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Liebster Award!

Imagine my delight when I logged onto my blog the other morning and discovered that Chelsea had nominated me for the Liebster Award!  I was honored and thrilled–and I absolutely love tags and memes!  So off we go!

Um…did I just overuse exclamation points?  Hmm.

The Rules:
  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you (Thank you, so much Chelsea!)
  2. Answer their eleven questions
  3. Ask eleven questions of your own
  4. Nominate eleven bloggers and let them know they’ve been tagged
Chelsea’s Questions:

1.    Do you enjoy reading biographies? Yes? No? Sometimes?

It honestly depends on whether I’m interested in the biographee.  (That’s a word, right?)  If I’m not already interested in the person in question, I’d rather grab a fiction book.  🙂  If I AM interested, then, yes I enjoy biographies.  Some of the historical figures I plan to research are Sir Robert Peel, William Wilberforce, and Juan Seguin.

2.   What was the last fantasy novel you read?

I honestly can’t remember…but it was probably either a Lord of the Rings volume or one of the Chronicles of Narnia.

3.   J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis?

ARGH, you had to ask that!  Actually, I’ve asked myself the same question before…and come up with no good answer.  Both authors are so skilled in their own ways!  However…I lean every so slightly more towards Tolkien; his scope and style is more to my taste.  (And now I feel like I’ve betrayed dear old Jack Lewis.)

4.  What’s the inspiration behind your blog’s name?

Reality.  🙂  Years before I started this blog, I would talk or write about my thoughts, opinions, ideas, analysis, questions, etc…and eventually got frustrated that I wasn’t doing anything more with them.  So I created this blog as an outlet.

5.   Do you prefer standalones, trilogies or series?

This honestly depends on how good the story is!  If it’s awesome, then I can’t get enough of it and would definitely prefer it to be a trilogy or series.  But I don’t have a preference for any particular story format.  (In fact, quite the opposite: for the longest time, I swore never to write a trilogy because every writer I knew had written a trilogy or was in the process of writing one.  So guess what my first novel ended up being.  🙂  I think God has a sense of humor!)

6.   What’s your favourite book title?

Worlds Unseen by Rachel Starr Thomson.  That title is so evocative of fantasy and of discoveries to be made, both beautiful and terrifying.

7.   Have you ever named one of your characters after yourself?

Not yet; I tend to model characters after aspects of my personality instead.

8.   What is your favourite metaphor and why?

Erm…*forgets every metaphor I ever knew*

9.   Are there any books/poems/songs you’ve come across which you wish you’d written?

Pretty much any poetry from The Lord of the Rings.  That’s still the poetic style I aspire to!

10.    Do you prefer antiheros or traditional heroes?

Traditional heroes, please!  I like a nice, honorable man.  (On the other hand, go watch this hilarious video pointing out the problems of chasing bad boys!)  However, that doesn’t mean said nice, honorable man can’t have flaws or depths or quirks.  Just for the record.  🙂

11. Have you ever written a retelling?

Not yet, but I want to write a retelling of Swan Lake eventually–and I’m tinkering with a retelling of the 2015 film Victor Frankenstein.  Because that movie had so much potential that it didn’t use!

Okay, so now for my eleven questions…

  1. Is there any book considered a classic that you actually disliked?
  2. What is the greatest contrast you’ve observed between modern literature and 19th century literature?
  3. What are your criteria for book-to-film adaptations?
  4. What archetype do you think you would be if you were a character in a story? (Innocent, Warrior, Jester, Mentor, etc.)
  5. What’s a popular fairy tale you don’t care for?
  6. Do you prefer to learn the craft of writing through reading author blogs or through your own experience?
  7. Favorite historical period?
  8. How would one of your contemporary characters react if thrown into a historical setting, or a historical/fantasy character react to a modern setting?
  9. Is The Hunger Games worth all the hype about it?  How about the Divergent series? No, I’m not sneaking two questions in one.
  10. Austen, Dickens, or Bronte?
  11. What literary characters would you bring into our world to try to inspire this culture to better things?

This was such a fun tag–thanks again, Chelsea!  Feel free to grab my questions and fill them out (because blog tags are so much fun!), but I officially nominate:

Bella

Treskie

The Story Sponge

Christine Smith

(Yeah, I don’t know 11 bloggers yet.  🙂 )

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Further Narnia Musings – Of Logic, Motives, and More Headcanons

I’m re-reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and noticing new details, even though I’ve read and loved the books for 17 years.  For instance, the other day, I dissected Edmund’s argument to Peter in Chapter Six:

“Hush!  Not so loud,” said Edmund; “there’s no good frightening the girls.  But have you realized what we’re doing?” … “We’re following a guide we know nothing about.  How do we know which side that bird is on?  Why shouldn’t it be leading us into a trap?”

“That’s a nasty idea.  Still—a robin, you know.  They’re good birds in all the stories I’ve ever read.  I’m sure a robin wouldn’t be on the wrong side.”

“If it comes to that, which is the right side?  How do we know that the Fauns are in the right and the Queen (yes, I’ve been told she’s a witch) is in the wrong?  We don’t really know anything about either.”

“The Faun saved Lucy.”

“He said he did.  But how do we know?”

Edmund’s arguments seem to hint that seeking evidence and understanding presuppositions is the realm of skeptics, and that blind faith the habit of religious people.  And his first point is sound—they knew nothing about the guide (and Peter’s counter-argument is not that strong).  But look closely at the rest of Edmund’s argument—and his motives for making it.

Edmund has already sided with the Witch.  In fact, he knows she’s a Witch and knows she is dangerous; yet he doesn’t want to admit he’s wrong or give up his desire for glory (and more Turkish Delight).  His argument that “we don’t really know anything about either” is incorrect.  Yes, the children could seek more information about the situation.  But Edmund knew what the Witch had promised him and what she wanted in exchange.  And Lewis later reveals that his “beliefs” about the Queen were just an excuse: deep down, Edmund knew the Witch is bad and cruel.

He goes on to say that the Faun “said he [saved Lucy].  But how do we know?”  This is also incorrect.  Lucy said the Faun had saved her.  And Lucy had told the truth about Narnia, and Peter and Susan testified to the professor that Lucy always told the truth.  The strength of her word should have been reason enough to believe that the Faun did indeed save her.  Furthermore, the children had found Tumnus’s cave destroyed and a note inside condemning him for harboring spies and fraternizing with humans—which corroborated Lucy’s account and provided the children with more information about who the Witch was.

Thus, Edmund’s argument appears solid, but he deliberately omitted some information and misrepresented the rest.  And yes, the children would do well to gather more information about the situation.  But they were not operating on blind faith.  They did have evidence—and the testimony of someone who never lied.

