Monday, December 31, 2012

A- Adventure


I am a great one for jumping on band-wagons, aren't I? It seems that my ideas for blogging are very seldom my own--and good reason. I don't claim to be supremely clever, and when a dashed good idea has already been created by someone who is supremely clever, I don't see a call to change it. The band-wagon I speak of this time, is the A-Z event that several authors I know (Jenny Freitag and Anne Elisabeth Stengl to begin with) have done. The general idea is that I will write a post for each letter of the alphabet running right through the course of one of my novels.
Just as Jenny chose Adamantine for her A-Z event because she was not actively working on it and therefore didn't get much time to speak of it anymore, so I have chosen The Scarlet-Gypsy Song. You've heard much of Fly Away Home, and it's almost through its last edits before I pack it off to the agents and hope they want a saucy little inspirational romance. The Scarlet-Gypsy Song hasn't got much space here for some time, and I want to remedy that as I go back through making edits and rewriting. Hence, I give you the Letter A.

A- Adventure

The maid folded her hands over her stomach and sighed. “Well if he had been the sort of father to read things to his children, you’d know all about us.”
Adelaide felt her world growing and shrinking all at once in a dizzying fashion almost as bad as the music-box. “You mean—”
“Aye. We’re all his characters. This is his story. We are all at his command, y’might say. Whatever he writes we live.”
“And we’ve stepped into it?”
“Aye. Right into the darkest days Scarlettania has ever seen.”

I'm sure it will come as no surprise to you that half a dozen children tumbling into their father's story-world are bound to have adventures of some sort. I mean really. Voice-changing panthers and traitors and villains and a country at war with its neighbor is not the sort of thing calculated to conjure up a dull game of golf. You're bound to fall in with a rough crowd or two. It only compounds the error when your father is the one supposed to be writing these "adventures" for you and he...well...slacks off in his writing for a bit and these so-called adventures start to run out of hand. Then you've got kidnappers to deal with...kidnappers and full out battle...and second kidnappers...and really third ones if you want to be picky about it.

“Adoniram—you simply can’t let Darby and Bertram go to battle—you can’t. It’s…it’s…indecent! If it was happening in London someone would call the Agency.”
             The pen stopped. The head rose. The eyes glared. “My love—it is not happening in London. There has not been a battle in the streets of the Capital since the time of your grandfather. Therefore, I would greatly appreciate your silence and a cup of tea.

Of course this certainty of adventure excites Adelaide, Bertram, Charlotte, Darby, and the babies....at first. Afterward? Well...there is no guarantee they'd be scrambling for first-row tickets...or perhaps they would. One never knows with this sort of thing. At any rate, The Scarlet-Gypsy Song has enough plot twists to furnish full-time adventure for six children. I should hope they enjoyed a moment or two of it. 

Cecily pulled Mrs. Macefield toward the tea-things and, like an automaton, began the process of making tea. What a very strange story this had become.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

With Every Question: an author interview with Sarah Sundin!

Well I did promise you a treat a couple weeks ago, and though the timing is a bit off due to the holiday rush, I may now reveal the surprise. I contacted Sarah Sundin, author of a series and a half of historical romance, asking if she might be interested in being featured on The Inkpen Authoress. When she said yes, it is needless to announce that I was excited. I first ran into Sarah's writing by winning one of her books, With Every Letter, in a giveaway.

 I received the book, started reading, and was swept up on the rich flood of characters, words, and drama in the story. I am a sworn skeptic of historical romances, having found that most have no plot but boy-meets-girl-and-tears-and-drama-ensue. I mean, honestly. So truth be told, I wasn't expecting to like With Every Letter. Ahem. I was wrong, and I admit it freely. Mrs. Sundin's book actually had substance. So I made Mama read it, then Abigail, lent it another friend, then sent a copy to another friend, and I will make Sarah read it whenever I get it back in my hands. You can read my review of this book here.

So! Sarah Sundin graciously has taken time off her Christmas holidays to have a bit of a visit on the Inkpen Authoress. I asked her a sound dozen questions and she answered them all with a right good will. I tried to ask things I knew you'd be asking. Ho ho! So without any further discussion, here is Sarah Sundin--gracious guest and author extraordinaire!

To begin with, a bio: Sarah Sundin is the author of With Every Letter, the first book in the Wings of the Nightingale series from Revell, and also the Wings of Glory series (A Distant Melody, A Memory Between Us, and Blue Skies Tomorrow). In 2011, A Memory Between Us was a finalist in the Inspirational Reader's Choice Awards and Sarah received the Writer of the Year Award at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. Sarah lives in northern California with her husband and three children. When she isn’t ferrying kids to tennis and karate, she works on-call as a hospital pharmacist and teaches Sunday school and women’s Bible studies. Please visit her at http://www.sarahsundin.com.



Rachel: Having read {and rather adored} With Every Letter, I know you write books set in the WWII era. What made you choose this era over another?

Sarah: It’s such a fascinating time period, filled with millions of stories and so much inherent drama and romance—a novelist’s dream. Another thing I like about the World War II era is how ordinary men learned they could do extraordinary things, and how women explored new and exciting roles—while remaining ladies.

