Friday, August 31, 2012


Fly Away Home--from the writing perspective--has been an interesting experience for me. First of all, it's a genre I don't usually write in. Fly Away Home is primarily an adult novel (20's-30's) , though I'm sure a YA reader would enjoy it.
But the thing that has been most challenging in this novel is the writing of Calida Harper's world-view. She's not a Christian and doesn't have a high opinion of those who are. She has been burnt by her father, deserted by her brother, and let down by life in general. The only thing she clings to or trusts is her ideal of becoming a Successful Woman and all the posturing that must go into her life in order to bring that ideal to a reality. Therefore to write this novel (in first-person too!) takes a bit of mind bending. I can't have Callie's narrative sounding like my own, because I'm a Christian and Callie is not. (Not yet, at least.)

A person's world-view is the lens they view life through. Everyone has one and it flavors and colors their whole perception of the world. Callie's is green. She's jaded and cynical, though like everyone there is portion of her that is still whole and beautiful. But for the most part Callie lives under false pretenses, a sham veneer, and associates among people who are probably just like her. That's part of the reason she and Mr. Barnett collide so often--he's realistic and honest and hearty while she has carefully cultivated her persona so that she is only what she thinks she ought to be.
In fact, Callie's whole world-view can be summed up in this conversation between herself a friend.

“Jamie?” I paused and smiled at him—so jolly and puckish. “Have you ever wondered what it would be like at a masquerade if everyone suddenly removed their masks and could see each other for who they really were?”
“Not much, my sweet. And what would you be wantin’ to see the real person for? The whole point of the game is to be appearin’ like someone else.”
That was the point wasn’t it? Life was just a masquerade—mine more than most—and if I didn’t give Jules what he wanted he’d tear my mask from my face and let the world see the woman who truly lay behind the mask of Calida Harper. My lips trembled and I bit them to keep the tears back.
“It’s a masquerade, darlin’,” Jamie said with a wink. “Everyone’s actin’ like someone else.” He stepped back onto the dance floor and the crowd consumed him.

The privilege I have in this project is to show the gradual change of Callie's worldview as the plot progresses. It's so neat to have an intimate acquaintance with a character who will undergo such changes. But it is a challenge, personally, to think as an unsaved person would think. Every thought of Callie's is tinged with suspicion, jealousy, pride, or hardness, and it has been a great mental and writing exercise to create such a character and write her realistically without making her unlikable or distasteful. I've also grown to remind myself that there are dozens of Callie Harpers living in the world today who are just as precious and just as deceived as she is...just waiting to meet a Mr. Barnett who will take the costumes, masks, and puppetry away and show them the things that make a person truly great.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Insults and Banter

Perhaps I possess a cruel and unusual nature that delights in giving insults. Or maybe I just appreciate a sharp, knife-edged thrust of wit now and then as many people do. I don't like giving the insults, but I have loads of fun reading and writing them.
Shakespeare had quite a few good ones:

"I would challenge you to a battle of wits but I saw you were unarmed."

"More of your conversation would infect my brain."

Hey! I even found a nifty, online Shakespearean insult kit! (do keep in mind not to use some of these in modern'd have your tongue washed out. :P) These could be really helpful in a medieval-era novel.

Another man who was almost on par with Shakespeare in this category was Winston should hear some of his tiffs with Lady Astor! Phew! Among the lengthy list I found were some of these gems:

"A modest man who had much to be modest about..."

"He occasionally stumbled over the truth, but hastily picked himself up and hurried on as if nothing had happened."

"...a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma..."

I will be the first to admit that even if these men where a bit cruel at times, they were undoubtedly witty. I also love witty banter...a friendly sparring now and then that pokes at the opponent with no real malice, but certainly elicits a laugh or two. The one thing I love to come across in a book is a bit of wit or some first-rate insults. Not the common run of insults, mind you, because what fun are those? But I try to write in a sparring-match or two in much of my writing, and am having especial fun with it in Fly Away Home because Calida Harper and Wade Barnett are both clever, sharp-witted, and capable. And sometimes they cross swords with other characters as well. Here are some of my favorite moments:

(between Callie and her former co-worker, Jules)

“I want you to rescue my career.” {he said}
“Your career.”
“Oh…I hadn’t noticed it had grown big enough to get into trouble. My, how time flies.”

