapter 4: Robin whirled. “Excuse me, your grace,” he said. “But I turn my back on you for your own protection.”

Chapter 5: “You can’t help,” he said. “No one can. So stop trying. I’m just a sick heretic, why should you care anyway?”

Chapter New 6: That day, and Ralph, and the peasants’ dirty homes, and the outlaw’s blue eyes all tumbled in my head. I put one fist against it. I should sleep. I was exhausted.


I am reaching a anniversary of sorts--March 13th, 2009 is the day I turned in the last three chapters of Forest of Lies, Draft I to my creative writing teacher. Considering I turned in the first three chapters on January 9th, 2009, my Draft IV editing journeying is actually sort of mirroring my draft I writing experience, except for the obvious fact that I am much slower this time. Still, pretty cool.

Some people tell me how impressed they are with my dedication to this story. I don't really find this praise due, because it's not really a choice I've made...this story took me by the heart a long time ago and it has refused to let go, even when I tried to let go of it.

I didn't know when I finished that first draft that it would it would all be just as thrilling three years later, or possibly even more so. It's so strange when I think of how long this story has been a part of my life--and a huge part, at that.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Beautiful People: Marian

First, I apologize for dropping off the edge of the earth. The world of COLLEGE has opened its oped its ponderous and marble jaws to cast thee up--hold on. Sorry, that's Hamlet.

Anyway, college is not playing nice currently, though I am managing to get some editing done, so that's good!

I'm going with Marian again this month, because now that Forest of Lies is under construction, I'm getting back into her head (she remarks that that makes is more crowded even than usual) and she really is a great character, which I attempt to say with no conceit. Writerly types probably know what I mean.

Without further ado, Beautiful People:

1. If your character could be played by an actor, who would it be?
Actually, Lucy Griffiths of BBC Robin Hood renown would be an actress I could see playing Marian, except for two problems:

1. My character is quite different from the BBC one.

2. It's hard for me to seperate Lucy from Jonas and no, he would not be my choice for Robin.

Anyway...but she has the hair. And she's gorgeous.

2. Does your character have a specific theme song?
Yes! From the same Michael W. Smith CD album as Much's song (Hibernia) is The Giving, Marian's. Basically this entire album screams Forest of Lies at me.

3. What's their worst childhood memory?
Marian: There's not really one single thing. I suppose my childhood was actually pretty decent. My nurse dying was pretty traumatic, but...I don't know. I would guess it's more the end of my childhood that is my worst memory--when I realized that I had a father and he didn't care for me. Or not even that--but he didn't know me. And I didn't know him.

4. If your character had a superpower, what would it be?
Marian: I do have an superpower! It's called Extreme Sarcasm. I'm also good at Talking to Myself. If I could pick one, I'd go with healing.

5. If your character crashed on an island with a bunch of other people, how could your character help the group survive?
Marian: Um. Well, I could probably make some useful things with my ridiculous sleeves. I know a decent amount about herbs, too. I suppose that could help.
Me: Sarcasm could either keep people or laughing (laughing is good for you!) or make them all throw you in the ocean, too.
Marian: There is that.

6. Are they married? If not, do they someday wish to be?
Marian: I believe that's classified information.

7. What is a cause they would die for?
Marian: No specific cause...more high-flung ideals like justice and truth and love and also for all the people who are precious to me.

8. Would they rather die fighting valiantly, or quietly at home?
Marian: It depends. I like the idea of "fighting valiantly" for some noble cause (I'm contradicting my previous answer), and I also like the idea of going peacefully among the people I love. And really, I think you can do both to some extent. In any rate, I hope I don't die anytime soon.

9. If a stranger walked up to them and told them they were the child of the prophesy, would they believe them?
Marian: Nope.

10. Do they prefer the country, or the city?
Marian: The forest.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver

I have benefited greatly from the Sonlight curriculum. Not directly--I’ve never taken a year of it. I have, however, snitched what books appealed to me from the rows of different grades and read them when I pleased.

One of these is A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver, by E. L. Konigsburg, author of From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (<3). I actually read it a couple of years ago, and enjoyed it then. I recently picked it up again, though, because it’s about Queen Eleanor and I just recently finished the monarchs-and-lords-and-conquests-and-wars-oh-my! part of my England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings.

