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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone! You're probably visiting family and have already opened your presents. I hope ya'll have an enjoyable day, as I've had so far :D
I got a royal blue sweater, a cross necklace, candy, and an Amazon gift card. I think I already know some of the books I'll be buying with the gift card :)
So, since today is Christmas, I thought, I'd share some of my favorite Christmas-sy things.
1. Of course, first of all is the Christmas story. Obviously, if Jesus hadn't been born, then this whole celebration wouldn't have been thought of! And, even though it sounds cliched, Jesus really is the Reason for the Season.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. -- Luke 2:9-11

2. Second is 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens. In my opinion, it's one of the classics, and not only that, but an all around really good story. Shortened versions don't do it's wittiness and depth justice; and, though the movie version I've seen of it was good, it also doesn't do the book justice.

Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.
External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn’t know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often ‘came down’ handsomely, and Scrooge never did.

3. C. S. Lewis' essay on the difference between the commercialized and religious observations of Christmas; it's really funny, written as a lost chapter from Herodotus on the island of Niatirb (Britain backwards).
 First of all, every citizen is obliged to send to each of his friends and relations a square piece of hard paper stamped with a picture, which in their speech is called an Exmas-card . But the pictures represent birds sitting on branches, or trees with a dark green prickly leaf, or else men in such garments as the Niatirbians believe that their ancestors wore two hundred years ago riding in coaches such as their ancestors used, or houses with snow on their roofs. And the Niatirbians are unwilling to say what these pictures have to do with the festival, guarding (as I suppose) some sacred mystery. (Click the excerpted text to go to the essay)

4. The Gift of the Magi is a well known short story by O. Henry; a sweet story of a young husband and wife who have very little money but still resolve to buy each other a Christmas gift. The results are humorous.

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty- seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.
There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.
(Click the excerpted text to go to the story)

What are your favorite Christmas stories and movies? I'd love to hear about them!
Have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Post--Winter Wonderland, Once In Royal David's City, & Silent Night

So, I forgot to post the day before yesterday, which is strange because I know I thought about it once or twice. And yesterday was really busy, so this will be three posts in one.
It's strange because I think this will be our first winter here without snow. We had a whole lot of snow in November, but then somehow it all melted by last week. On Wednesday, we had a light sprinkling, but it's almost gone now, with just little patches of white here and there.
First up is 'Walking in a Winter Wonderland' sung by the Carpenters:

Second is a lovely carol sung by Kings College Choir of Cambridge, England

Thirdly, Silent Night on violin. *sigh* If only I could play like this :)

The interchange of presents was a very small ingredient in the older English festivity. Mr. Pickwick took a cod with him to Dingley Dell; the reformed Scrooge ordered a turkey for his clerk; lovers sent love gifts; toys and fruit were given to children. But the idea that not only all friends but even all acquaintances should give one another presents, or at least send one another cards, is quite modern and has been forced upon us by the shopkeepers.-- C. S. Lewis (Go here to read the rest of Lewis' article on the commercial racket of Christmas)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Post-For Unto Us a Child is Born/And the Glory of the Lord

I absolutely love Handel's Messiah; every one of the songs is beautiful, and of course the best part is that it's all pure Scripture, taken straight from the Bible and set to heart-stirring music. Enjoy!

And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. 
Luke 1:46-55

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Post--O Holy Night, The Christmas Song & a BONUS!

I am terribly sorry that I didn't post anything yesterday. I don't know how on earth I forgot, but... anyways. So now I have three videos for you. The first is O Holy Night, sung by Celtic Woman; the second is The Christmas Song, sung by Nat King Cole. And then a bonus video, which isn't a song, and doesn't have anything to do with this year's Christmas, but I had to include it. Scroll down to see what it is :D


I hope you enjoyed it all :)
And, two quotes. One for Christmas, the other from The Hobbit:

“He was created of a mother whom He created. He was carried by hands that He formed. He cried in the manger in wordless infancy. He, the Word, without whom all human eloquence is mute.” ~Augustine 

Old Took's great-grand-uncle Bullroarer...was so huge (for a hobbit) that he could ride a horse. He charged the ranks of the goblins of Mount Gram in the Battle of The Green Fields, and knocked their king Golfimbul's head clean off with a wooden club. It sailed a hundred yards through the air and went down a rabbit hole, and in this way the battle was won, and the game of Golf invented at the same moment.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Post--Sleigh Ride

This is a very cheerful Christmas song. I first heard it sung by the Carpenters, and thought ya'll might enjoy it played by the Boston Pops Orchestra.

The Son of God became a man to
enable men to become the sons of God.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Post--Blue Christmas

Well, I couldn't resist. Here is Elvis singing 'Blue Christmas' :)

In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it 'Christmas' and went to church; the Jews called it 'Hanukka' and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say 'Merry Christmas!' or 'Happy Hanukka!' or (to the atheists) 'Look out for the wall!'--Dave Barry

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Post--Hark! the Herald Angels Sing

Anna, from Barefoot Arrow Song, said that this is one of her favorite Christmas carols. I love it, and think it is simply beautiful; and it's full of real, solid theology, which is always a plus :) So, without further ado,

A little child
a shining star
a stable rude,
the door ajar.
Yet in that place
so crude, forlorn,
The Hope of all
the world was born.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Post--Carol of the Bells

Carol of the Bells is a beautiful Christmas song, and the Celtic Woman version of it is my favorite that I've heard to date. It's very joyous and lighthearted. Enjoy!

"The best Christmas of all is the presence of a happy family all wrapped up with one another."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Post--A Christmas Village and a Song

Well, apparently I didn't realize that the twelve days of Christmas actually begins on Christmas day, but I'm still going to do it as I had planned. First off, a picture of our Christmas village:

There is more to it, but we couldn't get many good pictures of it; that was the best one. My mom has always wanted a little village to set up at Christmas, and last year she started buying pieces that were on sale. Of course it's way prettier than in the picture, but I thought ya'll might like to see it :)
Next is a hilarious version of White Christmas. It's my favorite rendition. Someone sent it in an email to my dad, and we love it.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Some Quick Updates

Well, I've been gone for a while! At least, it seems that way. My computer was out of commission for a week, needing new cords. On Tuesday, my dad and I took James to the hospital in Iowa City, which is three and a half  hours away. On Wednesday he had corrective jaw surgery, and when he woke up from the anesthesia, he was just so pitiful. His cheeks were really swollen, and he was miserable for the rest of that day and the next. He went home Thursday afternoon, and since Saturday the swelling has been going down, and he's happy and cheerful for the most part. He now has what are called 'distractors' in his jaw, and a screw on each side of his face, just below and behind his ears. 
I tried taking a picture of the screws, but it came out blurry. Anyways, each morning an each evening, we have to give both screws one full turn with a special screwdriver. This slowly lengthens his jaw. We will do this for 14-20 days, after which we will let the jaw solidify for about three months. Then, the distractors will be removed, and not long after that (hopefully) his trach will be able to come out, and they will do his cleft palate surgery. So please be praying for him that there will be no infections or complications. ```  
As you can see, his cheeks are pretty swollen, which you can see if you compare this to an earlier picture: 

