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.”
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