Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The "Literary" Genre

For a long time I have wondered about classic literature. Why do those authors like Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Sir Walter Scott, and many others seem to get away with things that are no-gos in our time? Like telling, for instance. And the author's voice slipping in.
The beginning of Pride and Prejudice is all telling and author-voice for the first paragraph. But everyone seems to love it. Have our reading preferences changed so drastically that what was good writing back then is shabby craftsmanship now?
I was rather confused myself so I asked my critique group about it. Diana Sharples , the group leader, explained it rather well.
She said that the classic novels are in the "literary" genre where such things are acceptable. The only problem is that modern readers are not so much into the "literary" thing. They want faster-paced, more exciting books. If you are trying to write in the "literary" genre you have to have plenty of talent, be a fair hand at keeping an interesting and worthwhile "author voice", and be able to sell it. If you truly do want to be a "literary" writer, than you'll have to accept the fact that your public of adoring fans will be much smaller than if you write for the main group of readers.
I was glad to get that question answered--I don't think I could have figured it out for myself. :P Also, while on the subject of publishing and writing and things of that nature, Taylor Lynn did a really great post on the submission process of publishing, as well as writing queries, etc.
So hop on over and read it--she has some great ideas! :) -Rachel

Sunday, May 29, 2011

In Which I Find Myself In the Depths of Despair.

The writing journey is full of ups and downs. This afternoon I feel like scrapping Puddleby Lane. Especially after some people have suggested I do just that with my first chapter. BWAHHHH! :'(
If it was a real manuscript and it was the dead of winter, my story might already be smoldering in the flames of the wood-stove.
The criticism was that I started off too slowly. I know that. But what do I do with that? I don't know. And so I am rather in the "depths of despair" to quote Anne Shirley. Someone said it quite well below. *Sigh*

"I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within. "
Gustave Flaubert

"People are certainly impressed by the aura of creative power which a writer may wear, but can easily demolish it with a few well-chosen questions. Bob Shaw has observed that the deadliest questions usually come as a pair: "Have you published anything?" loosely translated as: I've never heard of you and "What name do you write under?" loosely translatable as: I've definitely never heard of you."
Brian Stableford

"Many books require no thought from those who read them, and for a very simple reason; they made no such demand upon those who wrote them. "
Charles Caleb Colton

I feel slightly better already. Oh dear. I can't use "slightly". It ends in "ly"--yet another trouble-spot for me. Let's do some cheering up, slightly "I know better than you" quotes ;)

"One nice thing about putting the thing away for a couple of months before looking at it is that you start appreciate your own wit. Of course, this can be carried too far. But it's kind of cool when you crack up a piece of writing, and then realize you wrote it. I recommend this feeling."
Steven Brust

"Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."
Cyril Connolly

"Forget all the rules. Forget about being published. Write for yourself and celebrate writing."
Melinda Haynes

"My purpose is to entertain myself first and other people secondly. "
John D. MacDonald

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
Jesse Stuart

"I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten - happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another. "
Brenda Ueland

I think I am sufficiently cheered up that I can go shop for pie-making supplies in peace. I won't think about my story. I won't talk about my story. I won't even let the critique-groupers' suggestions bother me. They are mostly true anyway. It's only because my pride is squished that it nettled me at all. The people are only trying to be helpful. My poor little baby that got it's imperfect nose commented on is just a little fractious. ;) Maybe I'll find this quote comes to fulfillment while I do all this "not thinking about it" :P

"Moving around is good for creativity: the next line of dialogue that you desperately need may well be waiting in the back of the refrigerator or half a mile along your favorite walk."
Will Shetterly

With the woes of many another writer filling her brain,

Friday, May 27, 2011

If You Wrote Like I Write.... ;)

Do you want to know some of my writing secrets? Not like writing tips, but secrets of the way I write? They'll make you laugh, and make me blush. Ready? Okay.

1.) I use a superfluous number of exclamation marks. This quote from "Cranford" could be said about any of my writing:
"She wrote in such distress--there were exclamation marks!" ;)

2.) I hate writing with pencils. If I am forced to use one, I sharpen it every couple of minutes. I absolutely *cannot* use a blunt tipped writing instrument. :P You want a quote to go with this? Okay. Here's one from Puddleby Lane:
"Of course she knew that writing with a pencil would be far more practical—she would be able to erase mistakes. But there was something stimulating in the scratching of the pen’s nib. It liberated her fancy and the words flowed freer. A pencil humped along like a bored snail but an ink-pen skimmed the surface of the paper like a gull winging above the ocean waves"

3.) I am guilty of plugging in synonyms of "said" at the end of my dialog to make the writing sound more prestigious, and ending up sounded the direct opposite. Believe it or not, "said" is invisible, and therefore doesn't ruin the flow of your writing like other, longer words might.