*     *    * 

I raised my glass of tonic-water and smiled at Mr. Barnett. “To independence, to Ladybird Snippets, and to the fashion sense of a journalist,” I teased.
Mr. Barnett raised his glass in reply. “And to Miss Harper, who views the world from all angles and never tells a man where she’ll lash out next.”

*     *     *

“I agree to go dancing under one condition….”
“What are the conditions, Mr. Barnett?”
“You simply cannot wear black.”
“Provoking toad.”
“Nefarious chit.”

*     *     *

So he was going to make me speak? So be it. “You were taunting and clever and made me look a fool.”
“It was not my intention to make you look a fool, Miss Harper.”
“Well you certainly did a heck of a job not intending.”
“You can never make a person out to be something they aren’t,” he answered with that cool causality that was so maddening. 

*     *     *

The bella signora sipped her champagne and sighed. “I would think having Mr. Barnett for a partner a fortunate situation.”
“Oh, now, Miss Nalia,” Mr. Barnett protested, but his new humility irked me.
“As a partner in business, I confess I find him exacting,” I laid my napkin in my lap and smiled with uncanny sweetness. “But I’ve had it from his own lips that as a dance-partner he is unrivalled. I look forward to seeing if he represents himself aright, for he seemed so determined on that point...It would be a great pleasure to prove him wrong.”

Monday, August 27, 2012

when it springs upon you.

 "We should take care not to make intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality." 
-Albert Einstein

When an editor, agent, or publisher looks at your novel they are looking for many things. The feel of your writing, your talent in playing out a story, your plot, your characters...but they are also looking for a elusive little thing called Originality.
As a general rule I define Originality as "that spinning out of an idea that is not commonly seen, and which sprang upon you, rather than you springing upon it." You know when you've hit something original, because it will probably have very little to do with anything else you've ever read. Sometimes it will resemble in some way another author's work because after all, there are only so many basic plots. BUT--an original idea won't be concocted of bits of Jane Austen's novels smashed together and called your own. Publishers don't need more conglomerations of what they've already seen. They need an idea that stands out of the hoards because of the fact that it is exotic and rare. Nobody, walking through a park, would stop to look at pigeons when there was a swan floating on the lake. You want your novel to be that swan--that one book that catches the eye of the Lofty Ones so that they take a second glance.

So how do you make sure your work smacks of originality? By avoiding a host of things, some of which I've listed below for your benefit and mine.

Stop Using the "Different Girl"-- Rookie Mistake No. 1 is making your protagonist a willful, headstrong, freedom-grasping girl who only wants to "be different" and spends the whole novel fighting with tooth and claw to prove herself. If I have suddenly squashed your little character-bubble, forgive me. But instead of wasting a whole novel saying your character's different, why not make her different from the start? After all--being different is all a part of that self-same Originality. But show it--don't tell it. We are tired of the Different Girl--and her horse. Which brings me to Point Two:

You Don't Have to Include a Horse: Not that there's anything wrong with a horse, but honestly--if you tallied up all the books that have ever been published, I assure you that books with a strong horse-character are already crowding neck and neck with romance to claim Most Used Ploy. Try something new.

If you write fantasy, find another letter to use:  The letter that is overused? "Y." I assure you that from experience, and from the reading of blog posts of several friends on this topic last year, the letter "Y" is another technique young and old writers alike use to make their names "different." Somehow names like Brynn, Wyfur, Kyla, Nyanna, and Hyr have crept into the average novel of today so that I wince when I crack the binding and peer through the pages, bracing myself for the inevitable. Try a new combination of letter so that you don't earn a grimace when I read your book next!

Let your voice play out: Instead of trying to be original, just write as fast and furious as you can. Your natural voice will develop and mature in this way, and a good natural voice is another thing publishers look for. If you are trying too hard your writing will feel stilted. Just write and let it lie. Tighten things that need tightening, and cultivate your craft, but always keep your voice intact.

Pay attention: The thing is, there are thousands of stories crowding around us every day in the form of People, yet because we are so absorbed in our own troubles, our own business and hey--even our own imaginations--we fail to gather anything from this treasury. Go out, get coffee or a doughnut or something and just watch people. If you are in an airport and waiting for a flight, don't grab your book. Sit there and watch life go by, taking stock of things for once.

