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Beautiful People Link-Up: About the Author

This month’s BP features the author of the characters instead of the characters themselves, which is a fun twist.  🙂  You can find the link-up and questions here.

How do you decide which project to work on?

It’s very rational: I sit down and calculate how many story elements are inherent in the original idea + an estimation of the time it will take to finish + how much time I actually have + how much coffee I’ll need to complete the project, and–

Just kidding!  Usually, ideas for characters grab me and won’t let go, and so I have to follow and see what the story is.  It’s  entirely out of my control, I assure you.  Other times, the process is a little more rational: sometimes based on whichever idea is the most vivid and interesting; sometimes it’s based on which story idea has the most pieces put together (e.g. one with the concept, conflict, etc. worked out); and sometimes, it’s whichever idea looks like one that I can finish quickly.

Which often turns out to be a complete fantasy.  🙂

Even when I settle on a project, I tinker with others on the side, and jot notes for any new ideas. Sitting now in my digital folders are at least 10 novel ideas (with tons of notes for each), along with notes for a couple of characters and concepts that don’t have proper stories, but that won’t leave my imagination either.

At the moment, I’m actively working on my semi-western Gentle Fire, and I tinker with my steampunk story here and there.  Also, the steampunk story finally has a working title: Empty Clockwork!  And speaking of, I’ll get that post about Lennox up sometime before the apocalypse hopefully soon.

How long does it usually take you to finish a project?

In the words of Ebeneezer Scrooge, circa 1850–something: “Why do you delight to torture me?”

I don’t finish quickly, partly because of my health problems and fatigue–but partly because my concepts end up fleshed out into a Very Long Novel that will take more than a few months to pound out.  But I comfort myself with the hallowed words of Charles Dickens:

“It is delightful to find throughout that you have taken great pains with it [the story] besides, and have “got at it” with a perfect knowledge of the jolter-headedness of the conceited idiots who suppose that volumes are to be tossed off like pancakes, and that any writing can be done without the utmost application, the greatest patience, and the steadiest energy, of which the writer is capable.”

Do you have any routines to put you in the writing mood?

I listen to music that matches the tone of my story (e.g. The Alamo soundtrack before I work on Gentle Fire) and sometimes crochet a little before I write, using that time to think about the story and what I’m going to write.

What time of day do you write best?

Always in the early morning, when the rising sun melts the grey sky into soft blush and liquid gold, and the house is a still and peaceful place where my imagination can soar–

*dog barks at someone walking by the house*

*a sibling gets up earlier than I expected*

*air conditioner breaks*

Kidding!  It changes from day to day, and I think it has to do with however much brain fog I’m dealing with.  Sometimes I write best in the wee hours of the morning; other times, I can barely comprehend English during that time.  Other times, I write best in the late morning; still others, late afternoon is the sweet spot.  Keeps things interesting, eh, what?

Are there any authors you think you have a similar style to?

Erm…I have no idea.  I’d like to think I have a style like Dickens’, but it’s probably a cross between Bronte and Austen.  I asked my siblings, and Chris lovingly reminded me that he hasn’t read any of my stories because I haven’t finished one yet.  (Thanks, bro.)  Gingersnap said she couldn’t think of any comparisons and that I kind of had my own style.  Enkie said Louisa May Alcott, but also said that’s the only author she could think of off the top of her head, and that it wasn’t correct at all.  That I kind of have my own style.  Emmett also said he hasn’t read any of my stuff, and so he also couldn’t think of any comparisons.

Why did you start writing, and why do you keep writing?

I started writing because I always have story ideas bouncing around in my head, and at age 12, I hit upon one that I thought was good enough to become a book.  (Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.)  But it was enough to start me on this journey, and I keep writing because story ideas still bounce around in my head–stories that I would love to read someday.

I also truly enjoy the process and the artistry of it all, despite how hard it gets.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve written?

Either the travel brochure for a writing class assignment (that brochure was as dry as ashes, people)–or the picture book I started in order to finish something before I die.  The picture book was hard because it was short, and I didn’t have room to explore or flesh out its concept.  It felt like shutting my mind up in a box.

Here’s a fun fact: Gentle Fire was supposed to be a short story.  But I kept wondering what brought Durant to the very situation in the opening, and also what happened after the story.  And then I thought of some answers.  And the ideas wouldn’t leave me alone.  See Question #1.

Is there a project you want to tackle someday but you don’t feel ready yet?

My English political novel with the working title of Method and Manner.  Actually, I’d love to focus on this one (Chris told me the other day he would put flowers ‘pon this story’s gravestone), but I don’t have time for the hefty research required.  When I have time for that research, however, I shall thoroughly enjoy it!

What writing goals did you make for 2017 and how are they going?

I hoped to finish the draft of Gentle Fire by the end of the year, but as it’s nearly August and only the beginning of the outline sits in my folder, that will probably not happen.  I hesitated to set any other goals because I so successfully fail at meeting them year after year.  It’s quite the impressive record.

Maybe I should switch to creating Mid-Year Goals?  Breaking out of the cliche box and all its expectations might help.  🙂

Describe your writing process in 3 words or a gif!

Help, coffee, help!

Kidding again!  It’s more like Think, Organize, Write–only that order gets shuffled around a little.  Okay, a lot.  With confusion thrown in.  Also a constant sparring match between my inner critic and artist’s soul.

