Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Novemberish Snippety Things

I had a "Snippets of Half NaNo" post all planned. I did, really I did.  All nicely laid out, with my favorite bits chosen and organized... in my head.  And here it is almost mid-December, practically Christmas,  A STEP AWAY FROM 2013, and I'm only JUST getting around to it.

C'est la vie.

Anyways.  Snippets of The Rochesters, from November.  Nothing from December yet because I'll do that in January... besides, I've barely written anything this month.

“She doesn’t need this job, Sylvia.  She’s saving to go to beauty school and she doesn’t even have an interest in libraries.  She’s just working here to save up money so she can learn how to curl hair.  She could do that at the grocery store, for Pete’s sake.”  Celia was fuming now.
Mark snickered from the other side of the shelf. “I’ve never seen anybody curl hair at the grocery store.”

“Omelets are not uncivilized,” said Francie indignantly.  “Sylvia, did they ever serve omelets at your school?”
Sylvia, glad to be asked a question and not merely left to vegetate while everyone else did all the work, scrambled for an intelligent reply.  “Um?”

Francie plopped on the sofa beside them.  “Sylvia, where should we start?  How much do you know about the wedding and how much do you need to be filled in on?”
“Don’t say filled in on,” pleaded Alice.
Sylvia tried to remember if she had, indeed, been told anything at all about the wedding.  “I know Alice and George are getting married,” she volunteered hopefully.  “And I know from Francie’s part of the letter that the wedding’s going to be later this summer.  And… I think that’s all.”
“Goodness.”  Alice sat back against the sofa cushions.  “I really am awful at writing letters.”
“Do tell,” said Francie.

She had never seen a wedding dress up close and personal.  Even shop windows stuck an impertinent piece of glass between you and the lovely things, and most shop owners frowned upon teenage girls who came into the shops and requested permission to try on the bridal things.  She knew this for a fact because she’d watched Nancy Broderick and Claudia Willet do it once on a dare.  They had, of course, been kicked out, without an overabundance of ceremony.  

Celia thumped on the door.  “Sylvia, I hope you’re not washing your hair.”
Sylvia put her warm thoughts aside for the present and dropped her washcloth back into the sudsy water.  “No, no, I’m not.”
Did they have a rule about hair washing around here?  No one had mentioned it, and she had thought the girls’ heads all looked pretty clean. 

“What is this mysterious substance, anyway?”  Sylvia had wanted to ask since Celia had opened the evil-smelling pink bottle, but hadn’t had a chance to get a word in. 
“Yeah, what is it, anyway?” Francie inhaled a suspicious sniff.  “Celia, I hope you know what you’re doing.”
“Never you mind what it is.  You always make fun of me for ordering things from catalogs.” 
“This is from a catalog?  Sight unseen?  Not even recommended by the all-wise and all-knowing Janie Bassett?”  Francie pretended to swoon onto the bed.  Timmy, charmed by the idea of a new game, promptly swooned onto the floor.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Half NaNo... The End

*coughcough it's December 5th already coughcough*

Technically this post should have appeared on Friday the 30th, but I was having a really crazy day that day... finishing the last-minute bits of the P&P95 Forever Club (a six-month project with a certain best friend that took a tremendous amount of time and of which I'm unashamedly proud) and racing to get 3500 words written so I could finish Half NaNo on time (more on that later), preparing for ten overnight guests (I kid you not) and dissolving into sobs of frustration over the waistband of a skirt I was making for my aunt that just wouldn't lie flat, only to find that I'd misunderstood the directions (I still maintain it was the stupid pattern's fault for printing confusing diagrams).  This is why I like to draft my own patterns.

So that is why I didn't get the post up until now.  Part of the reason also may be that I didn't want to admit defeat.

Yeah, defeat.

I fell 1,300 words short of my goal.  Thirteen hundred measly words.  Words I probably could have cranked out in under two hours if I had just had the time.  Which I didn't.

And yet, though I didn't make my goal, I don't feel like I failed.  This can mean one of two things-- a) that I simply refuse to admit that I couldn't do something or b) that the point of Half NaNo was more than just accomplishing 25K.

I'm going with B. Because I really did accomplish what I set out to accomplish with Half NaNo.  The Rochesters finished November at a whopping 32,256 words, which is far, far more than I would have written had I not been working under the Half NaNo threat incentive.  I learned way more about my characters.  (Even though I didn't do Beautiful People every week... cough cough ahem.)  I introduced new plot twists (one of which I'm thinking of scrapping, actually... but that's not the point).  I changed a character's name (because the old one just didn't sit right).  I wrote scenes that had been giving me trouble even just in the outline.  I wrote when I felt like it, I wrote when I didn't feel like it, I worked through a head cold and Thanksgiving and schoolwork and a computer crash.

And now, even though I didn't "win" Half NaNo, I feel pretty much invincible right now.  The feeling will pass, Lizzy, and no doubt more quickly than it should, but for now I'm enjoying it.

How'd you do?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fourth Check-in {and the Half NaNo tag!}

This was what I was supposed to be doing this week.

And this is what I actually did this week...

{spending time with family}

I am seriously embarrassed to tell you what my word count was for this week.  But I am a good girl, I am, and an honest one to boot, soooo...

I wrote 2,544 words this week.  

*cowers in shame*

This means my stats are as follows.

Word Count When This Piece of Craziness Began: 8,536
Total Word Count As Of Now:  25,045
Final Word Count Goal: 33,536
Daily Word Count Goal: 1,000
Average Daily Word Count: Eh, heh. Heh, heh, heh.
Words Remaining: 8,489

In other words, I have to do 8,489 words this coming week.  From Monday to Friday.  Do you think I can do it?  How about you?  What's your word count?  Are you feeling stressed and strained yet?

Favorite Bit Written This Week:

Francie sighed.  “Taste is immaterial.  Eggs are much less fattening than grilled cheese.”Alice choked back a laugh.  “Oh, Francie, really.  You’re not trying to reduce again, are you?”“Only a little.  For the wedding.  I have my reasons.”Alice raised her eyebrows.  “Well, it’s your lunch.”“You mean your funeral,” said Mark, peering into the pan and reeling back as if he’d been socked.  “If you don’t survive eating that thing, will you leave your bicycle to me?”Francie was saved from an annoyed retort by a thumping knock on the back door.   Alice dropped the plate of sandwiches into Sylvia’s startled hands and flew to get it.  Patsy beamed benevolently.  “It’s George,” she said, a bit after the fact, as Alice reentered the room with a tallish young man and Pumblechook.
Mark and Timmy immediately made kissing noises. 
Challenge Taken  This Week: Gasp! I forgot! 


I'll do it next week.  I promise.  And I won't issue a new challenge this week, but instead I shall give all y'all a tag to fill out.  Everyone loves a tag, right? These things are fun and fun is good.

