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?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Writing Prayers Journal

My notebook!
A friend of mine recently gave me a pretty notebook. Because I am a horrible journal-keeper (my current one is about 200 pages, half full, and dates back to May 2007), I knew that wouldn’t be its sad fate. I considered making it my new editing-and-brainstorming-and-all-that-fun-stuff writing notebook, but upon further investigation of my current one, which I thought to be full, I discovered it wasn’t. So, leave me in that dilemma and let’s look at this morning.

I woke straight up out of a dream about the OYAN contest--for some reason, in my dream, there was a tie for first place and then an award for the runner-up. I don’t know who the runner-up was, but I know I didn’t win.

Funny thing was, I woke up about fifteen or twenty seconds before my alarm went off at six. This is peculiar, because though I have been aiming for six a lot lately, I’ve been having trouble getting up at that time even when my alarm wakes me up.

The main reason my alarm is set for six in the first place is because of writing time. Sure, I could start my normal school at that time like my sister, but waking up at six always makes me feel I have more time for writing, and writing often gets skipped if I get up much later.

So. First: writing dream. Then, I wake up just in time for writing, and feel very awake. So as I start in with making my bed and things, I started praying. I prayed for my books, and my essay for King’s, and about my dream. I last entered the OYAN contest in 2009, with Forest of Lies, and discovered my double-standard of priorities in writing. It has been a long recovery since then, and I’ve been very careful about my 2012 plan. I would like to win, or at least place in the top three, very much, but I keep reminding myself that is not the reason I write, and it should not be what I base the importance of my words on.

In the midst of this, I realize what would be a good use for my notebook: writing down these prayers. I’ve heard about prayer journals before, and even sort of kept one for awhile. I’ve decided to keep this one on writing for a couple of reasons:

1) Records: I think it will be interesting to read over old prayers in the months or years from now.

2) But mostly, for focus. It is distressing how often I fall off track of what I’m really trying to do with writing, either because of stress, or just trying to figure the muttermumble plot out, or editing woes, or the longing for glory that sunk me in 2009.

I’m praying for several things. I’m praying for help with plot and character relationships. I’m praying for guidance in theme. For focus on what’s important. For revelation on how to edit. But also for my readers. Writers write for readers, and I think keeping the people I’m writing for in my mind will really help. I’m praying for me, my words, and the people that might read my words.

I’m excited to see where this will take me.

How about you? Have you ever kept a prayer journal? What do you think about praying over your writing?

God bless,

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I Write My Own Fan-fiction

It's a little sad, really.

I semi-quickly decided (again) that a third-person change to Forest of Lies wouldn't be what I thought it needed. My Draft IV is finally getting along at nice pace, much to my elation, and it is doing just fine in Marian's voice. It really is her story.

That doesn't keep me from writing random scenes from various points of view. Because although it's Marian's story, lives don't happen in isolated bubbles. Everything's connected. That's why I had quite the learning curve to overcome when I started writing personal essays for colleges. My life didn't HAPPEN in 500-word isolated events.

And neither did Marian's. Everyone around her had a jumble of things he (mostly "he"s, though a couple of "she"s exist) was dealing with, and the interactions between humans are never completely one-sided. Neither is a life truly changed by just one event. Even at my age I can tell that changes tend to come from a bunch of things, some of them you don't even recognize.

So, I write my own fan-fiction. I've written from Robin's POV, from third-person Robin's POV, from Much's POV, third-person Much's POV, Will's POV, and Friar Anselm's POV. In some cases, it's not just one scene--it's several, from all stages of the book, even post- and pre-Forest of Lies.

It's not just a little sad, it's a little ridiculous.

I hope that writing from all of these different angles helps develop the characters and help them seem more real even through Marian's heavily-tinted eyes.

(Sorry, dear, it's true.)

Do any of you write your own fan-fiction? Do you think it has any purpose to fill beyond author-ly whims? And perhaps a desire to get away from the real task at hand...e.g., editing a book after waiting for two years to do so. (Not that I'd EVER do that.)

And now, I'll break a pattern I've held to for awhile and share a piece of my own Forest of Lies fan-fiction (Anselm's POV, because for some reason, I love the way he looks at Robin):

“Robin, stop pacing. You’re making me tired.”

He stopped, tense as a stag on alert, gaze skittering around the forest, avoiding looking at me.

“Out with it, lad,” I said. “I don’t have all day to wait for you to talk.”

His gaze dropped to the ground.

I let a few moments passed and heaved a sigh. “If you don’t talk, I’m going to take you by the back of your tunic and make you take my doctoring.”

“It’s...” he started.

“I need more than one word,” I said.

“Marian,” he said.

I realized I might not need more than one word. “What about her?” I asked, trying not to appear ruffled.

“You know why I took her in.”

“Yes. Your dream and your sympathy.”

That brought his gaze up.

“Don’t deny it, Robin, I know your heart.”

He let out a strange laugh, gaze dropping again.

“What is it, Robin?”

“I like her,” he said.

I blinked. “Does she like you?”

He laughed again, this time bitterly. “Oh no, not at all. And I don’t even know what it is--I’ve never felt this way before. I wish...I wish she would like me.”

The eyes were on me now, those intense blue windows into an intense, lonely soul.

“...ah,” I said.

“She likes Much.”

“Everyone likes Much.”

“Except Will,” Robin reminded me.

“Yes, that,” I said, uncomfortable.

“Please pray for me?” Robin said, clasping his arms across his stomach as if it hurt him.

“I’ll make you a deal,” I said, frowning. “I’ll pray if you let me look at you.”

His eyes filled with tears. “I don’t know what to do,” he whispered.

“God will help you,” I said. “He got you into this, He’ll get you out.”

“I hope so.”

 God bless,

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