Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Little Slips of Paper

     I've been rather absent from this blog lately, which is to be blamed by both a lack of inspiration and broken wi-fi (writing a blog post from my phone is not fun, so I avoid it), but now that the internet is working and it's the end of the year, I'm finally back.     

     Around this time last year, I had seen a pinterest project that I decided to try- to write down all of the good and interesting things that happened during 2015 on slips of paper and put them in a jar to be read at the end of the year. I wasn’t always the most consistent, but I did do it:

Went to the movies with Emily and some friends
Saw Big Hero 6 for Joey's birthday and had a family trip to the Caw Caw Institute
Gave blood for the first time (and almost passed out!)
Aunt Patty’s Tea Party
Won the Five Enchanted Roses Contest!!
Got Valentine’s Day candy from Mom & Dad
Free month of Netflix!
Went to a friend’s 1950s-themed Sweet Sixteen
Published Hidden Pearls
Saw Cinderella with friends
Visited with some missionary friends of ours
Saw Age of Ultron with Mama, Daddy, and Emily
Emily graduated high school!
Started attending a Bible Study
Saw Jurassic World with Mama, Daddy, Emmie, and Harry
Wrote For Elise
Five Enchanted Roses is published!
Went to Illinois
Started College
Got a phone for the first time
“The Wulver’s Rose” is published as a stand-alone by Rooglewood Press
Did the Art Walk in downtown Charleston with my mother, aunt, and sister
Got all As my first semester at college
Went Christmas caroling (I totally just remembered to add this)
Had friends over for dinner and games
Saw Star Wars!!!
Spent Christmas with a BUNCH of family, some of which I hadn’t even met before


     If you’re wondering about all the mentions of movies, well, as a kid, going to see a movie at the theater was a really big deal, and so I still count it as an amazing, note-worthy occurrence ;)

     I also always take note of all of the classic books that I've read during the year, and despite finishing up my classic club reading last year and being in college, I actually managed to get down quite a few, though most of them were on the shorter side of things. In fact, I read most of these after I started college. I've really been getting back into classic, golden-age mysteries, if you can't tell. ;)




Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Heretics by G.K. Chesterton
The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery 
The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett (the movies are much better)
Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (according to Goodreads, this is the longest book I read this year. Surprise, surprise)
The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie
Along the Shore by L.M. Montgomery
The Road to Yesterday by L.M. Montgomery
Whose Body? By Dorothy Sayers
Have His Carcase by Dorothy Sayers
Asgard Stories: Tales From Norse Mythology by Mary H. Foster
Curious Myths of the Middle Ages by Sabine Baring-Gould
The Communist Manifesto by Friedrich Engels/Karl Marx
The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
The Lucy Maude Montgomery Short Stories Collections (5 volumes)
The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
Father Brown: The Essential Tales by G.K. Chesterton
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (a re-read)
Partners in Crime by Agatha Christie
N or M? by Agatha Christie
The Man Who Knew Too Much by G.K. Chesterton

Total: 23

     I also read several Georgette Heyer Regency novels, but I admit that they don't feel very "classic-y" to me, despite several of them pre-dating the 40s, so I didn't put them on the list. (Now that I think about it, I think I've also neglected the one lonely Jeeves and Wooster book I read this year) One of my reading goals for 2016 is for the classics to make up at least 50% of my entire reading list, so we'll see how that goes. I also read a lot more children's/middle grade novels this year, which is something I'd like to continue doing. I don't have a number of books I want to read for 2016 (believe me, I need to cut back on my reading, not try to beat my last number of books read) but aside from those other goals, I want to read more non-fiction books (especially theological and history ones), as well as re-read the entire Sherlock Holmes canon.

     For Bible reading goals, I definitely want to read the entire Bible through in a year, since it's been a good long while since I've done so. The last few years I've simply skipped around without keeping track of what I read, so this upcoming year I want to start at Genesis and go through to Revelation in a nice, orderly manner. :)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

My December Reading List

     I am very much excited for Christmas break--and I have a ton of books on my to-read list to celebrate the end of the semester. (It's those free kindle classics, guys. I have a problem.) Though school hasn't completely shoved my reading out of the way--the YA section of the campus library has kept me busy, mostly with A Series of Unfortunate Events books and some Neil Gaiman--I do miss the freedom to read whenever I want. (oh, those good old days of freedom!)

Here are some of the books I'm planning on devouring during break:

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Until the Dawn by Elizabeth Camden.
     I just got this one in the mail a few days ago, and I'm considering it my treat for when I finish finals. Elizabeth Camden's books rarely disappoint, so I can't wait to dive into this one.


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Father Brown: The Essential Tales by G.K. Chesterton
     I picked this one up at a used book store a few months ago, but it has laid unread on my bookshelf for far too long. I haven't read any Father Brown mysteries (although I've seen a few of the television episodes) but I have rather high expectations, which, quite honestly, is never a good thing...