In other news, I'm thinking I may have to completely re-write and restructure Red Sea Rising. I've been realizing more and more that it basically has no plot. I mean, I can't even write a summary of it because, unfortunately, there's no real point. The main characters (all four of them) don't really even have a goal until 40,000 words have gone by. Before that they are either avoiding the villain (and sometimes escaping from him), one of them is drafted into a foreign military and has no hope of getting back to his own country, and... there's really no real point. This is going to be a hard one to figure out, so I doubt I'll be able to enter it into the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest as I was hoping to do, but... maybe next year? I think the characters and a lot of the ideas are great, I just need a structure.
Mary, over at the Writer's Lair is going to be hosting a Writer's Exposition. Submit your Christmas-themed story and she will post all the qualifying entries on a brand new page in her blog! I am definitely entering, and I already have the idea for a story in my mind, a sort of reverse-Christmas celebration for one of the countries in my world. What do I mean by reverse? Well, you'll have to wait and read it to find out!
Oh, yes! And I'm writing a Narnia fan fiction. For all of you Narnia lovers out there, it's right here.
Also, I've noticed that ApricotPie has been kind of slow lately. Probably because of NaNoWriMo. Well, I'm working on a humorous fantasy story called The Dagger Maiden, which hopefully I can get back into and finish soon, then start posting.
Well, this turned out to be a bit longer than I had intended, but those are the updates on my life at the moment. Starting tomorrow, I will begin doing Christmas posts, for the twelve days of Christmas, with a favorite Christmas song embedded and maybe other things as well :)
I hope you all have a wonderful December, and a Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I won. I won? I WON!

I'm kind of in disbelief right now. I wrote 10,300 words today; that's the most I've ever written in one day. I did it with eleven minutes to go until midnight, so I'm really tired. There was no jumping around for joy, no yelling, just an, "I did it!" to Emma and Sarah, who are the only ones down here with me. I honestly couldn't have done it if not for the Lord, who gave me the ability to write :) And then Emma, who did lots of word wars and sprints with me, and kept encouraging me and even did the dishes by herself tonight so I could write. Thank you, Emma! And to my writing buddy Rebecca, who also kept encouraging and pushing me on even when I thought I couldn't do it. Thanks a million, both Emma and Rebecca. You've helped me win my first NaNo!
I'm not done with the story; probably another 10,000 words or so, but I've never written a story this long before. It's a very nice feeling :D
And now, good night to all! And thanks to Mary and Kestrel, who both encouraged me in the comments for my blog posts :)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Day Twelve-Wait, Slow Down!

I am ashamed to say that I've let myself fall behind... but I'm not telling you how far behind :D It's only a few days, really, but it seems like a huge amount. So, to distract you from myself, I'm going to let ya'll see something my sister, Emma (14 yr. old) did :)
So, there's this thing called artPad on art.com, and Emma has been going there and drawing. You do it all on the computer, with either a touch pad or a mouse, and I tried it for a few minutes and got bored because it was really hard to make even a simple drawing on it. Lo and behold! Emma had been working at it for several hours, and she did a picture of Snow White from the Disney cartoon (looking at a picture and drawing from that), and then I sent her the link to a picture of Santa Claus, and she drew that as well.
The neat thing about artPad is that you can replay it so that you can see how she did it, basically, just sped up.
Here's the link to Santa Claus: http://artpad.art.com/gallery/?lukd8tvb38c (You can speed up the drawing, or skip to the end if you want).
Aaaand, here's Snow White: http://artpad.art.com/gallery/?luk3j616tga8
Now, what do ya'll think about those? She's a very good artist on paper, as well. She's got really good hand eye coordination obviously, and apparently a very steady hand, too!
Well, I'm off to write more NaNoWriMo!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Day Three Is Drawing to a Close

So, I've kind of been slacking off today, but I did finish yesterday's word count, and today's. I now have 5,005 words (and, no, I didn't devise it like that. It's just how it came out when I stopped writing :)
So, I can sleep happy and easy. Also, I have an excerpt of Red Sea Rising up on my website. So go check it out if you're interested!
Here's to finishing at 50,000 words by the 30th! Maybe even more words than that!
Also, I've decided to reward myself: if, on the seventh day of NaNo, I am still keeping up on my word count, I get to download and play the free trial of Robin Hood: Legend of Sherwood. It's a fun game that I've played before. So get crackin', Laura!
Have fun writing!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

And We're Off!

So, today is the beginning of NaNoWriMo! Hopefully I can get to 50,000 words this month. I'm trying to overachieve today so that I can kind of go easy on days when there are a lot of things to do. Tomorrow I will probably start posting excerpts on my website (click here).
Happy writing, and high five if you're doing it, too! Also, if you're doing it, add me as a writing buddy on NaNo. The link to my profile is in the post below.
So far, I've written 1,689 words, which isn't a lot, I know, but it's a little bit over my daily word count, and I'm not done yet :)
Have fun!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Eleven Days!

So, it's only eleven days until NaNoWriMo. Who else is doing it? Here is my profile for those of you who are daring the dangerous waters of November. Click Here.
This will be my second actual time of doing it; last year doesn't count because I quit very early on. 2009 I failed, but got quite a ways into Red Sea Rising. Here's to hoping I win this time! I've also made a website for my novel, which you can see here. There isn't really anything to see as of now, but on November 1, I will begin updating. Come join me, if you dare!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Place to Call Home

I found this lovely poem on Fanfiction.net yesterday, and I just had to post it here (with the author's permission, of course). It is a poem from Gimli's point of view, musing on the glittering caves beneath Helm's Deep. It's so rare to find good poetry that moves the heart to wonder and lets you see the beauty it describes; and, best of all, it rhymes and has a good rhythmic flow to it. So, here it is:

'Twas on the day the Wall was blown
My eyes the joy of light were shown
As Horsemen fought their lands to save
There I beheld a wondrous cave!
Amidst the gore of battle fierce
Its beauty bright my heart did pierce
Beyond Deep walls by orc defiled
Its beauty ran untamed and wild
At battle's end when all lay still
This Dwarf returned to take his fill
Of columns yellow, white and rose
Ebony pools in sweet repose
Great caverns stretched both far and tall
And crystals lit the polished wall
With ceilings high and flowing air
Its beauty was beyond compare

Oh brilliant light! Beauteous gleam!
Bewitching sight! Enchanted dream!
Whose fair walls shine with gems and ore
These Dwarven eyes thy halls adore!