~What's the name of your project? When did you first come up with the idea? And how long have you been working on it?

~Sum up your novel in five words or less.

~Who is your favorite character?  Tell us about him or her.

~Where does your novel take place?  What time period?

~Do you have a theme song for your story?  What is it?

~What's been the hardest part to write so far?

~Which chapter was your favorite so far?

~Can you share one of your favorite snippets?  (One you haven't shared on your blog already)

~Are any aspects of your story drawn directly from your own life?  Give us an example.  

~Your main character gets dumped into a big city in the modern era (or if you're writing a contemporary work, he/she gets dumped in medieval London).  How does he/she respond?

~Who's the funniest character in your story? Tell us why! Give examples! Support your argument.  :D

~If you were forced to eliminate a character from your story--just wash them clean off the slate--who would it be?

~Do you plan on writing a sequel to your novel?

There you have it! I'm opening this tag to anyone and everyone who wants to participate.  Whether you're doing Half NaNo, full NaNoWriMo, or just writing without a specific challenge, go ahead and fill out the questions if you're interested.  Do please leave a link in the comments so I can see your answers! 

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Third Check-In

You know what I said last time about not meeting the goal?  Yeah.  That again.  But you know what?  I'm not letting it bother me.  Life is tremendously busy for me just now, and the fact that I got about 5200 words written this week (erm... last week... yes, this post is late) is good enough for me.  Will I finish Half NaNo, at the rate I'm going?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But at this point, I'm just enjoying the ride.

Are you?

Word Count When This Piece of Craziness Began: 8,536
Total Word Count As Of Now:  22,501 [before any writing was done today]
Final Word Count Goal: 33,536
Daily Word Count Goal: 1,000
Average Daily Word Count: too tired to do the math... but it's less than 1,000.  Heehee.
Words Remaining: 11,025

Challenge Taken This Week: I stuck in a pirate!  Well, I stuck in a pirate in a character's imagination.  Yes, that counts.  It's my challenge, after all.  :D
“We could get all kinds of people to come and stay.”  Mark stopped to pick up a stone and attempt to dribble it as he walked.  “Travelers from all over the world, maybe.  And they could tell stories around the dinner table.”
“And show us their jewels and treasures from the caves of Arabia,” said Celia dryly.
“Maybe they’d even be pirates!” Timmy’s eyes widened.  “If one was a pirate, we could keep him.”
“In Pumblechook’s doghouse?” inquired Celia.
“No, silly.  He could share a room with Mark and me.  You’d let a pirate have your bed, wouldn’t you, Mark?  If he had an eye patch?”
“Why couldn’t the pirate have your bed, if it comes to that?”
“Because I like my bed.”
“Well, I like mine, and I’m not letting any One-Eyed Hook come and take it away from me.  Pirates don’t take baths, you know.”
“I think I’ll be a pirate when I grow up,” said Timmy, awed.

Favorite Snippet Written This Week:

This lake was quite different, and it was a lovely, wild kind of different.  For starters, the beach was practically nonexistent—a thin stretch of pebbly sand with rocks here and there and no semblance of order whatsoever.  The lake itself was rather small, and Sylvia could see clearly to the other side.  Pine trees, which Aunt Janet had never approved of because they were wont to shed like St. Bernards, studded the banks, and the air smelled sharp and clean and cold, not sun-warmed and proper like it did in the mountains.  “Isn’t it gorgeous?” said Celia comfortably.

Challenge for Next Week:  Use a word you've never used before (and I'm referring to fifty-cent dictionary words, not swear words, as I hope you realize).  Put it in your narrative or casually drop it in a favorite character's dialogue--it's your call.  Don't forget to post the snippet containing your word on your blog and drop me a link in the comments!

Did you do last week's challenge?  How'd your week go overall?  Do share in the comments!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Popping by to say...

...that if you're having any trouble whatsoever with Half NaNo, or Real NaNo, or Just Plain Writing In General, or Hog Calling*, go check out this post from my writerly friend Jessica.  Jessica, by the way, will soon be releasing her long-anticipated novel Annabeth's War.  I've been drooling over the teeny-weeny bits my sister has condescended to tell me about (Anne-girl got to read the manuscript awhile back) and I can't wait for the book to come out! So I'm poking a wee bit of advertising into this incredibly short post.


And, actually, since I'm feeling guilty over the shortness of this post, I will give you something to giggle over before you depart.  You're welcome.

*Well, not really.  

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Check-In the Second

Has it really been an entire week since the last check-in?  Well, if time flies when you're having fun it must also fly when you're pulling your hair out to find time to write.

Unfortunately I didn't quite meet my 6,000 word goal this week, but I came very close.  The stats...

Word Count When This Piece of Craziness Began: 8,536
Total Word Count As Of Now:  17,380
Final Word Count Goal: 33,536
Daily Word Count Goal: 1,000
Average Daily Word Count: 953
Words Remaining: 16,156

Challenge Taken This Week: I followed my own command and wrote in a person I encountered this week-- to be specific, the little boy I nanny/babysit every Monday.  He's a darling, but is prone to frequent bouts of crying if he's too long away from his mother, which is a bit of a frustration each week.  So it was great fun to channel that frustration into an entire chapter about a baby who will not. stop. crying.
Perhaps he’d lost his hold on the bunny blanket.  She dropped the rest of the silverware onto the counter—it didn’t matter now, he was awake anyway—and hurried to the nursery.  Give him back his blanket, roll him over on his side so he’ll go back to sleep. She could do this.  It wasn’t as if he was howling.  He was just… crying.
The noise subsided as she got closer—perhaps he had gone back to sleep.  Or perhaps he was comforted by the sound of footsteps nearing.  It was nice to think that a baby might be comforted by her presence.  She could handle this; she was responsible.  But as she peeped over the edge of the crib and made eye contact with Isaac, he immediately set up a howl.  It was most definitely a howl this time, a howl of the most howlish sort.  Wolves, she reflected, might take lessons from this child.
Favorite Snippet Written This Week:

“This isn’t the right stuff,” said Celia, taking a long, deep sniff from the bottle of hairspray she held.  “What on earth is this anyway, Francie?”
“Hairspray,” said Francie dryly.  “I realize the label is in Mandarin Chinese, so it would make sense that you would have to ask—”
Celia pursed her lips.  “Come on, Francie, I know it says hairspray, but you and Alice kind of have just the tiniest tendency to reuse bottles.  Don’t you remember the time you put talcum powder in an old cornstarch container and the gravy was absolutely disgusting?”
Challenge for Next Week: Put a pirate in your story.  It doesn't matter how-- have him sail into the nearest harbor for real, or let him appear in a pretend game, or even mention that someone's reading a book about him.  Whoever he is, make sure to give him a name and at least a sentence or two, somewhere in your story.  An eye patch is optional but recommended.