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The Man Who Knew Too Much by G.K. Chesterton
    Hey, who says I can't have two Chesterton books on the list? Besides, this one was free on kindle...


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A Singular and Whimsical Problem by Rachel McMillan
     Look, a novella with my blog title! I'm practically obligated to read it. (plus, it's about two Edwardian lady detectives. This is appealing.)


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Awakening by Tracy Higley
     This one is a little iffy, since if I make it to the library this one might get pushed on to the back burner, and it is longer than what I usually like to read on my phone. Still, I enjoy the ancient history flair that Higley brings to her books, so I'm curious to try this one, which takes place in both modern times and the ancient world.

     There are a few other ebook classics by more obscure authors I may tentatively try, but it depends on how busy this Christmas season gets. Have any of you any particular December reading plans?

Monday, December 7, 2015

A Question & Notification

     This is a sort-of apology and sort-of question: have any of you who signed up to have continued access to my old blog having any success getting into it? I tried to make it private by invitation only, but I've been having quite a time of it for some reason where those emails that I've allowed access to are disappearing every time I try to enter them in blog settings. I just thought I would mention it, because if you've tried to get into it and couldn't, I don't want you to think that I ignored or neglected you or something. Anyway, please tell me if you can or cannot get in, and I'll see what I can do. (I don't think its working, but if it is working for some of you, please tell me)

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Short Stories of L.M. Montgomery

My current Montgomery collection...although the Anne series is *mostly* my sister's, but I did contribute to its purchase so I probably own about a book and a half of them. ;)
     If you cannot tell, I am a diehard L.M. Montgomery fan. Thanks to Anne of Green Gables, she was one of the first classic authors that I was exposed to, and she’s one of the few with enough books to have kept me reading: now, roughly fifteen years after I was first introduced to Anne Shirley, I’m still making my way through all of her books. I’ve almost finished them all, and thanks to Kindle, I’ve read all six L.M. Montgomery Short Stories collections. While I’m sure that’s not all of Montgomery’s stories (I own both Chronicles of Avonlea books, which include tales not in any of the free books) I’ve certainly read a fair amount of them. As I’ve often said, my hatred of ebooks is only exceeded by my love of free books, and the public domain titles available for free on Amazon have become my weakness.

     With this in mind, I’ve decided to put together a list of “the best of the best” of L.M. Montgomery’s short stories in honor of her 141st birthday and Eva’s Lucy Maude Montgomery Week. If you’ve ever watched Road to Avonlea you might notice that some of these plots sound familiar, as many of them were incorporated as episodes in the series.

     These stories are sort of in a vague order of preference. The first half of the list contain my very favorites (although those are not in a strict order) while the ones in the second half, while still good, don’t have that extra spark in them that the others do. I’ve tried to include at least one from each collection.

1. “The Materializing of Cecil” (from Further Chronicles of Avonlea)
To save face, an old maid invents a past beau…only to be shocked and dismayed when a man with the same name and occupation as her invention comes to town! One of my very favorites: I love the main character and the ridiculous situation she’s in makes me laugh even while I’m sympathizing with her plight.

2. “The Quarantine at Alexander Abraham’s.” (from Chronicles of Avonlea)
A man-hating woman and her cat are quarantined in the same house as a woman-hating man and his dog. Hilarity (and romance) ensue.

3. “The Brother Who Failed” (from Further Chronicles of Avonlea)
Uh. This story actually makes me cry. Just go read it.

4. “Each in His Own Tongue” (from Chronicles of Avonlea)
A pastor disapproves of his grandson’s love of the violin, but he soon learns that the love of God can at times be better expressed through music than in words.

5. “The Education of Betty” (from Further Chronicles of Avonlea)
A sweet romance about a man who decides to “take in hand” the wild daughter of his deceased friend. The story sounds deceptively simple and benign, but it’s one of the few that I re-read.

6. “The Genesis of the Doughnut Club” (from Collection No. 5, 1907-1908)
One of the few stories about an “old maid” that doesn’t end in marriage. It’s super-sweet and adorable nonetheless.

7. “The Unhappiness of Miss Farquar” (from Collection No. 2, 1902-1903)
A young woman jilted in love finds unexpected happiness in helping others.

8. “The Young Family Feud” (from Collection No. 5, 1907-1908)
Family feuds are a common theme in Montgomery’s work, but this is one of my favorite versions of the familiar plot.

9. “The Doctor’s Sweetheart” (from Collection No. 5, 1907-1908)
Another sweet romance, although the age difference is a little much, I’ll admit.

10. “By Grace of Julius Caesar” (from Collection No. 5, 1907-1908)
Two women are trapped on a rooftop to avoid a dog—will one of them be forced to marry the dog’s owner to get out of this mess?