And coffee does fit in there somewhere.  🙂

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A Few Notes About Christine Daae…

It’s finally here!  The post that I promised months ago and kept forgetting about or pushing to the back burner meticulously wrote and rewrote until it is the epitome of literary analysis!  Or theatre analysis.  So without further ado, here’s Part 1 of this dissertation!  (Similar posts about Raoul are here and here.)

I thought Christine was a flat character when I first watched the 25th Anniversary concert.  She seemed far less interesting than the Phantom or Raoul.  One is a man outcast from society through no fault of his own, yet who chose to terrorize the Opera House.  His loneliness and attraction to Christine makes him a conflicted and multi-leveled character.  And sympathetic, if you can get past the whole habitual-choking-people-who-cross-him.  The other is the hero of the story, a man with some faults (listening problem for one), yet who was willing to devote the rest of his life to caring for his  fiancée and loving her, and willing to risk his life for her.  Then there’s Christine…obsessed with a voice whom she believes is the ghost of her father…then she learns he’s actually a man…then spends half the musical freaked out yet fascinated by him, but then in Final Lair, she kisses him.

Then I took a second look at her character.  And I found that there was a lot more to Christine’s personality than meets the eye.

For starters, she is more dynamic than people give her credit for, and she grows and changes during the story.  Her actions are subtle, but not passive.  She makes—and acts on—crucial decisions in at least four cases: she chooses to trust Raoul rather than the Phantom; she lets go of the memories holding her back; she sings in Don Juan to help capture the Phantom; and she chooses to remain with the Phantom, to give him the compassion he needed and to free Raoul.  Nobody forced her to do any of that.  And she makes other, smaller choices throughout the musical that, while not obvious, nonetheless influence the story.

That said, a lot of her motives are ambiguous, left up to actress interpretation.  I think this was done on purpose so that each production could choose whether to show Christine in love with the Phantom or in love with Raoul.  But as I pointed out in my posts about Raoul, you must look at her actions and the character she displays through the whole story.  Her actions point toward her motives.

We hear of Christine before we see her; and what we hear is that she often spoke of the music box that Raoul buys at the opera auction.  And spoke of it in detail, enough detail for Raoul to verify the artifact at the auction.  Why Christine referred to this music box, a relic of days that were full of betrayal and terror, is also a mystery “never fully explained”.  Whether she spoke of those days with longing, fear, or just recurring memory is not specified.  But the fact that Raoul speaks of Christine even though she is no longer there indicates the influence she had on him.  And the narrative of her often speaking of the music box shows the influence the events of the whole musical had upon her.

Since Andrew Lloyd Webber habitually rewrites the lyrics of the show, some productions give details of Christine’s character that are missing from others.  In one version of the libretto, the audience first meets Christine dancing ballet—and dancing out of step, and Madame Giry tells the managers that she often has her head in the clouds.  This line is missing from the film and from the 25th Anniversary Concert at Royal Albert Hall.  In another version of the libretto and also in the film, Madame Giry informs the managers of Christine’s relationship to the Swedish violinist.  In the 25th Anniversary concert, Christine does this herself.

So Christine’s first actions and lines change depending on the whims of ALW which version of the libretto is used.  But she is certainly a member of the ballet corps, and the daughter of a Swedish violinist.  And she may also have the singing ability to take over the lead female role in Hannibal.  But when Andre asks who her vocal teacher is, Christine hesitates to share her secret with the whole Hannibal cast and says only that she doesn’t know who her tutor is.  It’s possible she knew the managers would not believe her if she said “he’s the Angel of Music,” and that she could be fired on the suspicion of being delusional or insane–but more likely, she saw no reason to trust the entire opera company with this knowledge.

While initially nervous as she begins the number “Think of Me,” Christine quickly gains confidence and shows that she can indeed handle the female lead role.  The managers immediately cast her Elissa, and this event subtly reveals a good deal about Christine’s character.  Firstly, she never objects to the star role.  She had a long and pleasant history with music; music strongly reminds her of her father (who played the violin and told her stories about the Angel of Music).  And later—something I never see mentioned—she says to the Phantom, “Grant to me your glory!” indication that she wanted further instruction of her voice, wanting more of what he had to teach her.

Secondly,  think what it must have taken to prepare for the female lead role in a 3-act opera.  Christine wasn’t even an understudy.  In a matter of minutes, she went from member of the ballet corps to the lead role, and she had to rehearse and remember new music, character, blocking, and vocals.  Not only did she prepare in time, she performed so well that she became a hit.  This reveals, not only the skill and beauty of her voice, but also her concentration, diligence, and acting capability.  Everyone hails the Phantom as the ultimate musical genius—and he is—but they overlook the implied extent of Christine’s skill.

After the opera, Christine tells Meg more about her mysterious tutor.  And her explanation makes her sound, quite frankly, air-headed.  But think about the events that led up to her belief in the Angel of Music.

In the first place, her father had promised to send this Angel.  Christine was very close to her father; she later refers to him as “my one companion,” and she implicitly trusted his word.  But there’s another, more believable, aspect to the situation.  Her father’s death left her alone, grieving, and emotionally vulnerable.  It also left her unprotected.  In 19th century theatre, male patrons of the opera often made romantic—or sexual—overtures to the ballet and chorus girls.  And while Christine and Meg are friends, there is no indication in the stage show that anyone besides the Phantom has stepped into the role of “guide and guardian.”  Thus, after her father’s death, Christine would be alone in the world, afraid for her safety, maybe afraid for her future (what social prospects did she have?) and grieving terribly.   And it must have been some comfort to think that the Angel was a messenger from her beloved father, and she seems to expect him to watch over her, not only to gift her with vocal instruction.  Thus, with grief and loneliness in her heart, with confidence in her father’s word, and with no other form of protection, it’s not much of a stretch that she decided the Phantom’s voice was indeed the Angel her father had promised.