There is no land of Men so fair
As what my eyes have seen in there
No Moria, no Rivendell
Could e'er ensnare my heart so well
No golden hall with gilded dome
Could e'er aspire to be my home
For peace and joy my soul has found
In Nature's garden under ground
Her flowers line the soil of wall
Their colours bright the eye enthral
Her vines be sprawling veins of gold
That warm the heart when day is cold
Her silent lakes be pools of dew
Serene and calm their waters true
Her caverns deep within the earth
Give weary feet a homely berth

Oh splendour pure! Delightful place!
Enticing lure! Unrivalled grace!
Whose glory none could e'er ignore
I name thee home for ever more!

Now Elves may tend their forests green
And Nature's blessings may be seen
Wherever they imbue the grace
That lingers in their song's embrace
But Dwarven touch may too be kind
In passages that roll and wind
Beneath the mountain obdurate
Our hands may tend and cultivate
And mayhap Men may till their land
To see it flourish by their hand
Reward of all their hardened toil
May soon be seen on fertile soil
But Dwarven hands may labour too
In places where no others do
In stone and rock our fingers sow
As Dwarven lamps set caves aglow

Oh mighty halls! Glorious scene!
Bejewelled walls! Alluring sheen!
Whose beauty makes my spirit sing
No other home such joy could bring!


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

They'll Try Anything!

Phillip Pullman is the author of a trilogy of fantasy books which have been described by Christians as the exact opposite of the Chronicles of Narnia. His books, The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, are quite popular and the first was made into a movie. Pullman absolutely detests Narnia and all that it stands for, and accuses it of many different things, including racism and sexism. I found a very good article on this by Michael Ward, who is very well versed, not only in Narnia, but in everything Lewis wrote.
Here is the article.
The thing that I find funny is how people are always trying to pin accusations of racism on everyone and everything. I once had a rather lively discussion on the Amazon comments with a lady who thought that The Horse and His Boy is racist. I attempted to show her that racism does not mean what she thinks it means. Nowadays, racism is thought to mean a negative portrayal of a colored person (usually black). However, that's ridiculous. Black people aren't perfect, and to portray one of them negatively is not racist.
The proper meaning of racist is someone who dislikes all blacks (or Hispanics, or Asians) merely and only because of their skin color and wishes that they did not exist. In this definition, it is impossible that Lewis was a racist, because he portrays dark skinned people (the Calormenes) as having both their good (Aravis and Emeth) and their bad (Rabadash and the Grand Vizier). This is something which Mr. Ward doesn't really touch on: that the definition of racist has been twisted, and no longer means what it's supposed to mean. That's why I've written this. However, the article itself is excellent.
They'll try anything to discredit Narnia. And while there are some legitimate criticisms of the series, because Lewis obviously wasn't perfect, the books are a testimony to (in my humble opinion) perhaps the greatest writer ever. And Phillip Pullman, with his anti-Narnia books, will probably (or at least, hopefully) be forgotten in a decade or so, while Narnia will continue it's popularity for hundreds of years.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pastor Youcef

An Iranian pastor has been imprisoned since 2010 on charges of blasphemy and apostasy against Islam.

When asked to repent, Nadarkhani stated: "Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?"
"To the religion of your ancestors, Islam," the judge replied, according to the American Center for Law & Justice.
"I cannot," Nadarkhani said.

The courage of this pastor, this man, breaks my heart. Wow! To stand before a Muslim judge, knowing that a death sentence is hanging over you, and to still call Islam blasphemy? That takes a courage and a faith so strong that it could only come from God Himself. May God bless this man a thousand times over, and his dear wife and children. Please pray for all of them.
What should we pray? Of course, that his life will be spared, but most of all that he would continue strong until the end. An example and a witness. That a huge number of Muslims (and atheists, and others) would come to Christ because of this man's valiant stand. Also, pray for his wife, that her faith would continue as well. I can only imagine the fear and the grief and the doubt that she must be going through. And pray for his children, that God would bless them with saving faith, that they might follow in their father's footsteps and be courageous witnesses to those around them.
May God use Pastor Youcef to bless and encourage many other Christians also going through persecution in Muslim and Communist countries. 
Dear brother, you and your family are in our prayers. Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. May God bless you, and keep you, and cause His face to shine upon you, and give you peace in this time of trial.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Soup, and a Contest

I found this article for making different soups. I've only tried the Chicken, Leek and Potato Soup so far, with a few variations (such as adding carrots, and, today, rotini pasta noodles), and it's really good! I love soup on a chilly or downright cold day, and we're going to be having a lot of those for the next several months.

The contest is not held by myself, but by K. M. Weiland, who is trying to get publicity for her book 'Outlining your Novel; Map your Way to Success'.
If you buy her book (either Kindle or paperback), and email her the receipt, she will enter you into a contest to win either a Kindle (first prize) ten books on the craft of writing (second prize), and several other prizes, as well as an hourly drawing for an MP3 recording of one of her writer's craft books (this drawing doesn't affect your chances of winning the big prizes). You can visit her website here. And hurry, the drawing ends on Friday!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Waiting for Morning- A Book Review

Waiting For Morning
Karen Kingsbury

So, I want to say that first off this was the first book that caught my attention on the Blogging for Books list of books available for review. It seemed like all the others were either romance (which I can't stand) or else modern devotional books (which I have very little interest in, as a rule). Drunkeness angers me greatly, as I've heard too many stories of what happens when someone gets drunk. So, I was kind of interested in this book. It might not have been one I'd have spent money on, but it was one that had an interesting premise. And it was interesting!
It follows the basic formula of happy family suddenly torn apart by tragedy; anger against God by the main character; a little bit of silly 'romance'; and a happy conclusion. However, Karen Kingsbury is a good writer, and in the pages of this book she packs a lot of tense excitement and emotions. I did feel a few things were theologically shaky, but those things were few and far between. An example of this was when one character tells another character who has walked away from God that God loves her. My response to this would be, "How do you know that God loves this person, if they are showing absolutely no sign of truly being saved?"
But the basic messages in 'Waiting for Morning' are excellent. Christians do suffer, and they suffer terribly at times. Being a Christian is not being 'carried through the skies on flowery beds of ease'. It's a battle, and often times a very long and painful struggle.
At times, the book got a little too much for me, however. I found it hard that a woman like Hannah would completely turn her back on God and deny that He existed. But the last fourth of the book kind of convinced me a bit that it's possible, but that God will always bring His children back, using whatever it takes.
Actually, the last few chapters were the best, but the whole book was good. I could really feel for Hannah and her daughter Jenny, and even for Brian Wesley. I liked Mrs. Cummins a lot.
This book is very good in showing how the legal system works, and I enjoyed that. My heart sank every time there was a delay in bringing the case to trial. I liked how it showed the defense attorney, Mr. Finch, to be a dishonest sleezeball, knowing that his client is guilty but still trying to get him the very lightest sentence possible.
I also very much appreciated that, although forgiveness was emphasized, so was justice. The district attorney is a Christian, and when someone tells him that it doesn't sound very Christian to want to get someone a first degree murder charge, he responds, "My obligation to forgive doesn't erase my obligation to provide punishment. Without rules and penalties, this country would have fallen apart decades ago. I like to think that my job is actually quite Christian."
So, all in all, this was a very good book, which I give four stars out of five. I would love to read the next two books in the series, if at all possible.