11. “The Growing Up of Cornelia” (from Collection No. 5, 1907-1908)
I really liked this one, even if I wasn’t too fond of the ending, which seemed rushed and a tad bit unsatisfying, even if it did end happily.

12. “An Unconventional Confidence” (from Collection No. 2, 1902-1903)
A young girl unburdens her problems to a man while they seek shelter from the rain.

13. “Here Comes the Bride” (from The Road to Yesterday)
Including this one is a bit deceptive because it isn’t one of my favorites at all (too much Blythe name-dropping to please me) but I love the idea: it’s a variety of people’s  inner thoughts during a wedding. What’s so interesting is the varied perspectives—guests, bride & groom, the wedding party—and how some people’s judgments/gossip about certain other people are revealed to be totally wrong once the reader sees their thoughts. It’s an interesting concept, and I’d love to one day try my own hand at using it.

14. “A Sandshore Wooing” (from Collection No. 2, 1902-1903)
To escape the eyes and ears of her man-hating aunt, a young woman can communicate with her suitor only by sign language.

15. “When Jack and Jill Took a Hand” (from Collection No. 4, 1905-1906)
Two ten-year-old’s decide to hurry up the courting between their beloved aunt and the local preacher.  I love that it’s told from their first-person perspectives.

16. “The Conscience Case of David Bell” (from Further Chronicles of Avonlea)
It’s revival time in town, but David Bell, elder, hasn’t gone up to testify once! Judgements and speculations from the congregation abound, but Mr. Bell’s real reason for his silence and strange behavior shames them all.

17. “The Touch of Fate” (from Collection No. 1, 1896-1901)
A matchmaker’s meddling goes awry and separates a young couple.

18. “The Garden of Spices” (from Collection No. 6, 1909-1922)
A young boy escapes his aunt to visit the garden next door.

19. "The Wooing of Bessy” (from Collection No. 4, 1905-1906)
At first glance, this could be simply another of Montgomery’s romances, but the characters are a bit out of the norm. It’s not often that you see an age gap (even a small one) where the woman is older than the man- and it certainly causes a few eyebrows raised in disapproval in this story!

20. “The Dissipation of Miss Ponsonby" (from Collection No. 4, 1905-1906)
A story very similar to one episode in a later Anne book, it’s nevertheless entertaining, about two girls who conspire to help an old maid out of the house and away from her tyrant father’s eagle eye in order to attend a party.

21. “The Redemption of John Churchill” (from Collection No. 4, 1905-1906)
A recently released jailbird is redeemed by the love of his son.

22. “The Unforgotten One” (from Collection No. 4, 1905-1906)
An old nanny is distraught that the family she works for seems completely unconcerned about their first Christmas without a beloved cousin, raised with them like a sibling. But when she visits the woman’s grave, she encounters just how much the family loved the deceased woman.

23. “The Softening of Miss Cynthia” (from Collection No. 3, 1904)
Strict Miss Cynthia has no desire to take in some boy, no thank you. Not even if he is a step-nephew. Nothing can soften her…can it?
  
24. “The Little Black Doll” (from Collection No. 6, 1909-1922)
A young girl tried to make the last days of a servant girl better, even if it means giving up her most prized possession. The ending with the grandmother still bothers me on this one, though.

25. “Kismet” (from Collection No. 1, 1896-1901)
An estranged husband and wife pin their future on a horse race.

     If you’re interested, here are the links to all six short story collections available for free on Amazon. Sadly, many of my favorites are in the Avonlea collections, which to my knowledge are not available for free here, but these still include some good stories. I’ve also included links to my Goodreads reviews.


I shall end by saying a very happy birthday to Lucy Maude Montgomery, and I recommend you all check out the tag at Coffee, Classics, and Craziness to help celebrate the occasion. 

*These stories were also published by Bantam books in paperback form under collection titles such as "Along the Shore," "At the Altar," and "Among the Shadows." However, only owning one of these, I don't know how the stories are distributed among those collections.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Redeeming Prologues

     

     Opening and… a prologue! We have a prologue. Sorry, the story will have to wait. This prologue is sitting here before chapter one, so clearly we need to read it.a blogger’s snarky commentary upon Eragon

     Prologue. The word that’s become a byword of derision and horror. Every reader’s nightmare and bane of existence. Or at least that’s what we’ve been told. It seems like I can’t turn around on a writing website without hearing someone shout from the rooftops, “STAY AWAY FROM PROLOGUES!”

     But guess what? 


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     I like well-written prologues.

     Note that I said “well-written.” Of course there can be badly written ones, but that’s not necessarily the fault of the prologue. No one blacklists climaxes simply because there are badly written ones out there; that would just be ridiculous. Then again, I’d be hard-pressed to find a story where a climax wasn’t necessary, while prologues are optional things.