Did you do last week's challenge?  How'd your week go overall?  Do share in the comments!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

It's too early for that game {Beautiful People: Celia Rochester}

Celia Jane Rochester, take your nose out of your book and meet Beautiful People.  Beautiful People from June 2011, this is Celia.

Enough with the introductions and polite chit-chat, I'm on a Half NaNo schedule here.  Let's cut to the chase.

What kind of music does she like?

Celia's not the kind of person who will turn on the Victrola of her own accord, but she doesn't mind listening when another member of the family has a record blaring.  By proxy, she enjoys classical music (particularly Beethoven) and Broadway showtunes (except when Francie is singing them in the shower).

Does she like to go outside?

Of course.  Reading in trees is great fun.  Oh, you meant doing outside things like running around?  Well, sure, she likes all that too, but though the pleasures of kickball have some charms for her, she should infinitely prefer a book.

Is she naturally curious?

Very.  Sometimes too much for her own good.  She tends to ask too many questions of perfect strangers and get Looks from Certain Older Sisters. 

Right, or left handed?

Right handed.  And she's thirteen-and-three-quarters.  That was not part of the question, I know, but I felt the need to stick her age in somewhere--knowing how old people are is important, she'll tell you--and this seemed as good a place as any.

Favorite color?

Pink, in all its shades and forms.

Where is she from?

Cedar Lake, Michigan, a tiny lake town (do tell!) which can hardly be called a town--it's more of a village. Its extremely boring and commonplace name is one of Celia's pet peeves.  She has never been to Kalamazoo in the same state, but she has always held that that name is far more of a sit-up-and-take-notice kind.

Any enemies?

There are certain people she dislikes, but she doesn't have any enemies to speak of.  She and her cousin Sylvia have some real spats during the course of the story, however.

What are her quirks?

She likes peanut butter and jelly.  On pumpernickel bread.  With lettuce.  It's her favorite sandwich, partly because she likes the taste, but partly because she gets intense enjoyment out of making the rest of her family gag.  Oh, and she's good at playing practical jokes. Very good indeed.  

What kinds of things get on her nerves?

Getting up too early.  Oh, she hates that.  And being asked to read picture books out loud at the breakfast table when it's all she can do to keep her face out of her cereal.  

Arguing with a four-year-old, Sylvia decided, was something best not done before breakfast.  “How about we make some oatmeal together?”
Patsy’s head popped up and an impish smirk popped out.  “How about not?”
Sylvia sighed.  “Don’t you like oatmeal?”
“How about not?”  Patsy repeated.
Celia stumbled into the kitchen and then into a chair, huffing sleepily.  “She’s playing the ‘how about’ game again.  It’s too early, Patsycakes.”  
~The Rochesters 

Is she independent, or does she need others to help out?  

Celia would tell you that she's an independent person, but in reality she needs a hand now and then.  Now and then a lot.  Don't we all?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

First Check-In

Hello there, me fellow Half-NaNo-ers!  How'd the first week go? Okay, so technically it's not been a whole week.  But I've decided to do my check-ins/progress reports on Saturday evenings when I've finished writing for the week, and today will be the very first.  (Yes, thank you, my dear.)

In three days I wrote three thousand and twelve words, which puts me right where I wanted to be at the end of this first sort-of-week.  My goal is 1,000 words per day, as I don't plan to write on Sundays or on Thanksgiving Day (hey, every author needs a holiday, and I'll be at my grandmother's all day anyway).

I'm going to ape the Real NaNo's dashboard pages here and record my stats for the week... it's way too much work to do it every day, and frankly I "don't have the time or the want-to."  (That's a Grandma's Attic quote from Ma O'Dell, for your random information.)

Word Count When This Piece of Craziness Began: 8,536
Total Word Count As Of Now:  11,642
Final Word Count Goal: 33,536
Daily Word Count Goal: 1,000
Average Daily Word Count: 1,004
Words Remaining: 21,894

And I'm adding a few statistics of my own...

Character Discovered This Week-
Patsy Rochester, aged four-almost-five.  Okay, so she was in the story before this week.  Picky, picky, picky.  But it was only this week that I finally was able to put a face to the name.  And once I came across this picture of Shirley Temple, it was one of those "well, DUH" moments.  :D  Blogging world, meet Patsy.  Patsy, here are a bunch of fun and crazy people.

Favorite Snippet Written This Week-
Here the handwriting changed to something less neat but much prettier, with bubbles over the I’s instead of dots. This is Francie, and I think it would be much better if we all tell you about ourselves individually instead of leaving the whole thing to Alice.  Thank goodness she’s grown out of the habit of pinching my elbow every time I do something she doesn’t like, or else this part would be pretty sloppy.  Now she’s saying I had no business telling a thing like that to you who hardly even know us, but I believe you should know the worst about people from the start, that way you won’t get an unpleasant surprise.  Now Alice says that last comma should have been a semicolon, and I said that if she wants to dictate every detail of this letter she may as well just write the whole—oh, wait, never mind.

Challenge for Next Week-
Observe the people you see/meet this week--at the grocery store, at the library, at church, whatever--and stick someone into your story as a side character.  Ideally, use someone you don't actually know very well.  Change the name, of course, if you know his/her name, but try to portray him/her as accurately as possible in your story.  The character need only appear once if you want, but just add some flair to your WIP by introducing an interesting "extra."

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Half begun is well done (or something like that)

Okay, so it's actually "Well begun is half done, otherwise entitled Let's Tidy Up the Nursery."  But I'm paraphrasing it for my own devices.  (Name the movie the quote comes from, can you?)

Last year I did NaNoWriMo.  The full challenge: 50,000 words in the month of November.  It was grueling, it was fun, it was exhausting, it was invigorating, it was mind-numbing, it was inspiring, and it took a HUGE chunk of my time.  

This year, I can't do NaNo.  This weird thing called Life has zoomed down upon me, snatched up my spare time and kidnapped it for its own uses.  I'm doing ransom negotiations but those things take time, and since time is exactly what I lack at present, I'm getting nowhere fast.  

However.  Seeing all the excitement over NaNo that's brewing and stewing around the blogosphere is making me itch to participate.  And so I... have a plan.

("Oh, Percy, do be SERIOUS!"
"I am serious.  Deadly serious.")

Introducing Half NaNo
November 1-30, 2012

-You must commit to write 25,000 words for a novel you have previously started.  The ideal project is one that you have already outlined but has suffered from lack of inspiration.
-You must put the button below on your blog if you wish to participate in Half NaNo and refer to it as such.
-You are invited (but not required) to leave your blog URL in a comment on this post so I can link to you-- I'd like to have a list of participants on my sidebar.
-You must enjoy yourself and do this because you want to-- if you do it from a sense of duty or obligation or "well, I really SHOULD get at least SOME writing done" then you're doing it wrong.