4.) I vow that a glass of homemade (or Chik-fil-A) lemonade is the best companion for inspiration. Hot tea makes me sleepy, you need hands to eat anything and there's something about the zing of lemonade that wakes you up... ;)

5.) My brain freezes up when there is a sister looking over my shoulder at the progress of my story. I can't think quite so well. Especially when I know they are casting silent darts of disapproval over the fate of certain characters...ahem.

6.) I scribble poems and story ideas down on random scraps of paper and stick them in random books, and come across them later on long after I had forgotten about them.

7.) I apparently make faces and generally act out my book on my face while writing. (Or at least, my sisters tell me so.)

Was that at all interesting? I hope so. What are some weird things you all do when you write? Any strange habits? Have a great Memorial Day weekend! I'm entering a pie-contest. :) Even authoresses are not above dabbling in pastry-making. ;) -Rachel

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Beautiful People: Learning Your Characters

Taylor Lynn told me about a really neat bi-monthly blogging event called Beautiful People over at Further Up and Further In. The idea is that the characters you create are beautiful people, and this is an event to help you get to know and understand your characters better. It might sound rather vague and hopelessly artsy, but it's really quite simple. Sky lists a chunk of questions that you get to answer about your own character. So I think I'm going to do it for Cora Lesley, since she is my newest character and I don't "know" her extremely well yet. Ready?
Here we go:

1. What type of laugh does he/she have?
Hmmm......I think she has a low, sweet, dreamy laugh with a shade of wistfulness in it.

2. Who is his/her best friend?
Her much older sister, Maggie, or her nephew Tucker. He may only be six, but he's the one who understands her best.

3. What is his/her family like?
A fairly young family, as Cora lives with her sister Maggie, Maggie's husband Frank, and their children, Tucker and Dot. (Dorothy) They are strong Christians, but since they are a young family, Frank and Maggie are not quite so wise as we may wish. Frank is rather a spur-of-the-moment fellow, which is how they move to Puddleby Lane in the first place. :)

4. Is he/she a Christian, or will he/she eventually find Jesus?
Yes. Cora is a Christian, and her faith in Jesus grows throughout the story as she experiences God's provision.

5. Does he/she believe in fairies?
No. No fairies, but she is a hopeless romantic and loves storybook style tales. I think Cora would wish she could believe in fairies.

6. Does he/she like hedgehogs?
Hedgehogs?! Well, since Cora is, in a way, like me, than I'd say yes. Hmmm....actually, I may have to write a hedgehog in...haha!

7. Favorite kind of weather?
She is not particular as to weather as much as to the time of day. Twilight is her favorite, or moonlight, or a soft May morning. But Cora enjoys a rip-roaring thunderstorm now and then too.

8. Does he/she have a good sense of humor? If so what kind? (Slapstick, wit, sarcasm, etc.?)
Cora does have a good sense of humor, but she is not terribly witty or clever in her style. She depends on Maggie for providing the zing while she provides the echoing laughter.

9. How did he/she do in school, or any kind of education they might have had.
Cora's formal education was cut rather short by the death of her parents. She moved in with Frank and Maggie and has been teaching herself several years now. English is her strongest subject, as she is a writer and reader.

10. Any strange hobbies?
Hmm....She hoards illustrations of her favorite books to paper her trunk with....she hopes to become a world-famous novelist someday....she can dance? Yes. She can dance. Though no many people know it. She prefers dancing on the seashore once they move to Puddleby Lane, or practicing a hornpipe with Captain Boniface. :)

There you go! An interesting exercise indeed! :) I think that I love Cora more than ever! :) She's much like me: motherly, thoughtful, a romantic, a novelist, a dreamer, but I think she has a more serious side to her. She has had quite a bit of tragedy in her life and it has aged her soul beyond her fourteen years. She is the dependable member of the family and often feels responsible for keeping morale high and anxiety low.
So does anyone have any more questions for me to answer about Cora? :) Let me know! -Rachel

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hints for Writing Historical Fiction

I thought that since I've learned a little about writing historical fiction (or fiction set back in time) in my writing experience, I'd share a few tips with you. Not that I necessarily know a lot, but it's what I write, so I've learned some things along the way.

1. Read a book either written or set in the era you're using
This is extremely helpful, as you will be able to gather information such as clothing popular in that era, words, politics, literature, celebrities, etc. Do take caution when reading fiction *set* in the era and not written in it, because the author didn't necessarily do his or her research. I found this hint extremely helpful when writing The Seasonings, because it is set in the Victorian Era, and I've read extensively and done extensive research on what this era had to offer so I was pretty immersed in the literature of the day.

2. Research colloquialisms, terms, sayings that the people used back then.
You should be able to find a treasure-trove of colorful language. (In the best possible way) Expressions that have long been buried and forgotten. Some of my favorites are:
"Saints above!"
"Blooming barnacles!"
"That's all a bunch of who-struck-John."
"Lawful hearts"
And many more. They just add a certain snap and color to your novel that would be entirely missing if you stuck to modern language. (Sorry everyone, but as a writer, I groan over texting language. It's so....cold and utilitarian in my opinion.)