     I suppose that’s why they are so disdained. They are not, strictly speaking, necessary. Sometimes there are stories with prologues that don’t really need them. I’ve even deleted an unnecessary one from my stories a time or two myself—Hidden Pearls had a prologue when I first wrote it at the age of fourteen. (another reason prologues have a bad reputation might be because a lot of young writers with little experience like to use them, especially in fantasy). However, after the story was finished I realized that the prologue wasn’t doing me any good. It wasn’t adding anything to the story, and the scant bit of foreshadowing it did get across could be used to better effect later in the book.

     Then again, “The Wulver’s Rose” has a prologue, and not only that, but it was my favorite part of the entire story, both to write and to read. (The epilogue is a close second. Maybe because I really enjoyed writing in first person…)

     But prologues are tricky things. I’ve read prologues that were just boring, dry information dumps, and prologues that really should have been labeled “Chapter One.” Some were prologues that literally had no purpose—they didn’t hook me, advance the plot, or give me other information I didn’t find later in the novel. My biggest prologue pet-peeve is when it's simply a random chunk transplanted from somewhere else in the novel, forcing me to later re-read the whole scene.



     So, how do you use prologues? Well, I could just be a cop out and tell you to re-read the above paragraph and figure it out for yourself. The main guideline: prologues need purpose. Don't just throw one in there for the sake of having one. Personally, my favorite way to use them is when a time jump is involved. If there’s something that happened a hundred years before your story begins that’s important to the plot, it may be best to set that scene in a prologue. Or, sometimes the prologue is set in the future. (That one can be a bit trickier to pull off, but it can be done) Prologues can also be used to impart important backstory information, but keep in mind that short, snappy prologues are generally best; long-drawn out (and dry) ones lose the reader's attention quickly. It’s true that prologues should be used with great discretion.

     But that’s not to say that you can’t use them at all.

     And to all those advice-givers who claim that readers skip the prologues?

     I don’t. So there.

(I also, I feel the need to say here that I've never read Eragon, so if you're offended by the linked article highlighting the book's "bad writing," I have no opinion on the subject.)

(Second disclaimer- I'm not entirely sure what book the first picture is from--I think it's from "If I Stay" but I'm not positive. If it is, I haven't read the book/recommend it/endorse it/whatever. It was simply useful to me for aesthetic purposes.)

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Jane Austen Tag

     I actually wasn't planning on doing this tag because of school and writing (and for the first time in a long while I'm not doing NaNo this year either...that feels weird...) but I impulsively decided to do it today, even though I just did a tag a post or two ago. (Not to fear: I have several long posts coming up. Or, on second thought, maybe that is something to fear)

     Of course, I also just realized that this is actually the last day of Jane Austen week on Naomi's blog. Gee whiz. A day late and a dollar short on that one. :P

I have, therefore, made up my mind to tell you, that I do not want to dance a reel at all — and now despise me if you dare.:


1. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much of a Jane Austen fan do you consider yourself? Well, at one time I would have said "10," but my fanaticism about Jane Austen has mellowed a bit. I still love her, of course, but I'm not rabid about it. I'd say I'm perhaps an 8?

Edmund and Fanny ~ Mansfield Park -:
BBC's Mansfield Park, aka "The movie I thought I would hate but was actually more than halfway tolerable." Or maybe just because the other version I had previously watched was just so unspeakably and horrifically inaccurate....
2. If "they" would make a new Jane Austen Movie, and you would be able to be cast in it, which Jane Austen character would you most like to play? Well, I have had the privilege of playing Mrs. Bennet in performance of P&P once, and that was hysterically fun. As far as main characters go, I think I could have a lot of fun playing Emma Woodhouse.


3. Is there any felicity in the world superior to a walk? Yes- reading.

4. Who's your favourite Jane Austen 'villain'? (As in 'villain' meaning 'the bad guy.') I'm not sure. I suppose I'll go with the crowd and say Willoughby on that one. I don't like him the way a lot of people do, though. 

5. What/Who introduced you to Jane Austen? Myself. Really! Unless you count a few historical fiction books (I don't even remember which ones) that mentioned Jane Austen. I decided I needed to read this lady, if she was as important as history was telling me. So, at the age of 12 I read Pride and Prejudice, and I can honestly say it was one of the best reading experiences I've ever had. A couple years later, friends loaned us a VHS set of the 1995 movie version, and my love of all bonnet movies began.


6. Did you love/enjoy Jane Austen immediately, or has there been a time when you hated (um, prejudged) it? I was shocked by how much I loved Pride and Prejudice, so I immediately dived in to Sense and Sensibility afterward...only to get completely lost and bored. (I was still twelve, after all). It took me another couple of years to try Austen again after that.