Rachel: What book(s) are you working on now?

Sarah: The second book in the Wings of the Nightingale series, On Distant Shores, is at my publisher’s now, and it’s already gone through the first level of edits out of three. I’m currently writing the rough draft of the third book in the series.
Rachel: What is your favorite part of marketing, and how much time do you spend working on publicizing your novels?

Sarah: I’ve found I really enjoy public speaking—both teaching the craft of writing and speaking to various women’s and church groups. Another area of marketing I enjoy is interacting with readers on Facebook and, to a lesser extent, Twitter. On average, publicity takes about one-third of my work time, which seems to be typical for an author. For a month or two before and after a release date, it takes a greater chunk, and less at other times.

Rachel: How did you decide on “historical romance” as your genre of choice?

Sarah: The romance part came naturally—that’s what draws me to most stories. I like almost all genres if there’s some romantic element. As for history, the story led me there. I started off writing contemporary romances, and then I had the story idea for A Distant Melody, my debut novel. The basic premise wouldn’t work in a contemporary setting. Na├»vely I thought World War II would be easy because it was so recent and wouldn’t require much research. Please don’t laugh too hard. Thank goodness I found I adored researching.

Rachel: Did your love of writing grow from a love of reading, or did your love of reading stem from a love of putting words on a page?

Sarah: Reading came first. I came from a home with lots of bookcases, and one of the happiest moments of my childhood was getting my first library card. Like most bookworms, I made up stories, but mine weren’t any good and I knew it. In 2000, I had a dream with such compelling characters, I had to write their story. That first book will never be published, nor should it, but it got me started.

Rachel: What does your “writing space” look like? Is it vital to your craft to have your own space, or do you work well in “public” areas like the living room?

Sarah: I have my own office now, with a nice big L-shaped desk and a bookcase for my research materials. However, I started writing when my kids were little, and I wrote whenever and wherever I could. I still do lots of writing on the go. Just this afternoon I finished a chapter on my laptop in the dentist’s waiting room during my kids’ appointments.

Rachel: How much of your own personality goes into your characters? Which of your characters are you most like?

Sarah: I try to put as little of my own personality into my characters as possible, and yet a little bit of me goes into each character—it can’t be helped. I do a lot of personality testing on my characters and try to keep actions and reactions true to who they are.

Rachel: Have you ever tried what James Scott Bell calls the “Chapter 2 Switcheroo,” where you exchange the second chapter of your novel for the first in hopes of making a better, more exciting start to your novel? If so, or if you’ve done something similar, what are your thoughts on it? Yea or nay?

Sarah: I’ve never switched chapters 1 and 2, but I scrapped my original first chapter for A Distant Melody and started at a later point, and for my second book, A Memory Between Us, I originally started with a prologue which I eliminated. It’s very common for writers to open with a chapter that’s all backstory then realize it isn’t necessary and axe it.

Rachel: Which is your arch-nemesis: Beginnings, plotting, titles, characterization, or pacing?

Sarah: Plotting, by far. It usually feels like a smackdown wrestling match.

Rachel: Which do you prefer: dialog or description?

Sarah: I adore writing dialogue. Most of my scene sketches are nothing but dialogue, more like a screenplay—and then I fill in the narrative, description, and action.

Rachel: If you had to choose three {dead} authors to read and review your book, who would you choose?

Sarah: Jane Austen, Lucy Maud Montgomery, and Maeve Binchy.

Rachel: If you don’t mind sharing, how many times were you rejected by agents and/or publishers before being accepted?

Sarah: I lost count. Several dozen over the course of five years. When I first started submitting, historical fiction wasn’t selling at all. But in 2008, the market flipped and the publishers all wanted historicals. At that point, my first two novels were complete and polished, and the third was all outlined and ready to go—and I got my first contract.

Rachel: Coffee, tea, or lemonade? Rainy days or sunny?

Sarah: Rainy days are my favorite. I like coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon (hot or iced, no sugar), and ice water in the evening so I can sleep. But I do like lemonade on a hot day.

Rachel: Fiction or non-fiction for reading?

Sarah: For me fiction is fun and nonfiction is work. I only read nonfiction for research or for “assignments,” like for Bible study. But my heart is in fiction.

Rachel:  Favorite modern research-aid?

Sarah: I have a lot of fun with Google Maps, especially the “man on the ground” feature that lets you virtually walk down streets and look at the landscape. It’s phenomenal. It really helps me research locations I can’t visit—or refresh my memory for places I have visited.

RachelFinal word for the readers?

Sarah: May 2013 be a year full of blessings and good books!

****

Thank you so much, Sarah, for dropping by The Inkpen Authoress. I have appreciated hosting you here and getting to hear a bit of your story, wisdom, and techniques. And readers? Drop by Sarah Sundin's blog or Facebook page and get to know her better!

Monday, December 24, 2012

"Heap on more wood! --the wind is chill;"



"Heap on more wood! — the wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.

Each age has deemed the new born year
The fittest time for festal cheer.

