Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Challeng'd my Bookshelf

Those who hang around The Inkpen Authoress long enough realize that I almost never participate in tags. I do, however, make exceptions for tags that actually interest me and that contain questions I have an interest in answering. Also, if the tags come from a reputable source, I am more inclined to give them credence as more than just another chain letter. ;) My old-faithful, Elisabeth Foley of The Second Sentence, tagged me in this thing she calls "The Bookshelf Challenge". This tag is quite nontraditional, containing absolutely no mentions of coffee or tea or any of those questions one comes to dread in interviews. Therefore, I participate:

Is there a book you really want to read but haven't, because you know that it'll make you cry? I am going to use my Get Out of Jail card and say that The Book Thief by Markus Zusack is one such book. I am halfway through, but making exceptionally slow progress. Death as a narrator is brilliant but heavy, and since I have seen the movie and know to what certain death we are careening, it puts a bit of damper on my headlong fling toward the final pages.
Pick one book that helped introduce you to a new genre: For this, I would have to say Sarah Sundin's With Every Letter. I had never read a Christian historical romance, having a creeping suspicion that they were all fluffery and stupid characters, but when I won Sundin's novel in a giveaway, I was taken in by the gentle, steady way the author weaves her story into the real facts of WWII.
Find a book you want to reread: Easy. Plenilune, by Jennifer Freitag. Cannot wait to have a copy of this baby in my library (October 20th, October 20th, October 20th). Also, the Hawk & Dove books by Penelope Wilcock.
Is there a book series you read but wish that you hadn't? Abram's Daughters by Beverly Lewis. I got got three-quarters of the way through and gave it up as a bad job.
If your house was burning down and all your family and pets were safe, which book would you go back inside to save? My Wodehouses and A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. Also, Winnie-the-Pooh.
Is there one book on your bookshelf that brings back fond memories? Doesn't every book? But to answer this, I should probably say The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy. There are many others, but I will never forget the sensation of not knowing anything at all about it and delighting over the first read.
Find a book that has inspired you the most. A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken
Do you have any autographed books? Actually, yes. I won the first two books in Sarah Sundin's Wings of the Nightingale series in two separate giveaways and both happened to be autographed copies! Also, I have quite a few from indie authors.
Find the book that you have owned the longest. Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne. I believe Mama gave me this book when I was five and I remember wanting to be able to say with Christopher Robin, "Now we are six!"
Is there a book by an author that you never thought you'd read or enjoy? Hmmm. Well, I had quite a prejudice against The Wind in the Willows for some time. Quite unfounded. And when I finally read it at the age of twenty-one, I realized I had been missing out on charm for years. On the other hand, perhaps I enjoyed it all the more because I was grown up and could understand the watercolored nuances. :)

Since Elisabeth tagged three authors, I will do the same. I tag Jennifer Freitag, Mirriam Neal, and Katelyn Sabelko.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Presenting: Corral Nocturne by Elisabeth G. Foley

While we are all waiting eagerly for Anon, Sir, Anon to enter the public world on the Fifth of November, there are several other books in the wings that I find somewhat abate my sense of "NOVMBER FIFTH MUST COME NOW." I have already mentioned Jennifer Freitag's Plenilune which descends October 20th, and today it is my pleasure to recommend a sweet, fresh novella: Elisabeth G. Foley's Corral Nocturne. Foley has earned my respect and admiration in many ways and her newest novella, due November 1, 2014, further cemented my satisfaction. Please add the book on Goodreads and, as always, if you are given the privilege of reading a book by an indie author, do them a favor and review it when you've finished. We may call ourselves independent, but we really rely on ratings to help spread the word. 

Also, the cover is gorgeous.

Having enjoyed Elisabeth Grace Foley's Mrs. Meade Mysteries Vol. 1, I was quite prepared to enjoy Corral Nocturne, but I wasn't certain how the author would effectively spin a Cinderella story out of prairie grass and homespun. I shouldn't have been worried. The mark of a good writer, for me, is that they have consistency. Foley is nothing if not consistent. From her mysteries to her blog posts to Corral Nocturne, Foley knows her stuff and writes it effortlessly. Most experiences I've had with Westerns has come from watching the old black and white films, by which I mean that I am not terribly "up" on the Western setting. Enter Foley, with her gentle descriptions that show me the beauty of the West and the tenacity of its people and explains, without seeming to explain, the genre.
Elisabeth Foley has a way writing rich settings: stories set in places where you can see the story world reaching farther than the bonds of this book. Corral Nocturne, while being a lovely Cinderella-style story (and yes, she managed it!), also gave me a sense of wanting more. I would love it if Ella and Cole had had more time together, for their relationship to grow. In fact, I would not have minded spending an entire novel with them and getting to know the people mentioned in passing. That being said, if you enjoy a quiet, gentle romance by the rose-purple light of a prairie dusk, read Corral Nocturne. Do

Friday, September 26, 2014

Ahem Ahem: The Second Vlog

Hello Peoples:
    I am considerably annoyed right now because Wednesday night, Windows Movie Maker informed me that my vlog had uploaded to Youtube and I could view it online right now and GUESS WHAT? It exists. Nowhere. I don't understand and yesterday and today I will have no time to mend the situation so you'll just have to wait till tomorrow, I suppose. It's rather vexing. I hate technology sometimes. Oh. It has just informed me that my video was too long and to help that, I need to increase my time limits. M'kay....working on that...