And I don’t believe Lewis implied that seeking proof is wrong.  Peter says only moments later to Mr. Beaver, “Not meaning to be rude [about determining whether he’s a friend] … but you see, we’re strangers.”  And to this, Mr. Beaver shows his token of truth: the handkerchief Lucy had given to Mr. Tumnus.  Lucy recognizes it, and if it had any monogram or distinctive feature, the others should also have recognized it as hers.  (In fact, it makes sense that there was some kind of identification on the handkerchief; a plain white one could belong to anyone, and that handkerchief had passed through a couple of hands already.  It must have had something that made Lucy recognize it as hers.)  It’s common sense to gather evidence and discern it—but in this case, Edmund simply didn’t want to admit that the Witch (and therefore himself), was wrong.

Even while under the sway of the Witch, however, Edmund put together an argument that at least looked solid—and he did have valid points about following a guide they knew nothing about and the chance of getting back home (although perhaps he wanted to weaken Peter’s faith in who was right, as Edmund intended to bring his siblings to the Witch, not back home).  This and other details scattered through the series created my belief that Edmund is the logical one, not Susan.  Susan is practical and sensible—but Edmund generally sees (and points out) what should be obvious.  He seems to be the thinker sort, but without being stereotypically quiet.  If anything, he speaks his mind and is incredibly straightforward.

Head canon set #4:

Caspian doesn’t lose his temper often, but he he does, it ain’t pretty. (Canon-based; see The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.)

He is easygoing by nature, but also stands firm when necessary.

Susan is what we call an “old soul”.   Lewis says she was “no good at schoolwork (though otherwise very old for her age).”

She also likes to dance, and she’s good at it.

Edmund couldn’t care less about this, so Peter usually dances with Susan when she wants to.

Susan is the tidiest of the four, and she gets frustrated with her siblings for leaving their stuff out.

Edmund, for instance, leaves his books and papers literally anywhere.

That said, he usually remembers where he puts his belongings.

When he forgets (or when somebody moves them), he gripes about the problem until the missing items are located.

Peter can’t be bothered to tidy all his stuff, though he’s often in a hurry or just preoccupied.

And he has a nasty habit of letting dirty socks pile up under the bed.

Needless to say, the boys’ room is a mess.

Which drives Susan nuts.

Lucy also makes a mess when she works on a project; she works best in creative chaos.

Contrary to the Pevensies, Caspian is actually rather tidy.

Lucy’s favorite color is purple: not dark purple, but a soft lavender shade.

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T-Swift Book Tag!

Bella tagged me the other day for this really creative tag—one using titles of various Taylor Swift songs.  And I’m a sucker for blog tags, so this is going to be fun!

1. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

(Pick a book or series that you were pretty sure you were in love with, but then wanted to break up with)

This was a fantasy series, and a fantasy series written by a Christian.  So the stories wouldn’t have demonic magic and other fantasy elements I objected to, right?

Well…no, there weren’t any of those elements.  But the writing style was hard to read; there was so much description (repeat: so much description) in the prologue that I actually lost my mental image of the scene.  A form of sensory overload, I guess.  The writing style continued flowery and redundant through the rest of the story, and it read as an attempted mimicry of Tolkien’s simple grandeur.  (Spoiler alert: it failed.)  The writing was so bad in some parts, that I took a pencil and actually struck through phrases and rewrote them in the margins.  That soothed my tortured editor’s soul.

And out of the 15+ characters, I half-liked only one and truly liked only two—and one of those two characters was a really minor one.  I did enjoy this series reading it for the first time while the twists of the story were new.  But when I read it a second time, I could barely get through the first ten chapters.  Definitely never getting back together, and if I read this series again, it will be only to review it.

2. Red

(Pick a book with a RED cover)

REEED!  THE BLOOD OF ANGRY MEEEEEN!  BL–oh, wait.  Although that’s not too far off the mark…

I never thought I would like The Hunger Games series.  But though Suzanne Collins wrote some pretty dark and depressing twists, they serve a purpose in the story—they make a point about humanity.  Nobody decent ever wins the Games because in a gladiator style fight-to-the-death contest, nobody really can.  She’s brutally honest about how each Victor bought his or her freedom at a dear price, and were often haunted the rest of their lives by what happened during their fight in each Hunger Games.  She did not create a world that a young, feisty teen heroine could escape with nary a scratch, physical or moral.  If anything, her characters are struggling to survive in a world that makes beasts of them all—and fighting for survival more than anything else.

But the story isn’t nonstop darkness either.  The exception to all the points above is Peeta Mellark.  Peeta chooses not stoop to the level of the shallow Capitol citizens or the Tributes and Victors so desperate for survival.  And his actions show the other characters that they can do the right thing regardless of circumstances, that they can choose another path.  Most of them don’t, but Peeta’s example is still there, as a silent contrast to the mistakes everyone else makes.

3. The Best Day

(Pick a book that makes you feel nostalgic)

Long before The Lord of the Rings hit the bookshelves, Professor Tolkien made up a wondrous world for his children: the world of the North Pole, home of Father Christmas.  Letters were left by the fireplace on Christmas Eve, written in shaky old handwriting, that related the anecdotes of Father Christmas, his assistant the North Polar Bear, the Red and Green Elves, and various other characters.

I love this book because of those funny anecdotes, Tolkien’s style of writing, and the pictures that accompany the letters.  I read this book every Christmas, and I often read parts of it to my brothers as well—they laugh heartily at some of the rhymes at the end!

4. Love Story

(Pick a book with forbidden love)

Can I skip this one?  Stories built around romance aren’t my thing, and forbidden romance strikes me as awfully melodramatic.  I would rather read about a couple who marries early in the story and learns to love each other and put up with each other on a daily basis (and not as a comedy either.)

Which is why I’m writing such a story.  🙂

5. I Knew You Were Trouble

(Pick a book with a bad character you couldn’t help but love)

Heh.  Bad behavior in fictional characters instantly severs my respect.  (Same thing happens with real people.)  But one character I’m fascinated by (though certainly don’t love) is Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights.

Heathcliff is rotten to the core, but intelligent, cunning, forceful, and charismatic enough to get away with it.  He’s often described as “gipsy” brown, but nobody really knows his ethnicity.  Which adds to the mystery of who he is—and on that note, nobody knows who his parents were.  (People have speculated that Heathcliff is Mr. Earnshaw’s illegitimate son, but given the way the Emily Bronte portrayed Heathclif’s character and influence, I think she purposefully kept his parentage a mystery for the sake of mystery.  Anyway, if Heathcliff was Mr. Earnshaw’s son, even illegitimately, that revelation could have been a game-changer for the plot—for instance, the romance would become near-incest.  The Brontes were messed up, but not that messed up.)