I received this book for free through WaterbrookMultnomah's Blogging for Books program, and was not required to give a favorable review.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Eager Peasantry

The Eager Peasantry

In a whole lot of fantasy, you will see a prince or a nobleman saying a few words, and rallying all the peasants and merchants under his banner in a few minutes. These commoners will leave behind crops, families, homes, and livelihoods and march off to death, but, for what? These are people who often live in small villages, far away from the grand palaces and castles, and live quiet, honest lives. If a nobleman suddenly popped up from nowhere and said,
"Hey, everyone, the throne has been usurped by an evil sorcerer, and the king is in the dungeons. Let's go free him and restore the crown to the rightful man!"
Do you think they would all drop their plows, grab a pitchfork, and go? I don't think that's realistic. Here's an example from Red Sea Rising of a very different sort of peasantry. Berwyn is the son of a nobleman, Korenthel is a former servant of Berwyn's father, and Marthos is the villain.

///Berwyn soon learned that the work on a farm was extremely hard; his muscles ached at first, unused to the labor, but after a while he became accustomed to it.
However, it was even more difficult to get anyone to pledge their support to an army that had less than fifty men, few weapons, and a leader that was only sixteen years old.
Berwyn and Korenthel tried to persuade the farmers and villagers of Marthos' treachery, but they only said,
"He won't worry us. We are small and hidden, and are no threat to him."
Berwyn quickly became frustrated.
"If these people were truly subjects of their rightful king, they would rise in arms at once. We would have to restrain them from attacking the palace, instead of pushing them to think about joining us."
"Sir," said Korenthel. "That may be, but they're simple men: farmers, bakers. They see us, six men on the run from Marthos ourselves. Yes, we tell them we have a few others elsewhere, but they don't see them. And fifteen or twenty is not a most inspiring number, is it?"
"But we will never have more, if they only look at our small number now, and say it is hopeless even to try!"
"We must persuade them. They are loyal to the king, as far as that goes. It would take threats from Marthos to turn them against us, but they are not soldiers, they do not think in terms of bravery, or courage. They measure a man by how large his farm is, or how fair he is in his dealings."
"You seem to know a great deal about them," said Berwyn.
"You forget, sir, that I've lived and worked with them for years. I almost consider myself a farmer."
Berwyn sighed.
"Then what are we going to do? If we cannot convince them, then we might as well give up the endeavor."
"Nay, sir! Have you nothing of your father in you? I told you that it might take a long time before we are ready to challenge Marthos, but great things take time and work. We cannot expect farming men to drop their plows, leave their families, and go to their deaths all in a moment, simply because we told them they should, can we?"
"No," said Berwyn. "I suppose not."\\\

The people of this village are not so ready to listen! And I think this is much more realistic, as well. Berwyn, as a nobleman, really does expect them to drop everything. He knows the king, he knows the prince, and his own father was murdered, so it is easy for him to feel the importance of it; but the farmers probably know very little about the royal family or Marthos, and perhaps do not even believe Berwyn or Korenthel. They are, above all, very practical; why should they die for some nobleman whom they don't even know?
So, does anyone have any other ideas of how to write common people so that they don't seem like automatons that will just do whatever the 'good guys' say?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Rant-On Princesses

Okay, before you read this, know that I am not sympathetic in any way with how most princesses in fantasy are written. There, you've been warned :)
So, there's all these princesses in fantasy who wear pants, can fight better than their brothers, don't care about being ladylike, and ride their horses astride. All the men in the story are against it, of course, but the princess (or noblewoman, or peasant girl) shows them. What this rant is all about is this: in a culture where the women are brought up to be ladylike, to wear dresses, and to ride sidesaddle, there is always, and I repeat, always a rebellious girl who goes against everything she's (apparently) been taught, for no reason at all. And this rebellious girl is the heroine of the story.
If she had truly been taught by her parents that acting ladylike is the right thing to do, then why in heaven's name does she go against all her upbringing and start wearing pants. I can tell you for a fact, as a girl who was raised wearing dresses and skirts, that I've always felt uncomfortable even thinking about wearing pants. It's something that I know I would feel terribly awkward and wrong in. And that's in a society where it's the norm for women to wear pants. Yet these princesses can run around in pants and ride like a man without feeling even the least bit uncomfortable, and her parents let her do it. Of course, they reprimand her, but they would never dare tell her to stop doing it! If they even think about telling her to wear a dress, you get a pouty faced, rebellious girl who stomps off, slams her door, and sulks.
Apparently, people (even Christians, like L. B. Graham) don't realize that they are imposing their idea of what is normal into a story whose society's norm is the exact opposite.
So, do I think that girls have no place in a fantasy story? Absolutely not! But I believe that their role is far different from a man's role. And the fantasy stories that have totally hot, tough, rebellious princesses really turn me off. Maybe it's just the way I was raised, but I see a great deal of beauty in a tale of a man going off to war and fighting courageously, while I see a woman going off to war and fighting courageously very differently: I find it ugly.
Obviously, our society today is accepting of women in the military, doing whatever a man does. Only problem is: they can't! Women are built differently, and their strength is less than a man's in certain ways. I'm not stronger than my brother, who is two years younger than me, and I know it.
Some ideas for women playing a role, yet not being little feminists:
1. Have a woman defend her children and home while her husband is at war (I did something similar to this once, in which a woman whose husband was dead and her son wounded took a frying pan and knocked a soldier over the head with it).
2. Have her be a spy. This is quite easily done. A woman (especially an unmarried one) can go places that a man could not in a time of war. She could ingratiate herself with soldiers (not in an improper way, of course) and learn valuable information.
3. Have her be, simply, a wife. The moral support she gives her husband, even when she herself is afraid, is something invaluable to him. It is a courage all of its own to bear fear and uncertainty alone, while encouraging a husband not to be afraid and to do what is right.
4. Of course, there's always the option (which probably wouldn't be received very well) of showing the rebellious, feministic girl to be just that. She could think she's totally awesome, and in the end, be shown the error of her ways (without exactly stating it, of course). I've thought of doing that before.
I've always loved stories where a brother protects his sister. I don't know; there's just something about that, in today's world where siblings seem to be at enmity with each other most of the time. A brother giving his life for his sister. It's just as sweet as a man giving his life for his true love, and maybe even better. In fact, that's my favorite relationship to write about. But that's off topic *turns post around and heads back to where she detoured*. There.
My parents have always taught my sisters and me to be ladylike, but my dad says, "I'm not raising you to be sissies." What he means by that is to have moral courage, the bravery to stand up against error. I love reading stories of women who were martyred for their faith in Christ. A woman can be just as brave (or even braver, at times) than a man when facing persecution.
A woman does not have to 'prove herself' by acting like a man. The courage she displays can be a much different kind: quieter, more internal. Perhaps only a few people know about it. As Aragorn said, "There may come a time for great deeds without renown."
Not only that, but when women start acting like men, then men stop treating them like women. Gentlemanly conduct is greatly reduced when men and women are barely distinguishable in their actions and dress. And that's a really lamentable thing, if you think about it.
Let's stop acting like embroidery and ladylike behavior and long, modest dresses are contemptible things. Not only is it wrong, but it's just tired and boring by now. We are Christian authors. Let's do what we're always saying we do and 'think outside the box', or, to use a better term: 'think inside the Bible'. We don't have to let society or culture dictate how we portray women.
Note: This is not aimed at anyone in particular, but just to fantasy writers as a whole who do this sort of thing :)
A/N: I had been going to write a post entitled 'The Eager Peasantry', but will save that for my next post. Until then, I'll leave ya'll to guess what it means :D