7. Who, in your opinion, is the funniest Jane Austen character? I do love Mr. Palmer in the movie version-- but then, it is Hugh Laurie, so that explains much. Also, Mr. Collins- including both film versions.

Pride and Prejudice Mr. Collins...bahahaha:

8. Do you quote Jane Austen randomly in public? I have before, but I'm not in the habit of it.

9. Are children allowed to eat cake on weddings? No, they should save it for the adults. Like me. (I'm kidding. Mostly.)

10. What is your reaction when you hear that an acquaintance (e.g. A lady at Church) of yours loves Jane Austen? Skepticism. Is this a real fan who has actually read more than one Jane Austen book, or some random person who's seen the '05 movie a couple of times?

Austenland
*judges you from behind my book*

11. Who writes better letters, Mr Darcy or Captain Wentworth? (If you forgot what the letters were, shame on you, instead tell me if you prefer Strawberries to Chocolate or not.) Okay...I'm actually not the hugest fan of Persuasion (and it's one JA novel that I've actually only read once) but I did remember being impressed with Captain Wentworth's letter. I should probably read that again, by the way.


12. Which Jane Austen heroine do you relate the least to? I can relate to every heroine at least a little...except for one. Marianne Dashwood. I do not understand Marianne in the least. Elinor, Elizabeth, Fanny, Emma, Catherine, Anne....there's at least one aspect or personality trait of each that I can relate to. Marianne, not so much. Honestly, her view of life and response to things is downright alien to me.

sense and sensibility:

13. What's your favourite Jane Austen house (from one of the movies)? Emma's Hartfield. It's a little big for me (my second choice would be Barton Cottage in S&S) but I really love all the interiors that you get to see in the 2009 film, and I love her house in the Gwenyth Paltrow version, as well. (which, for the record, is my favorite film version of the story, although the 2009 one is a close second)


14. What's your favourite Jane Austen dress (from one of the movies)? I love this one of Elinor's from the BBC version of Sense and Sensibility because it's defnitely something I'd probably wear if I lived in that time period, but I also love all of the outfits in BBC's Emma, as well.



15. Can you turn off lit candles with your fingers? Actually, I've never tried. The next time we have company (which is when we usually light candles) I shall attempt it.

Thank you for this tag, Naomi! And I apologize about my lateness.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Introducing "For Elise"




The aspiring author bought the “haunted” house to stoke his morbid imagination.
 Unfortunately, the house is having none of it.

For Elise
coming soon...ish

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Bedtime Movie Tag

1. A movie that kept you up all night. 
     My family isn't usually one to stay up really late for movies (especially me, because I am SUCH a grump past nine in the evening) but the first time we ever watched Wives and Daughters we began a little later in the evening than usual...and didn't stop until we had finished the entire thing sometime around 2 a.m.


2. A movie that made you scared to sleep.
     I was scarred for life after watching E.T. at age 6 or so. It gave me a paralyzing fear of aliens for years and I DID NOT go to sleep very well after the first time I watched it. While I've gotten over the alien fear, I still don't like E.T. 


3. A movie that made you go to sleep. 
     I actually don't think I've ever fallen asleep during a movie, at least not since I was very little. (In which case I have a vague memory of drowsing at someone's house while Gone With The Wind was on.)


4. A movie that left you tossing and turning all night in anticipation for its release. 
     I was crazy excited when Tangled came out. Embarrassingly so.


5. A movie that has your dream boyfriend/girlfriend ship of two movies. 
     Well, I'm not a big crossover ship person, but I will say this is clearly Clara Oswald time travelling again (or at least it's one of her "echoes") and no one can convince me otherwise:


6. A movie that would be your worst nightmare to live in. 
     I was thinking The Hunger Games because that would be pretty miserable, but most people choose movies like that and honestly, there are a lot of comedy movies that I think would drive me crazy too. Like Napoleon Dynamite (which is funny, but I would go mad if I had to live it)

Actually, just the idea of high school itself is kind of nightmare-ish to me. Instant headache just thinking about it.

7.A movie that reminds you of nighttime.
     Batman Begins, I guess.


8. A movie that has a nightmarish cliffhanger.
     This one is hard, because with most movies I either don't watch them until all the movies are out so the cliffhangers aren't bad, or I've read the book and know how it ends. I'm actually going to go with Thor: The Dark World, not because the ending was nightmarish, but because it was just so maddening.



     9. A movie you actually dreamed about. 
     I'm pretty sure that Star Wars characters have wandered in and out of my dreams multiple times over the years.


     10. A movie monster you wouldn't want to find under your bed. 
     hmmm. Honestly, I don't watch stuff that really scares me. I guess I could go with the mummy from The Mummy. I don't like things you just can't escape from.


