Thursday, October 16, 2014

October Chatterbox: Maple

I am a terrible writer.

At least, when I'm sick. I have a cold and colds make me...a little irritable. So when I saw that this month's Chatterbox topic (find more info about the event here) was "maple," I wondered if it was possible for me to write anything about maple trees without people falling out of them and breaking arms Jem-Hearne-style.

Anyway, I went ahead and took the cheating route this time and used maple syrup. Which is decidedly less dangerous....unless it's poisoned. But luckily I didn't think of that until after I had written it.

I've never actually participated in Chatterbox before, despite the fact that I actually did write something for last October's Chatterbox and then never posted it. Which was kind of a shame because it was pretty good, if I do say so myself. But here's this month's- nothing terribly exciting, just a little everyday scene involving pancakes and syrup:

Old-Fashioned Pancakes Recipe---made these this a.m. (added blueberries) adn they were soooooooooo good!

“Giles Spafford, you haven’t touched your breakfast.”
Giles looked over to the tray Mrs. Featherstone had set on the side table a half hour earlier.
“Oh. I had forgotten about it. I’m not very hungry.”
Mrs. Featherstone heaved a sigh. “I do hate to see food go to waste.”
“I’ll eat it, Mrs. Featherstone,” Miss Kohl spoke up. “I love pancakes.”
“Well then.” Mrs. Featherstone smiled. “I’ll reheat them on the stovetop for you.”
 “I’d love that, Mrs. Featherstone, so long as it isn’t any trouble to you.” Miss Kohl answered.
“Not at all. I’m glad I have someone who appreciates my cooking.” Mrs. Featherstone said with annoyance directed at her employer. The effect was lost due to the fact that his attention was already claimed elsewhere.
“You know I love you, Mrs. Featherstone,” he said absent-mindedly from behind his book.
Mrs. Featherstone humphed and carried the tray back into the kitchen. She returned about ten minutes later, the pile of pancakes high and fluffy, with a pat of butter on the side. She also carried in a small jug of maple syrup.
“Oh, I adore maple syrup,” Miss Kohl said happily as she took the tray from Mrs. Featherstone. Giles watched as she buttered her pancakes, cut them into a neat grid of squares, and then added the syrup. She didn’t drizzle it gently but let it pour out in a steady stream that pooled at the bottom of her plate. He stared.
Now wonder she was so sickly sweet. The girl was probably made of sugar. It was disgusting. 

Just a little something that I thought of on short notice with three of the characters from a work-in-progress. But hopefully it gives you a little insight into the characters. Or, at least, of the very cranky Mr. Spafford. It probably won't make it into the final book, but it was fun to do. :)

Monday, September 29, 2014

“Just because it’s magic, doesn’t mean it’s easy”

"Dear Beauty, try not to regret all you have left behind you, for you are destined to a better fate. Only do not let yourself be deceived by appearances."

As many of you are aware, I’ve been at work on a Beauty and the Beast re-telling. There are a lot of things about it that have been difficult: researching Scottish history, trying to write a Scottish accent, even figuring out the personality of my main character. One thing I’ve been worried about is the magic of the fairytale.

I’ve known from the beginning that I was going to do a fairly straightforward retelling, the beast being an actual, physical beast. And that, of course, involves magic. (Well, now that I think about it, I could have done a sci-fi one with an experiment gone wrong. Oooh…that’s a good idea. Filed away for future use)

But back to the subject at hand: as a Christian, I’m pretty wary of any story involving magic. I don’t mind it in certain settings/situations, but I always thought I’d personally never write a story involving it because 1) I have waaaayy to many other stories I need to work on and none of them really advertised themselves for magical fantasy and 2) I know some Christians don’t do that sort of thing at all, and I never wanted someone to have a moral problem reading any of my stories. In fact, I’m working on quite a few fairy-tale retellings specifically without magic.