However—despite her trust in her Angel, and despite her submission to his will—she fears him.  She’s not afraid of seeing him face-to-face; she actually wants him to reveal himself.  What she fears is the constant watchfulness.  Phans view this as mysterious and romantic, but Christine points out twice that her Angel is always with her, and the second time, specifies that “It frightens me.”  Though she does not want to be alone, this constant watchfulness is more than she bargained for.  Later, in the title song, the Phantom points out that “in all your fantasies, you always knew that man and mystery [were both in you].”  Thus, Christine may know (deep down) that the man’s voice is not really an Angel; and the alternative explanation makes her very uncomfortable.

She does not acknowledge this, however; perhaps fearing what would happen if she confronted the voice with her suspicions, or fearing to lose that one last link to her father.  Or simply maintaining trust in  her father’s word.  She does seem to recognize, however, how odd her belief sounds, and she doesn’t go around telling just anybody about it.  She tells only those she considers friends–first Meg, and later, Raoul.

Ardent admirers of Raoul (myself included) find it so sweet and romantic that he remembered the little girl he used to play with.  But Christine remembered him too.  When he mentioned her red scarf, she cries, “Oh, Raoul, so it is you!”  She suspected who he was when she read his note, and she rejoices to learn that her conclusion was correct.  She is also pleased that he remembered her, remembered the stories they used to play, and she joins him fondly in remembering their childhood.  Apparently, Raoul is also a reminder of her father, as she recalls her father playing the violin among the memories of her childhood escapades.

The very next thing she tells Raoul is that her father is dead—and that she has been visited by the Angel of Music.  She seems eager to share this information with him–notice that with Meg, Christine answered her friend’s inquiries; but here, she volunteers the information herself.  And she expects Raoul will believe in the Angel too, and insists that she can’t go to supper with him because “The Angel of Music is very strict.”

Interesting that she doesn’t refuse with a personal preference.  She doesn’t say “No, I don’t want to,” or “I have other plans,” or even, “I’m tired,” which would be perfectly natural after performing the star role in an opera.  She has no problem with going to supper with her old friend.  Christine’s sole objection is that her Angel is very strict.

But “strict” in what way?  The Phantom is not so unreasonable as to forbid her from getting supper.  He also never objected to Meg’s presence in the dressing room, not even to Christine explaining that he was her Angel of Music.  And Christine did not mention her Angel’s strictness to Meg.  It is only when a man offers to take her to supper that she says her Angel is very strict.  That implication?  The Phantom does not want Christine to associate with other men.

After Raoul leaves, Christine says aloud that “Things have changed, Raoul.”  But he is out of earshot by then, and the remark might have gotten his attention had he heard it.  It’s almost as though Christine is reminding herself that things have changed, that she can’t resume her acquaintance with Raoul because her angel would object.  And object he does.

Actually, the Phantom lashes out at Raoul, not at Christine for receiving him.  Nonetheless, Christine fears that even that little visit might be enough to make her Angel leave her.  “Stay by my side,” she begs after telling him that she is listening and attentive to his words.  Yet it is a fragile dependence; she apologizes for her “weak soul,” apparently terrified of driving him away if she is inattentive to his presence or if she does anything he might disapprove of.

On the other hand, she still believes he is a guardian, tutor, and protector sent by her father, and therefore, she trusts him enough to follow him into the tunnel behind the mirror.  She seems incredibly naïve–but the key here is that she trusts him.  After all, she believes he is an Angel, a messenger from her father, and her “guide and guardian” moreover.  She doesn’t go around believing or confiding in just anyone.  In fact, it’s the opposite, and she withholds personal information from people in general.  And once she realizes who her Angel really is, her confidence in him vanishes.

Mere minutes into the underground journey, Christine reveals that this man’s voice was with her in her dreams, calling to her.  (Whether his voice simply carried over into her subconscious—or whether the Phantom actually showed up and sang to her as she slept—is unspecified.)  Either way, Christine realizes that the voice in her head and the figure leading her down the tunnels were one and the same—and that this man is the Phantom of the Opera, not any Angel.

She also quickly figures out that the Phantom used her as a “mask” in the sense of showing his musical ability through her singing talent: “I am the mask you wear…” “It’s me they hear.”  And she mentioned that “Those who have seen your face draw back in fear,” but expresses no fear herself, merely points out what others do.  I’ve heard that many stage shows play this sequence as Christine being hypnotized, so one could argue that she has these revelations in a sort of trance.  But the next morning, some memories stuck in her mind: the journey across the lake, the Phantom’s music and voice, the sadness in his eyes.  She seemed to be under his influence to a degree, but she also retained enough of her own mind to piece together what was going on.

Most notably, she realizes–or rather, acknowledges–the reality of the situation.  The Phantom points out that “In all your fantasies, you always knew that man and mystery,” and Christine finishes, “…were both in you.”  She finally admits the truth she’d suspected: that the voice was no Angel but simply a man with tricks and mystery at his disposal.  And after the title song, she never again pretends the Phantom is something he’s not.  Nor does she call him “Angel” again until late in Act II.

