Thursday, November 29, 2012

Happy 114th!

Today we are having a birthday party on this blog. Why? Why? Good grief, my dear friends! Because it is C.S. Lewis' 114th birthday, and if I forget to celebrate his birthday, I might as well forget to celebrate my own!
Ever since Mama would read us the Chronicles of Narnia...ever since watching the old BBC film versions...ever since I was first introduced to the marvelous idea of a forest in the back of a wardrobe, I have loved Lewis. Narnia was the only make-believe land I cared for. So many many times can I recall playing at Narnia on the hill behind our house, sometimes creeping into the solemn, stern cluster of woods called "Doxey Park" with the solitary lamppost standing sentinel at one side. We made daggers. We shot bows and arrows.
Then I grew older and I realized--with a delighted wriggle--the second level to Lewis' writings: the beautiful, poignant truths woven so inextricably through his words that it hurts in a good way to read them. I expanded from my narrow circle of the Chronicles of Narnia and read The Screwtape Letters....Surprised by Joy....biographies of this man...and what a man he was. To celebrate, below I've compiled some of my favorite  quotes along with pictures of this wonderful Christian brother, or things that remind me of him! Huzzah!

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." -C.S. Lewis

"A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest."
 -C.S. Lewis

"I'm on Aslan's side, even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia." -C.S. Lewis The Silver Chair

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
-C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity

“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”
-C.S. Lewis

“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”
-C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity

Sarah and I as the White Witch and the Lady of the Green Kirtle 

“It isn't Narnia, you know," sobbed Lucy. "It's you. We shan't meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?"

"But you shall meet me, dear one," said Aslan.
"Are -are you there too, Sir?" said Edmund.
"I am," said Aslan. "But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.” 

-C.S. Lewis The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

“You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve," said Aslan. "And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”
-C.S. Lewis Prince Caspian

Happy 114th Birthday, dear old Jack! We are forever grateful for your sense of humor, your wisdom, your love for Christ, and your brilliant books! Three Cheers or Lewis! Who's with me?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

the eternal appetite of infancy

Once in a while you will happen across a quote from a person that knocks the wind out of you, it's so fantastic. Chesterton often does that to me. I've never read anything of his whole, but just the brief glimpses of glory I see in his quotations are astounding. This one no less than the others. 

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, 'Do it again'; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again," to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again," to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we." -G.K. Chesterton
May God grant all of us His eternal appetite for infancy. This quote set me to thinking really hard about how I view "monotonous" tasks in my life. I hope and pray I may never lose sight of this perspective.

Monday, November 26, 2012

November's Bounty

November has been a massive month for me in a lot of ways. The beginning was packed with politics, then birthdays, balls, more birthdays, holidays, and first and second round edits for BOTH The Scarlet-Gypsy Song and Fly Away Home. What with all this hullabaloo, I realized I have not done November's Snippets! Shocking and abominable! Well, here you are. This is what I've got--all from Fly Away Home this time.

He could have sent me to Helsinki to cover the ’52 summer Olympics. I’d have gone willingly. I’d have frozen my tail-bone off. I’d have lost all my fingers to frost-bite. Was Finland cold in the summer? Much I cared. I was stuck in this office writing obituaries while the rest of the world did pleasant things with pleasant people.
-Fly Away Home

“What would you say if I told you….that I understand how you feel.”
“I wouldn’t believe you.”
“All right.” He drew his breath in between his teeth and held it for a moment, then let it out with a whoosh. “What if I told you I was praying for you?”
The idea took me so much off guard I looked over either shoulder as if frightened God Almighty might have heard my wretched thoughts. “Right now?”
-Fly Away Home

He inclined his head with a fleeting smile. “But the whole beauty of Christianity is that it isn’t a religion.”
“It’s a wonderfully complex—and at the same time simple—relationship. Every other ‘religion’ on the face of the earth is one-dimensional. The god sits in the corner of the house behind an offering of moldering bread.” He motioned at the stone figure of a Greek maiden inhabiting the park fountain. “Or the god is a vague, twisted shadow-thought only to be reached by deep, tortuous meditation. Jesus—Christianity—on the other hand…well quite frankly, it’s radical. Both God and man and Spirit. A Trinity. A three-stranded cord that is apart from and…and above and under and in everything of this world and out of it.”
-Fly Away Home

 His {Jules'} hands touched the wall on either side of my head. The dimples on either side of his smile flashed with pleasure at having cornered me thus. He was so close I could see the dark, sandpaper look of his five o’clock shadow over his strong jaw. His lips curled into a sultry smile of a singularly dark nature. The smile that had captivated so many girls but never failed to make my stomach turn over with nausea.
-Fly Away Home

I dropped into my chair on top of Nicks—he reminded me of his presence with compound-riposte against my backside
-Fly Away Home

I’d wear the daffodil silk again—the one Mr. Barnett had liked so well. Yes, I wanted to please him. I wanted him to look at me one last time and to feel his satisfaction. He would never look at me in that way again after tomorrow.
-Fly Away Home