However, it was pretty clear from the beginning that this story was going to be an exception. After all, as my main character even mentions, the Bible commands us not to practice witchcraft which means, of course, witchcraft does exist and does have power. Of course, that power comes from demons and I knew I needed to make it very clear that all magic being practiced in my story (which does, technically, take place in the “real world”) would be seen as such.

So melding together faith and fantasy has been nothing short of a challenge, especially because I want the Christian elements in this work to be rather understated; the basic worldview and message of the story rather than explicitly spoken of. I only have 20,000 words.

Ugh. That horrid limit. Of course, even if I had all the words in the world this story would still be pretty short, I think. But that doesn’t change the fact that I feel like my characters don’t have enough development, that my plot is moving too fast, and that the more descriptive passages might eventually have to go. I've never actually written a novella before, so this is a totally new experience for me. I rather wish I did have a magic wand to wave. Poof! The story's all done. Considering that I'm at 19,397 words at the moment...well, I am pretty close. But I haven't even done a real edit yet, no ones besides myself has read it, and time is running out.

My story -which I might share the title of sometime soon- also follows the original tale pretty closely. Though I adore "clever" retellings, mine is rather straightforward and it can be very easy to wonder if my story is really all that good because it's not totally original and different. A lot of the story hangs on good character development, which is definitely intimidating! 

Any others out there working on a B&B retelling for the Five Enchanted Roses contest? How are you coming along? And are any of you working on a retelling without magic?

*oh, and major bonus points if you know what musical the blog post title quote is from*

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

{Top Ten Tuesday} Top Ten Books on my Fall To-Read list

This week's topic is books on my fall to read list...which was difficult to narrow down to ten. Now that we're in a different (larger) library system, suddenly all these books that I've been wanting to read are available to me. However, several of these books are ones that are coming out in the next couple of months.

1. Storm Siren by Mary Weber
I was really put out over the fact that I was having trouble with my BookLook account when this book became available, because by the time my account was fixed, all of the hard copies of Storm Siren where gone…I entered to win it in a Goodreads giveaway, though, so…

2. War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy
I’m doing it.

3. Entwined by Heather Dixon
I’ve had this on my to-read list FOREVER but now we’ve moved and our new library has it! :D

4. The Princess Spy by Melanie Dickerson
Can’t wait for this one; I always enjoy Melanie Dickerson’s fairy tale re-tellings.

5. The Traitor’s Wife by Allison Pataki
The cover of this one caught my eye, and it’s about Benedict Arnold’s wife, so I should say this one definitely made the to-read list.
6. Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austen
This one is coming to me for review; I’m not a huge Biblical fiction fan, but I do like Lynn Austen’s novels, so we’ll see how I like it…

7. A Lady at Willowgrave Hall by Sarah E. Ladd
I have the other two books in the series, so I’m hoping I’ll have a chance to review this one, also.

8. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
I’ve had so many people recommend this book to me- both through the internet and in real life, that I’m just going to have to try it so I know what everybody’s talking about! 

9. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
It’s been a while since I’ve gone without a Dickens book. That feels really strange. I need to start a new one, ASAP.

10. Frederica by Georgette Heyer
Because I mean, do I really need an excuse to read more Georgette Heyer?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Forgotten Heroines #6: Arabella Bishop

{I was in the middle of writing this post when Hamlette’s Pirate Blog Extravaganza was announced, and it fit so well I decided to wait to post this for the occasion. So without further ado, here’s a bit of an ode to the heroine of a sadly neglected work: Captain Blood.}

{WARNING: contains [mild] spoilers}

One thing I’ve discovered during my classics clubs reading is that I have a definite weakness for swashbuckling adventure stories- especially those written during the early-to-mid 1900s. And considering that I greatly enjoyed the movie version of Captain Blood, I devoured the book at a remarkable speed (I really liked it, although I do caution that there’s a bit of language) And not only is the main character an engaging hero, but I personally think his love interest is equally interesting. (let’s face it- all of my favorite scenes involve her)

I love Arabella Bishop because I find her relatable and admirable; she’s sensible but also sensitive, and she’s one of the few heroines who actually has good reason to jump to conclusions about the hero. (I hate those books where the hero and heroine “hate” each other and they don’t really have a good reason to other than the fact that they’re stubborn) Between misunderstandings, the lies and machinations of other people, and the very large fact that the guy has a lifestyle the girl doesn’t approve of, let’s just say that Arabella Bishop and Peter Blood have a lot of relationship issues to work through.

