Tag Archives: April

Reorganization

I realized, recently, that I’ve put quite a few pieces of original fiction on this blog. And that it would behoove me to make it more accessible.

Thus I have reorganized the navigation links at the top of the blog, and created this Handy Page.

Also, as I do periodically, because I love it, I am pointing you all towards Bekind Rewrite’s short, hard-boiled Noir Mystery, The Mysterious Case of the Marshmallow Mushroom Forest


Of flowers and world-building

I am no J.R.R. Tolkien. The thought of even trying to create something as deep and profound as his Arda makes me want to give up.

Still, world-building is important even when one is not writing about a fictional world. If I write about my home city, I still have to build it into the story for the benefit of people who do not know it.

But the truth is, I am not writing about my home, or even my world. A while back I made the decision, rightly or wrongly, to not fear using elements from Earth. This may cause confusion (and a major re-write) later on, but my thought-process went something like this:

I am writing in English, with the characters speaking English, which means I am already acting as a translator (because it would make no sense for these people to speak English).

Moreover, these people are human, which begs all kinds of questions on a world which is not Earth.

I borrow from cultures around me (one must begin somewhere, and “write-what-you-know” applies to fantasy and sci-fi, too).

It makes sense to borrow ecology, weather-patterns, geology and other world aspects, as well, for two reasons: 1. I am not clever enough to come up with a working world whole-cloth  and 2. if I manage to make it all up, I lose all of the rich symbolism and cultural significance that already exists in our world (and therefore needs a lot less explaining).

Ok, then, I will go ahead and write the story around what I know and go from there.

My reasoning might be quite flawed. I would love for you to chip in and discuss it with me, if world-building interests you.

So, what has this to do with flowers?

Floriography is a word for a tradition found in several cultures in which plants or flowers are used to convey meaning or even a message. It’s fascinating, though not very reliable. Even in the same culture, some flowers have very different meanings, and when a flower’s meaning relies on its color or variety, things get even more complicated.

In the cultural history of my home state, both indigenous and colonial, this symbolism sometimes reaches the level of belief or superstition. Instead of symbolizing something, a flower or plant is thought to be a vessel of the thing itself. That kind of superstition has bled into my writing and is becoming a significant thread in the narrative.

The thing is, I don’t agree with many of the “meanings” given to flowers in the past. That isn’t an indictment of tradition, but a mere matter of taste. For my story, different significances and superstitions may be needed, and to that end, I am creating a new floriography as I go along. If this ever happens to be published, such a list will probably be in Appendices for those who are interested.

So, you see, my world-building is rather haphazard. Some things echo Earth (oh, hey! There’s an oak-tree and some raspberries, and is that person singing Wildwood Flower?) and some things diverge (there are several fictional plants already, plus, you know, mythological beasties and stars and more than one moon…).

Why am I telling this to the internets? Well, I am looking for thoughts and opinions on this matter. I can’t make a good, informed decision on anything without input. So, what are your opinions and preferences when it comes to world-building? Are you a stickler for consistency? Do you try to science out if the place you are reading about is Earth (past, present, future, parallel)? Do you like fictional worlds to be completely new and interesting? Do you like familiarity? Do you even notice when there’s an oak-tree in T’naké’lorilin’arpa’liél?

For me, I think what is most important is whether or not the world, in and of itself, makes sense/works. I am not above or beyond changing my opinion, though.


Roaring Farce

I mentioned, in my last post, that there was another quote from The Four Loves that I wanted to post. It requires a little introduction.

Lewis is discussing good and bad forms of patriotism. He compares the overtly harmful ‘we are superior and therefore we crush lesser peoples’ to the more insidious ‘we are superior, therefore we are obligated to help lesser peoples by ruling them.’