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The World of Heszeret-Alacta

So, I've finally come up with a name for the world I am developing! For the longest time, all I could say was 'my world'. Now it has a name, which of course you saw in the title of this blog post.
As explained a bit in The Legend of Time, Heszeret and Alacta are not two worlds, but two separate dimensions of the same world, which were created after a cataclysmic event.
Heszeret is the only part of the world that I have ever written about, chiefly because I hadn't thought of Alacta :)
Although a fantastic world, magic is not an essential part of Heszeret. For the most part, the inhabitants are human and dwarf, though there are talking animals. All magic in Heszeret is either granted or stolen, and is never something that one is born with.
In Alacta, on the other hand, magic is part of the fabric of the world, and many people/creatures are born with some trait or other of magic. I haven't thought enough on it, but there are definitely more diverse things in Alacta than in Heszeret. As you'll read in The Legend of Time, there is a way to travel between the dimensions. Perhaps more than one way...
Anyways, say a man from Heszeret finds the way to Alacta, and he decides to stay. In the first place, it would be very difficult, because the pull from his own place would be very strong. But, if he marries, the pull would be diminished, since now he would have ties in Alacta. However, whatever children he had would be inevitably drawn back to Heszeret. This is also true vice versa.
If anyone has any questions, I would be eager to hear them. I really want to develop Alacta; it's very young right now, and needs a lot of nurturing :)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Amira, and our new baby!

Well, because I really didn't want Amira to die after all, I had already been thinking up a second part. It's up on ApricotPie, now: Part Two of Amira, and I hope everyone enjoys it. I myself liked it, but of course, that's just the author's humble (not!) opinion.
Another big piece of news is that my baby sister was born on August 2. Her name is Faith Evelyn. I'll post pictures right here for ya'll to see. Notice the thick, dark hair!

The first two were taken on the night she came back from the hospital. Hannah (9) is holding her.
 This is Emma (14) holding James and Faith. Note James' bored expression :)
 Here is James holding Faith and smiling fondly at her
Faith wasn't too happy at the time... 
 Here I am, holding her
She was hungry :P And those are Emma and Hannah in the background.

She is a real darling, and everyone is always wanting to hold her. I think she'll get plenty of love and spoilings!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Interview with Author: Kestrel

I want to welcome Kestrel, (known as Galadriel on her blog), a young lady who has written quite a few things that I really enjoyed. I think the thing that most impresses me is her ability to write allegory in a very beautiful and powerful way. I was floored by Sakuntala when I first read it, and her other short allegories are just beautiful. So, without further ado, here’s Kestrel.

You’re allegorical fantasy is really great. You’ve written that some of them, like Sakuntala, are based off of dreams you had. What do you read that might possibly influence dreams like those?
For those who haven't read it, Sakuntala tells the story of an outcast from a nomadic desert tribe who stands up to the leaders of her clan. Some of my other short stories, such as Ragged, Seeking and River are also dream-seeded. Some of my dreams' sources are easy enough to identify--a Time Lord here, Aslan there, a dragonback adventure or a Global Community sometimes. Others...I have no clue.

You are writing a novel called Three Dark Roses. Can you give us a little info on that?
Well, it's been set aside for the time in favor of fanfics, but it began as a short story. It focuses on Micah, the shoshannah (think pastor mixed with faith healer), his son Joel, and his (eventually adopted daughter) friend Abigail. Joel rebels against the teachings of his father, which leads to the deaths of Abigail's entire family. Later, the whole world descends into an apocolypse as evil is unleashed.

What other genres beside fantasy do you read? How do they influence your fantasy writing?
I read what I can find at my local library: Amish Christian contemporary, historical, Biblical, sci-fi...I guess they show me how characters and writing carry so much of the story. For example, I love Madeline L'Engle's "A Live Coal in the Sea" because the writing is very poetic, even if the story is slightly soap-opera like.

At what age did you begin to write seriously?
My freshman year of high school, I joined the offical forum of author Bryan Davis, and began writing for an audience as well as myself. In 2009, I completed my first NaNoWriMo, and have done two more since then.

What was the first story you wrote after realizing you wanted to be an author?
I'm not sure...maybe Skye?

If you could be one character from a favorite book, who would it be?You saved the toughest one for last, didn't you?  Well, I'll go with safety as factor, maybe that will help me narrow it down some. One series that comes to mind is the Mistmantle Chronicles by M.I. McAllister. Think of it as Redwall characters in a more Narnian setting. I'd love to be one of the characters, like Urchin or Sepia, because the setting is lovely and the characters really care about each other.

Well, Kestrel, I'm so glad I had the pleasure of interviewing you! I hope you had fun answering the questions, and I hope to read more of your work in the future.
Kestrel's blog:The Wordsmith's Blog
Her writing can be found here.
Go on and read it. She's an excellent writer!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