Once in the lair, the Phantom sings a line that reveals as much about Christine as himself: “From the moment I first heard you sing, I have needed you with me to serve me, to sing for my music…”  Ignoring for now the possessive nature of this remark, it reveals that even before the Phantom’s training, Christine had a beautiful voice and musical talent entirely her own.  This potential is what got his attention in the first place, and shows Christine to be a realistic young lady rather than a perfect Mary Sue: she had talent, but it was talent that could be improved.  Not to mention the fact that her father was a violinist; Christine had been surrounded by music long before the Phantom came into her life.  Her gift and abilities do not derive entirely from him; he enhanced them, sure, but fans of the musical should not give the Phantom full credit for Christine’s talent.

Christine has no lines during “Music of the Night,” and the interpretation of this number depends on the actress and stage show.  She is hypnotized or entranced somehow, but she nonetheless registered and remember a few things.  As she tells Raoul later, she felt elation at the Phantom’s voice, at the freedom and expression and exhilaration that his music gave.  She “heard as [she’d] never heard before” while listening to the Phantom’s music, but she did not accept the his lure to the darkness.  She later speaks of the darkness with horror, and says, she wants “a world with no more night.”

When she wakes after her swoon, the first thing she remembers is the journey down to the lair—and that a man in a mask brought here.  Fully understanding that this person is no angel and no phantom either, her next priority is finding out who he is.  It does not seem to occur to her that the mask was there for a reason; on the other hand, since the guy lived in an elaborate lair underneath an opera house, she may have assumed it was theatricality.  But this, of course, is a wrong assumption.

After pulling off his mask, she is horrified by the deformity, and possibly by this further revelation about who her guardian is.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Christine connected the dots here or soon after and realized that the deformity is why he lives beneath the Opera House.  After the title song, she actually understands the realities of the situation pretty quickly.  At the moment, her reality is this: her guardian is not at all who she thought he was–and though he reacts violently to her pulling off his mask, he abruptly turns desperate, and expresses longing for human sympathy.  Christine registers the conflict in his soul, and hands him back his mask.

Upon returning to the opera house, Christine apparently told the Girys she wanted to see no one, and then secluded herself.  She may not have known whom to trust anymore.  Everybody accuses Christine of “betraying” the Phantom, but if you think about it, she was betrayed by him first.  Her last, precious link to her father was gone, and in fact never existed in the first place.  The guardian she trusted as her protector and as the messenger from her father turned out to be someone entirely different.  She is right back where she was when her father died: alone, frightened, and unprotected, and hurting from shattered trust.  Just imagine what she just have felt.

If Christine had known that the managers were disobeying the Phantom’s orders with their casting choice, she probably would have refused to play Serefimo. The memory of the Phantom’s possessiveness and strictness–and his anger when disobeyed or provoked–must have been fresh in her mind.  Thus, when the Phantom interrupts Ill Muto and demands explanation for the managers’ actions, Christine is terrified.  Not only is this the first time he has revealed his voice to everyone, she can only imagine what he will do now that the company has disobeyed his instructions.  Then, when he taunts Carlotta and ruins her voice, Christine realizes his vengeful power.  And when Buquet is murdered, she knows it was the Phantom’s doing. These revelations are more horrible than losing whom she thought was the angel from her father.  When Buquet falls dead to the stage, Christine cries out to Raoul for help—the only man she might be able to trust—and he instantly comes.

Fleeing to the roof (as far from the lair as possible), Christine’s fear initially seems histrionic.  But think about the situation: after accusing the managers of disobeying his instructions, whom does the Phantom kill?  Buquet.  If he killed a man who had never wronged him to make a point, then anyone in the opera house might be the next target.  And Christine had previously been his pupil, but then forsook his guardianship.  Who would be a better target for the Phantom’s anger?  She does not assume that her previous relationship with the Phantom or even his desire to have her sing his music will save her.  Furthermore, she was the only one who knew his true identity; when she tore of his mask, he erupted with anger and the ominous threat of “Now you cannot ever be free!”  And he had just demonstrated that he could, one way or another, get what he wanted and punish those who opposed him.

And where could she go to escape him?  If he could sneak around unseen in the opera house, he could probably find her if she tried to leave the  company.  Furthermore, she had only recently taken star roles, and before that, she had been a chorus and ballet girl—a job that did not pay well in 19th century theatre.  (I’ve done some research.)  She probably didn’t have the money to go anywhere else, and she couldn’t just walk away from her source of income and immediately find another job to support her.

She tries to convince Raoul that the Phantom actually exists—and since she had been so easily manipulated by the Phantom once before—since she still felt a pull to his music—she may also be afraid that she will fall under his spell and return to him semi-willingly.  And he would probably not let her return to the upper world again.  She insists she has been to the Phantom’s home, which she describes in no rosy terms, but as a “world of unending night”, and “a world where the daylight dissolves into darkness.”

However, the situation is more complex than that, and Christine knows it.  She then explains the beauty of the man’s voice, a power and skill that captured her soul even while she feared his sway.  Then she reveals had seen sadness, pleading in his eyes.  Think about that; after being taken underground to a strange place, being nearly hypnotized and then being frightened by his deformity, Christine had noticed and remembered the grief in the man’s eyes.  It’s significant that this is the final piece of information she imparts to Raoul: the first was the ugliness and terror of the Phantom; the second was the power and beauty of his music; but the third was his sadness and loneliness.  This speaks volumes for her priorities and her compassion.