So Heathcliff is intriguing because of the mysteries surrounding him and because of the forcefulness of his character and cunning.  Being passionately in love does not dull this man’s wits; rather, it sharpens them.  Unfortunately for the rest of the characters.  Ladies, do you really want to crush on a guy who nearly bashed in the head of a five-year-old as revenge on the kid’s father?  You might want to change the caption of your Pinterest pins from “Heathcliff my Love” to “get this guy a restraining order, pronto.”  Although odds are, he would ignore that piece of paper.  Heathcliff is a fascinating character, but a terrifying one.  It’s almost like watching a tornado—you want to get out of there, yet you can’t look away.

6. Innocent

(Pick a book that someone ruined the ending for)

Actually, I tend to spoil the books myself.  If I’m not sure a book will be worth my time, I look up reviews before buying it (therefore running into multiple spoilers).  Or if I don’t really care about the story, but kinda want to know what happens, I’ll skip ahead and read a bit.  (So naughty.)

A book that fell into the first category, was The Ale Boy’s Feast.

That cover art, though…

I loved the first book in the series, skipped the second because I disagreed with some plot elements, liked the third book, but wasn’t sure this last would be worth my time.  So I tracked down enough reviews to get a basic idea of what happens .  I finally decided to take the risk—and boy, was it worth it!  And the story still revealed twists that I hadn’t anticipated.

A book in the second category (don’t care enough to finish; curious enough to peek ahead) was Two Crosses.  I really didn’t care about the characters but vaguely wanted to know what happened.  So I skipped ahead a bit to read.  And got freaked out by one of the story twists, and then lost interest and never finished the book.

7. Everything Has Changed

(Pick a character from a book who goes through extensive character development)

You knew this was coming–Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities

Sydney first appears in such a slovenly state that he looks almost debauched.  Second impressions don’t change this image; he’s drunk, rude, and apathetic about his work and his life.  Or rather, he seems to be apathetic.  Early on, Dickens shows us flashes of remorse, humanity, and lost hope that keeps readers from writing Sydney off as a hopeless case.  (And unlike Heathcliff, there is nothing charismatic about him either.)  Through hints dropped through the story, we learn that Sydney was once a bright young student, but lost hope or lost purpose, and came to hate himself, to drink because of it, and to despise himself further.

But through Charles Darnay’s silent example, and Lucie Manett’s compassion and kindness, Sydney begins to see himself in a newer light: to see himself for what he is, but also to see what he could be.  Neither Charles nor Lucie writes him off as hopeless; they treat him as a normal human being while not glossing over his faults either; this creates a very clear mirror for Sydney to appraise himself.  Lucie’s compassion and kindness touch him in particular; and he begins to hope again.

He makes little efforts never to appear drunk before the Darnay family, but he does not actually change his habits and behavior until near the end of the story.  When conflict is at its hardest for the Darnays and their friends, Sydney sets in motion a selfless plot, sticks to it like steel, and remembers Scripture for the first time in years while wandering the streets of Paris.  I really can’t describe his transformation with justice; read the book yourself.

8. You Belong With Me

(Pick your most anticipated book release)

My own novels.  🙂

Hoho, sorry, couldn’t resist.  Only that won’t be for another 17 years.

One book I anticipated before its release was Rachel Starr Thomson’s Coming Day, the final book in her Seventh World Trilogy.

I’ll probably always have nostalgic and grateful feelings for this series because I read it while writing my first trilogy.  Reading these books and keeping up with Rachel’s blog gave 17-year-old novice writer me the encouragement to keep plugging away.

9. Forever and Always

(Pick your favorite book couple)

I have to say Jane and Rochester from Jane Eyre.  What I like about this pairing is that they fall in love, not because of their looks (she was plain, he was “ugly” according to the male beauty standards of the day), but because of their intelligence, and because of their personalities.  Falling in love also happens overtime and in very mundane ways.  And they must go through trials before they can be together.  While these difficulties are indeed external, they reflect the important need for internal change.  Jane has to fix her priorities (she confesses that she’d made an idol of Rochester), and Rochester must be humbled before they can be together.

I complained about melodramatic forbidden love earlier, even though, to a degree, the romance in Jane Eyre is exactly that.  But Bronte got away with it because she made me care about both characters, and because Jane’s and Rochester’s actions grow organically, out of the circumstances and personalities already established.

BONUS QUESTIONS! (Added by Bella)

10. Never Grow Up

(A book you read when you’re feeling sad/emotional)

This book is hilarious, guys.  A series of personal anecdotes by the authors (cousins, who were both home schooled) shows just how funny mishaps, accidents, and family quirks can be if you look at them with the right attitude.  The authors describe their crazy, fun, hectic life with good humor and a wise outlook on life.  When I first read this book, I laughed out loud at every other paragraph!

11. Begin Again

(A book you’ve read multiple times but always go back to it because it’s that good)

The Chronicles of Narnia, and…

The Lord of the Rings!  I grew up with these books, and I’ve been reading them for 17 years (in the case of the Narnia books) and 13 years (in the case of LotR).  And every time I reread them, I notice something new, either about the characters, the story themes, the writing style, the symbolism, or…I could go on, but I’d like to keep these descriptions short.  🙂

12. Starlight

(A book you hid in bed with/fell asleep reading)

This one, but only because I just wanted to finish and be done with it.  No offense to the author, but 3/4 of the way through, I still didn’t understand what the point was.

13. I Know Places

(The number one book you would take on a long trip away from home)

Going to borrow one of Bella’s answers and say The Hobbit.  Maybe because journeying is a prime theme of the book?  Or maybe because, like Bilbo, I would rather be home than abroad.  Unless the destination was San Antonio, Texas, in which case, I’m off like a shot from an 18-pounder.

Look at this gorgeous edition my grandmother bought me!

14. Change

(A book you’ve never read but want and plan to)

I want to read this one only because it looks like an interesting social critique/commentary, as well as a remark on human nature.

I also want to read Watership Down someday; Julia recommended it, and it’s her favorite book.  (I would showcase a picture, but our copy seems to have disappeared.)

BONUS QUESTIONS 2!  (Added by Christine)

15. Long Live

(A modern book you think should be a classic or a classic that should be more widely read today)

First category:

Part adventure and part mystery, this story is about four children recruited as secret agents by kindly Mr. Benedict.  He suspects that the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened is hiding a dreadful secret, and since it is an academy for children, child agents are the only ones who have a chance.  That, and children are so easily overlooked by adults that his team should be able to find critical information before it’s too late.

The mystery grows darker and deeper as the story goes on–and though the book was written for children, and children are the heroes, adults will find this story very deep and thought-provoking.  Particularly how the students and staff on the island are manipulated by very cunning mind control.  When I first read this story, I couldn’t put it down, and I think it deserves to become a classic.

