Quotations from The Lord of the Rings

I have vague memories of my father reading The Hobbit to us at bedtime, and of my mother doing the same; and it was partly because of my requests to hear that book again and again, I think, that she finally broke down and taught me to read when I was four. Tolkien has been near me ever since, in a growing collection (latest addition being Beowulf, his translation, which I may talk about another day, if you’d like my thoughts on it). I’ve read The Lord of the Rings regularly. A few years ago, however, I decided to wait a while and come back to it with older, if not exactly fresh, eyes.

The book (it’s a book, not a series) doesn’t need a review from me, but this time through I pulled out some quotes that I noticed more this time than I have at others, with occasional remarks.

 “Already she seemed to him, as by men of later days Elves still at times are seen: present and yet remote, a living vision of that which has already been left far behind by the flowing streams of Time.” (Yet you’d never call Lorien sentimental, in the sense of the word that means dwelling in the past excessively. And I think re-enactment, or living history, can be the same way: in the past, but not sentimental.)

“Halflings!” laughed the rider that stood beside Eomer. “Halflings! But they are only a little people in old songs and children’s tales out of the North. Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?”

“A man may do both,” said Aragorn. “For not we but those who come after will make the legends of our time. The green earth, say you? That is a mighty matter of legend, though you tread it under the light of day!”

  [Eomer] “It is hard to be sure of anything among so many marvels. The world is all grown strange. Elf and Dwarf in company walk in our daily fields; and folk speak with the Lady of the Wood and yet live; and the Sword comes back to war that was broken in the long ages ere the fathers of our fathers rode into the Mark! How shall a man judge what to do in such times?”

“As he ever has judged,” said Aragorn. “Good and evil have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man’s part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.” (And fantasy is either evil magical stuff or mindless escapism with no application to the ‘real world’!)

“But fear no more! I would not take this thing, if it lay by the highway. Not were Minas Tirith falling in ruin and I alone could save her, so, using the weapon of the Dark Lord for her good and my glory. No, I do not wish for such triumphs, Frodo son of Drogo.” (There’s a reason Faramir’s been a favourite character of mine all these years. And I first met him long before I knew about situational ethics or the idea that truth and goodness change over time.)

[Bilbo] “It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: someone must give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.”

From the Appendices:

“It is often difficult to discover from old tales and traditions precise information about things which people knew well and took for granted in their own day (such as the names of letters, or of the days of the week, or the names and lengths of months).” AMEN. I might add any number of other difficult things, but for the sake of time I shall refrain.

After a decently long paragraph on deficits in calendars and how they were made up, and the Gondorian method of adding one day at the end of every millenium, there’s a parenthetical note: “In T. A. 3000 with the threat of imminent war such matters were neglected.” As if in most countries the calendar is the first concern of any Steward, war or no.

In a footnote to a section on how, in the Shire calendar, the date in a month was always on the same day of the week: “It will be noted if one glances at a Shire calendar, that the only weekday on which no month began was Friday. It thus became a jesting idiom in the Shire to speak of ‘On Friday the first’ when referring to a day that did not exist, or to a day on which very unlikely events such as the flying of pigs or (in the Shire) the walking of trees might occur. In full the expression was ‘on Friday the first of Summer-filth’.” ‘Filth’ may not actually mean mud in this context. I noticed this time through that a great many of the Shire names for months come from Anglo-Saxon ones, as Blotmath (pronounced, the Appendix says, as Blodmath or Blommath) from Blodmonath. (In Bree it was called Blooting.) Similarly Winterfilth from Winterfilleth. Tolkien knew what he was doing with language.

Posted in Books, Reading | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

In Which a writer attempts to do maths

I think the posts I make during the school year tend to be more focused because more things are annoying me, and I have a shortage of time so I need to say things as quickly as possible. Or it may be that now I’m starting to relax, and when I’m relaxed I tend to ramble. The last few posts have been very rambly. Today, maybe, not so much.

Numbers and I don’t get along well, usually, but I’ve been doing more with them this month because I’m doing Camp NaNo, and it’s fun to see how much I write in a day.