Okay. My lords and my ladies, The Inkpen Authoress Vlog, Episode 2:

There you have it! I hope you enjoy the answers to your questions and I promise that it doesn't feeeeeeeel like eighteen minutes. Thank you for asking me everything you asked! I do love to talk. :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

That Cabby Inside Me

You know what I like?

I like feeling small.

I like to read something that makes me realize I have not arrived in my writing and that I still have a long way to go. A very long way. I like to pick up a book and feel a delicious sensation of, "Oh, that's how it's done." Do you ever read books this way? I think I sometimes feel a certain healthy detachment from my work. I mean, I'm certainly proud of my skills as they are today, but I also possess (through having cultivated, learned, or just discovered it, I can't say) a rather Sir Percy Blakeney opinion of my talents. I don't mind mentally chucking aside the soon-to-be uploaded file of Anon, Sir, Anon when I pick up Dorothy Sayers' Have His Carcase. Of course I could pretend I think I'm as fine a writer as Sayers and that might sell a few more books, but I am quite happy with a conversation that goes something like this:
Reader: "You mean to say you don't think your writing is the top?"
Me: "Well of course it's the top of some things. For instance, it's the top of what it was three years ago and it is the top of certain books I've come across. But as for being the toppy-top, why this is the real ginger." (waving Carcase about)

Is it telling that I see that inner voice in my head as a 1940's journalist with his heels on the desk and a slightly flattened cabby-cap on his short buzz-cut? My inner voice presents itself many ways. This time it's a writer who looks like a cabby and smokes cigarettes in a sociable fashion. I like this fellow. You see, if one doesn't take oneself too terribly seriously, it's easier to take criticism, to view one's place in the world aright, and to improve. After having started the aforementioned novel at my brother's fiancee's house, I drove home through a monsoon of sorts and reflected on how generous my readers have been in giving Anon, Sir, Anon a fighting chance with four and even five-star ratings. Of course I don't pretend to emulate Dorothy Sayer's style, nor do I think Anon, Sir, Anon is on-par with her much-advanced skill. I can't wait for that reviewer who says, "I don't see what all the buzz is about. It's not at all as good as Agatha Christie." I am prepared to pump his hand, stuff my fists in my pockets and say with a foolish smile, "I know, right? Wasn't she amazing?"

I like feeling small.

I like knowing there is something to reach toward because how dull it would be to have arrived. "Oh look, Mount Amazingness has been reached. Recomputing purpose in career." I don't have a problem admitting that my skill-set is far from complete and it excites me to notice how far I've come since Fly Away Home, and by next book, how far I'll have come since Anon, Sir, Anon. Not that I've actually researched this phenomena, but I could almost guarantee that most famous authors see their early books as stepping-stones to even better things. I will always love each of my books and there is no reason to be ashamed of something you wrote being...younger. We can be glad we no longer behave as we did at fourteen, but does that mean there was something wrong with behaving fourteen...as a fourteen year-old? In the same way, I don't think that, down the road, I'll want to apologize for the lack of sage wisdom and effortless skill in Fly Away Home. It was a freshman novel and a very good introduction at that. We'll stop badgering the poor darling for not being Anna Karenina.

I am off to enjoy me (now cold) cup of tea and forge my way through the deliciousness that is Have His Carcase. On this visit, I learned that my sister-in-law's parents have a plethora of Agatha Christies and Dorothy Sayers and P.G. Wodehouse--pretty nearly any title I could want. They put my library to shame. I told you that I would have the vlog up. Well, I have it done...it is trying to publish and because it is *gulp* eighteen minutes long (you guys asked a lot of questions!) and my family's internet connection moves at glacial pace (you know how it thrills me), it is on it's second try and only 11% rendered. Snap. So you will probably get the vlog tomorrow morning. For now, go enjoy this rainy officially-fall day by letting yourself read a book for pleasure's sake.


(Also, I have this weird urge to try to draw my sisters and myself as Disney-inspired caricatures. O.o)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Inquisitive Souls: Questions for my vlog

Hello, goosies!
    So I've been thinking that I would do another vlog sometime soon but I wanted to open the blog up for questions. Ask me things, and I'll answer them in the video! It can be a question about writing in general, my books, Anon, Sir, Anon, publishing, my personal life, what the circumference of the world may be (don't expect a correct answer for that one) or anything at all! Ask your questions in a comment below and they will be answered by Wednesday in a brand new vlog. Also,  if you like things related to Alice in Wonderland, perhaps you ought to check out author Cerella Sechrist's Unbirthday Giveaway! I promise that mentioning it gains me no points...it just has a seriously good prize and this is one giveaway I hope to win. Only caveat: you must be eighteen or older to win.

So: give me your questions in a comment and enter to win some lovely Mad Hatter-y prizes. And don't forget: if I don't see you in the future, I'll see you in the pasture. ;)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

This Sentence Has Five Words

It is always embarrassing when you realize that those pages on your blog ("The Bookery", "What's Brewing", etc.) are terribly outdated. Happily for my readers, I managed the pages today, so everything on them ought to be correct including where you can buy my books, what projects I currently have in the works, and more. You ought to check it out, if for no other reason than that it no longer looks antiquated. Don't you love the strength of that motivation?