God in Fantasy

Warning: Another long post!
This is a concept I've struggled with for several years. In the beginning of my fantasy writing, my writing of God (or Enderel) was clunky and, to be frank, quite juvenile. I can't say I've grown much in my depiction of God in a fantasy world, but I wanted to share a few thoughts I have had.
One of our main concerns as Christian fantasy authors is that our message be presented clearly so that any unbelievers (we're hoping our books will become New York Times bestsellers) who read our stories will be converted, or at the least convicted. On the other hand, we don't want to be preachy. Two good examples of preachy Christian fantasy are The Binding of the Blade series, and the Blood of Kings trilogy. Both of those series are very unwieldy in their depiction of God (and, in Blood of Kings, of Jesus), and are literally quite painful to get through the preachy parts.
So that's why I've always been afraid to include an actual representation of God in my stories (though I have done it, in Amira for example), because when I myself read over it, it seems badly written and very forced, as though I'm saying, "Well, this is supposed to be Christian fantasy, and I'm a Christian, so I've got to include God, no matter how unconvincing it may sound."
Of course, I'm not thinking that. I truly want to have God, the true one and only God, in my stories. My fears also go beyond that, to making all the good guys 'believers in Enderel', and all the bad guys unbelievers. This is going to sound really corny, because in real life, there are good men who don't believe in God, and bad men who do. Not only that, but there are those who say they believe in the one God, but really believe in a false god. How are we going to explain all this tricky stuff in our books, while trying to remain focused on the actual story we're telling?
Another thing is that many people believe that in a story with God in it, He will give his followers the power to do just about anything, and God becomes little more than a 'god from the machine' or 'Deus ex Machina', in other words, a convenient way of escape for the good guys, which kind of negates the whole purpose for there even being a story.
And how do we convey Jesus death and resurrection, and His atonement? It would have to be different from what happened in our world, but similar, as in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.
I conclude that Christian fantasy is a lot more complicated than most of us thought it was when we first began writing it. I know I never thought it could be this complex. The theological questions it raises are many and varied. Perhaps we should just throw down our pens and not write it anymore. No one will read it anyways. (Be quiet, Puddleglum! I've got more to say!)
Perhaps there's a way to write it without God being present in a stated way, but still there (the book of Esther comes to mind). But then we put ourselves under suspicion by other Christians for not including God in our books.
One thing that's helped me a lot in my debate over how present God should be (in an experiential way, where the characters know He is there) is a simple argument that I thought of not too long ago.
So many non-Christian fantasy writers are willing to either not include God at all, or include a distortion of Him (His Dark Materials, for one). People will just go right along with this. They can be vocal in their diatribes against God. Why can't we be vocal in our conviction that there is a God, that He is all powerful, just, holy, and yet loving and merciful, and that He can be a central part of our writing?
In 'His Dark Materials', God is simply an angel who claimed that he had created the world (in other words, lied), and in the end he basically begs to be annihilated.
Not many unsaved people are going to be reading our books, most likely (no, I'm not being pessimistic here, it's just a fact), but there will be some. I really, really want to write fantasy where there is a God, but it's not preachy. He drives the story, yes, but He doesn't have to speak with a voice from the sky (even in the Bible, it happened rarely enough). Dreams are a better way to go, but even that can be overused. In the Bible, prophets were basically the only ones to whom God communicated directly.
We need to be creative (and theologically sound) in the way we portray God. How do people know about Him if He doesn't speak audibly most of the time (or at all in the particular story)?  What is the redemptive analogy (click here for an article on this subject) of your world? There may be one true story of the redemption, and then in other cultures there are shadows of that story, which itself is a shadow of the true redemption made by Christ.
It's tricky, I know, and I'm still navigating this myself. How could one aspect of our fantasy have so much depth and so many implications? I think, however, that it's just as important an aspect as character development or world building. And, as Christians, we must strive not only for soundness in theology (even in fantasy!), but also for excellence in the way it's presented. We cannot, we must not, write as though God were merely a sticker on top of a fine painting, a painting which would look much better without the sticker. God must be integral to the story, yet presented without the preachiness which so often makes parts of an otherwise good story cringe-worthy.
Anyone have any thoughts?

NOTE: I don't agree with everything in the article I linked to. I mostly linked it so that ya'll could get an idea of what a redemptive analogy is. Maybe I'll write in-depth about it some time, because I think it's a really good concept, and could be helpful to us as C-F writers.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Joy Light

I came up with the Joy Light some time in 2009, I believe. It came about as a sort of counterpart to the Ramariya, which were several beautiful jewels that were made by a sorcerer. The Ramariya seized people with intense greed and a desire to have the jewels; to get them, most people would do anything, no matter how unethical.
So, one day I was in church, waiting for the sermon to start, and into my mind came the words 'the Joy Light'. I can't remember what I'd been thinking about, but I quickly scribbled the name down on a piece of paper. At first, I thought it would be a sword, but then I had the idea of making it a jewel that had been made by Enderel for his followers, that would put courage and joy into their hearts, especially in battle. The Ramariya were made as mockery of the Joy Light, and obviously were completely opposite in nature, though at first glance they looked similar.
I wrote a whole lot of little bits about the Ramariya and the Joy Light, but I thought I'd post an excerpt from a story I had been writing a while back, but never finished.
Gaelrin is the young king, and he is at war with an emperor who is actually a powerful sorcerer in disguise. Before the war began, a sword was found as some men were mining, and it was given to Gaelrin. He began to become more and more attached to it, until he could not go a minute without having it by him. Here's the explanation I had written:

Several weeks passed, and those closest to King Gaelrin noticed that he wore his sword more and more often. At first, he had worn a sword only on ceremonial occasions, but now he wore it almost all the time. He fingered it when he spoke, though he rarely looked at it directly. Some of them began to whisper that it had become a part of him. "It is a sign," the lord chancellor said. "It is a sign that war is near." "How is that?" asked the chief advisor. "Well, in the old stories," the chancellor said, lowering his voice. "The king always has a sense that something is about to happen. Maybe he doesn't realize it conciously, but he begins to prepare for it anyways. Sometimes, it might be prepared for in a small thing like wearing a sword more often, as in our king's case." "I don't think that that is the reason," the advisor said. He glanced around to make sure no one was near, and lowered his own voice. "He seems to be attached to it, somehow. It began, after all, when he got this new sword. It's like he's always gripping it, or touching it, when he talks. Like...like, well, I don't know. It just seems to me that he depends on it or something. And I don't like it."
At first, he had worn the sword merely because it was beautiful. Then, as time went on, he would almost impulsively wear it. If he resisted the impulse, and went about his regular duties, he felt greatly weakened, and very drowsy as well. After a time, it was no longer an impulse but a habit. As the advisor had said, he felt attached to it. Not attached as one might be to an object of affection or even liking, but just fastened, as if he could not become unfastened. The longer he wore the sword, the longer he felt, without knowing it articulately, that he could not be without it for even a moment. Yet he himself found nothing strange in it, for he did not know what it was. If he had, then he would have been very afraid indeed.