Of the North’s first draft hovered around 50,000 words except for the time I cut a chapter and it was at 49 for a while. A little research seems to show that historical fiction is expected to be around 100,000 words, and if it’s much under 80, people think the world isn’t detailed well enough. Anyway, the rewritten version is much expanded, and would probably be closer to 80k than 50 anyway. It is nice to know that that’s acceptable in its genre.

I now have ten documents for things related to Of the North:

The first draft itself, 50,500 words;

A copy of that first draft with some new scenes added so I have context for them, 55,991;

A document of Notes, 5,235;

One of new and rewritten scenes from May and June, 22,735;

One of scenes I’ve written so far during Camp Nano, which at the moment is at 10,466 — so, in two weeks, I’ve already written as much as I averaged per month in the two months previous (I started the revision officially at the beginning of May);

One of modern scenes (as many as I’ve written, though more will be coming), 17,312;

One with a new outline and the plot structure, 458;

One of lines to keep verbatim from the old version (though as I incorporate some of those lines, I change them), 9,600;

The document also containing a duplicate of the Snow White story, for purposes of keeping track of word count for NaNo, currently 21,745, though a fair bit of it is the other one;

The document with the revised story, as I begin assembling pieces, currently 36,166.

Now most scenes are in several documents at once, so don’t think adding up the total word counts of all of these will give you Of the North‘s word count. The Revised document has almost all of the new stuff, I think, so let me see. . . twice 36. . . (I can’t count this high on my fingers, so I almost did what my sister did with the waist of her skirt yesterday, and concluded twice as much as reality). . . I’m just under halfway, perhaps. Halfway-ish. It seemed like I had so much more than that.

Most of the important things happen while AEschild is in the eleventh century, and a lot of the modern scenes (after being returned, note the use of the passive, to the twenty-first) just show her character development. I’ve been writing a lot while recovering from, thinking of, hearing about, or wishing for SCA events, which makes it easier to do the modern scenes where she’s doing a similar thing (or even actually at an event), which means I have a disproportionately small amount of medieval scenes actually done. Which is odd considering that those are actually my favourite.

Last week was the infamous second week of NaNo, where things drag on — not something that had happened to me in my first two times, but last week it did. Then yesterday I somehow wrote 3,000 words easily. Maybe it was because, instead of trying to re-do scenes I already knew, I just took some characters and a list of things that needed to happen, and let them do the things on their own. Or maybe this was because of a breakthrough on Sunday (we had a guest preacher who did Psalm 90, which has a lot to do with the theme. . .).

I’m still hoping to have it fully revised, and gone through at least six weeks of sitting and cooling off, by the end of the year. Hopefully before. Then it’s off to beta-readers again, and then I’ll make the necessary changes, and if all goes well that will be done before Realm Makers, to which, if all keeps going well, I’ll be going in hopes of pitching it, among other things. Of course, there’s an entire school year to fit in there somewhere.

In the next week or so I’ll be busy finishing up the summer class, doing my sister’s chores while she’s at camp, writing blog posts about The Colour of Life and things that most bother me in historical fiction, and maybe finishing Camp NaNo in all of that. I only have about 9,000 words to go.

Posted in Of the North, Writing | 4 Comments

Backstory, cont’d.

I’ve finished going through Of the North, and have about 9,600 words of lines worth keeping verbatim, and some of those now I’m not so sure about. 9,600 out of 50,000 is a pretty small percentage.

One more note about college, before I go on. I don’t mean to suggest that I’ve wasted my time there, or that I have learned nothing about writing from the writing classes. I just haven’t learned very much, yet. It may be that way because I still have a year to go, and you don’t really get into the writing classes until the third year. Or maybe you get out what you put in, and I haven’t been putting much in. Grades don’t always reflect how much you’ve actually been learning, because sometimes teachers grade unreasonably high or low. Also, a lot of the early classes are for people who are just figuring out their voice or even the fact that they write, not so much for someone who’s already developed a voice and focus. And about two-thirds of it is poetry, for some reason.

Hope, whom I mentioned earlier, joined an online writing magazine thing and told me about it, but I didn’t pay much attention at the time. Eventually I started stalking it, reading their articles and forum threads, and watching their writing videos. I didn’t join, though, being reluctant to join yet another group that I’d probably end up leaving in a year or so.