     And as that ends the tag, I hereby tag the first five people to comment. So there you go. :)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

In Defense of Big Words (and small ones, too)

 “He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.” [William Faulkner about Ernest Hemingway]


 “Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?” [Hemingway to Faulkner]

     One thing that I’ve discovered being a writer is that there is so much conflicting advice on what makes “good” writing. One of those endless debates is on big words. Big words. What a funny, ironically simple description for a category of language which includes gems like “supercilious” and “phantasmagoria.”

     There are some people—many people, in fact—who are convinced that simple language is best, and using long, descriptive words is either pretentious or simply out of vogue. “People don’t understand what you mean,” they say. "No one talks that way anymore." 

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     Well, I don’t know about you, but when I first started reading on my own there were a lot of words I didn’t know. After all, an eight-year-old doesn’t have the most sophisticated vocabulary.  However, it was through reading those unknown words that I learned them: either because it sent me to the dictionary or because I had enough context information to figure it out. Using an occasional large word—yes, even a word that might puzzle the average reader—is not, in my mind, a crime.

"And people laugh at me because I use big words. But if you have big ideas you have to use big words to express them, haven't you?" -Anne of Green Gables

     It is possible, of course, to go overboard with this. I really hope I don’t have to tell you that four three-syllable, uncommon words in a sentence (or sometimes even a paragraph) is too much. And simply replacing every other word with a thesaurus search is not best, either. *shudders* If you don't know what a word means, don't use it.



     However, I've also seen people confused or annoyed by "sophisticated" language that I didn't know was considered such because I or my friends/family actually use it on a regular basis, or because I've read so many classics that I sometimes forget people today talk a little differently.

     So how do you balance language? How do you learn when to use “good” and when to use “virtuous?” It takes time and practice and experience, I suppose. For my own part, I simply use the words that I mean. Sometimes, there’s a large word that means exactly what I need; sometimes, there’s a small, seemingly insignificant one that works better instead. It all depends upon the situation, and if it’s in dialogue, upon the character who says it.

“Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very;” otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.” – C.S. Lewis

     This quote describes writing so perfectly. (Then again, it’s C.S. Lewis, so what do you expect?)

     I love words. I love big words, words I’ve never heard before with meanings so beautiful I have to write them down so I can re-read them later. But my love of large, unusual words is overshadowed by an even greater literary love, that of precision.  The precision of language. (I know—maybe it’s best not to quote The Giver in this instance. But it’s true.)



     At first glance, the C.S. Lewis quote might seem to favor smaller, more common words. It doesn’t. Rather, he is saying not to use big words inappropriately, because then when you do legitimately need a particular, more intense word, you’ve already used it before with a different connotation.  If you are forever describing mundane, inconsequential  things as “fabulous,” and “amazing,” then the words lose their true meaning. (Really, isn’t that exactly what’s happened to the word “awesome?”)



     I love it when there are words with definitions that are exactly what I mean. Love is a beautiful word, of course, but I’ve always preferred the Greek word(s). After all, the word’s rather broad in English, isn’t it? I mean, you can use the word “love” to describe your relationship with your husband, your cat, and chocolate cake. Obviously, they take on different meanings in context, but a little bit of the true meaning is still lost, and in modern times, our version of love is very skewed in part because of the word’s very nebulousness.

Agape (unconditional love)
Phileo (platonic, affectionate love)
Storge (familial, friendship love)
Eros (romantic/sexual love)

     I admit I’m the type of person to shamelessly throw foreign words into my writing when English fails me. Not that I do it often (that would probably become annoying) but I do do it.

     I think one thing that bothers me about most modern authors is that they don't seem to even try to use less common words. There's no variety in their descriptions. Incidentally, it's also one of the (many) reasons I hate swearing, in both the written language and in speech. Honestly, it does not seem "adult" to me to use cursing, especially in excessive amounts. Take note tumblr and facebook ranters: if all you can do to express your emotions is use the same four-letter word over and over again, it gives me the impression of someone who either has the emotional maturity of a four-year-old throwing a tantrum, or someone with a sadly unimpressive grasp on the English language.

quite right

     It may sound harsh, but it's true. However, there are some gems to be found in modern culture. Language that is precise, witty, or sometimes simply unusual can truly add to dialogue and description. There are readers out there (besides myself!) who appreciate language that's bit more complex.  It's one of the reasons I love films from the 30s and 40s, because they often have fabulously snappy dialogue. And another thing you'll notice about these films is that the humor uses both unusual, sophisticated language and simple, uncomplicated words with equal ease. Their wordplay is delightful.
Also, Cary Grant films are always worth watching, if only because of his facial expressions.
     So what’s my writing advice? Just write what fits. Not, of course, that I'm some grand expert. I know that I've failed in this area, using "very" when I meant "infinitely" and "infinitely" when I meant "very." I've even used words that I later realized I used incorrectly. (It's funny how often we take the meanings of certain words for granted) I'm also fond of hyperbole and gross understatements, so that makes it even a bit more tricky, because people don't always understand what I mean...even if I do.
"A writer should have the precision of a poet and the imagination of a scientist." -Vladimir Nabokov
     Don't be afraid to use big words. But don't be discouraged from using small ones, either. In my personal opinion, good writing uses both.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Get "The Wulver's Rose" For Free!