It’s also at this point that I take back my first impression that Christine was emotionally weak.  Because even though Raoul has made it clear he does not believe her story, or at least can’t understand it, she keeps telling him about her experience with the Phantom.  It’s possible she’s just thinking aloud; but since she called out to Raoul when Buquet falls dead from the rafters—and he came at once—she must have some level of trust in him.  Remember that she doesn’t confide in just anyone; only in those whom she considers her friends.

Just imagine the relief and comfort Raoul’s words must have given to a girl who’d been lonely and unprotected for years.  But she has grown wiser in several ways since the beginning of the story.  Firstly, she stipulates different priorities for a relationship. Earlier, she referred to the Phantom as “guide and guardian” and wanted him to “grant to me your glory,” and “come to me, strange Angel” (i.e. to reveal himself).  But here, she asks Raoul to love her “every waking moment.”  To cheer her emotionally and mentally—and to need her.  The Phantom had said he needed her “to sing for my music,” but Christine asks Raoul whether he needs her with him, “now and always.”  She wants to make sure that she fills a need in his entire life, just as he fills a need in hers.

Secondly, Christine isn’t seeking temporary relief and protection.  She is the first to specify a lifelong commitment with her line, “Say you need me with you now and always.”  And she continues to refer to a lifelong commitment through the rest of the song.  But she isn’t using Raoul for emotional fulfillment either.  She does want his companionship and protection, but she says, “you’ll guard me and you’ll guide me.”  In other words, she recognizes the need for a wiser head in her life.

And thirdly, though she is willing to trust Raoul, she also seeks assurance of his faithfulness.  ““Promise me that all you say is true,” this being “All I ask of you.”  Think about that: she is willing to trust Raoul after being betrayed by the man she had trusted as her guardian.  This speaks volumes for her opinion of her childhood friend.  And through the rest of the musical, she does trust him.  There’s no indication she doubts his love or his commitment.  (She hesitates at the Don Juan plan, but not because she doubts Raoul will protect her, or even doubts that the plan is necessary.  On the contrary, she’s knows it’s necessary, and that’s what makes her pause.)

Christine doesn’t promise specific actions of love the way Raoul does, but she does promise to share “each day…each night, each morning.”  And she fulfills that by staying with him during the rest of the musical, through their disagreement about announcing their engagement and through her hesitation about singing in Don Juan.  She also continues to confide in Raoul and to trust him unconditionally.  (Even if she disagrees with his methods.)  And she sticks with Raoul on his own merit.  Raoul never has to refer to her past or her memories to call her back to him; and if anything, Christine refers more to the present and the future when she’s with Raoul.  And promising to share a love and life with him is not a promise to be made lightly.  I think it indicates that she loves him, and so she wants to make sure her feelings are reciprocated.

Or, disgruntled Phantom/Christine shippers will say, all this is entirely selfish, and Christine simply wants to be rescued.  Well, she does want to be protected, but notice that she never asked Raoul—or anyone—for protection.  She looked to the Phantom as a guardian, but only because she believed he was a messenger from her father.  No one else has been Christine’s companion or protector, and she’s stood on her own two feet and earned her own living by her own discipline in the opera ballet corps.  And she seemed prepared to continue doing so (starring in Ill Muto, for example, despite the bad experience after her last appearance onstage).  When Raoul offered his protection and hinted at a romantic relationship, Christine accepted—but wisely specified a long-term commitment and also assured herself that Raoul was completely trustworthy and that he truly valued her and needed her.

She also repeatedly refers to both of them sharing a lifetime, and she is willing to follow Raoul wherever he goes: “Say the word, and I will follow you.”  Selfish motives here simply don’t match her actions and character through the entire story.  She’s a loving, compassionate young woman who dearly values her friends and family, and who trust implicitly those she considers friends, but who also is under no more delusions about the reality of the situation.  And since she later hesitated to betray the Phantom, whom she knew was untrustworthy and a confirmed murderer besides, would she really accept Raoul, whom she knew she could trust, with ulterior motives?

Interesting, though that Christine never says directly to Raoul “I love you.”  I think this was done deliberately to keep her motives ambiguous; but based on her actions, I do think she loved Raoul genuinely.

As I did with Raoul’s posts, I shall end Part 1 of this post at the end of Act 1.  Stay tuned for Part 2!

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Artwork Wednesday – A Small Twist

Today’s post will feature quotes from my characters, not pencil-and-paint work. Two reasons for this: 1. I have no artwork prepared for this week, and 2. I’m working on drawings of Lennox for my upcoming post about him (stay tuned!)  Hopefully, I’ll have drawings to show next week, but for now, I’ll post verbal artwork instead.

Now, not all these quotes will make it into the finished story–but they reveal a good deal about the characters.  🙂

Quotes from my unnamed literary novel (set in Yorkshire in the 1820s–30s):

“Tell me quickly,” said Charles, nearly exasperated.  “I am late already.”

“By a full two moments?” called Thomas from the other room.

 

“Charles, if Lord James thought our station an impediment, he would not pay me such marked attention,” Dorothea said.  “Are we not to trust his judgment as well as ours?”

Charles sat down.  “His judgment might be impaired by his need for money.”

Dorothea lowered her work and sent her brother a severe stare.  “That is not fair to Lord James or to his father.  They do need money,” she continued, resuming her sewing, “but Lord James is prudent and honorable.  If he feared our new wealth would corrupt his family’s rank, I do not think he would pay me any attention.  And we are honest with each other.  If he finds me lacking in any thing, he will tell me, and I shall attempt to satisfy him.”