But I did start to like it, and it was offering good advice, and I got to know some of the most common people on the forum (without them ever knowing I existed), and they seemed to be growing, and far ahead of me, and committed to the place. So in December, I think, last year, after finishing another semester still alive, I joined.

Kingdom Pen started as an online magazine for Christian writers, but by now it’s more than that. They publish articles, short stories, and poems. They do videos of writing advice. There’s the forum, too. They’ve started doing online classes, sometimes free and sometimes not, as well. I’ve learned a lot, most especially about plot structure and theme, since starting to stalk the website. Now if I have a writing question, there’s a group of people I can ask it of, without having to worry about adjusting for bad worldviews.

For example, the one course, Jumpstart Your Novel, says conflict is important because readers read to see other people, like them, battling the same things they do, and learning how to overcome them. Whereas one of my teachers is of the opinion that people read fiction in order to escape from their troubles, and they like conflict because it shows that someone else has it worse than they do, and furthermore, fiction not only should not teach lessons, it doesn’t necessarily do so. Whereas Jumpstart Your Novel says all stories teach something whether they mean to or not.

Then there’s the forum. A lot of us write fantasy, but there’s the occasional few who write historical fiction (and some who even like to read it!) among other genres, and several poets. Also, you won’t think of raspberries, ice cream, or extra-large frogs the same way again. Or even candy bars.

If that sounded like an advertisement, that’s probably because it is.

In other news, if you’re writing a novel set just after the Norman Conquest, don’t start off with an apparently respectable Anglisc woman walking around bareheaded and taking refuge in a storeroom for potatoes apparently intended for human consumption. She should also not be wearing a velvet cloak. And if you’re going to review such a book, don’t recommend it to lovers of Renaissance history unless you explain yourself. (Finding comparable books for Of the North is turning out to be hard.)

Posted in Of the North, Writing | Tagged | 3 Comments

A little bit of backstory

A discussion with a friend of mine today prompted this post — it was getting late in the day, and I wasn’t thinking of anything more exciting to report than my very slow progress through Of the North, on a quest to put in bold the (remarkably few) lines good enough to keep verbatim. Those of you who read the first draft will recognize very little in the second, if you’re so fortunate (or unfortunate?) as to remember things word for word.

When, in 2008 or 9, I wrote down my first story, I didn’t think other writers existed. If you’d asked me whether new books were being published each year, and whether real live people wrote them, I would have said yes, but that was far off and unattainable. I didn’t know that I could do such things. I knew people from the seminary who’d published books, but they were doctors, and anyway they wrote theological essays and treatises, not stories. And thanks to our extremely limited household library of 6,000 books, I hadn’t yet encountered many published after about the year I was born.

Also I was extremely shy of showing anybody my work, which didn’t help much, so hardly anybody knew I was a writer. Even when grown-ups asked the horrid question “So what do you want to be when you grow up?” I’d say one thing or another (rarely the same thing twice in a row, as I recall) just to answer the question so that they’d go away, without really meaning it. I never did know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I figured, at best, I’d grow up and find out what I was doing then, and keep doing it. (So far that has not failed me.)

I wrote this and that in notebooks I collected, fantasy stories they might be called, some being more obvious pastiches of Tolkien than others. In my first Creative Writing class in college, we were all told to imitate somebody’s style, which I’d grown out of doing by then, but it is true that it’s not a bad way to start. I still don’t think you should tell people to imitate, though; if they need to, they’ll already be doing so, and if not, you can set them back a ways with it. Some of them never outgrow it. Paolini imitated all sorts of things in his Inheritance Cycle, with the result that it never should have been published as it is, but who knows, another decade or so and he might have found his own voice (and not come to such empty conclusions about basically every important thing, but I digress).

When I was twelve or thirteen, and had been writing for about three years, I joined Ravelry. It’s an online community for knitters and crocheters, with many smaller sub-groups. One of these I joined was for Christian writers — having finally figured out that was I was doing (making stories in my head and putting them on paper) was called writing, and that someone who did it as obsessively as me was called a writer; see also lunatic — and I met Hope there, among other people.