Second category (classic that should be more widely read):

This is Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone.  (You can’t tell by cover; this edition is from 1944.)  It’s one of the most confounding mysteries I’ve ever read, with false clues and red herrings galore.  The whole reason the mystery of the stolen diamond arose is pretty mundane—but the red herrings, and misleading clues are what make it so fascinating.  Also the fact that each part of the story has a different narrator, and, just as in real life, you kinda have to sift motives and figure out just how colored everyone’s perspective is.  And even the most biased narrations reveal new story layers and clues that carry over into the next bit.

I think this one should be more widely read because of the unique narrative style and the twists and turns the mystery takes.

16. Mean

(A book you have a personal vendetta against for whatever reason)

Hoo boy.  I actually have a long list of books that annoy/anger me.  But the top series for this category would be the Elsie Dinsmore books (the Life of Faith reboots, that is; I’ve never read the originals).

Elsie annoys me because she’s too perfect at age eight for me to relate to.  I get that the writers are trying to set an example, but come on.  That amount of perfection in an eight-year-old is bound to make us hate her.  Because unlike Elsie, the rest of us have a sin nature.

Okay, I’m being snarky.  But Elsie never really messes up or makes serious mistakes that she has to learn from—her struggles are usually inflicted upon her by the other characters.  And she’s so spiritually mature at age eight that there’s no room for growth or improvement.  That, I think, is the fatal flaw of the series.  In real life, sanctification and growing more like Christ is a process, learned through studying the Bible, observing others, making mistakes, going through trials, and so on.  Stories intended to enlighten and encourage should reflect that, should show that growth process rather than portray near-perfection at the start.  And yes, there’s a place for setting an example via a noble character (Frodo Baggins from LotR is one of my favorite characters of all time), but here on this earth, nobody is going to attain perfection.  And I think stories should reflect that, but should also show characters striving to be more like Christ.

17.  Safe & Sound

(A “comfort book”)

Definitely the American Girl Josefina series!  I love Josefina’s character: sweet, but determined; shy, but with a spine of steel and high hopes.  She has such close, loving relationships with her sisters and her father, and the rancho where they live is a setting both unique and familiar–it’s pretty much a farm, just set in the Spanish West world.  I love the descriptions of weaving blankets, celebrating Christmas, trading in Santa Fe, the New Mexico summers and fandangos.

I had so much fun with this tag!  Thanks to Bella for tagging me!

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Still Dealing with Sickness…

So.  I can’t say I’m recovering; more accurately, I recover a little and then relapse a bit.  For example, when I went back to the doctor on Tuesday, we found my lungs were clear; but I’ve started coughing and wheezing again.  I’m not sure if the symptoms are the dregs of the sickness trying to get out, or if I’m relapsing, or simply caught another virus while my immune system was struggling, or from some other reason entirely.

Actually, a large contributor to the sickness is my compromised immune system.  My body does not produce enough white blood cells to function properly in health or sickness.  In fact, when doctors first discovered this (I was 13), the nurse told Dad that my white blood cell count was lower than that of a chemo patient.  While my white blood cell count is not quite that low anymore, it has remained abnormally low for 11 years and makes it difficult for me to recover from any infection.  We’re currently at 4 weeks and counting.  🙂

Though I have very few brain cells at the moment, I’ve kept reading and have finished both The Secret Garden and Prince Caspian.  (Three Roads to the Alamo had to wait for a little while because it was hard to focus on a new non-fiction volume.)  Not sure which fiction volume to read next.

I also set up a new system for recording story notes.  I stumbled across this post and liked the general idea, but also modified it.  I decided to devote a whole notebook to one story, and I divided the pages into the categories “General Notes,” “Character Notes,” “World Building,” and “Timeline.”  It’s a handy way to record notes and keep them organized–and writing manually helps me remember the ideas better than typing them, and I can mull them over better and decide what works and what doesn’t.  The notebook also lacks the glare of a computer screen.

A less conventional (and sometimes less efficient) method of recording ideas is Pinterest.  I am visually stimulated, and pinning pictures helps jump start ideas and clarify and deepen my mental images.  I also use the caption space to remind me why I pinned the picture and hint at the action, e.g. Deceptively calm creekShacks for the settlers?  Or the beginnings of a town?  Luke “helping” his mama.  My story boards are secret, partly because I don’t want anyone stealing my ideas and partly because I sometimes screenshot or upload pictures, which means the credit or source website is lost.  Which is not a problem for private use, but I’d want to give credit otherwise.

Anyway, all that’s what’s I’ve been up to recently, and maybe I can get back to consistent blogging soon.

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The Pneumonia Saga Continues

Well, I was getting better; the fever, chills, brain fog, and stuffy nose went away, and the cough diminished.  Then late last week, the cough became frequent and severe again, and I haven’t been able to shake it.  Lord willing, I’ll see a doctor tomorrow, and maybe get more medicine to clear this up.

On the bright side, the whole situation inspired a plot point in Enkie’s story and got her unstuck.  When she informed me of this, I readily described my symptoms to provide her with necessary details.  And if any of you writers need to describe a character’s pneumonia, drop me a line and I’ll be happy to help out.  🙂

It also struck me today what the lyrics of the song “It Is Well With My Soul” really mean.  I had interpreted the lines to mean a serene peace in the middle of a tornado of circumstances, and in a sense, the song does mean that.  But the emphasis is on “soul”.  It is well with my soul.  Not body or emotions or heart, but soul.  Because of Christ’s death on the cross, Christians are no longer under God’s wrath.  Which means that whatever our bodies or hearts or minds may suffer, we need not fear the ultimate tragedy: separation from God.

On a different note, I’ve continued reading.  Last night, I finished rereading Louisa May Alcott’s An Old-Fashioned Girl (and started The Secret Garden this morning).  I don’t have the energy for much literary analysis, but I pondered what makes An Old-Fashioned Girl so different from the Life of Faith Elsie Dinsmore stories.  Both heroines live in households that do not share their values, both try to do what they know is right, both influence the other characters, and both are thought odd.  But Elsie came across as practically perfect and the victim of characters who despise her for her pretty looks, her perfect faith, or her actions and attitudes.  Polly came across as multi-layered with strengths and flaws, a girl who tries to do what she knows is right—and sometimes fails.

Therein lies one difference.  Elsie is so spiritually mature at age 9 that she can Scripturally defeat the arguments of a Christian man 16 years her senior.  (Not making that up; it’s in Book 2.)  And she doesn’t grow or change much throughout the series.  She matures mentally from girl into woman, but the story is not focused on her discoveries about the world or her own intellect and is focused on her faith.  Except that her faith cannot grow because she’s already attained near-perfection there.