Let me tell you, I laughed.

I’m not sure what genre this book falls into--at a wild guess, creative nonfiction or creative biography. It opens in Heaven in the 20th century, with Eleanor waiting to see if her second husband, King Henry II, will get to “come Up.”. Yes, theologically, it doesn’t quite match up with my beliefs. That’s not really the point though. She’s waiting with three people who have been with her in different parts of her life--Abbot Sugar, Empress Matilda (her mother-in-law), and William Marshal (a knight). While waiting for the outcome of Henry II’s trial, these three and Eleanor herself go over the story of her life.

Not only does Konigsburg make the history fascinating, she adds in the voices of these four characters (my personal favourite is Matilda) and bits of hilarious dialogue. She paints the tapestry of a truly remarkable woman and makes the times every bit as fascinating as they were.

Queen Eleanor’s lifetime was quite lengthy, and she was quite in the mix of things! We see bits of the I believe the second crusade, France’s affairs when married to her first husband, Normandy and England’s (quite turbulent) when married to her second, and everything else mixed up: Aquataine, her quarrelsome sons, the Vexin, France again...and again, through the eyes of four different people, who speak in different ways (Matilda always refers to King Stephen as “my worthless nephew” which yes, made me laugh out loud...).

It’s a biography, and a history, and a story (as history ought to be) all wrapped up in one.

I know this isn’t a Robin Hood book, but still. Highly recommended. I can’t promise you’ll laugh out loud like I did, because that may just be a side-affect of studying too much of this time period. I do think you have a good chance of enjoying it, though, and perhaps help events and ancient peoples stick in your head a bit better, as they always do when taught about in an entertaining way.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Lady Accuracy's Lessons in 12th Century English History: II

Click here for installment number I.

Here it is at last! Today I'll be posting more random things (less Robin Hood-specific) I've learned through researching for Forest of Lies.

I actually discovered this from my medieval dress pattern. My original draft of Forest of Lies had Marian as quite the average tom-boy runaway princess type (except for the princess part). As such, she cut off her hair. I have since edited her majorly, but the lopped hair is still in there. I discovered, however, that it wouldn’t just be shameful to have one’s hair cut (if you’re a girl, that is) but it would be considered dishonorable. I’m now at the point where I’m trying to decide if I should have her leave it alone, or just make a bigger deal out of it when it happens. I’m thinking of the latter, because of the marvelous tensions it causes. (Muwaha.)

From very near the beginning, I have made my Robin a former slave of the Sheriff’s. I have since repeatedly learned that slavery had all but died out in this time period, and have subsequently wondered what to do. I’m thinking of promoting him to a serf currently, which isn’t really that much better off, especially considering the way the Sheriff seriously abuses his mastery. Plus, I get to satisfy Lady Accuracy side of me. However, I could get away with the slave status if I want to.

(Boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew...)
I discovered this via my study of American history, but the fact is this: potatoes are native to North America, and shouldn’t by any stretch of the imagination (except perhaps TARDIS) be common fare in 12th century England. I still have at least two scenes that mention them, though my biggest one (which involved Marian accidentally cutting her fingers several I the only one that finds that funny?) has been cut for other reasons.

“Ah, I see you favor the gangly youth...”
(1973 Robin Hood for the win.)
I have also discovered that in England around this time, the stereotype of really young girls married to really old guys wasn’t actually that accurate. Of course, I already knew that in the peasantry marriages of people around the same age were far more common. My sources tell me, however, that even among the noble families (again, in this specific time period and in this specific country) they weren’t likely to be very far apart, though girls generally still married younger than guys. Let’s just say that this development caused my Sheriff to look into the time vortex and age backwards about 10 years.

Last but not least, a return to girls and things they wear on their heads. Not only would it be dishonorable to cut your hair, you were generally expected to wear something on said hair. The rules were looser for unmarried girls, but married women were basically required to wear a wimple, and young girls generally wore something along these lines:

This too has brought adjustment to Marian’s wardrobe, akin to when I discovered these ridiculous sleeves.

And that is all from Lady Accuracy: until next time!

Note on sources:
I have been working on becoming proficient in this time period for so long that I rarely remember where I pick up things. However, the first claim or re-assertion to these revelations most likely go to the following:
1215 by Danny Danziger & John Gillingham
The High Middle Ages, Professor Daileader
The Medieval World, Dorsey Armstrong

All are recommended for the historical enthusiast or Lady Accuracy in you.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love is...