Being where I was, just finding out what I was, and just beginning to open up to people about it (more readily online than face-to-face, because having conversations in person is always scarier, and I wasn’t very confident in my newly-discovered lack of sanity yet), it was good. People might not give very constructive criticism, but they did encourage me to keep writing. We had challenges and contests every so often, and I like a challenge, so that helped. It also assured me that I wasn’t the only one who thought about killing people, or had “imaginary friends” that I was more attached to than my friend (singular, unless you count my sister) in “real life”.

But eventually a lot of the more mature writers moved on, or left, or weren’t active on Ravelry anymore, and a lot of immature writers replaced them — writers who were even less mature than I was, which is saying something, since I hadn’t even heard of “show, don’t tell” yet. So I left, and was without any other writers for a while. For those of you who aren’t writers (if any of you do read my blog), it’s hard to understand how hard it is to be a lone writer.

By the time I was fifteen and starting college, I knew I wanted to study how to write stories. Also, on the first day of my first class-in-a-classroom-with-classmates ever, the teacher told us “Show, don’t tell”. It was just a Composition class (in retrospect not even a very good one, but I didn’t know at the time), but that was the first time I’d ever heard that practically omnipresent piece of advice.

Much more recently, some poets from my church, along with the one prose writer (me), made a group for discussion and critiquing each others’ work, but we’re grown-ups, which means life gets in the way just as much as it did when we were children, and we don’t meet very often. And besides, though they have read lots of good books and all, they’re still poets, and I write prose. The two are essentially different.

I haven’t gotten to know very many writers at college, certainly not the kind I’m comfortable sharing my writing with. Oh, I do, of course, because classes require it. But when someone has an entirely antagonistic worldview, their advice is likely to be skewed, and often it’s a good idea to do the exact opposite of what they suggest. Often, not always, to be fair. But it is still a secular college, and liberal, of course — awfully liberal for being in a region settled by Norwegian Lutheran farmers.

I learned a lot about writing without knowing it, because I’ve been a bookworm for longer than I can remember. I never plotted anything — all I had to go by was knowing how books were when finished and published, not how they got there. So I wrote, because pencil and paper is a good way to get words out of your head. But I also just wrote things down as they happened in my head, without paying attention to plot structure and things, because it’s hard to consciously do something you don’t know exists. Characters didn’t have much depth or grow a lot. I summarized instead of showing. The style of the writing wasn’t very good. Sometimes it would sound a little like whoever I’d been reading, and sometimes it was more like a flat balloon. You can learn a lot faster, with a lot less trial-and-error and reinventing the wheel, if you have people who are farther ahead who can tell you things.

Then came college, into which I went bravely with a major in Creative Writing, and I learned about themes from philosophy classes, tone and three-act structure and foil characters and character arcs from literature classes, a little bit about writing from the odd poetry section of a craft and theory class, and next to nothing about writing from the actual Creative Writing classes. (You already know what I learned from that one workshop last semester.) I did learn something about the history of ideas from the writing classes (though I got to see them move along more in the British Literature classes, and the philosophy ones go without saying), and discovered that Modernism is still flourishing hand-in-hand with Postmodernism, which of course has no trouble with logical inconsistencies, in certain members of the faculty. (I also learned that a feminist of the old school can love medieval literature, whereas the new sort can only teach you that everything’s wrong with anything written before abortion became legal.)

I am now over thirteen hundred words in this post, and I think I shall leave you with a cliffhanger until my next one, which will now become mostly an advertisement, based on where I break things up now.

Posted in Of the North, Writing | 3 Comments

Things ganging agley

Because this is what happens when I make plans. I try not to, because then I get attached, and when they don’t turn out, I get sad about it. It’s easier just not to plan, and then whenever you get something done, it’s a pleasant surprise. Well, theoretically. I still set out to do things, just without the hard-and-fast deadlines and schedules that motivate most people.

So we went to the regional fighters’ practice that our local group was hosting, and it was lots of fun! My sister has pictures up on her blog, which you may see here.  Please do! I didn’t write about it, due to Other Things, but the pictures tell a lot on their own. (And I really like the one of her by the banner. . . forget what group’s it is, not ours, but I saw it at Hadrian’s, and it’s pretty. Ever since Pendragon’s Heir I’ve liked red and gold more.)