3. Get out of the Slough of Insipid Language
"Nice," "Very," and "Suddenly" are pretty much goners. Especially the first two. Mark Twain has a marvelous quote regarding "very," but I don't think I'd quite like to quote him, as he uses a word I *don't* recommend. ;) Scour your brain and thesauruses and dictionaries and other books for strong adjectives. I promise you it's worth it. Only, do be careful. Some words have changed meaning over time, a good example being the word "gay" which used to be a sweet little word meaning "cheerful, brightly-colored, happy, etc." You probably want to nix that word in your writing, though it is historically accurate, as you are writing for a modern audience.

4. Research your setting
There is nothing more disappointing than cracking open a "historical fiction" novel and finding it could have been set in New York City today with very little change.
I wrote The Seasonings as being set in a British settlement in East India. Along the way I ended up doing more authentic research. I had started with The Little Princess, Homeless Bird and The Secret Garden being my authority on India, (and more specifically) British-occupied East India, but that wasn't going to cut it. Once I did my scouring, learning the customary foods and clothing, the topography of the land, etc. my story gained a lot of color. By the way, I don't recommend doing as I did and using only a couple of fictional books as your guides to life in your setting. It made for some pretty rough descriptions at first.

5. Be accurate
If you are truly writing a historical novel, this is perhaps the most important tip I can give you. History is defined by real people and real events. I'm sorry, but you can't change the date of battles or deaths of key historical figures or anything. Your writing will pretty much be discounted by anyone who is brushed up on their historical facts. For instance, in Puddleby Lane I needed to be careful I started my story in the proper time of year and time of month so that the crashing of the stock market would be at the correct time.

6. Make your characters' names eye-catching.
The way too over-used names of today should be tossed out when you go to start your historical novel. Do a Google search, or if you're a purist, scan through some census or parish records and find some names that haven't been used to pieces.

Hope these ideas helped! Anyone have any more ideas or suggestions? :) -Rachel

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Puddleby Lane: A Description and Excerpt :)

Okay. Since everybody pleaded with me to do a little blurb about Puddleby Lane I guess I shall comply. ;) Below is a description, sort of like what might be on the back of the book--doesn't reveal too much, but gets you interested. :)

"In her fourteen years of life Cora Lesley hasn't met with much that she'd call adventure. Beyond The Accident, there hasn't even been anything worth writing down as her "life story". That is until the stock-market crashes on October 29, 1929 and Cora and her sister's family lose everything. They are forced to leave their cozy home in the Mid-West to move to a shabby seaside town. Does Puddleby Lane hold a promise of adventure? It seems so. The discovery of the Secret Place, the budding friendship with Captain Boniface and his queer home, The Bonny Addie, and even the change of scenery all point to new experiences for Cora. But when calamity touches the family and a shadow falls across Puddleby Lane, the question arises: Will Cora, Maggie, and the children be force to go through yet another storm, or will this new set of adventures teach them to lean more than ever on the Everlasting Arms?"
And to capture (hopefully) your attention further, I have provided an excerpt. As always, my work is copyrighted, and therefore cannot be stolen. Please acknowledge this and know that the law is on my side. *shakes fist at the thieves flocking this blog* ;) Oh! And please also realize that this is rough-cut with not a scrap of editing done yet, so don't judge me. ;)
Without further ado, an excerpt from Puddleby Lane, Chapter Four: Blackest of Days

Cora ran into the kitchen and tied an apron around her waist stepping across Mildred, the fat gray tabby cat. “Say, Maggie? Can we turn on the radio?”

Maggie’s hands were covered in soap bubbles. She brushed a strand of hair away from her forehead with her wrist. “Let’s sing together instead, k' ?”

“Perfect!” A little fountain of happiness burbled in Cora’s heart and sent a spring to her step. She and Maggie hadn’t sung together in ages. Cora poured some more soap flakes into the sink for Maggie and swished the water vigorously until the suds piled high. Then she took a stack of wet plates from the counter and gently wiped them with a linen towel.

“What’ll it be first, Cora? Sweet Adeline?”

Cora giggled. “Or Captain Jinks.”

“Or Yankee Doodle!”

“Or Believe Me If All Those Those Endearing Young Charms.” Cora’s cheekbones ached from smiling so much.

Maggie lowered her voice until it was as growly as Frank’s when he first woke up in the mornings. “Believe me if all those endearing young charms were to change by tomorrow and fade—” She broke off suddenly with a peal of laughter and leaned against the sink. “Oh, it’s useless, Cora. Frank sang that song when he was courting me—you remember the day when he and I took Daddy’s boat out on the river? Frank insisted on serenading me, and standing up to do it, but when he reached out to pick one of the water-lilies, the whole boat tipped over. I can’t sing it anymore without remembering the face he made as he fell!”