“Stop staring at me!” I hissed, turning round to find Mr. Barnett—just as I had felt—with his eyes warm upon me.
“I can’t help it—you look especially…furious tonight. Ah—I see I’ve hit upon it. You are furious—and why? What brings this flame-color into your cheek and this dark glitter sparking in your eyes?” He brushed his knuckle against my cheek and I felt my defenses tumbling under that clumsy, tender touch. “You remind me of Shakespeare: ‘I understand a fury in your words but not the words.’”
-Fly Away Home

I paid the cab fare, bit my lip, and stalked toward the little cafĂ©, my head pounding to the pace of my feet. The situation was deplorable. The news was deplorable. Jules was deplorable. Men were deplorable…I was deplorable!
-Fly Away Home

Why did I need Wade Barnett? His reputation could go to the devil for all I cared. For all I cared. A broken shard of hope pierced my soul and killed the arrogance. How much I did care! Memory upon memory swept over my heart in a crushing avalanche. That laughing-color in his eyes, his half-smile, that interminable coat with the shiny elbows. Feeding the birds, the grease spots from the fried shrimp and the toast to my health with the tartar sauce. The verbal sparring and the battles of wit, his clumsy fashion sense, his dear dear simplicity….
-Fly Away Home

Had he no idea the wretchedness of my heart?
-Fly Away Home

“What are you thinking?” he asked.
“Your coat is scratchy.”
He chuckled, held me the closer. “Silly puss.”
-Fly Away Home

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A treat for you: Cottleston Pie

In case any one of you are perusing the computer tomorrow (or today, rather, it's being 12:01 a.m.) after having eaten a rather large Thanksgiving dinner, and you're looking for something that won't take a lot of jaw to chew and will give you a breezy, smiley, nonsensical feeling, I have provided something I hope will fit the bill. It's the first chapter of Cottleston Pie. (a short story in its own right.) I've decided I'm giving it to Gracie for Christmas, so in between editing the other projects, I'm scribbling nonsense like a mad-woman. I've been collecting bits of pieces of Grace-lingo to use within the book, as well as many nonsense-scraps from my own mind, including tantalizing words full of promise like "Ruby Elixir" and "Skellingtons" and "Fourfin-July" among others. Oh yes. Bits about being clever enough to find the Big Dipper anywhere....messenger pigeons...This is going to be so much fun to write. I hope you enjoy the first chapter and have a smashing Thanksgiving Day.

Cottleston Pie
A Bit of Nonsense by Rachel Heffington

Chapter One: Who’s Master?