Since releasing the cover for Anon, Sir, Anon, I have this amazingly strong urge to release it early. I will not. I promise I will not. But I cannot wait to order my proof copy and get it in my hands. November 5th might seem a long way off, but till then, why don't you order a copy of Fly Away Home? It is only $12.50 at Amazon and will be a fairly cheap trip back to 1950's NYC. Though I know my writing has grown since publishing Fly Away Home, it is still a book of which I am proud and there is nothing to blush at.

People have commented that ASA is written in a different style than Fly Away Home and even The Windy Side of Care. I am glad they see it because it was done with a conscious effort for cadence and rhythm. You see, in real life (and on this blog), I tend to be breathless, breezy, and verbose. You can hear me rush a dozen words out where three would do. I laughed over a text to a friend recently. He asked a simple, one-line question. I answered with a text three or four or five sentences long, answering his question as I would in real-time conversation. But when you're always jabbering on and on and on, much is lost in the noise. People stop listening. The ear is so assaulted that the brain takes a vacation and runs off elsewhere while you continue with words words WORDS. This happens not only in conversation, but in writing. If one is always chattering, too much slips through the cracks.

In writing Anon, Sir, Anon, I was purposefully aware of varying sentence length, patterns, and reading the sentences out loud to see how they sounded in the mouth. It's a different way of writing, but it pays off. I am surprised and pleased with the...gentility of my prose when I am more economical. But rather than run my mouth over how I did such and such, I found a pin on Pinterest that perfectly represents the case:

Isn't that fascinating? I learned, somewhere between Fly Away Home and Anon, Sir, Anon about cadence and rhythm and I'll keep learning. It's pleasant to be able to see that my writing has improved from one book to the next. What is a "lesson" you've recently learned?

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Cover is Revealed! {Anon, Sir, Anon}

Yes, the day is finally here! Anon, Sir, Anon has a cover, and what a lovely cover it is! I am pleased to team up with a group of fabulous bloggers who are also revealing its face this morning, so a big thank goes to them. A support system is so important when you're an indie author, and I'm part of the best. Thank yous to: Elizabeth, Rebekah, Betsy, St. Rachel, Schuyler, Amber, Ness, Stephanie, Rachelle, Clara, Esther, The Anne-Girl, Elisabeth G. Foley, Rissi, and Abigail Hartman for your participation.

Once again, "St. Rachel" Rossano has caught my vision and created a cover for me that will lend itself wonderfully well to a series because, yes, I intend to follow Vivi and Farnham down the path of crime-solving till they've given us a few good stories yet. Here is her art:

The 12:55 out of Darlington brought more than Orville Farnham's niece; murder was passenger.In coming to Whistlecreig, Genevieve Langley expected to find an ailing uncle in need of gentle care. In reality, her charge is a cantankerous Shakespearean actor with a penchant for fencing and an affinity for placing impossible bets.When a body shows up in a field near Whistlecreig Manor and Vivi is the only one to recognize the victim, she is unceremoniously baptized into the art of crime-solving: a field in which first impressions are seldom lasting and personal interest knocks at the front door.Set against the russet backdrop of a Northamptonshire fog, Anon, Sir, Anon cuts a cozy path to a chilling crime.

Remember to add the book on Goodreads and watch out (cross fingers) for pre-ordering on Amazon before too too long. And, as always, "Remember, remember the Fifth of November." (Golly, that was a fun ditty with which to have coincided.)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

"Dash it all, Pelinor!" Or: Cursing In Literature

I love how topics, like fashion, recirculate every little while. I hope we've learned to drop the topic-version of harem-pants and tie-dyed tops, but there are some subjects that can stand a re-hashing. Back in June of this year, Abigail Hartman wrote a very well thought-out post on the subject of swearing in her novels. In Hartman's words:

When a word comes to mind as admirably suited to a piece of dialogue, do you go ahead and write it, or do you hurriedly shoo it out and substitute something that, let's be honest, is always rather stale by comparison?
Bad words are for bad things.  When your wife is murdered, when you come up against a blackmailer, when your rival's about to win the man you love, when you've just been played for a fool, "oh bother" is not the first thing that springs to your mind.  Maybe we as the authors don't condone it, but we don't have to sermonize about it (that's even worse than not using the word in the first place).  We ought to write with understanding and compassion for the nature of man in all his God-made glory - fallen glory, yes, but glory all the same.  That includes the imperfections and the red-blooded passion of the real world.
At the time, I was not terribly active on the blogs, being in the middle of finishing "final" edits for Anon, Sir, Anon and traveling all around the country, but I remember being in possession of a feeling akin that shared by Mrs. Banks:

"Oh George, you didn't jump into the river. How sensible of you!"
This post I am now writing is intended strictly for a discussion of language in literature. In my day-to-day life, I don't curse and barely even use words like "crap". This has more to do with the fact that I despise sounding common and I live in a town of rednecks who use those words in place of adjectives. Frankly, I think cursing makes one sound less intelligent. I am not making any statements as far as the morality of using "damn" or "hell". Those words are of a different ilk than the Famous Four-Letter Furies which, I believe strongly, you can do without. Those four-letter words are understood by everyone in everyplace to be used to intentionally hurt a person or, simply, to be crass.
But "hell" and "damn" are in the Bible and if you want to argue logic, "hell" and "damn" are both very effective curses. It is definitely wrong to say "damn you" or "go to hell" as directed toward a person, because that is a very serious invocation and God's word says that Jesus himself was not willing that any should perish. In cursing at someone, you are telling them you'd like them to be Satan's property forevermore and that is hideous. But likening the pain inflicted by stepping on a Lego in the dark to the pain inflicted by a lake brimming with fire is probably quite honest. I know that my human concept of ceaseless pain cannot get much worse. All the same, most people's minds don't dash to logical arguments when they hear a curse. When most people say, "Damn," they are just being sloppy, crass, or offensive. Therefore, I abstain.