And well our Christian sires of old.
Loved when the year its course had rolled,
And brought blithe Christmas back again,
With all his hospitable train.
Domestic and religious rite
Gave honour to the holy night:
On Christmas eve the bells were rung;
On Christmas eve the mass was sung;
That only night, in all the year,
Saw the stoled priest the chalice rear.
The damsel donned her kirtle sheen;
The hail was dressed with holly green;
Forth to the wood did merry men go,
To gather in the mistletoe,
Then opened wide the baron’s hail
To vassal, tenant, serf, and all;
Power laid his rod of rule aside,
And ceremony doff’d his pride.
The heir, with roses in his shoes,
That night might village partner choose.
The lord, underogating, share
The vulgar game of “post and pair!”
All hailed with uncontroll’d delight
And general voice, the happy night
That to the cottage, as the crown,
Brought tidings of salvation down.
The fire with well dried logs supplied,
Went roaring up the chimney wide;
The huge hail table’s oaken face,
Scrubb’d till it shone, the day to grace,
Bore then upon: its massive board
No mark to part the squire and lord.
Then was brought in the lusty brawn,
By old, blue-coated serving-man;
Then the grim boar’s head frowned on high,
Crested with bays and rosemary.
Well can the green-garbed ranger tell,
How, when, and where, the monster fell;
What dogs before his death he tore,
And all the baiting of the boar.
The wassail round in good brown bowls,
Garnished with ribbon, blithely trowls.
There the huge sirloin reeked: hard by
Plum-porridge stood, and Christmas pie;
Nor failed old Scotland to produce
At such high tide her savoury goose.
Then came the merry masquers in,
And carols roar’d with blithesome din;
If unmelodious was the song,
It was a hearty note, and strong.
Who lists may in their mumming see
Traces of ancient mystery;
White shirts supplied the masquerade,
And smutted cheeks the visor made
But oh! what masquers, richly dight,
Can boast of bosoms half so light!
England was merry England when
Old Christmas brought his sports again.
’Twas Christmas broached the mightiest ale,
’Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
A Christmas gambol oft would cheer
A poor man’s heart through half the year."


-from Sir Walter Scott's "Marmion"

Merry Christmas, dear friends all! Let us give "honour to the holy night" in a beautiful way. Christ is born to us! Alleluia, and may we never forget it! I shall say it again: Merry Christmas! And may your Christmas gambol oft cheer your "poor man's heart through half the year."

Friday, December 21, 2012

breezes from the ever-after

Though it is December--a month not over-famous for having any time to write--I have written enough in No Mere Mortals and Cottleston Pie that it warrants a Snippets Post. I've also given Fly Away Home a total over-haul, which was good stuff too. Adding scenes and what-not. This pleases me, because some months I feel that I ought to have plenty of time to write and I accomplish nothing, and others I have no time, and I accomplish much. This was a month of the latter, as I've said, and I hope you enjoy these fruits of my labors from No Mere Mortals and Fly Away Home.


The monitor on the bed tracked the patient’s heart with a faint beep. The beeping gained speed as Barnaby Harcourt drew a ragged breath. “You’ll…take…care of her?”
Gregory rolled his eyes. “’Course I will, old fellow.”  The monitor continued to beep, the only sound in the hospital room. With his customary chill manner, Gregory took a sweeping view of the medicine arsenal on the bedside table, the IV stuck in Barney’s upper arm, the shallow rise and fall of his chest, the crumpled “Get Well” cards gathering dust—each day more mocking.
-No Mere Mortals

“…I need to impress those lawyers. I want my yacht.”
“Sir! You might do well to remember you are headed to Harcourt Commons to hear the reading of the late Mr. Harcourt’s will—not to go grave-robbing.”
“Anders, I am shocked and affronted. Put it that way and you make me sound a villain. He asked me to take care of her. To love her. I am only doing old Barney the last service he ever asked of me—asked for it three times.” Gregory smoothed his hair once more in front of the hall mirror and glared at Anders’ reflection. Barnaby Harcourt had not died that day in the hospital. Rather he’d lived through two more “attacks” till the last killed him off. Poor chap. Gregory sniffed once for memory’s sake then clapped his hands. “Well, Anders—shall we?”
“Very well, sir.” With his customary limp—courtesy of an old wrestling injury—Anders followed him out to the limo.
-No Mere Mortals

Gregory shifted in his seat, rubbed his hand over his chin, and swallowed. “Anders, is it possible?”
The limo pulled through the gate and crunched gravel as Anders nosed it up the drive. He sighed, Gregory noticed. “Is what possible, sir?”
“To like someone. No—no…I mean, to be fond of someone. So fond you’re sorry they die.”
“I should think so, sir.”
“You would think so, wouldn’t you?”
-No Mere Mortals

The yacht was his, the fortune was Adrian’s, and everyone else got a lampshade or an acre or two in Alaska.
-No Mere Mortals