I am far from suggesting that the two attitudes are on the same level. But both are fatal. Both demand that the area in which they operate should grow “wider still and wider.” And both have about them this sure mark of evil: only by being terrible do they avoid being comic. If there were no broken treaties with Redskins, no extermination of the Tasmanians, no gas-chambers and no Belsen, no Amritsar, Black and Tans or Apartheid, the pomposity of both would be roaring farce.

The Four Loves, by C. S. Lewis (the emphasis is mine)

Honestly, I stopped dead when I read this, and I re-read it several times as I let it sink in. The idiotic arrogance of such twisted “patriotism” has been clear to me from an early age, but because of the horrors associated with it, I had never thought about the farcical angle.

I think Lewis is on to something. Pride, greed, lust, gluttony, sloth, wrath and envy… which of these, if stripped of its monstrous consequences, is not simply ridiculous?

Alas that, for now, we cannot laugh for long without weeping.


From The Four Loves

“Say your prayers in a garden early, ignoring steadfastly the dew, the birds and the flowers, and you will come away overwhelmed by its freshness and joy; go there in order to be overwhelmed and, after a certain age, nine times out of ten nothing will happen to you.”
The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis

I’ve been busy, and I will probably be taking an internet hiatus soon. I recently finished The Four Loves, by C. S. Lewis. As always, when I read him, I was overwhelmed by his ability to express himself. Over all, I found the book fascinating and enlightening. I also wish I could get in touch with the man and debate some things with him, but ah well.

The above quote is something that struck me, when I read it, for I’ve had just the experience he is talking about. My relationship with God effects every single aspect of my life, even the ones that, on the surface, would seem to have nothing at all to do with spirituality, religion or faith. Prayer effects the taste of an apple and the sound of my cats’ asking for breakfast.

There’s another quote I will share, soon, but I figured I would go ahead and post this one.


Hamlet Statistics

I am puzzled by something.

I do not have a super-popular blog (and to be honest, I like it that way. If I got too popular, I might flee), but I get at least a few hits every day. Naturally, my main-page has the lion’s share of hits, but I have noticed that nearly every day since it went up, my post Ay, madam, it is common gets at least one.

Out of curiosity, I looked up my all-time statistics, and while I was not surprised that the above post was second in the number of hits, I was a little shocked by the numbers.

So, since I started this blog on December 27, 2011, my main page has received 2,572 hits.

Since its publication on January 15, 2013, “Ay, madam, it is common” has received 454!

The next highest ranking post, from October 18, 2012, has only 210.

Being of a curious nature, I can’t help but wonder why. The relatively high rank of The Hobbit read-along post isn’t surprising. It was a social effort, and with the movie coming out, a lot of people have been searching for Hobbit-related ramblings. Many of the search-terms that lead people to my blog are Tolkien-related (a fact that surprises no one).

The other is more of a mystery. The phrase I used in the title has, according to my stats, only led two people here (or one person twice?) and as far as Hamlet quotes go, it isn’t one of the more iconic.

The subject of the post is practically universal for writers, but it seems strange to me that, even so, the traffic to would be so significant and consistent.

Has it been linked somewhere without my knowledge? Why is it so often viewed, and by whom? I want to know!

Sadly, it remains a mystery to me. I would appreciate any insights, even if they are simply wild speculation involving alien cacti and the feline mafia.


t-615

The other day a fellow blogger payed me a compliment. Referring to the blip on my gravatar profile, he said that I am “not merely ‘another tree in the proverbial forest.'”

I am honored by his opinion.  Yet I do not agree.

Where most folks notice deer, or birds, or even people, I notice trees. Persimmon mosaics, scarlet oaks like frozen lightning, sycamores like living bone, loblolly pines with their spicy scent, some old, some young, twisted, smooth, and each with an intricate story. They remind me a lot of people.

Thinking I am like a tree, then, is no false humility. It would be base pride, save that the people in my life remind me, constantly, that there is a vast forest around me. This forest is amazing, wonderful and terrible. It contains horrors I cannot wrap my mind around, and feats of love and bravery (large and small) that astound me.