I wrote the bulk of the Snow White story, now renamed The Colour of Life, but I’m stuck on the ending. I’ll take the rest of Camp NaNo for working on Of the North. I was getting a bit tired of it, but a foray into Orthodox Russia was a nice change, and now I’m ready for the more familiar English scenes again. It’s a lot easier, also, because I’m more fluent in O. E. and Latin than Russian and Greek! Seemingly no one ever transliterates Russian, so it’s hard to have dialogue with a good feel. Of course, I have only researched the setting for two weeks. But I got stuck on how it should end, because I don’t know if it’s a kissing story or not, and the people concerned aren’t talking about it. Very helpful, guys.

Oh! And before I forget, I was looking up something rather different and stumbled onto a poem that works really well for the “Prince” character in The Colour of Liferead it, if you’re interested in Communism and things.

Speaking of being stuck on endings — About Wind Age. I know some of you are still waiting for a chapter. A couple of scenes were a bit outside my readership’s comfort zone (which is good to know ahead of publishing time), and there was the problem that cropped up in the next chapter but one to send out, and the question of whether to rearrange the narrative to not be so chronologically straightforward (because as it is now, the first half is awfully slow). The thing keeping me from sending out the next chapters is the snag that comes up in the second and refuses to go away — I like what I was trying to do with it, but I did it awkwardly, so it sort of flops, which isn’t the way to do things. The biggest problem with the story as a whole isn’t the slow start, but the fact that the climax of the story contains more of the same thing my readers said was too much, so I’m starting to chicken out and consider halting the beta-reading until I can do some serious thinking without a deadline and work things out. But that would be disappointing my betas, who have asked me at least twice (in the three weeks since I started slacking off) where the next chapter is and when it’s coming.

So far in each of my big stories there’s at least two times in their writing where I wonder whether this one is even worth it. I hadn’t had even one of those times yet with Wind Age, so maybe it’s just making up for lost time.

In other news, I’ve been doing some research on early paternosters. The thing with my garb is that to the unlearned eye (that is to say, most of America’s population), I probably look a lot either like a nun or a Muslim. I do wear a cross pendent from my belt, but it’s a tiny one and often hides in the gore where no one can see it, so that isn’t doing a lot of good. With the English veil, a necklace isn’t exactly practical. Of course, a visible cross anywhere is probably going to tip speculation toward the “sister” side, but it’s closer, right?

I found a site that says Godgifu mentioned something very like a paternoster in her will, so it’s possible that a string of beads (probably wooden?) with a cross on the end isn’t too much OOP. It might even be possible to make it myself (although I lost my new Swiss Army Knife yesterday, possibly outside, and my old one isn’t very sharp anymore).

And with one thing and another, and a long boring grownupish story behind it, I’m not getting a grant to go to Realm Makers next year, so it looks as if, if I am going, it’s on my own money. Which is a problem, as what I’m earning (right now, nothing; during the school year, about two hours a week) is supposed to go towards not having any debt when I graduate. I don’t have very many saleable skills, either. So who knows, maybe I’ll be handed a nice scholarship for next semester and have money freed up, or something like that; and then again maybe I won’t go. With the way Wind Age stalled, I’m not sure Of the North will be ready to pitch in time — one year from now. Eeep!

This is why I should not make plans.

And on that cheerful note, I’m off to try to do something with the last-mentioned story. I’ve gone through times of hating it and apathy, both, but I always come back to it in the end: I am of the North.

Posted in Of the North, Research, SCA, Wind Age, work in progress | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Three Drops of Blood

Last week I said I’d be telling you more about my Snow White retelling. I don’t want to talk about it too much, as it is for a contest, but I have back-cover copy:

Snow White in Orthodox Russia

  Alyona inherited her black hair, pale skin, and red lips from her mother, who died giving birth to her. Her father remarried to give his daughter a mother, but when he dies, her stepmother, Akilina, indentures her to her (Akilina’s) brother, who keeps a curiosity shop. Alyona has only her mother’s portrait, painted by her father, left of her old home.
One day someone brings in a set of nesting dolls with pictures of saints on them. Alyona is up late that night, reading, and at the stroke of midnight the dolls turn into seven little men. They befriend her and sometimes, when she’s up late, help her with her work of sorting through donations and mending the broken ones.
When a young doctor, who spends many of his days saving those wounded in clashes between various factions in the civil unrest shaking the country, comes into the shop to buy the portrait of Alyona’s mother, she tells him it is all she has left. He has already paid for it, but he promises to cherish it, and says he will let her come visit it, if she wishes. They strike up a friendship.
All seems to be going well, but Akilina learns from a magician imprisoned in her mirror that Alyona, far from being broken by her servitude, is thriving, and this is more than the jealous woman can bear. It will take more than a set of wooden nesting dolls, or a penniless young idealist, to save her now, when a woman scorned is thirsty for her blood.