Cora joined in Maggie’s laughter. The picture Maggie’s words conjured was too funny—Frank was generally so dignified. To think of him falling with a great splash into the river and coming up again, perhaps with a bit of duck-weed clinging to his nose, was absurd.

“Perhaps you’re right. We’d better let the radio do our singing for us this morning.” Maggie dried her hands on her pretty print apron and walked to the cabinet radio in the living room. A crackling strain of music floated into the kitchen where Cora stood. She hummed along with the words as she washed the dishes, swishing the wash-rag in time to the beat. Maggie returned to the kitchen and took a bottle of milk from the icebox, setting it on the counter beside a plate of cookies. She reached into the cupboard for a glass.

They had just arrived at the bridge of the song when the music cut off suddenly. A voice, loud and harsh, broke in upon their senses, jarring Cora’s mind. “This just in from our correspondents. After an unprecedented rise in value, the stock markets on Wall Street have crashed.”

More than the stock-market crashed. Cora winced as she heard a shattering sound. She turned to see her sister, pale as death, standing in a puddle of milk and broken glass.


But Maggie hushed Cora and flew toward the radio. Cora followed and grabbed Dot in her arms to keep her away from the broken glass and clapped a hand over her mouth just in case the baby tried to talk.

“The damage is total,” the sonorous voice went on. “Many people have lost everything and all investors are in danger of damage to their fortunes. The public is in an uproar, and the police have had to be summoned to banks for the prevention of a rush. As always, we will keep you updated…”

Cora heard no more. She only saw Maggie sink into the armchair and cover her eyes with one hand. Underneath her fingers, still red from the dishwater, Maggie’s face was as white as the lace on her collar.

“Maggie, Maggie, what’s wrong? Don’t look like that!” Cora put Dot down on the carpet and shook Maggie’s shoulders gently.

Her sister laughed and sobbed hysterically. “Cora—oh Cora! Frank just invested every penny we owe in the stock markets last week. We’re ruined. Absolutely ruined.”

Ruined. The word tolled in Cora’s swirling mind like a death knell. Ruined. Ruined. Cora crumpled to the floor beside Maggie and took her sister’s free hand in both of her own. “Shhh…There, there, Maggie. It can’t be as bad as it sounds.”

Could it? Cora tried to steady her thoughts. Tried to grab a straw of reality in the garish nightmare around her. Something normal and tangible. She fingered the hem of Maggie’s apron and averted her eyes, unable to look at Maggie’s frightened face. But neither could she bear to be ignorant of the worst. Cora forced herself to smile and stroke Maggie’s cheek, keeping her eyes on Maggie’s. She must be strong—it was frightening to see her sister falling to pieces like this. “It’ll be all right, Maggie. Somehow we’ll be okay.”

Maggie composed herself with visible effort and wiped her eyes. Her breath came in straggling gulps, like a tattered butterfly trying to fly. “You’re right, Cora. I’m being a silly woman. We must be strong.”

“Mum-ma.” Dot picked herself up and clasped her chubby arms around Maggie’s neck.

Maggie laughed, but the usual music in its tones was drowned in tears. “Mama’s all right, dearest. I just had a bit of a fright, that’s all.”

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Reminder and the Prize Announced

It is incumbent upon me to remind all of my lovely followers that "A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words" contest will be drawing to a close on June 5th! :) I have the prize chosen, but no picture of it. The winner I choose will receive a set of three handmade bookmarks, made by the yet to be announced Sweet Alyssum Etsy Shop! :) Please, please enter! I promise your entry will not take a long time to write (believe me, 1,000 words or less is *not* long at all!) and I'd love as much participation as I can get! :) -Rachel
P.S. As a side-note, Puddleby Lane is coming along very well in the in-between-farming moments! :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Puddleby Lane: The newest novel

I have begun a new story in earnest. No, it's not Riverly Manor. I think I've given that up for lost at the moment. I felt like writing something brand new that didn't need revision before I went on. I got my fill of that, temporarily, at least, with the Seasonings. No, this is a new, different book. I shan't tell you much about it right now, as I've only written two-and-a-half chapters, but I will say that it is called Puddleby Lane and is set in the Depression Era. The heroine's name is Cora Lesley, and I imagine her to look something like this:

(Thanks, Carrie for putting this picture on your blog sidebar! :D)

What do you think of that name for her? :)

I was originally going to name the novel "Coddleston Pie" (as in the riddle in Winnie-the-Pooh) but I deemed it best not to run into any copyright issues with that! :P (And yes, there would be a reason for the name. I'm not crazy! :D)

I am trying to get a big enough chunk of it done before I start posting it with my critique group. Hopefully my inspiration won't dry up before then! :) That's why I'm not letting a lot of people read it, or telling much about it. What would my reputation as an Authoress be if I kept giving up on projects? ;) I am trying to keep this one going, because I wrote down a whole plot-line for it. There are varying opinions on the subject of whether to write out the plan for your story or not. Some people say it stilts inspiration. But I felt that a strong pre-decided plot was missing in my Seasonings so I thought I'd give it a whirl today. :) I've already found out some interesting things about the Great Depression era from doing some research. The Roaring Twenties were something else! :P
Any new ideas popping up in your brains? :) -Rachel

Friday, May 13, 2011

An Amazing Book. Enough Said.