Oh, and if you care to hop over here during November and tell us all how you're doing, that wouldn't be a bad idea either.  

Happy scribbling... The Rochesters and I will see you on November 1st!

Monday, October 15, 2012

What ho, what ho, what ho!

Manic Mother

What ho, my friends! My esteemed sister the Anne-girl has gone against Jeeves' better judgment and has worn a white evening jacket every night this week decided to do a simply splendiferous and may I say inspired thingamajigger.

I've always wanted to go to one of those big writers' conferences-- well, okay, ever since Anne-girl told me of their existence, which was about three months ago.  Relative terms, people, relative terms. But such a thing sounded positively top-notch, and I don't mind saying that I was quite yellow with longing to attend one of them.  (People are green with jealousy--is there any good reason why they should not be yellow with longing?)

But I have no more reason to be yellow or any other color, for on October 22nd (a week from today! ONE MORE WEEK 'TIL REVOLUTION!) there will be a veritable explosion of activity over at Anne-girl's blog, Scribblings of My Pen.  Because Anne-girl is hosting an online writers' conference and I don't think I'm going too far when I say that this kind of news just about takes the giddy biscuit!

There will be inspirational posts on a slew of different writing topics, there will be pep talks from Anne-girl's characters, there will be opportunities to swap your writing with fellow scribblers, there will be question-and-answer sessions with some of your favorite authors in the blogosphere (Anne's taking the questions now, by the way!) and plenty of rip-snorting fun.  Besides which, Anne has forcibly forced kindly invited me to distribute the prizes after the headmistress makes her commencement speech, and though I'm trying to foist the job off on Gussie Fink-Nottle, the end result may be quite entertaining.  So do come.

Oh, and don't forget to stop off here and pick up a button of your own-- let's spread the word, shall we?

Manic Mother
P.S.  To all of you who may think I've been watching too much Jeeves and Wooster lately-- I don't know what you're talking about.   *dances off singing Forty-Seven Ginger-Headed Sailors*

Friday, October 12, 2012

Well, this is awkward...

October always makes me feel quite writerly, for some reason.  Unfortunately, I was not particularly writerly this September, and though Snippets of Story may be quite brilliant in November after the inspiration of October has passed, this past month was... less than inspired.  What you see before you is pretty much all I wrote this month.


I shall do better in the coming weeks.  I promise.

 Jack’s eyebrows crinkled. “But Mr. Herbertson, sir—Jeeves in the Jeeves books isn’t a butler. He’s a valet.”
“No more is James Butler a butler. He’s my personal secretary,” Mr. Herbertson retorted, obviously quite anxious that the company should know that Mr. Butler was a personal secretary and not secretary to the unwashed masses at large. “And while we’re on the subject, young man, just what are you?”
~The Butterwick Boardinghouse Detectives 

 “What,” Jack inquired, “is THAT?”
“It is a cat,” said Deirdre, a little stiffly. “I have rescued it.”
“From a sausage machine?” Jack dropped his briefcase and bent down for a closer look. The cat snarled at him and batted an indignant, bedraggled paw.
“No indeed, what a horrid thought.” Deirdre scooped the cat up and turned away from Jack. The cat snarled at her and tried to wiggle away. “There’s nothing truly wrong with it—all it needs is a good hot bath and some food.”
“Indeed,” said Jack solemnly. “I should very much like to see you give that cat a hot bath, Miss McSmith.”
~The Butterwick Boardinghouse Detectives 

 Everything in Mrs. Buchran’s office was an uglier shade of yellow than the last item. If the sofa had matched the heavy gold drapes, or the butterscotch candies in the dish, perhaps it would not have been so jarring to look at, but as it was the clashing colors made Sylvia wince.
~The Rochesters 

 “It’s a really pretty room,” she said at last, and bit her tongue immediately afterwards to punish herself for the inanity of the comment. It was not, strictly speaking, a very pretty room. Functional would be a better term. Well, really it might best be described as—
“Oh, please, it’s kind of a mess right now.” Celia grinned. “Actually it’s kind of a mess all the time. We like to keep our stuff on display. Like a museum. See, over there, that’s what most people would call a dresser but we call it the portrait gallery.”
 The bureau was littered with pictures—photographs of each family member, including a young woman whose identity Sylvia could easily guess, along with several drawings in various stages of visibility that seemed to represent dogs.
 “Patsy likes to draw,” Celia explained.
 “They’re cute,” said Sylvia, which was quite true. Whether the pictures were artistic as well as cute was not the question at stake.
 ~The Rochesters 

 “Last year—” Celia began, but Alice interrupted.
“Last year the rule was exactly the same. Come on, now, let’s not have any more nonsense. There are lots of other things to do around here than swim in the lake.”
“I was going to say,” said Celia with dignity, “that last year the rule was the same and no one expired from lake deprivation before the Fourth.” 
~The Rochesters

 “Come on, Francie,” Celia pleaded. 
“It’ll be much more fun if you play,” Sylvia added. 
 “If Frances doesn’t want to play,” said Hilda, who seemed quite bored with the discussion, “then you shouldn’t keep nagging her, Celia.” 
Celia looked as though she were about to say something about how she could handle the nagging of her own sister, thank you very much, but Francie whisked her out of the room and into the hallway before she could speak. 
Sylvia, left alone with Hilda, resisted the urge to say, “Well, this is awkward.” 
~The Rochesters 

Philippe was silent for a moment more, then jabbed the top of her head gently with his chin. “Ah, well, she’ll think you were kidnapped by gypsies, in all likelihood, and she’ll give Chantal a holiday to celebrate.”
Margot laughed, the horse stumbled a little over a stone in the path, and her jaws clicked together on her tongue. She sucked a breath in through her teeth and determined not to squeal over it. “What shall I tell her when she asks where I’ve been?” 
Philippe made an exaggerated, loud thinking noise. “Ummmm… tell her you were kidnapped by gypsies, and it was only the hand of your valiant brother that was able to rescue you from certain death. She’ll be so pleased to see you safe home again and so proud of me for saving you that she’ll never think of scolding either of us.” 
~The Color of the Sky

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Something fishy this way comes

My family reads books aloud the way some families watch TV.  We don't have a TV, you know.
(Ooh, conservative-homeschooler-snob alert! Blare the alarms!)

We've been doing it since I was three and my mom began reading through the Little House on the Prairie series.  In the following fourteen years, we've made our way through The Swiss Family Robinson (blech), Old Yeller (amazing), Around the World in Eighty Days (great), The Yearling (twice!), Anne of Green Gables, A Little Princess, Treasure Island, From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, (love that one!) Robinson Crusoe, Gentle Ben, Oliver Twist, Journey to the Center of the Earth (don't ask...), The Cabin Faced West, Toby Tyler, Little House on the Prairie (again), and way too many others to count.  We're in Carry On, Mr. Bowditch right now, in case you're curious.