“Look kid,” Gregory raised the pitch of his voice and the sharp note hurt Brian’s ears. “I don’t want you. I wanted a yacht. An exotic vacation. Not…Kindercare!”
“She can’t hear you.”
“What?”
“She can’t hear you.”
Gregory licked his lips. He’d paled to one shade tanner than his cuffs. “What do you mean.”
Wrong guy. Terrible choice, Mr. Harcourt. “Your ward is deaf, Mr. Abbot. A complication from a difficult birth.”
-No Mere Mortals

“So what did the virtuous little woman do?” The contempt in Gregory’s tone was plain as a green Christmas.
-No Mere Mortals

“No name, huh?” Somehow Gregory was not quite so astonished as he expected to be. Who would bother naming a child no one wanted? He turned to her now and cleared his throat. “You’re…eh…coming home with me, all right?” The deuce—she was deaf. He’d forgotten that. He felt utterly stupid. Stupid as a barnacle on the bottom of that yacht he should have inherited. Ummmm….he pointed to her chest. “You…are…” he scooped his hands toward the door, “coming…home…” he made his hands into a house-shape, “with me.”  He balanced the point of his finger against his tie before remembering it was silk and the oil on his hands would stain it. The child continued to stare at him, and Gregory was not at all sure his charade had done a thing in making her understand. She didn’t budge. Gregory winced. There was only one thing left—he’d have to hold her hand and lead her to the car. He reached out, took grabbed her fingers, and tried not to think of how ridiculously small they felt in his hand.
-No Mere Mortals








He shifted an inch or two closer. “But just think. Why do we love stories? Why are we addicted to knowing what happened? Because we are part of a Story. A drama. We were made for something more than this—we are always seeing glimpses, hearing news, feeling breezes from the Ever-after. And because we do not acknowledge that we are beings—souls—created for eternity, we are left with an empty ache. We refuse to see our Story and thus we lead empty half-lives, under the shadow of a longing for something—Someone—we push away.”
-Fly Away Home

“But you have to understand my side of things.”
“Do I?” I arched my eyebrows and crossed my arms, wondering if his statement warranted my throwing the salt shaker at him.
-Fly Away Home

“Yes. I will admit my journalistic side got the better of my judgment. A man in love, bored to death with his usual thoughts, and faced with a mysterious woman, can’t help but rise to the occasion.” The roguish tilt to his smile and the way his eyes flickered over me again and again made me weak.
-Fly Away Home




Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Motley Array

As an avid reader, I've "fallen in love" with many characters over the years. But there are just some that stick with you so that they become literally a part of you. Characters that wormed their way into your heart so well you know they'll never come out. Sometimes they are annoying. Sometimes they are endearing. Sometimes they're just plain stubborn and stick there because you can't forget them, not by any great doings on their part. Abigail wrote a post recently on Straw-Men, then followed it up with a post full of examples of perfectly flawed characters we love. Because like we've discussed here before, you can't endure perfection in a mortal. Anyone who has read the Elsie Dinsmore books will concur. We were all in awe of that plaster of Paris child, but she wasn't relate-able, and hence unlovable. At least by me. But this is all hogwash without examples. It's a fantastic exercise in formulating your own characters, this digging up the ink-people who have stuck to you through the years and figuring out where they went right. Here are some of my tops, and why I love them so.

Puddleglum
I am not certain what C.S. Lewis meant for us to do with this Marshwiggle creature, but I reacted to him by getting a deep, "groaner" fondness for him. I can't take him seriously, but he's stuck in my heart forever. Perhaps what I liked best about him was the fact that, for all his grumblings and pessimism, there was a warm heart under the muck. And at the end of The Silver Chair when even Jill and Eustace are beginning to doubt Aslan, it is Puddleglum who gives the Lady of the Green Kirtle a run through the wringer with his blind faith. That, my friends, is the unforgettable moment of an unforgettable character.

Ralph Touchett
This rather obscure character from The Portrait of a Lady somehow wormed his way into my heart too. He is an invalid and a bit foolish, but faithful as a Labrador. He loves Isabelle Archer to the point of ridiculousness, yet never pushes himself at her. He knows she doesn't love him, but if he can't be her love, at least he'll be her friend. When he *SPOILER* dies at the end of the book *END OF SPOILER* I cried. I really did. It was so sad to see him go. And yet what did he do? Nothing much. Just a stupidly stubborn man with a soft heart and death in sight.

Sydney Carton
Abigail did cover him, and yet a character that makes me cry and entirely redeems a book I was so-so about till the end, must have his corner of fame. Until the last third of A Tale of Two Cities, there was no real reason to love him. He was mysterious, yes, and inadvertently did some good. But there was nothing riveting about him...until his marriage proposal was rejected and then, then, he did not go off to sulk as pretty much everyone AHEM (Mr. Cox?) AHEM does, but instead became the man it had always been in him to be if he'd only taken a bit of trouble. And the trouble he took? That was what made me cry. A selfless act that turned A Tale of Two Cities into one of my favorite books of all time.

Chet Morton
Okay. The Hardy Boys hardly counts as literature, and yet I absolutely cannot forget about Chet Morton. (Perks to Abigail Taylor for reminding me that he counts. ;) My reading career and my first foray into mysteries began simultaneously with The Bobbsey Twins, quickly moved to The Hardy Boys, and finished with Nancy Drew before I realized what literature really was. But all that to say, I love Chet. No reason. He's just Chet. Along the same vein, I love Gus-Gus in Cinderella. They are conjoined in my mind. Truly. I think of one, I think of the other.