This afternoon I finished reading Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. I have read many of Dickens' books, but for some reason I avoided this one. I guess I assumed that because it is a popular "must read" in so many schools, that it must be a stuffy, boring book. The title isn't the most intriguing, I must admit. It sounds as if it would start "Once upon a time there were two cities and a mean king ruled one, and a kind king ruled the other." ;)
But it did not take me long to get swept into the plot. Okay, so I do have a weakness for historical novels set in the French Revolution...(think The Scarlet Pimpernel) but by the end of the book, I had fallen in love with all the characters.
There was the perfect balance of danger, mystery, and fierce loyalty to make a brilliant story. I had heard that Dickens wrote this book in sympathy with The People of France's side of the Revolution. However, as I read it, I found that Dickens showed both sides of society in an equal and fair light. He touched on the cruelness many commoners felt from the aristocrats, while also admonishing the level of cruelty and depravity the people fell to at last.
He showed the harsh and unfeeling behavior of some aristocrats while also having sympathy for those who were kind, those who were just, and those who were honorable.
But my very favorite part of the book was the last third- Sydney Carton's sacrifice. He started as a good-for-nothing, and ended up as an honorable, noble, man.
What impressed me was the symbolism between Carton and Jesus Christ. Not the particulars, (Carton was a low-life to begin with) but their selfless love and sacrifice. I felt that Dickens drew his readers to think of Jesus in the last chapters...

"These solemn words, which had been read at his father's grave, arose in his mind as he went down the dark streets, among the heavy shadows, with the moon and the clouds sailing on high above him. 'I am the resurrection, and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die.' ...A trading boat with a sail of the softened color of a dead leaf, then glided into his view, floated by him, and died away. As its silent track in the water disappeared, the prayer that had broken up out of his heart for a merciful consideration of all his poor blindness and errors, ended in the words: 'I am the resurrection and the life.'"

Then the sweet scene at the guillotine at the very end of the book when Sydney Carton is comforting a poor seamstress before pays the ultimate price for the love of a woman whose husband would otherwise be taking the punishment:

"'What then, my gentle sister?'
'Do you think'--the uncomplaining eyes, in which there is so much endurance, fill with tears, the lips part a little more and tremble--"that it will seem long to me, while I wait for her in the better land where I trust both you and I will be mercifully sheltered?'
'It cannot be, my child; there is no time there, and no trouble there.'
'You comfort me so much! I am so ignorant. Am I to kiss you now? Is the moment come?'
She kisses his lips, he kisses hers; they solemnly bless each other. The spare hand does not tremble as he releases it; nothing worse than a sweet, bright constancy is in the patient face. She goes next before him--is gone; the knitting women count Twenty-two.
'I am the Resurrection and the the life, saith the lord; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever believeth in me shall never die.'
The murmuring of the many voices, the upturning of many faces, the pressing on of many footsteps in the outskirts of the crowd, so that it swells forward in a mass, like one great heave of water, all flashes away. Twenty-three."

And then the heart-wrenching last line of the book:

"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."

That is all. And that is enough. I appreciate Dickens showing these scenes. Jesus' gift to us is the only one that can provide comfort in situations this dire. It is the only thing that counts at the end. I have to say that A Tale of Two Cities blessed me as much as a sermon. So the only thing left to say? Amen.

Blogger....You're Frustrating. :(

I am most vexed indeed! Blogger *deleted* my whole Winnie-the-Pooh post that I had written! I know it was one here, because I saw it several times, but today they just obliterated it somehow! :( So if you try to click on the post, it will probably tell you that it doesn't exist! Sorry! :( -Rachel

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Author Bio: Marguerite de Angeli

One of my favorite children's authors, though less well-known than many, is Marguerite de Angeli. (March 14, 1889- Jun 16, 1987) She was born Marguerite Lofft, in Lapeer, Michigan- one of six children. By age 15 she was a professional contralto singer, paid one dollar a day! She soon withdrew from highschool to get more musical training.
In 1908, Marguerite Lofft met John Dailey de Angeli, known as Dai. They were married April 12, 1910. The Angelis lived in many locations across the west and mid-west of America, and finally settled in Pennsylvania, where they lived the remainder of their lives.
Among the many beloved books Marguerite wrote are:

The Door in the Wall

Yonie Wondernose

Thee, Hannah

The Lion in the Box

Skippack School

Henner's Lydia

Copper-toed Boots

Many of de Angeli's books were set in the Amish, Mennonite, and Quaker communities during the 19th, and early 20th centuries.
Besides writing a considerable number of books, Marguerite illustrated 28 of her books as well as numerous others. I have loved de Angeli's writing ever since Mama read Yonie Wondernose to me as a little girl. The style of the writing is sweet and simple. It reminds me almost of Louisa May Alcott's, if she had written for younger children. Have any of you read anything by Marguerite de Angeli? If so, what did you think?
I am absolutely dying to read her autobiography: Butter at the Old Price, but it's out of print, or at least our library doesn't know anything about it! :D -Rachel

Monday, May 9, 2011

Thinking Outside of the Description Box :)

When I write, I love using unusual metaphors, descriptions, etc. to show a common thing in an uncommon light.
New word pictures that haven't been used so many times you can see straight through them.
Interesting word choices.
Descriptions that make people think. But not in such a way that it leaves people puzzling over what I mean.

Dickens is the master of this illusive technique-

"The sky was dark and gloomy, the air was damp and raw, the streets were wet and sloppy. The smoke hung sluggishly above the chimney-tops as if it lacked the courage to rise, and the rain came slowly and doggedly down, as if it had not even the spirit to pour."

When I read this quote I always know exactly what the weather was like- I am almost there inside it with the characters. :)

One of my favorite descriptions of a child is found in E. Nesbit's The Railway Children:

"There were three of them. Roberta was the eldest. Of course, Mothers never have favourites, but if their Mother had had a favourite, it might have been Roberta. Next came Peter, who wished to be an Engineer when he grew up; and the youngest was Phyllis, who meant extremely well."

I absolutely *love* that description of Phyllis. Don't we all know a little child who, if not exactly well-behaved, means extremely well? :)

And then of course we have C.S. Lewis' stunning description of Aslan's voice in The Silver Chair:

"Anyway, she had seen its lips move this time, and the voice was not like a man's. It was deeper, wilder, and stronger; a sort of heavy, golden voice. It did not make her feel any less frightened than she had been before, but it made her frightened in rather a different way."

It's fun to mess around in your writing with creative descriptions. Take a description of the summer heat. Let's say this is the original that you want to spice up:
"It was the heat of summer. The air was hotter than an oven, and silent, except for the cicadas buzzing in the the trees."

You could take a sheet of paper, and write different descriptions, like this:

"It was high summer- the time of year when you're careful not to stand too close to someone for fear of sticking together."


"It was August. The world lay in languid silence beneath the sweltering sun, all nature lulled into a heated sleep except for the insects who rasped in the trees with persistent monotony."

"Summertime was here in earnest. Popsicle melting weather. Dash-across-the-blacktop-to-avoid-blisters-on-your-feet weather. The time of year when everyone means to do yard work, but no one gets past a glass of lemonade beneath the shade tree."

Just play around with your own ideas and try out different styles and combinations! :) It's so much fun. Oh! And I mustn't forget to remind you once again about the A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words" contest! :) -Rachel

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Case Closed- A Mother for the Seasonings Finished!

Yesterday I accomplished one thing every author wishes to accomplish. I finished final-editing A Mother for the Seasonings! :) This last and final edit was done using the critiques from my dear critique group partners, and my own taste. I reflect over what this process has been like and realize how far I've come. I have done a total of six edits on this book- Six! After three edits I sent out copies of The Seasonings to family and friends for them to comment on. I felt pretty good about my book at that point.


Then I took their feedback and edited it, then edited each chapter before putting it up for critique in my online group. And it is there that I learned....how much I still needed to learn.

My punctuation was atrocious.

I told instead of showed everything.

So with the help of these fellow-writers I embarked on a rewrite, and just finished yesterday afternoon. I printed the book off- all 207 pages of it, and put it in a notebook. It is finished. I have promised myself that I shall not change a word of it until I very gruff publisher with a very round belly and very bristly whiskers tells me I have to. ;) One very good piece of advice a critique-er gave me is this: There is such a thing as Over-Editing. You don't wish for your book to feel stilted and to lose it's flow. So I am done. I am forcing myself to let The Seasonings rest in peace. :P And I thought I'd post the epilogue for you here. Okay, so it *is* a spoiler, but if the book is never published, I'd love to know you got to read at least the very end. Tell me what you think! :)

Epilogue: Two Years Later

The summer heat pulsed like a volcanic heart outdoors, but inside our bungalow was cool and silent. Almost too silent. I longed for the usual daily noise attending our family. The laughter and chatter—even Angie’s piano-practice would have been a welcome relief compared with this quietude.

We children were gathered in the parlor, alone once more—and yet not alone. A mysterious bustle sounded in the dark hallway. The quick, light step of a woman and the low voice of Dr. Simms. A door closed gently, followed by a muffled groan.

Fennel put aside the book she was reading. “Will Mama be tickety-boo?”