 

“You will forgive me for being indelicate,” Dorothea said, looking up at her brother “but you apprehend a good deal that does not happen.”

 

“Really, James, you are newly-married and ought to be a good deal more punctual than this,” Harriet said, “–especially since you are escorting your wife.”

Dorothea was about to reprimand this remark, but James said, “At least I have made some improvement.  Where is Father?”

“Papa!” Harriet called down the hall, “Even James is ready now!”

 

James, as always, refused to take coffee; he had for years observed the peculiar sway it held over his otherwise self-controlled friend, and would himself remain free of such mastery.

 

“The only dissatisfaction I have with curls,” said Harriet, “is that they become untidy with the least provocation!”

 

“I am all right,” Charles insisted.  This was not as consoling at he intended, for he would say the same if he were in the final stages of consumption.

 

Alice suddenly pointed at the dog and announced: “Buppy.”

Mr. Carter smiled and knelt by the dog’s head. “Would you like to pet her?”

Alice glanced up at her mother and then ventured forward, but she looked at Mr. Carter very seriously.  “He bite,” she prophesied.

“No, she will not bite. But let her sniff your hands first.”

 

“Will you sit down?” Alice asked. Mr. Carter nodded and sat on the small chair nearby. Alice stared at him and patted the grass with both hands.

“Oh, on the ground,” Mr. Carter said, lowering himself to that level. “My mistake.”

 

James raised an eyebrow.  “Are you flirting?”

“Yes,” Dorothea answered lightly, “but with impunity, as we are already married.”

James laughed.

 

The whole plot is kicked off by Dorothea and James deciding to marry–so there’s no point in keeping that secret!

 

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Weekly Artwork Round-Up

No point in calling it Artwork Wednesday, because this post is (a) not featured on Wednesday, and (b) ridiculously late.

One art problem I’ve faced recently is how to deal with reference photos. Printing every photo I want to draw from uses a lot of paper and ink. Sketching with my laptop precariously balanced on my knees is not only bad for the laptop and my arms and legs, but eraser crumbs get between the computer keys. So…why don’t I just rest the laptop on a table? Because I hate, hate, hate people seeing the reference photo on the screen or seeing my drawing when I’m first sketching. It’s not so bad if the drawing looks like a human with clothes on, but before I get the sketch to that stage…

Anyway, I have  five pictures to show this week!

First up is Sanchia, a character from my semi-western story with a working title of Gentle Fire.  I picture Sanchia so vividly that it was great to capture that on paper more or less easily!  Also notice that the wool skeins drape over her wrists so that I don’t have to bother drawing hands like yarn skeins do in real life.  Especially since she’s paused her work to listen to someone talk.

This is the cabin that Durant and his family live when they first move to the western colonies.  The table is just slabs of wood set on sawn logs, and there are no proper shelves, cupboards, or even beds yet.  But it’s their own house on their own property, and that’s enough for them once they survive the journey.

Nonetheless, Wilson promised to build proper shelves and beds as soon as possible.

I drew this with charcoal–and there’s a funny story to go along with it.  Ever since I began drawing, Dad tried to get me interested in charcoal drawing, because we had a kit and tutorial series somewhere in our detached office.  I was too busy learning to use pencils, however, to turn my attention to charcoal.  Fast forward a couple of years to when I bought an art set only for the little art mannequin to use for drawing poses.  But charcoal pencils were included in the set–and out of random curiosity, I used them to draw this.  And–

I. Love. Charcoal.

I promptly informed Dad about this and thanked him for mentioning that medium and the art set out in the office.  And for the record, my parents are right 99% of the time.  🙂

My brother Chris suggested I draw concept art for my story to get an idea of the atmosphere and aesthetic–so I took his advice and started watercolor sketches in my leather sketchbook.  This is the rancho of another character: Barros (father of Maria, whom I mentioned here, and Teresita, whom I haven’t mentioned yet. 🙂 )

Another watercolor sketch, this one of the books Durant brought to the west.  The bottom one is a book of natural science; the next one up is a biography; the third is a small volume of poetry; the fourth is a novel of some sort; the fifth is  a brief history of the nation; the sixth (the long, grey one) is a primer; and the topmost book is Durant’s personal record book where he jots down financial information, a brief description of the day’s events, and sometimes his nephew’s antics.

Speaking of nephews, here’s Alex, Durant’s eldest nephew.  With his uncle’s hat on his head–Durant has a habit of dropping his hat on the head of whichever nephew is nearest!

Part of me wants to draw Lennox again, and get back to A Tale of Two Cities fanart–but I can’t stop drawing my Gentle Fire characters!  So who knows what artwork I’ll have to showcase next week!

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Writing Tip #12: Use Your Feelings

Not in the Jedi way, but as ideas or prompts for your story.  For example, earlier today I was frustrated at the slow progress while writing my story.  I was also unsure how to record and file my notes; it had been so long since I finished a story that I needed a quick system and wasn’t sure which of my options was faster.  Then I thought, “I can use this.”  So I jotted a note that my main character drives himself at various points because he thinks he’s not making progress/doing enough.  He deliberates too long at other points because he’s afraid of making a wrong decision.

So next time you’re angry, frustrated, sad, about something specific–think whether your characters experience that problem and emotion (or something like it) and describe the feelings in notes.  Imagine at what points in the story those discouragements might occur, how your character might react, what the consequences of that reaction is.