As regards "hell" and "damn" in literature, however, I was conflicted for a long while. Was it terribly awful of me to include a word like that? Would I alienate readers? Would I do harm to someone's sensibilities? I've realized the answers to these questions are, in my experience: No, perhaps, and yes.

I will always do harm to someone's sensibilities in my writing. I cannot help it. That is the charm of being an author who can't possibly please everyone at the same time. I may write about the breeding habits of sardines and some reader somewhere would be displeased that I hadn't mentioned their aquarius habitat and natural coloring as well.

 As for alienating some readers, I had to go to war with this subject (friendly war, but war) when my editor went through Anon, Sir, Anon. She noticed the occasional language in the book, mentioned the fact that it might rub some readers the wrong way, and questioned my choice in using the hells and damns. The thing is, when I use "language" in my writing, it always serves a purpose. I don't drop the world "damn" in a Mark Twainian fashion (i.e. because the word 'very' is too weak), but I will use the word when it serves its purpose and forms a connexxion between the reader and the story world. If I truly believe that my job as a writer is to bring to life an existing world of a story, then that existing world will have evil people in it as well as good. It must, or you'd have no story. I must be true to those people--the evil and good--and portray them aright.

You might sit and frown that the d-word has slipped into the most heated argument of the novel, but perhaps you aren't quite perceiving the whole image. The character who used that words exists...and I am portraying him to you. What if, dear reader, I have censored a good deal of, say, Michael Maynor's language and left you with only a pale grey "damnation" out of the blackness of his brew? Surely I've dealt more fairly with you than with him? Real-life villains are assuredly not content with "Oh blow," or Farnham's "bang," and if you've any sort of fondness for reality, you'll realize the implications of cutting it away. Certain characters are meant to turn your stomach. I am not the author to turn to if you're looking for a villain who is only grossly misunderstood and not evil at all, really. My villains are villainous and come with their villainy partially intact.

"That's all very good and well, Rachel, but I heard Dr. Breen swear and I was really shocked. I thought he was a good guy."

Again with the characters. Dr. Breen, if you cared to notice his history, is a man who has lived a bachelor's existence and is really quite ill-learned in the art of behaving around women. He tries to modify his tone, his language, his actions around Vivi but the reality is that the doctor is a roughened-up, stout-hearted Catholic man with a fondness for his drink and his friends. He is neither as conscientious as Farnham, nor as level-headed. It is in his character to be blunt and with that bluntness comes the first words at hand. If Breen uses one of the duo currently under inspection, it is because Breen as a real man would also use them. (Also, can one of my British friends please tell me if "damn" is considered swearing in the UK? I have heard that it isn't and from its common usage in nearly every British classic I've read--old and new--I would nearly believe that rumor.) I would even venture to say that if Breen used "damn" quite cheerily, he'd still be playing true. But for the sake of some of my younger, gentler readers, I cut out some instances.

Someone or two advance-readers took exception to Farnham's habit of saying "bang" in place of a more common curse-word. I can only imagine what the few uses of "damn" did to them, but I'll address "bang" now. I am curious about whether the persons who objected to "bang" would also object to saying, "Blast," "Snap", "Crumbs", "Golly", "Shoot", "Fiddlesticks", "Crikey", "Darn", "What the heck", "Crud," "Criminitly", "Dash it all", "Oh my stars", "Great Scot" and any of the other phrases that so pepper my own speech. Do you never invoke anything at all, be it the revered name of chocolate pudding as Katie so memorably did? Farnham, of course, never does anything in the common vein so he invented his own expletive. Certainly he meant something stronger when he used "bang", but what do you mean when you say "Oh blast. The tip of my pencil broke."? I really am curious, not trying to mock you.

On the flip side, I had some readers say that once or twice, they thought "damn" would have fit better than "bang" in a moment and that my use of the milder term felt awkward. Of course it does. So does "blast", when you're trying quite hard not to let fly the realio-trulio yellow-eyed owl. Farnham's essence is awkward chivalry and he tries especially hard to be clean-cut in the presence of some particulars.

In laying out my views on the subject of cursing, I don't intend to argue anyone off their stance, or even defend my uses. Really, I am writing on this subject for conversation's sake. In fact, if you've thought out your opinions on the matter and want to do a post in response, I'd love to chat. (Or if you have no inclination but still want to chat, the comments sections is always receiving.) I was not as succinct, scholarly, or compact as Abigail in my post on questionable words but am I ever? Just as I am true to my characters, I'm true to myself. You'll get nothing but the real stuff from me.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Sir Francis Drake: A Sanctified Pirate

This is a 1577 prayer by Sir Francis Drake, a "legal" pirate and adventurer who received his knighthood after bringing home booty worth a half million pounds sterling to the Queen of England. It's beautiful, challenging, and has a darn good story behind it. Thanks to Molly Henderson for bringing it to my attention yesterday!

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Monday, September 8, 2014

I'm Not The Same After...