Gavroche
You knew I'd mention him, didn't you? Dear little Gavroche. In Les Miserables, he's the chap who stole my heart. Marius? Posh. Enjolras? Aw, poor guy died. Gavroche? Brave to the bitter bitter end, and all the braver because he was under ten years old.

Samwise Gamgee
He almost doesn't make this list because I do consider him a hero. But somehow in the mainstream, Frodo takes top-notch spot and I disagree. So Sam? Have your party here because I love you. Samwise is just one of those characters whose friendship you feel extends past the pages of the book and to you, personally. I never felt he was just Frodo's friend. I felt he was my friend. And if you think that's sappy, just you try to resist the urge to slap someone when Sam gets blamed for everything. ARGH!

Nicholas Higgins
In North and South, Higgins is pretty much my favorite character. Excluding Mr. Thornton, of course who, while being very flawed indeed, is still definitely "hero" material. Too much so for this list. Higgins is pugnacious. He's agnostic. He's stubborn and rough and "a terrific firebrand". And yet he is one person I can never get out of my head when I think of North and South. Perhaps it was because he was so essentially man, hewn, as he was, out of the stone of the upcountry. Higgins, while being mostly flaws, also has the distinct virtue of being a family man. He loved his daughters. He didn't turn away when Boucher dies and leaves all his kids alone in the world.

Phil & Mr. George
This pair from Bleak House are just so tenacious. Mr. George is a fighter. He's the black sheep of the family through his own fault. He ran away from home and he's too proud to come back. But no one can match the two of them for decency and loyalty.

Rachel Lynde
Okayyyyy. I know you'll probably not agree, but I had to throw her in here. I mean, if Anne Shirley hadn't had a nemesis (because to be honest we all loved Gilbert and couldn't see him as the antagonist, right?) then there would have been very little pizazz to her story at all. (and there's not much of it now, much as I love the books) Rachel Lynde is one of those people who sticks to me like a burr. Possibly because if I was an old lady living in a sleepy country town and I didn't write or read or broaden my horizons in any way but gossip, I might be an awful lot like her. Plus our names are similar. Scarily so.

Bohun
I will be brief about him, because really, he's a villain. Yep. I said it. And he's from With Fire and Sword which I doubt anyone else has read. (looks for a show of hands) I don't know why I liked him. The whole book is definitely melodramatic (Bohun even more than the others), but somehow I had a soft spot for him. Poor dude. I respected him for not taking advantage of Helen even though he had ample opportunity to do so. And his reckless passions were not liable to resisting temptation. So when he did resist you had to give him a nod. In that case, I must also mention Zagloba and Pan Podbipyenta who I also loved. Oh! and what's-his-name...this little fierce one. Michal. Yes. Him. That book was full of such characters. I mean honestly--at 1200+ pages, you had plenty of time to get attached.

These are my people. Who are yours?


Saturday, December 15, 2012

In a nutshell...

On Goodreads, and over on my all-purpose blog, I have compiled a complete list of the books I've read (at least this far) in 2012. If you want to see the whole shebang, just click on the link. Otherwise, stick here and I'm covering the highlights of the year. :)

1.) I was introduced to Rosemary Sutcliff via The Eagle of the Ninth and found a temporary extension of Jenny while Jenny's other books are waiting to be published. ;) I continued my fascination with Sutcliff over The Silver Branch and The Lantern Bearers. Such great historical fiction! I loved those books, though I'm not much interested in "ancient" history. And that's saying something.

2.) I worked my way through Les Miserables which was an ENORMOUS book, then followed it up almost immediately by working through Henryk Sienkeiwicz's With Fire and Sword which was also an ENORMOUS book.

3.) I re-read Jane Eyre and discovered previously untouched depths of humor and satire in its pages. Who would have thought it? Jane Eyre? Comedic? Well it is.

4.) I read 3 out of 4 books in Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief series and was by turns maddened, confused, delighted, and amused before getting whiplash on the intricate plot turns at the end of each book.

5.) I wrote my first "fan-letter" to an author.

6.) I read Kathryn Stockett's The Help and realized the bar for debut novels has been suddenly raised higher. Very much higher.

7.) I read A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken and realized the depths of my own heart are so much deeper than I'd noticed before.

8.) I found Wodehouse. End of story.

9.) I read Daphne du Marier's Rebecca and was upset for a week.

10.) I had the great and noble privilege of reading 5 hitherto unpublished books written by a number of my friends including Mirriam Neal, Rachelle Rea, and Julia Erickson.

What was your year of reading, in a nutshell? :)

(Oh! In other news, Miss Dashwood's caption won by a single vote in the caption contest! Hurrah to her! May the odds ever be in your favor, my friend.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Star-ship, Silverbarren

Last month I gave you the first installment of Cottleston Pie. This month I have another piece for you. I'm still hoping to get at least a short version of it finished in time for Grace's Christmas present. After all, both chapters combined make it close to 10k words, so they're more like individual short stories. :) Anyway, here is Part Two.