And that note-writing might just get your mind off your own feelings for a little while.  🙂

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The Writer’s Tag – A Sort of Resume

I love tags and memes.  Have I mentioned that?  So when I came across Lana’s post, and saw that she tagged any reader who wanted to do it, I was immediately interested.

The tag covers all kinds of subjects, which is why it feels like a unique writer’s resume–but a fun resume.  🙂

What genres, styles, and topics do you write about?

Genres – Mostly Crossover!

Half the stories I write or plan to write are genre crossovers.  The story set in the tropics in the year 1781 looks at face value like a high-seas and island adventure with the necessary pirates.  But it’s actually a mystery, one with an island setting (and therefore called “Island Mystery” at the moment.  Aren’t I clever? 🙂 )  The semi-western story has the trappings of a typical pioneer story–but it’s actually a fantasy-of-manners set in the 1820s–30s west/southwest.  And with an emphasis on politics.  My British political novel looks like…well, a political novel–and it is, but it’s technically alternate history and social critique.  And my steampunk story looks like any number of genres, but is a solid combo of steampunk, social sci-fi, hard sci-fic, and social critique.

Now that I think about it, a lot of my stories could be listed under “social critique” as well.

The funny thing is, I didn’t plan on writing genre crossovers–I just thought, “Hey, what if X historical event happened differently?  And I’m annoyed by Y, so let’s make that a plot point as well.”  Or whatever.

The only problem is how to market these stories.  I read an article that recommended putting it like this: “It’s a (particular genre), but folks who like (other genre) might also enjoy it.”  Except that my crossovers thus far have been so solidly blended that to market one genre would ignore another key foundation of the story.  I’ll figure it out, hopefully before I publish anything.

Styles – It Varies

Really, this varies with the story setting and time period.  If the story is set in 1830s America, I try to match the general style of language in letters and diaries from the time.  If the story is set in the 1890s (such as my steampunk story), I try to match the style of novels written during the turn of the century.  I read a lot of period fiction written during the same decade of my story to get an idea of the style of the day.

However, the writing styles I aspire to generally are Dickens, Bronte, and Tolkien.

Topics – Rather Obscure

If any of you readers know of stories with these kinds of topics, feel free to say so!

Settings in the 1820s–30s

British, American, Irish, you name it–a lot of my stories are set in these decades. I think it’s my tendency to explore the ignored questions/aspects of history; compared to the more popular Regency, Victorian, and Wild West eras, the 1820s–30s are slightly obscure.  Which baffles me, because interesting things were happening socially and politically in both England and America!  On the other hand, I have a taste for social mechanisms and political complexities, so this could be a personal preference thing.  Speaking of…

Politics

I cannot keep politics out of my stories.  I’ve tried.  It keeps slipping in.  Of the 10 novels I’m planning/writing, only 3 don’t feature politics…and even then one of those three might make political statements in the subtext.

Tejanos (Mexican Texians)

This began after I watched the 2004 film The Alamo and re-read the American Girl Josefina stories.  Now, at least five stories feature Mexican characters!

Multitudinous Character Casts

Blame Dickens and Tolkien for this one.  I’m not afraid to cut characters who end up being superfluous (though they often reappear in a different story), but I definitely start with a large cast.

Couples who marry long before the story ends

This happens in nearly every story!  It’s just more interesting to see how the couple pursues their goals with a significant other.  Anyway, romance in my stories often contributes to the main plot–usually as a further exploration of a character’s values, goals, and motives–but at the same time isn’t the ultimate point.

As such, I’ve wondered whether to keep who-ends-up-with-whom a secret.  One the one hand, it’s almost pointless if the couple gets together before the end.  On the other, I do like to be careful about spoilers.  What do you readers think?


How long have you been writing?

Officially since I was 12 or 13; un-officially all my life.  I’ve been making up stories as long as I can remember, usually adventures with the Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings characters.  One of my favorite stories to play was having these characters stumble into our world around the time the movies were released, and me and my other friends having to keep them hidden–otherwise, fans of the movies would freak out and mob them, or blackmail them, or try to turn them into celebrities.

When I was little, I did write and illustrate a six-book series (in the style of the American Girls books) starring me and my 100-Acre Wood friends.  These stories were published by School Scissors & Stapler, Inc., despite having no plot whatsoever, only vignettes that somehow connected in my six-year-old-mind.  🙂

Then at age 12, I got a idea about a some kids who stumble into another world (so original!) and journey across the mountains with grown-up comrades.  It seemed like the best idea ever, so I began to write it down, and never looked back.  Even though that story never panned out, it gave me the discipline and momentum to write more stories!


Why do you write?

Because I have stories in my imagination that I want to read someday!  I also love exploring my own thoughts and ideas and intriguing concepts through writing (one of many reasons why I cannot write a short story–simply not enough time to flesh out a concept!).

I also love creating and playing with characters.  They provide a good mirror of reality, and often help me see life in a new way.


When is the best time to write?

I grab any time available.  I prefer to write in the early morning (don’t laugh; I do prefer this even if my habits are night-owlish) and definitely prefer silence and solitude.  However, I’ve learned to tune out my surroundings–closing my eyes helps and helps me focus on my mental image–and stick earbuds in to block noise.  🙂


What parts of writing do you love, and what parts do you hate?