Do the things your characters are doing: Trying something yourself will add an authenticity to your descriptions that is lacking in most fiction. Of course you can't go off to war or get lost in a fjord or get kidnapped by gypsies and forced to read things to them, but you can light candles at dinner and watch the play of the light on your family's faces. You can make the food of the culture you're writing about. You can tour a battlefield or visit a farm or go to a dance. Getting you and doing things bring your one dimensional, blah descriptions and breathe life into them...literally. Read your dialog aloud with a friend or sibling--tweak where needed, and get them to adlib with you. You might come up with something hilarious.

Keep a notebook handy: Anytime an interaction, description, or event pops into your mind, go to that notebook and catch the idea on paper. You don't have to have any definitive plans for the pieces you catch, but I can assure you that they'll be helpful. You see, originality largely depends on the expanse of your mind. If you can turn your notebook into a second mind for yourself that can remember things you would have forgotten, then so much the better!

"Keep it secret; keep it safe": I recently heard another author speaking about the fact that your characters need secrets. Yes, you know the character well, but just as you don't know everything about your friends to begin with, so your characters should reflect that maxim. Keep your readers guessing. Let your characters have motives and secrets they might keep hidden even from you for a time, only to let them fly at a crucial moment in your story.

These are my tips and things that I have found helpful in cultivating a sense of originality in my writing. I hope they'll help you, and that someday I'll get to read dozens of original stories pouring out of publishing houses as we all strive to have fresh, new ideas! :)

a minor flashback

Writing query letters for A Mother for the Seasonings puts me in mind of how much I love this dear little story. It has the advantage of having completed even its multiple editings at least a year ago, so I can stand and smile upon it from a helpful distance. :D Now to find an agent who wants to learn to love it.

“We really haven’t a mother of our own, and we need one terribly, so we were wondering if you wouldn’t like to marry Papa.” I finished and my shoulders slumped.
 It was not as easy as you would think, trying to explain our business to these women. None of them seemed to understand the thinking behind it.
-A Mother for the Seasonings

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Dear Silas...

{and a midget library just for fun}

This evening I remembered a certain post I'd written on my other blog waaaaay back in 2009. It was just a very short story made up entirely [pretty much] of the titles of famous books. The piece had made me laugh back then and I thought of it fondly enough to rummage through my archives and hunt it up. Because I thought some of you might get a laugh over the reading of it, I have "reprinted" the piece here. Have a laugh and a wonderful weekend afterward!

"Dear Silas"
A {very} short story

        "The Scarlet Pimpernel, at The Sign of The Beaver, Kidnapped David Copperfield, and had Great Expectations to take him to Treasure Island. So Tom Sawyer and Pollyanna dived 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea To Kill A Mockingbird, but instead killed Moby Dick. 
            White Fang, The Last Of The Mohicans, sent a letter saying "As You Like It! Much Ado About Nothing!" to Emma who posessed great Sense and Sensibility, though she was sometimes blinded by Pride and Prejudice. Emma lived in Cranford during times of War And Peace, with her husband Ivanhoe. The Wives and Daughters named Elsie Dinsmore and Lorna Doone, along with The Lady Of The Lake, went Around The World In Eighty Days. 
            Dr. Doolittle, (a Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court) after much Persuasion wrote The Federalist Papers for Peter Pan. By the time it came to Middlemarch in The Secret Garden, The Count of Monte Cristo had sent out The Three Musketeers from his Bleak House. 
          Crime and Punishment followed. The Brothers Karamazov burned The Pickwick Papers, and wrote The Anti-Federalist Papers. It's only Common Sense that The Wind in The Willows whispered, "The Red Badge of Courage" to Oliver Twist. And that, Silas Marner, is The Tale of Two Cities of the Wuthering Heights."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

the baring of our souls

Hello everyone! I'm feeling rather wonderful this morning because I managed to have written 1229 word of Fly Away Home before 8 o'clock. And that is an accomplishment, I think, seeing as I don't prefer writing in the morning. My brain is just a tad sluggish and anything looks more alluring than trying to hash through a scene. But I did it and I love the 1950's NYC high-life, and all of that jazz. BUT--this post was about something entirely different:

I love seeing other people's writing journals. I know pretty much across the board everyone else's writing journals are far more fabulous than mine, because I haven't been using a writing journal for very long--before it was mostly odds and ends scrapped here or there or everywhere. But a journal is more portable and therefore that's what I switched over to. All that to say, I thought I'd give you a bit of a tour through my writing journal to show you this, my other half of my brain. Enjoy.