The tricky thing about being a “tree” is trying to figure out where you fit in the forest. A maple trying to be an oak won’t get very far, and will commit the crime of failing to be a maple.

My friend Emily Landham and her friend Lauren Carpenter recently had the courage, when faced with the overwhelming horror of modern-day Slavery, to ask themselves what they could do. They have the wisdom to know that they are not prepared, equipped or called to do all that needs to be done. So, instead, they sought out a way to use their own strengths in the fight. I will let them speak for themselves:


t-615 is our response to join and advance the abolition of modern day slavery. The victims must remain silent to survive, so we must do the shouting. We will use our creativity to share their story. Specifically, we will wear their story. We invite you to do the same. Twenty-five percent of our profits go to safe houses around the world where rescued victims are loved, protected and empowered to embrace their freedom. Together we can be a voice for those forced to silence. We can raise funds for those who are equipped to rescue, to protect, to heal, to council.  –t-615 website

I will only add this: I see integrity and dedication to the cause in my friend. She is diligent in seeking the best way to make the funds raised by t-615 directly impact victims of human trafficking. She is using her gifts, and I am supporting her with mine.

We need your strengths, too.

I am number 82. My mother is number 8.

I am a number, I am a tree, I am a person.

Photo by Harry K. Whitver

Photo by Harry K. Whitver

p.s. I didn’t realize until I published it, but this is my 82nd post. Wow.


Requiescat in Pace

Columbine

Marky Pace, the mother of a dear friend of mine, passed from this world and on to the next the night before last.

She is known for the warmth of her heart and the love she showered on so many in her lifetime. I imagine she was welcomed home with joyful singing, and she always did love the sound of voices raised in music.

Rest in peace and joy, Marky, and may the blessings your life gave to your family and friends comfort them until they meet you again.

God, comforter of grieving hearts, be with all of us who are, for now, left behind.


Very ominous endings

Book Meme 2012

Question 4: Best love story

Oh ho ho! A wide-open field. There are many kinds of “love stories.” The Greek language has more than one word for the myriad of feelings we encompass with the word “love.” I already have a habit of cheating in this meme, and so far I feel justified in doing so. True to form, I will rank my choices for best love stories according to categories.

These categories are: Romantic Love, Platonic Love, Unconditional Love, and an Honorable Mention (see? I’m cheating again.)

Romantic Love:

This one is the easiest for me to choose. There are many love stories that I find compelling, but the ones that tend to touch me most without irritating my low-tolerance for “mush” are the stories of Jane Austen, nestled in her satire and human understanding.

Of these, Persuasion stands out from the rest.

If you do not like spoilers, skip to the next category now, though if you don’t know the overall theme of this book, I will be very much surprised.

The relationship between Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth is one of suppressed passion. More than that, though, it is a story of enduring and mature love. Where most love stories begin with two characters meeting and growing to love, this story begins years later, when the love shared has been lost, seemingly beyond recovery.

Love is a beautiful thing, but it is faithfulness and endurance that make it a rare and precious beauty. To me, love without faithfulness is like a flower that quickly wilts, becoming ugly. Faithful love is like a tree, whose beauty lasts for as long as it has life. It awes, shelters, and delights even beyond the lives of men. It may have its bad moments, when it drops a limb, or covers your car in pollen, but then the course of true love never did run smooth.

Platonic Love:

There are many contenders for this award, but I have cheated enough for one post, so I will force myself to choose.

Curdie and Lina from The Princess and Curdie, by George MacDonald.

I cannot defend this choice against all others. I can only say that I return to it time and time again, and at last I find that it must be my choice. Some spoilers will follow.