Simpian Grenadine was a little boy. That was what he looked like; but if anyone asked him such a question pretty nearly any given day, he would stick one hand on his hip, hold the other out like a pistol, and say in a terrible voice:
“I’m a pirate.” Which he Was some days, and Was Not, others.
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.
But no one ever did follow Simpian Grenadine in that direction, because anything and everything of importance that happened to him happened at Cottleston Pie.
“What’s Cottleston Pie?”
Now, now, don’t interrupt. If you keep interrupting me to ask about Cottleston Pie I shall have to tell you to play the ice-cube game and freeze, and since Simpian hated That Sort of game, we had better not play it.
Cottleston Pie was the name of Simpian’s tree house, and his whole Property, in fact.
Well, it came about in this way: Once, when Simpian was not a pirate, nor Simpian, but Only Allister, his sister had been reading to him a funny sort of book all about a bear named Pooh and all of Pooh’s friends, and they came across a sort of riddle in the book. It was all about flies that couldn’t bird and birds that couldn’t fly, and cottleston, cottleston, cottleston pie. And because it sounded Difficult and Smart, Allister adopted the rhyme as his own and carted it around with him everywhere.
He said it to the cows at milking time and to the crows in the Rickety Pines, and to the butterflies that lived near his Property. It was during one conversation with these self-same butterflies that Allister discovered what his Property was called.
“Butterfly-or-Flies,” (That was how Allister had named the pretty things—he was never quite sure whether there were many of the insects or only one very active one, and so as not to offend them all on one hand—or It, on the other—he had devised this rather clever title for the creature in general.) “Butterfly-or-Flies, I have a riddle for you.”
The yellow and black insect did not appear to be much interested in Allister’s riddle and instead began to breakfast on the buttercups growing round. “So you will not guess?” Allister asked, much disappointed.
It would not.
“Then I’ll tell you. ‘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, cottleston pie.”
Butterfly-or-Flies finished his breakfast at one flower and wobbled to the next in a drunken fashion. There was no fun in that. 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.”
So that is how Cottleston Pie came to be. It was a good name because it was a tad secret; no one knew what Allister meant when he said it—they all thought he was quoting Pooh. But he wasn’t. And of course no one could guess that he wasn’t Allister anymore—he was Simpian Grenadine: Master of Cottleston Pie. Yes, it was a satisfying arrangement.
The morning of Simpian’s first adventure began golden, hazy, and sneeze-ish. You would never have guessed today would be the adventurous sort—it was rather more dull than usual, truth be told. Simpian lay on a branch of his tree with his arms and legs stuck out on either side so that he much resembled a tiger-rug let to air on a fence-rail. He was thinking and sneezing this morning—thinking of lots of things; many important things, and many Not So, and he was sneezing because the goldenrod was blooming in a brilliant patch hard by. But the most important thing Simpian thought of was Nothing. Simpian thought more and more on Nothing as the sun rose higher and the cicadas buzzed drowsier. Nothing was a very comfortable sort of occupation and felt…well…almost sleepy.
But Simpian was not sleeping. He was thinking of Nothing with his eyes closed.
“That’s almost the same thing,” a voice said. It was a near voice, not a far voice like the ones you usually hear when you’ve been not-sleeping.
Simpian was so surprised to hear anyone that he had to hug the tree-limb tight so as not to appear to be falling. “What’s almost the same thing?” he asked the voice.
“Sleeping, and thinking of Nothing with your eyes closed.”
“What would you know about it?”
“Because I’ve tried it—I’ve tried it and I’ve fallen asleep every time.”
“Well that—Achoo!—is you.” Simpian was growing cross. It was not pleasant to talk to [and what’s more, to be contradicted by] someone you could not see. “Come out here and show yourself if you’re going to be smart.”
“Thank you. I am.”
Simpian sat up and flicked a wandering ant off his elbow. “You’re coming out, or you’re smart?”
“Both, I should think,” the voice said.
Being in a tree when something invisible and impertinent was on the ground felt too much like giving up. Simpian wriggled off his branch and down the tree till his toes brushed the grass. That was much better. Now he could meet the whatever-it-was in good style. But there was nothing at all in or around Cottleston Pie. Nothing, at least, that Simpian could see.
“Where are you, voice?”
“I’m coming, I’m coming. You needn’t be so hasty.” And following the voice was a pretty, wild, little rabbit with a pink nose and long whiskers.
“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?”
“I have as much right to be here as you, I daresay.”
Simpian drew himself high and looked past the rabbit—he did not want to notice that it was a rather adorable little creature. “You have not. Because you don’t even know who I am.”
“Who are you?” the rabbit asked.