" further encourage the baring of our souls and the telling of our most appalling secrets."

{The frontispiece}

A sketch from Cottleston Pie as well as a few random, unconnected bits I like to scrawl down when they Pounce me. This is the only glimpse of my multitudinous collection of scrawlings, because if you saw them all than you'd know all the clever bits I planned to put in one or another of my books someday. And we can't have that.

My newest mantra: expanding my vocabulary so "that I might not appear as uneducated as compared to Jane Fairfax." ;)

I'm finding that Shakespeare (especially in "The Taming of the Shrew") has some spot-on quotes from Mr. Barnett and Callie's relationship.

Ideas/inspiration pages for Scuppernong Days.

 ^Something I have to remind myself of time and time again.

"Why I love writing" quotes as well as literature/author-themed clippings from magazines.

Well, there you have it. Not particularly gorgeous or stunning, but a good, all-round functional place to dump my brain, and the place where all my people-watching finds congregate. I also thought any of you that had read/seen Dicken's Little Dorrit might get a laugh over the sign I made to hang over my desk when I do the billing for Dad...

I hope all-and-sundry of you have a wonderful day. :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

the cultivation of vanity.

Calida Harper is a mess. But I love her. She's complicated (to say the least), she's insecure, and she never quite knows how to react in a given situation. She has emotional issues leftover from her father abandoning their family when she was a very little girl, she has twisted ideas of success and glory, and she's a perfect basket-case.
But I find that Callie is one of the easiest-to-write characters I've ever created. Because despite all this, the one thing Callie has going for her is a big personality. She's winsome and insecure, frightened, and quaint. And her voice is so distinct that I find the character is really speaking...I'm not speaking for the character. (It does help that Fly Away Home is written in first-person.) Though I'm not a big fan of First Person Present Tense, (i.e. I come in and see that Mr. Barnett is sitting at my desk. "Great," I think, "Now I'm in for it.) I do find that one can get a sense of identification with the character quicker--if written properly--than the usual third-person narrative.

Of course third-person narrative gives you a bit more option as far as POV goes. You can switch from character to character (only one per scene, mind you) whereas in First Person that's a little trickier.
My favorite part of writing in First Person are the clues you can drop as to your protagonist's whole view on's a much more intimate acquaintance with a character--being inside their head:
" 'What will I wear?' If I was like any other woman I would have asked the question of my sister or my best friend or my hairdresser…but my only sibling was dead, I didn’t have friends, and I was scared to death of the German woman who trimmed my hair." 
In just a few short lines you learn a lot about Callie...her mental voice, the fact that she's an only child now, she is lonely, and she has a good sense of humor. This technique is harder to accomplish (I think) when using third-person. Therefore any writer who can accomplish an intimate acquaintance with a character using third-person has my respect. I do use third-person narrative often in my own stories (The Scarlet Gypsy Song, Scuppernong Days, Cottleston Pie) but I knew when I began Fly Away Home that the only way to write Calida Harper was to give her the full stage.
Callie sees the world through a wry, half-smile. She's got a great sense of humor that comes out with her head cocked to one side. I love her so much.

"I was going to have to start scoring some vanity-points. I was in the habit of cultivating a good opinion of myself much as the average housewife is in the habit of cultivating ferns and geraniums and other plants on her windowsill. Recently we’d been in a drought in that category—my battered pride couldn’t take much more of this."

Yes she's vain and she has her faults, but the lovely thing about Callie is that she knows it and she's able to laugh at herself after the storm's over. :) It's a privilege getting so close to a character, and I am enjoying every moment of my time with Callie.

Which style of narrative do you write? What are the pros/cons of it?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Why can't the English?

I believe this little poem says it all...I used to bemoan the fact that I was not born speaking French or German or some other useful language. Then I grew up and became a writer and learned exactly why I was so blessed to have been born speaking English....I can't think of a stupider language to try to learn. We have no rhyme or reason to the why we do the things we do, and we can't defend ourselves. It's an entirely illogical language made up of the droppings of other languages and societies...and yet I love it. So here's the the English Language! May it ever live on to befuddle future generations of foreigners.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

..something about the color of Wodehouse

My voice held all the innocence of a guileless infant. But inside, my heart lifted her hem and danced a highland fling to the tune of distinct triumph.
-Fly Away Home

I may have missed the last several Snippets of Story, but now I am back into the full swing of writing, and I hope you might have a moment or two to look over my bits and tell me what you think of them. Most are from Fly Away Home, a couple are from Cottleston Pie. Enjoy.