Curdie is a miner, and Lina is a monster. This is the description MacDonald gives of Lina:

She had a very short body, and very long legs made like an elephant’s, so that in lying down she kneeled with both pairs. Her tail, which dragged on the floor behind her, was twice as long and quite as thick as her body. Her head was something between that of a polar bear and a snake. Her eyes were dark green, with a yellow light in them. Her under teeth came up like a fringe of icicles, only very white, outside of her upper lip. Her throat looked as if the hair had been plucked off. it showed a skin white and smooth.

It is obvious that this is not going to be a case of love at first sight. Curdie feels, for Lina, a mix of fear and pity, and Lina, it seems, feels mostly fear. Being a beast, she never speaks, but they learn to communicate without the need for words. Between the miner and the monster a strong bond of trust and friendship develops to the point where both put their lives in danger to protect the other.

I have always found this relationship compelling and beautiful. Among the friendships I have seen in my literary travels, it is the dearest to me.

Unconditional Love:

This is a tough choice as well. I have wrestled with myself over the question of what counts as “unconditional.” Sam and Frodo came to mind, but as deep as their love is, there is reason behind it. I find that unconditional love must exist against all likelyhood, and what is more, it must be one-sided, at least for a time.

With this consideration, I choose the love Psyche has for Orual, from Till We Have Faces, by C. S. Lewis. The story is about many things, but the contrast between selfish and unconditional love is a strong theme throughout.

You should take spoilers as a given by now.

At first, the love between Orual and Psyche is not unconditional. It is quite natural and sisterly. In Orual, it quickly becomes obsessive and possessive, and once Psyche is taken by the god of the mountain, the underlying selfishness in Orual’s love overcomes her.

Unconditional love shows itself when Orual forces her sister to choose between Orual’s life and betraying Psyche’s divine lover. Psyche loves her sister even though the ugly aspects of Orual’s feelings are revealed. She loves Orual for Oural, knowing that she can expect no such love in return.

This story would shatter my heart if Orual never came to understand the difference between selfish and unconditional love. Thank you, Lewis, for revealing hope for Orual, for we are all need unconditional love.

Honorable Mention:

 Rat, Mole, Badger and Toad, from Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame

These guys are quite a mix. There is some unconditional love involved because Toad is, quite frankly, a mess, but the others stick by him. There is a “bromance” between them all that mirrors many real-life friendships. It is a quiet (save in the case of Toad), unassuming love that ties them loosely, but strongly, together. In short, I feel that this story shows philos at its finest, and it is that friendship that gives me such enjoyment in reading the stories.

Here are the links to the rest of this series, in order:

1. Motley Crew

2. Cue Music/Shout Out

3. Villainy Most Vile

4. Very Ominous Endings

5. Shapes are Only Dressess… and Dresses are Only Names

6. Chridonalchett

7. Verbage

8. The Scent Test

9. Personal Question

10. Packing Lightly


Villainy most vile

Book Meme 2012

Question 3: Best Villain

Difficult! Difficult! There are many good ones abroad in fiction. To complicate matters, there is the highly subjective nature of “best.”  Only an hour’s consideration, though, supplied my ready answer. Best, for me, does not mean the most interesting, the most terrifying, the most unusual or my favorite. Best means the most effective antagonist, one that lingers in the mind of the characters and the readers, the antagonist that haunts us even after they are gone. Of the many contenders, two stand out to me, and I will allow them to share the throne. If a vicious villain battle ensues, it will choose the victor for me, and be highly entertaining to boot!

Beware of spoilers, for I shall not hold back.

Ladies first:

Rebecca
from Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier

This woman is one of the best villains of all time simply because she is already dead. If you are unfamiliar with the book named for her, then I should clarify that Rebecca is not an Undead. Oh no, she is far too villainous for that! She is, quite simply, Dead.

The protagonist of the tale is pitted, not against the woman herself, but against the memory of her. A master manipulator while she lived, Rebecca’s reputation survives with very few knowing her true character.  Rebecca’s weapons against the protagonist consist of the dead woman’s servants and friends and, most of all, the protagonist’s own imagination. Rebecca is beyond reach of reprisal; she cannot be stopped, she cannot be fought, she simply hovers over her rival in memory and in doing so, nearly destroys her.