“I am the master of this Property,” Simpian said.
“What property?” The rabbit twitched one of her long ears and licked her forepaw.
What property? Simpian felt crosser than ever. What property? Next, that saucy little rabbit would be telling him that Cottleston Pie was a ridiculous name and he ought to have called it The Tree House or something sensible. Well then—Simpian wouldn’t tell the rabbit What Property. He’d make her guess. “Yes, what property?” Simpian asked.
“What do you mean by asking ‘what property’ when I asked you first?” the rabbit asked. Her fur was very soft looking.
“Well, I asked you second.”
“That makes no sense.”
“Yes it does.”
“No it doesn’t.” The rabbit said.
“Doesn’t it?”
“What do you mean?”
“What do you mean?”
Simpian laughed inside to see that the rabbit’s fat little sides were moving in and out quickly as if all the arguing had left her breathless.
But the rabbit drew herself up onto her hind legs and smoothed back her ears with one paw. “I mean to tell you that I am planning to live here by and by.”
This took Simpian by surprise, and he fell over backward into the grass and had to suck on his thumb for a moment. Simpian never sucked his thumb—well, almost never. Only when he forgot that he was six years old and not Allister anymore. Yes, Simpian was very surprised at what the rabbit said. Why was he surprised, and vexed and Not a Little Astonished? Well, how would you feel if you’d just been drowsing and thinking of Nothing and having an all-round good time and a rabbit came up and told you that she was planning on moving in with you?
You would likely feel crosser than Simpian did, for he was always up for some adventure or other. That is why it did not take him a very long time to recover. He was on his feet in a moment, drying off his thumb on his corduroy pants and wiggling his toes in the grass. “Rabbit,” he said. “Oh, Rabbit.”
“What is your name?”
“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?”
Simpian shook his head. Imagine anyone thinking a Presenti-mint was something to eat. Why, he’d known for three days that a Presenti-mint was what he used to call A Feeling. He crossed his fingers and rocked on his toes while explaining to the rabbit: “A Presenti-mint is when you thinking something is going to happen.”
“Well, do you?”
“Do I what?”
“Think something is going to happen?”
“Let me do all the asking, Sylvi. I’m master of this Property.”
Sylvi hunched up until she looked softer than ever. “That’s where we started the conversation.”
Simpian crossed his arms and shook his head at the rabbit. “If you’d let me tell you you’d understand. I do thinking something is going to happen. You know what I think will happen?”
“I can’t imagine.”
“Well I can. I think we can live at Cottleston Pie together.”
“What is Cottleston Pie?”
What a dense rabbit this was. He wondered if all cottontails also had cotton-brains but then he thought that perhaps it wasn’t fair to expect something that looked cute to also be able to think. Instead, Simpian turned a cartwheel in the grass overtop Sylvi and ended up on the other side of her. She didn’t have to turn, however, because all rabbits have eyes on either side of their heads. The problem would have been in Simpian had landed right in front of her nose. He was right-side up again, and stretched his arms over his head. “Cottleston Pie is my Property. And I—”
“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.”
This comment nettled Simpian greatly. What did that strange rabbit mean by ‘if she’d have known?’ And did it come out to a compliment? This was the largest point Simpian had to settle within himself, and he answered quickly enough—it was only Great people who could make people speak or not speak with oneself. Therefore there must be some sort of compliment tucked away in Sylvi’s pronouncement like the lone raisin Tottles hid in the king cake at Christmastime. Simpian plucked the compliment out and popped it in his mouth by way of a smug smile. “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?”
Simpian didn’t think he was much like a basket of herrings at all, but there seemed to be nothing else to say after this. Instead, he knocked the heads off another patch of dandelions and sneezed once—or was it twice?—and generally tried not to look as if he wished Sylvi would move off and leave him and Cottleston Pie alone. He tried counting to five-and-twenty but got befogged by seventeen. This was no good either, for Simpian had an absurd feeling that that uncanny Sylvi was most likely a…whaddya-call-it….a math’gician and could count to five-and-thirty if she had a mind to. “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. Butterfly-or-Flies zig-zagged by and Simpian wished he was as free as him to do what he pleased. Sylvi curled up in a ball in her plush patch of grass—The Soft Patch, Simpian noticed—and covered her nose and eyes with her paws.
Simpian sneaked off and climbed his tree so that he could think of a plan. Usually he was rather good at coming up with plans. Plans for picnics and plans for wanderings…plans for how to divide up the rest of Tottles’ gingerbread, and how the sky would look best if there were stars out in the daytime…but he felt all the planning spirit ebb out of him as he looked at Sylvi sleeping in the grass and wondered how to make her leave Cottleston Pie.