*         *           *

A deep sense of loyalty to myself forbade me to answer dishonestly. “Yes.  I do think mediocrity is easier.”
“And is that what you desire?” It frightened me—the grave expression his eyes held and the fading of his smile.
-Fly Away Home

.. As a cure, I generally recommend a good book—something about the color of Wodehouse would serve very well. Don’t try Chesterton—he may give you a headache.
-Fly Away Home

I barricaded myself in my room—locked the door, pulled the curtains shut, and threw my hat and purse into the diminutive closet. I stood in front of Nickleby like a woeful nun before her Father-confessor, and wept. “I am wretched!” He blinked and mewed as if to console me on that point. “Well, I am. I was having a perfectly lovely day until home came in the picture.
-Fly Away Home

“There is no question of whether you will suit me, Miss Harper. We mightn’t agree on a number of matters, but if I take a liberal dose of Patience every morning and you tame your tigers a bit, we will refrain from killing one another before the first issue goes to print. After that—why, the both of us will be too guilty of a dozen trespasses to extricate ourselves from the web we’ve woven. No, our partnership is sealed, and in good faith I say.”
-Fly Away Home

“A pound of shrimp, fresh off the piers this morning, fried to perfection and destined to be the lunch of the stunning Miss Harper.” He presented one of the shrimp to me on the end of his letter-opener and then frowned. “No, no. Something’s wrong…oh yes. I forgot. My briefcase, Miss Harper!” I handed the leather case to my employer in great confusion and watched as he rummaged in its depths with a concentrated expression. “Aha. Here we are!” He resurfaced with a glowing face and a bottle of tartar sauce, presenting it to me with a bow. “My lady, will it be the sauce for you?”
-Fly Away Home

“You?” Simpian asked. He was not a little disappointed to see it was only a rabbit after all. He had grand thoughts of the voice belonging to something threatening—another pirate, perhaps. But you couldn’t have a swordfight with a rabbit. That much was certain. He sneezed once—a cross between indignation and goldenrod—and glared at the owner of the voice. “What are you doing here?”
-Cottleston Pie

“Yes, who are you?” Sylvi interrupted.
This was not how the conversation was supposed to go. Simpian bit his lip and whacked the top off a dandelion. Its fluff went sailing away on a fitful breeze that started up as if the earth was yawning. “I am Simpian Grenadine.”
“Oh,” the rabbit said. “Why didn’t you say so? If I had known you were the Simpian Grenadine I’d have not bothered to speak with you.”
-Cottleston Pie

“Oh, Rabbit,” he said at last.
“What, Boy?”
Boy? How rude. “My name is Simpian Grenadine, you know.”
“And mine is Sylvi, but you called me Rabbit.”
She had a point. Simpian let the subject lie. “Are you going to be leaving pretty soon?”
“No.” Sylvi nestled into the grass and yawned a little yawn that showed her two white teeth.
“No. You’ll be leaving pretty soon.”
“Oh.” Afterward Simpian wished he’d said, “Aha,” which sounded a bit more like a pirate and less like Sulking. But he only said, ‘Oh,’ and nothing else in Cottleston Pie spoke after him.
-Cottleston Pie


Good news! My younger sister found my USB port! Turns out she had taken it to use for her photos and it was safely stored in her camera case. I thought I'd asked her where it was, but that is the trouble with having five sisters--you rather forget sometimes who it was you were talking to. But all that to say I am so relieved to have found my babies and I spent yesterday afternoon reading over my work and finding it was not half-bad. :) In the days that I wasn't writing because of not having my novels at hand, I spent some time on Pinterest gathering writing inspiration. Here are some of my favorite pins:

[more on my writing notebook in a few days]

All of these images and more can be found on my pinboard: The Smell of Ink. :) Cheers!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

In which we go hunting plot bunnies

In the realm of writing, plot bunnies are a frowned-upon species of creation. They can be red-herrings and distract from the current work in progress. They are insistent creatures and bound in upon your senses when you least expect them, and are least able to deal with them. They are beautiful, shimmering, tempting little things that promise Perfection...but when you chase them they sometimes disappear in a puff of smoke. And yet they won't go away no matter how much you want them to. There is always a plot bunny sitting on your fingers as you try to type out the next thousand words in the story you know you need to be writing. Inspiration? No. I'm inclined to feel that a plot bunny is distraction. Yet...
You never know when real inspiration will strike. Sometimes plot bunnies are not all mischief, mockery, and fluff. Sometimes there is a valid idea contained in those sporadic plot bunnies. So how do you keep from falling in love with one of these capricious creatures, yet giving inspiration a chance to strike? Here are the ways I deal with them:

Give them their own Word Document- I do not shy from opening a new document, writing the scene that has been bothering me, and saving it for a later date.