By now you're probably glancing back at the post title and asking, what does all this have to do with fish?  And what on earth does it have to do with writing?

Be patient.  I have to have an introduction, don't I?  Grab your attention and all that.

So I like fish.  I really, really like fish.  But I like them on a plate and not in the pages of a book.
(I mean that FIGURATIVELY, peeps.  Do you honestly think I've opened books to find flattened salmon squished inside them?  Please.  Peanut butter and jelly, yes, fish, no.)

Four or five years ago, my dad read aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to our family.  It was pretty good as far as Jules Vernes' science fiction goes-- better than Journey to the Center of the Earth (we didn't even finish that one) but not as good as Around the World in Eighty Days.  The premise of the story is fascinating-- it's all about this crazy guy named Captain Nemo who built himself a submarine, a marvel of engineering, in which he lives all the year round, hiding from the world in the depths of the ocean.  Oh, and he stabs ships with the submarine.  Did I mention it has a tusk thingy? He's actually become the enemy of pretty much the entire seagoing world: navies from dozens of countries are bent on finding Nemo and getting him to stop his unexplained ship-stabbing.

The book is told from a professor's point of view, an ordinary man whose ordinary ship sinks in the Atlantic. He and two of his friends are--quote, unquote--rescued by Captain Nemo and permitted to stay on the submarine, known as the Nautilus.  (It's chambered, by the by.)  Captain Nemo's mysterious existence fascinates the professor, whose name escapes me, and the professor and his friends are most curious to find out who this man is and why he does what he does.  They travel all over the ocean floor together, and a lot of interesting things happen (I won't give too much away, I promise) but for a good deal of the time, the submarine just zooms along quietly and a great many fish swim by the windows.

Fish!  Fish! There they are at last!  Now we get to the fish!

If you've read 20,000 Leagues, you'll understand what I mean when I say that the fish descriptions are... lengthy.  If you haven't read it, let me endeavor to explain.  Imagine that Jules Verne is an overexcited five-year-old sitting at the breakfast table recounting a long and involved dream he had last night.  Now imagine that he has a book contract and is being paid by the word.  Add a shake or two of Fondness For Description, be sure to include a bit of Let Me Educate My Ignorant Readers, multiply by 100 and repeat ad nauseum.

Um, okay, so I exaggerated a wee bit.  BUT STILL.  The amount of fish description that goes into this book is unbelievable.  In some parts it reads like an adventure story, but in others it reads like a textbook on marine life.  And the marine life parts are about as boring as Mr. Woodhouse's grocery list (which, if you're interested, consists of oatmeal, oatmeal, oatmeal and skim milk).

But why?  What's wrong with description?  Why can't Jules Verne drone about fish and hold our attention at the same time?  Is there something wrong with fish?  Does Amy have something against fish?  Hmmmmmm?

Nope, there's nothing wrong with fish.  Or description for that matter.  The point I'm trying to make here is not that fish and endless description are bad, but that they are often unnecessary.  Fish are good.  Especially with lemon butter.  Description is good too... when properly used.  You can have too much of a good thing, you know.

Part of the appeal of a book (for me at least) is that a truly good one will make pictures in my head without any effort on my part.  (Laziness may have something to do with my enjoyment of that...) A truly good book will allow me to "see" what's going on by combining just the right amount of words.  Too much description tempts me to skip.  A mention or two of the heroine's beauty is fine, but if every other page contains a drawn-out harangue on her porcelain skin and fine golden hair, I'm going to start yawning.  (Listen up, Baroness Orczy.)  Too much politicking and sewer history is guaranteed to put anyone to sleep.  (I'm looking at you, Victor Hugo.)  An overabundance of subplots and the full family history of Mrs. Wiggleflipper's godmother's milkman is not always interesting reading.  (Do you hear me, Charles Dickens?)

You notice I didn't mention Jane Austen in that last paragraph... there's a good reason for that and it's called One Does Not Criticize Perfection.   Jane Austen left things to the reader's imagination.  Sure, she described from time to time.  But she didn't whap her readers over the head with twelve-sentence paragraphs about the luster and sparkle in Elizabeth Bennet's eyes-- she merely said that Lizzy had fine eyes and left it at that.  (Could she have described a little more? Probably, yes, but she did an amazing job with what she did describe and as I said before, perfection cannot really be improved upon, thankyouverymuch.)

Jane Austen herself said that she did not write for such dull elves as had not a great deal of ingenuity themselves.  (See, she was a poet, too.  I bet she did not know it, eh what?) That is to say, she did not believe in over-explaining-- and that, I think, is a key to good description.  Teddy Roosevelt was fond of the maxim, "Stand up, speak up, and then shut up."  I'm inclined to apply this to writing as well.  Certainly there is always a time and place for good, well-executed description, but a clear word-picture of a beautiful part of the ocean need not become a biology lesson.

Unless, of course, you're writing a textbook on fish.  In which case, have at it.

But most of us aren't.  So if you aren't writing a textbook on fish, leave fish out entirely.  Leave any and all superfluous windbaggery out, for that matter, or else you may be saddled with a finished product looking something like this...

Also fish.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The terror by night

“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o'er wrought heart and bids it break.” 

Today I wrote a scene that made me cry.

A simple statement, one that might not mean much to those of you who have been writing for far longer than I.  But for me, today, this was something new.  I've dabbled in joy, in fear, in quiet happiness, in hilarity and humor.  I've written sad bits before.  I've written words that hurt part of me with each keystroke... words that were true, that dealt with a sorrow or loss in real life.  But until today, I'd never created someone else's pain. I'd never written something truly gut-wrenching, something that would tear out the heart of another person and take away something she loved.

I'd never before cried for the sake of someone I'd made.

In a way, it made me feel almost guilty.  Ashamed that I'd been so cruel to a fictional character, to a girl who exists solely in my imagination and is mine to do with as I will.  I am solely responsible for her, and today I broke her heart.

The worst of it is that something in me almost enjoyed doing it, knowing that what I'd written had touched me deeply and might someday (far down the road) touch someone else.   There was a certain sense of satisfaction as I laid down my pen, stretched my cramped fingers and surveyed the tear-dimpled pages of my rather battered notebook.  Winston Churchill's words ran through my head-- "Before you can inspire emotion, you must be swamped with it yourself. Before you can move their tears, your own must flow.  To convince them, you must first yourself believe."

As I wrote this scene, I believed.  I was Margot, curled in the corner of a humid and stuffy tent, watching a mother comfort her baby and all the time struggling with a lurching sense of dread.  I felt everything she felt, and her tears became my tears.   I forgot to be concerned with sentimentality or over-the-top slogginess-- instead, I just forgot my surroundings and wrote everything Margot felt and saw, because it was what I was feeling and seeing.

"Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night," [Mareta] whispered, bending down to kiss Zacharias' wet and matted hair. "Nor for the arrow that flieth by day."

Bernard laid his hand over Mareta's, covering it entirely and cupping his son's head with greater gentleness than Margot had ever seen before.  His other arm slipped around Mareta's shoulders.  "Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation..."

Mareta's voice joined his, quivering a little now.  "There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh... come nigh..."  She swallowed hard, but it was no use-- her voice was damp now, thick with tears.  "...come nigh thy dwelling."

~The Color of the Sky

"There is a sacredness in tears," wrote Washington Irving nearly two centuries ago.  "They are not the mark of weakness, but of power.  They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.  They are messengers of overwhelming grief... and unspeakable love."

My own tears flowed in the writing of this scene.  And that satisfied me.  Ironically enough, it made me happy.  Sure, the scene isn't perfect-- in fact, it's very far from that.  It needs work and revision.  It needs a firmer hand.  But for now, for the first draft, it's making me happy.  It's a drippy, sad kind of happy, but I'm happy nonetheless.  Happy with what I've written.

That's a big deal, you know.

And as I was writing it, I found myself doing something totally new.  I was writing a scene of pain and heartbreak, a scene that gripped me and gave my tear ducts a workout, an emotionally draining scene.  My very first.  And as I wrote it, I didn't waste time worrying if it was good enough.  I didn't fret over whether it might sound stupid or cliched.  I didn't brood over the possibility of it making someone (oh horrors!) laugh someday.  I didn't bother myself with any of that, because I was being swamped with the emotion of this piece, and it ended up being just what I wanted it to be.

Grief and love are so tightly intertwined in this story that I can't write about one without the other.  And they're hard to write about.  I don't mean that putting the words together is necessarily a difficult task.  I mean that making these bad things happen is hard.  At first I wasn't even sure I wanted to write this part.

But I did it.  I couldn't avoid it.  It had to be done, and I will have to do it again, for one tragic scene isn't enough for this book.  There's more to come, more that may be even worse.   And for some odd reason, I'm almost looking forward to that part yet to come.   It will be hard to write.  It will be hard to read, to change, to edit.

Yet there's a hope behind it all, the overarching presence of the One who is going to give this story a happy ending.  (Because hello.   I do not write stories without happy endings.)  Even through the tragedy and pain that socks the middle of this book, the grace of God is constant, and there is a theme that never dies.

I can't wait to explore it further.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Unsound Politics and Unaccompanied Bridesmaids

(I've taken to casting Important Articles of Clothing in my stories... in
case anyone's interested, these are the bridesmaid dresses from The Rochesters)

... in other words, Snippets again!

She knew them as soon as she saw them, even though she’d never seen pictures nor had any idea of how they looked. But there was only one group under the station roof that contained four girls of various sizes sporting matching hats, two hatless boys industriously pummeling each other, a book-toting father wearing a winter fedora and a fervently wagging golden retriever with no hat whatsoever.
~The Rochesters

Timmy scrambled into the front seat next to Alice. “What’s an ink wisition?”
“It’s when the government kills you if you aren’t Catholic.” Mark jammed Pumblechook around Francie’s feet, squeezed into what was left of the back seat and slammed the car door.
“Is the government going to kill us because we’re Baptists?” Instead of looking frightened, Timmy seemed merely intrigued.
“Of course not,” said Uncle Gregory, finally sitting down and turning the key in the ignition. “Government neither desires nor dares to interfere in such matters.”
“There must be murder, and the government cares not how much,” replied Alice quite gravely as the car lurched out of the parking lot, and she and Francie and Celia and Uncle Gregory all laughed.
Sylvia had heard quite a bit about Communists in her social studies class, and she began to wonder if perhaps Uncle Gregory had rather unsound ideas about politics.
~The Rochesters

“What difference does it make if you don’t have a groomsman?” Celia inquired. “Mark was probably going to end up walking with me anyways because I’m not as tall as you are. You’ll get George’s cousin just like you were supposed to.”
“Then you’ll be all by yourself,” Francie pointed out.
“I don’t care. Then I don’t have to worry about Mark stepping on me.”
“You aren’t dancing; you’re just walking, for Pete’s sake.”
“Mark steps on people no matter what.”
“He wouldn’t step on you if you didn’t have such big feet—”
“Hush up, can’t you?”
“Ladies!” Alice smacked both hands down on the quilt. “You’re acting like a pair of toddlers. Look, the issue at stake is not that a bridesmaid will walk unaccompanied. Celia can take Pumblechook for all I care.”
“Hey,” complained Celia, miffed.
~The Rochesters

Patsy was poring over a rather blurry picture in the middle section of the newspaper. It depicted a person in a monkey suit of doubtful origin, raising his arms over his head at what was presumably a football game but might have been a Ladies’ Auxiliary Meeting, for all Sylvia could see. The background rather resembled a mishmash of black and white shapes.
“That’s the President,” Patsy remarked, startling Sylvia, who thought Patsy had not noticed her presence.

~The Rochesters

“I’ll give you a leg up.” Bernard clasped his hands to form a stirrup. “Fina, you and Mareta stay here while I take Margot out and teach her Ezekiel’s tricks, and then you can have a turn.”
Doubt threatened to smother Fina’s smile, but she took Mareta’s hand obligingly and stepped aside. Margot was inclined to follow. She had no desire to ride a mule, nor to learn anything about the “tricks” he might possess. Cooking over a spattering fire began to sound far more appealing than it had this morning, and she was tempted to refuse Bernard and flee back to Magali.

~The Color of the Sky

Mareta’s gaze shifted to Fina, on the ground not far away, holding little Zacharias on her lap. The two seemed equally enamored of each other: Zacharias charmed by the attention showered upon him and Fina satisfied with this child who saw nothing different in her, no inadequacy or deficiency. Mareta smiled as she watched them together and Margot found herself smiling too.
How long has it been since I’ve smiled thus?
~The Color of the Sky

It was the girl’s near lack of eyebrows, Margot decided, that brought her eyes into such focus.   You could not help but look at them, without the distraction of the dark lines above that most people had.  

~The Color of the Sky

Saturday, September 8, 2012

I'm not quiet. I'm PLOTTING.

When I was younger and would write stories in notebooks and single-spaced Microsoft Word documents, I always felt that a premise was enough.  Surely an idea for a story (a girl in WWII England rescuing people from bombed-out buildings or the daughter of a laundress in the White House during the Civil War) and a handful of character ideas was enough to base a novel on.  Right? Right?

Uh, kinda right.

Sure, it was enough to base a novel on.  The problem was that I had nothing to build with.  Without plot, my poor stories collapsed and were left for dead before many days had passed. I can't count how many times I set out to write the novel of the century, only to abandon the premise after a week or so and start on something else (which, in its turn, would soon be neglected by its easily-distracted mama).