It was not till Simpian had eaten the last of his gingerbread that he thought of it. Snakes. Every rabbit hates snakes—that’s as much a fact of life as the one that snowflakes don’t come in August, and a tickle means laughing. And the harder Simpian thought about snakes the more he wished he could find one and coax it to live at Cottleston Pie with him to keep away any rabbits.
“Because,” he thought, “If Snakes mean no rabbits, I won’t have to leave Cottleston Pie.”
So that is why Simpian scooted down the tree-trunk and tip-toed around the Soft Patch with Sylvi in it, hoping to get away without her noticing. It really seemed he had, and that Sylvi might stay asleep, when her small, regal voice stopped him.
“Where are you going?”
“Yes you are.”
“I want to go Somewhere.”
Simpian bit his lip and tried not to feel like kicking that small fluff-ball. “You can go Somewhere, but not my Somewhere.”
“If you don’t tell me where your Somewhere is, how will I know not to go there?”
This vexed Simpian greatly, for he was not certain where he’d be able to find his Snakes, and it was not a pleasant idea, having to explain things to Sylvi. “If I go away, you’ll be able to sleep,” Simpian said. He held his breath and waited for Sylvi to answer.
“No thank you—I’ve done with my nap.” And like that, Sylvi hopped over to Simpian, sat back on her hind legs, and squinted  her eyes at him to see if he was coming along. Simpian hummed a growling-tune to himself and poked his nose into the air and stalked off, Sylvi coming lippity-lip behind him. They walked for some time around Cottleston Pie, but Simpian felt foolish for poking through the bushes with Sylvi looking on. She said nothing, but she was there all the same and it made Simpian cross.
“Why do you have to follow me?”
“Because you’re on my property.”
“Your property?” Simpian asked, astonished.
“Yes—Cottleston Pie, remember?”
Simpian snorted—a very cross noise—and sucked his bottom lip. “Sylvi? What d’you say to a game of hide-and-sneak?”
“Hide-and-sneak? Well, only if I get to do the sneaking.”
Simpian was just a little surprised that Sylvi knew how to play hide-and-sneak which was quite a different game than hide-and-seek. The difference began with how you said it. You hunched your shoulders forward—sneaky-ish if ever anything was sneaky—and placed great emphasis on the Hiding part. “Hide-and-sneak.” The sneak was almost a whisper by the time you go to it.
Regardless, Sylvi did seem to know how to play, so Simpian hunched his shoulders forward again and narrowed his eyes till he could barely see anything at all of the rabbit. “All right, Sylvi. You get to be the Sneaker.” And saying “Sneak” reminded Simpian so much of “Snakes” that he gave a little rabbitty wriggle himself and laughed inside with a feeling like peppermints.
“Shall I be blind-folded?” Sylvi asked.
“Of course you shall. But what can we use?” Just then Simpian happened to look up and notice just how long and soft Sylvi’s ears looked. “We’ll use your ears!”
“My ears?”
“ ‘Course—ears are first-rate blind-folds.” Not only would they keep from slipping down and around her neck, but if Sylvi tried to tug at the knot and peek to see where he was going, it would hurt like awfulness.
“But you can’t use my ears—I won’t allow you. I won’t let you. I won’t permit it.”
“I won’t permitit you!” Simpian growled, stalking toward her. Afterward he was never sure if that had been the proper thing to say. Either way, Sylvi seemed rather cowed by this, and let Simpian tie her long, velvet-soft ears into a capital double-knot—the sort Tottles tied in his shoe-laces when they were on holiday in the city and she didn’t want to have to stop and fix them four-and-sixty times a mile. When it was all done to Simpian’s satisfaction, he led Sylvi to a bit of grass circled by the cat-and-kitten weeds with the pop-off heads. There was no time to play the cat-and-kitten game, however, so Simpian patted Sylvi’s soft shoulder and cleared his throat a time or two.
He thought it sounded like a pirate. He hoped it sounded like a pirate, and because he was not quite sure, he cleared his throat again. “Grrrrraribumph!” Yes—quite Pirate-ian. He might as well be captain of a sailing ship for how good it sounded.
Simpian watched Sylvi shiver just a little bit as if she thought he might not be Simpian after all, but a sort of Black-beard. Then an idea came to him for getting Sylvi away from Cottleston Pie. An idea that might not require a Snake at all, but only a bit of cleverness on his part. Simpian stomped awhile around the cat-and-kitten weeds, making a sound like large muddy boots with his feet.
“Little Rrrrrrrabit!” he growled, rolling the first part of the word so he sounded like a drummer in a Fourfin-July parade.
Sylvi shivered again as if a cold Febberary breeze was blowing down her shirt-collar. “Y-yes?”
“Do you know the way to Cottleston Pie?” He added a second growl for good measure and stomped like muddy boots a little more.
Sylvi shifted and pulled at the knot of her ears. Simpian had done a good job tying his knot—it would not budge. “This…this is Cottleston Pie,” she said at last. And it seemed to Simpian that her voice was very small and not at all proud.
Her comeuppance! he thought. He crossed his arms and tucked his chin to help his voice sound a little less like Simpian’s. “Well, if this is Cottleston Pie, then I must kidnap you.”
Simpian had to clap one hand over his mouth and turn the laughter into a pirate-growl when he saw how Sylvi scrambled backward and tried to tear the knot apart. But Tottles’ sort of knot never came out—Simpian knew from lots of holidays in the city.
“Why must you k-k-kidnap me?” she asked. Her voice sounded very cross and thin and high like an angry robin’s.
Simpian clenched his fists and puffed out his chest, feeling very tall. “Because Cottleston Pie is going to be mine.”
“It’s mine,” Sylvi retorted.
“Is not!”
“Is too!” Sylvi hopped one hop forward and then—seeming to remember something she’d forgot—hopped backward, away from him.
“Are you Simpian Grenadine?” Simpian asked. He made his voice sound blustery as if it had a large and bristling moustache and a row of brass buttons up its front. “Because,” and he paused to think up something especially horrid. It came to him all at once: “Because I have sworn by every hair on my chin to slice Simpian Grenadine into little bits and feed him piece by piece to the crows in the Rickety Pines.”
“I-I am not Simpian Grenadine!” Sylvi was now backed up against the cat-and-kitten weeds quivering.
“But you said you were the master of Cottleston Pie,” Simpian said. The moustache in his voice bristled.
“Well,” was all Sylvi said.
“The only master of Cottleston Pie…” Simpian stood on tip-toe and shouted the last bit like a foghorn: “IS SIMPIAN GRENADINE! My knife is sharp and my temper’s hot, I’ve come for you, b’lieve it or not!” And Simpian galloped in a circle all round Sylvi, plucking at the knot in her ears and laughing when she squeaked.
Sylvi tumbled over backwards and to Simpian’s complete astonishment, the knot came undone. Simpian turned three shades of guilty red and felt more like Only-Allister than he had in a fortnight. Now that he wasn’t so busy playing Pirate, it seemed to him a bit of a bad sport to scare such a little thing. Sylvi flipped her ears back into their proper places—crinkled though they were—and without a look at Simpian, fled Cottleston Pie.
After she was gone, the hot, late sun settled with all the heaviness of Tottles’ fruitcake on Simpian’s neck. If it had been a giant’s hand, he would have pushed it away. If it had been a scarf, he’d have ripped it off. But as it was only the sunlight and there was no escaping it, Simpian wandered back to his tree-house, climbed the rickety ladder, and wondered if it had been terribly mean of him to scare that little rabbit so. Cottleston Pie seemed quieter than ever now. There were no pirates—at present—and no birds. Butterfly-or-flies was nowhere to be seen, nor was there even one grass-snake sunning himself on the large flat stone.
That’s what it was.
The more Simpian thought about it, the worse he felt. Lonesome like gingerbread men without cinnamon-buttons. Lonesome like spice-cookies without cambric tea. Lonesome like shoes without laces. He rolled over onto his stomach and waited for the dinner bell to ring, and he almost almost wished Sylvi had not run away.