Chapter Two: The Star-Ship, Silverbarren

“Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are!” Simpian sang the song to himself and kept time with a dandelion stem. He stopped after that line of his song and thought for a while. Why did people wonder what stars were? He knew what they were. They were jewels—pirate jewels. And if he had could get a ship to sail among the stars he’d soon be the richest fellow in the world. Simpian flopped down on the grass in the Soft Patch with a sigh. The problem was getting the ship. Every night he was able come away to Cottleston Pie, Simpian thought about the star-ship and wondered why no one had ever invented one. A proper star-ship would have billowing sails made of wax-paper which would cause a lovely crackling in the wind. And it’d have a tiller made of a peppermint sticks you could lick if you got too hungry, and a rudder like a pocket-knife to cut through the clouds if it got too foggy up there.
As Simpian thought, he rolled over onto his stomach and took his dandelion stem and drew a picture of the ship in a bit of dust nearby. There. Such a lovely ship! If only! If only he was quite clever enough to build such a star ship and go sailing in the night sky! He would bring back gobs and gobs of the star-jewels and never have to go home again. He could live at Cottleston Pie forever an’ always! It seemed like such a good plan if only he were a little more Grown-up and a deal smarter, that Simpian sighed again and almost felt like crying.
“I say! What’s this?” a voice boomed.
Simpian yelled—a great big yell that felt like it would rip his throat in half—and did a somersault out of sheer surprise. When he came right-side-up, he saw a strange man—a grown man—standing in front of him. The man wore a long red robe all edged in white and black-speckled fur, and long purple slippers with the toes turned up at the end. On his head, cocked to one side as if he’d just finished an Enormous Sneeze, was a golden crown.
“Are…are you a…king?” Simpian asked when he found his voice again. (He’d dropped it when he’d done the somersault and had only now got it back.)
“I’m not a king. I’m the King.”
“I understand.” (only he didn’t.)
“I’m the cleverest King,” the King said, as if to convince himself and Simpian both.
“Aha.” There—he remembered to say it this time. Simpian felt less frightened, saying it, so he did it again, just to make certain. “A very good ‘Aha,’” he said.
“And a very good Aha to you, too,” the King said with a strong handshake. He shook Simpian’s hand so hard and his robe was so very red that Simpian thought he looked and felt rather like a lobster—his face was red too, and his nose was very large and lumpy, and his eyes were little and black and shiny like blackberry-seeds. But for all this, Simpian thought he liked the King pretty well.
Simpian stood up, brushed his pants off, and stuck his hands in his trouser pockets. He paced back and forth for a little while like he’d seen his Papa do a time or two, and hummed to himself.
“What is that you’re humming?” the King asked. His voice was so loud.
It startled Simpian again. “Don’t do that!”
“Do what?”
“Shout like that.”
“I’m not shouting,” the King shouted.
“Are too.”
“I am not. THIS,” he yelled, “IS SHOUTING!!!!!” and when he said it like that, Simpian had to admit that his first voice was not shouting at all.
Simpian took one hand out of his pocket and shook the King’s hard, lobster-y hand. “I’m sorry, Your Majeshty. Welcome to Cottleston Pie.”
“Is that what this is?” the King asked, looking about with a pleased expression on his fat face.
“Yes. And I am Master of it.” Simpian wondered if the King might pick a fight like Sylvi had, but the King just chuckled to himself in a jolly way and patted Simpian on the back.
“It is a very good place, I think. There are stars here.”
“You mean you like the stars too?” Simpian asked.
“Love ‘em.” The King plopped down on his royal bottom with a “ploooooosh” noise, and flicked the ends of his robe out on the ground behind him till it looked like a river of red velvet in the starlight. Simpian joined him on the ground and together they looked up at the stars for a while. No one spoke. Simpian wasn’t sure if it was all right to speak to a real King. He wondered where the King was from, and how he’d ended up at Cottleston Pie.
The King whipped out a long cardboard tube and squinted at Simpian through the end of it. “What is your name, Master of Cottleston Pie?”
“Simpian Grenadine.” Simpian puffed his chest out when he said this, and felt proud.
The King laid aside his tube and took a pencil from behind his ear, and licked the tip. “Simp-ee-an…Gren-uh-deen,” he said, while writing it on his cuffs.
“Why are you doing that?” Simpian asked.
The king raised one of his red eyebrows. “So I don’t forget to remember.”
“Aha.”
“And a very good Aha to you too,” the King said with another of his pinching handshakes.
Ouch. Simpian wrinkled his nose and pointed to the sky. “Do you ever wonder what it’s like up there in the stars?”
“Never,” the King replied, and  again he stared at Simpian through the end of his tube.
“Never ever?”
The King flipped onto his ample stomach. “Why should I waste time wondering when I know? I’m the greatest ‘stronomer alive!”
“What’s a ‘star-nimer?”
“A ‘stronmer’s a man who studies stars.”
“And you’re the greatest one alive?”