So, here's the scene:
Gaelrin awoke suddenly in the night and felt around for the sword which he kept always in it's sheath. It was gone. He leapt up from the bed and struck a light, startling the guard outside the tent. 
"Your Majesty?" 
"Where is my sword?" asked the king angrily. "Has anyone entered this tent?" 
"No, Sire," the guard replied, sounding very assured of himself. "Of course not." 
The king fell back on the bed, very weakened. He felt as if he had been wounded and lost a lot of blood. Tradian was summoned, and he saw Gaelrin, who had always been strong and healthy, hardly able to move. 
"Sire," he said, bending down and taking the king's hand. "Sire, are you ill?" 
Gaelrin's voice was a mere whisper as he said, 
"I don't know." 
Tradian bit his lip, and called for the physician, who came as quickly as he could. He examined the king all over, and found nothing at all. He asked him questions, but could hardly hear the feeble replies. Shaking his head worriedly, the physician stood and left the tent, telling Tradian to stay with the king no matter what, and to notify him of any change.
For Gaelrin, this was a terror far worse than the battle he had fought. To have been strong and well one moment, and then to be so extremely weak the next. If it was illness, it was of a most strange kind, for he did not feel ill but powerless: as if all the will to do even the smallest thing had left him when the sword did. He was too tired to even connect this in his mind. He could hardly move, and thinking was becoming less and less easy for him.
As Gaelrin lay hardly able to move or speak, he fell asleep. Even his dreams were heavy and confused, and he felt the slow passage of time in them, until the very end. At the end, a clear light shone into his dreaming mind as from somewhere else, and he heard the sounds of battle. All he saw was the light, but he heard a voice which said to him, 
"Gaelrin, arise and fight." 
"I cannot," he said with an effort. "I cannot even awake." 
"Gaelrin, king of the Three Countries," the voice said again. "Arise and fight." 
Then a hand from the brightness reached out to him, and to his surprise he was able to grasp it. He felt himself pulled up onto his feet, and something was thrust into his hand as the hand itself was withdrawn. He looked down and saw a shining stone in his hand, and realized that it was this which had made the light, or else something very like it. It was of all colors of the rainbow, and it held in it the grey mist of morning; the blue and foam of the wave; the gold of the sun; the green glass of a still pond; and the joy of the morning after a night of fear. And he caught his breath as he gazed at it: for surely here was the Joy-Light, the jewel which Enderel had made long ago and which gave joy and gladness to the one who possessed it, and to all those around him. And, suddenly, he was no longer in the dream at all, but standing on the ground in his tent, with Tradian staring at him in amazement. And well he might stare, for the whole tent was lit as by the sun, yet with a different kind of light. It's rays glowed warm and bright in the king's hand, and fell upon his face, causing it to shine with joy and wonder. 
"Sire," Tradian said, at last, in an eager, shining voice (for everything shone). "There is a battle going on. Shall we join it?" 
"Certainly," the king said. "If you can find me another sword." 
"But you are wearing one," the servant said, pointing to the sheath. 
And Gaelrin looked and saw that a sword was there: it's hilt and guard and pommel were of plain silver, except for a single small diamond on it, which caught the rays of the Joy-Light and threw them back in a thousand hues on the wall of the tent. "Come," Gaelrin said, striding out of the doorway.

So, that's what the Joy Light is. Hope ya'll enjoyed it! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask them.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Emotions in Fiction

First off, thanks to Mary for this post, which inspired me to write my own post about the emotions we give our characters.
I've read very few stories, short or novel-length, where emotions are realistic and make you empathize with the character. Either you've got the super-dramatic stories, where you're surprised the book doesn't come with it's own waterproof jacket to protect it from the tears (of the characters), or else they swing over to the left and the characters are unrealistically mature and level-headed, even in the midst of terrible tragedy.
So, how are we to make our characters have emotions that actually make the reader sympathize with them? Obviously, the old adage 'Write what you know', won't work in situations where you're writing about someone whose whole family has just been killed. Most of us haven't gone through that (I hope!). So, where do we look to find how our character would respond?
I think, first of all, we have to kind of get a feel for the character. Is he usually very quiet and reserved? Or is he constantly in the middle of the action, giving brave speeches and fighting valiantly? Does he say a whole lot in a few words, or is he dramatic and overblown? Even Aragorn wept when Boromir died, and Aragorn is a stern, fairly silent man.
Also, we can be fairly certain that the emotions portrayed in novels and TV shows are unrealistic in the extreme. Take the Little House on the Prairie episodes. I've seen very few that don't make me feel like I've just been spoon fed a whole bottle of over-sweetened syrup. Everything is calculated to manipulate the viewer into sympathizing, but usually I just go, "Oh, good grief! Give me a break! That is so unrealistic!"
In one of the episodes, Laura gives birth to a boy. Not long afterwards, the baby becomes sick, and Doc Baker (one of my favorite characters on the show usually) tries to save him. When the baby dies, Laura becomes angry with the Doc, and the Doc begins to believe that he's of no use and packs his bag to leave Walnut Grove. All the angst and silly overacting is just too much. And then, of course, the Doc is convinced to stay after he saves the life of some other person. Deus ex machina is all well and good at times, but in Little House, it's done just about every time. And another thing is the theme music, which is perfectly fine at the beginning of the episode, but just when it comes to the most 'intense and joyful' moment, that moment when tears of joy come into the character's eyes and they run dramatically (it should be in slow motion to heighten the drama) towards someone else, and the orchestra is playing the variation of the theme music, you just kind of groan like you've eaten too much candy.
I certainly don't want my characters to imitate movie characters.
I think the safest way to do emotions are to kind of think a while about what it would be like if such-and-such happened to you that is happening to so-and-so in your story. Of course, it makes a difference if the character is male or female. A woman is more likely to cry, while a man gives vent to his grief in words or silence perhaps. But that doesn't mean none of your men can cry, or that none of your women can sort of keep it in and shed only a few tears. But you have to make sure that the reader knows how deep the sorrow is through the thoughts of the character. I hate referencing my own work, since it makes me feel as though I'm holding it up as the greatest thing ever, but I will anyways.
I just wrote short story called 'Amira', and it was one of those stories that I like a whole lot. You can read it here. There are spoilers in the next paragraph, just to warn you.