So....what do you think of it? Knowing Gracie and many other little kids, I decided they like a bit of danger...a bit of peril. So I put in the bit about the knife, realizing most censors will make me take it out. But--HAHA!--this is a book that will probably never be published and that I am writing strictly to please myself and my dear little funny-duckling so there.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Platitudes--I mean, Gratitude. Yes. Gratitude.

I am thankful. Thankful for every single one of my followers and dear writing friends. Without you, I would have no public. And without my public my writing would not have grown as much as it has the past several years. I treasure every comment I receive, I treasure your patience, and your advice. Thank you for being there to assure me my writing isn't trash. Thank you for offering suggestions and Other Helpful Things. Thank you for discussing every topic under the ink-sun from Charles Dickens to Mr. Darcy without wrinkling your nose at me. In short, thank you for being awesome.
Among the wonderful host of you--men and women alike--I would like to take this opportunity to thank several who have been special inspirations to me. Ready?

Mirriam. By letting me read Monster you showed me how powerful a medium fiction can be in shedding truth and Light into complex, difficult subjects. Your stand on Life is something this world needs to here. Have at 'em, luv. Leave 'em breathless.

Jenny. Of course I could not have such a list without mention you. If we were all a part of the Inklings club, I feel that you'd be the Tolkien to my Lewis. The one urging me to do better, congratulating me when I do well enough, and keeping the muscles of my mind straining onward and upward in pursuit of richer, deeper things.

Abigail. You are the Elinor to my occasional Marianne. Every time I visit your blog I am inspired to do better, write harder, and think before I speak. Thank you. I need your baking soda to my vinegar.

Rachelle. Ours is a recent acquaintance, but already I feel I've known you all my life. I know next to nothing about the ins and outs of your daily life--I don't even know if you have a single sibling! But what I do know is that we are soul-friends. Thank you for your gentle, poignant criticism. You are an inspiration.

The Anne-girl. Oh Bertie...dear dear me. You have given me a nephew in The Sage, and I cannot wait to attend his christening--er, publication--thankee. If I was half as dedicated a writer at your age as you are, I think I'd already be a Jane Austen. As I was not and therefore amn't, (aren't? Isn't? Oh hush and take a pickle for your trouble) I wish you every happiness and blessing in your writing efforts.

Again I thank you all, but most of all I thank my Lord Jesus Christ who, by the beauty of His story, inspires me ever and anon to try to play with these mirror-shards and make a reflection that might show a bit of His goodness and glory to a blind world. Thank You, Lord for Your patience with me, and for allowing me the privilege of playing with words and ideas in my fumbling attempts to please You. Thank You for my part in Your story. Thank You for training my hands to make war and my feet to trod the path You've laid for them. I love You, Jesus. You are the only Author I could imagine surrendering the writing of my life to.

A happy and blessed Thanksgiving Day to all you!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A mood like peppermints

November is long famous for being a month of serious writing for men and women and boys and girls all across the nation. The month you buckle down, force yourself to pour out a book, and get cracking on the project you've procrastinated on for so long. For me, November has been full of writing. But not the sort you'd think. I haven't written a stitch of Au Contraire. That project is on hold, actually. No, do not fly off the handle. I simply realized that it would not be right to devote all my energies to a new project when I hadn't edited/rewritten my last two books. Therefore I've pulled out all the stops and have been editing, polishing, and taking-a-breath-before-rewriting The Scarlet-Gypsy Song and Fly Away Home. Both of these books have more potential than A Mother for the Seasonings, and though I haven't quite given up on the former, I honestly think either or both of the others will find a home sooner. Therefore it makes sense to focus on editing them and preparing these two very different stories to try their wings.

To be quite honest, it's nerve-wracking. Not only do I have to prepare these two stories physically, I also have to do my research on comp. titles, marketing, agents, and proposals for each. It's like finding I'm suddenly the mother of triplets and they're wailing to be fed at once. Like parenting, I can see I'm in that stage where they'll keep me up at night and I'll get very little sleep. Unlike parenting, I hope my "children" won't contract some strange childhood disease along the way. And they certainly won't cut teeth. At least, let's hope not. Being bitten by a story? That seems a tad twisted. All this to say, I thought I'd share with you a little of how I go about rewriting/editing. 

First off, I indulge my vanity and read through my favorite parts of the story. If I see a glaring problem, I fix it, but this stage is the feel-good stage of the process. I let myself enjoy having finished the book, and I immerse myself in the world of Scarlettania or 1950's NYC.

Then I read through the entire book again. Very. Very. Slowwwwwwwllllyyyyy. I often whisper aloud the words as I read them, making sure they taste right on the tongue. There are some sentences that look fine on paper but sound strange when you read them aloud. I don't like awkward writing like that, and I always make sure to change it when I can. I keep a weather eye out for POV slips. I ask myself questions:

Is this dialog going anywhere?

Whose head are we in here?

Would he have reacted that way?

Would a girl in the 1950's have used that word?

I keep an eye out for odd endings to sentences. In the case of historical fiction, I make myself like an artist dabbing on finishing touches of paint to his masterpiece. I sprinkle a liberal supply of historical tid-bits into the story. Phrases. Jokes. Places. Pop culture references--one of my favorite parts of polishing up the historical novel. I try to go through Round One pretty quickly. If I move through at a nice trot I'll be able to catch pacing mistakes easier. Also, I'll be reading it at the pace most readers would. I'm not nit-picking. I'm getting the general flavor of the story and fixing the obvious flaws.