I didn’t really intend to write a Valentine’s Day post, but you know what? 1 Corinthians is awesome. So here I am.

I could write a post about how I’ve never really understood the “Single Awareness Day” rebellion, how I most of the time I perfectly okay with either getting married or not getting married being decided by God, and yet somehow have become something of a hopeless romantic (with the help of Forest of Lies, BBC Robin Hood, and Doctor Who). I could also blab in my own way about how love isn’t just chocolate and roses and romantic music and happy fuzzies (though it can be that too). How love is more than just a feeling.

But I think Paul says it better, so I’ll let him take it from here.

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And thought I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And thought I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and thought I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

“Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I am known.

“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

-1 Corinthians 13

Happy Valentine’s Day.

P.S. For those waiting.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Lady Accuracy's Lessons in 12th Century English History: I

As many of you know, I’m currently working on the fourth revision of Forest of Lies. During this, I have found that I really have learned something in the last two or so years that I have been studying 12th century England. I am keeping a running list of historical things to fix while I work on revising the story aspect.Here are the bit more Robin Hood-specific ones, and other things my story touches will be in the next post.

12th Century Marriages
I believed I learned this from 1215 (which would actually be 13th century marriages, but that’s close enough for me). Basically, what I learned is that the marriage ceremony, when done in correspondence with the church (which it didn’t have to be, actually), took place at the church’s doorstep. Not inside the church, as every single Alan-a-dale tale I’ve ever read has proclaimed. After the ceremony, the new couple would go inside for Mass. Because I, too, have told the Alan-a-dale story, I will have to re-work it to suit my historically accurate obsession.

(Really, Nai, really?)
Yeah, really. During my trip to Nottingham, I learned that it’s not only known as that Robin Hood town, but also as the “City of Caves.” And why? Because there is so much sandstone in the region--you could carve out caves with minimal difficulty. As such, there are lots and lots of caves. I didn’t get to visit the city’s caves on my trip, but I did make it into some of Nottingham’s castle’s (historical novelist side: SQUEEEEE!), so I have a picture (or two):

You should know that I am very proud of my discovery of these caves *before* trips to England that allowed me to use them as a plot point. VICTORYYYY.
Because of this discovery, I have decided to revamp my outlaw’s small cave into a sandstone one. Because that just makes sense.

(I’m waaaay too excited about the cave thing, aren’t I? Sigh.)

Nottingham Castle Dungeon
I’m sorry. Yes, my visit into the caves included a visit to the dungeon, where I DID take pictures despite the fact that my camera’s batteries were doing horrible by this point. And I have a morbid enough (read: author-ly enough) reason to actually really need to study this dungeon.

Let’s just say: it was smaller than I thought and I have quite a bit of editing to do because of that. There are other things I learned that will add cool (is that too nice of a word?) details and accuracy, but we’ll leave that for my book.

Friar Anselm
Don’t believe anything Robin Hood books tell you. (Except mine, of course.) Why? They’re so rife with inaccuracies it’s just laughable. Here’s another common inaccuracy, like the portrayal of weddings: in the time period most books are set (roughly 1191-1193), though a prominent character is Friar Tuck, there weren’t actually friars at this point. Hermits and monks, yes, but they would not have gone by the name “friar.” My take (destroyed/improved) on Friar Tuck, Friar Anselm, will thus get an overhaul of some kind. I’ll have to double-check, but I think if my characters referred to him as Brother Anselm, voila, they would be historically accurate.Let's ignore for now the fact that they'd be speaking Anglo-Saxon, not modern English.

And that is all from Lady Accuracy: until next time!

Note on sources:

I have been working on becoming proficient in this time period for so long that I rarely remember where I pick up things. However, the first claim or re-assertion to these revelations most likely go to the following:
1215 by Danny Danziger & John Gillingham
The High Middle Ages, Professor Daileader
The Medieval World, Dorsey Armstrong

All are recommended for the historical enthusiast or Lady Accuracy in you.

P.S. If you want more pictures or more specifics on these things, say so. You can be assured I'll be more than happy to oblige. I'm crazy, remember?
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