Give them their own blog post- This can be a way to successfully fool Those Bunnies. You see, they are vain creatures and they like to be Noticed if you know what I mean. If you write about the plot bunny or include bits of it in your Snippets of Story post, or otherwise give it attention, you might find it begins to leave you alone for a while.

Give then the dignity of a name- Again, make up an intriguing name for this plot bunny and attach it to their word document. This will appease them more than anything.

Give them a later date- After all of this work, if the plot bunny will not go away, set yourself a particular time you will pay attention to your warren of plot bunnies. This works well because the elusive ones that wouldn't have been worth anything anyway are scared of commitment, and then the ones that are worth something will be ready and waiting for you at a particular time, dictated by Your Pen. :)

Monday, August 13, 2012

In which I lose my brain...quite literally

I feel like an amputee at present so you must excuse me. Y'see, before leaving my house to be gallivanting and campaigning for a month, I put my USB card somewhere Safe.


Yes, notice I said "Safe?" 


Well, truth be told, I can't find my USB card now that I come home. The Not-Me's of the previous month must have moved it, or else I put it too safely away for my own good. I am a dangerous woman after all. ;) In order to alert you to the importance of this USB card, you must understand that it literally is my brain.

It holds The Scarlet Gypsy Song...

It holds Fly Away Home...

It holds Scuppernong Days... least it didn't have its talons in Cottleston Pie. I have not exhausted all possible nooks-and-crannies yet, and I mean to rule out those possibilities ASAP. Because as an author, I feel like a mother whose triplets have just been kidnapped. Here's hoping I find the card soon...that would be a royal riot, wouldn't it?--having to rewrite all those long months of hard work. (If I could even recreate it all, which I very much doubt. :P) I'm sure I'll find the card...but I'd better get looking, hadn't I?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I write...

...because the taste of words is in my mouth

...because my dreams appear most vivid in spade-black ink

...because I want to make someone wonder, if just for a moment.

...because I love the turning of pages and the company of books

...because a story, even the simplest, is enough to make me smile.

...because my characters are flesh and blood to me; kin to my heart.

...because to harness words to do my bidding is a power I delight over.

...because a fireside, a book, and a person are a trinity not to be trifled with.

...because there is a chance that I might someday write something worth reading.

...because the feel of creating a world of characters and events all my own turns me giddy.

...because the cadence of story and rhyme is a dance I know well; the pirouette of words weaving an enchantment of vividry.

...because I must write or be forever haunted by the lurid beauty of story untold.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Cottleston Pie: a piece of whimsy

My name is Sylvi.” 
“Your name isn’t Cottontail?" 
Simpian was silent for a moment. Her name ought to be Cottontail, because Cottontail sounded very good when matched up with Cottleston Pie, and if his plan was to work at all, it must sound right. But Sylvi was not such a bad name after he thought about it for a moment or two. “Sylvi, do you like Presenti-mints?” 
“I’ve never had one. Are they good to eat?”
-Cottleston Pie

Mad, vain creature that I am, I have a bit of a secret project that I want to share with someone. I ought not to even write this post, as it is only a post of how I shouldn't be telling you what I'm telling you. But my vanity wins over, and when I have written something I like, I want you to like it too. I suppose that is the downfall of any good writer. Or is it the inspiration of any good writer? Who knows--I certainly don't, and my stars! I'm going to tell you so I might as well get it over with. I am trying my hand at a new story--a nonsense story--that follows no particular plot, and is whimsical, lovable, and positively dotty. It is meant either for very young children who live their lives by whimsy and for whoever is reading it to them. :) It is a direct nod to Winnie-the-Pooh, and takes it's name from that lovely nonsense rhyme by A.A.  Milne:

Cottleston Pie

I had not meant to come up with a new story, but it hit me over the head while I was playing with my five year old sister and our cousin who is the same age. I said something to Rebekah about "he's simply in such-and-such" and she misheard me, looked at me with her head cocked on one side, and said, "Who's Simpian?" and just like that an Idea was born.