But An Old-Fashioned Girl offers a more balanced personality.  While Polly tries to do what she believes right, she also gets confused about what is true or where the root of a problem lies.  She refuses to flirt or play with love and tries to get the other characters to respect their elders and to consider others more important than themselves.  But her temper gets the better of her once or twice, she feels hurt at being left out of the fashionable set, she’s sometimes afraid of what others will think, and she struggles with envy of her cousins’ grand attire and with discontent with her own plain costumes.  She gives into to the temptation to flirt at one point (and has to deal with the consequences).  On the flip side, she sticks to her values, encourages the other characters, works hard, serves cheerfully, tries to overcome her faults and remain cheerful, and influences those around her by her actions and her perseverance.

Another major difference between Elsie and Polly is how other characters perceive each girl.  Many characters living alongside Elsie are awed by her or jealous of her (though some characters are more moderate).  There are reasons for these extreme sentiments: who wouldn’t be awed by a practically perfect child still in single digits?—and her step-grandmother hates that Elsie is prettier and richer than her own children.  And of course, the children follow their mother’s example.  But the jealous characters are so spiteful that they’re one-dimensional.  I can’t recall any redeeming qualities in them.

Polly, on the other hand, is neither adored nor despised.  Many of the fashionable set in her cousins’ social circles are polite but indifferent.  Some characters admire her manners in passing; and her cousins are sometimes shamed by her country ways and family’s poverty, but are also grateful for her kindness and friendship.  And are sometimes annoyed by the qualities she has that they lack.  But the supporting characters each have layered personalities.  Fan values her cousin’s friendship and is a caring girl, but sometimes thoughtless; she dresses and behaves better than some girls in her social circle, yet sometimes feels shamed by Polly’s country ways and old-fashioned manners.  Tom is a fun-loving, affectionate sort, mischievous, but also gruff and often lonely.  Belle, one of Fan’s friends, is flighty, but kind, affectionate, and a true friend to those she cares for.  The characters in An Old-Fashioned Girl have strengths and flaws of their own, and they neither idolize Polly or condemn her.  All of which makes Polly’s world a realistic place.

A third difference is the conflict the two heroines face and where it comes from.  Elsie sometimes struggles against her sinful nature, but the majority of her trouble is inflicted upon her by other characters.  She’s frequently the victim of others’ spite, thoughtlessness, malice, or ignorance, and never really makes a mistake herself for which she has to suffer the consequences.  As a child, she disobeyed her father a couple of times, the first time out of ignorance and the second through accidentally forgetting the command.  Not quite the same as letting temptation overcome her or acting foolishly.  Then in Book 4, she is duped by a thorough facade from a suitor–and honestly, if one character hadn’t accidentally found an incriminating letter from said play-acting suitor, it’s possible that the rest of the characters would have thought him, if not husband material, still a good man, regardless.  Which again makes Elsie (and everyone else) the victim.

Polly, on the other hand, does suffer snubs and thoughtlessness, sometimes from those she considered her friends.  But when Fan and Tom realize their mistakes, they apologize.  Elsewhere, Polly struggles against her sinful nature, sometimes succumbs, and in some cases, has to pay a difficult price for the mistakes.  She also struggles with discontent and discouragement repeatedly, rather than getting over those two vices all at once.  It’s a far more balanced and realistic character portrayal than found in Elsie’s stories.

Another encouraging aspect of Polly’s story is the reminder that a situation or sorrow could always be worse.  When she’s grown-up and a music teacher in the city, Polly feels frustrated at being unable to dress as her cousins did, have a circle of friends, and the money for amusements.  She feels left out and unable to do anything fun—feels sorry for herself, basically.  Then, as she’s helping an older friend sew, Polly hears the account of a girl who was so poor and feeble that she could not find work, and felt that her remaining options were sin or death.  This puts things in perspective for Polly—and for me too, because, really, my sickness could have a much grimmer outlook.  In the age of X-rays, lab tests, precise instruments, and antibiotics, doctors can diagnose a problem and offer a solution rather than having no clue and dosing the patient up with opium.  And I’m thankful that, other than painful coughing, I don’t feel too badly at the moment.

 

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Convalescing Activities

The sickness is slowly dispensing, and whenever I have energy and brain cells to spare, here’s what I’ve been up to:

Reading

While taking breathing treatments, I use the time to read (so that I’m not puffing medicine mist and staring into space for 15—20 minutes.  Dreadful waste of time).  So far, I’ve read Understood Betsy, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, still reading Three Roads to the Alamo, and I’ve started The Phantom Tollbooth.

I picked up The Strange Case &etc. on a whim several weeks ago.  The premise fascinated me: a man who creates a drug that splits his personality, letting him maintain his good reputation through one persona, but indulge in his temptations through the other.  I wanted to see how Stevenson handled the concept, and how the musical (or rather, the 1994 concept album) resembled the book.

Though I knew generally how the tale ended, it was nonetheless interesting to see the story unfold.  The imagery is vivid; Stevenson spends more time describing the London atmosphere at night and during its fogs than during the day.  Also, I don’t think Stevenson portrayed Jekyll’s experiment as right.  He sets forth the problem of how difficult it is to resist temptation; yet makes clear that giving in to that temptation—one way or another—destroys you.

But Stevenson’s theology is somewhat incorrect; man is not made up of dueling forces of good and evil.  Man is capable of justice and righteousness because he was made in the image of God and retains an understanding of good, even if he twists it.  But because man has rebelled against God, his nature is fallen and capable of any kind of evil.  I maintain that it’s because Jekyll’s theology is wrong that his experiment fails.  If he had a better understanding of God’s gift of salvation, he might have accepted it, and learned how to better resist temptation.

As for how the book compares to the musical…well, they’re two different stories.  They share a premise: Dr. Jekyll creates a serum splitting his personality into its good and evil sides.  But the motivation and fallout is completely different in the musical.  Dr. Jekyll hopes to divide the evil and good in a man’s nature and do away with the evil.  His motivation is improvement, curing of social and physical ills–a noble aim.  Thus, it’s all the more tragic when the experiment fails—again, I maintain—because of insufficient understanding of God’s laws.  The musical also added a little more nuance to the whole problem Jekyll is confronting, showing the hypocrisy of London society.

Fiddling with my blog

Which you may have noticed if you visited recently.  Each theme has some feature that I like, but also something I’m not qui-i-ite happy with.  So I keep tweaking it—hopefully, I’ll find a design I’m content with soon.

I’ve also drafted more blog posts.  In the works is “A Few Notes About Christine,” an analysis of her character, like the one I wrote for Raoul several weeks ago.  However, Christine’s post may take a while to put together, because there is a lot of material to consider and organize.  Also in the words is “A Few Notes about Movie-Raoul,” which might be interesting, and I’ve even drafted a couple for some of the Lord of the Rings characters.

Writing

Mainly my very, very informal outline (mostly narrative, which I’ll trim into a list of events later) and character profiles.  Developing characters is one of my favorite parts of writing—once I get excited about who these people are, I can’t wait to tell their stories.  And I make detailed profiles.  Some of my favorite character details to create are demeanor, quirks, birthdays (often, it’s a date that commemorates something about the project), the humor they use and enjoy, whether they can swim, the qualities they admire, and favorite books.  I use the Beautiful People meme to delve deeper into my characters.