After I've done a good, brisk run-through I coerce certain friends of mine into reading the book as it is and suggesting changes, critiquing the changes I've made, and generally running the manuscript through a wringer. We aren't running it through a sieve yet, but we're definitely serious now. Sometimes the friends suggest drastic changes that would require massive amounts of rewriting... (gulp) but I take their criticism into consideration and even lean toward applying it. After I've reviewed all the criticism and thought through the options and the cause-and-effect of making the changes, it's time to start Round Two.

I read through the book again, mentally marking weak spots. Scenes that seemed to promise a revival later on the plot and are never referenced again. There are decisions to make. Am I going to keep the scene and tie it in, or delete the scene and replace it with something else? What themes are running through the book? Are they strong throughout? Why did I drop the magazine subject half-way through the plot? That's stupid. Round Two is the Humiliation Stage. The moment I begin to think my writing stinks and I'll never make it to publication. I'm over it. The plot. The characters. (Except for Mr. Barnett. He's a dear and I'd marry him myself if possible.) But I press on. Through the swirling dusk of my brain, I know it's worth it. I straggle through to the end and turn round, breathless and panting, my cravat askew. Often my mood will have gone south. I then write little scribblings of how I'm feeling and laugh over them with a wry smile:

She was in a mood like peppermints. A cold mood. A tingly mood. And she sucked it to herself, wishing she was labeled "curiously strong mint" for good measure to ward off anyone of a weak constitution.

After I've cleaned my sword from battle in Round Two, it's time to move on to Round Three. Round Three for me entails a lot of general clean up. Smoothing of scene transitions. Touching up here and there of dialog. Lengthening internal dialog. Adding an observation or two through that conversation. Checking facts for the third or fourth time. Adding or lengthening description where the setting is a bit obscure. Renaming this character. Referencing that earlier chapter. Round Three is a peaceful haven compared to that horrid but priceless Round Two.

Round Four is generally all I need. All major things have been mopped up. Ideally I've got more people to read my story and a bit more criticism. I compare these new reactions to the reactions of the first round. Apply changes as needed. Spit-shine the last bit. It is finished.

Now a brief respite and the treat an afternoon of reading without bringing out my laptop once. I know I'll soon have to start work on the querying process, but for now I've done well. This is the lull before the storm, and I enjoy it while I can. Often my mood will be that of a martyr's. I feel quiet, avenged, content. I sit back and enjoy the brief sense of victory. Told you it was worth it.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

What the Dickens...?

I’m going to take a stand and proclaim what I have learned as one of {perhaps the} the single most important keys to becoming a great writer. Ready? All right...
I guest-posted over at Living on Literary Lane this morning, so if you feel like reading more about what I've determined to be the single most important thing about being a successful author, head over there!
Second, it has been long and too long since I've had myself a Dickens-dive. Honestly, I think its been since Oliver Twist which was too short. Sure I'm in the middle of reading A Voice in the Wind (but ancient Greece and Rome isn't really my thing.) and The Narnian, but I feel a need for immersion in Charles Dickens strong upon me. Which should I read? Since graduating I have the most plummy stack of his titles on my shelf:

Bleak House
Oliver Twist
Great Expectations
A Tale of Two Cities 
Nicholas Nickleby
Hard Times
The Christmas Carol
The Cricket on the Hearth
The Chimes
The Pickwick Papers

I'm in the mood for something funny and droll, so probably I'll reread Pickwick or Nickleby. I've read all those titles except for Hard Times, but I'm not in the mood for a drearier title so I'll save it for later. In addition to---AH! I had forgotten I was recently given Dombey and Son! I ought to read that!--anyhow, in addition to those titles, I've also read Little Dorrit, The Old Curiosity Shop, and Barnaby Rudge. Wow. I'm a lot closer to having read all of Dickens' novels than I thought! Exciting! That's an item on my bucket-list, you know. :)
Well, lots to do today so toodle-pip and have a nice giddy-biscuit for me if you think of it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Well, everyone, I thought it high time The Inkpen Authoress got a face-lift so I set to work my *ahem* very limited *ahem* blog designing skills and simplified everything and made myself a nice little header. It's a start, people. It's a start. And I happen to like it. What do you think of the new design? We're all the same here, only the "blogs I like" and the "follow me" sections are down at the buttom of the page for further ease on the eyes while reading the actual blog post. Get it? I will be adding updated Pages and lots of that sort of fun thing for you by and by. Till then, toodle-loo and may the pen of Macefield never dictate unpleasant things for you! ;)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A day like this

There are some days when the writing-business at hand is not to write any actual words, but to live the day in a writing frame of mind...

A day when stirring up a spiced pear compote is as lovely and important a thing as writing another thousand words.

A day when musing over the character of a person you met and making mental remarks over him is as effective as casting him in a villainous role--which you plan to do later on.

A day when driving along rural, leaf-plastered roads in a thick mist is soul-food enough for a week.

A day when day-dreaming while crocheting a wash-cloth for an elderly person is as productive as sitting before your computer waiting for inspiration to come.

A day when whipping up a giant batch of chocolate chip cookies gives you enough courage and stamina and coziness to feel Dickensian again.