      Simpian lived in a house perched in a tree, simply because that is the best place to live. (As anyone who has tried it ought to agree.) He lived by himself as far as anyone could tell. He had no father or mother or sisters or brothers and certainly no uncles or aunts. That is, until tea-time. Then you might find Simpian rummaged out of his tree house by the sound of the great brass bell and if you followed him across Waterloo and through The Field (and once or thrice around and through and behind the blueberry bushes) you might hear quite a lot of people calling him “Allister!”—or more often than not—“Come Allister!” and he might look less and less like a pirate and more and more like a grubby-little-chap-in-need-of-washing whose relatives were looking for him.
-Cottleston Pie

The boy who used to be Only Allister is now Simpian Grenadine: Master of Cottleston Pie. And that came to be in this way:

      Allister flipped onto his back in the grass and looked up into the branches of his tree. The sun shone yellow through the green leaves and blue behind that, and Allister whispered his rhyme to himself in a sing-song voice: “Cottleston, cottleston, cottleston pie….” And just like that—without even trying—the words had attached themselves to the tree and the house and Allister sat up, a deal surprised, and half expecting to see a Notice written up and tacked to the tree:      
           Formerly known as Tree-House Belonging To Allister, now known as Cottleston Pie: Home of Simpian Grenadine.”    
   The last bit surprised Allister more than finding that his house had named itself. What sort of a name was Simpian Grenadine? A good one, he thought. But where had it come from? Nowhere, he supposed. And because Allister was clever enough to know that the best thing always come from Nowhere, he didn’t bother to ask any further questions and only said to himself once or twice as if trying on a new jacket: “Simpian Grenadine…master of Cottleston Pie.”
-Cottleston Pie

If you must know, Cottleston Pie is the name of Allister's tree-house and Property. It's a private sort of place and one is never quite sure while he is there if what happens is true or make believe. But it doesn't really matter because everything that does happen is beautiful and entirely fabulous. I thought I had better Advise you as to the species of story Cottleston Pie is, because it may show up in my Snippets of Story posts and then if I didn't tell you, you'd be left hanging out to dry. I am planning on making little pen-and-ink drawings to illustrate it and if it turns out to be good at all I am going to give it to some of my Little Friends come Christmas time.
What do you think of Cottleston Pie? If you don't like Winnie-the-Pooh and wonderful nonsense in general do not read further. You'll hate it. But if there is a little bit of whimsy hanging about in your heart, I think you might enjoy this newest child of mine. :)

      “Well, are you or aren’t you?” he asked.    
          Sylvi stared at him out of one round boot-button eye, then swiveled her head so she looked at him out of the other. “I am’nt.”    
        “You whatn’t?”        
         “I amn’t.”      
         “Ah. That’s what I thought you said.”        
         Sylvi narrowed her eye. “That means I am not.”    
        “I knew that,” Simpian hastened to say. “Only I wanted to be sure you knew what it meant.”      
        “Oh, I know.” And Sylvi began to groom her tawny fur again. She paused mid-brush and looked up at him. “You are a perfect basket of red-herrings, aren’t you?”
-Cottleston Pie  

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

...can he talk nonsense?

"There are two ways of dealing with nonsense in this world. One way is to put nonsense in the right place; as when people put nonsense into nursery rhymes. The other is to put nonsense in the wrong place; as when they put it into educational addresses, psychological criticisms, and complaints against nursery rhymes and other normal amusements of mankind."
-G.K.  Chesterton
"You have to write the book that wants to be written. If the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children."
-Madeleine L'engle
"Don't talk to me about a man's being able to talk sense; everyone can talk sense. Can he talk nonsense?"
-William Pitt
"Cottleston, cottleston, cottleston pie
A fly can't bird, and a bird can't fly.
Ask me a riddle and I'll reply:
Cottleston, cottleston, cottlestone pie!"
-A.A. Milne
"I like nonsense. It wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living."
-Dr. Seuss
These few quotes are simply to let you know that my mind has run to nonsense in my long sabbatical from writing, and as I try to harness my thoughts into some semblance of normalcy, I bit of that nonsense might dribble into a scribble or two. Consider yourselves fairly warned. For now, know that this post was entirely inspired by having been reading Winnie-the-Pooh again and working myself into a high good humor. I know you think I'm daft when I laud the Pooh books. I mean honestly, I am twenty years old. But the best books are the ones that charm you all through life, and I mean it when I say that there is nothing for making one smile like a good dose of the Hundred Acre Wood.
Toodle-pip, everyone! I'm off to trot along and write something! And I have the most shivery feeling it might be something good. I have been reading A.A. Milne after all! ;)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