     Hello, everyone! I have exciting news to share- as a special promotion, Rooglewood Press is releasing The Wulver's Rose as a free stand-alone ebook!


     It also has a shiny, beautiful new cover that I just LOVE. You can read the story now on Smashwords, and it will be available soon for Kindle and Nook. This edition also includes an excerpt from Kaycee Browning's Esprit de la Rose, a Beauty and the Beast tale set on the high seas- with pirates! And don't forget to check out all five of the stories in the Five Enchanted Roses collection.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Story That Shouldn't Be

     As an author, there are often things that I avoid in my writing. Not necessarily because they're inappropriate or bad, just because they either lie beyond my realms of interest or I just don't feel qualified to attempt it. Which brings me to the announcement of my next to-be-published story.

   It's a ghost story, written from the perspective of a man, set in present day.

   If I was to list the top three things that I doubted I'd ever do, those would be it, and heaven help me, I did all three in one story. Honestly, I'm not even sure how this occurred. I literally found myself looking at my computer screen filled with an 11,000 word novelette that I finished in a week and going:


   Already knee-deep in one almost-finished novel and a half-done novella with dozens more story ideas taking priority, the story that is now to be known as For Elise was pretty much an anomaly in my normal writing habits. It began when I had gotten The Complete Edgar Allan Poe for my birthday, and I had settled down to read one of the stories. I was two paragraphs in, where a young man was describing a creepy house he had bought, when the entire plot for the novelette just...appeared. I immediately shut the book, got a pen and my notebook, and wrote the first ten pages right there.

   Still haven't finished reading that short story, though...sorry, Edgar. I'll get to it later.

    I don't want to give too much away about For Elise, but I'm really excited about it and hope to have a cover reveal and a synopsis to share soon! I'm kind of springing this story on you without much warning, since I hope (note: hope) to publish it late next month, but this tale sprung on me without any warning, so I guess it's only fair. ;)

Until then, you can add it on Goodreads.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

From Mind to Page: "The Wulver's Rose"

     Brainstorming/planning my stories is actually my favorite part of the writing process, and “The Wulver’s Rose” is no exception. Perhaps it’s further proof of my INTJ-ness, but scheming and plotting are two of my favorite things to do, which makes it a good thing that I’m a writer and not a criminal.

     Of course, the actual writing of a story often changes (or at least alters) the plot, and I've found that it's best not to get too attached to certain plot points lest they prove unsuitable for the characters that emerge during that first draft. But plotting is a very important part of writing for me (no "pantser" am I) and it was even more intense for my writing of this tale, since it was a retelling of a specific story.

Warning: spoilers for “The Wulver’s Rose” will be involved in this post, so if you haven’t read it, be aware.

     I knew, as soon as I learned of the Rooglewood Press Fairy Tale collections during the Five Glass Slippers contest, that if they ever did “Beauty and the Beast,” I’d want to enter. It’s my all-time favorite fairy tale, and one that I’ve always felt a special kinship to, probably because I related so much to Belle in the Disney movie. However, I also knew that I didn’t want to push myself— “Beauty and the Beast” is too special a tale for me to write a half-baked, lackluster story just for the sake of writing one.

     So when I saw that the next contest was, indeed, “Beauty and the Beast,” I stared at my computer screen at the cover of Five Enchanted Roses trying for the life of me to come up with a plot. I knew I didn’t want to base mine on the Disney version—it’s been such a part of my “Beauty and the Beast” experience that I wanted to do something different, something that followed the original tale more closely.  At the beginning I was open to almost any setting or twist, but I did have a few guidelines I wanted to follow:  1) to base it on a version other than Disney’s tale 2) to make the beast an actual well-known creature from mythology and 3) to make sure that the beast is not cursed due to his own actions (I’ll go into my reasons for that last one, later)

     And then, in the irony that is life, it was thinking about the Disney version that gave me my own spin on the plot:

     What do I do about the servants? I don’t want to make them enchanted objects; that’s too Disney. Although it is interesting that the most important enchanted object—the rose—was the only one not actually a person in the movie.* WAIT- what if it was a person? Oh, that makes so much sense! THAT explains why the beast would be so upset over the merchant’s taking of the rose in the original story. It always did seem kind of silly to get that mad about a rose, unless it was important…unless it was a person…