I’m still deciding how much information to share about my writing.  On the one hand, sharing snippets could build interest in my work, and I could get feedback.  On the other, there’s something to be said for working in privacy.  However, I will say that this story was inspired by the 2004 film The Alamo (*gets urge to watch it again*), and its main character is Durant, whom I drew a while ago holding his baby nephew.  Posting the picture again because I melt every time I see it:

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Durant loves his nephews.  It’s the cutest thing.

And whenever I rest, I often think about the story, making up isolated events that probably won’t end up even in the draft–but this exercise helps me learn more about the characters and the dilemmas they might face.

Other times, I just pin pictures and quotes on Pinterest.  That’s work, right?  🙂

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An Insightful Post on Historical Analysis

Today, I found this amazing post by Hayden Wand: Battling the Modern Condescension.  She writes about a historical fiction pet peeve which happens to be one of my pet peeves as well, and it was nice to discover that I’m not alone in my historical opinions.  But then I decided to post my own thoughts about the matter, thoughts that have been simmering for several years.

To put the matter simply, it really is arrogant to judge past behavior by modern ideas of justice, equality, social norms, science, etc.  For one thing, this mindset keeps us from truly understanding why things were the way they were.  Maybe there was a good reason for some customs.  For example, in England for much of the 19th century, you had to be a landowner with a private income in order to sit in the House of Commons or the House of Lords.  Unfair!  Unequal!  Unnecessary restriction!  Social injustice, class wars, what-have-you in action!

Actually, sitting in Parliament brought no wages until the 1880s.  And being a Member was a full-time job.  Parliament met from early January or February until early August.  Sessions began at 3:00 p.m. and sometimes didn’t end until 3:00 a.m.  Before then, you would correspond with constituents, read Parliamentary papers, do political paperwork—and since you were a landowner, you would have to manage your estates in there somewhere, as well as attend or host the dinners that were obligatory for a social position.  You simply didn’t have time to work for a living.  You needed an independent income.  (Sources: Norman Gash’s Politics in the Age of Peel and James Grant’s Random Recollections of the House of Commons, and Daniel Pool’s What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew.)

Additionally, what our culture considers “enlightened” and “just” changes.  Constantly.  Which means our standards change constantly, and our judgments change constantly.  How do we know that in a 100 years, what we considered “right” will be enforced in legal courts?  How do we know that women won’t eventually get tired of the career girl expectations and revert to homemaking?

And then looking at the matter from a writer’s point-of-view, it’s actually narrow-minded to assume that readers can relate only to characters with their understanding of life, social justice, etc. Now granted, similar mindsets do help you connect with others.  But if we writers rely on this alone for our characters, there will be no intellectual challenge in our books, no new knowledge presented, no window into a different life through characters who are similar, but not identical, to you or to readers.  I think there’s a timeless quality to the complexity of a character who has solid reasons for believing something modern readers may not agree with; it gives him beliefs, flaws, motivations–and historical accuracy.  A writer’s job is to write a character as sympathetic and understandable anyway, regardless of different beliefs and social norms.  Giving a character the same mindset as the readership is a lazy way to accomplish this.

On the flip side, understanding a historical mindset does not mean that you pretend a social ill never existed.  That would take the problem to a different extreme and would create the same result: misunderstanding of history.  And I certainly don’t advocate defending historical beliefs that the Bible called wrong.  I just want to be humble enough as a writer and historian to truly understand a historical mindset, to learn from it, and to challenge myself and others through different points of view.

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Insights from Three Roads to the Alamo

I am devouring this book.  It is far more interesting than I anticipated; Davis presents a lot of facts, but dwells on the ones most pertinent to the different eras in the lives of Crockett, Bowie, and Travis.  (Or rather, Crockett and Bowie; I haven’t gotten to Travis yet.)  Davis also provides their family histories, detailing them so thoroughly that I mentally nicknamed the ancestors “Grandpa Crockett” and “Pa Bowie” and “Uncle Bowie” in order to remember who all these people are.

The book also offers gems about frontier life, law, and politics (or lack thereof).  For example:

Following the purchase of Louisiana, almost all the region was public land, unavailable for purchase until it was properly surveyed and townships and ranges were laid out.  That would be the work of years to come.  The only more immediate ways to take possession of a tract were either to buy it from a confirmed occupant or else to acquire a Spanish grant owned by a grantee who never actually took possession.  –pg. 43

Now [Crockett] was nearly thirty, with three small children, one of them still an infant, all of them needing care and he with a failing farm to work.  In like circumstances men often broke up their families, placing the children in the homes of friends and relatives, but Crockett felt too attached to his sons John and William, and to baby Margaret.  –pg. 63

Soon [Crockett] added to it other titles in Lawrence County, including town commissioner of Lawrenceburg, court referee, and road commissioner.  For the next two years, he adjudicated in land disputes, took censuses of voters and taxpayers, oversaw the improvement of country roads, and performed whatever small tasks came in the way of a rural functionary. –pg. 69

In 1823 Americans had no folk heroes as yet.  They were too new a people, their only household gods the Founding Fathers, men too lofty and remote to become the stuff of legend.  But the common man was rising now, and he would want one of his own for an icon.  –pg. 86

Ahead of them lay what boatmen called a sawyer, a huge driftwood tree snagged in the bottom mud, its trunk pointing upstream.  Sawyers rose out of the water in response to the current until their weight in the air countered the water’s resistance, and then they crashed down again, repeating the process endlessly until eventually they washed away.  –pg. 117

You may notice from the sequence of the page numbers that every other page contains something interesting, insightful, and informative.  I keep peppering my copy with Post-Its, and this selection of quotes is only a portion of the ones I marked.

It’s amusing to note that very little has changed politically.  I always thought that early 19th century America was morally purer than today; and in some ways, perhaps it was.  But when Bowie gets involved in local politics, and Crockett in local and national politics, we get statements like this:

Brent also promised men appointments if he was elected, even though they would be to offices a congressman had no power to fill; one of Johnston’s friends admitted that some influential men “were completely bamboozled by him.”  –pg. 102

When the House bogged down in debate on the tariff in March, [Crockett] looked on in dismay as a largely partisan element tried to reshape the duties in a way that would align the West, the South, and the mid-Atlantic states against New England, the home of President Adams.  Critics charged that the House was concerned not with protecting manufacturers but manufacturing a president, and Crockett became so frustrated that he determined to vote against every single tariff amendment and against the tariff bill itself.  –pgs. 129—130

David believed he was seeing evidence of bipartisan support, honest men favoring an honest measure, but the more subtle Polk recognized that they were taking the “opportunity to use Crockett, and to operate upon him through this measure, for their own political purposes.”  –pg. 138

“What a state of things,’ [Overton] exclaimed.  ‘The most corrupt & daring are the most successful.”  –pg. 157

Did you think that fighting and backbiting over a political position was a modern problem?