As of right now I have about 5,000 words done, so I’m a quarter of the way to the 20,000-word word-limit. You can see how my progress goes through the month here.

And I’m off to try to get another thousand in before we have to go to a party-ish-thingy.

 

Posted in work in progress, Writing | Tagged | 6 Comments

June Wrap-up

Writing:

Still working on Of the North. The document of new or substantially rewritten scenes is at 22,820 words, up from 11,345 as of the beginning of the month. If I keep up the pace of 11,000 words a month, I’d have the full 50,000 done by the end of September. However, because life does not follow a constant work-rate problem formula, and considering that school starts up in two months, that’s not likely. Not to mention that in July I’ll be writing the first draft of my Snow White story.

My summer plans have changed a bit. I’ll do a post properly introducing the Snow White story, with a back-cover blurb and everything, soon. I’ll also talk more about the timeline for Of the North‘s future so far as I am thinking it will go for now, and what’s up with Wind Age, and things, but each of those is easily a post in itself.

I have a plot and characters together — well, mostly together, in the case of the plot, as I like to always leave open the possibility for a surprise — for the Snow White story. It has a working title, though it’s likely to change. But a working title is nice to have, and sometimes sticks (as in the case of Of the North). I also wrote the opening scene, about a thousand words, to get the feel of it. It’s quite different from what I’m used to, and I’ll stop there before I spill too much. Next week, hopefully, I’ll formally introduce it.

And for those of you who are waiting for the next installment of Wind Age — I’m having a bit of trouble with it at the moment. The good news is, with the Snow White story and Of the North having deadlines, and because Wind Age doesn’t have to be anywhere fast, it’s all right if we’re not done with it by the time I hoped for, as far as official commitments go. Of course, there’s the fact that I’m keeping you all in suspense, and believe me, I do regret it.

Reading:

Last Harry Potter book — review here. It’s not a terrible series, though the worldbuilding is the only really outstandingly good thing about it. Entertaining, if you don’t mind moral problems.

Into the Land of the Unicorns, Song of the Wanderer, Dark Whispers, and The Last Hunt: four books in a series. The first two are good, the third one is problematic, and the last one is a bit too much.

The Thirteen Clocks and The Wonderful O, by James Thurber: as good as ever, even upon re-reading for the twentieth time. Both are way more fun to read aloud to an appreciative audience than to read alone.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon: discovered at the library two weeks ago. Very good. When my mother’s finished reading it and pronounced judgement I might ask about buying it, which is saying something.

The Fellowship of the Ring, for probably the four hundredth time or so. I haven’t read The Lord of the Rings for a few years on purpose, and I’m finding it’s even better with age.

SCA:

Um, nothing? Unless you count the experiment I wrote about in my previous post.

But tomorrow we’re going to a regional fighters’ practice hosted by our forming group, and of course we’ll take any excuse to be in garb.

Life:

My sister and I walked up to a cemetery, killed two snakes (one on the road, and one, messily, on a flat gravestone), and sang Handel’s Since By Man Came Death, on the day before Whitsun. It should be a tradition — maybe not the snake part, but singing Handel in a graveyard during Easter. (Even if it is a Lutheran graveyard.)

Our parents had their twenty-first anniversary.

Our mother went to New Hampshire for a week, and we survived.

My sister did driver’s ed. and passed, and has her permit now.

And I sent an e-mail I dithered about for a while, to a local arts council, to ask about something to do with a grant, and only realized afterward that I’d failed to capitalize “I” in the very first line.

Otherwise not much seems to have happened this month.

Posted in Books, Of the North, Ordinary life, Reading, SCA, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged | 1 Comment