A day when French Vanilla coffee cures all the world's ills and reminds you of Fly Away Home... <3

A day when you're eight pages into a reply to a letter and still have much to say, and you're pleased as if you had just entered the last scene of your novel.

A day when you stop and look at the brilliant, glowing, half-frozen color of a six year old's cheeks and realize that "blush" is hardly the word to describe the living beauty of the color.

A day when you look at a pile of apple and pear peelings and marvel over the Creator's genius in coloring them such riotous hues of red and gold and green.

Treasure these days. I'm not sure but they are the most important in a writer's life. Days when we remember to live so that we have something about which to write.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

If you must be Quixotic...

I like to hand myself a hard question now and then and stretch the all too lax abstract/logic muscles of my mind into trying to give a suitable answer. As I sat down this evening and thought about what to write, the question came to me:

Why do I like to write?

In forming my answers for this question, I laid certain parameters upon myself: 1) I could not use "I just love it" to explain. 2) I could not mention Epic by John Eldridge. There. Pact made, and no backsies. 

So why do I like to write?

In a pale, mortal way my answer is a mirroring of 1 John 4:19 which speaks of why we love God: "We love because He first loved us." The question "Why do you like to write" is one of a capricious nature that has no beginning and no end. It simply is. {which, incidentally, is not breaking my pact. No fear on that account. I will explain myself.} I love to write because I love to read, and as I've grown older I believe I love to read because I love to write. The things are inverse and adverse and companions and fools. A love of reading came before an acknowledged love of writing, but I would not say you were incorrect in wondering if the love of writing was always there waiting for an outlet it could not find until I first took up a pen with the intention of forming my own words on paper.
Asking a writer why they like to write {in the theoretical sense of the question} is like asking a person why they breathe. For me, writing is a natural reflex to the beauty, the events, and the people I see around me. As Anais Nin put it, "We write to taste life twice." I live and then I write. The one transfers to the other, for me, in a gentle, necessary way. As prosaic as it sounds, I believe I process by writing. Part of the way I deal with stressful situations, catty people, or great joy or great trials in my own life is by conjuring it onto paper in some way; a journal entry, a blog post, my writing notebook, or my latest story. While I am a fair conversationalist, my real forte is expressing myself in words on paper. If I leave it all chasing round my head like rabbits in a warren, I'm apt to become a bug-bear to live with and my family would not thank me. Some people need counselors. Some people need long, drawn-out phone-calls with a trusted friend. Some people need to go out for a run. I need to get away to a quiet, lonesome corner--preferably on the front steps at gloaming with the North Star trembling against the darkening blue. I need to set my pen fiercely against the page {for at such moments I must be writing--not typing.} and I need to convert the stress or excitement or happiness into something to be shared with another person.
The beauty of the relationship between reading and writing is its give-and-take dynamic. For years I gathered and read every book in the near vicinity and absorbed tale upon tale, story upon story, adventures and sagas and dramas and classics. I fed my fancy, my tastes, and my ideas upon good books and thus those aspects of myself grew up to be none too shabby. When I began to employ my fancy, tastes, and ideas in writing my own books, the dawning of a strange and wonderful idea tinged the horizon of thought with blush-rose colors: If I persisted and worked hard and poured myself into the craft, I could create one of those books. One of the heart-books that foster a love of reading and even writing in another person somewhere. I could have a hand in forming another person's mind. A great responsibility and a great privilege that, and one I would love to be a party to. Books can change a person. I am a firm believer in that. I cannot tell you how many sentiments or noble ideas or parts of my own personality are woven from threads of things I've read over the years. I hoard quotations and shadows of quotations and general impressions of books like a tzar of Russia hoards his icy treasures. They make up a large part of who I am. I think it's worth saying again: books can change a person. For better or for worse. As a writer it's my two-edged gift to be able to slay or heal where I will. It's my responsibility to wield that weapon aright and do only good with my words. Or only purposeful cutting. I am not set against the surgeon's method of butchery--the nicking of a person's spirit, the rubbing in of a salty, stinging salve, and the ultimate healing-over of that wound that makes for a healthier person in the end. It's the bitter herbs that heal the best, so now and again you might be called upon to write something with more cayenne than honey about it. But the end must be good. We cannot let the Light fade from our words.
My last answer for this self-imposed question is a bit shallower, a bit meaner, a bit more like the saucy miss I'm apt to become now and again when the mood is upon me: I like to write because I savor the power. I like to draw a person in and attach them to fictional people. I like to transport them places they've never been, introduce them to observations they'd never have seen were it not for me. Presumptuousness, I know. I like to implant a bit of Rachel in them that may stick there like a cockle-bur the rest of their lives, never to drop away. I like to entrance a reader in my intricate, gossamer web of story and spin them out to the other side, breathless and dew-damp; a little bewildered, a deal pleased. So these, dear friends, are my answers to that wonderfully quixotic question of why I like to write. I'd like to see sister-posts of your own reasons if you so had the time or the inclination. But for now I'll leave you and trot off the practicality of fetching my dinner.

"...He had begun writing again—fierce, warring words she could tell, by the bold black strokes."
-The Scarlet-Gypsy Song