No sooner did Crockett return to Washington for this new session, however, than he read a Nashville newspaper account published while he was on his way east, saying that he had behaved with unforgivable boorishness at the meal, demanding more food when his plate was removed, even licking his fingers, and drinking out of all six cups attached to the punch bowl. … [A]ny one of the other five attendees, including the president, could have put the lie to the story. … The story had to be a lie made up by someone who knew the dinner took place and who gave it to the Clay-Adams press, yet who must have known that at least half the guests present who could refute the tale were themselves National Republicans.  In other words, a fantasy concocted to embarrass Crockett must inevitably be embarrassing to the National Republicans as well, when the truth came out and men like Clark and Verplank were forced to refute what appeared in their own party organs.  –pgs. 134–135

Such calm was hardly likely in an election year, however.  Brent stood for reelection again, and the campaign proved if anything even more bitter than those before.  Charges swirled of Brent’s heavy engagement in forged Spanish grant business, and that in Washington he received money for claims on behalf of his constituents but failed to turn it over.  –pg 155

How about fights in social media?

Crockett took up the fight in the press, and replied in temper that Lea was a “poltroon, a scoundrel and a puppy,” suggesting that if Lea would identify himself, Crockett would “resent” the insults with a challenge.  Lea did identify himself in responding, declining the invitation to duel but repeating his charge that his colleague had made himself the “willing instrument of political, sectional and personal malignities” opposed to the interests of Tennessee, on the part of men who wished to “induce him to act with them in future.”  The correspondence went back and forth in the press for several days…  –pg 141

The author points out that Crockett was not a man prone to violence, but the article in the press had attacked his integrity.

And though back then there weren’t solid political parties as we’d think of them, there was division of voter support:

Everyone expected [Brent] to be easy prey after his part in electing Adams the year before, but the Jacksonians in Louisiana fell apart this year and fielded two candidates, dividing the opposition vote.  –pg. 155

I keep subconsciously comparing the information I read to the portrayals in The Alamo film.  And have to remind myself to wait until I reach those chapters of their lives, because the men they were at age 15 or 20 could be radically different from their personalities at ages 26, 33, and 40-something.

But their personalities thus far are interesting to assess.  Bowie is a complex case study: sometimes, I do not want to read the chapters about him because of his underhand dealings and violent tendencies.  On the flip side, he had an interesting and intelligent (mostly) personality.  He had self-control enough to wait for his frauds to succeed, but not enough to control himself in the presence of insults or enemies.  He was intelligent enough to maneuver into the society of influential men, but not enough to research his schemes thoroughly.  He apparently had no qualms defrauding the government out of its public land and smuggling slaves into Louisiana, but he was fiercely loyal to his family.  His character seems to be on a level with Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights—complex, yet reprehensible, yet fascinating.  Like a tornado—you want to get out of there, but you can’t look away.

On a lighter note, Bowie’s first name was James, and he had a brother name John.  I got a hilarious mental image of their parents getting the names mixed up, stuttering when calling one kid or the other, and finally resorting to “Come here, boy.”  The thought amuses me.

Crockett is also a puzzling case sometimes.  While the author—and Crockett’s own actions in Congress—declares him an honest man, he seems to have had no qualms deliberately appealing to what his backwoods constituents liked best, and exaggerating (or de-exaggerating as the situation required) his own knowledge and abilities.  It doesn’t seem to have been a malicious or intentionally deceptive tactic—and Crockett definitely stood his ground, regardless of consequences, once he was elected to Congress—but it seems a little odd in the face of his honesty elsewhere, and his (initial) naïve belief in the sincerity of his fellow delegates.  It does, however, make accurate Crockett’s statement in The Alamo film: “I was never afraid to stretch things a bit…but I never learned to lie.”

On a totally different note, there will be no Picture Saturday today.  Mainly because I have nothing prepared, and I may be getting sick.  On the bright side, it might give me more time to read Three Roads to the Alamo.  🙂

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Life Lately: Reading, Reality, & Nostalgia

My blog is once again a sad, quiet place inhabited by cyber-tumbleweeds. Ideas for posts hit me in a abundance, but whenever I put fingers to keyboard, my brain acts like it doesn’t know English.  Or good paragraph structure.  Or how to log in to my dashboard.

When the grammar/literature side of my brain thus malfunctions, I turn to artwork.  Yesterday, I created a watercolor work-in-progress post, taking snapshots of my work space and of each step of the painting process.  (And scribbled a page of hieroglyphics that I would later translate into coherent explanations.)  But at the last minute, the watercolors bled into each other and caked up, ruining the painting.

Moral of the story: “Quit while you’re not ahead.”  Actually, maybe it’s “Don’t paint and post simultaneously.”  Maybe even “In order to further artistic skill and understanding, practice and use your selected medium more frequently than once in the duration of the moon’s rotation, and the chances of such utter and abysmal failure will lessen drastically.”

Or most likely: “Wait for the paint to dry completely before you add another layer.”  🙂

I have a couple of other posts drafted.  One is about Christine Daae and the deeper layers of her character in the musical.  Another is a post about Movie-Raoul and how Patrick Wilson was underused and underappreciated.  I’ll get them up as soon as I edit and tidy the concepts, sentence fragments, unconnected paragraphs, and random notes like “something about what she might have been feeling <insert picture later>.  <too sarcastic; don’t be biting>  <forgot what I wanted to say here, argh>.”

What I have been doing (instead of blogging) is reading, mainly non-fiction about my historical interests.  One of my favorite time periods is the British political landscape of the 1820s—30s.  This period is called the “Romantic Era,” because of the influence of Romanticism in art, literature, fashion, society—and politics.  I’d go so far as to say the 20s–30s politics laid the foundations for the politics and reforms of the Victorian Era.  Pretty significant, right?  As such, it annoys me when people either ignore the period or lump it in with the Regency or Victorian Eras.  No, guys.  The 1820s—30s was its own period, especially politically.

Okay, rant over.  For my birthday, I received Norman Gash’s Aristocracy and People; Britain, 1815-1865.  A nice, hardback copy to boot.

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Gash’s research is thorough and balanced; he presents all the arguments in a conflict, notes both the successes and mistakes of everyone involved, admits when information is insufficient or when records conflict, and supports his conclusions with a lot of facts.  He also includes an impressive bibliography; I accidentally annoyed my family the night of the party by browsing the bibliography before opening the rest of my presents.  Gash did not disappoint; the bibliography of Aristocracy and People was several pages.