“Of course, Fenny.” I pinched her nose and poured myself a glass of lemonade. But I was more than a little worried, myself. We had already lost one mother in childbirth. Would our new Mama be taken as well? Oh Lord, let her live. If it be Your will, let her and the new baby get through this time.

“You’d better not pinch me, Basil.” Fennel interrupted my thoughts.

I pinched her nose again. “And why not, goosey?”

“Because when I’m a young lady pinching me will be a fearful impro…impro..”


“That’s right. Mama said gentlemen never pinch ladies. She told Dill just last week.”

A muffled moan drifted through the wall.

Rosemary shifted and sighed. “Oh, when will this waiting be over?” She knit her brow and toyed with a paintbrush and watercolors. Months of Mama’s gentle training had turned her into quite a young woman.

“I don’t guess it can be much longer.” I smiled at the growly depth of my voice. Two years had been sufficient time for my voice to drop an octave.

Dill joined my side. His head was almost level with mine now. “I’m hungry, Basil. Can we please rummage up something in the kitchen? I’ve been starved for weeks! Ever since Mama went into her confinement and Sali left us for that butcher-man.”

I thumped him on the shoulder. “Don’t you ever think of anything else besides food?”

Dill grinned complacently. “Not when there’s a crisis like this. Say, you and I have had our own room for a two years now. Why can’t we make some improvements? Install an icebox or two and some cupboards.”

“Dill Vervain Octavius Seasoning.” A tall girl sat down at the piano and tossed her golden hair. It was the Angie of old, only grown a foot taller and prettier than ever. “You will never learn to eat only at mealtimes, will you?”

She played a measure or two of some music on the piano and paused. A new sound had reached our ears, even above the music.

“Did you hear that?” Dill asked.

“Oh, is it the baby?” Fennel jumped from the window seat and threw open the parlor door.

We waited in silence. I bit my thumbnail. Ten minutes passed at a turtle’s pace.

At last I heard a door open and the set of light footsteps coming down the hall. A pale, pretty nurse entered the room. She curtsied. My heart leaped to my throat and I leaned forward, trying to anticipate the news, whether good or bad.

“If you please, Maister Seas’ning, the doctor says y’may come in now. All of you.” The nurse smiled, and curtsied again, and I knew all was well.

With a collective squeal, the girls pushed past me. Dill and I, unable to act the part of sober-minded gentlemen followed them at a breakneck pace. We slid to a stop at the door of Mama and Papa’s bedroom and tip-toed in.

Mama lay on the great bed and Papa stood beside her, stroking her golden hair. He turned when he heard us enter and motioned for us to come closer. I peeked at Mama over Papa’s shoulder. Although there were deep circles under her eyes and little color in her cheeks, a light shone through her face, making her more beautiful than ever before. I stepped closer to the bed and the others crowded around me.

In Mama’s arms, wrapped in a pink blanket, lay the tiniest person I had ever seen. Her eyes were shut tight and her dark hair was damp and fuzzy.

The girls gasped and reached out to touch her tiny hands and ears. Dill’s eyes grew rounder, but he poked the blanket and grinned.

“Golly, she’s awful red, isn’t she?”

He said it loudly, and the baby, startled by the sound, let out a tremulous wail. Dill shrank back and turned red himself.

Mama kissed the baby and laughed at Dill. Her laughter tolled softly like the bell in the silver rattle the OLAF had sent for this new little person.

“Don’t worry, Dill. She’ll soon grow accustomed to living in this lovely family,” Mama said.

The baby quieted, and Papa picked her up and placed her in my arms. It felt right, holding the warm, soft bundle. I hadn’t held a baby since Fennel was born. I looked at Fenny, now a big girl of nearly seven, and a lump rose in my throat. The baby wriggled and opened her rosebud of a mouth to yawn.

“What’s her name?” I asked.

Mama looked at Papa, her blue eyes luminous and overflowing with tender love. He nodded.

“Her name is Lavender,” Mama whispered. “After the lullaby.”

Papa stroked Mama’s hand. “Lavender Victoria Regina Seasoning, but we’ll call her Lavvy.”

I held the little baby and rocked it in an awkward, manly fashion. Lavvy. It fit her well.

“Well, Miss Lavender.” I pinched the tip of her nose as gently as I could. “You’ve come to live in quite a family.”

Lavvy moved a hand and stretched her tiny fingers, while snuggling deeper into her blanket. When she opened her eyes for a brief second, I could see they were the exact color of Mama’s. Blue as a summer sea.

I brushed Lavender’s velvety cheek with my finger and smiled to myself. She had evened things out, in a way. There were six of us children now. Fenny was a big sister, and Mama and Papa had a baby to bring their hearts even closer together, if that were possible. I thanked the Lord to the very depths of my heart for this new sister.

“Oh, let me hold the dear thing,” Rosemary said.