"In my life there are so many questions and answers that somehow seem wrong. In my life, there are times when I catch in the silence the sigh of a faraway song."
-Les Miserables

On Facebook, I was challenged by several people (I always forget whom) to post a list of ten books that have changed me in some fashion. Generally, I leave such tags alone because who really wants to hear the list? But after being tagged at least twice, perhaps three times, it was beginning to look like Ignoring. So I bent to the will of the people and formulated my list. Unfortunately, ten is much too brief an amount to allow for all the books I might have added. Thus, this list is not exhaustive. Also, it might be a point of interest for some of you to realize that some of these books are not necessarily ultimate favorites, but have made it into the top ten for reasons of how much they have affected me. The books that do count as favorite, must-read titles are highlighted in blue.

1.) A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken
2.) The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
3.) The Wind in The Willows by Kenneth Grahame
4.) Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
5.) Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
6.) Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
7.) The Help by Kathryn Stockett
8.) Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
9.) Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
10.) Henry V by William Shakespeare

A Severe Mercy: I first read this book at the prompting of my mother, who had long told me bits and pieces of trivia about this book. Together, my parents read the book in their first year of marriage, and I think it was a good choice. You will never read about a couple more sincere or a love more true. This book, perhaps more than any other, has caught and changed my concept of the bond between two souls.
  The Silver Chair: I think Lewis' reputation stands for itself, but on the outside chance that you're a stranger to the tales of Narnia, I think that you will like this book. I like it because it is more than half fairy-tale and more than half true...if you know what I mean. Also, you don't have to have terribly much prior acquaintance with the characters to enjoy the book, though a good friendship would enhance the experience for you. I think I like it best because of how it makes me ache with hearing "that sigh of a faraway song".
The Wind in The Willows: As I've mentioned before, I am a late-comer to this party. For some odd reason, I boycotted it until the age of twenty-one when I read the book and it caught me across the throat with its beauty. I don't know what it is...the charm of the prose, the idea of mucking about in boats, or the feeling of home-yness about it, but it is pure verbal comfort. Read it.
Winnie-the-Pooh: I don't have to tell you about this one. You know how much I love it and what my mission in life (regarding it) has been.
Orthodoxy: Feeling things keenly but not being the best at common-sensical arguments, I adore books that argue my case with finesse and humor. Chesterton is king at this. There is barely a page on which I didn't underline a quote that struck me. Fine stuff here.
Unbroken: You will never in your life read another book that makes you feel this brave and inspired. The true account of an Olympian-turned-WWII-soldier will erase every concept of what you thought determination and grit were. I am so excited to see the film directed by Angelina Jolie (???) which is set to release on Christmas Day. It'll be hard to watch, but it will be worth it. Louis Zamperini was a hero of heroes.
The Help: A One-liner Description: You will never feel proud of your debut novel again. Honestly, I don't know how Kathryn Stockett did it. This book is gold. I would not be able to believe that it was her debut novel except for the fact that Harper Lee had done it before with her To Kill a Mockingbird. The plot stuck with me because it is similar in setting to stories I have heard from my mother about their help, Laura Bullock, and how she took care of my mother and her siblings while my grandmother worked during the day. Excellent story, execution, and writing.
Steal Like An Artist: I think I'll always remember this little book as the one I cram-read in half an hour while hoping my brother (who owned the book) wouldn't say he needed to leave before I'd finished. If you're looking to be inspired in your art, challenged, and uplifted, this is the book for you. It's like an IV of espresso to the sagging inspiration.
Anne of Green Gables: It's weird to think what sort of person I would be today if I had never read this book. I am being perfectly honest when I tell you that I was greatly affected by the character of Anne Shirley. Avonlea comprised much of my childhood, from setting the stones for my great love (and somewhat expertise of) the Victorian era, to cementing my long-held woe that I was not born a ginger, to the fact that I deeply appreciate the beauty of nature, to introducing me to some grand poetry and much literature. It and I are inextricably combined.
Henry V: Another book for when I want to be brave, all I have to do is read Henry's speech at Agincourt, his St. Crispin's Day admonishment, or the proposal scene and I'm suddenly a lioness. Shakespeare is (TRUISMS) a genius.

What are your favorite books? And yes, I'm smiling evilly because I know you guys can't resist. I do so love starting fads.

Copper, Like Everything

When I'm between stories, I tend to write a lot of flash-fiction. Really, I like this stage. It gives me the opportunity to write in different styles and follow characters only so far as I want to follow them. This time, I have something odd for you. I don't even really know what it means, only that it was inspired by a new worker at the Starbucks near us whom I describe (in the physical sense) honestly. I assigned him a unique personality, gave him a tattoo, changed my personality, and invented a conversation between the results. Also, every idea in my writing life begins with flash-fiction about coffee. Fly Away Home? Coffee. Anon, Sir, Anon? Coffee. I'm not promising anything or even predicting. I'm only saying. Enjoy.