On a different note, though still historical, I changed my desktop background.  If you recall from this post, the background was the Alamo compound under attack.  Here’s my new desktop:

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Yeah, this obsession is not ending anytime soon.  🙂  I recently ordered Three Roads to the Alamo by William C. Davis, and it arrived a couple of days ago.  This book is not about the battle for the Alamo or the politics of Texas independence, but rather about the lives of Crockett, Bowie, and Travis.  Davis too includes an impressive bibliography, with the list of primary sources much longer than the list of secondary sources.  Good show.  And I’ve started decorating the pages with Post-Its.  Which I tend to do with my non-fiction resources.

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I still need to get my hands on resources discussing the battle and the politics of the conflict, but Three Roads to the Alamo is a good place to start researching.

On yet another historical note, I started re-reading the American Girl books.  “Reliving my single digits,” as Mom says.  I forgot how good those books are–not in-depth by any means, but since they were written for 5 to 10-year-olds, they teach the basics of a time period and provide a starting point for more research.

Plus, they’re good stories.  Yes, rather simplistic sometimes, but I was struck by how reasonable the parents (usually) are in each set of books.  Josefina’s Papa, for example, is a reasonable authority figure: he is respected as the patron of the rancho, yet he listens to his children when they have something to say and often does little things to please and cheer them.  Felicity’s parents are also reasonable.  Though she often disagrees with them about what is proper, it’s clear that Mrs. Merriman works hard to keep the household running and to be a wife, mother, hostess, and neighbor.  A doormat of the times, she is not.  And Felicity herself matures through the series, becoming more patient and sacrificial rather than thinking of her own wishes.

It’s sad that the company now owning American Girl has stripped away much of the historical emphasis and resources.  In the ’90s, along with the dolls and their outfits, the company offered paper dolls as well with snippets of information about the historical fashions and customs.  There was also a line of cookbooks and craft books from each girl’s time period.  And companion books titled Welcome to [Girl]’s World, providing even more information about the time period than the “Peek into the Past” sections of the books.

Now most of those resources are gone.  Yes, you can still buy the girls’ stories and find the cook/craft books secondhand online.  But the whole foundation of the American Girl series has been chipped down to almost a side line.  In the recent catalogues, the first pages contain the Girl of the Year and Truly Me dolls, as well as doll salon sets, doll school rooms, and doll snack carts, all with hundreds of accessories and with sound effects built into the hair dryers and popcorn makers (I’m not making that up.)  The historical characters come now with fewer historical outfits and period-appropriate accessories (such as Samantha’s sampler and Addy’s old-fashioned ice cream maker and Kirsten’s spoon bag).  The dolls themselves have been recreated with thinner bodies and faces.

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See?  My doll from the ’90s (on the left) has a wider face and more “chipmunk cheeks”–she looks more like a child, a nine-year-old than the other doll.

Samantha will always be my baby, and I looked like Molly as a kid (round glasses and all, though I have brown eyes instead of grey)–but Josefina is my favorite.  She’s sweet and caring–she loves her family dearly–yet she has a spine of steel and she’s excitable on occasion.  And she has a child’s hope and interest in the world.  In Josefina Saves the Day, it’s adorable that she wants to buy a little toy farm, partly because it looks fun but partly because it reminds her friend Patrick of his home.

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It’s also cute that in this picture, she wears her hair in two braids instead of one!

As I re-read the Josefina books, I became enthralled with 1820s–30s Mexican culture.  So I ordered Welcome to Josefina’s World, which should provide a starting point for further research, especially if it has a good bibliography.

So that’s what I’ve been up to (and what I’ve been fangirling over), and hopefully, I’ll have slightly more coherent posts later in the week.  🙂

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Writers’ Camp: Days 12 & 13

Conquering Writers Block!!! Okay, writers block is the worst obstacle a writer can face besides Plot Hole. This day will cover the different ways you can conquer or outsmart writers block, and how to keep yourself writing when you’d rather nap and give up on the whole thing.

Well, sometimes a nap or just a break is a good way to solve writers’ block.  🙂  But when I’m stuck, I try to identify the problem.  Why am I blocked?  Is it lack of information?  Tiredness?  Fear of not doing my ideas justice?  Frustration at my slow pace?

The nature of the problem often determines the solution—if I’m tired, I might take a break.  Or not, depending on what my day looks like, e.g. if I have several hours of free time, there is no way I’m letting that time slip away.  Often, though, the solution is just to blaze past the block and write, write anything, even if it’s stinky.  I often pound out a list of notes or ideas, a stream-of-consciousness, and look over it later.

I also write to fast-paced music.  Something about it just gets my fingers and mind moving.  Two of my favorite songs are “Shatter Me” by Lindsey Stirling and “This is the Moment” from Jekyll & Hyde—apparently that song is a cliché anthem for sports events, but it works just as well, if not better, for a writer’s vocation.

And I always pray that God would get me unstuck, if it’s His will.

Be inspired! Share things that help/inspire you with writing. Put out some ideas on what you think might help other writers get on with their work.

Honestly, the biggest inspiration to keep going comes from my characters—I want to tell their stories!—and reminding myself that the finished product will be good when it’s done.  I write the sort of things I want to read, and I look forward to the day I can read my stuff without constantly editing.  🙂

In the meantime, I get inspired by:

  • Various genres of music: Celtic, trailer music, soundtracks, musical theatre, orchestra; and from musicals like The Phantom of the Opera, Jekyll & Hyde, The Secret Garden, and Les Miserables.
  • Films like The Alamo, The Phantom of the Opera, and Inception.  Actually, Christopher Nolan films are good inspiration, period.  They make me think and always make me wonder “what if?”
  • Pictures on Pinterest—I’m attracted to pictures that hint at an intriguing conflict or situation, that make me wonder what’s going on and what’s going to happen next.
  • From others’ characters or portrayals—Hadley Fraser’s performance as Raoul inspired a character of my own creation, as did Patrick Wilson’s portrayal of Raoul. The Bishop from Les Miserables also inspired a character, as did Dr. Jekyll from the 1994 concept album of Jekyll & Hyde.
  • Historical details. Sometimes just a line or two will set me thinking, such as this line from English Landed Society in the Nineteenth Century:

“In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries it seems that a girl who was marrying somewhat above her station, a daughter of a banker or new landed family marrying into the old nobility, or a daughter of the lower aristocracy marrying into the ducal class, would be provided with a marriage portion of the order of 50,000 or 60,000 pounds [stupid American keyboard can’t make the pound symbol].  In an ambitious family resources would be mobilized behind the daughters, the instruments of family advance, while younger sons might be less generously portioned and left to make their own way in the world.” (pg. 100)

  • And from my own ideas and interests, such singing, politics, art, my own notions of duty and honor, and the conclusion that art and science are not necessarily opposite ends of the spectrum.

Well, that’s the end of the Writers’ Camp!  I had fun with this; such a great idea from Bella!