Since then, I've begun to learn a shocking truth-- namely, that a story really cannot go anywhere with a plot.  Remarkable, no?  Oh, certainly there have been plenty of books that stemmed only from the barest wisp of an idea, but the truly good ones were then built upon that wisp of an idea.  Plots grew from those ideas, and characters from the plots (sometimes vice versa) and thus a story was born.

And no matter how much writing I may want to do, no matter how many elusive dragonfly-ideas flit through my mind when I'm trying to sleep at night, no matter how many characters pop into my brain, I can really do nothing with them unless I know what I want to do with them.

Profound, I know.

In all seriousness, however, this concept has taken me quite a while to grasp.  I'm a seat-of-the-pants writer in general-- I tend to write haphazardly and fecklessly, spinning out whatever flows into my head with all the reckless abandon of a baby with a Magic Marker and a fresh white wall.  And though free-spirit writing has its time and place and is certainly commendable, I'm finding that for me at least, it's really best to have an outline, to know where I'm going.

You wouldn't take a road trip without a road map, now would you?  (Er, that is, a GPS?  I keep forgetting that road maps are obsolete.)

So I'm making a road map for Sky, and it's taking a great deal longer than I'd thought.  (So what if I don't call it a GPS?  I've always been a bit old-fashioned.)  I had an idea for this story that's morphed into something much bigger (and yes, I'll say it, better).  The whole story shifted back 100 years, to begin with, and the Albigensian Crusade wormed its way in.  (I'll wait while you go look that one up.)  I realized overnight the overwhelming power of Actual Research (that is, not just reading Wikipedia articles all afternoon) and the stack of Middle Ages history books on hold for me at the library is... well, it's not allowed to exceed five at a time.  But as soon as I return one, I can get another.

I've been dreaming about this story, thinking about it while brushing my teeth, scribbling down ideas like crazy.  I haven't been doing Beautiful People or writing much dialogue or even writing character studies in my notebook.  Yet my characters are coming alive to me as I'm creating the walls and doorways of their story.  Finding out how each one is going to deal with the problems I'm throwing their way is, for me, even better than deciding if they prefer tea or coffee.  I still plan to do Beautiful People, to save any and all inspirational pictures to my computer, to do character tags and think about how they'd respond to a wacky situation.  But it's their story that makes them who they are.

Man, I sound like a refrigerator magnet again.  I'm getting good at that.  Maybe I should go into the refrigerator magnet business.  Does anyone know how much that kind of a job pays?

At any rate, everything I said in this post could be easily summed up in a picture (worth a thousand words and all that):

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Flecks of gold were swallowed up

Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
~Anton Chekhov

The Penslayer has challenged, and I'm up for it.

Description, as I said in my last post, is hard for me.  Hardest of all is that elusive thing called describing your characters.  Sure, it can be done easily enough.  "Margot was sixteen years old.  She was tallish and had long dark brown hair, dark brown eyes and a pointy kind of chin.  You are now getting verrrrrry sleeeeeeepy..." (Or at least you will be quite soon if I continued on in such a fashion.)

If I wanted to read flat, flavorless here's-what-she-looked-like description, I'd go back to first grade and re-read Peter and Jane literature.  It's description, yes.  It serves the purpose, yes.  But it's not done well.  And though I'm not the one to pass judgment on what has been done well, I can read--as can all of you--and I can see for myself--as can all of you--when something has not been done well.

This is where I should stick in the disclaimer about how I don't think my description is very good and blah-de-blah, but the thing is-- I actually think the following descriptions are pretty good and I'll tell you why in a moment.  (Um, I will disclaim that everything's subject to lots and lots of editing and this is only the first draft and more blah-de-blahs that you aren't interested in.)  The serious ones from Sky come first and then at the end I couldn't resist sticking in a tidbit from The Butterwick Boardinghouse Detectives.

Philippe wasn’t any taller. His face was just as it had always been—a little more lined and thin, perhaps—and he still had the tiny, smooth scar on his chin from that mock duel with his friend Pierre when he was fourteen. His voice was the same, his hair had kept its curl—though the color seemed closer to dirt than sand at present—and he still squinted much longer than necessary when he came inside after bright sun. And yet something was different, something Margot couldn’t put into words for Fina and wouldn't have wanted to.

In this paragraph that begins Sky's second chapter, I introduced Philippe through Margot's perspective.  Her brother has been away for nearly a year, and so she naturally looks at him with an almost critical gaze, hoping that he'll be exactly the same.  (Of course he isn't--no one is after eleven months--but that doesn't stop Margot from hoping that he might be unchanged.)  In this paragraph, you learn that Philippe has blond but rather dirty hair with a bit of curl to it, that his face is thin with crinkles around his eyes and he has a scar on his chin.  Yet it's more interesting to read about in the snippet than in that boring sentence.

It had taken Margot far too long to reconcile herself to the emptiness in her sister’s eyes. Amber had turned to mud, radiance to shadows. Flecks of gold had been swallowed up in a mist that never faded under the sun—because it could not see the sun.

I've told you before that Fina is blind, but in that sense you have an advantage over the someday-reader of Sky.  Because I haven't yet told the reader in so many words that Fina can't see.  I've chosen instead to hint at it (later there will be a flashback in which Margot remembers the fever that took Fina's eyesight) and for now I only refer to her blindness sparingly.  But in this case, I used it to tell the reader what color Fina's eyes are--how they used to be, and how they are now.

Mareta’s hand found Margot’s, and her chin trembled like an arrow in the hand of a frightened archer. Sweat slipped from her palm and clung to Margot’s. “I need more water,” she said, quite clearly and without the slightest touch of anxiety. Her voice, after all, was what soothed the baby’s tears and comforted him during the fever-dreams. She could not allow it to slip and let in fear or alarm.

Mareta is, in my humble opinion, the most beautiful character in my story, yet I've been hesitant to tell the reader how she looks.  (If you're curious, take a gander at the picture on the top left.)  Mareta is the kind of woman who radiates beauty from the inside out, however, and it's that shining inner loveliness that I've tried to communicate through the way she moves and speaks.  Even in the snippet above, where she's dealing with a desperately sick child, she keeps her composure and manages to appear calm when she does not feel so.

And then just because writing nonsense is fun (and fun is good)...