The love story of Arabella Bishop and Peter Blood is unique in the fact that both of the characters secretly like each other- but Captain Blood doesn’t think he’s good enough for her, and Arabella…well, Arabella knows it’s against her better judgment to fall in love with a pirate, of all things. She’s also, at 25+, a bit older than a lot of early-era romantic heroines, especially ones in the genre her story inhabits. I love the fact that while she doesn’t completely ignore the way her heart pulls her, she doesn’t let it dictate her judgment, either. And it’s her very goodness that checks Captain Blood’s own actions; despite his immoral occupation, there are certain things he just won’t do, because he knows that Arabella would never approve. He doesn’t think he’ll ever see her again, but it’s her memory that, in essence, becomes his conscience- or, at least reminds him that he has one.

I also love Arabella because she’s not only kind, but determined in her convictions. Perhaps one thing I enjoyed most was her absence of flirtatious behavior. I related to her because she didn’t play games; she felt very genuine to me. She's one heroine that I honestly love reading about.

Anyway, Captain Blood- movie and book- is one of my personal favorites, and I was so glad 
I could share a bit more about it!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

{Top Ten Tuesday} Top Authors I've Only Read One Book From But NEED to Read More

I’ve never done a Top Ten Tuesday before, but I know of several bloggers who do this often and I thought I might try doing it a few times. This week's topic was actually pretty difficult for me, because usually if I like an author…well, I read more of their books! But I’ve finally come up with what I think is a pretty accurate list of authors whose books I would definitely like to read more of, but I just haven't gotten a chance (or found access to) read them.

1. Lori Benton
I was really impressed with her debut novel Burning Sky and have been trying to get my hands on The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn to no avail. Christmas wishlist, perhaps?

2. Leo Tolstoy
I’ve been meaning to get to War and Peace for a while now, but keep putting it off because it’s such a commitment.

3. Katherine Reay
Maybe this one's cheating a bit since she currently only has one novel out at the moment, but I can’t wait to dive into her upcoming book, Lizzie & Jane! Dear Mr. Knightley was quite a hit for me.

4. Rachel Heffington
Really looking forward to Anon, Sir, Anon, as well as her contribution to Five Glass Slippers.

5. Megan Whalen Turner
Well, I’ve heard people go into raptures over her The Queen's Thief series, and though I didn’t really get into the first book (although it certainly got better as it went on) I do fully intend to give the other books in the series a try...especially because I've heard the sequels are even better than the first book.

6. Diane Zahler
I read her book The Thirteenth Princess…and as I’m racking my mind I realize that I literally remember zilch about it. Still, her covers are pretty (my major book weakness) and they're also fairy tale retellings (another weakness) so even if I can’t even remember why I only gave The Thirteenth Princess 2 stars, I’m sure I’ll read more of her books if I find them.

7. Rafael Sabatini
I read Captain Blood and it was amazing. I need more of his books, pronto.

8. Catherine Marshall
Because I’ve only read Christy, and that really is a shame.

9. Camille Elliot (Camy Tang)
I read her Prelude For a Lord and was quite fond of it, so who knows- I might like her suspense stories, right? I remember years ago thinking her Sushi series looked interesting, especially because there’s not a lot of Asian heroines in Christian Fiction.

10. Alethea Kontis
I had some problems with her novel Enchanted, but I did like her writing style, and the other books in the series are definitely a reading possibility. 

So...are there any authors you've only read one book of, but would love to try more?
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