How terrifying to fight the perfection of the dead. The protagonist does not even think it is right to fight such a paragon of femininity and refinement. Her imaginings almost destroy her marriage and her life. But is that all? No indeed.

Maxim, the protagonist’s husband and Rebecca’s widower, was always the true target of Rebecca’s wrath, and the protagonist is merely a weapon to be used against him. To the end, Rebecca manipulated affairs so completely that the mechanism of her revenge moves forward like clockwork. That, my ladies and gentlemen, is villainy. To reach from beyond the grave, without even reaching, in order to destroy your enemies and rivals with the workings of their own minds and emotions.

Yikes.

__________________________________________________________________________

Hares Second:

General Woundwort
from Watership Down, by Richard Adams

Yet another bunny. If I fail to finish this post, you can be sure he has torn out my throat for being so impudent as to call him a “bunny.” The death-rabbit from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” is, perhaps, the General’s puny cousin. Beware.

This leporid of doom hails from Watership Down. If he were human, or an ogre, or a dragon, he could hardly be more terrifying. If I saw this hare, I would flee. He is large for his species (if you have ever met a hare, you will know that they are not small to begin with), ruthlessly ferocious, and insane. As his title denotes, though, his insanity is of a very orderly nature, up to military standards.

General Woundwort is driven by fear. Fear makes him very strong. He controls the colony, of which he is the head-hare, with repressive efficiency, supported by a military of his own making. Strength is the primary qualification for leadership and greatness. Power… power to defend and to control is, to the General, the highest virtue.

“Safety” is everything, and freedom is dangerous. No one leaves. No one really lives. But they are “safe.”

When a handful of hares do escape, through the machination of Hazel’s band, the General’s hitherto controlled insanity explodes. Even his devoted followers hesitate at the sight of his manic, obsessive pursuit of his enemies. He is driven as if his world will come crashing down should this small band defy him in peace.

His end is befitting one of the greatest villains of all time. No one sees him die.

He walks from the field of deadly battle, straight into legend, and his name becomes synonymous with fear on the downs.

This is the rabbit of nightmares.

Here are the links to the rest of this series, in order:

1. Motley Crew

2. Cue Music/Shout Out

3. Villainy Most Vile

4. Very Ominous Endings

5. Shapes are Only Dressess… and Dresses are Only Names

6. Chridonalchett

7. Verbage

8. The Scent Test

9. Personal Question

10. Packing Lightly


Critical bot and friends

This photo belongs to the user Khaki on stockvault.net

I have gotten a few more “interesting” spam posts lately. I decided it was time to share.

“Its like you learn my thoughts! You seem to know so much about this, such as you wrote the e book in it or something. I believe that you simply can do with a few percent to pressure the message house a bit, however other than that, this is wonderful blog. A great read. I’ll definitely be back.”

Um… thank you for this “constructive” criticism, Critical Bot. Now if I can just figure out what “a few percent to pressure the message house” means. 

“Hey very cool website!! Guy .. Beautiful .. Wonderful .. I will bookmark your site and take the feeds additionally?I am satisfied to find so many useful information right here in the publish, we want develop more strategies on this regard, thank you for sharing. . . . . .”

Dear Confused, Hungry Bot. I am not a guy and I have no intention of feeding spam-bots.

“Outstanding post, I conceive individuals ought to larn a great deal from this web website its truly user genial . 744494”

“Larn?” I’ll larn you to mock my heritage, Mockingbot! Now where’s my scimitar got to…

P.S.
I just got this on my post “Shout Out”

“Another great website about this stuff you can find over here sexdate!!! Let me know what you think about this blog and i’ll subscribe to your blog!”

Um… bot, I think you were reading someone else’s post and got very, VERY confused. As a side note, subscriptions to my blog are not as important to me as you seem to think…


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