The man behind the counter--who was he?
Revelation came like hail: unexpected and with the sound of thunder. Outside, a deluge thrashed the parking lot.
He looked like Ishmael. The Moby Dick protagonist. Or, if you preferred it, like Ishmael’s ginger counterpart.
When he handed her drink across the counter, she wanted desperately to say, “Have you ever been whaling?” but to her shy nature that sounded like some odd sort of come-on: something she wished fervently to avoid. Instead, she murmured a thank-you and took her coffee to a nearby table. She had only ten minutes and that she would spend studying the Ishmael who wore the name “Levi”.
It was not difficult to watch him, though the workspace was crowded with his fellow baristas. He was too tall and thin a figure to lose even in a mist. So tall and thin and straight that he reminded her precisely of a mast. Even his face had that wooden peg look, striking one across the face when aided by the baldness of his crown and the curly red beard fringing it beneath. But he was young. Paradoxically young and weathered as only a man who has grown up on an ocean swell can be.
She sipped her mocha and tasted seawater. No, the flavor was salted caramel and she only projected the briny association. Still, when the man named Levi approached her table and wiped it down with a clean white cloth, she held herself very small and very quiet in the largeness of that silent question: “Who are you?”
She might ask if she was very bold and cared less about the fact that she was the only customer in the shop. But she was not very bold--not in that way.
Levi slid his cloth across the polished table and swung to the opposite side with a sailor's sure-footed gait. Stubbornly, she kept her lashes cast down, focused on a book she was not reading and the unintelligible mark he had scrawled on the side of her paper cup.
He paused and she shifted her eyes. Not a lot, but enough that she caught the tight angles of his muscular arm and the peculiar color of his skin. It was not pale as one might expect from a ginger, but beard-colored. His beard-colored. Copper, yet not. Too faded to make a true auburn--and who had auburn skin? No, the sun had darkened his arms and bleached his beard till they were equal shades of a nameless, ruddy gold.
“Excuse me.” The voice belonging to Levi rumpled the smooth air between them and startled her gaze to standing position. There, she met his eyes and it was to the credit of her nerves that she did not flinch. For his eyes were matched to the rest of him: guarded, golden, sun-smirched.
“May I clean your table?” he asked.
“Yes.” She felt a disquieting sensation that if he was Ishmael, he had scented a whale. And who was the whale in this analogy? There was a rough familiarity in his look that unsettled her.
Slowly, she moved to let him pass his white cloth over the already-clean surface. His palm quietened between her hands and her book and he waited.
Finally, she felt compelled to speak. “Yes?” Still not looking.
“You love ships, don’t you?” And the odd thing was, his voice so near sounded like the sizzling foam of a wave as it licks back to sea.
How could he know she loved ships? How could he know so specifically it was ships and not the ocean itself that held a match to her gypsy-candle heart? For indeed, she respected the ocean with an awe approaching fear and could not quite love it. How did he know that, or anything at all?
Seeming to understand he had spooked her, Levi bent his orange-rind elbows and stood his wooden face to her angle and she could not avoid the meeting.
“How long since you tasted sea air?”
The flavors of mocha and pink salt warmed her tongue. Who was he, this man who conjured waves with his antiquated words?
“Too long,” she confessed. Then, “How?”
“Your eyes are an ocean.” This was no flirtation. “And you steer by a star.” He turned his arm outward a fraction and there, crossing the blue veins like lines of longitude and latitude on the charts she loved so well, was a peculiar tattoo in copper ink, shaped like a compass-star.
She dared not meet again those eyes that saw too much and told too little with their metallic probing. “Who are you?”
He swirled his cloth in the space between her hands. The tendons beneath the tattooed star shifted with the colors of an unquiet sea. “I am like you.”
A reply came, though her mind screamed that it was long-since time to leave this moment: “And what am I?”
“A brave, lone ship seeking a lone white whale. What your white whale might be, oh, I couldn’t guess, but you are consumed with the finding of it. As am I.”
“As everyone is,” she protested, not wanting to be linked in any way with this strange being.
“Ahhh, no.” Levi smacked the table too suddenly and unfurled his full, stiff height. She could not help that he pulled her gaze upright with him and pinned it on his face.
“Not all are as we,” he said, far too loudly for privacy’s sake. “Will you find your whale? I wonder.”
“Quiet, would you?” In her death-grip concern that he might vanish like a nightmare without explaining himself, she grabbed the star-drawn wrist. His skin under her fingers lavished heat like summer sand. “Who are you?”
“I am Levi.”
“But what do you mean?” she half-sobbed in an outraged whisper.
A smile on his face fit as strangely as a smile would on a ship’s wheel. Carven, unnatural, almost macabre. “I am what October means when it rears scarlet against the parchment year. I am what the road means when you’ve been home too long. I am what the sea means when it whispers, ‘come away.’”
Thoroughly frightened, she released him and saw the pale circles pressed by her fingertips into his skin.
“Furthermore,” he said, backing away and swinging his cloth with that meaningless smile, “I am what you mean when you stare at me so. I am,” he finished with that tone like the end of a wave, “boundless curiosity. The real question would be, what are you?” He winked one copper eye in his copper-mast face and returned to his duties behind the counter.
She stood without feeling anything and turned with her drink to face the rain-streaked door. It was past time to go. Raising the cup to her lips, she paused, seeing again what Levi had scrawled. On the side of the cup, suddenly legible, was a symbol, not letters. Not meant to be read, but noticed: the sailing-star and a trail of water behind.
Copper, like everything.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

September's Chatterbox Announced!

Right away, I'd like to tell you that I have in my possession the official cover for Anon, Sir, Anon and you will get to see it here and several other blogs on Monday, September 15th. Blast it. I almost can't wait that long. Oh well. I can look at it every few hours and smile to myself in a secretive fashion.