Then came the day when Jack was clunked on the head by that all-knowing specter called Realization, who informed him that Deirdre was a very beautiful person and then proceeded to follow up the clunk with several not-so-gentle whunks and thunks to punish him for not being clunked at an earlier date. The whunks and thunks also served to remind poor battered Jack of the exact shade of dark brown manifested in Deirdre’s eyes and the precise filter of light that made itself known through her hair when she wore it down. However, he was so busy apologizing to Realization for being such a knobble-head that he didn’t bother to think about what nice cheekbones she had until three AM when he was trying to go to sleep and it was too late to ring her up and tell her so.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The feeling of being rained upon

Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader. Not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon. 
~E. L. Doctorow

Fina is not the protagonist of The Color of the Sky.  She is only the younger sister of the protagonist, and at first glance might not seem of great import.  Blinded from a fever two years before the story begins, Fina can see nothing for herself, but instead relies on her sister Margot to see things for her.  Fina's deep appreciation for beauty leads her to constantly ask Margot to describe their surroundings, to tell her exactly how the sunset looks tonight and what kind of birds are wheeling in the sky above them.

Margot struggles with describing these things to Fina, exactly mirroring the way I constantly struggle to give an accurate picture of the beauty (or ugliness, or somewhere-in-between) in which my characters find themselves.  Because people.  Description is hard.

I've read so many wonderful books that seem to perfectly nail the tricky task of telling it like it is... The Yearling comes to mind, as do A Tale of Two Cities and The Bronze Bow.  These stories were all blessed with authors who knew how to marry the right words, to use just enough adjectives for coloring and just enough adverbs for seasoning.  And yet there's still another Book that has even greater word-pictures within it, one that wouldn't have immediately sprung to mind if you had asked me to name a piece of writing that evoked a beautiful sensation.

See, I was always a little scared of the latter books in the Old Testament.  Hosea, Joel, Amos and ObadiahJonahMicah were lumped together like HIJKelemenoP in the alphabet song.  And Ezekiel and Daniel?  Well, Daniel was good reading in the first half, but after that when the prophecies began... it was over my head.  I'd understand it all when I got older.

That was the excuse I hid behind for many a day.  In truth the excuse was roughly shaped like a very slender and spiky tree, and I resembled a child about twice the width of the trunk who blissfully believed that she was perfectly concealed behind the spindly branches.   Then came January 2012 and my resolution to read the entire Bible in one year.  Which meant the minor prophets.  And Ezekiel and Daniel.  (Also Song of Solomon which I'd always steered clear of because it embarrassed me in places, and Leviticus with all the laws... my goodness, I'm being quite candid tonight, aren't I?)

When I began Ezekiel in July, I was in for a surprise.  Sure, there were plenty of passages I didn't understand.   Yes, the Dry Bones song started running through my head as soon as I began chapter 37.  But it was chapter 27 that really arrested me, that stopped me in my dutiful plowing, that made me sit up and take notice (and a pen to underline) and truly love the words for the beautiful things that they were.  Pictures soared through my head like never before.

It was amazing.

See, I'm a pastor's daughter.  I'm a good girl, I am; I know my Bible.  My parents raised me to study the Word of God from a very young age, and I'm incredibly grateful for their patient teaching.  But there are times when human instruction doesn't cut it, when a book or chapter or verse can't be comprehended unless God speaks in a special way.  This was one of the special times.

I mean, look at these verses.  It's not poetry.  (I'm not too keen on poetry.)  It's prose--lovely, picture-filled, emotive, vibrant prose breathed by the Creator himself.  It's awe-inspiring.

Thus saith the Lord God; O Tyrus, thou hast said, I am of perfect beauty.
Thy borders are in the midst of the seas, thy builders have perfected thy beauty.
They have made all thy ship boards of fir trees of Senir: they have taken cedars from Lebanon to make masts for thee.

There, a sweeping picture of the wealth of nations.

Of the oaks of Bashan have they made thine oars; the company of the Ashurites have made thy benches of ivory, brought out of the isles of Chittim.
Fine linen with broidered work from Egypt was that which thou spreadest forth to be thy sail; blue and purple from the isles of Elishah was that which covered thee.

Colors dazzling in the sun... 

The men of Arvad with thine army were upon thy walls round about, and the Gammadims were in thy towers: they hanged their shields upon thy walls round about; they have made thy beauty perfect.

There, an image of soldiers from far away glorifying this city.

Syria was thy merchant by reason of the multitude of the wares of thy making: they occupied in thy fairs with emeralds, purple, and broidered work, and fine linen, and coral, and agate.
Judah, and the land of Israel, they were thy merchants: they traded in thy market wheat of Minnith, and Pannag, and honey, and oil, and balm.
Damascus was thy merchant in the multitude of the wares of thy making, for the multitude of all riches; in the wine of Helbon, and white wool.
Dan also and Javan going to and fro occupied in thy fairs: bright iron, cassia, and calamus, were in thy market.
Dedan was thy merchant in precious clothes for chariots...
These were thy merchants in all sorts of things, in blue clothes, and broidered work, and in chests of rich apparel, bound with cords, and made of cedar, among thy merchandise.

A marketplace of rich color.  Can't you just see it?  But now, of a sudden, the downfall of this great bustling metropolis...

All thy company which is in the midst of thee, shall fall into the midst of the seas in the day of thy ruin.
The suburbs shall shake at the sound of the cry of thy pilots.
And all that handle the oar, the mariners, and all the pilots of the sea, shall come down from their ships, they shall stand upon the land; and shall cause their voice to be heard against thee, and shall cry bitterly, and shall cast up dust upon their heads, they shall wallow themselves in the ashes: and they shall make themselves utterly bald for thee, and gird them with sackcloth, and they shall weep for thee with bitterness of heart and bitter wailing.

Suddenly the mood has changed, has turned into fear and lamentation and a chill starts to spread.

 And in their wailing they shall take up a lamentation for thee, and lament over thee, saying, What city is like Tyrus, like the destroyed in the midst of the sea? ... The merchants among the people shall hiss at thee; thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt be any more.

And the end.  Tragedy.  A city that would not give glory to the One who created it was reduced to a pile of rubble: a terror that never would be any more.

Are you shivering yet?
I am.

I have portions of that chapter copied in my notebook now.  Doomed Tyrus has nothing to do with fourteenth-century Provence.  I'm not writing about a city that rejected God; I'm not writing about a city at all.  There are few, if any, bustling marketplaces in Color of the Sky, and the people concerned in my story don't trade in fine broidered linen or elephant tusks.

Yet the images, the sense, the mood, the overall whoosh (to use a cop-out onomatopoeia) that I get from reading Ezekiel 27 is just what I--and Margot--struggle to convey to the reader--and Fina--in Sky.  I can see, and so can Margot.  I can write, and Margot can speak.  But to put into articulate speech the glory that can only be seen with the eyes--to give the feeling of being rained upon and not merely state that it is raining--that is the hard part.

They might awaken to dazzling sunrise on snow, for instance, and as soon as Margot would joyfully open her mouth to describe it, the snow would turn to pale water and the sun to pitiful candlelight on her tongue.  Capturing brilliance with words was, she often thought, like cutting through iron with a silk ribbon.
~The Color of the Sky