Love:

  • That flash of inspiration for a character idea/story idea I know is good
  • On a similar note, the thrill of a new idea
  • Ideas coming together, especially after a struggle to get them there
  • Creating and developing characters
  • Writing a scene I know is awesome!
  • Writing more than I thought I would during the allotted time
  • Getting other people interested in my ideas and getting great feedback
  • Exploring my own ideas, clarifying my thinking through writing, and inspiring myself by it!
  • Writing characters I absolutely love
  • Writing fun or fluffy scenes as a break from dark or dangerous plot threads

Hate:

  • Short stories.  Not enough to work with, people; come on, give me concepts to flesh out!
  • Having to write scenes that are boring, but necessary to the plot
  • Having to cut a plot or character I like (though I often re-use them in another story)
  • When the characters won’t talk to me and explain what they want to do in the story!
  • Non-writers assuming that (a) I’ll have a book finished fairly soon and (b) I’ll definitely get it published
  • Repeated questions about when the book will be finished and published
  • Consistently having to say “no, not finished yet” to the above questions
  • Knowing people are judging/confused about this
  • No, I’m not annoyed by that; why do you ask?
  • Having a whole day/hour/block of time to write and NO IDEAS
  • Writing slower than I expected to

How do you overcome writer’s block?

One of two ways: muscle through it, or take a break.

I  start with the first and often ask, “Okay, what is the problem?  Why is writing this character so hard/planning this segment so difficult?”  After a little thinking, I’m usually able to realize that I’m forcing the character into a box rather than letting him do his own thing, or that I don’t know the character well enough, or that there isn’t enough conflict in this part of the story, or that a plot thread doesn’t contribute to the point.  Identifying the problem shows me what to focus on instead, e.g. I need to get to know this character better, or to remove those ideas that don’t contribute.

If I’ve tried all that and remain stuck, I take a break.  I’ll get unstuck eventually.   🙂


Are you working on something at this moment?

Yes, the semi-western (with a working title of Gentle Fire).  I also jot ideas for other stories as they come!


What are your writing goals this year?

Well, I intended to finish a draft of Gentle Fire  by the end of the year…but the year is half over and I’ve barely started.  Not sure whether to keep that ambition and get as close as possible to the goal, or to drop it in favor of something more attainable.  Beyond that, I’m really not sure; new health problems have cropped up, and I need to manage the symptoms and work around difficult nights/days.  So I generally take it day by day, e.g. today, I’ll do a little character development and draft the rest of that scene, and then we’ll see.

Okay, I tag Julia and Bella, if they’re interested!

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Artwork Thursday – New Art Supplies!

Late is better than never, right?  My internet connection kept breaking yesterday, and so I couldn’t log on here and get the post up.  *sighs*  But here we are now!

While at Hobby Lobby the other day, I saw a beautiful leather sketchbook with soft pages that might hold watercolor nicely.  I decided to take the risk and buy it…

Isn’t it gorgeous?  And when I’ve used up the pages, I think I know how to remove the leather cover and re-use it for another journal.

I also picked up a portable watercolor set…

…which was an impulse purchase, but a good one.  I’ve wanted for years to have a portable watercolor set so I could paint outside and use the scenery around me as reference.

Here I am painting outside!  After getting nearly blinded by sunlight reflecting off those white pages, I prudently relocated to a shady spot.  The journal pages did hold watercolor pretty well–not as perfectly as my professional watercolor paper, but well enough for sketching!

I also tried sketching with pencil in the leather journal…

…but it’s rather hard to erase without shredding the page.  This is my character Sanchia, from my semi-western story.

Same character with some shading and detail.  Not sure which version I like better!

This is myself caricatured as a walnut.  And before you all blink in disbelief and unsubscribe, let me explain: I was goofing off with a friend through text and making her laugh…and then got this hilarious image of myself as nut with a posh hat.  So I doodled the image!  Also, I shall make “sass with class” my personal motto.  🙂

I’ve kept up my crocheting…

…and made a cover for a chair cushion.  I even followed a crochet pattern–sort of.  I’m one of those crocheters who change the pattern as suits their needs.  🙂  No harm in being flexible!

Then at the last minute yesterday, I realized it was Flag Day…

…so I doodled this (and the leather journal holds colored pencil pretty well too–good to know!)

I also left off the stars because it would take until next Flag Day to draw them all!  🙂

And I finally finished a drawing I’d started weeks ago…

…this is Maria, another character from the semi-western.  She’s quiet, but fun-loving, and so she’s jumping off rocks or something like that here.

That’s all for now!

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The Action This Evening

*Gingersnap is calmly watching TV*

*a commercial for Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk appears*

Gingersnap: *gasp* “DUNKIRK! DUNKIRK! BOYS! GET IN HERE IT’S A DUNKIRK COMMERCIAL!”

*thuds and door slams from the back of the house*

*boys burst into the living room like that scene from The Sound of Music when the Von Trapp children first appear*

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My Preteen Poetic Spirit

I wrote this poem when I was 12 or 13. Other “poems” of mine will never be revealed, and will be discovered in a long-forgotten folder after my death, because they had no meter or rhyme whatsoever. But this one amused me when I remembered it last night. 🙂

For many people

Springtime brings

A number of wonderful

Beautiful things

Like birds and trees

And flowers and bees,

But for me

Spring

Only brings

Allergies.

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Writing Tip # 11: Skip Ahead

Who says you have to write your story chronologically? It can be helpful–but then again, it can also get you stuck. If you know generally where your story is going, you can jump ahead to a less difficult spot, to a segment where you know which events happen and what the consequences are. Jumping ahead and working on a different part of the story could spark ideas for that trouble spot as well.  Anyway, the story is a draft, right? It doesn’t have to be a smooth read from start to finish that first time. 🙂