     My imagination spun out of control at this point, and I started scribbling down my ideas. Here’s a peek into my “book of secrets” and some early planning of the story. Amazingly, most of these notes actually ended up translating and being incorporated into the final story, despite that this was all very early planning:



     It was actually my heroine’s name that originally sparked my idea on the setting, since “Bonnie” means “pretty,” and I wanted a name comparable to the original. In looking up names that meant “Beauty,” “Bonnie” was really the only one I liked enough to use. Of course, I then found out later that “Bonnie” isn’t usually used as a name in Scotland (It’s actually more of an American thing, as a tribute to Scottish heritage) but I decided to use it anyway, even if it was uncommon, since we don’t really go around naming our daughters “Beauty,” either. The fact that Bonnie is my character’s nickname also made it more plausible. During this time, I simultaneously researched Scottish mythology and quickly settled on the wulver as my beast. In fact, it almost seemed too perfect a creature to be true! The legends surrounding the wulver also ended up winding their way into my story. (And again, wolves tend to remind me of the story of “Beauty and the Beast” in general—another unintentional Disney moment)

     Then, research was required. I had a hunch to make it take place in the 17th or 18th century, so I checked out a rather massive book of Scottish history from the library. I meant to just read the material pertinent to the 1600 and 1700s, but I ended up reading the whole thing, mostly because I’m just a history weirdo but also because I decided it gave me a better overall grasp of Scottish history and culture in general.

     My next step was to re-read Beauty and the Beast. I used Andrew Lang’s translation of Madame de Villeneuve’s version, although surlalunefairytales.com claims that his translation is actually more of a combination of her story and de Beaumont’s; I’m not yet enough of a fairy tale scholar to comment on that. (As an interesting aside, Scotland and France were very closely aligned in their history during this time period, so that connection was also another sign that I felt I was heading in the right direction). I then read it through a second time, this time taking a pad and paper and writing down all of the elements in the original tale that I wanted to keep (such as the fire and Beauty/Bonnie being the youngest of a large family)

     One thing about the original tale is that, unlike the Disney version, the beast is not cursed because of his own wrongdoing. This is one thing I wanted to keep, simply because of my own views on magic. The Bible condemns witchcraft, and while fairy tale magic doesn’t always bother me (It depends upon the context in which it’s used) I knew that I didn’t want the enchantress to be the “good guy,” who was teaching the beast a lesson. Also, quite frankly, I didn’t think I could keep all the other elements I wanted to use and involve a deep character change on the beast’s part in the twenty thousand word limit. As far as the magic goes, Scottish culture and mythology was again a help, and I quickly researched the area’s early paganism. (Which I wouldn’t say I’d recommend doing just for kicks—some of those websites are seriously creepy and you might wander into an occult forum. You have been duly warned by someone with experience.)

     However, by this time I was just starting to begin my first draft (longhand, in a notebook—be impressed) and was feeling a little nervous. My story followed the original very closely, and it wasn’t something new and exciting and original. I wasn’t expecting to surprise people with some crazy plot twist, and I wondered if my story wouldn’t get picked because of it. And then, right as I was assaulted with all of these misgivings, Anne Elisabeth Stengl wrote a post (which I’ve since tried to find to no avail) on this very thing. I don’t remember her exact words, but she assured the aspiring contest applicants that it was perfectly fine to have very traditional retellings—Rooglewood Press was interested in those too, as long as they were well-written. I felt a huge weight life off my chest and I got back to work: My story would not deviate far from the original story, which meant it would probably be predictable. But that didn’t mean it had to be boring; I knew that I had to focus on making “The Wulver’s Rose” the best that it could possibly be in other respects.

     While Disney’s movie did not contribute largely to my tale, I was influenced, just slightly, by Robin McKinley’s Beauty, which I had read a few years before. I was a little fuzzy on the particulars of the story since I’d read it a while back, but one thing I did remember was that I loved the mood and feel of the novel: It somehow managed to be mysterious and eerie but strangely home-y, too. I didn’t let myself re-read the book during my writing, since I didn’t want my plotting or characters to be affected by her version of the story. But I did keep it in mind as I tried to emulate the feelings she’d given me and infuse those same emotions into my own story.

     And thus I wrote my first draft, let my family read it, let it sit for a month, let my family read it again, then edited/tweaked it a little…and then the deadline fast approached and I sent off my poor little story into the world (which was HIGHLY nerve-wracking, as I’d never done it before; it was even before I’d published Hidden Pearls, after all!) and the rest is history. (Well, there was obviously more to it than that, as MUCH work was involved in the editing and publishing process after I learned I’d won the contest…but that’s a whole ‘nother post. ;)

    And there ends this essay...if you've stuck around and read this whole thing, I applaud.

*yeah, in the interest of accuracy, the enchanted mirror wasn’t a person either, but I wasn’t thinking of that at the time.
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