I missed Chatterbox last month, but I was thoroughly determined not to miss it this month and so you have it here. No worries, dear people who love it so much. It is coming. In fact, it has come. Because this is the post where I tell you the topic. I'll scootch out of the way and get to the brass tacks:

This is the month of September ("with summer's best of weather and autumn's best of cheer") and as September means it is socially acceptable to bring out the salted caramel everything (Who needs Pumpkin Spice when you could have a mocha with flakes of sea salt on top of the whip? DIVINE.) and talk about autumn fashions and firesides and my obsession with ginger-molasses cookies, I decided that the theme would also be a bit cozy and autumnal. And because I take the path of least resistance when it comes to blogging schedules and because I always feel bad for not participating in my own Chatterboxes, I'm challenging you in retrospect. Because the theme for September, as brought to you by Sandwiches For Two, is...


Now don't look at me like that. You know I have absolutely no intention of ever fulfilling your assumptions. I did pears with my descriptions, the makers of Saving Mr. Banks did pears with a heart-rending death-bed scene. You'll be able to come up with something, I know.

Oh. And for those of you who are probably new and confused as to what the blazes Chatterbox is, here's the descrip-o:
Cheeeeeeeeeers! Can't wait to read all your entries, and this month I will actually be home to look at them, believe it or not! Also, my St. Rachel is, according to rumors, having a bit of luck with stuffing the Map of Whistlecreig into the print copy of Anon, Sir, Anon. :3 We shall see.

Also, I made up a word: Woebegonity. I like that word.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Child's Play

"I like the idea that every page in every book can have a gem on it. It's probably what I love most about writing--that words can be used in a way that's like a child playing in sandpit, rearranging things, swapping them around. They're the best moments in a day of writing--when an image appears that you didn't know would be there when you started work in the morning."
-Markus Zusack, author of The Book Thief

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sandwiches For Two

Yesterday afternoon, a friend posted a quote from The Wind in The Willows about a picnic, and I began to feel wistful. Fall, picnics, and the gypsy in my soul sort of combined with the music from my sister at the piano, and I felt like writing. This came out of it. Please, be my guests.

At six o’clock, just when the sky turned the color of an Anjou pear, he took a willow-basket from its nest above the bureau and thought of her. Not that she was ever far from his thoughts, but a keener, wilder-edged memory of their time together dwelt among the weave of this basket.
He took it down the long, white passage into the kitchen. A long, white loaf of bread, crusty as a slow oven could make it, descended into the basket first and, with his usual care, Brian tucked over it a counterpane of speckled muslin. Beside this, he laid a wedge of cheese from their sheep. Nella loved the dairy and he often thought that, if she hadn’t stayed for him, she might at least have stayed for the cheeses and yoghurts and creams. He could remember it so achingly, the marigold-smell of herbs crushed under her knife, the white curds clinging to her fingers as she kneaded flavor into the blind cheeses.
To the cheese, a small testimony of his stinging faith that she would come back--Someday, someday when Nella had got tired of running and have forgiven him for not being different than he was, she would come back--he added two apples.
Maybe when she came, she’d bring the smell of vanilla with her and he could hold her in his arms with her honey-colored hair sliding against his clean-shaven cheek. He always shaved clean around Nella, for she disliked beards and refused kisses till he’d slicked it off. Her refusals, even, would be welcome now.
Oddly, or perhaps not, it was the comfort of their ordinariness he missed most.
Even in his most loquacious moods, Brian spoke little, and he was conscious that when he did, his voice came out like a banjo-twang. But tonight, hope burdened him and her song crawled to his lips:
“As I came down through Dublin city at the hour of twelve at night,” he sang, just a stumble under speaking volume and not so tunefully, “Who should I see but the Spanish lady washing her feet by candlelight.” He took the apples out of the basket and shined them on his stained jeans, one by one.
“First she washed them, then she dried them o’er a fire of amber coals.” He turned the rosiest apple to end-light of day, then rubbed it again. “In all my life I ne’er did see a maid so sweet about the sole.”
He replaced the apples and tucked beside them a paper-wrapped stack of molasses cookies, the kind they’d made together when November ground his horse-teeth with a silver frost.
Molasses reminded him of her as well. Really, everything did, and he couldn’t wish to help it.
His song snipped short by the sharp hope, Brian laid to rest a stone bottle of new cider and covered it with a blanket the shade of fresh-turned loam. There was his picnic: there were his hopes, layered between the foodstuffs in a half-edible tiramisu he might regret tomorrow.
The question, “Would she come?” haunted him tonight with its tangible promise. Because if she did come, if her answer to that question was affirmative, then there’d be sandwiches for two and a feeling like tears.
His ring-hand trembled but Brian ignored this; if he felt nervous, it meant he doubted and doubt was alien to him when he thought of Nella. Hard-won, that alienation, but he’d learned to kill it with the memories. She’d come.
Slowly, as the Anjou sky dip-dyed its cloth in a vat of pomegranate, Brian took his basket, locked his door, and pocketed the key. Their flock bleated from beyond the barn, behind his battered red pickup. He opened the passenger door, set the basket in the space where, tonight, Nella’s lap would surely be. Then, not bothering to go around the other way, he climbed across the empty seats and blasted the evening quiet with a diesel benediction.
Out the gap between the stone walls, down the road that serpentined between juniper and plum-colored hills, and ten miles further till he reached the river.
Brian parked, cranked the windows down so the darkness would cool the interior, and dragged his picnic out the driver’s side door. Heart squeezed for the thousandth time with the curved hollow of her absence, he headed to their spot. He’d never taken off his wedding ring and he’d never forgotten that here, in the fern glen near the bike path, she’d promised to love him forever. Well. He didn’t know what she felt, though he had hopes, but he’d never broken that troth.
Layer by delicate layer, Brian dismantled his hopes and the basket until he stood on the verge of the soil-colored wool looking down on a small banquet. A late firefly or two winked at his faith. Laughing, he imagined, that a man would continue to celebrate a forgotten anniversary.
He sat down with his back against an auburn-haired maple and waited.
After a time, far down the trail, he heard the tell-tale sound of a vehicle pulling into the parking lot.
Its engine guttered. Stopped. Was it staying? Was it her?
The smell of vanilla wafted in and out of his subconscious and he tensed like a stag scenting danger.
A step crackled on the gravel of the bike path and certainly it was like her step. Hers was gentle and measured, though not usually so very slow. But perhaps she felt shy; it had been a painful while.
Still, he had no thought that she might not come. If Nella returned, she would know, somehow, to meet him here. In their place.
He let one ragged breath and then another between dry lips and waved off a cloud of midges.
The step came closer down the trail filled with light like forgotten amber.
It would be her. It must be her. It--
The hair was white, the frame bent. The face belonged to an old man. Frailer than frail he looked, but in his pale eyes was enjoyment of the dusk’s glory. For it was quite dusk now and getting darker every moment, like a paintbrush dipped in Prussian blue, twirled in a water-glass.
The old man paused, half on the trail, his body twisted in a question mark as if wondering whether he ought to leave. “Hello, there,” he said at last.
“H--” Brian’s voice cracked at the sudden impact of doubt’s ram-horn. He tried again. “Hey.”
“Waiting for someone?” The old man’s voice seemed knit of August husks.
Once more, Brian’s throat closed and the smell of vanilla drifted away. He shook his head, quite certain now. She had never liked the dark. She would not come. He stood, extended a hand, and gestured to his banquet. “Care to join me?”
After all, there were still sandwiches for two and a feeling like tears.