the three racketeers

Hello! To reintroduce myself to your dear people, [and to prove I do still write, though it's been a month] I thought I'd give you a scene from a random little bit I started to write last night. :) Here it is, and I hope you enjoy it. Oh yes--and one note: it's a modern piece, which is a new thing for me entirely.

"An excerpt from: The Three Racketeers"
By Rachel Heffington

“For the love of Pete!” Blaine eyed me, vicious, and dropped into the wicker porch-chair. “These kids are brainless.”
I refrained from correcting her on that point—our cousins had to have brains because they could move, and anyone knows that in order to move, you have to have a brain.
“Stop thinking the obvious, Hallie.”
“How’d you know—?”
Blaine scraped mint-green polish off her thumbnail. “Because you’ve got your Debater-look on. But apart from the physical motion, you have to admit our cousins are…well…dumb.”
“I bow to your superior knowledge.” I scanned the yard, hoping the Three Racketeers weren’t lurking nearby. That’s what we’d christened our cousins the first day of the summer vacation when they’d managed to pick our pockets and nab our flip-flops in one fell swoop. “Blaine?”
“Hmmm?” Her eyes were still sparking green.
“They don’t read.” I was whining. I knew I was whining.
“Nope. They don’t.”
Her reply lay on the heavy, rain-scented air, sultry, oppressive. “How can anyone stand life without books?” I asked.
“Without Dickens…” Blaine spread her hands wide, dramatic as usual.
“Without Tolkien,” I added.
“Or Lewis, or Chesterton, or Austen.”
“Especially Austen.” I gathered my knees into my arms and squelched the desire to have a panic attack. A whole summer without books; without our darling stories…and it was all our mother’s fault. Mama was perfect except for one thing: she was a practical person:
“The boys will have loads of books, I’m sure, and there’s not a stitch of room left in the trunks for your books.” Blaine and I swore we’d rather ditch the clothes and wear nothing than leave our books behind. Unfortunately for us Mama was not only practical—she was Southern bred--and didn’t like the idea.
So here we were in hundred-degree weather: only three days into our exile with a trunk full of camphor-scented sweaters in case it was cold, and a serious case of the doldrums. I wailed and bled and ached inside and wished that the low clouds scudding past the telephone poles would get on with it and drop their liquid cargo. I hated waiting for things—especially rain. That, and sneezes. Sneezes and rain and yawns—awful when they hung just out of reach.
“Stop doing that.”
I turned to Blaine, a little surprised. “Doing what?”
Uncanny, my sister. “Who said I was fretting? I wasn’t fretting.”
“Bet you were.”
“Bet I wasn’t.”
“You’re wearing your Sydney Carton face.”
She shouldn’t insult my favorite martyr. I felt like pushing Blaine’s chair over with her inside it, but I didn’t have the energy. I glared at her instead. She met my look with her eyelids at half-mast and her lips pursed.

Friday, August 3, 2012

//sweep the streets I used to own//

Song is one genre of writing that I've never explored. Still...I love music and I will be the first to admit that lyrics set to music have the power to sway the soul.
And I love it when I find a song that affects me in an indescribable way. While down in Georgia I heard the words to Coldplay's "Viva la Vida" and I grew to love that song. There is some desperate, sad, story behind this song. Beautiful, haunting..full of deep sorrow. And the music that goes with I think it would make a powerful novel (if you added a happier ending, wot? ;) Here...enjoy it. :)

I used to rule the world

Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy's eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing
"Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!"

One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

For some reason I can't explain
Once you go there was never
Never an honest word
And that was when I ruled the world

It was the wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People couldn't believe what I'd become

Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?

I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

For some reason I can't explain
I know Saint Peter won't call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world

I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

For some reason I can't explain
I know Saint Peter won't call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world

-Coldplay's "Viva la Vida"