 I have told it from the first person point of view, and as much as possible I've tried to keep it from getting sappy.
So, how did I do it? First, I had been mulling over the story in my mind for several days. I know a lot of people work better by putting it in an outline, but I think about things for a long time before I actually start writing it. It was one of those stories that seemed to spring almost fully written from my fingers to the computer screen.
But how do I write the emotions of someone whose husband is dying, whose parents have died (one in a terrible way), and who is about to die herself? I've never experienced any of those things myself, so I basically had to try to experience them through the MC. So there are flashbacks and a lot of her thoughts.
Another thing I was able to draw on was a book I'd read: 'Lords of the Earth'. It was a missionary story about these tribes in Papua New Guinea, I believe, where the women were treated horribly. They were not allowed to participate in the religion of the tribes, and their husbands were basically allowed to just do whatever they wanted to them. There were these temples that a man could run to, and, if he reached one in time, even his enemies would not touch him. But, if a woman tried to escape from her enemies by going there, her own tribesmen would kill her. The suicide rate for women was extremely high because they were so oppressed. So, that gave me a good starting place as well.
You can well imagine that in the place where 'Amira' is set, female suicide is pretty high. Who would want their husband to die first in a place like that?
Bother, I feel like I'm not being very clear here. I hope this isn't a waste of my time and yours, because I wonder if I've actually said anything that's worth reading, or if it's basically been an unintelligible post. If it has been, then I ask pardon in advance.
So, basically, we're back to the starting point, which is: make your characters' emotions realistic. Try to get into their shoes and see how they (or most anybody, really) would respond to something. It's often the character's thoughts, not their words aloud, that speak the most about what they are feeling at the moment. This is all the easier if writing in first person, but there are difficulties with that POV as well. Anyways, hope this helped. The next post will be about something easier for me to write about: the Joy Light.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Magic is a touchy subject for a lot of us Christians. I know for me, at least, I've never been able to think of the right way to handle it so that the good guys could wield it. So, the other night I was kind of just mulling over a villain I have in Red Sea Rising, Lord Marthos. I was considering the magic he has, where it comes from, etc.
Then, it was like the light came on all of a sudden. Let's see if I can put this all straight, because I think it's good.
Ok, of course in our world what is called magic is wrong. Hands off! Ouija boards, tarot cards, fortune telling, etc, as well as blood rituals and voodoo, are just plain evil.
But, as I've seen pointed out elsewhere, even in our world we have the miracles of God that may seem like magic to some people. And in The Archives of Anthropos, a series of Christian fantasy written in the 80s and 90s, the good guys wield power from God, which is basically 'good magic'.
So, here's my thoughts:
There is good and bad magic. The bad magic comes from rituals, 'spirits', spells, etc. Things have to be done before anything will happen, and it has to be learned.
The good magic comes from Enderel (my name for God the Son). It may be in an object, such as the Joy Light (hey, subject for my next post!), or it may come directly from Enderel to the person, or it may be something they were born with (I'll have to think on that aspect a bit more before I decide to use it).
I remember a good quote from C. S. Lewis that went something like this: 'Magic is not the way in which quacks pretend and fools believe they control the elements. It is instead, "This is a magical flower. Take it with you, and the seven gates will open of their own accord." '
Magic in a fantasy world is a tool, in a way. A sword can be used for good or ill. So can magic. Enderel's magic can be used rightly, or twisted. All evil magic is just that: twistings or imitations of the true power which comes from Enderel alone.
And, as with any other tool, there are clearly defined boundaries that can't be crossed. Just because the power is different does not mean it can be used amorally, or immorally, without consequences.
The Arvindians, having fled from a sorcerer, are very suspicious of any kind of magic. They would rather just leave it completely alone. A lot like many Christian fantasy writers :) A lot like me, before now.
So, all of you who are unsure or leery about the good guys using magic in your stories, remember: fantasy has fantastic elements. We can't redefine moral boundaries, but we can use magic to make the grass grow, or to put courage in the hearts of men, or to raise a fallen fortress. All of these things can be accomplished (to some degree at least) without magic: the sun and rain make things grow, heroic deeds and words can inspire, and men can build a ruined edifice.
Take courage, and let's use even the magic in our stories to the glory of God, and not make it an amoral thing as it is in Harry Potter. And let's make sure we stay within the God-ordained bounds.
What are ya'lls thoughts on magic?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Author Interview--Mary Pursselley

Hello, everyone! I am excited to bring you the first author interview of this blog. Our guest is Mary Purrselley, a young lady and homeschool graduate. I very much enjoy her writing, and you can check it out in the links below the interview.
And thank you to Mary for agreeing to be interviewed (although I'm sure she had just as much fun as I did doing it)

*Drum roll*
The Interview

Welcome, Mary!
When did you first begin writing? I don't mean, writing with publishing in mind, just scribbling stories in notebooks when you wre six or something like that.
Honestly, I don't remember ever not creating stories in my imagination. But as far as actually writing them down goes, I guess age six was when it first started--on primary notepaper in colored pencil.

So, do you remember the first completed story you wrote, whether five or a hundred pages?
The first story I ever remember completing was about eight or ten pages long, I think, but I did my own illustrations which took up at least half of each page. I don't really remember what the plot was (it might not have had one), but I do remember that the main character was a baby moose named Mindy.

What's your approach to 'moralizing' in your stories? Do you just assume the reality of God, or do you have your characters debate about it at times?
You know in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when Aslan says that he is in our world too, he just has a different name? That's the principle I work off of in building fictional worlds. God is the same God in every world. He has different names, and different ways of manifesting Himself, but He is still the same God of the Bible. Now, that doesn't mean that all of my characters believe in or follow Him, but it does mean that He is the Creator, He is in control, and everything that happens is part of His plan.

Yes! I love Voyage of the Dawn Treader! What is the name for God that you use in your stories?
In Reyem, the world where where my current work in progress is set, God's name is Azor (or Hazur, depending on what country you're from), but He is commonly referred to as The Shield, kind of like we refer to God as The Lion of Judah. And the 'Christians' in that world are called the Protected.

What novel are you currently writing for publication?
The title is Son of The Shield, and it's an epic fantasy, first in a series of seven. It's currently in what I hope is the final stage of editing, and (God willing) I would like to start talking with editors/publishers about it this fall.

What role does feminism or the lack thereof play in your stories?
Wow--great question! The whole feminist mindset and attitude really bother me. In my writing, I do my best to follow the Bible's outlines for women's roles in society and family. That's not to say my female characters can't get out there and take part in the action--no way! In Son of The Shield, for instance, I have a female character who is a diplomat, and a female character who's a prophetess. 'My girls' get themselves into all kinds of adventures, just like the male characters do, and I think women in real life should be able to buckle down and deal with problems. But, there is not total equality between men and women either. In Adelfia, the country where Son of The Shield takes place, women are not allowed to join the military, or hold political authority (serving as a political diplomat is the exception). Deborah (in the book of Judges), Anna (the prophetess in the New Testament), and godly women like them are kind of my inspiration for the female characters I write. 

What's another example of how Son of the Shield differs from most contemporary fantasy?
Well, of course it's openly Christian, which automatically separates it from the vast majority of fantasy. But, within the Christian fantasy world, I think Son of the Shield and the series following it are unique because they don't just tell the story of something that happens in a God-based fantasy world. They are the story of the God-based fantasy world. Each book tells its own individual story, but together they tell the story of God's (or, in this case, Azor's) overarching plan; not just the stories of the people in the world, but also the story of the world as a whole.

If you could choose to be one character from anything you've written, who would it be?
Oh boy, that is an insanely hard question to answer! I really love my character Shekiah; she has such a beautiful spirit. But, she was also a really horrible person for the first thirty-some years of her life, so I don't know if I'd want to be her. I guess if I had to choose one character to be, it would be Lhia Oroash, from Son of The Shield (she also makes appearances in later books in the series). She's just a really bright, sweet, gentle personality, very wise and intuitive.

Alright, cliche question time! Which author has influenced your fantasy writing the most?
Well, my answer is going to sound cliche too, but honestly C.S. Lewis is probably my biggest influence in writing. I just love the fact that he was a writer and wrote great works of classic fantasy literature, but he was also a scholar and wrote amazing theological works. Most importantly, he always had something to say. He never 'talked' just to hear his own voice. That's a gift I admire and hope to develop in my own life.

Thank you, Mary, I've really enjoyed this. I hope to see your writings on bookshelves and Kindle someday soon. Keep writing!

Mary's writings can be found on
Apricot Pie
Avenir Eclectia (Science Fiction)
Falls the Shadow (As Co-author)
She also blogs at The Writer's Lair