It was his fourteenth picnic.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

I'm Not a Real Writer, I Guess.

Stereotypes can either amuse or annoy me. I laugh when people stereotype some things because it is funny to me to see what strikes a person enough about a category to paint that thing with a broad brush across the whole category. But some stereotypes are especially wrong and none more so than when it comes to The Stereotype of The Writer. According to those, you would not recognize me as a writer. I am connected with many writers on Pinterest, but when I scroll through my feed, I very rarely repin anything "about writers" that I find. Why? Because I don't fit the apparent stereotype of the writer and by those standards, I wouldn't be here publishing my third book. Here are some of the most presumptuous of all, and what I, as a writer, am really like.

Stereotype: Writers Never Sleep

In Truth:
I have never written a mid-night sentence in my life. My best ideas come during the daytime when my hands are occupied with cutting vegetables or washing dishes or vacuuming. Contrary to this chart, if I don't get enough sleep, my creativity gutters out. Not a good idea when you're living (in a way) by your wits.

Stereotype: Writers Obsess Over Naming Characters

In Truth:
Almost without exception, my characters either come with names or have one attached to them within a day or two. I don't fret over the meanings of the names. The way I find a good name is by trying a couple on for size and seriously evaluating if I could stand to live with that name for the next 80,000 words. Also, convenience in typing. I hate hard-to-reach monikers.

Stereotype: Writers Dwell In The Darkest Mental Corners

In Truth:
This is, perhaps, the biggest bone I have to pick. Yeah, It's important to dig into those tough spots for tough spots but unless you write horror or emo-fiction, this advice is especially presumptuous. And it's everywhere. I agree that you need to address and harness your fears, passions, struggles, etc., but using them all at the same time all the time is overkill. Honestly. The places where they could be used effectively will be drowned in melodrama. No one likes a hypochondriac.

Stereotype: Authors Are Always Killing Characters

In Truth: 
I have killed three characters in all my books (two were murder victims). Even in the ones that will never make it to the public's view. Not that killing characters doesn't have its place, for it can be quite effective in its moment. But killing characters is pretty cliche when it is your go-to. There are so many other ways you could deal with a character, and if you're looking for an addition of misery, try not killing a character. Instead of killing him so that his kids are orphans, what about removing him to a place worse than death? Or, as they did in Once Upon a Time, making a character remember in a place where everyone else has mercifully forgot? There are many ways to add drama, misery, grief, and even despair without killing a character. Death is natural. It'll happen to everyone. There are other ways to deal with a dull character.

Stereotype: You'll Spend Half Your Life Hating Your Work

In Truth: 
Yes, like everyone else, I do go through what Abigail calls "The Crap Cycle". But most days, I feel pretty good about my writing. Perhaps this is not so much a product of over-confidence as it is common sense. I have seen a pattern. I know that my writing will need editing, rewriting, and more hard work but it always does. It always will. I have the grace to look past its current flaws and see what it can and will be. No freak-outs. Well, extremely rare freak-outs.

But this is just me. I know that I don't fit the stereotypes and I don't mean to make a new stereotype by saying all writers do not fit the "norm". What about you? Do you relate more to the status-quo or do you find yourself disagreeing and scanning for another pin?