She took Lavender from my arms and cradled her in her own. Angie touched Lavvy’s tiny toes and Fennel tucked the blanket in tighter around her. I looked at Papa and returned his beaming smile with a satisfied nod.

It was impossible to have found a better sort of happily ever after.

The End

So there you go! :) What do you think of that as an ending? Oh! And to keep my reputation, I must remind you....Enter "A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words" contest! :) -Rachel

Thursday, May 5, 2011

"A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words" Contest :)

Have you ever seen a painting that so captivates your fancy that you find yourself wondering about the figures in the picture?

Who are they?

What is their story?

I often find myself doing so.

A curiously pensive expression.....

A distant, prideful gaze....

A wild look to the setting....

I could spend hours pondering over the particulars and weaving wild stories to accompany them. :) So I had an idea for a new contest. "A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words Contest"
Choose any famous painting that you don't already know the ends and outs of the story of. (i.e. no one choose the gorgeous "Lady of Shalott" :D) Your job is to take that painting, and weave a magnificent story out of it. The only catch, is that, per the title of the contest, it must be 1,000 words or less! :) It does not have to be an entire story- it could merely be a scene set in the setting of the painting you choose- I know 1,00o words is pretty small, so I'm not making you write a whole novel here! ;)
Bring out your melodramatic side! ;) This can be Anne Shirley's "Story Club" material, Jo March's "sensational tale" stories, (please nothing too sensational :P) or anything you want it to be. Since I have held two poetry contests already, I am limiting this to prose. Sorry! ;)
The Rules are as follows:

1. Your story must be 1,000 words or less (Believe me, this is difficult to use only 1,000! :)

2. One entry per person

3. You will send your entry in a Word document file (or copied and pasted into an email) along with an image or link to the painting that inspired it to me at inkpencontestsubmissions@gmail.com

4. You may use any famous painting you wish, but I would recommend using one from this post, or else another painting by John Williams Waterhouse- they are so.....Amazing. :)

5. The deadline for this contest will be a month from now- June 5th, 2011

6. Have fun! Be creative! :)

The prize will be announced at a later date- please enter and please post about this on your blog or website or Facebook or whatever it is you do online! ;) I'd love to have lots of entries!
Extremely excited,

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Found at Last in the 1578 Pages :)

Here are some of my favorite quotes I have found in my quote book! Some are funny and completely random, others are thoughtful, others clever. Tell me which is your favorite! :)

"What would have become of us had it pleased Providence to make the weather unchangeable? Think of the state of destitution of the morning callers." -Sydney Smith

"Madam, I have been looking for a person who disliked gravy all my life; let us swear eternal friendship." -Ibid.

"Marriage resembles a pair of shears, so joined that they can not be separated; often moving in opposite directions, yet always punishing anyone who comes between them." ;) Ibid.

"No on minds what Jeffrey says: .. it is not more than a week ago that I heard him speak disrespectfully of the equator." -Ibid.

"Not the poem which we have read, but that to which we return, with the greatest pleasure, possesses the genuine power, and claims the name of essential poetry." -Samuel Taylor Coleridge

"Miss Blachford is agreeable enough. I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal." -Jane Austen

"What dreadful hot weather we have! It keeps me in a continual state of inelegance." -Ibid.

"Not many sounds in life, and I include all urban and rural sounds, exceed in interest a knock at the door." -Charles Lamb

"Put your trust in God, my boys, and keep your powder dry!" -Col. Valentine Blacker

"What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value." -Thomas Paine

"Her blue eyes sough the west afar,
For lovers love the western star." -Sir Walter Scott

"Meat eaten without either mirth or music is ill of digestion." -Ibid.

"[Miss Austen] had a talent for describing the involvements and feelings and characters of ordinary life which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with. The Big Bow-wow strain I can do myself like any now going; but the exquisite touch which renders ordinary, commonplace things and characters interesting, from the truth of the description and sentiment is denied to me." - Ibid.

Monday, May 2, 2011

My Bartlett Book

I hope someday to write something quotable. Mayhap it is an oddity found amongst fellow book and literature-lovers, but I absolutely LOVE quotes! :D I have found so many that fit a thought I have had, but have never had the wit to put into words! :)
So you will imagine my absolute delight when my dear friend Abigail came to visit and brought me this:

Familiar Quotations compiled by John Bartlett. (And no, it doesn't look *quite* that Narnian :D) Not only is this a 1578 page book full of quotes, but it is an antique book full of quotes! My particular book was printed in 1938.

The only thing better than that, is the spoonful of brownie-batter my sister Anna just brought to me ;)
I have had my nose buried in this book so many times during the past couple of days! :) I hope to be able to make my own "literary allusions" in my writing, as well as being able to detect them in old books. :) Read more about that here.
And so to give you a taste of my feast of quotes, I've shared few below :)

*Proceeds to realize that 1578 pages hide your favorite quotes well*
As I find these "favorite quotes", I'll post them! It's already been a good 20 minutes! :D