“And shouldn’t I be?” The King gestured to the dark, jewel-filled sky. “If I stare hard enough at any part of the sky I can find the Big Dipper. That takes talent, my boy. It takes talent to find the Big Dipper where all the silly ‘stronomers say it can’t possibly be. They think there’s only one way to see the Big Dipper. That is silliness, my boy.”
Simpian hugged himself—the air was a teensy bit chilly. “You say you’re the cleverest King and the greatest ‘starnimer alive?”
“Holy-moly, yes, my boy.”
The King was almost shouting this time, but Simpian didn’t wish to test him again—his ears still hurt from the Demonstration. Simpian had an idea. If this King was so clever—and furthermore, if he really was the greatest ‘star-nimer alive—perhaps he could help him build the star-ship. “King?”
“Yes, my boy?”
“What should I call you?”
“Your Majeshty.”
“Your Majeshty?”
“Yes, my boy? (Marvelously done!)”
“Have you ever wanted to go sailing among the stars?”
“You mean in a space-ship?”
Simpian coughed and laughed at the same time, and felt like choking for a minute. “Goodness, no.”
“Then what do you mean?”
“I mean building a star-boat. And scooping up all the jewels in the sky.”
“What do you mean?” the King asked, and his eyes were very sharp and black in that moment. “What do you mean ‘jewels’?”
Simpian pointed to the sky again. “The stars are made from jewels.”
The King peered through his cardboard tube. “Oh. That. Yes they are. But how do you know? Are you a ‘stronomer too?”
Simpian thought about this. He supposed he was, in a way. He liked to look at the stars quite a lot. “I think I am a ‘star-nimer. Listen, your Majeshty. Will you help me build the boat?”
The King scrambled to his fat feet and stood at attention. “Holy-Moly, ‘course I will, my boy! Where do we start?”
So Simpian Grenadine and the King set to building their boat with the sails of waxed paper and the tiller of peppermint, and the rudder like a knife-blade. It wasn’t easy—not one tiny bit. Once in a while that evening and the several following it, Simpian thought he’d like to give up. But every time he got hot and sweaty and angry over the King dropping the hammer on his toe, or licking the peppermint sticks meant for the tiller, or doing any of the number of annoying things the King did, Simpian would take a deep breath and ask him nicely to stop it.
“But I’m a King,” the King would say. “I’m a regent. And a royal.”
“So?”
“So I can do what I want. And what I want to do is lick the tiller. You said we could. You said that was why you are making it out of peppermint.”
Simpian rolled his eyes and snatched the handful of peppermint sticks away from the King. “I said we could lick them when we were up in the sky. Are we up in the sky? No. So stop licking them.”
“You could say please,” the King huffed.
“I could say lots of things.” He left it at that, and continued to glue the peppermint sticks together with the paste he’d made of some flour and milk from Tottles’ kitchen. He’d taken the peppermint sticks from his own Private C’lection he kept buried under the roots of the Cottleston Pie tree. He kept them in a battered coffee-tin and consequently they smelled half like Christmas and half like Early Mornings. Once the sticks were glued together, Simpian moved the tiller into the body of the boat.
It was a square-ish shape which looked more like an orange-crate than a ship, but the King assured Simpian it was correct.
“This is how all the ‘stronomers build their star-ships,” the King said, holding his hand up to show Simpian how serious he was. “It is the Best Sort of ship.”
“But it looks like a box.”
“And haven’t you seen boxes fly?”
Simpian thought about this. Then he remembered a very windy day not so long ago when a box had blown out of the barn and tumbled down the hill. It was almost flying then. Perhaps a box-boat was the proper sort after all.
So together they worked on the star-ship. Every evening after Only Allister’s dinner, Simpian returned to Cottleston Pie and waited in the Soft Patch for the King. And every evening the King came and stood by, tasting the tiller when he thought Simpian wasn’t looking, and offering advice in between. Now and then he hammered with the hammer, or sang in a very loud voice that was almost a shout.
Then the final evening came—the evening Simpian and the King had agreed upon to go sailing in their star-ship. Everything was ready. The tiller was in place, the King had donated his pocket-knife for the rudder-blade, and Simpian had spit-shined it till it gleamed in the faint light of the stars. The King climbed into the rear of the ship. It listed starboard.
“Careful, my boy!” the King roared. He tipped his tipsy crown back to the other side of his head. It looked worse than ever.
“I’m not doing anything,” Simpian shouted back.
“You breathed on it.”
Simpian clenched his fists and tried not to lose his temper. It would do no good to be angry with the cleverest King alive, and the greatest ‘star-nimer on top of that. “I’ll try not to breath. But if I faint you’ll have to steer.”
“Sounds fair enough, my boy,” the King boomed. “Anchors aweigh! Stars ho! All aboarrrrrrd!” He bounced in his half of the ship, and slapped his hand against the side. The boards wiggled, and Simpian was glad all of a sudden that that they would only be sailing in sky, not sea. He wasn’t certain their ship would hold water if put to the test.
Simpian stepped into the boat and reached above his head to attach the waxed-paper sails. They snapped and crackled like fury in the faint breeze that whispered through Cottleston Pie. “We haven’t named her yet,” Simpian said, sitting down with a plop in the bottom of their ship. He almost crunched the tiller, and had to scoot over and rest his elbow on it instead of his buttom.
“Easily mended, my boy! Easily mended!” The King stepped out of the boat and it listed to the other side. “WHOA!” he roared. “Stop your breathing, my boy! You’ll sink our craft!”
“It’s not my fault,” Simpian growled.
“Say what?”
“IT’S NOT MY FAULT!” He had lost his temper now. He looked fearfully at the King and wondered if he would be very angry.
The King just pushed his crown back the other direction once more, took his pencil from behind his ear, and scribbled something on both sides of the star-ship. “There,” he roared, getting back into the ship. “AND QUIT BREATHING!”
Simpian held his breath just in case, and the ship only rocked the slightest bit. “What did you name her?” he asked after a bit.
“The Silverbarren.” The King breathed loudly through his nostrils, a bit out of breath, and his eyes defied Simpian to challenge the name.
“It’s a good name,” Simpian said, trying to think how best to put this. “But what does it mean?”
“What does it MEAN, my boy?” the King roared. “It means we’ll strip the silver and jewels and what-not right out of the skies! That’s what it means! We’ll be the best, richest ‘stronomers the world has ever known!”
Simpian licked the peppermint tiller in a contemplative way. The King spoke as if they were taking every star-jewel out of the sky. He licked the tiller again. He didn’t think that was the way to go about it. “Your Majeshty,” he said.
“Yes?”
“Are we taking all the star-jewels out of the sky?”
“Every last one!”
“Every last one?”
“Yes—and every first one too. And every one in between! The whole Big Dipper full of ‘em. Holy-Moly! It’ll be an adventure, my boy!” The King hugged himself and chuckled and his whole red face quivered.
Simpian bit his lip. He peered through the leaves of the Cottleston Pie tree and could see the star his Papa called Venus, but he called the Beautiful One. Would they steal that too? It would make a lovely ring to give to Mum, and that smaller one right above his head would be perfect for Tottles. He’d take some of the others and make them into buttons and cuff-links. But he didn’t need all the star-jewels. Perhaps once they got up in the sky, the King might agree to take just a few and leave some to make the darkness look pretty. The business at hand was getting up there.
“How do we get started?” he asked.
The King scratched his bald head and the crown bounced. “How d’you usually launch a ship?”
“By lifting the anchor, I suppose,” Simpian said.
“Yes, but you only need anchors if you’re in water—isn’t that right?” the King asked. His breath was coming hot and fast and his nostrils were very big indeed now.
“That’s right,” Simpian replied.
“So if we are to launch this ship, we can’t do it by lifting an anchor.”
“No.”
“Nor by tug-boat, I presume?” The King looked hopeful over this suggestion, and peered around Cottleston Pie. It didn’t help—there were not star-tug-boats there.
“Not much.” Simpian lounged back in the ship, then sat up. “We could sing! Maybe that’d help!”
“Sing what?”
“ ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star?’ It’s about ‘star-nimer things, at least.”
“Very much so. Holy-moly, boy! Let’s do it!”
So the two of them sat there in the Silverbarren and sang and sang. They sang through all the verses Simpian knew, and made up a several more. Some of them rhymed, and some of them didn’t, and one finished with a very loud “HOW WE WISH YOU WEREN’T SO FARRRRR!” sung by the King himself in his loudest shouting-voice. Yes. That was the problem. Because the star-jewels were so far away and the ship wasn’t moving.
The wind rattled the waxed-paper sails merrily, the peppermint tiller gave off a pleasant, chalky aroma, and the King and Simpian still sang their sailing song. But the ship would not budge. Not an inch. They sang long and longer and left off from “Twinkle, Twinkle” and moved on to “Ninety-nine-cartons-of-milk-on-the-wall” and went all the way through that, and still nothing happened. At last Simpian broke off a piece of the peppermint tiller and handed it to the King.
“Many thanks, my boy, many thanks,” the King said, then snapped off the end of his peppermint stick and chomped it like a cow chomping hay.
Simpian ate his peppermint stick, then another, and another. Pretty soon the whole tiller was gone except for one stick, and the King was asking for his pocket-knife back. There went the rudder.
“Do you need to keep that?” the King asked.
“Keep what?”
“The last peppermint stick?”
Simpian looked at it lying all lonely in the bottom of the box. “No.”
“Then wrap it up in the paper. I don’t wish it to get my robe sticky.”
Simpian wrapped the last little piece of the tiller in the sails, and sighed. “Well, we’re home, I suppose.”
The King sprawled on of his fat, lobster-y legs over the edge of the boat and settled his head against his arms which he crossed behind him. “Yes, we are. And do you know what, my boy?”
“What, your Majeshty?”
“We can be very good ‘stronomer’s here. Right here. Without the troubles of tillers and rudders and things.”
And as Simpian lounged in his end of the Silverbarren and watched the star-jewels wink in the sky, he figured the King was spot-on. They could be wonderful ‘star-nimers. Right here.